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File 166016789938.png - (87.00KB , 500x500 , a_smaller_quest.png )
1040516 No. 1040516 ID: 899c9f


One small step for Sam, one giant leap for Formican-kind.
189 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1054454 ID: dee951


Dammit, Anet! Don't DO that! You'll give me a heart attack! Sit next to me and gently shake me awake rather than creepily looming over me with hands ready as if to strike!!
No. 1054477 ID: 49e2b5

Wait a minute. Is it just me or is the clothing Sam is wearing looking bigger than it should? Don't tell me he got smaller! I really hope that's a sleeping bag he's in (or it's a weird perspective thing due to the art), otherwise we've got a time limit to get Sam bigger before he gets too small!
No. 1054546 ID: a7a180
File 167452459978.png - (148.36KB , 500x500 , thats_not_anet.png )

>Stay calm
I suppress the initial urge to shout and take deep breaths. “Oh, it’s just you Anet,” I speak softly. “Don’t scare me like that, okay? Sit down and just shake me by the shoulder next time.” She doesn’t move. “...What’s wrong?” I briefly wonder if I’ve started to shrink more, because my clothes feel fine, but Anet seems a lot bigger…
The real Anet groggily sits up and faces me. “Yes, Sam? What’s wrong?”

<What’z wrooong…>
No. 1054561 ID: a9af05

…ok, before you panic, remember that the friendly Beformicans will approach you, so this one is probably friendly.
No. 1054574 ID: 15c72a

It's (she's?) mimicking your language. That's a good sign.
Tell Anet not to panic. You have a visitor.
No. 1054578 ID: 281b3c

Let's not raise our voices or make any sudden moves, and do everything we can to make sure our visitor doesn't get agitated. Soothing, relaxed tones of voice are important here.

Hey there fella. You are very impressive. You've come to pay us a friendly visit, haven't you.
No. 1054586 ID: 613ef9

“Oh, uhhh… hello there, can I help you?”
No. 1054589 ID: e51896

well, if they were planning to attack, they would have done so while you were asleep.

I wonder if its hungry. We have food we can give it to show we mean no harm?
No. 1054810 ID: a7a180
File 167486107134.png - (130.38KB , 500x500 , dinner_and_a_show.png )

Oh, hey Anet. Don’t be alarmed, but we have company.
She rubs the sleep out of her eyes before looking my way. “Oh? -Ohhhh.
She must be friendly… I think.
Then keep talking to her.
Right. Uh… my, what big claws you have.” -Agh, why did I focus on that? Wait, I should try using a language she (probably) understands! I clear my throat and try again in Formican. <Greetings,> “uh,” <big ant, friend?>
<Big ant… me. Friend.> Her accent is thick, her voice low and buzzy.
<Yes, m- you. Me, Sam. Uh… food?> I offer her a mushroom cap from my bag.
<Hmm?> She takes it and sniffs it with her antennae before biting it. It’s fascinating and a little intimidating to see her outer mandibles clacking in sync with the inner mandibles chewing up close. She must like it a lot, because it starts disappearing quickly. Or maybe she hasn’t eaten in days.
Meanwhile, Anet rolls over and moves Jaina’s spear out of reach before prodding her and Pent awake. “Psst. No sudden moves. There’s a Beformican staring at Sam.
Wha- Where? Who touched my spear?
<Don’t attack. If it wanted us dead, we would be... Wait, I recognize her. One of the friendly ones, all right. Comes around sometimes to trade junk with us for food. Doesn’t seem to have a name, so we call her Bright Eyes.>
“Wait, so Beformicans don’t have names?” Anet asks.
<Not this one, at least. She’s a creature of few words.>
Jaina sizes up the visitor armed only with her glare. “I recognize her, too. She chased us out of a hab block right before we met you.”
<She chased you? Well I don’t blame you for running. You don’t stop and ask Them if they’re friendly.>
<Am patient hunter.> Bright Eyes was listening while she munched shroom.
<Why did you follow us here?> Pent asks her.
<Him.> She turns to face me. <What... are... you?>
No. 1054814 ID: 52800c

I mean you might as well try to explain. Not sure how bad the language barrier is in the other direction.
No. 1054815 ID: 9a2966

Alright, let's bring out the big guns and the small words. She knows the area, she's friendly, she's big and tough... so maybe she can be of assistance in your quest as well!

>what are you
Am Talzoran - tallman. Was bigger. Came from far to find past of formicans - you, and smaller ones. Why vanish in past.

Became small, by machine, mistake. Found formicans, understand why vanish - why small and secret. Found danger... but also friends. Many discoveries, amazing, scary, funny, sad - have adventure. But want get big again. Want go home.

Somewhere here: make-big machine. Find, fix, use. Then, can go home.

Hm. Wonder if Bright Eyes is smarter than she appears - she's certainly curious enough. Maybe show her some of your stuff? If she's a scavenger, she might have input on some of it. Or give it to her in exchange for help... though she most seems interested in you.

Does she enjoy stories? Maybe you could tell her some basic ones of your people.
No. 1055168 ID: a7a180
File 167546225008.png - (121.20KB , 500x500 , big_lady.png )

>bring out the big guns and small words
I explain that I am a Talzoran, not of this land. Bright Eyes nods. <Traveler… Why?>
<Came from far away to learn past. …How, um,> I look at Anet. “How do I ask if she understands what I’m saying well enough?” Anet repeats the question to Bright Eyes.
She nods back. <Juzt… speak zlow.>
“Okay, then… <Wanted to find Formicans, why gone. Became small, learned sad history.>”
Bright Eyes shrugs. <Hiztory not important. Live long, zee many things. Remember important things now, forget otherz. When no one alive who zee thing, who remember?>
<…That why we learn history, so we remember.>
Something clicks in her mind. <Ah…>
<How long do Beformicans live, anyway?> Anet asks. <Would she even have a way of tracking time?>
<...Sky voice count dayz.>
<Of course, the daily announcements,> says Pent. <The ‘sky voice’ says the date every day. Everyone would hear that.>
<Alwayz wanted to meet sky voice…>
The earliest date she can recall would put her at about 80 years old! I would have guessed her age around Anet’s, not past Elder Stone’s.

<Zzo… Where going?> She asks me.
<Going to place to get big again. Becoming small was accident.>
<Get big?> She raises one eyebrow.
<Yes. Way, way bigger.> I stand and wave up towards the ceiling, trying to get across the sheer scale I’m referring to.
She shakes her head. <Me biggezt.>
<Heh, not quite.> I chuckle at the misunderstanding, but she stands up to compare our sizes and I go quiet real fast. <Anyway… got to get big, to go home.>
<When big, not need home. Can go anywhere.>
>Tell stories
She has professed an ignorance of storytelling up until now, but if I take my time patiently communicating the details and think carefully on how to present it, I could tell her some folklore or modern tales.
(Suggest titles and Sam will share the closest analogues. He can tell one now, or wait until they rest again.)
>Show her your stuff
I rummage through my bag, looking for something interesting to pull out. She leans in, already curious. What do I show her? Maybe offer some trade?
>Suggest item(s): https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest/Inventory
No. 1055171 ID: 9a2966

>80 years
Fascinating. They must've been gene therapied for longevity as well. She's that old, but clearly still spry and strong.

>can go anywhere
Ah, but a home is somewhere you'd want to return to. A place where you can be with the people you like and who like you in turn. Somewhere you could have a family. Ideally, at least.

A simplified and modernized version of Gulliver's Travels might be a good fit. Or something else with a exploration theme or size shenanigans, just to make her understand what's going on with you.

>show item
The fire extinguisher maybe? Given its incredible recoil, she might be the only one here properly able to handle it and it's the sort of tool that can be used to ward off larger predators or even other big Beforemicans. Or actualy fires, you guess.

What else... uh, maybe not give her the serum accidentally! Who knows what an ancient experiment like that would do to, er, another experiment, essentially.

Wait. Where's it gooooohnoooodon'tdrinkthaaaat
No. 1055190 ID: 52800c

I'm not sure she's really conceptualizing how big the world you're from is, but it might be hard to get that concept across.

