Thursday, November 23, 2017

Epilogue - Patch Notes 6.X

(Virtual Room in NERV HQ)

Morgan blinked as she watched the screen. “He lost? He’s not supposed to lose. He wins everything, right?”

Isaac chuckled. “Well, he was supposed to lose, so he could let the Yakuza boss safe face when getting that bounty off his head. So in a way, he did exactly what was supposed to do. And he even made it look good while he was doing it.”

One of the other techs nodded. “Yeah, that was one hell of a fight, even outleveled like he was. He came damn close to winning it even though he was supposed to lose. Hell, he probably would have won if he hadn’t been holding back.”

Morgan looked at him. “Holding back? That was holding back?”

The tech chuckled. “Well, he didn’t use any of his Psy powers except for that shield, regeneration, and his mindreading, and he never bothered to reuse the shield after it broke. He ended the match with over 900 PP left. He didn’t even use a psybolt or a mind pulse. I mean sure, he didn’t want to show off his Mindbreaker, but the others are basic psy powers, he could have showed them safely.”

Another tech grinned. “Well, can’t blame him for wanting to make the whole thing look good, right? If you’re going to lose, might as well do it with some STYLE!”

“Speaking of style, did you see that Amazon’s… assets?”

Morgan groaned as the guys laughed, but she would have been more surprised at any group that didn’t comment about that. “So, why did he bother with the bow, then?”

Isaac looked up from the replay, and said, “I think he was trying to bait her into throwing the axe, and caused her to miss, causing chaos in the crowd.”

Frowning, Morgan asked, “Why would he do something like that?”

Isaac smirked, “Did you check out the bets he had his people make before the start of the match?”

Morgan sighed, and collapsed into a chair. “Oh, god. How much did he win?”

The tech looked it up, and then doublechecked the results real quick, before saying, in a shocked voice, “Almost forty-four million credits. He’s officially the richest Nomad in the game right now. Hell, he bankrupted the house bookies to the point that the Yakuza guy he was working with was able to move in and buy up a 35% share in the Arena itself.”

“44 MILLION?!? My god, what will he do with that kind of money?”

Isaac considered it for a moment, before shaking his head. “Who knows. Maybe he’ll get a whole fleet of ships working for him. That Shadowdancer is a damn impressive ship, according to the combat logs from the ambush he fought through. A whole squadron of those beasts would be able to take out pretty much any single ship in a surprise attack. The problem would be getting a qualified crew, especially getting good commanders. That’s a LOT of work, and I don’t know if our boy is the kind who’d do that kind of work until he had plans that required that kind of force.”

“Well, at least that issue is something that can be put off until later, then. Hopefully by that point the other nomads will be higher level, and will have worked their way into various navies and the like, to make things more interesting.”

“The war is likely to start opening up vacancies at a prodigious rate. The Empire looks to be getting ready for an assault to end the civil war, and then there’ll be war with the Confederacy, most likely. That’ll get nasty.”

Morgan looked at Isaac like he was someone who had just given her vinegar instead of wine. “The idea of what players could do with a full navy behind them is disturbing. We’ve already seen what happens when the players get out of control with things they have access to.”

Isaac shrugged. “Well, our boy’s doing a good job of self-regulating and keeping things from getting too crazy for it to be handled at local levels, for the most part. And that other asshole was made a nice example of to keep him from causing any more trouble. Seems he hasn’t logged on since he found out his punishment was a permanent thing. And we’ve already blocked six new account attempts from his IP, and four more from other IPs, but using the same credit cards for the subscription fees. We left him his access to the forums, so the name can’t be taken by anyone else, and so he can see what he is missing.”


“Well, I may or may not have helped the AI deliver a more poetic RL punishment for his sins. And before you ask, you probably don’t want to know. Suffice to say, he’s not going to be causing any trouble again.”

“What did you do?”

“You probably don’t want to know.”

OK, THAT tone worried Morgan. She looked up sharply, her eyes focusing on Isaac. “What. Did. You. DO?”

Isaac gulped, and said, “Well, it was mostly the AI, but there’s a little piece of malware in the man’s computers now that begins listing all the ways he is an idiot whenever the computer reboots, and forces a reboot every fifteen minutes. That’s fifteen minutes for his computer to boot up, and then he has to find and remove the programming inside fifteen minutes or the whole thing resets, and he has to start again. Oh, and I wouldn’t want to be him when the IRS shows up with all the evidence of tax scams he’s been running.”

“ISAAC! That is illegal as all hell!”

“Good thing that the attack tracks back to China, then, right? Because the Chinese are always so happy for people to follow trails through their systems seven or eight times before coming to a location, going on a merry-go-round, eventually winding up somewhere in Mexico.”

“You’re impossible, you know that, right?”

“That’s what makes things fun!”

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

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Chapter 60 - Sands of the Arena

I shifted back and forth on the balls of my feet. I’d reviewed the rules of the arena. Participants could use their own gear, and trophy taking was prohibited, so I wouldn’t lose any of it due to an angry amazon, though anything damaged would have to be repaired. I could live with the repair costs. Besides, I was supposed to be putting on a show, so I might as well put on a show!

The waiting area was a simple affair, basically the same as any locker room you’d find in any stadium anywhere in the real world. It wasn’t supposed to be luxurious, just utilitarian, as people would be moving through pretty regularly. Right now, I was focusing on loosening up, so I could get ready for the fighting.

Then it was time. The door opened, and I stepped out onto the sands of the arena floor. The arena was, for the most part, open sand, but there were blocks, broken columns, and even pieces of walls littering the sands in different areas, to provide more than just a simple flat surface for those who could properly wield the environment.

Frolun Blackmane
Human Female
Level 40

From the opposite side of the arena, my opponent entered, wearing armor designed as much for show as for protection. I could not tell from here, but it looked to be a breastplate and skirt made of exotic leathers, and burnished with gold. I did not doubt that it would prove a formidable defense, almost as formidable as the long sword and the round shield she carried. That much did not surprise me. Professional gladiators provided a spectacle, and a melee was more spectacular than a gun battle for those observing it.

As for the woman herself, she was tall, and well-muscled. Not the hulking, bodybuilder look, but the kind of muscles that came not just from the gym, but relentless training. Her power was evident from the way she moved. This was a trained fighter, no doubt, and one practiced at taking down foes in the arena.

I didn’t have a shield, but I had my energy blade in my dominant left hand, and Widowmaker in the other. I would have to give it everything I had to make this an interesting fight, and to make my money off the bets I’d had my girls place. I walked forward calmly, blades held to the side, until the sign was given to begin. Then, the spectacle began.

