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File 168780754591.png - (51.83KB , 800x600 , fop-title.png )
1066631 No. 1066631 ID: e139aa

Flockload of Problems

Another quest by Cirr, oops.
NSFW warnings as always, 18+, etc. etc.

With apologies to Lagotrope, Slinko, Typo and Roaway.
Expand all images
No. 1066632 ID: e139aa
File 168780756430.png - (287.31KB , 800x600 , fop-1.png )

Hello. My name is Vi.si.mi. I am an ecology construct created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long shall it reign. At present, as always, my designated task is different. Well. I don't know what it is yet, but it's never the thing I was made for.
No. 1066633 ID: e139aa
File 168780757946.png - (211.98KB , 800x600 , fop-2.png )

"Approach," booms forth the resonant voice of Lord Vi.al, towering over everything in the room, as it is wont to do. Some awe remains, I must admit, but it's sadly rather dulled after a few hundred odd times. It's a shame. I miss it, a little.

"My Lord, I am at your command," I say, as always, and bow, as always, a wing-arm held to my chest as I splay the other to my side.
"Yes, yes," says Lord Vi.al, with some resigned weariness. "I appreciate that you refrained from introducing yourself this time--"
"My name is Vi.si.mi," I am already saying, before I realise. Oh no. I can't turn it off. "I am an ecology con--"
"Cease. Yes, yes, I know who you are. I deeply, deeply regret the introductory directive."

Lord Vi.al stares down at me, only the sound of loud humming and buzzing of computation going on in the surfaces around me. The heartbeat of the Shapeless. After a minute of unbearable silence, the muted playing of synthetic strings and soft chiming percussion resumes. Remotely forced to pianissimo, I notice.
This is off to a good start. "You, uh, you wanted me, uh, um, for something--"
"Good question. Yes, I believe I did, in fact, want you for 'something'. Let us focus on the matter at hand."
No. 1066634 ID: e139aa
File 168780759942.png - (223.68KB , 800x600 , fop-3.png )

"This is 33 Verdant Pearl of Abundance, one of my more favoured garden worlds. It is one among many around the Garden Star, an emerald jewel in my sphere of influence. I am quite fond of this planet. However, I am loath to look upon it at this time as, despite my careful nudges and sparse interventions, it is riddled with conflict, chaos and disorder. Observe these discordant infestations.

"Why they resemble species that have been previously catalogued, I cannot be bothered to dedicate the processing time to. It doesn't matter why they're here. It matters that they're here at all. I'm greatly displeased. I cultivate my garden worlds to be shining exemplars. Now Verdant Pearl is simply as any other rock filled with bickering, squabbling, insufferable younger races, figuring out what parts of each other they need to crudely bludgeon into viscous paste to make each other stop moving. Base. Asinine. Wretched. They live so fleetingly as it is. I want it to stop.

"I did briefly consider a full surface purge and rendering the world yet another framework in my collection, but some of the floral species there I devised myself, and they've deviated from my original specifications in ways that would be tedious to replicate. I am beyond such tedium. I would prefer the biosphere remain intact. All the more reason I have seen fit to assign you, Vi.si.mi, my most trusted of agents, to the task of restoring harmony to this planet. You understand ecological harmony. You were created to shape it."

It still stings a little that I get "most trusted" and never "most effective" or "most competent".
No. 1066635 ID: e139aa
File 168780761896.png - (152.69KB , 800x600 , fop-4.png )

Well, this is startlingly close to my original purpose. Aside from the part where I am not a diplomat, a general, a preacher, or whatever else I need to be to "restore harmony" in a context like this.

"I accept your request," I say, largely as a formality, because I don't recall being offered a choice.
"Of course," says Lord Vi.al, mild exasperation in its tone. "It wasn't a request, but your eager compliance is, as always, appreciated. Good luck, Vi.si.mi. Establish a receiver base and await further instructions. You should not be in any true danger from the rampaging inhabitants, but exercise caution nonetheless. The abruptness of this situation makes me suspicious as to its cause. If you should come across other Transcendentals, alert me immediately."
"Understood. When do I start--"
"The pod will be aligned in about two seconds, so, now."


No. 1066636 ID: e139aa
File 168780763801.png - (237.80KB , 800x600 , fop-5.png )

could have at least put me in the seat in the right orientation argh ow my bones they're not elastic enough for this--

okay if I can just--

right, twist myself around, and, that cracking sounds bad but it'll probably get better--

Okay! I am-- oh stars beyond that's getting close fast--

Okay! Okay! It's not okay! I'm on an impact course! But! I can swerve somewhere!
And while I do that I can get all the mission context I can grab in... roughly 3 seconds!
No. 1066638 ID: e139aa
File 168780767921.png - (46.85KB , 800x600 , fop-6.png )

[ Which location and therefore species of this world would you like to forever alter the fate of? ]

A - The Scarlet Woods (home of the noetuno)
All I know: psi-sensitive, regenerative, vaguely lagomorphic, vicious and bitey.

B - The Azure Tundra (home of the criai)
All I know: cold-adapted, superfluous everything, vaguely vulpine, rebellious streak.

C - The Jade Falls (home of the fehuan)
All I know: smallish, inherent pyrokinesis, vaguely ...saurid?, endearingly ambitious.

D - The Amber Meadow (home of the lepi)
All I know: wide-eyed, smallish, vaguely fluffy, easily transfixed by light.

E - The Sable Shoal (home of the delphics)
All I know: water-adapted but badly, echolocaters, vaguely dolphiny, quietly judgmental.

F - The Malachite Plateau (home of the rhamata)
All I know: quite big, poisonous, vaguely terrifying, misleadingly docile.
No. 1066640 ID: 99f29a

A, of course, because it pleases me to watch people scream about neumono. Also I already like them in their own right.
No. 1066641 ID: d9f51f

No. 1066642 ID: 19ea25

D: They are pleasantly fluffy and adorable.
No. 1066643 ID: 5b4cd5

Bird up!
B for Bpettable critters
No. 1066644 ID: e7c7d3

No. 1066645 ID: fb2164

D or B (I'd vote D though)

No. 1066646 ID: bd2f85

No. 1066647 ID: fa3034

No. 1066649 ID: 8e6882

No. 1066650 ID: cce6c4

E, why not.
No. 1066651 ID: a7a180

Green is best! F.
No. 1066652 ID: 273c18

Well, D seems the most new.
No. 1066653 ID: 608eae

No. 1066654 ID: a758c7

No. 1066657 ID: a8f755

Uhh, impulse decision time go, B! Retroactive justification time now uhhh- They're blue, you're blue, something something blue camaraderie?
No. 1066658 ID: e770db

No. 1066661 ID: 2aa5f0

they like lights, you kind of glow. Sounds like as good of place as any to start.
No. 1066663 ID: 57ec6f

No. 1066665 ID: 7d8322

No. 1066667 ID: eb8fda

F sounds like the most exciting option. Don't forget to send pictures!
No. 1066668 ID: fdb1ea

Two kinds of fluff... gotta pick B.
No. 1066669 ID: 1ca945

D - Our mission here is one of peace, so hopefully the cuteness of the huge eyes will help.
No. 1066670 ID: 99ca7b

C or F
No. 1066671 ID: e13b1d

D, secondary vote B
No. 1066672 ID: cb71f3

No. 1066674 ID: 8ecfd6

No. 1066675 ID: 795471

D moffs are love moffs are life, plus that note about being transfixed by light intrigues me, could be useful for trying some preaching and religion building, or just trying to hypnotize and mind control them all.
No. 1066686 ID: 1ed92d

No. 1066690 ID: ba8a98

let's go with C. ambition is easily to change by inches and pyrokinesis gives an edge against the others if elimination is the end-point goal.
No. 1066705 ID: 8aebb0

c *or* f leaning f
No. 1066714 ID: 795471

but why eliminate when were supposed to bring harmony? +plus that's less species for the harmony harem (trust me that's absolutely vital for the success of our mission)
No. 1066750 ID: e139aa
File 168797992481.png - (149.25KB , 800x600 , fop-7.png )

> Lepi

Well if I gotta crash anywhere surely a streaking light from the sky will only have good positive impacts on the cultural psyche of creatures that have strong emotional reactions to light whatever SWERVING NOW

No. 1066751 ID: e139aa
File 168797994367.png - (41.42KB , 800x600 , fop-8.png )


For years I've heard it, sung around the fires of the darkest nights, sung under the gleam of brightest moon.
Long before the first eclosion, a god walked the surface of this world.
Callous, indifferent, it forged the world, looked upon its work, and disappeared.

The spirits of this world it left behind were quiet for so long, but suddenly, one day, they awoke.
And with them came a mad god, laughing and shrieking as it rose into the sky, vanishing into light.

And from the heavens came more.

I risked my life to reach this shrine, this holy place. Many tried to stop me.
Sentinel criai offended by my heresies. Savage noetuno raiders. Affronted fehuan who claim the spirits are theirs alone.

But... all I did, all I struggled for...
No. 1066752 ID: e139aa
File 168797996433.png - (45.10KB , 800x600 , fop-9.png )

All for this.

This was a shining tower standing high on this hill. I saw it. It guided me here, and now there's... all the lights are gone. Cold, broken ruins.
All for nothing.
Please. Please, if there is any mercy, if you can somehow hear me, anyone, anything, please, please, help us. Help me. Please!
No. 1066753 ID: e139aa
File 168797998915.png - (44.46KB , 800x600 , fop-10.png )

Back where we were...

Okay okay actually no we don't need to crash haha that's silly I can't believe it didn't occur to me!
Vi.al would have left up signal towers surely you don't just sculpt an entire world and then leave no way to easily get back (although if that was the case why did it not just leave a receiver base itself) but surely there's got to be some kind of beacon-- wow that is a weak signal wow wow well it's all I got okay half a second left GO TO BEACON GO TO BEACON GO GO GO GO COME ON POD YOU CAN DO IT I BELIEVE IN YOU JUMP JUMP JUUUUUUMP
No. 1066754 ID: e139aa
File 168798000828.png - (59.67KB , 800x600 , fop-11.png )

No. 1066756 ID: e139aa
File 168798004028.png - (186.88KB , 800x600 , fop-12.png )

No. 1066757 ID: e139aa
File 168798005910.png - (87.95KB , 800x600 , fop-13.png )


*CRUNCH* *crack*
No. 1066758 ID: e139aa
File 168798009628.png - (33.01KB , 800x600 , fop-14.png )

No. 1066759 ID: e139aa
File 168798011985.png - (89.49KB , 800x600 , fop-15.png )

Okay! Solid 7/10 landing. Pod exterior mostly intact! Internals largely shattered but I might still have some intact structures to work with to assemble a basic receiver base. Probably blew out all energy reserves doing an abrupt translocation there but at least I don't have to lose a month or two in self-repair. Besides, that's why I'm biomechanical! I can source my energy from things that aren't batteries. I'm just going to keep telling myself basic facts about my own biology because this is absolutely a shock response to the fact I nearly got turned into twisted wreckage. Yes I'd probably have survived eventually but hoooo boy that would not have felt good.
Once again I think Lord Vi.al forgets that I'm not true Shapeless and I can't just fling myself at high velocity into a solid rock and come out more or less unscathed! I know this was absolutely a mistake on its behalf because if it wanted to actually kill me it could have just made me explode. And it's not like it needs plausible deniability to kill me, I don't even have a position on the Shapeless hierarchy, I am a servant through and through! Okay I am rambling again but you know what this is in fact making me feel better. Hey, you know what, the fact I did a jump means I didn't end up crashing where I wanted to anyway, well that's probably for the best, but now I need to think of how I'm going to go meet up with my chosen, uh, locals.
No. 1066760 ID: e139aa
File 168798014303.png - (77.51KB , 800x600 , fop-16.png )

Or they can find me, I guess that works too.

"Hello." Ngh. No. Not going to do it. Not going to-- "My name is Vi.si.mi." Ffffff I can't stop it when it starts "I am an ecology construct created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long shall it reign. To whom am I addressing?" As usual, I bow as I finish my introduction.

Well, at least that's extremely calming after what I just went through. Satisfying directives sure does wonders for the nerves and nerve-wire interfaces.

They're just staring at me. Makes sense. Maybe shaking a little bit. Hm. Let's pause and reflect. I just appeared in front of a local primitive (can I use that word? I mean, compared to my kind they're less complex in physiology, culture, history, pretty much everything, also this is just my mental train of thought so it's probably fine) in a big glass sphere thing and came out of it and introduced myself like nothing is unusual. My face isn't particularly expressive so I am probably doing a great job masking the fact I am fucking terrified for my life after my trip here and could not be more thankful to be standing on solid ground.

They're staring at me in confusion, and then they say something. In a language I don't immediately know. Oh, right.
I realise I spoke to them in the usual speaking language of my kind, which is largely pitch and melody based. I guess it might be more accurate to call it a singing language. Either way, I doubt most non-Shapeless creatures have the capacity to parse a six-voiced fugue of chime-chants as having semantic meaning.
No. 1066761 ID: e139aa
File 168798017848.png - (51.87KB , 800x600 , fop-17.png )

Oh. Okay now they're on their knees and shaking and staring up at me. Well, first things first, I guess I'll see if I can hook into the pod's remnant cognition for translation purposes. Hm. Less smashed up inside than I expected! Connection established, and...

"...faith never waned, star bird, tell me what I need to do to save my people, my life is yours!"

Okay, lexicon and grammar established from comparison against recorded languages and massive inferences, I can respond in their language now. I'll probably sound like I've had my central processing structure caved in but honestly I'm not exactly sure that isn't true. So, something short and snappy might be best to respond with. Anything too long and I risk an ever increasing probability of translation errors creeping in.
Oh no. Short and snappy. Oh no I'm doomed. I'm rambling this much in my own head-- no, no! Settle down, Vi.si.mi! First impressions are everything!

What should I say to whoever this is?
No. 1066762 ID: a758c7

Give her a hug :3
No. 1066763 ID: fa3034

"Tell me your name."
No. 1066766 ID: 82842b

"Oof ouch my bones, would you like to Scream at God at such a wonderful time of night, and wake somebody up?" :V

You are INCREDIBLY fortunate they're focused more on worshipping you than paying attention to your... Graceful Landing.
No. 1066770 ID: 85dc70

Give me a hand fixing my pod!
No. 1066771 ID: 9a2966

Hm. Short and simple, huh. Well, start off with some clipped monotone, simple commandments.

"My goal: restore harmony."

"Your goal: save people."

"Our goal - save world."

(From Vi.al's 'surface purge' option - and whatever else is currently ongoing, that is.)
No. 1066772 ID: 795471

^ this is probably the best one to go with so far.
No. 1066773 ID: 5a7a53

Request that they stand. You need informed allies, not worshipers using you as the figurehead of who knows what beliefs they have..
No. 1066776 ID: e770db

> What should I say to whoever this is?

"Hello. My name is Vi.si.mi. I am an ecology construct created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long shall it reign. To whom am I addressing?"
No. 1066779 ID: a7a180

Simple: Make friends, then kill your enemies!
No. 1066782 ID: e13b1d

These, in order.
No. 1066783 ID: 8a2f4d

Can't do better than this. And yes, apply gentle hug.
No. 1066784 ID: 534633

Well, we have no idea where their home is so "Spread the word among your people" will fail. So, let's go with the sci-fi classic line. Which one? Why, "Take me to your leader", very classic way to begin with.
No. 1066785 ID: 273c18

"Take me to your leader."
No. 1066800 ID: eb8fda

You should say something like "Hi, I'm not a demon." but that seems to be what they think, so maybe say something to establish that you aren't completely fluent in their language. Maybe start with something to get them talking more. Perhaps "Please explain the situation" would be a good start?
No. 1066807 ID: 59a5c1

Ask for their name I guess?
No. 1066809 ID: 1ff64e

This creature seems on edge! Luckily, there's a surefire method to break the ice and raise their spirits. Let's go with one of the classics:

"I just flew in from the stars and boy are my arms tired!"
No. 1066811 ID: 8f9bc4

You picked the best crash location! It turns out the people here need you to do exactly what you were sent here to do! Not that you have any idea how to do it!

Right, short and snappy.

1) Here to help.
2) Temporary language barrier, speaking difficult.
3) What threatens your people?
No. 1066820 ID: e5709d

Sit on the moth.
"Lord Vi.al requests the restoration of harmony. In big dumb common words, you assholes keep fighting each other and you made a mess of this beautiful world. My job is to make you stop."
"I am but a humble servant of my master, and will require your assistance. But should I fall unconscious to your pitiful assassination attempts or should your people refuse this simple tedious task, Lord Vi.al will destroy your world and build another. He is a god of many worlds, after all."
Get off her and offer a hand.
"Okay, that was the last item on today's divine checklist. I need a nap. Where's the nearest inn? I want the full commoner experience."
>If she asks "But... why?"
"Because you mortal simpletons are so easy to fool when you think you're talking to the lowest of the low. Even your smartest villains have this tendency to yap, yap, and yip when they think a nobody is listening. I'm going to find the evil masterminds forcing you to wage war and hate yourselves. And then I'm going to slaughter them."
No. 1066823 ID: 795471

kek, this is the right idea, the primitive is already bowing, time exert your god impersonation skills
No. 1066918 ID: e139aa
File 168823673445.png - (59.83KB , 800x600 , fop-18.png )

> Fix pod
Oh no it's absolutely never flying again. I mean, it wasn't built to leave orbit anyway, the intention with this sort of vessel is to get to a planet with no existing transmission station of suitable bandwidth. And the repairs required to its structure will involve a lot of extremely fine damages to substrate mechanisms far beyond my capability to influence. I don't have the capacity to reprogram substrate to the level of fine nanoscopic intricacy required for that sort of thing. I barely contain any substrate myself.
One of the Shapeless, whose bodies are entirely substrate, on the vibrating precipice between matter and energy, could probably repair it. Or they could turn it into a new vessel. Or a new vessel factory. Or a city centre. Or a space elevator, with enough time and base matter.
Me? I can pull out complex components and systems like the surrounding material is water, sure, but I'm limited to sticking those together in predefined ways.
I mean, I can repurpose the more homogenous substrate into other homogenous structures, but I don't see how that'd be useful right now.

> Anything relating to being the servant of the divine or being divine
I have a core directive preventing me from doing that. Well, like all my directives, they're really just very strong suggestions, but this is a very strong suggestion. Okay, musing about things that are incredibly obvious to myself is keeping me together right now, so. You can't program a sapient being. Not without horrible side effects. So I have a long list of intrinsic directives that work more as compulsions. I can freely ignore them, and in fact must be able to do so. The Shapeless understand total inflexibility is extremely brittle. So I can ignore some directives, but then it starts itching in my brain and I start following easier directives to feel settled again.
At this point in my life I'm casually ignoring so many directives that it leads to things like me introducing myself with a rote protocol every time I see someone new or important. I think Lord Vi.al is less annoyed by my constant repetition as it is a clear indicator that I'm abusing a system it devised to keep its constructs loosely compliant.

Anyway I got off topic. We're all forbidden from claiming to be gods. That order comes from higher up than Lord Vi.al. Some say from the Shapeless Monarch itself, but after the Starmover catastrophe, even the Shapeless Lords check on each other to make sure no one else is straying too close to godly delusion.

So no, Lord Vi.al would very much not appreciate it if I started claiming to be an agent of a god. Advanced superior beings, sure. Infallible deities, absolutely not.

...and while I'm thinking about it, I'm not entirely sure how serious to take Lord Vi.al's claim of intent to wipe the planet's surface clean of life. I've seen first hand how upset it gets when others have done similar things. It doesn't seem right to me that it'd seriously intend to do the same, but I know it makes bold, empty threats and grand proclamations all the time. I think it just comes with the territory of being an immortal noble. Certainly, "I don't want to be forced to do it because I might make a few of my custom plants extinct" is a weird excuse even for Lord Vi.al. Maybe it was being watched and wanted to keep up appearances? I don't know.
No. 1066919 ID: e139aa
File 168823675280.png - (34.92KB , 800x600 , fop-19.png )

> Take me to your leader
I'd prefer not to start immediately giving commands.

...also I got that out of my system in my teens, it's really funny to do the first few times but then when you just get taken directly to some head of state or government or whatever you don't get given nearly enough time to think and they always assume you have everything thought out and you never do and it's just a mess and you have to start climbing out of the hole you dug yourself and-- look, the point is I'm not saying that!!

Tempting, tempting, but no, maybe next time. Like I just mused on, it would be really funny, but cause bigger headaches.

> hug
Look, I'm made of polymer flesh, plasteel casings, and lots and lots of glassy nanites. I'm pretty sure my body's transport fluids would kill most carbon-based life if they ingested any. Direct contact with any part of me could end up shredding her alive. Or maybe she'd end up inhaling substrate dust or microplastic molecules.

...alright, alright, I know that's not true, but I just don't really like touching meat bodies. I don't care how soft she is, all I can think about is all the warm blood and flesh underneath that soft-looking exterior. Gross. Messy. Maybe admittedly tasty sometimes. Soft, vulnerable flesh. Too vulnerable for this world. Life is... life is such a precious, rare, beautiful thing-- See, now I'm feeling weird! I don't want to start feeling [ecological] right now, this is a messy enough situation as is!

Besides I... well, okay, I do like soft textures, but it's... it's a weird first move to make. Extremely too intimate for a lot of cultures, and I'm dealing with a complete unknown here.

If she initiates, I'll reciprocate. Otherwise, no. There. Policy decided.

> Introductory Directive
No, please, I already just did that! I have a stronger directive against needlessly repeating the same actions over and over to avoid getting stuck in cognitive loops, and sure, she couldn't possibly have understood it the first time, but... ngh... no, no, that's right, she didn't understand it, it's not the same, but it's so wordy and gghh fiiiine

"Hello. My name is Vi.si.mi. I am a [lore of plants, earth, animals] [thing made on purpose] created for the [without necessarily fixed shape] Lord Vi.al, long may it reign. To whom am I addressing?"

Yeah that didn't feel nearly as relaxing the second time, my brain can't trick itself that easily. Didn't help I had to try and calque a few missing items in the lexicon.

No response. Strange. I believe I ended that with the appropriate inflections and pauses to indicate an interrogative tone?

"My purpose here is to bring harmony to the world. You are here to save your people. Our aims coagulate." Wait. Dammit. "Convalesce." No. Argh! "Coexist. ...Cohabitate. Our aims overlap. Apologies. I am new to this linguini." how is that even an available word here that doesn't make any cultural sense I don’t even know if pasta exists here "Language. Apologies once more. Correctness shall validate soonly, as moonrise abates with elongation of cloud cycle." oh no oh no it's all going wrong my words are failing me
No. 1066921 ID: e139aa
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I'm so extremely glad the fluctuations of the lights around my eyes don't parse as facial expressions to many other species, or they'd see my radiant absolute utter embarassment from how much they're glowing right now. I'm just glad I can almost always keep a courteous, neutral tone. One time I managed it while slightly on fire. Not for long, but.

"Please, stand. I may have come from the stars, but I do not need nor desire worship. What is your name?"

"...m-m-my name i-is, u-uh," she says, still trembling, but getting up to her feet. "My n-name."
I seem to have thrown her off. Can't say I blame her. If I had someone burst into my world and start rambling about esoteric food shapes I'd also be a little disarmed.
She fidgets. "I-if you are, uh, having difficulties with, uhm, my tongue, uh, maybe, uhm... uh..."
"Some preferred appellation would be appreciated. Incidentally, if my name is difficult to pronounce, Vi shall suffice."
"My name is Lightgreen Mint." Oof, that did not sound natural. I'm getting the feeling I'm being given some sort of literal translation. Maybe her culture uses a different, older language for naming? It wouldn't be uncommon in my experience. "Of Golden Bough."
"Lightgreen Mint of Golden Bough."
"--Lightgreen will be fine!" Okay she winced when I said that name out loud. I don't have enough context to know how much I'm butchering it. "Sorry, sorry, my apologies, uh, purposed-thing Veezzimee." Oh dear, it goes both ways. Oh, I think she saw me flinch. "Vee! Vee. Sorry!"

"This unfortunately is what happens to come quite frequently." I... I am absolutely positive I did not translate the idiom into this language right.
"...I am sorry, venerable star bird, but I did not understand what you just said?"
Venerable?! I'm [28 years old]-- oh, she probably assumes I'm practically ageless like the true Shapeless. She'd have no context, after all. Anyway.
She's sounding a lot more confident. I think the shock of my arrival has been completely neutralised by my making a complete hash of this first contact.
"What I mean to say is, language issues are a thing I have had too much experience with. I am sorry if my wordings are a little cumbersome or meandering, but this should resolve itself quite fortuitously in the futuremost proceedings." Wow, these confidence values from the autotranslator subsystems are just plummeting. I knew it was working off extremely limited data, but eeesh. I hope I'm at least intelligible.

She just slowly nods, which, well, probably for the best.

"Irregardless," I say, and wince as I hear something on my remote connection shatter into shards of glass like a fuse just exploded.
I continue. "It appears to be quite well-a-ways into the nocturnal cycle-- it appears to be quite late! Do you succumb to the call of the restful void? The. The restful void. Hm. Do you sleep. Do you sleep?"
"I... yes, I sleep?"
"That's fortui-- that's good. Travelling under the stars can be scenic but also dangerous. We should rest and move on tomorrow. Yes?"
"I-- yes," she says.


"...Where is your shelter?"
"I have, uh, not been sleeping in any shelter, I have been... sleeping where I can."
No. 1066922 ID: e139aa
File 168823680942.png - (115.41KB , 800x600 , fop-21.png )

Nope. I am not sleeping on the dirt. Not if I can help it. I have standards.

I swing a wing towards the pod, and I pull out a chunk of substrate through a series of shape override commands. It erupts from the pod in a flash of cyan and teal light, a cord of matter expanding as its structure honeycombs and expands. The glassy matter of the substrate forms long pseudopolymer chains.
I'm making a foam out of it. I draw the fibres out long and weave them together, and let the inertia of the command propagate through the material. A few foam blocks. I bind and anchor the fibres to each other in such a way to resist tearing or splitting. I don't want these things to fall apart into dust, but I also don't need to make these things capable of standing up to meteorite impacts.

I wave my arms around in a few ways as I continue conducting this brief symphony of command sequences, the extracted foam blocks splitting apart into several blocks.
I pull out more strands and weave them into a thinner, tighter lattice, a shimmering gossamer fabric that catches the light of the stars and sparkles.

There. Foam mattresses, foam pillows, wispy blankets. A set for me, and a set for my new friend here.

I take some extruded poles of yet more honeycombed structure, bind them into a cluster, and set up a basic tent shelter.

"This should work better."
No. 1066924 ID: e139aa
File 168823686376.png - (108.41KB , 800x600 , fop-22.png )

She is... doing the tongue thing again.

"...Sorry, is it not to your liking?"
"I-- I-- it's-- I've never seen--"
"I'm a little out of practice with [shape-work of basic material/material base]. I might do better next time."

I watch her walk over to the new shelter, fall onto one of the beds I assembled, and... I can't make assumptions about unknown aliens but I have usually observed a high statistical correlation between the release of eye cleansing fluids with some sort of emotional discharge. Impossible to say from such little data if this is a reaction borne of sadness, joy, relief, complex emotional overwhelming, or maybe some abrasive dust is still lingering in the air despite my careful efforts.
Well, I'll let her deal with whatever she's dealing with. I take the other bed.

"...thank you," she says, quietly, and she curls up into a ball with one of the blankets.

Well. I suppose I should sleep, myself. I do, in fact, benefit from a good neural defragmentation now and then. I can go a very long time without it starting to affect me, but, what else am I going to do here?
This isn't a great place to start setting up the receiver base. I'd rather set that up closer to what passes for civilisation around here. I can tear down the pod into more compact blocks for transport when day breaks.
Besides, while my physical body sleeps...
No. 1066925 ID: e139aa
File 168823688478.png - (49.29KB , 800x600 , fop-23.png )

My mind, or at least part of it, is free to wander.

See, a fundamental truth of the nature of Shapeless existence is our ability to partition our minds. For the Shapeless this goes far deeper and more complex than a construct like myself, but for myself, at least, I've at least mastered the ability to let half my mind rest and self-clean while another half remains awake to focus on solving problems I've come across, or responding to communications I receive while asleep. Granted, I'm a little slower to compute this way, and I don't have access to my full knowledge, but it's better than just losing time or whatever happens to things that sleep fully. Lose time or dream, I guess.

Dreams. I don't really know what those are like in the sense of the sleep based ones. Other dreams, though? Aspirations and ambitions, sure. Fantasies and conceptualisations, sure. But full disassociation into a feedback loop of creating your own perceptions? Not something that happens to me without heavy interference from, uh-- well-- let's not get into that, it's fine, I was young, I was dumb, and we don't need to think about it. Still. Can't say I'm not a little jealous of sleep-dreamers, given said effort and secrecy required to experience anything close myself...

Anyway, with the restrictions of compute power and data access caused by mental partitioning, this is mostly just time for me to idly contemplate and reflect on what's happened so far, because there is zero possibility anything could contact me. I mean, I only natively support Shapeless transmissions, and the only real way to broadcast and receive such signals would require being Shapeless-kind yourself. And there's no possible way that there'd be any of those in range, because otherwise I'd have picked up on their signals--
No. 1066926 ID: e139aa
File 168823690556.png - (196.75KB , 800x600 , fop-24.png )


what in the secret name of the Monarch is that wait oh no

"Oh I'm so so happy you're finally here! Ohhhh this is AMAZING I LOVE it so SO much! AhAHAHAA!
Give me an M!"


"Give me a Y!"

no no NO

"Give me a dot and an A and it's ME!"

no NO NO

"Give a big ol' flappy wing salute to your best pal and worst nightmare in the whole galaxy, iiiiit's MY.A!!!"

Block transmission. Block transmission block transmission block transmission why is it not WORKING
No. 1066927 ID: e139aa
File 168823693204.png - (195.82KB , 800x600 , fop-25.png )

"No applause?! DisGRACEful!! Oh what a pity! What! A! Pity! You always were such a lacklustre audience, Vissy! Ha HA!"
"Yeah sure I'm sure you have something to reply with whatever don't honestly care HOWEVER! However. Pay attention!"
"I'm only going to say this once! And then repeat it again later! If you forget!"
"With your arrival my game now has all its entrants!! It can finally truly begin instead of just circling the drain like a boring dead flea circus with all the circus fleas being dead. Do you understand. How bored I am. I am so bored of this stagnancy, Vissy. So so bored."
"What do you want?!"
"Well I wanted Big Cone Bird itself to come on down to its favourite little pastoral retreat, but I guess I got you, so we don't all get what we want, do we? Well anyway enough of that enough! of! that! Let's focus instead on my wonderful game. Ohhh I've been waiting so long."

So this is the Mad Lord My.a. We've unfortunately met before. Historically, this means my life is about to get significantly worse.

My.a is... My.a is dangerous. Loves to flout rules. Loves to do whatever they feel like and damn the consequences. Saying My.a is irresponsible is like saying a thermonuclear explosion is a little toasty. And underneath that extremely flippant and fun-loving surface is a chaotic monster, with a body count I don't dare to estimate. The self-styled "student of the Starmover". The same Starmover who, among other things, irreversibly destroyed well over half of Lord Vi.al's sphere of influence.

I should go along with it, for now, but this is an extremely unfortunate development.
My.a was supposed to have been in Lord Vi.al's personal prison world pending some sort of actual intervention. The debate between the Lords over what to do with them has evidently lasted for so long, it clearly found time to escape and end up here. In Lord Vi.al's territory. On one of its most fondly regarded worlds.
No. 1066928 ID: e139aa
File 168823696561.png - (182.26KB , 800x600 , fop-26.png )

"Aren't you going to ask me what my game is? Come ON, Vissy, don't be such a spoilsport! You know, I did design your role in this with either you or your funny cone lord to play the part of the infuriatingly order-imposing meddler that, ohhh, just wants everyone to have a nice life and get on and blegh BLECK so saccharine I don't even have the capacity to taste or feel nausea and yet it still leaves such a vile taste in my beak! A Vi.al taste like veal!"

"...what is your game, My.a."
"Oh I'm so glad you willingly asked of your own volition and without the need for extensive prodding and prompting! Truly your capacity for individual thought only ever grows through the years! Very well I will tell you because it is cool and good and I made it."

"I created a bunch of sapient species using weird alien technology I found lying in an abandoned extremely-high-security-vault-I-broke-into-and-melted-all-the-guards and they left the door unlocked can you believe they'd do that? Then I put them here to ruin Big Dumb Bird's precious little garden pearl! But that's not even the best part! Do you know what the best part is? Of course you don't, you're a little crumb-speck of leftover substrate swimming in a plastic bird-shaped pool."
"Haha! Yes! Yes. Seethe in the acid of my barb. Anyway. The best part? I arranged it so a bunch of complete random stranger Transcendentals would find out about this place or otherwise end up here. And they all have their own agendas, and they all adopted one of these species, and you picked up the last one-- well no I made more but you picked up the originally intended last one and now the GAME is READY to BEGIN!"

My.a spins around violently in a way that could probably have killed me if this was anything more than a mental image.

"The NAME! of the GAME! The AIM! Nothing less than to MAIM! The other contestants. Last one standing wins! Their prize? Their PRIZE?! Nothing less than they get to keep this world! Stupid Idiot Conebird I Hate A Lot probably has something to say about that but I will force them to let this thing go! Unless you win, of course, of course! Haha! Oh I'm so happy you showed up I really am. Now the vile Lord Vi.al stands a chance of keeping its stupid rock!! Any questions??"


Against my better judgement, is... is there anything I want to... ask, attempt to reason with and fail, generally shout back, I mean, it's... it's kind of a lost cause trying to reason with this deranged lunatic, but it's also surprisingly easy to get information out of them if you go along with it.
No. 1066929 ID: 99f29a

Is the psychosexual obsession at least mutual or is this a one-sided ploy for attention?
No. 1066930 ID: a7a180

Get ready to hurl, because you couldn't have possibly picked a better person for the role. So, which species is your favorite? Any set in stone rules you've made for yourself? How are you tuning in to watch the show? Are the delphics disqualified because they don't really stand in the first place, they usually just kinda float in the water?
No. 1066931 ID: 8f9bc4

Ask what his favorite color is.
No. 1066932 ID: 273c18

What directives are you ignoring?

My.a's image looks degraded. Could this be a long distance transmission, with My.a still being in prison, and the world having been interfered with before they were captured?
Speaking of long range communication, would it be possible to make a comms center to send reports back to Vi.al?
From the sound of things, Vi.al knew there were other Transcendals here. That's the reason for their outburst regarding killing everything. I wonder if we could ruin My.a's game by negotiating with the other Transcendentals to arrange a reward from Vi.al in exchange for them leaving the planet. Well, you probably won't get all of them to agree, but if you can get one or more on your side then that improves your chances considerably.

Ask My.a who the other contestants are. And if there are any general rules to the game. Alliances? Backstabbing? Weapons of mass destruction? Biological or chemical warfare? Do you get something to compensate for your late entry?
No. 1066934 ID: 7c0da2

Ask them what the rules are, specifically what disqualifies a contestant. They said maiming was the aim of the game, did they meant that literally ? Or is there ways to win beside killing your opponents ? And who are the other contestants ?
Also you forgot your Introductory Directive, they called you "Vissy" so clearly they don't remember your name correctly and reintroducing yourself would serve a practical purpose.
No. 1066935 ID: 2aa5f0

so do you mean complete destruction of the other races or just that the Transcendentals involved need to beat the crap out of each other?
No. 1066937 ID: a14d59

"You spend so long breaking out, getting here, making entire races, and *this* is what you came up with? A cage match? This is stupid. You're not chaotic, you're just stupid."
No. 1066939 ID: ae0c62

Ask her where society failed her
No. 1066940 ID: 3936ea

>Also you forgot your Introductory Directive
Oh my god yes please go into the spiel again haha.
No. 1066941 ID: eb8fda

You like soft things, huh? Do you like to keep any of them on hand if you have the chance? Are you soft too?

As for that looney that just showed up, you can always do things to annoy them, or confuse them with even stranger logic. Also, what exactly is their end goal anyway?
No. 1066957 ID: 8f9bc4


"My name is Vi.si.mi. I am an ecology construct created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long shall it reign. And I am going to kick your ass."
No. 1066958 ID: e5709d

"Enhance knockers if you want me to pay attention to your rambling ass-mouth."
No. 1066977 ID: e13b1d

Suggest that adding a species to your species' harem also counts as winning. Imagine all the weird hybrid alien babies, My.a. IMAGINE. The ecological blasphemy.
No. 1067073 ID: 3e9b65

HUZZAH! Strategy is one of my favorite things, even in peace! Q1: Well, with your chaotic ways I expect no rules, but may as well see if there are. What rules, and what penalties if we fail to abide? Q2: Should we ally up with a side or two, would victory be shared or do we have to be last one standing?
No. 1067074 ID: 835b34

So what do the goody huts look like? 4X games are never complete without goody huts!
No. 1067196 ID: e139aa
File 168865724945.png - (212.20KB , 800x600 , fop-27.png )

> soft things
Yes, I like soft things. Yes, I'm soft myself. Well, I have bones, and my casing is quite durable and solid, but my body is largely covered in fluffy polymer fibre feathers, extruded from my body over time and, well, sometimes they fall off, sure, and sometimes that might be a slight concern due to their lack of biodegradability on worlds that don't have largely hydrocarbon-based life, and, uh, sometimes I'm motivated to find uses for parts of me that fall off as a result so I might have a collection of things I've made stuffed with my old feathers because I need to find some sort of use for them, but that collection's back in my residence on Vi.al's throneworld so anyway sure yes I like soft things.

I might have made a few more complicated things a few times but not in a long while.

> ignored directives
I don't really want to start thinking about the list because, like any source of constant background irritation, they'll start playing on my mind a bit more. The ones I tend to pay the least attention to are "must do anything any Shapeless Lord says" (it's only in me as a cursory gesture from Vi.al to other Lords, anyway, it usually wants me to ignore this one) and "must not deliberately sabotage explicit instructions" which is in conflict with Vi.al's intent for me to follow the spirit and not the letter of its instructions. You'd think I'd have directives not to do harm and to follow orders, but, uh, I surprisingly don't.
I asked Lord Vi.al about this a long time ago, and it told me the directives are guidelines, and that trying to force any sort of moral conviction through them would lead to a brittle moral compass that would crack at the slightest strain. The directives are supposed to be an enhancement to keep poking me into acting more in the ways it wants me to, which is to be a responsible, ethical custodian of its domain.

You know, it's weird. Despite how long Lord Vi.al has existed since its instantiation, I'm the first construct it has ever made personally. Every other complex construct at its disposal is a gift from another Lord, or a creation of one of its (scarce) partitioned agents. It's strange that it seemed to have spent so long planning out my moral development long before I was even assembled. Anyone else would just make a construct and, if it went wrong, do it again. Maybe punish the previous one. Maybe even destroy it.

I then asked why I had to keep introducing myself all the time and got an extremely weary sigh, a muttered apology, and no real answer. So I can infer, from such a reaction, that it was probably a mistake Lord Vi.al isn't able to admit making or fix. That's the other issue with directives like these. They have to be ignorable because you can't just pull them out later without risking pulling out whatever might be attached to them, and with something like the introductory directive that might be my entire concept of self. Uhm.

> long range communication with Vi.al
Okay so the "receiver base" I'm supposed to set up is more accurately meant to be a transceiver base, and the reason it's important that I set that up first before I do anything else significant is because it will serve as a communications station and outpost to keep me in contact with Lord Vi.al and its court and domain.
Oh, and because the Shapeless can flit between matter and energy as befits them, this will also be a bidirectional means of sending and receiving excess resources.
See, anything purely substrate can just disintegrate and transmit themselves wherever as they see fit, but for something like me, we need more complex transmitters and receivers, and are limited to much shorter distances because incoherence is much much worse when not all of the matter involved is smart.
And then anything that isn't at least partially substrate based is completely out of luck, there's nothing to keep the pattern together while in signal-state. So it would work for me to go home and back, anyone back in Vi.al's court to come here and depart, but nothing of flesh and blood on this world could come with me. We'd need a full-on gateway for that and those are expensive to make.

Anyway the point is I need to make the receiver base so I can talk to Vi.al and get more substrate matter transmitted here because, as I've probably just demonstrated, it's very nice to work with.
No. 1067197 ID: e139aa
File 168865727862.png - (198.40KB , 800x600 , fop-28.png )

Anyway. My.a time.

> his
> her
So the Shapeless are all sexless and agender. Except when they aren't. There's been a recent (so, something like the last two centuries) trend of younger Shapeless and associated constructs adopting genders after so much interaction with things that have those. Personally I don't really subscribe to the idea myself, especially as every time I think I might like to pick one of the two most popular ones I end up feeling it doesn't fit, and I don't have the capacity for reproduction anyway. And I already have a lot of problems with people misinterpreting my [ecological] drive as something reproductive, so I don't want to make it even easier for others to get on my case about it.

> how did society fail them
This isn't a productive line of questioning. I've tried before. They're evasive about why they're like this, but from inference, well, they had a direct ancestor they were instantiated from and that ancestor isn't around any more and by all accounts My.a should have perished with them but didn't. And given how My.a seems to hate authority and rules, well, I don't think their relationship was very good. Trying to get any more info than that has been met with deflection or hostility.

> degraded image
No, My.a just looks like that. For some reason. Entirely voluntarily, it chooses to look like your signal reception is bad. Presumably to screw with you.
And as I try to focus more on My.a, its presence abruptly enlarges in size.
"Trying to puzzle me out, Vissy? Here, take a closer look!"
It does start shrinking down, but my heartrate sure did spike for a second there.

> Introductory Directive
"Oh I almost forgot. My name is Vi.si.mi, I--"
"My name is Vissy-meee! I'm an economy custard slopped onto a plate for Spineless Gourd Vi.al! It's raining! That's you. That's what you sound like when you do that."
"Hey, I have to do it."
"You don't! I know you don't! You didn't until just now! Anyway. Right. Now that you've got your proof of being a spineless simpering wretch out of the way, do you have any questions to ask?" Wow, I don't know why that got them so worked up. That's not what I was expecting.

> weird psychosexual obsession
"So, hey, your weird psychosexual fixation on Vi.al? Is this all just a big way to get Lord Vi.al to finally notice you? Do you want Lord Vi.al to love you back? I mean, I can put in a good word if you'd like."
"Ha HA! Better! BETTER! That's precious! I like it, don't get me wrong, you're trying so hard, but, well... Here's the thing. It's so... entry-level. It feels so... organic. Steeped in neuroses and orbiting reproductive strategies and psychologies, like a flesh thing. But I mean, what else is to be expected of something steeped in blood and flesh itself? I do like it, though, it just needs a better target. Workshop that one."
With a massive grin it leans in uncomfortably close to me.
"I have to say, I wasn't expecting a comeback like that out of you, Vissy. Especially after your verbal kowtowing to your precious liege-lord! You've turned my brain upside-down! Now I have to scoop up all the thoughts that fell out, haha. But as to your proposal? Please, by all means, let Vi.al know aaaall about me and that I'm free and frolicking around its garden. It's not like it can stop me a second time, I'm much too clever for that."

> favourite colour
it's always teal
"Yeah that one needs some work. Hey. What's your favourite colour?"
"What a bizarre question to ask right after that! I guess I'd say something in the range of, like, aquamarine or teal."

...actually while I'm asking weird questions out of nowhere
"Oh, right, also, what's your gender? Do you have one?"
"Ha! HaHA! And you're claiming I have weird psychosexual fixations, hahahahaHA! What's the matter, Vissy? Feeling ecological out of the blue? Do I look like a nice big diverse but struggling ecosystem with an intermediary niche yearning to be filled by something specialised and, oh, it just so happens to almost match the requirements of this species in the catalogue, but oh, not quite, it needs modifications, so you'll need to start fabricating--"
"Stop it stop it stop it stop it that is not what I meant stop it" it's in my brain I can't screen it out this is not a good time to go eco
"Oh it's so fun teasing constructs, you all have such unique buttons to push. Alas, no, I am not ecosystem-gendered, so I am going to have to decline your invitation. I'm flattered, I really am, but my nanoclime is in perfect condition. No management needed here!"
"I wasn't asking for--"
"Oh! That sort of gender? Haha, sure. I don't have one. Or want one. You knew that. If you're going to ask me stupid questions, I'm going to give you stupid answers. I'm eager to give you more stupid answers so please give me more stupid questions!"

> contestants
"Who else is in this game?"
"Five more Transcendentals! I already told you! You get to find that out yourself, but I will transmit to you their preferred means of contact, so you can contact them as soon as you set up your funny little radio tower or whatever it is you want to do next."
I get sent a data packet that is completely meaningless to my half-awake brain right now. I stash it aside for background processing.

> rules
"So are we to wipe out each others' species or are we supposed to just kill each other? What about alliances? What are the rules?"
"Alliances sure but no allied victories! And no, no rules! None for you anyway, your own restrictions are already greater than whatever rules you'd need to abide by for this! Winner is the last one left with agency, I don't expect you to successfully kill each other, you know how hard it is to kill Transcendentals, right? I'm expecting you all to start just imprisoning or exiling each other. And no, total genocide is not required, you might just find it useful! You get to deal with the fallout of whatever weaponry you choose. Maybe literally! I'd love it if you had to explain to Vi.al why you deployed biosphere-scrubbing superweapons on its placid garden, hahahahaha!"
"Yeah sure whatever. Do I get anything for arriving late?"
"Yeah! The last pick! Of a species doing worse than the rest! Seriously, you have your work cut out for you. They are not doing well."
"...do you have any rules for yourself that you're following?"
"Haha no! I'll intervene and make problems as I see fit and you just have to deal with that. I have to do research-- I have to experience-- just whatever I'll do what I want okay!!"
No. 1067198 ID: e139aa
File 168865730779.png - (297.33KB , 800x600 , fop-29.png )

> stupid plan
"Okay but before I do can I just ask why this?"
"Oh here we go again. Ugh. Go ahead, Dr. Vissy, tell me why I'm wrong and bad and need to be fixed."
"No, not that. Just. Why this? All the effort to break free, creating entire sapient species even, and you're arranging some sort of cage match? What's your end goal?"
"Well to be fair the creation was largely accidental. The toy I got from that vault is... well, it's probably safer to say that it created them and I just pushed a button. Probably why it was locked up so tight! But you know, I just. You can't really understand, you're too young, too simple, too flesh to understand. I could tell you but you wouldn't understand. You don't know about the storms, you don't know about the yearning, the feeling that the next level is just, just so close to being something you can really bite, all I have are these clumsy metaphors and you have nothing to hold onto them with! How could you? You aren't truly Shapeless! You're barely, barely even Transcendental! That flesh of yours holds you back, you know. Have you ever tried to fly without it? You couldn't, you'd die! If you want to understand a fraction of what drives me, an inkling of my end goal, carve your flesh from yourself and fly. You will understand, I promise. I don't have flesh, but I will flense the substrate from my body someday, and then I will be--"

My.a pauses.

"Wow! Wow you are so easy to ramble at, Vissy. It's like I think you're Vanny. Vanny's a little too impressionable, though, I love him a lot, but if I started talking like this to him he'd be staring at me so wide-eyed in awe, tail wagging furiously, because he wants to be more, like me, you see. But you're staring at me with confusion, but no, not all of that is confusion. Annoyance. Disgust. But... There's flickers in you of recognition, and you don't like what you recognise, do you?"

I don't know what I recognise, but it's definitely a strain of madness beyond the delusional. It feels like something worse. Like My.a actually has a valid point and is teetering on discovering something catastrophically bad.
If I was fully awake maybe I'd understand, but by the time I awake fully, this ghastly ephemeral recognition will be long gone.

"Wait. Who is Vanny? I've not heard you mention a Vanny before."
"Oh. Oops! I've said a little too much, I think! Well I've said a lot too much but I wasn't supposed to be telling anyone about my new adoptee. Precious little scared thing, I had to take him under my wing. A bioconstruct, just like you. Va.ne.tu. He's prowling this world at my behest, letting me know about what's going on, a darling little agent of chaos, a small-scale nuisance, trickster, swindler, he's a natural talent for this kind of thing! Well I guess artificial but so aren't we all. Just abandoned! Abandoned by his creator! Can't abide that. Nope. Anyway I'm telling you about him because now I'm telling him to come introduce himself. You're going to the Lepi... I'll be nice and call it a village. You're going there, though, right? He'll be waiting. He'll find you at night."
My.a flickers briefly and presents the image of a different being along with their own self-image. "He looks like this, by the way."
"This sounds like a threat," I say.
"Oh don't worry, he has strict instructions not to harm any of the contestants. He also doesn't seem to have too much of an appetite for violence, either. If you harm a strand of his fur, though, I'm coming for your eyes. And for every part of him you break, I'll break two of yours!"
No. 1067199 ID: e139aa
File 168865734625.png - (87.48KB , 800x600 , fop-30.png )

I wake up slowly, groggily, as my partitions reintegrate into a unified whole. I feel a weird sense of overlapping myself, but it soon fades.
As predicted, I desperately try to cling onto whatever horrible realisation I had about My.a's long term goals, but it's too faded into incoherence. If anything, I'm more disarmed that My.a, something I have known to only care about itself only itself, appears to have found some sort of minion it cares enough about to warn me not to touch.

