(Author's note: A last minute situation prevented me from closing out the chapter like I had planned. I needed to split the chapter in two and will be wrapping things up next week. Not quite a half chapter, but less than I was hoping to cover. )
Celestial Forge 93 Loom and Thread
With Tetra's procedure coming up, I had more important things to deal with than the revelation of a lifetime as a mechanical lifeform over a span of time that outstripped all human civilization by a wide margin. Actually, it was at minimum three times longer than the existence of humanity as a species. Transformers lived absurd lifespans, particularly for beings that could still maintain relatable personalities and individuality.
It was the Spark. Despite being mechanical lifeforms, Transformers weren't A.I.s. They weren't just collections of computer programs and algorithms that gradually developed complex thought. They experienced complex thought right from the point of their creation. Their method of thinking, development, and self-identification was different from what you saw from humans, but it was probably closer to them than what you would see from strong A.I.s that developed without the focal point of self that was a Transformer's Spark and physical form.
It was all abstract musings, really. Contemplation of a previous existence that shifted to something new the instant I embraced it. I would never be comparable to a normal Transformer, but then again, I would never be comparable to a normal human either. Not anymore. I could get philosophical later. Right now, it was time to get ready to make a Kamui.
Which I guess would spread those philosophical concerns around. Well, it wasn't like there was any shortage of them. The only question was whether people on the team actually cared about them. I couldn't see Fleet struggling with the nature of his existence, and the Matrix was actually quite self-assured. Garment didn't seem likely to express those thoughts through anything but inspiration for a new clothing line, and Tybalt actually came across as completely comfortable with his existence, no matter what changes might occur.
Probably as an aspect of war. Something about adaptable strategy, or was that the know your enemy and know yourself thing?
I looked over to where Tetra was examining my Transformer body along with Survey's hologram. Well, Survey was putting on a show of examining it while really just processing sensor data and reviewing her analysis. Her own body was still working to refine the use of the various scrying tools.
When I wasn't merged with it, the body shifted back to a normal Cybertronian form, instantly losing all the Gigas features and divine cybernetics. Without the presence of a spark, it was basically an empty shell. In fact, if not for the presence of a T-cog it could pass as a Cybertronian drone.
It was something that was in for a host of upgrades, but few of them would make any difference when it came to Tetra. A significant shift could result in an even greater boost to Unnatural Skill, but frankly I was already plumbing depths of that ability that I barely had a handle on. In the space of a single evening it had gone from a significant shift in power to something that was redefining how I thought about all of my major projects.
My duplicates had some ideas for relevant improvements that could be rolled out in time, so I left things to them while I dealt with the remaining items that needed to be decided. Down to the wire, and the final choices for material integration, hybridization options and alternate modes still needed to be nailed down. Key points left to the last minute.
Tetra might have picked up a little too much of my thought process during those early days.
I felt the Forge shift again, its slower rotation causing it to return with greater reach than I had come to expect. A connection was made to a cluster from the Personal Reality constellation, securing two smaller motes and one of nearly insignificant size.
The cluster was similar to the ones that had provided the fresh and saltwater edges of the storage area, as well as aquatic animals and ground cover. That lined up with the purpose of the two larger motes from the cluster, Treeline and Wildlife.
Treeline replaced the cement walls of my storage area with forests. The wooded areas couldn't be used to store items, but they were still accessible. Trees could be cut down for lumber and would regrow overnight. They also naturally cycled through the seasons over the course of the year, losing leaves in fall and regrowing them in spring, at least for trees with that kind of seasonal response. All the trees were common varieties from Earth and the proportions could be adjusted with sliders, allowing the composition of the forest to be fine-tuned.
You could journey as far into the woods as you wanted, but eventually your path would loop around and you would emerge from the other side of the storage area. There wasn't an exact geometry to it. At some point it just kind of kicked in and returned you from the woods. The nebulous nature of how that functioned definitely had a bit of a Lost Woods or Haunted Forest feel to it.
The Treeline also upgraded the laser tag arena to include an outdoor shooting range and wilderness combat training ground. I had more than enough space in the ridiculously oversized arena to incorporate elements like that, but with Treeline they were automatically included, along with the benefit of the Sky Simulator and Realistic Ground Cover.
The second mote was similar to the one that had added aquatic creatures to the two coastal areas. It ensured that the forests would be properly populated with animals, rather than solely plants. The trees were ensured by fiat so they didn't actually need an ecology around them to sustain their environment. Similarly, the population of animals was maintained, meaning there would always be an appropriate amount of small forest creatures like rabbits, squirrels, wolves, and even bears.
Wolves and bears. The presence of large predator animals inside my workshop might have been a point of concern back when there was any way I could have been conceivably harmed or even inconvenienced by such creatures. Now, I didn't even need to worry about Aisha running into an angry grizzly. Or course, in the event I ever gave someone else a tour of my workshop, that would probably be a point of concern. "Welcome to my secret base. Watch out for the wolves."