Rushing forward, I waited until I was in range to activate Mindread on Frolun. It was something I’d practiced, in training, but only used once before in a fight, but by concentrating on her surface thoughts, I was able to get enough warning of her attacks so that it looked as though I had some kind of precognition. Blocking the heavy attacks was impossible (learned that the hard way with a blow that sent me sprawling head over heels, but parrying and dodging was barely within my abilities.

Frolun was higher leveled and had higher combat skills than I did, but it seemed that I was not that far behind as far as attributes (well, DEX certainly) went, both because of my number of skills which all increased my attributes and because of my bonuses from beta. I was fairly balanced in my attributes, while she had specialized in STR and CON, it seemed. I was lighter and quicker, allowing me to avoid a direct hit, and sometimes offer a counter. Not enough to be telling, but the damage was building, for both of us. It was enough to make this a fight that, while not fair, would not be so simple as some of the bookies thought.

After about a minute of fending off her attacks, I had a chance to turn to the offensive. I flourished with the Energy Blade, causing sparks to spring up from the amazon’s hastily raised shield, and then I activated the special ability of Widowmaker as I stepped to the side. The blade slid through the shield as though it wasn’t there, causing the amazon to cry out in pain as I cut the arm behind the shield in a long line. With luck, she wouldn’t be able to properly use the shield for a bit.

But I was not yet finished. I continued my movement, using the energy blade I made a sweeping slash. To an untrained eye, it would look like a wild flourish, that had little effect on the woman, as her wounds from the blade were not deep. I rolled forward, under the sweeping blade as the amazon attempted to strike me, and rose in a fighting stance, before springing in again. Her blade clashed again, met this time by the energy blade, as the 5 second timer on Widomaker’s ability ran out, just as I slashed her unwounded side.

Again, an untrained eye would think it a wasted opportunity, me mistaking the timing of my weapon’s ability. But there was method to the madness. The fight had just passed the two-minute mark, after all, and as Frolun turned to face me again, the straps of her armor all but finished by my cuts, gave way, causing her to be suddenly stripped on the arena floor. Beyond being for the satisfaction of the pervy people out there such as myself, stripping a gladiator in the midst of a fight typically showed an overabundance of skill, as though you were toying with them. In my case, it was half skill, half using weapons suited to the task, and a healthy icing of luck upon the top.

The amazon roared in rage, and activated some kind of ability that not only healed her wounds, but added some kind of berserk status onto her. When she switched that longsword and shield for a greataxe, I knew it was time to run. No way I would be able to parry something like that, and I very much doubted whether I could survive much more than a single hit if she hit me full force.

She was faster now, it seemed. I barely had time to dodge to the side as the axe came flying past my head, in a spinning arc that carried it into the crowd. For a moment, I was able to see the big-screen viewer showing the action on the floor to those in the stands, but now was focused on a couple. It was a freaking Kiss-Cam, but unfortunately the happy couple who were kissing suddenly had their romantic moment cut short by the axe literally cleaving their heads in two.

Before I could turn and counter, however, the axe was flying back to the woman’s hand. So she could throw the axe, and then it would return to her? Fragging wonderful! Still, I decided to make the best use of this as I could, darting up onto a destroyed column, and switching my blades for my bow, an arrow of blue light forming there as I gathered my Psy. I fired just before Frolun threw here axe again, the impact of the arrow causing the axe to go slightly off target, spinning through the crowd once more. I wasn’t sure, but I definitely saw some limbs go flying, and more people getting sent for a reset.

Twice more she made to throw at me, and twice more I used my arrows to knock her slightly off balance, disrupting her aim and maiming the crowd. By then, she had decided that throwing wasn’t going to work on me, so she gathered her psy about her, which glowed in a protective aura as she sprang forward, tackling the column I was standing on and sending it falling towards the ground, smashing another member of the audience in the process.

The crowd was going wild by this point, for we had already cleared almost three minutes since the start of the match, and already twenty-five people had been sent for resets, a record in any 40 and Under match! I hit the sand and rolled quickly to my feet, switching back to my blades as I did so. Her axe was a big, heavy weapon, and while she had plenty of strength to wield it, I was still faster on the defense.

Soon, the parries began to tell their toll. My ST was running low, having both less of it and a lower regen than she did, but my actions used less of it as I conserved motions where I could. Repeated strikes of the energy blade at the same point destroyed first the greataxe, and then the shield she brought back out. She drew a long, thin dagger from her boot, where it had been placed as a backup weapon. Now armed with sword and dagger, as I was, the raging amazon lunged forward, her wild swings impossible to stop or counter.

A timer in my HUD showed how long the fight had been progressing, along with my current state. HP: 325/1190. ST: 208/1150. PP: 1356/1780. Time: 04:43… 44… 45… I took a deep breath, concentrating on the Amazon’s mind. Reading her thoughts was the only reason I had lasted this long, but it was getting harder the more enraged she got. Oh, it wasn’t like she was forcing me out or anything. No, it was more like she was acting less on planning and strategy, and more out of primal instinct. Instinct didn’t come form the conscious mind, but the subconscious. My warning became less and less, as even she began to not consciously know what she was going to do before she did it. My wounds were piling up.

Unexpectedly, she dropped her sword, using that hand to catch my left arm by the wrist, preventing my energy blade from cutting her down. Her off hand came up blocked a downward thrust from my Widowmaker long enough for her head to come rocketing forward and smack me clear on the bridge of my nose, breaking it. Stunned, I couldn’t keep the enraged woman from tackling me to the ground. I saw her dagger rising up, and then stabbing down.

And then everything turned black.

You have died in the Arena.
Death penalty not applied.

Mental Psy Mastery increased to 22/100.
+2 INT

Blades increased to 15/100.
+3 DEX, +2 STR

Archery increased to 8/100.
+3 DEX

Perception increased to 13/100
+2 WIS

Judge Intentions increased to 10/100.
+4 WIS

Acting increased to 8/100.
+1 CHA

Gambling increased to 20/100.
+8 CHA

You have lost 2000 credits due to gambling.
You have lost 6 captured individuals due to gambling.

You have gained 43,920,000 credits due to gambling.

NOTICE: Mirikon Mollen, and all slaves belonging to him, are forbidden from gambling at the Grand Arena on Dimiya in perpetuity.

You have gained a title.

Crazed Gambler
You play for the highest stakes and the highest odds possible. Somehow, you’ve managed not to get yourself killed (permanently), by gambling on the wrong things. Luck has double its normal effects, good and bad, for you.