As far as showing or trading her anything goes, we don't know very much about her just yet, so it might be more fruitful to just see what catches her eye and go from there.

Something akin to the first parts of Gulliver's Travels seems like a good idea if you know something like that, yeah.
No. 1055206 ID: 3b5fba

I don't think she'll understand if you try to explain you used to be way bigger than her. It might be best best that you don't try to explain, since she might get frustrated and slap you from being unable to understand.

>show items
Don't let her or any of the other ladies drink the Serum Experiment X-0.X! It may be a failed prototype to kickstart fertility, but odds are that it'll still have some kind of effect on them and I'm pretty sure none of them would appreciate being forced into becoming fertile!
No. 1055874 ID: a7a180
File 167625383287.png - (110.29KB , 500x500 , can_we_keep_her.png )

>Show extinguisher
While I look through my bag for something of interest to the curious cavewoman, I ask Pent, “So how did that junk for food trade work between you and Bright Eyes?”
<She would usually find something shiny and ask us what it was. If we knew, we’d tell her. Most of it was good for at least spare parts. She really has an eye for the vintage stuff.>
“Maybe she’d like to see a working piece, then?” I pull out the extinguisher. “This is a cool piece of technology. A neverending fire extinguisher, very powerful - hey!” Bright Eyes grabs it out of my hands and starts turning it over.
<Neverending fire?>
“No wait, don’t- !” yells Anet.
She quickly figures out which end is the trigger and points it down the hall. PFFWOOSH! A large cloud of foam engulfs the hallway, and the recoil knocks her on her abdomen nearly a foot down the corridor! Good thing she wasn’t pointing it at herself, or the ground. A sudden chill blows down the hall as the foam evaporates, leaving behind a shimmering coat of frost. Anet tests it and finds the ground is slippery enough to form an impromptu ice rink. Bright Eyes comes back to see Anet sliding around and is confused until she’s pulled onto the ice and her feet lose their purchase. Anet invites the rest of us to join them, but given Bright Eyes’ tangle of limbs flying everywhere trying to keep her balance, it seems the rink is at capacity. The ice lasts for about a minute or so until it warms up again.

>Serum X-0.X
<Wazz fun. What elze?> She digs through my pack and finds the love potion phial.
“Hold on there, stop!” This time, she heeds the warning. “That’s a very powerful drink. It, um - it gets Formicans in the mood to lay eggs. It’s supposed to make them lay even more eggs too, but I don’t quite think they had that part figured out yet.” I turn to the others. “Nobody should accidentally drink this. The fact it’s bright pink should give that away, but I just want to be clear about the effects.”
“Yeah, this should be saved for special occasions. It’ll queen your biological clock!” says Anet.
“That was terrible,” says Jaina. “Anyway, I’m not too worried about it. Don’t see many drones out here, right? Sam not included. Even if we drank it, there’s no risk of eggnancy.”
<Ick, I don’t want to go all lovey dovey. Don’t need to tell me twice,> says Pent.
Bright Eyes scoffs. <Have no queens. Drink not affect me!> Still, she hands it back along with my bag.

>Story time
I decide to recount The Starry-Eyed Sojourn of Silas Boothby, or Boothby’s Bogus Journey as it’s sometimes shortened to. An ordinary sea snake by trade, Silas washes up after a shipwreck on strange shores inhabited by people much smaller than him. Later on, he has more adventures with people much bigger, people much smarter, scientifically at least, and talking red quadrupeds for some reason. Some believe this story tells the tale of the author’s abduction by aliens, and the biting political satire was just a coincidence. Until now, the presence of the tiny race, assumed to be Formicans, made that theory very chronologically unlikely. But now that I know there are living Formicans, could they have abducted him? And who then were the other aliens?
“...So, tiny ones try to catch him, and when they learn he friendly, decide he can stay. But, unsure how to feed him.”
<Why Boothby, the biggezt one, not juzzt eat them?>
“Because, that’s not nice! What if they think that when he meet ones much bigger than him?”
<Maybe he become zmall.>
“No, that not what- Well, maybe? How would he tell the difference… huh. I have to think on that. I’ll tell you the rest some other time.”
<Okay.> I don’t think she’s ready for the sharp commentary of the Noxious and Scythians.
Bright Eyes lingers while we pack up and redress. Her silent staring is starting to get awkward, so I deliver a formal goodbye.
“Well, it was nice talking with you, but we do have a lot of walking to do today. I hope I’ll see you around again, so I can finish that story?” The four of us start walking down the corridor. After a delay, Bright Eyes gets up and follows behind at a distance.
“So, you’re coming along too then?” Jaina asks. Bright Eyes nods.

>Bright Eyes has joined the party!
No. 1055875 ID: a7a180
File 167625384113.png - (227.52KB , 600x500 , area_discovered_abandoned_classroom.png )

The tunnel ends in a T-junction following the direction of a hallway above, according to Anet’s map. Our intended route lies on the other side of the hall, so we locate a hatch and climb back up into the normal-sized section of the Great Temple. It lives up to its name at times like this. At this scale, it feels like an endless cathedral without benches or any windows. The only light in the hallway leaks out from the door up ahead. We cross the vast, empty corridor in unnerving silence.
Inside is a familiar sight to me. An abandoned classroom is arranged like an amphitheater around a teacher’s desk. Ancient towers of textbooks dot the classroom, and a makeshift series of ramps and walkways made from rulers and strips of wood pried off the walls dot the desks that form a wide canopy high overhead. The door next to the chalkboard should lead into the laboratory wing.
“Looks like someone small has come here before,” I say.
<Xanthi…> Bright Eyes mutters.
“Who?” asks Anet.
<Thoze outzide city. Want more zpace, have lezz food.>
<Oh, so even more territorial and less friendly,> Pent remarks.
There are two paths forward: Take the walkways and stay high, or stay low to the ground and less visible. There could be trouble with the Xanthi if we stay low, but those walkways don’t look all that safe either. Perhaps we can think of another way to travel?
It’s a dumb idea, but… I’m seeing a lot of paper around. What if we use the classroom’s natural elevation to glide down there on a paper plane?
No. 1055878 ID: 8483cf

Ask Bright Eyes how we can use the Rope Dispenser to expedite travel. She's probably got ideas.
No. 1055881 ID: 15c72a

Let me guess, that "skeleton" is fake too.
Bring up your idea! It could work! Just gotta get the balance right.
No. 1056010 ID: 1d5bb3

Are you sure you can even fold the giant paper in order to make the giant paper airplane?

And wouldn't Bright Eyes' size severely throw off the balance of the paper airplane?
No. 1056111 ID: f8083d

The walkways seem more exposed, less room to hide.
But it also means less potential ambush spots.
No. 1056279 ID: a7a180
File 167653729998.png - (125.41KB , 500x500 , small_talk_the_sequel.png )

>another skeleton
Two of them? What are the odds? I should study this one too and compare my findings. And if we’re going up to see the skeleton, I figure why not tell the others about my idea? It costs nothing to ask.
“Guys? I want to check out that skeleton. I know it’s a detour, but I also have an idea that could get us across the room faster: What if we made a paper plane?”
<A what?> asks Pent.
“A… flying machine. If we take some paper from one of these old textbooks, we could fold it into a shape that will glide through the air, and we can ride it to the other side of the room. We’re small and light enough that it just might work!” I tear off a corner of a nearby page to make a demonstration.
Jaina: “Flying through the air with nowhere to hold onto and no control over the plane? Sounds incredibly unsafe.”
“We can add some safety features without making it too heavy, I hope,” I add.
Pent is intrigued. <I want to fly.>
Anet says, “I love this plan! I bet Bright Eyes can give us a big push!”
<Not zzure what puzhing, but am big.>
“So, I’m getting outvoted again. I just hope this doesn’t hurt too badly…”
We need to find some good quality paper, figure out a launch system and find a good place to launch from. We probably need some way to cushion the landing, too.
The skeleton is one of the tallest things in the room. Perhaps its skull would be wide enough to launch the plane from, or at least we could scout out the room and identify a path that avoids crashing into book towers and other desks. I should test its stability first though, I’m not sure what’s holding it together.

