Solo Apocalypse - Chapter 43
[World Notice]: Gerard Malou has achieved a feat worthy of global recognition! He is the first to establish a Settlement, [Skyeward], and the first to settle the Floating Islands of Allow!
The magic from the book, that spark of energy, faded. Like sugar dissolving into water, lost to all my senses, despite how I grasped for it. I tried to reignite the feeling to no effect. Other things took precedence.
The [World Notice], for one.
It was strange seeing it from this perspective. Like everyone had heard something or noticed a detail. Not enough to pause or lose focus, but enough that anyone looking would’ve seen an expression cross someone’s face. A raised brow, a low whistle, an open mouth.
As if the same thought had struck dozens of people at once.
“What’s a Settlement?” Someone asked, cocking their head and speaking over the mutters.
“It has to be related to the System.” Another voice called. “It’s got that ring to it. Maybe it’s something like our Skills? Or Items from the Dungeon? There’s gotta be some significance to it.”
“You think there might be bonuses for Roothaven if we can figure out how to establish one?” Jack nudged me.
I shrugged. “You know as much as I do.” He raised a brow. I sighed. “But it looks that way. There might be something to that, so long as people figure out what to do with Blitz.”
“The Floating Islands of Allow…?” Jack said, contemplative.
Down below Gary was arguing with some of the key people in Roothaven, Ralph among them, on how to proceed. There were other key figures, some men who took it upon themselves to hunt out in the swamp, a collection of people with healing abiliites, a number of individuals suited to acting as sentries and more.
I listened with my full attention, although I doubted anything would truly interest me. ‘Full’ attention, meaning just about one ninth of my attention, as it related to my clones.
[Skyeward]. I had to admit the name was better than Roothaven. And these Floating Islands sounded like a much better place to experience the apocalypse than the damp and humid swamp we found ourselves in.
The [World Notice] served to remind me of how small I was. There was nothing familiar anymore and I couldn’t tell whether our world was spliced with some other one, or the whole of it had been irrevocably changed. I could see it on their faces, hear it in their thoughts, that same uncertainty, that feeling of insignificance.
Floating Islands? Where the hell is that supposed to be? I heard the thought and followed Jack’s gaze through the swamp’s canopy upward towards the sky. Only the distant shrieks of birds larger than us answered our gaze.
For a moment, that smallness dominated the conversation, guided the meeting’s thoughts. Until… it didn’t.
Someone did it. Another consciousness. There are other people out there. Struggling, fighting, and living.
And with that single thought, something else was sparked. “There are other people out there.” Someone cut in. “There are people out there besides us!”
That person caught a few surprised gazes. Someone chuckled. Gary. “Might be hope for us yet.” He said.
I suppressed a small smile, turning the notice over in my head. That was the other perspective to consider. The [World Notice] didn’t speak to our insignificance, it spoke to humanity’s determination to survive. Somewhere, out there, people found success. If there was at least one other group of survivors out there, I could count on more.
The whole world saw that message.
“Is this how people felt when they saw my achievement?” I wondered suddenly. “A candle of hope against the storm of the apocalypse?” I hadn’t been thinking of it like that, only as another quirk of the System.
Those simple words broadcasted to the entirety of the world were symbolic of something much greater. The tenacity of humanity. When I had killed the [Rootmother Hivemind] were the effects the same?
“What was that?” Jack asked me, curious.
“Nothing.” I smiled.
Blitz wasn’t my problem. I was fairly certain I could find my way into the Dungeon if I wanted to, regardless of any thugs stationed there. No, that was a problem for the people who planned to stay here in Roothaven.
Besides, thugs were the least of anyone’s worries. They hadn’t noticed yet but Roothaven did have dedicated patrols. I’d run into them before, though keeping out of sight. My physical stats allowed me to traverse the terrain easier than anyone should have had a right to, barring some specialized Skills like Rickson’s [Terrain Traversal].
Elsewhere, I beheld a horde. The dangers of the swamp had been relatively muted since the death of the Field Boss. That could’ve stemmed from the territory itself garnering a reputation from the local wildlife, or something else entirely. Either way, it had been the calm before the storm.
Of course, there’d been cases of people mauled, or shot with arrows. Messy wounds from wolves and goblins, people bedridden from eating the wrong thing, or incapacitated from touching something poisonous. The swamp wasn’t exactly safe, it never was.
This was different.
I held my arrows silently, palm against the tree trunk, far above the perception of any of these monsters. They were twisted caricatures of a humanoid. Green, brown, the mottled colors of the swamp itself. Their faces were ugly and their beady eyes held a certain maliciousness, a horrible glee I’d witnessed firsthand.
My fingers itched at my arrows upon seeing them. I glanced up, looking across the canopy, relying on that uncanny awareness of myself, and found another of my clones doing the same.
I hated goblins.
