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File 167037445956.png - (1.14MB , 1000x1000 , Interlude3Cover.png )
1051109 No. 1051109 ID: f8a7f3

>[ESTABLISHING REMOTE CONNECTION]
>[SPLINTER RECOVERY: FAILED]
>[SEARCHING FOR FAMILIARITY RECORDS...]

>[DISPLAYING INTERFACE GUIDELINES]

Welcome to the Splinter Analysis Wizard (SAW), [USER].
Playback of the recorded memory will begin soon.
Would you like assistance?
>N
Understood.

Operation reminder:
When probing the splinter with questions, keep it short and direct. The more connected a splinter is to the question, the more likely it is for the SAW to simulate accurate memory approximations. It is recommended that you only ask one question at a time.


>[TIME DISPLAY - 352 PD]
>[TIMER EXPIRED: INITIATING PLAYBACK]


ᄃfalseֆfalse₥ռֆɛռ✞₥ᄃᄃfalseֆfalse₥ռֆɛռ✞₥ᄃDATANOTFOUNDDATANOTFOUNDERROR


[REDIRECTING TO CLOSEST APPROXIMATE SPLINTER]
Expand all images
>>
No. 1051110 ID: f8a7f3
File 167037449313.png - (647.60KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude301.png )
1051110

"Do you know why you're here, Grayblood?"
Feels like I’ve been paying visits to the disciplinary room more often than not, nowadays. Sooner or later, the smell of sweat and fur’s going to seep straight into the walls. Fah. I can't ever seem to get a read on this girl. I mean, Leeza told me that she deserved some attention and praise for her recent performance, but I find myself unsettled by how... disaffected she is compared to everyone else. Just look at the two of us - feels more like I’m interrogating her than giving her a commendation.

"I’m here for my quarterly evaluation, sir."

Mm. Straightforward answer. She’s not trying to hide anything.
Feels like it's been much longer since the previous evaluation, but there were reasons to bring her out early. We've had Grayblood for a while, but she's never gotten along with others in her generation particularly well.
From the sounds of it, she has made friends with the... other outcasts. An improvement to only having two friends, but I'm worried about her disposition.
I’m not sure I can believe the rumors though - seems like a classic case of one of the generation’s clones having a hard time blending in. Not that I’m unsympathetic, considering what’s happened to me.
I hope she doesn’t take this too hard either way - she knows she’s being singled out, but it’s because we’re WORRIED for her, not trying to undermine her.
>>
No. 1051111 ID: f8a7f3
File 167037451555.png - (676.41KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude302.png )
1051111

"If I may make a request, sir. I would like for the evaluation to happen expediently, as I've got a friend whose condition is worsening by the hour. I want to be there for her if I can."

Ah, shit. Is she talking about...?

I give an understanding nod. At least it goes to show she cares. But what’s going to happen to Gray when that one’s gone?

"Very well, cadet. We'll keep things abbreviated - I'll discuss the results with you at a later time.."

I can't refuse a request like this. I don't think I know what I'd do in her shoes.
>>
No. 1051159 ID: 9a2966

If you're here to commend, not criticize, then you could drop the air of military authority for a minute and just summarize the latest feedback, quick and to the point.

Unless it is important that air be maintained in which case one could still try to hurry it up by skipping the more rote and regular stuff you don't think there'll be any issues answering or receiving feedback on.

>rumours
What were those rumors now again?

... and, say, what sort of clone mix and which generation is Grayblood here?
>>
No. 1051317 ID: 1015ea
File 167054595095.png - (851.43KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude302point5.png )
1051317

>What were those rumors now again?
They’re always something seemingly benign, but I know how these things play out. Starts out small, becomes a big problem later. I’d step in, but my intervention doesn’t always make things better.

>If you're here to commend, not criticize, then you could drop the air of military authority for a minute and just summarize the latest feedback, quick and to the point.
Standards are standards. I can’t go out of my way to give her preferential treatment - not past what I’ve already been doing for her anyway.

>One could still try to hurry it up by skipping the more rote and regular stuff you don't think there'll be any issues answering or receiving feedback on.
That’s exactly what I had in mind. Grayblood is already quite capable and I’d be doing her a disservice keeping her here too long. Not that I can bring it up directly to her anyway. She was never one for special treatment.

>What sort of clone mix and which generation is Grayblood here?

Gray’s a relatively new generation - she’s over two years old currently. You can see the Rhappor genes in her like you can see the Asliann genes in me, but whatever mix they’ve got going on there, she really embodies the idea that the Trace Clones aren’t quite like any of the species any more.
I suppose what with the generation they put out last year, where they started trying to splice in the genes of animals into the clones, they’re much more open to experimentation now. Not that such experimentation has led to good results - I feel like they’re just bringing some very unfortunate people into existence.


