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File 163054550438.png - (122.48KB , 1000x1000 , 495.png )
1009279 No. 1009279 ID: 5fc3a0

6 Months Later

33-67. The first of the preliminary polls came in, and people who want to stay in town outnumber us nearly an exact two to one.
528 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1085778 ID: debc82


Marvel at your impeccable fashion sense and The Best Hat.

Also, is this the first you've ever had hot cocoa?
No. 1085784 ID: ce93a7
File 170992861280.png - (52.55KB , 1200x1200 , 677.png )

A lot of people out there are carrying skis and boards. No wonder the shop sold so many, it must be the local sport around here. It looks fun. Cocoa seems popular here, too, but combined with the weather, I can see why. It's my first time having this, but I think it is a memory I will hold close despite my concerning circumstances. Also, I suspect that a few more cups of it would lead to the same issues I had when I ate too many donuts. Now that my frosted chocolate cake has arrived, I should slow down.

I'm letting myself think too frantically. No matter the suspicious circumstances, I needed to be on the surface. Anything on me could be a tracker. This includes my own body, as the founders most likely have a fleshcrafter among their ranks. Even fleshcrafters cannot broadcast my thoughts, however, so my mind remains safe to think in. I cannot trust the same for my voice or my eyes. Nonetheless, I must deliver my findings to Shuzenza. There are no dead drops available to me, so I must make contact directly.

The prospect of bugs simply means I must use care and vigilance. I can think about this from Pillet's perspective. I came to this planet after receiving Paporron's message. I'm not a Klivanian native, so me having a ship in the starport should not be remotely suspicious.

As for using the instant transmission radio I have on that ship, I know various means of encryption. This includes language. I can use foreign tongues to communicate with the phenocosm. Its usage is riskier, but the phenocosm can guide me through it from there.

I have four days, but it seems like I can make it to the spaceport in a little over 8 hours. That's plenty of time to lose any agents spying on me and savor this food.

Above all else, I cannot return to the subdimension before I contact Shuzenza. Spokesperson Varther might not be able to extract me a second time.

I will use this time eating to think on if there are any actions I should take on my way to the spaceport to remove bugs, lose any agents, or do anything else to deliver my information as safely as possible.
No. 1085787 ID: 99f29a

Nah this is basically a flashback surely everything is fine and nothing can have consequences. Enjoy the food.
No. 1085788 ID: 065ad8

Are bugs ok in water? You could see if there's a hot spring or a sauna or something. Maybe a lot of heat or a lot of cold would kill off anything more fleshcrafty, too? I'm not exactly sure what that would entail.
No. 1085790 ID: 0ec851

(That's how it ends up turning out that based on whether we succeed avoiding suspicion or fail decides whether Paporron is dead forever or just hiding.)
No. 1085795 ID: df45e0

Well they sure did not make this easy on you. Well if you can't get to Shuzenza easily due to spy crap then you have to get him to come to you.

Go win the regions top ski competition by borrowing a lot of pro skier memories! Once you get the trophy Shuzenza will have a excuse to hand it over himself during the celebration and you can happily hand over memories and then wander back off to the sub dimension or whatever.

So what happens if things go wrong and you get stuck inside the sub-dimension after you go back?
No. 1085873 ID: 8f9bc4

Your eyes are definitely going to be bugged. I cannot think of a better way a Fleshcrafter could monitor you than by giving you a sensory organ that reports to someone other than just yourself, and that's the most accurate sensory organ. Be sure to contact Shuzenza with your eyes closed, looking away from any visual.
No. 1085967 ID: 15a025

Well, one idea to shake them off your trail is send them on a wild goose chase. Don't suppose you could bottle up some non-important or mundane memories and ship them off to no-where or some no-one?
No. 1086022 ID: fa3034

Treat yourself to a really good spa day. Get familiar with writing messages you can't directly see. Just in case you need to blind type a status update to the ship. They might have bugged your eyes but your mind is still yours.
No. 1086029 ID: 15a025

Actually, thinking about it. Is it even possible for a flesh crafter to bug someone's eyes like that? I feel like when they crafted you into Pillet for the mission they probably would have done that if possible.
No. 1088469 ID: ce93a7
File 171279218346.png - (138.19KB , 1200x1200 , 678.png )

Let's see, what little I know about bugs... I suspect flesh is good at blocking many signals, so unless they use very advanced tech, they would want to install it as shallow as possible. I don't know if such things would be suspectible to hot or cold, but I'm running on guesses. I think I'll go to a spa or sauna, and if their bugs are susceptible to heat, then that's one guess taken care of!... But of course, my honest self knows I simply want to take advantage of my location and spare time.

The eyes sound like an easy target for bugging, and I'm sure it is possible for the founders. Maybe the phenocosm would've bugged my eyes too, but they also would've known the subdimension constructors would scan me. That would have lead to many troublesome questions.

But I can circumvent this. My mind is my own, so I continue tapping locations and routes into my phone. My memories can be exceptionally detailed if I focus, and I can make use of that here. I isolate my senses and focus on every individual keystroke. I may mind to the placement of my fingers, the feel of the pressure on the phone, and the small feedback vibration are all noted as I confirm and associate what key is struck.

Oh, what's this? A spa day? Treat my body? Taste of heaven? Using the same secret tricks that have led Madame Citreve to live beyond an amazing... two centuries. Oh. Dear, dear Klivanians...

But it features many interesting amenities that do sound nice, and it's close by. I walk over and find out that it's as purple as the advertisements.

"Hi, I was interested in the full all day package."
>"Okay! It starts at 2,000 chips."
"Starts?" That sure is a lot, but I'm not strained for money.
>"Everything on this listing behind me is included in the day pass, but additional money can be spend for things like being treated by the Madame herself."
"Oh! Just the day pass for now then, please."
>"Alright! Can I get your name?"
"Ellie." Best to use my name for the surface, I think.
>"And... got it. You're all set."
No. 1088470 ID: ce93a7
File 171279219316.png - (62.23KB , 1200x1200 , 679.png )

Once I pay, he leads me to the showers and tells me I'm free to use any amenities through the day, and I can leave and come back as desired. After that, I'm lead to some natural hot springs where he leaves me be with a few other girls. Hmm, the advertisement claimed many health benefits to these hot springs, but I don't sense any nanomachines, lingering healing energy infusions, replenishment chemicals, or anything I know about. Oh well, it's comfortable.

I let myself meditate on my phone typing memories. Emphasizing memories to be able to replicate a single action is a common basic exercise for memory artificers. I have done far more difficult exercises in the past, and so I can confidently say that I can now text at speed without looking at my phone.

>So what happens if things go wrong and you get stuck inside the sub-dimension after you go back?
I never received orders for that. The more hindsight I get, the more confused I am at how dreadfully unprepared I seem for this mission. My memories of agents involve entire training procedures and long hours of studying before every mission. My situation seems so unlike normal phenocosm protocol.

>Can you ship off fake/useless memories to create a false trail?
There aren't any good avenues for this option, I don't think.

I do have another thought. Maybe there is a ski competition I could win. Shuzenza could use this as an excuse to personally come down and present me with the award, and I get the chance to hand him my memories.
No. 1088471 ID: ce93a7
File 171279220750.png - (140.43KB , 1200x1200 , 980.png )

And with that thought, I think it is time for me to get out of the heat.

The moment I do, there's a lady facing me as though she were waiting on me.

>"Hi there, Lazzie, it's nice to see you! Would you like a brush bath, next?"
"That sounds good to me, but I think you have the wrong person. My name's Ellie."
>"Oh, that's odd. I could have sworn you said it was Lazzie the other day."
"I'm not... I'm sorry, when was this?"
No. 1088472 ID: ce93a7
File 171279221585.png - (26.20KB , 1200x1200 , 981.png )

>"Just this morning? We were in the same taxi together, dropping me off to work before you headed to the airport. I take it something happened that had you come back and came to the spa?"
"Are you certain that was me?"
>"Um..." She holds her eyes steady, but I can tell she's processing my neck. "You look and sound exactly like someone I met this morning. That's why when I saw you in the hot springs I thought - oh, sorry, I didn't mean to weird you out! I must have just met your doppelganger, but you have a different demeanor. Forget about that, let's get you that brush bath."
No. 1088473 ID: df45e0

Your sister perhaps? Or you earlier having forgotten already somehow?

