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

https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest

One small step for Sam, one giant leap for Formican-kind.
41 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
>>
No. 1042931 ID: 515982
File 166234800182.png - (80.82KB , 500x500 , i_can_create_a_scalpelgun.png )
1042931

>...Why does it suddenly seem like abandoning tech to swap to dirt farming was not exactly by choice?
I'm glad Jaina's ancestors escaped this place while they still could. Otherwise, there might not be any Formicans left!

>Discuss if you want to maybe head back home and warn the others.
“Ssso, I’m starting to understand why your ancestors fled the city and closed the door behind you. Should we go back and warn your village?”
Jaina shakes her head. “No, if something followed us back it would be big trouble. We have to keep moving forward for now.”
“What were they turning them into scary monsters for?” Anet asks. “They were still hidden from the outside. At least they must have starved by now, right?”
>salvage the bots.
“This saw arm is really sharp. Big enough to upgrade your spear?”
“Good idea, but no, you can’t stab with a round blade. I had something different in mind.”
After prying a few covers off and undoing some screws, we have fashioned the medical bot's tool arms into weapons. Jaina arms herself with a needle-tipped spear, while Anet fashions a handheld surgical axe. Meanwhile, I could… attach this scalpel to my pistol like a bayonet, maybe? …I tie it to Anet's poking stick instead. It feels a little lacking compared to Jaina's spear, but it's worked before.

>check for patient records
Patient records aren't available offline, but we find an old memo dating back a few months before the nurse's log:

–MSC Medical– -FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLIC RELEASE- SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR RETROVIRAL GENE THERAPY Scientists of Block 5's Biological Research Division have made a breakthrough in genome modification which promises to end all resource shortages and reverse population decline within two generations. In order to implement these changes as quickly as possible, a large quantity of test subjects is required to iterate on the modifications. Those who sign up will be well compensated and their families will receive improved housing accommodations for the duration of the trials. If your test results are promising, family members who have not yet volunteered will receive priority on their applications to join and experience the benefits of a high-power, low-maintenance lifestyle. When the going gets rough, Formicans get tougher! Sign up today at your local medical center.

Huh, there's another file dated from the very same day.

—MSC Medical— -FOR MEDICAL STAFF ONLY- ALERT: DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN The following statement is NOT approved by the office of the Colony Overseer. This unofficial announcement has been attached in full in order to aid in identifying unapproved instances of the announcement being distributed to the public. Unapproved instances of this announcement are to be confiscated and destroyed and all members of the public are to be informed of its unsanctioned nature. Block 5's Biological Research Division has NOT been authorized to commence widescale formican testing of any gene therapy procedures. Report any personnel promoting this procedure to citizens at your local security office. UNAPPROVED STATEMENT is as follows: -FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLIC RELEASE- SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR RETROVIRAL GENE THERAPY...
>>
No. 1042932 ID: 515982
File 166234801355.png - (84.81KB , 500x500 , big_steppy.png )
1042932

>Should we seek out more lore, or is it a bonus?
I admit, I am burning with the curiosity to learn more about Formican history. I am the first, and possibly only, alien to have learned this much about them in millennia! But I do have to make it back in order to share my discoveries. As long as our supplies hold out, I hope we can keep studying these ruins.

>Leave, but be cautious
...Well, there's plenty of ruins to explore besides this one. Let's not linger any longer.
We follow the hallway straight to the end and start circling the building looking for the skyway access. But then, as I'm looking over my shoulder, I see a spiky, not-quite-Formican limb coming around the corner before anyone else does. That leg definitely belongs to something big and nasty! W-what do I do?!
>>
No. 1042935 ID: 15c72a

That's fucked up. Why would someone do this? An attempt at taking control over the city with their own personal army? Just plain mad science? A misguided attempt at saving the colony? We might never know... unless we go visit the origin.

>>1042932
Gun out, tell them to freeze. You don't know for sure they're still hostile after all this time- they could have evolved to regain their senses, or the situation changed in some other way.
>>
No. 1042959 ID: 30b9f6

It's possible this is a gene-treated ex-formican descendant (wow they bred big), but you don't know if they're sane or reasonable, so you should keep quiet and edge towards an escape route and definitely suggest your friends get in cover themselves.

Unfortunately you're caught somewhat out in the open, or else I'd suggest diving for cover and just try spying on this person/creature. They do appear to be wearing something though - which is a sign of civilization! It might be you can talk with them, for good or ill, if they look about to, I don't know, attack or throw a spear at you or something.

Definitely try to keep your retreat options open - someone that big will move way faster than you. You'll have to use your diminutive (comparatively) size to make your escape, unless you try to fight them.
>>
No. 1042998 ID: 8483cf

>>1042959
This one is solid.
>>
No. 1043018 ID: dc9df3

Tell that thing to stop and point your gun at it.
>>
No. 1043028 ID: 233458

Small corridor behind yourself. Odds are it's too small for the thing. Go quietly, but if it sees you, pedal to the metal.

Shrunk pistol's ammunition is probably way too small of a caliber to cause damage. Hit to the eye might hurt, but it's overall too risky to yell freeze, so have to oppose
>>
No. 1043271 ID: 515982
File 166269742634.png - (134.26KB , 500x500 , let_me_in_im_a_fairy.png )
1043271

>Point gun at- wow they bred big, duck for cover!
I push Anet and Jaina forwards and we run as quietly as we can. It’s too late, I can hear footsteps pounding behind us! We find the door to outside and pile through. Anet spots a control panel and manages to lock the door just as our stalker slams into it. They’re still pounding at the door as we run to the sky bridge, but- oh, no!
The bridge’s roof collapsed and took most of the bridge with it! Jaina and Anet can jump across that distance, but I still can’t! I need to think fast, what do I have to get me across this gap?
Well, I still have Anet and Jaina. They might not be able to carry me over, but we could turn and face our stalker, maybe buy ourselves time to build a new way across by fending them off.
We’ve got plenty of stuff in our bags, too, maybe something that’ll help.
I could also try to make it across what’s left of the bridge, the guardrail’s bent but intact across the gap in the walkway. It’s hanging on by a thread, though… actually wait, that’s not even holding the bridge up. That thread’s connected to a pressure plate. It looks like another trap, a springboard aimed at the other building. It’s pretty risky, but maybe getting flung at the other building is just what I need right now! It’s only a, what, five foot drop if I miss, right?
Maybe I don’t risk it at all. The bridge below is still in one piece. I could try dropping down the side of the block to that level, it’d take more time to climb down safely but they might not know to look for me.



>Fight >Item
>Parkour >Run
>>
No. 1043273 ID: 8483cf

>ITEM

Did you bring duct tape? Attach it to a rope, and use the rope to pull some cabling from the ceiling down so you can swing across.
>>
No. 1043274 ID: 15c72a

Drat, confirmed still mindless murdermonsters. Do they just live forever, or are they breeding?

PARKOUUUUUR
>>
No. 1043290 ID: 580aa8

>>1043271
Parkour
>>
No. 1043372 ID: a758c7

Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour Parkour
>>
No. 1043927 ID: 515982
File 166330443027.png - (137.38KB , 500x500 , swooce_right_in.png )
1043927

>Parkour!
“You guys go ahead! I have an idea!”
“What idea?” says Jaina.
“I’m going to launch myself across!”
“With what?!”
“Just trust me!”

