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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?
Expand all images
>>
No. 1028909 ID: c92a02
File 164971457497.png - (108.65KB , 500x500 , hello_my_name_is.png )
1028909

I’d better check my bag before I go to work. Brushes, check, tools, check, gloves, check, sample jars, check. I left my commlink in the dorms, as per site rules.
Name tag… Oh, I forgot to fill my name in. Let me just take care of that now.
>Enter your name.
>>
No. 1028910 ID: e7c7d3

Sam

It's actually Samathcarius don Gantaravette, but you're fine with Sam
>>
No. 1028911 ID: e07ed2

ant emoji
>>
No. 1028912 ID: 8a51ec

Binyot Telgrade
>>
No. 1028913 ID: 204e01

Samantha Snek!
>>
No. 1028914 ID: ce39da

Laalasir Madhumakkhee is the name!
>>
No. 1028915 ID: 344f1d

Mississippi Smith
>>
No. 1028919 ID: e8db93

>>1028909
Jason cartworth!
>>
No. 1028920 ID: 961cf1

Grunkle Smoothbottom.
>>
No. 1028927 ID: 629f2e

Samantha "Sammy" Smith!
>>
No. 1028929 ID: 6a2a09

i see lotsa bees, this some kinda bee-chitect thing here?
>>
No. 1028933 ID: 0838d6

Mississnissy Smith!
>>
No. 1028935 ID: 4c0dea

>>1028906
Sssamson Sssmith
>>
No. 1028937 ID: bc24cb

Sam's your LAST name.
Your first name just happens to also be Sam.
>>
No. 1028969 ID: 4245ce

What Mad said.
>>
No. 1028980 ID: d0108b

sam "no step on" snek
>>
No. 1028982 ID: 11f77a

Dakota Emery!
>>
No. 1029007 ID: abaa91

I actually like Dakota Emery, if it's not a reference.
>>
No. 1029025 ID: f3c9f0

>>1028935
This!
>>
No. 1029029 ID: a7d4d4

Dakota Emery, its like indiana jones, but better because its not indiana.
>>
No. 1029081 ID: c92a02
File 164980755595.png - (111.61KB , 500x500 , ant-ebellum.png )
1029081

There we are! Samson D. Smith, Sam for short. I'll add a Mr. to sound more official, and to compensate for what some might call my soft, delicate facial features.

>this some kinda bee-chitect thing here?
They're closer to ants, actually!
I almost can't believe I'm really standing on the Formican homeworld, exploring their great temple! They left a lot of mysteries behind in their empty cities, and not a lot of clues. Their colony-cities were once swarming with billions of individuals, enjoying a technological golden age far beyond our own scientific progress! But, one day, during an era of great conflict and strife in the galaxy, they all packed up and disappeared. To where, nobody knows. Some think they all went to their moon, but the domed cities on its surface are barren and abandoned too.
The Talzoran League is close enough to lay claim over their system, and we've already learned a lot just from the ruins! The Formicans must have went to extreme lengths to leave nothing behind but the buildings. Still, we keep digging in hopes of finding pieces of working Formican tech. Maybe it'll give us the edge we need to stand out in a crowded universe.
Now it's my chance to work my way up the archaeological ladder, and maybe make a few discoveries of my own! Right now though, my task is tagging and cataloging other people's discoveries. I'd better get started.
>>
No. 1029082 ID: c92a02
File 164980756090.png - (123.02KB , 500x500 , shy_guy.png )
1029082

It looks like my classmate's already here! Gail's nice, she and I have been in the same class for a few semesters now. It's just me and her now, in this dusty little side room... Should I say something to her? Or just get to work?
>Pick up to three topics:
>You
>Gail
>Formicans
>School
>The weather
>Other
>>
No. 1029084 ID: e07ed2

You
Gail
The Future
>>
No. 1029086 ID: e7c7d3

Gail
Formicians
The weather
>>
No. 1029087 ID: 204e01

>you
>formecians
>Wanna hang out later?
>>
No. 1029093 ID: 961cf1

Touch
Fluffy
Tail
>>
No. 1029094 ID: abaa91

>>1029082
>Gail
>School
>Formecians
>>
No. 1029100 ID: ce39da

> Gail
> You
> Formicans
In that order, specifically - it'd be weird to open the convo by talking about yourself. If they really were perfect in their disappearance, that could have one of several interesting implications. Were they a hive-mind, thus cutting down on sapient error? Was the tech self-removing? Why does such an advanced species have such primitive art? Actually, that raises the idea that this building was a heritage site, even back in their time. Maybe that's what you meant by learning a lot already from the buildings alone?
>>
No. 1029101 ID: 2aa5f0

>Gail
>Formicans
>School
>>
No. 1029155 ID: 7a9719

Ideally, you should start working, but talk on top of it, if that can be done. Don't want to look like a slacker.

>Gail
>Formicans

Though, you can briefly mention something about yourself in a segue to talking about her - as in, "man, this morning I XYZ. Don't you hate it when that happens?", hopefully leading to her describing related experiences. Something like that would be fine, I think.
>>
No. 1029158 ID: e51896

>>1029100
this
>>
No. 1029172 ID: f3c9f0

>>1029082
>Gail
>Formicans
>School
>>
No. 1029511 ID: f03203

>>1029100
"Primitive" art is probably a misconception. Many historical civilisations would maintain mostly consistent aesthetics and style in their formal art and architecture across hundreds or even thousands of years, despite iteration on the technical abilities of their artists and the acquisition or loss of materials, tools, and techniques as they grew more advanced and their societies more/less prosperous. It was not that they couldn't create more "advanced" art, but that they chose to maintain the aesthetics of their ancestors as a mainstay of what would be considered "cultured" and appropriate for ceremonial, religious, or political purposes. Perhaps the imagery seen before us is simply of the Formicids' visual preference.
>>
No. 1029513 ID: 798908

>>1029082
be sure to freudian slip formicans as fornications
>>
No. 1029557 ID: c92a02
File 165023520673.png - (99.01KB , 500x500 , sssmall_talk.png )
1029557

I sidle up to Gail and start helping her tag items. "Uhh, hey, Gail."
"Oh, hi Sam!"
"How are you doing? You're here early."
"I'm good, thanks. The girls' dorm had their orientation first, so we got out a little sooner." She clears some space for me to work beside her. "It's silly how professor Telgrade was so insistent on 'ohh, don’t touch anything you're not told to!' And then he dumps us in this tiny little room all by ourselves, right? Nobody here to make sure we're following that rule! Just you and me here, haha."
"Ha ha... right... its not like there's anything to touch, right? It's all empty rooms and wall murals."
"Yeah…" She glances away, as if she needed to confirm that.
"So, do you want to-"
"Oh?"
"-want to get to know each other better?"
"...Oh, yeah, of course. I'll start. So, I’m from Maissuri, but I actually moved to new Maissuri for a while, on the moon!"
"Ooh, wow." I nod along. She must have done a lot more space traveling than me.
"I'm interested in people, I guess, so that's why I'm in this major. Besides that I like music and drawing."
"That’s cool. What do you draw?"
"Uhh... people. So, what do you do for fun?" Now it’s my turn.
"I read… or go on hikes and stuff. My great granduncle was Sir Lyle Smith, he was a big inspiration for me getting into archaeology."
"Really? The famous adventurer? Bet he’s sad he missed the space era."
"Yeah, he would have loved to meet some aliens in person! Especially Formicans, the way every other visitor to Talzor talked about them. Guess we were both late to that, though."
"It's too bad… do you think they’re still out there in their generation ships, headed for another galaxy?"
"Well, it seems more plausible than transcending into energy beings along with all their stuff! Ha..." I shrug. "They probably got to wherever they were going by now."
"Wish they'd send us a postcard."
"Hmm, which of these bins would that go in?"
She responds with a hiss of laughter. I've never seen her this sassy in class... Maybe she would be interested in spending more time together, just for fun?
>>
No. 1029558 ID: c92a02
File 165023521055.png - (102.29KB , 500x500 , something_just_clicked.png )
1029558

"Ssso, later, do you want to hang out?"
"That'd be nice! Sure."
Oh, it worked! I try to hide my surprise by leaning against the wall, like I had planned it all along. "Cool, cool."
I have a little trouble thinking of what to say next, so I stay like that for a bit. Suddenly, the wall slides up behind me. Did I just stumble into a secret door?
>>
No. 1029560 ID: c92a02
File 165023531172.png - (96.64KB , 500x500 , the_ants_go_marching.png )
1029560

I couldn't see what happened, but the door must have spit me out somewhere deeper into the temple. This place is huge! There's a giant mural of a Formican up on the wall. Oh, and another! A whole row of them! I could be the first one to see this room in ages! Not bad for my first day. Oh, I wish I had a camera right now.
>>
No. 1029562 ID: e51896

Awww, why didn't you bring your camera? That's a big mistake for an Archaeologist to make.

Anyway, brag to Gail that you knew the secret door was there the whole time.

