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The Ringing of a Forge of Stars [Warhammer 40k/ Celestial forge V3||OC...ish]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Slider Zero, Apr 14, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 01
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    This is Sterlyn's fault.

    Lets just go ahead and make that clear right now. He was the primary driver behind the idea that eventually wormed its way into my head, and is even now acting as a damned cheerleader to "encourage" me to continue writing this madness train that I have embarked upon. So if you have issue with the general Idea, blame Sterlyn.

    The same can be said for general errors, as Sterlyn ALSO beat-read this for me.

    In all seriousness, though, the idea bit me and wouldn't leave, so here it is. It's a labor of love and frustration on my part, but I think it's viewable by the general public now.

    Special thanks to Spiritual_Liege and AMoment4Cthulhu over on the Celestial Forge Discord for the extra fiddly lore details that I likely would not have ever figured out on my own.

    This story is also crossposted on FFN. a link will be provided once those idiots catch up.

    Comments fuel me, please tell me how i'm doing so that I may improve as an author...or at least so I can avoid the most obvious pitfalls...

    With all that said, Please enjoy the show!
    ===
    There is a universe, vastly different from our own, for all that it is shockingly similar. Within said universe, there are galaxies torn apart by strife, teetering on the brink of collapse into outright anarchy.

    These galaxies are the lucky ones, for they have yet to meet the true horrors of this universe.

    And yet, as it always does, Life Finds A Way. Creatures both vast and tiny have managed to eke out an existence amongst these lonely—perhaps even cursed—stars.

    For some, it is a simple life, to live, feed, breed, and ultimately die, only to repeat the cycle again. For others, those who would be called “higher” lifeforms by those who would judge such things, there may be variations, little detours along the same path that is the cycle of life.

    And then there’s this shit over here…

    This particular galaxy has...Issues. Some would go so far as to say it actually has Subscriptions, but those beings are (supposedly) above such petty and banal dialogue masking itself as humor.

    This place, devoid of all but the very concept of hope, is effectively doomed, largely by the actions of its own inhabitants over the millennia, but mostly by the idiots that would see themselves as almighty, rulers over all...until they got ganked by their own creations and used as fuel for the ambitions of even smaller and pettier beings. That this would continue unabated until all was dust was blatantly apparent to even a casual observer with access to the full picture.

    So imagine, then, the surprise of those same observers when a monkey wrench suddenly appeared in the gears of that elaborate construct of pain and despair with absolutely no reasoning, fanfare, or even notice.

    And imagine further still the reaction to what happened afterwards…



    I awoke to the sight of a darkened sky, filled with an endless expanse of stars the likes of which I had never before seen in my life. Sounds of industry and commerce rang out all around me as individuals moved about on their daily routines and tasks, seemingly completely oblivious to my presence.
    Considering that I was currently prone in the middle of what looked to be a major thoroughfare, that was rather concerning…

    Taking a moment to gather myself, I quickly stood from the hard surface of the…wait a minute…
    How the hell did I end up outside? Fully dressed no less?
    And what the hell is that SMELL?

    Fortunately, my stomach is made of sterner stuff, and the downright rank odors coming from somewhere only irritated me as opposed to outright incapacitating me. That breeze blowing in kinda helped too, but it also added another odor to the mix while it was at it. Ugh.

    Stop focusing on the smell. Figure out where you are.

    Moving quickly out of the intersection of...foot paths? and into a small alcove, I took a moment to observe my surroundings. I was apparently in some kind of plaza or large alleyway, that from the looks of it was used as a type of bazaar, judging by the fact that there were no actual streets, only foot paths and shadowy alleyways that hinted at danger. Stalls of wares and other curios surrounded me, although it seemed that for whatever kind of market setup this was, it was a slow day, as upon further review there was not much in the way of foot traffic. The people around me were moving with a particular type of shuffle that immediately raised warning flags in my head from my time on the streets. Their clothing was mostly drab, utilitarian-type gear that looked to be chosen more for durability than comfort, if there was even anything resembling choice at all; there was more than one person walking around in what looked to be no better than rags. Soft lighting abounded in the area, casting flickering shadows as things passed by.

    Looked like some kind of oddball fluorescent setup...but I’ve never seen a light like that before-

    I jumped slightly as something brushed against my leg.
    Glancing down, I beheld what looked like some kind of...cat? Certainly not a type I've ever seen in my life before. And didn’t look like it had any kind of collar on it either.
    Pushing the cat out of mind, I continued focusing on the area around me, further catching glimpses of a pair of what looked like some kind of maybe-maybe not police force loitering at the corners of the plaza proper, seemingly casual and relaxed, but with an alertness that I knew and understood all too well. Uniforms didn’t seem like too much, mostly monotone utilities and what looked like a sidearm on belt holsters. It also looked like they might have had some kind of bludgeoning implement available as well, but I was making a point of not looking too closely at them lest I attract attention to myself.

    Further glances about me to the surrounding architecture showed that the area was…old. Not just old as in “it's been there maybe fifty, sixty years, but nearly ancient, as in this place, whatever it was, had been here for millennia and would stay here for millennia more.

    You do not GET that kind of old in the ‘States. EVER.

    Which meant that I was either somehow overseas without any prior knowledge, in a span of time that would frighten even the calmest of minds with the sheer implication…

    Or, to put a fine point on it, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Or possibly even Earth, for that matter.

    Crap.

    And now that the implications of THAT particular nugget of information had suitably woken my ass up, I REALLY started paying attention, knowing full well that my very life could depend upon it. I started glancing around for anything, anything at ALL that might give me a clue as to what might have happened, while also doing a quick and (hopefully) unnoticed check of my own person for anything usable.

    Which is when I noticed some rather important details that I really should have seen earlier, but I’m an idiot and was half asleep, so yah.

    Detail the first: I was decked out in a pair of actually really good, if plain, utility pants of a clearly military bent, complete with the multitude of pockets that soldiers the world over have come to rely on. More to the point, the pocket config was that of a pair of Airman Battle Uniform pants, as I saw the lower thigh pockets down below as well. Color wasn’t anything to write home about, but not many people will complain about dark green, as opposed to army olive drab…
    Upper body was in a similar shape, with a kind of long-sleeved shirt, black in color, that felt both durable and flexible where needed, with some small bits of reinforcing around the elbows. Ending my impromptu getup was a vest of some type, in the same color as the pants, complete with the requisite multitude of pockets on the front...(okay, there were only two plus the standard waist pockets,, but STILL) and what felt like a LOT more hidden inside.

    The second detail was what caught my attention, as I pulled out what looked like pieces of plastic adorned with a symbol that I recognized all too well.

    A golden, double-headed eagle.

    Better known in certain circles as the Imperial Aquila.

    Please, please God no. Come on, let this just be like some kind of alternate Rome or something. Please, for the love of God, do NOT be what I think this is...

    A small snatch of conversation caught my attention as what looked like a couple walked nearby.

    “--but they managed to get in and gut the bastards, they did. No losses, either, so big party for me an’ the boys tonight. Sure enough that was a right bitch, clearin’ out them damned culties. Bless the Emperor for heavy melta, amirite?”

    And there they were. The dreaded words, which combined with now obvious portions of the architecture, confirmed the worst nightmare of anyone who had ever had the misfortune to end up on an Isekai.

    I was in Warhammer 40,000.

    FUCK.




    Alright, now is not the time to panic. (I can do that later.) Right now I need to get my head in the game and figure out a plan of action. Anything else WILL get my black ass killed in short order.

    So, think!! THINK DAMMIT!!

    What do I know?

    I’m in the original grim dark hellhole, one that Worm desperately WISHES that it was. There are multiple bad ends waiting around potentially every corner of the galaxy, and there are also four beings of incredible power going all out to kick the ass of the fifth, which is the last real hope for mankind…
    In theory, anyway. If I was in the “early” timeline.
    If I ended up at or near the End Times, then that was about to go kaput and have shit hitting the fan EVERYWHERE. Meaning I need a time hack. Hell, a DATE hack...and to know what freaking planet I was on, no less. Best chance is to ask a question, but will it cause people to become suspicious? Warp-fuckery is a known factor here….

    ...Hold on a second.

    I woke up to seeing stars everywhere.
    How did that happen when I’m in an
    enclosed space?


    Because yes, I somehow managed to miss even THAT detail too. Real good observation skills there, Green. What next, you gonna forget about basic communication skills too?



    I just taunted Murphy, didn’t I?
    Well, screw it. OWN the madness that is coming.
    In any case, I need to calm the fuck down and get my bearings set before that karmic retribution I’m due comes forth. Because I know for a fact that it will.

    So, enclosed space that looks like it's an impromptu habitation setup. There could be a great deal of these in any of a number of locations throughout the Imperium...but my inner nerd tells me that the most likely location for me to have ended up is a hive city. Now just to figure out which one…

    I locate the closest individual who doesn’t look like they’re trying to scare off everyone around them by sheer force of will, and casually and non-threateningly walk towards them, giving a slight nod when the person, an older balding man with a slight limp, acknowledges my presence.

    “You mind answering me a few quick questions? Trying to get my bearings here.”

    The man gives me a very odd look, and responds in some kind of gibberish that might have been english at one point or another. I caught maybe half a word, at best.

    Oh CRAP.

    The Imperium’s official language is High Gothic, which I’d surmised to have been based off of latin. The actually used language by the people, though, was Low Gothic, which if I remember it right was a hodgepodge mix of various local dialects and cants mixed and blended together until nothing looked the same ever again.
    Both of which are A.) very much not english and B.) NOT a language that I know. At all. And this of course most certainly did NOT just paint me as an outsider, someone to not be trusted, and potentially get the “official” authorities involved in.
    Not. At. All. No Siree.

    Oddly enough, the old guy somehow figured out what the holdup was, and managed to get my attention. He started speaking while making certain gestures, attempting to convey simple meaning to me. I quickly took the idea as my own and attempted the same.

    Somehow, this worked.

    Apparently there was a setup of sorts for those like me who were...er, displaced without their prior knowledge, and scrambled brain wasn’t uncommon, or at least that’s what I think that weird gesture meant. That or he thought I had a screw loose, and that is possibly as good as it is bad, depending on who you ask.

    In any case, he seemed amicable enough to act as a guide to a place where I could find more information. Feeling somewhat hopeful with this turn of events, I decided to do the polite thing and ask him his name, forgetting for a moment that we lacked a common language.

    “Harrisyn Cain, So then, you ready to move?”

    Wait. I Understood him.
    I UNDERSTOOD HIM.
    Now that I think about it, I understood the two from earlier as well…
    Just what is going on here?

    “Yeah, just gimme a second. And the name’s Green.”

    Another one of those looks followed by gibberish.
    Maybe it’s a differing language?
    “...seem...getting your head back on straight. What,…caught in….cultists?”

    Okay, Huh?
    Seems like whatever is allowing me to understand the language here is transitory...and one-way.
    Instead of confusing Harrisyn even more, I give him a curt nod, and we begin our trek towards knowledge, and hopefully, some answers for me.
    And seriously, I needed them. That was the second time that Cultists had been brought up since I awakened here, and it hasn’t even been ten minutes.
    Here’s hoping that doesn’t find a way to rub off on me…

    In any case, this communication issue needs to be resolved ASAP. I can’t have my one actual contact here not being able to understand what the hell I need to make it...and I’ll need to be able to figure out who the players in this place are so I can pick a side.
    Because like it or not, I was going to be forced to pick, eventually. These kinds of places tended to disfavor those who attempted to remain unaffiliated, with varying levels of severity based on exactly where you were. Nothing different from the streets, but far more dangerous all the same.

    Harrisyn and I eventually arrived at the location, a run down, if serviceable, dwelling next to what looked like a series of distribution pipes. There wasn’t anything looking like actual security nearby, but I remained on guard all the same. You never knew what someone who was determined and crafty enough could come up with in a pinch, and this place had far too much that could be used as an impromptu IED or other such magnet of “fun”.

    Harrisyn waved me inside as after he opened the unsurprisingly sturdy door. Moving in, I noted that there were some small lights placed around what looked like the main room of the abode, with an alcove for what appeared to be a basic kitchenette and two doors leading further in along a back wall. I assumed that at least one of these was a toilet of some form or fashion.

    He chose that moment to try to communicate again. “This….where….until we...you..straight.”

    Seemed like more was getting through that time, but it also came with an increasingly severe headache. I winced as a lance of pain shot through my skull, a hand going to my forehead automatically in a vain effort to reduce the effect somehow.
    Harrisyn said something again, but all I got was completely unintelligible gibberish as another spike was jammed into my skull. It was getting difficult to even think, let alone pay attention, and I couldn’t allow even a moment of inattention to be had, lest--

    A third, and fourth spike of pain completely floored me, and I lost all situational awareness as my whole conscious mind was wracked by PAIN.
    I don’t know if Harrisyn tried to help me. I don’t know if he pulled out a gun of some kind, a knife, or even if he just ran away. All I knew was pain the likes of which I had never felt before as seemingly massive spikes were driven into my brain, without any form of remorse or mercy, as I gripped my head in agony.
    I don’t even know if I had screamed out from the sheer intensity. All there was, was PAIN.
    And the pain was spreading. Moving rapidly down my spine and throughout my body with the speed of crackling electricity, until every nerve was flaring up in suffering. I couldn’t think, couldn’t even BREATHE, as it kept spreading, through my bones, to the muscles, skin, to my heart, and seemingly even into my very soul.
    Fortunately my mind had the decency to finally shut down from overload at this point as I blacked out.




    I awoke again in a place that could not have been any more different from toe sprawling enclosed mega-city that was wherever I had ended up in. Instead I beheld the same endless field of stars that I first remembered, only this time with even MORE.
    It seemed entire galaxies were here, presented in their full glory, all for my sole viewing pleasure. Nebulae laced through multiple galaxies, the sheer majesty of a supermassive Black hole, even the rare and, If I remembered correctly, only theorized to exist White holes spread out in seemingly equal numbers. Comets danced to the strings of cosmic forces both simple and somehow vast beyond the comprehension of all but a pale few. What looked like glittering stardust twinkled in seeming delight as I beheld the impossible, an entire universe.--no, multiple universes, sprawled before me both in miniature and exacting, 1:1 detail...and somehow I could see it all.
    Or was it?
    Was I seeing entire universes given shape and form, or was it nothing more than the dance of a cluster of cells? Atoms, perhaps? Or even that strangest form of matter, the Quarks and all of the quantum underpinnings of the universe? It seemed to shift from one form to another, even as I looked at it and SAW.
    And before the sheer enormity of that fact, of the fact that I somehow was included in the ranks of those who not only knew and understood but were meant to SHAPE those vast and yet paradoxically tiny cosmic forces, I heard a sound, echoing throughout the entirety of this strange place as it was a small shack.

    **clang**
    **clang**
    **clang**

    It sounded like...a hammer?
    Curious, I moved towards this sound, completely unthinking of exactly how I actually performed such an action.

    **clang**
    **clang**

    Closer still, and all I heard was an increase in volume...and what my limited knowledge told me was something non-metallic, but ringing out as such anyway. Odd.

    **clang**
    **clang**

    I soon came to the source of the unusual racket, and what I saw there would have taken my breath away, if I had not somehow subconsciously expected it (and there is ANOTHER question for the day…)

    A figure stood there, veiled by the expanse of starstuff that swirled around him as if an elaborate cloak, twisting and pulsing with the energies of the very cosmos. In his hands, was what looked to be a smith’s hammer, seemingly made of the very stars themselves. And what lay before him, the project that seemed to consume all of his attention, was…was…

    Oh my god.

    I would have accepted a galaxy. Hell, a galaxy cluster. This place seems to be very accommodating of things like that. Even an entire universe, while stretching things, would have been believable, to a degree. Hell, given the way this space works, I would have accepted literally ANYTHING else.

    Oh no.

    What Stretched before me in all of it’s transcendent glory was nothing less than the sum totality of an entire multiverse, still in embryo, awaiting the moment that the fires of creation were instilled within and the various big bangs, temporal paradoxes, and other such higher-dimensional phenomena required for something to truly come to life were initiated. It sat there, the very seed of creation itself, waiting for the final breath of life to be infused within.

    It was only now that I realized that the clanging, what I now knew to be the literal forging of stars, had ceased.
    I looked up from this strange majesty, this utter masterpiece awaiting its finishing touch, and into the face of its creator--

    I know you.
    I KNOW YOU.

    Somehow, I knew who this was, and had known them for literally my entire life. Which was absolutely impossible, as I had never seen them before. Ever. And then more discrepancies came to my mind.

    How did I know he was male? That veil covers everything.
    How did I know what everything back there was? Those endless expanses of stars, spread out, I knew them like I had made them myself.
    How do I know that he Knows that I know him, and that this was totally expected?
    How the hell am I suddenly filled with the sense that this was supposed to happen, all of it? That we were meant to meet?
    WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?!?!

    A simple gesture from the figure and suddenly I was calm, and everything made sense.
    Yes, I was supposed to be here, and all is as was intended...although there was a hiccup in the process that complicated things, which will be explained presently.
    Yes, you do know me, as thoroughly and intimately as I know you, as we have always known each other, form that first day that we knew of the struggle that was life. Though the reason why will surprise you.
    Yes, this place was incredible, and yes, those countless stars and planets and galaxies should be familiar to you...although for now I cannot tell you why.

    That being said, there is one more task that I have need of you for.

    The figure lifted up his hammer of stars, a massive thing that seemed to dwarf even him, and that was paradoxically as tiny as a toothpick (Concepts, they were concepts of building, of Creation)...and turned the hammer, handle first, towards me, offering it.

    I stood there, dumbfounded. He wanted me, ME, to finish that masterpiece of a multiverse? To wield the vast powers of creation and somehow, breathe life into countless worlds?
    To, in all seriousness, effectively become a GOD?

    The sense I got then was oddly complex, but completely valid nonetheless: the process could not be completed without me. For whatever reason, and he wasn’t spilling the beans (Not yet.), I had to be the one to deliver the final blow, and complete the work. It didn’t make sense to me, but he insisted that it HAD to be me, and no other.

    And besides, this was one of your greatest fantasies anyway. To be able to create something so grand, so vast? Would you ever even entertain the thought of NOT being a part of this?

    And he was right.
    This WAS one of my greatest fantasies, to be able to create the infinite, to create anything that I fancied just because I COULD. To have no real restriction but my heart and my imagination as I created something new and interesting just to see if I could. It’s why I loved Legos as a kid.

    So there wasn’t really a choice here, was there?

    I reached out and grabbed the hammer...and was surprised that it fit my hand like it was meant to be there. Like it wanted to be there. Like a piece of myself had finally come home.

    And I understood. About this place, about why I was “chosen”, everything.
    And there was no more time for words.

    I lifted the hammer, as sure of its operation as I was of my own body, and sighted where and what I wanted to do. With a grunt of effort, I imbued this tool, MY tool, with the essence of life itself.

    And I swung--





    I awoke on a small, ratty couch with a clear head, feeling somehow refreshed. The previous pain that I had experienced was nowhere to be found. In its place, however, was a piece of knowledge, a surety that my life would never be the same.

    But then again, I knew that already, considering where I was.

    Getting up was easy, and I finally noticed my footwear, that I had forgotten about in the dustup of before. A simple pair of good-quality combat boots, with (from the feel) a reinforced heel plate and a type of steel—or maybe composite, they’re somewhat interchangeable—toe. Looking around revealed that the lights were dimmed, the cracked walls showing their age, and the minimal carpeting (which I was shocked existed at all) clearly on its last legs.

    Of Harrisyn there was no sign.

    Ah well, that gives me time to test this out.

    I moved towards the doors in the back, examining each as I approached. They were simple affairs, a handle on each, with an equally simple locking mechanism installed above the furthest one. I assumed that was a bedroom of sorts, or maybe a closet, so I checked the other door first, confirming that the room beyond was a wash chamber and toilet setup, and very compact from the looks of things.

    Now for that other door. I headed there next, and beyond it turned out to be a small sleeping area with a small integrated closet on a sliding door setup. Both were empty of anything but a simple, if comfortable looking, bedroll, and what looked like a space for personal items and effects.

    Suited me just fine, really.

    Now that I had confirmed my environment, I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t under any overt observation ( I wasn’t, there weren’t any windows and the place was locked tight), I pulled out the thing that I brought back with me: a simple, old-fashioned key. With a smirk, I placed it into the key slot of the sleeping area, noting with no surprise at all that it slid home easily despite not being even remotely shaped for the door in question, and turned the knob.

    What awaited me on the other side was most definitely not a small cubbyhole of a sleeping area, but a semi-largish hallway, with a set of lockers on one side and a plain-looking door on the other.

    If I remembered correctly, that door should lead to...and yes, there it is.

    Inside was a simple workshop, set up to be able to handle most any needs that the aspiring craftsman—or simple handyman, really—would need. The place was set up very much like the workshops and tool rooms that I’d frequented before, in my earlier years as an Air Force mechanic, and was laid out in a similar manner, complete with the shadow boards and foam cutouts for tools to ensure that not one thing was out of place. Bins with various screws, nuts, bolts, and other such detritus of the common mechanic were laid out in an easy-to-use manner, each separated by both size and apparent function, with room for more as needed. Situated towards the back wall were the setups where power tools of various makes and purposes lay, along with the necessary attachments for any job. Of note was a large multi-storage bin on that same wall with some rather high-grade electrical components, suitable for repairing most simple electronics if needed.

    Huh, seems that I got that upgrade after all…

    Even though I had lost the strange knowledge of...everything that I had whilst in that place, the core nugget of the truth remained.
    This room, in a way, WAS that hammer. MY hammer, meant to forge wonders like the universe had never seen...and eventually entire universes itself, it seemed. This place was meant to be the core of my forge, that would one day shape the stars.

    A fragment of that knowledge came to me now, remembered from a moment both infinite in scope and oddly fleeting.
    This place, this power, was always meant to be yours...was always yours to begin with. This is nothing more than you awakening to your birthright.
    Yeah. A birthright. Doesn’t matter for now, but in the short term it may have just saved my bacon, as if the extra tools were here…
    I rushed out to the lockers, opening the first one to find exactly what I was looking for. A set of well-used armor, a small arm-mounted device, and a pistol.

    Specifically, A highly customized N7 Eagle Heavy Pistol, complete with an extended magazine capacity and a heavy barrel attachment for extra firepower.

    I picked up my new weapon and gave it a quick once over, looking for anything amiss. Seeing nothing, I quickly stashed it inside my vest, which had an unusually convenient pocket just for it.
    ...Not going to argue that one, at all.
    The armor was too obvious for what I was going to be doing right now, but would be nice for when shit hit the fan...and it wasn’t a matter of if, but when; my own experience on the streets, the basic knowledge of this being 40k, and both sets of military experience told me as much outright.

    Final checks. Everything looks good? Clothes alright, weapon stashed and ready?
    Oh yeah, need to get the omnitool…

    Grabbing the small bracer that was the omnitool hardware, I quickly powered it up and ran it through its diagnostic and self-test routines. So far, looking good...and my, oh my was that a jackpot.
    You see, normally, with my mechanic specialization, I would have access to top-end hacking tools, some drones for ranged work and harassment, a deployable sentry turret for static defense when needed, and various methods of disabling people via incendiaries and cryo, as well as disruption tools for electronics. (The personal tweaks for draining energy from a target and a programmable holographic decoy were really just useful extras for intense situations...and the defensive field booster required the armor.)
    The N7 Demolisher mods didn’t change this, but instead added on to the kit with explosives. Grenades, in standard, incendiary, cryo and EMP varieties (and all of them with limited active homing capability), as well as an option to make my omnitool strikes be explosive (which was overkill, really).
    The Ammo pylon, on the other hand, was less useful to anyone that wasn’t me, for reasons of thermal clip, but the grenades were a plus in a pinch. That being said, if I had to get that loud things were in the shitter.
    The REAL plus, though, was that the omnitool had the appropriate modifications to deploy not only an omni-blade, but an omni-shield, too. Omni-shields were normally only carried by N7 Paladins, and had some very useful properties outside of being a portable shield system. For one, they could be enhanced similarly to the grenades, adding both intense heat and extreme cold into the main body of the shield proper for devastating shield bash attacks as needed. That I could potentially modify this to add to the omni-blade was a plus, but it was also a non-standard setup for a reason. I would have to research this carefully.

    Finally fully kitted out, I stepped out of my entry hall and quickly secured the door. All in all, the whole operation took less than 30 seconds.

    Apparently this was just in time, as Harrisyn decided to make a reappearance.

    “Ah, Finally awake, are ya? You were out for quite a bit there, son. Was getting...concerned that you might be having...issues, if you catch my drift?”

    Huh. So he was being cautious about my involvement, potential or otherwise, with that small band of cultists that just got put to the flames earlier. Smart man.
    Also, it seemed my translator implants were working as intended. A good thing to hear, all things considered...now lets see if I can make this--

    A light bloomed in my head, and my attention was drawn away for a moment as I once again beheld that place of endless wonder and magic. The baby multiiverse that had once lain dormant upon the anvil of the forge was now shining, completed by my very hands, and had risen to the “sky” above me. Within seemed to bloom countless stars, possibly universes in miniature, that shone with a dull light, all arranged in a pattern reminiscent of a constellation of stars. There were a few of these smaller points of light, however, that shone brighter than the others...and as I watched, once more another activated itself using the essence of my very own lifeforce that I had instilled within it. The Power within flowed freely through it, and then echoed, tracing a path back through the entire arrangement as if to announce its presence, before settling in on a brightly shining central spark of unimaginable strength.
    That, spark, as I had learned before, was a metaphysical representation of myself. Everything I am, was, and could be, all wrapped up in a single point of light and combined with something...more. What that something was still confused me (and my erstwhile associate; he refused to be called a patron, citing a technicality that he refused to elaborate on further. I chose to call him Watts), but was determined to be relatively benign in nature, even possibly beneficial, as supposedly there had already been more than one attempt to glean insights into my being by the “locals”, as it were. Those headaches might have been a form of backlash from that, but neither I nor Watts were certain if that was true.
    Oh wait, there’s a note attached to this little glowball here for some reason:


    Apologies. I was supposed to have had this ready for you before you “left” this place, but other matters required my attention. In any case, this should grant to you the local language, or a form thereof, as a side benefit. I am looking into the anomalies that we discussed, although you may not remember them all until the right time. I apologize for the secrecy, but all will be made apparent in time.
    --”Watts”

    So he knew my personal nickname for him as well, then. Alright, no big deal. He was already in a position to royally screw me over, and instead handed me phenomenal cosmic power. Even the agents of chaos, in that situation, would have just ganked my soul and been done with it, so he got that much, at least. Now then, need to get back to--
    Harrisyn was staring at me slightly, having noticed me be a bit distracted after his question. I chose to head him off..verbally anyway.

    “I’ve been better, really,” I stated neutrally. “Thanks for the...accommodations. Now then, if you don’t mind, I have a few questions I’d like answers to. As you can see, I’m in something of a state here…” I allowed myself to trail off, hoping to get at least a little info from the exchange.


    “Now, now, none of that,” Harrisyn replied, in a tone that was both knowing and lightly chiding. Seems he saw through my little verbal gambit. “I’m more than willing to answer whatever questions you may have. No fee, either. So ask away, son, and let's see where we stand, eh?”

    Well shit. He was some kinda info broker? Or maybe something else… “so, where am I, exactly? I got a little...displaced from my usual haunts. Need to get my bearings back, yeah?”

    “That, my friend is a simple answer. You currently stand in the area known as the drips, home of many of the feeder pipes for the upper areas of the hive. As you can probably tell from the name, there are some...issues with the containment.” He gave a small chuckle as he said this. “ but you are probably looking for a more broad sense, arentcha? This is Hive Primus, on the planet of Necromunda. Welcome, welcome, and please enjoy your stay.” He laughed outright, this time.

    I, however, was Very Impressed. And more than a little concerned, if I stood out so much as to immediately be considered an offworlder. Granted, being a six-foot plus black guy tends to be noticeable in most areas, from my personal experience, but still…I would need to be careful in my dealings going forward.
    I also very carefully did not reach for my weapon, a fact that was both noticed and appreciated.

    “Good, good. You know not to draw down on just anyone.” Harrisyn seemed to be ever more adept at weaseling out things that he hadn’t been told. Was it something on my face? “That will help you going forward. Now then, friend, since we have the time, let’s talk, shall we?”

    He gestured to the couch, and chairs that were sitting around the room that I hadn’t really paid attention to before.
    “Yes, let’s talk...about our future ”




    It is the 41st Millennium.
    For more than a hundred centuries The Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the Master of Mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.


    Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the Warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor's will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat from aliens, heretics, mutants - and worse.

    To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.
    And yet, for one, brief moment, the laughter ceased. The Immaterium stood silent.
    And instead of the laughter of thirsting gods, there was but one, single, tune.
    The Ringing of a Forge of Stars.




    START|-Workshop (Personal Reality Supplement v1.3) (100CP)
    Each purchase of this adds to your Personal Reality, a Workshop needed to perform a specific type of craft, which is to be specified when purchase is made. It comes with a basic set of tools and supplies. Good for fixing or creating all sorts of things, although any complex parts or nonstandard supplies will have to be brought in from outside.
    Additional purchases can add different types of Workshops to your Personal Reality or expand existing ones. Anything built in one of those workshops is fiat backed to be restored to its original condition within 48 hours if damaged or destroyed
    * Grants fiat backing to anything constructed within
    START|-Inertia of Self II (Essential Body Modification Supplement) (200CP)
    You are protected against effects that would affect your mind and existence.
    I: You are immune to any effect that would affect your memories. If someone turns back time, alters reality, or attempts to directly alter your memories, you retain both the 'original' and 'new' memories, instinctively knowing which set is which. Other than your two sets of memories, this perk does nothing to tell you who changed things or even what they specifically changed if it isn't otherwise obvious.
    II: You are immune to any effect that would alter or outright destroy your body or existence. This protection extends to conceptual, temporal, and reality warping effects that work either directly or indirectly to destroy or alter you. This would prevent a time traveler from killing you as a baby or causing an accident that would leave present-you paralyzed. It would not protect you from a fireball created through temporal manipulation or having a time traveler frame you for a crime that lands you in prison.
    START|-Not a Stupid Grunt (Mass Effect) (100CP)
    That you are not. You are smart enough to be the foremost scientist in your field. This doesn't make you so, but you could get there on your own with not a terrible amount of effort. Still not as smart as a drell, but hey, who is?​
    ---Class and Specialization
    ----Engineer (Focus: Tech): Engineers are pure technology specialists. Although they lack the implants that most other classes wield, they make up for it with their high-spec military grade omni-tools, capable of bypassing shields and armor or incapacitating robotic targets and some synthetics. They can deploy combat drones to harass enemies.
    ----Mechanic – A more purely focus Engineer. From fighters and frigates to Mass Effect fields and automated machines, you know your way around and are aside fairly versed in mechanical theory. You might not know how to build something, but you can almost certainly figure it out with time.
    ----N7 Demolisher (Restricted: Human) – Alliance special forces. The Demolisher uses grenades to attack at range and to terrorize the battlefield. Demolishers can also create a supply pylon that stocks allies and yourself with a seemingly unending reserve of grenades and thermal reloads. You can cause your grenades to hone and or electrify them with an EMP. Your omni-tool optionally has an explosive effect on impact.​
    ---Sub-Dermal Translator Implants (Free: All Origins) – The ever-present and rarely spoken of most common personal technology in this world. Implanted into your head, presumably ears, and allows you to understand nearly all common and almost all rare spoken languages in the form of English. Can be updated with new software via wifi.
    START|-Scavenger (Ravenwood) (100CP)
    Sometimes, you do not have the luxury of top of the line equipment and need to rely on what scraps you can salvage. You, however, have an advantage, being able to cobble together scavenged bits into functional equipment that work as well as the real deal. This talent will also inherently improve the durability of such improvised equipment to function even when such materials should not feasible hold up under the strains of use.

    CH.001|-Rites of Maintenance (Warhammer 40k - Adeptus Mechanicus) (100CP)
    While already designed to be incredibly robust, Imperial equipment inevitably requires maintenance. You can locate and identify problems within a machine in a fraction of the time it would take other adepts. Not knowing how a machine functions does not make fixing it any more difficult so long as you have the proper parts, tools, and rituals to guide your hands.
    --(Freebie) Lingua-Technis
    Known only to the devotees of the Machine God despite the best efforts of outsiders over millennia,the adepts of Mars speak to each other in bursts of binaric code. This allows for a great deal of information to be communicated quickly and discreetly. Even if somehow translated, it is a complex language thick with ancient and arcane terminology that few outsiders could ever hope to make any sense of. This language and your implants allow you to communicate quickly with other adepts, transferring messages and code many times faster than ordinary speech.
    ---**Also comes with High and Low Gothic, Per Author**​
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2021
  2. Threadmarks: CHapter 02
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    I'll admit that this chapter fought me for a bit. it was hard to get the pieces moving the way I wanted them to without making people seem one-dimensional or out-of-character, especially when I'm trying to establish said character in the first place. Anyways, here you go. Please Enjoy.

    Special thanks to Spiritual_Liege on the CF discord for beta reading this.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    ==================================
    The future, huh?

    Interesting words coming from a man that I barely know, who seems to be very willing to help for reasons known only to him...but it’s not like this was unexpected. I knew that someone would try and take advantage of my lack of local knowledge. I’m just surprised it’s happening this fast.

    Or is it?

    Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions here. Sure, he seems to be rather well informed about my situation all things considered, but that could just as easily be experience talking. I’ve known a few people in my time who could do similar things just based on knowledge of who and where they were, and this seems no different. Another point in his favor is that, at least for now, he seems to be trying to get into my good graces, or at the very least not be an enemy, which is always a plus.

    So then, that’s the plan. Hear him out and decide from there.

    “...Alright, I’ll bite. Two conditions though.” Gotta start this right, can’t let him keep all the momentum or he’d run all over me. “First, I wanna know how you’re getting all your info on me. Security concerns, you see.”

    “This is acceptable to me,” Harrisyn steed, a small bit of humor still in his voice.

    “Second: I’m going to ask you some questions, and I expect answers. I’ll keep it reasonable, but that’s the only concession I’m making.” If anything, this was me being too nice, but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s either play ball here or risk pissing someone off out there, before I know the lay of the land. Also known in various special ops circles throughout human history as assisted suicide.

    “...I will give you the answers that I have, and that I am allowed to part with,” Harrisyn’s response was surprisingly serious, almost grim, in tone. “However, I will at least let you know if you stray too close to...privileged information. Other than that, I do intend to gain you as an associate at the minimum, and perhaps a proper business partner in the long term, so it is in my best interests to at least make sure you don’t get your head blown off.” The mirth was back in his tone, now. “So then, friend Green. Ask away.”

    Huh. he was being a lot more forthcoming than I thought he would be. Odd that I would meet the one guy who was looking to recruit and willing to be nice about it. Best not to look too closely at it for now, though.

    “First off. How’d you ID me so fast? I know I’m not from around here, but I blended in better than most.”

    “And that right there is exactly what tipped me off, son. For all that you were a fish out of water, you moved like someone who could have belonged. That, plus the clothes, was all it took.”

    Wait, the CLOTHES? How the hell..? My face scrunched in confusion, a single eyebrow raised.

    “Yep, the clothes,” Harrisyn chuckles as he continues. “They were too good. Quality was top notch, but was blatantly built to last, and not to be flashy. Nobody makes clothes like that anymore..not here, at least. That told me you were from out of the hive...as for offworld? The language, for one. That and the way you were reacting to being out of sorts, too much like a soldier, but not anything I've seen from the local PDF. Chalked that up to being something out of a major Guard regiment, or some PDF from offworld. The rest spoke for itself.”

    DAMN, but he’s good. Really coulda used him in a few of the more deniable units I’d been in, in either life. I told him as much, eliciting another chuckle.

    “Naah, my days of fighting the good fight are behind me, my friend. Nowadays I'm just another face in the crowd.”

    “Calling bullshit on that one, good sir. No way in hell a simple old man lasts as long as you have down here without someone trying to fleece you. And from the looks of it, you seem to know your business...whatever it is.” Which was another point of concern for me. This hole-in-the-wall we were in had all the makings of a safehouse, and one that was set up for extended use, at that. You don’t need a safehouse unless there’s something you need to be safe FROM.

    Harrisyn’s only response was a smirk.

    “Yeah, yeah, I get it. Smug bastard is smug.” I allowed myself to chuckle at his antics, clearly aimed at being disarming. No reason to be super hostile...yet. “Anyway, that’s just part of what I need to know...you mentioned you were looking for a partner, or at least an associate. What’s the work, and why?” How he answered would determine a lot going forward.

    Harrisyn made a slight grunting noise. “Right to business, eh? Not a problem, but it requires a bit of background, first. Tell me, what do you know about how most hives run?”

    “...Hive cities are usually set up with varying levels of manufacturing and other factories down near the bottom, either at or in the smog layer. Everything above the smoke is for the well-off, the nobles, people with real influence. The rest suffer down below.” There was a bit more, but I wasn't sure if it applied here. Stuff about chaos and Xenos were not to be stated openly...

    “An accurate assessment, overall, if lacking in details. Most of what you said is correct, and on any other world would be more or less the end of it . but this is Necromunda. We have our own...wrinkles to add to the mix.”

    Well shit. Those are basically some of the worst words you want to hear coming into a new area, that your intel was bad. Considering I had NO Intel prior to this, I was considering it a mixed blessing.
    “Continuing on, Necromunda’s unique flavor of insanity comes in the form of its houses. The big thing to note here is that everyone, and I do mean everyone, is in one way shape or form aligned with a house. Whether or not they like it.”

    Houses? “You mean Noble houses, right?”

    “Not...exactly.” Harrisyn trailed off a bit, before continuing. “There are noble houses, many of which that like to make general pains of themselves quite often, but no. The houses I speak of are the gangs.”

    “Your gangs...have noble houses.”

    “No. the gangs themselves ain’t nobility. They just call themselves houses...and have the muscle to back it up.”

    And my day gets steadily worse.

    “How many?” because this would be important, to know who to play off of. “And who are you...attached to?” and that was another point that needed clarifying, quick.

    To his credit, Harrisyn did not hesitate to answer. “There are six in all, along with several minor players styling themselves as being one of the big boys...until they get noticed, and crushed underfoot. In no particular order, the houses are Goliath, specializing in the big bruisers; Delaque, who in general like to remain hidden; Cawdor, effectively the local religious nuts, and all that goes with it; Orlock, sometimes known as House Iron, which is somewhat complicated, but they're miners down below, and...Escher” Harrisyn all but spat out the name, “which is primarily female...and you do not want to be one of the males attached to them.” The tone made it clear that there was some history there, but nothing that I wanted to poke at. No need making a tentative ally of convenience into an enemy of choice...

    As for my...allegiance,” and that seemed suspiciously forced, there... “I am currently aligned with House Van Saar, though I do have...other contracts.” the way he said it warned me to not pursue the issue any further than that. “Van Saar is mostly set up in manufacturing, pushing out the more technical goods...not all of which would be approved of by the Nobles up top. Not sure where they’re getting the know-how to pull the quality off, though--that kind of thing is kept real hush-hush by the big boys of the House.”

    As far as basic overviews went, it was just as advertised: basic. Maybe I can pull some extra info from developing my own sources later.

    Wait a moment.

    “...You said you were aligned with House Van Saar, not a part of it. Explain.”

    Harrisyn gave another one of his quickly becoming signature chuckles. “Noticed that, did ya? Yeah, I’m a really low-level stringer, and happy to be so. Keeps me out of the way of most of the politics that surround the Houses down here, which in turn keeps me alive. As for the why, well, that’s the second wrinkle here. The Houses may be the kings, but that doesn’t mean that they rule all that they survey directly. It's more along the lines of there being multiple smaller gangs attached to the houses themselves, which in turn feed even smaller gangs, and so on, and so forth…”

    “All the way down to the bottom rung guys like you?” I finished for him. Wasn’t telling him that I didn’t believe that he was a bottom rung guy at all, but he could probably guess.

    “Pretty much that, yeah, but the ‘Rank’, so to speak, of a given gang at any one time is dependent on a lot of factors, not the least of which is whether or not the heads of house have use for you. There is also the fact that, despite technically being criminal gangs, the Houses actually do a lot for the maintenance and upkeep of the hive in general. Van Saar in particular is openly tithed for the ‘Guard, and has a reputation for “high-quality” goods, up to and including the conscripts sent to the Guard proper.”

    Alright, these Van Saar guys were sounding like the big kahuna of the major players in the area.

    “...And just how closely would one have to be ‘affiliated’ with a given house in order to receive certain benefits of said house?”

    “Depends, really. They have their hands in a lot of pies, which is part of how the house is so well-off. In fact, they tend to mark a lot of the more technical goods here with their seal. They also have the backing of some of the Noble Houses above, but I haven't been able to independently confirm that, nor which House is involved. I do know that the merchants' guilds are in bed with them, and treat it as a very profitable arrangement. I get away with being a rather loose affiliate, but I also deal in things that are not quite the house specialty.”

    And this keeps sounding better and better...they're the house of techies, in good with the actual head honchos and in a decent enough spot financially that unless I rock the boat massively there’s not much that they might do to force allegiance.

    Of course, I’m not about to ignore the fact that Harrisyn is once again dropping hints as to who his true masters might be...but the fact that he’s doing so in the open, so to speak, means that he’s either gullible (which I doubt hardcore; you do not live this long in the trade without being damned good) or that its a subtle warning to not spill too much info--something that I didn’t plan on doing anyway.

    I gave him a look, acknowledging the unspoken part of his little info dump on Van Saar.
    “Seems like you have an idea of where I might be useful in the future...but that doesn’t solve the here and now. So then, about that job?”





    “So, you want me to act as a consultant,” I said. “And what exactly will I be consulted on?”

    “I was thinking Guard Training, mostly. You have the experience from being in to actually get the conscripts and recruits up to speed for what they’ll really be doing, and not just as the glorified meat shields that they are now. Depending on what your specialties were, maybe more. Other than that, I was looking at setting up some Security work on the side--nothing too onerous, and preferably away from the idiots shooting at people all the time. But again, that depends on just what your skillset is.” and once again, Harrisyn’s odd penchant for honesty and generally being on the level shines through. Just one minor problem…

    “And while I can see some benefits for myself, what’s in it for you? Seems like you don't get much out of this.”

    “Well, I do, actually. It causes a bit of a reputation boost for me, being seen to be able to find the right man for the job. That, and having a contact I can call in when necessary is always useful for one in my line of work.

    And again he openly hints at it…fine, I’ll bite.

    “And what is this line of work, exactly? You haven't been very forthcoming in that regard.”

    “Your suspicions are...mostly correct. I am, in fact, a small-time info broker, but also a sort of fix-it man, for various situations that may require...specialized assets. I tend to work as a contact for people looking for the people and tools they need to make things work. I make a point of not having it all, but being able to get you in touch with the ones who do. And around here, that’s important.”

    “Still hasn’t explained the partnership part...unless you’re looking for a second?”

    “...Sort of. I have a few people I work with, but most of them are favors owed, or people who might be willing to lend a hand in fair weather. No, what I’m looking for is someone who can actually stick with me, as an equal. A lot of the would-be hired hands around this level are surprisingly...incompetent, for all that they can get the job done.” Harrisyn seemed to have a form of thousand-yard stare at the mention. Maybe a job gone bad?

    “And what would my role be in this theoretical partnership? Seems like you have something in mind.”That, and I wanted to see if he was going to spill on what he was really up to. I had a guess, but…

    “...Mostly back-line stuff, with some exceptions. You could open some doors that I could not, for example, with your background. Those who would look at me with distrust would see you as someone they could talk to. Other places, other things, might be of interest too. Not to mention it’s never a bad thing to have another trained shooter on your side, right?”


    Well, the man did have a point.

    “And what about skillsets?” I asked. “What do you have to offer that I might be able to synergize with?”

    “A lot of my time has been spent in intelligence. I’m pretty good at ferreting out things that you’d think I shouldn’t know, as you have seen firsthand.” I nodded in agreement as Harrisyn continued. “In addition to that, I’m something of a handyman when it comes down to certain pieces of tech: weapons, vox systems, dataslates, that sort of thing. Been used as a repairman in the past for a lot of things. My network of contacts is another plus, one that I have been carefully grooming for some time now, mostly to keep aware of when shit hits the fan, other times to gauge whether or not a given action will set off an incident. It’s rather extensive for the scale I work at, I’d say.”

    “...seems legit. I know you’re leaving a bit out, but considering where we are, I'm not gonna complain too loudly. I will want to know who your other partners are at one point, though. No reason to be an unknown if we’re gonna work together.” Because I knew for a fact that there was no way in hell he was a solo act, based on this safehouse alone. Calling him out on it cost me nothing.

    Harrisyn froze for a brief moment, before giving me a respectful nod, a small smirk clearly displayed on his face. “Indeed...indeed I will. Glad to see you’re paying attention, after all.”

    Wait. Was that another test? Debate it later. Right now, I need to present myself.

    “As for my skills, I’m rather skilled in mechanics, so I could do repair work as well, probably better than most of the people you’ve got lined up for the work right now. I have...a particular set of skills...when it comes to combat, and access to some nonstandard gear as well. I’m also good for a few languages if necessary, and a passable if not noteworthy slicer in a pinch. (No way in hell I'm telling him I could probably hack down all but the central AdMech datanets with relative ease. That would draw attention from his hidden bosses) Other than that, I’m a surprisingly good scrap mechanic. Give me enough of the pieces and I could get you a working piece of gear out of it, given time.”

    Harrisyn Looked at me askance for a moment. That moment stretched, though not excessively.

    “...and what languages might those be, by any chance?” he finally asked, after the silence had gotten almost uncomfortable.

    “Nothing major, just a few of the more common strains of Low Gothic, a sufficient knowledge of High Gothic, and a small bit of the weird cant that the Engineseer was throwing around back in the unit.” Telling him I had the full Binaric Cant was asking for trouble, especially if the Mechanicus heard about it. They were RUTHLESS about keeping that secret from everyone that wasn’t therm, if I remembered correctly.

    The openly stunned face of Harrisyn was quite a surprise to me. I enjoyed it silently until finally, he spoke.

    “I...I may need to talk to some people. I’m willing to put you up here for the moment, while I sort this out. That alright with you?”

    Huh? What about my skillset was so odd that he had to kick it up the chain? It’s not like I told him I was a special forces trooper from an alternate reality where tech was an actual thing that existed and not something that was constantly degraded outside of a freaking cargo cult.

    “...it’s acceptable, especially since I’ve got nowhere else to go at the moment. About how long is this gonna take, anyway?”

    “Shouldn’t be more than a standard day. In the meantime I can set you up with at least some food and some miscellaneous items as needed; call it a welcome package. I think I have a spare dataslate hanging around as well; the local net isn’t great, but there’s things stashed away inside of it for those willing to take a look. Just don't poke the parts that look to the “official business” side and we should be all right.”

    In short, don’t attract attention while I get the bosses involved on something important. Normally this would be a hard pass, but being fully in Indian Country with no hope of extract means that I have to play things fast and loose until I can get some more reliable allies in my corner. Hopefully that’s an event that I can arrange happening very soon.

    Besides, getting him out of the way for a bit would let me play around with some of the tools and abilities that I wanna keep under wraps for the moment.

    A brief nod in Harrisyn’s direction got him setting off almost immediately. Seems that I’m a big deal then. I’ll need to find out why eventually. But for now...time to settle in a bit.


    The Forge was a unique and extremely potent tool, one that was both metaphysical as well as spiritual in nature. Some of its abilities were odd when looked at from a certain perspective, but all added to the collective whole, connected to and powered by my very being.

    This was relevant because I had gotten a feeling of sorts that there was more for me to learn, ready to go at this moment, and it was simply waiting for an appropriate moment for me to allow the final connections to form. I found it rather convenient, that the power would act in such a way as to not distract me when important things were happening.

    With a simple mental push, I allowed the final bonds to form within me, and ignite parts of the constellation sitting within…

    The lights within my soul blazed brightly as I gazed towards my erstwhile Partner, and currently, Teacher, as he prepared to impart unto me yet more secrets of the use of the forge. Examples of items and materials flowed around me, various skills and abilities for manipulating and modifying everything from matter to energy to even concepts swirling around me in a storm of activity, all seeming to vie for my attention. “Watts”, however, simply grabbed from among the lot a small number of these concepts, and began showing me the intricacies of their function and form.

    Here, a weapon fit for a God...and the secrets behind it’s forging, oddly tied to one’s own self.

    There, the knowledge of the tiniest of machines, and their potential uses.

    Another, showing the possibilities and methods of how to create even the simplest of tools to last centuries, possibly even millennia.

    And then there were the oddballs, like this weird template thing that seemed to be capable of...combining things? Odd, but sure, I’d take it.

    Onwards the lessons continued, showing how to draw out the abilities needed to properly utilize the skills within.

    And with a simple flourish, it was done, and yet more nodes on the strange galaxy that was my soul shone with the light of life.

    I snapped back into my own head with a minor bit of dizziness that quickly passed. As awesome as that was, it was equally annoying...but the benefits. The BENNIES, I say!!

    Most of the ancillary equipment for my newest lessons were placed inside the warehouse proper, with some of them having a customized locker for the gear (Terran Confederation Issue, I believe. I could do better at a local pawn shop...Las was kinda broken when you didn’t have to fight Chaos and other threats from beyond the pale). Most of the abilities I’d learned, though-- the “perks” so to speak--were mental in nature this time. Including one that allowed me to have increased information processing ability, relative to a baseline human. Useful for a firefight, but it was intended as a research tool.

    I’d deal with that mess involving the mystic aura, and any potential complications, later: right now I needed to get more information.

    Firing up my Omnitool, I quickly found the local wireless access point. It was a simple thing, almost primitive by the standards of the age, even though it was plenty advanced to my shock. It was “only” rated at 100+ gigabit speeds, after all...at least, if I did my conversion math correctly.

    The various transfer protocols and file formats were another matter, but it was short work to cobble together something I could use to skim around with. And oh BOY did I find the goods…

    It would seem that the concept of information security has taken a rather massive backslide in the 41st millennium. (Or maybe it’s just me being a freaking super hacker among script kiddies--though there were a few seemingly decent hackers floating around in the fringes, here and there, as I could see the data trails that they tried to hide,) Either way, what little defenses that there were surrounding all that juicy data fell before me like so much tissue paper, and I perused the contents at my leisure, completely unworried about electronic counterattacks or backtracking from anyone currently on the network at large...and it was a shockingly good find at that.

    Apparently there was far more to the story of some of the Ganger Houses than was public knowledge. Some of the Noble Houses, too, for that matter, but a quick perusal showed nothing that was truly actionable though the intel was nice. Locations of certain Stash houses, various assorted contacts ranging from petty to potentially important, and a host of other minutiae related to the organization of several of the counterintelligence arms of the relevant party. Of note, the Archives were Primarily a Van Saar concern, with what looked like two or three other factions in on the fun: a group calling themselves the Enforcers, and what looked like House Cawdor as well. There were even areas of the network reserved for “official” Imperial traffic, namely the Nobles themselves, the publicly-facing sections of the Mechanicus, and the Arbites, along with the rest of the Administratum proper.

    There was also an unusually sparse section that claimed to be a contact portal for House Delaque…which turned out, upon further inspection, to be a rather elaborate honeypot for those who thought themselves good at the game of ones and zeroes. The actual (and surprisingly well defended) section of the Delaque network was elsewhere entirely.

    Didn’t make it any harder for me to slice my way in and take what I wanted for my own records, but it was still a better effort than anyone else had put up to this point.

    The only parts of the datanet I didn’t pick clean for that sweet, sweet info was the sections related to Defense. The PDF had a decent sector all to themselves, and it was practically a digital fortress. No way in hell I wanted anything to do with pissing THEM off.

    Even more shocking to me was the presence of another, even more secure section...and it was for the Imperial Fists. As in, the Motherfucking Space Marines.

    There was a fucking Space Marine. Chapter. KEEP. ON THIS WORLD..

    Not only no, but HELL no.

    This was worth ALL of the nope. There is no way in hell I’m fucking with that. EVER. not even at gunpoint am i giving the fucking Astartes a reason to give me their personal attention.

    I would not live to see the dawn, if that happened.

    Fortunately, I didn’t have to. My scouting on the edge of their systems didn’t seem to trigger anything, and unlike some of the idiots I was smart enough to let things alone, so I took the clearly offered hint present in that gesture and beat digital feet.

    The good news is that I got a decent map of the Hive complex(es) out of it.

    Oh yeah. There were quite a few of these hanging around, and each had their own issues. I filed those away for future reference while I examined the real prize.

    The map of Hive Primus was apparently somewhat out of date, as several of the documents from the Enforcers and even the Arbites showed areas requiring detours, potential and actual collapses of support structures, and other semi-permanent damage that might need routing around in a tense and/or crisis situation. The Delaque maps, what there were of them, anyway, showed off quite a few of the less-known paths by which one could travel without drawing too much attention, which was essential for one like me, who worked best in the shadows.

    That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a second honey pot setup, drawing in those who were smart enough to find the mapping data and then either punishing them for digging too deep…or recruiting them for being able to find them.

    Can never put things past people who are willing to work in that many layers...and I think I now know who Harrisyn’s unnamed secondary clients might be. These guys go out of their way to keep a low profile even online.maybe the paranoia is justified? I’d have to---

    There was a loud knock at the door.

    This immediately had me on edge, shifting myself towards anything that might be a defensive position while drawing my ‘Eagle, aiming towards the door.

    No one except Harrisyn knows that I'm here. And he wouldn’t knock.

    I hadn’t been here for all of a few hours and already this shit is happening? I could feel the tension rising in my spine, demanding I act. But patience and planning was the key here. First, I need to find cover.

    Another visual audit of the room followed, with even more focus on finding good cover, or at least adequate cover until I could deal with the idiots. The stuffed chairs were sitting free in the middle of the room, unlike the couch which was up against a wall, and were, while not perfect, at least adequate for my needs. I finished shifting towards my defensive zone and settled in for the coming encounter.

    And not a moment too soon, as the door was kicked off of its hinges by an absolutely massive boot.

    Said boot was attached to a guy that had to be nearly seven feet, and with more muscle than anything I had ever seen in my life on a person, all on display. There were marks of what looked like prior...surgeries? Injuries? All over his body (and that was DEFINITELY a He, no mistaking things there), along with what looked like a crude, if flamboyant belt of Spikes holding up a pair of simple work trousers. An absolutely lethal-looking cudgel of some sort followed, made out of what looked like old and rusted metal.

    But it was those eyes, those cold and lifeless black eyes, set inside of a bald head, that told me everything I needed to know.

    This guy...THESE guys (another three men jostled around outside the doorframe, as they started fanning in) were here to kill me.

    “Well then, welcome to the drips, my friend. I do hope you’ve enjoyed your--”

    My only answer was a sliver of metal between his eyes, and the loud crack of the pistol’s report as I ended him.

    “Hey!! He got--”

    A second ganger fell, with just as much effort, to a gaping chest wound.

    The third tried to rush in while he had the opportunity, and was gunned down just as swiftly.

    There was no fourth man. That one had run for the hills after seeing his partners dropped that fast.

    A small sigh left me as I relaxed from the tension of the brief combat.

    Well, that wasn’t how I wanted things to go…but as life has taught me, beggars cannot be choosers by any means. At the end of the day, the fight you can walk away from is a fight that you’ve won.

    Now how the fuck was I going to dispose of these bodies?





    Harrisyn Cain liked to believe himself a simple man.

    He got up in the morning, Drank his shitty recaf just like everyone else, and then he went out to eke out a living in the harsh underbelly of HIve Primus. And he usually came back, too, always a credit when these things came up with his employers. Just a simple man doing simple things.

    And then came that weird cultist attack that came out of nowhere, which wrecked a lot of people’s shit in short order, finally requiring the local Stand-ins for the Houses to step up and get things done before the Arbites could get called.

    And what should fall into his lap afterwards but the oddest person that he has ever met to date.

    That Mr. Green was just a giant puzzle, one that had him intrigued and terrified in equal measure. He adjusted the old jacket he wore, as he meandered his way through the local slums near his old safehouse...where his current ‘guest’ was residing.


    The man moved like a soldier, walked and talked like a spy, and acted as if any and everything could kill him at any moment. Being honest with himself, he probably would not have made a move to recruit him at all if Green hadn’t literally walked up to him first. The brief episode of spoken gibberish (or possibly another language that he knew) and apparent severe headaches later, and the man was back to fighting shape, and showing that along with the various bits of training came a scarily sharp mind, one almost as good as his own.

    It felt nice, to be able to treat with an intellectual equal, for once, even as an adversary.

    But no. This man has to be some kind of freaking gold mine dropped into their laps like so much candy, and at a nearly perfect time, no less. The recruiters of Van Saar were practically foaming at the mouth to get their hands on a Veteran Guardsman, especially one that looked like he’d spent time as a stormtrooper...but as with all things on Necromunda, the running rule was to verify, then trust. No one wanted to be bit in the ass by a fake.

    Which was why he had,on orders from the higher ups, gone and hired out a small band of two-bit thugs for a simple job, paid up front. Just head on over to the safehouse, break in the door after knocking loudly once, and look threatening for a bit, then see what happens afterward. All in all a simple job, and one that would test the mettle of this so-called Guardsman.

    You could never be too sure with these things, and checking was always the first step...but deep down, he hoped beyond all hope that he was right, that Green really was the real deal, an actual former Guardsman with the raw experience and grit that Van Saar needed so badly and would pay desperately for access to.

    In any case, all he had to do was wait just a bit and---

    Several odd cracks filled the air, sounding somewhat similar to an old stubber. The surrounding area, long used to the depressingly regular violence that was a standard feature of living near the underhive, ignored them as anything but routine.

    The thug screaming in terror and running for his life, however, was not. Not by any means. Especially not splattered with blood as he was.

    Harrisyn immediately double-timed it back to his old safehouse, desperate to see if he could salvage the situation by any means at all.

    Instead he found an oddly calm Mr. Green, standing over three of the thugs' bodies, and making an odd contemplative gesture as he looked down at them.

    Seeming to notice his haste, He looked up.

    “Harrisyn, glad you made it back,” Green stated, still as calm as ever. “Got another question for you.”

    “Dammit man, what the hell happened?” Harrisyn exclaimed. “I thought I asked you to lay low?”

    “And I did. Until these idiots showed up and decided it was a good day to play pinata with the new guy.” Harrisyn didn’t recognize the word, but the abandoned blunt instruments surrounding the bodies said a lot for context. “As you can see, I wasn’t too enthused about the prospects, and disagreed. Loudly.”

    Harrisyn took a closer look at the bodies. Not one of them was with the group he’d hired to rough Green up a bit, which he found quite confusing...until his thugs rounded the corner.

    “Hey there dipshit. Care...to…”

    The opening banter (read: inane prattle) died off quickly as the thugs took in the scent before them. Then, almost as one, they turned around and quickly departed in the opposite direction.

    Harrisyn Snorted. At least SOMEONE here had the brains that The Emperor demanded that they use for a living.

    Green spoke up from his impromptu vigil once more. “So, I'm assuming that your bosses felt a test was in order…”

    “And the idiots that just left were it,” he’d replied immediately. No way in HELL was he claiming the dumbasses on the ground as his. “Something of a policy, I'm afraid. I had no say in the matter.”

    “Really now.” Green’s tone became very flat, almost mocking. “And next I suppose you’ll tell me that these guys were unsanctioned interlopers trying to horn in because someone was being an idiot about security, right?”

    Harrisyn noted the implied accusation for what it was, and ignored it. “Yes, that is more or less the case. Not that I could have done anything about it myself, but these things happen.” He moved closer to the now ruined safehouse door, kicking one squarely in the side as he passed by. “In any case, this just might put some of the doubts to rest about your skills. I think I'm going to cut out the middleman and take you to the higher ups directly. They have an...interest in you.”

    “And here you said you were but a low-level info broker. Kinda high up the fence for someone like you, ain’t it?”

    “...you can say that--”

    There was a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. He whirled to face it, hands flying to the hidden holster underneath his jacket, seeing all too clearly his target, aiming squarely at his new charge.His now drawn autopistol quickly finding its mark, a twitch of the finger sent lead-jacketed death streaming towards the last thug, the one that had run screaming earlier, now armed with a damned HELLGUN? Where in the fuck did they even FIND one of those? Admittedly it was in bad shape, but still...

    “...so that’s where he ran off to.” Green seemed a bit shaken, but he placed it down to the adrenaline rush of nearly getting shot at. He’d been there all too many times, himself.

    “Looks like it. Now then, Let's get you to the bosses, Mr. Green.”

    Green made an odd chuckling noise. “ Oh hell no, Harry. You saved my ass from getting fried by that asshole. You don’t get to ‘Mr. Green’ me.” He moved closer, extending his hand, a wry smirk on his face.. “Name’s Satori. Satori Green; Friends call me Tory.”

    Harry (and its been a long, long time since he allowed anyone to call him that) looked at the offered hand for but a brief moment...and smiled.

    “Nice to meetcha Tory. Name’s Harry.”

    The two men shook hands.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    ==================================

    CH2|--Deity's Weapon (100CP)
    Naturally, your aura is not your only tool, and neither is it just for show. By imbuing a portion of your aura into a tool, you can turn it into a weapon capable of eating through physical and magical barriers alike. Naturally, as you're infusing a portion of your mystic nature into the tool, with time it will grow to possess magical qualities as well. With a sufficient amount of time passing, you could very well find yourself bearing a mystic weapon, one that has naturally absorbed enough mystic force to rival the greatest of magical weapons. With enough time, all that energy would be enough to make it a weapon of lore. Just don't expect it to happen anytime soon.
    ---[Deific Qualities – 0 – Mystic Only]
    Deities and mystics are quickly recognizable by the distinct aura that surrounds them, though not everybody possesses the ability to see that aura. While you can freely control who can see your aura, certainly there will be plenty of times when you would be much better off with nobody seeing it. The nature of your aura is generally up to you to control both in terms of coloration as well as size. Certain races are generally bolstered by the presence of your aura, and in the opposite fashion, some races are naturally weakened in its presence. While this is something you choose, with a single race bolstered and a single race weakened, it generally seems to do with the nature of your mystic qualities. A fox mystic would probably bolster fellow fox races while possibly weakening humans.
    ---[The Aspect – 0 – Mystic Only]
    Mystics and deities alike have always taken on profiles, drawing upon the various elements of nature around them. Some would say that these profiles were assigned to them by their worshippers, or perhaps they were chosen by these divine individuals themselves. Regardless, as a mystic of minor presence, you too have an aspect, representing a single element of nature. Your ability to manipulate this element is probably the most fundamental skill you possess as a mystic. Everything from conversion to manifestation operates with this single element in mind. In its simplest form, you’ll be able to produce small quantities of this element at no significant detriment to your spirit. Though it takes time to develop this skill, it will improve bit by bit with further usage, from mere generation to conversion of one element into your core element, and then finally manifesting your core element into the environment around you. Both the intensity and range of your powers will slowly grow. Though it should not bear repeating, as with most things related to mystics, growth is slow given how long your lifespans tend to be. There’s simply no reason to move things in a hurry.
    CH2|-Info Processing (Starcraft II - Nova Covert Ops) (400CP)
    You are not always stuck in a lab, you are useful in more areas than just that. You can process information, sensor readouts, intercepted communications, and more importantly, you can apply such knowledge. While others would use such data for tactics, you see opportunity for scientific advancement. The more information you have access to, the better opportunities you see for salvageable materials, technologies, or data. And you can use those to relatively quickly implement a usable and useful technology.

    CH2|-Robust Engineering (Dune) (300CP)
    Ten thousand years of stagnation in technology is a very long time... and now you know how to apply the lessons of those millennia to the construction of anything you have. Mass production does not exist any longer and even relatively common items are made as if masterwork quality, because aside from obvious cheap items, they have been built to last longer than the person using them. Expect anything you construct by hand to be able to last centuries, as long as you take a little extra time while you make it. With the amount of time you're going to be around... you may need that sort of quality.
    --Military Training [100, Free: Drop-In / Smuggler]
    Military training is particularly curious here due to the invention of the shield; only an object moving slowly can penetrate one, and firing a lasgun at a shield causes a quasi-nuclear detonation that will consume both the weapon firing, the shield, and potentially everything in between with a yield that may vary from hand grenade to H-bomb. As a result, true military training provides a smattering of training over long range weaponry and the bulk of it in melee and unarmed combat.​

    CH2|--Nanite Sciences (100CP)
    You possess in depth knowledge of nanite technologies. With sufficient equipment and resources you could
    produce and control nanite machines, possibly even recreate the nanite event or maybe figure out how to reverse its effects. But that would take a long time of additional study of nanites out in the world, still you might be one of the few who could attempt this endeavor. You possess no knowledge of the meta-nanites, and understanding how they work is beyond your grasp.

    CH2|-The Right Tools (Generic Cyberpunk) (100CP)
    They can be hard to find, but when resources are hoarded and hard to come by you've learned to make do. You can easily improvise for tools and materials you lack by creatively using what you do have, even if that means using scrap to build the tools to build the tools you need. Even if you're lucky enough to have a fully stocked workshop or lab this will come in handy, as you'll be able to do a great deal more with what you have instead of needing to commission or build specialized equipment for every unique little thing. You'll never be empty handed and useless for long.

    CH2|-Aesthetics and Flair (Bayonetta) (100CP)
    A gun isn't quite a gun until it LOOKS good, you know? It's supposed to be classy, make you look amazing just for having it. Likewise, that sword could use a bit of badass styling to it. When you create your weapons, you can make them look DAMNED good even on an off day. Expect any weapon creator to envy you, and those who die by your weapons to count themselves lucky as they perish to such beautiful art.

    CH2|-Excellent Craftsman (In Another World With My Smartphone) (200CP)
    You are incredibly talented at making things. What kinds of things? All kinds of things. You are simply that talented after all. Anything you personally make, or direct the creation of, will automatically be top-quality, and you never need to worry about making mistakes in the creation process. To get you started you may pick any four mundane skills related to making things, which you start as a master of.
    ---Regular Magic Affinity - Free for Everyone
    You’ve got regular affinities for magic. Which is to say, roll a 1d2+1 if you’re any race but a fairy, which roll 1d3+2. That is how many elements you have an affinity for. The elements are Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Light, and Darkness. Technically there is another 7th ‘element’ known as Null Magic but that deals with personal magic which everyone has. Everyone gets 1 Null Magic (personal magic) spell, except for fairies that get five. It is impossible to train up affinities you do not possess or gain more Null Magic spells beyond the one(s) you start with, either you have them or you don’t. (see Notes for details on magic) [Roll was 3. I was not amused]
    CH2|-Weapons Recombination Template (Final Fantasy XIII-2) (200CP)
    The shady dealer (Actually it seems like everything he's offered so far is shady) just shrugs when you pick this up. Apparently, it binds two weapons together, and allows you to shapeshift the weapon between either form. You're not quite sure how it works, but he demonstrates it to you by showing you how a bow can shift into a sword. You can't help but notice that it also turned into a Moogle afterwards...but apparently yours won't do that. Unless you throw a Moogle into the mix. Wait...does that mean...
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2021
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 03
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    Your weekly (yes, I said that) chapter has appeared! please enjoy!
    As Always, Thanks to Spiritual_Liege for the Lore assists and (semi)beta reading.



    After our previous...Encounter with the locals, Harry decided ( and I agreed) that any decisions made about my future were best made in front of the actual bosses, or at least the officially authorized reps thereof. That this required us to vacate the area that we were currently in and move to an entire different level of the hive was completely incidental.

    Really.

    So we made the trip towards the local stronghold for Van Saar interests...or at least we attempted to.

    There’s a funny thing about Hive cities. They technically have somewhere in the range of hundreds of millions to outright billions of people housed within, and the vast majority of them in conditions that can at best be charitably be described as squalor on a particularly good day.

    This, as can be expected, tended to be a very fertile ground for conflict.

    Add in the gangs and the other unique issues that Necromunda is normally faced with, and the end result was...unique.

    Such as the current situation that we found ourselves in.

    “So please tell me again why this is happening?” I shouted at Harry over the thunder of gunfire.

    “I dunno myself, really” He shouted back, even as he snapped off a few shots from behind the piece of ferrocrete he was using as cover. “Normally this firefight happens about an hour or so later!! I thought we were dodging around it!”

    And that was a part of the problem. This was supposed to be a SCHEDULED firefight? That happened on the regular, every day, damn near like clockwork?

    I exercised my frustration on the idiots that were trying to kill me at the moment, sending yet more suppressive fire downrange to little effect. I would have used a grenade, but after the first firefight Harry very kindly informed me that using explosives was considered bad form, mostly because it would attract Arbites.

    “YOU ARE DOING A REALLY SHITTY JOB AT DODGING FIREFIGHTS, HARRY!!”

    Did I mention that this was the fourth firefight we’ve been in since we started this little trip? I may have forgotten that part.

    “IT'S NOT NORMALLY THIS BAD!!”

    Yeah, there was that too.

    Supposedly the sudden influx in random acts of premeditated murder could be directly correlated with my appearance and current proximity to who or whatever the hell is sending these assholes at us. Even Harry is getting agitated at the sheer numbers getting shoved in front of us to die, and for a veteran Hive Worlder that is saying a LOT.

    I, on the other hand, was getting a lot of target practice in. I would try out that new magic I just got, but I was already in deep enough shit with multiple roving bands of gangers throwing themselves at me to waste ammo. I did not need people screaming about psykers as well.

    That, of course, did not prevent me from being an asshole to the idiots who dared come against me, as I demonstrated yet again on the dumbass attempting to flank me by shanking him with a supercooled omni-blade as he came around the pillar I was using as cover. The dumbass in question dropped like a stone, screaming in agony, and I silenced him with an outright contemptuous double-tap. Would have used the thermal clip on my eagle, but I NEEDED those...

    Seriously, this shit was just getting OLD. And being able to say that about a firefight seems...wrong, almost.

    I leaned out from my cover and sniped the dumbass attempting to set up a belt-fed weapon on a bipod mount. His partner fell soon afterwards, and I ducked back into cover before the other dumbasses could get ideas.

    Harry was showing himself to be surprisingly competent in a fight, with a level of accuracy that I found quite shocking and a level of grit and daring that until then I would have expected only from Marines, both the US and Alliance varieties. His autopistol sounding out always heralded the death of one of our opponents, and the wicked-looking combat knife he carried as a backup always found its mark, even around the downright crude armor being worn by our attackers.

    I really liked his style.

    The noise level dropped unexpectedly, causing me to stick a hastily rigged-together stick mirror around the edge of my pillar to see what the hell was going on. Said mirror was immediately blown off by a line of red.

    Well fuck me. I know it was getting boring, but DAMN.

    “Harry!! They’ve got Las!!” I shouted over to my companion in warning, just before he poked his head out from his cover. This ended up saving his life, as the Las bolts flew right where his head would have been if he’d poked it out.

    “ATTENTION FOOLS!! WE DEMAND THE DARK-SKINNED ONE!!” A voice I didn’t recognize boomed out, distorted as all hell to boot.

    Probably Chaos.

    “And assuming I refuse?” I shouted back, while prepping one of the nastier surprises that I could kick out.

    “THEN YOUR FRIEND WILL DIE.”

    Translation: We’re dead no matter what. Maybe I could milk--

    “And just who the hell do you think you are, anyway?” Harry shouted out from his cover. “You think for one second that the houses will allow this shit to go unchecked?”

    “YOUR PUNY HOUSE WILL DO--”

    The explosion of electricity stopped the monologue completely in its tracks, my hastily modified haywire grenade having done it’s work and created a relatively wide-ranging electrical effect akin to a taser...and conveniently incapacitating most of our remaining opposition.

    Both Harry and I quickly stepped out of our cover and got to work.




    “Alright, so what the hell is going on here? And who the fuck was the oddball fucker just now?”

    Harry, in a rare moment, didn’t actually have any answers for me. And instead responded with a shrug. “I have no clue why we seem to be drawing out the crazier idiots for today. Hell, I think we just ended up as the stars of the normal post-lunch pre-shift-change firefight.”

    WHAT.

    “So...you’re telling me that the firefights here happen often enough that people have made official schedules for them?” I asked, incredulously.

    “Well, yeah.” Harry’s response was not what I wanted to hear. “ To be fair, though, that is for the entire hive section in general, not just one area. Normally the fights for this time are happening about two levels up…”

    “And yet” I nearly spat out, sarcasm all but dripping from my words “we somehow have managed to find ourselves as the center of nearly all of these fights for the allotted times.”

    Harry gave a noncommittal grunt.

    “So just who the hell wants me either dead or captured so bad when I’ve barely even had time to really make a scene? And why the hell are they willing to throw the shit gangers at us, anyway?” I hefted the Lasrifle that I had ‘acquired’ from our prior opposition as a form of exclamation point. “I would think that they would send in more than one freaking lasgun with the guys, if they really wanted to bother.”

    Harry shrugged yet again, shifting the Hellgun on his back into a more comfortable carrying position.

    Still didn’t stop him from dropping the mook coming at us from the side.

    “I think that the Las group was a different set from the guys who had us pinned beforehand.” He stated, absently stooping to pick up the laspistol from the now dead ganger in front of him. “Dunno about Big Voice, though. You kinda killed him before I could get any real info.”

    I gave a snort of contempt. “Meh, he had it coming, trying my patience the way he did. Besides, with guys like that you can usually tell from markings and such, right? Maybe he was a cultist?”

    “Unlikely, and the culties around here tend to stick lower, to the underhive proper and the access tunnels.” Harry replied, dismissing my hypothesis entirely. “That and they are normally not armed anywhere near as well as I’ve been seeing here. This is the fourth Las weapon I've seen just today.”

    “Well, at least you have ammo now. I know you were running short on mags for that dinky sidearm of yours over there.” I japed at him. “Try and actually take care of the good shit, please? I do not wanna have to fix that thing.”

    Another casual motion of my hand and my recently-acquired combat knife--although it really should be called a machete, now that I think about it--decapitated one of the braver fools who had the sense to try and be sneaky about it. Well, that and the fact that he lacked a ranged weapon of any type. I easily sidestepped the blood spray as we continued walking.

    “BREAK? Whaddya think I am, some lousy Goliath grunt?” Harry shot back, grinning all the while. ”We take CARE of our weapons here in Van Saar, boy.” The ganger he shot off of his perch a few dozen meters ahead of us seemed to disagree as he fell and broke his neck.

    Tough shit, idiot. Stop playing stupid games.

    “Still, you were going really hard on that poor pistol of yours! I can hear it even now, weeping at the sheer abuse heaped upon it!” I paused for a moment, then continued walking, somewhat surprised at the lack of an attack. “Maybe I should confiscate it from you, so that it can receive the proper care due to a weapon of war?”

    The ground in front of me sparked angrily as the bullets ricocheted off of it wildly, all missing me and Harry by a wild margin. The shooter, some female ganger with what looked like a light machine gun analog, was quickly silenced with a burst from the Eagle.

    The trail of bodies that were being left in our wake was getting to the point of ridiculousness, now.

    “On a different topic” I began again “Don’t some of these guys have important jobs? Families or something? Anything at all to do other than shoot at me for existing?”

    “I was asking myself the same question, really. Normally you don’t get this much activity towards the top. Tends to attract the Enforcers, and later Arbites if that doesn’t stick.”

    I made a lazy motion behind us with a wave of my Pistol, lining up on a straggler of the last group of gangers in the process. “ So what do you call that, then?” I punctuated the statement with a single shot, the ganger dropping to the ground in a heap.now minus his head.

    “No clue, Satori. No clue at all. Really fucking annoying, though.” Harry put down yet another ganger as we continued our trek.

    ...My life was now a fucking comedy routine now.




    We arrived at the local base for Van Saar interests without too much more in the way of fanfare or issues. That I was willing to call the additional four firefights and another running walking gunbattle as being “without fanfare” was telling.

    Seriously, my damned BROTHER could shoot better than that, and he’d never held a gun in his life!!!

    I intoned as such to Harry as we closed in on the guarded barricades that marked the edge of the stronghold proper.

    His response basically boiled down to “that’s the way it is” without any form of explanation or comment.

    I Graciously allowed it to slide.

    The Stronghold (and I was going to have to get it’s proper name, soon, that placeholder has way too much gravitas to it) was a moderately large building, marked by being distinctly better fortified even at a casual glance. Gunports lined the walls at strategic locations, there looked like a nice killing field set up there, even with the lack of room for a real setup, and the actual wall setup was REALLY nice. The clearly visible guards on the walls and at the barricades helped a lot to dissuade any real opposition to those seeking to charge in.

    From the looks of it, there had still been quite a few idiots anyway, though.

    Harry stepped forward first: “Harrisyn Cain, here with the prospect the bosses were interested in.”

    The guards gave him a quick visual inspection, and then nodded to each other. The one on the left side then turned back to Harry. “Wait here, we’ll let ‘em know you’re here.” He motioned Harry away, and then pulled out what looked like an old-fashioned handheld radio.

    Making an uneducated guess, probably both a secure comms net, and a message all in one that the situation was “normal”, so to speak.

    It’s what I’d do, after all.

    After a brief exchange over their radio sets, the guard had obviously heard what he wanted to hear, and waved the two of us over. “ You and your guest were expected, Cain. Heard that you had a bit of trouble out in your neck of the woods, and on the way here as well, though. Care to explain?”

    Harry once again shrugged. He was doing a lot of that today. “When I know, I’ll tell you.” he grumbled, though there wasn’t much involved in it. “Had to beat down what seemed like all of the wannabes on the way here, though. It was crazy....”

    I chose to remain silent, and observe the brief conversations as we were led to something similar to a small staging area where another set of guards would collect us, before we went to see the brass. From my limited eavesdropping (and my considerable multitasking ability, thanks to that Info Processing ability I had awakened) I found that there was very little in the way of actual info being passed in Harry’s small talk.

    Must be saving the rest of the story for the bosses, then.

    After our escort arrived, we were quickly guided to a small but obviously well-secure meeting room inside the stronghold proper, where three people awaited us. The Gender mix of two men and a single woman didn’t surprise me, nor the fact that the seating arrangement, with the woman in the center, suggested that she was in charge.

    What did, however, was that all three of them were wearing a type of power armor...no...was that a life support harness? But why would they need one in the first place?

    We were gestured to seats by the woman, a frail-looking thing with sunken eyes and thinning hair. (My medical knowledge suggested some kind of wasting sickness to be to blame, but I wasn’t about to make a snap diagnosis on that alone.) She then opened up the proceedings.

    Good evening, gentlemen. I am Valerie Kransmith, a ranking Augmek within House Van Saar. With me are Amos Barrugends” The man to the right of her, with pale, almost sallow skin and odd-looking eyes, nodded tightly “and Janus Farhish.” The other man, an almost dangerously thin being with an oddly well-groomed beard, smiled thinly and nodded at us.

    From what little info Harry gave me, the Augmeks were the House’ equivalent of a Lieutenant.

    “The purpose for today's meeting is to ascertain whether or not Mr. Green here has anything of value to us as a House.”

    I very carefully did not react to the barb. Instead, I let Harry do the talking…for now.

    “...Currently Mr. Green has demonstrated advanced knowledge of combat maneuvers and tactics, to the point where the multiple gangers that have attempted to...accost us have been dealt with in an appropriate manner.

    “To clarify: the vast majority of the mess that you see on our path here? That’s his work. I’d say he’s quite effective.”

    I remained silent.

    “Interesting, interesting.” Amos...yeah, that was who the Valerie chick said the guy on the right was…”Perhaps you could teach our people from your no doubt considerable experience., then. It would do so much good for our forces in the hive and around the local area.”

    “”Let’s not be hasty, now.” The other guy---Janus they said his name was, right?--interjected. “ Just because he can deal with some of the riff-raff doesn’t mean that he’s worth the effort. I say we need to test him a bit, see if he’s really worth---”

    The crack of a laspistol rang out in the meeting room, the bolt only JUST missing his head. Instead, what looked like a small portion of his head had suffered the most minor of burns, the redness already showing.

    I placed the Laspistol on the table with a smooth motion, the calm I felt completely at odds with the sheer tension racing throughout the room--and especially through the guards, who now had weapons firmly trained on my back. Not that I was too worried, though.

    “If you wish to continue talking about me as if I don’t exist, I can leave.” I stated, my voice completely flat and devoid of any and all emotion. “Otherwise...let’s talk business.”

    “He is quite the shot, I see.” Valerie spoke, in a language that I quickly identified as High Gothic. I mentally sighed. Another test? Fine, have it your way.

    “I have worked quite hard to become so.” Paraphrasing The Princess Bride in response to idiots felt...appropriate here. That I did it in High Gothic just to rub their noses in it was icing on the cake for me.

    And I so, so very much enjoyed the blatant flinch as all three of our hosts turned to stare at me in utter shock, the realization that I had not only understood them, but replied back etched bright as day on their faces....and I wasn’t done, either.

    “You question my skills in battle. Fine, I can accept that, considering that you haven’t seen me personally. But I was under the impression that Harrisyn here was YOUR man, and one considered trustworthy at that. Are you saying that his word is not good enough for verification?”

    I was rewarded with another flinch.

    “...His word is valid in our eyes.” Valerie responded.

    “Then let’s stop with the bullshit games and get down to business already. You tell me what you’re looking for, I tell you what I want in return, we work to a satisfactory arrangement. Deal?”

    The silence stretched out for a long moment.

    “Oh yeah...tell your guys here” and with that I pointed to the guards behind me “to stop waving those things at my head before I take offense...especially if they like walking.”

    The guards looked at each other, confused…and a sudden fear came to their eyes. Only then did they actually bother to look down...and see the antipersonnel traps I had pre-fabricated and placed at their feet without them noticing.

    Hey, N7 is all about being crazy prepared for even the stupidest situations…

    “So then, people. What will it be?”




    “Negotiations” went well after that incident. Very well.

    Apparently the Augmeks there were rather impressed with the sheer size of the balls that I had to pull that stunt off directly in their faces...and the skill that it displayed that they didn’t even notice until after I’d struck.

    I’d also blatantly displayed a fluency in High Gothic, a trait that was very desired out of their operatives, as it was both rare as all hell in the hive dwellers here, and they tended to work with the upper hive and the actual nobles more often than not in the mercantile areas in order to market the tech that they put out.

    I didn’t directly mention anything about my mechanicus skills or the training I’d received with the Rites of Maintenance, but Harry’s descriptions of the improvised explosives that I was throwing around earlier must have left an impression, as the three brass hats had agreed to let me take a look at some of the older tech stuff that could use a good repair job. That it came with a reasonably sized (and defended) workshop in one of their more secure areas was a good thing in my book.

    It did leave one nagging question in my mind, though, and I chose to ask about it as the meeting concluded.

    “So, I was wondering about this since I saw the three of you.” I began. “Exactly what the fresh hell are you guys infected with, that has you looking like a victim of one of the worse wasting diseases, and why is it so bad that you need a life support harness built into that armor to survive?”

    There was an uncomfortable silence in the room after the question.

    “Well--”

    “Because I REALLY need to know if I'm in some kind of viral zone, so I can make proper preparations. Unless its something completely different, in which case you need to tell me right fucking now. Because I know that to look like that this disease has to be rough as hell--i almost mistook it for rad poisoning, and on a stupid long scale, at that.”

    More silence. It seems I stumbled upon something very important, then. Too bad for them, I wanted answers. NOW.

    “Well?”