The sisters jump across to the other side of the bridge. I walk back to the doors for a running start, take a deep breath, and sprint for the pressure plate. As I trigger the trap, the string releases the jaws of a binder clip that’s been trying to snap shut for centuries. I’m tumbling head over heels from the launch, it’s impossible to tell which way is up or down. I can only hope I’m headed in the right direction.
Suddenly I land on something hard and feel all my momentum suddenly shift backwards, then forwards, back and forth in a rapidly increasing frequency that leaves me nauseous and dangling over the abyss. I- hurk- unfortunately can’t keep my breakfast down after that. Jaina then shifts me around, so that I can see she has caught me in mid-air, and she is furious.
“What were you thinking! Trusting a trap to get you across safely? Are you trying to get yourself killed again?”
I wait for my head to stop pounding, and look up at the ceiling where we’re currently suspended from a sprinkler head. The rope… from Jaina’s rope dispenser. Oh yeah, I forgot she had that in the heat of the moment. Well, my plan got me most of the way across, Her rant slowly runs out of steam as I just hang there, dazed.
“...That was a nice catch.”
She huffs. “I guess. You're lucky it was.”

We start gently swinging back and forth until we can grab onto the bridge and pull ourselves onto it. Jaina cuts the rope free, leaving a long strand hanging between the two buildings. We head inside to find a layout pretty much identical to the one we just left. That will make it easy to find someplace to rest.
>>
No. 1043928 ID: 515982
File 166330443525.png - (13.07KB , 500x500 , antermission.png )
1043928

We find an apartment with two dusty, circular beds. They look quite spacious to me, but Jaina is confused.
“Pretty small for a whole family. And why are there two separate beds? Just make one bigger mattress.”
Anet jumps into the bed abdomen-first and declares, “Good enough for the three of us! Bugger, first that Beformican and then you gave us a real fright there.”
“Sorry, what did you say? Beformican?” I ask.
“Yeah, it’s what I’m calling people like that scary lady! Because she looked like something that came before modern Formicans. Get it?”
“If her ancestors were part of those genetic trials we read about, wouldn’t they be what came after?”
“Look, just roll with the pun, Sam.”

While we eat lunch, we should think about our course of action now that we know we aren’t alone in this city. Should we avoid diversions and try to get through as fast as possible? Or is exploring still worth it?
>Pick two activities:
>Read Anet’s jokebook and chitchat.
>Pep talk w/ either sister: Inspire one of them to bolder deeds in near future.
>Allow Jaina to inspect Sam for injuries.
>Examine an item: Practice with/figure out more about an item. (https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest/Inventory)
>Explore the current room some more
>Get some peace and quiet, alone
>>
No. 1043946 ID: e7c7d3

check for wounds and explore room
>>
No. 1043948 ID: 36784c

>>1043928
Sam, stop staring at Anet’s large butt abdomen! It’s rude!

>What do?
Read jokebook and check Sam for injuries.
>>
No. 1043952 ID: 629f2e

Pep talk Jaina, she's one cool gal.

Read Anet’s jokebook and chitchat.
>>
No. 1044016 ID: 8483cf

Anet: Joke and chat
>>
No. 1044018 ID: 01fe07

>>1043952
This
>>
No. 1044220 ID: dc9df3

>>1043928
Allow Jains to check any injury we may have.
>>
No. 1044318 ID: 515982
File 166372521677.png - (122.81KB , 500x500 , rub_some_dirt_on_it.png )
1044318

>Quality time with the sisters
I decide to stick close to my companions for now. For safety in numbers, of course.
Jaina insists on giving me a once-over for injuries after the springboard stunt. She instructs me to take off my shirt and lie on the other bed as she presses on various points testing for a reaction.
“Hold still, if we overlook something now it could become a worse problem later. Does this hurt?”
“No. Kinda tickles though.”
“Yes or no only. Here?”
“No. Really, it wasn’t that rough of a catch.”
She squeezes my tail again, a constant source of fascination for Formicans. “You’ve got a lot of muscle in there. They’re much thicker than mine.”
“Is that so? You sound impressed.”
“Not impressed, it’s just different. It might even be too much muscle. Maybe it’s so heavy, that’s why you can’t jump or lift as much. It’s... weird. Now, here?”
“Oof, yeah. Come to think of it, I have been avoiding that side when I turn over.”
“Sounds like this is from something earlier then.”
“Maybe it’s from when you lasso’d me up on Gail’s tail.“
“Oh. …Sorry about that.”
“No hard feelings.”
She digs out some medical supplies and applies a stinging salve to the sore spots. “This will help stop them from getting infected. At least I hope so, I’m not sure if your scaly hide works the same way carapace does.”
“Couldn’t hurt, I suppose. Good thing you carry plenty of spare bandages. Pardon my asking, but why is that all you wear, anyway?”
“For maximum flexibility with my armor on. And they keep it from chafing.”

Jaina finishes her inspection, satisfied that she didn’t toss me around too much, today at least. “Okay, you seem fine to me. Don’t go pulling a stunt like that again, okay? I’ve got enough to worry about keeping you safe.”

>I can look after myself, you don’t have to worry so much.
>You should worry about Anet first.
>Actually it is nice having someone watch my back.
>Hey my muscles aren’t weird, yours are! From an average galactic standpoint, anyway.
>Shouldn’t I check you for injuries back?
>>
No. 1044319 ID: 15c72a

>>1044318
>Actually it is nice having someone watch my back.
>>
No. 1044320 ID: 629f2e

"Shouldn’t I check you for injuries back?"
>>
No. 1044348 ID: b90535

>>1044318
“Shouldn’t I check you back, I mean check if you have any injuries”.
>>
No. 1044352 ID: 36784c

>>1044318
Both of these.
Actually it is nice having someone watch my back.
Shouldn’t I check you for injuries back?
>>
No. 1044366 ID: 5ec37b

>>1044318
Hey my muscles aren’t weird, yours are! From an average galactic standpoint, anyway.
>>
No. 1044595 ID: a7a180
File 166398693695.png - (106.63KB , 500x500 , smooth_moves_sam.png )
1044595

“I appreciate the save, really. I’m lucky I wasn’t sent out here on my own.“
“I wouldn’t let that happen, even if they did exile you alone.”
“Oh?”
“Well, I would be obligated to escort you out of our territory, so to speak.”
“Ah. That's good to know. Now, shouldn’t I check you back for any injuries?”
“Hm, good idea. It’ll be easier for you to spot them. Go ahead then, check my back.” She loosens her bandages and lies down on the bed.
Oh! I was only half serious… I sit there for a moment figuring out what to do. I guess I’m looking for… cracks or discoloration?
Ahem. It’s faster if you use your hands.”
“Okay… Tell me if it hurts.” I follow Jaina’s example and poke her at regular intervals from her shoulder blades on downward. Her carapace feels really smooth, except for where there are small fuzzy patches of tiny hairs.
“Feels like everything’s fine back there. Now don’t forget the other side.”
Oh...
>>
No. 1044605 ID: a7a180
File 166399560525.png - (125.83KB , 500x500 , how_many_formicans_does_it_take_to_change_a_mood.png )
1044605

After giving Jaina a clean bill of health, I lie on the bed to read a bit. Anet climbs in and curls up against my shoulder.
“Hi! I see you’re reading my book. Need help?”
“-uh! Yeah.”
“Okay! I'll start from the beginning.”
“…Why are you sitting this close?”
“So I can see too. Isn’t this how you read with your siblings?”
“I don’t have any, so I wouldn’t know.”
“Aw, that’s sad! Here, my jokes ought to cheer you up.”

What do you call a Formican with too much time on her hands? A watchmaker!
A Formican asks her friend, “What’s up?” And she replies, “The ceiling!”
A Formican walks into a bar, and the five Formicans behind her go ‘ouch!’ ‘ouch!’ ‘ouch!’ ‘ouch!’ ‘ouch!’
Two Formicans are sitting in a bathtub. One Formican says “Would you get my back?” and the other one says “No way, we’re in this together!”
"…I guess that one doesn’t translate well.”

