Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chapter 122 - Recruits


(Shvehona City College Career Fair, Shvehona City, Dimiya)

As one of the industrial centers of Dimiya, Shvehona City had a lot of people, even in a world where automation could do a lot. A lot of people meant a lot of kids, and those kids eventually grew up and needed to look for jobs. As it so happened, I needed to hire a bunch of people because of the losses and expansions Black Star was facing, so I did something I really wasn’t used to, and put on an actual suit with a tie and everything. All nicely tailored, of course, so that it made me look like a professional businessman. Or a Man in Black, but most people here wouldn’t get that reference, so that was fine.

Shvehona City College was not the most prestigious school on the planet, but it had a lot of smart kids that couldn’t afford better schools, and were hoping for some kind of education to improve their chances at getting good jobs. Even better, the College opened their annual Career Fair to the public, so anyone who was looking to make a change could come in, see who was hiring, and fill out applications.

The Black Star Company had actually paid for four adjoining tables, with a very nicely done banner with the corporate logo stretching over them. The in-house art department did good work with it. The leader of the art department was actually a widow, who lost her husband at Nuevo Edo when the Artemis took a nasty hit. After my speech at the club, she sought me out (along with pretty much everyone in attendance, but we’d planned on that so it was quickly organized with numbers being called) and said that she was an artist before Jagloth. She showed me some of her work, and I had her get in touch with the HR people to start up an art department. She was actually at a similar job fair at the art college in Thelorious, just like one of our best eggheads was holding an interview event at one of the better known research institutes on the planet. Both of those were also open to the public.

The four tables were separated by the roles Black Star took on. We had the ‘military’ table, with a representative each from the Black Star Navy and the Black Star Marines, the ‘shipping’ table, with Captain Chaebella of the Articuno, one of the Raven-class freighters I employed, the ‘production’ table, with Nondrin taking a break from the yards, lured by the prospect of getting fresh hands, and finally the ‘not sure’ table, where Raven and I were sitting (and also going through applications and interviews of people sent to us by the other tables). Suffice to say, we had a lot of people interested in what jobs we had available. We were, after all, the hot new company that was going out and doing crazy things. When we had reached out to Shvehona City College to arrange our attendance, they were happy to have us. When we made clear what kind of presence we were going to have, they were thrilled, since this would bring visibility to their college from across the planet.

Most people fit into the first three tables. Dimiya was a big planet, but public transport was fairly cheap, and we’d publicly announced where we were going to be, so most of the ‘science’ and ‘creative’ types had gone to those interviews, although we did have some of them come here, if only because they weren’t sure about us, and were looking at the other groups hiring as well. Some really couldn’t afford the transit fees. That was fine with me. The poor people who were getting a hand up were the ones more likely to be loyal to a company that didn’t treat them like dirt, or a cog in the machine.

I had Raven with me, of course, and Cali and Jaynie were providing discrete protection nearby, officially listed as ‘helpers’ who were arranging the gift bags we had put together for those who put in an application. Also with me was Liviana Armata, the former pop star who had been brutalized in the Empire for her stance on slavery, now acting as my assistant. She’d been making good strides lately, and while she wasn’t ready to become a pop star again, her counselor said that it would be a good move to have her out in public without the Stepford protocols on. She was more reserved than she had been as a pop idol, and with how she wore her hair now, one would be hard pressed to recognize her, even if we were on Earth.

Aimon Elasatra
Knelfi Male
Level 5
Titles: Hacker, Programmer, Criminal

I broke myself out of my reverie as another candidate stepped up. Looking the kid over, he was a fairly typical Knelfi, though he was definitely on the scrawny side, but he at least was good at pretending to have confidence. This could be interesting. Raven popped a notice up in my HUD. Oh, so this kid not only had a record, but he tried to hack himself an interview with a fake name? Looking at Raven’s notes, he was actually a decent hacker, though he needed more training to be at the level of some of the people on the Black Star teams. “Hello, I’m Mirikon Mollen, owner of the Black Star Company. Are you interested in working for Black Star, Mr. Elasatra?”

Using his real name brought the kid up short, and pretty much shattered his confidence. He started looking for either cops closing in, or a way to make an exit. Well, that wasn’t going to be any fun. So I hit him with Influence, and said, “Take a seat, Mr. Elasatra. You tried to hack your way into a meeting with me, so now you’ve got one. You didn’t really think a company like Black Star would be without technical support, now did you? Or do you prefer being called Wrayth_Override?”

The kid sat heavily in the chair, surprised that he did so. Now he was looking even more scared, and I could tell he was about to get up. Another bolt of Influence made him sit still, for the moment. “If you move from that seat before I tell you to, Mr. Elasatra, you will be in jail before the day is out, I promise you. Now, what name do you prefer, and why did you use a fake name to get into this event?”

Realizing that he was caught, and not getting out of this on anything but my terms, the kid deflated slightly, and said, “Wrayth. Only the cops call me Mr. Elasatra.”

“Excellent. Now we’re getting somewhere. So, Wrayth, why did you arrange this meeting? I assume you had some purpose?” He started to speak, but I broke him off. “Oh, and my assistants here both have the best in lie-detection software up and running already, and we already have a nice baseline for you, but if I have reason to believe you’re lying, then this will cease to be a ‘pleasant chat’ about a potential job offer, and will move into ‘interrogation’. Do you understand this mild threat, or should I be more explicit in the future?”

“N-no, no need for that. I understand. Lie detecters, mental psy, and who knows what else. Got it. So, I came for the bounty.”

“Oh? It can’t be a physical bounty, since while I’m sure you could do some damage in the digital realm, you are not exactly the right build for a bounty hunter. So it would be one of the digital bounties, then. Tell me more.”

“Well, the black networks, there’s sites only hackers know about, right? Once your ships came back from the planet that’s all chicks, some bounties went up on your company, and you personally, looking for dirt.”

“Ah, so it was someone who did not like our performance at Nuevo Edo. Interesting. I assume that you checked into who was offering these bounties, yes? To make sure you weren’t being led into a trap?”

“Natch. But they were good, had a cutout that would have fooled most people that led to one of the Senators for Dimiya. He was one of the ones who was hawkish about fighting the Impies again, but the new Empress doesn’t want war, and he wanted the new planet you found added to the Confederation.”

Raven brought up four possibilities for sitting Senators from Dimiya that fit the profile, based on their public remarks. Looks like I was stuck in some political garbage. Wonderful! Fortunately, if they were taking this to the dark net, then I didn’t have to play fair, either. Nodding to Wrayth, I said, “Continue. What exactly were you hoping to get?”