Another of me was scouring the branches, traveling alongside the horde. These particular clones were already a day’s travel from Roothaven. The horde itself? It was on a direct course for the ramshackle gathering of survivors. Evidently, the small groups or pairs of goblins people had been reporting were scouts.
I grimaced, images of the dead floating to the fore. Roothaven wasn’t yet the haven people like Gary wanted it to be. Even Ralph and the rest of the craft-savvy people could only do so much in the way of real shelter. People died. Some people have adapted, most were still trying to ignore it, and others were burying the bodies.
“Maybe establishing a Settlement might do something,” I muttered. “To help… against this.”
Another me watched one of Roothaven’s patrol. A cobbled-together trio of survivors with Skills suited to the wilderness. They wore some of Ralph’s cloaks and were equipped with Items from the Dungeon.
I saw them hear the horde before they glimpsed it. One of them cocked their head and all three went silent before cresting a root and glancing down at the front of what I’d been monitoring. They went pale white and quickly scrambled away, conversing amongst themselves before darting towards Roothaven.
I could have relayed the same information instantly but… “There’d be too many questions.” I glanced at the trio again. They were moving fast enough. The horde, in comparison, was taking its time.
Goblins, evidently, were not the most organized. They were tripping and falling over each other, picking fights between groups I couldn’t distinguish, and generally getting into enough commotion to stall their march.
“Besides, there’s something I need to test.”
The capacity to perceive and interact with the mind, consciousness, and thoughts of both one’s self and others. To sense, communicate, and influence other thinking entities.
The reason I’d found the damn horde in the first place was from the absolute mess of conscious thought emanating from it, not that I wouldn’t have found it otherwise. Like the actual noise, their mental state was a constant buzz, with waves and peaks of emotions like anger, hunger, annoyance, anticipation, and more.
As much as I’d like to explore whatever energy that book had sparked within me, I had a Skill I’ve already neglected experimentation with for too long.
There’d always been that little caveat in the description. This was the Skill granted alongside the [Rootmother Hivemind’s] demise, the one that was an intrinsic part of the [Trailblazing Vanquisher of the Hivemind] Title. And connotating the Skill to the Field Boss’s mind control wasn’t that big of a logical leap.
I’d steered away from people, feeling it wrong to dabble in the minds of other survivors… but these? These things didn’t hesitate to take someone’s eye. Didn’t hesitate to plunge their clawed hands into someone’s eye socket and yank—
I pressed a palm to my eye and stared downward.
Good prey! Good prey! Kill! Laugh! Food!
The tide of thought washed over me, practice among the survivors and the increased mental attributes helped me stand my mental ground. They didn’t come in words that I knew. Instead, the context, the emotion, and the flashes of images allowed me incredible insight.
Through it all, I picked out the thoughts of a signal goblin. A larger specimen that parted the goblin crowd like it was natural. I couldn’t tell if the goblin itself was any different, or it just had size. The jostling didn’t seem to bother it, although it wasn’t shy to stomp on any of its kin that annoyed it.
Will kill flesh things. Yummy goblin-nots. Pink, red, food, big! It’s thoughts just about matched it’s ugly mug. And its internal perspective of what a human was, was not exactly inspiring.
In two other places, my clones found their own targets, picking through their thoughts.
I dived into myself, drawing on that ice-cold flame deep within. That frozen fire that I used to contain the earliest days of the apocalypse. The science building, Horace, the goblins, the spider. It was anger, hate, and hopelessness. An emotion that bubbled up from the abyss and made one lash out, unable to reconcile it.
I breathed, mastering it as I always did.
“Hate. Anger. Hopelessness.”
That bundle of emotion, that searing blade of memory—I opened my eyes and found the goblin’s mental frequency, piggybacked the emotions that lined up, hijacked its reasoning, and stabbed it. And I felt its mind, defenseless, vulnerable. Resisting, twisting, a natural confusion that tried to reconcile a foreign influence. I felt like the [Rootmother Hivemind], as it had when it had planted itself into one of my clones, invading my mind, only now the goblin was me.
A blanket of disgust covered me, a breach of my morality, but then I stared at the creatures below, heard the thoughts of the horde, and allowed the apocalypse to win once more.
I paused, watching the goblin jerk in place, eyes suddenly confused. Then destroyed whatever semblance of logic it still held onto.
“Rage,” I whispered, voice hard.
And the goblin, larger than the rest, howled. Its eyes burned with sudden fervor, alight with a bloodlust I recognized. Immediately, the surrounding goblins scattered, screaming. And it grabbed one of its kind by the throat, an unlucky runt, and smashed him into the ground before throwing the body at the rest.
Another howl. It had come from another point in the horde.
I sat above, a ghost and a specter. A hovering wraith haunting the minds of the living. I stared down at the chaos below. The scattering of small sections of the horde, the traffic, the bloodshed, the bloodlust that was spreading. In those small sections, absolute carnage.
“So this is the result of a world-worthy achievement. Of defeating a Field Boss solo.” I said to myself.
With a grimace, I followed the horde, experimenting.