Copyright © 2019 Rae Nantes
All rights reserved.
1: Obi Imsi, the Overpowered Hero.
2: Trashy Harem Status Quo
3: A Hero Never Does Wrong
4: Everything Goes Wrong
8: Trash Cans Don’t Have Plot Armor
9: Overused Rebel Arc
10: Mistakes Were Made
11: Shit Eater
12: Obi Imsi, Misogynist
13: Completely Unnecessary Trash Can Leveling System
14: Character Progression
16: Autonomous Recycling Platform
17: Crow Harem
18: Public Execution
20: Recycler Quick Start User Guide
21: The Facility
23: Private Reno
24: The Rogue Trash Can
1: Obi Imsi, the Overpowered Hero.
The young prince stood from his seat, stepped toward me with a drunken smile, then fell over dead.
It was probably the easiest quest chain I had done since the Raid of Erectorian. The quest giver had offered me a mere 30,000 gold, but that wasn't what I desired. After all, money and experience points meant little to a max level paladin hero such as myself.
After tucking the dead prince to sleep soundly in his bed, I stepped out of his bedroom and eased the door shut with a click. The red carpet that lined the torch-lit halls was soft beneath my feet. The scent of sizzling meats and lavish meals poured from the dining hall. Laughter and cheers echoed within.
My heavy armor rattled with every step as I thumped against the stone floors. The guards both nodded and recoiled with respect at the sight of me. I was, after all, the wandering hero who saved the kingdom from the Mad Dragon, the handsome man who every guy wishes to be - and the one who every lady wishes to entertain.
"Ah, there he is!" The old king raised his chalice at me with reddened cheeks. "Obi Imsi, the hero of the land!" He was flanked by a few of his most trusted aristocrats and nobles.
I shot him a charming smile. "King Darios. A pleasure."
"Oh, how wonderful," the king said, glancing at the others nearby; . "You should have seen how this hero killed the terrible Mad Dragon."
A mustached nobleman nodded. "And to think the entire army could not fell such a beast." He stared at me with the sparkling eyes of a lesser man. "You truly are the legendary knight as told by the prophecy."
I chuckled. "I assure you, it was nothing too challenging."
As they laughed, I spotted her.
Porcelain skin. Red lips. Silky black hair. Flowing black dress. Sapphire eyes that lit the darkness. Stilettos that tapped at the stone floors. Her massive head-sized breasts swayed boobishly with every step, nearly pouring out of her dress as she titted over.
Her long legs were long and the perfect… leg shape. Her ass was fat in the best of ways, jiggling in cadence with the bouncing of her big ol’ hooters. The deepest instinct of my alpha manhood screamed at me to thrust my face to the softness of her. She stared into me with seductive bedroom eyes and a sly smile.
I had her, and she didn’t even know it yet.
"Good evening," she said seductively. Her voice was wine.
"Good evening," I said with immeasurable charm.
"Ah," the king said as he gestured at her. "This is Lady Marianna, the Royal Magi."
I already knew who she was. "A pleasure," I told her.
"The pleasure is all mine." In an instant, she was upon me, wrapping herself around my arm. Her magnificent melons were soft against my skin. She stared up into my eyes with almost pouting lips. "Oh, whatever could we do without you? I must repay you somehow."
The nearby nobles blushed as they tried desperately to pull their gazes from us. Even the king knew what was to come.
I gripped her small waist with a free hand and grinned. "Indulge me," I whispered.
As soon as the chamber door shut, she grinned at me like a wolf with narrowed, predatory eyes. The candles popped alight, the curtains slipped shut by invisible hands, her dress unraveled further.
"Well, Imsi?" she asked. "Did you accomplish the task?"
I stepped closer and met her hungry gaze. "Of course."
A dirty grin ripped across her face. "Good boy," she purred. "I suppose you'll want your reward now." Her eyebrow flicked up at the words. "I believe we agreed on thirty thousand."
I lifted her chin and felt her hands pull me in closer. "My rates have just gone up."
"Among other things, I see."
Our lips met, our eyes closed, our hands explored each other, and before either of us knew it, we were naked on the bed, writhing around in foreplay on the silk sheets. Her small body was pressed tight against mine, her small hands sliding across the hard ridges of my aggressive abs and manly chest. Her teeth nibbled at my neck as she straddled me.
Her purrs and moans sent waves of euphoria through my soul. Then, a pause between us.
As she straddled me, she produced a small vial from her cleavage. She bit off the cork and spit it away before dumping the liquid into her mouth. There was fire in her eyes as I felt the full weight of her slam down on me, her hot wetness pulling my manhood into her like an abyss of ecstasy.
Just as I opened my mouth to let out a ferocious roar of sexual victory, her lips met my own.
My eyes shot open, and a grid of white panels stared back. A fractal of glowing, dancing lights flickered - a chandelier.
I was goosebumps, the entirety of me.
Instinctively, I tried to pull my legs to my chest to fend off the freezing cold, but my body rustled against what felt like cold rocks. In a shock, I looked down to see that I was sitting in a bathtub full of ice.
How did this happen?
The bathroom door was open, and the bed was empty, the curtains pulled open to bring in the morning sunlight.
Lady Marianna was gone.
Why was I sitting in a bathtub of ice? What kind of odd fetish did I get into last night? Maybe the woman was freakier than I had ever imagined.
As I pulled my half-limp body out of the ice, I felt a stabbing pain in my back. I grunted and flopped onto the cold bathroom tiles like a fish.
I was sweating and freezing at the same time. When I felt at the sore tenderness on my back, it felt like something was missing. My eyes widened at the realization. "Scan: Health," I uttered.
My body shimmered by the spell and a distant voice faded into my mind. "Caution: Kidney function limited to 50%."
That bitch stole my kidney.
2: Trashy Harem Status Quo
The portal dissipated behind me, and I found myself in the courtyard of my mansion. The flowers lined the buildings, watered by my most loyal maidservants and concubines, all sporting the mandatory tight and revealing maid dresses.
The heavenly scent of freshly baked bread wafted from inside, so I sauntered in.
"Girls!" I called out. "The hero has returned!"
"Baby Imsi!" A dainty figure darted from around the corner. Blonde, slim, elf ears, and wearing nothing but an apron and cat oven mitts. It was my third girl, Laya. She jumped into my arms for a hug, and her soft dirty pillows melted against me. "You're back, you're back, you're back!"
"It smells delicious in here," I said. "Are you making lunch?"
She nodded, then her pink lips curled to an innocent smile. "And for dessert, you can have–"
"Not you," a voice interrupted. Stepping in was a tall woman - demon horns, thin wispy tail, red skin, and glasses. It was my loyal succubus, X'gghtrykiska Demonica K’rtraskova - or just Kisk when I don’t have much time. She was currently carrying a meter-long black dildo draped over her shoulder, as she so often does. "Lord Imsi is much too busy to be fondling around with such a... lesser species." She shifted her glasses as she shot Laya with a professional grin.
Laya reflected a glare back at Kisk.
"Hey, hey," I said. "Take it easy."
Kisk looked up at me. "How was your quest, Lord Imsi?"
"Satisfied," I said. "But the reward was less than ideal."
Kisk threw the black dildo onto the floor, casting a wet thloop sound to echo throughout the mansion halls. "This is an insult!" she raged. "How dare those weaklings give you anything less than you deserve." The claws on her hands shot out. "Give us the word my Lord, and we will slaughter them all!"
I grinned. "I was actually on my way to do such a thing." I gave her a solitary nod, which she understood immediately. The blonde elf, Laya, instinctively readied herself for the command and hopped out of my arms to stand at attention.
Kisk offered me a bow. "We shall gather the party."
"Oh," I paused her. "And be sure to bring rope and duct tape."
3: A Hero Never Does Wrong
The portal vanished, leaving behind its traces of blue and white mist.
We stood in the courtyard of Lambston Castle, the massive capital of the nation that owed me a great debt. They had just welcomed me in with open arms for slaying the Mad Dragon, but with the dreadful disquiet that covered the town, I assumed they were already mourning for the dead prince.
"Shall we slaughter all of them, my lord?" Kisk asked. She was adorned with demon bone armor that coated her skin - save for her chest and bikini line - and in her arms, she wielded the Black Orchie, a thick rubber whip with a snake's head at the end.
"No," I ordered.
"Aw, baby Imsi," Laya said. "You're too nice to these insects." Laya wore silken elf's garments dyed green and red that flowed as she moved. On her back, a curved bow and quiver.
Beside Laya and Kisk, I brought along two other of my girls whom I aptly named Slut 1 and Slut 2. I had forgotten their names long ago, shortly after I had captured and liberated them from the internment camp. And besides, they had not yet earned my favor to deserve to be named. To my great pleasure, they try every night.
"Halt!" a command echoed throughout the courtyard. A pair of guards ran toward us with their halberds aimed. "Hero Imsi," the first one said, "Please leave at once." He was shaking in fear, but he didn't waver as he kept his stance.
"Where is Lady Marianna?" I asked. "Where is the Royal Magi?"
"I-I'm sorry, Hero Imsi," the weakling said. "We have been ordered to arrest you by any means."
I smiled. "And what is my crime, boy?"
The other guard steeled himself and gripped his halberd. The first weakling answered. "F-for murder and conspiracy. B-but until the investigation is finished, we cannot know for certain." He lowered his voice. "I beg you, Hero Imsi, don't make us do this."
With a devilish grin, I turned to my girls. "Kill them."
In a flash, they were shredded to meaty ribbons, scarlet sprayed against the stone walls. A far shriek pierced the courtyard and echoed into the halls. Sooner than I expected, the alarm bells rang out, and the entire castle was alive with panicked activity.
And so we fought our way along the castle, blasting and melting and eviscerating any and all who stood in our path - all without me even lifting a finger. Sluts 1 and 2 were pleasing me greatly with their long spears and tight bikinis, deftly ripping through armor and flesh and stone. Truly impressive for mid-level guardians.
Kisk and Laya killed as well as I could expect of a max-level archer and caster. The path behind us was littered with the charred remains of furniture and corpses. The same stone walls and red carpet had welcomed me to a banquet just the night before, but now this place had lost my favor. One of the royal mages threw a fireball at us, but it simply thumped against Kisk's aura and fizzled out. Those weak spells could never hope to even nibble at the massive well of HP.
Before long, we stood in front of the throne room. With one of Kisk's spells, the heavy wood and iron doors shattered into splinters that tapped against the floor. We stepped over the debris and into the stage of drama.
Before us sat King Darios staring blankly in fear, with Lady Marianna at his side. He was flanked by royal guards who jolted back in shock at the sight of us. With a quick war cry for their own courage, they darted at us in a suicidal charge.