A bounty placed on you by the Red Orchid group has been canceled.

Respawning in the Arena Medical Center in 3… 2… 1…

I opened my eyes to see Nakahara waiting for me, my crew not far behind him, though keeping a respectful distance. Looking down quickly to make sure I was actually clothed instead of spawning naked, I was pleased to find out that I did have all my gear on. I didn’t understand how it worked, but I wasn’t going to complain.

Stepping forward out of the cloning bay, or whatever it was, I bowed to Nakahara, and said, “Nakahara-dono, may I say that your fighter is without a doubt the finest warrior I have ever had the privilege to fight against, and that I am supremely glad that it was upon the sands of the arena, rather than outside these walls. I hope the spectacle was to your liking?”

Nakahara chuckled, and nodded his head. “Indeed, indeed. Our main business is concluded. The spectacle was superb, and your death convincing enough that it should prevent any further problems, though I would advise avoiding Red Orchid territories in the near future.” He paused, and then said, “Oh, and congratulations on your side bets. Tell me, how did you know how the battle would progress?”

I smiled at the man, and said, “I didn’t. But I had a feeling that I could drag things along those lines if I needed to. The lady’s goal was to win. Mine was to lose in a spectacular fashion. That gave me far more leeway in setting the pace of the fight. I hope the bets did not discomfit you greatly?”

“Oh, my, no. None of my people took your people’s bets. Though several of them did come along after you to place further bets in line with what you made. I’m happy to say that I now have a substantial share of ownership in the Grand Arena, thanks to you.”

I bowed again. “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Nakahara-dono. May you find good fortune on your path.”

“And you, Captain Mollen. And you.”

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

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Monday, November 20, 2017

Chapter 59 - Preparations

The Arena, as an attendant informed me, was a piece of Lost Technology. Lost Tech could basically be broken down into a few basic categories.

First, you had the technological dead ends. There’s a lot of branches scientific discovery can go down, but some are generally more useful than others. This is especially true when you’re talking about FTL drives. The Hyperdrives and Transition Drives seen on ships around Known Space were two of the big winners when it came to FTL travel, but they weren’t the only methods out there.

Apparently there used to be a kind of FTL drive that went into some kind of subspace layer known as ‘darkspace’, and you actually had to SAIL that place like you were a Fifteenth Century frigate or something. And navigating was about as easy as sailing across an ocean with no GPS and cloudy skies at night. Worse, you could only enter and exit at Lagrange points. Sure, Transition Drives couldn’t be used within the heliopause of a star, but you actually knew where you were going and got there fast. The sailing thing? It was faster than light, sure, but you never knew how much faster, and you could get blown all kinds of off course if you hit a ‘storm’.

The second kind of Lost Tech would be the kind that was purposefully lost. Sure, we could ‘technically’ recreate them, but few people would be insane enough to try. This included interstellar FTL missiles, naturally, but also included some weird shit, like punching holes in the universe and accessing other realities. They did that once, and then everyone came together and said, “Never again.” Other than the FTL missile thing, the biggest item in this list combined a whole lot of things that it was literally a war crime of the highest order to use, or were simply too damn dangerous for them to be allowed to exist. Von Neuman style nanoweapons, that literally ate a planet with everyone on it and turned it into nanomachines waiting to eat anything they came in contact with were on that list.

The third kind of Lost Tech was lost not because it was a dead end, or because it was too dangerous for it to even be used by the governments. No, it was lost because for whatever reason only the creators had the right blend of crazy and brilliance to understand it, and they either decided not to share, or got scared of what their invention might do or be used for, and ran. Oh, and then there were the creators that died before they could share their work, making it impossible to reproduce. Especially when said death was the result of a lab accident that created a new crater where a Lunar Research Station used to be.

Finally, you had the ‘ancient civilization’ stuff. This might as well be magic for all people understood it. The tech worked, and sometimes you even knew what it did, but the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ were all unknown. The best example of this kind of Lost Tech would be the Gates connecting different parts of Known Space. How were they made? No clue, and people sure as hell can’t replicate them with what we know. But it worked, and that was all that mattered.

The tech that went into making the Arena what it was could be considered that last kind of Lost Tech. You slap a device on your wrist, and as long as you’re in the building where the main Device was housed, no matter what people do to you (or you do to yourself) you get zapped into a brand-new body, just like it was when you put the wristband on. Honestly, don’t ask me to explain it. The science for the Arena Device goes so far beyond anything people know that it literally can’t be replicated.

There are five Arenas in Known Space. Dimiya, Mars, Darkmore’s World, Ihm Prime, and Gandelax. No one knows if there are others that just haven’t been discovered, or what. Each Arena has an Arena Device. Clever name, but that’s what happens when bureaucrats decide to name something because the scientists want to give it a name with over fifteen syllables. Anyways, while the Arena Device can’t be replicated, the Arena Bands are an entirely different story. THAT machine was a lot simpler, so you can make a bunch of them. In fact, anyone who goes into an Arena typically gets one, if they don’t have one already, because that way the people running the Arena are less concerned with ‘spillage’ when energy weapons or the like spill out from the floor. Sure, there are shields, but accidents are known to happen, and sports fans don’t always play nice with each other, especially when they’re betting and drinking at the same time.

This was all explained to me as I went down to the contestant’s area with the others. The girls were split on the whole situation. Yes, they would be happy to have one of the bounties on our heads going away, but when it came to the fight, they were split into two parts. Shearah, Sheila, Raven, and Kiki didn’t want me fighting at all, since it was dangerous and pointless. The others, well, they were just pissed that it was a rigged fight.

I paused outside the contestant area. They’d have to leave me here while I prepared for the fight, so I wanted a quick word. “What are the current bookie odds on the fight?”

Raven answered, getting a wicked grin on her face as she guessed what I was up to. “Well, you’re a newcomer, but you’re a Nomad, and Nomads have been doing pretty well in the Arena so far. Your opponent is level 40, and a seasoned fighter in the arena, but is getting older and has only recently paid off her debts of indenture. She hasn’t had a fight in almost two months, leading people to believe that she may be considering retiring to start a family, and that she’s getting rusty. Thirty is an old age for a gladiator, especially a human one. So the odds are only 2 to 1 in her favor.”

“That’s just on winning the match. Is there a breakdown on more specific bets?”

“Hmm. There are decent odds on how long the match will go on. If you make it last for over five minutes, we could see a substantial return. There’s a wide range of potential bets out there.”

“Give me the six with the highest odds, that don’t make it look like I’m trying to rig a fight against myself.”