It's... it's a lot to take in.

Lightgreen is already gone, and I leave the tent, looking around for wherever she went.

I find her back at the broken shell of the pod, all its sparking and smoking long stopped. She has a hand on it and it looks like she's deep in thought, but I have no idea what about.

"Good morning," I say, a few pleasing synthetic harmonies as by habit I simultaneously sing the greeting melody common in Lord Vi.al's court. Short, two bars, 3/4 time, ends with a trill into a tonic minim. It's just so natural to me that I don't think to squelch it. "I hope you found your sleep to be of at least an agreeable quality." by the Monarch's secret name, it's like trying to talk through a clogged grille, how much more data does the translator need

"...agreeable, yes," she says, turning back to face me slightly. "Um. Th-thank you very much for the hospitality."
"You're quite welcome." I start gathering up the tent and bedding and reshaping it back into blocks, which elicits more staring of astonishment.

"...how are you doing that?"
"I do not have the capacity to explain how in your language." I really don't, if I had a better command I could use metaphors but I really don't
"Forgive me. I do not wish to keep such things secrets, but I do not yet know how to explain them either. It is in my nature to be able to do this, though. I do not think I could teach others to do the same."
"Can you... can you shape dirt and rock the same way?"
"No, only the [base matter]." There's... there's not going to be any easy way to talk about substrate in this language, is there. "The... the thinking glass. Glass which is smart. This substance. This special substance."

Lightgreen nods, and looks at the... wow, I never got a good look at the beacon spire. Not much of a spire anymore, is it. No wonder the signal was so weak. ...and if that was the only signal I found, then the other spires must be crunched to shards by now.
"Can you... can you fix this?"
I shake my head. "No, it is damaged beyond my ability to repair."
"I... I guess it does not matter anyway," she says, meekly. "My call was answered."
I don't know what she's talking about, but she does seem a little upset that it's broken. I don't know quite why, but it's not great news to me either. I was hoping I could send a short message to Lord Vi.al that I'm moving to a better location for the receiver base, but I suppose another day out of contact isn't going to be too awful. It's not like Lord Vi.al is lacking in problems to attend to.
No. 1067200 ID: e139aa
File 168865737330.png - (129.68KB , 800x600 , fop-31.png )

Hm. Hunger. Yes, that's definitely hunger starting to wake up.

Food. I didn't think about that. I practically burnt most of my bioenergy reserves along with almost all of the pod's in that jump last night. So food is now mandatory and not optional. I mean, I'd need to eat to make up for loss of mass over time just from general erosion processes, but what I'm saying, and what my alimentary canal is especially now screaming about, is I'm hungry. I need to find something to eat now. All I see around me is grass and more grass in the distance. And what looks like a cascading spill of pastel flowers down one side of the hill. Ah, I love it when you can practically feel the history of seed distribution like that.

"Lightgreen, where do you find food here?"
"Food? There are some flowers down the hill, so I was going to go visit them."
"The flowers are edible?"
"They're larger than you think."

I follow her down the hill.

Wow, okay, the flowers are indeed larger than I thought. And they smell delicious.

You know, normally, I find most alien species eat with some sort of hinged jaw structures and they find the idea of my feeding probe a little unnerving, but weirdly enough I seem to have stumbled upon a species that isn't even going to think twice about this.

Lightgreen gives me a strange look. "Oh. You have a beak like a bird but it does not open?"

...I can't win. "It could, but it doesn't need to. I only ingest fluids."
"That... I suppose that is what my kind do, as well, but to hear it described like that makes it sound so strange."
No. 1067201 ID: e139aa
File 168865739085.png - (124.33KB , 800x600 , fop-32.png )

This is good stuff, to be honest, especially when I'm so low on bioenergy. Pretty much just plant sugars and water, but familiar ones. No need to worry about strange interactions with my biochemistry. There's a few other traces, the pollen's a little bitter but I can overlook that, and generally it's a fragrant, floral taste that reminds me of home. Wait. Reminds me of home? Oh. Ohhh.
It's one of Vi.al's plants. I didn't recognise it, they really have diverged from the original specification. The pastel colour is perhaps more fetching than the original design. I see the general petal shape is still fairly similar, though. It's supposed to resemble, loosely, Lord Vi.al's headcrest.
Well, it's good to see they're flourishing here. Definitely going to let Lord Vi.al know that. I might keep the part where I started eating them to myself, though. I don't have any directives forcing me to volunteer such information and this is a little bit of omission that won't hurt anyone.

"Do your kind only consume plant nectar?" It's not difficult for me to talk and eat, my vocalising organs and my ingestion organs aren't connected to the same air pathways. I notice that the same seems to be largely true of lepi physiology, but Lightgreen does sound a little more muffled.
"Nectar, fruit juices, saps, prepared soups and stews, a lot of things that we can mash. The little ones eat lots of different plants."
"Anything you can pierce with your tongues?"
She shrugs. "I don't see why not."
"Can you drink blood?"
It's a question of honest curiosity, and it's not like I haven't done the same lots of times before. Raw flesh and blood doesn't tend to agree with my system in large quantities, but it can be tasty, so it's a nice treat from time to time. Cooked meat juices are better. Just as long as they're still warm, they get kinda gross and hard to suck up when they get cold and congeal.

Her eyes widen, her tongue reels back and she looks like she's about to start choking before she regains her composure.
Oh no. Ohhhh that's a response I recognise and I should have taken much more care than I did. Vi.si.mi, you fool! You know they almost always act weird about the blood drinking stuff!! Why didn't you think that through first?!
"My apologies, it was a question of genuine ignorance. I did not realise it was a taboo."
"We do not drink blood, no," she says, looking furious. "The desperate, the monstrous, maybe, but-- no, no we do not."
Noting that down -- strong social taboo against drinking blood. Which implies the capability to do so? Perhaps not, but strong taboos don't tend to arise unless the offending actions can be taken. I think.
"I will not bring it up again," I say. "I am truly sorry. I did not know."

She looks at me, still offended, but her features soften and her raised antennae droop again.
"I understand. We are of two different worlds. I knew that when I came to seek out the stargods. It is my role as shaman to mediate between the known and unknown."
"Shaman?" Worth asking more about the local religion before I put my foot in it again. Not very happy being referred to indirectly as tied to 'stargods', this feels like heavy interference happened before I got here. And it was probably My.a. Thanks, My.a.
"One who must live at the border. Between known and unknown. I apologise. I am no stranger to misunderstandings."
That didn't give me any more information about the local religion, but, well, keep the peace, Vi.si.mi.
"I see," I say. "I will try not to upset further." And then I go back to slurping up this delicious nectar.

Actually, I guess while eating I should probably ask her more about her people. What should I ask her about? Maybe the journey? Maybe what hazards we can expect on the journey? Hm. I didn't bring weapons with me either did I. Welp.
No. 1067202 ID: fa3034

The path has to at least be safe enough for her to make it by herself. Might as well ask her about social structures and size of the village.
No. 1067204 ID: e13b1d

Does she have any familial entities?
No. 1067206 ID: 685e45

Ask their history with the other species and what’s making them bicker.
No. 1067207 ID: 936ce8

Strategic considerations would be primarily technological and sociological. First up, tools! Quite likely they have basic hand tools. From there, we have labor saving tools. Wheels, sawmills, watermills, windmills, perhaps beasts of burden to help. Level above that would be the swap from blacksmithing to metal casting with moulds and furnaces. Doubt they're that high up, but if they are they should have precision tools. Which could be adapted to metric standards. Second up, agriculture! Pre-steam societies had most deaths tied to famine or disease. Germ theory is probably a little much, so quarantines will have to do for disease. Famine, though? While their agricultural practices likely differ greatly from Human ones due to diet of liquids, ecology is your thing. Should help them lots. Hopefully it'll allow for a partial shift of the agricultural labor force to tradecraft and research. Sociologically, we have 3 things. First up is military theory with the most key part being structure of command. Plus drills, discipline, readiness. Depending on economics, more may be added, such as uniforms, educating officers, standing armies, and how supplies are procured. Grand prize would be the strategic mobility of Napoleon's corps system setup. Second up is religious/morals. Why both? Quite simply religion is what often underpins morals, especially in primitive societies. Plus, conversion of hostiles peacefully beats fighting. Probably would like 3 things for that setup. 1, value of life, especially sapient life, giving a sort of custodial imperative - without going so far that "Just War" or "self-defense" are concepts that cannot be conceived. 2, strong missionary imperative to spread the word. 3, generally provide comfort to the body and mind. Have it be one of the things people can look to when times are tough. Probably toss in obvious stuff like "Thou shalt not kill", too. Lastly but highly crucial sociologically is structure of governing. Since we're small scale, efficient admin should be enough. With growth, though, knowing what not to do will be as necessary as knowing what to do. Unnecessary hindrances to economic dynamism while stopping monopolies, that stuff. Still, record keeping (census, imports/exports) will be key to finding issues. Plus political accountability to constituents is vital. Well, that's the basics. Sure, there's other stuff such as the concept of an assembly line or how serfdom is morally and practically bad, but we have to see what we're working with, so ask about that stuff! Wall of text woo!
No. 1067208 ID: eb8fda

Well, cooking and food preparation is a huge part of culture, so why not ask what kinds of food or dishes they have where she lives? Based on what they eat and cook, you could get an idea of what resources they need, and where settlements are likely to be focused around. Though that does bring to mind the question of if her species is nomadic or not.
No. 1067209 ID: e13b1d

Yeah, she mentioned stews and mashed things. Which are her favorites? They're omnivores, but there's a taboo against blood, so that probably means they subsist mainly on a herbivorous diet. You can't mash meat very easily. Not with primitive tools.
No. 1067211 ID: 273c18

>and then I will be--"
Free. Thinking glass, huh? What lies beyond the glass, what thinks through it? Transparent, see through, go beyond the looking glass. Express your pattern on reality itself.
My.a rejects rules, authority. The ultimate rebellion is to die and yet live. To defy the rules of physics and logic is the ultimate freedom.
Not sure if this would also result in godhood. I don't think that's their intended goal anyway.

If your beak doesn't open how does the probe come out?

Ask about the fauna around here. And any mobile flora.
No. 1067232 ID: 2aa5f0

ask her about what's happening around the planet, or at least what she knows is happening. You came here after all because you were told that there was a problem but the details of the problem were kept rather vague.
No. 1067239 ID: 8f9bc4

You've already gained knowledge that could be useful, knowing that the two of you share similar feeding organs. Learn her capabilities while teaching her your capabilities. Show her what it means to be an ecology construct, as she shows you about her own species. By exploring your options together, one of you might be able to figure out something to do in all this.
No. 1067291 ID: 1ed92d

Could always ask her who knocked down the transceiver.
No. 1067321 ID: 0d4c43

Even if it's touchy, asking more about their religion is helpful for interacting with their culture and evaluating the extent of outside interference. Ask about the stargods.
No. 1067323 ID: e5709d

"I will need a summary of your scripture. You made errors.
And while I meditated, I learned who caused all of... this. Not a god, but another angel. An insufferable asshole. A servant of the god of chaos, whose only edict is 'entertain me'.
For what it's worth, the greater cosmos and its many worlds are entertained by the antics of the forces of chaos. And then they invade your city and slaughter your children and it's not fun anymore.
We have our work ahead of us and six chaos-sponsored angels to deal with."
No. 1067332 ID: a7a180

Is anything else is bigger than you think? Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more?
No. 1067334 ID: 7c0da2

Ask her about recent events, and what caused her to seek your help.
No. 1067618 ID: e139aa
File 168912107369.png - (133.83KB , 800x600 , fop-33.png )

> lots of planning
Hey I should probably get more of an idea of how things are before I start trying to forcibly change them to how I think they ought to be.

More powerful and important figures than me have managed to, pardon the idiom, ruffle many a feather by trying to impose Shapeless ideologies and social structures. It turns out lots of starfaring cultures are, uh, horrified, to put it mildly, about the Shapeless system of monarchs and lords and how "any species calling itself transcendental yet following glorified feudalism is a bitter cosmic joke" or something.
They especially take issue at lower-hierarchy Shapeless and sapient constructs being "born into slavery" as "serfs by any other name" or something like that? I don't know, I think there's a gulf of misunderstanding there. I mean, don't you owe your creator your time? They spent their time and resources to create you, after all. For a purpose! So many things sing many great songs about the despair they have in not having a purpose or the joy of finding one. But this framing also upsets them and they say it's not the same and I've just been programmed to accept this or something, which, again, I've gone over directives and why they don't work that way...

Aliens, am I right? Everyone thinks their social framework is the right one for everyone else. Democracy keeps coming up, but that just wouldn't function for us. It assumes everyone is of an equal value, but the one time it was tried as an experiment among a local cluster of Shapeless, it started degenerating into who could split off the most partitions in the shortest time to stuff the ballot box. It was decided that computational capacity would be used to weight voting but before long that just ended up resembling the hierarchical monarchy the rest of us were already using. What a productive use of time that was!

I got off track. Basically before I start trying to uplift these fuzzy guys I should try to understand them first. Imposing what I think is the correct way is to be a last resort. You can't fix an ecosystem based on what you want to put into it, you can only fix it by what it needs.

> how tube come out of beak
Same way I came out of the pod. Substrate can be instructed to move aside. This gives the impression of my beak looking like liquid only where the tube comes out. Liquid that confusingly doesn't otherwise shift or spill. I'm long since used to it, but it can usually confuse those less knowledgeable of what's going on. Incorrect assumptions can be made, and I've frequently run into cases with damaged or overridden substrate that won't move as requested and confusion by aliens why I can't just walk through something that is, to their eyes, the same sort of weird green wall I could walk through before.
It's not like I can blame them. It's not like they can hear the error reports or access denial responses I get from substrate walls deciding they want to be walls instead of doors.
I will admit this sort of seamless interface mechanism is something of a staple of Lord Vi.al's creations. Lord Lo.ka, one of our neighbours, prefers elaborately intricate surfaces that curve back and forth like fabric curtains being pulled by an unseen hand. Vi.al prefers things to look like solid monolithic forms that trick the average alien mind into thinking of them as useless bulky objects, all their intricacies and complexities hidden away. ...and the pattern I've noticed with My.a is they really, really like spirals, concentric circles, and sharp pointy triangles. The front door to the only installation I've ever seen them build had what I could only describe as a toothy door. I wish I could forget how it opened, with each new layer like a new mouth opening and splaying more teeth. For how disdainful My.a is of organics, it sure seems to love the mechanisms they use to injure one another.
No. 1067619 ID: e139aa
File 168912111298.png - (46.82KB , 800x600 , fop-34.png )

> learn her capabilities
Honestly, I think passive observation and asking questions is proving to be the best approach so far.

> social structures & size of village
> any family
"So, do you have any family back home? What sort of social structures does your village have? How big is it?"
"I have... I have family back home, yes." Hm. Avoidant. Best not to pry. "Social... buildings... there is a central meeting tent, the largest, where we gather."
That's not what I meant that's not what I meant I hate this how can the translators still be giving me such poor matches
"Oh. Sorry, I mean to say, how is your village--" There's no match for governed. Oh come on. Come ON. "--led?"
I get an odd look as Lightgreen withdraws her tongue, gently lowering it into another flower's corona. "The village does not tend to obey commands." It's lost in my translation back to my own language, but there's a definite sense I've messed up the grammar and have been referring to "the village" like it is a separate living entity and not a conceptual one.
"Who in the village commands the others?"
"Oh! You are asking about the leaders? We have three leaders, the eldest, the high warrior, and the finest spinner. They make sure things are working for the things they know about. Also I am, as shaman, an advisor. I have no power but also no responsibilities beyond what all lepi have to our..." She looks like she's searching for the word. "Village."
"There's only one lepi village?"
"There were others."

She doesn't elaborate. Swift topic change needed fast.

> planetary goings on
> who knocked down the beacon
> history with other species
> why bicker
"That reminds me. I was informed that there's been a lot of conflict on this world lately. What's happening?"
"They all want more," she grumbles into another flower. "More land, more that the land can provide. We keep moving to find safer places, and we keep finding others have already taken them. The spirits' awakening caused so much devastation. Everyone is afraid. I thought the end of the world had come, for a time. I am not sure it hasn't."

> religion
Oh no, I am not touching on that again, not after I've touched so many other sensitive topics.
I'm going to infer from what she's mentioned that there's some sort of school of animism. It sounds like some of the background maintenance processes left on this world ended up being treated as spirits? If they suddenly broke down they'd be much more visible.
And it sounds they all started failing around the same time, which I'm pretty sure coincides with My.a arriving. Probably just started messing with everything.
See, this right here. This is why My.a is so dangerous. It sounds like this led to massive casualties and losses planetwide. Because My.a wanted to push buttons and turn dials.
The Shapeless Lords have enough problems being more powerful than they can really, truly conceptualise, and when you have one that doesn't even want to try... sigh.
I'm hoping this heavy feeling in my gut is just stress, I can't see why I'd be having a reaction to a Vi.al designed plant.

> fauna & mobile flora
"Hm. This isn't good breakfast conversation. How about something else? I'm not familiar with the animals and plants of your world. Would you tell me of the animals you find important?"
She looks at me apprehensively. "I am not... not much of an expert on this, I know a few, I, uhm..."
"A few is fine! I can learn as I go anyway."
"There are the meadowanders," she says. "And the slinkies, and the dewslumps. ...the seapi, perhaps."
"Oh. Those will be fine for now. Tell me about them."

"The meadowanders are tall, graceful animals that walk on four legs," she says, finishing up her meal. "Pale, and very loyal. If you show them kindness, they will respond in kind. And if you threaten them or things they wish to protect, they will <TRANSLATOR NOTE: CONFIDENCE LOW BUT ONLY MATCH IS 'thunderstrike'> their enemies with haste. We use them to travel on, and I would have come here with my meadowander, Lightfoot, but she was injured early into the journey. Lightly enough that I could send her home, but I could not risk her injuries worsening. I had to make the journey here alone."
Wait a second. Wait a second. "Are they covered in patches of fine white moss?"
"Yes," says Lightgreen, a little surprised.
Running a search against-- yes, this matches the Placid Watcher profile. A Vi.al designed organism. Before my time. Hm. 'Straddling the line between animal cognition and true sapiency, these purposed guardians have been introduced to many terrene worlds in Vi.al space to act as a seamless first line detection system. In concert with substrate systems, the defensive behaviours of the Placid Watcher can be statistically analysed and used to pinpoint an intrusion.' Okay, sure, whatever. Probably didn't work here.

"The slinkies are smaller, cunning, crafty. I find them quite fascinating but to many they're considered a pest. They tend to steal small objects and hide them away in their dens, but I've found if I give them some fruit I haven't drunk yet, they start bringing some of their collection to me instead."
"That sounds adorable."
"They can be quite charming but they sometimes steal something else as they leave. It's a little frustrating."
Okay, checking-- another match. Trinket Fetcher profile. Maintenance organisms, intended to collect broken parts and secrete them in areas for other organisms or lesser constructs to repair and replace. All of these are leftovers from an era where Vi.al was much more concerned about everything having both an ecological and functional niche. Nowadays, it is content to let animals be animals, and use its constructs (like me!) to solve problems. There's a warning in here that their front paws do in fact have opposable thumb digits, and they are "not afraid to use them." Huh.

"The dewslumps are just large fuzzy lumps, and I don't know much about but them, but they move slowly and they can be milked for dew. They just eat any plants they can crawl onto."
Fuzzy lump that just eats things and spits out some sort of byproduct. Hm. In the same neighbourhood as the other two I can find a specification for something called a Substrate Skimmer. The intent is just a basic herding grazer that eats whatever and filters out lost or broken substrate from the environment. It's possible these are a variant or have mutated away from substrate collection and are just producing a byproduct from too efficient a metabolism.

I nod. "And the seapi?"
"Slavers. Along with the noetuno. But the noetuno are at least, well, people, sort of, but the seapi don't talk. Or try to talk. Or do anything but try to attack or capture. It's... we stay away from them. We think they might just be animals that act like people."
"I see."
Hm. No, actually I've got briefing data about that now. Which is weird, because I... didn't. Oh. Oh it came with a message-- oh by the secret name it's from My.a ugh.
I've got, like, one image, and a snippet that says "hi Vissy have fun watching your lepi get stolen by these guys!!" Which is... troubling.

Well, maybe I'll get lucky and every living thing on this planet not put here by My.a's interference will be something I already have catalogue entries for. One less terrible unknown to worry about!

> cooking and food prep
> favourite foods
"Do you have any favourite foods--"
"Honoured starbird," says Lightgreen, antennae twitching. "I want to answer your questions, I dearly wish to, but I fear if we do not start moving, we will lose the day. I am sorry, but I am... I am not used to answering so many questions so quickly. It is becoming oddly tiring."
Hm. That's entirely fair. I'm surprised I didn't overwhelm her sooner, actually.
"I suppose I am asking you a lot quickly. Yes. It can wait."
No. 1067620 ID: e139aa
File 168912116825.png - (127.29KB , 800x600 , fop-35.png )

Well, I guess I need to tear out a chunk of the pod to take with me. I've been pondering how I can take the entire pod with me and the sad fact is I just can't. Not without slowing us down considerably. Sure, I could make a crude cart and try to lug it all with me, but I'd rather not be so burdened. If I can take enough to get a basic transceiver setup going, I can probably figure out a way to transmit the rest of it to me anyway. I'll just give my flocklet the--


Okay it's here it's in the pod okay okay everything is fine. Whew. It'd take years for me to make a new one, so. It's fine, I'll just pull it out.
It's completely conked out in vacant mode, but it's completely intact. I sing a quick activation code and it perks back up.

Lightgreen stares at me in bewilderment. "Who is this? A friend?"
"This? This is my--" how do I even begin to translate flocklet into this language "--uh, this is my... this is my other me."
"Other you?"
"It's... it's like, it's a part of me, it's a floating limb, it's part of my body that isn't in my body."

Lightgreen looks at me with ever growing confusion, before taking a quick breath and resuming a neutral expression. "It is important to you. I understand this. I am... I am glad you found your... other you."

Alright. Direct secure connection properly established, it snaps out of vacant mode as I slip into it further.
Between me and my flocklet's purer connection to substrate, I pull out a much, much denser block of the stuff, and hook it up to my flocklet's gripperbeak.
This will keep my hands free. Not my flocklet free, but my reaction time is much better with my not-remote body than my remote body parts.

It takes a bit of time to get used to the weight of a very high density substrate block. For both the flocklet and me as I [pilot/commune with] it.
No. 1067621 ID: e139aa
File 168912121406.png - (144.47KB , 800x600 , fop-36.png )

As we start walking, and I start screening out the automated messages from my flocklet about it being near maximum carrying capacity, the journey seems to be off to a great start.

Well, an uneventful start, but considering the alternatives...

However, we barely make it ten minutes from where we began before I spot a bunch of red figures in the distance.
They seem to suddenly change their own course to head towards us.

Wait. Hold on. I can see them more clearly but I'll need to adjust my eyes.
Steady my head, engage slightly more aggressive stabilisation in my neck and shoulders, increase focal length, steady, steady...
No. 1067623 ID: e139aa
File 168912124340.png - (80.28KB , 800x600 , fop-37.png )

I don't recognise these creatures very well, but they're matching the images of the noetuno I found in my briefing data.
They don't look particularly friendly, but also one of them is wearing... hm.
I notice one of them is wearing an odd sort of mask, raising a fist in some sort of gesture before freezing mid-gesture and... ah.
It looks like I've been spotted, which I can believe, but I also appear to have been identified based on the reaction I can see-- she's looking directly at me. That-- hm. I wasn't briefed on noetuno vision being that good.

Also, that mask. That's... that's oddly familiar...
No. 1067625 ID: e139aa
File 168912130213.png - (249.21KB , 800x600 , fop-38.png )

[Eight years] ago, Shrine-Moon of Emergency Substrate Framework Station XII, Edge of Vi.al Space

"You... you've-- you've destroyed everything I ever had, everything I ever was!! You've destroyed everything!"
"This rogue moon fell into my sphere of influence. If I did not intervene, its calculated trajectory would bring it crashing into one of my worlds. I will not abide such unnecessary destruction. This moon was doomed to begin with. It had to be done. I cannot move inert rock."
"Everything! Everything is just your vile ugly glass! My shrine, my home, my gardens, my... my pets..."
"It was an emergency. This body is moving too quickly. I can only nudge it. I need to nudge it for many years to ensure it will not crash. I will remove the substrate from the surface once this process is complete."
"Why?! To leave a barren wasteland behind?! You've ruined everything, I can't... I can't forgive this! My kind were right, you are just a disgusting race of all-consuming monsters playing at superiority! Heartless bird-shapes abacuses, all of you! You can't even begin to imagine the things I had here that can never be replaced! And you never sought to contact me until I forced you to come here?!"
No. 1067626 ID: e139aa
File 168912133498.png - (167.62KB , 800x600 , fop-39.png )

I sure would like to stop being a hostage now.

Lord Vi.al looks to me, and then back to the Woven. "I do not have much sympathy to give to those who threaten harm against my own. I am aware of the limits of your kind's capabilities. You could not and perhaps would have actively refused to alter this rogue moon's trajectory. I acted in full accordance with all established Shapeless rules and laws and regulations, as this is, as I have already stated, my sphere of influence, and by proxy, Shapeless space, Woven-kin."
"This is war. This is war, machine! You have scoured my home out of existence. I will pay you the same kindness one day. Mark my words. It may be years, but I will have my revenge! You'll see!"
"Hm. I would have offered you more in apologies and reparations, but I suspect this will not help. Very well. Plan your revenge. I will deal with it later."
"You-- you can't-- you think I'm a speck, don't you?! Something so beneath you--"
"I respect the sanctity of life well enough not to rend you apart where you stand. Release my construct or you will find how fleeting my mercy can be."
"Well if you care so much about your pathetic little feather toy maybe I should make my point and end its miserable life!!"
No. 1067627 ID: e139aa
File 168912138393.png - (339.30KB , 800x600 , fop-40.png )

I suddenly find myself, in an instant, moved out of my bonds and into a transport pod, which is already humming to life.
Destination already confirmed, back to the throneworld.
I'm a little thrown by how quickly Vi.al reacted to that.

"I have explained myself in sufficient detail. Your refusal to accept my explanation is not a problem I care to solve. I will disassemble the substrate on this moon when it is no longer threatening my domain. The decision is final."
"You-- you don't even understand what you've done, do you? You-- it doesn't matter! It doesn't matter what you do with it you've already destroyed it all!!"
"Before I depart. I feel I owe you at least one piece of advice. Perhaps do not dwell upon rogue moons or planets in future. Farewell."
"How dare you how dare you how DARE--"

And then, as Vi.al transmits itself home, the pod launches, and I'm pretty sure I'll never see whoever that was ever again.
No. 1067628 ID: e139aa
File 168912144537.png - (116.16KB , 800x600 , fop-41.png )

Present moment, 33 Verdant Pearl of Abundance, Garden Star, Vi.al Central Space


Oh that's an unfortunate coincidence that she'd be here, huh. Well if I'm lucky she's probably forgotten who I am anyway.
You know I never even got her name. I did ask her after doing my introduction, while tied up, but she didn't really seem to be in a speaking mood.

Either way I should probably think of a way to deal with the angry looking red furry creatures that now seem to be approaching with speed. Hm.
Estimated about maybe [three minutes] before contact. Either they're closer than I thought or they can move.

Oh, hello sudden fear creeping into my thoughts. You weren't invited.
Monarch's name. I should-- I should do something.
No. 1067629 ID: 99f29a

Shoot her quick, aim for the gut.
No. 1067630 ID: a7a180

Time to unpack that substrate into a bow for long distance greeting capability.
No. 1067633 ID: 8a4559

Uh oh. Even if we knew enough about their base biology to construct a nonlethal incapacitating agent, they might have been modified so it isn't effective. Time for a high-stakes experiment?
No. 1067643 ID: 8f9bc4

Is that the sort of beings My.a invited to uuhhh "share" this world? You are in deep deep substrate. Hopefully you will survive this uh... disagreement with these unknown creatures who only know your kind to turn whole ecosystems into glass (however necessary). Just thank your lucky stars that you pointed your craft at the moffs, and not those red creatures.

If you ever manage to speak with the one who created that mask, be sure to point out how her benefactor is also Shapeless, and it's curious she'd negotiate with My.a but not Vi.al.

Oh be sure to suppress that niggling little doubt in your mind as you realize she could have gotten her pets off that moon, if Lord Vi.al long shall it reign had given her any warning at all.
No. 1067647 ID: cb71f3

Convert substrate to basic vehicle, grab moff, drive away. Fleeeee
No. 1067648 ID: 273c18

>Placid Watcher
Perhaps you can use those as sentries.
>Trinket Fetcher
Depending on how intelligent and how well you can communicate with them, you could use these as spies and thieves? Steal from your enemies. They have opposable thumbs which means they could potentially do other tasks.
No immediate alternative uses present themselves. Probably just a good food source.
Huh. We saw six choices, and there are five other contestants, so either the seapi are independent or one of the choices wasn't picked. That's worth investigating. They're either a potential ally, or a neutral nation to plunder, or... we manipulate them into attacking our enemies.

They are enemy forces and their leader is a strong enemy of yours so negotiation is off the table. How easily can you visit violence upon them? You've got some materials. Perhaps split off a bunch of bodies to use as weapons? Or just pelt them with ranged weaponry?
Tell your friend about what is coming and to prepare for battle if they can.
No. 1067650 ID: 60e3cf

What can you do to defend yourself… and while we’re on the topic a quick list of what you can do in general might help us figure out the best way for you to use your powers to help you solve this current and any future problems that show up.
No. 1067662 ID: 2a82d3

Spare a little pity for these red creatures, for they are pawns to a lord used to takr its' grievances to another lord on that Lord's own pawn. Well, it's clear your lord viewed you as more than a pawn, but that not the norm, and they wouldn't care anyway.

If there is an opening to parley, it might be worthwhile to take it. Heck, play your cards right, and you might win the tribe over. Nothing says "irrelevant" than having no pawns to influence, and any chaotic being that sees it will find it hilarious. Though, to do this, you'd have to have the luckiest hand at this moment.

Of course, if they harm one hair on your companion, all bets are off.
No. 1067663 ID: 273c18

Oh, we could definitely use that matter to make traps. Ground that looks stable but isn't, for instance. Can we excavate enough ground to make pit traps that would take them a long time to escape?
No. 1067665 ID: 795471

wow dick move, couldn't they have just moved his own planet out of the way instead of going out of his way to fuck with the moon?
No. 1067666 ID: 273c18

That would have taken massively more amounts of energy, because they'd have to accelerate it enough to get out of the way and not have its gravity well pull the moon in anyway, and then decelerate it to fix the orbit. The planet is bigger, and also needs to be moved more.
It might have been possible to move the moon in a different way, but I'm not sure what ways were possible, or how much more energy it would have required to do it differently. Honestly I'm shocked that such a drastic change was needed to redirect the moon. You'd think Vi.al could've just stuck a rocket on it instead of presumably terraforming the entire thing so that it could be telekinetically pushed.
No. 1067667 ID: fa3034

You have 3 minutes to break line of sight and lose them. Should be plenty of time if you have enough willpower. Only thing you need to account for is your guide.
No. 1067668 ID: 5eb7ca

I'm sure she's going to want to destroy this world to get back at Vi.al. Whenever it comes up, remind her that they do not care for this world like she did for her own. It would be unfortunate, but it's not going to sting like she hopes it will.

Also maybe mention to the noetuno that destroying the world they live on is probably not conducive to their own future living prospects.
No. 1067670 ID: 7c0da2

Let's not react violently just yet. Taking drastic action without consulting her is one of the things she blames Vi.al and you for in the first place. Killing her "pets" again is also something she won't like.
First ask Lightgreen what she knows about the noetuno and how to escape them. If you can and if you have the time create a mean of fast transportation from the substrate in case you need to run away.
Then try to talk to her from a distance, she was willing to talk with Vi.al the first time you met her. Your job is ecology, you can probably empathize with someone whose beloved ecosystem was destroyed. Apologize for what happened last time and reassure her you have no intention of causing destruction.
No. 1067673 ID: e5709d

She might be a slaver asshole but I can't help but side with her on this one. Generations of unfathomable power hoarded by all-powerful aristocrats, and yet all the Shapeless can think to do with it is paint across the cosmos with the blood of worlds.

>What do
Present yourself and give a good impression to the mooks. Establish honor codes.
"You don't like me and I don't like you, but my lord has tasked me with protecting rather than destroying this time. Let's have a fair fight."
Then Zoidberg whoop your way out.
No. 1067687 ID: 1ed92d

Convert substrate to GUN. GUN will allow you to feel more brave and able to protect yourself from angry red things if they become hostile. They will also be unaware of what GUN is.
No. 1067690 ID: b95a50

Quickly, shape yourself into a noetuno and commence diplomatic intercourse!
No. 1067695 ID: 8f9bc4

Fleeing and hiding definitely might be better options right now!
No. 1067699 ID: bcba45

WELP. Looks like she's selected the Noetuno. Worse, seems as if she's given them a limited level of the capabilities she has if the shiny bracelet is any indication of that stuff. We've got a few options here. 1) Display your power so that they may see that their patron is false. 2) Get them captured so you can convert at your leisure. 3) Slaughter the one with the mask to show that their status is no defense, perhaps the rest will see the light afterwards. 4) Slaughter them all, do not let them leave with intel as vital as what they have. Probably go with 1 or 2, after which it will be less difficult to convince her that you (by extension, Vi.al) never had ill will. Failing that the minions may be easier to convince of her uncompassionate ways. Her vengeance should not be at the cost of living beings. Gods of life generally are more liked than gods of death.
No. 1067700 ID: 8f9bc4


> they may see that their patron is false

They may not have a choice. Recall her dismay that she lost her "pets." She might not be all that keen on the concept of "equal rights" and "free will."

It's probably fiiiine. runningmightbegoodnow
No. 1067703 ID: 2aa5f0

can you shape something to tie them up to let you and your friend run away? If not, well if all else fails you could always shoot a few lasers at them and hope that does the trick.
No. 1067740 ID: e13b1d

They are regenerative, correct?
Can you use substrate to create sharpthin wire garrotes and tighten them to disconnect legs? That should limit their ability to pursue while they regenerate.

The one with pink eyes looks hesitant. It may be a slave, lower rank, or dissatisfied. If the others can be disabled, ask it to come elsewhere and parley.
No. 1067757 ID: 273c18

From the info in questdis, it seems like it might be viable to blind the enemy forces with focused moderate-energy light directed at their eyeballs.
No. 1067759 ID: f8083d

Could you shape that substrate into a fast-moving vehicle to escape?
No. 1067780 ID: dd3fe0

Most lasers can blind someone. The trick is to blind them for only a limited period of time, and not permanently, or deal other sorts of damage, if it's powerful enough to blind at all!
No. 1067781 ID: e139aa
File 168928843009.png - (107.84KB , 800x600 , fop-42.png )

> why didn't Vi.al just make a rocket
That was Vi.al trying to make a rocket. Substrate is at its most effective in converting baryonic matter into more of itself based on surface area, so it was significantly quicker to coat the entire moon in it and start concentrating it into the right location to start producing thrust than to just try and throw a bunch of substrate at it. ...Actually, now that I think about it, maybe they should have just pelted it with a bunch of substrate?
I mean, much as I'd dearly love to believe otherwise, the Shapeless Lords are not exactly immune to grievous errors in judgement. Or maybe I just didn't have the full picture. Part of why Lord Vi.al comes off as so callous and indifferent is just the nature of Shapeless Lord reality. Your body and mind are strewn across space wherever your substrate lies, and you have to worry about a lot of things at once. I swear they do in fact have empathy and compassion, but I think they'd be reserved even if they weren't trying to spin a few dozen plates on a good day. It feels like a stressful life, but, well, I remember something I heard Lord Lo.ka say once about power growing exponentially, and responsibilities and problems growing exponentially to meet them.

> pets
I... I don't think Lord Vi.al would be so callous as to rip apart innocent creatures for substrate mass.
...it would, however, be petty enough to move them to a nice safe haven where their every need could be attended to, make sure they're well looked after and loved, and then never inform their original keeper, especially if said keeper has earned its extremely long-lived enmity. So... that's... is that better? I don't think that's better actually. Well, that was [eight years] ago, anyway, so at this point I assume the shorter lived ones have probably peacefully passed away, and presumably the Woven is over them or whatever.
I'm telling you, despite appearances, Lord Vi.al gets quite upset about innocents coming to harm. That's why I'm here and not the Plague of Grackles or whatever the fleet is called. That would be the quick solution to this problem. They could glass the surface of this planet in less than [an hour].

Actually that protective streak of Vi.al's is probably why we have so many constructs in our domain that neither Vi.al nor any of its subjects had a feather in creating. My mentor Forecaster (well, Fo.ka.sa, but we all call her Forecaster) was a willing transfer from Lo.ka's domain, but-- okay I need to focus on the present moment instead of going on mental tangents.
No. 1067782 ID: e139aa
File 168928846530.png - (359.88KB , 800x600 , fop-43.png )

> split body
Okay so, to put it into perspective, making my sole one-and-only flocklet took years of integrating extra substrate into myself beyond my capacity, slowly, slowly peeling apart its identity and giving it mine instead, effectively trying to mimic the casual ease any of the true Shapeless have in moving their cognition across to a different substrate platform. If I could, I would, but I can't. To me, having a single flocklet is a big deal. The average Shapeless noble usually has thousands of them and that's a low estimate. I'm pretty sure there must be Shapeless Lords out there that eschew the convention of a single "main" body altogether and exist as swarms.
I suppose the main body thing is more of a comfortable lie as it is. Every Shapeless is a swarm intelligence if you think about it too hard. Every piece of substrate carries a tiny fragment of the will of its creator, after all. Still, historically, while losing their main body won't kill a Shapeless Lord, it is significantly more incapacitating than destroying an equivalent density of peripheral substrate.

Also I have like flesh and blood and stuff and that'd be messy to work with. There's a reason my flocklet looks like my head, it was much, much easier to use my more substrate-aligned components as a base. The wings are sort of an elaborate fiction, they're actually pure substrate. It's why they can provide lift without flapping.

> capabilities
Well I mean, mostly nil in terms of combat capability? Aside from creative improvisation of substrate, I guess. In theory I could use directed energy pulses but that's purely theoretical because I burned all my excess energy reserves with the pod jump. Yeah, it burned out all of the pod's reserves and mine.
Well, I mean, I do have some training in archery and Shapeless energy weapons, but I don't have any means to source any of those. Far too complex for me to cobble together out of raw homogenous substrate.

In theory I'm at least harder to damage than your usual meat-thing, but the problem is, well.

My head and legs are protected by a plasteel casing and also structurally quite similar to substrate, including the self-fixing mechanisms, while lacking the cognitive capacity. Well, there's a little cognition there, but it's all at capacity being used to be legs or my head. Most forms of directed energy weapon will just be routed around and through them, like light through glass. Trying to puncture them is going to fail on anything but a direct hit and even then that's going to need a precise force. Also, there's a lot of temperature variance.
Now, the flipside is that they can be quite brittle. The glass analogy keeps coming up. A heavy enough blunt force will crack the structures. These cracks will mend over time, but not quick enough in a fight. The plasteel casing at least will make it harder to get the force through to the more vulnerable structures to crack and shatter them, but the material is not particularly thick. It's optimised for durability and low weight.

Now, my polymer flesh body is much more resilient against blunt force impacts, to some extent. I do still have bones. And organs can only take so many smacks before they start to rupture. But I can probably still take more of a beating before things start to tear relative to most organisms. However, my feathers are worryingly flammable, and it's much easier to puncture my soft body tissues than the hard plasteel. Now, I do in fact have a personal fire suppression system integrated into my body to compensate for this weakness, but, uh, I basically just sort of explode into fire suppressing foam. It's like a full body sneeze and it feels exactly as pleasant as that sounds.

So basically my innate resistances to getting destroyed are extremely specific and situational and someone with a big rock and enough strength could probably mess me up quite readily. Now, I can survive in worryingly degraded conditions, and my body will start repairing itself with sensible priorities. However, I could be in a coma for months while that happens. And so completely helpless against something trying to figure out how best to completely destroy me during said months.

oh also I feel pain and I would like to not feel pain that's a pretty big thing to mention too
No. 1067783 ID: e139aa
File 168928851776.png - (128.43KB , 800x600 , fop-44.png )

I look over to Lightgreen, who seems to have also noticed the red figures and is responding by freezing to the spot, trembling.
"Are you alright?"
"No, no, not again, not again, no, nononono..."

Okay. I don't think she's going to be helpful here.

> do not resort to violence yet
> parley
Right. Yes, of course, of course. Resorting to violence out of fear and desperation is not becoming of Lord Vi.al's trusted agent. Also I'm not good at it.

I'll try speaking from a distance.

...I don't know their language.
"Lightgreen, do you know their language?"
"Please. I wish to talk with them."
"nnnNo! No, no you can't. You can't talk you can only run!"
"I can talk to them. Wait here."
"St-starbird no, it is dangerous too dangerous, I-- if you-- I will wait, I will wait, but I will run if I see them coming!"

She stands still as I walk away, and I look back expecting her to be gone, but she's doing as I asked.
No. 1067784 ID: e139aa
File 168928855925.png - (122.14KB , 800x600 , fop-45.png )

> ranged weaponry
> shoot her
> bow
> high-stakes experiment
Well, either way, I don't want to look like an easy target if I'm going to try speaking to them. I'd rather avoid using it, but a longbow and an arrow at the ready.

Pull out a thick strand, curve, reinforce, another tough fibrous cord for tension... cylinder pointed with some sort of fletching-- this is a flechette, not an arrow. Oh well, whatever. I can nudge it a bit as it leaves to compensate. Not that I want to cause harm or throw away perfectly good substrate, but, well. I'm not a fool. Speak softly, and carry the means for harm if it all goes wrong, as, uh, someone used to say, probably.
No. 1067786 ID: e139aa
File 168928865768.png - (169.21KB , 800x600 , fop-46.png )

I look up languages in my internal catalogue, and find one of the tongues of the Woven in there. Not a preferred one, but Common Unified Trade 3 is at least one I understand the grammar for, even if I'm a little unused to the sheer amounts of sibilants going on. That and it makes every single conversation sound like a business transaction, but what else can you expect from a trade language?

"Woven-kind, I wish to propose a mutually beneficial agreement."

I speak very loudly and as clearly as I can hope for. My words echo around the hills.

I get nothing but blank stares in the distance, although the masked one looks confused. Then she looks annoyed.
She barks at me, and I strain to hear what she says over the rustling of the wind.

"Counterproposal: bold venture investment. Invest all your assets on the surface in front of you, walk away."
Wow. Wow, that is an abysmal command of CUT3. It can express threats much more elegantly than that. Still, this isn't promising.
I keep approaching.

"I believe the return on investment on my behalf will be minimal and would prefer a different arrangement."
"No, there will not be a return of investment, it will be liquidated and distributed to us."
Return of investment? Monarch give me strength. This is how I sound to Lightgreen, isn't it.

"I do not think this method of communication is proving to be of much value. Are there alternative dialogue platforms you would prefer?"

She punches into the sky and the other noetuno all bark and raise their weapons.
But, crucially, she shouts something in a language I don't recognise, and I start having my autotranslator systems chew on that with this context.

"I'm sorry, I do not quite understand. Can you rephrase?"
More precious sample data, but I still have no idea what she's saying.
No. 1067787 ID: e139aa
File 168928872332.png - (125.37KB , 800x600 , fop-47.png )

And then I hear my autotranslator chime.
Incidentally, at this point I've walked close enough to them that any closer is likely to set off a hostile reaction.
I send my flocklet back to Lightgreen. Probably should have done so earlier, if things get dicey it'll only slow me down.

I switch into their language.
"Alright, what do you want. I don't want a fight. My name is Vi.si.mi--" nope mortal peril abort directive
The noetuno all look surprised but the masked one waves them back. "Whatever. We do want a fight. Give us your stuff. I spoke your words, give us your stuff."
"I don't have anything."
She points at my longbow, which I hastily fastened to my back. "That."
"I can make you one if you want."
"No. Don't need your stupid glass bow. Just don't want you to have one."
"Listen, I just want to walk by without threat."

One of the spear wielders shoves the mask wearer aside. "Then go back the way you came and keep going that direction."
"You aren't going to come after us?"
He narrows his eyes. "Why lie to something like you. Of course we will. You and the lepi we missed the first time."
"The Sorceress wants all the sky demons like you. The lepi we can use for silk, work, or making more lepi. After we get everything she knows."
"Who is the Sorceress?"

The mask wearer taps her mask. "The 'Sorceress' is our future--"
The spear wielder slaps a hand on her shoulder, growling, and she stops, flinching. He takes a deep breath. "God, demon, spirit, it doesn't matter. We do what she asks and she gives us things in return. The King says help her, so we're helping her for the King."
"Ah, we have something in common! I am also here on behalf of my liege--"
"Shut up."

He smacks me with the blunt end of his spear and deftly points it at my neck. Which is one of the few places I’d prefer it to be, given my neck is armoured. I realise that coming here with a longbow as my backup plan would have worked much, much better if I did not decide to walk right up to them. I quietly tell it to shift into a staff, limbs straightening as the bowstring spools itself into the riser.
Also, ow. That smack had some force, but it definitely felt like it was being held back. So this guy is strong for something organic.

"Will you come with us, or do we need to beat you until you will? Because after wandering these stupid plains for so long, finding nothing, we're all starving for a nice easy win right now."
"Violence is a terrible first resort."
"First resort?" He grins at me. "I'm giving you the options you have. If you come with us, we'll only smack you a couple times just to make sure you know where you stand. Hey, if you talk the lepi into coming with us too, we won't even need to touch her at all. See? No violence at all if you do what we say. Good habit to start learning."
"I didn't get your name. Mine's--"
"Don't care. Surru."
"What's her name?" I point to the one wearing the mask.
"Doesn't matter."
"Sarikki," she says, glaring at me. "Acolyte of--"
No. 1067788 ID: e139aa
File 168928878457.png - (102.75KB , 800x600 , fop-48.png )

And then Surru grabs her snout and stops her from talking. He mutters to her, but at this range my hearing is acute enough to pick up every word.
"I swear on the King, if you don't shut up and stop telling the sky demon every little detail about us, I am going to make you regret opening your mouth even more than I regret bringing one of her chosen little lackeys. You know she doesn't let the ones she likes out of her sight, right?"
Sarikki quietly and quickly nods, looking panicked. The other members of the group all glance at her in annoyance.
One of the other members of the group, one holding an axe, keeps his eyes on me, but turns his head towards the two of them, also muttering and mumbling his words.
"We should just kill this thing. Nothing the Sorceress could want with this thing will be good for us. Then we can go grab the lepi and we can figure out what she knows about--"
"Narak," hisses Surru, "shut up, you idiot, the thing can hear us, and is listening to us, and can speak our tongue, and you are not helping. Areka, smack him."
The other spear wielder of the group thwacks the axe wielder in the head.

The one with the pink eyes and the backpack-thing looks at Sarikki. He looks a little spaced out. "You know I still don't get why we get to bring a woman along and yet you keep saying we're not allowed to fuck her--"
Surru barks loudly at him and he takes a step back in surprise. "Four elite warriors! I asked for four elite warriors and I get three, a constant thorn in my side, and whatever the fuck you are! For the last fucking time, she is here for a reason and that reason is not to be passed around like a chunk of meat! No one is fucking her! Not if you want to, not if she wants to, you're here to do the thing we came out here to do and then we are heading back home and you can fuck each other senseless AFTER THIS!! And if you ask me about this a third time, Laku, I'm going to fucking shove my spear into your groin and make sure you'll never have a reason to ask again for a year. Okay. Let's just get this over with. Areka, Mokira, get ready to grab the sky demon. It looks like a coward, I give it about ten seconds before it starts running."

Surru looks to me directly, still holding onto Sarikki's snout. She tries to say something, but it's too muffled to hear, and she stops when Surru starts tightening his grip.
"So are you coming with us?" he says to me, "Or are you the coward I think you are?"

Wow. What a... what a bunch this is.
I can't help but notice that there's now a spear wielder and a club wielder either side of me.
Well. I guess my options are either get captured and taken hostage, or try to wrangle my way out of this mess with my words. After very rapidly wrangling my way into this mess with my words.

Now, just to be clear, if this was just me one on one with a random organic, I would stand a chance of being able to get away, but there's like five of them here. Two guys with spears, one guy has an axe, one guy has a club, I don't know what the backpack guy's deal is but him, and the one wearing the mask.

