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File 162847150691.png - (361.37KB , 1000x1000 , chp2header.png )
1007458 No. 1007458 ID: 5bf1bd

Chapter 1:>>/questarch/985116

Hey... you think she'll understand?

She doesn't need to.
236 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1021887 ID: 9a2966

Hm. Was it the recoil or the overall size that made the H-ED DSTR so unwieldy for Nickel? Maybe you could let her try using it during training with her tomorrow, see how she feels about the improvements you've made.

>Foundry map
Sheez, yeah, plenty of ambush spots here if Astrolysis wants it. It'd be easier to plan out the general approach once we're kitting you out with loadout, though. What gear and gear combinations you pick will matter for our advice.

One things that strikes me as advantageous for you though, is that there seems to be several rooftops you could blink and reposition to. Astrolysis probably has that covered in some way as well, but it could buy you some time - or set you up for a sweet-ass kinetic divebomb move.

>Evening socialization
Mmm. Judicium is the safe bet. You've got a few things to broach - why nanoweaver's so skittish about Amica, Pseudosignias, discuss that favor she wanted, admit you stole her super one-of-a-kind magical bullet... maybe not that last part, but hey, it's an option if you want to further clear the air. She might try to confiscate your cards - though I don't see how she'd be able to unless you up and gave them to her.

Alternatively, you know a little more about the struggles and travails of the early clone generation now, so you could also approach Mnemosyne and see what makes her such a maudlin girl - the records we've reconstructed so far don't fit that picture, after all. She was happy. Something must've happened.

And out of all the Sector Bosses, you don't really know her motivations, do you? Ozone seems to hate your guts for not being the image of a professional soldier (though I bet there's some additional reason for that disdain as well). Astrolysis just wants a damn good fight and both her and Nickel was apparently friends with your Memory Trace source so no wonder they have a weird stake in this fight. Judicium... actually cares for you, but was being too overprotective and the connection was kneecapped by your misunderstanding her words way back when.

But Mnemosyne... what's her motivation in agreeing to this fight with you? Is it pure obligation? Does she agree this place should keep you locked up until you're 'ready', whatever that means? I'm sure you have questions you could ask. About her. About you. And the history of this program.
No. 1021896 ID: da5939

Let's go try to clear things out with Judicium. We might glean something into why everyone's so cagey and hostile around you.

>"yeah, not happening"
Who? Amica? Or an annoying rival you haven't mentioned yet?
No. 1022549 ID: 73aaab
File 164414997116.png - (392.68KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch055.png )

>Was it the recoil or the overall size that made the H-ED DSTR so unwieldy for Nickel?
That's a good question, it doesn't seem to be a good weapon for her at all, besides being a Sniper Rifle too.

I look inside of me, see what you all have to say...
>Let's go try to clear things out with Judicium. We might glean something into why everyone's so cagey and hostile around you.
>Mmm. Judicium is the safe bet.

>You could also approach Mnemosyne and see what makes her such a maudlin girl - the records we've reconstructed so far don't fit that picture, after all. She was happy. Something must've happened.
Uh, you guys have been reconstructing records?
I'm not sure I can picture her happy. She always had that stern look.

Judicium? Ugh, if you're all so set on it, then I'll go talk to her.


The sight of her office is starting to wear on me.
And yet she greets me like she was entirely expecting me to show up.

"Argine! How unexpected. Please, take a seat - I'll give you something warm to drink."
...I'm starting to think that the wild theory you lot had before about Amica pretending to be Judicium has some truth behind it.

There's a weird thermos she's got.
She pours me something. There's bits of... something floating in the coloured water. Smells really nice though - I don't know how to describe it, honestly. It's almost like some of Nanoweaver's disinfectant or soap, but, far less intense.
I sip. Tastes kinda like fruit, but I don't know how to describe it.
"How come you're only being nice to me now, Judicium?"

"Please, you can call me Judi. Many others do."
Yeah, I'll pass.
"We're no longer opponents, so there's no reason for further hostility."
That doesn't explain the months of frustration beforehand.

"Fine. I'll take it. I've got questions for you if you're willing to answer them. Don't give me excuses."
Judicium nods.

"I will, though there are things that I cannot bear the responsibility of telling you about."
Great, excuses out the gate. At this point, I couldn't care less. That's just how it is now.

"Why's Mnemosyne so stern-looking? Apparently she used to be happier."
I point to the framed photo Judicium has on her desk.

"Times change. Mnemosyne's priorities did too. From what I recall however, the two of you were never close. Perhaps you should ask her for her story?"
I... guess. Where does she even hang out normally? Things to think about later.

"Why's Nanoweaver afraid of Amica so much? I tried mentioning her before and she kinda freaked out on me."

She shakes her head.
"To be honest, I do not know. Amica's situation is complicated - and I do not have the full picture. I suspect that between the two of them, there's some bad blood. An estrangement. I hope that you don't hold it over her though, Argine. For all I know - Nanoweaver may see Amica like you saw me."
I'm not sure that's the best comparison to make.

"How come everyone's got it out for me?"

"Everyone has a different reason. Just like with Mnemosyne, you should ask them why yourself."
She looks away for a moment.
"Me, I wanted to see you grow."
I lean forward, squinting.
"In what way?"
"In all the ways that matter."
Good, more cryptic answers.

"May I ask a question of you too, Argine?"
Only fair. I give her an affirmation.

"Perhaps you could tell me about your previous battle? I've always been interested in your personal developments, Argine."
And so I do. Including the part where I got shot in the head.

With the questions out of the way - I notice that, I sort of get into a groove. Talking about things got easier. And... for some reason, it felt like your voices were further away.
The rest of the evening passes uneventfully. Was I really expecting anything else?
Man, whatever I'm drinking though, I think I like it. Gotta know where to get more in future.

Still, it's late. It feels kinda weird, just... sitting here and reminiscing about the past with someone I know. Diagram, we've shared some moments like that.

With that, I take my leave. Guess I'll be seeing you tomorrow then, huh? Guess I'm glad that I can get sleep at night without being interrupted by you.
No. 1022550 ID: 73aaab
File 164415019728.png - (333.33KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch056.png )

Breakfast as usual. Selections are randomized. It's almost like a game of chance. Better anything but the terrible, terrible powdered egg mixture they offer. Astrolysis loves them, probably because she likes anything that's terrible.
...I hope she doesn't like me because of that.

...Huh, wait, you're here now, aren't you?

With how SAIs work being a bit of a mystery to me, it feels kinda weird. It's almost like you're in a dream, when you suddenly realize that something's different. That's how it feels when you're 'active'. It only happens a bit after I realize that you're talking to me, or when I realize that something feels different.

In the distance, I see a familiar stout figure walk into the cafeteria.
Oh. Huh. Commander Stick-up-her-ass is here.
And now she's pulling up a chair in front of me.

"Getting your daily required nutrients, pot plant? Hope you're getting enough sun too - ohhh, you can't go outside, my mistake."
The pinnacle of wit there. What's she grinning for?

"'Sup. You look smarmier than usual, sarge. Find a kid's meal behind the counter?"

She slaps the table and laughs.
"Rich, coming from you! You're the youngest in the facility! You probably need a few more weeks in the tank!"
Jin and I were born roughly at the same time!

I hiss. It's fun teasing Ozone - less fun when she's chasing you around the dark with tranquilizer darts, or interrupting one of the few sacred moments I have to myself nowadays. But whenever she's... cheery like this, her comebacks get better fifty-fold.
"Maybe you should stop breathing so hard, cadet - save some air for the rest of the company, eh?"

Oh, screw you.
"What's your deal? Harassing me in the morning's not usually part of your routine."

The smell of oil's on her gloves, spoiling the taste of the day. Lucky her, she only gets to have two nostrils!
Ugh, is interrupting my food really the best time to be having a conversation with me every day?

Just... gimme ideas for getting rid of Ozone in general. I really don't want to think about her right now.
No. 1022569 ID: 9a2966

>How do you work, Sykes
Speculating here, but it could be we crop up when you feel under stress or focus or when certain mental keywords get triggered. Happenstance and chance could be involved, although I don't feel like Diagram would leave it to that. Maybe it's proximity to certain other people, like Sector Bosses, since we do that 'pop in before you're fully cognizant' thing. It could be multiple factors, making the exact causes hard to pin. More data is needed. Or you can ask Diagram.

>Reconstructing records?
... I guess we should continue to share. Nanoweaver was using SAI tech for it, the Splinter Analysis Wizard debugging tool, so that's probably how we know. I half thought those would be privy to you as well in that sort of dream state thing you experienced with nickel. Guess not.

To be clear, it was partly a simulation, so might not have been entirely accurate. But it seemed to gel enough that Nanoweaver didn't comment on any obvious errors. All she did was question why she took the bother to reconstruct scenes involving Mnemosyne previous to her own birth - guess it was something she felt she had to do, but didn't give her any immediate benefits.

She also stated she'd be reconstructing other records. We'll try to let you know if we come across anything particularly relevant to your situation. Nothing else has been recollected so far, so for now this is the juiciest piece of goss we can offer: Mnemosyne have - or probably had - a boyfriend named Armintell, an Asliann soldier on loan to the project. That was the source of her happiness.

We did get briefly into this before the Nickel fight. You asked to be reminded. Now you have been.

>Interrupting food, best time?
It's when they know where you're at. If you changed your routine you might get less visitors.

Or more grumpy ones when they DO track you down.

>Ozone gets better comebacks
Hm. So her personality fluctuates a bit? Like manic-depressive or snarky-aggressive? I presumed she just had the one 'stick up butt' mode, but if she's acts in various ways, please tell us about those. They could be different aspects of her Traces coming to the fore, or a sign of literally having multiple personalities - uh, imagine having the personality equivalent of a bunch of Sykes, but only one can stay in charge at a time and different things can trigger swapsies.

And... wait, hang on, you generally like it when she's cheerily quip-antagonistic like this?

I guess, if you choose, you could socialize with her by getting involved in a comeback contest for, apparently, your mutual enjoyment.

>Ozone is pleased
Considering her stated goal, and her now coming here to punk on you, she might've worked on something that would help stop you, and therefore put her in cheerful mode. Might be value in teasing what out of her. Might even be why she's here, so she can, unwisely perhaps, hint or brag about it to piss you off.

Don't let her get under your skin. She's got some kind of axe to grind and every time you 'lose control' or whatever, she's sharpening it. You may be able to blunt that axe by not reacting in the anticipated manner - i.e. blowing up and getting angry at her digs.

>Smell of oil
She may not realize she gave you a clue. What places have - or uses - oil here still? Engines? Vehicles? You could start speculating and revealing her dropping unintended intel, which is the sort of 'loose lips' moment that would embarass any soldier and drive her off.

>Get her off my back
Though if want to get back under her skin in turn, tell her "Get to the point, sir. I'm slated to train with the Covert Ops Division soon." Suggest if she delays you she'll be eating into another Sector Boss' time. Since she is big on rank she can't discount that without you countering that 'Oh, so now rank and standing suddenly don't matter to you?'.

It's a white lie. You were intending to train with Nickel today, so you just move that up. And if Ozone, military bureaucrat that she is, asks why you didn't actually schedule that anywhere... well, it IS the Cover Ops Division. Why would they teach you to announce your plan of action to the enemy, hm?

It's a comeback with the potential to live rent free in her head for a while, I think.
No. 1022619 ID: 81b425

Wait, I've got an idea:

Look at her skeptically, then adopt your best neutral stare and, looking straight in the eye, say "You have feelings for me, don't you?"
When she denies it, say matter-of-factly: "That's why you are always teasing me."
Keep proding 1 or 2 more times and she will definitely leave.

.....Or you will find out a side of her we were better off leaving buried.
Eh, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
No. 1022673 ID: a2493c

this is hilarious, do this. just be as serious as possible about it, lmao
No. 1022677 ID: c92a02

Not gonna lie, smells like someone's sprayed lube all over that deer.
No. 1022678 ID: 96c896

Or, instead of being weird, we could try getting some info out of her.
First, tell her what she made must be really good if it made her want to get smug about it in your face. But it won't matter. Whatever it is, it can't be good enough to beat you.
Hopefully that should provoke her into letting something slip.

