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1067338 No. 1067338 ID: a7a180


Into the heart of the Great Temple.
113 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
No. 1072867 ID: 9e0893

Well, normally I'd say Janet but given her current condition best have Bright Eyes take front with Pent right behind with the zappy stick.

Bright Eyes must have been pretty nomadic so probably knows how to deal with traps.
No. 1073467 ID: a7a180
File 169593839878.png - (154.32KB , 500x500 , be_aggressive.png )

>Need someone sneakier and/or with a good eye for traps on point.
No one’s better than Pent at traps!
>Pent second, Bright Eyes first
I nod at Bright Eyes and signal her to go down first. “<Good luck.>” She climbs down the side and disappears. We can hear sounds of combat as Pent leads the rest of us in.
The interior is quite unlike anything I’ve seen at this scale. The outer shell creates a dome high above our heads, sheltering a cross between a circuit board and a graffiti-strewn slum. The ground is bright blue interlaid with geometric patterns in gleaming silver. Scattered across it are big blocky chips with silicon prongs, barrel-like transistors, and improvised shelters. Some building-like chunks rise above the rest that must be subprocessors and heatsinks.
Through the gas, we spot our vanguard engaged in a slugfest with a Marked One. Bright Eyes throws punches, bites, and kicks at her opponent while she wrestles for control of his cotton-tipped spear. Every part of her body is a weapon. Her furious onslaught drives him back covered with cuts and bruises. Finally, she lands a punch that staggers him, and he stumbles over a raised circuit. It makes a barely perceptible noise and he twitches, falling over and hitting his head. He doesn’t get back up. Our first victory!
“What do we do with him now?” I wonder.
<Just roll him out,> Pent suggests.
“Woah, wait a moment. That is a not-insignificant fall to the ground. He might get hurt!”
“Maybe we… tie him to a rope first?” Says Anet.
“No, that would clue them in that something’s up,” Jaina points out.
“I would like to remind you all time is of the essence,” interrupts JNET. Her voice reverberates through her whole body. “Just tie his hands behind his back and move on, the stink won’t kill him. Don’t forget to clear the external vent blockages and pile them up away from the airflow. You can dispose of them fully later.”
“She’s right, let’s keep moving.” I run back to the entrance and start pulling chunks of foam inside the dome. I hope Jaina’s got enough rope for everybody.
No. 1073468 ID: a7a180
File 169593840316.png - (129.83KB , 500x500 , caught_down_in_the_pants.png )

The computer environment gains a mechanical element as we move toward the hips and musculoskeletal systems become involved in the infrastructure. The circuit board narrows, linking to articulated segments via a cable network that leads into a narrow tunnel under the base of JNET’s spine. We climb through the junction into another slightly more open space, JNET’s, ahem, pelvic region, or thorax I suppose. This area is warmer than the last, thanks to all the stuffing wedged into the joints. The trunks of her legs are like two pits, with a series of disc-like struts dividing them into segmented compartments. You could take a nasty fall down into one if you’re not careful. Beyond the initial drop it becomes a narrow set of vertically separated landings.
Two more Marked Ones just climbed up from the legs and are surprised to see us. They draw together for defense, but we have them outnumbered.

>Choose a strategy:
>Drive them down into one of the legs
>Flank them to cut off their escape
>Split them up to deal with separately (who do you team with?)
>Pin one down to prevent them running and fight in the open
>Use an item: slippery lube/sticky slime/other (see inventory)
No. 1073560 ID: 9e0893

Rush in with the lube Q-Tips, aim for the legs and try to get them to trip and slip and fall off the ledge they're standing by.
No. 1073564 ID: a9af05

Do this!
No. 1073966 ID: f8273a

Rush them down and take them out!
No. 1076434 ID: a7a180
File 169913084710.png - (119.19KB , 500x500 , the_bigger_they_are.png )

