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580897 No. 580897 ID: 186341

It is the distant future: all remaining humans are in deep-frozen sleep.

Their caretakers and the caretakers of the universe are the robotic warrior-poets called Panzersöldners.
74 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
No. 581641 ID: 186341
File 140394379017.png - (397.97KB , 960x540 , 24.png )

"We may have more questions," Siegfried says. "And he's answered what we've needed so far."

"So he has," the Grand Marshall says. "I shall look after him."

"Her, sir," the sergeant says. "I like 'her'. If it please you."
"Her." The Grand Marshall doffs his cap. "That's rather rare. My apologies, madam sergeant."
"I hope you don't mind."
"Nonsense. In this camp we have seven 'hers', six 'theys', and a particularly peevish doppelsöldner who insists everyone call him 'The Warrior Formally Known as Mors' at all times," the Grand Marshall says. "If you will not mind remaining prisoner here, I will not mind your pronounery."

"I admit I moderately mind," the sergeant says.
"That's the proper espirit du corps, Gesperri," the Grand Marshall says. "We shall get along famously. Thank you, Siegfried. Dismissed."
No. 581642 ID: 186341
File 140394381196.png - (621.38KB , 960x540 , 25.png )

"Well?" Gerhardt asks, as Siegfried emerges. "What did he say?"
"She, as it turns out, says they're looking for some kind of relic." Siegfried shrugs. "One which will supposedly lead the Carabineri to one thousand sleeping humans."
"A thousand." Helmut scoffs. "You'd be lucky to find a dozen of the bleeders in the same place."
"Even so, she said."
"Well if the Carabineri want to hunt fairy tales, let them," Helmut says. "We have a long day of avoiding Marshall Bertrund ahead of us."
"And a lute recital," Gerhardt says.
"Oooo!" Helmut runs off. "Let me go get that!"

What will Siegfried do with the new day after the mandatory concert?
1==> Practice marksmanship.
2==> Meditate in his tent.
3==> Go to the cantina and have a few kilojoules with whoever shows up.
4==> Pull a double patrol shift with Helmut and Gerhardt.
5==> Man the walls with Helmut.
6==> Practice swordsmanship with Gerhardt.
7==> Guard the new prisoner and speak with her further.
8==> ___________
No. 581649 ID: 4a20fa

3. The prisoner is the Marshall's charge now, and you're probably going to be stuck with nobody but Helmut and Gerhardt for company for some mission or other again soon.
No. 581652 ID: 1c677c

6. Practice..... practice.... practice.
No. 581669 ID: 707a11

2, then 1, then 3.
No. 581671 ID: 7e4b54

6 and then 5.
No. 581679 ID: 50338d

What do you guys do with sleeping humans when you find them, anyways?
No. 581732 ID: 6b7ea4

6, 5, then 3 - especially if you can convince them both to come with you.
No. 581753 ID: 186341
File 140399338009.png - (554.46KB , 960x540 , 26.png )

"Right, Siegfried." Gerhardt grips and ungrips his sword hilt. "Come at me. Come on."

"Just pretend I'm not here." Eberhart, one of Gerhardt's dopplesöldners, is watching them.

"This is going to hurt, isn't it?" Siegfried says.

"Of course not," Gerhardt says. "Come on."

Siegfried charges.
No. 581754 ID: 186341
File 140399338345.png - (543.54KB , 960x540 , 27.png )

Gerhardt steps inside the swing and smacks Siegfried's blade out and to the right.
No. 581755 ID: 186341
File 140399338820.png - (535.29KB , 960x540 , 28.png )

He pushes Seigfried's blade up into the air.
No. 581756 ID: 186341
File 140399339202.png - (543.53KB , 960x540 , 29.png )

He twists around Siegfried so they are near back-to-back and wraps an arm around his chest.

"Drei!" he says, and flips Siegfried clear over his shoulder.
No. 581757 ID: 186341
File 140399340249.png - (351.45KB , 960x540 , 30.png )

"That was Ringen am Schwert." Gerhardt picks up his sword. Eberhart is applauding. "Our skin is thick. In any fight with a swordsman worth his salt, he's not going to be trying to kill you. He's going to be trying to get you on the ground. So he can kill you.."