Anet puts the book down and looks back at me. “So hey… what’s like, the first thing you want to do when you get back home?”

>Beg my professor not to fail me.
>Like, home home? To the bookstore?
>Shower.
>Make good on my promise to hang out.
>_
>>
No. 1044616 ID: abaa91

>>1044605
What I WANT to do? Shower and sleep for a week.

What I SHOULD do? Grovel at my professor's feet and beg him to not fail me.
>>
No. 1044618 ID: b90535

>>1044605
I should make uo a story of how I got lost and beg my professor not to fail me.
>>
No. 1044876 ID: 49e2b5

>>1044605
Beg my professor not to fail me. I've been missing for a while, so I'll need a pretty good story to tell them, without revealing anything about you guys being here.

.....wait, what if no one noticed that I'm missing? They could pack up and leave the planet! Then I'd be stuck here on this planet, away from my family and friends!
>>
No. 1044905 ID: a7a180
File 166433215910.png - (121.77KB , 500x500 , that_worked_a_bit_too_well.png )
1044905

“The first thing I’ll do is run to my professor as fast as I can and beg him not to fail me.”
“Fail you? After all the exploring you’ve done? That’d be silly.”
“Well as far as he knows, I just stopped showing up to the digsite, and attendance is a pretty important part of the internship!”
“That's unfair, it’s not your fault you were absent.”
“Yeah, I’m going to have a heck of a time coming up with an excuse. Maybe I’ll tell him I fell through a secret door? He'd probably want me to show it to him. No, I just got lost wandering the temple floors. I hope he buys it.”
"I'd back your story up, if I could..."

I think I'm starting to get the hang of reading Formican, and how convenient too, because Anet found someone else's diary tucked under the bed. I flip to the back to see how their story ended.

Today was soo annoying. First, the season finale of FF5 was a recycled cliffhanger from season ten. Then we were told fizz cakes were getting rationed now. I complained about it online to bloomershooters53 and he sounded confused, he said those have been rationed for years. I don’t know why they would tell people from the lower floors before us, aren’t we supposed to be literally on top of stuff like this?
Leeta said she’s been preparing a stash in her place ahead of the rationing, so we should be set for a while still. Oh, and also my family’s moving soon, apparently they’re shutting this block down and moving us next door to a half-empty one. Whatever, there’s no difference between them. As long as they don’t shut down the commerce plaza, who cares? At least when this place is empty nobody will see us dipping into our stash. I’ll leave this here as basically a time capsule for when we cycle back into this block. Later, diary!


After an hour of reading in bed, I’ve caught my breath and Anet is starting to get bored. There's a desk in this room that should house a terminal, but the building's power is off. That leaves the hallways pretty dark, but if this hab block is identical to the last one it should be easy to navigate by flashlight.
“Why waste the flashlight? Maybe one of these switches will turn the light back on,” Anet says. “Oh, maybe we should try the clicker here!”
I shrug. “We might as well.”
She clicks the button, and… The corridor is lit in a blinding flash of light! What are the odds?
Suddenly, the lights turn orange, and a voice comes on over some speakers. Somewhere nearby, I hear shutters closing. Um, what else did we just turn on?
>>
No. 1044906 ID: a7a180
File 166433216457.png - (129.31KB , 500x500 , second_contact.png )
1044906

Something from down the hall makes a clattering noise. Jaina runs into the room first, brandishing her spear. There’s a hooded figure inside that’s startled at first but soon brandishes a weapon of her own and chitters angrily. I stay outside, looking to Anet to try and figure out what’s happening with Jaina.
“I recognize most of what she’s saying,” Anet whispers. “She said this whole building is her turf and she isn’t sharing. Jaina asked who she is and said we don’t want her stuff.”
Maybe I should say something too? That spear looks pointier than Jaina’s.
>>
No. 1044909 ID: 15c72a

>>1044906
Tell them this is no time to fight. One of the mutants could have seen that flash, so we need to get away from here.
>>
No. 1044911 ID: 8483cf

Shut up and stay quiet, let the responsible one handle this.
>>
No. 1044940 ID: 0441fc

>>1044905
>I think I'm starting to get the hang of reading Formican
Good job! Maybe when you get back, you can demonstrate your ability to read Formican to your professor. I'm sure he'll have a bunch of ancient texts he'll want you to translate for him!

>>1044906
Is that the weapon from Dig Dug? Is she going to kill Jaina the same way enemies are killed in Dig Dug?
>>
No. 1044968 ID: 36784c

>>1044940
>dig dug weapon?
I’m pretty sure that just shoots out the spear. The rope is probably tied around it because it’s her only shot and she doesn’t want to lose it when it’s fired out.
>>
No. 1045619 ID: 9b4885
File 166508412127.png - (131.80KB , 500x500 , that_aint_no_ant.png )
1045619

I think I'll stay back and let Jaina handle this. This Formican seems pretty on edge already. Anet keeps me in the loop of conversation, quietly.
<I said, who are you?> the stranger says.
<My friends and I are just passing through,> Jaina answers.
<Passing through? What's there to pass through to?>
<That's none of your business.>
<It's my business now. Tell me, or else.>
<Or else what? We’ve got numbers. We have you cornered. We don't want a fight, but you'd best not start one.>
The girl doesn't say anything, she just tightens her grip and the wires attached to the spear buzz menacingly.
Jaina sighs. <Fine. We’re passing through the city to get to the old labs.>
<Why would you want to go there? That's their territory.>
<Whose territory?>
<You know! Them!>
<If you’re talking about those long Formicans, we’ve dealt with them before.>
<Oh, have you now? Then you know that’s crazy talk.>
<Can we discuss this without pointing spears at each other? We have bigger things to worry about. Some of... "Them" may have noticed the building lighting up.>
The girl relaxes her grip, but doesn't put it away. <Well even if they did, the quarantine shutters just closed. No one can get in or out now.>
<That includes us. We need to turn them off again.>
<If the shutters aren't powered They can pry them open. Best they stay up for now. Are you saying you did this? How?>
<What's important right now is we need to figure out how to open one shutter without opening all of them.>
Finally, she notices me standing outside. <What the bug is that?>
>>
No. 1045622 ID: 9a2966

Make it clear you're harmless and intelligent, and get the girls to propose a trade of questions - answers for answers, with a caveat that you don't have to answer questions that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

She clearly seemed interested in what turned the power on, so another trade option could be giving away the clicker in exchange for help, information or some gear.
>>
No. 1045662 ID: 15c72a

>>1045619
Hello, I am an interloper.
>>
No. 1045692 ID: b90535

“I’m a Talzoran, not from this planet. I’m, eh friendly”.
>>
No. 1045693 ID: 629f2e

"I'm Sam."
>>
No. 1046282 ID: 7cf2fa

Oh, this is too perfect for everybody here.
She's got loads of info about this whole place.
She would also probably like a safe place to go.
She tells it all, she gets details of the path to the village.
>>
No. 1046294 ID: e51896

Give a dorky little wave hello
>>
No. 1046584 ID: a7a180
File 166579818620.png - (100.97KB , 500x500 , take_me_to_your_leader.png )
1046584

