7. Engineering a Body – Nerves, Senses, and Skin
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Double chapter-length because of promise in video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvXY96-6YeA

The System rated the organs of the upper body with an 'A'. And Flora decided that was good enough.

The test went great, and the jumping avatars were still in shape.

"This character creation stuff is jangling my nerves! I have to do something about it." Floras bad pun counter rose by one. "Please rate my nerves and aggregate a model."

Flora was in the flow. She cleaned, reinforced, and polished the nerves and thickened the myelin layers.

"Finished! Rate! Next, the brain! You know the drill, dear!"

"The nervous system of the avatar is rated 'A'. The brain is not rated."

"Thank the heavens! What about endocrine glands?"

"Not rated."

"Just as well!" Flora was pleased that she didn't have to mess with her noggin and mood controls.

"Sensory organs?"

"Currently rated D."

"Come on!"

Flora discovered that she understood the eyes and ears better than the squishy parts she had worked on recently. There were parallels to electronic sensor technic she could tie in.

After the usual cleaning, smoothing and fortifying, she began to experiment.

First, she enlarged the eye and removed age-related deformations. The System wasn't happy with radical changes but deemed a 5% increase in volume as better than before. Then she increased the density of the photoreceptors on the retina and the nerves tied to them.

After that, she thickened the cornea and reworked the tissue for maximal transparency without losing its structural integrity. She cleaned the lens and fluids again with the highest zoom active and removed every particle that didn't belong.

The increasing pangs of hunger aggrieved her, but while she tested the avatar, they were gone. So she decided to stay in the avatar for the rest of her work. The ridiculously improved eyesight played another role in this decision. 'I never saw this well! I never looked so good!' Her bad pun counter rose again.

Next, she worked on the ear. She repeated the treatment of the eye fluids to the ear fluids. Then she increased the density of the hair cells.

Flora didn't improve the tactile sense, smell, and taste beyond the usual actions, but it was enough to get System to rate the sensory organs with 'S'.

For testing the modified avatar, she had to switch back to the hungry original avatar. She was dehydrated, and her stomach cramped. After the test, she decided to take action.

'I can't bear it, and I don't have to! Let's get freaky!'

First, she copied the skull bones and formed a bowl. Then she filled it with blood and tears. She omitted the sweat with regret for the missed pun, but even she had her limits how far she was reaching just for a satisfying joke.

Additionally, she lowered the sodium chloride level — no point in drinking salty beverages in her situation.

'Should I say a toast?' She pondered while starring at the red liquid in the white skull.

"Here's to it, and from it, and to it again, and if I don't do it when I get to it, I may not get to it to do it again! Prost!" With that, she downed the blood. She grimaced, it wasn't as bad as she feared, but not good enough to tempt a repeat. But it worked, her hunger and thirst diminished.

"How long until hunger death, System?"

"41 hours and 54 minutes."

"Alright, we proceed with the connective tissue."

As Flora read about, she realized that she already fixed some of it, like tendons and ligaments, which explained why the System rated the connective tissue proper with 'C'.

Over the years, her skin had visibly lost its elasticity. She figured that the connective tissues in non-visible places had suffered as well. Therefore she bolstered elasticity and resilience in the cells. For areas with a structure resembling the tendons and ligaments, she replaced the tissue with tissue from them.

She focused on fat cells next, streamlining her body by removing some of the fat in female problem areas and adding fat in senior citizen problem areas like the skin.

After a short nap, she worked on the skin. First, she removed liver spots, age spots, and whatever other spots she could find. Then she cleared away hair on places fashion dictated that females should not have hair. The System didn't approve this, but she did not care. Allowedly, she was tempted to go the other way and have a look at herself as a Yeti. But adding hair was a lot more complicated than removing it, as bald guys can confirm, and she was under time constraints.

As with the blood vessels, she chose the best piece of skin, tuned it, and spread it. That worked well for most parts of her body, but her face looked horrible with lower back skin. 'Like an alien who did a bad job applying his human skin mask.'

So she worked on her face manually. After her changes, she still looked like an older woman, but more like a well aging Hollywood star than the frail lady at the bus stop.

Now System rated her skin an connective tissues with 'S', but Flora still had the urge to increase the defense. 'The body creates calluses to protect itself, but they are ugly and furthermore lack flexibility.' Her thoughts went over the different methods of animals protecting themselves. 'What about scales? I could mix my fingernails with mithril.'

Flora remembered that she had built a box in the Yuan-Xianshi CAD-Software which could fuse materials. She had played with it obsessively. Human waste was a major problem, so materials which can be recycled, composted, or at least burned without releasing toxins were a trending topic in the engineering community.

