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File 164971448322.png - (75.91KB , 500x500 , a_small_quest.png )
1028906 No. 1028906 ID: c92a02

Oh boy, it’s my first day on a real digsite! I wonder what kind of exciting adventures I’ll have in artifact cataloging?
175 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1035118 ID: 273c18

...wait, the elders mentioned their ancestors came from a city. Where's the rest of them? This is barely a single town. Are there a lot of other villages elsewhere? Or has their population shrunk? If they have any kind of census records it would be a good idea to take a look at them, to see if the population is shrinking or growing.

Come to think of it, if the entire planet's population went into hiding (the only possible way their plan could have worked) then there should be a lot more Formecians; perhaps there are some that managed to maintain their cities. I can't quite believe that the entire planet screwed themselves over this badly-- at the very least there are more than two emergency reducers, which means there should be at least one Formecian colony near a functioning one.
No. 1035121 ID: dc9df3

Let’s hang out with Jaina and her family, thought she seemed a little upset we weren’t condemned to death or at least being a prisoner forever.
No. 1035172 ID: f2320a

billions of individuals now just a small town that cant even defend against mold and why people are searching for them its sort of a big deal when a civilization just instantly vanishes
No. 1035621 ID: 899c9f
File 165584683136.png - (116.94KB , 500x500 , everyone_needs_a_hobby.png )

I ask Jaina if we can go see the town from up top together.
“Ugh. Fine, but first I need to grab a bite and some stuff. Follow me.”
We head into the stack of boxes that serves as housing for most of the village. We climb ladder after ladder to get to her home. It feels like we’re halfway up the room already! Her apartment is one of several in the side of an old shoebox. As we enter, I’m immediately hit by the smell of delicious home cooking. …Is that really a good idea in a cardboard box?
A Formican with dark blonde hair and a simple robe greets us. She’s shocked when she first sees me, but is as eager and excited to meet a tallman as Anet. “I’m so happy to see Jaina bring a friend home! Please, call me Queen Mira.”
“Wait, I thought Stone was the queen?”
“Every family has a queen,” she explains. “Elder Stone was elected as the queen of queens, for governance.”
Apparently, I’m the guest of the most bilingual family in the colony. Jaina and Anet have a lot of other family members, though she informs me it’s on the smaller side as Formicans go.
Everyone starts to crowd me, full of questions about my looks and where I came from before Mira shoos them away so I can breathe again. She suggests I wait in Jaina’s room while dinner is prepared. I thank her and head upstairs to find Jaina packing a small bag in a room with a crude workbench and a fairly large rack of sharp, pointy objects.
I cautiously knock and close the door behind me. “Hey. Uh, neat place you got here. Very… well armed.”
She turns to see who came in the room before returning to her work. “Thanks. I’ve tried lots of different materials for weapons but they still break too often. I’m doing the best with what we’ve got.“
I’m not really sure how to follow that up, so I just stand around awkwardly. There is one question that’s been bugging me, though. “...So, why are you so isolationist, really?“
She still doesn’t turn back to talk to me. “I thought Stone explained all this stuff to you.”
“But it doesn’t make any sense. You don’t have any of that technology left, so the old reasons are long out of date.”
“Well, maybe the reasons have shifted over time. All that technology’s still in here, just out of our reach. Why I’m personally so isolationist, is because I’m concerned with protecting everyone we have left. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who actually worries about it.”
“If you’re so concerned with staying hidden, why’d you run out and grab me in the first place?”
“...Because you were in trouble. I couldn’t just stand by and watch while you fell to your death trying to get your friend’s attention. Your size would have told her something was up, anyway.”
“But, then why were you upset when I wasn’t sentenced to death?”
Frustrated, she drops what she’s working on with a thud and runs her hands through her hair. “Because I don’t want- ugh, it’s gotten so complicated so quickly. I should’ve just waited for you to get stepped on.”
Wow. There’s another awkward silence while that sinks in.
“...I just said that out loud, didn’t I.”
“Ah, bugger.”

We’re saved from further awkwardness by Mira calling us to dinner.
No. 1035622 ID: 899c9f
File 165584683731.png - (131.43KB , 500x500 , mama_formica.png )

I sit in silence while the food is served. Anet fills the space by talking about our adventures today. The main course is a mushroom stew, with a side of cubed fruit preserves. People serve themselves from the large communal bowl and plates at will. Everyone washed their hands thoroughly before coming to the table, to my relief.
Mira notices my silence and starts introducing the people around the table and what they do. “You’re an explorer, right? I’m sure you have lots you’d like to ask them! My husband Pyke, he is a scribe. He knows everyone in the colony. He could introduce you to even more people, if you’d like…”
I try a taste of the stew before responding. It tastes as good as it smells, and a lot better than it looks. “He knows everybody, huh? Must be a small town. Was it always that way?”
“Oh, it’s grown steadily over time. There must be three, four times the people alive today than first made the journey here, and there’s plenty of room for more, right Pyke?” She winks to a thin, unassuming Formican sitting at the head of the table. He just nods shyly.
“Well, that’s good to hear. Lovely place you’ve got, but I feel it’s a shame you’re all cooped up in this one closet. Wouldn’t you be interested in seeing other planets, maybe seeing what sort of technology we’ve got?”
Mira shrugs. “My daughters might travel far from home, but it’s nice having a quiet home life. I have many bright children, with practical knowledge.”
Right. All that practical knowledge, and they don’t even know what fertilizer is,” I mutter.
Jaina’s antennae perk up, as I’ve apparently underestimated Formican hearing. “Of course we know what fertilizer is, dummy. Why do you think we keep a herd of shellbacks around?”
Mira chastises her. “Jaina, that’s hardly dinner talk! Why don’t you show him the farms after dessert?”
For dessert, we’re served crumb cake. It’s literally a pile of spongy, sweet crumbs. Not sure what I was expecting, really… Jaina passes, saying she had some candy earlier.
“More for me!” Anet cheers as she happily claims her sister’s portion. “This has been the best day ever! After this, Elder Stone said I could come watch cartoons with him in the archives!”
“Sure, have fun I guess,” Jaina says. “Come on, Sam. You can see the farms, and everything else, up top.”
How do I address her, after that admission earlier…