"Alright. We'll keep things brief here, lets move to the range."
I put a reassuring hand on her shoulder but her expression remains as stony as ever.
>>
No. 1051318 ID: 1015ea
File 167054597472.png - (642.37KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude303.png )
1051318

Back on the range, huh. I’ve heard stories from Patz and Leeza about their days shooting targets in the mainland. Here, there’s a certain… stuffiness to the air, given that it’s indoors. Can’t say I ever really looked forward to the range like the others - I’d much rather be making the most of my time with vehicles instead.

In truth, I don’t think Grayblood’s performance needed an early evaluation. But the higher ups asked as much.
I ran through the rote lines in my head -
“Quarterly evaluations are crucial for maintaining morale and performance amongst comrades”, it went.
Not so much when it’s a solo evaluation conducted way before any of the others can square themselves away.

As I walked by Grayblood, her aim’s a little off. Maybe it’s the time pressure.
Even if her friend’s sick, I’m not going to cut her any slack - I’ve still got a role to perform, even if it stretches the definitions of my duty a little.
“If you’re trying to rush it because of your friend, don’t. Her condition is stable enough to last a while yet.”

…I don’t think my reassurances are helping much, judging from that dark look on her face.
Changing the topic.

"Do you see those targets over there, Grayblood?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I don't want to."

"Affirmative, Sir."
The shots ring out, better this time. It’s a good thing having four ears and regeneration means that we don’t deal with hearing loss too long at all.

I nod, looking toward the results down the range.
She’s always been solidly above average. The only thing holding her back is… her disagreeable nature.

It’s strange. Someone like her? She should be a popular standout. Not too exceptional to be unapproachable, not too awful to be a laughingstock.

If anything, I’d say she has brilliant potential.
But, from the sounds of it - she doesn’t WANT to get along with the rest of the squad. I wonder what exactly is going on in that head of hers.
I’ve heard the rumors - that spoon around her neck…
A bit of a weird choice of accessory, but it beats taking up the Knife Game as a hobby.
What kind of person roots around on the beach, picks up the first rusty object they find and then ties it around their neck?

“Is there anything else required from me, sir?”, she asks, snapping me out of my thoughts.
>>
No. 1051319 ID: 1015ea
File 167054600143.png - (811.49KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude304.png )
1051319

“No, that’ll be all for today.”

“Permission to leave, sir?”


I sigh. “Dismissed. Go, see your friend.”

And there she goes.
…I know the others are worried, but…
I don’t think she’s the supposed Rogue they’re worried about. They’re putting undue stress on the girl all because of that bloody rumor.
I only hope that she’s ready for the troubles ahead of her.
>>
No. 1051323 ID: 9a2966

>Ready for the troubles ahead of her
Those being?

>bloody rogue
Why would anyone be Rogue - and why did you and whomever else is on top of this expect a basic performance evaluation to aid in exposing them as such? Normally one would quietly surveil people under suspicion, no? Like... through the SAI.

...were you actually ordered to put her through evaulation to keep her busy and away for a bit?

>Grayblood's friend
Who were - or soon to were - they now again? Is it the daughter of that project lead, or another clone?
>>
No. 1051449 ID: 96112b

Answer a hypothetical, if you may.

If you were in reality not the actual Ozone, but a Memory Trace within a playback, which would conclude within the hour, what would you do?
>>
No. 1051460 ID: e51896

Chalk board looking pretty bare. to ease your thoughts, write and draw stuff.
>>
No. 1051483 ID: 15a025

Perhaps a deeper meaning lies with that rusty spoon?

Has she shown any other noteworthy skills or talents?
>>
No. 1051547 ID: 1015ea
File 167080984571.png - (971.82KB , 1000x1000 , GrayandBlue.png )
1051547

>Why would anyone be Rogue - and why did you and whomever else is on top of this expect a basic performance evaluation to aid in exposing them as such?

Like I said - it’s all just a bloody rumor. Nobody’s a rogue, it’s a myth used to scare some of the more gullible newbies into thinking that they’ll be culled if they act out.
I’ve seen clones get into fights before and they’re certainly not rogues. Gray hasn’t gotten into many herself - she’s just… someone who seems to prefer being by herself or specific kinds of people.
The performance evaluation was already scheduled beforehand and I’m not inclined to believe what other people have said about her. At least, I don’t think it’s real. Because things would be a lot worse if they were.


>Has she shown any other noteworthy skills or talents?
Gray… you didn’t hear this from me, but - if anything, she has a surprisingly deep understanding of other people the few times she actually spoke her mind on the topic. It feels like she’d rather be anything but a soldier, but we don’t exactly have many liberties here. We’re supposed to be part of a war in the end. We don’t know when people are going to need us, nor can we spare the manpower.

>If you were in reality not the actual Ozone, but a Memory Trace within a playback, what would you do?
Well that’s a stupid question. I’m not particularly familiar with that branch of research but I’d still keep doing what needs to be done.

>[TIMER EXPIRED.]
>[SEARCHING FOR NEXT COMPATIBLE SPLINTER…]
>[SPLINTER FOUND, 80% RELEVANCY MATCH]
>[RENDERING…]

If this were any other time, I’d be complaining about a sore leg already. But what’s keeping her? I hope the evaluation’s going well - she doesn’t need more worries right now, that’s for sure.
What's the holdup, Gray? Mouth off to Ozone about how much you don't like the people in your squad?
...I feel like if I actually told her that, she'd say that's something I’d do.