>Ask Bright Eyes how we can use the rope dispenser to expedite travel
“Hey Bright Eyes, you’ve used ropes before, right? Have you ever swung around from building to building?”
<Yezz. Zwing from building to building on vine. Izz fun!>
“Jaina has a vine she keeps on her hip. Do you have any tips for how we could use it to get from desk to desk quickly? Oh, ah, could you show her the ropes, Jaina?” I ask.
“Fine… I have plenty of experience with this thing myself, you know.”
“Maybe she could show you a new trick or two!”
She unclips the rope dispenser from her hip and pulls out a lead to show Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes is confused and keeps pulling the rope out into a big pile. <Long vine… Where doezz it go?> She pulls and pulls until it stops coming out.
“Well? That’s all the rope we have, now are you going to show us what to do with it?” Jaina asks, annoyed. Bright Eyes shrugs. “Well, that’s great. You’re helping me feed this back in, Sam.”
We didn’t learn any rope tricks, but Jaina does explain the dispenser to me a little. If we use too much rope without returning it after, it takes a while before it can produce more. Reeling the rope back in refills it faster, but we’ve pulled out so much that we’ll have to pace it to avoid rope burns.
The climb up to the skeleton and the fixed rate at which the rope can be retracted leaves plenty of time to make conversation. We should get to know our two new party members better - their life experiences have been very different from Anet and Jaina’s, and each other.
>Conversation topics: pick 3

>Check on Jaina’s injury
>Xanthi: what else does Bright Eyes know about them?
>Scavengers and the trading economy
>Schooling in the village: how’s that handled?
>What exactly makes Beformicans so special?
>Tell us more about your family, Pent!
>write-in: >_
No. 1056292 ID: 9681ef

I am definitely curious about what a Beformican thinks is special about Beformicans.

Asking about the economy seems like it could have some interesting answers as well, and ... sure, let's check on Jaina.
No. 1056328 ID: be210c

>pick 3 topics
Check on Jaina’s injury

Schooling in the village: how’s that handled?

What exactly makes Beformicans so special?
No. 1056738 ID: a7a180
File 167703173771.png - (164.56KB , 500x500 , the_return_of_small_talk.png )

>Check on Jaina’s injury
As I help Jaina thread the rope back into its holster, I look over at Jaina and notice that she’s leaving her upper right arm out of the proceedings. Her passive frown seems a little more forced than usual. “Um, Jaina… How’s your back feeling after that fight on the trolley?”
“It’s fine. Nothing to worry about, it’s already healing over.”
“Really? Maybe I should check that for you…”
“There’s no need. It’s just a bit itchy now.” She’s surprisingly quick to brush off the suggestion this time.
Anet chastises her. “Itching could mean it’s getting infected. Let me look.”
Jaina relents, shrugging her armor off the shoulder gingerly, and it's immediately evident ‘healing over’ is too optimistic. The gash oozes a greenish fluid. It looks like she was hit hard enough to crack her exoskeleton. Her armor absorbed part of the blow when it broke, so it could have been worse. Apparently the paper they used in the village to make her vest is of thicker stock than we’d find around here.
“See, this is why we should worry about you,” says Anet. “I appreciate you not wanting us to stress over how bad it is, but don’t neglect yourself.”
“Point taken… ”
The next chance we get, she’ll patch her armor with the material we found in the labs.

>Pent and the trading economy
“You’ve mentioned trading with other families a few times, Pent. How do you all know when and where to get together and exchange goods?”
<It’s all word of mouth. The gatherings are always held on neutral ground unclaimed by anyone. The location and time is tightly guarded information, given only to trusted parties. If that info changes for any reason, a warning is left at the old place and everyone has to hash out a new agreement. Gatherings happen fairly often because we can’t carry much at once without becoming easy targets. Sometimes other scavs try and steal from these trade goods - if you’re caught doing that, you’ll be forbidden from trading forever by gatherings that know what you did. Things that usually get traded are food, raw materials, crafted stuff, sometimes rumors or even territory. People who live alone usually depend on gatherings to find a group to attach themselves to for protection, or trade salvage for food. Like Bright Eyes, sometimes this includes Them. They are harder to keep in contact with, so usually They arrive by stumbling onto the meeting place and not attacking anyone. Gatherings tend to move a few cycles afterward, just in case They get any ideas. While They’re around, however, They usually accept food in exchange for scavenging in more dangerous areas or for giving your family some extra muscle.>
“What’s the most valuable item at these gatherings?”
<Some people tend very well hidden farms that grow stuff other than the vines you see everywhere, which have a lot of useful properties but taste isn’t one. You’ll never see the seeds for sale.>

As we take the first gangway up to the seat level, the ruler flexes under my feet as I walk, which is mildly worrying. Talking helps me worry less about what’s to either side of me and focus on the path ahead.

>What exactly makes Beformicans so special?
“Bright Eyes, do you know what makes you different from someone like Pent or Jaina? Besides height?”
<Am stronger. Tougher, Live longer. Eat lezz. When hungry, eat whatever. Leaf tazte fine, Pent juzt picky eater. …Oh! Big jawz.> Bright Eyes points between her fearsome mandibles and Pent’s, lack thereof. Everyone else’s mandibles form a lower jaw that rarely opens wider than a pair of lips, unless they’re very frightened. I think my own mouth might even open wider. We can’t dislocate our jaw like some aliens assume, but galactically speaking it is very broad.
<There’s more to Them than meets the eye,> Pent observes. <They can shrug off a whole lot of pain, which is how They win in a straight fight. They also have keen senses, which makes it difficult to sneak up on one. And as a whole, you might have noticed, They are generally less friendly.>
Bright Eyes nods. <When old enough to climb, mom told me buzz off, find own leaf.>
Anet asks, “How old were you? No wonder Beformicans are so prickly, they’ve lost all sense of colony…”
<That… word you keep using, why do you keep calling them…>
<Yes, that. What does it mean?>
“I just thought it sounded cool. Besides, you didn’t have a name for them. You just keep saying Them!”
<Yes we do! Everyone knows what you mean when you say Them! They aren’t organized enough to give Themselves a name.>
“That stops making sense the second you need that word to refer to literally anything else! And Bright Eyes just said They call themselves Xanthi.”
<Not Xanthi,> Bright Eyes clarifies, pointing to herself and then the room at large. <They Xanthi.>
I cut in again. “So, are there any real downsides to all these changes done to Beformicans besides behavior? Was their… intelligence affected too? No offense, Bright Eyes.”
Pent smirks. <Underestimating Their smarts is the last mistake most scavs make.>
“They don’t get to go to school and learn from books like us,“ says Anet.
“Kind of ironic, since these guys are living in a classroom.”

>Schooling in the village
“Speaking of, what was school like in the village?”
“We have classes and teachers, just like you. Most people get eleven years of classes, then become apprentices in a trade. Scribes get five more because they have to know a lot of math, plus it’s their job to teach all the other subjects. Of course, it’s everyone’s duty to preserve knowledge, not just theirs. Our class was pretty big. We start taking classes at four and finish by fifteen. After breakfast it was lessons for the first half of the shift and chores in the second half.”
“What was your favorite class?”
“Not math,” says Jaina.
Anet exclaims, “History! It jumps around a bit, you know on account of all the missing records, but Elder Styx is the best teacher! For culture studies once, he let us watch Formican Force Five.”
“He sounds like a fun guy.”
Huh? What does Formican Force Five have to do with mushrooms?”
“Nevermind... What did you two apprentice as?”
“I apprenticed with the watchers. They’re the ones that navigate the tunnels to check on the tallmen, like what we were doing when we met you. It was kinda boring, so I started watching stuff other than tallmen. I started taking Jaina along as a partner, for safety.”
“I was training to be a smith before we started doing this. It wasn’t quite as fun,” Jaina adds.
“Elder Stone eventually approved new job titles, just for us! Jaina got to be a guard and I’m officially an explorer.”
“So, did you learn our language from the watchers?”
“A little, but most of it we learned at home from our dad. He teaches it to the watcher’s teachers.”
No. 1056739 ID: a7a180
File 167703174509.png - (133.96KB , 500x500 , just_plane_simple.png )

We’re here on the skeleton’s desk now. I use the refilled rope to swing down a level to the seat and take another sample. When I compare it to the last shard, it’s the same flaky plaster. Again, I wonder why someone would plant a fake skeleton, and more than one?
I look over the side and spot a small note that’s fallen to the floor from the skeleton’s hand on a neighboring desk. We take a quick trip down to read it:

do you like me?
[ ] no bones about it
[ ] You’re getting the cold shoulder

Looks like he’ll have to keep waiting for an answer.
Meanwhile, it’s time to get to work on folding a paper airplane. I consider everything we’ll need to do: We’ll need a big enough sheet to fold, of course. If we can get one of these books open we should be able to cut one out. We’ll need to figure out where and how to launch it, whether Bright Eyes’ push is enough or if we need more of a head start. We also have to figure out how to strap ourselves down to the airplane safely. We should be able to jury rig something for either by repurposing the junk around here. Lastly, but optionally, there’s climbing the skeleton for a higher vantage point to scout or even launch from if it’s sturdy enough.

