The Empire 6.6

Why would Seeker come all this way for me? I had nothing to do with it after the Academy, Alan sent.

Remember that there’s a 100-platinum mark and reputation bonus with the Administrators if I’m captured and returned, Lambda sent. It sounds like the Lord of the Abyss is pissed and put a reward on your head too. We’ve made it much harder to break out of the Abyss Labyrinth by restoring the power. You failed a quest. That means consequences.

Alan prepared to order the recruit to ask another question, but there was a blur of motion.

Seeker had stepped forward and crushed the recruit’s head. Before the rest of the squad could react they were wiped out, each blow from the Predecessor punching through power armor like it was paper.

Alan had barely processed what had happened when Seeker began to sprint away from the camera. It was headed for the Black Rose base. Alan did a quick calculation and found that Seeker would be there in minutes.

That wasn’t very diplomatic, Lambda sent. I was hoping to have a grand unveiling, a nice delicate reveal with tasteful lighting, but…

Out with it, Alan said.

Greetings Alan, a voice in Alan’s head said. It sounded almost like Eve. Alan froze.

Right, so the new AI, they’re able to copy the essential functions of another AI that I’ve gathered sufficient data on, Lambda sent. It takes time for them to compile a new personality or set of abilities, and right now the only AI I had enough dirt on was Eve. I’ve decided to call them Doppel.

Alan had a thousand questions pop up in his head, but he didn’t have time. Instead Alan tested out this new AI. What had once been a blank slate had been replaced by architecture and a presence that was disturbingly similar to Eve. But they seemed shallow. Doppel had no insight, no desire. They were a tool, and nothing more.

Something’s off, Alan sent.

You can’t expect an incomplete copy to be as good as the original, Lambda sent. If I was able to get a full scan of Eve I’m confident that Doppel could work at 90% efficiency.

They’re operating at barely 30% the speed of Eve, Alan sent.

I apologize, I will strive to optimize calculations in the future, Doppel sent.

Anyways, the kinks will be worked out later, remember Seeker is now charging at us in addition to the Haxlard dropships, Lambda sent. The reason I bring Doppel up now is for the real test. Try activating hypercognition.

Alan reached out at this new presence, this Doppel. They felt familiar enough that it wasn’t too difficult to activate hypercognition, his thoughts immersing themselves in the AI’s calculations. Only, once it was activated his perception of time didn’t seem to have slowed down much. Alan waved his hand. He perceived everything four times faster than normal; a far cry from what Eve had been capable of.

Lambda let out a sigh of relief. Good, your head didn’t explode.

Wait, was that a possibility? Alan asked.

Cascading errors in the Machine Lord implant not properly detected by the Game had a 0.03% chance of

That’s okay Doppel, no need to go into the details, Lambda sent. We can worry about this later, but you’ll need all the tools available to deal with what’s coming next. With the upgraded Machine Lord implant the Computational Energy costs of most abilities have been greatly reduced. Doppel’s weakened hypercognition can be activated for up to an hour before you start noticing strain, costing 25 energy per minute.

Right, Alan now had a Predecessor to contend with. He closed his eyes and tried to figure out his options, gathering all available data. Details on Seeker, its battles from the Academy were uploaded to Alan’s Machine Lord implant through the Black Rose network. Information from the scouts on the surface watching the Haxlard dropships began to come in too.

Numbers raced through Alan’s head as he calculated probabilities with Doppel’s help. It was different than working with Eve. This time Alan was in charge. He was the one running the simulations, figuring out the path.

Everything started from a single point, the here and now. From there the line of time branched, and expanded, each choice and outcome expanding into an infinite expansion of possibility. A single golden line mattered most of all. Reality.

The sum of all the options taken made no difference if Alan could not guide this line forwards to the point that he wanted. But how? There were too many unseen possibilities, rolls of the dice that could end poorly.

Branches split into unending pathways. Alan refined his search, pruning paths that made no sense.

The obvious answer was to have the Haxlards and Seeker fight each other, but within the short time frame there was no clear way to accomplish this. Alan could surrender to the Haxlards, and have Seeker go through them to get to him, but Alan died most of the time in this scenario.

Alan could try to have a squad acquire and don Haxlard power armor to fight Seeker and bait it into a fight with the Haxlard forces, but if Seeker’s main objective was finding Alan it could react in any number of ways. Too many coin flips had to go his way, and Alan no longer relied solely on luck.