Or you are in a loop of events designed to make you reach out to your handler and get discovered! Or other paranoia junk.

No. 1088474 ID: 273c18

Sounds like a body shaper made a copy of you. ...wait a minute, if you had enough access to a body shaper and a victim/volunteer you could make a full copy of yourself couldn't you? Extract all the memories of the other person, put your memories in them... maybe that's what you did to survive after being discovered? Put all your memories in some mook? Wait, what if you ARE that mook right now? Maybe they discovered you in the wrong body, and forced you to shove your "mind" in someone more loyal so that they could go out and do your job while your original body/soul was held prisoner? Why make two clones in that case...? The second one sounds like a sub-par copy at least, maybe this is an attempt to get your real boss to approach the fake which would then confirm you're a spy.

Anyway, ask her to tell you as much information as she can about the person who looked just like you.
No. 1088476 ID: 53560f

“Well that’s a coincidence. Now I kinda want to meet my doppelganger, can you tell me about her or what she was doing?”
No. 1088477 ID: debc82


Pillet not dead.

Pillet not dead.

... oh shit, PILLET IS NOT DEAD.
No. 1088483 ID: ce93a7
File 171280343088.png - (62.15KB , 1200x1200 , 682.png )

"Yes, that sounds good, I was just afraid my memory was going bad."
>"Very sorry!" She's so worried about it!

I learn what a brush bath is by demonstration. It's exactly as described, and uses soapy bristles that untangle my fur.

"It's okay. Actually, I'm curious about meeting her! Can you tell me about her?"
>"Hm, it's company policy - ah, no, she wasn't a customer, was she? Well, she was on her way to the airport. She hadn't looked like she slept in ages, but I just took her as not being a morning person."

Let's see, possibilities, possibilities.... there are slivers of possibilities. Sister Pillet could be more alive than the phenocosm believes, this could be me in some kind of controlled enviroment that's trying to get me to reach my handler, or I was in that taxi and I got intercepted on my way to the airport!

None of those seem even close to likely, but I can't prove much.

I wonder, though? It is possible to make a crude copy of someone by use of a fleshcrafter and copying memories to them, turning someone's body and mind into another person. This doesn't affect their soul, and their soul remembers its own stuff, so it's not a perfect copy, but it's better than my impersonation of Pillet!
No. 1088484 ID: ce93a7
File 171280344114.png - (93.82KB , 1200x1200 , 683.png )

Perhaps something like that happened in the subdimension, and I'm just a lower class citizen who was given Aelsaw's memories, while the real Aelsaw is kept prisoner down there while I was sent up here? But then there would be two of us up here, which makes little sense. Well! Whoever I am, I'm me.

>"I imagine she was on an important business trip, that's for sure!"
"What makes you say that?"
>"Oh, she was rummaging in her luggage, and she seemed to have paperwork with a big seal of Gravkon!"

Gravkon... ah, I do know that from the literature I read during space flight. It's a country on this planet, and is significant to me because that is where Spokesperson Varther is based out of.

"Oh, what's she going there for?"
>"Sorry, didn't ask! If you really want to chase her down, you could just look up what flights were going to Gravkon in the last couple hours."
"I'm curious enough. Is it rude to look up while you're...?"
>"Nope! Go right ahead."

I look up flights. It looks like there were two going there recently, each to a separate province of Gravkon. One of them is directly to Maelappa, which is exactly the province that Varther went to! It looks like my doppelganger went to meet him.
No. 1088485 ID: 99f29a

Neat. And the other?
No. 1088487 ID: df45e0

Hmm well why not follow? Your mission is a confused mess with no contacts or dead drops or clear path's forward so lets pull at strings to this mystery until a opportunity arrives.

Maybe we will follow behind this doppelganger and find her reporting your memories to your handler and completing your mission!

Gotta find more pieces of the puzzle to move forward and if anyone asks you what you were doing or accuses you of things you can honestly say you were following a mysterious second you because it was so mysterious.
No. 1088488 ID: 273c18

Isn't that bad? You're supposed to go to Varther so you can submit your spy report. If the doppleganger gets there first then you're sunk.

Hmm. Well, you have probable cause to follow the doppleganger now, and take the same flight. If you were innocent, you'd want to chase them anyway. So I guess that's what we're doing next.
No. 1088495 ID: 8f9bc4

Another possibility is you are Lazzie. You did manage to misplace the last five months of memories until a very short while ago. Maybe you went as "Lazzie" when you met that lady, then transferred your memories off to "-rt," and then met her again as "Ellie" because you didn't remember the first name.

Regardless, you do not have luggage, or "paperwork with a big seal of Gravkon!" So whoever does have that luggage, you need to follow them. Either to meet your twin, or to recover your own luggage before you meet with Varther as you apparently intended before deleting the last 5 months of memories.
No. 1088531 ID: ce93a7
File 171287905997.png - (61.70KB , 1200x1200 , 684.png )

The other flight goes through the same country, with its route terminating in a different provice. I don't believe it's relevant.

I suppose I know where I'm going, then! I should get on the next flight out, which in that direction is...

"There's no flights out like that for another day? Oh, I never got your name."
>"Right! I'm Vixanea, but Vix is totally fine." She suddenly laughs. "Sorry, it's just, people often lament having to leave this town. You fly in the face of that by wanting to get out of here as soon as possible to meet a doppelganger you just heard about. It's funny, but I mean that in a nice way."
"I see. Do you like it here?"
>"Sometimes it feels disconnected from the rest of the world, but I think I like it like that. Gets real cold, though. Oh, there's only a few major flights that come here each day, but there are plenty of air lifts."

I look up these air lifts. It looks like it simply involves lifting modified street busses by using a team of strong, licensed, 'mentally evaluated' personnel. They make frequent stops in smaller towns along the way, but if I leave soon I can get to Maelappa. It's a significantly longer trip, but I'll still arrive much sooner than if I waited until tomorrow.

I do fear a potential disaster should my doppelganger reach Varther before me, depending on their intentions. I still should follow them even if I fail to catch up in time, but I wonder if I should give Varther's number a call again?

>"Ellie! Does anyone in here go by that name?! Or Leila, or Rish?" Someone calls out before I get to make a decision. Both me and Vixanea jump. This place is so quiet that neither of us were ready for an outburst.
>"Please, sir, keep it down!" A more hushed whisper from the outside hall is heard.
No. 1088532 ID: 99f29a

Seduce Vix and pull her atop you to shield you from the door's view.
No. 1088533 ID: 7fd8d8

I think that'd be too dumb a tactic for someone to be searching for you with bad intentions... wrap a towel around yourself and go get them? Or ask Vix to go quietly bring them to you?
No. 1088534 ID: df45e0

Things are getting more complex! Ask Vix if she would help you peek at whoever has come calling before you decide if its safe.
No. 1088537 ID: a62a76

Paporron didn't need to come this way to get another piece of you
No. 1088538 ID: f14228

Sigh, smile, tell Vixanea this was nice. If they're intruding to call for you, it's likely urgent though. And then before you know it you'll be running places. Waste of a bath. Well, not exactly. It really was lovely, you don't often take time to unwind. Maybe you'll see her again someday.

Get up, wrap a towel and peek out to see who's calling for you before you respond.


As for your whole current situation... if the subdimension folk made a body double of their own, they've got something they want to use it for. Like, using it to check if you're a spy for reals, perhaps? Or... if they or someone with the pull to arrange this knows you're fake, to give false report to the phenocosm to buy themselves more time?

