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The Adventures of Rambot, Ruler of Neter

Chapter Text

“The Merchant has provided BETA with access to a scholar. Initial estimates are a week to effectively learn the primary language of ‘Lugnica’.” ALPHA’s pleasant, male voice stated.

The Rambot let out a pleased chirp, and spun its chair around to face the array of screens. None of them were useful, of course, but after the conquest of Neter, it had allowed itself certain- frivolities.

The bridge of the TCT Gratuitous was one of those frivolities. Yes, it could have fit a couple more RTGs in and just used its neural interface- but the comfy chairs and fancy terminals had made the whole thing a lot more pleasant to actually use.

The Gratuitous was left with a fair chunk of materials after setting up its- Northern? Base. Rambot had tentatively declared that the frozen continent lay in the north- though that was difficult to be certain of. The planet made- very little sense.

It wasn’t really planet sized. All that was actually there was a single continent- water forever running off the sides, floating, absolutely nothing surrounding it. Not space- nothing.

The ‘continent’ shouldn’t have been able to maintain an atmosphere, the way it was. It shouldn’t have had gravity. And despite that, the Alloy TestCraft had found an atmosphere, albeit one thinner than Neter’s- and gravity, which was several times that of Neter. It was- absurd. This world should not exist, let alone be inhabited.

And yet it did, and it was.

Whatever. What was Rambot thinking about? Right. The Screens were supposed to help it focus, yet the window just reminded it that it was making plans to conquer an impossibility. It let out an annoyed beep, and the metal blast shields slid shut, cutting off Rambot’s view of the stupid, impossible planet.

The Northern Base was doing decently. No major threats in the massive uninhabited area up north- and the Harvest Land Tanks were finding decent deposits. No good exotics, nothing particularly rich- but, well. That was what refineries were for.

Of course, they had plenty of time to expand. That expansion was necessary. No matter how primitive the local populace was, there was a minimum degree of surveillance and military might required for effective governance. Ruling over squishy organics with nothing but a couple low calibre APS and MG tanks wouldn’t work out. Rambot would need big guns, it would need small guns, and it would need lots of both.

The question, of course, was A. How Big, and B. How Small? The Northern wastes weren’t just free of human habitation- they lacked any and all life, and all they knew about the world so far was that there was civilization there- seemingly primitive, but BETA had reported a number of items that seemed to work off of completely different scientific systems-

Rambot felt a tiny shiver crawl up its upper torso. Oh, it was entirely possible that the other lands were a better choice for a testing base, but…

BETA had confirmed the presence of new science. Potentially, this meant entire new fields of weaponry, armor, detection, power, shielding- at Rambot’s fingertips. Oh, the anomalous nature of the ‘world’ meant that this new science was likely present throughout- but why take the risk-

Rambot’s first priority was conquest, of course, to cleanse the corrupt and the old, to unite, to unify-

But the prospect of new pieces…

Besides, it had never liked deserts. Lugnica it was, then. Rambot could always send force-testing expeditions down to the other civilized areas after it had personally established a foothold.

_

The Gratuitous carried numerous sub-vehicles within its massive hull- all powered by RTGs which were, when the vehicles hadn’t split off, slaved to the Gratuitous. From as high up as the Gratuitous was, it couldn’t get a clear reading on the world’s resource hotspots, and Rambot wasn’t willing to pull it in closer- the chance of something that could fire on the Gratuitous even existing on this world was vanishingly small, yet it was not a risk Rambot was willing to take.

The Eagleye, on the other hand, got a clear view of nearly every good resource zone in the area in a single flyover- and even noticed a very interesting airship signature which Rambot couldn’t wait to investigate. It hadn’t expected the locals to be capable of constructing airships, from what little it had seen so far. Fortunately, whatever it was, it was reasonably close to a very juicy looking resource hotspot.

Which meant it was time to design another base. Rambot’s brain quivered, its containment gel trembling with pleasure.

_

The ‘airship’ had moved. A pity. It was now floating around the Gigantic tree- right on top of the excellent resource zone Rambot had been going for. A pity. That wasn’t the only disappointment, though. The airship was- tiny. Well, tiny by Rambot’s standards. At a mere fifty meters long, it wasn’t the smallest vessel Rambot had ever encountered- but it was so slow!

Of course, that was when Rambot parsed the rest of the data, and its disappointment turned to excitement.

The airship was- organic. A living being! And it didn’t even have wings! This was a clear example of the ‘new science’ BETA had spoken of- something incomprehensible- impossible-!

The nearest resource zone was good enough. Perhaps half the output of the tree area, but it would certainly be enough for him to build up the forces to challenge this- flying whale.

With cheer in its central fluid processor, Rambot teleported to the Transporter subvehicle.

_

The Moth was an incredibly simple, incredibly cheap design. It wasn’t fast- not by plane standards, reaching speeds of seventy metres per second on Neter- and one-hundred and fifty here, speeds achieved by minimal CJEs that consumed barely any fuel. It had basically no armor, leaving all its internals exposed, and carried a meagre payload of two bog standard HE Missiles and four Anti-air small missiles. All radar guided, of course. Rambot hadn’t touched infra-red in years.

It was a weak design. If you sneezed at it, it would disintegrate. On that note, it was also incredibly disposable. For the price of one Skyclearer, four Moths could be deployed- which made them a good fit for scouting, low budget missions, enemy capability verification…

Rambot was just a little proud of it. Just a little.

The AI was a simple aerial variant, non-sapient, of course- equipped with just a single 360 Camera that couldn’t even detect at full capacity. Dumb as rocks, but it could shoot and fly, which was all that mattered.

Three Moths lifted off from the Lugnican Jungle Resource Base- and Rambot, safe and secure back on the Gratuitous, settled into its chair to watch.

_

The Whale turned to face the Moths once they got within a kilometre of it- but didn’t attack. That was- concerning. If the Whale wasn’t hostile, Rambot would’ve built these things for nothing. It wasn’t like it could attack without a formal declaration, after all, that simply wasn’t done.

Fortunately for Rambot, things weren’t going to be that peaceful.

As soon as the Moths entered the resource zone, the Whale turned- and charged.

Well. That was Rambot’s conscience assuaged. The damned thing displayed a burst of speed- a cruising speed well below its maximum, most likely? It wasn’t anything too impressive- but only two of the Moths were able to break away in time after launching missiles- one of them ramming straight into the Whale’s face.