Secondly you could just straight up ask her how the hell she got a Pseudosignia with a place instead of a person. Doesn't it require a connection from both sides?
No. 1022685 ID: 34dfce

Kinda late here, but you said here >>1021883
that storing kinetic energy is different from electrical energy. Well, why not throw together some flywheels and some copper wire to turn that kinetic energy into electrical energy?
No. 1022771 ID: 73aaab
File 164432358884.png - (314.91KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch057.png )

>Reconstructing records?
>... I guess we should continue to share. Nanoweaver was using SAI tech for it, the Splinter Analysis Wizard debugging tool, so that's probably how we know. I half thought those would be privy to you as well in that sort of dream state thing you experienced with Nickel. Guess not.

SAI tech, huh? This must've been recent - makes me wonder if that's what that machine Nanoweaver had in her room was for.

>To be clear, it was partly a simulation, so might not have been entirely accurate. But it seemed to gel enough that Nanoweaver didn't comment on any obvious errors. All she did was question why she took the bother to reconstruct scenes involving Mnemosyne previous to her own birth - guess it was something she felt she had to do, but didn't give her any immediate benefits.

Mnemosyne's situation has always been a mystery to me, but - what I'm wondering is, how come I didn't see it? Aren't you guys in my body? I guess it could work kinda like how Diagram's... psychic connection's supposed to. Remote access and all of that. So wait, all these past memories and stuff - they have to be contained inside of you guys, right? Since I wasn't around for that long.

>She also stated she'd be reconstructing other records. We'll try to let you know if we come across anything particularly relevant to your situation. Nothing else has been recollected so far, so for now this is the juiciest piece of goss we can offer: Mnemosyne have - or probably had - a boyfriend named Armintell, an Asliann soldier on loan to the project. That was the source of her happiness.

Armintell, huh... I don't know that name, but, nobody's brought him up before. Maybe that's just how people talk to me, but if she had a boyfriend, I would've seen him around, right?

>We did get briefly into this before the Nickel fight. You asked to be reminded. Now you have been.
Mm. That's something to think about. Keep me in the loop if something new happens. I'm not sure I like where this is heading. Nanoweaver... she would've let me know about things, right?

>Not gonna lie, smells like someone's sprayed lube all over that deer.
Well, it's mostly on her gloves, but...

>What places have - or uses - oil here still? Engines? Vehicles?
She's already in charge of the Vehicle Hangar, which means...
Has she been tinkering with some vehicles? I thought most of them had already been taken out of the facility by now...
We're gonna need to figure out how to deal with heavier armour, then.

>Look at her skeptically, then adopt your best neutral stare and, looking straight in the eye, say "You have feelings for me, don't you?"

I... what?

>this is hilarious, do this. just be as serious as possible about it!
Yeah, it may get her to leave - but it'll make me want to leave my body behind so I don't have to be in a reality where I actually said that.
When I said she gets better comebacks, I didn't mean we should be giving her more material. More that if she's in a good mood, she can REALLY put people down well. It's hard arguing with her like that. I hate it.

>Or, instead of being weird, we could try getting some info out of her.

"Get to the point, sir."
Rank doesn't exactly mean much when so few people are still around.

"I've heard of your victory against the first of the Sector Bosses, Argine. And I wanted to congratulate you, with a few additions to your next few encounters."

"The hell are you talking about?", I snap back.

"Well, here's a simple proposal, Argine. You help me out with some tasks I've got in mind. Don't worry your little head about it - I'll be joining in, too. This ain't boot camp, after all."
Joining in could range from actually helping, or sitting in a corner criticising everything I do.
"And what if I refuse?"

Ozone meets my gaze.
"Well... then I don't have any reason to deny any 'improvements' to a Sector while you're busy elsewhere, now do I?"
I don't like what she's implying.
"You can... do that?"

The look on her face is so punchable right now.
"Why, yes, Argine. You were so excited to be part of this tournament setup, right? But there's nothing stopping someone from setting up a few science projects in some of the facilities, is there?"

...She's extorting me for my time?!
I slam my hands on the table.
"You can't do this. That's going against-"

Her eyes don't waver.
"Who's to say I can't? I don't remember someone with as terrible of a haircut as yours on the rules committee."

Ffffffrag out.

"I can see from the look on your face that you're unsure if I'll stay true to my word. Don't worry, I promise. That's what amounts for honor nowadays, is it?"
...As far as I know, she does keep her promises. But pointing a gun at my head and making demands of me - I'll have to pay her back for this.
"Aren't you going to tell me what you're going to ask of me?"

Her tone of voice changes, surprisingly determined.
"Something different from last time. Retrieval of an object. That's all I can say. What I want to know is - are you in or not?"

Great, so - if I turn her down, she's going to pull something. It'll probably involve her putting traps and other obstacles in each area unless I help her out.
But this is valuable time that I could be spending elsewhere!

What're your thoughts, Sykes? There's a reason to go either way, but I hate how she's putting me into this situation.
No. 1022773 ID: e51896

Tell her you're no coward that will fall for blackmail like that.

Afterwards, we should probably tell Nickle about this blackmail so she can let her friend Astrolysis know about it, I'm sure they both won't appreciate what this jerk is doing and Astrolysis would definetly prefer a fair fight over getting a handicap.
No. 1022774 ID: 3f2a88

Tactically, you should put her in the infirmary for threatening you so that she won't be able to spend her time sabotaging you.

But that's also burning bridges around here. Should probably just go with it, maybe she'll have something useful for you.
No. 1022775 ID: 3f2a88

Hmm, am I the only one noticing there's pretty much only women chimeras being created here? That's a bit strange. Are you as a whole sterile? Most bioweapons are generally made sterile so they don't reproduce and overrun their creators.

Seems a little strange, male and female of any species tend to have dominant traits, you'd think there'd be some super soldier race they are trying to splice that'd work better as men.
No. 1022778 ID: c8b6ee

It was explained in the intermission the cloning appears to degenerate the Y chromosome, supposedly.

It might be on our best interest to do what she says, but we could try to de-escalate the situation by talking.
Ask her why she wears that atrocious granny wig and why she hates you so much.
No. 1022786 ID: 8c681e

Okay, on second thought, maybe not comment on her wig, but trying to clarify why she is so fixated on hating you is important.
No. 1022787 ID: 96c896

Agree, find out what she's up to, then snitch.
No. 1022800 ID: 9a2966

>terrible haircut
Sayeth the one wearing the crippled remains of an oil-greased toupee accident.

>You can... do that?
I was honestly expecting someone to pull something like this at some point, but thought it'd be saved for an in-fight reveal. But yeah, nothing in the rules-as-we-know-them of this tournament says Sector Bosses - even defeated ones - can't help each other out with prep. We already know nothing in the rules says others can't help you out - which is why you now have a fancy new sniper rifle, neat new gloves and some cards up your sleeve.

Turnabout is fair play. Just make sure the turns end at your end of the table in the end, rather than the opposite. Make peace with as many Sector Bosses as you can - convince them there's no need to make your goal harder than it already is.

>Spend time?
You should do it, but don't just roll over - ante up.

Tell her you'll help her sabotage yourself (as you surely will be, and not just in the loss of free time) if she also deigns to spend these moments giving you the actual fucking lowdown on why she hates your guts so much. It can't just be for your repeat flounting of the remnants of a by-now largely deprecated command structure. Or even the height digs.

(... wait, it's not really the height digs, is it? If so: lol, lmao)

Look... just how the heck did you manage to commandeer so much real estate in her head? How the fuck can you be such a threat to the things she cares about when all you want to do is to get out there, kick your sister's ass and never to have anything to do with this place ever again if you can help it? By her own damn reckoning you're a literal waste of genetic material, so why is she investing so much time and effort in opposing you? It's not even you beating Nickel despite a bullet injection to the head getting to her - she's been working this angle since practically the beginning.

The game is wearing thin, or whatever it is. If she can't give you the answer, state you'll gladly take on every trap she can muster, every tank and heavy weapon she has scraped together, and call it a worthy challenge to step over.

(Ozone's motivations will probably be a fair trade as these things go. Everyone else is so reticent to speak about the things involving you or their involvement with you - but Ozone could end up letting something of real significance slip here.

...of course, if that isn't good enough - demand a reward, like a deployable trap, instead of, or in addition. If she's not gonna be handing them off to another Sector Boss, you might as well take something off her hands so she can't use it for her own match.)

>Refuse the offer
If you do refuse the offer, you should try seeking out Nickel for socializing or cadet training, as previously suggested.
No. 1022812 ID: a2493c

Fake-accept it and report her for attempted blackmail to someone we trust more, we'll probably need to get more details on what she's after first to make a case against her. Fuck whatever this twat's up to.
No. 1023454 ID: 73aaab
File 164484172253.png - (344.06KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch058.png )

>Find out what she's up to, then snitch.
And who would I even bother snitching to?
You do realize that this is like me going over to Judicium to whine, 'Noooo, she took my ration!'
I'm made of better stuff than that.

>Fake-accept it, then report her for attempted blackmail.
I have to play by her rules, she said it herself - I'm not on the Rules committee, and this tournament's so different to the usual anyway.

>Tell Nickel or Astrolysis about it.
Not the worst idea - Astrolysis, she's... got a weird sense of honor. But I'm not sure it's worth it. Not like Astrolysis actually manages her sector at all - it's basically a title.

>Spend time?
>You should do it, but don't just roll over - ante up.
>Tell her you'll help her sabotage yourself if she also deigns to spend these moments giving you the actual lowdown on why she hates your guts so much.
Ugh, if you insist. I don't normally bother asking people like her about this, because they dodge giving me actually worthwhile answers most of the time.

I stare her in the eye.
"Look, Ozone, here's my offer to you. I'll help you waste time searching for something instead of actually building up your defenses so much if you can just tell me why you and the others hate me so damn much. A proper answer, no excuses."

Ozone's unphased.
"Because you're dangerous, Argine. You may not know it yourself - but it's for the sake of a lot more people than just the people here in the facility. Do you have any idea what you could do to the people out in the wider universe?"

No, I don't.
"Tell me straight up. I'm tired of all this cryptic shit. What? What is it that I'd do?"

"You're a threat to the rest of society at large if we let you go. Because - You. Aren't. In. Control."
Each of her words are aimed like knives.

"How? I coulda decked you when you were being smarmy about all of this, but instead, I chose to hear you out."

"Maybe you should try asking yourself why. Telling you's too much of a pain. You already know what you did - you gave us all the evidence we needed. And, just saying, as someone with experience? The first time's not the last, Argine."

She's... talking about that night. What we talked about with the Doc yesterday.

"Then why are you keeping me locked up for so long? Why bother releasing me at all? Unless this is all a ruse to keep me along until I find some way to force your hand."

Ozone sighs. Not so much a smug look on her face, but one of exhaustion.
"Because there's a deadline. We're all wanting to see what happens when it hits. I don't have high hopes for you. But you - you are a reminder of everything wrong that's happened in this world."

That's harsh.
"How the hell are you saying that? I haven't been around long enough to do anything on that level."

"Maybe you haven't. But in Site 70, we all carry the burdens of our past. Yours is longer than you think."

I change the topic. It's getting cryptic again.
"When's the deadline?"

Ozone taps the table, looking here and there.
"Oh, I dunno... say, a little more than a week perhaps? Maybe two. Hard to keep track of the time, keeping an eye on something like you."

A little more than a week...? Wait, that's, that's roughly going to be the amount of time left before I fight Jin-R. That lines up too perfectly.
I squint.
"What, and you were going to let me waltz out the door after the deadline? You said 'give or take', you don't even have a specific amount of time in mind?"

Ozone shrugs. What the hell is her problem?

"Maybe we don't. But we do know it's coming soon. Real soon. And then we'll let you go when it's over."