>The silent treatment:
>Yeah. Let's just go.

>...You didn’t really mean what you said, did you?

>What do you think the tallmen are going to do?
>Surely other colonies exist?
>What sort of tech were people after?
>Let’s go somewhere else: (with or without Jaina?)

>Other: _
No. 1035634 ID: b90535

Man, that hurts.
Said sure, we better not make a scene, at least not here.
No. 1035639 ID: 2aa5f0

>So how many siblings do you have? and how many children do formicans usually have at once? Like are you usually born one at a time or are you guys usually born as twins, triplets, or even more at once?
No. 1035667 ID: 798908

just don't hold it against her. She's been raised in a culture of distrust and the action of saving us speaks more to her character than the emotional impulse of wishing she hadn't.

Either she'll be one of the people breaking that particularly shitty cultural habit or she won't, but our entire job is built around understanding where people came from and how it shaped society.
No. 1035677 ID: dc9df3

When she captured us she played dumb asking us why we looked like a tallman, she was obviously more concerned that someone would see that we shrank. She lead us here thinking we would be sentenced to death. I hate to say it but we should watch our back for the rest of the trip. For now go with her.
No. 1035678 ID: 19ea25

It does sound like the most likely thing doesn't it. That she led us here to our death.

Silent treatment but go.
No. 1035782 ID: 36784c

Confront. “...You didn’t really mean what you said, did you?“

Can’t just ignore what was said.

After that, tell Jaina that someone needs to disable the reducer that shrunk you. Otherwise more of the archeology team might accidentally activate it and then there would be even more tiny tallmen running around.
No. 1035785 ID: 273c18

I don't think that was playing dumb. She had a choice, to wait until he got stepped on and hope that happened without the other archaeologist realizing what happened, or to risk exposure herself to prevent him from exposing them. The latter choice is actually the same come to think of it, regardless of whether or not she realized he wasn't Formecian.
Things are getting complicated for her and she doesn't like it, so it's actually fairly normal to lash out a little. Even if part of what's complicated is that she likes him(which I think is the case, based on her behavior and dialogue).
It's very likely IMO that she was upset that the elders banished him because she didn't want him to leave, not because she wanted him dead. I'm sure she was ready to argue for mercy, if she hadn't already, but didn't expect the elders to just let him go like that.

Confront, but alone if possible.
No. 1035866 ID: 899c9f
File 165610669769.png - (163.56KB , 500x700 , bugs_eye_view.png )

I’ll try not to take it too personally. She’s a product of her environment, after all… I guess it’s the action, and not the thought that counts.
“Okay, let’s go.” I thank Mira for her hospitality and the two of us depart. One final, long ladder brings us all the way up to the topmost shelf. Maybe it’s the last climb, maybe it’s the big meal I just ate but I’m feeling a bit winded and maybe a little dizzy after all that climbing. Jaina’s breathing is heavier, but she seems used to this.
“Tired already? There’s going to be a lot more of this on the road ahead, you know.” Jaina asks.
“No, I… went hiking up mountains all the time. It’s no problem at all,” I wheeze.
We catch our breath sitting on a pencil by the edge of the shelf. I’d feel more comfortable if they installed some handrails or something, but I can understand why they haven’t gotten around to it. Sitting up here does give us a nice view of the room.
I try to keep the conversation on lighter topics. “You know, everybody looks so tiny up here. Like ants, even.”
“Well, no, those grey ones are shellbacks.” Jaina points to the fields below, where I notice large round shapes moving among all the tiny brown ones. The shellbacks do seem pretty big compared to the Formicans, which makes them much bigger than any pillbugs I’ve ever seen. She explains that some of them are trained as pack animals, but most of them till the fields by burrowing under the mycelium, while the Formicans mix in dried fungus harvested from the wastes on top.
I wonder if the Formicans even had ants on their planet, like we had lizards. “It was nice meeting your family. How many siblings do you have exactly?”
“Eight, including Anet. The rest of them were aunts and uncles. They’re alright.”
“Just alright?”
“I don’t see some of them much outside meals. Everyone’s busy with their own jobs.”
“Oh. Were you and Anet twins? How many children are born at once?”
“No, she’s a year older than me. Formicans are born one at a time, but like, one after the other, pretty much until the elders say stop. They’re careful to balance the birth rate against the mortality rate and the harvest. Keeping a headcount is a big part of my dad’s job.”