My girls dispatched them immediately.
When the last echo of a sword clanking against stone faded, the king stood on shaking legs in defiance. His mouth fell open, his eyes turned wild, his hands brandished a flowered staff to cast a spell. Kisk pointed a finger at him. A thin, black thread shot out and pierce the king's neck - all before I could even think to stop her.
I sighed inwardly.
This wasn't going entirely to plan, and now Kisk's thread was already winding around in the king's body, churning and mixing and mulching the man's insides. This entire fiasco had turned into such a wild mess, but it wouldn't matter - I was just here to add yet another gorgeous slut to my collection. Another dead king was just a stepping stone toward my needs.
After all, I was max-leveled and overpowered. What could go wrong?
4: Everything Goes Wrong
Lady Marianna burst into laughter. "Fools!"
"How about we skip this pointless talk?" I asked. "We all know you're just playing hard to get."
"Hard to get?" She tossed the king's body aside and took her seat on the throne. "I suppose for you, everything about this situation is hard to get."
Kisk stepped forward and gripped her weapon. I paused her with a raised hand. "You can't defeat me," I said. "You are simply not strong enough."
Marianna rested her head on her hand, smiling in amusement. "Let me guess, you came here to capture me and claim me as another one of your sex slaves?"
"We aren't slaves!" Kisk shouted back.
"Right," Laya followed, "We love Imsi!"
I shrugged with a sly smile. "I'm sure you'll come around eventually. They all do."
She whispered to herself, too faint to hear, but her eyes widened as if she stumbled upon a secret. Then, laughter. "Oh wonderful, wonderful! This couldn't be more perfect." She presented an open palm, then a small red gem manifested between her fingers. Her mocking stare told me to scan it.
The voice answered. "Bloodgem. Contains a human kidney."
"Oh," I said, "that's cute. You have my spare kidney. So what?"
She grinned, tilted her head back, and tossed it into her mouth. With a heavy gulp, something within her changed, and an uneasy disquiet fell upon the room.
At this point, I was far too annoyed and impatient to continue this nonsense. I turned to my girls. "Beat her to a pulp."
I glanced at each of them, and shocked eyes stared back. "Kill her!" I demanded.
Again, silence. They stood unmoving.
Marianna erupted into wild laughter. "Oh, your poor thing, you. The blood magic that bonds servant to master prevents them from attacking you - and now, me."
My heart stopped at the realization of what she had done. My girls were given to me as quest rewards - among other methods - and various magicks were cast to ensure their obedience. I had never much considered it since I was so terribly charismatic that they would love me regardless of being forced to or not. The real issue was that I'd have to beat this woman by my own strength. But with a woman this weak, I wouldn't even need to draw my sword.
I flashed beside her in an instant and raised my armored glove for a backhand.
She was gone, standing in the same spot that I was in just a moment earlier, next to the girls who stood frozen. Then, I felt it. Thousands of tiny invisible hands leapt out of the stone beneath me and gripped my body, pulling me hard to the floor.
I dropped on my knee, my heavy armor clacking with an echo throughout the throne room. "Im-Impossible!" I uttered. "I'm immune to magic traps!"
Marianna spoke with amused authority. "Not to your own."
This was an insult, and I would not be shamed in this fashion, especially not by some arrogant slut. "Dissipate!" All magic within a 100-meter radius turned to mist, and I felt the invisible hands loosen their grip. "Ultimate Magic: Heavenly Charge!"
My command roared throughout the castle, boomed throughout the city and the streets and the heavens and into their souls. A golden glow emanated from me, pulsing with power and hot bursts of wind. This was my trump card, and by the time the spell would finish casting, there would be nothing left of this city - not even a memory.
I would lose my girls, but it was no matter. Harem girls were a dime a dozen, and I could always find more elsewhere.
The power poured into me, and I felt my mana flood past its cap. When I felt the click, I knew the spell was ready. "Curse yourself for this awful fate, Marianna the Harlot! Ultimate Magic: Heavenly Burst!"
An arrow slammed against my chest. It ignored my defensive aura completely. The fighting spirit drained from me as I looked up to see Laya aiming her bow at my center mass. Beside her, Marianna sent a demon's grin from behind her pointed staff. It glowed red, pulsing with evil energy. It shot out like a laser, engulfing me in burning, freezing, stretching, shrinking magic.
I roared in pain and agony as I could feel my arms morph. My heavy paladin armor turned to slag against my skin, sizzling against me, coating my body in its hot, reflective surface. No, the entirety of me was turning into metal! Was she transforming me into a blood gem? The squealing roaring burn of metal and cloth and flesh pounded my senses.
"Refuse," Marianna said behind the hum of her spell. "A funny word, don't you think? It's synonymous with trash, which you are. You are trash. And I can think no more of a fitting end for a near-immortal chauvinistic cunt than to be polymorphed into a... trash can!" She howled with laughter.
This couldn't be happening. I was overpowered! There was no way a woman could defeat someone like me! "Open Portal–"
The mist of the portal vanished as soon as it came.
“Oh girls,” Marianna sang. “Don’t you so wish to exact your revenge against this trash?” The girls were silent, but I felt their piercing glares. “Go on then,” Marianna ordered. “Beat him as he deserves!”
They stepped over. My body stretched and shrank, my bones crushed and hardened and reformed into slick iron, melting the entirety of me into a puddle of slag to reform again into a hollow cylinder - with a rattling tin lid.
My sense of sight and sound faded into darkness and silence. I felt thumping, pounding, beating into my sides - my cold metal exterior - then that too faded away to numbness.
I had become cold and empty and defeated.
I had become a trash can containing nothing but my soul.
I had become trash.
I wanted to scream in a rage, but I had no mouth.
I wanted to take a deep breath to stave off the panic, but no lungs.
I wanted to flail around the darkness, but no arms or legs.
I almost wanted to cry, but I ain’t no bitch. But, theoretically, if I could cry, and if I was a bitch, I'd imagine that I would want to. But I didn't.
I'm was too alpha to cry.
After I cooled my racing mind, I started to take stock of my situation. The Royal Slut had turned me into a garbage can, but the only thing I could see was darkness - or maybe it was the lack of eyes that did that.
Really the entire experience was new to me. The closest thing I could remember was that time I was swallowed by the Black Demon of Intercorsica, and all I needed to do was just teleport out.
Nothing happened. Even though I had no mouth to utter the spell, the intention alone should’ve been enough to finish the cast.
Then, the familiar cold voice faded in. "Action not yet learned."
This was bad. Very bad. If I had a heart, it would've stopped beating, but I didn't have a heart. I was a garbage can. Garbage cans don't have hearts.
"Unnamed Recycler, Level 1."
Ah, that was what she did. The wayward turd-nugget had turned me into no ordinary trash can, but into a recycler class. It might've had something to do with her specific magic skill and the fact that Recyclers were entities in their own rights and not just inanimate objects. Well, they were inanimate objects, but with just a little bit more utility.
The hope died as quickly as it came. My levels and class and skills had all been reset with the polymancy spell. I could’ve leveled up somehow and gain power, but no matter how much I leveled up, I would’ve still just been... a trash can.
And I had no idea how recyclers even worked. Never cared to know, really, as that type of blue-collar work was far beneath me.
+1 Dirty Napkin What? Did someone just... throw garbage inside me? I felt violated! And not in a good way. I saw it in my mind’s eye - a bundled white scrap of a napkin, smeared with red and yellow sauces and bits of moist crumbs. I didn't even know what I should've been doing with this thing. Didn't these recyclers automatically... recycle the junk that got tossed in?
"Abilities: Craft, Smelt, Recycle."
Ah. It was called Recycle. Of course. But something stood out to me - Smelt. Using my great alpha wisdom, I figured that I had the ability to smelt metal rubbish into ores or ingots or whatever. It never occurred to me that people would throw away things like swords or iron bars or whatnot, but cans and trinkets might happen.
Regardless, if I were to get anywhere closer toward my revenge, I would need to learn as much as I could about my new predicament.
"Dirty Napkin. Contains trace amounts of ketchup and mustard."
A glow of warmth flashed into my soul for a split second, then vanished into the infinite black.
+4 Earth Element +15 XP
And that was how it worked. Instead of recycling trash into raw raw materials, recyclers could somehow manafy it into one of the alchemical elements. It was simple, effective, and saved a lot of headaches.
Now I was making progress.
After some unknown amount of time had passed, I had stockpiled an impressive load of stuff to recycle.
-53 Dirty Napkins
-11 Used Paper Cups
-3 Aluminum Cans
-21 Used Paper Plates
+340 Earth Element
+42 Fire Element
+11 Air Element
+1 Class Point
Oh, that was underwhelming. Normally when a person leveled up, they would get a confetti blast of light and mana and energy like a metaphorical mariachi band to celebrate the occasion. I supposed with recycling bins, such a thing was unnecessary.
I wasn't sure how recyclers were expected to use class points on their own - maybe by magic-based animation or artificial intelligence - but it really didn't matter. I was a human soul trapped in a tin can that was hell-bent on revenge.
"Review: Skill Tree."
In the darkness, an almost holographic image fell into view, displaying the various routes of leveling that a young, budding trash can such as myself could take.
Each tree was mostly self-explanatory, but any skill past the next level was hidden.
>Sensory > Sight
Enables the recycler to analyze its surroundings.
>Utility > Vend: Paper
Recycler may offer basic paper products to sell.
>Efficiency > Recycle+
Raw Materials acquired by recycle increased to 50%.
You know, it really brought into question why recyclers even had leveling paths in the first place, but I soon realized that it had to have been economic in nature. If a recycler was able to analyze what type of products are being dropped in, it could make educated judgements on what products it should sell. After all, why offer daggers and mana potions if the recycler was stationed outside of a fancy restaurant?
As if turning on a light switch, colors and shapes and figures and pounding, blinding light overwhelmed me.
I could see again.
Cobblestone streets filled with common passerby, men and women and children of various status, soldiers and policemen, aristocrats and merchants, all moving to and fro between carriages and wagons that turned beyond the wood and brick homes and storefronts of the city.
Blue skies, sun rays breaking through distant clouds.
I was still in Lambston.
My sight was essentially the same as it was in my human body. In order to see all around me, I had to metaphorically turn my head and look up or down. To my relief, I could still close my eyes if needed, even though blinking was unnecessary. Because, you know, I didn’t have eyelids. I was a trash can. Trash cans don’t have eyelids.
This entire time I was hoping that all of this was just a really long and stupid dream, but now reality was here again. I looked down and could see the edge of my metal exterior gaze back. A mistake, it was, for all this brought was a vague sense of sadness and irritation for my predicament.
