Saturday, December 5, 2015

Volume 3 - Chapter 7 - Darwin

It's not a long section, but you guys will forgive me right? =D Enjoy.  Today I'm celebrating my bday (it happens on a day near this one, but wife can only do this one this month), and Christmas plans have kept me busy, but I'm still going to be working on chapter 8 today, cause, well, what better way to celebrate turning a year older than writing more stuff!

Have fun. Also, AnonTBK called me up and asked me why Valerie isn't dead =/ shhh, who told him!?

    “Darwin, it’s times like these that I can tell you’re a real gamer,” Kitchens chuckled.
    “Huh?” Darwin asked, not entirely sure what he was talking about. They were both living out virtual lives in a game world, and he didn’t quite get how this particular moment was any different than the others.
    “As soon as you start talking about game stuff, all three of the ladies vanish like a gambling addicts Friday paycheck,” Kitchens snickered.
    “You saying women don’t get all doey-eyed over gamers talking numbers?” Darwin laughed, but the joke had been an all-too-familiar reality for him for a long time.
    “Well, it is why I tried to get my daughter into the consoles at a young age. I heard none of the nerds ever hook up, and the stereotype persisted well enough through my highschool and college experience to believe there was some merit to it. Should have done my homework though. It’s only the males that struggle. Now I have to buy ammunition every week and hope Minx’s stupid act works well enough to keep the dogs off the trail,” Kitchens continued to chuckle.
    Darwin, not entirely sure that Kitchens was joking about the ammo line, forced out a fake laugh. “You didn’t do your homework when it came to Minx’s future? That’s surprising.”
    “The signs were in bright neon lights. How I missed them baffles me. I don’t even think I have the right to be upset at the surprise given how well it was foreshadowed. If I did act shocked, it’d put me in the same group as those silly people who had no idea smoking would be bad for them: ‘Oh, you’re telling me that breathing in smoke isn’t good for you?’ Right?” Kitchens shook his head.
    “Right . . .” Darwin pondered where to take the conversation for a moment and then decided to take the ball that had been passed back to him and change the direction to something less life threatening than discussing Minx’s dating life in front of Kitchens.
“We need an audience,” Kitchens said.
    “For the killings, or for your daughter,” Darwin joked, drawing an icy glare from Kitchens.
    “I will kill you if you joke about that again.” Kitchens stared at Darwin menacingly for a moment before relaxing. “But, as far as the actual killing of the council, that plan actually requires an audience. People will fill in the details they don’t know about anything with the worst- or best-case scenario. If they want to believe someone is a wicked devil, all we need to do is give them the picture frame, and they’ll paint the canvas and fill in the details.”
    “So we need to keep the actual murder mysterious, but make sure we have an audience for it at the same time?” Darwin thought the two statements seemed a bit contradictory. “How exactly does one pull that off? Just have them watch the shadows?”
    “Well, that’s not a bad idea, but I think we can do better.”
    “Going back to the old rolling-the-heads-down-the-stairs routine, what about doing just that? If we drag a body out in front of them right as they all show up, won’t that give them enough horror to feed their imaginations without ruining the mystique?”
    “And how do you plan to get an audience there for the mayhem?”
    “The same way every boss gets his employees to show up for the eighteenth pointless meeting on pointlessness: make it mandatory.”
    “Don’t remind me. I used to hate the oh five hundred formations where we just stood around for 45 minutes or the briefings about the briefings about the briefings about a problem that only one guy in a different unit had,” Kitchens winced.
    “Well, the same principle should work. Just we have to make sure they have incentives to show up since we aren’t paying them with real cash or anything,” Darwin said, trying to think about how to lure people to the theater--or rather, the town where he planned on beheading some councilmen.
    “Haven’t you already done it?” Kitchens asked, looking over at Alex, who was still issuing out gear with Daniel and helping the parties break into teams.
    I didn’t realize that picking your ten closest teammates would be such a big deal or take so long, but at least they aren’t doing things in a haphazard fashion, Darwin thought. “You mean to say, the initiation requirement of killing other players will force them to show up at the gates of the beast city since they’ll need prey to fill their quotas?”
    “Something like that,” Kitchens answered. “I’m thinking more along the lines that if we put together an event and structure it, have Daniel or one of them lead it, and beat them to the punch, then we can probably get them to all show up not only at the right place, but at the right time. The tricky part will be making sure we get to kill the bosses and look great without actually upsetting them by stealing their prize, so to speak. If we were to sneak into the living quarters . . . and only take out the head honchos, then the rest of the players in the city would still be alive and still be fair game for our newly arrived minions.”
    “I see. That’s not a bad idea. Even if we take over the city, we can claim that the players who didn’t join us had already naturally decided to be our enemies and then order them butchered on the spot. No NPCs will be killed in the carnage, but it’ll definitely solidify the reputation we’re after.” Darwin found himself liking the idea more and more as he mulled it over. Even the thought of him being a devil was slowly growing on him like the taste of a brand of beer after years without other options. It wasn’t the first choice he would have taken--after all, he often liked to consider himself the valiant champion of justice in most games--but it also wasn’t the last choice either.