”…You know, someone’s going to have to turn off that reducer before more people touch it.” Which I was explicitly not supposed to do, but still…
“Wish I knew how. We’ll have to figure something out later.”
I stare out over the edge trying to think of suggestions. Finally, I don’t feel like dancing around it any longer. “...You didn’t really mean what you said, did you?”
Jaina turns her head, avoiding eye contact. “I’m sorry about that. Before you showed up, I didn’t have to confront any tallmen face to face, and it was easy to say I’d kill one to protect the village. But you’re… actually a decent person, just curious, and you only discovered us on accident. It’s not really the situation I was expecting to happen, you know?”
I reach out to take her hand and she looks back at me, surprised. “It’s okay. I get it. If it’s any consolation, I want what’s best for your people too.”

>I kinda wish I could stay here longer and learn more.
>Hope this counts as extra credit when I get back…
>There must be other colonies out there, right?
>I understand why you’re protective, but maybe tallmen aren’t so bad.
No. 1035872 ID: 2aa5f0

>There must be other colonies out there, right?
No. 1035875 ID: 273c18

>I kinda wish I could stay here longer and learn more.
No. 1035925 ID: e5709d

>There must be other colonies out there, right?
No. 1035928 ID: 817821

This is totally probably unrelated but I wonder how Sam’s society views interspecies marriage ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
No. 1035932 ID: 2db274

I kinda wish I could stay here longer and learn more.

Sam, do you remember how you said that none of your radar or drilling equipment is capable of penetrating the outer layer of the great temple? I think all 3 of you are going to be traveling into the interior of the great temple to find that reducer to change you back to normal. That means that you're going to discover a bunch of things that none of the other archeologists have discovered yet! Too bad you won't be able to talk about any of it since that would put this little Formican village in danger.
No. 1035933 ID: 2db274

Also, do you think Gail or anyone else has noticed that you're missing yet? They might think you fell through a secret passage and are desperately searching for it in order to find you. Hopefully none of them accidentally activate that reducer while looking for you.
No. 1036302 ID: 899c9f
File 165638889957.png - (148.04KB , 500x500 , early_to_bed.png )

“I’m glad I met you guys. I wish I could stay here longer, there’s so much I could learn.”
“...I wouldn’t mind it. Stone does have a point, though. You need to get back before they go looking for you.”
“I hope they’re not too worried about me. Actually, I take that back, they should at least be a little worried. It was my first day here!”
Jaina shrugs. “Maybe they think you turned around and went home. They’re probably looking in all the wrong places.”
“Maybe. Do you think there’s other colonies out there? I mean, it can’t be just you that’s left, right?”
“Maybe… I’ve never heard of any though. Perhaps we’ll find them along the journey. We should go rest up for that.” Jaina gets up and we climb back down to her house. I’m surprised to learn firsthand that Formicans all sleep in one big bed, together. At Jaina’s invitation, I climb onto the edge of the pile where most of the family is already asleep.
I lie down and think about the incredible day I’ve had, and all the discoveries I’ve made that have only led to more questions. Such as…
>How does society view interspecies marriage
I-it’s a little early to wonder about that, isn’t it? Among Talzorans, at least, it’s a pretty new concept but it’s gaining traction now that people are less worried about population size!

Okay, worry about this later. Right now, let’s try and get some sleep…
No. 1036303 ID: 899c9f
File 165638890312.png - (120.33KB , 500x500 , early_to_rise.png )

“Wake up, Sam!”

Huh, what? But I just started dozing off! What time is it?

Anet calls again from downstairs. “Hurry up, you’ll miss breakfast!”
No. 1036305 ID: a0679d

You don't want to miss breakfast! Hurry and get dressed, then head downstairs!
No. 1036307 ID: 4b8164

Well get up, get food, then get ready for the day and your journey.
No. 1036322 ID: aabf0c

No! More sleep time!
No. 1036330 ID: 273c18

Ooooh, breakfast. Is it fungus?
No. 1036441 ID: b90535

Let's go (also what other species do your people interact with?)
No. 1036445 ID: 899c9f
File 165647249258.png - (109.54KB , 500x500 , look_at_this_stuff_isn't_it_neat.png )

Urgh… I am not a morning reptile. I groggily re-dress and head downstairs. Yep, it’s fungus again. Cut into thin strips and fried in oil, it’s not bad. How do they get it to taste so different?
“How long was I out?” I ask Anet.
“About four hours. You were out like a log!”
Four hours? How is everyone so chipper on four hours of sleep? “...I wish I had some coffee right now.”
“One bean or two?”
“...Two. I’m glad some things transcend cultures.”
Once I’m sufficiently warmed up by my cup o’ bean, Anet drags me off to her room to help pack the supplies.
“I’ve got all kinds of cool stuff I’ve collected over the years! Our pack’s pretty full already with basic necessities, though, so I want you to help me decide what to bring.
Here’s what we’ve got:

-Loudspeaker: It makes your voice really loud! It could scare creatures away. I’m not allowed to carry this when we go to watch the tallmen, it’s too tempting to use it.