“Well, there were three bounties. One wanted your tech stuff, natch, since you’ve got some of the best toys out there. Your ships beet off a shit ton of X’thari, and they’re like bogeymen of Known Space, right? Second was looking for your financials, so they could see if there was anything they could use there. Third was looking for blackmail on you or the people working for you.”

“And why did you come here? It isn’t like I would be so foolish as to keep any of that on me in a public place.”

“Well, the servers have been bashing hackers since they went online. No clue how you do it, but you got some drek-hot software. Anyways, I knew I couldn’t get in the normal way, so I figured maybe it was easier if I was already in the system, legit.”

I leaned back in my chair, and said, “Ah, well that explains things. Very interesting indeed. Now, Wayth, that brings us to the question of what we are going to do with you.”

The kid started looking defensive again. “Hey, woah, I told you everything I know! And I didn’t actually hack you, so there’s no reason to go doing anything to me, you know. I just walk out, we pretend this never happened, and I don’t come near you again, yeah?”

I ignored him, and looked over to Raven. “Thoughts?”

“Including ‘Wrayth’, there have been four hundred and thirty-seven hackers who have attempted to infiltrate Black Star systems since the bounties went live. Fifty-six of those attempts included illicit access to Black Star properties to attempt physical access to closed systems. Of the digital attempts, only three can be traced to the top 40% of known hacker aliases on Dimiya. Those three have been traced to known associates of a certain member of the Confederation Senate. All other top names, including military and intelligence ones, have apparently learned from the lessons we taught them last time. No attempts have been made from hackers associated with organized crime.”

Wrayth’s eyes went wide. “You have all that info, right there, without needing to go look it up?”

Raven looked at Wrayth, and smiled a smile that would freeze one to the marrow. “Oh no, I collated the data starting from when you mentioned the bounties, and then spent extra time cross-checking to ensure other avenues were missed.”

Wrayth was pale already, like most ‘information specialists’ but his face went white as the implications of what he heard hit him, and he realized that he was nowhere near the league of the woman in front of him. Fortunately, he knew when to shut his mouth, it seemed, because he didn’t say anything else.

I looked over to my other assistant. “Liviana, do we have any openings for a… technology and information specialist position in Black Star?”

Liviana didn’t even flinch when I called her by name. It had taken her a long time, but I was glad to see she was coming out of her shell. I made a note to have some music of different backgrounds sent to her, if the counselor agreed. Perhaps instead of pop she could do some blues, or cabaret style songs? That would be more low-key and less ‘peppy’ than a pop idol would be.

“Yes, Master. The Black Star Navy has openings on all new ships, as well as several of the ones that were damaged. The Black Star Marines and the tactical teams both could use hackers for field work during hostile engagements. From the other side, additional security for the Dimiya and Nuevo Edo locations could include another in-house digital security specialist.”

I nodded, and then turned to look at Wrayth. “Now, you have two options. Option one, you get up, leave, and never so much as dream of working against Black Star or anyone we’re working with. You get no bounty, you get no job, but you will have us paying very close attention to you, should we need to bring you in for a ‘discussion’ if you do something we don’t like. Do you understand option one?” I waited for him to nod his head, and continued. “Option two, you forget about this bounty business, come to work for Black Star in a paying position, but you will be monitored and given ‘incentives’ to prevent temptation on betraying the company or its employees. You will work at the site we designate for you, and this will include moving from your mother’s basement in Essrion to someplace more secure. You will be an employee, not a prisoner, but until you prove you can be trusted, you will not be trusted further than I can throw you. Betraying the company will result in your enslavement, or worse. Do you understand option two?”

Wrayth nodded.

“Excellent. Now, what are you going to choose, Mr. Elasatra?”




Previous Chapter                                       Table of Contents                                     Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-omnibus-i-stuart-grosse/1128953195?ean=2940162052081

Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chapter 170 - Meet the Parents


So stopping by the different guild halls didn’t take that long. The Adventurer’s Guild was actually on one of the main roads, on the way to the Crafter’s district. Stopping in at the Adventurer’s Guild was literally a matter of just showing up at the desk, updating our Guild cards, and checking on local quests. Now that we were in the Abyss, I wanted to stay for a while, and get stronger, once we sent the kids back home.

Name
Zayn Darkmore
Rank
B
Race
Hellspawned Drake (Incubus)
Status
Chosen – Sharess
Knight – Wyrmwood
Lord - Lithaes
Consort – Black Rock
Consort - Mirelth
Level
100
Class
Hexblade (Warlock)
Profession
Slave Master (Slave Trainer)
Subclass
Soulbreaker (Dominator)
Titles
The Executioner, The Sexecutioner, Corrupter, Master Chainmaker, Machiavelli, Dragonfriend, Dragon Consort, Slave Trader, Trophy Hunter, Harem King, Stud Horse, Undead Bane, Leash Lord, Dragon Summoner, Dark Ritualist, Troll Bane, Unholy Hordebreaker, To Launch a Thousand Ships, Chosen of Sharess, Silver Tongued, Lichloved, Godlayer, Demon Binder, Crusader

Not much had changed in my guild card, other than my level. Part of the reason for that is that not just anyone could get to A rank and above. You actually had to take guild tests to get those ranks, which meant that you could get up to level 200 or more and still be a B rank Adventurer. The reason for the difference was that A rank and above needed more than just raw strength and levels. You had to be able to adapt and respond to creatures that, frankly, were cheating existences that made me look positively normal in comparison.

Anyways, while I checked out the local quests, I didn’t take any yet, since I didn’t know what the situation with Kylana’s parents was going to be like. Which meant our next stop was the Crafter’s Hall and the Tradesman’s Pavilion. Both buildings were basically one stop shops for administration of the various Crafter and other Professions. There were some professions that didn’t have an office at one of the two places, but none of them were ones we had. Even the Slaver’s Guild had an office at the Tradesman’s Pavilion, allowing me to register with them, so I could get the rules on enslaving people, and could legally take, buy, and sell slaves as a business in Xanl City. The others were now able to legally practice their professions, too, which also allowed them to use the forge, workbench, or whatever the trade equivalent was, for a small fee. Not a bad system they had going on, honestly, especially since with high level gear you often needed stuff from several professions in order to get the best effects.

For now, though, we contented ourselves with simply making our names known to the locals, and we headed on to meet Kylana’s parents. Their house, as expected of the Captain of the Guard, was in a nicer part of town than the Crafter’s district, but even the kids were able to keep up the pace (though they were looking a bit tired) since we made sure to work on their stamina as kids, and hopefully help build up some attribute points through constant work. That’s actually how Locals got their ‘starting’ stats when they got of age. Turns out, before you get a class, it is possible to build up your attributes through exercise, even for Travelers. No one had figured that out until about two (game) years in, because everyone was so excited to battle and get quests that they hurried and got their class first thing.