There were also insects, but they were intentionally harmless ones. No mosquitoes or biting flies. While the woods had honey bees, there were no wasps or hornets. I had a sense that Taylor would be disappointed, but she wasn't coming anywhere near my workshop until I could trust her with control of the kinsect that came with the insect glaive.
Though if I was being honest with myself, that probably meant she wasn't ever going to be coming anywhere near my workshop.
Two motes that served to remove some of the last artificial features of my Workshop's storage area and add a bit of color to the environment. It was the kind of thing that was worth noting before moving on, which was exactly what I would have done if not for the final mote. The one so small it basically had no cost in terms of reach. As I had learned, those were always the ones you needed to look out for.
It may have had no cost, but it wasn't free. Instead, it was contingent. That mote could only be secured if I already had the Sky Simulator, Realistic Ground Cover, and Treeline or the Pond on all four sides of my storage area. Combined those expansions added up to more than the size of my major powers, and the impact it had on my workshop made that very evident.
Normally, the arrival of an item or expansion caused a bit of shaking through the Workshop as a new storage locker is added or things are shuffled around the newly added space. Generally, they don't cause the entire environment to turn itself inside out as everything is rearranged on the arrival of a single item.
The mote was called The Village. It turned my Workshop from a contained space to a realm of its own. Honestly, things had been trending that way for a while, but this was the final step. Not a set of disconnected rooms with overlapping spatial geography. No more expansions or facilities crammed in next to each other wherever they would fit. Suddenly, everything was spread out, because I now had the space for it.
The Village turned my Workshop from a single structure into something that was practically its own nation. The main effect was the addition of a kind of 'neutral space' between items. A lot of neutral space, up to a hundred times the footprint of my storage area and loft. The space was purely aesthetic and couldn't be used for storage, farming, or any industrial purposes. It was just open space that could be freely enjoyed.
Paths, forests, fields, courtyards, roads, and anything else that didn't have a dedicated purpose. And my entire workshop had unfolded to take advantage of the expansion, spreading out from its already impressive size to something truly staggering.
"Fuck." Aisha said, her helmet's visor coming up and providing her with data feeds on the situation. "That's… exactly how big is this?"
Survey provided the results of her… well, of her survey of the new area, with measurements down to the limit of my sensor's resolution. Still, she responded verbally, providing additional context for the expansion.
"The interconnection area added to the workshop amounts to approximately six hundred and forty thousand square kilometers. For context, this is slightly smaller than the state of Texas at six hundred and ninety-five thousand, six hundred and sixty-three square kilometers, though taking into account the Workshop's existing area, including large structures such as the training arena and greenhouse, places the Workshop as a substantially larger territory." She explained.
Looking over the expanded space, it reminded me of the unrestrained landscaping we had indulged in during our spiritron training. A wide, rolling landscape was spread out around us from our vantage point on what was still technically the Lofty Loft, only now instead of an awkwardly placed concrete platform it was a plateau that overlooked the area that was currently my 'Workshop'.
The plateau was part of a mountain chain that also included the Volcanic Forge. Since the Lofty Loft could only include housing and luxury facilities, all the industrial portions of the workshop were spread out at the base of the volcano in a way that was effectively a city unto itself. Facilities that had never been more than a room buried in the depths of the volcano now stood in their own dedicated structures.
The layout of the buildings had maintained the rough alignment that had been present before, with research facilities, manufacturing areas, and vehicle hangars each clustered in their own sections. The additional facilities that had been constructed in the volcano's abundant internal space were still present, but absent of anything granted by my power. It left the mountain honeycombed with projects from my duplicates' twenty percent time that were now isolated from the labs and workrooms they were designed to supplement.
Down in the 'city' you had a cluster of research buildings that formed an effective district for themselves. My magitech workshop stood next to a simple house that hid my Ragnite lab. The massive gothic cathedral-like structure contained the Laboratorium in its new home, a building only matched by the Victorian structure that contained the Prismatic Laboratory. The district was adjacent to the manufacturing area, with the massive complex of the Alchemist's Laboratory bridging the two sectors.
The Alchemist's Laboratory expanded with my knowledge of alchemy, adding new facilities and equipment to accommodate any new applications of the art. What had started as an already impressive complex had grown to near ludicrous proportions from the compounding of different alchemy systems and enhancement of Unnatural Skill. It looked more like something that would house an entire university department than a personal facility of any sort.
The manufacturing area was definitely the largest 'district' in the layout of my facilities. Most of that was due to the various Workshops each being housed in their own structures. Each additional version of the initial workshop I had received improved the quality and size of itself and all the others. After five of them, covering metalworking, woodworking, clothing, electronics, and robotics, they were each the size of a warehouse and advanced enough to be useful workspaces, at least for the other members of the team. I had grown past them fairly quickly, something I doubted Garment would ever do. Even now she was evaluating the placement of her Clothing Workshop within the structure of the small city.