The box was constructed using what she called 'magic chips'. The software had several premade chips that generated force fields or converted energy, solar to electrical for example. She created a new chip, which married substances. Her favorite result was what she called the yin-yang wood, the child of obsidian and birch wood. The box didn't synthesize materials in a reproducible way but generated matter with traits from the source materials like a child gets features from his parents. It could win the genetic lottery and get all the good stuff, or loose and have a harder life.

When fusing obsidian and birch wood, Flora ended up with a bridle substance that broke just by looking at it too hard and in another try produced a material, that could be sharpened up to ridiculous degree and still had the flexibility of wood. Her enthusiasm was so big that she even designed the look of the tree. She called it yin-yang tree: the white bark of the birch covered the black trunk. The leaves looked like black crystals just with a hint of green. She made the annual rings white, which made the grain a mixture of darkness and light like ebony, but as ebony gets darker with age, the wood of the yin-yang tree would lighten.

Flora had the habit of not only extensively creating save files but also storing them on external drives. The practice formed in the early times of the information age when the software crashed on a whim, and hard drives broke down regularly. She had 50 years of data in her cloud drive, among other things, the files of her Yuan-Xianshi projects.

'Please be compatible! Please, Admin, stay away!' Flora prayed silently.

One of her prayers worked.

"Hello, Flora Fluss. We meet again."

Flora cringed.

The Administrator was back.

After a short discussion, Flora was 100 VirDias richer, wasn't allowed to use any of her saved materials, but got the fusion box approved. That's all she wanted, but she still looked with longing at the peach file she had experimented with but since forgotten. Back then, she wanted to know if the virtual reality could emulate taste. It could not at the time.

The fusion box was as magical as she remembered. She threw fingernails, toenails and 30 grams of mithril in it, fused it, tested the material, got Systems opinion on it and repeated the procedure until she had a great result.

Flora formed scales as big as the nail of her tiny finger and as little as a grain of salt. She layered the skin above her heart, then continued down to her navel and up to the chin to protect her throat. Afterward, she covered places with major blood vessels close to the skin like the insides of her tights and forearms, including the wrist and the angles.

'Strengthen your strength and weaken your weakness.' was one of Flora's favorite proverbs. She had improved the weak spots of her body, but what about the other parts?

The scales she used so far were silvery white with a greenish tinge. She dyed the rest in skin color and put them on the back of her shoulder, arms, and hands and the front of her legs.

'Am I finished?' Flora took a step back and observed the avatar.

"My teeth!" she exclaimed, fixed them, and went back to pondering.

"System, can I restyle my hair in the game?"

"Yes, but every change not made by character modification will reset upon respawn as a general rule." System answered.

"I bet, the feature exists because of the women who said 'I would kill for an instant styling' ". Flora's bad pun counter rose again.

Because she was one of these women, Flora started to beautify herself: she clipped her nails, plugged her eyebrows, styled her hair, and refreshed her make-up. She only wore a bit mascara when she boarded the pod, so she had to work with that.

For the next few hours, she went over her whole body perfecting and harmonizing it.

"System please tell me the overall standings of my body."

"SS".

"Now I am finished!" Flora exclaimed happily. "At least with the physical part. We proceed to the magic next!"

As soon as she finished the sentence, the Administrator appeared.

"Hello, Flora Fluss. We meet again."

"Yadidida! What's wrong now?"

"We believe that you are capable of modifying the magic structure of your avatar." Avatar started to explain.

Flora nodded.

"Regular users don't have a magic structure. For them, it is created in the next step, the normalization of the attribute values. Unlike the physical attributes, which growth does not change the appearance of the avatar, the growth of the magical stats does."

"One moment, please. Let's add some pictures that I get this right." Flora interjected. "System aggregate a model of the users with the highest magical values. Make the physical body transparent and the magical stuff glowing."

The model appeared. Glowing blue lines pervaded its body like blood vessels, converging in a pool beneath the navel. The most prominent lines, thick streams, reached from the pool to the hands.

"Now show my avatar in the same way!"

The difference could not be more pronounced. Under the navel were a tiny blue spot and a thin line going up to her head and an even lighter line to her right hand.

"My attributes were around 25, right?" Flora didn't count her low intelligence value. That must have been an error. "What are the average magical attribute values of the model?"

"400" System answered. Flora noted that if an AI said 400, it meant precisely 400. So the even number must have a reason.

"If you would adjust your magic system, the game logic would force us to adapt the attribute values. But that is forbidden. The game is designed with every user starting with precisely the same attributes." The Admin continued.

"So it's not a bug, but a design flaw." Flora mused. She knew all about design flaws and was ambivalent about them. On the one hand, she had compassion for making them, on the other hand, contempt.

