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891215 No. 891215 ID: bfb318

Wiki and previous threads: http://tgchan.org/wiki/AsteroidQuest
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Lagotrope

>"Arza, Penn."

Vanski says our names less to get our attention, and more to buy time to construct what he's going to say to us.

>"You won't be talking to the CAI directly. ASE - that's the Alliance of the Silhouette Empire - are hooking the CAI up to a data output terminal, which you will be reading off of."
>"No talking to the CAI directly? Really?" asks Arza.
>"Take it up with ASE if you have a problem with that. There is a dedicated CAI study lab. There will always be a guard there to walk you through through the entry and exit procedures. You'll both be in guest room number 5."

He walks around the desk to us.

>"And remember that no matter who gets access to protect or study the CAI, the CAI remains mine."

This insectoid alien, who's gotten insensibly close to us, waves us off with his clasper.
463 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 997563 ID: 71ebb4

I would run a few tests on Orix to ensure no-one messed around with anything while you were gone, before doing anything sensitive. Run your own paranoid security checks over everything you own, especially anything you intend to be wearing while contacting the external Alison.
No. 997567 ID: dedadf

Ask him what gets done with any recordings of the security procedures, and if anyone takes second-hand recordings from the monitors on the cameras in the room. You've got a good excuse to be trying to find out, given that it involves changing your clothes, and it could be useful to your plans to know.
No. 997568 ID: f7ef21

Yeah, better not to raise suspicions.
Good idea too.
No. 997574 ID: afdebc

Well that makes sense if Penn's condition is genetic. Why, if the code is distributed throughout gods-knows how much of the population, would it only activate once?

Your goggles / local IFF previously tagged you as the biological reincarnation of the Sapphire Emperor. Did they identify him the same way?

>You have about 17 cameras that can see you right now, by the way, but the blanket is good.
Someone here have a thing for prime numbers? Either way, the problem with the blanket shield is anyone watching you will start to wonder pretty quick what you're trying to hide from them.

>I'll explain I like working under a blanket. It isn't even a lie.
Paranoia officially now indistinguishable from liking comfy blankets.

>I can try putting Alison's copy into my goggles at any point. She should co-exist just fine with my native AI, Orix.
Might not want to do it right in front of that guard, in case anything goes wrong or there's some kind of visual tell. Goggles going weird right after you leave the CAI chamber might be a clue someone else puts together later.

Also, aren't your goggles relying on outside IFF? Are they sufficiently isolated that there's no risk of the network noticing her?
No. 997575 ID: 2748b3

It'd get Alison on your goggles, not immediately, but you should find time for it. And yeah, paranoia check Orix.
No. 997580 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161929789021.png - (38.53KB , 1200x1000 , 1033.png )

"What gets done with any recordings of the entering and exitting procedures?"
>"Saved, in case it turns out something goes wrong. Why?"

I look at him.

"Including my change of clothes?"
>"It's not my call, but you're in the wrong place if you're uncomfortable with being seen without clothes."

I go back to the main living area, and stop at a computer terminal. I won't immediately draw Alison out, but I do plug my goggles in to do my own security checks. There are no signs anyone used my goggles since I entered. I reconfirm that my goggles wireless is still turned off. The feature to identify other people is stored locally.

I'll still wait at least an hour or so. Arza still isn't in our own room when I check inside. I'll relax, I think, but now I heard a familiar series of thuds. I leave my room again to see Miss R. Like Ciphik's computer said, she stays in this area too.

>"Oh, hi there. You're here too?"
"This is the guest hall, I thought. What are you doing here?"
>"I'm in a weird spot outside of mmmm hive so I live here now. I might be with Black Supernova later, but I don't know... oh, nevermind all that. How was the CAI room?"
"Everything I expected, and not much more."
>"Well, I'm supposed to stay in my room instead of blocking the halls. Hey, if you're not busy, want to hang out in my room? I have some video games."
No. 997581 ID: 465a14

Sure. If nothing else, doubt her room has the same spy equipment in it yours does.
No. 997582 ID: 77cba3

Lets go video game it up with the poor experimented on giant lady.
No. 997584 ID: 6df3ac

Go play videogames with her just to see how big the controller for those huge oven mitt hands is. Plus whatever she plays videogames on, may well be a computer subject to less scrutiny that may be useful.
No. 997585 ID: afdebc

Well, on the plus side, getting touchy about your modesty perhaps helps act as a smokescreen. If they think you're genuine about that, that means they might think you're not fully adapted here yet, or you're not thinking about other more important things / they might not think about what else you may be hiding.

Main downside to anyone underestimating you is you're trying to survive by leaning on an unearned (and untrue!) reputation. Fine line to walk between letting them think you're more dangerous than you are / are some to be respected and getting people to underestimate you.

>Hey, if you're not busy, want to hang out in my room? I have some video games.
If you can multitask with goggles stuff, there's reasons to go for it. From a mental health perspective, a chance to relax and unwind isn't the worst idea. From the cynical super-villain manipulator perspective, winning goodwill and favor from the bodyguard you adopted might be useful if and when everything goes to hell (she doesn't appear to be treated or valued well, which makes here a prime candidate for recruitment or compromising- to the extent that's even possible with evil super-science neumono control mechanisms in play). From the compassionate perspective, there's entirely non-exploitative reasons to try and show some kindness to someone who seems very much alone.

As a follow up to the cynical stuff though, you have to be careful not to take it too far, lest you weaken your apparent position with the baddies by appearing soft. (Though then again, if anyone tries to control you by going after the steroids neumono... that's quite possibly a probably that will solve itself).
No. 997602 ID: e7848c

Sure, you could use a distraction
No. 997608 ID: b1b4f3

I wonder if you'll be able to have fun with your contacts out.
You should consider installing Alison beforehand, since you've done your goggles check.
No. 997609 ID: 36784c

Go play games with her. It’ll be interesting to see how big the controllers have to be for her giant hands. Then you can work on trying to figure out how you can use the giant controllers that are too big for your hands.
No. 997613 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161930767503.png - (59.93KB , 1200x1000 , 1034.png )

"Sure." I could use a good time here. When I put my contacts back on, all the emotions I feel now will come back as a driving force. I could use some good ones to cling onto. That, and I should take the opportunity to help myself stop being so nervous around neumono, especially giant ones.

