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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.
Expand all images
No. 1007459 ID: 5bf1bd
File 162847153025.png - (377.88KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch01.png )


Things are different ever since the SAI got stuck in me. Now I'm getting all... introspective. That's unlike me.

Standing around, pointing my guns like this... it makes me feel a bit more confident. Better than just sitting here doing nothing outside the arena.
For those days I didn't have my two gals with me, or held inside of my Signia, it just felt wrong, like I'm a soldier on a battlefield completely unprepared.
Now that they're back, I don't intend for anyone to ever take them away from me again.

Nanoweaver's going to be watching over us again, from whatever distant little camera she uses to watch over these matches. I wonder if she worries about me. What'll she do when I'm gone, anyway? She probably knows better than to try and coddle me, or, even worse, try to play mother. Not that I don't appreciate her as a guardian, but I'm so damn tired of others piloting me around, telling me what to do. I agree to it of course - just like I agreed to the SAI's orders when it first popped into my head... but that's just to minimize conflict. If I had the chance, I'd do everything on my own.

But for now, I do need help from others. Even my heroes - they still needed some assistance to get started.
I'm going to shed this weight someday - and enjoy the world outside however I can.

No. 1007460 ID: 5bf1bd
File 162847154763.png - (262.76KB , 1500x1000 , 2ndch02.png )

Yo. Glad to see that you haven't just settled into my bloodstream like lead does.

Nearly time for my first match against one of the other sector bosses - the first of the main four.
As weird as it sounds... the fact that I can actually lose this fight ain't making me feel much better, because the idea of me having to fight my sister AND the facility's best sharpshooter at the same time sounds like hell to get through.

Nickel, the Sector Boss of the Covert Ops Division. A bit of a recent promotion, much like Astrolysis. Unlike Astrolysis though, it's not so much honourary - Nickel is definitely one of the best stealth operatives this facility's trained, but she definitely seems to play around in her fights. Part of why she befriended Astrolysis was because of their mutual fondness for pointy objects and general willingness to get themselves hospitalized on a semi-regular basis.

I'm... ambivalent towards Nickel. Like Mnemosyne, she definitely is 'respectable'. Still... she's definitely someone who doesn't get involved in other people's problems. She keeps to herself, even if she's watching a close pal of hers break someone's arm, or actively lie. So that just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Dunno if you feel the same, but aren't people complicit in a crime if they just stand around doing nothing? That's the kind of shit I'd probably stop when I'm a full-fledged hero sort. Don't give as much of a damn about the person being victimized as making sure the attackers are getting their shit pushed in.

As a reminder - Nickel's Parasignia is a knife. Honestly, the document we got from Nanoweaver... it went into how it works, but I'm sure there's more to her Parasignia than it being a literal single knife that works better than average, and can be recalled at any given moment. Sure, it's something I have to watch out for lest she threaten to poke my eyes out, but I'd assume she would have wanted to try and... make her Parasignia something more suited for her long-ranged fighting style? Not sure if that's something you can do with a lot of intention, but it's like how my Parasignia works well with my general approach to things.
I think Nanoweaver said it once, but, let's say you had a gal who could run really fast - it's something innate to her. She wouldn't want a Parasignia that manifests as a gun or any other projectile weapon because it wouldn't gel as well with her main strengths which are momentum and evasion, as if you really needed a gun, you could just get one. There's no damn need to make a Parasignia that just does the job that a tool already does unless it does something that usual tools can't accomplish.

Back to business, though. Like before, I'm gonna want to ask you for suggestions on my loadout for the upcoming fight.

The Covert Ops Division is probably the least predictable sector. Like the Training area, it's pretty modular - things can be set up in here in a few different ways. What is consistent though, is that we'll be going through three areas - the Urban environment, the natural environment, then finally the power grid. Nickel's a total sucker for one-on-one duels. She'll definitely be falling back to the power grid if I keep pushing forwards. The hard part's getting through all of the traps that she's set up. Unlike me, she's definitely had a lot of time to get this ready, and it's not like she needed to worry about people wandering in when the sector's primarily for training anyway.
I have to deal with the unpredictable environments while avoiding any traps she would've set up, and fending off her high-powered shots all the while.

The urban area's got plenty of walls - it's meant to train us for fighting in buildings and tight spaces. To normal soldiers, a bunch of rooms in close proximity's pretty hellish - you'd never know what's around the corner. But we're not exactly normal, are we? Nickel's going to be setting up traps and killboxes in this area, primarily in corners and the ends of hallways. She's far more evasive than I am, but I'll say that chasing after her in a rush is going to get me exploded, especially since she can dodge things like her own tripwires much more easily than I can. This is one of the few times her size is an advantage, and she's damn well going to use that against me as much as she can. It's when we pin her down in the third area when I can really deliver the beat-down.

The natural-looking area is a bit weirder. The facility couldn't exactly recreate an entire natural environment since the trees would get shot up pretty bad if that were the case, so we've got 'simulated' trees instead. Still, the room is pretty atmospheric, it can even dim its lights to simulate a forested area at night. Somehow, I imagine that's how Nickel's going to be fighting me. Wouldn't put it past her. Here, she's going to be abusing her small profile for stealth purposes - probably complete with a ghillie and everything. Here, this one's more going to me trying to avoid shots from unexpected locations. She's going to be hiding amongst the thick vegetation of bushes, and there's not going to be much cover for either of us. I'm going to have to use stealth tactics against her and minimize any time I spend out in the open if I still want my skull intact.

Finally, the Power Grid. This place isn't even really meant for fighting - it's basically just a big room where a good amount of the facility's power generators are stored. There's actually technically multiple rooms like it, but this is just one of the lot. Can't have our little fight blowing out all of the facility's power sources anyway. Still, it basically boils down to a bunch of boxes in the room, filled with high electrical currents. But most importantly, little place for Nickel to hide. Prime opportunity to get her into punting radius.

Now that I've got five gadgets however, keep in mind I can still only equip four active gadgets at a time - the last one's gonna have to be slotted in one of the passive slots if we want to make use of all of them.

Current Benefits -
First failed trap evasion is negated.
First bullet wound is negated.

Don't expect my armour improvements to last forever, though. You see how shit went down last time? That armour's gonna be splinters by the end of this, unless I somehow never take a hit at all.

My current equipment:
Twin Revolvers - The Sound and The Fury.
Shotgun - The Creirwy D-3

Barrier Generator - Projected Forcefield
Beam Unit - Long-ranged Beam Attack
Explosive Discs (3) - Throwable plastic explosives.
Pitch Prefect - Wrist-mounted tar launcher.
Blink Capacitor - Short-ranged teleportation and intangibility.

That's all. Don't forget to let me know about any game plans you've got in mind - but we're going to have to adapt to how things are set up in there. Gadget combinations are well-appreciated.
Oh, and if you want, we can pick between the two entrances into the area - north or west. Depending on how Nickel has things set up, it may make a slight difference, but I'm going to have to fight through everything anyway.
No. 1007463 ID: 094652

>Dunno if you feel the same, but aren't people complicit in a crime if they just stand around doing nothing?
It's based on predictive context. If you believe you can call the authorities without getting punished, but take a sadistic selfie instead, that's accessory to assault. If you honestly, truly believe that doing anything other than standing around has a nonzero probability that the overleveled attacker will turn around and shoot you in the face, that's self-defense.
What you believe the consequences are makes all the difference.

Blink Capacitor [Beam Unit]
Barrier Generator
Pitch Prefect [Explosive Disks]
No. 1007466 ID: 2d57a3

Oh, not doing anything when we could try and make the effort is part of what's wrong in life, yes, but not solving any problems is not nearly as bad as causing them.

>Don't give as much of a damn about the person being victimized as making sure the attackers are getting their shit pushed in.
See, if you care less about promoting virtue and more about punishing wickedness you will end up hurting a ton of people and saving little.

Have you considered studying medicine or ethics? The world is in need of doctors and teachers than people who punch other people in the face for being bad.

How about combining Pitch Perfect into the Explosive Discs to create discs that explode and cover the affected area in tar?
No. 1007468 ID: 96c896

Did you see what we saw last night? About Armintell and Mnemosyne? Nanoweaver was watching his memories.

You're talking about traps... was Nickel allowed to set traps before the fight starts? That doesn't sound fair.
No. 1007477 ID: 2d57a3

Oh, yeah! Nanoweaver was watching some footage of an aslian guy dating a three-year-old.
What a total creep, am I right?
No. 1007972 ID: 894419

>Yo. Glad to see that you haven't just settled into my bloodstream like lead does.

Aww! You do love us!
No. 1008655 ID: cdabe3

Take all the gadgets except the beam laser; we’ll try to set up traps and improvise weaponry to out-stealth the stealth lady, just like naked snake

I’m also wondering how the knife’s recall ability works. Maybe it teleport back to you or flies back somehow if you leave it somewhere. That could also be useful for traps.
No. 1009058 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163029308408.png - (452.77KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch03.png )

>Have you considered medicine or ethics?
I have no idea if any kind of knowledge I've learned about first aid in this place is gonna apply when I go out in the bigger world, let alonemedicine. Hah, maybe if I go to a world full of robots or somethin', then I could do some nice work there screwing on limbs or whatnot.
...Nah, those things are too intricate for my taste. A good gun doesn't have too many components to it, good weaponry are maintainable like that.

As for ethics, there's nothing that bores me more than standing around in a room waiting for things to happen, instead of going out there and making it happen yourself. I'm a practical learner! If I wanted to learn about ethics, I'd learn it from the people out there. Who knows what kinda weird stuff goes on in the bigger world? Maybe punching faces is just how some people negotiate.

>Some Asliann guy
Never heard of him. I mean, I guess there were a few weirdoes loving it up, but I never had an interest in getting into a relationship when there's much more important things to worry about. The people obsessed with relationships were the under-performing ones for the most part.
How's any of this relevant to me dealing with Nickel? I've got more pressing issues right now.

What? No, I didn't see anything at all. The hell are you guys talking about all of a sudden? I haven't heard from you lot since last night!
This whole... watching his memories thing. Doesn't that sound like what happened to me, with me watching that playback of my past, but from a different perspective? Remind me to follow up on that after this fight's over.

>How come Nickel gets to set traps before the fight even gets to start?
I suppose it's a bit of a loophole, isn't it? I mean, if this was a normal tournament, I'd be fighting her in the same place I fought Judicium. But I guess they didn't want to make things fair for me to begin with - after all, if the arena's simply their sector, and there just happens to be few plastic explosives lined up along the walls, then that's technically legal, isn't it?
Honour's a funny thing sometimes, isn't it? I could complain about it, but who's going to listen to me anyway? I take any chance I get, and I'm going to beat her using all of what I've got at my disposal - including you lot.

>Loadout suggestions
Alright... let's see here.

I take the Barrier Generator as-is. It'll probably be good for blocking a short or two, but there's definitely the risk that Nickel can keep hammering away at the big glowey target and overwhelm its battery in moments.
I also grant the Explosive Discs the Pitch Prefect's properties, and the Blink Capacitor the energizing effect from the Beam Unit.
What this means is - while I won't be able to use the Explosive Discs as traps immediately, with Nickel being far out of my usual range, during the last stage, they'll be indispensible for helping me pin her down or injure her.
The Blink Capacitor having the Beam Unit slotted into it... I don't have much experience with the Capacitor as a gadget, but I have been testing it out a bit. So if everything lines up,
I believe that it'll effectively lower the cooldown on the Blink Capacitor, as I'm basically combining the Beam Unit's high-grade battery with the capacitor's own compact package.
Either way, I feel like I'm all set.

I go in through the north entrance to the sector.
It's pretty dark, though I can see the looming shadows of the labyrinth-like walls up ahead.
Those things are modular - you can pull 'em out, stack 'em up and put the whole lot back in a different setup. Plenty of bullet-holes have been made in these over the years, but there's no intention of letting anything going to waste.
No. 1009059 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163029310710.gif - (572.00KB , 1500x2000 , NickelBossIntro.gif )

In the darkness though, I spot someone - Nickel.
She's just... squatting there, with her rifle? I wasn't expecting her to give me the whole greeting, honestly.

"Hello, Argine."

Shit, wasn't expecting a greeting like this of all things.

"We really doing this, then?"

"My name is Nickel, assigned Sector Boss of the Covert Ops Division. In the shadow of Marco Azni Saildrift, I intend on seeing this mission through to the end."
Feh, she really subscribes to the same ideal as my sister?
I meet her in turn.
"My name is Argine. Like Urza who destroyed all foolish enough to challenge her, I will fight for victory, mine alone."
Memorized down to the letter.
No. 1009060 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163029313702.png - (24.94KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom1.png )


Assessment Phase initialized. Displaying environmental data.

Relevant data to current opponent rendering...

Parasignia Classification: Weapon Creation (Short Blade). (DATA PENDING)
Preferred Weapon archetype: Bladed (Knives), Sniper Rifle

Potential Weaknesses (Subject to change):
- Fragile body-type - low damage threshold.
- Short reach and low physical strength relative to host.
- Firearm must be prepared for optimal usage. Accuracy significantly diminishes at close range, or when under pressure.

Alright, so - she's sitting out in the open, just waiting for me. Her gun's at the ready, but at this range, it's unlikely to hit me at all.
Knowing Nickel, this is most definitely a trap of some kind - she must have several dozen escape routes - and chasing her's going to be deadly for me.
Going in for a grapple wouldn't go nearly as well as I hope it would.

With how these kind of halls are set up, there could be a dozen different traps hidden around the corner - it's just a matter of figuring out what she could have in store for me.

As we're navigating through the traps - run possibilities through me. If you can accurately predict which direction the attack's going to come from, or the nature of the trap, I'll probably stand a better chance at avoiding them. It's good to consider other factors such as the map's layout and what kind of things she'd try to do.

What's the game-plan here, guys? I could try and go for a shot before she can get out of the way, at very least.
No. 1009063 ID: c92a02

Ignore her and just bust down doors while moving to flank. Can't hide behind cover if there is no more cover.
No. 1009064 ID: 094652

I expect the traps to emulate the environment they're placed in. For instance, expect primitive spike pits in the jungle area to fool your implants. In urban combat, you'll find conventional civilian tools re-purposed as deadly weapons; explosives made from bleach, turrets made of leather chairs and vacuum cleaners, alarm systems triggered to flammable gas, etc.
First and foremost, to the east is a narrow corridor. Avoid it; if she hasn't placed a flamethrower turret or a tripwire bomb, it's because she wants to line up a straight shot with her sniper rifle.
The double-doors to your left are an excellent point to put two cross-firing turrets; one on the other side of the second door to get you to instinctively dodge, and another in the dead-end to finish you off.
I recommend you power on ahead. It's the most likely for low trap density; Nickel just walked through there, and if you pushed her through where she currently is, she'd risk getting hit by her own traps.
In fact, your strategy should be to stick to close-combat and disable her sniper rifle, either by theft or destruction. Once you're sure she can't use long-range attacks, dash through corridors with your barrier and make it to the exit. Keep your blink a secret until you find a section that is short but clearly littered in defenses.
Start by throwing an explosive disc at her, since she was so kind to get in range.
No. 1009066 ID: 2f6ee3

I have an idea of how she might be able to use her knife with guns. If she can manifest them in the vicinity of any bullets she's fired, she can use that to ricochet and change the bullet's path.

Hmm. Think you could blink behind her? I'm not sure what the range on the blink is. If you chasing her is what she wants, she'll have traps in front of her; she won't have an answer to you suddenly being behind her. If you can go for a grapple, all you have to worry about is her knife, and how deadly it might be in close range. Though, considering who her normal sparring partner is she might actually be more comfortable with a close range fight. Perhaps the safer bet would be to shotgun her at close range instead of trying to grab her or her gun.

I'm going to guess there's some sort of trap on the wall just in front of her, since at your angle there's a small blind spot there. It's probably something meant to delay you so she can retreat to long range.
No. 1009083 ID: 2f6ee3

Oh wait, she looks strange, wobbly even. Is that a hologram?
No. 1009378 ID: 5fd55c

Wo-how! That Nickel gif is so detailed! Really worth the time and effort!

Firing a few tentative shots at Nickel while getting to cover is highly advisable.
No. 1009596 ID: 5bf1bd
Audio NickelPhase1_ElCargo.mp3 - (6.10MB )

Title: El Cargo - Splinter Cell
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SzhjG6OkvI

No. 1009597 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163093081317.png - (451.04KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch04.png )

>Fire a couple of tentative shots at Nickel while getting to cover
I'll do you one better.

>Blink in front of her.
>Cut off her escape routes.

The little cube thrums as I blink forward past her, Diagram's handiwork manifesting itself in my grasp.
I squeeze the trigger, blasting the position I had just been a moment ago -
And the shot phases through Nickel completely.
I'm left with the scent of gunsmoke, the pellets buried in the floor.
>Was that a hologram?
Seems so. Figures that she wouldn't meet me this front on, but she still showed up for the pledge, at very least.
A little projector in the corner was making it, it seems. More like she was beaming a video of herself at that location, instead of it being some static hologram.
No. 1009598 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163093082814.png - (30.90KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom2.png )

Question is, how I breach into the next room.
Now that we know Nickel isn't actually here, and that she's likely watching me from afar - what's her plan gonna be when I try to step into that next room? It's a big one, so it's difficult to anticipate what kind of trap she's got in mind.

Blink's on cooldown for around two rooms. Guess even with a better battery in this thing, literally warping me through the air's going to ask a lot of any kind of tech.

A few preliminary options for the room ahead...
I could crack the door open, toss a modded Disc in and detonate - but that'll be ridding me of one of the three discs I have in total. I'll say that, the discs are probably most useful here, as the urban environment's structure means that throwin' them has more applications than out in a big forest. But I could also hold onto them for the final section in the power grid.
These walls are looking thin - I could also shoot it, making a bit of a hole for me to shoot or look through.
Or I could blast the door down with my shotgun from a distance if I'm concerned about something like a tripwire right in front of the door.
And for a little more of an alternative solution, I blast a hole through the wall using one of the discs and come in through an unexpected angle.

What's the plan of action?
No. 1009599 ID: 094652

Go with shooting the walls. You've got near-unlimited ammo so there's little detriment.
No. 1009604 ID: 5232cd

Shooting through a wall should be enough.
When Blink is back, think you could get on top of a wall? I presume climbing up isn't likely to work.
No. 1009605 ID: 36784c

If she’s watching you, then look for hidden cameras and destroy them. If she has less ways to track you, that’ll make it harder for her.

She’s also got goggles to help her see in the dark, so any unexpected bright flashes will probably blind her for a bit. But you’ll need to find her for that to work.
No. 1009608 ID: 7a3b7d

Well, if you bust through the right wall, it's a straight shot to the exit. It bypasses almost every room.
No. 1010422 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163153917832.png - (288.71KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch05.png )

>Can you get up onto the tops of the walls with the Blink?
Probably could, yeah. Problem is, they're thin as all hell. I've got good balance of course, but that's like asking someone to fight in the middle of a tightrope. Not a good idea if I don't want to fall into a room and set off the presumable dozen IEDs she's got lying around.

>Shoot through the wall, you've got nigh unlimited ammunition.
Damn right I do. I may have to reload, but when I can keep printing more using my Parasignia, it's real bloody convenient.

I stand back, aim, and squeeze the trigger.
In an instant, I hear not one, but two blasts.
There's a brief rush of heat from under the door and the hole I've just created - fire?
For good measure, I shoot down the door as well - and the room's a mess.
A small fire's crackling in the middle of the room - guess when I shot the wall, the debris ended up setting off motion sensors. If I shot down the door first, I probably would've gotten blasted as well.

I look around in the blasted room, but there's not much to see - bits of debris are lying around, but the explosion was concentrated in the center of the room, presumably to stop it from blasting down some of the walls accidentally. Still no sign of Nickel, but there's probably no cameras in here, given how close it was to an active explosive.
No. 1010423 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163153920483.png - (30.89KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom3.png )

We're at an intersection now - several different paths we can take, here.
What's the plan, folks? Take one of the existing three paths, or something a bit more creative?
There's definitely a few walls I could try and blast through with an explosive disc, if you're willing to spend it.

I'm personally betting on the straight path - get through two doors, and I'm straight to the exit.

Before you suggest it, while making a spiderhole's well enough with the shotgun, trying to cut out a hole in the wall with it for me to go through's just giving her all the more time to add even more traps to this place.

And a quick reminder that I've got those 'magic' cards on me as well, if I need 'em.

The wiki has Argine's current card count displayed, as well as the effects.
No. 1010452 ID: a1eb5b

Shoot the walls to the two rooms to the south in order to set off the traps inside. THEN go to the one south-west of you.
No. 1010455 ID: 96c896

Hmm, yes, it may be a viable strategy to blow holes into multiple adjacent rooms to make it harder to predict our movements.
No. 1010998 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163205621863.png - (369.59KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch06.png )

>Shoot something to the south two rooms to set off the traps inside of them.
>Make it harder to predict our movements.

Good call, yeah.
With a swift kick of the door to my left, I jump back in anticipation of an explosion that doesn't come.
Following that, two shots to each of the walls, busting a small hole through both.

Next is moving up into the narrow hallway.
With that, there's only two more rooms until the-
No. 1010999 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163205631647.png - (755.70KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch07.png )


>Trap nullified!
A massive arrow attempts to embed itself into my chest.

...ugh. Good thing I had the armour up. That's busted now, so I end up discarding the plates. As they are now, they're more likely to get in the way than anything else. Better that than any of my actual limbs, though.
Chest stings a little from the impact, but otherwise I'm fine. Projectiles have this kind of habit of... just breaking up after getting near you. I don't think it was like that before, according to some of the older clones around, but I'll take all the benefits I can get.
No. 1011000 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163205636237.png - (37.62KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom4.png )

Next room's up ahead. Nickel's probably got another motion-sensing trap up in there, but just like with the arrow just now, she's gonna vary things up.

So, here's my quick proposal - I kick the doors down and blitz through the next two rooms, straight to the exit. This place's a hellhole and the longer I stay, the more likely I'm gonna get blown up. So I rush through, dodging the best I can. Like before, I'll blast the walls with a few shots before heading through.
If I do it right, I may be able to catch up to Nickel earlier than expected, meaning it's more of a straight shot to the end in the next zone, instead of having to wade through bear traps.

You got any brighter ideas up in there? Blink's still on cooldown and I've still got my shield, but my offensive tools aren't worth as much when I can't even find her.
No. 1011002 ID: 6e4236

Let's leg it to the exit using Briarspirit, then. Check all corners once you are there!
No. 1011063 ID: 96c896

Well, she knows where you are now. Shotgun the door, peek inside. That's a very evenly-shaped room so there's probably an explosive in it. Might want to bust down the door from quite a distance.
No. 1011730 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163274523927.png - (713.64KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch08.png )

>Now she knows where you are.
Fah, what a pain.
She's probably waiting at the end of the area, just waiting to squeeze a trigger and watch me go up in flames.

See, this is why I don't like dealing with her. She just loves to play keepaway until you get hasty and she shanks you in the back - but bitching about her's not going to change the fact that at the end of the day, I'm going to press her face into the concrete.

>Use Briarspirit to charge through
Good idea. I'll have to test this thing's protective capabilities, and there's no point in having 20 of these damn cards if I'm never going to use any of them.

I reach into the waist holster for the cards that Diagram had made for me, and focus -
Without even having to riffle through the things, the Briarspirit card flies into my hand.
Real handy. And kinda scary. It's one thing for someone to make a working machine, but... magic? I'm glad this thing hasn't exploded al-
No. 1011731 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163274527044.png - (763.46KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch08point5.png )

The card explodes, surrounding me with a comforting green glow.
...Better than having a flashbang go off in front of my eyes, at least.
And for some reason, even though I've never used one of these before... it feels like there's going to be very few things that can put me down now.

>One Briarspirit card has been consumed. 2 remain.
Dunno how effective this barrier's going to be, but there's one way to find out.
No. 1011732 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163274528604.png - (386.10KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch09.png )

>Shotgun the doors again.
Can do. Swapping between my guns ain't much of a problem when there's nobody actively hounding me. I just swapped to my revolvers as well just in case, but all I got was that arrow to the chest.
The door falls, my fingers feeding more shells into the Creirwy as I peer into the now opened-room.

>Check your corners.
Nothing in the corners...

And right smack dab in the middle of the room is a nice block of plastic explosives.
Knowing Nickel, she probably has three others planted in the room, near the walls if I try to sneak around. It's an ultimatum, a big insult. It's like yanking on someone's tail, knowing that she'll start something and get a reprimand while you won't. There's no situation in a real battlefield where someone would simply leave a big chunk of explosive sitting in the middle of room, where it won't even damage me if I stay outside.

I'm not patient enough to go around it, and she knows that too.

Ha. Ha ha ha. Hahahahaha!
I just had an idea.

What if I used all of this shielding, and Nickel's plans to my advantage? If these cards are weaker than the Barrier Generator, then there's no bloody point to using them outside of being an off-hand utility tool, right? And no matter how good it's protection is - that force has to go somewhere, right?
What if I jumped over the plastic explosive and intentionally set it off, launching me over the wall and straight to the exit? Nickel'll be caught off-guard, because there's literally no way she can anticipate me literally having magic bullshit on my person.

It'll be just like that one plan that I had come up with to escape once - gearing myself up in protective gear, strapping explosives to a wall, and catapulting me over some of the defenses and into the Weave Nexus' area.
...Of course, that didn't work since I didn't account for how thick the walls were. Or how the layout of the area changes every so often. Or the actual quality of that protective gear against explosives.
Nevermind that!
Point is... I can do some crazy shit here. Are you lot in, or are you gonna talk me down from this?
No. 1011734 ID: c92a02

You don’t know what direction the blast will send you because there are other explosives you can’t see yet. Find and defuse them first.
No. 1011743 ID: 96c896

I'm in. No guts, no glory.
No. 1012271 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163323289934.png - (570.51KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndchEXPLOSION.png )

>You can't guess what direction that the explosions would launch you if Nickel put more in there.
That may be true, but that would require the explosives to be facing me, on the other side of the wall. I don't see any.

>No guts, no glory.

The timing on this is going to be interesting - and so, I jump forward.
There's a brief twang as I cross some invisible threshold, setting off a hook.

I can feel the searing heat of the blast behind me - and yet, as much as I can understand how hot it is - it feels like nothing more but a warm breeze.
No. 1012272 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163323293054.png - (228.52KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch11flipped.png )

I soar above the walls, smoke and dust trailing behind me. So this is what it feels like to be a mortar shell, hah!
It takes just a moment to reform my gun as I look downward for any sign of her.
No. 1012273 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163323297124.png - (185.69KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch11point5flipped.png )

And there, down below - there's Nickel, her rifle aimed squarely at the entrance.
...Where the hell did she get that trolley from? She's sitting in it like it's a little tank or something.

Of course, she's not going to see me coming, is she? Nobody ever looks up.

I point and aim, correcting the angle as I fly - I've still got to make a landing after all of this, too.
No. 1012274 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163323299302.png - (512.29KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch12.png )

Nickel tries to shoot at me while I'm mid-flight, but as I answer her with a blast from my shotgun, the recoil pushes me out of the way of her own shot.
The clatter of buckshot against the metal shell of the trolley rings out in the chamber, breaking the silence.

Boom! Landed a hit there, even if it's small.
Nickel withdraws her rifle, ducking back under the cover of the trolley itself.
There's a 'beep' as it starts rolling away from me.
No. 1012275 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163323301519.png - (221.70KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch13flipped.png )

I roll as I land, the trolley disappearing off into the next area. Not that it's going to go far on the grass, so she'll probably be footing it afterward.
Lil' bastard is already long out of my reach - She had a getaway route planned and everything!
Still - this was what a card let me do? This stuff's crazy. I don't feel it's protective force any more, but if the other cards are on a similar level to this, I can't imagine what getting my hands on more... magicky stuff outside would do for me.
Anything I should keep in mind as I go into the next area? Got a bit of a moment for a breather after all, but we'll talk deeper strategy once we get the new area scans in.
No. 1012284 ID: 96c896

She'll probably have a different strategy in place for the next room. Instead of traps... let's expect her to have set things up to most effectively use her parasignia and rifle. Difficult terrain, and perches she can snipe from.

So basically, once you get near the new area, be ready to get behind cover.
No. 1012323 ID: b72032

But beware of the _obvious_ cover, which will probably be trapped still.
No. 1012423 ID: 3328c7

Using the trolley for coverwhile setting fire to the grass in the next area could cause quite the ruckus for Nickel.
No. 1012560 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163359974287.png - (253.61KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch014.png )

Going through the dark tunnel leads me to the second area of this division - the natural simulation area.

