Money Makes the World Go Round - Part 16
(Previous Chapter: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/54986/money-makes-the-world-go-round-part-15)
“Open predictive maps eight and six,” said Charlie as he looked weakly forward, watching as the Thoughtspace was altered, large arrays of units and choices arranging themselves before him.
“Branch R-21 of the former, F-4 of the latter,” he requested, and the displays shifted to those specific moments, scrolling down to the decision spaces he was interested in. The images fluctuated for a moment or two, updating in real time as he got more data, and he sighed, watching as the decision space itself was strained to near limit just trying to keep up with events as they happened.
“Parson, you are quite the Lucky one, aren’t you? Fated Child,” he said, not really a question, but more a statement of what was on his mind, as Parson’s odds of survival of today were shown. It took four windows to display all the zeroes necessary to show how far down his chances were. Yet, somehow, he’d not only survived, but made gains against Charlie’s own plans.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” mumbled Charlie as he scrolled back up by touch, to check the predictions from before the worst of it started to go wrong. That moment was with Tramennis himself. That trick with the Ditto was within the models, but so far on the outside that Charlie had panicked a little. He’d already been planning on croaking the blonde King, but he’d stepped up the timetable, especially as Parson was likely to say something just to spite Charlie’s own plans.
Charlie scrolled farther down, revealing the decision space where he’d sent the weapons, via a few allies in the Magic Kingdom, to Jetstone. It was a calculated risk, but again, one the predictive maps gave a high success rate. With grenades, guns, and bombs, any two of his archons should have been able to take the whole capital without difficulty. These two being high level, and with armor that appeared to be duds, but in fact were great blocks, should have been able to do it without effort.
Croaking the King would have ended Jetstone, as no heir had been named as yet. Better, Parson wasn’t Chief Warlord, and would have had to gain approval from Stanley to claim the Capital Site, approval Charlie was blocking at the time, along with all other orders. The plan itself should have worked, and even made every other side suspicious of Gobwin Knob, who’d’ve taken the blame for the fall of Jetstone, making their destruction more of a relief, than something to study.
Growling a little, Charlie came down to Drachma. He’d been considered in the predictive map, of course, as everyone else had, but Fate was apparently working with him. A Titan perhaps watching over a favored son? He’d survived enough of Charlie’s own plans in the past to make it plausible. Still, it was within the margin of error, everything accounted for. His abilities were known quantities, and he shouldn’t have been enough to tilt that scales, not on his own.
But he wasn’t alone. Parson was there, and Fate had plans for him. Charlie knew some of those plans, knew what the Magic Kingdom had put into that scroll. He’d even adapted to it. His plan had already been to sever the connection of the Portal in Jetstone, though less explosively than he’d ended up doing. Still, Parson and Tramennis would discover, come the Dawn, that the Portal was not going to be their salvation. He’d even severed the one at Spacerock, to further hamper them.
Charlie’s eyes fell on the last few minutes of the map at Jetstone, and he nearly wept. His two girls, two of his best, fallen like maple leaves in an autumn hex. They should have been protected, but their weapons weren’t friend or foe compliant, and they were just as deadly to them as anyone. That shouldn’t have mattered, of course. Guns and grenades should have torn through the enemy side, leaving no one to turn their weapons on them. It hadn’t happened that way, obviously, but it should have.
Turning from the first map to the second, Charlie’s vision went red for a moment. He knew anger, righteous and furious anger, at the loss of so many. Parson hadn’t lied, he knew that, the deal wouldn’t allow it. Still, somehow his information, given by that lovely bracer, had been wrong. Oh, the situation had changed since the Battle for Gobwin Knob, but it hadn’t changed that much.
Looking through all of the data he had, and he had more on Gobwin Knob than Jetstone, he went down the list of things that had happened, and eventually pinpointed the moment when things had started to go wrong. Stanley, behaving within predictions, had gotten his archons trapped in the tower, where they would form the core of an anvil, on which the hammer of archons from the walls would smash, blowing away all of Stanley’s forces with little effort, and perhaps three total casualties.
The numbers had been flowing just like they should, right up until the point where Stanley had done something unthinkable for someone in his position. He’d given ground. That was so far outside his predictions that Charlie was almost willing to call Hax on the whole affair. He’d sweep the board clean, and just start over again. He calmed himself, however, and looked again, trying to find the precise cause of Stanley alteration.
