Chapter 275 Simmering
Aldrich sat at the top of a signal tower erected on the Magellan, the name that Casimir bestowed upon their mini town on wheels. Most people would have expected a name like that to be christened on a massive battleship or aircraft, but it honestly fit rather well here too.
The Magellan was quite spectacular. It was comprised of six mobile bases, each big enough to house fifty people, transformed together into one behemoth of churning metal that chugged along the desert on twenty four wheels and twelve high poweredm, high purity etherite engines.
Like the desert version of the polar express, it traveled the endless wastes with a heavyset determination, metal parts clacking and groaning like the utterances of a living beast. Turrets and smaller sensor tower jutted out the back of the Magellan like spines.
"Is it going to be okay?" Chrysa, in Aldrich's arms, looked down at the Magellan, at its four large front lights that looked like the eyes of some strange insectoid creature. "It sounds like it's working hard!"
"It'll be fine," said Aldrich.
Though, he did have to confess, he still had no idea how something like this could run so well and for so long. Scientists called Ether the real god particle, capable of anything and everything, and Aldrich had to agree.
The Magellan was like a literal transformer, and high purity etherite made that possible. It was a shame that most of the world could not get their hands on it.
Only nomads insane enough to not only chase deadly geostorms, but make that chase a way of living, could harvest ether energy in such a pure state.
That was not to take away from the Magellan's craftsmanship either. According to Casimir, it had been built up by Arksman, a legendary nomad craftsman specializing in vehicle construction who had taken a fortune of twenty five million credits to shape it all up.
Arksman's work looked shoddy, almost disheveled, like odd ends and bits and pieces cobbled together, but in pure functionality, his rides matched the best technos in the AA or the corporate world.
Aldrich looked away from the Magellan. He was high up enough where he could see way into the deep dark stretches of night, taking in the oddly haunting beauty of the barren wasteland landscape painted silver under the moon.
There was something about the sheer scale and solitude of it all that comforted Aldrich, though he could imagine someone more skittish, someone more people oriented like Adam or Eileen would think it was all so empty and lonely.
"It's pretty," said Chrysa. She twirled her fingers in her hair. "The shiny, it looks like my hair."
"The moonlight," said Aldrich. "And it does."
Chrysa shifted around in Aldrich's grasp with impatient energy.
"What is it?" said Aldrich.
"Why'd we come out here?" Chrysa asked. "I like spending time with father, but you promised to teach me how to fight!"
"I know. I just needed to make sure of some things out here first," said Aldrich. He had checked up on multiple information threads.
V's investigation on the bug she found in the ice bots yielded that it was Trident sourced. Specifically from a renowned techno in the Italian prong of the Trident called Mad Jack.
Mad Jack was an utter menace in the underworld with a troubling penchant for creating bugs that could take over practically any tech and rendering the mad. He was a wildcard who loved chaos more than anything, spreading his viruses even among his allies.
The type of guy that Aldrich hated the most. Chaos for the sake of chaos was just meaningless misery for everyone involved.
That brought the Trident into the mix for the ice bot mystery. And yet, that did not answer any questions. Sure, Mad Jack could have infected the bots, but where did they come from in the first place?
A rival of the Tridents? Perhaps from within the Trident themselves considering the recent infighting?
That, Aldrich left V and Fisk to figure out.
Clint and the Spearhorns had uncovered a good amount of details in the Trident civil war. The Italian and Japanese prongs stood against the Russians.
The Russians wanted to move forward with their plans for revolution, to topple the world order set by governments and the Panop-AA complex. But the Japanese and Italian prongs wanted more stability, savoring the taste of profit and balance, especially knowing that the more variants attacked, the weaker the heroes got.
The rift was big enough that in a diplomatic meeting where several higher ups from each of the prongs met up, the Russian prong's representative detonated a suicide bomb, instigating a full on civil war.
That incident was also the reason why the hunt on Casimir and anyone related to him had been called off so abruptly. Compared to an internal war of that scale, Casimir, a fugitive, a rich fugitive, granted, but a fugitive no less, was not a priority.
That was good news for Aldrich. It meant the Trident, half of the entire Dark Six, was weakened, and would get weaker by the passing day. If Aldrich made the right moves against them while they struggled among themselves, he could be the figurative straw to break the camel's back.
The AA was not blind, either. They had caught wind of the conflict too. In response, they were probably readying heroes in case the Trident conflict grew hot and reached civilians.
Where it mattered to Aldrich was that the AA pushed up Aldrich's hearing date, probably not wanting to spend as much time and effort on it. They might even give Aldrich, or rather, Thanatos, more leniency.
With variants and the Trident being problems, Aldrich doubted the AA wanted to add Thanatos to that list as well.
Aldrich's new hearing date was thus pushed to just a day and a half from now. Not much time left at all.
"Father, are you worried?" asked Chrysa.
"You can tell?" Aldrich never showed worry, or much of any emotion, on his face well.
"Mhm." Chrysa nodded.
Made sense. Chrysa and Aldrich were soul linked. Not just that, but she probably understood him better than anyone because she had been born of his own soul.
"I am," said Aldrich. He looked up at the full moon. "But not the bad type of worry. It's more…like anticipation."
"Antsy-pant-shun" Chrysa said the word out slowly.
"Anticipation," Aldrich repeated, letting her get a better read of it. "It means I'm worried, but I have an idea of what's going to happen. And depending on what I do, I can make things good or bad."
"To make things good, do we have to fight?"
Chrysa pumped her fists in the air. "Then I will! I'll learn! Let's go!"
Aldrich patted Chrysa's head. "Slow down there. Fighting's not always about rushing in. In fact, that's the last thing you should do. Stay back, watch, and figure things out before you go in.
You should have at least your first three moves mapped out in your head before you do anything."
"Three!?" Chrysa's eyes widened in shock. "I can't think that hard! Father can? Father's a genius!"
"You can. Just give yourself some time." If Chrysa inherited more and more of Aldrich's talents and skills, then there was no doubt she could develop a battle ready analytical mind like him.
That was when Aldrich's earpiece crackled into life. He immediately pressed his finger to it. He did not want to miss this.
"Boss? You there?" came Ace's voice.
"What is it?" Aldrich narrowed his eyes. "Did you catch Feather?"
In light of recent news about the Trident, Aldrich wanted Feather even more. Feather was fairly high up. Getting him could lead to a treasure trove of information about the Trident civil war.
The underworld knew of the major details, but the ones that mattered, the nitty gritty, nobody except those affiliated with the Trident had an idea of.
"We fucked up his men and nabbed the nomad snitch, but Feather's not here. Sorry, boss," said Ace.
"I see. Have you tried interrogating the men?"
"Yeah. Kat's been real good at it. Has this special poison or whatever that can cause the worst pain ever she says. But the men don't know shit. They thought they were going to meet the snitch as always, but even they were surprised when Feather didn't show up."
"Disappointing. But not the worst thing in the world. Try and take back as many of the men as possible. I'll make them useful somehow," said Aldrich, thinking of Fler'Gan.
There was no shortage of need for Alter test subjects.
"Sure thing. We'll try and look around more here in case we missed something."
"Go ahead and do that. Report to Valera when you're done. I'm going to be out for the next day."
Aldrich disconnected from the earpiece and sighed. Kat was an incredibly good assassin. Feather could not have gotten away from her unless he had prior knowledge.
Or, maybe, the Trident conflict had torn Feather away by sheer dumb circumstance,
But then why had Feather left his men in the dark like that?
Something strange was at play here, and Aldrich could not shake the sensation that everything was starting to simmer like the short few moments of bubbling before water on a burner broke out into a rolling, roaring, blazing boil.
"Father, are you sure you're doing an anticipation? Aren't you just worried?" said Chrysa. She tugged at Aldrich's dress shirt with worried grasps.
"Maybe. I don't know everything, after all. But that's where preparation matters even more. Whether it's in planning or fighting, you always need to stay active. You always need to try and set the pace.
The moment you become passive and let things happen to you is when you loose your footing, slip, and never get back up."
Chrysa nodded thoughtfully.
"But I can teach you that better when we get into a fight." Aldrich started to cast [Mist Phase], beginning the process of returning to the Necropolis where he would now challenge the third trial quest. "Which we're going to now."
"Yay!" Chrysa clapped her hands in glee.