Does Gail have camera?
>>
No. 1029566 ID: ce39da

Man, what was with these spacefaring people and their antiquated art? And come to think of it, why is a room just containing more murals hidden behind a "secret" door? Looking back, the wall you were leaning on had images that resembled "up" and "down" arrows on it. I think these might be more than just murals.
>>
No. 1029568 ID: 96c896

I think you activated an elevator. The wall went up, you went down. Look at the ceiling, and make note of where you entered, since that will likely be your exit as well.
>>
No. 1029588 ID: 2aa5f0

I think you activated an elevator. But yeah you should probably get your bearings first and see where you are.

oh other idea, maybe you didn't go anywhere, maybe you just shrunk and the reason everything looks so big now is because you're just smaller. That should be easy to check just by looking around and seeing if your friend is still in the room as a giant.
>>
No. 1029596 ID: 36784c

>>1029588
>shrinking?
I think you're right and that's what happened.
>>
No. 1029599 ID: 2ca2f9

>>1029560
Can you go back to where you were before?
>>
No. 1029604 ID: 758001

>>1029588
Ooh, if that DID happen, that sure sounds like valuable tech. ...Also possibly where the Formicans went. Keep an eye out for ant-relatives. Possibly the same size as you.
>>
No. 1029605 ID: 758001

>>1029604
..."a small quest", oh, haha. Theory "honey, I shrunk myself" gains credence.
>>
No. 1029608 ID: 2aa5f0

also fun fact, I only remembered the name of the quest after I came up with my shrinking theory. honestly felt kind of dumb for missing that.
>>
No. 1029609 ID: 758001

>>1029608
Ehh, it's a pretty innocuous quest name, until you see it again in context.
>>
No. 1029638 ID: 3ec67f

>>1029560
I think those are the same murals you were looking at earlier. The only reason they're big is because you accidentally activated some ancient technology that made you smaller!
>>
No. 1029676 ID: f03203

Oh. If our boy has gotten shrunken, maybe the Formicans didn't disappear, but rather just miniaturised themselves/their civilisation to the point of being undetectable by macroscopic observers. Kind of inconceivable from a physics standpoint, but this is already in weird territory.
>>
No. 1029726 ID: 15d5de

Samson,

Look.

Up.
>>
No. 1029760 ID: 758001

>>1029676
Well, they wouldn't have to be *undetectable* - just inconspicuous enough to avoid attention. They COULD have even been seen, already, and dismissed as normal ants.
>>
No. 1029778 ID: c92a02
File 165041086684.png - (106.16KB , 500x500 , i_can_deny_it_no_longer.png )
1029778

>why didn't you bring your camera?
It's site policy! They don't want you browsing the net on your commlink or leaking discoveries before they're officially announced. That last one I understand, but come on, you can't even get a signal here.
>Man, what was with these spacefaring people and their antiquated art?
We believe it was the product of a highly traditionalist society controlled by a centralized theocracy! Their single-minded drive and devotion to the collective benefit of the species was both the chief reason for and a stark contrast to their incredible scientific progress.
>maybe you just shrunk and the reason everything looks so big now is because you're just smaller.
What? Don't be silly, why would I just shrink out of the blue?
"Hey Gail! Gail! Do you have a camera? I found a secret- "
I turn to call back to Gail and - woah, she's right there! And she's huuuuuuuge..! I don't think that was a secret door, actually. I'm just super small now.
Well.
Hm.
>Maybe these are more than just murals
I suddenly understand why we're not supposed to touch anything!
>>
No. 1029779 ID: c92a02
File 165041087154.png - (85.99KB , 500x500 , i_am_small.png )
1029779

>You should probably get your bearings first
Right. I suppose the first thing to do about being small is figure out what to do about being small. Let's see, judging by the scale of the wall paintings I'm ...no more than an inch high. I'm finding it a little hard to believe. Hm, little. I'm no further from Gail than I was a second ago, and yet it feels like there's a great distance between us now.
"Sam? Where did you go? ...He left already. Oh, well."
She must not have heard or seen me. She's tuned back in to the workbench. Her tail is hanging down to the floor...
>Get closer to Gail
>Get away from Gail
>>
No. 1029781 ID: e5709d

Stay close but don't get stomped. You need to make sure you're not trapped in here.
>>
No. 1029782 ID: 96c896

Climb tail.
>>
No. 1029783 ID: 961cf1

Hump tail.
>>
No. 1029784 ID: 7522a0

Get closer.
>>
No. 1029788 ID: 758001

Hmm. Any idea if Gail is easily freaked out by e.g. spiders or mice or anything? If so, you may not want to startle her, and should e.g. climb the table and start writing a note. Otherwise, yeah, grab onto her tail to get her attention and hope she doesn't accidentally kill you.
>>
No. 1029789 ID: 629f2e

Grab tail
>>
No. 1029790 ID: 2aa5f0

is she moving around a lot or standing still? Also is their anything you could climb to get higher so she could see you?

Basically what I'm saying is don't get stepped on. If you can get close to her without worrying about be crushed go for it. If not then I suggest finding something you can climb and trying and get her to notice you...

speaking of getting noticed do you have anything reflective? If so you could trying and use it to reflect light into her face like people who are stuck in the ocean try to do to signal passing aircraft.
>>
No. 1029841 ID: 15d5de

Grab the tail and scream at the top of your lungs.
>>
No. 1029843 ID: 15d5de

Forgot to point out, you are taking this surprincingly in stride....which I guess you will have to do a lot now that everythng is further away. Heh heh.

I love the title being all in lowercase. lol
>>
No. 1029907 ID: 060b37

Grab tail!
>>
No. 1029935 ID: 4e8c5a

Tail time
>>
No. 1029941 ID: 23af06

Hop on tail!
>>
No. 1029943 ID: 210f04

Try to get on her tail. You need to get her attention so she can help you.
>>
No. 1029953 ID: 422cea

You touched something with triangles pointing up and down. I think you came across a shrink ray device used by the Formicans and your tail tapped a one of the icons.

You need her attention or you're going to be stuck like this or worse.
>>
No. 1030028 ID: c92a02
File 165066586080.png - (49.56KB , 500x500 , one-small_step_for_sam.png )
1030028

>Closer
I hesitate before starting to walk closer, watching Gail for any movement. Her feet stay put the whole time - her posture is impressive. I mean, she's impressively imposing to me right now, but that's not on purpose.

>you are taking this surprisingly in stride...
Am I? That's good to know, I guess. This is a fascinating experience, as long as I ignore the terrifying implications. I'm noticing a lot of details I normally couldn't from this distance - the gaps between the floor tiles, the underside of the workbench, the shine on Gail's shoes. I have plenty of time to take in the macroscopic scenery as I cross the surprisingly long distance to her tail.

>maybe the Formicans didn't disappear, but rather just miniaturised themselves/their civilisation to the point of being undetectable
I still can't see any Formicans down here that aren't painted on the wall. Their entire civilization managing to exist hidden in the ruins of the old world seems improbable when we've combed over every inch of this planet! Except… for the interior of the great temple. Nothing we have in terms of radar or drilling equipment is capable of penetrating the outer layer of this building - there's a lot of internal volume we're unable to account for, but some say it must be a solid lump of incredibly dense material to be so completely unreadable to our scanners.
In many ancient civilizations, the massive size of monuments like the Great Temple is often just for show, with a small volume of actual rooms within. The temple dates back beyond the age of many of the surrounding buildings, with many new layers added over time, so it could have retained a ceremonial purpose as Formican society progressed. The rooms we do know about ring the outer walls of the temple and are decorated with art of the Formican civilization and their exodus. Most are completely barren or burial chambers with empty sarcophagi, likely the result of looters over the millennia. With our usual scientific equipment unreliable within the walls, many people are still searching for a hidden passage to reveal some grand chamber at the center of the temple, and the untold treasures of a bygone era... That's just wishful thinking, though.

>They COULD have even been seen, already, and dismissed as normal ants.
I find it hard to believe we would have mistaken bipedal tool-using insects for mere bugs! ...Well. More importantly, there have been no signs of life anywhere on this planet. It's a completely dead world. Any living creatures would be studied closely.

At last, I arrive next to Gail's legs, which further impresses their humongous scale on me. Her shoe alone looks to be the size of a building! I try not to linger at this step of the journey - ooh, step. Poor choice of words right now.
I grab onto her tail - I hope I'm not being too forward - and start to climb. So far, so good. I'm able to get decent purchase on her scales, and I was always a pretty good rock climber.
>>
No. 1030029 ID: c92a02
File 165066586738.png - (49.19KB , 500x500 , i_see_london.png )
1030029

I'm startled when her tail starts to move, but it only curls inward a little. I resume climbing upwards.

>Any idea if Gail is easily freaked out by spiders or mice or anything?
Not that I've seen. I don't really know if I would freak her out - I've never had an inch tall bug jump on my tail and start screaming.

>speaking of getting noticed do you have anything reflective?
The closest I have is a magnifying glass, but the lighting in here isn't ideal - illumination comes from a pair of floodlights in the room, both pointed well away from me. I'm at too near an angle to be seen now, anyway.

Goodness, I'm starting to get tired but there's still a long way to go. I look up to check my progress and - oh my! I hadn't considered the uh, practical outcomes of my position...