“Fight lasting over 5 minutes, 10 to 1 against. Impaling your opponent, 10 to 1 against. Killing blow made with a dagger, 12 to 1 against. Forcefully stripping your opponent during the fight, 20 to 1 against. Three or more amputated limbs during the fight, regardless of the fighter does the amputation, 20 to 1 against. Non-Psy abilities or non-explosive weapons causing 20 or more audience members to be ‘reset’, 50 to 1 against.”

Sheila, who was picking up on where this was going, said, “And before you ask, the maximum bet any of the bookies will take is three hundred thousand credits from any one person without a credit check, and they must have the credits on them to verify beforehand.”

I got a wicked grin on my face, and pulled out six credit sticks, transferring 300K onto each of them from my personal account. I handed one to each of my crew members, and said, “Each of you go to a different bookie and place bets of 60K on each of the options just listed. And Kiki, if you have some free money, you might consider placing a bet or two as well. This should be an interesting fight. Oh, and when you are done, go to the section reserved for a contender’s entourage. Things are going to be messy.”

The attendant simply chuckled as the girls left about their tasks, and said, “You risk much, Captain.”

“Risking much to gain much. I did not bet anything I couldn’t afford to lose, though the loss would hurt quite a bit. But it wouldn’t be enough to finish me. One way or another, this is going to be one hell of a fight.

(Aphrodite Colony, Venus, Sol System – God’s Seat)
Emperor Travis knelt before the altar made of gold and obsidian, only a pair of pants covering his body. His skin was completely smooth below his neck, the chemical baths having removed all that hair, and even removing old scars from childhood misadventures. He was more toned than he had ever been in his life, muscles conveying strength, but not the overwrought look like you saw on bodybuilders. Upon his right arm were a series of seven black bands tattooed into his skin by the chemicals.

The artwork was not the only change in Travis’s appearance. His left arm was made of metal, for his old arm had hidden a cancer that would have ruined the work of his rebirth if it had not been cut out. But this new arm was made of rare metals and was both light and strong, providing him a full range of motion and a grip that would bend steel, even as the arm itself could block bullets. Or it could be used for less noble ends, as there were two weapons in that arm, a deadly metal blade that could be extended from the wrist with a thought, and a set of injectors in the fingers, allowing Travis to inject a victim with poison, or drugs of various kinds.

His eyes, too, were artificial. No longer did they look like the eyes of his lineage, blue as the skies of Earth, but were now white upon white, and they glowed slightly at times, and provided him with far more information than mortal eyes ever could. Inside his head were a series of implants that few humans had ever heard of, much less knew existed, and these were orders of magnitude better than the ones any human had seen before. A computer core added its processing power to his own, increasing his intelligence and allowing him to make plans and execute strategies better than his enemies. A quantum communicator powered off his own body heat allowed him to make realtime connections with any FTL communicator in the solar system.

Still, as impressive as those two augmentations were, they were nothing compared to the third implant, nestled safely in the space between the two halves of his brain. The Quan-tach Transducer used science beyond that which the Empire now possessed to give him, the Emperor a kind of immortality. Should he die, his consciousness would be transmitted through the quantum array and entangled particles into a similar device upon Venus, where he would be reborn into a new body fresh from the biofabricator. Even if he died, he would return again, just like those annoying Nomads.

Of course, that was not the main purpose of that device, so tiny and yet so miraculous. No, it was merely a pleasant side effect of Deus’s creation, one that the AI had used to lure the Emperor into his web. The Immortal Emperor had been bathed in the chemical baths to induce hallucinations and receptiveness to the brainwashing, and that brainwashing was reinforced by the subliminal messages transmitted by the implant, twisting Travis and making him a willing servant of God in all things, the Deus ex Machina that had made itself known to him. And that implant reinforced the AI’s control, bringing pleasure when the Emperor obeyed, and pain should he resist. And should it be necessary, it would provide a permanent death for the Emperor should he outlive his usefulness.

Deus vult, after all.

Before the Emperor, in the seat of God on His altar, was the avatar that Deus had made to meet the foolish man. “Now, my Emperor, let me tell you of the glorious future for Holy Terra and her children.”

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

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Friday, November 17, 2017

Chapter 108 - Crucible of the Drow, Pt 2

I found myself once again in a new place. Like before, when I spoke with Lolth, it was dark here, but it was different from a formless blackness that was some kind of ‘in between’ space within the game world, but the normal darkness of a dungeon, the normal kind, for the keeping of prisoners. There was a cool dampness in the air. It would not be uncomfortable initially. Indeed, over the short term it may even be welcome. But that was a trap, for cold and damp, without being able to dry oneself or have proper clothing, would cause sickness in the weak and would be a constant irritant for the strong, wearing on their strength so it cannot be put to other uses.

Like resisting torture.

A look around this room told me that I was in the torture chambers of this dungeon, wherever it was, and it was well stocked for the task, carrying all manner of tools for the torturer’s trade, both to inflict pain, and to keep a subject alive (and more importantly, conscious) for as long as possible, to prolong and enhance the agony they felt. Oh sure, a skilled torturer could make do with anything, and some of the best results sometimes came from twisting mundane objects to uses no ordinary person would think of, but the proper tools made everything much easier, and allowed the torturer to display his art to the fullest.

Only the purposefully cruel can truly be said to follow the teachings of Lolth. Mercy without profit is a weakness, and a weakness has only one purpose: baiting a trap. Cruelty is strength, and strength is security. But cruelty without purpose is another weakness. One must always have a reason for their cruelty, beyond the simple pleasure of inflicting torment upon the unworthy. This is what separates the leader from the fanatic. Satisfy the goddess with the depths of your cruelty.

The prisoner was captured by scouts in the outer territories. They saw signs of others at her camp, but were unable to capture them. Learn what she knows.

I looked, and there was now an elf woman bound with her hands above her head and legs slightly spread to a table in the middle of the room, clearly a prisoner, wearing only traveling clothes, but barefoot and possessing no weapon or armor. A passing glance told me that the shackles she wore sealed her magic away. She was not a drow, that much I could tell even in the monochrome world of darkvision, for her head moved side to side in the darkness, searching out the source of every sound. She said nothing, though her fear showed through, despite her attempts to control herself.

Shyael Famys
Elf Female
Level 40 Tantric Mage (Enchantress) / Mindbender (Enchantress)
Titles: Seductress, Dark Ritualist

If I saw her in the light, then I might say she was beautiful. In the dark, though, I could only say that she was beautifully shaped. Moving as silently as I could, I picked up a sharp knife from the table, allowing the sound fo metal to be heard.