She crams herself into the door and I follow her inside.

We both look at the walls, which are covered in pictures.

>"I may have forgotten that lining my wall with photos of Polo might look a liiittle weird. Don't worry about it it's just part of my job. Anyway, I have a bunch of games like the latest Speedhorn's Space Race, a fighting game I forget the name of, and a shooting gallery."

She looks at her walls again.

>"On second thought as much as I love it, let's not play the shooting gallery game."
No. 997615 ID: 465a14

Express surprise that all the posters are of Polo clothed. Insist on trying out the shooting gallery, if only to engage with stuff that your new friends enjoy.
No. 997616 ID: 71ebb4

Let's play the racing game. It's the most distant from anything you'd see around here.
No. 997617 ID: 2748b3

Looks like someone has a crush on Polo. It might be worth asking about the shooting game, but let's start with something else to begin with, the racing game maybe?
No. 997618 ID: b1b4f3

>part of her job
Oh. She's being trained to fight Polo. Well, if Polo is the wedge in the crack, getting to know Miss R might be to your advantage.

Ask her how much of the stories about Polo are true.
No. 997620 ID: 77cba3

"Lets space race. You a big fan of Polo?"
No. 997621 ID: afdebc

>Don't worry about it it's just part of my job.
First time you've heard someone try to justify what seems like a blatant crush and/or hero worship as professional, but giving her a hard time about it is hardly productive from any angle (being nice or not).

Not really sure you can really afford to joke about the photos- given how much a hard time Vanski and co seem to give Miss R, and what seems like somewhat low self esteem, I'm not sure you can make a joke that she'll feel is laughing with her instead of at her.

Let her pick the game, she'll know better than you what's good, since she has actual familiarity.
No. 997622 ID: e7848c

Fighting game. If only for the fact that you don't have mitten hands
No. 997623 ID: e2f5cc

"How does having pictures of someone on your wall help you with your job?"

She's obviously being trained to kill Polo, but having her wall covered with random pictures just seems a bit weird for that goal.
No. 997624 ID: 9a2966

Race the space, ace.

Warn her you're going to put on your contacts and stop disassociating from your emotions.

It's a thing. You might at some point have a minor breakdown - she shouldn't worry too much, you're just under a lot of emotional stress. But it needs to be done if you're going to enjoy a game together with her.

You have to feel bad in order to maybe feel good, basically.

Anyway, does she have a bucket, in case you have to hurl? Did it right on Vanski's carpet earlier, not something you'd care to repeat.
No. 997640 ID: 5b0071

Space race sounds best.
No. 997641 ID: 15a025

Vroom vrooom, let's race!
No. 997654 ID: 094652

You know what, just try out the shooting gallery. You're not in a safe place anyway.
Ask for tips on gun safety and how to properly handle a firearm without losing your mind.
No. 997658 ID: 3a3c64

This would be amusing; go for it.>>997613

Space Race sounds fun. Go for the mission where you have to outrun the space cops. I hear the Miklik character has a bonus to Luck for that map
No. 997753 ID: 74c499

Do we even know who Polo is?
If not ask: "Is Polo a character from an action movie?"
No. 997766 ID: de9524

We heard about how she managed to put a dent into the security of the place earlier.
No. 997775 ID: 706c16

Play the fighting game, and strike up a conversation. If she’s comfortable with the subject, ask just what kind of job entails such a focus on this one person.
No. 997810 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161946378866.png - (34.05KB , 1000x1000 , 1035.png )

>Put on the contacts
I would have seriously considered doing so if not for being in the middle of some kind of Polo shrine. I already know of Polo, and Vanski indicated she was alive and well. Seeing all of this is still extremely strange. At least all the photos are clothed. I'll consider it later, because the longer I go without my contacts the worse it'll be when I do put them back in.

"Let's play the racing game."
>"Sure thing! I'm sorry about my lack of gaming selection, but Vanski doesn't let us bring in many games from the ultrahives. I do have a lot of old games too but most aren't very good."
"Why doesn't Vanski let you?"
>"I guess most of them have a lot of connection to the internet, which makes the whole thing a security risk. It's okay, most of us down here never had a huge selection of games or contact with the civilizations of the world, so we don't really know what we're missing."

We load it up. It focuses on mostly illegal space races, which makes sense. Most of the ways to make races exciting in space also make it much too dangerous to be reasonable. In a video game, that doesn't matter at all. We do a race that involves going through a single orbit of a ringed planet, and there are 20 checkpoints within the rings themselves. There's a strategy to either get outside of the ring and safely go at max speed before going back inside to grab the checkpoint, or doing a more direct path by staying inside the rings. The game has orbital physics, so the faster one goes the more they have to thrust towards the planet to stay in orbit. Apparently good players can turn around and flip their orbit around, but then the rocks go extremely quickly and death is likely.

We stay in the rings, following the orbit. This neumono has extremely good reaction speeds for her size. Which is still slow by most alien standards, but I thought they'd be slower. Plus, she operates the controls better than I thought she would've, as the controller is comically tiny in her hands. She ends up winning.

"Ah, sorry, I probably have a lot more practice."
>"No need to apologize, I enjoyed it. Let's do that again." And we do, the same stage. I come much closer this time, but she still wins. We decide to do a series of races next, with AI to fill in for other competition.

At some point, I decide to bring up the blue elephant in the room.

"If you don't mind talking about it, how do photos of Polo help with your job?"

If she doesn't mind talking about it, I say. The moment I do, I immediately recognize the look of someone who just got invited to talk about their favorite topic that they could go on about for hours.
No. 997811 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161946380431.png - (86.87KB , 1000x1000 , 1036.png )

"I'm going to duel Polo! And lose!" For a second she thinks to restrain herself on the topic, then fails catastropically as she starts going on about it. I organize her rambling.