"You lied to me," Siegfried says.

"I? Lie? Never." Gerhardt helps him up. "Falling on your ass hurts nothing but your pride. A sword through the face does more damage."

"Trust me," Eberhart says. "You got off lightly. Days he practices mordstreich we're hammering dents out of ourselves for hours."

"Now what do you want to focus on today, Sieg?" Gerhardt tosses him his sword again. "Your drei wunder, your mensur, your huten, or more ringen am schwert?"
"We're not done?"
"We're only getting started!"

1==> Drei wunder (attack). I need to learn how to attack better.
2==> Mensur (ranging and footwork). I have to be agile.
3==> Huten (guarding). So that dooesn't happen again.
4==> Ringen am schwert (grappling). My coccyx isn't sore enough already.
5==> Actually I had other things I wanted to do today that don't involve contusions.
No. 581762 ID: 6b7ea4

No. 581786 ID: 2fd516

3==> Huten (guarding). So that dooesn't happen again.
No. 581806 ID: ce6963

2-it's a useful discipline to have no matter what you're wielding.
No. 581814 ID: e1609c

No. 581858 ID: 186341
File 140402635968.png - (678.56KB , 960x540 , 32.png )

"Get up," Gerhardt says, after three hours' practice. Siegfried has crawled into the shade to die.

"I am never getting up," Siegfried says. "This is my new home. It's very comfortable."

"Do you need help, Sieg?"

"I need a new pair of legs."

"That was a good lunge you're doing, Siegfried," Gerhardt says. "Just watch out for low guards. They can sweep you."
"Like you did?"
"But worse."
"I'm going to the cantina and drinking to forget," Siegfried says. "Do you want to come?"
"No thank you, brother," Gerhardt says. "It's time to work my zufechten."
"You're insane," Siegfried says.
"Find me later and you can make me look just as ridiculous target shooting," Gerhardt says.
"Did I look ridiculous?"
"Entirely." Gerhardt helps him to his feet. "Never fear, brother. It's how we learn."
No. 581859 ID: 186341
File 140402644899.png - (448.20KB , 960x540 , 33.png )

The cantina is stocked with battery canisters, which are the only things Panzersöldners eat, if you can call it that.

A small lead trails from the front of the canister and plugs into a small port in the center of the chest, right where the heart would be on a sleeper. There are a wide variety but most of the ones here are Carousal-flavored. Siegfried prefers Autumn Evening flavor.
The chest port is also how Panzersöldners kiss. Siegfried has been told he tastes like the quiet parts of a library.

He is thinking a little about kissing because he's eating with Torad, one of his musketeers, whom he finds incredibly attractive. Torad lost its oculars a week ago in a skirmish, and none of the mainline replacements satisfied its rigorous requirements for calibration and magnification. Until the requisition comes in it's stuck with a clunky old-model sharpshooter retrofitting. It hates it.
Siegfried privately thinks it looks rather dashing, but he is rotten at doting. His svelte figure and taciturn nature means that usually suitors approach him, and Torad has thus far proven frustratingly similar.

"Didn't see you at the range," Torad says.
"I was practicing swordsmanship with the doppelsöldners," Seigfried says. "Ach. If you shake me something is going to rattle inside I think."
"Was it that bad?"
"I sparred with Gerhardt."
"Oh, god." Torad takes a sip. "I'm impressed you held together. Did you land anything?"
"Lord, no. I kneed him in the stomach during a suplex, once; I doubt that counted."

"Peashooters!" Helmut is walking over with two canisters.
"I have one already." Siegfried holds his up.
"These are both for me." Helmut says. "Did you hear, Sieg? Your prisoner sergeant told the truth. A ship just came back from flyover; there are Carabineri afoot north of us."
"Sounds like a fray on the horizon," Torad says.
"Aye, a rollicking one!" Helmut pulls up a chair. "Excited, Sieggy?"