    “There you go. Now we just need to pull Daniel aside and let him know the gameplan. We can’t have the entire event organized directly by you, or it will be suspicious when you’re not a part of the actual entry crew. You’ll have to have him put together the order on your behalf as if you didn’t sanction them to do the operation, but you want it done and you won’t have an issue when they show up to do it,” Kitchens counseled.
Since they needed to get Daniel’s attention, Darwin had started to unconsciously head towards where he guessed Justin was. It wasn’t like there weren’t other demons around who could be equally effective at pulling someone away from a busy and tense group, but Justin had proven to be good at handling any task that came up in such a quick and expedient manner, regardless of the complications, that Darwin had started to rely on him for these type of tasks in spite of the myriad other capable people.
“You know, he might be a good one to bring with us for the actual assault, too,” Kitchens said as if he already knew who Darwin was seeking out.
“Oh yeah?” Darwin was a bit surprised. Kitchens often wasn’t the type to rely on others.
“He’s got a good sense of direction, has probably mapped out the city better than us and can sneak in and out of almost anywhere undetected,” Kitchens said, listing off Justin’s resume. “Unless you want to try the stealth game on your own?”
“We don’t have to be too stealthy, do we?” Darwin grinned. He remembered that last time they had visited the city, no-one had even noticed him until his horns popped out. “After all, sometimes it’s just about being confident, no?”
“Yeah, that’s a fair point. I think he’d be a good tool to add to the team before we move out, but it’s on you, boss,” Kitchens said, deferring to Darwin’s preference.
“Nah, let’s have him help Daniel and them.” Darwin didn’t want the NPC to be caught up in the frontline fight if things went awry. He was okay with he and Kitchens taking the risk, but not adding in someone whose death would be permanent. “How about we just handle this between the two of us . . . unless you don’t think it’s possible?”
“Don’t let your ego get in the way of the mission,” Kitchens quickly retorted. “But you are right. The two of us should be sufficient for the job. We can do it without him if you insist. It only means it’s going to be more difficult given we will have one less weapon in our arsenal.”
“Great, I like to hear that.” Darwin felt reassured. It wasn’t that he didn’t think that he could handle it even by himself if need be; it was just comforting to have that opinion reinforced by someone who seemed to have a lot more experience with these types of things. “Justin!” Darwin shouted out to close the distance as he saw his initial target in view. “Justin, we need a favor of you,” he called out to Justin.
“Yes, Great Lord Darwin, how may I be of assistance?” the scout practically dropped everything he was doing and rushed over to Darwin.
I hope he wasn’t busy with something too important. I’d hate to think us calling him over caused him to stop bringing medical supplies to a doctor or something. Darwin felt slightly off at how quickly Justin had abandoned his duty to come over. “Well, see, the thing is we need to talk to Alex and Daniel without being seen by the new recruits. Is there any chance you can bring them over?”
“Yes, Great Lord. Wait just a moment.” Justin sprinted away before Darwin could add anything else to the order.
“You sure you don’t want to bring him along?” Kitchens chuckled at how fast Justin disappeared. “We could just tell him to do it for us, and he would probably come back to us with the task completed and decorated with a bow tie before you could finish a cup of tea.
“You think we can find a way to kidnap the cookie baker from the beast city?” Darwin asked, remembering the delicious snacks as soon as tea was brought up. The tea was okay, but those cookies were divine. “Also, in a town where there very well might be a cow-like humanoid, where do they get the milk?”
Kitchens’ face paled for a moment. “Sometimes it’s best not to know how they make the sausage if you catch my drift.”
“You’re not even a little bit curious? I didn’t see any cow farms on the way here or in the town at all, but milk and cookies . . . Just saying,” Darwin responded, continuing the line of speculation.
“Imported. They have to have been imported.” Kitchens seemed determined not to entertain any additional possibilities.
“Whatever, but if you see a bull walking through town, know that there were no cows in the field,” Darwin couldn’t help but laugh at the idea.
“Hmm, speaking of bulls--” Kitchens hesitated for the span of one breath as he stared at Darwin’s horns before dismissing whatever idea had just popped into his head with a quick “Nevermind.”
“You needed us?” Daniel said as he and Alex walked over.
“Yeah, how is the item distribution going?” Darwin thought. “Have you dismissed any of them to go on their bloody rampage?”
“No, and even if I did, most of them would probably hover around. They are having a bit of trouble deciding on what groups they are going to break into. When you mentioned that it was a collective effort with team score counts, it was like they suddenly turned into a group of thespians stuck on the opening line of Hamlet’s nunnery scene. For the life of them, they’ve spent what feels like thirty minutes trying to figure out what team they want ‘to be’ or ‘not to be’ on,” Daniel groaned, facepalming. “I swear it’s not rocket science, but apparently the little villain wannabes in this game have about as many friends as the only white guy in a school for self-proclaimed social justice warriors.”
“So we have another hour or two before they get their stuff together and head out?” Darwin asked, trying to nail down a time frame.