Should I try getting her attention now, or try to make it higher up first?
>>
No. 1030030 ID: 96c896

>>1030029
Try getting her attention now.
>>
No. 1030046 ID: 2aa5f0

depends how tired you are. If you think you can get a bit higher, you know so you're not looking up her skirt, might bewilser to call when you're closer to her head. If you don't think you can get much higher than I guess try now.
>>
No. 1030047 ID: 7d8322

>>1030029
Get to her panties it will make for a good rest stop and maybe see if her pussy has a hymen.
>>
No. 1030070 ID: 758001

>>1030047
That would be very ungentlemanly. Ungentlesnakely? Anyway. Speaking of impolite, though, what if you just... bit her? Just a little. If shouting alone doesn't work. She apparently hasn't noticed you climbing her tail, yet, but you do have pretty pointy toofers. It DOES increase the odds you'll be mistaken for a bug, though. You should also wave or something.

Oh, though - did Gail's voice sound like the right pitch? If you speak, does yours? If they sound the same, you should be good, but there's a chance we sound like a squeak atm.
>>
No. 1030182 ID: 36784c

>>1030028
>Nothing we have in terms of radar or drilling equipment is capable of penetrating the outer layer of this building - there's a lot of internal volume we're unable to account for
Maybe the reason for that is because the only way to get inside is to become as small as you are now?

Ah shit, that means instead of finding a way to help you get back to normal, someone might tell you to look for a way to get inside while you're this tiny!

>>1030029
Make sure you hold on tight so you don't get flung off!
>>
No. 1030267 ID: 4e8c5a

Poke HARD
>>
No. 1030276 ID: ee520c

A reptiles most sensitive spot is on the tip of their tail, so that will get her attention just play with it and hold on for dear life if she gets the tail twitches we may get flinged off.
>>
No. 1030285 ID: e5709d

>>1030070
Morbid as it is, it still may be a prime solution. At any point she might mistake you for a bug and casually swat you to death. If you go straight for an area that no bug would move towards while it's in motion, she'll notice something's off and look first.
>>
No. 1030293 ID: 8a51ec

>>1030285
Somehow, I think there are multiple better ways of getting Gail's attention. Climbing up to her ear couldn't be much more difficult, and if being horny is the goal then you're gonna have to climb under her dress for the grip her scales provide anyway.
>>
No. 1030304 ID: a9af05

>>1030293
You do realize how far away her ear is right? We're not even halfway up her tail and we're already tired. There's no way we'd make it to her ear before we lost our grip and fell from being too tired to continue climbing!
>>
No. 1030316 ID: c92a02
File 165092480707.png - (59.74KB , 500x500 , up_up.png )
1030316

>instead of finding a way to help you get back to normal, someone might tell you to look for a way to get inside while you're this tiny!
Oh no! -Wait, why can't they do both?

>did Gail's voice sound like the right pitch?
I think so? Hopefully I can shout loud enough to be heard. I grab on tight in case she turns around.

"Hey, Ga-"
>>
No. 1030317 ID: c92a02
File 165092482063.png - (103.33KB , 500x500 , and_awaaay.png )
1030317

"-Aaaaaaail!"
Suddenly, I'm getting yanked from my perch and sailing earthward with incredible force! Gail remains oblivious to my peril as I fall. I can only hope that at my reduced size I'll bounce off the ground, or at least not go splat from a height of a foot and a half!
Instead of finding out, however, I'm caught by two pairs of arms and forced onto the dusty floor.
>>
No. 1030318 ID: c92a02
File 165092483567.png - (163.55KB , 500x500 , no_step_on_snek.png )
1030318

"Are you crazy? You were this close to getting caught by the tallmen! Who are you, and why do you look like one of them? Talk!"
My captor appears to be a four-armed alien with a brownish exoskeleton and reddish hair. Could it be? A real live Formican! How did she get here? Why show herself now? How is she speaking my language? I'm unable to form a reply from the combination of excitement and the shock of falling. The circumstances could be better for first contact, but I'd better not waste my first impression!
>>
No. 1030326 ID: ce39da

"Until less than a minute ago, I was tall as well! I think touching that mural made me small."
>>
No. 1030328 ID: 629f2e

Respond to all of their questions in order:

-No, I'm not crazy
-I was going out of my way to try and get noticed by her before you interrupted me
-I'm Samson D. Smith, nice to meet you
-I am one of them, or at least I was, and would like to get back to being one

Also, it could be worth mentioning that while they consider you tall, from your perspective their species appears to be small.
>>
No. 1030336 ID: 2aa5f0

Wait, you're a Formican aren't you?! We thought you're people went extinct since we can only find ruins of your people, how did you... wait wait, those questions can come later focus on the now.

Uh, hi. I'm an archeologist who came her with my friend (gesture towards your friend) to explore this place and learn it's history. However I leaned against a wall and now I'm small. I was trying to get my friends attention in hopes she could help. Speaking of which do you know how I can get big again? While being this small is very fascinating I kinda don't want to be this small forever... all my stuff is big and I'm rather fond of it.
>>
No. 1030339 ID: f683de

oh shit we can speak the same language that's rad
>>
No. 1030342 ID: abaa91

Just want to bring up- perhaps we shouldn't state we were a tall one. She seems particularly adverse or hostile to them, and having one in her hands like this probably would just make her an enemy of ours. I don't know what I'd do otherwise, mind, just wanted to mention it.
>>
No. 1030364 ID: 90c451

Start rambling about archeology and about how rich their culture is and how you came here to learn about them and learn from them.

>>1030342
Yeah, maybe stay quiet about that until we learn their disposition, saying we're one of the tallmen could either paint us as enemy or insane, either thing we wouldn't want to be labeled as.
>>
No. 1030392 ID: e51896

Ask a whole bunch of questions
>>
No. 1030491 ID: 36784c

>>1030342
>>1030364
>don’t mention we were a tall one.
It’s kinda pointless to try and hide something like that, since we obviously don’t even look like a bug person. It’ll be really easy for her to figure it out what we are, so we might as well tell her now.
>>
No. 1030495 ID: 798908

>>1030318
"I AM a tallman, I hit one of your weird runes and now I'm all teeny-tiny."
>>
No. 1031146 ID: c92a02
File 165162080753.png - (123.15KB , 500x500 , snake_snaaake.png )
1031146

"S-Sam! That's because I am a tallman! Or was... I touched something on the wall and got real small!"
"Huh. I thought the reducers were all broken."
"Well, that one isn't! I'd like to go back to being big now, please. How do I- "
"Don't know. Don't care. Can't let you go back yet."
"What?! Why not?"
"Because you're not supposed to find out about us."
"Hey, you're the one that grabbed me!"
"I'm not arguing this here. We're going back inside." She tosses me over her shoulder and starts walking off. She's strong! That or I'm practically weightless. Maybe both.
>>
No. 1031147 ID: c92a02
File 165162081496.png - (121.69KB , 500x500 , whatcha_got_there.png )
1031147

She carries me through a hole in the wall and pauses to haul a thick looking hatch back into place. It seals back into to the wall with an airtight hiss. I look around and see we’re in some kind of tunnel system. I still have so many questions about what's happening!
"How do you speak our language, anyway?"
"From listening. We've been watching you for years, making sure nobody found a way in. So far none of you seemed to have a clue. Thanks for breaking that streak," she huffs.
"You're welcome? But why don't you want to be found?"
"Do we need a reason? We just want to be left alone."
"But why?"
"...I think I'll leave it to the elders to tell you."
"Who're the elders?"
"The people who'll decide your fate! You're coming with us back to the village to see them."
Visiting a whole village of Formicans... That doesn't sound so bad, besides the whole deciding my fate thing. "...Okay. Whatever you say, miss Formican."
"...Call me Jaina."

From around the corner, I hear a new voice.
"Hey sis, you're back! Bring anything cool with you?"
>>
No. 1031148 ID: c67566

>>1031147
"Me!"
>>
No. 1031150 ID: 2aa5f0

"am I going to die?"
>>
No. 1031152 ID: 96c896

Hey, if they want to be left alone, then we can do that. We can do that much better if they tell people, even.
>>
No. 1031166 ID: 13c74d

>>1031147
From your studies on the Formican, do you think they are violent?
>>
No. 1031168 ID: e5709d

"I am not lunch! My semen is toxic to all mammalian and some insectoid species!"
*beat*
"A-also I can do THIS!"
Bite Jaina.
>>
No. 1031206 ID: a9af05

>>1031147
"Help! I've been kidnapped against my will! I just want to go home!"
>>
No. 1031474 ID: c92a02
File 165189668715.png - (134.12KB , 500x500 , thought_youd_be_taller.png )
1031474