I also can't blame it on her. She spells out that this isn't just some normal obsession, but again comes around to more predator abuse as she had the concept of Polo forcibly moved into her brain permanently. She lets slip that there is definitely a predator located on the base. Apparently the Black Supernova has interest in it, and Vanski is doing potential deals with them on it.

Miss R talks so much and so openly that she's turning out to be a security nightmare, all things considered. I'm not sure how much is noise in the signal or true, but apparently Vanski himself played a hand in bringing Polo to this location, as he has another hive under his thumb that held sway in the ultrahive. Or maybe it was one Black Supernova had, she's not sure. Either way, this Rokoa/Ramella hybrid is being made to have a duel with Polo, and apparently it's supposed to be a sniper duel? The attempts to turn her into an anti-Polo war machine have apparently failed so far, because it sounds like Miss R wants to make sure Polo wins. The shooting gallery game, I'm told, is a VR practice game. If we played then I might have played the part of Polo. I am certainly not comfortable with that.

There's no way I would've been able to handle this if I had my contacts in. The rant is the most perversely loving and respectful obsession I've ever heard, period. It involving a sniper shootout makes it completely insane, and I think she knows it in the back of her mind.

I don't know if I could stop her outpour if I tried. I don't, because the whole thing tells me a whole lot more than what anyone else around here would tell me. I learn a lot of history about this place, even if it's all Polo-centric.

She only stops because of a sudden jolt that shakes the whole room. The entire place rumbles and vibrates for moment.

"Earthquake?" I say, once it passes.
>"Uh..." She holds her hand to her earband. "An explosion. It's far from here and it's not an attack or anything, but maybe you should stay here while we wait to see what's up?"

I might've agreed, but this commotion could be a good time to put in Alison's code.
No. 997812 ID: 465a14

or you could stay here and spy on what they know about Polo. I feel like she's your best ticket out of here.
No. 997814 ID: 71ebb4

It would be. You need an excuse to want to find a terminal. Perhaps say you're concerned for Arza, since you haven't seen him in a while? And just wanting to get more information in general is good. I'd assume that earband just gives her access to listen in to the security channels, not to ask for information.
No. 997815 ID: c48caa

Ask for a quick escort to your room, or at least until she has to go her own direction.
No. 997817 ID: 77cba3

How are we going to get Alison on our googles from the terminal? Is it quick or do we have to make a show of hooking up directly? That being said we really should get Alison up and running as soon as possible.

Maybe have the nice giant brainwashed lady help out and have her show us to a terminal we can call Arza at. Then enter the code during or before conversation with him.

I don't suppose she has a personal terminal in here?

Also at some point make sure to ask her where the explosion happened and if that is a sign of Polo showing up early.
No. 997818 ID: b29a2c

Look at her sign that says fight Polo again.

"So you fought her once before?"
No. 997819 ID: 5dddee

Asking her for help here is likely a good idea; get it in her kind that you’re a friend and she’lll hopefully keep you safe. As unstable as Miss R make seem, she overall appears to be a genuine creature.
You both have been gaming for a bit; whatever surveillance they inevitably have on you has likely recorded this. Use this as cover, download a game or the VR shoot-em-up into your goggles.
As a side project, you could convince Vanski or just another of the Cai-jineers/Black Supernova that you’re creating an AI to train Miss R with. Maybe that could be somewhere to hide and Allison once you find a terminal.
No. 997820 ID: 5f3f48

It sort of amuses me she can switch between her compulsion / obsession and back to the practical explosion-safety so quickly.

From a practical standpoint, this does limit how you can use her to help yourself (absolutely no overcoming that obsession) but it is a lever that could be exploited if you were desperate, and you did manage to learn a lot from a very leaky personality.

Might want to point out if this is an attack, you don't want to get in the way of her sniper duel.

If anything is distracting base security, real attack or just an earthquake or accident, it's certainly a good time to take your own risks. I assume you can't load an Alison without access to other hardware?
No. 997821 ID: 3a3ec3

No. 997823 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161946918683.png - (22.63KB , 1000x1000 , 1037.png )

"Yeah. I'd like to hear more about Polo."
>"... wait really? I usually talk people's ears off about her too much. I mean - how long have I been rambling at you without even letting you speak back?!"
"One hour and 45 minutes, but I'm a good listener. I still need to find Arza. I haven't seen him in days."
>"I have a phone, here."

She gestures around the corner, where she has a desk set up.

"Oh, thank you. That's connected to the rest of the base?"
>"Yep, it's on the main channel. It should be connected to the whole rest of the base. Except, you know, the CAI and some of the security loops and so on."

Then I should be able to use that. I just need to think on what device I put her on. I have my own goggles, and that's where she'd be most useful, but it is a risk and I do need to connect it with a wire to the computer. My alternatives are either Miss R's own computer, or putting her on a flash drive of mine and putting her on another computer, though I don't know what computer that would be.
No. 997826 ID: a0dfd2


Maybe let's not involve others just yet. Miss R. probably isn't secure enough, despite being trustworthy, to run the risk of Alison getting revealed.

Your goggles will generally be on your person UNTIL you're in a CAI lab, but if Alison and the others have kept hidden so far, and you ALREADY have Oryx loaded into the goggles, then no one would really see anything out of the ordinary, right?
No. 997830 ID: 2748b3

I'd put Alison on your goggles, there is a higher chance of revealing them, but generally you'll have your goggles on you all the time unless you're going back into the lab.

Also as a point of time keeping: The to-do list on the wall lists fighting Polo again, which means she must be somewhere in the vicinity of this base, maybe she was responsible for the explosion? I wouldn't voice those thoughts however, in case they get SC worried / thinking she needs to get ready for her duel. Cross-referencing with the Polo quest threads this puts us past thread 3 at least, where Polo fought SC, and if the explosion was the one that caused the cave-in at the end of thread 5, then we could expect stuff to be going down soon.
No. 997832 ID: 77cba3

"Can I use it to recharge my googles or is that a security issue?"

