Monday, September 18, 2017

Chapter 43 - The Heist, Pt 1

“Well, that was a shit show.”

I looked over to Cali, who had just grumbled about our latest delivery as we returned to Shadara Station, and shrugged. We were the only two on the shuttle, heading back to the station after completing the spice run. Things had not gone according to plan.

“Yeah, nothing we can do about that. The whole situation is just out of control. Honestly, I think the planet only has a week or two before it gets wiped clean. But hey, we still got paid, and that 20% discount on Spriteshack goods will come in handy down the line. Thankfully, they aren’t located just on Jagloth, but are a chain going all across Confederate space.”

“We DID just shoot our way out of their building.”

“They were Infected, and tried to spread the nanites to us.”

“You got the Navy to do an orbital strike on their headquarters!”

“Meh, they’ve been doing that wherever the Infection is found in the areas that aren’t overrun. They did send marines down to check it, first.”

“And you’re not worried that the Confed Navy now knows we’re here?”

“We used those codes Alok Paxisys gave us to dock at the station, and we weren’t hiding. All they know is that Metrion’s Favor had a delivery to a corporate bigshot, and found nanites. We were cleared of Infection before we got back to the Station, so they’re good, since the situation might not have been noticed until it was too late, otherwise. Even got a ‘finder’s fee’ because of it.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, a gizmo that lets you learn a specific Psy power. This one is reusable, instead of the one-off versions you normally buy. Came loaded with a basic ‘Shield’ power.”

“Useful. How’d you convince them to let that go?”

“It was that or some basic implants. The implants would have been for me only, and I can’t use that, but a Shield power? One that we can give to everyone on the crew? That’s far more valuable, as far as I’m concerned. Wouldn’t want you up and dying on me, now.”

Cali blushed, and looked away for a moment. “Aww, Cap’n!” And then she moaned as I grabbed her on the rear. “Aah, Cap’n!”

Laughing, I said, “Later, pet. We have to see what the others have found while we were out.”

Stepping out of the shuttle, we were greeted by Raven and the rest of the crew, who had smug grins on their faces, except for Sana, who was still looking like she’d rather kill me with her bare hands than anything else, but was on her hands and knees purring as Shearah scratched her behind the ears.

And then, when we walked into the common area, I saw what was on the nearby screen. Evidently, they had been watching us in the shuttle. Cali buried her face in my shoulder as the replay had her moaning at my hand’s ministrations to her backside. I made a picture of sighing, and said, “I assume you’ve been doing more than just peeping on us, you perverts? What’s the heist look like?”

Raven got serious now that we were talking about work, and the rest followed suit. “Shearah and Jaynie did recon on the area around the storage unit where the project data is being stored. I was able to gain access to the station blueprints, as well as the local security network for that storage block. The only sign that there is anything amiss in the area is that there are Confed Army soldiers guarding the storage units. I think they were forced to evacuate the project in a hurry, and haven’t had a chance to get it to a more secure site.”

“So we’re definitely dealing with something black?”

“Yeah, I’m not sure what the project was actually about, but given the name and the way the cameras all had the same ‘malfunction’ when the storage unit was being loaded, I’m going to have to say that it is definitely black.”

“All right. Nyna, you wanted to plan this one out to prove you could handle running things on your own. Lay out your plan, and let’s work out any kinks we see.”

The Knelfi practically bounced in happiness as she moved to the screen and began laying out her attack plan.


(One Hour Later)
Shearah giggled as I led her and Sana (who was being allowed to wear clothes and walk upright for once), to the body-mod shop next door to the storage units, and said, loudly enough for anyone nearby to hear, “Oh Master, I’m so glad you decided to give Sana the full upgrade! She’s going to look adorable with a real tail, instead of just a plug!”

“Well, pet, you were very persuasive in your oral arguments. And since Sana can’t speak against it, I have no reason to deny it. You’re turning into quite the little Switch, you know. I like this side of you.”

Shearah beamed as I patted her ass, and said, “Anything for you, Master!”

I turned my attention to the knelfi woman who was acting as the receptionist for this body-mod shop, and said, “Hello, Miss. I’ve got an appointment to get my slave upgraded. I was looking through your online catalogue, and I would like her to get the full Prowling Panther set, including the optional combat mods, and the heat on demand feature. I’d also like the custom ship suit with the remote plugs fitted for her. Post mods, of course.” I guided Sana forward as I said this, so the receptionist could get a good view of her.

The receptionist looked at me like I was a horrible person, but didn’t say anything about my moral failings (of which she believed there were plenty, no doubt). “Very well. The full package, with the optional features you mentioned, will run 126032 credits. Time for the procedures will be six hours, though because of the extent of the modifications your slave will need several weeks of rest and recovery to get used to her new body and its abilities. It is BodyWorx’s policy to remind you that any ‘use’ of the slave should remain light, and non-strenuous during the recovery time, and we are not liable for any ill effects that happen due to ignoring this warning.”