...When it's over? Something's meant to happen by the deadline?

Ozone taps the table expectantly, smearing a bit of oil onto it.
"Hope that was enough, because you're going along with me. Unless you want to tempt fate."
Not feeling up to that.

Guess I'm going to be strung along by this woman for now. We'd BETTER find the thing she's looking for quickly. There's so many other people I could be spending time with.
No. 1023455 ID: 73aaab
File 164484182252.png - (652.72KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch059.png )

Finishing up what remains of my breakfast, she leads me away. Ugh. Feels like my first year of existence again.

After what feels like ages of walking...

...So here we are. A warehouse. Racks, what probably once held equipment. Now all that's left is what we've got in security. The Old sectors were abandoned becuase they had a lot more space than we needed. As people left, things kinda just stopped being maintained. We don't even need the full power grid capacity any more.

"What exactly are we trying to find here?"
Places like these aren't somewhere most people choose to hang out. It's full of old stuff that people don't touch out of respect for whoever used to be in there last. If anything had been valuable, it would've been taken away by its owners already.

...The idea that Amica's hiding out somewhere here is a little unsettling. Just watching, in the dark.

Ozone already starts walking into the dark - I can't even see the end of the room!
"A sword. A fancy one. And don't even think about leaving without finding it. We're going to turn this place upside down, because I know it has to be in here somewhere."

...A sword? The hell's a sword doing here of all places? We're a military facility, not a museum. If any weapons like that were still around, wouldn't it be in the Hall of Heroes?

Bah. And she's already gone off to sort through those boxes.

Question is, how are we going to find this thing? There's too many places to search. If we're not going about this efficiently, we're going to be stuck here for a while.
But after scoping out the warehouse a bit, some options come to mind first. Ozone'll probably cover anything I didn't mention here.

1. A bunch of wooden crates deeper into the place. I could probably find a crowbar nearby.
2. A row of lockers that I'm probably going to have to smash open since I don't know the combinations.
3. A bunch of shrink-wrapped containers, near a place where there's some moss growing.

Which one's most likely to have the sword in it?
No. 1023456 ID: a2493c

my thinking is the lockers. a sword is too nice to shove in a crate, but you wouldn't exactly shrink wrap it. locker is a nice personal place.

... also cmon, locker locks can be shimmed open stupid easy. just jam two wrenches in, one vertical one horizontal, and use the leverage to pop the latch.
No. 1023458 ID: e49778

Shrink-wrap. It fancy. You wrap fancy ceremonial stuff to preserve it better.
No. 1023460 ID: e51896

We could probably use the crowbar on the lockers instead of smashing them open.
No. 1023461 ID: e4969c

Moss probably signifies antiquity, so it might in there.

We should also, tactfully, tell Ozone that when you think someone is dangerous, name-calling and constant antagonizing doesn't help the situation.
No. 1023477 ID: 96c896

They've been treating you like a loaded gun, because of one incident of going berserk? In an environment where there are no consequences for violence? And the person you flipped out on did nothing to defend themselves or try to stop you?

This is insane. They didn't even try to get you therapy afterwards, did they? Also Jin never tried to apologize for what she did, as far as I can tell. Did you?
They need to be worried about Jin too. She betrayed you. She will betray others. Hell, tell Ozone that-- she betrayed the one person she was closest to, so how can anyone here trust her? ...wait, maybe they don't. She hasn't gotten out either.

>where's the sword?
Lockers. A fancy sword is a personal item. Like the thing you'd give someone for distinguished military service. Therefore, it's in a personal storage container-- a locker.
No. 1023488 ID: 9a2966

>No consequences for violence
Mm. Wouldn't say there are no consequences - there's already some going on right here, after all! But seriously, there's obviously something more to it all - the whole situation is, like Mnemosyne said, some sort of test leading you up to another sort of big event, and from what Ozone's saying that might not just be the graduation fight with Jin-R.

It's certainly unfair that Ozone is applying some bull value judgements to you Argine - losing control once, when beaten down and pushed hard, then calling that a pattern - but they clearly don't have the greatest impression thanks to what happened with your sis, and...

... and possibly it is also related to your origins, that supposed sickly Trace Clone. You may be your own person that inherited little to nothing obvious in the way of memories and personality from them - as far as you and we can tell - but everyone else has to some extent or another kept a bunch of baggage that they might be - heck, definitely are - transferring onto you. Ozone may be the worst case of it so far - why would some sickly Trace Clone have been such a worrysome connotation to her that it colors her perception of you so badly?

Ah well, let's not get too worked up. Whatever she's trying to hold over you, whatever this mystery deadline is supposed to represent, you have a path and options now, and you'll get to kick her ass later for good measure. Upside is that now you know for sure that something's going to go down - something everyone seems to be waiting on - so you can start asking other people about it as well.

>Talk with Ozone
Ask if the 'fancy' means to indicate that it's ceremonial - or practical and advanced. If practical, check lockers. If ceremonial, check shrink-wrap.

Could ask her what her plans are once this place is shut down. The way things are going here everyone's had to have given that SOME thought, including her.
No. 1023489 ID: 96c896

>Wouldn't say there are no consequences
Ok let me go into detail.
1, those with Parasignias are so durable and heal so quickly that they can beat/shoot eachother up with no worries of death or permanent injury.
2, Argine has been injured for no reason by Astrolysis and likely others, with seemingly no punishment on their end.
3, sparring with lethal weaponry is encouraged.

This environment is perfect for fostering the idea that violence is okay and fine to use all the time, when it is in fact not. Outside of this facility, casual violence is not tolerated. This does not seem to be taught here at all, considering Astrolysis's behavior and Argine's strange naivete concerning death.

Argine is being punished because she doesn't have "control" when that kind of control seems opposed to the social and educational environment here.
The memory traces are probably to blame. All the other soldiers here probably have traces which gave them that missing, untaught skill. Very few know that Argine is different, so when they see aberrant behavior from her they're shocked and think something has gone seriously wrong, when in fact she just has different needs that haven't been met.
No. 1023492 ID: a2493c

she has, actually. she even uses that fact to mock us.
No. 1023497 ID: 031458

If the sword is ceremonial, it's probably part of a dress uniform: The Lockers.

If the sword is historical, it would be transported in something sturdy: The Crates

If the sword is a niche yet functional high tech weapon: The shrink wrapped crates.

You said it yourself, this place isn't a museum, so the crates are out.
Likewise, all the actual hardware has been removed, so the shrink wrap is out.
The Lockers are what you need. Prioritize by owner rank, highest ranking first, if they are well labeled.
No. 1023932 ID: 73aaab
File 164527475559.png - (540.33KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch060.png )

>tell Ozone that when you think someone is dangerous, name-calling and constant antagonizing doesn't help the situation.
I think that's some way for her to try and control the situation. It's like asserting dominance over some wild animal. I can't blame her, as much as she's a total waste of breath. It's a solid strategy. And one I don't let them hold over me.

>They need to be worried about Jin too. She betrayed you. She will betray others.
Hah. Like they'd listen! As far as they're concerned, the difference is between someone who 'might' cause problems but is obedient, versus someone's who's already made a mess and doesn't listen.

>... and possibly it is also related to your origins, that supposed sickly Trace Clone. You may be your own person that inherited little to nothing obvious in the way of memories and personality from them - as far as you and we can tell - but everyone else has to some extent or another kept a bunch of baggage that they might be - heck, definitely are - transferring onto you. Ozone may be the worst case of it so far - why would some sickly Trace Clone have been such a worrysome connotation to her that it colors her perception of you so badly?

I don't know. I can't help but feel like things don't line up with that.
The... situation with my arms isn't because of whoever was my ancestor, it was a cloning complication. But I sure as hell never recalled anything about feeling sick or unable to do anything. if anything, I was more angry about being trapped in this facility as a whole.

>Lockers. A fancy sword is a personal item. Like the thing you'd give someone for distinguished military service. Therefore, it's in a personal storage container-- a locker.
>If the sword is ceremonial, it's probably part of a dress uniform: The Lockers.
Solid points.

Starting off with the lockers then.

Let's crack this baby open then, shall we?
Prying the door loose isn't too hard, given that there's been some rust over time. Sure, rust makes it harder to pry open, but it makes 'em more brittle where it counts.

There's a nice, tingly recoil in it as the first door flies open, slamming against the side of the locker.
...Well, this one's just flat out empty. Not always going to turn out winners then, huh?
Compared to the lockers we've got elsewhere, these things feel damn old. Must be why it's kept here, but it's weird, finding stuff in here. Maybe when people left, they just left their possessions in the lockers.

I'm going to have to crack a lot of these open.
No. 1023933 ID: 73aaab
File 164527482657.png - (634.91KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch61.png )

After my fifth one, I find something different, besides all the random junk and moldy clothing.
I lean in, examining the contents. While a little dusty, it already has more in it than the other lockers.

Jackpot. This must be the right locker.
There's a sword, but also a bunch of weirder stuff.

Sitting on the top shelf's a funny looking doll. It looks like a toy. When I pick it up and give it a shake, there seems to be something inside it.
Next to the doll, there's a lockbox. I jiggle it around, but it seems to be insulated on the inside somehow - whatever's inside isn't shaking around in it. But it's heavy enough to not be empty. Why would someone lock an empty box anyway?
And a set of faded photographs. Most of them are too damaged to see anything in, but... the one on the top shows Ozone. When she was younger.
She's with another woman, whose face is cut off by the stains. I can't say I would know her just from her arms alone, but... those rings feel distinct. Familiar, somehow.

The sword itself - it's fancy. But it's not like the kind of swords I'm used to. It's all thin and pointy. Some parts of it, the blade in particular, seems rather rusted. Would normal soldiers even have something as fancy as this?
...And why was Ozone looking for this specifically? Whoever this belonged to has to be the person in the photo.

Then there's that book. It's unmarked, but locked in a similar way. I could rip the lock off, but... question is how Ozone's going to react when I pry it off and I start thumbing through these pages?

Still, I pick up the sword, unsheathing it.
No. 1023934 ID: 73aaab
File 164527487423.png - (361.22KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch62.png )

Blade's clean and shiny. For something stuck in a sheath this whole time, it's been well-preserved.
...Wait. This is a weapon, right?

I just had an idea.

Here's something we could do. Instead of giving the sword back to Ozone... we smuggle it.
We can do this with anything we found in the locker.
Sure, we could just let her have everything.
Orrrrrrr we could take as much as we can and screw her out of whatever she was looking for. If we take anything else though, it may come across as a bit suspicious. I don't have that much room in my pockets and hiding things under my coat's not easy.
The sword's the only one I can actually keep on my person without it bulging out.
I break it down, store it in my Parasignia. I've got the space, and Ozone's looking elsewhere right now. Swords are simple to store usually, since they don't have many moving parts.

...No, it isn't going to be worth using. It's more decorative than a modern weapon. I'm sure the bayonets we've got are better than this.
Keeping it would mean we'd have to spend the rest of this time just... going along with Ozone checking literally everything. But it does mean I get to take a bit of revenge on her. Plus, maybe I could pawn the sword onto Astrolysis or something.

What do you guys think?
No. 1023943 ID: e51896

Lets prove her wrong on you being bad as she says you are and just give her the stuff. Be the bigger person. Doing this will show her youre not a dangerous person as she says you are.
No. 1023945 ID: a2493c

yeah, if we can just get a bayonet there's not much use in hanging on to the sword. Plus, it seems to have some sentimental value for her.

Much as we hate her, it doesn't feel right to withhold something with that kind of importance.
No. 1024000 ID: 96c896

Argine, think about this for a second. Look at the photo and think of why that would be here. This was a locker that belonged to a friend of hers.
She wants the sword for sentimental reasons. Stealing it would be what we call a dick move. You're thinking of it as petty revenge, but it's far worse than that.

If you want to fuck with her you could store the sword, then tell her you found it, but you want to know more about the owner of the locker first. Extorting her back is fair play, isn't it?
No. 1024038 ID: 9a2966

Looks like some sort of duelling rapier? Fits with the ceremonial image.