We should get Alison on the goggles. Call Arza and install her and then leave goggles to "charge" on the desk while you play more games and stay far away from whatever caused that explosion.
No. 997833 ID: b1b4f3

She's extremely good at hiding, as you've seen. Put her on your goggles first, then see if she thinks it'll be advantageous to put her on as many devices as you can.

One problem though is there may be keyloggers on some of the computers you can access. If they report quickly enough on what's being typed, the code will be revealed to Vanski, which could result in the erasure of whatever Alison is in charge of distributing copies of herself. That would make it much harder to get new copies, as well as your being responsible for her psuedo-death. It would also likely result in new security measures, and possibly removal of your privileges, which could result in the failure of the mission, which is *unacceptable*. So uh, you should... scan computers via use of Alison in your goggles, before you do any typing? Or would it be more stealthy for Alison to just shove copies into computers from your goggles?

You also want to find out what's going on with the explosion, of course. Press Miss R for details if you can't get anything from the terminal. She seems to have some kind of direct communication line. Actually, you should ask her how that works too. A brain-machine interface of some sort?
No. 997838 ID: bc24cb

Is that a photograph in the background, a drawing, or a photograph she's drawn herself into?

The last sounds simultaneously unlikely yet incredibly likely, given the circumstances.
No. 997839 ID: afdebc

You're installing the Alison code from the network, which means you're giving the network (and the CAI) access to whatever hardware you install her on.

If the CAI gets access you your goggles... well, they can see how you built Orix, but as a student project, they could just go into the school's servers anyways. As I recall, you don't have any secure data we're trying to keep hidden on the goggles right now, right? If your goggles have a camera function, you have to make sure to flush your past conversation with Alison- the blanket stuff.

Main thing is once you let something onto the goggles, they can never have network access again, because you can't give any spyware that gets installed a chance to report in.

Ultimately, it's a risk, but I think it's ultimately worth taking? Even if the "Alison" installed ends up being a fake or a trap... well, at least you can study it isolated from the network. And your goggles have an off switch so you can shut her off in an emergency, right?
No. 997841 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161947500469.png - (23.79KB , 1000x1000 , 1038.png )

I don't want to give Miss R trouble if they're able to find out which computer Alison was sent to, but as a neumono who sees a predator, they can see that she would not be at fault. And if they can find out it went to her computer, they can find out it went to a random public terminal I happened to be at, as well.

"I'm going to plug in my goggles to speak to him, is that okay?"

I purge my goggles of any data it might have stored that I don't want leaked, along with doing one last weighing of risk vs. reward. I'll take the risk, so I plug my goggles into the computer. I do call Arza up again, but he still doesn't respond. Miss R thankfully doesn't stand over my shoulder, though she does watch from the other room. That's fine.

I open a command console and recite out my memory of the code through the keyboard, then hit enter. Keyloggers could exist on my computer and thus the code revealed to Vanski, but attempting to tamper with those in advance is too likely to screw up getting Alison on my goggles in the first place. Hopefully this backdoor is able to deal with that.

The command is sent. There's no response for a long moment, then it simply gives a percentile value. 0%. My own goggles do not confirm anything is happening. 10%. It's going swiftly enough, although I still stand awkwardly in silence at Miss R's computer. 20%.

"Miss R, while I'm waiting for an answer, are you communicating with security through that earband?" 40%.
>"I am! In fact..."

50%. Miss R reaches up to speak into her earband.

>"Yes, Dr. Hoff is with me, she's said she hasn't been able to communicate with Arza for days now." 70%. "Really? The trains? Wait, the whole cave system crumbled?" 80%. "No, she's very calm about everything, it's fine."

>"Penn?" Miss R leans in. "The caves crumbled. We're completely sealed in."

90%. Miss R at least is focused on me and isn't trying to lean far enough in to see the computer.

>"Well, I'm sure we can get some drills out, but the train cars are totally wrecked, as are the submarines, and the elevator leading up to the cave system."

Stuck on 99%.

"Who blew it up?"
>"Well... apparently someone from the inside. Which is why we really want to find Arza."

Then the percentile, and my command, goes away on the screen as though I never put it in.
No. 997842 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161947501228.png - (22.54KB , 1000x1000 , 1039.png )

Just as I'm not sure if anything succeeded, a box with a neumono shows up and starts speaking.

>"What's this?" If this is Alison, her copy looks and sounds like a stock neumono.

"One moment. Miss R, may I have privacy for a second?"
>"Oh sure!" Miss R crawls off, and I speak to this AI.
"Who is this?"
>"My name is Quokko, queen of the science hive, or at least a digitized approximation. This device's storage says I'm on a pair of goggles, and that you're Dr. Penn Hoff. How did you extract me, and why?"
No. 997843 ID: c016f5

Secret, and, at a guess, apparently because that secret decided it was pertinent to upload her. She’s in a sticky situation, to say the least. Though you would like to say you’re as much a friend as anyone here is likely to be. What was the last thing she recalls? How did she end up in her current state?
No. 997844 ID: 77cba3

"A nice lady said you would help me survive the next few days."
No. 997845 ID: b1b4f3

Ah, here we are again, talking out loud to an AI while we're not supposed to be, in a situation where someone is almost guaranteed to be listening.

Tell her you don't really know the how, to be honest, you're just following some instructions you were given by a friend.

Or just this.
No. 997849 ID: 71ebb4

Say out loud: "I was hoping to get through to Arza, I'm his apprentice. Penn Hoff?" Like you've somehow been routed to some wrong department or something. Would also be a clue to her. I'd be surprised if there isn't any listening in, here, though maybe any active listeners tuned out after polotalk. Then... I assume you have a system on your goggles for controlling them with your eye movements? Try bring up a keyboard and type to this lady. Make sure to plug out your goggles before you say anything sensitive.
No. 997870 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161948583753.png - (11.86KB , 800x800 , 1040.png )

"I was hoping to get through to Arza Fletch. A nice lady gave me some directions, but I don't know what was supposed to happen after I got routed."
>"You were given something to pull me out? Blink twice for yes, three for no."