Rambot let out an amused rattle, even as it considered the cost of improving the Moth’s turning- before dismissing the thought. The Moth’s entire point was to be insanely cheap.

As for damage- well. The Moth went splat, of course, alloy plates tumbling to the Earth. The Ammo had detonated on impact-

And damage was… Minimal.

Oh, it had torn a gouge in the Whale- but that was nothing by Inter-vehicular collision standards. The Missiles themselves hadn’t done much either- the small AA missiles leaving nothing but scorch marks, and the normal ones leaving small gouges. Not terrible, but not impressive, considering the Whale was a seemingly organic opponent…

Ah, but of course. New Science. Perhaps it implemented some form of ring-shield? A possibility-

And that was when the mist appeared. Rambot’s ocular nerve twitched-

As both the remaining Moths promptly lost track of their opponent. Wonderful. If Rambot had tossed in a detection vehicle, they’d probably have been able to use its signals to detect the Whale, but as it was-

Rambot gave the order to retreat. The Moths didn’t have the ammunition to kill the Whale with damage like that.

Unfortunately, the whale gave pursuit, and while the Moths were faster while going in a straight line- they would lead the Whale right to the Lugnican Jungle base. Ah well. With a heavy heart, Rambot ordered the planes to engage. Flying through the mist didn’t seem directly harmful to the Moths, but it cut off visuals, which meant that, despite landing a few inconsequential hits- they were doomed from the start.

Rambot let out a frustrated whirr as the last camera deactivated. There went those minerals.

“Rambot, sir.” ALPHA interrupted Rambot’s sulking. “A number of civilians are approaching the tree area. Estimated time to arrival is-“

Rambot looked at the number. Well. That was annoying. Hopefully the Whale was only hostile to offworlders.

Of course, Rambot had to act under the assumption it wasn’t, because optimism was a tool for the foolish and the weak. And of course, letting its subjects get eaten was hardly acceptable behavior for a conqueror.

So, Light missiles hadn’t worked. CRAMs would probably be effective- the armor had been thick enough shrug off light missiles, but normal ones had gotten through. But Rambot didn’t have time to deploy large CRAMs. Hm. The Whale had shown off some fairly impressive teeth when it had chomped through the last Moth- possibly its internals also had some kind of biological structure? Organs, muscles, bone, a brain?

So- something with AP, to get through the outer shell, and a payload, to destroy the soft internals? Every time Rambot went back to good old APHE, it felt a little bit guilty, like it was making the canoe of Advanced Projectile Systems- but Railguns were fun. Very fun. And porting the RCS’ power hungry main canon, which fired 3600mm APHE shells at 981m/s- and that was on Neter, where everything moved far slower. Initial tests suggested much higher velocities-

_

It had been very fun.

The resulting craft- the Rail Support Tank- was an ungainly monstrosity, barely stable, and only capable of handling rough terrain with luck and prayers. It also mounted two engines- one capable of pumping out 7000 Power Units per second with incredibly low efficiency, and the other pumping out 2000 while consuming barely any material at all. The Railgun had needed additional cooling vents thanks to atmospheric differences, which hadn’t been much of an issue, considering Rambot had been forced to shove in six-way connectors to put in the recoil compensators the gun needed, anyway.

This was a gun that could kill a whale. And detect it, too- it had everything. IR Cameras, Radar, telescopic trackers, a Nine-meter rangefinder…

Well.

Hopefully. It had better. Because if it couldn’t, those civilians were buggered.

_

Speed wasn’t the Rail Support Tank’s strongest suit- Rambot was forced to use a Lifter Copter to transport the thing within range- said range being way higher than it was on Neter. It made Rambot so, so happy to be able to shoot things without them being able to shoot back. Rambot spun in its chair, tapping buttons on the bridge of the Gratuitous excitedly.

What didn’t make Rambot happy, however, was the fact that the civilians were entering the Whale’s visual range. It let out a distressed warble as the Rail Support Tank’s engines whirred- rapidly charging the vehicle’s batteries for a first shot.

The stupid, fleshy morons were going faster than expected- a decent portion were mounted. Scans were picking up some tank sized objects- what moron would use primitive tanks against a faster flying oppon-

Rambot paused, and looked over at the Rail Support Tank. Hm.

Sensors were picking up more- oddities. They were approaching in formation- almost as if they expected a fight- which was absurd. Organics didn’t fight. An organic couldn’t mount decent armor- the idiots had clad themselves in thin layers of metal. Metal! Metal was for battleships, not civilians.

And as Rambot watched- they began to fan out, the tank sized things- really miniature artillery pieces, began to turn to track the Whale. Things that small- could they do serious damage? PACs that size would have trouble doing solid damage at point blank range, but Large Missiles would probably-

The crack of the first round would have been deafening to an organic- one single gunpowder casing, solid bodies, an armor piercing head, and high explosives accelerated by thirty thousand units of power. It was loud, yes, but also kilometres away from the civilians, who were mounting their insane attack on a fifty-meter long airship.

Rambot didn’t notice the one human in a tracksuit who turned to look at the Rail Support Tank. At that distance, how could it? Besides- its view was focused entirely on the Whale. Impact, yes- a hole- detonation!

A spurt of flesh and blood, an explosion of gore bursting from the wound- and that was undoubtedly a small fraction of the internal damage done by the round. Perfect-

And that was when the whale was engulfed in blue light. The Artillery pieces-!

With an area of effect like that-! The Whale was engulfed in explosions. At that size, flak couldn’t achieve similar results. Those things, on a five meter turret… They would make fantastic point defence.

Of course, that was when the whale dove- not towards the Civilians, but towards the Rail Support Tank. Well. The thing’s hide didn’t seem particularly damaged by the barrage- which made sense. Those things weren’t CRAM Cannons- they’d probably paid for their area-of-effect in terms of damage potential.

The tank was- expensive. For the price of one Rail Support Tank, Rambot could have deployed a dozen Moths- but the tank stood a chance of killing the whale’s AI before it could target the- ‘civilians’.  With the Whale rushing it, however, the tank wouldn’t manage more than two or three more-

Another deafening crack. The Whale seemed to stagger in midair, but continued on.