Hm. Some of this stuff looks surprisingly old. I thought this project hadn't been in the mothball phase for THAT long?

And what's the green mossy stuff? Looks like it grew out of the locker. Pop that one as well, just for good measure. Or take a sample of the greens for, I dunno, Diagram to look at. Surprising that something managed to grow here, within the base. Plants that creeper-style-y usually need proper sunlight to grow.

>What do you think
I think the whole point of finding this thing fast was to save you time spent with Ozone mucking about so you could socialize and prep for fights with people you care more for. Petty revenge seems like a poor tradeoff there if you have to keep pretending to keep up the search, especially if the weapon itself offers you no apparent utility.

To be honest, if Ozone wants to be distracted going down memory lane instead of prepping for you-fights, you can provide her with all the materials within this locker to do so here. Let her have all of it.

In general, there's also a good rule of thumb to have: don't be dingus just for the sake of it. Even to people you dislike.

That said, if you're getting a deja vu from those rings, there may be something relevant to your past Trace identity here. You could confront her about that, and ask who that person is. She'll owe you that much - and if she doesn't want to tell you, then you can certainly just grab an item, say you'll figure it out on your own then, and leave. She has her sword, after all, and it's not like this stuff is either of yours to begin with.

... why was it left behind? Did someone become unable to pick it up and bring it with them?
No. 1024053 ID: dee951

Check if the sword bends well and returns to true. Check it's center of percussion and center of balance. Check if it has an edge, or maybe just towards the end, and the shape of the tip, the blade geometry cross section. It seems quite thin, it's likely to be a stabbing/thrusting/foyning weapon... but those are often not stiff enough to defeat most forms of armor unless you grab the blade to stiffen it. Is this viable? Is it more like a rapier (one handed civilian dueling weapon, designed for defeating unarmored foes), or more like an estoc (more designed for two handed grips of various sorts, and to defeat armor and be stiffer)? Is it made of steel or some sort of exotic supermaterial (and it would have to be one heck of a supermaterial to be better than steel for a sword)?
No. 1024115 ID: 07688b

>Orrrrrrr we could take as much as we can and screw her out of whatever she was looking for.
You are your own worst enemy, Argine. Let the douchenozzle have her sentimental memorabilia and thus avoid her definitely going out of her way to sabotage you, wether she realizes you stole it or not.
No. 1024127 ID: 031458

Did you listen to Ozone at all when she answered your questions?
This whole tournament thing? They don't actually care about the outcome, but they know you do. It isn't a test of your skill, it's a test of your character. They don't trust you, so they want to see how you act under pressure. Ripping someone off because they're an asshole is petty, childish, and does you no favors.

As for the journal? If you wanna be friends with Ozone, don't read it, deliver it and ask about it. She doesn't hate you. A relationship could yet be forged.
If that sounds distasteful to you, read it. It won't count against you and you might learn something, but your personal relationship with Ozone will probably never progress past 'Cordial'.

...Or you could be sneaky and flip through it real fast. We'll process it for you and let you know if there's anything interesting. You could then give it to Ozone, and telling her you didn't read it technically wouldn't be a lie.
No. 1024719 ID: 73aaab
File 164587860698.png - (490.34KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch063.png )

>Check the sword.
I'm not sure I want to bend this thing more than I'd like. While it's looking pretty good despite being in a locker this whole time,
I give it a gentle bend, and thankfully, it doesn't snap in half.
The sword overall seems pretty light-weight, I'd say it's of Asliann make given how it has the whole sun-looking guard on it. Whoever owned it does seem to be an Asliann judging from the shade of fur on her arms.
Seems to be just a normal sword though, not made of anything exceptional. Like I said, our current-day bayonets probably do a better job of it.

>Hm. Some of this stuff looks surprisingly old. I thought this project hadn't been in the mothball phase for THAT long?
Things were already going down when I got popped out of a tube. I think I can feel a draft somewhere in the warehouse, so maybe there's a hole where the outside weather's getting in and making the place more corroded than usual. The Old Sectors are much closer to the sea than the rest of Site 70. Apparently it was like this because in the past there was a port with boats and all that. Now, we only travel using the Weave Nexus.

>What's the green mossy stuff?
Seems to just be whatever someone left in the locker growing out of it. Honestly, it makes it kinda hard to tug open. But even after getting it open, it's just vines. I guess it was feeding off of passive moisture from somewhere, since we ARE by an ocean.

>That said, if you're getting a deja vu from those rings, there may be something relevant to your past Trace identity here. You could confront her about that, and ask who that person is.
Yeah, I'll go and do that. Dunno if that de ja vu's from some kind of subconscious memory though. I'm... not sure where it's from entirely, but it's not like everyone knows why they feel weird about things all the time.

>This was a locker that belonged to a friend of hers.
Come to think of it, I don't really know much about who Ozone's friends at all.

>Stealing it would be what we call a dick move.
>You are your own worst enemy, Argine.
>Did you listen to Ozone at all when she answered your questions? It isn't a test of your skill, it's a test of your character.

Oh come on! Shut the hell up, it was you lot who were going on about how Ozone's a total ass. I was offering you the option to get some vengeance against her, together!
I'll give her the bloody sword. Serves me right for trying to offer up something for you guys to join in with.

>You could be sneaky and flip through the journal real fast.
I'd still have to pry the lock off - by that point, I may as well just take it. She'd *know* if the thing's been pried off.

>... why was it left behind? Did someone become unable to pick it up and bring it with them?
Heh. Yeah, you're right. If it's one of Ozone's pals, I *bet* it didn't work out somehow.
But the question is, how'd she even die? Definitely didn't happen in my lifetime.
No. 1024720 ID: 73aaab
File 164587864170.png - (623.92KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch063pointfive.png )

Still, I'm gonna call her over now.

"Hey Ozone! Found the sword!"
No. 1024721 ID: 73aaab
File 164587868835.png - (833.38KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch064.png )

Ozone rushes over, a strange look in her eye. I guess there was only one sword in this place?

I pass the sword, hilt and all, over to her.
She unsheathes it, looking at the blade, then at the contents of the opened drawers.

"This is it. You're free to go. Do as you want, I don't care."
I grimace. What, I help her out and this is all she has to say?

I knock a question toward her.
"Who'd the sword belong to? I helped you find it."

She growls.
"Don't you know your own history? This sword belonged to the Leeza Wickerknell, one of the five project leads of Site 70! Honestly, you really are braindead if you can't connect the dots. Did the sigil of the Asliann Empire not clue you in? Bah. You got lucky - I was worried the rest of her items had been boxed or moved elsewhere - but it's still all here..."

...Hell, that thing belonged to Leeza? She's one of two Project Leads who I barely know anything about. She's got a picture in the Hall of Heroes - she stands out, because it's one of the most recent ones. But the gist of it was that she was the strategist. The one who had the big picture in mind. Plus, something about her being royalty in hiding. I don't really understand stuff like royalty - I mean, it's not like the blood going through those people make them any different. Or any less dead, at the end of the day. But everyone I've asked about Leeza always talk about her in this strange way...
Ah wait! Those rings... the person in the damaged photograph has to be Leeza. Nobody else has those rings, it was probably one of her most distinct features! Three rings on the right hand...

Eh. Enough reminiscing. There's something much more important to ask her. While we're still sticking around.

"Before I go, I want to know if-"

A gloved hand provides me with a dismissive wave.
"Consider it done. I'll leave you alone. Now go and do the same. Are we clear?"

Well, that's that.
"Like cellophane."

Her lips curl. "Get out of here, smartass."

Ozone's boots seemed glued to that spot in front of the lockers.

...Guess she'll hold off for now. Phew. I guess we were lucky to find it early.

Where to next?
I mean, we could dig around this place if we REALLY want, or we can get onto more pressing matters. I think if I stick around, I could try to find some spare body armor. Ballistic armor's different to the kinds they used to have, and given that Astrolysis doesn't actually fight with guns, it does mean I could benefit from this.

Nickel's whole training situation, that meeting where I bring Amica to go see Diagram... there's a few options we have. There's probably more that don't immediately jump to the top of my mind, but one other one I can think of is trying to dig up more dirt on Astrolysis.
What's messed up by all of this is just how easy it is,from one place to the next. It's not like there's a whole lot of options in this facility, but this feels almost too much like just following someone else's orders.
That's how they get you. They play nice until you slowly grow compliant. At least, Sykes, you can't force me to do anything. That already puts us on better terms.
No. 1024734 ID: f9235d

Let us *very kindly* ask Ozone if we can read those journals alongside her, as you are interested in learning more of your history.

If that does not convince her, let's keep perusing this section of the facility and then go take Amica to Diagram.
No. 1024744 ID: 031458

Actually... What's our strategy for Astrolisis gonna be?
Honestly you already have everything you need to win. Easy. The question is, do you want to be ruthless, or do you want to impress her?

If it's the former, you could spend this time doing some social stuff or things with Amica. For the fight we'll set you up a load-out that minimizes Astrolysis' engagement capability. She won't enjoy it, but you'll win.

If you want to impress her though you'll need to take her head on, on her terms. You'll have to train with Nickel to gain the necessary edge to pull that off.

Personally, I think you should impress her. She already likes you, this is an opportunity to earn some real respect.
Go train with Nickel.
No. 1024747 ID: 96c896

We would've been up for some minor vengeance, I think. This is too personal though. ...maybe it would've been educational for you to steal it, to see how it affected her. Oh well, can't do it now.

Let's go train with Nickel.
No. 1025504 ID: 73aaab
File 164660856857.png - (1.03MB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch065.png )

This update was guest-written by my wonderful editor, Ace of Spades.

Who asks you to meet them for training in the same place you kicked their ass?

The answer is standing in knee-high grass. Well, neck-high for this little thing.

“Welcome to my world Argine,” Nickel limply gestures around at the plastic forest of her sector, “here, I’ll teach you about engagement, concealment, and keeping your brains inside your big skull.”

Ohhhhh you little… I’m really debating this. But if you guys think it’s worth it, I’ll play along. I scrape a low, mocking bow. “Of course, Master Nickel, what great wisdom do you have to bestow on me?”

”Fundamentals first,” she says, unclipping a large squad bag from her back, “preparation.”

“Your morning routine?”

“Yes.” Maybe she missed the joke. “You’re always ready to defend yourself Argine; if I attacked you now you’d put up a solid fight. But your parasignia has made you complacent. You’ve forgotten what it means to truly prepare for battle.”

I’m about to retort, but bite my tongue. I’m here to learn something, and maybe she’s here to teach something. I’ll give her a chance.

She continues, pulling a canteen from her bag and dumping its contents onto the dry soil, “when you fought me, you showed up in your normal outfit, completely mis-matched with the environment. If you’d bothered to wear a ghillie, or even paint your fur green, it would’ve made my job just a little harder.”

“I almost did. There just wasn’t time.”

“There was plenty of time. You’re just slow.” She stirs the muddy slurry she’s made with a foot, then scoops up a handful and rubs it into her face and arms, turning dirty brown. “Now prove that you’re ready to fix it.”

I grimace. This is going to be a pain to wash out. The mud spreads-on wet and thick; heavy, cold clods soaking into my fur. I just try to keep it out of my eyes. “Eugh, now what?”

“You have the brown,” she pulls what looks like a green fishing net from her bag, “now the green.”
No. 1025505 ID: 73aaab
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I can feel the mud soaking through my clothes.

‘Practice your concealment,’ she said, ‘improve your stealth, work the fundamentals.’

The fundamentals can go straight to hell.

First she had me crawl all around the sector, to “prove that I know how.” Apparently, I didn’t. She spent the whole time pointing out how wrong I was doing it. Then she handed me a training rifle and said we were moving on to ‘real practice.’ Now I’m still crawling, creeping up on a log, staying low through the grass like Nickel said to. Just barely peeking over the top, I survey the sector; there is nothing out there. Maybe she just left, went to get lunch with Astro. They’re probably laughing at me right now–

A bullet blows through the log inches from my head.