Maybe even use it to counterspy, if they dare, in hopes of figuring out what's happened to the real Pillet.

But Shuzenza has access to more actual memory artificers, no? So if they realize what's up and manages to 'nap your double discreetly in turn, they might even turn them and call in false alarm or just nod and continue the 'they know that we know that they know, but they don't know that we know that they know that we know', etc. game of chicken going on here. And not everyone knows.

If someone actually knows you're with the phenocosm, they must be mad desperate to keep this up though. What'd the angle be? They convince you to turn and join them, somehow? But then, why even let you leave the subdimension in the first place like this if you have a double? Argh. You're in on it too somehow, aren't you? You're the only one who could've manipulated your own memories, after all. Could Paporron - or SOMEONE - have convinced you to go along with this, or this be your best bet to actually make it past the trust phase?

If you are being observed presently (and why wouldn't you be, on a project with people as paranoid as this?) what should definitely-real-but-reduced-in-memory-Pillet's behavior be? Pick out something from her core personality. Do you go for a bout of brood-scheming - or are you going to be personable and energetic?

If you need to be running around, perhaps the latter may suit.

Also, it is a somewhat strange coincidence this body double just so coincidentally got brought to your attention by Vix. What are the odds? Maybe she's in on it, and part of the testing that's being done of you right now. The body double may not even be real, and just something that's used to get your ass in gear and send you running off to contact spokesperson Varther.

Hold on - maybe the suspicions aren't directly of you, but of Varther? And your loyalty is being checked in relation to that, since you came through by way of him?
No. 1088539 ID: 273c18

Go meet whoever that is.
No. 1088540 ID: 53560f

Ask vix to get a look at what he looks like, say it might be your crazy ex. We can figure things out once we know for certain who it is.
No. 1088575 ID: ce93a7
File 171294482251.png - (68.83KB , 1200x1200 , 685.png )

I think if they were after me with bad intentions, their tactics would be a little more thought out. I imagine I'll see him, but I can have Vix check it out first.

"Vix, it was nice, but would you mind taking a look out there? I'm not sure who would be looking for me."
>"Of course."

Vix turns on the light on her way out, locking the door. I wrap a towel around myself and wait. I know so little, but now I'm confident either I or my phone is bugged. This is simply too much of a coincidence that this man came stomping in like this a minute after Vix told me about my body double.

>Does Shuzenza have access to more actual memory artificers?
If so, it's a secret from me. I'm sure he could request another if it's necessary, but it would take time. Although the phenocosm features amazing FTL technology, it can't teleport anyone instantly anywhere in the universe.

>"Hey, you!" The same voice calls out at Vix, who barely shut the door behind herself.
>"Yes, sir, you said you're looking for... who, again?"

What would be a silent moment is instead a series of heavy footfalls on the hall, but I can still hear them right outside.

>"Yeah, she's foxlike, long neck, very orange, you, uh... you've seen her, right?"
>"Sir, even if I have, I'll have to ask you to -"
>"She's very ill. Repeated short term personality loss. She's not harmful, but she continually drifts into different personalities due to forgetting who she is and where she is, but her brain... look, she needs to be kept track of. She frequently thinks she's richer than she is, and the fact that she's in a pricey place like this?"
"Well, if she's here, we can look for her. I'll have you sit down back at the - hey!"
No. 1088576 ID: ce93a7
File 171294487930.png - (62.99KB , 1200x1200 , 686.png )

He rips the locked door open to look inside at me. That did not sound like a weak lock.

>"There you are! You remember me, right?" He's scoots inward and starts vigorously nodding at me while out of Vix's sight.
No. 1088577 ID: df45e0

Perhaps a small reminder?
No. 1088579 ID: 8f9bc4


One thing you remember is how convenient it is for a kidnapper, if his target suffers from "repeated short term personality loss." Presumably he also thinks the gas lights aren't dimming?

That being said, you are technically experiencing memory loss and personality shifts, even if you did it yourself deliberately. Why is he nodding at you like you're going to be his co-conspirator?

Tell him it's no good lying about it. You checked your money levels just before coming here, regardless of any previous mental... irregularity. If he wants your attention he's got it, but you are not going to leave this place without paying for their services. If you are imagining all that money, you'll be unable to pay them. Surely it won't hurt to put that to the test?

That'll also save you from having to say whether or not you remember him.
No. 1088586 ID: 99f29a

Should've stayed hidden behind Vix. Ah well. Deflect to saying you made sure you had money and you're not letting him gaslight shit.
No. 1088587 ID: debc82


........ Nope. Sure don't look like Hart, either, or whatever trolly-man's name was.

But we can certainly all sit down and talk, since it looks like you're looking for our sister, who we apparently now have.

Which is cool. Probably.

.... who are you, again?
No. 1088588 ID: 7fd8d8

He looks a little awkward, like he's not comfortable with his own body? I wonder if it's one he just... well, threw on, as it were, for disguise and utility, with the strength. It'd make sense with the lack of volume control, too. Better play along for now, but tell Vix sorry about this and that you think you can settle this with minimal disturbance if she waits outside a moment while you and him talk quietly. Extra emphasis on the quietly while looking at him.
No. 1088591 ID: f14228

Pff, laugh at how silly this is. Whoever this is they may be way worse at infiltration than you! They couldn't be a trained agent assignee in some conspiracy. Or they're just really that desperate. Especially for you to play along.

(The story couldn't possibly be real, right? Because that'd mean the real Pillet - or her body at least - has resided on the very planet as a memory-damaged woman for goodness knows how long while Paporron has been trying to contact her. And that the phenocosm was wrong or lying about her being dead.)

Is it somehow Paporron himself in a differently-sculpted body? Or a secondary phenocosm infiltrator, maybe, equally unprepared for life on this world? Perhaps that's what they'll say, and it's a check to get you to reveal yourself. I think playing bemused (and actually being amused at the way this is playing out) is the best way through this.

Like, you'll just go ahead and entertain everything that's going on here, from one perspective or another, and either way it'll be fine that you did so.

Say it's fine to Vix, and then look the guy up and down. Smirk and comment drily if that really is the best they could come up with for why you'd be using different names? He'd better pay your poor host back for that door. They've been nothing but nice - and also by pure happenstance mentioned a doppleganger of yours heading for Gravkon, which you feel perhaps ought be followed up on - but you can discuss that with more privacy.

Yes, you will be coming with YOUR BODYGUARD (it's a better story), they can stop panicking now. Tell Vix if she could keep that customer confidentiality thing in mind, you hope this will all be smoothed over. She needn't worry - or if she does, well. You imagine some would say it really is none of her business. You're not looking to share troubles today.
No. 1088595 ID: ce93a7
File 171296364512.png - (55.04KB , 1200x1200 , 687.png )

Maybe I should've hid behind Vix? Ah, he likely would've spotted me while pushing past her. Now's a good time to try acting a little more like Pillet, I suppose.

"Buddy, I have no idea who you are - hang on, Vix." I can see her open mouth about to speak. "Can I talk to this guy for a second, alone, quietly?"
>"... If you feel safe enough to. I'll be nearby."

Vix slowly shuts the door again. With the doorknob broken, it hovers slightly ajar, and so this man gets close to me to whisper. He's armed with multiple guns in those baggy pants.

>"Right, I need to get you outta here - "
"Slow down, I'm not going anywhere with you yet. Was that really the best story you had? You'd better pay 'em back for the broken door."
>"No, of course it's bullshit, but it's not bullshit for you to believe, it's bullshit for her to believe. Vix, right? The last thing me or my conscience needs is to to be put on witness extermination duty, so please play along. We'll all be better off for it. 'Specially Vix, who didn't do anything wrong except see two of you. If this has to escalate, they're going to have a lot more go wrong for them today than a broken door."
"Keep convincing me. Tell me about the body double."
>"That's my boss, Gel. He had one hell of a plastic surgeon to turn him into you. I don't know who the hell you are, but you're important enough that some people in high places want you in two places at the same time. Somehow, extracting the real you is a job that came down to me. I'm Rewk, by the way."