>Which task do I tackle first?
No. 1056757 ID: 15c72a

...what if there's something inside the skeleton? Maybe they're meant to be camouflage. Try looking for an opening to crawl in.
No. 1056758 ID: e5784e

Safe bondage is very important, do that first.
No. 1056997 ID: a7a180
File 167743157461.png - (136.93KB , 500x500 , the _dustbin_of_history_textbooks.png )

>Dice roll: safe bondage
H-hey, phrasing! Now’s not the time to think about getting lost in Gail’s coils and - Let’s go look for some safety equipment.
A bit of junk has accumulated between the steps in the floor and the back of the desks, so we climb back to ground level to sweep this area for useful material. It’s cool, dark and dusty down here. As we wander, I find myself wondering: Where do you find water in a classroom? What do you eat? Maybe they travel to other rooms to collect that stuff, but I have a feeling we’ll be dependent on what we packed. Luckily we have enough to last a few days, and Bright Eyes, well, she said she can go a long time without eating and she isn’t picky.
>something inside the skeleton
I still can’t puzzle out these anatomically impossible artifacts. Maybe they’re meant to draw attention to that fact? Could a closer examination reveal a hidden message, maybe a maker’s mark? The thought of a skeleton you’re supposed to smash open makes my inner archaeologist recoil. At this scale, the Formicans could hide just about anything anywhere in these bones if they’re hollow. I suppose the skull would have the most room to hide something. If I decide to climb the skeleton, I’ll take a look around in its eye sockets and see if I can’t get inside its head.
Our search leads us to a spot where someone’s been piling up lots of trash, mostly pieces of cardboard. Torn fragments of textbook covers tell us where they came from, but not why someone would destroy knowledge like this, and in such quantity. All of the pages inbetween are just gone. Other bits and pieces plucked from desk drawers or who knows where form a junkyard ripe for the picking. At the back of the pile, I spy a zipper from a pencil case protruding from under the covers. Its contents are a mystery, but if we could get at it the contents might be in prime condition still.
We haven’t seen or heard any locals yet, but rummaging through their junk is sure to make some noise. Plus, it doesn’t look too stable, especially if we start digging deeper. We have to balance our safety when flying against our safety in the immediate future. How hard should we dig for materials, and are there any specific types of items we should look for? Across time and space, the tools of the educational system don’t seem to change much.

>Get the good salvage: Going this deep has a high risk of dislodging debris.
>Settle for shallow salvage: Safe to swipe and high in quantity, but low in quality.
>Middling salvage: Lower chance of injury, but damaged goods might come with caveats.
No. 1057074 ID: 52800c

Gail's coils, huh?

Anyway, let's go for the medium option. Even with our party having expanded it's probably better to avoid anyone getting hurt. (Though if Bright-Eyes wants to go a little above and beyond to show off, well, you can't exactly stop her.)

As for specifics... any paper clips? Those seem like they could be used for any number of things, assuming at least one person in your group is strong enough to bend them.
No. 1057103 ID: 15c72a

Look for thin tape.
No. 1057121 ID: a9af05

I agree with this.
No. 1057281 ID: a7a180
File 167782861166.png - (165.01KB , 500x500 , one_ants_trash.png )

>Gail, huh?
I admit, I’ve had a crush on her for a while. She’s got a nice tail, long enough to wrap all the way around your waist normally, or coil around a limb… Maybe climbing it was a little forward of me, but it seemed safer than staying on the floor. I’ve probably blown my chances with her by disappearing so suddenly. It’s still more compelling to imagine how one-sided our tailholding would be than to contemplate how crossing this classroom would take me an entire school day.

>Middling salvage check: Success
Adhesive would be useful to keep our plane in shape, and paperclips would make a sturdy framework for building. We find a lot of them littering the pile, but the ones on the surface are already bent out of shape which would compromise their strength if reshaped. It seems that despite an abundance of metal, the Xanthi don’t use it very efficiently. We dig a little deeper down looking for unbent clips, wading through the cardboard at knee height. Bright Eyes dives in enthusiastically and finds the bulk of them. Showing off further she wades over to the pencil case to partially unzip it - and what luck, right inside was a roll of clear tape! We decide not to disturb the pile to look deeper in the case and wade out with as much supplies as we can carry.
This is a good start! The tape’s a little tricky to work with but there’s a lot to work with. My idea for the paperclips is to form some kind of roll cage we can plant on top of the plane and sit in, but the more metal we use the heavier the plane will get, and it might not glide as far. Maybe I can think of something else to do with them?

A few more tasks remain before we get building. We might want to post someone at our supply pile to watch over it while the rest of us gather more materials. Who do we leave behind and what do we take care of next?

>Assemble launcher (Get additional supplies y/n?)
No. 1057287 ID: 15c72a

Hmm... you could bend the paperclips into long arms in order to reach the wings while sitting on the plane, to steer it?
Could also attach one to rope to use it as a grapple.
No. 1057643 ID: c27a02

I'm thinking it would be best to leave behind either Pent or Bright Eyes, as they'd be the best at handling themselves alone in this environment. I'm not sure if either of them has an opinion on it, though.

Paper seems important to building a paper airplane.
No. 1057651 ID: 7550f8

>metal will make the plane heavier and it won’t glide as far
You'll also need to compensate for how heavy all of the passengers are. Which is a problem because they're all women and everyone knows that you're not supposed to ask a woman how heavy she is!

And you better not think about leaving anyone behind to try and lighten the load on the plane!
No. 1057934 ID: a7a180
File 167832124737.png - (156.99KB , 500x500 , ill_go_high_you_go_low.png )

>Bend the paperclips into arms for steering
Perhaps, but we don’t need the whole length of the steering arms to be made from heavy materials. We could use the paperclips as anchors to attach Jaina’s rope for steering.
>you need to compensate for the passengers’ weight, and you can’t ask a lady their weight!
Can’t I, though? Now I wonder if their matriarchal society possesses the same taboos with regards to women and their privacy, or even the inverted case with males… I really can’t, because I have no idea how much that would convert to anyway, especially given the fractions of mass we’re dealing with. That leads to another thought, maybe we should do some more testing of this concept before we launch ourselves into the air? Perhaps a test run is in order with a second paper plane carrying our equivalent weight in paperclips or something. We could rig up a balance scale easily from a ruler.
>paper seems important to building a paper airplane. Leave either Pent or Bright Eyes
I ask them after we finish lifting our haul up to the desktop. “Hey, do either of you mind staying here and watching the while Anet, Jaina and I go get the paper?”
<Hm? Just the two of us, by ourselves? Sure, I guess.>
Ah, Pent took it to mean both of them. I’m sure it'll be fine. Safety in numbers, right? Paper’s pretty light, so the three of us shouldn’t have any trouble carrying it back. Pent grabs a bite to eat while Bright Eyes watches us leave.
We go looking for a good source of paper where our search left off at the garbage heap. There’s a couple of loose leafs lying around, but the exposure to air has left them brittle and suspect as building material. Hopefully the pages still bound in books are doing better, but lifting the covers is not so easy, and most stacks are perilously high up.
No. 1057935 ID: a7a180
File 167832125394.png - (151.81KB , 500x500 , paper_tiger.png )

After some searching from desk to desk, we do spot an ideal book lying on the ground with its cover open. However, we’re not the first to find it. There’s a low fence around it made of jagged writing utensils, and a chapter or two has already been torn from the spine. The likely reason for both is standing in the middle of the page. It’s the first Xanthi we’ve encountered, and he looks scary. He’s carrying a pen nib on his shoulder like a giant sword and his body has the scars to show he’s no stranger to scraps. He walks in circles muttering to himself before stopping to bend and tear off a chunk of the page, which he crumples up and pops in his mouth. That explains what they eat…
“If this is his version of a mushroom field, are we basically stealing his food?” Anet wonders.
“He’s got plenty more,” says Jaina. “…I hope those are just ink stains on his sword.”