Beyond the Workshops, the largest structure was the collection of Cyberpunk facilities I had received after my first fight with Bakuda. That place had been cavernous and over the top from the inside. Seeing it from an elevated position really drove home how expansive it really was, especially compared to the relatively small buildings containing the cybernetics clinic, Launderer System, or the modest workshop provided by my Tinker-Tech Cache.
Heavier manufacturing facilities trended towards the third section of the layout, which contained the various hangars and garages. The vehicle manufacturing portion of my cyberpunk workshop stood adjacent to the Garage that probably came from the Gone in 60 Seconds films. The section also housed the hangars for my F-18 and Veritech fighters as well the one dedicated to my striker unit. A massive structure contained the Gundam Hangar, with a smaller one housing the Titans. The Personal Reality's Pilot Simulator was also located there, along with a portion of the Personal Reality's Garage.
Given that the Garage currently contained twenty-five thousand parking bays it was probably for the best that that particular facility ended up split across multiple locations. There was a similar arrangement for the Greenhouse and Shooting Range, with their massive sizes able to overwhelm any specific location, but spread through an area the size of America's second largest state and things became a lot more reasonable.
In the center of the districts stood my Computer Hub, upgraded with the technology of my spiritron computer's photonic core. A gleaming spire of crystal housing the interface thrones and computational heart of the workshop. It pulsed with energy as the serial phantasm continued to be assembled inside the core's simulated world, undisturbed by reality effectively rearranging itself around the device.
A wider view showed the truly massive facilities that occupied the outskirts of the 'city'. The Volcanic Forge stood on its own, bridging the gap between the Lofty Loft's plateau and the industrial space on the lower level. The Skyforge remained integrated into the Volcano, while the newly arrived Cybertronian Forge sprawled across an area of land that effectively dwarfed all of the rest of the structures, combined.
There was a minor feature of the Cybertronian Forge, one that I probably wouldn't have noticed before the arrival of the Personal Reality constellation. It was a factor that served to remind me of the real power of my major abilities. That minor feature was the quality that meant it would compose a 'good portion' of my Workshop's storage area. Thankfully, that didn't actually decrease the amount of storage space I had access to, but when combined with the space already available, a good portion of the total area would be composed of the Cybertronian Forge.
Simply put, the Cybertronian Forge's size was proportional to the size of my storage area. My power seemed to regard 'a good portion' as being about ten percent, which was indeed a good portion of space. At the base level of my workshop the storage area would have been sixty four hundred square meters, meaning the Cybertronian Forge would have been spread across about six hundred and forty square meters. Still an impressive structure, representing a square about twenty-five meters on a side, but not the kind of thing that prints spacecraft. Or city ships.
My current storage area was sixty-four hundred square kilometers. The Cybertronian Forge remained large enough to count as a 'good portion' of that, meaning it was basically a city unto itself. When it had been integrated into the volcano, effectively linked with the Garage, it was easy to overlook the scale, but seeing it out in the open, it was clear why I had been able to print a city ship so easily.
The Cybertronian Forge's scale didn't expand with the addition of the Village's purely aesthetic dividing zones and paths, but the more spread-out nature of the space meant its scale was clear. A gleaming metal factory the size of a city, standing ready to create whatever I needed.
Providing it didn't require the use of the Volcano. Or the Skyforge. The Cybertronian Forge could work with more than the Cybertonium it produced freely, but when fused with it I couldn't access the other structures. Some creative portal work might get around that issue, but it wouldn't be as smooth as creating items purely from the forge's own reserves. The other forges require crafting and refinement time, massively reduced by my powers, but not the near instant printing that the Cybertronian Forge could accomplish.
The Workshop's main entryway had been relocated to the slopes of the volcano. Really, it had barely moved, just shifting orientation within the mountain. It now opened up onto the massive assembly of workshop structures, with a clear path to the Loft. Well, a kilometers long path to the loft. Really, a kilometers long climb to the Loft. If I didn't have multiple types of easy portal travel and a team of people who could fly or teleport it might actually be fairly inconvenient.
That led to the amusing idea of my Workshop somehow being breached, only for the attackers to end up in the middle of nowhere without any idea where they were going or a means of crossing the distance. Really, it would be like dropping someone in the middle of rural Texas without a car or map and telling them to find their way to Houston. In a situation like that, the Detainment cells were barely necessary. Honestly, I had never considered using the sheer size of a location as a natural defensive element.
It was possible to see a great deal of the expanded Workshop from the Loft Plateau. The Loft was still located 'above' the workshop. Meaning above its effective storage limit of ten kilometers. If my Workshop had a natural curve similar to the Earth that would have put the furthest reaches past the horizon, but I was dealing with a flat Earth situation, meaning the only limit was physical obstruction and your ability to make out details.
