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Power’s Pink Price - Chapter 099

Published at 2nd of April 2024 01:26:48 PM


Chapter 099

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There's always something. I tilt my head, “I can at least listen to what you want.”

“Access,” C3P0 says simply.

Yeah, no, “I'm not about to just hand you the golden goose….”

The archbishop chuckles, “No, of course not. We want you to hook up Alluvion.”

Oh, that's okay, but… “You'll still need to pay your bills; I have infrastructure to maintain.”

The gilded robot considers, “We are choosing not to…”

I interrupt, “Keep in mind: I could have kept those three cruisers that ambushed me.”

“...concern ourselves with such trivial details,” the bot completes… but I know that's not what he was going to say, “the money isn't a deal breaker.”

That's good. There is one other issue, though, “The other wrinkle with that is that Alluvion moves. I don't currently have a way to find it.”

C3PO waves a hand dismissively, “That is of no concern; Triune has a way of making that sort of thing work out.  Alluvion will find you when you enter The Drift if you need to be there.”

I nod, “So on to details, then….”

We go through a contract negotiation, and I settle on my usual terms at a 50% premium.  I'd go higher, as I do want to shaft this idiot… but someone will eventually notice if I'm charging them too much more than I do everyone else; I cite planar boundaries and the complication of the Drift not permitting magical transport across such (not that it actually matters).  Of course, there's also a clause that I'll install my hardware the next time I see Alluvion, with a note that as Alluvion moves, it's largely up to Triune when that happens.

As we're finishing up the paperwork, (which is, ironically, still on actual paper), the Archbishop makes an off-hand comment: “Ah, wonderful. And that lovely trial period even gives me time to verify what you've said with Triune, without slowing things down.  Such a wonderful clause.”

I suppress my groan as I mentally review which lies I've said that might be in Triune's bailiwick, “It functions for that too, I suppose, but it’s mostly intended to let you see how valuable it is before committing, making it simpler to get people to be okay with that first step of joining.”

We both smile as we part ways, I collect the weapons they found as I leave through security, wave goodbye to R2D2's representation, and head back to my freshly-refitted ship.

So… lies… fast Drift fighter, and the Death contingency.

The Death contingency… I can maybe make it true… but it runs into all kinds of issues.  Sure, I could pick up the Spellbook class feature temporarily, stop time, write down the full details of every little spell I've used, scan it into a data disk, and set something up so that they'll spam it out if I fail to check in often enough,  make a few such and scatter them… but ugh. First, someone could find it, and that would knock the board over when I don't want that, because I'm still alive. Second, there's no actual garuntee that anyone would be able to use them: Spells are restricted by class. Third, if someone powerful wants to off me, that just means they need to find my caches first.  Of course, the hardest thing to find is that which doesn't exist… I'll stick with leaving this as a bluff.  At least this lie isn't directly in Triune's domain.

The first… that is RIGHT up Triune's alley.  There's… probably no salvaging that one. C3P0 will now know I can travel the universe without the Drift, if not exactly how.  Well, unless I obtain a fighter fast… I suppose I was planning on getting Cowbird a ship… huh. Well… time to go shopping….

I disconnect from my body, buff up, go online, find a messaging service that's downsizing, and purchase one of their overnight specials.  Yes, it’s unarmed, but it is FAST, and is set up to outrun missiles. It should do, especially after I make it invisible… I can even skip the long duration crafting, as Tiny ships are small enough that I can just use Animate Objects to get them… so it will be a very fast conversion… which is, of course, what I want.  I go ahead and buy the ship (I get a good deal on it; the seller is in more of a hurry to sell than I am to buy, surprisingly… but the title was clean), get it in my hanger, and get to work buffing it up to my general standards (which is to say: Virtually indestructible).

When I'm done, I get Patricia in as my engineer (I figure I'll pilot, and this ship doesn't have guns), assign Cowbird to the Explorer (which I dub “The Borrowed Nest” to go with her theme), grab a spare communications grid Keyhome, and take flight in the only ship I still have that has a Drift Engine (well, I suppose the Twins or Moon might, but eh, I specifically needed a fighter, and wouldn't feel right putting Moon at risk).  I then plot a course for a near-space colony I have yet to visit, and engage the Drift Engine.

And my flight is interrupted just three hours in by Alluvion's appearance.

Well.  A deal's a deal.  I land, get out with Patricia, order my ship to Shapechange into a mouse, put it in my pocket, check the map the Archbishop provided as part of the contract, and walk there.

Alluvion is a technological paradise, which fits, given that it's the holy city of a machine deity. I pass hovercars going the other way, giant mechs stopped at traffic lights, people racing hoverchairs, flying drones delivering packages, and on and on.  I don't see a single magic powered device my entire trip. And the people themselves are more of the same: Androids, the solar powered robots that are the Anacites, Verthani that are more metal than flesh… also some Ysoki, the little rat people. I guess they're everywhere.

The installation location is a data center: Rows upon rows of computers neatly organized in racks, with power and data wiring running down each row… it's a good spot for it.  I'm expected; the SRO managing the door lets me in without a word, the Android engineers running the place let me do my work, and they conveniently have all the adapters needed for their equipment when I ask.