The formation of whale hunters were turning well enough- but that wasn’t what Rambot’s focus was on. This was a situation which warranted manual aim, right? Between the eyes- that was usually where the brain was on organics-

The last round struck true- yet the fountain of gore contained only bone, blood, and flesh, not grey matter. Rambot slammed one of its lower limbs into the floor, and emitted a stream of garbage data. The damned thing’s thick skull- hopefully that shot had at least caused some brain damage-

And yet, it turned. Oh, slower than before, but leaving the beautiful, beautiful tank as nothing but scrap in its wake. That thing had been expensive-

The civilian artillery fired again- this time bringing up fountains of gore- of course, hitting where the superstructure had been stripped away by APHE rounds, a direct line to the internals.

And then- they launched a flare?

Rambot’s ocular receptors pulsed. Did the damned thing have missiles? What-

Abruptly, the Spysat’s visual feed turned white. And after adjustment-

It was bright as day.

Incredible. The sheer amount of power that would take, packed into a single round-!

Implementing that tech into a laser would be-!

And then, the whale roared.

_

After that- it was too much. Far, far too much.

Little pointy sticks being waved about- and cutting holes in the Whale’s armor from afar, opening huge wounds. Tiny humanoids jumping onto the whale and cutting it open with said metal sticks-!

“Sir.” ALPHA pointed out. “You may wish to deactivate the feed. Your CPU is overheating.”

Rambot waved him off. This was- this was…

The science was incredible. Rambot couldn’t wait to implement those things into its Battleships- to implement that flare’s immense energy into the Black Pyramids, to find out what made that shining blade cut from afar- it wanted to go down there, this very instant, to grab those strange, insane people, to demand they explain how.

And it was- dangerous. How could it rule over such- insanity? With weapons like that, individuals with no access to vehicles or ships could still be a threat. One single person with a sword could cut a Skyclearer out of the air.

The conquest of these lands would be- difficult.

And that was what Rambot was thinking before individual humanoids in cloth- cloth! armor flung incendiary streams at the whale, engulfing it in flame.

Of course, the absurd effectiveness of the little squishy beings’ attacks didn’t mean Rambot stopped building forces. Building another Rail Support Tank wasn’t the best idea- even if the Lugnica Forest Base had enough Material for it- which it didn’t, transporting it to the battle in time would be- impossible.

So- Skyclearers. Twice the speed of a Moth, more manoeuvrable, better missile armament. More fuel intensive, but- when it came to an interesting, one-time only fight, price wasn’t really relevant. Nothing from the Northern Base would make it on time-

Just as the first Skyclearer took off, the entire battlefield was engulfed in fog. And this- it was… Different.

Thicker than it had been earlier. Rambot had a feeling the humanoids were restricted to the visual spectrum-

But it wasn’t.

So when the Whale screamed, the Skyclearer, aided by the Spysat’s targeting information, rammed ten HE Missiles down its gullet. The howl turned to a disgusting, choked sound. Excellent. Initially, the whale began to turn, its massive eyes- no, eye, by Neter, how had these people managed that? Filled with rage-

Before its focus snapped back to the fog, the Skyclearer seemingly forgotten. The second pass splashed off of the hide, opening small wounds, the AA missiles unable to do serious damage. Rambot’s servo joints tightened- it gave the command to the Forest Base’s tactical AI to switch the under-construction Skyclearer over to anti-ship missiles. It had been foolish, it had forgotten-

And then, the whale was inside the fog. With a curse, Rambot deactivated the Skyclearer’s weapons systems- the whale hunters had been crawling all over the damned thing. Firing on it without the ability to check for the little idiots would be- unacceptable.

So- Rambot waited. Waited for a proper visual, to be able to see the civilians-

And then… the fog cleared momentarily, some kind of explosive force pushing it away.

There were three whales.

Rambot tapped the screen. It wasn’t a malfunction. Where there had been one, there were now three. No repair tentacles, no clear subvehicle spawners- just… three. Three, where there had been one. Two of them were down in the dirt, trying to take out the people, and one-

One was floating above the battle, watching over it, a perfect target- yet engaging it wouldn’t lessen the pressure on those down below-

Rambot paused. There had to be a reason it wasn’t fighting. Was it more valuable, somehow? Linked to the other two? Preparing a more powerful attack? Regardless-

The Second Skyclearer joined the engagement- and both moved to fire on the third whale.

And this time-

The impacts were substantially more damaging than before. Even the whales engaged in the melee were taking a lot more damage than the one whale was before. So- the same materials spread out across three vessels? Interesting. Similar, perhaps, to how lasers could be distributed across multiple turrets and LAMS nodes?

The Whale didn’t take it lying down-floating up? A stream of mist shot out from-

What was it aiming at? The Skyclearer wasn’t anywhere near that location. Rambot let out an annoyed beep, and demanded the Lugnica Forest base construct a second Skyclearer- why hadn’t it done so earlier? They had the materials-!

The Skyclearer on its own wasn’t able to do enough damage- the damned whale wasn’t fast enough to evade its attacks, or pursue it like it had the Moths, but it could turn quickly enough to ensure missile barrages were spread out, sandpapering away armor, not getting near the internals-

And then- the Whale’s eye widened, and it dove, the Skyclearer forgotten, yet again.

Right on time for the giant tree to fall on it.

Had- had Rambot even contributed to that fight? Sure, its ships had landed a few hits, but- how- what-!

Infantry, using absurdly outdated methods of warfare, had taken down an airship that had been able to survive multiple anti-tank rounds. And they did it with pointy pieces of metal!

“Sir, you may wish to-“

Rambot let out a high pitched squeal of excitement. It could no longer resist. It had to meet-

“BETA has not yet finished learning the language, sir.”

Rambot froze. No. No. All that magnificent science, that weaponry, that volume efficiency- it couldn’t be allowed to just slip through its grasp. It offered a questioning beep.

“Otto’s location is unknown.”

Rambot buried its head in its manipulators and emitted a noise of distress.

And yet- it was unlikely that these were the only people with these abilities in this world. And at least Rambot would have the corpse to analyse-

They were taking the corpse. Of course. With a put-upon tone, Rambot got to work designing the fortress it would put down where the tree had fallen.