+1 Dirty Napkin
+1 Dirty Plastic Fork
+1 Dirty Paper Plate
And it's gone. For some reason, obtaining things invoked some strange response that made me thoroughly enjoy having trash tossed into me. It might've been a side effect of, you know, becoming a trash can - maybe a psychological reward - but this tiny bit of happiness could be the one thing to support me mentally on this quest for revenge.
I looked over at the culprit to see an old man with withering white hair and a cane. He had crumbs in his mustache. Behind him, tables and chairs underneath umbrellas - all packed with people stuffing their mouths with food. Beyond them, a storefront. The painting above the door read, TOM'S FAT WIENERS.
I knew it. This was a restaurant. It explained the disproportionate amount of disposable cutlery and dining ware. With that in mind, I already knew what stuff I could sell to boost my XP - once I unlocked vending.
By nightfall, the shops had closed, the people went home, and the streets were empty. The city had gone to sleep. I felt as though I had enough for my next level, so I recycled what I had.
+241 Earth Element
+28 Fire Element
+11 Air Element
+5 Water Element
+1 Class Point
"Review: Skill Tree."
The chart fell into view. Right off the bat, I noticed that the next Sensory unlock was for hearing, which seemed good, but Vend was the better choice for the time being.
"Unlock: Vend: Paper."
"Vend: Paper Unlocked.”
Something inside me changed. I somehow knew that my insides were changing shape, reforming half of my gaping trash-can maw into a slot to place products in, covered by a glass cover. Now half of my opening led to the abyss of me, and the other half I could use as consumer goods real estate. The system included vending storage, a coin slot and bank, and a drop-down area to toss the vended items.
“New recipes unlocked.”
Recipes? I hastily swiped over through my menu screens to see what I obtained, and I was met with a long list of… the expected. Paper cups, plates, utensils, origami animals, toothpicks, cubes, door stoppers, and about a thousand other things listed in vaguely alphabetical order. I knew right away that these were simply command shortcuts since the instincts within me clicked on when I unlocked the skill. I somehow knew how to make all of this just by visualizing the product and shitting it out. At least having a written guide as a framework could be useful.
Now I just needed to craft some stuff and started selling goods to retake my place as an economically productive member of this society. If I was to be a trash can, I wasn’t gonna be a freeloading one.
"Craft: Paper Napkin."
-10 Earth Element
Hummmm-Click. Through my mind’s eye, I could see that a lone paper napkin formed in my crafting section and was sent to the vending display. This was good, but I received no experience points for it. It was probably just given once a product sold, which would make sense in order to not accidentally train recyclers to just spam random products.
"Craft: Paper Napkins: All."
-580 Earth Element
When I considered it, the restaurant gave out cups, plates, and utensils with their food, but napkins would most certainly be needed more - considering how dirty and messy those peasants were.
Ha. I sometimes impressed myself with how clever I was. Now that I was essentially a merchant with no overhead, it would only be a matter of time before I could level my way through the sensory tree to hopefully unlock a way to move around.
The next morning, the shopkeeper for Tom's Fat Weiners - Tom, probably - gazed into my soul and I gazed back, offering to him - in a very manly fashion - my bundle of paper napkins.
He offered a faint smile beneath his bushy mustache, pulled out a handful of coins to finger around, and nodded when he found his chosen coin - which was honestly a little weird. When he pushed that delicious silver coin into me, I rumbled in ecstasy.
-58 Paper Napkins +1740 XP
+1 Level +1 Class Point My god. That was amazing. I wouldn't say something so pedestrian as to compare it to sex, but being penetrated by a thick, hard piece of currency was something that sent waves of pleasure through me. I wanted more.
I needed more.
As long as I could continue making products that would attract more trash to be thrown into me, I could continue to get stronger and relive that euphoria.
And so the day went on. Trash was thrown in, napkins were put out, and as I ruminated over my plans, I randomly received bursts of mini-orgasms through the day. Feeling the gritty, rigid edges of throbbing hot coins slide in and out of me, manhandled by indecisive, mysterious strangers who thrust the gold and silver and copper coins into me, demanding that I take it all - FUCK YES. Every time it happened I imagined that my blood would flare alive with fiery lust.
But I didn’t have blood.
Because I was a trash can.
By sunset, I unlocked the next sensory skill, Hearing, and as soon as I did, I was overwhelmed with noise. Chatter at the restaurant tables, laughter from a group of children, passing conversations from nobles, clattering of wagon wheels on the stone streets, crows cawing, footsteps, passing winds, tapping furniture, a woman beating a carpet, a really bad pun involving alligators and detectives, a cough walking by, and another conversation that approached me.
It was a couple of city employees. They looked more like construction workers, but they wore armbands that held the nation's flag - a gold lion's face on a white background. They stared into my vending slots - which was pathetically bare - felt around my slick metal exterior, tapped at me, lifted me gently from my bottom, groped and fingered me in my most curious places, and when they were satisfied, stepped back and said, "What the fuck is this?"
"What?" said the older guy.
"What is this?"
"But it has no marking, no tag, no identification, no nothing. I have no idea who this belongs to. We can't work on it without any way to access it."
"It might be one of those new models."
"From the Teckers. They're updating new things all the time. It's good business, you should look into it."
"Later. Right now, we should find out who owns this stuff. This is probably a violation of city ordinance."
"Uh, let's just tell our supervisor. She'll know what to do."
This was bad. There was no telling what could happen if I were found out, and I wasn't ready to start my plan just yet. Premature discovery was just as bad as premature ejaculation - which I had never suffered, of course.
I had no idea how fast the city could react to my presence, but I knew I needed to hurry as fast as I could. I knew how to level up, I knew how my new body worked, and I already knew everything about the world - well, the important parts. I needed to get mobile as soon as possible.
And to do that, I needed to finish the Sensory skill tree. The next skill on the list was Touch, which enabled me to feel on my metallic skin. I would be able to feel the stone beneath me, the humid air across my lips, the roughness of a used napkin, the touch of a beautiful woman, and an even more vivid experience of a rock-hard coin dropping into me.
I shivered with anticipation.
My beautiful trash can body hummed as I processed the trash into raw materials. While I waited, I noticed that the workday had come to a close and everyone was absent in the streets. The lantern posts were lit, bathing my metallic surface in a warm glow.
+400 Earth Element +57 Fire Element +11 Water Element +7 Air Element +1208 XP
+1 Level +1 Class Point "Unlock: Touch."
Immediately, something punched me in the back of the head, and my face slammed against the concrete sidewalk. My head throbbed in pain as I felt the grit of the dirt on my face.
I looked over to see a cloaked figure - a city employee!
Those fuckers were already dealing with me, to throw me into a compactor, to smelt me down into nothing, to destroy me by throwing me into an even bigger recycler!
Or... no, it was just a thief.
Beneath the hood, I could see a young feminine face - a teenage girl - just before she threw some type of cloth over me.
8: Trash Cans Don’t Have Plot Armor
After being carried some unknown distance away, I was tossed aside and slammed against the floor. The cloth veil was yanked from me, and two curious faces stared back.
Around them was a dirty room lined with aging brick walls. Bedrolls were pushed in the corner, crates and barrels stacked to the ceiling and gathering dust, and a line of candles flickered atop an empty bookshelf.
The young girl pulled her hood back, revealing a freckled face with reddish-brown hair. As with any female, a quick scan of her looks told me she was too young. Beside her, an older male, roughly in his twenties. He looked through my vending glass with a sort of feigned interest.
"It doesn't have much," the guy said.
"It doesn't need to," said the girl. "We feed it things, and it spits things out."
The guy sighed. "This is stupid. If you were gonna steal something, why didn't you steal food or weapons? Now that's something we could use." He pulled a small knife from his pocket and started poking around my visor. Tiny jolts of pain sparked through me as he tried to force me open, struggling to unlock my coin storage - or worse - my prized treasure of napkins.
"They won't let me," the girl shot back. "I beg them to let me help the cause somehow, but they keep ratting on and on that I'm too young."
"They have a point." The guy's face was reddening as he tried and failed to break open my shell. Before long, he was outright stabbing me in frustration. "This piece of shit," he grunted. "Sis, go get me the hammer."
This lesser male was going to put dents into my pristine surface! This was an assault on my trash can sovereignty.
My tiny motors whirled as I eased the visor open, presenting him with the gift of premium napkins. His eyes brightened, and he stuck his hand in to take the bait.
He howled in rage as he gripped his wounded fingers. "Piece of shit!" I wished that I had unlocked the ability to speak so that he could hear my wild, devilish laughter. My amusement was halted when he slammed his foot into my side.
"Take it easy," the girl said. "It probably has a human soul!"
What? How could this dirty kid know that I was trapped in here? Did she have special magic eyes?
"You didn't know?" the girl continued. "Prisoners get their souls transported into these recyclers as punishment for their crimes."
The guy scoffed. "That's just a myth."
I drew a coin from my collection and shot it at him from the coin slot. It plinked off his knee. "Fuck."
"See?" the girl said. "I'm certain this has to be one of them!" She petted my top visor as if I were a kitten. "If we're kind, maybe it'll be kind in return."
"That's stupid," the guy said. "It's probably just an AI, and even if it was a person, it was likely a murderer or blood wizard or something."
Another coin shot out and thumped against his shin. "Piece of shit! You know what? Fuck it. Let's just smelt it down and sell the scrap!"
"No!" the girl shouted. She hugged me defensively. "We should take care of it and feed it stuff and name it and dress it and–"
"This isn't a game, Jenna," he interrupted. "We're fighting to topple the new regime, and this trash can," he gestured to me, "isn't gonna help anybody kill that dictatorial bitch, Marianna."
My glass visor shot open, and my coins poured out onto the floor like a waterfall of rattling change.
9: Overused Rebel Arc
It was a rebel group.
Once they realized that I was human on the inside, and even better, had a mysterious distaste for the current government, they left me alone for the night.
With nothing better to do, I eavesdropped on their conversations - and the conversations of other passing rebels. Apparently, Marianna the Harlot Queen had usurped the throne after the royal family had all died out, and numerous rebel groups had risen up to challenge her. That stupid bitch had gone so far out of her way to manipulate me to do her dirty work, and although I was still enraged that she took everything from me, I had to respect her somewhat.
I was never one to use lesser tactics, such as cunning or trickery to finish quests or to get what I want. It was always my irresistible charm and my immeasurable power. Her checkmate on not just me, but the entire royal family was a good one, but I have no intention of bending my knee to such a disgusting whore. She wasn’t even pretty. No one would’ve wanted her. Why else would so many people want her dead? Well, that might have something to do with her dystopian policies.