Oop, there she is, looking like a ray of sunshine, as ever.

"Oi, Gray, you kept me waiting!"
Even in times like these… I’ve gotta maintain a positive attitude. If I’m getting caught up in the same sadness - who is she going to rely on? Tango’s running away from it all - I’ve got to be the one who steps up.
Gray’s out of the room now - she gives me a glance, and... continues walking.

"Hey, that ain't how you treat a friend, Gray!"

I rush after her, but, man she walks FAST. If only my legs were longer!

“I know that you’ve got a lot on your mind right now because of Malus, but we don’t have to rush like this, alright? You’re no help storming in, all grim and gloom. Just slow down, we’re all in this together!”
>>
No. 1051548 ID: 1015ea
File 167080986117.png - (1.30MB , 1000x1000 , AngeryGrey.png )
1051548

I can feel her annoyance, even as I’m chasing after her.
“We’re all in this together? Tango’s the one who’s gone and DITCHED US when Malus is literally moments away from dying!”

Rrgh.
“That’s because she’s scared, Gray! You have to talk to me about this, because otherwise you’ll just end up collapsing when we actually GET to talk to Malus together!”

She isn’t having any of it.
“Malus is in terrible condition, Blue. Every second counts, and I want to be there with her if I can. I’ve still got years ahead of me to talk to you, I can’t say the same for Malus.”

I exhale. Alright, let’s see what else I can do…
I’ve got Malus’ present in my pocket, but what about Gray’s present for her?
“Well, what about your present? Do you still have it on you?”

She nods. Good. At least she’s not focusing too much on… what’s going to happen.
“Yeah. Left the bowl by her doorside earlier when I went for evaluation. I’ll bring it in when we’re ready to see her - together.”

Finally, she slows down a little but… judging from how tightly she’s clenching her fist, she’s still tense as hell. Everyone else already said their goodbyes in the days before, but… we could never get ALL of us together, mostly because of Tango.
“I just… I can’t believe that Tango’s going to up and abandon Malus when we’re supposed to be her friends! Are we supposed to just tell her that the bloody med-head was, ‘too scared’ to go and see her entirely? Bullshit.”

I grit my teeth. It’s true that Tango’s scared, but… even I find it hard to accept. When death’s around the corner, it’s hard to tell what people’re gonna do. But what kind of reasoning can I give Gray? I’m hurting, just like her.
I feel like, me and the others had already understood that, when we’re out there on the battlefield, plenty of us were going to get shot and killed. That’s just how things were going to play out. But… dying of complications, from the process of being born?
And to the girl who… who helped give even the strangest of clones attention and her limited time? The person with the gentlest laugh and tied us all together when our own squads rejected us?
I hate how everything played out like this. We all thought it was going to get better, too.

I only wish that, I could simply cut out all of the things that caused her this suffering. But this is nothing like removing a bullet, or a tumour. It’s fate, and whatever knives I’ve got - I can’t cut through that.
But what I can do - what I can do is focus on cutting through the problems ahead of me.

“How about this? We’ll go see Tango together. Her place’s just before Malus’ room. We can try to convince her to go again - and if she still refuses, I’ll pry the present from her unconscious body and hand THAT over to Malus. Sound good?”
I get a nod in return. Better than nothing.
>>
No. 1051553 ID: 96112b

Where do these wierd names and outfits come from?
>>
No. 1051653 ID: 9a2966

>present, Malus
Is a present so difficult to find?

Flowers, a memento, a fricken 'hug', it's all ephemeral and the important thing is the meaning you give it.

You could go for a Tango-tooth gift if you insist, but honestly it sounds like poor priorities to start a fight when a friend's dying. What if you get hauled off somewhere for starting trouble? It'd be bad timing - you could miss your friend's final moments.

Maybe it'd be better to get to the bottom of what's got Tango's so scared and tell her why that's silly or stupid or shouldn't be enough to keep her away.
>>
No. 1051802 ID: 1015ea
File 167106556643.png - (612.12KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude307.png )
1051802

>Where do these weird names and outfits come from?
We all get to pick our own, most of the time anyway. I suppose they ran out of ‘deep and meaningful’ fancy names with the first few generations so they let us get creative. As for the outfits, I guess that’s more of a product of all of us being in different divisions and specialisations.

>Is a present so difficult to find?
In most cases it isn’t, but it’s the spirit of it. If anything, I think Malus would appreciate Tango showing up more than a simple present.

>Honestly it sounds like poor priorities to start a fight when a friend's dying.
Exactly! I wish Gray could understand that better. I know where she’s coming from, and she likes Malus a lot, but Tango’s someone we care about too.

But the right move is to go and see her, try to make her understand that - if she doesn’t show up, she might regret it for the rest of her life.