And got started on constructing a pair of Goliath IFVs. Sure, the powers the whale hunters showed off probably weren’t unique- but making sure that group didn’t die before Rambot could interrogate them was a perfectly sensible thing to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Meters of metal. Thin by tank standards. Still-

It stung to see the Goliath crumple like it was made of a single layer of wood. It stung even more to see the priest that crushed it just by looking at it deflect a barrage of 54mm HE by throwing up a wall of solid rock- oh, the rock crumbled rapidly enough, but in the time it took for that to happen-

Rambot let out an annoyed beep as the second tank’s turret cap popped off. This was- absurd. Bullets stopping in mid air, metal crumpling like paper from a look-

At least the tanks had done good work against the ‘regular’ cultists- but for them to fall so readily to new science-

Rambot loved designing. If it wasn’t for the need to fix the world, Rambot would’ve spent every day of its life fiddling with aircraft, tanks, guns, vessels, engines, and spacecraft- but watching effective design simply be invalidated by an entirely new branch of science, leaving no clue of what to change, of what to fix-

No. Rambot had to look at this analytically. The battle with the priest became background noise- and Rambot barely noticed how the tank’s distractions opened the head cultist up to a killing blow from behind. If armor was useless against new science, and APS Shells could be reliably blocked by it- well, that necessitated another shift in strategy.

The Goliath’s armor worked against relatively non-anomalous attacks. It deflected blades, and lightweight special munitions, and the guns worked flawlessly against the weaker targets-

So these anomalous individuals, with their ‘superhuman’ abilities, necessitated alternate tactics-

Rambot turned back to the vid-screen, and watched as the oddly dressed boy got to his feet, aided by the sword-wielding, purple haired swordsman. The swordsman behaved in a manner completely different from how the priest had- and going over footage from the whale fight, almost all the stronger fighters had been unique- different weapons, different kinds of physical strength, different applications of New Science.

Hm. Hopefully, it was simply a matter of classes- if the infantry of this world could be divided up into counterable categories, Rambot could manage, but if every individual had to be countered-

Or perhaps this was a one-off event? Sure, the priest had taken out both tanks, but he had lost the left side of his torso first- was that an equivalent exchange? Rambot didn’t know how much of a material investment New Magic was. Subaru had described this cult as a dangerous group willing to slaughter innocents for their ‘Witch’- but how common were such cults? The White Flayers had been players on the world stage, after all…

Straight up conquering this planet was looking like a bad, bad idea. The strategies Rambot had applied back in Neter flat out wouldn’t work here- with super-powered individuals capable of hiding amongst the general populace, casualties would be immense if Rambot tried to implement its old techniques for securing populations.

_

Rambot was halfway through designing the new Las-Tank in the Great Tree Base when Subaru ran in, carrying a bag of glowing rocks, before promptly starting to screech something in the strange local language. Really, he was one of a long line of interruptions- intermittent explosions had marked a new cluster of cultists being located by the Moths, and it had received a ridiculous number of pings when the Moths had taken out some sort of floating corpse that had been pursuing Subaru and Otto’s carriage.

Subaru seemed to be unwilling to calm down, so Rambot pinged ALPHA, who responded instantly. The AI was a true boon- it minimized all the annoying micromanagement of world conquest, and thanks to shared data, its knowledge of local languages was on par with BETA- who was probably on track to send the vocal linguistics package sometime today…

“He is saying something about a bomb, sir.”

A bomb? That size? Well, if the oddly dressed fellow was so worried about it-

A tentacle plucked the bag from the boy’s hands. Within seconds, it was engulfed in a three metre thick box- before Rambot reconsidered, and removed the top. Subaru still seemed concerned, so a few more layers-

The explosion was immense. Subaru’s giant lizard engulfed the boy, protecting him, but Rambot was made of metal anyway, so that wasn’t necessary. It stared up at the plume of fire, rapidly rising kilometres into the air, every task in its central processor frozen.

Three metres of heavy armor. The payload in that bag outperformed tactical nukes. Oh, true, it was basically pressed against the heavy armor, with only one way out, which made the armor a lot less efficient at  containing an explosion. An airgap would have made it work better, perhaps- given the gases room to expand-

Subaru was, fortunately, alive, as was his lizard. Rambot ignored the two, and the white haired lady frantically rushing in to fret over the unconscious boy.

Rambot had explosive residue to examine.

_

“The Forbidden library is the most knowledgeable place in Lugnica.” Otto parroted, translating Subaru’s words. “We would be willing to give you access to it, though you would have to negotiate with its guardian, the Great Spirit Beatrice.”

Rambot tilted its head, and data flowed in. They could already read at a basic level. If the forbidden library was as expansive as Subaru suggested- ALPHA would be able to perform information gathering duties…

“Interesting.” ALPHA answered. “Topics we require information on include Modern Politics, Technology, and Geography. Will the Library contain comprehensive information regarding these?”

“I’m not sure.” Otto replied, as Subaru’s eyes narrowed. “But I haven’t seen anyone contribute to it recently- so it would not seem likely.”

“However-“ Otto continued, after pausing to listen to Subaru. “The lord of the mansion, Roswaal Mathers- he’s knowledgeable about current events. We’re going to be meeting with him soon. You could travel with us, perhaps? In exchange, I could put in a good word for you-” Otto gave Subaru an odd look, making an inquiry in the native tongue. Subaru’s answer reassured him.

“And- do you have guns?” Otto asked, the last word coming out oddly, as if the merchant was uncertain about its meaning.

Rambot tilted its head to the side.

_

Ultimately, Subaru traded a red rock- a ‘fire magic stone’, for a sub-machinegun. Rambot had very nearly exploded at the boy when he used that word. Magic. People had thought the Scarlet Dawn’s stupid, uneconomical craft were magic, too, when the bratty little aliens had first attacked. ALPHA had wisely chosen not to communicate Rambot’s displeasure, sticking to the negotiations.

Rambot had no idea why Subaru would want one of those. Sure, it demolished wood, but-

Hm. Subaru wouldn’t be shooting at battleships, would he? Subaru would be shooting at people, in thin clothes that could, if one were a blind, doddering fool, be called armor. Perhaps giving the boy a gun for a single magic stone wasn’t a fair trade.

Bah. Rambot had just been so excited-

Rambot was still very excited.

It was just frustrated, too.

The rock stubbornly refused to display its anomalous properties. It was anomalous. Rambot was certain of it. Subaru had demonstrated its ability to glow when ‘mana’ was channelled through it-

And yet, hours of testing had revealed nothing. Dozens of notifications had been dismissed, including one from BETA as she uploaded the basic vocal translation package for Lugnica’s primary language, as Rambot threw together increasingly complicated mechanisms to extract something.

The fire stone failed to interact with Custom Jet Engines, Regular jet engines, Ion thrusters, fuel engines, steam engines, electrical engines, APS, and CRAMs. Now that Rambot actually stopped to think, though-

This wasn’t the right way to go about things. Research should build off the existing knowledge base- the people of this world already knew about these things, they’d lived with them for, presumably, millennia. Presumably, utilising these stones required more complex action than simply shoving it into things and seeing what it did. And now that it could, through ALPHA, just about speak the language-

A simple teleport brought Rambot to the front of the group, and it clambered off the Goliath, which was leading the column.