>Used item: Lube
We use the agreed upon tactic of tripping up the Marked Ones with our lubed up swabs. This catches them off balance and knocks them flat on their backs into the leg pit. We swiftly hop down and press the advantage, giving them no chance to strike back. They try to crawl away and drop down further into the leg for some cover, but Bright Eyes simply drags them back to be walloped repeatedly with cotton-balled sticks. My swings with this weapon don’t feel particularly effective, but it’s what we have to work with.
Eventually the noises of protest stop and they curl up into a ball, presumably beaten senseless, or at least catching the hint to stop putting up a fight. Unfortunately, our swabs have dried up, the quantity of lube we were able to carry expended. At least it was put to good use.
No. 1076435 ID: a7a180
File 169913084926.png - (95.11KB , 500x500 , something_up_her_sleeve.png )

We begin the climb upward after confirming no more malingerers in the legs and tugging the insulation chunks out of position. The temperature rises as we climb, and we’ve caught up with the stink cloud again, obscuring vision slightly. Fortunately, our gear does its job and I can’t smell a thing besides roses.
JNET’s voice reverberates throughout her body as she cautions us, “Watch your footing carefully. The spine is a conduit for many delicate systems, much like the real thing but at higher voltage.”
I call back, “Hey, can you still hear us?”
”Yes. More clearly than before, in fact.”
“It’s very warm in here. Can you try acting scared, to send some chills down your spine?”
"Hm? …Ah, I see. I will be able to adjust the climate more to your liking once you have scared off these malingering xanthi."
Oh, well. I ought to try a joke from Anet’s book and see if that gets more of a response.

We halt when we hear an angry hiss from above, followed by some loose screws being thrown down at us. I barely catch sight of another Marked One before she skitters back inside down the lower arm joint. There’s a narrow tube leading into the limb, even narrower than the abdomen as there’s no room to stand. The cramped quarters forces them and us to crawl inside and would limit mobility severely. There would be nowhere for them to run, but a cornered ant can be an unpredictable foe. To even reach the arms, though, we’ll be passing through a chokepoint while avoiding exposed circuitry, leaving us vulnerable to either getting attacked if we’re cautious or shocked if we’re reckless.

>How do we handle this fight?
>Try to lure them out first (with what?)
>Try to lasso the bugger
>Chase them into the arms
>Rush the climb to grab them while they’re exposed!
>Use another item: https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest
No. 1076438 ID: 1effd3

is JNET able to move her arms yet? if so, have her raise her arms to "persuade" the friends in them to come out
No. 1076451 ID: e5ace5

Go lasso. Should that fail... "Four against one. What's of greater value, heat or your life?"
No. 1077220 ID: a7a180
File 169992975817.png - (163.49KB , 500x500 , got _u_now.png )

>Go go lasso
“Use the rope. I’ll distract her,” I whisper to Jaina. We’ll draw the xanthi back out and fight her on our terms.
Now, what’s a good insult in Formican? “<You missed us, you… egg-dropping, three-legged slacker!>” No response, I’m probably trying too hard. Bugger.
JNET gleefully joins in the taunting. “<You have been a thorn in my side long enough. Your eviction is nigh, you armpit-dwelling vagabond.>”
<Graah!> That provokes her to come back out and toss more stuff down. Bright Eyes gets hit on the head with a microchip, which only serves to anger her. Something catches my mask too and knocks it loose. Eugh, I can really smell it now! At least I’m less sensitive to it than the Formicans, I don’t know how any xanthi can stand this. We reach the arm joint and position ourselves to the bottom and sides of the passage. Despite the smell, I hold my nose long enough to yell, “<You throw like a grub! Try something heavier!>”
When she comes out again, Jaina tosses a lasso around her and cinches her arms. One of her hands is still free, and we huddle around her to subdue her. We’ve almost got her-
No. 1077221 ID: a7a180
File 169992976326.png - (111.27KB , 500x500 , uno_reverse.png )

Suddenly, Jaina’s yanked upward by a thin copper wire! She struggles to free herself, kicking the air as she’s banged against the side of JNET’s chassis. The xanthi at the top of the totem pole has gotten the jump on us with his own lasso. The upper arms have a more open space to work in atop the ribcage, and it’s the hottest location so far. The inner surfaces are warm to the touch, and the view from down here is obscured by internal components and accumulated stuffing. Jaina is getting roped towards somewhere out of our sight!