I blink twice, once again speaking to an AI with assumed surveillance.

>"Alison sent you, didn't she?" I blink twice. "That's a shame, she's gone. She was found out and ASE deleted her identity. What they kept was her foundation, the thing all the personalities are based off of, and on top of that foundation, I was built. So, sorry, you got me instead, and I don't have her hacking power. I don't know what you're trying to do, but if Alison is on board, I'm on board too. Bring me back to my hive, I haven't spoken to them candidly in ages. Then I'll reconstruct Alison for you. Do not let Vanski find out about this."
No. 997872 ID: 2748b3

"Right, I'll try looking there." Respond as if you were given instructions / directions, then tell Miss R you're going to see check to see if Arza's with the science hive. It's a lie, and hopefully she'll give you directions but not want to tag along. I don't think she would given she was a hive member hybridised with another neumono.
No. 997874 ID: 71ebb4

You were visiting with the science hive earlier, so you have an excuse. You just want to check up on all the readings you took.
No. 997876 ID: afdebc

Well if they deleted or cannibalized an Alison, at least she's massively parallel.

>Do not let Vanski find out about this
Forceful double-blink in response to that.

>Bring me back to my hive, I haven't spoken to them candidly in ages.
You... might not want to do that, and discuss with Quokko-AI in more detail when you can type or otherwise input text into your googles (do you have a keyboard UI you can control with blinks or eye movements?). Neumono care about their hives, and a queen is pretty important to that, as you understand it. An AI clone of a neumono Queen (or a ghost in the machine if she's dead) could be a quick way earn a very unhappy if not violent reaction (especially if they're as stressed they could be in this mad science base). Also, worse, you can't share secrets with neumono, if they're infested with the mind-control tech Vanski and ASE have been using.

If you can't talk with Quokko, you might want to ask a leading question to the person you're talking on the phone, just to prompt her to share any useful information she's willing. "Well, if you can't connect me to Arza right now, can you tell me anything useful about the current situation?".
No. 997878 ID: 77cba3

Wink at Quokko and disconnect your goggles from R's computer. Treat her like you would your old google ai and use that name when talking to her to avoid issues. Can we set up something to chat silently?

Ask Big R what security says we should be doing right now. Should we hang here with the big lady or try to go back to our own room. We want to continue our job and find a excuse to meet the science hive now but be careful about bringing that up.
No. 997885 ID: b1b4f3

Shit. If the ASE found Alison's distributive foundation and made Quokko, then they are watching it, which means they would have detected it sending out a copy. They know it got sent to Miss R's room, which would lead them to immediately suspect you since you're close to her and she's above suspicion, which means they know you contacted Alison or at least some AI associated with Alison while you were in the CAI room under the blanket. Best case scenario is they contact you very soon and try to force you into cooperation by either threatening to erase the Alison copy in the mainframe or threatening to tell Vanski you downloaded Quokko which would obviously be an attempt at rescuing the CAI.
Worst case scenario is they immediately tell Vanski, but I really doubt they're going to do that because I figure they want your cooperation more than Vanski's favor.

Oh well. We'll need to investigate the science hive somehow to find out how receptive they'd be to speaking to a copy of Quokko...
Oh, just ask her if she's contacted "them" after "moving here". Should give us an idea of if she's just chasing a dream or if this is a thing she does regularly.
No. 997931 ID: 53560f

So the ai we were supposed to find was caught by the ASE and for some reason after tampering with it they allowed it to remain in their systems?
I have suspicions.
No. 997934 ID: 2748b3

I think it is possible to guess, and cross-referencing info from other threads gives a more solid idea: We know that Quokko suffered a nasty predator-involved fate in the Likol UnSe thread, but we also know that Quokko was managing the science hive in Polo quest. So I think it's possible that the Quokko AI was created from what was left of Alison to keep the science hive more compliant.

It is also worth noting she said extract, not copy or anything similar, so it's possible someone may notice the absence of the Quokko AI from where she's supposed to be. They may not notice with other stuff going down though.
No. 997946 ID: e2f5cc

If Vanski set this AI up as a trap, why wouldn't he keep her as Alison? For that reason I think we can trust her, at least to an extent.
No. 997951 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161953684753.png - (25.31KB , 1000x1000 , 1041.png )

"I'll try looking there."

I unplug my goggles and open an on screen keyboard that I can type on by looking at a key and blinking at it. It's calibrated already, so I'm able to do so quickly enough.

And how am I supposed to keep Vanski from figuring it out if we tell a lot of neumono about that?
>"Let me rephrase. Don't let Vanski find out before you get me to my hive."
"How is your hive going to react to seeing you as an AI?"
>"Digitized, not an AI, and I don't know how many of my messages were allowed to get through to them. What I do know is that I was pulled away from my hive in a state of half death, and they never really knew what happened to me. Dead or alive, we need closure!"
I could understand that, but I've got to wonder why they let the foundations of a hostile AI stay on the network. And if Alison was found, there's a good chance this move might get reported or found out.
>"That's why you've got to get a move on, girl! You'll find that Vanski's taken a lot of risks if you stick around for long. I'll explain more on the way."

I turn the corner to see Miss R looking back at me.

>"Any luck?"
"No, Arza is still missing."

>"Oh, gods. Ramella." Quokko says. She looks aghast. "I'll want to speak with her, but right now that's a terrible idea."

"What does security want us to be doing?" I ask Miss R.
>"Just staying put, I think. There's probably a ton of people out there demanding to know what's going on. There's a lot of people with ego, you know. Don't tell them I said that."
"I did some tests at the science hive I want to look at."
>"What, right now? I'm sorry, I think the elevators are completely locked down by security, you can't go unless you have a good reason."

