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.
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.
Aurora sat in a pool of blood and stared at the screen, checking over the calculations and making sure that everything was correct. The Helios’s main weapon was a massive laser cannon, and the ship would soon be in range to fire a single full-power beam. Aurora hoped they would fire as soon as possible. She needed them to.
Aurora had ordered the first few floors of the base evacuated, but not for many of the reasons everyone else thought. There were details that no one else could be privy to. The next few moments would make or break everything. The Black Rose guild was Aurora’s family, her life, and she would do everything possible to make sure it came out of this ordeal intact.
The base had been storing energy for years, gathered in the four towers that stood at the corners of the central keep. Each year her mother would use a fraction of that power to cow new recruits into submission, and that was all that it had been used for recently. The casual use disguised the original intentions. It was a major wellspring of power, hundreds of thousands of points of energy. Power that could not be used lightly.