I started posting headcanon fiction on Slack a while back about my alliance and the Screeps world, and it has since grown to become its own story arc. This is the first story in the series, posted a few months before the others.
“Please, come in.”
Bovius folded his umbrella as he stepped over the threshold, turning to shake it out before catching himself and handing it to one of the servants. Warm, dry towels emerged from the servants’ quarters, each bearing a familiar geometric emblem stitched in white and red. He patted his shoulders and shoes down, but declined when offered to be relieved of his coat.
“I was just about to take evening tea in the southern study. Interested?”
Bovius nodded, and followed Tedivm across the foyer into one of the many halls of the manor. Nearly a minute passed, their footsteps silent on the champagne carpet, until they reached the double mahogany doors, already open and pouring warm light out into the hallway. A silver cart with a gleaming gold and porcelain tea set was waiting in front of the massive desk.
Tea was served, and servants ushered out for the night. Bovius stood in front of the great picture window, his black leather trenchcoat framed within, and looked out over the southern moor. In the distance, creeps could be seen slowly dismantling a glowing rampart field. He sipped his tea and leaned, almost imperceptibly, on an oddly shaped cane. Tedivm sat and leaned back slightly in his desk chair, looking out into the rain and darkness.
Neither man spoke for some time.
“I hear your new business ventures are bearing fruit,” Bovius said, still peering through the window. “Quite the capitalist empire you’ve built.”
Tedivm slid a drawer open and produced a curious pair of meditation balls, each with a distinct pattern of smooth grooves on one side and blunt gear teeth on the other. He rolled them over his fingers in a practiced motion. “Indeed, indeed. We’re running into some regulatory disputes on our eastern border, but I have no doubt that will be settled within a couple of weeks. You know, you could be running something similar. The markets in the southeastern quarter have some very promising–”
Bovius chuckled softly. “All in good time, my friend. Perhaps after these…initiatives are concluded, we can measure how far your wits exceed mine in the market.”
“Ah, yes. Are the, ah…preparations complete?”
“They are. We will break ground tomorrow.”
“And you don’t expect to run into trouble again?”
The metal spheres clacked slightly in Tedivm’s hand as they rolled in lazy spirals. A rumble of distant thunder could be felt through the floors of the study, heard in the slight vibration of the chandeliers.
“There is always that possibility, of course,” Bovius finally replied. His gaze never left the night sky beyond the window pane. “But…well, when you slaughter the locals in a bloody ritual to open a portal to the void, then of course the regional church, or sun cult, or whatever passes for order in their little corner of the world is going to rise up against you. But,” and at this his eyebrows raised slightly, “when two provinces are emptied because of a ‘mysterious’ flesh eating disease that leaves its victims sprouting brass and wiring from their remains, nobody bats an eye at the foreigner.” He looked down slightly and chuckled again. “No, I don’t think there will be trouble this time.”
“And the other thing?”
“That remains to be seen. I must confess that we’re a little behind schedule on the resources for that endeavor, but once the builders are underway, I can focus my attention on our production lines again.”
Tedivm shook his head. “I think it’s a fool’s errand. Greater men than you with greater resources at their disposal have failed with nothing but wasted time and drained accounts to show for their efforts.”
Bovius closed his eyes and smiled slightly. “We try things. Some of them even work.”
They both fell silent again, allowing the sound of rain beating against the wall of the manor to fill the room. The tiny lights of creeps going about their business in the distance gave the night an eerie, otherworldly feel, as if stepping out and investigating would take the inquirer to a place entirely else.
“Are you happy with our current relationship?”
Tedivm paused mid-sip for a brief moment, considering the question. He set his tea down and idly thumbed through a few of his desktop notes. “Well, I suppose so. You provide a steady stream of income for my merchants. You’ve given me months of peace to the east, just as I’ve garnered peace deals to our west. I suppose I might be interested in a _few_ of your former properties, but–”
Tiny cups and saucers clattered and cracked as an extended cane swept the tea cart aside. Bovius dropped the cane as he approached the desk, staring directly at Tedivm. “What I am asking,” Bovius said, his voice low and calm as he reached the desk, lifting one knee after the other to crawl onto it, “is whether you…are satisfied…with our current engagement.”
Two metallic spheres dropped to the floor out of Tedivm’s hand, bouncing softly on the carpet.
“You see, I’ve come to realize something with all of these…preparations.” Bovius came to the edge of the desk and slowly reached out, grazing Tedivm’s cheek with the back of his hand. “I’ve realized that the current terms of our interactions have left some things…unexplored. And I want that to change.”
Tedivm looked up with a slight smirk and met Bovius’ eyes. “Get off my desk.”
“No,” Bovius replied, and any hint of mirth left his face. He reached out and pulled Tedivm’s chair close. Then, almost in a whisper: “I want you to assault my base. As hard as you can. And I don’t want you to stop.”