I wave hello in a non-threatening manner as I can think of. “Heya, I’m Sam. I’m Talzoran.”
<This is Sam. He came from the outside world! And I’m Anet. Nice to meet you!> Anet says.
<Woah. The outer worlds are a real place? …I don’t know where to start. He’s so… green.>
<Well, how about we start with a trade of questions,> says Jaina. <I’m Jaina. You have our names now, so what’s yours?>
<I’m Pent. Like penthouse. How did he get here?>
<That is a long story, but suffice it to say it was a one way trip. We’re taking the long way around to get back. What did you mean by this being your territory?>
<This building is my family’s picking grounds, so we lay claim to anything left in here. If you want junk, you’d better space yourself out more. Speaking of, why are you dressed like that? You don’t blend in at all.>
<Uh… We’re used to different terrain, is all. Not as… leafy.>
Pent scoffs. <Well if there’s no leaves, what do you eat? Don’t tell me you’re from some block that’s still working, after a thousand years.>
<Fungus!> Anet chimes in. <That’s two questions for us, now! Cool weapon, what’s it do? Is it for dealing with the big scary Formicans?>
<Uh, yes. They’re tough, but they still don’t like pain. The battery’s wires are exposed so I can make it rattle to scare them off, and if that doesn’t work they’ll feel the sting. How have you been dealing with them?>
<Well, we just kinda ran away from her…>
<Hm. You’re lucky, must have been one of the friendly ones.>
Jaina frowns. <Explain.>
<Most of them attack us on sight, but some of them are open to trading. Usually food for shiny stuff, or protection. Better to let them approach you than the other way around, though, and with your spear out front. …That’s all the questions I’ve got for now. I’ll take you to my family, and we’ll figure out how to get these shutters open.>
>>
No. 1046585 ID: a7a180
File 166579819235.png - (100.19KB , 500x500 , i_said_leader_not_litter.png )
1046585

Pent moves swiftly and silently, leading us down into the middle floors of this block. The empty apartments are like an endless maze, but she navigates dozens of disorienting turns with a practiced ease. Eventually she slows down and carefully leads us around traps more carefully laid than the ancient ones from the last building as we reach her family’s security perimeter. Finally she enters a ruined apartment that looks no different from the ruins around it, except the back half of the room is cordoned off with hanging leaves. Behind it, six or so Formicans are combing through large piles of scavenged loot. Pent introduces us curtly and explains how she ran into us.
<Is this really everyone? Your family’s so small.> Anet asks.
<Yeah. Large groups are harder to feed, harder to hide. We’re pushing things as it is.>
While Anet goes off to chat and admire their collected bits and bobs, I lean over to Jaina. “Sounds like this is a pretty miserable place to live. Maybe you should invite them back to your village..?”
She quickly shushes me. “Shshshhh. We can’t just go telling everyone its location, or people we don’t want showing up will hear too! I’ll think about it, okay?”
“Well, how about trading them the clicker? I bet they'd give us a lot for it.”
“I’d think about that a lot longer.”

Between us and Pent’s family, we come up with a plan of action. The eldest, Pent’s father, says that there’s a central control mechanism for buildings in the server room. Maybe the quarantine controls will be there too. If they aren’t, then we’ll return and tell them to get ready to sneak away when the power is turned off.

Is there anything else I want to ask or tell Pent’s clan?
>>
No. 1046602 ID: f12e11

Well, you're the history buff. See if they have details to help fill in the blanks regarding what happened here. Looks like they may have lost a lot of that though, so you may have a lot to share yourself!

Would like to hear if they feel that they'd be better off if they stopped hiding from the universe at large, too. Does appear like they'd require outside help to escape this post-apocalyptic downwards spiral.
>>
No. 1046615 ID: 15c72a

Yeah, ask about the l o r e
>>
No. 1046716 ID: a7a180
File 166596296799.png - (117.11KB , 500x500 , end_of_an_era.png )
1046716

>the l o r e
These overgrown buildings tell a story, and I just have to know what happened. Jaina and I walk over to where Anet and Pent are chatting, showing each other items from their collection. The mirror lens apparently has Pent's button collection beat for novelty.
"Hey Anet, can you explain to her that I'm a historian of sorts, and I'd just like to know how things got this way? Um, ask about their history after your ancestors left."
"Okay! <Can you tell us about your people's history, Pent?>"
<A little. My grandma tells us stories sometimes. How does it go...>
<Long ago, people used to be bigger. But, as their resources dwindled, they got smaller. it got to the point where they were so small, they could not get any smaller. People worried they would run out of resources. There was a queen that ruled everyone back then, the Last Queen grandma calls her. She told everyone science was the answer to their problems. Then one day, there was one scientist guy who said he could change people's bodies to be stronger, leaner. The Queen was scared about what else it might do, though. She forbade him from continuing his research, and focused all her efforts into fixing up ancient machines that could make endless food. People got angry though that she was putting all this effort into the machines, but none into food they could eat right now. The scientist continued his work in secret, and starting with a small group of followers he created... Them. They converted more people into Themselves and began hoarding resources for themselves. But while their bodies grew stronger, their minds grew wicked and mean. They saw themselves as alpha predators, and Us as weak prey. We had numbers, though, and there was fighting for many years. Everyone broke up into smaller and smaller groups. There were fewer and fewer people, until finally the resource problem solved itself, in a way. They spread out to live and hunt individually, while we forage in a family. Every so often, our families come together to trade before splitting up again. They really were adapted to this way of life, but we adapted too. Eventually.>

Fascinating. That poor queen, going down in history as the last of her rule. The villagers are lucky their ancestors missed out on this. She didn't get everything quite right, mostly that part at the very beginning, but perhaps it's allegorical. Oral history is probably the only thing they can rely on anyway. I should write it all down before I forget it myself.

"Also, how would she feel about making contact with the outside world?"
"...Sam, you realize that if your people were to find this place, they would have to go through my village first," says Jaina.
"I do, just, treat it as a hypothetical question."
"Well, okay. <What are your thoughts on the 'outer worlds'?>" Anet asks.
<They sure sound better than this place. Maybe we'll go there ourselves when there's nothing left to find here.>
<Would you want to travel there with us, if you could?>
<How about we go upstairs together before planning a longer trip? Our family never travels too far apart.>
>>
No. 1046717 ID: a7a180
File 166596297344.png - (92.74KB , 500x500 , to_server_antkind.png )
1046717

Climbing back upstairs in the orange light, the trip to the server room is exhausting but uneventful. The terminal interface is familiar, but all the options listed are technical terms way over our heads. I try inputting a 'help' command, and it begins to spit out a lot of data...

Welcome to FungOS Automated Networked Teacher! Tell me what you want to do today. Warning: No connection to network. ANT functionality is in unbug mode. There are [5] new system messages. Attention: Quarantine protocols are active. Biological isolation of hab block in effect. >_
>>
No. 1046722 ID: 15c72a

>>1046716
>they would have to go through my village first
Uh, what? No. They can use the size machine we're heading towards.

>>1046717
View messages.
>>
No. 1046740 ID: 3d15f2

So do they still do conversions, or is it all "we eat you inferior beings!"
Either way it's a pretty awful life to have to live. Poor buggos.
Oh derp. Forgot to inquire about tactics. Surely they've developed ways to effectively fight/run/hide, found weaknesses, so forth.

Perhaps there's a way to selectively rescue? Hm, but that would blow the lid off regardless... Sheesh, either way it's bad. Leave the city survivors to be used as prey or reveal the village despite their wish to be left be - plus the two galpals will go from pals to hostile.
Gotta talk to them about this. What was expected was a rough trip to the labs without moral issues, so what about this whole deal? While the village did say they wished to hide, would they still say so if they saw that to isolate would leave everybody else with this sort of life? Would they give that up to give their fellows a future?