Ever since people started leaving, it's fallen into a bit of disuse, as there's no longer a need to take apart the various setpieces and put them back together to simulate different types of environments. I guess it's just stuck in whatever configuration it's in forever now.

Not only do we have little artificial trees arranged around in what's supposed to be a forest, we've also got these simulated cliffs around the main area. Don't remember how exactly they made it - but since it's not like we could go off-facility for training, they apparently made a bunch of plastic or fibreglass rubble and painted it over. Keeps it at least somewhat moveable if the environment needs to be changed around.
They basically designed this room so it feels like you're in a forest - while it's enclosed by walls, it's also got one-sided windows so that spectators can see in. I wonder if Diagram or someone else's looking in right now.

I breathe in, the outlines of my guns flickering in and out of existence. I can smell the dirt and grass in the air - so different to the rest of the facility. I wonder if this kind of humid air's what waits for me out there in the bigger world.
No. 1012562 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163359982841.png - (105.66KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom5.png )

>Assessment Phase initialized. Displaying environmental data.

New floorplan is in.
Time for a bit of a planning meeting of my own.

>Use the trolley as cover
It's tucked away next to the tunnel's exit... but I don't think it'll help me much here.

>Set fire to the grass!
Huh, well, not the worst idea - the smoke can block her vision, but the question is whether there's even enough to get a good blaze going.

The biggest problem about this area is Nickel's ability to exploit the high ground against me. I could probably climb it myself, but that'll leave me in a pretty bad spot, as there's absolutely no cover if I'm trying to fight Nickel on even ground - not to mention that Nickel will most likely see me coming
I'm anticipating a lot of those artificial trees to end up blocking line of sight from me and Nickel so that's at least good enough to stop a bullet or two from her rifle. If I let her camp me out, we won't be getting anywhere soon. The traps would be hidden within the grass for the most part, unless she's wanting to glue C4 to trees or something..

My first plan's going to be going through the middle path, then taking the path on the right (my left). Then I can try and maximize the amount of cover I get while closing the distance between the two of us, while also accounting for snares she may have planted near the densest foliage. She can't stay and camp me out if I keep pushing her back, meaning I'll be able to push her back into the power grid for an actual confrontation instead of playing hide and seek, but with bullets instead of rubber knives.
Setting fire to the grass has some potential, but with how the paths are looking, I feel like it could end up hurting me more in the long run. Plus, I'd actually have to go through that fire at some point.

Any suggestions?
So far, I've used one of my three Explosive Discs, but otherwise, my gadgets are all ready to go.
No. 1012564 ID: 96c896

In this scenario, blinking up to the top of one of the rocks is a good idea, at least to find out where Nickel is. Or...
How well are those "trees" attached to the ground? Maybe you could shove one around, use it to test for traps or as mobile cover. You do have your shield for that though...
Be wary of the trees that are close together; a tripwire would be easy to set between two trees.
No. 1012565 ID: 96c896

Also check to see if the "rocks" are hollow by knocking on them. I kinda doubt they're tricks like that though, it wouldn't reflect a real world combat scenario and this is clearly meant to emulate one.
No. 1012568 ID: 094652

You could try to move the rocks around as cover.
No. 1012596 ID: 3328c7

1) First-off, since Nickel already knows your current position, yell "Nickel, just wanna let you know your philosophy is a bunch of derivative, fatalistic bullshit!" Just to annoy her. She might even reply!

2) Check the rocks to see how solid they truly are. If they are hollow, go through them instead of around! If not....

3) Take the path to your immediate left, then hug the rock-wall while slowly advancing.

4) Check for traps and sniper nests every few steps.
No. 1012805 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163403966998.png - (233.36KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch15.png )

>Yell "Nickel, just wanna let you know your philosophy is a bunch of derivative, fatalistic bullshit!" Just to annoy her. She might even reply!
I don't even know her philosophy all that well. And I'm pretty sure she's been insulted hundreds of times for being a midget with six eyes in the past, so I'm not going to do that and make her even more aware of me.

>Beware of the trees that are close together; a tripwire would be easy to set between two trees.
Noted. In this kind of lighting, it's not like I can see those well at all.

>You could use the rocks as cover.
It's probably true enough that if I hug the walls, she'll have a hard time gunning for me, but it'll also be pretty bad if she was right above me. Still, there's no way she can hit me behind cover, right?
I crouch down, lowering my profile. I sneak over to the nearest rock and huddle up against it.

>Check to see if the rocks are hollow.
A quick knock proves that they're not. Though, I think they are lighter than actual rocks and cement so that it can be transported more easily. But when it's all set up like this, it's not budging without extra equipment involved.

>Blinking up to the rocks could be a good strategy
Huh, yeah, I'll do that.
Once again, the little box hums, wrapping me in a thin glow - and I warp upwards, giving me enough time to catch myself on the edge of the rocks.
Damn! That thing had just enough range for it.

I pull myself up - and in the distance, I spot a small, blurry figure.

A shot flies past my head, barely missing.
I duck back down, hiding myself behind the ledge.

Guess she's already got a bead on me now. How is she this mobile? It's one thing to know where all of the traps have been set up beforehand, but how the hell did she get all the way over there?
The sides of the rocks are pretty hard to get a grip on since they're not especially rough, but I'm steady for now.
No. 1012806 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163403973278.png - (110.45KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom6.png )

It's a good thing I can make my weaponry appear and disappear at will, or we'd be having some issues right now.

So I do have a bead on where Nickel is, but given how close I was to losing a few grams of my head, I think running along the tops of these rocks is a poor choice, especially when the Blink Capacitor's on cooldown now. These things aren't easy to scale!

Currently, the middle path does seem like my best bet - the issue is that Nickel's able to see me the whole time I'm going there, since there's some parts of it that leave me exposed before I can hop into the tall grass.
I could probably try to set up a smoke-screen with the Pitch Prefect and setting some of the grass ablaze - given that I've made it air-burstable, it should definitely cover a decent enough area.
But I could also use that to go for the right-most route from your perspective, which has more solid cover due to the abundance of trees over there. Grass ain't going to stop bullets now.

I'm thinking of using the Pitch Prefect as a fake-out- I fire it towards the right-most path, creating a smokescreen. Then I use that distraction to go for the middle path instead, staying close to the rock wall so that visibility's low.
Your thoughts?
No. 1012807 ID: 5bf1bd
Audio NickelPhase2_Yakuza_0_OST_-_30_Growling_Hound.mp3 - (2.88MB , NickelPhase2_Yakuza 0 OST - 30 Growling Hound.mp3 )

Title: Growling Hound (Yakuza 0)
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtndbeucAbk

No. 1012818 ID: 96c896

Hmm, either she can use the knives as spikes to climb rocks quickly, or she can freeze them in the air and jump off them to "fly".

Anyway, she's just going to wait where she is. A sniper's best trait is patience. So you can exercise patience as well, and wait for your blink to come back, using it to move from cover to cover. Can you use it while prone, and blink into the grass? Or is that easily spotted? I like the idea of a feint.

...hmm, do you have enough demolition expertise to use your explosives to break off a large chunk of rock, then carry it as mobile cover?
No. 1012848 ID: e7c7d3

I like waiting for blink to recharge
No. 1012852 ID: 3328c7

Alright, let's go with your plan, but watch for traps and activate a soulburst as soon as Nickel sees past the Pitch Perfect decoy.

Also, make a mental note: she may have missed and revealed her position on purpose because she secretly cares about you and wants you to suceed. <3 <3 <3
No. 1012979 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163437884710.png - (524.72KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch016.png )

>Hmm, either she can use the knives as spikes to climb rocks quickly, or she can freeze them in the air and jump off them to "fly".
Huh, if her knife does go through things easily, then maybe it can be used as a way of helping her scale rocks. Kinda doubt the whole using it as an aerial footstool idea though, since she only has one of things in the first place.

>Do you have enough demolition expertise to use your explosives to break off a large chunk of rock, then carry it as mobile cover?
It's not that I don't know how to blow off a chunk for my own use, but I don't have the proper setup! Can't really blow off a chunk that's even shaped in a way that makes it so I'd be able to hold it and protect myself with it at the same time.

>She may have missed and revealed her position on purpose because she secretly cares about you and wants you to succeed.
She's been trying to blow me up for the past section this whole time, yeah right.

>Wait for the Blink to recharge.
Ugh, I never like doing this kind of thing, but you're right. Against people who outrange me, rushing in's only going to make things worse.
So I wait.


It's quiet.
A little pulse reminds me that the gadget's now charged up properly.

Time to put the plan into action.

Solburst's on stand-by in case Nickel tries to get a shot through, but I've also got armour good enough to stop one shot without actually hurting me if it comes down to it.

The Pitch Prefect's been put into the Explosive Discs, which is pretty convenient since that means I don't need to go out of my way to set the field on fire, heh.
As I hang off the side of the cliff - I manifest one of the discs in my free hand, pitching it towards the middle path.
It flies out, catching on the air for a moment - and I set it off, lighting up the room.
Flaming hot tar flies across the area, landing in the grass and burning it up.
Eugh. I can already smell the smoke.
That's One of my three Explosive Discs consumed in the process.

As the sounds of crackling fire fills my ears, I blink over to the patch of grass on the right path.
It feels a little weird, as it's more like I blink above the grass' physical mass before I flop into it. The feeling of the packed dirt beneath my sleeves and the tickling of the grass against my body... I can't seem to get used to it.
Shuffling down, I move up as much as I can, watching for potential hidden traps in the grass itself.
By the time I crawl to the end of the grass, I hear a shot in the distance ring out. I don't hear any bullets impact nearby, though.
When bullets are going this fast, it's hard to know where they come from at all. That's why I'm glad that the map at least can tell where it's...
No. 1012980 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163437889751.png - (134.76KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom7.png )

Okay, what the hell is this?
There is no way there's this many shots coming from this many angles! So either Nickel actually does have multiple bodies like you lunatics have been rambling about before, or there's something extremely strange going on.

Is this her Parasignia's effect? It could be.
Makes it a far harder task of tracking where she's gone, though. I'm not even sure if the previous position that's been shown is even accurate if she can spoof data like this.

Alright, here's my plan then - I keep going forward with the current path. There's no grass between me and the next safe spot, but I don't actually know where Nickel is at this moment anyway. If I sit around and wait for the blink to recharge again, the smokescreen's going to clear up and I'm far more likely to get shot again anyway.
Nickel's bound to start falling back as I get closer, since she wants to maintain the range advantage, especially since I can warp and mess her up that way.
For now, got any bright ideas for how I can try and close the gap without drawing too much attention to myself?
No. 1012981 ID: 96c896

I doubt she has multiple bodies. It's more likely she has robot drones. She had a hologram at the entrance, and was riding in a cart, so clearly she's allowed to have gadgets of her own. I think she's got remote controlled guns at various sniper perches, and she's acting as the spotter for all of them. She might have holograms at each one as well, which would mean you couldn't tell which one is the real one with your own eyes... I sure hope not, because that would mean you'd have to either figure out which one is real before attacking, or just attack all of them.
At least it seems like she's not allowed to have cameras spotting for her...
Oh, you said you were surprised that she got up on the rocks so fast. Maybe the one enemy dot we see on the ground is her?
...another possibility, instead of remote guns: she can *shatter* her parasignia's knife, creating electrical chaff, or something else that interferes with our ability to scan the battlefield. Like, a special echo? I have to assume our sensorium can deal with all the echoes that happen in a large indoor room like this one.

Either way, the first shot came from a perch somewhere on the rocks. We saw the bullet's trajectory, you can't fool our visuals that easily even if somehow our audio data is being disrupted.

If you make it to the exit, does she lose? Even if not, if you can get around the rocks at the end of the room, and the enemy dot on the ground is her, maybe you can ambush her from behind. I still want to continue sneaking... oh, can you manage some camouflage?
No. 1013057 ID: 183556

Keep moving through the left-most path (right-most from our perspective), until you reach the final rock formation.
After that move circumvent it and move towards the red dot on ground level for backstab attack.
No. 1013450 ID: ed0bfa


… is she able to freeze time?
No. 1013864 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163554991696.png - (284.52KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch017.png )

>I doubt she has multiple bodies. It's more likely she has robot drones.
Not a bad guess, but, if she had drones they would be buzzing or humming. Plus, they'd be visible, right?

If I can't tell which one's the real one - then can I even be sure that first shot was actually from the direction that the display told me was?

>If you make it to the exit, does she lose?
Hard to say. There's a reason why official tournament bouts are ran in an enclosed room in one specific sector instead of like this. Neither of us are downed or conceding though, so for now, we're going to still beat on each other, regardless of environment.

>can you manage some camouflage?
...Somehow I don't feel like I have a full facepainting kit on my person at this time. Sure, I could mash dirt into my fur, but that would've only worked if she didn't already have a bead on me.

>Can she stop time?
...Okay, I have no idea if Parasignias can even do that, but if she could, then I'd already have gotten my ass handed to me.

>Keep moving up the right-most path.
That I do. The only way I can actually beat Nickel without being shredded in turn in by cornering her somehow - my main bet was driving her towards the electrical grid at the end of the sector, because that place is primarily flat and is generally harder for Nickel fight me in. But to her, that's still preferable to being thrown off a cliff.
No. 1013865 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163554994711.png - (408.41KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch18edit.png )

There's a big gap in the grass where I'll be completely out of cover for a moment. On terrain like this, not even camo's going to help much.
But there's definitely a chance that the real Nickel is on the ground. After all, there was still a real shot coming my way - and that means she's still around somewhere.

I attempt to dash across the clearing to the next patch of cover and-

Bang. I register the sound before I feel the impact.

>Bullet damage nullified!


I hear the crunch of the ballistic plating under my clothing as I dive for cover.
At least I'm unharmed, if a little bruised.
Gonna have to discard it before it starts screwing up my mobility.
No. 1013866 ID: 5bf1bd
File 163554996402.png - (138.78KB , 1000x1000 , covertopsroom8.png )

Even though I can't peek out behind the damn rock, I know now - she's not on the ground. The angle and direction that the bullet hit me at - if I actually got shot, it would be hard to tell. But when it hit a plate, I can narrow it down.
She's right up there on the rock! Blink's not ready yet, but I have to put pressure on her, make her fall back somehow.

My first thought is to toss another Explosive Disc up there, but my throwing arm isn't the best. She's pretty high up, but if I just let her stay there and plink away at me, I'm screwed.
Give me options, ASAP!
No. 1013881 ID: 96c896

You... could use another card. Echoscribe, to use the Amp Rings, either to throw an explosive at her face or to jump/climb up there and shotgun her face.
No. 1013882 ID: 094652

If you're going to use Echoscreen, copy the Flashburst. She won't expect a gadget she knows you don't have.
No. 1013911 ID: 06594d

Use Frozeneye.

Watch the cliffside for enemy movement.

When she pops her rifle out, throw the Explosive Disk at her.
Give that goblin something spicy to chew on.

And breath manually! You are now breathing manually! That's an order, soldier!
No. 1014262 ID: 73aaab
File 163610929007.png - (411.91KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch019.png )

>If you're going to use Echoscreen, copy the Flashburst. She won't expect a gadget she knows you don't have.
True, but that's not going to be doing much if it's not driving her off that damn cliff.

>Use Frozeneye. Watch the cliffside for enemy movement.
Problem is that she's got plenty of cover and outranges me. So that leaves me with one option...

>You... could use another card. Echoscribe, to use the Amp Rings, either to throw an explosive at her face or to jump/climb up there and shotgun her face.

Time to take things directly to her.
I draw from the deck holster on my waist - and getting an Echoscribe card the first try. I still can't get over how magic can do stuff like this.

The card breaks apart as I concentrate on the idea of the Amp Rings - and I smell something strange. Like... paper, and that coloured fluid you see in broken pens.
One Echoscribe card has been consumed. Four remain.

The Amp Rings look... different. Like they were taken out of a black-and-white book. But hopefully they work all the same.

I manifest one of my last two discs into my hands.

Let's see how she likes... this!
No. 1014263 ID: 73aaab
File 163610932929.png - (348.34KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch020.png )

The disc sails through the air, far further than I've ever thrown anything before.

A shot rings out in the dark, overtaking the sound of crackling fire.
An explosion - she... she shot the Explosive Disc midair?!

Burning tar rains down on top of the cliff face as smoke drifts up towards the ceiling. Normally these things don't explode unless I want it to - but I guess cramming the Pitch Prefect's flammable properties in it has made it more volatile.
Even if she already knows where I am, that kind of aim is monstrous.

The Amp Rings are still on - guess one throw wasn't enough to deplete it's fake batteries or something.
This time, the force ends up concentrating in my legs - and I leap.
It feels kinda like earlier when I was soaring through the air on an explosion. The rush of air across my face is a little disorienting, but I aim and tumble onto the top of the stones, guns at the ready. The Amp Rings finally dissipate, vanishing into a trail of white wisps.

Nickel's not there. The question is - where has she gone?

A quick glance towards the exit shows me exactly what I want to know - she's already making a break for it, the dark-coloured tar clinging to her suit showing that she didn't quite escape unscathed.

Guess we're in the final stretch now - once I head through the next tunnel, then we'll be in the power grid, and she'll have nowhere else to run.
No. 1014265 ID: 96c896

Fairly likely she has one last trap, then. Watch yourself.
No. 1014297 ID: 6186c1

Race her to the exit. Pro-tip if she tries shooting, shoot back.
No. 1014422 ID: 73aaab
File 163628548588.png - (200.33KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch021.png )

I chase after Nickel, wary that she might have some trap up her sleeve as a last hurrah. It's a good thing that grass is a good cushion for falls.
When she's so far ahead - I doubt I could catch up easily.

...The power grid's humming. Tall pillars line the room, the majority of them turned off long ago. I think a few of them are batteries or generators that gather energy from solar power or something, but I'm not super interested in that kind of stuff. Solar Power doesn't do much for powering laser rifles or the like.
Apparently the reason why they stacked the generators up so high was because things would get a bit too hot otherwise, once when this place was running at full capacity. You can still see the little slats on the side of them that lets the heat dissipate better.
Plenty of dust in here, though it's dark like the rest of the sector.

Despite how tall it is, Nickel doesn't have a lot of places to run here. Just row after row of these boxy pillars.
No. 1014423 ID: 73aaab
File 163628551523.png - (225.04KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch022.png )

"Nickel, you've been running long enough", I call out into the distance.
My voice bounces around the room. The echo's my only reply.
She's already been injured, and I'm still in good health. If we play our cards right, I'll get through this without a hitch.
...Ugh. Does she ever talk to people? I get that she's a 'professional' and all that, but really?

"This is one of the last fights we'll ever be having in this facility! Can't you at least say something back to me?"

...I hear a shuffling sound off in the distance.
I grip my guns tighter. Now, where's she gonna be coming from?
No. 1014424 ID: 094652

My guess? Up.
Climb like hell to the top of the solar array and jump across the racks. When the opportunity strikes, throw an explosive disc down and detonate to topple this urban forest.
No. 1014425 ID: 9a2966

For someone with such amazing aim, she sure didn't dome you in the head earlier. Was that just her saying 'Hello, don't poke your head out like that, dummy', or what?

>Does she ever talk to people?
Maybe she's just an introvert. Or she could be bad at holding a conversation. Social anxiety, for example, makes it hard to be in the limelight, make complaints, give and receive feedback and so on, especially outside of one's comfort zone. For some, holding their own when talking to others can be a rougher battlefield than many actual battlefields. Maybe you've never seen her stand up for others in public because that's not in her available toolset of 'Shit I can deal with'.

But yeah, you are in the middle of a duel where she's supposed to be the sneaky one.

She has to have some way to use the height of the pillars. Maybe climb, using cooling slats for purchase, sticky pads on her hands, maybe? The hum could disguise the noise of her moving or ziplining about if she's careful. Or... maybe that is her extra-special Parasignia effect? Rather than just unerringly retrieve it, she can teleport or launch herself to her knife. Mutual attraction, not just one-sided retrieval. The ability to quickly reposition would be any sneaky sniper's dream.

Regardless, if she has the means to climb the pillars this room will be far more of a hide-and-seek pain than you thought, and you'd want to gain the height advantage yourself at some point. Can Blink reach the top? Granted, there's little cover up there and you'll have to keep using your Briar barrier cards if you want to avoid fall damage when dropping down (I presume). Unless the Barrier Generator still has charges and could protect you against a fall?

>Hiding places
Can't really tell, but would it be theoretically possible for her - slight as she is - to hide INSIDE one or more of the pillars? Seems like there's doors on the bottom? That'd make her pretty dang hard to spot if she can gopher into one and squirm out on a different side. She could've hollowed out some with some prep time - especially the ones not in use.

>Move into the room
Hm. You did hear a noise, but that's likely just to draw you in. I'd say stay to one side of the main interior wall - means she's limited on her angles and lines of appoach. Watch for trip-traps (especially at the tower corners), then Blink topside if you get a bead on her up there (and hope she hasn't planted explosive traps up there in case YOU should scale them).

Maybe get the Barrier Generator going - again, if it's still charged - so you have some defense going. You're probably gonna get shot at least once more before this is over.

If she does pop down shots from straight above you (i.e. a piller you're at) you could try Blinking up, or running away and THEN blinking up, so you get an angle to shoot her. Or turn a corner so she'd have to reposition to get a new shot, while you lobbed up your final explosive disc.
No. 1014453 ID: 96c896

Pretty sure she can use her knife to climb. Possibly even as a perch. We haven't gotten a map here...

I doubt you'll be able to spot her before she fires upon you, so get your shield out.
No. 1015050 ID: 73aaab
File 163685234054.png - (212.57KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch023.png )

>My guess? Up.
>Pretty sure that she can use her knife to climb.

The same strategy I used, huh? Nobody looks up half the damn time.
I make sure to look up every so often so I'm not caught off-guard like she was, but I ain't seeing shit here. Not like my eyes aren't sharp enough to see some spindly gremlin hanging off of the side of one of these solar arrays, or knifemarks in the side of things.

>Climb like hell to the top of the solar array and jump across the racks. When the opportunity strikes, throw an explosive disc down and detonate to topple this urban forest.
One plastic explosive isn't going to knock these things over, bud. They're anchored to the ground anyway.
Climbing's an option but it'll be pretty rough. These arrays were meant to be navigated with equipment, not your bare hands!

>Could she be hiding INSIDE one of the pillars?
Another hiding place? This isn't going to be as straightforward as I want it to be.

I have the Barrier in hand, a finger over the switch. I can't just have it running the whole time otherwise the battery's gonna wear out long before she even fires. And the glowing shield is going to make it ridiculously obvious where I am.

>Could it protect you from a fall?
Nah. Having a bullet-proof glass window in front of you doesn't mean much when that force still has to go somewhere.

Even though I can't see her yet - I keep moving. If I just sit here, I'm making no progress on the fight.
No. 1015051 ID: 73aaab
File 163685235948.png - (322.88KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch024.png )

It feels like minutes go by, and there's still no sign of Nickel at all. Only the small, distant sounds of shuffling around that I can't seem to get a bead on.
It's enraging, to say the least.
Skulking around in the dark, putting traps here and there...
At first, it's somewhat respectable. She wants to win. I get that.

But she hasn't done anything yet.

>Maybe she's just an introvert. Maybe you've never seen her stand up for others in public because that's not in her available toolset of 'Shit I can deal with'.
Doesn't excuse her for being a creep who talks like she's got it allllllll sorted out.

"Maybe if you're not so intent on hiding in the shadows this whole time, we would have an actual fight!"
I call out again, trying to goad her into showing herself.
"Cmon, squirt! Earlier you didn't even shoot me in the bloody head! Where's that great aim of yours, huh? Not like any of us wear helmets, right? Go on, shoot me! Bloody shoot me!"

Fah. Is she just going to play hide and seek with me this whole time?
The gun and gadget in my hands feel weighty. I drop them to my side and-
No. 1015054 ID: 73aaab
File 163685255531.png - (315.11KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch025.png )

No. 1015055 ID: 73aaab
File 163685258263.png - (307.45KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch026.png )

No. 1015056 ID: 9fa7b4

Well, the quest was fun while it lasted. Thanks for the fun quest, Cross.
No. 1015057 ID: 96c896

Ask and ye shall receive I suppose.
You look like you've still got some fight in you. Pretend otherwise. Only go for the gun when you know where she is, and can thus shoot her.
No. 1015069 ID: 9a2966

Announcing your presence to the sneaky sniper over and over may have been unwise.

Can you trigger a Briarspirit at will? Think you need that recovery effect ASAP. I mean, if you think you can hold out while she hopefully comes up to verify her kill, maybe you could do that, but being all head dead for long isn't good typically.

The angle of the bullet that hit you wasn't very big... but it did come from the up and down. She's got to be hanging on to the side of a battery, probably corner peeking so you wouldn't spot her easy.

Or she is on the far far side of where you're at and you just happened to wander into a clear line of fire (which you were told to watch out for, by which I must clarify: move quickly past those and DUCK AND WEAVE while doing so).

Trigger a Solburst and rush in the direction the shot came from. She'll probably relocate, but if she wants to take another shot, this'll vaporize it before it hits your skull and if she's actually pretty close (or you can get close), she'll feel the heat and might fumble and mess up.
No. 1015070 ID: 3980cc

If you still breathing, grab your stuff and get. to. cover.

If not, thanks for the adventure! It has really lovable and interesting characters!
No. 1015071 ID: 8e2c0d

Yeah, that's what you get if you give away where to are to a sharpshooter. Multiple times.
More so if you say stuff that's foolishly, egotistically, presumptuously haughty.
Reality sure does hurt, eh?
If you live through this, remember that firepower will easily blow up a large ego if the ego is without merited cause.
No. 1015086 ID: 094652

... Oh fuck.
Did... did nobody tell you headshots are deathblows?!
Well, we can't cause any greater brain damage so here goes nothing
No. 1015090 ID: 96c896

Well if we're going aggro, a Voidsplit is a VERY good card to use right now.
No. 1015180 ID: 73aaab
File 163694766095.png - (227.13KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch027.png )

i cant

Nngh... I can't... can't lose here. She doesn't have the bloody right.

The gun on the floor dissipates - I can build it again in seconds.
But I drag myself past the corner, where I know she won't have line of sight against me.
No. 1015181 ID: 73aaab
File 163694770085.png - (877.18KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch028.png )

I hear you.

I'm... I'm pretty low, I can't lie. Feel like I'm gonna pass out at any given minute. I still have so much to do.

Okay. Okay! I can still... I can still pull through this. I'm going to make her pay.
She's fired a shot - And given the angle of the bullet hole in the array behind me - I know where she is now. She's a few blocks away, hiding behind the side of a pillar. Angle's low, she's prone.

Climbing takes time. She's not getting away this tine.
Need to cut off her escape routes. Corner her like the vermin she is.

>There is a cracking sound, like that of bone reknitting. In the soldier's head, an image develops. It uncrumples, even as the migraine she's suffering threatens to render her unconscious. The voices of the splintered consciousness fades away as she focuses - picturing the trajectory, the path of the bullet that brought her to the brink. A layout, crude, rough - like the individual who dreamt it up. Unsoiled by counter-intelligence, it is but a rough outline of the scene at hand. And she knows where her target lies.
>The wounded predator has found her prey.
No. 1015182 ID: 73aaab
Audio Nickel_Phase_3_-_You're_mine_-_FURI_OST_-_Car.mp3 - (8.61MB , Nickel Phase 3 - You're mine - FURI OST - Car.mp3 )

Title: You're Mine - Carpenter Brut (FURI OST)
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ5gtInauiI

No. 1015183 ID: 3ed3c3

You know exactly where she is and you aren't dead.
Your head is messed up and your aim will be wonky, but let's see her try to breathe in an atmosphere that's 60% hot lead.
No. 1015186 ID: 96c896

Here's a plan that doesn't use cards: Don't forget you have one more explosive. Tossing it in her face would be a good opening, or a distraction while passing between pillars, to give you a better opportunity to blink behind her. Also, you can use the shield now with no disadvantage, to approach her position.

God, I kindof want to blink behind her, and just slap the explosive on her directly. Nothing says fuck you like a point blank detonation.
No. 1015217 ID: 076735

The explosive may be better for cutting her escape route as we approach on the other side.
No. 1015219 ID: 094652

I'm going to thoroughly recommend you just surrender this fight and seek ICU medical aid before the brain damage becomes permanent. I ordered your nanomachines to ignore all safety locks just to stop the hemorrhaging from freeze-drying your brain.