This new Formican is shorter and friendlier than her sister, and carries a hefty backpack balanced on an equally hefty abdomen. Her blond hair strikes me as unusual for Formicans. If I had to guess, she’s a worker caste, and her sister’s a soldier caste.
“An outsider,” says Jaina.
“Me!”
“An outsider! He’s so tall! Hi, I’m Anet! Welcome to Dirt!”
“Dirt?“
“That’s what we call our planet! In your language, anyway.” Huh. What a weird name for your homeworld… No, I have to stay focused, maybe she’ll be the more reasonable sibling!
“Look, I touched that shrinker-”
Reducer,” Jaina interrupts.
“-reducer, totally by accident, I didn’t mean anything by it! I'd just like to go home now.”
“Hey, that’s where we’re going! Wanna come with?”
“He doesn’t have a choice in the matter,” Jaina replies.
“Okay, just hold on! If you want to be left alone, we can leave you alone! Why don’t you just tell people that?”
Jaina scoffs. “Yeah, sure. All of you poking around up there for bits of scrap seem like you’d love to just pack up and leave. No, there’s a lot of very good reasons we stay hidden.”
“But I don’t get it! You guys were super advanced! You could make people go away if you wanted to. Right..?” I look at Jaina’s crude, plastic spear and their simple clothing. She just glares back at me.
>>
No. 1031475 ID: c92a02
File 165189669148.png - (129.98KB , 500x500 , down_the_rabbit_hole.png )
1031475

“Come on you two, let’s walk and talk.”
The Formicans start walking, and since I am distinctly lacking in the pointy stick department, I feel compelled to follow. Our path goes parallel to the wall for a few minutes before turning right. The tunnel feels… cold, clinical even. The walls are made of the same stone as the temple, but smooth and unweathered. Thin strips on the ceiling keep it dimly lit, seeming to be tiny light emitting diodes as opposed to the natural lighting in the big chambers. This place looks completely untouched by time, until Jaina directs us through a crack in the wall into a dark, narrow tunnel that looks hand carved through a rough, spongy material. Seems like… insulation?
“Why is this here?” I ask.
Jaina gives me an incredulous look. “Because this old tunnel wouldn’t get us to where we’re going. The tunnel system’s been expanded over time, to reach new areas and bypass collapsed shafts.”
“Oh… of course. What are you doing out here anyway, if you don’t want to be found?”
“Keeping an eye on you tallmen and making sure it stays that way. Oh, and Anet likes to tag along to collect her own random junk.”
Anet nods. “Uh huh! I had a good haul today, so it’s a good time to head back!”
Anet keeps peppering me with questions about the outside the whole time. Any questions of my own have to be woven around the answers to hers.
>Pick up to four topics:
>Sisters
>Elders
>Village
>Isolation
>Reducer
>Outside
>Inside
>Other
>>
No. 1031477 ID: 13c74d

>>1031475
Sisters, elders, indication and reducers.
>>
No. 1031478 ID: 629f2e

Isolation, Reducer, and Outside
>>
No. 1031481 ID: 2aa5f0

>Sisters
>Isolation
>Reducer
>Inside

>Yeah, sure. All of you poking around up there for bits of scrap seem like you’d love to just pack up and leave
We're archeologist, it's our job to pick through ancient ruins to learn about the past to help educate the present. And when you have an entire race and civilization that had the ability to travel to different planets and seem even more advance then my own race that seemingly just disappeared without a trace leaving only their cities and temples behind, that generally does a great job at bring people together to try and figure out what happened.

I mean it's the biggest question in known space right now, what happened to the Formicans? The idea that an entire race could just disappear, especially one as advance as them is a question people would really liked answered, you know in case it was something bad and if it could happen to our own people as well. And if it was something good it might be a sneak peek into what awaits us when we advance a bit more ourselves.
>>
No. 1031486 ID: e5709d

Ask how any of this is possible. You learned in school that 'miniaturizing' a person without removing their brain functions or speeding their metabolism would take more money than moving a sun.
How many ages were they pushed back? And why haven't they made efforts to re-learn?
>>
No. 1031488 ID: 96c896

Isolation, Outside, Village, Elders.
>>
No. 1031855 ID: c92a02
File 165223620792.png - (216.06KB , 700x500 , area_dicovered_fungal_wastes.png )
1031855

The next tunnel gets uncomfortably dark, but there’s only one way to go and it is thankfully short. I end up squeezed between the sisters as Anet and her pack go last.
“Tell me what it’s like outside, Sam!” Anet speaks up from behind me.
“Outside? Like… where to begin? Outside the walls? Everywhere else? My home?”
“Well, everything not inside the walls is outside them, right? Yeah, start with your home!”
“Uh. Well, I grew up in a city, not as big as the one out there, but pretty big! We lived above a bookstore run by my parents.”
“What did they sell?”
“Uhh... books?”
She takes a moment to process this. “Oh, I thought - okay! Wow.”
“Anyway... some of those books were about my ancestor, and that inspired me to go hiking through forests, mountains, hills, anywhere I could visit. Even the jungle! And that’s just my home planet… This one’s kinda one huge desert, I’m afraid.”
“Ooh, huge!”
I try steering the conversation back towards her. “So um, why don’t you guys like visitors?”
“Oh, well, long ago we got all kinds of visitors! But they were always fighting each other, and everybody wanted us to pick a side and was really pushy. So our ancestors decided to get really small and hide in a really cool city until they went away! But we spent so long hiding, that we forgot how to run all the really cool stuff, so we kinda moved away from the city.”
“...Just how far have you regressed, and why haven’t you tried to reclaim that old tech?”
“I dunno, and I dunno! I’ve been trying to learn it, but I don’t find much working stuff either. Just like you guys!”
“Oh. So, what do you know about these reducers?”
“They built a whole bunch of them to shrink everybody down, then turned them off so they couldn’t be followed. My ancestors tried turning that one on when they moved out of the city, but they thought it was broken ‘cause it wouldn’t make us big again! Looks like they were half right.”
“Well, it’s a good thing it didn’t reduce them twice! Now uh, what are the current elders like? They’re not too keen on outsiders, I take it?”
“There’s two of them! Elder Stone is the head queen, and she’s kinda stern! But fair. Elder Styx is almost as old as she is, and he knows all kinds of stuff about the old days! I like him the best, he’s really entertaining. Um, Stone always tells us to be vigilant around strangers, but Styx probably wouldn’t mind meeting one. He knows a bunch of stories about the wars they had in the old days, but he seems almost wistful about them.”
“Sounds like I wouldn’t mind meeting him either.”
Jaina’s pace slows, and Anet presses against my back before realizing the holdup. I try to start a new line of questioning before the awkwardness sets in.
“W-what’s the deal with you two? Sisters, right?”
“Yeah! I’m the older one, actually. I love exploring and collecting stuff. Jaina likes being a guard, but there isn’t much here to guard against. That’s why she tags along with me on my scavenging expeditions.”
Jaina cuts in. “Hey, watching the walls is an important duty.”
“Of course, of course! And it’s fun too.”

In the middle of trying to explain the concept of a bookstore to Anet, I see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’re here,” says Jaina.
“The village?”
“No, the fungal wastes.”
I step out of the tunnel into artificial daylight. The ground beneath my feet is strangely soft and spongy, some kind of purple fuzz. I look up and see we’ve come out in another large room, one with strangely familiar furnishings rising as high as mountains off in the distance. Between here and there, strange trees rise from the ground forming a dense canopy of what I’m just now realizing are mushroom caps. It’s like stepping into a completely alien world… which is saying something since I was already on one.
Jaina starts walking towards the mushroom forest. “We’ve got a long way to go to get upriver.”
“There’s a river?”
“Yes, right down the middle of the room. We cross upstream so anything that falls in the river doesn’t go down the drain.”
“The drain… and where does that lead to?”
“Trust me, you don’t want to find out.”

>Prolong the journey by taking the scenic route - for science
>Hurry to the village before… does night even fall here?
>>
No. 1031857 ID: 96c896

Scenic route is fine. Explain the sights-- these people don't know what caused this landscape, and you do.
>>
No. 1031868 ID: e5709d

>>1031857
They aren't that regressed! They've had ample time to steal books, toys, and the occasional phone.

Ask about the dead guy. Get to the elders sooner rather than later.
>>
No. 1031872 ID: 296678

>Prolong the journey by taking the scenic route - for science
>>
No. 1031878 ID: f3c9f0

>>1031855
Prolong the journey.
>>
No. 1031912 ID: a9af05

>>1031855
>war
>didn't want to pick a side
>made ourselves tiny to avoid conflict
Let them know that there hasn't been a war for a very long time. They don't need to hide anymore.

>The ground beneath my feet is strangely soft and spongy, some kind of purple fuzz.
It's called a carpet.

>what do?
Prolong the journey. Try not to think about how cute Anet is.
>>
No. 1031919 ID: 96c896

>>1031912
>carpet
Yes. A carpet of mold.
>>
No. 1031940 ID: c1d4af

CommanderBoreale.jpeg

Ask why all the Formicans in the paintings and reliefs are so BALD and so FEWLISH!
>>
No. 1032153 ID: c92a02
File 165248854853.png - (140.45KB , 500x500 , you_better_watch_out.png )
1032153

>a carpet of mold
And boy, does it smell musty! Whatever it is, it's covered the floor as far as the eye can see. It must have spilled out of the fridge a long time ago, judging by the buildup there.
>why are all the ants bald
Part of their tradition, perhaps? Drawing a bunch of Formicans with different hairstyles would have taken forever. They had a lot of ants to draw.

