“Looking for something?” Phantom asked. He and Alan stood alone in the Titan’s hold, where the items from the Black Rose guild had been stored, as well as the power armor, weapons, and miscellaneous drops from the crew Alan had eliminated.
“Checking what was nabbed,” Alan said. “This has to be what, at least a few billion credits? I should get credit for retrieving some of it.”
“Don’t count on it,” Phantom said.
“I remember in the original message that if the Extinction Event is too brutal on the infrastructure then game areas may be reset,” Alan said. “Where did the nukes go?”
“They’re in a safe location,” Phantom said. “I couldn’t help but notice you took an interest in my bomb designs. Looking for something in particular?”
“Trying to figure out a weapon capable of killing one of the Three,” Alan said. He manipulated Counterfeit to bring up only the reverse option of the end to an empire quest and showed it to Phantom.
“That’s why you want to meet the Emperor, to complete a quest? Alan, let me tell you now, you do not want to meet the Emperor,” Phantom said. “Twice, twice I have met the devil, and each time brought new levels of suffering that I had not imagined possible.”
“Thanks for the warning, but I can handle myself,” Alan said.
The moment the dropship left Khersath’s atmosphere, the presence was there. It was as undeniable as bright sunlight drilling into Alan’s retinas. And his eyes were now more sensitive than most.
A living god. One of the Three. A behemoth that single-handedly swallowed up fleets and came out stronger when the battle was done. The Weaver.
It turned out they had met before. The Weaver had been part of the AI interaction examination. An entire galaxy, wrapped up inside a single construct. It had pierced through and examined Alan’s brain in an instant, reorganizing it and granting him computational energy, in addition to the data interaction ability.
All of Alan’s plans began to unravel. If this was the entity he needed to bypass, to fool, he would never have a chance. This signal was so strong, so powerful that it drowned everything else out. There was only one option.
Alan connected to the Weaver. The Weaver accepted the connection. Alan could feel that the connection was but one of millions. Billions.
Alan made a decision. It probably wasn’t the correct one. An unoptimal choice, as Eve would have put it. It still felt right to Alan. He had picked a side, though probably for all the wrong reasons.
“I am willing to serve the Emperor, with a few conditions,” Alan said.
“Go on. Though you wouldn’t be answering to the Emperor, more the Empire. Various cells working independently, it’s a complex beast, yadda yadda yadda,” Phantom said while waving a bottle in the air.
“I want access to all information the Empire has, including scans of high-rank AIs, a clear path to upgrading my Rogue class, and improved implants without the kill switch,” Alan said.
“That, and more, I can promise you. But only with time, only if you serve the Empire well,” Phantom said. “You can’t jump out of nowhere and start demanding the world. It doesn’t work like that. I can give you the information I have, the scan of Eve I performed when you first arrived. But that’s all I have on hand other than platinum marks.”
“Everything else will need to wait until the extinction event is over. I can promise you rank D citizenship in the Empire. Enigma is probably one of the best class mentors you can find, but given how things are going he’s probably dead. The Empire has a wide array of implant plans and options.”
As a result of the prior battle and Aurora’s destruction of a capital ship, the Black Rose guild was in the clear. Barring an exemplary showing from every other player in the Game, no guild personnel would be deleted. Anyone in the bottom 10% of the population at the end of the crusade could be bailed out with survival points earned by guildmates. Everything from here on out would be a bonus.
The Black Rose guild’s council was conspicuously absent from the leaderboard. Either they were still in the planning stages of an action or something had gone very, very wrong. Alan hoped for the former, but suspected the latter, given Seeker exited from the Abyss Labyrinth where they should have appeared.
Sidestep and Alan were flown up to the Black Rose base. They made their way to the tunnel near the Council’s meeting room. Progress seemed to take forever, Sidestep waiting for Alan to make sure he didn’t trigger any of the traps that led up the entrance.
The halls were barren, most personnel either above in the bunkers on the fourth floor or on the ground floor in the infirmary preparing for a potential retreat into the Abyss Labyrinth. A squad of scouts led by two Knights had been sent into the dungeon to investigate if the way was clear.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. You need to start paying more attention, Lambda sent.
What? Alan asked. He was busy reorganizing squads and ordering a group of medics to set up an infirmary on the ground of the cavern.
The Knights have names, the squads have histories. People have relationships. These aren’t robotic units to be commanded about, Lambda sent. I’ve been smoothing over the rough edges, but a leader is more than a taskmaster.
Half these soldiers will be dead by the time first Haxlard wave is finished, the rest soon after. I’m busy evaluating the defenses. My time is best spent figuring out how to save lives, Alan sent.
What about after this war? You’ve talked to four, maybe five people on a regular basis, and only when a mission required you to group together, Lambda sent.