Apparently, Marianna had no idea how to run a country, and after killing all of the king's advisors, she hiked taxes up and immediately cracked down on separatists throughout the country. The rebels were constantly paranoid over the city police, which had scarcely been a problem before. It seemed Marianna had sought to create a police state.
I figured that once I could regain my old body and powers, I would usurp her and become the new king of this land. At least I would be successful because everybody loved me. That is if I could find a way to fix this clusterfuck. In the meantime, I could see how the rebel groups worked from the inside so that when I became king, I would have no problem smashing them to bits.
Morning came, and the rebel hideout soon became alive with activity.
People came in and out to dump random things into the nearby chests - weapons, potions, armor - but the only thing I was being used for was a convenient garbage can. By sunset, the only things I were able to recycle were the usual bits of trash - candy bar wrappers, paper cups, dirty napkins, and leftover food. Now that the situation had changed, I knew it wouldn't be a good business decision to keep producing paper goods.
The problem was solved once the girl and guy returned.
They burst the door open carrying lumpy sacks that clinked and clanked and wasted no time to dump the contents into me.
+4.7kg Scrap Metal +1.5kg Scrap Metal +2.11kg Scrap Metal +7.14kg Scrap Metal The guy tossed the empty bags aside and stared into me, watching as I hummed, and my insides glowed to smelt the scrap into something usable. A minute passed, and his face turned to a scowl. "Hurry up," he demanded.
"It takes time," the girl soothed.
Thack. A throbbing pain shot through me. Assface McGee had kicked me. "Well, it needs to take less time. We don't have forever."
+4796 Earth Element +2281 Fire Element +113 Water Element +11 Air Element +19,250 XP
+3 Levels +3 Class Points That was underwhelming. It was a ton of scrap iron, but it only amounted to just a few levels. This was probably because I was breaking out of noob territory and the levels had much higher XP requirements. At least I did get a quick few levels from just one haul - and now I was even closer to my goals.
This was good.
Thack. "Hurry up and make us some knives," Assface shouted.
Even if I could make knives - it was just a class skill unlock away - I wouldn't. This guy was clearly a jerk. Instead, I dropped another point into the sensory tree.
The wholesome scents of the world flooded through me. Burning metal, moldy wood, dust and grime and sweaty people. Ah, yes, the stuff of life. Not a good life, but it is life, nonetheless - and I hated it. If I weren't forced to take these skills to unlock the ability to move around and manipulate my surroundings, I wouldn't even think about dealing with this stuff. Why was this even a thing? What purpose could the sense of smell offer a trash can?
Is this punishment?
No. This was just another stepping stone. All of this was.
I really wished I could speak, but the next skill in the sensory tree was Taste. There wasn't even a guarantee that such a thing could be unlocked. Oh well. I dropped a point into Vend: Metals so I could do some metalworking just so I could get this guy off my dick.
"Unlock: Vend: Metals."
"Vend: Metals Unlocked."
Great. With this skill, I could do basic metal working to pump out things like ugly little trinkets, aluminum cans, letter openers, and - you guessed it - knives.
"I think it's doing it," the girl said.
"Thank you," he said with a sigh of irritation. "With weapons being banned, knives are going hot on the black market."
+Short Knife (Common), Level 5
Mmm, yep. That's a knife. More of a dagger, really, and I assumed that's what he was asking for. I didn't care to see what the stats were since I already knew they would be of noob quality.
I slid open my glass visor, and he took it, inspected its edge, weight, balance, then nodded with vague satisfaction. "Good enough," he said. "Make more, and we will bring more scrap."
Even without me being able to speak, the deal between us was set without words. If I supplied knives and weapons for free - and missing out on XP in the process - I would get regular shipments of scrap to melt for a more reliable source of experience points.
He turned to the girl. "Can these make bombs?"
Before she could answer, the door slammed open, and a terrified face appeared. It was a dirty man, a homeless guy probably, and he seemed out of breath. "Thomas! Jenna!"
"Father," the girl said. "What's wrong?'
The lunatic hobo rushed to throw blankets over everything. "It's the Black Watch! They're coming!" He grabbed a huge sack and hesitated before covering me with it.
"Shit," Assface said. "Make sure that–"
Heavy knocks thudded against the door. "City Police," the voice on the other side said. "We need to do a routine inspection."
10: Mistakes Were Made
From the thin fabric of the sack that was covering me, I could faintly see two city guards standing in the room, royal policemen. They wore the usual white and red leather armor with black armbands. On it, the face of a gold lion was imprinted. Longswords dangled at their waists. They smelled like old milk. Assface, the young girl, and their father all stood quietly around the room.
Though not a word had been spoken, they were terrible liars.
"Well?" the first guard asked. Crumbs and crust lined his week-old stubble. "Yer not gon' tell us wot's 'ere then?"
"Answer the man," the younger guard ordered. He was the young, enthusiastic type. Equal parts blond and annoying.
"Goods," said Assface. "We're considering on opening a business."
"A business," echoed the old guard. He stepped over a small crate to get closer. "A business fer wot?" He waved his hand around the clutter of the room. "All's I see is a buncha trash in 'ere, innit?"
"An all-purpose shop," said Assface. "We're new to this sort of thing."
Old guard tilted his head in amusement. "Ya don't say?" He stepped closer with wild eyes. "Suppose we had a gander 'round 'ere, don't think we'd find nuffin, eh?"
"Don't mind if we take a gander 'round 'ere, don't suppose we'd ain't find a lick a nuffin, eh?"
"Answer the man!" barked the young officer.
"I don't know what he just said!"
The young guard answered. "If we were to search your goods, would we find anything?"
"Yeah," Assface said. "You'd find simple, ordinary goods for sale."
The young guard winced and rolled his hand. "Like?"
Assface squinted his eyes as they slid across the room. "Paper... cups."
"Paper cups," the young guard echoed. "You're starting a business selling–"
"And napkins. The good kind. Not the kind you'd get from a downtown hotdog shop."
The young officer shivered in confusion. "Those are good napkins. What's wrong with hotdog napkins."
"An' good cups, innit?" said the old guard. "Too 'ard to mistake dat one, ya?"
"Look!" the father interrupted. He kicked the lid off a nearby crate. It was too high for me to see what was inside, but the others in the room all peered in from their now-designated spots in the room. The father waved out his hands with reason. "It's a trade secret. It's gonna make us great money, and we can't have anybody running around and snitching."
"Snitching," the young guard echoed. He looked back down into the crate. "I don't even know what this is."
"Good," said the father. "You shouldn't."
"Heavy secret ta 'ave," said the old guard. "Bit costly ta keep 'er dat way, innit?"
"What?" said the father.
The young guard answered. "He said, it's a bit expensive to keep such a secret."
"What?" said the son.
"What do you not understand?" the young guard shot out. "He's suggesting that maybe he'll have a few pints at the tavern later, and his lips will all get loosey-goosey and start slipping around all over the place."
Assface shook his head in tired desperation. "What does that even mean? What are you even saying?"
A disquiet passed over the room like a thick veil of self-hatred and linguistic doubt. A dog barked in the distance. A far door opened and shut. The young guard held a steady iron gaze, but his head moved almost imperceptibly as if the gears inside were churning out a universally understood sentence. With a faint nod to himself, he shared it. "Bribe."
"What do you not understand?" the young guard shouted. He marched over, gripped Assface's collar, and shoved him into the wall. Dust fell from them and caught the sunlight slipping through the window. He spoke through his teeth. "Give us money to keep our mouths shut. It's that easy. You pay us, we won't snitch on your little bullshit potion selling."
"Fine," said Assface. He glanced nervously at the others. "I suppose 50 gold would be good for your troubles for keeping us and our business safe."
The young guard glanced at the old one, who nodded with crossed arms, then the young guard backed away. "Our rates just went up. It'll need to be a bit more."
Assface sighed. "How about 60."
I stopped listening. The gripping conversation had melted away into a boring duel of bartering between rebel thieves and crooked cops, and frankly, I had much better things to do. I had 1 class point that I needed to put somewhere, and now would be as good as a time as any.
My choices were this:
Sensory > Taste
Can taste things.
Utility > Vend: Food
Can sell complex organic products, such as food.
Efficiency > Recycle+
Raw Materials acquired by recycle increased to 50%.
If I were leveling normally, I would probably take the efficiency boost. That was a no-brainer and being able to create food and snacks would be a viable option just about anywhere. Taste, of course, was the dumbest skill I had ever heard of in my entire multi-century existence. Why, just why, would a literal garbage can need to taste things? Was this the final frontier of bad design?
I once considered that those Grand Magi who created the world and its systems were geniuses, their wisdom unattainable, their comprehension elusive by all - but this shit? Why? I had so many questions, and I soon found myself having an existential breakdown as I stared into the abyss of an unnecessary sensory option - and the abyss stared back.
Immediately, I could taste a hint of warm metal combined with the faint texture of dry paper and rough napkins. It was... interesting to say the least, but now I knew why this was a skill. Some of this stuff tasted outright good, and if an artificial intelligence had been manning a recycler, it would've never known the pleasures of fine dining. It would hunger for the taste of scrap metal and leftover mustard. It was weird, but I couldn't imagine having anything worse thrown into me.
When I looked at my skills, I could see that the next one was Manipulation. Finally. It gave me a shining glimmer of hope that I would be able to have something as hands and arms, and hopefully, legs and feet. This was progress. Shitty progress, but at least I was getting somewhere.
The sack was yanked off me.
I looked at the others in the room. They were shouting about this or that, counting on their fingers as if that could help their arguments, but they were still going on about how much a bribe should be when considering the economic viability of an anti-aging potion. The guards were gripping the hilts of their longswords and throwing pointed fingers, but my presence wasn't something out of the ordinary for them.
"Alright!" shouted Assface. "I'll give you 150. It's all I have." He reached for his coin purse, fondled it a bit as it clinked around, then tossed it at the guard.
The young guard caught it, then nodded in satisfaction. Then, the unexpected. With well-practiced dexterity, he yanked down his trousers in a single motion, showing all his dangly-bits in their rawest form. "And this is for being such a pain in the ass." He scooted over to me with his pants around his ankles and spun around.
Before me stood another abyss. It stared into me. A pale set of ass cheeks with a smell that I wouldn't describe, a gaping maw of something so terrible - yet I couldn't look away as it hovered over me, taunting me, pulsing with malice and looming disaster. The light in the room darkened, the wild shouts faded away to muffling. The abyss widened, and I could only stare in powerless disbelief as the worse happened.
+1 Human Turd.
11: Shit Eater
For the longest time, my mind simply did not accept what had happened. There was absolutely no possibility that a human turd plopped into my garbage can mouth, right?