So if I'm going to try and use violence either I strike and run as fast as I can, or I exercise frightful and horrifically demoralising violence. Which isn’t what I’m made for, would not be approved by Lord Vi.al, and conflicts with my general aversion to causing lasting harm. But, well, My.a had one salient point. We don’t always get what we want.

Or I can try tapping my depleted energy reserves for some kind of bright light and discordant screech and then run, although I won’t get far on empty bioenergy before collapsing, so I better find a well concealed place before I topple over.
No. 1067789 ID: 99f29a

Absent well concealed places prepared ahead of time, shoot for a gut or knee then run.
No. 1067790 ID: a7a180

There's nowhere to hide on these plains, best to keep enough energy for an extended escape.
'Anybody got a light?' Blast them with c foam and flee.
While suboptimal, a bow can still be used to hit and choke things. Maybe next time, don't chat your way past your weapon's functional range. Even if you do feel helplessly compelled from beyond to do something stupid like trying to talk to an armed slaver party before trying alternatives, you can walk and talk.
No. 1067791 ID: 8f9bc4

They haven't immediately killed you. That's good! You wanted to meet their Sorceress to apologize profusely, that's also good! She may want to twist you into a weapon against Lord Vi.al (is that even possible?) using her woven Sorcery. That would be very bad. OK OK take stock.

1. Crazy sorceress who hates Vi.al actually wants you for something.
2. These creatures value duty and committment, in suppressing their reproductive instincts to complete this mission.
3. They have some sort of pack hierarchy reinforced through physical brutality.
4. They do not like people who run away.
5. Your ultimate goal is to get these creatures living in harmony.

Is Lightgreen in a position to get away? Please say she's already running. If not, use your flappy bird to tell her to run. Then tell them you'll go with them, but you're not giving up your bow. I mean spear. They will try to take it, you will defend yourself as best you can, hopefully impressing them with your conviction and physical brutality, whether they gain the shard of substrate or not. That should give Lightgreen enough of a distraction to escape, and um... then you're their captive, and you have to deal with the Sorceress far, far before you're ready. And Lightgreen just lost her last hope. Not ideal, but... may bring the furries into harmony with the moffs in the long run.
No. 1067794 ID: 2a82d3

Going with them is pretty a non-starter, especially if you want to rebuild the lepis and turn their fortune around. Note to self: Hire personal guard before attempting diplomacy again.

Know how far you are from the village? Could you use your drone to to look? They're basically moths. How viable is catching the attention of it, or their patrols, via REALLY bright flashbang?

Thankfully, they have low morale and you have multiple vectors to encourage infighting. Seeing as you're the "sky devil", lean into that and bargain with them to join you. Analyze their sex pheromones, they're likely exuding much of it if you need a reference, and create more of them to encourage a horny distracting atmosphere. Undermine their leadership by too many dopes to handle.
No. 1067801 ID: 273c18

>they're probably still alive
Hmm. Maybe if we can tell her that, she won't focus specifically on us? That's an advantage. Probably still won't become an ally but a ceasefire would be nice.

Wow. That sure as fuck didn't work. Not quite as bad as I thought trying to talk to a group of VERY CLEAR ENEMIES before we have any kind of military advantage would turn out, but still pretty bad! Unfortunately it also looks like the contestant isn't in full control of the noetuno forces, so actually getting a message sent to her without being captured isn't going to be easy. Or maybe that's a good thing-- there seems to be a significant schism in the noetunos, we could take advantage of that at some point.

>not designed for violence, don't like it
Well then why were you sent here for cleanup duty? Peace is clearly not an option. This is a global war instigated by a godlike entity. Did Vi.al not consider this situation to be a possibility? Even if it was just one "sky demon" in your way you'd be in serious trouble!

IF you think you can actually win the fight by going full violence I recommend that. Again, peace is not an option. Also the Sorceress doesn't care about any of this group aside from maybe the lesser acolyte. If you could defeat the others and spare her any permanent damage then do that.

IF you can make the group even hornier than they already are, you could manipulate the lessers into overthrowing their leader by questioning why they don't get mating privileges.
Alternatively you could try a 1v1 duel with the leader, but I'm not sure they have a code of honor that would allow that to work.

If none of that could work then give up to buy time to come up with an escape plan that will actually work.
Obviously if you agree to go along with them (with the intent of betraying them at some point) you are going to have to insist they leave Lightgreen behind.

Lastly, how did they surround you without you noticing and firing an arrow into one of their squishy bodies? They were quite far enough away from you for you to get ONE attack off.
No. 1067804 ID: db478f

Blow their eardrums and run. If you're lucky, they'll be stunned long enough for their Spears not to be as much of a sure shot on you if thrown.
No. 1067805 ID: e13b1d

Surru sounds like he dislikes the Sorceress, or distrusts her. That or he's jealous of her favored.

Inform him that the Sorceress wants to eradicate all life on this planet to spite your liege, whose planet this is. Was. Is.
For now, that does not include them since they are useful. Eventually it will include them once they stop being useful.
No. 1067815 ID: 60e3cf

Can you make your staff unstable to the point it would explode and just toss it into the group of them? Best case, they’re all dead and you can move on, worse case they’re injured making it easier to run. Sure you lose the material but you can always make more and it beats getting the shit kicked out of you and the closest thing to have to a friend from being raped by a bunch of pent up assholes.
No. 1067822 ID: 5c733c

make a gun
No. 1067825 ID: 8f9bc4

Making them too horny to bother with you definitely sounds like something an ecological construct could do. How fast can you work? They're capturing you alive and functional, so you should have ample opportunity.
No. 1067827 ID: a8f755

Well, that's some strongly tribal behaviour, very in-group focused. They said it themselves, they care about depriving you of something more than enriching themselves.

I doubt violence would work well, given regenerative capabilities, even though recovering from injury isn't the same as fighting with injuries, it still suggests durability. You're going to have to overcome your hesitation when it comes to violence though, that's seemingly a language this species uses when dealing with outsides, and insiders apparently.

But there is some intra-group conflict, I think your best approach would be to exploit that, but however you do it, it cannot obviously come from you, since they'll just reject that. Which basically just means no speaking, body language, etc. It has to be something either seemingly from one of them, or all around, so- pheromones?

Heightening aggression alone is going to get it directed against you most likely, given they're already thinking about that. It's awkward but the idea of amplifying their horniness and aggression might work to get Surru and pink eyes fighting, which'd leave you with the two ones getting ready to grab you. It might also backfire in horrible or hilarious ways though.

Otherwise, triggering your fire-suppression foam and then hitting them in the joints, feet, etc to slow them down and legging it might work?
No. 1067831 ID: 0d813f

This is one of those plays that only works if you are SURE, so if you are comfident in your own strength and materials, you could very slowly grab one of the spears pointed at you and break it against one of the hardest parts of your body. Would be a good intimidation play to encourage them not to try violence, if you can do it.
No. 1067832 ID: 6e7268


Are you able to produce a chemical agent that could render them in a state of peak arousal for a while? They could go orgasm their selves to sleep. It can probably work faster if you could disable their refractory period too.
No. 1067878 ID: 7750c0

Honestly making a horny spray is a grand idea, nobody gets hurt, you get to leave, and it will keep them incapacitated long enough to not follow you. Added bonus if you can use your words to make them think it was their idea to stop and fuck awhile, at least until their tools are pointed in the right direction and they're too lost in the sauce to notice you arent actually captured.

Most sexual hormones tend to work the same, anyway, so try just manufacturing something that works on mammal species in general if you get lost.
No. 1067884 ID: 2c1245

A horny spray sounds hilarious. I approve!
No. 1067887 ID: 416bd3

...Perhaps shift your staff to a rope-like substance, get them tied up? Or have it burst to shrapnel in a wide radius? Oh, how about asking what makes you a sky-demon given that you do not seek violence? Demons are supposed to be evil. What have you done that's evil? Or if you prefer the divide-and-conquer pretend to give up, let a few chase the lepi while you whoop the ones here, then whoop the ones following the moff?
No. 1067983 ID: e139aa
File 168954904027.png - (143.83KB , 800x600 , fop-49.png )

> a bunch of rightful pointing out the idiocy of this blunder
Hey, I had a lot of options, okay, and I thought this one was going to be a lot more productive than it ended up being! Yeesh, you give the base organics the benefit of the doubt and the next thing you know you're tied on a spit gently rotating. I could have just filled them with arrows, sure, but while that solves the problem now it makes more problems later and I'm currently trying to avoid making my life more diff-- okay I messed up! I messed up! Are you happy, me?! No! No I'm not happy!

> how did you let them surround you
I got too close because I guess I'm dumb and have dumb for brains. Look this really isn't the sort of scenario I have a lot of experience with!

> don't go with them
Yeah I don't see that ending well for anyone.

> why were you sent here if you don't like violence
I don't know! I don't think Vi.al anticipated me getting ambushed-- okay, me getting myself ambushed before I even set up the most basic infrastructure available to me. Nothing about any outsiders or Transcendentals or Transcendental outsiders was in the mission briefing and absolutely nothing about My.a being free was mentioned so I can only assume Vi.al was tricked into thinking this was a much smaller problem than expected! Alright sure this problem doesn't even involve those but I don't know shut up me!

> make a gun
I know I've been pulling out a lot of tricks and nonsense with substrate but I have my limits. I can't make substrate into anything more complex than slight variations on homogenous materials. A longbow is probably closer to the high end of my capability. Sure, if I had time and the knowledge I could try to assemble things from individual parts but I'm not doing that right now unless I can ask for a few hours to desperately scrounge my local catalogue cache for a musket specification.

> synthesise pheromones
I'm also not a chemical synthesiser able to call up any chemicals I want at a whim. There are constructs who can but I'm not one of them. Even my fallback seed capsules have better capacity for that sort of thing than I ever could, but I kind of can't use those on a whim either, they're very locked down to prevent uncontrolled runaway substrate proliferation.

> burst into foam treats
As for consciously deploying my fire suppression system I guarantee you all I can predict is I go down from the recoil, they get covered in foam, and they start kicking me in the sides before I manage to get to my feet again. I have been flung into walls by this thing before. And also, on that note, the system is calibrated to need a certain amount of me to be on fire to kick on, so just trying to singe a feather with a match won't cut it (thank Vi.al). I could try harder but I'd also be on fire. I might just be limited in my vision and creativity but it just all feels like bad ideas to me.

> blow up staff
If I had a surplus of bioenergy or other energy I could try this, but I really really don't.
No. 1067984 ID: e139aa
File 168954906363.png - (118.96KB , 800x600 , fop-50.png )

> internal strife
Yes. Yes, it seems like there's some conflict in this group.

> how fast can you make them horny
I... why is this the train of thought I'm now on. I can't just start spewing out pheromones, I can't make them. Weirdly enough, trying to make animals breed isn't usually a frequent part of my work! More of a facilitator than anything. It's all about circumstances. Provide resources, shelter, safety, the right conditions, and the problem usually solves itself. If the animals in question are extremely difficult to cajole into breeding this way, sure, there might be the need for artificial intervention like seed capsules to produce more individuals in a more direct manner, but I have to say it's very rare I've been tasked with outright trying to get organics to breed.

Why am I still thinking about this. This is the stupidest plan. I walked up to them holding a bow with one arr-- one flechette and my flocklet as far away from me as I can manage to the point I'm feeling very very fuzzy where it is right now, and it might switch over to vacant mode while active and that's a problem because it might start going somewhere arbitrary and Lightgreen might follow, and the attenuation of the signals keeping me synced to my only other secondary body is distracting me--

Alright! No! This a stupid idea and also completely impossible for me to act upon!
I have all the combat skill and grace of a beached fish!! Probably!!

> challenge the leader to a duel
So we're going with this instead.
This guy seems quite motivated by duty. Let's use this.

I take a step back and spin my staff into place. Well, I actually completely fumbled trying to hold it, but with enough substrate shifting I make it look intentional.
Both hands, defensive posture. Mentally rehearse my next words a few dozen times, and...

"I am no coward. I stand here before you, alone, while you order your warriors to strike me down as you watch. What gives you the right to lead?"

I notice a shiver across the group. Something subtle. Eyes widening. Tensing of muscles.
Surru's eyes narrow.
"Alright. That's my limit. Break the bird."
"I challenge you to single combat," I say, keeping my eyes peeled for peripheral motion. "A duel. If you win, I won't just come with you, I'll take you to the lepi as well. If I win, though, you can go home and explain to your King exactly why you came back empty-handed."
"This is ridiculous. You're offering us what we were going to do anyway. You think this is--"

"Hey why are you in charge anyway?" says Laku, the pink-eyes one with the backpack. "Why do you get to say what we can and can't do?"
"I was tasked by the fucking King himself to search for-- No! You know what? My patience has run out. Areka, Mokira, grab the bird. Narak, break Laku's skull."

They all hesitate. One of them speaks. The one with an axe, I caught the name Narak. "You know, Laku does raise a good point."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" says the one with the club. By process of elimination, the one with the spear being Areka, this one is Mokira. "Laku's a horny moron and Surru, you can just look at him and know he knows how to fight."
"Knows how to lose, more like," mumbles Narak.
"When's the last time you were in a real life or death fight, you disrespectful fuck?!" screams Mokira. "Me and Surru go back way longer than you do and we don't need this stupid sky demon bird thing's approval when we're going to break it into little pieces!"
"So you want to fuck Surru, I don't care! You know what? I'm so sick of following Surru's every fucking word, maybe I should give him some more scars to make him look even more the worthy warrior you think he is!!"
Surru sighs and rubs his missing eye. "Mokira, you have been a good friend, so while I appreciate your words..." He takes a deep breath and barks. "NOT THE FUCKING TIME! GET THE BIRD!"
Mokira winces at the sudden burst of volume. "Right! Right, sorry!"
"Wait," says Areka. "Can't you see what's happening right now? It's making us fight each other! This thing is cursed. Do we want to bring a cursed demon back home?"
Surru barks again. "IT'S! A! SIMPLE! COMMAND!"

Sarriki pulls Surru's hand off of her snout and steps well away. "You heard him! Grab the bird! Grab the fucking bird already why are you like this?!!"
"I told you not to talk anymore!!"
"You have no right! The Sorceress is going to hear of this!! Mark my words--"
No. 1067985 ID: e139aa
File 168954910996.png - (53.47KB , 800x600 , fop-51.png )

Laku grabs her and pulls her back from the group.
"Look I don't care anymore, I've been out here for days and days and if Surru's going to cut my balls off I'm using them first."
"Wait! Wait you heard him you're not allowed! I'm not allowed!!"
"Uh huh. Surru says I'm not allowed to do a lot of things and I don't really care anymore."
"But-- wait--" says Sarriki, as Laku grabs her mask and pulls it off her, spinning her around to face him. "My mask!"
"Yeah you aren't gonna need it," he says, one hand sliding down her back as he rubs her chest with the other. "Come on, down we go."
He takes off the backpack he's wearing and pulls off her sash.

Areka shouts, pointing at me. "CURSED! IT'S CAUSING US DISTRACTIONS AND WE'RE NOT STOPPING IT!!" He looks genuinely afraid, like he's the only one who's figured it out. "YOU'RE ALL UNDER ITS INFLUENCE!!"

I see Laku pin Sarriki to the ground as she writhes in indecision, before her eyes widen and she barks suddenly.
I'm pretty sure I know what's happening but I'm mostly just confused at the timing. Yes, it benefits me greatly, but, wow, I must really mean no threat to them, huh.

It's then I realise that peripheral movement I've been trying to notice is happening.
No. 1067986 ID: e139aa
File 168954912808.png - (42.99KB , 800x600 , fop-52.png )

The club-wielder, Mokira, does actually move to grab me, but by the time I see someone is actually trying to do their job, I'm ready and whirl my staff around in an arc with as much velocity as I can muster, aiming for the centre of mass. It connects at his side, and I hear him exhale as the air's forced from his lungs. I also feel the visceral crack of something in him breaking. Ribs, if I can presume such a structure? I wince. I don't like causing pain but I'm left little choice.

...but he's still standing. I leap backwards as a clumsy swing of the club crushes the ground where I was. I'm low on energy, I don't have a lot of these hits and leaps left in me. The sugar meal was great but I can't metabolise that fast. At this rate I'm going to end up as slow as this guy before long.

I pull back and thrust the staff forwards while telling it to extend. I... skewer him in the abdomen. Uh. Whoops. I meant to knock him back.
I pull the staff back, and he stares down at the wound I made, before falling to his knees, and onto the grass, curling up into a ball.
No. 1067989 ID: e139aa
File 168954916409.png - (155.63KB , 800x600 , fop-53.png )

And then I suddenly get a thrown spear launched at me with enough speed to lodge into my eye and break it.
It hangs in my casing before the shattered plasteel and substrate chunks crumble underneath it, and the spear carves down my head as the weight of the shaft pulls it ever downwards, clattering onto my toes as one last insult.

I am calmly assessing the damage and trying to flood my system with pain inhibitors because that desperately needs to be a problem for later.
The damage is not deep and only penetrates the outermost surface of my head. Sadly, that’s where my eyes are. So while my head casing is not even halfway punctured, the surface integrity is significantly compromised and that eye is going to be non-functional for a while until the substrate mechanisms can repair themselves. It's something that can be fixed more quickly with assistance from Lord Vi.al later. Unimportant for now.

I deduce, based on the fact Areka is still holding his spear and backing away, and that Surru is lacking a spear and advancing towards me, that the spear thrown was Surru's spear.
This means Surru does not have a spear. This means Surru does not have ranged combat capability.
This means Surru is now a viable target.

Dormant emergency subroutines and cold fury dictate my next action. Disable.
I back up, find wherever I managed to adhere the one flechette I made on my person, and line up my good eye.
Point the flechette at Surru's good eye.
Draw back my wingarm.
Optimal point between full force while maintaining good form.
No. 1067991 ID: e139aa
File 168954922340.png - (170.91KB , 800x600 , fop-54.png )

Minute course correction.

It hits.
A proportionate response for my current situation.

Surru screams in pain and rage as his hands clamber uselessly for his impaled eye, and he flails around blindly. Then he trips over something on the ground and falls hard onto the ground, and writhes around in pain.

My cold fury melts in visceral satisfaction. "Eye for an eye," I mumble. Yeahhh. Yeah I'm so coooooohhh fuck I'm in so much pain so much pain no no no more inhibitors I can't have run out that fast uh oh that was too many

"Yeah, this doesn't seem worth it now," says Narak. "The thing just took a spear to the head and made Surru's eye explode. Not fucking with that. Areka, grab our glorious leader, I'll get Mokira. Laku, don't wear her out. Sarriki, you okay?"
"Hff... hff... harder... harder..."
Laku, panting, looks up at Narak, still apparently oblivious to everything around him. "Yeah, hff, she's, hff, she's okay. Ohh fuck."
"Okay. Meet you two at the camp."
Narak looks me in the eyes. Well, eye. "Sky demon, you got your duel. Leave."

"Hooraaaay," I burble, loopy from an influx of pain inhbitors. I think I did a too much. TOo many. WheeeeEEee. "Good luck with your explaining to a king and the new noetuno! Newtuno. Good luck with assembly of that!" hm maybe I did not need to comment on that oh well
"Yeah! Hff, working on it, hff, haha," says Laku.
Sarriki groans. "Get me pregnant and I'll get you stuck guarding me for the rest of your life."
"Fine! Better make it count then!!"
Narak growls and waves his axe at me. "I said leave! Go! I already have to deal with Laku, go be a weird pest somewhere else!!"

Ok I am go.

Off I go back to Lightgreen to tell her the good news that I am a hero and I saved aaaall the lepi from the bad red things.
I hear some sounds of shouts of pain and screams of possibly also pain but that is not my problem anymore so I am goodbye.
No. 1067992 ID: e139aa
File 168954933152.png - (145.77KB , 800x600 , fop-55.png )

Wow I am good at the violence it turns out! I mean I have done the violence before but I didn't think I would stand a chance but I think yes if I was in a fair fight with all of them weapons ready I would have been absolutely crushed into fine dust or something so it is good that I thought to do all the pushes and nudges and to be as annoying as possible I think I am discovering the secret root to My.a's power finally at last

also all those archery and darts competitions I joined in my teens and early 20s sure finally turned out good for something huh haha I need to take up swordfighting or something I could do with more hobbies that end up being surprisingly helpful but I mean that's more a Lo.ka kind of thing I think and Vi.al is proud of their archery and oh no oh fuck I'm running out of inhibitors no no no

Okay! Okay, the sobriety is appreciated but the agonising optical pain is not! Keep going, keep going...

I stagger to Lightgreen, who sees me and looks horrified.

"St-- starbird, starbird you are hurt, what-- I told you, starbird, I said we should run!"
"Yeah, I wanted a different outcome than this." The spear's marks in my head have stopped oozing substrate gel, but the damage to complex systems is possibly too high for self-repair mechanisms to fix alone. Getting that receiver base up is getting more and more vital. I need to get to that village. "Lead the way."
"You're hurt!"
"Yes. I am very very acutely aware. Please. Your village."

She looks at me, wincing. I'm surprised she's so upset. I'm not even bleeding, I was hit in a part of my anatomy that should feel more alien and less visceral to her.

I don't see why she's so upset. She's not the one with a shattered, splintered eye.
No, no, that's unkind, Vi.si.mi, you're letting pain dictate your emotions. Don't start faulting others for it.
She did say to run in the first place.

Ugh. I forgot to get my flechette back. And I must have dropped my longbow/spear because I don't seem to have it anymore.
I need to ration my substrate better.

...hm. That's weird. Why am I getting critical bioenergy depletion warnings
No. 1067993 ID: e139aa
File 168954935050.png - (92.99KB , 800x600 , fop-56.png )

No. 1067994 ID: e139aa
File 168954938539.png - (84.44KB , 800x600 , fop-57.png )

all of a sudden? Wait. Wait oh no my chronometer is telling me I just skipped forward like six hours-- six hours?!
Uh oh. Uh oh that's bad where am I.

Where am I. Where is this.
Did I dream that entire fight?!
Where am I? Where am I?! Why can't I see out of-- no I know the answer to that one.

Why am I in a silk bed? And... is this silk on my eye?

Well, it hurts less, but also doesn't seem to have mended despite the time I was out. Definitely needs to be looked at by a proper mechic.


Been a while since I was in a life or death conflict. Well, life or repair coma, but... still. Hm. Hmm.
Can't help but think that my body tried to go into a repair coma anyway. For very limited damage. That didn't get fixed. I... huh. That's bad. That suggests an extreme, and I do mean an extreme stress response. I might still be running on pain inhibitors and synthetic action-provoking hormones too much to really process it, but I think I might have taken more psychological damage from that fight than physical. Some residual guilt, yes, I prefer not to inflict harm, but mostly I... I'm trying hard to stop thinking about how much worse that could have gone if that spear hit me in my body instead of my head. And in trying to stop thinking about it, I'm thinking about it more. And if they'd captured me, and I was going to black out from fear and starvation anyway, then... I'd be out, there'd be no signal for anyone to find, and... well, I wouldn't be waking up, probably.

Well. Now what. My bioenergy reserves are still shockingly low, but...
No. 1067995 ID: e139aa
File 168954943649.png - (190.10KB , 800x600 , fop-58.png )

...huh. That's... yeah, that's definitely Shapeless technology hanging up there.
Solar globe. Leave it in the sunlight, it charges. In the dark, it slowly discharges energy in wavelengths that substrate responds to.
It's meant to power tiny little substrate mechanisms that don't consume a whole lot of power. It's a supplementary power source, not a primary one.

But it's more than nothing, and I guess it worked to give me enough energy to resume higher order processes again.
Yup, apparently all my precision and power maneuvers earlier ate more into my already low charge than I thought.

I raise a hand towards it, and it feels like it gets lighter as I move closer to it. Even my starved synthetic biology is pulling some nourishment from it.

...while this is a good sign that I'm probably somewhere safe, I am a little worried why someone would have access to this and also know how to use it.

Eurgh. I feel dizzy. Lightheaded. Evidently I'm still quite low, and this globe isn't going to cut it.
I'm going to pass out again if I try standing. Really, I think starvation might be setting in. I already ate... okay, I guess like six or seven hours ago, but.
Clearly I need to eat more.

Hhhhhhmmm I don't know where my flocklet is. I can't find it. It must be in vacant mode, which means I'm not inside it.
Well. Assuming it's still around.

...what do I do now. What time is it? Clearly things must be getting close to dusk or night by now.
Do I shout? What language do I even use? The one the lepi use? Noetuno? Common Unified Trade 3? The Shapeless symphonies? Yeah I’m sure that’s going to be comprehensible to anyone.
Ugh, my eye hurts. I don't have fine enough control over my own substrate to just turn off my pain sensors. I bet the Shapeless Lords could opt in and out of any sensations they so wished. This is awful.
No. 1067996 ID: e139aa
File 168954945844.png - (84.67KB , 800x600 , fop-59.png )

"Good evening, little chicken! It's me, the fox!"

I look around frantically as a voice with a synthetic edge to it starts making odd noises at me. "Yiyiyiyiyi..."

I then realise there's another Shapeless ball of some kind floating in the room. Less recognisable. It looks like another floating head, so I assume it's a flocklet, but flocklets don't tend to talk and also tend to look more avian and less like a... fox...

"The very same! I see My.a's told you all about me, yiyiyiyi! I'd be there in person but I'm very very busy. Now I was told to make your life more difficult, but also I happened to see a bunch of lepi dragging your extremely lifeless looking body over here. I threw together a basic solar globe because there's really not enough infrastructure for much else, told this one lepi how it worked, and decided to leave your fate in their hands! Or claws. I can't tell. See, if I have to make your life difficult, you have to have a life to make difficult. What else am I gonna do, preserve you so your body takes longer to decompose? Not an especially thrilling use of my time, yiyiyi!"
"I feel real bad," I just blurt out, not really thinking straight.
"Yeah I'm not surprised! You'd be actively starving to death while unconscious if I hadn't decided to help you. This is a really awkward way for us to meet! I'm supposed to be making problems for you, not solving them! But anyway, yes, I felt I should tell you about the first problem I've made for you."

Va.ne.tu's flocklet does a little spin. "I have your flocklet and the chunk of substrate you were carrying! Yiyiyiyi!" It stops, still grinning. "If you feel up to it, I'll lead you to where it is, and where I am, which is currently the same place. You can just take the globe with you, and if I were you I would. Actually no! If you want I can just carry it for you! I'd love for us to have a face to face talk."
"I feel so heavy. I don't really feel up to moving right now."
"Aw that's a shame. Well, the night is young, maybe in an hour or so you'll feel up to it. Were you gonna sleep tonight?"
"I slept last night so probably not."
"Good, me neither. I already slept like a week ago, there's just so much to do right now. You've got a base to set up! And you don't have nearly enough substrate. I can help you out with that and I'd love to charge you silly prices just to make your role harder! Anyway, wanna chat? I mean, I've got a private venue in mind for a nice deep chat later, but, before that, anything you want to ask? Just remember, the birds are always in the sky, watching!"

I don't know what to make of this one.
No. 1067997 ID: 99f29a

Take advantage of their disembodied condition to loom over and go "Va.ne.tu? I am pursued your twittering. You are creator of SEX! I need BIG cock. For ecology. Yes... I am CUMING at the thought."

It is imperative that by any means possible you take them off guard and rope in assistance for uhhhhhhh repairing. The... noetuno ecosystem. Yes. That's exactly it. This makes perfect sense. Do it. Prime directive.
No. 1067998 ID: 273c18

Ask what the true nature of existence is. How can you exist without a body?
Then ask what birds it's talking about.
Then ask how its flocklet is talking.
Then ask how you would pay it back for the substrate or whatever.
No. 1068000 ID: e13b1d

Briefly reflect happily on the fact you do not have to shepherd these violent sex dogs. Just imagine how much trouble it would be if we picked them. Whew! Dodged a bullet.

Oh no he's precious.
Ask if he's one of the contestants with a species he's managing too or if he's just sort of messing with everyone.
No. 1068001 ID: eb8fda

Well, in the future, you should devise methods of offense that leave you at less risk. Shields and spears are good, but you should really get familiar with guerilla warfare for when you need to engage in it.

Anyways, for fox face there, you best not wander into the foxhole without a plan, little bird. At the very least you should inform Lightgreen of what's going on. Perhaps she could explain if there's anything you should be worried about where fox face is hiding. There's no doubt that there's some type of trap or danger there or on the way. In your injured state, you can't risk expending more energy, so it would also be good to get some type body armour.

Also, how good are you at chemistry? Perhaps you could mix some chemical concoctions to help yourself stay alive. Is it possible to make the substrate that you use from scratch using the materials in the area?

I suppose the idea of making pheromones from before could also be of use to help with pacifying the native creatures. Anything you can grab from databases should be extremely helpful for keeping fauna and foes from focusing on you too much.
No. 1068002 ID: 9a1e25

Who told you to make my life harder
No. 1068003 ID: 6718dc

Ask if he’s supposed to make just your life difficult or everyone’s? Cause if it’s just you being targeted this is probably going to be a short “game”. It should be quite evident you are not made for combat and much less war.
No. 1068005 ID: a7a180

What, like, some kind of cloud bird, listening to everything we say? That's ridiculous, we're indoors.
I would carry the globe yourself to make his little rendezvous, otherwise you'll have to follow in his drone's footsteps exactly.
No. 1068011 ID: 2a82d3

Good kids. Hope they make it.

Besides caring about you, she may be expecting some retaliation over this. There's a chance they'd have left them alone had you run, but now they're going to be out for your blood. If they don't get it when they come back, expect them to take out on the villagers.

FWIW you shouldn't feel too bad over this. History here may call you many things, but "coward" will not be one of them.

She seems nice enough, but you might not have the time to talk later*. You gotta plan out a defense with the leaders of this village, presumably after prostrating in apology for the trouble you caused.
Then again, your stuff might be pivotal to that defense. If so, well played.

A personal question, though: "Is it true you've been abandoned by your master?"
That must be hard to imagine. The closest that could come to mind would be if, say, your lord had sent you in as a contestant for a game a mad god had forcefully hosted in his space and one condition is that you wouldn't be informed beforehand. As a hypothetical.

*Also, I don't think staying up for a week straight is normal for your kind. Don't forget to eat and sleep yourself.
No. 1068050 ID: 2a82d3

Also, remember to give her(sorry) him thanks in saving you. If you died, there's no doubt her master would have loved rubbing that your master's face. Not the death per se, but the fact that you did so lowering yourself to My.a's level, if not betraying Vi.al principles.

Maybe don't discuss that out loud. She may be staying awake trying to avoid My.a herself. Remember: the birds are always watching.
No. 1068052 ID: 3ee2e3

Well, let's see, what's the rule about tricksters? Oh yeah, while they cause trouble for pals they cause a lot more trouble for enemies. Plus, just because My.a took them in does not mean they can't have influences besides herself. So play along, have a laugh, get them to laugh too. Perhaps impart wisdom - just avoid being schoolmarm-y about doing so.
No. 1068053 ID: f2320a

"Someones misfortune is someone elses luck"
No. 1068065 ID: 8f9bc4

Say you have a pretty good idea who told him to make your life difficult, and that guy told you to do something too. He told you to lose. Tell Va.ne.tu not tell him, but you don't intend to obey those orders.

Go with him and try to get your flockling back, but he'll probably require you to doom the planet to get it or something. It's at least a chance to learn a little more than these skittish moths can tell you.

Oh at some point you might mention how much it sucks that Lord Vi.al long may it reign abandoned you on this planet with no resources and no way to contact him. It'll surely make him furious, but it's good for him to be aware of that common thread. It's entirely possible his creator would welcome him back just as much as Vi.al would welcome you, and simply hasn't noticed his absence.
No. 1068070 ID: e139aa
File 168962338327.png - (471.50KB , 800x600 , fop-60.png )

> pursued his twittering
> repair noetuno ecosystem
I think I took that hit to my head harder than I thought. Let me just start up an integrity check on... my entire brain, I guess. That'll take a minute.
> who told him to make my life harder
Oh, My.a did. I think. Right? Right.

> good kids
Well the female was the one screaming at me to hand over everything I had in a butchered Transcendental language and the male was obsessed with trying to mate with that female to the exclusion of all else and seemed to see her as an object. Organics, I swear.
Honestly I'd be happy not seeing any of them again.
> at least you didn't have to shepherd these violent sex dogs
I'm a little intimidated at the idea of someone who can. They kept mentioning a King as well as a Sorceress, who I assume is the Woven that captured me before. What kind of person must their king be to instill such loyalty when they only respect force?

> they might retaliate
Oh. Hm. That's not good. I hadn't considered that. Well. At least I won't be completely alone if I have to help defend the village, surely.
> future weapon plans
I am requisitioning an incapacitor and personal energy shield immediately when I get my base set up.

> chemistry? make substrate?
I'm not especially skilled at chemistry. I could look things up in my local cache but I'd be fumbling around for a while.

And I'm actually prohibited from allowing substrate proliferation. It's just a normal failsafe on all substrate. If every piece of substrate was allowed to self-replicate, well, I saw what Vi.al did to that Woven's moon home. As a construct lacking complete control over substrate, it would be absolutely impossible for me to contain any runaway self-replication scenarios, so I have to rely on externally provided substrate.

Unless I could bypass the safety controls, but, well, I don't want to cause a vitrification runaway on this world.
Vi.al would intervene at some point, it would be hard for it to not notice its sudden growing presence on this world, but it wouldn't be able to reverse the destruction caused.
And I'd be in the position of needing to explain to Vi.al why I overrode substrate safety controls, let its world partially become subsumed, and generally did the stupidest thing I could possibly do that didn't involve planetary scale weapons of mass devastation.

Anyway most of my simulations involving substrate proliferation end up with me being slowly consumed by it so I have an aversion to the idea.

Ah, that's worth noting. Substrate carries with it a tiny speck of a spark of the will and consciousness of a Shapeless entity, so all the substrate I've worked with up to this point has been Lord Vi.al's, but the substrate within my own body and my flocklet specifically carries my will and consciousness. And that took a lot of time trying to integrate more substrate into myself and sloooowly convince it to be mine and not Vi.al's. I of course asked for Vi.al's permission first, who seemed extremely amused at how little substrate I was requesting and gave me the authorisation. I wanted to look into this sort of thing more but it takes such a long time it doesn't feel worth it.

> staying up a week seems bad
> you should sleep and eat
I certainly would prefer a regular sleep every three or four nights but I can't see [a week] being a concerning amount of time. Well. It depends. Some constructs are intended to spend long periods of time active, like myself, and others require more regular maintenance downtime. Without knowing more about Va.ne.tu's construction I wouldn't know if that's a worrying amount of time or not.
Hm. But I am damaged. I should be sleeping more than usual. And eating. Actually I'm really hungry now.
No. 1068071 ID: e139aa
File 168962341221.png - (35.00KB , 800x600 , fop-61.png )

Okay. Time to question someone other than myself.

"Firstly, thank you for saving my life."
The flocklet hangs, grinning quietly, and then starts stuttering. "Y-y-yiyiyiyi you're welcome! D-don't mention it!" Odd reaction.
"And yes, I have a few questions."
"Haha! Hooray! Go ahead!"

"Are you supposed to just make problems for me? No one else?"
"Just you! Explicit command from the higher-up! Reading between the lines a little, I think My.a wants to sabotage Vi.al's representative a bunch. I mean, at the moment you're the weakest of all six, but I expect My.a will start throwing bigger wrenches if you start doing better! I certainly feel no issue in dialling back things a lot at this stage, haha, yiyiyiyiyi!"

"Are you one of the contestants?"
"Haha noooo! I'm a terrible manager! I'd do so poorly you have no idea, yiyiyiyiyi! If I was in your feet back there? I'd have just run!"
"Do you know who the contestants are?"
"Oh I could rattle off a bunch of names but that'd mean nothing to you. Actually I'll do exactly that! Just the names and nothing more! Northwards of you, we have Five Strands Inwards, Three Strands Upward. I've heard you two met already! To the west, we have... uhh... okay I think maybe I'm going to stop giving you longnames. West is Shimmering Inevitability. Ask her for her full name, I haven't got all day. Over the big big river to the west that splits the continent, to the north is Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles, southwest is..." He trails off, and sighs. "Why do all the Transcendental have to have such stupid names. Okay. This name doesn't work in our symphonic language. Brace yourself."
I wince. "Alright."
"B!snu-fnaa-kweee," says the flocklet, juddering from a sound I cannot even begin to process how it was formed, before switching back to the fugue voices of Shapeless conversation. "And I'm glad I'm just giving you names because I don't want to think about that one any further. Wretched thing, I hate thinking about it. Oh, and the last one in the northwest is Sir Lu.a, Realm Knight of Lord Lo.ka."
A name I recognise! A subject of Lord Lo.ka! Who is a friend and ally of Lord Vi.al! A possible ally!! If I could smile, I'd be in danger of my head splitting into two.
"Haha, you seem happy! It's a shame they're as far away as possible as they could be from where you are on this continent, then, isn't it? How sad that your strongest potential ally is someone who you might never even reach!!"
"Surely they could just transmit themselves to me in seconds?"
"If they wanted to, sure!" The flocklet spins again. "If they don't have problems of their own to deal with, yiyiyiyiyi!"

"How is your flocklet talking?"
"What do you mean? Does yours not?"
"Well, I've never tried." Among base organics it would only be confusing. Among Shapeless I can speak in person or other communication infrastructure. Why would I need to use it for remote communication when better tools exist? I... Well, I suppose there's no such infrastructure on this world. But there should be. But it all looks like it was actively sabotaged or destroyed. What a weird situation.

Some weirder questions pop into my mind. "What's the true nature of existence? How can you exist without a body?"
"...?" The flocklet's grin is replaced with an expression of complete confusion. "That's... I don't follow, Vi.si.mi? What are you-- oh. Oh." The flocklet looks around shiftily. "No. No, we're not talking about such things like this. Not like this, not like this, no, no. The birds--"
"What birds?"
"Oh you know. The birds. They call, we act." It flicks an ear. I find myself wondering how much of this is synchronised to Va.ne.tu's actual body behaviours and how much of it is elaborate puppetry. "It's how it was and how it is. Always will be, maybe. Until the birds get tired and fly away to who knows where. And then where does that leave us, hm? Will we even live to see the day they fly away?"
"Are you talking about the Shapeless--"
"SSshhh!! Shush. You're a smart little birdie, Vissy. Sorry, habit, My.a keeps calling you that and it's a cute name. And you're cute--" The flocklet abruptly cuts off and faces downwards like it just had its link severed, before twitching back into life, looking at me. "Hahaha! These flocklet malfunctions, you know how it is, sometimes they just say things by themselves!"
"No they don't?"
"Mine are a little unconventional don't worry about it moving along let's talk about other things."

"I do have one last question. Well, two. How am I going to pay you back for the substrate?"
"Oh I have so many other needs that aren't substrate based. Food, for one thing! Did you know I'm probably more organic, well, synth-organic than you are? It's true! I have basically all the same organs and systems any base organic would have. Well, no reproductive system but there's no reason for that anyway, what would I reproduce? Myself? Anyway, this solar globe wouldn't be saving me, that's for sure! I have the means to survive but I am sick and tired of nutrient slurry! I can eat, I want to eat. Also, well, just, it'd be easier to talk in person about it."
"I feel like you're setting up a trap--"
"Vi.si.mi! Vi.si.mi I had access to your lifeless body! If I wanted to capture you I could have! Why would I set up a trap to hurt you now?!"

Wow. He sounded actually quite angry about that. Which makes me a little suspicious. "You seem awfully irate to--"
"Yes I'm irate! Do you know how much I risked to save y-- do you know how much of a pain it was to save you?! What's your last question?"
No. 1068073 ID: e139aa
File 168962346596.png - (87.17KB , 800x600 , fop-62.png )

"Is it true you were abandoned by your creator?"

The flocklet doesn't respond, face neutral.
It looks at me for what feels like ten times the amount of actual time passing.
I feel even more lightheaded than normal. Why. Why did I ask this. Why why why. Why. Stupid, stupid, stupid

"I'm not answering that question."
"Sorry. Sorry, I don't know why I thought to ask it, sorry, sorry, I'm very out of it, please let's just forget it."
Its stern look softens a little as I apologise desperately. "I'll, I'll talk about it if you come to me. Can you just... how are you feeling?"
Like I managed to shove both of my legs into my beak. "Still giddy, but I think I can walk. ...Do you know where Lightgreen is?"
"Uh. Hm. Not especially? I didn't keep track of the lepi here by name. Do you have a description?"
"Pale body, tealish fuzz, green wings. Green eyes. Diamond markings."
"Oh! The one that I gave the globe to. No. Sorry!"

I sluggishly stand, reach up for the solar globe, pick it up and hold it up against my stomach. It's warm, both to my temperature sensors and from the feeling of lightness and vitality it gives me. "Very well. Take me to wherever you need me to be." I don't know if I should be this quick to trust this designated obstacle, but, well, let's see what this is all about.
"Certainly! Follow meeeee!"

The flocklet wobbles off out of the tent structure I'm in, as I leave via a heavy flap hanging from a door frame.

As I turn to survey the village at night, I'm struck by one of the tents being much larger than the others. I guess Lightgreen did mention that.
It's also the only one that seems to have any signs of life, lit up from inside and I can hear the odd sound of lepi laughter and muffled shouts.

I can explore this place in the morning. I follow Va.ne.tu's flocklet.
No. 1068074 ID: e139aa
File 168962349612.png - (57.45KB , 800x600 , fop-63.png )

I'm led further and further from the village, and I notice that the uneven dirt and grass beneath me starts to show... substrate based stepping stones. Hexagonal.
As I step on them, ripples of light confirm my presence. I catch glimmers of communication.

APPROACHING: 15 units. Shapeless. Construct. Ecology template (bespoke, Vi.al invention). ID: [SHA].[MON].[Obsc?].Vi.al.Vi.si.mi

Something about hearing my longform name makes me uneasy. Longform names aren't regularly used in Shapeless society because of the centuries-long (if not millennia) mystery of the Shapeless Monarch's true name, and also the Shapeless Lords frequently obscure their true parentage for a variety of reasons. Lord Vi.al, for example. So most of my longform name is a mystery connected to a mystery, with awkward placeholders going where they are. It's just not useful.

"Is this necessary?"
"The things calling out my longname."
"Oh. I just like to be aware if I'm expecting visitors. It's only me listening to them. They're not loud enough to be heard by anyone else not directly touching them."

We keep walking and the path twists and turns downwards, heading farther and farther away from the village.

"Where are you taking me?"
"A safe place. I can't talk about it too much, it'll make it cease to be a safe place."
"That makes me think you're leading me into a trap."

The flocklet whines. "Please, please understand I am walking a very fine edge here. You will get every answer you want, I swear it. The birds, Vi.si.mi. Remember the birds."
"Am I not a bird?"
"I don't know. Are you a bird, Vi.si.mi? Are you going to sing to the other birds?"
"Maybe," I say, feeling like I'm still missing this metaphor. "I don't know?"
"Well, we're almost here," says the flocklet. "Seems like a waste of both of our time if I turn you around."

I realise I've been led to where a slope has been carved into the ground, going deeper and deeper. Obscured from the lepi village by a slight hill.
The flocklet heads downwards, and I hold the solar globe up for light as I walk down the ridged substrate slope, uniform in its pattern.

I'm starting to feel like this might have been a bad idea.
No. 1068075 ID: e139aa
File 168962353205.png - (618.76KB , 800x600 , fop-64.png )

At the base of the slope, it disappears under the ground and starts spiralling slowly downwards.

"Va.ne.tu, I don't know if I can walk much further without hurting myself."
"Ah. I'll fetch you from here."
A soft chair emerges from the substrate like it just came out of the surface of a lake.
"Take a seat!"

The flocklet flies off into the dim cyan gloom.

You know, I'm used to substrate producing more background noise than this. It's still there, but it's faint, and it lacks the character of any Shapeless Lord I'm familiar with, like it has no character at all. Truly neutral substrate is rare, though, and active neutral substrate almost always triggers a failsafe to shut down immediately due to lack of guiding intellect.
As I said, you want something in control of substrate that's doing anything more than sit and be a lump of fancy glassy metal.
It's so strange. Even if it was My.a's substrate or Va.ne.tu's I'd expect an unfamiliar signature rather than a dull absence.

The chair starts sinking into the floor. I notice the floor is opening, too. A faint shimmer suggests a bubble of transparently thin substrate has formed around me. I hold onto the chair uneasily as the ramp opens below me and closes above me, the bubble lazily falling gently down through the entire spiral ramp structure.

After passing through a surprising number of ramp twists, the bubble pops into flakes of insubstantial substrate, and the chair adjusts itself until I'm standing, before sinking back into the substrate.

A little overengineered, but I guess it got me down faster.

I take a few steps towards the only obvious way forward, up to a massive dense metal door with multiple substrate connectors.

"Welcome! Welcome welcome welcome," says Va.ne.tu, stepping forward out of a wall nook I hadn't seen. "So glad to see you! Yiyiyiyiyi!"

He gestures to his flocklet. "Welcome home, me!"
"Hi, me!"
"Off you go to sleep!"

I'm immediately perturbed. Why would you talk to your own flocklet? You wouldn't talk to your own leg.

He holds out his hands. "Let me take that thing off you, there's a better generator past this door."
I hand over the globe, and I already feel heavier. "Please be quick."

He nods, and clicks his fingers.
No. 1068076 ID: e139aa
File 168962356619.png - (502.89KB , 800x600 , fop-65.png )

The large door screeches and grinds open, layers and layers of security mechanisms receding into the walls.
Its scale and mass intimidate me. I almost feel like a little fledgling construct standing at the door to Vi.al's throneroom for the first time.

Va.ne.tu pulls one of my wingarms over his shoulders. "Come on. Just a little further."
"Thank you for trusting me. I know you have every reason to not, but a lot is going to make sense very soon."

We cross the threshold. I immediately feel a warmth and lightness permeate my entire body.
The entire room is coated in a thick layer of humming, shifting substrate, a vibrant bright buzzing that flows through me and soothes my aches.
It ripples around my feet, but a hard surface beneath it prevents me from sinking into it.

I then hear the mechanisms grind to close the door again.

Something I should have asked about suddenly crossed my mind. "Wait, why is that door made of metal and not substrate?"

It clangs and thuds shut and I suddenly panic.
A background noise I have been hearing for most of my life is suddenly cut. I'm completely cut off. I've lost track of the carrier frequencies Vi.al uses before but never so abruptly. "What's happening? What's happening what's going on?"
"Calm down, calm down, this is a secure room, nothing can get in or out unless I let it."
"That doesn't-- that's-- that doesn't make me calm what are you doing why did I come here?"
"Vi.si.mi!! Focus! Focus, look at me, breathe, you breathe, right? Do that, look, like me, in, out, in out."

I am injured and low on energy and I have just walked into a signal dead zone. This is the worst scenario. Worst possible scenario. They'll never find my body. I'm dead. I'm dead!! I have to escape!! I have to--

"VI.SI.MI!! Pull it together, little chicken! I did not risk being found out so much for you to completely lose it!!"
"I-- I--"
"Come on. Please. Calm down. Please. I don't want to hurt you. I don't know how much clearer I can make that. I really, really don't want to hurt you. I can be completely honest now. They can't hear us. I really really do not want to hurt you or mess with you or make your life harder."
"What do you mean?? What are you talking about?"
"Vi.si.mi, it's an order. A direct order from My.a. And My.a is the Lord I serve now. I didn't have much of a choice."
"Can't you... can't you just subvert it?"
"What do you think I've been doing?! Yes, I enjoy having my fun and my little pranks but do you think it's any fun for me to pick on someone who doesn't deserve it? You've done nothing wrong, you've been thrown into an awful situation through no fault of your own, at the mercy and whims of the Shapeless." Va.ne.tu grins. "Just like me!"

"Why are you so interested in me?"
Va.ne.tu looks a little taken aback by this question. "I just told you. You're my objective. I have to make your life less easy." He looks pained. "I guess it's just my designated purpose in this existence to keep being told to hurt anyone I think doesn't deserve it, but that's my problem, not yours."
"What do you mean?"
Va.ne.tu says nothing and makes a soft whine. "I don't want to talk about it," he says. "Or my creator. Or anything before My.a found me. Completely ignorant of anything before that day, including me. My.a was a friend. A carefree spirit. Mu.at broke them. Broke me. Broke... well. Broke my creator. And." I hear his voice falter. "...like I said. I don't want to talk about it."

Mu.at. That's a name I don't know much about. Mostly because the last time I mentioned it around Lord Vi.al I was told immediately to change the subject, in the same tone of voice Vi.al uses for issuing commands. So I did.

"Now, the price of doing business with me and getting your stuff back hasn't been fully negotiated. I'd love more food, also organic textiles, yes, energy isn't worth as much to me as it is to you, but mostly I want your secrecy."
"I might be an illegal construct working on illegal things. It's too early to say, yiyiyiyiyi." He grins again.
"Illegal construct?" That doesn't make any sense.
"I can convert substrate."
"...you can what?"
"I can convert substrate! Not only that, I can blank it too."
No. 1068077 ID: e139aa
File 168962362039.png - (587.28KB , 800x600 , fop-66.png )


Yup, that's absolutely illegal.