I nodded. That was about what I expected. After I transferred the necessary funds from my bank account to the store, the receptionist nodded, and almost kept from looking at me like I was something disgusting she found on the bottom of her shoe, and led us into the back, where there was a waiting area for friends/family/other, while Sana was taken into the operating room for the body mods.

While this was going on, Shearah busied herself with surreptitiously dropping four small balls on the ground. These were four really simple home ‘security’ drones that the group had purchased in the marketplace, designed to be either set on autopilot, or controlled by remote, as Shearah was doing now. Without anyone noticing, the four balls each sprouted four legs, and they climbed up the wall and into the ventilation system, heading for the secure storage next door.

Normally, there would be alarms and such stuff to keep people from doing what we were attempting, or other ‘unfortunate’ things, like dispersing toxins in the air system. Raven had already disabled those alarms temporarily, thanks to an ‘accidental’ short in the wiring that disabled the system in this sector of the ship. It would take a while for the maintenance guys to track down the problem, especially since the sensors weren’t due for their routine systems check for another five hours.

So why was I here, dropping bank on getting Sana modded? Well, part of it was because the idea of a sexy catgirl appealed to me in a fetish kind of way. But also it would give me further options when dealing with situations once I properly tamed her. That wasn’t why we were here, though. This was the closest business to the storage units, and we needed an alibi for loitering while Shearah controlled her drones. She’d be distracted by that, so I was here as a bodyguard for my two slaves. Plus, the receptionist would most certainly provide us with an alibi saying we were most certainly NOT in the storage units.

The rest of the heist was up to Shearah, Raven, and Nyna’s team.

(Shearah POV)
Click-click-clickityclick. My ‘spiderbots’ (as Cali named them) easily made their way through the ventilation system. The alarms for this area had been quietly turned off thanks to some ‘faulty wiring’ caused by our resident AI. I’ve never known an AI that was so expressive, but Master says she’s an actual sentient AI, and there’s only a few of those running around, right? The only ones I know of are on the level of major government contractors or something like that.

Anyways, now we were on to the fun part of the heist. The spiderbots moved as quietly as they could, considering they were not really designed for stealth. Still, for a job like this they could almost do the whole job (minus lifting any physical specimens or the like) themselves. Well, if he storage area didn’t have its own, independent alarm. The first spiderbot got to the ventilation grate into the storage area, and stopped. The scans picked up a laser net across the vents. Cut the beam, and the alarms go off. Simple tech, but reliable, and hard to defuse without special gear.

Now I just had to wait for the next phase to begin.

(Raven POV)
One of the cool things about being an AI is that I can think a lot quicker than I could back when I was human. Oh, and there’s the fact that I’m immune to the Captain’s charms. Or at least I no longer have all those silly biological cues screaming at me like the rest of the crew do. He’s treated me with nothing but respect, and hasn’t pushed about my past when I told him I didn’t want to talk about it. But he hasn’t done more than the casual flirting with me, which is fine.

I’m still not sure about all his secrets. I only know about his ‘Mindbreaker’ because he used the data I had on the Stepford collars to make it happen, and used my help to work out the details. But other than that, I’m not sure what is going on with him. The Captain told the crew that he has an illusion-based Psy power that lets him take other forms, but I watched him change a couple times. That is no illusion, but a physical reshaping. What could let him do something like that?

Still, he hasn’t pushed on my secrets, and has been at least trying to not be a rat bastard to everyone, even though the abilities he will admit to having to the crew would be so easy to abuse. He’s actually shown a good deal of restraint in how he uses his power… mostly.

But then we have the stunt he’s pulling to get Shearah and her spiderbots into position. I feel bad for Sana, who’s already trapped in her own head, but now will have her body completely changed. Shearah really does enjoy messing with her fellow slave too much, and the Captain likes keeping his harem happy.

At any rate, Shearah just sent the signal that the spiderbots are in position. Whoever designed this security system was a big believer in simple solutions. To keep the alarms from being hacked, they are all on a stand-alone system, which only connects to the datanet to sound the alarm. Which means we need a physical connection to start things up. But the station happens to have several cameras covering the entrance to the storage area 36/6, so just walking up and plugging in isn’t going to happen, even if the guards allowed it.

Which is why I wasn’t there ‘in person’, but was using all my processing power to slip through the station’s surveillance system. Cutting the feeds would cause techs to come and check out the situation, so I managed to find a piece of footage that didn’t have anyone moving around in it, just showing the guards, guarding. The segment was only forty-five seconds long, but that was enough, as I started the loop.


Raven to Nyna. Cameras looping. You’re clear.



Previous Chapter                                      Table of Contents                                        Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF
Book IV - Aquarian Desert https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0756V1VX5

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T


LitRPG facebook group:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chapter 42 - Charybdis Station

We were still trying to be stealthy, so it took us another two days to make it to Charybdis Station. But we were able to slip by the patrols without being noticed, so that was good. Still, by the time we docked at the station we were truly grateful for some ‘shore leave’.