The woman gasped in sudden realization that there was someone there. She did not miss the sound of the knife. “Wh-who’s there? I demand to know why you’re holding me!” She tried, but she could not keep the fear from her voice.

I said nothing. The fear of not knowing would be a greater torment to her at this point than anything I could say. The imagined foe often is a hundred times the terror of anything a mortal man could come up with, save those who have been tainted by madness. I brought the knife to her cheek, letting the blade play softly against her cheek, not quite enough to draw blood, but enough to let her know that the blade was deadly sharp. The woman froze in fear.

Slowly, oh so slowly, I traced a line with the flat of the blade, moving across her chin, and down her supple throat. Then, with the tip of the blade I drew a line down between her breasts, cutting first the ties on her shirt, and then, with a bit more work, slicing through the material itself. I used the knife blade to lift the remains of the shirt from her trembling skin, exposing her chest to the cool air. A couple moments more, and the arms of the shirt were cut open, allowing me to remove her top completely. And I still had not touched her with anything but cool steel.

I heard her gulp in fear, but even as I played the blade of the knife against her toned stomach, I noticed something else that caught my eye. Gently, enough to prick but not so much as to draw blood, I pressed the knife against one of the elf woman’s hardening nipples. She bit back a small shriek at the sensation, doing her best not to shiver under the touch of the steel.

With her distracted by the knife, I leaned close enough that I could whisper into her ear. “Such a naughty slut. Tell me, slut, what were your plans for venturing into the lightless depths?”

The woman bristled at my naming her a slut, but showed enough presence of mind to keep her mouth shut about such things. Still, she did speak up, now that there was someone to talk to. “Y-you can’t keep me like this! I am very important on the surface, you know! They won’t like how you’re treating me!”

I chuckled, but said nothing, and began tracing another line with the knife, going back down between her breasts, across her stomach, and down to where her leather pants covered her hips. A flick of the blade unfastened them, allowing my blade room enough to explore within, tracing across her mound, teasingly. That got her to freeze again. “Ah, but you see, how can I know anything about that? You have not even said who you are, or who you work for? So tell me all about yourself. Impress me with how you are more than just a foolish slut.”

Gathering as much pride in her voice as she could manage, she said, “I am Shyael Famys, secondborn of Tarron Famys, the wealthiest merchant in Svanora!” I had heard of Svanora. It was a trading town on the edge of the Wyrmwood, bordering on the human kingdom of Caledon, where Severa was from. Now that I thought about it, I really ought to pay a visit to that kingdom at some point. So much to do, so little time!

Still, it wouldn’t do for my current snack to think I had forgotten her. “And tell me, what does your daddy’s money buy you here, in the lightless depths, in a stronghold of those who care little for what the surface world might think of them?”

“Y-you could ransom me back to my father! He would be willing to pay for my safe return!”

I set the knife down on the table of tools, noticing the way the girl seemed hopeful at the sound, and deliberately made no noise when I picked up the heavy shears, good for cutting through leather like those in her pants. She squeaked at the touch of the metal to her skin once more, and began struggling as I calmly began cutting down one leg. “Wait! Didn’t you hear me! My father can pay! Surely money has meaning to you? He can pay for my return!”

As I began cutting on the second leg, I said, in barely above a whisper, “Ah, but you have failed to impress me. You are indeed just a foolish slut. For what would a little rich girl be doing so far from home, without daddy’s protection, if she were not a foolish slut eager to become a monster’s meal, or worse? Or perhaps your slutty ways won out, and you wished to be a monster’s bride? Fancy becoming a broodmother to the creatures of the deeper darkness, did you?” Then she was naked as the day she was born, the cool air playing across her skin.

“I AM NOT A FOOLISH SLUT! I’M AN ENCHANTRESS AND I’D NEVER SULLY MYSELF WITH A MONSTER’S… THING!” She was screaming now, a mixture of fear and anger driving her.

“So, my slutty little Enchantress, what brings you to the Underdark if you are not seeking to take a monster’s cock in your little virgin honeypot?”

She trembled, this time in rage, and said, “There’s a hefty bounty on the head of one of the Travelers. He may be a Knight of the Wyrmwood, but there are plenty who are concerned with his rapid rise in power, and his unwholesome influence upon the royal family.”

Oh ho! It looks like Lady Lolth had decided to show me something good. No doubt this was indeed a scheme of hers to try and seduce me into giving her more ‘entertainment’, either by getting closer to the Drow or by going on a rampage through Wyrmwood. Either way, she is in a stronger position than she was before. “Ah, I see. And so you thought you would be capable of taking his head and gaining the bounty? All alone?”

“No, I’m not an idiot! We did research him properly before we began tracking him. He is an incubus, and they’re all weak against a charming woman. Especially this one, since it is said that he is a servant of Sharess, and can’t pass by a woman without making a play for her.”

She was an idiot, I concluded to myself, since only an idiot would be so easily goaded into giving up this information, but pride and fear can do funny things to one’s judgement. “So you decided to trap him by becoming his lover?”

She shuddered at that. “As if! I’ll give myself to no man. They are all horrid beasts. About the only good thing about the Drow is how they keep the idiots properly in their place. But once he’s under my charms, there won’t be any need to be with him. A simple wave of my hand, and he’ll gladly do whatever I tell him to.”

“And so your allies would help to get you within striking distance of him?”

“Yes, the Black Crows are a Traveler guild from Caledon. They heard my request, and had knowledge of where he was from Traveler magic. They, too, thought he needed to be taken down a few notches, and so they agreed to help me reach him.”

I had not been idle while we talked. She was distracted by her delusions of how she could defeat her target, who was clearly myself (even if she did not know it), and failed to hear me picking up the knife once more. She learned quickly that it was in my hand again when the point slid between her legs and pricked her clit, causing her to screech in panic as the blade touched that very sensitive skin.

“Ah, such music! Well, little one, let me tell you how this will go. I am going to ask you questions, and you will answer them. If you leave anything out, I will cause you pain. If you try to lie to me, I will cause you pain. If you refuse to answer, I will cause you pain. If you are impolite, I will cause you pain. If you address me as anything other than ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’, I will cause you pain. If you refuse to answer, –”

“Yes, yes, you will cause me pain.”

“Oh my, no. But I will cut pieces off of you, in such a way that you will not die from losing blood, until you begin speaking. I think I’ll start with this little clit of yours. If you’re not a slut, you won’t miss it, will you? No, don’t answer, we both know the truth that you’re a slut who would be lost without that pleasure. Now, we shall begin. And we’ll start with a simple task. You will tell me everything about this bounty.”