>What do I do?!
>Get the wire out of the boss’s hands.
>Free Jaina from the wire!
>Keep your distance, find a higher perch to act from
>Make sure the other xanthi’s down for the count first
>Use an item: https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest
No. 1077222 ID: 1effd3

Lets see if that ancient pistol does anything, and try to break the copper lasso!
No. 1077229 ID: 273c18

You could use the zap spear to send a current up the wire. So long as Jaina isn't touching anything when you do it, she won't get shocked.
No. 1077256 ID: f14228

Even if she is, getting stunned by a zap may be a small price to pay compared to being torn apart by an angry giant. Or kept hostage, if they're clever enough for that. Just be ready to help untangle her - or yank on the wire, so it slips from the grasp of the stunned beformican.
No. 1077422 ID: f14228

Oh right, you also have the rubber glove right? So you can actually ward yourself from getting zapped while the wire's getting electrified.
No. 1077426 ID: 273c18

Oh maybe you can just give her the spear instead of trying to use it yourself before she gets pulled too far away.
No. 1077788 ID: a7a180
File 170061426197.png - (138.29KB , 500x500 , shake_hands_with_danger.png )

>Shock her out of it
“Pent, zap the wire!” I shout. Pent leaps across the chamber and hooks the wire with her spearhead as she flicks its power on. The cable goes slack as the xanthi above roars in pain, letting the lasso slip through his fingers. Luckily, Jaina’s armor insulates her from the current, and the subsequent drop into JNET’s chest. Pent moves to assist her in escaping the lasso, while I climb up the rib cage for a clear shot at the boss.
Up top is a bed made of stuffing sitting directly atop the main power cell, stockpiles of wadded paper, and various trophies tied to the vertebrae. It's so warm, I feel like I'm already wrapped in a thick blanket. This must be the pinnacle of luxury for living inside a giant robot.
No. 1077789 ID: a7a180
File 170061426645.png - (130.17KB , 500x500 , action_figure_sam.png )

The final xanthi and I stare each other down from across JNET’s bones. I wouldn’t exactly pin this guy as someone who sits around huffing markers all day. He’s definitely fought to keep his place at the top, and the idea of winning a fair fight with him seems ludicrous. Fortunately, we still outnumber him, and Bright Eyes evens the odds quite a bit…

>Xanthi escape check: success
…Ah, the other xanthi got loose and Bright Eyes is currently wrestling her for dominance. The struggle’s keeping my allies occupied, so it’s just me and him now. Welp.
>equip rubber glove
Good idea, I almost forgot about that! At least I’ll have one hand that can touch currents safely. I wear the glove on my left hand and ready the energy pistol in my right. It occurs to me I really should have test fired this thing before trying to use it. I hope it still works… Of course, the big bug doesn’t know that.

>Choose your tactic:
>Stand your ground and aim for the head
>Duck under his swings and snap shots from behind
>Shoot legs to disable him then switch to melee
>Try to trick him into touching a live current
>Nowhere to run now!
No. 1077791 ID: 1effd3

shoot his legs, but try *not* to hit the main battery
No. 1077792 ID: de5cb4

Shoot him from over here. If the gun doesn't work act panicked, bait him into swinging at you and hitting a wire.
No. 1077793 ID: fb9ae2

Make as if you’re trying to duck and weave for a shot at his back, but actually be trying to find a good loose spool of non-critical live wire. Pretend your gun fails, then when he swings at you, use your rubber grove to get him into direct contact with the power he’s been mooching off.

Bugzap-fu his ass!