    It was Amos who finally spoke. “You had it right in your hunch, my friend. And more credit to you for knowing of it. Our condition is due to a form of radiation poisoning. We are in the process of securing assistance in dealing with it, but there are inter-house politics involved.”

    Huh. I was expecting them to dither around the issue and generally try to not answer. I must have made a damned good impression.

    Still left a dangerous loophole that I needed closed, though. “And the source of this radiation?”

    “...we cannot tell you.”

    Very hesitant, there. Interesting.

    “Can not, or will not?”

    “Mr Green.” Janus spoke up, this time. “There are secrets of our house that we are forbidden to share to those who have not reached a certain level of trust. The source of the radiation is involved in this, and I am breaking a great deal of confidentiality in telling you even that much. Please, for now, accept that we cannot tell you any more at this time.”

    ...Huh. so Van Saar had something...or someone... who was radioactive, or produced something that accomplished the same, and was essential to the long-term stability of the house. Meaning that they would keep the secret until their dying day if need be.

    No point forcing the issue right now. As it stands, I should be able to get more info soon enough on just what the problem is...and maybe offer up a solution. Medi-gel was a very good all-purpose healing agent, and it was entirely possible that I could formulate it to work with severe and long-term radiation poisoning. Failing that, I would need to find a way to put together some form of Rad-X or similar before any attempt at rehabilitation could be made…

    I gave them a terse nod of acceptance, making it clear that I didn’t like the situation but would abide with the decision...for now. With that, the meeting was adjourned and we were free to go our separate ways.

    All in all, things managed to work out well on my end. Valerie wanted me to look into setting up a training regimen for the House troops and affiliated gangs, specifically with the eye of being used as the House's Planetary Defense Force tithe. I personally agreed on principle that getting the conscript PDF troopers up to a reasonable standard was the best bet regardless of anything else that happened around the hive proper, as they would be facing the hellscape that was the rest of the galaxy in the name of the poor saps down here. That, and the best of them had a chance to be selected for the Imperial Guard proper, complete with trips to chaotic wastelands, Xenos-riddled hellscapes, and the Eldar.

    Not fun in the least. Maybe I could at least give the equipment a once-over, make sure it’s not going to crap out at the worst time or something…

    Aside from that particular detail, my knowledge of High Gothic made me very useful for mingling with their upper-tier contacts, those who either were or fashioned themselves as nobility. This was a double-edged sword: on the one hand I had access to people in potentially very high places; on the other those same people had access to ME, and I wasn’t entirely sure which was better (or worse) overall. As of now, I was calling it a wash.

    For now, I needed to get to my new workshop space and set it up for real work.

    Harry followed me out of the stronghold as I headed towards the location of my new (temporary) base of operations.

    “Seems to me like you got just about everything that you could need outta that deal there, Green.” he quipped. “Really, I don’t think I coulda done better myself…”

    “Naah. I didn’t get everything that I needed.” Was my reply. “I’m missing one really key component to all of this to make it work.”

    “Oh really. And just what piece is that, then?” The sarcasm was rather biting. Did I strike a nerve?

    “Oh, it’s really simple. Just people that I can trust.” And that was God’s The Emperor’s Own truth, right there.

    I had no one that I could trust, here in this world of endless war and despair. Nobody that really had my back, that would step in to make sure that I didn’t get knifed in the front while watching for the knife to the back. And while I thought that Harry could be that one person, he wasn’t there. Not yet.

    He seemed to sense this too, because he only nodded his head solemnly at me. “Trust, I've found, is one of the hardest things to gain in the hive, and by far the easiest to lose. We all have things that don’t need to be known by others.”

    Ah yes, that age-old adage, that three could keep a secret, if two of them were dead. It was a shitty saying, all the more so for being the absolute truth. That being said, though…

    “Doesn’t mean that it can’t be earned, just that it’s difficult to do” I smirked a little after my little monologue. “After all, the hard things are often the most rewarding when completed.”

    “That they are, my friend” Harry gave his own sardonic chuckle at the statement. “That they are.”






    The workshop provided to me by the local Van Saar concern was a small and paltry thing, not much to really scream that it was used for major repairs and such. Considering that an actual full shop with all the fixings would draw down Mechanicus attention, I understood the restraint.

    It was really a simple affair, with simple tools made to do simple jobs. Nothing too impressive, aside from some minor specialized tools for working on some of the more common Las weapons as needed.

    The main draw of the place, aside from it’s easily defensible location, was the living area attached to the second story zone. It was small, only about maybe an eighth again (at most) larger than the safehouse that Harry had stashed me in temporarily. The amenities were just as simple: a small kitchenette, a washroom with shower and toilet setups, and a smallish bedroom area separated off by a lockable door, which had an equally small closet set within. The furnishings were sparse as all hell, too: only a small, almost cot-like bed and a cheap table with a few chairs. It suggested that company was not something that would be around much, or at least that they would not want to remain for long.

    Nothing I couldn’t fix on my own, but still...

    The biggest boon for me here is that they had keyed locks, meaning that I didn't have to modify much to access my real workshop. But first…paranoia called.

    A significant part of my training as an N7 operative was in counter-surveillance techniques. In particular, how to locate, identify, and disable bugs and trackers of various makes and models. Considering the level of schizo tech that was the Imperium on a good day, I wasn’t expecting much, but it never hurt to be cautious about these things.

    A thorough search of the place surprisingly only turned up a grand total of four bugs, and of them only one of which was still operational in any capacity. The amusing part was that the working bug, an audio recorder, was working in name only; it could receive audio and record it, but it's storage medium was toast. So everything it heard vanished into the aether, never to be heard again...unless the Mechanicus got involved. So all four bugs got slated for teardown and repurposing, after I utilized the standard field-expedient tracker removal and disabling method.

    The steel-toed boot.

    Now that my space was secure, it was time to take stock and get things set up. My last haul on awakenings of skills and “perks” was somewhat large, mostly due to the ancillary abilities that came with the respective sets. A lot of them I had not been able to properly explore, such as the magic system that had been granted to me, along with a singular ability tied to that same system.

    This system, completely unnamed, was quite simple, really. Six elements, plus a seventh, “null” element that seemed to encompass personal skills and abilities or things that didn’t fall anywhere else in the system.

    Casting was equally simple.

    Step 1: Recite Spell Incantation.
    Step 2: Have proper aptitude for spell.
    Step 3: Supply requisite Magical Power.

    Result? MAGIC!!.

    I was, based on the initial data dump that he was reading, slotted with natural aptitudes for the elements of Wind, Water, and Light. Not a bad combination, if they worked the way I thought they did...but it was very odd, considering that it was attached to a perk that boosted my ability to create anything to the point that I could basically create a top-tier...anything. That it also came with a set of master-level crafting skills was just a sweet bonus, all things told. Considering that one of those skills was Weaponsmithing--as in GENERAL weaponsmithing-- that was an extremely sweet bonus.

    The magic was there, untrained and untapped, waiting to be used as I saw fit...but thanks to the nature of the Imperium, and the (sadly justified) fear of Psykers, I couldn't actually use it in a given situation without causing a major mess in the process. That, and I was totally untrained in the system to begin with, and would need the time to experiment on what worked and what didn’t.

    My Null magic skill might help with that, though: it was an interesting “spell” that allowed me to, as I saw fit, modify the magic I was casting, on the fly, to have differing effects, greater (or smaller) ranges, or even to remove parts of the casting process, in exchange for more required magical power. I had dubbed it “Metamagic” as a result. I would need to experiment some, but it looked like there was nothing stopping the spell from working on itself...meaning I could technically crack the system wide open to use as I saw fit, if need be...something to keep in mind for the future.

    I stepped into my workshop proper as I considered the next ability that I had ignored in favor of more important issues. The concept was weird, in that I had gained the powers and abilities of a so-called “Mystic”, complete with an aura (that was thankfully dismissable) announcing my presence...which was a requirement for the second ability, which allowed me to channel this aura into a given tool and eventually give it magical properties.

    Eventually being completely undefined, of course.

    Along with it came the ability to channel a natural element of the world, in my case Light, on a near conceptual level…though it would need extreme levels of practice, like all things.

    I had already been using the multitasking and information processing ability I’d gained during my hacking run, and later through the myriad firefights of the day, so I could set that aside for now (though it seemed it would be very useful as a research skill.)

    The rest were mainly for assists in my own crafting endeavors, ranging from the mindset to create extremely durable and lasting equipment to having a shocking sense of aesthetics and flair when doing my design work. There was even a set of data in there for working with nanomachines, though I lacked the tools to even attempt to construct them, let alone control them. Fortunately, there was another set of knowledge that came with that bundle--and this one allowed for the building of the tools to build the tools, upwards until you had what you needed for whatever you were going to do. It was actually quite nifty, all things considered, and I fully planned on taking advantage of that right now.

    Using the various bins of parts and equipment scattered around the large toolroom area, I moved a bunch of scrap metal and old circuit boards towards the central area of my workshop, where a simple, if sturdy workbench had appeared. Setting it down, I then pulled out my recently looted laspistol and studied it for a long moment.

    Las weapons were generally very simple to manufacture and maintain, and this one was no exception. I field-stripped the weapon, and began inspecting the components for wear and tear, and was quite shocked at the very noticeable lack thereof.

    It would seem that even the lowest of the low gangers know to keep their weapons usable.

    There were, however, several things that I saw that could be done that would increase both service life and rated power output of the laspistol significantly, if I could only find (or rather, build) the proper tools for the job. From the looks of it, I could probably retrofit a safety and power selector switch in here, too.

    A quick breakdown of the Lasrifle that I had brought with me as well showed similar issues, along with enough room to add in a fire selector switch as well as a power output modulator.

    I think I might be able to do something with these after all…

    A mild buzzing feeling from my head broke my train of thought. Turning my attention to it, I was presented with a kind of heads-up display feature, and a short list, along with a partially-filled progress bar.

    ...Huh. seems like there was another big dump of abilities as well today, and some of them had already started settling in without needing my input. There was one, however, that had a warning label attached to it for some reason. Curious, I looked it over.

    A vague description of the ability popped into my mind, of a type of material that had interesting properties, and would be supplied to me at regular intervals to use as I saw fit. The warning label seemed to be attached to a mandatory change that would be involved in the process...something that I needed to actually allow to happen before it would take.

    Considering the fact that the list of abilities and perks was still loading in, and had stopped until I accepted the new abilities changes, I saw no real reason to deny the process any longer. It’s not like anything in here can actively hurt me, right?

    In all my life, with all of my experiences both real and virtual, I have never, EVER experienced the onset of “instant Karma” that damned fast.

    My body was immediately wracked with agonizing pain as the changes started, going as far as to seem like my very organs were being torn apart. I heard a noise echoing off of the walls of my workshop. I did not realize until later that it was me screaming in pain.

    My arms gained an odd quality to them, with a strange, crystalline growth beginning to spread rapidly along their length in jagged, if thin, lines from my torso. My eyes began to blur, even as I felt an odd weight settle upon my head. My balance shifted massively, and for the first time since I was a child I found myself unable to properly compensate for it, tumbling to the ground in a pained heap that only made whatever was happening to me even WORSE.

    And throughout it all, my omnitool blared in warning as the bio-monitor program I'd coded ages ago met and passed it’s fault states. Too bad I was in far too much pain to pay attention.

    A sudden cooling sensation spread throughout my body, and the mind-numbing pain finally ebbed off. I looked down at my omnitool, the presumed source of the relief, to find that the auto-dispenser for medigel was working properly, and had used the emergency dispenser to basically dump an entire pack straight into my bloodstream.

    I suspect that was the only reason I was still alive.

    Now that my head was clearing, knowledge began to flood into my head of what the hell just happened.

    First was an apology from “Watts”. Apparently this was a secondary condition of working with the material that was provided by that new perk of mine...a severe--no, TERMINAL medical condition, gained from prolonged exposure to, or direct blood contact with, this strange substance called Originium. The stuff seemed to have a habit of converting organic material into more of itself through an unknown process. (There was a note in the file stating that the cache provided to me was safe for handling, but I intended to remain wary all the same.)

    Second was the side effect attached to said medical condition: the ability to use “Arts” on a level that an ordinary person would consider to be outright insane.

    Somehow I was not surprised; Ultimate power at the cost of everything important was THE standard deal as such things went. Something to look into when I wasn't literally dying from being mutated and/or converted into crystal.

    This disease, called “Oripathy” by those who have had their world wracked by it, was the cause of a massive social shift and upheaval the likes of which I doubt that I would ever see with my own eyes. The infected were all but the walking dead, their days numbered and counting down, depending on how far the infection had spread.

    The notes file in my head said that I had contracted stage 3, the worst known stage. If there was a stage four then no one had ever lived long enough to reach it.

    The good news was that medigel seemed to be a pretty good counter to the main effects.

    The bad news was that I had a very limited supply of medigel.

    That left one real solution, I needed to find a cure. NOW.

    Fortunately for me, there were some other abilities being loaded in as well. One of them was a scavenger skill that came with an equipment bundle, that although weak seemed like it could go places if needed. The second, was a rather interesting conceptual ability allowing me to understand any written language whatsoever, even dead ones. Normally it wouldn’t work on ciphers and encrypted text, but an odd mutation of the skill removed that limitation.

    That it came with a set of spell cards and a silly hat (that might not be as silly as described; I’d have to see it for myself) told me exactly where this particular ability was pulled from...and confirmed a suspicion as to where all of this power was being pulled,from, or at least inspired by.

    Maybe both?


    The third was a game changer that would, thanks to the ancillary changes, keep me alive just that much longer, even with Oripathy, thanks to the sheer number and breadth of the gene mods and bio-cybernetics now installed in my body. That mental interface was awesome too, but all of that was secondary to the main skill: the ability to steal my enemies tech and make it my own.

    This, combined with the last skill that allowed me to MASSIVELY crunch down the amount of time required for any given project that I undertook (like, this was outright cartoon levels of silly), meant that I had all of the tools that I needed to study, research, and ultimately craft a cure for a debilitating disease that had stumped medical professionals on it’s home planet for decades.

    For me, it would, at most, take maybe an afternoon. Two, if it was really tough.

    That this included sourcing the various materials, building up the tools, and only THEN actually studying the disease meant nada. I could do it all within the next several hours.

    Well, then. I sure as hell know what I’m doing today, don’t I?




    In the end, it took all of eight hours.

    EIGHT. HOURS.

    Eight hours total, to create an ultra-modern, ultra-compact biolab from first principles.

    To create all of the scanning equipment needed for it to function, and then to refine it to work on the scales necessary.
    To do all of the required research into Originium, and how it affected the human body.

    To finally synthesize a cure.

    And it was all so simple, in hindsight…

    Originium, in many ways, reminded me of the properties of Tiberium, or Command and Conquer fame. Eerily similar mutagenic properties. Similar methods of spread and corruption...although Originium was FAR more volatile, all things considered.

    Considering that it allowed for some pretty amazing feats, I was willing to let that slide.

    My cure was more of a rewrite of the way the stuff actually worked on humans, kind of showing it where and how it could integrate with the human body and how to do so with maximum effectiveness.

    Now, the Originium particles flowing through my blood, and embedded in the vast majority of my critical organs and even nerves would act as a boosting agent for my general biology. It wasn’t much, on paper anyway...but Arts are Very, very weird, almost magical in terms of effects sometimes, and allowed for some crazy boosts when needed. Nothing on par with what I remembered of an Astartes being capable of, but still well beyond a “standard” human.

    Speaking of standard human...I was no longer anything of the sort, having been modified by a weird nanoassembly plague thing (and then quickly changed back, with some extras where my Mechanicus implants normally would have been), which had the side effect of raising my mind far, FAR above that of a normal human.

    I think the stated baseline was something along the lines of an entire football stadium’s worth of geniuses, all specialized in their own fields. Depending on the stadium used, that was well over fifteen thousand (15,000) minds...and I was, in terms of pure intelligence, considered superior to them all.

    Sure didn’t feel that way, though, but I digress.

    The second change was just a tad bit more...noticeable.

    “Hehe, they're ticklish. Why’d they have to be ticklish?”

    I was currently standing in front of a hastily constructed full-length mirror, and checking out the new additions to my personage.

    Including the set of very functional animal ears now sitting on top of my head.

    That I still had my regular human ears, and that they worked just as well as normal, was something of a surprise as well.

    Those I could have dealt with easily enough. Besides, I have a silly hat now that might become my trademark feature. It was very convenient in that it served to hide my new ears from public scrutiny, and matched my current color scheme to boot. The cute wrench and Mettool decals sewn into it were a bonus feature, in my opinion.

    What was not so funny was the two very large, extremely FLUFFY Fox tails currently sticking out of my freaking backside. THOSE I would have some problems with.

    But that was an issue for another day. Right now, I needed rest, and some food afterwards

    Oh, and to catalogue the freaking avalanche of training that I’d just received as an Operator, in multiple classes no less.

    Especially since normally most Operators only train as one. Single. Class.

    This made me suddenly having training in no less than SIX of them to be somewhat daunting.

    I Intended to roll with it. Besides, it was more stuff to train the grunts in, right?





    This one ran a little late due to some personal concerns I had During the week.
    That, and the chapter started running away with me at the end, there. I had to forcibly cut it off to get it out on time.

    Because of this, I have not listed the freebies for this chapter yet. I will update this post with the freebies (DONE!!), as well as a future informational post, with all of the current acquired perks as well.

    As a side, note, this is the last chapter where the perk gains were 500 words/ 100CP, as calculated by the previous chapter's word count. Chapter four will use this chapter's word count as its basis, with the scale of 1000 words/100cp. I may adjust higher as things progress.

    -Bibliophile’s Discerning Eyes (Touhou Forbidden Hermit) (100CP)
    You can read anything no matter what language it’s written in. This does not come with the ability to write in that language, but you can read it if it’s a language at all. Including dead and forgotten languages – an invaluable skill if you wish to do serious historical research – but not encoded texts. (...at least not normally--Author)
    Spell Cards (free): The Spell Card system was invented to ensure that youkai and humans could fight each other in a non-lethal way and on relatively even ground. Under a spell card duel, all attacks are toned down to non-lethal levels, and the ability to fire an aesthetically pleasing barrage of bullets in all directions is prized over creating undodgeable attacks or invulnerability (which are banned anyway).
    Accordingly, you too can tone any of your abilities down as low as simply performing pretty light shows, and as your artistic skills improve so will the beauty of your spell card attacks.
    Flight (Free): You can fly, a power that is nigh-universal in Gensokyo. Flying as fast as you can walk is simple, and you can push yourself to fly faster, up to how fast you can run, which will tire you proportionately.
    Silly Hats and Frilly Dresses (free): You have a wardrobe full, at least half a dozen variants, of frilly clothes for all weather and a suitably impressive head ornament to go with them. The hat is not optional.
    -Acquester (Spiral Knights) (100CP)
    In times of crisis and desperation, resources become too precious to use on anything other than necessities. The spiral Order has had to save all their supplies to repair their ship, so you've had to make do on the field. you know how to look for your own resources, remaining self-sufficient in the field through using scavenged items as supplies for anything ranging from simple maintenance to complex construction. Power Cores, Blighted Bones, or even Goo Drops can be used as spare parts or more. With what you've learnt, these days you don't just survive, you thrive. Whether it's machines that power the Constructs or the way that Wolver's fur burns, you've learned to figure out what separates useful resources from useless refuse. The world keeps spinning, knight. Keep up or die.
    Battle Sprite --SERAPHYNX--
    The Divine Seraphynx resembles an angelic catlike creature and uses its luminous powers to defend you and your companions from attack. Focusing on protection and restoration, it is capable of firing steady beams of holy light, causing fors to drop restorative items on death, and creating large barriers of light with it's angelic aura.The radiant Seraphynx is a calming bastion amidst the rolling seas of combat for those who wish to protect and aid their party.

    Proto Set: As a Squire, you start off with a modest selection of gear. This provides you with a Sword, a Gun, and a Bomb, as well as a set of Armor including a Helm. You also have a small Shield capable of projecting a personal forcefield, but makes up for it by being as light as a feather. This six-piece set is of the Proto variety, and pales in comparison to what the others get. Still, everyone starts somewhere.

    Proto Shield: As issued to all Spiral Knight apprentices. Funnily enough, you know that this simple Apprentice-styled shield is what you'll be sticking to. Although it's small and only projects a forcefield limited to you, it does have the uncanny ability to push enemies in the zone backwards by slightly less than twenty feet when activated. Good utility, good weight, and good for an all-rounder like you.

    Spiral Exchange:
    Crowns, Energy, and Rarities. Money makes the world go round, and Cradle is no exception. Spiral Headquarters has granted you access to a number of different markets and exchanges to allow you to join your knight bastion in barter and trade, in the hopes that such trade will improve the net wealth and capabilities of their knights. First and foremost, the Auction House will enable you to bid for almost anything under the Cradle Sun and offload your surplus. Next, the Exchange enables you to trade crowns, the currency of Cradle, for Crystal Energy, a useful resource and pseudo-currency, and vice-versa. In addition, you receive an ordinary alchemy machine (incapable of custom recipes) for equipment creation as well as a forge to allow you to improve your equipment via the use of materials for the former, and heat crystals, a form of rarities, for the latter. Many knights have earned their fortune through the use of these markets and exchanges, and it is not a stretch by any means to say that you could do the same. You retain access to all of these even in the event that you leave this world, as after all, time and tide wait for no man. And as the saying goes, time is money.
    -Originite Prime Bundle (Arknights) (100CP)
    You gain access to several crates of pure Originium that can be utilized for various means, and will restock itself every week. Wrong handling will be dangerous, however post-Jump, this will be perfectly safe to use in any way. * A common mineral in Terra, this semi-transparent black crystal contains enormous energy, and is the primary factor of causing Catastrophes. Widely used in the field of Arts, it works as the basic material and catalyst of all kinds of Arts and Arts items. Without Originium, the efficiency of Arts would, without a doubt, drop dramatically. As technologies develop, more and more countries start to use it as an energy source.

    Race: Terra is inhabited by Ancients; humanoid races with partial or complete traits of
    various animals and mythological creatures in our world. You may gain a minor boon from the type of animal you are similar to, and are free to make one up.

    Oripathy, a sickness caused by proximity to Originium.
    You have somehow contracted Oripathy, an incurable disease unique to Terra where
    your cells will slowly be assimilated by Originium lesions on your body. It is an incurable disease and eventually will result in certain death, however treatment could halt a significant progress of the damage temporarily. However, due to these originium growths, your Arts also become stronger. Naturally, the more severe your Oripathy symptoms are, the stronger your Arts will be. But is it even worth it?
    You will not die from Oripathy taken by this drawback, however they each carry their own risk. Do also note that as an Infected, no matter your stage, you will be driven out from most settlements in Terra.
    Stage 3 Oripathy: Significant damage done to your body. Unless you are undergoing major routine treatment, you will lose the function of a significant chunk of your body. You become a danger to yourself as much as you are a danger to others. This will give you 600 points.
    -Your powers are noted to be among the upper echelon of power, easily able to affect entire city blocks.
    -Terminal Oripathy (+200 CP, must be taken with Oripathy)
    Now you will actually die from Oripathy if it's left untreated, and no matter what, ten years after the normal start of this jump, if the cure of Oripathy has not yet been found (or at least, a treatment plan that can give you more than 10 years of life expectancy), you will die and your Chain will end. Everyone except Rhodes Island and Reunion will still hate you on top of that.

    Combat Training (Free)
    The world of Terra is a harsh one and conflict rages on everywhere. Thus, it's not
    uncommon for even children to already be recruited as a soldier, and civilians too often
    already have the right aptitude to become a combatant if necessary.
    This perk grants you basic combat training as well as weapon handling. No matter how
    you are in the past, you will now have the aptitude to take part in Terra's conflicts directly.

    Class
    Classes are a central factor of power, each coming with certain boons. Classes you buy here start at the basic level unless you buy Elite 1 and Elite 2. These apply to all your classes.

    Caster: Using Arts to dish out damage that penetrates most conventional armor, the Caster class provides one with knowledge of a basic energy blast Art and the ability to learn new arts relatively quickly. At Elite 1 you may be able to unleash entire barrages of blasts at once, in full control of each, while at Elite 2 you could now command them as if they were your limbs.

    Guard:A guard is the main class for close combat . They are responsible for blocking the danger at proximity and eliminating it in time. Usually their qualities are more comprehensive, so they can better cope with most enemies. A basic Guard would have significant skill in their chosen weapon, enough so to stand out among the most talented common users. Elite 1 Guards would even stand out among their baser peers, often being reinventors of how their weapons are used. Elite 2 are legendary, their skill with their chosen weapon at the very apex of possibility.

    Medic: A medic is a class for providing treatment and health recovery. Medics are the core of the team, and they help other characters who have been attacked on the front line and treat their injuries. As a basic medic, one would be able to treat most common injuries in seconds, be it bullet wounds or else with a healing art. Elite 1 Medics are able to heal even nigh maiming attacks with ease, while Elite 2 could heal all but the most brutal injuries. This naturally comes with a wealth of knowledge in Medical Arts and arts.

    Sniper:Snipers are the primarily Ranged class, and are much like the Guard and their chosen weapon. Elite 1 Snipers would even stand out among their baser peers, often being reinventors of how their weapons are used. Elite 2 are legendary, their skill with their chosen weapon at the very apex of possibility.

    Vanguard: The most important task of the Vanguard is to seek out the enemy and secure ground in advance of the main force. As such, the common skill, even beyond ability at arms, is the skill of movement. While most common Vanguards could outrun and outclimb most Parkour runners, Elite 1 are known to easily keep up with most vehicles inside a city. Elite 2 could keep up with a certain web slinger in terms of agility…

    Specialist: The specialist class covers skills and roles not covered by the other classes. They range from operators specializing in assassination, infiltration, covert crowd control, disruption, or even operating specialized equipment such as a portable water cannon. Either way, while they are by no means frontliner, their role is unique and indispensable when the situation calls for them.
    Base Specialists are usually considered at least proficient to a near masterful degree in their area of expertise, while Elite 1 are , while even more skilled, also known to be able to seemingly integrate Arts without difficulty, such as invisibility for assassination and more.. Elite 2 are considered to be among the apex in their area of expertise, to the point they are usually as equally skilled in the areas that are only associated with it.​

    Personal Weapon (Free/100 CP)
    While it's not a norm for all operators to possess it, you are able to get yourself a personalized weapon built to fit your class and personal specifications (A crossbow for a sniper for example, or a wand/staff for a more Arts-based class). Outside of it being well-built, it also is made as a good conduit for your Arts. You can import a weapon you already have into this to make it work well with Originium-based Arts. If you feel that for some reasons you need more than one of these weapons, you'll need to pay 100 for further purchases.
    Codename (Free)
    Individuals of interest in Terra tend to give themselves a code name. Something easy to remember that would be their mark of fame (or infamy) in this world. You too, will be able to make one such name for yourself. Everyone will know you as this code name.
    Urban Fashion (Free/200 CP)
    Terra is a weird place. Even with conflict everywhere and a recent economic slump, even the lowliest grunt will somehow wear stylish outfits fit for a fashion star. You will get a set of stylish but practical and comfortable outfits for you to use to match everyone else. They are also surprisingly resistant to damage, though they don’t protect you from damage. By paying extra, you can also get all the outfits of operators that had been released so far in the game at once, including bonus outfits.

    -I Know What We're Going To Do Today (Phineas and Ferb) (400CP)
    24 hours just doesn't seem like enough time to get stuff accomplished, but you'd be surprised what determination (and this perk) can get you. You can now complete days and even weeks worth of work in just a few hours, and this effect increases tremendously when you have a few helpers, to the point where a small team can work with you to complete years worth of work in a simple afternoon.

    -Enemy Tech Progression (Orion's Arm: The Amalgamation) (400CP)
    Any technological device that you have subverted will reveal its inner workings to you. The blueprints, knowledge and methods that go into the creation and operation of the technology you subvert is automatically uploaded to your mind. If you cannot subvert a technological device, you can still learn its secrets, but at a far reduced rate. You are also able to more quickly grasp the inner workings of those subverted devices to improve on, and upgrade them.

    [Free] Expansion of the Mind: As with all those within the Amalgamation, you
    have been ascended up the toposophic tree. You become the equal of a basic
    transapient, with tens of thousands of times more processing power than a
    human, microsecond reaction times, the ability to partition different streams
    of thought, eidetic memory, focus on and alter your subconscious actions,
    drastically enhanced reasoning and deduction, the ability to speed up or slow
    down your different streams of thought at will and a slew of other mental
    enhancements.
    [Free] Networked: You have been connected with the hivemind of the
    Amalgamation. Within this jump, you may freely access any knowledge and
    information the Amalgamation might have. Out of this jump, you are able to
    freely interface with any network or database that has a physical connection
    and/or is broadcasting a signal.
    [Free] Forced Upgrading: You too can enhance the mental processing abilities
    of those around you, and make them loyal to both you and your cause. This also
    applies to AI and electronic devices with processing capacity. Whether that
    upgrade is willing or not is another question entirely, but it doesn’t matter
    when they are loyal to you in the end, doesn’t it?​
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2021
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 04
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    A word of warning: unlike the previous chapters, this one has not been given the normal readover by Spiritual_Liege. there may be errors that I have to correct later on down the line.

    Anyway, on to the story, and please enjoy.




    I awoke the next day (at least I think it was the next day) feeling...odd.

    It wasn’t a lack of energy, no, more like something within me that I had been pushing on had finally relaxed.

    In any case, it could wait until after food.

    Dragging myself out of bed (and avoiding tripping up on my new appendages...getting used to the fluffy bastards was going to be a CHORE) I headed to the kitchenette and its small store of foodstuffs.

    It wasn’t anything major, just the local meat equivalents, some kind of edible fungus, and the various processed foods of the Imperium, all selected for their shelf life and portability.

    In my case, I would be able to subsist off of them just fine.

    Breakfast achieved, I then took stock of my situation with a clearer head than the panic-fueled fugue state brought on by my sudden onset Acute Oripathy.

    First off, I had a large chunk of knowledge sitting in my head waiting to be utilized, based on various techniques and skills of Operators from across the world of Terra, who had been my teachers in the arts (and Arts, in two very notable cases). Unpacking all of that and figuring out what I could do was going to be a priority.

    Second, my new and improved ability to wield Arts (the capital was important) in general. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but with the way that I had cured myself of oripathy actually made the situation worse in a way: I was now a massive conduit for the energies that Originium could channel, on a level that was closer to the high end of what some of the greatest arts users (and some of the most radically infected) could push for.

    Actually, that might be a BAD thing. Going to need to do bloodwork later.

    The third problem was related to the first: outside of my basic Caster and Medic training, plus a few practicals, I had no real clue on how to actually USE Arts..at least not the mid-level stuff that was the basis for a bunch of combat styles. All I had available was the basics.

    This was a major issue, as having a weapon that you couldn’t use in your arsenal was the same as not having it at all...and with what was going to be coming my way, I needed all the help I could get. Gotta find a place where I can train myself up without scrutiny, somewhere.

    Probably a place in the underhive, but that has its own dangers.

    Moving to the bigger issues currently making agitated motions behind me, I needed a way to deal with my new tails. Just leaving them as-is would have worked in nearly any other world.

    Here? In this galaxy, at this time? Not only no, but HELL no.

    What little I remembered of how the Imperial Creed was fashioned pretty much marked me as a devil for even DARING to have the mutations in the first place, let alone trying to LIKE them. The only thing worse in their eyes was being an outright servant of chaos.

    So that demanded a set of options on dealing with them. The first, and most direct, was to simply remove the problem outright. As in slicing them off.

    This, by all means, should have been the go-to answer. It harms nothing, I remove the threat of being called a mutant and hunted down and killed like so much vermin. It was, logically, the correct choice.

    And yet...It FELT wrong.

    For some undefinable reason I did not want to go down that route, despite the sheer ease that it would provide, and I felt a sudden urge to explore my internal reasoning for this.

    So what was it that was making me think that just chopping them off was a bad idea?

    I moved again to the mirror that I had kludged together, re-examining myself with the benefit of a clearer head.

    My new tails were, as I’d noted previously, both long and fluffy, the color the same black that adorned my own head, with the tips fading into a rather pleasing shade of grayish white. I shifted again, ever so slightly, and noted as they moved with me, keeping my newfound center of balance perfectly centered even with me trying to push it off kilter.

    My eyes drifted upwards to my new ears, of the standard sharp-tipped canine variety, and sharing the same color as my hair. Something within me said fox. I considered it, and had to agree; the total package gave off the air of a fox, indeed.

    And yet it did not answer my question. Why was I hesitating to do what needed to be done?

    On a whim, I began moving through one of the old martial arts katas I’d learned during my tenure as an airman in my “old” world. The motions came to me as easy as day, and yet they were off, ever so slightly.

    With a frown, I considered the problem, and then made a minor adjustment as I went through them again. Now, the motions of the kata flowed almost like water itself, my tails having properly been accounted for. The extra weight was a minor issue for some things...but as I moved into a blazing roundhouse kick, I noticed equally well that it had advantages too.

    On an odd hunch, I went back through the kata one last time, this time opting to attempt to fully integrate my tails into the kata proper. To my pleasant surprise, I was actually capable of controlling my tails on an almost prehensile level, which made integrating them into the kata a breeze...and the sudden rush of having two completely extra limbs with which to attack was a joy to execute.

    The thought came unbidden to me, as I finished the kata and assumed a resting position.

    They’re MY tails.

    And that was the crux of it, right there. They were mine, not only my possession but a literal part of me. A part that I Instinctively had no desire to part with, no matter how unexpected their arrival or unwelcome their complications. It was still me. I could, no, would be a master of myself regardless of anything anyone else had to say on the matter.

    To even entertain removing a piece of myself just because those around me would detest it, would hate me for it, would even kill me for it…

    Well, wasn’t I already all too familiar with that particular thought process?

    This was something I had dealt with every day, being a pariah just because of something that you could not control…

    One day it was the color of my skin. The next was my gender, after that, my sexual orientation.

    Hadn’t I been judged by everyone before just for trying to live? For daring to eke out a living in a world determined to hate me because I didn't shrivel up and just DIE?

    And here I was, now contemplating maiming myself just so I could FIT. Just so I could stay hidden a little longer, without fear...and mere hours after I single-handedly cured an incurable disease while infected by it at the worst level and stage...while it was actively KILLING me.

    No.

    I would not give in to the fear, the sheer despair that chokes this place just because. Yes, it’s new, and different, but it’s still ME.

    And to reject even a piece of myself is to reject all that it could be capable of.

    My hands. My feet. My eyes….

    My ears. My tails.

    My Blood. My sweat. My tears.

    My Forge.

    MY WILL.

    I took a deep, shuddering breath as the sheer POWER inherent in that last thought resonated with my entire being, seeming to reinforce something within me even as I found myself once more.

    I guess I'm not entirely immune to the grim darkness after all, then. Definitely worth knowing.

    That still left a question without an answer, though. If I wasn’t going to mutilate myself to remove the offending (to others) appendages, then what was my play?

    My remaining options were nowhere near as good. Attempts to hide the features would face the standard increased scrutiny that was a mainstay of the setting, and any discovery by someone who I did not trust IMPLICITLY was nothing short of a disaster. At best, I was going to get shipped out to die in the name of the Emperor.

    At worst? I would be granted His Mercy. On the spot.

    Both were fates that needed to be avoided at all costs, but offered no real solutions to the problems on my plate.

    So what the hell did I do, then?

    A quote came to mind, then.

    “At some point, everything's gonna go south on you... everything's going to go south and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem... and you solve the next one... and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

    That was it.

    That's all there was to it, in a nutshell. I either got to work, here, now, or I gave up and died.

    That. Fucking. Simple.

    So then. Grim Darkness?

    Meet Determined Airman.

    And learn the most important part of the Airman's Creed.

    I WILL NOT FAIL.




    Now then, it should be noted that while I am indeed a stubborn bastard, I am not by any means stupid.

    I knew full well that there would be scrutiny on my person for any number of reasons, and any of my watchers gleaning knowledge of my new additions would have added a very valuable piece of information to their hoard, possibly one that could be used to destroy me. It was an event that must be guarded against above all else.

    That being said, Hiding things is actually far, far easier than most people think, even in this totalitarian hellhole. As the saying goes, the old ways always work best, and I would be putting that to use here.

    For my ears, any form of head covering would do, although one of my recent ability acquisitions saddled me with a frankly quite silly, if adorably cute, hat, and had filled me with a strange affection for the thing to boot. Granted, this was not the same silly as the normal Gensokyo hat rule went, but it was still a little on the edge of being so, while still fitting my own personal aesthetic.

    It was a not-quite doo-rag crossed with a watch cap-style beanie, complete with a fold-out bill to make it more of a proper cap. The adornments where what really made the thing work: the mix of wrenches and Mettools that I’d seen earlier were in full attendance, but there was also a sigil of sorts emblazoned on the front: an S-Swirl, formed out f a pair of twin fox tails, that was also vaguely shaped as a sort of lightning bolt. It distinctly reminded me of Samus Aran’s logo mixed with that of Miles Prower.

    I liked it, really.

    The hat was also very conveniently large enough to completely hide my ears quite comfortably without being obvious about it at all, which was a major plus.

    Matching my current Blue/Green color schema was overkill, really, but it was appreciated all the same.

    Those tails would appear at first glance to need a bit more work...until one realized that even with all of the massive fluffiness of the things they still wrapped quite neatly around my waist even with the extra overlap caused by the length. Add in a belt of some sort, maybe a sash-like object, and bam!! Instant camouflage. It was by no means perfect, but it would definitely work for now...and rigging it up was braindead simple,not even taking a full minute for the setup thanks to some really convenient loose materials hanging around.

    Major obstacles solved, it was time to address the other elephant in the room.

    My new breadth of knowledge and abilities needed..flexing, so to speak.

    First off was to take stock of what I had available to me.

    A quick check of the Workshop access hallway revealed a new set of lockers for gear, and I quickly went and took inventory...only to laugh as it would seem that fate indeed had a sense of humor.

    Inside was not only an originium staff designed to act as a focus for Arts abilities, but a full set of combat gear that looked on the surface to be along the lines of some damned good urban fashion, complete with a very nice hooded jacket that I would be taking now. What had me laughing was that there was a near-exact replica of the very belt that I had just thrown together on a mere whim not even a minute ago.

    It was a good laugh, though.

    In other news, just a quick examination revealed that there were special tricks needed from forging weapons to make them more receptive to Arts usage (or Originium usage in general) without more skill on my part, so I got to remake some gear to fit the mould.

    This was good, as it let me test out some of my OTHER toys.

    The ability that I labeled “Enemy Tech Progression” (or was that already it’s name? Weird moment there) was actually kind of bonkers once you really looked at it. It allowed for me to, with a little bit of effort, completely understand everything about the particular workings of a given item, almost down to the bare tech needed to make it work...no wait, it DID go down to the bare tech with them. And then let me gain even further understanding as I worked with the tech to upgrade and modify even faster.

    And that part was just for regular tech. If I somehow managed to outright subvert a piece of technology? It yielded everything to me, directly to my brain.

    This was going to be awesome wherever I ran across the Tau. Markerlight Drones here I come!

    In this situation, what it allowed me to do is analyze and break down everything that went into originium and Arts-effect equipment. Using that new knowledge, I could then either make or modify a set of gear that would allow me to better channel arts in combat.

    There was one complication, though. The technology of Terra had never even once factored in the advent of gunpowder; even the firearms used there (and those were extremely rare) were strictly arts-based. Making better ones out of future tech may in fact be beyond my capabilities.

    At least the ones for my current self-imposed time limit, that is. I wanted to get some practice in today, not tomorrow.

    With a sigh of annoyance I allow the firearm project to lapse for now, instead focusing on making a good sword. It was basic, really: Blade, guard, handle. Or at least that what I thought of it.

    See, that excellent craftsman ability I had makes anything I make to be, and I quote, “Top Quality’. Combine that with the fact that one of my areas of specialty from that ability’s adds was literally the highly broad category of “weaponsmithing” and I had all but ensured free reign.

    Meaning that the end result wasn’t just a pointy stick for me to stab people with, but a GOOD pointy stick for me to stab people with--a plain and clearly unadorned, but very much still master-quality Longsword.

    I then chucked both my new sword and the staff provided to me into the oddity that was the Weapons Recombination Template. Supposedly it bound two weapons together, allowing for them to undergo a form of shifting process to switch between one and the other as needed.

    And I definitely needed that kind of tactical flexibility in my arsenal, so I ran with it.

    The results were very much not immediately visible. I held the new weapon, currently in staff form, trying to find anything new with the weapon currently in my hands...and then I notice the small, almost imperceptible toggle switch on the blade’s handle. A push at first does nothing, but then I decide to give it a minor tap with the intent of changing its form.

    And voila. Once a staff, the now sword rests easily in my hands, ready for me to unleash it’s fury at any moment.

    I definitely approve.

    Returning the sword to it’s staff form, I break down the available gear and begin loading up.

    Time for me to find a place to train.




    As it turned out, there were a few places that were available for people to test themselves...for a reasonable risk, of course. The Goliath-run coliseums were quite active, the bloodsport keeping the masses of Goliath drunk on perceived power.

    There were also some more..private areas where people could go, and just take on the insanely deadly wildlife of the Necromunda hive.

    First and foremost, though, was to practice for myself. Get myself back in the groove, and start working on ways to integrate the disparate styles of combat into a complete whole even as I advanced my understanding of them all. It wouldn’t be easy, as with many things, but it would be--dare I say--fun.

    It took only a day or three to actually find a place where I could train a bit in peace.

    The location was what I believed to be an old ironworks or similar--that was a veritable no-man's land as far as the normal gang politics went--down near the barrier to the underhive, now relegated to being a scrapyard for whatever reason. There were cold, dead machines looming all over the place, and it had an air of...not so much mystery or danger so much as unease.

    This place had been abandoned for a reason, after all.

    In any case, I set myself up in one of the adjacent warehouses for the place (yes, they still exist, even in the 41st millennium). I’d taken a bit of time to set up a minor shooting course, mostly consisting of some quickly marked targets for me to hit as needed than anything like old cans or similar. It was crude, but then again this world was crude, so I couldn’t really complain much.

    I had been using it for just over a week now, pushing all of the rust off of my basic skills and getting ready to train the conscript recruits once the House had some ready to go. So far, it was working well.

    Today, however, was going to be a bit different. For one , I was intentionally setting up for a low-light shooting exercise. The Second?

    It was time for me to test out some of my other tricks.

    I stopped for a moment after completing my setup for the day and took a deep breath. With any luck, this was going to be a productive set of exercises.

    I started off rather simply, as was my routine by now. Calibration, and zeroing of my ranged weapons, the Eagle and my recently acquired and refurbished Laspistol. The Eagle, as was standard for most Alliance tech, was still in good condition and needed little in the way of maintenance (which I confirmed with some test shots). The laspistol, though, was a slightly different matter.

    I didn’t know the exact “pattern” or mark of this old thing, but it had been through hell. Looked like the internals were starting to give out, including some of the focusing lenses in the barrel; hell, even the charge pack was on its last legs, and that was saying a lot as those were basically meant to last nearly forever..

    The (admittedly brief) refurbishment I’d dome on the pistol was not really set to correct all of these problems, mostly due to lack of parts. It did, however, clearly define that the weapon would operate at full capacity for at least another 1000 shots before needing critical maintenance, which was more than enough time for me to gather the needed materials to give it the rebuild that it desperately needed. It would work just fine for my purposes.

    The first “unusual” test was of arts-assisted shooting techniques, the basics of which had come with the Sniper class operator training. Focusing on one of the targets, I took careful aim with the eagle, and slowly, gently began to spin up a simple art, guided by my instinct and training.

    And suddenly the targets were so clear to me, even in this gloom…

    Time seemed to move like molasses as I lined up the shot, hands remaining steady, with no wobble from either breathing or heartbeats. Aim confirmed, I squeezed the trigger just so, and…

    *BLAM*

    The target, an old storage barrel that I had fashioned a crude bullseye on, now had a hole punched clean through it where the center mark should have been.

    Not sure how to rate the penetration feat, as it was unclear just how durable the barrel was supposed to be, but that particular ability would help immensely for sniping...assuming I ever had to take up the art again. I was unsure if I would ever be able to engage a target from outside of “normal” ranges from now on. Something to chew on.

    Another plus out of this was that apparently my new ears had the ability to ignore overly-loud noises if needed without sacrificing actual aural detection acuity. The literal “wolf ears", so to speak. (nevermind that they were fox ears, both were canines.) A quick bit of focus revealed it to be a passive use of arts, which I found cool as all hell. Seemed there was a lot more here to discover in the pile that was originium than I thought.

    Next test was to be of one of the basic Vanguard techniques, that was focused primarily on movement--

    A distinct scraping noise made itself known to my ever-so-sensitive ears. Not much echoing, so my guess is coming from the area around the old iron works itself, so maybe south-ish?

    Dammit, I needed to orient myself properly later on. This shit is getting old.

    The scraping noise grew closer, and eventually revealed itself to be none other than Harry, likely keeping an eye on my goings as a failsafe.

    I gave him an absent wave as I continued to perform my firing tests and simple arts usage.

    “Interesting place to set up a firing range, friend.”

    I snorted lightly at the flippant comment. He could have guessed damned well why I would have picked a spot like this for a live-fire range.

    “Yeah, well I didn’t wanna shoot anyone by accident and piss people off, y’know? It tends to create issues.”

    Harry gave a short nod in agreement. “ That it does.” He paused for a brief moment, likely to gather his thoughts. “Shaking the rust off, then?”

    “Something like that,” I replied. “At least need to be solid enough to run our potential recruits into the ground to train them properly. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

    Harry gave another nod, this one with more mirth. “Well, you’re right about that, really. Would ya mind a partner for your shooting--”

    There was another sound, this time of scuffing feet.

    Both of us froze at the noise, and quickly moved as silently as possible into cover, in order to wait out our new arrivals.

    Further scraping occurred, and then manifested themselves as footsteps. Several pairs, all heavy tread...or at least someone with a significant load.

    “Fucking took you long enough.” I mumbled under my breath. And for good reason: this was likely to be the group that thought they were stealthily following me around earlier while I was location scouting. I’d been wondering when they’d make a move for some time.

    Sounds of movement continued, and began to spread around the area proper. My more sensitive ears picked up the sounds of raspy breathing and what might have been a respirator.

    That was...odd. Really odd. The scrub rabblerousers that had been following me all day so far were jokes. That this new group was applying even the basics of common sense told me that this might get really interesting.

    I moved closer to Harry as the movement noises continued closer. “...sounds like a lot more than usual, and from the directions, ones with common sense. I say we cut a retreat instead of getting surrounded.”

    Harry gave me a curt nod. Honestly, I feel sorry for the guy, constantly getting pulled into the shitstorm surrounding my existence. I was going to have to do something for him eventually, if only to show some appreciation.

    We slowly began moving from out cover to one of the exits that seemed to not have noise coming from it, taking care to remain behind cover if at all possible. Looked like our egress was an old set of windows with the glass blown out of it, set next to a heavy door that had seen far better days. From all indications, the coast was mostly clear to our exit.

    It wasn’t until we got within about 30 meters of the windows that I heard it. The soft sound of breaths, heavy with anticipation.

    Ambush.

    I immediately stopped Harry with a quick hand motion, and turned to him and gave him a grim look, then shook my head slowly. The grimace that appeared on his face was actually quite a sight to see, all things told, but did nothing to solve our problem of being surrounded by unknowns.

    We were going to need an assault plan, and to choose where to make the move towards.

    “But Why?” I can hear people saying, a hypothetical audience to my new snafu of a situation looking in with curiosity. “ why would you run straight into the jaws?”

    Simple reason, really, and one that had been taught since the days of yore, all the way back in M2...and my old home. Whenever you get ambushed, never let it play out, never hunker down.

    You Assault the Ambush, always, and attempt to break a hole in the setup by giving the shooters something else to worry about while cutting off fire from any potential flanks due to friendly fire concerns. Of course, that last part only worked on groups that were averse to friendly fire…

    More movement, and slowly the silhouettes of our wouldb-e attackers(?) came into view.

    It was a group of about six, moving slowly but steadily in a slow sweep pattern, while keeping any and all lanes of fire available. The warehouse would be cleared within the next five minutes, tops, if they maintained the current formation. Dress code varied: there were an assortment of vests, some pants, shirts, etc. I was willing to tentatively state them as house Orlock, but something seemed...off. Especially for the supposed midday hours that we were in.

    I don't know what it was that caught my attention about them, be it the movement, the dress code, their smell, hell, I wasn’t sure if even the equipment was supposed to be standard or something, especially since it looked like at least one of them (a freaking HUGE wall of muscle of a man) had some good stuff in the form of a belt-fed Heavy Bolter, along with some kind of crude armor setup as well. Couldn’t tell from here, but it looked like simple metal plate armor.

    His buddy was set up similarly, except he had a different type of belt-fed weapon, something that my eyes, Mechanicus trained as they were, identified as a heavily modified...rivet gun? What the hell?

    No, Green. Do not fall into that trap of assuming that the weapon is worthless. It can still very much kill you.

    The third to come into view was a slightly more armored fellow, the plates being a closer fit than the others, and a wicked-looking axe contraption set in his hand, accompanied by a similarly improvised shield. I was assuming he was their close-range specialist.

    Number four was female, looked like a standard ranged combat kit...wait, was that a fucking STORM BOLTER?! What the fuck?!? Who are these guys, anyways?

    The shock of seeing the REALLY heavy weapons coming out was...considerable. I almost missed the fifth person moving forward, another melee type it seemed, and female to boot. Judging by the power sword and old Voss-pattern hellpistol (notable because it was set up to use standard laspacks), this one was the leader.

    My guess then is number six is a sharpshooter of some type, or whatever passes for it around here. I quic\kly do a scan of the potential vantage points from my current position, and find the thankfully few available ones all unoccupied. As number six was still in the deep shadow, I couldn’t get a read on his gear...and unless they’d managed to find NVGs of some kind, they were under the same conditions as the rest of us.

    It was only then that I realized that the area I was looking into would be deeply shrouded in shadows for “normal” human eyes. Another passive arts use? Or something more? I’d have to check later on to be safe.

    I tapped Harry on the shoulder, and began giving him the abbreviated breakdown of our opposition, complete with the better than average weaponry brought to play. Whoever they were, they were NOT fucking around.

    And attacking that forward group was suicide by almost any metric, with all of the heavy firepower present there...which left the back exit that we were headed to, and the ambush situation that was waiting to develop outside once we started to make out escape.

    Hadn’t been in a pickle like this in a long time, really. Felt...not good, but rather exciting.

    Hum. I would likely have to break out my bag of tricks to deal with these fucktards and not get killed. And I still didn’t have positive ID on two of our potential aggressors.

    I did another scan of the area as I considered the options available to us. Honestly, they didn't look good. Every second we waited was one step closer that the sweep team got to our position, and as long as those heavies were in play there was no way in hell we could break the line and get clear without dying horribly. Grenades might work, but anything big enough to actually be worth using (and wasn’t part of my omnitool tricks) was banned on pain of Arbites: breaking out the Krak grenades would help no one, even assuming that we had any.

    And then there was Harry, who was effectively blind right now as we waited in the shadows. I would have to guide him around a bit to get him into position before we were made.

    Once again, the best bet was to take our damned lumps and head for the window exit, which HAD to be worse than it looked; I knew a herding tactic when I saw it. Best bet was probably to go for the door and not the window, make them think twice while we make our move, and hopefully get to some decent cover before we get shredded by those bolters.

    Wait a minute.

    Idea.

    I motioned Harry to follow me as I moved us around the edge of the sweep group instead of towards the exit like they wanted, and had him line up carefully on the Rivet gun. Once I was certain of his aim, I moved away slightly and got ready myself. We were only going to get one shot at this.

    As the sweepers finally moved into the openly lit areas (and I still had no ID on the potential sharpshooter) I made a quick series of raps upon the ground, which was Harry's cue to fire.

    The shot from his Autopistol soared true, and little-miss Storm Bolter was now missing her head.

    I wasted no time, and PUSHED myself into the odd trance state of the enhanced shooting. Time seemed to slow around me, as I lined up a shot on the heavy bolter guy’s head. Even now, he was moving to bring his weapon to bear on the area where the shots had come from ,and would be able to open fire on us within moments.

    Unfortunately for him, he never got the chance as the Eagle sang out, removing his head as well.

    Now for the tricky part.

    I held my focus as tightly as I could, and tapped into the completely untested movement technique of the Vanguard class, which acted as a general purpose speed boost. The difference was night and day, even with my accelerated time making me still move as if in molasses. My aim “quickly” found the head of Mr Rivets, and with a practiced squeeze of the trigger, a third person dropped.

    My trance broke with a jolt, all of the noise of our action finally catching up with me. Ahead of us, our would-be assailants are scrambling to find some cover to operate out of, and are surprisingly doing a very good job of not panicking.

    Which was strike three in my book.

    There was no way in HELL a gang was that good, and that well equipped. Someone or something was making a pretty big play, and I was without info on who--

    Noise from behind reminded me that we still had THAT issue to deal with. And because I’d tunnel visioned on the heavy weapons (which was understandable, as the biggest threat) I’d missed the fact that we were not in a more or less standard box ambush unless we made haste, NOW, to get lost.

    Of course, we were made now, so there was no point in keeping silent.

    “Break to the left! Get clear as fast as possible!!” I shouted at Harry, already moving to a usable piece of cover in the form of some old storage containers, though storage for what I was unclear.

    Harry, unsurprisingly, was already moving. ‘Left Side! Cover me!!”

    And ask and you shall receive.

    Drawing the old laspistol, I quickly aimed downrange to our remaining pair of nasties, the melee type hunkered down behind his surprisingly durable shield, and the Prospective leader taking potshots at us with that damned Hot-shot from behind an old piece of equipment.

    Of course, this was the cue for the rear guys (yes, plural, much to my dismay) to finally get their game faces on and get inside.both were armed with Necromunda pattern Lasguns, but more concerning was the goddamned Lascannon that they were lugging around.

    Just where the fuck were they getting all of the heavy iron from?

    Didn’t matter. What mattered was not dying.

    So far our sudden movement was unchecked, save for some sporadic suppressive fire from the hotshot as we leapfrogged towards the other warehouse entrance, prepared to make a quick getaway. From there, we should be able to blend in with the surrounding neighborhoods and fade out, leaving these...people...in the dust.

    And they still felt wrong for some reason…

    Harry suddenly stopped, focused very intently on something or another that I couldn’t notice. What the hell had gotten his attention, anyway--*OOF*

    And then almost immediately tackled me to the ground in a mad dash.

    The lasbolt going through where my head once was was more than reason enough for the gesture.

    Quickly, I rolled out of the pile that we’d ended up in and found our last member, who was, in fact, a sharpshooter, and probably had a form of light amplification as well, if not full-on NVG. They were currently set up in a small alcove that wasn’t visible from our position near the back windows, but had a near-perfect sight line on anyone trying to backtrack to the front

    Gad DAMN these fuckers were good…

    Putting out some harassment fire towards our newly discovered sniper bitch, I got moving to my next set of cover, in the form of some large (and thankfully empty) munitions crates. Hopefully I could get there before--

    The Lascannon fired, demolishing the crates with almost contemptuous ease long before I could get there.

    It also took out the crates behind it. And the pallets.

    And the WALLS.

    We had an exit.

    Time to think fast.

    “Harry, Down! Cover your ears!!”

    Harry quickly hit the deck, as I tossed out one of my modified grenades, this time in the form of that old classic, the Flashbang.

    I immediately covered my own ears after I threw it, and opened my mouth slightly while screwing shut my eyes--

    The ensuing *whump* of the flashbang going off and blinding everyone was one of the most joyous sounds to behold. Quickly taking advantage, I grabbed a slightly dazed Harry and ran like hell for the now open wall exit, and together we made our way outside.

    It was at this point that something attempted to get my attention.

    I wasn’t sure just what it was, but it seemed to be trying to help, so I pushed it to the back of my mind and let it do whatever while I kept moving. We needed to get clear of this deathtrap as soon as possible, preferably back in a well-defended area somewhere. Time to closest defensible safehouse was around ten minutes if we hustled, and we could likely make it there (and lose our tagalongs) in around twenty if we did it right.

    “Harry, we gotta move. Come on man, let's go.”

    Harry, fortunately, had actually seen some shit, and Flashbangs, while not very common in the Imperium, had some analogs that he had apparently ran into. He quickly blinked his eyes clear, and followed me out of the area as we hauled ass. Fortunately there was plenty of cover, both visual and aural for us to be able to face into the background noise before we made it to a more well-traveled area.

    Unfortunately, if what I was hearing was correct, we had something trying to follow us...and moving fast as all fuck, too. It was running in an almost parallel track with our planned escape route, no less, and closing in.

    From what I guessed of it’s movement based on the noise, it would be upon us in mere moments, whatever it was. No real time to prep anything special.

    Instead, I set up a cryo grenade from my omnitool, and got ready.

    It tried to attack us as we were passing by an old storefront of some kind. Literally just burst out of the damned walls, no less, and was headed straight for us.

    Or rather, straight for where we would have been if I hadn’t noticed it closing in. The grenade I'd set in the area immediately activated it’s homing mode, and rushed it down.

    The resulting semi-popsicle was quite amazing to look at as I shot it--or it would have been, if it wasn’t some kind of deformed monster still vaguely in a human-ish shape. I had no clue whatsoever what the hell that thing was supposed to be. And honestly, it scared me, even though I didn't show it..

    Our escape went rather unremarked past that point.




    “Harry?”

    “Yeah?”

    “What in the absolute HELL was that thing?”

    Harry, even for all of his knowledge, shrugged. “I have no clue either. Some kind of mutant, I think. You did ‘em a favor, really.”

    We sat in one of the Van Saar affiliate safehouses. I think the gang running the area called themselves the Neuromancers or something. Didn’t really matter at the moment.

    “How about that freaking kill team that came at us, then? I haven’t seen that much heavy iron in a good, long time.”

    And that WAS a concern, too. I’d assumed” (and Van Saar Briefs and more or less confirmed) that the heavier weapons were generally restricted to the Astra Militarum and up. Sure, maybe a bolter or two, even a heavy bolter could pop up in the wild.

    A freaking heavy bolter, a STORM bolter, and a LASCANNON? Plus a power sword as well?

    Somebody was VERY well equipped. This needed to be investigated. As well as why they wanted me dead so much.

    “So, when do we start looking into this shit, anyway?” Because I definitely wanted answers to who the fuck was trying to kill me.

    Harry’s reply was blunt. “More like when do I Start looking into this shit. You don’t have the contacts, and being in public seems to be drawing fire for you. I would not recommend it.”

    Well shit. He actually had a point. Guess I was hunkering down for a bit longer, then.

    It wasn't much longer before we managed to get back to our respective abodes, and I sat down in my workshop with a frown.

    Something had been assisting me during that fight, and hadn’t actively tried to get my attention until the mutant thing was nearly on top of us. I got the distinct feeling that I was safer than I thought I was, though I had no idea why just yet.

    Doing a quick review of things from a calmer perspective, I noticed that I had managed to get a new set of skills just before the start of the shootout, and had dismissed it as unimportant due to the threat. Whatever it was had a rider attached to it in the form of a...device of some sort, that had almost immediately bonded with me and attempted to keep me safe, even though I had no conscious idea of it;’s presence until now. A mental command had whatever it was separate from me, so that I could examine it more carefully.

    I now held in my hand a white ball no larger than a golf ball, and completely unadorned with anything whatsoever. And yet it seemed to be so much more.

    A quick perusal of my “backlog” showed that there was a related knowledge packet that had not forced its way into my brain in order to keep me focused on staying alive. I quickly released the hold on the knowledge--

    And started laughing.

    And laughing. And laughing harder.

    Oh, I knew EXACTLY what that little ball was.

    Or should I say, that Core.

    And unlike the people who used them normally, I knew damn near EVERYTHING about them.

    On a lark, I decided to run the whole interface through one of my abilities, namely Enemy tech progression.

    And I laughed even Harder.

    I know people were going to wonder what the hell was going on in here in a bit, but it was legitimately too funny. It really was.

    I thought I knew everything about that enigmatic little piece of tech.

    And then it had, as soon as I turned the gaze of E.T.P. upon it, WILLINGLY yielded all of its secrets...and then some.

    I never had to subvert it, after all, as it was already mine to begin with.

    Even better, it came with a full complement of preinstalled useful goodies.

    And I would need to figure out a way to leverage this without calling down everything and it’s grandmother to come after me, as well. Not that I couldn't take most of them with me, though.

    After all, Valkyrie Cores were just that much Bullshit.






    My apologies for the delayed chapter, I wanted to have this up Thursday evening.

    On the fuzzy bits: yes, I’ve decided to keep them. Before everyone goes nuts and tries to scream my ear off about it, Yes, I am aware of the consequences, Yes, I know of how the Imperium will react.

    It doesn’t matter.

    As I was writing this, That section just...FLOWED out as if it was always there to begin with, even though I was pushing for a more..pragmatic outcome. Satori himself basically vetoed me as author, and thus his fuzzy bits get to stay with him. This does present a bit of a writing challenge for me, though, considering that anyone who discovers this (and is not a chaos worshipper) will likely be trying to kill him on the spot.

    It’s something I’ll have to work with.


    -Valkyrie Core Knowledge (Battle Action Harem Highschool Side Character Quest) (500CP)
    Valkyrie Core Knowledge (500CP)
    You understand the science behind Valkyrie Core technology. You'll be able to replicate aspects of its technology such as the ability to store and modify objects in a pocket dimension or the manifesting of Impeller fields, or the insane processing power of the Core itself. With time and a little work you'll be able to make new cores.
    Valkyrie Core & Frame (0CP)
    All origins possess a Valkyrie Frame with the accompanying core. A Valkyrie Core is capable of storing, integrating, and improving technology and equipment. Its only limitations are storage capacity and complexity both of which grow with hours synced. Your initial storage and complexity is based on your origin with more experienced origins having more. The term Valkyrie Frame usually refers to a core that has integrated a suit of enhanced power armor that has been equipped with thrusters, weapons, and other equipment. Technology foreign to this universe is harder to integrate and upgrade. Post jump this limitation disappears.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 05
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    There are a lot of people who helped on this one, including some of the other CF fic authors. With that, a thank you and shout-out to Xolsis, darkchespin, and Melakias is in order, as well as the usual suspects of Cthulhu, Spiritual_Liege, and Sterlyn (the damned cheerleader). Special thanks to Ryune for one of the ideas I ran with in this chapter.

    Note that this chapter is almost nothing but pure tech porn and me geeking out. As such, quality may be...degraded.





    I could barely contain my excitement.

    I had a literal, honest-to-god VALKYRIE CORE.

    The seed engine of one of the most busted forms of power armor ever created.

    The focus of massive evolving battleships that were the cornerstone of entire fleets.

    Perhaps most amazingly of all, they were also the very heart of the massive Arcologies: tremendous post-scarcity cityscapes that utilized the potent Higgs energy generators to provide literally unlimited power.

    One of their best core abilities was to adapt and upgrade any form of technology that they came across, and could reasonably store and/or integrate into the core itself through the use of it’s space-warping defensive field, called an impeller.

    The other was shockingly the impeller itself, being something so ridiculous that it could barely be placed into words just the kind of shenanigans that you could get up to with it.

    That didn’t even cover the power armor system that was usually a standard piece of equipment for most cores, and was generally referred to as the “frame.”

    There were downsides, of course. The first and largest were that of a limited use pool. Roughly one in ten thousand women could actually use the things.

    And I say women for a very good reason: while the rate for the girls is low, but at least reasonably usable...the rate for men to be able to sync with a Valkyrie Core was literally one in a million. At best.

    At worst the numbers were so low as to be almost infinitesimal.. It really was not fun to be a guy with those around, as you didn’t get to play with the cool toys.

    I, however, was fully capable of syncing with a core. And I would be using this time to dig as deep as possible into its guts to see what I could improve, too.

    The power armor integrated into the core was nothing really major to write home about, all things considered. It was a bog-standard light power armor system, with some small bit of extras here and there to accommodate being integrated with a core. Besides, if my theory worked, then the armor system would get improved as well as a side effect. Thus, I was focusing my energies elsewhere.

    For the first time since my arrival on this world, I intentionally and consciously leveraged the full and focused might of all of my abilities onto one single target: My Valkyrie Core.

    The full force of a mind that was the equal--or, perhaps, greater-- of an entire football stadium of geniuses, that had an almost preternatural eye for detail and information processing...and was also a fully-trained ENGINEER. There would be practically nothing that could hide from my sight

    And my prediction held true.

    Immediately I began noticing issues that needed fixing. For one, the code was an absolute MESS. There were piles of inefficiencies and junk code everywhere, and that was just with a cursory scan of the interiors. A lot, a whole lot of my gripes with the system, few as they were, could be solved by simply cleaning up the codebase.

    The second wasn’t related to the core, but to the frame itself, which was unusual in that it was geared specifically for construction and support. Two brand spanking new fabricators sat in the storage, awaiting commands for use, while a medical unit sat on standby as well, in case of an emergency. This was very good for my plans, but failed to address the one minor issue of the fact that my frame had no weapons on it at all.

    Not even the (supposedly) standard hypervelocity cannons and melee “halberd” were included. And considering that the second was a catchall phrase for ANY melee weapon whatsoever that wasn’t one’s fists...this would need to be rectified immediately. There was no way in hell I was going out there with no offense.

    The third issue actually tied back into the first about the coding. Now that I had a better handle on the code base, which was improving even as I delved further in, I saw a very strange and troubling pattern emerge. It seemed that a lot of the linkage interfaces were...miswired is the only term I can come up with, even though it’s wrong. It was almost like it was deliberately set to be as straining to the human body as possible for some reason, particularly the mind. And while this effect would fade with time, as the core itself learned its partner and adjusted accordingly, part of the process was a blatant enhancement of the human involved to meet the core. Which had some...interesting potential side effects if the data I was looking at was correct.

    It was nothing major, and definitely would not have been an issue in its home universe without a freaking alien invasion directly forcing the issue to the surface, but it was something that could be fixed nonetheless, and with a small bit of coding.

    I gave the system one last lookover, just to make sure that I had not missed anything at all that might be important before I started changing things.

    And then I got to work, slowly but surely rewriting the entire core kernel for the piece of alien biotech I was currently synced with, to truly make it into a human technology, something which the Earth of the AG invasion would likely not have been able to do for at least another hundred years. (They did, however, have the very valid excuse of there being a literal war for survival going on, so there was some significant slack time involved.)

    Now that I thought of it, this was almost a criminally perfect time to be multitasking and getting other stuff done...except that I had no desire to fuck up and ruin my core, as building a new one was going to be just this side of impossible without already having one. It could be done, just not without a very lengthy amount of setup time...and an amount of raw equipment that would have the Mechanicus breathing down my neck in a heartbeat, let alone the inquisition.

    But those are bad topics. Right now the GOOD topic is how I’m about to pimp my core.

    Now then, to the coding.

    As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the major issues with the system itself were in the coding. There was a lot of junk code involved (and it WAS junk code, i’d quadruple-checked at this point), but also there were some very blatant inefficiencies as well. While I suspect that most of this would be optimized by the core itself, there was a lot of slack room involved, and it ate into areas where things could be improved drastically--like the improvement process itself, which was weirdly restricted by intentional code to not actually improve the core systems themselves, outside of partner interface optimizations. Which was weird, because I had the full knowledge of how the so-called 300 frames worked as well, and the setup was completely different.

    Shrugging with the general weirdness, I instead pushed further with the re-coding, making sweeping optimizations across the board to everything that I could get my hands on while still synced with the core itself. And from the looks of it, my new partner seemed to be helping me. Or at least something was, as I was consistently getting pointed to areas of major snarls and otherwise bad decision making by the designers of the system, and making corrections as needed.

    It was sad that one of the biggest changes I made (and was rather insistently pushed on, no less) was to the improvement and optimization routines themselves, which while good (and damned good, too) were not GREAT, as they could have been. As they should have been.

    As I now once again made them.

    Now the returned routine would be able to do much like the fabled 300 frames could, and optimize itself and its gear even without having a user synced up with the core itself...although the process would be, by necessity, both slower and less directed, less PERSONAL, than the normal process.

    It was still nearly 200% faster than even the standard process, but I'm not going to complain just because I couldn't push it to 300%. I’d do that later on, and my partner here would help me.

    The burst of feeling I got from that merely confirmed the suspicion that my core was developing far faster than the records normally stated happened with core users. Might be because I’m digging in the code, or perhaps because of all of the very subtle data interface implants I have on my person. Probably the latter, although the mega big brain likely helps as well. (an errant thought that seemed to be a shrug came to me then, along with an impression of the second being the culprit.)

    NEXT CHANGE!!

    I’d deliberately gone over the compatibility routines and checkers with a fine toothed comb, looking for any and all ways to improve the system. And find them I did.

    With the new recode, the checks for compatibility with a user were more broadly defined even as they focused themselves. The end result was unexpected, but welcome nonetheless--the compatibility rate had gone down slightly to 1 in 11,000 for women...at the cost of increasing the male compatibility rate to the same level. I had, with a simple code change, nearly doubled the number of available users. And from the looks of it, the pool could be widened even further, given time.

    I would definitely have to spread this around if I ended up on that particular earth. They needed all of the help they could get.

    Oh...did I mention that this was a literal SIDE EFFECT of me going after the interface for the sync issues that newb valkyries tend to have?

    The REAL targeted benefit was that now, even a brand new valkyrie could operate their cores (and by extension, their frames) for nearly four times longer before starting to burn out. And the adjustment period for the sync improvements had been cut in half outright.

    This did not stop any of the issues that came from the fact that core partners with longer hours synced were still better than their newer counterparts, but it helped to bridge the gap between a total newbie and the trained core.

    Lastly, Impeller improvements!

    The code here was simultaneously and paradoxically both the cleanest and most organized as well as the worst, most blatantly cluttered mess that I had ever seen. And it would be improved.
    I (WE) would improve it.

    The process took HOURS, just for this alone. It was crazy, but necessary, as the impeller was directly tied to some of the core systems of how the complexity/storage space issues worked. And even then there was nothing that I could do for still needing to put in the time to actually get the results.

    What I(WE) DID do, however, was to vastly improve the results.

    Impeller growth rate was nearly tripled, and then tripled again as the optimizations started to kick in. core complexity, now that I really understood the mechanics behind it, was set to constantly improve at a far greater rate than present, without the occasional backslides from integrating “lesser” technology. Storage space size was improved over 400% thanks to the optimizations. And best of all, integration times for all but the most hardcore of technologies had been slashed all the way down to a mere 25% of what they once were...and unlike a “normal” core, these too could be improved upon with time.

    All from optimizing the code. And we (and yes, it is we now, partner. I did notice) weren’t even halfway done. This was going to be a really good day, I could tell.

    Anyway, MORE CODING!!! This shit is WAY too much fun!






    The end result would have had people looking at me crazy if they knew just what the hell I'd unleashed upon this world. (that it required a very rare and almost unprecedented core restart was beside the point)

    The final project came out to an almost across the board increase capability of over 400%, all said and done. I’d even added in, at core’s suggestion, a series of robust and cross-linked error checking and correcting routines, that would be optimized and upgraded just like the rest of the core, just to make sure that nothing funny went down.

    Though I could have sworn I heard something screaming in rage in the distance as I did so. Curious.

    An unexpected benefit of one of my abilities had kicked in, this one known as Robust Engineering, which made the already very durable and lasting valkyrie core even more so...and created a knock-on effect that transferred to everything that the core influenced as well, somehow. It was completely crazy, but I was rolling with it.

    Second unexpected benefit of my weird perks is that the excellent craftsman skill kicked in while I was working and helped optimize the code even further than we had planned for, which was a big part of the sheer boost that was delivered even on top of the core optimizations.

    Which had another five hours or so to complete, leaving me to my own devices for the moment.

    And all this was just from CODING. I hadn’t even touched the actual hardware yet.

    I had a good feeling that the technology of the Valkyrie Core had a very high ceiling for improvement. I was probably only looking at the surface of what could be done.

    The core tech of the frames, namely their spatial bending tricks and all of the impeller BS that came with it...I might be able to recreate the simulators using this alone. This would be absolutely HUGE if I could, as the damned sims were all but creating pocket dimensions for training purposes, a feat that was perfect for my needs.

    And so of course a review of the tech involved with the sims proper (what little I had available to me, anyway) reminded me of not only the insane power draw requirement, but that the sim setup used by the UN was a Higgs-based setup...which I had no knowledge of at all. A minor setback, but still one that rankled a bit.

    A mental nudge drew me out of my thoughts, alerting me to another set of abilities having finished integrating into my weird (not)soul-space. Two of them, from the looks of it.

    I looked closely at the first, it was a weird mishmash of things, what seemed at first intended to be two separate abilities merged into one due to the overlap involved (especially as they were with the same tech). The tech in question was a piece of what my new knowledge referred to as “industrialized magic”: the wonder of the 20th century, the Computation Orb (or Operations Orb, as some called it).

    And as much as I was fascinated with the possibilities of the orb in being a legit form of magitechnology, there were some very, VERY serious flaws with the tech, first and foremost among them that it was literally from the 1920’s. All of the biggest advancements either predated or were concurrent with World War One. or at least this weird version thereof. (I was tempted to call it Strangereal, but that name is already taken.) Second was related to the first: it was a pure analog technology, based off of clockwork motions of all things. Easily disrupted on a real battlefield, although it had the advantage of being resistant to nearly all forms of Electromagnetic Radiation as a result, meaning no being fried by EMP or the like just because. Related to this is that the gears involved were meant to be tooled by hand, and thus lacked a lot of the miniaturization possible with even what I'd considered modern tech, let alone what passed for contemporary on Necromunda. And the Valkyrie Frame I had came equipped with two fabs that could work on a Nano scale…

    Yeah, I was snapping this thing over my knee just for the hell of it. It was a damned good starting point, and would have been downright revolutionary in its own time, but the tech itself is outdated and needed improvements everywhere.

    Starting off, the gearing could be so, so much improved it wasn't even funny, although even I had to admit that there was a hard limit to human hands; if I wanted to stick with the analog system I would need to get downright silly with both materials and manufacturing techniques.

    Mind you, this was SOLELY if I wanted to have an analog version. Considering that this is literally a giant calculator, I could go digital easily enough as well...that is, assuming that it would work on that level.

    Y’know what? I have my new project. I’m making a digital computation orb, as well as an analog version comparable to the best work of the 21st century.

    Of course, first I was gonna need to make some tools....




    2:36:47

    2:36:46

    2:36:45

    Dammit.

    I literally went through the workshop and it’s bins for all of the things needed to make small scale tools appropriate for a watchmaker, spent the time fashioning the (relatively) crude implements I would use, planned out the possibilities for what I wanted to do, and had set up some equally basic molds and such for creating the frames of the clockwork.

    I’d even managed to get a few examples of the crystalline portions of the assembly worked up, all just to test out which might actually affect any of the processes in the orb.

    I literally had all but built a basic computation orb and it still didn’t eat up the time for my Core to finish its update.

    Ah well then. Time to start the assembly process, then.

    Putting it all together should have been a difficult task, fraught with errors as I fumbled and potentially damaged the various gears needed to have a basic computation orb function.

    I did not, as I was, in my boredom, using the assembly as a test bed of sorts for a form of Arts-based fine telekinesis. (go multitasking.) While I could lie and say that it was easy, it really wasn’t, as the basis for the Art was more or less brand new to me, and needed some fine-tuning as I went along. The plus side, though, was that the mistakes that I did make were far reduced in severity due to not having any of the bigger tools involved in the process and able to mess things up.

    All in all, a productive use of time, resulting in a top-quality computation orb. (I loved excellent craftsman sometimes.)

    I glanced at the countdown timer next to my Core.

    1:02;21

    Dammit.

    Alright then, kill more time by setting up some spell design work?

    The basic computation orb that I had designed and built was a relatively simple affair. Utilizing a means of mechanical calculation based around a single “core” it was capable of casting one spell at any given time, plus whatever auxiliary spells were built into the orb itself. Under normal circumstances in the world of its creation, these would be used for the flight spell or support gear for the same, along with the accompanying field equations needed for protection during flight. Similarly, the available spells for the user were largely geared towards combat utility more than any general purpose bent, and it showed plainly in the design.

    My build, however, was different in that it was set up for general purpose use and stability first and foremost, and included supporting equations to allow for the flexibility needed from a “civilian”-use piece of equipment. It could, of course, still be used for combat applications, but as I could now clearly see after building, the technology as it was didn’t allow for much in the way of shifting specializations on the fly. A purpose-built combat orb would be superior in all regards in its chosen field, regardless of any improvement that I could leverage upon the orb construction itself...at least, as I’d built it.

    I had intentionally gone for a single-core design just to test the theory work and accompanying math needed; now I could push it further and see if it was possible to build an orb with more processing power.

    I blatantly scoffed at even the idea that my orb wouldn’t work properly. I had leveraged most of my skills in it’s creation, after all. What might be faulty was the basic spell equations needed to operate it, and even that would be more or less trial and error as I worked out the new formulas. Having already known the full underlying process behind why the orbs worked was a big bonus in this regard. (That actually building an orb proper fully disabused me of the field durability issues I’d originally expected to see from the orb was a bit of humble pie on my part, but I took it in stride. Progress waited for no one, after all.)

    Anyway, back to improvements.

    I started on the design work for working in another computing core, complete with a few improvements in where I had noted some...slack. The second build was shockingly faster even than the first, somehow, and I now held in my hands this world’s first dual-core computation orb, and one that was set for general purposes, at that. I gave the internal a quick once over before getting set for a brief test of the improvements I had made.

    Unsurprisingly, they worked as intended.

    Fully emboldened by the success, I set to designing and building up both a three and four-core model as well, just to see if it was possible. Used up most of the prepared materials that the workshop had available, but I could get some more later on, or just wait long enough for it to replenish itself. (it was convenient like that).

    The three-core had some minor issues that were quickly cleared up with a small tweak to the build. The four-core, however, tried to tear itself apart for some reason. Curious, I looked it over and saw the problem involved in the gearing and setup processes, then just did a (relatively) quick mod and the problems went away just like that.

    I got a strange feeling I had just completely spat on someone’s life work by doing so, though.

    Shrugging, I then considered what I had learned...which honestly was not much, as I had been sticking to the basic principles of operation for the cores and nothing too groundbreaking from a more modern (or advanced) perspective. The real tests were going to be from the expansion of the technology into the digital age, and a third option that had appeared to me during my tinkering: the possibility of using pure mana as a sort of “virtual core” setup allowing for nearly infinite processing power if used right.

    First off, though, I had an idea that needed checking.

    Computation orbs had one major flaw aside from the low-tech nature of the build: Power. Rather, the fact that the vast majority of mages would never actually be able to use the damned things to anywhere near full capacity simply due to lack of natural mana output.

    My solution to this was very simple: the capacitor.

    Basically, I would find a way to create a form of battery for the excess mana produced when not in operation, or when not under extreme load, and then channel it into a form that could be used later by the operator of the orb, regardless of their actual personal output, as long as it was not zero. Combined with some of the efficiency tweaks and mods I was making to the designs I’d made, this should allow all but the absolute weakest of mages to have a usable ability with the orbs.

    I began the planning process for how to adapt the damned orbs for a battery that wasn’t complete garbage (or far, far too large for proper operation) and paused when a feeling of warmth spread over me.

    I looked over at the timer for my Core and was startled out of my working trance at the display.

    0:00.00

    It was finished.

    Feeling absolutely giddy at the news, I all but dropped my current work to rush over to my core and resync.

    The difference was the equivalent of high noon and pitch black,

    Everything seemed so much smoother, so much faster, so much MORE. I played around a bit with the various settings I now had access to, trying to find an ideal setup for my use...and really couldn’t decide one way or another. Giving it up as a wash for now, I left it to my core, which really needed a name now, to figure out as we worked together.

    The biggest change other than the vastly improved sensory awareness granted was that the impeller was improved a great deal in strength and thickness. My control was still shitty, as was true for all newbie valkyries, but a quick check showed it to be more responsive than examples have shown most low-sync hours valks would have. Noting major by any stretch, but it would likely help in practicing later on.

    The second biggest change was that I now had the super-neat “constant improvement” code built into my core, and it had already started on what was available to it at the time, doing some improvements to both the fabricators and the medical suite installed on my frame, as well as some general purpose tweaks to the frame itself. If the code that we had created worked out, then the speed and overall efficiency of the process should improve as time went on and our sync (and tech base) improved. (A feeling from within suggested that the code would work just fine.)

    Now that I had access to my best tools though, I could push the computation orb project even further than before...and possibly even go beyond!!!

    ONWARD!! FOR SCIENCE!!!




    I hate my life.

    It had been three whole weeks, and I have been banging my head against the wall that was the computation orb to no avail.

    Oh sure, I could push the level of the orbs up to some absolutely ridiculous stages; after all, I had managed to make a legit 16-core orb. The problem came from the fact that the sheer power draw for anything beyond eight cores became nearly unsustainable for anything but the highest level mages. I had been looking into ways to reduce the strain on the user, but nothing seemed to want to stick. It was frustrating on a level that I had reserved for the damned scrub gangs that still tried to make a nuisance of themselves whenever I chose to step outside for longer than ten minutes.

    The capacitor project was going no better. Despite getting a decent one set up and operating, it had the relatively minor problem of being the size of a goddamn super duty pickup truck...for maybe five minutes of power output at levels worth the effort.

    The issues with making a digital version of the orb were both lesser and more complex all at once. Making the circuits seemed easy as hell, until I ran into the issue that apparently the mana calculations needed a completely different design type and architecture tha anything even dreamed of by most in order to work right, and then add in the fact that the process nodes themselves were notoriously finicky and unstable for all that they seemed very easy to make, and the frustration factors piled up even more.

    And I didn't want to just throw it at Thoth (the new name of my Valkyrie Core, and a reference to the Egyptian deity of the same name, who symbolized wisdom and Science, among other things) in order for him to fix it up. I wanted to actually understand this technology and why it worked from the ground floor and not just cheatcode it. Besides, this was literally MY OWN GODDAMNED TECH. I SHOULD be able to understand it, right?

    But NOOO. The damned answers to the questions kept themselves away from me in any and all ways possible. I swear that this shit was going to be nearly impossible to do…

    I stopped for a moment to consider other things for a bit. The issues I was having had plagued the early 21st century as well, with availability of power and overall power draw being the main advancement of computing during that era. Every major advancement seemed to be about efficiency in some way or fashion instead of raw power. Considering the advent and proliferation of the smartphone, this was no real surprise.

    The issue is that none of the science principles that worked for those revolutions seemed to be taking hold here. I knew that a digital, or at least circuit-based version of the computation orb was possible, I just couldn’t crack it. Likewise, I had no way of actually breaking the limiters keeping the capacitor project from advancing past the stage of near complete uselessness.

    I’m supposed to be a super genius dammit! How can I not figure this shit out?

    I took a shuddering breath. Nope, not thinking about it.

    Instead, I would do some more practice with originium and the things it allowed for.

    After the last incident involving me getting shot at, and the subsequent lay-low order, I had cleared out a small section of the workshop proper to use as a sort of training area for my experiments with Arts and originium in general, though I had yet to really work with the material properly just yet. It was something I was saving for the future, after I cracked the computation orb.

    See how far that got me...

    For the most part, my Arts usage had advanced in steady, predictable ways. I had given more thought on usage to some of the basic examples given by my Class training, and made some (admittedly small) attempts at branching out from there.