Anyways, Iaryx led us to a large building made of Iron inlaid with gold, with obsidian accents around each door and window, and a wrought iron fence enclosing the grounds. It was very much what a palace would look like if Iron and Obsidian were the most plentiful materials around that were not the reddish-brown stones some of the lesser buildings were made of. Wood, for instance, did not seem to be a popular material, probably due to scarcity. Nodding towards the palace, Iaryx said, “Our family has held the Captaincy of the Guards of Xanl City since before what the material plane calls the Scourge, when we led the defense against the Terrors. They were less strong here, by some quirk of the plane, which meant that even though the plentiful magic of the Material plane allowed them access, they were largely toothless, so long as no one succumbed and began a cult within the walls. During those days, the Guard hunted heretics as much as they did thieves and murderers. Sometimes they were the same thing.”

Stepping through the gates, I nodded as I saw the little thief now doing yard work under the eye of what must be the groundskeeper for the mansion. She looked up at me, but I told her, “Finish your tasks, while I find out how well you obeyed my commands.” She frowned, but went back to work without complaining.

Ozmeros
Greater Hellion Male
Level 140 Dark Templar (Fighter) / Blademaster (Fighter)
Titles: Demonbane, Orc Bane, Undead Bane, Angelkiller, Blademaster, Unbreakable, Unstoppable, Doting One

Vylsya
Greater Hellion Female
Level 130 Shadowblade (Rogue) / Hellfire Sorceress (Fire Sorceress)
Titles: Demonbane, Orc Bane, Undead Bane, Terror Slayer, Angelkiller, Silent Killer, Poisoner

Kylana’s father was just as imposing as the last time I’d seen him, and apparently he’d been doing some hunting, since his level had grown over the last few years. Standing next to him was a lovely woman that clearly showed where Kylana got her looks from, though she was less bookish and more femme fatale. Neither one wore armor, though that was to be expected in their family home. I didn’t doubt that they had weapons near at hand, though, just in case.

I was about to say hello, when Kylana burst past me to hug her parents. I simply chuckled, and waited for a moment. Kylana was all smiles, and while her mother and father didn’t look entirely happy to see me, the prospect of seeing their grandkid was definitely worth my presence. Ozmeros was about to say something, but Vylsya cut in front of him, clearly showing who ruled the house.

“So, you are the incubus that summoned my daughter, are you? Well, let’s have a look at you. Take off that hood.”

I noticed Kylana giving me a death glare over her mother’s shoulder, and decided that not poking the bear was a safer course of action. Instead, I bowed to the lady of the house, and said, “My apologies, but that would be unwise. Kylana has informed you of some measure of my adventures in this world, I know, but perhaps she skipped some of the blessings I have. Because of the blessings I’ve been given, on a first meeting ladies above the age of maturity have a magical compulsion to throw themselves at me on the first meeting. Another of the gifts I have is that those who are swayed by some of my powers then have a compulsion set upon them making them beg to become my slave. Wearing this enchanted hood is all that allows me to walk down the street unmolested, stopped every few feet by a willing woman. It is something that is always on, and affects friend and foe alike, conquering even proud drow maidens. So until I’ve been in your presence long enough to negate the magic, I must decline to reveal my face.”

Vylsya blinked, and said, “Wait, that was truth, and not just my fanciful daughter being poetic about your womanizing ways?”

I smiled, and shook my head. “Ah, no. The womanizing ways is certainly accurate enough, as it goes, since I AM an Incubus, but even my stamina would quickly run dry if I attempted to walk the city streets uncloaked, and no doubt angry fathers, brothers, sons, and fiances would soon be chasing me out of town with thoughts of murder on their mind. And I believe Kylana would be the first in line to do me harm if I ensared her mother in front of her, regardless of whether it was by will or no.”

Vylsya nodded. “Well, at least she’s beaten that much sense into you, at least.” She looked over to Iaryx, and said, “Iaryx, dear, you will be dining with us I’ve already sent word to Felsea, and she and the kids will be spending the night as well. You and your men were released to ensure the safety of the outsiders while in the city, yes? Tell your men they can return after they’ve had a good breakfast tomorrow morning, as our guests won’t be venturing out before then.”

Turning her attention back to me, as Iaryx went about her commands, Kylana’s mother said, “And now, what is the deal with this little girl you sent up here from the lower city? I assume there is some reason she said she was to help out here until you came to pass judgement on her? I hope you are not one of those incubi who like to prey on the young? I would hate to have to stain my carpets with your blood while my daughter watches.”

I smiled, and said, “Have no fear of that, milady. My tastes do not run in that way. While I admit to having wide and varied tastes, moreso than most men, I do not covet children in such a way, and do not allow those who do to live in my lands, something your daughter can attest to. No, the little scamp is a thief who was attempting to pick my pocket. I placed a binding on her so that I could track her if she went astray, and told her to come here to report our coming, and that I might have work for her should she prove that she could follow instructions and refrained from pocketing anything before I got here. However, I told her that my judgement would be based on her performance and her attitude.”

Vylsya’s eyes flickered to the side, where the girl in question had just entered the house again through a side entrance, in time to hear that I hadn’t forgotten about her judgement. A small smile crossed her face as she saw that I was aware of the girl’s presence. “And why would you hesitate in your judgement? From all my daughter has said of you in your letters, you seem the type that would gladly enslave the girl, or perhaps just take a hand and leave her maimed for life, for such an offense.”

Not letting on to the girl that I knew she was there, I said, “Yes, and I thought about it, since the little one clearly had problems in judging her targets. She was correct in guessing that a newcomer to the city, dressed as we are might have coin aplenty, but she was sadly lacking in determining whether her skills were up to the task. So I sent her here as a test. As you know, I am the leader of a guild of Adventurers on the material plane, and have been granted a good deal of land by the king of the Elves. The brat has some potential, so I was wondering whether she could be properly honed into a useful tool for when she is older. But if she does not stop slinking about in the shadows over there and present herself, then I may have to give her up as a lost cause.”

I smirked to Vylsya as we heard the yelp of the girl who was trying to hide while she listened in, and turned to her as she stepped forward. “So, little one. I’ve already seen your name to be Diana Hammer. That and your mixed heritage say there is a story to be told. How did you come to be a thief on the streets?”

The girl looked defiant for a moment, before taking a breath, and said, “My mother was a succubus, who was summoned and bound by a warlock as his familiar. She was his slave in all but name, and he raped her until she bore me. When I was old enough to walk, I was forced to start cleaning his home as a servant. A year ago, he took my mother with him on a trip to a nearby dungeon. They never returned, and I have been on my own since then.”