But if we can't reach you anymore from the sheer stupid of literally having less of a brain from Nickel's bullet surgery, get this straight: if her parasignia isn't teleportation, it might as well be. I don't care what you have to do - pitch perfect the whole room, use full-body shields, expend your deck - treat the whole room like an army of snipers and you may be going straight for the commander's throat.

You are not going to win this by pretending what you don't know doesn't exist.
No. 1015261 ID: 3328c7

Blink towards her and



No. 1015378 ID: 9a2966

>Doesn't have the right
She will earn it, if you let her.

>like the Vermin she is
You're getting irate. Don't let having your shit kicked in by someone you underestimated get in the way of achieving your goal of kicking her shit in. Come to think of it, why did you feel so heavy, right before you got shot? Was that her parasignum effect? Like... something that locks you in place, makes you less quick to react. A gravity power, making things lighter or heavier, perhaps? Would make her getaways easier, and her foes slower to react in that critical moment.

Look, hit and run and hide and repeat has been Nickel's entire MO so far, and unless she's been playing you for this exact moment she'll keep to it, knowing that YOUR entire MO is to close the distance enough to wreck her.... which she might be. Point is, you shouldn't have much time to waste, now that she revealed her position. So. Quick stock.

You have:
a single Explosive Disc, with Pitch Prefect
unused Barrier Generator, will last a shot or two
Blink Capacitator with the Beam Unit, for quick recharge.
guns in seconds (shotguns or pistols)
the cards and their effects, your trumps

Left to right pillars are 1 to 4. Up to down pillars are A to C. You are standing between 2B and 3B. Nickel shot you, prone, from the NW corner of 1C. She's probably trying to reposition - or readying to move - as we speak, or elsewise gauging your reaction and recovery.

>Cut off her retreat
A possible plan forms. You know where she's at, at this moment. You have a barrier that can tank a hit or two (SECURE it so you can't drop it if you feel like being weighed down again). And... you certainly have the guts to walk right back out in the open to the SW corner of 2B and get right back to shittalking Nickel again.

Tell her... she fucking missed what mattered, like usual, while hiding in her corner. Is she gonna stay there forever, to never do anything of note? You know you can take her head on, even if she doesn't want to play. Fuck, you'll do melee, if she wants. She can bring her dinky knife. You haven't even reformed your guns - you don't NEED them for this. You just want the satisfaction of punching her sneaky snoot in, even if you have to headbutt every single bullet in her sniper's mag to do so. Is she too coward to finish it personally? Because that's what it'll take.

Essentially, make it sound like you're being foolish. (It shouldn't be a huge leap.)

But what you're really doing - should be doing - is covering her every angle of movement from behind the 1C pillar. To make sure you can SEE where she scampers off to, if she tries to reposition. To pin her actual location again, if she tries to pop out and shoot at you.

Because you can close the distance in a Blink. You know it. She knows it, if she isn't dumb. Fact is you have her cornered now. All you need to is verify you've got your real target and not some hologram or last-minute trick, and you can literally pop on over and slap an explosive pitch disc to her tail. (As long as you don't give her an opportunity to shoot it out of your hand when you do.)

Frankly, if this was setup for another trap or a trick and not just her taking advantage of your gross lack of caution, you're probably ruining some secondary ambush just by not rushing in, and instead patiently telling her to come at you.

>Reaction - duel
If she - against common sense - accepts your deal for a melee fight and approaches, just wait for her to get close and drop your barrier. Then when she does engage, flick the final pitch prefect explosive disc at her and trigger it point blank range of you both. Time the explosion with the re-activation of the Barrier Generator to avoid blast-gooping yourself. Then you trigger a Solburst card for good measure, while you're up in her face.

With any luck, Nickel is now covered in pitch and EXTRA heatstroking.

(...didn't say you'd have to fight FAIR.)

>Reaction - snipe
If she shoots your barrier, you blink close to the location her shot came from - ideally at an angle to it, out of her immediate field of fire, to lob a pitch explosive disc right at her before she can reorient to snipe it out of the air - or your hand.

>Reaction - abscond
If you see her try to flee, begin reforming pistols and run left or right depending whether she fled north or west, keeping half an eye in the other direction - if there's suddenly two of them, you know she's got a distraction holo going or something. Then it's a gut check on which to follow and gun in the neck.

>Reaction - silence
Spend an echoscribe and rain explosive disc pitch grenades over one side of the corner area (W, NW of 3C) - and the top of the 3C pillar, cutting off those lines of easy retreat. Continue to wait for a bit to see if she got tagged or tried some ploy to outmanuever you, then approach from the other side to flush her out. Remember to duck and weave as you move.

The last part here can also be your basic approach right away if you don't want to play the waiting game. Just a basic RAIN OF PITCH to cut off her retreat from one end and the top, allowing you to approach from the other.

Or if you want to be wild, to blink through the inferno, to hit her from her presumptive behind.
No. 1015696 ID: 73aaab
File 163749015267.png - (573.71KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch029.png )

>I'm going to thoroughly recommend you just surrender this fight and seek ICU medical aid before the brain damage becomes permanent.
Screw that! This isn't the first time I've been shot in the head.

>You're getting irate. Don't let having your shit kicked in by someone you underestimated get in the way of achieving your goal of kicking her shit in.
Breathe in, and out... No holes in my lungs yet, even my head feels like it's been squashed by a tank tread.

>Don't forget you have one more explosive. Tossing it in her face would be a good opening.
>The explosive may be better for cutting her escape route as we approach on the other side.
>If she shoots your barrier, you blink close to the location her shot came from - ideally at an angle to it, out of her immediate field of fire, to lob a pitch explosive disc right at her before she can reorient to snipe it out of the air - or your hand.
>Trigger a Solburst and rush in the direction the shot came from.
>Well if we're going aggro, a Voidsplit is a VERY good card to use right now.

The plan's coming together. I know what to do.

I sprint towards her location, two cards manifesting between my fingers.

She chose a poor location to use as a vantage point - she's got nowhere to run.

Immediately, another shot rings out, this time from the other side of the pillar - unlike her previous perch atop it before. Guess she really did relocate.
But it doesn't matter.

The bullet heading towards me - it's evaporated in an instant, a light press from my fingers breaking the card apart.
For a moment, it's like the room's lit up by an explosion - the heatwave stunning the little silhouette in the distance.

The second card breaks apart - and it's like reality around me slows down.
Once again, the Blink Capacitor hums by my waist - and I'm whisked away.
No. 1015697 ID: 73aaab
File 163749022152.png - (940.53KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch030.png )

It feels like this is the first time I'm able to see the little bastard in the flesh.

She gasps as she notices my presence behind her, sweeping around to try and run.
I answer her cry with gunfire - and she dodges away from the initial blasts.
But it's too late, as the disc is already sailing ahead of her.

The muffled heat of the explosion feels good against my fur as I watch her small frame blown across the room, her sniper rifle clattering to the ground near me.
And now she's disarmed - in part.
With the new distance between us, I switch to my revolvers.
No. 1015698 ID: 73aaab
File 163749025245.png - (178.14KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch031.png )

>The sniper, wounded twice now from her opponent's unrelenting fury, leans against the wall. The shot from before had weakened her arm, her once-pristine aim given an unwanted variance. And now, she was having a tough time moving - a few of her bones surely cracked by the blast of the explosion.
>In spite of her phlegmatic demeanour - she found herself excited. How long has it been since she's had another opponent of her caliber? And now, the both of them were pushed to the very brink.
>Burning pitch surrounds her, lighting up the once-dark room. The flames will go out soon, long before they have a chance to damage the electronics in the towers - but for now, they are a reminder that she is still alive.
>Things were never like this in the old days. That explosion would have killed a little thing such as herself back then.
>'What a wonderful world this is, that we can fight and fight, without being killed', she thought to herself as the crystallization of her soul, her zeal, manifests in her grasp.
>The glittering stardust embedded in its obsidian blade reflects her multiple eyes, now visible from under her broken equipment.
>A few words are whispered.
>Her grip on the blade tightens.

I step out from the corner, moving past the patches of burning tar. There's Nickel, slumped against the wall.
She's got her...
No. 1015699 ID: 73aaab
File 163749028002.png - (102.47KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch032.png )

>The sniper thrusts the blade into her heart.
No. 1015700 ID: 73aaab
File 163749031058.png - (707.51KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch033.png )


I fire off a few shots, hoping to catch her - but the bullets simply bury themselves in the wall.

And she's gone.
My lips curl into a red smile.
So, a hunt, huh?
Well, let's see how she fares with nothing but a knife.
No. 1015701 ID: 96c896

I'd imagine she fares extremely well considering her usual sparring partner. You're also assuming you're the hunter in this situation.
I think her parasignia is one of "counter-intelligence". Whatever she strikes her blade with is hard to keep track of. She used that on her rifle before in the "outdoors" room, probably used it on the ROOM in this room since we couldn't make a map at all, and now she's used it on herself. It will be impossible for us to tell where she is, and very difficult for you to detect her.
You're going to want to use your shield once you get some indication of her presence, and otherwise avoid getting stabbed. Keep your ears open, and... well, I kindof want you to just sit in a corner and wait, to be honest. Force her to approach from your front, so she can't sneak up on you from behind, or hide around a corner then ambush you. But that's BORING, and I know you don't do boring. Instead, move quickly around the room, trying to be as unpredictable as possible so she can't ambush you. Except that didn't work last time you tried it, so I don't know what to do at all. You're probably going to have to get stabbed at least once before you figure out how to predict her attacks and counter-attack

Are you sure she can't just pick up her rifle again?
Also uh, is your limit break gonna happen anytime soon?
No. 1015719 ID: 094652

>Screw that! This isn't the first time I've been shot in the head.
... This explains so much.

Use your parasignia on her broken sniper rifle. Remove anything you don't understand from the blueprint, it may be a self-destruct module.

Now, the final stretch. Try not to use too many cards. Combine Shotgun with Sniper Rifle for an Elephant Gun, then combine Sound and Fury for an AF-class double-barreled pistol.
No. 1015737 ID: d53c3d

Back to the wall and keep on the move. Don't be sitting duck.

In case you don't know what a duck is, it is a type of bird.
Don't be an easy target, is what I'm trying to say.
No. 1015767 ID: cdabe3

well, get away from that spot first, as quickly and safely as possible. don't wanna linger in a place where she knows your position.

after hiding, stay quiet this time and try to sense where she's at
No. 1016460 ID: 73aaab
File 163836058286.png - (347.41KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch033point5.png )

>Are you sure she can't just pick up her rifle again?
What's the point? I've got some perfectly capable weapons on me right now. I don't have the time to disassemble it and understand it well enough to use in this current fight. But I grab hold of it - and man, it's light. No wonder why she can carry it around so easily.

>Also uh, is your limit break gonna happen anytime soon?
While I can feel the power in me - I'm not going to use it. We're both effectively one good shot away from downing the other person.
>Combine Shotgun with Sniper Rifle for an Elephant Gun, then combine Sound and Fury for an AF-class double-barreled pistol.
...I can't combine two different pairs of weapons anyway, only one at a time.

>You're probably going to have to get stabbed at least once before you figure out how to predict her attacks and counter-attack
I'm... probably going to pass out if that happens.
So all I gotta do is not get hit.

If she disappeared to the point where bullets can go through her, her 'Signia's offering her some kind of intangibility.
But intangibility has to come at some sort of cost.
...After all, you can't attack someone if things pass through you.
That means she'll have to pop out of her invisibility sooner or later.

It'll come down to the final blow.

>Back to the wall and keep on the move. Don't be a sitting duck.
>well, get away from that spot first, as quickly and safely as possible. don't wanna linger in a place where she knows your position.

I reposition into a corner, a steady grasp on her rifle.
She has to come to me, now.
No. 1016461 ID: 73aaab
File 163836061106.png - (592.70KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch034.png )

I breathe in, and out.
Against an opponent you can't see - sight's not particularly useful.
So I focus on my other senses.

The air, the environment. I'll be able to hear it coming. I don't have four ears for nothin!

I hear the steps.
She's used to fighting people bigger than her. Most likely aims for their center of mass.
Against a speedy opponent like Astrolysis? She'd skip trying to aim for their legs - too likely to get kicked.

I spin around, catching her coming out of her invisibility.
The black blade creates a crescent arc where the light seemed to be sucked out of the air.
I saw it coming - I ducked backwards, the blade missing me by centimeters.
No. 1016462 ID: 73aaab
File 163836065727.png - (465.70KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch035.png )

Exposed and vulnerable, I wield her rifle like an inefficient club, swinging its center of mass towards her head.

Seeing that she's missed - Nickel throws her knife towards me.
Her knife embeds itself into my shoulder.
My gun leaves an imprint on her face.
No. 1016463 ID: 73aaab
File 163836069153.png - (283.36KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch036.png )

She slams into the side of the box, a pained expression on her face.
Staring her down, I loom over her.
I raise the gun up again, ready for another swing.

"...I yield."
The amount of relief that flows through me is unbelievable.
She's... she's out for the count. I've won. I did it!
No. 1016464 ID: 73aaab
File 163836071363.png - (699.07KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch037.png )

The knife she was carrying fades out of existence.
I can't stop smiling.
Ha ha ha ha! I did it! I won! I...
No. 1016465 ID: 73aaab
File 163836074043.png - (732.60KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch038.png )

I'm... bleeding...

Ah... tired...
No. 1016466 ID: 73aaab
File 163836077316.png - (0.96MB , 1017x1017 , LTSTATIC.png )

No. 1016469 ID: cdabe3

goddammit Argine D:

Have a good nap
No. 1016476 ID: 6e4236

Congratulations on the victory, everyone!
Tomorrow is a new, shining day!
No. 1016477 ID: e7c7d3

Dream of violent sheep
No. 1016508 ID: 9a2966

Violent electrifying sheep.

Congrats on the win, you gung-ho goober.
No. 1016511 ID: 91160b

Last time we saw static, we saw a flashback afterwards. Maybe we'll see one about Nickle!
No. 1016515 ID: 96c896

Well that was a close one. Nickel was just about a perfect counter to every direct combat advantage we give Argine, and most of Argine's combat style was nullified too. Just managed to get through by making good plans to guarantee damage, and burning some cards.

When we wake up I suppose it will be time to choose a gadget.
No. 1016548 ID: f13b9a

Flashback time!
No. 1016618 ID: 73aaab
File 163852941010.png - (1.13MB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch039.png )

>Number Fourty-four sat alone at her table, away from the other clones of her generation. Whispers and snickers abound from the gathered vermin could be heard. It was natural instinct for sapient beings to mock those who were perceived as different. To enforce a norm, an average.
>Even if maintaining the average meant the stigmatization of those who excelled.
>For the numbered generation of clones - they were closer than all of the others. Their thoughts, feelings, so easily shared between each other. A psychic byproduct of a horned parent species - a latent potential discovered once before, but so difficult to replicate.
>So, a certain man asked - 'What if we looked into samples from animals?'
>Only two series of clones mixed with genetic data from animals succeeded - a bit of an oxymoron, as the four sapient species of this world were all animals in their own right.
>The first - a lot of mutants. Unique strengths, crippling weaknesses. The most chimeric of the chimeric.
>Seeing his failures - the man who proposed the idea stepped back, looked onto what he had wrought.

>There was no cohesion, no rhyme or reason to their form. Many of them were difficult to socialize, to introduce to the rest of the army.
>He asked another question. 'What if we focused on creatures who work together - have some kind of inherent unity?'
>It was a worthwhile question. But he was scared, on behalf of those yet to be born. Of the potential suffering they would have to endure, would he fail.

>When he watched his boss' bespectacled eyes approve the next project before he even spoke - the man whispered a plea for forgiveness.
>The project succeeded, despite the circumstances. But it succeeded too well.
>A cohesive lot of platoons - three sets of twenty, all with their own quirks and traits.
>They ate together, trained together, lived together.
>But they could not be alone. At very least, pairs.
>Anxiousness, panic, stress - when they were left alone, they were ill-fit for battle.
>They were co-dependent on one-another.
>Success, but failure hidden within.
>There were many other opportunities for experimentation, but the man chose to step back - his experimentation was done.

>And so, those who remained had to examine their existences.
>One in particular stood out.
>The odd one out, despite her even designation. The pariah.
>Speaking out of line, acting when you shouldn't - these are all traits that create walls between people, make you noticed by others.
>Number Fourty-four did none of that.
>She simply excelled - far too much.
>To the others - it seemed like she was intent on proving the collective incompetent.
>There were no such intentions. She was given a duty - and she dedicated her being to that duty. It only made sense. Once, she would wonder why nobody else could see it that way.
>Now - it never crosses her mind.

>Even still - she was left all alone when they ate, pushed to the side when training, the least popular partner for missions - because she would outmatch anyone from her generation.
>Unable to reconcile the differences in their existences, the collective turned their back against the unluckiest number.
>It was okay, though. She didn't mind.
No. 1016619 ID: 73aaab
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>It was simple, really.
>All of them will die eventually, and so will she.
>But she would die later than the rest.
No. 1016620 ID: 73aaab
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No. 1016621 ID: 73aaab
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>A gasped breath comes out of something that should have been a corpse in another time.
>She blinks, head still aching. The room is dim, familiar.
>A question's on her mind.
"....What the hell are sheep? Wait, where am I?"

>She coughs, the ache in her body reminding her of her critical injuries.
>Someone's kneeling by the bed, six eyes glittering in the dark.

"Nickel? The hell....?"

Huh. Wait, she dragged me all the way to her room?
...It's more bleak than I imagined. This... this looks like the room I had when I first been born.
Smells like... almost nothing, really - only a little tinge of Nickel's own scent. Cleaner than a lot of rooms I've seen.
"Don't you personalize your room at all? I mean, you are a Sector Boss."

She shrugs.
"I was given a promotion upon the departure of the previous Sector Boss from Site 70. Outside of my exemplary skill at covert operations and aim, I hold no real claim to the role's responsibilities - especially when there are no longer any cadets to train."
She pauses.
"Unless you consider yourself to be one."

Was... was that a joke?
She's looking at me intently.
...I peer down at my arms, but my jacket's still on. Feeling around the back, there's a little hole in it from the knife, but outside of the blood being a bit smeared, it looks like she didn't take it off at all.
I shift my head around, and realise that she's loosely bound it with some gauze.
"Uh, thanks for patching me up. I appreciate it."
Not that we really need it, but it does seem to help things heal up better.

I'm probably going to ask her for the gadgets that she's obligated to provide - and anything else's she's got while I'm at it. But... I've never really had a long proper conversation with Nickel before. Maybe I could shoot her some questions?
No. 1016622 ID: cdabe3

how does it feel to be alone, ostracized?
No. 1016629 ID: 1faa7e

Wow, starting off strong.
Nickel dedicates herself to being the perfect soldier, and she’s really good at that! But has she tried other things, as hobbies?
Maybe you could be her spotter sometime and just hang out on the range.
No. 1016630 ID: 30b9f6

Maybe she wasn't standing up for anyone because she got used to having no-one to stand up for.

Did you ever see or meet any of the others in her group, Argine?

>Bandages, help patch things up despite the lack of need
It helps to keep stuff in its proper place. Moving things back to where they ought be, at speed, can be challenging, especially when the relative sizes involved are like unto ants shifting the mass of planets. Give your inner healing apparatus whatever much-needed assistance you can, whenever you can. Sometimes all that holds one together is a thread, hastily tied.

>what are sheep
Domesticated flock animal; eats grass, plants; produces wool, meat. We made references to an idiom involving them as you passed out. Say, you said you used to have dreams, once, but no longer. Before we met and you started remembering things you oughtn't.

What were those dreams about?

>the memory
>the last to die
Grin that shark smile of yours, look her in the eyes and tell her that you hope you've convinced her you won't ever fall before she does. Whether you're kicking her ass or, who the hell knows, kicking ass beside her.

>how's it feel to be alone
It's clear from the memory we just peeked that she internalized that battle long ago and both won and lost it. In that the current state of affairs may be all she, a supposedly deeply social and cooperative creature, knows. And that she has accepted her lot by embracing the idea that the top is a lonely place and there was no great point in being social when they were all to die in war... a war which never began. Which left her solo within that effort's final remnants, while her squad moved on to another world, for peacekeeping missions or whatever else suited them.

One wonders how much she begrudges this fact, or how yanked from her expectations she was. It may be impolite to ask, but if you ever wanted an actual raise from her, that may be where to begin. Like... is she really okay?

Oh, do bite on this one. What could she teach that wasn't immediately apparent (e.g. smack talking a sniper)? Fuck, you'd be willing to take a lesson or two during your now-precious spare time, if only to know how to counter those tactics better. Actually keeping stealth would be harder with your... general approach. Maybe one of her gadgets could help raise your stealth game.

>shoot questions
Begrudgingly admit she did way more damage than Judicium did.

Then ask the obvious: invite critique and opinion on how the match went counter to her expectations. Were there any particular surprises? What made her yield?
No. 1016638 ID: 031458

It's only a joke if you want it to be. Look at this room, does it seem jovial to you? Nickel is offering you special, personalized training. Consider it.

When we first encountered Nickel through your eyes, our memories of her were scrambled. Reality and fiction had become one. It was like encountering a legend first hand. She was at once a hero, a monster, and the best.
With your victory came clarity.
Nickel is a driven individual. When she sets her mind to something she strives for absolute mastery.
The questions are clear:
What's it like to be the best among your peers/at something, and how can I get there?
No. 1016650 ID: 094652

Open up with an explanation about us being a passive brain-scanning device. Then talk about the memory in full. It was toxic behavior, and the whole unit was rewarded for it.
They wanted disposable soldiers willing to die in each others' arms. They wanted a cold sniper with nothing to lose.

ehh... I'm against it. What works for a sniper won't work for a shocktrooper.
No. 1016660 ID: c92a02

Ask which eye's her dominant one.
Mentorship would be cool. You did basically die twice in this fight after all.
No. 1016662 ID: 10186c

Uh, a couple questions, Argine.

How did you survive getting your brain blown up? SPECIALLY completely intact?
Even if all your neurons regenerated, last I checked you can't grow back things like memories or someone's personality.
There should be SOME permanent side-effect!

......Anyway, ask Nickel why she was so quick to yield.
No. 1016798 ID: ca0259

Not unheard for Tozols to be able to do that, and we've pointed out Argine has obvious Tozol traits. I mean, were dealing with a military organization full of Chimeras.

She's likely lost some memories though. Not much you can do about that. Less baggage to take with you and more space for something new and better.
No. 1016806 ID: 9a2966

>Likely lost some memories though
Probably some of the same memory technology that contains us as fragmented advice-makers in her body is used to backup her own memories. Might explain how she ends up reviewing some extra stuff when she sleeps - it just integrates itself right in there.

Tech's pretty robust too and must have been around for some years, if you think about it. The memories or recordings of stuff from years back gotta come from somewhere, and it all seems pretty detailed.

Or I'm wrong and she's missing bits just like you said. Unfortunately it's not like we can tell.
No. 1016875 ID: f13b9a

I feel like her question is the most prominent one... are we a cadet to be trained?
We're not a trainee, we're a hero who will smite all who dares to stand before us, but her skills are powerful and useful.

Ask her about her philosophy... ask her to elaborate about what she believes. I don't think we'll have a better chance to find out about her, and she strikes me as one of the sector bosses we understand the least.

ask her... what will she do, when she leaves? What will she want to be?
No. 1016981 ID: 73aaab
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I try to sit up further, but ow - still hurting a bit.
"You mind if I just talk to you for a bit, Nickel? I don't think I ever really get to talk to you - you're always around Astrolysis after all."

She nods.
"Conversation is rarely a necessity, but as you are the winner of this competitive bout, that means I am required to provide responses to the questions you pose."
Well, that was easy. Feels like I'm talking to someone's who's more machine than Amica, honestly.

>How does it feel to be alone, ostracized?

"Hey Nickel... do you ever feel like sometimes... you're the only person in the world? Like everything else is just some kind of elaborate simulation, and you're the only person who feels a particular way?"

She cocks her head.
"Snipers in the field often must stay hours in one position alone or with their spotter. For stealth operatives, the likelihood of supporting allies is even lower. Loneliness is a mindset."

>It may be impolite to ask, but if you ever wanted an actual raise from her, that may be where to begin. Like... is she really okay?
"Nickel, do you... really believe that kind of thought?" I ask.

"Yes. I am not strongly inclined to pursue connections to others - it could create problems, if it would conflict with the goals of my mission."
...Does she even have a mission any more?

Yeesh. Real winning mindset, that one. Feh. Biological robot. I get that we're created with purposes in mind, but I mean, why do we get to feel things like joy, sadness and boredom if we're only meant to carry out the tasks we get assigned to?

>Maybe you could be her spotter sometime and just hang out on the range.

I'll pass - nobody left here, anyway. I doubt we'd be setting off together even if we did become friends. Though I can respect her lifestyle choices.
"You got any hobbies?"

She smiles. It's a little stale.
"I like the knife game."
Yeah, uh, I'll pass. Not like severing fingers is all that common but stabbing it still hurts a lot.

>Did you ever see or meet any of the others in her group?
Yeah, a couple.
Number 7 was a pain in the arse compared to her counterpart. Used to go and try to do 'trickshots' with grenades, probably in a strange bid to imitate Nickel. Never worked out, got plenty of reprimands. And the worst part was that she would often drag me or some other goober from the cadets in to clean up the blast marks.

Honestly, after they all got to pick names for themselves, it just became patently clear how stupid the lot of them were - you're given a chance to be an individual, and then they all go and choose matching names, like minerals, or gems or flowers or something stupid like that. Me? I named myself after something that represents my essence - and then SOMEONE had to come in and remove any sense of originality my name had. Not that the eggheads running the show would've named me any better - you can just look at current three major sector bosses if you want an example of that.

>Sheep are domesticated flock animals; eats grass, plants; produces wool, meat. We made references to an idiom involving them as you passed out.
Never heard of 'em. Maybe they're a thing in other worlds, but not this one. Frankly I don't know much about animals in general - never seen any besides what gets described in books.

>Say, you said you used to have dreams, once, but no longer. Before we met and you started remembering things you oughtn't.
>What were those dreams about?

The usual. Visions of freedom. Places I've never been to. Dreams are dreams, you know? Sometimes they're stupid. I don't read into them. The scenes I get to see now though... I feel like I probably shouldn't be seeing all of them.
No. 1016982 ID: 73aaab
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>Open up with an explanation about us being a passive brain-scanning device. Then talk about the memory in full.

"Hey Nickel - you know, part of why I won was because of brain-scanning robots in my bloodstream. Aren't you a little miffed about that?"

"I know. I do not see any issue with it. In traditional warfare, things are not usually fair. But I seem to have made my own mistakes during the bout."
I frown. Nickel? Making mistakes?
Heh. Not so perfect after all, huh?
She points to the bandages around my head.
"Resilience. I had heard about the restorative effects of Parasignias. I was curious. In training, it is ill-advised to aim for the head, even with weaker ammunition."
She was willing to pop open my head out of curiosity?!
"I however, miscalculated how long it would take for you to recover. I am not used to combat where opponents are able to survive multiple wounds."

Yeah, I hear that a lot from people before my generation. Must be weird, getting shot once and going down instantly, or needing weeks to recover or something.
"You didn't respond after I provided an answer."

"Oh. Sorry, talking to the bots."
God, maintaining conversation like this is weird. The... time scale thinghy is pretty inconsistent, but I guess it's more real-time when I'm talking to people, and not trying to think of ways not to get shot.

>How did you survive getting your brain blown up? SPECIALLY completely intact?
>There should be SOME permanent side-effect!
Yeah, I'm sure Nanoweaver and the other medic-types were thrilled when they found out that not only do their troops now have access to personalized super-skills, that they also heal absurdly well from practically anything.

I asked Diagram about it once, since she's been around much longer than I have. I was always kinda confused when soldiers died in movies - I mean, they take one shot and they flop over, and they're just sobbing all over each other!
The amount of information we get from the outside's pretty scarce - I mean, most people don't choose to come back for a reason. But apparently we're sort of a special case? Folks like us, the Trace Clones - we're above-average when it comes to regeneration across the universe anyway, and Parasignias are really pushing that further.
...'parrently it's seen as weird that healing is 'slower' around here. Something about... 'distance from the center'? I think they were talking about our world or something.
Though, I hear a few clones get jobs as bodyguards because their wounds start closing themselves mid-fight or something.

