Chapter 243 - Forethought (8)

Selis is over the moon. Sitting on top of a massive body of water, she revels in several pleasant sensations at once. She, of course, enjoys being surrounded by such a massive quantity of liquid. The blue flashes that are running through her veins and body - what Teach calls her affinity - hum in the presence of the water. Having spent a long time in the desert, having to ration out water while reclaiming as much as possible was great for training her fine control, she admits. But why bother with all the finicky fiddling when just smashing stuff with overwhelming power works fine?

She does worry a bit that Ferah might be stirring up trouble again, though. The hyperactive furball always manages to get into some form of trouble with her inability to sit still.

Slapping her face, Selis continues focussing on the present, swearing once again that she is done with the brats forever. They can be someone else's problem. Let that wet rag of Ares’ resume her teaching job again, for all Selis cares.

The second thing Selis is really enjoying is the food. Say what you will, Tree contains a massive spread of amazing meals. She has been snacking nearly constantly, now that she no longer needs to ration the few meager scraps she could scrounge up from the desert and the cubic Dungeon.

Thirdly, she enjoys getting to test out her Foundation Realm cultivation base. When she was dropped inside the scorching hellhole of a desert, surrounded by whining kids, she had run herself ragged to try and keep them alive at the very least. Keeping the snotnosed brats from overheating and dying of thirst or hunger was easy, she’d figured out pretty quickly, but keeping them happy took a lot more trial and error.

At least she can face the true reason why and how she stepped into the Foundation Realm now. Her concept had been born from frustration with her building materials, and now she can only laugh at how simple and stupid it had been. Digging in the sand is basically an impossible thing to do, as every single pit you make just fills in faster than you can dig. Shifting the stone grains from solid to liquid had been the trigger - she had basically bullied the matter into obeying her Will through bullheaded stubbornness. She'd entered into the Foundation Realm while turning her solid core into a shifted state. From gas to liquid to solid and to gas once again, these transitions had become easy as pie for her.

This allowed her to create a rather elaborate set of tunnels, rooms, and living areas that brought some much-needed structure to the glorified daycare Selis had been forced to form.

Using this power for a useful purpose feel amazing, though. Instead of using it to create new rooms because two kids had a fight an no longer wanted to sleep in the same room together, she now carves through rock. Instead of drying a certain kid’s wet bed for the umpteenth time, she now uses it to get some proper revenge on Teach, that massive asshole.

And that’s the fourth pleasant sensation currently sending chills up her spine - just the image of flooding the bastards precious mass-production sites fils her with vengeful glee. The new shape and size of Tree is honestly still something she has trouble wrapping her head around. She herself has seen it grow from a small tree with a pancake of land into this massive planetoid. The massive production lines sitting inside the central core is something Teach has obviously poured a lot of love and attention into. And Selis gets to ruin it all!

The lake surface she is sitting on top is deceptively calm. Underneath her butt is a massive pole of solid water, rapidly rotating. The beam continually elongates, and a viciously barbed mining head far below Selis digs into the earth at a rapid speed. A haze of qi and Will surrounds the boring head, softening the solid rock before it’s crushed and sucked upwards at rapid speed. The entire thing is a very good exercise for the blue-haired girl, as she needs to control  and transition fluids and solids in several states.

She spares enough thinking power to keep her body clean of sweat, but other than that, she has all her mind, and Will focuses on the boring process. She keeps giggling softly. The mental picture of Teach’s massive stocks of raw materials being washed away is something she is looking forward to very much. Seeing all those delicate drones of his smashed in a raging torrent of water under her control is something she very much wants to do.

Why Re-Haan put this quest up on the task board inside Database is anyone's guess, but Selis saw a chance to do damage and jumped on it. Then, while she is lost in imagining the face Drew will make when he learns of all the damage she’ll do, her drill punches into open air.

Selis doesn’t even bother removing all the stone from the hollow bore shaft. Instead, she immediately and violently reverses the flow direction, sandblasting the white core far below her with freshly ground stone. Then the drilling shaft is cleared, and Selis lets her qi spill out into the hollow surface around Database.

What she sees fills her with glee. The production lines are still producing all kinds of materials, from small triangular mapping drones to the more experimental beam weapons that those braincore scientists have been developing. She sees massive heaps of mystery powders lying here and there, precious stocks of metal bars neatly stacked everywhere. The production lines are made from long strips of malleable alloy, and Selis admires the design of the setup for a moment.

Then, she turns her massive pipe of solid water into a pressure washer and starts blasting away at everything.

Instead of the destructive flood wave she had been expecting, the moment the water hits the surface, an even more destructive explosion happens. Thick white clouds of steam violently discharge where she aims, doing a massive amount of damage, sure, but she also gets the feeling she has been had. Increasing the water flow to her very limit doesn’t really change the picture. Her high-pressure stream of water keeps turning into steam the moment it hits the white factory floor.

Did Rhea just tell her to go and spray water on Database to cool it down?

The entire shell of empty space inside the small planet fills with steam, and Selis is forced to start fighting against the building pressure below. The lake rapidly drains as she forcefully keeps sending water through the tunnel she dug downwards, every drop she sprays at Database adding to the building steam pressure.

Suddenly and abruptly, Selis know that she will die if she doesn’t move. A deep part of her mind tells her to get the fuck away from her current position. Then she is falling, and there is no more water around her, just an empty river bed. Small streams are trying to fill up the empty basin, the rivers feeding into and out of the now-empty lake reduced to small trickles.

Then Selis notices that she is running on fumes, her braincore empty of qi, and the smidgen of Will at her disposal largely expended. Then she senses the spike of superheated steam that is bursting upwards, aiming right for her. A massive amount of steam, several hundred degrees of lethal gas, at pressures that are not healthy, is about to flash-boil the girl, and she’s barely able to react. Her life flashes before her eyes for a bit, and her only regret is that she didn’t manage to stab Teach.