I nodded slowly. “I see. Then your father is most likely dead, and your mother, if she yet lives, was most likely sent to the plane she originally came from, as is normal when a familiar is dismissed.” I smiled at the look of hope that crossed the girl’s face. “Oh yes, if your mother was summoned here as a familiar, then there is a chance she may live. But succubi are present throughout all the planes but those belonging to the celestials, so finding her may prove difficult. I will think on this. For now, what is your age?”

“I will be five in three months.”

“I see. Then hear my sentence to you. You will spend the next three months as a ward of my guild in the lands of Lithaes, where I rule at the behest of the King of the Wyrmwood. When that time is up, you will be tested for your class, and indentured to my guild until you reach the age of majority. There are those who are skilled in divination magics amongst my followers, and once you have your class I will allow you to negotiate with them to help see whether your mother yet lives. If she does, then we may see about summoning her to see you again. But know that this is not charity on my part. You will be worked, and hard, for the benefit of the guild, both before you gain your class and during your indenture. After that time, you may join the guild as a full member, or go your own way, as is your choice.”

I’ll admit, of all the responses I got to that pronouncement, a child throwing herself at me while she wept was not the one I expected. Looking up at Vylsya, I shrugged. “I think I broke her.”

“Yes, but we’ll see if she comes around when dinner is served. But at least I have the measure of the man my daughter is bound to now. I’ll make sure the cooks leave the poison out of your meal.”




Previous Chapter                                       Table of Contents                                     Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-omnibus-i-stuart-grosse/1128953195?ean=2940162052081

Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chapter 121 - Funerals


(Raven’s Roost Bar, Black Star Station, Dimiya System)

The bar was packed to capacity, but people weren’t celebrating. The bar had actually been rented out by the owner of Black Star Company, and while he could have simply demanded the use of the bar, he paid the normal rental fee. The bar’s owner, after all, was the wife of Wisteria’s tactical team leader, who had been injured during the defense of Nuevo Edo when a conduit ruptured in his face.

Two of his team members had died in the blast, which made him one of the ‘lucky’ ones, even if he had burns over 30% of his body. There were many stories like him throughout the Black Star Fleet, but especially amongst the group who had been with the Owner the longest, the members of First Group, who had fought alongside him during the Imperial Civil War.

When the X’thari had attacked the Nuevo Edo System, they’d come in at several different points, to split the defenders’ forces. The Owner had known this, and split his groups anyway, to keep the X’thari from gathering and overwhelming the defenders. Every tactical simulation agreed that if the X’thari had come in at the same point, they  would have been able to mass enough weight of fire that they could easily have destroyed the entire Black Star Fleet, and the Nuevo Edoan Navy. The only thing that saved them was the caution the X’thari showed in approaching a group that had shown they had weapons and tactics the insectile aliens had never seen before. But the cost of victory had been steep. Oh sure, the dead and wounded were a pittance compared to the numbers who would have died if the fleet was wiped out, but the losses amongst the defenders were not small.

Everyone here was a friend or relative of one of the fallen. Everyone here knew someone who was not coming back. Fully two thirds of the Shinokage’s crew had been killed during the battle, which left her with the dubious distinction of having the highest death toll of any ship that survived the battle. Those who were members of the Black Star Fleet were dressed in full dress uniforms, black upon crimson, in reverse of the normal blacks they wore while on duty. When Shinokage had been repaired, First Group returned through the Gateway to Dimiya, to allow the Nightforge and the Nuevo Edo yards to repair the system’s defenders first, and begin building up the defensive fleet.

The low murmurs of conversation died immediately when a high, piercing whistle sounded throughout the bar. Turning to the source of the sound, the crowd saw the Owner there, standing in his own dress uniform, with his crew from the Starlight Raven standing behind him. As one, they walked through the crowd, until they got to a podium that stood upon the stage where normally a band would be playing. The Owner’s Harem, as the girls were known, stood at attention behind the man that led them all as he stepped to the podium.

“For those of you who have not met me before, I am Mirikon Mollen, Commodore of the Black Star Fleet and Owner of the Black Star Company. Two months ago, the Black Star Fleet, with the help of the Nuevo Edo Navy, repelled an attack upon the Nuevo Edo System by the X’thari, in what has been confirmed to be the largest fleet action by the X’thari since the end of the last X’thari War.”

“We were outnumbered, outmassed, and outgunned. Our ships, built for stealth and sneak attacks, were forced to take on the enemy in pitched battle, because if we did not, then a world would die. It was truly the worst possible situation a fleet like ours could be thrown into, and we went in willingly, knowing that we might all die that day.”

“The victory we won that day belongs not to any one individual or small group of people, but to all of Black Star. It belongs to the captains and officers who fought their ships, and kept a cool head under fire, never ceding defeat, doing whatever they could for victory. It belongs to the engineers and crewmen who worked desperately to keep their ships in the fight, often at grave risk to their own lives. It belongs to the fighter pilots who took on frigates and cruisers that massively outmassed them so that their fellows would have just one more chance to strike back at the enemy. It belongs to the bombers, who struck heavy blows at the enemy, stripping away their numbers before the battle even began. It belongs to the Marines who hurled themselves into the unknown, being the first group to capture a new class of X’thari vessel intact. It belongs to the yard workers, who up to the last moment were turning out new ships, new fighters, new bombers, racing against time to give us as good a chance as we could possibly get. And it belongs to all of you, the silent supporters, the reason many of our comrades fought and bled and went that extra measure in the hopes of returning home. The victory belongs to all of Black Star, and as the Owner, it is my command that not one of you forgets that!”

There were cheers, and the owner allowed them to continue. His people here needed this, as much as the crews of First Group did. He waited a moment, and then raised his hands to quiet the crowd.

“As you know, First Group of the Fleet was hit hardest in the battle, as we were the only group without bomber support. I want you all to know that the decision to throw First Group into that fight was mine, and mine alone. We had four groups of enemies entering the system, and three groups of ships to respond to them with. To say that this was an untenable situation would be a massive understatement. I chose to throw First Group into the fire, knowing that we might lose all the ships, because they were, and still are, the most experienced forces of the Fleet. It was a deadly situation, and I knew that only our most experienced crews would have a chance to pull through. And pull through they did! Battered and broken, but never beaten, they fought and bled and died, but their ships and crewmates survived, and the X’thari did not.”

One of the bar’s servers came on stage with a tray with glasses filled with wine. One by one, each member of the Owner’s Harem picked up a glass, and held it in front of them. Finally, the owner himself picked up the last of the glasses. Servers throughout the bar had just finished replenishing glasses, so that every man and woman in the bar now held a glass aloft.