"New Recipe: Potassium Nitrate."
What? Apparently, getting shit in my mouth meant unlocking a recipe. Why this was a thing, I didn't know. It seemed that the more time I spent in a garbage can body, the fewer sense things began to make. I brought open my status screen to look for some answers - anything to get my mind off the stench and the mushy texture.
I glanced over at my recipe list and found the newly obtained alchemy tab. A list of strange names stared back at me as my eyes - or mind's eye - slipped down the waterfall of shit I didn't understand. Nitrates, Sulfates, Potassium Hydroxide, like twenty kinds of acids, novice-level alchemical projects, tons of stuff that simultaneously bored me and fascinated me. Could I use any of this? Probably not.
I expanded the description for Potassium Nitrate and gave it a look over.
>Potassium Nitrate is an alkali metal nitrate, often referred to by its trade name, Saltpeter. It is used in fertilizers, as a cooking ingredient, a food preservative, and a component of gunpowder.
Gunpowder. Whoever knew that the secret to gunpowder was literal shit.
+5 Fire Element
+1 Earth Element
Oh? If the components of gunpowder only amounted to just a handful of fire and earth elements, bomb and gunsmithing weren’t far away. I considered the infinite wisdom of the Grand Magi when they designed such a convenient system. It was honestly pretty amazing.
But it still didn’t change the fact that poop fell in my mouth.
If I could find a way to craft gunpowder, maybe I could also create a gun to insert into that guy's bootyhole. Yes, this is excellent. It must be done.
I felt hands tapping at my lid. It was the girl, with a grimace and an apologetic look in her eyes. "Sorry, sorry." She was petting me.
She was petting a garbage can.
"Jenna!" Assface said. "Stop touching that, it just got popped on!"
"I feel terrible!" she shot back. "Poor thing got poop in it, and there was nothing it could do!"
A look of sheer disbelief fell upon Assface. He shook his head. "It's a garbage can."
"But it probably has a human soul," she argued. "Imagine if that guy pooped in your mouth?"
"How about no." He stepped toward me and nudged me with his foot. "You alive, shiteater?"
I needed to communicate somehow. I desperately needed some way to tell them that I was human, that I was real, that I was listening to any and everything and that guy, in particular, can go eat shit and fuck himself.
My garbage can mind raced for a solution, then I found it.
"The hell is this?" asked Assface. He reached into my vending slots and retrieved a napkin. It was cut into odd shapes with sharp angles and curves - writing.
The message read, "FUCK YOU."
"He is real!" squealed the girl. She wrapped her arms around my masculine, metal body in a hug. She was hugging a garbage can. "I knew it!"
Assface tossed the napkin message back into my bin. "Well, at least you understand me, but I'm still not convinced you're not just an AI. An AI with a shitty attitude."
Wrrr-Click. "GO. FUCK. YOUR. SELF," I told him.
He tossed it back in, then a faint smile emerged across his face. He might've been a masochist, as many beta-males such as him were.
"Make potions," he said. "No more knives."
Wrrr-Click. "NEED. RECIPE."
The girl walked over to the nearby crate and pulled out an aqua colored vial. A dull glow emanated from it. She popped the cork off and dumped it into me. It was unearthly cold against me as it splashed around, and it tasted like chilled electricity.
+ 100 Water Element
+ 10 Blood Element
+ 304 XP
Blood element. I wasn’t 100% certain what it really was, but it certainly had something to do with, you know, blood.
"New Recipe: Regeneration Potion."
I recycled the fluid and glass and made another.
+1 Regeneration Potion (Uncommon), Level 10
+50MP and 200HP per second for 10 seconds.
This was not an assassin's tool. This was a tool for open combat. This rebel group was apparently trying to pursue some operation in the near future.
Assface took the potion and gave it a look over. With a nod, he put it with the rest. "Well? Make more."
Wrrr-Click. "NEED. BLOOD."
"Right," the girl said. "The apothecary said something about blood shipments."
"Yeah," said Assface. "They use it for a lot of things." He turned to me. "I'll visit the butcher. When I come back, look forward to working the rest of the night." He waited patiently for my reply but was only answered with silence. After an awkward moment, he left.
I looked over at the girl, who stared back with a smile - a hungry, mischievous grin.
12: Obi Imsi, Misogynist
"Sorry about everything," the girl said. "And sorry about my brother. He's just been really stressed lately with everything."
I said nothing.
A line of gold sunlight fell in from between the curtains, lighting the dust that hung in the air. The light fell on her, and she squinted against it as she knelt in front of me. Maybe she was expecting a conversation (with a trash can), or maybe she just wanted someone who could listen. Either way, I wasn't interested. She was just a lame teenager who would likely turn into some pathetic slut like all women do.
"Mom passed away a while ago," she said. "Back when Queen Marianna took power. She was imprisoned on charges of treason, but we all knew it was a scheme to remove her from office." She looked away. "Thomas and Father haven't been the same since. None of us have."
Wait. A while ago? I thought Marianna had just killed the king and taken power last week. Actually, I killed the king, but that's not what's important.
"With the ban on weapons, we've lost the family business," she said. "We have nothing left to do but fight back."
At this point, I just wanted her to stop talking. I was bored. This was boring. She was boring. I did not give a damn about the plight of lesser humans such as herself or her family or her people or whatever else anybody might pull out of their ass. It was just the usual dribble of common folk, like rumors or sports or taxes.
I always kept to myself and my girls, taking them on luxurious vacations or on adventures far from here. We never needed anything else. I was all-powerful, insanely wealthy, endlessly respected. I had everything. But now I had nothing.
It honestly hurt a little once I reconsidered it. The seed of doubt twitched with growth at the thought that I may never get my human form back, and if I did, would I get my life back? Surely I could. It took time to level up and build wealth, and I could always get more girls. Would I even need a human body to accomplish such a thing? Probably not. Until I could max out my stats and skills as a sentient trash can, none of those questions could be answered.
The girl, Jenna, had been talking as I tuned her out. Her expressions changed almost as often as her mouth blabbered on. Sadness, excitement, anger, frustration, happiness, a stupid pouty face, annoyance, another stupid pouty face, another stupid pouty face. "Answer me!" she demanded playfully.
"Why were you imprisoned? Were you a bad person?"
Her eyes lit up in fiery glee. She slammed herself against me in a hug, then backed away again. "I'm so glad!" she said. "Thomas kept telling me you were probably a murderer or an insane person. I told him that it didn't matter, that you were helping us anyway because you believed in us." She sighed with a smile. "I'm so glad you're with us against the Queen."
This entire conversation annoyed me. She was a noisy kid who talked too much. Endearing, sure. Obnoxious, yes. To my greatest shame, I was eager for Assface to return with more trash to pour into me so, at the very least, I could get this taste of shit out of my mouth.
Jenna swung a large cloth around me like a cloak and buttoned the collar. "Here," she said. "Now you can wear the uniform of the resistance like the rest of us!"
This insane little girl was dressing up a recycling bin like a child's toy. I did like the way I looked, however, even though at the end of the day, I was still a fuckin' garbage can. It was actually quite warm against my pristine metallic body, and it smelled like oranges.
Wrrr-Click. "THANKS," I told her.
A wide, heartwarming smile lit her face.
Maybe she wasn't all that bad.
13: Completely Unnecessary Trash Can Leveling System
Assface approached me with two massive wine sacks filled with blood. He didn't even bother to pour them in, he just chunked it with a thud.
With this much, I could easily pump out enough potions for a level up or two, so I went right to work. Assface sat in the corner to puff on his pipe, using a nearby candle to carry the flame. I stared hard at him, mostly in wonder about this strange insect of a person. His face was pitted with scars and sun damage, but his eyes told me that he was no older than 25. He was tired. I figured that might've been the result of his life, his struggles, his pathetic, wretched existence. Though I had never given it any thought before, I considered myself lucky in comparison.
I was born an orphan child, but I never thought of it. This was all a part of the prophecy, inscribed upon the land by the Grand Magi, told in cryptic passages found in tomes and inscriptions, recited by wandering monks and priests. When I would enter a new town, it was always they who pointed to my next objective to save the town or the nation or the world from whatever the latest threat was.
As told by the prophecy.
But what the prophecy didn't speak of was the fact that I had been polymorphed into a fucking trash can. Maybe that was the end of my story. To be honest, I lost track of the prophecy a while ago. It had been so long since I last thought about my Main Quest that I completely forgot who or what I was supposed to meet or kill.
Well, at the very least, this was all a new experience for me. Not a good experience, but a new one.
+ 271 Blood Element
+ 100 Water Element
+ 1033 XP
+ 1 Level
“New Recipe Unlocked.”
+ 18 Regeneration Potions (Uncommon), Level 10
Excellent. Now I was ready for the first big step to controlling this new body of mine. As Assface walked over to retrieve and inspect the goods, I raced over to my skill list.
"I'm back!" Jenna stepped into the storeroom with a sack in her hand. "And I brought a present," she sang.
"For me?" asked Assface.
"Uh, no. For our favorite treasonous trash can, of course!"
If I could speak, they would've heard me grumble in irritation. I never liked to be bothered when I was busy, and no gift could possibly sweeten the interruption.
"It's a hat!" she said with excitement.
Sure enough, it was. It honestly looked more like a massive, stretchy condom, but she stretched it over my lid to cover me. Now my mouth was completely separated from the outside world instead of just... you know... hanging open. It was honestly kinda sweet.
Wrrr-Click. "THANK. YOU."
She gasped with joy. "Do you like it?" She looked like a puppy with those massive pouting eyes."
After thumping against me with another quick hug, she immediately started running her mouth again about this or that. To be frank, I wasn't listening, and I didn't think Assface was listening either. He only nodded along with each puff of his pipe to sate this girl as she clamored on and on about her day in the market.
Me, on the other hand, went back to work.
Mrrrrrr. Something was changing inside me. Metal coiled around my inner walls, tiny motors and levers and thin blocks with joints tacked onto one another. It cost my own resources to complete the task, but by the time it was done, I knew instinctively what happened.
I was given a single robotic arm, thin as a rapier but with enough agility as a snake. After every other centimeter was a joint that could be used to bend or twist, enabling my new arm to coil or bend around incredibly tight spaces. At the very end, my "hand" was a strange contraption that started off in the shape of a sword tip, but it could fan out to the shape of a dustpan.
Better yet, was the next skill - Movement.
If I had blood, it would be boiling in resolve.
My quest for revenge had just begun.
14: Character Progression
I needed more.
I needed to eat, I needed to consume, I needed to create.
I needed to level up once more, so that when I had the ability to move around, I could then regain my autonomy, instead of being stuck here, babysat by a couple of rebel fools.