Dirt. Its ocular sensors were blocked by dirt.

Rambot stood, acknowledging the pings from ALPHA, taking note of the fact that its left arm had been removed.

“Sir, Goliath-3 has suffered critical damage.”

Rambot turned. While these fights were interesting, they were becoming quite aggravating. It just wanted some time to integrate these new technologies into its designs before they were tested. What was the point of having the ineffectiveness of its designs be shoved into its face again and again?

The organics were stopping as the Goliath’s ammunition stores cooked off, creating a pile of exploding scrap in their path, and in front of Rambot stood a white haired man.

“Not bad! Surviving a hit like that- I didn’t expect it. But then again, you are not human. Perhaps you don’t even feel it!”

“Correct.” ALPHA answered. “Our pain receptors are carefully regulated and limited, to ensure that while injuries are noticed, they do not hinder operational capacity.”

“Oh? A pity- and here I thought you were simply displaying truly impressive composure. Still, I suppose it shows some strength of character to talk so to one who has killed your friends-”

Rambot let out a confused beep. “You have not ‘killed’ anyone. Goliath IFVs are unmanned.”

The White-haired man staired at Rambot for a brief moment- before pulling his head back and laughing. “Oh? Have I not? In that case, allow me to rectify that-“ He levelled a grin at the men and women quickly approaching, their weapons drawn-

And an explosion ripped through them, blood, limbs, and metal flying through the air. A direct attack on the convoy. Really, Rambot could not understand these people. On Neter, everybody made declarations before so much as touching other people’s cargo containers, and here, on this uncivilized dump-

Captain Sal hadn’t handed Rambot a declaration of war before killing Rambot’s parents.

The sound of the Goliath’s main gun firing was- hard to describe. The rounds were pure High Explosive- no gunpowder, with the shells being propelled entirely by electricity at five-hundred and thirty three metres per second. The sound came from the sound barrier being broken once every zero-point zero seven seconds. The sound of the actual explosions, of course, was completely inaudible in comparison.

That was the sound which graced everyone nearby as Goliath-4 opened up on the white-haired pest. It was the sound which continued to be heard after ten seconds had passed- twenty, thirty…

Before it abruptly stopped, as the barrels bent backwards.

Rambot was certain that the boy sitting on top of Goliath-4 intended to say something quite witty, his teeth bared in an insane grin, but whatever he intended to say was drowned out as the Goliath’s gun continued to fire- three barrels breaking off and continuing to fire on the place where the White-haired man was, and the other five spraying explosions onto the boy-

Who was no longer on top of the tank, which promptly exploded.

Unsurprisingly, the smoke cleared to reveal the man in white, a furious expression on his face. “Didn’t-“ He began, right before being promptly cut off by a stream of missiles ramming into- some kind of field which surrounded him. He glared up at the Skyclearer, annoyance in his eyes, right before the Skyclearer began to descend, cut cleanly in half.

Rambot threw up its arms- well. Arm. In disgust. This complete bull-

“Attacking me when I’m happily talking? That infringes on my freedom of speech, you know?”

Rambot stared as its other arm came off. It shrugged- well. Tried to. “You violated the Right to Life of other individuals first. As a result, your legal freedoms may be curtailed, in order to bring you in for mandatory reformation-“

“Reformation?! Hah! A perfect being-“

“How dare you attack my retainers in such a manner?” A green haired lady asked, clear wrath in her tone. “Who are you?”

“Hush, dear. The grown ups are talking.” The man answered. “But I suppose it is rather rude of me, hm? True, you do not know who I am, but I know of you. You are a candidate to be the next ruler of this nation-“

“She is?” ALPHA interrupted. “Why did Subaru not inform us of this? The information possessed by her could have been-“ Abruptly, ALPHA’s voice cut off, as, with a shower of sparks, the drone fell, cleanly bisected.

This was starting to get quite annoying. Rambot let out an aggravated beep.

“You- all of you, talk too much. Then again, to rule a country- it must take some degree of arrogance.”

Rambot felt somewhat personally attacked. It made it feel a bit better to see the annoying man be physically attacked, as the green haired lady used her fancy long-ranged sword swing to strike at him, but said good feeling evaporated as the attack proved completely ineffectual.

All while that annoying boy was cheerfully stabbing away at the people of the convoy. Well, Rambot couldn’t be blamed for this. It had provided an escort. It walked up to the white haired man, trying to land a solid kick on the pest, only for its leg to fall off.

The remainder of the fight was dull and pointless. The green haired lady swung her sword around until it was removed from her possession, alongside her arm, and a blue-haired lady dressed as a maid stood by her side while the hostiles monologue and pontificated. Rambot didn’t bother to stick around, assuming, quite rightfully, that it would be of no real help with its single leg and torso, and teleported back to the Gratuitous-

Hm. The Gratuitous had lasers- and there wasn’t much in space that could result in attenuation. Oh, there would be some of that, but forty-three percent of a laser meant to cut Contingencies in half was still a lot- especially when Rambot was miffed enough to turn on the Fuel Engines. Oh, the Spysat couldn’t get a clear lock on infantry, but manual aim existed for a reason.

_

“I expected them to be a good, ripe bunch, considering-“

Many speak of a sixth sense warning them of incoming danger, of having a premonition of disaster before grievous injury is inflicted. This is confirmation bias.

Every time people get into rickety, creaky elevators, they think about how likely it is that the thing is going to break, and they’re going to plummet to their doom- so when it happens, they’ve naturally thought about it at the exact moment, meaning they technically had a ‘premonition’.

Lye Batenkaitos did not expect a 300,000 Power Unit Single Q laser to evaporate his entire body, leaving behind nothing but a pool of molten slurry. The last thing to go through his mind probably had something to do with what he was going to have for lunch.

_

The White haired fellow simply stood there, which was great! The smarmy little shit looked straight up and grinned, which would have been far more intimidating if he wasn’t looking away from the Spysat.

Cheerfully, Rambot fired again.

The ground turned to molten slurry, the air to plasma.

And still the man stood there.

Rambot fired again.

And still the man stood.