“We are gathered here to pay respects to the dead, those men and women of all races who fought and fell, but did not fight in vain. Many, too many, died because we fought a fleet that outmatched us, but many more live on because of their courage, their sacrifice. To all the members of the Black Star Fleet, but especially to the survivors and the fallen of First Group, we lift our cups. I promise you now that we will learn from this battle, and will not be caught unprepared again!”

“We fight as one!”

And the crowd yelled back, “WE FIGHT AS ONE!”

With that response from the gathered crowd, he drained his glass, as did the rest of the bar. Again, he waited for the crowd to settle, before he said, “I have just a few more remarks, before allowing you all to get to your remembrances. There are those amongst you who were dependents of a Black Star who fell. Whether they were a slave or free, they were Black Stars, and so are you. If you feared being turned out because they died, rest assured, you are one of us, and will remain so. Those of you who had before tended the home fires, and now find yourselves adrift, we are offering training and new jobs as the fleet expands.”

“Yes, all three Groups will be returned to their pre-battle strength, and then will be reinforced with new ships. In addition, I am announcing that the Fourth and Fifth groups are now planned. As we now have operations in two arms of the galaxy, I have decided that we should be able to protect our people in both arms. Second Group will remain the Home Fleet for our people here in Dimiya, and Fourth Group will be formed to support them, and operations throughout this area of Known Space. Third Group will continue to aid in the building of the Nuevo Edo fleet, and Fifth Group will be created to support operations in that arm, as the X’thari will no doubt attempt to probe our defenses once again. And First Group shall forever be the tip of the spear. We have the addresses of Gateways across the galaxy, so there is an entire galaxy for us to explore. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find where the X’thari are hiding and take the fight to their homes for a change, with the Black Star Marines leading the way!”

He let the cheers die out, before saying, “And for those of you who realize that a warrior’s life is not for you, I can tell you that we will also be expanding our merchant fleet, expanding our seven Raven-class light freighters to twelve, and introducing a new class of Bulk Freighters, beginning with the BSS Oregon Trail, which had the keel laid just this morning! Or maybe you wish to explore the arts, or learn a craftsman’s trade? We will train you for that, too! And if science is your passion? Then we are always looking for ways to improve the Fleet, and the individuals who serve it. You have an idea that others laugh at because it goes against the norm? We’ve manufactured our success doing just that! Oh sure, we may laugh when we hear the idea, but then we’re going to get to work with you and see if we can’t make that idea a reality that can help our fighters the next time they go into battle!”

As the polite laughter died down, the owner nodded to the crowd, and said, “Now, the bar is open for the rest of the night. Drink up, in memory of those who are gone, because tomorrow we go back to work, so that we don’t shame their memories by wallowing in our grief, but hone it into a sword and shield to protect those who remain!”


(Confederate Intelligence Service HQ, Somewhere on Dimiya)

Alok Paxisys sighed as he reviewed the latest data coming across his desk on the Black Star Fleet, and its enigmatic Commodore. He’d originally thought to turn him into an intelligence asset when they first met, but that idea had quickly been scrapped with the way he suddenly rose in visibility with his Black Star Company. Besides the fact that he was too visible and financially stable to be a proper agent, his attitude, like most Nomads, was completely inappropriate for an intelligence asset. So with ‘spy’ off the table, he had next floated the idea of using the Black Stars as privateers to harass the Imperials while they were in their civil war, and that had been a success. Too much of a success, actually, as he had turned the entire civil war around, helping to end it before the Imperials could be bled completely dry.

After that, he had tried to turn members of the company, but traditional methods didn’t work, and the ‘special’ methods they’d originally developed on Jagloth were useless against a group that already knew them and had defenses in place. Now, they had beaten off a True Variant Hunt of the X’thari, with numbers that, on paper, should have been completely wiped out! This, along with the new Terran Empress supporting Nuevo Edo as a free port, which rumors suggested was Commodore Mollen’s idea, had ruined some of the more hawkish members of the Senate’s ambitions to expand the Confederacy by including Nuevo Edo forcefully, if necessary. Those members were now turning their displeasure towards the Black Star Company, and Paxisys had been ordered to find something they could use against the Nomad and his people.

Alok sighed, and hit a button on his desk, “Alred, get in here. We have work to do.”




Previous Chapter                                       Table of Contents                                     Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4
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Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Chapter 169 - Xanl City


The first view I had of Xanlham, the 390th Plane of the Abyss, was much the same as I had seen the last time, I’d looked upon it, when I had first opened the Abyssal Rift that became this permanent gateway between planes. Red-black smoke covered the ‘sky’ of this plane, and yet it was as bright as a partly-cloudy day. In the distance the iron walls and obsidian spires of Xanl City rose, the major landmark in this strange place.

Of course, closer to hand were the counterpart to the garrison on the other side of the Gate, with warriors at the ready to defend against armed incursions from the other side. I was not surprised to see two ballistae lined up with a perfect shot at those coming through the gate, should they be hostile. The road coming from the Gateway had two sharp turns in it as it passed through the iron barricades, not so sharp as to prevent trade wagons from passing around them, but they would prevent someone from rushing the fortifications and breaking through easily enough. There were signs of Earth magic being used as well, to help shape the area into a natural choke point. All in all, it was very nicely done. An army could be held off by a far smaller force here, and breaching it would either take phenomenal power or rivers of blood. Probably both.

A hellion in gleaming black plate armor stood before us and held one hand up, the other resting upon the haft of his halbard. “Halt, and state your names and your business in the realm of Xanlham.” Well, border control checkpoints are the same everywhere, I guess.

“I am Zayn Darkmore, Lord of Lithaes, Knight of the Wyrmwood, Consort of the Princess of the Black Rock Orcs and the Queen of Dragons, Chosen of Sharess, and the one who opened the gateway you are now guarding. With me stand my companions and their children, including Kylana, Daughter of Ozmeros who was, when last I met him, a Captain of the Xanl City guard. Our business is a family visit.”

THAT got more attention our way, for certain, and the guard (who I was now certain was some kind of officer) called out a name. There was movement to one side, as one of the guards who was armed with a longsword and shield. His armor was also black, but less important-looking than the officer’s, so he was probably a lieutenant of some kind. The man advanced next to the officer, and saluted. “Sir!”

Iaryx
Greater Hellion Male
Level 80 Bulwark (Fighter) / Warpriest (Priest)
Titles: Defender, Demon Bane

“Sergeant, this Incubus claims that one of your kin is in his party. Is this true, or are we going to have to question him and his party further on why they’d be impersonating kin of a Guardsman?”