Direct confrontation seems unwise. How are just the three of us supposed to draw him away from the paper long enough to tear out a sheet and leave?
No. 1057943 ID: c27a02

Okay, this guy seems both hostile and possibly, like, crazy or something. Protecting a food source is one thing, but why is he pacing in circles?

With a party of you, Anet, and Jaina, it's probably better to be more cautious -- I don't like any of your odds if this guy decides to do more than just try to scare you off, individually or in a group. If he were just acting cautious himself, I might suggest trying to approach him slowly and carefully and see if he'd maybe be amenable to some kind of negotiation... but that seems too risky.

Are any of you faster than a Xanthi? I feel like the answer is no... my first thought would otherwise be to try and have one of you distract him, but, uh, that seems even riskier than a cautious approach...
No. 1058286 ID: a7a180
File 167859166469.png - (97.98KB , 500x500 , are_you_the_cheese_or_the_trap.png )

>Try and have one of you distract him
“What if one of us distracts him so the others can sneak up on the book?”
“Sounds like a great plan. Since this is for your idea, you do it,” says Jaina.
“What, me?!”
“Yeah, Anet and I have to do the heavy lifting.”
I did not think this through. “But - how do I get away if needed? I can’t jump super far either!”
Anet gives me a thumbs up. ”You can do it! Your sheer… greenness ought to fascinate him long enough to get away.” The Xanthi stops his pacing and turns towards our hiding spot. “Oops, I think he noticed our whispering. Better hop to it!” I get shoved into the open as the sisters duck out the other side.
“Wha - How do I -” My eyes dart around as I check my surroundings for escape routes.
Behind him there’s a shanty under the desk, where he probably lives. There’s a textbook that landed on its open side - maybe I could dart in between the pages and hide. I could try to make a break for it back to the junk pile - he seems far away, but I know they can jump this far in the blink of an eye-
It’s too late. He’s yelling something that sounds a lot like <Thief!>
What’s my distraction?!
No. 1058287 ID: 273c18

Go into the textbook, then close it on him when he chases you there.
No. 1058288 ID: 6ad04b

Telling your life's story very loudly.
No. 1058297 ID: 0e8597

Leave behind something conspicuous but ultimately of little value.

Your shirt could do, if nothing else comes to mind.
No. 1058755 ID: a7a180
File 167902375474.png - (114.27KB , 500x500 , a_real_page_turner.png )

>Tell life story
<H-hey! It’s me! Sso, um, maybe you’re wondering how I got here->
I don’t get too far into my life story before he tries to cut it short. With an angry hermit bearing down on me, I run down a side chapter of the overturned book to try and get behind at least a paper-thin barrier to his line of sight. I try and fail to remain very still. I can’t remain hidden here for very long. -Ah! I can see his sword stabbing through the page!
No. 1058756 ID: a7a180
File 167902376656.png - (163.14KB , 500x500 , sneaky_snake.png )

I get out of there as fast as I can, running away from the fenced off book, I think. I didn’t exactly have time to get my bearings. Using the few seconds’ head start the book has bought me, I shed my hoodie and hang it on some nearby junk. I really hope he takes the bait and doesn’t spot me as I duck behind a desk leg, because there aren’t many other places left I can run to…
I listen to his yell of surprise, followed by one of confusion as he discovers my deception. Realizing he’s lost the trail, he gives up and walks back to his hovel, angrily grumbling. I hope that bought them enough time to grab what we need.
I catch up with the sisters on the other side of the junkyard, with their paper prize in tow. Anet spots me catching my breath and comes over to congratulate me.
“Nice work, Sam! You had him running in circles, but somewhere more convenient for us. As a bonus, we ended up getting two sheets stuck together! We can build that test plane you wanted after all!”
I just wheeze, my heart still pounding in my chest.
“I knew you could do it!” she adds, after a moment.
“Thhhanks.” I really hope this flying plan avoids any more encounters with those guys.
>Lost: camo cloak
No. 1058757 ID: a7a180
File 167902377042.png - (162.19KB , 500x500 , ir-ration-al_behavior.png )

When we return to our desktop with the last of our supplies in tow, we walk into an awkward situation. Pent is brandishing her spear at Bright Eyes, while Bright Eyes shoots her a glare back. In her hands is a bundle wrapped in leaves.
<Give it back, now,> Pent growls.
“What’s going on here?” says Jaina.
<She went into my bags and stole my food!>
<Zzo? Am hungry.>
<So? That's stealing! How can we trust you to guard anything if you’re a thief yourself?>
<Waz told to guard paperclipz, not bagz.>
<I thought you didn’t have to eat as much!>
<That not mean never eat.>
<Well, get your own food then!>
<Pent not even like thiz ztuff...>
They’re up in arms, over food? This could be bad. I don’t know if we’ve packed enough for us and a peckish Beformican…
No. 1058758 ID: 273c18

Hey, there's food here. Grab a bit of extra paper for her to chew on.
No. 1058964 ID: aa23a8

It seems like Bright Eyes and Pent have slightly different understandings of ownership. I feel like your understanding is more likely to be in line with Pent's, which could potentially cause a problem if you try to mediate.

That said, if Beformicans can eat paper, it does seem like there's a fair amount of it which is too small to be useful for our plane plan around here.

How much food do we have at this point, anyway?
No. 1059025 ID: 368825

This is our fault, we set up expectations by giving her food from our pack. It's only fair to give Pent one too now.
No. 1059083 ID: 26f1ab

Try and calm the two down. Tell Brought Eyes she needs to ask before taking other stuff. Assure Pent you'll do your best to find her more food as you travel. It is unfortunate this misunderstanding happened, but we're all gonna work to make sure no one goes hungry this trip, okay?
No. 1059167 ID: a7a180
File 167935884375.png - (102.44KB , 500x500 , tastes_like_diet_cardboard.png )

>It seems you have slightly different understandings of ownership, which could potentially cause a problem if you try to mediate
If I don’t try and calm them both down, this problem isn’t going to go away.
“Hey! Next time, ask before taking stuff, okay?”
<Fine.> She’s still not returning the sandwich she bit.
“Pent, I’ll make it up to you this time. Here.” I give her a fried mushroom from my bag.
<You sure? We all need the supplies we brought. Especially when we don’t know when we’ll find more.>
“We're all gonna work to make sure no one goes hungry this trip, okay? Right now, there’s paper all around us.” I turn to Bright Eyes again. “We saw the Xanthi eating some, could you try that instead?”
Bright Eyes shrugs, then tucks her snack away and tries crumpling up some paper from the floor. She immediately spits it back out. <Bleck! Maybe YOU eat paper if it zzuch good idea.>
"Okay, not a food of first resort, I get it."
>How much food do we have at this point, anyway?
After stocking up at Pent’s we had enough for six, now five days of trail food, minus one leafroot sandwich. Two of those days are left over from our initial supplies. If Bright Eyes dips into that, our reserves get shorter but it’ll keep the big bug happy and more amenable to other requests. Ready access to food is a luxury she’s not used to, I suppose.
I think it would be best for everyone’s mood if we focused on our next task for now. We’re almost ready for a test flight.