-Rope Dispenser: It’s a spool of rope that never runs out! Must be a lot of it in there. Jaina made a whole rope web with this thing and it’s still going strong!
Jaina cuts in for a moment. “I’ll be taking this one no matter what. Too useful to leave behind.”

-Clicker: It’s got a green button, and a red button! It’s fun to press! I don’t exactly know what this does, but sometimes when I push it I swear I can hear a beep off in the distance.

-Fire Extinguisher: It’s like a canteen full of high pressure foam! You have to plant your feet before you pull the trigger or you’ll go flying.

-Lumpy Pillow: It says ‘Do not eat’ and it absorbs moisture really well.

-Windbox: You can wind it up and it’ll blow a gust of wind! It’s really useful for keeping cool.

-Joke Book: I compiled it myself! I know it’s not practical, but maybe you can read it when we have some downtime and tell me what you think?

-Mirror Lens: My biggest find ever! If you press it and look into it, it’ll make a hologram of you and loop what you were doing a couple times. Maybe we could use it as a decoy, but… it’s too rare to just throw it away.

>Suggest as many items as you want, but more than three or so items will be more of a hassle to carry. You can also name other objects and see if Anet has something like it lying around.
No. 1036447 ID: f50580

Rope, clicker, and mirror lens.
No. 1036452 ID: 273c18

>rope dispenser
Take a closer look at the "rope". Is it carbon fiber? This might be advanced tech that draws carbon out of the air and makes fiber out of it.
...wait, examine all the objects you recognize. Any identifying marks? If any of them are obviously made by an outside civilization then that raises the question of how these objects got shrunk.
Obviously, tell them what each object really is.

That... is that a car door opener? Too bad it doesn't come with the key.
Mirror Lens and Fire Extinguisher seem useful, but I also want to bring the joke book.
No. 1036462 ID: 708905

No. 1036516 ID: 899c9f

(Oop! To clarify, Jaina's pick is not part of the soft cap of three.)
No. 1036518 ID: 36784c

>Jaina's pick (Rope Dispenser) is not part of the soft cap of three.
Fire Extinguisher, Windbox, and Mirror Lens
No. 1036603 ID: 8d838a

Mirror lens, extinguisher and joke book.
No. 1036669 ID: 58dd24

Bring the clicker! solve the mystery!
Bring the loudspeaker, for exactly the reasons she's not allowed to take it most of the time.
No. 1036818 ID: 899c9f
File 165679184863.png - (133.41KB , 500x500 , have_fun_storming_the_catacombs.png )

I have to agree with Anet, this stuff is pretty neat! I ask her to show me the mirror lens in action. She sets it on the table and speaks into it. “Hiya!”
A few seconds later, a doppelganger of her appears in front of the table and waves back “Hiya! Hiya! Hiya!” It’s a near perfect replica of her, except for the fact that she’s glowing and slightly transparent! That’s definitely a big find.
I ask if she can demonstrate the fire extinguisher in here, but she shakes her head no, saying it’s best not to test that in here. Finally, we decide to take the clicker in case we find anything it’ll work on. I quietly slip the joke book into my satchel too. A book of the Formican language is more valuable than she may have realized.
After our selection, we head down to the village hall and present ourselves to the elders in Stone’s office.
Stone looks us up and down and sighs. She gets up and pushes aside the wall of elder portraits to reveal a hole in the outer wall, behind which a well worn and dusty hatch sits. “This will lead you down into the tunnels we once traveled in exodus. I wish you all a safe journey, and make sure you all make it home, wherever yours may be.”
Then, Elder Stone walks up and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Before you leave, Sam, Elder Styx would like to have a word alone. Go on, I have matters to discuss with the sisters.”
No. 1036819 ID: 899c9f
File 165679185283.png - (157.41KB , 500x500 , styxs_bachelor_pad.png )

Styx’s office is just across the hall from Stone’s, but couldn’t be more of a contrast from her order and cleanliness. This is the kind of place my favorite history teacher would keep. Come to think of it, he would probably kill to be standing here right now!
The elder statesant rises from his seat as I enter. “Welcome to the elder archives. It’s a fancy name for some old junk that fell behind the couch, really, but it’s cozy in here.”
My eyes are immediately drawn to the most advanced technology in the room, looking out of place among the scrolls and wooden shelves. “What’s that screen?”
“Ah, it’s my watch. I call it that because I watch cartoons on it! It also holds the collected wisdom and history of our people. What’s left of it, anyway.” Styx touches the screen and it lights up, displaying a loading symbol as the device’s interface boots.
“That’s incredible! I wish I had time to study it... Is that what this is about?” I ask.
“Not exactly. There were just a few things I wanted to make sure you knew before you left.
Tell me, Sam, how are the Formicans seen by your people?”

>A highly advanced technological civilization.
>A staunchly neutral people in a war torn era.
>Pioneering explorers and precursors.
>Hardline traditionalists.
No. 1036823 ID: 273c18

Looking back on early updates, it seems...
>A highly advanced technological civilization.
Also yeah people know they vanished during a time of conflict, but not WHY.