>Argine has obvious Tozol traits
Again, are you talking about Sarasols? They've got four ears, and it's a pretty dominant gene, given how we get half of our regenerative properties (and our four ears) from 'em. But they're definitely brighter in colour than I am.

I scratch my head. Moving on.
Now to poke at that memory of hers for a bit.
"Hey uh... I dunno what's really been happening, but, while I was conked out - I saw you, in the past. You were with the others, and eating alone. There was some guy... talking about your thoughts. I don't know what's up with that. But do you... feel anything about your generation of clones?"

This time, she seems to be taken aback for a moment.
I see something behind those multiple eyes of hers.
A glimmer of... I don't know, something negative? Her face is neutral, but there's a quiver to it, like something's poking out from under the mask. She looks to the side.

"I do not feel any particular sentiment towards them. They were allies. Fellow operators. My role was to be cooperative. I was."
She crosses her arms, her eyes refocusing on me.
...Guess that's all there is to it.

>Nickel is offering you special, personalized training. Consider it.
...I mean, should I?
Argh! I... don't really like her. But is there anyone in this facility I do, besides the usual two - who are, by the way, non-combatants!
...Well, I guess Amica's kinda interesting.

>Mentorship would be cool. You did basically die twice in this fight after all.
>ehh... I'm against it. What works for a sniper won't work for a shocktrooper.

She... did kick my ass for the most part. I had a lot of things going for me, and - while it was my own skill that pulled through, I made some... pretty big mistakes.
Even if she and I are different combat operatives, there's still a lot I could learn, that much is true. My main strength is adaptability, after all.
I'm not a bloody cadet, but...

>Nickel is a driven individual. When she sets her mind to something she strives for absolute mastery.

Fine, well, I'll bloody ask at least. If anything, she'd be morally flexible enough to train me, even though her interests and... 'mission' are to keep me here until the leads arbitrarily decide that I've been a good girl and I can go. Even if it means learning from someone I don't like - I'm going to take anything I can get, because I need to use every tool available to me if I'm to become a hero.

>The questions are clear:
>What's it like to be the best among your peers/at something, and how can I get there?

I breathe in.
"Nickel, could I get some training or advice from you? I hate to say it, but you pushed me much further than Judicium did."

Nickel doesn't move from her spot.
"Judicium is a supportive-oriented operator, with an emphasis on defensive combat meant to defend objectives, individuals and escort VIPs. She is ill-equipped for one-on-one combat where the only objective is to defeat the opponent. Even her Parasignia is a utility-based support tool."
Way to take the excitement out of winning against one of the big names in this facility, Nickel.
She pauses, like she's thinking without taking her multiple eyes off of me. Then, she moves to the bed - pulling out what seems to be a large black case from the bottom.

There's a scabbling, of her fingers against the case's synthetic material. Then, the lid pops open.
"Here. Take this."
The little figure hefts a large gun, throwing it up towards me - I catch it in both arms, and the weight surprises me.
It's... a rifle? Large caliber. Very large caliber.
Seriously, this thing looks like it was built to punch through a tank - if RPGs weren't already capable of doing that with far less logistical effort.
The colours on it are... interesting. Seriously, this gun does not look standard-issue.

"What... is this? I've never seen a model like it."

"It's... the Prototype H-ED DSTR. High Environmental-Damage Destructive Rifle. A single-model prototype put together using spare parts. Much too powerful for me - more of a challenge to its creator."
That explains the... retro look. It doesn't even have a tripod - but, judging from how thick the muzzle is? This thing's more of a railgun than a sniper rifle, I'd say. Bipod would snap right off. Compared to the NME Rifle that Nickel used in our fight, I couldn't really picture her firing it without it dislocating her arm.
"How did you get it?"
No. 1016983 ID: 73aaab
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"It was... a present, from Teagan."

She sits on the bedside, as I shift around. The blankets feel hot and uncomfortable - so I toss them to the side, sitting next to her.
"Teagan? Who the hell is that?" I ask.
Nickel coughs, in a purposefully fake kind of way.
"Dr. Teagan Graph. This weapon... was a bit of a tantrum of mine."
Doc Graph... materials expert. Sort of a renaissance man - he did a lot of things, but... honestly, he was one of the leads I've seen the least of, let alone got a glance at at all. How can a weapon be a tantrum?
"I see your look of confusion. Or shock. I was... unsatisfied with how things were sometimes. I made an unreasonable request to a superior. I... deserved a reprimand, that day. I couldn't even use it. Much too heavy for me."

"I wanted to see if something... good, could be built from scraps. Something powerful."


"Nickel, I..."
"It's yours now. Adequate equipment must be necessary if you are to receive instruction from me after all."
Huh. Guess... I'm a student again. Feels kind of weird, receiving instruction from her. I mean, I've been taught by the older three - but all Astrolysis ever taught was which parts of your body hurt the most when you got punched.

"Thanks. I'll let you know when I want to take you up on that offer.
No. 1016984 ID: 73aaab
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"Moving onto other contractual obligations, it seems I owe you a choice of gadgets."
Good. I didn't want to bring it up myself. Would make it awkward after she's giving me what seems like something personal to her.

"Where were you hiding that?"
"Covert Operative's secret."
She holds out two gadgets - though I think she only used one of them during her fight.
Well, time to check these things out. Room's still dim - bright light's going to make my head hurt, that's for sure. But at least these scans will tell me what I need to know.


A bespoke deployable projector, the Holo-Cloak's technology had been employed by Linharjan splinter cells for decades before being altered into a tactical utility device. Useful for deception, the Holo-Cloak was first adapted by desperate combat engineers who were pinned down in a safehouse by enemy combatants. Unable to push their position further, but knowing that their opponents would investigate if they attempted a retreat, the engineers rigged up the cloaking device to instead, project a recording of themselves using basic video capture footage. Although the initial prototype only barely bought enough time for the engineers to survive, their tale inspired the production of proper Holo-cloaks that could deceive enemy combatants for longer periods of time. Gradual incremental improvement to its technology improved the Holo-Cloak's functionality, and now it is able to record up to 5 minutes of loopable footage, and looks convincingly realistic from a distance. This can be used for strategic distractions - either to reduce pressure on pinned-down allies, or to escape while the enemy is focused elsewhere.

DIAGRAM'S NOTE: This was the same technology that Amala the Kind made use of in the infiltration of the blacksite that housed the deadly bioweapon that threatened her city! Without it, she wouldn't have been able to rescue her lover, or protect her countrymen. Currently, the technology used for it's original cloaking properties has been altered for accurate simulations of movement - but I imagine you could reverse-engineer the device to re-enable it's old cloaking properties. Linharjan cloaks were never long-lasting however, and movement using them is somewhat obvious at a close distance. Best stand still when people are looking!
Though, in an unrelated fun fact - the recording feature that the Holo-Cloak had has often been used for practical jokes in the Linharjan militas where it had first originated. One video that never gets old is of a young soldier talking with one of his superiors - only for him to find out, three-minutes in, that it was a pre-recorded Holo-Cloak all along! He was really basking in the praise, being told that 'you're pretty good' and whatnot!

Tags: Cloaking, Duplicating, Deceiving

A bespoke creation of Site 70, Blade Printers were originally a joke suggested by Doctor Wickerknell one night while thinking on the Asliann military's implementation of bladed armaments and ritual focus on honourable knife-fighting. Doctor Graph's implementation of his signature Silicagraph technology however, meant that it could be brought into reality, much to the chagrin of the military specialist. It's intended purpose was to be a concealed weapon an operator could carry with them inconspicuously, but the logistical problems that the internal polymer printer prompted meant that it would be almost as difficult to smuggle across customs as actual firearms without the benefits that said firearms provide.
Although ill-suited for it's original intended purpose as a 'theoretical stealth weapon', the Blade Printer allows for the rapid manufacture of air-decaying aerodynamic blades that can be thrown far distances and have a tendency to decay inside of targets. The fact that it leaves bleeding wounds meant that long-distance wounding and disabling of targets was easily provided, but due to the similar benefits that a silenced sidearm could provide, Blade Printers were created as a novelty and training device for bladed weapon enthusiasts within Site 70, as the simple disposable knives created by the printer meant that one did not have to perform maintenance or cleaning, since the knife would disappear soon after use.

DIAGRAM'S NOTE: With the advent of Parasignias, Blade Printers no longer have the same efficacy they once did. Although they still embed themselves into targets, the coagulant and repair effects of Parasignias means that expiration from exsanguination is no longer a viable combat strategy - not that gunfire wasn't just as effective to begin with. This was after all, a joke turned design experiment! We're lucky that silicagraph polymer aren't in short supply, or else I'm sure Dr. Troveheart would have stopped the project back when it was first being created!
I do wonder what it would have been like had we used the printer's technology on other materials, but few things can be printed so easily, let alone explosives, napalm or other chemicals. If additional effects were applied to the blades through Parasignias however - they would be subject to the same 'piercing' effect that makes melee weaponry more effective against opponents with Parasignias - even if the blades are thrown!

Tags: Replicating, Cutting, Aerodynamic

Currently possessed Tags:
Beam Unit - Focusing, Energizing, Pinpointing
Explosive Disc - Explosive, Volatile, Destructive
Barrier Generator - Reflective, Protective, Repelling
Pitch Prefect - Slowing, Sticky, Congealing
Blink Capacitor - Displacing, Replacing, Intangible

...Huh. When did these analyses have Diagram's notes on 'em? It's weird hearing from her when she's... not even here. I mean, she does have psychic powers, but I guess wherever you got the data from, it was somewhere in Diagram's place.

Right then! You know what to do - gimme an opinion on which of these to take. With Nickel out of the way - that leaves Astrolysis, Ozone, Mnemosyne... and my sister.
After we choose a gadget, there's a little bit more time I have left to ask her stuff before we go. If anything pressing comes to mind, you should let me know.
I'm probably going to ask her about her... philosophy after. I'm curious about what goes on in her head when it comes to that, and the whole... dying thing she goes on about. And what she wants to do when she leaves.

While you sort out that decision, I quickly check the deck at my side. Nickel gives it a curious look, but doesn't ask me anything. Eh. If she was curious enough to ask, I'd give her an explanation... or at least, however much info of this damn 'magic' I can actually understand.

Currently, I have these cards remaining:
2 Solburst
3 Frozeneye
3 Breezecycle
2 Briarspirit
2 Voidsplit
4 Echoscribe

Not too bad, honestly. If anything, I think Diagram really helped us out with this.
If I screw up the number, remind me. I was never good at keeping track of things like these when they all feel the same and are shaped the same.
No. 1016985 ID: c92a02

Knifegun. Unorthodox tactics will be harder for your enemies to counter. Also, it's a gun that shoots knives. Duh.
No. 1016986 ID: 094652

Holocloak. Definitely.
No. 1016988 ID: 84dbd4

Well done, Argine. You appear to have given her new mission parameters, and gotten a hell of a gun out of the bargain.

Surprisingly tough choice. The Holo is the obvious pick - anyone could get good use out of something like that.

But oh, that Replicating Tag - having your own little internal 3D printer. I do wonder how far you could stretch it. Could you potentially restock the Explosive Discs, or at least create elaborate fakes?

What’s this about melee weapons being more effective against other Parasignias, though? Is this really all that exploitable?

If it is, I am leaning blade printer.
No. 1017004 ID: f13b9a

This is pretty hard ... the cloak is an obvious choice, but the ability to perform replication might be useful, and we already have teleportation which gives us the element of surprise.

I think we should get the Blade Printer, there's lots of interesting combinations we could do with stuff like Explosive or Teleporting fused onto them.
No. 1017009 ID: 43ac5c

This. The holo has obvious uses, but the other has serious utility with your parasig.

I'll add that it also has a few extra uses:
It's quiet, so it has that above firearms.
Mix the blades with pitch perfect's slow to quietly lower a target's mobility from afar.
Add explosive tag to blades. Or if that fails, add aero to the explosive discs. I doubt I have to tell you how useful either of those is.
No. 1017012 ID: 0aff21

I suppose we'll be going with the replicating blade printer.

Huh? You mean like the umbrellas?
Just kidding.
No, tozols are a species genetically ingeneered by a bygone interstellar race as soldier.
They have super strenght, enhanced speed and reflexes, a big snout, four ears, tail-like tendrils with thermal sensitivity, etc. Overpowered as hell.

Tell Nickel she doesn't have to be formal or emotionally detatched right now. She can be expressive and loose around you.
No. 1017013 ID: 04d463

That was a pretty good tactical read of Judicium. What's her tactical read of who's left that we've got to beat? Does she have particular advice of how to beat them?
No. 1017017 ID: 96c896

Blade Printer could be used to make handholds to climb surfaces. It also looks like a great thing to put the Explosive tag on. It would pierce, then explode inside the enemy. Very dangerous to parasignia users in particular, which are our primary targets right now. I have to assume it'll also be usable more than 3 times, which is an advantage over the discs. It won't do as much damage to terrain though. You could also use it the other way around, apply its tags to the discs, likely giving you more of them and letting you throw them further. Applying it to Pitch Prefect would do something similar... Applying it to your beam would give a piercing laser probably which would be pretty great for damage.

The cloak on the other hand... well, on its own it's great in specific tactical situations to reposition or ambush. Or to set a decoy, which accomplishes much the same thing with the addition of wasting the enemy's ammo. I imagine we could apply its effect to pitch prefect or the discs to make them harder for the enemy to spot. Putting it on the Blink Capacitor would probably give us a decoy image alongside the blink...

What's the difference between Replication and Duplication? I'm guessing it's that Duplication results in one use of a weapon resulting in two or more actual results, and Replication just means you get more uses? Or maybe Duplication is more related to phantom images, so like throwing a disc would result in throwing two but one is fake, so as to be harder to dodge.

I feel like both these gadgets are kinda crap on their own tbh. Probably why she didn't use either of them much. Just a recorded message from the hologram and nothing at all from the blade.
Ultimately I'm going to vote for Blade Printer because it serves as a damage upgrade, a range upgrade, and a number of uses upgrade. Holo-cloak would be good if any of the rest of our gadgets were useful in a stealth situation but they're not really, so the synergy is lacking. Just lets us be more creative I guess.

Ask how she did that multiple bullet trick in the second room. Was she just tricking your tactical readout with her parasignia? Or was she using a gadget?
No. 1017025 ID: e0eda8

Let's see...
Holo offers...
Alpha strike capability via cloaking.
+ Disk - Cloaked disks
+ Barrier - Hard light clone
+ Blink Capaciter - Blink to mirror image, Invisible Escape
+ Beam projector - long range hologram
Pitch perfect- Hidden trap
Vanilla - Gun mismatch and other shenanigans

Printer offers...
+ Blink - displacer blades, phase knives, Recalling Dagger
+ Disk + Blink - Disrupter Blade: Cuts through anything and everything, destroying p knife in process.
+ Beam + Barrier - Light Sword
+ Pitch - fire rate up
+ Disk - Double disks, glide disks

From what I can see, the Blade projector doesn't offer much utility on is own. Instead it offers unique capabilities to use with your parasignia. It'll require a lot of trial and error, but will ultimately become more and more useful as you get more gadgets.

The Holo Cloak on the other hand is immediately useful and in most situations, better in every way. This is not most situations. Or opponents are elite soldiers who know how to deal with this sort of thing. Hell, Astrolisis doesn't even have eyes! But there is a bigger problem: Argine, you just don't get the sort of combat style the cloak demands. Luckily, you have Nickel.
If you take the Holo Cloak, you need to start your mentorship under Nickel as soon as possible so you can learn how to use it effectively.
Under-effective in the tourney context or not, with the proper training, the cloak will probably help you land or avoid 1 or 2 hits in most fights, but that may be all you need.
No. 1017794 ID: 73aaab
File 163991231509.png - (36.99KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch046.png )

>No, tozols are a species genetically engineered by a bygone interstellar race as soldier.
>They have super strength, enhanced speed and reflexes, a big snout, four ears, tail-like tendrils with thermal sensitivity, etc. Overpowered as hell.

Interstellar? I don't think I've ever actually seen a star, even if Astrolysis goes on about how they're basically big explosions in the sky. Still, I feel like you're confusing them for Sarasols - the four ears and physical strength is part of why they were used so often in Gene Traces, and the recurrence of the four ears we have. Wouldn't say they're super strong, but they're certainly the strongest of the four species I know.

But anyway...
>Tell Nickel she doesn't have to be formal or emotionally detatched right now. She can be expressive and loose around you.
I feel like that's just her normal. First thing you heard her talk about was death and whatnot, but I've been listening to her prattle on for years.

"Before I take the gadget, there's some things I'm curious about, Nickel," I begin.
"How did you do that... multiple selves trick during our battle? The second area. I had a tactical display but you were everywhere at once - couldn't pin you down. Was it part of your Parasignia's effect?"

Nickel scoots back on the bed a bit, putting the gadgets... somewhere else. Making eye contact with her's strange - I don't know which of her eyes to focus on, but all of hers are on me.
"Parasignias can only do so much by themselves, Argine. You saw mine during the final exchange - it is the intangibility provided by my knife."

That checks out. Even though my Parasignia is very adaptable, all of its effects still rely on me storing things in an invisible space, then combining them together.
"Then how did you do the whole... splitting thing? Was it a gadget?"
I doubt it's a gadget, but it couldn't hurt to ask.

Nickel crosses her arms, her expression changing a bit. I bet she would be great at card games.
"The operation of Parasignias is something you have to discover yourself, Argine. But there is a lot you do not know if you've yet to learn about alternative uses of your own Parasignia."
What's she going on about? Everyone only has one Parasignia - that's one of the main confirmed details about them, but... damn, I know there's a lot on this topic that I don't know yet. Honestly, my knowledge on the theory of it's kinda rusty...
...I'm going to have to press Nanoweaver on this.

"Do you happen to have any tactical reads of the other folk? Advice to beat them?"

Nickel frowns.
"Why are you asking me? Even if I am offering to train you, I am still aligned with the Sector Bosses. You should ask them yourself."

Well, that's all the questions left, except one.

"Alright, last question for you, Nickel. How come you're so preoccupied with... death, and your duty, and all of that? There's... no war we're fighting now, anyway. Hell, you could've left with everyone else, since someone else could have taken your role as a Sector Boss."

Nickel thinks for a moment.
"I have not questioned my purpose in years. If we were beings created for a war, then it is the main thing we should embrace. War leads to destruction and death. So it is inevitable that we will most likely die, one way or another. Even if there is no war currently, there will always be conflict of some kind. I am simply refining my own skills, so that when I am needed - I will be ready for anything."

I don't like thinking about this kind of stuff. What happened to living from day to day? I don't have the time to think about the future if I'm stuck inside this facility all day, all night.
She looks up, eyes squinted.
I think to some of the things you - the SAI - have said to me before. About medicine and ethics.
"Do you ever think about what you'd do if one day, there's no conflict left?"
For me - well, I want to be a hero. Defeating villains, saving the day? Even if there's no wars around, there's still people to defeat. But... a world without conflict at all? That sounds terrible to me. I actually agree with Nickel - there's always going to be conflict. And a world without it's probably a hell worse than Site 70.

Nickel shrugs her little shoulders. It's funny - there's been dozens, even hundreds of soldiers larger and more powerful than her. But even though she looks so small - she's probably... one of the strongest people this facility has ever produced. Even though in that flashback - she was an outcast, a reject.

"There is no need to consider questions that will never happen in reality. If it does, I'll figure it out."

I think I'm done with this line of thought.
No. 1017795 ID: 73aaab
File 163991237617.png - (264.95KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch047.png )

....7-1 on the Blade Printer vote versus the Holo-Cloak.
I gotta admit, I'm curious what kind of effects the Blade Printer's going to have when I put other gadgets into it.

Gadget's been chosen then.
"I'll take the Blade Printer."

Nickel passes me the little gadget, and I examine it for a moment. I withdraw one of the knives and watch as it gradually flakes away before dissipating into harmless dust.
It's not a knife-gun... but perhaps I could modify it myself so that it launches those knives out at a faster velocity? That'll be something I can explore when I've got time to mess around with it.
I turn my attention back to Nickel, and the Holo-Cloak's already gone. Guess it's too late to change decision now.

"You've been out for the entirety of the previous day. It's lunch-time, so you should get something to eat."
Nickel pats me on the shoulder. That's... thoughtful of her to let me know. But damn, I'm frustrated I basically lost the entirety of that afternoon, even if most of it was going to be R&R.

"Thanks for everything so far, Nickel. I'll be seeing you again soon."
She gives me a silent nod as I push myself out of bed, ripping off the bandages.
Man, I'm hungry. With how much healing I've got to do before my next fight in 3 days, I need food.

...Thinking on it, didn't Judicium say that she'll make me new outfits when I won against other Sector Bosses? Weird incentive, but I mean, free stuff is free. Not like printing textiles is that hard. Dunno what's up with that but I guess I should pay her a visit eventually to ask about how that's going.

>Stealth-themed Costume Creation has been unlocked!
>Check out the Discussion Thread for more details here: https://questden.org/kusaba/questdis/res/133296.html
>Or check the Discord instead at: https://discord.com/invite/x9QHPvzhdD
No. 1017796 ID: 73aaab
File 163991241083.png - (269.77KB , 1000x1000 , planningagain.png )

Making food for yourself's never too hard of a problem. With how the rations are made, it's a decent time. Plus there's always the stuff growing in the hydroponics area.

Ugh. But now it's back to the headache's that's trying to deal with the next three Sector Bosses.

...I underestimated Nickel. That's the thing - everyone underestimates Nickel at first, because you don't expect someone as small as her to be such a deadshot with a gun.

Astrolysis, Ozone and Mnemosyne... they're all highly challenging in different ways. I'm leaning towards fighting Astrolysis first, but I still don't really know how she fights for the most part, because she was never really actively involved in places I like to hang around.

What I'm most bothered by was... all of the stuff about Parasignias, the strange things that happened in Nickel's fight. Just how did she do that trick in the second part? If I don't understand how more advanced Parasignia mechanics work, then what the hell am I going to do if one of the other three end up beating me into a bloody pulp with theirs?

I mean, I can go and ask Nanoweaver for more details on how Parasignias work but do I even have the time to be studying it when I could be doing other things that improve my chances of success?
There's just so many things I have to keep track of, it's making my head hurt again.
No. 1017797 ID: 73aaab
File 163991243713.png - (294.31KB , 1000x1000 , planningagain2.png )

I feel a presence loom behind me. A slithering.
"You look like there's something on your mind, Argine! Maybe I could help~!"
No. 1017798 ID: cdabe3

ask for a shoulder rub

then ask for clothing ideas, she seems to have good taste
No. 1017804 ID: e51896

yeah, just ask her for clothing ideas... (she's going to recommend a scarf, isn't she?)
No. 1017828 ID: c92a02

Maybe she can help you model clothing ideas. Urban camo time! Perhaps a nice new breaker with angled blue and black stripes to break up silhouettes.
No. 1017844 ID: 96c896

Ask her what she knows about Parasignias, and using them differently.
No. 1017855 ID: 094652

"Sudo Enhance Knockers."
No. 1017856 ID: 031458

Ohh, Nickle's Parasignia sounds like superposition.
Basically, she can take an object and change its position from a finite point, to possibly anywhere around her. (This makes it seem to have disappeared from reality, even though technically it's still there.) She can then decide where exactly she wants it to be and it appears.
It used to be only a knife she could control. Now it's virtually any other object, even herself.
By understanding the underlying nature of her power, Nickel has managed to massively increase the scope of it's use. You could do the same.

If you want to know more about Nickle's parasignia, ask Nanoweaver about Schrödinger's Cat later.

In the meantime, say hi to Amica!
No. 1017894 ID: 0a042b

Give Amica a firm and cordial handshake if you don't feel like heeding that shoulder rub advice.

Maybe Mnemosyne would be the best person to fight next. She will have less time to prepare a counter-strategy against you.
No. 1018058 ID: 9a2966

Engage her on this while you eat and recover. What's her take on uniforms and other such apparel? You'd probably want an outfit more than a uniform, especially for when you get out of here. And obviously you'd want it to be practical, fit for purpose.

As someone who can, essentially, redesign herself from scratch, Amica must constantly be putting some thought into her appearances. Maybe she can give her impressions - or explain her own fashion choices. Why does she look like she does?

And let's leave the Parasignia chat for later - or last. Just socialize for now.
No. 1018209 ID: fdd136

I like the idea of her modeling for clothes
No. 1018679 ID: 73aaab
File 164077819731.png - (365.86KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch048point5.png )

Amica immediately moves behind me and-
Did she just make a chair out of herself?

Bloody hell, she could've just sat next to me! Now I gotta turn my whole chair around.

>Ask her for a shoulder rub
I'm not sure I like the idea of her getting her gooey hands on me moreso than she already has.

>Ohh, Nickle's Parasignia sounds like superposition.
>Basically, she can take an object and change its position from a finite point, to possibly anywhere around her.
That sounds a little overkill, doesn't it? She could've used that for explosives or traps or something. I mean, I don't know all of the capabilities that Parasignias can have to begin with, but - that kind of thing sounds like it would've snapped things in half already. You could describe my Parasignia in such a way - but there's so many limitations to it that you sorta have to get a feel for over time. There's just too much I don't know about them, and frankly, until recently, I never HAD to do this much combat with Parasignia-users.

>Sudo Enhance Knockers
My fists work perfectly fine already.

>As someone who can, essentially, redesign herself from scratch, Amica must constantly be putting some thought into her appearances. Maybe she can give her impressions - or explain her own fashion choices. Why does she look like she does?
>And let's leave the Parasignia chat for later - or last. Just socialize for now.
>Clothing modelling
>yeah, just ask her for clothing ideas... (she's going to recommend a scarf, isn't she?)

Eh. Do I really want to be socializing when I've got so many pressing issues to deal with?
I'll ask her - AFTER she's done pestering me about whatever she's got in mind.

I pick up my biscuit, scooting my chair around to face her... throne thing.
"You must already be planning your next move. But I guess the previous battle didn't go so smoothly for you?"
That's one way to put it. So I glower at her.
She reaches for my hand and I slap it away.
"Yeah, nice try. No mind reading for you yet."
Don't need her digging around and hearing what you guys have to say.

She shrugs, giving me that red smile of hers.
"That's fine, we can talk normally!"
I take a bite out of the cracker. I still don't really trust her - I mean, who would? She's helped me once, but just like with the others, it can just be a setup so she can betray you at a more convenient time.
But let's see what she knows if she insists on being here.
"Tell me what you know about Parasignias, and using them differently."

She thinks to herself for a moment, a big stupid smile across her face.
"Hmm... maybe I will! If! You do a bit of a favour for me."

Another deal?
"Let's make a trade, shall we? I wanna go and talk with Diagram! Don't worry, I just want to ask her some things - so it's not like I'm going to hurt her in any way!"

That's all? That can be arranged, but...
"Couldn't you just have gone to see her yourself? It's not like Diagram's so reclusive that you need a keycard to get into her room."

I take a bite out of my biscuit. What's with her and these strange requests anyway? I can get the whole thing with the switch, since that seems to have given her more autonomy rather than being stuck around Judi's neck all day. I can really 'get' that feeling... of being trapped against your will.
"Things go smoother with a friend around! Plus, wouldn't you be a little put off if someone you didn't know walked into your room without anyone familiar around?"
...She sees me as a friend? Well, I guess I did help her out.

Egh. I mean, I should probably be asking for you guys, but... come on, it's not like I can't defend Diagram from her if she tries to pull anything weird.
At the same time, it makes me wonder - does she know something that Nanoweaver wouldn't when it comes to Parasignias?
No. 1018681 ID: 62e901

Awfully vague, that.
She offers very little besides maybe a favor. Maybe. While she herself will get exactly what she desires. It favors her quite a bit.
Still, we could make use of this. We have little idea what motivates her, but we just got a piece of the puzzle. More details may be the key to figure out her goals.
I say tell her maybe, but after she leaves we first ask Diagram why she'd wish to have that particular item. That'll give us clues, at the very least.

Remember, some people have their freedom restricted because they abuse it.
No. 1018698 ID: 96a9a8

The favor is small. It fits the reward if she doesn't know much. Let's do it.
No. 1018700 ID: c92a02

The voices in your head are telling you to socialize more.
No. 1018887 ID: 3328c7

>"Yeah, nice try. No mind reading for you yet."
>Don't need her digging around and hearing what you guys have to say.
Actually, negociating with her directly could be quite beneficial to sorting out what her deal is.
No. 1019202 ID: 73aaab
File 164112262341.png - (520.98KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch049.png )

I guess I'll take her up on the offer then.