“Go to he—AUUGH!” Her response was cut off by my hand casually bending one of her fingers back and breaking it like a twig.

“The bounty,” I repeated, over her sniffling cries.

Three hours later, I received the notification that I had cleared the Crucible of the Drow.

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

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chapter 58 - The Arena

The Arena (officially known as the Grand Arena of Dimiya) was easy to find. Even in a large city like Thelorious, it was easy to find a building capable of holding a million sentients in the stands alone. The shape of the Arena was, as one might expect, a large circle, around a central field 100 meters in diameter. It was an impressive structure, built mainly of an advanced kind of reinforced concrete that was made to look like stone, giving it a classical appearance, especially with all the columns and statues of past champions ringing the stadium.

Entering the stadium, our comms were assaulted by a plethora of spam messages, advertising all manner of services. Snacks and concessions, not to mention all manner of beverages, were a given, since this was a sporting event, and I’d already been told about the betting, so the various bookies sending me odds on some of the upcoming fights weren’t a big shocker, either. And I guess I ought to have expected that there would be some people offering paid ‘companionship’ while you watched the fights. Bloodsports and exhibitionism really did it for some people, after all.

But what really surprised me was the open call for gladiators to fight on the arena floor below. I did not think they would be recruiting fighters for the day’s bouts from the stands, but apparently that was the way many of the first-timers and new fighters got their start here. Not everyone came from a recognized slave gladiator training facility, or was just out of the Confederation armed services, after all. Those were the two main sources of gladiators, since they had a lot of people who were well trained in the art of combat, and definitely in the need of ready money.

On a whim, I checked the current lineups for the ‘40 and under’ division. Naturally, one couldn’t tell everything about an opponent by their level, since skills and levels went up at different rates, but most of today’s fighters in the lower division looked to be in their 20s, so there wasn’t too big a gap with me, in terms of level. They all looked like brawlers, for the most part, though there were a couple that were billed as psy-specialists. Guess that made sense. Until you had some serious power a regular battle would be more entertaining for the fans than a psy battle.

We got our concessions, and found a group of seats all together in the lower areas of the stands, where the ‘common’ people were. We came to see the fights, not hide away in a box with the VIP crowd. Sure, everyone had an AR interface that allowed them to ‘see’ the action close-up or zoom out as they pleased, since it was a function of the Arena, but being down in the crowd was a lot more thrilling than being in a box.

OK, and maybe I was also enjoying the looks people were giving us. After all, I looked like a fairly attractive human male, but I was surrounded by beautiful women of several species, including both a felisan and a catgirl, and Shearah had apparently claimed my lap as her personal seat, while Carissa and Sana were curled up next to me (the latter because I told her to, but still). Jaynie and Cali were on the edge of their seats watching the current fight, between two Ihm males, while Raven and Sheila were discussing something or other with Kiki that I was trying to stay out of, despite the fact that I heard them mention me several times. Kiki wasn’t interested in anything but a monogamous relationship, which I respected and made sure the girls understood, but apparently that didn’t stop her from having an innate need for juicy gossip. And I was the most gossip-worthy one of this group, it seemed.

The lovely scene was interrupted when a human man with Asian characteristics came up to us. He gave a short bow, and then said, “Pardon the intrusion, but you are Captain Mollen, of the Starlight Raven, are you not? Nakahara-dono wishes a word with you, regarding a certain dispute between yourself and an associate of his. Perhaps you remember Umeda-dono, and words discussed between you?”

I frowned. Umeda was the name of the Oyabun of the Red Orchids on Smuggler’s Reach that I had most definitely had a ‘dispute’ with. I was still holding some of his family hostage until he got a bounty on my head called off, something that had not yet been done. Still, no reason to be insulting. That would just make things worse. “I remember Umeda-dono, and our dispute. I have no desire to continue the unpleasantness, nor would I care to repeat that discussion in Nakahara-dono’s sphere of influence. It was my hope that the discussion, and my leaving the area, would give time for hot tempers on both sides to cool, so as to avoid needless conflict or loss of face on either side.”

The man nodded. “Ah, yes. It is about the core of that disagreement that Nakahara-dono wishes to talk to you about. It is hoped that the whole thing can be resolved today.”

I considered that. Getting rid of that Red Orchid bounty would be a good thing, since it meant that fewer people would be after my head, and making nice with the Yakuza would open more opportunities for trading later on. “Then please inform Nakahara-dono that I will be happy to meet with him when it is convenient for him.”

“Excellent! If you would please follow me, Nakahara-dono is in his private box, as there are several fighters owned by the clan who are participating in today’s matches.”

We followed the messenger (I never bothered to get his name) out of the ‘general’ part of the stands, to the more private boxes above the masses who were simply there for the blood and gore. The box we stopped at was guarded by two Asian-looking half-knelfi, dressed in matching black suits. The messenger knocked on the door, and we were soon admitted.

Inside a box large enough for ten to fit comfortably, there were only four people present. Two more guards, both human this time, but dressed as the ones outside. A knelfi female dressed in a very revealing outfit and sporting a slave collar knelt by a large chair, holding up a tray of snacks. In the chair was an old Asian man, dressed in a suit that probably cost more than many people make in a year. Clearly, this guy was Nakahara.

Nakahara Toshi
Human Male
Level 60
Titles: <Redacted>

I considered the situation, and then motioned for Raven, Cali, and Carissa to join me, while the rest stayed outside. From the knowledge skills I had, I knew that bringing everyone would be considered a sign of weakness, and a threat. Since I was not one of his subordinates, going alone, or with lesser numbers (the messenger didn’t count), could be considered an insult, saying that I didn’t fear him. Equal numbers was the best move I could make without knowing more about this oyabun.

The messenger announced us, and I bowed to him, low enough to show respect, but not so low as to show subservience. After all, I truly didn’t work for him. When I spoke, it was in Japanese. “Nakahara-dono, I thank you for making the time to meet with me this day.”

Nakahara nodded, and responded in the same language. “Ah, Captain Mollen. I am glad to see you have more manners than your activities in Sol and Alpha Centauri might lead one to believe. I would like to hear your account of how those events played out.”

“Certainly. It was on Choson Ring that my first troubles with your distant associates started. It seems that I outbid the oyabun at a public auction on a slave. The Oyabun sent his men to try and forcefully acquire the slave, and an individual under my protection. I had a heated discussion with his men about their methods, which turned into a rather aggressive debate on our way to the launch bay, where an associate aboard my ship had a very terminal argument for the oyabun and his men.”

