Chapter 309 Settling Down
Aldrich sat in a plush swiveling chair with black leather that shone with a polish that sparkled dollar signs. Facing away from a desk, he looked out at a bullet and bombproof glass wall, staring down at Haven from the top of a forty floor view.
Bulky orange and yellow repair bots dotted the streets, carrying steel beams and vats of reinforced concrete. Smaller bots did repairs, filling in cracks and holes in roads and buildings. Flying drones buzzed about, scanning structural integrity and assessing repair procedures for the land-based bots.
All of the machinery had the logo of a white hammerhead shark's distinctive head against a circle of black emblazoned upon them.
Hammerhead Industries - Seismic's biggest sponsor.
Like muscles and bones knitting back together after injury, the city was healing.
Aldrich nodded in content. A natural reaction, considering he was Haven's Sentinel. Despite the fact that he had been Sentinel for just a week, he still felt proud ownership over it, and seeing it build back stronger tickled a soft spot in him, sort of like how he felt when he saw Chrysa grow.
A parent's pride.
As it just so happened, in spite of Aldrich's dramatic declaration, war had not come. There were no more attacks following the Stranger's attack on the Judicata and there likely would not be for quite some time.
Right after the attack, Aldrich had consulted with Medula and the Death Lord about the Stranger, using Supermind's corpse, still imbued with demonic energy, and Volantis's recorded memories.
Medula had definitively stated that the Stranger was a demon, but, as Volantis pointed out, the Stranger was a demon from a realm other than Elduin. As a result, neither Medula nor the Death Lord knew who exactly the Stranger was.
They had been able to, however, make general assessments about the Stranger.
First, the Stranger was strong. The magnitude of cursed energy it used in attacking Supermind and the Judicata was considerable, making it at the minimum an Archdemon.
Archdemons started out at level 70, and unlike with Anhil and Nilah - the archdemons of the trial quest, the Stranger was very likely fully incarnated, meaning he did not need a host body to operate and therefore at max strength.
Second, the stunt the Stranger pulled on the Judicata was something it could not do over and over again. Medula did not know the specific cursed magic that the Stranger used, but she knew as a member of the same species that it was a form of Possession. One that could target machines and their neural networks both physically and in cyberspace.
Medula had also identified what she called 'mana flicker' in the cursed energy in the possession spell.
These traces indicated that the mana pool fueling the cursed energy was undergoing huge shifts, 'flickering' because of the instability of mass amounts of energy going up or down.
Usually, this meant that the mana pool was draining rapidly.
Unlike Aldrich, who had easy access to full heals and mana restoration with his build and the Nexus, the Stranger was probably on its own to restore mana. Demons generally did not have easy ways to replenish their curse magic, and in Elden World, a viable strategy to beat demons was to let them run out of mana, at which point they were out of juice.
At best, Demons consumed souls to restore mana like a Necromancer, but they were actually less efficient then Necromancers at this. The Stranger, especially at its high level, likely required a mass amount of souls to top up its mana pool to an appreciable level again.
Which meant that the Stranger was not in any position to make an attack for some time. Medula calculated that it would take one month for the Stranger to be able to pull off a mass possession like that.
This was also evidenced by Aldrich's nomad contacts that kept tabs on the Trident civil war.
The Russian Prong had backed down for now, turtling up in specific strongholds or disappearing altogether. And, to confirm the Stranger's involvement, there were reports of bots that nobody could detect joining the fray.
Aldrich had decided to take the Stranger's brief retreat to get settled. He needed to establish himself strongly first before really revving up the gear on going into any conflicts.
That meant making sure Haven was his. And that the United States government did not get in his way.
So far, things were, well, best put - neutral.
The United States still refused to directly acknowledge Aldrich, or rather Thanatos, as a Sentinel as none of their reps voted for Aldrich. A super majority from the other nations carried Thanatos readily into Sentinel status on the global stage, but the United States used their no votes to try and justify their opposition.
That said, the United States could not directly do anything to Aldrich. Because, as circumstance just so happened to decide, he was now allied with Dracul.