Kylana spoke up then, “Iaryx, you little rat! Hurry up and tell this man who I am, before I start telling everyone about all those ‘interesting’ stories I have from when you were a child! We can start with the time when you were just five, and Mother took us to the market—”

“Agh, shut up, you witch!” The guard grumbled, before looking at the Captain. “Yes, Lieutenant, that would be my sister. She was studying at the Grand Library before she was summoned as a familiar to a warlock, which I assume would be the incubus standing there.”

The captain nodded, and looked back to me. “Very well. If your familiar has not mentioned it, then allow me to say that Captain Ozmeros is well respected by the guards of the city, as he has led the Guard for thirty years now. The penalty for impersonating a Guardsman or their family is severe, due to the power the Guard has in the City. The Captain wishes to keep the ranks free of corruption, see.”

“I understand perfectly. Will we need to prove our identity again at the gates of the city?”

“No, because the Sergeant will be going with you, to make sure you don’t get lost or waylaid while you’re in the city.” The Lieutenant looked over to Iaryx, and said, “Sergeant, you and your squad will accompany these Travelers as an escort for their time in the city. Let Commander Shysea at the Gate know, so she can adjust the duty rosters accordingly.”

“Yes, Sir!” The Sergeant saluted, and then quickly called his squad, a group of five men, and soon they were arranged as a protective detail for us. As we headed to the Gate of the City, just half a mile away, he moved beside me so we could speak. “So, you’re the Incubus that bound my sister, hmm? Glad to see someone finally managed to keep her out of the library. She was always studying and never went out. We were worried she was never going to find a ‘partner’. But here I see she has a child, bearing your name? How did you convince her to leave her books for so long?”

There was a clang, and a curse from Kylana as she hit her brother’s armor with her hand. I decided to be merciful, and ignore that. Instead, I answered Iaryx’s question. “I am an incubus blessed by Sharess. Naturally, I was simply very, very persuasive in getting her to turn some of her studies into practical knowledge. Did you know that there are books in your Grand Library which pertain entirely to magical rituals that can only be completed with a man and a woman conjoined in passion?”

“Really now? Well, that certainly explains why she spent so much time in the restricted sections of the library! OOF!”

I laughed as Kylana hit her brother again, this time with the end of her staff, and soon everyone was at least smiling at this display of sibling love. “At any rate, most of the kids you see here are mine. All but two, in fact, and likewise all but two of the adults are mine, though the other two are part of my guild, which I lead. The children were now at a level where they could travel some, as long as we went directly from one place to another on safe paths, instead of exploring, so we thought it time to introduce them to some of their parents.”

With Iaryx there to vouch for us, and pass on the word for a change in deployments, we were allowed to enter the city without much issue. Once we were inside, I noticed a bit of movement as the crowd of a city pushed around us, and said, “Now, I know we did not announce when we would be arriving in the city because we didn’t know how long it would take.” My hand darted out and grabbed a slender arm, the hand of which was still attempting to slip into my coinpurse without my noticing.

Diana Hammer
Half-Hellion Succubus Female
Level 5
Titles: Survivor

I looked down at the child who had been attempting to steal from me. “Tell me, Iaryx, what is the penalty for thieves in the City? I seem to have caught a little one who has fingers that are defter than they ought to be.”

Iaryx looked at the girl, who could not have been more than three or five by the looks of her, dressed in rags that spoke clearly of her being a street rat of some kind, and said, “Depends on the extent of the crime, and the target. A thief caught stealing from nobles could expect to lose their hand, if not their life, unless the target suggested some other arrangement.”

I ignored the girl’s struggles to try and get out of my grasp, since that simply wasn’t going to happen. “I see. Then I think I will do this.” I looked at the girl, and touched her at the back of the neck. “[Soul Chain].” A white chain appeared momentarily, encircling her neck before stretching out to wrap around my wrist, before disappearing.

“Now hear me, child. That spell binds you to me for twenty-four hours. No matter where you go on this plane, I will be able to find you, and should you not do what I tell you, then I will hunt you down and make sure you live to see your error.” I paused, to make sure that the severity of my threat was made clear, before continuing. “You will run to the home of the Captain of the Guard, Ozmeros, and present yourself at the door. You are to inform those who live there that Lord Darkmore of the Wyrmwood is coming to visit with his comrades, and that Lady Kylana and her daughter are with him. You will report our numbers to them accurately, and tell them that we shall arrive after we check in with the various guilds, to ensure that we are in compliance with local laws as we practice our trades. You will then tell them that I have ordered you to obey their commands until I arrive to pronounce judgement on whether I offer you something better than just taking your hand and leaving you to suffer in squalor.”

I leaned in and whispered, “And next time, you should get a better read of your target, and see whether they are actually distracted when you attempt to pick their pocket. Still, you’re talented for one so young. What are your Sleight of Hand and Sneak skills at?”

The girl sighed, and said, “Advanced 1 for Sleight of Hand, and Intermediate 5 for Sneak.”

I nodded as I released the girl’s arm. “Very impressive. Now go, and do as I’ve commanded. When I arrive at the house, if you are still there, and have behaved yourself while in the house, I may have an offer for you. But I will expect your story before I offer it to you. Oh, and it goes without saying that stealing from the Captain of the Guard would be a sure way to make me revoke any leniency I may grant you.”

The girl narrowed her eyes, and said, “I’m not going to be doing any of those things with you, not ‘till I’m older, and definitely not as some kind of threat.”

I laughed at that. “Oh, no, my tastes do not run to unripened fruit, do not worry. But you clearly have talent, and if you prove that you can follow instructions, I may just happen to have a job for you, but it might take you out of this city, to a castle I control. But in exchange, I can offer training, and you will not worry for food or clothes.”

The child’s eyes went from distrustful to skeptical to hopeful, and I could not help but smile at the transition. When I nodded, she turned, and ran off, heading into the city. Iaryx looked at me with wonder, and said, “Forgive my saying so, but what was that just now? The pictures of you from the letters Kylana has sent us did not exactly paint a picture of you as the charitable type.”

I laughed, and shook my head. “Oh goodness, no. Charity is not something I’m interested in. However, this is more like an investment. You have a child who has yet to advance to her first class, but has already managed to get a title like ‘Survivor’, and has skills in the Intermediate and Advanced ranges? She is young enough that she could be molded into a potent weapon, either as an assassin, or a spymaster, or whatever pursuit seems best. I am investing in her future ability.”

Iaryx nodded. “All right, that sounds more like what we’ve heard.”