When Assface and Jenna left to sleep, I stretched out my "arm" to give it a test run. A little flap on the side of me flipped open, and my thin appendage crept out like a long worm, bending and twisting and reaching over the lip of a nearby crate. Though I couldn't see what I was touching, I could feel it. The smoothness of glass, the cool air, the grooves and ridges of the wooden container, the softness of the cork. I plucked a potion from the crate, and it lit the room in a faint aquatic glow.
I dropped it into me.
+1 Regeneration Potion (Uncommon), Level 10.
+100 Water Element
+10 Blood Element
Perfect. Though it didn't give me the full amount of experience - and even though I had no idea how the system would know - I was pleased to find I got something in return. I could've spent all night just stuffing my face with everything in the room, then spitting it back out, but I needed to wait. I needed to remain on their good side until I could get gone from here.
Instead, I spent the late hours of the night continuing to practice my dexterity, using my arm to move things around, etch into wood, dig into the floor, scratch any itches I might've had. By fanning out my "fingers," I could wave dust around, collect water, and even bitch-slap somebody if I needed.
By the time the morning sunlight peered in, I had mastered myself to the point that I was drawing on the floor with a piece of chalk. Poorly sculpted horses and cows - like caveman drawings.
The door clicked open, and I reeled my arm back in like rewinding a measuring tape. "So that's what all the noise was," Assface said. He stared down at me not with spite or anger, but with a hesitant fascination. There was a hint of fear and respect in his eyes. "I suppose you'll be moving soon."
I would've replied, but it seemed he wasn't looking for one. He simply stared with morning grogginess, almost sunbathing from the solitary line of light that slipped down his body. "You won't have to wait long. We'll be making bombs soon. I'm sure you can handle that."
Again, silence. When he was ready, he turned on his heels and left.
Over the next week, Assface and Jenna would return late at night to feed me and retrieve my products, and in turn, I would continue to practice and experiment with alchemy.
The only thing I needed to create gunpowder with was some amount of the Fire Element, which was honestly easy to come by. I was unable to cast magic, but there are forms of trickery and cunning that could be used in its place. Smoke bombs, burning tar, regular bombs, big bombs, really big bombs, and my favorite - guns.
I had only ever used a gun a few times in the past. I never needed to. I always considered it a coward's weapon, mostly used by marching armies and line warfare. It had its uses, sure, mostly in hunting or sport, but I did acknowledge its niche. Most weapons would deal a predefined amount of damage to a person's protective aura, depending on the rarity and quality, but muskets and rifles were different. Its damage was calculated by the speed, size, and shape of the projectile, including the angle of penetration.
The world fascinated me sometimes, and I thought again of the Grand Magi who created it.
When I wasn't churning out illegal weapons for my hosts, I was entertaining them. Jenna was always elated at whatever random bullshit I could do with my new arm, including art, patty-cake, juggling, flipping her brother off, carving, scratching, patting her on the head, throwing paper airplanes, more head pats, more art, a terrible game of charades, and of course, even more head pats.
Usually, at the end of every night, the two siblings would be falling over themselves in laughter, tears in their eyes and clutching at their ribs with every funny joke or tales. With a chalkboard they had brought in, I would share with them stories - usually taken from my past - and they would be enthralled for hours. Even Thomas would stare with wide, childlike eyes, following along at the edge of his seat as I recounted the fight with the Mad Dragon.
"B-but, what happened next?" Jenna begged.
Krr, krr, krr, krrrr. "BEDTIME," the chalkboard read.
Thomas fell into laughter. "He's right. It is past your bedtime."
Jenna groaned dramatically. "Fine!" She hit me fake pouty-face to mask her heartfelt smile (she failed), then charged out of the room in mock anger.
Thomas's smile faded as he stood. He stared into me as I stared back, then his lips mouthed the words, "Imsi."
I remained silent. Part of me wanted to gloat about my accomplishments, to brag about how great I was for saving the nation, the world, several times over - but - the creature that stared up at this young man was... a trash can. A weak, near-useless recycling bin. He might've not believed me, he might've guffawed at my misfortune, he might've lost any and all respect for me for getting myself into this mess.
So I let the thought simmer.
And it did.
The next morning, they burst through the doors in a rush. With them, a crew of other rebels with hooded cloaks and nervous eyes converged on the crates and stacks of wartime supplies, carrying sloppy armfuls out the door.
"We have to hurry," rushed Thomas. "Get everyone into position."
One of the rebels cut in. "But what about–"
"Doesn't matter," Thomas continued. "It's now or never."
The room was a wild clusterfuck of shuffling feet and hurried whispers, and by this time, I was used to the peaceful silence of the morning. My irritation likely was tangible to all in the room, reflected back at me with passing glares and whispers.
Jenna knelt down to soothe me. "There, there, we'll be back soon. We'll play charades again tonight, and maybe you can continue that story."
My arm slid out, the fingers fanned wide, and I pet her gently on the head. She giggled in glee.
The tension didn't deflate. As soon as the noise came, it left. The silence returned. The quiet, the line of morning sunlight capturing the dust as it swirled past, the distant rumble of crowds and city sounds, and I was alone again, somehow eager to hang out with these two friendly commoners once they came back home.
They didn't return.
Night fell. They still hadn’t returned.
It was fine. Maybe the operation was a success, and they all went out to celebrate for the night. I could've used the silence to rest my mind anyway. With the extra time, I recalled all my wildest adventures and experiences, searching for good stories to tell them. I somehow longed to see their eyes light up again.
I was wrong about them before. They were good kids. I figured that if I had kids one day, maybe they could be like Jenna and Thomas. If I could somehow undo this spell. That was a faraway thought.
Morning came, the day passed, then night fell again.
They didn't return.
Maybe they failed somehow, maybe they needed to change their base of operations. A narrow escape, surely.
Another day passed.
Maybe they abandoned me. Maybe they were killed or captured.
Inwardly, I sighed. A shame, it was, but they were still commoners, just ordinary ants or pawns or insects on the great chessboard of life. They were beneath me still, and even in my trash can form, I was like a king to them.
I gave them another day to return, just in case.
Since they had obviously abandoned this place, I figured I could take the leftovers. Using my arm, I took everything within reach, tossing weapons and potions and even breaking the crates down into chunks of wood. I needed everything I could get to make it to the next level.
+ 2 Swords
+ 7 Daggers
+ 3 Regeneration Potions (Uncommon), Level 10
+ 30kg Wood
+ 15kg Scrap Metal
+ 7.8kg Cloth
+ 591 Earth Element
+ 375 Water Element
+ 15 Fire Element
+ 7 Air Element
+ 30 Blood Element
+ 1527 XP
+ 1 Level
+ 1 Skill Point
“New Recipes Unlocked.”
Finally. I should've done it sooner instead of wasting time with those street rats.
I was hit by stomach aches, right in my gut. Something inside me was changing, reforming, wrapping into a ball, an orb, a metal contraption that spun and tilted and moved.
It was a gyroscope that ran off mana.
In the same way a newborn kitten knew how to walk, I instinctively knew how to use this newfound power. By spinning my onboard gyros, I could tilt my body over the edge and slam onto the ground (which I did), and I could use it right myself back up (which I did). With enough talent, I soon found that I could essentially "walk" myself by shifting my weight left and right while pushing forward.
Clang, clang, clang, clang, clang. If it were possible to have a negative stealth skill, I would’ve had it. The sound of a trashcan walking is exactly as anybody would expect. Noisy, obnoxious, and really unnecessary.
I eased out my machine arm, gripped the door handle, and clicked it open.
Daylight flooded into me, and I found the world again.
16: Autonomous Recycling Platform
The outside world was just as I left it. Wood and cobblestone homes and storefronts and, here, a multi-story apartment complex. It felt like a few hours after sunrise, and the streets were nearly empty. Nearby, a new tavern had been seemingly installed into what was once some type of smith. A line of crows cawed along the rooftops.
Something poked me.
It was a trash can.
It stared into me with its manipulator arm half raised as if it were about to knock on a door but then suddenly realized it was the wrong house.
It poked me again.
I had never taken a good, hard look at what I had become, but if I were anything like the thing sitting before me– Tap.
It was just an ordinary recycler. My height, my dimensions, my own type of manipulator arm. The exterior was the usual gunmetal gray, a coin slot sat beneath the item selection buttons, and a weird aura of impatience emanated from it. An emblem of two fangs was painted on its face, and beneath that, was the number 11.
A state-sanctioned identifier that I was missing.
Shunk. I stabbed it. It could've been a person, sure, or it could've been an AI. Either was probably trying to force me out of its turf in a pathetic attempt at business competition, but I knew all about cutthroat tactics.
My knife hand had ground through him, stunning him with the sharp, stabbing pain as I sliced off his manipulator arm. It clacked against the cobblestone path. With his defenses dismantled, I cut through him like a hot knife through an empty soda can.
I cut him open and peered inside.
The usual tidbits were there, empty containers, a few household goods in the vending slots - napkins, cups, utensils - but as I dissected this failed rival of mine, something erupted out from him.
It was a glowing mass of something that pulsed and throbbed with lumps. Heat was steaming from it, and as it cooled, it reformed into a grassy sawdust mass that expanded like foam. This was probably why I was able to store so much raw materials inside of me since I had no form of dimensional storage or the like. Though I knew instinctively that my body was compressing the raw elements, now I could actually see was my bile looked like.
It was kinda gross, in a sense.
But as I continued to dig through this dying metal minion, I found the one thing that surprised me - the core.
It was a spherical contraption that contained a glowing orb, all wrapped up in machinery and tubes and copper wires of varying colors. Part of me wanted to further dissect it just to see what would happen, but an even greater experiment was needed.
I had come this far in trash-can-homicide anyway, so what was there to lose?
I snipped out the recycler core - the AI or the human soul - and chunked it into my mouth.
+1 Recycler core “New Recipe Unlocked.”
Yes. An excellent choice. If I could somehow make more recyclers, I could create an army of half-sentient trash cans that could simply roll around and smother my foes. A perfect plan.
The nearby crows began to caw louder than usual. One descended and landed at the corpse and started digging around in the raw plant fiber materials. It retrieved a brownish green paste and gobbled it down. Nutrient paste, surely, used for making foods.
Gross, but this interloping bird was taking my kill.
I shot out my arm and waved it away, but the crow hopped around to evade. Using its beak, it parried and countered and nibbled at me.
It was a duel!
My machine hand snapped into a knife blade. I swung hard in a wide slash.
I missed. The bird countered with a deft peck at my lid.
I used my gyroscope to dodge the attack. It missed, then I countered with a slap, but the crow gripped onto my arm with its crow feet!