Gray was always a little on-edge, ever since she found out about Malus’ health conditions. I mean… whatever the project leads were thinking when they were creating the generations spliced from animal genes, it was short sighted. Even if us Trace Clones are remarkably resilient on average, I guess someone has to get the short end of the stick.

It just had to happen to Malus, of all people.

I breathe deep as I enter medical, smelling the air.

And there she is - the dumbass who’s running away from Malus.

“Yo, Red. Good to seeya.”
I keep it casual - spitting insults at her isn’t going to change the situation. Even knowing where she’s coming from, it’s hard to crack jokes like I normally do with Malus’ circumstance looming over us.

She sighs, turning around with a strained look on her face. The little tentacle things on her face are waving around slowly, her exhaustion showing.

“My callsign isn’t Red, Bluemold. It’s Tango.”

I wave it off.
“Yeah yeah, says the goon who was doing the Red Tango on top of the cafeteria tables after you won that bet against the rest of the generation. Still can’t believe Patz got away with that - all of us thought Leeza was going to hand him his balls in a lunchbox.”

Red lets out a sharp laugh, like a barked order.
“Simple matter of social arithmetic. Keeping track of people’s schedules is easy, with the data you can figure out a lot. I still say that my callsign being assigned to me based off of… that one performance, was hasty.” Many of us disagree, but you just can’t argue with this bitch, hah. ”At the least, I prefer not to be boiled down into a single colour like the two of you. There’s something elegant about dances that does not come across in a single shade of colour.”
This isn’t a bad start. A casual topic before the serious shit.

I glance over at Gray, but before I can even pull her back, she strides straight up to Tango.
>>
No. 1051803 ID: 1015ea
File 167106558608.png - (780.16KB , 1000x1000 , INTERLUDE308.png )
1051803

“I don’t have time for this. We’re taking you to go see Malus - and you’d better have your gift ready.”

The look in Tango’s eyes immediately changes from exhaustion to fear.
“I- look, I told you before, I’m not going to see her. What’s the point? It’s a terminal condition, me being there isn’t going to change anything.”

“What’s the point?! You’re her FRIEND, Tango!”
I try to butt in, but when Gray gets like that… “Malus, the girl who’s done nothing wrong in her short life in this facility - the one who got us all together and broke up the fights, the one who helped us find somewhere where we could actually feel like ourselves. Why don’t you care?!”

Gray’s grabbed onto her collar!
“There’s… There’s a lot I could say to that. Genetics, decisions from bureaucracies, extended war theaters, fate… Plenty of variables coming together to introduce tragedies into our lives. Getting caught up in it doesn’t do anyone any good.”

What the hell is she going on about?

“As harsh as it would sound - had I been in charge, I don’t think I would have created them, not Malus’ generation. Too much suffering, for such a meagre existence. I guess I should consider myself lucky that my generation of spliced clones were mostly intact.”

Gray looks like she wants to snap her neck. Why the hell is she still talking about this?

“Lots of unfair things happen in this world. That’s just how things are. People die, whether from gunshots, concussions, illness, physical defects, accidents or by their own hand. Someday we’ll have to join her, but most likely before then, we’ll be sending plenty more to the grave. So what’s one more for the pile? The world’s not going to care, so I’m not, either.”

Bullshit. Even I can see from her eyes that she’s just telling herself that.
“Malus is irreplaceable, but not invincible. Sounds like something out of one of Dr. Jaz Kinshimann’s storybooks, doesn’t it?“

Finally, after what feels like minutes of silence, Gray speaks.
“Are you going to see Tango or not?”

Tango looks away. “No, I’m not.”

Gray rushes forward, hauling Tango up by the collar.
“Why?!”
I’m stunned by the rage in her shout - I can barely register it all.
This… why now?
It feels like Gray’s ready to slam Tango’s head through a wall but she’s only barely holding herself back.
>>
No. 1051858 ID: a2d88b

Ask Tango what she's ashamed of.
>>
No. 1051872 ID: 9a2966

>Why?!
No matter the answer - however sincere the true excuse is - Grey's not gonna accept a no, is she?

This seems like a friendship-cracking moment, the whole thing's got them both stubborn. Who could stop this from going bad...? Well - there's an obvious someone you know of, isn't there? If you could fetch her - she's right next door - but no. That might put strain on her.

The reverse, then. If Grey's gonna beat up Tango to bring her gift to Malus anyway, perhaps you can turn this fight into a short trip instead. Just walk up, as if to separate them, and then snap to secure Tango's arms, tell Grey to grab her legs - and off you go. Why bring a stolen gift when you can bring the person themselves?

May be the threat of getting brought to Malus against her will is what will get Tango to crack her facade and share the true reason she's not okay with facing. You can certainly - kindly - call her out on her excuses as you restrain her. Tragedies happen, sure, inevitably so, and soldiers gotta have that stiff upper lip. But there's no denying it - she's caught up in this one already.

Whatever's going on here you're not going to let this potentially eat her forever - any more than you're going to let Grey get into trouble on her own. Or let them both ruin your relationships, which you still treasure. Tell them both to come on, and be sad and glad to have met someone and each other. If Malus taught you anything... well, maybe this isn't quite it, but it can't be that far off.

