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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.
578 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
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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