>Server console
Servers?
Perhaps whoever did upkeep left paper notes?
Does the server still have access to local building video?
...List last few commands used?
>>
No. 1046987 ID: a7a180
File 166622997612.png - (137.00KB , 500x500 , pay_close_antention.png )
1046987

>So do they still do conversions, or is it all "we eat you inferior beings!"
I ask Pent if the Beformicans still raid families for converts or supplies. The answer is: Neither. They keep to themselves for the most part, only attacking if they happen across a lone scavenger or two. The conversion process is lost to history. They reproduce naturally, and supposedly they can live a very long time besides. The kids, when they have any, grow up fast and are left to fend for themselves.

>anti-Beformican tactics
Next I ask what we should do in case we encounter one of “Them.” She gives a few brief tips:
<Remain very still, don't get close, and when all else fails stick by your friend with the spear. They don't tend to bother with technology, instead They rely on natural strength and basic tools, so a little craftiness can give you an edge.>

>Should we save the cityfolk from themselves or protect the villagers’ secrecy?
It's difficult to say! I wouldn't want to be in either of their situations. They're both in a state of decay, the city’s is just much more advanced. I ask the sisters what they think.
Jaina: “Well, obviously I’m more attached to my home village than these people. As far as I’m concerned, it's just a different way of life. It’s not my place to judge it. They’re still managing to survive.”
Anet: “I feel sorry for them, but I agree that you can't reveal one without revealing the other. Besides, if these guys escaped, I wouldn't want to be stuck in a closet while they got to explore the galaxy!”

>Perhaps whoever did upkeep left paper notes?
There’s no paper to be found anywhere, it seems! I look for one of those data tablets like the ones that formican was hoarding, but there isn't a single one to be found. -Oh, perhaps those two things are connected.

>video cameras Warning: Unable to access overhead cameras.
A grid of different camera views come up. Most of them are dark or throwing up errors, but a few still work, probably showing ancient offices and labs. There’s nothing of interest happening on any of them. I try looking up old recordings, but I get a network error. I guess they weren’t stored locally.
>List last commands used -camera history -cameras -help ...Well that didn't help.
>>
No. 1046989 ID: a7a180
File 166623005580.png - (129.19KB , 500x500 , memo_ries.png )
1046989

>View messages Displaying system messages from newest to oldest: [1] From: Unsigned (Node MS1538) Subject: asdf dceijdxmjevbnxm [2] From: Unsigned (Node MS1538) Subject: Ooh What does this button do? [3] From: Unsigned (Node MS1716) Subject: EVOLVE OR DIE LITERALLY YOUR ONLY TWO OPTIONS WE HAVE THE BRAWN, WE HAVE THEBRAINS WHO NEEDSD FINGERS FOR TYOPING WHEN WE HAVE CLAWS FOR STABBING JOIN US WE WILL OUTLIVE THE HOLE GALAXY! [4] From: SysTech 1138 - Area 17 Maintenance Subject: To whoever still reads these Listen, we all know times are bad right now, but they’re gonna get a whole lot worse if the life support systems fail! We need to set as many building systems as we possibly can into low power autonomous mode. It may sound complex, but if you can use a computer, that’s all the technological know-how you need. Just type these words into the command line in every server room you can reach. Use EXACT punctuation, and do NOT tell it to shut down! -Clear tasks -Add automaint cycle -.01 -Minmax environs(c) -Standby no P.S. Twig, if you’re still out there somewhere, cos, I’m sorry. You and Berri were right about getting out of here while we still could. -Granit 5 From: SYSADMIN - Area 17 Maintenance Subject: False alarm Last night a system malfunction triggered an emergency quarantine door in sector 11. It is unknown what caused this error, but as of now the issue does not seem to have affected any other major systems. Just in case, please don’t close any blast doors unless it is an actual emergency. Thank you. >_


Hm, well none of that addresses the problem directly. At least we learned a few things about talking to the computer.
>>
No. 1046993 ID: 15c72a

Ah, before you follow those directions, try to list tasks. The shutters are something you don't want to cancel all at once, after all.
>>
No. 1047007 ID: e26506

>>1046989
Well if you are going to do as the massage says be careful!
>>
No. 1047015 ID: 746e38

Well, we've got a classic apocalyptic log.
Sorta useful, though the life support bit is especially worrying. Sounds like it'll fail eventually because of what's going on here. Decay will get to it with age, so how long does it have? Or did it fail already what with the food machines dying? Does it provide air to breathe?

Still, have to get to the labs. Sounds like the mutants have bad eyes. Gray camouflage it is!
>>
No. 1047805 ID: a7a180
File 166706729237.png - (112.30KB , 500x500 , the_magic_word.png )
1047805

Life support could be running out? I don’t like the sound of that! “Anet, how do we ask it to check the life support systems?”
“Try this:”
>Life support help Did you mean: you require immediate medical attention?
“Ack!”
>no! Apologies. Predictive algorithms are operating at reduced capacity. Please try again.
“Phew. Okay maybe this:”
>life support status Disconnected from network. Overall condition of Menthis Science Complex unknown. Displaying local conditions. Air recyclers: Active (Closed circuit mode) Food dispensers: Error Local hydroponics: 200% capacity Local water supplies: Nominal (25% full) Estimated hab population: Approx. 1 dozen Estimated reserves for current population: 9999999 years
Menthis science complex… MSC? Ohh. That must be the true name for this building they covered up with the Great Temple. It kind of dulls the aura of mystique.
Anyway, it seems like the system technician’s doomsaying didn’t account for one thing, and that was the general population taking a rapid decline. I don’t know why the hydroponics system has such a high number, but maybe it’s the root of all these vines growing over the buildings?
I’ll see what following the instructions does to help. Before I begin I should see what these tasks are that I’m canceling.
>list tasks System Monitor Biohazard Exoshield Automated Networked Teacher Network sync (paused) Laboratory Assistant Automated Medic
Okay, here goes.
>-Clear tasks Tasks cleared successfully. Network connected. Warning: 2795 nodes have been removed since last sync. Performance may be impacted.
The lighting returns to normal and another announcement plays on the intercom.
<The quarantine period is now over. It is now safe to move about the moon.>
What was that about the moon? Whatever, that seems mostly good… Well, we can’t stop now.
>-Add automaint cycle -.01 Beginning maintenance cycle with a length of 0 years. >-Minmax environs(c) Adjusting environmental settings. >-Standby Do you wish to shut down all systems? No Entering standby. Have a productive day.
There, that does… something. I didn’t hear the clunk of shutters retracting, so we’ve avoided leaving ourselves visibly vulnerable at least. But now how do we open the door?
“We could try asking politely?” Anet suggests.
>open the front door please Exiting standby. I’m afraid I can’t do that, [local user.] >why not The front door shutters are currently down. >open the front door shutters please? Certainly! Shutter retracted.
“See? It was that easy!”
>>
No. 1047806 ID: a7a180
File 166706729861.png - (139.69KB , 500x500 , a_mask_of_his_own_face.png )
1047806