If the outside world knew the whys of their exodus, but not the how, would that be an improvement?
No. 1036853 ID: 2aa5f0

>A highly advanced technological civilization.
No. 1036889 ID: b90535

First option
No. 1036907 ID: a9af05

A highly advanced technological civilization that mysteriously disappeared. No one knows where they went or what happened to them.
No. 1037145 ID: 899c9f
File 165706504164.png - (132.74KB , 500x500 , how_did_we_get_here.png )

"A highly advanced technological civilization, of course."

"Haha! Technology has its limits, Sam. We weren't omnipotent. When tensions across the galaxy rose, we knew people would come to us for weapons, tell us to pick a side. Our government wanted nothing to do with it, we just wanted to be left to our research in peace. But what could we do? We didn't have an army for defense. Some wanted us to flee. But we couldn't build enough colony ships. Sure, we could afford to explore space, but could we afford for every single one of us to go there? No, not by a long shot. Even colonizing our moon proved too costly a project, and was abandoned before the settlement phase.
Our brilliant scientists thought they had come up with a solution: Let's not leave, and say we did. They quarantined the planet on the pretense of a disease outbreak, and converted the largest science lab in the world into a giant shelter, hidden by a false necropolis. Everyone would hide underground and we would leave a trail of false clues pointing to us all flying off into space. Nobody would think to look for us hiding right where we had been all along. Then, in a few hundred years or so, we would emerge and see what was left of the galaxy."

It takes me a moment to process the true history of the Formicans. "So, wait, you all shrank yourselves down and hid in the Great Temple... because it was cheaper?"

"Exactly, my boy. Sorry to dispel the illusion, but I didn't want you to leave with the impression that being a more wise and advanced race than everyone else ends up with you living in a broom closet.
It gets worse, though. It's not easy to sum up a couple millennia in a few sentences, but I will try.
The shelter was designed to fulfill everyone's needs and be self-sustaining. It was utopia. After a few centuries were up, nobody wanted to leave. We were content to stay in our own little world. People even began to get... lazy. The automated systems were left to fend for themselves. Birth rates declined. The technicians that knew how the systems worked grew old, and weren't replaced.
At first, these situations canceled out, empty parts of the city were simply shut down to be moved into again once the inhabited sectors wore out. But when that time came, nobody remembered how to reactivate them. Events spiraled quickly from there. More extreme solutions started being discussed... That is where our records end, as our ancestors wisely decided to leave before things really got out of hand. From there, Stone's told you the rest."

"...That's awful. I'm sorry your ancestors got you into such a mess."

"Well, it's not all bad, we’ve managed to hold on to what matters most. For instance, all thirty seasons of Formican Force Five."
No. 1037146 ID: 899c9f
File 165706504476.png - (89.61KB , 1000x400 , and_so_our_journey_buggins.png )

Well, my conversation with Styx has been... enlightening. He started to go on about his favorite show, but I couldn't follow the plot, and it was hard to tell where the science ended and fiction began.
I return to Stone's office and we share a look that says it all. And then, it's finally time to set off for the city ruins. We climb down into the darkness, hearing the hatch seal behind us with a heavy clunk.
Anet holds the old map and will update it as we explore. Jaina stays on the lookout for threats. My flashlight shows four paths up ahead. Which way do we try first?

>Once a path is picked, Sam will lead the party on his own initiative until an obstacle is reached.
No. 1037167 ID: f240ed

>Which way do we try first?
What… what are our options?
No. 1037168 ID: 899c9f

Check the map! >>1037146 (You may want to expand the image.)
No. 1037179 ID: 15c72a

Ah, hubris. I'm guessing the plaster insect corpse was meant to scare off anyone who came looking, like a mummy's tomb disease curse type of thing. They only wanted to stay hidden for a hundred years so they probably had a few lazily put together layers of protection.
Well, I kindof want to rescue them now. They're still suffering from a bit of hubris, since I don't think their ecosystem is sustainable. We'll need proof to convince them though.

Um... let's try the diagonal passage, on the bottom right.
No. 1037189 ID: f240ed

The only thing I can make out on the map is the village, a tire, what I think is a fan, and a thing-a-mabob just right to the fan.
No. 1037198 ID: 36cdf6

Try the second passage from the top.
No. 1037227 ID: 899c9f
File 165714898775.png - (96.94KB , 500x500 , a_landslide_has_occurred.png )

We try the bottom-most tunnel first, and it’s smooth sailing so far. On the way we pass a rockslide that’s completely collapsed a side tunnel. There’s not much to see here, except… Part of the rubble appears to be made of the outer lining of the temple, the stuff that blocks all signals in and out and can’t be drilled through by modern tools. I wonder what broke these shards off? I might keep one of these for study later.
No. 1037228 ID: 899c9f
File 165714899219.png - (96.53KB , 1000x400 , a_fork_in_the_road.png )

We’re coming up on another junction, time to get our bearings again. Which way now?

>The tunnel left seems to reflect the beam back at me. It’s quiet…
>The way forward smells damp.
>The tunnel right has a weaker smell, but I can hear some kind of rattling noise intermittently.
No. 1037229 ID: 15c72a

Is the clicker making any noise yet?
Head towards the rattling.
No. 1037282 ID: b90535

Tunnel left
No. 1037365 ID: 899c9f
File 165726078646.png - (105.09KB , 1000x400 , side_paths_ooo.png )

>Is the clicker making any noise yet?
The noise of the clicker's button echoes down the hall when I press it. I don't hear anything answer.