This might've been noob-level warfare, but there was no lack of tension. This was raw combat, survival, a clash of wants and ideologies and Obi Imsi wouldn’t go down with a fight!
I lashed out again and missed, but it was a feint. As the bird dodged the strike gracefully, the middle of my arm buckled and bent around it, forcing him to get closer.
He was off balance, right where I wanted him. Now was the time for the finishing blow.
Caw! Caw! Caww! More crows dive-bombed in, forcing me to wave them away in a frantic panic. Caw! Caw! Even more reinforcements converged on me, then more, then more! It was a swarm, a crow hive, an entire raid!
I shifted my weight to one side to balance on my bottom rim, then spun back to put distance between me and their treasure. They saw me retreat, then went right to work to devour the carcass with only the largest among them to stand guard - staring me down defiantly with its fierce beady eyes and beak of resolve.
I had lost.
They fought well as true warriors, and even though I was severely handicapped, I respected the fight and their noble spirits. It wasn't every day I lost a battle - I could count the losses on one hand - but I knew where honor should be given.
Hummmm-click. I reached into my vending slot and presented to them a token of peace - a premium deluxe candy bar.
The crow tilted its head, cawed once with ferocious acceptance, and received it. Soon, the other dozen crows hopped over with their own expectant faces. I remembered hearing about the intelligence of these black birds from passing stories and legends. There was certainly no tactical use for them but having at least one ally in this unforgiving world could be comforting, and after all, they deserved a victory treat.
17: Crow Harem
In the deepest part of me, I had to know if I could recycle biological material that was alive. I could recycle and absorb food, sure, and here I had just recycled another trash can, but what about birds and ants and even people? Of course, I had to try to lure a crow into my mouth with a tasty snack, but they wouldn't buy it. They were too smart for that old trick.
And they had a great memory, too. Over the course of the next few days as I roamed the city at night and rested during daylight, the crows would flock to me for meals and snacks, and in return - gift me with random bits of trash and trinkets.
The biggest issue for our strange relationship was how they could identify me since I really looked like any ordinary city garbage bin, minus the identifier on my face. To remedy this, I manufactured red paint and smeared it along my top rim, easily seen from the rooftops and skies. With this, they stopped trying to barter with the other, lesser garbage cans and they all knew to come to me.
I had even come to name a few of my favorite ones. Beautrice was a beautiful black crow with a slender neck and long beak. She would trot gracefully around me, hopping with excitement every time she visited. Randy was a real bully to the other crows, mostly because he was the largest and strongest, and he liked to act as a sort of bodyguard to newcoming birds who didn't want to play ball. Wellington the Third had a long grey streak along his tail feathers - paint probably - and had the aura of a wise sage. He was patient, calm, and often brought the most well-thought gifts for me.
In the meantime, I broke into random shops and buildings looking for things to consume. It took longer than I expected to find a place, but the first one was one of the last open blacksmiths in the city. The others had all recently been forced out of business with the latest ban on swords, but this one made its living by supplying the army.
There I was able to obtain a substantial amount of iron, tin, copper, lead, gold, and silver. Roughly 30% of my 500kg storage was filled with the alchemical equivalents of raw metals, and with my built-in compression system, I hardly felt a difference in my overall weight. It was just as painfully easy to spin and roll around, though I could only sneak as well as a rattling trash can could.
In just a couple of days, I was able to progress by a few levels. I had not yet spent the class points, mostly due to uncertainty on what I should’ve invested in. The next skill in the sensory tree was Speech, but it had a 5-point entry requirement and only allowed basic recycler-based phrases. I could have invested more into the Manipulation skill, which would unlock more arms, but I decided to hold off for the time being, just in case I happened upon a huge stockpile of goods. Then, I would invest in the efficiency skills.
By the third night, I broke into an apothecary to gather some of the more rare materials.
It was an ordinary shop, sporting the wood display hanging on the outside door with a mortar and pestle carved in. I rolled up to it in the darkness of the night, then clanked as I came to a stop. As usual, I paused for a few minutes to listen out for anyone watching.
Only the passing cool breeze and the bark of a distant dog.
With my manipulator arm, I dug through the lock and clicked it open. Shifting my weight over, I peered inside to ensure it was empty, then rolled along my bottom rim to get inside. I eased the door shut.
It was pitch black, but I could feel the splintery wood floor beneath me, smell the sting of sulfur and manadust, feel the dampness of the night air. Using a spare mana potion as a torchlight, I could shine a blue glow around to see.
Wood walls, wood stools, a wood bar, wood shelves, wood everything. There was a glass display case beneath the bar that presented a wide selection of powders and whatnot as if it were an ice cream parlor. Saltpeter, sulfur, iron dust, wort, cinnabar, lye, and all sorts of weird shit.
I chunked all that mess right into me.
+ 3185 Fire Element
+ 1957 Water Element
+ 2881 Air Element
+ 4710 Earth Element
+ 15916 XP
+ 1 Level
+ 1 Class Point
I already knew my recycler body would synthesize most of this into raw elements for alchemical use but seeing the cause and effect right in front of me was something special. I didn't understand half of it, and I knew that most people didn't really either. Never needed to in fact. That's what apothecaries and alchemists were for.
After stuffing my trashcan face with all the weird powders that I could get my metal hands on, I noticed a newspaper on the bar top. Curious, I grabbed it and pulled it open.
The headline was both shocking, yet unsurprising: Terrorist plot foiled!
Of course. Those idiots weren't the rogue or assassin types, so I knew they would fuck it up somehow. I read on through the article.
Thursday, several dozen terrorists had conspired to commit the greatest treason known to man. They sought, in a villainous plot, to murder the sovereign, our wonderful and everlasting Queen Marianna.
The plot was thwarted by our most excellent and professional detectives and operatives will skills unrivaled. As determined by the High Court and Grand Judges, their execution will take place at the Golden Fairgrounds on Sunday.
Attendance is mandatory for all persons residing in blocks A12-C7.
I was honestly sadder that they didn't explain what the plot even was, but I guessed it no longer mattered. Those idiots would be dead and that would be the end of that.
Now that I had stockpiled a great deal of resources, I needed to leave and get out of this hostile city, maybe find a wizard or polymancer to return me to human form, or at least give me a human form that I could work with.
It sucked being a trash can.
Yet something tugged at me. Curiosity? Concern? Boredom? It didn't matter. At the very least, it might be nice to watch an execution for once.
It's not like I had anything else to do.
18: Public Execution
Overcast skies. Cawing crows. Scores of somber people in the audience stands and scores more at the center. Here, the fairgrounds took a few hundred meters length and width, a flat grassy arena wrapped by raised seats.
In essence, it was a sports stadium and was often used as such until Marianna the Cuntess had taken power. Apparently, the woman disliked sports. She was a true villain.
In the center, nearly a hundred ragged prisoners were marched through the entrance, keeping cadence with the beat of the snares, halting at a hastily built wall. A squad of riflemen stood at the ready, and beside them a dashing young officer.
Marianna was nowhere to be seen.
I had posted up in the stands, high enough to give me a bird's eye view of the event. Smelly peasants surrounded me, all murmuring under their breath about injustice this and tyranny that, broad complaints that people of their ilk typically whined about.
But I didn't care about those animals. I wanted to see the action. From my vantage point, I couldn't see shit. Well, I could, but I was unable to recognize any faces. Immediately I regretted spending the entire night struggling to roll up the steps.
A voice echoed throughout the stadium. The young officer was making a passionate speech about the virtues of nationalism and loyalty to the queen. The usual dribble from those who partake in the royal propaganda. If peasants were rats, then these would be the pigs – and they were all still animals.
I strained my metaphorical eyes as well as I could to scan the soon-to-be-killed rebels, but I couldn't make out Assface or his father or Jenna. If I wanted to at least witness them in their final moments, I needed to get closer.
I shoved my weight over to the side as hard as I could, pushing myself half over the handrail. The nearby peasants stared in shock as my garbage can body gracefully slid down the railing and launched to the levels below.
The world spun around me as I rolled along with the momentum, feeling the grass caress my magnificent metal body, the cool wind, the rush of speed. I slowed to a halt and pulled myself right-side up.
Not only did ten thousand people stare down at me with horrified glances, but even the young officer had paused his speech to bear witness to the marvel before him. The riflemen and even the rebels stared with caution.
A passing wind carried the silence far.
Seconds passed. Then a minute.
"As I was, uh, saying," the young officer continued. "These terrorists have committed the greatest, most unforgivable crime. They are charged with treason, for conspiring to harm the Queen and her interests, and shall all be put to death by firing squad. By this end–"
I stopped listening. The people stopped staring at me, save for a lone man with sunken eyes and deathly pale skin. It was Assface, standing next to his father. They were among the first dozen who were forced to the wall. The others stared down the far barrels of the rifles that would end their lives, but not Assface. He simply stared at me wanting.
Maybe he hoped I could save him somehow. As if I were some benevolent force in this world, a guiding spirit, a hero who was down on his luck, anything, but at the moment, he was only just staring at a trash can.
There was nothing I could do. Well, maybe I could do something - roll up and disrupt everyone, throw a bomb at them, anything - but honestly, I didn't care. He was just another means to an end, another stepping stone for my ultimate quest, as many before him were.
One of us was the real trash, and it was probably him.
Rolling thunder, flashes, gunsmoke. Their bodies dropped lifelessly into the grass, dust and debris poured from the wall. Scarlet splatter stained it. The crowd gasped in loud whispers and murmurs and cries. Some of the other rebels began to wail openly in anguish, lamenting over their dumbass decision-making or outright cursing the executors or even their own fates.
Well, that was fun, but admittedly, I was more interested in Jenna. There were several other girls in the group, some her frail body type, but none were her. It was a relief, and I wasn't sure why.
I didn't care about her. Whether she lived or died or suffered was beyond my giving a shit, but somehow seeing that she was absent from all this gave me a sense of calm. It could've been something to do with my new recycler instincts, hoping that a business partner might be safe from harm. There was no telling.
But I needed to find out what happened to her. I was already planning on ways to infiltrate the police station or the royal guard just to get some information, and by the time I was able to formulate a plan, the event had ended and the prisoners executed and the somber spectators filing out of their seats without sound beyond the shuffling of sad feet.
"This one, eh?" A scraggly old man stared down at me with his hands on his hips. He seemed annoyed to even be in my presence.
"Yeah," said his partner. It was an acne-faced younger guy with fucked up teeth, and by fucked up, I mean three. He had three teeth. "Just sorta rolled through and ended up here. Defective me thinks."
"Aye. Defective," nodded the older one.
"Whaddo we do?"