We return to the family den to report our success. This time we get a proper introduction to Pent’s clan.
<So there’s Grandma and my mom over there sorting through the collection, my siblings Bann and Sandy, auntie Ant, And last but not least, my dad, Gravel,> says Pent, leading us to the back.
Gravel’s sitting in a dark corner under the shade of a leaf, wearing an unlucky Beformican’s face as a mask. Hearing that we ended the quarantine with no apparent complications visibly relaxes him.
<Thanks, whoever you are. That damn alarm woke me up too soon.>
<But it’s the middle of the afternoon…> Anet points out.
<I know, I handle the night watch. I get that having the lights and the sink taps working again is a pretty good deal for us, but personally I liked it dark and quiet. So, I heard you were traveling somewhere? We might as well help you on your way as thanks for helping us.>
<It’s appreciated! We’re trying to get to the old labs.> Anet spreads our maps out on the floor to explain our route.
<The old labs? …Not my business why, but that’s not an easy place to reach.> He studies the maps quietly for a minute. <...Ah. Okay, so the good news is you and I have been thinking of different labs. Your old labs are farther than I or anyone I know has ever been. Our old labs are where They were made. The bad news is, this route’s no good, a hab block’s collapsed over the hatchway you were going to use. The next best route to your old labs is behind our old labs.>
<That sounds bad, but they don’t all live there, right? They’re solitary hunters,> Anet points out.
<For the most part, yes. There’s one exception though, which is uh, a cult is the best word to describe it I guess, that happens to consider those labs sacred grounds.>
<How are we supposed to get inside if it’s guarded by these… Them?> Jaina asks.
<Hard to say, it’s not exactly something I’ve tried to pull off. …Try approaching from an unexpected angle. They tend to stick to the outdoors and ground floor when they aren’t on the hunt, they don’t like the low ceilings in the upper floors. If you take the covered sky bridge from the building next door, you can try and sneak your way down and out the back without getting spotted. Pent can get you that close at least.>
Pent perks up at her name. <You’re volunteering me?>
<You brought them here, they’re your problem.>
<Ugh… Fiiine.>
<Great. Until you reach their hunting grounds, traveling across the undergrowth is the quickest and quietest path. Use the foliage for camouflage, and follow my daughter’s lead, without hesitation. Good?>
<We’re good.> Jaina and Anet nod.
I nod after Anet explains the plan to me. “Yyyeah, good.”
<Alright then. Top off yourselves off, but don’t take too long. These are good travel hours.>

>Pick two things to do before heading into Beformican territory:
>Weapon practice: Spar with Jaina and Pent with your pokey stick.
>Inspect item(s): Practice with/figure out more about an item. Pent may be more familiar with old Formican tech.
>Barter: Choose one or several items to offer in trade, the scavengers will make an offer in turn from their hoard. (https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest/Inventory)
>Talk with somebody: Give them a pep talk or ask them about stuff.
>Survey the area: Go to the top floor to check out the path ahead.
>>
No. 1047830 ID: 8483cf

We’re not a warrior, no need to focus on things we don’t plan on excelling at.

I vote we learn more about the mirror lens. It’s valuable, it’s worth investing in. Maybe Pent will also opine about the Insulation Shards if we leave them lying around where she can see them?

Barter the cracked hardhat for something better. Perhaps they’ll take the Mysterious Bone Shard in addition for an actually useful piece of gear.
>>
No. 1047858 ID: 01fe07

>>1047830
Tbis
>>
No. 1048088 ID: 983279

>>1047806
We should spar and check some items, maybe the clicker and bone and insulation shards.
>>
No. 1048772 ID: a7a180
File 166796081450.png - (110.67KB , 500x500 , hololife_of_the_party.png )
1048772

>inspect: shards, clicker, mirror lens
With a moment of downtime, I decide to experiment with some items we've gathered. We're a long way from the labs yet, so this cluttered apartment will have to do.
The shards of insulation prove the toughest, sharpest material on hand, but as a result they're too tough to be worked with. I’d need time to make tools out of some of them to to make items with the rest of them, unless I used them in the crude shapes they are already in.
The clicker... well, after what happened last time testing it inside isn't the best idea. Maybe we'll try it again once we're outside. In the meantime, I think about what we know about it, and what we don't yet know. The range on its signal must be far for Anet to turn something on from a room away. Is it directional? After all it didn't turn on every hab block in the lab, did it? What's the smallest individual thing it can turn on and off? Hmm... Jaina's right, we don't know enough about the value of this object yet to trade it away.
Lastly, the mirror lens. This mysterious piece of tech that’s been nagging at the back of my mind. It’s too valuable to be a throwaway decoy, right? It’s advanced holographic technology, and compact too. I poke it and it plays Anet’s recorded greeting again.”Hiya!” After a few seconds it loops. I tap it again and it stops.
Pent wanders over to Anet and I, drawn by the light while I'm turning it over in my hands. <That's neat. Where’d you find it?>
"I didn't, Anet did, somewhere out there. Uh, how you turn it off again?"
"It's this symbol, in the corner."
<What about this symbol at the bottom?>
"...Huh, I never noticed that one before." Anet presses a symbol that blends into the lens frame. The hologram shimmers and shifts into a floating screen like the terminals.
"What is this?" I ask her.
"I think we found the menu…"
It turns out, playing back an echo’s not all it can do. It’s a full-on holographic camera! And the memory banks are full of ancient captures of formican life. We scroll through a few flat images, seeing the city busting with life. There are no vines, instead every hab block has a rooftop garden. The panoramas are followed by a hologram of a woozy Formican. I press play, and the Formican begins to dance. She stumbles forward and appears to lean on me, and I step back before realizing she was actually leaning on the unseen photographer. She laughs, and the loop repeats.
I back out to the main menu before I get lost in this archaeological gold mine.
>>
No. 1048773 ID: a7a180
File 166796081978.png - (148.07KB , 500x500 , star_struck_scavenger.png )
1048773

Both Anet and Pent are awestruck. <That’s really cool. What do you want for it?>
“Want for it? But… I want this.”
<Pleeease? I’ve got lots of stuff to trade for it.>
Anet is reluctant to part with the holocamera, but then she looks at me, and an idea strikes her. She pulls Pent to the side and they have a whispered haggling session. I can’t follow it, but she comes back with a look of satisfaction.

“Okay, we've come to an agreement. Pent's going to come with us the whole way, and when we come back we'll bring her whole family along with us to our village!”
Jaina's startled by this. “Anet! You can’t-”
“Why not? We’re supposed to keep the village a secret from tallmen, not other Formicans! They don’t have to live like this! There’s no monsters there, and we have all the fungus they’ll ever need to eat!”
<It’s a really good trade for us,> says Pent.
“...Fine. Her family can clearly pull their weight. I hope the elders will approve.”
I don’t really know what to say… Secretly, I kinda wish I could keep the camera myself. Well, saying something is better than standing here awkwardly.
“Hey, uh, welcome aboard Pent!”
<Yeah yeah, I hope I don't come to regret it.>
>>
No. 1048774 ID: a7a180
File 166796082544.png - (164.45KB , 500x500 , whaddya_buyin_stranger.png )
1048774

>barter
With that deal done, I decide to trade some of the stuff we’re not using for something maybe more useful. I show what we’ve got to Gravel.

>hard hat
<Hm. Tough stuff. Shame about the hole, but if we patch it up that’ll make a decent bit of armor. You want a better weapon in exchange?>
“Not interested, thanks. I’m more of a scholar than a fighter.”
<Well, maybe your friends could use it, but fair enough. How about… a comfortable suit to wear or a cloak to cover what you’ve got? If you’re willing to throw in a little extra, I’ve got this pocket knife that might be of interest to you.>
The cloak is one of their spares, a dark green that blends into the leafy vines and shadows. The suit is another one of the one piece suits Formicans used to wear, but this one shows its age. The pocket knife is a very fancy multitool in reasonable condition. He shows off the attachments: knife, screwdriver, pliers… one of the attachments looks strange.
“What’s that rounded, flat tool do?”
<That? It’s some kind of computer memory thing. There’s - well, if you’re interested in old curiosities, I suppose I won’t spoil the surprise. It's nothing big though, just some old papers.>
Ooh, I want to know so bad! Assuming it still works. Assuming I can figure out how it works…

>bone shard
<…What are you offering me?>
“It’s a shard of a humongous creature we saw. The size of an ancient, pre-shrunk Formican!”
<Are you sure? This seems kinda flaky for chitin. You did mean chitin, right?>
“Well, I was wondering about that myself… no, it was definitely a skeleton. Wasn’t it?”
<…Why don’t you keep it until you figure that out.>
“Okay…”

>Trade Cracked Hard Hat for:
>Cloak
>Ragged Precursor suit
>Chiss army knife + memory disc (Must offer an extra item: >_)
>Other
>>
No. 1048784 ID: 8483cf

Trade it for the Chompy! Nah, it'd probably tear a hole in our pocket.