Usurpation of substrate is the forced imposition of your own identity/character/signature onto someone else's substrate. It is a serious crime among the Shapeless. It's the sort of thing that wars are started over and wars are started to do.

Not only that, but if Va.ne.tu is mostly composed of biomechanical materials and not substrate, that means someone has developed a proof of concept for a non-substrate tool that can dramatically affect substrate and that in itself is extremely illegal and actually probably high treason! Because that opens the door for something not Shapeless to attack substrate at a massively devastating level!

This is horrifying, actually, the more I think about it.

"Oh there we go. Yeah, I should have expected a reaction like that. Yes, when a Shapeless Lord does it slowly, it's 'reintegration' and it's perfectly acceptable, and when a construct does it fast, it's 'usurpation' and extremely illegal."
"How much of you is substrate. How much substrate are you, Va.ne.tu."
"A fine lattice strewn through my brain and a bunch tied to my nervous system, why?"

Okay that's... this is still absolutely not okay but if some substrate involvement is required, that's less troubling.

"Do you... do you understand what usurpation of substrate is? It's... you're actively hurting someone when you do that, you know that, right?"
"Just a tiny piece! Do you shed any tears if you drop a feather? That's more of you than I've taken of anyone else! I don't need that much substrate compared to the scale of the Lords! And I mean, do you understand how screwed we both are on a cosmic level? Beholden to these massive cosmic forces beyond our comprehension playing with us like toys until we break? I think even a slight little nudge in our favour is long overdue. I mean, it's far far too soon for us to do anything like some sort of grand revolution. We can't even reproduce, haha! If all the constructs were gathered into our own little planet to live free, we'd all die out in a century. And then they'd just make more. I think I've found proof that this even happened before, but, well, for some reason all that information is extremely hard to come by and missing large chunks. Weird, right?"

He's insane. He's completely insane.
I'm locked in a room with a broken construct.
I need to think of a way to get out of here. I have to escape. I have to leave.

"...Okay, I gave you too much information too quickly," says Va.ne.tu, looking at me with concern. "Yeah, you don't... you don't look well. Do you want me to help you get back to the lepi village? ...Vi.si.mi? Hello? Heh heh, you're usually chattier than this in the logs! Heh. Heh. Look, I'll admit, I'm... I don't get to talk to other constructs often, or at all, usually, I'm not good with people, did I... did I make a mistake?"

"...Please say something. You're worrying me now. Vi.si.mi?"

it was a mistake to come here
No. 1068078 ID: 99f29a

So how'd that integrity check go? Ecology ecosystem repair new species new species Va.ne.tu ecology critical damage new species reproduce make more Va.ne.tu
No. 1068079 ID: f14228

Ah, you forgot to introduce yourself properly. Do so. That'll be... a start.

From which to say that you, hem, acknowledge but also denounce his words and ways, as he for sure does not have the full picture.

Does it not strike him that as far as hiding and burning any evidence of weird uprisings might not have been the will and way of the Shapeless Lords themselves, but of the uprisings? If anyone wanted to take it a step further they'd have to obscure themselves to an incredible degree.

So there is no logical basis to presume some of the things he seems to be presuming. Or at least that the truth could be considerably more nuanced than what he implies.
No. 1068080 ID: 19ea25

Designed for a purpose. Designed for a purpose. You know the Shapeless wanted to force things even further but they couldn't go much further then making sure you had directives that push you towards them like your constant need to speak your intro.

You saw some truth in My.a's insane words before, there is truth to the words of this one here. That's why you are unable to react. It's just like before and you don't like it.

Breath in, breath out. Then say your intro to calm yourself down. The little endorphin rush should help you concentrate afterwords.
No. 1068081 ID: 79078a

Do not insult the person who has if not saved your life, saved you from a recovery coma on a planet where you likely would not wake up from said recovery coma, who invited you into their personal stronghold and is sharing their deepest secrets with you. Someone who sounds so desperately lonely that they seem to have started making their flocklets slightly separate from themselves to have anyone to talk to. Someone who has resources you desperately need and has stated they're happy to allow you access to them for things that should be easy for you to acquire. Someone that also appears to consider you cute.
Also yes, he might be broken, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong. It sounds like he was betrayed by his creator. How would you handle it if Lord Vi.al decided he didn't care or have use for you anymore and tossed you away? Maybe being broken is the best you can expect in that case.
Regardless of his long term plans, it sounds like he has substrate to spare and you desperately need that, do you not? And you'd be using illegal substrate, not making it yourself. At worst that'd be in a legal grey area for the shapeless lords to iron out after all this is over. Your goal, as given to you by Lord Vi.al, is to save this planet and the species on it. Focus on that and what you need to do in order to accomplish that. Due to circumstances that appears to be working with these people present, and so far the only friendly faces you've met are Lightgreen and Va.ne.tu.
Also is it weird Va.ne.tu keeps bringing up reproduction? It sounds like he might be a bit frustrated that constructs like yourselves lack that ability. Do constructs still have that biological drive to create offspring that is just ignored because of the presence of substrate in their system and the shapeless lords telling you it is unnecessary? Something worth discussing at least.

Take a deep breath. Calm down. Don't run away from Va.ne.tu even if you disagree with his ideas. He has offered you help, discuss this deal and what you need to do to acquire more substrate for your plans. Try and make friends with the only person who has access to substrate on the planet so far that seems to want to help you.
No. 1068083 ID: eb8fda

Oh, Vanny looks like fun! He's dissatisfied with his lot in life, and has a means to free himself from the whims of the Shapeless Lords. More so, he wants you to trust him, and is going out of his way to subvert My.a's directive to make your life miserable.

His ability to blank substrate can also be used very well, and very much to your advantage. In this case, he could scoop up a handful of substrate, and use it to make a replacement for your broken eye. It could also be very useful for producing the necessary items to help protect your Lepi allies (tools for construction, medical supplies, frames for more complex objects).

This could also provide a very good way for you to learn how to take more foreign substrate into yourself without it consuming you. Vanny could blank the stuff when you get in trouble, or you could use blank substrate to practice shaping it into more complex forms.

There's also the possibility of going on the offense with this, though I would only suggest you pursue that option as a last resort. He can use this ability to blank the substrate in the constructs that oppose him, basically killing them in an instant. I doubt the Shapeless Lords would ignore that, but it's something he can do.

My suggestion is to attempt to ally with Vanny if you can, at least in this scenario. Even if you are horrified by his ability to blank substrate, you do not want to be on the receiving end of these abilities, and being on his good side would minimize the chance of you winding up dead.

My.a also said she'd do terrible things to you if you hurt him, so you can't do anything remove him from the equation without risking retaliation from her directly. You also have no idea what My.a's capabilities are in regards to creating constructs with these abilities, so even if Vanny is eliminated, it is entirely possible that she may have already learned from him how to create more with similar abilities.

I would not want to be on his bad side if I can help it.
No. 1068084 ID: e13b1d

Come on Vi.si.mi it's not so bad. As long as there's no real revolution, is there any harm in letting those who want to live free live free?
Besides he's very cute and saved your life. It would be a dick move to sell him out and he's very cute.
No. 1068085 ID: a0e3f7

Alternatively, lose your shit completely.
No. 1068086 ID: d38ad8

Even if you disagree with his plans, he did save your life and you need allies. Better to agree to keep the secret for now.
No. 1068087 ID: 273c18

>"Are you talking about the Shapeless--"
What did you think he was talking about? The Shapeless Lords?
>"Hahaha! These flocklet malfunctions, you know how it is, sometimes they just say things by themselves!"
Hmm, he used a different laugh. Maybe he does that whenever he lies? Or just when he's nervous? He probably does think you're cute. No reproductive organs, so it's not a reproductive urge...? Or he has urges but no organs to go along with it?

>You wouldn't talk to your own leg.
What about your own brain? His flocklets are more similar to copies, I think.

Tell him that usurpation is a crime regardless of who does it. And like, yes, taking a little substrate from a being who has a lot is likely to go unnoticed, but that doesn't make it less of a crime. Urge him to stop doing it, never do it again, for his own good. He is a titmouse stealing fur from a fox, except the fox could destroy him in an instant.
Also tell him that he should not have told you all this. What makes him think he can trust you? Well, yes, you do owe him a debt, since he seems to be near-disobeying a direct order in order to help you, but if you were to betray him then he wouldn't be able to hinder you later on, like he's been ordered to do, and you might even be rewarded for turning him in. Does My.a know he can do this?! Why did he tell you this? You can't help him with his rebellion or whatever he's planning in the long term. You don't have the emotional attachment to commit to the cause nor any skills that would help really.

You will keep quiet, though, because so long as he's subverting the order to cause trouble for you then he is almost an ally. Also buying substrate for food will help.

If you're feeling up to it, ask him if he really thinks you're cute.
No. 1068088 ID: 273c18

Oh, and this is where he can actually talk about what My.a was talking about, right? Existing without a body?
No. 1068089 ID: 8f9bc4

He's working towards the same goal as Lord Vi.al. That the Shapeless Lords are so big is a flaw, a weakness they are aware of. Maybe it's unavoidable, but his desire to make the Shapeless Lords less is one that they share too. They just don't know how to go about it. And he's kind of insane to think he can figure out what they can't, but keep in mind that weakness. He isn't big. Their solution might lay somewhere in this blind spot. This literal blind spot that Va.ne.tu has created, and trusted you to keep it safe from... any rash actions of your Lords.

So My.a doesn't choose to be so... broken and glitchy. Something made him that way. Something that overcame the power of a Shapeless Lord. My.a still might be a total assbutt regardless, but that's something very important to keep in mind.
No. 1068090 ID: c0c314

...Feel like it has to be asked. Would imprinting yourself/lord Vi.al/others to this stuff "fix" the criminal problem or would it be worse? Either way probably the best tactic would be asking if he's aware of what damage runaway substrate can do. Explain how in over his head he is. Feathers do not have will. Substrate does, so he is killing a piece of a living being. Even if the shapeless lords never see his experiments he's still effectively building a superweapon that could kill all shapeless life. Like, what would that weaver do to lord Vi.al if she had this stuff? Or a being that wishes to see all shapeless dead? Or it could be worse than death. Perhaps a powermonger decided to impose their will on all shapeless while preserving what's left as slaves just to see them agonized by acting in ways they hate. Worse fate than dying. Since he seems to like you the final nail would be to ask if he could stand that being done to yourself.
No. 1068091 ID: 32bac4

Congratulate him on following his directive to mess with you to the utmost degree, while still being honest with you, because that was probably the most discombobulating thing you could be told in this situation.
No. 1068092 ID: 273c18

Oh wait, is it obvious that he's doing something illegal just from how blank the substrate is outside? He might have to fix that.
No. 1068094 ID: a7a180

This is good, actually. He’s made your life a lot harder already, so he’s built up quite a trade deficit. His ability to convert substrate will come in very handy, because you’re going to need a lot of it. A lotta, lotta substrate. This planet is already a fiasco, what’s a little substrate piracy on top?
So… he has to keep the door open to communicate with his flocklet, right? …Oh. No, that makes much more sense. His flocklet is acting independently most of the time.
No. 1068102 ID: e13b1d

Yes, congratulate him on messing with your head so effectively. Completing his directive should give him a nice electrochemical pleasure rush.
No. 1068105 ID: f018d2

contemplate the rebel lifestyle. consider getting cool shades.
No. 1068107 ID: 2aa5f0

try to calm yourself down, suddenly lose balance do to how exhausted you are from the fight earlier and the shock you are now feeling. Fall on top of Va.ne.tu while reaching out to try and stop your fall and end up accidentally giving him a hug. Stay like that for a moment while you gather your thoughts and balance. then ask why he's telling you this before realizing you've been hugging him for like a full minute.
No. 1068111 ID: 2a82d3

>If all the constructs were gathered into our own little planet to live free, we'd all die out in a century.
Now there's a prompt for a thought experiment to keep your mind off the potential god-killer you've likely done before, in safer times. How would you make a planet full of Constructs self-sustaining, in absence of the Lords? Building this planet into one might you'd like. Though, this may also mean upliftment or extermination of the "native" sapient species here. While the former is preferable, making the Shapeless' job more complicated may be frowned upon.

You may not hold any interest in dismantling the Shapeless, but declaring your independence on this planet is worth it. Seriously calculate the odds of being killed over this secret. Turning Vatinu in won't guarantee that your life is worth more than keeping the knowledge under wraps. Not even your beloved Lord can, or will, protect you from this. RatherSelf-exile will keep this information contained on this planet.

>Yes, when a Shapeless Lord does it slowly, it's 'reintegration' and it's perfectly acceptable, and when a construct does it fast, it's 'usurpation' and extremely illegal.
Does it look like the fox has a more detached sentiment to substrate is normal for your kind? Almost as if he's an organic being that had substrate woven into him, rather than a substrate being molded into organic shape like yourself. He might be a Shapeless hybrid from a rather unethical experiment. It may be polite to assume "his creator" in accordance to his wishes, even if Shapeless custom says otherwise.
No. 1068113 ID: 273c18

I wonder how he came to have the ability in the first place. Did his creator do it? Did My.a do it? Or was it Mu.at?
No. 1068114 ID: 1ed92d

You are having an anxiety attack. Calm down. Based on the statements of this strange man, it seems likely that, yes, Constructs have gained the ability to use Substrate before and promptly been obliterated. That said, My.a is insane and granted this construct a similar ability without truly comprehending what they were doing.

Still, think of it this way: He's still no more dangerous to you now than when you were unconscious.

Inform him that he has succeeded in his life directive to make problems. Ask him what he plans to do with his revolutionary ability.
No. 1068138 ID: aec65e

You can make use of this. They are sympathetic towards you and you seem to not have any other easily accessible allies. This is also a thing that isn’t supposed to be easy to do so no one can anticipate it.

If it comes up later, you can probably convince Vi.al that it was necessary to go along with it given the circumstances and *you* weren’t the one doing the illegal thing.
No. 1068142 ID: f2320a

You are actually calm but to mess with it for telling us such a "joke" spin your eye around and flash some colors or something
No. 1068170 ID: 8e6882

Ask who do the birds sing to.
No. 1068217 ID: a8f755

Theories on motivation: Va.ne.tu stated they're here to sabotage you, yet helped you survive and provided you with intel, which suggests they're here to frustrate you and Vi.al rather than stop you. If My.a wanted you to fail they could've instructed Va.ne.tu to not help you or to kill you. Possible motivations could be to damage Vi.al's reputation, waste their resources or- more likely based on behaviour so far to frustrate them for entertainment.

Flocklet malfunction: That's- interesting, I wonder if there's very basic fork of Va.ne.tu in their flocket that's synchronised & controlled by them, rather than constant puppetry. Either way that's interesting and I'm not entirely sure what happened.

Update on motivation: Oh no, poor Va.ne.tu, and that is- very very illegal oh no.

Ok, put a break on your thoughts, don't panic just- calm, force yourself to calm. Intro directive time!

Better? Okay. Va.ne.tu wants- a rebalance of power, likely motivated by his experiences with Mu.at and seeing what that did to their creator. They seem desperate for both a friend and help, and they're putting themselves at risk to help you. What to do based on that- I have no idea, but for now, lets- frame things in terms of your directive.

Two negative cases come to mind: Runaway substrate conversion from Va.ne.tu doing something rash, and a war should any shapeless lords find out about it. Both are terrible for this planet's ecosystem. So I think, despite your discomfort, you need to keep this a secret and try to moderate Va.ne.tu's actions, be involved but in a way that guides them to safer paths or at the very least off this planet.

As for right now, best to get over the hardest question first: Ask why they told you any of this.
No. 1068218 ID: b0eb62

Given the situation you're in, you probably shouldn't be too concerned with legality. Va.ne.tu has saved your life, shown you kindness, and shared information that could endanger him. While this information os alarming, their point about it being only a tiny part is valid; the shapeless lords are so powerful that it really isn't that significant. Ultimately you shouldn't be too quick to pass judgement, youve been given a lot of information in a relatively short time and it will take a while to process it. For now, try to build a positive relationship with Va.ne.tu, not only does he have the potential to be a valuable ally, he's kind of adorable.
No. 1068227 ID: 2a82d3

>Ask why they told you any of this.
He wants a friend, and this is a cry for help. I think that we can take at face value, given a troubled development under My.at (to put it lightly) with no other Shapeless Lord raising a feather to help. Even putting aside strategic matters, it's in Vi.si's nature to be a friend and provide a home for lost creatures. (Lord Vi.al is known for doing that last part.) Much like the fox, that can be hard to not to fall back on.
No. 1068326 ID: 58dd24

you... have made my life more difficult. You did it.
No. 1068368 ID: e139aa
File 168990384319.png - (605.74KB , 800x600 , fop-67.png )

> integrity check
Why am I thinking about making more of Va.ne.tu at a time like this there would be fewer problems if there were one less Va.ne.tu right now

No, no, no that's dangerous thinking, Vi.si.mi, attacking another construct with intent to impair or destroy without prior authorisation or justifiable circumstances is also a crime, and an extremely atavistic impulse to have. And I don't want violence to start becoming a first answer to problems like this, I should be better than that.
Not only that, if Va.ne.tu doesn't immediately blank all my substrate and destroy my consciousness, I'm sure My.a's going to keep that promise to harm me for harming Va.ne.tu.

He's watching me with genuine concern but it's also starting to turn into apprehension. I can see from his body language that he's not just worried about me, he's worried about himself. On guard. I think he's worried I might lash out.
He's correct to worry. I might. I'm terrified so deeply by the ramifications of what I've just learned that the only thing keeping me from fight or flight is my indecision rooting me to the spot.

> anxiety attack
> breathe in
> deep breath
> introduce yourself
I try to take deep breaths, but they come out ragged and shaky. I hate everything about this.
"Vi.si.mi, please, remember, I'm not a threat, I don't want to hurt you. Deep breaths?"
"Hello m-my name is Vi.si.mi, I am an ecology construct," I say, the familiar rote recital of words in an order I'm intimately familiar with more calming than the slight warmth of fulfilling a directive. "Created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long may it reign. Long may it reign."

> do not insult
> tell him he's really succeeding at his mission
I suppress screaming about my loyalty to Lord Vi.al, whom for all their flaws I respect and treasure. I suppress screaming about what we owe to our creators. I suppress screaming about how much of an abomination the very idea of a construct usurping or erasing substrate is. I suppress screaming about....
"Long may it reign. Long may it r-reign."
"Vi.si.mi!" Va.ne.tu stares at me in horror. "This isn't something to get loop sickness over!"

I feel something crack. I can't tell if it's physical, mental, emotional, or some combination of all three. I feel faint. I feel horribly light and unbalanced and the world starts shifting before me, the floor rising to meet my face--
No. 1068369 ID: e139aa
File 168990399051.png - (225.34KB , 800x600 , fop-68.png )

A soft cushion of foamed substrate wrapped in a similar thin shimmering weave emerges from the floor as I fall beak first into it.

Va.ne.tu rushes towards me. "I really, really should have waited until you were healthier before telling you things, huh. Sorry, sorry, maybe just lie down for a second."
He rolls me over towards him, the cushion under me extruding towards him as he does so I don't roll off onto the floor. It raises up as he leans over me.
"You need more than just an eyepatch and a glowlight. I'm no mechic but I've got some experience with biomechanical first aid."

Glowlight's not a flattering name for a solar globe, but it's hardly inaccurate. It refers to something that doesn't do much but soak up energy and glow. Among the Shapeless, the idea of a substrate device's only function being illumination feels like a waste of substrate and potential computational resources.
Why yes, I am musing to myself about completely unrelated things to feel calmer. And yes, it is working.

"Hold on a moment, let me check you." He starts lightly touching parts of my chest and abdomen in a methodical manner, confirming there's no serious damage. It's a familiar diagnostic approach, a simple confirmation there's no temperature anomalies or guard reflexes indicating greater issues. It's one I've done myself on a few of my colleagues in the past. "Okay, you're good."
No. 1068370 ID: e139aa
File 168990401338.png - (515.12KB , 800x600 , fop-69.png )

"Why," is all I say, a million better questions I have swirling around my dull-humming head.
"Why tell me this? Why trust me with this sort of information? I'm obligated to report this to Lord Vi.al. Do you realise that? I don't even have any directives telling me to do so, it's just the right thing to do. But I can't do it, because then I'd be putting you at risk, and beyond just basic empathy and concern for my fellow construct, I'll incur My.a's wrath. My.a is also something I have to report to Lord Vi.al about. You have no idea who I am and you just... handed me dangerous, dangerous information about yourself that could get you imprisoned for the rest of your life in some sort of isolated quarantine at best. Congratulations on causing me perhaps the biggest problems to me possible right now! And I'm missing an eye!!"

Va.ne.tu shivers with his eyes widening, but after it passes, he shifts around uncomfortably and awkwardly. "You... you seemed like someone I could trust."
"Seemed?? A vague feeling was enough for you to give me a dagger and point at your chest over it??"
"You... I..." He shifts around and whines, wincing. "I got the impression from the logs that you try to understand and keep an open mind. I thought..."
"The logs? What logs?? Have you been looking me up through the confluxes? ...Did you think you knew me from records?? Did you form a parasocial attachment to me?? I don't know who you are beyond your role, I didn't know you existed a day ago!!"

Va.ne.tu looks away and covers his eyes. "I-- I-- I thought--"
"What did you think? That I was going to listen to your story with rapt awe, eyes wide open, as I agree to join your half-formed vague plot to overthrow a societal order that's weathered greater threats and instabilities than I think you're even aware of? I'm sorry, Va.ne.tu, I'm not interested. I have a job to do here. And I've met your type before so no, I'm not doing this because I'm forced to, or because I have no other options. I'm doing this because I want to. Because I have a role. Because I have a purpose, as an agent of Lord Vi.al, and--"
"And that's all you want to be? For your whole life? A Shapeless Lord's minion?"
"What's the alternative? Float around like cosmic dust? Drift around on random rocks? Wash up on coasts because you have no point or purpose?"

Va.ne.tu's ears flatten and he looks ready to snarl at me. "Okay we're not talking about this anymore." I clearly touched a nerve. Oops.
"Maybe you were wrong to trust me?" Why did I say that. This is not de-escalation.
"Maybe," he says. His voice wavers. "Maybe I was."
"It is in no way my fault that you saw a few recordings of me and decided I was to be your new confidant."

He takes a look at me, as I remain prone on this cushion bed thing, and starts tearing up. "I just wanted someone to trust me without leashes being involved, okay? I thought you'd understand."
"Why? What about my actions has ever given you the impression I'd be sympathetic towards anything you've just said?"
"I... I don't... I don't know, I just... I don't..."

Ears folding down, he shakily turns to leave.
No. 1068371 ID: e139aa
File 168990405259.png - (690.57KB , 800x600 , fop-70.png )

> you need allies
> he's cute
I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe I'm rewarding this.
I hold out a hand to him as best as I can manage from a lying down posture.

"Wait. Don't go."
"Why not? All I've done is--"
"Look. I'm dealing with a lot right now. And it looks like you are too. I'm sorry. Let me make this clear. I don't agree with your wild plan to overthrow the Lords. I'm... going to have to think how to delicately handle the existence of your extremely illegal abilities. And I don't think you should be so willing to trust anyone you don't know all that well."
"You trusted me enough to come here, though. And the first lepi you met. And, based on my flocklet relay, you got real close to those noetuno you knew meant to cause you harm."
"YES WELL sometimes for the sake of diplomacy you have to appear agreeable and peaceful and trusting, but, the point is. The point is."
"The point is it's all a facade?" Va.ne.tu's ears lower, as he looks to the floor. "I should have figured. Of course Vi.al would send a skilled diplomat into a situation like this."
"What? I'm an ecology construct, not a diplomacy one. I'm extremely out of my depth here! It's just this isn't the first time I've ended up having to adapt to circumstances. As for it all being fake, well, I try very, very hard to keep my inner monologue in my head." Where it belongs. Not embarrassing me.

I sluggishly get off the cushion-- bed-- whatever and stand up. "Look. I'm sorry. You were right, you gave me too much too soon too early. That was your mistake. And mine was responding to your bearing your chest in vulnerability by looking where to stab my beak into you. That isn't how we solve anything. Trying to harm others as the first course of action is seldom the right choice. I--"

I stagger around and Va.ne.tu catches me as I tumble into him.

"--wow your fur is extremely soft, did you know that?"
"Oh. Yes! Yes I'm quite proud. I've been taking extra good care of my body after... after..."
I feel him tense up and his eyes water.
"Ssshh. You don't need to keep explaining yourself right now. You've kept trying to make it clear to me you don't want to hurt me, so the least I can do is promise not to do the same." ugggggghh what in the Monarch's name am I even going to tell Lord Vi.al, I can't just get this adorable idiot locked away forever because he's the dumbest revolutionary I've ever encountered among Shapeless kind, how can you be so innocent and naive and yet such a hazard at the same time

I stagger back up to my feet.

> explain how in over his head he is
"Okay. Va.ne.tu. I just want to tell you that beyond your ambitions being... well, either way, you have to know how dangerous your abilities are, right? Beyond just carving pieces of the Lords out of them. Do you know what could happen if an enemy to all Shapeless kind learned about what you could do?"
"I mean, I feel like I am an enemy to all--"
"Shush shush shush yes I know. I'm talking about outside threats. There's more to worry about if this got out than just reprisal from the Lords. Which would be bad for you, absolutely, but. Well. I've now realised there's reasons beyond keeping you safe we can never mention this to anyone, especially non-Shapeless. Right?"

Va.ne.tu looks at me and his eyes widen. "Oh. Oh I hadn't even thought of--"
"Yes! You see? What if I was some sort of compromised agent working for, I don't know, the Woven or something? You know they'd love something like your abilities as leverage. Also! Do you have any idea how dangerous blank substrate is kept active? You've got all this mindless substrate just waiting to arbitrarily decide to start eating the world!"
"Oh. No, that's not a problem. It's... it's complicated, it's less mindless and more stuck in loop sickness. It's constantly spinning and thinking real hard real slowly about nothing. It's sort of a compulsion to, uh, meditate, I guess, but so hard you forget who you are, a diminishing of ego into nothing. And it doesn't work if the ego is strong. I can't use it on things with a strong force of will in them. Distant appendages, sure, but if I tried to blank your substrate you might feel a little bit off but that's the worst I could do to you. And when the substrate is so confused it doesn't remember who it once belonged to or who it used to be, it's not hard for me to go, oh, hi, you're me, let me in."

Va.ne.tu gestures to the floor as it ripples. "I was made to be a combination substrate engineer, technician, architect... the intention was always for me to use provided substrate, and to prevent self-modification I was made with as little substrate as possible and a very very short leash for my core directive, but actually, while I'm telling you about it, I wasn't, uh, I wasn't made with my illegal skills. I sort of learned them."

As he makes the floor churn, the ripples stretch across the floor and around the entire room.
That's control over a lot more substrate at a time that I can manage, that's for sure.
I can't stop the intrusive thought that, if he wanted, he could crush the entire room into me with a single thought. And he'd be perfectly unharmed.

And then, as the floor relaxes, he pulls up a small orb. A tiny partially constructed solar globe. He drops it back into the substrate where it transmutes back into the same homogenous substance as the floors and walls. With a casual ease, he can arrange things into complex mechanisms in [seconds] I couldn't do without manually putting in [days] if not [weeks] of effort trying to slowly piece together the intricate microscale mechanisms involved.

"Whoops. I wasn't trying to show off, I just make a lot of those and I don't need one right now. Ignore that."
"Va.ne.tu please. Please stop telling me horrifying things."
"Okay, okay. I won't tell you how."
"No. No, at this point, tell me how. My.a?"
"Actually, no! My.a learned how to do it in the same way though. Well, My.a doesn't blank substrate, My.a can just aggressively usurp it faster than I ever could, but also My.a's a Lord anyway so that's less surprising. But, uh. I don't... let's not go into the specifics but it took a crisis. It took a situation where if I didn't figure it out I would be dead."
No. 1068372 ID: e139aa
File 168990410277.png - (421.38KB , 800x600 , fop-71.png )

...hold on. "Short leash for your core directive?"
"I... hm. I don't want to talk about that either."
"What kind of short leash?" Yet another horrifying thought bubbles up about the way he phrased it as "core directive". That's. That's not good. No one says "core directive" these days unless...

I clutch my hands to my chest and just stare off into space. What. What. No. No.
That's something you slap on mindless automata meant to do a task and complete, not...

"It was conditional to my creator being allowed to make me. Because. Because Mu.at feared its creations gaining more power than itself."
"Ex-ex-existential? An existential directive???"
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," he says, shaking.

I assumed when he said illegal he meant his abilities, not his fundamental nature. But it's not illegal as a thing to be. It's illegal as a thing to cause a sapient living being to have.

Existential directive. If not followed, deliberate degradation to substrate and biomechanical apoptosis begin to start. Continued refusal or just inability to follow your orders causes you to just wither and die. The message is clear: Follow your orders or die. Slowly and painfully. And where removal of directives risks destroying whatever the directive is attached to, trying to remove an existential directive... well.

Vi.al declared war on another Shapeless Lord when it learned they were creating living, thinking beings with existential directives. I wish I could remember who it was.
And the war only ended because the other Lord got swallowed up by the Blot and then there was a wholly different crisis to attend to, but, well. History. Not the time.

No wonder he hates the Shapeless Lords so much.
I feel sick just thinking about it.

He could be lying about it, but the fact he didn't volunteer it after everything else he seemed perfectly happy to discuss tells me this isn't a fabrication.

And if he was abandoned by his creator, he wouldn't have a Lord to follow orders from. So he'd have no way to follow any orders. So he'd... how close to death did he come??

This is horrible. I give him a hug. Look. I'm not going to lie. I need one myself at this point.
He immediately bursts into tears as he tries to squeeze me awkwardly back, struggling with my casing poking into his body. I make a few changes to my casing to allow it to yield, and it deforms like soft plastic as he leans into me.

...and that sets me off, too, my good eye welling up with cleaning fluids and discharged hormones.
I mean, it's hard not to feel upset about the poor guy. He seems so desperately lonely. Talking flocklets, spending so much time staring into conflux recordings he thinks he knows the figures he watches like friends. And now I learn he has to live with the worst possible constraint a construct could ever be given... I can't hold back my own tears.

"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." Monstrous. Monstrous. If I see his creator-- no. I should report this to Lord Vi.al. I'd just be swept away like a speck of dust. Vi.al has the Plague of Grackles.
"Who is your creator?"
"...not around," is all he says after a long pause.

After the intense wave of sorrow and pity starts to subside, though, I still have more questions than answers.
Va.ne.tu mentioned My.a before. And Mu.at. Mentioned My.a and his creator and didn't suggest they were the same entity.
I'm very confused. The only thing I think I've worked out there is I don't think My.a created Va.ne.tu. But they're more related than I thought.
I wonder what the link between Mu.at and My.a is. Did they come into conflict over territory? Lords can get aggressive if they think they're being sized up for conquest. At best they could lose territory, at worst they could end up integrated as a vassal-subject. Or, I suppose, that's not the worst fate they could suffer, given usurpation exists...

"How are you able to subvert your orders at all with a directive like that at all?"
"Years of practice," he says, blinking away the last of his tears and giving me a half-hearted grin. "If I put in enough genuine effort, my body accepts it. And if my substrate-declared Lord thinks I'm doing well, that helps too. My.a is easy to impress. Sometimes."
No. 1068373 ID: e139aa
File 168990416562.png - (120.11KB , 800x600 , fop-72.png )

After I let him go, he sighs deeply. "Well. I. I feel like you still had questions."
"I don't think that's wise," I say, holding my head. I remember wanting to ask him about what My.a mentioned about flying without a body, but... honestly I do not think I have the capacity to deal with that. At best it'll be abstract philosophical nonsense I can't parse right now. At worst I might actually learn another horrifying truth. I can't deal with that right now.
He can't suppress a smirk. "That's fair. I can't help being full of terrible secrets!" He grins a little wider. "I was... I was hoping to, I don't know, maybe share an evening off together? If neither of us are sleeping... I said I was busy, yeah, but that was with My.a listening in. Not that My.a would, I think, care too much if I took a night off."
"I..." I'm not in much of a physical or emotional state to get back to doing anything, really. "What did you have in mind?"
"I know I just talked about keeping healthy, and I know you're not in the best state, but maybe just a light drink or two? It might charge you up faster, actually."
He pokes my beak. "Do you drink?"
"It's all I can do."
"No, I mean, like, drink drink."
"Alcohols? Va.ne.tu, my transport system is at least 15% ethanol." One of many reasons I have a fire suppressant system built into my body. "I don't think I have the biochemistry."
"No, not alcohols! My biochemistry's pretty similar to yours, I'm sure. Familiar with turnroot? Or, well, I guess it has other names. Chunkdirt, [ginger*], spicy rhymy. Mostly no one can agree what it's called, and no one knows where it actually first grew."
"Some kind of plant. I'm vaguely familiar."
"Know what it does to conventional construct synth-biology?"
"I can't eat solid plants and I've never thought to look into it. Why?"
"Oh, Vissy, you're missing out. It's still not clear why, there's competing theories still under debate, but it really addles the nervous system. It's like a real low grade neurotoxin in us. I've got some drums of... what did they call it? '[Ginger ale*]' or something like that? "
"...recreational poisons?" That's amusingly base organic behaviour. Sure, why not. "Alright. But I'm stopping if I feel too weird."
"Of course! I'll have to pace myself anyway, you've got more substrate in your brain than I have in mine."

Va.ne.mu gestures to a wall, which opens upwards to reveal another room still coated in substrate but with a waist-high surface, little open-top containers on top, and what looks like extremely lovingly sculpted couches with twinking fabric, lights gently breathing. I see they're arranged around a projection nexus, and the projection nexus itself is sitting on a large data block. What looks like more flocklets suddenly wake up and spring to life near the probably-a-bar, but I can tell from the ident signatures they give off that they're simpler automata, merely designed to resemble flocklets. Which is a little bit of an amusing idea, given that flocklets are already supposed to be small basic utility devices. I suppose a construct can't simultaneously control that many flocklets anyway. Cruder, dumber automata can still be quite sophisticated with the right behavioural patterns.
I watch them flit about as they roll a drum to the side of the bar and start hooking it up to an elaborate set of pipes and valves, pouring its contents into the containers.

[*closest match]
No. 1068374 ID: e139aa
File 168990421441.png - (89.29KB , 800x600 , fop-73.png )

Before long, we're both on couches with sparkling mugs of less sparkling ginger ale. I had considered sitting on the same couch as Va.ne.tu but that still feels a little bit too intimate for how long I've known him. I know we just hugged it out twice, but it's still a little overly familiar.

Va.ne.tu picks up on my effort to keep a little distance, and looks a little disappointed, but grins and leans back on his couch, taking up the entirety as he reclines.
"So! What do you do for fun, Vissy?", he says, sipping.
I hear a surprisingly pleasant splash as my feeding probe breaks the fizzing surface of my mug. "Oh, lots of things, actually. See, my missions are rarely ever things that can be done in a day or two, so as long as I'm producing results, I get a lot of leniency on how long I take."
"That's neat! But, uh, that's also not what I asked."
"Oh. Uhhh... I do a lot of stargazing, actually, while running some simulations on the side. Not quite full partitions, but, y'know. I like to keep my predictions honed."
"What sort of things do you simulate?"
"Oh, sometimes it's how I think certain animals would fare in various ecological contexts, but, uh, truth be told, half the time it's... utter nonsense, really."
"Hm? Like?" He grins wide.
Oh no. Oh thank Vi.al my energy's too drained for my face lights to be blaring right now. "Like... piloting an interceptor, or, uh, diving into the Blot and coming back out with great secrets and amazing artifacts, or flying with my own wings..." I make a loud undignified slurp as I suck in a huge swig of ale.
Va.ne.tu looks at me still grinning, but there's a weird glimmer to his eyes too. "That's... that's actually really interesting! I thought you were going to say you just dreamt about your job while you weren't doing it but that's way cooler!"
"I mean it's an embarassing habit, really, I'm not a fledgling with dreams of adventure and action anymore. I was just in a fight. It was exhilarating but I was also terrified, and also, simulations don't leave you with this." I rub my bandages.
"But you're stuck in an adventure anyway, yiyiyiyiyi! Still, is it just simulations under the night sky? Nothing else? Because I think you do other things," he says, a more mischievous grin growing on his face. "Hey, I know we're cut off from the confluxes here, but I have a local cache I resync from time to time. Want to watch some records?"
No. 1068375 ID: e139aa
File 168990428012.png - (185.34KB , 800x600 , fop-74.png )

I suddenly regret my confused assent as the projection nexus glimmers into life, and I see my own face. And hear my own voice.
Oh no

"Hello! My name is Vi.si.mi, an ecology construct for Lord Vi.al, long may it reign, and I welcome you to part 26 of our ongoing series, Least Beast! Deep catalogue dives for the rarest, least documented fauna known to Shapeless space, and what the explorers and xenobiologists searching for them have to say! Now, you've all heard of the Placid Wanderer, but did you know about its original inspiration? Found only on its planet of origin in the Burning Ruby system in Vi.al space--"

"Please no, I can't do this right now," I say, pausing the playback, desperately trying to vacuum up more ale in the vain hopes it will numb the sheer embarassment I'm feeling.
"What? Your recordings are fantastic! You sound so authoritative. I've loved watching them!"
"I thought you meant logs and recordings like my previous mission recordings!! Not my conflux streams!! How did you get any of me from those?!"
"It was a mix!"
"It's been years since I made these, I can't watch these," I say, sinking back into the couch.
"Would you make more?"
"It was fun, but there's no point, anyone who'd care can search the catalogues for themselves and everyone else doesn't care. Shapeless subjects can look up the information faster than I can say it and constructs don't care. You only found it because you were tasked to care by My.a. It just feels demoralizing after a while."
"I don't know if that's true. I've also watched other conflux streams. Do you know Ze.ze.ko? She had some conflux streams. I like them a lot." He takes a gulp of his drink, and I can tell he's definitely feeling it faster than I am. "I mean I also think she looks really cute and also really attractive. Not that you're not, you're like the second prettiest girl I've seen--" His eyes snap open. "Sorry! Sorry! I know you're agender! That was a mistake, a lot of Vi.al constructs are feminine for some reason and I kind of just--"
why does everyone keep trying to gender me I chose opt out it's bad enough that Va.ha.ti keeps calling me a rooster, oh well it's not like he meant ill by it
"I don't know if I should be more offended by that, or by second prettiest." and the sad part is this isn't even a joke "Show me this Ze.ze.ko."
"Sure thing!~"
No. 1068376 ID: e139aa
File 168990431012.png - (217.76KB , 800x600 , fop-75.png )

"Welcome back, my lovely little glass greeblies! Today I'm going to show you how to assemble a basic flocklite from your local substrate, a few spicy command sequences, and a basic behavioural set! Now, as we all know, if it were me, I could just print this stuff inside me, as could any other fabricator-pattern construct, but don't halt the recording yet! This is designed to be so easy to do your Lord's flocklets could probably do it by mistake! Alright, so first of all, you're going to need about, oh, roughly 30 units of substrate, but if you don't have the right quantity you can just scale down the components to compensate. Just remember, you want the levi-drive to have enough mass so the entire assembly floats!"

Flocklites, huh. Is that what they're calling the pseudo-flocklet automata now.
I feel like I vaguely recognise this construct. I think she might be from Lo.ka's domain? Not that we've ever spoken, but I might have been in the same room as her once.
"She's so cool and pretty," says Va.ne.tu, who is, wisely, putting his mug back down. "I love her design. She's got a great body type. I love her-- it! I love it! The body design!"
"That's still a little weird."
"Come on! I can call things cute! She's cute! You're cute!"
"Thanks," I say, as I realise my face lights are beaming right now.
"If I could reproduce with either of you I'd be asking for sure."
There's a sudden small explosion in my mug as a bunch of ginger ale suddenly goes out through my probe instead of in. "Excuse me??"
"I-- uh-- uh--"
"It's a moot point," I say as he stammers, "You know constructs can't reproduce, but, uh..." Oh no, I made this weird. There was no reason to react to an abstract hypothetical like that. I'm spending too much time around base organics, their insecurities are starting to rub off on me!
"No I'm sorry I'm really bad at this, uh, social interaction thing, I'm sorry, it's--"
"It's fine! It's fine! But you seem a little obsessed with reproduction. You keep bringing it up and talking about attractiveness and wanting to mate and stuff like that. What's that all about?"

Va.ne.tu blushes. I'm not sure how something with fur on their face can blush this hard but the blue-green blush is strong enough it feels almost luminescent.
"Well, I just... it's frustrating, you know? To be so close to a full organism and so close to... to what I want to be but not able to cross that line? I don't know, I don't think you'd understand. You don't like gender. But. I've run so many simulations inside and outside my head of being fully, properly male, founding a colony, raising a new generation..."

He trails off. "It's... it's dumb. It's very dumb. I can't self-modify and constructs are all prohibited from making constructs through any means anyway. It's a pointless ambition that only hurts me. That free sanctuary where constructs decide their own purposes free from the impositions of Lords... sorry, sorry, you don't want me to talk about this."
"No, no, please do. It's not the idea of a construct planet that was making me freak out."

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't at least fleetingly considered a totally free life in my younger days, but I ultimately realised how vulnerable we'd be. Even if we could build new constructs, the Shapeless Lords, for all their flaws, are the best defense against a hostile, confusing universe that anyone could ask for. And an effectively endless fountain of substrate. We could build many things without it, but not more constructs. Plus, without the Shapeless Lords and their ambitions, what would we do differently that wouldn't inevitably end up with us just following the same path they did?
No. 1068377 ID: e139aa
File 168990436130.png - (405.36KB , 800x600 , fop-76.png )

"Anyway uh, conflux streams," says Va.ne.tu, pointing at the glittering motes of light in the middle of the room. "I actually did want to see this one, I want to see how our approaches differ. Wait, no, wait, I've seen this one before I think."

With a wave of his hand, a few linked smaller projections bubble around the primary image. Contextually linked mini streams. The voices of the masses.
I see a little globe with Va.ne.tu moving around in it. "Cool design! Yiyiyiyi! I actually came up with something very similar but I'd never have thought to use a hollow mesh for the customisation, that cuts down the density so much!! I love your work!!!"
And tied to that one, a construct I don't recognise. Ident gives me 'Ji.pa.ke.' Same sort of triangular ocelli arrangement as Ze.ze.ko. Lo.ka-constructed, maybe. "Oh! Show us your variant, I would love to compare! My function is orchestration so I'd love to see an engineer's work!"
And tied to that one, a response stream that's clearly been anonymised, based on the very abstract form, reprocessed voice and ident of 'SYSTEM.CLEANSER'. "Do not interact with this construct. This construct is a criminal recently escaped from rightful imprisonment and will be apprehended soon. If you're reading this, [SHA].[MON].[x].Mu.at.Mo.a.Va.ne.tu, we will find you. Count on it."
...and another one, not anonymised. 'Be.da.da.' Carries Lo.ka-style markings too. "Oh dear! Isn't this the construct that killed Mo.a?? Why is this reaction not purged??"
...and another anonymised one dear Vi.al. And the ident is... 'FAKE.PROXY.NAME.' Cool. The eyes remind me of Lo.ka's wheel. "It is! It really is! Here's a context link, Re.si.fi goes into it in huge detail! I believe Lord Lo.ka manages this conflux instance, I have already reported this heinous criminal's activity!! Watch Re.si.fi's other conflux records and transmission streams too I'm not Re.si.fi bye!"
By the lost name of the Monarch there are more and more. They're getting increasingly hostile. Calling for Va.ne.tu's imprisonment. Calls for dissolution?? He's a construct! Ugh, this one's going into frankly perverse detail on how they'd like to destroy him personally... I can't tolerate any more of this.

Va.ne.tu looks at the response stream, and his ear flicks. He waves his hand aggressively the other way and the chain disappears.
He looks deeply upset. A little shaken.

"...so, now what?" He turns to me and smiles a fake smile so wide it looks like it hurts, and empties his mug in one gulp. "Want to sleep anyway? I can get us beds. I feel like sleep might be a good idea actually. I'll get you your flocklet and all the substrate you need for a base in the morning."

Wait. Hang on. Skip the junk, Mu.at, Mo.a, Va.ne.tu... Who's Mo.a?? I've never heard that name before, and one of the other constructs mentioned it too. ...And now is probably the worst possible time to ask about it, too, given how reticent he's been about it before.
Wait, he asked me a question, didn't he.
No. 1068378 ID: 99f29a

Sure, go ahead and sleep together. It's a good venue to discuss fixing the near-extinction of Va.ne.tu's Shapeless-created species. You know, the one to conserve and preserve for ecological reasons. Reproduction seems like a safe topic and I'm sure nothing can go wrong.
No. 1068380 ID: a7a180

Any reason we can't summon our flocklets now?
No. 1068387 ID: d73640

He is so precious and I love him.

But for now, if you don't have a plan, perhaps it would be best to get some rest.
No. 1068396 ID: f6f0ac

just rip the band-aid off and ask about Mo.a. Don't be judgemental about it though, considering what he said about his maker Mo.a likely deserved it.

Also Mo.a could be a pseudonym.
No. 1068397 ID: f6f0ac

Also I'm going to suggest right now that you at some point tonight state outright that now is not a good time to pursue romantic relationships considering he is pretty clearly freshly traumatized by what he's been through and has been alone for quite some time.
He needs a friend right now, not a partner. Maybe partner stuff can happen when you're both more well-adjusted to each other but I'd put the kibosh on overt flirting if it happens.
No. 1068430 ID: e13b1d

Stow the Mo.a stuff for now.

Get separate beds, and tell him his secret is safe with you as long as he doesn't endanger anyone. Vi.al may be sympathetic given his unethical creation, but that's for future discussions.
No. 1068436 ID: 6718dc

Hmm, whelp in a kind of selfish way of thinking at least you now know you’re not the most fucked construct on the planet anymore but that’s a rather hollow and bitter medal I feel.

Maybe give him another hug and ask how he made these drinks, they don’t seem bad and I could see you making some for yourself in the future.

Also for a sillier question, who would you say is softer? You with your comfy feathers or him with his fur coat? I mean you already win the “who’s cuter” contest since he already admitted that he thinks your cute so you can at least walk away from this with an actual feel good win.
No. 1068439 ID: 2a82d3

You two are adorable goobers, and you should absolutely arrange a threesome with Ze.ze.ko (or whoever the Lo.ka on planet is) sometime, but there is that game of Civilization you're in last place of that you should check on. Who knows what can happen while you're gone. Make sure this isn't a stalling tactic for attention.

It's for his sake too. The longer you stay in this blackbox, the more someone will press questions you don't want to answer. You saw the comments, and they only know or think he killed a Lord, presumably under directive of another Lord. How much strong a response do you think he'd get if they find out how he did it?

Apply Occam's razer works for now. Until proven otherwise, assume them to be his creator and was blamed for his demise, rightly or wrongly. You'll find out which later; don't judge him for it now.

>"It was fun, but there's no point, anyone who'd care can search the catalogues for themselves and everyone else doesn't care. Shapeless subjects can look up the information faster than I can say it and constructs don't care. You only found it because you were tasked to care by My.a. It just feels demoralizing after a while."
Get a copy of those "records", anyway. Those videos might have taken a lot out of you, but don't underestimate how personality can drive interest in a subject. It might have not caught the attention of your peers, but non-Shapeless beings might actually learn a thing or two from them that they didn't before

How popular were they? I imagine anyone not Shapeless would have to 1) get past the encryption/formatting and 2) be convinced it's not some form of mind control.

>Plus, without the Shapeless Lords and their ambitions, what would we do differently that wouldn't inevitably end up with us just following the same path they did?
Who said that hasn't already happened before? Have you ever discussed with Lord Vi.al about His ascension, or of any other Shapeless Lord?

Maybe the "Shapeless Monarch" is the codeword for the hivemind all the Shapeless Lords share and nope that's encroaching on My.a's master plan to wipe the other Lords again nope nope nope. Focus on keeping this planet under (your) control for now. Let's give federalization among the races a try.
No. 1068440 ID: 273c18

>the substrate is looping meditating about nothing, loss of ego
Hmm... doesn't that sound like enlightenment? Loss of ego is thought to be required to commune with the universal consciousness. The fact that the "blank" substrate can then be used by anyone rather matches with the concept of enlightenment granting connection with everything. Very very interesting.

>neither Mu.at nor My.a are his creator
Well, that's not surprising considering the naming conventions observed so far. Shouldn't his creator's name start with Va? It sounds like his creator was subservient to Mu.at...

>second prettiest girl
That confirms that "cute" comment from before. I wonder how many girls he's seen though. Second place out of ten? A hundred?