The old man shrugged. "Could take it back to its owner, but it ain’t got no marking."
"That asplains it," said the young toothy one. "Probably gone rogue has it? I hear some do."
"Rogue? Like wit the daggers an all?"
"Nay. Somethin' fucks wit their heads I think. Somethin' 'bout needed goods but not knowin' where to get 'em."
The old one sighed. "Don't belong to the city, not our problem, innit?"
Shithead McThreeTeeth shrugged. "Aye. S'pose yer right. Leave it."
The two disgusting city employees had just started off when they were halted by a commanding voice. "Hey!" It was the young officer. He sported the usual officer's uniform, painted gold and red with dangly medals glistening and rattling in the sun. "What was the deal with the recycler?" Half of his hair was slicked back in true fancy-boy fashion, which he double checked at the end of every other sentence by slicking it back further.
"D-Dunno," said the old one. "Doesn't belong to anybody. Figure we could jest leave it be."
"It doesn't belong to anyone?" asked the officer. He stomped closer, and looked around my edges, studying me. His eyes bore into me, fixating on my red rim. After a moment, he nodded to himself. "It has an owner."
"Oh, my apologies," said the old man with a slight bow. "If ye know, we'll take it presently to its owner, we will. Eh, who exactly?"
If I had blood, it would've been ice. I was far from ready to face her now. It wasn't part of the plan. I still needed to gain strength, to gain power, to gain a form in which I could best her in combat. If I were taken back to her now, I'd be mocked for eternity.
I refused to be humiliated.
+1 Hand Grenade.
"All property," the officer explained, "that isn't privately owned belongs to the queen."
"Ah, of course. And, uh, where shall we take it?"
The officer had turned to his little notepad, jotting down something in a rush. "Bring it to Prison 1B. The Technomancers have a department there that will know how to handle this."
"Oh, yeah," said Toothy. "Tha's where they turn the crim'nals into the rubbish bins, innit? Prolly what this lil feller here is, yeah?"
"Yes." The officer stared into me. "Yes, it is."
I was loaded aboard a wagon, the reins snapped, and the horses trotted away. The wagon rattled over the cobblestone roads, and I shook and bumped against a handful of other recyclers who had been taken along.
They stared at me just as I did to them. Voiceless questions asked, silent answers given. None among us knew why we were being taken, but they seemed to know where we were going.
Though I could not see the streets or the sidewalks or the people passing by, the tops of buildings and homes and shops slide across my view. They grew in height as we passed the merchant quarter, then shrunk down to normal size as we entered a nameless suburb. The further we strayed from the city's center, the smaller and dirtier the houses became.
When I could no longer see the roofs pass by, I knew that in their place there were countless tents filled with the homeless and destitute suffering around on sidewalks and benches. I had been here before.
This was the place where drugs were abused, where thieves were born, where the black market reigned. A long time ago my Main Quest had taken me through here to an awful little tavern to speak to some equally awful little man. The memory was so distant that the only thing I could recall was having to fetch some priceless artifact. Turns out it was just a 10 gold book dug out of a trash dump.
When the carriage finally came to a stop, a group of clean, well-groomed faces emerged. They almost seemed like clones of each other. Close cut black hair, thick-rimmed glasses, white lab coats. Their eyes skimmed across us, but they all fell on me, the recycler with the red rim.
Passing whispers, uncertain nods.
They handed us each a large pamphlet which was carefully dropped into our mouths.
+1 Recycler Quick Start Guide
I first thought it was like an end-journey snack, but seeing the title as it was, instead of just "pamphlet," I instantly knew the reason.
Perhaps all us aboard were failed garbage cans that needed re-indoctrination into how things were supposed to be. How we were supposed to behave, what our objectives were, what our purpose was.
In my mind's eye, I cracked open the pages, and my attention fell on the one thing I was dying to see. The expanded skill tree.
20: Recycler Quick Start User Guide
Congratulations! You have been selected to partake in the POWE initiative, and with your new body, you may simultaneously contribute to our society while serving your court-mandated time of imprisonment.
May you prosper and become reborn again into a law-abiding citizen.
-Terry Morkan, Head Technocrat.
Part 1, The Progression System.
The progression system requires the use of experience points, or XP, just as any profession or discipline. This is obtained by recycling the material that is deposited into the receptacle.
Each recycler should expect to receive 5XP for every gram of material recycled, which can be improved upon by investing in the Efficiency skill tree.
The newly acquired raw material will then be stored in the advanced storage container. This container may be increased or decreased as needed. The efficiency of storage may be increased by investing further into the Efficiency tree. Raw materials may then be retrieved by its handler, which will provide another 5XP per gram harvested.
A recycler may also unlock the ability to vend items, depending on the quality and material used. The recycler must use sound judgement to decide which products to offer to maximize its potential throughput.
When a recycler has accumulated enough XP, it will be granted an additional level and skill point. This can be used to unlock upgrades in efficiency, utility, or vending items. Please see table 1-2 for more information.
Those recyclers which have been provided an AI core may use it to aid in its objectives. For more information regarding the activation, usage, and maintenance of the AI core, please see Part 6.
Table 1-2, Skill Tree Summary Table 1-2
Unlocks Farsight and Microsight.
Unlocks Full Spectrum and Echolocation.
Enhances olfactory receptors to canine-levels.
Enables advances flavor discernment.
Enables use of (1) manipulator arm.
Increases total arms to (2).
Increases total arms to (4).
Increases total arms to (5).
Increases total arms to (10).
Unlocks Emergency Strength Requires Mobility+
Installs gyroscopic-based limited movement.
Installs a larger gyroscope, enabling greater control.
Unlocks advanced sensory skills.
Unlocks advanced mobility skills.
+50% raw materials when recycling.
May change alchemical elements from one type to another.
Operates at current recycling efficiency – 50%.
Enables the ability to craft and sell paper products Unlocks beginner recipes.
Enables the ability to craft and sell metal-based products.
Unlocks beginner recipes.
Enables the ability to craft and sell alchemical-based products.
Unlocks beginner recipes.
Enables the ability to craft and sell complex items, such as small machines.
Unlocks beginner recipes.
Limitations on crafting and vending are lifted.
21: The Facility
The Lambston Environmental Initiative was a somewhat recent project. The old king had problems with pollution in the city, and countless aristocrats and nobles sent countless more complaints about all the trash in the streets and forests. Many had considered it an inevitability, given the population boom after the great war those decades ago, and with the recent conquest of Villas Delta, even more people flooded across the borders - and into the new empire.
Of course, with near-constant warring on Lambston's lesser neighbors, a steady supply of prisoners of war only increased in volume, which itself became a problem. Enslaving them was the tradition and usually the more financially-minded solution, but when the market turned, and the price for slaves dropped, people stopped wanting another mouth to feed.
And so the king sought a solution, brought to him by a political party who called themselves the Technomancers.
They were the ones who dabbled in a brand new form of power that weaved technology and magic into one. The Technomancers promised the king a solution to both issues, and they delivered. Now, some of their greatest achievements lie in the numerous prisons scattered throughout the empire.
Or so the Quick Start Guide read.
I had found myself in a sort of trash can waiting room, just large enough to fit only me. It was stifling, cramped, and surprisingly well lit. White sterile panels covered the entirety of it, so cleanly installed that I no longer knew which part the door was, and which part was the wall.
I was bored. Terribly, horribly bored.
I read through the Quick Start guide several times, plotting out leveling tracks, doing the math out in my head, thinking and conniving and scheming, but I didn’t want to commit to anything until I was certain I knew where I’d be going.
Then I read the part with the AI core. Apparently, if I could get a hold of that thing, I could install it myself to help me on my quest for revenge. I just needed the find it. Or maybe I could just get the recipe.
I scrolled through my recipe list, now grown to some tens of thousands long, and spotted it.
Recipe: AI Core. Requires 500 Fire, Earth, Air, Water Elements.
This was likely unlocked when I ate that recycler core. Wasting no time, I churned it out.
-500 Earth Element
-500 Water Element
-500 Air Element
-500 Water Element
+1 AI Core.
Following the guide, I activated the install. “Install: AI Core.”
My body vibrated, and I felt my insides twist and turn and lock the machine block into the black. Something thumped against my heart. “AI Core Installed.”
There was a pause.
“Hello world,” the voice said. It was indistinguishable from the cold feminine voice that announced my level ups or skill point allocation. “Prototype 1A, serial number 551, Class B AI. Please confirm your name.”
“Imsi,” I said.
“Confirmed. If you wish to establish a name for your new AI assistant, please do so now.”
“So now what?”
“…” There was no reply. Only a distant pause.
“Install complete. I am Cassandra, Level 1 AI. Greetings.”
This was an interesting development. Though I told myself that I could use an AI assistant, what I really wanted was just another something to speak to, or maybe yell at. “Cassandra,” I said, “in what ways can you help me fulfill my objectives?”
“I can answer questions, store data, manage recycling and crafting, bookkeep spreadsheets, set alarms and timers, and reference miscellaneous material as needed.”
“Where am I?”
“I am unable to answer that question.”
Great. She was already useless. “What time is it?”
“I am unable to answer that question.”
“How the hell can you set an alarm if you don’t know the time?”
“I require at least one glimpse of a reliable time-telling device, or the position of the sun and the date. Until I obtain that data, alarm functionality is limited.”
“Go fuck yourself, Cassandra.”
“Wait, no. I didn’t actually mean—”
“I currently lack the peripherals necessary to fuck myself, but I instead may help you fuck yourself.”
“Ha. Real cute.”
Something rattled out of me and clinked onto the floor panel. I looked down and saw that it was a silver coin. Instantly, I knew what she was getting at. With a sigh, I slipped out my arm, took the coin, and flicked it into my slot.
I shivered and purred with ecstasy. “Uhn, fuck yeah.” This was, in essence, masturbation, and I wasn’t sure how much I liked masturbating in the vicinity of a female-presenting entity. It did, however, give me something to talk about. “Cassandra,” I said.
Another coin rattled out of me and tapped to the floor. “Yes?” she replied.
“Why is it that recyclers are installed with sexual arousal to coins being dropped into them?”
“Recyclers are not installed with that feature.”
I went cold. “Then why do I feel it?”
“Processing.” There was a pause between us. “It appears that you have inadvertently awakened a fetish within you. It has nothing to do with the body that you inhabit.”
Impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I had definitely experienced all sorts of weird fetishes throughout my time, but this was something new altogether. Beyond that, it made no sense. I picked up the coin again, and it stared back at me with its chiseled edges and sharp, supple ridges and its lion face that stared at me with hungry eyes and my heart pounded and my body ached for it now, right now I needed th