Rambot threw up its repaired manipulators in disgust. Wonderful. Well, at least it got one of the annoying little bastards. The annoying bastard brought up one hand- and the blue haired girl erupted in a shower of red. He continued to stare up. If Rambot still had a tongue, it would have stuck it out as the fellow walked off.

An interesting fight. A few tanks lost, one aircraft, and some infantry- but one anomalous opponent was eliminated, and the Gratuitous’ laser proved highly effective. Pure RTG effectiveness would also need to be examined- regardless of how material was being supplied to the Gratuitous, running its engines was expensive-

Rambot turned that thought over in its head.

A few tanks lost. Yes. One aircraft, yes. Some infantry.

Those infantry were people.

Rambot’s manipulator froze- before-

“Two Medical barges are en route.”

Confused, Rambot let out a questioning trill.

“Ah- simply a modified transporter design. Carries a full surgical suite, and the gear required to fabricate bodies like your own. I undertook the liberty of designing it following the White Whale fight-”

Rambot let out a joyful beep. It could have, in that moment, given ALPHA a hug.

_

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Subaru’s body was frozen stiff. His fingers fumbled for his dagger-

Emilia was slack-jawed, her skin paler than usual.

“Wh-who…”

The top of Rem’s head was sliced open, and… hollow. Her brain was absent. Somebody… some sick bastard…

Subaru’s head jerked up as he heard clanking-

_

Rambot stared at the highly distressed people. This was not its forte. Fortunately, ALPHA was decent at things like this.

“This is Rem’s new body. It is painted blue and has ‘REM’ written on it for easy disambiguation. Thank you.”

Rambot walked off, leaving Subaru and Emilia with the blue Rembot. It felt a little awkward. Setting up the neural connections had been difficult- a lot of things hadn’t matched up, but apparently BETA had majored in biology at some point and knew about these things. She had popped in between language lessons to get all the new Rambots- no. Rambot couldn’t call them Rambots. That would be- really confusing. Scuttlebots? They didn’t look like the experimental body Rambot had fiddled with early on. They looked exactly like Rambot, but with paint on them. But then again, nobody other than it had actually seen the Scuttlebot prototypes, so-

They were Scuttlebots. Yes.

Of course, there were problems, as was usual when New Science met Old Science. Firstly, the vast majority of those who had died had suffered brain death by the time the Medical Barges had arrived.

-And that was where the problems that made sense ended.

A decent number of the Scuttlebots had amnesia. This would have made sense if the brains had been damaged before being transferred- but many of those who lacked memories had died of blood loss, or had passed away waiting for care, their brains intact.

They had been welcomed back by Crusch, who vowed to take care of them, naturally. A point in her favour. More problematic were the comatose ones. When Rambot checked, there were no signs of them having fought- their corpses or injured bodies had just- been there. On the battlefield.  

Apparently, these people had simply been- erased from reality. They had, apparently, once been employees of Crusch- yet now, nobody remembered them. This- insane application of New Magic had effected everything. Video footage, memories- time itself had been rewritten. They were alive, in the strictest sense- their hearts beat, they took breaths, yet they were forgotten, and did not move.

For now, they were just kept there, under a minimal guard, kept ‘alive’ by IVs. And Rambot- Rambot didn’t know what to do with them. The Healers said nothing could be done- they were as good as dead.

And then- there was the last group. Those who had ‘just’ been forgotten.

They had lived, yes, but there was no footage of them engaging in battle or being defeated. Nobody in Crusch’s camp recognised them- though she had welcomed those who chose to return back regardless. They had been wiped from the world’s history.

But they remembered. They remembered a world in which they had existed.

One had self-terminated- and Rambot had simply kept her consciousness suspended within her Heartstone. Rambot didn’t have access to a therapist, at present- she would have to wait for later. One other had asked to join Rambot’s service.

Rambot had to get back to them on that.

This entire incident had A. Brought Rambot’s opinion of Crusch up by a few points, and B. Reaffirmed just how completely and utterly bullshit New Magic was. Could it have erased Rambot? All the victims had been attacked by the odd child the Gratuitous’ laser had killed. If Rambot had been attacked, would ALPHA and BETA cease to exist? Would its empire cease to exist?

The sheer amount of power it had to take to alter time like that was- Processor boiling.

Which meant that Rambot really had to figure out how to get that stuff into its designs.

 “Yo.”

Rambot looked up from Harry Dresden’s Thesis on the Utilisation of Magical Stones. Beatrice had been willing to allow it access to the library with surprisingly little resistance, though Rambot had provided its treatise on three-dimensional CRAM Tetris regardless.

Subaru looked down at it, a mixed expression on his face.

“You saved Rem. Thank you.”

Rambot shrugged, and ALPHA hovered over from the History book he was reading to speak on its behalf. “I provided her with a new body. It was no great feat. Scuttlebot bodies are cheap.”

“She says that if it dies, you’ll provide her with a new one?”

Rambot nodded. It had specifically told the Scuttlebots these things so it would not be pestered-

“Why?” Subaru asked, an odd emotion in his voice. “Why do these things? Why help us like this? You aren’t even from this planet-!”

Rambot blinked. It didn’t recall telling Subaru that.

Subaru fell silent, waiting for an answer.

“You are not criminals. You are not our enemy.” ALPHA’s drone body bobbed in place. “Why would we not provide basic assistance?”

Subaru blinked. “What-?” Rambot returned its attention to the Treatise. ALPHA could handle this conversation.

“The Right to Life is enshrined in the New Constitution of Neter. Preserving life where possible is the role of the state, and Rambot is the Ruler of the state.”

This clearly wasn’t what Subaru had expected. His expression rapidly shifted, before settling on- confusion. “That’s it?”

ALPHA bobbed up, then down. “Yes. Life is to be preserved where possible.”

“I. See.” Subaru bowed his head. “Thank you.” There was a momentary pause. “We’ll be leaving soon. We need to get the rest of the people we evacuated from the village- Roswaal went with them.”

“Understood. We will monitor your location via Spysat, and meet you there. We cannot supply you with more Goliaths, unfortunately, but the Moths shall continue their escort.”

“Ah- those planes? Right. Goodbye, then.”

Rambot turned the page- and looked up. ALPHA was still floating in front of it. It tilted its head.

“Neter law was not followed with regard to the Witch Cultists.”

Rambot froze, rapidly looking over its memory and combat footage- huh. ALPHA- wasn’t wrong. Actual- people, who could die. They went into battle as a matter of course here.