The entire land spread out below us, containing rivers, lakes, inland seas and coves, rolling plains, forests, and hills that built to the mountain range that contained our plateau. The varieties of trees helped create different environments, areas of tropical, subtropical, and temperate vegetation. Survey's scans confirmed appropriate fauna for each of the areas, facilitated by the Personal Reality's Wildlife addition.
The only quirk was the uniform temperature. My workshop was kept at a comfortable range of temperature and humidity for anyone who inhabited it. It did mean that the animals were always fine, regardless of their preferred climate, but the pine forests and tropical beaches were effectively the same temperature. Likewise, despite being on an incredibly high mountaintop, the Loft was perfectly comfortable without even a hint of chill from the wind.
The Loft was limited to housing and luxury facilities. It had seen the same level of expansion, stretching from eight hundred meters on a side to over eight kilometers. As a result, the already spacious area had been taken to the next level, with each structure basically having an entire park worth of lawn space.
Said structures still included the mansions from the Housing Complex, but my initial apartment had been moved up here as well. It was joined by the Library, now in its own dedicated building, with the Trophy Room as a neighboring museum-like structure. The Entertainment Room was present along with its massive Auditorium. That structure had received an upgrade from Opulent Housing, with the interior being improved to the same level of extravagance and the snack counter now holding every name brand snack and drink you could want, rather than the generic ones that it had sported before.
"So, we basically have our own country now, right?" Aisha asked the group.
"The recent expansion is of limited utility." Survey explained. "While it does provide an avenue for transport and effective spacing, usable space remains at previous levels. Despite my comparison to the state of Texas, only approximately one percent of the Workshop's space is available for habitation and other uses."
"Ninety nine percent empty? I don't know, that sounds about right for Texas." Aisha said with a grin.
I could feel Survey preparing a breakdown of the urban/rural divide for the state, including an assessment of developed vs undeveloped land, with special categorization for agricultural spaces. Fortunately, she recognized Aisha's comment as a joke and didn't issue any correction. That felt like a good step forward for her, despite the fact that the analysis was still being conducted with the results filed away and an ongoing directive established to ensure they were kept up to date as well as improved by any additional historical data that became available.
"Still, it can get bigger, right?" Aisha asked. "That's happened three times with the other space. It's one of those ones that can keep repeating itself, right?"
I nodded. "Next time will increase things by another factor of a hundred. Counting the extra space from this expansion, it will take us to roughly the size of Europe and Asia combined."
Aisha let out a long whistle. "Fucking hell. I mean, it's basically too big already, right? What are you going to do the next time this shit expands?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "Not sure. I guess right now it's just open country. Kind of nice to have, and not as much pressure to make use of it. Not like there was when everything was bunched up." I looked over to where the city ship I had made was parked in one of the lower level's garage bays. It was something I could actually try deploying now. "Though I guess if you're feeling cramped in that beach house you could always get your own city, if you want."
"Ha." Aisha said dryly, looking over at the pristine castle that had been placed on the sandy shore of an upland lake. Water flowed away from it slowly until it cascaded over the edge of the plateau, splitting into multiple mountain streams and pools before joining the waterways of the lower level. Once again, an incredibly dangerous feature that was basically just set dressing for someone as well protected as Aisha.
Once again, it might be worth putting some safety measures in place. It was fine for every member of the Team, but in the event I had to bring in anyone else I didn't want to have accidently created a series of deathtraps through ignorance of how vulnerable normal people were to environmental features, sheer drops, or animal attacks.
"Yeah, I think I'm good." Aisha said. "That house is already too big for me. I'm not the kind of person who needs an empty city to myself."
Something occurred to me. "Actually, on that note…"
"Uh-oh." She said quickly.
"It's nothing bad." I assured her.
"I'll be the judge of that." She said smartly, folding her arms and trying to look stern, though I could see the amusement in her eyes even without the benefit of my other senses.
"Fine." I said. "I wanted to make you some proper storage for when you're away from the Workshop. Something where you don't need to mess with your Armor's subspace pocket."
"Yeah, I remember. It kind of got lost in everything that was happening." She said.
"Right, sorry about that." She waved me off. "After we're done with Tetra I can put something together for you. Maybe a clutch that can shift to a purse or other storage items? Something that expands into a chest or other larger storage wouldn't be difficult."
Garment immediately rounded on us at the mention of handbag designs, something Aisha quickly recognized, judging from the look of concern in her eyes.
"Uh, yeah." She said, making a placating gesture to Garment. "Maybe something simple that would work for the benefit tomorrow?" As she made the suggestion I could see Garment's immediate approval at the idea. Then Aisha paused. "Wait, why did that thing about me having a city make you think about this?"
"Eh…" I said, looking down at where my Transformer body was 'parked'. "Harry Potter gets kind of crazy with expansion charms. Even before the boosts to my unnatural skill and my new divine abilities, I could probably have managed a pretty decent sized set of rooms for you."