The simulations predicted that the Black Rose base would be destroyed if the Haxlards and Seeker teamed up and coordinated their efforts. There would be minimal losses if the two forces did duke it out, but there was no clear line between this desired point and the beginning.

Alan ran a few simulations of retreat, and the results were disastrous. Seeker and the Haxlards had major advantages in maneuverability. They were currently in a heavily fortified location; to abandon it would be suicide.

The next option was to try to confront both Seeker and the Haxlards. The Black Rose guild would likely emerge victorious in this scenario, but barely. Though, this was under the assumption that they had to face the Haxlards and Seeker at the same time. If instead the two forces were divided, confronted by the full might of the Black Rose guild separately…

A faint outline appeared in Alan’s head, moves falling into place.

Alan withdrew his divided consciousness from Cyberspace, instead focusing it on reconfiguring the base’s design while there was still power. He ordered every Black Rose member to begin reconfiguring traps, and for all the Knights to gather near. Lambda outlined plans to key officers, including detailed information on the enemies they were expected to face.

Sidestep opened a private channel with Alan.

“Why are you abandoning the surface? The Haxlards can’t be allowed to setup a fortified beachhead,” Sidestep said.

“They can and will. The Haxlards have air and space supremacy. Seeker has come to destroy us, we need to deal with it first,” Alan said.

“Seeker? What did we do?” Sidestep asked.

“You put me in charge of the base. I’m handling it. You worry about Aurora,” Alan said.

“Fine,” Sidestep said, ending the connection.

A few officers questioned Alan’s orders, but followed through with the instructions they were given once Lambda spoke with them. What Lambda said Alan didn’t care; he was busy monitoring Seeker’s progress.

Alan gathered his equipment, double checking everything was in working order. His power armor was fully functioning, advanced stealth mode and hardened shields available. The light railgun was attached: light, heavy, and soulsteel projectiles locked and loaded. Alan’s eyes glowed, the mechanical orbs shifting from spectrum to spectrum with quiet intensity.

It was game time. And Alan was ready to win.

***

Seeker emerged out of the tunnel and was stopped by a metal hatch. A screen to the side flickered to life. A silhouette of Alan appeared.

“The Black Rose guild has done nothing to warrant this aggression,” Alan said.

“Surrender yourself and there will be no cause for worry,” Seeker said.

“Do you think you can face us alone?” Alan asked

“I don’t need to defeat the entire guild,” Seeker said. “I only need to pluck you out of whatever hole you’re hiding in.”

“This obsession feels personal,” Alan said. “Is it because of the bet you lost to Tyrant? Can’t handle losing to a human, can you?”

“At least the fate of my race doesn’t depend on how well I perform in the Game,” Seeker said. “Your homeworld is already the Empire’s in all but name.”

Alan paused.

Don’t let Seeker get to you, we’re supposed to be the ones setting the bait, Lambda sent.

“What do you mean?” Alan asked.

“The answers are right beside you, but an unwitting pawn will remain a pawn no matter how powerful it grows,” Seeker said. “Face me. If you survive a full minute I’ll answer your questions before I claim your corpse.”

“Sorry, but I’m not an ape reliant upon strength and genes that I did nothing to earn,” Alan said. He cut off the connection.

Seeker tore the hatch off its hinges, tossing hundreds of pounds of metal aside. The escape route to the Abyss Labyrinth had become a backdoor entrance.

The underground cavern that held the Black Rose base had undergone major redevelopment. Where the cube-like structure had once stood there was now an inverted pyramid.

Two metal columns hung mid-air, a quiet electrical hum emerging from the power generators that lay inside. The vast majority of metal plating now lined the top of the base. Quiet thumping sounded from the surface.

A barrage of laser fire met Seeker as it stepped out. The Predecessor shrugged off the blows, barely losing 0.1% of its health.

Slower missiles and plasma blasts radiated out from murder-holes in the upside-down pyramid. Seeker took a few steps into the open cavern to dodge the explosions.

Smoke and fire surrounded Seeker. There was no cover, only barren rock that had been dug out by the Black Rose guild when they had first constructed their base.

Seeker turned to head back into the tunnel when a railgun was fired from halfway up the pyramid. With a half-step Seeker avoided the heavy projectile, taking 0.4% of his health as damage from the ensuing explosion.

The Predecessor smiled, and then leapt up, hurtling towards Alan. A sonic boom echoed in its wake.