I don't know the name Gel any more than I know this man. I have memories that I've extracted from phenocosm agents to help give me some knowledge of how they operate, but those agents are at a high a high level of intelligence operations. Rewk here has the disposition of an inexperienced, untrained individual at the bottom tier. His heart is beating rapidly. It almost makes me feel better about my own infiltration expertise or lack thereof, but I should not hold myself to the lowest bar I can find.

It's unlikely he knows the phenocosm exists, but he knows that he is got tossed into something he'd rather not be a part of.

>"Let me put it like this. If you don't know already, you've got some people in high, high places, and they want you to be in two places at the same time. I don't know exactly where they want the real you, but I'd bet my modest saving's account that you sure as shit aren't meant to be fucking around in an overpriced spa with weird healing chakra shit dangling off the ceiling."
No. 1088603 ID: 7fd8d8

Yeah? Because it sounds like another one of you was, given that you just found out about it here. Sounds more like they didn't want you to find out there was more than one of you around. And if this guy doesn't have any idea where you're supposed to be, why should you go anywhere? What's his plan? Where will he take you if he doesn't know?
No. 1088607 ID: df45e0

"Well what two places am I to exist at? You will forgive me for not blindly rushing into the arms of a stranger spouting vague threats unless he can give me a good reason to follow him other than threatening a masseuse I met a hour ago."

"As for fucking about in a spa? My business is my business. Don't go betting your modest savings on what the high high places want."

Start looking for your clothes but don't directly act like you are going to resist him. Just start getting dressed if you can.
No. 1088645 ID: ce93a7
File 171297919135.png - (187.29KB , 1200x1200 , 688.png )

"You only just came in now. It almost sounds like you didn't want me learning there was another one of me. What's your plan, if you don't even know where I'm supposed to be?"
>"Just... somewhere hidden."
>"A basement. Somewhere that isn't a public spa."
"My business is my business. Do forgive me for not blindly rushing into the arms of a strange man who wants to take me into his basement after making vague threats." I feel a little funny putting on a sarcastic tone when I would normally say almost the exact same words genuinely.
>"The threats aren't for scaring you, they're for showing you the situation that you're in!"
"Which is?"

He turns and puts his forearms on the wall, and nearly bangs his head into it. I'm sure frustrating him. I'd be getting clothed about now, but my clothes are in a locker at the front of the spa.

>"What do I have to do?" He whispers at the wall. "What do you need from me to get you out of here?"

>"Hey what's going on out here?" I hear a high pitched voice from the hall.
>"Oh, it's nothing," Vix answers "Just a surprise visit from someone. Can I help you?"
>"Oh, no, no. We're veterans from the Klivanian peacekeeper corps, and our habits are for life. So a better question is, can we help you??"

Rewk is pawing at one of the guns hidden in his pants. I don't believe this is a man who is here because he was the best one for the job. Either he is a great actor with an inscrutable motive, or he is losing it.
No. 1088647 ID: 99f29a

Ask him why he's trying to draw so much attention to there being two of you. Normally lookalikes aren't that significant an affair.
No. 1088648 ID: 99f29a

Also what the hem zippers are for.
No. 1088650 ID: 7fd8d8

Better try calm him down. Take on a more soothing tone. Tell him not to bang on the door and to just come over and sit on the table with you so that if someone peeks in they can see you're just having a conversation. This might be an expensive place but it's pretty hidden for the moment, right? Then... I'm not sure how to phrase it so I'll trust that you know the kind of thing necessary, can you sorta quietly interrogate him about things without saying them directly? I'm wondering if he's worried about bugs picking up what he's saying, not just Vix. See if you can find that out, and meanwhile try convince him there's no immediate rush and that trying to rush things will just cause more trouble. They're fine for a few minutes, right? Then maybe lead into saying that you can see he's a bit too antsy to be the top pick for this sort of job, and asking him if he can be a bit more honest with you. I mean the guy is sketchy but if you play on his apparent inexperience right then you might be able to get more info out of him, or at least learn how likely it is he's gonna get violent. Like, he might have last resort orders to kill you if it looks like you're going to get in the way of whatever someone's planning to do with the face you have on. Just to be clear, a 'hell of a plastic surgeon' wouldn't be enough to convince the people you really want to get in contact with that they're you, right?
No. 1088652 ID: f14228

To get out of here? Just leave first, before his presence becomes an issue. You'll walk out later, it'd be weird if you did it together now, after you said you didn't recognize him.

Let Vix think this was a weird attempt at some manner of coercion related to a personal matter, and let Ellie carry on with her dang day, unperturbed 'It's fine'-ing anyone who asks.

And if there's anything else, you have a phone and can take a clue, so just call or message like a normal person, whatever that is. Suggest a friendly invitation for pizza, cake or anything delicious and caloric as a sufficient apology and bribe for your attention.

A full explanation for this 'Gel' going all body double on you best be forthcoming soon though, or you're going on a real vacation just to watch folks squirm. This ghost itinerary 'sit in a basement' shit sounds like a load of crock you'd quite like to pay back on someone.

(obviously you're still considering other means of escape here, but getting him to retreat would be the first step)
No. 1088658 ID: 273c18

Let's just go. Tell him he can wait outside like a normal visitor, and you'll get dressed and join him. Also that if anyone brings it up you can just say that the other person who looks like you is your sister and you don't like talking about her. Basically pretend you and her are not on speaking terms but you're still interested in what she might be up to.
No. 1088667 ID: debc82


Play him for information by feeding him what we know.

Our body-double, this Gel, is going to Gravkon, which he was exceedingly forward about in mentioning to our attendant just outside, and made no effort to hide official paperwork with its seal.

So, what purpose would Gel, as our body-double, have to go to an entirely different country, and why?

Answer that as best he's able, and we'll at least happily walk to somewhere we can hold this conversation less conspicuously (like that place with the cake) (which he's paying for, by the way).
No. 1088678 ID: ce93a7
File 171303140219.png - (56.60KB , 1200x1200 , 689.png )

"Hey, Rewk. Come sit down. Rushing and panicking won't help anyone."

He looks at me, and sits down on the other end of the table, bed, or whatever it is I'm on.

"Say, what're the zippers for?" I point at his sleeves.
>"Wha? I dunno, weird fashion shit, a lot of - why are we talking about this?"
"To try and calm you down a little."
>"Kinda got bigger things to worry about. I was kinda led to believe you'd play along, damnit."
"I can walk out later on my own time. This spa isn't all that public, right?"
>"Public enough that someone saw two of you as a result."
"Normally, lookalikes aren't that big of a deal."
>"Normally, my grumpy old man of a boss doesn't go turning himself into a hot orange chick. I coulda worded that better."
"You could've, but forget about that. Tell me more about Gel. He seemed eager to tell my attendant out there where he was going."
>"The less I know about Gel, the better. He pays me to keep my snout pointed down, so I do."
"You don't know? Okay. I think I'll continue my little vacation here."
>"Gah! Damnit, wh - "
"Calm yourself, please. I have a phone."
>"Huh, where?"
"I might've left my clothes in the locker room, but I've kept my phone on me in case I need it."
"The towels have pockets. You can use it to call me after I leave and bribe me with the local food to get my attention. I've seen menu items like pizza and cake I'd like to try. For now, please leave before you make more of a scene."
>"I dunno about this, I - wait, phone - fuck, I have one too!"

Rewk pulls out his phone and starts mashing buttons. The conversation outside gets quieter as Vix starts ushering whoever she was talking to away from the hall.
No. 1088680 ID: ce93a7
File 171303172034.png - (42.87KB , 1200x1200 , 690.png )

>"Gel's been paying attention. I'm, uh, starting a conversation between you and him. You can borrow this phone, I've been told to, er, quietly look around and smooth things over with the locals. I got another phone on me, the number's here."

He passes the phone over as well as his contact information, then leaves.