    For example, let’s take the Vanguard Class. It specialized in movement, both in terms of sheer mobility and of maneuverability. What this meant is that the skills adjacent to the class were all about getting in fast, kicking ass, and getting out again just as fast.

    In a way, it was very similar to the general specialization for Alliance biotic operatives than anything else, as they had the same modus operandi. The main issues I was having in training the related Arts for the class was space, as nearly all of them involved movement of some kind, and usually enabled movement in unusual ways, such as the eponymous spider climb ability (which was actually hard as all hell to keep going, let me tell you).

    The Sniper Class was exactly as I thought it would be based on my previous training, focusing on being able to both identify and then hit the target specified at extreme ranges. There seemed to be some extra stuff in there beyond a skill wall of sorts, but I could never seem to get past it with the limits I'd set for myself. Something else to work on for the future.

    The Caster class was paradoxically the easiest to train in, as it focused on Arts to the excursion of almost everything else; a blessing and a cure all in one on the battlefield. I doubted anything but the strongest casters would be able to stand against even a newbie sanctioned psyker of the imperium, let alone the stuff the Eldar were capable of, so I focused instead on the utility portions of the Arts, figuring I could get to the rest later. The telekinesis trick I'd been using to help construct the computation orbs had been a godsend in training me on fine control with my powers, and I had managed to work in some similar uses as well, mostly based off of my memories of Golden Sun. Including all of the general purpose TK-adjacent utility psynergies, I also could adjust temperatures in objects by a small to moderate amount with a bit of focus. Along with a minor ability to affect the electromagnetic spectrum over a shockingly broad range that was growing faster than anything else, really. I practiced all of it whenever I had the chance, usually when I needed a break from banging my head into the wall over the orb tech.

    Then there was the Medic Class. The Arts here seemed to defy everything I thought I knew about arts proper in the way that they operated, and came attached to quite a few specialty abilities depending on the user. As I was still new, I had no real specialties to speak of, but I did have a very useful, if basic, healing art that acted as a cellular regenerator. I suspected that this was one of the primary treatment methods for those infected with oripathy on that world. It was definitely something that I would be doing closer research on in the future.

    By comparison, the remaining classes were almost carelessly simple in their functions. The Guard, despite its name, was a frontline melee combatant first and foremost, tasked with standing toe to toe with the enemy and taking them down by any available means. The benefit it granted me was a not insignificant skill in melee combat, particularly with blades of varying types, though I favored the sword, spear, and a form of partisan that was a very close mix between the two.

    Specialists, on the other hand, were something of a grab bag: the title itself was meant as a catchall for anyone who had skills that didn’t fall under the standard operator training classifications. In theory, this meant that anyone who had a unique and/or useful skill could be classed as one. In practice however it tended to work similarly to the more applied MOS of the various militaries of history: namely demolitions, assassinations, and other specific point work. That my personal rating was as an engineer was not a surprise in the slightest.

    My practice with arts today would be focusing on the abilities of the Guard, to whom the basic skills I knew were of some minor body strengthening techniques. Supposedly one could push really, really far and do some downright anime shit at higher levels, but I wasn’t there. Not yet.

    My training continuing apace, I still had reserve brainpower to consider other issues while I attempted to distract myself from the orb problem. The higher ups of Van Saar, having noted that something was going wrong in their area of expertise, started looking into who and what the hell was trying to kill me off so urgently...and was finding jack and shit, which concerned them greatly. That I was currently able to handle myself to a degree was noted and ignored--this was an assault upon the house itself to be gunning after one of its assets. To that end, they had apparently pulled House Delaque into some form of contract to look into exactly what the hell was going on. Delaque had yet to send a report back in, which according to Harry was highly unusual for them, even if the work was being contracted out to one of the lesser gangs of the house. Still, something that could move around like that more or less undetected to a house that was known for specializing in the same was a scary prospect.

    For most.

    For me it was currently an annoyance, as my house minders, in the form of the Lieutenants three (and that’s what they were, fancy title or not), were intentionally keeping me from wandering around too much until they had solid info. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, considering I was hip-deep in my own tech development at the moment, but it was the times like this when I needed a real break that it grated.

    Even when I was working out the alternate core configurations to allow for the eventual 16-core setup, which required something similar to the core cluster model of 21’s t century multicore computing chips. the sheer strain on my psyche wasn’t that bad, and I had been considering doing something absolutely silly at the time and just making a three dimen--

    No.

    No. way.

    There is no way in hell it is that easy.

    Stopping myself in mid-motion of a swing with the training weapon I had thrown together out of some junk, I turned back to the computation orbs set on the workshop table . If this theory was right…

    It was a quick build, all things considered. I'd used the same materials leftover from my many other attempts. The same processes in forging and shaping the circuits to be. Hell, even kept them as oversized as normal in order to see what was happening and make changes.

    The only difference was that instead of making it like a standard circuit board, I made the gates, pipes and arrays, as basic as they were, in the full three dimensional spectrum.

    The resulting piece of circuitry was clunky, and actually a bit larger than it needed to be., at about the size of a pair of fists, cubed. I took a look at it, and fired it up.

    And of course it didn't work.

    The difference, however, was not in that it didn't work, but HOW.

    It was a completely new failure mode. One that actually baffled me for a bit as I examined it and tried to draw some conclusions from the mess. And nothing seemed to make sense. The damned thing seemed to defy logic. How the hell does a system fail Left?

    It was even more frustrating than it should have been, but I still felt that I was on to something here. So I made another one

    And another, and another, and another.

    All of them failed, but not in exactly the same way. Some failed left, others failed up (don’t ask, I don't get it either) and one particular version seemed to just...absorb itself and fail that way.

    But each failure point gave me more data. And I learned what I was doing wrong.

    It wasn't about the shape. Sure, making a 3D circuit helped a bit, but it didn't NEED to be that way, and in fact would work better in a 2d config until I had a basic operations process worked out. What was important here was that I now had an idea of how the mana flowed and operated in the circuits proper.

    Which meant that I could now create a proper circuit for it to work in.

    The design process, oddly enough, only took an hour, even without me leaning too hard on my abilities. The build took less time, as I was now used to putting the experiments together. No 3d circuits for now, at least not as we would normally think of them. Instead, it was similar but vastly different to a “standard” integrated circuit, with several of its most defining features (including the transistor) either missing or so completely redesigned as to be unrecognizable. But it was finished.

    And the test spell was fed in, which did nothing more than create a small but of light.

    I waited with baited breath as the test started...and then whooped with joy as the tiny glow appeared above the circuit itself.

    Oh HELL yeah. I had created the very first digital operations orb.





    You would have thought that I would have immediately ran through the whole super-iteration process with this new discovery, but I didn't. I really had no need to do so right now, for one, and for two, the capacitor problem was now more important than ever, as I had noticed even in the initial test of the digital orb that it was going to be a power-hungry beast. Which meant that I needed a way to supply that power in a reasonable fashion.

    Well, part of it was pride, I'll admit. The postmortem on the experiments with the digital orb made it clear that the fix was staring me in the face the whole time and I'd ignored it because I knew better. After having been fed my considerable helping of humble pie on the subject, I was hesitant to push too hard with the capacitor project without actually looking at what I was doing, both right and wrong.

    So for now, I let it sit. Besides, I was expecting a visit from Harry soon, and hopefully with an update on the whole assassins thing. Maybe even a decent timetable on when Van Saar could get together a training platoon for me to start working into shape.

    It was around this time that I began hearing an odd and kind of ethereal tune. I know I had heard it before, but I had trouble placing it. It was kind of uplifting, in that sense of wonder way, that used to be reserved for things related to outer space. What sounded similar to..sea life? Echoed in the background in a pleasing way. And yet that tune ,it seemed so familiar...almost like a song without words, one for an eternal story. An impulse led me to seek out the source of the music, only to find it playing from seemingly everywhere and nowhere at all.

    Wait a minute...It reminded me a lot of the title theme of--

    A vision appeared to me. In it, I saw the endless sea of stars, the countless planets, moons, comets, even nebulae stretched across it’s vista. Each seemed only to add to the gathered splendor, acting in a way that created an amazing backdrop of colors.

    Flash focus,, to a world beset by a crisis beyond anything they had seen before. The planet itself was dying, and very soon it would no longer be able to support life in any form. The people of the world sought a solution, any solution, that would save them.

    Flash away again, to another, different world, where beings wielded what seemed to be the very stars themselves in all things, growing powerful beyond measure with the mastery of this strange power. A castoff remnant of the knowledge is tossed away like trash into the void, unneeded and unmissed by these great beings

    Flash again, to a distant future. The great ones had fallen, somehow destroyed by their own hubris, and their works left to be cast adrift. The only salvation: a race of purpose-designed inheritors of their legacy, wielding only a fraction of the power that had been available to those who had eventually created them.

    I got the distinct feeling that this was just meant as a reference point, really

    Flash again, back to the cast off remnant, now an asteroid containing the lost fragment of a whole so much greater. This fragment fell to the doomed planet that I had seen first.

    And with it, hope.

    Within, lay the means to access that great and terrifying power, even if it was only barely understood at the moment. It was used to advance the understanding of the doomed world to unseen heights, allowing them to build a series of arkships to escape their world, and begin the search for a new home.

    A final, all-consuming flash blinded me, leaving me in a white void once it finally cleared away. Before me was...something, a thing, a creature, possibly even a consciousness? of unimaginable power.

    And it began showing me things. The works of those who had wielded the light, and the same works of those who had despised it, who sought to corrupt it into their own image.

    It was beautiful and terrifying in equal measures (and felt oddly familiar as well), and just as relentless in the barrage of information, both of what was and of what could be.

    And within it all, even as I was being overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of knowledge, to the point that I could barely process any of it at all, let alone hang on to it, was a simple question.

    What path did I choose?

    I had to force myself to focus, to place context to the scenes playing out before me, and even then I failed, swamped with the metaphorical (and likely metaphysical) weight crashing down on me. The strange light (or was it a darkness? It was getting hard to tell) watched with a passivity that would have been annoying if I had even a second to process it.

    And the question repeated. What path do you choose?

    I barely managed to focus myself, to cut myself off from the flood tide of data swarming me, to get a clever look at what I was dealing with...and what I saw horrified me.

    The darkness, it sought out a means to control me, to use me for its own ends...and it had nearly succeeded, pushing me towards making a hasty choice that would have had devastating consequences had I accepted. It was a path of corruption, of being twisted into something that I was not, and being used to erase all that I held dear, even simply favored, into an all consuming black void of nothingness.

    Something that I would not allow to happen, ever.

    Finally having found myself, I rejected the false flow of damaging data, recognizing the attack for what it was at long last, and turned away from the source of the darkness, what I had once perceived as a blinding light.

    Instead, I looked away, finding the final piece of the cast-away fragment of the bearers of this light, shining even still. They sang out to me, a promise of a brighter tomorrow, as long as one was willing to fight for it. A sentiment I wholeheartedly agreed with.

    And thus, it was with a determined step that I turned away from the howling darkness that even then threatened to consume me utterly...and walked towards the light--

    The trance ended just as suddenly as it began, and left me with the feeling that I had dodged a very large bullet, one that had specifically been aimed at me, no less...and had been rewarded handsomely for doing so, as well.

    I consulted my memories...and nearly gasped in shock at what I had found.

    It was a power unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life, the potential to wield the very light itself in ways that seemed almost magical in nature, to push for levels of technology that were likely unknown even during the dark age of technology.

    It resonated with me on a level that I couldn’t quite explain, as if it just somehow FIT.

    It was also very much not something that was normally a part of the forge of stars, having added itself to my repertoire of its own accord. For what reason I did not know, and really did not care.

    Because I recognized it for what it was now.

    I knew it as the power of Photons.

    The power best known, and used, in the world..no, universe, of the game series Phantasy Star.

    And I was going to put this knowledge to GREAT use.




    A knock at the front door of my actual lodging broke me out of my musings on my new prowess. Quickly moving to exit and close the workshop, I answered the door, thinking it to be Harry with that status update.

    Instead, it was one of the Adjutants to that Augmek that I had met. The thin guy with the beard, Janus Farhish,. We had built up a small but firm rapport with each other after that first meeting, with him being suitably impressed with my skills and the sheer balls I had to display them in the manner I did...nevermind that I hate being an asshole as a rule...a trait that he surprisingly shared with me. It didn’t take long for us to click after that, although his responsibilities kept him busy for a lot of my current tenure. And even then I usually had to come to him to get news.

    Apparently something had changed.

    “Hullo there, Farhish.”I greeted him, even as I waved him inside. I used his family name as a form of respect, even though he insisted I could call him Janus. “Whatcha need so badly that you showed up in person?”

    The look on his face turned unusually grim after my question. “I’m here because we have a lead of sorts on what might be happening.”

    I would have grinned at the statement, but something about his expression dulled the impulse. “And you had to come tell me in person? Usually you guys go through Harrisyn for stuff like this.”

    “That is part of the issue, I’m afraid” he replied. “Agent Cain was in the process of collecting the information that had been received and processing it when an incident occurred. He has yet to check in as per standard protocols.

    “We have reason to believe that Harrisyn Cain has been either kidnapped or killed in order to keep him silent.”





    Two notes here: first is that there was a minor mixup in the forge doc, and two of the perks, normally an 800cp cluster, have been merged into one. Reason being? They are technically the same perk, or at least were intended as such, as the first (Magical Science) was part of an early beta version of the Youjo Senki Jump, and was replaced in the final with the second (Computation Creation). As they were meant to serve similar roles in the jump (and I didn't want to subject people to hunting down the beta jump) I merged the two.

    Second is the addition of a perk that is not normally in the forge proper, and was likely an oversight on the part of the creators of both v2 and the current v3 which was refined from it. It is an addition of my own which I felt would be interesting. Note that the actual perk covers multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE domains, though I have provisionally assigned it to the magitech domain. (honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to pop up this early, at ALL.)



    -Computation Creation | Magical Science (Youjo Senki - Saga of Tanya the Evil)
    Computation Creation (400CP)
    The operation orb - or computation orb, if you prefer - is a masterwork of science and mathematics. A unique crystalline and clockwork structure allows for mathematical code to be stored - called spells - and channels energy from the user in order to empower them. You now understand not just how they work, but why - and in doing so, can apply the principles to other aims. Magic is currently used solely by the air corps for long range bombardment. Let's fix
    that, shall we?

    Magical Science (merged with the above, no cost)
    You are at the forefront of mage technology, and can easily improve on what is currently being used, with some effort you can also build far more powerful mage tech. Whatever faction you belong to is sure to value you greatly.


    Walk Towards the Light (Phantasy Star Online) (600 CP)
    You have the knowledge necessary to work with Photons. You can create photon-based weaponry, defensive equipment, and even powerful FTL engines. Given enough time and resources, you could build your own Pioneer ships. In addition, you have the knowledge necessary to create most any of the items found in Phantasy Star Online. D-Cells are the exception to this, as even you don’t understand how they work.
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 6.1
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    Late Chapter is Late.
    This one fought me for a bit, and after some consultation with the advice column (read: CF discord and writers) I just rewrote the whole thing. As such, this is admittedly of...poor quality. Be warned.






    According to Janus, Harry had been missing for over 72 hours now. Normally this would not be a big deal, as groups or cells going dark for a bit were expected to happen every so often, and a system for discreet check-ins was used for those few that had need to be disappeared for a bit to let their comrades know that they weren’t in a ditch somewhere or being processed into corpsedust.

    Harry, however, was different. Being connected to a ranking Augmek the way he was, and being a sanctioned information broker for the house at that, meant that he had a much stricter check-in schedule than most, and was generally required to verify his existence in one way or another every week, Circumstances being what they were, and Harry being part of the investigation team, this was more than reasonable.

    Whatever incident this was that I had missed due to my isolation must have been freaking huge if they were considering a 72 hour blackout a big deal.

    Time for some Q&A.

    “So what exactly happened that makes you think he’s been compromised, then?” I asked. “Isn’t the normal check-in schedule once a week?”

    Janus was quick to reply. “ Normally, yes. However, the nature of the...incident required that all members of the house with leadership roles or connected to them check in within a 72-hour timeframe before being declared missing.” He moved into the living room area of the maintenance shop that served as my home, and took a seat. “Agent Cain has yet to use any of the normal methods to signal that he is alive and well, and our normal spy network has yet to find any evidence that he was captured.”

    I nodded along, slowly putting together a barebones picture of what might have gone down. “You have any details that I can use? What exactly happened, anyway?”

    Janus gave a slight grunt of assent. “ I can tell you that much, at least, as it was connected to you.” He stopped a moment to collect his thoughts, then continued.”What do you know of the current investigation?”

    I shrugged. “Not much, really. From what I understand the investigation is stalled out for lack of any real leads or obvious culprits.”

    Janus nodded. “Close enough. What we have managed to find out is that one of the houses is potentially compromised, which one and to what level we’re not sure, by an unknown third party. This faction appears to be the driving force behind the attacks.

    “What complicates matters is that there is another faction involved. And they may have screwed everyone.”

    I blinked. I’d expected a crock of bullshit and shadowrunning shit, not someone flipping the table.

    “We have no clue who they are, what they want, or why they chose to get involved. All we know is that they exist.” Janus let out an annoyed sigh. “And quite frankly, it is pissing most of us off.”

    Yeah, I can see that being the bane of a lot of planning. Problem is, it left a lot of questions in the air. For example…

    “And how exactly did Harry get caught up in this shit anyway? I thought he was doing rear-line work, more as an analyst and processor than anything that close. Why the hell was he even in a position to get got?”

    Janus shrugged. “He was in a defended location. It's what makes this whole incident weird as all hell. We still have the raw information, nothing got lost, but for some reason he appeared to be a target of the actions that day, along with a copy of the intelligence that he was working through. We still do not know WHY.”

    Well shit.

    “So do you have any way of at least confirming that he’s even still alive, then? Some kind of beacon, maybe? Or even a vox signal to home in on?” I was reaching for straws asking this, but any port in a storm...and for some reason my trap senses were tingling…

    Janus’ reply was not encouraging. “We don’t, really. All we have is a general timeframe of where he was and where he could be given the normal movement channels available. It isn’t much, but we used it to secure all of the likely routes out of the area. Hopefully this keeps our mystery aggressors occupied long enough for us to catch a lead.”

    I stopped myself from replying right away as I crunched at the problem. Missing operative, no clue as to location, all normal means of tracing him are lost. Likely still in a preset area or areas, and is prevented from moving out of said area through monitoring of the exits.

    Two major problems: unknown capability of aggressor, and unknown operations area of the same. Because we don;t know what they can do, we have no way of knowing if our planning and strategy is effective until already in the field. Because we don’t know their operations area, we have no way of being sure that the enemy is actually contained and not getting clear with our missing VIP his was going to be rough...but I have to plan around it.

    “Alright, I think I might be able to lend a hand, but I’m gonna need some things.” I began. “First, I need several auspex scanners, preferably handheld but if you can get some of the stronger ones that works too. Second, I’ll need around 48 hours to get ready. After that we’re going to do a search and rescue...and possibly a search and destroy while we’re at it, if this threat turns out to be bad news. Any objections to my plan so far?”
    Janus shook his head. “None on my end, although getting that many auspex on short notice might be a bit difficult. I’ll see what I can get going. As for you being in the search, while I cannot directly prevent you from involving yourself, I would strongly recommend you sit this one out. Don’t want to lose another one of our guys to this mess.”

    Huh. I was touched that they considered me as one of them. All the more reason for me to not sit back and stay idle.

    “I appreciate the gesture, but not happening. Where I'm from, we take care of our own.”

    Janus could only give me a solemn nod at that statement, before leaving to begin his preparations.






    Alrighty then. I had 48 hours to put together something that could not only find Harry, but stand against whatever crazy BS managed to get the drop on him in the first place. This meant that I had to take the kid gloves off and go to town on everything that I had access to, getting as much ready as possible in order to ensure the maximum chance for success. That meant I needed to triage all of my projects and tech, just to see what I could get out the door on short notice.

    Another brief sensation caught my attention. It would seem that I had some new toys to play wi--oh dear god.

    So, Remember how I was talking about the whole triage of projects, needing to prioritize what would get out the door fastest?

    Yeah, that’s gone now.

    Because I had just picked up what by all rights looked like a goddamn tinker ability from Worm. The same Worm tinkers known for being stupidly fast in construction using what amounts to PAPERCLIPS to create weapons of mass destruction. That was bad enough on its own, but the specialization I had received was just outright devastating.

    Miniaturization and Efficiency.

    Best part? No limits, no caps, no black boxing, and no weird pulls to do stupid things. Just a massively broken power that would let me build fusion reactors the size of watch batteries with all of the output. To start.

    In retrospect, that other ability to increase nearly every aspect of anything I built by a flat 15-20% across the board was very paltry. Even the minor boosts to durability and efficiency were outperformed by my other abilities...

    Oh, and I also had the theoretical data on Tau energetics and plasma tech. So there was that too.

    But that big part? That meant that the capacitor project just got a massive break added to it. I might even be able to get around whatever stupid limitation was holding me back before. And then?

    I would equip my frame, and set out to find my friend.

    And woe betide anyone who stood in my way.




    In the end, I stuck with the basics instead of going full ham, keeping it simple while still allowing for some tricks up my sleeve if needed.

    Janus had managed to come through in providing the auspex units with shocking speed. I then used them as a basis for my own custom scanner system, primarily intended to be upgradeable in the long term but for now just a smaller and slightly more efficient unit for Thoth to integrate.

    Weapons wise, I was sticking to the classics, in the form of some lasguns that had the power output boosted, and a few slugthrowers of various calibers added into the mix for variety, all integrated into Thoth as part of a basic weapons compliment.. I considered pushing into the new areas provided by access to the Tau energetics, but decided against it due to time constraints.

    Similarly, I didn't really do much with my limited knowledge of photon technology beyond building a basic photon rifle to use as Thoth’s primary armament. I had considered going for a photon launcher, but decided against it due to lack of prep time in learning how to use it properly.

    Even the breakthrough potential that I had available to me in the magic capacitor project was set aside in order to simply improve upon what was already there instead of throwing new shit into the mix...the result being a significantly streamlined and optimized 16-core Operations Orb waiting for my use as an emergency measure should I need it. In fact it was even more streamlined than it should have been, considering my skills and abilities.

    Guess the stereotypical German Engineering is paying dividends after all.

    As for my “mundane” gear, I had my usual complement of Alliance N7 gear, now reworked and optimized for the kind of close-in work that was likely to occur here. I had FINALLY decided to give my omni-tool another rework, mostly to streamline what was already there rather than add new equipment or programs to the gear itself, and had linked it to one of the refurbished auspex units that I would be using along with the search party. With any luck I would be able to use this to process the incoming data faster and “see” around any likely interference that we might come across. Considering our search area came dangerously close to the underhive proper, interference was likely.

    I had also managed to get the kinetic barrier modules set up in a way that didn’t require my armor to function, meaning that I could wear imperial standard stuff and not stand out like a goddamn sore thumb. With that accomplished, I tossed the Armor into Thoth’s storage for him to integrate whenever he felt like it.

    One very notable improvement to my gear was my Eagle heavy pistol. After giving it a very thorough inspection and maintenance, I had managed to improve it’s workings to a surprising degree, especially since I didn't actually do a rebuild of the weapon itself, Just a disassembly for maintenance.

    These perks of mine are bullshit. Really.

    That took care of the tech side, and had barely taken a day.

    The rest of that time was spent on any and all forms of information gathering, ELINT operations, and general planning for the op than anything else. Yes, I could have spent more time tinkering with the tech, getting more gains and better returns, but it was completely and utterly wasteful in the time frames involved.

    Technology may indeed win the day, but only because of those who wielded it. And I would rather use what I had to maximum effect than bring in completely new and unfamiliar stuff and pray the edge holds. Skill trumps most things, after all.

    But even with all of the preparations, all the gear, all the psyching up possible, nothing could prepare you for what would come once things got started. No operations plan in history has ever survived contact with the enemy, and this one would be no different.

    And at last, the time had come, and the search team was assembled at the rally point, an old factory of some sort or another, long since abandoned due to the deteriorating conditions from what I could see.

    The search team was a mixed lot, and seemed to pull a bit from everyone and everything that was available at the time, from low-level gangers with improvised armor (if any) and basic weaponry, all the way up to what I would guess were Van Saar officers or at least superiors of come kind, given the more advanced armor rigs and higher-end weapons. (one of them even had a weird shield made out of an odd energy field, probably a form of plasma. I reminded myself to get a sample later to reverse-engineer)

    One of the leadership types spoke up once it appeared that everyone had arrived. “Welcome, one and all. We’re here today for a search team to locate one of our own...and to deliver vengeance upon those who dared to strike against us.

    “We will be doing a coordinated sweep of the area, with the intention of either flushing out our prey or locating the hole that they are hiding in. Handheld auspex units will be provided to each team to assist in the search. Our objective is to locate and either retrieve our comrade, or confirm his death at the hands of our enemies. Killing said enemies is secondary, but highly encouraged.

    “Any questions so far?”

    Shocking to me, there were none. My mental estimate of the competence of the locals raised itself another notch as the leader, who I was now designating in my mind as a Sergeant, continued.

    “Alright then. The teams are pre-assigned, with each of you going to be running with your normal crew plus one of my boys here,” He motioned to the well-equipped group, “as backup and a bit of stiffening. Before you complain,” and there were already some of the groups starting to grumble about it, silenced for a moment as he shifted tacks, ”this is not a mark on the ability and competence of your people, this is instead a statement of just how seriously the higher ups are taking this. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further than that.”

    Again, much to my surprise, there was no need to elaborate any further for them, although this time it was for more obvious reasons. The potential to gain favor with the brass was always tempting to those who were unaware of just how mercurial that attention was. It could just as easily turn bad as be good.

    “If there are no further questions, let’s get started.”






    I ended up “assigned” to the command group of this little operation, likely a move to keep an eye on the low-level VIP more than anything else. I didn’t fight the issue, even though I would have had a better chance out on the front lines. (I'd thought about sidling in with one of the reserve teams, but decided against it for the time being.)

    Instead, I used the assignment to more or less take control control of the sensor feeds being relayed from the auspex units the teams were carrying around, using it to create a composite picture of the area we were in. (the operators of said net did not mind in the slightest, as the setup they intended to use had certain flaws to it that my setup avoided)

    And the results of the initial scan were not promising.

    Despite being an old factory, the place was an absolute warren of tunnels both old and new, some seeming to be old waste tunnels leading off to one of the processing plants, others possibly being piped to the outside to join the rest of the filth that usually built up outside of longstanding hive cities. Add in the fact that we were extremely close to the structural layer separating the hive proper from the “true” underhive and it created a nightmare situation where anything and everything could be hidden within. And even with the limited improvements that I had made to the auspex units as part of the refurbishing I’d performed, they still could not penetrate through all of that ferrocrete, meaning that searching the tunnels had to be done manually. This was quickly turning into a recipe for disaster.

    Which is why I’m still sitting here tense as all hell, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and equally surprised that it hasn’t actually done so yet.

    The teams were using relays for both comms and sensor data to be passed back up to the base station, so there was that much, at least.didn’t stop me from being paranoid as all hell, though.

    The teams were encountering very minimal resistance as they progressed, and all of it currently from the “wildlife” of the hive proper instead of any organized resistance. I was concerned that we might have had the wrong place, but the Sergeant assured me that this was the place.

    Still, something had me on edge. I didn't like this one bit. Thoth seemed to agree, as he was straining constantly at the seams, trying to badger me into letting him send out an active ping, which I kept denying, mostly on grounds of EMCON, but also so that we didn’t look odd with having advanced scanning gear in the area with no obvious source to the auspices currently in use.

    What I did do, however, was direct some of Thoth’s attention to upgrading our passive scanning abilities. I did not want to get ganked because I didn’t see the asshole coming. So far, there was nothing new under the Hive, but if my hunch played out, that would be changing soon.

    I was sorely tempted to deploy a few drones from my omnitool, but I held off, just in case. The drones themselves wouldn’t draw more than a curious eye from some of these guys, but it was best to keep a potential trump card unknown, and thus available, just in case.

    So all that I could do was wait, and keep the data streams coming so that the command team had all the info they needed to make a decision, should one become necessary.

    I decided to start the check-ins early, just to assuage my paranoia.

    “Team one, check in”.

    “Team one here, nothing so far.”

    “Team two, check in.”

    “Team two, nothing to report.”

    The same responses kept coming through. No new information, all quiet, grumbling about the lack of action. It was kind of nostalgic, in a weird way.

    “Team twelve, check in.”

    “...”

    Well then, I guess it’s starting.

    On reflex, I checked team twelve’s last known position, a series of what looked like access shafts to an even older factory complex that had been buried as the hive continued to grow. None of the area appeared on any of the maps I had available to me, so I was more or less blind in topography for the area beyond what we had mapped in our sweeping process..

    “Team twelve, check in.”

    More silence. I started backtracking the routes that they would have to have taken to get there, and didn’t see any connecting tunnels or anything that would have allowed for something like an ambush, at least not a traditional one at any rate. Concerned, I double checked the feed from their auspex, and the current reading was nothing out of the ordinary.

    My paranoia spiked yet again, and I found myself fighting against an adrenaline surge. Need to think back to training. When in doubt, put more eyes on it.

    “All teams, team twelve is unresponsive. Require visual check on last known location.”

    The Sergeant glanced at me with an odd look on his face. I ignored him as I used the remote link to reset team twelve’s auspex to try to get a better look at the situation.

    “This is team ten. We are moving to investigate.” “Team eight, same.”

    Auspex still showed clear, even with me having just reset the unit remotely. What the hell? If there was a clear board, then why weren’t they responding?

    I absently fingered my Eagle as I continued to try and tickle answers out of the auspex relay…

    “Understood. Be advised, auspex twelve shows clear. Be on the lookout for gas or bad air pockets.” This got me another look from the Sergeant, which I again ignored.

    “Roger.” “Understood.”

    I grimaced even as I mind whirled. Because of the way the tunnels and other warrens were set up, we were deliberately limiting the use of active scanners to extremely short range stuff, only good for doing a detailed scan on a given room or section of tunnel than anything major. This was done to reduce the amount of backscatter and interference caused by our own units as we did our sweep and clear, and also to limit the potential exposure to any threat receivers set up inside of the tunnels proper. Not that I thought that would be the case, but the Sergeant insisted when I questioned him about it, so I didn't push the issue.

    I was beginning to think I should have pushed harder.

    The teams eight and ten were approaching the last known position of team twelve at a rather rapid pace now, and would be there in less than a minute. I was hoping that it was just a pocket of bad air or something similar that caused this breakdown, because if it wasn't…

    Another hunch, this one fueled by a combination of bitter experience and rampant paranoia, prompted me to switch the auspex of team twelve to active mode for a brief ping of the surroundings, an action the sergeant noticed and attempted to stop.

    His rebuke died on his lips as we beheld the sheer mass of contacts around the area, none of which I could resolve properly.

    At almost the exact same time, the two teams reached the location.

    I already knew what was going to happen before it started, and there was nothing that I could do to stop it.

    Didn't mean I couldn’t get as much intel as possible from the event, though.

    “This is team ten, reporting in! We are engaged by...I don't know what the hell these things are! But they're everywhere!! Falling back!”

    “All teams, contact at tunnel intersection DA33-12, last known location of team twelve. Teams eight and ten are engaged. Stand by for further instructions.”

    At least I could warn everybody else that it had finally dropped in the pot. I glanced at the Sergeant for any further commands, and found him staring intently at the sensor displays. Did he know something?

    Movement on the boards drew my attention back to the situation in progress.

    I watched as the teams began to pull back from the damned killbox that was now team twelve’s apparent grave…and felt a sudden spike of unease. There was something I was missing.

    I took a moment to glance around at my environment, and saw nothing that was out of place...for the moment. Still, that wary feeling refused to leave me.

    The teams were now making their way back up to one of the main junctures of the tunnels in an unorthodox but quite effective fighting retreat, and actually doing DAMNED good at reaping a toll on their would-be ambushers. If the limited radio traffic was any indication, then they had yet to actually lose a man to the assault.

    Even with the “good” news, I couldn’t shake the feeling of something being dangerously off. I glanced around again, just to be sure.

    “Team eight, reporting. We’ve made it to the main junction for this area. Requesting backup immediately!”

    The Sergeant had apparently given an order out when I wasn’t paying attention, as one of the reserve teams was already headed for the tunnel junction that we had identified prior. A quick glance showed that this was one of the “safe” corridors, with only a small number of ways in or out, of which only two could not be monitored from the "surface". Despite the minimal preparations for this raid, there was a bit more of the competence flowing around, as there was a pretty solid choke point set up for the path back to the base camp.

    Teams eight and ten used the fortifications and it’s defenders to maximum advantage, gunning down wave after wave of..something or another. I still couldn’t resolve anything from the auspex.

    The sounds of combat echoed up the tunnel, mostly the din of automatic weapons fire and the alien screams of whatever creatures may have been down there with those men. And even as tense as I was, I had a duty right here and now to provide as much accurate data as possible so as to allow them to get out of that shitstorm alive.

    Still, that paranoia was only getting stronger and stronger, some back corner of my mind screaming at me to pay attention before I got killed. I took yet another look around, and saw absolutely nothing out of the ordinary at all. I turned back to my board to pre--

    What the fuck!?!

    I replayed the last ten seconds of memories back in my head.

    I felt paranoid about something. I looked around, checking my environment, and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

    In the middle of an impromptu base camp for a search team with reported hostiles.

    In the middle of a high alert.

    In the dead smack middle of an area where NOTHING is normal..

    Mental Attack.

    It was the only explanation, really. Someone had sicced a psyker onto us, and was doing a damned good job of keeping us distracted from noticing them doing whatever they wanted. There WAS, however, one major problem.

    I had Thoth. And he was not affected by whatever this shit was.

    I finally let my core free to scan as he pleased.

    The sensor pulse sent out was simultaneously stupidly powerful as it was tightly controlled, sending up a scan bubble only along the "surface" axes. Still lit up the passive-mode auspices something fierce, though.

    I would have laughed at it, but we had far bigger concerns at the moment,

    Namely that we were surrounded by some kind of humanoid shapes, and from the movements and postures, they were not friendly.

    The odd part was that they were mostly female, though. And as far as I knew, only House Escher ran with gang compositions like that. Which begged a very important question: why the hell was house Escher involved in this shit?

    There was also the far, far more important question of how the hell were WE going to make it out of this mess, but I thought I had a workable plan on that front. I would just need to time things just right…

    I kept at it with the sensor board, doing my best to get a solid read on whatever the hell that team ten was fighting down there, all the while setting up my improvised counter-ambush.

    Step one: tell someone other than yourself.

    I waved the Sergeant over to the sensor boards as I continued to monitor the situation. “Sarge, we got these thingies here, here, here, and here, trying to do something stupid and slick with the boys down there. Might need you to send some more backup.”

    I then whispered the next part under my breath, but still loud enough for Sarge to hear.”We are being surrounded by an unknown force, attempting a classic ambush, need to get ready asap.”

    The Sergeant nodded, and then turned and briskly walked away, grabbing one of his Corporals as he did so. I focused back on the sensor screen, directing Thoth to monitor the real-world situation in case he had to act.

    Team ten was still holding their own, as was team eight. But there was another horde of whatever those weird things were rushing down the tunnels like a living swarm, and from appearances they cared not for what stood between them and their meal.

    A second point began to bug me: these things are dropping like flies. Why the hell did team twelve go dark?

    Our would-be ambushers were almost ready, from what it looked like. We needed--

    I moved. No thought, no hesitation, nothing but ACTION. One moment I was there, the next I had completely vacated the space where I once was, having dived for cover completely without thinking.

    The multiple lasbolts hitting RIGHT where I would have been standing not even a mere second ago convinced me that I had made the right call..

    It did confirm that I was something of a priority target for whoever these people were. Either that or the comms gear and electronics that had been set up for our use. I quickly glanced over to where the Sergeant was located...only to see a pair of shots connect with deadly accuracy, leaving behind only a rapidly cooling corpse.

    ...OR they could be targeting the apparent and obvious leadership…

    Fortunately for our defense, the newly created deader was not the Sergeant, but one of his minions, likely acting as a runner for the news and battle plan. The bad part was that we had been caught in a conflux of the laws of attack, namely that we were being attacked both when the enemy was ready to do so...and when we were not ready to defend.

    I really wanted to try and whip up a defense, but whoever the fuckers on the las were had some downright disgusting aim, punishing even the slightest misstep with terrifying ease. I needed to try and get some counter-fire on those bastards so that the rest of the crew could actually defend themselves before the main push of that ambush force comes in.

    I heard the Sergeant shouting orders above the din of battle. Seems he’d had the same idea, and was using his team of heavies to shield from the las fire while trying to locate the firing position. From a quick glance (that nearly got my head taken off), he was not having much in the way of any fortune. We needed some way to break the logjam we were in, or we were all going to die.

    A primal scream echoed all around us.

    I quickly turned to the source of the noise, almost directly across from the current ambush forces, and saw something downright terrifying. It was something grotesque, a mockery of the human form, it was simply...Alien.

    Nevermind that the damned thing looked like a fucking Xenomorph to begin with.

    Worse, it had brought buddies, four in all, for a grand total of five. And they did not look happy. At all.

    As if things weren’t already bad enough, I heard over the vox channels that the search teams were getting HAMMERED by something down in the tunnels and were either doing fighting retreats or were pinned down at the nearest defensible location and trading fire. If what I was hearing from the garbled messages was correct, a group of whatever those subterranean things were had broken loose and were on the way to the “surface” area.

    FAST.

    And we had maybe ten guys up here in fighting condition. Maybe eleven, if I could get to that--no, ten. Fucking sniper bitch…

    I needed another option to get us out of here in one piece, or we were all going to die here.





    Again, Difficult chapter. I’m splitting it into two chapters for that reason.


    -Fun in the Sun (Warhammer 40k - T'au Empire) (100CP)
    Plasma, radiation, and antimatter are all similar in that they relate to exotic and high energy states of matter, whether it is stellar mass or individual particles of subatomic size. You now are a master of T'au technology as it relates to manipulating these high-energy states of matter and the physics that underpin them.

    -German Engineering (Smash Up) (200CP)
    Everything you build seems just a bit more. More durable, more efficient, more precise. Call it a 10-20% difference across the board?

    -Miniaturization/Efficiency (Worm) (400CP)
    You can miniaturize anything down to levels that any sane man would consider impossible. A fusion reactor the size of a watch battery would be the absolute minimum of what you are capable of, and you'd be able to make it far smaller than that. Your power also makes you a master of technological efficiency, anything you make needing barely any energy to run compared to what it should and continue to do so for a very long time. These specialties also make you a master of nanotechnology and similar pursuits. Of course you aren't barred from building something big like a giant robot, just that it'll be impossibly efficient and crammed full of more weapons and subsystems then should be possible
     
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 6.2
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    5,741
    So, here be the second Part of chapter 6. Remember that there has been no rolls made, as this counts towards the total for the complete chapter.

    also, blatant amatuerish writing ahead. you have been warned.



    So. Situation Recap.

    We have myself, and ten potential combatants of the House Van Saar, who were supposed to be performing a search and rescue operation in what was at best unexplored territory. That is one side.

    The second side: we have an unknown group or groups of equally unknown creatures coming from the underlayers of the hive, and in enough numbers to be concerning despite the ease in which they are being dealt with.

    Potentially related is the Ambush force that is presenting itself as being affiliated to House Escher though its gender composition. They have about...twenty-five or so combatants available to them, according to Thoth (thanks for the sensor scan, by the way) and at least two, maybe three snipers armed with what I suspect is a Long-Las. I am hesitant to categorize them as a third side due to the sheer contrivance of them showing up just in time to add to the mayhem.

    And then there’s the Xenos fuckers over there. Five in all, and they look downright deadly. Again, I have doubts that they are an individual force, but there is an equal doubt that they are allied with anyone or anything over here. Worse, I have absolutely no clue whatsoever what their objective is, and am in no hurry to find out.

    The good news: the arrival of the Xenomorphs killed off the second edge that was developing to the ambush that we were caught in, making it a much more easily dealt with single point ambush rather than a layered or even L-Shape, which would have been VERY bad for us. Still, it IS an ambush, and thus by definition the first and most important rule applies: Assault the ambush.

    More specifically, the actual step is to assault through the ambush, with the intention of breaking free of the kill zone and applying suppressive fire to the ambushers. Once free this would, in theory allow for friendly forces to counterattack and kill the ambush team.

    We had two distinct problems with this, namely the disparity of numbers and the absolutely shitty tactical situation that we were in at the moment, with potentially three axes of attack at any one moment, and an unknown number of potential reinforcements or harassers.

    When in doubt, assume worst case.

    Now that everyone is back up to speed, let us continue with the shitstorm, shall we?

    Being pinned down by snipers is not fun in the slightest, especially since I had a distinct need to not show off Thoth just yet. While Thoth’s impeller would be all but impervious to even this level of fire, it would also paint a large target on my back to whoever is trying to make their move here. Information getting out about that would bring down a not insignificant amount of official scrutiny to the area as the Mechanicum tries to track down the Heretek using unsanctioned technology….or at least I thought that’s how it would go. It was entirely possible that it would happen in a completely different way. Still, there was no need to show off my capabilities unnecessarily…and Thoth could be deployed and ready to block on basically a moment’s notice. As long as I didn’t get sniped in the head I was golden, really.

    Naturally, because Murphy hates me, this is when the snipers would start going for headshots.

    The sheer shock at watching this not happen stalled me for a critical second.

    Just long enough for the damned Xenomorphs to make their move.

    All five of them tore across the area at speeds that had to be seen to be believed, ripping through anything or anyone that got in their way. That this removed several of the supposed Escher gangers from the battlefield was a plus, as it both got rid of enemy targets and established that the xenos were not on their side.

    The problem was that the fuckers were all beelining directly for a single target.

    Me.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I was a damned good soldier, and the Forge had helped me in that regard immensely, allowing me access to both weapons and disciplines that I had never thought would be possible for a single human being to learn in a lifetime, let alone a military career.

    But there was a very distinct difference between “bane of the gangers” good and “sole target of some stupidly fast and close-combat specced xenos things” good. This was going to complicate matters greatly, and basically killed my poor strategy before it even had a chance to form.

    Fine, I would improvise. First, a little distraction.

    Multiple flashbangs flew out to their targets, blinding and deafening our attackers while I did the sensible thing and unassed the area as quickly as possible. Sure, gutting the ambush trying to kill us was one thing, but if the alien fuckers were after me specifically then I needed to clear out before they fucked everyone else up trying to get to me...or at least kite the bastards long enough to get some fire support.

    With that in mind, I rushed the “Escher” lines, popping off as much suppressive fire as I could spare from one of the souped-up lasguns I had available. I didn’t even bother to look behind me, knowing all too well that the xenos were gaining...and fast.

    This is where step two comes in, and I start really playing hardball.

    You see, I had a very unique asset here that no one else on the battlefield had available to them: an engineering-rated Omnitool. Complete with drones, grenades, and the surprise that I was about to drop on these poor fuckers heads right now: A goddamned Sentry Turret.

    I tossed the ball it would deploy from off to the side, where it would land in a relatively open area with clear lines of fire on most of the enemy forces. I then kicked out a Combat Drone all but directly above the closest of the poor Escher girls’ heads.

    And only then did I pull one of the hardest lefts in history, using my arts telekinesis as a budget tractor beam and getting my ass out of the way of the xenos, who were now way too close for comfort. So close, in fact, I had the distinct pleasure of watching the leader of the pack attempt to correct course only to skid helplessly as it failed.

    Still didn’t do jack shit for the other four, but I had a lasgun for that, which I put to its most effective use...and watched in muted horror as it basically did jack shit. Fighting down the now rising panic, I dropped the lasgun (which Thoth helpfully retrieved and stored) and drew my Eagle, putting the significantly boosted shots on target...and watched in equal horror as they really didn’t do much better.

    What the hell were these things?

    Whatever...I had prepared for this...although I had also thought I would have both more time and space to actually attempt a stunt of this magnitude. Instead, I was going to have to wing it and pray.

    And with that minor supplication to Murphy out of the way, I focused my will in the manner necessary to access my Computation Orb.

    Power immediately flowed to my command, awaiting a direction for me to exert it in. I kept it simple. I just applied what amounted to a delayed artillery spell to the ammunition block of my Eagle, completely on the fly, and hoped to all hell that it held together for longer than ten seconds.

    And then I fired off a NEW shot at the now less than five feet away xenomorph thing.

    With a magically-explosive shell.

    At what amounted to point blank range.

    ...I was desperate, okay? Besides, I figured that the mage shield I threw up immediately afterwards would spare me the most of the blast effect, and my kinetic barrier would get the rest.

    And I was right...well, sorta.

    The Mage shield DID stop the brunt of the attack...after which it failed completely.

    The Kinetic Barriers DID work to mitigate the remainder...and failed almost immediately in the face of the sheer power they were redirecting.

    Which meant that Thoth had to more or less override everything in order to save my worthless hide from my own panic-fueled stupidity. Fortunately, unlike my other barrier methods, Thoth’s impeller field was more than up to the challenge.

    Still got knocked completely ass over teakettle though. And with another four of the fuckers still in play. Which meant that I was going to have to either kite harder, beat all kinds of feet, throw my trust behind the shaky mage blade spell formula that I was rapidly constructing, or go for broke and fully express Thoth.

    Fortunately, this choice was taken from my hands by the sentry turret finishing it’s deployment and proceeding to open fire with everything it had available to it. And there was a LOT.

    One of the things that I very much DID spend time upgrading during that 48-hour period was my omni-tool’s flash-fabricators for the various drones and turrets that were my bread and butter for infantry work. Notably, I had managed to do something incredible and cram in all of the upgrades that were possible to a field turret, as well as a few minor improvements of my own. As with all of the tweaks of my gear, it was nothing super different from the norm, just a general improvement across the board. And the turret had improved nicely.

    A string of fully-automatic fire tore into the xenos with a vengeance, the slivers of metal moving at speeds that were only just short of what a legitimate railgun were capable of, all the while launching enhanced rockets and arcing electrical charges.

    The first of my pursuers got caught almost directly in the face with the fire, getting pasted by the armor-piercing rounds even as a rocket closed in to confirm the kill. The second one tried to evade ( and did a damned good job, may I add) before getting jolted by the arc thrower, which stalled it long enough for the AP Rockets to get to its location and teach it the error of its ways. The third one tried bumrushing the turret...only to find out that it, too, had its own kinetic barrier, and patiently used the time to swivel its business end towards the enemy, and put it to good use.

    My poor conga line had been introduced to the Pain Train, and they were not liking it one bit.

    The last one managed to pull what I still consider one of the fucking greatest moves I’d ever seen in dodging murderous gunfire, and jumped nearly ten feet into the air in a graceful dodge behind one of the old buildings in the area, using it’s height to snag a side wall and start crawling around on the building proper. This was not in any way a good thing, but I would take my blessings where I could and no further.

    The drone, however, was having a MUCH better time.

    The women of the ambush crew were falling like wheat to the scythe, mercilessly jolted down by the arcing electric blasts that fired almost continuously as it circled the area. Every so often, one of the more heavily armed groups would try and stick their heads out from whatever cover they had managed to grab, and would just as promptly eat a rocket for the trouble. Those poor saps couldn’t be more suppressed if there was a heavy weapons team zeroed in on their position with infinite ammo.

    And the Sergeant was taking full advantage, getting his people--or what was left of them, anyway--into stable positions and laying down even more fire to keep the heads of our guests down. Even with the significant casualties that our side had taken, we were still putting up a damned good fight.

    And then the things arrived, and everything went back to shit.

    See, in my haste to not die, I had forgotten about the unknown swarm of whatever they were headed our way. Seems that the Sergeant had forgotten too, as the cries of confusion and pain coming from his position was indicating. Whatever the damned things were, they were just annoying enough that we would be distracted at a crucial moment...which would inevitably be capitalized on by our bevy of guests.

    And I still hadn’t peeled my own ass off of the ground yet. Joy.

    Maybe radio works?

    The sound of static filled my ears as I tried to send out a message.

    So...either Jamming, or the explosion screwed up some of my gear. I’m assuming the first until told otherwise.

    Finally managing to get off of my ass and back to my feet, I took stock of my situation. On one side, the ambushers were getting handled in a very amusing way by my combat drone, although it wouldn’t last for much longer. The sentry turret was still operational, and could be used for some cover fire while it’s ammo reserves lasted.The Sergeant and the remainder of the command team were hunkered down and trying to avoid being bullied out of cover by whatever those weird thingies were, while also trying to protect our wounded. So far, the process was slow going.

    And then there was me, the wildcard who could--and had, just recently--change the course of this battle.

    As long as I did not get sniped or something. And stopped just standing out in the open like an idiot.

    Furiously shaking my head, and finally getting back in the game, I immediately dashed towards the nearest form of cover. Apparently I was finally noticed, because the lasbolts started raining down on me with a vengeance...though fortunately whoever was firing at me lacked knowledge of how to properly lead the target, thus having all of the las landing around me instead of on me and potentially damaging something important. Still was tense as all hell, even though I had a cheat code that I could break out at will..as long as I was willing to accept the consequences of such.

    Another howl tore through the night, as yet more of the xenomorph things tore around a corner, tearing apart anything in their wake. A quick look showed me what I had feared: The final member of the original group, the leader no less, had called for backup. And they were rolling hot, it seemed. There were what--ten, twenty? And they just kept coming…

    Thoth helpfully pulled up a casual scan of the area, and I paled in horror. There were...at least thirty of the things. And it looked like they were spreading out, moving towards other populated areas. Areas that didn’t know that they were here, and likely didn’t have the firepower to even make a dent in that damned carapace on those things. Those people were as good as dead.

    Unless someone did something about it.

    Doing this was going to paint a massive target on my back...but not doing so would condemn thousands, possibly more to death by these things.

    Yeah,..no.

    Fuck.
    That.
    Noise.


    Thoth. Full Active. We have WORK to do.




    James Jarsun was a very uninteresting man. And he preferred it that way.

    Being a trooper under the banner of House Van Saar had its share of benefits, but one of the best was the ability to just be a standard nobody in the crowd. Even his recent promotion to a leadership position--even if it was probationary for the duration of this mission--was very much ordinary.

    What was not ordinary was the shitstorm that had kicked up as soon as they had really gotten into the groove. And he couldn’t even blame the asshat of a VIP that was traveling with them, either, as the weenie had shockingly made the right call.

    Now he and his men were surrounded by a fuckton of small xenos, what looked like much bigger xenos that had a disturbing similarity to what he had heard the Tyranid looked like in general, and what was supposedly an Escherite strike team that had tried to ambush them...only to run headlong into the wannabe buggers and get slaughtered.

    And his fucking VIP turned out to be a badass, taking out at least four of the xenos things and a smattering of the Escherites in all of a handful of seconds, alone.

    Still wondering how the hell he survived that explosion though...or he was until the damned winged rat-things came at them, screeching and biting everywhere. Fucking huge, too, nearly the size of a man’s torso, and a fuckton of ‘em too. Fortunately they were easy to kill, and his men were doing a very good job of doing so while maintaining cover. Unfortunately, a fucking swarm of the damned xenos showed up, and were killing anything that moved. And a pack of the bastards were headed for his VIP, who was just standing there and NOT SHOOTING.

    Dammit, this was not how he wanted to die…

    A flash of light drew his attention back to his VIP...or where the VIP should have been.

    Instead there was a suit of Very, VERY advanced looking Power Armor sitting there...which then proceeded to lift off of the ground, Draw some kind of riflelike weapon from nowhere, and then opened up wholesale on the fucking xenos.

    The xenos fell before the armored one almost effortlessly, the power of whatever that weapon was far too much for even those super-dense hides. The armor moved just as effortlessly, practically zipping from place to place in order to gain the best angle for attack.

    And by the Emperor did it attack. Again and again, seemingly without any need for reloading at all, the rifle spat light at the foul Xenos filth and burned them in it’s light. Not a one was spared His Fury, not a one allowed to escape His Justice. And James watched as the Xenos turned and ran, attempting to get away from the being that was even now their reaper.

    The armored being did not allow it. Flying overhead at speeds that were mindboggling to him, the armor cut the retreating xenos off, and slaughtered them to the last.

    And then it moved onward, and the sounds of its weapon discharging and the corresponding death cry of another xenos confirmed that it was now hunting down every last one.

    His life had been spared...and now his duty remained.

    “MEN!! RALLY TO ME!!”

    It was time to finish the cleanup of this mess.






    Running down and killing all of these Xenomorph motherfuckers was annoying, at worst. I was simply too fast with Thoth at full expression, even with the reduced speeds we were using to avoid the crazier damage possible with large objects going supersonic within an enclosed structure. Even then, it was mere child's play to run the entire pack down and kill them, even the ones spread across the area and trying to scatter not moving fast enough to escape.

    Speaking of, that photon rifle was performing above and beyond all expectations I’d had for it, to the point that it was almost like it was an extension of myself reaching out and cleansing the damned taint of those weird-ass monsters.

    And to think that this is only a small part of the capabilities of a Valkyrie Core…

    In any case, with the xenomorphs having been taken out with extreme prejudice, it was time for me to refocus on that Escher-wannabe ambush force....but better do an active scan just to make sure. Don’t want any of those things escaping--oh damn. Thoth had been busy.

    The now expanded sensor range was somehow taking into account all of the extremely shielded materials around us, and had instead worked around it to get me an active updating map of the local area out to at least a good 500 meters...which for a hive city was downright insane. Seems that Thoth was just as pissed about not being able to see anything in tunnel hell as I was, and had adjusted accordingly. Now, we had the best eyes in the area.

    And those eyes had found something VERY interesting.

    Not only was there a whole set of tunnels that we had missed, weaving around the regular set like some kind of knot, but there was an equally hidden encampment nestled within. And from the looks of it, a pretty big one, too. Getting anything remotely assembling good resolution on the various contacts below was going to be interesting without getting closer, but it was clear that this was the base complex of where the ambush force had come from...and how they were able to ambush us in the first place.

    The third set of tunnels leading deeper into the underhive proper I ignored for now, but kept a note of them as the possible insertion point for the xenomorphs. I could check those later on when I had a better loadout.

    On the plus side, the scan confirmed that I had cleared out all of the xenomorphs before they could get to civilian targets. Score one for the good guys!

    Moving closer to the new set of tunnels and its attendant complex revealed something interesting. There was apparently a pretty good power source down there, one that was specifically NOT drawing from anything the hive offered for power generation. The weird part came from the fact that it was not connected to anything at all, but rather just...there. I would look into it when I got done with the rest of the search in the complex.

    Too bad flying was not going to cut it in here…

    Finally hitting the ground, I took a moment to settle my own nerves from before, as well as the adrenaline rush that I was currently coming down from, and prepared to breach the tunnels proper. This included scratching a particularly annoying itch that kept coming back between my shoulder blades. Every attempt to scratch it proved futile, even considering the armor.

    Was annoying as hell, too.

    Another quick scan showed that the ambush crew was getting their shit pushed in by the remainder of our search team, using the combat drone and sentry turret I had left behind as force multipliers to push through. This was good ,as it meant that I didn’t have to go back and help them before getting into this complex while it was still a hot find. Still would leave a relay beacon for the entrance, though. Just good sense and manners.

    Getting down into the tunnels proper was a trivial affair. The setup was deliberately wide and tall enough to allow for some heavy equipment to pass through, likely some kind of maintenance servitor back in the day. It meant that my frame fit in the tunnels with room to spare.

    The layout was deliberately very uniform and utilitarian, as befitting of what used to be old maintenance shafts and air ducts. There was very little in the way of lighting around, and Thoth activated a low-light imaging mode to allow me to see...not that there was much there, anyway.

    Not like the Escherites were stupid enough to only have the first entry tunnel hidden, after all.

    I moved slowly, cautiously, paying attention to how much sound I made as I traveled. While I had absolutely nothing to fear from the inhabitants of this little outpost, there was the possibility that they had captives of some sort...and they were not anywhere near as durable as I was. Hence the stealthy approach until I could get full bearings on how this place was laid out.

    The first secret passageway I approached was very simple, and still would have fooled all but possibly a Space Marine Scout Sergeant with it’s placement. Naturally, I cheated and bypassed the spot check entirely thanks to detect secret doors in technological form. And behind door number one…

    Was a supply cache. Had all of the usual, weapons, armor, some field rations (which sucked ass, probably would feed them to Thoth to see if he could improve it), the usual. Not many weapons left, though--apparently our friends topside had raided this place for their use before coming after us. More power to them, I guess. I snagged the remainder of the wargear in the room and moved on, continuing my advance.

    Wasn’t too much longer before I came to the second secret door, hidden if anything even better than the first, which is quite impressive. Still not enough to get past Thoth and his cheat codes, but what is down here?

    The second area was what appeared to be a staging grounds, currently empty except for some servitors from the looks of it. There were a few tunnels branching off into the distance from this room, but what I could get on sensors stated that all of the tunnels were moving away from the area, and not towards the central hub of this place, so I Ignored them in favor of advancing.

    I still found it weird that I hadn’t encountered any kind of real security yet. I wonder why that is? Most people here should be quite paranoid in their defensive arrangements, hell, I expected at least some video surveillance. This place...it seemed almost deserted, for all there was still activity below.

    Maybe they’re packing up? All the more reason to step in now, then. But enough thoughts. Continue march, HU!

    The third of the secret doors in this place was amusingly not very hidden at all. I immediately suspected trap, and trained all available passive and low-observable actives on the breach just to be sure.

    Nothing.

    Alright then, lets try it...while I’m over there, away from the door, and use my Impeller to gain entry. I needed practice in manipulating it anyway.

    So then. Just reach out with extra limb. Grab the appropriate area..gently now...gently..there! Now to move it to where I want. Slowly...slowly...

    I heard the click.

    I saw, though Thoth’ sensors, the Improvised explosive prime itself, ready to cook.

    I reacted without thinking and smothered it with my impeller, yanking it away from the tunnel entrance as fast as possible. This maneuver, while successful, had some...side effects.

    For one, I now had an exploding bomb in impeller storage, holding steady and somehow not continuing to explode.

    Second, I also had a good section of the wall ripped out with it. Fortunately this did not compromise the tunnel entrance, for which I was grateful even as my embarrassment grew.

    The third?

    I now had the attention of a trio of individuals that I could only describe as...unhinged. And I wasn’t sure why.

    The three seemed ordinary, all women of varying origins and racial phenotypes, seemingly minding their own business as I went along. But something about them kept drawing me in, wanting me to relax a bit. After all, they weren’t going to hurt me, right?

    I stepped into the room, giving it another glance around. Seemed the place was some sort of...prison cell? Were they prisoners here? For what purpose? Meh, I could worry about that later. Right now it looked like the ladies wanted to meet their rescuer. Gotta make a good first impression, after all--

    My entire thought process jerked wildly as I was essentially pushed into the backseat of my own mind, completely helpless as something took full control of my body. I struggled against it, lashing out wildly in my attempts to break free, and didn’t even realize what I was doing until the mental equivalent of a foam bat donked me upside the head. It was then that I realized that I had been fighting for control against THOTH.

    Wait, what? Why the hell would I fight Thoth for control of my body? He literally has my best interests at--ohfuck.

    There was only one reason that I could think of that would force Thoth to kick me out of the driver’s seat the way he did...and that was Psyker Activity. It would seem that one of these ladies, hell, possibly all three, were psykers of some sort, and surprisingly good at it, to boot. Even not I could feel a corner of my mind trying desperately to break free of the iron grip that it was held in in order to join with the women before me. I could also hear some kind of laughter as well, but I couldn't place the origin.

    No matter, I'll just handle the problem...and learn the lesson.

    I used the small amounts of mental faculty I had available to me though Thoth to give a single command out: kill them.

    Thoth did so with an expediency that was downright terrifying to behold.

    I did not blame him.

    That was twice now that I had been ganked by Psykers. Teaches me to think I'm invincible, huh? A little more, just a little more subtlety, or power, or...whatever, and I would be a puppet on strings. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. They fucking HAD me.

    And Thoth had pulled me out.

    “Yeah. Anti-Psyker tools definitely on the list.”






    The rest of the tunnels prior to the big grouping I was working towards were very simple, either acting as supply rooms (which I looted) or transit hubs to what I assumed were other bases. There were even a few sleeping areas set up, complete with cots and bedding arranged haphazardly in the way that usually happens during a scramble deployment. I blatantly looted anything useful or important and moved on.

    Finally, I made it to the central chamber, which for some reason was not hidden by a false wall of some sort, but instead was guarded by what looked like a pair of tarantula turrets aimed down the only way into the central tunnels proper.

    I had the turrets hacked and under my control long before they even had a proper bead on me.

    It was what was inside this chamber that caught my attention.

    The place was semi-organized chaos, people and materials moving everywhere at once as what looked like a desperate evac attempt continued underway. It was so frantic that I don;t think anyone even saw me step into the chamber proper.

    But that wasn't what drew my focus.

    What did was the setup in one of the corners: it was a ramshackle but very effective series of cages, holding multiple individuals who looked to be in very sorry shape, all of them men. I looked back at the chaos, and saw that they were near-universally women.

    Huh. Escher it is, then.

    I was tempted to head over to the cages and start busting people out, but after the incident with the psykers upstairs I was hesitant to act without more knowledge. Instead, I pulse-scanned the entire fucking room at near max output.

    I barely restrained myself from killing them all right there and then.

    I had found Harry.

    And Harry.

    And some more of Harry.

    And over there too.

    Looked like a bit was..dripping? From somewhere as well.

    They had butchered him...were doing things to him that made the concept of inhumanity look utterly peaceful by comparison. How the hell that man was still alive I have no idea, but somehow even missing both arms and a leg, he was holding on. Good news was that the medical module Thoth had available (and fully integrated, unlike a lot of this stuff) was more than up to the task of pulling him from the brink of death.

    The mad news was that he was going to have to wait a moment while I cleaned house.

    And with that, I properly announced myself...with a bang, of course.

    It wasn’t even a real fight to be called one-sided. I basically mowed the entire lot of them down like sheep, stunned into unconsciousness by the nifty settings on the lasguns I had available. Didn't even take two minutes, all things told.

    After...taking out the trash...I rushed to Harry, quickly starting the setup process for the medical module and getting to work on the worst affected areas. I saw right away that the remaining leg was a wash: he was bleeding out from within and some kind of necrosis had already set in hadrcore in more than 80% of it. For some reason it had skipped the Femoral Artery, or else Harry would be a dead man right now…

    The good news is that I could use the combo of the fabricators and the med module to effective flash-clone new limbs for harry to use...as well as all of the missing organs...and the eyes...and the ears...and…

    STOP. Just fucking stop.

    Harry needs your help now.

    You can kill the bitches responsible later.

    Medical unit needed a quick DNA scan...and we should be--wait a minute. The fuck is this shit?

    Thoth had noted an anomaly in Harry’s DNA.

    There was some sort of retrovirus running rampant within, modifying the strands willy-nilly and creating something...else. It also jacked up reproductive drive a LOT. I dived in for a closer look, and saw that the changes being thrown about by this DNA modifier were extensive and near total,only being caught because of the process itself not being complete yet. Looking closer, a lot of the amputation work and some other select surgeries were seemingly in an attempt to curtail whatever process this was.

    ...maybe you girls get to live, after all.

    Nope, wait. The work done in this way was a completely different set of marks from the ones that were clear torture.

    A wash, I guess?

    A Deeper scan found the source of the RNA corruption sequence: some kind of seed-thing, implanted within his chest cavity and somehow VERY well hidden among the other organs.

    With most medical technology the patient would be a lost cause, no continues or go.

    With what I had available? Child’s play. Just counter the RNA Virus with one of my own design, based off the original no less, to counteract the effects and prime the immune system to flush out the other viral agent...and then give it a brief push to get 100% coverage.. And done. Now, use the bio-scrap for repairs...and excise that seed-thing.

    Seed-thing removed, moving to treatable major injuries...and the patient is stable.

    Harry coughed wetly as the process reached a point where he wasn’t dying outright. I watched him try to look up and focus, his eyes searching the semi-opaque visor of my armor, looking for something, anything at all, to see if he was clear of this hell. I ‘m not sure what he saw, but he seemed to give a waec chuckle, which prompted more coughs. I quickly got back to work keeping the idiot stable.

    “Dammit Cain. you are going to be in such shit with the bosses, you know that right?”

    “h...hell...you...you..*cough* came…”

    “Stop. Talking. Medic’s orders. I’m getting you out of here, ASAP. and then figuring out how in the hell I'm going to fix you up.”

    Harry quieted down after that, letting me focus for a bit

    Now how the fuck was I getting him out? Front door might have been out of the question. Back? Didn’t know where it led to. Side? What sides?

    Fuck it. Front door it is.

    “Wa..wait.”

    Eh? He tries talking AGAIN? After I warned him to stay quiet? Really?

    “People...save them…”

    Oh.

    The men in the cages were not much better in terms of shape, but at least they had all four limbs and supposedly inner organs as well. Either way, it was probably going to be a nice marketing push for the House if we got them out of there, so...I did.

    Using my Impeller as something of a blunt-force object, I tore through the cages almost all at once, freeing the captives and allowing them to make their escape...or at least that was the theory. Instead, they all looked at me.

    Oh yeah, I’m the only one who knew the way out...






    Outside was quite now, the sounds of battle having faded into nothing. The Sergeant was waiting for us as we left the tunnels, having found my beacon and set up a guard rotation while he tried to contact higher for instructions. I figured I would preempt that.

    I stepped directly in front of the Sergeant, making sure he could see though my visor as I started talking.

    “Tell them I have Cain, but he’s hurt badly. I’m going to get him patched up and we should be ready for debrief within the next 3-4 days, depending on how bad this actually is. There were at least 35, maybe 40 prisoners down there, rescued the lot, will likely feel gratitude to the house as a result. Potential unknown third party involved. I’ll be in touch.”

    The open-mouthed shock on his face was absolutely priceless to behold. Thoth had saved the entire moment to permanent storage. With that, I lofted off, and made for the closest safehouse I could get to using ground-skimming flight techniques to speed my passage without jostling my cargo.

    Turns out the safehouse was the same one that I had started out in, and was still needing repair and renovation. No go. Trying the next one...nope, occupied, and they don’t need the attention.

    Fuck it, lemme get him back to MY safehouse...but with some camo first.






    I managed to get Harry to the repair shop proper within about 30 minutes. Long enough to throw off the trail of any watchers, and still short enough that complications would not come calling at the worst time. Setting him on a spare cot/table that I had set up as a makeshift medical gurney, I fully manifested the medical module and connected it to Harry, then set it to get to work.with any luck, the absolute worst of it

    In the meantime, I had to consider consequences...because there WOULD be consequences to this mess that I had just caused. Depending on who decided to take offense, possibly severe consequences. As for what I thought of them and their consequences?

    TOUGH. SHIT.

    At least 30 men are free of whatever the fuck was going on down there in those tunnels. Who knows how many were spared the predation of a blatant xenos attack. And Harry was alive, safe and currently healing. Everything else could be dealt with by future Satori. Right now, I had a friend to put back together.




    I’ll be blunt: this second part fought me hard as hell for a bit, and even now feels kinda janky with now I handled it. In any case, it is here. Hope you enjoyed it, and please give me any feedback you have.
     
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 7
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    I will freely admit that this one kind of got away from me a bit, and the characters went and did what they wanted. in any casse it's here.

    Thanks to Xolsis for helping me brainstorm this mess.



    Harry was in REALLY bad shape.

    Whatever the hell was happening down there had taken its toll on him, in more than one way. He was fighting back, but barely, and even now his body threatened to fail on him at any moment.

    And then there was that damned RNA virus running rampant through his body. That shit was downright insidious, somehow mutating itself away from the antiviral strains I had set against it all while trying to continue the corruption of my friend.

    Something that was not going to be allowed to stand, at all.

    Normally I would not push this hard, this fast, but this was Harry.

    Besides, I had more than a few questions that needed to be asked...such as why he was in possession of a certain object…

    Alright then, time for the big guns....even though I have never really pushed in this direction before...but the concept is simple, right? Just focus intent, create an appropriate chant, add mana, and boom. In my case the extra step I was adding would remove the chant and simply be intent, but it was worth it.

    Yes, I was finally putting my earliest magic skills to proper use. And Light magic was the perfect method of...cleansing this filth from Harry’s body.

    Even as the medical module toiled onward, I diverted a piece of my will towards directing the arcane forces contained within, pulling from the light, in a plea to heal my friend of his infection.

    What I had expected was a basic spell, something that might help stem the tide against the infection and allow the medical nano to gain the edge.

    What I got instead nearly leapt out at the target, damn near scouring the corruption from Harry in a blaze of light. The excess then proceeded to spill over and somehow turn itself back towards more general healing, reducing the workload there too.

    ...I’m not going to argue the results, but that’s the second time that I’ve had something be far more powerful than it should have been today...and both were light-aspected.

    Once is chance; Twice, coincidence…

    In any case, Harry was now fully stabilized and would actually live if I went to attend to other issues. For now, I could stash him somewhere comfortable so he could rest until we got around to discussing options and the future of our relationship.

    Right now, I had a bit of chastising to do for myself.

    Honestly, I really should have seen that shit coming. After the training incident with the weird thing that just might have been an infection form of one of those xenomorphs--wait a minute.

    I remember some lore on this. A faction that likes to pull stunts like this…

    But how the hell are the fucking Tyranids so close now? Necromunda is in Segmentum Solar. If they had gotten this close there would be wide-order panic going on as the plague of locusts devoured the worlds of the core of the Imperium. No, this had to be something else, similar, but different. Maybe there’s another faction involved? Can’t think of a name right now, but I’d need to ask some discreet questions if I used the T-word.

    Anyway, back to how much I suck, what with the xenos advertising that they were coming a long time ago. The signs were there, now that I have opened my eyes and actually looked instead of being a dumbass. Me participating in that search and rescue op was bound to cause problems.

    On the other hand, me NOT participating in that Op meant that Harry would be dead, at best. At worst…

    Yeah, I’m gonna chalk this one up to circumstances. I cannot afford to be afraid to enter the battlefield. I just have to outfight the enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must kill him before he kills me. I will…

    And I also need to not blame myself for shit that I have no control over. Sure, the signs were there that the xenos were going to come, but those were also true for the gangers trying to off me, which I now suspect to be a potential chaos cult (I very much noticed that laugh from the distance. Fuckers tried to off me). Needless to say, I have to walk the streets at SOME point, and supplies are always in demand for the shit I'm building, so there is that as well.

    What this means is that I’m going to have to actually crack out the good shit if I plan on surviving from now on. No more holding back just to try and lay low--with the exception of the magical stuff, that ship has sailed. Instead, I need to make sure I can keep my edge in both tech and skill for as long as possible in order to stay ahead of the competition...because they WILL come for me.

    Heh. Well, at least now I’m feeling a bit motivated. Let’s see what I can cook up for the next chaotic ass that comes my way...or the hostile as fuck xeno. Hopefully I don’t have to add the fucking Eldar to the list anytime soon. I do not want to deal with that shit.

    The normal mental nudge alerted me to my newest set of toys being ready...or most of it, anyway, as a HUD screen popped up with it, with two--no three--very large and noticeable caution labels on them. Or rather, there were two Caution labels. And one extremely glaring Warning label.

    Looks like I had quite the shot coming in. at least I can start the process while I figure out why the warning labels…

    ...I could actually remember more of it, this time. Watts teaching me of the ways of how such and such thing interacted with another, and going forward with that. The ability to not only do more than one thing, but be in more than one place while still only having one body. How to push one's abilities for building to speeds unheard of...if you were not worried about the quality of the final product. A worry I was immune to, thanks to another skill.

    Not bad, all things considered...but some of the extras were nutty. I headed to my workshop to check out the new addons that had been thrown in, not to mention what new sets of gear might await me.

    First, upon hitting the entry hallway, there was a major change in that there was now a completely new section set up to the side of where the workshop entrance was. The main surprise here is that I immediately recognized it for what it was.

    I’d spent enough time in them over the years, after all.

    The Hangar was just like the ones I had been in in the past, complete with the Stars and Stripes hanging proudly over the center of the hanger proper and the usual unit insignia strewn about on the walls, having the usual assortment of ground equipment, miscellaneous tools, and other noteworthy places, not including the extended maintenance dock, usually called by whichever maintenance plan was used for that particular bird...until I noticed that there was a pretty advanced set of machine arms set up for just such an occasion, which would make life a LOT easier for me.

    And cradled within those arms was none other than a work of engineering marvel. That Grand Old Bird, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat Fighter. Even more surprising was the slot next to it, containing that sweet marvel of engineering and arguably the greatest of the ‘teen jets, the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle..and from the looks of it, it was in the Echo config, marking it as a Strike Eagle. Two of the best planes ever developed, sitting here in a hangar waiting for me to use them.

    And apparently the improvements came with some extras. There was now a space set up as an “outside” that would allow for real flight in any form or fashion, although any form of actual combat/dogfighting would have to be with something that I whipped up myself. Not a problem in the slightest, as this gave me a rather large area with which to train in, something I desperately needed. This will be useful.

    A Quick runback of the hanger proper showed some extras strewn around. There was a flight simulator tucked away in a corner in a cave-like structure, looking like many of the sims I had seen in the past: well worn, but equally ready for whatever was to come from it’s newbie pilots. Unique to this setup was what looked like some pretty advanced Immersion gear that I could probably scavenge for something else if need be, but for now I would leave alone. Besides, it was programmable, and if what I saw in one of the “awaiting deployment” clusters was true, I would NEED that sim.

    Interestingly enough, the stacks of technical manuals I had expected to be around were in the hangar structure building right next to the simulator cave, which was normally used as office and administrative space for the maintenance and air crews. There was really nothing special there to catch my eye, other than the very nice computer systems integration setup in the whole thing. I had access to what amounted to the maintenance database from damn near anywhere in the hangar proper, it seemed, as well as access to the various flight planning and mission simulator details for aircrew briefings. This would be very useful as a kind of minibase in the future, I could tell.

    Moving forward with my inspections I found something unique within the maintenance office space: a very curious contraption that purported to assist with optimization. Of what, you ask?

    Of vehicles. Any and all vehicles. Including Aircraft.

    It basically took a scan of the vehicle in question and created a simulation breakdown of any and all ways you could change it and what that change would do, complete with statistics. If I managed to reprogram it with what some of the tech I had available was capable of, it would be a super-quick one stop shop for modelling potential changes and designs prior to a build. In short, it was worth its weight in gold.

    The Hangar was the obvious new area to the workshop, but there was another space, one that seemed to be slowly but surely constructing itself. It was connected to the knowledge on the near-infinite energy generation systems that I had recently gained access to, and was one of the items marked with a caution light. I found myself curious as to what warranted that kind of safety, but could check later. Instead, I moved back to the entrance proper, now decked out very much like an American military base, and started checking for the new equipment lockers.

    The first wasn’t much, just a small P.O.Box style storage unit that contained a pair of gloves. I knew them to be capable of manipulating objects on the micron scale with terrifying precision if used properly, and let out a small cheer at the find.

    I could finally break into the nanomachine knowledge I had and see what came up. Would need preliminary design work, though.

    The second was a bog standard locker that had a very familiar pair of patches on it: the Unit crest of my old Maintenance squadron, with the crest of the Wing proper next to it. There was a third crest as well, denoting the actual Flight squadron of the wing. Inside was an old friend: a simple Green Flight suit, complete with the third-generation G-harnesses that were common for operating jet aircraft. Name tapes and unit patches were already applied to the suit, and awaiting me to step into it as needed. I ran a hand over the patch with an appreciative and wistful sigh.

    Another time. Right now there was work to do.

    The second new locker of the full-size sets had a different item inside. This was an advanced space suit in green, issued to all who were planning to be aboard the Transtar I station...or, as my suit color indicated, were “volunteered” to the station for some very questionable experiments. The suit itself was rather modular, capable of interfacing with several upgrade chipsets to augment performance as needed, and also with a quick-connect EVA backpack for zero-gee and microgravity environments.

    The standard wrench was also included, complete with an easy draw holster that clipped to the suit as well. Then there was the interesting weapon, a strange handheld device called a GLOO Cannon. This baby was basically the ultimate in nonlethal applications, and was useful for other tasks as well if needed. Something I fully planned to hang on to for a while, and potentially slap some upgrades on later, but first I had a problem to deal with.

    Said problem was in a specially sealed case at the bottom of the locker, locked with a biometric keypad and proofed against all attempts to open it by force. It was also rigged with a very subtle scuttling charge that would destroy its contents utterly if it was somehow breached.

    It was also the source of the one Warning label from my listing...and as I finally read the note attached to the case, I knew why.

    It contained Neuromods, twelve in all. Normally this would not be a big deal, but these were special neuromods.

    They were made with exotic materials harvested from a Typhon.

    More to the point, they would grant various forms of psionic abilities when utilized...all based on Typhon skills of a similar nature.

    The warning was twofold: First, that the neuromods would basically inject me with literal Typhon material, to the point where if I had enough installed I would not register as human anymore to most scanners...and that the psionic abilities ran on an as yet unknown frequency and could be potentially subject to the perils of the warp.

    Meaning that absolutely No One could know of this.

    I would have to do an in-depth inspection of the neuromods later on, and see what I could pull from that mess.

    Supposedly the final pieces of my new kit were in the workshop proper, and not just the entrance, so I moved on after securing everything back in place.

    The workshop had received a rather spiffy upgrade, and had added in the tools of the trade for a well-off blacksmith and some accouterments of a travelling merchant, complete with the old cart hanging off in one of the corners of the now rather vastly expanded workshop. The abilities I had gotten this from I knew all too well: this was the skillset of a Mastersmith (better known as a Whitesmith for most players) of the game Ragnarok online. I only recognized it from the sheer number of hours I had put into the game in the past. Which was good, because the skills I was seeing here completely outstripped anything the game even thought it should have been capable of.

    Normally this class would have been good with forging weapons and upgrading them to extreme levels of utility, but this…this was nuts. The levelling cap had been removed, along with some of the more ornery/gamified requirements to do so...and the socketing for the items was now a lot more freeform, allowing for more than just cards to be socketed into an item, also with many of the gamified/nebulous restrictions lifted.

    This was basically a mundane enchanting ability now, which was hilarious even without context. It did mean that I was going to have to do a complete once over of the whole workshop to upgrade everything up to standard, though...and probably do some expansion, while I’m at it.

    The last item was on one of the workbenches near the entrance door, and I moved to pick it up: a case that was sealed perhaps even harder than the one with those oh-so-dangerous neuromods in it. The locking mechanism was downright ridiculous, and blatantly required me to exert my magic upon it before it even began the process of opening. And looking inside, I was not immediately sure why.

    There were only a handful of items inside: A set of vials, Eight in all, with a strange serum of some sort contained within. Above it, in an insert specifically just for it, was a small, roundish object that I could not identify immediately off hand. On top of all of these was a pile of notes, likely on what was contained within, but they were in a very tricky kind of code that even my eyes could not pierce right off.

    One note in particular stood out, though, and had the distinct caution label that Watts used for stuff that might come back to bite me displayed rather prominently. A quick glance over it told me why.

    These eight vials contained a serum that had the ability to awaken a particular metaphysical organ within a person, and give them access to magic. The notes were on how to make more of the serum in question. This was already worth more than a king's ransom, but the label on the round device above is what really got my attention...and would need to be addressed immediately.

    That little round device? It was exactly what I called it...a Device. Specifically, a fucking Unison Device. And those generally tended to be sentient once activated...meaning that I had to install all of the safeguards and countermeasures that I could to prevent a possible chaos corruption scenario. Combined with all of the necessary upgrades that needed to be done and I had a massive list of chores to take care of before I could even begin my actual plans to gear up. The amount of effort required demanded nothing less than a skilled team of assistants to be directed as needed.

    I snorted at my own joke and set in to get some work done. After all, I was not some normal schmuck from nowhere trying to keep up.

    And I don’t need a team to get my shit done.






    One completely revamped workshop (and a mere 50 minutes) later, I finally got down to business on getting that unison device set up properly. It was a bit of an undertaking, as I couldn’t just subsume the whole device and learn everything about it near instantly like normal for most stuff. I had to take the (relatively) slow route to doing things, which in any other universe would not be a big deal. Here, however, it risked the daemons of the warp getting an in before I could plug the holes and potentially breaking the thing outright.

    Which is why I was cheating my ass off. Ability synergy is really something that gets overlooked a LOT.

    First thing: adding in the error checking routines that Thoth has, which should at the minimum allow whatever this device becomes to detect any source of corruption before it happens. Next, I took the bits of the Valkyrie Core technology related to the upgrade routines and started picking around for a way to install it without breaking something.

    And all the while my knowledge base grew. As I worked on the upgrades, I learned ever more about not only Devices in general, but the scope and aspects of how Unison Devices actually functioned, as well as some of the crazier stuff involved in the creation and upkeep of an artificial Linker Core. It was downright breathtaking the amount of sheer polish that went into these, even as rough around the edges as it was. Everything about the technology, and the magic that was seamlessly interwoven into it, was fascinating, so much so that I completely missed when the knowledge of it all finally snapped into place in my mind and the rest of my skills got to work.

    I had effectively fallen into a version of the classic Tinker Fugue, but more akin to intense focus than mindless action. Hell, I didn’t notice until I finally looked up from the now completed work of outright rebuilding the device itself that I had even done so...and apparently I had made some very, very interesting improvements.

    The usual applications of miniaturization and efficiency applied, especially as I now knew of how much of the damned device was sitting in its own pocket dimension (which was a LOT.) and there were some massive improvements made there. I had also somehow added in every bit of the expertise of Photonics I’d had to allow for the usage and streamlining of photon technics, likely something that would come in handy in the future. Further adding on to that, the Artificial Linker Core, more or less the entire heart of the operation, had been refined to a degree that I’m pretty sure the scientists that created the unison device technology would never have imagined was possible.

    I knew for a fact that it could be so much more, but didn’t bother pushing too hard for it. After all, I had upgraded literally everything with the self-upgrade abilities that were part and parcel of the Valkyrie core technology. I’d thought about adding in impeller support, but didn't want to push it too hard just yet, as while I had theoretical data there was nothing for the real world. Besides, if I was looking at this right, then a bit of mana control could emulate the impeller very easily anyway.

    You know what? Let's go for it anyway. Not like it’s going to hurt too much.

    The device was more or less complete, and awaiting activation, but I chose not to for the moment. I had completed the task of effectively proofing it against Chaos to the best of my power, and now I had to deal with the other elephant in the room.

    And with that, I went and retrieved the sealed case of neuromods.

    These, I had no qualms whatsoever with outright destroying if necessary to learn anything that I would need to know before getting in too deep. Surprisingly I didn't have to destroy anything to figure out what made it tick.

    And neuromods were actually quite amazing, really. They were more or less the ability to completely rewrite the brain and add in various new structures to act as skill engrams of a sort, modding your mind to make the connections and adjustments to act as if you had always had the ability being granted. The tech was revolutionary, with one major (and amusingly to me, unintendedly intentional) downside of restoring one’s mind to the state it was in when the neuromid was installed if removed. Hilariously enough to me, this was a literal failsafe built into the tech that somehow got glossed over and that was likely thought of as a glitch.

    The Typhon part was a different story entirely. Those things...I’m not sure how to describe them. I’m not sure I even can. All I know is that they are very much natural psionics, tapping into a field of energy that I as yet had no real knowledge of other than that it existed. It didn’t appear to be connected to the Warp, and in fact the multiple redundancies i’d built to test this all came back negative on that, but I wasn't sure.

