The rest of the group was still somewhat occupied when Kevin got back to Samurai Jack world – although Jarvians private party with Jaiden had run down and Marty had finally drunk himself into unconsciousness. The Mirage was having a few problems with rebuilding the bar: every time it tried to cut wood it exploded – and, while the local stone didn’t explode, and might even stand up to a couple of fights, it was having trouble making a stone roof that would stay up.
Apparently it had never heard of “arches”. To be fair, it was programmed to blow things up, not build them, normal wood wasn’t highly explosive, and normal materials weren’t up to Singular standards. Still, Kevin settled down to a little stone-shaping and explained a bit. The Mirage was grateful for the help, it had gotten a bit embarrassed after the second roof caved in.
Kevin gave it a “pat on the shoulder”: after all, it wasn’t like anyone had ever given it a construction program. It’d originally been a battleship, and he doubted that “combat engineering” was a part of the basic battleship database. He did suggest checking the files meant for training the units it normally carried though. The Mirage had never even considered those – but supposed that a lot of those files would now be relevant to it’s daily operations. After all, it now had a lot more flexibility about what kind of roles it could undertake: not only could it be called upon to crush all opposition, but it could now also be called upon to build up the local civilization.
On the topic of learning new things, the Mirage was wondering how it could gain the ability to change its size and repair itself like Kevin and his assistants did. Was it some kind of skill or something that required a human body?
Kevin had to think about that for a moment. The Mirage was way too powerful already for him to just give it any more power, but a lot of the stuff could be learned. It just required a soul (which the Mirage had) and time and effort. He had to say it was possible, but it might take awhile. The Mirage gave it some thought and decided that it thought that it would like to give it a try, as well as learning a bit about the other skills that humans used.
NOT DRINKING MARTY!
Marty was kind of disappointed about that – even if he had no idea what would intoxicate a mech – but had a headache anyway. Kevin got him some aspirin and a keg full of tabasco sauce with a Roc egg in it. Given how much Marty had been drinking, it seemed like overkill – or the option to bathe in the stuff – might be in order. Jarvain was of the opinion that Marty hadn’t been “drinking”; he’d been trying to pickle his major internal organs. Well, that was one of the perks of having regenerative talents. You could indulge, recover, and suffer no long-term effects. Marty had heard that from his boss before – which pretty much confirmed to Kevin that Mr Leland was an outsider in Battling Business World: Would anybody who was actually from there even understand the concept of long-term effects?
Jarvian had been checking up on how his cadets were doing with their Mech Operations lessons; he’d brought them along for testing and had been letting them train with the Mirage. After they had the basic’s down they’d get some hands-on experience at Solaris with Jarvian there to make sure they didn’t get themselves killed on their first time in a real Mech. He knew that Kevin could just bring them back if they were killed – but they needed to get a good feel for how not to die rather than relying on being brought back to life, notl east because dying usually meant the loss of a Mech as well.
They weren’t doing at all badly. Reflexes from hell on those youngsters. Very obedient and attentive too… Time for a little more basic classwork, even if the Mirage had gotten bored and wandered off. Flash cards with the various Mech chassis and their weapon load-outs – as well as some lessons on what the Mirage’s weapons were capable of.
Kevin and Marty still wanted to go enslave the families of the minotaurs for being idiots. After all, better enslaved than growing up to chew nitrocud – and Marty wanted his veal anyway (even Kevin wasn’t sure how serious he was about that).
The countryside road leading to the barn/stables was idyllic. Lush green rolling hills with blue sky, white clouds, and a gentle breeze. Pretty much a perfect day. Jarvian kept the cadets busy with the flash cards for most of the trip (miraculously there was no ambush) and then deployed them around the fringes to make sure that no one escaped. It would make great chokepoint training and they should be able to handle basic perimeter security while he provided heavy firepower as needed. Meanwhile, Kevin had been wanting to know if he – Jarvian – had a permanent residence. What was all that about? Oh well, the answer was simple enough: he was still saving up for a nice place and a mech hanger.
Kevin made a note to get Jarvian someplace relatively soon: Jaiden took her assignment to help him out with whatever he wanted quite seriously – and he had apparently wanted an heir.
Incredibly, there wasn’t an ambush. Instead, there was a farmstead with a white picket fence and a lot of signs – “Welcome! Please stay off the Grass! Please do not wear red while on property!”. So they more or less did – and found that the place was run by a farmer with a “shotgun” who raised and sold Minotaurs (feeding them on the explosive nitrograss). Apparently the ones in town had just been straying out for a little booze. They usually sold as mercenaries for Aku and his minions – but if they were interested in buying some, the Bulls that showed a proclivity for surviving were moderately pricy, cows that successfully birthed offspring were quite pricey, and unproven youngsters and adolescents were cheap.