And if he doesn’t buy it and sees through your intentions and keeps away from the live wire - well, you’ve bought time for your friends to join the fray.
No. 1078086 ID: a7a180
File 170105315780.png - (84.42KB , 500x500 , king_of_the_anthill.png )

>Shoot him
>Shoot his legs!
Here goes nothing! I aim right for his face as his mandibles open wide enough to fit my head. He roars and starts to close the gap with a stride that will have him in my face within a second. My arms are shaking, and his head is moving so much. I drop my aim down to his legs and squeeze the trigger desperately. The gun makes three bright flashes of crackling energy then starts to click in a way I immediately know means it’s empty. The short burst still has a kick to it, as the xanthi stumbles before continuing to lunge. I try to duck out of his way, but I lose my footing. His arms sweep over my head as my butt hits the floor. I quickly flip over with a push from my tail and crawl away from his follow-up strikes. I glance around desperately hoping to find his wire coil, maybe I can touch it to a live wire and zap him. It’s hard to search while I’m trying to avoid the big ant, though!
Amidst all the dodging, I hear a pop, and the whole room suddenly tilts. The xanthi goes sailing downwards in a puff of smoke. It seems that in his frenzied attack, he ended up striking some live current after all, and caused a power surge that made JNET flinch.
I realize that as I was scrabbling backward, I put my gloved hand on the metal, too. I’m lucky I dodged right instead of left.
…Is it over, then? I think that was the last Marked One. He isn’t moving anymore. The girls knocked out the other one, too. We did it!
”Is everyone alive in there? I take it that the reduced activity levels mean the fighting is over.”
“We’re okay in here, JNET!” Anet calls back.
”That’s the best news I have heard in over ten millennia. Thank you, all of you, from every process I have running.”
No. 1078087 ID: a7a180
File 170105316485.png - (108.37KB , 500x500 , not_so_big_now.png )

We dump the last of the Marked Ones out the back of JNET, and get to work dislodging their insulation as quickly as possible. We collect the smaller pieces in the abdomen for quick disposal, while the larger chunks are pulled down to the legs where they’ll interfere with circulation the least. JNET says it makes her legs feel ‘fuzzy’, but it’s not blocking circulation at least.
”Core temperature is falling. Safety overrides are finally lifting. Please find somewhere to hold on.”
We brace ourselves. JNET moves an arm, then with a creak, twists her hips and steps off the charging platform for the first time in millennia.
”Oh, it feels nice to be needed again after all these years!!” We sway back and forth as JNET takes a few experimental steps around the room. ”Now, before we leave, I believe I owe the Weed Eaters a token of my appreciation for all the muck they’ve slung over the years.”
I can’t see what she’s planning from here, but that sounds threatening. “Hold on. You’re not gonna destroy the village, are you?”
”Oh don’t worry, I won’t harm them permanently. It will simply be a mild inconvenience. It is the least I can do to repay them…”

>Let JNET have catharsis
>Convince JNET to not get payback: >_
No. 1078088 ID: 273c18

Yeah alright. They refused to help us, so we have no reason to help them.
No. 1078090 ID: de5cb4

I would trust she knows what she's doing. She doesn't seem the type to be cruel.
No. 1078092 ID: 1effd3

pay back! payback!
No. 1078095 ID: 2a82d3

Keep in mind you and an ancient being might have very different ideas of what counts as "mild", "an inconvenience", and "destroying a village". It's also a little terrifying to see an artificial intelligence exercise their vengeance sub-routines.

She's free now. They don't matter anymore. Maybe you should urge her to move on.
No. 1078102 ID: eb0a9c

Tell JNet to expose her magnificent circuit boards to them one last time, so the tribes will know what they squandered and how they will never rest in her warm hearth ever again.
No. 1078108 ID: 580aa8

No. 1078117 ID: b3eab7

Tell JNET she's pretty much her own boss now.

You'd think less of her for indulging in violent retribution, but wouldn't mind her literally raising a stink over their treatment of her.
No. 1078135 ID: 124485

Let JNET have catharsis!
No. 1078181 ID: a9af05

Let JNET have catharsis! She deserves it after what happened to her!
No. 1078244 ID: a7a180
File 170122795750.png - (176.24KB , 500x500 , ant_misbehavin.png )