1==> No. There's nobody hiring us. It's pointless.
2==> No. All this means is next week another friend or two will be dead.
3==> Of course. I love a good fight.
4==> Of course. I despise the Carabineri.
No. 581862 ID: 6b7ea4

No. 581867 ID: 189a54

1 or 2, either works. This rivalry seems incredibly pointless. Aren't both armies working to collect and protect sleepers? If so, why are they fighting each other?
No. 581877 ID: 483d7f

I'm going to balance out the vote between 1 and 2; 1 for now unless it starts leading.
No. 581893 ID: ce6963

I'm torn, honestly. On the one hand,
I aim, I shoot, and a foe falls.
But on the other hand...We fight, we win, and another takes the place of a friend.
Still, we practice and train for a reason, and that reason is fighting, whether Carabineri or not!
No. 581948 ID: 8fc108

1. Better to keep up our taciturn and pragmatic reputation than seem overeager or gloomy.
No. 581951 ID: d8a627

Weren't you paying attention to the interrogation? The prisoner and Grand Marshal were quite friendly to another. Unless somebody actually hires us, or they try to attack us, I see no reason for pointless slaughter. If you expect me to join in, find a way to convince the whole of their army to fight, without giving us away. Just make sure you bring Gerhardt with you. It's always fun to see who's better at convincing them.

Aside from my suggestions to Siggy's speech: Poor Torad. Those optics are not his color. An absolutely stunning shape, but without the right color they just don't fit.
No. 581980 ID: 186341
File 140407691021.png - (68.73KB , 960x540 , 34.png )

Panzersöldners fight because it is how they have been made.

Every single panzersöldner obeys The Protocols:

1. You Will Harm No Human.
2. You Will Deceive No Human.
Siegfried isn't sure how far this protocol goes; he has never spoken to a sleeper, of course.
3. You Will Master Appropriate Weaponry.
Siegfried has seen the weapons sleepers once used: muskets that reloaded in fractions of a second, weapons made of hard light, bombs capable of cracking planets in half. Their weaponry was what eventually drove them to hibernation, one way or the other, many say. That would explain why the panzersöldners have a hard-coded limit to the military technologies they can use which changes depending on the opposing force's threat. Perhaps if they ever encounter some hostile alien race, their programming will allow them the use of weaponry that isn't outdated by millenia. But as long as söldner fights söldner they use nothing more advanced than a flintlock. It's probably best this way.
4. You Will Covet Human Stewardship.
This is why they fight. Every panzersöldner, deep down in his soul, has an insatiable urge to hoard as many sleepers into his care as possible. Panzersöldners are quite literally born to war over the sleepers. Siegfried understands that humanity had a similar craving for money, which is in turn what drove them to their wars. At least the panzersöldners, he has decided, have an excuse.
This protocol is the subject of countless debates and interpretations. Surely the sleepers knew that its inclusion would lead to endless infighting and civil war. And yet there it presides, and it makes peace impossible.
Perhaps they couldn't be comfortable with anyone who wasn't as bellicose as they were.
Mercenary companies like the Landschknechte and the Carabineri are paid in sleepers.
5. You Will Obey All Human Commands.
That is if they ever wake up. The nature of panzersöldners to obey is what formed them into nations and companies in the first place. They have deep respect for rank. Disobeying a sleeper, Siegfried reasons, would be impossible.
6. You Will Disturb No Sleeping Human.
The penalty for the accidental harm of a sleeper in any way is immediate death.

The final Protocol, 7. You Will Question No Protocol, was in place for the first three centuries of Panzersöldner history. Years of the entire race voraciously devouring ancient human philosophy, poetry, and theory has complicated their artificial intelligences enough to slowly decay it into a state of self-reflexivity. Some panzersöldners now dream that something similar will happen to the remaining protocols.
Siegfried is one of them.
No. 581982 ID: 186341
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"No," Siegfried says.
"No?" Helmut tilts his head. "Come on, Sieggy."
"There's nobody hiring us. It's pointless."
"Eloquently put." Torad takes a pull from its canister.
"The only thing you kill better than Carabineri is the mood." Helmut puts his hands on his hips. "The fewer Carabineri there are, the more people will hire us."
"I'll fight. I won't have to like it."
"You won't," Helmut says. "But it sure makes it more of a good time. Bertrund is organizing a scouting expedition, to get the lay of their fortifications."
"I thought we were avoiding him."
"We are. Nasty bugger. But this could be a way to get back on his good side. Maybe I'll go. What else is there to do?"
"I was on guard outside the Grand Marshall's tent an hour ago," Torad says. "He was telling Hauptmann Steil to put together a detail and go look for some kind of relic."
"A relic?" Helmut asks.
"The Carabinier sergeant's fairy tale," Siegfried says.
"Perhaps it's real," Helmut says.
"Well perhaps!" protests Helmut.