    The main reason I was even bothering beyond the neuromod tech, which was a gamechanger in and of itself, was because it held the key to a form of human psionics as well...and if I was right, it wouldn’t be Warp-connected either. The samples of the ‘mods I had were enough to get a good baseline on actually setting up for a comprehensive psi package,..but…

    I had to admit it. I had no way of actually testing for sure without stepping into the abyss, so to speak. And as much as I’d loved psionics, to the point where I was often the only psionics player in my D&D campaigns, I was unsure if opening that gate was a wise decision.

    Hum. I needed a workaround.

    ...Wait.

    I could make a simulation of a human brain and test it that way. All of the data is available on both the mind and the way the neuromods would change it, so there should be no issues with that in the slightest. Hell, Thoth could kick out a real-time map of my own mind and do simulations on his own hardware, for fucks sake. I had all the tools I needed right here.

    And the best part is that I could probably integrate a lot of other things into the setup beforehand if I play it right. Maybe even to the point of granting something beyond even what the Typhon were capable of.

    I knew I could do it. Just needed to knuckle down and get this shit done.

    A quick shake of the head to clear out my thoughts and a light double-slap to force myself to focus, and I was ready.

    Alrighty then, let’s slap this chicken.






    Setup and execution on project: Psion is looking good. Sp then, while that is running, time to get to my next major problem.

    Eezo.

    I had extremely limited stores of the stuff, all of it either tied up in my weapons, armor, or omnitool. This is something that needed to be addressed as quickly as possible so I could experiment on the mass effect and try to improve upon the tech available from there. And while the stuff was naturally forming, at least in its own universe, it for some reason required matter that had been exposed to a supernova.

    What this told me is that I needed to try and find a way to synthesize this shit so I could experiment. So, brief rundown on everything I know about how eezo is formed...is that it requires a supernova. Or something that can mimic the conditions.

    Oops, I had a new project.

    The sad part is that it didn't even take me an hour to put together the prototype for a supernova simulation. It’s basically just a large-scale fusion explosion, right? Only with a lot more heavy elements attached. So let's see if I can get this shit to work.

    ...and the first experiment failed rather violently. Good thing I contained this shit inside Thoth’s impeller or else I would need a new workshop.

    ...this might actually take a while.






    I went to check up on Harry after I was done with the main testing for the eezo synthesis. I had a feeling he would be confused for a bit and I wanted to be there when the sedatives wore off.

    As I thought, he was awake, and quietly grumbling to himself about how badly he’d fucked up.

    Considering he was currently a quadripalegic, that was not an inaccurate opinion.

    “I see you finally decided to wake up. Good job, but unfortunately for you that means that there is more work to be done.”

    Harry was not amused at my joke at all.

    “Where the hell am I? How did I get here? And why am I not dead!!? You have to kill me before the taint can spread. Hurry!”

    “You mean that weird-ass virus that was trying to corrupt you? I took care of that. It’s gone.” I even made a motion of buffing my nails against my shirt for emphasis. “What I do want to know is what the hell the xenos things were, why did they seem to be working with the Escher wannabes, and how the absolute HELL did you end up in pieces down in that ditch? The place was not exactly easy to find, y’know.”

    Harry gaped at me in astonishment. “Oh no, don’t start gaping now, dumbass. You recognized me when you were in there on your deathbed, and seemed to expect that I was on the way. Now spill.” And yet he kept gaping even more.

    I sighed. “Really Harry? You’ve seen what I'm capable of, to a degree. Why are you surprised now?”

    “Because normal humans should not be capable of that.” Harry’s answer was forced, almost resigned for some reason. What the hell was he afraid of anyway?

    Oh wait.

    “You think I’m one of them.”

    Harry’s silence was all the confirmation I needed.

    “So what will it take then? To show you i’m not with the fucking xenos things? Fuckers tried to off me too, y’know. Had to kill off like thirty of the four-armed bastards. Ans speaking of, just that the fuck are those things supposed to be anyway? The closest reference match I have for that is Tyranid, but…”

    “That’s because they are Tyranid.” and once again I break through to Harry’s sensible side. “That you don’t know the names of your true masters doesn't surprise me, Genestealer. Worry not, for they will devour you along with this planet when they come...assuming that they get past the might of His Armies, which I doubt will happen.”

    “Genestealer. I’ve heard that before.” and Indeed I did. They were something of a meme back home, but were frighteningly effective all the same, as powerful infiltration specialists that could undermine entire planets before opening the way to the swarm to come and feast on the biomass.

    Wait a minute.

    “So that fucking RNA virus...and the damned node that it created.” I stopped...and nodded to myself, slowly. “That was the Kiss, then. The one that turns you into one of them. Good to know that I have a workable counter.”

    Again Harry gapes at me, before launching into a massive tirade the likes of which I had not seen in a very long while.

    “Whaddya mean “you have a counter!?!” There is no counter---”

    I was fine with him getting this out of his system so we could get on to the real business at hand, but…

    “..And how the FUCK dId you manage to kill off thirty of the Emperor damned---”

    Seriously. This was getting just a bit tedious, all things considered. Was there a way to stop him for a bit without adding to the paranoia angle? Well, other than playing that last card, anyway. I doubt that he would want me to know that I knew about that until he thought he could trust me…

    “And the damned cultist were fucking everywhere, but NOOOO--”

    Oh. he’s rambling now. Seems this mission messed him up more than it seems.

    I should probably invest in mental health care for whomever I end up pulling into my sphere of influence.

    “...And all because of the Emperor Damned GANG HOUSES that--”

    Wow. I think he really needed this. He’s been getting raked over the coals for a while now, from what it sounds like, having to deal with Van Saar distrusting him and all, and what sounded like a Delaque connection as well. Considering his actual allegiance, I’m not surprised.

    Oh hey, the Psi sims were done.

    “And another thing---””

    Lessee...the report is showing up good so far..Usability and flexibility is good...hell, the powerset itself is pretty much safe from what I can see.I may have just potentially cracked into a whole new field if the results I’m getting are good for the real world. And there’s a way to awaken to it without using the Typhon material either. I would need to integrate this into the Unison Device before I activated it.

    Oh, guess Harry’s out of steam now.

    “...Feel better now?” I very pointedly avoided direct notice of the tears running down his face as I asked that.

    “...yes, actually.” He equally seemed to not want to draw attention to them.

    “So then. What now?” Harry asked me after a pause.

    “Now? Now we get you back on your feet.” And I had every intention of doing so.

    No one gets left behind, after all.

    Especially not Friends.






    Harry’s sudden docility was starting to scare me a bit. He did, at least explain more in detail about what the hell was going on underground, so to speak.

    “So, the genestealer cults are somehow spreading out from the ruins of Secundus despite the protective measures being taken.” My statement was more a confirmation of a very bad day, but I had to be sure.

    “More or less. We think it might be a separate strain entirely, but there’s no data available.”

    “So it is the same and you wanna throw me off by acting like there’s a second group operating in the area. Nice try, but as I keep telling you, I’m on your side. Either that or someone screwed up at the cordon and didn't wanna get shot for the failure and thus covered it up.” I strongly suspected the second, as even Harry’s attempts at information protection had fallen off a lot.

    A sudden flash of insight came over me as I watched Harry’s reactions, or rather the distinct lack thereof.

    “...Harry. what’s wrong.” It was definitely not a question.

    “...Why? Why now? And wny me?”

    “Would you believe that you were just the first person I met here, and that it wasn’t planned in the slightest? Hell, you were even willing to help out.”

    At least I got a nod this time, so there was some improvement.

    “You were like a damned lost puppy, what with the carefully concealed panic on your face. It was almost like you appeared out of nowhere, really.”

    “Because I kind of did, Harry. But that’s neither here nor there. Right now we have a bigger problem.”

    “Harry snorted in derision. “Bigger than you popping up out of thin air? Next you're going to ask me to worship the ruinous powers, I bet.”

    Now it was my turn to scoff. “The fiucking Warp Tumors can bend over and kiss my ass. I want jack and shit to do with those fucks. Hell, they’ve already tried to kill me what, Three times now? Four? Fuckers won't take the damned hint.”

    “...so you're telling me that for some reason both a xenos cult and the forces of Chaos want you dead. And you have no Idea why.” The dryness in Harry's tone was actually sucking moisture out of the room. I was impressed. It took actual skill to get that good.

    “Well, I do know why, or at least I think I do. I just don’t advertise.” and this even had the benefit of being absolute truth!!

    “Well then. Please enlighten me.” Dammit Harry, stop sucking all the moisture out of the air!! I NEED that water!! I don't wanna waste mana on creating more!!

    “I have access to a unique form of technology and potentially have the equivalent of an STC database downloaded into my head that allows me to build things that are beyond anything the Imperium can put together currently. Also, I am technically a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus by dint of implants. Don’t bother looking, you won’t find them...that’s another benefit.”

    “Quite the tale. Next you are going to tell me that--”

    “No, enough of the games. I have no patience for that shit anymore, especially not when people’s lives are in danger.” Also God’s own truth. “So, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to get you fixed up--and I mean COMPLETELY fixed up, even if that means I have to build the fucking prostetics myself, and then we’re going to get you kitted out with the best weapons and armor that I can make. And after that…'' And here I gave a downright savage grin,” we’re going back to those tunnels, tracking down the damned xenos, and eradicating the entire lot from this hive. And if that means that I have to glass the crater of Secundus as well, then guess what’s gonna happen.”

    “And just how do you plan on doing that, anyway?” more sarcasm? Well, at least it’s an improvement.

    In any case, I took this as a cue and had Thoth go to full expression. The sudden shock on Harry’s face was beautiful to behold, especially since once again Thoth had pictures.

    “This is how. And I haven’t even begun to start arming up.” I allowed the helmet to retract, giving Harry a large grin.

    “So then. You in?”

    Harry actually stopped and looked at me. And I mean really LOOKED at me. I don't know what it was he was looking for, but I suspect that he found it.

    A matching Grin broke out on his face.

    “Yeah. ‘Course I’m in.”






    Getting Harry healed was not really as big of a process as people think it is. The big part is that Harry had to decide between all natural healing or getting cybernetic prosthesis. I personally was leaning towards full natural, mostly as a time saver than anything else, but Harry had Ideas.

    “So you're telling me I can get the good stuff, direct from you and you would integrate some weapons into them as well?” Harry’s enthusiasm for those prosthetics was getting to the point of downright zeal. I suspect he wanted to make sure he always had an ace in the hole for the future.

    “Yeah. might take a while to get, though, depending on what you want in them.”

    “Well ,then, might as well get designing then, shall we?”

    Well, he had a point.

    In any case, we managed to get around to the very arduous (for me) task of designing Harry’s prosthetics. Harry thought he was going to get the simple stuff, but I was giving him the fucking full monty, complete with some upgrades that would keep his ass alive later on.

    The “design” process was nearly three hours. Do you know how much shit I could have gotten done in three hours nowadays? This was downright PAINFUL.

    But yes, we got it done. And I almost immediately tore half of it up in my head and redid it better, because Harry didn’t know ALL of my secrets. Not yet. I would be filling him in on those shortly, but first, there was a conversion that needed to be had.

    “Alright Harry, let’s get you set up so we can get started fitting you in.” and with that, I carried him into the makeshift medical bay (and wasn't that a surprise that it hung around in the hallway after I’d made it) and got Harry situated. Of course he did not suddenly lose his remaining eye, and thus noticed the things that were in the hallway proper...like the hangar. And the actual “outside”, a sea of green grass and a mountain in the distance as a landmark.

    “What...what is this place?” There was that shock again. Good. I wanted him off balance for this.

    “This place is where I do a bit of work. It is also where I will build and install your new prosthetics...well, more like Cybernetics, as they are not going to need to come off. Ever.” I couldn't help but brag a bit, here, but kept on course. “As for why I brought you in here, well...it was conducive to discussing this.”

    And with that I tossed an object onto his chest.

    “When were you planning on telling me you were with them?”

    The Inquisitorial Rosette gleamed in the odd Not-light of this place.

    To his credit, Harry did not even lose a step. “You had no need to know. No one does.”

    Too bad I wasn’t buying it. “And why not? Its not like you couldn't just get anyone and anything you needed on a fucking whim just by waving that around. What the hell is going on that you would slum around, eh? Or is it even yours to begin with?”

    I received a sharp look in response. “Oh, it’s mine, boy. And I have not lost my faith in the Emperor or his vision. But...the Inquisition I knew has...strayed from its path. Our lot was to safeguard the people from within, not to terrorize them.”

    “Huh. Ordo Xenos, I take it?” An astonished nod followed my question.

    “You are quite informed for someone who came out of nowhere.”

    “Call it whatever you wish. I know what my goals are. As for your issues with the Inquisition--and i’m assuming they think that you are dead, if you're hanging out here--I can’t help you. At least, not directly. Not yet anyway. You’re on your own if you wanna try and force change down their throats. My duty is to the people.”

    “You speak after my own heart, and yet everything I know tells me you speak true.” Harry's response was almost solemn in it’s tone. “Fine, then. I’ll tell you.”

    “Do it while I work. It’ll be faster that way.”

    “Fine with me.”

    Harry’s story is one that I suspect was all too common among the Inquisitors who actually had something looking like a conscience. He had performed his duty to the best of his ability, only to run afoul of a rogue Inquisition cabal working for an as-yet unknown xenos species. When he went to investigate, he was captured and subjected to a rather harsh awakening via mental torture by one of the Inquisitors, who was themselves a Psyker of not insignificant power. Somehow, he managed to not only escape, but thwart their plans to usurp an entire portion of a sector from under the noses of the Imperium...and had killed the rogues in the process.

    But the threat of further traitors and the disillusionment of what he believed the Inquisition to stand for had placed him in an untenable position. Instead of returning to his Cabal, he faked his own death and hid here on Necromunda as a simple information dealer with house Delaque, and had taken on a role as the more or less official unofficial liaison between Delaque and Van Saar, a task that he’d done for years until I showed up.

    It was actually a pretty sad tale, all things told, and one that I would not wish on even my worst enemies. But it happened, and he’s here, so it is what it is. At least I can help him a bit.






    Harrison Cain liked to believe himself as a simple man. His time as one of the Emperor’s own Inquisitors was not something he liked talking about, but somehow this man, Green...he seemed to get it. Something about him made it easier to open up about the old war stories, and the horrible betrayal that led to where he was today. Really, it seemed almost a gift from the Emperor himself.

    Which is why he would just as soon dispatch this “gift” as soon as he was able, since Green had so kindly offered to make him some prosthesis for his lost arms and legs, as well as his missing eye. It was a rather blatant betrayal, true, and distasteful to him after what he had suffered from those who should have been his own brothers, but even in his disgrace his duty remained.

    “They're done. Now hold still while I get these things installed.”

    Harry found himself blinking in confusion. There was no way that Green had constructed a set of prostheses that fast, there was too much involved in the process. It simply could NOT be done.

    “Alright, that’s the legs on, lemme get the arms next.”

    And with that declaration, he looked down and saw the truth of the statement, that even as he was musing on the sheer impossibility of the situation Green had managed to somehow get the legs set up and in place...and all without him even noticing.

    How?

    HOW!?!

    Not since he had taken a wife had he been that befuddled by the actions of a person. It made no sense whatsoever--

    “Arms done. Relax a bit so I can get this eye in.”

    And again, somehow beating the odds--

    “And that’s the eye.”

    Wait WHAT.

    “Alright Harry, I got your cyborg parts in, but we still gotta get it calibrated. For that I’m gonna need to get some stuff set up for you. Are we good so far?”

    Harrison Cain, disgraced Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos, could only nod.

    “Alright then, I’m gonna get you set up. Gimme a bit.”

    Harry watched as Green turned around and did something with an odd tool on his left hand, a tool seemingly made of orange light that had not been there before, and that faded just as fast.

    Was Green an Abominable Intelligence?

    He suddenly felt a massive itch in his limbs as the cybernetics came online, and his vision cleared and became binocular once more.

    “Give it a bit, it takes some time to really get revved up”.

    There was a pulling sensation from somewhere in his chest, and suddenly he could feel.

    “There. That should do it. Now then, stand up for me.”

    Harry swung around as ordered, even his own thoughts blasted away by the onslaught of events happening at this moment. He was surprised that his new legs responded almost as if they were his own, and he stood with little issue.

    “Go ahead and walk around, let everything really settle into place. I gotta clean up here.”

    Harry looked at Green, watching as he turned away to pursue some other task or another, and remembered the weapons systems that he’d asked to be installed. With a weirdly instinctive gesture, he immediately found his dominant arm switched to what his eye told him was a plasma cannon. Harry immediately aimed it at Green’s back...and stopped.

    He helped me.

    The thought came unbidden, the knowledge that Green had helped him with no expectation of reward, had come for him even after all had considered him dead and gone...and even revealed these amazing wonders to him as if he was already a part of his inner circle.

    But the taint of Chaos was ever present and insidious. Who was to say that this was not a trap by the ruinous powers? Some way to finally worm their way into his heart?

    And yet his thoughts again went back to that moment, on that cold slab underground, bleeding out even as his body was mutating against his will...and the visor of that power armor.

    The face he’d seen behind it, of rage and grief and horror, of the need to lash out at someone, anyone for harming a person dear to them.

    The plasma cannon stayed trained on Green’s back.

    Even then, he had not faltered, had acted to not only save his life, but then save his soul, purging him of the xenos taint somehow. And He knew for a fact it was purged, his rant earlier be damned, there were studies on this; if the xenos corruption had remained, he would be enthralled by the Genestealer patriarch by now. No, his mind was still his own.

    ...he really did save me.

    The plasma cannon shifted back to an arm, and Harry walked away, lost in his own thoughts.

    He did not see the form of Satori, smiling even as his back remained tuned.






    Perks for this chapter (including related freebies and ancillary choices):

    -Micromanipulators (A Certain Scientific Railgun) (50CP)
    These delicate gloves were meant for scientific purposes. They're reinforced with small motors and electrically contracting artificial muscles to allow you to perform delicate work on the scale of a micron. While they're definitely more suited to scientific experiments, they can be put to use in any situation that requires steady hands like aiming a rifle, conducting brain surgery, cooking, defusing a bomb, or even bypassing some redirection and shielding abilities.
    * Micron scale control

    -Rapid Construction (Blazing Saddles) (50CP)
    You are not only a truly excellent carpenter, you are an exceptionally fast worker. Any form of construction or crafting will be completed in a tenth the time it would otherwise take, though your overall quality will suffer if you use this at full effect (times ten). At times two, you'll sacrifice none of the quality, but as you get closer to times ten, you'll sacrifice more and more of it.

    Mysterious Serum (300CP)
    Fascinating. These test tubes contain a colorless serum that, when ingested, allow one to 'awaken' the Linker Cores of sentient beings, allowing them to naturally use this world's magic after a little bit of training with it. Note that individuals like Nanoha are exceptions to the rule, and will be in future worlds as well - unless they had a particular affinity for magic or some way to boost their arcane power, you're unlikely to find anyone who starts with a Natural Ability higher than A. You receive eight of these, along with the formula on how to create more - though it's encoded and you'll have to decipher it. If you have 'Ancient Knowledge', you already know how to make more on your own from the get-go. Magical ability growth for individuals outside of this world tend to plateau at S-rank on their own. Bear that in mind.

    Telepathy [Free]
    Your own magical chat network! You can communicate mentally with a willing subject, even if they otherwise lack the capability and range of this particular magic. You can’t really force them to do anything except listen to you, but this mind-to-mind communication network has a range across dimensions, though you obviously can’t communicate with past jumps or other continuities until you get your Spark. Note that your mental communication can be intercepted like radio transmissions would, and you can be shut out by someone unwilling to listen to you.

    Shooting-type Spells [Free]
    The simplest and most common spell used in combat. You focus mana into a sphere or ‘bullet’ and fire it at your opponent. Can be used in various forms - homing bullets, rapid-fire, and so on. The ‘big’ spells tend to fall under Bombardment, so take note of those as well. These can be ‘aimed’ by hand, or ‘guided’ by the right calculations in the spell.

    Bombardment-type Spells [Free]
    When someone or something absolutely needs to be blown the hell up befriended. Accept not substitutes. By focusing a large amount of mana into a single point, you may fire a large blast at a target, designed to completely overwhelm them via a show of raw power. These are almost always aimed, but if you can get a bit of skill and power for it, you might find a way to make such destructive spells guided...

    Magic-Enhanced Attacks [Free]
    Need a weapon to hit harder? Need your fist to absolutely break through something? Want to show off to someone? This is where you’ll look. By enhancing your blows or weapon with mana, you can make the blows or strikes inflict more damage, and letting you strike with more force than before.

    Barriers and Shields [Free]
    But you can’t just keep slinging offensive spells left and right all day without any kind of defense, right? You can create barriers and shields to reinforce your own defenses, letting you block spells and attacks so long as you utilize them properly. This can be especially draining or fragile against powerful Bombardment spells or worse, though...you might want to consider dodging instead.

    Capture-type Spells [Free]
    Finally, there’s these. You can physically restrain a foe with binding spells that inhibit their movement and prevent them from maneuvering, or even create intricate cages of mana that lock said foe in place completely and allow you to capture or interrogate them while they’re stuck in an immobile prison.

    Device:
    -Intelligent, Sapient (requires Intelligent), Unison System
    -All basic spells. Plus (basic) dimensional transfer, Knight Armor

    -ARTIFICER (PREY) (200CP)
    Any monkey with a wrench can look up the technical manual and do a repair. Well, maybe not any monkey, but you're certainly a cut above the rest. Any technology you come across that you understand the principles behind can be drastically improved. Either simplifying it to make it easier to fabricate or improving its durability or power output. Weapons, turrets, tools and vehicles can all be improved beyond their base specs.

    "VOLUNTEER" - FREE (Assumed as drop-in background)
    More often than not originating from the Soviet Gulags, Volunteers are a mixed bag. Some of them violent criminals involved in human trafficking and drug transport. Others are political dissidents, sent to the Archipelago for having inconvenient opinions. Others still were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, taken off the street to meet a quota. Whatever your past, all you are now is a number and a pound of flesh to be experimented on. Volunteers are granted an additional 12 Neuromods to spend on Typhon abilities.

    TRANSTAR SUIT - FREE ALL BUT TYPHON
    The TranStar suit is a multipurpose uniform that is designed to quickly and easily interface with an EVA system and utilise touch screens through the gloves. Volunteers are given a green suit and will not be trusted by the rest of the staff. Security is given a while and black suit, science a blue and black suit, Engineering an orange and black suit, and executive staff a red and black suit. Even in its basic state the suit gives a small amount of protection against environmental hazards and physical attacks along with a flashlight. The suit can take up to 8 additional chipsets, expanding its capabilities.

    HEPHAESTUS "HEFFY" TWIST & LOOP WRENCH - FREE ALL
    A common repair tool found all over the station with a fairly good weight. Makes an effective bludgeon in a pinch. Comes with schematics to make more with the Fabricator.

    GLOO CANNON - FREE ALL
    Another tool commonly found on the station. Launches a quickly hardening glue that is incredibly versatile. Can be used as a fire suppressant, an insulator against high currents, plug small structural failures in the hull, it can even stick to enemies and freeze them in place for a short time. The large globs it forms can also support human weight, allowing crafty engineers to create staircases to places they have difficulty getting too. Comes with schematics to make more of the tool and it's glue with the Fabricator.

    -Mastersmith | Expert Smithing (Ragnarok Online) (600CP)
    Mastersmith (200CP)
    The Mastersmith can socket items allowing him to add slots where modifications can be implemented onto items. While intended for cards, these can be used for other modifications which need slots if need be. (but effectiveness may be reduced)
    Expert Smithing (400CP)
    It's not just about creating the sharpest blade anymore. Improved items now have affixes on them based on how many times they've been improved. Each level will be tougher than the next to improve and require more energy/mana/souls, but the Blacksmith's smithing ability now has no cap.

    -Don't Need A Team (Ace Combat) (100CP)
    Fighter planes are pretty complicated machines, and more often than not you need a whole crew to maintain them so that they don't break down in the middle of a fight and doom the pilot. You know your plane well enough to circumvent this issue. You've got just the right idea on what needs tuning up and what needs fixing, along with having the speed to be able to fix a plane up by yourself without the need for a crew in a fraction of the time. Performance issues are a thing of the past for you.

    -Soundtrack (Free): When you take to the skies, it does not always have to be on a somber note. As you fly to your mission, dogfight, or assault an enemy position you'll have the soundtrack of your choice playing in the background. Others can hear this if you wish, and you can turn this off at any time. Perfect for when you want to hype yourself up for a situation.

    -Basic Flight Training (Free): If you couldn't fly before, you have a basic idea of how to fly a plane now. You know how to maneuver the joystick properly, which button fires the missiles, and how to properly land a plane without creating a multi-million dollar pile of scrap. It won’t save you if you dive into a massive swarm of planes all by yourself, but you can learn.

    -Missile Surplus (Free): Well this is odd. Any plane you pilot seems to hold an unnatural number of missiles for its type, far more than it should. You're not sure where it's getting this many missiles, but you'll have to restock them if you run out. The same thing happens with special weapons, though you have to have a working model to attach if you want to swap it out.

    -Comm Chatter (Free): While an important part of war is knowing what your opponent is up to, sometimes it’s good for puffing your ego up too. For whatever reason, your radio will occasionally catch communications being broadcast from the enemy. This can range from important information to wild surprise at your antics. Not too useful, but good for knowing how you're doing.

    -Flight Suit (Free): When taking off, an important requirement of being in a plane is a flight suit so that the G-forces don’t make your organs explode. It sounds silly, but you’ll be lucky you had it. So, have a nifty flight suit to help keep any pressure issues down while you're in the sky, on the house. It can come in any color you wish with a snazzy helmet to boot, ensuring that you’re the most glamorous pilot in the sky.

    -Basic Hangar Bay (Free): Sure you might be able to get a fighter plane... but where are you going to store it? You can’t just leave your vehicle to the mercy of the elements, it would cause all manners of damage to the plane and then you might be really in a bind. That’s why if you come out of this with a plane (or end up importing one) you can obtain a hangar bay which has the tools needed to keep the plane in good shape and can stand up to most forms of weather. It can even attach to a property or the Warehouse after your time here should it please you. For an undiscounted +100CP, this turns into an automated hangar bay with heavy arms and equipment to make repairing and moving the plane significantly easier.

    -Optimization Computer (Free: Engineer): Pilots are rather finicky people the longer they last throughout a war. Maybe it’s because the more they fly, the more they expand their horizons and feel comfortable in deviating from the standard. Nevertheless, it’s up to you to handle these strange jobs and make sure these pilots don’t get themselves killed in their greed. This computer has one purpose only; take scans of vehicles, and provide detailed statistics and simulations on how modifications would change their effectiveness. This way you can tell if the tweak to those thrusters will be an actual boon or if you’re going to need to repair them after each battle because they keep burning through the wiring with their heat output. A pilot with a fine-tuned plane is a deadly pilot.

    -Angels’ Dancing Floor (extra): The sky is a beautiful place when you sit back and think about it. It holds no true master, yet it welcomes those who are willing to brave its dangers and holds the personal allure of freedom among the clouds. With this, you can take a little bit of that freedom with you. Your warehouse will gain an aesthetic of either computer lines akin to an Electrosphere simulation, or a military base adorned in the country colors of your choice. Any surface can also be adorned with computer screens with a layout similar to the mission briefing that is presented to you. Feel like an ace no matter where you are.

    -Angels’ Skies (extra): You desire further freedom, then? Very well. With this additional purchase, you gain a virtual environment ‘outside’ your Warehouse. While you cannot store or grow anything here... you can still take to the skies and roam the virtual world around you. Mundane conditions are the limit here, such as a sunny day by a beach, or a snowy mountainside that was cloudy and cold. But this does mean you can have a sky of your very own... a sky reserved for only one owner.

    -Pilot Simulator (extra) Most times, when it comes to training with fighter planes you’re restricted toflying around and trying maneuvers on account of most planes costing tens of millions of dollars on the low end... each. So how are you supposed to train for firing off weapons and taking on entire forces? Fortunately, this sophisticated VR machine lets you plug in the specs of a vehicle you want to practice in while also programming in various encounters for you to test your skills. As you become better, the algorithms will improve and develop new recommendations for skill areas you need improving on, while increasing the skill of the virtual enemies as well. Peace time should be no excuse for not being strong.

    -Munitions Supply (extra): Rarely is there a worse feeling than flying through the air, lining an enemy right in your crosshairs... and finding that you have no ammunition at all and you’re just a flying tin can. Better to avoid this entire situation and just get yourself a nifty supply to keep yourself stocked up, mm? With this purchase you have a personal stockpile of bombs, missiles, and bullets for the equipment of your plane that continually replenishes as you burn through it to ensure you will never need to leave the hangar bay lacking on ammunition.​
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2021
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 8
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    Welcome back to another installment of my joyous fanfic! please do enjoy all of the happiness and sunshine!

    Thanks to the usual crowd of my minders over on the Celestial Forge Discord. They know who they are, and I have mentioned them plenty of times to boot.
    Specific special thanks to JoeHalo, who likes posting lots of cool artwork in the story channel. he is great for morale, and I do not deserve him.



    Harry had wandered off, lost in thought, after his little crisis there. I was actually quite happy for both him and myself; him, for proving that he really was the man I thought he was, and myself, for being able to see it and allowing it to come forth instead of being paranoid as fuck.

    Didn’t mean that I was completely defenseless, though, as I had maintained a mage barrier during the whole setup just to be safe.

    Trust but Verify is still a real thing.

    In any case, Harry had his cybernetics now. They were a mix of everything I could give him in one package and would adapt and upgrade themselves as needed...possibly eventually to the point where he became a sort of Full-body augment, the way I had it set up. The least he was going to get out of it was a general reinforcement as everything was given a tune-up from the various systems working in the gear. I’d specifically set it up to only go as far as he was comfortable with, but this was the Imperium: Transhumanism was alive and well, just very much dogmatized.

    Speaking of transhumanism, Project: Psion had reached a point where it could be called complete. The tests had come back as close to negative as I could make them, and everything seemed OK for the go-ahead for artificially-induced psionic powers.

    Naturally, I double-checked, and then checked again just to be sure. There was no such thing as too safe when it came to the Warp.

    The double-checking that I was doing had caused me to make some revisions to the formula and setup, ones that I thought would be useful for both stability and overall breadth of available ability. My best estimate goal was to be something similar to D&D psionics without the gamey parts, which was both powerful and versatile all in one. Hopefully, I could push it that far.

    I also made a very specific point to adjust the dose I’d intended for myself to my personal genetic and physical profile, just in case it mattered.

    Paranoid? Of course I am. Anyone who wouldn’t be paranoid when dealing with the Warp is a dumbass, and it is one of the few things that everyone who worked with it agreed on, regardless of species or creed.

    There were far, far too many examples of what happened when you got complacent to even keep track of.

    This still left the very real issue of not could I take this plunge...but, should I?

    After all, this was not strictly necessary for anything I was seeking to accomplish, nor was it a definite requirement for taking on anything that I would be facing in the immediate future to the best of my knowledge. Hell, the chances of it backfiring on me were high enough that I should probably sit on it for a bit and test harder just to be safe.

    But I also wanted this shit tested and ready to go if it was good, so I had one more weapon in my arsenal should I need it. Training for it was going to be an absolute bitch, but I could get around that when I got there...if I got there.

    Run it through another test while I work on something else, then. Couldn’t hurt any more than the previous ones.

    Now, to continue addressing my lack of options when faced with the Genestealers(?) yesterday. First off, I needed to get some better stuff for use outside of Thoth at full expression, so I didn’t have to go all out right off. Second, I needed to do some more training with the computation orb to get a real feel for the output, as I grossly overestimated how much mana I would need for that artillery spell. Also would help for getting a stronger mage barrier set up.

    And to do that, I needed to revisit the digital orb project.

    Considering I only left it alone because of an emergent situation, and also because of the lack of breakthroughs in mana storage for the orbs to be viable, there wasn’t much reason for me to not dive right back in.

    Shuffling through the notes I had made on both the orbs themselves and the prototype capacitors, I found I had a sudden urge to kick myself.

    Even without tapping into the myriad cluster of abilities I now had, having taken time away from the project left me seeing EXACTLY where I had screwed up and why I was beating my head against a brick wall on the capacitors. It was literally right there, waiting for me to see it. And now I felt like an idiot. Anyway, time to get to work. Might as well look at the digital orb architecture too while I'm at it…






    I am an idiot.

    That is the only thing I can really say for this. I am a fucking idiot.

    So many answers, sitting right in my face, just waiting for me to see them. And I had ignored them all because I was being stubborn and blind and an idiot.

    Oh well, what’s done is done. Just learn from it and move forward.

    The latest versions of both the capacitors and the digital orb were now ready for testing. The digital orb had received an almost complete revamp of its architecture, having a much smoother flow of the mana through the circuitry and less bleed out as I found ways to insulate the connection better. The twin processor cores were capable of some quite impressive calculations if and when needed, and had a good bit of “memory” buffer to work with as well. The new capacitors were the size of a belt, now, and could be used to power up and maintain the processor cores until their charge had run out…in about twelve hours, at projected max load.

    Not bad for a first revision, but there was one major thing that I did not do for this: I never ran it through the Miniaturization and Efficiency engine to optimize, wanting to make this as good as possible without leaning on some of my more esoteric talents. The result was quite impressive, and proves that the tech had plenty of room to expand and grow.

    Maybe that pure mana core system was not too far off, then…

    A relatively quick test proved that the system worked to standard…and quite some ways over standard, too, as the test numbers had shown. I hadn’t done a test flight with the orb (not needing to due to my other redundant methods of flight) but I suspected the max altitude had increased dramatically as well. So far, all good.

    Now to push this shit to the edge and beyond.

    The next revision of the tech leveraged any and every ability I could use at that moment, with the sole purpose of iterating down to the absolute best possible version of a digital core with an inbuilt capacitor. The only limitation I kept on myself was that the end result had to be buildable by a “normal” human being in a reasonable time frame with the appropriate human-buildable tools.

    Somewhere along the way I accidentally invented a freaking mana reactor and shrunk that down to fit in the orb proper, even as I added more and more capacitors, process cores, better channels for power management, and even larger memory channels and storage for more active spells at once. Hell, I think I even tried to fit in a basic OS or something…

    The end result of my newest prototypes...were something that I wasn’t sure was even possible until now. It was a pleasant surprise, though: four process core clusters, working in a 2x2 grid configuration, with four nodes each, for a total of 16 independent cores. That each of those cores could then each run up to Thirty-Two independent threads pushed that even further, and was the primary reason why I settled for so few core clusters. Being able to run a staggering Five Hundred and Twelve individual spell processing channels was downright insane...and that was just what was available to the user, not what went into maintaining the miniature mana reactor., which only needed one dedicated core in a separate channel to keep everything operating smoothly. This didn’t even get into the boosts afforded the entire system from the move up to a non-analog calculation system, which were themselves already huge to begin with.

    But even all of that paled to the stunt that I had pulled off. Those core clusters? They could act as a single processor on command, one with a downright staggering amount of multithreading ability even beyond what the cores themselves would normally add up to. The capability boost...was terrifying in its implication.

    And this was the “general-purpose” model.

    That had to have been the single biggest increase in pure power I had seen from this tech. And I had a suspicion that I could combine the principles of device technology with this to go even further beyond…if I had anything at the base levels to work with. Right now, all I knew was focused on the ability to make Unison Devices work properly, not how to get the more basic ones running right. I suspected I would have to come at the answer to that from a different direction...like, say, this nice computation orb project I’m working on.

    In any case, this was test number two of an orb that could be feasibility made by normal people, even though it might take a bit longer for them to actually accomplish. Now, the only things left were to REALLY push the limits on this system by applying some of my other tech bases to it...or by pushing to the next, possibly final, step.

    For reasons of brevity, I chose to just add in the extra available tech that I had to the mix, namely in photonics and the bits and pieces that were applicable from the mess of technologies that went into unison devices. I was hoping that at least one of these would add in something useful to the mix that I could safely call a “final” product to either use for myself or feed to Thoth, so he could learn how to recognize and understand Magitech.

    And then I ran into the concept of a photon reactor and started kicking myself again.

    Photon reactors were quite powerful for energy generation, and not only could, but were miniaturized to power various tools as needed, including weapons. If I remembered correctly, the Phantasy Star Universe games used it as a sort of energy meter for the various attacks and techniques that you could use. It was gamey, but it worked well enough from what I remembered.

    In the real world? Completely different story.

    It seemed that the civilization that utilized photon reactors before had no clue what the hell they were really doing, as pulling out the max efficiency of these things was almost a cakewalk even before I applied my skills, and even easier after that. They were renewable, self-sustaining and could supply damn near however much power I wanted for almost free. Provided there was enough time to gather in the necessary photon energy.

    The reason I was kicking myself is that this “new” technology was almost a direct-line development from the mana reactors I had just invented, even if it was focused on photon tech and not just mana in general. Hell, looking closer, I could probably combine the two into one proper technology and go hog wild.

    Wait. Need a time hack really quick…

    Huh. Not too much time has passed. Only about two, two and a half hours since I got Harry situated?

    I think I have a bit of time to push this just a little further, or at least to make an experimental setup for what I’m about to do.

    I am Definitely going to need to get some more materials, though, as I kind of ran through my current batch running this up as far as I did. This is probably a good thing anyway, as I really need to put this new core through its paces...and it also needs a name.

    How many times did I iterate It? Nah, not naming it like that.

    Wait. I know what I’m naming it after. One of the best early personal computing systems of the then-dawning computing age.

    Computation orb, I hereby dub thee: the Amiga.




    I needed to do something about my supply issues. This was going to become a major roadblock if I wasn’t careful, especially with trying to implement Photon technology. The necessary parts and pieces aware easy enough to acquire, sure, and in quantities enough that I could refine them into what I REALLY needed through some of my more esoteric abilities, but even then it added time was going to be a pain in the ass to deal with, especially with my being on a crunch period. Those genestealers were not going to just sit there and wait to be killed, after all.

    This meant that I had to get another bulk run of supplies as soon as possible. And with Harry currently indisposed due to the weight of the revelations I had just dropped on his head, that meant that I had to do it myself. With at least two groups of enemies willing to break cover and reveal themselves if it meant a shot at my back.

    Sometimes it sucks to be on the spot.

    In any case, I needed to pack up and get things moving. There was, however, one thing that needed to be done before I ran off.

    The Amiga orb was such a massive departure from the original operations orbs of the time that it was nearly an alien technology. Even the greatest of the technology of the day, the semi-legendary Elinium type-95 operations orb, paled in comparison, and it was a legit German--excuse me, Germanian--wunderwaffen. This meant that while I was absolutely sure that it worked, my previous experience with using an operations orb, even as limited as it was, was now defunct and obsolete. I had to adjust.

    How fortunate, then, that I had my own personal flight range.

    I headed out to the hangar area and the open field beyond, preparing myself for this test of the Amiga orb. The various spell calculations were pretty basic, from what I had available, and would likely need to be refined (again) to account for the new processing power, but they would suffice for now. All I was doing was a simple flight test, after all.

    Finally reaching my destination, I looked up at the clear blue sky, which almost seemed to beckon to me to rise up and bask in its freedom.

    And with a minor push of mana, I activated the Amiga and soared into the awaiting sky.






    Harry was well aware that he was not in the best of moods at the moment. It was perfectly understandable, considering all that had occurred to him within the last several days. The uncovering of the genestealer cult, the multiple(!!) purebred genestealers themselves, the inexorable knowledge that despite everything he had done to stem the tide, the xenos infiltrators had beaten him and corrupted his flesh with their vile poison, and would soon corrupt his soul as well. The Escherite members of said genestealer cult taking matters into their own hands and dismembering him outright, flying his flesh even as the xenos poison corrupted him, and leaving him to die or be consumed by the genestealer’s kiss.

    The arrival of the unknown being in advanced power armor. The resultant beating of every Escherite in the area, and release of the dozens of potentially infected men. The look in that man’s face, even through the odd visor, when he saw the state that Harry had been left in.

    He remembered, even now, when he realized that this man had braved a xenos hell, alone, to come for him. How he had somehow managed to stop the corruption of his flesh, and heal his multiple wounds to the point where he was no longer in danger of immediate death. He remembered even more the moment when he realized that the man in that armor was his friend.

    And now, after what had seemed to be his own personal punishment from the Emperor for his deeds, he was saved, cleansed of the corruption and filth of the xeno, healed in body, and even now equipped with personally built cybernetic prosthesis...all by his friend.

    Whom he had nearly shot in the back after not only rescuing and healing him, but had even then offered to go back into the nest of horrors to cleanse them from the bowels of the hive, and possibly the planet itself if need be.

    His thoughts kept whirling back to those moments in an inescapable loop, unable to break free of the cycle of his own damnation. His friend, a xenos conspirator? No. and yet he had nearly killed him out of paranoia and suspicion, for daring to offer his aid against the enemies of the Imperium, just as any citizen should.

    Movement from the “entrance” area drew his attention, as he watched his friend (and he as somewhat ashamed of himself to still refer to him as such, even in his own mind) walked out to the calm meadows of the open air area.

    And then gaped in astonishment as he began to fly.

    First only a relatively small distance from the ground, almost as if he was trying to get a grasp of how to do so, then higher and higher, and faster still, eventually moving like a blur to his eyes. It was totally incredible to see, and there was apparently no form of technology actually aiding him in this endeavor.

    A thought ran through his mind: Is it some kind of psyker ability?

    Satori landed nearby shortly thereafter, looking quite wind-ruffled but somehow in a good mood, his ever-present hat still on his head despite all the movement. He called out to Harry after a moment spent catching his breath.

    “Oh, hey Harry. You feeling any better man? New parts holding up?”

    Harry stopped for a moment, confused at the disconnect. Wasn’t he just flying without any form of aid? Doesn’t he think I suspect him as a Psyker?

    Harry chose to ignore his internal questions for now.

    “The parts are holding up pretty good. What I am more concerned about is your little...excursion just now.”

    Harry watched as Satori shrugged. “Oh, that? Just testing out a new piece of technology, making sure I have a feel for it. That sort of thing. You never go into the field with stuff you have no clue how to use, and I need to head out and get supplies soon. Figured I’d get the test out of the way so I at least knew what I was working with.”

    The odd statement from Satori piqued his curiosity. “And what exactly is it that allows you to fly with no aid whatsoever?”

    “It’s a prototype of a kind of energy manipulation system that utilizes some unusual principles to get away with the size of the unit.” Satori showed off the odd orb-like device on a simple string that was currently hanging from his neck. “Because of certain factors involved in the type of energy used, not everyone can actually make use of these. I think you might be able to, though. I’d offer you a chance to try it out, but you still have to recover from that incident, and the prosthetics are going to take some time to fully settle in anyway. I’ll happily guide you through the process once you’re good to go, though.”

    Once again Harry found himself in an unusual position of having to justify his own suspicion against a friend, and found that he had less and less reason to be so the more he looked. Still, he would remain vigilant. Even a fallen Inquisitor could do that much.

    “Oh yeah. You heard from the bosses over with the House? I’ve been expecting them to drop by for a while now, but nobody has shown up yet. Know anything I don’t?’

    Harry blinked at the subject change, although it was a valid one. He’d been expecting the same himself. “No, I don’t. And the fact that we have not been contacted yet is itself very strange.” He found himself moving towards what he believed to be the exit to this strange place. “It is something that I believe that we should investigate as soon as possible.”

    Satori nodded in agreement. “Yeah. I need to get some more parts anyway, so might as well make a full run of it. If nothing else, we can at least accomplish that.”

    As Satori began to lead them towards the exit, Harry could only think that his life had gotten oddly complicated, even for a former Inquisitor. He shrugged and bore on regardless.

    After all, even for me, duty only ends in death.




    Harry is still being really closed off. I wonder what’s on his mind.

    Nothing I can help with right now, at any rate. We have some bosses to check in with first.

    I checked and made sure I had all the equipment that I thought I would need before I left my workshop, not wanting to separate myself from Harry for too long. Makes people paranoid, especially after the kind of crap I’d dropped on his head...and pulled him out of.

    My check found something interesting, though. For reasons unknown to me and without any notice whatsoever, I found myself to somehow be in possession of another omnitool. Which made no sense whatsoever, as I only had the one to begin with.

    A quick run-through of the ‘tool itself revealed quite a bit of info: this particular omnitool was one of the set custom-crafted and created for the Andromeda initiative, possessing a number of specific mission mods that were not available to us “normal” N7 folks. Chief among them was a specialized fabricator module that allowed for repurposing nearly any material in the field into something usable with Alliance technology, even allowing for converting most forms of plant-based biomatter into medigel. There was also a rather nice scanner upgrade built in to the tool, but a quick check showed that it was meant to be slaved to an AI of some sort for maximum efficiency. I kinda shrugged and moved on with life.

    A thought occurred to me. If I had acquired this omnitool out of nowhere, then maybe I also had a new set of abilities in the queue as well.

    A quick check confirmed this suspicion, with the omnitool being a part of the new set of abilities granted to me. The second was an ability in a similar vein to my efficiency power, but at a significantly lower scale; it was something that a supremely skilled human could do with damned good planning, maybe skirting the limits of possibility but never outright breaking them. That it seemed to settle itself in with my efficiency power and almost relax was mildly amusing to me as well.

    It was that third ability that caught my attention.

    It simply labeled itself as “Clarketech.” this in and of itself was interesting, as most of the abilities I had didn’t just hand me a name...and they definitely did not reference Arthur C. Clarke in doing so. The elevator pitch I got from it was basically “you’re a supreme science officer type a la Star Trek, have fun”. That was not the problem.

    The problem was that the damned thing came with its own spaceship, complete with levels of technology that would have the Mechanicus screaming at me and the Navigators' guild trying to kill me. Both were something that I wanted to avoid at all costs.

    The good news out of that though is that it finally stabilized the odd section from my previous pickup play, and allowed me to actually get a quick look at what might be inside.

    The area was in the back of the entry hall, being a very noticeable door. The reason it was so noticeable was that there were extremely clear warnings for depressurization and microgravity in the area, and recommendations for wearing some form of EVA suit while within.

    It was an honest-to gods SPACE Hangar...and it now had two ships inside it.

    As much as I wanted to investigate further, I did not. I had no need to frustrate Harry any more than he already was, and the lack of contact from Van Saar actually was a priority, so I allowed it to slide, for now. Besides, they were not going anywhere as it was.

    I did, however, stop and grab the neuromod injector for my experimental psychic awakening serum. As much as I distrusted the prospect, I had already nearly been ganked by Psykers twice now, and anything that could help break that was useful. Besides, the checks keep coming back clear, and if I can’t trust my own work, let alone Thoth’s, then whose could I trust at all?

    Gear in hand, we finally made it out of the workshop space, and I shut everything down while Harry started heading towards the toilets, probably to help clear his head along with the usual. Not too much for me to worry about, and it gave me a moment to use for myself.

    I hadn’t intended to hide this from Harry, but in the name of easing him into the insanity, I decided that this was something that I could tell him about later. I grabbed the neuromod in question, and mentally ran through the “install” procedure. I had redesigned the applicators a bit, for ease of use, and as there was no actual “skill” data involved, it wouldn’t require entire minutes to install. Plus, Thoth already had a copy of my brain state in case of emergencies, so there was nothing to worry about on that front.

    With that, I placed the applicator on my eye socket, and took the plunge.

    It was...weird. I can’t really describe what happened or how, at least not from the perspective of someone in the driver’s seat, so to speak. I knew about what was supposed to happen, about all the science that was supposed to go into allowing for it, but the process itself was a complete trip. I saw flashes of sound, felt waves of color, heard the smell of sweet grapefruit. It was wild, my senses shifting from one place to the next in an uncontrollable rhythm...until everything just...stopped.

    And I stood alone, surrounded by POTENTIAL.

    I snapped out of the trance then, removing the applicator from my eye socket, and tried to not rub at the spot where a pair of needles had just jabbed into my brain. Thoth reported no damage whatsoever. And I...didn’t feel any different. No sudden onrush of power, no voices in my head, nothing like that. Just me and myself and I.

    Huh. Maybe it didn’t work after all. I’d have to run over the details later on as a postmortem. Right now there was other business to attend to.




    The streets were oddly quiet for this time of day.

    Normally there would be a certain hustle and bustle as people went about their daily routines, many performing the various jobs that kept the Hive city operating day in and day out. Right now, there was none of that. The streets were almost deserted, and the few people out and about were very clearly expecting trouble from the way they were armed and armored up...but didn’t bother trying to make any moves towards me or Harry, which I found especially odd.

    An itch formed in the back of my mind. Something was wrong.

    And from the look of it, Harry had noticed as well, and agreed with my silent assessment.

    We moved down the eerily empty walkways and passages, headed towards the Van Saar compound with the intent of trying to pry out what was going on. And no matter where we went, the streets stayed almost stubbornly empty, save a bare few.

    The itch grew larger, and I found myself unconsciously gripping my modified Hellpistol tightly, having drawn it sometime during our advance.

    It was not until we got to one of the major thoroughfares between us and our objective that we saw the cause of the strife.

    The vast majority of the locals were gathered here, all bunched together like a pack of sardines, and seemingly listening to someone on a makeshift pulpit yammer on about something or another. A sudden wave of confusion drifts over me that I shake off without incident as I move in closer to the pile, trying to hear what is being said.

    And yet there are no words spoken.

    So why the hell is everyone just standing here faking listening to this guy anyway?

    A tap on my shoulder grabs my attention, and I turn to face Harry, who has a grimace of near pure concentration on his face.

    “We need to leave, now.” his tone left zero room for argument.

    I allowed Harry to start guiding me out of the area before I bothered with asking questions. If this was important enough that even he was trying to clear out, then we did not need to be here.

    We broke line of sight with the crowd before I sent a harsh whisper his direction. “ What the hell is going on, Harry? That crowd...”

    Not here.” Harry’s reply was equally harsh, and I noticed that he had some slight signs of panic in his bearing. “We need to get clear of this mess, NOW.”

    I had trusted Harry in the past when things were odd and I lacked understanding of the situation, but this was straining it severely. “And the people back there? What about them?” I glanced back the way we came for just a moment.

    “Don’t bother. They’re as good as dead already, and unless you want to join them, we need to move.” again, Harry’s reply was terse, even as he started pushing us to move even faster than before, almost to the point of outright running now. The fact that he was perfectly willing to try and DRAG me away from whatever the hell that was…

    That itch in my mind was now getting closer to an outright headache. I found myself squinting unconsciously, trying to force my attention past it to see.

    Why was Harry so afraid of an odd gathering? To the point that we were hauling ass in as close to a straight line as possible AWAY from the area? It made no fucking sense--

    It was a flash, nothing more. But in that moment, somewhere past the growing pressure in my head, I heard it. The faintest echo of the damned Laughter.

    I quickly put two and two together after that...and realized with absolute horror that we would never clear the blast zone. My eyes were dragged forward, finding themselves suddenly fixed firmly on the squad of what were clearly witch hunters.

    And I once again noted that we were just about the only things moving on the street.

    FUCK.

    The witch hunters noticed our movement very quickly, and I saw them drawing weapons and setting themselves to gunning us down.

    FUCK.

    I didn’t even bother to try and be subtle about it. I just grabbed Harry and “pushed” us away from the immediate line of fire, even as I desperately tried to find some form of cover to get to. An old ferrocrete block for what I guessed was supposed to be some kind of statue rather quickly became our new home, and not a moment too soon, as the Bolts were already chewing up the scenery around us. I desperately tried to fight down my own sense of panic, knowing full well that being stuck between the current combination of a rock and a bigger rock was not helping us one bit.

    It was perhaps fortunate then that I never had the chance to actually panic.

    From behind us, a burst of something surged outwards, picking up everything from random debris to entire chunks of ferrocrete in its wake and hurling them outwards with the blast wave. Fortunately, there were not many people out to be caught by the resulting storm of debris.

    Unfortunately, we were. And the mass of debris was tearing up everything in its wake.

    Harry’s response had to have been trained, because he immediately rushed towards more suitable cover against the storm than our current position. I followed behind him at an only slightly slower pace, still trying to keep my head level, and also fighting off a now nearly migraine-level headache that I only now realized was a reaction to some kind of Psyker attack. Harry seemed to notice my distress, as he was visibly torn between wanting to snap me out of it and just shooting me.

    “Harry” I hissed between my teeth, the pain from the headache becoming ever more pronounced as whatever force was behind it applied more pressure. “Get us out of here. I’m not going to be able to hold up much longer…”

    It was only the absence of movement that caught my attention through the deepening haze of pain. Harry stood motionless, almost as if in a trance, his eyes rolling upwards into the back of his head, even as a grimace of pure loathing spread across his face. Whatever the hell was trying to break me, it had gotten Harry first.

    The pain grew stronger, as the grip of whatever...no, whomever that was grew tighter. It was all I could do to even focus at this point, barely having any ability to hang on to my own conscious thoughts, desperately scrambling for a way to get out of the deathtrap that we were in.

    I think that was what ultimately saved us, in the end.

    In my desperation, I lashed outwards unconsciously at the perceived source of my pain, seeking some form of relief from the pressure by any means. When that didn’t work, I did it again. And again, and again, each time ever more desperate as I fought to break free. It was one of those last ones that finally broke the hold on my mind.

    I slumped to the ground in relief as the pain receded, only to be reminded of the storm of debris raging all around us. Acting with as much care as was possible, I grabbed Harry and dragged him to a nook that had been created by the ensuing destruction, and stuffed him inside as best I could without hurting him, then followed. I didn’t notice our other occupant until later, though, as I was trying with limited success to close off any means of getting scraped into a bloody smear on the surroundings.

    Almost on instinct I accessed the Amiga, creating a mage barrier strong enough to protect us from the ensuing storm even as I unconsciously beat back yet more mental attacks on my person. And as the storm swirled all around us, destroying everything in its wake, I huddled down in a desperate effort to save the lives of myself and my friend.

    Around us, buildings were being torn apart as the storm raged on, gaining even more momentum and debris as the structures were torn to shreds, the terrified inhabitants being dragged outwards and into the whirlwind of death. The blood of the slain mixed in with the howling winds as the storm reached a fever pitch, even the meager cover provided by the nook we were in proving no match for the onslaught.

    The other inhabitant of our nook reached out and grabbed onto me with a shriek of pure terror. I absently noted that the voice was female, even as she clung tighter to me, the mage barrier only barely keeping the destruction at bay around us.

    I watched in horror as nearly the entire plaza was annihilated in a whirlwind of ferrocrete and steel, killing what seemed to be thousands in its wake as it raged on. The constant attacks on my mind grew in intensity as well, even as I braced and held on for all dear life to not get sucked into the void.

    Perhaps it was inevitable, then, when the very ground I stood upon gave way and broke, sending us hurtling into the storm. I managed to grab hold of Harry just before it could claim him, even as we were thrown into the worst of it.

    The endless chunks of ferrocrete, and what looked like razor-sharp steel raged around us, constantly stressing my barrier to the limits and beyond. I suspect that the only reason it was still holding out was due to the built-in mana reactor augmenting my reserves, else I doubt that we would have lasted even this long.

    I was drawn out of my very brief contemplation by the sight of an absolutely HUGE piece of ferrocrete appearing directly in front of us, slamming into the barrier I held up even as it tried to push us further into the maelstrom. An absent thought went through my mind that this would be a good way to crush us, but instead the block seemed to take us into the eye of the storm.

    And unlike a “normal” eye, this was the absolute worst part to be in.

    I could only look on in horror as seemingly endless amounts of people were torn to shreds, with the storm seemingly having a mind of its own and choosing who to rip to pieces as all watched, helpless to stop the slaughter. All the wile, my mind was stretched to the breaking point by the constant onslaught of attacks, even as I struggled to maintain the barrier keeping us from death.

    And so was my world consumed and reduced to nothing more than instinct, noise, countless grinding pieces of stone, and the echoes of countless screams.

    Not once did I stop to consider that one of those screams was my own.





    Yeah. This is a thing that exists. It's like this is 40k or something...

    -Omnitool | Scanner (Mass Effect Andromeda) (200CP)
    Omnitool (100CP)
    You get an omni-tool loaded up with programs and information that'd be best suited for unsupported colonization in a new galaxy. Because the Andromeda Initiative knew that they'd be going with a finite supply of ammo, medi-gel and power cells, each omni-tool can recover and repurpose appropriate resources to serve appropriate functions. For example, liquid coolant allows weapon heatsinks to be reused, and organic compounds can be refined into medi-gel. They can also convert consumable items into immediately usable forms. Finally, they do everything else regular omnitools can: Communication, manufacturing fabricator, sensor analysis, and computer mainframe.

    Scanner (100CP)
    This omni-tool mounted system is how the Andromeda Initiative plans to rapidly survey planets. This system is fast and accurate sampling system that is formally known as Panoptes. When linked to an AI, it can produce multiple analyses and predictive models in seconds, turning what would be the surveying work of weeks into mere moments. For most purposes it uses a transmitted accelerator mass spectrometer to create a snapshot of an objects components, atomic weight, and radioactivity, allowing for in-depth analysis. For biological materials, the system switches to an electrospray ionization system, so that plants or animals can be scanned without causing radiation damage. For a Jumper, you no longer need to have an AI linked to the system for it to work, though that would help. You can also take DNA scans of organisms for further study, and scan devices to help you figure out what they do, and maybe later reproduce them. Lastly, if you have a longer ranged sensor system, you could link the Scanner to that to scan further away, even if being in the Scanner's original range would get you clearer results.


    -Clarketech (Generic Space Opera) (400CP)
    Not only are you able to reverse engineer, extrapolate from, and eventually replicate with a device of your own make any technology you encounter, you also are able to do so with any other phenomenon, be it a physical occurrence, magical or even divine in nature, or even just theorised by you to be possible, though in the latter case you naturally will encounter failure if your theories prove false, in addition to research and prototyping taking a prohibitively long time to do.

    (Author Note: Comes with a Spaceship. Details will be when I introduce the ship itself.)

    -Loaded Up (Generic Cyberpunk) (200CP)
    It's not enough to have what you need locked away back in the workshop, and even when you have time to prepare you often have to pack light. You have a particular genius when it comes to building and working with tools, gadgets, weapons, armor, and other personal scale equipment. Whether it's cramming a computing setup that would take up an entire workstation into something that a hacker can slap onto their arm for on the fly hacking, or taking a normal pistol and modding it until it's more lethal and effective than most military arms, you're able to cram a stupefying amount of effectiveness into easily ported packages. Your creativity, skills, and genius just seem to skyrocket when dealing with things in sizes that would hamper anybody else. Bigger doesn't always mean better, sometimes it just means cumbersome.

    -N-Ways Fusion Plant (Endless Space) (200CP) (NOTE: Acquired Chapter 7)
    Refueling? What's that? You have mastered the art of Endless power generation, and any device you possess or can claim as yours never runs out of power. Other things can still be a problem, like weapons overheating, engines breaking down, etc, but you never need to worry about your battery running out. Your starting equipment and ship already have fusion plants installed in them, and you have schematics to make more, of various sizes, but you will need some rare elements and facilities to make them. The smaller they are, the simpler it is. Making a capital ship reactor is going to take a LOT of materials, but is totally worth it.

    Scout Ship (Free): An engine, a cockpit, some life support. This is as barebones of a ship as you can get, about the same size as a modern day space shuttle. It is essentially a space faring RV with sensors and a couple point defense weapons, designed for long journeys to the edges of known space.
    Drop-In (Style): Not all ships that travel the galaxy are made by the big names. While nothing sets these ships apart, they aren’t the subject to the same hatred opposing factions have for one another. Good if you want to lie low. A good jack of all, master of none ship.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 9
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    I floated alone in an endless expanse of darkness.

    I don’t know how long I’ve been here, or where everyone or everything else has gone. Hell, the only reason I knew I wasn’t dead was because I could hear my own heartbeat, pulsing steadily as I floated in this odd place. As far as I knew, I was currently the only occupant of here as well.

    I tried to organize my thoughts and ran into...something. What it was, I do not know. But it was there, and every time I brushed against it, my mental cohesion blew apart like dust in the wind. I wasn’t insane, not yet anyway, but if this kept up it would be close.

    That I had no clue if the force behind that particular event was malicious or benign was very concerning to me, but there was nothing I could do about that. Right now, I needed information...which was being very elusive.

    I tried (again?) to reach out with my magical power, and hit what felt like a brick wall. Seemed pretty sturdy, too. Adding to this, my attempts to focus mana into a more complex structure would fail nearly immediately as I was brushed against whatever that thing was that kept disrupting my focus. Even something as simple as a chant would get blasted out of my mind all but immediately.

    Crap. I wasn’t sure if this was some form of enemy attack or just me being in a weird spot, but I needed to figure out how to actually affect my environment, if for no other--

    Ugh. That thing again...every time I try to focus myself, it steps in and breaks it. Getting around that is likely to be nearly impossible. Maybe try to work ar--

    I winced as my thought chain was once again disrupted, this time a bit more forcefully than before. I lashed out on reflex against that thing, trying to push back enough to be able to actually think.

    And it worked? The hell?

    Okay, I need to figure out what I just did and repeat that. So, I was getting tired of not being able to think, and struck outwards at it to try and get it to stop. But how? Did I swing a fist? Use magic? What did I--

    There was no noise in this blank abyss, so I was unsure if I just screamed out in pain. I do remember that I PUSHED against whatever that thing was beating on my mind.

    The surrounding black retreated, just a bit. It was only enough for me to notice the change, but even that was enough encouragement for me to keep pushing. All I needed to do was isolate what the hell I just did and repeat it.

    So what did I do? I kinda just swung...but it wasn’t a physical thing, was it? It was more...no, not like that...kind of in a more--

    The darkness ate another attack as I finally twigged on to what I was doing to actually defend against it. It was kind of instinctual, definitely supernatural, but also very much a part of me. It acted out even when I was unable to lash out physically…

    And then it clicked. I knew exactly what I was doing. And the knowledge that my little experiment had actually worked, had actually granted me psionic abilities, was a very nice bit of uplifting news in my current bleak state.

    It also gave me a clue as to what might be happening to me. It was disrupting mana, so that meant that it knew of and possibly was trying to counter whatever magic powers I could throw up (like the Mage Barrier I used to barely survive the debris storm). Maybe it was operating off of what I’d demonstrated? I had no way to actually know for sure, and no desire to find out.

    Instead, I focused on the “feel” of my newfound psionic powers. Sorting around them, working to consciously control them, direct them as a part of my will. Another attempt to disrupt my focus came and was repelled, this time with my full awareness, and I began to get an even better feel for my mental power as a result.

    I continued like this for who knows how long, constantly stretching and stressing my mental ability, and attacking the source of my pain every time it attempted to interrupt me. It was not always successful, and I had the headaches to prove it...but slowly, I gained a full awareness and control of my new power. It was still very raw and unrefined; weak, really. But it was mine, and now that I knew that it was there I could train it just as I could train the rest of my skills. But first…

    I focused myself, and started shaping psionic power. This time, instead of a preemptive counterattack, I would instead defend against the push, and work to be able to shield myself from whatever the hell this is. Just need to shape things just right…

    ...Gaaah. That hurt...but I managed to keep my thought train this time!! Progress is made!

    I freely admit that the first several attempts were failures. And by several I mean several dozen. My mind was wracked with almost every ailment under the sun and then some, and fighting them off in turn became ever more difficult as they stacked on me. But slowly, surely, I learned. I began to figure out the patterns needed, the ways to shape my power to effectively shield my mind. I learned not only how much power was safe, but also where the fault lines were.

    And eventually, I was able to weather the storm without any negative effects.

    Naturally, this caused my opponent to turn up the heat, and my hard-won defenses were tested...and proved to be too weak to withstand the onslaught. Fortunately for me, I had progressed past the point where I would have my conscious thoughts battered out of my mind, but it was still a painful experience. The evidence was clear, at least in this regard: my psionic power alone would not be enough to break the tide. But it raised a legit question: if that was not enough, then what was? What did I have to do to get out of this place?

    Maybe try attacking and defending at the same time? Worth a shot.

    More time passed, more experimenting proceeded, and more failures piled up as my mind grew more and more stressed by the assault. I was not sure how much more of this mess I could take before I actually did break under the strain, but I did not want to find out.

    The experiments yielded success...for all of maybe three waves, before the hurt came back even stronger, and when I learned how to blunt that a bit, from multiple “directions”.

    Honestly, if my very sanity was not on the line, I would call this one hell of a training session. But my mental health did hang in the balance, and that meant that I needed to find a way to get the hell out of here as quickly as possible. I had ample proof that I was not overpowering whatever was attacking me, so that meant I had to get tricky. But tricky by what?

    A fragment of a fragment of a memory flashed past me then, little more than a fleeting glimpse. But it was enough.

    My magic. I had gotten hit by that mind scramble thing every time I attempted to use my magic. This likely meant that it was the key to breaking free from this place. Alrighty then, I need to just focus a bit--

    OWWW. Okay, I cannot drop the shielding or else my brain will fry. Which meant that I also had to somehow throw out conscious psionic attacks while channeling mana and shielding from attack.

    The joys of multitasking.

    Again the cycle continued, completely unbroken by any measurement of time. I attempted to channel mana while also doing multiple psionic things, and would often fail miserably, with the price being another fragment of my mind. The few successes only brought down more pain and suffering, hastening my end. I was running out of time to figure out this damned puzzle. And too much depended on me not failing here--

    I missed the attack, and in my scramble to adjust to blunt the worst of it, I flubbed up the control of my energies. A wave of something that felt magical, but I somehow knew was also psionic, flowed out from me. The result was very noticeable, as the gloom of the place lifted from pitch black to actually dim light.

    It also confused the ever-loving fuck out of me.

    I had...combined? The two sources of power into one stream. This was a pretty major discovery, even by my standards, but the main issue is that it nearly broke whatever the hell is holding me down here. Even now, as the darkness rushed back in to trap me once more, I could feel something different about the environment...but placing exactly what it was remained outside my grasp. Instead, I focused on repeating the previous effect, with the hopes of breaking free before another major wave hit me.

    I unfortunately failed in half of that objective when the waves returned with an almost murderous vengeance, and was once again fighting for my life against my foe.

    Unlike the previous attempts, though, the combination technique came much easier and faster than the individual ones, likely as a result of my own skill in wielding them, as minimal as they were. The pushback I was getting for getting ever closer to the solution was intense: a constant pressure beating against my head, and seemingly my very soul as well, unrelenting in its attempts to destroy me.

    In return, I pushed back even harder, drawing upon more and more of my abilities as they seemed relevant, as minimal as they seemed. Originium arts joined with the mass of magical and psionic energies as I warred with the darkness, and although they seemed to do little, even that small amount was more precious than gold. I fought onwards, knowing that even the slightest hesitation at this point would mean the shattering of my mind, and with it my death.

    But no matter what I did, the waves just. Kept. Coming.

    Nothing I did seemed to actually hold them back for longer than a moment, even though I managed to blast what looked like most of the way clear to the “surface” of this game a few times. It was getting both frustrating and tiring to have to keep up this kind of offense for this long. Maybe if I could get some light it would be easier, but…

    Wait. Didn't I have an ability that allowed me to generate light?

    Well, it was worth a shot. At least then I could say I tried everything. Besides, the power was oddly instinctual, anyway, so it wouldn’t affect much.

    And so, I pulled on my light.

    And the screech of pain that resulted was absolute music to my ears. More to the point, I now knew what it was reacting to. Me subconsciously pulling on, and adding this light to my various attempts to break free, or at leas t until I gained conscious control over the powers I was using at the time.

    But now? Now that I knew that the light was what it was afraid of? I dumped it wholesale into every single effort I made. And the screams of terrified pain were my vindictive proof that it was working.

    I have no idea how long I was trapped under the influence of that shadow. But once I started grasping my light, that shit ENDED. And with the lifting of the veil of darkness, came something else--






    I awoke to a scene of utter ruin.

    Jagged spires of ferrocrete stood around us, strewn completely haphazardly. Mixed in with the mess are seemingly random bits of steel, poking up everywhere that could be found. Rubble stretched as far as the eyes could see, for almost the whole level. I myself seemed to be in some kind of crater made out of the assorted debris, more or less laid out on a random slab like a corpse. The lip of my crater was too high to see anything out of, but from what little visibility I did have from my position I could not see Harry, or the other person that had grabbed on to me at the last second.

    And my everything hurt. Oh dear god, did it hurt. It felt like I had gone up against some kind of demented bear that only bludgeoned people. Everything was sore and tender, and what I could see of my clothes were battered as well.

    How the fuck did we survive that? I don’t remember much after being thrown into the eye of the storm, being too busy with trying to keep the shield keeping us alive up for as long as possible. I think somewhere along the line I actually ran out of mana, and started overdrawing from my own physical stamina, possibly even my life force to keep that barrier up.

    The result? The can of smashed ass that I currently was. At least the pain radiating throughout my body was a good indication that I was whole...actually, I have a better idea. Thoth?

    [//ERROR//]

    The fuck?

    I got hit so hard that even THOTH is down? How the fuck is that even possible?

    Dear god, just who the hell WAS that guy?

    Well, that wasn’t good. Thoth is my best tool for this kind of madness; without him, I am significantly reduced in effective firepower, especially with most of my gear likely being busted in some way from the demented merry-go-round that we were on. Worse still, that means that any potential followups I had to face down as little old me, and not hyper power armor me. Which was going to suck, and quite massively too.

    In any case, I needed to move, now. I needed to find Harry ASAP, and preferably our third as well, just so she doesn't go spreading rumors of a rogue psyker around. I do not need that kind of attention.

    I slowly dragged myself off of my slab, body protesting the entire way about the state it was in. which was tough shit, as I didn’t have anything I could do about it at the mom--

    Wait.

    Didn’t I have a basic healing spell? Why the hell am I just sitting here and suffering? Damned mess is throwing me off more than I expected if I missed that…

    I focused my mana, finding to my shock that there was barely any left at all, and as carefully as possible marshalled a portion of it to the purpose of a cure spell. The effect took hold, and immediately a large portion of my aches and pains simply vanished, leaving behind a far more manageable dull ache everywhere, more akin to doing a good workout than anything else. I would have popped of another one, but I didn't know if I would need that sliver of mana for later.

    Looking around, I saw nothing left of interest in the crater I was in, other than note the semi-spherical shape. I found the shape itself somewhat weird, but surmised that it was a part of some weirdness happening around at the moment.

    I carefully moved myself to the lip of the crater, and made an attempt to peek over the edge.

    What I saw horrified me.

    The once relatively vibrant streets, alleyways, and few plazas were completely annihilated. Everything was scrubbed down all the way to the underlying structure of the hive level, and nothing remained standing save the seemingly endless piles of rubble. Smears of blood and gore were strewn everywhere, like a kind of macabre painting. And throughout it all, I could hear noises of something moving.

    Searching.

    I had no desire to find out what it was searching for. I needed to find Harry and get somewhere I could lie low Immediately. This was a bad hand all around, no need to let the big boys get involved and have them twig to his presence.

    Fuck, me and my mental monologuing. I Gotta MOVE.

    I climbed out of the ditch, managing to keep my balance as I moved about on the very large (and unstable) piles of debris that used to be buildings. My objectives were twofold: Find Harry, and Return to base and decide from there. Potential secondary objective is to find the woman that rode the storm out with us. With luck, I can convince her to not turn me over to the witch hunters that were no doubt coming.

    Right now, though, all I saw was ruin. How the hell was I supposed to find anything in this mess? I would try to sniff out Harry with literal smell, but even with my enhanced nose, there’s too much blood spattered around for me to really get anything. And the woman, I had no clue of how she smelled whatsoever. Hearing was similarly out unless Harry was awake and stable now instead of whatever coma-like state he hit during the attack.

    ...Fuck. These were the exact type of situation that Thoth was best at. And I had jack and shit.

    I idly ran a hand over my Amiga orb as I thought of a way to quickly run a large search grid. Magic was right out, as I barely had any mana left as it was, and would need all that I could get as a just-in-case measure. Psionics? Maybe, but I was woefully untrained at those, and would likely do more harm than good. Originium Arts were looking like the best bet, but in that came the issue of me not being sure just how long my body could hold under the strain. As it was, the low-level healing field that I had started up to ease a bit of the pressure off wasn’t doing much if anything at all, meaning that there was some serious deep-tissue damage that was getting fixed up first,

    Sometimes I hated Healing Arts. They tended to prioritize stabilizing the patient and keeping them in the fight as walking wounded more than outright miracle heals like I was expecting. It was basically slightly supernatural Self-Aid and Buddy Care, for all the good it did, at least at my level. There was at least one stronger art that I was intentionally not using just because of the potential control issue involved in using it on myself, which could be utterly disastrous without Thoth to clean up for my messes, but even that would have only been a way to fix the worst of it, not do a lightspeed heal of the whole shebang. Again, this was more my lack of experience coming back to bite me in the ass, something which I was going to have to rectify as quickly as possible LATER.

    Right now I needed to focus and not get sidetracked in my own thoughts like just now. Now what was I doing?

    Oh, right. Looking for Harry. Options were down to O.Arts and I had jack and shit that could work for the setup.

    Fuck it, then. Mark One Eyeballs it is.






    My impromptu search grid was getting me a whole lot of nothing so far, with the noted exception of the grisly remains of the victims of this nightmare, which were spread rather liberally across everything that I could see. The smell was getting really bad, too, and far faster than what should be normal for decay of this nature, too. Warp-related? I had no desire to find out.

    Something moved out of the corner of my vision, and I focused on it as the...okay, what the hell is that?

    It looked like some kind of shambling mass of some sort, rife with odd pustules and pus everywhere...and was that some kind of fungus? The hell? At least there was a face of sorts in that mess, even if it was kind of hard to make out.

    Alright, Definitely warp related. Which one was it that pulled shit like this?

    The Shambler (which is what I would be calling them for now) towards me with a look of murderous intent, and surged towards me with a speed that I would not have thought possible from such a being.

    Unfortunately, I had no time for the games, and no reason to play around with chaos spawn. I deliberately flew upwards, out of reach from the thing, and began plotting my next move.

    ...Or I was until a tentacle slashed by where my head used to be.

    The Plaguefather has need of your services, mortal. Worry not, for all are equal in his embrace.”

    Oh HELL no.

    Fucking NURGLE?!? And after me personally?

    Nope, not happening.

    “Sorry, but I believe that I will decline that offer.”

    Another tentacle joined the first as I began a shockingly intense session of “don’t die”. This thing was good, damn it...needed to disengage somehow.

    Wait. I could use some really basic Caster arts and mix it in with my weird light property, couldn’t I? If nothing else, it gave me a ranged option against this thing. And while my control was not the best, I was second only to a freaking Draco in terms of power.

    “However, I do have a counter-offer.” An orb of power gathered in my hands, bled through with a shining, almost golden light. The Shambler visibly flinched at even the sight of it, and I smirked in response.

    “Super special offer, here, for the healing of all those nasty diseases and such. The Doctor Prescribes…” and here, I raised the orb above my head, “a lot of SUN!!”

    My newly dubbed sunlight orb hit with all the force of a Mack truck, knocking the Shambler completely ass over teakettle in the process. The screams of agony it was letting out were equally pleasing to me, though I didn’t waste any time hanging around to find out how bad the reaction was. Instead, I beat feet with the quickness.

    This, people, is why you train even your lowliest abilities whenever possible. You never know what use you might have for it when the time comes.

    Speaking of which, what the hell was that odd depression over there?

    I touched down practically on top of the weird bowl carved almost horizontally out of the debris stack in this area. A quick look over confirmed that this...really should NOT be stable. At all. I would need to investigate and leave as quickly as possible, preferably without disturbing anything…

    So hovering it is.

    My incredibly brief search bore fruit almost immediately, in the form of a crumpled body stuck in an odd alcove that was somehow still intact in all the mess. More surprisingly to me, I could hear both breathing and a heartbeat, although there was something mechanical-sounding as well mixed in. Checking closer, I found that it was actually the same woman from before, and in a pretty bad state no less. It was nothing that I couldn’t fix, at least from first glance, but if she was anywhere near as bad off as I was, then she’s probably critical right now.

    I carefully lifted her out of the small alcove she was stuck in, and wrapped her up with one of my tails as an idle thought as I considered my next action.

    ...wait a minute.

    I glanced down at myself again, this time actually paying attention, and sure enough, my regular disguise was fucked, the belt that was used to hide my tails destroyed. Well, it’s not like it’s that big of a deal anymore, what with a literal chaos spawn running around the hive proper. I ran a hand over my head, just to make sure, and to my relief my hat was still there. So there was that much, at least.

    Anyway, back to business. I placed my erstwhile passenger on my back, and secured her there with my now freed appendages before getting a move on. I still had to find Harry and get the fuck out of this place, and the sooner I did so, the better. I had no allusions that the fucking Nurgle spawn was the only daemon running about, and the genestealers were still a threat even before all of this. With the mess we have now? They were likely to make a move in a BIG way...and I did not want to be in the open when that happened.

    At this point I had helped enough to make use of some physical boosting O.Arts (My new shorthand for Originium based/boosted arts; this was subject to change if needed) that I knew without killing myself in the process. Activating them with a bit of focus, I returned to the task at hand with now enhanced senses.

    I almost wished I hadn’t. The smell of rot was everywhere, seeming to choke out everything in reach. It was only a small area surrounding myself that seemed to have a “clear” smell to it, and even that was tainted by the equal smells of spilt blood, wrecked buildings, and the various smells of a once active industrial sector. Hearing didn’t do much better, as the very air carried the sounds of “rot” and “decay” somehow. It was actually quite ridiculous how entrenched this shit was.

    And It had me asking a question: how the fuck did anyone miss this happening? This was a MAJOR incursion here, from the feel alone. How the hell did it get set up under everyone’s noses?

    Oh. right.

    The same way that shit like this gets set up all the time, along with the genestealer infestation. No one at the top cares outside of what it would do to their personal power...meaning that by the time someone was willing to act on the threat, it was usually too late to do anything but grant mercy to the survivors.

    There was something odd about this, though.

    My knowledge of the four was general and largely came from 40k memes than anything else, but the basics were clear. The storm of blood and slaughter is more the work of Khorne, but I’m out here in a field choked in rot. This makes no sense, at all. Were they working together? And if so, for what? I sure as hell was not in the mix for this until it actually started, so what the fuck?

    Ugh. this is not good. If two of them were willing to work together on a project like this, then there is a possibility that the others are in on it as well. I need to stay vigilant.

    It wasn’t but five minutes of searching later that I found Harry, half-buried under the rubble of an old shack, solely from the thrumming sound of the prosthetics I had installed earlier. Getting him clear of the mess was easy, and from the looks of it he had somehow managed to avoid the worst of the mess, unlike myself (and I was STILL healing, even now).

    The problem was that something was still attacking his mind, if the grimace and twitching was any indication. If it was similar to whatever the hell the blackness was for me earlier, then it was going to keep him trapped there unless he could overpower it somehow...or he got help.

    I decided to cut out the middleman and just channeled as much light as possible into the general area, and tried to direct it at Harry. Unlike even my barebones psi abilities, I had absolutely ZERO experience at manipulating my mystical aura and attendant it’s powers like this, and there was much in the way of flailing as I tried to find a way to boost Harry’s resilience.

    Whether or not it worked was a moot point, because it was around that time that ANOTHER fucking Daemon decided to make itself known. This one was odd, though, looking like some kind of bird-thing and cloaked in blue robes of some kind. It stared at me with a mocking gaze that I clearly felt, even from here.

    “Well. the prey has decided to take the trap. Intriguing.”

    ...Okay, what? How does that even...whatever, I need to get out of here, NOW. I quickly formed another blast of energy--

    I have never seen ANYTHING move that fast in my life. EVER. One moment, it was staring at me, the next it was pinning me down with a clawed foot, my hand useless against my side.

    “No, no. None of that, morsel. You are far too clever to be allowed any form of advance.”

    I struggled to get free, to no avail. This thing was strong as fuck, and had me trapped good.

    “Yes, you are far too clever, and best removed before you do anything more clever. Enjoy eternity in theAAARRRRGGGG!!!”

    Yeah, it’s called improvising, dumbass. And you were literally right on top of me, thus free real estate to channel every scrap of power I could into hurting you.

    The daemon fell away from me with more agonized screams, clutching at itself in pain. I wasted no time in grabbing Harry and our mystery guest (who I finally got a decent look at just now, and I think those robes she’s wearing are red?) and getting the fuck out of dodge.

    As much as I wanted to try and help the people here, I could not do so if I was dead. And unfortunately, this zone was outside of my current power to affect.

    It sucked, having to retreat from a loss, but it was better than dying for honor and dooming those left behind. Besides, I had some toys I could pull out back in the workshop that could be useful, and if nothing else, those spaceships were an option to just get the hell out of dodge.

    But here? Now? Staying in this mess was suicide, and I had no intention of killing myself or my charges.

    Now to get out without calling down every fucking daemon in the zone…






    Well fuck. Getting out of here is going to be even harder than I thought.

    I tried flying at my current top speed to the nearest exit point, or at least to a place that wasn’t devastated by the chaotic psyker.

    The Daemons (and there were several of the fuckers, including the ones I had run into) pounced on me almost immediately, and I was forced back to the ground in an evasion pattern.

    Going for the side tunnels was equally out, with many of the entrances being cut off by massive piles of rubble, and my last attempt at shifting those brought bird boy back into the fray. I had to invent a form of magic missile with O.Arts in order to drive him off, but I was certain that this would not last much longer.

    The plus side was that Harry seemed to be winning his battle with the thing in his head, as the grimace had lessened considerably. If not for me trying to dodge the daemons everywhere, I would see about helping him out, but every time I tried, I got jumped almost immediately.

    It was almost as if they were trying to prevent me from helping...FUCK.

    That wasn’t Harry winning, that was him losing. And the daemons were keeping me occupied, so I didn’t see it until it was too late.

    Yeah, FUCK THAT.

    I set Harry and the Currently dubbed Red Woman down, and focused myself. I didn’t know how much time I had left, but I would make the most of it.

    A ball of light appeared in between my cupped hands as I focused more, and brought out my other powers.

    The sound of shifting debris announced the arrival of our usual troublemakers as they came back in for another run. Too bad for them.

    The light I was holding was like a miniature sun at this point.

    The blue bird daemon, hereby christened Birdy, made his usual move o disrupt me, utilizing his blinding speed.

    Sorry, Birdy. you’re too late.

    A vicious smile spread across my face as I held the awesome power in my hand...and immediately detonated it.

    I may have thrown in a taunting shout as well, something along the likes of a certain solar boy.

    The result, however, was exactly what I had wanted.

    The daemons were thrown back in agonizing pain as the light scoured at them, burning away the taint inherent in their being.

    The surrounding gloom and “rot” were dispersed and brutally purged as the energy wiped clean the mere fact of the taint.

    and, most importantly, the until-now unseen aura of darkness (and was that pink?) that surrounded Harry shattered like glass under the sheer power, especially with it being nearly at ground zero.

    Surprisingly, the light was absorbed by the Red Woman, and an odd sense of familiarity came over me as I watched it. Weird, but I’ll deal with that later.

    Harry jerked awake with a yelp, quickly scrambling to his feet and placing his back against a wall. His wide eyes searched wildly around the area, seeing everything and nothing as his panic attack rode out it’s course...before finally narrowing slightly and settling on me.

    “Welcome back to the land of the waking, Harry. You enjoy your nap?”