>animal genes
There must've been a deeper cause to mixing your clone generations with animal genes other than experimentation for experimentation's sake. Did your teachers ever talk about their hopes for you?
>>
No. 1051992 ID: 96112b

What is the red tango dance? What was the bet?
>>
No. 1052071 ID: 1015ea
File 167132103746.png - (577.11KB , 1000x1000 , INTERLUDE309.png )
1052071

>What’s the Red Tango?
A dance from the mainland. Tango was named after it - I still remember the feeling of her standing kicks shaking the tables. I don’t know much about it, but tangoes are supposed to be done with a partner - I guess the ‘Red’ part of it means something about it being solo?

>Gray’s not going to accept no, is she?
Knowing her, that’s pretty much what’s gonna happen.

>Maybe the threat of getting brought to Malus against her will is what will get Tango to crack her facade and share the true reason she's not okay with facing.
While I’d be down for forcibly dragging Tango in, I don’t think Gray feels the same way. Gray wants to get the bigger victories here - how bloody embarrassing would it be if the only thing Tango could do is struggle in her restraints instead of actually saying her proper goodbyes?

>Ask Tango what she’s afraid of.
I try to get a word in edgewise, but when they’re like this… it’s like both of them just stop listening to reason.

>Did your teachers ever talk about their hopes for you?
No, not especially. We know what we’re made for and we train towards it, but I don’t think many of us get to chat to the Leaders all too often. They’re busy people. The people who teach us… well, I suppose they’ve mentioned how we’ll be helping out so many people in future, but I’ve yet to see any of that result in anything yet. Part of why I’m friends with Gray is… she thinks about these kind of things differently. Maybe part of why they’ve been getting experimental with the latest generation’s because they don’t like the results they’re getting from the ones already being made.

“Gray, I-”

I can feel Tango thud onto the floor as Gray lets go of her collar.

“Fine then, we’ll see her without you! Cram those damn charts down your throat and CHOKE!”
Before I can stop her, Gray’s already on her way out.

I -
Damn, this has really gone off-rails.
Rrgh, maybe it’ll be fine. Even if… even if Tango’s not there for it, we’ll have to make do. We can’t just keep wasting time.
But…

“Wait, Tango - at least tell me if you’ve got a gift for her or not?” I turn around and…
She looks like a wreck.

“Seriously, Tango, what’s going on? I… know you didn’t really mean what you said, but…”

She mutters to herself like I’m not there.
“I… I can’t do it, damn it! I can’t go see her.”

I interject, but she looks like she’s on the verge of tears.
“Are you sure? This could be one of your last chances.”
She can’t meet my eye and I can barely hear her.
“I - I’m sure… but…”
>>
No. 1052073 ID: 1015ea
File 167132105922.png - (313.90KB , 1000x1000 , Interlude310.png )
1052073

Shakily, Tango stands up and retrieves something from a nearby shelf.
“Here. Just - just take the damn thing.”

Ah - this is…
“The thousandth flower, huh? I’ll be sure to let her know that it’s from you.”

She nods, passing the delicate thing over to me. A hand-folded paper flower.
Tango’s always had a habit of giving us different floral-themed gifts, a symbol of our mutual friendships. Whether it’s the dried flower that she gave Gray, to the flower-themed knife-handle I’ve got tucked away elsewhere - she’s really fond of ‘em. But… this flower, right now…

“You made this for Malus, right?”
There’s no denying what it’s made for.

“Please… tell her it’s from me. I may… not be able to see her face to face, but she’s still on my mind.”

“I understand. See you, Tango.”
That’s all I can do for now - so I take my leave.
I hope that there’s still enough time left that she can go and see Malus when she’s ready.
>>
No. 1052136 ID: 96112b

So.... Tango is single now, huh?

Any chance she is into AI?
>>
No. 1052151 ID: 15a025

It's hard to see a loved one dying, but imagine how happy she'd be to just see you one last time.
>>
No. 1052287 ID: 9dceff
File 167153701368.png - (521.35KB , 1000x1000 , Arrival.png )
1052287

>Any chance Tango’s into AI?
AI, huh… I mean, I guess if she ever wants to branch out from being a combat medic, I think she’d have a knack for it. I’ve seen how attentively she listened to Malus’ lectures on computer science. I ain’t suited for it at all though - I think I prefer materials science, if I HAD to pick an intellectual field. I’d rather be up my opponent’s faces.

>Imagine how happy she'd be to just see Tango one last time.
…Yeah. I think Malus would be elated, but maybe this just isn’t in the cards. I’d hope, but… things aren’t looking good.

I can’t delay this any longer. I need to catch up to Gray.

---

>[SEARCHING FOR NEXT COMPATIBLE SPLINTER…]
>[SPLINTER FOUND, 93% RELEVANCY MATCH]
>[RENDERING…]


My eyes are fixed on the running script in my laptop, thoughts drifting through the same topic over and over:

I wonder if this'll be the last time I see them?