I smiled. “Now, let’s get a move on. I need to check in with the local Adventurer’s Guild, the Slaver’s Guild, and the various crafter’s guilds to ensure there are no problems with authorizations and the like, and I don’t want to give her too much time with the temptation to either try and steal from your parents or run away. That would be a waste of good material.”

Kylana sighed. “Only you, Master. You let her get her hand in your pocket to make sure she was caught, didn’t you?”

“Naturally. She’s skilled, but I’m much better at spotting things like that than she is at hiding them. And she will be able to tell me about the parts of the city your parents can’t officially know.”

Iaryx shook his head. “This is going to be an interesting assignment, I can already tell.”




Previous Chapter                                       Table of Contents                                     Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-omnibus-i-stuart-grosse/1128953195?ean=2940162052081

Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Prologue - Trade Chat


(NERV Game Site – Official DAtS Offline Forums)

Number5Alive, Golddigger, BurtBacharach, CrazyCelt, Blaze, DoYouEvenLyft?, MarcoPolo, MightMakesRight, l33tpally, Bennie, SEA-TAC_Sweetie, Requiesce-in-Pace, MacD, HaveGunsWillTravel, Guardian, GunKitty, Chummer, Inquisitor, SemiSolidSnake, ElfMama, Not_the_Face!, Anonymous3, Anonymous4, Anonymous9, AggregatorOfSorrows, WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot, Dolcett, Backlog, DarkAvariel, Knocker, Hullu_Kapteeni, GrimDark, BloodForTheBloodGod, Queen’s_Bitch, BackDat@55Up, DoYouEvenDPS?, MajorTom, Parca, and DarkAngel are in the chat.

Knocker: What the hell is this about these “X’thari”? What are they?
Number5Alive: Ooh. They’re nasty buggers. No one really knows what they look like, since they always walk around in those technorganic suits of theirs, like some kind of chitin.
Anonymous4: Are you sure they’re suits? Could be actual insectoids.
Number5Alive: Yes, I’m sure. Unless they’ve changed things from Beta.
MacD: Ugh, that was some seriously nasty shit.
CrazyCelt: What happened?
MacD: You ‘wake up’ on a ship, and alarms are going off, and you have to try and get off before the thing goes boom, while landing parties of X’thari try boarding the ship.
CrazyCelt: How tough are they?
MacD: Individually? Not impossible. Their armor is tough, and they’re good fighters, but a combat spec could take one down. Problem is, they’re pack hunters, so there’s never just one.
Number5Alive: Yeah. But you can get a group of them, if you know how to rig traps.
MacD: So one of your traps knocked them out of their suit, and you had time to take a look?
Number5Alive: All of about 20 seconds before the thing came to, noticed I’d removed its helmet, and self-destructed. Took out half the ship with sympathetic explosions.
CrazyCelt: Suicide vests?
MacD: No one knows for sure. But whatever it is, it is like a pocket-sized nuke. Very nasty, if you’re within about 20-30 meters.
Guardian: 5, that was you? I heard talk on the boards about someone in Beta getting a look under the hood.
Number5Alive: Yep. Nasty shock. Didn’t really have time for more than a quick look, and the Beta license didn’t let us save images, for obvious reasons.
Backlog: Man, that would have put you in one of the top spots for the beta, if you didn’t get yourself blown up, right?
Number5Alive: Yeah. Fastest time on the Beta was actually some guy with the Engineer spec. But he showed up on the other specs, too, though with slower times.
M.Mollen: I used to be an engineer in real life. Out of game skills helping game skills, and all.
Backlog: Used to be?
M.Mollen: Medical discharge. I was in an accident, and was left paralyzed from the waist down. Suddenly had a LOT of time for gaming.
Knocker: So are you why the X’thari are showing up all over the place?
M.Mollen: Yes and no. No, I didn’t send them. Yes, they’re showing up because of something I did.
l33tpally: What did you do?
M.Mollen: Led the defense of Nuevo Edo against the X’thari raiders who targeted it, and won.
Knocker: Why would they go off attacking elsewhere, then?
Parca: Because we stomped their asses so hard their mothers felt it. Close on 200 ships and we killed them all, without a dreadnought in our group.
Hullu_Kapteeni: Well, the Boss did call in a favor and get some Imperial assistance to take out the one group.
Parca: OK, fair enough. But we’d already damn near killed them all. That last group would have bled us, but we’d have won.
GunKitty: But now you won, and you don’t have to replace half the fleet.
Anonymous9: So that’s why those Black Star ships ran to the Gateway, and came back today looking they’d been put through the wringer?
M.Mollen: Yeah, had to call in all hands. The Assassin-class corvettes and Reaper-class cruisers are simply not built for slug-fests, and the gunboats are badass for their size, but they’re tiny. Sending that kind of force against a group that included dreadnoughts would be suicidal if that wasn’t our only choice.
BackDat@55Up: Could have cut and run, right? I mean, it wasn’t like you HAD to stay.
M.Mollen: Sure, if you count leaving a planet full of people to die as a viable option. And maybe if there were more of them, I would have made that call.
MarcoPolo: So what does this have to do with raiding in ‘Known Space’?
M.Mollen: Because they had a stealth probe in the system that watched the gate traffic, so they know where we came from. And they now know we have abilities allowing us to fight above our weight class.
Knocker: They’re looking to do tech steals?
M.Mollen: That is what our analysts believe, yes.
Guardian: ‘Analysts’. Heh.
M.Mollen: Technically, I do have several analysts.
HaveGunsWillTravel: That exist primarily so you can say ‘analysts’ with a straight face, and in case they make a jump a more logical mind wouldn’t.
MajorTom: We prefer to think of her as the IT department.
Parca: Chief navigator.
GunKitty: You guys are so bad!
Anonymous4: You have some kind of super-analyst? Is that how you’ve managed to jump ahead in different tech fields?
M.Mollen: The tech jump happened because I got a bunch of clever people together, gave them some tech I ‘acquired’, and told them to go wild designing new things.
Anonymous4: And this super-analyst?
M.Mollen: Is a secret. One that I will torment you with so you won’t think about what else I’m doing while you’re distracted.
Golddigger: That’s cold.
DarkAvariel: So, if most of your fleet is in for repairs, where’s that leave you and Black Star?
M.Mollen: Well, the tech guys are working on some new ship designs, and the Nuevo Edoans are very happy with their investment in Black Star products so far, so we’re going to be building up their fleet for a while.
MajorTom: Don’t forget R&D on the captured X’thari ship.
M.Mollen: Ah yes, the X’thari launched a new ship type at us, so we captured it. R&D is being shared between us and Nuevo Edo, but we may be able to do some contract work for the Empire and Confederates once we unlock a few of their mysteries.
l33tpally: You captured an entirely new type of X’thari ship? How did they not blow it up?
M.Mollen: We kept hitting it with ion cannons to disable the systems and keep them down, and I have Marines, so why wouldn’t I toss them at a problem like capturing an entirely unknown ship type?
MajorTom: That’s why we’re Marines. It is what we do.
M.Mollen: Yep. Oh, and if any of you guys are looking to get thrown into a lot of action, by now any major power will be looking to get as many Nomads into highly lethal roles as possible. Soldiers, spies, fighter pilots… the guy they send into the fusion reactor.
MajorTom: Hah!
Parca: That’s a good one.
Hullu_Kapteeni: He’s not wrong, though. But only for grunts. People like me, who are captains, they prefer we stay out of trouble. Is not like Star Trek at all. A very disappointing lack of sexy green women.
M.Mollen: Don’t give me that crap. That lady last week with the cosmetic mods…
Hullu_Kapteeni: Yes, yes. But is one ever really enough?
M.Mollen: Well… ok, you got me there.
ElfMama: And now I need a cold shower.
Dolcett: Hah!