“Maybe two at max, but more likely thirty to forty minutes more. Once one group gets going, the rest will fall into place like musical chairs, and we’ll just sweep up the remainder into a final team,” Daniel clarified.
“That might not be enough time if they leave after only thirty minutes.” Darwin knew he was faster on foot than many of them, but he also knew that he didn’t know the city and might have trouble hunting one or two stragglers down. “Before letting any of them depart, could you round them up and give them a boring speech about killing and maiming stuff? Drag it out like the opening ceremony at a high school's orientation. Try not to make them suffer as much as that, but definitely stall it like a principal who thinks he is cool enough to wing it with a few anecdotes.”
“Oh, man, I remember how bad that used to be. So do you need me to torture them with anything else?” Daniel chuckled a bit.
“Yeah, lead them to the gates of the beast city. Tell them we’re going to war and that all the kills in this event will count double. Don’t let them know, but have Alex’s scouts trail them and count the kills so we know how the groups are doing.”
“That won’t be necessary, Great Lord Darwin,” Alex interjected. “We will do that, but for some reason, when I assigned the quest, the gods have blessed me for my obedience to your orders by giving me a special method to track groups and kills. The magic box’s group section is still blank since no one has signed up, and, as a result, there are no kills attached to it, but I have confidence the method granted to assist me will work.”
“Didn’t your people abandon the gods?” Darwin scratched his head, remembering the conversation they had a long time ago back on noob island.
“That may be so, but if you didn’t give me the blessing, then either the gods or fate itself has gifted me this boon to better complete my service for the empire.”
“The empire?” Kitchens asked this time.
“Yes, sir, Darwin’s grand empire, the StormGuard Alliance,” Alex said with pride. “Sometimes the troops just shorten it and call it the Empire or the Alliance.”
“I don’t think those two usually go hand in hand.” Daniel’s face showed he was doing his best not to laugh at something Alex was so proud of.
“Why not?” Alex looked puzzled.
“Well, in our culture, a union, an alliance, a republic--they aren’t the same as an empire. Anytime you have a group that is represented as a bunch of people working together and deciding on things equally, they are always the good guys. On the other hand, empires, kingdoms or any group where only one person decides everyone else’s fate, well, those are the bad guys. We don’t often call one political setup by both names is why,” Daniel answered.
“That’s silly.” Alex’s mouth shot open and his eyes went wide as he stared in shock at Daniel’s explanation. “Everyone knows that masses of people generally make poor decisions, and the average person isn’t as well-informed on any given topic as an expert or specialist. I wouldn’t venture myself to know enough to make an informed decision on anything. Your culture has the two backwards. I’d much prefer the wise and benevolent dictator, our Great Lord Darwin, to track the course for our future over a group of my peers even if you could get them to agree on a course.”
Darwin thought for a moment. Well, he’s not wrong, and it does make sense. Mob mentality is frowned upon and cursed as the smartest of people acting in the dumbest of ways, but, then again, we also say democracy is the end-all be-all of good leadership. “Well, take it or leave it, Alex, but that is his people’s culture.”
“Not yours though?” Alex looked for clarification as if upon Darwin’s answer would satisfy more than simple curiosity.
“Of course not, Alex, I’m from the Empire, and our people have a mean but handsome leader who doesn’t tolerate group decisions,” Darwin laughed. He was rather liking the evil role he had assumed. If anyone ever had a question about moralities, ethics or philosophies, he could just take the barbaric and cruel way out of the conversation. This is definitely the time for a good old deep-voiced ‘muwahaha,’ he chuckled to himself. “And speaking of not tolerating group decisions, why are we having this discussion when there is a city out there that needs razing?” Darwin said, laughing loudly.
“That’s a good point,” Daniel conceded and joined Darwin’s laughter. “Shall we serve the city with or without fries, Master Darwin?” he added like he was a waiter at an old-fashioned diner.
“Master? I’m quite sure his title is ‘Great Lord Darwin,’” Alex corrected Daniel earnestly. The fact that he was sincerely trying to edify Daniel about the title, and not just continuing the joke, only added to the humor and made it even more difficult for the other three men to stifle their chuckles.
“Of course it is, General Alex.” Daniel was unsurprisingly the only one of the three able to pull a straight face back together as he addressed Alex’s sober tone in like kind.
“Good,” Alex said to Daniel and then turned to Darwin. “We shall stall them with this high school orientation speech and then leave to raze the beast city. Will you be joining us at any point? Would you like a report of our success, or are you coming to visit the battlefield?”
“Haven’t decided yet.” Darwin didn’t want to say he was going to be inside killing the councilmen in case he failed and ended up respawning back at the main city.
“Then we shall depart. I’ll have a report of every group’s performance and the success by the end of the day.” Alex bowed and then left.
“I guess I’m off to stall a bunch of our new members while you two do, well, whatever it is,” Daniel sighed and followed after Alex.
“So instead of spending too much time here planning, how about we just go kill them and figure out how along the way?” Darwin asked Kitchens.
“Sounds good,” Kitchen agreed. “We have time to find those cookies, right?”
“Of course. The world always has time for cookies.”

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