"Sure. No funny business when we do it though - plus, I need to focus on other things first. You're only going if I give the A-OK."

Amica nods, before making a bit of a flourish.
"Oh-ho-ho~! Very well, Argine! I hope you don't mind a quick lecture on this topic - on Parasignias!"
...And now she's gone and made glasses for herself. She doesn't even have eyeballs!

I can only hope she knows more about Parasignias than the other people in this facility. We're all stuck here, and there's only so many Parasignias to study.
Somehow, I get the feeling that she hasn't been off-world at all. Call it a hunch, but somehow this purple freak's probably not that normal-looking, no matter what worlds she goes to.

"Basically, Parasignias are the manifestation of one's spirit, yes? You and the others have gone through much in order to form one - though physical training isn't the way to strengthen a Parasignia, at least not in your case."
Yeah, seems right.
Developing a Parasignia... well, in my case, mine was born the moment I realized that people have it out for me, and that I would never be respected as long as I stay here. There were definitely quite a few people I've known who were physically stronger than I was, but never developed Parasignias, at least when I was around. There's something about 'stronger wills producing stronger Parasignias', but not necessarily faster.
"Care to elaborate? So far, this is stuff I already know."
It's one thing to form a Parasignia, but strengthening it... I guess the only thing that comes to mind would be using it more, but I've been using mine quite often, even before you guys were shoved inside of me. Plus, there's sort of a weird thing about Parasignias - while it never tells you the specifics - when you get your Parasignia, there's the sense that... something clicks. You just know how to use it, and what limits you have. With a bit of testing, it's second nature, like pulling a trigger.

She puts her hand on mine and-
That's a lot of pictures.
Thankfully, there's no headache - but I shoot her another look, as if to say, "I told you not to do that."
She ignores it - gesturing like Diagram does. Is she putting on an impression?
"Pseudosignias, Argine! Little adjustments to your Parasignia, formed through taking aspects of others! There's a saying, that you become like the people you spend your time with. With Parasignias, that's a bit literal, hee hee."

Pseudosignias? This is new.
"Wait, so, is that how Nickel's Parasignia could do the whole splitting thing?"

"If I had to harbour a guess, that's correct! Nickel's own Parasignia centers around intangibility and invisibility - the obscuring of information. But there's nothing in there that allows for the creation of false information, is there? That means she must have made a good bond with someone who means a lot to her, inheriting some of that individual's Parasignia effects in hers - forming a Pseudosignia. It's not like you lose your original Parasignia - to put it ina way you'd have an easy time understanding, it's like swapping out your gun's ammunition for a different type!"

That's probably oversimplifying how a knife that gives the user invisibility and intangibility can also somehow spoof information, but all of this sounds super abstract.
But there's... only one person who I even know Nickel hangs out with on a regular basis - that being Astrolysis. I figured that the rest of the Sector Bosses all had a Parasignia, but that basically confirms Astrolysis as having one too.
Amica leans in, whispering in my ears.
"Oh, and, this is just between you and me, but - did you know there's more subtypes of Parasignias than just that? But you'd do well to find out yourself. But that's just the quick intro to this kind of thing!"

So as a recap then...
Parasignias are formed from people's experiences and values, and can be awakened in quite a few different ways.
Pseudosignias - named that because they aren't really standalone - are instead new effects that change the original Parasignia's properties depending on the person or thing you've formed a connection to.
And there's apparently a few more subtypes of Parasignias, but I guess she's not budging on that. I can't say I like how vague her information is - it's only worth thinking about the stuff I actually have a grasp on - so, these Pseudosignias... I'm going to press her on it more.
No. 1019203 ID: 73aaab
File 164112280403.png - (520.53KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch050.png )

"Alright, well - Pseudosignias seem strong, but how do I get them? I'm already friends with Diagram or Nanoweaver, but I don't notice anything different about my Parasignia."
Frankly, I'm not even sure Diagram has one. Her psychic powers seem innate to her. But Nanoweaver definitely does, and well - despite the similarities in our skillset, I don't have anything like the... breaking down of materials like Nanoweaver can.
"You know how Parasignias can resonate with each other? Well, that's how you get stronger. Through developing bonds with each other. In essence, you need to spend less time training or resting, and simply making friends with other people!"

Reality drops on me like a brick.
"SOCIALIZING? You're telling me making friends makes my Parasignia stronger?!"
Amica laughs.
"I can see from your expression that you can't believe it either! But it's just simple logic. If every single moment you spend with others is solely pragmatic, that's not quite the grounds for a relationship, right?"

I can't believe it. This is just like something out of one of Diagram's stories - the BLOODY power of friendship? There's something intensely messed up about this system. Sure, maybe civvie types out there in the wider universe, they can all be happy dappy with their friendships. NOT SO MUCH WHEN BASICALLY EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS FACILITY IS AN OPPONENT.

"Oh, no. Please, PLEASE tell me there's an alternative - you're going to give the SAI way too much encouragement on this."
I can already hear you lot screaming in the back about me having to interact with people more.
What happened to being a self-made woman? While I wasn't going to turn down aid from Nanoweaver and Diagram, or you lot for that matter - why do Parasignias HAVE to rely on other people to get stronger? What happened to personal growth and development?

"Perhaps you could get stronger by yourself, Argine. It would suit your personality. But you have such limited time... and no idea how to improve your own Parasignia normally. All I'm doing is pointing out an easier path for you - but it's up to you!"
So... I'd be spending time singing and dancing with people, so that I can... improve myself without training? This sounds like a scam.

"So, wait, what's the criteria even for this kind of thing? How am I supposed to know when I've... befriended someone enough to actually get this kind of ability?"

Amica shrugs.
"Dunno! It's more about observation and applying their knowledge to your own things. Friends helping friends! But you'd be surprised - Pseudosignias can be formed through other means too. It can be formed with places and objects, not just people. But it's much easier to get deeply connected to those who you love, yes? Perhaps, by having a bit of an epiphany between you and someone else, you can encourage a Pseudosignia to happen more easily. But you're going to have to go on a few dates to get to know them better than you did before!"
Love, huh? I don't really know that feeling too well, so this is going over my head. Maybe friends - or allies - would be enough. What's this about dates though? Can't say I'm into that kinda crap.

"Either way, I'd highly recommend taking some downtime for yourself! You're running yourself ragged, trying to spend every single waking moment preparing for your fights!"
"Don't you know what relaxation and having fun is? If anything, you may do better since you actually let yourself unwind."

That's really not what they teach you, back when I was a cadet.
Bloody hell. She has a point. I don't think I can really remember what it feels like to just... relax, or something. Feels like I want to tear my own fur out.
I probably should take a bit of an actual break, but...

I'm... going to have to actually talk to people for... casual fun and games? This feels insulting - telling me to go and play catch with people who've broken my bones before. Is that what you would do, just say, 'oh, it's okay', and go on pretending like nothing happened?
That, and the fact that spending time with the others isn't even guaranteed to give me a Pseudosignia.
No. 1019204 ID: 73aaab
File 164112290968.png - (178.58KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch051.png )

>Ask her for clothing ideas
>Maybe she could model for outfits!

I don't care much for fashion, but it's something that you can't go without. Gotta say, I'm used to this outfit though.
From the sounds of it, I guess you guys are cooking up something for me? Wonder when that's going to be ready. But I guess I should ask anyway?

"You know, the SAI's apparently going to be making outfits for me. Perhaps you could model them for us later, since you're all... shapeshifty. Or maybe you could tell us about some of your ideas?"
Amica considers the thought for a moment.
"I would love to! But I can't say I have many ideas myself... I only reproduce the ideas that I've seen elsewhere, of course! But you're welcome to bring me along to play dress-up, hee hee. But... 'the SAI' this, 'the SAI' that... Argine, don't you have a better name for them? They're not the only SAI in this facility, you know."
...A name? I mean, I... I guess?
Amica for once looks a little annoyed.
"Oh, come on. You've named your guns, Argine. And yet you don't have a name for the close companions that have been helping you this whole time?"
Well that's because naming guns and weaponry is easy!

"How about you ask them for ideas later? They're good at that kind of thing!"
...Well, I guess that makes sense. You naming yourselves. Kinda like me, actually.

Technically I could ask Amica too.
But, I've got a more pressing question on my mind.

"How do you even know about this Parasignia stuff, Amica? It lines up with what I've seen, but, nobody's ever actually mentioned Pseudosignias to me as a concept before."
Not that anyone around here lets me know about anything.
She laughs, in that... Amica way. It sounds less distorted than before - maybe she got some practice in.
"It's simple, Argine! After all - I was designed for reproduction. I reproduce the actions, behaviours of others. You learn quite a lot about the nature of existence that way. Perhaps you'd do well to take a look at that yourself."

"Amica? What the hell do you mean by that?"
She stands up, the throne disappearing into her back within seconds.
"That's up to you to decide, Argine. I've got my deal and right now, I don't need to make any more. Come get me from the Old Sectors if you want to go have a little outing with Diagram! Or perhaps - if you wanted to do that other favour for me, in exchange for that reward I've got lined up for you. But I'll leave you to your lunch. Toodles!"

The click-clack of her heels on the cafeteria floor echoes out.
I call after her, but she completely ignores me as she walks away.
Feh. Crafty bitch. At least the others are capable of pretending of being polite.
At least we got something out of this exchange, but I wonder what she wants to talk to Diagram about?
...Hell if I'm going to leave my lunch though. I'm going to get more.
No. 1019205 ID: 73aaab
File 164112295052.png - (328.81KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch052.png )


Well, now I'm left all alone with you lot again.
You know, Amica's right. I don't really like calling you guys, 'you guys' only, at least when talking about you to other people. Feels weird. You're a collective, so it's not like I can talk to you like one person, but... maybe you could go and give yourselves a name? Try not to pick something stupid, alright?

Not only that, but we need to decide on which opponent I'll be pursuing next.

With Nickel defeated, there's three opponents left: Astrolysis, Mnemosyne and Ozone.

I've already introduced them to you before, but now that we've got one of the Sector Bosses over and done with, I'm going to try and focus on the strategic sides of it:

I'll be blunt - we should probably deal with Astrolyis first.
See, Astrolysis is in a bit of a different spot compared to the other two: We've already got a bit of an 'in' with her.
See, from our fight with Nickel - we've already worked out partially how that... 'Pseudosignia' of hers works, with the splitting effect. That means Astrolysis' own abilities have to do with 'splitting' or 'division' somehow, right? I don't know if that's how Parasignias are supposed to work, but if anything - we have the upper hand compared to the other Sector Bosses.
And if she has some kind of Pseudosignia like Nickel does - we'll know it has some properties that Nickel's would have like invisibility, intangibility or being able to summon a knife or something.

Plus, Astrolysis still owes me that custom-made weapon she said she'd be giving me - and I'm willing to be she's holding onto it for our fight, since she's not the kind of person to give gifts without being prompted. Unless those gifts are bruises.

Gathering information on her area - the Foundry, would be pretty straight-forward. Plus, with the H-ED DSTR that Nickel gave us - we have more options for outranging her tactically. The question is if we'll be able to get the most use out of it, given how many breaks in line of sight that the tight environment and machinery would end up creating.
When I do end up beating her and wiping that smug grin of hers on the floor, we'll have access to another gadget and weapon that we can use for the last two.
Plus, how hard's the blind melee-exclusive fighter going to be? It's one thing when I don't have my guns, another when I do.

Gotta say, Mnemosyne's still someone who I feel underequipped for, but if we really do feel confident, I suppose she's not the worst choice.
The living storm. Capable of fighting at all ranges, someone who's skilled and versatile. The outcome's going to be reliant on who gets the drop on the others - but with how powerful Nickel's Parasignia was during our fight, I'm much more worried about whether I can beat her or not. It's one thing to use tactics, but having to account for abilities we may not have ANY consistent knowledge on is a problem.
And frankly? I've got a terrible feeling that, even if we were to exploit all the rumors and knowledge we have on her, all the dirt we can dig up from the years she's been here in this facility, she'd have some kind of Parasignia that catches us off-guard and throws any plans we've got out the window.
She's still in the armoury, which I'm already familiar with. By now, she's probably moved all of the relevant equipment away, so we probably won't find anything new for us to use on-site, but at least it'll be familiar ground.

Ozone's someone else on the list. What can I say about her? She's got her head shoved up her own ass so far, she still looks down on people. Knowing her, I'd say we're going to have to figure out ways of dealing with things like tough fortifications if we're going to have to deal with her. The H-ED DSTR is a nice addition for that, but I'm not sure it's enough to deal with all of her tricks. The Vehicle Hangar doesn't have any vehicles around any more, but the material lying around means that Ozone's probably gone and turned it into a war zone.
What's the odds of her having a Parasignia too? Very high. On one hand, I really regret not training more for Parasignia to Parasignia combat - but it wasn't like I had anyone to train with before.
Really sucks, being the only person in the facility who has her Parasignia known by everyone else.

With that out of the way - what's your thoughts? We're going to still have to gather information on these people all the same... and... socialize with people. That's... going to be interesting.
Just lemme know who you think I should fight next, and what kinda name you guys want for yourself. I'll go and figure out a plan for us after we choose who we'll be focusing on.
No. 1019209 ID: 094652

We're the Orb of Infinite Psyche.
Alternate names include Muschio's Brain, Guides of Rezan, Ruby's Eye, Nan and Nem, Ceridwen's Neurons, ​and especially "AAA DEMON ORB".
We've been through a lot.

Actually, we went through an AI-traced neural scan of what I suspect is Diagram's father and I think we know pretty much everything we need to throw her off guard. It's clear that if she developed a Parasignia, it was when she threw herself on that grenade to save his life, indicating a general defensive Parasignia meant to mitigate damage from allies - useless in a duel, but monstrous when paired with glass-cannon turrets.
Just ask Diagram if Mnemosyne is her mother.
No. 1019210 ID: e51896

Call us "discourse"
No. 1019211 ID: 9a2966

Mmm. How about Sykes? References that Orb in-joke, also sounds like a plural, which we are.

>This sounds like a scam.
If it is, it's because you do have to spend time and effort getting to know and like someone and probably be giving the other party a piece of your power in return. So, maybe not a scam, but definitely a bit of tit for tat.

>Astrolysis' Parasignia
Prepare to get punched a bunch, methinks. Division sounds an awful lot like replication, so if she can make more of herself, add more punches or whatever, you're in for a bad time. She's also a melee-only fighter in an era where that shouldn't be easily achievable - meaning she DOES have ways around just getting gunned down, particularly since she isn't a stealthy 'un. She's pretty strong, so that could just be wearing a heavier grade of armor... and bigger armor also means you've got room to fit more tech tricks inside. She'll probably have a Pseudosignia based on Nickel's intangivisibility too, so if you've got a good volley off, you might wind up finding out the bullets did nothing.

Might want to avoid all-the-eggs-in-one-basket shots with her, at least until you're sure she's on her Pseudosignia cooldown.

>The horror of socializing
Okay so... let's just say making friends is and was never obligatory. Happy now? Amica even said as much. There are other types of Parasignia you could gain, no-one can force you to make friends with anyone, least of all for the selfish sake of bonus upgrades (which I expect would lessen the impact and chance of a Parasignia forming, actually), so... just don't think about this anymore. Go on as you have. However you form connections, let it be as genuine as someone with a peanut gallery in their head can make it.

That said, you do have some friends already, don't you? Nanoweaver and Diagram. At least, they're people who'd be willing to support you, for their own reasons. That's friend-like enough. Diagram's probably the closest of the two from what we've seen. Nanoweaver's clearly got a bit of an agenda on - not that it necessarily undercuts the fact she's chosen to support you.

For that matter, people could also be trying to make friends with you. Amica - whatever else she's up to - is clearly trying to become one, even if it's mostly through offering tit-for-tat deals. I guess you're one of the few people left she can make friends with. Diagram seems to be another, maybe that's why she wants the introduction?

Further, it does seem like you've not had a good read on the other sector bosses. Certainly seems so with Nickel - there was more to her that you had no idea of. Now that you're her trainee and you'll be meeting her more often maybe... just let things develop as you go along? Connections form on their own often enough. Trying too hard to make a friend can be off-putting in its own way.

See also: Amica.

>relax and unwind
Tentative agreement with Amica, since all work and no play makes you a dull... Nickel? You're definitely not the only person around here who suffers from this sort of excessively-oriented focus, at least. You want Astrolysis to break your bones less often? Try getting her some better hobbies.

>What happened to personal growth and development?
Still there. But... Argine. You may have noticed you live in a society, and personal growth and development also happens inside that sphere.

Look, everything you see around you is the product of people working together, from the nutrient paste to the cafeteria walls and floor. Someone invented that dish, made architectural blueprints, smelted steel, set up the paste-o-matic, filled the dang thing, and so on in a display of thousands of individual efforts which all boil down to you didn't have to hunt, skin and cook your own dang food. You've got bullshit powers that can bypass some of that, but - and remember this - you'll always be dependent on someone for something. You'll always be around people, and have to deal with them, often for things you either don't yourself know how to deal with, or can't (or can't be assed to) take the time for yourself to sort out.

So what's so bullshit about relationships being a foundation of even greater strength? It's as true to life as can be. If I bring five gun-toting cowboy compadres to our high noon showdown, you're outgunned and outnumbered. Doesn't mean you still can't kick our shit in, but I made a far stronger challenge for it. As would you if you gained Pseudosignias - and you wouldn't have to bring the friends themselves into danger. That's also something.

>Other parasignia types
Wouldn't surprise me if there was something like a 'Pragmasignia' - a strong connection formed from mutual need, less so than from friendship or love. The flip side of the coin could also be there - if feelings of respect and love can form a Pseudosignia, perhaps feelings of discontent and dislike can do the same. Or... perhaps it'd be better to say feelings of wanting to surpass and overcome. Rivalry, in short! Though it'd probably have to be mutual - like friendship should be. Ozone's probably a pretty good candidate here.

More importantly, this tells us that the more social Sector Bosses are going to have more parasignia effects to play with. And that Amica's experience have primarily been encountering those. She probably knows the Parasignia effects of the others, y'know, and could tell you if you asked. But every time you talk with her, every deal you make with her, is an opportunity for her to do... whatever she's up to. I bet it's parasignia-related. Didn't she want one herself? Maybe she just wants to make friends with someone who doesn't have cause to excessively dislike her, so that she stands a better chance of forming one herself. If she hasn't already! Maybe she just wants your Pseudosignia. Hm. Well, I don't know why that's got Nanoweaver so scared.

>play catch with people who've broken my bones before
I get where you're coming from, but you also do not seem to be hindered much or overlong by broken bones - and if the reference here is Astrolysis, that battle maniac doesn't seem like she'd mind if you actually broke bones back. There's a certain justice in that, fucked up as it may be, eye for an eye style. Err. Guess that saying doesn't apply well to her, though.

>Next Sector Boss
Agreed on Astrolysis being the next one. Maybe that's just going along a predictable path, but it feels right.

About the only reason I can see for NOT going with her next is that it gives the others even more time to prep, and they're both preppers. Astrolysis would probably not prep as excessively with the time you give her. Hm.
No. 1019252 ID: 96c896

>Nickel's trick was from Astrolysis's parasigna
Well that's incredibly valuable info. Now we know what to expect! That's a very troublesome one... it means she's going to pull out a "which clone is the real me" trick during the fight. That explains why Nickel was so cagey about explaining it; she didn't want to sabotage Astrolysis.
I'm still a little confused though. Nickel's parasignia requires her to stab herself with the knife. How did she use that with her gun? A pseudosigna should, based on the images we got, be used via the same interface that the parasigna uses. What was she doing, stabbing her gun? Does her parasignia work on ANYTHING she stabs, and stabbing herself is just the most useful way to use it? That's probably it.
I guess we can't really know how Astrolysis's pseudosigna would work without knowing how she triggers her parasignia. Considering her fighting style I wouldn't be surprised if she prefers to use it to dodge bullets. Which means... only sneak attacks would work against her. Nickel's stealth lessons would be much more important if that's true.

>What happened to personal growth and development?
Come on, you really think healthy relationships aren't beneficial to personal growth? Besides, no man stands alone. You wouldn't have gotten this far without Diagram and Nanoweaver, and arguably Judicium as well. She was on your side all along, but forced to act otherwise. If you weren't friends with them, where would you be?
It is a bit strange that Nanoweaver's parasignia isn't boosting yours. Maybe it's TOO similar? Or maybe there's a... distance between you. Maybe you think of her too much as someone who can help you, instead of someone you want a *mutually* beneficial relationship with. In your desperation to escape, you focused too much on pragmatism. You've been too self-centered. It's also possible that Nanoweaver is at fault. Perhaps she's been keeping too many secrets from you.
Yeah, most of the people here are your opponents, but do keep in mind you've defeated two of them. They're no longer your foes. You can be friends now! Especially Judicium. She really wants to reconnect with you, and you were once very close. You can have that again.

...shit, Mnemosyne has been here a long time. I bet she's become friends with several other parasigna-users. If we do any info gathering on her, that would be the most important thing to find out.
Did Judicium not have a pseudosigna?

>it can be formed with places and objects
Hmm, interesting. Are there any places or objects that particularly resonate with you already? You could try that instead. Though, I don't understand how that would work. Places and objects don't have parasignias, so how would you form a pseudosignia with them?
...oh god Ozone and Mnemosyne probably have pseudosignias with their areas. DEFINITELY Ozone, since she's converted the whole place into a fort. It's "hers".

>name yourself?
Egh, this is always difficult...
I think something in-theme with your parasignia would be appropriate. How about "Toolbox" or "Headbolt" or "Monkeywrench" or "Keystone"... maybe "Blueprint"

>who to fight?
You're probably right. Astrolysis is next. We have decent info on her, and so long as you can endure a bit of an onslaught you can figure out how her parasignia works and counter it.
Also don't feel so bad about everyone else knowing how yours works. The very nature of your parasignia makes it difficult to predict!

>what do
You could talk to Nanoweaver. Find out if she thinks of you as a friend, or if you're more of a protege.
You could also talk to Judicium. It's awkward, I know, you've spent so long hating her for something she didn't do, and for things she was ordered to do. It's hard to let go of those feelings, and to work past the regret.
I think you can trust Amica, actually. She was designed to mimic others, and has lived her whole life around people who have good intentions. Wouldn't that make her a good person as well? Plus, Judicium is her keeper, and didn't seem that bothered about her breaking one of her locks.

I'm partial to talking to Judicium first, because she can give you more info about Amica that will help you decide to trust her or not.
No. 1019258 ID: c92a02

CAI. Minimalist, similar, simple.
Go after Ozone next. You have the tool, and they have the Parasignia.
No. 1019286 ID: 3328c7

Going after Astrolipsinc would be too obvious, the remaining sector bosses might be planning for that.

Go after Oxygen (she's too short to be Ozone) next. She is slightly less hardcore than Mnemosyne and has an ambush and close corners combat strategy than we maybe perhaps might outsmart.

As for a name, the first thing any of us send to you was a demand to show us your private parts, so The Degenerates would be a perfect name.
No. 1019608 ID: 73aaab
File 164138381187.png - (624.62KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch053.png )

That's a stupid name - it's not even a name, that's just a change in abbreviation!

>Call us "discourse"
Hmm, not the worst, definitely kinda awkward to use in conversation.

>I think something in-theme with your parasignia would be appropriate. How about "Toolbox" or "Headbolt" or "Monkeywrench" or "Keystone"... maybe "Blueprint"
I dunno. I mean, isn't the goal to get you guys OUT of me once I'm able to leave? No way am I going to be running around with all these voices in my head whenever I'm trying to do something. I'll hold onto some of these names for later though.
...I dunno how 'person-like' your collective is, but even though you're all helping me right now, tying yourself to me's probably not the best for either one of us.

>Mmm. How about Sykes?
'Sykes', huh? Does that make one of your splinters a 'syke'? Well, I like it. Sykes.
Guess I've got something to call you now though... Sykes.

>Ask Diagram if Mnemosyne is her mother.
Are you an idiot? We're clones. Sterile. We can't biologically reproduce! That's why we have the Cradles!
I still have no idea what you're on about this neural scan thing, either.

>It is a bit strange that Nanoweaver's parasignia isn't boosting yours. Maybe it's TOO similar? Or maybe there's a... distance between you.
It's hard wrapping my head around all of these. I've said it before, but it's so much easier to figure something out if you could take them apart and put them back together. Heh. If only you could say that about people, but I ain't a surgeon.
As for me and Nanoweaver... I don't know. I guess, she treats me really well - and she's the reason why I exist in the first place.
I'm not sure how I'd feel, if she turned out to be someone who's also just using me as a tool. But I guess there is some distance between us, at least ever since I got my Parasignia. Maybe I could try to bridge that gap. She wouldn't be the worst person to try and form a Pseudosignia with.

>For that matter, people could also be trying to make friends with you.
That's because life's a give and take kind of deal. Friends are there for pragmatic reasons - because they can do something for each other, right? Nickel and Astrolysis fight each other for fun. Judicium, Ozone and Mnemosyne hang out with each other because they've known each other for so long. Not sure what they do with each other though.
I've got Nanoweaver and Diagram as... friends, that's right. Is it right to call the person who made you a friend?
I can get Nanoweaver's reasons for wanting me around, though sometimes I'm unsure why Diagram puts up with me, considering that she seems to give way more than I ever give to her - not that I haven't tried.

>(Socializing)- maybe not a scam, but definitely a bit of tit for tat.
Heh. Guess you can't escape from the exchange, huh? I guess that's framing it in a way that makes a bit more sense. But doesn't that give me even less of a reason to socialize with the people who I know I'm going up against? They very much could pick up something from me that I don't want them to.

>Go after Ozone, the other Sector Bosses may be planning for you to fight Astrolysis next!
Well, the thing is that they're not going to be directly intervening in each other's fights. If they could, you bet Astrolysis would've tagged along to Nickel's fight. So I don't think this is an actual risk.
Two for two - an even split. But I'm leaning towards Astrolysis still.
Alright - we're going to go fight Astrolysis next.

That's two whole days before I've got to go, just like before. Since you all so insist on me spending some actual downtime, that means I'll have to put some time aside for it. But on a normal day, when I'm not helping out these people on some big favour - I think I'd still be able to only fit in say... two to four tasks depending on how long it takes. And then one or two social outings. Sound fair to you? Because if it doesn't, I don't care, heh.

There's one thing we need to be aware of, because we're probably not going to find any info on it unless we're lucky:
- Her Parasignia.
The theories you guys are posing are pretty good. I mean, if I had to deal with multiple copies of her, that would be a massive pain.
Throw strategies my way while I'm investigating her - it'll help keep things in line. Plan for goals, and around things you know you can't account for easily.

Thinking on it, we've got a few options going ahead. I'm gonna consider my options, and... I guess I have to add an extra 'I' to the list.
Investigation, Interrogation, Impression, Innovation and... Intermingling.
My options have really opened up since last time, so I'm not going to even bother sorting these by category - only by person.

Investigating Astrolysis:
Much like when we were investigating Nickel, there's a few avenues we can explore -
- Watching her combat logs. Unlike the other operators, there's not a lot on Astrolysis, given how she's so different to everyone. But perhaps we could learn about some of her proficiencies this way that getting punched in the gut can't tell you?
- Getting records on the Foundry. Unlike the other sectors, the floormaps of the foundry's probably not going to be as accurate, and they really don't like me hanging around there to begin with. I'm not as familiar with it, so hearing more information on it could be important. I could even ask Diagram perhaps? She's gotta get her parts manufactured somewhere, even if she's the one who's putting them together.

Seeing Amica:
- The favour she wanted to ask from me. She can apparently provide 'unique services' that only a SAI like her can do. I've got no clue what she means by that, but hopefully the favor isn't too much of a problem. This is going to take a whole day of our time, because I know she's going to take me down to some strange places.
- The meeting with Diagram. I'll have to keep an eye on her for this. I guess this is something casual we can do.

- Nanoweaver's still got that task for me - and she wants to go on a walk with me. I feel like I haven't been spending any time with her at all, and I dunno, that makes me feel a bit weird, especially since she's the person who created me. I feel like this can double as social time, since she IS asking me to hang out with her.
- Asking Nanoweaver for Astrolysis' medical information or something to that effect. There'd probably be some other subtask involved with this, but it won't be as time consuming as her favour.