Aikral Gashriaze
Dark Knelfi Male
Level 20
Titles: Guardian, Thug, Slaver

We were met at the ship’s hatch by a strong EM barrier and a dark-skinned Knelfi male with white hair standing on the other side of it. Apparently, the designers decided to include drow in the game to go with their space elves. According to the lore, they were, well, a splinter race that behaved pretty much like how they do in fantasy settings, and weren’t welcome in most ‘civilized’ parts of Knelfi territory. Which, of course, is why one was here, looking officious with his nicely tailored clothes, and having two hulking Ihm males behind him as bodyguards.

“You are the captain of this ship?” Straight to business, it seemed. That’s fine, I preferred things like that.

I smiled at the man, and said, “That’d be me. Captain Mirikon Mollen of the Metrion’s Favor. Who might I be talking to?”

The dark knelfi nodded, pleased I’d at least gotten this bit of protocol correct. “I am Aikral Gashiraze, Dockmaster for Charybdis Station. You and your cargo will be scanned for nanites before they are allowed on the station. This is not negotiable. Refusal will result in the termination of yourself and the destruction of your ship. Is this understood?”

I nodded. “Only fair since I’ll be scanning anyone and anything that tries to get onto my ship for nanites as well. I have two shipments to offload here. The first is a set of four crates for Alok Paxisys. I am given to understand that he is now on this station, from the updates my shipping log gave me. The second is a set of crates which I had a buyer for, but am now unable to deliver, as they were on Jagloth Station.”

All three of the station personnel got tense at the mention of Jagloth Station. “And did you go to the station?”

“No, we arrived in system just in time to see the station destroyed.”

Aikral got interested at that, his eyes taking in the Raven’s lines more carefully. “So, you slipped past the navy blockade? Several ships have tried that. Except for a few freighters early on who slipped out from stations around the outer planets, no one has made it in or out.”

I shrugged. “Well, they probably tried to jump directly into the system. We stopped well short, and coasted in on a ballistic track, at least until we had to make course corrections to get to Charybdis. Basic smuggler tricks, really.”

The knelfi nodded slowly, and manipulated several items in his AR display. “Very well then. Stay behind the EM screen until the scanning crew arrives. You and your crew have been provided provisional access to the station datanet. We have a branch of the Teris Auction House here, if you wish to get rid of that second shipment you mentioned.”

I smiled at that thought. There were several auction houses in game. They typically worked as a clearinghouse for trades in goods and gear between smaller parties. If, say, you had twenty units of Sibexian Tiger Leather, and you didn’t have a craftsman you knew that could make it, you’d toss it on the Auction House, and people would bid for it. If the trade was accepted, the goods would be sent to the buyer, after the House took its cut of the sale.

If you were buying local, that was the end of it. Otherwise, getting the goods was a bit more complicated. Anything big, or organic, and especially anything living (that wasn’t in a Capture Ball or similar) got shipped about on bulk freighters, and you’d specify the destination you’d meet the freighter at. The problem with this is that it wasn’t good for… discrete delivery, which is why people like me stayed in business.

Small items (like individual weapons or armor, for instance) had their own special system. No one outside the Auction House business truly knew how it worked (and the ones that did saw no need to tell anyone), but they had apparently a bit of Lost Tech that they’d reverse engineered enough to be able to send items under 30 kilos from one place to another. Whatever it was played hell with electrical fields, so any gear had to be turned completely off (bonus: you couldn’t send a warhead through) and organics were banned completely unless they were in a contained stasis field. It only took one time for someone’s dog to come out on the other side looking like it had been through the microwave for people to decide that sending living things through was a Bad Ideatm.

The knelfi was still talking, “If you’re looking for someplace to relax, Scylla’s Maw is where the spacers, and people looking to hire them, hang out. Also, with the arctic base on Jagloth being destroyed, Charybdis Station now hosts the system’s only slave market, if you were looking for alternative means to increase your crew. We also have a shipyard for upgrades or new ship construction, if you’re looking for that.”

Well, looked like this trip to the station wouldn’t be a complete loss. I was going to be out the three million I’d been promised for the weapons, though I could make some of that back with the Auction House. Still, if I completed the jobs that I already had, that’d get us seven million. Well, my cut would be less, but over two million would go a long way towards getting a second ship. Not something on the Raven’s level, of course, but perhaps an escort of some kind?

I amused myself with thoughts of ship designs while we went through the ‘fun’ of mutual scans of personnel and cargo. Raven had already sent a message to Alok Paxisys, and he was already waiting for us once everyone and everything was declared free of nanites. Alok was what, in a fantasy game, would be thought of as a stereotypical ‘High Elf’. You could practically see the elite breeding and arrogance rolling off him. The fact that he was on a station like Charybdis, however, made the whole effect just seem… wrong.

“Alok Paxisys? I’m Captain Mollen. We brought your shipment from kisArra. Would you like to inspect the cargo?”

The Knelfi sniffed disdainfully at me, and then nodded. “Yes, yes, I suppose it must be done. They are unopened, yes?” His manner said disdain and dismissal, like a stupid noble flop talking to his ‘lessers’, but his eyes… those were sharp. Wouldn’t surprise me if he was just playing the fool to get the dumber criminal types to underestimate him.