"Rooms." She said, "Rooms inside a purse was the baseline?"
"You know the kind of stuff I can make." I said defensively.
"Yeah, but…" She trailed off, shaking her head. "What the hell are we talking about here? You going to give me my own kingdom in a teacup?"
"I mean, do you want one?" I asked.
"No." She said firmly. "Okay, I get having a place to work on stuff when I'm away might be nice, but let's try to keep this to a single zip code, alright?"
"Fine." I said. "Look, I don't need to go over the top." She gave me a flat look. "Alright, there are some things I literally can't dial down. This is going to be a bit nuts, no matter how hard I try to reign it in. Sorry about that."
"It's alright." She said with an exaggerated sigh. "I'll find a way to deal with whatever pocket realm bullshit you end up deciding to bind into a coin purse or whatever."
"Thank you for humoring me." I said flatly.
"Don't get me wrong." She said, "I know this is crazy powerful stuff, stuff anyone would kill for. It's just a lot to deal with when it comes at you so quickly." She looked up at me. "But I suppose you know that more than anyone."
I shrugged. "It is a lot to deal with. Not the kind of thing to complain about, but staying on top of everything is a challenge."
She looked around from our position literally on top of everything. "Hey, at least you have help." She said.
"And I appreciate it." I replied, giving her an encouraging nod.
She shifted slightly. "Uh, I was actually talking about Survey. And Fleet, Tybalt, the Matrix." Aisha shook her head. "I'm good to pitch in where you need me, but I'm not the kind of person to take over civic management of whatever your power gives you next."
She smiled, then saw the look on my face. "Fuck, did I set that off?"
I shook my head. "No, law of averages. Enough powers show up, some of them are going to be at what looks like portentous times. Besides, it's not a bad one."
It wasn't. It was a familiar one. My power had completed another slow rotation, building up enough reach to connect to a very familiar cluster from the Quality constellation. I had just received another Minor Blessing, and another Unnatural Skill.
The blessing was from Ares, granting me the Blessing of Armaments. Unsurprisingly, it was about weapons. Well, weapons, armor, and instruments of war. I actually had a better context for this, considering the fact that Tybalt had the same exact power, only his was taken to the Nth degree.
Among Tybalt's many, many divine abilities was an innate understanding of the instruments of war. He could look at a weapon he'd never seen before in his life and instantly master its use. But his power went beyond that, to a true understanding of weapons, both physically and conceptually.
I wasn't anywhere near Tybalt's level, but my blessing did give me a fundamental understanding of any weapon, both in terms of design and use. The boost in understanding the application of weapons was useful, but the focus of my blessing was definitely the design and construction of weapons. And armor. Though really, it was mostly weapons.
I was guessing that Tybalt would be a fair hand as a smith if he tried to make a sword. Not close to my level, not even when I was limited to entry level demigod powers, but enough to match a master of the craft, at least in the mundane sense.
I was able to take that sense of weapons and use it to amplify the quality of my craftsmanship, but only when it came to instruments of violence. Which was no doubt the intent of the blessing, sowing more conflict as the God of War was want to do. I could actually recognize the nature of the sense, it being comparable to my own divine technology sense, though much more focused. It wasn't just that I could get a feel for a weapon's use or craft to a higher standard of quality, as little as that meant given my current level. It was the fact that I could literally sense weapons in the same way I could any manufactured item.
A weapon was wielded with intent. It was different from a simple tool, though in a way it could be called a fundamental tool. The recognition of that intent expanded to a rough sense of danger and conflict. I could tell when a bottle was being held to take a drink and when it was seen as an instrument of violence, ready to be smashed on a table and shoved in your face. I could tell if a hammer was being held as a tool of construction or a weapon of war.
It was a small thing, a supplemental aspect of a minor blessing, but it changed the way you saw the world. What was seen as a weapon. What was seen as an instrument of defense, and what wasn't regarded as either. Fully embraced it could create a kind of stark combat sense. You could wade into battle hyper aware of every threat coming your way, every obstacle that needed to be overcome, and utterly blind to anything that didn't fit one of those categories. Considering where that application of the blessing would invariably lead, it explained a lot about the heroes of ancient Greece.
The larger mote from the cluster was the one that granted me an additional Unnatural Skill. This time it was Unnatural Skill: Rituals. Given the more monstrous bent my unnatural skills seemed to take, the association there was clear. Some collection of dark creatures performing forbidden rites in a remote corner of the world, a dense forest or hidden cave. Elaborate ceremonies that called down disaster on their enemies, revealed secrets of the future, or unleashed horrific beings on the world. Creatures that barely had language or understanding or the forces they were commanding, but yet could perfectly conduct the rituals needed to bring about their aims.
Because ritual transcended language. It transcended understanding. It was the essence of an art, cast in time and passed on in a frozen form. Complex ideas could be buried in ritual, but they weren't the parts that mattered, only the ritual itself.