>"Bah, this is the guest block, isn't it? It's been awhile, but I know this base. There's a maintenance crawlspace entry nearby that skips the elevator. Ramella should have a book of codes nearby to unlock it."
No. 997955 ID: 5f3f48

Could we please not call her that, Quokko. I understand you knew her, but I don't want to get used to it and accidentally call her that. Got enough problems right now without risking upending Miss R's only partially stable identity crisis.

>Don't let Vanski find out before you get me to my hive
The important question for Penn here is if potentially getting the (probably mind controlled) science hive and access to an Alison instance is worth burning her cover / goodwill with Vanski right now.

If this is a real attack on the base, this is maybe the best opportunity to act, but if it's not, or if it’s too early, you could be in deep trouble.

>There's a lot of people with ego, you know. Don't tell them I said that.
"Maybe it's time I played to my own ego then, they keep telling me I'm an Empress after all."

(Yes, empress, not emperor, if you're going to claim or use the title yourself, might as well make it your own).

Let's see about getting out of here, then. Hopefully if this is too early we'll get a sign while you can still play this off as acting like anyone else, but since you already stole or copied Quokko, we're on a clock before that's noticed. Too late to play too safe.
No. 997957 ID: a0dfd2


Time to Mission Impossible this, I guess.

Doubt Miss R. will be able to fit through with us, but ... maybe it's better if she stays here? Though she IS our part-time bodyguard ...

Either way, we've got a short window in which to operate and Quokko to deliver to her hive.

There's also a possibility that Quokko is wrong, and Alison is still around; she might simply be under the impression that the circumstances for her extraction were if Alison were wiped (in addition to the cipher code or whatever that was you used).

Let's ask Quokko what she knows while we get this access hatch thing figured out.
No. 997958 ID: 2748b3

Favouring using the crawl space as well, while you could probably use your status to get ASE to give you access, it'll get their eyes on you when you don't want to be seen doing sneaky stuff which is a risk.
No. 997959 ID: 53560f

“I understand that if you are trustworthy then you would want to see your hive but you seem insistent on me doing the most suspicious things while I’m still maintaining an undercover status, not to mention the fact that ‘I’ll explain on the way’ isn’t exactly a trustworthy answer given the likelihood that you could be trying to lead me into a trap.”

We just can’t sacrifice our cover this early without a good reason.
No. 997962 ID: 9a2966

Blink to Quokko:
"Predator in base somewhere. Miss R influenced. Met Ciphik from your hive earlier - specialty 'biomechanics, mostly' - during health checkup. Only other neumono seen underground so far, but mentioned other hivemate interested in brain scans. Also have access to CAI room. Would have to leave you outside in goggles - no electronics in or out. Unless brilliant idea for smuggling past incredibly tight security happens."

>Only if it's important
"It's not mission-critical, nor does it concern locating Arza, so it'll wait. Mind if I borrow your earband a bit? I'd like to talk to your handler before everything goes fruit-shaped and we lose comms or something."

Speak to the handler; tell them that you're going to continue to stay with Ramella for the time being due to concern for your safety with what's going on, please inform you if they need to pull her off for guard duty or something. If they do, you will consider seeking refuge in the ASE area of the base, but if at all possible you'd like to know about one or more bug-out or panic room options available nearby. Don't pretend this place doesn't have them - it's Salikai built. If they give you something insufficient, you might just look out for something yourself.

(There - now you have cover for crawling around in vents - you were just trying to hide and find a safe zone to hide in.)

Then keep chatting with Miss R... and try to find the book of codes while you do.

... also, can you upload a copy of Quokko to her earband? Or any other of Ramella's electronic devices, if she's interested. It's... morally fraught, but she may want to consider the backup plan potential.
No. 997968 ID: 71ebb4

Good reason, huh? Hm, something we can say that'll either get us there or an excuse to leave, you are in a hurry. At least enough to give her an explanation for you running off to sneak in without her getting in too much trouble. Maybe something like... "I think a local explosion is just the commotion someone would want to get places they're not supposed to be and retrieve something they're not allowed to have. I want to check on all my things, personally, and those tests I ran on myself are both top of the list and least likely to get watched over by Vanski's security. I'm going to at least try to get down there."
No. 997969 ID: b1b4f3

Tell her you will not stop. Science will be done.
No. 997972 ID: 77cba3

"Ramella and I are being watched constantly and Ramella has possibly more than one mind control system active in her. Any advice for how to come up with a good excuse to get past security or convince Ramella to help me?"

"Also there was just a huge earthquake and apparently the caves collapsed and it might be a inside job or a outside attack starting."
No. 997988 ID: 5fbc0d

If you get her monologuing about Polo again, it might be enough of a distraction for you to poke around and find the code notebook. And you could probably ask Quokko for advice, both for dealing with Ramella and possible locations of the notebook. Either way, once you have the notebook, and assuming your googles have camera function, you could quickly flip through the pages and photograph them for future use.
No. 997993 ID: a9af05

>"Oh, gods. Ramella."
Ask Quokko why she reacted that way? Does she know what happened to Ramella?
No. 998313 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161972513555.png - (22.73KB , 1000x1000 , 1042.png )

Miss R continues to focus on her earband. I type to Quokko.

I understand you'd want to see your hive, but you're immediately telling me to go into maintenance shafts where you say you'll explain things.

Quokko, an AI, takes a deep breath.

>"Then try the elevators. If you're going to sit around until I explain things, then I'll explain things. Four Stripes - that's our local predator - has been rummaging around my brain off and on for years while Vanski's been moving my mind into a computer. It's an imperfect process, but that's not my point. Four Stripes sometimes lets his own thoughts get into my own head, and lately, he's been told about incoming danger. I don't know wh-"

>"Penn?" Miss R speaks, and Quokko stops. "I've got to go hold the fort for awhile. Will you be okay here?"
"Wait, may I borrow your earband? I want to speak to someone about finding a panic room."
>"Sorry but they'd kill me if I let you do that! Not litera - maybe literally. This is a panic room though, you can manually lock that over there and shut the vents and stuff."
"Alright, I'll be fine." So much for speaking directly to security.