I took a breath, and then nodded. “Aye, sir. They arrived to us already sealed, and we haven’t touched them since loading. I’m sure you’ll find everything in order.” As I said that, Cali and Carissa arrived, pushing a pair of loading pallets from the cargo bay, the four crates belonging to the ‘businessman’ stacked upon them.

Paxisys checked both the physical and digital seals on the crates, before nodding slowly. Two handlers from the station came up as he began sending commands with his commlink, bearing their own pallets to take the crates wherever they needed to go. Before they touched the cargo, I was alerted that the job was complete, and saw the two million credits going into the various accounts. I nodded to the knelfi, and stepped back so his men could unload the crates.

“Pleasure doing business with you, sir.” I sent him a digital ‘business card’. “If you ever need discrete shipping in the future, I hope you’ll remember Black Star Trading.”

Paxisys looked me over again, and smiled. “Hmm. Yes, I do have a couple trifles you might do for me. Do you still have business in the system?”

“Yes, sir. I have one other delivery, down on the Southern continent on Jagloth. I expect that will be a bit more difficult to manage, but Black Star delivers, even when it looks like the world is going up in flames.”

“An admirable business ethic. Very well, if you are going to the Southern continent, you’ll probably wish to dock at Shadara Station. Before the main continent was overrun, several irreplaceable items were moved from the Jagloth City to Shadara, after being thoroughly scanned, of course. If you would be so kind as to ‘acquire’ the items I require, then in addition to the pay, I can arrange for your ship to be able to return to Charybdis from Shadara after your business is complete.”

Since the Navy was blasting anything bigger than a shuttle that was moving between stations in orbit of Jagloth, that was a pretty good deal, if it worked out.

Research Misappropriation

Alok Paxisys has asked you to acquire the research documentation, logs, and any remaining specimens of ‘Project: Hidden Champion’, and deliver them to him on Charybdis Station. The Project was packed up and moved to secure storage on Shadara Station prior to the Main Continent on Jagloth being overrun.
Rank
C
Success
Deliver Project: Hidden Champion to Alok Paxisys.
Failure
Fail to deliver the Project.
Payment
3 million Credits
Increased Reputation with Alok Paxisys.
Penalty
Decreased Reputation with Alok Paxisys.
Decreased Reputation with all Confederate factions.
Your ship will probably be destroyed.

I looked the details over, and nodded. “Black Star will get it done, Mr. Paxisys.”


(Paxisys POV)

I was glad to be away from the vermin. These humans are always uncultured swine. And this one was as bad as most. The scans of those coming off his ship showed that most were slaves, and had been fitted with the obscene ‘Stepford’ devices. Only human perversion would think of something like that.

And those slaves! The scans the station ran showed there were no nanites in them, but they didn’t look for anything else. My augmented olfactory sensors could easily tell that the human was regularly intimate with at least seven females, three of whom were knelfi! I pitied the poor knelfi women who had to submit to this beast. Interbreeding like that was an offense against nature. One that would be punishable by death, if I had my way. Keeping the bloodlines pure was the only way to defend against the rot one saw in the Terran Empire infecting the Confederacy.

Still, the human captain had proven to have at least a modicum of skill. I had read the Dockmaster’s report, and the tactic the captain claimed to have used to slip through the blockade was not a new one. The Navy would take into account ships trying to drift into the system. However, my sensors could detect that his ship was, at the very least, covered in a substance that not only hid him against the backdrop of space, but seemed to absorb sensor radiation. By the time the Navy discovered radiation burst of dropping out of hyperspace so far outside the system proper, the ship would have been all but invisible.

Skilled and prepared. And not adverse to jobs which led him and his crew into harm’s way, if the pay was right. Despite his being a filthy human, it would be worthwhile to keep tabs on this captain, and his ‘Black Star’ company. There were always jobs that were best performed by outsiders, or ‘deniable assets’.


And even if he proved to be unreliable as an asset, it would be worth a bit of expense to keep an eye on him. He spoke with a Terran accent (slight, but recognizable), but the olfactory sensors were trying to say that he wasn’t human. Well, that’s not quite right. They didn’t recognize the man at all, as though he was simply not there. That suggested some new augmentation he had not heard of, which suggested that this Captain was more than he seemed. If I could turn one of the Terrans spies against them before the war started…



Previous Chapter                                    Table of Contents                                      Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF
Book IV - Aquarian Desert https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0756V1VX5

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T


LitRPG facebook group:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Chapter 98 - The Slime Mistress

FWOOSH!

A bolt of hellfire in the shape of an arrow nested itself in the eye of one of the Slime Zombie Dwarves, dropping it to the ground with its friends. It had been a long time since I’d last played with the bow I got from Merkath back before the liberation of Duskhaven, and truthfully the bow wasn’t up to my current level on just the raw damage side of things.