A two Sentinel alliance was near unprecedented - Sentinels were usually always highly individualistic, stubborn, powerful entities, and those never got along - but said alliance was deadly enough that the United States was forced to tiptoe around Aldrich.
Granted, the United States cut Haven off from their economy, prohibiting any trade or supply lines to it. However, Haven managed so far with private industries carrying them.
That, and a very comprehensive network of nomads coming to and fro from the city.
Once Aldrich obtained Sentinel status, the nomad chiefs barring Desmond and Z recognized him. Their tribes used Haven as a large base of operations, and soon enough, practically all of the nomads on the East Coast were calling Haven, well, a haven.
Haven afforded them security. Aldrich had set up a defense line of undead summons and variants all along the walls, with the most formidable defense being all the giant sand worms from Aldrich's second trial quest.
But most of all, Haven gave the nomads respect. Most cities, especially tier 2 and 1 cities, considered nomads wasteland pests and forbid them from entry.
Haven had no such restrictions. Granted, there was still law and order, but the rules were generally laxer. People had more freedom to do what they wanted.
This did lead to an explosion of illegal trade in Haven, but Casimir regulated that with an experienced hand.
On the AA-Panopticon side of things, Aldrich was comfortably in the clear for now. They were far too busy to deal with Aldrich, especially when he presented himself as a non-threat that cooperated with humanity.
Panopticon systems were still down as they scrambled to find a way to fend against the Stranger, so the AA was stretched far too thin and wide to make a ruckus about Aldrich.
Variant attacks were still on the rise. Aldrich had helped out here and there when he had time, and he had now farmed up to level 52 and padded his undead army with a wide host of insect type variants that generally populated the area around Haven.
But most of the time, Aldrich was too busy getting briefings and managing the city to fight. This was just temporary, though. Once his position was a bit more stable, he planned on passing the rulership torch to Casimir who was much better suited to this sort of stuff.
"Thinking hard, are we?" said Valera. She had crept up behind Aldrich, surprising him for a brief moment. She put her hands on his shoulders, massaging them.
"I don't eat, sleep, or drink. Might as well think," said Aldrich.
"I do not understand how you do it sometimes. I like spending time with my head cleared in meditation, but you actually like it when your brain is all crammed with thought," said Valera.
"Force of habit," said Aldrich. "How's Chrysa doing?"
"She's fallen head first into that thing you call a 'game'," said Valera, concerned. "She spends so much time in her room here, staring at that screen, punching at the device that lets her move her projections to and fro. I fear it is corrupting her, taking her from her training, rotting her brain."
"You sound exactly like a mom," said Aldrich, remembering similar words pouring into his ears from his own mother. A long time ago.
"Eheheh, do I? I suppose I do have to show you I will be an able wife, no?"
"Hold up now, marriage is way down the line."
"Bah, I do not understand it. Among vampires, when passion boils our blood, we choose our mates in the thrill of the moment."
"And as far as I recall, there's a suspiciously high mortality rate among wedded vampires."
Valera shrugged. "A consequence of passion. It is unpredictable."
Aldrich wondered if something like that was in line for him in the future, especially considering Valera's Berserker abilities. "I want to take my time before going too far. There's still so much to do, so many fights to be had, so many-,"
"I know." Valera smiled and patted Aldrich's shoulder, perhaps a bit wistfully. "I know."
A howling wind blew through the room in spite of the fact that it was completely insulated from the outside.
Aldrich perked up.
Before Aldrich's desk, visible blue tinted winds gathered into a sphere which then formed into a tall, slender woman. In contrast to Valera, this woman had no hint of muscle on her frame at all - she was all long legs and skinny runway body.
She was wrapped up in a ghostly white dress, and a mass of jet black, wavy hair fell from her head in an untamed waterfall, completely covering her face. She looked like she had jumped right out of a horror movie.
Several eyes grew from her hair, wide open with unblinking red pupils.
"Vexa," said Aldrich, addressing his second Chosen Undead.