>Start building the plane now: We have the parts for the plane itself, what more do you really need?
>Work on a launcher: Something more than elevation and a push to get us going. (Specify who to leave behind this time as more supplies are gathered.)
>Scout the skeleton: What’s better than elevation? A lot of elevation.
No. 1059174 ID: 26f1ab

All of those choices are tempting. If we were being hunted or on the run I'd say start the plane ASAP. But this room seems to be relatively peaceful, when you're not poaching paper.
Building the launcher is good too, especially since you actively have the time.
But curiosity is burning, i think we need to check it that giant skeleton. Why is it there? What purpose does it serve? Just a decoy incase outsiders get into this region? Is there secrets stowed within for later generations to find? Some kind of warning of an unseen danger? What do they mean? We won't know what until you investigate those fake bones, so hop to it.
No. 1059175 ID: 23ba19

I want to investigate Mr. Bones' wild ride
No. 1059379 ID: a7a180
File 167961781865.png - (90.54KB , 500x500 , them_dry_bones.png )

>skeleton time
I’d just like to get away from the tension really, and my curiosity about the skeleton has come crawling back. Jaina goes along as my climbing partner, leaving Anet and the others watching us from below.
It’s a pretty easy climb with the right tools. The torso is made of solid plates so we can basically walk right up the front. Gaps between the upper and lower torso let me shine a flashlight on the insides. The only thing I spot is the glint of a steel backbone supporting the outer shell, which confirms my artificial skeleton theory. But still, why leave fake bones around? As decoys they wouldn’t stand up to inspection for long. What kind of warning do you get across by arranging them in everyday poses, just sitting in chairs? Maybe the secret is hidden further up.
“Did you ever look around inside the skeleton near the village?” I ask Jaina.
“Once or twice, to satisfy Anet’s curiosity. There was nothing but dry bones, though.”
“Did you notice if it had a metal backbone too?”
“Never brought a light in with me, so no.”
"Darn. Do you have any theories why the ancients put these here?"
"I'm as stumped as you. Elder Styx told us as kids that ours was an alien that was trapped by the quarantine and was stuck here eating old lunches til she died, but I don't think he really believed that."
We take a short rest on the shoulder before tossing our rope up onto the skull. Getting up here was tiring enough that hauling the launch up here seems like too much trouble. There just isn’t enough space to balance the plane on and still have room to stand. At least it’s given me a clearer view of the room, one I normally would have just from walking in. I have a clear view of the chalkboard, the teacher’s desk, and the left side of the classroom. I note a hidden stack of books that we might have crashed into if we turned a corner blindly at the end of the aisle. Bulbous structures like wasp nests are visible between the gaps in desktops - the Xanthi seem to prefer the shade under these desks for living in. The most impressive of these structures is a section of the front row converted into a book fort - two books laid facedown between the desks form an arch, and some standing book covers form a solid wall.
The only openings in the skull are the usual ones, the eye sockets. As I step into the eyehole, the skull tilts, and it keeps tilting…
No. 1059396 ID: 6e7268

You should probably know that typically eye sockets in skulls do not exit directly into the brain cavity, you'd have to break past the orbit bones where the nerve and muscle fissures are.

Also you may wanna brace on something. You're going for a ride.
No. 1059421 ID: 273c18

Hmm, what if these are pilotable? Mechs that shrunken Formicians can use to interact with the normal size world?

Stay in the skull. It shouldn't detach.
No. 1059739 ID: a7a180
File 168005690681.png - (99.05KB , 500x500 , heading_down.png )

The teetering of the skull worsens. Jaina is already in the socket, crouching low with her antennae on a swivel.
”Hold. Still.”
I freeze up immediately. “I think the two of us in one eye unbalanced it, should I climb back down?”
She looks outward at the quickly sloping false horizon on the wall. “-No, it’s too late. Hold on to something, quick!”
>What if these are pilotable mechs
That would be helpful! Maybe it looks weird because its synthetic skin rotted away? I can’t see any control surfaces or runes…
>It shouldn’t detach.
It detaches.
We’re thrown up into the ceiling and back down again, bouncing off the walls even after the skull comes to rest on the floor.
No. 1059740 ID: a7a180
File 168005691828.png - (160.63KB , 500x500 , a_splitting_headache.png )

“Jaina! Sam! Are you okay?” Anet jumps down from the desk to the seat to the ground level, Pent and Bright Eyes looking on from above. I’m… dizzy, but nothing feels broken. My head is pounding, though. Jaina and I bounced off each other in the tight confines of the eye sockets, limiting our injuries.
>you'd have to break past the orbit bones
I know, and we brought the pickaxe to do just that. Luckily we don’t have to, the skull cracked open on impact. It’s completely empty inside, just a hollow plaster shell. It was only a model skeleton, after all. It probably used to hang near the front of the classroom for science lessons or the like, though the educational value is questionable.
The rest of the skeleton slumps over, like a great weight’s been lifted off its shoulders. Ah, I hope they weren’t fond of this thing… If they haven’t noticed the head is missing yet, they will soon.

>Continue with plane building
>Get some distance from the skeleton
>Other: >_
No. 1059741 ID: 273c18

Get some distance first. You just made a huge ruckus, someone will come looking regardless of their opinion on the skeleton.
No. 1059813 ID: f30c55

Better hurry up with that plane so you can get far away from here!
No. 1059972 ID: 26f1ab

Well, a learning aid is interesting, if not as interesting as a giant mech. But you did just make a heck of a racket, so as soon as you're sure you don't have a concussion you might want to start working on that paper airplane and launch device. Just in case the locals are angry you ruined their macabre landscape and stole their food to make a vehicle.
No. 1059974 ID: 273c18

I think I figured out what the big fake skeletons are. They're ART. It's the only thing that makes sense. They don't work to scare people because they'd be easily exposed as fake, and they aren't functional in any way.

Well, I guess we haven't completely investigated one. Maybe there's something hidden deeper inside it, but I doubt it.
No. 1064617 ID: a7a180
File 168514521970.png - (107.00KB , 500x500 , hold_em_and_fold_em.png )

Anyway, back to plane building! This is going to take a lot more time and pairs of hands than usual.
Shortly after beginning, Jaina decides she needs to lie down and rest, and I can’t say I blame her. She’s been getting knocked around a lot on our trip.
The first step is to draw out the lines to be folded in pencil. Anet finds a box of markers under the desk and carries some up to doodle on the paper while I plan out the folds. Then we lift the sheet up and fold it over as a team. Bright Eyes holds it in position while the rest of us press down on the paper to crease it. Once that’s finished, we start taping the plane together to retain its shape.
No. 1064618 ID: a7a180
File 168514523175.png - (142.47KB , 500x500 , flypaper_faux_pas.png )

>Item complications: tape
One of the perils of papercraft at our size pops up as Anet tries to work with the roll of tape. She’s having trouble pulling strips off in continuous, full width lines, and the slack keeps bunching up and getting stuck to itself. Then while my back is turned, she manages to trip over a strip we've laid out, falling flat on her abdomen and sliding off the edge of the desk!
“Anet!” I run over to find her dangling in midair, her back plastered to the tape. Fortunately the sticky side caught the edge of the desk as she fell.
“Sorry! Eheh… Mind giving me a hand or three?”
“...How did you even end up like that?”

We pull her up and manage to (painfully) pull most of the tape off her again. She’s still a bit sticky in places, and sometimes she has to shake a thing she’s holding loose, but Anet is otherwise fine.
The safety systems fare better, for now. Formican strength is once again key in bending the clips into long, curved bars to form a wide enough enclosure for us to sit in. We’ll install it on the actual plane later, accounting for its weight and ours on the test model by adding an equivalent number of unbent paperclips.
No. 1064619 ID: a7a180
File 168514524919.png - (99.24KB , 500x500 , build-a-plane_workshop.png )

Well, that took us nearly an hour, but we did it: one giant paper airplane! I'm no aerospace engineer, but I think I did pretty good with it. it's exciting that I’ll actually get to ride in one of these but also sort of terrifying. Hopefully this design will catch a lot of air to make up for the lack of a throwing arm.

