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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.


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