“Let’s go towards that noise,” I whisper.
“Let’s go in the exact opposite direction of that noise,” whispers Jaina back. “We haven’t run into any signs of life yet, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“Relax, we’ll be extra quiet.” I creep stealthily down the tunnel, keeping my flashlight low. It looks like nobody’s been through these tunnels in a long time… at least, until we find a set of hand-dug tunnels running perpendicular to the maintenance shaft. I doubt these were made by the fleeing colonists, as they’re going the wrong direction. Maybe they were trying to dig around one of the collapses.
The rustling noise turns out to be bits of debris falling around the edge of this tunnel from a weak draft. And it’s not the only tunnel, either. Should we take one of them? Or just keep going along the real tunnels?

>A branch doubles back to the middle path from earlier, presumably.
>Follow the first (left) tunnel up or down?
>...Or the second tunnel (right)? They're very dark.
>This corridor hasn’t ended yet…
No. 1037394 ID: bf7d5b

Forge on ahead.
No. 1037399 ID: 58dd24

despite intense curiosity, I can't really justify any way but forward, on the real road. Give those side paths an intense look over though. Something might come up behind you.
No. 1037404 ID: 15c72a

Hand-dug tunnels? Must be a similar size creature to you. Could be something dangerous, let's not follow the hand-dug tunnels and continue forwards.

Can you examine the tunnels to see what made them? Forewarned is forearmed.
No. 1037431 ID: b90535

Better go back and go to the path with no sound, I don't trust this tunnels.
No. 1037527 ID: 899c9f
File 165741792423.png - (84.55KB , 500x500 , baggage_claimed.png )

The tunnels are similar in style to the ones we squeezed through near the fungal wastes - the plating has been pried off the corridor walls and the insulation material behind it has been torn away in chunks to create a narrow but tall tunnel.

Jaina refuses to go further. "I don't trust these tunnels one bit. Let's take the long way around them."
"But the noise was just the wind! Let's at least look where they lead," I plead.
"No, I've got a bad feeling about this. -Wait, where's Anet?"
While we were arguing, Anet must have slipped away! We call out for her but we both hesitate to go looking for her. Eventually, Anet pops her head out of one of the tunnels.
"Oh, hey guys! I got tired of standing around, so I went and checked one of the tunnels Turns out, it just loops back here! Lame."
"You can't just run off on us like that, Anet!" Jaina huffs. "Fine, let's keep moving forward."
We keep following the tunnel until we run into another collapse. From what I can see, it looks like something pushed the tunnel from above and below, sealing off this tunnel except for a narrow gap.
Anet manages to pry out a suitcase wedged between the ceiling and floor. Seems like someone's lost their luggage. Unfortunately, it's locked. "I wonder what you pack to flee utopia... I'll hold onto this for now, in case we find the key nearby."
No. 1037528 ID: 899c9f
File 165741792929.png - (111.79KB , 1000x400 , so_close_yet_so_far.png )

Well, I suppose it couldn’t be smooth sailing all the way to the city. Which detour do we take?

>There’s a new smell coming from the tunnel to our left. Something… bitter…
>Now I’m really curious where those tunnels were supposed to go. Did the builders get lost?
>We could still backtrack like Jaina suggests.
No. 1037530 ID: 15c72a

Bitter is usually bad. Try the tunnel on the right (down).
No. 1037541 ID: bf7d5b

Head down, and just smash the lock off the suitcase immediately. Better to know whether what's inside is worth carrying before dragging it around potentially dangerous areas.
No. 1037543 ID: 899c9f

"Sorry Sam, that tunnel goes to another sector entirely. We don't know how to get to the labs from there."
No. 1037568 ID: 15c72a

Oh dang.

Let's go to the bitter smell then. Maybe it's some kind of spice?
Try the clicker again.
No. 1037585 ID: 36784c

backtrack like Jaina suggests.
No. 1037588 ID: 0f870a

Let’s go to the left tunnel, maybe the key to the suitcase is near.
No. 1037594 ID: 01fe07

>Locked suitcase
I wouldn't be surprised if the key is on the opposite side of the blockage where we found it. Meaning that we'll need to go all the way around to look for it.

I guess we can try going left.
No. 1037775 ID: 899c9f
File 165757814028.png - (95.32KB , 500x500 , this_mud_tastes_like_coffee.png )

"Why don't we try breaking the lock open? The clicker isn't working on it, and the key's probably... in there, somewhere." I gesture back to the crushed corridor.
Jaina tries prying the suitcase open with her spear, snapping off the tip. "Crummy plastic..."
Well, that carry-on did survive a cave-in. They just don't build them like they used to. We might find something harder to break it open with later, though anything strong enough to break the case might not leave its contents intact.