Nickel -
- Training with Nickel's an option. At very least, I imagine she has means of improving my aim, or some other kind of marksmanship.
- Hanging out with her? Weird choice, but, it's an option... if you force me to. Somehow, I feel like Astrolysis may tag along, even though she's my next opponent.

Judicium -
- Just socializing. She's not even offering any kind of training to me right now and I don't want to ask. But what are we even going to talk about? Clothes? That's not exactly a topic that can fill a lot of time.
- Asking for supplies. Though, Judicium may not be inclined to help me since last time, she happened to have something I could fix for her.

Diagram -
- Socializing. This would probably overlap with Amica's, two birds with one stone, unless you really want me alone with her for some reason. She's not going to have her gadget ready and fixed by now, so I'm not going to bother asking. Sometimes she disappears for a whole week before I see her again, so just a day or two isn't going to be enough for me to want to pressure her on the Amp Ring's progress.

Innovation -
These improvements take some time, but if you can think of something that seems worthwhile enough, I'd definitely consider it.
Off the top of my head - there's some things I can think of improvements to:
- The H-ED DSTR was a prototype, right? I could take some time to really familiarize myself with it personally rather than with Nickel and see if I can make any improvements myself.
- The Blade Printer isn't actually a knifegun like you guys have been saying, but that's not to say that I can't mod it into ejecting those blades a bit faster - but cmon, at that point, why am I not just shooting people? Besides the barrier penetration, I suppose. If you push me, then yeah, I GUESS I could do it though.

...Time's still limited, but I suppose I'll have to try and make the most of it.
I think more ideas will come across to me as we go, since we've got two days before the fight. So if I'm missing anything or - Sykes - if you've got any ideas, then say so, even if they're not listed here.
Can't do everything, so let me know which ones you've got in mind - and keep in mind, the favour for Nanoweaver and Amica - those two are gonna want to really monopolize my time. I want to make progress towards one of 'em before our next big encounter since those two seem to be our biggest benefactors not aligned with the Sector Bosses, but we should only pick one of the two.
No. 1019621 ID: 9a2966

>They very much could pick up something from me that I don't want them to.
While you could pick up a power from them that gives you a greater clue as to what their Parasignia is and does.

Tit for tat. If it even happens. Though might be more tat than tit, seeing as you'd gain intel and a power, while everyone knows your power already. Either way, you should be pretty safe to socialize with people you've already beaten or which you are not going to fight, yes?

I have a schedule proposal, which doesn't have to be followed to the letter (or at all).

Day 1, JUST socialize and take it easy. You're still in a bit of recovery mode from getting headshot, remember? Though you can mix in a bit of business by visiting both Nanoweaver and Judicium for their tasks. Not that you necessarily NEED to pick up every sidetask, or do them today or tomorrow.

- Socialize with Diagram (alone, to ask her if she's okay being introduced to Amica, then the two of you could go find her instead of Amica being brought to Diagram - it's... a reversal of initiative of sort)
- Socialize/task with Nanoweaver
- Socialize/task with Judicium
- Open slot for anything if time permits

Day 2, the day of Nickel and things associated with her. Strike while the iron is hot as concerns your budding relationship, and maybe get a chance to get some talking done with Astrolysis that isn't based around broken bones. Should set the mood for the fight, at least.

- Train with Nickel
- Socialize with Nickel/Astrolysis
- Innovate with H-ED DSTR
- Open slot for anything if time permits

For Day 2 you could consider taking the Amica deal instead, whichever seems likely to strengthen you more for the coming fight, but I think accepting her thing should come after you've beaten (or lost to) Astrolysis. As might any major tasks that Nanoweaver or Judicium might set you to. Letting this downtime period be a bit of a breather from greater revelations and troubles might do you some good.
No. 1019750 ID: c92a02

Argine's a stupid name. What is that supposed to be, a color? The gutter on a page of looseleaf? Or does it rhyme with something you'll always be?
Take things one at a time, and see Amica.
No. 1019875 ID: 73aaab
File 164160596221.png - (287.55KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude1.png )

>The Schedule
I'll keep that in mind, though adaptability is key.

>Take it easy. You're still in a bit of recovery mode from getting headshot, remember?
I guess so. I'm definitely inclined to go and visit Nanoweaver first, since I've been feeling like I've not had any normal interaction with her for a while. We can ask her for information on our foes next time.
I'm not sure I want to give Amica more attention just about now, especially when she's getting into all my business like that. Gotta give her the impression I'm not relying on her or her deals, else she'll get more bossy.

>Argine's a stupid name.
Yeah, yeah, talk all the shit you want, the point of a name is for you to OWN IT. Why else do you think I'm annoyed at my sister? She literally took my name and rearranged it, thus removing any of the uniqueness I had!

Heading over to the Medbay's fine enough. I knock on the door, and Nanoweaver calls out from the other side.
"Come in! I'm currently sorting things out, so I can't get the door."
So I invite myself in.
Guess today's got no patients. Even the smell of medicine's less intense than usual.

Nanoweaver turns to look at me, reaching up for something on the high shelf.
"Hello Argine, is there something you need from me?"
I guess she's trying to play it cool after our last encounter. I'm still not sure whether I want to bring it up, but...
That little machine of hers is still on the desk, turned off this time.

"Yeah, I'm here for that 'favour' of yours. It's kinda odd to ask me to go with you on a walk... but you've been good to me, doc, I don't mind hanging out. Can't help but feel weird for taking something of yours for something as basic as just spending time with you, though".
Nanoweaver doesn't often have much free time back when I was younger and still in training, so I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I'd like. This whole... recent socializing thing that Amica and you lot are pushing me towards - as reluctant as I am for interacting with people like the Sector Bosses, Nanoweaver's someone who I know at least, cares about me in some way.
I'd probably never directly tell her, but... it's definitely nice, feeling comfortable around her. She's kinda like Diagram - they're both docile sorts, I don't feel like there's a chance that they'll start shit at any moment.
"I'm afraid I couldn't justify taking your precious time without some kind of compensation, Argine. But I'll give that to you after the little trip's over."
I nod. If there's one person I can always trust to keep her word, it's the doc.
"Alright, then where to?"
Not like the Site's got plenty of scenic places to visit. Nowadays, they don't even want people heading outside unless it's for something important. Not like there's much besides an unending ocean out there.
"A few places. Shall we head to the Hall of Heroes first? I believe that's a place suitable for conversation."
Huh, well, I'd prefer that over the damn park, at least. It barely qualifies as one.

If you lot are curious, you may as well tell me some questions you have for her, right? Not sure if she'd answer all of them, as she's always been sorta cagey about her past. Don't expect me to swamp her in questions though - I mean, geez, we're just talking a walk, I can't be interrogating her.
No. 1019877 ID: 96c896

You think your sister named herself? I find that very unlikely.

Ask her if she considers you a friend, or more like... a daughter.
Tell her you made peace with Judicium for the most part, after finally finding out what really happened behind that door.
Has she talked to Amica much? What's her impression of her?
No. 1019878 ID: c92a02

Maybe you should take her to the interrogation chamber instead. Surely you know how to do a bit of funishment?
What species is that tail from, and what can she do with it?
Are all of you taken from different base species templates, are you all original genetic hybrids? What's the base species owning and operating all this genetic research, anyway?
No. 1019908 ID: 12b116

Let her know about amicas request
No. 1020003 ID: 9a2966

Let's not. Something about Amica triggers Nanoweaver in a big way. Some thought, worry or trauma she has about her, I'd say. Pointing out that Amica is scheming (or however Nanoweaver will read it) is just gonna put that into overdrive. Besides, Nanoweaver is "scheming" as well, it seems, just in your favor. Or somesuch.

Since you made a big deal of the name selection you must have put some thought into it. Was your name derived from "argentum", silver, or "arginine" the amino acid, or was it something less, ah, sciency? If you're asking for personal details from someone it's common to share some in return, so if Nanoweaver doesn't know perhaps you could share that (as well as your annoyance with your sister for 'stealing' your name).

More of that whole tit for tat bit.

>Nanoweaver questions
Cagey about her past... then what about the future, as a thought exercise? Everyone has dreams, big, small, distant or close. What is her plan once you get out of here and this facility is mothballed? Any chance you'll be running across her out there, in the universe, and if so what are you gonna be finding her doing? Odds are she's gonna be vague about this as well, but hey... could be worth a shot.

And since you're in the hall of heroes you could also ask which is her favorite hero, and why? If she goes for that sort of stuff. Not everyone might be into literal hero-worship, you know, however cool it is to have an idol to aspire to.

There's also a past-poking question that might slip by her defense line (or might fail spectacularly), from sheer temerity alone: How old is she? Give a ballpark estimate, at least!

>Something about Amica
I'd suggest in the spirit of 'socializing' that you don't bring up Amica yourself. Nanoweaver is probably gonna get there by herself here, honestly, and if she doesn't... well. A serious chat for another time.

Perhaps it's not you she's as concerned for as it is your influence on Amica? What she might... replicate from you? Considering how freakishly powerful she apparently was, with only Judi being able to stop her, her starting to get to know and emulate you and your desire to break rules and get out of here... ah. It could be something like that. Or in part. The other part could be whatever mystery lies in your past that everyone is unwilling to talk about.

Aside from that, Nanoweaver must've been involved in Amica's creation, likely far more than ours... and Amica did mention a 'Mom' when you first met. Could that "Mom" have been Nanoweaver? At the veyr least, if she was working on her, with her, then part of Amica's replicated behavior could stem from Nanoweaver. It must be a bit unnerving, I suppose, to see one's own actions and behavior mirrored - especially when Amica had fewer such replicated personalities to choose from. She probably picks and mixes and matches what suits the occasion a little better these days, after a year on Judi's shoulders, having picked up more behavioral modes.
No. 1020112 ID: 73aaab
File 164178337678.png - (357.07KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude2.png )

>You think your sister named herself? I find that very unlikely.
After a certain point, all the clones in the facility were allowed to name themselves. While Judicium, Mnemosyne and Ozone are the weirdoes with actual assigned names - I think after a while, they just didn't have the time to go and pick names out for everyone. So they just let people name themselves.

>What species is that tail from, and what can she do with it?
Linharjans. They've got those stinger tails, which come in a few different appearances and are full of paralytics. Nickel and Astrolysis' stingers seem to also come from Linharjans, but theirs look different due to whatever freaky genes they've got.

>Are all of you taken from different base species templates, are you all original genetic hybrids? What's the base species owning and operating all this genetic research, anyway?
Yeah, actually, every single one of us here are different mixes of the five main species, with certain traits pushed to the forefront more than the other. Diagram's mostly like a Keletzar - she's got those floppy ears, horns.... the main thing she DOESN'T have is the feathers. Sykes, you probably couldn't see it, but I've seen Diagram's coat up close before - and her sleeves have these little feather-slats in 'em. It's a similar kind of deal to the outfits I've seen the more feathery clones with. I wonder where she got it from?
Still, I feel like I see the Keletzar involved the least compared to the other species - hell, I forget to mention them half the time when I'm talking about the species. I don't think their genes were particularly viable for cloning, or their physical traits weren't well-suited for it, so there's very few of them out there. Diagram's probably the only especially notable one, since she's such a weirdo, hah.

As for the base species owning and operating this place... I dunno. The scientists who ran the place, they were all different species themselves, so it didn't feel like one or another. If anything, it felt like it was a collaboration of the best from each of the species. Apparently there was at least one representative from each of the five species, but I only really knew two of them - Doc. Testemillion and Doc. Troveheart. But both of them left, so none of them are around any more.

>Let her know about Amica's request
>Let's not. Pointing out that Amica is scheming (or however Nanoweaver will read it) is just gonna put Nanoweaver's Paranoia into overdrive.
I'd rather not ruin the moment by bringing up someone who she clearly doesn't like. Even if I have to get that info from her eventually, just... probably not today.

Nanoweaver flicks the lights off as we walk out. The echo of our footsteps becomes background noise as she shoots me a question, something to fill the silence.
"Do you have any plans for the future when you depart, Argine?"

I respond off-handedly, not really thinking on it too much. There’s too much on my mind. Oppenents, my freedom, scarce time ticking down…

"I'll figure it out as I go. Can't really make plans when I don't know what's out there. But I'm going to make a name for myself - I'm going to be one hell of a hero."
What more can I say to that? It's not like either of us have much experience out there, so it's not like I have any places I want to visit in mind.

"What about you, Nanoweaver? What do you plan to do when you leave?"

There's a strange tension that seems to arc between us.

"I suppose I'm the same as you, Argine. In all honesty - I had not expected this time to come so soon. I remember when I was younger, I would be chided for putting things off. How ironic it is, that I've put off thinking about the future itself."
Hah, I guess we are alike.

"Speaking of youth, Nanoweaver... how old are you? Some people call you nana, after all."

There's a bemused expression behind the mask. Even though I can never see her full expression, her eyes speak to me.
"Argine! Don't you know it's rude to ask women their age?"
...It is? I mean, I'm a woman too, but I don't really have any issue with it. I turned three a while ago, after all.

"But how old are you?"

Nanoweaver chuckles.
"Why not guess?"

The oldest clones were born around 12 years ago - it's 368 PD currently, so that would be.... somewhere around 356PD.
Diagram was born around 358PD - at least, that's what she told me, anyway.
Nanoweaver's younger than Diagram?!

"You're correct."
Huh. I guess that means Nanoweaver's still got 5-year seniority on me. That's the thing about us Trace Clones - some of us are physically younger, but due to how the Trace ampoules work - some of us *feel* much older in comparison. Even though Diagram's older than Nanoweaver, I feel like she's still less mature than her in comparison.
But... wow, I guess I really didn't see that coming.

The walk continues. Nanoweaver looks over at me sometimes - and I look at her as we go. One of us tries to say something, and the other one opens their mouth at the same time, accidentally cutting both of us off.

Man, this is awkward. Clones don't have parents, but when your reason for existing can be traced back to one person, then I don't know what to feel about her relationship to me. If anything - me and my sister are probably the closest to having a parent here - unless you count whatever strange situation is going on with Diagram's heritage.
It's obvious that she doesn't know what to say, either. I mean, she's had so much more history than I have in this place. But she's still one of the people who have treated me the kindest in the end.

>Was your name derived from "argentum", silver, or "arginine" the amino acid, or was it something less, ah, sciency?
Actually, yeah, my name was partially based off of "Arginine". But there's another layer to it. Jin's name in comparison doesn't have an actual meaning. It's just an inversion of mine.

It's kinda weird to be talking to you guys while I'm maintaining conversation with Nanoweaver, but when the gaps are this huge, I don't think she can blame me for spacing out a bit.

I feel kind of bad, though. I'm meant to be spending my time with her taking a walk, but my thoughts keep going back to all the opponents I'll have to face.
No. 1020113 ID: 73aaab
File 164178346322.png - (379.42KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude3.png )

Pushing the door to the Hall of Heroes open again comes as a bit of a relief in the end.
"We're here," I announce, like it wasn't obvious.

I stop in front of the same memorial as usual. Realistically, she wouldn't give a shit about me if she knew who I was. Everyone's got their own problems to deal with, especially when you're a big shot hero.
There's no bullet to offer this time. Besides, that declaration's been made already.

There's a bench nearby that the doc sits down on. Sometimes, I wonder about her background. She's not quite the usual picture of a medic - I don't think I've seen anyone else with a mask on like that - there's usually some practicality to that kind of thing. Nanoweaver though, no matter how long I've known her, she's always had that mask on. I've never really seen her eat or drink, for that matter.
I'm sure some people have joked that Nanoweaver's a machine under that mask, but, I can't say she is. Some dumbass in the past - before I was born, had tried to remove Nanoweaver's mask once. That clone never got anywhere - took a scalpel to the eye. Nobody tried again afterward.
It's funny hearing that story - Nanoweaver, she seems to detest fighting. She's always telling me not to get into fights - to try and avoid conflict.
Too bad that's not doable right now.

>Nanoweaver must've been involved in Amica's creation, likely far more than ours... and Amica did mention a 'Mom' when you first met. Could that "Mom" have been Nanoweaver?
That's not a bad theory. You ever notice how, Amica never calls Judicium 'Mom'? It's weird, since, I had thought that 'Judi' was that mom, but...

>part of Amica's replicated behavior could stem from Nanoweaver.
I'm not sure I want to imagine Nanoweaver strutting around flaunting herself and speaking like that.
Seriously, who the hell did she get THAT kind of personality from? I can get that she could probably combine 'em, but... you can't get sugar out of saltwater and mustard.

>Perhaps it's not you she's as concerned for as it is your influence on Amica? What she might... replicate from you?
Ah, crap. That explains some of the Pseudosignia stuff, right?
I'll have to think on that later - weigh my choices. But...
If it comes down to it - we could defeat Amica ourselves, right? Judicium beat her somehow, and she's someone we've beaten too.

But first, there's a question that easily springs to mind. In fact, I've been wanting to ask it for some time, even before you brought it up.
"Nanoweaver... do you consider me to be a friend, or a daughter?"
She looks towards me, her eyes visible behind the red-tinted glass.

"Is there anything to say that I cannot consider you both?"
I guess not.
"Do you consider me to be a mother, Argine?"
"Yeah, I do. You made me, right? What else can the word mean?"
Nanoweaver turns toward the memorial.
"I see... well, I guess I'm glad that you see me that way. Though it feels strange, hearing you say it like that."

There's a pause. I don't know how to feel about that, myself.
"Do you pledge to any of the heroes, Nanoweaver?"

You can learn a lot from what heroes the clones like the most.
Urza's always been mine - because I wanted to get her strength and use it for my own goals.

...Nowadays, it makes me wonder if that was the right choice. Following in her footsteps. The world around me's so different to hers. Parasignias, the latest technology - and the Weave Nexus. It's not like the days that Urza had in the past.
The blessing of strength... to destroy those who oppose me. I wonder if that strength is enough.

"I do not."
...Huh. That's a rare one.
It's short and blunt - clear, even through her mask.
"Is it okay if I ask why?"

"It's one thing to celebrate the accomplishments of those in the present. Another to celebrate the past - and those who were turned into symbols of war. Perhaps this isn't something you'd want to hear, Argine, but I do not wish for you to follow in the footsteps of others so closely."
Yeesh, that's harsh.
There's a lot I could say to that, but, I think I'm okay with just keeping quiet for now.

...Finally, there's a serenity that settles on both of us. The wind outside is blowing - another cold day in this lonely world of ours.

...I don't know what to say. Should I just be letting time pass? Thanking Nanoweaver for making me? Surely she wants something more meaningful than me, the defect, just sitting here like I ate her share of a meal and complaining that I wanted more?
No. 1020120 ID: d467f5

I apologize in advance but: remove your jacket, then ask her why she wears a mask.
If you can't trust your own mother, you can't trust anyone.
No. 1020127 ID: 96c896

Oh, I bet Nanoweaver is hiding her face behind her mask just like how you hide your arms. Has she seen them?

>If it comes down to it - we could defeat Amica ourselves, right? Judicium beat her somehow, and she's someone we've beaten too.
Not unless you can get a cold-based pseudosignia from Judicium. Remember, Judicium was the only one who could stop Amica, because her parasigna was a perfect counter to the nanoswarm. Yours is not, because the end result is just... better gadgets. Other people had gadgets when they fought Amica, and they lost.
That said, I don't think Amica is dangerous. She has adapted, socialized, calmed down.

>to destroy those who oppose me
That doesn't sound very heroic. Did you mean: the strength to protect the innocent? The strength to smite evil? The strength to end suffering? Or even something a bit edgy but still heroic, like the strength to destroy those who oppose justice? When you're a hero, it's not about you. It's about them. The ones you're trying to protect.
But to answer your question, no. Strength is not enough. You must also have compassion, empathy. When saving people, a true hero can keep them calm, protecting their hearts and minds, not just their bodies. A true hero is a beacon of hope. A certain amount of charisma is needed for that.

Well that's something you could talk about. Tell her about your self esteem issues. Or about the things that piss you off about your sister. Heck, bring up the name thing- does she have any insight on that?
Tell Nanoweaver about why you worship Urza. Ask Nanoweaver what she thinks a hero is.
Talk about what you think the outside world is like. You must have some mental image, right? Fields of grass? Mountains? The ocean? A massive city?
Maybe you can talk about your fights with the sector bosses? You could talk about us, about how we're nagging you to socialize more. And lecturing you when you're a jerk.
No. 1020166 ID: 9a2966

>Arginine-inspired name
Score one for Sykes. We can discuss that other layer to your name at a more convenient time.

>Some call her nana
Wait, so she's your Nano-nana?

>Amica's personality
Odds are there's a high degree of Doctor Testemillian in there. Annoyingly gregarious and wayyy too up in one's business seems like a thing of his, at least in the older recordings we've seen.

>Can we beat Amica?
Maybe. One shouldn't discount how she went up against all the sector bosses and won, but you have more options than most in changing tactics to stay ahead of her adaptations. You also have us, for what it's worth, and you'd probably do better against her if you got more experience against the sector bosses she's been able to copy tactics from and get a few more of their gadgets in your belt.

You also have the Deck of the Storyteller - she can't replicate magic I'd hazard. It was even created from what might have been intended as a bullet for he-... hm, actually. Now that I think about it, I'm really not sure we can tell who - or what - that bullet was intended for? Amica seems the obvious bet based on what little we know, but Judi's lack of worry towards her seems to go counter to that and it was chock full of magic, so who knows what it was REALLY intended to do? Bullets kill, but a bullet made of magic stories? Might've had a different intended purpose.

You'd have to admit your theft and ask Judi about it if you want to figure out that mystery, which doesn't really seem to be, if you'll excuse me, in the cards at the moment.

>Was Urza the right choice?
It depends on what one's strength is used for, no? Urza had her goals, forged by war and the struggles of her time. You have yours. There's also the less extreme approach to emulating one's idols: take the good of them, discard the bad. Every hero here has lessons to teach and mistakes to avoid, I'm sure. Urza's ways are just the favorite gadget in your toolbelt, the one you know the best. The easiest to lash out with, for good and ill. Don't think she'd give a shit if you didn't stick to her teachings only though, right?

>What to say to Nanoweaver
Why not say what is on your mind? You feel thankful she made you and glad she's in your corner, friend-wise. You're curious what she'd want from you in turn, if anything.

If all else is lost, talk about the weather. Fascinating thing, that weather. Very difficult to predict, you know? Even infinitesimally small variables can throw forecasts off by huge margins over time.

Or you can touch on something that really troubles you and which Nanoweaver is uniquely positioned to help answer.

>me, the defect,
Anyone who can walk away from a bullet in the head with a win is not a mistake, Argine.

But if your state truly bothers you, try to gently pry into what happened before you got decanted. Something made you less of a savant than your sister and you were both made, so either it was deliberate, 'the weather' played a part, or something unfortunate happened. Could it have anything to do with why Astrolysis calls you 'Wirehead'? That whole wire conversation she overheard.

And if you truly want to worry about defectiveness, ask this:

What's the estimated lifespan of clones?

Trace or otherwise. You were made for combat after all and start out fully grown so longevity may not have been the highest priority during initial development. Mnemosyne looked a bit haggard for someone who's twelve years old. Asking about this could give you some insight into the other clones' physicality and frame of mind - and Nanoweaver would be the one to ask. You'd even have a certain right to know, as concerns yourself.

That said, being the last in the line of development you are probably the beneficiary of many, many lessons learned on the bodies of your predecessors - it's why you calling yourself a 'defect' might be... a bit off, comparatively to anyone but your sister. Creating new and improved intelligent lifeforms out of a mish-mash of several species' best traits cannot be easy even before throwing magic powers into the mix, and most of the clones left here bears some mark of that. You're not the only one having to deal with what was made of you.

Case in point: Nickel has her for-her-kind uncommonly asocial nature. Astrolysis is literally blind and her love of bone-crunching combat can be, uh, painfully off-putting. Diagram is young, despite being among the older clones. Nanoweaver has an aversion to combat and wears her mask religiously. Those are pretty big indicators that this clone program to churn out experimental super-soldiers had its share of troubles. I don't know what Ozone and Mnemosyne's damage could be beyond just age, if anything, but chances are the older clones' quirks could be among the potentially more serious.

Maybe you're a little more privileged than you think.

Come to think of it, it seems a bit strange that some clones - like Nanoweaver and Diagram - clearly got involved in the clone development effort over time. Was it because they happened to be well suited for it, their Parasignias opening up new avenues of R&D possibilities? Did their contributions change the program and its very goals in some way? Amica is very much not a clone, yet she was developed here as well. Heh, feature creep. It always happens.
No. 1020176 ID: d467f5

>>1020120 Forgot to say.
You have the rare chance of talking about how you feel about yourself with someone who legitimately loves you and would never make fun of you for your appereance.

Also, your arms make your sick biceps look bigger.
No. 1020254 ID: 031458

Amica is like that because she wants to be seen as a person like everyone else, not some dangerous freak machine.
We know this because despite the fact that she must want to escape this place as much as you do (As she doesn't have much of a future otherwise), she isn't manipulating her form to manipulate you or us into helping her, which she could easily do. That flamboyant form of hers is an expression of self. You two have alot in common. You could make a great team out there in the wider universe. You'll have to advance your relationship beyond just using eachother to get there though.

As for the current moment, it's ok to just enjoy someone else's company in silence every now and then, you're doing fine.
Ask her what her idea of a "hero" is, though. You may find it profound.
No. 1020463 ID: 73aaab
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>I apologize in advance but: remove your jacket, then-

Nanoweaver already knows my scars - and frankly, I don't want to remind her of them. She made me. I was born like this, looking like napalm's burned my skin away.
She's seen enough of my wounds.

>You have the rare chance of talking about how you feel about yourself with someone who legitimately loves you and would never make fun of you for your appearance.
It's not as rare as it sounds. I've already talked to her before on this.

>So she's your Nano-nana?
Yeah yeah, I've already said before - folks tend to call her Nana Weaver. Ironic, given that she just said she's definitely younger than some of the people here.

>I bet Nanoweaver is hiding her face behind her mask just like how you hide your arms.
Maybe. But I don't to find out. Nanoweaver's someone who means a lot to me, and I don't want to take her for granted. I'll ask one day - when I've become something worthwhile.

Beating Amica... that's going to be interesting, since she's made it clear that she's deceptively tough. I can't really wrap my head around how Judicium, of all the Sector Bosses, was the only one who could defeat her, if she's truly that much of a monster.
If anything - I think if we ever have to fight her, we'll need to be as prepared as we can.

But, like I said before - I think we can beat her if we need to. We pulled through the Nickel fight.

>Who was the bullet for?
Even now, I don't know. And that's why I'm reluctant to ask Judicium.
Because that bullet could have been for me, not Amica.

>Anyone who can walk away from a bullet in the head with a win is not a mistake, Argine.
Barely. But what is a mistake?
Me, I wasn't intended to be like this, with my arms... like that. That's already a defect. Why else do people treat me like this, like I'm just some kind of science experiment to be watched over?

>That said, being the last in the line of development you are probably the beneficiary of many, many lessons learned on the bodies of your predecessors - it's why you calling yourself a 'defect' might be... a bit off, comparatively to anyone but your sister.
...I really don't like saying anything bad about Nanoweaver, but she's not the main person in charge of developing clones. I don't know all of the circumstances - and I don't want to blame her, but she was still less experienced than someone like Dr. Troveheart.
All I know is - in part, we were made simply because they could. They had just enough Gene Traces left over to make us two.

But they clearly didn't have enough to make one of us complete.

...Makes me wonder if it's worth existing at all if you're just trash put together from what they had left. If anything - Jin's probably the exception, since even though we were both made from what's left - she's undeniably strong.
Maybe I was always doomed to be like this, and she was the lucky one who got the good share of the genes.

>What's the estimated lifespan of clones?
Good question. In the past, I've asked about it, but I don't really get any consistent answers.

"Hey doc? How long do people like you or I have to live? We still age..."

Nanoweaver cocks her head back, as if to laugh.
"Planning that far ahead, Argine? Well, I really don't know. None of us do. It probably varies from clone to clone. In the past we were more likely to die of complications, but now…“
She casts her gaze towards Urza's spear in front of us, “times are different. Parasignias, the multiverse; being shot through the head should be lethal, yes?”

From what the others tell me, and your reactions, I guess that's the case?
"I guess. But this is all I've known. I've seen Astrolysis cut off a finger once - and then put it back on the stump with a bandage. It was fine in a day."

"Speaking as someone who's had to delve into this field to create you and your sister - we, as clones tend to age slower physically compared to natural, biological equivalents. It seems that... since we were created for combat, the byproduct of keeping us in our physical prime for longer means that we don't 'grow old'. If anything, we may simply have an expiration date, when we cease to function."