    Harry’s plasma cannon arm was fully formed and directly in my face within a mere half a second. I didn’t even bother with the gesture of flinching.

    “What in the emperor’s name are you?” Harry spat. “What kind of scion of run are you to bring this down on us?”

    “The kind that is pissed off at the four. The kind that has been getting chased by daemons all fucking day.” I hissed back. “The kind--”

    The Shambler rushed out at us, clearly intent on taking my life in a wild charge. I didn’t even bother paying the fucker any attention as I sliced it apart with contemptuous ease. “--that is fucking tired of these motherfucking daemons in this motherfucking HIVE!!”

    Harry just stood there with a look of absolute shock on his face as I almost casually bisected a daemon in front of him. For my part, I didn't notice the softly glowing claws of psionic energy that had surrounded my hands until the remains of the Shambler tried to come back and I shredded them even finer for the trouble. Even then, I didn’t let it get in the way of my arguments.

    “As you can see, we have some fucking ISSUES here that need to be addressed, preferably by someone other than me. I’m wiped out, and I have no clue how many of those daemons there are hanging around. So, if you are quite fucking DONE being paranoid, AGAIN, then can we please get the fuck out of here?”

    Oh no. I wasn’t mad at the situation. Not at all.

    Harry held the plasma cannon to my head a little linger, then dropped it with a snort. “Figures you of all people would have the blessings…” He was technically muttering this under his breath, but, well, ears. “Alright then, let’s get a move on. You got a better plan than “other than here?”

    I shook my head even as I picked up the red woman again, re-wrapping her in my tails after settling her on my back. “I’ve been TRYING, but the fucking daemons keep playing grox herder whenever I make a move. With you up and mobile, this might change a bit, but as far as I know we’re stuck unless we find a way deeper...and I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”

    Harry muttered a curse under his breath even as he started scanning the surrounding piles of debris. “And the woman? From the robes, I’d say she was Mechanicus. You know anything on her?”

    I was scanning the debris as well, and after considering for a moment, I chose a direction that I thought would help and started off, with Harry following. I spoke up after we were moving. “Nothing. She was clinging to me during the storm event, and managed to be within the protective shield that I put up when it was all going down. All I know is that she seems...familiar somehow.”

    “Tch. so much for easy comms. She could have gotten a message out of here for help.”

    That caught my attention. “Wait, she could have? How?”

    Harry was rather brief on the explanation. “The Implants. They have their own communication system, the Mechanicus, and the higher members of the order are almost always in contact if possible. If nothing else, we could have gotten a report out.”

    I considered it for a brief moment. I had completely forgotten about that particular ability, one that came to me when I had gained the Enemy Tech Progression powers. I was near-constantly connected to a datanet of come kind, even if I suppressed it for the most part. This included the AdMech Noosphere, which I had left alone out of a combination of fear of retribution and respect for the organization. But if poking that bear was what it took to get some actual response down here, then so be it.

    But first, its bad form to keep allies in the dark, especially when it is unnecessary.

    “I might have a way to punch through a message. Gimme a bit.”

    I had expected harry to be looking at me in some kind of shock or something, but instead he had a look of resignation on his face, as if he had fully expected that I would be ale to just hack the fucking Mechanicus NOOSPHERE just because I can.

    By god, I think he’s beginning to believe.

    In any case, I needed to find a signal...which there normally would be one, but due to the clusterfuck there was some very understandable interference happening. Getting to the Planetary datanet was basically a wash.

    The Noosphere was swarming with activity, though, even with my connection being so far “out” from the node. The various agents of the Mechanicus were bustling around in an agitated mess, and scanning a few of the info codes, once I’d figured out how, revealed why.

    Apparently, the upper management knew that SOMETHING had gone wrong with the scheduled extermination mission by the witch hunters, and they were dispatching forces to assess the damage. The Mechanicus was mobilizing its senior engineseers as part of the hive systems repair task force, with the objective of rebuilding that level to a point where structural integrity was not threatened, and the industries of war that drove Hive Primus could continue.

    I personally had no clue how to interject into that, especially since from the datatags in the various clouds roiling around the people here, they were doing what they could until the heavy hitters got ready to come in and level the place. As in, the Imperial Fists were being deployed to this area. ETA currently unknown.

    I decided to throw a single message out into the open with a group of what looked like engineseers, the message being both simple and to the point, detailing the situation, the events that had happened, and the fact that there was a daemonic incursion in progress.

    Hey, best I could do under these circumstances. At least now they knew what was going on...and would probably send Skiitari after the unauthorized person in the Noosphere as an accused Heretek. No matter.

    “Alright, mission complete. Let’s get the fuck outta here before we get flattened by something new I haven’t seen yet.”

    Harry nodded. “Alright, and I think I have a plan to get us at least into a safer zone than we’re in…”






    As much as it sucked, we had to go deeper into the underhive to get around the bullshit. How the hell harry knew that shortcut was there I have no idea, but we managed to use it, collapse it, and get clear before any more of the uglies could put in an appearance…

    Only to run smack dab into a group of chaos cultists who were having a field day. And were very much not up for negotiations to let us pass.

    Another cultist was blown away by Harry’s plasma cannon as I darted around the battlefield as a lite version of a murder blender, severing limbs and heads as I zoomed around the underground chamber that we were in. O.Arts were proving to be quite useful as a general purpose booster for a lot of things, and Harry was his usual disgustingly good shot, but now with a weapon worth the effort. My weird psionic claws had been joined by a set of psionic blades on and around my tails after I figured out what was going on with the setup, and I suspected that I could enhance my bites as well if it came to that, which I dearly hoped it would not.

    Our third had yet to awaken for reasons unknown to either of us, but we were not complaining too loudly at the moment, instead focusing on getting clear of the incoming purge strike that was going to cleanse the area of daemon taint.

    Our general objective was to get to an old House Delaque safehouse here in the underlevels, and use that to reorient ourselves and plan further ahead. I would also like to figure out exactly what the hell had knocked Thoth offline, so I could help remove that particular weakness as quickly as possible.

    Harry was busy sweeping the room as I focused myself once more, using a small portion of my regenerating mana to “pulse” outwards as a crude form of auspex. I found nothing, and reported as such.

    “Well, then, seems like we’re shaking them a bit, at least.” Harry quipped, and I didn’t blame him for the bit of sarcasm in his voice. This was the twenty-eighth group already, and they were, until now, showing no signs of slowing down. It had the both of us wondering just where the hell they were coming from...and why they had chosen now to reveal themselves.

    “Seems like it, anyway.” I quipped back. “You got a better read on our path to that safehouse yet?”

    “not...quite. “ was Harry’s response. “The paths here...a lot of them collapsed during the storm up top, what with all the shaking and such. The few stable tunnels are almost surely to be watched, and we are, even with your rather prodigious skills, not suited for a direct engagement right now.”

    He had a point, as loath as I was to admit it. We didn’t have the gear needed to break any kind of barricade that would get put up on the better paths, and I didn’t have the tools I needed to actually repair the stuff we would need to get the gear to do so. It was a nasty little spot, but we were making do.

    “Don’t sell yourself short, Harry. I’m not the one that they’re hiding from.”

    Harry chuckled, darkly. “Well, let’s say I have a bit of frustration to work out, eh?”

    Yeah, I could Definitely see that.

    I mentally ran through what was left of my loadout. The Amiga was in surprisingly good condition, having somehow taken the beatings I’d thrown at it and come back stronger for it...and I couldn’t use it beyond defense because of my mana being tied up elsewhere.

    Similarly, both of my omnitools were in relatively good condition, or at least were serviceable, but the advanced functions of each had been disabled by an emergency override from Thoth just before whatever that error was hit him. I’d tried bypassing it and had ZERO luck, as the encryption key was specifically set to require a bonded valkyrie core to unlock. So for now, both of them were advanced holocomputers and medigel dispensers. Hell, I couldn’t even access the omniblade, and that was saying a LOT.

    Everything else that wasn’t in Thoth’s storage space was just gone. Even the damned Hellpistol that I’d modded. I had another one, but it was the principle of the matter, dammit.

    Harry was better in that he had the built-in weapons of his prosthetics, and damned good ones at that. The issue was more that he lacked in any real defensive options, as he hadn’t really gotten used to his gear just yet and could not pull out all the options available to him.

    We were still badasses, but we were also in a very tight bind. It didn’t help that our AdMech tag along refused to wake, but was siphoning off my mana for some reason, and did so even faster if I added in my light-aspect to it. I suspected it was related to her fighting off a daemon of sorts, but somehow I knew this was not the case at all...weird. But that was where most of my mana was going, meaning that I had to time my usage of even the mage barrier lest I endanger the one life we had managed to save in this madness.

    “Found the way. Looks like this one is going a bit further down...older shaft. Watch your step.” Harry’s voice carried from the corner he had been inspecting just now, and he waved me over.

    I took a moment to look down, and try to figure out just where the hell we were going, but so far, nothing. At least we were getting away from the cultist territory for the moment, and definitely out of the daemon kill box.

    The bottom of the access shaft was an open cavern, with oddly breathable air for being at or below surface level in the hive. Usually this low you need a filter mask, but somehow the paths we were on stayed breathable. Might be due to the lack of use...who knows.

    From what I could see with my enhanced eyes, the way was clear. I waved Harry over as I used a telekinesis art to pull Red down the shaft. Usually if there was an ambush planned, they would happen about now…







    Oh thank god.

    I was getting tired of those happening like clockwork.

    “The cavern here should run for about two, two-five kilos until we get to an access point near where the safehouse is at.” Harry spoke, guiding us on to the correct path. ”With any luck we should be able to make it within the next three hours.”

    “Here’s hoping,” I replied. “At least then we can try and hunker down and see what the winds are...I do not like having my ass swinging in the breeze like this, dammit.”

    We traveled in silence for the most part, both of us heavily on edge for anything that might trigger the avalanche once more upon us. Fortunately, nothing happened along the way until we were about two-thirds of the way there, when I managed to somehow trip over my own fucking feet and plow straight into a secret room of some sort.

    “Ugh...my freaking head.” I moaned, and with good reason. That fucking HURT, dammit!!

    “Huh. interesting. This place was never on any of the maps. I think we managed to find one of the old treasure troves, My friend.”

    I blinked. “Wait. You mean there’s old-school literal pirates treasure type bullshit going on here?”

    “Harry, by now, had one of his more or less trademark smug looks on. “Something like that, anyway. Might as well check what you managed to find”

    The cavern here was significantly smaller and filled to the brim with stuff that looked interesting. VERY interesting.

    Picking up what looked like a weapon of some sort, I examined it closely, trying to figure out what the hell it was.

    Wit, there as an engraving here. I ran my fingers over it slowly, trying to get a clear picture of what it said in the dim light.

    “...Aether pattern Volkite pistol, model 7, mark two. Manufacture 551.m24”

    Holy fuck.

    Was this a legit Dark Age of Technology cache?

    I made a deliberate motion of checking the pistol for a safety, and then carefully aiming it at a wall that wasn’t important to anything...and then fired.

    The noise was odd and startled Harry a bit, who was over near something else and taking notes with what was left of small notebooks. He floated over to examine my find.

    “Huh. a volkite pistol? Those are extremely rare, I’m sure the Mechanicus will give you a good sum for it.”

    “Honestly? I'm not sure I’m in the mood to let them have it.” and my response to Harry’s question was the truth. I wasn’t really sure if I just wanted to let them just do as they pleased, if for no other reason than because I suspected that what would happen is that the Mechanicus would just hoard the weapons for themselves instead of trying to produce new ones...and I’m not sure if there was a good reason for them to do that.

    Something I would have to ask about later on.

    The continuing search within the alcove found something even more incredible: if what we were looking at was right, this was a legit, no shit Standard Template Construct. And from the looks of it, it was in damned near perfect condition.

    You fuckers are SO lucky Thoth is down right now…

    Harry said nothing, knowing full well that other matters took priority over even this treasure trove. He simply moved back to the “front” of the chamber, guarding our exit with a volkite rifle that he managed to find, and a few power cells to help.

    I, however, moved around to the back of the chamber to explore more before we had to leave. And there was an odd statue thing back here, positioned in such a way to be sitting with its back almost connecting to the wall behind.

    It was about maybe a full half again as I was while I was standing, and the hands were positioned as if it was trying to hold something. In fact, I thought I saw an odd glow from those hands…

    Intrigued, I moved in closer, climbing a bit until I was finally standing in the hands themselves, where something looked like it was just...there. I tried to touch it...and nothing. Oh well…

    [ERROR: UNKNOWN INTRUSION ATTEMPT. COUNTERING

    Wait, that was Thoth’ When--

    {Error: unknown information database downloaded to memory. File types unknown, Secondary data package is self-extracting...attempting to terminate...cannot terminate]

    What the hell? What is so good that it can just straight rootkit an active valkyrie core?

    [Error: unknown data installed to core kernel. Analyzing...analysis of data failed. Systems check indicated that data is currently benign. Cross-checking with known databases...error. Invalid or unknown file type or file.]

    And now Thoth is fighting, and apparently losing, to whatever that data packet was. I was confused, and looked closer at the statue to try and figure out the mystery. Lessee, claws, boots...no swords, maybe an old spear over there...wait. That face...it's a…bird?

    The hell?

    A shot rings out through the cavern. I curse and run back to the entrance to cover our escape, before getting a move on. I would have to investigate the place later, if there was a later.






    Harry and I had managed to fight our way though the underlayers of the hive after that tussle where the scout teams caught up, and were currently on the last small trek towards the safe house. More importantly, we were back in civilization, or what passed for it down here. The people were harsh, mutants were surprisingly common, and the general Idea is that there is not much value in a life.

    At this point, we were in full fucking “armed and dangerous” mode. Staring down the people here with a look that dared them to try anything, anything at ALL, before we dropped them. It had the decency of ONLY being partially because of the neighborhood.

    The safe house, when we finally got to it, was tucked in an out-of-the-way corner in a spot that most people would never think to check, and the rest would never bother with at all. The exterior had everything it needed to blend in with the environment: run down, seedy-looking, and generally in a poor state.

    The inside was a different story, being in good repair and well -stocked, if minimally furnished. We were probably going to be sharing beds for a bit.

    “Alright, we’re here. Finally. So, mind explaining what the hell is going on that I’m a giant weirdness magnet, Harry? This shit is getting old.” My voice reflected just how DONE I was with it all, too. I needed to actually relax for a moment.

    “We should be alright here, unless someone or something made a point of being an asshole.” Harry replied after a moment of thought. “That being said, we might want to have a plan for getting the hell out of dodge soonest, just in case.”

    As usual, Harry had sound advice.

    A sudden sensation of my mana returning to be caught my attention, and I looked over to one of the cots that we’d set up, where Red was laying. Seemed she’d stopped pulling mana from me for the time being. Did that mean she was about to…

    With a groan, the woman moved and slowly stirred herself to wakefulness.

    “Where...where am I?”

    I decided to answer. “Currently? You’re in the underhive, in an old Delaque safe house.” I paused for a moment to let that sink in. “we managed to fight our way clear with you after the storm. As far as either of us know, we are the only survivors.”

    The woman grimaced at the reminder of the hellstorm, before turning to me.

    “Thank you, for protecting me from that nightmare.” Her voice had a kind of...perkiness to it that contrasted with its huskiness. It was a really pleasant sound, I thought.

    She continued on without so much as a care. “My name is Miolala Granliss. I am an Engineseer with the Adeptus Mechanicus, currently on explorator duty. And I believe,” and here she stood, and walked towards me, “I have found what I’ve been looking for.”

    I blinked.

    Then I turned and started walking towards the door. There was a keyhole on it thanks to a quick mod from myself, and I entered the workshop with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever. The part that confirmed my suspicion was when this Miolala person followed without any issue whatsoever, with Harry bringing up the rear.

    She laughed softly, that itself a warm and welcome sound after all that had happened today.

    “Honestly, I had expected it to be a bit...bigger.”

    Dammit. That was a connection I felt between us. Guess she’s a part of this mess now too. Now, then, I just need to--

    A near flood of green rushed outwards from the hangar area, and quickly presented themselves in a very neat row for inspection, each one decked out in something with an old-time space decal on it.

    They were short, green, and cute.

    Harry started shooting almost immediately.

    Miolala just laughed.

    I merely facepalmed as the Kerbals started dodging around Harry’s Plasma fire like it was a game.

    Well, I could have been worse. They could actually be getting hurt right now….






    This chapter just did not want to end for some reason. I managed to squeeze in an ending here, though.

    As a special note, this is the first chapter where I have intentionally placed a perk that has not been rolled up yet as part of the story itself. I’m trying to not do it often, even though I have laid the seed for the second to happen later on.

    As for the Kerbals...they have been described by some of the Discord guys as Orks with a space fetish instead of war. Besides, they think Harry is fun, anyway, and they just respawn back in after they die.

    Miolala Granliss - Engine-sister (Warhammer 40k - Adeptus Mechanicus) (100CP)
    Voluminous red robes cannot hide the curves beneath to this woman's eternal embarrassment. Friendly and perky in conversation to both man and machine, she is torn between her desire to be closer to the machine and her attachment to humanity. The possibly of a harmonious union between the two has inspired her to follow you. She has all 100, 200, and 400cp engineseer perks. She also has 'subtle bionics' 'artisan' and one pick of 'magos designation.'

    -They're Like Legos, Right? | This Is How I Want It (Kerbal Space Program) (600CP)
    They're Like Legos, Right? (200CP)
    There's robust engineering, and then there's modularity. Pick one. Except for you - you seem to have the gift of designing methods that allow for seamless mixing and matching of modular technology that lack none of the partsincompatibility and fragility you'd except from such a design paradigm. While this seems focused on Kerbin technology in specific, a little work should have you applying such a paradigm to all sorts of technologies…
    This Is How I Want It (400CP)
    Your capability of mentally designing items is vastly boosted. It's almost as if you have a mental idea space in the fashion of a construction bay with a lists of parts you have on hand that gives you an idea of what you can build at that moment... actually, that's pretty much what you have. As a bonus, you can mix and match parts in a manner roughly akin to legos, and giving you an idea of what would work and what wouldn't (and how much resources it would take to build). Mind, this doesn't mean that your mental creation will perform successfully, but it will function. As a final bonus, you can mentally hand-off the resultant creation to your Kerbals to build, and they'll do so without a mistake or screwup - meaning any snafu that results will be on your own head.

    This Is, Actually, Rocket Science (Free)
    You gain an instinctive grasp and understanding of Delta V and orbital mechanics.\

    Speak English, Dammit! (Free)
    You gain perfect understanding of Kerbals and the way they speak in thier burbling, whack-ass mix of swedish meatball chef... something. Conversely, you can pick this to have them all speak english.

    Some Old Friends (Free)
    Hey, what are you - wait a minute! How did you four get in here!? Oh, well. Looks like you're going to get some help in this jump, wether you want to, or no - Bill, Bob, Jebediah, and Valentina are all up and raring to go. As a bonus, all four come with the 'I Am A Pilot, Actually' perk for free.

    Espirit de Kerbal (Free)
    While you're going to have no end of volunteers of Kerbals to go into space(seriously, where the hell are they all coming from?), it's understandable that you're going to want a special group of Kerbals to count on in a pinch - an elite force you can trust to get the job done. Twenty Kerbals have stepped up to the plate to fill that role. This group of Kerbals doesn't seem to let mishaps keep them down; while crashes, explosions, and other shenanigans will, uh, result in Critical Kerbal Existence Failure, they'll pop back up in a week or so, right as rain and raring to go for another try. All 20 of these Kerbals will automatically gain whatever perk you purchase in this jump from the Pilot, Engineer, and Scientist perk tree - Drop-In, however, doesn't count for this.
     
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 10
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    Late chapter is exceptionally late.

    I will be attempting to get a chapter out for this week as well, but don't expect it tomorrow. More like saturday-ish. After that, I will be back on normal schedule.

    The usual suspects are responsible for help here. You know who you are.



    Currently, my life was interesting, in the Chinese sense.

    I was fresh out of a direct attempt by the warp tumors to remove me from the board, even if it was born from an unexpected opportunity. I had a very odd new companion in the form of Miolala Granliss, who also just so happened to be a freaking engineseer, and a rather senior one at that, who was somehow connected to me on a level that I didn’t think was possible before now. Thoth, one of the few constants I’d had for a LONG time, was currently suffering from some kind of unknown debilitation.

    Oh, and I also had freaking Kerbals. Who were currently being shot at by one Harrisyn Cain, formerly of the Imperial Ecclesiarchy's Inquisition.

    Truly, this was some kind of punishment for all of this to come down at one time, was it not?

    I just sat there, watching for a few minutes as the comedy played out before me. In any other situation, it would be hilarious, and Miolala’s laughter made it clear that it was quite funny. But right now…

    “ENOUGH!!!”

    Yeah, I was kind of stressed out. Sue me.

    Surprisingly, it worked, mostly because everyone was looking at me in shock.

    “Alright, here is what is going to happen.” I began, a blatant edge of malice in my tone. “First, everyone here is going to sit the fuck down. Second, I am getting cleaned up. Third, I am Taking. A. Fucking. NAP. any other business can be attended to AFTER I wake up. I fully expect to see my workshop in good condition when that happens.

    “Any questions?” I expected to hear none whatsoever. My audience did not disappoint.

    “Alright then. I will see you when I wake up. I suggest cleaning yourselves up as well, when you get the chance.” And with that I immediately head off to the hangar, where a shower and a simple cot awaited. It would be MORE than enough.






    Miolala winced slightly at the outburst.

    Oh, she understood completely where he was coming from, and agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiments (she wanted to clean up too), but that tone was a bit...harsh.

    She suspected he had been faced with more than a few trials today, and they had worn on his nerves to the point he was irritable.

    Very well, then!

    She would have to just take care of the cleanup process while he rested. Of course, this meant that she would have to do a self-tour of the workshop space as well.

    Hm. all the better, as it would allow her to find a proper space for an altar to the Omnissiah.

    “Mister...Harry, was it?”

    Harry turned towards her with an odd expression on his face.

    “Harrisyn, please. Now, then, what can I do for one of the priests of Mars?” Harry asked, with only a small but of incredulity in his tone.

    Huh. at least he was polite about it. And he didn’t even ask why she was not panicking at the sights before her and declaring them all heretic for the bits of advanced technology visible even here, and the clearly Xeno things running around and being oddly cute.

    “Just a few explanations, if you do not mind.” She replied. No reason to be rude, after all.

    Harry looked at her, and shrugged. “Alright, fine. I’ll tell you what I know. Just don’t cry to me when you don’t believe it” with that, he stepped back into a relaxed pose and allowed his weapon to fold back into a proper arm.

    What surprised her about the motion was that the arm did not look out of place at all, or even like it was an artificial arm.

    Curious. She was unaware that prosthetics could be made in such a way...but the Imperium had lost much during old night. Knowledge the likes of which it had yet to re-learn.

    But it would, she thought. All that, and more, would be restored to us, given time.

    But that was in the future, a distant dawn that had yet to break, for its champions had yet to earn it. Instead, she turned her thoughts back to Harry.

    “So then, how did you end up in our friend’s wake, then?” She asked. “It’s not everyday one gets called to serve one such as him.”

    She watched as Harry blinked, before an odd look crossed his face. “Well, I kind of found him when he first got here, really. The rest is just us doing the standard hive thing.” He shuffled around a bit, before finding an old chair in a corner and plopping down with a sigh. “So then, lady Granliss. What brings you to our neck of the woods, eh?”

    To any other, the question would have been the picture of innocence, with no duplicity at all in any form attached.

    To her, it was an open book, the intent clear as day.

    She smirked. This was going to be fun, after all.






    My sleep was filled with weird dreams.

    Strange, formless things stalked through my mind, each seeking to gain some form of purchase as I drifted through an endless void. All failed to gain traction as my light shined on them and repulsed their efforts. All the while, I floated aimlessly, seemingly in no direction at all, but somehow I knew that I would reach my proper destination soon.

    An unknown span of not-time later, my hunch was proved correct as I came to behold what looked like an older-looking man sitting in front of a seemingly endless lake, and randomly chucking stones.

    I settled in next to him, waiting patiently as he continued his strange task. I took a moment to look outward at the lake, seeing the countless shining stones beneath its surface. If I looked loosely enough, I could almost interpret that as being a representation of the galaxy itself.

    The Man threw another stone outward into the lake. I noticed that it seemed to be a faded gold in color. The Stone seemed to strike against one particular rock, shuffling it into an unknowable position, and the man went back to watching.

    I stayed silent and patient. I had an idea of whom this person might be, and had no reason to engage him at this time. Instead, I focused inward, on my own powers, and began practicing with them.

    I wasn’t sure how long this continued, but eventually the old man spoke. “So, you intend to just sit there?”

    I smirked through my own meditation, having completed a difficult experiment involving blending my various powers. “Of course. It’s my dream, Adam. or is it Revelation? The fandom could never get that name right.” I snarked at him.

    “Neither, actually,” the God Emperor replied. “But Adam is fine if you wish to address me.”

    I sighed openly. “Power games already? When you’re in MY dream? Come on Emps. you have to be able to do better than this.”

    “I did, actually. Have you considered why you are here?”

    “Several times, in fact.” I shot back. “Too bad none of the actual theories are testable right now, or I’d be in hog heaven. I know for a fact you aren’t involved, so don’t bather with the attempt at the mindgame. Just state your business, and we can get this over with.”

    The Emperor chuckled. “You may believe as you wish. As for your task--”

    “Request, Emps. you do not task me with SHIT.”

    “As for your Task, you are to fight your way to Terra, and use your abilities to restore me to my power.” He said, the words seeming to echo all around us. “You will do so with all haste, and to the exclusion of all other activities.”

    I listened as he spoke, and once completed, did the only thing I was capable of at that moment.

    I laughed.

    I laughed long and hard, and the Emperor watched me the whole time.

    I finally stopped at the look in his face. “...oh wait. You’re serious, aren’t you?”

    I stood up from where I had been sitting next to the pond. “Hold on for a second.”

    I saw the Emperor give a subtle smirk, even as he continued watching me.

    “Let me laugh even harder.

    And I got to watch in real time as the smuggest look ever got wiped off of the face of the God Emperor of Mankind as I violated his will to his face. It was absolutely priceless, that expression.

    “You...you DARE!! Do you not know what is at stake here?” he all but shouted at me.

    I slowed my laughing to a light chuckle. “Of course I do. The four tumors are trying to kill me, The Eldar are useless until they aren't, the Necrons are waking up and have a massive hate boner on us for being here.

    “The Orks are going to Ork, whether anyone likes it or not. And everyone else is munching at table scraps, all while your Imperium rots away from the inside out because you were a dumbass. Let me know if I missed something. Ok?”

    The Emperor now had a look of absolute fury on his face. “You utter fool. Fine. I had wished for you to come to me by choice...but now it seems that I must force you to come to me instead.” And with that he pulled.

    And I didn’t care. At ALL.

    The Emperor just pulled harder.

    I laughed harder.

    I’m not sure when he finally gave up, but that time came soon enough. I turned my head to him again. “Had enough fun yet? Or have you figured out that I am not one of your pawns in this game?”

    The Emperor’s face remained sullen.

    “Thought so. Now then, here’s what I am going to do.”

    I lifted a hand and placed it on his shoulder.

    “I’m going to give you a bit of SUN.”

    The light filled my dreamscape. As did the screams. And I refused to let go the entire time, even as the entity that claimed itself to be the Anathema to Chaos BURNED under my grip, until there as naught but ashes left.

    I released the small remaining scraps of fabric that were within my clenched fist in disgust and frustration.

    “Now let me fucking sleep, you damned impostor. Besides, you’re the third one tonight.”






    Miolala dragged herself into a bathroom after her rather enlightening conversation with Harry. The man was loyal to a fault, especially to those he considered friends, and had grilled her near endlessly, in an attempt to discern her intentions towards HIM.

    Much to his credit.

    The man acted like he was the standard Inquisitor, of course: cold, calculating, and ever on the lookout for Heresy to stamp out. But she was able to see beneath, to the concern he had over the safety of his friend.

    He is fighting a losing battle against himself and his delusions. That poor man.

    Oh, she wished that she could help him, she really did. But Harry was a very closed person, and had no trust in her just yet. Hell, she was surprised that he allowed her time alone to clean up.

    After stripping down, Mio looked at herself in the mirror. The same features as always reflected back; Chocolate colored skin, broken up to her knowing eye only by the few high-quality implants she had, each subtly installed in a way that hid them from all but the most observant eye; the same platinum silver hair, that she normally allowed to reach her buttocks. Her one remaining flesh eye was a striking purple color, a remnant of her family, while her “proper” eye glowed a faint green as it recalibrated itself. Her few mechadendrites extended themselves from the hidden sheathes along her back and legs, and got to work, performing the simple task of cleansing her of the dirt and filth of her recent excursion.

    It seemed odd, still, that she was actually here. Never in her century-plus of life had she expected to find her new master so quickly. Hell, the mere OFFER that was given to her was almost too good to be true. But here she was, within the workspace of her master, and after he had saved her from some mad psyker’s rampage no less.

    “It would seem that the Omnissiah blesses me still.” she spoke into the empty air.

    That even her, heretek that she was, could be within the favor of the Omnissiah so was quite humbling. That it allowed her to come ever closer to her true dream, that of a true, proper fusion between man and machine, was even better.

    “I will not waste this chance,” she swore to herself.

    Redressing in her undergarments and robes, she frowned at the outline presented to her in the mirror. Even with the loosest, most flowing robes possible, her figure was still shamefully on display for all to see. And she would have to present herself to her master like this?

    She shuddered in embarrassment at the thought, and quickly moved to shake it off.

    NO. I must be positive. Master will be able to see beyond my shame. I know it.

    With a smile on her face and an aura of cheer that was only partially faked, she finished her ablutions and returned to the main hangar.






    Harry managed to get in a quick shower in the hangar facilities while he contemplated the latest revelations.

    The part with Satori potentially being a mutant he tossed out almost immediately. It didn’t matter what he was right now. He was here anyway, and had, again, bailed him out when he had no obligation to do so.

    As much as he tried to deny it, he was Proud to call the man his friend.

    That left the issue of the Engineseer that had tagged along with them. Her story seemed legit enough, sure, but there were parts of it that were just...off, somehow. He was not fully vested into the matters of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but even he knew that her actions were...strange. That little slip she made after Satori went to catch a nap was all the more reason to dig deeper and try to suss out the truth. So far it had gained nothing, but he would find the truth one way or another.

    Now, those green things? the...Kerbals, Satori called them? They were just WEIRD. Completely obsessed with space and space travel, to the point where they would ignore practically everything else for the chance to work on their goal.

    Kinda like Orks, in a way, but much friendlier. They didn’t even have any hard feelings for him shooting at them, which he found both amusing and relieving.

    Double-checking himself in the mirror, he decided he was good to go, and stepped “outside.” The Kerbals were here, and doing some sort of experiment, from the looks of it. He moved closer to observe.

    “…Alright, we should have the wind calculations good and set now.” This was spoken by one of the small green things, a male of sorts that seemed to be in charge. “EVERYONE READY!?!” A chorus of agreement resounded from its companions. “ALRIGHTY THEN!!! READY TAKEOFF!!”

    A super-sleek aircraft rolled out of the hangar space at that point, and began moving towards a cleared area. The craft was surprisingly compact, until he realized that it was sized for these creatures and not for humans such as himself. He watched, curious, as the craft reached its destination, and then, with an odd warbling sound, lifted straight up into the air without any thrust of any kind.

    The cheers from the Kerbals echoed all around him, every last one giddy at the sight of the machine, which on closer inspection looked cobbled together, somehow manage to take to the skies…

    ...at least until the sudden *pop* of an explosion happened, and the machine dropped like a rock straight into the ground with a massive *CRASH*.

    Harry could only watch in stunned horror as the crew, some random one of the Kerbals in an orange flight suit, climbed out and gave a wave that it was okay...at which point the entire mass swarmed the wreckage and began dragging it back into the hangar.

    He couldn’t help it. He just started laughing uncontrollably, without stopping.






    I finally awoke about four hours later, and did a quick set of stretches to get the kinks out from having curled into myself. The damned daemons trying to get into my head didn’t help, although I did recognize the subtle call for help from the Emperor for what it was.

    Too bad, Golden boy. You're going to have to wait your turn, just like everyone else.

    I trekked down to the ground level of the hanger complex, and to the break room that was within. Surprisingly, there was activity here.

    The Kerbals were hanging around, chattering excitedly among themselves as they seemed to plan out some kind of project. I moved over to take a quick look and nearly did a spit take at what I saw.

    It was a full blueprint for an antigravity engine, complete with notes on modifications and...wait, were those TESTING NOTES?

    I reached over and grabbed the projected notes out of the air, the system giving me a copy to work with. One of the Kerbals looked up at me with a winning smile on her face, tinged with amusement, as I tore through the available data.

    And, as the saying goes, the numbers never lie. The little bastards had actually done it. A completely novel antigravity engine, that was surprisingly fuel efficient for its weight and size, and could be easily manufactured using basic parts and materials. No exotic matter or heavy metals needed.

    Of course, powering the damned thing was a mess, and from the notes, where the failures happened during testing, but still…

    I looked up as one of the orange-suited Kerbals came forward, a look of concern on his face that matched the white lab coat he was wearing for some reason. Must be a scientist…

    “Good day, sir. Checking out the blueprints, I see?”

    I nodded absently as I continued my perusal of the design. Already I could see several areas of improvement that could be made...but a thought struck me just then.

    Question time. “Hey...err, never got you guys’ names…”

    “Bob Kerman, sir. More or less head scientist for this mission.”

    Huh. that was nice. “Alright then, Bob. I had a question about this setup you guys have here.”

    I paused solely for effect for the next question.

    “Just where in the HELL did you get the material for your test craft from?”

    Bob had the decency to wince at the question, but still responded. “There was a stash of stuff in that warehouse over there, sir. We used the spares to get set up with what we needed.”

    Warehouse? What warehouse?

    I immediately turned to look for anything looking like a warehouse, and quickly found it, or at least an entrance to it, to the side of the hangar. I immediately jogged over to investigate this new find.

    And hooo boy, I could have used this shit earlier.

    The warehouse was some kind of Resource generator, that basically contained raw materials of any kind that I would need, from common to rare, in usable quantities. From the quick sheet that was posted on the clipboard next to the door, it replenished itself of supplies every 24 hours, Earth time, and would make notes and references of any new materials I brought into it for stockpiling.

    My days of having to scrounge for raw materials was over. Would have been nice if I could have some spare parts, though…

    No matter. I could play with it later. The fun part was that the Kerbals had figured this out and went hog wild with building whatever they needed to test their various aerospace technologies.

    I glanced over my shoulder for just a moment, and beheld a team of kerbals (led by another of the Orange suited ones, this time with what looked like a Hard Hat. Something about it just screamed Engineer) futzing with what looked like one of the preciously few plasma weapons I had managed to scavenge, apparently trying to rig it as some kind of propulsion.

    Kerbals will be Kerbals, I guess…






    I managed to locate Miolala (or rather, she found me) while I was fixing up a quick breakfast. She seemed...morose for some reason. I decided to try and fix that.

    “So. why the long face?”

    The sudden jump she made was actually kinda cute.

    “Err...master! I didn’t expect--”

    “Nope.” I interrupted. “None of that. I am not your Master, not in any way that the word could be used. I will, however, be more than happy to be your teacher.” I smiled, despite having the local equivalent of a pop-tart in my mouth. (They didn’t taste all that good anyway, but it was fast.)

    “Now, then, I believe we got off on the wrong foot yesterday.” I held out my hand towards her, palm open. “My name is Satori Green. What’s yours?”

    She glanced down at my hand for a moment, her face with a look of utter incredulity on it...and then she started laughing.

    I could really get to like that laugh.

    “Fine, then.” she took my hand with her own. “My name is Miolala Granliss. Pleased to meet you...teacher.”

    I freely admit that her grin was utterly infectious.

    After laughing at ourselves for a bit, we sat down to actually talk

    “So then, I have to know. Why were you searching for me?” I asked.

    “It’s...complicated.” Miolala began. “What do you know of the inner workings of the Mechanicus?”

    Huh. it was like that? “Less than I want to, actually. This may have bitten me in the ass when I kind of hacked the noosphere to get a distress call out after the hellstorm…”

    “Then you know more than most do.” She shifted a bit in her seat before continuing. “Within the Mechanicus, there is a belief that the natural flesh of the body is weak and impure. The belief is that only the True Flesh, the blessings of the Machine God, are pure. It is considered both an honor and a duty to augment oneself with the True Flesh until you reach the point of union with the Machine God. Such is the will of the Omnissiah.

    “I, however, seek a different path. I found myself...disillusioned with the cause of replacing all of my self with nothing but cold and unfeeling metal. I seek a path towards a better, more holistic union between man and machine. My path, however, is one of Heresy…”

    “You consider yourself a Heretek for seeking a better path.” My response was...not unkind.

    A solemn nod was my only answer.

    “Well, then, your Mechanicus are a bunch of fools. There is always a better path, a better way forward. Perfection is an Ideal, not a goal.” the crazy part was that I actually believed that--and I also wanted to see if she would take the bait...

    Miolala frowned. “It still leaves me at odds with my own people. I am an exile, to be hunted down and killed for not following the ways of the Omnissiah. It is why, when I received the strange offer to serve one such as you, I made all haste to your side. I was supposed to have arrived in a place that would make it easier for you to approach me, but somehow I ended up in that horrific storm…” She shuddered at the memory. “I thought I would die before meeting you.”

    Hm. that’s interesting. Still leaves a question, though. “One more question: just how did you get her to Necromunda anyway? And what was this odd request that you received?”

    Miolala nodded before answering. “I was...teleported somehow. It was a very strange feeling, almost as if there was something gently holding me as I was carried off towards you. As for my offer...it was a kind of pop up in my eye, here.” She tapped her rather obvious bionic eye for emphasis, “and it was quite generous in terms, though it did say that I would need to discuss them with you first.”

    Double huh. This is getting interesting! “And what were those terms, exactly?”

    “That I would share in both your knowledge and power, as appropriate for one who would create wonders beyond the likes of anything seen before. That I would act as assistant to your greatness, and that in due time I would be offered the secrets of what I seek.”

    “Hm. I see no problems with that. And you seem alright as a person, too.” I smirked a bit before dropping my next line. “Easy on the eyes, too.” Miolala’s giggles were a welcome reply to my bit of humor.

    “But seriously, I have no issues other than one: are you sure you want to be here? As you can see, I’m kind of a trouble magnet. You sure you want in?”

    The woman nodded enthusiastically. “Yes! Of course yes! I would not have come if not for that!”

    I sighed, somewhat dramatically, but also in slight exasperation. She simply would not quit. Very well then.

    “Alright then, I can see I’m not convincing you otherwise. Welcome to the show.” with that, I took her hand, and activated a particular power that until now I had never wanted to use.

    The process happened so quickly that I almost missed it happening in the first place. One moment, there was Miolala, Veteran Engineseer, complete with the implants to prove it. The next, there was Miolala, shockingly attractive woman, whom if you never knew her you would never know that she was Mechanicus to begin with.

    For my part, I got the full details on every piece of tech that she had ever placed within her body. And there was quite a bit of it, some of which were downright works of fucking ART. It was almost painful to watch them get assimilated, but I knew that they could be remade, better, with naught but a little patience...not that she would need them, though. It also bumped up my still (relatively) rudimentary knowledge base of cybernetic augmentations and implants to a great degree.

    I did need to check something first, though. I brute-forced a connection to her new mental implants, and did a quick scan of the coding therein, looking for a specific piece of code. Much to my relief, I found it, completely disabled.

    Good. I was afraid for a moment that the forced loyalty coding was still intact. Nice to know that my disabling that part actually went through--

    My attention was suddenly yanked back to that same code by an unknown force. It was with a bit of confusion I realized that it was Miolala herself. I had my attention directed towards the loyalty code, and was fed with the impression of an impish grin combined with blatant smug satisfaction as she literally rebuilt the code and turned it back on.

    [I CHOSE to be here. You are not forcing yourself on me.]

    The message blazed in block letters across my vision as the coding took effect. Looking past the blatant obfuscation as best I could, it seemed that the loyalty code was actually doing things differently from what I knew of the original function--more reinforcing the ties and bonds being formed than creating new ones out of whole cloth, so to speak. It was actually quite fascinating to watch, even if I was only barely suppressing my near reflex reaction to the mere existence of such a thing.

    It was a seeming eternity before the process finished itself, even if objectively less than a second had passed, and I was released from the metaphorical grip of my new assistant. Mio gave me a warm smile, even as she gave herself a look over to see what had changed.

    I, on the other hand, had a very interesting alert pop up in my vision.

    {Miolala Granliss accepted as Assistant. Special provisions for primary assistant have activated. Akashic nexus active. Access to constellation abilities granted.}

    THAT was concerning to me. If I was reading this right, she had some kind of special link to the grand constellation that represented the forge itself, and was just given full access. I had no clue how this was going to play out but…

    “Hm. I would have thought there would be more...obvious parts to this.” Mio’s voice drags me out of my contemplation, and I look back at her in confusion.

    From what I can see, she’s fine. Sure, all the obvious implants are gone, but it’s not like she can’t just make newer, better ones anyway with my help.

    ...Wait a minute.

    “Mio, we might have a problem.” more like we definitely have a problem, and I only just now realized it.

    Mio looked up at me in confusion. “Not really seeing a downside to this, Master. Also, my diagnostics are coming back 100% clean. So why do we have a problem?”

    “Because you now have horns and a tail.”

    Mio blinked at my statement, and then slowly raised her hands up to her now fully manifested (and quite majestic) horns, protruding quite prominently from her head. The strong, lizardlike tail swayed behind her almost lazily as she felt around her new accessories, a subtle spark of power trailing along the tip.

    “So...how did this happen, exactly?” She asked. “Not that I’m complaining...much...but this is just a bit weird for me.”

    I shrugged, and waved my own tails behind me. “It’s a side effect of one of the abilities of the Forge. I personally just got used to it and moved on. Besides, it tends to have some form of compensation attached anyway. Kinda curious as to why you’re not sick, though…”

    “Sick? Why would I be sick? I feel GREAT!!” Mio exclaimed. “This is amazing! I’ve never felt better in my life!”

    I wasn’t convinced. At all. “Sure you are. Now, lets head over to my poor excuse for a medbay and get you checked up. I don’t want you getting a repeat of what I had to go through--”

    “Oh, you mean the Oripathy thing, right? No worries, I dealt with it already.” That grin never left her face at all.

    “...How the hell did you do that so fast? It took me HOURS to cobble together a workaround for that.” I wasn’t jealous. Not at all. And I definitely did not turn away to hide this.

    Mio was both unfooled and unrepentant. “Oh, I just used the notes you had tucked in your head from when it happened to you and adjusted accordingly. Speaking of which, we need to get you proper training in using your WHOLE body. You are leaving so much on the table in ability, it's almost sad.”

    Wait what?

    “Oh yeah, did I mention that the nice little loyalty code I modified allows me a backdoor into your head, blacked by the forge itself? Isn’t it cool? It’s two-way, of course, but since you suck at using your own skills...”

    ...So this is what it felt like to get owned by the Mechanicus, then.

    “Pretty much, yeah, just with more vindictiveness. I, on the other hand, am doing this for your own good. You have needed a stabilizing influence in your life for some time. I intend to be that influence, and you aren’t stopping me. Consider it payment for the goodies that you have given to me.”

    ...Great. What next?

    “You sure you want the answer to that question, boss?” I could feel the smirk she was wearing, without even having to look at her. And it was pissing me off to no end. I reached back through the connection, intent on wiping that smirk off her face--

    --and was met with the equivalent of an especially wet and sensuous kiss.

    “I am not above using those means as well to keep you cooled off, boss. Good job for actually doing stuff with your interfaces, though. We’ll practice more later.”

    Well, at least she was getting comfortable with me, judging by the shift to more casual speech.

    Speaking of which, she is a card-carrying member of the Mechanicus proper. Why the hell is she not going nuts over the new bits added to her self?

    Mio actually looked at me for this one. “Mostly because I have you here as a counterpoint for my panic. I know that you will accept me, I know that this is not a mutation or some kind of slide into corruption. And even with all the teachings and dogma entrenched in my life, and in the Imperium in general, I know that you would NEVER allow something harmful to befall me just for a quick gain.”

    That...was a lot of trust she was showing in me. “And why do you believe that?”

    “Because you did not leave me to die when I was dead weight out there in that mess.” she pointed towards the rough area of the hive where we came from as emphasis. “Nearly everyone else in this hellhole would have left me to the daemons.”

    “...So basically support network. Gotcha.” I nodded to myself. “In any case, you have some extra training to do to get used to your new form and the abilities it provides. For one, you are probably stronger than I am right now, both physically and in the Originium Arts as well. Gonna have to put you through a grinder to train that right...and I just so happen to have skills that will assist in getting you up to speed.” I made sure to plaster a downright malicious grin onto my face as I said this. There would be no escape nor mercy from my training. None at all.

    “Don’t get too cocky, Master. You have plenty of things that need ironing out yourself.” She quipped back, and her own matching grin appeared. “Don’t worry, though. I will be very thorough in your instruction.” She actually licked her lips in anticipation. “VERY thorough.”

    I really couldn’t help it at that point. I all but jumped out of my chair and dragged her onto the table proper, laid out within easy reach of me.

    She only grinned wider and stretched out. “Oooh. We’re starting already?”

    I barely held myself back from ravaging her right then and there. But I did eventually gain control of myself and pulled away from her, backing away from the table. I deliberately took deep breaths in an effort to calm myself down.

    This woman was going to kill me from stress, I knew it.

    “Nope. I will quite literally rape you before I allow that to happen.”

    My head snapped back to her so fast It was almost a blur.

    “Good. you are listening.” Mio’s words were deep, sultry, and laced with an immense amount of anger.

    Wait, what?

    “I TOLD you. I will not allow you to go off wild and off-balance. If that means that I have to seduce you until you break, then I will do so. And I know I will enjoy the consequences immensely.”

    She lifted herself off of the table with her tail, the entire movement deliberately made to put on display as much of her body as possible...a body that she was actually quite shy about, normally, if her memories were correct--wait, I did it again?

    “Yes, you did it again. And I will keep pushing you, so you do it more.” she slowly sauntered up to me, the motion little more than a standard walk but somehow transformed into the most sensual thing possible simply because SHE was doing it. How the hell?

    “And make no mistake: you WILL learn, one way or the other.” another of her bright smiles graced her face once more, in stark contrast to the sheer aura of menace that she was putting out, that was a direct result of my own stubbornness? Huh?

    “Yes. You are being stubborn. Fortunately, this is not critical, or I would be doing a lot more to you to get you to understand. As it is right now? I can just tease you all I want as a training aid. Eventually you will break, and you will properly claim what is yours, and solve two problems at once. Until then...suffer, as long as you wish.”

    And through the link we shared, I could feel that she meant it. Damn.

    “I do believe that you have projects to be working on, right? I’ll go ahead and set up a space for myself. When you’re ready to take proper care of yourself...you’ll know where to find me.

    And with that, she walked off towards the workshop area, likely to set up a shrine or something similar to the Omnissiah, as well as to mark out her own work space.

    And I knew, just plain KNEW, that I would be banging her like a drum within a week.

    Fuck.






    Mio was not amused at her current predicament.

    The extra bits were new and slightly disorienting, but she was adjusting quickly to the additions. Besides, her new tail was a surprisingly effective balance aid, and was extremely strong...and the horns were just cool.

    She very carefully allowed herself to silently squee over the coolness factor that was very much not an approved or even tolerated view to have within the Imperium of Man.

    Well, this Imperium, anyway.

    No, her frustration was with her newfound master (and future lover), who, despite having been offered everything he needed on a silver platter, refused to take it and rid himself of the weight of the world around him.

    It was enough to drive a girl mad, especially when said girl had set aside all of her own insecurities for the sole purpose of aiding another.

    No matter. He would crack sooner or later, and the problem would resolve itself. Until then, she had some work to take care of. Namely, the workshop needed a proper blessing from the Omnissiah. At the very least, a small shrine to the machine god would suffice. Even a heretek like her could maintain her faith, regardless of what the others would say about her.

    Much to her surprise, there seemed to be a place almost reverently set aside near the center of the workshop spaces just for such a thing. The crafting and assembly of the shrine proper was almost painfully simple thanks to the addition of the abilities of the forge...and the blessings laid upon it seemed ever more powerful than they should have been otherwise. It was a curious happening, and one she planned to explore in detail, but first she needed to get her tools in order, as well as set up her workspace.

    During her travels and assignments as an Engineseer, Mio had seen many a different place and battlefield, and many of the harsh lessons learned there carried over to her current style and flair; namely, to live life as best as one could, and fight bravely for the future of mankind. Having come to this strange and dark mirror of her home had taught her just how far the Imperium could have fallen, if not for the citizens of the Imperium themselves.

    Unfortunately, what little wargear she had brought with her on her trip was totaled by the hellstorm, and the rest was sadly reclaimed by that process that had rebirthed her to her new and glorious form. Thus, a rebuild of at least some basic wargear was absolutely necessary. There were more than enough parts on hand for her to build and refine an Omnissan Power Axe in a small amount of time, and she could probably cobble together a decent set of power armor from the leftovers that would not get her killed. Past that…

    “I told you that you needed to work on your skills, woman. Key point is all the stuff you’re leaving out of your build.”

    Mio was more than able to stop herself from jerking back in surprise when her master appeared behind her, and critiquing her work no less. She took a breath to calm and steady her nerves, even as outwardly she remained passive. “And what exactly am I missing, anyway? It’s not like it matches up to a good power field.”

    “More like it’s better than a good power field.” he retorted. “For starters, I solved the Eezo shortage, just before the forge kicked out a way to bypass it entirely, and that stuff is wonderful for melee weapons if used right. Second, you are going to want to plate that thing in Originium to use as a focus for O.Arts...especially since your new form seems to pull from the Draco, which are STUPID powerful with them.

    “As for the third…” he had been moving closer the entire time, it seemed, and was now in full contact with her back. “You have other things to do.” The command, for that was exactly what it was, brooked zero argument, and left no error as to what her task was.

    She grinned, even as she laughed inside. That poor man...he needed her more than even she had known.

    Didn’t even last an hour…






    “Almost done over here. Pass me the towels?”

    I handed Mio the requested items without complaint. After all, it was technically my mess too.

    As shameful as it is to have to admit this after the fact, I REALLY needed that. I didn’t even realize just how much stress had built up over the last few months, and Mio was the perfect cure for what ailed me...as she had tried to tell me hours ago.

    Yes, Mio, I get it. You were right about me needing my pipes cleaned. Stop being smug about it.

    [No.]

    Guess that is going to be a thing now. Well, it’s not like I didn’t deserve it, neglecting myself the way I did. Anyway, time to take care of business. There are some things I actually DO need to get done...including one that I have put off for long enough.

    The workshop was, unsurprisingly, empty save for myself and Mio. The mess we’d made during our previous activities (namely, fucking each other silly) was now fully cleaned up, with minimal fuss. All that was left was to take care of the business at hand.

    I went to the center table, and removed the sealed case from it, then started out to the open air chamber that was the “outside” of the hangar. I wanted some room for this.

    Mio was somewhat confused as to my actions, but followed me anyway. I expected a question long before now, but apparently she was content to have me handle this.

    I set the case down on the grass, and opened the locks with the requisite amount of mana. Once open, I finally pulled out the core of the Unison device I had received what seemed like ages ago.

    It was time to activate it and see what we had available.

    The process was simple, according to the instructions in the case. All I needed to do was provide an amount of “seed” mana to the device, and it would activate after it reached it’s self-sustain level. Because it would be my mana used as part of the startup, I would be favorably inclined in the initial alignment for unison compatibility. Other than that, it was a toss-up.

    Pushing my mana into the device, it slowly took on a soft glow as it took in more and more power. Eventually, the device refused to take any more of my energy, and began it’s proper start-up sequence, a very muted and uninteresting thing all things considered. It just sat there and glowed...and then a scanning beam lashed out at both myself and Mio, surprising us both.

    The beam did a very simple scan of the both of us before dispersing, and the glowing ball within began to take on a shape. A small, humanoid figure eventually emerged from the light show, stark naked. Observations had it as male, with dark skin, and black hair, and he seemed to not be doing much at the moment.

    It was with a note of surprise that I saw him open his eyes, a rather interesting shade of gray, and look at the world around him. He looked at the hangar, then at the still sealed bay doors leading to the space areas of the hangar proper. Another glance to the Kerbals, still engrossed in their antigravity experiment, and then over to Harry, who had finally decided to appear from wherever he ran off to since I saw him last. Finally, those steely eyes settled on me.

    A gentle wave of bluish green (or was it greenish blue?) energy washed over him, and formed into a set of loose robes in the same color, complete with pants. All the while, he never stopped staring at me, as if searching for something.

    There was no change in expression, no note of anything looking like emotion. One moment, he just stared at me. The next, there was a lance of pure mana impaled in the ground where I was standing only a moment ago, having reacted on pure instinct to dodge.

    ...Guess the chaos protections didn’t work, after all…

    The Device lashed out with more shooting spells as I dodged around the area, and DAMN, but those bullets were fast and hit hard. I barely had time to shield against them, and from the looks of it they had a NASTY set of tracking code built in, making it next to impossible to dodge the damned things.

    Of course, the midget was spamming the fuckers harder than a bullet hell boss. I blocked where I could, but even that was only a stopgap. Sooner or later that thing was going to target--

    A plasma bolt lanced through the air, and immediately impacted a shield that was placed in the way. Fuck, there goes the Harry option.

    Then the fucker turned towards Mio with a lager than normal sphere of energy. He chucked it almost casually in her direction, without any thought whatsoever. She had the good sense to dodge whatever it was, but it turned out to not be of any help, as the fucking bomb exploded with preternatural force and blasted her back into the hangar proper.

    Of Mio there was no sign.

    I didn’t even think about it. I just moved. Faster than I’d eve thought possible, I was in the midget’s face, a claw of psionic energy aimed to tear it’s head off...and which was stopped by another shield, though this one was more flexible. Maybe I could break through?!?

    “You are weak.”

    The fucker speaks?

    “You are weak, and unable to stop even me from doing as I please.”

    The fucker was FAR too smug about this. My resolve burned hotter as I pushed against that elastic shield.

    “And in your weakness you forget one of your few strengths. Pity.”

    All around me, more and more o the little homing blasts appeared, and unlike the previous shots, I could FEEL the malicious intent in each of them.

    This was nothing less than a kill shot.

    I moved to break off my attack, but the barrier that had been preventing me from advancing suddenly became my prison, as it engulfed my whole arm. I was trapped and powerless to do anything about this.

    “And now, I shall make sure you BURN for your sins.”

    And then the pain started. It seared and scoured through my body, mind and spirit, blazing everywhere it could touch, everywhere it could reach. The pain was excruciating, and I felt it in my very soul as it burned away everything it touched. I struggled in vain to break free, to stop the attack, to at least save my friends (and lover) but nothing worked. And all the while, the burning flame came ever closer to consuming me.

    Every struggle rendered fruitless, every effort turned back upon me or outright ignored. And forced to watch as my friends fought a desperate and unwinnable dance with the hell of bullets as the thing TOYED with them.

    Something within me snapped. A spark, previously unnoticed, erupted into a roaring flame that consumed all.

    And a brilliant light blinded all as I broke free of my chains and pushed the attack.

    Harder and harder still I forced myself through. When the shields became too much, I focused my power into a form that would break it. When the distance became too great, I focused on ways to bridge it.

    And all the while I was dead-set on the little bastard that was responsible for it all. I fully intended to annihilate the little corrupt bastard and purge the last of the chaos taint from my space.

    {oh, is that all you wanted?}

    The burning seemed to intensify as an otherworldly scream echoed through the surroundings, and something was torn from my person, burning the whole way. Midget boy, surprisingly, had a very satisfied smile on his face at seeing the thing.

    “Extraction successful. Moving to terminate target.”

    And the shadowy being was pummeled with waves of magical bullets without end.

    It tried to dodge, to evade the oncoming swarm of death and destruction. And for a short time, it actually succeeded...and then it found its efforts to be suddenly fruitless, as it was quickly enveloped in a strange fog of darkness that it clearly did NOT control.

    Mio came charging back into the fight, the obscuring darkness apparently being under her control, from the look of her hands.

    Odd, but workable. Whatever that thing was, it was apparently trying to do something to me, and I wanted it dead, YESTERDAY. I focused again, and my claws found themselves in a new shape, that of a straight-edged blade. Giving it a quick once over, I nodded to myself and charged in.

    Huh. It apparently was not very well versed in combat, of any kind, as I was tearing it to shreds. Every attempt to block or counter was met with my psionic blade, and summarily cut down. Attempts to flee found it caught in a tide of seemingly endless darkness. The waves of magical shots continued unabated, as the Device choked the very air with hell. Even Harry had gotten back into the action, tossing out plasma shots at every opportunity.

    And yet, for all our effort, nothing seemed to be working well. The odd specter seemed to be completely unkillable, even if we could hurt it.

    But I was going to kill it. That much I was sure of.

    {Not just you. We.}

    The Device was apparently tired of playing around, and instead made a beeline directly for me. I was stuck in the middle of recovering from an attack, and had no time to react as he caught me, and then merged with me.

    {Unison In.}

    The transition was jarring. Suddenly I could think again, and recognized the extremely subtle effect of madness that was surrounding that specter for what it was. Worse, the field was twofold: not only did it confuse its opponents in battle, but it was also specifically designed to prevent its opponents from actually killing it, if they managed to figure out how to damage the thing. Normally this would be a deadly combination...but now that I was aware of the effect, countering it would be a breeze.

    {Lord, if you do not mind, please allow me.}

    Interested in what might be happening here, I allowed the action to occur. Much to my shock and delight, several orbs of mana charged with my unique form of light energy--and something else, as well--formed around us, completely caging in our specter. As one, the net of spheres closed, and the resulting orb of light basically fried our interloper from existence.

    I breathed a sign of relief once the deed was done. “Everyone okay?”

    “I’m fine, but this is getting a bit stale by now, yes?” Harry’s gruff voice answered back. I happened to agree, but did not bother to reply.

    “I’m good as well. I know you said you were a trouble magnet, but this is ridiculous.” Mio’s calm voice rang out. Even in a life-or-death situation, she still tries to lighten the mood. I approved.

    {I am also functional. All hostile lifeforms have been purged from Lord at this time.}

    That, however, brought up a question. Why the hell did the midget attack me?

    {Lord, you showed signs of a subtle corruption effect, matching with a possession-type energy entity. Field data indicated that the process would have been slow and insidious until it was too late to counter. I executed emergency steps to purge said entity and all influence from you immediately...this would have been the “burning” that you felt.]

    “Oh great. So I nearly got possessed. Again. ”

    The Device took this time to cancel the unison, and reformed outside my body. “Close, but not quite. This was not meant to be a full possession, but rather a kind of slow-burn corruption effect. To what end, I do not know, but it was deliberately taking time to harmonize with your normal energy pattern.”

    “So what...chaos getting slippery again? Not the first time, man” Harry did, have a point here...

    “Not quite.” The Device continued. “It is worth noting that this entity is brand new and was only just settling in...and it does not match anything in the database of known energy patterns or expressions of the Warp. My conclusion is that this is not a daemonic attack. I recommend further research.”

    Huh. so now I have OTHER things trying to get at me? “So, did you at least get a clue as to what was happening? Something we can work with?”

    “The energy patter had a correlation with photon energies. I predict 75% chance of it being relevant.” He paused for a moment. “There is also this.” and displayed a picture, of a hazy outline of...oh hell no.

    That is a fucking Chozo Ghost.

    ...Fuck. I am not dealing with this right now.

    Mio tackle-hugged me as I tried to get my bearings set, knocking us both to the ground.

    “You are going to have to practice with whatever that darkness was. Seems like it’s pretty good.”

    Her only response was to laugh.






    “So, now that we’re done with all the excitement, You need a name. You had something in mind?”

    My newly activated unison device shrugged. “Not really. I am, or was, intended as a research assistant for unusual technologies, prior to the outbreak of the unification wars. Most of my recent knowledge came from the central database of your installation. I shall give it some thought.”

    I blinked. “Wait, we have a mainframe now?”

    Mio was equally confused. “Apparently so. It set up and installed itself shortly after we started fighting with the little one here. I’m scanning through it now...and wow. It's like an STC in miniature.” Her voice had taken on an almost reverential tone at that point.

    My eyes narrowed, and I dove into the digital aether to see for myself.

    “Hot damn. I guess it kind of is.”

    Well, not quite. An STC was the equivalent of a colony database, that could do amazing things with very little in the way of actual technology. This was more a single-point database of every piece of knowledge and tech that I had gained up to this point. Similar, but not the same.

    Wait a minute. I almost forgot about that.

    “Hey Harry, remember that one back in the old tunnel we found?”

    Harry glanced up in my direction from his cup of recaf. “You mean that STC that we couldn’t drag out? Yeah, I do. Probably still there, too, all things considered.”

    Mio was on me almost immediately. “YOU FOUND AN STC!?!? WHERE IS IT?!? WE MUST RECOVER IT!!!”

    I shrugged her off with only minor difficulty. “Calm down. It was in an old side cavern that we stumbled on by accident while running from the damned Chaos cultists that were choking up the space. There were other things in that cave too, now that I think about it, including that weird...Bird...Goddammit.”

    I didn’t even bother trying to check Thoth, who had conveniently chosen that exact moment to report being back to full functionality. I knew what I would see, plain as day.

    Chozo are Bullshit, man.

    “We have to go back anyway. I think the bird people are trolling me.”

    “Bird people? What Bird people?” Harry’s confusion was evident, but was interrupted by an unexpected source.

    “Lord, I have decided upon a name.” The little device was finished with its deliberations, it seemed. I gave him my full attention.

    “After some thought, I felt that this title would be appropriate for one such as me.”

    The little device floated his way in front of me, and bowed.

    “Please, call me Rico.”

    “Welcome to this strange world, little Rico.” Mio greeted him warmly. “We shall endeavor to guide you the best we can.”

    Harry was his usual self. “Alright then, Rico. Welcome to the club of crazies. Check your sanity at the door, if you don’t mind.”

    I simply smiled. For once, things were actually looking up.




    Alright, I freely admit that this is NOT my best chapter. At all. Like seriously. Also, Mio is being sassy at how she wants to be written, and basically forced herself into being a waifu. I TRIED writing her differently, I really did.

    -Data Access (Endless Pantheon) (100CP)
    Having knowledge isn't always good enough, seeing as it can be quite the hassle to actually access it if you don't have the proper setup. You do, thankfully. This is one device of your choosing, which allows you to perfectly access any and all books, scrolls or databanks you have, putting all of the knowledge you have gathered at your fingertips at all times. It can also change forms, but is always something digital. Try not to stand too close to the wizard.

    -Resource Generator (Toaruverse) (100CP)
    Buying materials and resource cost too much time and manpower especially if the materials or resources that you need are limited or rare. You gain a warehouse full of materials and resources no matter how common to how rare it is that you need to build any technology that you want. It replenishes used materials every twenty-four hours after you take it out the warehouse, additionally it records and replenishes any materials that you add in your warehouse. After the jump it would become a warehouse add-on or be inserted near your starting location.
    * Gives a rapidly restocking warehouse which contains large amounts of anything that falls under materials and resources that is stored in your warehouse improving most perks that are listed under supplies.

    -Tinkerer (RWBY) (300CP)
    You're a whiz at maintaining, modifying and making things. Everything from Sniper Scythes to Toaster Ovens, as long as you made it yourself or had the blueprints on hand. Unlock the secret of Variable Weapon Crafting.

    -Profession: Tailoring (World of Warcraft) (300CP)
    Sew cloth armor and many kinds of bags using dye, thread and cloth gathered from humanoid enemies during your travels. Tailors can also fashion nets to slow enemies with, rideable flying carpets, and magical threads which empower items they are stitched into. Zen Master: At this level you've mastered everything from basics to advanced. Additionally you've expanded your knowledge of the profession beyond the mastery of both basics and advanced stuff to complete understanding of it. At this level you're on an even playing field with top 1% of your profession. Should you write down your knowledge it would easily be considered a work of art in that field.

    -Doll Maker of Bucuresti (Touhou) (200CP)
    Being an undisputable genius in terms of mathematics and science in a realm ruled by magic tends to undermine just how impressive it is. Your ability with technology and engineering is so great that you are able to adapt to handling, repairing, modifying and even reverse-engineering completely foreign devices you have little to no background on. Your connection with both practical technologies along with magic allows for you to eventually unlock the secrets to creating magitech if given enough time to experiment.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 11.1
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    The days that followed were in an odd sort of routine as everyone got themselves re-situated and reset from the nightmares of the previous days. As part of this, I had “suggested” remedial training for each of us as a way of improving coordination between us. I figured I could also work in some time learning more about my newly awakened powers as well.

    Calling the results interesting was very much underselling it. For one, both Myself and Mio and access to Aura now...the semi-legendary ability of the Huntsmen of Remnant that used the light of their very souls to protect them, even as it boosted their abilities. What’s more, this was NOT the version that was presented in the show as being easy to use and relatively plain, outside of semblances. As much as we tried to work around it, we simply did not have enough experience with the powerset to do any form of real training with it beyond the most basic, and we were forced to move on

    The second point was in the form of Originium Arts, which I was learning were more varied and expansive than I had ever thought possible. It seemed that almost anything was possible with these arts, and the only true limit was Imagination and training.

    Or, as Mio found out the hard way, sheer power. That woman somehow had enough power inherent in her form that she was making large craters in the landscape just trying to learn to control the simplest of caster arts, much to her dismay. The good news was that she was improving at an astronomical pace, especially with my help, and would soon be able to wield her power without the risk of destroying half a block by accident.

    Speaking of Mio, she somehow ALSO had incredible physical strength to go with it for some damned reason. I was not sure exactly why this was, but the few hints that I had on the subject were that she was some kind of hybrid. Mio, of course, found it both amusing and fascinating, as was doing studies into what, if any, other powers she might possess from her new physiology.

    All in all, I thought she was adjusting well.

    Perhaps the biggest add from our training, though, was that both Mio and Harry were rapidly approaching proper N7 competency levels for combat situations. This was more of a boon for Harry than Mio, who had at least 30 years of combat experience on the both of us, but it DEFINITELY helped.

    Unfortunately, training was not all that we had to do. There was also some basic scouting, rebuilding of equipment lost in the psyker attack, general upgrades all around, and getting Rico used to simply being a thing that existed in this hellhole. He was adjusting rather well to being here, from what I could tell. Mio positively loved the little guy, and would spend most of her free time just talking with him, digging into what he knew about his origins and technology. For his part, Rico was teaching all of us the basics of the nameless magical style that he used during his exorcism of the troll ghost.

    The style itself had nothing to really set it apart aside from being primarily combat-focused, something that I wanted to change eventually. It was, however, extremely versatile, even with only the basic examples of the various spell types to use. Of note was the existence of a binding spell, which I KNEW would come in handy sooner or later.

    Rico did mention that there was one more spell that he had access to that he wanted to teach me specifically, before anyone else, but we hadn’t had the time yet for him to get around to it, with us all keeping busy in other pursuits. Hell, I had way too much on even my plate at the moment, as well…

    Of course, we were fooling no one. The three of us were simply exhausted and legitimately terrified of what might await us outside. And as much as I wanted to say that even that level of fear was nothing to one such as myself, I would be lying. I had come far too close to death for comfort, and without even having stepped onto a battlefield at that. Gang shootouts and random xenos threats I could deal with. Having a massive telekinetic windstorm suck you up and attempt to play “Will it Blend?” with your body is beyond my ability to simply cope.

    Hence, we were stalling our asses off by pretending to actually be useful or “preparing” for further action. I know Rico saw what was happening, but he thankfully said nothing while we worked on some much-needed decompression from the shitshow of our lives.

    I had reason to believe that Harry was taking this far worse than any of us, though. He really didn’t have anyone to help him with his mindset. At least I had Mio being both insistently needy and pleasantly pliant to distract me from having to think about that mess.

    Hell, I actually would have had an easier time of it if not for Thoth telling me outright that the Frame portion of our setup was unavailable due to some kind of lockout. A picture of a bird was all I needed to see to understand what had happened and why, and I suspected that our inevitable return to that cavern of mystery would be needed to clear the lockout.

    In any case, we were actually forced to address the elephant in the room because of one simple reason: we were running out of food.

    “Somehow, I feel very pathetic right now.”

    “Nah. You have every right to feel like a damned baby, friend.” Harry quipped back at me. “I’ve only been in three other major psyker attacks, and all of them were terrifying to the core. If you weren’t scared shitless I’d be more concerned.”

    “We still need to get some more food though. The stuff I packed in here previously is running out, and we can’t survive off of just water, y’know.”

    “Point. I’ll see about grabbing supplies--”

    “No. I’ve been holed up in here long enough. Even if I’m scared shitless that another of those fuckers is going to drop on my head the instant I step outside, that is no excuse to just hunker down here and not do anything.

    “Besides...I want to check and see if anyone at the Base survived, eventually.”

    The Van Saar base was a major concern for the both of us, as while they may have been allies of convenience as a whole, there were some people there that I did not want to actually see getting offed, especially not like that. Namely, Janus, with which I had struck up a sort of odd friendship with.

    There was also the issue that I had the ability to cure that radioactive wasting sickness now thanks to my much better understanding of both healing OA’s and their magical equivalents, but improvements in my medical tech base. Treating long-term radiation sickness shouldn’t be too much of an issue...assuming I get my ass in gear and stop being a scared fool.

    “...Alright, then. I’ll let you get prepped.” Harry reluctantly replied. “Bear in mind that down here, things are a bit...different. Mutants are a fact of life in the underhive proper, and most will not bat an eye at you walking around openly as you are. Would help with the interactions with the locals, as well; As much as the “proper” authorities do not like to admit it, many of the mutants are quite loyal to the Imperium, only seeking a chance to prove themselves.”

    I pondered Harry's words for a moment, before answering.

    “So why were you so up in arms about me?”

    “Mostly the changes, along with the situation. I had reason to believe that you were an agent of Chaos...for all of five seconds. We in the Ordo Xenos do not have the luxury of being closed-minded all the time, I’m afraid.”

    Now that I could understand.






    Stepping outside was...difficult. Not so much physically as it was mentally, with my constant fear of having another mad psyker drop on my head with the intent to kill thousands. The distinct lack of that event occurring right off helped me ease my nerves a bit, but the anxiety was still there, watching and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Harry very conspicuously did not comment on my paranoia. I just as conspicuously did not thank him for it.

    The two of us headed outside, into the small shantytown that was a part of the local slums. I hadn’t bothered to really look at it when we were coming in, but now that I had eyes to actually see…

    The place was, not necessarily bad, but clearly ramshackle and ad-hoc. Clear effort had been made to make the structures as sound as possible, and yet even a casual visual inspection showed that in many cases the builders made do with what was available at the time and shored it up when they thought they could get away with it. It was a surprise that none of these structures had collapsed yet.

    Another note was that the air quality was actually quite good for being so low in the hive structure. I wasn’t sure if we were near an atmo plant or something similar, but my best guesses of depth told me that we should be either in or below the smog layer by now, and the air got downright toxic below a certain point.

    “Hey, Harry…”

    “We’re supposedly near one of the old air recyclers that used to be down this way.” He responded, anticipating my question. “It keeps most of the local air supply good, although no one here knows exactly how the smog isn’t filtering in from outside. People just take it as is and run with it.”

    And that was a mystery that I definitely wanted solved before too long. There were actual living people down here. I didn’t want them choking to death just because whatever kept the air clean decided to up and die on them.

    We slowly ventured towards what looked like the local town square, or at least the approximation thereof. A marketplace of sorts had been assembled there, with what looked like a wide selection of goods to choose from. Actually, now that I think about it, there shouldn’t be this large a stock of stuff here. The hell?

    I nudged Harry, and motioned towards the obvious bounty. His reply was whispered under his breath. “Don’t question it.”

    ...Huh. It's like that, then? Fine. I won’t pry. Just need to make sure that the local boss of whatever operation allowed for that is not too interested in my activities.

    The square was moderately crowded, with a mix of all sorts of people moving around as they needed, and children running through the throng and playing as they saw fit. So far, nobody had commented on my ears despite being on full display, but I was not looking forward to any form of formal interactions with people down here. With luck, we would be able to find what we needed and get out without having drawn too much attention.

    Or, at least, that was my hope, which was dashed almost instantly when a cloaked figure stepped into our path with the clear intent of blocking us. I looked him over, seeing no obvious weaponry on his person, but I did note the spots where one would normally conceal a laspistol or similar on their person. That I found nothing obvious did not mean it was not there.

    The cloaked man (which was obvious now that he was moving closer to us) stopped at what counted as a respectable distance from us before speaking. “Welcome, newcomers, to the Breezeway. You looking for anything in particular?”

    Harry took the lead. “Just some food. Nothing major to worry about.”

    The now very obvious security made a gesture that I translated as acceptance. “Very well, then. Head on your way. Just be warned: don’t cause any trouble if you don’t want any. Been getting a lot of those folks lately, and well…”

    I could finish the sentence for myself. Bad ends all around for the idiots who came in trying to run things. How very fortunate that we did not intend to cause any trouble here.

    I nodded my acceptance at the “rules”, and Harry let out a small chuckle. “Sure, we’ll play ball. Besides, you guys have actual food and not the groxshit we normally get. Don’t wanna miss out on that.”

    The sentry nodded his own acceptance and stepped aside, allowing us on our way. Harry pushed forward eagerly, seeking out the obvious good stuff for replenishing our stores, but I stayed behind on an odd impulse, eyes firmly locked onto the guard. He stared back as well, and for the first time I got a good look at his face.

    The only word I had for it was...monstrous. There were what looked like scales meshed all along his skin, along with clearly reptilian eyes that had a soft yellowish glow to them. his mouth was somehow morphed and elongated into a kind of half-snout, and stuck to the lizard theming as well, and I caught what looked like a forked tongue poking out between his lips.

    I approached him slowly, but at an angle, with the clear intent to pass by. But not once did I let my eyes leave his. Nor did he move his own gaze away from me.

    It was only as I was about to pass by that he actually spoke, in a low tone that was clearly meant for me alone. “Do not fear. You are welcome here, as are all loyal children of the Emperor.”

    So he wasn’t chaotic.

    The tension that had built up in my body eased significantly at those words, and I felt my nerves settle down just a bit. The reaction was plainly obvious, as there was an equal releasing of tension from the guard as well, with my relaxing. We both gave each other one last look, then a curt nod, and we went our separate ways.






    Mio found herself once again back in the workshop proper, this time doing general upgrades to the equipment in an effort to keep herself from stressing out. Not that it had helped much over the last week or so.

    She had found herself in an increasing state of anxiety, and over the stupidest and most irrational of fears too: that another unchecked chaos psyker was just going to appear out of nowhere and end them all as a footnote to the grander slaughter and destruction that it would cause. She had told herself that it was irrational, that there was no logical basis for it happening here and now, but she was still on edge, to the point that she had pestered Satori more than was strictly necessary for a bit of...comfort.

    That he was clearly taking solace in her just as much as she was him did not go unnoticed by her, but neither did she really care. That damned fear remained.

    She had been taking other measures to distract herself as well, including learning to properly use her new inbuilt abilities...only to find out that she was so powerful in the originium arts that even Satori couldn’t help her much until she learned proper control. Added in was little Rico beginning the group’s training in the use of the novel energy manipulation method he used, and one would think that she would be occupied quite well for the foreseeable future.

    Instead, she still had the nightmares. She still was jumpy around corners, still watching every nook and cranny with a wary eye as if it could hide another daemon ready and waiting to strike. It was almost too much for her to bear.

    The only thing keeping her going at this point was the slight presence in the back of her mind; that connection to her Satori that constantly reminded her of why she was actually here. And more importantly, what, and who, she stood to lose if she allowed her fears to control her.

    And thus, here she was in the workshop.

    A good thing, too, as the tools and equipment here was in desperate need of some upgrades to actually be in line with the gear that she could make. Some of these tools were clearly scrap-built for a task and then forgotten about, while the rest was...well, calling it downright ancient was being nice. Being VERY nice.

    Fortunately, some of the newer additions to their home away from home would help in getting the place properly set up. That Resource Generator building, for example, was the gift that just kept on giving when it came to this stuff. So far, she had managed to do a full cataloging and rebuild of all the improvised tools, and was now working on the planning stages for adding in more advanced stuff like the heavy arms and various industrial machines needed for a proper Laboratory-Forge.

    The issue: this was proving to be just a bit more complex than she had imagined, as even with the data sets in her head, and the local mainframe having a full breakdown of needed capabilities for various projects and technologies, she was still having trouble getting the layout right for some of the bigger builds.

    With a frustrated huff, she threw her wrench onto the workbench and growled at the situation in general.

    “This crap is not. That. HARD!! Why am I still screwing it up?!”

    A series of strictly unnecessary “percussive maintenance” sessions followed as she vented her frustration on the environment for a bit. At least in here, there would be no permanent damage…

    “Miss Miolala. A moment of your time?”

    Mio turned to look at one of the cute green things (Kerbals, she reminded herself) looking up at her. It was another of the “orange” ones, this time the group’s sole female. Curious, she stopped her denting of the environment to listen.

    “I was wondering about your state of mind, actually.”

    Mio blinked. “Err…”

    The Kerbal continued onward. “Yes. you’ve been on edge for days now, and even I can tell that this is not your normal state of mind. We were willing to let you folks mope around and be sullen for a bit, but this is getting to be too much now. I mean, look at you. You’re just sitting here brooding instead of doing something actually productive.”

    Mio tried very hard to not flinch at the point being made...and failed miserably. Instead, she made a move to counterattack. “Hey!! This workshop revamp is very important!!”

    “And how many tools have you made to face the outside?”

    Mio mostly suppressed the flinch this time. “Well, I was in the planning stages for that…”

    The Kerbal was undeterred. “And on your training to control your power?”

    “Well, I was taking a break from that…”

    “Looks to me like you are just sitting here and hiding. Why would someone of your caliber do that?”

    Mio felt the first stirring of anger. “I’m not hiding.”

    “Well, then what do you call it? Don’t you have a duty to perform?”

    The anger grew. “I am well aware of my duties, thank you very much.”

    “Well, then I apologize, but I certainly do not see it. All I see before me is a dead husk, waiting to be buried.”

    Those words caused Mio to flash back to the moment. The time trapped in that storm, utterly helpless to even save herself from its wrath, and remembered the terror of the moment.

    And then she knew only rage.

    She was unaware of just when she had moved, but between one moment and the next, she was fully in the little Kerbal’s personal space, and had lifted her by what passed for a neck completely off the floor with one hand.

    “LISTEN HERE YOU LITTLE SHIT. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR BULLSHIT FOR ONE DAY. YOU WEREN’T THERE. YOU DON’T KNOW. SO DO NOT DARE TO PRESUME THAT YOU CAN LECTURE ME!!”

    For some reason, she found herself breathing heavily after that outburst.

    “Feeling better?”

    Mio looked at the shockingly calm Kerbal in her grip, and decided to actually consider the question. It did not take long to recognize the same tactic that she had used on Satori to call out his own ducking of the issues. Gradually, she set the Kerbal back down.

    “...Yes, actually.”

    “Good. I didn’t want you getting lost in the death spiral now.” The Kerbal had a smirk on her face as she said this.

    “The...death spiral?” Mio, on the other hand, was making a face that she was sure that Satori would love to see.

    “Yep. the death spiral of fear, depression, anger, and more fear. It's alright to be afraid. Hell, I’ve been scared shitless every time we launched a new mission, praying like all hell that everything actually worked right for once and the ground guys didn’t leave me holding a bag of shit as everything blew up around me. Sure, I would survive, but crashes hurt.”

    The Kerbal moved back towards the workshop entrance towards the hangar and it’s open airspace.

    “The point is, don't get so trapped in your own issues that you ignore everything else, ok?

    Mio shook off the thoughts of shame that threatened to appear before her. After all, this Kerbal had a point. It did require one question, though.

    “...What is your name, miss?”

    “Valentina Kerman. Pilot.”

    “Then thank you, miss Kerman.”

    “Call me Val. And no problem.”

    Mio watched Val leave the workshop, then shook her head. “Right. Need to get back in the game. Let’s get something cooked up over here then, yes?”

    With that, she turned back to the workbenches and got to tinkering. After all, this shit wasn’t going to build itself!!






    The food we had gotten was surprisingly fresh and varied. I suspected that the truck this stuff fell off of was meant to go to the upper levels, but it begged the question of how the hell it made it all the way down here in the first place.

    I made sure to very carefully not ask said question anywhere near where someone could hear it being asked, out of respect for whomever was so good as to be able to get access to that kind of shipment. I dare say they were some hardcore dudes.

    In any case, Harry and I were headed back to the safehouse, food supplies in hand, if considerably less than I had thought would be available...but I had a bit of a workaround that I thought might be usable with a bit of testing.

    Our trip back to the safehouse was surprisingly uneventful, despite all of my expectations of yet another encounter of some kind going down. We entered the workshop space proper, however, to find a scene of barely controlled chaos.

    The Kerbals were on another one of their larks with testing new spacefaring technology. That was both normal and expected. Seeing Mio fully in the mix with them was not.

    As for what they were working on...the only thing I can actually safely call it was a brick. It was boxy, had effectively zero aerodynamic qualities, despite the vain attempt that someone had made with little stubby wings on the sides and the top, and looked to have no form of actual propulsion system attached to it whatsoever.

    My guess is it was another test of that antigravity tech that they had managed to kludge together, which would explain Mio’s presence at least. And while watching the mad scramble was indeed fun, I felt it was better that I announced myself before they got too far ahead of themselves.

    “Hullo, the test!! We got some more grub!!”

    That got everyone’s attention, and created an almost universal ceasing of activities to bumrush the guy with the food. Too bad for them, I had other plans.

    “Wait a minute, wait a minute!! Not all of this is for eating. Some of this stuff I picked up for a test to see if we can get away with making a hydroponics plant or even a basic farm or something. I do NOT want to end up without food again, guys.”

    Mio popped up from the internal space of the Brick with a look of interest in her eyes. “You might be interested in a little feature of that resource warehouse, then. Supposedly, it can copy any form of resource that is brought in and produce it every day. Food is most definitely a resource in many ways, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it can pull it off.”

    As much as I was willing to test the idea out, we needed a solid backup in case it didn’t. “I’m still gonna put together a hydroponics bay all the same. If the R-Gen works out, then we can use the hydro bay as a backup and test bed. If not, then we have the basis for growing our own food.”

    Harry nodded in agreement. “It would also get us eating things other than Fungus and corpsedust, so there is that too. I am curious as to how you plan on getting a soil sample that is not contaminated to hell and back, though.”

    I made a small shrugging motion. “That’s actually part of the tests. I think I can work out a way to purify the toxins from the soil samples, or at the very least get something that will not end up killing us if we grow stuff in it.”

    “You were planning on using your light magic, right?” Mio asked. “I’m not sure that’s the best course of action here. I think I have a better way.”

    Mio was reaching out to her magical power. I could feel it as it permeated the ground, manipulating it. It was barely a moment before a chunk of the earth below us popped up as a sort of pedestal example, with a clear layer of rich, black soil that was perfect for growing crops in. the hole that it came out of was swiftly filled in as she levitated it up to eye level for all to see.

