Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ Stares ❯ Blast ( Chapter 6 )

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Another two years passed. I learned a great deal through experimentation. I even made a rifle, though it was too heavy to use. Little brother Tobias shows little aptitude for magic. He’s basically a normal kid, with a more adult thinking process. I’m sure he’s an isekai, but he’s a normal kid otherwise. Sometimes he’s good a hiding and spying, which is saying something when I have developed magic for detecting life and eyes that can see in the dark. My flying got better and my mana pool was large enough I could fly and shoot from the sky, so I was back up to strength. I wear boyish trousers because I fly so much that a skirt would be totally inappropriate for a little girl who spends most of her time overhead. My hair is long and slightly curled, and Mother dotes on me.

There was a light in the sky. I was in Father’s arms because he was feeling emotionally needy, I suppose, and the light expanded like a nuke and we were just gone. I think some kind of diety tried to talk to me but I destroyed everything about it and forced myself awake. Father was screaming, and we were falling, around a mile up. Huh. I took a good grip on him and cast body strengthening, lighten, feather fall, and we descended slowly. I looked around, seeing grassland below us, and mountains, and rivers. I turned and noticed the dimming light in the distance. We’d head that way and see what was gone and what we could save. We touched down. Paul was in shock.

“Father!” I accosted him, snapping him out of it. “We should return home. There may be survivors. The blast was that way,” I gestured. We started walking.

“If you want to run I can fly, you know,” I reminded him. He ran, I flew slowly beside him. We did this for an hour and he was predictably exhausted, but we arrived in a village by the river and there was an Adventurer’s Guild office there. Paul extracted his adventuring card from the sword sheath and presented it to the busty clerk. Are all adventurer’s guild offices like this one? I wondered if this was just exploitation at work. Big boobs distract young men from the contract details of high risk and low paid quests. Figures.

It reminded me of my aide, Viktoria Serebryakov. A good girl once I toughened her up on the battlefield. Early on I thought she might quit on me, after that mess with the idiots who wouldn’t follow orders and I placed in that bunker in the rear. A shame they got sniped by artillery and those mage hunters, but war is brutal. I lost of lot of men, and our losses were far less than the poor bastards in the trenches, without the benefit of magic or position or mobility to keep the artillery from finding them. Mages can fly. We’re obvious targets, but we’re small and fast and hard to hit. I’d won many aerial duels by being smaller and faster than the mages I fought. And this time around, I wasn’t lugging a crate of magical engine on my chest, or a tube-based radio on my back. I did feel naked without my weapon, lost in our home. Wouldn’t you know I’d put it down to comfort Father and his emotional needs. This is what I get for being the mature one in the household.

I stepped outside and searched, finding a lost copper piece in the stream. I bought a busted iron shield from the blacksmith using that copper. I extracted the steel and wood and built a rifle suitable for my 5 year old body. It was a small caliber bolt action with a fixed box magazine and simple spring and follower. It would not be fast to reload, but it was simple and wouldn’t fail easily either. This was all I could handle at the moment, but it would let me use the bullets for my better spells. I started making bullets with steel casings and converted some fatty bacon into lacquer to protect them from rust, with components for the powder from common village ingredients. These are the skills I’d practiced at home so I could do them easily. I used the glycerin from the fat to make the TNT. There is a sawmill. I gathered a double handful of wood sawdust. I ground the wood shavings fine and even-sized to soak up the nitroglycerin into regular smokeless gunpowder. This makes it stable enough to use, unlike the blob of “blow up your whole village” I’d just made. That was a bit of a relief. So I had gunpowder.

Now to make bullets. I found waste lead in the stream, probably used to seal casks. I also found copper there. I extracted both and then heated the metals separately, purified each, and began the next step, using a porcelain mold I created to tightly match the interior of my rifle barrel. It was around 25 caliber, or 257. The case would be a bottleneck cartridge, which should get me above 2500 feet per second at the muzzle, as the Germanian Empire used standard English measurements, not being French. The form I duplicated to create cast copper jackets. Then I removed part of it and installed the molten lead, so I’d have high velocity spitzer bullets. To find copper and lead in their stream was fortunate, but it means they were messy, these people. Copper is valuable. So copper jacketed bullets were now reality.

