Parson and Ace Hardware stand in Parson's room. Parson is wearing new duds, consisting of a brown hoodie with a small Hamstard crest, an undershirt, black pants, and brown boots. His old clothes lie on his bed.
When he asked Ace to come by and resize the rolltop desk and chair in his quarters, Parson knew he'd be in for another sales pitch. Ever since they'd met, the Dollamancer had been pressing him about improving his personal raiment and equipment. This time, he would probably have to give it some serious thought.
In terms of resource allocation, both Ace and Sizemore gave Parson a classic "guns or butter" problem. Did he use them to make units, or did he let them use their other talents to improve assets the side already had?
With Sizemore, the answer was to let him keep improving the City of Spacerock for a while. If he made golems, they'd mostly be good for defense, so why not just build up the city's defenses? Walls and traps didn't cost any upkeep. They were the opposite of an expense, really. The more Dirtamancy work Sizemore put into this city, the cheaper it would be to bump it back up to Level 5. In the long run, that would actually make the side more money instead of costing it.
With Ace...he wasn't as sure.
"How 'bout a black scale mail, Chief? I could do, like, a stylized Hamstardy crest in the middle of your chest with different colored scales, right? And then we could do like a matching bracer on your other arm, that shoots Shockmancy and glows orange or something? Oh, man!" He pounded his fist into his palm. "Picture that!"
Parson chuckled. "Blue glow on one side, orange on the other? Maybe make it a Portal gun."
Ace tilted his head. "What's that?"
Parson sat forward in the big velvet chair. "Actually, could you?" In the little desk chair, Ace stared at him with his eyebrows knitted.
How to explain? "All right," he said, putting his elbows on his knees, "you know the portals to the Magic Kingdom? It's like...a projectile weapon that puts one of those on a flat surface." He made a gun-shooting motion. "Then when you shoot it again, it puts the other side of that portal on that surface, so you can step through between them. I don't know what kind of magic that would be, though."
"Eh. Don't sweat it. I'm just trying to figure out what you can do," said the Chief Warlord, leaning back a bit. "I mean, yeah. Sure. I need new clothes, and probably better armor. But is that our biggest priority right now? I doubt it. But I have to make that call."
Before they'd left the Magic Kingdom, Ace had been making more little green army men with Jack and Isaac. Three of those were now on threat-detection duty around Spacerock, and doing a good job at it. The tiny stealth golems had already spotted two Jetstone scouts and a patrol stack. Ansom then flew out with dwagons, wasted the patrol, and captured the scouts.
It was a good message to be sending to the new King. Spacerock is ours now. Don't think about it. Don't even look at it.
So the army men were incredibly valuable units, but Ace couldn't make any more of them without going back to the Temple. Imparting the golems with the Scouting special required Lookamancy, which meant Isaac, since they no longer had Misty.
Of course, if they'd still had their own Lookamancer, they wouldn't need scouts. What happened to Misty still bothered him. What a stupid, evil waste that was. She'd been such a sweet little person...
"I think you need duds, at least," said Ace.
Parson raised an eyebrow. "Duds?" He wasn't sure if it was slang, or a term he hadn't heard yet.
Parson looked down at the T-shirt he had been wearing for almost four months straight. It was a CafePress special, 50% cotton/50% poly blend, with a digitally printed emblem of Hamstard, his own and only webcomic character.
A piece of pizza he'd microwaved for breakfast the morning he was summoned into Erfworld had left two big stains on it, when he'd burned his fingers and dropped it on himself in his curb-alert recliner. Every morning at the start of turn, those stains were restored exactly to their original condition. The shirt hadn't even been clean on the day he'd chosen to wear it; he'd been overdue for laundry that weekend. Here in Erfworld, washing did nothing to it. It never smelled any better (or worse) than it always did, turn after turn.
"Yeah," agreed Parson grudgingly.
"Typically what I used to do," said Ace, "was split my juice on a turn. Something like a battle bear or an LFN takes multiple turns to assemble. After doing a piece, I'd usually have some juice left over to make duds for the Courtiers or the Royal family. I've been doing that a little lately, too."
"Did you do Wanda's new look?" asked Parson. "That funeral thing with the veil?"
Ace smiled cautiously. "Yeah, you like it?"
"It's disturbing," he said. "But it's her, I guess."
"That's the idea!" said Ace, pointing his finger excitedly at Parson. "You dress the way you want to be seen. Like, how you want others to see you. Raiment lets you take control of your own Signamancy a little."
Parson made a face. "Yeah, well. I never much cared about how other people look at me."
Ace made a face right back to him. "Bro. Chief. You really should."
"Because Signamancy! Right? You're leading troops into battle. What are they thinking of you? It matters, boss. What does the enemy see when they look at you? Are they wetting themselves in fear? Or because they're laughing at you? It. Matters. Trust me."
Parson looked down at the carpet, in thought. Signamancy again. "you're saying it's another form of power."
"Exactly! Jetstone knew that," said Ace. "And they are really gonna miss me."
Parson nodded slowly, chewing it over.
"I was thinking more along the lines of having you build me a giant death robot," he said. "I thought maybe you could link up with Maggie and Sizemore, and the three of you could turn the garrison tower into a Transformer golem, like in Big."
Ace's eyes went wide, as Parson rose from his chair and stood.
"But okay." He put out his arms in a T. "Let's do some duds first."