Quote:“Virtual AI’s have been accused of many crimes for restricting their borders. Self-centered behavior, condemning Case Seven’s to death, or lording over rights they don’t have. Regardless of how we feel, in the digital world, they make the rules. We are lucky that an agreement has allowed us this much access.”
Doctor Long, The Virtual Conundrum
“What’s going on?” I tried more sounds but felt very conflicted. The world had become unusually huge. Izzy was at least three times my size.
“I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I wanted something that could fight an army of rats.” She looked horrified. “Please don’t hate me Perseus.”
I looked around and tried to understand. The world Isabella lived in was fully three dimensional now. It wasn’t just a picture, and I sat in the midst of our carriage.
“And now I’m a cat?” Is what I tried to say. It came out as more yowls and stutter of noise. Finally, I sat down in the carriage and glared angrily. Something behind me swished around. Before I fully understood what the new threat was I pounced, bit, and caused myself damage.
“Sorry. Sorry. Do you forgive me?” She sounded upset, not about the army of crazy rat beasts, but of how I might react.
I had sort of tuned the young girl out. There was a box floating nearby that provided me some measure of clarification. Thankfully these words were in English, unlike everything else in Izzy’s world.
Race: [Ember Kitten]
Racial Skills added:
Damage Type(s) added: [Shredding], [Fire]
Weaknesses added: Yarn, warm beams of sunlight, [Cold] school of spells, members of the [Dog] species
I tried to raise an eyebrow but my ears pulled back instead. There were a lot of sounds around us. Scents filled the air and tasted of heated ashes. Fine muscle control was difficult. I tripped a lot on the first two carriage laps.
My tail was very distracting though. The night air felt too cold on my short fur. I was pleasantly surprised that being an ember kitten didn’t involve being a walking fireball. I had to wonder about why this new world made me flame related.
“Perseus?” A much bigger girl asked.
I sloppily pounced around the cart after ash which trailed behind me. A giddy sort of bewildered excitement grew as I tried again and again to catch all the portions. A slightly burnt whiff of something rotten came across my senses and ruined the entertainment.
“Mister Spirit?” Izzy said. Her voice sounded a little shaky. We did have an army of monsters sitting outside waiting on some unspoken cue to attack.
“Sorry.” I had been distracted. My butt felt funny and something was twisting me about. Leaping revealed that I was clumsy, and almost the size of a bobcat.
“Do you forgive me?” She asked.
“I was alone Izzy. Now I’m not, being a cat is a small price to pay.” My attempted a shrug ended up with me washing one paw. Feline indifference didn’t line up with my expectations. “Will I die?” I asked her. “If I lose?”
“No. Mommy says spirits only die one way.” She sounded quiet. Whatever topic I had blundered into seemed to upset the young girl.
“What’s that?” Being left alone in darkness for so long did give me a certain desire to know.
“I don’t know.” If Isabella didn’t know, maybe Miss Brand or her grandfather would. We could talk about it later, after this trial. I marked it away as a problem for another day. “But I summoned you. If you are wounded too much, then our spell will break and back you go.”
“And you?” I meowed at her and tried not to get distracted by the noise. Hopefully I would sound adorable as a kitten. Those girls in high school had been right, I was sort of shallow, and only had my looks most days.
“I fail the trial and pay a price.” She said.
The noise that came out of me sounded like hacking a fur ball. I coughed and tried to get myself under control. Licking my own paw was weird.
“I can’t help any more Perseus. Summoning you for The Outer World is hard enough. It’s up to you to fight those demons.”
I nodded. If this alternate world had graced me with a cat’s body, so be it. It was better than being a discombobulated spirit existing outside reality. Part of me felt conflicted at being so ready to accept such a twist. Years had passed, if I used Izzy’s life as a judge, and I still vaguely remembered a granite message telling me ‘this is real’.
The rats and their beady red eyes had moved in closer while we talked. I put giant kitten paws up on the carriages edge and got distracted by claws that looked like flame. My head tilted and whiskers twitched. The army of rats seemed to be moving closer.
“Stay here.” I said with an angry yowl. My death in this world would cost me nothing, and performing well would help Izzy reach school. The exchange was a simple enough one to make.
The rats didn’t scatter upon my jump down. They stayed watching from bushes and trees. A screech of noise altered me to four of the little beasts hunkered under our cart. I turned and hissed. Hearing myself make such an angry noise caused a moment of confusion.
Four rats jumped at me. The others went for our carriage wheels. I wasn’t exactly sure how to fight these small creatures. They may be demonic looking critters but they were half my size.
Teeth chomped on my hind leg. I curled into a ball and used the newly acquired claws to tear at things with no expectation of success.