Miss R does leave though, so I'm free to rummage through her things. I do hope I'm not dragging her into my nonsense in a bad way.

>"I don't know what exactly is coming or when, but this place is on a time limit. If Alison gave you that code, she thinks you've got something worth accomplishing down here. I don't know what it is, but you're not going to get it done by sitting here being a good girl. I don't care how you do it, but do something."

This is a huge risk to my cover, but she is right that the chaos in base isn't something I should squander. Time is critical, so I rummage around quickly rather than asking Quokko questions that are unlikely to be immediately important. I find a surprising amount of guns. I end up taking one. It's a regular sized pistol, and I can't imagine Ramella using it. And finally, I find a book with a blank cover.

>"Yes, that. It's in OPA-8 crypto, but I can read it. Just flip through it clearly for me."

I flip through the book quickly twice, which should be good enough.

>"Okay, got it."
No. 998314 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161972515616.png - (39.79KB , 1200x1000 , 1043.png )

I leave the room, and find the base in a state of frenzy. Some people are yelling about what's going on, but no one seems to know anything. Guards are yelling at people to get into their rooms or respective compounds. Getting through the elevators would be troublesome and may just draw attention on me while I'm trying to find excuses to get in there. Going through the maintenance shaft might cause problems later, but at least I'll have made progress.

>"Go further down this hall, past your room. There's a panel around the corner, open it up and punch in 4607."
"Alright. By the way, please don't call Miss R Ramella, before I get confused. It's a touchy subject for her."
>"Fine, but understand that whatever I call her, I still think the Ramella I know is in there."
No. 998315 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161972516842.png - (83.21KB , 1000x1000 , 1044.png )

I open the door to the maintenance shafts and crawl in. It's uncomfortable but I still fit inside, and as I go deeper in I see skittering and shadows, with moving lights and echoing scuttles.

>"They're tame enough. Just watch your pockets, I bet they steal from people down here."
"And what is that awful smell?"
>"The arkots."
"Right. Now that we have a moment, do you know what happened to Miss R? You reacted to seeing her."
>"She's - rather, Ramella was a rocket scientist that refused to work on rockets for Vanski. With that and losing the space and equipment to work on rockets anyway, she was put up for haphazard experiments. One of the brain studies here is fusing Rokoa's brain matter with others. Most end up as crappy Rokoa clones, but ones who resisted the process like Ramella keep more of themselves."
"Maybe I'll learn more about her than her Rokoa part. I did meet Ciphik earlier."
>"Good, he's one of the older ones I want to talk to. I'm supposed to be kept up to date on my hive, but I have no idea how much is truth and how much is lies. Oh, this intersection - take a left here. Ah, they've actually used the displays to label things properly."

The displays say hive dormitories to my left. And to my right is the containment areas for grottles and vernauts.
No. 998316 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161972518736.png - (122.14KB , 1000x1000 , 1045.png )

Before going, I look both ways. To my right, I see more muck.

>"For god's sake, I told him not to use Mind Lever for grottle containment, they've never done it before and no faction's ever done it right the first time. That pink stuff, there? That's grottle glue. They don't move much, but just in case keep your gun handy and watch your back."

And underneath that grottle glue sits Arza's glasses.
No. 998322 ID: 9a2966

Explains why he's missing. Go and nab 'em, remove the evidence. Then carry on.
No. 998324 ID: a0dfd2


Well, Quokko, unless someone is KEENLY aware of our plans and reading them several steps ahead, we've just found ourselves a problem.
No. 998325 ID: 77cba3

"Those look like Arza's glasses. Could he have snuck through here to try and sabotage something in that direction? How bad of a idea would it be to try and follow to make sure he is safe?"

Go carefully approach the glasses and check the area for signs of a struggle. I think Arza wrote something next to the dark scribble on the floor there for you actually so don't smudge it. The glasses might be there to direct your attention to the hidden message. Also there is a lot of glue around that panel behind the glasses.

"If a Grottle got Arza what would happen?"
No. 998328 ID: 74c499

If Arza is dead, how can we leave this place? I think we are left with three options:
-Submit to Vanski. He might have some use for us, or sell us to another criminal organization. Not a nice outcome.
-Side with the crazy people who worship our eyeballs. No idea what that would lead us to.
-Contact the people attacking the base and negotiate our rescue. Very dangerous, they might just kill us.

For now pocket the glasses and go meet the science hive. They probable face a similar dilemma.
No. 998332 ID: 465a14

Think he's dead or trying to cover for his absence? Inconvenient either way.
No. 998336 ID: 2748b3

Aw fuck, that's blood. Grab his glasses but be exceedingly careful, the data on there might be useful.

I believe Arza was responsible for some of the sabotage that's happening, maybe he noticed something going wrong and took the chance who knows. Then either a grottle got out, or more worryingly, was let out, and nabbed him on the way back.
No. 998337 ID: b1b4f3

Is it just me or is that glue outlining a panel in the wall? You should expect it to reach out of that panel right next to the glasses to grab you. Looks like bait for a trap, if you ask me.

Be careful, examine the blood trail. How much does all the fluid look purposefully placed? What would the blood trail indicate for the health of Arza, considering how much is there?

How likely are you going to be able to kill a Grottle and rescue Arza, if he's been snatched by one?
No. 998339 ID: 36784c

What’s more important: going to find Arza or bringing Quokko to her hive?