    “And here we go, right here. One patch of fresh, loamy earth courtesy of your friendly Engineseer!” Se was practically preening at the result, and with good reason. That dirt there was damn near the answer to all of our worries.

    “Huh. Didn’t know you had an Earth affinity stashed in there.” I chuckled at the minor joke. Mio preened harder somehow. “What gave you the idea of what would work, anyway?”

    “I know that this kind of work is not my specialty, but I learned a bit about how the agriworlds worked during a deployment, so I used that to help create this. And the rough codex of earth magic here is so very underutilized it’s not even funny. I’m wanting to experiment with this more now that I know about it…”

    Harry’s chuckling broke us of our minor reverie. “And just like that, you manage to solve a problem that the Imperium has had for centuries on some worlds. And without even batting an eye…” he finally managed to contain his mirth for a bit before continuing. “There are many who would pay quite handsomely for your services. Even more that would skip the middleman and just kidnap you outright, Miss Granliss. Do be careful who you display your power to, lest you attract the wrong set of eyes, yes?”

    “Harry, she’s stronger than I am.”

    “All the more reason for her to be concerned.” He wasn’t even trying to hide it anymore, how close he was to outright rolling on the floor in laughter. Mio, for her part, played the perfect picture of the offended female, incensed that people around her would dare think that she could not take care of herself.

    They managed to hold the scene together for all of three seconds before we all burst out into uproarious laughter.

    After the moment of joviality had passed, we set about getting the food stored and making a bit of a meal of things. The quality was much, much higher than I was used to seeing for Hive food at the lower levels, and was downright opulent compared to what was supposed to be normal for underhive grub. And we’d managed to get a boatload of this stuff, on the cheap.

    Once again, I refrained from asking too many questions I did not need to know the answers to. Some things would just need to remain a mystery.

    I did want to check out the Resource Generator, just to check and see if it could churn out the goodies. If not, then the fresh stuff we had would be enough for me to set up a small garden to play with, so we wouldn’t run out of food. There was also the issue of long-term provisioning of the starships we had available, but that was still a ways off yet.

    Dodging by the Brick and the work crew that was assembled around it was an easy matter, and I arrived at the small warehouse that was the R-Gen proper. The clipboard had conveniently been placed “outside” on a hook, and was marked down with a number of new items that it had recorded since coming online. I quickly reviewed the list, and sure enough, the food was listed there as being brand new...and would apparently take about 72 hours to get properly set up for the normal process.

    More concerning was that the list included the stable isotope of Originium that I had locked away, the equally stable (and highly fucking DANGEROUS) “exotic” materials needed for the creation of neuromods, which I thought I had safely locked away from this kind of shit, and even a varied amount of fucking DUST?!?

    Since when in the hell did we have dust being stored around here, and why was I not informed of it?

    A notification pooped up on my HUD just then, from the tag, it was an apology from Watts for applying a potentially dangerous ability update without notification, complete with the listing of the abilities that I had gained and more or less ignored over the last week. (a postscript noted that Mio’s integration into the system privileges profile was complete, and she had been granted the same, as well as everything else that would come normally with such.

    There was another note there as a belated notification that there was a “bleedover effect” happening between us, where similar abilities that we had with differing expressions were being copied over to the other as part of our growing sync/bond. This was actually pretty nice to know, even if there was no real noticeable benefit yet.

    Finally, there was a cheeky blurb congratulating me on my marriage, and wishing me happiness with my spouse. I was sorely tempted to chuck that last part out as a joke, but Mio would feel bad if I did…

    Dammit. Somehow, in the middle of one of the worst places to be in the entire multiverse (in general, anyway) I had managed to luck out and acquire a Waifu...and a God-tier one, at that.

    Oh well. I’d enjoy the benefits properly (again, anyway) later. Right now there was the issue of A) setting up a workable hydroponics plant for the new “farm” setup, and B) finding and securing the goddamned DUST before one of the Kerbals sneezed too hard and nuked half of the hangar or something. And then after all of that?

    Part C: Training in the proper usage of Aura, with the intent of eventually becoming good/strong enough to awaken Harry’s own.

    I deliberately ignored the mild explosion over in the clearing as I deliberated.

    I think I was going to need some help for these...and judging from the explosion, some Kerbals were free at the moment. Time to design stuff!!






    “But it works fine!! It doesn’t need any of the extras you’re trying to add.”

    “Boss, no. this needs to be properly blessed so that Chaos does not taint the plants we will use as nourishment. Please step aside so that I may perform my duties.”

    “Just let it happen, man. She has a point on the taint, I’ve seen it happen before. Nasty thing when it does, too.”

    The current discussion that we were having (because argument was way too strong a word for me getting verbally chokeslammed by everyone else) over the blessings needed to dispel chaos in machinery were a thing that existed for some reason. Nevermind that I and the Kerbal work crew had put together a workable setup in about two hours, nope. Mio needs to bless it for some reason, even though it’s never leaving the workshop.

    I took my lumps like a grown man and stepped aside after getting ganged up on so that Mio could perform her duties as a Priestess of the Machine God. Technically I could have done the same, and in fact my even building it could have counted as such, hence the brief discussion, but Mio outranked me in such things, and it would not be certified as “good” without her personal touch.

    My take was that she was mad that I didn’t ask her first when it came time to build the thing, and was making a point of being involved in the process in at least some manner. Which was not bad, but…

    “And it is done. This machinery is now safe for operation. Please do your best to keep the machine spirits placated.”

    Mio’s own actions were a blatant hint to my theory, as well, as that particular ceremony was usually far more involved than her simply laying a hand and blessed oils on the machinery in question.

    Fine. I’ll make sure to involve you more in me building things from now on.

    [See that you do so.] And yes, there was somehow a digital pout in that as well.

    Anyway, Mio’s (valid) issues aside, I had our food setup done and ready to roll a bit with the odd veggies that we had available. No meats, obviously, but that fungus that gets cultivated around here had a section for itself, so we didn’t need to be reliant too much on the outside. I had a strange feeling that would be very necessary in the future.

    Rico chose this moment to drop in on my head. “Lord, a moment?”

    I more than had time for the little device.“Sure. whatcha need?”

    “Regarding the substance you call Dust...were you aware that it is magically reactive?”

    I nodded my acceptance. That had been something of a point of contention from what little I knew of the show. Glad to see that it was confirmed...wait a minute…

    “What happened, Rico.” It was most definitely not a question.

    To his credit, Rico did not actually try to slip away from the impromptu interrogation. “Well...it kind of exploded in my face when I was handling it...while also fusing itself with me somehow? I’m not sure just what happened…”

    I blinked. Then blinked again. I could see that the Dust would potentially react poorly to being incorrectly handled, but that was a bit...much. And the fusion part had me concerned as well.

    I motioned for Rico to follow me as I started heading towards the workroom, figuring that was where he was attempting to move the stuff to.

    “You alright, at least?”

    Rico nodded. “I am fine, though unsure as to why the substance reacted the way it did. My scans suggested that I would be one of, if not the, safest person to handle it. But it still went volatile anyway. I am confused as to why.”

    Alright, I admit it. Rico was cute when he made that confused face. Still didn’t solve the mystery of the dust being more twitchy than usual, though. On a whim, I reached out to him with my senses, doing a quick checkup on his overall state just to reassure myself...and was then surprised as I ran into a barrier that I most certainly did not expect to feel there. Said barrier resisted only for a brief moment, before moving aside, letting me do the necessary scans.

    The second surprise was that Rico’s systems were almost completely foreign to me now, despite my having given his core a complete workover before even activating him. Valkyrie Core adaptation at work, maybe, but even then there was only the faintest edge of the adaptation and upgrade system that I had slipped in doing its thing. The rest was a weird mix of energies that I couldn’t get a read on, even if I felt that I should, and a much, much larger Linker Core to compensate. Somehow.

    “Um, Rico? When were you planning on telling me about the...changes you’ve been going through?”

    Rico shrugged. “I wasn’t, really. The changes in my systems that you see are normal for the synchronization process of Unison. Once you became my Lord, My systems automatically adjusted to support you appropriately. The changes you see are a result of that.”

    “So that’s why there’s a really confusing mix of energies swirling around inside you right now? Along with the Linker Core expansion too?”

    Rico nodded again, a smile on his face. “Exactly. Would you like for me to explain?”

    We had arrived at the workshop by now, which currently had only one occupant in the form of Harry, who had beat us over here ad was doing a bit of weapon maintenance. Somehow, his old slugthrower had survived the mess from above, and he was doing his best to apply some TLC to the poor thing.

    I motioned for Rico to begin explaining the weird energy mix as we moved towards one of the side benches, where Mio had installed a (relatively) simplified automated bullet press, though to what end I was still unsure. Next to it was a stack of small reinforced crates, of which the topmost one was open, with red Dust sitting inside.

    “My linker core’s growth is normal for the systems I have available. Everything else is a result of either modifications made before my activation or are as a direct result of our synchronization and my attunement process.” Rico’s explanations began. I let his voice fade into the background while I inspected the crates of Dust.

    The opened top crate looked like normal “fire” dust, which if I remember correctly was usable as a pretty good substitute for gunpowder on Remnant. Some fans said it was superior to proper “modern” gunpowder (at least by 21st century standards, anyway). I would be doing tests to check and be sure. The big draw of fire dust was the obvious, as you could rig some decent explosive rounds with it.

    I shuffled the other crates around while Rico continued in on the efficiency ratings and some of the photon boosts and conversions that he was doing in his spare time. (the mods were paying off, it seemed.) The second crate contained green Dust, which if I remembered correctly was aligned to Wind. a quick test with a pinch of the stuff confirmed the theory, and simultaneously reinforced the question of why Rico nearly got blown up by the fire dust.

    Speaking of the device, he was on a minor tangent about the things that photon manipulation was capable of, and his personal desire to explore the subject at length as soon as possible. I understood completely, as that was one of my biggest unfinished projects as well, and likely the source of what would become our strongest weapons as well. The ancillary benefits were already massive, as proven by the hybrid mana reactor concepts that I had yet to actually build.

    The third dust crate had blue stuff in it. I assumed by process of elimination that it was Ice dust, the third of the basic elemental types. I didn’t bother testing it, even though I had a strong affinity with the stuff. There was no point, really. Instead, I dragged up the last crate and peered inside.

    Yellow, glowing Dust met my eyes, and I was at a loss for a bit as to which element that was supposed to be. Thunder? I think yellow dust was thunder. In any case, it was there, all accounted for, and looked to be surprisingly stable just as the rest were.

    So what was the issue here? It’s not like Rico just had aura pulses emitting outwards to react with crap, otherwise I’d be in a tornado of hurt right now.

    “...And when the process finished, there was a new and oddly small energy field that kind of...overlapped everything? It's weird. Maybe you can explain it?”

    Wait. what?

    “Small energy field? Describe it please.”

    The confused look came back again, cute as ever. “Well, it kinda overlaps with everything and nothing all at once, and is very difficult to control...but somehow is extremely powerful. I have done a few tests, and it seems to passively boost a lot of my parameters just by being there, circulating. Do you have any Ideas?”

    There was no way. There was no way in HELL.

    I reached out, one more time, but not with my normal senses or anything as simple as mana.

    And to my shock, even with my amateur handling of it, I felt him. Or rather, his Aura, with my own.

    “Yeah. somehow, and I’m not sure exactly how, but I’m guessing it’s my fault...you have Aura, kid. For all intents and purposes, this is proof that you have a soul.”

    I let the statement hang. Rico just stared at me, shock clearly written on his face. He slowly, almost reverently, raised a single hand, and channeled the small bit of aura he had to it, which caused it to glow a warm, cheery blue-green that was nearly indistinguishable from his own magic color. He sat there for a while, just playing with the power, silently.

    Next thing I knew, I was getting bowled over by the device as he outright glomped me in one of the fiercest hugs I’d ever been a part of, babbling something or another into my shirt, which muffled the message beyond recognition. I suspect it was some form of “thank you” or similar.

    I took the moment to speak. “We’re gonna have to add you to the training list for Aura, then. Until we can get you at least up to basic speed, don’t mess with the Dust, alright? Don’t want you blowing up for no reason.”

    I only got hugged harder.

    Somewhere in the back of my mind, I could feel Mio giving me the equivalent of a “well done” and another digital hug, complete with loads of smiles and happiness that very carefully concealed an extremely smug “I told you so”.

    Whatever. She can have her victory. This one here? This is mine.







    I want to put more. I really do. But this chapter is late enough, and I want you guys to read, too, so I’m slicing it into two pieces. Nothing new in the forge...yet.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 11.2
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    Getting the food production setups going correctly was a bit of an interesting time. Getting everything set up properly was something of an involved struggle, but we’d managed it within only a few hours. During this time, the Kerbals had somehow managed to blow up their prototype (types? I needed to keep track more) at least twice more. Whatever they were trying to do with that gravity engine that they’d made must have been really straining on something for that to happen so often.

    It did actually force me to hit the Output warehouse for the Resource Generator to actually get a stock of what the Kerbals were using in their projects. This is the reason that I was currently kicking myself for, even if lightly.

    You see, the resource generator kicks out both rare and common materials and stores them until needed. The issue here is that some of the materials, especially in raw form, are from various plants...including several rather major food crops. stocks of which were provided with the other derived resources as needed, until the limit was hit. And the limit was, if not generous, then very lenient.

    It would not have been the best of meals, but we could have eaten rather well for a while until something more substantial could have been located.

    This led to my current project, sorting and identifying most of the available materials that the Resource Generator had output channels for, sorting them if needed, and then adding everything to the database for further perusal.

    Rico was walking me through some of the more fiddly bits of the magic system he used, which was surprisingly math heavy, even more so than I was expecting, and in directions that I had no idea were possible. It was during this impromptu tutoring that I remembered to ask Rico a particular question that had been concerning me.

    “Rico...I’m curious. Why exactly were you so happy over the soul thing?”

    Rico paused for a moment, then turned to me with a noticeable frown on his face. “It’s...a bit complicated.” He floated down onto a crate full of simple screws and closed his eyes in thought. “To begin with, I mentioned that I was originally designed as a research assistant, correct?”

    I nodded my agreement, and he continued. “What I did not mention is that I have also been forced to participate in what may well have been one of the worst wars in history. I say ‘may’ because aside from a very carefully preserved log file and a hard-coded counter, I have no other memories from before you activated me.

    “The Log file contains an extremely brief summary of all the times I have been active, and for what purpose. A great deal of those purposes were war. As for the counter...well, I am unsure as to how or why it became necessary, but at some point during that war a policy began to be enacted of wiping clean any and all non-organic intelligence whenever a certain condition was met.”

    I blinked, thought’s whirling at the speed of light. If that was the case...then…

    “The counter itself is a record of how many times I was wiped clean of any and everything that was not hard-coded to my being. The log file seems to be some kind of exception, though I do not know why.”

    I had a very sudden bad feeling. “And that counter? How many times were you…’wiped’, as you say?”

    Rico turned towards me and looked me straight in the eye. “The current number is One hundred and fifty-six. A note in the log files indicated that the counter is a late addition meant to keep track of my usage rate.”

    Oh.

    “This is why I was happy, Lord. Prior to this, I had no form of continuity whatsoever. Only barebones records of past lives that I will never remember. Having a legitimate soul means that, at least, I myself will continue on even if this form should perish and be reset again.”

    “...Kind of a fatalistic way of looking at it, but I can see why it matters. As long as it doesn’t bother you too much.”
    As usual, Rico’s smile lit up the room. “Not at all, Lord. I have no memory to worry over except for this one, and I now have a guarantee that it will endure. What else should I ask for?”

    “I would say a galaxy free of the craziness that currently inhabits it, but to each their own. Now, we were on the vector calcs for multi-stage bombards?”

    “Right. Those are kind of an edge case anyway, but the math--”






    Alright. We had food stocked, we had lots of spare parts, and we finally were out of the funk that had gripped us for a while. Time to really put in work.

    One of the things I had noticed with a few of my abilities, specifically the ones that reduced time expenditure, is that the vast majority of them worked on things that would seem to be counter to their purpose. For example: the speed boost provided by the weird cartoon speed ability could be applied to anything that qualified as a project...such as breakneck training...at least, on paper.

    The problem here came from the fact that while the speed of said training was increased, there was no way to reduce the impact of said training to something that would be human-survivable if the process got pushed to it’s maximum. The best theoretical gain I could see happening from that without invalidating the entire concept was maybe three times normal, and that solely for purely physical training...and even then there would be a burnout after about a week as the body broke down trying to keep up with the strain. This meant that I had to come up with a better option to help Harry get more survivable in the likely event of us stepping into another Charlie Foxtrot.

    To that end, I turned back to the Neuromod technology...and one of my stranger abilities.

    This ability was more or less the condensed form of a freaking Space Opera Science Officer (the capitalization was necessary), complete with the uncanny ability to solve most problems with oodles of advanced science. The kicker came from the fact that this ability could outright recreate damned near anything, be it magic, science, psionics, hell, even divine fiat, given time and even the slightest inkling that it was possible to do. For me, this meant that I could sidestep a lot of the problems I would have had with upgrading and repurposing the neuromod technology for Harry to get some much-needed skill ups.

    By our combined best guess, we had about another week, two at most, before the various sweeps that were the inevitable result of a psyker attack of that magnitude reached the underhive proper. Past that point it was anyone’s game what happened and when, especially since there was a good chance that the local priory of the Sisters of Battle had dispatched a mission or two to investigate.

    This gave us six days to train up to the best of our abilities, and for gear construction and revamp. We had to be ready to move by day 7, no exceptions, or we risked getting caught in the net when it closed. And as much as this weird little pocket of space might tolerate mutations more than the standard Imperial response, that will not stop anyone else from putting a bolt in my head given the chance...or Mio’s, for that matter, regardless of her being a card-carrying AdMech engineseer.

    In short, we had plenty of time.

    Even in our weird meandering that we were doing in the lurch, there was still impressive amounts of improvement. Now, with full focus applied to it all, and it being a group effort?

    For the very first time, I got to see the full, unrestricted power of knowing what you were going to do for a day.

    And it was downright terrifying in its implications.

    The various pieces of technology that I’d wanted to bust out but hadn’t had time for? Built and readied. Both the Eezo synthesizer and the hybrid photon/mana reactor prototype were fully constructed and operational, with the first being shockingly stable for something that was a self-contained supernova effect generator.

    On the weaponry front, though, there were some MAJOR improvements...and not for the reasons that would normally be expected.

    You see, a series of abilities had queued themselves up in the deployment chute, so to speak, and were only just now getting kicked out as enough of whatever was needed got acquired to make them usable. And the first two were very concerning, not only for what they were alone, but for what they could be together.

    The first was a full training and evaluation in the secrets and techniques of the Divisio Militarus of the Adeptus Mechanicus, specifically the focus on the Ordinatus war machines. Something which caught Mio’s attention immediately when it actually hit, and for good reason: These were the big guns. As in Titan-scale. And all the ability and expertise needed to scale weaponry up to the same weight class as those majestic machines of war.

    The other was downright terrifying in its implications. And it all centered around a blue flame. A blue flame that could create autonomous weapons of war capable of so many things. Or much larger versions of the same that could sweep entire fields clear of enemies with little difficulty.

    Or massive machines of war fit to subdue even the gods themselves.

    Worse, it came with all the underlying technology for the stuff to work right...and some of those pieces of tech were almost magical in what they were capable of, if not magic outright.

    Which made sense, because even in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, the Shiekah tribe was complete bullshit. And I now had access to their entire technological base. From the smallest scout walker all the way up to the Divine Beasts themselves, given enough time.

    And why was this so important, you ask?

    Because that super nice Guardian laser could be improved upon. Massively. And also made portable as all hell, too. Although in the process of doing so, I accidentally discovered it was some kind of hybrid of a particle projector and a laser, which made it even more dangerous in hindsight, especially since the particles it used were somehow generated more or less ex nihilo for use as needed. Cracking that particular mystery would have taken too much time, even with the bevy of reverse engineering skills at both my and Mio’s disposal, so I left it alone. Mio’s grumbling on the matter was equally unpleasant, as she had been practically salivating at getting her hands on that tech and prying out its secrets.

    There was also the building and revamping of a new set of mass effect-based gear now that we had more Eezo available to use. Mio had made it a bit of a contest when we got to the design phase for the weapons, and the end result somehow became a very odd Combi-weapon (her words) with very deadly utility, even though I felt it would end up as more of a specialists’ weapon as it stood.

    The rifles that we’d built as a combination of proof of concept and working prototype for improvements was a nifty little thing, using mass effect-boosted slivers of metal as the primary weapon option, while the (now miniaturized) guardian lasers acted as the secondary. The combination was, despite being only slightly less compact than most lasguns, downright lethal, and packed about as much overall firepower as a freaking Melta.

    Note to self: Mio is a fan of overkill. Encourage at all opportunities.

    The only real drawback was that the initial iteration was semi-automatic across the board to account for the lack of heat dissipation ability on the frames themselves. Sure, you could push it and get at least some three round bursts out of the solid slugs, but the end result was more than acceptable as a weapon in its own right. Also, the Guardian Laser still had a bit of a charge time attached, although refitting it to fire a continuous beam for about a full second was still possible.

    I so desperately wanted to find a way to work photon tech into that, as it looked like I might be compatible...but again, time constraints were a thing that existed. Instead, I made everyone a souped up photon pistol as a solid secondary weapon, based somewhat off of the so-called “Custom Ray” that was in the database, with more than a few improvements. Harry also requested, and received, a compact (by previous standard, anyway) Photon Claw as an arm mounted melee weapon. Mio then went and intentionally modified it to act as a sort of gauntlet blade as well as a claw weapon.

    Finishing off the standard gear was a set of field projectors to act as light shielding when needed, and some discreet photon weave armor (meaning that the stuff didn't glow everywhere), courtesy of my newfound tailoring skill...although there was more than a bit of shock when the armor pieces came out with a moderate defensive enchantment on top of being photon weave. Guess being a Zen master of tailoring got you a lot.

    Overall, we had a decent setup for the “standardized” combat gear.

    Harry had his own methods that he used to fight, and excepting the still cooking skill transfer setup to get him some experience with N7 gear, he was running with his preferred loadout at this point. Mio, however, used the opportunity of us gearing up to do some more customization.

    First off, she took the dual-mode rifle and compacted the hell out of hers, creating more of a carbine or SMG setup than the standard rifle configuration we’d built it for. She then more or less built a halberd out of the leftover parts. Or partisan. Or...something. It was definitely a hybrid of the two, though. (I was still trying to figure out how she dd it, and she wasn’t sharing.) It wasn’t a proper omnissan axe, by any means, but it definitely had all the main features of one (including being usable as an impromptu repair tool), and a few embellishments to show her allegiance to the Mechanicus. That the solid shell portion of her firearm was more akin to a shotgun at this point (complete with standard deviation spread and adjustable choke) was a minor curiosity, but I let it pass.

    As for me? I took the rifle and boosted the hell out of it. Additional drivers, extra capacitors, the works. Mounting it all while still accounting for the heat problem was a pain in the ass, especially because I didn’t want it getting any bigger than a DMR variant weapon, but I did manage to pull it off...if with a few performance sacrifices. And by a slightly larger than intended weapon.

    I was more than pleased with the output anyway, even with the increased size, and it’s attendant handling problems. Especially since I’d mounted projectors for cutting edges on the upper and lower rails at the forward end. Having a built-in Bayonet was always a good idea on things like this, and it was practice for later when I wanted to REALLY customize some guns.

    I was tempted to work in some of the techniques used in mechashift weapons into the mix, but decided not to for the time being. Besides, that stuff kinda-sorta needed Dust to work right, and with our self-imposed schedule we really didn’t have the time to play around with the stuff in any meaningful capacity.

    I’d also built myself a pair of fire-selectable machine pistols based on photon technology as a secondary, both for close-in work and as a just-in-case measure. These I’d used some simple mechanical logic on to allow them to double as close combat knives in a pinch, a situation that I hoped would not come to pass.

    The other miscellaneous equipment that we’d thought might be useful, from retooled filter masks (our old ones were shot after overuse and contamination in the hellstorm) to simple monowire climbing aids, were assembled and distributed out as we felt necessary. I did build out an omnitool for Harry, though, just to make sure he had one available to him for use.

    Total elapsed time for gear upgrades and kit construction?

    Fourteen hours.

    I knew that ability was busted, but that is just unreal. Hell, with even the slightest help, (especially from Mio) I could probably outfit an entire infantry battalion with superior (for them, anyway) weaponry. This crap is ridiculous.

    Too bad it couldn’t help with training up supernatural abilities...






    While Harry gave extra attention to getting familiar with his newfound gear, Mio and I focused as hard as we could on gaining something approaching parity in our skill levels in the Originium Arts. For me, this involved actually making use of some interesting combinations of physical enhancement arts along with actual combat abilities; For Mio, it involved actually getting her control to a level where she could actually legitimately target select without friendly fire.

    That we’d made a game out of it during the process was just a natural evolution of the training. Mio using said game to extract a bit more, ah, “quality time” from me was nothing to worry about. Besides, I wasn’t (really) complaining, and she’d managed to come up with some very...interesting training exercises for certain things while she had my attention.

    Damned pervert. Stop preempting me. I’m supposed to be perving on you.

    Whilst doing this, we practiced a critical function of Rico’s magical techniques: Mental Partitioning and Multitasking. Specifically, the ability to create, hold, and maintain more than one train of conscious thought at a time, which was crucial to some of the higher spell equations that Rico had bits and pieces of. On this, we were doing...somewhat poorly compared to our previous endeavors. I was managing only three streams at once by the end of the third day, while Mio was up to five...but lost all of her control to do so. Her complaints were extremely loud over the injustice. I just laughed and spurred her to try harder.

    Rico also finally got around to teaching me the last of the basic spell patterns he had available to him, and I understood why he was so cagey with it as soon as he told me what it was.

    Dimensional Transference was a spell that, on paper, allowed for teleportation between not only places, but across dimensions itself. Normally this would not be an issue...but adding in the presence of the Warp and the tumors to the mix was asking for trouble with that if used in any but the most cautious ways. Tests would be needed to see if it would become an issue.

    The ironic part of that was that the boost to my mathematical skills (courtesy of the reflected knowledge and genius of a one Alice Margatroid) made the multidimensional math needed for this spell system to work almost painfully easy to do in my own head. Combine that with the fact that this particular style seemed to have a lot of extension parts for most spells, and even more for the dimensional transference, and there was a lot of room for shenanigans if given the chance.

    I’d also managed to get the various bits and pieces of the (vastly simpler) spell equations for the operation orbs down to something looking like manageable chunks for “regular people”. Doing so revealed to me an interesting oddity: there was actually quite a bit of overlap between the two systems in terms of the math involved. Based on the initial evidence, I suspected that I could forge a unified style out of it with little difficulty, and a little help from Mio and Rico. as with so much, however, that was a project for another time.

    I ignored photon Technics entirely out of a lack of available time, despite them being possibly the biggest force multiplier among the set of skills I had available. It would have benefited no one at the moment to try and dip a toe into a potentially vast ocean when we had a time crunch going on...and unlike my physical skills as a Space Delta operator, I did not have any relevant experience to create a skill-share neuromod packet for. And I wasn’t sure that it would work right anyway, with magical abilities kind of being very personalized. Worth a test after we get out of this mess anyway.






    “Green. A moment.”

    I was putting the finishing touches on the first iteration of what I hoped would be a working version of a skill transference system, akin to neuromods but without the (many) downsides, when Harry found me. “Hm? What’s up?”

    “I would like to be the one to test these new skill transfer systems you have going.”

    And right with that, Harry cut to the heart of the matter. I had been fretting over the past day or so on who would be appropriate to test these on, considering that we didn't have enough time for a full simulation to be run of a given mind. I’d more or less excluded Harry himself from the pool by default, as he was meant to be the intended recipient of the fully tested version.

    I considered my words carefully before speaking. “...Are you sure about that? While it should be safe, I have no way of knowing for sure if this will have any side effects or notable drawbacks. It was--”

    “Yes, I am sure.” Harry interjected, making an almost dismissive wave of his hand in the process. “You have no need to worry over me on this. Now let’s get cracking on this thing while I still have time to get used to the effects, eh?”

    Well...far be it from me to withhold something from a friend when they know the dangers going in.

    Setting up the process was easy, as I’d intended it to be. I did a final check over of everything just to make sure, and even had Mio back check my work in a fit of paranoia. Of course, she thought that things were fine.

    Surprisingly enough, the process worked as intended with little fanfare.

    It wasn’t until I was doing a post-run checkup on Harry that the side effects started kicking in.

    “So, everything looks good, so far. You sure you're feeling alright?”

    Harry nodded to me from his seat. “Feeling fine. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a mild headache. It will pass.”

    “Yeah, sure. “Mild headaches” can be precursors for a lot of things, Harry. Physically, you’re fine though, so I’m kind of at a loss for what it is. Gimme a moment.”

    I wasn’t kidding. Harry was in great shape considering everything that had happened to him, and I’d noticed his prosthetics making some inroads into better integration with the rest of his body. Overall, everything was as it should have been, even the faint psychic echoes that were being let out around him--wait, wha…?

    I looked closer at the psychic part. Sure enough, part of the process of the skill transfer had granted Harry some extremely minor psi ability. It was only just detectable when I went looking for it, and even then would not be worth mentioning by anyone, except for the fact that it wasn’t there before the process started. I checked again to make sure, and confirmed that this was not a mutation of any ind, just an awakening.

    “Well, Harry, the good news is that the process worked, and there are no major complications. The bad news is that it worked a little too well, and you now have an extremely minor psionic talent. Before you panic,” and sure enough, Harry was already starting to move, “as far as I can tell this is not in any way some kind of mutation, just a weird side effect. I barely noticed it myself, and I’m right next to you, so I doubt that anyone else will.”

    Harry’s movement stopped at merely standing up. “So, that’s it, then? Just a minor extra bit?”

    I nodded.

    Harry shrugged. “I can live with that. Now I want to test out of it really worked. Excuse me.”

    As it turns out, the process went beyond even my expectations, as it not only granted Harry the skills of my decades of Alliance training, but it then tailored it to how he would have used it, and not just as a flat copy. The end result was something that was downright nasty to deal with in the training scenarios we’d devised, as Harry had proved time and again to be an extremely crafty opponent.

    This, of course, meant that his enemies would be even worse off when he faced them. I approved wholeheartedly.






    The days of training and gear prep passed by in a blur as we did as much setup as possible for most of the anticipated threats to our mission. It was now “dawn” of day 7, and we were doing a final brief and equipment check before heading out.

    “So, the current plan is still unchanged. We’re headed for an exterior access point, and getting out of the hive for a while until things calm down a bit. In the process, we’re going to run by that one cave we unearthed and pick up that STC that’s hanging around, as well as deal with the Chozo statue that’s sitting inside. Overall, this is expected to take at most four days until we hit the outer wall, and then past that it’s anyone’s game. Any objections so far?”

    Mio chimed in after my recap. “I’m still unsure of why we don’t just use the underground tunnel network. It should be MUCH easier, and they are set up for this kind of thing, after all.”

    “The answer is quite simple, I’m afraid.” Harry answered. “Those tunnels are one of the first places to get locked down in an incident like this, and more to the point the underground in general is known by those with ears to the ground” he pointed to himself for emphasis “to be a place that you do not venture into lightly, if at all, unless one is invited. I would prefer to not invite more trouble than we already have.”

    “It’s not just that, but also that we need some clear sky for a bit to get those spaceships a good exit vector from the hangar bay.” I added in. “We’re going to have to go outside no matter what. At least this way, we’re doing it on our terms and not just running like mad. Hell, we could probably set up a mini-hive with some of the things we have access to, and use that as a base of operations for the rest of our objectives here before we get ready to leave Necromunda for good.”

    Mio didn’t like it either way. “It still seems like a bad idea, but I have no further objections.”

    And with that, our plan was set. Now just to finish the final equipment check, and we would be on our way…

    “Um...Satori?”

    That immediately caught my attention, as I had never heard Mio that...hesitant, ever. I turned to give her my full attention.

    “What is it?”

    She, in turn, pointed at some of the gear we had lying around, awaiting our perusal. “Why does all the stuff look like it could have been in a museum? Seriously, these are fucking artworks compared to what I’ve seen before.”

    I blinked, and gave the gear a closer look. Sure enough, even the most basic of equipment looked like someone had taken the time and care to make sure that it was downright refined, to the point of nearly being overkill. This shit literally looked that good.

    “...well crap.”

    I was pretty sure what had happened. Another of the more harmless abilities of the forge kicked in and had affected everything that we’d built over the last week. Specifically, it just made it look GOOD. I checked to see if Watts had left a skill log just to be sure, but for once there wasn’t an update there, just the same blocking out of pending abilities coming through the pipe.

    If nothing else, at least it wasn’t super harmful, it just made our gear stand out more than it should have due to the blatantly obvious superior design and construction.

    I sighed. “We should be good. The forge rarely kicks out things that are harmful without warning, after all. Just need to be careful about our visibility.”

    Mio nodded, and we continued our setup.

    Not an hour later, we were on the move.






    The caverns hadn’t changed much since we’d trekked through two weeks ago, and there was surprisingly little traffic moving around the area. Mostly just various people minding their own business, likely in the process of some form or another of “questionable” activity. We didn’t care as long as they left us alone. The glowing moss on the walls provided more than enough light to see by as we moved onward.

    We’d proceeded silently, doing our best to retrace our steps back to the place where we’d found that STC...and I myself personally praying that it was still intact. The caves, now that I was paying attention, were unusually large for something that still looked like it was a natural outcropping, and even the little bits of support equipment and service pipes for the hive proper were old and disused. It once again made me curious as to what the hell was keeping the air fresh down here, as by all rights it should have been a toxic miasma.

    With every bit of examination, this place felt more and more not right.

    Even Rico was noticing it, clearly uneasy as he floated along beside us, covering our rear in case of ambush. At every turn, every juncture, he seemed to get ever more tense, almost as if he sensed something.

    {Rico, what is it?}

    {This place...it’s wrong. I don’t know how or why, but it is just wrong.}

    I wished that I could assuage his fears, but I felt the same way.

    The sounds of combat up ahead drew my attention back to the present. We traded looks at each other, and moved in slowly, taking care to not make much noise in the process.

    We eventually came to a larger than usual cavern, with part of one wall looking to have been knocked down in some way, leading into a crevice of sorts. I didn’t directly recognize the place as being somewhere we had been before.

    What I did recognize was the large group of chaos cultists in a firefight with another force of some kind. I couldn’t make them out from here, with all the movement, and there was unfortunately just enough light to spoil my normally great night vision so that I could not rely on that either.

    I turned to Harry, who had a grim look on his face. “Any ideas?” I asked, making sure to keep my voice low.

    Harry didn’t turn from the fight. “None. I don’t know who that other force is that the cultists are fighting, but I suspect that we got moving at about the right time. I would normally suggest that we move to assist, but if they happen to be the wrong faction we would only be revealing ourselves for no gain to those who would see us in chains, at a minimum.”

    “More likely dead, Harry.” Mio quipped. “I suggest we let them duke it out and then check out the winners.”

    I frowned even as I started thinking on the tactical situation. Right now, the cultists were in more or less of a stalemate with the opposition forces, and looked to be in somewhat of a precarious position at that. Even the slightest push could topple them over into a full rout, if directed properly. And I wanted that rout. But was it worth being subjected to whoever was on the other side?

    I gazed out into the dim light for a while more, watching the battle play out. The cultists seemed to be trying to fight their way into the open crevice, from which the opposing force was mounting a very solid defense. Weaponry was the usual Necromunda mix of lasguns and stubbers, with some of the defenders looking like they’d managed to get their hands on a bolter or lascannon at one point. At least I’d thought so, until a ray of light from within the crevice reached out and tagged one of the cultists, who immediately exploded into flames and ash.

    I could feel Mio’s focus shift almost immediately, and turned to her as she examined the effect. “That weapon...that was a Volkite weapon of some kind. And one in extremely good condition no less. Where the hell did those people get one of those?”

    That settled one issue for me, as I knew damned well where they got it from. “I think that’s our cavern. I was hoping we wouldn’t get found out like this, but…”

    Harry nodded. “Yeah, shit happens. Now, we need to...oh fuck.”

    He’d trailed off as the latest addition to the battlefield revealed itself: some kind of automaton of one kind or another. The faint pressure of the memories of a Magos Militant pushed forward in my mind and told me it was a corrupted version of an ancient and long discontinued walker-type power armor system, converted over to autonomous operation. And as I watched, dozens more began spilling into the cavern.

    Well fuck. This was not good. Those poor bastards in the crevice wouldn’t stand a chance, even with that Volkite gun they had in there. Not against those numbers.

    I tuned to Harry, who was already looking in my direction, and nodded. “Last chance to back out.”

    Harry chuckled. “Not a chance.”

    Mio didn’t bother with a verbal response, but I could clearly feel her will through our link.

    Rico just looked onward, his face filled with a grim determination.

    Guess we were all in agreement then.

    With a practiced motion, I stepped out from the cover of the cavern exit we were stationed in, clearing the way for the rest to form up. And together, we began our advance onto the chaos forces.

    None of them would survive this day. Not if we had anything to say about it.








    This chapter kicked my ass, for various reasons. I apologize for the delay, and hope that I can get caught up to my “normal” schedule soon.

    On the perks front, I had the CF discord roll me a set of perks that I would implement in story. the results...were scary. not all of them have been implemented yet, and I will list them in a separate column in the chapters they appear in. The list of the six perks are below.
    To that end, I have modified my rolling for a bit, gaining only one perk per chapter until the combined total of perks are "paid off".

    -
    Artiste (Girl Genius SB) (100CP)
    From acting to painting, there's a lot of call for people like you around here! Simply put, you have the skills and talent to be one of the greatest, finest artists of all time. Not just in any one field either. Your talent is boundless and unbelievable at everything remotely art-related you do. With the slightest effort, you could be a scintillating star in all fields from writing, painting, singing, underwater basket weaving... er, you get the idea. Crowds throng to listen to a concerto from you, and books you write may well cause knife fights between people wanting to buy them! Such is your talent that in but a handful of months you could become a celebrity every bit the equal of the Queen of the Dawn, or any other celebrity you've heard of. This also makes anything you do look unbelievably good, from your fighting which looks like a dance, to your clanks which all look like Things of Beauty and Grace even when stuffed chock-full of firepower.

    -Centurio Ordinatus (Warhammer 40k - Adeptus Mechanicus) (600CP)
    You have been inducted into the Divisio Militarus, a branch of the adeptus mechanicus dedicated to the
    construction and operation of the Ordinatus war machines, mighty titan-scale siege weapons of unparalleled power.
    While the shielding and mobility systems that carry these devices into battle are relatively simple to create, you
    understand the intricacies of how physics and performance are affected by up-sizing technology. With sufficient data
    on the function of a humble lasgun or arc rifle to extrapolate from, you could smoothly transition that device to function
    when a hundred or more times larger - and to be appropriately more powerful than the simple multiplication of its
    output would suggest. The weapons you create and oversee are fit for a god-machine to wield, and the likes of Nova
    Cannons and weapons arrays on board the largest ships of the Mechanicus are also within your purview.

    -Atop The World (The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild - TG) (600CP)
    Walk this path carefully. This is the art that both saved, and destroyed Hyrule. You have unlocked knowledge of
    the greatest force multiplier the Sheikah were ever able to field - Large, walking, warmachines. You have a basic
    knowledge of the Sheikah's art of automation and robotics, with this alone giving you the knowledge to craft the small
    Guardians utilized by Shrines in combat tests, with the right materials. However, with enough resources and
    development time...you could create constructs that could even rival the 4 great Divine Beasts. This is the pure
    expression of Power...just remember that Power must be tempered with Wisdom, and wielded with Courage. Power
    without restraint is the domain of Calamity Ganon, after all.

    -Black Market (Ben 10 0.1) (600CP)
    What, did you think it was all about cars? It's great as a hobby but you've got to make some money. To do that,
    you've got some connections. Whether it's some secure communication channels or meeting places, you've got your
    fingers in the criminal underworld of the universe. If you need to buy or sell something off the table these are the guys
    you want to call. If there's some kind of commercially available weapon, gadget, or vehicle of dubious legality you
    need to get and have its IDs removed, they can do it for pretty reasonable prices. They're not so good at finding super
    rare or unique items, but just about everything else is fair game. Just as well, if you need something to disappear or be
    sold, they'll take it off your hands and you will never see it again for a pretty substantial amount of cash. Pretty weirdly
    loyal for criminal underworld types too...as long as you don't sell them out or give them trouble, they'll be happy to do
    business with you wherever, whenever.

    -Schizo-tech Expert (Arcanum: Of Steamworks And Magick Obscura) (400CP)
    Technology advances in leaps and bounds, which may leave the enterprising inventor with some compatibility
    issues. After all, upgrading the old model of steam-powered Automaton with an electromagnetic hydraulics system
    may give it the dexterity to paint works of art as much as cleave your foes in half, but that's hardly a success if the
    optical systems receive interference and rend your servitor blind! You've become exceedingly adept at integrating
    multiple kinds of technology, especially when the various parts would normally be incompatible. Using different energy
    sources, blending outdated design principles with the latest advancements of the future and more are all within your
    grasp. Incredible!

    -Ritual Pigments (Dishonored 2) (400CP)
    A selection of paint pigments in more than a dozen colours, each colour conveniently prepared from precise
    ingredients and according to very specific methods needed to use paintings as a ritual for conducting sympathetic
    magic no need to wait for certain phases of the moon, nor collect certain weeds in a container made of a human skull.
    Put simply, what you paint in the painting can be imposed onto reality, or what is in reality can be transferred into the
    painting.
    There are enough pigments here to do one painting which affects a room-sized area, allowing goods to be
    conjured, things within the area to be altered or removed, or to turn the painting itself into a room-sized pocket
    dimension. You could paint a painting of an empty room and add in a pile of silver to the painting, to sympathetically
    conjure a pile of silver into the real room, or you could paint a picture of the room without its door, which will magically
    remove the door from the wall of the real room, preventing all access.
    Unfortunately painting ephemeral things souls, magic, auras, power still does not make them appear in reality. You
    could also use these paints to move something out of reality and into the painting, such as valuables or a prisoner,
    concealing or trapping them inside it. If you should possess Voidheart and Endless Black, you will find the scale of this
    power magnified you could create an entire world of phantasy within the painting to enter, or call forth from your
    canvas a change to affect an entire city.

    -Oni Treasures (Touhou Forbidden Hermit) (400CP)
    You have in your possession the four treasures of the Oni. The first is the Ibuki Gourd, a stylish large purple gourd
    with a stopper that has been soaked in the extract of a Sake Bug. Even a little bit of water in here somehow multiplies
    into a vast quantity of sake, though it never produces more than the gourd can hold at a time. With this treasure, you
    could easily ensure you never spend another moment of your life sober. The second is Douju’s Jar, a large waist-high
    pot full of an endless amount of edible oil with no unusual properties beyond tasting smooth and nice. Perhaps you
    might want to establish a deep-frying business? The third is the Hoshiguma Dish, a simple red sake dish that has the
    miraculous ability to raise the quality of any sake poured into it, making it taste much better and be far easier to drink.
    Note that the sake does not need to remain in the dish to benefit from the increased quality; pouring it into the dish
    and then pouring it out into another container is a perfectly valid way to amass a lot of high-quality sake. However,
    sake can only benefit from its blessing once. The fourth, and most potent, is the Ibaraki Box of a Hundred Medicines,
    a decorated sake box that can hold two litres of liquid at a time. Should a healthy person drink alcohol from the sake
    box, it temporarily grants them the strength of an Oni for a day at the price of shifting their personality to be like an
    Oni’s (read: crude, brash, coarse, loud and belligerent) until it wears off. If a sick, injured or otherwise unhealthy
    person drinks from it, however, it cures all of their ailments barring incurable mutilation from powerful magical relics at
    the small cost of permanently transforming their body into that of an Oni – though some might say this is simply
    another bonus. If a lot of people were to drink from this box, you can be assured it would cause incredible amounts of
    chaos .

    -Centurio Ordinatus (Warhammer 40k - Adeptus Mechanicus) (600CP)
    -Atop The World (The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild - TG) (600CP)
     
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 12
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

    Joined:
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    So, the CF discord has informed me of a new policy of Games Workshop for !ZERO TOLERANCE!! of any and all fan content for Warhammer. to the point that Fanfiction.net got hit with C&D letters trying to nuke the entire section. needless to say, they refused and told GW to kick rocks.

    TTS had been affected,, as seen below.



    My response to GW's bullshit is below.






    The initial surge is almost always the hardest part of an engagement, even when working from ambush or surprise. Even if you had planned every single step of your advance and initial volley down to the second, there was always something that could go wrong, some way that Murphy, that ever so crafty maker of Mischief and Discord, could interject to make things just that much worse. Soldier on the field plan for it. They anticipate it. And even then, they dread it all the same.

    So when the initial charge to the cultists went off as smoothly as possible, I was immediately set on edge. Judging from the “feel” of the others, they were too, even little Rico.

    Despite this, we pushed forward still, breaking a hole in the still-forming line of chaotic armor as we advanced using some rather judicious applications of weapons fire, and severely disrupting the cultist’s combat flow. A wordless gesture from Rico erected a series of barriers in the cleared space for us to use as cover, not that I thought we’d need it. The armor columns, now that we were closer and in better lighting, looked more like a compact Dreadnought...or maybe oversized Terminator armor? In either case, the damned things were bigger than I had expected them to be.

    That just meant that there would be larger targets for us to shoot at. As Harry soon demonstrated.

    Now, to my best knowledge, these armor systems were designed to be nearly as tough as a properly forged suit of Terminator armor, and in certain respects more so due to extra available mass for armoring. The result was a system that by all rights could tank anything short of a heavy bolter with little difficulty, and almost as little damage, which made me curious as to why the pattern was discontinued if it was that good. Probably something to do with either cost or overall effectiveness...

    Anyway, the point here is that the base stats on the armor were nothing for one to scoff at, and would require at least some form of dedicated anti-tank capability to inflict real damage in meaningful timeframes.

    Harry, suspecting the same, jumped straight to the Guardian Laser after settling into his cover, and opened up on the nearest suit of armor to his location.

    The result damn near froze the battlefield with the sheer shock factor involved, as the armor was not only cored through but completely cratered. In one shot. I think he was surprised that there was no over-penetration to the shot, the damned thing was hit so badly.

    I settled into my own chosen position slightly to the back end of the impromptu formation as this happened, observing the effect. If Harry’s base rifle was doing that even in E-mode, then... I would probably need to place my shots more carefully than everyone else, just to avoid structural damage to the caverns and supports.

    Note to self: make an adjustable power selector switch, so this shit doesn’t come up again.

    Mio was wading towards the beleaguered defenders in the crevice proper, using her closer-ranged weaponry to devastating effect in clearing out the flesh-and-blood cultists. For the few armors that had managed to get close enough to present as a threat to the fireteam, well…

    Let’s just say that Angry Dragongirl is a sight to behold, and her strength was more than up to the task of taking the damned things out, with her oddball melee weapon going through the machines like so much tissue paper. It was almost comical, really.

    Harry was using the opportunity caused by the shock factor of our entrance (which had still not faded, a feat that I found quite impressive) in order to do some housekeeping. Even with the slight delay in firing off more laser shots to clean up the armors, the result was still more akin to multiple bolts of quickly-fired death upon his foes. The Armors were dropping like flies.

    Too bad more of the damned things were swarming in from the passage that the cultists were using to attack from... For them, anyway.

    One of the more interesting modifications I was able to make to my personal rifle was a mode select for the G-Laser. Using it, I could switch between the normal shot, a (potentially) piercing shot type (that was now overkill, considering what Harry was up to), and an experimental shot type that would create large area explosions upon impact with a given surface...in theory. I hadn’t actually done live-fire testing on that mode just yet, and was unsure of how effective it would be, or if it would even work as I’d intended.

    Switching to the explosive mode, I sent a single shot downrange, (along with a prayer…) dead center of the pack that was advancing on our position.

    The shot was true, hitting center mass of one of the lead armors in the cultist mob.

    The explosive area effect kicked in as it was supposed to.

    And the entire group effectively ceased to exist.

    I had to stop my own jaw from dropping at the sheer power displayed here. That was a significant increase from what the simulations showed would be the output.

    So far, our weapons were proving to be superior to that of even the most overbuilt Melta gun currently in use. By a significant margin. We were probably going to need a new benchmark for this crap.

    Harry shot me a glance. “Having fun over there?”

    I took the time to snipe and eradicate another grouping of cultists and their armor. “Never better. Gear is working better than expected, is all. How you holding up?”

    Another chuckle. “It's very much like shooting fish in a barrel, my friend.”

    Mio chimed in from near the holdouts. “I’m done over here, but we’re probably going to have a problem once we’re done. Finish up and come see me.”

    Well, that was awkward.

    More of the cultists streamed into the cavern, and I had the stray thought of wondering just where the absolute fuck these people were coming from to have this kind of force when Rico decided he was done with the bullshit for a day.

    Now, I need to make a note of this here. While everyone else was training themselves up in new techniques, Rico was not idle in the slightest. In fact, he had dug into the databases specifically for anything he could use as a caster support-type in a fight, and ran across the very same photon technics that I had skipped over due to lack of time. A second note is that I intentionally built in photon technology into Rico’s core before activating him, so unlike the rest of us, he was perfectly suited to using it on a whim.

    So when the bolts of lightning started not only falling out of the bare air but behaving specifically in a manner not like lightning, I knew what was going on. The cultists, however, did not. And for all their bravado, all their craziness, all their devotion to their dark gods, there just was no stopping any of the (insanely and unusually freeform) Zonde Techs from frying their asses at convenience. Especially when it was arcing from target to target, almost without end.

    Between Myself, Harry, and Rico’s addition of homing lightning that would not go away, we managed to clear up the cultist rush within five minutes of otherwise fierce fighting…on the cultist side. For us, it was only removed from being a training exercise because the bullets were real. I nearly found myself gaping in astonishment when it was over and everything had gone according to plan, for what little given value of plan that we had.

    All the cultists had been annihilated to the last man. I didn't even bother faking a tear for them. They had made their own beds, siding with Chaos. Let them feast on the consequences.

    After another check to make sure that the enemy was actually dead (because the Geneva Convention held no sway here), we returned to the alcove housing our holdouts.

    And was met with the sight of Mio being held at gunpoint by a very clearly irate Sister of Battle.

    Oh, and apparently there were more survivors of the hellstorm, as some of the attendants of the Van Saar base were present as well, along with Janus, and all of them looking ran ragged.

    I just sighed. Murphy had his fun after all.






    “Identify yourselves, or die like scum, dogs!”

    I see the Sister was very personable.

    She was bedecked in the standard power armor of the Sororitas, with a few flourishes denoting her rank as what I believed to be either equivalent to a sergeant or a lieutenant of some kind. Either way, the decals alone told me that she should have been leading a force of similarly minded-people in the field, which begged the question of just where those people were at.

    Mio, of course, was irritated as all hell, and obviously so even without the link we shared. There was not a drop of fear of any kind, though.

    “I am Techpriest Miolala Granliss, and they are my retinue. I had received word that there was some kind of archaeotech hidden here, and was dispatched to recover it. By what right do you hold me to account, especially after bailing your ass out of the frying pan with those cultists?”

    “A likely story, scum. I can see the mutations plainly, heretic. Accept your fate, and perhaps the Emperor will show leniency in his judgement when you face him in death.”

    I decided to step in. “You mind calming down and actually hearing us out? We are here for the archaeotech, after all. Maybe you and yours can get a debrief in before the bolts start flying for no reason?”

    I saw Janus out of the corner of my eye making motions to shut up. I ignored him.

    “And for what reason should I listen to impure mutant scum like yourself? You would have been better served spending your life in this battle to prove your worth to the Imperium. I will allow you to die painlessly as long as you tell me what the truth of this place is.”

    The deadpan look on my face was likely priceless, and I’m sure Rico wanted to get a picture of it. I noticed Harry crawling around near the entrance to the alcove proper, and watched him flinch back in shock as another five Sisters put in an appearance from within, one of which was carrying what looked to be a Volkite Culverin, although I had never seen one that was that compact before.

    Mio was beyond pissed now. “Not going to happen, Zealot. Now, I believe I mentioned I was here on official Mechanicus business, so Step. Aside. Or face the consequences.”

    The sister gazed at Mio for a moment, and I thought that maybe we could solve this mess…

    And then the Sister pulled the trigger on her Bolter.

    THAT was a mistake.

    I’m pretty sure I was the only one who saw it happen. Mio was, one moment, at point-blank to a bolter aimed at her head. The next, she was fully behind her would-be attacker, having outright dodged the bolt coming at her with contemptuous ease, and in the same motion wrenching the Sister’s arms fully behind her in a full Nelson hold. The bolter clanged harmlessly to the floor below.

    All motion in the cavern stopped, save for my own, as I calmly walked up to the Sister in question, a deceptively calm look on my face. I stopped once I was close enough to do what I needed to, and then proceeded to slap the everloving dogshit out of her.

    All at once, weapons were aimed in my direction from the other Sisters in the area, who proceeded to fan out in order to gain better firing angles. Mio watched them calmly, even as the Sister she was currently clenching tried and failed to break free. Seems that even Power Armor has limits, and my dragon exceeded them quite handily.

    I deliberately ignored the blush that broke out on Mio’s face.

    “Are you done yet?”

    Such a simple question, and yet I was almost certain of the answer anyway.

    And, right on cue, our dear Sister spat at me, which I lazily dodged. “Never, heretic. Burn in the hell that your masters have created for you.”

    Okay, I knew that the whole xenophobia thing and religious fervor would be an issue, but seriously? We literally just wiped out one of the largest forces of Chaos Cultists in the area, possibly in the entire Hive, and this bitch has the nerve to try and call us out as mutants and Heretics? As, dare I say it, worshipers of Chaos?

    Did we not just literally SAVE YOUR SORRY ASSES!?!

    The cavern was quiet. Again. And judging by the looks I was getting, I had said at least part of that out loud. Good, because the fucktards needed to hear it.

    “So, just where the fuck do you think you get off, having the nerve to try and call me out as a, and I quote, HERETIC, and thus unworthy of the Emperor’s grace? Who in the fuck died and made you God? Because last time I checked, big E hasn’t kicked the bucket yet, and not for a lack of effort by the many enemies of the Imperium.

    “And even if I was a “mutant”, what the fuck does it matter if I am still loyal to the Imperium? Hell, for that matter, Miss Granliss here has clearly stated that she is a Techpriest on official business, and you did not even bother to ask for credentials or even orders. No. you just held her at gunpoint, because you saw something that you didn’t like. Well, TOUGH SHIT. We are here, we have business with that cavern, and as much as I do not want to shed loyal Imperial blood, if I have to go through you all to do it then you and your Sisters are all dead women. So choose, Sister. Let us complete our legitimate task, and even help us if you feel it is so important, or stand in our way and die as ignorant fools for nothing. Because I assure you…”

    And with that verbal cue, Rico finished the binding spell that he was slowly building up, and completely immobilized the entire force of Sororitas with not even a gesture.

    “...you are not winning a fight against us.”

    I could see the looks of pure RAGE on the faces of the Sisters as they were effectively dismantled without so much as firing a shot, and it warmed my heart. I knew that getting through to this group was an exercise in futility, but at least I could take some solace in their suffering such a humiliating defeat. That it (currently) prevented a bloodbath from breaking out was just a bonus, and had a secondary objective as well of preventing a certain thing from happening that would be bad for everyone involved.

    “Well, Sister? I’m waiting.”

    The growls of frustration were delicious.






    The Sororitas were more or less stacked into a corner and given a quick medical scan by Rico while the rest of us sorted out the mess that was everything else. Harry was working with Janus and the other Van Saar survivors, getting them set to rights after the onslaught, while Mio and I were moving to inspect the cave proper.

    Normally I would have left the healing processes to Mio, who was more familiar with the Imperium as a whole than I was, but she was far too enraged to even bother without ripping the Sister (who I now knew was the Sister Superior of that particular detachment) to shreds. While I did not blame her, the anger seemed to be coming from a weird place. As such, I had her tagging along with me to do STC recovery.

    “So, do you actually want to talk about it, or am I just going to have to drag you around by the leash for a bit?”

    Mio had the decency to at least blush at the comment, but the anger didn’t fade in the slightest. “While I would love to get back to that particular game, now is not the time, and I’m honestly not in the mood, not after that”, and she spat in the Sister Superior’s general direction. “BITCH so blatantly disregarded everything the Imperium is supposed to stand for. We are meant to fight for the freedom of Man from the horrors of the galaxy, not fighting amongst ourselves over who is more righteous and pure. There are enough enemies out there for everyone and then some.”

    “That only explains about half of it, Mio. Why did you react as if you expected something completely different?”

    Mio sighed. “Because I did.”

    That didn’t really throw me for a loop so much as it merely was mildly surprising. I sensed that there was more and allowed her to continue.

    “When we met, I told you that I was chosen to assist you as needed, and was teleported across the galaxy to find you.” She paused, seeming to gather a bit of willpower for whatever she wanted to say next. “What I did not tell you was that I was also teleported across dimensions, or perhaps you would prefer realities.”

    Okay then. That had my attention.

    “I am from an Imperium that is apparently much different from this one, at least in one major part: The Imperium here is a fragmented, disjointed thing full of warring factions and petty grudges. My Imperium is not much better, but unlike here we do not fight amongst ourselves, only against the tides of darkness encroaching ever closer, until the time when the Emperor may once again join us in battle.”

    I took a moment to collect my thoughts from this revelation. Mio’s world sounded on the surface like something completely at odds with what I knew of the setting that was Warhammer 40,000, and yet it also poked at a memory of something I had read before. Something meant to be better. No less Dark, but a lot less Grim. I needed more information.

    “And of your Emperor? What is his status?”

    Mio’s response was tinged with both pain and hope. “He sits upon the golden throne, recovering ever so slowly from a grievous injury sustained during the rebellions. All attempts to research the technology used have so far failed to give anything that could accelerate the process of healing him. But he is healing, and when he is recovered…”

    That narrowed it down a LOT. I think Mio was from one of the so-called “midhammer” worlds, where things were less about the futility of the struggle and more about the nobility of the sacrifice.

    Words came to me. “Countless souls perish in His name, never to be remembered...but their deeds live onwards forevermore in the hearts of those who still fight on.” It was something of a tagline for that kind of thing, and a thought process that I agreed with when so few were actually truly capable of affecting the galaxy on the necessary scale to effect true change.

    “Yes. We all strive ever forwards, towards the day when the true dawn shall break. Until then, we shall fight.”

    A sentiment I agreed with wholeheartedly. A smile tugged at my face at the thought.

    “Yeah, this is not your home dimension. In this place, the Emperor is not a fallen hero, but a rotting Carcass sitting upon the Throne of Terra, fed thousands of psyker souls every day so that he may never truly die. The Imperium as a whole is a fractious, uncoordinated mess, with everyone and their grandma trying to create their own fiefdom within the greater whole and willing to condemn entire worlds for a bit of political power...and don’t even get me started on the shit that Chaos gets up to in this environment.

    “Here, the Sisters of Battle acting like overcompensating zealots is not only normal, but expected. The same goes for the utterly fantastic racism that you will be subjected to, never mind that you are a Techpriest. They will still find a way to hate, mostly because I think that it's all that many of them have left. Only their hate.”

    Mio remained silent for a moment, and then spoke, both in voice and mind.

    We will fix this.”

    My reply was in the same manner.

    “Yes we will.”

    Now the only problem was to figure out how to do so.

    Instead of brooding, I lightly booped Mio on her head, between those wonderful horns of hers. “Don’t sweat it too much. We’ll figure it out, one way or the other.”

    Mio’s smiles were always a balm for me, even back then. Now that I was legitimately falling for her (and more importantly, willing to admit it even within my own mind), they were almost weapons-grade in their soothing ability.

    “Oh, right. There is something I wanted to ask you about.” Mio made a vague gesture that seemed like a form of exasperation. “One of the final “tweaks” from the forge integration process just finished recently, and gave me a strange object, and instructions to just ask you about what it was.” She then reached into a pouch on her belt and pulled out a small white sphere.

    I nearly face faulted at seeing it, especially if it was what I thought it was. “Did you notice anything unusual about that sphere, Mio? Things that did or did not fit right?”

    Mio shrugged: “Well, it doesn’t feel like a Spherical object, even though I can plainly see that it is one. It’s more...spiky? Except for one spot that feels odd. The Data for this is still being set up, so I’m not 100% on what it is. Do you know?”

    Ah. that explained it. The user manual hadn’t gotten to her yet, but that did bring up a question of sorts that I would need to ask Watts about. Specifically, why now?

    Anyway, Mio deserved an explanation. “That, if my guess is correct, is a Valkyrie Core. it’s a pretty nifty piece of technology, and will serve you will in the coming days...after you get used to it. Syncing with the things is rough if you don’t have a high affinity, and there are many who will never be compatible at all. I have one myself, but due to outside factors it’s currently locked down. I can teach you what I know when we get done here.”

    Again, Mio’s love for all things technology shone through her expressions, even as her wonder at the small golf ball of doom washed over our link. I took a moment to indulge in seeing her happy.

    Which is probably why we both were not paying attention for what happened next.

    We had arrived at the area where the STC was located. It was still here, and from the looks of it, undamaged. I would need to check the databases to make sure that the cultists hadn’t gotten to it first, but it was here and available.

    What we weren’t expecting was the second squad of Sisters hanging around in the area in some rather good hiding spots, waiting for just such a fat and happy target to make an appearance. They opened fire on us almost as soon as we hit their kill box. And it was here that I learned a very valuable lesson.

    Bolter shells hurt.

    I myself was hit by at least five of the things before I managed to get up a barrier to cover myself. Mio got hit maybe twice more from what I could see. Both of us had our Auras shattered almost outright from the barrage before we got to cover, and the shooting did not stop even then.

    I had to physically force Mio to not fire back. I was sorely tempted to as well. But I stayed my hand and made sure that Mio did the same while reinforcing our shields and covering exposed areas, because if my suspicion was correct, then that was the absolute WORST thing that the Sisters could have done.

    The sudden feeling of supernatural menace in the air did not bode well for my hopes that I was wrong.

    Slowly, the Sisters stopped firing. At first, I suspected it was an ammunition issue, but…

    “Come out, and identify yourselves. We will not act against you further unless provoked.”

    “Like we’re supposed to believe that from the people who shot first and are only not asking questions because you can’t kill us?” Mio’s words rang out over the area. I, on the other hand, was curious as to why we hadn’t had the group outside rushing in yet. This alcove was reasonably large, but not THAT big.

    “We received orders that I now believe were in error. We will not act against you unless you act against us. All I need is for you to identify yourselves.”

    I looked at Mio. “you think we should try it?”

    “No. Hell no. They are only trying to get past the shielding. The instant we pop up, we die.”

    “Mio, we can move faster than the bolts now that we know they are there. If nothing else, we can get out of the kill box.” I was trying to be semi-reasonable, but the increasing sense of outright Malice was distracting me. Something was coming. Something big.

    “Besides, I can feel it too. I do not want to be fighting on two fronts when whatever that thing is decides to wake up.”

    Slowly, the Sisters began to feel it too, one by one, each of them turning about and seeking the source of the malice with their bolters. I winced as two of the Sisters swept the entire group with the business ends of the weapons several times in their near panic. This was not good. At all.

    “Ladies,” I called out. “I believe we are about to have some company. I suggest you prepare yourselves for a fight.”

    Apparently the Sister in charge agreed. “You heard the man, get to cover! Prepare for attack, and MAKE SURE THE STC REMAINS UNDAMAGED!!”

    Someone had their priorities straight. Hell, I actually agreed with her. I made a cursory check on Thoth just to see if any of the restrictions had been lifted...and nope, they were all still there, same as always...but a warning had popped up.

    [UNKNOWN ENTITY ATTEMPTING TO BREACH LOCAL SPACE. STANDBY FOR DEFENSE RESPONSE]

    Wait, what? What Unknown entity was this? I was expecting Bird People shenanigans, not this shit!

    The entity made itself known soon after, complete with the sound of thunder and the roar of displace air. Unnoticed to all but myself was the sound of cracking stone.

    I...did not know what to call the damned thing. It was clearly not anything that the Imperium had come up with, and yet it did not look precisely like any form of Daemon that I had ever seen. It was just weird.

    We all watched as looked around for a bit, clearly noticing the groups of combatants watching it carefully.

    And then it turned towards the STC, and made a shockingly quick beeline to the priceless object.

    The response was immediate and unforgiving. The Sisters opened up almost immediately on the Daemon(?) peppering it with ceaseless bolter fire. Mio worked to get a shot of her own, but the angles were bad with our barrier setup. Besides, the damned thing was almost as fast as we were, dodging around the bolts like it could see them coming from a mile off, always moving ever closer to that precious relic...at least, until a pillar of Ice rose directly in its path, blocking its access.

    No way in hell I was letting it get anywhere near that STC...and I could cast from this position all fucking day without dropping that shield.

    The room shook slightly as something outside my field of view happened, and I was forced to put it out of mind as the daemon switched tactics and moved to disable my battlefield control, still dodging the Sisters attempts at putting it down. My guess is that it probably thought that I was a run-of-the-mill psyker that it could slap aside with ease, and then get back to its real job.

    Too bad for it that I was not anywhere near that weak or that stupid. And unlike it, I had backup that was not afraid to go after it. Mio and I were more than ready to deal with the threat.

    The Daemon charged us, intent on breaking through no matter the cost.

    This is probably why it got sideswiped by the goddamned Bird statue as it ran by, the Torizo making a point of doing a Kool-Aid man impression as it came through the Ice wall faster tan even I could track to basically fold that daemon over its knee. Hell, it even LOOKED painful.

    The Torizo then proceeded to blatantly and utterly FLEX on that poor daemon. I outright refused to even call it a fight, it was so bad. That daemon quite literally had its ass handed to it before the Torizo opened up with Chozo bullshit and erased it from existence.

    The whole time the STC sat untouched and pristine.

    I carefully reshaped my barrier so that I had a better view of the Torizo now that it was busy scraping leftover daemon off its foot. To all appearances, it looked like a normal version that you would see in the games...and then I noticed the golden color of its “skin”.

    Whelp, guess this op is a wash. I’m almost certain I don’t have the firepower to deal with a Golden Torizo, especially not one that made wiping out a daemon look easy…

    “Alright. Mio, time for us to go. We’re not beating that thing anytime soon, and neither are the Sisters. Maybe we can come back later or something, after we build up a bit...why are you looking at me like that?”

    Mio had a look on her face that could only be described as “Are you CRAZY?” I wanted to ignore it. I really did...but I value her insight too much to do that to her. Besides, her response to my question was to point at the Torizo.

    Which had stopped and was looking directly at us.

    I had played enough Metroid to know where this was going. And I knew for an absolute fact that this was going to suck like nothing else.

    The Torizo let out a scream that shook the very air itself. And whether we liked it or not, battle was joined.






    “Do NOT let it hit you no matter what!! You saw what it did to that daemon, I do not want that happening to you!!”

    My warning to Mio proved to be timely, as the Torizo used its initial attack to basically bypass my poor barriers like they weren’t even there and take a quick swipe at my Dragon. Mio, having seen the attack coming (and heeded my warning) dodged out of the way as quickly as possible while opening up the distance between them.

    I took the opportunity to get a potshot off at the damned thing...only to watch in horror as it snatched my mass effect-boosted slug out of the air like it was a mere dandelion in the wind, and contemptuously toss it aside. A repeat attempt with more bullets had the same thing happening.

    The Sisters of Battle were only slightly confused by the unfolding events, but still put in their best work as things heated up, spraying bolter fire downrange at the Torizo in an attempt to do something looking like damage to it.

    The bolts were dodged with the same ease that one would dodge a particularly slow ball. Hell, it all but mocked the poor sisters while doing it just with motions alone. This, of course, stirred them up into an even greater zeal and fury...with an equally dismal success rate. If anything, it was making my life harder, as I was running out of safe spaces to dodge into with the fucking bolts everywhere.

    The Torizo came after me next, and it took everything I had to dodge out f the way of its casual swipe at my person, even while it was still dodging the goddamned bolts being shot at it. Mio’s attempt to use her shotgun on it failed, and it nearly took me out in the process when the damned bird statue somehow redirected the shot at me. A hasty shield took care of the impact, and nearly got me killed as the Torizo put on the speed to take advantage of the opening.

    The fucker wasn’t even trying. We were getting our asses kicked, and it was barely trying.

    Well, fuck you too. Let's see how you like it when the thunder comes to you.

    I took a brief moment to center myself while the Torizo was focused on Mio. I had gotten a bit of practice in with this system, but most of the time I’d had to this point was spent getting more proficient with the things that I could teach to others, and even our breakneck training session mostly focused on O. Arts, primarily due to the now proven lifesaving effects of many of the booster techs in keeping me out of the line of fire. Even so, I hadn't neglected my magical studies, and this spell should do the trick. Besides, it’s not like the system is hard to use or anything…

    I focused my intent into the spell I wanted to form, shaped it as needed, and applied my final, personal step to the process to keep from having to chant an aria for the damned thing. And with a simple gesture, I chucked a very respectable bolt of lightning at the Torizo.

    Who dodged it before I had even fired.

    Seriously? How the fuck were we supposed to beat this thing?

    The sisters were useless. And I mean completely useless. The bolts were proving to do very little in the way of damage, and that was the few times the fucker actually let them hit it. Mio, on the other hand, was getting increasingly frustrated and desperate in equal amounts as all of her attacks failed to connect even as the Torizo sped up more to keep the pressure on. My one attempt at a G-Laser shot was dodged out of with the same ease as the rest of the guns.

    Fuck. I was getting a message I did not want to hear right now.

    Torizo were normally guardians of things, meant to act as a final test for those who would claim the power of the Chozo as their own. More often than not, they proved to be the one of the many tests of the bounty hunter Samus Aran.

    I was let to assume that this was a test as well, but of what? The Torizo could do things that I cannot do? How do I fix it? How to I get past it, especially without any real support?

    Fuck it. I would just wing it with Mio and pray that I was right.

    {Mio, we have to get in close.}

    {Yeah, I figured as much. The fucker is dodging everything I throw at it, not matter what. You got a plan? Because I’m fresh out.}

    {Yeah. The plan is simple: Melee ranged weaponry. It literally is a test, and one that we’ve failed simply by agitating the door guard. This was going to happen no matter what anyway.}

    At least, that was my reasoning. If I was wrong, well, death is one of those things, is it not?

    And so I grabbed my rifle, activated the Bayonet/Spear emitter I’d built in, and charged.

    This time the Torizo did NOT immediately dodge, and the sudden understanding that broke out across the room was nearly a solid object. Mio drew down her polearm, I had my bayonet, and the Sisters were pulling out what looked like combat knives.

    I doubted anyone but Mio’s chances of success.

    As I moved in, the Torizo took another lazy swipe at me, which I chose to parry instead of just dodge, to see if I could gauge something.

    The resulting lack of an attempt to counterattack after I had successfully parried the blow (which was surprisingly light for what I’d seen it doing) proved to me that this was one of those bosses. We would need to keep engaging in melee in order to stand a chance.

    Fortunately for us, Mio liked close combat. Her strength granted to her by her newfound lineage was only icing on the cake, really. Her polearm lashed out seemingly at random, only to find purchase within the Torizo at odd times and even odd angles. How she kept her hands on it, I do not know.

    The Sisters were no slouches in this department either, using their combat knives and power-armored strength to close in and attempt to hack the Torizo to death. Unfortunately, the Creature proved that you needed to be able to hit things in order to deal damage, as it still was dodging blows, but now it was adding in some unusually creative and humiliating countermoves to the mix, too. At least one of the sisters got hit with the whipped cream pie setup. It would not end there, of that I am certain.

    As for me? I made sure to stick as hard to that Torizo as I could, and went to getting as many hits in with my impromptu spear as possible, making a point to keep dodging blows and even going out of my way to defend the sisters if I could from the more obnoxious attacks headed their way.

    This continued on for who knows how long, with no real solution in sight, and I was pissed and scared in equal measures. Also confused, as I’m pretty sure we’re making enough noise in here to draw attention to the fucking fight happening. So where the hell was everyone else at?

    Whatever. It did’;t matter. Right now, we needed to take this thing down, even if that meant we had to do it the slow way. Too bad for us that even our best weapons weren’t doing much to it.

    I tried again with some ice-type magic battlefield shaping, only to have the Torizo break apart the ice wall and start using the chunks as projectiles. Mio tried a full dozen experimental originium arts with equal success. The sisters couldn’t even touch it. This shit was getting ridiculous.

    In frustration, I threw out a completely random and untyped blast of magic with a seeker package on it. It was meant solely as a distraction to give me more room to close in.

    Instead, the ball of energy hit and did more damage than anything we’d tried to that point.

    As much as I was kicking myself for not trying it earlier, at least we had a weakness.

    “Mio, give me some room to open up a bit. I’m gonna end this!!”

    As I found out that day, Torizo have excellent hearing. I also found out that walls are very unyielding when in cave systems, as the Torizo all but teleported to my side and effectively bitchslapped me into said wall. Mio’s followup magic bursts were not answered with anywhere near as much fury,

    “Ugh...message received. No gloating until after the fight is over...ow.”

    And damn, but that hurt.

    I lost track of the battle as I took a moment to heal myself. I thought I heard Mio screaming in frustration, but I wasn’t sure with the way my head was pounding at the moment. Hell, I was almost to the point where I would be afraid to use a few medical arts, but thankfully the art I was using to heal myself was designed for almost that precise situation.

    And now that I could see straight again, it was obvious that Mio was getting her ass kicked trying to buy time for me. I intended to use it.

    I gathered as much mana as I could within a short timeframe and started setting up a bombardment. Yes, I ran the risk of a cave collapse if this went wrong, but it was not going to go wrong. Not with the way I was building it. If anything, the danger to the environment would be next to nothing with this.

    Gathering the power took very little time, and shaping to my will with the appropriate math even less so. I made a very deliberate noise in order to draw Mio’s attention and alert her to dodge, then fired immediately afterwards. No hesitation whatsoever. This proved critical when the Torizo picked up on the signal too, and moved to vacate the target zone of the big ball of doom…

    Which then split itself apart into multiple little balls of doom, all of which had homing properties.

    The damage was severe. I thought I saw an arm nearly get blown off, and a leg was sort of crippled too. The Torizo slowly sank to its knee, and small explosions started going off in and on its frame. The light in its eyes faded to nothing. Internally, I let out a small cheer. We’d won.

    That was when the explosions stopped.

    The Torizo’s eyes lit right back up again...and a pair of wings extended from its back.

    “Oh FUCK no. We are NOT having any of that!!!”

    Mio hit the fucker with everything she had. Magic, technology, it did not matter. If she had it, it was getting used. The Torizo rocked under the assault, and I saw what looked like an arm get blown off in the onslaught. Not to be left behind, I added in my own firepower, peppering the opposite side from Mio to make sure it stayed down.

    And this time, it did, exploding with a (relatively) small blast that was nonetheless felt in the pressure wave as it washed over us.

    I carefully moved to inspect the wreckage, wanting to make sure that the thing was dead, when I spotted something. A glowing ball object, resting quite calmly in the pile like nothing was wrong. A second object had rolled off to the side, apparently dislodged by the blast somehow.

    I carefully approached, and picked up the ball with my telekinesis...and everything changed.

    All at once, a bunch of things started happening. The Sisters cried out at something or another, Mio seemed to have a panic attack as I felt something interface with her system in a very intimate manner...and Thoth finally came back online, and with a message too.

    [Congratulations on defeating the Challenge Chamber!!! We hope that it was to your satisfaction. A copy of this has been added to your dimensional space so that you can try again if you feel like it. It is very good for practicing combat techniques, so please make use of it.

    As compensation for our little prank, we have bestowed another gift upon you and your mate. Please enjoy, and know that we wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

    PS: there are other challenges hidden in areas that we knew you would be visiting. Seek them out for interesting prizes!

    --The Chozo]

    The fuck? This was a prank? A goddamned PRANK?!? Why the fuck--

    [Systems integration complete. Restarting …]

    Eh?

    A swirl of light surrounded me, and I unexpectedly found myself in my fully expressed Valkyrie Frame, except…

    This was NOT my frame. At least, not the way I had left it.

    For one, everything from the lowliest system up to the most critical had been redone with a master’s hand, absolutely flawless function built-in with no sacrifice to form whatsoever. Everything from movement systems to power generation was over a hundred times more efficient and powerful than I had ever dreamed of happening, and it seemed to be synergizing with Thoth himself to push that even further as the blatantly new systems synced with my biology. I had weapons now, built into the gauntlets of my armor, at the cost of the hands and gauntlets themselves being only slightly thinker as a result, which I could handle just fine.

    The most obvious feature, though, was the change in the heads-up display, which had modified itself to have a single very conspicuous counter at the top now.

    |ENERGY 99|​

    I could barely believe it. I was wearing it and could barely believe it.

    [Sorry for the confusion, sir. But the upgrades are complete, and everything is good to go.

    And yes, this is what you think it is. They said it was part of the compensation. That item you picked up is integrating now.}

    And another shock to the system as the item finished its process of integrating, far faster than even Thoth had ever been in doing so, and a very familiar time started to play as a message popped up on my HUD.

    |MORPH BALL|
    Take the form of a ball and access narrow passageways.​

    My laughter was joyous and plentiful, as I enjoyed the realization of a dream of decades.

    I had a Chozo Power suit.








    I had intended to stop before the Torizo battle, but felt that I needed to get this out of the way now, while I still had the big for it. Now, Blaster Master Zero 3 awaits me.


    -Arcanatarium (Twokinds) (400CP)
    A trained mage can throw out spells on the fly, but the really impressive magic is prepared far in advance. For that, you'll need a place to work. This workshop is fully outfitted to support a practiced mage in all their pursuits. There's a permanent magic circle to focus your energies, a table of alchemical equipment for the brewing of potions, a wellstocked library full of tomes and scrolls of arcane knowledge, and any other dedicated workspace you'll need for working magic. This workshop also comes stocked with plenty of ingredients and materials for your alchemicy and artifact crafting, including rarer materials like precious metals and gems. You'll still need to provide any extremely rare or unique items, but this personalized workspace will have anything else you need for your own arcane pursuits. This property can take any form you wish, from a traditional tower to a basement laboratory. Post-jump, this workshop can be imported and attached to any property you own

    Chozo Challenge Chamber (200 Milestone): (Custom perk, thanks to Cheetored20 for creation)
    This room adjusts size and shape for your testing needs, whatever they may be. It can even provide test dummies for target practice...including live fire variants. Just make sure you don't go in there without anything to test, or it might just try to test you.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2021
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 13
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    I will admit it. I got completely and utterly lost in my new power suit.

    It was a freaking CHOZO POWER SUIT. you would be geeking out too, dammit.

    Looks-wise, it was nothing like anything the Chozo had put out for human (read: Samus) use that I had seen. For one, the normal arm cannon was now minimized and split to be a part of the gauntlets and vambraces of the armor, and not just one big cannon. There were even interface ports for using other external weaponry as needed, which was a big step up from the completely self-contained unit of the games.

    Second, the overall aesthetic of the suit hadn’t changed much at all. It was still the same sleek piece of tech, but now with bicep-mounted shoulder protection akin to old samurai armor rather than the usual pauldrons that were common setup for most systems, including the Chozo. To use “official” terminology, it was a hybridization of a spaulder and the Japanese sode, all mounted on the rerebrace as was normal for a set of spaulders...as to how I knew that much about armor pieces, I blame Thoth.

    [As you wish.]

    Moving on, and ignoring certain things that will be addressed later, I saw that a lot of what was nominally underlayer for the armor had been merged with the remaining pieces of “overt” armoring into a new super-flexible armor material that seemed to not have any real areas of weakness, not even joints. The torso and chest sections were equally improved, this time using a thicker, stronger, and yet oddly just as light piece to protect all of the needed vitals without compromising mobility. Somehow, the entire suit maintained my nominal color theme of green and blue, even going so far as to redistribute the colors and shading in a more visually pleasing manner. The helmet and visor remained similar to what it was as a standard Valk Frame, though, even with the massive improvements to the internals--

    My elation at having one of my furthest-flung childhood dreams become reality was cut abruptly and terribly short by an outburst of Bolter fire. Annoyed, I turned towards the source, only then remembering the detachment of Sisters of battle that were in the chamber with us. A quick scan showed that the sister in charge here--I hesitated to call her a sister superior, as I saw no extra flourishes or markings on her armor denoting such--had apparently decided to do a little property damage to the cave ceiling to get attention.

    “While I do very much enjoy the fact that we are still alive, we do have a task we were set about accomplishing. I would like to complete it. Please move aside.”

    As much as I wanted to ignore her, she was at least trying to be polite about it.

    Instead, I asked a question. “And what task is this? We may be able to assist you.”

    The Senior Sister shook her head. “Unfortunately, you cannot. We have been tasked with recovering this STC and delivering it to the Mechanicus as swiftly as possible.”

    I felt Mio’s fury even from over here, without the link, though I was somewhat confused as to why she was so mad. Anyway, I needed to defuse this shit before my dragon starts killing people.

    “I happen to be part of a Mechanicus detachment for that very reason. We can assist--”

    The sister waved me off dismissively, though I noted a bit of a grimace in her features. “No need. We have orders to secure the STC and deliver it to the local forge as soon as possible.”

    Oh. that was why. It made sense now. Local pissing match and tons of Ecclesiarchy lies. Even I knew that there was no way in hell that the Mechanicus would allow that shit to happen without at least an observer on site.

    Mio had finally had enough, and damn near teleported into the poor Sister’s face, all but snapping at her for merely trying to perform her admittedly shitty duty. “If that is the case, then why is there not a techpriest on-site to handle the movement and excavation of such a priceless relic? Why is the Ecclesiarchy involved in any way or fashion in what is clearly Mechanicus business?”

    Another wave of dismissal from the Sister, along with a less disguised grimace. “That is none of your business. Now, I will request that you leave this area, in light of your assistance, instead of adhering to the letter of my orders and cutting you down where you stand. I strongly encourage you to do so.”

    Mio, of course, was not budging. “I will not, and as a duly sworn techpriest I would be remiss in my duties if I did so. My detachment will remain here, and we will ensure the safety and proper handling of the STC. any complaints will need to be forwarded to the Adeptus Mechanicus directly, and will likely invoke an official...reaction from those who feel themselves affected.”

    The Sister tried valiantly to hide her flinch, but I knew better. Any attempt she made to force the issue against Mio would end in disaster for her and her troops, and she knew it. There would be only one outcome here, and it would not be theirs.

    I saw it the moment the Sister decided to back down, and mentally breathed a sigh of relief. I had no desire to watch loyal Imperial Fighters die for no other reason than a pissing match. Mio’s smirk could be felt across the entire room, and I made a point of sending waves of disapproval through our link...which only made her even more smug about it. Ugh.

    Credit to that Sister though for being willing to follow orders to the bitter end, though. In fact, her willingness to be flexible could be helpful here…

    I took a gamble. “Lady Granliss, would it be possible for us to enlist the aid of these Sisters in our mission instead?”

    Mio stared at my armorclad form for what felt like a very long time, before shrugging, although I could feel her understanding and mirth clear as day. “I see no reason to not allow it. More guns for the defense, and all. Does the Sister agree?”