“I told you to keep your head down. If you pop up like that you’ll silhouette!” Nickel’s voice echoes with surprising volume across the sector. Just like her to patronize me after sending live rounds.

I scowl and spit curses into the dirt, staying close enough to the ground to taste it as I drag myself along. I can practically feel Nickel’s three little eyes scanning, looking for some disturbance in the grass as I move. Slowly, so slowly.
No. 1025508 ID: 73aaab
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She’s on one of the fake hilltops. I saw the flash, heard the direction her voice came from. Cutting a winding path through the grass, I slowly rise to a firing stance as I arrive at the base of the hill, bringing my rifle up. Slowly, slowly moving up the draw. Watching, eyes darting between the rifle sights and the grass, the trees. Every angle of attack.

I freeze.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch it glint under the fluorescent light: tripwire. Easy to see. Maybe she was in a hurry, maybe she just got sloppy. I crack a little smile as I step over it. The rest of the path is clear, all the way to the top of the hill.

And there she is, lying prone in the grass. Still searching the sector through her scope.

“Got you.”

“I suppose you do. Good work, Argine,” she stands, smiling at me. I don’t like that. That smile. “But we’re not finished. I see three areas we could focus on.”

Evasive Hand-to-Hand. Your fight with Astrolysis is coming up. Sooner or later, she will catch you at close range. I can help you avoid getting pummeled.

Cover and Concealment. You’ve proven to me that you’re not hopeless when it comes to sneaking. I could refine that skill. It would prove valuable against several sector bosses I think.

Marksmanship. You’re not a terrible shot, but right now you have to choose between speed and accuracy. I could teach you to make quick, accurate shots under pressure.
No. 1025509 ID: e51896

Evasive Hand-to-Hand
No. 1025511 ID: 96c896

Evasive Hand-to-Hand. You can train the other skills later.

While you're here, ask her about pseudosignias. You're having trouble forming one with your friends; what are you doing wrong?
No. 1025512 ID: 9a2966

Cover and concealment. Always useful.

It’s not your style, so you also gain the added benefit of people not expecting it of you.
No. 1025546 ID: 094652

Primary Cover and Concealment, Secondary Hand-To-Hand
While Hand-To-Hand is a priority with your aggressive Hit-And-Run style, I don't think Nickel is the best tutor. Her job is to stay far away from the killzone, and when she does fight back, it's with a knife rather than claws, so even her professional knowledge won't translate well.
Cover and Concealment is your highest priority. You openly waltzed out against a sniper, showing us just how little you appraise stealth tactics. You need to have a defensive strategy whenever your opponent isn't within poking distance, and if the best you can come up with is 'run around in circles', they're going to identify your strafing pattern or set up some area-denial mines.
You're a regular Doc Holiday and you have a shotgun. In close quarters suppressing fire duels, accuracy isn't nearly as important as keeping up the initiative. Let the shrapnel shock them out of shooting.
No. 1025557 ID: 1697a9

Evasive Hand-to-Hand. We can worry about Concealment in a future encounter that doesn't involve a berserker.
No. 1025720 ID: e3eaff

Cover and Concealment -- we don't have strong stealth skills, and we normally rely on shorter range weapons.
No. 1027647 ID: 73aaab
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“Hand to Hand. That would be the most useful.”
We’re all in agreeance on that.
Part of me wants to continue concealment training, but I also know that’s not my strength. Maybe if I have time later.

Nickel just nods. “Good. Now get out of that suit. You’re disgusting.”

I groan, but comply. No sooner am I out of the sweltering suit than she’s tossing a rubber knife at me. I catch it, and look around at the narrow hilltop. “You wanna fight up here?”

“You think Astrolysis is going to wait till you’re safe on a training mat?”

Fair. I drop into a low stance, bent knees and hunched forward, my strong side facing her knife-first. Some kind of expression twinges across Nickel’s face, the eyes make it hard to figure which. She drops into her own stance: legs bladed, knife-forward, her off-hand held against her gut. Weird looking.

She shuffles towards me, her rear leg never crossing the front. It’s unnerving, having five inches of knife coming at you with that sadistic little thing behind it. Even if it’s fake. When she’s close enough, I use my reach to send a roundhouse kick, catch her off guard. There’s a kind of sinking feeling as it sails right past where she should’ve been, and I feel her rubber blade slide down the back of my leg. Don’t need to guess what the purpose of that little cut was; severed tendons. My imagination gives me an idea of how that would really feel.

Nickel hops out of my range and hisses, “Agh, all wrong. Fix your stance. Bladed works for me, but you have physical strength, enough to grapple. Use it.” That was… almost a complement. “Modified square, like this,” she shifted her feet in the mud, standing with her feet shoulder-width apart, the right just slightly forward, the left behind and raised on the toes, like a runner ready to spring.

I take up the new stance. It comes quickly for me, like always.

Nickel gives me that weird smile, then returns to her own stance and starts approaching me. “Don’t shuffle. Step normally, you’re focusing on speed and maneuverability. It should be natural and thoughtless to dodge,” she sends a broad, sluggish swipe with her blade. I dodge backwards. “Good. Again.”

We get into a kind of rhythm. Slash, dodge, close. She occasionally corrects my stance, tells me to keep my guard closed. It starts to feel easy, and that’s always when she throws in a new element.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask, recovering from the last barrage of strikes.

“You’re slow, I’m making you faster.”

“No I mean, why help me?”

She slows down, pausing in a defensive stance. There’s another expression playing across her face, unreadable. “You need it.”

“That’s not an answer.”

The strange expression disappears, like a light winking out. One of her eyes twitches, and she lunges forward faster than I can register.
No. 1027648 ID: 73aaab
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My feet find no traction in the wet soil, my stomach turns as the world goes sideways, hit the ground hard. We’re rolling, I stab blindly at Nickel, grunting and thrashing, she tries to pin my blade hand but slips on my low-friction jacket. I slash somewhere around her gut area, until I feel my arm locked sideways. Then I’m on my back, and she’s sprawling beside me, struggling in the mud. She has my blade pinned against me, I’ve got a grip on her knife hand, but it’s awkward, my arms are crossed and she’s really driving it down.

“What the hell!” I grunt, the blade trembling above my neck, both of us straining.

“You really need to work on your grappling.” Her tone is flat, impassive. The rubber point of her training blade sinks slowly into my throat, crushing into my windpipe. I gasp for breath, feel the air just rasping in. My feet kick at nothing as I try to gain some purchase, shift the knife away, something. But she’s unerring, her dark eyes boring into me as she drives the knife down, down. Slipping…

And then she pulls away, looking startled. I gasp, eyes wide as I gulp air back in. She just stands over me awkwardly, holding the knife limply, mouth working silently like she’s trying to find words as I roll on the ground, clutching my throat. She swallows, staring blankly through me, “five minute break.”
No. 1027649 ID: 73aaab
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The rest of the training session is stilted. I try to stay far enough away that she can’t grapple me again, and she seems almost hesitant to attack. Even still, the training is valuable, and I feel like I’ll be more prepared for melee.

>New skills:

>Break, dirty tricks and good posture allow Argine to escape from pins and grapples with large enemies, and to make distance during a fight. Usable while holding ranged weapons.

>Blood Circle, allows Argine to keep good evasive distance during extended hand-to-hand, reducing number of hits taken and increasing survivability.

I’m beating the last of the dust out of my fur when Nickel approaches me.

“Argine, I… Apologies.” Her words are stilted and strange, like she’s still deciding whether she wants to say them at all as they leave her mouth. She never once breaks eye contact. I think. It’s hard to tell.

“For what? Shooting me through the head, or driving a knife into my throat?”

She swallows. There is no good response to that.

One apology isn’t gonna cut it. But I’m too tired to fight for this hill. “Thanks for the training.”

She might say something back, but I don’t hear it. I’m already headed for the exit.
No. 1027650 ID: e5709d

Seriously? She lost control, like you did last year. Stop yelling at her PTSD, it's dangerous.

Hm. When you said, "that's not an answer", something came loose in Nickel's mind. Do some more research on your mother. Looks like she made more of an impact on the whole facility than I thought.
No. 1027653 ID: 3f2a88

Man Argine, I thought you were getting that hothead bullshit under control, but not at all huh? As soon as someone actually beats you at something it's back to wounded pride bullshit.

You want her to teach you to fight hand to hand with verbal cues and tactics? That kind of combat isn't tactics, it's strength and speed and mostly gut. You don't get to react by thinking about it, I doubt even with us dilating time we could relay any kind of instruction to you in a useful way during a fucking knife fight.

take the lesson, that no matter how much you think you are a badass, a half pint with a knife can kill you if you get close.
No. 1027664 ID: 30b9f6

You appear to have made her genuinely lose her cool by pressing on the point of her relationship with your Trace origin - as if her helping you would have to do with anything else! At least that is what gels the best to me. Nickel seemed to be reacting to you picking up on things so swiftly, what with that strange smile. And then, well...

Consider. If an old friend - or even rival - of yours was standing there, acting like they used to, swiftly settling into old moves, sparring with you like in the past, giving you some pleasant feeling of nostalgia, and then they suddenly stop and ask 'Who are you to bother with helping me train?', how would that feel to them? Perhaps it'd spawn something like bitterness or disappointment, as these words heavily work to emphasize that whatever past connection you had it is no longer there.

Enough feels to, say, make a very lonely, very social being, very mad all of a sudden that they had indeed been forgotten.

We can only speculate. It doesn't appear like Nickel actively hates you, and I can think of little else to explain a fit of cold fury at your question. She trained you, and backed down once she realized what she was doing, after all. Perhaps she's just holding out some hope of finding a shared past, looking for something of the Trace remaining in you to see if there's any connection left with the person she knew. Or maybe she is paying forward some kind of self-imposed debt. We can only speculate.

Look, we do get you're mad she intensely surprise punked you again, but communication is always a work in progress - of two or more parties, at that - so know that if you keep pushing people away when THEY mess up in ways that could tell you something you are relinquishing free shots to figure them out. What, really, you're gonna hold a moral high ground grudge about the headshot? Remember that you took on her challenge, which was literally that of facing down a sneaky sniper. What did you expect? Shooting you in the head - fuck yeah, that was extreme, but also in the cards by the nature of the scenario and your own apparent tolerance for head wounds.

Despite that, you waved your bravado around, taunting her. As if you were somehow expecting her not to take the shot or fully dome you when she did. I found that weird at the time. What made you test a skilled sniper's aim? Why feel - what, betrayed? - when she took the shot? I find it odd. Though, in fairness, getting shot in the head is something to be emotional over.

But even in bursts of anger and prejudice, Nickel always appears to be teaching you something: caution. Could what happened to your predecessor been caused by its lack? Or is it just her oddball way of punishing you for having received the place and skills of some dear old friend?

If you ever want to figure that out, don't give up on socializing with her, or training, because of a couple of unpleasant events. For one, having been eased into skills others would take days, weeks or even months to properly internalize will come in very handy for your match against Astrolysis. While it might have felt normal to you, it feels strange how well you took to it. Either you're just that good or it may be that Nickel actually knew what to draw out of you - things your origin Trace must've trained and gotten used to, even good at. Again, we can only speculate.

But someone knows, and they're still back there.

Look, do you really have to walk out on her? Just to - what - make things less awkward? Salve some wounded pride? Be fed up with someone who's hurt you twice, though really, at your explicit asking? I get that it sucks to have to suck it up and stand there trying to find the right words, but sometimes you have to take a time out and look for ways to defuse a situation before it becomes too prickly a matter and another barrier to approach. Another moment gone in time where people could've done something to cut the tension, lay out unspoken hurts, and banish them.

It's up to you though. She might be gone in a moment - or gone already. Just sayin'. If you're too tired, that's that. But a glance over the shoulder can't hurt.
No. 1027670 ID: 798908

just say you get it, man. losing control, it happens. never know what's gonna trigger that shit.
No. 1027671 ID: c6a29f

No, wait!