>Hi, this is your body double. Rewk is complaining you're being hesitant. I don't blame you, but we are on your side. A couple days ago I received information from a trusted source that you are an individual being watched by one group who expected you to travel to Spokesperson Varther's location. And that you had to report somewhere else, probably whoever's above me. So I'm filling in for you so you can do what you need to do. I'm not told the details, but I'm told there will be potentially catastrophic outcomes should the wrong group of people think you're skipping out on going to Varther. It seems like Rewk has already made a scene.
It may be calming down. He seems inexperienced.
>He's got plenty of experience, he's just a clown. That said, I'm also in over my head, and I don't currently have the means to contact the people above me. I had take the initiative on this. The informant managed to foresee that difficulty, and pointed me to an impressive surgeon who made me unrecognizable.
>Couple of footnotes. I moved the bugs from your phone to one of mine, and added my own bugs to yours. Sorry about that. Far as my scanners could see, you've got no bugs on your body. Secondly, you've got my apologies about the clumsy nature of all this. I had a nicely practiced team ready to receive you. In the capital. Then your trolley dropped you off thousands of miles away at Winterheight, so you got Rewk instead.
>The whole operation was almost screwed because of that unexpected dropoff, but you were drugged up too bad to travel. That bought me enough time to fetch a discreet flight over there and swap places with you while your handler, some brown guy in a blue outfit, wasn't looking. We actually met before today's sun rose, but I figured you wouldn't remember. Drugs, blacked out, you know. And that's the story, fiddly details aside.
You seemed very open to this spa employee about where you were going. You even let her see official paperwork.
>Yeah, about that. A cab that just so happened to pick up a talkative second passenger after I got inside? I was convinced she was sent to keep an eye on me. Rewk is going to try and keep her occupied and prevent her from reporting in if she really is a spy, but I don't know what to do beyond that. Dealing with it is up to you, now.
>When you're ready, we'll talk about the present. We've got a couple options for you to get back to your people, but first, I want to know whatever you can tell me. Anything at all. I don't even know who you are beyond Ellie and what you look like.

It's not the most important thing, but I do wonder how convincing his look is. Klivanian tech for that wouldn't fool phenocosm scanners, but perhaps we're indistinguishable from the average naked eye.
No. 1088682 ID: 99f29a

Apparently, a hot orange chick.
No. 1088685 ID: df45e0

"I am hot orange chick. That is all the info I can give you."

This whole thing reeks of amateur hour double crosses by multiple parties. Don't give them any information that is not super vague cover identity stuff. Keep up cover story until 100% certain (Aka you can memory check your husband or something.)

Continue to play along for now. Your options are limited and it looks like a choice has to be made. Continue along to Varther's location and lose Rewk or go along with whatever direction they try to prod you in.

"So where exactly am I supposed to be going now that I have been so rudely yanked out of my nice day of sking?"
No. 1088688 ID: 8f9bc4

"You're in luck. I'm an asshole! That ought to throw suspicion off you."
No. 1088710 ID: 6299b8

Despite what he says, assume you’re still bugged and under surveillance. Especially if Vix is someone surveilling you, they might have re-bugged you just now (which may explain why she was okay with leaving you alone with Rewk). It’s still confusing on whose behalf these guys are acting, too.

Note to Gel that you have severe doubts to everything that is going on right now, and is frankly unsure who to trust with what.

For the moment you’ll stay here, under the thumb and probable surveillance of whoever put you here. Really, for all you know, half of town is in on whatever conspiracy he seems to intimate was on and any attempt of yours to leave be naturally stymied, and he already be well and truly made in whatever he was told to do. It was, by his own admission, a terribly rushed swap.

Which would also be a good reason to drop you off in such an isolated small place after your, hem, processing. That he took on part your briefing routine also explains your present confusion regarding what is going on and your lack of tickets and such for travel to Gravkon. One mystery less, at least.

As well, whatever you agreed to in your drug-added state, you are not originally here to meet anyone else. You were going to meet Varther, and if he wants to do that as you on someone’s behalf, uh, go ahead you guess. Your best bet is that this is all politics from your place of work, and he and his organisation is caught in the crossfire. If you’re dead honest, it may even be a good idea to not show up as you with Varther. Some folks may prefer "Ellie" officially dead. And oh my, look, a convincing body.

Your honest opinion, frank as it comes. Though, concerns of them being pawn’d off aside, this whole situation does have you intrigued. You’ll stay in touch by the phone and may entertain leaving town to pursue the thread of whatever this is provided Rewk’s humble savings account can put you in a sufficient food coma. Let there be chocolate.
No. 1088711 ID: 273c18

Uh right, and how did they get to your phone to move the bugs around? And if they were monitoring you closely why did they not just tell you to get moving and go to your meeting quickly instead of the spa? Thirdly, it should've taken a long time to use the body shaper, enough time that they wouldn't have been able to get on that early flight after realizing you were dragging your feet. I think we can assume these guys are the enemy, but... what is our win condition here? We want them to think you're not a spy, how do we convince them of that now, when they're acting like they're already sure you're a spy?

...okay let's think about this from a Pillet perspective. You're a rebel, who is trying to avoid attracting attention, but these guys just made a bullshit story and set up a body double to talk to someone you had a meeting with that you're one month late for. From a Pillet perspective this is the worst case scenario, where it looks like the phenocosm is trying to kidnap you. I think what you want to do is get rid of Rewk by siccing those officers on him, and then yell at Gel over the phone accusing him of being phenocosm scum. Then you call your underground contact and tell THEM that the phenocosm are onto you and you need to get back to the subdimension to finish it before shit hits the fan.
No. 1088716 ID: 15a025

Assuming this guy is legit and needs to play your role for now, throw him a small bone. Tell him about your personality and mannerisms.
No. 1088752 ID: ce93a7
File 171310992798.png - (52.87KB , 1200x1200 , 691.png )

I'm the hot orange chick who's thinking she'll stick around town.
>Okay, okay. If that's how it is, just stick there for 2, 3 hours. Once I reach Varther, I should have a way to contact my higher ups. If my info's right, he's got a way to call in a real extraction that'll get you back to your people. That's all I can do for you.

I'm deep inside this facility, but I can't hear Rewk talking to anyone out there. At least whatever scene he's making can't be that bad.

>If you change your mind and want to tell me more, I've got a brand new set of big ears to listen with.
But you're using your brand new eyes.
>That's smart. Please use it to solve your situation, not for quips.
I can be a real ass, I know. He should have a basic grasp of my personality by now based on my texts and his spying. Well, maybe. It might end up somewhere between Aelsaw and Pillet.

He stops responding. That's fine. I need to take a step back in my thinking.

My ultimate priority is to go back to the phenocosm. Varther's request should only serve to make the founders allow me back to the surface. The only point to me going to Varther's would be to demonstrate to the founders that I'm not flying away to unforeseen locations.

Anything that isn't getting back to my ship in the starport should be in the service of maintaining my cover and gaining the trust of the founders so that I can move more freely and, if possible, sabotage them and destroy their means of hiding in their subdimension.

The shortage of information and an abundance of confusion does make it tricky. I can't even be sure who Gel and Rewk are working for. They act like they don't know, and that makes sense to me. Both the subdimension and the phenocosm are taking great strides in not revealing themselves to the Klivanian surface, and I certainly wouldn't trust Rewk or Gel with that knowledge either. There's some details in their story I'm confused about, but I simply can't be bothered to grill Gel on the little details when I can't trust his answers anyway.

I barely think on these thoughts before there's a knock on the door. I look over just in time to see them open the door. It's not Vix, but yet another person.

>"Heyyyy." Oh, it's that high pitched voice I heard earlier.
No. 1088753 ID: ce93a7
File 171310995175.png - (97.35KB , 1200x1200 , 692.png )

And a second additional person, too! She has a similar looking girl behind her, holding up a piece of paper telling me to breathe out and relax my neck if I need help.