And my skill with ritual was now unnatural. Literal impossible skill that was only set to increase as I embraced the benefits of Monstrous Strength. And from that initial concept, the idea of shadows chanting around a fire to call the unspeakable into existence, the full breadth of what the skill meant spread out before me.
Ritual had meaning. Ritual WAS meaning. The meaning of the ritual was the point. Sometimes the ritual was a structure meant to facilitate complicated procedures, or a means of ensuring critical tasks were not overlooked, but sometimes ritual was a meaning unto itself. Rituals were special because of the meaning that was attributed to them. It was what separated a mere procedure from a ritualized task.
It was something I was well acquainted with from my tech-priest training. Observed from the technical side, I could recognize the purpose of each ritual. The specific tasks that were being accomplished, the instruction and coding that was buried in pageantry, but I could also see the meaning it held. The way it grounded both the tech-priests and the machine spirits they were attending to. The way it ensured consistency and quality on critical procedures in a way that no set of checks and confirmations could hope to achieve.
Even taking into account the ritual magic that could be accomplished through my various supernatural abilities, I could recognize both sides of the coin, so to speak. The practical actions facilitated by ritual, and the meaning they had. Often, one flowed into the other. Meaningful actions bringing about more powerful results from systems of magic where they were one and the same.
Anything could be ritual. That wasn't to say everything was ritual, but it was possible to ritualize any action, for good or ill. Mostly good, considering the level of skill available to me. And with that, every benefit of ritual action was suddenly available. Focus, consistency, skill, complexity, and the underlying power that ritual made possible.
If I had no magic and no way of enhancing my unnatural skills, this would still have been useful. It would have allowed phenomenal improvements in the speed and care with which I could work. Approaching crafting with ritual focus was a well-established practice. Even in cultures that lacked mysticism on that level, superstition and habits provided rituals of their own. Methods of clearing your mind before an important task or drawing out a bit of luck when you needed it most.
Everyone had their own rituals, because everyone ascribed meaning to their actions, great and small. Being able to expand that meaning, focus it, and draw forth the power that ritual intended was an incredible ability.
And a complex one. The power was incredibly versatile with dizzying limits, but the difficulty of reaching those limits couldn't be overstated. Fortunately, there were easier means to make use of it without preempting to rewrite reality through purpose and action. I had a myriad of supernatural rituals available to me from my power, all of which saw a staggering improvement through the use of this Unnatural Skill.
"Another Minor Blessing and Unnatural Skill." I explained to Aisha even as my duplicates updated Survey on the details of the abilities. "Blessing of Ares and Unnatural Skill in Rituals."
"Ares? Tybalt's dad?" Aisha asked, looking over to where Tybalt was receiving the same news with obvious excitement.
"Yeah. I guess he likes me? Or liked whoever I was in that world? Maybe because of Tybalt?" I shrugged. "Given the number of 'gods' I'm connected to from that universe, it's kind of a mess."
"Right. So, I'm guessing you're not on Tybalt's level?" She asked.
I let out a laugh. "No, not even close. I have a better sense of weapons and other articles of war. Enough to make a difference in designing and crafting them, as well as using them. Not his whole deal of picking up a sword and being an instant master, but it's enough to help me get a feel and understanding for any weapon." I looked over to Tetra and Survey's hologram. "Tetra will count. As a Kamui, she'll very much be a weapon. It will make a difference with the coming work."
"And the other one? Rituals? Will that help too?" Aisha asked.
I nodded. "Any action can be ritualized. There are benefits to that kind of thing, but this skill takes it beyond what would be conventionally possible. And that's on top of the obvious boost to enchanting and crafting rituals. I mean, libation is a ritual." I explained. "It will help. We just need to nail down the final details and get everything set up."
"Big moment." Aisha said, eyeing Tetra. "Think she's nervous?"
I considered our talk. "Probably a little, but not for the reasons you'd expect." I said. "I should probably get things ready. You okay?"
"Well, we've got a mid-sized country's worth of space to explore, so I'll probably take a flight to get out of your way before the big event. I'm really just here for moral support, so unless you need me for something, I'm good leaving the preparations to you."
"Yeah, we should be good." I said. "I know Fleet has been keen to get some scouts out into the new land. Not doubting Survey, he just wants to check for himself."
On cue, there was a roar of engines as a swarm of miniature jets and helicopters rose from the house he shared with Tybalt and the Matrix before peeling off into the distance. Aisha watched the tiny aircraft fly off and a small grin bloomed on her face.
"The Matrix is rebalancing the Mantic flow after everything got scrambled around, but they'll be back for Tetra's procedure." I explained.