What should have happened was Stanley, unable to send or receive a thinkagram through normal means, would panic. He was good at tactics on the field, and would consider himself able win, regardless of circumstances. Especially given the Hobgobwin’s own bonus in their ancestral city, the Arkenhammer bonus, and everything else. He’d see it as a winnable fight, right up until Vanna turned Vurp, and thus the whole clan, to Charlie’s side, switching the advantage. By the time he’d figured it out, Stanley would be boxed in and croaked.
What happened instead was Stanley immediately falling back. No stand and fight, just run. And then that trick with the Razing of Gobwin Knob. It had actually been inspired, when you got right down to it. The Archons were in the air, but protected by the tower. The floor dropping out from under them hadn’t even been in the calculations. Charlie fumed at that again, as he watched the recording of their thoughts as they fell, all love for him, and hatred for Stanley.
Sighing, he took a look again, and noticed something odd. Switching between every view point he could, he watched Stanley sort of seize up for a few seconds, before going normal, and issuing the strange orders. Looking at it, he was suddenly struck by similarities, and brought up the memory of Parson at Jetstone, and saw the same look on his face for a moment, as well as all the casters.
“Curiouser, and curiouser still,” said the bald overlord, and focused the Dish’s power on the recording, viewing it as if it were live. Through the haze of the second hand connection, it was hard to see, but eventually, one of the channels he tuned to had lines in it. Going over and around, he eventually traced them to the Thinker and the Fool of Gobwin Knob. He couldn’t tell what they were doing, the Fool’s magic masking too much of the spellcraft, but he knew something was up.
Quick as a flash, he added a conversation with Parson into the data of Gobwin Knob, and suddenly all the pieces that had seemed disconnected fell into place. The action there was off model because of a new spell, something that had slipped under the Dish’s radar. The Minds probably didn’t even know about it, for all the tricks they did know, and that made the knowledge especially dangerous.
With a speed he hadn’t had in the physical world for a long time, he sent off orders to his girls. The five person squad that was going to be his hit squad, come the dawn, was recalled. They would take several turns to meet up with his forces, but they weren’t going to be sacrificed like pawns. He knew Fate was putting its thumb on the scales for Parson, and he wasn’t willing to risk anymore of his girls, especially when Parson now had access to guns.
That thought actually made the thinkspace freeze, as that had to be thrown into so many formulas that it was actually slowing down the processing of incoming data. Tier two weapons were compromised. It wasn’t a deathblow, not even close, but it was another acceleration of his plans, which Charlie really felt he should have become used to at this point. Since that spell had slipped through the cracks and summoned Parson, he’d been forced to move dates up more than a dozen times.
He idly toyed with simply pulling out tier three, or even just going to tier five weaponry, but dismissed it as unnecessary. His city was defended by enough power to grind to dust anything any side, or even every side together. Looking through the thinkspace, he confirmed that last conclusion, and even added in some truly outrageous circumstances into the calculations, just to be sure. Every predictive map showed him winning, but it was with harsher losses than he would have liked.
“Still on track,” he said to himself, observing the hexes north and south into the frozen hexes at the top and bottom of the world, making sure that the various conflicts were being kept isolated from each other. He’d had to work hard at doing that, over the last few thousand turns, as it used to be common for sides to expand beyond their local area when one or another side won their small wars, before alliances outside, or perhaps even just the way the world worked, tore them down again.
Luckily, as much as he’d been a disruption in this area, Parson was nothing more than a local problem. One quite near to his person, it must be admitted, but still, just a local problem. He quickly began to enter calculations and plans into the predictive maps, going over his options. This new wrinkle was a bit disconcerting, but he had more resources to draw upon, and he was beginning to come to the conclusion that he needed even more.
“Perhaps it is time to bring the eight by three together,” he said, quickly entering that into his plans. His good vibes started to come back as he watched conflicts resolve. It was still with more losses than he would have liked, but within the next few hundred turns, the local wars would be settled, and he would again be advancing outward. Ten thousand turns or thereabouts, and Erfworld itself would turn blue. Smiling at the globe as it spun in his vision, Charlie began to weave the possibilities towards the ultimate goal.