After taking in the roomscape for a bit, I turn and notice... “Jeezhiss! Is that a skeleton?!”
“No. I mean, kinda? It doesn't make sense though. We don't have bones. Formicans are hollow inside. What’d you call them… exoskeletons?” Jaina points out.
Oh. Well, I feel silly now. Come to think of it, the abdomen having a ribcage should have given it away. Maybe it was a different species?
“...would you mind if we walked past that on the way to the village? This is a once in a lifetime experience. I promise not to run off!”
She shrugs. “Eh, fair enough. Everyone wants to poke the skeleton once. Careful though, this place isn’t safe to go wandering around.”
“O-oh?”
“One wrong step and you might sink into mushy quickspores, or encounter a wild fungiform. Why, breathe in the wrong puff and it might take root in your brain, turning you into a mindless zombie!”
“Th-that can happen?” Anet stammers.
Jaina's stonefaced expression lasts for all of five seconds before she cracks a smile. “Pf! Of course not. They eliminated the cordyceps plague on Dirt thousands of years ago. Probably. Better stick close to me, just in case.”
>>
No. 1032154 ID: c92a02
File 165248855140.png - (94.53KB , 500x500 , a_bone_to_pick.png )
1032154

We walk over to the table. it's curious, it doesn't feel like we're getting any closer until we're suddenly at its feet. The skeleton's legs and abdomen are all that's visible this close. I start to feel nervous, but remind myself this skeleton's even less likely to move than Gail. I decide to try and get a sample for later study - I've still got my tools, and nobody will notice a tiny sliver gone, right? I get out my chisel and chip away a piece when I notice something's off. I've handled real bones at school, and these don't feel right at all...
"This skeleton's made of plaster!"
Jaina is perplexed. "What? You mean... it's not real?"
"I don't get it! Who would put a fake skeleton here? And how?"
While I ponder this latest mystery, I should also ponder where to go next: the fridge, or the forest.
>>
No. 1032155 ID: e07ed2

Fridge, let's find out how fast heat transfer kills you with a smaller surface area:volume ratio
>>
No. 1032157 ID: 13c74d

>>1032154
Fridge, be careful.
>>
No. 1032160 ID: 629f2e

Fridge! Nothing like gross ancient food.
>>
No. 1032161 ID: 2aa5f0

so someone left a prop behind before they shrunk themselves to fuck with whoever came into this room looking for formicans. Not sure if I should be impressed by his dedication to fuck with people or just think he was an asshole.

Anyways hit the fridge next. Let's see if we can figure out how the mold spreed so bad... and maybe even get an idea what Formicans use to eat back in the day. assuming there is anything even still recognizable as food.
>>
No. 1032163 ID: e5709d

... What is this, a sadistic Ant Farm?
>>
No. 1032166 ID: 96c896

>>1032154
I think I know why. The Formicans went tiny to hide from people who wanted them to join a war, right? The fake skeleton must have been someone's idea of a second layer of deception-- an indication that they all died somehow, maybe even to give intruders the impression that the place is cursed with some kind of deadly disease. But that's just a hypothesis for now.
...it's also possible that this is a social experiment and there are other Formicans elsewhere in the ruins who retained their technology and are observing these regressed ones. After all, that would mean leaving the fridge open and the sink running was part of the deception... like setting up an ecosystem to support the isolated Formicans.

Investigate the Fridge, see if you can identify what's rotting in there.
>>
No. 1032170 ID: 798908

>>1032166
Careful, these kinds of wild theories need to be tested before they're aired. WAY too many racist perceptions of foreign cultures get started because some over-eager archeologist mistook pornographic artwork for part of a fertility ritual.
>>
No. 1032643 ID: 899c9f
File 165283964564.png - (103.72KB , 500x500 , candy_mountain.png )
1032643

>it's possible that this is a social experiment and there are other Formicans elsewhere in the ruins who retained their technology
It's a worrying thought. Could I be an unwanted variable in these mysterious, unseen plans? And why would those Formicans still be hiding from the outside, too? Maybe they don’t want to get caught doing this…

From the foot of the skeleton, it’s a short hike to the fridge to see the source of the fungi. It’s a challenging uphill trail, and I have to be careful not to slide down the mushy mountainside. We start to shiver even before reaching the open door. Brr… I notice a light frost forming on the ground here, too thin to cover the purple mountain’s majesty. I’ve just got to get close enough to peek inside...
Finally, we pass the lip of the refrigerator door. I look in and spot a pair of brightly colored structures rising past the mountain peak. No, not structures, I’ve got to keep the scale in mind. ...Oh! Formicans used metal lunch boxes too? I guess some things never go out of style. Anet wanders a ways off digging through the mold in search of treasures. Eventually, she finds something and runs back to tell us about it.
“I don't usually poke around up here because it's so cold, but look! I was digging out a foam cup when I found something covered by an invisible sheet!” She shows us her prize, a massive puck wrapped in plastic. It is, unmistakably, some kind of hard candy.
“That looks like… candy of some kind,” I remark.
“Candy?!” She looks at the giant slab of sugar with a newfound sense of respect.
Jaina is more practical minded about it. “Well we can’t open it here. We'll wash it off in the river. Dragging this back to the village may attract more attention from the wildlife.”

>Obtained: Hard candy
>>
No. 1032647 ID: 899c9f
File 165283978253.png - (140.75KB , 500x500 , fungus_among_us.png )
1032647

Lacking the fortitude to stay on the frosty peaks any longer, we hike down to the forest. I get a good view of the room on the way down, seeing how far we have to go to the door that marks the village. Past the river, the plains look like they’ll be an uneventful stroll. Jaina explains the mushroom forest is actually pretty inert when it’s not spore season. The real issue, she tells me, is the wildlife. I spot some small pillbugs scuttling about, but tales of something she calls fungiforms fascinates me. They seem to be mold cultures that developed the ability to move around to seek sustenance. Naturally, they blend into the environment well when they’re standing still. Suddenly, Jaina grabs me by the tail. “Stop right where you are.” I comply immediately and notice the ground where I was about to tread changes in texture quite suddenly. She ushers the three of us back behind a bush-like fungus. From there, she points out the outline of a creature sleeping in the clearing. It’s very thin, but its body spreads out to cover nearly the whole area.
“So this is one of those fungiforms you were telling me about?”
“We should try riding it! It’ll be fun!”
“Heck no. We have no clue how it’ll react when it wakes up. Let’s give this thing a wide berth.”

>Anet suggests we ride it
>Sam wants to study it closer
>Jaina wants to leave it the hell alone
>>
No. 1032654 ID: 13c74d

>>1032647
We should leave it alone, maybe when we grow again we could study it.
>>
No. 1032656 ID: 344f1d

Find something stick-like and give it a poke
>>
No. 1032659 ID: 1a20cb

Ask what they know about these creatures. Are they dangerous or decile, are they smart or dumb, what do they do that makes people wary of them?
>>
No. 1032672 ID: f2320a

>>1032647
Looks like a seaslug?
>>
No. 1032679 ID: 65d922

Ride ‘em, cowboy!
>>
No. 1032704 ID: 96c896

Study.
>>
No. 1033093 ID: 899c9f
File 165315129432.png - (116.70KB , 500x500 , scientific_method.png )
1033093

>leave it, study it when bigger
Not sure how I'd get back here when I'm big. There is no sign of any life on the surface, so that impenetrably thick barrier that was keeping us out? Probably keeps these in too.

“What do you know about these things? Are they dangerous?” I ask Jaina.
“Only to give them a wide berth. They mostly eat fungus, but they can be very territorial.”
“I want to give this one a closer look while it’s asleep. For science! Can I borrow your spear?”
“What? No.”
“Oh. Well, do you have a stick of some kind Anet?”
“Of course I do! How else would I poke stuff with a stick if I didn’t have one handy?” She produces a splinter of sizable length from her bag.
“This is a terrible idea,” Jaina points out.
“I’ll be careful.” I carefully approach the fungiform again and prod it. For science. In response to the stimuli, I notice a fine coat of hairs reflexively curl like a wave across its surface. Fascinating! I’m no biologist, or.. mycologist, I suppose, but the resemblance to a seaborne slug is unmistakable. I wonder if the similarity is more than skin deep. Its body tapers off to an incredibly thin sheet. It’s like a layer of the local mycelium just peeled itself off and went for a stroll.
I pat it on the ‘head’ and it wiggles its antennae in response. I think my curiosity’s sated for now.
>>
No. 1033094 ID: 899c9f
File 165315130004.png - (156.27KB , 500x500 , they_are_not_fun_guys.png )
1033094

After that, our walk through the fungal forest is quiet. Too quiet….
Suddenly, the stalks around us begin to move! They wiggle up and down in a threatening manner, and start to surround us.
Jaina brandishes her spear. “Stay behind me, I’ll deal with them.”
O-oh my, I think we might be getting into a real fight! W-what should I do?
>>
No. 1033095 ID: 9ca76a

>>1033094
They just want hugs bro
>>
No. 1033141 ID: 2ca2f9

Ask if those things are venomous, wait. Are you venomous? Regardless we should help her but be cautious.
>>
No. 1033150 ID: 96c896