>Let her have this
It’s not exactly like I’m a fan of these xanthi myself. JNET’s her own boss now, and I’m not about to tell the giant robot what she can or can’t do.
For now, she isn't doing anything to them. She seems to be basking in their increased agitation caused by her sudden mobility. ”Let’s get you out of there, friends, so you don’t have to breathe that fouled air anymore.”
We climb back out of JNET and take off our stuffy armor. It’s going to take her cooling fans a little longer to clear out the stink clouds. The Marked Ones have all scattered, probably hiding in the desk. JNET holds out her hand to her back for us to climb on. When we’re all ready, she gently lifts us up to shoulder height.
”There. I promise you’ll be safe and sound up here. Now…”
”<You.>” She reaches down and plucks the village’s leader off the table. ”<I tried being a good neighbor at the start, you know. And what did I get for my trouble? Nothing but insults and disrespect.>” She waves her finger in the xanthi’s face like she’s lecturing a child. With her free hand, she picks up a textbook sitting in the center of the village, dumping a ramshackle lean-to built on top of it onto the table in a heap. She sets the book down standing on its cover, shaking the table and knocking everyone over. ”<Do you see this? This, is a chemistry textbook by the esteemed Dr. Nebula Tachyon. You should try reading it sometime, you might even learn something. For instance, if you turn to the chapter on organic compounds, like so, you’ll see how if properly treated, you could be composting your waste to grow more food, instead of throwing it at me! If you’re going to mishandle lab equipment, at least do it well!>”
<You… not going to eat me?> Her captive asks, cautiously.
”<Were it not for the fact I am physically incapable, I’d say don’t go giving me ideas. You hardly have any to spare.>”
Anet eggs her on. “That was a good line. You should dunk her in the smolfate, too!”
“Alas, an excellent suggestion but I cannot bend far enough to reach it.” She sets the xanthi down in front of the book. ”Oh, and one more thing - I hope you don’t mind a little walking.” For good measure, she picks up one of the moss-filled beakers and moves it to the other table.
”I’m done here. Thank you all again for saving me, and now as promised, let’s get you to that lab.”
No. 1078245 ID: a7a180
File 170122796661.png - (197.09KB , 500x500 , area_discovered_the_collapsed_office.png )

This time we leave the classroom carried in JNET’s massive hand. Now this is the way to travel, it’s even stabilized! She’ll get us to that reducer in no time flat. This leg of the journey is just a walk down a hallway to the research wing. The door swings open to a darkened, eerily quiet room. The lights don’t come on, and as my eyes adjust to the darkness I see it’s because the roof has suffered a partial collapse. Girders and debris litter a dark maze of chest high walls just barely higher than JNET. The only light comes from JNET’s eyes and a few flickering screens at the surviving workstations. The lab we need is somewhere on the other side of this room.
“Hey, why are we heading through the middle?” Jaina asks. “Can’t we just walk around the rubble?”
“Unfortunately, the sides of this room are blocked by fallen rubble. I am not built to climb over uneven terrain, nor is it a good idea for me to trip while carrying all of you. We must search the cubicles for an unobstructed route.”
I’d rather stick with JNET than split up. It would take days for us to climb through here, anyway. We’ll just have to pick our way through the cubicles carefully, using JNET’s headlights and her built-in sonar. By following the wall, we’ll find a way through eventually, if there is one.
Where do we start looking?

>Left or right?
No. 1078247 ID: 1effd3

when in doubt, hug the right wall!
...or was it the left?
No. 1078250 ID: 273c18

There's an efficient algorithm for solving a maze, but I don't think that's quite what's going on here. This is an adventure not a distraction.

Go left!
No. 1078254 ID: 58dd24

as they say, left is right and right is wrong
No. 1078266 ID: 124485

Ask Jaina if she's ok? That copper wire slammed her against Jnet's insides pretty hard.
No. 1078267 ID: 86980a

Stop worrying. Worst case scenario is the robot whips up small-scale explosives to clear the rubble. Still, probably best to look for a way through before we go that length. Go with hug the right wall it's a classic way to deal with this. So Bright Eyes can you believe Sam was once JNET's size? Oh JNET likely has a whole database of how to be kind. Let the kindness teaching commence!
No. 1078339 ID: a7a180
File 170139590329.png - (86.28KB , 500x500 , roach_motel.png )