Wrath of Demons
Type
Bow
Rank
Rare
Damage
80 – 100
Damage Type
Hellfire
This bow was made from the bones of demons, and strung with the hair of a Greater Succubus. It exists solely to inflict the tortures of the lower planes upon the living. These bows are often carried by mid-level demons or their allies.
Requires: Evil Alignment

+20 Attack
+40 DEX
All damage dealt by this weapon is Hellfire damage.
Hell’s Quiver – Spend 1 MP to generate 1 arrow. Arrow is made of hellfire and disappears after use. Applied when bow is drawn with no arrow on the string.
Inferno Arrow – Spend 1 MP to coat normal or magical arrow with hellfire, allowing it to be fired from the bow. Applied when bow is drawn with arrow on the string.
Imbued: Lifeseeker – Will only hit living creatures. Ignores shields and armor. Cannot attack Undead or Constructs. Passes through nonliving material as though it were not there.
Enchanted: Demoncaller – When delivering the killing blow, there is a 5% chance of the soul of the victim being sacrificed to summon a demon of the target’s level. Demons called in this way serve the wielder of this bow for 48 hours, after which time they are released, but remain on this plane. The wielder, or any other creature, must use normal methods to persuade or coerce the demon into serving past that time.

However, these Slime Zombies had a particular weakness to Hellfire, so that more than made up for the lackluster damage. My MP regen had progressed to the point where I could fire an arrow a second from the bow, and my MP would regenerate faster than I was using it.

Unlike other times when we were venturing into the unknown, Yukiko and Nithroel were in the lead now. Together, they formed a shield wall, relying on Kylana’s conjurations to keep the enemy from flanking us when we couldn’t find natural choke points, while the rest of us used whatever ranged attacks we had on the Slime Zombies. It was a far more cautious approach than I liked, but seeing how the Minotaur’s tentacle had tried to ‘convert’ Yukiko, we were taking no chances.

We used our magic as sparingly as possible, not wanting to run out if we were caught by a large group of the zombies. Lord Necron’s trial was still too fresh in our minds, and none of us wished to push our luck with these not-quite-undead. There was too much we didn’t know. Even the Travelers were nervous. Would getting ‘converted’ send us for respawn? Or would we be trapped until we were killed? Would that conversion last even after respawn? We just didn’t know. As far as I knew, we were the first to discover this particular brand of nasty.

I don’t know how long these things had been here, but clearly it was long enough to collect a sizeable army of minions. So far, in addition to that minotaur, we’d killed Slime Zombie versions of Dwarves, Gnomes, and Giant Spiders. LOTS of giant spiders. But as we pressed forward, our numbers grew. Fifty enemies lay dead in our wake, and I’d been fortunate to have the kill shot on three which had spawned a trio of Imps. The addition of extra Hellfire only made the killing go quicker, and the imps appreciated the chance to cackle madly and throw flames at any enemy they saw without restraint.

This natural dungeon (and I was calling it a dungeon, even though we hadn’t seen any indication saying we were entering one) was a fairly simple one, so we made fairly good time getting to the end of the first floor. Which was good, because there was crap all in terms of loot, and the zombies didn’t grant much XP, since many of them were lower-level creatures. The only thing that could be said for it is that I was building my long-neglected Archery skills.

Finally, we came to a subterranean lake. Oh, and almost a hundred of the fucking slime zombies. Most were kobolds, but at the core there were four Drow. And they were armed! These were the first slime zombies we had seen that still possessed arms and armor, so either they were new additions, or they were the elites. I was betting on the second option.

Slime Zombie Kobold
Monstrous Humanoid (Altered) Male
Level 65 Zombie

Slime Zombie Drow
Drow Elf (Altered) Male
Level 90 Zombie

Slime Mistress Onceh
Drow Elf (Altered) Female
Level 90 Zombie / Lightning Sorceress
Titles: Thunderchild

Seeing how we’d made ourselves very noticeable, the slime zombies were already moving to attack us. Quickly, I called out orders. “Kylana, I want flame walls to channel them into the entrance. Yukiko and Nithroel, form the shield wall. You imps, go wild! Burn all the enemies you see before you. Della, ready healing for when that sorceress unleashes magic. Everyone else, ranged attacks. This doesn’t look like the final boss, so make sure you conserve your mana.” Even as I spoke, the group was already springing into action. This is why I liked working with the same crew, rather than pick up groups. Even when dealing with other members of the guild, it was hard to get this level of cohesion until you started on the really high-level raids.

Oh sure, in older games you could just teleport home and then go on a quick dungeon with your guildies, but that wasn’t possible when dealing with games like AAO or WoD. Sure, there were spells to teleport to major cities or certain landmarks, and spells to summon guild members to help in the dungeon, but what happened when the dungeon was done? There was no ‘fast travel’. You might have days of travel from the nearest teleport spot you’d unlocked to where you were before, which is why raid planning took so much more effort. You had to think of logistics.

But I didn’t have time to think about such things right now. I bit back a curse as I saw the Slime Mistress throw a lightning bolt towards the front. But… it exploded into a ball of lightning, but didn’t touch us, instead focusing on shocking as many of the slime zombie kobolds as possible. When I saw the slime zombies suddenly get larger and faster, I understood.