Punch, kick, it's all in the mind!
>>
No. 1033163 ID: 6c227a

You heard the lady, stay behind her she'll handle them, though keep poking stick at the ready and watch your flanks
>>
No. 1033174 ID: 69fd3e

listen to your tour guide/kidnapper and stick close to the sisters.
>>
No. 1033692 ID: 899c9f
File 165360964230.png - (134.57KB , 500x500 , bug_hugs.png )
1033692

>Are they venomous? Are you venomous?
I hope not, and a little bit! I’ve never bitten anybody on purpose, though. Would it even work on these things?
“H-hah, maybe they just want hugs?“ The joke falls flat even as the spores wiggle comically.
One of them lunges to grab Jaina and she flings it off into the trees. I grip Anet’s poking stick tightly and thrust it in the direction of some spores approaching our flank, daring them to make a move. While I’m every bit focused on survival at the moment, a small part of me can’t help but think how much of a non-issue these things would be at my normal size.
Jaina stabs one and it releases a puff of spores, causing the pack to scatter. As the fungiforms retreat into the forest, I let out the breath I was holding - away from the spore cloud, of course - and relax.
Suddenly, Anet grabs me. Oh, it’s a hug. A very tight one! “Good job guarding our backs! You were very brave.”
Jaina shows her approval with a more restrained nod. “Not bad, tallman. You didn’t make a total fool of yourself.”
I reciprocate the hug to Anet. “Gee, uh, thanks, guys. Just another day on Dirt, huh?”
“Today’s been a pretty interesting one.”
>>
No. 1033693 ID: 899c9f
File 165360964803.png - (135.60KB , 500x500 , riverside_rest.png )
1033693

After more walking, we leave the mushroom caps behind and reach the stream. The constantly running sink has dug a trench through the thick fungal carpet it also feeds, forming a deep riverbed. The girls stop and rest by the riverside to cool their heels. Anet waves for me to sit down with them.
Jaina is deep in thought. “Well, this is an issue. Between you and our new cargo, we’ll have to figure out a way to cross this, or go around.”
“Well, how do you normally cross?” I ask.
“We just jump across. It’s not hard.”
“What- really? All the way across?”
“Yep. Won’t work carrying your or the candy though, you’re too heavy.” She points up to the counter. “We could climb up and walk around the sink, or take a shortcut through the cupboards. Both are going out of our way, but to cross the river we’ll have to get… creative.”
“Can we go back to the part where you jump across an entire river? I kind of want to see that.”
“Well, all right, I guess we can show you. Anet?”
>>
No. 1033694 ID: 899c9f
File 165360965288.png - (82.44KB , 500x500 , going_the_dist-ants.png )
1033694

Anet gets up and rolls her shoulders. She settles into a low stance on the riverbank, coils up her legs, and leaps into the air. She’s gone in an instant.
Dang, she wasn’t kidding, that ant can leap! One moment she was next to me, and now she’s on the other shore waving back at me.
“See? Nothing to it for Formicans,” says Jaina.
How do they do it so easily? Out of curiosity, I try jumping up and down myself. The ground itself is a little bouncy, but I don’t get quite as much air as she does. Not even a full inch.
Anet jumps back over just as effortlessly and we begin to plan our route. How are we going to get us all across?
>>
No. 1033698 ID: e07ed2

gather material for rope bridge
>>
No. 1033704 ID: 96c896

Float across
>>
No. 1033705 ID: 2aa5f0

huh, well at least you know now that if it ever comes down to it you couldn't outrun them if you needed to get away, they could just jump faster then you could run. Good to know.

either way I say try the cupboards. Maybe it will let you see what kind of tools old formicans used before they shrunk themselves.
>>
No. 1033803 ID: dc3359

Would Anet and Jaina working together be strong enough to simply toss the candy all the way across? Followed by tossing you across?
>>
No. 1033861 ID: 36784c

>>1033705
Do this.
>>
No. 1034148 ID: 344f1d

Briefly imagine getting spun by the tail and skipped across like a stone, then suggest the cupboards
>>
No. 1034257 ID: 899c9f
File 165421484310.png - (87.33KB , 500x500 , treasure_ahead_id_wager.png )
1034257

>gather material for rope bridge
It turns out we can't really anchor anything in the ground, it's too soft. Plus it'd take a while to find enough materials.
>float across
I could, maybe, but... I look at the drain off in the distance, quietly gurgling. I'd rather not chance it.
>toss the candy and you across
So, the thing is, that candy weighs more than me right now. It’s rather humbling! Jaina explains to me in simple terms that she can’t throw it across the entire river any more than she could jump across carrying it.

By process of elimination, we choose to head upriver and take a detour through the cabinet caverns. The roar of cascading water helps this feel like a waterfall in an exotic jungle and not just some ten thousand year old leaky sink. The doors are slightly ajar and sagging with the humidity weighing on their hinges, wide enough for Jaina to throw a rope up and help us all climb in. Once we’re in, things are nearly pitch black, and I stumble almost immediately into Jaina.
“What’s the matter, tallman? Blinded by the smell?“
“No, I’m blinded by the dark! It smells better in here than outside. Kind of like a pool.”
“Really, it doesn’t bother you? You must not navigate at all by smell then. That would explain how touchy-feely you got in the tunnel… doesn’t excuse it, though.”
“Eheh. ”Looking to quickly change the subject, I dig around in my pack. “It’s okay, I think I brought my flashlight… aha! Behold!” I flick on my tiny penlight and wave it around, bringing light to the darkness! Now the way ahead is lit, and it leads between a bunch of old spray bottles! The light plays oddly against the semi-transparent fluids still inside them.
Jaina flinches away from the light and brings my arm down. “Yeah yeah, I’ve seen an electric torch before. They’d be more useful if we had a way to recharge them. Did you bring one?“
“Ah, no... The batteries should be good for a while though.”
>>
No. 1034258 ID: 899c9f
File 165421484914.png - (90.37KB , 500x500 , plumbing_the_depths.png )
1034258

It’s eerily quiet as we walk through the cupboards. The cleaning products leaching into the environment keeps the mold at bay, leaving this place relatively untouched aside from a dark stain along the front where the water has infiltrated the counter. I use the flashlight intermittently to check out corners and some of the boxes we pass. So far, what I’m learning about Formican society is that their sinks were just like ours, maybe with a little more complex plumbing. At one point, I think I spot a shadow that moves, and from then on I’m a lot less carefree with the light.
Anet breaks the tension by asking me to hand her the flashlight. “I never noticed the boxes had names on them before. I recognize some of them! Let’s see… Arm & Arm & Hammer, Deodor-Ant, N-A-C-L-O…”
“You’re still familiar with brand-name products?” I ask.
“Yeah. You’ll see, when you get to the village. We’ve still got some time before we get there... Hey, why don’t we play a game in the meantime? Like truth or dare!”
“Great idea! I’ll start.” Jaina jabs a finger at me. “Why don’t we start with a truth: Why are you really here?”
“Well, to be an archaeologist, of course! I was studying your people.”
“But why were you doing that? What’s the number one reason you became an archaeologist?”

>I wanted to be like my idol, Sir Lyle Smith!
>I just really like aliens.
>A strong feeling of wanderlust.
>Uhhh can I take a dare instead?

While answering Jaina’s question, suggest ideas for Sam to truth, dare or be dared with.
>>
No. 1034262 ID: 2aa5f0

>I wanted to be like my idol, Sir Lyle Smith!

>Truth
If you thought I was so touchy feely earlier why didn't you say anything?

Dare
uh... yeah I got nothing. Don't know either of you well enough to make a clever dare and not sure how safe this area is so I'd rather not ask to do stupid things that could put us in danger.

So uh, jump as high as you can? I've seen how far you can jump but not how high you can jump.
>>
No. 1034281 ID: dc9df3

>>1034258
>I wanted to be like my idol and ask her why she didn’t say anything when you touched her.
>>
No. 1034296 ID: 36784c

>>1034258
>What’s the number one reason you became an archaeologist?
I wanted to be like my idol, Sir Lyle Smith!