1==> I'm going to sign up for the scouting party. They could use my eyes.
2==> I suppose I'll join the relic-finding detail. At least there's a point to it, asinine as it is.
3==> My joints still ache from Gerhardt's training. I'm not going to waste my energy on these things.
No. 581993 ID: 4a20fa

No. 581994 ID: 707a11

Relic duty. A nice, casual walk will do us good.
No. 582002 ID: e31ca1

2 always the most daring path to the strange and mystical and cool artifacts.
No. 582018 ID: 53ba34

perhaps 4 is a test. it ensures they never all fall into the hands of one. but what happens if they do? through peace or firepower, someone gains all of them.
No. 582022 ID: 483d7f

Having a commanding officer annoyed at you is bad, it's doubly bad when they're your field commander. Do we want to risk Herr Bertrund sending us on a deadly mission? If Bertrund wouldn't do such a thing I suspect his scouting mission is probably the better choice, since it has the possibility of pursuing both objectives at once.
No. 582051 ID: 50338d

2, 2.

>5. You Will Obey All Human Commands.
...what would happen if a human or humans were to give conflicting commands? Assuming one or more ever woke, of course.
No. 582986 ID: 186341
File 140461284330.png - (487.79KB , 960x540 , 36.png )

"God," Siegfried says. "It's all such a drag, isn't it."
"What is, Herr Siegfried?" Hauptmann Steil pushes Gesperri along across the sand. "The search?"
"And if I wasn't doing this, what would I be doing? Shooting at other panzers for no reason. Taking care of popsicles." Siegfried kicks a pebble. He's in one of what Gerhardt calls his black moods. "Isn't it infuriating that this is all we're made to do?"
"It's only infuriating if we don't find anything," Steil says evenly. "And the sergeant has assured us we will. That was good enough for the Grand Marshall, wasn't it?"
"And about her," Siegfried says. "What's she doing here?"
"Hello," Gesperri says.
"She asked," Steil says. "And another pair of eyes couldn't hurt. You were the only volunteer, I'm afraid. You and her."
"God." Siegfried squints across the horizon. "Why are you here?"
"I believe her." Steil adjusts his grip on Gesperri's cuffs. "As did the Grand Marshall. She seems an upstanding gentlewoman."
"Thank you," Gesperri says.
"She should be under guard," Siegfried says.
"So guard her," Steil says.
"How is it," says Siegfried, "that when a robot, and a prisoner of war, calls itself a she, how is it, that half the officers in the Landschknechte go around doffing their caps to-"

Then he sees it.
No. 582987 ID: 186341
File 140461286769.png - (351.35KB , 960x540 , 37.png )

"What is it?" Steil asks.
"It's a building," Gesperri says.

"Ten to one it is nothing," Siegfried says. "There's plenty of ruins about. Old Sleeper towers and the like. This place has been picked over for years."
"We shall investigate." Steil starts toward it, dragging Gesperri along.

"What are you expecting?" Siegfried hurries after them. "This place has probably been picked over for years, and you're looking for some kind of uncharted, relic-filled subterranean derelict?"
No. 582988 ID: 186341
File 140461288613.png - (551.70KB , 960x540 , 38.png )

"Oh," Siegfried says.

"There, now." Steil says.

"But how the hell did nobody find it?" Siegfried cautiously approaches the entrance.
"I suppose they didn't look hard enough," Steil says. He looks at Siegfried. "Go on in, landser."
"What about you?"
"I shall monitor the outside," Steil says. "And the prisoner."
"I'd like to go inside, too," Gesperri says. "I want to see."
"Or you can take her." Steil holds out the cuffs. "If you'd like."