I sit up in, feeling my joints creak. A sharp jolt of pain runs through me.
I groan. Guess the world's telling me that I should stay put.
Knock knock, knock knock.
Oh! A visitor, at this hour?
The easiest answer would be that it's Grayblood and the other two - judging from their schedules.

There's a pattern to every person's knocking - even in the two or three strikes, you can infer the details
Size, weight, disposition...
We're all patterns deep down, and reading them allows you to read the person.

“Please, come in!”
The door swings open and -
There they are. Two of them.
Tango’s not here, but… I guess she’s too afraid to see me.

"Hey, Malus... you.... you doing okay?"
Like usual, she's all too worried for someone as strong as her.

"I'm doing as best as I can, Gray. That's all I can do."
In truth, it gets hard to even pick up and move my laptop when I want to. The people over in engineering are kind enough to have made a stand for me so that it’s not just pressing down on me the whole day, but I miss being able to see the sunshine.

I notice the gifts in their arms and I can’t help but smile.
“You two brought gifts as well? Thank you so much!”
>>
No. 1052288 ID: 9dceff
File 167153703707.png - (860.46KB , 1000x1000 , MalusBed.png )
1052288

“Please, come, take a seat! I’m glad that you took the time out to see me.”

Both of them pull up a chair, wearing sombre expressions that seem to dig into their faces.
“Yeah, well… it’s only right to do so. We tried to drag Tango here, but she’s… not ready to see you yet.”
From the looks of it, Blue’s been put through the wringer herself. I can only hope that, even as she’s supporting her friends, they don’t neglect her in the process.

“That’s okay. I know she still cares, so please don’t be too hard on her. We all have our own way of processing this.” I only wished that I could see her in person one last time.

“I… I don’t know what to say, Malus. I’m not sure what I’ll do when you’re gone.”
I wish I could give Gray a hug right now, but I can barely lift my arms.

“You’ll be able to do as you normally do - if not more. The two of you are both strong - that’s the point of this facility, after all.”
>>
No. 1052290 ID: 9a2966

Receive your gifts and thank your friends kindly.

What are you encoding? A fitting farewell gift or several? And is that screensaver image from the tree outside the base?
>>
No. 1052369 ID: 9dceff
File 167166831725.png - (543.38KB , 1000x1000 , GIFTS.png )
1052369

>What are you encoding over there?
Nothing major, unfortunately. If it was a farewell gift, I would have prepared it much before today’s encounter. They’re just… some final calculations here and there for the Foundry sector. I hope it’s put to good use.
I suppose… if there’s a philosophy I keep in mind, it’s not starting tasks I cannot finish, especially given my lifespan.


>And is that screensaver image from the tree outside the base?
Nah, there aren’t any trees in Site 70. It would definitely be nice if there was one in the future though. I should raise the idea after I get my gifts.

“Here.”

Hm. A bowl, fruit and a paper flower. My very last gifts from my dearest friends.
Even though they don’t try to explain it, the thought they put into these…
It makes me want to cry.
“Thank you. ”

I pick the bowl up first, thankfully it’s light enough even for me to lift. The gift from Grayblood - a counterpart to her spoon. From a rusted, cherished artefact washed up on the beach - to a hand-crafted, well-made bowl. Though I won’t be able to use it, I understand the meaning - that we’re a pair. That one is less without the other.
Maybe in another life, or after the war is over, perhaps Gray could turn to art? She’d be gifted at it.

Next, the fruit - shiny and red, if I squint, I can make out my own reflection.
Simple, pragmatic. She picked it after my namesake - and probably, as a snack. Something filling, practical. I’d say it was a fitting choice for Blue.

“Sorry, but could you arrange these gifts together? I’ve got a little idea.”
Together, the two of them put the gifts together, into a quaint arrangement.
With the fruit placed into the bowl, and the paper flower beside it - it’s like a strange parody of a meal.

And… finally, the folded paper flower.
“I’ve told you the story of the thousand paper flowers before, haven’t I? Tango’s favourite.”

Blue crosses her arms, a weak smile softening the creases in her brow.
“Hah. The one where the sick girl folds a thousand paper flowers in the hopes that a wish will come true?”

“Ah, but though it’s just a story, it holds power. Just like the legendary heroes that we were derived from - stories of normal people can inspire us too - give us something to hope for.”

I lift the paper flower, holding it gently by the stem.
“She chose to hand the one-thousandth flower over to me? That means I’ve been the recipient of the wish this whole time.”
Perhaps… she was afraid of what I would wish for, too.
“I wish that - this facility and the people in it - will eventually receive a happy ending. And especially you three - Grayblood, Bluemold and Tango.”
Though, maybe not everyone will get that happy ending - I hope for the best, regardless.

“You sure you couldn’t use the wish more for yourself?”
Gray’s eyes were sad, concerned. She was hoping for something that would never come.