Design a paper airplane for Sam & co to ride. They’ve got access to tape and cutting tools to reshape the paper, plus you can add decoration if desired.
No. 1064624 ID: a8591e

Well regardless of other details, add a paperclip rollcage.
No. 1064653 ID: dee951

Any access to Balsa Wood? Rubber Bands? Any of the other materials to make this more badass?
No. 1064654 ID: a7a180

That's the plan! We're going to throw it on top for the real deal.
If it can be found in a high level classroom, it can probably be justified!
No. 1064666 ID: dee951


Something like one of these?




Any of these types would work, but make sure that the group has some harness they can hook onto the leading wings! And the thing has flaps they can manipulate!

Alternatively, rather than a rollcage, you could have an actual cabin, like this:


Though that said... you might not want a cabin hanging below it! You could have it have an enclosed fuselage, like this:


And stretch tissue paper or plastic wrap around a balsa frame, include some more sturdy reinforcements where you expect it to impact.
No. 1064707 ID: a7a180
File 168532972593.png - (33.37KB , 500x497 , sam-ple_plane.png )

Here's a sample paper airplane as a baseline design. Covered in doodles, with scotch tape seats slung behind the halves of the hull, it's enough to do the job, probably! The roll cage doesn't have to be drawn as it'll get thrown on top later.
No. 1065377 ID: a7a180
File 168627554584.png - (94.09KB , 500x500 , out_to_launch.png )

>Plane design: Defaulted…
As I was designing the plane, new ambitions kept springing to mind. Maybe I can find a rubber band to make an engine… We could chop up all these rulers to make a real airframe! Argh, but where would I find a propeller? It would take hours and hours to carve all that wood, longer than just crossing the room on foot! I elected to keep it simple, something I’d made many times before.
Using a ruler and pencil as a fulcrum I measure out the necessary ballast to represent us. There’s still plenty to spare, which when I stop and think about it means the Formicans hauled several times their weight in metal all the way from the junk pile. Their strength really is something else…
Pent is focused intently on something in the distance. I ask her, <What do you see?>
<There’s some Xanthi on shellback leaving the fort, carrying long sticks.>
I look for the book fort I saw while climbing the skeleton, down at the front of the classroom. Sure enough, the book covers acting as a gate are open and a few isopods are slowly crawling out the door. Those poles are several times the rider's height. <Should we worry?>
<No, they’re a long way off. Even if they’ve noticed us, their mounts would take a long time to get here.>
I nod and scoot out of the way as Bright Eyes pushes the plane up to the edge of the desk. It’s time for the test flight.
No. 1065378 ID: a7a180
File 168627555423.png - (112.39KB , 800x800 , first_flight.png )

Bright Eyes gives the plane a hard shove, knocking it over the edge. Its trajectory starts off in a slow dive, but it builds up speed and pulls up sharply before settling into wobbly level flight. In just a few seconds it’s across the room, drunkenly soaring past the front row of desks. It’s a success!
No. 1065379 ID: a7a180
File 168627556782.png - (113.04KB , 500x500 , hey_knock_it_off.png )

…And then it keeps going, crashing directly into the books stacked by the desk. The whole pile wobbles, knocking down gangways and the travelers climbing up them. Oops.
Well, that probably wouldn’t have happened if anyone was on board to steer it. At least we’ve proven the concept’s sound?
There’s a sound like angry chittering in the distance.
<Hey Sam… how fast can we build a second plane?>
“Um… Well, it should go faster with the practice we’ve had.”
<Can you build this one… twice as fast?>
“Umm. Maybe, why..?”
<Because those xanthi are riding this way now, and they’re not happy.>
Uh oh. It’ll be awkward to explain our ex-plane… Maybe we should cut a few corners on the next build to get it done faster. But, I wouldn't want it to crash like the first plane either!
>Practice makes perfect? (Suggest changes to improve construction time or flight performance)
>Time for plan B: >___
No. 1065386 ID: 273c18

wh... why did we not use the first one
No. 1065448 ID: af7615

Presumably so they'd know if they would die in a nosedive. Which is a surprisingly practical consideration! On the other hand, YOU'RE RIDING A PAPER AIRPLANE.
No. 1065453 ID: 38c55b

First piece of advice to work faster is not have Anet get tangled up in the tape, either she is more careful or if someone else works the tape dispenser.
Second piece of advice is if Jaina is able another set of hands helping may speed things up, even if only helping make sure take distribution goes well.
Otherwise... hopefully the practice gained building the first one does help with the second. If not you'll have to explain to some angry people why you turned a big chunk of their food and turned it into a weapon and used it to rattle their homes, knocking down walkways and sending people plummeting.
No. 1065456 ID: 273c18

ok. why did we not make two at the same time, then.

All we accomplished is giving us extra time crunch, which will result in cutting corners and having a less safe plane.

Or we could just fucking walk since the quest author didn't like the plane idea apparently.
No. 1065790 ID: a7a180
File 168670773887.png - (126.35KB , 500x500 , anet_assisted_takeoff.png )

>Why not use the first one?
I had no idea if this was going to work at all! I’ve already plummeted to the ground once today, thank you very much.
>build another, all hands on deck, and keep Anet away from the tape
Yeah, sailing over the xanthi’s heads is still our best bet. I swap places with Anet, she draws the folds while I separate out the tape. I tap Jaina to ask her to help on this one.
“Hey, Jaina. You awake?”
“Bluh…” She looks more tired than before. “Is it finished yet?”
“Well, yes and no. We’re building a new one and we could use your help on it. Many hands make light work.”
She sighs. “Alright... If I have to.”
Seeing her genuine fatigue, I start to change my mind. “You only have to help if you’re feeling up to it.”
“No, no, I’m fine,” she insists.
We repeat the process once more with feeling, saving the time we spent weighing proxies to install the roll cage over the seats.
<The xanthi are getting closer,> Pent warns. That kicks us into overdrive finishing construction.
As we’re pushing it to the edge, we see one of their colored pencil pikes peeking over the tabletop! <Bugger, they're faster than I thought! Go, go! Push!>
I have an idea to make us launch faster!" shouts Anet. “Watch your head, Bright, and hang on tight!” She aims the extinguisher to the rear and braces herself against the bars. Fwoosh! We blast off amidst the sound of angry shouting.
No. 1065791 ID: a7a180
File 168670774426.png - (113.06KB , 500x500 , ant_overboard.png )

I’m flying! Flying on a paper airplane. It’s actually happening! I don’t have much time to let it sink in though, as all of my focus is on steering us straight down the aisle. It’s not as easy as the test plane made it look - we’re moving faster, and our center of gravity is making us veer left, I fear if I pull too hard in the other direction, we could fall out of the air.
<Hhh… Zome help… up?>
Oh no, Bright Eyes is still hanging off the back! We were going too fast for her to climb into the plane. I can’t pull her up and steer at the same time, I’ve only got two arms!
>Focus on pulling Bright Eyes up (Anet will take over steering)
>Focus on steering (The others will try to hold onto Bright Eyes)
No. 1065792 ID: 8f9bc4

Steering? A paper plane?! You expect the impossible! Just save her, and pray!
No. 1065812 ID: 273c18

Switching pilots is a bad idea, and the others are stronger than you anyway! Stay in the pilot seat!
No. 1065857 ID: 9a2966

Seems logical.
No. 1065858 ID: f8083d

Explicitly tell them to grab her while you try and keep the plane as steady as possible.
No. 1065944 ID: 7d8322

>Focus on pulling Bright Eyes up (Anet will take over steering)
No. 1066265 ID: a7a180
File 168720553882.png - (99.15KB , 500x500 , like_a_glove.png )

>Focus on steering
“I can’t take my hands off the reins! Someone help her!”
“I’ve got you!” shouts Anet. “C’mon, Jaina, pull!”
“I- I can’t do it! I just can’t!”
“Hurry up, her grip’s tearing the paper!”
The sisters struggle just to hold onto Bright Eyes against the turbulence. It seems like all three are in trouble until Pent climbs over them, grabbing the spear off Jaina’s back. She holds it out to bright Eyes next to her own. <Grab on, now!>
Bright Eyes shifts her grip one hand at a time to the spear shafts, and with Pent and Anet bracing themselves against the roll cage they finally manage to pull her up. The Beformican scrambles onto the plane, tumbling over Pent.