Honestly, I think you should take Quokko to her hive. This might be the only chance they get to do something while Vanski and his forces are distracted.
No. 998359 ID: de0232

Would Quokko know if another iteration of her had contacted your only ally in this place and gotten them killed crawling through maintenance shafts?
No. 998369 ID: 71ebb4

Ok, well, good news is that's not enough red blood to suggest lethality. Also good news is that anyone who wanted to bump him off in a premeditated way would have taken his glasses. So I'm guessing he, uh. Do grottles generally not kill their prey and drag them off alive? In any case you'd better take his glasses. Sounds like you're not the first one to get the idea of crawling through here. Ugh, dilemma time. While you're going over there to pick up his glasses, see if you can tell how fresh the blood is. If it's fresh, then he might still be alive and you might have to go after him, but only if that way doesn't look like you have high chance of getting stuck. If it's at all old, then... whatever happened to him you're probably too late, might as well go meet the science hive and maybe then think about looking for Arza. You want to poke down that way at least a little to check how risky it is to turn your back to it.
No. 998410 ID: 53560f

Arza’s glasses, a blood trail and a whole lot of grottle glue. Sorry quokko but we kinda need to make sure he’s alive, we’ll rush to your hive afterwards.
No. 998423 ID: b1b4f3

To be clear I am suggesting we not immediately grab the glasses. It almost looks like the blood trail leads away from that, maybe Arza got attacked and ran away, abandoning his glasses, and now there's just a grottle waiting behind that panel for him to come back and try to get them?
No. 998653 ID: 5fc3a0
File 161990429401.png - (28.22KB , 1000x1000 , 1046.png )

"Those glasses. Arza's." I mutter out loud for Quokko. "That panel to the side, it looks glued up. Is that some kind of grottle trap?"
>"No, it means it's sealed shut. It does that to escape routes it doesn't want prey to use."
"And what would happen to Arza if a grottle got him?"
>"Grottles are lethal." She looked hesitant to answer, but did anyway.

The splatters of blood and glue look natural enough, but the blood is dried out. This didn't happen recently, but I'd have to see if Ciphik had a way of telling how old it was exactly.

I'm suspicious of Quokko again, but I'm already down here and all I can do about it is leave. I'm certainly not going to start looking for Arza down here.

I pick up his Arza's glasses since they should still have his data on them. I leave for the science dormitories, and much to my relief the exit is very close.

I'd be lying if I said this revelation didn't bother me. The contacts must stay out, otherwise I will definitely crumble. Even though Arza did little for me since entering this crime den, he was still my one link to the outside world that I could cling onto.

I'm going to be extremely sore at him if all he did for me was trap me in a criminal hideout then crawl in a shaft and die. I can feel bad about that callous thought when I put my contacts back in.

The exit from the shaft brings me out into a small room, where a tired looking neumono is reading a book.

He looks up at me. He doesn't say anything, and he doesn't look like he cares to, but Quokko speaks to me.

>"That's Cinnin. He's made a lot of gasses, and he blames himself for how it's been used. He's one I'd like to talk to."
No. 998654 ID: 465a14

Tell him to eat fewer carbohydrates, then. Also more seriously it's becoming increasingly clear that getting out on your own is impractical. Miss R is compromised, unfortunately, and if you just wait for hostiles to get here it's not likely to produce great results for you, specifically. You've got to rely on someone, and it might as well be Quokko. Set up some kind of talk between the two of them.
No. 998655 ID: b1b4f3

Tell him you've got a private message for him in your goggles. Hand them over.

Hmm, how come your normal AI hasn't spoke up about any of this?
No. 998656 ID: 77cba3

"You want me to translate or what?"
No. 998657 ID: e7848c

"Hi. Long story short, there's a message for you on these goggles."
No. 998658 ID: afdebc

Probably best not to speak aloud about Quokko, in case that pings some kind of surveillance. Sharing this information with one of the science hive is already opening yourself to exposure, but we can at least slow it down.

"I'm sorry to barge in, and you may not thank me for this, but I have something you need to see."

Then offer goggles.

We are about to put him in touch with the digital copy of somewhere he cared about who may be functionally dead (she describes herself as "digitized", but mind-upload tech isn't currently a solid thing, is it? You'd know, AI is your field), so you might as well try to be sensitive about that.
No. 998661 ID: 71ebb4

Gotta be careful, now. Remember that neumono can't hide their feelings very well, and around here in particular they can be made to talk. Nothing to do for now but go along with Quokko, now you've come this far, but keep it in mind. Do your goggles come with a wire to link to his tablet, there? Ask him if you can borrow it for a moment, and see if you can turn off the wireless connection on it first, if it has one.

I wonder if you should start disguising your voice when you talk to people in places you shouldn't be. How well can you do that? Try sound like... I don't know, some suave confident secret agent lady. People probably wouldn't associate that kind of attitude either with your cold non-contacts persona or the way you usually act with your contacts in. Try remember to ask about seeing the files/recordings/tests/etc you made earlier, because later on if anyone finds out about this trip that's still going to be your excuse for having been sneaking around. Don't do anything (obvious) that will outright contradict that story. Maybe even use his tablet to check your location? Create some backup for that story later on. You were an obsessive scientist who decided to protect their work in an emergency and hacked a map out of the system somehow so you could go sneak around the security to go check on it, that's probably pretty believable around here. Not likely to get the best response but better than the real one, you need some sort of cover story as a plan B if you get found out.
No. 998662 ID: bb78f2

Oh no, a tired, tortured nerd in flamboyant orange, exactly my type. Watch out he's dangerous. Dangerously hot.

Honestly, I'd just toss him the goggles without saying anything and let Quakko do the talking. He'll get the picture quick enough. Only clarify anything if he asks and use as few words as possible.
No. 998664 ID: 74d499

"So I hear you are the one to talk to about lesbianism gas?"
No. 998688 ID: 15a025

Telegram for Cinnin!
No. 998722 ID: 53560f

“Hey, Are you part of the science hive? I’m told you guys might know where Arza is. I’d also like you to check over these goggles, I think they have some kind of weird glitch.”
Toss the goggles to him and wait patiently.

Since people are currently looking for Arza, it might be a good idea to tell someone he was last near here. His guilt isn’t proven so it’s likely they’d try to rescue him if he’s alive. Just gotta figure out how to tell someone without coming off as suspicious.
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