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1007458 No. 1007458 ID: 5bf1bd

Chapter 1:>>/questarch/985116

Hey... you think she'll understand?

She doesn't need to.
286 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
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
File 164864727484.png - (1.31MB , 1000x1000 , nickelinterludecofused.png )

“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
File 164864731390.png - (1.65MB , 1000x1000 , nickelstabby.png )

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
File 164864736655.png - (291.15KB , 500x500 , nickelleaving.png )

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
File 164915861974.png - (850.37KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch071.png )

>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
File 164915867067.png - (572.50KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch072.png )

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
File 164915870386.png - (339.30KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch073.png )

"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
File 164972100893.png - (403.69KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch074.png )

>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
File 164972105150.png - (1.02MB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch075.png )

"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
File 164972110711.png - (514.66KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch076.png )

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
File 164972114431.png - (514.01KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch076point5.png )

She seems to jump as she looks in my direction.
"Uhh, who's that?"

Diagram looks a little too surprised.
No. 1028943 ID: 73aaab
File 164972117259.png - (523.90KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch077.png )

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
File 165023958113.png - (481.01KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch078.png )

>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
File 165023960212.png - (875.29KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch079.png )

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
File 165023982953.png - (833.13KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch081.png )

"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
File 165084592151.png - (680.70KB , 1000x1000 , 2NDCHPRECONCLUSION.png )

"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
File 165084595432.png - (734.48KB , 1000x1000 , 2NDCHCONCLUSION.png )


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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