Let's get the cloak. Good for comfort and stealth if needed.
>>
No. 1048792 ID: 15c72a

>>1048774
>"bone shard"
Didn't we already determine that was plaster? We don't know why there was a fake skeleton there, but it's fake for sure.

Get the cloak, I'd think. It's camouflage, to better compensate for your lower physical skills compared to the girls.
>>
No. 1048819 ID: a2d88b

Trade for the knife!
>>
No. 1049317 ID: a7a180
File 166848744614.png - (123.29KB , 500x500 , pretty_fly_for_a_snakeman.png )
1049317

A cloak should come in handy! I’ve been sticking out like a sore fang with my khakis and scales. This was a good trade, it’s way less itchy than it looks.
Pent informs her family of her change in plans, and they wish her luck. By the time we make it outside, it’s raining in the lab. I stop and watch the giant droplets hitting the ground with an audible splash. I almost forgot this city’s not nearly as big as it seems.
Jaina, who it occurs to me has never experienced weather before, asks, “What’s happening?”
<It’s the daily showers. The sprinkler heads on the ceiling put out a fine mist to avoid spraying giant raindrops all over our heads. That would be… very unpleasant for anyone caught outside. It’s not perfect, though. The mist clings to the leaves and drips down the sides of the hab blocks, condensing into raindrops exactly like the misters were built to avoid. Watch your head, and stay away from the overhangs,> Pent advises. <We’ll be traveling in the open for a bit.>
The 'open’ is somewhat misleading, as the plants growing along the floor make for uneven, hilly terrain that obscures our sightlines. Occasionally we stop to listen for movement, but all we hear is the hum of the overhead lights and the gentle hiss of the misters.
>>
No. 1049318 ID: a7a180
File 166848745146.png - (107.05KB , 500x500 , perilous_plaza.png )
1049318

It’s stopped raining by the time we reach an open courtyard between buildings with old and bent signs advertising long gone stores. I almost recognize this place - the mirror lens’ photos were taken around here, before it became overgrown.
Suddenly, Pent stops and motions for us to get down. The Formicans’ antennae all twitch, but I still don’t hear anything. Pent points to a broken window and I catch a brief glimpse of what’s got her worried - a Beformican on the prowl.
She whispers, <Wait here while I take care of this.>

>Let her do her thing (The Beformican will be wounded)
>Ask her to be gentle (Pent will stun the Beformican - it will be unconscious long enough to get away)
>Other: _
>>
No. 1049323 ID: 8b4936

Let her do her thing, we aren't the kind of person who should be giving lessons here.
>>
No. 1049331 ID: 58dd24

ah, gently, please. not excited about hurting anybody. Even the shellbacks got humane treatment, and they don't look at all like people
>>
No. 1049711 ID: a7a180
File 166899508722.png - (131.73KB , 500x500 , debugging_windows.png )
1049711

I’m not eager to see someone get hurt, but… I hold my tongue this time, this isn’t my field of expertise.
Pent disappears into the shadows for a minute before we hear an angry shout. The stalker trips backward out the broken window, landing on his back. Pent jumps out after him, delivering an electric jab to make sure he doesn’t get up.
<Never saw me coming,> she boasts.
“...Is he going to be okay?”
<Maybe. They‘re annoyingly tough.>
<Hope he doesn’t remember you when he wakes up,> says Jaina.
<You going to wait around to ask him? Come on.>
>>
No. 1049712 ID: a7a180
File 166899510033.png - (117.59KB , 500x500 , this_used_to_be_a_nice_neighborhood.png )
1049712

As we cross the rest of the city, it strikes me just how samey everything is. We pass the same hab block over and over, except mirrored from the opposite side of the plaza. Where is the expression of Formican culture? …Where is the transportation? Walking everywhere would- is taking a really long time when you’re this small. I guess the hieroglyphs had flying cars in them. And where are the other people? This city should hold millions, but we haven’t even seen anyone since Pent’s family. How many are left?
“Why haven’t we seen other scavengers? Is it because we’re getting near uh, Their territory?“ I ask.
<Mostly, but there are other reasons. It’s not just Them you have to worry about, it’s each other.> Pent points out signs of others’ passage I would have missed - scratches on a window, leaves that have been cut.
Soon the signs become more obvious - and gruesome. Spikes with Formican limbs impaled on them litter the path. Repurposed warning signs strung up between buildings let us know we’ve officially crossed into Their turf.
>>
No. 1049714 ID: a7a180
File 166899510888.png - (96.93KB , 500x500 , enemy_spotted.png )
1049714

The vegetation starts to grow thicker to the point it’s untraversable, so we climb up to the walkways to progress. Just behind the thick wall of vines, there’s a wide open section with no plant cover. Odd, how do they keep it so clear? We spot a Beformican walking through it, and unfortunately she spots us back. The lone hunter raises her weapon and starts shouting angrily. This is bad, she could be calling to others!
Wait, what’s that noise..?
>>
No. 1049715 ID: a7a180
File 166899511220.png - (74.67KB , 500x500 , look_both_ways_before_crossing.png )
1049715

Oh.

How are we supposed to get across that gap safely?
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No. 1049720 ID: 15c72a

Depends on what that was, exactly. Did you get a good look at it? Is it an automated vehicle, or some kind of maintenance bot?

You could look for a crosswalk...?
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No. 1049721 ID: 90c451

Why would you want to get across? Isn't that the transportation you were just wondering about?

Use the rope you have to try and climb onto that thing. Quickly though, you're gonna need to be fast.
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No. 1049726 ID: 8483cf

>>1049721
Rope! Time for some swinging action.
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No. 1049742 ID: 708905

>>1049715
First of all figure out what exactly you're dealing with. Is that a giant wheel? Could be what cleared the vegetation, does it have a pattern?
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No. 1049953 ID: a7a180
File 166917142659.png - (113.90KB , 500x500 , high_rider.png )
1049953

>Is it an automated vehicle, or some kind of maintenance bot?
I think it’s a vehicle? It’s like a building on wheels. There’s a handle on the trailing edge, and some kind of machinery pokes over the top… it looks like some kind of self-driving lab cart. The line between robot and automated vehicle gets a little blurry. It must have kept this aisle clear of vines by constantly running this route for years and years.
I don’t have much time to act - do we try and catch a ride, or cross when it’s gone and come up with a plan to not end up under its wheels?

>Catch a ride
>Stop and think: >_
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No. 1050107 ID: 5499f4

C'mon y'all let's CATCH A RIIIIIIIIIIDE
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No. 1050143 ID: 15c72a

Uh, trying to hitch a ride sounds a bit impulsive. Confer with your associates.
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No. 1050151 ID: fec07f

>>1050143
This, it's obviously on a repeating path so if we want a ride later we can just wait for it to come around again
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No. 1050163 ID: e6f42c

Woo, impulsive grappling hook time!
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No. 1050164 ID: 90c451

Reckless endangerment let's gooooo!
Ride that thing!
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No. 1050167 ID: a2d88b

Don't.
Take the thought-out approach, it's what you're best at.
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No. 1050437 ID: a7a180
File 166967443849.png - (168.97KB , 500x500 , doing_sam_a_frighten.png )
1050437

>Sam tried to think of something…
>But nothing came to mind!