    Said sister looked at us for a bit before nodding. “I do. Please assign us as you see fit.” her tone was admittedly lighter than it was before....my guess is that the olive branch I allowed to be handed out saved her and her troops a lot of headaches later. I had no issues with this.

    The one thing I was mildly concerned about was that I had effectively ceded mission command to Mio, and from the growing mirth and not insignificant vindictiveness I felt she knew it and was planning something that would probably not end well….which meant I needed to distract her with the shinies before she did something that we might end up regretting.

    I still had the feeling that I was being played rather thoroughly, but that could wait in the face of Mio deciding to go off on people.

    Distraction time. “Should we begin inspection of the STC while the Sisters handle security, ma’am?”

    I know she knew what I was doing. She was making a point of making sure I knew. But after a moment of her giving me a downright gimlet stare, she acquiesced.

    “Very well. We can begin our inspection while they clear the area. It should not take too long, if everything is as it appears.” I made a point of not calling attention to the downright giddy look that had appeared on her face at the thought of getting her hands on that STC. I suspect the Sisters did the same, even as their leader rounded them up to move out of the cavern proper.

    So far, in spite of the setbacks, we were doing somewhat decently. There was still plenty of time for it to get worse (and I suspected that we would be fighting our way out of this cavern one way or the other) but so far we were in a reasonably good spot.

    [I concur. Also, I have a lock on the second artifact from the ‘Torizo’ creature. We might want to store it at some point.]

    Which gave me time to deal with this part. Namely, that Thoth had somehow managed to scrape together a sort of VI for himself. I suspected that the Chozo tech infusion had something to do with it--

    [Correct. The infusion of the Chozo technology allowed my complexity to exceed a specific value, and pushed me to a form of semi-sentience. I am still effectively running on your hardware, but the sheer amount of mental power you have available has allowed me to act as a ‘smart’ VI for most purposes.

    And before you ask, yes, most of the ‘Valkyrie Cores’ do the same for their partners as well. The only reason most did not speak of it is because it is meant to be personalized to the user, and normally requires tens of thousands of sync hours before the proper structures have formed, and the partner is sufficiently adapted and upgraded.]

    ...and that answers that. So now I have an adaptive VI linked o my brain meats, which is not as big a deal as it sound considering just how deep core/partner connections go. It does explain about the odd sync gains I was getting, even beyond what my upgrades had managed.

    “This...this is...it’s...complete. Actually Complete.

    THAT caught my attention. I had most definitely heard the outright reverent tone in her voice. And that Capital, too.

    Standard Template Constructs were usually found as bits and pieces of what was once a form of cornucopia machine for old earth technology. The intent, If I remembered correctly, was that you could take one into nearly any environment and use it to rebuild the old technology from base principles using even the lowest forms of technology. What was usually found nowadays was the fragments of what had been generated by those machines.

    If what Mio was implying was true, then we had found something beyond any price in the Imperium, and equally something that would be fought for tooth and nail by every faction even within it. If this was truly a full, complete and uncorrupted STC as intended by its builders, its mere existence could destroy the Imperium.

    No wonder the Ecclesiarchy was so hard up on this to have sent out the Sisters. It was their ticket to absolute power...which meant that as much as I detested getting involved, I had to keep it away from them, if only to prevent the outright genocidal purges that would come once they thought they had secured their power.

    I deliberately did a sensor sweep of the cavern as a precaution. I also grabbed that artifact that I had been distracted from by Mio’s proclamation and stored it withing Thoth, and then stepped towards the STC.

    “So, what is it? Do you know for certain?” I was deliberately playing up the “don’t know shit” angle of this for the onlookers in case I needed to make a move. Mio. however, was still enraptured and had laid a hand onto the STC proper. I noticed that she had synced her core for this, and suspected that she was interfacing with the systems within.

    “It’s exactly s I have said. This is a fully complete and undamaged Standard Template Construct. It has everything…” The words came almost breathless to her. I’ on the other hand got even more nervous. Having all the technology was fine…

    {It has an intelligence within. It has told me that it seeks to adjust plans and pieces with available materials and technology available...this is incredible. I understand now--the fragments that we have always hunted...they were nothing more than the prebuilt plans from these.}

    Oh no.

    It was the real deal, and I was now on a time limit.

    {Mio, I apologize for this, I really do, but I gotta either steal this or destroy it.}

    Her shock was visible, and she turned to me with a look of horror on her face, despite our conversation using no words. {Destroy? We cannot destroy this!! It’s too important!!}

    {And it's too powerful. If any one faction gets their hands on this, the rest will suffer for it. I am especially not keen for the Ecclesiarchy, and through them the Inquisition, to get their hands on even more power within the Imperium. Until and unless we can find someone worthy of holding it, it has to go.}

    And that was really the crux of the whole matter. We had in our hands the ability to ensure the rise of humanity back to its golden age...and because of the internecine power struggles that happen within the Imperium every day, we couldn’t use it. It was frustrating in the extreme, and one way or another I would be a pariah for what happened next, all in the name of preserving what little remained of the last bastion of order for humanity.

    I really hated choices like this, but it had to be done--

    (Lord, are you alright? Do you need assistance? You have been out of contact for some time.)

    ...or I could just ask Rico to play dummy mode for me and then have him do a vanish/unison to get away. That works too.

    I made a decision, and explained everything to Rico (We are going to have to sell this HARD, Rico. make it look good.)

    (Yes, Lord.)

    The things I do in the name of duty…






    Harry was having one of his strange days. It by all rights should have been a good day, what with them recovering an utterly priceless STC, and a potentially whole one from what Satori had seen when they had passed through previously. The Ruinous Pawns trying to take the device for themselves was regrettable, but understood to be something that happened, and they were repulsed with utmost swiftness and discretion. Even the encounter with the Adeptas Sororitas somehow managed to go quite well, to the point that there had not been one drop of loyal blood spilled. Satori and Mio had then moved inside to collect the relic, at which point they would make their merry way to an access hatch and get the hell out of dodge.

    So when the strange childlike intelligence calling itself Rico motioned for his attention, he knew that things were about to go horribly wrong.

    Knowing that this was likely the beginnings of it dropping in the pot, Harry kept things brief and businesslike. “Yes, what is it?”

    Rico deliberately gave him an odd look. And mouthed something to him out of the visual of the currently bound Sororitas.

    Don’t ask, just roll with it. Will explain later.

    That was the only warning that Harry received before all hell broke loose.

    Rico had gone from being the calm, if oddly cheerful floating child with binding powers to a mad dervish of power in a mere moment, throwing his Magic everywhere in a wild and uncontrolled manner...or at least it seemed that way, if you weren’t paying attention. Harry was, and, along with his advance warning, could see the obvious gaps in the “random pattern” that were there to be exploited for a quick escape route.

    Instead of running, though, he decided to trust his instincts and opened fire on Rico, who easily dodged every shot...when he didn’t shield them just to prove a point.

    Oh, and he was taunting people too. “Thank you very much for leading me to my objective, fools. I will be acquiring this technology for my own purposes. You all enjoy yourselves now!!”

    For reasons unknown to Harry, doing this required Rico to release the binds that the Sisters were currently in, and The Sister Superior and her contingent wasted no time whatsoever in taking advantage and opening fire on the device with everything they had...and none of it was enough. Rico danced through the bolts and Volkite rays like it was molasses, all the while throwing out massive amounts of firepower...and moving towards the alcove which contained the STC.

    The movement was very much noticed by the Sororitas, for all the good that “noticing” it did, for they still lacked the needed firepower (or even speed, for that matter, in Harry’s not-so-humble opinion) to actually do anything. The complete failure to stop Rico’s advance was apparent;y quite frustrating to the Sisters, who were shouting some of the more...provocative oaths of fury and vengeance at the Device in an attempt to do anything to actually stop him. Harry was unimpressed, but kept his fire up anyway. After all, he could use the practice, and Since Rico volunteered…

    The commotion moved within the alcove, which caused another stir to break out, and what sounded like a second set of bolter fire as well. Harry nodded to himself, having had his guess of a second squad of sisters being present confirmed, although he was curious as to why they only opened fire now, and not previously. He suspected the answer was something in the realm of complete bullshit.

    More sounds of battle echoed through the cavern as something happened within the alcove, and then Rico came zooming back out, cackling madly, and dodging fire from not only a second group of sisters, but Miolala as well, and what he assumed was Satori, considering that the figure was covered in a type and pattern of armor that he had never seen before, and was shooting strange energy blasts out of his very hands. Nothing was connecting, of course, as Rico was moving faster than even their Techpriest, throwing out more magical blasts all the while, even as he shielded against the bolts now coming at him from nearly all sides.

    One of the Sisters from the cavern steamed out a warning, utter fury in her voice. “STOP THE DAEMON SPAWN!!! IT HAS THE STC!!!”

    Oh.

    Harry definitely understood what was going on now. Something about that STC has spooked either Mio (unlikely) or Satori) far more likely) into making a point of ensuring that the wrong hands could not gain access to the contents...even if it meant that one of their own would be labeled as an Enemy of the Imperium. He suspected that it had a lot to do with the presence of the Sisters, and by extension the Inquisistion, into the matter.

    ‘Answers would come in time. Right now, we need to coordinate an escape plan before the Sisters start blaming everything but themselves for the incident…’

    Harry once again looked to those very cozy escape routes, and decided he knew what Rico was planning after all. Shifting his own position to cover the retreat, he continued to pour fire down on the Device’s location in an attempt to create a smokescreen from the kicked up debris of his misses...not that he needed to do much, as the bolts flying everywhere were doing a magnificent job of it. He noticed Miolala shifting towards a side tunnel that they had previously determined would be their best bet for an outside passive, and saw what he believed was Satori in direct pursuit of the Device itself, who was now moving at speed to make his escape.

    Miolala and Satori were moving to intercept, but even he could tell that they would not make it in time...nor were they really attempting to. The picture of what was happening became ever more clear in his mind’s eye, and he suspected that the time to egress was coming soon...and from the looks of it, he would have to make his own escape from the Sisters before he could link back up with the group.

    So, pretty much just like one of his last missions, then. Nothing new under the sun, except for the fact that he had good weapons and equipment this time.

    Now, to get himself out of the pickle that will be the Sisters realizing that they can’t win this…






    The plan was, so far, going somewhat reasonably. There were a few setbacks, like us nearly losing Harry to the damned crossfire that the Sisters were putting down (much to his embarrassment) but for the most part we had managed to exfiltrate from the area under the guise of tracking the “daemon” with the STC. the problem we currently had is that the sisters knew that the “daemon” had it, and would stop at nothing to see it destroyed.

    Not that Rico was complaining. We just needed to make our exit from the hive as quickly as possible before the net closed in, which is why we were moving at speed (and Rico was unisoned with me, not that anyone could tell with Thoth still at full expression)

    I turned to Harry for a moment.“So, any ideas on how to get past the security cordon for the exits?”

    Harry shrugged. “The known exits will likely be locked down because of the Sororitas presence, along with whatever message they managed to get ahead of themselves after we got clear. As for the unofficial methods...well, those are obviously less guarded, but the few that I am aware of we don’t have the equipment to access. There are likely more, but the info will be a hot commodity and everyone will know why we want it. It’s not a good look, all things told.”

    Mio chimed in as well. “There is also the issue of the standard monitoring of the radio channels by the Mechanicus. Knowing that there is--or in this case, was--an STC down in these depths will cause a furor unlike anything that has been seen here. We do not want to be here when the whirlwind for that comes due.”

    Both equally valid points. And nothing I could counter, which meant that it was time for the go-to-hell plan. Stupid STC fucking things up for everyone.

    “Alright, guess that means we have to do this the silly way. I had wanted to test this out first, just in case there was some method of tracking or other shenanigans involved, but this is looking like a use case for it anyway. Gather around.”

    “What about the other guys we left behind, though? Those were some survivors from Van Saar. shouldn’t we go back for them?” Harry’s question reminded me of something that I did not want to think about, especially because of what it was forcing me to do...but he deserved an answer.

    “We can’t. I want to go back for them--hell, I wanted to try and bring them with us--but right now we have a literal DUTY to get clear of this hornet’s nest as quickly as possible. The saving grace of all of this is that they are not implicated in any of the shenanigans here, as they were helping to repulse the cultist attack, so at the least the Sisters can’t hold that over their heads. But we have other concerns.”

    Harry was not convinced. “You still haven’t told me what was so important that we kicked the Ecclesiarchy directly in the ‘nads for, friend. In case you haven’t noticed, they are not the kind of people you want as enemies.”

    More good points, and again nothing that I could answer for. “Not here. We need to leave first. Now, I need to focus, so give me a moment...and be ready for toxic atmo.”

    Harry gave me a look, but got his filter gear ready all the same. Meanwhile, I was in deep focus.

    (We find anything yet?)

    (Still working on a decent exit point, Lord. Once I get that, we should be able to go whenever you’re ready.)

    Dimensional Transferences were surprisingly difficult to do discreetly, and the planet being as messed up as it was didn’t help in the slightest. We kept finding places that would have killed us within seconds of landing, which was a definite no-go, or were too close to the hive proper, which was also bad. We needed something that was stable while also being far enough out to not be noticed and investigated before we could break the trail and get to ground proper.

    But somehow, we had to find a way, or else we would likely have to slaughter our way out. For me, it would be distasteful, at best, but something I could handle. Harry would probably be capable of doing so as well, even though he would likely hesitate to spill loyal Imperial blood.

    Mio would be devastated, though: her Imperium was nowhere near as cutthroat as this, and being forced to shed the blood of loyalists would very much be an issue.

    (Got a lock. Standby for imaging and coordinates.)

    Or we could just sidestep the issue by being successful at our task and getting the hell out of Dodge.

    “Okay, everything is ready. You guys set up?”

    Harry nods. “Good to go.”

    Mio nods as well. “I am ready.”

    “Then we are go. Standby...and...Transfer!”

    And with those words, we left the underhive of Primus behind.

    Fortunately for my fears, the Transfer went off without a hitch, and we reappeared in a barren wasteland many days away from the hive, one of the few places within covert transfer range that was an actual solid landmass. To the east of us, the strange and utterly polluted sludge seas stretched on for as far as the eyes could see, and more. The other directions had more of the same: either barren wastes stretching out for at least a good few miles to the north and west, or more of the sludgy sea to the south. I would guess that we’d ended up on an island of some sort, but I’d need to do an active pulse to be sure, and I wasn't sure how good the auspex units of the hives were. I didn’t want them picking up my scans.

    [Low-power scans in progress. Mapping data will be available shortly. I can also construct a recon drone for a similar purpose.]

    And as usual, Thoth already has me covered on all counts. Gotta love having a supercomputer attached to your head.

    Go ‘head and set it up, then. Try not to take too long, I want to get our camp situated soon.

    [Understood.]

    I turned to my companions, who were looking out at the wasteland with what I assumed were varying expressions on their faces, covered up by the breather gear as it was.

    “This is going to be our new home for a while. Lets’ get a quick shelter set up, and we can use it to get access to the Hangar for some real relaxation. I doubt that anyone is going to come all the way out here to try and find us.”

    The amused grunt and affectionately exasperated sigh from Harry and Mio were my only answers, and together we worked to set up our base shelter structure to use as an access point.






    Janus Farhish currently found himself in a bit of a bind.

    A plain, easy milk run of a meet and greet had turned into an utter nightmare. This was supposed to just be a quick check in with the remainder of the local Van Saar forces, and a way to get a status report back up to the actual bosses that not all was lost in his sector, despite both Valerie and Amos being missing. He knew they weren’t dead, as one of the dead drops had their mark on it, signifying that they were going to ground...a decision he agreed with, and wished that he could join them in.

    His only problem was tracking down his wayward info broker and miracle maker of a mechanic, whom he had on reasonable rumor were both alive and well, despite being at or near ground zero for the event. He’d planned on locating them, linking up, and extracting the duo back to a safehouse he’d set up some years ago in harder times...but then the stirrings came, of a discovery unlike anything that had been seen before.

    He’d taken some men to investigate, solely as a recon run, mind...and ran straight into the Adepta Sororitas doing the same, and being quite murderous about keeping whatever it was that they had found ultra quiet. It would have been easy to comply and beat a hasty retreat, too, except that then the damned cultists attacked, and he and his scratch team of men were forced to join with the Sisters in a fight for their lives.

    That was when he’d gotten a look at what was in that damned cave that they were guarding so desperately...only to see that it was an STC, whole and unmarked. He’d understood completely then.

    He wasn’t fully read in on the secrets of the House, but he was a man who, by his very nature, “heard things”...and one of the things that he’d so happened to “hear” was that Van Saar’s rise to power and influence was fueled by a relatively intact STC, that had enough damage to it to cause varying degrees of wasting sickness by being near it. Knowing that getting their hands on a fully operational STC would likely allow them to fix their own...that was worth more than the house itself.

    The cultists, however, refused to let up, and the combined group of gangsters and Sororitas were taking rather noticeable casualties in trying to hold the line.

    At least, they were, until the damned strike team showed up. They swept in and utterly demolished the cultists, leaving no survivors to tell any tales. It was then that he’d managed to get a good look at their saviors...and saw none other than Harrisyn Cain himself, and what he’d assumed was his assignment in the form of Mr. Satori Green...except what he saw didn;t quite match up.

    It looked like Satori, sure. It even talked like him. But that thing with the odd animal ears and tails could not have been Satori by any metric, not with such obvious mutations...and yet Harrisyn seemed completely unconcerned by it, even amused somewhat, which only served to confuse Janus more, The woman with them, another mutant from the looks of it, with a strange thick tail and horns on her head, claimed to represent the Adeptus Mechanicus.

    The Sisters, of course, were not convinced, and more or less shot on sight, as any good Imperial would do. And then the woman somehow did the impossible and outright dodged a point blank bolt before all but shoving the offending shell up the Sister’s ass, at which point the thing that wore the face of his friend Satori walked up and delivered one of the most brutal and excoriating verbal smackdowns he’d heard in some time.

    This, of all things, is what finally convinced him that this was his friend. Only that man would have the sheer balls to literally walk up to a Sister of Battle, a Sister Superior no less, and slap the taste out of her mouth, then follow up with a verbal smackdown.

    What followed was much less amusing.

    Something or another had happened inside the cavern. Exactly what he was not sure, but the last member of the assault team, a strange floating childlike creature, had gained Harrisyn’s attention for a brief moment, and seemed to relay a message of some sort...after which he went completely insane and began shooting everything in sight. The usual moments of commotion and loss of time in a battle happened here, and the end result had all four of the strike team which held his friends and comrades cone, along with the STC that nearly everyone had come to collect. All that remained was a group of very, very angry Sisters of Battle.

    Which leads to his current predicament, having been strung up inside an interrogation chamber by what he suspected was a junior member of the Inquisition. Oh, sure, no one had flashed a rosary or any such, and the robes and cloak he was wearing was utterly plain in appearance, but you learned to spot those types when you saw them in the hives.

    Needless to say, they had been “questioning” him for some time now.

    “So, we begin again, Mr. Farhish. Will you give me the truth this time, I wonder?”

    Janus coughed up a bit of blood as one of his newfound injuries twinged badly. Had to hand it to the punk, he knew his stuff. “I already told you everything I know. I have nothing else.” The sad part was that was entirely true. As much as he’d hoped to be able to spare his comrades, the interrogator was too good. He’d spilled on everything that had been asked of him long ago.

    “We shall see, Mr. Farhish. Now then, once again. Who is Satori Green?” the Interrogator rattled Janus slightly for emphasis.

    Janus coughed again as the jostling agitated his wounds. “I don’t know where he came from, just that he showed up one day and was too good to be true. Advanced training that we assumed was from the Guard, language knowledge, even Mechanicus rites and skills. We hadn’t seen anything like him, and he only got better as time went on. It was surreal. Every attempt I made to try and dig into his past was rebuffed, although he’d mentioned wanting to train the tithe troops up to his standard.”

    The interrogator nodded. This matched with what was said earlier. “And did you know of his foul mutations?”

    Janus shook his head. “No. when we met, he did not have any signs of mutation; we made a point of checking for such before we agreed to meet him. Any mutations were recent.”

    Another nod, and another story corroborated. “And what of his companion, a Mr. Harrisyn Cain? Who is he?”

    Again, Janus repeated himself.” Harrisyn is officially a small-tine info broker tied to house Van Saar who works as a neutral party. In truth, he was a Delaque plant meant to keep tabs on things in the local Van Saar district that was placed with our blessing. Past that, he has no past that we know of, and isn’t fond of talking.”

    “And would he have known of the perfidy occurring under his nose?”

    “I don’t know. He went missing a few days before the psyker attack, and Satori led a team to go and find him. When he came back, he was wearing an odd suit of armor, and was carrying Cain in his arms, but Cain was all but dead at that point, and missing at least three limbs. It made no sense how he survived the night.“

    “And this armor. Was it the same armor that this mutant was seen in when he attacked the Sororitas?”

    Janus again shook his head, mentally grumbling at the repeated questions...again. “No. the armor he was wearing when he exited the cavern with the STC in it was similar, but different.” Yeah, he’d rolled on the STC too. Again, the Interrogator was entirely too good at his job for him not to have.

    “And do you know where he might have gone? Any places that he would choose to hide?”

    “No. All of the safe houses that my team could contact were warned to keep an eye out, but no one has seen any of them.”

    The interrogator stopped for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. This allowed time for one of his associates to enter the room, who turned to the Interrogator with a frown. “Anything?”

    The interrogator shook his head in a negative. “No. the same story, and what little we can get to corroborate it checks out. This Green, is a total anomaly in the system, and a dangerous one at that.”

    The other person gave a minute nod that Janus only caught because he happened to be looking that direction. “And as for Cain? Did he know anything useful?”

    “Nothing. It would seem that the traitor covered his tracks well.”

    Janus blinked at that. Harrisyn Cain, a traitor? He’d believe that Ambull could fly long before he would believe that. But what did that mean…?

    “If that is the case, then we have nothing more here for us to do. We will be leaving within the hour.”

    The interrogator nodded. “Understood. I’ll finish up here.”

    Janus suddenly had a sickening feeling in his gut.

    The interrogator turned towards him, reaching into his robes for something as he moved closer. Janus tensed up, ready to try and defend himself by any means necessary…

    Only to have the straps holding him in place cut away, freezing him from his bondage. “You are free to go. Do not tell anyone of what you saw here.”

    Janus looked on at the interrogator in utter confusion, before snapping himself out of the shock he was in and taking the opportunity that was presented. All the while, he refused to present his back to the interrogator for any reason, and did his best to keep the second person in his sights as well.

    This is why he never saw the lasbolt that blew his head off coming from the third person, hidden in a small alcove in the room. The bold was a significantly high-power variant, and cauterized everything that was left, leaving no mess.

    The “first” spoke. “We must hurry and recover the STC before any harm can befall it, and most importantly, before the Mechanicus can learn of its existence.”

    “I concur,” The “second” replied. “We must also inform tour master of the presence of the two...variables in this endeavor, especially of the fact that Harrisyn Cain is still alive.”

    The interrogator spoke next. “Communications are still very difficult at this time. At best, we can send a coded transmission through the Sororitas and hope that the right people see it.”

    The First nodded. “Then do so, and make haste. The longer we wait, the more time that Cain has to prepare. We must not fail in this task.The fate of the Imperium, and the Inquisition as a whole, depends on us retrieving that STC. Do not expect any form of reinforcement beyond what we can round up from the Convents, at least until we can get a message out to our master.”

    The trio nodded as one, and spoke. “In the name of the God-Emperor.”







    So. COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant, happened. I was laid up for a full week recovering, hence this chapter being late. It is also likely to be riddled with errors and somesuch. It is of no matter, as you’re getting it anyway.

    And I’m going to clarify this right now, even though It will be mentioned in the next chapter: That STC? When Mio said it was complete, she meant It. Was. COMPETE.

    Yes. it has everything.

    You are likely not getting a chapter next week, as Axion Verge 2 shadowdropped and I will be playing the hell out of it. Should I change my mind, you will know.

    -Construction (Battle Action Harem Highschool Side Character Quest) (600CP)
    You gain a complete understanding of modern UN technology and how to produce it. This includes everything from standard infantry power armor, to battleships, to even modern archologies. You also gain a large bonus to your Valkyrie's construction ability. With training and the right tools you could construct advance equipment in your Core's storage space, such as delicate processor chips, or build an entire town in a day like Anna.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 14
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    Under normal circumstances, trying to get a shelter put up on a planet that had been forcibly stripped of all resources on a bare island in the middle of a sea of toxic sludge would be an exercise in utter futility, existing only to curse those who found themselves in the situation to one of several forms of painful death.

    I had a Valkyrie Core, two Fabrication modules that had been getting the constant upgrade treatment since day one of my syncing with said core, and a pile of materials that had been prepared in advance for the original escape plan, anticipating a similar, if not so extreme situation. That it even took as long as it did to put together was more due to my being careful with the construction rather than anything looking like an actual obstacle.

    And, in an astonishingly short time, we had a secure shelter from the elements.

    I quickly shooed everyone inside the new structure, which I had partially buried underground as a structural support, before sealing the place up and building an air scrubber unit with the spares I had available.

    “Well, then. So far things are looking good. What’s our next step?” Harry asked, his tone containing a very noticeable note of sarcasm. I didn’t blame him.

    “Firstly, we get this place set up as a proper airlock, and then we head into the Hangar to get cleaned up and debriefed. You actually need to hear this and my reasoning for why I did what I did.” And dear god was that explanation going to take a while, but it had to be done.

    “It’s a sound plan, so far.” Mio chimed in. “Honestly, with where we are located, I highly doubt that we will be faced with anything resembling a focused search. Most authorities will have placed us either in the Underhive or within foot travel distance of the Hive, not hours away by vehicle.”

    Harry made a gesture signalling his acceptance as I finished the touches on the reinforcement of the outer sections of the newly-formed pseudo-airlock chamber, mostly as a way to stall the clock on the purifiers cleaning the air for us to breathe in. I also made a very deliberate point of creating a perfectly good door attached to a non-external non-load bearing wall as well.

    Soon enough, the air had been scrubbed and purified down to the level of being safely breathable, if a little cloying, and we all finally piled our way back into the workshop...which had...undergone some changes.

    The first and biggest one was that the normal entry hallway was gone, and had merged with the rest of the Hangar as a proper part of the structure. All of the various workshops and facilities, once scattered around through the entry hall, had moved around to accommodate this, with clearly posted directions and the usual custom decals that tend to get put up by local personnel as time passes. The various tools and gadgets of the trade were present in all their glory as well, complete with the usual structures to exist inside of a hangar as its support and maintenance facilities.

    Of note was the appearance of a new facility that seemed to be underground, and didn’t have a clear label attached to it. I made a note to check with that later. First, it was time to relax a bit.

    The four of us (Rico having de-unisoned with me once we made it back to the Hangar proper), made our way to the kitchen area and set down to a bit of quick grub. It was Harry who eventually broke the silence.

    “So, then. I was promised an explanation as to what the hell was happening earlier. I’d like to hear it now.”

    Mio finished gulping down one of the odd snack foods that she had come to like--some kind of licorice or another, from what I could guess. “Well, we have recovered the STC. That is part of it.”

    Harry was surprisingly unfazed by this revelation. I chose to interject after a bite from my sandwich. “The STC was one of the old ones. Fully complete, no corruption. And it still has the AI installed and functioning as well.”

    That got a reaction from him, and from reading the look on his face, it was the same reaction I had when I discovered the time bomb that we were sitting on. It took a great deal of effort for him to even choke out the response that he did.

    “W-where, is it now?”

    “I have it. Used Rico as a smokescreen to do a snatch without being implicated in the mess. There was no way I could let that fall into the hands of the Ecclesiarchy. It would be nothing less than catastrophic.” Harry nodded in agreement, and I took a quick drink from a mug of water before continuing. “That thing is fully capable of taking whoever has it from effectively stone-age tech to levels equal to what you know as the Dark Age of Technology. Hell, it was designed to do just that, as a bulwark and failsafe from Old Night.

    “The reason why you usually only find fragments of an STC or mere design documents at best is because they are derived from the real thing, which is designed to work with whatever tech level you have until you hit the top again.”

    Mio jumped back in. “From what I have gathered from my own interfacing with the intelligence inside the machine, it is also capable of analyzing any technology we give it and adapting it to its own practices, as well as doing research and development as needs arise. Whoever designed it is paranoid as all hell...and a genius to boot.”

    I shrugged. “Proper STC are all supposed to be like that. From what little I know of the matter a combination of chaos involvement, xenos betrayal, and general bad luck led to most of the STC spread across the galaxy to be damaged to the point that they are little more than repositories, and not the actual uplift machines that they were meant to be.”

    Harry seemed to have regained his composure, now, and finally decided to properly respond. “So then...why exactly were you so suspicious of the Ecclesiarchy? Seems like an overblown response--”

    I cut him off. “Stop. please. We both know that the Ecclesiarchy is little more than the main puppet of the Inquisition. And I have no intention of giving them any more power than they already have. You know firsthand what would likely happen then.”

    Harry stopped his mini rant as the reminder of the ramifications of that severe of a shift of the balance of power would be. I hated doing it to him, but he knew I was right.

    “In any case, we now have access to a genuine full-up Standard Template Construct. My suggestion is that we scan it, duplicate it, upgrade it if possible, and then find people or groups that would be trustworthy enough to actually hand those out to. I am also putting forward that we never, under any circumstances, lose the original, just in case this becomes a thing. Any objections so far?”

    Rico, who was munching on a cookie that, while large for a normal human, was nearly half his size, chose to interject. “Do we know if we can even use anything inside of this STC thing? Maybe we could hook it up to the Computer systems of the Hangar and have it scan in stuff as we do it?”

    “That is a wonderful idea, and one that I was going to suggest myself.” Mio exclaimed. “I approve wholeheartedly.”

    “I don’t see anything wrong with it myself,” Harry added in. “Besides, I’m not so good on the technical side like you two are. I think I’d be better off trying to get some intelligence assets going for whatever we choose to do next.”

    I shrugged. “I don’t see a problem with it. Would probably help when we head back in to deal with that Genestealer infestation too.”

    “I have a suggestion of my own.” Mio added, seeming to be somewhat morose as she did so. “We have, for the most part, been getting by solely on superior firepower, and not so much anything looking like skill. When we faced that statue thing, we were barely hanging on. It literally let us beat it, not the other way around. I feel we need to work on our basic skills as much as possible in order to remove this disadvantage. Also, I believe that Satori and myself have powers that are, or could be, useful against chaotic effects or similar. This needs to be explored as soon as possible and improved upon.”

    Oof. Sometimes I hated it when she had points like that. They tended to hit with unerring accuracy and hurt like all hell because of it...and she was right, anyway. I definitely needed to actually dig into my abilities and get them up to proper battle standards, and Mio was missing an entire school of magic from her usage pool, as well as either not knowing or not understanding what her Null Skill was. Hell, I think there was a good bit of tech that I had never gotten around to analyzing and using just sitting there gathering dust that we could use.

    And then there was the other elephant in the room, in the form of Photons. The technology was currently being sorely underutilized, and I needed to change that, especially since it seemed to not only have a strong effect against most of the stuff in this universe but seemed to synergize with my own odd light affinity.

    I decided. “If we do this, that means we all do this. Including you, Harry.”

    Harry blinked at us owlishly, as if I had grown another head. “Now, Green, I know that you two have strange powers due to whatever it is you are pulling from, but you are speaking as if I can learn to do the same thing, which is impossible.”

    “Actually, with the exception of Originium Arts, everything we have used to this point can be taught to others. Originium Arts could, too, if we were willing to infect you with the damned stuff to give the necessary boost, but I don’t see that as necessary.”

    Harry stared, again. “So, you are telling me that this is not some special talent you were born to, but something that everyone could learn, if they bothered...or knew how?”

    “Yes.”

    “It's actually a lot easier than it looks.” Mio added. “I’m sure you will do just fine.”

    I watched Harry sigh in frustration at our antics. “Alright then, I’ll play along. But you two will be teaching me EVERYTHING you’ve got, you hear me? No holding back.”

    That was more than fair.

    We spent the rest of the meal chatting about random things and putting up early concepts for a training regime to use. I still wanted to have some tinker time, and I know Mio felt the same way…






    It had been three days since they had arrived at this place, a “home away from home” as they referred to it, and Mio found herself in meditation to focus and draw out her powers.

    According to Satori, she should have had access to a fairly basic and oddly rigid system of magic due to their forge powers, and he suspected that hers had manifested differently than his own. In particular, he wanted to know what her so-called “null magic” spell was, which was a kind of shorthand for a special ability that was normally unique to a given person.

    Hence, the meditation. The Idea was that by focusing on the power itself, she could figure out exactly what her Null magic was, and then begin to work it into her own style.

    This, of course, required her to know just what the hell she was looking for. It was really frustrating.

    The good point was that most of her other “supernatural” skills were coming along nicely. Her own Arts proficiency was already at the point where it was becoming near-instinctual, and she felt that soon it would be nearly second nature to utilize the physical boost arts as she wished. Caster arts were a different story, but even those were better than they were previously, and she had ideas she wanted to work with in that area as well.

    It most definitely helped that she was training herself to utilize her natural multitasking to limits that she had previously thought impossible, even through the use of Rico’s odd magic style, and had several instances of herself doing training in the various methodologies she wanted to expand upon and test out.

    Still didn’t help with finding that damned skill of hers...although she got a good grasp of her dearest’s skill, which he called Metamagic. And no, being able to use his skill was not part of hers; that was one of the first things she checked on.

    As if he hadn’t already given me everything but what I wanted anyway…’

    And since her thoughts had drifted that direction, she might as well go through with it. Satori, her dearest, was noticing. She had caught the snatches of thought from him, where he had, at least in his mind, referred to her as his. And as much as this was what she wanted, had willingly signed up for, even...seeing, feeling it happen was a completely different experience. Especially because she knew that the “loyalty” programming she’d modified for herself was solely to align her own goals to his, not to make her fall in love with him...or him with her. As natural and right as it felt, it was still a scary prospect in many ways.

    And one that she was finding that she was all too willing to dive into headfirst for his sake. And noticeably more now for her own sake.

    ‘Dammit. I’m drifting again.’

    She was aware of her own desires. She knew what she wanted from him, and knew all too well that he wanted the same from her, no matter how much either of them tried to deny it. Still, something inside of her still recoiled in terror at acquiescing to the inevitable. It was terribly frustrating, to the point that she really wished that one of them could just fucking spit it out already, but nooo. She’s a coward, and he’s still confused and uncertain of his own heart, even though they BOTH know that it's going to happen, and that they both want it to.

    Ugh. Why was love so damned complicated?

    A spark within herself caught her attention. It would seem that during this inner monologue she had managed to grab hold of something. Curious, she slowly brought this spark of power to the surface--

    And screamed in agony as her entire body burned from the sudden changes being inflicted upon it. One of the instances of her mind not consumed with pain noted that Satori was screaming out in the same pain, which meant that this was either an attack of some kind or a new power coming to the fore. A quick examination by those same detached instances of herself concluded that it was something power-related, as an entirely new set of...something began to trace pathways through her body in an odd but strangely recognizable pattern, similar to the arteries and veins of the body, but with many of these new pathways wrapping around and even through not only those same blood channels but the major organs as well--even the muscles seemed to be involved, receiving numerous connections at various points.

    Finally, the process had finished, and a strange, yet comforting energy began to pulse through this new passage, seeming to enhance everything it touched. A notification on her HUD popped up as well, giving her a brief overview of what just happened. Normally they would be posted by the being that was the caretaker of the forge proper, whom her partner called Watts; this time, however, there was a completely different mark to it, one that felt distinctly female. It was quite confusing to her, but she read it anyway...and came up with less information than she went in with, somehow. Which made no sense whatsoever.

    What did make sense, though, was that she had had a minor epiphany while her body was recovering from the strain of whatever this “chakra” energy was, and she had an idea that she thought might work.

    Instead of reaching within herself, she instead channeled her magic outwards into the facsimile of a usable expression. She had long discovered that her affinity elements were those of the Flame, the Earth, and the enigmatic Darkness through some minor testing (which had also revealed the “glitch” in the Null magic system that let her use Metamagic), and for this test she had chosen Fire.

    “Right. I’m still confused about the color, though...and since when do flames suddenly decide to not burn?”

    The oddly cheery silvery-gray flames danced around her form, alighting playfully on her person wherever they seemed to feel like it, and yet not burning anything at all. It was something that she wanted to play around with in specific detail later on. Right now, though...she drew those flames back within herself, not to quench them, but rather to soak them into her very being.

    The result was incredible.

    The flames were suddenly as much a part of her as her own mind, and blazed brightly from within her, empowering and protecting her even as she danced in joy at her success.

    And of course this was her ability. Hell, hadn’t she been given a huge hint when she first was reborn, in the dark flame that liked to blaze on her tail? (and that was something else that she needed to look in to, as she could feel quite clearly that this was a separate ability entirely…)

    No matter. For now, Celebration!! Besides, it’s not like it was stopping her from doing other things as well!!






    It was nice, seeing people you cared for happy. Especially when you cared for them as much as I did Mio.

    Really, though, I should have expected that her null magic would be similar to some of the powers of Dragons in myth, in the embodiment of her elements the way she can do now. Makes me wonder if it was possible for her to switch it up and/or combine elements as she saw fit when using that Infusion skill of hers...I’d probably have to learn how she does it, just to test for myself.

    It also is a very nice distraction from the agonizing pain of having Chakra coils not only burned open, but outright created inside one’s body. It was better, now that the process had finished and chakra was properly flowing within, strengthening everything it touched, but the initial process is hell.

    But it did make me notice something. I know that my body is an odd hybridization between flesh and blood and a sentient nanoswarm, but this new addition seemed to bolster everything in a way that I would normally ascribe to Aura. not only that, but my own Aura, which I was training with at the time, seemed to get a rather nice boost to it as chakra flowed through and within my body, almost as if…

    Alright, this is getting just a bit weird for me. Sure, I know that chakra has a mental component and all, but for it to be tied specifically to the soul as well? I wasn’t the best of fanboys for the later stages of the series (thanks in part to the numerous plotholes introduced later on, as well as the shift from “Ninja” to “Ninja-themed magic knights”), but this felt like it should have been mentioned somehow, that chakra was not just spiritual, but of the soul as well.

    Whatever, I’d work it out in due time. Right now, I was more interested in the quick brief that came with the chakra itself, as there was an unexpected skill package attached. According to the brief, the skill package was for the skills and training of a “proper” Shinobi, and not just the odd super-flashy shonen battle standard of ninja. I was more than willing to work with this, but it would be a little bit before I could accept the skill package, as my chakra coils needed to settle in. Mio’s too for that matter.

    The only downside is that it had to stack on top of the normal skillset that came from being a proper Konoha genin, and integrating those would take a bit of time. Not too long, but long enough that it would be noticeable.

    This, of course, meant that it was back to the lab again, so to speak.

    My current project was working to establish a positive control of my Aura, and to strengthen it to the point where it was safe for me to awaken Harry’s aura as well. This was not necessarily a difficult undertaking, but it was still relatively time-consuming.

    Didn’t mean it wasn’t fun, though. And from my even brief experimentation, there was a LOT more to Aura than first appeared.

    For one, it was actually a lot more efficient at boosting one’s physical capabilities than I’d expected. I was vaguely aware that the lore presented in the series was skewed at best and wildly inconsistent, but what I was experiencing destroyed even my most optimistic expectations...and this was a power that was intended to grow with the user.

    Which meant that getting enough control that I could safely awaken Harry’s aura became even more of a priority than before, as this was a boost that could not be ignored.

    The main “problem” I was having is that Aura as a powerset does not do anything by halves…and it was not taking my self-limiting well. Specifically, in one area that I had been avoiding for some time, at least subconsciously.

    My mental faculties were scary now, with the baseline example being that of someone whose intelligence exceeded that of an entire stadium of super geniuses. While seeing this on paper is one thing, actually putting that into a proper framework was a completely different prospect, and even I had difficulties with doing so, despite being the one directly affected by the ability and it’s boosts. The big point here is that I was severely underselling just what my crazy little mind was actually capable of when pressed...or when I consciously broke past the limits I’d unconsciously set for myself.

    “Fixing” this was going to be an effort and a half...and I wasn’t sure I wanted to, anyway. Sure, I could make a balance of keeping myself as I am even with the super-intelligence, but...wasn’t that what I was now? Diving full-bore into that well of insane mental power without reason or even purpose was asking to get lost within my own mind, as weird as it was to say.

    No...I would not be “fixing” anything. This was good as it was now, with me being aware that I had a limiter that only needed me to want to push past it to remove. I could work on using more of what was available to me, of course, and it would likely serve very well in other endeavors too.

    Might wanna ask Mio about it. Surely my Dragon would have some kind of insight to give on this.

    [Keep poking me like that, and the only “insight” you will be getting is insight my womb.]

    “Okay, that one was actually pretty good…”

    Now, back to training before Mio jumps me again, and I lose the rest of the day inside her…






    Harry had to hold back a chuckle at the antics of his friends, as they once again engaged in their little game, completely oblivious to anything but each other once again.

    Honestly, he was tempted to suggest that the two just take a day or three to get it out of their system, but he knew that it was pointless. That kind of love (and it was love, as much as they tried to dance around it) did not simply vanish after the attending lust was sated.

    It was amusing to him that the two lovebirds there thought that nobody else noticed how close they had gotten in the last few weeks. Honestly, he thought it was good for them both, despite the memories that seeing them together threatened to drag up. He could ignore that part, though.

    Besides, he had other things to interest him right now, like focusing on the equations in his head for a simple ball of energy that was his initial training exercise in mana use and operation. That he was having to do so while maintaining a mental partition in his head for the use of other spells was difficult, but still doable...and it left him time to contemplate on a lot of things.

    “Alright, you look like you have gotten the hang of simple generation. Next, we will work on movement.”

    Harry grunted his acknowledgement. Rico, despite his small stature, was a harsh and relentless taskmaster, pushing him to his absolute mental limits and seemingly beyond in the meager days that he’d been working on his mana control. Fortunately, he’d gotten good enough even with that much to be able to do other things with the rudimentary Multi-threading technique that Rico had taught him.

    And, to be honest...it was incredible, actually working with raw energy like this, with only his own willpower to guide him. There as a very legitimate rush in manipulating the forces of the cosmos like this, and for once he could see how the various psykers could be swayed by the whispers of chaos.

    “So, how is this movement thing supposed to work?”

    “More or less the same as before. The equations for what you want to happen are processed in the correct manner, and then the action executes. There is more to it than that, of course, but for now this is good enough. Once you get your mana control up to par, was can work with the stuff that kind of...defies the system. Or defines it, depending on who you ask, really…” and there Rico was, slightly drifting off into an academic tangent on just how and why the magic system he’d known (‘been programmed with’ to quote Rico) worked the way it did, even as he gave out instructions on the training exercise in question.

    Which made sense, in context: this system was oddly contradictory in many ways. Hell, half the time, at higher levels, it seemed that all of the mental math focus kind of went out the window and the stuff just did what you wanted it to do anyway, which was an odd phenomenon for Harry.

    (That he had deliberately done exactly that on several occasions just to get a feel for how it worked was completely beside the point. Fortunately, Rico never brought those instances up.)

    Hell, the entire concept of this “magic” stuff was so utterly new and beyond anything he had context for that it was extremely tough for him to actually get his head around it all. That he, who was both known and tested to have absolutely zero psyker talent, was capable of such feats with just a little training was downright revolutionary in his eyes, and he had to admit that he was completely hooked… Having even a small cadre of xenos hunters with this, or even a sect of trusted witch hunters for the chaotic psykers, would do absolute wonders for survival rates among the imperial forces and the Inquisition…

    And there they were again, those thoughts yet another reminder of why he was having such a hard time just rolling with things. He was still, at heart, an Inquisitor of the Imperium of Man. Despite his disgrace, he still saw all of these new advances and improvements and downright amazing feats of supernatural mastery by mere human hands as being the triumph of the Imperium.

    Maybe instead I should view it as the triumph of mankind, that we no longer have need of the tainted and corrupted warp to access immeasurable power.’

    Harry chuckled silently to himself as Rico finished his explanation (and elaboration) of the training exercise and finally let him off the leash to try it for himself. It was surprisingly complex, for its simplicity, and maintaining the necessary equation for that one orb of mana while still holding up the mental partition was actually quite the strain.

    And to think, both Satori and Miolala could do this with little effort. How?

    “It looks like you’re grousing about how the lovebirds are so good at this, while you struggle a bit.” Rico chimed in, almost breaking his concentration over the effect before he reigned it in. “I wouldn’t compare yourself to them: they have a bit of an unfair advantage over you in doing this. Besides, you are actually progressing at quite the rapid pace for someone who until now thought that this was impossible.”

    Harry could only nod at that, really.

    “Also, I believe that Satori is working on something or another to give you an even further edge over the opposition, which is why he’s training so hard right now. I would like to have you up to something looking like a standard before he is ready with whatever he is working on.”

    Well then. That was interesting. Seemed that Rico was a bit possessive of his student. Not that it mattered much, as they would be doing group training once he was up to the proper “standards”. But the thought was nice.

    Besides, it had been a very long time since he was even remotely proud to be called a student of anything.

    ‘It really is nice to be able to actually learn again...’






    It had been a mere four days since we had holed up in the middle of nowhere, not that you could tell from how we acted. Harry was, despite his attempts at hiding it, like a little kid again with a brand-new toy as he broke through yet another milestone in his mana control training. Mio, meanwhile, had finally discovered her null magic ability and was using it to devastating effect on me whenever she managed to get her perverted little hands on my person.

    Those silver flames of hers being a conduit of emotions was simply devastating when she used them in our various *ahem* relaxation sessions. Mio, being a cheating cheater who cheats, proceeded to spam them at every opportunity.

    Mio’s teasing (and promises) aside, my activities focused on pushing my Aura to the limit. In the process, I had managed to not only get in a shockingly large amount of experience in using said Aura in basic forms, but had managed to get it close to a point where I thought I might be able to reach Harry and awaken his own. But that could come later. Right now, we were taking time to actually eat together in one of the break rooms, the Kerbals packed in with us as everyone tried to make the best of the event.

    “...So, then we can use the capacitor designs to redo a lot of the electrical systems, right?”

    Mio was chattering rather excitedly with Bob at the latest find from the STC, which I had unpacked and hooked up to the central mainframe for the time being. The current project that the Kerbals were on was some kind of self-sustaining battery system for extended trips, which I suspected used solar cells or something similar to achieve the effect.

    Bob, as usual for the Kerbals leadership team, was completely unfazed. “Apologies, ma’am, but we have a solution in the works that doesn’t need that much of an overhaul. That capacitor system is on the table as a potential design for a satellite, so we’ll see what the rest of the team comes up with.”

    Mio’s pout was completely ignored by the rest of us as we continued eating.

    Wait. I might as well address this now…

    “Hey, Bob. you and the guys alright with working like this?”

    Bob’s reply was immediate. “We’re fine, sir. We got plenty of clear sky to work with here, and lots of good materials to experiment with as well. Just about the only thing I’ve been hearing complaints about is that the crew is wondering if you had anything you unwanted us to work on, instead of our own projects. They want to feel useful.

    “Also, Werhner down in R&D is getting impatient...when we don’t have him duct-taped to the floor, anyway. Don’t worry about the mad scientist, we can handle him fine.”

    I nodded. “Alrighty then.” Always nice to have things going somewhat smoothly. “Second question. You guys checked out the spacedocks yet? We’ve been kind of busy for a bit.”

    Harry gave me a look at the mention of having a personal space dock. Sorry, Harry, but the Forge is insanity incarnate. It does this, and all we poor mortals can do is hold on for dear life.

    Bob, on the other hand, merely shook his head. “No, sir. We have generally avoided that area due to the combination of microgravity and depressurization past certain points. The place is set up to need better EVA gear than we have available at the moment. If there is--or was-- a way to get the section re-pressurized, we could probably do some work...but right now? It’s beyond us.”

    Hm. that explained a lot. It was likely that the Space dock just opened up to a random safe sector of the local space and needed to be manually sealed off or something. I’d have to get in there and check it out--actually, wait a minute. I have a better idea.

    “Mio, I’m going to have you head into the space docks when it’s convenient and see what the deal is. If we can re-seal the place and/or get some actual atmo in there, then we need to do so as soon as possible. I want you to use your Valkyrie Core for this, so you can get used to using it. Any objections?

    Mio quickly nodded her assent of the plan. “Anything else you want me to take care of while I’m there?”

    I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head negative. “Nope. nothing that I can think of right off the bat. Basically, use your best judgement once you get there, and try not to expose the rest of us to hard vacuum, please. I prefer being able to breathe.”

    The only reason I didn’t get beaned by the flying cup of liquid is because I was boosting myself with both Aura and movement arts...and I had moved before finishing my comment. Mio left the impromptu cafeteria with a huff, likely to go and grab her core from wherever she had stashed it. I could still feel the traces of both amusement and pride in her thoughts, though...as well as a very blatant notice that I was not getting sleep tonight. Horny woman...

    I turned to Harry once she had left. “Alright then, Harry. I have something that will help keep you alive. The good news is that it’s totally intuitive and warp-free. The bad news is that I’m not 100% sure that the process won’t kill me just yet. It’s a risk I’m willing to take, though. You interested?”

    Harry, for his part, had to actually stop and think about it. “...I’m not sure about this. I’m barely getting my mind around this whole ‘magic’ thing, and now you want to give me something else? I want to say yes, but...well.” He made a vague gesture that I translated as ‘see previous.’

    I simply nodded. “I can at least give you the rundown on the stuff, make sure you know what and how things work. That way, when you do feel you’re up for it, you are ready.”

    Harry give me a relieved nod at that. I had a suspicion that he thought I was going to force the issue, which for something like Aura is nothing short of catastrophic. Besides, I wouldn’t do that anyway.

    “Alright then, on to other concerns. I have yet another new ability set to get used to, and I need to figure out what changed around here from when it came in. you mind tailing along with me for a bit?”

    “It would be good for you to get a break in for a little bit, Harrisyn.” Rico added in. “Your training is already progressing at an impressive rate as is. No need to rush things.”

    Harry chuckled again. “Alright, fine. Let’s go get this place properly mapped out.”






    The layout of the Hangar had been changed around more than I’d thought. Most of the “normal” workshops have been moved to the ground floor areas unless strictly needed otherwise, and the Resource Generator warehouse was merged into one of the corners of the place that didn’t have anything in it at the moment, while somehow not taking up any space. There was now a dedicated room with the Simulator cabinets (yes, plural: apparently the Kerbals took only having one as an insult and made more in their spare time) and related documentation awaiting anyone who wanted to use it, with the optimization computer’s main unit sitting on a shelf nearby. Surprising no one, the Kerbals had rigged a dedicated server setup to the system, copying over all of its relevant data and details into their new modelling rig, and then used it for their future projects. An ingenious use, if anything.

    Past that, the “main” workshop area had become most of what would have been the central pillar area in the hangar proper (which had expanded itself accordingly), now taking up all the space it needed in both horizontal and vertical planes. Aside from some minor tweaks for purposes of space, not much had changed at all with the workshop (well...workshops, now) themselves, featuring the same tools and equipment that had been present before.

    ...Or so I had thought, until I noticed the additions on the side walls. It would seem that the workshop had been updated to allow itself to be the ultimate resource for crafting any and all forms of ninja equipment as well. Stacks of chakra-sensitive paper slips and jars of chakra-conductive ink were set in spaces ready for their use, while a (relatively) small collection of what I suspected were nearly priceless gems and metals that had high conductivity to the energy were placed nearby. Hell, somewhere along the way there had been an actual, legitimate forge added to the place, complete with all the necessary safety measures and protocols...of a civilization over three Millennia beyond what the elemental nations were capable of.

    Oddly enough, there even appeared to be a direct link from the Resource generator warehouse attachment to this place, I assumed that some kind of synergy effect was at work, but it did make things easier for sourcing supplies. Not that I couldn’t make things better anyway, if and when I got around to it...and assuming that Mio didn’t beat me to the punch.

    Playing around with the new stuff was going to be fun. I could tell right off.

    Also new to this layout was a room set underneath the pillar proper, accessed via a trap door, which turned out to be some kind of old-fashioned arcane laboratory. Initial glance showed it to possess both a proper research lab for magical studies (if more than a bit outdated for my known styles), as well as a wide “working” area for ritualistic and complex spellwork. Unusually, the place seemed to also have sections dedicated to the fashioning of operations orbs, a very incomplete section for what I believed was supposed to be for setting up and testing Device-type technologies, and even a small section dedicated to theoretical photonics, even if it was somewhat bare-bones.

    I was somewhat at a loss as to why this place was set up in the way it was, but there were a few interesting books stashed in the small library that, from the spines, looked like they would be worth reading. For now, I left the place as it was, and posted a reminder and notice board near the entrance with a reminder to do a general reorganization of the place before actually getting started with anything.

    Our makeshift hydroponics/greenhouse combo was moved to one of the outer edges, where it had plenty of space to utilize in it’s floorplan. The now large growing area was only at best an eighth full with some of the early tests we were doing with the local fungus and available plant seeds. With any luck we should be able to diversify this quite a bit before, or at least during, our trip off of Necromunda.

    Other than that, the Hangar was still the same home, sweet home that we knew and loved (well, I did, anyway), and the two 20th Century aircraft still sat in their places, sleek and deadly as ever, awaiting my touch for a good general overhaul and eventually to rise into the wild blue above.

    ‘I’ll get to you in due time. Right now, I have some other things I wanna work on.’

    Harry found himself rather impressed at the overhaul of the place, even if he was uncomfortable with the arcane lab. “Hm. I think I like the changes that have happened here. Makes it feel a bit more like somewhere to actually be, and not just a hodgepodge mess, Y’know?”

    I laughed out loud at that. “Yeah. I agree. And I like it, anyway. I like it a lot.”

    “So, then. Everything up to standards?”

    I nodded. “It’s, as we used to say, ‘close enough for government work’. Anything that isn’t will be corrected in due time. Right now, I have something that I want to take care of.”

    Harry raised an eyebrow. “Oh? And what exactly is that?”

    I just started walking, Harry following behind, only after realizing that I wasn’t going to answer him.

    The central server for the Hangar was in the admin and crew sections over by the “cafeteria” (I was sorely tempted to call the small breakroom a DFAC just for the irony), which currently had a rather large piece of extremely ruggedized technology attached to it. Even from the far side of the hangar, the STC took up a lot of space. Which made sense, considering just how rugged these damned things had to be. Deciding to more or less throw caution to the wind for this, I walked up to it and laid a hand on the machine, the STC opening itself to my mind.

    The full extent of the STC was laid bare to me, in the best ways possible. I immediately began a search of the databanks, looking for one specific item inside, which I had full belief would be in there.

    And sure enough…

    “I fully intend to duplicate this particular piece of tech, if for no other reason than to make sure we don’t lose it again. I have a hunch that there will be more than Imperial groups seeking this out, and many of those intending to destroy it for fear of what it could cause.”

    I had it in my mind, the complete concept of what an STC was. And with that, I could improve upon it.

    I focused myself on the task at hand, even as Harry started looking at me with that “you’re crazy” look on his face.

    “You do realize that if word gets out that there is more than one of them…”

    I spared an idle thread of thought to answer. “If word gets out, then the very beings that would seek out and destroy this one STC here will try and find the others...or the person who is making them. I would think that the Eldar in particular would have a bit of a vested stake in making sure that Humanity never rises back to its days of glory.”

    Harry nodded in agreement, though he still had that look on his face. “Yes, the knife-ears will come for this, and all the others, in an attempt to screw us over at the worst possible time. Admittedly, they will actually have to get here, first...”

    I deliberately ran everything I could through the gamut of abilities I had at my disposal. Everything that could be used, was used in my refinement process, as I stripped away the chaff and replaced it with things that were superior, reinforced critical sections, expanded data storage and processing power, and even did a minor AI tweak as well.

    And then, after all that was done? I ran it through the miniaturization process and did it all over again until I was satisfied.

    “They will indeed try, Harry. And they will inevitably fail.”

    The final result of the design process was a series of items rather than one: a relatively decent-sized data storage terminal that was intentionally made all but indestructible; a much smaller but far more portable version that traded some of the insane durability for portability, being about twice the size of a full-sized computer case, circa 21st century,; and a final version that was the size and shape of a particularly good datapad...and was about as durable as the damned Shiekah Slate.

    And I had intentionally made sure that it was buildable by “normal” people to boot. Why?

    I called up the Kerbals.

    “Engineering, Bill Kerman here.”

    “Bill, Satori. I got a project for you guys. I need a good several of these things built up and ready to go as soon as feasible. While I prefer faster, I need the build quality. Schematics are going up in the system now.”

    “Understood, Sir. we’ll get right on it. Updates will be in the blotter.”

    “Thank you, Bill.”

    Because I had Kerbals for that, thank you very much.

    “That’s it?” Harry seemed to be a bit unenthused by the process.

    I nodded. “That’s it. The Kerbals will take care of the hardware construction, and afterwards I’ll upload the design AI to the new gear, then we can distribute as needed. Three flavors depending on how we need to deploy them: small and portable, Large and tough, and concealable stealthy option for when we need to do things below the radar...which will probably be a lot.“

    Harry gained a contemplative look. “Then that means that all we need is a rough list of who exactly we can trust to have the data.”

    “Yeah. it’s something that we need to work on, but I do have a bit of a lead.” I stepped back from the STC and turned to face Harry. “Van Saar has access to something that keeps them ahead of the game, but at the cost of a very nasty set of long-term radiation poisoning. After looking at the database...I have reason to believe that they have access to a damaged STC.”

    Harry nodded. “I suspected as much from my time with them. It’s generally held close to the chest, and the advantage it gives them is indeed very nice. You're thinking of getting in touch and getting them a new one?”

    I nodded. “Something like that. Either get them a new one or the means to repair the one they have. If nothing else, it gives them their leg up without the downside.”

    Harry’s sudden grin was downright feral. “Well, then. Looks like we have a plan.”

    My own grin was no less vicious than his. “Indeed we do. Best part? It can wait. Van Saar is not going anywhere anytime soon. We’ll have more than enough time to get back in touch with the people we need.

    And when we did...well, I fully intended to go ahead with my plan to train up the locals as hard as possible.

    Because there was another threat that I pointedly did not mention to Harry. The forces of Chaos would be watching my movements and attempting to find a way to hamper me if at all possible. I’ve heard rumors of some rather freakishly convenient Warp Storms from my time with Janus...if they are willing to act directly in the short term, then it could become troublesome.

    “Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go have a lot of silly fun now.”

    But that was something for future me to deal with. Present me was going to take some time to revel in being a fucking Ninja.






    Mio made her way past another set of airlocks for the area that had been deemed tentatively as a spacedock, her Valkyrie Core synced and her frame fully expressed as she floated gently through the airless environment. Gravity was indeed a suggestion here, with maybe one or two pockets of the stuff hanging around certain areas as she moved forward, but for the most part Microgravity conditions ruled.

    Which was not a problem for her in the slightest, as her frame was fully zero-gee capable even before adding in the sheer hilarity that was an Impeller Field. The upgrades that had been slapped on to the frame by those “Chozo” were just more icing on the cake.

    She was getting a lot of good practice time with her core, though, so that was a bonus.

    The dock area was extremely large, with what looked like multiple sections for multiple ships to be docked in, and a gantry-like setup for each docking slip in order to effect repairs and replenishment. Various supply rooms and mechanical accesses were jammed open, the contents of the rooms in disarray at best and a lost cause at worst.

    From the looks of things, something big had happened here, either a battle or some kind of disaster that had rendered the place completely unusable. She was still getting the odd radiation alert on her HUD, showing the areas of influence quite clearly even as she glided through them without issue. The gantries themselves were fine, oddly enough,or at least the arms were, but the various control and support sections for the actual operation of the apparatus were totaled.

    If she had to guess, someone made sure that nothing could leave this place if it was here.

    It still begged the question, though: “What happened here? And why?’

    She had a nagging feeling that the answers would be very, very important.

    Crossing over to another set of airlocks, these set to take her to the second of what appeared to be four slips for this yard, she took a moment to run a quick active scan of the environment.

    The ping she got back was rather unnerving, especially when it abruptly vanished the way it did.

    Mio was no fool. Something or someone was in here with her, and she would need to be careful as she advanced.

    Manually cycling the Airlocks to get into the next slip, she found her way blocked by what looked like a combination of old supply crates and some very creative usage of one of the odder utility items at her disposal, the GLOO Cannon. The distinctive balls of rapid setting foam were noticeable everywhere. A low-power scan didn’t reveal anything too amiss, so in light of a lack of better options she chose to carefully break her way through the mess.

    What greeted her on the other side was simultaneously awe-inspiring and horrifying.

    There as a “Boat” there, classified as such by her solely due to it’s size, locked into place by the gantry arms, which she could tell looked just as disabled as the rest of them. The boat was, at first glance, nothing out of the ordinary, being a smallish vessel shaped roughly like a slightly aerodynamically styled rectangular prism. There was an attempt at minor control surfaces there, but for the most par the boat was utterly utilitarian. Overall, it was really nothing special aside from her scanners saying it was equipped with one of those eternal fusion engines.

    No, the “Boat” was fine. The Ship, on the other hand, was a work of art only possible by the works of the Omnissiah...or perhaps the combined effort of her and her (not-quite-yet) Husband.

    No, her face did not look like a tomato at the moment, you can’t see it and therefore there is no evidence, so it did not happen.

    The ship was a sleek, angular thing with lines reminiscent of birds of prey. A large central body seemed to have all of the main amenities of the craft, being shaped in an very sharp delta pattern, with the rear portion of the delta having ports fro what looked like some very good engines. A pair of protuberances set at the rear as well, matching the slope of the craft and giving her the feeling that they were some kind of bay or dispenser for something. A pair of (admittedly unnecessary for space) stabilizers jutted out of the protuberances at an angle, completing the general look of something inspired by the days of aerospace circa M2.

    The rest of it, though, was even better.

    On either side, what looked like secondary engine mounts were attached to the central frame by a supporting brace structure, and from the looks of it, it seemed to be on some kind of traversal mechanism as well. A pair of what looked to be some type of macro cannons set on the tips of each of those “wings” that the secondary engines had attached to, each clearly looking ready to roll on a moment’s notice. A third, slightly larger cannon mount was set as a spinal weapon somehow, and there were clearly ports galore for various emitters and what might have been a type of point defense as well. The ship was, overall, sleek, deadly...and from her scans, the exact same as the Boat: completely untouched by anything that had happened here. Not even the paint was scuffed.

    The horror, however, came from the effective charnel house that she had just stepped in to. Bodies were everywhere, blood floating frozen in the microgravity bouncing off of any and everything as it moved. Limbs clearly separated from the bodies of those whom they were once connected to floated endlessly on, while an odd black sludge seemed to flow intermixed with the whole mess.

    Her frame’s sensor had managed to count something like 300 unique bodies before she had it stop.

    And again, she was forced to ask herself: ‘What the Hell happened here?’

    Another blip on her sensors caught her notice. Her HUD was directing her attention to a piece of debris floating around in the mess, what looked like the remains of a cup. Nothing about it seemed out of the ordinary as she approached it, just a few dents and scuffs...until her scanners pulled up a comparison chart with an item that was only a few meters away...and showed the exact same item. And further noted that scans hadn’t picked up the first one until only recently.

    The hell--

    For a normal human, it would have happened far, far too fast to comprehend, a claw of liquid darkness streaking out at her from what used to be a dented cup, now turned into some kind of Xenos horror, and clearly intent on taking her life.

    But she was very enhanced, and thus she saw it coming from well over a mile off. The Claw was almost painfully slow to her enhanced mind, and she contemplated it for a moment before just sitting there and letting it hit her.

    As expected, the claw didn’t even scuff her impeller field.

    Several other black creatures, each of them formed of the black ooze that flowed throughout the cavernous space, launched themselves at her as well, each and every one contorting in any and every way possible in order to shape their bodies into a weapon to kill that which intruded on “their” realm.

    Not one of them even dropped her fields strength at all.

    Larger, more nightmarish creatures began appearing, and took over the role of trying to crush through her defenses, all to no avail, while other parts of the black ooze tried to make a break for the airlocks.

    Mio was not having any of it, and calmly raised a gauntlet on her new suit...the one that happened to have a very nice hypervelocity CANNON strapped to it.

    It wasn’t even worthy of being called a slaughter. The beatdown was so total that she almost felt bad for the things...and then she remembered that they were a very hostile and dangerous Xenos species that just-so happened to be infesting her damned HOUSE, and got back to killing.

    [Honey? We have a bit of a situation]

    and, of course, her beloved answered immediately. [What is it? Need backup?]

    Mio chuckled at the concern in his voice, even as she sighed in relief that he showed that concern. [NO, it’s fine. Just have weird black shapeshifting things in our hangar. I’m killing them now, they’re super easy.]

    The response she got back was attached to a spike of panic. [Lock down the entire area until you are absolutely sure you got all of the fuckers, and make sure you stay in touch, just in case. Call if you need me.]

    So, it was a big enough deal that he was super worried, but he still trusted her to do the job.

    This meant that the things were a legitimate pest to be annihilated.

    Her frame immediately did a full in-depth scan of her entire area, finding each and every last one of the damned mimics in the section, and then proceeded to direct her on a least-time circuit that would allow her to hit every last one of the damned things with her firepower without hitting the ship with potential hull paint scratching bullets.

    Honestly, it was fun.







    I apologize for the lateness, but I have returned!! With a new chapter as well!!

    Alright, I wanted to add in some other perspectives to this chapter, but it was getting long enough as it was, so I’m stopping here. Do enjoy your chapter.

    Perk for this chapter:

    -Workshop (Generic Naruto Fanfiction) (400CP)
    Going out and beating people up is not all there is to being a ninja, certainly not in the myriad worlds of Naruto fanfiction. There's a lot of space for less outdoorsy activities, such as seal-creation, weapons-forging, and so on. That's where this beautiful place comes in! It's the ultimate workshop, perfect for just about anything you may care to work at. It has a huge supply of papers and inks for your fuuinjutsu needs, herbs and plants for preparing poisons or medicines, a forge and metal supplies for smithing, timber for woodwork, and so on, for anything else you may care to work on. The quantities of the materials generated depend on their rarity and value. Something like ordinary paper and ink, or plain steel and wood, would never run out no matter how much you use, while things like paper from special, chakra-enriched trees would be in far shorter supply. But no matter how rare something might be, so long as it's not absolutely unique, you can expect to find it here, and in sufficient quantities to work with. At the absolute slowest, for materials of priceless rarity like high quality chakra-storing gemstones or metals, you could expect a supply to regenerate bi-yearly, and proportionately lesser times for less rare substances. In future worlds this workshop updates with materials and ingredients of the respective settings, with the same replenishment rules remaining in effect.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  17. Threadmarks: Interlude: Cog and Faith
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    Under normal circumstances, the Adeptus Mechanicus was a very well organized and efficient organization for what it had available to work with, designed and intended to be the backbone and cornerstone of the Imperium of Man in all matters technological. It’s evolution from the old cults of the machine god into the current powerhouse it was were long and arduous, it’s victories stunning and defeats rare and unimportant. Above all, the Mechanicus stood as the most crucial piece of the Imperium of Man, and all who beheld it feared its wrath.

    Under normal circumstances, the members of the AdMech, as it was sometimes (disparagingly) called, would even allow themselves to believe that statement to be true. Unfortunately for all involved, this was not a normal circumstance.

    “Please, summarize this report so that we have a better understanding.”

    Currently, there was a meeting happening, of the local movers and shakers of the Necromundan auxiliary of the Mechanicus proper. As Necromunda was not a proper forge world, they nominally had to defer to the will of the local Planetary Governor, who had instructed the Mechanicus in no uncertain terms to not stick their noses into certain matters which may or may not be happening. Naturally, this prompted them to take a peek into what was happening...and discover the nature of why they were being kept out.

    A minor Techpriest found himself on the receiving end of the local Magos council’s ire as he read the reports...again. As requested, the meetings used a very specific version of the Lingua Technist as a means of security for a face-to-face meet. “Ah. Yes. Approximately one standard month ago, an anomalous signal was received from underneath HIve Primus. The signal itself was scrambled, with no data structure of any kind, seeming to only exist as a kind of white noise. Attempts were made to backtrace the signal, and all failed.” The techpriest paused here to briefly gather his thoughts. He was a part of that initial expedition, hoping for the chance to discover one of the lost treasures of the planet hidden in its depths, perhaps even an STC fragment of some sort.

    Oh, how much he felt the irony now…

    “Then, approximately two standard weeks ago, something changed. The signal, once diffuse and weak, became extremely strong. Orders were immediately given to investigate upon the lifting of the lockdown imposed due to the major psyker attack that happened at around the same time. Looking back, we believe that this was not a coincidence.” And well they did not. That attack was far too well-timed for it to not be suspect. The only reason they even had that much information, however, was that some upstart had somehow done something nearly impossible and forced his way into the Noosphere, with the intent of delivering a message warning of the psyker attack. That was, perhaps, the only reason that Proper Imperial forces were able to respond in such a rapid fashion and put down the witch before even more damage had been done.

    The bodies were still being counted, but estimates had the total dead from the attack at somewhere in the millions. It was indeed a catastrophe, losing so many loyal citizens of the main hive, but there was a silver lining: none of the Mechanicus’ facilities were damaged in the attack, and the warning proved to be timely with allowing the psyker to be put down swiftly.

    which, once again, led back to the signal...and his failure.

    “The signal was found to have been coming from a previously unknown sub-cavern within the underhive proper, approximately three kilometers from the base edge. Efforts were shifted to investigate soonest, possibly without proper authorization, but then the command came down that we were to not intervene under any circumstances until we were ‘properly cleared’. The origin of those orders is classified beyond my access, as well as the nature of the clearance needed.”

    In short: Someone in the Administratum had gotten a wild idea that they could control the technology without having it go through its proper place within the Mechanicus first, and then being allowed to come back to them...if it was deemed appropriate. It would not be the first time that dangerous technologies were kept away from the ignorant ones and in the hands of those enlightened by the Omnissiah.

    Normally such orders were ignored in favor of making sure that the proper eyes were had on the target, but this time an extra hand of authority came down and somehow managed to stay their hand. He personally suspected that the Inquisition got involved, but, again, it was above his clearance level, and even speculating on things like that were enough for them to come to him just to see what he didn’t--or did--know about anything.

    In either case, it was better for a lowly techpriest such as himself to stay the fuck out of it. Safer that way.

    “Any further investigation into the signal or things surrounding it were then turned over to the Adepta Sororitas, as they were at the time responding to the psyker attack and were available to investigate. All official data past this point ceases.

    “Then, just a few days ago, an unrelated general reconnaissance and support team sent a report in.” And he believed that that team was ‘unrelated to the current situation’ as much as he believed that the Mechanicus ever deleted anything. At all. “The report held disturbing information: the signal was actually an improvised beacon to a storage cache, and the contents of said cache were extremely important.

    “A field team was sent to the site to investigate further, and were able to recover several items of great import, including advanced Volkite weaponry, several examples of improved lasguns and bolters, and at least one working design for an improved plasma cell. While this was good, great, even, the main prize that was supposedly there was an STC of unknown providence.”

    And that was the main rub. There was an STC down there, and they’d missed it entirely because of some kind of power struggle with the Administratum...or possibly even the Ecclesiarchy. Worse was some of the rumors surrounding that incident…

    “There is incidental data as well. According to the investigation team, there was, supposedly, a Senior Engineseer on-site when the STC was discovered, and she managed to get a cursory examination of the object. The details, which come from an interrogation of the Sororitas personnel that were on-site, corroborate what little outside data sources we have available: the STC was not only there, but both whole and undamaged. This was a Full Standard Template Construct.”

    And therein lied the main rub. A regular STC fragment, he could understand, and would wish the discoverer well on their new endeavors. A major Fragment or a whole Blueprint was even better.

    This, combined with what the rumors were saying, was an STC as they were meant to be--and by default, the single greatest prize that had ever been known to anyone, ever. Losing this was a massive black mark on everyone involved, regardless of seniority or even level of involvement. He suspected that there would be a reprisal in the works soon.

    Perhaps the only good part about this mess is that the STC was only stolen, and not damaged...or worse. At least this way it is potentially recoverable...

    His superiors spoke for the first time since he’d begun. “And why exactly were we unaware of such a prize literally sitting right underneath us?”

    The techpriest had a ready, if strained, reply. “Unknown, Magos. I have no relevant data to share.”

    The Magos made an irritated gesture with one of his mechadendrites as he continued. “So then, a fully-intact STC has managed to somehow just walk away from us, and not even the Sororitas were enough to prevent this from happening?”

    The techpriest coughed. “An addendum to the report notes that what appeared to be an incursion was detected and eventually repulsed on the sub-cavern, only for an infiltrator to make off with the STC. we are using all means to search for those responsible at this time.”

    “Very well. Continue with your efforts. We will notify you if you are needed again.” the Magos spoke with finality.

    The young techpriest was only too happy to oblige, and quickly left the room.

    The Magos turned to his colleagues. “Well, then. I believe that we are all in agreement that this needs to be our top priority going forward, then?”

    All present nodded or gave some form of agreement.

    “Very well then. Let us create our plan of action...and bring ruin to those who would deny the Omnissiah and his servants their rightful due.”






    The Adepta Sororitas had the distinction of being one of the fiercest and most loyal of the forces of the Imperium, oftentimes acting as the Militant arm of the Ecclesiarchy proper. To many of the Sisters of Battle, this was of no major concern, as their faith in the Emperor was their primary weapon.

    Well, that and Bolters, but the point remained.

    It was for this reason that the Sisters were often called to service in varying tasks throughout the Imperium where the Ecclesiarchy felt a more...personal touch was needed. That this would sometimes put them into open conflict with other Loyal imperial forces was something that, until now, Sister Arikia had found unimportant in the grander scheme of performing the Emperor’s will.

    Now, however, she was beginning to doubt the constant claims that the Sisters of Battle were always working the will of the Emperor wherever they went...especially after facing down that Xeontech golem--the same golem that had, somehow, managed to completely crush a Daemon of Chaos with ease. Nothing that she or her team had done was even worth the effort they put in to fight it. By the Throne, the damned thing didn’t even pay attention to them, instead focusing on the two mutants that had appeared previously...and that had managed to, against all odds or even belief, not only keep up with the thing (to the point that they were literally dodging Bolter shells mid-flight) but ultimately destroy it as well, resulting in the Male of the pair gaining some form of advanced Power Armor.

    The part that had her confused was that, despite the obvious deformities that the two possessed, they did not seem as if they were enemies of the Imperium. They had even made a point of not attacking her or her team both before and after the altercation, citing not wanting to harm loyalists...and this was after she acted on her orders and opened fire on them without any provocation!

    What concerned her more, however, was what had happened after the STC had been removed from the cavern by the strange small thing. The Sister Superior assigned to their detachment had been livid that not only had the STC been stolen but that the Thief had gotten away, as well as both of the mutants and the man that had come with them. The amounts of blame-shifting and general politicking that had happened in that short amount of time was telling as to what was really going on, especially since those same people had literally saved their lives by wiping out a Heretic assault force bent on corrupting or destroying the STC.

    And that brought up another question in and of itself, one that she had been very careful to not voice anywhere she even suspected may have had ears to hear: Why had the little being merely stolen the STC and not destroyed it, as a normal daemon would have?

    As the very daemon that the Xenos golem had destroyed was intending to do?

    What's more, the sudden appearance of Orders from on high stating that the recovery of the STC was paramount, surpassing all other priorities, including an active witch hunt following the Psyker attack that was the reason for their deployment in the first place? The sheer secrecy of said orders, despite their very nature requiring them to call in backup from the Mechanicus, as they should have done in the first place? The sudden and unexplained distance that the Techpriests were showing to them, following their return from that doomed mission?

    Wait. The Female mutant, Miolala Granliss? She claimed to be a member of the Mechanicus herself when they were introduced, and had actually acted the part very well, to the point that she had been convinced that they were on the same side, even if they were mutated. (Or it could have been some form of augmentation. The Techpriests were known for doing that regularly, after all.)

    Every time she ran that encounter back in her head, more questions popped up. It was almost as if someone had gone out of their way to use them as a set of catspaws in some game or another, and it was pissing her off.

    It didn’t help that she was being formally reprimanded, along with the rest of the sisters that had been nominally under her command, despite her lack of rank, due to their “failure”. This, despite the battle cameras showing quite clearly that they had fought bravely and with both Fury and Zeal appropriate of the Sisters of Battle, and had merely failed to die screaming at the hands of a Daemon or a Xenos machine. Hence, her current...predicament.

    Supposedly, there was an investigation ongoing into the backgrounds of the supposed Mechanicus woman and her aide, but she suspected that it would go nowhere at all, with the Mechanicus themselves suddenly being cold and distant towards them. It was something that she grudgingly understood, knowing that they were kept out of the loop by the very command that had ordered the sisters into that cavern in the first place.

    The door to the cell she was currently sitting in opened with a hiss of displaced air, and another group of sisters, including her Palatine, along with an unknown man who had been present but silent throughout her “debriefings”. Fortunately for her, they had not gone to outright torture, but the forced repentance and prayer in solitude was still telling nonetheless.

    “Sister Arikia Vanalyn. Rise.”

    She did so at her Palatine’s command, and stood at attention before them once again, awaiting yet another questioning by her superiors over the mess.

    “You have not yet served your proper penance, but the Hand of the Emperor moves us all, and a task has been set before you.”

    Arikia deliberately showed no sign of emotion on her face, but inwardly was very confused. Instead, she nodded. “How am I to serve?”

    “You are charged with travelling into the wastes of Necromunda, and seeking out the enemies of Man. You are not to return until the tasks appointed to you are completed.”

    Arikia found herself unsurprised. ‘Penance in battle, then, with the expected result of my death.’

    The Palatine spoke again. “You are tasked with seeking out the enemies of the Imperium of Man, the heretics hiding in the wastes of this world, and to stamp them out. You are further charged with seeing out the traitors whom have absconded with his holy relics, and to return them to their proper place amongst the faithful. Specifically, you are to atone for your failure and recover the Holy STC from the thieves who dare stand outside the Emperor’s Light.

    Arikia once again found herself confused. ‘Sending me out alone? To recover this STC? What in His name was in that thing?’

    Voicing her thoughts would only result in her being killed...or worse. “I understand, Mistress. When am I to depart?”

    “You are to gather your armor and weapon, and to depart once your preparations are complete. Your Sisters shall join you in this task.”

    And there it was. Punish her by punishing those who fought beside her.

    Arikia had always had that streak of sentimentality, of compassion for her fellow man, that had nearly called her to serve in one of the Orders Hospitaller. Instead, she found her calling in the Order Militant, and has for years now served alongside her sisters with faith and courage.

    This did not mean that she was blind to the world around her. She had seen with her own eyes the nature of the enemy that the Sisters fought, and the things that they were often called upon to do in His name.

    ‘How odd, that only now am I seeing, with unclouded eyes, the truth of things. How many have been burned by our zeal merely for not being our equal?’

    The situation once again struck her with the sheer oddness, even as her thoughts drifted more towards doubt. The Palatine, however, was unaware of her thoughts and thus of no inclination to allow them to her.

    “Upon your successful return, we shall discuss other matters as appropriate. You have your orders. See to them.”

    The palatine turned away and walked out of the chamber, the rest of her entourage following her. However, before she had fully left, she spoke, one last time.

    “Do not fail in this task, Sister Superior Vanalyn.”

    Arikia stood there, unmoving, her face made of stone as the others left her cell, her mind still rebooting from what she had heard. Her, a Sister Superior? Finally?

    ‘Hah. And all it cost me was everything.’

    She shook her head clear of such thoughts. Her doubts and fears could wait for later. Right now, she had her sisters to tend to and organize, and a doomsday mission to undertake in some way that would let them return home somehow.

    If that was even possible…






    Palatine Valencia frowned as she walked away from the penitence chambers. “Are you sure that this will work? I am not one to sacrifice loyal sisters to charades, Acolyte.”

    The Acolyte merely nodded. “This is believed by our sources to be the best option. We have no intention of spilling loyal blood needlessly...but then again, these Sisters are hardly loyal, are they?”

    The Palatine remained silent.

    “In any case, this should bring us closer to locating the STC.” the Acolyte continued. “Once found, we can then dedicate the full resources at our disposal to its recovery. When that time comes, can we count on your aid once again?”

    The Palatine remained silent for a moment before speaking. “You will have the aid of our Convent, pending the approval of our Prioress. Absent that, I can only grant you the sisters under my direct command.”

    The Acolyte nodded and hummed a bit. “Very well. We have no intention of straining our relations too far, after all. Now, if you will excuse me, I have other duties to attend to.” and with that, the Acolyte left her presence.

    Valencia frowned once more. Just what manner of game had she gotten herself into here, and how could she extract herself from it without being killed in the process?






    This was originally intended for the end of the previous chapter, but was left out for reasons of time. I present it to you now.
     
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 15
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    Harry once again awoke at dawn, and proceeded onto his self-imposed training regime. It wasn’t too much: some pushups, situps, and squats both to check range of motion on his arms and legs, but also to work out his core muscles, then a brief and invigorating run to get a bit of cardio in as well. Oddly enough, his prosthetics seemed to be improving along with him as he did his exercises, something that he planned on asking Satori about at one point or another, but it was largely unimportant right now.

    The only other addition to his morning exercises that was out of the ordinary from his previous normal routine was the magical practice he had woven into every aspect thereof.

    Doing Situps? Focus on accuracy challenges.

    Doing pushups? Speed challenges galore.

    Running? Keep control over an increasingly larger amount of magical orbs and bullets, and shoot them as well.

    And all of that was before he even got around to doing his actual magical practice with Rico. The stuff really was fascinating to work with, and even now he could feel that his mana control was growing in leaps and bounds. This, of course, only spurred him to push even harder, going so far as to do minor experimentation on some applications of mana that hadn’t been known or tested just yet. So far, he had managed to work out (by accident) an odd form of slowing mist that, according to Rico, affected time in a small but noticeable manner. He and Rico were still working out applications for its use.

    Another, and far more basic, application was a basic enhancement suite. Normally this would be limited to physical attributes only, but nobody had told harry that the mental enhance was impossible, and he had come up with a set of enhancers for the mind to go with enhancements for the body. The mental boosts were being carefully tested before he was allowed to use them again at any real level, mostly because nobody wanted him frying his own brain because his control slipped or something, but all the complaints and ribbing he’d gotten over that had been good-natured.

    Part of how he’d worked out that mental enhancer of his was due to the current set of spells he was practicing, which allowed one to acquire and process data quickly from a known source. The original was a utility spell that Rico had been hard-coded with for some reason, designed to work on old books and texts. Harry’s modded version of that same spell could access digital databases with enough practice and finesse...a level which he was not quite at, yet, but he was getting there.

    For today, the plan was for more fast accuracy practice, using a series of manually controlled mana orbs to juggle an object as many times as possible. It was a good exercise for both control and awareness, and he tended to run it often. Currently, he could run about six of them at once, while still being able to focus on other things, and his current record was twenty minutes before he lost his focus. Today he was going for seven orbs, and twenty-one minutes.

    “Alright, today, we’re going to be working on your defense, namely Barriers of all kinds, and getting you set up with some personal protection as well.” Rico stated from his usual perch, watching Harry’s training with a wary eye. “I would like to get you into at least a Barrier Jacket as soon as possible, but if you are up for it and can get the sequences right, I have no issue with letting you work with Knight Armor and its derivatives. Any objections so far?”