Then a silver triangle hits her in the side, causing all her bones to creak and groan, tossing her into the soggy mud of the empty lake bed. The drone hovers above her for a second, a clear girl-shaped indent in its frame. It then zooms off, but not before Selis manages to read the note stuck to the bottom. It says ‘Thanks, sweetie!’ with a few hearts around it. She has seen enough of Teach’s chicken scratches to recognize his hand-writing.

The rage that floods through her tiny frame is enough to make her stand up in a flash of blind fury as she lets out a keening shriek. Then the fact that she just used every single speck of power inside of her body rears its head again. She falls over, this time splashing down face-first into the thick mud. She manages to turn her head just far enough to get some air and to look at the massive geyser of steam blasting into the sky. As the condensation starts to fall to the earth in a soft drizzle, she numbly looks at the forming rainbow. She closes her eyes, and while softly spewing forth a litany of scalding vitriol, she falls asleep.

“Wow, that’s new.” Tess stops what she is doing to admire the newly blossoming geyser. A majestic rainbow plasters itself across the round horizon, giving the chaotic clearing around Tree a hint of festivity.

Ket looks up from the sprawl of complex metal items he’s fussing over. His face lights up, and he snaps his finger the moment he sees the new feature. “That’s why Database is being so stingy with processing resources! I wanted it to calculate a couple of million possible permutations, but it kept replying to my requests with the mental equivalent of ‘hell no, fuck off.’”

Tess gives Ket an odd glance, before sighing and turning to their newest customer. “Hey there, how can I help?”

“Database was overheating, Teach, and Re-Haan must have been pushing way too much data. Probably while crawling,” mutters Ket to himself.

“Ignore him, how can I help?” Tess looks at the green woman while smiling professionally. “Green, was it?”

“Well, yes? Rodrick told me to come here? I’m not sure though, what is happening? I was chilling in my town when all this stuff happened?”

Tess forces herself to keep a neutral smile on her face. “You are in the foundation realm?”

“Well, no? I think so, maybe?” A sad sight escapes from her green lips. “You know how it is, right? Finding the right man is so hard, and then when you finally have them, they turn out to be gay. But then the one you thought was gay comes back, and turns out to not be gay? I was like, we boners have to stick together, but he just ignored me! Just ignored me, can you believe it.”

Tess is still smiling, although only barely. She breathes in deeply, telling herself that she has chosen to be the public face of this operation, so Ket can tinker with metal. “Why are you here, Green?”

“Stop calling me Green. Only Rodrick can do that. My name is actu-”

“Why are you here?”

“Alright, calm down. I’m not going after Ket, you know. Way too scrawny. I need some meat to hold on to. Just like my grandpapa use to say-”

Tess turns her smile into an even flatter line. “Why are you here?”

“Ah, so I decided that wealth also could be on the inside now and then, right? I was sure that wearing jewelry would get me results, but people just looked at me funny. Then I was like, as long as I know I'm rich, they can all go be poor somewhere else, right? Then I got a bit stronger, or whatever. Also, give me a mark-seventeen bruiser-class piledriver model.”

“Why are you-” Stumbling over her words, Tess replays the last sentence in her head. “Are you close-combat? I thought you were a bonecore?”

“Yeah, about that… Why is that the only grey one? I’m not wearing anything metallic or green, of course. Dricky just told me to go here, and that I had to pick one of the suits.”

Tess rolls her eyes and turns to Ket. "One defensive flight model, painted blue. Please stand off to the side, and you will be fitted shortly.”

“No, I want the bruiser. That one looks so buff and expensive. The flight ones just look like the other cheap suits, I’m not-”

Tess takes a small moment to relish in the suiting process. The helmet shuts up the chattering woman better than a pillow to the face ever could. The entire thing comes together like a beautiful seamless puzzle. 

The moment the helmet snaps shut around Green’s head, the other parts slam into place. Ket waves his fingers around in a distracted manner as he directs the metal items at high speed. Tess ignores the muffled complaining coming from Green and turns to the next person in line. “Sorry about the delay, how can I help you?”

Tess and Ket continue to suit up person after person. Ket modifies parts on the fly when needed. Tess occasionally slips into the shadows, stuffs her ring full of parts in storage areas, and hands them to Ket. They suit up person after person until Ket suddenly starts cursing up a storm.

“Ket? What’s happening?”

“That stupid, stupid bitch! The spiteful little bitch. Be right back!” Ket furiously swears. Strands of grey power flash into being, connecting Ket’s head to every single metal item around him. These items then sink into the ground half a centimeter and Ket goes flying, twirling grey mist in his wake.

Tess just stares at his shrinking form with open mouth, tracing him as he zooms towards the massive gout of steam creating clouds. Tess just looks at the next person in line, shrugs her shoulders, and pulls something to eat from her ring.

Half a minute later, Tess is startled from her small moment of culinary bliss by a wet plop. Looking around, she sees a mound of mud lying next to her. “What’s this, then?”

“Hey, Tess,” groans the pile.

“Hey, Sel. What’s going on.”

“Nothing much,” replies the pile before it starts snoring.

“What was that about?”

Ket lands, a very stern expression on his face. “Add another hour to the estimated time of completion. Someone just went and purposefully completed a quest in the wrong manner. And she has ruined a massive amount of my orders, which I now will have to manufacture and customize myself.”

 Tess gives the muddy heap a small kick, sending it rolling towards the side. Wiping the mud from her shoe with a disgusted expression on her face, she turns to their next customer while schooling her face into a smile. “Sorry about that. How can I help you?”

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