We head left and the smell only gets more intense. It's bitter, sharp, yet intoxicating... The unmistakable smell of coffee. I turn the corner and my shoe sticks to the ground. The hallway beyond this point is covered in massive dark brown stains right out of a horror movie. Looking further down the hall, I see a ladder off to the side leading up to a grille where the discoloration is strongest. This whole passage must have been flooded with espresso. Fortunately, it's mostly dried up at this point.
I figure a sticky floor won't be too much of a problem, but when I look back I notice Jaina and Anet have stopped, clutching at their antennae. "Are you two okay?"
Jaina seems to shake it off and regain her composure, tucking her antennae backwards into her hairband. "Yeah! Just... Ugh, standing this close is giving me a headache."
"Really?" It's definitely strong, but not that bad... "I thought you guys drank coffee too?"
"Yeah, but the stench... that was two beans at a time! This much is overpowering."
No. 1037776 ID: 899c9f
File 165757814502.png - (125.62KB , 1000x400 , a_sticky_situation.png )

If we power through it, we could be at the city in no time. Is this shortcut worth the headache it'll cause? Either way, where to?
No. 1037777 ID: 15c72a

Might become more than a headache, if the Formurians are that sensitive to it.
Let's go, uh, "straight"? The upwards path.
No. 1037803 ID: 58dd24

look for another way around, you can come back this way if it looks like the best option. Up seems the next logical choice.
No. 1037806 ID: f86580

Let’s go up, we don’t know how bad the headache can get, we certainly don’t want to cause discomfort to our guides.
No. 1037847 ID: a9af05

Go a different way. If they get their feet stuck, they won't be able to get away from the smell and it might make them pass out.
No. 1037978 ID: 77d69f

Go up
No. 1038020 ID: 899c9f
File 165775580288.png - (133.40KB , 1000x400 , tunnel_troubles.png )

I am a little worried about how strong their reaction seems to be compared to mine, so… let’s keep looking around. The end of this hallway is in shambles, with removed panels and clumps of insulation scattered around several hand-dug tunnels that seem to have caught up with us again. I decide to see if whatever route they built will get us around all the collapses.
The tunnel widens out eventually, to my relief, but I start noticing these dark round shapes nestled in the walls. By the time I realize what they are, we’ve stumbled into the end of the tunnel, which happens to be a pillbug nest.
No. 1038021 ID: 899c9f
File 165775583322.png - (83.96KB , 500x500 , the_balls_in_their_court.png )

I remember what Jaina told me about the shellbacks - while the Formicans made every effort to keep out insect life that could cause problems for tiny denizens, pillbugs were seen as too tough to weed out and harmless enough to let slip through the cracks. With no natural predators, and nothing keeping them in check once the infrastructure broke down, they began to grow larger and more abundant. This really helped her people out thousands of years later when they began to domesticate them, but it does mean they’ve grown to fill a niche their ancestors tried to keep empty. These ones are far from tame, and seem very irate about the intrusion…

>Jaina thinks she can take a few shellbacks. Let’s stomp these bugs and see what they’ve been sitting on!
>Sam thinks we should turn around right now and ssscram!
>Anet's sure they’re just big softies on the inside! Give them some food and they might leave us alone!
No. 1038023 ID: 15c72a

Wreck em. Grab that pickaxe and wait for an opening to strike.
No. 1038109 ID: 58dd24

Lets try it Anet's way
No. 1038112 ID: f86580

Try giving them a little of food.
No. 1038117 ID: 8299f0

Seems to be a dead end, and they do say that a cornered animal fights the hardest, so...
Probably best to back off.
No. 1038137 ID: cb7ab4

Fight them for easy xp
No. 1038170 ID: 8a4b6e

If we're nice to them, they might ignore us.
No. 1038327 ID: e51896

I'll tiebreak.
Jaina's way
No. 1038365 ID: 899c9f
File 165802356747.png - (113.03KB , 500x500 , a_rolly_for_the_poly.png )

I, I don't know what to do! Self defense wins out, and I grab a mining tool to brandish. It doesn’t feel very substantial even for someone so small, but it’s better than nothing. Before I can convince myself to pick a fight with an irate isopod, however, Anet cuts in front and digs through our supplies.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got something for them!” She unwraps a bit of bread and tosses it towards the mama shellback. The creature’s focus shifts to the food, though her body language remains tense. “There you go… we can be friends, right?”
Anet keeps low and moves forward slowly. The shellback doesn’t budge, and getting too close causes her to bristle again. We decide to back off, and the shellbacks don’t follow. Well, at least we got out of that with no greater loss than some food.
No. 1038366 ID: 899c9f
File 165802357154.png - (135.18KB , 1000x400 , backed_up.png )

We take a little breather after that encounter. Jaina keeps an eye on the tunnel mouth, just in case. I have a moment to inspect the tool I picked up. Seems like it’s made with real metal, a staple to be precise, bent and sharpened before being lashed to a sliver of plastic. The lashings are old and fraying, but the metal is of interest to Jaina. Anet’s taken the time to doodle some of the obstacles we’ve encountered on the map.