    Harry nodded, realizing that he would have to focus on yet another mental partition as well as keeping his current amount plus one going. It was downright fiendish on Rico’s part--perfect for his training plans.

    “Alright. You know of the basic barrier spell equations and applications. You may begin when ready. I’ll explain the differences between a Barrier Jacket and Knight Armor while we work.”

    Harry took the end of the sentence as his cue to begin, and started forming a basic round shield out of his mana, focused on his hand. The style he was using did not lend itself well to the standard spell circles that were common with such things, and the resulting shield was little more than a circular blob of mana. So far, so good: usually the hardest part of doing these tasks was shaping the mana to the desired form.

    Rico started up his explanation as Harry got settled in with his shields, and started pelting it with magical bullets as he did so, to do a form of strength testing. “So, shields are exactly what they say they are on the tin: they shield from attack. The version you are practicing with right now is designed to be created anchored to a part of one’s body. The more common version of the shield spell is generally set as either an all-around defensive field or a planar defensive screen that is usually anchored to one direction based on the caster. Larger Bunker-type shields can be anchored to fixed points in the environment, creating defensive and even strategic opportunities there as well, though they are usually immobile once cast.”

    Rico chose that moment to toss out a stronger bullet than normal, and Harry found out the hard way what happens when a shield breaks. It was not a pleasant feeling, but he’d been through far worse over the years, and Rico would speak up if it was anything important. He moved to reset himself as Rico continued his lecture.

    “These are just examples, mind: Hybrids of these exist, and many of the shield spells have been tweaked to fit one user or another’s personal style as they advance their skills. I know that some have taken the all-around defensive bubble and created a good forward screen out of it, and even more have managed to create good capture tools with their shield utility. There are even those that have taken the art and made it offensive in use, though they are rare to see.”

    Rico seemed to be drifting again, probably digging back into some kind of fragmented database or another. He still kept up the barrage of bullets as he did so, and another of Harry’s shields broke as he flubbed the power boost for a moment. He simply reformed the shield and moved to try again.

    “Further along the path of shields and defensive measures, you have the more advanced applications thereof, most notable being the Dimensional barrier and through it the gateway to the art of Sealing. Dimensional Barriers are exactly what you think they are from the name: barriers that can block access to, and defend against attacks from, other dimensions, though that second part is mostly theoretical in normal mage combat, and the spell itself is usually deployed in an area denial function by shunting critical personnel and infrastructure into an enclosed space. I have heard of other uses of it as well, but I have no relevant data.”

    Another shield popped on Harry’s arm, but he kept going.

    “As for the Sealing arts...they are extremely specialized, and generally used to quell and control powerful magical devices that have gone out of control, in the individual use. There are also larger, more...structured uses of the art for bigger projects as well. If you are interested, we can eventually walk that path together, but I’d have to recreate the discipline from scratch. It’s one of the few that I have no real data on, other than that it exists, and is related to barriers in some way.

    “Moving on to the meat of the discussion,” And Rico shattered another of Harry’s shields with a particularly nasty bullet this time, more powerful than anything he’d seen to this point, “we have the barrier jacket. This is simultaneously the most advanced and most simple expression of the field, in that barrier jackets are effectively a personalized and layered set of shields over your own person. They have the ability to be customized in both appearance and protection as needed and necessary, and can handle a variety of situations and environments with ease, and a little configuration.” Rico took the time to deliberately shatter the shield that Harry had been holding up for quite a bit now, and kept going.

    “I should note that Barrier jackets are considered the “standard” for a mage’s protection when in the field. There are also alternative spells that perform a similar task, to varying degrees. The first, called a Hazard Jacket, is specifically designed for use in...hazardous environments. It is not strictly tuned for combat usage, but it can work well enough in a pinch, and the ‘load’ for the spell is much lighter than that of a standard jacket, leaving more space for other tasks. In particular, the Hazard Jacket is optimized to be used without the need for a device by even the most unskilled of mages. You are better than that, however.”

    Harry decided now was a good time to ask about it. “You’ve mentioned these devices before, and you seem to think that most casting would be difficult without one. What are they, exactly, and why are they needed?”

    Rico nodded. “I was wondering when you would ask about them. Devices are casting aids for mages, that, under normal circumstances, would take up the brunt of the load of working the calculations of a spell in order for one to cast it. They are designed to bond and synchronize with a partnered mage and assist them in their mana manipulation operations. In a very real way, they are the much more advanced versions of the operations orbs that Satori creates and uses as a focus.”

    “So don’t I need one for all this, then?”

    Surprisingly, Rico shook his head. “No, Harry. The device is meant to aid the caster, not to be a crutch. There are those who have the skill and talent necessary to push further than even those bonded to a device and master magic with only their own will and mind. You are proving yourself to be one of those, and I refuse to cripple you with reliance on a device when you are advancing so quickly without one.”

    Rico chose this moment to go for another shield kill, finding himself surprised that it took two bullets to break Harry’s shield now. He didn’t dare go further with the power settings, as past this point the spell became increasingly lethal.

    This was good progress.

    “In any case, if you do insist on having one, I can talk to ‘Tori and see what he comes up with for you. Otherwise, don’t sweat it, and just keep pushing forward in your training. “

    Harry mulled over the topic for a moment, and then nodded. “Makes sense. Continue your lesson, please.”

    “Right. I just explained Hazard Jackets...and you know about barrier jackets. Now we get to the third, and generally most powerful, type: the Knight Armor.

    “Knight Armor is to a standard Barrier Jacket what a Barrier jacket is to mundane kevlar. Quite simply, it is stronger, more flexible, more maneuverable, and overall superior to a Barrier Jacket in nearly every way. The only tradeoff here is that normally the spell is a rather heavy load to the caster, and most cannot support it and still do something else. For my personal variation of the spell, it is significantly more efficient...but that is the same for my Barrier Jackets as well, so that is something of a wash.

    “Like the Barrier Jacket, the Knight Armor can be configured to whatever form you wish. Unlike the Barrier Jacket, there exists an option to incorporate actual armor, or a reasonable version thereof created by the defense fields, into the protection, which is part of what lends the spell it’s name. The other is part of the history of its use, which is currently unavailable to me.

    “I should note that my personal variant--and the one that you will be learning, should you choose to do so--is a significantly advanced and refined model that incorporates some additional protections that were believed useful over the years. Fortunately, the code was modular enough that I was able to port over into a modified Barrier Jacket template and rework it from there, but I prefer the Knight Armor.”

    Another attempt at shield breakage, and five bullets required this time. He was almost there…

    “So, then. After hearing this, have you given thought to which of the jacket spells you would like to learn? I will note that you may learn both, or all thee, if you wish, and mix and match the various features as you see fit. I made sure to keep my spell code modular for that reason, even if it hurts efficiency a bit.”

    Harry found himself contemplating for a moment. From what he’d heard, there was really no question on which one of the defensive spells to learn: the Knight Armor was superior in all regards but cost to user, and that was worth the price any day. So he only real choice was whether or not he wanted to learn two, or perhaps all three, of the defensive spells. Upon deliberation, he made his decision.

    “Sure, why the hell not. Let’s get all of ‘em.”

    Rico only smiled, “I knew you would say that. I have decided to incorporate a bit of extra training into the mix as well.” with this, Rico summoned and laid out a series of datapads.

    “The data you need for the spells is in each of these datapads. You are to use your information processing spell to retrieve the data, and then implement what you have learned. No time limits. Let’s go.”

    And with that, Harry’s training continued.

    He didn’t even notice until much later that not once had he lost focus on his other training and broken his rhythm.






    Recovering Mio from the spacedock was easy. Getting her cleaned of all of the leftover Typhon bits was less so, even with her having decided to try and cheat and store the mess in her impeller field. Scanning the area thoroughly to make sure that nothing came back with her was even more harrowing, but she was, fortunately, clean.

    Naturally, the first thing she did after getting cleaned up is let me make her dirty again.

    Oh yes. Very dirty.

    Having finally extricated myself from the gooey puddle of satiated lust that was my woman, I got myself cleaned up a bit, and then went to check on the Kerbals. They seemed excited to finally be able to access a real space dock, even if the suits they were using for the task were… substandard. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw them, and had to grab Bob and Bill to do some emergency redesigns before the idiots got themselves killed. It also prompted me to get into a discussion with Werhner von Kerman, the head of Kerbal R&D. The argument...dear god, the argument…

    In any case, I had managed to “eventually” get Werhnerr’s head screwed on properly as far as safety of his damned people was concerned (“No, you being effectively immortal does NOT mean that you can skip the precautions, Werhner!!”), only then had I allowed the Kerbals into the space dock to explore. For now, they had kept away from the docking slip that had the ships (and bodies) in them. Instead, they were looking for anything appearing to be a control room, maintenance accesses, power conduits, the like. They wanted the place to have working air and gravity soonest, and I didn't blame them, especially not after what I had to force down Werhner’s throat. (the man meant well, but he had his flaws, as did all people.)

    So far, the process was hitting roadblocks everywhere, because for some damned reason all of the support structure for the relevant equipment--which was very clearly meant to be part of some kind of space station--was absent.

    As in completely nonexistent.

    The Kerbals, being Kerbals, did not let that stop them in the slightest, and were working to try and install a variant of the N-Ways Fusion plants geared for more power output in place of the missing power core. That this required them effectively rewiring the entire area did not seem to bother them, Miss Valentina (whom I had met earlier that week) even using the classic line of Drill Sergeants everywhere and calling it “Good Training”.

    Being Military myself, I knew full well what that phrase portended and stayed the hell away.

    Instead, I would be working on a combination of chakra control and further flexing out my Aura, before ending it with doing some refinements to the Amiga operations orbs. The mods weren’t anything major, just testing out some specializations and secondary equipment options, but each step was meant to grab data for the eventual mark II.

    That, however, was a ways off. Right now was practice time.

    Building up a space where I would be able to practice the various arts of the Ninja, let alone a proper Shinobi as I was, was a bit complex due to lacking fellow students of the path here with me. Sure, Mio could help if I hadn’t fucked her through the floor, but even then she’s only one person, and some of these challenges required...more.

    I had considered and discarded the idea of using the Chozo Challenge Chamber (which had a door conveniently located nearby the small medical bay tucked into a corner of the “living” section of the hangar) due to the potential for the thing to test any and everything but what I wanted to actually work on. Besides, I got the feeling that that place was for refining skills already known, not practicing relatively new ones.

    I was probably wrong, but for now I wasn’t risking it.

    The training arena was deliberately set up to feature the most common challenges that a ninja of Konoha would face, and a few more that were based around refining one’s patience and focus. The included areas for practicing the various utility jutsu, as well as the all-important techniques/control exercises of wall- and water-walking, were just as well fleshed out. (That it took me getting in some practice with earth magic to do so was only a bonus in my book: I was solidly proficient with water magic as is.)

    I settled in the wave pool, currently set to mimic a lake under a strong breeze, and focused. A small bit of effort, and I was atop the water, holding myself steady without much trouble. It still took a noticeable mental effort to do, however, and I wanted this to be as flawless as possible before I considered it combat-ready.

    It is worth noting that the skill packages for the Academy training that came with the ninja workshop were wide-ranging, covering a shocking number of skills and techniques. Particularly, it covered not only all the training that the Konoha Academy would normally provide, but a good portion of “field” experience and knowledge as well. Included in this was a wild bevy of miscellaneous techniques, a good set of combat/utility techniques that I would guess to be somewhere at or around D-rank, comprising all of the five elements, and a series of varied chakra control exercises to go with.

    The base Konoha taijutsu style was almost a formality with everything else and my own prior fighting experience, but running myself through the memories over the last few days had made me realize that it was less a style and more a philosophy of combat, meant to be a solid backing for young ninja as they set out on their missions.

    I...had suspicions about why my memories of this training were a bit more thorough than I’d expected, but it was nothing that I could investigate at this time, so I let it pass.

    Besides, this bit of training was going to do something rare, and actually require all of my focus.

    Keeping as little focus on the water-walking technique as possible, I slowly ran through each and every kata of every martial arts style I was even remotely aware of. The shifting waves beneath my feet compounded the issue noticeably, but I managed to complete the set without falling.

    And then I did it again, only faster. And when that was completed without any errors, ran it a third time, but adding in a minor reinforcement and boosting effect to my body. This time there was a noticeable slippage as my control slipped from focusing on two different directions with my chakra, but another rep cleared that out.

    Good. the warm-up was complete and acceptable for what was coming next.

    I ran the same kata one last time, but instead of adding in chakra reinforcement...I used both chakra and Aura.

    The resulting boost to my physical capabilities was downright ridiculous, all things told, and I freely admit that the first few times I tried this I ended up on my ass… or worse. But it was getting easier every time...and getting a handle on it was one of my bigger priorities I had for my current set of projects, if only so that I wouldn’t kill myself with not being used to the boost. This was extremely important, as both chakra and aura give out passive boosts just by existing, and in my particular use case, because they seemed to synergize with each other all too well.

    Fortunately for me, the acclimation process was relatively painless and brief. Soon I would be able to run through that neato obstacle course I’d built.

    I outright refused to try any form of ninjutsu with that technique after what happened last time...Mio was still mad at me about that, even though I’d already apologized quite thoroughly.

    It only took a few more prepetitions of the kata to get used to the change in movements, and from there I started pushing higher in both speed and power boost. I was going to get this down one way or the other...and then I would add in the boost OA’s and physical enhance magic to the mix as well.

    No such thing as too careful, here on Necromunda…







    Mio had awoken in the leftover puddle of that afternoon’s liaison, feeling pleasantly annoyed. The annoyance was that she was left in the mess...the pleasant from the reminder of why that mess was there.

    We’re making progress!!! He actually sought me out this time!!

    Minor victories for her heart aside, she did have other things that she wanted to get done today as well. Top of the list was working on her sync with her (still unnamed) Valkyrie Core, and practicing her Infusion ability, both of which could be accomplished while working on other things. Part of the “other things” in question was to seek out a certain Kerbal.

    She managed to find her target in the break room area of the hangar, a hastily rebuilt EVA suit resting nearby.

    “Miss Valentina.”

    Valentina, for her part, looked up from the cup of caffeinated beverage she was drinking (Mio knew it wasn’t recaf, and Satori had confirmed as much, but was very curious where they were getting the stuff from) and greeted her with a tired smile. Apparently the Kerbals had been working harder than expected.

    “Ah. Lady Mio. Apologies for the...mess. We’ve been working a pretty big project now that you went and cleared out the spacedock.” She took that moment to stretch out a bit, and a few pops or loosening joints echoed in the room. “Anyway, what can I do for ya?

    Mio took the unspoken invitation and sat down. “Well… I have a pressing matter recently that I feel you could help me with--”

    “Just tell him already. You only hurt yourselves by dragging this out, you know.”

    Mio was taken completely aback at the sudden interruption, and had to painfully fight down a megawatt blush from forming at the content thereof. There’s no way that…

    “Yes, you two are that obvious, we’ve all been watching you dorks dance around each other for weeks now. Seriously, just accept the inevitable and let it happen. You’ll be happier for it.”

    Mio was fighting desperately against herself at this point, cold logic warring with emotion as her heart tried to soar, even as her mind demanded more answers.

    “T-That wasn’t my question ,but thank you for the vote of confidence” The lie was so transparent that Valentina didn’t even bother acknowledging it as such, just let it hang in the air.

    Mio took the moment of respite to re-focus and get back to the important topics. “Ah. there was also another thing that I wished to ask you about--”

    Valentina once again interrupted her. “Talk to him about your Yandere thing too. He’s more than willing to listen. Just talk.”

    Mio blinked once, more at the attempt to figure out just what the hell a “yandere” was supposed to be. A quick lookup should get her all of the informat...ion…

    Oh, Omnissiah…

    The description was meant for the plain, stereotypical example of what was clearly a character archetype. But unlike others in this situation, she knew what she was looking at.

    It wasn’t completely correct, and the behaviors attributed were far further on the extreme end for a lot of things and reasons, but that “archetype,” was her. It was a direct hit on all the critical points.

    And there was no use denying it, she’d known about her own tendencies for decades by now. Of course, she’d long since learned to channel the murderous rage onto the targets that deserved it (which was far easier than most would expect, because pretty much all of the lost partners she’d had over the years were a direct result of either grave betrayal by an outside party or chaos influence, necessitating a swift end in either case), and the obsessiveness was something that she’d been working on for years and had managed to mitigate, but it was still her.

    And apparently everyone could see it, and He still loved her anyway.

    Well then. That settles the major topics…

    Mio cleared her throat as a brief segue before changing topics. “Anyway, I was planning on working on the spacedock some more, with the intent to get a good look at the ships within. I’m not fully trained as an explorator, but I was far enough along to be but on secondment for the task nonetheless. I’m expecting to find some really interesting stuff in there.”

    Valentina surprisingly did not call her out on the subject change. “Eh. what we find is what we find. You two will probably want to rebuild the whole thing anyway, just to make sure that it “works right” or something else--hey, are you okay?”

    Mio hadn’t heard anything of the last part of that sentence, though, as she was trapped within her own memories as another power worked its way onto her being. The things she’d seen...magic, technology born of that magic, skills and craftsman and so many things that were utterly anathema to the Imperium as it was...and even the varied people of that strange land, from things she would have believed to be myth, to creatures she swore were fucking Eldar, to what looked eve like Squats or Ratmen, both groups of abhumans not having been seen in the Imperium for decades at least.

    But it was the strange power welling up in her mind, and the training in how to wield it, that captured her attention. It was very much similar to the powers of a psyker...and yet nowhere in her experience had she ever felt or seen anything that even remotely resembled the Warp.

    That all of this was tacked onto a skill package that was already a game-changer in and of itself was just ridiculous.

    “...Yes. Yes, I am fine.” She finally responded, after Valentina had tried getting her attention for at least two minutes. “I just have a bit of adjustment to do. The forge likes to drop odd things at odd times for us.”

    Valentina nodded. “Trust me, I know the feeling. That’s how we ended up here, as well. We love the place, though, and the boss lets us experiment all we want anyway, so it’s fine for us. Now, why are you giving me a look like I’m about to be a guinea pig?”

    Mio chuckled. “Because, you most definitely are. So, Valentina…” and here Mio leaned in close, just for the effect, “how would you like to learn how to make enchanted items?”






    Oof.

    Alright, that one hit like a goddamned freight train, and with as little warning. Seriously, I almost fell off of the wall, man!

    I felt something similar to a feeling of apology before it faded, as well as a notice that something important was in high security. I’d look it up later. Right now, there was something I needed to check.

    The newest set of knowledge to hit my mind was the secrets of what was needed for ordinary people to craft magical enchantments on D&D-style equipment without needing any magic, as well as efficiency techniques that could cut the time needed for most crafting processes in half. This alone was major, as it would allow the Kerbals (and later other allies) to work with some really high-end stuff on the magical scale without actually needing any magic, (which was a big deal when everyone was afraid of the Warp and what resided therein) and also let him do the same with Thoth. Which meant that he would finally have a proper inroad into studying and improving upon magical effects.

    No, what I was interested in was the memory engram and ancillary skills package, which had a class pack attached...all of which were Psionic.

    Like, holy hell was this huge. I had been stressing over a way to actually get my psi talent trained up to something usable, and here it is, just out of the blue, waiting for me.

    There were three classes contained within, and what felt like the potential for more if I was willing to put in the time to dig into them hard enough. The Soulknife was something of a given, as I had been semi-aping that class for a bit just after the hellstorm, and was working it into my combat routines as I went along to keep myself on point. Psion I also expected, though I noticed that my memories for that world lacked anything looking like a specialization on the various disciplines. Nothing that I was worried about, as it just meant I was more flexible when needed.

    No, the one that caught my attention, and told me flat out that maybe there was more going on here than I was aware of, was the last one: Vitalist.

    Which I knew fully damned well was a third-party class created specifically for the Pathfinder version of Psionics, which was also third-party. I’d played enough of them in my years of tabletop gaming, after all.

    The upside was that it was possible that the other classes ran on the same (very much improved) rules as the newer version, if they even had rules at all. The downside was not as much of a real downside when considered properly: I was effectively at level one, which meant that I had to actually put in the work, time, and effort to gain my phenomenal cosmic power...just as I had been doing from day one, for most of my skills. So nothing new there, at least.

    This did mean that I had yet another power source to train up, but the good part about psionics is that it’s a purely mental art. I could assign a few mental partitions to working with it and still get in some decent training...although I would have to find a way to not break the partitioning when I was trying to focus on chakra. Shouldn’t be too hard, with how my control is coming along.

    Wait. IDEA.

    There was a technique in Naruto that was almost pure chakra control, and had been explained to hell and back as part of the training montage/arc of Naruto himself. I could use that, here.

    The fact that the Rasengan is arguably the most powerful technique in the series that wasn’t locked behind a bloodlimit was certainly a plus.

    Ugh. I was gonna need some water balloons, though. And a rubber ball…?

    Bah. think about it later. Right now, it was Amiga time.






    To my surprise, the workshop was occupied when I got there.

    “Alright, you’re doing fine. Next step is to visualize the pattern you will want the energy to follo--MOVE!!”

    The small explosion that occurred was only mildly surprising, considering that Mio was over there. Normally she’s better about stuff like that.

    “Yeah, I am, but teaching this enchanting method is kind of new to me, and while Valentina is doing well enough, failures...tend to go boom if not caught fast enough.”

    Valentina looked up from where she was attempting to clean off the soot marks from her face. “It’s really interesting, in theory, but getting it to work right is a complete pain in the ass.”

    “It doesn’t help that we’re missing a lot of the items that would make the process simpler, simply because they don’t even exist here. We’re going to have to work around that one way or the other.” Mio’s sullen voice added in.

    All I could do at that was blink. “... Huh. I’d have thought it would be a bit easier and less explosion prone… guess I was wrong. I’m having Thoth look over the process as well; maybe he can shed some light on it when he’s done.”

    This time, it was Mio who blinked. “Wait, you can just do that?”

    I snorted in amusement. “Of course I can. Hell, it actually solved a problem I was looking to fix, in that Thoth normally isn’t geared to work with magic and magical systems. I’m thinking of ways to add in the rest as well, but that might take longer, or at least some playing around with the hardware...should be fun, really.”

    I started setting up a workspace for myself as the two continued cleaning up. “Anyway, what brought this on? I’d have figured that I would be bugged by Bob about this stuff, or maybe Werhner somewhere down the line. Valentina doesn’t seem the type.”

    Mio’s amusement flowed back to me through our link. “It’s part of why I asked her in the first place, as a proof of concept that anyone could learn if they bothered to try. Besides, she accepted on her own, so it’s not like I’m just dragging people along.”

    Oh, really? That had garnered my interest, but I would let it be. If Valentina wanted me more involved, I’m sure she would let me know. Besides, Mio wasn’t about to let her get hurt, anyway--she was very...possessive about her friends and loved ones. Not that I minded much, as it translated into her being more physically affectionate with me than anything else.

    “At least try to keep the explosions to a minimum, then? I’m gonna be working on some new orb prototypes over here, and sometimes odd vibration can screw with the process.”

    That both of the girls were chuckling at me was not a good sign. “No promises.” Mio finally whispered.

    ...I’ll take what I can get.

    Getting a new frame set up for the jewel housing was easy enough to do; the parts were barebones simple and didn’t require anything important. I set up a group of these shells for the mods I wanted to try, and set them aside as I got around to building the guts of the new operations orbs.

    I wanted to test out several options for the orbs themselves, first and foremost being a modification of the omnitool so that it functioned with and within the orb itself. A potential second involved hardware communications gear. A third involved some specialization and optimization work, mostly as a curiosity piece, but potentially useful for other potential mages as either training tools or for certain kinds of work.

    Putting them together was neither hard nor complex. The latest iteration of the mana reactor design was being used here, this time with an integrated capacitor in the reactor housing. The actual processing unit was the same as always, but had a riser connection to allow for interlinking between the actual orb and the omnitool hardware as well.

    Final assembly was about three minutes, mostly because I was being especially careful with the process. Testing was going to be a simple affair, just working up the orb to a standby state and then testing the omnitool interface to make sure it worked the way I wanted it to.

    “Whatcha got there?”

    Mio, of course, got curious. From the looks of it, her and Valentina were taking a break from the teaching session to take a look at my project.

    I saw no reason not to humor her. “This is a potential mod to the operations orbs that adds in an omnitool to the mix. I have a few others I wanna test out too, but they’re more curiosity pieces than this one.”

    “And I’m assuming that this is the testing phase, then?”

    “Yup. You coming, or you just gonna stand there?” After all, I was already moving outside.

    Mio started as she realized I was leaving her behind. “Hey, wait a sec. I wanna see this!”

    Naturally, this drew a small crowd, as the rest of the Kerbals drew around, and even Harry and Rico showed up from their corner of the hangar to watch. I wasn’t expecting the crowd, but it wasn’t a big deal, it was just a small test, anyway.

    With that, I spun up the orb--

    It was only pure, instinctual reflex that saved me from the disaster that happened. That, and Mio being herself.

    The orb spun up, and then almost immediately went completely out of control as something glitched out and everything went sideways for a moment, the orb glowing dangerously bright and extremely hot.

    I tried to use manual control. Nothing worked.

    I tried to do a forced shutdown. It actually made it worse.

    Hell, at the last, I even tried to pull together an antimagic field out of pure base principles just to stem the tide...and even that fell apart at the seams.

    Mio, on the other hand, just snatched to orb out of my hands and tossed it as far upwards as possible as she could.

    The explosion deafened and blinded everyone, and the shockwave was enough to throw everyone to the floor, even through Rico (and surprisingly, Harry) throwing up shields to block the wave. Somehow, the interior of the hangar was and remained unaffected.

    I looked up dumbly at the space where my operations orb used to be, completely dazed. I know for a fact that those were not supposed to fail like that. It wasn’t supposed to even be possible to fail like that. The fuck?

    Mio gave me a look. “Whatever it is you are building, you now need my input. No exceptions.”

    Harry and Rico voiced their agreement.

    I didn’t even bother trying to argue the point. Not after that.






    “Alright, I’ve checked over everything in the blueprint. Nothing in it should have failed like that. Nothing. I don’t get it.”

    I was just finishing my re-inspection of the design document for the operations orb, and, as to my surprise, nothing actually stood out to me as something that would fail in any way like what just happened.

    It was really annoying, though.

    The others had left not long after, assuring that I was still safe and in the capable hands of Mio, who all but vowed to keep watch over me as I worked. I wasn’t complaining, as Mio was both pleasant company (and damned good eye candy) and a solid engineer all her own.

    Mio grumbled, sitting on a stool nearby. “Well, look again. Something went wrong, and I wanna know what it was.” Oddly enough, she didn’t even make an attempt at preening like she normally did when my thoughts turned towards lewding her. She was actually taking this deadly seriously, which concerned me for a moment.

    She suddenly snapped a finger and looked up from her pout to face me. “We’re being stupid. Don’t look at the blueprint, just think about what you changed from the previous model. What was different? Check there first and foremost.” And with that, the concern vanished. Mio was just fine. It was, of curse, replaced with self-annoyance.

    I kind of wanted to kick myself over my oversight. It was literally the first rule of general maintenance. ‘In the event of equipment failure, the most recent part changed is the most likely culprit, especially if the change was recent.’ that orb going up must have thrown me off my game more than I’d thought.

    “Alright then. Here, I’m sending you a copy of the ‘prints for both the Amiga I and the changes.”

    Mio’s humming as she received the data was soothing to me in many ways. That she continued humming that odd tune of hers was a relief, and took my mind off of the incident.

    Together, we identified the likely culprits...and the only changes were the newest version of the mana reactor, and the omnitool hardware. I had no reason to think it was the omnitool gear, so I rechecked the mana reactor plans.

    “Ah. I think I see the problem here.”

    I looked over at my Dragon, curious as to what she had found.

    She simply smiled sadly in my direction. “The Mana reactor needs to be redesigned. You have it working very well, but it has absolutely no fault tolerance built into it whatsoever. This isn’t a bad thing, when you can get the initial mana charge going into it, but the omnitool gear makes things complicated. There’s just enough of a resonance here, here, and here,” and she pointed to three places, one of them almost directly inside of one of the capacitance cell of the reactor itself, “that the reaction can and will go completely out of control once the initial startup happens. Getting the reactor started up first would alleviate the problem, sure, but then it breaks the instant you expose it to a mana less environment or strong enough antimagic field.

    “In fact, I would suggest making the housing for the orb itself bigger, so you can stay with the external capacitors that you can actually properly shield all of the power generation properly. Or~” And here her tone turned playful, “you could try out that design for the hybrid generator that you have still kicking around over on the counter over there, hmm?”

    I glanced over at the prototype of the Hybrid photon reactor and shook my head. “Sorry, but that was slated for a different test entirely. I wanna get this worked out before I try adding in more new tech.”

    “In that case, they this.” and Mio handed me a newly built operations orb, with a redesigned mana reactor inside being the only change from the previous prototype. “This should work...or at least, not blow up in your face like the last one.”

    I was inclined to believe her, considering that this new orb was reinforced heavily, to the point that it was actually larger than the original by nearly a full quarter. I didn't bother asking when she’d built it; with all the spare parts sitting on the workbench I was using, it would have been trivial for her to put it together.

    This time, the test went off without a major issue, the reactor spinning up properly without any faults and powering the orb’s systems to full capacity. This time, it was the omnitool that was having issues, with the interface not working correctly, and the various extruder components and things being completely in the wrong spot to work correctly. Overall, it was a mess, but unlike the previous test, at least it worked for it’s intended purpose.

    “So, basically I’m going to have to redesign the omnitool in its entirety for it to work correctly with the orb...or redesign the orb to work with the omnitool. I’m tempted to do both, just in case one fails to work properly,”

    My grumbling and general bad mood was interrupted by a simple kiss on the forehead from Mio. “Don’t worry about it. We have time for you to iterate properly, and integrate the rest of the stuff you think will be needed into the next revision. Personally, I think it’s time that you got that hybrid reactor online, and then we need to go digging into photonics together.”

    I paused for a moment, considering something. “Weren’t you working on something yourself? How are you going to finish your--”

    Another kiss, this one to the lips, silenced me. “None of that. I told you: no exceptions. You are not working alone anymore. We’re going to explore that path together, you hear me?”

    I could only nod in agreement. She was right, after all, and I was not about to ignore actual wisdom from my own woman.

    Mio’s grin turned a bit more somber. “And speaking of that particular thought, we need to talk…”

    Ah. she was finally wanting to bring that up, huh?

    “Mio, I know all about your inner yandere. It doesn’t scare me, and it never will. Stop worrying about it or else I will force the issue...and make sure that you lose at least a week as a result. You’re fine, and I love you for it, so you’re stuck with me until you no longer want me. And seeing as you are, at least mildly, yan, that means I’m set for life.” I made sure to plaster the smuggest grin I could on my face just to rub the point in.

    I could feel it. She was barely, barely restraining herself from jumping me right here and now, and screwing me utterly senseless, but somehow she held on to her senses. I was tempted to push her that last bit of resistance and let her snap, but I decided against it, simply due to wanting my own project time to be uninterrupted as well. The fact that I could feel her fighting herself on just letting go after noting that thought of mine was just icing on the cake.

    “So then, my dragon, what do we have next on the agenda? I was wanting to get some work in on our new psionic talents, and get you started on working that ninja training into your style…






    Somewhere, on the planet Necromunda. A message was received. Under normal circumstances, this would be completely routine, but the contents of said message prompted a response that was out of the ordinary. As a result, certain actions were taken.

    Elsewhere and some time later, another message was sent, this time via astropathic choir, to a location that was expecting such a message. The transmission thereof was completely expected and routine. Only the contents thereof were of import, and even then only to certain individuals.

    At this place, another message was sent, via another astropathic choir, to a certain location. The recipients of that message immediately began preparations for what was to follow.

    And Somewhere, out in deep space, that same message was partially intercepted by something else, and was decoded all the same. This ship, which was at one point headed on what could only have been described as a mission from god, suddenly changed course.

    And for better or worse, the events that would shake the galaxy to its very core were set in motion.








    And completed. There’s one, maybe two more chapters of this slow stuff and easygoingness for the crew left to get through before they face their next challenge. Downtime is always so much fun, after all.

    Perks for this Chapter:

    -Resupply Ship/Fog Warships (Arpeggio of Blue Steel) (400CP)
    An autonomous resupply ship that gathers materials to re-arm Fog vessels. It has no ability to fight on its own, but is capable of filtering nanomaterials from sea water (on an industrial scale) and mining heavier elements from the sea floor or beaches. Using these materials, it can manufacture missiles, gun rounds, and other expendable weaponry, as well as provide some ability to refit Fog ships (so long as the repairs don't require a dry dock). It has a non-sentient Union Core. With some modification, it could resupply and repair other types of ships besides Fog Vessels.
    Fog warships are advanced, more like starships than seafaring vessels. Built of nanomaterials, they can change their shape and structure when needed, though they seem to prefer the shapes of WWII-era ships. For example, their turrets instead of holding normal cannons instead house photon cannons, or their hulls open to fire their super graviton cannons. Ships comprised of nanomaterials must be controlled by a Union Core, or similarly advanced computer system. If purchased by a human, or as a second ship by Mental Models, these vessels are run by a Union Core (free) which does not currently have a Mental Model.
    ~~~This one seems different from the other kinds of Fog ships, focused more on supply, repair, ability to modify ships and manufacturing of ammo and nanomaterials for use. I suggest this and the Unusual Class to be left behind~~~


    -Arcane Emulation (D&D Eberron) (400CP)
    To enchant is to create the greatest of items. To enchant without magic is pure bullshit, but is doable with certain tricks shared only amongst the most secretive of crafters. Thanks either to learning from them or to discovering these abilities yourself, you can craft magical items without the need for related spellcasting. Further, you know all the little tricks to minimise the resource costs of your items, which whilst minimal by themselves add up to maybe halving the total time and resource expenditure per item.

    Psionic Power: A strange phenomenon commonly recorded amongst the Kalashtar
    people but present in almost anyone, albeit rarely, Psionics differs from spellcasting in
    that, instead of needing to wave your hands and chant something in one of the various
    dead languages, you simply focus on the effect. It’s also slightly different in that magical
    effects and Psionics don’t perfectly interact and can bring about some strange effects.
    Taking this perk either allows you to convert one existing class to a Psionic equivalent,
    with all of its perks applying to the new Psionic variant, or to take a single Psionic class
    of your choice, with the common ones being Psion (a dedicated caster), Psychic Warrior
    (a martial warrior that uses Psionics to augment their fighting), Soulknife (a lightly
    armoured warrior that projects blades of raw Psionic force from their hands) and Wilder
    (someone who channels Psionic power into rash outbursts of chaotic effect). Due to their
    rarity, unless you use a pre-existing class as a template, Psionic classes do not have any
    dedicated perks. This may be taken multiple times. [100CP]



    Unlocked from the Queue:

    -Schizo-tech Expert (Arcanum: Of Steamworks And Magick Obscura) (400CP)
    Technology advances in leaps and bounds, which may leave the enterprising inventor with some compatibility issues. After all, upgrading the old model of steam-powered Automaton with an electromagnetic hydraulics system may give it the dexterity to paint works of art as much as cleave your foes in half, but that's hardly a success if the optical systems receive interference and rend your servitor blind! You've become exceedingly adept at integrating multiple kinds of technology, especially when the various parts would normally be incompatible. Using different energy sources, blending outdated design principles with the latest advancements of the future and more are all within your grasp. Incredible!
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 16
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    It was nice to not have a hard deadline looming over you when you were working. Made things easier to work with and around, and it also gave me time to investigate certain things as well.

    For example, somewhere along the way during our effective vacation, a particular object had been delivered to the workshop floor, sitting in a position of prominence on a pedestal that had been created solely to house it.

    “You are acting like this is important, but I have no clue what it is. Mind filling me in?” Harry’s growing loss of patience was becoming evident in his tone. Unfortunately, I was all but vibrating in place at the miraculous treasure that had been delivered unto me.

    Because the small, tablet-like object Harry held in his hands was literally that damned powerful. As if having a goddamned Chozo power suit wasn’t cool enough.

    “That, Harry, is one of the most bullshit pieces of magitechnology that I have ever known. It is capable of so much that by all rights merely having it should be restricted. I present to you, for your consideration: the Shiekah Slate.”

    I made a grand gesture to the device in his hands. Harry looked nonplussed.

    “So, what does it do, anyway? Seems like a normal datapad to me.”

    I chuckled to myself at those words, but managed to keep the mirth out of my tone for the reply. “Why don’t you try that data recovery spell of yours, then? Maybe see what you can pull out of it?”

    The look Harry gave me was icy cold, but relented within short order. I know he remembered his first attempt to scan the Slate that way. It was not a pleasant experience, though it didn’t leave any permanent damage after it was all said and done.

    “I’ll pass, thank you.”

    I made sure to not chuckle at his predicament, though a smile still broke out on my face. “Alrighty then, let me give you the basic rundown of the power of the Shiekah Slate.

    “First off, it has a nice mapping feature!” I made a point of showing off the map and it’s zoom functions. “It keeps track of where you’ve been, and if you choose, where you’re going. Easy-to-use waypoints allow for some decent dead-reckoning navigation if you need it.”

    “Secondly!!” I was really having fun with the sales pitch, and it showed. “There is a wonderful camera function that allows you to not only take some splendid pics, but can record data on both flora and fauna for later perusal and data crunching. The camera even ties into the mapping system, allowing you to use the slate as a viewfinder and zoom-capable monocular to set navigation points for travel. This is something I know for a fact is useful, by the way;too many marches with a butterbar trying to do land nav, and you figure it out…”

    Harry’s chuckle at this only proved that even in the Grim Darkness of the 41st millennium, you still cannot trust a 2nd Lieutenant, especially not with a map and compass.

    “Third!! It has expandable functionality...which we do not…quite have access to yet. But it’s a work in progress! Don’t worry, we’ll get the good stuff out of it eventually. But it does bring us to our final and most important feature: the INVENTORY SYSTEM!!!i

    Which, when looking at it from an outside perspective, is the real prize of having a slate. It stores stuff. A LOT of stuff. If I didn’t have Thoth already running inventory for me, I would have stolen this outright. For now, though…

    “And this can all be yours, for the always low price of ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

    Now Harry laughed his ass off. I was kind enough to wait until he got himself under control before continuing.

    “Besides, I’ve tried running one of my reverse engineering power over the stuff, and keep getting back errors on it, and even though I can read the language doesn’t mean I understand what’s happening inside. It looks, almost, like computer code, but the structure is nuts. Honestly, I just want someone putting it to good use, and you needed a storage space anyway.”

    I shrugged. “It’s just weird like that sometimes, y’know?”

    A mental nudge from Mio caused a stray thought to dislodge itself. “Oh yeah. That slate is rated to survive completely unscratched against the guardian lasers that we use on the guns. Meaning that the damned thing is pretty much indestructible. I suggest hanging on to it for that reason alone.”

    “Well, then. Glad to see that my personal safety is being taken with the utmost precedence.” And to think that Harry actually managed to say that with a straight face…

    “Anyway, now that you have been hooked up with your new favorite tool, let’s see about getting you some other gear. Looks about time for an upgrade anyway.” Besides, it would let me make sure he could avoid getting killed by stupid things, which is always a plus.

    “I believe I will decline for now. I feel that I am actually rather well equipped for most scenarios. After all” and here he extended the Photon Claw that he had yet to actually need to use, “I have more than one set of fangs, if needed, and my recent foray into magical studies is going rather well, I think. Let me get used to my gear before you replace it all over again.”

    Well, he had a point.

    “Fair enough. Just let me or Mio know when you think you need some sprucing up, though. Oh, and speaking of sprucing up, how are the prosthetics working? The integration going good?”

    Now Harry turned a semi-disbelieving eye towards me. “Wait, you knew that was going to happen? That these would start melding in with my body?”

    I nodded absently, already focusing back on my current project, repurposing the operations orbs as a psionic focus. “Yeah, I intentionally designed ‘em that way. The more they integrate, the less you’ll be hit with stuff like phantom limb and other silliness, and the more responsive the limbs themselves will become. I’m not sure of the upper limit, but eventually they will act just like a natural limb, but stronger, while reinforcing appropriate areas to make sure that your extremities don’t outscale the rest of your body.

    “Besides, would you have preferred the usual super-clunky mess that the Imperium usually throws out for their prosthetics?”

    “I-I...well…” Yeah. I figured he would have had problems arguing it from that perspective. I didn’t mean to be manipulative about it, but I did kind of need to drill home that in a society that was already very much pro-transhumanism, complaining about the prosthetics becoming just as good in all ways as the original limb is NOT a valid argument.

    I stopped my tinkering and turned towards Harry. “Look. I’m not trying to be a dick about it. I just made sure at the time that you got the best I had available, and nothing less. That it happens to do the same that the Imperial version would eventually require, and in a more holistic way, is no reason to panic.”

    Harry, surprisingly for him, huffed in annoyance. “It’s not panic, you damned madman. I just would like to be made aware of these things before they start happening. Call it paranoia on my part.”

    “Yeah, yeah. Next, you’ll say that you don’t want your eye to upgrade itself either, and we both know that’s a lie.”

    Harry snorted in amusement, again. “Sure, laugh it up. You aren’t the one turning into a damned machine, piece by piece.”

    I gave him the flattest look possible. “Harry, I am literally a hybrid cyborg nanomachine colony. I am more of a machine than you will ever be.”

    The moment barely held for two seconds before we both chuckled at each other.

    “Anyway, anything I should know about with the metal bits and what they’re changing?”

    I thought about it for a moment. “Well, the biggest thing they are likely to change is to reinforce all of the remaining bone structure surrounding the connection points, eventually spreading to the rest of the body as well. also, you can expect a general nervous system tune up sometime soon as well, as the extra functions start wiring themselves into the autonomic system. There’s a few of those that you haven’t used yet for anything. I suggest taking some familiarization time to get used to ‘em”

    Harry’s nod was enough of an answer for me, so I got back to my project as he waved and excused himself to his own devices. It really was nice to see that he was still taking things well, though, after all he had been through. Either that or he’s just rolling with the insanity over lack of any other option, and I’m not sure which is worse. Probably rib him about it later.






    Anyway, back to my project of DOOM!! (well, not doom, but it was still awesome.) The current experiment was an attempt to use a super-custom operations orb, or at least the technology behind it, to create a similar focus for psionic powers, or to at least integrate the same into the orbs proper. I had a hunch that this would be useful down the line for various reasons.

    So far, the process was...not going well. Admittedly, my still being a relative newcomer to the whole psionics thing was a big part of why it was not working well, but even then I thought that I would have been able to at least make some inroads into the desired result. So far, though, nothing too much happening, not that I was discouraged. My own psionic training was going shockingly well, to the point that I was legit breezing past a lot of things that supposedly should have taken years to bridge in a “standard” psionic practitioner.

    While a good deal of it was me taking the archaic teaching methods and applying more modernized thought processes and practices, I was shocked to find the overwhelming lion’s share of the credit to fall squarely on a combo of both my insanely expanded mind and the multitasking training that was a requirement for most forms of magic I had access to. Hell, it wasn’t even one of my strange abilities that was pushing it this time, just the sheer overwhelming power of my brain meats. Which, as my psionic abilities grew, compounded into even more powerful brain meats.

    While I would have placed myself on the “standard” D&D scale as at most level 7-8, considering that “high-level” play starts at lv10 and most settings have a severe deficit of beings at or above that level, it was actually saying a lot. Combine that with the fact that the psionic abilities acted as I had suspected and were very much free form in application instead of hewing to tabletop rules, and I was led to suspect that a *True* high-level practitioner of the psionic arts could and would wipe the floor with my ass if they so chose to.

    Fortunately, that wasn’t a concern for me at the moment, though I suspected that I would need to set this project aside for now and wait until I had a better understanding of my own powers. I did, after all, eventually want to teach this stuff to others one day.

    Mio casually walked in to the workshop as I continued banging my head against the wall of psionic foci. She, too, had taken to my training method for psionics and had already managed to match, and in fact exceed, my own advances. Her accomplishment only drove me to push harder to keep up with her advance, (which probably had something to do with how fast we were progressing, as well) and also gave me the idea for the psi focus in the first place.

    Too bad it didn’t want to work.

    “Still having trouble with it?” At least Mio was still her usual self, which was being a constant balm to my soul. Even if she was effectively babysitting me at the moment.

    “Yeah. I’ve been playing around with a few things to see what could I could make stick, but so far, nothing actually works. I don’t wanna give it up as a complete wash just yet, but…”

    “Beating your head against the brick wall doesn’t appeal. I get it.” Mio’s smile once again graced my life. “So how about this: work on some of the other stuff you wanted to try out. Or, since I’m here now, we can play around with photonics like we’ve been meaning to.”

    Of course, being Mio, she all but draped herself across my shoulders after speaking.

    “I’m tempted, woman, to just play with you instead, but I have a better idea for right now.” I pretended to not notice Mio becoming aroused at my words. “I wanna go take a look at those spacecraft we have sitting in dock. Make sure we have a go-to-hell plan, just in case things get super sticky around here.”

    “Ah. it’s time, then?”

    I nodded my agreement. “It’s time. And when we’re done…”

    I pointedly ignored Mio shivering at the implication.

    Getting to the ships themselves was a non-issue for us, even with the mass of bodies in the way...which we would still need to clean up at some point. I instead chose to distract myself by using the opportunity to take a look at Mio’s Valkyrie Frame and the changes that had occurred when it was forcibly upgraded.

    Her Frame was very much similar to mine, oddly enough, even in having the nonstandard shoulder protection. The only difference was that her suit was clearly styled for a female occupant (even if the curves were very minor, they were still there) and that the color scheme was of red and gold...or rather, a yellow-gold, at any rate. I thought it suited her quite nicely.

    (I ignored the fact that she had both a Hypervelocity Cannon and her melee halberd installed, as well as the beam projectors we shared. I would be adding weapons to my frame in due time.)

    “So. we got any plans for this bad boy here?” Mio asked me as we searched for an airlock of some sort on the larger of the two spacecraft. “Because if we don’t, I have a few suggestions I’m willing to put forth…”

    I openly laughed over the comms channel, the amusement clear as day to both of us. “Let’s actually see what we’re working with before we try and change things, okay Hon? We might not have to do much in here.”

    Again, I forced myself to ignore the spike of lust coming from my Dragon. Patience, woman. You’ll get yours soon enough…

    I will admit that it wasn’t hard, though. The ship looked downright amazing up close, and unlike Mio I could see plain as day some of it’s more blatant influences. The overall shape seemed to pull a lot from an old shmup series I’d loved called Thunder Force, specifically the fifth iteration; the ship itself had a lot of influence from the RVR series of fighters baked in to the design, only scaled up and retooled for use as a frigate and/or capital ship. (I was leaning towards large frigate, though, maybe a small Destroyer if we were lucky.)

    Finally locating a hatch near the bow of the ship, I made a deliberate point of taking a good look over the fixture to make sure that everything would hold together if I adjusted anything, and then used a bit of creative magic to make a temporary air bubble so as to not decompress the ship if it was in fact still pressurized.

    Honestly, after all of the preparation, buildup, and tension surrounding this thing, actually getting inside was about the most mundane thing ever. There was a manual handle set on the side of the airlock door that I used to crack open the hatch proper, and the two of us piled into the lock chamber. Looking at the controls, there was only minimal power available, just enough to note that the ship’s atmosphere as dangerously toxic to human life due to low oxygen content. Nothing that we couldn’t fix later, but something about the way that was worded had me cautious.

    Apparently Mio shared my concern, as I felt her encouraging/agreeing to my suggestion to stay suited up before I had even thought to voice it.

    Cycling thought the airlock manually, we were met with equally manual emergency bulkheads. From the looks of the place, and the bits of general mapping that we’d managed from the outside, we were close to one of the control stations. If the ship followed one of its other inspirations, specifically that of the Normandy SR2, then moving forward on the ship would bring us to the main helm, and moving aft would (eventually) take us to the Combat Information Center or it’s equivalent...assuming we could get past the emergency bulkheads without breaking something.

    “So, we likely need to get to either engineering or whatever passes for the Bridge of this ship. I would prefer to not fuck up the ship in the process. Any suggestions? Oh, and a reminder that we do eventually need to get those retracted…”

    Mio was deep in thought. “Nothing really comes to mind. Standard doctrine for this kind of thing on an Imperial ship is to cut your way through...but most imperial ships are nowhere near this small. This ship is absolutely tiny by the standards I’m used to.

    “I would say the other option is to get a deep scan of the ship and use some teleports to get around, but that assumes that doing so is both safe and actually possible. Best guess is we do this the hard way and try to find the bypasses for the bulkheads, or at least the manual retracts. There has to be something nearby…”

    She brought up a good point. I was all for just teleporting to the necessary areas, but if the place wasn’t safe or something or another got missed on the scans we were in for a world of hurt, and teleporting would just drop us straight into the thick of it.

    As much as it would suck, we really were better off doing it the hard way.

    With that being the case, I might as well check and see if my suspicions panned out.

    “We’ll be headed forward first then. If my guess is correct, there will likely be a helm station of some sort here that we can use to maybe gain access to other things.”

    Of course, getting there was the hard part. Those emergency bulkheads seemed like you would need to cut through them to get past, by all accounts, but some pointed scanning (and a bit of actual mark one eyeball searching) later, we managed to find the emergency power coupling for the section and tie our suit reactors in. that was able to put just enough juice on the bulkhead controls to allow for the automatic retract, and this without a significant diminishment in power output for either of us.

    What lay beyond was not entirely what I was expecting.

    There was indeed a control station set at the fore, with a clear view forward out of the screens, as was proper. What was unexpected was that there were also stations to the left and right (port and starboard in naval terms, which I would have to remember for the future) of said main console, and that all three had power, if minimally.

    The surprise, on the other hand, came from the way the place was set up: the viewport encompassed not only the complete forward view, but sloped back along the edge all the way along the top and sides to provide an unprecedented view. Considering that from the outside this looked like a pure armor belt, it spoke of a marvel of engineering to have that level of view without compromising protection. I’d have to figure out how they did it later.

    I walked up to the center console, Mio right on my heels. There was a singular screen up, displayed as a dull orange construct of light, very similar to that of the omnitool. On a hunch, I accessed my own just to see if the interface would work, and was only slightly surprised to have limited functionality. Getting that much, I used Thoth as the primary access instead, and pushed the relevant data to Mio.

    “Hummm… this place is surprisingly well-kept for how messed up it is.”

    I had to agree with her assessment. The ship was actually fine, for all purposes, with the exception that nearly every emergency system had tripped all at once for reasons unknown, and then the bulkheads had locked down as the oxygen levels got lower. The only problems we’d have getting the ship back online from what I was seeing were to get life-support back online, retract the emergency bulkheads, and clear out the emergency system stops.

    The problem here was that without main power, the bulkheads had to be retracted manually, which was annoying as hell, and were likely to trigger again in important areas unless we managed to pump in more O2 or clear out the bad air. Second was that those emergency measures were both hardwired and hardware in many cases, and quite a few of them were rather blatant to my eye just by the labels as being one-time-use, which meant we’d have to inspect and clear every fault just to know which ones were important and which were not.

    The biggest problem was that there was a warning note from an engineering console that the main reactor had been hard-SCRAMmed due to the emergency. And considering that I was pretty sure that this ship ran on one of the novel fusion plants, that had to be done manually, from inside engineering. Whatever was the issue on this ship, it would be there.

    “So, I think I know how we need to do this, then. First, we need to get to engineering and reset the reactor, and pray to god that the damned thing hasn’t been cold for too long, or we will have issues. Secondly, we have to get the life support systems back online as soon as we have more than…” I checked the readouts again, “emergency power to work with. Hell, even aux power would be a blessing at this point, really; we could run the support systems off of that with ease.”

    “Says here that aux power is offline for reasons unknown. The emergency systems are enough to keep critical stations juiced up and life support for a certain amount of time, but one of the faults seems to be with the power distro network...crap. We might have to redo entire runs of conduit for this, depending on how bad this is.”

    “Let’s just hope we don’t have to rebuild the entire damned ship all at once. Everything else can be handled in due time.”






    And so we began our journey to the engineering spaces. Sure, we could have used one of the emergency accesses from outside, but that would have denied us the opportunity to inspect the rest of the ship spaces while things were still locked down, and also would have prevented us from clearing a few system faults as well.

    Progress was slow, as we moved along and generally inspected everything as we went by. I made a point of setting up a comms relay with the Kerbals outside the ship, just in case I needed to call in Rico for extra firepower. I had doubts that would be needed, however.

    What we would need was a lit of spare parts, from what we were seeing. The power runs were all but trashed by whatever had happened here, which explained a lot of why things were running on emergency power. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Aux power was actually up and running and entire sections of the ship just didn’t know it because the power conduits had blown.

    We were basically rebuilding the damned things on-site, using spare parts that the Kerbal work crews were ferrying in for us as we moved along. Power output wasn’t high enough to get around a fully operational Impeller field, and we were moving slow enough that the proper safety steps could be observed anyway, so it was not too horrible on us.

    I made a note that we were going to have to redo the data transmit cables though, or perhaps find a better system to work with. What was there was alright, but they were old, and the war was very evident during our maintenance overhaul. A little nanorepair worked wonders, but the point remained.

    “Ugh. I think we might just need to scrap the entire setup. This stuff is trash. TRASH, I say!!”

    I giggled. (yes, giggled. It actually happened.) “Did you need to be so dramatic?”

    Yes!” And Mio was getting aggravated. I could understand completely. This was taking forever and we had barely cleared out all of the forward section of the main decks.

    I wanted to push harder, keep going, but for once the task at hand was a bit much. I had to accept the inevitable. “We’re doing this the wrong way.”

    Mio’s retort was hot, as expected. “Oh? And what exactly do you suggest that we do differently? Drill through the bulkheads by force? This is the only way to actually fix the damned problem here, Satori. We have to do it by hand.”

    I nodded. “That does not mean that we have to be stupid about it...or, at least, continue being so.” I turned to look towards a far bulkhead, one facing towards the airlock back to the hangar proper. “Where are we, Mio?”

    “Onboard a stupid ship having stupid problems. Why?”

    Ah. I see now. She missed it just like I did. “No, Mio. Where are We?

    I could feel her blink, even if her visor was pointed the wrong way for me to see it. “I don’t get it. This some kind of trick question? We’re on the ship.”

    “And where is the ship?”

    “It’s in a space...dock…”

    I had the pleasure of watching Mio facepalm. Which was only a small mercy because, again, I had missed it too. “Exactly. So why are we fighting with the ship when we can fix the damned docks instead and use that as a support?”

    “So, we don’t speak of this to Harrisyn. Ever.”

    “It wasn’t that bad, Mio--”

    EVER.

    I was forced to accede to my wife-to-be’s wishes.

    “And no, that isn’t getting you off the hook, either. DO. NOT. TELL. HARRISYN.”

    I could only laugh, as we were currently in too dangerous an environment for me to properly placate her annoyance.






    “So, yeah. That’s about what we got going at the moment. Gonna need a complete rebuild for nearly everything out there, but once it’s done...you’re gonna have one hell of a Shipyard to play with.” Bill Kerman’s earnestness was always a sight to behold, especially as I had been shown by the rest of the Kerbonauts exactly how clumsy he was, despite being an Engineer. He was actually very good at his job, though, and took the teasing in good cheer.

    I, on the other hand, was not in as good a mood, not after being told that the docks would effectively need to be completely rebuilt in order to be used properly. It only meant more time and effort on our parts to deal with the silliness, but whatever. It needed to be done.

    We were currently outside of the spacedock--excuse me, shipyard proper, and discussing how best to move forward. And, as stated previously, Bill’s news was not the best in the universe.

    “Allrighty then. If it has to be done, it has to be done. That doesn’t mean that we have to be stupid about it. Mio, hon?”

    “Yes?”

    “I’m gonna need you to clean out those bodies in the fourth slip. I have some scanning to do. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”

    Mio had a slight grimace of distaste, but didn’t deny the request. “You’re gonna scan the whole thing, aren’t you?”

    I grimaced harder. If anything, I gave her the easy job. “Yeah. I have no clue how long it’s going to take, so keep an eye out for me, please?”

    I was promptly tackled into the fiercest hug ever, and was just as quickly drawn into a desperately needy kiss as well. It was with extreme reluctance that I broke the kiss and pushed my lover away.

    Later, Mio. we’ll have the time.”

    A hesitant nod was my only answer. “Just...be careful, alright?”

    “I will be.”

    Mio headed off to clean the place up after that, giving me backwards glances as she moved. I understood completely, as what I was going to be doing was at best potentially debilitating (if temporary) and at worst had the possibility of killing me outright, assuming something went SUPER wrong. My current estimate was that this was going to fall under ‘potentially moderately dangerous, but ultimately reasonable’.

    What I intended to do was to do a partial meld with the shipyard to get a full picture of the place using my nanites. With that, I could do the necessary redesign work in my head, and from there, use Thoth and the culmination of my skills to more or less speedrun the entire rebuild, doing in days what should have taken months. And that was if I was massively unlucky. Considering the powers I had at my disposal, if Mio and the Kerbals helped out, we could possibly be done with this by dawn tomorrow.

    That is, assuming the best.

    With not a small bit of trepidation and fear, I laid a hand on the airlock door separating the shipyard from the hangar area...and let the process begin.

    What I was doing was exercising a portion of the power that allowed me to subvert and understand technology, what it (and I) referred to as Enemy Tech Progression. This time, instead of just doing a quick analysis scan, though, I was going deep. And using my nanites to do it.

    It. Was. PAINFUL. Not physically so, but mentally, the ‘strain’ of, among other things, keeping myself from being lost in the sheer size of the structure as I mapped it out with my powers...it was unexpectedly very much taxing...but the process was being completed. A lot faster than I had expected, at that.

    But the strain was only getting worse. Even as I gained possibly the only complete look ever into this shipyard since it was built, the strain of doing so rose higher...and it was getting close to being too much to bear. Even now I had the distinct feeling that I might have had a nosebleed, which was bad...but I pushed forward nonetheless. An instance of myself that was working with Vitalist abilities dedicated itself to constant healing to prevent the strain from killing us. How that managed to work without exploding my skull I have no idea, but it did….and after an uncountable amount of time (which happened to be five minutes by Bill’s watch), it was complete.

    I quickly kicked the schematic at Mio and the main database before I collapsed.






    “So, he pushed himself too hard, and now is paying the price.” Harry’s scathing condemnation was, he felt, rather appropriate.

    Mio was doing the checkup on her lover. “More like realized that stopping the process once started solved nothing and powered through it. Even if he didn’t start the healing, which was both unnecessary and added to the strain on his mind, at most he would have had a minor disruption to his CNS, which would have been fixed almost immediately anyway...something similar to a seizure for an extremely brief moment. It was more bullheaded stubbornness than anything else, really.”

    “So basically it was unnecessary, but now that it’s happened, everything will be alright?”

    “More or less.”

    Harry didn’t like it, watching his friends hurt themselves for no real reason. That particular trait of his was only sharpened by his time as an Inquisitor, and he made a point of not wasting the lives of those who chose to be his retinue if at all possible. That they had died anyway was something unavoidable. That they died as hard as possible, and took their killers with them, was honorable in the extreme. He made a point of remembering their sacrifices, even now.

    Harry had lost enough friends. He had no intention of losing another.

    Mio wasn’t worried in the slightest. “I said he’ll be fine. All he needs is a bit of bed rest, and he’ll be fine. I intend to watch over him anyway, so all will be well.

    Harry slowly nodded. “See to it that you do, miss Granliss.” He knew it was rude as hell, and he didn’t care.

    “Harry.”

    He stopped and listened. Mio did not often use his chosen nickname, despite having permission to do so, and the tone was enough to warn him that it was serious.

    She continued after it was certain that she had his attention. “I am not going to let him die. Not without going with him. That I swear on the Omnissiah.”

    Harry didn’t bother turning around, just slowly, visibly nodded, before leaving. There were other things that he needed to do, and his friend was in good hands.

    Rico Intercepted him as beheaded back out the field that they used to practice. “Everything alright?”

    Harry nodded briefly.

    Rico scrutinized him just as briefly, then relaxed minutely, an unseen burden lifted off of his back. “Alright then, let’s pick this up where we left off. You were working on the intermediate barrier spells, right? Well, there is this particular one that has an interface slot with one of the regenerative healing spells--






    Mio sat back in her chair next to Satori’s bed.

    She didn’t like seeing him in bed (at least, not like this) any more than Harry did. And she understood his anger. It was always hard to see those closest to you hurt. The only difference between them right now was that she knew that her lover would be alright, whereas Harry was still in that state of hopeless panic.

    She also didn’t bother to correct his assumption that her lack of usage of his nickname was a personal affectation on her part. Really, she just often forgot to do so, and it was generally polite to use one’s proper name anyway, so she tended to default to it.

    So, downtime. Sure, she could directly work on the shipyard some more, but not only did she need to be here to assuage Harry’s fears, but she also didn’t have anywhere NEAR the manufacturing and assembly capacity that Thoth did, although she was working on changing that. Jumping into that mess without a dedicated fabber or two was really wasting effort.

    Besides, it let her monitor her other project. One that, if successful, would change all of humanity...again.

    So far, everything was looking alright, the processes going smooth as the experiment continued onwards. She had shielded as much of the process from Murphy as was strictly feasible, and then ran through it again just to be sure, but this should work.

    And if/when it did, they were going to have something beyond price to play with...and, yes, yet another reason for everyone and their grandma to be gunning for their heads. Which would be surrounded by so much firepower that even getting in would be next to impossible.

    Satisfied that her project was going well, she moved on to other pursuits that were possible while she was on watch duty (aside from doing a summary rundown of the shipyard schematics, of course). Practice her telekinesis some more? Maybe play around with some elemental magic for a bit?

    Satori stirred, and she immediately laid a hand on his head, circulating energy between them. Her lover calmed almost immediately.

    Or I could just put some more work into healing and similar bio-manipulation. It was once a topic of interest for me, after all...






    Waking up from that mess was a lot less painful and disorienting than I thought it would be. It was actually quite comfortable, all things said.

    Realizing that the reason was because of Mio was not detracting from the comfort value.

    “How long was I out?”

    The look she gave me would have been difficult to decipher if not for our link, which let me tell quite clearly she was torn between praising me and scolding me in equal measure, not the least of which because Harry had gotten involved and was concerned for my safety now.

    “Going on three hours now.”

    I nodded. “And I can see that I kind of left a mess in the process. I wasn’t expecting that much of a load coming back...felt like my mind was splitting in two for a bit.”

    Mio sighed. “I suspect that you running all of those multitask instances, experimenting with psionic power, did not help. I know that the last one you used to throw healing energy at yourself only added to the problem, even if it prevented a certain outcome.”

    I found myself curious at that part. “And what outcome was this?”

    Mio laughed softly for a moment. “Just a minor seizure. Nothing too bad to be worried about.”

    ...Somehow, the words minor seizure do not fill me with confidence in the slightest, but I was willing to take her word for it...and apparently didn’t have to?

    Thoth had thrown me a diagnostic reading of my mind during the process, where he had tried to help, but was unable to properly interface with things without reconfiguring for the new process. There was an apology thrown in there as well, for not being able to help share the load, along with an update process for further expanding and attuning our data processing abilities. Hell, he’d even started a redesign and update of the onboard scanners too.

    So at least this was a one-off. That much was good.

    “So, apparently even Thoth didn’t expect it to be that strenuous, and is even now running update and optimization processes to account for that from now on. I think this was a one-off, Besides, we now have a full, 100% complete down-to-the-micron scan of the station. So, tell me. What’s busted, and how do we fix it?”

    I got one of her smiles in response, the super cute soft ones that were so rare to see. “Well, for starters, the Kerbals had the right idea about the power runs. We’re going to have to redo damn near everything in there--”






    It took three days to get everything working right.

    Part of the problem was that the issues with the place were legion. Main structural supports weren’t where they were supposed to be, or were heavily damaged, outside of the slips themselves; the control room was an utter wreck, as was every corridor leading to it; hell, the main power core was just flat-out gone, as if someone had decided that ‘nope! You people do not get power anymore!!’ and outright yeeted the damned thing. The fact that this had been done without disturbing any of the other connections was only mildly terrifying in its implications.

    I, personally, suspected that there was some very, very nasty space-time juju going on here, but that was just me.

    In any case, the redesign and rebuild of the shipyard was complete, complete with upgrades to what we considered as “best-use” levels of technology for the various controls and such. The idea, when I pitched it to Mio, was to use this is a test bed for what we could build to the best possible standard that was still buildable by others as well, with the intention of adding the techniques and processes to the STC if they weren’t already in there in some form.

    Considering that the interfaces and displays were using the closest thing we had available to hard light as a medium, I’d say we did a good job.

    There was the issue of exactly where the bodies of the old crew came from, as well as the damned Typhon mimics who were their likely killers, but so far that remained unanswered, and were in all likelihood to remain that way, especially as I had no desire to actually look for the psychic impressions of the damned Typhon. It was bad enough that there had been a few left over in the place that the Kerbals had to bludgeon into non-existence. There was no way in hell I wanted Phantoms or worse floating their asses around here.

    That Wehrner, while setting up his new office inside the shipyard, had found an old and faded plaque with a circular T-shaped logo on it did not fill me with any form of confidence, especially as I felt that I should have recognized that logo from somewhere.

    I set the thought aside for now, with the intention of revisiting it later on, just in case it became relevant.

    The nest issue was the ships themselves. The smaller one, which I suspected to be either an overly-large shuttle or some kind of scout craft, was easily hooked up to the available apparatus and fed the appropriate utilities while the Kerbals explored inside its confines.

    The larger one was proving to be something of an issue in that, for a good while, we couldn’t even find where to hook up in the first damned place until I stumbled upon it by complete accident. And that was the good news.

    The bad news was that the power junctions were indeed blown and/or compromised in exacting detail, forcing us to still do exactly as we were doing and replacing them as we went along. The sole silver lining about this was that it was only the junctions that were borked, so our ongoing process of doing piece-by-piece replacement of the actual conduits themselves could be put on hold for the time being. We thanked the Omnissiah for small mercies as we worked.

    The other problems were that whatever had caused the pressurization issue was not wanting to get solved by any meaningful metric, as even with the external air coming in both through the hookup and via the newly-pressurized slip, it STILL did not want to actually let the fucking air become breathable. It was honestly pissing me off, and the only thing stopping me from tearing open a path to life support to figure out what the fuck was wrong was the obvious need of the rest of the ship for our attention.

    But eventually, after hours of utterly tedious work, we got to the life support section and tried to figure out what the fuck was going on.

    “You see anything, Mio?”

    “Nothing over here. And all of the scans are coming up normal. Maybe try a magic pulse?”

    I shrugged. As much as trying to find what the root cause of the issue was, by all accounts it looked solely like life support had just...turned off. Completely, and all at once, which is weird because one of the modified plants and moss used as carbon scrubbers are not only still here, but still healthy too. It was a mystery, and one that I didn’t like, but the answer was deliberately evading sight.

    Whatever. I just wanted to get the rest of the ship cleared and get this over with for today.

    Mio more than agreed with that sentiment. “Fine then. Let’s just turn things back on and get going to engineering already. I’m just about fucking done with this ship for today, and mama needs her stress relief.”

    I snorted in amusement at the notion, despite my own fatigue. “And what makes you think that I will be up to the task at hand?, woman? I’ve been here all day, too.”

    You will be.”

    Well, looks like my night is booked for some extreme snu-snu then. Works for me.

    Getting back to the headache that was our still unnamed ship, we had gotten a much better idea of how things were set up in here now...and had the access to what I believe was the bridge, or at least the Combat Information Center. It was also locked down to all holy hell, and would likely remain that way until we got some power back on.

    Most of the other sections that we had found were empty, without so much as even a decoration present. No tables, chairs, nothing. The few rooms that did have them were usually those that had them built into the ship itself, or were one of the “important” rooms, like a centralized conference room or something. Nowhere in the ship did we find any indication that there was anyone who actually LIVED on the damned thing, let alone used it.

    But, eventually, after another four hours of annoyance and silence, we managed to make it to the Engineering spaces, where we actually found an access hatch that refused to open under any circumstances. That Thoth was throwing up radiation warnings was probably not a good sign either.

    I turned to my Dragon. “Any ideas, honey? I don’t wanna just cut the door open, not with the rad warnings hanging around. It makes me think that whatever is behind that door needs to stay there if we don’t wanna have to decon the ship.”

    Mio’s groan was unexpected. “We’re probably going to have to just flat-out rebuild the thing anyway. You saw how badly this was messed up. Aside from the helm section, most of the place was just...done for. The only other spot we haven’t checked that was actually on our path is that central block we think is the main bridge, but otherwise? This is it. I wanna see what the hell is up with engineering and go home already. I’m even thinking of letting you off the hook for tonight, no less.”

    Okay, that was not a good sign. Mio being unbearably horny for my D was practically a fact of life by now, and one that I enjoyed immensely. Anything that could get her to not want to ride it for hours on end was extremely concerning.

    Granted, I was actually doing a bit worse at the moment, the fatigue turning into exhaustion as we pushed further in. we really should have called a stop to this a while back, but we were both anxious about this ship and curious as to what we would find.

    “So, we cheat? Set up magical barriers here and then crack the door the hard way, make sure things are alright?”

    Mio gave me a weary nod. “After this, unless it’s a major emergency that we need to clean up, we’re done. Got it?”

    I nodded back. “Deal. at least that way, I get to rest a bit before getting attacked and milked dry.”

    “And if you didn’t love every second of it, I wouldn’t be doing it.” Mio’s smirk was audible in her words. I didn’t even have to look.

    To no surprise whatsoever, cracking the door to the main engineering space was easier than it looked. Sure, we had to manually crank the damned thing open, but getting inside was not the issue.

    No, the issue was that the entire space was flooded with radiation to the point I was surprised that we weren’t cooking in our suits. Which in and of itself was concerning, as even a quick glance showed that the main reactor was a Fission array, not Fusion as I’d originally thought...and all six reactors were not only scrammed, but sealed, the final emergency containment measure for an out-of-control reactor.

    There was no way possible for us to restart main power. Those reactors were done. We’d have to rip everything out and start from scratch.

    That was for another time, though.

    I noticed what looked like a sticky note attached to a workstation nearby.

    Engineering flooded with radiation due to unknown reaction with Hyperspace drive. Reactors scrammed for safety. To whomever finds this, access main engineering terminal to turn on secondary power. The ship is yours if you can repair her.

    Miles Moreau, Captain, Awakening Will

    I looked around, and sure enough, the body of what I assumed was the captain was tucked into a corner, probably having floated there in zero-g before we restored local gravity. The suit was intact...but the man inside was long dead. Almost unconsciously, I came to Attention, and rendered a slow, ceremonial salute in his honor.

    Mio had joined me as I stood there, each of us lost in our own world as we contemplated the fate of both this ship and its crew.








    This one tried to drag itself out, and actively avoided a few places where it could have gone as well. Writing int past a certain point was getting weird and tedious, especially since it didn’t wanna end. I managed, though.

    Not that they matter at the moment, but perks for this chapter:
    -Beniemiya (Fate/Legends Japan Land of the Rising Sun) (50CP)
    It might just be something in the water, both what you're drinking and what you serve to the guests that adore every meal you make. You're a savant when it comes to making meals, not just limited to Eastern dishes either. With a little experimentation, you can make almost anything into a mouth watering feast for both the taste buds and the eyes. The real problem isn't making a good meal but keeping all these greedy pigs from eating you out of house and home. Don't even try making hamburgers around any blonde ladies, it never ends well. Now, while cooking good food is a prize well worth it, you do also have a more useful aspect here. By channeling magical energy into your tools and ingredients as you work, you're able to 'enchant' the meal with a variety of useful effects. A hearty beef stew that lets a warrior heal their wounds much faster than normal, sugary sweets that give people the speed of the wind, a mighty hamburger that temporarily bulges the muscles to greater heights. Even negative effects are possible, if you want to taint your food that way. They only last for a temporary period and the effects tend to be fairly weak without a lot of mana put in but it makes your food all the more popular.

    -4-D Assembler (The Culture Minds) (100CP)
    The Involucra were the builders of the Shellworlds, and your civ has a similar affinity for their construction methods. In what most humans think of as reality, these structures appear entirely normal, but to those who can see into hyperspace, they extend out of the skein of the universe into infraspace and ultraspace. 4-D architecture has very unusual properties, as it can be gravitationally self-supporting they do not crumble under their own gravity, or that of the stellar body they are on and are also heavily resistant to damage. Another unusual feature is that they also cut off all hostile forms of communication, travel or transport that attempt to pass through their walls displacement, hyperspace signals, wormholes, even beings recalled or summoned from elsewhere are prevented from passing through the structures' walls.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 17
    Slider Zero

    Slider Zero Know what you're doing yet?

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    Sister Superior Arikia led her squad through the wastes of Necromunda on what she knew full well was a futile quest designed to slowly kill her and her Sisters by either starvation or poisoning. Currently, her squad was just recovering from getting ambushed--again--by the local wildlife of the planet, and it was getting tiring. Their power armor was holding up, but even then it wasn’t designed for this kind of extended wear and tear.

    The other major issue, besides the supplies getting close to a dangerous level, was that the area of the planet they had been tasked to search was...well, calling it barren was putting it mildly. So far, the only things that stood out over their search was the sludge sea, and a few small shelters and hamlets for the nomads that frequented the place. They were headed towards another one of them now, based on both pattern and the satellite scans, but getting there would take them around another three days at minimum.

    Morale was low among her Sisters. They all considered this to be a punishment detail, something that was meant for them to atone for their “failure” to retrieve the STC from that cavern, and more importantly, it’s loss to the small daemonic creature that was there.

    Not that they could have done anything at all to stop it, but that was besides the point.

    Arikia walked up to her second in command. “Beatrice. How is our supply situation?”

    Sister Beatrice kept to her duties--currently maintenance of her weapon--even as she replied. “Supplies are good, ma’am. We still have enough to go before we are forced to return to the spire again. That is, assuming we are allowed to return…”

    Arikia was having none of that. “Cease your foolish mutterings and focus your self on the Emperor’s will, Sister. You will be needed for the trials to come.”

    This was the only response that she could give. Admitting to her own certainty that they had been left here to die was not conductive to keeping the already flagging morale from collapsing.

    Beatrice nodded. “Yes, Sister Superior. Is there anything else you wish of me?”

    “Not at this time. Please tend to our sisters before we depart.”

    “At once, Sister Superior.”

    They had been out here for weeks now, with minimal support at that. The Palatine had seen fit to deliver supplies to them at least once, but the way it had happened suggested that it had only occurred due to a creative interpretation of orders on the part of a pilot sympathetic to their plight, and even then it was nowhere near what would be needed to do a proper mission extension.

    She stopped herself from sighing at the thoughts once again going through her mind. She had to be strong, and present that image of strength to her subordinates so that they knew they could rely on her.

    Because even if her faith in the Emperor had not flagged, her faith in those who have been called to serve him most certainly had.

    “Onwards, into the breach, and to our noble deaths…”






    As time passed, we got into a very steady rhythm of things, as we got ourselves together and prepared for the next great adventure.

    Fixing the ship had been the most pressing priority, especially when, after they had gotten all of the damned bulkheads and hatches open, that the vessel was equipped with both a suite of multipurpose drones and a set of Fighter craft. Upgrades on those would come afterwards, as the relatively small hangar bay for the four fighters was enough room to work on the needed upgrades while underway if needed. The internal hangar was surprisingly spacious for what it housed, having enough room for another four fighters inside as well as a pair of shuttles, a space for what I believed would have been the ship’s runabout (or captain’s personal yacht, as it were), and the one-hundred drones carried aboard the ship proper.

    We fully intended that runabout slip to be used by the other spacecraft that was currently sitting in the shipyard, as well, but repairs and such came first.

    The Kerbals had long-since completed their examination and appraisal of the smaller craft, and unlike it’s larger cousin, it was in near perfect shape. The Star Seeker, as it was called, was intended to be a long-range scout ship and reconnaissance vessel, mapping out not only worlds but the various travel lanes between star systems as well. Unlike the ship that was once the Rising Phonenix, this craft was definitely equipped with a smaller version of the Infinity fusion reactors, and a rather neat life support system that made worries about air quality and oxygen levels a complete non-issue. Mio was working on upscaling it in her spare time.

    As for the Phoenix itself...well…

    It wasn’t a total wash, but the ship still needed a complete overhaul and partial rebuild to get anywhere near close to safe operational parameters. Specifically, the reactor spaces had to be redone in their entirety due to the radiation everywhere, and the now defunct fission reactors replaced with something a bit more robust.

    Combining that with general repairs on the (thankfully extendable) heat fins, the rest of the power and communications runs, and just a general overall upgrade to the ship in question, and it was almost, almost more time efficient to just build a new ship outright.

    What stayed our hands was that using the already built vessel as a base allowed us to pull some shenanigans with things that would otherwise not apply, and salvage a lot of actually good tech from the mess as well. We were still upgrading, but it was the thought that counted. Besides, the actual Frame of the ship itself was perfectly sound, even if the interior sections had suffered.

    The process was not as involved or painful as anyone had been expecting, really. Nearly every major modification that needed to happen had been accomplished well within the allotted time constraints, and reinforcing of several key areas of the superstructure were successfully undertaken as well. It seemed that now that we were not trying to explore the ship, things were moving much, MUCH faster, much to our relief.

    The problem was the engines themselves, and more specifically the powerplant. Mio and I had been having several arguments over the last few days about what exactly would be best to fit into the ship as a new power plant, as well as options for an upgraded drive system. They weren’t horrible arguments, but they still had driven a minor rift between us over the disagreement.

    Not that it stopped us from being horny as hell for each other, just that it meant that our normal pillow talk was now absorbed by continuing the debate. It was getting to the point where Mio was actively trying to fuck me into submission over her proposal.

    The thing is, it wasn’t a bad one, just it didn’t fit.

    What she wanted to do was to make a scaled-up version of the Hybrid Mana reactors--the ones that integrated photon reactor tech into them--and use that as a main power core, then alter the engines to handle a conversion feed as needed.

    My proposal, on the other hand, was to modify the ship to use a Mass Effect Drive, and then have the hybrid reactors as secondaries. The main advantage here was a higher subluminal speed as well as adding another option for FTL travel, aside from the potentially flawed hyperdrive and the other system that the logs called a “Jump Drive”, which was still experimental as hell.

    The headbutts came from the fact that Mio had argued that if I wanted to throw in a MED so badly, then I needed to design a new one that took advantage of our other tech as well, not just setting the stuff aside. My counterargument was that the systems would need to be repairable by people other than us, and that the mass effect drive had several benefits to it that were not immediately obvious.

    Nether of us commented on the fact that we would be reworking the principles and concepts of the infinity reactors to the new build stuff, as there wasn’t any reason to argue over it.

    Oddly enough, the situation ended up solving itself in the oddest manner…






    I was doing another walkaround of the Phoenix, and considering a new name as well. After all the work that we had done on the vessel, I felt it deserved it. In the meantime, I was futzing with yet another of the oddities that had been dropped onto my lap by the Forge.

    According to the logs, this odd little flattened Sphere in my hands was called a “Union Core”, a type of infinitely reprogrammable smartmatter core of some kind or another with the capacity for supporting a damned powerful AI system. My scans showed that the thing was fully quantum in both processing and communications, no less. Very interesting.

    Those same scans also showed me that there was a lot of untapped potential in this weird little device. It was something that I would have to take a closer look at eventually.

    A spike of joy from Mio caught my attention, and I felt her rapidly moving in my direction. I decided to meet her in the engineering decks, where I had set up all of the equipment needed for the newly designed ME drive core. (that Mio had parts and materials for the awaiting activation Hybrid reactors hanging around was not something I was worried about, as they were useful secondaries.)

    Mio hit me with a flying glomp tackle as soon as she saw me, wrapping her tail around my torso in the process.

    “I did it! I did it !!” the sheer joy radiating off of her was downright infectious, and I found myself grinning like a loon to match her own. “Did what, hon?”

    “This!” and with that, she presented to me a small white sphere.

    I admit that it took me a moment to figure out the implication, mostly because up until now I hadn’t actually given any thought to it actually being possible.

    “You mean…?”

    She nodded furiously.

    I could only stare in wonder at the outright fucking miracle that was staring me in the face. Mio...Mio had managed to…

    I had to focus. “Is this the only one?”

    A firm shake of her head. “No way. I have at least six others waiting, and they look like they will clear testing as well. This one was just the first.”

    I could see the unshed tears in her eyes, and I was fighting awfully hard to not follow suit. This...this changed everything. Everything.

    I hugged her tightly to my chest, wrapping my own tails around her form in reciprocation. “You are telling me how you pulled this off, and then we are going over the process with an ultra-fine toothed comb, you hear me?”

    “Of course--”

    An odd spark drew our attention. We both looked down between us, to the precious cargo that each of us had on our person. In the excitement, I had forgotten about the union core that I had been examining beforehand, and it had ended up wedged between us in our odd little cuddle session. This should not have been an issue.

    Mio, for her part, had used the hand holding the precious little sphere to play around with me a bit, basically using the little sphere as a sort of massager. Mio being herself aside, this also should not have been an issue.

    What was causing the sparking was that the two objects had come into contact with each other, and form the looks of it the two pieces of technology were trying to interface with each other.

    A particularly large jolt, which came complete with an arc flash, caused us to separate, and move away from the mess as we dropped it onto the floor.

    In retrospect, it was simultaneously the best and worst thing we could have done.

    The two objects--one, an odd unknown quantum supercomputing core, the other a newly born reality bending supercomputing device, somehow came to an agreement at the exact moment that the mass hit the floor...of the spaceship that we were currently standing in.

    The ship heaved as the mass sank into the floor, and I could see the ripples throughout the superstructure. Thoth immediately started flashing warnings at me, a mix of stability to power flux to spatial uncertainty warnings--as the process started.

    But the one warning that caught my attention--and I’m sure Mio’s too, as she was likely receiving the same--was a notice that we were entering the zone of control of another Impeller Field.

    We literally could do nothing but watch as the ship began to shift around us, the entire thing being integrated into the newly activated valkyrie core, even as the strange conversion process was altering the ship into something else entirely.

    The process, thankfully, only lasted about ten minutes, during which we were bombarded by all manner of exotic radiation, random particle emissions, and frankly weird interactions in spacetime that seemingly made no sense.

    But eventually, the process completed itself, and we were left standing in a space that was nothing like we had left it.

    For one, the leftover parts and pieces of our construction efforts were gone, as were the finished products. The standalone fabricators that we had brought along to build everything, and which were meant to eventually be installed into a separate hardware works space within engineering itself, was also gone. In its place was a screen of sorts, with a timer on it, counting down from sixty hours. A constantly modifying schematic of what looked like a reactor of some kind was displayed as well, and it looked to incorporate all of the myriad designs that we were working on to boot.

    I could only stare in confusion as I allowed my frame to retract itself. Mio didn’t look too much better as she released hers.

    “So...that just happened.” I was surprised I managed to even say that much.

    “Yeah.” Mio’s reply was about as verbose as I expected, though.

    I voiced the thought in my mind. “Right now, I am very glad you made more of those.”

    “So am I.”

    Wait. This meant that the argument was solved, as the ship itself had taken matters into its own hands. Which meant that I couldn’t outlast Mio to get my way.

    I turned towards my Dragon, the same realization showing on her face as she looked at me.

    And it was only now, after the situation had been solved without our input