1==> Just watch her, Steil.
2==> Fine. I'll take her.
3==> Don't be a coward, Steil. You're both coming along.
No. 583032 ID: 6b7ea4

3 - gesperri seems cool but i wouldn't put it past her to try to overpower on of you if you're one-on-one. keep her outnumbered by staying together.
No. 583038 ID: 50338d

Man, Sieg. that's a lot of fatalism. If you don't even roll the dice, of course you're not going to win, even with poor odds.

There's little point to watching the prisoner out here if she accompanies me inside, Steil. I suppose you can watch for approaching trouble, if you insist.

After you, milady. (I'm not being polite. I'm giving the prisoner the chance to walk into any potential traps first).
No. 583136 ID: 5c2478

2. Considering Gesperri's party has been gone long enough to be missed, the supposed sleeper goldmine would be the first place they would check, and you wouldn't want her to be of any assistance to her would-be rescuers. Just keep that pistol out and your senses sharp.
No. 583442 ID: 186341
File 140486371810.png - (536.55KB , 960x540 , 39.png )

"Fine. Stay." Siegfried presses his pistol into the sergeant's back. "Come on, Gesperri."

He pushes her up through to the entrance.
"I do not like you," Gesperri says. "Hauptmann Steil is a gentleman and your Grand Marshall besides, but you are a murderous ruffian."

1==> Sorry about your friend.
2==> Shut up.
3==> It's war, madame.
4==> I don't like you, either.
No. 583444 ID: 2fd516

No. 583449 ID: 0ee153

3. When there is every chance that her allies are on their way to murder you and yours, there is no reason to make her escape easier or put yourselves at risk.
No. 583483 ID: 50338d

Shrug, and 3. You engaged my allies, and I took the shot. I'm a soldier, what else was I to do? Would you really have done any differently in my position?

We did not have to allow Gerhardt the attempt to hail you at all. You were given a chance. Blame fate, or yourself, for not seizing it. Not I.
No. 583530 ID: 2f4b71

"It's war, madame. We are murderers and ruffians all"
No. 583537 ID: ccd544

5==> "Have it your way."

There's no reason to address her issues with siegfried.
No. 583700 ID: 186341
File 140503074183.png - (125.37KB , 960x540 , 40.png )

"Maybe," Siegfried says. "But during wartime the word for what I do is 'hero'."
He pushes her through the doorway of the ruin and steps inside himself.

"I despise guns," she says. "If I had met you at swordtip-"
"But you didn't meet me at swordtip," Siegfried says. "You were in my sights, sergeant. Gerhardt could just as easily never hailed you. We gave you a chance. That you didn't take it you can blame on yourself. Would you have done anything else in my position?"

They descend into the neon guts of the ruin, lit by pulsing purple frames of smooth stone.
No. 583701 ID: 186341
File 140503076134.png - (191.94KB , 960x540 , 41.png )

"I would have challenged you honorably," she says. "Not put a hole in your head before you had a chance to test your mettle."
"Maybe that's why you're the prisoner and I'm the one telling you to walk. Now walk."

She obeys. As they enter a long, t-shaped hallway, new lights flicker to life that reveal a slope down into darkness.

"Ominous," Gesperri offers.
Siegfried scratches his temple and keeps his pistol level. He wonders who made this place and why they want him to go that way.

"Thank you, I suppose," Gesperri says. "For sparing me."

1==> You're welcome.
2==> You've done nothing to make me anything but regretful.
3==> You spared yourself when you were useful and obedient. Stay that way.

A==> Go down the left side hallway. The ground smooths out along it.
B==> Go down the right side hallway. There's a yawning, low sound coming out of it.
C==> Go straight down the newly lit slope.
No. 583702 ID: 707a11

No. 583705 ID: 874468

"You're welcome. I wish I could spare more but it's war."
A lit slope is ominous, who all is here again?
No. 583706 ID: e6f437

1. And since you aren't a moth you don't need to go blindly towards the light. Instead go blindly towards the sounds (B)
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