In the meantime, the shifting load on the plane is making it turn towards the desk again, putting us on a crash course. I turn hard to avoid it, coming close enough to the corner that I can see xanthi diving for cover. Some even jump off the sides to avoid us. I keep the plane in a hard counterclockwise spiral to bleed off altitude until we're pointed back at the door, then point the nose down. We skid gently to a stop a few feet away.
No. 1066266 ID: a7a180
File 168720554224.png - (144.36KB , 500x500 , pents_biggest_fan.png )

Everyone seems unharmed from our first flying experience - well, most of us. Anet’s looking over Jaina with concern as she sits dazed against the roll cage. I haven’t seen her this winded before. Her bandages seem okay, it doesn’t look like they’ve started bleeding again, but it might be something else.

Bright Eyes hasn’t gotten off of Pent yet, staring down at her with a mixture of awe and shock.
<Pent… zave me.>
<Yeah. What of it?>
<Thought Pent hate me. Think I zteal food.>
<That didn’t matter, in the moment. You’re part of the group still, so when you’re in trouble we help out. It’s not that hard to understand.>
Bright Eyes’ antennae rise and fall as she absorbs the meaning of this common kindness, her mandibles clacking wordlessly.
<...A thank-you would be nice.>

Well, my plan worked. We crossed the classroom in an instant, and everyone that was prepared to chase us is now on the other side of the room. We should be safe from pursuit as we move on to the domain next door.
I wonder if there’s anything I should do before we all beat a retreat from the classroom.

No. 1066267 ID: 273c18

Ask Jaina if she's alright. What happened? Did she get thrown about too much? Hmm, how do ants breathe again? Wait you can see her breathing so it's not pure exoskeletal respiration... does she have an infection? A fever?
No. 1066294 ID: adfc57

Offhandedly comment that Pent should teach her big buddy how to be good. Sure seems like they could all use lessons on the meaning of friendship. Still, wounded are the priority which right now is Jaina so bust out the bandages! Bright Eyes learning about kindness is giving me diabetes.
No. 1066356 ID: cce6c4

Seconding the idea to check on Jaina while we have a bit of downtime.

Also, hey, being pragmatic about our own abilities improved the overall team bond!
No. 1066372 ID: 15a025

Yeah! Teach everyone the magic of friendship.
No. 1066529 ID: a7a180
File 168758370341.png - (110.25KB , 500x500 , just-peachy.png )

>Comment that Pent should teach her big buddy to be good
Maybe let’s take things one step at a time? This seems like a good improvement over simply tolerating Bright Eyes' presence.
>focusing on our abilities improved the team bond
I guess it did! That’s… good.
>Teach everyone the magic of friendship!
I um, don’t feel qualified for that! Both halves of this group have known each other a lot longer than I have - Anet and Jaina as sisters, Pent and Bright Eyes as kinda-sorta-frenemies. I’m still very much the outsider in this situation. Maybe I should focus on Jaina right now.

>Ask Jaina if she’s alright
“Jaina, you doing okay? Sounded like you were having some trouble back there…”
“Not really,” she admits. “I think I’m just worn out from today.”
Uh oh. I try asking her how many fingers I’m holding up. She answers correctly, which is good, probably. Her wounded shoulder is very sore when poked, which is less good.
“Here, let me check your temperature.” I step close to hold my hand to her forehead, and she slumps against me. “Ah! Oh, your whole body is warm…”
I think she might have a fever.

Jaina needs rest, so we’ll definitely be looking for a place to hunker down. We abandon the paper plane to get chewed up by the xanthi and head for the door.
No. 1066530 ID: a7a180
File 168758370733.png - (177.22KB , 700x500 , area_discovered_the_old_lab.png )

A light breeze becomes noticeable as we near the threshold, crossing the divider from carpet to tile. This room has a sort of chemical smell, tinged faintly acrid. Not as strong as the burnt science labs we visited, but still noticeable. This seems like a smaller, hands-on classroom, with several high hexagonal tables and another teacher’s desk next to a giant Formican exoskeleton stood limply on a stand. It must be another anatomical model, one more accurate than the last two. It’s strangely comforting to know these models are a constant of classrooms across the galaxy.
Many of the cabinets lining the walls have transparent windows showcasing fancy looking scientific equipment or chemical beakers within. Stains on the shutters hint that some of these chemicals might have leaked and caused damage. That might explain why the wallpaper here is peeling - most of the temple’s inner rooms haven’t shown that kind of weathering, so far.
I look around trying to figure out the safest place to rest. The tables are too high to see what’s on top. Maybe we should climb up the furniture to get a degree of safety from whoever prowls the floor, or hide out under the desk. Or we could duck into one of the cabinets.

>Where to?
No. 1066531 ID: 273c18

Try not to be too obvious about checking out the accurate anatomical model. ...why are there classrooms here? Why were there rooms designed to be used by large Formecians in the first place?
Ughhhh is that why there are fake skeletons hanging around? This complex is part of a school, which means they have fake skeletons for science class, and someone put one in the break room as a PRANK? Why is it a school though? Did they simply reuse the building because it had enough space for the mini-city and would look mundane to intruders? In the latter case why encase the school in a reinforced shell that your archaeological team can't break through? It's so weird.

>what do?
Go in a cabinet. So long as there's no reason for anyone else to go in there, the door makes it secure. Though, you do risk opening the door and finding someone in there already, so better check carefully.
No. 1066540 ID: eb7ce4

would the skull be a safe place? I'm not sure if it's sturdy enough to hold all you guys (considering what happened last time), and the amount of effort needed to climb onto it, BUT it's got a great view of the area around you, and i think it could be easily defendable. Good for Jaina to take a rest for a little bit.
No. 1066552 ID: 9d5379

>anatomical model
Try to not be distracted by the model's thicc hips.

>where to?
I think one of the tables already has a little village on it, so let's try to avoid going up there.

I say you get on a different piece of furniture for safety.
No. 1066553 ID: 8f9bc4

The stools all appear to be torn from the center, probably to harvest the upholstery. Not a good place to avoid attention. There is less muck on the cabinets in front of you, which probably indicates an art error that it's further away from any food sources than the other places you could hide under, or climb inside. Probably will encounter fewer bugs over there. On the other hand you'll be across the room from any harvestable fungi, should you need it.

It'd be really funny if there were a tiny bug village built up on top of the table complete with adorable little bug huts, and with the devastation and destruction of what they did to the village on the other table. Too bad you can't see what's on either table from way down here!
No. 1066717 ID: a7a180
File 168790933506.png - (124.75KB , 500x500 , want_some_help_with_that.png )

>Don’t be too obvious checking out the model
I have to crane my neck quite a bit to do that, so it’d be very obvious if I did. Still, I allow myself one long gaze up at it, awestruck by the scale of a full-sized person once again. That’s a huge abdomen…
“We should duck into the cabinets to rest,” I suggest.
“What if someone’s inside them already?" Anet points out. "If we climb up to the skull, we’d get a good view of the tables and beyond. This one looks stable.”
“No thank you, I do not want to chance that again. The tables are an unknown, so let’s get on top of something else.”
”Testing… Test. What a curious dialect this is. Might I suggest the desk top for camping out?”
I look around, confused. “Who said that?”
”Up here.”
<Guys, the skeleton just talked…> Pent's looking straight up.
I look up too. The model’s eyes aren’t empty, they’re screens. And they just lit up.
No. 1066718 ID: a7a180
File 168790933906.png - (106.82KB , 500x500 , still_alive.png )

”Sorry for startling you. I’ve just been hanging around here for so long with no one worth talking to. I am J-NET. It’s nice to have new visitors for once, I’ve been terribly bored these past few millennia…

>KILLS: 30%
>ITEMS: 51%
>SECRET: 75%
No. 1066722 ID: 273c18

Oh boy finally someone who knows what really happened!
No. 1066741 ID: 5d9998

……do you know the secrets to help me grow back to normal height?
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