“Ah, but I didn’t. That’s the difference.”
I shrug my shoulders.
“I’m a realist. I know that my time is limited - but wishes hold power, even if there is or isn’t a higher power weighing the die in our favour. Now that I’ve made this wish - some eventuality will occur. And I can only hope that things work out.”
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No. 1052370 ID: 9dceff
File 167166835427.png - (420.57KB , 1000x1000 , GenerationalTheory.png )
1052370

“You were the person who brought us all together to begin with, Malus. What’re we going to do when you’re gone?”

I smile, bringing the fruit up to my lips and taking a bite. Chewing, swallowing… all of it takes more time than I’d like, but even now, it’s only polite to clear one’s mouth before speaking.
“What has been brought together, does not need my intervention to stay together. It’s entirely up to the rest of you.”

I hand the half-eaten fruit back to Bluemold.
“Take this, plant it. In time, you’ll have an orchard. And plant it outside - a fruit tree won’t settle for a hydroponics basin.”
Blue nods, staring at the once-bitten fruit with quiet intensity.

The two of them are silent, not quite sure how the encounter should proceed.
But…
A topic comes to mind.
Thankfully, speaking is one of the few actions that I can keep going on.

"Say, Grayblood, Bluemold. Have you ever heard of the 'Generational Theory'?"

A befuddled look crosses Gray’s face, her chair creaking as she leans forward.

"What do you mean, exactly? It’s something to do with the clone generations, right? I’ve never heard about the theory around it, though."

"There's an idea… that even as the generations go on, certain patterns emerge within the psyches of the clones. Whether due to the memory traces we’ve been provided, to the gene traces that compose us - although it wasn’t part of the project’s original goals, the circumstances have led to the formation of something new.”

Even if I won’t be there for them any longer - I hope that they’ll never forget that there’s always someone new to meet around the corner.

"The Theory is - that, as clones, we have shared tendencies that tend to crop up within specific generations of clones, as the Gene and Memory Traces we've been provided are rationed out to create the next generation, once the previous have been sufficiently trained."

I simplify a lot of the details. We don’t have the time for a full lecture.

"There's a couple of different traits that you can notice, but for now, I'll list three that's relevant to us."

More patterns, really. It's a statistical inevitability, once you accumulate enough people in a shared space. People draw conclusions - and those conclusions are interesting!
What's important is knowing that, deep down - people are also more than just a statistic.

"For example - take me, Astrolysis and Nickel. I’d say we’re the respective ‘trio’ of our generation. And while I don’t have confirmation on this - I feel that Mnemosyne, Judicium and Ozone are their generation’s trio, or at least the most notable case."

“Someone of calm mind, yet isn’t afraid of challenging the norm… a boisterous hothead who charges forth, tackling any challenge - and the calculating intellectual who cares about the wellbeing of those around her. It may have simply been a fact dangling in the background, but - you’ll find that this pattern occurs, again and again, with different trios, different generations, different skill sets.”

To Grayblood, an understanding seems to dawn. Bluemold instead, focuses on me, as if she’s trying to gauge my thought process.

“Though variables change and the dynamics differ - it’s clear that there’s at least one trio like this in every generation, if not dozens more. Why does this happen? We do not share the exact same genes, the same sets of memory data, nor the same upbringing and circumstance… and yet it happens again and again.”

“It may be silly of me to raise this idea before a true conclusion has been reached - but I’m not so focused on the results of this thesis, instead the application.”
>>
No. 1052371 ID: 9dceff
File 167166839926.png - (1.21MB , 2000x1000 , PiercingGlare.png )
1052371

I look at Grayblood - making sure she’s fully aware.
Our eyes meet and I deliver my conclusion.
“Whatever this pattern means - it means that, even when I pass - there’s someone else out there who’s quite similar to me. Even after I’m gone - I live on, through patterns and programming - just like the creation and proliferation of artificial intelligences.”

Gray slams the arm rests of her chair.
“That’s not true, Malus! Even if there’s other people who fall in the third category - that doesn’t mean they ARE you! That doesn’t mean that their actions will be your actions, or that they have the same personality as you! You can’t be replaced, and- and that’s why I can’t get over this!”

Gray…
“You should try to get along with them, Gray. Maybe you’ll find that you have more in common than you think. But no matter what you do - me, the current me, won’t be coming back.”
>>
No. 1052375 ID: 9a2966

>Trio pattern
A pattern that was broken with the last generation, which numbered only two.

Or... maybe Amica counts.

>A wish for a happy ending
A fine sentiment, now shared and brought onwards.

>I won't be coming back
One can never entirely restore what's lost - but one can fill the void and move on. A lesson Greyblood will need to learn, is it? She certainly seems hung up on the loss of you.

Though... if you COULD escape fate for a brief moment to pass on a message beyond your death - like way beyond, years beyond - what'd it be and to whom?

There are after all those who, upon knowing they will inevitably die too soon, write letters into the future, for those they care about to open at some point in their life, as a form of comfort, of reaching into an unknowable place to try to lift their spirits still. Such things can of course be hit and miss, but perhaps it's worth a thought.
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No. 1052380 ID: b90810

How are Nanoweaver and Amica? Getting along well? How old are they and Diagram right now?