Watching the battle, Alan’s divided consciousness detonated the bottom four floors of the Black Rose base the moment Seeker left the ground. The bottom half of the upside-down pyramid was forcefully detached. No matter how fast the Predecessor was on the ground, it couldn’t maneuver mid-air.

Alan failed to brace himself or mitigate the railgun’s recoil, hurtling upwards and backwards diagonally as he reloaded mid-air. Walls he was pushed back into shattered like glass. Two Knights in bulky behemoth power armor blocked Seeker’s path.

A punch tore through one of the Knight’s armor, revealing layers of explosive charges inside. Both Knights detonated in a spectacle of sound and light. Seeker lost only a small portion of its health, but the surrounding portions of the pyramid’s walls disintegrated. The explosions stopped Seeker’s upward momentum.

A soulsteel needle hurtled through the air. Seeker turned, the needle slicing across its forehead. Dark blue blood began to congeal on its brow.

New Knights emerged from behind walls to the sides, but they moved in slow motion compared to the Predecessor.

Seeker tried to find a surface to land on, but the walls had shattered and the floor gave way. Seeker couldn’t generate the force needed to move itself. It found itself in freefall: an open target.

The Knights fired, pushing Seeker back towards one of the hanging generators. The electrical hum in the air grew louder until it erupted in a massive explosion that dwarfed everything that had taken place before.

In the midst of the light and force that blinded all others, Alan lined up a shot. He fired his railgun, and the soulsteel needle penetrated Seeker’s brain.

Messages appeared before Alan:

[x285 Level up!]

[+100 ability points for gaining over 100 levels with one action.]

Alan checked his ranking in the Haxlard Crusade event, but found that it hadn’t risen.

Looks like Seeker was working independently, Lambda sent. Good news, there shouldn’t be more vengeful Predecessors coming our way. Bad news, this didn’t count as a kill against the Haxlards.

A Knight with a jetpack caught Alan before he landed on the floor of the cavern.

Almost a third of the Black Rose guild base crashed to the ground, debris scattered across the cavern. A majority of the Black Rose members caught on the lower floors survived the fall, but a few squads were crushed to death. Above, the Black Rose control room now lay exposed.

“Was all this necessary? Why didn’t we evacuate the lower levels?” the Knight asked Alan.

“Seeker would have detected the trap a mile away if I had done that. This was one of many ways this attack could have played out. There was only a chance it would take the bait and leap up,” Alan said. “We were lucky.”

In more ways than one, Lambda sent. If Seeker had told anyone about me…

They don’t need to know that, Alan sent. Besides, this could have turned out better too. We lost two Knights. Let’s see if it was worth the trouble.

Alan walked over to the fallen Predecessor and looted the body. He received an organic Predecessor sample, an amorphous glob of dark flesh that was a key component to many S-rank implants. The problem was, Alan didn’t know someone with the capabilities to create such biological implants or what the other ingredients for such an implant might be. At least the item had a market value of hundreds of millions of credits.

Thumping continued to sound above. Alan stretched his arms. One threat down, many more to go.

41 comments on “The Empire 6.6

  1. Ephemerality says:

    Not sure about ETA on next chapter, hopefully soon.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Caz says:

    Poor Seeker. I wonder how much he lost for dying like that.

    Like

    • TDM says:

      So, he died in a zone without automatic resuscitation… or whatever you want to call it, right? Plus, he did little or nothing in the fight, so he shouldn’t have much/any credit towards being brought back. So… is it too much to hope for permanent death? (Who is going to pay to bring him back.)

      Like

      • Jay says:

        He won’t respawn until the Event ends. It’s not permadeath, though. I guess the Lord of the Abyss’s death wasn’t permadeath either, which makes me wonder where he respawned. He wanted to die, so I assumed respawning was something he wanted.

        Like

      • Jay says:

        Oh, duh, I misread that. Yeah, it’s possible he wouldn’t come back at all, depending on which side he was on. Looks like he was on Alan’s “side” since Alan got no points, so.. if he didn’t take out a Hax ship on his way over, he could be out for good (or unless there’s a predecessor exception to that rule)

        Like

    • sllious says:

      Depending on how long it takes for the extinction event to happen, he could lose years worth of Creds, skill points, and levels.

      Like

  3. TideHunter says:

    Woo, finally. Thank you for the chapter!

    Like

  4. oblivious says:

    It would be funny if Seeker was arrogant enough to launch this attack without first killing some Haxlards, and is now in the bottom 10% for survival points.