“Jaina! Can your rope reach the top of that?”
“It sure can!” Jaina hurls her rope at the side of the cart and grabs the rest of us in her arms.
“Wait I didn’t say dooo iiiit!” But it's too late as I get jerked through the air again.
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No. 1050438 ID: a7a180
File 166967445939.png - (157.17KB , 500x500 , wheres_the_gofast_button.png )
1050438

We swing back and forth at a terrifying pace as Jaina retracts the rope. The wind rushes past my face as we reach the top of the cart, and I scramble to get my own grip on the edge with a boost from Jaina. We peek our heads over the edge to find we're not alone up top. There's a gang of four Beformicans gathered around a touchscreen display. It seems to display the cart's route around the lab as well as activate two showerheads hanging off the cart. They're pressing the buttons at random to make the cart speed up or slow down, apparently making a game of trying to spray certain targets. Their chatter and cheers covers up our whispering back and forth.
"Are they actually driving this thing?" I say.
"Not sure. They won't be happy to see us, though. We should get the jump on them." Jaina is already coordinating her targets with Pent.
"Are you sure? There's four of them..." says Anet.
"This is crazy! Why don't we just drop down?" I protest.
Jaina stares at me as if this was my idea in the first place. "And risk getting caught under the wheels? Unless you want to end up a skidmark on a building or the floor, get ready to go over the side." Looks like now's not really a good time to clear up this miscommunication.
Hmm… it’s cluttered up there. maybe we can use the terrain to our advantage.

>Scoot around to a better angle
>Make a distraction
>Ambush them now
>Topple some gardening tools onto them
>Other: >_
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No. 1050493 ID: 260607

>>1050438
Scoot around to a better angle
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No. 1050509 ID: 36784c

>>1050438
I've got an idea: Everyone move to one of the bottom corners of the touchscreen display. Then Jaina gives one end of the rope to someone and that person goes up to the top corner. Jaina and the other person will pull the rope tight and the person up top swings downwards so that the rope goes across the touchscreen. The rope going across the touchscreen should be enough to sweep the Beformicans off their feet and, with how fast this thing is moving, the wind will knock them off!

I hope I'm explaining this correctly.
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No. 1050531 ID: 7cf2dc

>>1050509
This sounds good!
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No. 1050740 ID: 4169f6

>>1050509
Support.
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No. 1050762 ID: a7a180
File 167002497185.png - (173.85KB , 500x500 , no_plan_survives_contact.png )
1050762

>Knock them off the touchscreen
It’s not really that windy up here, but it could still work!
“I have an idea. Let’s clothesline them off the cart.”
“Huh?
“We pull a rope across the top, sweep down and run them all over the edge. They won't see it coming.”
“...Sounds crazy enough to work. Alright, go and get ready to pull.”
Anet and I sneak around while Jaina creeps up to the corner of the screen. As we get to the other end, we notice a fifth Beformican looking over the side of the cart. They could be a problem if they notice us too soon...
Anet stands on my shoulders to lift the rope up and signal Jaina. She pulls it taut, and we’re off! The trick takes them completely by surprise, but as they’re falling one of the Beformicans manages to drag their arms down the touchscreen, pressing a bunch of buttons. The cart abruptly stops and reverses course, sending everyone flying!
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No. 1050763 ID: a7a180
File 167002498502.png - (159.77KB , 500x500 , a_trolley_problem.png )
1050763

One of the hose heads spins around from momentum, spraying the cart top with water. I land in a puddle next to Pent and one of Them. It's impossible to tell where anyone else landed between the ringing in my ears and the water in my eyes. Groggily, I try to scramble away from the confused, angry ant. Not only is the puddle slippery, but stepping free of the puddle is like pulling my feet out of mud. Pent’s quicker to recover and manages to shock the soaked Beformican before he gets up.
I finally have a chance to look around. It looks like three out of the five Beformicans were thrown clear, but Jaina is fighting off the last two on her own while holding onto the rope. I don’t see Anet anywhere - she must be on the other end of the rope still!

>Help Jaina pull!
>Help Jaina fight off the Beformicans!
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No. 1050776 ID: 15c72a

>>1050763
Well you're not exactly a fighter. Help pull!
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No. 1050846 ID: a2d88b

Look if there's a way to secure the rope nearby instead of simply pulling it. If there's one, you can take over pulling entirely, leaving her free to fight them off.
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No. 1051120 ID: a7a180
File 167038357885.png - (149.27KB , 500x500 , oww_ouch_oof_her_back.png )
1051120

>Pull up!
I scramble between the Beformicans and grab onto the rope. Anet with all her bags is really heavy, but between the two of us we manage to pull her up. Unfortunately, Jaina ends up having to defend all three of us as we lie catching our breath. One of them strikes her on the back trying to tear her armor off, but she manages to break away from their grip. Pent and Jaina end up focusing on one, then the other, flanking and driving them over the edge with painful zaps and wide swings.
The cart finally leaves the Beformicans in the dust, and we’re safe for a moment.
“Are you okay Jaina? It looks like you’re bleeding,” I ask.
She grits her teeth and waves me off. “It’s nothing. It hit the armor. You should see the other gal.”
The cart travels much faster than we could on foot, and its route loops past a building next to the labs we were aiming for. We can jump from the cart down onto the walkway and duck inside, bypassing a whole lot of sneaking in and up from the ground floor. There’s just two questions: how do we approach stealth, and what to have the cart do after we’re gone.

>The way forward:
>Pent’s way: Split up and have Pent cause a distraction…
>Jaina’s way: Ambush any interlopers and move quickly…
>Anet’s way: Take the long way around, avoid encounters. Look around a bit…

>The cart:
>Let it maintain course to avoid suspicion
>Try to get it stuck on vegetation
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No. 1051145 ID: 623d9b

> The way forward:

Pent has lived like this the longest and has the most experience in dealing with the beformicans, but splitting up might not be a good idea anyways, what if the group is spotted? Or Pent can't get out after her distraction? Jaina is (most likely) injured and I don't think Sam or Anet are the best of fighters, and Pent would be able to spot anything indicating beformicans before any of you did.

Although ambushing is better than head-on fighting, but you just came out of a fight and it was a fight where you even had an ambush-advantage yet you still came out roughed-up. Any injuries from said fight might be a problem during another ambush, and there could be way more beformicans the next time.

The entire purpose of going to the archaeology site was to explore these ancient ruins anyways, if you're careful enough and have Pent as a guide you can avoid any more beformicans and traps (hopefully). There's not exactly a hurry right now anyways. Take the long way and make sure to find a safe(ish) spot to quickly check Jaina's carapace, even if it did not pierce through her armor it should still be reinforced or something. If that place is safe enough, check everyone for injuries after a fight, it would be bad to discover any problems too late.

I say do things Anet's way

>The cart:

If there really is no time to figure out how to work the cart, and just park it instead, getting it stuck in vegetation sounds incredibly dangerous. I think you would just end up crashing it, but that would make enough noise for a sort of distraction if done right, but that would still be way more dangerous. Even if it is meant as a getaway vehicle getting it "stuck" in vegetation kind of defeats the point.

I really can't think of a way to get it stuck in some vines and leaves safely.

On the other hand, knowing the beformicans would have such a powerful vehicle (even if they only partially know how to operate it) is very disconcerting.

Is there a way to crash it a little ways ahead of your location? If so, do that. If not, just let it go.
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No. 1051201 ID: a9af05

>>1051145
Yeah, I agree with all of this.
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