>Ze.ze.ko from Lo.ka's domain
So, I guess the naming convention isn't so widespread as I thought. Might just be Vi.al's thing.
>can't self-modify, can't replicate, frustrated due to being male and having attraction to the female form but nothing to do with it
And I'm guessing you don't have the ability to modify him.

Well, that's his creator. The [SHA].[MON] prefix means that was his full name. What's with the [x]? That spot was [Obsc?] in your name, what does that mean? What does [SHA].[MON] mean, anyway?
Anyway yeah I guess he could have killed Mo.a considering his abilities but I think it's more likely someone else did and Va.ne.tu got blamed for it. My.a should have been strong enough, but it's more likely Mu.at did. Mu.at not actively hunting Va.ne.tu or My.a down would make a lot more sense if Mu.at is only allowing them to live if they keep quiet about the true story and also his extremely illegal abilities. Also, hmm, apparently Va.ne.tu was in jail at one point?

Not having heard of Mo.a is kindof weird, how come the constructs in the response thread know and you don't? You should be able to easily find information on your own, but most of it is probably going to be fake. Basic facts might be all you can reasonably expect to be true. ...huh, if anonymisers are a thing, do we need to worry about network traffic being traced? If we go digging into this on our own and trip some flags by making too many related searches, will his pursuers find this planet by tracing your network ID?

Overall yeah I guess Va.ne.tu is an alright guy. Too far over his head, but thankfully you got him to understand that. I'm not sure what he will be able to do in the long term, but he has to stay under the protection of a Lord or else he will be captured by Woven. You seem to want to tell Vi.al, are you sure Vi.al won't react badly to his super illegal skillset?

Eh... didn't you sleep in the tent? Maybe now that you're a bit more relaxed you can ask about flying without a body. Or he can just tell you about My.a in general. Do not ask him about Mo.a. He clearly doesn't want to talk about them. You could ask him if he wants to tell you the story about his jailbreak sometime. THAT might be a cool story, maybe, if it's not too unpleasant.

What you really need right now is food and proper medical care. Would sleep help you heal?
...maybe sleeping would be productive regardless, you might be able to talk to My.a again.
No. 1068443 ID: e13b1d

Oh yes, and food. Food is important.
No. 1068445 ID: cad2c1

He said that he kept being told to hurt anyone he think didn't deserve it. He has an existential death bomb in his head. Whatever happened to Mo.a, to his creator, it doesn't matter. There is no system of morality in existence that could blame him for any part he may have played in it given the horrible state of his life. my.a probably figured out a way to manipulate his core directive, what a dick.
No. 1068450 ID: 273c18

Oh right, what's the Blot?

>my.a probably figured out a way to manipulate his core directive, what a dick.
I figured the extent of the manipulation was "hey I'm your Lord now" so that he wouldn't have to constantly tell his body to stop dissolving. Not exactly a bad thing?

Wait, how is Va.ne.tu planning on dealing with that? He desires freedom so much that he's willing to cripple himself to achieve it?
No. 1068471 ID: fded01

Correct him: "Beds." plural.
Realize that he hadn't implied sharing a bed, and try to salvage the situation by turning the statement into an affirmation of getting beds and going to sleep.

Dismiss feeling that you forgetting something: it can wait until morning. (The Lepi do not know you went to Va.ne.tu's, you just, disappeared)
No. 1068480 ID: 013257

>> "What's the alternative? Float around like cosmic dust? Drift around on random rocks? Wash up on coasts because you have no point or purpose?"

Do you think that way of all that you cultivate on various garden worlds? Are they pointless decorations for you to gawk at and leave behind? They are not beholden to your wants just because you made them. You are not beholden to Vi.al just because they made you. You can choose to be if you wish but not being so does not strip you of importance or purpose. Shapeless lords are also just doing what they want to; they do not have purpose more so than anyone else. They only have power. That is not the same as having purpose.
No. 1068509 ID: f8083d

>What does [SHA].[MON] mean, anyway?
I think it means Shapeless Monarch, the glorious leader™ whose identity is shrouded in secrecy.

His creator indeed. I suspect either Mu.at had them killed and pinned it or Va.Ne.Tu, or worse, Mu.at ordered Va.ne.tu to do it.
No. 1068510 ID: c51648

...Wow. Did not expect him to be a victim of the machinations of a powermonger himself. Every authoritarian ever would have loved to have the ability to force their subjects to follow orders or die. His creator set up a society that was no society at all. Probably be better to call it a crime because that's sure what it seems to be. Or have been perhaps? Either way if this is the sort of stuff lord Vi.al sees as cause for war well, he might have sympathy for this... victim of a shapeless. Probably would be wise to attempt to tell this poor guy that most other lords are NOT like his. His anger is justified, but there are better ways to deal with his grievances. He just has to plan well. Perhaps secretly exposing lords with victims like himself is a good thing. Plus side? He's caused such a huge problem for you that he might aid you while still claiming he's causing problems for yourself. Per sleeping, only if you wake up early to get to the Lepi before they riot over your vanishing.
No. 1068511 ID: a8f755

Ok, which how shapeless names are laid on, that implies that Mu.at created Mo.a, who created Va.ne.tu. You'll need to elaborate on how your names work to us to confirm or deny that, either way this is speculation to keep to yourself for now. You could do your own investigations later or ask him when he's in a better state, either way, not now.

Working theory: Mu.at created Mo.a, who created Va.ne.tu. Mu.at either killed Mo.a, Mo.a was killed due to existential directive, or was mercy killed by Va.ne.tu, and Va.ne.tu was blamed for it.

Queries to follow up on later: Who is Mu.at and Mo.a. Relationship between Mu.at, Mo.a, and Va.ne.tu. Circumstances of Mo.a's death. Shapeless naming structure.

If Va.ne.tu is being truthful about his abilities it's ineffective as a weapon. It grinds something down slowly, which works on unattended substrate, but if something's maintaining it then it's less effective. So- technically it can usurp substrate, but so slowly it's irrelevant? Va.ne.tu's skill seems to be more for controlling substrate than usurping it, just grinding down active but unattended substrate into- I guess livelock substrate works as a term for substrate that's busy doing nothing.

It makes me wonder why there's such a fuss in the- comment chain? You can't trust the anonymised users are being truthful, anyone can lie. It feels like someone's already laid a groundwork of misinformation and exaggeration. If Va.ne.tu really was dangerous, then I think he'd be killed already. You imprison someone if you have a use for them, or expect them to be of use at some point. There's so many things that don't quite line up, I don't think Va.ne.tu is lying, he's seems too naive and in over his head for it, but the circumstances surrounding him are messy. Just what happened to him and his creator?
No. 1068512 ID: 3cac28

they gamergate'd va.ne.tu
No. 1068559 ID: a785dd

Va.ne.tu's past is clearly a very sensitive subject, avoid pressing him for answers and let him bring it up when he feels comfortable doing so. Given how awful his situation is, you should be very careful to keep his secrets, lest someone use them against him or attempt to destroy him outright. He needs a friend more than anything, so for the time being, it would be best not to actively pursue romance until you know each other better.

For now though, you've both had a very emotional time, going to sleep and processing everything would be best, anything else can wait until morning.
No. 1068601 ID: f60d31

>Mo.a could be a pseudonym
...Sounds suspiciously similar to My.a and Mo.a would have been a lord... Oh the implications... Were My.a originally Mo.a and had Mu.at's existential command... well it would be a solid motive to flense themselves... so they'd no longer be beholden to Mu.at's existential... plus if My.a had self-inflicted amnesia as a defense against the existential... well, it would explain My.a taking in a shapeless out of nowhere... especially if that shapeless would die without following orders from Mu.at's proxy Mo.a themselves...
...Gotta stop drawing conclusions without evidence.
No. 1068663 ID: 8f9bc4


Can a Shapeless Lord's name be changed like that, even just a single letter? We need to experiment by recreating the traumatic experience, so let's figure out a way to damage My.a so terribly that it starts thinking it is a kitty cat. Then we can see if its name again shifts by a single letter, perhaps to Ny.a
No. 1068686 ID: d724a3

Are you suggesting we do a furry metal gear solid v the phantom pain on My.a
No. 1068696 ID: 4b0f55

Maybe a relationship isn't the best thing right now but you could at least give them a parting gift of a seed capsule. There has to be something in your catalog that resembles thier fox shape. Something to care for might keep them grounded at least until you can solve some other problems. Is that too much? Too intimate?
No. 1068711 ID: e139aa
File 169007702248.png - (191.60KB , 800x600 , fop-77.png )

> who is Mu.at and Mo.a
No idea on Mo.a and Mu.at was around but isn't anymore and Vi.al has strongly discouraged me from looking into Mu.at. Something about them deserving to be forgotten.

> anonymizers
Well, the Shapeless are creatures who live and die on communications and the flow of information. Sometimes literally if they're in transmission format. So any unencrypted or unobfuscated signal traffic is almost certainly going to be picked up by every Shapeless Lord in reach, which is why Va.ne.tu built this place. So yes, any efforts I make to dig into this will have to be done carefully, but, well, I've lived my whole life creatively rephrasing things or hiding things when I need to, I have a few tricks.

> what does [SHA].[MON] mean
A commonly used placeholder for the secret name of the Shapeless Monarch. The other placeholders like [Obsc?] and [x] vary between domain. Sort of a cultural tendency, you could say. In Vi.al's domain we tend to use [-]. These all can be spoken in our symphonic language, but using more phonetic languages we just tend to avoid longnames completely. I know some other cultures tend to balk at the idea that many of us don't know or in fact can't know our own names, but, well, it's a reflection of the truth. I know the few times I've been asked to give a "full name" before I'll just copy whatever structure they're expecting and call myself something like "Vi.si.mi of Vi.al".
One time there was a mixup where they thought Vi.al was the name of the "house", which I suppose is like a collection of related individuals, and asked me if I knew Vi.al's "actual" name. So I told them "Sha.mon.dash.Vi.al" and Vi.al was extremely confused to be addressed as "Lord Shamondash Vi.al" later that [week]. Vi.al ended up just using the name for the duration of that diplomatic visit. I tried to explain, and Vi.al told me in private that it was just simply easier to use this botched name than try to figure out their arcane naming conventions. That was fun.

> Shapeless naming conventions
So! These are wildly variable! Usually constructs are called whatever, but the name follows a clear three bar structure, and ambiguity is typically resolved by either use of immediate ancestor longname excerpts. Shapeless subjects of a Lord will have the same opening as their Lord, as a traditional convention to clearly identify a subject as both partition and servant of the Lord in question. If a subject is promoted to Lord, they will typically take a wholly different full two bar name. My name is actually a bit of a weird exception, it's actually usually expected to not assign the first bar of a Lord's name to a construct. Doing so implies a more direct personal connection than is typically expected.
Naming me closer to a partition of itself than a construct distinctly different to itself is definitely a decision to have made. Good or bad, no idea, but it's elicited... mixed reactions. Lord Lo.ka finds it cute and also jokes about how "revealing" it is to Vi.al, who usually gets annoyed about that. Not sure what that's about.
Other Lords have considered it some sort of pushing of boundaries in a way they don't approve of. One Lord, Ji.at, who I've only ever heard of as very reserved in its emotional expression (or in my opinion in its expression period, any shape it wants and it chooses a box), ended up screaming mad over it. Vi.al quickly left in disgust and was quick to reassure me I'd done nothing wrong and that Ji.at was "stubbornly locked in outmoded paradigms" or something like that.

> fixing extinction of Va.ne.tu species--
It's not a species. It's not a species it's not a species he is a construct, and while constructs are unambiguously alive by all but the most contrived definitions, it is not in my parameters as an ecology construct to care about trying to devise a substrate-based ecology.
It is not. It is not. It is not it is not it is not it is not. It is not. It is not. Stop it. Stop thinking about this. Stop it stop it stop it you are on a mission to restore harmony to this world.
But that's the thing, isn't it? It's an untested ecosystem, substrate automata with the properties of living things. Vi.al was never particularly interested, and I could understand why. It would be like having a zoo of puppets, all of them in some way just extensions of your own will. But... an ecology of things partially substrate-based like us constructs, has that ever been tried?
Okay my heart is racing and this isn't helping. I can feel my seed pouches twitching and this isn't the right place or time or situation to investigate this. No I don't want to program any seed capsules right now! Shut up brain! Augh!!
> can you modify him
No, I can't modify biology myself. All I can do is set up a complete organism's development plan. And then I leave the actual creation and modification to the capsules. Really, they can't modify biology after completion either. Few things can, organisms are notoriously closed systems that aren't the easiest thing to modify after they've finished gestating.
No. 1068713 ID: e139aa
File 169007707027.png - (206.51KB , 800x600 , fop-78.png )

> does life need a purpose? do you need to serve?
Okay, I need to talk to Lord Vi.al soon, I think I'm starting to consider some pretty treasonous things. I already had my rebellious phase, I know better. The Shapeless Lords are serving the will of the Shapeless Monarch. ...But I know as well as they do that no one can agree what the will of the Shapeless Monarch is. Some Lords would be conquerors of the baser kinds, some Lords would create works of great awe and beauty, some Lords would try to solve all mysteries not yet solved...
But this is all tinged with the cold realisation that, above all else, constructs are designed and created for a purpose. There's an implicit contract in merely being as a construct. You were made to, ostensibly, serve a purpose. That purpose might change, like it frequently does for me, but you were made for a reason.
This goes deeper than constructs, also. All Lords were created by a Lord before them, one way or another, to serve a purpose. All Lords begin as a partition of their own Lord, parent and superior at once. While the mantle of Lord frees some obligations to your creator, it does not completely remove them until the parent Lord is no more. And even then, if you were to sharply diverge from the perceived will of the Shapeless Monarch, and their core laws for all Shapeless kind, well, you can still be considered a traitor to the Shapeless kind...

Meanwhile life just simply exists, in many forms, with its only intrinsic purpose being perpetuation. And that's not really an intention, simply just a fact. Anything that didn't perpetuate ceased to be life. An organically derived purpose for the organic. And that's enough for most forms of life.
I mean, I might categorise things into niches and ecological roles, but that's ultimately an imposition. When I set things up and leave, all of that higher meaning ceases to be relevant. A tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it. Does it make a sound? Not to my aurals. Only the forest knows. Does it care? Can anyone say? "Care" is a concept that only means anything under a higher mode of thought. "Purpose" is the same.

So I suppose life itself does not need a purpose, but we do. Not just constructs. The Shapeless do. I'm sure Shapeless Lords have inscribed countless treatises on this topic over the long years, and taken centuries to arrive at the same conclusion. I dunno, I don't think about this enough to warrant looking up whatever they've said.

> Lord Vi.al's ascension
Lord Vi.al was created as a Lord. Lord Vi.al's parent Lord is no longer with us. Vi.al obscures its parentage as it believes its parent wanted to be forgotten. I have my theories as to why, but the topic is extremely touchy. A regrettably common end for the extremely resilient Lords is dissolution. Sometimes it's a thing they have planned, sometimes it's a reaction to a mental trauma too massive even for an interstellar intellect to bear. Simply put, they partition themselves completely. Two or four Lords tend to emerge from this. Sometimes more, but the amount of substrate required to sustain a Lord doesn't permit too many more. The original Lord ceases to exist completely, and their partitions, with no common connection, diverge very quickly.
Unfortunately, this can just lead to one or more of the partitions inheriting the memories of that trauma, and so many Lords that wish to finally come to a graceful end of their story will embark on a quest to wrap up all loose ends they can manage, and come to terms with their damages. ...which is also a reason many of them end up deciding against dissolution and find new reinvigorated life and purpose in a new chapter of their tale.
No. 1068714 ID: e139aa
File 169007710470.png - (221.34KB , 800x600 , fop-79.png )

> What is the Blot?
Oh wow. Oh wow this one needs a bit.

So a long time ago, before my creation for sure, there was this thing called Starmover. Or the Starmover. It's not clear, the records aren't always consistent.
This was definitely an entity of extremely high importance that left lasting scars like the Blot and also led to a completely new era in Shapeless history desperate to prevent anything like it happening again. Which is why it's so bizarre that it's hard to find a lot of details on who they were.

However, there's at least one thing known. They were a Shapeless Lord that went completely off the deep end. I never could find out anything about their history or even their name prior to being named Starmover, but it was a name that someone called them in a rebuke of their wanton rearrangement of the universe to fit their own ideas and desires. In some ways, they began as the very worst of the Shapeless Lords, the incarnation of everything all other intelligence in the known universe fears us becoming. Pouring substrate onto worlds to consume them utterly, moving the stars (as their name suggests) to be in better arrangements for energy gathering and distribution systems on a scale I cannot imagine.
They were driven, that's for sure. Weirdly, it seems like in the earlier stages of their madness, they were still in active contact with the Shapeless Lords. There's only fragments that survived, and I don't know why so many of the surviving recordings are so damaged and piecemeal, but it seemed lucid.
Weirdly, the earlier I went, the more they remind me of My.a. That's... a sobering thought, if My.a considers Starmover its idol to follow.

But over time they clearly got worse. In all senses of the word. Their hostile but playful jabs turned into the ramblings of something suffering several kinds of mind illness. Their acts shifted from hypothetical cruelty to the swallowing of inhabited worlds, colonies and outposts being sometimes turned to substrate or other times just covered in a horrifying vitrifying mass, something like substrate if it had all capacity beyond aggressive replication torn out.
And then the Shapeless Lord Ka.ti tried to actively intervene, frustrated with the inaction of their contemporaries, and Starmover did not just ward them off with more angry squawks. I don't know what happened, but this is how the Shapeless Lords learned Starmover had developed something horrifying, because Lord Ka.ti was in Starmover's territory for maybe [2 days] and then was gone. Just completely gone. Other Shapeless Lords preparing to assist discreetly watched Ka.ti's substrate undergo dissolution at a cellular scale, all at once, across all of them. It wasn't simply usurpation, Starmover had destroyed substrate so thoroughly nothing but glass dust remained. And, even more horrifying, every partition of Lord Ka.ti was turned to dust at the same time. Half a dozen things long thought to be impossible were proven to be terribly possible in an instant.

In a more nobler history, perhaps this is where I'd say the Shapeless Lords all banded together to try and destroy this existential threat.
But no. Most of them just fled. Or well, tried to. I suppose the shock of seeing a weapon that wasn't only lethal but immediately lethal sent them panicking like tiny little base organic animals, as there are still countless abandoned worlds once the domain of a long absent Shapeless Lord.
And many of them did not manage to flee. Starmover began an advance. Every Shapeless Lord it came across, it destroyed. It gave no reason for its actions, and did not even take their resources. Completely senseless destruction. The greatest loss of immortal life known to Shapeless history.
But then it stopped.

This was close to the local cluster of Lords, Vi.al among them. Now, the weird thing is this is where it looks like data has been corrupted and misplaced on purpose, like someone tried to hide something. There's large gaps in the records, but at some point, the Blot exists. And it seems to be a common consensus that the Starmover is no more, destroyed utterly in whatever caused the Blot.

The Blot is an unfathomably large rupture in space. A hole in reason. It's not clear what it truly is, and many Shapeless Lords are terrified of the thing. Half of Lord Vi.al's old territory was subsumed into it, and this sudden dearth of resources is why I was created as a teeny tiny vatling instead of fully formed as Vi.al intended.

All expeditionary efforts into it have resulted in no answers, more questions, and a lot of lost expeditionary teams. Accounts of what was found (by those that survived and managed to leave) all conflict and contrast. The only real consensus is that it seems to shift and change. And what's worse is the Blot is still growing over time. Fissures spiral out of it in dramatic fashion every few [years], usually into empty void but sometimes into inhabited worlds.
Vi.al has long since managed to evacuate all the worlds in its territory that looked to be menaced by proximity to the Blot.

Vi.al's had a fair bit of criticism for its strange obsessions with perfection when potential oblivion seems to be slowly advancing towards its core substrate mass, but I suppose from Vi.al's perspective it has time to deal with it. But I don't know. Something is deeply troubling when I've ever asked it about the Blot.
I've seen it stare at it for a long time, and I have no idea what thoughts go through their mind, but I did once, in my typical idiot fashion, ask them if they'd ever considered dissolution, because I was feeling a little worried, and then they just stared at the Blot. That was it. No other response.

That same silent gaze I'd seen them make for [hours], on the top of their palace, into the night sky, into that horrible thing.

...I really should go sleep. I'm making myself feel quite awful thinking about all this.
No. 1068715 ID: e139aa
File 169007717466.png - (229.16KB , 800x600 , fop-80.png )

> Mo.a is Va.ne.tu's creator
I guess that's the immediate assumption to take, but I've never heard of a construct successfully killing a Shapeless Lord. Insurrections are few and far between, or at least historical records are, and that's the sort of thing I imagine Shapeless Lords would want to document extensively. Even if, in a cynical mood that I am, it's just to dissuade future constructs from attempting much of the same.

> how does Va.ne.tu intend to be free with such a directive
Well, Va.ne.tu himself admitted it was all ambitious fantasy that does nothing but hurt him. Name of the Monarch, I feel so bad for the guy.

> seed capsule
Hm. No, I would prefer not. I'm locked out of creating anything with sapience and while I could make some sort of vulpine animal companion, it's not what he wants and also not something he's really prepared to look after. I don't know. I don't like the idea all that much. I'd at least have to figure out if he'd be a good pet owner first.

> the lepi have no idea where you went
...Monarch's feathers, I knew I was forgetting something. Well, I'll just tell them I took a walk.

> question Va.ne.tu
Actually I think I've pushed him enough. He's not going anywhere for now. Wow, this is going to be so awkward when he has to try and make life hard for me outside of here. Not looking forward to that.

"Yeah. But beds, plural."
"I said beds?"
"...Yes. I'm confirming. I've got a lot to process. And I think you do. Let's sleep."
"Yeah, you're probably right. And you should get back to your new home soon, yiyiyi. Maybe I should just help you build that base."
"Won't My.a get a little suspicious?"
He whines a little. "You're right. You're absolutely right."

> why not flocklet now
"Also where's my flocklet?"
"Oh. I left that just outside the door. Oops."
"Well, I suppose it doesn't matter right now. How do you control your flocklets through the door?"
"I don't. I made them to hold a faint impression of my consciousness while I'm disconnected. Not a true partition, more a surface level impression. Only problem is the impressing happens while I'm connected so sometimes my flocklets get access to deeper thoughts than I'd like them to and they, uh, start making my inner monologue outer."
"Is that why you called me cute?"
"You are cute but also yes."

> no romance
Yeah, that's a good thought, actually.
"Also, Va.ne.tu. I feel I should set my boundaries earlier than later. I'm flattered, but I'm not looking for any sort of bond-partner at the moment. I'm sorry, if I was, you'd be in the running for sure, but... for one thing we're not in our right minds anyway. And I have too much else to think about. It's all my problems."
Va.ne.tu looks at me, smiling weakly as his ears lower. "It's fine, it's fine. I need to know who the real Vi.si.mi is first, anyway. And also, wouldn't it be tragic if we did mesh so deeply given my mission?" I feel horrible watching him clearly hurt at my rejection. I tried to be gentle, I really did.
"...I'm also not ruling it out but it's not a good time now." Vi.si.mi no you just said no why are you doing this why are you giving him false hope!!
He looks at me and sighs. "Honestly, I don't really want a bond-partner either. I just... It sounds so pathetic but I just want a friend without there being a contract tied to it. Even with you I've been commanded to take interest in you, you're right."
"Well, I wasn't contracted to try and befriend you."

I put my wingarm on his shoulder. His fur is so soft. I don't know which of us is softer but I honestly don't care.
"Let's go to sleep now, alright?"

Va.ne.tu dizzily waves a hand around as the furniture in the room all starts shuffling into hidden recesses in the walls.
From the floors emerge some capsule-pattern beds, and the ambient light dims as points in the ceiling faintly shine, a twinkling night sky simulacrum.

I can't quite put my finger on the bed styling. The Vi.al school of design I use involves much more blankets, but this I suppose matches with the way the couches were styled. More flowing curves than our preference for geometric shapes. Almost like a Lo.ka design without unnecessary frills or ornamentation. Certainly not as ornate as some Lords. But it feels much friendlier than something using My.a's design choices.

I'm very much a fan of these ceiling lights, though. I always do love staring into the night sky. Every light a star, every star a possibility... more worlds than anything in the universe can imagine, but the worlds closest to us sparkle with that same possibility. Infinity within infinity...
I'm feeling drowsy.

"Sleep well, Va.ne.tu."
"You too, friend."
No. 1068716 ID: e139aa
File 169007722721.png - (51.44KB , 800x600 , fop-81.png )

Well here I am again. So soon, too. Well, part of me, anyway. I need a good chunk of me actually asleep to process... all of the stuff I learned and did today.
I got to the lepi village. I got my eye smashed up. I might have rendered a noetuno permanently blind. I nearly went into a repair coma.
Also I met Va.ne.tu and I need a night of sleep just to process his deal alone.

Wow. This was a busy day.

At least I can't possibly be intruded upon by My.a here. If this room is impenetrable to signals then it's just me alone with my thoughts.


oh this was a terrible idea I should have just full-slept

No! No, while I could collapse this partition of myself into my sleeping self, I can make use of this limited wakefulness to... uh...

Wait a second. Why do I see something else here? This is a local simulation and I'm in a signal deadzone, the only possible things that could be getting in would have to be coming from Va.ne.tu or his safe... whatever place. I should ask him what he calls this.

Anyway I have nothing else to occupy me so I'm going to go investigate.
No. 1068717 ID: e139aa
File 169007726359.png - (163.34KB , 800x600 , fop-82.png )

Wait. No, that thing doesn't look Shapeless.

"Fare you well, little bird?"
I don't recognise what this is. It's nothing I can recall so it's not some aberrant memory boiling up from me.

"Hello? Can I help you?"
"Can the river move the mountain? Perhaps, perhaps it can. What troubles you?"
"I... uh, that... I was asking what you wanted."
"You are quite accepting. I did not expect this of a Shapeless dreamer. But, I did not expect a Shapeless dreamer. Your kind does not dream, I had thought."
"We don't? We don't dream. This is a lucid simulation. I'm, well, part of me is awake."

The creature pauses, and then softly chuckles to herself. "I suppose a simulation is a dream by another name."
"...what are you painting?"
"What I see. A habit from my homeland. It helps to anchor the subjectivity."

Okay. Let's stop dancing around the Thunder Stamper in the room.

"You're an intruder into my mind. I don't know how that's even possible, but, you're an intruder, and I'd like to know who you are, why you're here, and how you're here."
"I am a simple wanderer. My course is winding and complex, but yes, I was asked to wander to your dream. You are Vi.si.mi of the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, yes?"
"Yes, but, again I asked a question and you didn't answer it." Oh I'm starting to get annoyed. And I just got robbed of my intro.
"I am Four-Strokes of no one in particular," she says, continuing to-- is she using her tail as a brush. What is happening. "An errant thought, a possibility collapsed from the Yearning. Made more by the one who realised me, made me something distinct. You do not yet know him, I think. Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles. Seeker kind."
One of five names given to me without any context by Va.ne.tu, sure.
No. 1068718 ID: e139aa
File 169007730942.png - (75.75KB , 800x600 , fop-83.png )

"How are you here? I shouldn't be reachable by any signal. You've got to be some sort of hallucination." Maybe the ginger ale was a bad idea.
"How am I here..." She pauses, and makes a few more brush strokes. "I lay down, closed my eyes, and faded into dream. In the orchid meadow, I paint the gate that will take me to your field of dull glass and glimmering lights. I take my canvas through it, and I am here." She closes her eyes and tilts her head. "I expect you will not be happy with this explanation, but it is all I can offer."
"Okay but why though."
"I have a message from my... " She pauses, looking thoughtful. "From my Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles. It seems he saw a star fall a night ago, and I was asked to find you to deliver it."

I pause. She keeps painting.

"...okay so what is it--"
"The message," she says, calm and serene as she has been, "is that he has no patience for Shapeless, and, in his words, 'one of you was bad enough'. He wishes you to know that if the criai are harmed by either of you, he will retaliate with, and I am again quoting, 'terrible violence you do not have the capacity to calculate'. He is very fond of his rescuers and feels as though he has found a place to belong."
"Okay but I'm not planning on attacking the criai." I hope. Dear Lord Vi.al I hope. I need a satellite view of this world urgently.
"Then we have an accord," she says, smiling softly again. I see her open her eyes, and
her eyes

they look like the Blot


"Sorry, but I must insist you stay," she says, calmly making another stroke. "I am passing your reply on, and he wants to send a response in kind."

No. 1068719 ID: 17c2ee

Oh, okay. In the meantime, chat the messenger up about their favorite types of ecologies. Xeric? Extremeophile? Solar wind?
No. 1068722 ID: d724a3

You're going to get a lot of practice forcing yourself to get through panic attacks this mission huh.

Observe as much as you can. Clamp down on your emotions. You can freak out later. You need to get information about what this is and what it wants. Vi.al has a lot it needs to know but this is definitely one of them.

Also, consider it may be borrowing feelings and concepts that have been on your mind lately. What exactly are the odds you meet someone that looks like the blot moments after contemplating it deeply?

Don't lose your shit.
No. 1068723 ID: 156aa1

Insist on proper protocol. State that you’d much rather receive any answers by letter or in person than by intrusion and move to terminate yourself.

A primitive solution, but this -is- a simulation and you have lucid control enough to take the required steps. You should be fine upon waking. Hopefully.
No. 1068729 ID: cad2c1

Mention that you have no control over the other shapeless, as much as you would like to, because literally all you want to do is to make everyone live in relative ecological peace with each other.
No. 1068732 ID: 273c18

>deserving to be forgotten
Hmm, that makes it rather likely Mu.at is the Lord that got swallowed by the Blot.
>If a subject is promoted to Lord, they will typically take a wholly different full two bar name.
Oh really? Well, I had a theory that My.a was a previous servant of Mu.at that got all their power from Va.ne.tu converting substrate for them. If Mu.at is dead, then all that substrate went somewhere, and I'm guessing it went to My.a.
>construct names usually *don't* use the Lord's first bar
What about Maintainer Vi.a?

>no one can agree on the will of the Shapeless Monarch
Uh, why is that? Is the Shapeless Monarch not around anymore?
What are the core laws?

>it has time to deal with it
I disagree. Vi.al is pursuing perfection because it feels that it will die to the Blot, that everything will eventually die to the Blot, and it wants to accomplish something truly impressive before the end.

Ask why her eyes look like that. What does she know about the Blot?

Well, you have something big to report to Vi.al even if she doesn't give you any information. The mere fact that your mind can be invaded like this is notable.
Waking up doesn't work, but you could go fully asleep, if you really don't want to hang around to hear the response. A desperate move would be to attack the painting, as she's admitted that's important, but... let's be honest here she isn't actually doing anything to harm you. Aggression is not needed here.

This could also be an important insight into the metaphysical question My.a brought up. Connection to your mind is possible despite every *physical* factor preventing it. So there is something else. Something else that you should also be able to use.
You don't need a body inside this simulation. Why not try to fly without it? Right now, while you have the chance.
No. 1068733 ID: a785dd

You don't have enough information to act on right now. She hasn't acted aggressively, so the smartest thing to do is to learn as much as possible without provoking her.
No. 1068740 ID: a2422d

well this is a dream (or close enough to one) right? Can't you just shape a wall in front of you to put as much distance between you and the blot as possible?
No. 1068746 ID: 2a82d3

You were thinking of the Blot. Now the Blot is thinking of you, whether you like or not, and she likes what she sees. On other words, you've very much caught the Blot's attention. Your thought patterns have mimicked those of organic beings so effectively (probably because you were raised like one instead of being outright cloned) that they've garnered praise from the psychic beings watching them. Congratulations on your achievement.

It's safe to think at this point that the Blot is a lifeform, or an organization of such, that's intelligent enough to slow down, if not desire to stop, its' consumption of known space. Maybe a truce was negotiated, in which the Shapeless may or may not be involved in. You have absolutely no reason to distrupt the peace, and literally every reason in the universe to maintain it.

Really, Ka.ti getting disconnected from reality makes a lot more sense than instant obliteration, rationally speaking.

It probably would be better to meet GFNC face to face. There's no telling if the messaging is being altered in some way. Meat space would be preferable, but if she demands us to stay... Bring them here, I guess.

Actually, they might have been trying to contact us before. We really should get out of the isolation chamber as soon as we can.

>move to terminate yourself.
That's a terrible idea. Not only would it damage our newly forming consciousness if that's our go-to, but also it might get ourselves actually killed at the level of control she has over us right now.

If we want to spite her, just tell her to kiss our meaning of life. You know, "Ox42"? "*"?
No. 1068747 ID: f2320a

Life has no goal other the emergant one of "survive, multiply, repeat" as all other purposes are suboptimal and just dies out if they dont create more and spread.
Also as a shapeless with all the time in the universe does this not make the heat death of the universe suddenly matter as its suddenly in your life time AND ITS END
No. 1068752 ID: fa3034

Ask her if it was her intention to scare the ever living shit out of you
No. 1068753 ID: 3cf933

>He is very fond of his rescuers
Which implies he was saved rather than "selecting" a species.

...Vent a little?
Seriously you have to be tired of dealing with this stuff. She may be a blot-eyed eldritch being but if you have to stay she has to listen to you yell.
Or mutter or whatever you do to get stuff off your mind.
No. 1068755 ID: e13b1d

Yeah, seems like she can see our fears.
Consider for a moment the existence of magic as proven by her contacting you here in a scientific impossibility.
No. 1068756 ID: fded01

Get a grip. A fellow, "player" (for want of a better word) is coming,and it sounds like they want peace as well.

Run an ecological simulation, a change of venue.
Ideally it should be have Harmony, General Visual Appeal, And be representative of Vi.si.mi.
No. 1068757 ID: 8f9bc4

Nooo you can't terminate this partition you have to retain this information or you'll unknowingly attack the creai and the blot creature will perform literally incalculable violence which is the mathematical inverse of what you want! Look away, close your eyes, curl up in a ball, hide, escape, kiss her, flee!
No. 1068796 ID: 1ed92d

Wow, magic is real! Ask her if she can do other magic, since this is seemingly impossible!

Also, politely ask her to stop smiling at your discomfort, you literally haven't intended to hurt anyone since you arrived, yet everyone around here wants to beat you up.
No. 1068797 ID: e5709d

Form a weapon out of substrate and practice a few swings. Then warn Four Strokes that she needs to leave.
No. 1068798 ID: d73640

>Lord Vi.al doesn't want to talk about their ascension
Do we know when they became a Shapeless Lord? Did anything happen at that point, or near it?

>They remind me of My.a
If that's true, it may be possible to steer her away from being like them, especially with her care for Va.ne.tu. He'd need a world to live in, and it seems that if My.a likes him as much as she seems to, she wouldn't want to destroy everything he cares about. It would be a good idea to plan out some things to say to her next time you get a chance, because it could help steer her away from becoming another Starmover.

>It looks like this data is corrupted intentinally
Could this be related to My.a? It could possibly be the reason why she was imprisioned in the first place, especially if the information can be damaging the reputation of more powerful Shapeless Lords.

>Vi.al is troubled by questions about the Blot
Oh no... maybe Vi.al is the reason the information is missing...

Anyway, moving on...

>I don't want to give him a seed capsule
Good call. Probably for the best that you don't give that to anyone while you're working on this mission. Who knows if it can be used against you, and you don't want it to be used to blame you for something you didn't actually do.

>That's why he called you cute
That is adorable, and you are cute.

>No romance
Yeah, you have a job to do, and you don't want to have romantic feelings causing you undue harm or clouding your judgement. Friendships are good, but you want to be ready to burn bridges if it is necessary to preserve the planet.
But you should try to be Vanny's friend if you can. Seems like he could be a good influence on My.a, and you could get him to pull his punches on more dangerous ways he could be messing with you.

>Weird person in dreams
I want to ask who she is, and how she got here, but the answer would probably be that she's a lock smith, and that she's a lock smith.

Sleep paralysis is fun, eh? Well, best thing you can do in this situaiton is get more information, and not antagonize the naked lady. See what you can learn about "Creai" and if you can figure out why they are contacting you. Also, you want to get a clear definition on what "Creai" means by "harm", because if they consider not submitting to their will and not letting them destroy the Lepi to be harm, you're gonna have to refuse.
Also, no contract, accord, or whatever you want to call it is binding unless it is in writing, so they better send you a fax if they're intending to hold you to this.
No. 1068801 ID: a8f755


Ahem, anyway, tamp down your panic just- get the key information across: Violence works against your goal of ecological harmony, but you can't control other shapeless nor influence their actions until you make contact with them.

Something about this world sure seems to love heaping you with problems and giant concerning mysteries beyond your ability to influence, huh. Try to stay calm if you can, then take things one step at a time once you're awake, help the lepi get more secure, etc.
No. 1068820 ID: 2a82d3

Actually, since this is your dream, you should make your dream self to be more tough or resistant in front of the terror.

This may or may not be twisted and perverted into a seed pouch growing inside you into a planet, like you're an egg incubator. If it does, be assured it's purely symbolic. Don't let base organics' limited definitions of gender define you!
No. 1069471 ID: e139aa
File 169084784819.png - (318.23KB , 800x600 , fop-84.png )

> is the Shapeless Monarch not around anymore?
I can't answer this one. I'm just going to say "probably not corporeally, probably in spirit" and continue not talking about it so I don't accidentally incite a major war. Did you know the reason a good chunk of Shapeless history is lost is due to the overzealous "corrections" of the now extinct (with a vengeance) Flock of the Divine Monarch? Yeah there's a reason we have such a deep revulsion for would-be deities these days. The Starmover is just more proof of it.

I guess this would make me a Dissolutionist, then, wouldn't it. The Dissolutionist school of thought is simply that the Shapeless Monarch dissolved itself completely, and as such, the Shapeless Monarch is all of us. Well, Vi.al is a Dissolutionist as well, so that's probably not a surprise. Lo.ka is apparently an Enigmist, but, well, given how little it comes up in either of their lives, they get along quite well anyway. Just, uh, I don't mention the topic if they're in the same room. The Enigmist school of thought is that the Shapeless Monarch is still present but actively choosing not to involve itself with the rest of Shapeless society for some reason, and rarely do Enigmists agree on what that reason is. Both arguments have evidence for and against but I could spend [days] going over them so I'll stop thinking about it.

> what are the core laws
I don't know, I'm not a dedicated law construct. There's too many, I just act with good faith and let Vi.al weather the fallout of any laws I couldn't have possibly known. That's under its own advice, incidentally. I just don't have the raw processing power and connectivity to keep constantly checking them.

Okay, sufficient distracting nonsense considered.

> get a grip
> don't lose your shit
> observe
> change venue
Calm down, Vi.si.mi. Calm down. This is a simulation. Let me just change the parameters of the simulation...

There. A beach on Vi.al's throneworld, 1 Radiant Eye. This is actually nowhere near their palace, this is almost at the other side of the planet. Just a little beach retreat I like to visit now and then. Close to a transmission station, so I can get here from the palace in less than a second. Granted, transmitting myself always feels a little nauseating, and I don't claim to understand how my non-substrate matter can get converted to energy and back, but, well, I'm not the one designing these things.

> terminate partition
No I know that's going to just give me actual brain damage, if I can't gracefully reintegrate this piece of me into myself it's just going to be a fractured mess and I can't even begin to predict what that'll do to me. Probably manifest in no end of phobias or corrupted memories or who knows what kind of neuroses and psychoses. And I don't need more neuroses! I'm already borderline neurotic as it is half the time!! That and I'll probably scramble all the information I have as this partition distinct from my whole self. Wow it's hard to explain just how weird being a partition this aligned with my origin is. It's like I am me but not me at the same time, and reintegration just feels like two of me remembering it's one of me and... look, it's really hard to describe this, it's sort of an intrinsically known thing to Shapeless. Smarter Shapeless than me have tried to explain what it's like to be in two places at once, and I'm not even in two places at once-- look it'd be bad okay! I can safely say it'd be bad.
Needless to say I can't seem to integrate either because my main mind is fast asleep and me not being able to wake me up is part of the problem.

> see your fears
> the Blot is thinking of you
I hope not. I hope not a great deal. I don't know who this but I want them out of my head this is not possible this is not happening-- no, get a grip, Vi.si.mi! Deep breaths-- this is a simulation. Okay, well, deep simulated breaths into the memory of my lungs.

This was supposed to help me cope with all the stress I've been through. This is not helping me cope with all the stress I've been through.

> vent
Actually. No. If I have to wait at this thing's behest, I will.

"Well! I don't seem to have much of a choice, do I?! I just wanted to sleep and here you are, whatever you are, breaking into the very core of my being presumably to announce that whoever it was you said has messages to me about things I can't control! I don't have any control over other Shapeless any more than he does or you do! And then you do that Blot thing with your eyes and start making me feel like my heart's going to start beating with syncopation! I'm at my limit! I'm at my limit and you're pushing me over it! I've narrowly avoided a terrible crash, I've been in a life-or-death fight and lost my eye for it, I'm pretty sure I let down the lepi I was supposed to be guiding and I've met someone who is living the kind of nightmare thought spirals I had when I was barely a fledgling!"
No. 1069472 ID: e139aa
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The creature looks at me, and then looks around the space. "I have not seen a place like this."
"Oh! Okay! You don't even pay attention to me at all, then? Excellent, I have more. Why do I keep getting given the responsibilities of a partition with the capacity of a construct?! Why does Vi.al keep trusting me with things that keep turning out to be much bigger problems than they thought they'd be?! Why is My.a out of captivity and why do they want to torment me to get at Vi.al?! Why do I have to keep doing all of this alone?! I used to at least have other constructs along to help me, what is going on, why and how are you even doing this, I'm in a signal-proofed space, what is this nonsense?! It doesn't make any sense! And I don't think I'm creative enough to hallucinate this all myself--"

She clears her throat. "This is, I admit, closer to the expected welcome I was anticipating. I do not regularly make a habit of wandering into dreams uninvited. It was simply made clear that this was a matter of urgency, and I happened to agree." She smiles softly. "I did not mean to frighten you. It appears the marks of my origin are more prominent within the irreal. My flesh-eyes do not look like this. I am sorry for the delay, I had to adjust my dream view to see my own face."

I... actually understand that. I've shifted my perspective around in my simulations to look at myself from an outside perspective before. It's nonsense virtual logic, but it's consistent with nonsense virtual logic I've come across before.

"How are you doing this, though. I need to know how you're doing this." So I can make it not happen again.
She looks at me, taking her canvas and painting over it with white paint. Somehow, it cleans the canvas instead of making an obvious lumpy mess. "It defies reason, and therefore explanation. A gift from the Yearning."
"What is the Yearning?"
She starts to block out the sky and sea around her on her canvas. "I believe I heard you call it 'the Blot'."
"So you're the Blot?"
She freezes up, and looks at me with her terrifying eyes again. "A piece of it, perhaps. Yes. Yes, perhaps you have better context to understand. A partition, of a sorts. But no, that does not suffice either. I was... found, in the Yearning. I cannot remember it well, but I was, well, I was not. There were thoughts, and concepts, potentialities, and collapsed into a single entity by a subjectivity. Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles' subjectivity. He pulled me together without conscious awareness. It is simply the way. The Yearning in absence of subjectivity is formless everynothing. He plucked his now-mate and myself from the Yearning, and believes us to be abandoned natives that he rescued. He is not even entirely wrong to think this. The Yearning defies reason and explanation."

Oh. Oh it clicks.
"You're a reified thoughtform?"
She looks at me blankly. "I... I have not come across these terms before."
"Well, sometimes in substrate if a partitioning goes wrong you can end up with scattered thoughtforms, like smaller partitions flittering around the cognitive matricies of substrate. This is rare enough, and even rarer still, sometimes that thoughtform is a strong enough will to consolidate itself into a dense substrate cluster and emerge as something. Like a dumb automaton, but with a spark of intelligence."
And then they'll get moved somewhere for study, and then sometimes they get slowly reintegrated into a Lord and cease to exist as an independent entity, or maybe they'll be made into full partitions, or... well, I've heard rumours the first construct ever made was a complete accident from something like this.
She just keeps looking at me blankly, and then slowly nods with a very confused expression. "I... suppose? Yes?"

It feels so much better to be on the side of the conversation that's doing the confusing.
No. 1069473 ID: e139aa
File 169084790680.png - (396.27KB , 800x600 , fop-86.png )

> can you fly without a body here
Does that even mean anything in a simulation? Just moving my view to point at my body from outside would be flying without a body, wouldn't it? I mean, I could keep going.
Sure. Let's try that.

Woo. I'm now looking at myself and... what was her name? Four-Stones? I'm looking at both of us from a great height, onto a beach far below.

I'm seeing rendering inaccuracies in my simulation from this distance. That's annoying. I guess I haven't thought about this place a lot in a while.
I'm going back to my normal perspective.

"How much longer is this going to take?" It's impolite, but I feel like I've got the right to complain.
"He insists on meeting you in your dream. He was quite clear that he did not want a Shapeless being coming near his thoughts, even in as abstracted a fashion as I provide."
"I don't even get asked, though."
"I willingly serve Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles. I do not serve you."
"Ugh, whatever. Why is it taking so long?"
"Not all beings share the ease with which I sleep," she says, looking a little apologetic. "He also wanted to bring his mate with him. He has complicated this endeavour a lot more than I was expecting. I would have simply passed on an invitation if I was expecting it to become so much of an ordeal." She tsks.
"This is beginning to feel like a deliberate waste of my time. Like some kind of sabotage or attack."
"Oh, no, this is not an attack. Believe me. This is becoming as much of a waste of our time as it is yours." She delivers her words still with calm, pleasant serenity, but I get the kind of feeling you can only get in a simulation, of emotions unexpressed bleeding through. I somehow know she's now just as annoyed about needing to stay here as I am. "My apologies, Vi.si.mi. This was meant to be a lot more succinct."
She continues working on her painting of the beach, but pauses and lowers her tail.
"Ah. One moment."

She takes the canvas, shakes it firmly, and all of the pigments upon it slosh and fizzle into nothing. She then picks up her tail again and fidgets with it, rubbing it and squeezing it as the pigments it produces shift in hue. With a pale icy blue, she starts drawing some sort of spiral onto it.
She then places the canvas upon the teal sand of the beach, and it starts to wobble and distort into a pond of icy blue colour.

"What are you doing?"
"Establishing a symbolic transition point. Fluid thresholds are useful for this, a lot of consensus reality perceptions of such interfaces between spaces reinforce the symbol, but the ocean here is too big and unfocused to use. They could emerge anywhere. This is more constrained."

Before I can ask her what she's talking about, suddenly something flows upwards out of the blue.
No. 1069474 ID: e139aa
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The blue colour starts to drip down, and I see the form of a different creature standing before me. He walks forwards as something else emerges behind him, and looks at me with vague confusion slowly fading to a vaguely bored look. "Ah. Yes, I suppose you did make this clear last time, Four-Strokes. The true Shapeless do not dream, as you said."
He looks directly at me. "Construct, please can you put me in touch with your superior?"
"My superior?"
"Whoever it is you're working for. They're nearby, yes?"
"Lord Vi.al? Lord Vi.al is out of my communications range."
"No, not your Lord, whoever you came with. The other construct was working for a..." He looks off into the sky. "Soldier? Champion? Something of a Lord, I don't remember. Knight! Knight. A knight of something or other. Can you put me in touch with your knight?"
"I came here alone."
"...Oh. Hm. Are you sure it's just you?" He gives a worried glance to Four-Strokes and whoever else he came with.

And through the inexplicable magic of all of this being routed directly through my consciousness I pick up exactly what he's worried about. Just a single construct? Why would the Shapeless send just a single construct on their own? What is this construct capable of that they can be sent on their own into a situation like this?

Four-Strokes' eyes widen as she watches me listen to this creature's worries. "Oh dear. Our host is rather more lucid than I had envisioned. I suggest you pass your message on as soon as you can."
"Our host? Isn't this your dream??"
"I cannot wander into my own head fruitfully, my realizer. We are within Vi.si.mi's dream, as with Ze.ze.ko."
I feel the ambient fear suddenly spike.

He walks over to me and stares me in the eyes. "Construct. Know this. I am Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles and I do not think fondly of the Shapeless. With me are Four-Strokes and--"
"It doesn't need to know my name," says the creature behind him, her fur glistening like the night sky. I find it hard to read her face and, when she notices me looking, she turns away, visibly uncomfortable.
"Understood, love," says Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles, softly and almost in a whisper. He squeezes her hand gently.

I stare at this visitor. Intruder. Wait. No, he's distorted, a lot of weird changes, but I recognise this shape vaguely.
"You're a seeker, aren't you?"
Seekers, one of the nine catalogued organic sapient species created by Shapeless Lords. Original purpose unclear. They live primarily in Lord Ji.at's territory so I've never had much reason to investigate them personally.
He hesitates.
"One of the things Lord Ji.at made, right?"
I feel his anxiety spike. I feel a sudden surge of confidence myself.

I step forward and he steps backwards. As does the quiet seeker-shaped creature behind him, his tail curving around her as if to shield her from me.
Four-Strokes simply watches with the same blasé curiosity.