When I get out, though… that's when the ‘fun’ starts. There's five ominous suits of armor resemble faceless statues of black glass that reflect light in unpredictable ways in a half-circle around my exit. It's hybrid technomagical armor… very expensive, can wreck the minds of those nearby, and risky to pilot… unless you happen to be immune. Which I am; the unsettling effects of the suits don't bother me, they're only hurting themselves… that said  the fact that they're ten feet tall and armed to the teeth… that has me doubting their good intentions.

But I'll give them a chance, “What can I do for you fine people today?”

“We want your technology,” comes crackling out of some surface-mounted speakers on the one in the middle, as I notice someone has cordoned off the street, and there are no witnesses.

I take a moment to quietly duplicate the Auto-cam spell and turn recording on in my magic com unit as I reply, “I can certainly lease you a connection to my data network if you have the coinage to cover it.”

I'm well aware of the general sense of what the thug will say before the speakers crackle, “Oh, no… you're going to give it all to us. And you're not going to charge one thin credit. The only question is whether or not you'll be alive when we have it.”

Well, best behavior for the camera, “I won't sell my technology, and if you're unwilling to pay to rent what I'm willing to lease, we don't have anything further to discuss. Now if you'd please let me leave…”

All five thugs raise their weapons, pointing them straight at me… I wonder what they're packing, exactly? “You don't have to be alive to hand it over, meatbag….”

Okay, I figure that's far enough that any sane court would call what comes next self-defense… and I have some shiny new weapons to try out, and they did conveniently get rid of innocent bystanders… so I take two shots with my Crackdown Shout Projector (I could do more, I’m crazy-fast) using the full-round action option; I’m immune to both nonlethal and Sonic damage, it’s not one of my spells to bypass immunities, and they’re all within twenty feet of me… so they’re all caught in the doubled blasts (as am I, but I'm immune)… they also all stay standing.

“We’re sentient robots, you meathead,” the one on the far left shouts over the fading echos of the destructive sound, “Things intended to knock out biological entities won’t bother us.”

They all fire, not bothering to draw; they seem to have integrated weapons as well… they all take the full attack option from Starfinder, shooting twice… and I defly dodge each shot… I can’t see their faces through their armor… man, these guys are so SLOW.  Why are they decked out in max level gear?  How can they afford it?  Not worrying about it too much, I focus on the present fight; I can’t use the pistol, as it’s antibiological and so won’t do anything to them either… ah, but my Staccatto Rifle should do the job nicely.  I hop up twenty feet in the air with my flight speed (I could get a hundred seventy with a single move between Mythic Haste and Mythic Fly, but I don’t want to soak range penalties, and I don’t want these idiots out of range of the camera), drawing the rifle off my back as I move (it’s a good thing it’s invisible, as it’s a bright pink from becoming so) open up on full automatic, reload, and do so again.  Full auto is hard to aim… but it fires a rather lot of shots, and I am HEAVILY buffed up.  I put a zillion holes in the ground, chunks of pavement turning into explosive powder under the sonic disruption from the weapon in my hands, but I also hit each thug in each volley.  

Much to my chagrin, they all survive, “We’ve got the GOOD armor, you moron,” one shouts as they continue their barrage… and I keep dodging.  Those are some very fancy bullets they’re firing… and… oh, actual bullets… fired upwards… in a city… umm… I hope they achieve escape velocity?  I should probably be on the ground just in case.

I reload again as I land (What?  Batteries are cheap and light, of course I carry several), and this time I focus fire on just one thug, putting five shots into him… how many shots does it take to punch through these guys?  This guy’s up to seven.

They don’t let up either, pouring high-speed projectiles my way… which I continue to just dodge… the splatters they make on the hullmetal wall behind me are much better for my conscience.

I focus fire again, this time getting off six shots… and the target thug goes down after the first two in this volley… so that’s nine shots each.  Huh, I may not have enough ammunition….

They’re talking over private comms as they continue to fire… and I mostly continue to dodge (one bullet manages to connect… and puff away in harmless light).  The sound insulation in their suits is good, and battle is very distracting… but I think it was something like:
“It took down 56?”
“Hah, finally, hit him!”
“I don’t think he NOTICED, 42”
“This bloke fights like a demon!”
“No, demons don’t fight THIS good, remember?”
“We still haven’t even winged him?!”
“His luck can’t hold out forever.”

Huh, maybe I can play into that?  “It’s not luck, idiots,” I shout back, letting them know I can hear them as I focus fire on the next thug in line.  Two more shots take down the one I was working on last time, and I put four into the next thug who stays on his feet… two down, four to go… and I need better weapons.  Maybe the grenades?  I’m not sure how far the shrapnel goes, though….

I can still hear their comms:
“I don’t think I can take another hit, sarge…”
“Fine. Full retreat, we don’t leave a circuit behind.”

One takes a shot at me… ah, no, not at me: Covering fire.  Heh, not going to help… as the other two run to their fallen comrades and pick them up.

No… you don’t get to walk away and try this on the next guy who has something you want… I continue my barrage, setting off six more shots… the first takes down the one I’d been working on, the others all plug into the same guy.  Three down… but I also use my swift actions, dropping Walls of Force on either end of the road, sealing us all in between the two buildings.

The two still standing run, leaving the final corpse behind… and run straight into one of my Walls.  Did I mention Walls of Force are inherently invisible? Because they are.

I point my invisible pink gun at them and shout one word: “Yield.”

They both immediately kneel, dropping the corpses and putting their hands behind their heads.

Now what?





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