“LIGHTNING BUFFS THESE THINGS! I’M ON THE MAGE!” After all, if fire was their bane, it made sense that another element would be a boon to them. Following up on my pronouncement, I began focusing fire on the Slime Mistress. Unfortunately, her Lightning Shield was strong enough that my Hellfire arrows couldn’t pierce it in a single strike. But Quantity has a Quality all its own.

Three shots from the magic bow, and her shield was down. The fourth shot got to her just before she finished recasting her Lightning Shield, setting her on fire. Kylana and the imps laid down hellfire as the boosted slime zombies redoubled their attacks, while Della made sure to keep laying healing on the tanks and removing the Paralysis whenever they got hit by slime.

The three unnamed drow tried to form a protective barrier between the Slime Mistress and us, but without the lightning shield, they were vulnerable, especially as the burning hellfire began jumping from slime zombie to slime zombie in the press of bodies. Finally, (FINALLY!) the Slime Mistress fell, her corpse burning under the ‘tender graces’ of the hellfire.

And from the ashes of her corpse rose a creature with a body that seemed to be made wholly of smoke and flame. A huge, muscled creature it was, and with great horns upon its head, obscured and highlighted by the flames. Its eyes were like red coals, and in one hand it held a mighty sword wreathed in hellfire, and in the other it wielded a four-thronged whip of the fires of hell. I knew what this creature was, but it was Kylana that spoke first, almost in reverence, as the imps knelt at the sight of the creature.

“A Ba’alor! You summoned a Ba’alor to this plane!”

At that sound, the ba’alor moved, turning to view us for the first time. When I stepped forward, bow in hand, a deep, chuckling sound that seemed to come from the very walls around us greated me. “So, you are the one who has brought me forth? Very well, mortal. For two days time, I shall serve, in accordance with the magic that brought me here. But do not think you will escape unscathed when that time is up for thinking to order one of the eternal legion as though he were a mere imp.”

I sighed, and said, “Yeah, that’s what normally happens when you accidentally summon things way bigger than yourself. But we’ll just see what happens when we get to that point, won’t we?”

Turning my attention away from the pissed off demon, I checked the corpses. For the first time since we’d started fighting Slime Zombies, there was actual loot!

Stormfury’s Spellstaff
Type
Staff
Rank
Rare
Damage
200 – 235
Damage Type
Lightning
This staff, made of iron inlaid with silver, has been infused with runes of power granting the wielder great control over the Lightning element. It can also be used in melee, where the electricity it holds will shock those who come in contact with it, save the wielder.
Durability: 150/150
Requires: Level 85

+100 Attack
+200 INT
+50% to all Lightning effects.
-50% to MP cost of all Lightning effects.
+50% to range and area of all Lightning Effects.
Enchanted: Shocking – All damage dealt by this staff is Lightning damage.

Curse of Mercy
Type
Ring
Rank
Rare – Cursed
Mercy is a virtue to some, but a terrible weakness to others. One who wears this ring is prohibited from harming their foes. They may increase the power of their allies or shield them from harm, but they may not inflict damage on an enemy. This ring cannot be removed once worn unless the curse is suppressed temporarily.

+400 to all stats
All healing spells 40% more effective.
All healing spells cost 40% less.
Cursed: Merciful – Cannot damage foes by any means. Even area effects will do no damage to enemies caught in the area.

Stormcaller’s Spider Sigil
Type
Tool
Rank
Unique – Quest
This holy symbol is clearly dedicated to Lolth, the Spider Queen. However, there are some unique features to this badge, as it has the image of a lightning bolt behind the spider, and it is made of corrupted Mithril.
Cannot be destroyed.

+20 to all stats when worn. (Increases to +200 if wearer follows Lolth.)
Spidervenom – If wearer does not follow Lolth, this holy symbol may inflict Demon Spider Venom on him  at random. Deals 20 HP per second damage for 10 minutes. Poison cannot happen more than once in an hour.
Lightningforged - +30% to Lightning Resistance

New Quest Added!

The Stormcaller’s Fate

It is rare for a drow to have talent with the primal weather magics, and yet the drow you met as Slime Mistress Onceh was one of them. Taking her holy symbol to the temple of Lolth in Have Dorei may allow you to find out more about her.
Rank
D
Success
Take the Stormcaller’s Spider Sigil to the Temple of Lolth in Have Dorei.
Failure
Keep the Sigil for yourself.
Reward
Unknown

There was some gold as well, which was nice, but really, the items weren’t things I could use. Though I could see putting the cursed ring on someone for kicks. The quest item, though, was pretty interesting. Drow tended to be more shadow/darkness focused than something like lightning, and that Slime Mistress had a title and subclass, even after being zombified. That meant she probably used to be someone important.

I was about to tell the ba’alor that we’d be searching for the source of all these slime zombies, when suddenly the room shook, and it felt like someone was shouting in my head.

IMPUDENT FOOL! YOU DARE COME TO MY LAIR AND DESTROY MY PLAYTHINGS? YOU WILL BE THE FIRST OF MY NEW ARMY TO CONQUER THIS WORLD!