Holding all up in the air while some of the villagers watched I assembled a test round and fired it, trying several times with increasing powder load before I reached the limit of both velocity and accuracy in my specific rifle. In the real world, you must tune your load to your personal rifle to get best accuracy. You can’t just “buy accurate bullets” off the shelf. It doesn’t work like that. Rifles and cartridges are voodoo science to these primitive screwheads, but I knew everything about them. I had to make my own in North Africa, after all. That was two years of daily maintenance.

Storage? I used clay from the riverbank to make several thin flasks I rapidly fired and cooled into useful porcelain, verifying it was cool before I filled them with gunpowder, and lead from stones in the stream, probably discarded industrial waste from the smithy. I capped them with rapidly shaped wood plugs and a leather cord so it wouldn’t be lost. How to carry these? I made a leather pouch set and a harness from some cured leather I turned into straps. I also fitted straps to the rifle itself, and created a bayonet mount as an afterthought from a broken plowshare, a good 20 inches long of tempered high carbon steel. I didn’t want it to break in combat. And so much for the plowshare metaphor. I tested my wizard blade enchantment and opted to carve that rune on the bayonet itself. It worked, as I’d tested it back in Buena Village. To think I believed this was my retirement life! As if. Sigh.

I felt suitably armed, at least. I loaded ten rounds into the box magazine and adjusted the peep sight for 100 yards zero. Most goons and bandits would be closer than that. I looked at the box magazine and sighed. This is dumb. I can make a mechanism for detachable magazines. The steel is good enough for a 15 round magazine. I proceeded to make 10 of them and filled them with cartridges, and the mechanism to lock and unlock the magazine in the base of the rifle’s receiver. This required some reinforcement of the mechanism and the bolts holding the steel to the oak I’d used for the stock, but was done in short order. I will make this semi automatic later. For now, this will do.

Father appeared from the door of the guild, holding a quest flyer. He had bargained for a horse so he could move faster, arguing that time was of the essence. In contracting an adventurer, there are penalties for failing a quest, and more serious ones for stealing from the guild or defrauding a quest. I suspect the Guild is going to be annoyed and may penalize him harshly, like kicking him out of the Guild when we’d likely need their services if we had any hope of recovering our villagers, assuming many survived being teleported. Those who fell were lost, obviously, but those on the ground were probably okay, if we can get to them before a monster eats them or they get kidnapped by slavers.

Father moved to the horse, turning towards our home. The quest was in the nearby forest, but nearby was a day’s hard march or several hour’s ride.

“Father,” I suggested, “I think you should reconsider this idea of yours. A horse is a good idea, but upsetting the Guild is not. We can do this quest quickly. I can fly, and I have this weapon.”

“The fire stick?” Paul asked. “Is that any good against a swordsman?”

“Is a BOW any good against a swordsman? Of course it is. Think of this as a bow. And I can fly. They can’t reach me with a sword. If we do this quickly you’ll retain your honor with the guild and perhaps there will be horses we can take in this camp. Let us just do this and be done with it, and you can ride horses to get where we’re going more quickly to make up the time lost. We are already too late for those who fell from the sky, and we don’t know how far people were teleported, so this is going to be a more long term solution,” I explained. I was only four. These are a lot of words for a four year old.

“You’re like Rudy, aren’t you?” he finally said, exhausted.

“Yes,” I agreed. There’s little point denying that.

“Fine. Let’s eat, the both of us. Then we’ll go to this camp and see if we can take it or not,” Paul finally assented to my plan. We ate in the tavern. I learned the quest details and why he’d picked it. I refined our battle plans and travel arrangements. I had plenty of mana.

We paid for the dinner and got moving as the sun set. I activated my night vision, which makes my blue eyes glow, and quite a few hungry predator animals saw this and ran away very quickly. This turned out to be beneficial as we made our way to the bandit camp on the galloping horse.

I lifted off the saddle and into the sky. I shouldered my rifle, finding the toughest looking bandit and blowing a hole through his torso. He dropped. Repeat eight more times and swap for a full magazine while the bandits screamed and ran around in the darkness. Paul swept in and finished them off. He freed some enslaved captives, took horses we’d either sell or ride, and lead the captives away in the darkness. I shot a bear on our way out of the woods, skinned it, and put the skin and meat on a wagon carrying some of the more wounded of the captives. My battlefield healing skills aren’t much good for disease and infection so I couldn’t do much for them.