Here’s a truth for Sam to ask: Ask if they’ll actually let you return to your normal size and go home or will they keep you as their tiny prisoner forever?
>>
No. 1034494 ID: 899c9f
File 165455266992.png - (116.23KB , 500x500 , this_door_was_a_jar.png )
1034494

Feeling nervous, I just let everything go in one breath. "I wanted to be like my idol, Sir Lyle Smith! He made so many discoveries and went on really cool adventures all the time and I had no idea I'd be on one of my own so soon!"
Anet gives me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "See, you're really good at following in his footsteps! Filling them would be another matter entirely, though."
Jaina folds her arms. "Looking for adventure? Well congratulations, it found you. Just remember, you're not on some jungle safari. This is serious business."
"This is truth or dare, Jaina! It doesn't have to be so serious. Now it's Sam's turn!"
"Oh, uh, right." I point a finger back at Jaina. "Truth or dare?" I'm pretty sure you're supposed to ask which one, right?
"Hmph. Truth."
"Well, if you thought I was so touchy feely earlier, why didn't you say anything?"
Jaina hesitates a moment before she scowls. "...You know what, I'll take the dare instead!"
"Okay, okay! Uhh... I dare you to jump onto one of these boxes!"
"Hah! That's easy." She picks out the tallest one, crouches just like Anet did, then shoots straight upward. I hear a quiet thump and then she looks out over the side at us.
Anet points up at her. "Ha, you hit your head on the pipe, didn't you?!"
"Did not! That was the simplest dare I've ever had! - Woah." Suddenly, she slips and falls backward. I hear another thump from inside the box, about halfway up.
"Jaina! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine!" She shouts back. "Landed on some soft plastic sheets. These boxes have rotted straight through!" To prove her point, she punches right out the side of the box and climbs back down to us. She dusts a few cardboard flakes off and we're on our merry way again.
Undeterred by her semi-intentional stunt, she asks, "That just leaves you now, Anet. What'll it be?"
"Ooh, I pick dare!" Anet says with boundless enthusiasm.
"Alright. I dare you... not to ask Sam any questions for the next five minutes."
"Done!" She mimes zipping her lips shut.
"Okay. Good. So, Sam," Jaina turns to me. "What’s your favorite food?"
"Huh? Oh, gummy snakes, definitely."
"What? Oh, come on Jaina, this isn't fair!"
Jaina waggles a finger at her sister. "Do you want to win the dare or not?" Anet fumes silently in response. "That's what I thought. Fascinating! So, your favorite holiday?"
“Um, Orobus. It’s the day that’s the start and end of a cycle, you see-” I try to explain for Anet’s benefit, but Jaina cuts me off.
"Oh, I understand completely. So then, after the holiday, what do you do…" She keeps up a nonstop flow of questions for the next five minutes. I hope I have time to go back and explain all of that to Anet later!
We reach the other end of the cabinets blessedly soon and slide down a fallen cupboard door to the plains below. We're almost at the village now, and we bounce across the springy terrain at a healthy jog. The huge, imposing door has a smaller, circular door carved out at the bottom for the Formicans to use. Jaina sticks her arm into a hole on the side to turn a hidden latch that unlocks the door, and steps over the fence that stretches along the gap. Anet and I follow.
>>
No. 1034495 ID: 899c9f
File 165455267762.png - (201.46KB , 500x700 , area_discovered_formican_village.png )
1034495

Upon entering the village, I feel like I've taken my first step into a larger world.
Everywhere in the room before me, boxes are stacked along the walls and on the floor. Some of them have holes cut out for windows, others line the shelves of what have been a supply closet originally. There's a fertilizer bag half empty slumped near a mop and bucket, its contents strewn across the floor to form a field for growing some kind of crop. On every level of the room, I can see the tiny figures of Formicans going about their business. The closest heads are starting to turn and abandon their work to stare at us. This is a lot of people for a village...
"I'm going on ahead to let the elders know we've arrived. Don't cause any trouble until I get back, and don't cause any then either. The council will decide your fate." With that, Jaina turns and leaves us with Anet.
I nervously clear my throat. "So... do you think they'll let me return to my normal size, or keep me as a tiny prisoner forever?"
Anet ponders the question. "...I'm sure the elders will be nice to you. I wish we could keep you, though! I'd keep you as a tiny pet. I'd play with you every day, and we'd go on adventures all the time! ...Something wrong?"
For some reason, her wording calls to mind images of Anet looming over me like a gi-ant while I run around in a tiny cage. It's distracting enough to give me pause... "I definitely like you as a person and while I've enjoyed our time together so far, I think I'm small enough as it is."

>Stay with Anet and await your summons
>Go with Jaina to plead your case
>>
No. 1034496 ID: 96c896

Stay with Anet. Showing that you can be trusted to follow simple instructions is a good first step.
>>
No. 1034497 ID: 2ca2f9

>>1034495
Stay, we don’t want to cause any trouble.
>>
No. 1034512 ID: 2aa5f0

>Stay with Anet and await your summons

I'm noticing that the girls look like the only ones around town that wear clothes.
>>
No. 1034541 ID: 4bc569

>>1034495
Stay with Anet

And tell her that you're hurt that she'd only think of you as a pet. Even though you haven't known her for very long, you were kinda hoping that you'd at least be friends.
>>
No. 1034597 ID: 899c9f
File 165473091672.png - (130.14KB , 500x500 , snake_charmed.png )
1034597

>Stay and don't cause trouble
Okay! That sounds straightforward. I plunk myself down on our sugary loot and rest my aching legs.
>the girls look like the only ones around town wearing clothes
Upon closer inspection, no, everyone here is dressed, some more modestly than others. They mostly wear loose tunics like Anet, some with longer hems, others with rolled up sleeves if they've been working the field. A lot more of them look like girls than guys.
The gathering crowd forms a ring around us, too nervous to get closer. They whisper to each other in another language, their antennae twitching and tapping on each other’s heads.
Anet waves to them. “Hey, guys! I made a new friend, come see!” They still hesitate, until Anet remembers what we’re sitting on and tears open the packaging, releasing a sharp minty aroma from a bygone age. “And we brought sweets! Everybody dig in!”
The hard candy isn’t exactly made to be broken up and shared, so I get out my chisels and help break off chunks for everyone. It’s delicious! Most of the Formicans end up just sniffing their pieces for so long the sugar starts to melt in their hands.
With the ice broken, the Formicans start sitting closer and invading my personal space. Apparently, my tail is a curiosity to them. It’s… nice, but it’s kind of embarrassing… “Is that really how everybody sees me? Just a pet?” I whine.
Sensing my discomfort, Anet shoos the crowd back a little. “No, you’re more than just that! I’ve only known you for a day, but I’d like to think we’re friends. Things just… are pretty quiet around here. Nothing bothers us in here, we grow our own fungus to eat in the soil and with rationing our stores of boxed goods will last for generations. It gets boring, so that’s why Jaina and I go out and explore places and bring back interesting stuff. Like you! It’s really quite nice here, besides nothing happening.”
It might be mundane to her, but I think I’ll find plenty to discover here. “Thanks, Anet, that’s reassuring, I think. Say, all this sugar reminds me, I should probably explain what gummy snakes are…”
Anet is amazed to hear that there is a candy out there that’s soft, chewy, and up to three feet long. “That’s longer than my whole family standing antenna to toe!” Strange measurement, but probably true!
We talk for a while until Jaina returns to escort me to the elders. She looks at the line still spiraling around the hard candy, now broken into tiny pieces.
“I told you not to cause any trouble.”
Anet offers a shard she saved. “We didn’t! You should get a piece before you go.”
“Thanks. So, Sam, are you ready to hear the elders’ decision?”
>>
No. 1034601 ID: 273c18

>>1034597
Uhm, yes.
>>
No. 1034604 ID: 2aa5f0

I guess?
>>
No. 1034641 ID: b90535

>>1034597
Yeah
>>
No. 1034831 ID: 899c9f
File 165506262533.png - (163.13KB , 500x500 , might_break_your_bones.png )
1034831

“Uhm, yes, I guess?”
Jaina blinks, then motions for me to follow her. "Huh, that was easy."
She guides us through the stacks of apartments to the far corner of the room, where a round building sits at the foundation of the stack, which I surmise started as a wastebasket or a bucket. Inside is a hallway I can see leading into a large auditorium. Before we come to the hall's double doors, Jaina knocks on a side door and announces she's returned. We enter a large office, where two Formicans stand waiting for me. One wears a large hat and fancy necklace, suggesting royal status, while the other once looks much older and wears a modest but long flowing robe.
The queen looks me up and down. "So, this is the outsider you've brought home, hmm? I thought you'd be taller." She's almost as tall as me, as it stands. "I don't believe anyone's taken the opportunity to officially welcome you to our home, so allow me: Welcome to our humble colony." She stretches two arms out to shake.
Unsure which to take, I shake one then the other. "Thank you, uh, ma'am. I am honored to meet you, and really sorry for the intrusion."
"Please, call me Elder Stone. My colleague Elder Styx and I lead the council that runs this village. Now unfortunately, you're not supposed to be here. We've worked very hard to stay under the radar for thousands of generations, and the intrusion of an outsider threatens the safety of our entire species. I'm sure you've noticed, we are not exactly living in the lap of luxury here, yes?"
"It's... comfortably rustic, I'd say."
"Mmm. Rustic. Our ancestors retreated here because our gleaming cities in all their automated glory began to rust away to pieces. We are long past our glory days, and our ability to defend ourselves is reduced to pebbles and toothpicks. Our security is maintained only through obscurity, and so we hide, as we always have. We have strived to maintain our last line of defense, no matter the cost.”
>>
No. 1034832 ID: 899c9f
File 165506262878.png - (100.37KB , 500x500 , go_west_young_ant.png )
1034832