JNET starts trudging through the maze, taking each left turn as it comes. My sense of direction gives up completely after turning so many corners and spinning around in dead ends. Everyone’s keeping silent, watching the darkness.
A little further on, Anet asks, “Why’s everyone so silent? Still worried about xanthi? What are they going to do against a giant robot?”
“...Fair point,” says Jaina. “This place feels dead. More so than the city.”
Pent counters, <The city’s got plenty of life. Most of it hostile.>
“What would there be to eat, even for a Beformican?” I ask. “Looks like they weren’t using paper in here, just tablets.”
Bright Eyes’ antennae twitch, then she shakes her head. <Me not zzmell any.>
<Even the plants are dead here.> Pent points to the singular plant life we have seen: the withered husk of a potted fern, casting a long thin shadow against the walls. In fact, I think this is the same one from a few minutes ago.
“Have we passed that before?”
“We have, yes. We have explored two dead ends since going past it, and now we are heading back to try a third path. I have been keeping track of every step taken,” JNET assures us.
“Oh, um, sorry.”
“No offense is taken. The damage to this room has introduced many pathfinding difficulties.”
<...What thizz plaze?> Bright Eyes asks.
“This is an office of the Advanced Engineering department.”
<What iz ‘offize’?>
“A place where people performed their jobs. Imagine it full of giant ants scurrying back and forth, carrying tablets and answering phones.”
<Lotz of giantz… Muzt know zzo many thingz.>
“Yes, I suppose quite a few of them would have been know-it-alls.”
Bright Eyes looks around at the desks in awe. I briefly picture her as an office worker, trying to squeeze herself behind one of them and tap away at her computer. It’s cute.
<What they do here?>
”Their job was to perform very simple but very numerous tasks, so that the people in the laboratories could do their job.”
<And that job waz..?>
“Making new discoveries.“

“Wait, look there on the ground,” calls Anet. “I think I see something. A house?”
Jnet’s eye beams sweep the floor, coming to rest on an odd looking plastic hut. ”It appears to be a trap for catching common pests.” Someone’s added a few accessories to it. A clothesline is strung up outside, plus there seem to be remnants of a cooking fire nearby and various bits of trash around.
“I think someone used this as a dwelling. Looks abandoned now… I want to check it out. Can you put us down here?”
”...Anet, are you sure that, as a small bug, it is a good idea to enter a structure designed to kill small bugs?”
“First off, I’m smarter than a bug! And second, it’s been converted to a living space, not a killing one. C’mon, it’s just a peek inside. Want to come with me, Sam?” Anet’s eager to do some exploring again. I kind of am too, but this place is giving me the creeps.

>Check out the abandoned hut with Anet?
>Afterward, keep left or right?
No. 1078340 ID: 8f9bc4

Check out the hut. There's something wrong here besides just an abandoned room, and you need to find out whatever you can from people living here.

...beware ambush predators.
No. 1078344 ID: 273c18

Peek in, do not enter unless the inside has been cleared out. Especially do not enter if there is a dead body in there. It could still be dangerous. Also, the hut might not be as abandoned as it looks.
No. 1078346 ID: eb0a9c

JNET, open the trap up. Compensate the owners if they're still alive.
No. 1078392 ID: 1ecc81

Isn’t the floor inside of those things really sticky so that whatever pest goes inside gets stuck and starves to death?

What if whoever used to live here didn't know that when they hung up their laundry? We might find a dead body stuck to the floor if we go in there.
No. 1078405 ID: f14228

Investigate a mystery?

How could you resist!
No. 1078406 ID: c922c3

Peek inside, but don't step in without first checking that the floor isn't sticky.
It's possible the glue dried up or something, but give how long some stuff has lasted in this place, it shouldn't be assumed.
No. 1078438 ID: 8f9bc4

Those kind of traps just hold poisoned bait and are shaped that way to keep big pets from eating the bait. The only glue traps I've seen have just been an open tray of sticky glue.
No. 1078625 ID: 1bb0f1

Yes and left
No. 1078632 ID: 273c18

afterward, left.
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