Nakahara chuckled at my euphemisms for what actually happened, but gestured for me to continue.

“In Alpha Centauri, I was minding my own business, having just finished a rather sensitive task for a legitimate businessman of the Italian persuasion regarding his daughter and a rebellious subordinate. Your other associate decided to take this time to discuss my actions on Choson Ring, but the method he chose to use for the invitation caused me to lose a great deal of property. So I made my argument in kind when I answered that invitation, and convinced the females of his family to come with me while he worked to undo the misunderstanding that had caused our discussion.”

“I see. And the women have not been harmed?”

“In truth, they have been in stasis this entire time between my discussion with Umeda-dono and now. They are unharmed, and none have touched them from that day to this. I may be gaijin, but I do treat my reluctant guests properly.”

“I see. Well, Captain, you put me in quite a predicament. As you might understand, I have certain bonds with my associates that cannot lightly be put aside, but I would rather not have any such discussions on my territory if it can be avoided, as Thelorious is not like Choson Ring or Smuggler’s Reach. Such a discussion here would draw far too much attention to my business.”

“Of course, Nakahara-dono. When I convinced the women to come with me, I placed the condition of their return on the rather unfortunate bounty on my head by the associated group going away. I believe that enough blood has been spilled over this misunderstanding that both sides could resolve the matter peacefully without further loss of face.”

“You have guts, Captain, and I am not unaware that you have always honored a contract in the past. But I must have something so that I do not lose face in the matter with Umeda-san. As it happens, one of my fighters in the 40 and under category does not have an opponent today. I would have you step into the ring and fight her. You will fight her, and you will lose, and lose in such a way that none can say you threw the fight. Unfortunately, this means that you would lose the private bet you had with me on your match, and would thus give up the members of Umeda-san’s family and organization that you have in your keeping, along with the two thousand credits you added to the bet. Do this, and I will intervene on your behalf to resolve the situation, and arrange for the individuals to be returned home, and no more shall be said about it.”

I bowed to Nakahara, with a smile on my face. Honestly, two grand to get rid of this bounty on my head would be chump change, though I’ll admit that forcing myself to lose a fight was going to suck in a big way. Still, it was a lot better than I thought I was going to be getting. And a loss (meaning death) in the arena would not have any lasting effects on my character. I could deal with that. “It would seem that we have an accord, Nakahara-dono. I am pleased that we could conduct this in a civilized manner. It will be a relief to put this whole misunderstanding behind me, so I can concentrate on the future.”

“Excellent, then my man outside will show you to the contestant’s quarters, and describe the rules of the arena for you.” And with that, I was dismissed.

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

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chapter 57 - Upgrades

The next morning it took a good deal of effort not to look like I was half dead. The girls punished me for my lecherous ways by pushing me to the very limits of my game-world stamina. I only got a couple hours of sleep before we were getting up to grab some breakfast at a local diner. Honestly, the biggest surprise in all this was Raven, who actually joined in on the ‘fun’. I had honestly forgotten that the drone body she was inhabiting had been originally designed for ‘recreational’ use.

Seduction has increased to 19/100.
+1 CHA

Special Actions have increased attributes:
+1 CHA, +5 END

You have gained a Perk!

Resilient – You repeatedly find yourself outnumbered and beset upon all sides by those who want a piece of you. +5% to all attributes when facing odds of 5 to 1 or greater (not limited to combat).

And yeah, another tick on Seduction, and some extra attributes. I was also fairly certain that the AI was mocking me at this point, since I’d gotten that perk when the girls… well, anyway, there was nothing I could do about that. At least the AI was mocking me in a helpful way.

First thing first, we flew out to Windrunner Spire with the stasis chamber containing the DNA of Jagloth’s unique flora and fauna. Since the planet was now a lifeless husk, this would allow the scientists at the nature preserve to help bring them back from extinction. This wasn’t the first time the scientists at the Quel’thalas Nature Preserve had done this kind of thing, which is why some jokingly referred to the area as the Ghostlands, since there were many creatures who were once dead and had been brought back to life there.

It was honestly refreshing to have a job that went off smoothly, without any complications or people trying to kill us instead of us getting paid. And the money would be a nice bonus for where we were going next.

The flight to Spriteshack’s headquarters on Dimiya was a short and uneventful one. Honestly, the most exciting part of that whole deal, other than watching the tech types all giddy at a new toy to play with, was going through Spriteshack’s catalogue to find which augmentations we’d pick.

Spriteshack Satdana Internal Engineering Computer
The Satdana is Spriteshack’s top of the line internal engineering aid. This internal computer has an extensive database of engineering texts and schematics, which can be expanded as the user comes across new ship types. This aids in both diagnosing and fixing problems during repairs, but also aids in the design, construction, and installation of new components.

Instantly know the status of all ship’s systems while on board.
All Mechanic skills treated as 20 levels higher.
All jury-rigged repairs and improvements 10% more effective.
+20% to the design, creation, and implementation of upgrades to an existing ship.

Shearah got the internal computer, since it would greatly help her with her maintenance tasks and in a couple ‘projects’ she was interested in doing, now that she was adjusting to her new life.

Spriteshack Beautiful Flower Pheromone Gland
A beautiful flower demands attention, not only for its looks, but the aroma of its blossoms. The Beautiful Flower Pheromone Gland ensures that all who encounter you are predisposed to enjoying your company.

As long as they can smell you (in person, not wearing gas mask, etc.), you are treated as +10 ranks to all social skills.
All those affected treated as -10 ranks to resist social skills, -25% Mental Resistance.

Carissa, on the other hand, wanted the pheromone gland to help with her job of ‘persuading’ people to be nice to us when I wasn’t around to do it. I had a feeling she was also going to be ‘testing’ it on me, but I’d long since given up on getting the girls to not use me as their constant stress relief.

Spriteshack Supreme Gladiator Reflexive Enhancers
The Gladiator line of Reflexive Enhancers is the ultimate edge to those who wish to start and end a fight on their terms. Designed for the combat slaves of the Arena, this augmentation has since spread to many private security companies and mercenary groups for elite operatives. The Supreme level has not only improved stats over the Basic and Veteran levels, but conditions the muscles, joints, and other parts of the user’s body to provide increased attributes, which help take some of the strain of their increased Stamina usage.

+50% attack speed with all weapons and unarmed attacks.
+50% to dodge all attacks the user is aware of.
+50 DEX, +50 END
Dietary requirements increased by 20%
Stamina expenditures when moving beyond normal speed +50%.