I guess that makes sense. Plus, unless the scientists were crueller than I imagined - putting down scores of perfectly viable soldiers in a few years has to be a little rough, right? I'm sure there would've been plenty of fights or rebellions if that's the case.
Nobody's going to just march up to their execution. I'm living proof of that, even if the other Sector Bosses never said their intentions directly.

Nanoweaver catches some expression on my face, and changes the topic.
"In the end - even if we do not know our numeric lifespans, besides general estimates - I do believe that we'll be here for quite some time yet. If the circumstances permit it - I'd certainly like to see you through the decades ahead."

That's... comforting. Knowing that there's at least someone out there who'll be there for me.

"What about Mnemosyne and the other eldest clones? She's kinda looking rough nowadays."
It doesn't mean I don't find her any less intimidating to go up against though.
"She has a lot on her mind, Argine. She, like the rest of us, has her own burdens to carry. Physically, she's still fine. But there's some things in life that aren't as easily overcome as physical hurdles."
What does she mean by that?
She doesn't say much more than that, and we both drift back into silence.
No. 1020464 ID: 73aaab
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There's no reason to ponder how long my life's gonna be if I'm not actually even able to live it. Maybe I'll consider it later, but from the sounds of it, it's not going to be a problem.

I breathe in, sniffing as some specks of dust threaten to invade my nostrils.
Feh. Having a nose with four openings has its benefits, but this is just annoying.

I think, this place not having been cleaned in a while's getting to me. Hah. I wonder if they'll donate these to some kinda multiverse museum after I'm gone?
That gets me thinking about heroes, though. Like Urza.
Would those heroes mean anything to people who aren't here? Sure, you could tell the stories, but it's not like you could see them in action or be inspired by them that much.
Kinda funny to think, that there's dozens of other heroes out there like me.

"What is your idea of a hero anyway, doc?", I ask.

Nanoweaver thinks on this for a bit.
I'm just about to repeat myself when she finally speaks.
"Someone who helps others, even at great cost to themselves. And ideally - someone who has committed far less wrong-doing even while pursuing heroism."

A bit of a standard response. I don't really know what I was expecting.
The thing is about that kind of hero - they often won't be remembered. I've heard the stories, about how some people can treat others like gods, but receive no compensation. What's the bloody point of doing something so good, only to get forgotten and betrayed by the people closest to you?
I don't like that.
But being strong - being strong allows you to do whatever kind of good you want. Bring others to justice, get vengeance.
And if you're left behind one day, you'll still be able to keep going. Everyone who's helped you can choose whether they want to stick with you or not - but you'll never have to be left without them, left like a gun without a magazine.

There's an easy question to follow that with.
"Do you think you're a hero?"

She laughs. I don't really get what's funny - I was just asking her straightforwardly.
"Far from it. But regardless of what I am, I want to support you, Argine."

There it is again - that unabashed support.
Care from someone who made you simply because she wanted to - is that a kind of love? Probably.
But underlying all of this - there's something that she isn't telling me, is she?
It certainly feels like she's trying to be a hero like how she describes.

>Why not say what is on your mind?
Then I will.

"Doc... There's some reason why you brought me here, right? More than just a casual chat. Even if I've been busy lately - we still talk on occasion. And - you wouldn't have made a big deal about this being a favour if you didn't have a plan. "
It's not like I'm completely deaf to how she's feeling, even when she's behind a mask. Both of us feel awkward - the difference is, she's the one who has something to say.

"In truth, Argine, part of the reason I invited you out here was because I wanted to talk to you about a specific night."

"What night?"

"The night after you had lost to your sister in the tournament that you had both been part of."
I try to shrug it off, but...
"What is there to say, doc? You should know all of it, don't you?"

Nanoweaver shakes her head.
"No, I don't. I've heard passing reasons why, heard their accounts on it. But not yours. Please, tell me Argine. If I'm to help you to the best of my ability, please tell me."

The question hangs between us.
I try to step back, but -
"If you leave, Argine... the truth will end up buried - and the scar it's leaving on you will never heal. Argine, please - for your sake."
No. 1020465 ID: 73aaab
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I- no, I can't.
I shake my head - how am I even meant to begin with this?
"Argine... you can't simply pretend it never happened. After that night, that was when everything changed for you. But it wasn't just because of your loss and what your sister did to you, was it?"
I croak out the words.
"I don't want to remember."
No. 1020466 ID: 3a2387

>What does she mean by that?
>I don’t want to remember.
Answered your own question right quick, didn’t you? You’ve got some sort of mental hang-up, maybe even trauma, going here. Enough to want to suppress stuff. Generally this is considered unhealthy, which is, I presume, why Nanoweaver is asking. So she can try to help, offer some perspective, anything.

So... if you can, ease into an answer. One fact or question at a time. Stop if you feel overwhelmed. You don’t have to remember everything. It can be done stepwise or in parts.
No. 1020471 ID: e51896

It's okay, Argine. You don't have to talk about all of it right now if you are uncomfortable and not ready yet. Granted she is trying to help by letting you talk about it and maybe help you cope or help you think of solutions, but revealing everything all at once may just leave you with more anguish. If she respects your mental health, im sure she'd let you tell her about it when youre good and ready, or let you talk about it little by little (just the parts youre comfortable with until youre ready to talk more about the heavier stuff another time) and not rush you into talking about everything about your trauma all at once.

Tell her that the thing about scars is that technically they never fully heal, let her know the trauma will still be there even if you told her, and right now you are not ready to reveal everything, revealing things all at once will do more harm than good for you mentally, and would appreciate it if she had patience, respected your boundaries and allowed you to tell her about it at your own time when you're mentally ready one day, or at least talk about the parts your comfortable with revealing right now little by little. Inform her you are not pretending it didn't happen, and you grew stronger from the experience, learned from it.
No. 1020472 ID: d8972e

Wah, seriously? What are you afraid of? You think we will make fun of you or some shit?
What happened to "being strong" and "talk all the shit you want"?

You think spent four, count them, FOUR, separate battles helping you win just mock you while recounting a loss?

Man, we WANT to make you win over your sister! You are GOING to win over your sister!
Tell your story so we can channel that anger and string her up high over the facility's walls like the balloon full of hot air she is!
No. 1020473 ID: d865ca

>What is a hero
A hero is meant to stand for something. They're meant to represent what they want the world to be - so some of the world can try to follow suit.
The typical type of hero is simply someone answering a call for help when it's needed most.
We don't get that often in modern society.

>The thing is about that kind of hero - they often won't be remembered. I've heard the stories, about how some people can treat others like gods, but receive no compensation. What's the bloody point of doing something so good, only to get forgotten and betrayed by the people closest to you?
I don't get it either. But if you stare at an endless rot long enough, watch it slowly digest your world, your friends, and even the happiest moments of your past, you'd do anything to make it stop. "Not on my watch", said the Doc. That's a motivation strong enough to sacrifice yourself.

>And if you're left behind one day, you'll still be able to keep going. Everyone who's helped you can choose whether they want to stick with you or not - but you'll never have to be left without them, left like a gun without a magazine.
Well said.

But this scar is a weakness of the worst kind. You cannot let your brain be shackled. It will enslave you. It won't matter if nobody ever learns what you did, there will be those who understand your scar. And they will use it as a control panel. They will send you to perform acts of villainy, or worse, acts of malignant heroism for a greater manipulation, by using this part of you that you cannot see or change. You won't be able to remove the chains because they'd force you to look at everything you've turned your back on.

So get this over with.
No. 1020476 ID: 34dfce

Damn it girl, be pragmatic! This is clearly something that needs to be brought up even if it is painful. It is obviously still affecting you. It is going to hurt a lot, but you need to bite the bullet.
No. 1020485 ID: 967d71

Be strong.
No. 1020488 ID: 94ef2a

We're here for you, Argine.
No. 1020537 ID: 0a9399

You were right just now.
Nanoweaver loves you.
There's no one better to share this hurt with.
Burdens of the heart can be much lighter with just a little help.
You can do this.
No. 1020538 ID: 0a9399

You were right just now.
Nanoweaver loves you.
There's no one better to share this hurt with.
Burdens of the heart can be much lighter with just a little help.
You can do this.
No. 1020539 ID: 3f2a88

>Me, I wasn't intended to be like this, with my arms... like that. That's already a defect. Why else do people treat me like this, like I'm just some kind of science experiment to be watched over?

Look, I'm not trying to be mean here, but that's EXACTLY what you are. Nanoweaver might be a person that cares about you but this entire outfit is pretty obviously a weapons program meant to create supersoldiers through cloning using heavily spliced genomes. What you are, the things the spliced into you are straight up an experiment. This whole organization feels like an experiment to turn you into a more powerful weapon.

And keeping that in mind, you might not get what you want when you finally finish beating the sector bosses. Maybe whatever war prompted your creation is over, but it's just as likely they are willing to let you go because they have no intent of letting you go and this is just a way to force you to prove your capability before they either pull the plug on you for their next iteration, or bundle you off against your will to fight some altercation. Big enterprises like this aren't free and someone is paying for this to keep going. Don't assume your current goal is some final victory.
No. 1020540 ID: 73aaab
File 164233852767.png - (423.51KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude5.png )

I- no, I can't.
I shake my head - how am I even meant to begin with this?
"Argine... you can't simply pretend it never happened. After that night, that was when everything changed for you. But it wasn't just because of your loss and what your sister did to you, was it?"
I croak out the words.
"I don't want to remember."


>We're here for you, Argine.
>It's okay, Argine. You don't have to talk about all of it right now if you are uncomfortable and not ready yet.

> What are you afraid of? You think we will make fun of you or some shit?
>What happened to "being strong" and "talk all the shit you want"?

>So get this over with.
>Damn it girl, be pragmatic!

>This is clearly something that needs to be brought up even if it is painful.
>Be strong.

>But you have to remember, Argine.


No. 1020541 ID: 73aaab
File 164233857228.png - (771.69KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude6.png )

"Argine... it's-"
I stand up, fist clenched.
"Alright, fine! I did, it, alright? Is that what you wanted to hear? That I beat my own sister unconscious after she humiliated me in front of everyone in the stadium?"

A sickly warmth rises in my stomach. Behind me, Urza's spear hears all of my sins as they spill out.
"That's why everyone's always on my case! Because not only did she win against me, that night I proved that I'm some kinda monster who hides her own strength so when I'm pushed, I can just casually brutalize someone I'm supposed to be close to!"

I can't even look at her.
My knuckles are white, blood trickles through the gaps between my fingers.

Nanoweaver's taken aback, but quickly settles back into her calm demeanour. What does she think of me? Her little failure.
"That's the story everyone says, Argine. But it's not your story. What happened that day?"

Where to even begin? I haven't wanted to think about this for months.
No. 1020542 ID: 73aaab
File 164233863541.png - (408.52KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude7.png )

The memories come back easily. The lid on top of it's been blasted away.

"I.... you saw me that day. I was beaten, badly. My sister doesn't pull punches, she never did. But I was so furious, I couldn't just lie around in bed. Until then, she never... she never defeated me like that. Held me up, told everyone how much of a weakling I was. So I got up, left, and went over to her room."
If I had just fallen asleep then, it would be as if I had simply accepted my defeat.
I can't forget that kind of rage. The kind where, I wanted to tear out my fur in bloody clumps and scream. Couldn't do either when I was hurting so bad. Regeneration only does so much for you.

"And she... she was just waiting there. In the hallway. I accused her of everything. She could have just let me lose with dignity. I wouldn't have minded that as much."
The shadow she cast in that hallway felt like it was going to smother me. I was always in her shadow from the moment I was born. Who would put their bets on someone who's smaller, weaker and defective like me, anyway?
"She didn't even talk to me. I kicked her, yelled at her - and she just stood there, like I was the most insignificant thing in the whole world."

I already lost any respect I could have had with the facility. When you're publicly humiliated like that, it sticks with you for the rest of your life.
Unless you do something even worse.

"So I started beating her. Throwing my whole body into hers. I knocked her down. I didn't care how bloody she was getting, or how many teeth I knocked out. In the end, it took me a week to get all of the stains out of my fur. My hands were dyed red."
The thought of that day disgusts me.
I... even with everything, she put up no resistance. She didn't fight.
...No matter how you look at it, that's not how heroes would go. Not even Urza - she destroyed whoever stood in her way.
But not people who were just there.
She pushed past those who were unarmed, vulnerable. She let them be.

The memories leave me shaking.
I want to punch something. But that's how I got here, isn't it?

I feel sick.
"Just... why? Why did she have to get everything I didn't? The physique, the respect, the success, the freedom? Hell, she's not even stunted like I am."
My arms itch.
"Maybe I was just doomed to a life like this to begin with. Not because of you, but because of just... everything. Bad luck. Everything came together in the worst of ways, just like me. I don't even have a reason to exist, do I? I was made, simply to exist. So, in a way I could choose my own goals. But what's the bloody point if I couldn't even accomplish my own dreams?"

The doctor is silent, she just sits there. Watching over me, like she always does.
No. 1020543 ID: 73aaab
Audio New_Hope_01_-_Arknights_OST.mp3 - (2.87MB , New Hope 01 - Arknights OST.mp3 )

Title: Newhope 01 (Arknights)
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JDOHNvIH7w&t=3s

No. 1020546 ID: e4b19e

Maybe that's the reason why Jin didn't want you to fight in this tournament is because she is scared of you after you beat her to a bloody pulp in the hallway like that, and is afraid you might beat her or one of the other fighters like that again, maybe even to death, worried that if you go free, you'll release that inner beast on someone who doesn't deserve it.
No. 1020550 ID: 094652

... Crap.
I don't think you understand. Jin isn't afraid of your weakness. She is afraid of your power.
No matter how many lies they spew about peace and equality, as long as there are elites and commoners, there will always be someone pulling the strings. Someone behind closed doors, capable of selling evil to paragons of goodness, capable of ending the world just because they're compelled to dislike it. They come into power when the system that is a society's god is so completely withered, rotted, and totally sociopathic that the only people it can possibly deem worthy are those who are dead inside.
And they looked at you with beady eyes and drooling lips and sharpened teeth as you beat your sister in an unrelenting rage, and they said "perfect". Not 'failure', not 'inferior', but perfect.
As their tool, of course.
They don't give two ^&*(s about body sculpting or perfect aim or even intellectual prowess. No, all they want, all they've ever wanted, is division. A way to take all the 'bad' and 'impoure' in the world and just foist it on complete idiots who will devour that sacriligious toxin and then say "thank you" and divide the world even more. You are that idiot, and they would sooner shoot their 'superior' R-Jin with an M99 AMR than let her make the world a better place by brinigning people together.
I've seen records of one supervillain who had that kind of sheer stoic control over their fears, and unreasonable, uncontrollable anger. He was a dumbass. He was strung around to destroy everything in his path. He never found peace.
He killed gods. And an entire continent. And everyone on that continent. And we were disgusted. At him, and especially at everyone who made him.
Don't make that mistake. Don't let your rage be your purpose or it will forge you into a slave.
No. 1020551 ID: d8972e


This is the single most beautiful thing I've heard Argine say.

When you first told how she deliberately went to the tournament and made you look like a fool in front of everyone, including people who left for good and will never get a chance to earn their respect ever again, I was so angry. I thought you had been stepped on by everyone without ever been able to change a thing.

I am so overjoyed you managed to do something about your sister's shaming and abuse.
You are my hero, Argine!
No. 1020552 ID: 9a2966

Oh no, I've suddenly lost all respect for this plucky young supersoldier, whose can-do fuck-it-all attitude otherwise would've enthralled me. Heh, no. Messed up as it might've been, you got pushed around, missed your shot, lost your cool, and... did a thing. People often do, in that kind of situation. Do things.

And guilt does funny things to a person, doesn't it? Nobody wants to feel guilty - or if they do, it's a function of the guilt itself that they feel they have to carry it with them and let it rip and tear. Good or bad, things are done with that guilt. As much as it is ignored, quashed, drowned, one too seeks to repay it, fix it, undo it. Or even live with it, as best one can, for the things that can't be undone. At least your big shame here is not something time and effort could never wash away. Truly.

But, oh, where did the shame and guilt come from? To what degree was it warranted? What standard did you set yourself - Urza's - that you could not lash out in rage without abiding shame when someone PUSHED YOU and LET YOU... to whatever end? To have you stay here, safe and sound? To protect the galaxy from your misdemeanors? For some other, mysterious, unacknowledged reason no-one will tell you?

On this we now agree: screw your sister's wishes.

That said, it sounds like your sister let you have your brutal rage because - whatever reason she had so thoroughly humiliated you due to - she must've acknowledged that she did you a serious wrong. Or that you perceived it so, and so deeply that her reasons for doing it hardly mattered. This is why she waited and let you have your lash-out.

And it tears at you that she could at almost any point have stopped you - but didn't. That you took her only weakness - you - and used it to beat her to a bloody pulp. It was an awful, bloody disappointment, wasn' it? As much as you hate that she's outdone you in everything - been held up as a paragon, never been someone you could match - that's not how it should've gone, even in your fantasies. That's not how you should have beaten your sister, at last, by way of her own petty guilt - whatever shred of it there was - for stopping her li'l sister from graduating, for whatever reason she had.

Well... fuck 'er and fuck that. You shouldn't have lost your cool, but you did and the one who could've tried to do anything about it didn't, was in fact integral to you losing it in the first place, so I think this is big old wash, guilt-wise and loss-of-face-wise.

You still have plenty of opportunities to prove her - and everyone - wrong. About quite a lot. You've already begun, I think.

But you still have this tendency to beat yourself up, Argine. "Failure", "mistake", "defect", "runt", "doomed" - you are quite filled with the shame and negativity of your so-called inferior existence. Even with your Urza-inspired can-do, hardass attitude to help you overcome that, there's this layer to you that keeps surfacing and I just think you'd be quite a bit better off if you got that peeled. Not that a little humility is ever off, but it shouldn't be internalized like so.

Strength is not something that is always inherent - it is built. Being able to work to overcome your flaws and weaknesses makes you strong, and will make you stronger in a myriad of ways. So chipper up, you've never been a lost cause. Let Nanoweaver - who sits here beside you, supporting you - affirm that.
No. 1020553 ID: e51896

Failure is a part of growth.
No. 1020555 ID: cdabe3


Maybe she realized that you felt humiliated? Maybe she felt guilty for it, and she hoped that by letting you take out your anger, there’d be some kind catharsis, some kind of reconciliation? It’s odd how often you say that so much is power dynamics at play and people taking advantage, but she’d already beaten you completely in the arena. She had nothing to gain from you beating her within an inch of her life, unless what she wanted to gain (in a twisted way) was your forgiveness…
No. 1020556 ID: 96c896

Jin manipulated you. She knew how you would react. She let herself get beaten to a pulp, to make you look like a villain. Maybe even so that you'd become one. Why? To make her look like more of a hero. She's your TWIN. She wants to be the Good Twin, and you the Evil Twin.

That's why she changed her name to be a reflection of yours. She wants to be your opposite, and for her to be the perfect soldier you have to be the worst possible one.
No. 1020560 ID: e51896

Well, if there is one thing we learned with that incident with Judicium long ago, we don't know the full story and shouldn't jump to conclusions as to why Jin did what she did to Argine. This is all speculation from us right now, Argine. Maybe we should ask the doctor what she thinks about what Jin did, and what Argine did... Let her know the speculations we thought of, and get her input, and what we should do moving forward.
No. 1020561 ID: 96c896

Sure, we don't know the whole story, but there's no reason Jin would have just sat there and taken the punishment other than-
Well, okay, no. I thought of a benevolent reason she might have let it happen. Maybe she regretted humiliating Argine, and accepted the beatdown as her punishment.

In that case though why didn't she just tell people that? I find it very very unlikely that Jin is a good person. She looks like someone who finds appearances and clout to be the most important things in the world. I think that once we finally defeat her, she's going to break down and snap, revealing her true personality beneath the cool, friendly facade. It'd be a cathartic ending to this tournament.

I guess a distant possibility is that Jin's humiliating speech was meant to be an entreaty to get people to stop pushing Argine so hard. Like, a "she's so weak, why are you expecting her to be strong" sort of thing. However, there are so many witnesses that they would have already given Argine that interpretation. Noone has even tried.

Another even less likely possibility is that Jin was ordered to humiliate Argine. But like, why? To push her hard enough to develop a parasignia? Seems counter-productive.
No. 1020565 ID: c8d81e

>killed gods, destroyed a continent.

>What if someone told Jin-R to humiliate Argine? And if so, why?
Maybe it has something to do with that mysterious guy who comissioned the creation of them both?

>We are not getting the full story.
Yes, so far we've been taught that people are more than just antagonists and a lot of comfrontations sprawn from miscomunication.
But on the other hand, I already got invested in the whole defeating Jin-R thing.
No. 1020572 ID: 34dfce

Ask Weaver for her coat. Say you need to punch something. Ball it up on the floor and punch that. A pillow would be ideal, but that will have to work (your coat may not have enough material to keep you from injuring yourself).
No. 1020804 ID: 73aaab
File 164268282288.png - (181.55KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude8.png )

I slump back onto the bench beside her.

Even, even now, I can't escape your voices. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. But that's not possible when you're always on.

>Strength is not something that is always inherent - it is built.
Maybe. But, compare it to a gun. Some weapons are inherently going to be worse than others due to their parts, cheaper, older. Loose fittings, a flimsy barrel - sure, you could get decent performance out of that gun. But it'll never live up to well-made ones.
Me? I'm all spare parts.

>But you still have this tendency to beat yourself up, Argine. "Failure", "mistake", "defect", "runt", "doomed" - you are quite filled with the shame and negativity of your so-called inferior existence.
I'm frustrated because it's not something I can deny. I have to work around it, but - it's like telling someone without legs that they can still be top of the squadron in the 100 meter sprints. It's not like we've got the kind of cybernetic technology to make ourselves replacement limbs or other enhancements - as genetically engineered clones, we're meant to have our features to begin with. There is no upgrading our bodies, beyond what physical training we already do.

>Failure is a part of growth.
There's a difference between failing at something you set out to do, and doing something you didn't know you were capable of. That you've done something wrong once, and everyone comes down on you for it.

I sit there in that fake silence - with your voices intruding in on it.
The doctor finally speaks up, unable to bear it.

"What did you feel at that moment, Argine?"


"I don't know. A mix of things. It was... it was the first time that I actually held any kind of power over her. That... that made me feel like I was something, for a moment. But soldiers aren't meant to hurt their own like that - let alone someone who's meant to be your sibling. But... I still felt it. For a moment, it felt great that she was the victim for once. What does that say about me?"

The doctor keeps quiet.

"I wanted to be a hero, so people couldn't lord their power over others. So that I could be an example to others - that even an underdog, even a defective clone like me could make something of herself, and not just a small something - but something big. Urza and the other heroes, they were all fighting for something that meant something to themselves. Their nations, their causes...
Hell, you lot keep pointing that kind of thing out, too. I tried not to think about it, but I guess there's nothing else but for you to intrude in on my thoughts.

"Me, I've been fighting for myself this whole time. And, even though I know it's wrong - there's that part of it where I knew that - I felt great, getting my come-uppance. How dare she do that to me, humiliate me in front of everyone? That's what I thought at the time. I justified it to myself. That I deserved a win like this, that I deserved to get this moment for myself."
This whole time, the Sector Bosses, they were all treating me like a monster. And deep down - I have that possibility in me. Maybe all of us do - but I've definitely seen a glimpse of my own.

"But you know what? It made me realize - just how replaceable I am. I had my moment that made me stand out from all the others - but once that was over, I was below where I started. Now I was just some wannabe, and a dangerous one at that.
Hell, I bet I don't even look all that different from the heroes of the past. How I fight, how I act - am I even really my own person? Skill Traces... Memory Traces, they're meant to give us the skills of the people who came before, right? It's part of why we're all more mature than our age. But... I'm trying so damn hard to be my own person. Is that even possible?
Can I even say my face is mine, if we're all just clones of the heroes who came before us?"

Nanoweaver's voice breaks through the shroud.

"Argine, you're already your own person. Nobody can take your experiences away from you, and our experiences are what shape us as people. Even as clones, we've all got our own quirks and distinctions. "

I've only got questions in response to that.

I said I wouldn't blame her. But damn it - it's just not fair!
"Then, why did I turn out like this, doc? How come Jin-R turned out like that? Did you just make us so different on purpose? Because I could be a good test sample or something?"
No. 1020805 ID: 73aaab
File 164268291339.png - (675.87KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude9.png )

The Doctor takes my cutting words without much issue. Instead, she puts an arm around me, sitting closer on the bench.

"Argine, there's more to it than that. I'll get to it in a moment. But for now - my question for you is, would you want to give up?"

I don't bother to look up.
"What's the point? Even if I fight for myself, I'll just still be some clone. The other Trace Clones out there - they've probably already made names for themselves in their own way. Fighting's all I've got - and there's probably already Trace Clones out there who are better than me at that, or have other talents to stand out."

I don't think I can really comprehend just how big it is out there. How do you even think about it like that? It's like trying to imagine something that you don't know could exist - trying to think about it just makes your head hurt. The idea that - not only are the other Trace Clones out there, probably getting Parasignias of their own and being heroes in their own way, I'm still stuck down here, fighting fights that nobody but us will see, and won't be remembered after everyone leaves for other worlds.

"Do you think that you can't do anything good at all?"
I feel her warmth, her arm wrapped around my back. A comforting pat. Some other thoughts drift to the top of my head.

"Doc, I mean - you heard me. You only support me because I see you like a mother. You made me, and so you want me to do well - even though I've hurt one of your other... creations. That's it. There's no real obligation to support me. You'd be better off with the rest of the Sector bosses if you didn't support me so much - and the same with Diagram."

Though, Diagram never seems to get much flak from the Sector Bosses.

"No. I've always believed in you, Argine. As who you are - not because of some obligation. Because I see the potential in you to do good things."
I cry out.
"But why? Why put yourself out there for my sake? You may have made me, but you also made Jin. I don't see you supporting Jin as much as me - Jin's goddamn unbeatable! Despite being made from the remainder of the gene samples we had in stock - despite circumstances being against her, she turned out to be one of the best soldiers in this whole damn facility, and the history of our cloning program! Me, I'm just the average! I came out physically disfigured, without the same intuition or strength as her. Why would you put your support behind me?"

No matter the definition of heroism - whether mine, or hers - wouldn't Jin have a better time doing it? She's strong, charismatic, intimidating... hell, she easily proved herself in front of everyone.
Me... I just feel like I'm a terrible ripoff of the people who came before. Those soldiers, those heroes from before who had families, goals, or countries to fight for. It feels like all I'm doing is imitating them and doing a poor job at it.
But that's what clones are, isn't it? People who are supposed to be other people.

>She is afraid of your power.
I lost to her in a fair fight. If she didn't sit there and take a beating - I'd have easily been put through a wall.

>On this we now agree: screw your sister's wishes.
Yeah. But how am I going to win against her? Even with all the tech and the support of others - I can't emphasize how much of a different level she's on.

Nanoweaver continued the exchange.
"I support those who need guidance, Argine."

"That just means I'm inferior - because I need that help to begin with."

"Is it more noble to be born strong, or to gain that strength through hard work, Argine?"
"Easy. Being born strong means that you'll have been doing the best since the beginning. You'll be helping out more people in the time it would've taken to get strong in the first place."

Nanoweaver shakes her head.
"You'll find that - those who are born strong, may one day encounter obstacles that they are unused to overcoming. But for those who have gained strength of their own volition, they're better equipped for future hurdles - because they know how tough it was to gain that strength in the first place."
She shifts over a bit closer, leaning in. It's almost like a whisper, hearing it through her mask.

"But you'll find that sometimes, we just need a little push now and again. And here's a question, Argine - even if you know that you're different to the other clones, even if there's others who can do better than you in some aspects - would you have given up on your dream in spite of that?"

"Would you have thrown it away? Sat down and simply accepted what was in store for you?"

Memories of training - of broken bones come to mind. And yet - even in spite of all of that, I always got up.
"Or would you fight? Argine, you've never been the type to lie down and give up."

Attempt after attempt of escaping of my own will, trying out all my smart and stupid plans just to see what'll stick...

As much as part of me wants to just lie down right now, I instinctively know what I need to say.
"I want to keep fighting. I want to see the rest of the world outside for myself."

The words feel forced and hollow. But I've said them.