If you looked closely you could just see the slight ripple in the landscape caused by swarms of nanites flowing through it as they repaired and realigned Mantic channels. Rather than being frustrated, the Matrix seemed to enjoy both having more space to work with and being given the chance to refine and optimize the initial layout of mantic channels that carried energy from the Dyson Sphere to the growing Mantic Cores.
There was also a project to set conductors and mantic shards through the expanded space. The restriction on storage for the connecting space was somewhat limited, but it didn't affect roads, channels or conduits. Hundreds of kilometers of our island nation was going to be linked with a reinforced mantic network in no time at all.
"Right." She said, calling up her armor. "I'm going to go check it out. Give you some space to get things ready."
"Let me know if you find a place where you'd like a city." I teased. "Or you know, a castle, if you want to slum it."
"Ha." She let out a dry laugh before sealing her helmet and jetting into the air.
The expanded size of the airspace meant that she could really let loose with her armor's flight system. Well, for a couple of minutes. And the looping effect would send her back and forth a few times, but it was probably good for her to get a handle on hypersonic flight before she tried it in the outside world.
I moved over to where Tetra and Survey's hologram were standing together with what looked to be a minimal amount of bickering, which was either a good sign or a highly concerning one.
"Hey." I said. "Things seem to be under control. Most recent powers should help smooth out the procedure a bit more, but we need to get those final details nailed down."
Tetra looked up at me in her glowing mink form and nodded. "We're ready."
I raised an eyebrow, looking between Tetra and Survey's hologram. "Really?"
"Major decisions have been confirmed. The exact dynamics of how recent abilities will be integrated into the procedure are being evaluated by your parallel iterations, with a secondary priority placed on supplementation of other projects." Survey explained.
Right. Scrying rituals. Hell, divination itself was a ritual art. With enough of a boost in this area scrying attempts might be refined enough to free up Survey from her near constant monitoring duty. Maybe even give us enough leeway to expand the program to other targets of interest. Not Coil, I was willing to trust Tattletale's advice on that, particularly since my passenger was in agreement, but I wouldn't mind having the Butcher under constant observation, if only to ensure that nothing major was set off in the time we were preparing to take out the Nine.
"So, you've picked the secondary material you want integrated?" I asked, glancing towards the Volcanic Forge. "And your fourth Mechashift form."
She nodded. "I'm going with transwarp energy." She said proudly.
I blinked. "What?"
"Transwarp energy." Survey repeated. "The dimensional shear force generated through the interactions of Cybertonium and purified Energon on a nanoscopic level. It has been successfully isolated as a workable form of energy construct by your parallel iterations."
I was aware of the effects of transwarp energy, though not that it had already been isolated as a workable material with the abilities granted by Titan's Blood. Simply put, transwarp energy was responsible for pretty much all of the bullshit that transformers were able to pull. That included impossible size changes, subspace storage, multidimensional computation, gravity and mass manipulation, faster than light travel, space bridges, interdimensional travel, and even temporal effects. It was pretty much the property that defined all of their advanced technology and fantastic capabilities.
It definitely wasn't a bad choice, but it wasn't what I had expected from Tetra. It was also pretty much exactly what Survey had been petitioning for in its more concentrated form, so I would have expected at least a token amount of resistance.
Of course, that was before I had gotten my own Transformer body. Transwarp energy was intrinsic to the functioning of Cybertronian technology, not just their higher-level applications. It was a fundamental force that was present in every Transformer, facilitating their very existence. It was easy to imagine why a lifeform dedicated to connections to other creatures would be interested in infusing the very life energy of a race of living machines.
"Tetra, is this so that we can still fully connect when I'm in the Transformer body?" I asked.
She looked up at me. "Would there be a problem if that was the reason?" She asked.
"No." I said. "But you don't need to commit to this. My cybernetics follow me to that form, and they're able to integrate with a Kamui."
"But not as well as they could." She said, "And this gives us other options, like with my fourth form."
Garment had made a commendable effort to sneak up on us. Of course, with my advanced senses it was about as effective as someone trying to sneak up on me, but I bore it with good humor as she slipped in and presented one of the concept drafts for Tetra's alternate forms.
Thanks to my skill with Mechashift and variable weapon technology I could integrate four alt modes into any device without compromising its functionality or requiring any magic, advanced physics, or exotic materials. For that reason, it was usually an entry level feature whenever I built something suitably complex.
I had other ways of granting alt-modes, transformations, and shapeshifting, but they required more significant effort and the use of resources that could compromise other aspects of the design. As such, the four 'free' modes became important to select, doubly so when it came to work as serious as Tetra's Kamui form.
The first three forms were settled. The Kamui god-robe form, a humanoid form capable of independent action, and form giving access to her life fiber mode. For the final form everything had been considered from a compact mode to various weapons, vehicles, robots, structures, and even more abstract applications.