“Oh, looks like that fight woke someone up.”



Previous Chapter                                    Table of Contents                                          Next Chapter




Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF
Book IV - Aquarian Desert https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0756V1VX5

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T


LitRPG facebook group:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Chapter 41 - Quarantine Zone

According to the reports I was getting from players, the quarantine of Jagloth was being enforced with ‘extreme prejudice’. Meaning that any ship entering the system that didn’t promptly respond to hails was destroyed, and any craft leaving the surface was destroyed, and the site it was launched from blasted from orbit.

So we came out of hyperspace a day’s flight outside the system, and went on a ballistic track to Jagloth. That meant we would spend the better part of a week just in realspace, but with the Raven’s stats, we were very stealthy, as long as we weren’t pushing out tons of heat thanks to the engines. Our best bet was to follow the submariner’s motto, “Run silent, run deep.”

That left a lot of time on our hands, naturally. Fortunately, I had a ship full of ladies who were (except for Kiki) at my beck and call. Or more like I was at theirs. It was a give and take, but keeping the girls happy made my life easier, and made them more enthusiastic in their work.

Oh sure, there were the kind of blowups you might expect from having so many people in close quarters for days at a time, but everyone had space they could go for some private time if they needed it, and if that didn’t work, there was the training area, where they could put simulated rounds down range, or practice sparring. And I’d loaded up a lot of entertainment options, so we had movies, books, and games to distract us.

At any rate, that week of travel was enough for Raven to get some good data from her sensors. We could see patrol ships focused around Jagloth, with a few others stationed as patrols along the most likely warp routes as a picket to warn off potential traders or others who may be looking to break the blockade. Fortunately, we’d come in on a nonstandard track which let us escape notice for now.

One of the interesting things is that we could tap into the local civilian datanet. Large parts of the planet and two of the orbital stations were partitioned off, with no data in or out. What we found out from the local datanet, however, was enough to make our blood run cold.

Jagloth was indeed under a quarantine, but it wasn’t due to any typical disease. They were calling it the Legion Virus. No one knew how it started, or exactly how it worked, but it was known that it came from the main continent. Those who came in contact with the Infected would be… changed, somehow. For some it took minutes, other hours or even days, but the end result was always the same. Once you were infected, you would be inexorably turned into one of the Legion.

The Legion itself appeared to be a kind of hivemind, but not in the communal sense. It was more like the same mind copied over and over again, all subservient to the singular original. How it suddenly started, no one had a clue. But whatever it was, it seemed to work best on people with low Mental Psy resistance and more augmentations. Worse, it didn’t even seem to stop at people, since animals and even at least one ship (a shuttle, but still) had been taken over.

To say that the people of Jagloth were panicking would be something of an understatement. But at least they had the right idea on how to deal with the threat: kill it with fire. Seriously, they were burning the hell out of anyplace that was infected, and had already used nukes on two undersea habitats that had gotten infected. As we watched, the Confed Navy finally gave up on the two Infected orbitals, and reduced them to so much expanding gas with their main weapons, before nuking the remains just to make sure nothing survived.

That last bit was what gave Raven the information she needed to piece together what we were facing. Naturally, they didn’t put that kind of info on the civilian nets, and we didn’t see the need to go risking hacking into the military nets at this time, so it took a bit of work to put together what we were facing. Which is why we were now in the lounge area, watching Raven as she reported on the planet we were still a day away from.

I sighed. “Are you sure about this?”

Raven nodded. “Within 85%, Captain. Someone has taken a sample of the Hundeherstellar Nanites, and altered their programming. I cannot be sure of the exact nature of the changes, but self-replication abilities of some kind are obvious, as is this hivemind feature. If I were to guess, I’d say someone used their own mind as a template, and then copied it into the nanites, giving himself complete control over the ‘legion’.”

Sheila frowned. “That seems an unusual choice for one with those nanites. Don’t they usually go for basically turning women into pets who have no knowledge of their lives before?”

“That is true for 89.4% of Hundeherstellar users, according to unofficial records. There is some variation, but nothing to this degree.”

Kiki leaned forward. “Chances of this being a ‘natural’ mutation of the nanites?”

“The probability approaches Nil. Nothing in known databases suggests that the nanite code could naturally mutate in this way.”

I frowned. “So, what then, we’re looking at either a deliberate attack on a global scale, a local or targeted strike that spread out of control due to some unforeseen influence, or the equivalent of a lab accident gone horribly wrong?”

“That is simplistic, but correct. Due to the extremely virulent nature of the nanites, and the fact that no groups have stepped forward to claim responsibility, in addition to the lack of any identifiable end game, I would put the probability of a deliberate attack designed for global spread to be approximately 9.8%. A targeted strike designed to take over a specific target or group has a 39.2% likelihood. Probability that this is a lab accident from either weapons or some other means of research into the nanites is 49%.”

Sana decided to contribute then, with a “Mrow?”

“The remaining two percent would be the chance that this was an attempt to reverse Hundeherstellar conditioning and return the subject to their original mental state, but things went wrong somehow.”