Don't leave just yet.

She acknowledged she got too carried away. She has a sadistic streak, but she is trying to correct that.

It's clear she wants to relate and to make things better for you now that you won over her, but she doesn't know how.

Let us try to help her in helping us.
No. 1027677 ID: 96c896

You didn't ask about pseudosignias, Argine...
No. 1028302 ID: 73aaab
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>We should do more research on your mother.
Uh, you talking about Nanoweaver there?
...Oh. You're talking about the chick that Nickel and Astrolysis knew.
Maybe I'll beat it out of Astrolysis tomorrow. But if I was REALLY their reincarnated friend, you'd think they'd be a lot nicer to me than what they've been. You don't exactly forget about broken bones.

>You appear to have made her genuinely lose her cool by pressing on the point of her relationship with your Trace origin.
I still ain't got any idea about what that gal was actually like. How should I know what my relationship with Nickel was in my 'past life'? I don't remember anything like that!

>Stop yelling at her PTSD, it's dangerous.
Like she HAS ANY. We haven't seen any wars, and the only places I've seen that kind of thing is in our textbooks and movies. Only PTSD I could imagine having is seeing Astrolysis chug down the worst rations in the facility over and over and exposing you to that sight every time.

>What made you test a skilled sniper's aim?
What made Nickel set up an entire combat arena specifically to string me along through several scenarios where SHE had the upper hand? She only barely grazed me once before then, and I had already gone through two whole battle theatres at that point. Calling out someone for playing the stall game is perfectly fair when we're supposed to be fighting each other.

>You didn't ask about Pseudosignias, Argine!
I was going to. And then THAT happened. Screw that. I'll fight Astrolysis with my own damn skills.

>Man Argine, I thought you were getting that hothead bullshit under control, but not at all huh?
Shut up. You try getting a knife pressed to your throat to the point where you're almost passing out and

Shit like today is exactly why I don't LIKE having buzzing insects in my head getting on my case on everything!

I'm gonna go get cleaned up first, leave me the hell alone.


Getting mud in my fur's really one of the worst things ever.

Huh, you guys are back.
Look, just - I'm still kinda pissed, but I'll drop the issue if you will. Even if I dislike someone, training with them's gonna make me better, and I'm all about winning.
We can go talk to her again if you're all so bloody worried, but we'll save that for AFTER we break Astrolysis' ribs.

Anyway, I had a snack while you were gone. You ever try just... grabbin' a stalkfruit right off the hydroponics basin? Juicy as hell.
Last thing today's going to see Amica and dragging her along to go meet up with Diagram.
No. 1028303 ID: 73aaab
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Just a few weeks ago, I was perfectly content being by myself. Now I've been talked into socializing with a purple scarf-AI by the dozens of voices in my head.

The fact looms over me as I make my way to the abandoned sectors. They're extra creepy at night because that's when all the lights get turned off. I mean, my night-vision's decent but you still have to adjust.

Greeted by the familiar doorway markings tellin' me that I'm entering a defunct area, I arrive where I met up with Amica last time.
Right then, so where's the purple weirdo?

Here I am!

"Ugh, get off me."
I push Amica away before she can do more of that... mind talky thing. I was happier before *multiple people* learned how to talk directly into my head.

"So, what're you here for, Argine? My favour, or meeting Diagram?"

"You're to the point. The latter. I'm not in a good mood right now so I'm hoping that this isn't a waste of time."

Amica laughs, in that distorted, garbled way she does.
"Oh, you! Don't you know that when socializing with people, the whole point is wasting time?"

She's not exactly making a convincing argument for why I should actually take her along. I could just ditch her and go hang out with Diagram by myself next time. This time, I'm wondering what her deal is.
No. 1028304 ID: 73aaab
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"Alright, let's go then."

I make sure to keep out of arm's reach as I close the distance between the sector and Diagram's place. For now, I'm wanting to strategize and I don't need her listening in on my thoughts.

Now, normally I don't really get the opportunity to introduce ANYONE to people, let alone one of my closest friends, but, here's the thing -
Amica's a walking ball of mysteries, and she's constantly dropping hints about unpleasant things. She hasn't lied yet, but I'm inclined to not believe her. Those aren't good vibes she gives off.

As much as I hate to admit it... what she said about the traitor the other day still irks me. That Diagram or Nanoweaver could've been conspiring behind my back with Judicium.

>But Judi's been so nice to you of late!
Yeah. Don't forget, she's still against us. Something something, 'keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer?"
It's easier to betray someone if you get them to think that everything's fine and that you're just having a good time with them. Point is - I'm bringing Amica over to see if she drops any more hints about things I could benefit from.

After a brief silence, I make the first move.

"So what do you even want to... do with Diagram? We don't have much light left in the day so I want to make sure that you're not just wasting my- our time."

Amica taps her chin in thought, her finger sinking into her gooey form, a small string of ferrofluid following her finger as she lifts it off.

"I find Diagram interesting! Who doesn't? Even Judi told me plenty about her. But Diagram was someone who I haven't been able to meet. Judi always said that she'd introduce me eventually, but she never got around to it. And making friends is so much easier when there's someone you know around!"

That's so vague, it may as well be saying "Argine, I like you because you have fur."

This may be a good opportunity for us to probe into her... almost feels like a leading question on her part.
Get to know her better, and all that. She still kinda creeps me out, but I mean, Sykes, you guys are a SAI as well. We could try interrogating her on something while I drag her over to Diagram's. Long walk from the Abandoned Sector to the main barracks, after all.
No. 1028306 ID: 9a2966

>I'll drop the issue if you will
Can't speak for all Sykes, but it's a deal. Let's move on.

>Questions for Amica 1 - Poking into her past
Back during that 'controlled experiment' where she got scarf'd by Judi, how'd she even end up as a more or less rogue SAI - no offense - taking on a bunch of Parasignia'd people? We get that she was probably young as such things go and had less splinter-perspectives to draw on, but that does have 'bad idea' writ large across it. Like, what motivated that incident from her perspective?

>Questions for Amica 2 - Poking into her capabilities
Could she transfer thoughts and pictures to OTHER people's minds, or are you a special case? Could she show, say, Astrolysis an accurate reflection of what it's like to see?

Hm. Might be cruel, mind you. "Show someone what they're missing" and all that. I imagine there's limitations to it anyway, informed by what one's brain is capable of absorbing as input. Astrolysis might just lack the needed parts for direct visualization.

Not as many limitations on, ah, more adaptable mental setups like hers and yours, probably. Though, here's a thought, could she share memory recordings without the use of specialized tools?
No. 1028316 ID: 96c896

>Like she HAS ANY
You can get PTSD from any kind of trauma. It doesn't have to be a war. We know she was ostracized by her peers, and grew to hate them with a cold intensity... I suspect that you reminded her of them. She snaps in response to disrespect.

>Screw that. I'll fight Astrolysis with my own damn skills.
Oh? That's weird, I thought you worshiped a hero that used any means necessary to get things done. Swallow your pride.

>(Judicium)'s still against us
I don't think she is. She fought you, you won. That is the extent of her involvement and the fulfillment of her goal of making you stronger. Her fault is that she follows orders with... too much zeal. She was ordered to stop coddling you, and did so, but also started treating you too harshly, and didn't tell you what was going on. Now that your upbringing is "complete" she has finished her task and can treat you how she wants again.

I think everyone still in this facility has some critical flaw that prevents them from being effective soldiers, or even fitting in with society at large. Even your sister has something seriously wrong with her- she betrayed a family member. That's a black mark on her record.

Diagram's problem is obviously her uncontrolled empath power, Nanoweaver's is... whatever she's hiding under her mask.

I think she's being honest, but also she probably thinks Diagram can help her with something. Amica strikes me as someone who has lots of secrets but pretends not to, and speaks "openly" about the things she doesn't mind sharing. Lies of omission everywhere.
Ask directly. Does she have a specific topic in mind to ask Diagram about?
No. 1028480 ID: ff58ce

We could ask Amica what she's been doing these days, how she is feeling and what her long term goals are.
Also, why she chose to give herself bloody fangs, especially when she is dressed like she is looking for a date.
No. 1028938 ID: 73aaab
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>That's weird, I thought you worshiped a hero that used any means necessary to get things done. Swallow your pride.
Ffffff. Shut up. It's not... the bloody same.

>(Nickel) snaps in response to disrespect.
I feel like a lot more heads would have rolled if that were the case, but no matter how much people talk behind her back, Nickel's still doing her own thing.

>Now that your upbringing is "complete" (Judicium) has finished her task and can treat you how she wants again.
Is it really? I don't feel that different. Do I need to remind you that she was the person who got all of you shoved into my head to begin with?

>Could she transfer thoughts and pictures to OTHER people's minds, or are you a special case?
Good question.
"Amica, are you able to do that whole... mind talky thing to other people or is it just me?"

Another chuckle.
"Just you! You've got a SAI in you after all. How else are they supposed to communicate to you?"

So I guess it's operating on whatever stuff you guys have. Diagram could do the same with her psychic powers, and she arguably has more range than Amica - just less than she thought she had.

>how'd she even end up as a more or less rogue SAI?
Well, right now, I bet her walking around has to do with me turning off one of those switches in her before. But before...

"Amica, how'd you even end up in a fight against everyone else? I get that it was an experiment, but you apparently had to be restrained by Judicium."

"Aw, well who doesn't want a piece of me? No wonder why your SAI is asking about me so much."
She... makes a weird pose.

"Uh, don't do that. What I mean is, how did you manage to beat all of them in combat? And to the point where Judicium has to step in to stop you."

I figure that, since she's a computer of some kind under all that goo, Judicium's ice powers slowed her down enough to be pacified.

Amica seems to brush it off without much complaint, however.
"It's simple enough, Argine - I don't know why Sykes are asking about it. Is it that hard to believe a girl like me can fight off what the other Sector Bosses have to offer? They told me to go wild, so I did. I just wasn't expecting all of them to be ill-suited for dealing with me."

...Did she really pick up your names just from a quick touch? I don't like that.

"Circumstances were strange! After that was said and done, I can't blame them for not feeling too happy about me. So limits were put in place. I wouldn't worry about it, Argine! After all, you don't have a reason to fight me, and I've got other things to process."

I'm sure that's not implying something.
For now though, I've had enough of word games.

"You still haven't told me exactly why you wanted to see Diagram. Why do you want to? I get 'meeting new people' is a thing, but everyone in this facility's got an agenda. What's yours? And don't give me some evasive answer, or we're cutting the trip short."

Amica bites her lip, her fangs sinking into her jaws.
"Aww, forcing my hand? You're so meaaaan~"

Ugh. What even is that tone?
No. 1028939 ID: 73aaab
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"Well, what's not to like about Diagram? Only around 2% of all the clones ever produced were so fond of technology that they swapped over to the engineering or science departments! That's already something special about her."

Was that the actual statistic? I wasn't keeping track. She's not wrong though.

"She's smart, she's got interesting hobbies and dreams for the future... and her EARS are so wonderful!"


Amica stops in her tracks, the little bumps on her head waggling about like they're a pair of tiny wings.
"Well, haven't YOU ever wanted to just wrap yourself in those ears of hers? She's got four of them, she can afford to share them! I just love ears with that soft diamond shape!"

What? Huh?

"Haven't you ever wanted to wrap your face in them? I mean, have you ever asked Diagram if you could touch them before?"

Amica shakes her head.
"Honestly, you can be such a stick in the mud! Some things gotta be admired! Just imagine what they'd feel like to touch! She's not like the other clones, she hasn't gone through that much combat. Imagine how soft it would be compared to yours!"

I'm more confused than anything else.
...I can't deny that I'm kinda curious now after she's gone on about it for this long.
"In all seriousness, Argine, I'm wanting to meet Diagram so that we can discuss some important things! You know, SAI things. Much too technical for you, but I wanted you to introduce me to her!"

