[16 Odinson Gangsters defeated!]
[EXP Bar: 5/500 ] 85/500]
"Now, shall we get to razing this base?" said Valera.
"Not yet. I'm going to loot this place as much as possible first," said Aldrich. He went over to the nightmare wrapped Odinson boss and patted him down, finding an Eye-Phone, cigars, a lighter, wallet, and, most notably, a set of car keys.
Aldrich took the keys and phone for himself before motioning to Valera. "Take a tarp from outside and wrap him in it. We're taking this guy with us for questioning."
"Ah, questioning, is it?" Valera smiled. "I do love some questioning. Especially when pain is involved."
Valera grabbed the Odinson boss by the collar and leaped up through the hole in the ceiling she had made.
Aldrich looked around and scrapped together any valuables he could. He took as many credit chips as possible from drawers in the tech room. These were sleek black chips made by Credit Union, the largest credit banker in the world, and when inserted into a credit machine or personal device along with a CID, could transfer credits directly to the owner's bank account.
He found a larger bag to carry things in, and in it, he dumped in a few bolter pistols, grenades, and a box of ammunition. He also packed a signal generator and two laptops owned by one of the technos.
"Serve," said Aldrich to the first techno he had killed, the one with his head still intact. A soul hovered over him as did souls for everyone else he and Valera had killed. Mathematically, a drop rate of souls like this was near impossible.
A drop rate for a soul was 5%. But it seemed that every single human that died so far had dropped a soul.
Gave more credence to the idea that souls did exist, and they existed in every human and, interestingly, some Variants.
This would make Aldrich's level up journey much, much faster as souls did not have to be crafted. They could just be consumed for half the experience that their original owners gave.
Aldrich watched as the mohawked, visor wearing techno stood up from the pool of blood he was slumped over. A gaping hole in his chest matched him with Aldrich.
[Mana: 20/84 ] 15/84]
Aldrich made room for the techno by letting go of his one last remaining normal Striker. He would have liked to say goodbye to the undead personally, but it was not possible here.
Aldrich analyzed his power. As expected, the techno had a fairly common power that let him interface with technology with his mind via a plug on the body that linked with major nerves that further linked with the brain, though usually hardcore technos had plugs etched directly on their heads.
Although undead resurrected with a soul lost their previous identity, they did not lose their powers.
This meant that hopefully, Aldrich could use the techno for more tech-based needs as his ability to use technology was based off the usage of his power.
With this in mind, Aldrich had taken the laptops and a signal generator for Net connectivity in the Variant forest.
Everything else was not especially valuable. Drugs, more weapons, and the like.
Aldrich harvested the rest of the souls and moved on, planting multiple timed incendiary grenades around various key points in the base for a clean demolition.
[+15 Odinson Souls obtained]
Aldrich left the Odinson base and saw Valera standing with the bagged up Odinson boss on her shoulder.
"Where to now, master?" said Valera.
"Back to the forest. I've gotten what I came here for, and I want to lay low for the rest of the day." Aldrich walked behind the Odinson base and saw the boss's personal ride: an ARMA AEP (All Environmental Purpose) armored car.
ARMA was a renowned megacorporation that focused on selling 'peacekeeping' military tech highly accessible for the common consumer, though they did have a higher end line for supplying police forces with. The consumer grade equipment was classified as green grade while the police equipment was blue grade.
The boss's armored car was blue grade, ordinarily meant for police but of course, there were no rules in the black market.
It was a solid four wheeled drive that could maneuver through the Variant forest quite well with its sturdy construction and ability to enter a sleeker 'hover mode' that, though slower, could float freely through narrow tree gaps with its smaller surface area and maneuverability.
Aldrich unlocked the car with the keys he had taken from the boss and popped open the trunk.
"Put that guy in there and close the trunk when you're done," said Aldrich.
"Understood, master," said Valera. She thumped the boss down and slammed the trunk door over him before staring at the armored car with her head tilted like a curious cat. "What is this, my master?"
"It's called a car. People use it to get around. Think of it like a mount, except it's pure machinery," said Aldrich as he got in the front seat. He had the techno open up the seat beside him, waving Valera in like a chauffeur.
Valera stepped in and sat beside Aldrich, marveling at the various screens and buttons and controls and blinking lights around her. "How quaint and wondrous. It almost reminds me of Dwarven magitek with the metal and the buttons, but even that used magic. Truly, there is no magic here? None at all?"
"If you can't sense it, it's not here," said Aldrich.
"It is still unbelievable," said Valera. "I have always hated the smoke belching and loud roaring of those dwarven metal beasts, but I suppose…there are some benefits to this technology."
Valera looked down at the framed picture of her and Aldrich. She was leaning against Aldrich and smiling widely with a few blood spatters on her face shoulders while the limp bodies of Odinsons were blurred out in the background.
She blushed as she looked at the picture.
Aldrich smiled at Valera before he jammed the keys into the car and got the engine humming. "Alright, time to move out."