I looked at Tetra's selection. It was one of the robot modes we had considered, largely based on the mobile suit she had merged with during our basketball games, though with an undoubtedly Cybertronian twist. It wouldn't be a full Transformer, as there were some components that couldn't be replicated outside of natural formation, but considering the divine aspects I could bring to play, the difference was academic. Tetra would be able to function on the level of any transformer, including the purpose she was clearly focused on.
I reached out mentally to my duplicates to confirm things before turning to her. "Powerlinx?" I asked.
"Or Mini-Con." She said, "I should be able to shift and match height, no matter how tall you get, but smaller modes will work too."
That was true. Tetra had an abundance of growth potential, in addition to the portions of her mass she kept compressed. Combined with the effect of my resource powers, I would be able to build a life fiber construct of titanic proportions. And also allow it to compress down into human form.
"And Survey helped you pick?" I asked.
"She explained all the ways Cybertronian technology can connect with each other." Tetra explained. "It made it easy to choose what I wanted."
I'll bet it did. Honestly, it was only slightly manipulative. Also, the fact that it was effectively a Cybertonium byproduct rather than the metal itself probably allowed Tetra to agree to it without completely backing down on her earlier stance. Sure, it was a slightly weakened position, but that was all part of the balance, and clearly not enough to cause Tetra to give up a chance at a stronger connection.
After my talk with Tetra I knew how important this connection was to her. My Transformer form placed an obstacle in the way of that connection. Not enough to block it, but enough to diminish it. I couldn't fault her for picking an option that would turn that drawback into an asset.
Also, it wasn't like it was a bad decision by any means. The amount of spatial and dimensional manipulation that she would be capable of was absolutely mind boggling. Unlimited flight was probably the least significant aspect, particularly when there was a decent chance she'd be able to open Ground Bridges or even Space Bridges on her own.
The truth was, as much as I was trying to get everything just right, life fibers were a force of constant evolution and adaptation. I was doing everything I could to give Tetra every advantage from the moment of creation, but she was going to grow, both from her natural skills and abilities, her access to Spiral Energy, and the very nature of life fibers themselves.
I was ready to throw everything I had into the ultimate act of creation, leveraging all the skills, powers, and technology of the Celestial Forge. But the result of that grand design would be a starting point, not a static masterpiece. I was giving Tetra the best start I could, but she was only going to grow from there.
I smiled down at her. "Alright. Come on, let's get started." My duplicates were already preparing things down at the Skyforge. It was time to begin the work.
Jumpchain abilities this chapter:
Treeline (Personal Reality) 200:
Walls getting you down? Well, you're in luck. Not only does this replace your walls with trees, there's actually a bit of a forest out there. Not useable for storage, but you can walk through the woods or cut down trees at the edge of the line for lumber or firewood. Any trees cut down regrow overnight and the stumps can never be cleared. You can walk as far into the woods as you like, but you'll eventually come out on the other side of your Personal Reality. The trees are a mix of common trees from Earth and you can customize them to your liking with sliders to control how many pines, oaks, poplars, palms, apple trees, etc. The trees will naturally cycle through a year over the course of a year.
Wildlife (Personal Reality) 100:
This Treeline upgrade adds in small forest creatures like rabbits, squirrels, wolves, and bears. Ferrets too, but they're not actually wild-animals… except the black-foot ferret, which is. Oh, yeah. birds too, I guess. And bugs… but only mostly harmless ones. Bees yes, Wasps no.
The Village (Personal Reality) Requires Sky and Ground plus Trees or Pond on all four sides:
Your Personal Reality now looks like a town in the middle of the woods, or in a mountain valley, or on a cliffside or seaside / lakeside. Not only that, but you can divide up sections of Warehouse by placing paths or bits of forest or water between them. This includes all Personal Reality expansions you buy, so if you want your Olympian Temple on an island off the coast of your village, that's fine. The dividing space can be up to 100x the total footprint of your Personal Reality space, but dividing zones and paths can't be used to store stuff… it's purely aesthetic
Minor Blessing Ares – Armaments (Percy Jackson) 100:
For one reason or another you've got a god who cares slightly about you and has seen fit to grant you some minor boon within their domains. Choose one god from any pantheon and gain a minor boon from them. The god will care slightly about you but unless you go on to further distinguish yourself it will be more of a minor interest in your affairs than someone they feel the need to help (Effectively think a diminished version of one ability a demigod might have, think minor ones are stuff along the lines of breathing water, lucid dreaming, or appropriate vague extra senses, useful but nothing especially major). This can be taken multiple times.
Unnatural Skill: Ritual (Percy Jackson) 200:
Whether from your heritage or just being that good you've got one particular mundane skill that your feats with border on supernatural. Whether you're a smith on the level of the Cyclopses, a near prescient tactician or a swordsman who is ny unstoppable with a blade your feats will be legendary. You are on a level within your skill such that only other beings of legend can hope to match you. This may be taken multiple times. You may not choose magic but you may choose a particular application of magic if you have it already (so curses, enchanting might work, more specific gets a bigger boost)