>You still have plenty of opportunities to prove her - and everyone - wrong. About quite a lot. You've already begun, I think.
>So chipper up, you've never been a lost cause.

I - ugh, what the hell's happened to me? I... I don't know. Am I just... a fraud? I talk a big game, almost lose my first proper match, and now I'm just being a sulking baby about all of this.
Just... I'm pathetic. You wouldn't see any of the other soldiers like this. We- I was trained better than that.
But... I can come back, still. There's still three more matches before I have to confront Jin herself.

I just don't know if I'm strong enough.
No. 1020806 ID: 094652

>But that's what clones are, isn't it? People who are supposed to be other people.
... I won't contest that. In fact, I'd agree with it.
But that just makes why clones are created even more important: clones are made to redeem failure.

The entirety of biological history begins and ends with cells cloning one another despite the ever-present fact that they will fail. That the number of living organisms that have experienced death already outnumbers the total stars in the multiverse, and still, they exist - that is a cosmic feat. Life persists, because of its failures, not in spite of them.
You are supposed to be someone else who already failed. But you are not fated to fail, that is the whole point. Even the most disposable of clones is created with the initial purpose of existing.
You are their second chance. You are their absolution.
You are their hero.
No. 1020808 ID: 0ee72b

>I want to do something BIG.
Accept two things:
1) You will have to be patient and wait until the chance comes.
2) A lot of people will never hear your name. The universe is super mega big and no fame lasts forever.

And again, only poser heroes do good acts for fame. Just do good acts and enjoy seeing other people thrive for it.

>I don't if I'm strong enough.
We are almost half way there and the next opponent is a meat-head with a cake slice for a face.
You'll be fine.

Even less advanced civilizations can clone some skin in a lab and graft it onto the exposed flesh. It's just a bit expensive that's all.
>They can't use that technology on clon-




You just have to insist more!

>You are always on.
Do you want us to keep quiet until you explicity demand our input in the future? We could try that.
No. 1020809 ID: 9a2966

>Wouldn't see any other soldiers like this
Aheh. Heh. Game over, man. Game over.

Training or carefully crafted genetic disposition can only cover so much. I will guarantee you that someone - some product of this program - froze up in a situation that occurred out there, or had qualms before and regrets in the aftermath.

That includes your sister. None of you are perfect immaculate beings.

>What's happened to me
Talking to others - us included - has increased your self-awareness, perhaps. You also got shot in the head, so your confidence probably took a ding. Unless Nanoweaver also happens to come with a psychic powers package, that's probably the extent of it.

Honestly, you can probably figure out ways to shut US out or lessen our influence if you tried. Go ask Diagram for advice if we're too much of a pain. Or just tell us to pipe down. We might, some of us. Our only purpose here is with you, after all. If we can't do you any good, what good are we, eh?

>I just don't know if I'm strong enough.
Trying is a good start. So, to borrow a carefully crafted idiom: Fuck around, find out.
No. 1020822 ID: dd5443

Yeah talking to our mother... sorry, diagram about silenceing us now and then might be a good idea after our meeting.
No. 1020828 ID: 96c896

Even the strongest heroes have emotional turmoil. Do not be ashamed of your feelings.
>I just don't know if I'm strong enough.
Then get stronger. You've already impressed Judicium, and Nickel too. She didn't expect you to get up so fast from a bullet to the head.
No. 1021311 ID: 73aaab
File 164315794146.png - (446.95KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude10.png )

>Honestly, you can probably figure out ways to shut US out or lessen our influence if you tried.
Is that even a good idea? What if something messes up and then when I actually need you, you're gone?
Makes me wonder if it's better to be alone and quiet, or to have people always around you all the time.

>You are their second chance. You are their absolution.
>You are their hero.
I wouldn't say that. I haven't done anything - not yet.
But someday...

"With that said, Argine - you'll continue to fight, yes?"
I nod. I mean what I said, even if I can't say I'm feeling great about it.

"If that's the case - then, I can tell you something I've kept from you. But you must keep this information from the other Sector Bosses, alright?"

I lean forward, resting my hands on my knees. This whole exchange has been immensely tiring.
"What, doc? Not like you to mislead me at all. Can't say I'm ever happy about being lied to, but this doesn't seem like an especially big deal."
At least she's being upfront about it. See, I can't stand it when people string me along and never tell me - it's only when I find out, that's when I get pissed. I don't care if it's for 'the greater good', or for my benefit - that's what people keep telling me, and so many times, they've just been covering their ass.

Nanoweaver's clearly running the words through her mind a few times before she speaks again. It takes just long enough for me to get worried.
"Do you remember how, a few days ago, I asked you to retrieve the Skill Trace Vial?"

I nod again. So it had something to do with that discrepancy that Diagram brought up?
"Argine - they were never just skill traces. They're memories - Memory Traces. I had misled you a little, because I didn't know how to quite bring it up."

I squint.
"What's the difference between a Skill Trace vial and a Memory Trace ampule anyway? I don't really get why you had to lie to me on that."

Seems like a simple enough question anyway.
"It's straightforward. Skill Traces never existed. I was simply reframing it so you didn't question a part of it."
Simply reframing it?

"As clones, we've been rapidly matured so that we can better serve our purposes. But without the Memory Traces - we wouldn't be more than an empty husk."
I guess that makes sense. We wouldn't be very useful as super vegetables. All that work growin' us in vats gone to waste.

"What, did you not have enough for me? Doc, we just went over this. I guess you kept it from me because you were worried that I would see it as another reason why I'm worse?"
Can't say I've ever felt like a kid, though.
The doc doesn't answer me immediately, so I hit her with another question.
"Stop beating around the bush, tell it to me. Was I just inferior this whole time?"

"No. If anything - you were able to learn so much, in spite of the difference. Rather, you weren't starting off worse than the others - it was just the circumstances for you were different. I kept it from you as I didn't want you going around asking - because this is information typically privy only to those involved in the process. If you were using the incorrect term for it, you were less likely to rouse attention from people who would know."

"Why's that an issue?"

"The Memory Traces we used in the past - they belonged to heroes and unnamed soldiers. Brave women, who gave up their own hopes and dreams to serve their nations. Their neural data was used in order to help this cloning program. Many of us have had moments where - sometimes, it feels like we're seeing things from the past that never happened to us. That's due to the influence of the Memory Traces."
Seeing things from the past - doesn't that sound like what you guys are seeing? Is that just you reading the Memory Traces more efficiently than our brains can?
She turns to face me, a strange determined look in her eyes.

"You however - are an exception. Your neural data came from another clone, rather than one of the soldiers from the past. Had you been asking around about the Memory Traces - instead of Skill Trace implying that it was simply just their experience, not their memories... I feel that people would come asking questions far sooner. Questions about your own memories, and how that's affected you. People like to pick at differences, make them fester. It was better to simply ignore it - as the topic of the memory traces... and who they belonged to - it's something that nobody ever likes to talk about. But most of us have had those visions."
I've never had any experiences like memories from someone else. If anything, the only time that's been happening were those peeks into the lives of others through those strange flashbacks I've been getting after fights.

"That makes me wonder then, do Memory Traces affect our personalities?"

"Presumably. In this case, I used the Trace in the hopes that - maybe you could spiritually carry things on. But that was a silly plan - if anything, I'm glad that you're your own person, Argine. We all deserve that much."
...Your own person, huh.

"So, who was the person who provided my Memory Trace, then? Was it you?"
Nanoweaver shakes her head. I guess it would be a little egotistical, using yourself for a Memory Trace. Imagine having to stare yourself down if it succeeded, though!

"No. But it was someone close to me. Many clones in the facility have lost people close to us, before circumstances changed and Parasignias were discovered. Astrolysis and Nickel - the two of them used to be a trio."

Huh. Didn't know that. I thought they just became buddy buddy one day.
"Who's the third?"

She gives me a coy look - or as much as she can give one behind a mask.
"Perhaps that's something you should ask them about. But you wouldn't have seen her before - she was very sickly, not fit for combat. So she likely never came up, or had much relevance to your interests."

Interesting. Feels great to get some interesting tidbits on the people around me, given how little I used to know about them before this whole tournament setup. Nanoweaver's one of the few people who I can say actually keeps me in the loop about things.

"I must repeat myself, Argine. If you could promise me one thing: Don't let anyone else know about this. This is... one of the few requests I have for you, as your creator. The Sector Bosses do not know that you were made different - and it would only serve as further incitement to them."

She brings a finger up to where her mouth is behind the mask.

"Hah. I won't ask for your reasons, doc. But I'll keep that in mind."
It's a promise, then. And - if there's one thing, I try to fulfil my end of deals.
No. 1021312 ID: 73aaab
File 164315808626.png - (497.40KB , 1000x1000 , nanoweaverinterlude11.png )

Hmm. I dunno - it's weird but, the fact that the Doc told me straight up on all of this makes me feel strangely at ease.

"You know, Argine - at first, I wasn't sure if I liked the name you chose for yourself."
Talk about a change of subject!

"Huh? Where'd that come from, doc? Taken to kicking people while they're down?"
There's a strange, bemused look on my face. Compared to me reliving my memories from before, this seems like a weird gut punch, but she seems to be leading into something.

"I said at first. It was due to the logic you had behind it. Do you remember why?"

"...I called myself that, because I was made with the R-factor gene traces. The ones left over, the bottom of the barrel stuff. Jin was as well, but I got the bulk of the worst parts."
The remainder of all the gene traces. All of the spare parts. I named myself quite quickly compared to other clones. I didn't want anyone getting any ideas or giving me names I didn't want. So I chose one for myself as soon as I could.

I continue.
"I guess, I chose the name because I felt like I wanted to honor where I came from. That, even though I was made outta spare parts, I could still make it."
Never forget where you come from. If I'm going to make myself known one day, I don't ever want to forget the feeling of being on the bottom.
"That was part of why I was hesitant about the name, Argine. But I'd dare to say that you've already made a start to making it feel more worthwhile."

"...Really sucks that Jin had to steal it from me, right afterward. Come on, she put a hyphen in her name just to make it work!"
She always has to show me up on anything I do. That's why - until I beat her, beat her for REAL, I'm never going to escape from her grasp.

"I don't think she did that to spite you, Argine."

This time, I laugh.
"What, you gonna say that she cares about me? I'm not sure you can justify her beating on me in the tournament. Not that I could say that about myself."
All that talk before, about how maybe Jin's not so bad - you can all go right to hell. I don't want to hear anything about that.
Sure, I screwed up. But Jin ruined my life - she was back and fine after everything was over, and I came out of it far worse.

"Jin's actions - I do not believe that what she did to you in the tournament could be justified. But perhaps, she regrets what she does as much as you regret what you did to her."

Hah. That'd be funny. The idea of her just coming over and apologizing... the hell am I supposed to do about that? Just tell her that I forgive her for everything?

"If she did, maybe she would have been far less dense about taking the hint that I just wanted to be left alone. "
I get no response to that.
No. 1021313 ID: 73aaab
File 164315812201.png - (515.48KB , 1000x1000 , arginegauntlet.png )

"Well," Nanoweaver begins, "I think that's enough of a talk for the day, wouldn't you say?"

I muster up a grin, covering the fact that my tail's cramping pretty hard after all of this.
"Aw, Doc - I thought we were going to have a bit of a contest, see who left the deepest imprint on the seat after we got up."
I take a glance behind me - Damn, she left the bigger one. Must've been that dress of hers weighing things down.

"Either way doc... I don't know how to feel about all of this, but I know I'm not giving up. I have to get stronger - even if it's for my own sake."
I stretch, feeling my body limber up. Nanoweaver follows up with some of her own advice.

"Remember Argine, it's not just about how people fight - but why they fight. Understanding where the Sector Bosses come from - it'll help you respond to their actions."

I nod - she's completely right. But there's more to it than that, isn't there? Since they're clearly fighting for something that none of us are in the know about.
Hell, Sykes - you've all been theorizing about it this whole time. Don't pretend that I can't hear you, even if I'm not responding. There has to be something greater at play.

"I think... I want to see what the other Sector Bosses are fighting for. Why they oppose me so strongly. If I was just another dumbass cadet, they wouldn't have to do something like this. There's gotta be something bigger at play."

Nanoweaver eyes me up. Feels like induction day again.
"I'd be interested in seeing what you find out, if that's the case. But you're going to need something - some compensation for bearing with me today. Please, take these - I think you'll find them quite different to your usual equipment."

She hands me... a pair of gloves?
They clack together, like the stock of a gun against armor plates.

"The Silkweave Gauntlets... something from an older time. You know, I had- Ah, nevermind. The point is - these can create a kinetic barrier in a short radius, allowing you to block bullets with your arms. They don't have unlimited battery-life, but it can save you if you time it properly. And, while the barriers only protect against bullets - the kinetic force you generate with these could have interesting effects on enemy combatants."

I squint.
"I thought you didn't make weapons, doc."

She shrugs.
"Think of them as a defensive tool. While something of its sturdiness could be used for concussive force against hostile opponents - I'm sure that I can trust you not to misuse it, hmmm?"

Ha ha ha. Yeaaaahhhhhhh, sure.

But... wow.
Two weapons in one day?! Man, I should get shot in the head more often if I get presents like these!

I feel like the Sector Bosses generally try to keep me away from guns, because they know that I can do a lot with only a few more additions to my kit.
I wonder what kind of expression Jin'll have if I block bullets with my arms.

I go to put them on, but - right, the blood covering my palms. I go to wipe them off on my pants, and Nanoweaver chides me.
"Argine, you should really wash and sanitize your hands."
I shrug, cracking a grin.
"Don't have enough time for that, doc. I have to make do."

I quickly wipe off the blood - some of the dried, crimson flakes catching the light streaming through the window. Eh. Stains aren't a problem.

And - These fit like a charm.
I wonder if I can put them together using my Parasignia or not?
I gotta try that later after I break it down and figure things out.

Now, the question is - what should I do next?
I've still got time left in the day - but I can't spend all day talking to people. Any suggestions? I was thinking about digging up maps or blueprints for the Foundry, or doing some Innovation on my new gear.
Go ahead and repeat suggestions from before if you need to.
No. 1021314 ID: 96c896

Foundry blueprints.

One last thing before you part ways with Nanoweaver- ask her why you haven't formed a Pseudosignia with her. Does it require a ritual or something?
No. 1021315 ID: a9af05

>"Aw, Doc - I thought we were going to have a bit of a contest, see who left the deepest imprint on the seat after we got up."
>I take a glance behind me - Damn, she left the bigger one. Must've been that dress of hers weighing things down.
It's rude to imply that she's got a big butt and/or call her fat. Save insults like that for your stupid sister Jin.

Do this.
No. 1021343 ID: 9a2966

>A clone's Memory Trace
So you were made with the Memory Trace of a sickly now-perished clone, who used to be a friend of Nickel and Astrolysis. Sheesh, that puts some things in a different context. They may know. Or somehow see a little of her in you, and that'd be a strange feeling. Coming back from a headshot aside, it's not a usual thing for people get second chances, even as a foundational part of another's psyche.

That said, I agree with Nanoweaver that it's good that you're your own person. It seems some of the other clones are a bit haunted by their own flashbacks. I agree these other memory shenanigans are probably more Sykes-related than origin-related, given how relatively untroubled you've been with intruding memories until now. We're a buncha memory fragments, so probably the source of that.

>Jin-R's lack of spite
As was stated, screw your sister's wishes. Regardless of motivation, I find it likely she had other options and did not use them.

Figuring out those motivations, however, may give you an edge in the upcoming match. She had her reasons and while they aren't worth defending, they were there. If nothing else, getting her to freeze up and take it like she did in that hallway, even just for a moment, has some value to you. It wouldn't be fair, but then, neither was she to you.

>should get shot in the head more often
Now now. It was using that head which got you both devices, if you ask me. If you'd just fucked off after your win over Nickel or spent your time rubbing your victory in her face rather than ask for advice, I doubt she would have given you the H-ED DSTR.

And taking time to share your inner turmoil with Nanoweaver got you the gloves. Granted, because she's Nanoweaver she may have intended to give you those anyway, but as 'talk to me more often' incentives go, bullet-deflecting gloves is pretty neat... and you wouldn't have gotten them if you hadn't spent the time to seek her out and sit with her.

Point is: What you say and do - and to whom - also matters, Argine, not just who and how you fight. Not every conversation is going to leave you as rewarded, but people are more likely to help out others when they are sympathetic, understand them or feel obliged to them in some way. Which isn't going to happen without conversing with them, getting to know one another, breaking down stupid-ass barriers of prejudice and belief, and having moments of that good old give and take.

Everyone here knows what you're all about - getting out of here at any cost - but they don't all know you, do they? So while you can do something that is NOT talking, you should still go talk to someone else today. Judicium had that task for you, after all.

Though... it's fine to take a break from it for a bit to clear your head after an emotional conversation. If you wanna dig around for updated Foundry maps, go nuts.
No. 1021348 ID: 094652

>Skill Traces don't exist
... Odd, I can think of a way to invent one.
Cross reference a bunch of memories from people of the same class. Find memories that reference the same skill in a specific context, like performing a dropkick. Lightly scramble the memory data so that the internal monologues are slightly garbled and become junk. Finally, superpose all memories and get the moving average. The personal memories become useless in the face of corruption but the actions taken are repaired by each other and normalized to a general success rate.

>Sucker Punch gauntlets
Hell yes. I've seen these in action, they're invaluable to shock troopers. You'll need to learn basic martial arts, but the effects allow you to quickly remove back-line glass-cannons while lowering the risks of suicidal charges.

First, rewire the gloves so they collect kinetic energy from your punches. Then connect them to your Barrier Generator so they can work more efficiently when modding each other. Finally, reprogram your D3 so it can store energy charges when combined with the gloves, or fire them as throwable shields.
No. 1021354 ID: 34dfce

>skill traces
Well, people don't really have "classes", but the overall idea does sound like a good idea.

Decent enough idea. We could really use that siphoning to recharge any of our gadgets.
Just keep in mind that no matter how efficient we make the gloves, they will weaken our punches when gathering energy (generating energy here is basically creating more resistance for you to overcome due to physics). We would also need to decide how much energy these gloves should collect. Making them collect 50% of the expended energy to charge would basically make it twice as hard to throw a normal punch. We would need to carefully balance the ratio so that they charge as much as possible per punch, while also letting us remain combat effective (and keep throwing punches).

I wonder if we could use them as an inertia negator. For instance, collecting the energy from a potentially debilitating fall in order to dampen the impact.
No. 1021883 ID: 73aaab
File 164363159881.png - (476.75KB , 1000x1000 , 2ndch054.png )

Innovation's not a bad idea, especially with this new kit.

>First, rewire the gloves so they collect kinetic energy from your punches.

>Then connect them to your Barrier Generator so they can work more efficiently when modding each other.

>Finally, reprogram your D3 so it can store energy charges when combined with the gloves, or fire them as throwable shields.
You've lost me.
The D3's a shotgun, Syke.

>We could really use that siphoning to recharge any of our gadgets.
Hate to break it to you, but storing kinetic energy's different to actual battery power. Plus, remember - I'd have to be right NEXT to someone to punch them. I could do it against Astrolysis, sure, but would Ozone or Mnemosyne really let me that close?

I'll get to Innovating after I go and pick up the map.

>Foundry blueprints.
>Do this.

Nothing's more important than scoping out a place before a fight. Too bad they don't let me into half of these places.
I'll head over to look for the floor plans after I wrap things up with the Doc.

>Ask Nanoweaver why you haven't formed a Pseudosignia with her. Does it require a ritual or something?
Mmm... I'm going to play it safe. Amica was the one who told me about Pseudosignias. What if Nanoweaver freaks out again? I don't want to put her through that after we've just had a serious talk.

So I pose the question without saying more than I need to.
"Hey Doc, do you know what Pseudosignias are?"
Nanoweaver doesn't look especially surprised.
"Oh, so you've formed one already, Argine? I hope that it's benefitting you - it's good that you're deepening your connections to others, especially those who care about you."

I shake my head. I can't lie to her like that.
"Nah, I haven't. But I heard it from Nickel - and I figured out that during our battle, she was using techniques that didn't line up with the rest of her abilities."
Given that her Parasignia is a knife - do you think she did something like... stick it into her gun? I mean, Parasignias can do so much. I wouldn't be surprised if she was using it like an add-on of some kind.
From the sounds of it, while the properties of Parasignias are generally flexible, the type or general effect of it aren't. Like different ammunition types for the same gun.

"Though, I'm wondering - I mean, we're pretty close as well, Doc. How come we don't have a Pseudosignia? I mean, even our abilities are similar, with you able to break things down, and me being able to recombine stuff I take apart...

I'm still not sure about the nitty gritty of what Nanoweaver's Parasignia can do - but hers is more... precise, I'd say. I can take parts apart and recombine them, using my Parasignia like duct-tape to make it all work. But hers? She can break things down even further - but I'm unsure what else it actually does.

She frowns.
"Ah, I see. This is rather concerning - I had thought Pseudosignias were just something we heard from the outside world, but I suppose it was too optimistic to hope that nobody would have developed one before the tournament began..."

"I'm not exactly in the loop most of the time, doc. How come you didn't explain it to me before?"

Nanoweaver, like always - has an answer.
"Part of it is because of your circumstances, Argine. Another part of it is that I simply don't know much on it myself. Parasignias are still concepts we barely know about - if Astrolysis or Nickel told you about it - I wouldn't trust their advice to be expert-level. Those two... it's certainly likely they've formed a Pseudosignia with each other. But to be honest - Pseudosignias, you don't have much control over. I feel that your time is much better spent developing things you can control - before you concern yourself with the nuances of Pseudosignias."

She has a point - Pseudosignias SOUND useful, but we've got other problems as well.

"Still - if you do figure things out, Argine, I'd be glad to hear it. Perhaps you need to be in the right state of mind to acquire one, but that's just theorizing on my end."
Hmm... A certain state of mind, then?
If Pseudosignias happen in similar ways to Parasignias, would it be caused by emotions too? Fah. Not like today's drama gave me anything special.

It's great having a Parasignia - but one day, when I get out - I'm going to need to be better prepared.

For now, I'm gonna focus on what I can do, but this is something I'm going to be looking into first thing when I get to other worlds. If I don't know how to better use or deal with Parasignias, I'm going to get destroyed by people who can.

For now, I part ways with Nanoweaver, and make my way over to Security and Armoury to try and dig up some blueprints.
No. 1021884 ID: 73aaab
File 164363170243.png - (381.07KB , 1000x1000 , forgemap.png )

It took some digging, but I finally got a layout sheet.
This one's more of a blueprint, I'm disappointed that I couldn't find more - this is even less than last time! So I'm going to use this time to also review just how much I know about the area.
I'm not as familiar with the foundry compared to other places, but lemme try and give the overview.

The foundry's split into a couple of areas, but most of it's going to be locked off. What's important is the central area - while we've got factories and such, I don't know much about 'em. I can imagine they're going to be conveyor belts or something similar. Unless I'm being chased, because of how Astrolysis fights, we're probably going to stay within one area. Either she goes down, or I go down before her.

The central area's basically the place where they oversee the production of different gear, gadgets and sometimes even vehicles. Expect offices and other logistical information. There's apparently an ideas room where Doc Graph used to work his magic, but there probably ain't much left there now.
Site 70's got access to a lot of stuff - or at least that's what I've heard. They really don't like me getting into the Foundry. Hell, I bet they lock me out so I can't go and start building guns myself, heh. But anyway, back to the main problem.

Astrolysis, as a melee combatant - she's going to have to have some method of dealing with my ranged attacks otherwise she wouldn't be as confident against me. Naturally, that also means I should try and minimize the time I spend in corridors and cramped areas - the buildings in the central area shown in the main blueprints are absolutely going to screw me over - especially since, with her hands free, she could also pelt things at me.

Then there's that whole 'splitting thing' she can do...
I wonder if talking to Nickel's going to reveal anything more about either of their Parasignias or Pseudosignias, but Nanoweaver's right - I can't let myself get distracted either. Sucks that there's not a more detailed map, but even with this - Sykes, you should probably try thinking of some initial ideas for how we're going to avoid Astrolysis. She's fast, too, so it's not like I can keep her pinned down with gunfire. She hits hard enough to take me out in a few blows, that's for sure.
...Fitting that she and Nickel are a bit of a duo. This is basically the opposite of what I had to do in the previous fight.
No. 1021885 ID: 73aaab
File 164363181127.png - (331.14KB , 1000x1000 , arginovation.png )

Now for the equipment.

The DSTR and the Silkweave Gauntlets...

>You need to learn basic martial arts
Already know, Syke. Don't you know hand-to-hand is a cornerstone of our training? We're never useless without a weapon. But having a gun drastically lowers your odds of being turned into mincemeat.

With two new weapons at my disposal - I already know which ones I've gotta focus on. While I could've worked on my gadgets, improving my reliable equipment is also a big part of it.

One important thing to note though is that, with the Sniper Rifle - I can only carry one 'bulky' gun on me at a time.
Yeah yeah, I know what you're going to say, 'Oh, but Argine, you have a convenient place to put all your guns in!'
Listen, storing them is one thing but having to actually pick them out? I think I used an analogy like boxes before - there's only so much space at the front of my mind where I can put all of my 'quick access stuff' - and trust me, you DON'T want to be caught in the struggling to assemble your gun in the middle of a firefight.
But the limitation is also for my sake - if all of my weapons are heavy duty types, then I won't be able to do things as easily as I'd like.

My shotgun doesn't count as a bulky weapon thanks to Diagram's efforts making it quite handy and lightweight - honestly, if things were different, that gun could practically be a standard issue... if it wasn't made from some ridiculously high grade parts. Prototypes are like that - sometimes you just need the more standard, low-grade model to mass produce.
...Hah, kinda like us clones, right? Don't get many Jin-R's a generation.

But as for the upgrades I'm going to make for the H-ED DSTR, that's going to be... interesting.

Even taking it apart's a challenge - I don't think I've seen anyone else design a weapon like this. Feels more like a radio in some ways.
From a quick overview - it's a ridiculously high powered rifle, fires single shots at a time. Even though I could *probably* try teleporting the bullet inside of the chamber when I fire it, this thing might catch fire if I start trying to use it as a semi-automatic, plus the spent brass that has to be ejected after every shot.

So! One of the first things I'll be doing is adjusting the recoil on it so that I can actually fire this thing without having to go prone every time. It'll still be best used on a ledge or outcropping, but now the DSTR's recoil has been lowered enough for me to fire it from standing! Perfect for mobile fighters like myself.

Moving on - the Silkweave Gauntlets. These are different in their own way - unlike my other gear, I can just keep them on all the time. No need to store it in my Parasignia - but I'm going to disassemble it anyway. If I don't, how am I going to use it for Guns Blazing? It ain't a gun, but it's an advanced weapon all the same.

>I wonder if we could use them as an inertia negator. For instance, collecting the energy from a potentially debilitating fall in order to dampen the impact.
Problem is how the weight's distributed. While they could probably protect my arms, it ain't going to protect the rest of my body.

Storing energy with these gauntlets though, Nanoweaver's giving me a shiny new toy, heh. I remember when I was younger, I would spend a ton of time at the practice labs putting things together. Some of the older operators were frustrated because I'd put stuff together ahead of the whole class.

With this though, it's more advanced. I'm trying to figure out how to give a device more functionality, or alter its existing properties. That's why Innovation always takes a bit longer than I'd like, since I have to also make sure it's not going to fail me. If I can't guarantee it works, then putting it into my Parasignia could have bad effects.

But with some experimentation - I figure it out - The Silkweave Gauntlets can now absorb kinetic energy from bullets and turn it into force! This does mean I can punch people harder - and it's released through the same plating that would generate the barriers, almost like brass knuckles. So it works differently from the Amp Rings that Diagram's working on - but I bet when she's done with it, combining the two's going to be fun.

I wipe the sweat from my brow, catching a glance at the clock. Man, it's late! Tinkering's fun but, I think I'm done with engineering tonight.

The question is, what now? It's getting late, but I could still pay a visit to SOMEONE. Maybe just... process things with whoever you pick.

I could go and talk about... serious things to Diagram, since I dunno, the two of us are good friends, maybe she has a better clue on how to acquire a Pseudosignia? But I feel like I'd rather see her tomorrow with Amica.
There's Nickel and Astrolysis, but I wonder what I'll even talk to them about?

Then there's Judicium... or the other two Sector Bosses. Ozone and Mnemosyne though, not sure I've got much to say to them.
And then there's...
Yeah, no. Not happening.
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
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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
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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
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
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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
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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