Aldrich parked as deep into the forest as he could, but at a certain point, even the armored car's hover mode could not fit through the thick growth of the forest.
"Incredible!" said Valera as she left the car. "The ride is so smooth, not at all like the galloping of a horse. And there are so many of these 'cars', too. On the road, I must have seen hundreds of them moving about, and in such orderly fashion too."
"Yeah, traffic lights and laws will tend to do that," said Aldrich. The quaint thing was that although Settlements were pretty lawless zones, the roads leading in and out of walled cities were maintained directly by the Alterhuman Agency and Panopticon, so they were fairly heavily policed.
This deterred nomads from blocking roads and stealing from drivers and supply convoys, though the key word here was deterrence. It was no guarantee of safety, and especially in more remote road stretches, the threat of nomad attacks was quite high.
Aldrich's undead came out of trees and bushes, surrounding his car, and he waved at them, finding comfort in being with his small but growing army again.
"I'm back," said Aldrich, nodding especially to Adam and Elaine. "And one step closer to getting back at Seth Solar."
Later that night, with the moon rising high above and shining its silvery pale light down on the forest, Aldrich sat in a small, watching as the techno he reanimated worked with a laptop. The laptop was plugged into the signal generator - a rectangular black box with blinking green lights - and also plugged into the techno via cables.
Aldrich smiled. The experiment on whether the techno could use his power even as an undead had been a success.
Technos could still use their power to operate tech. This gave even more weight to what was known as the Cassandra Principle.
It was a well known phenomena that techno Alters, especially the much higher end ones who could create technology that seemed to belong centuries ahead, could not actually articulate how they made this technology or share the principles or construction behind it.
When they worked on their tech, they did so almost in a trance, and often, this trance was highly addictive, like being in an euphoric dream.
As a result, the strongest technos were often known for extreme passion and protectiveness over their technology on top of an inability to share their ideas.
The extent to which a techno was affected by the Cassandra Principle varied greatly.
Some could actually share their technology and explain how it was made, but it was a known rule that the more advanced tech was, the less accessible it became.
One thing Aldrich noted was that he could not see through the techno's eyes or mind when he neurally linked with the laptop.
He was blocked out while the techno worked, and that meant Aldrich had to give the techno individuality to function on his own.
"Alrighty, that's done," said the techno as he handed Aldrich his forged CIDs. All the credits he had stolen had been transferred to his new fake identity as a Mr. Bruce Vane, netting him with a total of around 10,000 credits to his balance.
That was not a lot, especially considering he was supposed to have inherited a multi-million credit fortune, but then again, Aldrich did not really need that many credits. He just needed enough to get into and out of places he needed to in cities.
"Onto the phones." The techno plugged Ghost's Eye-Phone and the Odinson boss's eye phones into ports in the laptop. The technos visor glowed a tint of blue as lines of text, images, and code sprawled across the laptop screen in near unintelligible fashion to someone not as tech savvy as Aldrich.
The techno scanned the content of the phones for any information relevant to Aldrich.
Meanwhile, Aldrich nodded at the success of the second experiment: one regarding individuality of undead and how it affected their performance.
Even with individuality, the techno was utterly subservient to Aldrich.
He had wanted to experiment how much individuality an undead could exhibit and whether it would inhibit Aldrich's command over them.
Thus, he had also formed a hunting party consisting of the Geist, Dynamite Girl, and Valera to roam around the forest, hunting down natural Variants to farm EXP. In this party, he gave Dynamite Girl and the Geist individuality with the key order to follow Valera's orders.
The Geist and Dynamite Girl had an instinctive dislike for each other, but they put that aside for Aldrich's orders and worked surprisingly efficiently.
By consuming all the Odinson souls for EXP (with each of them offering 3 EXP) and the hunting party taking down several more Variants, Aldrich had gotten to level 9 simply by doing nothing himself.
He began to realize that once he hit a critical mass of undead, he could farm experience from anywhere across multiple locations because his undead had no range limiter nor time limit. His growth was exponential, and this was the start of the curve up.
He dumped his 5 extra stat points into Attunement, netting him two extra unit slots.
[+5 Attunement, +10 with affinity bonuses]
[Attunement: 31 ] 41]
[Unit Limit: 10 ] 12]
Aldrich commanded Valera to save the corpses of a Alloy Wing Eagle and Big-arm Grizzly to add to his undead army. The eagle, especially, was of interest to Aldrich as it was large enough for him to use as aerial transport.
"Alright, I've finished scanning through these phones, unlocking locked files and folders, you name it," said the techno. "So, what do you need, boss?"
"Hm," Aldrich thought about what info he needed for a second before he was interrupted by a groan.
The crinkling of a tarp sounded in his ear as he turned to see the wrapped up boss rolling around as he moaned and groaned in pain and fear as he awoke from his nightmare.
"You know what, he'll know what to look for better than me," said Aldrich as he walked over and put a foot on the boss's chest, holding him still.
"It's time for some questioning."
The techno put a thumbs up for Aldrich and said, "Good luck, boss. I'll be here when you need me."