Who were the intruders that came to the base? Who did they kill besides Mnemosyne's former instructor?


And lastly:
(Who are you, and why are you showing us these things? Cease teasing us with memories and explain yourself, time is of the essence!

.....

Wait.

A trio.

Two final clones.

Is our mysterious narrator.... sharing room with Argine?)
>>
No. 1052443 ID: 629f2e

As someone facing their own death, what do you expect from your end? Any beliefs of afterlife, souls, or anything of that sort?
>>
No. 1052543 ID: 15a025

The best of friends in life can never replaced. They, and the fond memories we share will always live on in our hearts though.

Speaking of friends, what's your relation with Astrolysis and Nickel? Besides feeling like being in a pattern trio with them.
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No. 1052880 ID: 1015ea
File 167236099410.png - (599.18KB , 1000x1000 , AnEnding.png )
1052880

>How are Nanoweaver and Amica?
Unfortunately, I don’t know who those people would be. I’ve tried to memorise the names and faces of everyone I’ve met in this facility, but I haven’t the faintest memory of either name.

>Though... if you COULD escape fate for a brief moment to pass on a message beyond your death - like way beyond, years beyond - what'd it be and to whom?

A message… I suppose I would want to leave one for Tango. Even though I know the others will tell her how much I appreciate her gift, I wish she could hear this from me directly. I hope that - you can forgive yourself for everything, and that I hope you can forgive me, for not being able to hold out longer.

>What's your relation with Astrolysis and Nickel?
The three of us have always shared a strong bond. Though Astrolysis doesn’t really get along well with most people - I think part of her seemed to understand how fragile my body was. She always made sure to take good care of me, carrying me to places that I could never reach alone. Nickel, she’d keep me company when she could and the two of us would discuss philosophy between her duties.
Even though we share a connection through our generational pattern, our experiences together are genuine. I’m glad to have been born alongside them.

>As someone facing their own death, what do you expect from your end?
That’s a good question… Nickel used to talk to me about such a concept fairly often. For me, I suppose I don’t expect much - whatever doctrines exist, I doubt such a strange existence such as my own will be going anywhere in particular, whether it’s the skies above or the brimstone below. I think… the void is a little scary. Maybe if I had more time, it wouldn’t be that way, but - I don’t want my final moments to be defined by fear.

The world’s growing a bit blurry now. A nap’s starting to sound good.
"I think... there's something comfortable in knowing that there's going to be patterns long after I'm gone. That, even if I cease to exist, the world and its people will continue on like clockwork. Please, don’t let yourself be weighed down by me. After all - you’ll still be here."

I wonder if… at the end of things, that I’ll truly be gone.
I specialise in artificial intelligence after all - and though I may not have produced a SAI of my own - I wonder what would happen, when my own data is recorded as part of the SAI?
Will the site’s superiors pry the splinters from the blackbox to give closure to a battle-hardened Grayblood down the line?
Perhaps Bluemold, having seen it all, wants to revisit her roots in this facility.
Or would it be Tango, wanting to know what I thought of her in my last moments?

I only wish that I could account for everyone that I’ve met, talked to everyone that I could.
But I’m out of time.

Tango - whatever happens…
It’s not your fault. And I love you, I love everyone here. My only regret is that I couldn’t see how things would play out in the future.
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No. 1052881 ID: 1015ea
File 167236104213.png - (219.38KB , 1000x1000 , SIGHT.png )
1052881

>[NO FURTHER EXISTING SPLINTERS WITH CURRENT PARAMETERS.]
>[RETRYING WITH INITIAL SEARCH CONDITIONS…]
>[SPLINTER FOUND, 99% RELEVANCY MATCH.]
>[RENDERING…]


“...Malus.”
Her… her breathing’s gone quiet.


“Malus?”
>>
No. 1052882 ID: 1015ea
File 167236106050.png - (141.02KB , 1000x1000 , monitor.png )
1052882

>[CONNECTION LOST.]
>[ERROR CODE 52: SPLINTER CONNECTION TERMINATED (EXTERNAL)]
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No. 1052883 ID: 1015ea
File 167236108654.png - (1.52MB , 1000x1000 , INTERLUDE3CONCLUSIONXTRAHAZE.png )
1052883

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No. 1052884 ID: 1015ea
File 167236111061.png - (545.21KB , 1000x1000 , INTERLUDE3CONCLUSIONPT1.png )
1052884

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No. 1052885 ID: 1015ea
File 167236112459.png - (555.94KB , 1000x1000 , INTERLUDE3CONCLUSIONPT2.png )
1052885

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No. 1052890 ID: 1015ea
File 167236378729.png - (5.29KB , 1000x1000 , INTER3END.png )
1052890

INTERLUDE 3: END
>>
No. 1052894 ID: 9a2966

Ah. Amica was a SAI modeled after fewer people, as I recall. Maybe... at least one in particular.

I suppose the choice of hair accessory would make a certain amount of sense in that case.


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