"We offer you the following compensation for refraining modification :

1. 1000 VirDias

2. Achievement 'SSS Magic': Your talent for magic reigns supreme.

- the highest talent factor in the training efficiency modifier for all magical stats

- the highest talent factor in the training efficiency modifier for all mana skills

- title 'Magical prodigy': + 50% reputation gain with all beings and factions who value magic

3. Achievement 'Frontrunner': First person to reach a specific success.

+ 1000 fame."

"The word 'offer' sounds like I could reject it. What happens then?"

"We let you try to modify your magic and see what will happen." The Administrator smiled condescendingly. "A part of the development council is looking forward to it."

"I don't care about fame and reputation. We Germans have a proverb 'Ist der Ruf erst ruiniert, lebt's sich frei und ungeniert.' That means: once the reputation is ruined, you will live free and without shame." Flora said slowly. "But that 'highest talent factor in the training efficiency' sounds mildly interesting?"

"The training efficiency is how fast you raise the level, in this case of the attributes and mana skills, through using them. It factors in the degree of difficulty and the rating of the subject. You will raise your agility faster when you do an obstacle course than jogging slowly. You will raise the ability 'climbing' faster when you are in real life a mountain climber."

"So skills are rated aswell? And how do you judge prior experiences? I haven't filled out any survey about real life." Flora got a shocking idea. "Is it through mind-reading?"

"We rate skills how well people perform them manually or half-manually in the game. Research shows, this depends on experience and talent."

"What means 'manually' in this context?"

"You can execute skills manually, half-manually, or automated in the Cetviwos." The Administrator answered. "We can't expect from our players that they are proficient in swordplay and magic. The automated mode lets the player decide what they want to do, and the AI executes the movement. In the half-automated mode, the AI only corrects or guides the players' moves minimally. This is the standard modus operandi of the Cetviwos. Manuel mode means, there is no external interference of the AI."

Flora tried to imagine how it would feel when an AI steered her movements. 'Maybe I will try it out, but not soon.'

"System, please set all my skills to manual. The other modes freak me out."

"How do you decide? Do you want to change the magic structure of the avatar, or do you take the offer?" The Administrator tried to lead Flora back to the topic.

"Please, let me think about it for a moment."

'What do I know now:

Option 1 - the offer:

1. Faster growth of attributes, skills, and reputation

2. Fame

3. Title

Option 2 - modification

1. A shitload of work hungry

2. Attributes of 400 maximum. Without copying, I might not be able to replicate the mana structure perfectly.

What do I need to know?

1. How long does it take to train up to 400? -> If it's fast, I profit more from the growth option.'

2. Fame and titles, I might not care about them, but maybe they are important in the Cetviwos?'

"System, what is the average length someone needs to train an attribute to 400?"

"No data available."

Flora raised her eyebrows. "300"

"Because of privacy concerns, all data shown must incorporate at least 1000 individuals."

"200"

"5603 hours playtime."

"Holy toaster! Please, give the value in real-world days."

"668 days."

"This seems long. I read that the game is less than two years old." Flora mused. "And how many players have managed to reach 200 in percent of the user base?"

"Less than 0,1% reached an attribute value of 200 through training. 34,8% reached at least one attribute level value of 200 overall."

"Right! There are other ways to raise attributes, as well!"

System explained that players get 3 Attribute Points every time they level up, and additionally, points can be gained from completing quests and accomplishing achievements.

A value of 400 was a lot rarer than Flora expected. But the thought of spending several more days hungry in the monotonous environment of character creation trying to rebuild glowing lines, she knew nothing about, didn't appeal to her.

Additionally, retaining what you haven't earned honestly is hard. For instance, the lottery millionaires, most of them lost their prize money fast. If the Admin had offered money, she would take the growth option without questions.

'Time to use the 'phone a friend' lifeline.' She called her son.

"Hey, Ma! At last ready to rumble?' Robby cheerfully answered the call.

"That depends on your answer to my next question, sweety," Flora said wryly. She told him the two options. "So what should I take?"

"Shit! Ma! That's great! With 400 in all magic attributes, you one-hit everything below level 25! Take that!" Robby exclaimed. "And if you are even a half-decent player your endgame build could rule the game!"

"Can you loose attribute points?" Flora still wasn't convinced.

"Well, yes. But only on rare occasions beneath level 250." Robby's voice lost much of its enthusiasm. "There is a rumor about a guy who stole the experience of a spell to raise his skill level significantly. He lost all the skill levels and additional levels in other spells in a unique quest not long after. The game is far from balanced, but now and then, karma strikes."