>"I'm so sorry for the intrusion, but are you safe? That guy sounded unstable. He's also holding an illegal amount of power, and we're wondering if he should have the cops called on him."

Oh, I know that voice. It's those officers. Or veterans? I'm not familiar with the peacekeeping corps, but I was just starting to think they would be very helpful if I wanted to be rid of Rewk.
No. 1088754 ID: 99f29a

oh shit lookalikes better call Rewk and that guy and tell them to start crying and panicking this is surely tipping people off to a different ultra secret double reverse plot

ask them how they could tell and how much of a problem that is. unless there's an alternate plan there's not much to gain by sabotaging this one.

although it's tempting to preempt whatever this is and see what they're trying to do with the target location/guy.
No. 1088764 ID: 273c18

Well you need to get back to your ship, and you do not want to be seen doing so. So getting rid of Rewk is a good idea. Tell Gel that some peacekeepers noticed he has illegal amounts of power so to keep a low profile you're going to have to turn him in, sorry.
No. 1088921 ID: df45e0

Give them the signal. Rewk has already blown his cover by letting people see this all go down. He yanked a door off and bothered a civilian at a massage parlor! While having a illegal amount of power and letting everyone notice!

If you leave with him the girls here are going to assume you are being kidnapped at this point.

Even if he is on your side, his inexpert fumbling has fucked this all up. Let the girls do there thing and assume all of them are probably spies as well.

No one, not even those you would normally trust, gets told anything until you can prove (somehow) who they say they are. Right now you are the hot chick and you are having a nice vacation that is being threatened by people being weird.

Probably tell Gel this? "Hey Rewk has made such a scene I can't be seen leaving with him. Gonna go about my day and wait for word so could you please have him politely leave before everyone assumes he is a crazed stalker?"
No. 1088922 ID: ce93a7
File 171329455405.png - (61.82KB , 1200x1200 , 693.png )

I tip my neck, but I don't need to be as discreet as that note would allow me to be.

"How could you tell he's above the legal limit?"
>"Our ears are evolved for energy sensing as much as listening. That, and he kinds sucks at hiding it."
"Interesting. Is him having that kind of power a problem?"
>"Hey, could be. Is it a chance you'd want to take when he could blow up half the building?"
"Point taken. Please have him arrested."
>"We're on it. Pesh, go call the cops and keep an eye on that oaf, alright? Give the signal if you need help."

The other mousey one nods and pulls out her phone. She starts making a lot of throaty clicks and hums into her phone as she leaves towards the lobby.

>"She's mostly mute," The talkative one keeps being talkative. "But her phone is translating her speech for the cops. In case you were wondering."
"You read me correctly, thank you."

I spend the moment on my phone. This girl is still glancing between me and the hallway behind the halfway shut door.

"Gel, there's two lookalikes here. They're peacekeepers and are going to arrest Rewk. He's over the legal energy limit and has all but blown his cover."
>"So I heard. Mind opening his phone up and destroying the components?"
No. 1088923 ID: 99f29a

That seems kinda fiddly for doing something right under people's noses short of eating the phone or something. Actually you know what eat his phone. In public.
No. 1088924 ID: df45e0

"Will see what I can do."

Not sure how this model of phone works but can you take out the memory card without her noticing? That being said if the peacekeepers show up they might want it for evidence and could mention the missing card.

We do want any info on this phone to not fall into the hands of anyone but it would be nice to track down some leads from the info ourselves.

Prioritize destroying it if you can't get info out of the phone.
No. 1088933 ID: 273c18

That would be standard procedure for phenocosm wouldn't it? Take the phone and rummage through it before destroying it.
No. 1088939 ID: 2eb199

Excuse yourself to the bathroom. See if you can discard the components in the toilet or the tank.
No. 1088980 ID: ce93a7
File 171331591312.png - (33.32KB , 1200x1200 , 694.png )

I'd rather not destroy a phone right in front of this girl, it would be very suspicious looking. I think I could swallow it. If her ears can be evolved to sense energy, my stomach can be evolutionarily adapted to break down electronics.

No... that doesn't sound like a regular Klivian biotype at all. I don't even think many robots in Vultura, one of the two lower fleets under Shuzenza, do that.

I do peruse Rewk's phone, though. It's disappointing. There is only one conversation from Gel, and it only has a picture of what must be Gel in a mimicked body. Even Klivanians can do this well enough to at least be convincing in a picture, huh? I always wondered why Pillet's eyebrows were sometimes darker and sometimes the same as the rest of her face. I wish this was the most pressing mystery at the moment.

It looks like conversations are regularly purged. Otherwise, his browsing history is predominantly a mix of workout music mixes, strategies for a multiplayer shooter game, and porn.

I hear Rewk raise his voice unintelligibly.

>"Hands up, keep your palms to the sky!" Another voice rings out.
>"Alright, alright! I'm not doing anything - "
>"Palms! Up!"
No. 1088981 ID: ce93a7
File 171331593379.png - (66.23KB , 1200x1200 , 695.png )

"I need to use the bathroom." I tell the girl.
>"Really, at a time like this?"
"At a time like this."

I get up, and she stands aside. There's a bunch of people in the halls peeking around corners and out of doors to gawk at the scene unfolding from Rewk, but thankfully there's a bathroom farther away. I shut myself behind a stall and open the phone. There's a few components inside. I don't really know what any of them do, so I take them out, clasp my hands over them, and give them a powerful energy burst. I don't have much in me, but it's enough to destroy basic electronics like this.

After their destruction, I flush it all down the toilet, though I save the case. I hear someone come in.

>"You in here, Ellie?" It's the same girl.
"I am. Do you need something?"
>"Nah, just wanted to make sure you're okay."

In truth, I'm not. Without the phenocosm to lay my situation out for me and make the decisions with more expertise, I, Aelsaw, am at a complete loss as to how to navigate my situation with any real finesse. I want to leave town and deliver my report. I want to finish my brush bath; my unbrushed legs feel absolutely ragged compared to my upper body. Most of all, I want to see my husband.

I feel like I would rather leave this situation than make heads or tails of it. Perhaps I can sneak out the back with this nimble body and, to keep witnesses at a minimum, buy or rent a car instead of flying publicly.

Or perhaps I should mimic Pillet further? I wonder what she would do. She has several memories that almost seem like close memories, but they are barely constructed and the details over what exactly was said and how things played out are missing, but she has proven herself to be both ruthless and tricky.

I think she would have tried tricking Rewk into letting her take his memories. Perhaps it's too late for that. Beyond that, I think in the later part of her life, she acquired a taste for hiding in plain sight. I think that she would still sneak out the back and then... buy bulky clothes and masks at a sports store and then go skiing.

I don't think trying to navigate whatever messy situation is going on here is going to do me any favors. I must admit I could be wrong, but I so strongly want to be free from whatever's going on. There is an irresponsible part of me that almost wishes Rewk pulled a gun on me just to have an excuse to call Quaps. I still have his number on my phone that Gel is still eavesdropping on me with, but it clearly states only to call him if I am face to face with death.
No. 1088985 ID: 99f29a

When there's an information asymmetry, the most important thing is to correct it. The ideal approach is to create chaos until no one else has any idea what's going on and you're the best informed person around.

Seduce these two into accompanying you to the mission target. Via asking nicely I guess.
No. 1088987 ID: df45e0

You can't just take his memories secretly can you?

Go skiing. I think you will find out more and get to your goal faster if you just act pretty dang normal and wait for whoever to come mess up your day.
No. 1089005 ID: 273c18

Let's go skiing then.
No. 1089032 ID: ce93a7
File 171337120826.png - (74.07KB , 1200x1200 , 696.png )

>You can't just take his memories secretly can you?
It's possible. At my low energy level, a target must lower their passive energy defenses for me. I could then read his memories and make him forget I did anything. Judging by Pillet's memories, it's possible to brute force it, but it requires a great deal of energy beyond the target. There is a sense that she had a good idea of how much energy is required, but the details are lost with the memory's damage.