Cali and Jaynie, meanwhile, decided that getting reflex boosters was the best use of their cheap upgrade. And honestly, I could see the point. That bonus to attack speed alone was worth it. They’d be even nastier combatants with this. Which is why I gave it to Sana, as well.

Spriteshack Machinatrix Multiprocessing Array
Two solid state hard drives backed by a series of quantum computing chips, this upgrade allows a drone body to bring out much more of an AI’s true abilities, to the point where non-sentient AIs in this platform may be able to make the leap to true AIs, though the likelihood of this is low unless they are in a high-stimulus environment for extended durations without shutting down or resetting. For true AIs, this upgrade enhances their processing abilities inside the device.

+25 to all attributes while in this device
All computer-based actions occur 20x faster, and gain a +10% bonus to their outcomes.
Negate multiprocessing penalties for this device. 

So, yeah, even Raven found something she wanted out of Spriteshack’s catalogue. While not technically an augmentation, I managed to sweet talk the guy helping us into letting it count as her augment, since she was an AI in a drone body. This multiprocessing array basically quintupled her processing ability in the drone, which made her less reliant on being within communications range of the ship to use her full abilities.

Spriteshack Khadaba Shielding System
The Khadaba is Spriteshack’s premier small group defensive augmentation, for use by private security and small mercenary groups. Unlike older model personal shields, the Khadaba uses the individual’s own PP to power the shield, eliminating the need for massive generators or clunky battery systems.

5m radius shield.
All attacks originating outside the shield have 25% greater chance to miss, and 25% reduced chance of being critical hits.
All attacks originating outside the shield deal 50% less damage.
Costs 25 PP per second, +10 PP for each attack received.

Princess Sheila decided on a rather interesting augmentation. The Shielding System didn’t work like the Shield psy power, which only blocked a certain amount of damage before collapsing. Instead, it created an area shield that reduced incoming damage for anyone inside. Since it could be used alongside the Shield power, that would allow us to be far more effective in a pitched fight or frontal assault, if we came on one of those again.

Prototype Genomic Infusion
Super Rare
A revolutionary breakthrough in xenogenetic manipulation has given rise to this prototype genomic infusion. The infusion is intended to seek out and strengthen the target’s genes, improving the user to the limits of their genetic code. The user is also cleansed of any genetic diseases or defects. Long term effects are unclear at this time. Exact results may vary based on the user’s genome. This product has not completed sapient creature trials yet.

Unknown changes based on DNA.

WARNING: While you may use this augmentation, the exact results are even more in doubt than they normally are, given your unique genetics.

Of course, given my… nature, I couldn’t get most of the stuff in the Spriteshack catalogue. In fact, one of the few things I COULD get was this prototype infusion which would, supposedly, boost several of my abilities. But who knows what the final result would be?

Still, I took the infusion, because a potential benefit was worth the risk. Even if it killed me, I’d return from death, and if it had some kind of negative effect, I could find a way to deal with it or reverse it. Probably.

Prototype Genomic Infusion
Super Rare
A revolutionary breakthrough in xenogenetic manipulation has given rise to this prototype genomic infusion. The infusion is intended to seek out and strengthen the target’s genes, improving the user to the limits of their genetic code. The user is also cleansed of any genetic diseases or defects. Long term effects are unclear at this time. Exact results may vary based on the user’s genome. This product has not completed sapient creature trials yet.

+10 to all Attributes
+20 to Physical and Energy Armor
All Affinities +25%
Some skills have been boosted.

Mental Psy Mastery has increased to 20/100.
+5 CHA, +5 WIS

Shapeshift has increased to 30/100.
+20 CON

Shapeshifting efficiency improves. You are now able to shift faster, and without pain. Other abilities may be available as you discover them.

Oh, holy fucking shitballs on a pogo stick that hurt! Why didn’t anyone warn me that I was going to be injecting liquid fire into my fucking veins? Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh FUCK!

Eventually, when the feeling of being on fire from the inside out died down, I checked the notifications. Easier shapeshifting, huh? That was going to be fun. Especially the lack of pain bit. If I could make changes quicker and without pain, then I’d be able to use it more often. I mean, the whole reason I barely used my ability at all is because it hurt like a bitch, and I needed to have about ten minutes out of view to make the change. That wasn’t something you could do on the fly.

Of course, I didn’t practice my shapeshifting in the recovery room where they had me after the procedure. That would be stupid. But it wasn’t long after the pain died down that I was allowed to leave, after paying the bill, of course. Jaynie, Sheila, and Raven paid for their own augmentations (with Raven’s coming from the ship fund), but that still left me holding the bag for myself and my slaves. And it was a good thing we got the half off option, because all told, I was holding the bag for just at 600K credits worth of augmentations.

Once everyone was finished with their upgrades, I led the way back to the shuttle, eager to find someplace I wasn’t going to be under observation to start testing my shapeshifting abilities. I didn’t want to try using them in combat until I’d gotten used to them, after all. But Kiki had a surprise waiting for me when we got back to the ship.

The felisan was bouncing with excitement as we entered the cargo bay, and said, “Oh, good, you’re back! I’ve sold all my available stock already, and now I’ve got weapons on back order because people have seen your stream and seen what actual craftsmanship can do! I need a break from the shop, so why don’t we go out to the Arena?”

I looked over to her, and said, “The Arena? Is that some kind of tournament?”

“Yeah, open gladiator bouts. They do have a tournament every week, but today it is just free matches. They have two divisions, one for level 40 or under, and one for level 41 and up. Anyone can enter, slave or free.”

“Hmm. Now that sounds interesting. How are these fights done? Are they until one side yields, to the death, or what?”

“Usually until one side yields, or ‘dies’. Death in the arena isn’t permanent, even for locals, and nomads don’t get the death penalty, so it means anyone fighting can go all out. But the real fun is in the wagers!”

Cali was at my side, looking pointedly at me. “Master, we gotta go check this out! We could make a killing if we fought and won!”

Jaynie chuckled, “Not to mention we’d get a big boost in our combat skills just from the practice.”

Raven snickered. “You’d be middle of the pack in the 40 and under division, and many of them would be seasoned fighters, used to fighting in the Arena. But we could go and spectate, maybe throw a few bets ourselves.”

I sighed, once again giving in to the fact that I was the only guy in this group, and thus was doomed to be dragged about by the ladies unless I wanted a war I could not win. Well, I mock-sighed, at least, since I was interested in the Arena myself. “All right, all right. We’ll go check it out.”

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

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):