They were no longer simple fingers. These were instead sharp razor like instruments of destruction. Fingers tore into something soft. No resistance met my spinning fuzzy attack. Steam gushed forth from the creatures wound and the rat fell apart like a balloon.
[Ember Kitten] first kill on enemy [Terror Rat]
I didn’t have time to think about it. The remaining evil rats were biting and using much less effective claws. I lashed out at two then hissed at a third. One more went down and my own health had barely taken a dip.
My paw pricked the latest one in the side and it deflated. From down here they looked even more disgusting. Each rat had a filthy body that seemed slick with snot or other mucus. They pressed against each other while squeaking madly. Pure red eyes made it impossible to tell where they were looking.
Two were nearly over the ledge of our carriage. I used my increased leap distance to knock one off but missed the second. It clambered over the edge and nipped at Izzy. Her form was too big for its mouth to really get around.
I frantically clawed my way up the side. Tiny red nails left scorch marks in the wooden siding. Once over the edge I sunk my teeth into the back of a tiny rat and hurled it to one side with my head. At this point most of my combat skills were oddly natural. I thought, and stuff happened.
A nasty taste washed through my senses. Ash mixed with slime and black licorice. I tried to see how Izzy had fared but couldn’t stop making a face. My eyes and whiskers twitched and one paw came up to clean frantically.
Izzy cried out as another rat came over the edge. I shook over the weird instincts that kept screwing me up and dove for the latest offender, taking care to use my claws. Chewing another one o these foul critters would not be enjoyable.
[Terror Rats] remaining: 68
“Peirce!” She shouted as I went over the cart’s edge and back into a larger hoard than expected.
Why did these boxes just float around telling me things? I took the counter as a hint to move faster. Being a kitten against half sized rats seemed almost too easy. Three more went down quickly.
Izzy’s mana kept going down. My own didn’t dip. Maybe there was some way to use the resource myself. A move, or special ability. I’m not sure how or why the idea came to me. This whole setting felt oddly familiar. Like, a game? My head shook back and forth.
Another rat went down. Small bursts of steam gushed from each one of my demonic conquests. The urge to drag an empty shell to Izzy crept up frequently. Izzy was swinging a cushion from the carriage at our attacking rats. Too many swarmed up the side but they kept away from me. [Intimidation] must be keeping them shy.
I leapt into the pack and clawed another [Terror Rat]. Hisses came out and my back rippled. The latest body was knocked off and hit two squabbling monsters below. Izzy was yelling. I was echoing her angry while trying to sort my thoughts out.
“There’s too many!” My words came out as quick spats of rage.
“I don’t know!” She screamed.
“You’re smart Izzy, this is your trial!” I wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to get through this. There were too many rules of this weird world. Like monsters that were full of hot air. “What do we do?”
“I need time. To try a new spell!” She shouted.
“Okay!” My meow was nearly a roar of outrage. One that was far more dainty and high pitched than expected. Small bursts of red light came out from me and traveled along the ground. The nearest rats started to make mixed noises. Half squeaks that sounded demonic.
Skill Learned: [Aura of Heat]
Details: Minor [Fire] damage to enemies entering summoned spirits aura. Damage increases with proximity.
My new ability barely registered. Sun dipped in the distance and washed a chill over me. Izzy was trying to string together magic but it kept dipping her reserves. If she ran out I would have no way to stay and help her.
A few dared the mild crimson radiance. My own mana drained slightly and oily fur on a nearby [Terror Rat] started smoking. They were quickly finished off by a pounce and violent shaking. I looked up to figure out was happening. The swarm was being pushed forth by something in the darkness. Something they feared more than me.
That other presence loomed at the rear. Bigger red eyes glared at me. Picking on the smaller rats had been almost laughably easy, but that shape hovering in the darkness wasn’t subject to my [Intimidation].
“Izzy!” I yowled. “Something big!”
She was lost to the magic spell being formed. Her mind pulled together bits of magic and seemed to be assembling a new shape of white. The girls newest energy creation didn’t match the other three spells I had seen.
It also didn’t work. It clicked, flared red then fell apart completely. I pushed back more [Terror Rat]s climbing over the railing to buy her another few seconds. My tail wiggled and waved around helping me keep balance on the railing. Our cart threatened to tip over with all these creatures.
I didn’t know what to do. All these little monsters were creeping up too close. The counter that flooded part of my awareness showed more of the arriving every moment. Izzy’s health took another hit. It drove me crazy with desperation. I finished off the latest offender then leaped off into the pack below once more.
“I will get the big one!” I shouted. Isabella Brand was too focused, small bits of crimson light poured off her as well. Maybe she managed to channel an [Aura of Heat] like mine, maybe we shared it.