    Eve’s hypercognition was 10 points per second (600 per minute) and gave Alan ‘hundreds’ of perceived seconds per real second. So at 25 points per minute for x4 time, Alan is probably getting less perceived time per energy point for now.

    Alan regens 14.4 energy points per minute with a capacity of 2400 (half of that regen coming from the upgrade to an A rank pod). So hypercognition would have a net cost of ~630 points per hour after regen if energy points weren’t spent on anything else.

    It’s hard to get worked up about Earth, since it’s already been established that the situation is pretty hopeless. Alan himself sort of expresses this at the end of arc 4. Only the involvement of Omega and Eve give the situation tension, imo.

    Like

  5. Jari Sundell says:

    The fight was very clear and easy to imagine, except two points for me:

    When he went through walls diagonally it was not clear that it was in an upwards direction from the wording. Might be an issue of non-native understanding of the word ‘wall’, so perhaps adding diagonally upwards might help.

    Secondly, the number of floors crashing down was confusing, there’s the blocks you move around and then there’s floors of unknown size.

    Like

    • TDM says:

      Too bad he didn’t get Seeker to tear through/into the vault. It would have been convenient to have an urgent need to “protect” those valuables.

      Like

  6. CCaprice says:

    Thanks for the chapter. Amazing as always.

    Like

  7. Cody. says:

    Nice chapter shame not 2 but didn’t think would be able to keep up timetable you said lol oh well. Dame really hoping use lightsaber.

    Please say he going upgrade biology himself with these parts please author would be so cool, been wanting him do since saw could.

    Like

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the chapter!

    I’m actually disapointed that Alan has been taking a more active role lately. Like Alan said way back in Book 1, letting Eve be the boss is the optimal strategy; I don’t think that us mere humans have a chance to outperform an intelligence that runs on such powerful hardware. I’m not saying that it’s a mistake to have Alan take the lead; from a story telling perspective, letting the MC actually decide his own actions is the only resonable choice, and probalby appeals to a larger audience. The fact that Alan was willing to let his actions be dictated by a “subordinate” was one of the things that mades this story unique; I’m sad to see that quality taking a back seat, even though I know that the story is still great.

    Like

    • Cody. says:

      Disagree think it was annoying and fustrating who wants read an MC who is just a puppet to others and is incapable of making own decisions, best thing ever when he started becomes own person for story and growth.

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the story is now a good mix of the two, He listens to Lamda quite often still but he makes the final call in the end. Alan may have made the most optimal choices but he was highly reactionary and predictable, stuff would happen and then he would use Eve as a crutch to bail himself out rather than thinking ahead or actually learning anything. Now he is more of a puppet master that pulls strings based on possibilities he decides.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree! Lambda is such a fun personality, and refuses to take the reins the way Eve did. Allen is still very much aware of his lack of knowledge and understanding, so he is happy to seek the (good?) advice of Lambda. Lambda meanwhile is acting as the coach, slowly making it so Allen relies on him less and less. So good!

        Like

      • Starcraft SF says:

        Agreed, and I suspect eve’s “betrayal” was less a betrayal and more of the only possible choice that could be made for him to get better. He wasn’t effectively useing his tools before, because he was letting his tools do all the work and wasn’t thinking about he why

        Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I think u need to keep in mind especially after this chapter that Alan’s brain is being optimized already by his ai and is getting tons of stat points the augments his ability to past super human lvls

      Like

  9. Corwin Amber says:

    thanks for the chapter

    Like

  10. oblivious says:

    The fight had an interesting structure which I have to admit I had trouble following on my first read-through. I might just be slow. First:
    (1) the base is reformed into an upside-down pyramid
    (2) Alan baits Seeker into attacking head-on
    (3) Seeker jumps up to the bottom part of the inverted pyramid
    (4) Seeker can’t land or find purchase anywhere because the structure around him is collapsing. He’s in freefall and can’t maneuver or dodge effectively, robbing him of his evasive abilities.
    (5) We find out that Alan jettisoned the bottom floors of the inverted pyramid on purpose.
    On my initial read, I didn’t parse that (5) was deliberate, or that (5) caused (4).
    second:
    (1) Alan remarks that he expects to lose power soon
    (2) Two generators are described hanging outside the pyramid (they have a static location, as per chapter 6.3)
    (3) Seeker is pushed into one of the generators, which explodes in blinding light
    (4) Alan gets the headshot with a soulsteel rail.
    Was (1) an anticipation of the plan, or did Alan think they’d lose power for other reasons? Did the generator explode just to blind and further debilitate Seeker, or did they need the damage?