It was noon of the following day before we returned to the Guild with the wagons and rescued people. We now had several horses and saddles, so we could both advance more quickly and restored Father’s name with the guild rather than tarnish it in panic. We lost a day in this work, and a night of sleep, but gained the means to return home far more quickly. Father returned the horse he’d borrowed from the guild, and we set out with our new horses and saddles. I rested, half asleep as the horse did the work of running with its herd. Every two hours he would stop the horses, swap our saddles to another horse and we moved on again. Being herd animals, the unsaddled horses followed the one with the saddles and we continued on our way, riding until nightfall. This is convenient and rarely if ever shown in movies. You don’t just ride one horse. You switch off. Dad’s horse in Buena Village was his favorite, kept for short rides and easy trips, not real journeys. The horse, like everyone else, was probably wandering loose somewhere, or dead.

When we were too exhausted to go further we made a small camp, sleeping a few hours. I traded watch with father once, so he wouldn’t be completely worthless the following day and struggled to stay awake myself. They don’t have coffee here. I have never missed it as much as I do now. I managed to get some sleep again and we rose at dawn, so the horses could see where we were going.

Along the route several groups of bandits tried to interfere. I am pleased to say that my artillery spell still works just fine, even with this simple bolt action rifle. There are now several new clearings along the road, and downed trees ready for an enterprising wood cutter, if one happens by. We continued onwards like this for five days before reaching the zone of destruction.

The teleport blast area began with a line where soil simply ended and bare rock was exposed many feet below. What a terrifying weapon. My spells indicated no radiation, so that was something, but there was still a lot of mana in the air and it smelled odd, probably from all that rock oxidizing for the first time. We picked our way down onto the rocks and moved slowly onwards, eventually reaching the capitol city, where Rudy had been working as a tutor. There were some stubs of walls left from the buildings. Not much else.

We weren’t the only people there. Some had come in from elsewhere, trying to salvage or search, I don’t know for sure. We found an encampment with a bulletin board assembled with messages on parchment and waterproof ink. Father talked to the man running it, from the Asura Kingdom. Probably one of the better people from that corrupt hole. The Asura noble family were degenerates, obsessed with rape and torture and personal power. It was a nasty place run by nasty people. Lilia was a former maid in the palace and she walked with a limp she tried hard to hide, and never ran anywhere, probably because she couldn’t. I suspect poison or torture was responsible. She was a good maid, and good mother to my brother Tobias, and obviously capable of bearing children, so the scarring either didn’t show or father didn’t care about it, but she’d suffered at their hands and been discarded, or was in hiding, more likely.

We spent a day in the ruins of what had been a nice walled town a couple miles in diameter. I used my spells and found no people buried in the rubble, not so much as a rat left behind. Everything had been teleported that was remotely alive, and quite a lot of stuff that wasn’t. We eventually moved on to our home in Buena Village, dreading what we would find. There were ruined walls, and not much else. We could rebuild, but the forest was gone, so there was no wood to build with. I considered my options. Father was trying hard to hold back tears.

I used Earth magic to reassemble the walls of our house, raising stones and interlocking them together since mortar was a problem I did not need to solve. I cleared the well from the debris and found some wood, to restore the door lintel at least. We’d need wood for a door, obviously, and more for the joists, floors and such, but I began vaulting the ceilings in old-style barrel vaults and stone arches. It would not be as homey as Father’s house had been, but it would give us a roof from available materials. He just watched, in awe.

“Tanya… your spells. Rudy never did this,” he gasped. He was really exhausted, physically and emotionally wrecked. His women and children were gone, except for me. I’d have to look after him or he would make more foolish mistakes like he’d almost done with the quest and the horse he nearly stole. We can’t afford to make enemies when we need all the friends we can get.

“Rudeus taught me how. He’s good at lots of magic. He really likes it. To me, this is a tool, a means to accomplish a task,” my high girly voice chirped. I raised stone stairs and also cleared the rubble from the basement, where I found the roots in the root cellar were missing, along with our stored vegetables and dried foods for winter. It was all teleported away. A nuisance, but at least we knew just how little we had. I continued the process of raising walls to the second story and curving over an arched roof. I do not think it would be great in an earthquake, but stone buildings rarely are. I opened some slit windows to let in light and used sand from the well to make glass and fit them within using magic. This would be impossible to craft by hand, but I need a place to live. I’m not dealing with tents forever.

I eventually finished and took a breather, finding my mana reserves were about half down. They began refilling once more. A two story stone house with interlocking stones curving to an arched stone roof and arched stone windows.

“Whew. So that’s a lot of work,” I said. “We could really use some lumber to make beds and doors and such. I can probably make something from iron, but it won’t be very comfortable.”