I think Pillet might've tried to trick Rewk, but he's been taken away. I suppose I could try and visit him, but from his phone and Gel's attitude, I think it's unlikely that he's got valuable knowledge in that head of his.

"I'm okay." I answer. "I think I'd like to go skiing after this."
>"Really? So were we. Are you skiing with anyone?"
>"Ever done it before?"
>"Wow, tell me you've scheduled an instructor or something."
"Can I not just show up and ask any local instructors?"
>"Pff, last I saw all class signups - "

Her response is cut off by but Pesh and Vix following us in. Pesh flashes us a thumbs up.

>"There you are. Are you okay, Ellie?" Vix asks.
"I'm okay, thanks. I think I'd like to finish that brush bath, and then... I don't know your name, miss...?" I ask the talkative round eared one.

>"Tesh. Twins with Pesh there, if you didn't notice. So Ellie, right? As I was saying, you can't just walk right into the middle of a class, and you can't just ski without knowing how! You'll crash right into a tree or something. Some of the slopes are nasty here."
"Would you be willing to show me how to ski?" These two could be spies sent to keep an eye on me, but they've already found me. I'll just be careful not to give them any sensitive information.
>"I'd love to. You mind, Pesh?"

Pesh shakes her head and clicks twice.

That's how I'll spend my day until someone new comes to interrupt it. The only question I think I have now is if I should keep my phone knowing it's been bugged by Gel, or drop it.
No. 1089033 ID: 8f9bc4

You want to be able to leave it somewhere, or hide it in someone's bag, so he'll think you're somewhere else, but you won't have much time until he figures it out, so keep the phone for now and only get rid of it when you have to make your move.

That said, it would be hard to say Gel's not on your side. He went through reconstructive surgery to pose as your body double, so he has to be at least equally committed to this as you are. Still be ready to misplace the bugged phone when you need to go dark.
No. 1089035 ID: df45e0

Hang out with the other possible spies for a fun ski day and find a signal blocking bag for the bugged phone on the way.

Should not hurt to keep contact with Gel open. Even if its to send someone after him later because it turns out he is bad news.
No. 1089058 ID: debc82


Probably more suspicious to drop it at this point, and keeping a line to Gel may be worthwhile, if only to be able to receive any information.

And if it gets weird, we can tell Tesh and Pesh that it's our twin sister, and while Rewk went about things really poorly, she's concerned about us.
No. 1089294 ID: 15a025

How oddly convenient, they were gonna go skiing too! They're certainly not the most subtle at this.

Also, keep the phone for now. Can't exactly destroy it in front of people, and it'd suck if someone managed to snoop through the phone before it auto-purged anything in it.
No. 1089501 ID: ce93a7
File 171391011646.png - (134.24KB , 1200x1200 , 697.png )

It's settled in my mind. I'll bring the phone with me for now. I don't think I've seen any wireless blocking containers around, but I can always leave it in a locker. I would be surprised if Gel was not on my side, too.

I finish up the brush bath, and Pesh and Kesh finish what they're doing to join me. I purchase some masks and goggles to slightly obstruct myself. Even if they're agents that are trying to follow me around, they know how to ski and show me how.

Within a few hours, I'm about to go down shallow slopes at good speed. Hovering snow machines sometimes levitate down to replenish the snow even on populated slopes, and so any time I fall, it's always cushioned even if I'm really going down. I think I have the hang of it, and I'm glad, because these two girls seem happy to go higher up the mountain. There's even little cafes in the woods!

They're not even asking me many personal questions. I get a 'where am I from' to which I answer the capital, and what I do, in which I answer I work at a dry cleaner's. That's it. If they're truly trying to drill me for information, they're taking it remarkably slowly. There's plenty of time to speak. With me learning how to speed down slopes, we end up spending more time making conversation on the ski lifts than skiing!

They even have hover tech. Apparently Klivania has had it for a long time but is unable to perfect the tech. It can be quite wobbly and the internal engine spends every waking moment groaning. It's still rather slow for safety reasons, and I can see why. I would feel like I'm in danger if not for it being reasonably low to the ground over soft snow. It's so easy to slip out, I even see a few people leap out of a lift now and then to land on a slope midway up the mountain for some reason. There's a little voice line from the lift begging them not to do that.

I'm starting to no longer care if these two are agents. Pesh does act a little suspicious, as she's frequently speaking her language into her phone. I have no idea who she's talking to, but Tesh catches me looking and explains that Pesh has a lot of trouble speaking in person. Pesh speaks again, but this time, she holds up her phone to me.

>"I can speak like this. I'm sorry if it's weird." Her phone appears to translate her speech for her, and can play it back in an approximation of what I think her voice sounds like. "I'm a consultant for the disabled, and I frequently talk people through troubling situations."
"That's very interesting! Do you speak a custom language only for yourself?"

She shakes her head. I think that was a weird question. I back off, anyway, as it seems even that took a lot of effort out of her. I'll still be careful with what I say, of course, but I'm having fun with these two.
No. 1089502 ID: ce93a7
File 171391012617.png - (132.60KB , 1200x1200 , 698.png )

Before I know it, evening's come. The low overcast skies have somewhat cleared up, and the slopes are lit up by spotlights lined over the slopes and casting large, sharp shadows underneath each ski lift. People do all sorts of tricks with their hands to entertain themselves as they wait to get to their destination. It doesn't obstruct the view of the sunset, and I get to view it as I go down more and more slopes. I feel gratitude to sister Pillet that she kept her body in such good shape. There are few memory artificers I would have the body of that could handle today like I have.

>"Hey, Ellie! We want to go off the slope, is that okay?"
"Is it safe?"
>"Of course! The snow this way is totally untouched. We'll show you something nice!"

My alarm bells ring for a second about this being a trick, but it must be paranoia. There have already been a few times where we go down less populated slopes in which there was no one around but me, these two girls, and increasingly dark, forboding woods. If they wanted to kidnap or harm me, they've had plenty of opportunity.

"Lead the way." I say, and soon we're slowly, carefully skiing off the usual path and land at a lake. The facilities look abandoned.

Pesh takes off her backpack, and activates some Klivanian storage container that acts as a collapsible oven.

It's a picnic, it turns out, over this lake.

Someday, the phenocosm will cleanse my memory of distractions, and the memory of this day will be excised. But it won't be lost. It will go into a personal vault of my excess memories. Every so often during my off time, I go in and relive some fond memories based on what I wrote about them when I first experienced them. I have many lovely memories that are forgotten, so it's hard to compare, but I will write about today very fondly and place this excess memory into the vault section dedicated to my favorites.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I let the mood set in. Night falls and the only light around is from the scattered light off the slope's spotlights, the stars overhead, and Tesh's phone playing a live TV show.
No. 1089503 ID: ce93a7
File 171391014112.png - (35.98KB , 1200x1200 , 699.png )

The wind picks ups, and we instinctively huddle in our jackets. During this, I feel something tug at my jacket hoodie.

I look down and see a thin piece of paper sticking out of the hoodie pocket that wasn't there before, so I take it out. A crumpled piece of paper?

No. The way it's crumpled up has me recall memories of an ancient means of cryptography. It's a remarkably niche, rarely used means of cryptography. It seems like the phenocosm has found me. Whoever gave this to me evaded detection from the girls, and I would not have detected them, either, if not for the tug on my jacket below the table, and below where these two locals could see.

The paper explains that my extraction is ready. There's a list of directions for me.

If I scratch my left ear, I delay the extraction by an hour for each time my hand reaches the apex of its scratch.
If I scratch my right ear, I get to have an emergency extraction involving the death of my two new friends.
If I stand up, I'm to excuse myself into the woods and be extracted out of sight from these two.
And finally, if I take off my cap, my extractor will openly come out and assist me in reading the memories of these two, should I think it's worth it.

Pesh sees me looking down and speaks into her phone for a translation.