"So the second offer looks now better?"

"No. No risk, no fun! Go for the stats! The second offer is not bad, though. Grinding for reputation is a bitch, and I spend hours hitting dummies for skill XP. But mana skills and attributes can be raised by the free points you get from leveling up. However, it is really bothersome to train affinities and resistances."

"I didn't raise you like this. Stop hitting dummies! That's barbaric! Intelligence is mostly hereditary. You shouldn't hit stupid folks!" Flora was appalled.

Robby stared at her, but then laughed. "Dummies like in the word crash-test dummies. They are non-living targets you can use for training! Epic misunderstanding, Ma!"

Because Robby couldn't stop laughing, he wasn't able to consult her anymore. Therefore Flora bid him farewell.

"Alright, Mr. Administrator, if you add some affinities I'll take your offer." Flora had no glue what affinities were but trusted her son about them. She disregarded his 'no risk, no fun' recommendation because that's the way young man roll, old woman prefer security and growth.

After a moment, the Administrator showed her the amended offer.

1. 1000 VirDias

2. Achievement 'Supreme Magic': Your talent for magic reigns supreme.

- the highest talent factor in the training efficiency modifier for all magical stats

- the highest talent factor in the training efficiency modifier for all mana skills

- title 'Magical prodigy': + 50% reputation gain with all beings and factions who value magic

3. Achievement 'Frontrunner': First person to reach a specific success.

+ 1000 fame

4. Achievement 'Founding Mother of Psychokinesis':

- SSS rating for psychokinesis

- + 5 OV to affinity/resistance psychokinesis

5. Achievement 'Founding Mother of Transformation':

- SSS rating for transformation

- + 5 OV to affinity/resistance transformation

"I take the offer," Flora said. "But please explain how I can get an SSS rating through an achievement. That doesn't conform to my understanding of your previous explanation."

"Haha, busted!" a female voice came from the background.

"You would have gotten the rating in either case, because you used the transformation of materials and psychokinesis for years in the CAD-System." The Administrator explained. "But now you got an additional achievement for it."

Because Flora had already accepted the offer, there wasn't much she could do about it. Additionally, all the new terms and concepts had trained her energy and concentration.

"Let's proceed!"

Her avatars and the Administrator vanished, and her body transformed into her latest save-file. She instantly felt less hungry and more energized but still mentally exhausted.

"Please say or think 'Stats' or 'Attributes'."

Flora did it, and a window appeared in front of her.

Physical Attributes Level Value Mods Modded LV Operative Value Mods Modded OV
Power 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Macro control 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Micro control 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Vigor 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Regeneration 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Defense 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Perception 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Magical Attributes Level Value Mods Modded LV Operative Value Mods Modded OV
Power 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Macro control 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Micro control 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Vigor 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Regeneration 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Defense 10 0 10 9,5 0 10
Perception 10 0 10 9,5 0 10

 

Pool OV Mods Modded OV
Health 100 0 100
Stamina 200 0 200
Mana-Pool 100 0 100
Concentration 200 0 200

 

"Following identity-related modifications are available:

Female:

- + 2 LV to physical micro-control

- + 2 LV to physical regeneration

- - 2 LV to physical power

- - 2 LV to physical resistance

Older:

- + 2 LV to all magical attributes

- - 2 LV to all physical attributes

Please choose."

Of course, Flora tested them first. She did ten push-ups without the mods and ten with them. She felt no difference, neither in her magic. But to her astonishment, she did sense something beneath her navel. 'Is this my magic? I will experiment later when I can take notes. Back to the matter at hand: Is it better to have uniform values or divergent stats?'

She found useful information on the same page she read about the metal handicap:

Attribute Training - Attribute rated B, regular Training

( We do not own Cetviwos, all our data is guestimated )

Level from Level to Hours
1 25 20
25 50 123
50 100 745
100 200 3987
200 250 3742
250 400 32450

She concluded that it was better to mix the values, because it took less time to bring physical macro-control from 8 to 10, than physical micro-control from 10 to 12.

 

"I take both modifications."

"Please distribute 10 free attribute points."

"Can I store them and do it in a few weeks?"

"No."

"Put them all to physical regeneration." 'There is no reason to think this matter over. The ten points are wasted. At least with higher regeneration, I can train more right from the start.'

"Congratulations, you finished your avatar! Please enjoy your visits to the Cetviwos!"

A gateway appeared shimmering in rainbow colors.

After messaging Robby that he could pick her up, Flora took a deep breath and stepped through the portal.

She didn't hear the collective sighs of relief of the Administrator and a monitoring room full of developers, AI handlers, and managers.

Scaly Flora:

Scaly Flora

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