“Tanya this is amazing,” Father finally said. “You’re a genius.”

“Just standing on the shoulders of giants, Father. We must presume our family lived until proven otherwise,” I reminded him. “Giving us somewhere to live is essential. I liked your roof, with those dormer windows. I liked the wood floors that creaked. I liked our family. So we need to give them a place to come back to, first of all. I can raise a house like this every few hours. I would prefer not to do that for people who aren’t already here, because that’s a lot of effort if a bunch of heirs from foreign parts are just going to argue about who owns it and sell it on to somebody else. I will prioritize survivors. And maybe charge them some coin, so we can rebuild our money and fund some rescue operations. The Adventurer’s Guild won’t work for free to rescue people just because we’re victims of a disaster. As much as it pains me, we should probably just look for survivors from Buena Village rather than the city. Others can be responsible for that.”

“That is true. The Guild is entirely a profit driven operation. It always has been. What about families who lost everything?” Paul asked, thinking again.

“That creates debt. We make them pay back in installments, with minor interest so they don’t forget about it. The longer they wait, the more they have to pay. We’ll have to keep track.”

“I suppose that is necessary. What about the soil? Can you do anything about that?” he asked, realizing the food problem was very serious.

“Yes. I know how to make soil. It will take longer than building a house. Soil is more complicated than a wall. I can dig wells easily enough, and setup irrigation. The river is already flowing. We’ll want to find seedlings of trees and plants in the forest we passed through on the way here and move them, called transplanting. It will help the forest get started right away. In 20 years the trees will be tall enough to matter and sustain themselves. It will be a lot of work.”

“I can hardly imagine. The devastation is so huge,” Paul said, at a loss.

“Then we will fix what we can each day. Eventually enough will be back we can rest again.” I used magic to raise the iron hoops from a missing water barrel. The staves had been teleported and the hoops had fallen to the ground. I also found nails and other scrap iron. I began to form a bed frame and steel coil springs between the box frame. It would not be comfortable. It needs canvas over the springs, and a mattress, even a straw mattress atop it.  And some blankets. Winter would come sooner than I liked.

I walked inside the house and looked around, deciding the former location of the fireplace was acceptable for a new one. I used stone and magic to create a more efficient fireplace and chimney flue, raising it above the level of the roof for adequate draw. We still need firewood to burn, however. I thought ruefully to all the trees I’d blown up along our travel route. Those would be so handy now. I’m going to have to go back for them, aren’t I? Or at least to the remaining forest with wagons to haul wood for construction and fuel.

I raised a stone table and hearth for cooking in the fireplace and used some of my precious iron to make the hanging rack for pots of food. The pots I found inside the remains of the house. The teleport was quite selective, going after things that were either alive or had been once, so wood and soil were gone, people and animals were gone, clothing and other fabrics were gone. Even the contents of the midden and our outhouse pit were gone. All were or had been alive. So teleportation magic had rules.

If I was going to make soil I needed animal dung and some good soil for its microbes. I could make the layer mechanically, at first, but there was chemistry to consider and all the living stuff that made soil fertile. The kingdom had the best soil on the planet, before the accident, able to grow successive crops of wheat without souring the soil. That was very good soil because Wheat depletes the soil of nutrients. I’d have to get pretty serious about soil to prevent famine, and the kingdom would need to ship us food to get the fields ready for planting in spring, which meant trying to work in winter, and getting food here. Very troublesome.

My next two months consisted of a morning tilling fields until lunch, then eating terrible imported rations father scrounged from the disaster manager sent from Asura’s capitol. Afternoons require a nap and then a snack before raising the walls and roof of a house. I this with a promise for payment guaranteed by the disaster manager and my hard stare unsettled him to officially stamp the documents rather than pull a fast one. Many people would not be afraid of a four year old blonde girl, but my stare and the ability to fly was terrifying. Wagons were running back and forth to the edge of the blast zone, retrieving both lumber and seedlings. Other wagons brought rations and blankets and other building supplies I couldn’t simply make, to keep the returning refugees alive. Merchants were disappointed at the lack of ready coinage. Most of those who lost everything lost… everything. Their outstanding loans, the people who loaned them the money, their homes and furnishings, their businesses and food stocks and animals and fields. All of it was gone. I was putting in winter crops that would help the soil before the snow fell, but it was probably a waste of effort at this late date.

I wondered how my brothers were doing?