>"Is there something wrong?"
No. 1089508 ID: df45e0

Hmmm I am torn between delaying a few hours to drop these two back off at the lodge or disappearing in the woods all mysterious like.

Lets be polite and assume our friends for the day do not need to be murdered or confused and delay for 2 hours so we can leave back at the ski lodge?

No need to ruin this nice memory with a mess.
No. 1089527 ID: 8f9bc4

Wow, a message encoded in the crumples of a blank piece of paper. That is subtle.
No. 1089561 ID: 53560f

Keep this memory as something to cherish. Delay extraction by a few hours and enjoy yourself.
No. 1089570 ID: 273c18

Delay long enough for you to get away from these two without making them worry about you. If they think you got kidnapped they'll investigate and potentially cause problems or get killed. Plus if you leave on good terms they might be a useful resource in the future!

>crumple cipher
Does Current Pillet know of any papers found that had crumples on them that might be enciphered like that? Maybe the newspaper we found in the fountain?
No. 1089577 ID: fa3034

Give them two hours. One to head back and hopefully part ways amicably, another to head to extraction and make sure you're not followed.
No. 1089859 ID: b2fb15

Say "No, bit tired is all." then scratch your left ear once or twice.
Be very careful to make sure it's the left one.
No. 1089889 ID: 15a025

Play it by ear so to say and just scratch your ear to delay by an hour for now.
No. 1092542 ID: ce93a7
File 171771925995.png - (68.92KB , 1200x1200 , 700.png )

>Is current Pillet familiar with any papers like this?
I'm not! This is new to me.

I scratch my left ear up and down three times over.

"No no, I'm just thinking to myself."
>"Whatcha holding?" asks Tesh.
"Hm? Oh, nothing, just a piece of paper blew on me."

I hold it up, but it slips out of my finger in the wind and flies off. Even while texting on her own phone, Pesh's tail snaps out and grabs onto it. She makes some disapproving clicking noise after looking over it by rolling it around in her surprisingly dexterous tail, then pushes it into a small box with the chocolate cocoa packaging. I'm not worried about them seeing it. Them being agents would not surprise me, but them being able to read the crumples, especially after Pesh grabbed it like that, is virtually zero.

>"Wish people wouldn't litter." Tesh says. "Whatever, quit being a stranger on that side of the table! Get over on our side and watch this with us, it's getting good!" I realize it may not be that common a talent to watch TV upside down, so I take my cocoa and join the others.

We huddle up and continue watching. It's some kind of mega sports marathon with two large teams competing against each other in a variety of sports. It's a struggle to keep up as a watcher, so I can only imagine how difficult it is to run. Right now, I think I recognize a game of capture the flag, wrestling, and surfing all going on at the same time. The exact rules are foreign to me, but the two of them seem eager to explain everything to me when I reveal my ignorance.

It's odd to me that Tesh liked coming to such a tranquil place to watch such a chaotic thing on her phone, but I suppose the juxtaposition gives it a new experience that wouldn't be quite the same if it was just one or the other. This cocoa, for instance, is different when drank in the cold.
No. 1092543 ID: ce93a7
File 171771926993.png - (40.70KB , 1200x1200 , 701.png )

After the sports draw to a close and things wind down, I realize an hour has already passed.

"Hmm, I got a day pass for the spa and barely used it, but maybe we should head to a lodge?"
>"Have you already reserved an inn?"
"No, but a place to sleep exists around, wouldn't it?"

Tesh laughs.

>"You really live on the edge, huh! No instructor reservation is one thing, but no inn? You'd be lucky to get a night's stay in someone's old dingy basement."
"It's that bad?"
>"Mmmmayyyybe not that bad, but I've never come here and seen the good inns have vacancy. The others... I don't think they're really safe? Kinda out of the way, poorly lit, people loitering in the dark. No, no, you're gonna come with us, miss."
"I don't like to impose, you two."
>"Nuh uh. We'll fret all night if you try to find some sketchy inn at this hour, so nope. You're coming with us."
"No choice?"
>"None! We'll kidnap you if we have to, it's for your own good."

I've already decided to make good memories, so I won't let my paranoia of them being agents spoil what might be genuine concern. They certainly sound sincere. Pesh is vigorously nodding along.

"Okay, okay, I'll follow you two. I'll try to get a new room at your place."
>"Perfect! Let's go then before security starts sending nightly drone patrols out here.
No. 1092544 ID: ce93a7
File 171771928623.png - (60.56KB , 1200x1200 , 702.png )

It takes nearly an hour to get to the inn. They weren't lying about the view, although I'm sure it's better during daylight.

I call the front desk and, unfortunately, they are out of rooms just as Tesh said. It seems like the girls weren't lying about reservations around town either, everywhere is full except some inns with scathing reviews and concerns about safety.

By the time I stop looking and we've settled in their room, there are only 40 minutes before my extraction.

>"No luck, huh?" Tesh asks.
"Mmm, I'm on hold for a place that might be processing a cancellation." I lie, but I need an excuse to leave. "I don't want to impose."
>"You're not! I love Pesh, but do you have any idea how long it's been since we've made a new friend we could hang out with like this?"

They have no idea. The last true, organic friendship I've made was Shuzenza. I doubt these two were alive when I met him.

Pesh clicks into her phone, and plays the translation back.

"Thank you, but I fear with too much longer, I'd just be a third wheel."
>"Jokes on you," Tesh chimes back in. "I love tricycles!"
>"Stay!" Pesh pressed her phone's playback again.
>"At least take off your coat!"
"It's all I have, I'm not wearing anything underneath."
>"Haha seriously? You're so weird, I love it. I've never seen anyone so smart that's so unaccustomed to everything."

Ah. I think I am learning why the Phenocosm keeps so many of my memories stored away. If I had them, I would be sorely tempted to indulge in my favorite activities. The mere memory of today makes me wish it could last longer. I can only imagine how distracted I would be if I had a lifetime of memories like these bumping around in my skull. My duty to the phenocosm will always take priority, but my emotions would experience consistent friction.

The phenocosm does not want us artificers to be emotionally calloused for reasons I'm unaware of, but I simply hate the idea of excusing myself to that balcony, shutting the curtains, and disappearing from their lives without a word of explanation.

Thankfully, I don't have to, as it's a bad idea. Disappearing like that may prompt them to launch a rescue operation to find me and spread my missing face all over the region. I check my phone.

"Oh, it looks like I have a room elsewhere. I'm sorry, Tesh, Pesh, I really enjoyed your company, but I sleep much better alone. Have a good night." My words cause a groan from Tesh.
>"At least give us your number. Where are you staying at?"
"A side cabin on the mountainside." Goodness, they are nosy.
>"Gods, I can't tell if you live dangerously or are just that innocent. Well, whatever. Give us your number, at least!"

I see no harm in that, so I do.
No. 1092545 ID: ce93a7
File 171771930235.png - (55.33KB , 1200x1200 , 703.png )

"Goodnight, you two."

I turn to find that Pesh has moved towards the door and blocked my exit. She presses her phone.

>"See you tomorrow, okay?"
No. 1092546 ID: 99f29a

Hug. Possibly kiss.
No. 1092547 ID: df45e0

Apply hugs.
No. 1092548 ID: debc82


Hug the poor nerd. It's the least we can do.
No. 1092549 ID: 273c18

If you hug you're gonna get a tracking device attached to you. Buuut I guess that's fine, your extraction team should be able to handle it.
No. 1092557 ID: 8f9bc4

Why is she hugging you? Is that normal? Or is she trying to hi four you? Or perhaps it's a friendly invitation for a crotch grope? They're getting awfully touchy for people you just met...
No. 1092565 ID: 5ebd37

What's a tracking device between friends? Its not like they could have the tech to do so in a way the phenocosm won't immediately find.
No. 1092568 ID: fa3034

Give her a nod and a smile. Until next time.
No. 1092677 ID: 15a025

Return the hug, assume they're putting a tracker on you. Pretend for the memory they're not.
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