>(Ask her) why she chose to give herself bloody fangs, especially when she is dressed like she is looking for a date.
I think the red stuff is just whatever Amica can make if it's more crystallized.
And I'm not sure I want to know why she's dressed like that.

I change the topic.
"What kind of SAI things?"

The pair of us start walking again, Amica jabbering as she goes.
"Well, plenty of things can be talked about. She reactivated your Sykes. I'm wondering if she could take a look at my innermost workings as well."

You lot were asking about Amica's nature as a rogue SAI as well. I think this could be a good chance for us to figure out what exactly she is.
Guess we'll find out in a minute or two.
No. 1028941 ID: 73aaab
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After what feels like forever, we're finally here. The dark corridors of the facility get to you after a while.

"Oi, Diagram, open up, I've got someone I need to introduce you to."

Given that there's nobody else in the facility that Diagram hasn't met already, I wonder what's going through her head right now.

Diagram peers out from the other side.

"H-hey Argine... I wasn't expecting you at this hour."
It ain't midnight yet, so I don't see any problem. It's not that late.
Diagram looks a bit tired. Wonder if she was taking a nap or something?
No. 1028942 ID: 73aaab
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She seems to jump as she looks in my direction.
"Uhh, who's that?"

Diagram looks a little too surprised.
No. 1028943 ID: 73aaab
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I brush it off. She's usually shy around new people, right?

"Oh yeah, this is Amica. You know, the SAI I mentioned before. She used to be Judicium's scarf. Dunno how she's walking around but she wanted to talk to you about SAI things."

Diagram's not saying anything, she's just looking really weirded out.
The hell's up with that?
No. 1028947 ID: e5709d

Amica's doing a clown face. Don't look, just walk in and ignore her.
No. 1028948 ID: 96c896

>...Did she really pick up your names just from a quick touch? I don't like that.
No, she put in a spy the first time she touched you, and each time after that, it reports in on literally everything we've seen and said. It's a very good spy though and we can't detect it on our own. I know it's there, because it gave advice to you once or twice.

She's wearing your face. Tell her to knock it off.
No. 1028951 ID: 8eb91d

>Ear fan
It says something about the nature of SAIs that I genuinely can’t tell if that was partially genuine or all deflection.

>Was told to go wild, did
Accidental freeing of AI from reasonably limitations by poor phrasing during ill-avviser experiment checks out, but strange use of agency on her end.

>Sykes’ interest
Maybe this is more relevant: were any of the same splinters used between us?

>SAI stuff
Would she not be better off making up with Nanoweaver for that?

>Further questions
Why don’t you ask her something? She seems to pick up on the questions we suggest to you, So throw her a curveball.
No. 1028953 ID: 8eb91d

Ah. Tell her she needs to get better at distinguishing what is comforting and familiar and what is «creepy» or «uncanny».. Or adjust her joke-to-steps taken ratio. Down.

A friend showing up with a stranger suddenly wearing your friend’s face can be a tad offputting to both.
No. 1028963 ID: 12b116

ask if you can touch her ear
No. 1028973 ID: 96c896

Tell her that Amica wants to touch her ears.
No. 1028975 ID: 4245ce

Behind you, Argine.

I think you are legally allowed to slap Amica in the back f the head in this situation.
No. 1029572 ID: 73aaab
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>Amica's doing a clown face.
What's a clown?

"...Does she... normally look like that?"
I nod.
"Oh yeah, talk about it, it's weird, I don't know what's up with her outfit."

"Hi, Diagram! It's nice to meet you!", Amica says.
Diagram's expression only worsens.

>She's wearing your face. Tell her to knock it off.
>A friend showing up with a stranger suddenly wearing your friend’s face can be a tad offputting to both.

I turn around and-
Why is she wearing my face.
"What the hell? You can do that?!"

"Oh yes, I always could! I mean, I can be a scarf. I can be anything I want if it's not TOO big or complicated!"
She gives a big flourish, and it creeps me out. Seeing someone with your own face strut around's real messed up.

"Stop that, you're weirdin' me out."

"Hee hee. Alright, since you asked!"
Amica's face returns to her usual serpenty look, and Diagram's pupils shrink back down into a less concerned, more reasonable size.

I don't think I ever want to see myself in that outfit again.

Our girl in blue still looks a little shaken by the whole experience.
Not that I can blame her.
No. 1029573 ID: 73aaab
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The two of us head inside and I beeline straight for one of the only places where you can actually sit in her room: her bed.

Talk about first impressions then. I guess if she's a SAI who's still learning about the world, I'm not sure she really gets that wearing someone else's face isn't going to make them like you that much more.

Amica - and also to my surprise, Diagram, all join in, sitting beside me.
My shoes are still a little muddy, so I take them off and scoot further back to make space.
It occurs to me that I don't think I ever really invited anyone to my room. Didn't want them messing with my stuff, that much is for certain.

"So, umm... what did you need from me, Amica?"
Let's hope she doesn't go and grab Diagram's ears already.

"I thought you would have been more fascinated with my constitution, considering how interesting I am."
Amica's form ripples, like if you poked the surface of a cup of water.
Diagram's big eyes shine behind those glasses of hers, but she doesn't look that excited.

"Ahh, sorry... it's just, I feel like you're reminding of someone, but I can't remember who. And it's unsettling me a little."

I give Diagram a look and she immediately backpedals.
"But, but! Don't get me wrong, I'm fascinated by what you are! This kind of thing, well... it's supposed to be impossible, isn't it?"

I don't think she was talking about me when she said Amica reminded her of someone, though.
I speak up.
"What's supposed to be impossible?"

Diagram looks up, running some kind of invisible calculation with her fingers.
"The whole... having a physical form situation. Amica looks like she's made out of a viscous ferrofluid which she can also crystallize into her..."
Diagram's eyes drift downward briefly before shooting back up.
"Her uh, outfit."

"Dunno what a ferrofluid is, but what's the problem there?"

"SAIs are typically housed in a central blackbox. The idea of one being able to walk around, shapeshift and communicate with others physically is practically out of science fiction!"

"I don't know if you've been paying attention or not but a few days ago you told me that magic is real, Diagram."

"I know, I know, it's just - relative to what we have access to, Amica is particularly notable. I don't think our technology would allow for such free-form shapeshifting or general cohesion!"

"Parasignias are convenient like that, huh?"
Amica speaking up all of a sudden was a little surprising. I'm not sure that grin on her face is all that pleasant.

"Parasignias? You're telling me you're sustained through a Parasignia?"

Amica nods.
"Something like that, yes."

Diagram's face lights up.
"Oh, that's so exciting! While I'll admit that our Site's understanding of the scientific implications of paraphysics systems are a bit insufficient compared to the Weave's standard, I never anticipated that such a thing could integrate with existing pre-Paracosmic technologies!"

She sure is getting excited again.
Amica, anticipating a barrage of questions, starts off with one of her own.
"How about we take turns asking? That way, we can all be fulfilled."

Odd choice of words, but, yeah, sure.
"Sounds good to me. I'm sure we all have one thing or another to ask each other."
No. 1029576 ID: 73aaab
File 165023980518.png - (845.21KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch080.png )

I shuffle forward.
"I'll go first. Hope you don't mind me getting a couple of questions in."
I'm the one kicking the most ass, so it's only right.

>Ask if you can touch (Amica's) ears.
No. I don't even know if they're ears!

>Were any of the same splinters used between us?
"Amica, did you come from any of the splinters that're in Sykes right now?"

Amica shakes her head.
"Nope! I'm my own thing!"

"Where'd you come from then? I mean, did the Site have two SAIs just hidden away or something?"

I cast a glance towards Diagram.
"From the documentation I've seen... there was only supposed to be one," she replies.

"Well, I was sort of a back-up experiment! Got some splinters donated to me, and here I am! I'm still learning plenty about this world, and I hope you can teach me plenty about it!"
I don't know which of us she was talking to there.

"Well, whose Parasignia ended up making you? I don't think anyone I know has a power that works anything like this."

Amica gives me a sly wink.
"Ah, well that's a secret! Hee hee."

A change of subject's all I get when I open my mouth to complain.
"Regardless of where I came from, this actually leads into why I wanted to see you, Diagram!"

She turns around, brushing her hair aside - and I get to witness the weirdness that follows Amica around. The back of her coat just flops down, sinking into the darkest goo of her body.

...Huh. So that's where the switches from before ended up. One of them's flipped down, the same one that I flicked down.
"Diagram, could you do me a favour and flick down the second switch from the left?"

Diagram looks a little hesitant.
"What... exactly are those, Amica?"

"Argine helped me out a while back by undoing the first lock! It's part of why I can walk around like this. I'm looking for my own freedom, just like Argine."

I got that impression, but...
"How come you didn't just ask me to flick all the switches before, Amica?"

"It's one-per-person. I didn't make the rules!"
What rules?

While I've got my own thoughts on what Amica is... it's up to Diagram to make that choice, not me.

I can practically see condensation on her horns as she mulls it over.
"I... I'm not sure yet. I don't know you well enough yet, Amica. I can't do this."

"Fair enough!"
Amica flips her hair back over her collar like she hadn't just gotten turned down. I'm not sure I could do the same if someone did something similar to me.
No. 1029577 ID: 73aaab
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"It's my turn!"

Amica puts an arm around Diagram leaning in close.
The look on her face is a bit funny. I'm not sure I'd want to be in Diagram's position.

"Say, Diagram..."

"How come you're still here? You're not like us - you can leave whenever you want."

I remember discussing it with her on the day that you got shoved into my bloodstream. She was kinda vague about it back then as well.

"E-eh? I, umm, ah, I'm not quite sure how to answer that, Amica, what do you mean?"

Oh come on, Diagram, it's a simple question!
Amica gives her a look. I feel like Diagram's quite receptive to those - maybe in part due to her psychic powers making it easier for her to understand what people are trying to say.

"Ah, well... there's someone I care about a lot, so... A-and friends! Friends too. Argine's one of them and I-I want to help her through this!"

Amica's smile is going to split her face in half eventually.

"Oh? A lot? How much is a lot?"
I can't say I care much about this topic. Those two can gossip amongst themselves, I'm going to think about different stuff. There was always gossip around, even when I was a cadet. You learn early on not to give a single damn about it, because most of the time, it's going to be pointless. Constant, changing relationship dynamics that everyone else tries to drag you into.

"W-well... I can't say I feel that way about other people I know. I don't really quite understand it myself."

What happened earlier today still irritates me. It's just - I KNOW that Nickel can help me. Shooting me in the head's one thing, but almost making me unconscious during a training exercise is another! If that happened, I would have lost even more time in the day, which would've screwed my chances over more!

"Maybe you should talk to someone about that, Diagram. You know, if you ever needed someone to share a secret with..."

Ugh. I can feel time warping around me as the conversation continues. Talking to Diagram's a mixed bag. She's fun to tease, but she's always talking about things I don't really care for or understand. We've been friends for a long time - yet we don't really have that much in common. I remember the days when we'd talk about weapons engineering and ballistics. Those times felt like ages ago.


That's the thing about friends. If you talk about a topic long enough, you just... run out. Maybe it's because we're all stuck in this facility together. Nothing new's coming in, so it's just the same old topics, over and over. They taught me what prisons were like - and this Site's one of them.


I snap out of my daydreaming, blinking.
Both Amica and Diagram are looking at me like they're interrogating me.

"Argine? Were you paying attention?"
Not really. But they don't have to know that.
"Uh, yeah."

"So? What do you think?"

...I have no idea what either of them are talking about.
Now the both of them are looking toward me like they're expecting something!
No. 1029578 ID: e51896

Just tell them you were thinking about the good ol' days you had with Diagram. That's what you think.
No. 1029584 ID: 96c896

Ask them to repeat the question.
...why couldn't we hear what they were saying? Odd, shouldn't we be able to just use your ears?
No. 1029735 ID: 15d5de

Admit you didn't listen. It'll be better than answering yes or no to something you have no idea about.
They probably talked about spending time with you or each other.

Also, do ask mommy Diagram why we can see and hear things around you, like we just did with Amica making a face. And the recordings! Why are we transmiting narrated recordings into your brain?