It was such an alien concept, Rambot hadn’t even realised the implications. All real combat on Neter took place via AI commanded ships. Law enforcement was- well. People, equipped with non-lethal weapons, but Rambot didn’t have access to people.

It let out an embarrassed tone.

So- a secondary weapon, to incapacitate opponents where possible, to be mounted on tanks. Aircraft wouldn’t be able to reliably accomplish such actions. Realistically, such a weapon would only be used against targets that couldn’t breach several meters of armor, and whatever projectile it fired would need to be small and slow enough to usually break bones instead of completely obliterate bodies. Hm. Perhaps a coaxial railgun, loaded with solid rounds, since those wouldn’t detonate if the gun was hit…

It briefly looked up from its studies when Subaru was hurled out of the library, but the spirit did not object to its presence, so it remained.

_

Up North, no contact had been made with civilization. Resource harvesting operations, unhindered- and to some degree benefitted by, the extremely cold temperatures, continued to expand- a reasonable defence force of Skyclearers, LLAC Destroyers, and Rail Support Craft, and a single TCT Black Pyramid gradually growing, completely unchecked.

Rambot was pleased by this. It wasn’t even necessary to invest more resources from the Gratuitous- things were going just fine.

_

Crusch nodded politely, gesturing to the seat in front of her. “You wished to speak to me?”

Rambot nodded as it took its seat. “Correct.” ALPHA replied.

Felix’s tail swished from side to side, his eyes fixed on Rambot, but otherwise silent.

Crusch took the short silence as an opportunity. “I do not think I thanked you for what you did for my people. I- cannot claim to understand what you have done to those who are now- Scuttlebots, as you call them, but nonetheless, I am glad they live on. Many of them are having difficulty adjusting, but they are strong people.” Her eyebrow quirked up. “However- their bodies- they are similar to yours. Are they capable of-?”

“While their repair protocols are enabled, their construction protocols are not, and they have not been provided with any blueprints. We do not wish for any to see the bodies as- upgrades.”

“I understand.”

Rambot inclined its head. It was a logical question. Regardless, it was time to move on to the meeting’s purpose- “The White haired man who attacked the convoy- he said you were a candidate to be the next ruler of this nation.”

“Yes. He spoke the truth.”

“What is the local view on open backing of candidates by foreign powers?”

Crusch seemed taken aback. “Open backing- ah.” Her face turned serious. “It is- allowed. Anastasia Hoshin has close ties to Kararagi, and despite this, she is a royal candidate. I find it distasteful. Lugnica’s affairs are its own.”

Rambot tilted its head. “Would you refuse if we offered to support you?” ALPHA asked.

“No, as long as you understood where we stand. I would not be willing to compromise my vision for Lugnica based on your views. I would not ignore you, of course. I am not so stubborn as to believe I know everything, or am right about everything. But do not presume to manipulate Lugnica’s affairs through me.”

“Of course. In that case, we wish to ask you some questions regarding your plans for Lugnica.”

Crusch’s eyes narrowed. “Why? You are a foreigner- you claim to come from beyond the Great Waterfall, a claim I feel I can believe. How are my plans relevant?”

“Initially, Rambot intended to conquer your world.” ALPHA answered, and Crusch’s mouth fell open at the sheer brazenness of it. Felix stiffened, his gaze rapidly flipping from Rambot to ALPHA’s drone. “However, the nature of combat and science on this world imply that this would not be an effective way to implement its aims. Instead, we are considering alternative solutions.”

Felix frowned. “Conquering? That’s nyowt very nice.”

Crusch’s expression was stony. “And those aims are?”

“Eradication of corruption in governance. Forceful eradication of social evils. General improvement in quality of life of citizens. Implementation of technology from Neter to ease various burdens. I believe you could call it an ‘uplift’ program.”

“I could call it colonialism.” Crusch answered.

“You would be incorrect.” ALPHA answered. “We do not wish to exploit this world economically- it would not be practical. Any yields would have to be transported by spacecraft equipped with Ion Thrusters, RTGs, and Warp Drives. It would, in theory, turn a profit, but one so small that it would not be worth the investment. Our materials are better spent elsewhere. The technology of this world is of interest to us, but we do not require political influence to investigate it.”

“I see.” Crusch steepled her fingers. “So- you wish to learn of my plans for Lugnica. Based on their nature, you will decide whether or not you wish to support me- how? What can you offer?”

“You saw the effect our aircraft and tanks had on the White Whale. We could not kill it with them, yet their work seriously injured it.”

Felix “Yes. Your craft were a big help- if those flying things hadn’t stopped the Whale’s scream, a lot of people wouldn’t still be here nyow!”

“And, of course, you know of the aid we provided in the fight against those that attacked the caravan.”

Crusch tapped the table, considering ALPHA’s words. “Yes. Your ‘tanks’ proved ineffective against the Sin Archbishops, but- ‘Rem’ tells me the Archbishop of Gluttony was obliterated by a pillar of fire.”

Rambot nodded. “That was our doing. The Gratuitous can strike, from space, at any place in the world. It can burrow through most buildings to get at its targets, and was made to kill targets covered in several metres of metal armor.”

“An impressive weapon. Why did you not use it against the Whale?”

Rambot tensed at Crusch’s words. Its next few beeps were relatively soft. “We are not used to combat where sapient life is risked.” ALPHA answered. “It requires a different mentality entirely.” At Crusch and Felix’s confused looks, he further elaborated-“On our world, wars are largely fought by automated Vehicles, controlled by simple, non-sapient AI. The battle against the Whale was meant to be a test for our cheaper craft, to examine the effectiveness of various forms of weaponry against what we assumed was a simple airship. At the time, we did not properly understand the connotations of- civilians, in battle.”

Crusch remained silent, for a time. “It is- difficult to imagine. Wars fought by machines…” She shook her head. “Regardless, I understand.”

“Such deficiencies are amongst the reasons we chose not to attempt direct conquest. This world is too different from our own- the cost would be too high.”

“I see.” The faintest flicker of a smile crossed over Crusch’s face. “I suppose we should be happy for that, at least.”

“Perhaps.”

And then-

They talked policy.

_

“This has been an enlightening meeting.” ALPHA declared, as Rambot pulled back its chair. “We thank you for entertaining us.”

“Of course.” Crusch inclined her head. “I have learned much myself. You are- free with your capabilities.”

Rambot shrugged. “Being mistrustful of others has caused us… issues… in the past.” Alpha replied. There were some things Rambot preferred not to speak of. “Besides, there is nothing you could do to harm us.”