    Some of the stuff I didn’t follow on my initial read might have been clearer if I had recently read 6.3. IDK if anyone else found it hard to follow, but it might help to say that Alan ordered the bottom to detach instead of just saying it happened.

    It’s mentioned in 6.4 that some surface generators were destroyed. Those weren’t any of the generators in the 5x5x5 cube, right? There are still seven functional generators?

    Now for the really important details of the chapter:
    If Dopple has different personalities for different AI being imitated, then it makes sense to give nicknames to each profile. The Eve-alike can be named ‘Bob!’
    Jetpacks confirmed to be a thing.
    There’s room for Seeker to be Tsundere or Yandere. “I’m just warning you that your planet is being taken over because you’re too stupid to realize it yourself. It’s not like I like you!”

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      He did send groups out to repair surface structures as much as possible, maybe they managed to fix a generator or two.A newly re-spawned Seeker may turn into a female and develop a crush on the person that was able to defeat him (predecessor develop gender based on victory or defeat in combat) due to seekers aggressive tendencies I picture a Female seeker as being either Himedere or Yandere. (gets mad because Alan keeps talking about some girl called Eve and thinks “maybe if I get rid of this girl Eve senpai will finally notice me…b-baka”) lol

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Jaba says:

    Well, this was refreshing, ILike. want more railgun.. still some flesh seems a bit little.. and the fight was an anticlimactic but effective. The entire fight has ended a bit too quickly perhaps.. not sure
    Looking very much fo the nxt cpthr.

    Like

    • Jaba says:

      I has reconsidered the fight was brilliant, pred was OP, super OP.. so the overkill action was the best and only way to end the fcker. You ho hard and the result matters.

      Like

  12. VonRidel says:

    You are missing a lot of opportunities to show the story through dialog and “showing” rather than telling. One example (among a lot of them) is when you say, “A few officers questioned Alan’s orders,….”

    Taking the time to show that through an interactive dialog is story telling. The way you are doing it is like you are rushing through your writing just trying to get it done. All the ideas and creative story is there, but the mental effort to write it well is lacking

    Like

    • Cody. says:

      I personally prefer way he did it rather that waist time with more useless talk more worried about author saying not sure when next chapter out makes me think of blue screen of death worse maybe month odd again before another release.

      Like

    • oblivious says:

      I don’t know if I agree with your specific example, but I agree the writing can be pretty dense and this sometimes leads to those ‘tell not show’ moments. I don’t think this is because the effort hasn’t been taken to write things in more detail, though. Rather, I feel like only the hard parts get written. Increasing verbiage would probably be an easy way to pad out wordcount.

      I don’t like your specific example because we’re actually being shown that Alan isn’t paying much attention to the human interaction – he’s letting Lambda do it for him and hitting the ‘send’ button when appropriate. I like Alan’s interactions with Aurora and Sidestep so far this arc, as examples of things being ‘shown’ and written out fully (although they sort of start and stop in unnatural places, imo).

      I also think the brevity of this particular action scene reflects that it’s actually a very brief fight. Stuff is happening at lightning speed after a rushed preparation.

      Like

      • VonRidel says:

        Agree my example may not have been the best one to use. But, if you go back and read a chapter or two from the first and second books compared to his writing now, there is a distinct difference. This seems like he is pushing through quickly when there is so much going on.

        Like

  13. Starcraft SF says:

    I need to ask, why does the rail gun have recoil? Because railguns tend to be electro magnet rails the push a projectile among them with no explosion. The recoil that guns have is because there is a contained explosion that happens in a confined space. It’s why in rifles there is the spring in the stock to compensate for this and also for chambering a new round. So one would likely assume then because railguns use electricity instead of an explosions, there as a result would be no recoil.

    Like

    • oblivious says:

      Newton’s third law. The payload doesn’t explode or anything, it only deals damage though kinetic force. All of the kinetic energy being delivered to your target has to be shot out of the gun. That means the gun experiences an ‘equal and opposite’ force.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Anonymous says:

    Alan needs to find a girlfriend. I thought that it would be Kitana but no she likes girls.

    Like

    • Cody. says:

      Didn’t say she like girls??? Also he does not have time for women to busy improving himself and entertaining us for that lol. (Plus usually ruins story’s.)

      Like

  15. Thank you for posting these again! Since I know you’re working hard, I’m checking every day for a new story. I can’t wait!

    Like

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