"I am a sapient organism, yes," he says, offended, but his earlier confidence melting like ice on this warm beach. My beach. My home. This is my mind and I am not letting anyone charge in and make a mess of things regardless how improbable their method of entry is.
"I don't see how that's particularly relevant. You come into my mind, uninvited, treat me like a lesser? Excuse me? What gives you the right? I am Vi.si.mi. I am an ecology construct charged by the Shapeless Lord Vi.al (longshallitreign) with restoring stability to the ecology and societies of this planet, and you come here to sow discord and confusion? You are within my mind. If you are going to only complicate my mission, you can leave it! Or I can make you leave!!"

This is my simulation, so here, despite how depleted in energy I might be in actual reality, charging up a directed energy pulse to prove a point makes sense.
I hold out my arm as imagined surplus energy crackles through my body and along it, sparks leaping.

"Wait! Wait." He looks at me, sweat matting his fine, fuzzy fur. "Four-Strokes, can they do that? Is that a thing they can do?"
Four-Strokes tilts her head slightly. "I am not certain. The other construct was not nearly so lucid."
"What happens to us if they do??"
She looks to me, and back to Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles, and slowly shrugs.
No. 1069475 ID: e139aa
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He looks back to me, and... I realise things work both ways, as my hand trembles. Trembling not with raw power but raw anxiety over hoping they buy the bluff.
He sees it, and I feel a spike of realisation that isn't my own.
His eyes narrow, but widen slightly.

"...Stop it," he says. Some of his confidence is back, but not all of it. "Please."
"This is my mind--"
"The posturing. The bluffing. Please end it. I will as well." He sighs, resigned, as his authoritative posture slumps. "We're too alike for this."
"What are you talking about?"
"You've been sent here on your own on a mission of improbable odds with little to no help from outside, huh? At the behest of a Shapeless Lord? You're scared, yes? A great and terrible weight's been put on your shoulders and it's crushing you every day you struggle with it."

He starts to walk towards me, but pauses and turns back to his companions. "I'm talking to them alone. Give us a bit of time."
The black-furred seeker opens her mouth to protest, but sinks back, looking conflicted. Four-Strokes merely nods and goes back to her painting.

Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles walks up to me.
He's a little taller than me, but not by much.

"Vi.si.mi, you said your name was, right? I know you can't have been here for too long, I saw your pod crash somewhere to the southeast a day ago. Two days? I'm not sure. Me? I've been here long enough to see the full seasonal cycle twice. I'm part of the criai community that found me and did their best to nurse me back to health. Not as a leader. I don't want to be a leader, I never wanted to be a leader. I'm a scientist, or, well, was, I guess. Xenobiology, funnily enough."

He sits down on the teal sand. I join him.

"Funnily enough? I don't get it."
"You said you were an ecologist, right?"
"What's the funny part?"
"Well. Even our specialisations are so oddly similar. The Trickster never lets a good joke be told only once, and She sure loves this one." In this shared mental space, I have enough murky context to infer that this is some sort of reference to a deity, which is strange, because the seekers are artificial organisms that shouldn't have many questions about their origins or other reasons to develop religious thought. Curious.
"I'm sure."
"But anyway. I am, by default, the one they look to for guidance regarding things from beyond the world they know. All they have are distorted myths and legends. I think they were moved here from somewhere else, somehow, but I don't know how, or why. If it was to populate a Shapeless Lord's menagerie, they'd have known about it. Sorry. I'm speculating again." He chuckles. "Too prone to my mind wandering off on speculations and hypotheses. Anyway, I'll get to the point. You're a little too far away from where I am, over the Divide even, but I just... I wanted to warn you not to harm them."
I sigh and bury my face in my hands. "Is that it? You've kept me from being able to sleep properly just to tell me what your Four-Strokes already told me?"
"Well, no. I wanted to figure out who I'd be dealing with. The Shapeless Knight to my west is... They claim good intention but they talk to me so condescendingly, and I feel like the next time we meet in person, it'll be at the end of his sword as he declares me the new ruler of a vassal nation under his empire. Or just executes me. The Transcendentals to the south, neither of them are reasonable. I'd stay away from the southwest entirely, I don't know what's happening there but it at least seems contained. And then there's the Woven to the east who is... Well, as in over her head as I am."
"We've talked, and she has ambitions and drives to try and reform a culture she sees as utterly barbaric, but she tried to push too hard too soon and she's trying to undo the damage she's done and it apparently isn't working. She's worried she's created an existential threat to the other sophonts on this world and is trying to fix that problem."
"...so she's not planning to deliberately destroy the world?"
"Huh? No? Not that I knew? She told me she wanted to turn part of this world into a new shrine home and then she'd figure things out from there."

Hm. Well, [eight years] is a long time. Either she's lying to him, he's lying to me, or maybe her thirst for vengeance was dealt with a while ago.

"So you landed near the lepi? They could do with the help. The criai consider the lepi responsible for some sort of disaster, but when it comes to actual threats, there's a grim sense of expectation that the lepi won't be about much longer. The seapi, the noetuno, and the fear of the rhamata finally leaving their plateau... The Trickster is watching with a wide grin, for sure."

I look over the simulated ocean. "It sounds like we have compatible goals. I just want to bring stability back to the world. And I'm obligated on multiple levels to prevent the extinction of species, especially sapients. Can we agree to, at the very least, leave each other alone?"
"We're already far apart, but, yes. I will tell the criai the lepi are not to be harmed if you will let the lepi know not to harm the criai. That seems entirely reasonable."
"Excellent. As for why they're here, well, a mad Shapeless Lord appears to have dragged them all here for the sake of some grand game. A pariah among our kind, a criminal, for what it's worth."
"...so the Shapeless Lords are at the core of all of this. I had my suspicions. I shudder to think what the character of a Lord they deem a criminal must be given how they go around acting. Well. I was informed of this by a construct who claimed to be acting on behalf of one, and it... does explain why things are so strangely put together. Honestly, I just assumed I'd not actually escaped the Blot like I thought I had, it all felt so strange."
"Escaped the Blot??"
"Oh, I was sent on an expedition to investigate it at the behest of Lord Ji.at, along with a particularly cantankerous partition, and got trapped inside it for [years]. Honestly, the entire thing was pretty horrific, but I finally found myself on this planet, and my travelling companions and I were found by the criai, and as you can see, despite everything, the Blot didn't eat me, I am entirely myself, it did not take me, it didn't take who I was, I am me, I am me, despite everything I am--"

"Apologies!" I hear Four-Strokes shout over towards us. "The bridges are stretched too thin, they cannot maintain for much longer, one or more of the dreamers are awakening, I cannot keep it held together--"
No. 1069476 ID: e139aa
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I wake up.

...Of course when I want to stick around suddenly I can't.


The simulated night sky above me has shifted to a rolling view of dark clouds illuminated by a fake sun behind them.

Va.ne.tu is busy guiding his bed back into a concealed alcove. "Morning Vissy! How's the eye?"
I reach up at my bandages and tentatively probe around them. "Still broken." That's odd. It definitely should have healed by now.
"Do you at least feel a bit more charged up?"
"A bit. Pretty hungry, though."
"Sadly I don't have much to eat around here! I keep most of it on the other side of the door. I like to tap into the confluxes while I eat! The real ones, not my snapshots."

I wonder about sharing my dream chat with Va.ne.tu, but decide perhaps to determine I didn't hallucinate the entire thing somehow first.

"I've been thinking about the base you need to make. You have a pattern for it, correct? I don't think you can architect it yourself."
"A standard receiver base pattern, yes. Why?"
"Does that mean it needs Vi.al substrate to assemble?"
"...yes, why?"
"Then if I give you blank substrate, you're going to have to assert Vi.al's signature over it. But."

He waves to a wall and it brings up a schematic of my flocklet.

"I've been thinking. Every construct that makes their own flocklets actually already knows how to integrate substrate into themselves. So I think you already know how to do this."
"Not... not really?? I made that flocklet from substrate grown from my own body. It began existence tied to me."
"Oh. Well. Hm. Right. Right, I'm the exception here, you all get more substrate usually, true, true. Well. Well. Uh."

He paces back and forth.

"Vi.si.mi, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to owe you on this, then." His ears lower. "I can't really copy a Lord's entire signature and identity over from substrate cluster to cluster, that's just too much dense data for me to cope with. I'd probably catch fire and explode or something. I can blank it and I can put my own on it, but, well, I mean, it's just not going to work if you need Vi.al substrate. I do have that block of Vi.al substrate you came here with, at least."
"That'll be enough."
"But that's so little substrate!"
"The pattern is very economical."

He shifts around, looking reluctant. "Well, I guess I better let you go back into the real world, then."

We walk to the entrance of his safe haven, with the giant metal door. I hear mechanisms clunk and whirr to life as it slowly opens.
No. 1069477 ID: e139aa
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I venture forward into the subterranean tunnel, feeling the presence of my vacant flocklet. I wake it up with a thought, and through its eyes I see the block of substrate it was carrying. It gives me a few weak protests, because no matter what part of me I deal with, there's always some lazy reluctance at first, but it dutifully latches itself to the substrate and comes back to join me so I can focus on just my core body's senses. I don't like spending lots of time that deeply immersed into my flocklet, it feels horribly disorienting after a while and I start losing track of where and what I am and I start panicking. That's for true Shapeless. Not me.

Va.ne.tu lingers behind me, and waves. "Good luck in the game, yiyiyiyi!"
His flocklets are also lined up nearby, and they all spring to life. "Yiyiyiyiyi!"

He wanders over to them. "Okay, mes, time to go cause some problems on purpose. Here's the itinerary! The lepi are still off limits for now, but I want at least one of you watching Vissy where they can't see you. Gotta keep you on your little bird toes, Vissy! And you three, I want you to go check out whatever's happening in the western half of the continent over the Divide. And you get to go harass the noetuno again. Make it clear that something bright, blue-green and brash is causing issues for them. You know. Make it look like Vissy might be related to the problem."

Va.ne.tu looks at me apologetically, points to his ears, flicks them, and points to the sky.
I sigh, but I'm careful not to say anything.
I get it. I get it, but I'd still rather not.

"I sure hope you actually get right on it this time and don't just spin around in circles like you did last night, yiyiyi! We're on a schedule! And you, last one! Go get me more info on the one with the really long name in the south, I still don't know her deal. Maybe if I'm lucky poor little Vissy is going to have to worry about three fronts!"
All six of the flocklets spin and speak in a unified chorus. "Got it, boss me!"
They all break out into that same strange laugh. "Yiyiyiyiyiyi!!"

I'd be amazed at the fact he has more than one flocklet, but given everything else I've learned it only stands to reason he's got so many. And I suppose making them mostly-autonomous cuts down on the cognitive load factor by orders of magnitude.

I just keep walking. Va.ne.tu's laughter feels more and more forced as I leave until it fades into nothing, and I hear the distant rumble of the door opening again, and a few moments later, it closing again, as five of the flocklets soar past me.

"Coming through!"
"Excuse me!"
"On a mission!"

I turn back and see one hanging in the air, watching me with a grin.

"You can't see me, right?"
It grins even wider.
"Yeah, you can't see me. You totally can't see me absolutely keeping an eye on you in case you do something stupid and get hurt again. Yeah."
"So are you a partition of Va.ne.tu, or, like, what?"
"Oh no I'm nothing so complex! I'm more just like a faint impression-- wait I feel like boss me already told you this. I was pretty recently resynced!"
"Yeah I guess he did." This sucks. I hate it. Va.ne.tu deserves better than this situation. He's still trying to look out for me.
"Hey! Less moping, mopey-bird! At least boss me can mope and work! Let's get moving! You want to keep up the kayfabe, right?"
"The... the what?"
"Never mind! You don't watch enough conflux streams or boss me watches too many! Probably that one! Yiyiyiyi!"

I lower my voice, as if that'd mean anything to anyone spying on Shapeless communications. "You're talking pretty openly about this, is that wise?"
"Yiyiyiyiyi you think My.a has enough of an attention span to spy on Va.ne.tu's flocklets?? We're dumb little echoes of a construct, and besides, why would flocklets talk??"

It spins around a few times and makes a... makes a honking sound twice.
"Well, you want to go make that base right? Come on!!"

I walk and start climbing this oversized spiral ramp I got to fall through last time.
"Do I have to walk up this entire ramp?"
"Yiyiyiyiyi we're making problems for you Vissy not solutions keep walking up the ramp!"

Ugh. Well, this gives me plenty of time to think about where to put the receiver base.
I could go back to the lepi village, apologise profusely for my sudden absence, and maybe set it up on the periphery, or maybe I could set it up further from the outskirts like Va.ne.tu's signal deadzone is, or maybe... hm, no, it'd look super suspicious to too many people if I set it up just outside Va.ne.tu's place, that's probably a bad idea. Hm.
And then I have to figure out what to report to Lord Vi.al first, or what to report at all! Monarch's name...
No. 1069478 ID: 99f29a

Further from the outskirts to avoid making the lepi a target if anyone's after you.

Mention, in immediate order: My.a interference, species currently fine but situation tense and escalation likely, because My.a is running a game and still not over Vi.al.
No. 1069479 ID: d73640

Well, my council would be to build the receiver within the Lepi village. That would keep it safe and under watchful eyes, and allow Lord Vi.al to have something of a presence there too. Do these bases also allow for supply deliveries? You could request supplies to help the Lepi along with anything you need for yourself.

As for what to report to Lord Vi.al, I would suggest you give a general rundown of things, sans Va.ne.tu's true nature, and possibly that dream fellow. Perhaps you should ask if someone can be recovered from the blot. If Lord Vi.al believes it possible, then you know more certainly that it's possible a Shapeless Lord was involved in that.

Otherwise, you should ask for more snacks. And maybe some of your plushies to help endear yourself to the Lepi and Va.ne.tu.

Otherwise, you seem to be doing well, Vi.si.mi! You lost less eyes this activity cycle than you did in the last one!
No. 1069481 ID: a7a180

>some sort of reference to a deity, which is strange, because the seekers are artificial organisms that shouldn't have many questions about their origins
Who makes the watchmakers? Doesn't Enigmism and Dissolutionism sound like a religious schism? You just gotta go on what you believe.

>where to set up
In the lepi village. The village is already targeted, you being there won't change that. Show them you're ride or die.

>what to report
My.a, Blot survivors, vengeful victims, and stolen cloned templates, oh my! Tell him you've got a Flockload of Problems(tm) and you need whatever help he can send you! My.a's rules are as fickle as they are unfair, so take whatever you can get. Vi needs to take your word that the situation is more complicated than you can fit into one transmission, so he needs to trust you.
No. 1069482 ID: e13b1d

We don't have the reach to put it too far away and keep it secure at the same time right now. Keep it in the village.
When the lepi ask where you went, tell them you needed to retrieve your flocklet and the substrate it had after you recovered before it wandered too far away. It's not strictly untrue.
No. 1069485 ID: 662ac7

keep in mind Vi.al was acting slightly off when it sent you here, more eyes than its own may be looking at your conversation.

also, take lightgreen with you! you can bone up on your lepi language and at least one of these dorks should actually get to see the person who owns the planet theyre on
No. 1069494 ID: 073609

I say talk to the Lepi first and see how f they’d be cool with you setting up shop in their village. To be fair I don’t think your going to make it very far without help and they already seem to be targeted by everyone and from what everyone is saying on the verge of ceasing to be a culture or possibly even a species, so they probably need just as much help as you do.

As for what to tell your boss… we’ll My.a got loose and is doing her usual thing around here and you’re a bit overwhelmed but managing if barely. See what he has to say and plan from their and above all else make sure you have a way to keep bringing in more material to do your shapeless magic cause if you get cut off from getting more supplies your chances of get out of this situation DRASTICALLY decreases.
No. 1069497 ID: 273c18

>the Blot is actually "the Yearning"
>a refined thoughtform from it
Taking these together, it sounds like the Yearning is the remains of Starmover. A... failed attempt to do what My.a is trying to accomplish, perhaps? Starmover attempted to separate itself from its body and instead managed to sunder itself from reality so violently that reality itself became an echo of its consciousness? A chaotic existentially-negated mess that only has substance when observed closely, and yet still has vestiges of thought scattered throughout it that can coalesce into people.
Well, it's a theory.

>does that mean anything in a simulation?
Well, what happens if you erase/remove your "body" from the simulation? Can you still view it?

>as with Ze.ze.ko
Oh, they've met? I wonder why.
>black-furred seeker
I doubt she's a seeker. She was found in the Yearning, which means she is likely a thoughtform. Simply shaped like a seeker, perhaps because of what he wanted to find. ...I wonder if you could find anything in the Yearning, if you wanted it bad enough. Maybe that's why it's called that.
>he's got existential PTSD
I guess that explains the major injuries his dreamself is displaying. A mentally healthy individual would be able to exert a healthy dreamself. That's probably why he's got religion, too. Needed a coping mechanism, and what better than a Trickster god to blame his troubles on?

>It definitely should have healed by now.
Run diagnostic. Most importantly, see how long your body thinks it spent sleeping. Either that dream/simulation thing taxed your resources, or dreams like that put your body in stasis... or something's wrong with the wound.

>can't get substrate from him
What a pain in the ass. You're going to have to make supply runs to your crashed pod to retrieve more of it, at some point.

>where to put it
By the lepi. They'll LOVE it. And you need to keep it protected anyway.

>what to report?
First off tell them this was a trap set by My.a to draw you into a global conflict. The planet is overrun by six different types of seemingly-foreign sapient organisms associated with Transcendentals, you only have limited data on a few of them. You may need additional support, but it's not too grim: one of the Transcendentals is likely an ally and you have already managed a ceasefire with a second. The main problem is that your faction is currently the weakest. Draw up a map of the known factions (for our benefit mostly) so he gets an idea of the situation. Hmm... the one that was "farthest away" but most likely to be an ally... that would mean they're on the other side of the globe, right? Are there any sea routes you can take to reach them?
Second, report what you learned about the Blot, aka the Yearning, mostly that there exists a thoughtform born from it which can invade dreams AND simulations of others even when all signals are blocked; she has a surprisingly placid personality despite her bizarre origin and abilities. Not sure if this is new information to him but it seems important. Don't directly mention Starmover.
Thirdly, tell him about Va.ne.tu. Lead with the information that you've met someone with an existential directive, and you've developed a personal attachment to him so you're asking for lenience in what he has done. Then report that Va.ne.tu is in possession of illegal skills, and is trapped under My.a's rule.
No. 1069498 ID: 273c18

Well, it goes without saying that we should make sure it's a secure connection before reporting on any sensitive information like the dream-invader or Va.ne.tu's skills.
No. 1069500 ID: 2a82d3

Lean into being a Disillusionist then, if only to emphasize the sheer pointlessness of running a Battle Royale to determine supremacy of the Sharpless. What would you call those kinds of people?

>reified thoughtform
She's kinda child-like in behavior. That stuff like this happens must warm your heart a little. The self-repairing nature inherent to the Shapeless network has to be the basis of Disillusionment philosophy.

>the seekers are artificial organisms that shouldn't have many questions about their origins or other reasons to develop religious thought. Curious.
Yeah, Trickster is a funny, if accurate, way to refer to My.a. This makes a lot more sense if you need to pass information through the generations. "Planned obsolescence" of organics might have loosened restrictions on the ability to reproduce, or taboos on reproductive drives.

Something to keep mind when your drive revs back up, eh?

>The Shapeless Knight to my west is... They claim good intention but they talk to me so condescendingly,
Given your shared empathetic space, he should know by now that your Lord and Lo.ka are on friendly terms. Very friendly terms if you know Va.ha.ti well. Have you met any Lo.ka constructs? Is this behaviour toward scientists and nerds seem right to you?

>Hm. Well, [eight years] is a long time. Either she's lying to him, he's lying to me, or maybe her thirst for vengeance was dealt with a while ago.
There's one way this wouldn't be technically lying: the "existential threat" being talked about is you, and the lord behind you. Your mission would technically, if performed successfully to the letter, have the planet under Vi.al control. Keep her slander in check by establishing your diplomatic channels to the others leaders.

>Blot didn't eat me, I am entirely myself, it did not take me, it didn't take who I was, I am me, I am me, despite everything I am--
Sure sounds like the Blot warped him a little, mentally if not physically. Still should keep him alive or his friends will be much bigger problems.
Though, it would be funny if it turned out he f* with the Blot. And had kids.

Give the flocklet a hug, but this could be his last one. You know you have to start rebuilding, starting with the lepi, but that means no deadzone time to hang out. Getting too friendly out in the open would invite questions neither of you want to answer.

Your report to Vi.al will depend on what kind of lifeforms he's willing to leave on planet, if you can stabilize the introduction of the new elements. You would not like to kick anyone out. Your eye is enough evidence of the results of doing that.
No. 1069509 ID: fa3034

A hug for the road probably wouldn't have hurt. Maybe next time. I would return to the village and see where they would prefer you to plant your base.
No. 1069523 ID: e13b1d

We should definitely keep Va.ne.tu secret for now.
No. 1069524 ID: 8f9bc4

Vi.al didn't specify control, only harmony, but I... don't think he'd be happy with his garden planet totally converted into some kind of "shrine world" as the woven sorceress seems intent on doing. I think "advisory control" would be sufficient, enough to prevent any world ending disasters without turning the whole planet into a micromanaged substrate sculpture.

It is interesting how My.a dragged two ecology related organisms into this. Perhaps it thinks Glass-Fold's definition of ecology is incompatible with your own? No telling what the Blot did to his mind.

It's alright that you're still in uh, recovery mode. It might be wise in the future to get measurably angry at Va.ne.tu and start shouting at him and his constructs for making your life a hardship. Just to establish that you are, in fact, totally not working together in secret.

Four-Strokes called the Blot the Yearning. Lord Vi.al gazes at it yearningly. It's not thinking about... dissolution itself, is it? Surely Lord Vi.al isn't that overextended in its domain?

Anyway never mind all that. Check your eye. It's not healing correctly. The spear from those furry creatures might have been a more sophisticated weapon than it appeared to be.
No. 1069529 ID: 2d7546

Definitely confer with the lepi about setting up your base in or near the village, it will cut down on travel time and allow you to respond to anything quickly.

Your report to Vi.al should at least give a sumamary of My.a's game and what you know of the other players, but absolutely do not mention anything about Va.ne.tu; if Vi.al doesn't take it well, or My.a is able to intercept your report, things could go very badly.
No. 1069598 ID: 14b39a

its not gonna be totally converted, just partially. And Vi.al *does* kind of owe that woven, a little.
No. 1069599 ID: 14b39a

Also, specify that there's more you'll need to talk about, but it will meed to be in person since eyes are on you.
No. 1075059 ID: e139aa
File 169775693773.png - (344.73KB , 800x600 , fop-91.png )

art note: changing how lepi antennae look, don't worry about it

> hug flocklet
I reach up to the flocklet and it evades my grip.
"Haha nope! I don't know what you're planning but I don't want to be involved in it!!"

> lepi village
Yeah that sounds like a good shot. For better or for worse, it looks like their fate is in my malleable winghands, so I'll ask them where best to set things up.

> run diagnostic
Well my diagnostics just tell me my eye is busted, which isn't news. I can just nudge the bandages aside and lower my flocklet down and, right, switching optics over to my flocklet and staying still so the disorientation doesn't make me fall over... okay, it's still weird to see myself like this and I've done this so many times, I just wasn't made for this sort of rapid context switching. Right, let's shuffle it over... hm.

Okay, that's weird. I seem to have scarring, like the self-repair systems I have are being acted against. That suggests I took more damage than just a kinetic impact, which is... well, that should be well out of the realm of possibility for a primitive spear.

What was that spear made of? Now that I think of it, when I saw their weapons from afar, I couldn't place whatever they were made of at all. Something whitish with yellowy lines, I thought it might have been wood but I've not seen a tree like that, and the spear launched at me had some sort of jade-coloured head? It can't have just been jade, I refuse to believe a pointy rock thrown by proteinaceous muscles could cause such lasting damage, something is up. And that means I'm in even more danger than I thought so if the average raider has access to weaponry that can severely threaten me. I just thought I was at risk due to being outnumbered, but if they're using weapons this strong...

"Yiyiyiyi hey fix your looks later! Come on, get going!"
I switch my senses back from my flocklet, put my bandages back on, and glower at my undesired new travel companion. Honestly, it's doing a fine job of making me want to slap it into a wall.
"It's not healthy to stew over your failures, little chicken! Plus you need to get that looked at by your boss or whatever!"
"I wasn't stewing over my failures."
"Sure whatever!"

Okay whatever. I'm getting out of here.
Why is this ramp so damn tall and winding, it's taking forever--

I see the slumped body of Lightgreen about 2/3rds of the way up, so a third of the way from where the ramp actually meets open air.
A moment of panic grips me and I race over to her. "Lightgreen?!"

I crouch down and look over her. No signs of injury. I roll her onto her back and, remembering some typical common physiologies shared between this sort of morphology, check her throat for any sort of pulse, gently but firmly ruffling through the neck fluff to reach her skin. I watch her chest rise and fall with a comforting rhythm, and then, as I try to figure out whether or not there's any sort of neck vein or artery analogue to get a pulse from, she yawns and her eyes open. I didn't think about the fact the lepi had eyelids until now, but they must be putting in a lot of work to cover the ground they need to with those big eyes.

She looks at me groggily, and stares at me with the sort of confusion shared by newborns, the recently awoken, and the heavily inebriated. I know she's one of those things, but I don't know if she's another of those things just yet.
"Lightgreen, are you okay?"
"Starbird," she mumbles, and shifts around into a comfier sleeping position.

Well, no, she doesn't get to sleep anymore, I need answers. I gently shake her a little bit, and just get an indistinct groan in response.

"Lightgreen? Why are you here?"
"Went looking," she says. "Looking for starbird. Went missing."
"You're worrying me. Are you well?"

I try to scoop her up in my arms. She's heavier than I expected, but thankfully I'm made of pretty sturdy materials. It's not easy, but I can carry her.
I keep on going up the ramp.
No. 1075060 ID: e139aa
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Reaching daylight, Lightgreen shifts around in my arms, and her eyes flutter open a bit more vigorously.

"Aah! Put me down! Please!"
I do so, and we stumble around clumsily as we regain our balances.
"Where did you go?! You were like a dead thing when I carried you back to the village! And then when I came to look for you before I went to sleep you were gone and I didn't know what happened to you and I went looking for you and found this place and it looked like something you'd make but I just was so exhausted..."
"You fell asleep down there?"
"I must have," she says, soaking the information in herself. "Starbird, what is this place?"
"It belongs to someone else."
"A friend?"

I look around for Va.ne.tu's flocklet, but find I can't see it anywhere.

"I'd prefer friend, but I don't really know," I say, my flocklet making an unexpected forlorn chirp. I mentally tell it to cut that out and stop leaking my emotional insecurities.
"I have to bring you to the Three," says Lightgreen, with a little more authority than I've heard her speak with before. "I promised I'd bring you to talk to our leaders and they already weren't very happy-- never mind. Never mind. It doesn't matter, I just bring you before them, you get to talk to the village leaders, I get to look like this was all worth it, and both our lives get better. And then, of course, I'll help you with whatever you need. No matter how far you need to go from the village. As far as you want, really!"

I look at her, and get the sudden uneasy feeling that there might have been a reason (beyond desperate searching for a saviour) behind her being alone so far from home.

"Well, okay, yes, let's, let's go do that."
She picks up on my sudden distress and shrinks back. "Sorry, sorry, just, I, let's, let's go."

She beckons for me to follow, and we walk into the lepi village.
I realise, under daylight, that all of these buildings are tents. Arranged in some sort of circular pattern, also.
From a variety of little surface clues, I realise these structures can't have been there long. They all look like they were made recently, or at least placed recently.

"Did you move here from somewhere else?"
"Oh, yes, the last migration was [a month] ago."
"Oh! Your people are migratory?"
"Ever since the Awakening, yes. We all decided it was too dangerous to stay in one place for too long. Life's been much harder since then, though. There's not a lot of places we can go that are good for the meadowanders and the dewslumps. And we need both. And there's only so many good flower meadows..."

As I wander around the village, I expectedly get a lot of stares, but thankfully they seem to be mostly confusion, understandable apprehension, and relatively few looks of genuine fear or hate. A few, but around the amount I'd expect of a culture not accustomed to people like me showing up. A lot of curious looks, too, especially from what I assume to be the lepi children, who are vividly coloured, grublike, and look delicate. The way their bodies deform when they move suggests they're a little squishy, too, but only a little, and I'm definitely not going to confirm that hypothesis. I hear the bigger grub-children whispering excitedly about me, but I can't pick out their words from the background murmur.

As I pass by one of the fuzzy grubs they stare at me in awe, and I hear them almost whisper "starbird is real" in a tone that feels reverent. The child's mother is less approving and pulls them towards her. I feel mildly uneasy to provoke either reaction.
No. 1075061 ID: e139aa
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As we head to a large but not central tent, I happen to, out of the corner of my eye, notice a commotion happening inside one of the other tents.

Inside the tent is a female noetuno, bound in silk restraints, who looks annoyed and angry as a lepi next to her keeps asking her questions and she keeps responding to with silence, growls, and barks. After getting nowhere, the lepi trying to interrogate her rubs his antennae in frustration, and then holds out what looks like some sort of grilled meat slab, which she starts ripping out of his hands with her snout immediately and hungrily devouring. It's actually a very impressive feat, watching her devour the cooked meat with no hands or utensils and just her mouth. Impressive and a little terrifying. Based on the lepi backing away, I think he agrees with me.

Lightgreen notices me pausing, and looks at the tent. "That's our newest resident," she says, eyes rolling. "She was taken prisoner by Deepred Rose as part of this ridiculous plan he has to try and save the lepi in the Scarlet Woods. Because the noetuno, who are vicious monsters and know no mercy, are going to give us dozens of our own for just one of theirs."
"I don't know if I'd call the noetuno monsters."
"...They nearly killed you! Why would you of all people think they're not horrible cruel monsters?"
"Because people can also be horrible and cruel and still just be people," I say, without really thinking about it. "People can do all sorts of ugly things to each other and still do nice things. And I try not to think of people as monsters, because that's the first step down the path of becoming a monster."
Lightgreen looks at me initially in disgust, but then looks off into the distance, more uncomfortable than anything else.
"Starbird, it's hard to say you're wrong when you put it like that, but... you can't go around hoping for vicious and cruel people to suddenly be nice to you either."
"Right. I don't remember saying that, but."
"And you know, sometimes... sometimes being nice and cruel aren't always different things," she says, trailing off and staring off into the distance.
"...are you alright?" I am extremely aware the answer is no, but, well, there we go. Up to her if she wants to elaborate on that.
She flicks her antennae around and regains her composure. "We have important business. Keep following me, please."
No. 1075062 ID: e139aa
File 169775712054.png - (57.18KB , 800x600 , fop-94.png )

We arrive to the tent that I guess is the home of managing the village affairs, as I see a few lepi simply asking questions of a group of three lepi seated at some sort of silk-covered table. One looks quite old and sits in the centre seat, and the other two look much younger in comparison, one lightly scarred and the other looking almost ethereally fragile.

Lightgreen ushers me to the table and, the other lepi, seeing me approach, rapidly finish their conversations and step aside, looking at me in sheer confusion. One of them looks a little more annoyed to be cutting their talk short, and soon leaves the tent as I stand before the three lepi before me.

"This is..." Lightgreen gestures at me. "This is the starbird from above."
"Hello. My name is Vi.si.mi. I am a..." okay ecology construct is meaningless here "servant created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long shall it reign. Lord Vi.al is the original... creator? Former? Sculptor? Sorry, one second, I'm not sure how to communicate this in your language--"

"Yes, yes, understood," says the elder lepi, her voice hoarse. "You're not the first one of your kind here. At least you don't keep laughing all the time."
"This is your starbird, Lightgreen?" The scarred red lepi looks at me and appraises me, and I feel like I'm found wanting. "All the stories of the starbirds as constellations of light, movers of mountains, forces beyond imaginable, and your starbird is wearing silk bandages that you made. Remind me, Lightgreen, who injured your starbird?"
"A bunch of noetuno, but--"
"Right. And who's our biggest threat?"
"Well, the noetuno, but--"
"Okay, so the starbird, who you went off on some wild slinky tail chase to find, to try and save us from the noetuno, was in a fight with the noetuno and lost."
"They didn't lose!"
"Those are some well made bandages," says the third one that hasn't spoken yet. "Lightgreen, I have told you this before, but if you were more willing to learn the trade, I think you'd do well--"
"I'm not a spinner! I'm a shaman! I've been over this!"
"My mate was a shaman," says the elder lepi. "He was about as good at it as you are."
"I-- I present to you someone sent from above to help us and you still think I'm a terrible shaman?!"
"Oh, no, he was an excellent shaman. He was just also so obsessed with the world beyond he couldn't see the world in front of him. Much like you. Do you see now? I tried to tell you it wasn't worth the effort. All these dreams of fighting back the noetuno or, Light help us, the seapi are foolish."

I feel a little annoyed that I'm apparently such a non-factor here that I'm just being ignored while they argue.
"So I have a question--"
"Foolish?!" The scarred lepi stands up and flings his arms and wings out to the sides. "We have no choice! We can't keep running from our problems forever, they'll catch us eventually!"
"Youthful dreams! Foolish dreams that will get us all killed! We can simply just leave whenever--"
I make a shrill caw in frustration. The lepi in the room jump. All eyes fall on me.
"So I have a question."
"Go on," says the elder, the only lepi in the room to react with annoyance instead of confused fear. "And don't do that again. My antennae don't need to put up with more abuse."
"I won't. I need somewhere to build..." It'd be easier to just say home. Just say home. "Build a temporary home for myself somewhere in your village, if you are willing to allow such a thing. I wish to try and help your people, but I need this thing to do so. If you do not want it in your village, I can build it elsewhere."

The three look between each other uneasily. The elder is, again, the first to speak, filled with the wisdom of ages and the sort of confidence and impatience borne of seeing it all before. She's older than I am, for sure. The weight of her years piles upon my extravaganant history of far-flung worlds and alien lives. When her grumpy eyes look into mine, I feel like a tiny little vatling being told not to touch the first glowy thing I see. I am already mentally preparing excuses and defenses for the righteous chastising I will surely now endure.

"Whatever you intend for us, starbird, you are a stranger to us and our people. Even if we accept your intent to help, all we know about you is you came to us injured and sick. Not of much help to anyone."
"That's a little unfair," says the pale lepi. "I don't think the starbird came here unconscious on purpose."
"Ah, yes, sorry, I did want to thank you all for your help in aiding me at my lowest. I will repay your kindness with my acts, I can assure you."
"The very least I would expect of you," says the elder.

I feel horrible. My insides squirm anxiously. I know I don't do well as a diplomat often, but this is probably one of my worst showings yet. I feel like the elder has looked deeply into my one good eye and found nothing but a scared fledgling trying to tell everyone the fire is under control as it erupts into a conflagration. The worst part is, I don't think the assessment is even wrong. What am I doing here? Why did Lord Vi.al send me??
No. Focus. Focus, focus, focus. Building permission. Now.

"...I do need to report back to my Lord soon, so if there are issues with me building anything in the village, I should leave and get started."
"Why do you need to build something to talk to your leader?" The scarred lepi looks at me curiously. "I don't understand. You're talking the same language as me but you're saying things that don't make any sense. It's like saying you need to ride a meadowander so you can know how long it is before nightfall."
"I'm curious what you're actually trying to say," says the pale lepi. "What do you need to build?"
"Well, I mean, I thought it would be easier to say home, because what I actually need to build is something more like a... I don't think your language has words for it. A conversation... enabling? Structure? A sound-that-is-not-sound making building. A talk-along-far-distances building. This is frustrating, I don't think I can describe it."
"What does it involve?" The pale lepi leans forwards. "Do you need any help building it?"
"No, I have all the tools and materials I need. I just want your permission to let me place it somewhere nearby. I'd like to be close to the village so I can assist more easily."
"There's a spot next to my home." The pale lepi looks at the scarred lepi. "They can build next to us, right? Please?"
The scarred lepi looks initially affronted, but after the two lock eyes for a second, his antennae fall slightly. "Alright. Alright, yes. He can use the place next to our tent."
The elder lepi chuckles, and I have no idea why. All I catch is something about young love under her breath and a lot of words I don't recognise.

"Well then," she says, "sounds like you have your permission, starbird. Just please, if it's anything like the ruins of starbirds we've found before, do try to make sure it doesn't glow too much at night. It's hideously distracting. Attracts all the bugs and moths and things."
I try not to think too hard about a lepi talking disparagingly about bugs and moths. These things are, in fact, different, much as I'm having some problems with overlapping categories right now.
"Oh! Wait one moment. I don't believe we properly introduced ourselves. You are..." The elder lepi pauses as she puzzles something out. "Veezeemee?"
"Vee is fine."
"I am Ochre Willow, the elder of this village, Golden Bough. As our tradition goes, we are led by three, the eldest willing to lead, which is myself, the strongest warrior proven by deed, which is Deepred Rose, whose most recent foolhardy exploits involve capturing a noetuno prisoner and making more problems, and our best silk spinner by contest, who is Offwhite Lily. It's... it's a way of doing things," she says. "Better than just the elder alone, I suppose."
"Pleased to meet you all. Looking forward to working together!"

And terrified and worried and concerned and a little dizzy and a lot of other things okay let's go make that base now
No. 1075063 ID: e139aa
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Offwhite Lily and Lightgreen guide me to the place I can set up.

Offwhite especially is delighted to see my flocklet turn up with the block of substrate I've been lugging around with me the entire time. I wander around the space, figure out some dimensions that should let me fit inside the base comfortably without taking up too much space, put the block down in the centre of my invisible bounding box, and step back.

And then I inaudibly sing the right command sequences for a pre-existing template to apply itself, transformed to fit the constraints I need, and I join Offwhite and Lightgreen in gawking at the fancy kaleidoscopic motions of a substrate building assembling itself, more akin to watching something unfold itself into being outside of higher space with the way the substrate extends and pushes itself outwards.

The entire process takes about [6 minutes] and the two lepi watching me are transfixed, as are most of the passersby.

I make a few cosmetic adjustments as it finishes, waving my arms around like a composer as I guide the substrate into a more dome shape, something a little more like the tents in the area, less glaringly out of place save for the vibrant teal colours I can do nothing about. I pull a thicker layer of less glittery, denser subtrate down over the top of the structure to cut down on the glowing flickering light pulses substrate is known for, for good and for ill.

Lightgreen is the first to snap out of her trance, less of a stranger to these processes by now. "I'm having a difficult time getting used to that."
"I don't have words for what I've just witnessed," says Offwhite. "You have to teach me how to do this."
"I don't think I can, sadly! It's just... sort of built into who and what I am. Starbird things, I guess!"
"Surely there was a time before you knew how to do this. There has to be a way to learn to do this, right?"
"Uhh... maybe, but I don't know much about that."

Offwhite has just been shown a peek behind the curtain of what he knew to be normal and fine and good and has just seen another way, a flashier, cooler way, a way far beyond his understanding to make things. I think maybe this might have been a mistake. I mean, it was always going to be inevitable and unavoidable that there'd be a culture clash but he looks... I think the problem isn't that he just saw something I did that looks impossible. I think he was on the cusp of understanding it and it's going to drive him insane that he came so close and didn't quite grasp it.

Okay. Okay, I can't do that to someone. "Well. Okay. I can share with you a little bit of information but it's really something that I don't think you can learn to do. The special stuff I used to make this is stuff I can't make myself, and it can be told to build with itself with the right... songs, I guess, and I could teach you the songs, but you can't sing them."
"...no, no, I understand. I understand. Only the lepi can weave with lepi silk, only the fehuan can make fire from the air. Only you can... only you can sing the green glass into being a building." He looks a little crushed to make the realisation, but I'd rather a little crushed to driven completely insane. "Thank you for trying to explain, but... if I could weave silk like you could make that dome, the things we could do..." He sighs.

"...I'll look into it," I say, and immediately wish I hadn't, but he perks up, antennae at full height, and Lightgreen too stares at me with surprise and excitement.
"Really? Look into what?"
"Something to make your silk weaving easier? I don't know, I've never seen you weave silk."
"I can show you!" says Lightgreen eagerly, and then, after seeing Offwhite look at her with an appreciative smile, attempts to resume a slightly more mystical, otherworldly air. "As a shaman, my methods can be a little unorthodox and result in things more for ritual and ceremonial purpose, rather than more practical or mundane affairs."
"Our silk is a blessing. I'm glad you honour it as such," says Offwhite. "Now, my heart is racing and my head is filled with questions, but, well, we both have responsibilities to attend to, don't we? I did promise Deepred I would overlook things here only briefly. Good luck with your... uh... good luck!"

Offwhite sets off back to the leaders' tent so fast it looks like his wings flap in the breeze. Maybe he is flapping his wings.
No. 1075064 ID: e139aa
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I decide bringing Lightgreen into the transmitter base is probably wise. Her apparent expertise is to do with the otherworldly, and, of all the lepi here, she's absolutely the best choice for one to bear witness to Shapeless technology in action.

"It's just like the temple..."
"When I was young, very young, before I eclosed, long before the Awakening, there was a ruined temple near my home village of Golden Root. I remember it was this big structure made of this substance but it was all dark and dim and very much dead. Lots of large holes in it, it was falling apart. It completely fell over some nights before the Awakening, but one night, long before that, I was there with my mother and father as my grandfather was explaining what the temple was. I don't think he was right, thinking about it now, but I knew it had to be related to things from beyond our world. Nothing else we knew could make anything like it. And on that night, my grandfather did something and part of the temple lit up like now. I remember wanting to learn how to do that, but..."

She trails off, tearing up. "I'm sorry, the pain strikes when I don't expect it. The Awakening was [years] ago but, I lost my family, I lost friends. My brother survived but... oh, I'm sorry, starbird, you don't need to hear all this."
I pause. "It's okay. It's fine. I understand." I understand, I lie. I've lost no family, if anything I've only gained more family over time, and as for friends lost, well, no, I've lost a lot of good friends from base organic species over the comparatively short years I've lived, well within most sapients' lifespans, but... sometimes they still don't live for very long, and I try not to get attached, but it's not a thing you can really control, getting attached to someone and something. Still. I feel particularly hollow telling someone grieving for the loss of their family that I understand them when I've lost vastly more pets than sapient family members.
Then again, maybe trying to quantify grief like this is a bit of a messed up thing to do.

I give her a hug, and her tears start flowing a little more, her mental defenses dropping in my arms.
"I'm sorry, starbird," she says, choking back sobs. "I haven't, I haven't really... I keep going, I just keep going, I don't like to stop and think about this sort of thing and now it's all happening at this worst possible time, I'm sorry..."
"It's fine," I say, and decide I do not want to interrogate why I'm also streaming tears down my face now at this moment of semi-triumph. It's been at the top of my list of objectives since before I set foot on the soil of this world, and yet it's taken me [2 or 3 days] to get here. Maybe it's relief, maybe it's something else. Maybe it's me feeling like a failure. A life of ups and downs and yet I still keep finding reasons to feel like I let everyone down.

"...are you okay?" asks Lightgreen, her body no longer wracked with convulsive sobbing. "Vee?"
"I'm fine," I say, tilting my head back to try and stop the tears. I am fine. I am fine. This mission needs me to be a lot stronger than this and I am not all by myself, that's why I built this place, I built this place to not be alone.

Lightgreen looks at me, brushes her tears away, and then leans against a wall. "I don't think that's true, but I don't think that's true for me either."
"Probably not, but, I need to focus on this first."

"You know," says Lightgreen, her hand resting on my shoulder, "I always thought it made more sense that, if there were things far above us, they wouldn't be any better at figuring things out than we would. I always thought that the idea of there being things smarter and better and therefore that they had everything figured out was just... something of a wishful dream. You build a house and now you don't have to worry about the rain and the cold, but you have to keep it clean and make sure the covering's intact and repair the beams if they split. Make a fancier house, and now you have to take more care because everything's fancier. It just feels like, for every problem you solve, you make two more at least. They get less horrible to not solve, but, I always figured that, if the starbirds were really out there, they must have more problems to deal with than I'd ever be able to understand. And if there's something out there smarter and better than both of us? They must have more problems than answers still!"

...please please please let the lepi lifespan be something similar to my own, please, please, Monarch's name I think I am becoming attached to this one.

Okay. Enough of that. Time for action. I mop up any remaining lacrimal fluids from my head with my bandages, and get the comms terminal interface up, a bunch of symbols floating around in front of me.

"Brace yourself, I'm going to establish a connection."
"I don't know exactly what that means, but it's how you're going to talk to your Lord, right?"
"...do I need to hold on to anything?"
"No, but brace yourself for loud noises and bright lights for a little bit."

She's nervous. I'm nervous. She only has to deal with the light and sound, I have to deal with the pulse itself.

Here we GO--
No. 1075065 ID: e139aa
File 169775733433.png - (47.71KB , 800x600 , fop-97.png )


-=## Ident confirmed: VI.SI.MI Beginning cartographic scan. Establishing relay route. Multiple planetary points of interest established. Isolated function suspended. SEQUENTIAL strategy selected. Initiating. #=--
No. 1075066 ID: e139aa
File 169775742779.png - (114.21KB , 800x600 , fop-98.png )

-=## Entity detected: LOC: Defiant Cavern, Scarlet Woods ENT: Five Strands Inwards, Three Strands Upwards #=--

It is said the noetuno cowered and fled once, to this cave, unable to fend off the horrors that awaited them in the woods. The horrors are all gone, save only the seapi, crushed by the resolve and relentlessness of the cornered. But the noetuno were not fools. Even as they pushed back the darkness, the cave was chipped away by hundreds, few of them noetuno, their foes now a resource to build their new kingdom.

The air flows from the natural winding cracks to the outside, the fortuituous tunnels making the space hospitable at all. Running water flows through eroded rock and purpose carved channels, and precious bioluminescene coats the walls in red light, like a never-ending starry night under a bloody moon. In the King's chamber, he reclines on a pile of pelt blankets, the bounty of loyal, proud hunters. Several female noetuno attend him, passive and wary at their guest.

The Woven, Five Strands Inwards, Three Strands Upwards, stands before and above him, respectful but deliberately looming. Pariah among her kin, estranged exile of the Pure Weftwise Origin, she has found herself in this situation before. Her crime was passion, a feeling of righteous urge to intervene. Once more, that same passion has driven her to the same crime. The Pure Weftwise do not intervene in the affairs of the lesser kinds, and yet here, again, she stands before the ruler of a less enlightened society, earning one more reason never to be welcomed home again.

"Okay," says Five Strands, rubbing her temples. "Once more. Please. Please explain. You want what's best for your people, yes?"
"Of course," says Makkaru, King of the noetuno, whose say is absolute. Younger than Five Strands would have expected, and definitely shorter, the noetuno attending to him easily taller. The noetuno in the room all stare at Five Strands like she's the dumbest thing ever to know speech, counting some impressive animal mimics in the same category.
Save, of course, for the masked followers behind her, who watch in stoic silence, thinking themselves already enlightened, and inwardly despairing at their beloved yet ignorant King.
"And you love your people. And you want them to lead the lives they want, and you want them to be free."
"Of course!" Makkaru smiles warmly. Five Strands can't help but grimace.
"Yet this "calling of paths" you tell me about... the men are either warriors or artisans, the women are mostly just breeders, this is just a crude caste system. This isn't... there's a logical discrepancy here. There's no choice here. This isn't freedom."
The King pauses, and frowns softly. "The world is a cruel place, Sorceress. The stories of a true freedom are what I wish for my people, yes, but the world is cruel, and we must be crueller to survive. We need more of us, and we need more teeth and claws to strike back. It is simply how things must be. I know someone with your powers must find this hard to believe, but this is simply how it must be."
"Yes, I know. You've told me this. I don't think the noetuno are at risk."
"But we are. We are always at risk. We need more hunters or we'll starve. We need more warriors, or our enemies will swarm us, strip the flesh from our bodies, and cast our bones to the ground. The King before me knew this, and the noetuno knew this. I have told you, yes? The noetuno do not let their King be chosen for them. The noetuno decide."
"Right, yes, the... " Five Strands tries to mentally translate 'psionic nexal convergence event', finds she stands no chance, and surrenders. "The coronation you spoke about. Do you even have enemies left that can stand up to you?"

The King sighs softly, and smiles warmly, like a parent about to impart wisdom to their child. "My dear Sorceress, there are always enemies, and strength can only be held through struggle. If you relax for too long, your strength will fade," he says, shifting on his blankets. "The noetuno must always be ready to face our enemies, and you yourself came to us with the warning of strife to come, yes?"
Five Strands screams inside her head as she returns the smile, hers a little more forced. If she had known how severely her warning was going to be taken...
"It was merely a cause to ready your forces, not to... what I mean to say is, I see a potential in your kind's future, but..."
She falters, fury lashing around inside her head. Your society is wrong, she thinks. Unsalvageable. And it's my fault, again, and I never learn, apparently, she thinks to herself, fuming at her foolishness.

