Aldrich manifested in the Crypt once more. The bright green light of the throne shard in the Nexus was replaced by permeating, purple outlined darkness from Null emissions. It was a little jarring coming back to the Crypt and witnessing darkness.
Real darkness. Because Aldrich had racial nightvision, he could see through ordinary dark, but the kind of dark the Null ore emitted was something his sight could not pierce. There were very few circumstances in which he would ever find himself unable to see in the dark, but if there was ever a case of it, this was it.
Regardless, Aldrich had enough visibility to maybe three of four meters ahead of him.
"You are back, Warleader!" said Volantis. Or rather, the illusion of Volantis. The voice sounded just the same, though, and it boomed throughout the metallic structure of the Crypt.
"Keep it down," said Aldrich. "It's difficult to get any surveillance down here, but what little there is, I assume it's based off of sensing vibrations. Likely through a physical trigger system that doesn't have to rely on tech.
In other words, you're being too loud."
"Apologies," said the illusion.
Aldrich sighed. The illusion was sitting cross legged on the ground, and even upon a close inspection, he could not find anything that seemed off about it. He was not an expert in controlling and sensing mana because his system did most of it for him, but when he did try, he could not find anything wrong about the illusion in that regard either.
To be expected, though. Wai'ki might not have been the best direct combatant, but her illusions were no joke. She could create copies that were almost as strong as the original. To Aldrich's memory, the strongest copies she had made were a level 70 copy of Rella and a level 80 copy of the Death Lord's Shattered Bone armor form.
Aldrich knew that this illusion of Volantis was weaker than usual because it had been created on a time constraint and focused more on longevity, not on power. It was maybe around level 25 in terms of stats.
Maybe, Aldrich wondered, he could enlist Wai'ki's aid further. Her highest tier clones had both power and longevity. And creating a functional illusion of himself was something that had any number of uses after all.
First, though, Aldrich had to establish a 'public' persona separate from his Thanatos identity. That would be his Bruce Vane alter ego. Which was one of the reasons he had come out of the Nexus.
Aldrich wanted to regroup with Casimir and figure out where to go from here. What Aldrich wanted for his Bruce Vane persona was almost the opposite of 'Thanatos'.
Where Thantos would fight and stay in the spotlight of the world, Bruce Vane would stay in the shadows as an influential and relatively secretive figure that people could trust for business deals. The optimal goal was for Bruce Vane to infiltrate corporate networks of connections and, if possible, villain networks as well. Often, villain and corporate networks were inextricably linked, so if he managed to break into one, he would naturally break into the other.
The problem was establishing Bruce Vane beyond being a fake I.D. boogeyman.
Casimir would help Aldrich do that with his resources. Despite losing support from the Dark Six, Casimir actually did not rely on them entirely. How he had built up his empire in the first place was through a fiercely loyal network of nomads that allowed Haven to become a hotspot for ferrying blackmail, drugs, illegal tech, and other contraband across the hostile yet untrackable Wastelands.
By now, Casimir had grouped with the nomads that supported him. It was about time Aldrich, no, Bruce Vane, introduced himself. Hence, why he had requested his spiritweave clothing to be in the form of a suit.
Had to look presentable, after all.
"Huh, would you look at that." Aldrich knelt down and found a plastic and foam wrapped rectangular package about a meter long and half a meter tall. He tore it open to reveal a trove of tightly packed ration bars, bottles of water, and a stack of books.
Aldrich picked out a note jutting out from one of the books. The typed of words read:
'I know you requested books, but I don't know you read. The sample you see has a wide variety. If you want something specific, there's a pen in this ration pack. Write on the back of this note and send it up with the pack.
Instructions to activate the pack's retrieval mechanism are detailed below.'
A note from colonel Davos. How thoughtful.
Aldrich briefly scanned the book titles Davos had brought and found that they were decidedly uninspired and awfully dry. There was an encyclopedia, a self help book to get motivated, a book about how to climb the corporate ladder, and even an adult drawing book.
Aldrich shrugged. He took the books and rations out, ordered them neatly, and with the pen in the pack, wrote on the colonel's note a simple 'This is fine.' He then tossed the emptied pack down a vent. It rolled down an indeterminate distance, stopping most likely at some kind of storage zone where a gravbeam would pull it back up.
"Whenever one of those packs come down, do exactly what I did to get rid of it," said Aldrich.
"Understood, great warleader," said the illusion.
Aldrich nodded a goodbye. He adjusted his suit, making sure it was not wrinkled. Spiritweave was self-cleaning and self-adjusting, so the dark fabric looked like it was in pristine condition.
With that, Aldrich cast [Mist Phase]. Green mist emanated from his body, swirling in waves that surrounded him, completely obscuring his form. When the mist faded, he was gone, leaving the illusion alone.
"Ah, alone again." The illusion sighed. He noticed the books nearby and picked one up. "But perhaps in my solitude I will learn much about this new world."
The illusion popped open the book that looked ridiculously tiny in his gauntlet hands and remained silent for a few seconds. After a minute, he closed the book and put it aside.
"Ah yes. I can't read this writing," said the illusion.
Aldrich materialized in the holding zone of a large cargo truck. The smell of acrid chemicals and burning flesh indicated that he was in the familiar presence of alchemy from Fler'Gan.
Aldrich confirmed then that [Mist Phase] had worked properly, even across massive distances.
"Ah, Elder One, it is a pleasure to meet you again," saids Fler'Gan. He moved about the tables of his study with a beaker and dropper in his purple hands.
Fler'Gan's study had been packed into this truck, and though the space was large, it was still pretty cramped.
"Good to see you too," said Aldrich. "Any progress on your research?"
"Unlike your meteoric rise in power, O Elder, my studies seem to be taking considerably more time," said Fler'Gan apologetically.
"No worries. As undead, time is something we have plenty of," said Aldrich, remembering the Death Lord's words. He looked around at the cramped laboratory and nodded. "And soon enough, once I get control of Haven and have some space, you'll have a proper laboratory too."
"I do eagerly anticipate that day. And, O Elder, I am not entirely without progress," said Fler'Gan. He put down his beaker and dropper on a rack and hurried over to a large fridge hooked. He gave the fridge an admiring glance. "The wonders of this new world's humans and their ingenuity never cease to amaze me. Cooling without magic. Quite impressive. But regardless, gaze upon this-,"
Fler'Gan opened the fridge, revealing a large see through canister filled with red liquid. Suspended within was a golfball sized black mass that seemed to tremble of its own accord.
Aldrich immediately recognized what that mass was. "That's an alter organ. And it isn't disintegrating from being removed from its host body. You've found a way to preserve it?"