”Now, what was the penalty for trespassers again, Elder Styx?"
"Ah yes, I believe it was... death!"
"And how many trespassers have we put to death as punishment, Elder Styx?"
"Hmm... I do believe it was... zero."
"Correct, because we have never actually had a trespasser before. This rule predates us by centuries, and to be honest, as I look at you I feel it would be an excessive punishment for an honest mistake. Nevertheless, your presence here could prove disruptive to our society, and thus we have decided your punishment shall be exile. You are to be banished, to return to your people from whence you came."
Jaina interjects, looking confused and angry. "Wait, you're just letting him go? But he'll tell everyone about us!"
Stone looks me in the eye, sending a chill down my spine. "He has been cooperative with you thus far, has he not? He seems like an honest boy to me. I am sure he can understand the importance of telling no one of this particular encounter... and if he doesn't, he just might find out how far the reducer can go." She sounds deadly serious.
I clear my throat before responding. "I-i understand completely, your highness. But... if I go back the way I am now, people will have questions about why I'm so small, won't they? And the reducer is broken, so-"
"-Correct. However, there is another reducer we are aware of, one that was kept online as a contingency, should someone have the need to return to true size. This reducer is in a forgotten laboratory, far from here, past a labyrinth of ancient tunnels, beyond the old city itself. And that is why we have chosen Anet and Jaina to lead you there." Before Jaina has a chance to object, she continues. "They have already proven capable guides for you thus far, but this will be further out than any of you have gone before. You will be seeing areas of the Great Temple our people have not seen in millennia... Prepare yourselves well, for it will be dangerous."
"The journey of a lifetime!" adds Elder Styx.
"You’ll have the rest of the day to do so before you set out tomorrow. Now, I suppose you all will have questions about this. Feel free to ask them."
Yeah, she can say that again! Where do I even begin?
>>
No. 1034833 ID: e07ed2

>>1034832
Well it'd make sense to open up with what the dangers are, whether anyone regularly visits the temple, and what types of preparations have been successful.
>>
No. 1034834 ID: 273c18

>>1034832
What are their long term plans for survival? Their home is in an isolated place, without a true ecosystem. That bag of fertilizer will eventually run out. Since they're letting you go, you might be able to arrange a regular delivery of supplies... but it would be suspicious for you to return here on your own like that. Perhaps they will just have to use the emergency reducer themselves, if it comes to it.

There's something you need to tell them. That skeleton out there is fake, which implies their situation here may be artificial as well. After all, the skeleton wouldn't fool an outsider, but it's fooled them.
>>
No. 1034835 ID: b90535

>>1034832
So your cities rut because you all relied to much on technology?
Also ask them that if they need any help once you return to your original size.
>>
No. 1034836 ID: 6a2a09

why is there a fake skeleton in this place? they probably wont know the answer, but it wouldnt hurt to ask.
>>
No. 1034841 ID: 2aa5f0

huh, well I did come here originally in hopes of returning to my original size so thank you for helping me achieve that goal but I do have to ask. From what little I heard about your people on my way here, you all originally shrunk yourselves to avoid be caught in a war but once the war was over you discovered that you no longer had the ability to return to your original size, if you had a way to return why have you never used it?

And for a more immediate question, how long would you believe this journey to be and will I and my guides be able to gather up supplies for the journey before we set out? Also when do you want me to leave? Immediately or can we rest and resupply first before heading out?
>>
No. 1034873 ID: f2320a

>>1034832
You have no influx of energy in your enviroment no sun or photosynthetic crops all your conserved food will not rot but become energyless mush less nurishing then ash from time your fungus taking energy nutrients merely eating whats already there your people must have noticed the shrinking yield and shrinking wildlife generation after generation?
>>
No. 1034895 ID: 758001

Ok, so. Here's the thing.

We're an archaeologist, and we've discovered an incredible secret. We may be honest, but how long do you think we'll actually be able to go without letting something slip? Once we're away, you can't enforce any penalties on us.

On top of that,
>I am sure he can understand the importance of telling no one of this particular encounter
Frankly - no, I don't. Your civilization is rotting away. You no longer have (m)any secrets to be extort; you no longer understand the technology you used to possess. How many more generations do you expect to survive, in here? Perhaps it would be better for you to rejoin galactic civilization and try to actually recover, instead of slowly wasting away.

Of course, rather than say all this up front, we could go on the whole exploration mission first and see if any info we gather there might affect things. Though, if the goal of the mission is to return to normal size, once the mission is done we presumably won't be able to talk to the elders anymore, so....
>>
No. 1035111 ID: 899c9f
File 165536102032.png - (89.16KB , 500x500 , hesit-ant.png )
1035111

I guess I’ll start with the basics. “What dangers do you expect we’ll face on the journey?”

“We have not used the tunnels in over a thousand years… What we know of the lands beyond was passed down through generations. Many tunnels have been blocked by landslides or on purpose to cover our exodus. We have never seen any signs of life from the city since. Beyond that, it’s a tallman’s world. Be prepared to climb, and if you can’t go through something, try going under.”

“What should we prepare?”
“Prepare yourself mentally. We will provide a map. The sisters will handle your supplies. Jaina and Anet are the village’s foremost explorers; they’ve been navigating the surrounding rooms for years. From the fungal wastes to the dust desert, even the subterranean aqueducts… They will know what to do.”

“If you knew about it all this time, why haven’t you used the emergency reducer?”
“Long ago, our ancestors had a choice between two reducers to escape to, and they chose this one because it was deemed less risky. They did not have the resources or the desire to return to the city after they learned of their misfortune, and so this settlement was founded.”
She lowers her voice and leans in to add, “No one outside of this room knows about the other reducer. They have grown accustomed to their lives here, and so there is no need for it.”

“No need? But what about your long term survival plans? This artificial ecosystem won’t be sustainable forever!”
“Why not? Our ancestors built this place to last indefinitely. While we may not be using it in ways they anticipated here, life finds a way. The gifts of the ancients are many - our sun is always shining, and the soil is unnaturally fertile. Should the day come when our stockpile finally runs out, which won’t be for many queens to come, we may migrate to some other small corner of this world. Perhaps you will uncover some viable locations along the journey.”

“How long will that journey take?”
“Well, a tallman could probably walk there in five minutes, if he knew where he was going! Ha… It will take days, so take whatever you can carry. You should leave by midshift tomorrow.”

“Why is there a fake skeleton outside the village, anyway?“
“It is fake? This is news to me. Styx always suspected something was off about it. We will have to think upon this more. I have no idea why the ancients would plant a fake body…”

“So, your cities rotted because you relied too much on technology?”
“Yes. Elder Styx can give you a fuller explanation, but our technological base eroded out from under us. Our ingenuity and resourcefulness, however, have not.”

“Once I’m big again, is there anything I can do to help you?”
“No. Do not make any mention of us, nor seek us out again. I do not wish for us to be at the mercy of giants. It is already unavoidable that we are at yours.”

“About that... How long do you think I can go without letting something slip? Wouldn’t it be better to just rejoin civilization?”
“Ha. So you heard how hollow that threat rings. Well, hopefully having an entire species on your conscience will help you keep the secret.”
Stone traces the edge of her bottlecap desk as she turns to look at a mural on the wall. It depicts a line of Formicans, all wearing similar garb to hers. “Don’t think you can diagnose our situation so easily - we have fallen further than you have ever climbed. We will keep the embers of our civilization glowing, perhaps even reclaim some of our legacy. Now, if we are done here, I bid you good day.”
I follow Anet and Jaina out of the village hall with conflicting feelings. The sisters say they’ll take care of packing, as they know where to get everything. I guess I’m free to explore a lost civilization tonight.

>Sam will have an opportunity to choose extra gear tomorrow. Choose how to spend the rest of the day:
>Hang around Jaina and their family
>Hang out with Anet and Elder Styx
>Explore somewhere in town with Anet or Jaina: the top shelf, the farm, the ballpens, or elsewhere
>Other: What else could Sam get up to?
>>
No. 1035112 ID: 5d9787

It's not a threat. We came here to search for you. Someone else finding something is very likely regardless of how competent I am at keeping secrets.
Don't you want to join us? Colonize other planets? Maybe even do that as tallman.
It's tragic that your entire civilization could be limited to existing within a single building forever.
>>
No. 1035114 ID: 9c502d

Explore the town, maybe the top shelf to get the best view.
>>
No. 1035116 ID: 273c18

>>1035111
>perhaps even reclaim some of our legacy
That's plainly impossible. If they were unable to keep their technology maintained, then they sure can't make more of it. They don't even know what fertilizer is, so they obviously didn't keep any textbooks about basic survival skills.
They also don't have much interest in regaining knowledge, because they sent you away immediately instead of asking you to teach them basic science.

It's like they want to die in obscurity, too afraid of the outside world to open up even basic discussion. What do they think people are going to do? The original reason they hid was because other civilizations wanted them to use their advanced technology to help them in military conflicts, but now, they don't HAVE that advanced technology.

Hang out with Jaina, explore the town. Ask why they're isolationist; you keep getting told that you should know why, but you kindof don't, at this point.
>>
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

>>1035111
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

>>1035118
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 )
1035621

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.”
“Yeah.”
“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 )
1035622

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.

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

>Distract:
>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

>>1035622
Man, that hurts.
Said sure, we better not make a scene, at least not here.
>>
No. 1035639 ID: 2aa5f0

>Distract:
>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

>>1035622
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

>>1035677
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

>>1035622
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

>>1035677
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
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1035866

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

>>1035866
>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

>>1035866
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

>>1035932
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.


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