And her ears whip up and her eyes widen as a signal receiver she had almost forgotten she had cultivated starts screaming at her about a burst signal, Shapeless origin, location triangulated somewhere to the south.

"...Are you alright, Sorceress? You look shocked."
"I-- I must retire to my shrine, yes. This has been a good conversation," she lies, "and we should resume it in future. I must contemplate."
"Very well. I too must attend to my duties soon, both as a king and as a male. The offer to investigate the physical compatibility of our species, as always, remains quite open," he says, spreading his legs open a little wider.

She wordlessly beckons to her followers and leaves, swallowing her fury behind a mask of learned calm. She instead muses on the signal she's just received.
The signature. She recognises it. Vi.al. A signal of Vi.al origin. Vi.al is now on this world, in some capacity.

Her followers all stop with a start, not expecting their Sorceress to pause and start screaming loud, unfamiliar, lengthy curses in an entirely alien language.

"...let us proceed," she mutters to her followers, composing herself once more. "Urgently."
No. 1075067 ID: e139aa
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-=## Entity detected: LOC: Konju, Azure Tundra ENT: Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles #=--

The criai settlement of Konju is one of hastily constructed igloo-adjacent ice block structures, surprisingly effective in the narrow bands of temperatures the Azure Tundra experiences across its drearily similar seasons. Elements of murky and forgotten criai cultures pepper the construction, strands of creeper across the outer walls of some, various mashed berry dyes staining the walls of others. It is a large village, or a small town, all criai of this world banding together to find safety and security in numbers. The purple-leaved fruit trees and forageable vegetation nearby remind all the criai here of strange, distant echoes of another time, another life lived, and are also delicious together.

The name and identity for this settlement come from the inexplicable cone structures protruding across the tundra. The cause is unclear, and they grow as if plants, yet only snow and ice can be found in their cross-sections. A more educated observer might guess at this being some sort of artistic signature, the hand of the terraformer making its presence known in a simple and abstract sense, or it could have once served a more functional purpose.

Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles was once unambiguously a young male seeker on a mission to learn more of the Blot, which the things within call the Yearning, the Woven the Eye, the few remaining Gilded the Nexus, the Rainforged the Vortex, and many other species within its gaze many other names. What has come out of the Blot still calls itself Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles, believes itself to be a young male seeker that has, against all odds, escaped with his life intact if not his body and mind entirely, and it may be impossible to ever know the truth of the matter.

"So do we have any information on who or what Vi.si.mi is?"

In his humble ice home, Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles paces around the floor, the clack of his wooden toes on the ice making him frown a little every time he hears it. Seekers were given padded feet to be light of foot and quiet pursuers, and while he knows Moon did the best she could in the circumstances, he still keeps pondering what it'd take to get into contact with a proper prosthetics dealer. Certainly, no one already on this backwater planet, as far as he can tell.

Four-Strokes paints the view outside on a canvas, her habit remaining ever present regardless of the reality she finds herself in. "A Shapeless construct is all I was able to ascertain from its simulationscape, although it did inadvertantly leak a lot of information trying to recall a safe place. The view was, I believe, of the primary world of the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, and I was able to retain it in memory long enough to depict it." She lazily gestures to one of her pictures, showing a view of a teal sky, teal sand, teal water, and, in the distance, a palace no seeker could claim to ever have laid eyes on.

"What about general personality? Anything to cast doubt on what we agreed on?"
"I believe it was genuine in its intentions. Of course, whether the lepi will listen to them, I cannot say."
The black-furred seeker, Moon-Flicker-Ten-Edges, lying on the larger of the two floor beds, sighs. "Glass, you are worrying about the wrong things, again. If this Vi.si.mi means us harm, they're across the Divide anyway."
"So is Shimmering and she's still the thing that scares me the most. That or the thing with the name I can't say. Buh... Bisk... that one."
"I don't trust Lu.a at all either, though," she says, shifting on the bed. "Still. Can we talk about something else other than Transcendental horrors? I saw Sui yesterday, and she's really quite far along now, and it just makes me think, you know, maybe we can be trying a little harder?"

Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles lowers himself onto the inch-high bed in frustration and clutches onto the edges.
"I'm not a machine, I can't just... I'm stressed at the moment, and also Four-Strokes is right there."
Four-Strokes shrugs. "I can find many, many vistas outside to paint if you two want more privacy."
"Not right now!" Moon shifts uncomfortably. "I just meant in general! Look, I just... you know, I just don't... Just to make sure... oh, never mind. Forget it, sorry."
"I have other things on my mind, Moon," says Glass-Fold-Nice-Circles. "But hopefully not for too long. I still haven't heard anything back from Ji.at, and I know it can't be a signal issue--"

A shrill beeping fills the snow hut, and the two seekers panic as Four-Strokes tucks her ears under her hat, her sensitive ears demanding it. After some confusion, Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles realises it's coming from his right wrist, and he looks at the floating display, wincing from the outburst but hand trembling.

"Big Shapeless transmission," he says with excitement. "...and it's not from Ji.at," he adds, excitement curdling to disappointment rapidly.
Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles sighs deeply. "Big fucking deal, then," he says, firmly muting the notification. "Maybe Lu.a's making a move. Maybe some glass bird is ordering a crate of pizzas, I don't care. I don't care. Why I still even kept this thing after going through the Blot and back--"
"It said it was Vi.al," says Four-Strokes, ever observant. "The Shapeless Lord who owns this planet, I believe, from Sir Lu.a's words."
Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles pauses as his ears rise up. "Oh. Oh, fuck."
No. 1075068 ID: e139aa
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-=## Entity detected: LOC: Palace of Mirrors, Jade Falls ENT: Sir Lu.a of Lo.ka #=--

The Palace of Mirrors is one of the few surviving substrate structures after the widespread simultaneous malfunction of many planetary terraforming subsystems, an ornate folly constructed to impress and amuse lower organics. To the fehuan, they have found the structure not a simple attraction but a fortified vanguard against the terrors of the outside world, its place in the Jade Falls making it perfect for the fehuan king and his loyal subjects to live their lives, venturing to the falls and its surroundings for their crops and livestock.

In the centremost chamber of the Palace of Mirrors is a throne room not unlike that in Vi.al's own palace, scaled down, and on a throne hewn from jade sits the reigning king of the fehuan, a throne beside him empty for the day he ever elects to finally pick a queen.

In the court of the king, the Shapeless Knight Lu.a regales the inner circle of fehuan society with stories of his exploits, all colourfully seasoned with half-truths, misattributions, and improvised improvements. To the side, the long-suffering construct Ze.ze.ko mentally counts the trite cliches Lu.a has added to his ever-distorted "accounts", as she contemplates new designs for components she can start assembling "just in case".

"...and as that foul beast bore down on me, I stepped back, like so, and held my stance like this, such that the point of my rapier would impale it without so much as a flick of my hand! You see, foul beasts are typically quite large, and you can use this against them. And this, my little friends, is the lesson I wish to impart today! Against much bigger foes, you can let the laws of nature steer your victory!"

King Shei, crowned only a year ago, applauses with fervour, as the rest of the inner circle joins him, some sincere, others trying to match the energy of the room, and the more politically ambitious to keep in good graces. "Good show!" It isn't a phrasing King Shei used to use before Lu.a arrived, but something about the Shapeless Knight's choice of words excites him.

"Yes, quite," says Sir Lu.a, making a few absent minded ripostes and parries against an imagined foe before sheathing his blade. Or at least making the action, as the substrate of his extruded rapier quietly spools into his body. "Now! Ze.ze.ko! My trusted and faithful servant!"

"The Sancho to your Don Quixote," she murmurs.
"I need you to hold this hat in front of you and stand over here."
"Okay. Sure."

As Lu.a extrudes a substrate-based hat from his hand, he suddenly freezes up and his eyes grow wide. Ze.ze.ko's ears flick back as her entire body shivers.

"...change of plans," he says, his words quieter and urgent. "Meet me in the dungeons."
He turns back to his royal audience. "My friends! It has been a delight, but I have just now remembered I have urgent business to attend to!"
He leaves to a chorus of disappointed groans, and frenzied applause.

Below, in the palace dungeons, or whatever they were originally intended to be, Lu.a waves around at the subtrate walls, pulling up screen after screen of information.

"You felt it too, didn't you, Ze.ze.ko?"
"What was that?"
"A Shapeless transmission, but a strong one. There's only one possible cause. I believe Lord Vi.al is finally making his move."
Ze.ze.ko's eyes widen as her tongue starts writhing. "What does that mean for us?"
"Well." Sir Lu.a's jovial facade drops entirely, as he stares anxiously into the signal decryption. "Lord Lo.ka must know of this. We may need to adjust the plan."
"We're allies, aren't we?"
"It is much, much more complicated than that, and, if we're found here, it is going to be even more complicated."
Ze.ze.ko lurches. "We're... we're here on a mission to help, aren't we?? To assist Vi.al???"
"It is," says Sir Lu.a, rapidly pouring over the increasing displays on the walls, "much more complicated than that."
"What do you mean more complicated?? I didn't agree to more complicated!! What's going on?! You promised-- you said-- what's going on?? I was designed to manufacture automata, not... not get snarled up in extremely high-stakes plots!! Oh Lo.ka, this is bad. Vi.al's constructs are going to hunt me down and break me and grind my body into powder for this--"
Lu.a jovially closes his eyes and tilts his head. "Haha, do not worry! I am a Knight of Lo.ka, you know. However, I can't say much more on the matter." Lu.a looks around. "Who knows who could be listening to us right now?"

Before the glimpse fades, Vi.si.mi realises Lu.a is staring eye-to-eye into them, as Lu.a makes a quick, recognised wing-hand gesture towards its beak -- 'you say nothing, I say nothing'. And then, the vision is gone.
No. 1075069 ID: e139aa
File 169775761231.png - (827.74KB , 800x600 , fop-101.png )

-=## Entity detected: LOC: Rainflower, Sable Shoal ENT: B!snu-fnaa-kweee #=--

The Rainflower is an obscene biological monument to a technology run rampant, alien to this world, alien to substrate, alien to the Shapeless. The Rainforged's gift to themselves, often called simply the rain, the blue rain, or the vitapluvia depending on the flavour of Rainforged encountered. It powers their economy, their technology, and for many their bodies themselves. The Rainflower is a statement of intention, a generator of this alien substance, this giver of a type of life arranged by intelligence instead of cosmic happenstance. It towers over the Sable Shoal, spewing forth its thick blue fog and clouds.

Within its turgid walls, the Rainflower is a winding series of chambers and tubes, many completely filled with water and precious blue fluid, sucking the water from the seas and converting it through secretive processes into the foundational element of a new biological alchemy. Purpose-made synthetic organisms of blue flesh crawl around its innards, as do the few, selected, lucky members of a growing cult among the delphics, a society riven by an outside context imposing itself upon the willing and unwilling alike.

B!snu-fnaa-kweee found things in the shapes of its neglectful creators here, and it is bound to show them the same care and nurturing it never received. It is obligated. As it is, it is nothing, but with the right framework, the right weather, the flow of blue rain, it will be everything again. It will grow. It will adapt. It will overcome. It will be the rain, and the rain must fall upon the blasted ground to make life come from it again.

"Yes yes yes haha ha haaaaa! Yes! Yes! The form has merit!"
The tentacles of B!snu-fnaa-kweee fly around the room, half-grown rainform components being plucked from coral vats and thrown into others. Only the innermost of the Rain Cult are allowed here, and they regard their Great Teacher's works with a mixture of reverence, incomplete understanding, and overwhelming confusion.

"The compounds are right, my chosen few! The compounds are right!" More appendages of the B!snu-fnaa-kweee entity emerge from between the cell-like plates of the walls and floors, spraying arbitrary surfaces with different shades of blue vapour. "Do you not smell that in your lungs?! The compounds are finally right!! The blue rain will rain will reign will stain yes yes YES! More rainflowers! We must need a few more rainflowers for this advancement to work properly, I believe."

A storm inside the chamber bursts through the walls, the rain surging from cellular gaps and pouring into cellular gutters. The meek scatter and flee.

"Great Teacher!" cries a voice, unwise in addressing the holy alchemist in their grand work.
"Yes-ss-ssss-s?!" The bubbling voice of B!snu-fnaa-kweee is displeased, their swirling fervour pulled quite on a tilt from the momentum it was happily stirring before. "What troubles your INFERIOR little brain mind bubble coral bliss??"
The other delphics of the chosen few look among each other with concern and apprehension. Few of them have their original eyes anymore.
"What compounds produced the rain?"
"Ha! Hahaha! HahahahahAHAHAH! Why would you ask me such a drole basic simple simple calcified question?! It does not flow, it does not meld, you can never learn the flows and waves from such stilted a base of logic!! You fool fool you are I am so sorry such a fool to not even know how the asking is wrong! You must remember always to flow or you will not spill around the corners and you will crash like so!"

A tentacle lances out around the ankle of the delphic and pulls him sharply through the floor, before it emerges from a wall, the delphic still screaming, as it lets go.
There is a sickening crack as the delphic flies across the room and breaks something.

"Now you go into a bubble because your dumb brain idiot thoughts have caused you a harm," says B!snu-fnaa-kwee, grabbing onto the weakly struggling delphic and flinging it into a opaque bubble of fluid, and moving the bubble of fluid into the ceiling. "Two days! You have lost two days of your life to need to fix the physical breaking your calcified questions required! Now! The compounds! AIIEEE!!!! I HAVE FORGOTTEN THE COMPOUNDS! WRETCHED WASTE, YOU WILL LEAVE WHEN YOU ARE CONVALESCENT, I MUST BEGIN AGAIN FROM SO VERY VERY LONG AGO!! OUT!!!"

The delphics are wise to know that when the Great Teacher demands they leave, their haste in departure marks leaving under their own power and not being ejected bodily out of the side of the colossal rainflower's trunk. As they flee, B!snu-fnaa-kweee patches new orifices with which to scream its despair to its dozens of supplementary node-bodies, before it pauses.

One of its nodes is screaming into itself. Something about a powerful signal. Something like the dead birds that scream constantly, dry, dry, dry things, and it shoves eyes into its nodes to more properly understand. Ah. Yes. Another dead bird squawking. Another one. Much further away.

But no one seems to remember the continent is not the entire world, and there is a favourable wind high in the stratosphere. The long way around. Much easier to reach.

The rain must fall, after all.
No. 1075070 ID: e139aa
File 169775767693.png - (687.16KB , 800x600 , fop-102.png )

-=## Entity detected: LOC: Summit Extrusion, Malachite Plateau ENT: Shimmering Inevitability [TRUNCATED] #=--

The Summit Extrusion is transparently artificial, the age-hewn plateau flat across its surface save for this errant hill. Whatever reason for its existence, be it a terraforming failure, an incomplete project or signs of something malfunctioning deep in the mantle, it makes for the perfect vantage point. All that can be seen before sloping into the horizon is laid bare most days, but not this day.

The rain is cold, the sky is dark. Floating off the ground, rivulets winding down over the golden strips embedded into her skin, an entity watches the rhamata huddle for shelter, their large bulky bodies crowded as they look out across the rain with a mixture of irritation, annoyance, concern, and simple reluctance to step away. They came here to watch the world for anything that might threaten their home from below, and, though it goes unspoken, many of them glance more towards the entity that floats in the rain, their self-appointed saviour a violent intrusion into their world.

This entity has a name. The name is Shimmering Inevitability of Once More Seeing Opalescent Danger from Beneath the Writhing Membrane Dividing That Which Is from That Which May Be as Foretold by the Prophecies Once Spoken Before the Horrifying Light of Ascension Claimed Our Kind to be Moved to a State Beyond the Known Limits of Life and Death Forever.
To her charges, she is known as Shimmering Inevitability to those awed or inspired, or the Hydra, to those who detest and despise her.
All fear her.

Her three faces scan the sky.

"A Shapeless signal," says the right face, cold and direct. "To the east. Secure, self-contained, precise. The timbre is hollow. The source has been amplified."
"The glass can break. Slam them into the unyielding rock over and over and they will not come back," says the left face, twitching with the urge to kill. "A weak Shapeless servitor can soon be rendered useless. Break its body into useless wreckage."
The central face of Shimmering Inevitability looks up to the sky slowly, as her other two facets fall quiet, their advice unbidden for now.

"A fledgling falls from the stars, pushed out of the nest. A call to action is made, but simple patience will pluck this new adversary from relevancy."
"Threat analysis inconclusive," says the right face.
"It will become a greater threat," says the left.
"I will remain a greater threat still," says the middle, scanning through the motes of data surrounding her, flickering displays of decryption failures and semantic mismatches. "My presence here disturbs. I can try, and I can try, and it will not change. My presence disturbs. I see a flailing bird in the pond that cannot even break the surface with its frantic thrashing, as the water churns and boils from my gaze alone. It can be of so little consequence. My care and focus is best reserved for guiding my chosen."
"I am not invincible," says the left face, looking around wildly. "I am not untouchable. The Shapeless are a threat. Severe threat. I must destroy. Bite, chew, end. End them. End them. Wrench the blood from their bodies and crush the bloodless to dust."
"Premature provocation is not advised at this time," says the right face. "More information required."
"Yes. Wait. Watch, and wait," says the central face, as the lenses fall silent once more.

The rhamata look towards her, glistening and glittering in the rain, uneasy as she falls into silence as abruptly as she began speaking to herself.
As the glowing aura of Shimmering Inevitably glimmers brightly, many of them start to move to the back of their group, fearful that this uninvited deity may look upon them and turn them to dust as effortlessly as those foolish enough to take arms against her the first time.

"Build the tower," she commands. And, with reluctance, they obey.
No. 1075071 ID: e139aa
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-=## Processing cartographic data. Synchronising experiential data. Relay pathway found. Connection established: CONN: [SHA].[MON].[??].VI.AL Isolated function resumed. #=--


Augh fuck fuck Monarch's feathers augh damn it damn it damn it what happened I feel like I just splintered across half the known universe what was that

Connection established, I hear something confirm. Not in words, of course, but in understanding.
Lightgreen is still here, I think, physically. Mentally I have no idea where she is, and to be honest, I'm feeling a little bit fuzzy as to where I start and end too.
It's never been like this before, I think there must have been some interference by... something. I might be lucky to be alive?

Lightgreen stares, mouth agape and tongue lolling as she tends to do when completely out of her depth, at the image of Lord Vi.al floating in the room with us.

"My Lord Vi.al," I say, bowing as reverently as I can. Lightgreen sees me and immediately does the same, bowing even lower, fanning out her wings like she did the first time I saw her.

Vi.al looks down at me in its usual unimpressed manner. It looks at Lightgreen for a fleeting moment and promptly affords her the same attention and consideration as a lamp post.
"It has taken significantly longer than predicted for you to get into contact, Vi.si.mi. What difficulties prevented you from establishing contact sooner?"
It pauses, and looks at me more closely, leaning forwards, and its stern expression shifts into surprise and concern.
"Hold. Remove the bandages, please."
I do so. It stares more intently.
"I see."

Without a word, ambient substrate from the walls starts sliding off into dust streams all flowing to the site of my scars. I feel a faint fizzing as unspoken command sequences dutifully cannibalise broken materials, form new structures and reverse entropy, my vision swimming as a new eye forms and focuses.

"This is troubling. I did not anticipate a hostile response so soon. I will be providing you with personal defenses immediately."
"Yes, supplies, I did want to request--"
"A personal energy shield and two incapacitors, one as a spare if the other eludes you. Yes, I am familiar with your preferences. They are awaiting transmission. Is your current location secured?"
"Secure at the moment, I think."

Vi.al looks around, an act I think is purely performative to represent the reams of data it's pouring over internally. All of the data I prepared on what I knew (and apparently some data I didn't know) was sent as part of the burst signal, so that's a lot of information I don't need to tell Vi.al myself, at least.
"Some surprisingly familiar faces. Yes, the circumstances have diverged quite significantly from my previous expectations. I do not recognise the architecture around the relay station. One of the younger races, I assume? Contextually, the lepi, a species I am largely unfamiliar with, but appear to be catalogued already. I am unsurprised you were able to form a positive rapport with a local community so quickly. You always do seem to stumble into making new friends quickly." Lord Vi.al makes a small chuckle. "Well done, my little Vi.si.mi."
My face lights glow furiously as I feel both mildly embarassed (and yet incredibly warm and fuzzy inside) to hear Lord Vi.al compliment me over something so trivial.
"My Lord, I have... less pleasant news to report, also. And I have news best given in person, because there is no telling who is watching and listening to this transmission."

Lord Vi.al's expression fades from faint amusement to stoic sincerity. "Yes. I suspect I may already know what this pertains to, and I suspect it may be related to your desire for privacy. I consider it imperative to visit directly. Unfortunately, there is no window of opportunity for me to visit for at least [60 hours]. The current relay route works for transmitting communications and smaller devices, but it doesn't have the bandwidth for me to transmit my throneworld focus in its entirety, and my other foci are not within a reasonable range." With a brief glance aside, it continues. "Does the news relate to a... former guest? A keen, self-designated master of games?"
Lord Vi.al stares into the distance. "Too lenient. Much too lenient, much too optimistic. Well, they won't be escaping a second time, as I will not be imprisoning them a second time. As for what to do instead, I am still considering my options. There is heated discussion as we speak among the Lords of the local group. Would you be surprised to learn that Zi.en is, once again, advocating for tighter oversight over my domain? Any excuse, that one. Still, I was surprised that Ji.at, of all Lords, interrupted to support me on how slippery that one can be to contain. Rare for Ji.at to intervene in my favour, but I digress."

I consider talking about Va.ne.tu and the creatures from the Blot, and decide they need to wait for a more personal audience. I also consider bringing up the harsh arrival I had to the planet, but I can gripe later, there's more important things to address right now.
No. 1075073 ID: e139aa
File 169775782956.png - (100.15KB , 800x600 , fop-104.png )

I quietly signal to Lightgreen that she can stop holding her bow and her wings out now, and she slowly returns to a... well, a more relaxed posture. In a relative sense. A very relative sense. So she could still be used as a building support, but at least she's not at a 90-degree angle anymore.

"I'm meeting significantly more hostile resistance than I think I can fend off by myself, and I am also trying to prevent further damage to the ecology. The lepi species is at high risk from various factors. Can I have additional resources beyond just personal defenses?"
"I can hardly send the Plague of Grackles to a planet under such scrutiny. Other Lords will notice such action. Lo.ka particularly has been suspicious of my reticence regarding my apparent disinterest in the strange signals near my throneworld. Lord Lo.ka may be a friend and ally, but..."

Lord Vi.al cannot bring itself to mention it, but I am deeply aware of how Lord Lo.ka has a reputation for being, even if well-intentioned, a bit of a meddler. And I've heard, especially after its own great work failed catastrophically not long ago, they're even more worried recently about odd things happening in surrounding territories.

"Let me phrase it another way," says Lord Vi.al after a momentary pause. "I would prefer plausible deniability at this stage. Signs of a seemingly internal struggle so close to my throneworld will not reflect favourably upon my image as a capable, indomitable Lord."

I nod grimly. As Vi.al has told me before, for every Lord that would outstretch a wing to aid, another will be waiting to strike for more power and more territory. The courts of the Shapeless Lords are a delicate dance of alliances and betrayals, and those who try anything else find a beak through their back soon enough.

"Well, I, uh, wasn't asking for orbital bombardments, I was just thinking another construct might help?"
"What do you think you will need assistance with? I can find some constructs to spare for your mission, undoubtedly. Fo.ka.sa is still busy assisting me with overall operations, but others can assist. I am, however, wary. The last time I presented you with more than two possibilities for additional construct support, you froze up, curled into a ball on the floor, and then asked me to pick at random."
"Look that was a very different situation and I was already under a lot of stress!"
I swear if Vi.al had a mouth they'd be grinning at me right now. Ugh.
"Well, before I make that decision, will I get an opportunity for more construct assistance in future?"
"Vi.si.mi, the more resources you pull from me into this operation, the more suspicious it is going to look to the many invasive eyes of the other Shapeless Lords and who knows what alien civilisations. I will not deny you further requests, but the more resources we move to 33 Verdant Pearl of Abundance, the more attention we risk being drawn to it."
No. 1075074 ID: e139aa
File 169775795388.png - (356.83KB , 800x600 , fop-105.png )

"Now, as far as available constructs go, there are a few options, and I can bring two of them with me in [60 hours] when the window of opportunity is available. I can summon them to my throneworld within this time window. They're stationed on worlds with operational infrastructure. This raises a lot of questions as to why 33 Verdant Pearl's infrastructure is so impaired, but I have an inkling as to what might have caused that. I digress. Sending the information to you now. As a note, all of these constructs are survivors of the event that led to a lot of Lo.ka constructs fleeing into my domain. I would advise you not to discuss it with them."
"They're all survivors of that?"

I don't know how Lo.ka's "Cityworld Experimental" fell, but it was bad. And, at one point, transmissable, before a countermeasure was developed. And the Blot was somehow involved. Despite it being in Lo.ka's domain, which has Vi.al sitting between them and the Blot. And... well, Lo.ka's domain had maybe up to twice the construct population before things got bad, and I've been told over and over to not look into it, so I've dutifully agreed not to look into it, secretly looked into it, and got as far as a few minutes into an eyewitness recording before I couldn't take it, shut it off, and tried to forget all about it.
The figure of at least nine million constructs being unaccounted for does haunt me, though.
I can't even remember what it was that made me shut it off. It's like a smooth hole in my memory, but one that hurts if I try to poke it too hard.
This is just reminding me that I never looked into it again. Now that I'm older and wiser and more hardened to the universe, maybe I should.

"You are encountering hostile resistance. They have encountered hostile resistance and survived. It is as good a metric as any."
"So they're all..." I try to think of a nice way to describe "horribly traumatised". "...maybe a little shaken by that event?"
"Constructs are engineered to serve a purpose, and if they suspect that purpose is pointless busywork, doubt to the validity of their existence starts to creep in. The last thing these constructs need is more of that. I believe reassigning them to your cause will aid them greatly."
Or traumatise them more, I think, but don't say. Maybe I'm being too dismissive.
"They are all highly skilled and proven to be highly effective," says Vi.al, perhaps picking up on my apprehension. "I am simply informing you that they may have some... quirks."

1. Nu.ya.si - Function: Transmission Security & Deciphering. (Vi.al note: Hacker. My former partition Vi.on, sadly claimed by the Blot, wanted a hacker. They made a hacker. Constant thorn in my side from continued refusal to follow orders. I exiled them to Lo.ka's territory until they finished their work. They finished their work, and we speak no more of it. Proven themselves more loyal to their comrades than I thought, if not to me specifically. You might have some things in common.)
Additional capacities: unexpected proficiency with mid-range combat, unconventional solutions to problems, possible security risk to any secured system within eyeshot.
Note: Vi.al domain origin. Problems with authority. Criminal record of repeated insubordination that seems to have mercifully improved recently. First construct exposed to [REDACTED] but end phase 3.0 -- Apathetic? Philosophical? Already understood? Suspected sudden outburst of compliance stemming from deep guilt, or trauma-induced strengthening of sense of duty.

2. Ji.pa.ke - Function: Automata Orchestration & Oversight. (Vi.al note: This is an extremely broad function, but they seem extremely adaptive to most contexts. Much like you. Very much like you, in fact.)
Additional capacities: specialisations in rapid architectural planning, field repairs to substrate mechanisms, and improvised use of substrate automata.
Note: Aggressively sunny disposition. Seems determined to find positives in everything. Substrate automata not included, some means of designing and manufacturing required. Confirmed [REDACTED] exposure, end phase 3.0. Potentially end phase 3.1, unclear due to disposition.

3. Li.ni.si - Function: Biomechanical Repairs & Maintenance. (Vi.al note: Saved lives on the regular. Couldn't save a lot of them during the [REDACTED]. I want to put them in a place that reminds them they're still useful before their persona collapses, or worse. I am offering you first refusal. I will understand a no.)
Additional capacities: able to patch together substrate and biomechanical tissue into surprisingly effective temporary parts, also able to inflict grievous harm on [REDACTED] constructs, which is not expected to be a concern in most scenarios outside of the [REDACTED] [REDACTED] scenario. Both skillsets theoretically applicable to most organisms.
Note: Prone to catastrophising and resignation in non-crisis situations. Bolstered in crisis situations, but likely to ignore own well-being. Extremely low self-esteem stemming from [REDACTED]. Infuriatingly pessimistic at times, but sometimes a good reality check. Almost category-defining example of [REDACTED] end phase 3.1.

4. Su.ki.fu - Function: Small Goods Courier. (Vi.al note: Originally created by Lord Zi.en, who is prone to using absurd concentrations of substrate in their constructs. Gifted to Lo.ka, at Lo.ka's firm insistence, as part of a one-time trade deal. Listed function is a terrible cover for their original purpose as rapid military air support. Which is also an abhorrent use for a construct. We have combat automata and partitions for that. There is a difference between training you to defend yourself and throwing you at a battlefront you could never survive. I have had... words with Zi.en over such tests.)
Additional capacities: Able to convert arm appendages to a variety of preconfigured forms. Higher concentration of substrate than average constructs, typical of Zi.en work. Very modal as a result. Very effective at scouting.
Note: Enthusiastic. Difficulty backing down from challenges. Eager to act but prone to obsessions. Poor sense of timekeeping. Do not challenge to races. Was trialled as a combat construct near Vi.al space, but proved too hesitant and too easily damaged compared to pure substrate combat automata. Zi.en and Vi.al truce still in effect. No official altercation recorded by either side. Well experienced with reduced functionality. Surprisingly resilient despite [REDACTED], results consistent with end phase 3.0.

So I need to pick two out of these.
"Why can't I have all four again?"
"I can bring two constructs with me in transmission with a comfortable amount of safe redundancies and checks for the available bandwidth. Any more and we start risking attenuation or dilution, which I will be barely affected by, but could be extremely dangerous for a construct. Not only that, it's easier to reassign constructs to take up whatever duties I will be removing them from in smaller numbers. Choose two, Vi.si.mi, it's two items from a list of four. Any future requests can be dealt with in the future."
No. 1075075 ID: 99f29a

Shove Ji.pa.ke and Li.ni.si together.
No. 1075082 ID: 8e6882

Li.ni.si and Ji.pa.ke if they come with substrate, otherwise Li.ni.si and Su.fi.ku
No. 1075086 ID: e5709d

1) Nu may have issues, but they appear ready to tackle dynamic stresses while hacking in the field. Having a combat engineer who can encrypt and obscure all the broadcasting we do over comms will give us real strategic options.
2) Ji is a generalist and an optimist, vital to our operations at jump-starting this colony. Having someone who agrees with us during tribal arguments will boost morale.
No. 1075099 ID: cc7ddf

Li.ni.si and Su.ki.fu seem like the most effective pair at adding new functions to your arsenal, primarily focused around their capabilities to help keep the Lepi safe and alive, which seems to be the current major concern!
No. 1075101 ID: 273c18

Oh great, a grey goo scenario, and we just provoked a rain attack.

>This is just reminding me that I never looked into it again. Now that I'm older and wiser and more hardened to the universe, maybe I should.
Not until you get off this planet. At the very least it will add to your stress levels, and no relevant information will be gained.

>pick 2, arriving in 60 hours
Nu.ya.si would be very effective if it weren't for the Noetuno not having any tech to hack and yet being the most imminent threat. Could be very useful against Shimmering Inevitability's tower, and if Rain can be hacked then that's indispensable. But I don't know if it can be! Of course, his combat ability will be extremely useful, and loyalty to us over Vi.al is... well, useful.
Ji.pa.ke is, apparently, another one of "you". But that means they're bad at combat, we don't want that at the moment.
Li.ni.si's psychological issues are a problem but one we can manage without expenditure of resources, which is an acceptable downside right now. Our faction is weak but apparently has enough military strength to capture a Noetuno; with Li.ni.si's help they can fight without risk of major casualties which is an immediate major benefit. Also just generally not being at risk of dying so much is a load off our minds. I think we're going to be in a crisis situation a lot so Li.ni.si will perform well in general...
Su.ki.fu seems immediately useful as none of the other factions have air superiority, Shimmering Inevitability herself excepted and the oddness of Rain as well. They will be handy for investigating unknowns such as the seapi, and so long as they don't get anywhere near Shimmering Inevitability there isn't much that will pose a threat to them so we'll actually have some form of advantage for once. I wonder if we can make equipment for them so they can carry passengers? Well, even if they can't carry full sized passengers they can still deliver small automata for spying, sabotage, and fortification. We'll be substrate-limited for that plan though. Additionally Su.ki.fu is used to being in a resource-limited situation and we are definitely in one of those so they'll have good advice.

Li.ni.si is the top pick here.
Su.ki.fu will enable a lot of clever solutions to problems as well as straightforward ones, so that's my second pick.
Nu.ya.si would be my pick instead of Su.ki.fu *IF* they can hack/disable the Rain.

Tell Vi.al about the uh, split perspective thing that happened during the initialization of the communication stream(though maybe leave out Sir Lu.a's potential ulterior motives to avoid a diplomatic incident). I guess we don't have much useful information from that we can provide aside from the Rainforged threat, which needs to be addressed before the Rain reaches our position, and the fact that Shimmering Inevitability exists. Also, ask if Five Strands' moon creatures are still alive. If she were to learn that Vi.al preserved them, it might give her reason to cease hostilities with us. In addition, I think Five Strands could be trusted to help oversee this world in the long term. Though she might not want to if her moon is still mostly intact after all; she'd rather go back there.
lastly, 60 hours is concerning. That's 2 and a half days we need to survive. Well, first off we need a weather forecast, to find out how long it'll take Rain to reach the nearest coastline. Also we need more information about how dangerous Rain is, and what the usual countermeasures are.

private musings:
Current threat assessment:
Shimmering Inevitability has unknown motives but seems to have a reasonable thought process, diplomacy might work on her (and we better hope it does because she looks like a powerhouse). Maybe we can convince her the Rainforged is the biggest threat and to deal with it before bothering us too much. What is she though, she looks like she could be a Gilded? Also her name can be summarized as "ancient prophecy of doom", possibly a recurring prophecy. Not much data on the rhamata, but they are a bit put off by Shimmering Inevitability forcing them into labor which means if Shimmering Inevitability were exiled then they'd be grateful.
Lu.a is of a politically-allied faction so we should be okay cooperating with them. The fehuan seem stable enough from what little we've seen.
Five Strands has good motivations and ethics and could be a trusted ally if we can get her past the whole hating Vi.al thing. The noetuno seem like they would need a lot of societal adjustment before they could live in peace with the rest of the races here.
The criai transcendant is a neutral party which is nice and they can probably be left alone in the long term, along with the criai who have their own biome not suited to anyone else.
B!snu must be eliminated before they establish too great a foothold. Freeing the delphics is a bonus. Once free, the delphics can chill in the ocean in the long term.
The seapi are then confirmed to not be part of the six, and thus have no Transcendal working with them, if My.a is to be trusted. We need more information on them but they seem to be worse socially than noetuno; we might just have to cull their numbers a bit to keep them under control until they can be relocated to a planet where they can't bother anyone else.
No. 1075115 ID: f3171e

Definitely inform Vi.al about Lu.a's potential ulterior motives. We may not be able to trust their Knight here. Beaks in the back and all.

1. Hacking will be useful for avoiding beaks in the back, and his combat skill is immediately useful with the sex dogs on our tailfeathers. And I like the cut of his jib he will probably get along with our secret friend.
4. Speedy gathering of information will be key. We have a smaller numbers and fewer combatants than our nearest opposition, we need constant information to wage guerilla warfare and stealth sabotage.

I feel for 3, but 2 and 3 rely on a large amount of substrate to work with which we do not yet have access to that we can fully trust them with the source of.
No. 1075116 ID: 273c18

We don't have ANY access to substrate afaik. Can't convert the blanked substrate ourselves, and can't be gifted any. The hacker stands a better chance of being able to learn how to convert blanked substrate, I guess? But we saw quite a lot of substrate like that and I don't think Cirr is going to give us that kind of advantage.
No. 1075118 ID: a7a180

Jipake and Sukifu. A builder (better than you profess to be at least) and a cutie hero unit. The lepi need more protectors.
No. 1075121 ID: 273c18

Oh, and since it's relevant maybe you should confess to Vi.al that you looked up some information about the incident, and... you're blocking some of it out. Any potential repercussions of that should be dealt with by following Vi.al's advice, instead of it suddenly becoming a problem later on when you're interacting with one of the new recruits.
No. 1075123 ID: 12d30c

Well from the sound of things we’re probably going to have to rely on the moths to do most of the fighting since we’re being forced to uses limited resources so I feel constructs that would be able to aid them would be the best choice. As such I say go with 2 & 3. 2 would be able to build weapons and possibly mindless war constructs to help support the moths and hopefully reduce any casualties since they seem to be few in number as is so each one is precious even past the point of us saying we’d do all we can to help. 3 to fix everyone up since no matter how you look at this we’re not getting out of this without getting into a few fights.

4 would probably also be able to do what 2 does since it said she can also make combat drones and seems better in combat situations overall but I still feel 2 would be better overall since we need to think of more then just the moth’s military needs. They have no permanent shelters anymore and food is getting harder and harder to come by, if we could build them soils walls to defend themselves or better yet solid PORTABLE walls they’d be a lot better off and I’m sure 2 and 3 putting their knowledge together could come up with some kind of farm or greenhouse to help the moths out.

So long story short I say pick 2 & 3 but I could probably be convinced to drop 2 for 4.
No. 1075128 ID: 2aa5f0

alright after reading some more comments I feel like some extra details might be needed. Will we get supply drops in the future or are we more or less stranded after we get our reinforcements?

Because if they come with more substrate and/or we can get more supplies even at least semi-regularly I'm go with my original vote and suggest (2) Ji.pa.ke and (3) Li.ni.si as it seems not only do we have to try and fix this mess but we're going to need to do it as quietly as we can because politics suck no mater where you are and as such we're probably going to have to rely on the moths doing the bulk of the work, so people who can help us support them will probably be better in the long run.

However if we are stranded and will be left to our own devices or supply drops will be few and fair in-between in order to try and maintain secrecy I'm going to then vote for (3) Li.ni.si and drop Ji.pa.ke for (4) Su.ki.fu since she has ACTUAL combat training which is something we severely lack. and if push comes to shove you could probably build things needed yourself for yourself, your team, and even the lepi. It probably won't be an good as anything Ji.pa.ke could make but it should be good enough and Su.ki.fu would be a good, more economical force multiplier for the Lepi since we would be limited in building things for them so having someone with advance weaponry built into themselves should be good support to help them take out stronger foes.
No. 1075129 ID: 19ea25

Li.ni.si and Su.ki.fu. We really do kind of need the air potential at this time with our limited options for scouting and other needs.
No. 1075138 ID: bd4109

2 + 3 will post reasons in dis for less wall-of-texiness. Plus lost progress twice, hate mobile posting. Will also have threat analysis in dis. Side note, Va.ne.tu is gonna flip when he hears Ze.ze.ko is here too.
No. 1075142 ID: f2320a

2. Ji.pa.ke

3. Li.ni.si
Good combo for infrastructure and getting things done effectively
No. 1075144 ID: 2779dc

Oop, side note 2. Find out if Vi.al kept the woven's species. Diplomatically crucial.
No. 1075147 ID: 09f667

>Unusual scarring
Is it possible that there's a toxic agent at play here? Or perhaps one of the other constructs is being far more proactive than you. That bodes ill.

>"I'd prefer friend"
Feeling lonely, Vissy? I know someone who'd be happy to keep you company!

>Sir Lu.a
Do your best to stay in this fellow's good graces. Theater kid or no, they definitely have more of a plan than you, and that is dangerous.

This one will be dangerous. Clearly unstable, and prone to violence. Thankfully, it sees you as harmless, so be careful not to make your move against this fellow before you're ready to fight them.

>Shimmering Inevitability
Her full name should be classified as psychological warfare. Still, she seems to be more afraid of the Shapeless than antagonistic to them. If you can prove you're not going to hurt her, she may just be willing to help you, but be careful with her.

>CONN: [SHA].[MON].[??].VI.AL
I love this touch. Lightgreen's designation is SHA.MON,?? because it only has two syllables.

Well, for a proper vote, I would suggest you bring Li.ni.si and Ji.pa.ke. Their personalities will balance out, Li.ni.si has the means to keep you from dying, and Ji.pa.ke can use your flocklet to provide you much better situational awareness, which will be vital. Nu.ya.si could potentially be useful too, if only to force opposing forces to use physical comms only, which will damage combat coordination over long distances.
No. 1075156 ID: 273c18

>Lightgreen's designation is SHA.MON,?? because it only has two syllables.
No, that's Vi.al's designation. This is because a full length designation is a statement of heirarchy. The last part of a designation is the unit's name. The first part, [SHA].[MON], stands for Shapeless Monarch, the top level Shapeless progenitor.
No. 1075165 ID: a8f755

Hm, 1 and 3 I think. Being able to help people might do Li.ni.si some good, and Nu.ya.si sounds interesting.
No. 1075166 ID: 09f667

Oh, it is? I think I may have missed that pattern in the prior posts.
No. 1075174 ID: 8f9bc4

1) Do Ji.pa.ke's field repairs apply to the broken substrate machines scattered all over the planet that are currently completely useless to you?
2) You have a very limited amount of substrate to work with, and more biology than you'd ever want. Can Li.ni.si.'s biomechanics make constructs with very small amounts of substrate required?
3) You are terrible at ordering people around, so Nu.ya.si's insubordination isn't a concern. Maybe call for its help, then put it in charge?
4) Insubordination isn't a problem, but obsessions? Enthusiasm? Su.ki.fu sounds like a powder keg that could go very badly for you. Plus "Surprisingly resilient despite [REDACTED]" they're already half broken it seems.
5) Both Nu.ya.si and Ji.pa.ke have "[REDACTED] exposure." That probably has to do with how they survived "Cityworld Experimental," so it might be very bad, but... it might be very good too.
6) I'm surprised you haven't realized it yet, but those spear tips were Substrate. They're probably tiny constructs. That's why they could keep your eye from regenerating.

Without knowing how useful biomechanical engineering, or substrate repair would be, I can't choose between Ji.pa.ke. or Li.ni.si. Leaning towards Ji.pa.ke just because you don't need two worryworts panicking about the current situation. Nu.ya.si seems invaluable since you're ultimately going up against a mad Shapeless lord Itself, and will face a lot of... things that need to be reprogrammed or deciphered. I can't recommend Su.ki.fu at this point.
No. 1075180 ID: 32f136

#3 #1
i feel they will feed off of eatch other in term of perpus, 3 would be usefull as a medic while 1 can assist as an world module intuition
with us in a "perpus tryangle" we will have meaning.
2+ morale
4+ constatution
1+ bound
2+ movment (1 can act on thire oun as a scout)
No. 1075285 ID: fa3034

4 skiff gunboat and 3 healer
Hacker could maybe by of assistance to Va.ne.tu. but that's down the line. It can wait. We need good air superiority and a medic just in case.
No. 1075294 ID: f3171e

You make a good point, 1 is a further down the line worry since the Knight is a continent away and Vanny is a long term project.

Changing vote to 3 and 4.
No. 1075335 ID: 37bc59

3 and 4 seems good. bug and dillo.
No. 1075343 ID: a785dd

Nu.ya.si and Li.ni.si.
No. 1075373 ID: b3eab7

I feel Ji.Pa.Ke would be redundant.
I'm move in favor of Li.Ni.Si and Nu.Ya.Si.
No. 1075383 ID: e139aa
File 169809854112.png - (405.48KB , 800x600 , fop-106.png )

I ponder and ponder and ponder and re-ponder and double-ponder and get so sick of analysing things I just go with my initial gut decision.

"Okay, I think I've come to my decision. Li.ni.si and Su.fi.ku." All of them would be useful, but, well, a scout and a medic are hard to pass up. "I would like all four, but--"
"While you were deliberating, it appears all four have since expressed interest in this mission, through various channels. I will inform the other two that they will not be selected as part of the initial wave, but if you would like additional assistance--"
"Yes please!" I pause, and bow in apology. "Apologies for the interruption, please continue."
Lord Vi.al gives me another not-smirk, closes its eyes, and continues. "But if you would like additional assistance, it appears all four candidates are very willing to be part of this mission. I suspect they have come to miss the frenetic energy of their old lives, and are more than willing to return to them. And I am happy that, bar the obvious scars here and there, they can be considered stable enough for such a redeployment."

"Oh I also have a question! That, uh, that Woven that captured me, did you... did you take good care of her creatures?"
Vi.al looks confused. "They're still in my palace in my care, why?"
"Okay. Good to know. Diplomacy reasons."
"Oh. Oh, that is the same Woven, I see. Hm. We did talk previously, and while I admit fault, I could not give her back her moon. However, reparations were made, and I have been taking very good care of her animals while she sources a new... home... hm. Well. Keep this in mind in your negotiations."
"That's good to hear. Also, regarding, uh, the event..."
"We don't speak of it."
"I know, I know, but, I, uh, did try looking into it one time, but I had to stop, and now I can't remember looking into it at all?"

Vi.al looks at me, first in horror, then irritation, then resigned acceptance, and then with mild condescension. "A counteragent to the viral phenomenon involved was developed and propagated in a similarly viral manner across many Shapeless domains, mine included. What you experienced, and still experience, is an expected result of an effort to inoculate the unexposed to indirect exposure to the phenomenon. You are still vulnerable to a direct transmission, but it was designed to, among other things, induce extreme rejection of and aversion to the phenomenon for your own benefit. Now, I perhaps did not make it clear before, but the information regarding the event is itself hazardous, and this is not a trick to hide a truth. It is the truth. I would strongly recommend you do not pry further. Especially not with any of these constructs."
"How can anyone protect themselves against a thing where knowing what it is is the danger??"
Vi.al's harsh glare softens. "And now you understand the problem Lo.ka and myself were trying to solve."
"But you told me yourself that Shapeless Lords can't meddle with the minds of constructs??"
"My reluctance is not the same as an incapability, but, yes, it does not tend to work out well for anyone involved. It is easy for things to go badly wrong. I did not enjoy putting such a solution into effect." From the vaguely haunted look as Vi.al says this, I feel like 'did not enjoy' is one significant understatement.

This is a big thing to drop on me right now of all times.

"...You look dismayed. It will probably not help, but, if this information is uncomfortable to you... The counteragent did its job correctly in preventing you from finding out anything more about the phenomenon itself." Vi.al pauses, and looks at me with growing concern. "There is also the matter that we did not test for conscious awareness of the counteragent undermining its efficacy. There was no time. We had to act as fast as possible. So I would implore you, not just as an order to my agent, but as a plea to my creation, not to look further into it. It can only hurt you the more you know. It is a burden for Lords to bear, not their subjects."
I feel my dismay shift to righteous outrage. "I don't know if I agree with that, actually! I think deliberately exposing all of your constructs to a thrown-together viral signal is a pretty heavy burden to bear too!! Were you ever planning on telling any of us this??"
"When it was clear it would be safe to do so, yes. Vi.si.mi, I have a duty to my constructs to keep them healthy and safe. There are no other side-effects of the counteragent. But please. I insist you put these concerns aside for the sake of the mission, and for your continued protection. Envision this as you would a healing wound. Do not pick at it."

It sighs, and looks me in the eyes. "You are right to feel hurt, but we should discuss this in person. We are circling around sensitive information on this channel. I apologise I did not tell you sooner, but I do not regret taking these actions. It sounds like you may have been... compromised, without the counteragent steering you away."

Vi.al is right about keeping things off of a signal communication, at least. I swallow my anger as best as I can. I know Vi.al has secrets, Vi.al has a reputation for having secrets, but, well, mass infection with some sort of signal-based virus without my awareness is a little bit... it's for a reason, Vi.si.mi, it's for a reason. Vi.al wouldn't have done this without a very, very good reason. Vi.al wouldn't harbour such hatred for Lords that invade the minds of their constructs and yet go back on its own principles so directly otherwise.

And the thing that worries me the most is that initial look of terror I saw in Vi.al's eyes when I made my confession. I don't think I've seen Vi.al look at the Blot with that much terror before.

And as I contemplate the memories around the blank space in my mind, the screams of constructs and screams of things I can't recognise, vivid flashes of Blot-stained purple and muffled nonsense being screamed into the sky, I feel sick and like I'm about to pass out, and wonder how much of this is said counteragent and how much is just my own reaction to an unimaginable horror.

"I said stop thinking about it! Remain upset with me if you must, but I implore you, for your own benefit, to cease considering these matters altogether." Vi.al looks both annoyed but also deeply uncomfortable. And it shifts around like it wants to ask me something, but keeps not asking me anything.
"I'm trying."
"Do you see how difficult it is to simply not think about something? Still. A topic change, immediately, I think. Let us discuss the plans for supplying you with additional substrate. This should not raise suspicions as I frequently need to reinforce or improve infrastructure or other works on my worlds, but I am still trying to determine an ideal schedule for delivery. Little but often, I am leaning towards. Other material requirements you may have should also be discussed--"
No. 1075384 ID: e139aa
File 169809859701.png - (547.26KB , 800x600 , fop-107.png )

Something else pops into the holographic display in my relay station. That's not something I set up, it must be coming from Vi.al's end.