We can keep going forward, or look around the tunnels a bit more. It’s getting easier to see how the tunnels connect to each other as we fill in the blanks.
No. 1038370 ID: 15c72a

Well, now that we know what the tunnel is, why not follow it back a bit?
No. 1038424 ID: 58dd24

The presence of the pickaxe suggests that the bugs were not the ones digging, so this is still a mystery tunnel. But why would someone smart enough to use tools be digging randomly through the area. Is there something buried around here they might have been mining for?
No. 1038614 ID: 899c9f
File 165826769003.png - (84.65KB , 500x500 , who_left_this_lying_around.png )

You know what, let’s explore the tunnels. I won’t be coming this way again, after all. The tunnel looks like they were trying to dig in a straight line, but it meanders back and forth because they weren't very skilled in its construction. When we cross back into the maintenance halls, there’s a cave-in to our right. Maybe they were digging around that?

“Oh, look! Some old protective gear!”
No. 1038615 ID: 899c9f
File 165826770853.png - (122.12KB , 500x500 , thats_who.png )

“Oh… Looks like it wasn’t protective enough.”
>Cracked hard hat acquired!
>Rubber glove obtained!
No. 1038616 ID: 899c9f
File 165826777292.png - (112.97KB , 500x500 , orb_of_negligible_psyche.png )

We continue down the tunnel, taking a shortcut when we reach familiar ground to take the tunnel heading northwards. The other side of the collapse we saw flanks us on both sides, and then the tunnel just stops, seemingly for no reason. Looking around, this hallway seems to be a dead end, a hub for a web of pipes and valves. There’s some kind of pillar in the center of it, decorated with primitive markings not familiar to me or the sisters. On top there sits a perfectly smooth, shiny sphere. It’s cool to the touch.
What should we do with this? Do we just… take it?
No. 1038617 ID: 899c9f
File 165826778350.png - (148.83KB , 1000x400 , secret_shrine.png )

After we decide whether to disturb the orb, it’s time to choose another section to explore. We can probably take a shortcut back to our last stop, or cut back to the coffee stained corridor to keep moving forward. Where to?
No. 1038618 ID: 580aa8

touch orb
No. 1038619 ID: 15c72a


Let's head to the passage heading "up" on the map. This looks like where the tunnel started, since the pick is where it ended, so that means... someone came from nearby. Maybe that passage leads to their home?
Or maybe that corpse we found was the only miner, but I don't know how they got stuck in a cave-in *after* leaving their pick behind? Usually cave-ins happen during mining. Really bad luck maybe?
No. 1038620 ID: e5709d

Grab the orby thing! Technology prevails, and so must you!
No. 1038623 ID: 398700

I mean, the other guys clearly set off the booby trap already, so... inspect it first, then maybe?
No. 1038660 ID: 36784c

Inspect the pedestal more closely. If you don’t see anything that’ll trigger from removing the orb, then it might be ok to take it.

You can’t go back the way you came! There are mice and they might eat all of you! Go a different direction!
No. 1038736 ID: fe7de6

Inspect first plz
No. 1038768 ID: f86580

Let’s chale if is not a trap and take a shortcut to the last stop.
No. 1038789 ID: 58dd24

replace the orb with a bag of sand, as you always dreamed of doing. Then go up in the expectation that this meets up with one of the topmost paths, because normal-sized red mice have appeared on the map
No. 1039128 ID: 899c9f
File 165870782366.png - (96.49KB , 500x500 , what_no_welcome_mat.png )

Hmm. Could the orb be booby trapped, like some kind of sacred relic? There’s only one way I can think of to test it.

I touch the orb again. It’s still cool to the touch. A spot check doesn’t reveal any suspicious holes waiting to fill me with poison darts. The pillar doesn’t shift or release a boulder when I move it a little. I think it’s safe to lift this… Wow, it’s really dense. I’ll keep it in my bag for now.

We take the shortcut to fill out the map. There’s a fork in the tunnel up ahead, but a collapsed ceiling makes the choice clearly one sided. From the carved tunnel junction, we go straight ahead this time, all the way up to a heavy set of blast doors. I look around for a control panel or manual release, but come up empty handed.
Anet studies the glyphs on the door warning of danger within. “Did our ancestors seal this door behind them?”
“I don’t think so,” I say as I wipe the layers of caked dust from the walls. “This door doesn’t look like it closes from the outside. it's effectively a dead end.”
No. 1039129 ID: 899c9f
File 165870783334.png - (172.06KB , 1000x400 , we_made_it.png )

Well, there’s only one way to go left on this map. I really hope it’s the right one.
We head south and find another sealed door facing the coffee-stained corridor. This one has a lock, but we don’t have the key. The clicker doesn’t work here, either. What are we even carrying this thing around for? We give up and keep heading south. The corridor curves to the left again, my hopes slowly rising as to what we’ll find around the bend, until…
No. 1039131 ID: 899c9f
File 165870789011.png - (135.57KB , 500x500 , light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel.png )

Yes, we’ve done it! A ladder leads up to a hatch in the ceiling under where the city is marked on our map. The edges are tinged with some kind of plant growth, hopefully a sign of greener pastures to come. At first, the lever is stuck, but a forceful twist from Jaina gets it to budge. We’re not stuck in a broom closet for the rest of our lives after all!
But what are we going to find in the city? A necropolis for a civilization that forgot everything? Maybe they’re all fine and this breakaway colony was all one big social experiment? Maybe the whole building collapsed on their heads? An uncertain future lies ahead as I climb through the hatch…

>KILLS: 50%
>ITEMS: 80%
>SECRET: 60%
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