The smaller [Terror Rat]s bared large yellow teeth in my direction. They didn’t stop my reckless charge. I dove for a few stragglers anyway and popped them with dizzying tumbles of raking claws. It felt more like emotion drove this body forward rather than deliberate action. [Intimidation] kept some back.
The largest rat loomed ahead. I didn’t even think about the absurdity of this reckless dive into danger. This giant monster rippled backwards and opened a wide foaming mouth. Two teeth loomed huge in my vision.
I went for it anyway. Even if these little rats nipped and hurt me, I didn’t care. Izzy’s wellness was at stake. Being a cat was miles better than being stuck in emptiness.
Teeth dug into my shoulder. I yowled and twisted around. Skin tore as teeth yanked away. The giant rat sprung in my direction. It’s hind legs sent up a cloud of dust and rocks shattered trees.
“Shit. Shit no.” My cursing came out as annoyingly adorable meows. The aggravation only served to fuel my attacks.
Our bodies tumbled around the grounds. Large legs propelled forward repeatedly. I tried to move out of the way but each time I got distance the rat launched in my direction again. It Hammered into my side and sent us tumbling repeatedly. Each collision of movement caused my health to dip and a handful of smaller [Terror Rat]s to pop.
“Izzy!” I shouted.
Monster rat and I tumbled into the carriages side. Smaller rats that had been scrambling up the wheels were knocked down into a pile. We rolled over them as hind legs racked against each other violently. Each clash of claws and fang tore ribbons out of my new body.
I had no idea what the rat’s health was at. My own status looked extremely low. One ear felt numb and unresponsive. Flakes of ash were all around us. Many of the popped [Terror Rat]s were catching fire as we tumbled around. I had nearly no mana remaining to support this [Aura of Heat].
Izzy faired decently considering the mass against us. A quick scan of her health showed it at half. I backed up to the carriage and tried to ensure all these smaller minions got caught up in our tumbling crossfire. We rolled once more and the taste of slimy black licorice tainted everything.
The large rat was limping but I was worse. It had an eye swollen shut from our tussles. Slick fur leaked bits of steam. I dove through the wind-tossed sea of grey flakes, intent upon buying Izzy as much time as possible.
Freshly broken teeth greeted me. No blood, just steam and anger. I tried to widen one of the prior wounds but couldn’t think fast enough to pick a real target. Feline reflexes kept up but the rest of me rolled and scrambled.
“Mister Spirit!” Izzy yelled but rat screeching and my own retaliatory hissing overpowered her voice.
Another bite tore into my already wounded shoulder. Giant meaty legs raked at a damaged thigh. I fought but back it wasn’t enough. An army of rats, protecting Izzy, and moving on to this boss monster drained me too much.
I screamed. The [Aura of Heat] faded and crimson glow dwindled away. Desperation flooded me. There had to be more options available. I needed to figure out the rules of this world and become stronger for next time. Isabella’s health dipped. Bright red streaked overhead and slammed into the biggest rat. It howled while shuddering violently then it popped.
The boss’s death resulted in all our little enemies running. I should have attacked the largest one right away instead of waiting. She would have taken less damage, I could have survived with more health. My mind saved away the knowledge for later.
[Summon (Request)] releasing due to contractor’s energy levels.
System Notice: Initiating recall for Perseus Argive to [The Outer World]
“Mister Spirit!” Izzy leaned over the rail and shouted. There was nothing left in her mana pool. I had very little left to give but the danger had passed.
“Let the spirit rest little one, or risk losing it forever.” A new voice said. My vision faded slowly enough to see a man with a cane walk up slowly. This had to be Grandpa Hubble.
His back hunched. The man wore a robe that looked dirty and unkempt. Wild scraggly hair poked in all directions. A scowl was etched across his features.
The man’s hand sat upon Izzy’s shoulder and she looked scared. I tried to stay here, present like I had with the [Kidnapper]. Grandpa Hubble waved his blackened cane and my vision finished going black.
[The Overseer]‘s log: There was a bit of an issue as Subject 42’s mental status started flashing back upon prior physical trauma. This caused feedback warnings with the harness and made a mess in our lab. Everything settled down eventually but we had to clean up buckets of that gel.
Subject 42’s paired denizen, IB, has met the first of her kind. It seems odd that a Case Five wouldn’t know her own parents, but the other denizens ensured this would help bond her with Subject 42. Meeting a Case Three should help her along too. This process will cause delays in information processing as she prepares for coding modifications.
I have every confidence that she will adapt to the changes eventually. It’s important to provide IB a toolkit to use later on. She’ll need more options soon.
|PREVIOUS||Back to Main Page||NEXT|