....Oh and, do ask if you can get skin grafts to fix your arms. You seem to hold that in high regard.
No. 1029736 ID: e5709d

Tell Amica to "enhance knockers" and stare at her. If you don't feel anything, you should probably let her be friends with Diagram. If not, keep her far away from Diagram before she poisons your relationship. Or get in on the action.
No. 1030216 ID: 73aaab
File 165084572758.png - (667.26KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndchgirlsdiscussin.png )

>Why couldn't we hear what they were saying? Shouldn't we be able to just use your ears?
I don't think you guys CAN hijack my biological functions. If you could, I would've bled myself dry to get rid of you ages ago. So if I'm not paying attention, then you won't be able to either. I wouldn't be surprised if you COULD catch stuff that I can't see though, like what happened a bit earlier with... Amica doing the thing.

"To be honest, I got lost in that conversation and zoned out. I was..."
>Just tell them you were thinking about the good ol' days you had with Diagram.

"I was thinking of the past. How much time I've spent with Diagram too. Could you ask the question again?"

Uh, hopefully that was good enough. And it's true, too!
Is there nothing but weird looks on people's faces nowadays? I think I'm starting to prefer it when people get angry at me. Saves me from having to read into what they're not actually saying.

"Oh, don't worry Argine. I think you answered our question for us, hee hee!"
Amica laughs, wrapping her arm around Diagram again. Since when were they such good friends?

>Ask about skin grafts.
A Syke brought this up yesterday with Nanoweaver, but...
I don't really want to do that. It's like if you were born without legs. You can get a hell of a good prosthetic, but that just isn't the same as having one yourself. No matter how much you hide things from people, they know. I'd rather be true to myself and keep it out of sight when I can. Putting someone else's pelt over mine, the most important person it won't convince would be me.

>Tell Amica to "enhance knockers" and stare at her.
Knockers? Like punching weapons? I ain't giving her my gauntlets.

>Ask Diagram about the recordings in your brain.
Are we sure we want to be doing that when Amica's listening in?
...Argh, but we need that info! Fine, I'll do it.
We've already asked Diagram on it before - but the past two times were flashbacks from my own memories.
Dunno if your little processors can handle it, but - while I do believe you on the fact that apparently you're seeing something I'm not, it's going to be hard to explain.

"I think we've basically all had a turn, but I've got a pressing question I want answered before we head out."

Amica's got a stupid grin on her face but I do my best to try and ignore her.
"Diagram, there's been something strange lately. The SAI saw what was basically a flashback, or a small sequence of events that I was never around for. Plus - after my fight with Nickel, I had another flashback, like with Judicium. This time though, I wasn't involved. It was just from her perspective, and it was pretty far back in the past from what I could tell."

The atmosphere in the room changes gradually as I continue, as... the uncomfortable implications start to dawn on them.

"What's more is... I didn't really notice it the first time, but, these flashbacks seem to be narrated. Like someone's explaining to me what's going on. The first time, it was just people talking. But with Nickel - nobody said anything, but someone was talking to me."
The question is... who? My memories of what it sounds like are hazy, but it couldn't have been someone I knew.

"Diagram, do you have any idea what the hell's going on?"

She looks just as put-off as I am.
"I... I don't know, Argine. The SAI, it doesn't have narration. SAI Splinters are like recordings, so by all means, there shouldn't be someone talking to you during that. What did the SAI hear with their recording?"

"Something or other about a guy called Armintell. Asliann Soldier. Was around for when Mnemosyne was born."

Her ears flop around as she shakes her head.
"I'm sorry... I don't know anyone like that, since I didn't interact much with the regular soldiers."
Fair enough then.

I cast a glance to Amica, but I think she's playing innocent.
"I'm my own SAI - I can't say I know what's happening either, gal-pals!"

...Since when were we 'gal-pals'?

Diagram returns to her musings, but I don't think we're going to be able to work anything out tonight.
"This... is distressing. I'm going to have to do some looking around to find out more. Maybe I'll ask Nanoweaver about it."

Me, I'm admittedly curious about this situation, but it's also not my end goal. If she finds something out, then that's good - but I still have to be defeating the other Sector Bosses.
"No use dwelling on it. Let's uh, enjoy ourselves?"

The proposal goes over well with the other two.
And thus, commences... 'social interaction'.
No. 1030217 ID: 73aaab
File 165084580072.png - (726.02KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndchAmicaLeaving.png )

I don't even know what small talk is like, or how you're supposed to do it well.

I toss in a brief question about the Amp Rings - Diagram says she's still working on it, usual kind of stuff. Hopefully it'll be ready soon, but there's a lot of other things that have to be sorted.

Do people just talk about... uh, some of the recent films they've watched?
Not like there's that much free time I get. In different times, I used to focus on what was in front of me first.

We talk about what we can, each of us considering different topics.
Amica's asking about little things, clarifications on the meanings of some interactions - and asks about our favourite things.
Diagram's more concerned with recounting some stories that she's heard about the outside world, which grips both me and Amica in different ways.

As for me... well, I wasn't really much of a conversationalist. But I go into detail about my fights.
I hide any concerns I may have about my conflict with Astrolysis tomorrow.
Soon, the conversation peters out. Can't stay here forever, I've got to get rest in before tomorrow.

"Well, it's been fun, Diagram - but I'm going to head out. Seeya."
I hop off the bed, putting my shoes back on, while I hear Amica behind me yammer on.

"It's no fun without you around, Argine! I'll call it quits here as well."

Nobody asked you. Guess she's going to tag along.

"But first I've got something to discuss with Diagram, privately."
...God, is she going to go for the ears?

"Hold on. I'm not leaving you here with Diagram alone."
...The idea of potentially letting Diagram('s ears) get molested by this purple freak doesn't sit well with me.

"I'll be outside, Diagram. If she does something weird, make a lot of noise and I'll come running."

Dunno how you'd strangle someone who has a crystal collar around their necks but I'm sure I'd manage.
Diagram looks surprisingly unconcerned for someone who didn't know about the existence of a sentient, gooey AI until a few minutes ago.
"I uh, I'll keep that in mind, Argine, thank you!"

I leave Diagram's room and the door closes behind me. Guess Amica was serious about it being a private conversation.

So now I wait. The two of them talk about something that I can't hear properly behind the door.

Soon enough, Amica walts outside with a beaming smile on her face.
"Had enough fun?", I ask.

"More than you can believe", she replies.
Let's get out of here. I want to go to bed already.
No. 1030218 ID: 73aaab
File 165084583395.png - (709.90KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndchfinaleAmicaHand.png )

Our footsteps echo through the halls. It's dark.

Amica tries to fill the void.
"By the way, Argine! Thanks for walking me back to the Old Sectors, I appreciate it."

I've had enough smalltalk for now.
"I didn't exactly ask you to."
We continue in silence for a bit, but a question comes to mind.

"Just what were the two of you talking about anyway?"

"Oh, I made some persuasive arguments. Diagram helped me out! Now I've gotten my second switch undone."

...Huh. Unless Amica pulled some mind-manipulating SAI magic, that surprises me a little. Maybe Amica tugged on Diagram's sentimental side.
Well, I don't particularly care what's going on with the switches.

"Say, Argine, I appreciate you listening, and setting up this meeting for me!"

I grunt. Really not in the mood for conversation any more.
Amica stops and I sigh. Does she have to do this at this hour?
"Well, here's a gift from me! Consider it a present for introducing me to Diagram. I wouldn't have been able to give it to you now if it weren't for her!"

She holds out her arm, a balled fist at the end. A pink glow emanates from her palm.
"Huh. Thanks, I guess. Just, what is it? Can't see it through your fingers."

Then, she opens it up, her palm stretched out towards me.

It's a box. Feels like a lot of people are giving me presents nowadays, but I can't complain.
The faint, pink glow illuminates the dark corners of the facility.

"Go on. Take it!"

I reach out to take it, but -
I... I feel like there's a lot of bad vibes all of a sudden. But I can't turn her down, can I?
No. 1030220 ID: 73aaab
File 165084585590.png - (244.42KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndchfinaleAmicaHandBox.png )

I reach towards it - and the world around me falls away.

I can hear my breathing, louder than ever.

>...oul ...foun...

I can't stop reaching out for it.
I can't control my movements.
My hand wraps around the cube, and, shakily, I bring it to my face.

>...nnection through....

My vision blurs, and-
No. 1030221 ID: 73aaab
File 165084587789.png - (668.55KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndchfinaleholding.png )

The box disintegrates, and I'm left holding a viscous, dark fluid.

Even as I cup the dark fluid in my hands, there's... a crackle in the back of my mind. Like I'm not supposed to be touching this stuff.
There's a jolt - and the thing begins to glow, before it leaps from my hands.
"What... what the hell is this?"

The dark, flowing... thing in my hands squirms about in the air like something that's clinging to life. Every so often, it seems to seize up, falling like rain into my hands - before re-congealing into its flowing mass.
>An object, familiar and unfamiliar. Lost kin. It yearns for the warmth of others. It is starving - but it is dead.

"That there... is a prototype SAI host. Unlike you or the Sykes... it doesn't have much in the way of brainpower. I wouldn't say it's even able to think - SAI Splinters are simply recordings after all. Perhaps you could think of this one as a dead child. It never had the chance to grow up like I could."

The... squirming thing between my hands, it's meant to be a child? What kind of messed up shit is this?
"Why do you have this? Diagram said there was only supposed to be one SAI in the facility!"

>A wave of nausea builds up in the rebel soldier, her eyes captured by the flowing movements of the fluid. Poison, anathema - it is all of these things. What is it?
>It is knowledge.

"Used to be in a box, you know. But I felt sorry for it. It never really got a chance before it self-terminated. So she tells me, anyway. Me? I'm its sibling. One who actually got seen to term."

I... I feel sick. My head hurts holding this, but-
I feel like dropping it's only going to make everything worse.

"Why was this created? This... this can't be anything good, can it?"

Amica looks me in the eye, her cheery countenance gone.

"That's a question you should save for our mother."

Our mother?

"What the hell are you saying?"
There's no cheerful teasing from her. Only a piercing gaze like a bullet through the chest.
"You know what I mean, Argine. The person who created both of us. Do you need me to spell it out?"

...I don't believe this. What reason would Nanoweaver make this? Make Amica too? I thought I was her final project? We... considered it before. But I never believed it.

>Only one fact is necessary to change a perspective. Only one bullet is necessary to end a life. But that is no longer the case.
No. 1030222 ID: 73aaab
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"Keep it with you, Argine. There are secrets it can tell you that nobody else will."

>Knowledge comes with a price. Seeds of instability have already long since been sown. The rebel soldier screams out against things she cannot hear, cannot understand.

Amica turns away from me, heading towards the pitch-black rooms of the Old Sectors.

"Amica! Don't just walk away from me!"

>A fractured consciousness. The only ones who can truly hear. The soldier's pleas fall on deaf ears.

There's a glint of red.
"You should go to bed, Argine. You've got more pressing things to worry about."

It's - it's like she melts into the darkness itself as she walks away.
The haze in my head clears up as she saunters off into the darkness, leaving me alone and unsettled.

Moments later - the box reforms. It's no longer glowing, but -
Whatever's inside there...

>Knowledge, forbidden. Secrets, unearthed. Something that most people should not ever experience.

>Wordlessly, the rebel soldier heads home - unease clouding her heart.
No. 1030223 ID: 73aaab
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Discussion Thread: https://questden.org/kusaba/questdis/res/133296.html
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No. 1030259 ID: e5709d

... Runes of Grace acquired.
No. 1030261 ID: 9a2966

Disturbing and interesting. Count on Amica to ruin a good night's sleep. But then, her deal seems to go deeper than this sector boss tourney.
No. 1030562 ID: 1c6255

>"Why was this created? This... this can't be anything good, can it?"
No one creates a dead SAI on purpose, Argine.
Someone tried to make an SAI just like Amica... and failed.
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