Well, that was just a wonderful pile of bad news all the way around. Especially since we had jobs that needed doing in this system.

Spice Run to Jagloth

Ten crates of angeMel spice (valued at 6.8 million credits) needs to get to the planet Jagloth, currently under blockade by Confederate forces due to a local matter. Run the blockade, and get the Spice to Katar Greynore at the Spriteshack Industries headquarters in Jagloth City.
Rank
A
Success
Deliver the Spice.
Failure
Fail to deliver the Spice. (Will result default payment of 50% of the value of the Spice. If done willfully, will also result in a bounty equal to the value of the shipment placed on your head, and all criminal organizations in Confederation space will see you as unreliable, and refuse to work with you without holding one of your slaves as collateral.)
Payment
5 million credits
Increased Reputation with criminals in Confederate space
20% lifetime discount from Spriteshack Industries for goods and services.

Courier Run to Jagloth

The kisArra Legitimate Businessmen’s Association needs someone to deliver packages to their associates on Jagloth. The naval blockade of the planet makes this a difficult task, but the pay reflects the difficulty.
Rank
A
Success
Transport 4 standard sized crates marked ‘Machine Parts’ to Alok Paxisys in Jagloth City.
Failure
Fail to deliver the crates.
Open the crates.
Payment
2 million Credits

Arms Shipment to Jagloth

The Talsora Syndicate has recovered salvage from the three Imperial frigates that were destroyed during the Gateway Incursion. The contents of the armory on one of the frigates was recovered, and would be of great use to those on Jagloth combating the blockade.
Rank
A
Success
Deliver 10 cases of Imperial Arms to the representative of the Freedom Fighters on Jagloth Station.
Failure
Fail to deliver the cases.
Payment
3 million Credits.

The biggest problem we had is that Jagloth Station was one of the two orbitals that had just been taken down, and Jagloth City was on the main continent, which was almost completely overrun. No way we could make deliveries there. Fortunately, as we got closer to the planet, we got updates to the missions.

It seemed that Katar Greynore had relocated to Spriteshack’s secondary headquarters on the Southern Continent, while Alok Paxisys was now on Charybdis Station. Unsurprisingly, the ‘Freedom Fighters’ were no longer in existence. They probably never existed, and were just puppets of the Legion looking to break through the quarantine. That left me with ten cases of Imperial weapons to unload somewhere, in a system full of Confed Navy and people who were getting taken over by nanites.

I needed a drink. Or ten.

I sighed, and said, “All right, we’re going to do this as quiet as we can. Raven, are there any ships moving between stations? Or between the stations and the places on the ground that are free of Infection?”

“In-system shuttles only. Freighters have been locked down pretty tight. Anything that can jump to hyperspace, and has a range to get out of the solar system, has been grounded unless it is Confed Navy.”

“That true all over the system, or just by Jagloth?”

“I am detecting a few freighters moving between settlements on a few moons and in an asteroid belt, but they aren’t approaching the planet.”

I sighed. “Well, there has to be a smuggler haven in this system, right?”

“Records ‘borrowed’ from the Smugglers on kisArra say that there are two main smuggler bases in system. The first one appears to be one of the polar bases that has been sanitized quite thoroughly by orbital bombardment. The second is a refueling depot around the gas giant that is the fifth planet out from the system primary, known as Charybdis Station.”

“That’s where Paxisys went, huh? Well, we’ll make that our first stop. Nyna, alter course as quietly as you can, and let’s get to Charybdis. Metrion’s Favor can dock at the refueling station while some of us take the shuttle and make the delivery on the surface. The local criminals will probably have a way for us to slip through, at least to the uninfected areas.”

Nyna nodded, and headed off to the cockpit to start making calculations for the course change. Jaynie frowned, looking at me. “And if they don’t have a route in?”

I shrugged, and said, “Then we’ll make our own way in. We can get the shuttle from Charybdis to the planet easily enough. It is getting them off the planet and back to the ship that is my concern. Especially if anything goes south. The situation on the ground isn’t good, and it is likely to get worse.”

“Think they’ll be glassing the planet, then?”

“Let’s just say I’m pretty sure that the only reason they haven’t is that they’re still hoping something can be done to save the people who haven’t been Infected. I’d bet someone is trying to get some colony ships or other big people-movers together to get as much of the population as they can off.”

Shearah sighed. “We aren’t going to find much work here, are we?”

I considered that. “Well, we can probably get some small work moving people around the system, but the real money will be in loading up the cargo bay with as many people as our life support can handle, and then getting them to the nearest safe port. There are also still a couple Nomads in the system, who might have a way in, or be willing to pay for a way off the planet.”

The knelfi blanched as she looked at me, “But what if they are Infected?”


I grinned, “That is why you’re going to get with Raven, and design me some way to scan for the Infected, or even just scanning for nanites in someone’s body. We’ll just make it a full ban on all nanites. Anyone who might be Infected won’t step foot on this ship.”



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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 3 - Wyrmwood https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072QKVBYV
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF
Book IV - Aquarian Desert https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0756V1VX5

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T


LitRPG facebook group: