The rest of the day went by in a blur. After getting the newcomers settled in Mike took Troy down and reported in to Wilson. The old vampire bastard spent the majority of the meeting quizzing Troy on the specifics of his magics, their limits and his ability to maintain them at a distance.
His concern was obvious. If Troy was going to leave with Mike’s team, then he needed to know if any of the magics he left behind would stay in effect. From Wilson’s point of view, if the answer was no, then it made more sense to keep the skeleton behind with him than to send him out into the field.
Luckily for Mike, it turned out that Troy’s skeletons were more or less “bone golems.” The significance being that they could follow a course of simple, predesignated orders in absence of Troy’s direct control. Theoretically Troy’s skeletons would continue to guard the base, even after his death. Only destroying them would stop them from trying to carry out their “programming.”
As for the rest of his magic, it was active, requiring Troy to supply mana and be within range to cast. But none of his active magic was of significance to the bases defense. At least no more so than a soldier with a supply of rocket launchers, or another high leveled player.
He simply didn’t know any spells for laying wards, setting traps, or hiding with illusions that might help the base’s defense reach a new level. He could only supply them with a large number of weak, automatons that required zero maintenance but also would never grow stronger on their own.
Wilson was satisfied with that. His satisfaction grew exponentially when he learned Rajesh and Hector were capable of making weapons and accessories respectively.
Purchasing raw construction materials from the system, like iron ingots and precious stones, was significantly more cost effective than directly buying swords or magic amulets. From Wilson’s fervor it was clear that Rajesh and Hector had just become irreplaceable resources in his eyes. Their sudden importance in turned lessened his desire to force Troy to stay.
Troy was still an asset, but as long as he stopped by and created a few dozen more skeletons every once in a while, his being in the field wouldn’t matter.
Giving Mike the information on Amy’s last known where abouts, Wilson dismissed them.
It was too early to go to bed, so Mike proposed the group claim a room as their own personal “headquarters” within the base, and hang out.
Finding an empty room didn’t take much effort and soon they were all having fun drinking, playing poker, and just relaxing in general like they hand’t been able to do since the apocalypse started.
* * *
“I’ll call,” Emma said, squinting across the table at Troy’s unreadable skull face.
Troy didn’t say anything as he flipped his cards over, setting them down next to the five cards laying in the middle of the table.
“Oooooh,” Nikki said laughing, “he’s got a full house, kings and threes.”
“Dang it,” Emma threw down her cards in a pout, Mike noticed her pocket aces with a smile. It was hardly the worst hand but he wouldn’t have risked it against such a big pot. Not with Troy’s new perfect poker face going on, a side benefit of being undead.
“I don’t think anybody can beat you,” Jessica laughed, nudging Troy’s shoulder with her elbow and the skeleton snickered right back at her, though even then his face didn’t change, only the lights in his eye sockets seemed to get brighter for a moment.
Pulling the pot in front of him, Troy said, “My luck isn’t any better than normal,” as he started to stack the chips into piles by color.
An annoyed Emma snorted, “you may not be lucky but you’re face makes your bluffs like a million times harder to read,” then looking at Mike she added, “Isn’t that right Mike,” making everyone laugh.
He’d gotten suckered one time too many by a bluffing Troy only to go all in, in desperation and get knocked out of the game. Mike wasn’t worried about it. He’d never been good at poker. They weren’t playing for money either. Losing just meant he didn’t get to play his hand anymore. Watching and goofing around was just as much fun as playing when there were no actual stakes on the line.
“Yeah yeah I’m terrible,” Mike admitted, making everyone laugh again.
Looking across the table he saw Jessica staring at him,. Noticing him looking back she smiled and winked, before turning to the group and saying.
“Why don’t we deal Mike back in. Watching him lose is a lot of fun.”
Emma groaned, like it was the worst idea ever and Mike raising an eyebrow proceeded to tickle her as she retreated behind Nikki for protection. The blonde elf promptly betrayed her by continuing the tickle torture.
Pretty soon the table was overturned and the cards were everywhere as Emma launched herself under it and Nikki followed.
Radio, quietly reading in the corner looked a bit annoyed, but unwilling to say anything. Everyone else was laughing.
“I guess that’s the game then?” Troy asked.
Jessica answered him with a smirk, “Only if everyone agrees I won.
“Fine by me,” Mike was quick to add his support with a laugh.
“Eh whatever, I’ll get you guys next time,” Troy said, his mention of an unlikely “next time” somehow reminding everyone of the world outside, abruptly ending the merrymaking, “Sorry,” Troy added as he saw everyone’s faces fall.
Nobody had the heart to blame him, but the fun was definitely over for time being.
“We should probably pick up and head to bed,” Nikki said, emphasizing her words by rolling off Emma and beginnign to pick up the poker chips nearest to her. Mike grunted, standing from his chair to do the same, signalling his stance to the group.
In no time the room was clean, the cards and chips back in the metallic travel case and the table and chairs once more folded for storage. Giving it one last look Mike flipped the switch and closed up. Radio headed to the men’s barracks and the girls went off to their own. Leaving Mike standing in the hall with Troy.
Neither of them needed to sleep.
Mike would have to meditate for a minimum of two hours if he intended to feel rested the next day, but otherwise he would be fine staying up.
Troy, as a skeleton didn’t even need that. Actually it would be more correct to say he couldn’t have slept if he wanted to, just like eating and drinking passed through his mouth and made a mess, sleeping was impossible for the skeleton.
Jessica, as a cyborg could take an upgrade that would offer her the same functionality. She’d, temporarily at least, passed on it in favor of feeling more human.
Mike could understand completely. Although meditation more or less occupied his mind it still was not sleep in the traditional sense and he felt a bit strange every time he thought about it. Frankly speaking he did miss dreaming and being lazy. Unfortunately the apocalypse didn’t care that he like to sleep in on the weekend.
Alone with Troy for the first time all day, Mike was reminded of the amulet he’d picked up a while back. Retrieving it he tossed it to the skeleton.
“I thought you might get some use out of that. The system doesn’t give the best return on selling items.”
Troy nodded, inspecting the necklace, it was a series of bones strung on primitive leather, but it fairly pulsed with dark energies. If he hadn’t known it was impossible for a skull to smile Mike would have thoght Troy was grinning as he slipped it over his head.
Looking up at Mike Troy said, “Thanks–”
Only to immediately be interrupted by a cracking sound as his body burst into powder. Mike stood in shock for a long moment before he noticed a faint wind. The corridor was several levels below ground, wind was impossible. But the breeze only strengthened.
Soon it was a blowing whirlwind of black dust as a small tornado formed over Troy’s destroyed robe. The tornado flickered with greenish lightning as slowly a silhouette began to form in the center of the vortex.
The faster the mysterious winds spun, the brighter the lightning crackled, and the harder it was to watch as the silhouette gradually became clearer. And then, with a last intensely bright flash of green, the wind died down in an instant.
Mike rubbed his eyes as he sniffed, a distinctive sulfuric smell permeated the air. Blinking back tears the hallway slowly became clear to him again and he saw a black desiccated corpse, like a mummy without a wrap, standing where Troy had been.
The corpse grinned, “What? Do I look that bad?” it asked, motioning up and down its body with its right hand.
Mike did a double take, his mouth hanging open, the voice and the face were both familiar to him, “Troy?” he asked, not altogether certain he wasn’t going crazy.
“That amulet thing you gave me. The second I touched it, it asked me if I wanted to undergo a forced evolution. I picked yes and here we are.”
Shaking his head, Mike gave him one last look before smirking, “You’re smaller than I figured,” he said.
It took Troy a second before he looked down, and saw what Mike was referencing. Glaring he covered himself as he said, “I’m all dried out, you asshole. I’m a undead necromancer now, not a skeleton wizard, and definitely not a living breathing person.”
“I’m just kidding man, let’s get you a new robe,” Mike took out a survival blanket from his ring and tossed it to Troy, as they started down the hall to find the vending machines.
Looking over at his friend Mike asked, “You said you were an undead necromancer, how many evolutions does your bloodline have?”
Troy shrugged, “I’m not sure. Technically right now I’m just a [Necromancer]. I added the undead part. From [Necromancer] I know I become a [Lich], and there’s definitely one more evolution from there, just not sure how many total, or what they are. If I last long enough I “regain life” with a beating heart and everything, only I’ll be immortal. I read about it and it sounded cool. I think that was like [Death God] rank though. That’s probably a ways off.”
“Sounds epic,” Mike said, because it did.
I hate April Fool’s day. I won’t pull any pranks on you guys. Instead I’ll get real.
My motivation for writing SWRPG has been really low lately. I don’t know why. If the quality starts noticeably dropping let me know. As a side note, Hero’s poll is closed now. I will release chapter two some time this coming week.
Author : The Steve