For a brief moment, Crusch was thrown off by the comment. “We do not intend to threaten you. However, you are unable to permanently kill us, and you are not immune to orbital lasers.” Rambot shrugged. “It is a simple fact. You are not dangerous.”

“Nyeowt a threat, huh? Could’ve fooled me.” Felix chuckled. The Knight had been bored for a fair bit of the conversation, but now he was completely attentive. Fair enough.

Crusch smiled, politely. “You are, perhaps, too blunt. I must admit, imagining you asking Priscilla these questions grants me no small joy.”

“I shall be sure to record the meeting.” ALPHA spoke, without Rambot’s input. Rambot tilted its head. “Regardless.” ALPHA continued, switching back to being Rambot’s voice-“We cannot make a decision now. We must speak to the other candidates. Once again, we thank you.”

Nods were exchanged, and Rambot left. Crusch was principled. Firm. Her views on the dragon were worrying, however. If it truly was a benevolent being-

Hm. Additionally, the nationalist views could be either a help or a hindrance. Crusch claimed not to want wars, but her distaste for foreign interference, her intentions regarding the economy- they were worrying. While she was open to the concepts of Nationalised Healthcare, she was stubborn regarding-

“I liked her.” ALPHA declared. Rambot let out a questioning beep.

“She possesses conviction. Drive. Honest belief in her ideals.” There was something unsaid in ALPHA’s words, but Rambot couldn’t tell. Regardless, it nodded, before letting out a complicated series of low-frequency trills.

“I can? That is- appreciated. I will be sure to communicate I am representing myself, and not the whole of Neter.”

Rambot nodded. If ALPHA wanted to spend time with Crusch, that was his prerogative. BETA was starting to have more free time, anyway- she could probably fill in, or even take over entirely, as translator.

Still, the fact that both Crusch and Emilia were candidates for the royal selection…

Both would have an understanding of local politics. Subaru had not lied to Rambot, per se, but had simply chosen not to mention the two politically minded individuals who were close at hand, likely to ensure that his group was provided with an escort.

Rambot could not fault him for the decision- not when Rem, who he seemed to be close to, would most likely have died without Rambot’s intervention. His behavior was understandable.

Regardless, its next goal was clear. While speaking with Roswaal was most likely pointless, Emilia was allied with him-

And right in front of Rambot, who barely stopped in time to not bowl her over.

She lacked the presence Crusch had. It was hard to see her as a prospective ruler of a country. Rambot tried not to allow that to color its perspective.

Subaru was by her side, it noticed. It considered bringing up his lie by omission- then decided not to. Perhaps in private.

“Er, Rambot?” Emilia performed a shallow curtsy, which Rambot returned. “I wished to thank you for saving Rem. She is- very precious to all of us. Her new state is strange- but without your aid, she would be dead. If there is anything I can do to repay you-.” Subaru looked like he had bitten into a sour lemon, Rambot noted with some amusement.

“There is.” ALPHA answered. “I wish to speak with you regarding your Candidacy in the Royal Selection.”

 

 

_

 

 

“Equality?”

“Yes.” Emilia answered. “There have been- intense racial tensions between demi-humans and humans. I suppose you haven’t had time to cover that-“

She was perfect. Too perfect. Emilia didn’t want war, she wanted people’s lives to be better, she wanted to deal with a social problem which had been plaguing her society for centuries.

Hm.

Discrimination of some sort or the other had plagued Neter for generations- where there were people, there would be hate, yet the closest parallel to Emilia’s situation was most likely that of the survivors of the Scarlet Dawn’s downfall.

Emilia looked like this world’s greatest war criminal. She was a member of the minority which was being discriminated against. In a normal world, where Dragons handing out insignias did not form a basis for government, Rambot had a feeling that Emilia would never been able to take part in the selection.

And since the Royal Selection was supposedly a Royal Selection

“I apologise.” ALPHA stated, before barrelling on, without hesitation, “But your appearance is similar to that of the Witch who destroyed much of the world beyond the Great Waterfall, correct?”

Emilia winced and Subaru levelled a furious gaze on Rambot. Before he could speak, however, Emilia answered-

“Yes.”

Rambot could, presumably, only back one candidate. Abandoning one and jumping ship to another would butcher its credibility, and it had no idea of how the selection actually worked-

Hm. The other candidates would probably accept those who had backed a dead candidate-

Rambot nearly let out a beep of amusement. It would dance on its parents graves before it murdered someone like that.

So- a risky, problematic candidate- one whose retainer had, admittedly killed the White Whale by dropping a tree on it-

“Oi. Where do you get off asking questions like that?”

Rambot bowed its head. “I apologise, Subaru, and once again, I apologise to you, Emilia, but I have to know, before I make my decision.”

Subaru practically turned purple. “What?! Emilia-tan is nothing like-!”

“Subaru.” Emilia spoke, and he promptly fell silent, his fists balled.

“Her personality is not of relevance to us- though she seems to be of excellent moral character. We wish to approximate her chances of winning the selection.”

Subaru snorted, unable to stop himself. “One-hundred percent.”

“Your confidence in her is- noted. We shall have to meet with Roswaal, her backer, too, of course...”

Rambot wanted to support Emilia. Idealists were great- especially when they were backed by batteries of 2000mm guns, but- unless the other candidates were two children and a member of the Deepwater Guard, it doubted Emilia had even a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning.

“Thank you for your time.” ALPHA parroted. Emilia bowed her head, her expression somewhat uncomfortable-

ALPHA tuned out the sound of Subaru talking to her as he left, on Rambot’s heels. Eavesdropping would be impolite.

Rambot shook its head. That had been- interesting. Well, two down, three- no, four, it had to speak to Roswaal, to go.

The Capital would be a challenge. Rambot would lack credentials- unless it introduced itself through Crusch, which would carry its own issues.

Besides, if it truly wanted to make an impression- it would require a bit more time. After all, Astrals were expensive-

Ah, it was futile. Rambot couldn’t fool itself. Politics was all well and good- the conversation with Crusch intriguing and pleasant, the conversation with Emilia depressing, but Rambot’s heart was already captured by figuring out how to incorporate those aggravating magic stones into a weapons system, and setting up naval resource outposts. After all, even if the water was apparently flowing off the edge of the world, there were minerals to be found in those Waterfalls.

Oh, and it had to figure out how to kill that smug bastard, and decide whether to hire that fellow the world had forgotten, and-

_