Previous Chapter                                       Table of Contents                                     Next Chapter



Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-omnibus-i-stuart-grosse/1128953195?ean=2940162052081

Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR

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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Epilogue - Patch Notes 12.X


(A Virtual Room in NERV HQ)

“Damn, I’m going to need a cigarette after that battle.”

Morgan looked over to Isaac, who had just leaned back in his chair as they finished watching the battle from the perspective of those aboard the Shinokage. “Virtual cigs don’t cause cancer, but if you get one of the nasty-smelling ones, I’m going to be pissed.”

“Fine, fine. Anyways, it looks like our boy’s out of action for a little while, at least. His forces have been beat up pretty badly.”

“Yeah, what do you think he’s going to do while he rebuilds?”

“At a guess? He’s going to consider some way to take on the big suckers without relying on surprise attacks. If you look at his stuff back at Dimiya, they already have a couple new ship types going up for their Marines. Probably so they can split those two companies up if they need to, and deploy them at different places.”

“Yeah, I was looking at that. The marine troop ship is obvious, basically a Black Star redesign of the Thunderfury, but what is that little thing? It looks like a miniature Starlight Raven, but there’s no way that thing could be a freighter.”

“Not sure. Listed crew compliment is seven, and there’s just barely room for that many berths. There’s some cargo space, but it is mostly dedicated to ‘Task-Specific Load’. Not sure about that. What I do know is that these things are fast, stealthy, and armed to the teeth. They’re almost like a cross between those ‘Raptor’ fighters and the Raven­-class freighters.”

“Wonder what he’s planning on doing with them?”

Isaac shrugged. “Probably nothing good, at least as far as his enemies are concerned, but beyond that, who knows? I’m more curious about what he’s going to be doing while his fleet is being fixed up.”

“Won’t he be overseeing the repairs, and probably sleeping with half the planet?”

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll get around to the ladies, but overseeing the repairs doesn’t really appear to be his kind of thing.”

“Hey boss, what about that big carrier his Marines captured?”

Isaac slapped his forehead as he nodded to the tech that spoke up. “Damn, I’d forgotten. That was the big new thing for the X’thari. They’ve never done carriers before, so the carrier and its fighters were all new. It was something they started working on after the last set of wars, when some of the Alliance pilots really made them pay for not having fighter screens during a couple key battles.”

Morgan frowned. “So what kind of tech will that give him access to?”

“Well, there’s the X’thari technorganic stuff. No clue how he might fit that into his current designs, since some of it really doesn’t work well with traditional tech. You’ve got some cool weapons for fighters, but the way it looks they’d probably have to trade any missile/torpedo abilities for the weapons, due to size. So that’d make any fighters he modified from X’thari designed pure short-range threats, since they’d need to be within the beam range. The X’thari sublight drives are more efficient and slightly faster, but cause a deformation in shields which is why the battle wasn’t a lot costlier for him. Probably could fix that, but it’d take R&D time for sure. Their Anchor drives are known, but now he has access to one, so he could probably make copies. Problem is that doing this will draw the wrath of any X’thari ship that detects it, which would be a problem.”

“And what of the X’thari? Are there going to be more hunts?”

“Eventually, sure. But with he utter spanking they got in this fight, there’s no way they do more than sending scouts and setting up Sentinels to report in and watch the system. The system is too ‘heavy’ for them right now, and they know it. Of course, that means they’ll try and make raids, both to get new tech, and to try and draw off defenders. So I expect the other major powers will be getting ‘guests’ before long for small hit and run raids, targeting shipping.”

Morgan nodded. “Good. So it will quiet down for a bit, though players and NPCs traveling between stars or at the edge of systems are more likely to run into X’thari raiders, making them a more visible threat from now on. That’ll be a good way of helping to spin this for the rest of the player base. Speaking of spin, have we found where Deus and his minions set up shop?”

“Yeah, we have several systems that they’ve established ‘respawning dungeons’ in. Some are on populated planets, or used to be populated stations. Some are in places that used to be uninhabited.”

“Can we pick one of the ones in a populated area that isn’t too close to the Empire or Confederacy to leak the location of? Let the players know that there’s more in the works than just what our guy is up to?”

“Ah, the old shiny keys to distract the baby trick? Yeah, there’s one just inside Ihm space where a ‘crash landing’ happened. That’ll give people in the Imperium a feeling like we haven’t forgotten them. I’ll run it by the game AI, but I think we can work that with just a minor tweak, having a couple NPCs go out to investigate the site. It is pretty far from the nearest city, so ‘salvage rights’ could work as a motivation for the NPCs to get out there, maybe on behalf of whoever is important in the area.”

“Excellent. That’ll be great. So when can you get it done?”

Isaac considered for a moment, and then said, “If you want it quick, dirty, and obvious that we brute forced it? Now. If you want it done right, so that people who know what to look for can see a subtle GM push, without actively stepping in to control anyone’s characters, then I’d say a week or so for the first reports to get to the characters on that planet. No clue how fast it’ll spread after that, but it should be quick once a Nomad hears of it, since they’ve been begging for dungeons for months now, IRL.”

“I want this done right. No sense botching it, like with the Deus stuff.”

“Fine, I’ll get with he AI and my guys, and we’ll have a plan to run by you before the end of the day. Sound good?”

“Great.”

“Excellent. So, where do you want to go to dinner tonight? I think I’m in the mood for a bit of splurging after watching that battle. Some kick ass footage there.”

“Oh you!”




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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-omnibus-i-stuart-grosse/1128953195?ean=2940162052081

Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBPF6HR

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