Unfortunately, at about that time it became apparent that Marty had forgotten to take off his bright red power tie – and slipped trying to dodge. Unfortunately, Jarvian’s hail of machine-gun fire set off a chain-reaction that included the grass, most of the trees, the picket fence, and quite a few of the other Minotaurs, blowing everyone high into the sky, covering them all with soot, producing the classical mushroom-cloud effect and forcing Jarvian to make some tricky piloting checks (the others mostly just settled for breaking their falls).
They had to explain to the Mirage, compensate the Farmer (who was doing just fine, even if plummeting), and have Marty TAKE OFF THAT TIE. Almost a third of the stock had gone up, along with some outbuildings, and it was mostly their fault (even if it did happen every few years and left the survivors and their offspring even tougher).
Fortunately, they could easily produce enough local currency to pay for the damages and for the surviving offspring of the one’s they’d defeated at the bar. There were about 40 of them – none with souls (not that Kevin had really been expecting any; he couldn’t imagine someone bothering with an incarnation like THAT).
One adolescent bull was pretty defiant; it kept spitting and blowing small craters in the ground. Well, it looked like they had a volunteer steer, and Jarvian and the Mirage wanted some tissue samples to analyze anyway. That sort of discipline was fairly soft by the Farmer’s standards: he sometimes sent the troublesome ones to the grinder and had the others watch from behind a blast shield – but it worked on most of them. Anyway, after analysis it looked like the metabolism of the minotaurs and the grass was based on a nitroglycerin compound that took the place of sugar in their diet and metabolism. The Mirage found that pretty disturbing: it’s files on medicine, biology and evolution were telling it that something was VERY wrong – and the groups basic “reassurance” that “this was a cartoon, it didn’t have to make sense” was pretty hard on most of its basic precepts about the universe. Regardless, it didn’t look like Marty would be having any veal: the Minotaurs looked to be too explosive to cook.
They went looking for a fight scene: preferably somewhere with a cause to champion, someplace attractive to raid, os some combination thereof – like a bandit lair with a lot of treasure and slaves to rescue or ransom back to their families.
Oh dear: they were turning into The Slayers.
Well, there was a bandit lair nearby: a castle high on a cliffside from which the bandits made daily raids on the unsuspecting (?) townsfolk. They headed for the town to see what they were willing to offer to get rid of the bandits.
Along the way they had to explain matters to the cadets (who’d all had their hair blown into weird hairstyles and colors by the explosion). They were wondering whether it had really been necessary to use a nuclear weapon on the farmer, his livestock, and his crops – and found it kind of hard to believe that it had BEEN the livestock and the crops. That more or less called for a demonstration – and that stupid steer was still talking tough – so they called it over and set out to mock it into exploding spontaneously. It turned out that it was actually possible – and relatively easy at that. The blast flattened everyone, and shocked hell out of the cadets, but was relatively harmless otherwise.
The other Minotaurs went for Kevin’s offer to make them non-explosive. Even they thought that work would be much better than exploding.
The guards at the town thought they were early bandits, but were easy enough to get past. It looked like the bandit attack was basically a regular game of “capture the flag” – albeit with weapons and disposable minions – but the villagers had to put up all the prizes.
Marty felt that that was reasonable enough: it sounded a lot like business at home. The bandits took food, weapons, minotaurs, and money, but in relatively small amounts.
Oh well. If the prize was split up based on number of kills (and their ranks) if the defense was successful, it might be worth going after anyway.
Marty started exploring the town looking for chokepoints, Jarvian and the Mirage started analyzing the best fields of fire and introducing the cadets to battlefield planning, while Kevin started running an aerial survey.
It looked like the critical chokepoints were the three city gates, the three roads leading to the town center, and the bridge on the north side of town. There were plenty of alleys to hide in and the best fields of fire were from the towers on the town wall.
Kevin threw up a quick plan for consideration – light resistance at the gates on the way in to funnel the bandits towards Jarvian at the town center. Use the Thralls, Cadets, and locals to seal off the exits after the bandits are inside, and squeeze them between the Mirage and the various exits. The townsfolk probably had enough guards to handle the back alleys, especially if the group had the Minotaurs help barricade and trap them. They could even use minor illusions and trash to cover up the barricades and traps.
The bandits usually came in from the north, then split up and moved along the wall to one of the two closest roads leading towards the city center. From there, they crossed a bridge to get to the town square. Well, that added another element: if they came that way, they could use the bridge to choke off their retreat. After all, they were looking for a total capture / massacre if they could manage it.
The bandit minions tended to be a mob The bandits themselves showed some discipline, but were hardly crack soldiers. The main bandit leader was well equipped, had been doing this for years, and had personally captured the flag many times. Most often he stayed in back and drove the minons forward, but sometimes he sneaked up on it while the minions ran distraction. The other leaders were newer at this, and had less skill and equipment, although they did work reasonably well as a team. There were about 15 leaders and – usually – about 90 minions.
Marty elected to hit the leaders, Jarvian assigned the Cadets to an aid station (and as backup), Kevin had the three Thralls stick to bird-form for the moment so that they could either drop in as reinforcements or help block the way back out if the bandits should retreat en mass.