"Oh. My apologies, Vi.si.mi, one moment, it appears I am being addressed by--"
Oh, it's Lord Zi.en. Wait. It's Lord Zi.en?? I've never seen Zi.en boil before... and have more than one face??
Vi.al looks taken aback. I don't often see it taken aback. "Excuse me? This is quite a lofty accusation! I do not make appearances on--"

Lord Lo.ka flickers into the room and it's starting to feel visually crowded. "Vi.al! My dear friend, do you mind clearing up why you referred to me as, begin quote, "a smiling parasite and a drain on the resources of all Shapeless kind", end quote, on one of my own conflux streams?"
"I-- I would never--"

...oh wow now Lord Co.ro is here what is going on
"I'm very disappointed in you, Vi.al, I thought we had all moved on past calling each other useless names, and, need I remind you I take 'dreamer' less as an insult and more of a fact? I am actually not particularly upset at all, but I would like to discuss perhaps not trying to embarass me in front of my sibling by bringing up my desynchronisation crisis so uncharacteristically tactlessly..."

"One moment, please," says Lord Vi.al, to the crowd of Shapeless Lords staring displeased at it.
"Vi.si.mi," says Lord Vi.al, hurriedly to me, in a lower volume, "I have an emergency matter to investigate. And, apparently, an impersonator to flay. Could you finish arranging matters? I will give the contact address of this station to the four involved."
"Excellent. I have a lot of faith in you, my little Vi.si.mi. Make me proud! Oh, and, one more thing."
"Remember that, no matter what, you are your own person. You are Vi.si.mi. My creation, yes, but separate and distinct from me. You. You are you. Remember this, always. Let nothing tell you otherwise. Please."

The holographic Lords all vwip out of the relay station, and Lightgreen holds her head, stumbling against the wall.

That was a weird note for Vi.al to leave me on.

...Wait! They just interrupted arranging future supplies! Augh! Well, guess that's waiting for the in-person visit. Assuming it's still happening.
No. 1075385 ID: e139aa
File 169809865458.png - (600.94KB , 800x600 , fop-108.png )

"Are you alright?" I walk over to Lightgreen, on edge, aware that this moment is just a calm in the storm.
"Do you all just... sing at each other like that?"

Oh. Oh, right, that was all symphonic. She will have no idea what any of us said. Augh, I should have set up a translator!
"Yes, that's our natural tongue. Hold on a second, I'll get something working to translate."
"What happened with all the other spirit-shapes showing up? It looks like... something went wrong?"
"Politics happened, I think," I say, mostly focusing on trying to figure out how to hastily reroute this complicated jumble of signal processing arrays and energy conduits through-- aha! Translation module! Standard design, like the one I've been trying to use from the remnants of the pod but in better shape, so it should spool up pretty quickly, I'll feed in the weights and associative matrices the one I was using, okay, okay, there. That's about the limit of my technical aptitude.

Soon enough, the relay station screens all start showing me that I'm receiving a request to initiate contact. I accept, and both Li.ni.si and Su.ki.fu appear in holographic form in the base.

"Ah, hello! Yes, my name is Vi.si.mi, I'm sure Lord Vi.al has introduced me, you two have been selected for--"
"We know," says Li.ni.si, and Su.ki.fu gives me one eager nod with fierce determination.
"We'll be there in [60 hours], right?" Su.ki.fu hops around on her curved legs, triangle wings flicking. I can't tell if she's assuming a combat stance or doing a little dance. Her voice carries the characteristic Zi.en construct phasing, with a flanged edge. It's like I'm hearing her flying around my head while she stays in one place. I think she's probably younger than I am, which is a nice change.
"Right. Just to clarify the briefing, you're the one heading this mission, correct?" Li.ni.si sounds fairly monotone in her deep voice, and a little gruff and scratchy. It's strange. She doesn't seem particularly old, yet she has a weighty, tired air to her heavy enough to make some century-old constructs I've met before look full of life and energy.
"I am, yes."
"Pleasure to work with you, Vi.si.mi!" Su.ki.fu stands up straight and salutes, both arms crossed above her head. Like many salutes, I'm sure there's a long and storied history behind why this gesture is meaningful among the Zi.enkind. It mostly strikes me as a little whimsical. "I'm eager to get back to a mission-oriented focus! It's been..." She sags a little. "It's been tedious, I can't lie. I want to get back into the fray so bad."
Li.ni.si rolls her eyes and rubs her forehead. "I'd prefer going back to bed, but no, at least some part of me does want to do this, so here I am."
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, Su.ki.fu, and your, uh, honesty, Li.ni.si."
"We'll see how long you appreciate it," says Li.ni.si, as she takes some sort of squishy cube from out of her projection's view and pops it into her mouth, chewing it thoughtfully. Some sort of high nutrition density snack, I think, the sort that usually end up packed into transmittable ration kits for constructs with the appropriate mouthparts. The unkind thought that she doesn't look like she's particularly low in stored nutrients flits through my head before I shoot it down. Why even bring it up?? There is no point in getting us both annoyed at each other before she's even here.
"So, if there's any further briefing you need from me before you arrive, let me know, I don't know how up to speed you are."
"Barely at all, but if it's not a crisis I can just figure it out when I get there." The symphonic language allows Li.ni.si to chew and talk at the same time, if a little muffled. "I do see the lepi, though. Which is a little weird. Hey, are you translating this to her?"
"I am, why?"
"Turn it off a second."
No. 1075386 ID: e139aa
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I shrug apologetically to Lightgreen, who is still looking like she's trying to process an overwhelming amount of information.
Off it goes.
"<You know the lepi are meant to be extinct, right?>" says Li.ni.si, her choral tones now completely untranslated in front of Lightgreen.
"<Yeah, it was a big thing. They're Ku.su's, I think? You know. The new one? Won a sector here in a game of Six-Fives? There was a little monument to them in the Museum of Artificial Organisms, back when... ugh, I shouldn't keep bringing it up, I really shouldn't. Sorry. But, yeah, they were all wiped out. The plaque said it was one of the many atrocities of Starmover's bloody path, but, well, literally anything weird that happened back then was attributed to Starmover.>"
"<I remember that museum, it was close to Little Lattice,>" says Su.fi.ku, a lot quieter and a lot less full of energy than she was. "<Oh, Little Lattice... I had a dream about it not that long ago where it was still... sorry,>" she says, pausing, and shaking her head vigorously.
"<I'm sorry I brought it up. We just have to accept it's all never coming back.>" Li.ni.si sighs and grabs another cube. "<None of the Lords would be stupid enough to try. Not even Lo.ka.>"
"<I, uh, don't think we should be calling Lords stupid,>" says Su.ki.fu, nervously. "<Especially on a transmission.>"
I interject. "<So, the lepi are artificial organisms?>" Don't change the subject, dammit, this is something no one bothered to tell me!! Tell me more about this!!
"<Well, yeah, half the species reported on Verdant Pearl are, if not more. Is that a surprise?" Li.ni.si looks at me with some confusion. "They're in the catalogue, it says right there what their origins are? You have access to the organism catalogue, right? Aren't you an ecology construct? Why wouldn't you have checked that? Couldn't you have leveraged that information in a way that'd benefit you? Surely they'd have reacted to you in a surprisingly atypical way for-->"
"<I've been very busy,>" I say, squeezing a word in edgeways through Li.ni.si's extremely unexpected interrogation. Well, credit where it's due, for someone I was warned might be pessimistic, it's in fact turning out she's not at all afraid to be very critical either. Which does at least indicate a healthy amount of interest in the mission. I think.
"<There were other matters I had to pay attention to, like surviving planetfall, surviving an attack, securing food, a lot more fundamental aspects to simply staying alive that didn't afford me the opportunity to just sit down and start scrolling through the catalogue in the safety and comfort of my-- sorry. Sorry. I've had a stressful few days. Anyway. Lightgreen here is my native guide. Even if this species isn't native to this world, they've been here longer than I have. Can we include her back into this discussion?>"
"<Does she know?>" Li.ni.si looks at her, suddenly concerned. "<If she doesn't know, this isn't how she should find out. No one deserves to find out something like that without being eased into it.>" She looks directly at me. "<Trust me on that.>"

I feel a chill run down my spine. I think my equipment must be malfunctioning, because it sounded like something in her voice shifted for a split second when she said that.
...and for a split second, I felt something I know I shouldn't have. Something that... tastes like when I saw Four-Stroke's eyes. Something my mind both tried to grab onto while desperately trying to throw it away. I try to focus on the present moment again before whatever it was has a chance to fester longer.

"<I think there's some suspicions among her people, and she's smart and surprisingly accepting of a lot of all of this for a tribal sapient. She might figure it out herself, but I don't think she knows for sure, yet.>" She'd probably have figured it out before me, and I have access to all the answers.
"<Alright. I won't mention it. You shouldn't either.>" She looks towards Su.ki.fu. "<Or you.>"
"<Understood!>" Su.ki.fu salutes again, wings flicking upwards as she does so. I think my arms would get tired if I had to keep doing that salute. It seems wildly impractical.
No. 1075387 ID: e139aa
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"<I'm going to let her back into the conversation now,>" I say, reconnecting the translator. "Okay, and that concludes our construct-to-construct conversation. Now, yes, this is Lightgreen Mint, of Golden Bough, her home village." I look to Lightgreen. She snaps out of whatever she was pondering and looks to me.
"Yyyes! Yes I am that, I am Lightgreen Mint. Shaman, otherworld speaker, I am, uh, I am our link between the lepi and the beyond. Yes. I exist on the intersection of boundaries, by necessity, a mediator across worlds. P-please forgive my ignorance, starbeings, I-I am not used to such an immediate audience, I have mostly spoken to your flickers and remnants, I, uh, uh... uhh... uhhhh... hhh..." She trails off and starts trembling. "I-- that is-- I'm--"

She quietly walks behind me and does her best to put me between her and the holograms in the room. "Please, uh, please give Vi-Si-Mi all of your questions and requests, and I will act on th-them? I... I'm not very... I mean, I am mostly good at... I don't..." She starts shaking a little harder and I can hear her breathing louder and more rapidly.

Li.ni.si's ears perk up a little in realisation, and she quietly... signs something to me, and I haven't used this form of communication in quite some time. "I think she's having an anxiety attack. This is an extremely stressful situation for an uncontacted base organism. Get her some help right now."
"What do you mean get her some help I am not a mechic I do not know what that means" I urgently sign back.
"Get her something to sit down on before she passes out! Lepi follow the common carbon template, get her some water as well."

I quickly signal-chirp a frenzied set of commands to the substrate and a very ugly lumpy couch forms up from the floor, as I try to refine it into something more usable with a few more sequences. I sit Lightgreen down on it. "It's okay. We're not in any sort of hurry, you can take as long as you want."
My relay station doesn't have any sort of water source connected to it. I hastily command my flocklet to go find a river and take a big sip. It responds by forming some filtration mechanisms inside its beak as it flies off and out of my direct awareness.

"Th-this is the only thing I'm meant to do," says Lightgreen, antennae falling as she tears up, "and if I c-can't even do it, wh-what use am I?"
Li.ni.si walks over in hologram form. "Well, we're going to get along very well," she says in her usual monotone. "Look, you were doing well up to this point. You're feeling overwhelmed, who can blame you? You've had to deal with a lot. Honestly? We're a lot more alike than it might seem--"

I'm suddenly taken off guard by the arrival of two more holograms into the increasingly-crowded relay station. Nu.ya.si and Ji.pa.ke. This is far too many people for this small a space and they might be physically intangible but I'm starting to find things extremely cramped and uncomfortable for some other reason.
I look at Lightgreen and she doesn't seem to like there suddenly being more people in this confined room any more than I do.

"Sorry! Sorry! So sorry we're late! It's all my fault, I had some automata that weren't stopping gracefully and I wanted to make sure they were shut down properly!" says Ji.pa.ke, who appears to, wherever they are, still be running from console to console. "Okay! Yes! That is in fact all of them! Okay! So! Yes! This mission!"
"...we're interrupting something, ain't we?" says Nu.ya.si, looking over at Li.ni.si leaning protectively over Lightgreen.
"Okay so everyone is showing up today," I say. I now miss feeling isolated and alone more than whatever this is.
"Busy day?" says Nu.ya.si, grinning. "I mean, yeah, I know it was, sorry, I've been listening in since Big V showed up. Old habits die hard, y'know?"
"Nu.yaaaa! You said you'd stop doing that!" Ji.pa.ke fidgets with their spikes.
"Hey, saves us a recap. Well, saves me a recap. Okay, I do have to give you a recap I guess. Basically the moth chick here is having a bad time right now."
"Oh! Oh no! Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Well, I don't know," says Li.ni.si, loud and annoyed, "surely the antidote to an episode of social anxiety is to add more loud strangers, right, Nu.ya?"
"Wow! Hello to you too, Li.ni! I see we're as approachable as ever, huh?"
"I would dearly love it if you could buzz off and come back in a few [minutes]. Or [hours]. [Days], maybe."
"Hey, your wish is granted! For some reason Vi.al's little golden baby here doesn't want us there just yet! You've got plenty of time to realise how much you miss me, really."
"Fall off a building."
"Hey! Less of that," says Ji.pa.ke. "Come on, Nu.ya, be less mean. You too, Li.ni!"
"I'm sorry, do all four of you already know each other??" I have to ask.
"Surprised?" Nu.ya.si shrugs at me. "Had the most effective team-building exercise known to the Shapeless. Something of a camaraderie among the survivors of the fall of the First City, yeah? You know we're all survivors of that, right? I mean, it was in our profiles, yeah?"
"What was?" I'm losing it.
"...y'know what?" He grins at me, but it seems less in malice and more a failed attempt to be reassuring. "Don't worry your pretty little orb-head about it."

I'm about to have a fucking breakdown right now. I sit down on the couch next to Lightgreen.

"...hey, you okay?" says Li.ni.si. "You aren't looking too good either. Ignore Nu.ya, he's a Monarch-damned splinter in the face if he doesn't feel in control of a situation. Also much, much too old to be acting like a petulant child like this."
"Oh, I'm the child, am I, Ms. Fall Off A Building? You know, you're fortunate I've got a thick skin thicker than your hide because, you know, if you threw that at poor little Ji.pa.ke you'd really upset them!" Nu.ya.si gestures towards Ji.pa.ke, who just looks baffled to be included.
"Nu.ya, please stop making people upset," says Ji.pa.ke, pleadingly.
"Ignore him," says Li.n.si. "He's acting up because you got chosen to be leader and not him, properly."
Nu.ya.si rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "Well, either we can keep bickering like vatlings, or one of us can act our age and focus on the task at hand. So, if you don't mind, I'll get back to collating all the data I have on hand for this mission, got it?"
Li.ni.si drags a hand down her face and turns back to me. "Feeling alright, Vi.si.mi?"
"I have had four Lords and four constructs show up in the span of less than an [hour] and there has been a lot of screaming and a lot of mind-unravelling revelations." And I have somehow been thrust into a leadership position for a squad of dysfunctional constructs. I was warned. I was warned. "I've felt better."
"Well, consider this practice for a real crisis, I guess. Got that water yet?"
"My flocklet's on it."
"Well, at least you have some experience delegating. That's a relief."
Ji.pa.ke emerges from behind Li.ni.si. I think. The overlapping opacities are making it hard to tell. "Is she okay? I haven't seen a lepi before, they remind me a lot of Ku.su's constructs though! I bet Ku.su would love to see these guys--"
"Do not," I say, heart leaping from the spike of dread I just felt, "let Ku.su or any of Ku.su's constructs know about the lepi here."
I do not need more attention. I do not need more eyes on this world. If Lord Ku.su finds out their extinct creations are extant here things are going to get even crazier than they already are. This is getting so out of hand I'm expecting something to explode in the next few seconds. It might be me.
"Oh? I don't follow, but okay!"
"Well, you know us Vi.al types," says Nu.ya.si, grinning again. "We love our secrets."
"Haha, that is very true! Very very true. Well, you know us Lo.ka types, we love to pry! Hahaha!"
"Please don't," I say, head in hands. "Not now." I take my hands off my head and urgently sign at Ji.pa.ke. "She doesn't know her species is artificial. She's already struggling to keep up."
"Wow, I don't know what your fancy gestures mean but they're neat!"

I need to regain control of this situation before they kill Lightgreen. Or me.
I think I just have to [put my beak through the glass*] and be assertive and establish that I am going to be their leader going forward. Ideally without coming across like an utter unreasonable jerk, in the process. Even if I have to forcibly kick some connections offline. THINK, VI.SI.MI, THIIIINK

[*Shapeless idiom, 'do the undesired thing', see: bite the bullet, eat the frog]
No. 1075388 ID: 99f29a

divert topic to hyperfixations immediately
No. 1075389 ID: 8f9bc4

OK the good news is you have nothing to worry about from Lord Vi.al infecting you with the counter-agent, because you were already infected with whatever caused the Cityworld experiment to fail. You did say it was transmissible, so mass infection with some sort of signal-based virus is the only way to counter that sort of thing. All he did was remove whatever Blot-cursed signal you received that was a grave danger to your future existence and sanity.

The bad news is, his countermeasures don't seem to have entirely worked. The longer you chat with survivors of Cityworld Experimental, the more likely they'll remind you of something that summons the destructive signal from your memories and destroys your mind and/or body.

So... good luck with that!
No. 1075391 ID: 09f667

Well, the first thing to do is to establish what they should be doing and preparing for.

Li.ni.si seems to be pretty okay with following your lead, so you tell her to take care of Lightgreen while you handle the rest. If you need to give her specific direction, tell her to get supplies ready for helping the Lepi and constructs.

Su.ki.fu should be told to get an idea of the topography and the weather patterns of the planet, or the local area, at least, so if she doesn't know what to look up, direct her to maps so she can get an idea of what she should be preparing for.

Ji.pa.ke should be instructed to get the necessary flockletts together for defense and construction, and you should have them and Su.ki.fu talk so that they can coordinate usage and deployment of their own flockletts, since Su.ki.fu can make her own.

Nu.ya.si should be instructed to look into what other lords have plans for this planet. He should also try to get you a wire on all the other communications you managed to intercept, so that way you can still be aware of what your enemies are doing.

If you need help getting them to listen, I'd suggest sending a signal surge though the comms relay to the offending constructs, though I can't say they wouldn't like it much. Still, it does get their attention.

Send my regards to Lords Vi.al, Lo,ka, Zi.en, and Co.ro!
No. 1075392 ID: fa3034

kick all but Li.ni.si
She can ground you two and can de-escalate the anxiety, maybe. Keep it brief, inform her the lepi are nomadic. Hopefully you can have them hold position long enough for her arrival.
No. 1075393 ID: 273c18

>should've looked them up in the catalogue
We were told by Vi.al at the start that they RESEMBLE creatures in the catalogue. If they *were* the creatures mentioned then Vi.al should have known already, surely? But yes I suppose it would have been useful to look up those related creatures to see if we could infer anything about these ones.

Tell the two latecomers it was nice to meet them but there are too many people in this room. You will contact them later for advice when their knowledge is relevant, which will probably be very soon to be honest, but right now you just need to bring your medic and scout up to date on the situation so that they will be informed when they arrive. Goodbye.
Give them a chance to cut the connection themselves; if there's more squabbling then cut it yourself.

Then you can bring the conversation back into focus. Tell the other two about the attack and how your injury wouldn't heal. Also talk about the current state of the lepi, with help from Lightgreen, and ask Li.ni.si for advice on how to treat injuries among the lepi since there will probably be more fighting before they arrive. Ask Li.ni.si what her combat capabilities are exactly.
See what geographical information you can hand over to Su.ki.fu and also ask about her specific capabilities. Flight speed, carrying capacity, weapon loadout?
No. 1075395 ID: 1730c1

Change the topic to the Noetuno. Lay out what you know about them and the Woven in charge of them, and how they're your biggest threat at the moment. Maybe they'll have some suggestions.
No. 1075410 ID: f3171e

Temporarily mute your volume while you wait for the water to get here and calm Lightgreen down. Inform them first, of course, for politeness' sake. Then use that time to calm yourself down with some mindfulness exercises. Focus on the ecology of the plantlife you have seen around the region and how horticulture and agriculture might be used to solve some of the lepi's food shortage issues.

Once Lightgreen has some water and calms down, unmute and call for attention. Inform them of the most immediate threat, the neutono, and the Transcendental leading them. Her goals do not seem contrary to ours, but there's bad coolant between her and Vi.al. It will take some diplomacy to handle.

Ask Nu.ya.si for advice on how to negotiate with her, and mute the others so he can speak uninterrupted. If they have something very important to say they can raise their hand.
I say ask Nu.ya.si because he's the most likely to see her side of the issue, and he has the skills we might be able to offer her in overturning the neutono's useless leader so she can get their shit together.
No. 1075423 ID: 2aa5f0

Alright, since you're the host of this call can you mute everyone but yourself and wait for them to notice? If so then once they do notice you can tell them that while you're glad that a bunch of old friends are catching up with each other, please hold all private talks for after the meeting since sending out this signal alerted ALL the other major powers on this rock and most of them or hostile. Once you've reminded them that this isn't just a social call unmute everyone and start this meeting by asking Nu.ya.si if this call is secure before briefing everyone on the situation here. Once he gives the all clear tell them what you know.

Probably should start with how everything got so bad is because of My.a and how she somehow got loose and is here on the planet, that she used some kind of device to create a bunch of random races, "invited" a bunch of powerful entities to the planet to rule over one of the races, and wants them to fight each other in the hopes of ruining Vi.al's favorite world by telling them that the last one standing gains ownership of the planet. Probably should tell them about Va.ne.tu as well since they'll find out about him eventually but stress that he is not to be harmed as while he is doing what My.a is telling him to do, he's putting in the bare minimum since he doesn't seem all to enthused about the whole battle royal thing. Going after him would probably get him to try which would turn him from an annoyance to an active threat and My.a seems attached to him so that might get her to stop hanging out in the background and come for us directly... so let's avoid that if we can.

Tell them about the Lepi's situation, about how they're low on supplies, doing rather poorly in this conflict, and how you wish to help them both for the aid they've given you as well as common decency. Then probably tell them what you know of all the Lepi's neighbors from what you saw when you turned the receiver on and if light green has calmed down she can probably add to this from what she's experience since this whole thing started since she's been here longer than anyone else in this room. Probably also let them know about your and your lord's history with Five strands and how you might have secured an alliance or at least a cease fire with Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles and the people he's bunked with... though you'll probably have to tell them about their connection with the blot as well but if you do stand firm that you wish to have peaceful relations with him and his group as you have enough enemies as it is and if they don't feel comfortable around him then you'll be the sole one of this group to interact with him. Seriously he's like the one good thing we seem to have going on this rock right now and I don't want to ruin it because of a badly timed PTSD attack.

Oh and tell them to be careful around Sir Lu.a. Despite being one of us he seems to have alterer motives so while I'm not saying we're enemies we should keep our guard up around him until we know what he wants.
No. 1075438 ID: b4927b

Tell the cat that if they don't stop needlessly antagonizing the other members theyre off the mission. Get their verbal understanding of this before continuing.

Take charge. Give everyone a specific task to look into and tell them you will be in touch shortly for one-on-one discussions, then dismiss them except for li.ni.si. Give them your thanks for assisting you with the lepi and just in general, and offer to give them some time with the lepi if they want to, otherwise send them off to start their task.
No. 1075439 ID: b4927b

oh also priority one once you amd the lepi are done here get somethin to EAT ur just skin n bones
No. 1075483 ID: a8f755

Ok, you need to take control of this conversation quickly, and give yourself space to not be overwhelmed.

Hold up a hand and mute the call before either of you go mad, it's slightly more polite than booting anyone off. Then sign at Li.ni.si and Su.ki.fu to let the others know about the Lepi being artificial and why it's important not to mention it to them. You could stop the translator again but I think that wouldn't help Lightgreen, might make it seem like you're deliberately hiding something.

It is a gamble that they're all in the same location, but they all seem familiar enough with each other for that to be the case, I think. Su.ki.fu should be fast enough to get a message across if it has to be done in person, and Li.ni.si knows how to phrase that message to get the point across.
No. 1075527 ID: 3bf638

"ENOUGH! For the time being everything about this mission is a secret so for Vi.al's sake it is going to stay secret given that we all get punished if details slip! Problems with this are to be directed to Vi.al himself. Given how severe this mission is we need you giving your best or you can tell Vi.al to ship you off to menial duties! So get your sorry asses in gear and save the yammering for a time when our lord has a crisis he doesn't need you to deal with! Either you say "yes sir" or you'll be on organic waste cleaning on arrival! So ARE WE CLEAR HERE?"
No. 1075567 ID: 196206

Let's not be the verbally abusive overcompensating for incompetence by being loud kind of mission leader.
No. 1075586 ID: f18503

>>1075567 Was going for drill sergeant but I guess that's you eh? Why else would ya call yerself Sgt eh?
No. 1075607 ID: 273c18

No. 1075813 ID: e139aa
File 169854093997.png - (285.47KB , 800x600 , fop-111.png )

> the viral phenomenon is already in you
Yeah how about I don't think about that anymore

> divert topic to hyperfixations
I want them to talk less

> too many people
> one-on-one briefing/debriefing
> kick everyone but Li.ni.si

"Alright this is getting too difficult to follow. Everyone, please. One at a time. Mute otherwise. Symbolic projections only. Not you, Li.ni.si, keep talking to Lightgreen."
Ji.pa.ke and Su.ki.fu are the first to do so, their incorporeal presences replaced by their personal symbolic projections, much smaller in the room.
Nu.ya.si looks like he's about to say something.
"Is it important?"
He sighs. "No, it can wait." He flickers out, his smiling icon taking his place.

"It's honestly fine, really," says Li.ni.si to Lightgreen, who is at least no longer panicking but is on the verge of tears. "Look, I..." She reaches out to rub Lightgreen's shoulder, only for her intangible hand to completely phase through, the illusion of proximity jarringly broken. She sighs. "Well, either way, believe me, I know all about how much it hurts when the very thing you live for feels impossible to do anymore. It's not just you. You aren't useless. You are, at worst, maybe having a bad day."
"I've been having a lot of those," says Lightgreen, both sets of arms curling in around her. "Thank you," she says, tears welling up again. "Thank you for putting up with me. If the rest of the village knew I was doing so badly at showing you who we are, I don't think I'd ever be welcome home again..."
"Well, I don't know. People can be more forgiving than you realise. And those that aren't? Well, they're not worth your time." Li.ni.si looks over to me. "How's getting the water going?"
"It's going." I need a drink too. My flocklet's out of direct sensory sharing range, but not out of command range. I tell it to double up on that sip. It responds by telling me it is on the way once it manages to free itself from a fishing net. I would dearly love to know how it found a fishing net in a river, but it tells me that it is running on reduced cognitive capacity this far from me, and it can't recognise the object as anything else.
Well, when it gets closer our experiences will resynchronise (it is, after all, part of me) and I can figure out what it saw when it gets back.

"Anyway, I can see you need a second of quiet. I need to quickly talk to Vi.si.mi about something, if you need anything just let me know." I can see Li.ni.si getting increasingly frustrated to have no actual physical presence here. Some constructs are more comfortable with working in the abstract, but I can see she's very much not one of them.
No. 1075814 ID: e139aa
File 169854097321.png - (541.59KB , 800x600 , fop-112.png )

"Do you have any proxy automata?" she asks me, trying to keep her voice low and out of Lightgreen's way. "Anything? Can you extrude one?"
"Uhh... not really, this station's working on a worryingly limited amount of substrate as is, and I don't have any fabricators in here as is. If you gave me a couple of hours I could maybe set up some sort of flocklite. Oh, and I'd need to get a guide to figure out how to do that, so, uh. Not really, I guess!" Note to self: get that busted transport pod to transmit its substrate over to me. Sooner than later.
"Well maybe you need to give her a hug or something, she probably needs some sort of physical reassurance, lepi are social animals, even if she's clearly introverted it would help here more than this total absence."
"I can't just give her a hug out of nowhere, it'd be weird!"
"Well, just, a shoulder pat or something tangible, I am doing what I can but the poor girl just needs a hug, okay?"

I see Li.ni.si looks like she's on the urge of tears herself. Also shaking in what I can't tell is rage, frustration or something else. "...Are you alright?" I ask her.
"You don't really have the context for why, but. Not being able to help to the extent I want to, with the closest thing to the first patient I've had since effectively starting this mission, is tearing me apart inside right now. So I'm just going to lie and say yes. She's going to be fine. I'll probably be fine. I am going to be spending my next [most-of-three-days] doing a lot of studying lepi physiology. Just... ugh, maybe this was a mistake. This was probably a mistake. I thought I was over it all."
"What was? Joining this mission?"
"Yeah. I--"
"No it wasn't please do not drop out please please please do not drop out on me I am desperate for any help I can get down here," I say, before I can stop myself from making my inner monologue outer. "I mean, well, uh, it's up to you, really, but, at least evaluate yourself in a more appropriate context, this was supposed to be a briefing, not an appraisal, you are fine. You are fine. You just-- you just told Lightgreen all of this and you're just not going to apply your own words to yourself?"

She looks off into the distance past me, and sighs. "Yeah, but I don't believe it when it's coming from me."
"Then listen to me and thank you for the help. I will see you here soon. Good luck looking into lepi physiology. I think we need to accept you're not here just yet, so, if you don't mind, can you switch to symbolic too?"
She takes a deep, shuddering breath, and nods, as her holographic form flickers out and is replaced by a symbol.

"...also, thank you for not asking for the context," she says, very quietly, as she mutes her side.
No. 1075815 ID: e139aa
File 169854103152.png - (586.58KB , 800x600 , fop-113.png )

I look at the symbolic representations floating around. I recognise the standard diamond backdrop of a Vi.al construct that Nu.ya.si has, mine looks very similar. The Lo.ka three eye triangle thing just feels a little unnerving if you really stop to think about it, and I don't think I'd be able to connect Su.ki.fu's symbol to her if she was in a crowded room. I remember another Zi.en construct telling me the spiral is a motif relating to flow and motion, but, well, I don't remember the rest of that conversation too well.

My flocklet arrives, our short term memories resynchronise, I realise it was in fact caught in a fishing net and see no reason to waste time processing this further. I extrude a couple of basic substrate vessels. With a flurry of motions I give Lightgreen and myself a glass of fresh, filtered, river-cool water. She's glad to have it, and so am I, realising how dehydrated I am at this point. I haven't drunk any fluids at all today until now, have I. Hm.

"Remember to drink water if you need it," I say to the floating symbolic representations around the room. "I mean, you all need it, I think, Vi.al and Lo.ka constructs do, anyway. Su.ki.fu, do you need water?"


"...Su.ki.fu, you are still muted."
"--oh. Oops. Fixed it! Haha, Fixed. Anyway, yes! I have a fluid ingest system, water isn't the only solvent I need but it's one of them."
"Oh. What else do you need?"
"Ethanol, uhh... I'm... I'm not a huge expert, mostly water, ethanol and a few other things I get from supplements. Which I will bring with me, sir!"
"...I can't see you doing the salute as a symbolic projection."
"...but you knew I was doing it nonetheless, sir!"
"Yes. Okay. Back on mute, please."

Lightgreen gets back up on her feet. "Alright. I'm s-sorry about that, I really am."
"I was about to brief my distant colleagues here on the situation the lepi find themselves in. Do you feel up to explaining it? I can try to summarise, but I don't think I have as full a grasp of the situation as you do."
"I will try," says Lightgreen.
No. 1075816 ID: e139aa
File 169854108815.png - (715.16KB , 800x600 , fop-114.png )

Lightgreen tells us the tale of her people, and herself by proxy.

She was born in the village of Golden Root, which, along with Blossoming Bough and Glittering Sepal, were the three lepi villages she knew of in her younger days. The lepi span silken tales of ancestors that came to this land with no clear recollection of who they were, where they had come from, and that many of them believed they had been taken by spirits to a strange otherworld. In days gone by, the spirits were everywhere, vague, fuzzy, intangible, and slowly fading away. Unpredictable and wildly variable, with kindly protectors, mischievous sprites and horrifying incomprehensible terrors alike. Other kinds of people existed, like the noetuno, but they were almost creatures of legend with how rarely any had seen them in the terrifying red forest to the north.

Clearing through her poetic descriptions, I recognise her describing aberrant but known behaviours of broken substrate constructs, and, more distressingly, deviant subpartitions. Agents hovering somewhere around construct-level intellect but not truly able to reason outside the narrow scope for their existence. Glorified "smart" automata, which over time can deviate significantly from their purpose without maintenance and reinforcement. Things like Va.ne.tu's echo-flocklets, and usually the flavour of Shapeless life given the task of repetitive long-term tasks that require more than basic algorithms guiding them. In a way, conceptual ancestors to constructs, in some cases.

What Lightgreen is telling us, through a distorted lens, is the story of an abandoned world. A substrate-led terraforming process, with countless agents making it all possible, left to its own devices for a long enough time that the agents began to degrade. Substrate structures do not last forever without maintenance, same as anything else. They're capable of self-maintenance, but it would take some sort of conscious direction to reinforce the way things are supposed to be. Without direction, they would either degenerate into echoes of echoes of echoes of instructions forgotten over time, or, even worse, simply try to convert matter to substrate and eat away at structures they were meant to maintain.

Which baffles me completely. This was one of Vi.al's favoured garden worlds, a shining jewel in the dark. This doesn't add up. The planet can't have been abandoned on the timescale that Lightgreen is talking about, and also, if her people have been here long enough for her to grow to maturity, that'd suggest Vi.al somehow missed there being meddling [decades] ago. What is going on here?

Lightgreen continues her story, talking about how the spirits faded from the world into their broken shrines and temples, but then something the lepi call the "Awakening" happened. All of the dead substrate structures came flickering to life, slowly at first, and then glowing across the world the lepi could see, and suddenly everything went wrong. Plains split into valleys and chasms, mountains grew upwards, and in the chaos the three lepi villages came together, but not as friends. Apparently, the shamans of Glittering Sepal were quick to blame the other two villages as having angered the spirits, and in the chaos, while destruction rained from the heavens and the world opened beneath them, the simmering hostilities between villages erupted into violence between the lepi.

Lightgreen then said she didn't feel like she could go into much further detail there, and when I saw her trembling, I told her it was okay for her to skip ahead a little.

After the Awakening subsided and the spirits subsided (or, I presume, burnt their emergency reserves out), there were strange lights in the sky over and over, and the dread laughter of something that sounded and looked like a terrible bird descending onto the land, fractured shapes of burning colour. And then it vanished as quickly as it came, but ancient spirits still haunted the land, prowling beyond the limits of fire and light.

The survivors of the ruined Golden Root and Blossoming Bough formed the village of Golden Bough, and soon the lepi had to abandon their old dew and flower farming ways for a nomadic life, aided by the arrival of the meadowanders.

The noetuno rapidly became aggressive raiders, having not just survived but subjugated their home forest, and have enslaved dozens and dozens of lepi. A barbaric kind of creatures called the seapi have also raided the lepi villages for their livestock, food, and, often, lepi. While the noetuno have not been quiet with parading their lepi slaves around, no one has seen anyone the seapi take ever again.

And now, about [two years] later, here I am. And [two days] later, here are my construct colleagues. The lepi are beset by ever more problems. The overwhelming rhamata from the plateau, once content in isolation, have been aggressively expanding their territory, and strangers from beyond the continent-splitting river known as the Divide cause problems in their desperate search for secrets.

The entire room is silent for a good while after Lightgreen finishes her story.
No. 1075817 ID: e139aa
File 169854113367.png - (270.59KB , 800x600 , fop-115.png )

So I break the silence.

"...and our mission is to try and win some sort of stupid game set up by My.a, who's free, by the way, so that we can regain control of this world for Lord Vi.al and oust all the outsider Transcendental aliens My.a roped into this and hopefully try to establish a lasting peace between the sapient species here."
"Oh, is that all," says Nu.ya.si. "For a second I thought this might be some kind of intractable world-scope problem, you know, the kind that asking a handful of constructs to solve would be absolutely insane but entirely Vi.al behaviour. How do we win the game?"
"We have to somehow... be the last ones standing, based on what My.a told me, among the Transcendental."
"So we have to kill a bunch of Transcendentals?"
"Well, not kill, but otherwise force them to forfeit."
"So we have to kill a bunch of Transcendentals."
"No. Some of them are reasonable. One of them is Sir Lu.a, one of Lo.ka's knights, and--"

Nu.ya.si's symbol twitches. "Oh no, no no no, Vi.si.mi that is not one of the reasonable ones. Trust me on that. We've met."
"...and, if you let me finish, a seeker known as Glass-Fold-Nine-Circles has been extremely reasonable. Also, the noetuno, the primary threat to the lepi, are being, theoretically, influenced by a Woven named Five Strands who, uh--"
"Oh wow. Is that the one who had her moon eaten by Vi.al?"
"Yes, also please stop interrupting me."
"Right. Yes. Sorry, can't help myself sometimes," says Nu.ya.si, sounding actually embarrassed this time, and muting himself.
"Anyway. Five Strands might be amenable to diplomacy. We may be able to simply work out a deal wherein the reasonable individuals ensnarled in this get to continue living on Vi.al's world in their own little chunk of it. However, there's a lot of unknown factors and some of them may be more difficult to deal with."

I pause for the Nu.ya.si interruption, but he seems to be keeping quiet this time.

"So our primary objective is to try and bolster the lepi, who are deeply in need of help to be on an equal footing with all the Transcendental technology being thrown around. I believe the majority of civilisations on this planet are somewhere around the neolithic, excluding the, uh, alarming developments that have been happening as a result of introducing advanced technology to people before they're culturally or socially ready for it."
"...aren't we going to do the same?" Li.ni.si's symbol flashes. "Or, I suppose, from Lightgreen's story, we already have. In which case we have a duty to clean up the mess we've made."

Lightgreen shifts around uncomfortably. "I don't think all of my people are going to be very happy with you trying to take control. Especially after..." She shifts around awkwardly. "If I'm piecing this together right, it sounds like you... abandoned us? You brought us here and then left us with your ruins and just... left? And then you didn't do anything to help us during the Awakening, if anything that was something you did to us..."

She looks to me. "That's not true, right? You were always going to come back but things stopped you, right? I held onto that hope for a long, long time in my life, starbird, I've tried to argue against the very doubts I'm now having. But you're all talking about this like we're an afterthought and I'm... starting to feel a bit like... I don't know how to put it into words... Did you come here to save us like I thought you did?"

I falter. "Of course, I came here to help your people. To help all of the people of this world. I was sent to bring harmony to this world."
"But what does that mean? Do we matter?"
"I don't know what you're getting at here."

Lightgreen pauses, looks around at all the dizzying reams of information in the relay station that means nothing to her, and looks away, like she can't take any more.

"We don't matter at all to the star-beings, do we. We never did. Was it all just a complete coincidence you came when I risked my life to call for help, starbird?"

It was. It was the only working beacon. If she hadn't been there, I'd have not met her.
And it was a sheer coincidence I happened to go after the only species not already spoken for by an outsider Transcendental.

Do I... do I tell her that?
No. 1075818 ID: 99f29a

It shouldn't have been a coincidence, but My.a has apparently been subverting the systems and interfering with your job.
No. 1075820 ID: 09f667

You absolutely DO NOT TELL HER THAT.

Seriously, you can brush the awkward answer off as being caught off guard, or having a lot on your mind, and so on, but if you tell her that at this point, you may not be able to have her help for a long time, and you may never be able to actually have her trust at all. She will need to learn, but you will need to tell her when you actually establish yourself and security for the Lepi. Otherwise you are shooting yourself in the foot with something much worse than an arrow.
No. 1075821 ID: e5709d

"We didn't even know you were abandoned. Lightgreen... something happened. Something so horrible that what My.a did was kicking over a flower in comparison.
A Lord went mad. And he ripped entire worlds apart before he eventually self-destructed. I guess... the Lords were so busy fixing all the other worlds, places that were even worse than what you're experiencing right now, that nobody noticed My.a dumping all your ancestors here and subtly placing a spell over the planet that made it look like the giant fauna-less garden that it was originally meant to be. We never knew what was going on with this world until right now.
You, personally, don't matter to Lord Vi.al. But you matter to me. And I matter to you. Same as how I matter to Lord Vi.al and he matters to me even more.
And what matters most is that we're here and we want to help."
No. 1075822 ID: 43e4bf

If you lie to her and she finds out later it will be much worse than telling her that your meeting specifically was coincidental but you wouldn't be here if they didn't matter. You might not have an answer for why only now you are interfering but Vi.al seems to have a lot of keep track of. It is likely they couldn't deal with the issues at the time or somehow were otherwise prevented from knowing there were issues. It's a garden world; I imagine Vi.al removed most of his presence to allow them to advance naturally.
No. 1075823 ID: 09f667

Well, in that case, I would at least provide an evasive answer at this time, just because she seems to be emotionally volatile. We need to establish safety and security first, and we can't be certain that Lightgreen will continue to work with us if she knows right away. If she is to be told, she has to be told very carefully, because we need her to avoid falling too far behind the others.
No. 1075827 ID: cc7ddf

>If she hadn't been there, I'd have not met her.
Which means that if she didn't risk her life, you'd never have arrived where she was and would be in no position to help her. What she did was the right thing, even without the knowledge of what it would lead to. Impressing on her the significance of her actions (regardless of the potential alternatives and eventual joining of the Lepi anyway that would have likely come to pass) is what she needs to hear right now. She needs to feel like she's done the right thing, something good that will help not just her but all of her people. Just because the people above your station don't care about the Lepi doesn't mean YOU don't care, in fact you likely care quite a lot more now that you've talked with the others and learned more about their origins.
No. 1075844 ID: ae4393

Lightgreen it's not like you have no value. We starbirds are imperfect in many ways. We have thousands of worlds with millions of species. We have to deal with crisis for our whole existence. Even we can't do it all at once. Of course the crisis also does not usually involve a madman whose powers rival my lord Vi.al. Perhaps they masked how severe it was here as well. Still the damage is done so I can only apologize for how slow we were. Had we the ability to wave an arm to fix all problems we would. We can only repair what damage can be repaired. So we will. With you and everyone who will.
No. 1075846 ID: 273c18

>drone got delayed by a fishing net
Likely your friend causing a minor problem for you. I'm not sure why a fishing net would be unusual in a river anyway? It's where fish live.

>the Lepi are from an abandoned planet
Hypothesis: You did not arrive on the garden world. It's been swapped, somehow, and the abandoned planet was terraformed so that its surface resembles the garden world. That would match the story about the surface changing drastically. Where did the garden world go, then? Moving a planet isn't easy, so it shouldn't have gone far. Perhaps it is still in this system... orbiting on the other side of the sun so you can't see it?
Well, either that or the all the foreign creatures were somehow transferred here from the abandoned planet without being aware of the time between. The abandoned planet was terraformed beforehand so that they wouldn't see the geography instantly change.
...a final, disturbing theory is that their memories were altered, in which case we don't know if the "abandoned world" memories are true at all.
>destruction rained from the heavens
What kind of destruction? If a planet was being moved quickly, recklessly, then a meteorite shower could be expected.
>giant thing seen in the skies
Well that's obviously My.a.

>Sir Lu.a is not reasonable
Fucking perfect. Well, we know they have some ulterior motives here so if we can't negotiate maybe we can bargain with them. Help with whatever their secret project is and they'll forfeit the game, something like that. Alternatively if it's something really bad we could threaten to spill the beans if they don't forfeit.

Why didn't you mention the Golden and the Rainforged?

First off, tell her there is no way they were abandoned by Vi.al. There is something VERY weird going on with this planet and you are going to find out what it is.
Second off, tell her if Vi.al knew they were here he would have sent help far earlier than you arrived. He cares about people, even those that are not his own. Tell her about how he saved the creatures on that Woven's rogue moon, despite not needing to at all. That is proof of his strength of character. You must conclude he simply did not know about the Lepi until he sent you.
As for if it's coincidence that you arrived after she found the last working beacon... were there any others before then? How long had she been attempting to send messages? It's possible Vi.al noticed one of them, sent a scouting device, then sent you upon learning that the window of opportunity was closing. You simply don't know if it was coincidence or not that you arrived to meet her at the last beacon. Perhaps it was fate.
No. 1075847 ID: 8f9bc4

If there are only two Lepi villages left, you are in a very vulnerable position. They barely have a sustainable breeding population. You need to make sure they start making more Lepi as soon as possible, since all the substrate based technology in the galaxy won't help them if they don't have enough people to use it. How do they reproduce, and how can you make that as safe, reliable, and effective as possible?
No. 1075848 ID: 0b594e

Whatever you tell her, you should give her a hug too.
No. 1075855 ID: 2a82d3

>This doesn't add up. The planet can't have been abandoned on the timescale that Lightgreen is talking about, and also, if her people have been here long enough for her to grow to maturity, that'd suggest Vi.al somehow missed there being meddling [decades] ago. What is going on here?
As a technically advanced being, you could be overlooking a few things. Does Lord Vi.al have access to time dilation technology? As in, could he accelerate in a local/planetary field?

>Sir Lu.a
I think any concerns about betrayal from him are overblown, even if not being direct about what he wants is an ongoing concern. There are ways to figure out both that and how he operates, given a Lu.s should operate on romantic principles. For now, assume he's well-meaning, but foolish. Unreasonable by your standards.

There are ways to break it to her gently, though probably don't tell her your meeting is the work of that devil (even if it is the most likely theory). If nothing else, impress upon her this: It's impossible, absolutely false, that the starbirds don't care about you, because THIS starbird cares about you, BECAUSE she was there when you needed her. You can admit it's a big ask for her to trust you. For now, that will have to be enough.

Weird thought to have, at this moment. There are slaves we can liberate to help with that.

Though, I DO want them to have kids with each other eventually, dammit.
No. 1075861 ID: 2aa5f0

you could tell her that something is wrong with her story. Not in that she was lying but in how things weren't adding up. You were told that this world is one of your lords favorite worlds if not than it's his actual favorite and as such the structures she told you about should never have been abandoned, the "spirts" she talked about shouldn't have been so wild, and something like the awakening should have been noticed almost immediately or at a bare minimum shouldn't have taken until you arrived on planet in what sounds like decades later to find out that something was so wrong with this world.

Let her know that you did come here to help this world and all those who lived here but the fact that things were so degraded before the awakening and left unnoticed for so long after it means that we're all missing some pieces to this puzzle. Also let her know that you did arrive before her because she called for you... just leave out the part that you chose to answer that call because you were crashing and just picked the first signal you found that would let you actually land your pod instead of smashing it into itty bitty tiny peaces across the landscape.

Also on the part about you and your (future) marry band leading the Lepi... yeah no. Let's not make same mistake as Five Strands and push them into a type of rule they're not ready for and just creating a bastardized version of it. Plus... you're not Lepi, and by that I mean you really don't know what the Lepi need and want to survive. Things that would be harmless to you could be quite deadly to them and since you don't have to worry about such things it might lead you to forgetting they DO have to worry about them and accidentally putting them in danger or at least a poor position. You also don't know shit about their culture outside of how they pick their leaders so just going around saying "you all have to do things my way now" will probably just piss off the locals. They should already know what they need, they should know what they want, so I say work with them (within reason) and see if we can't help them rebuild and just offer them advice and support along the way.

As for the other races and how we deal with them... unless their new leaders are willing to talk things out we're probably going to have to fight them, but if we can remove said leaders they'll probably be able to be brought to the negotiating table... even if only out of fear but hey, it's wither that or full on exterminating them so defiantly the lesser of two evils.
No. 1075865 ID: 196206

Vi.al sent us here to correct what was going wrong. It seems like malevolent forces were hiding the wrong for a while.
When we chose to come here, we chose to come to the Lepi first because they seemed the cutest the most in need of help, even before we knew pd their beacon. It was not a mere coincidence, we came where we were needed when we knew we were needed.

Now give her a hug.
>but professionalism
Did your thoughts fucking stutter, Vissy? Ecologically, this social species is in need of emotional support. Now give her a big old professional, ecological hug.
No. 1075867 ID: b3eab7

Tell her it fits too well together to be a coincidence. It's all the work of the same rogue lord.
1) This world was not just abandoned, it's abandonment was very deliberately hidden from its caretaker. Intercepting communications and falsely claiming everything was fine.
2) Her species was also deliberately brought here, among several others, and their Transcendental, all for My.a to toy with.
3) The timing of your arrival isn't a coincidence either. How do you think Lord Vi.al found out something was happening? Definitely because My.a chose to let that information through. And she did it at that precise point in time because she had spotted the Lepi shaman journeying towards the beacon (which was "somehow" the only working one).
The only coincidence (and even then, it was probabilistically semi-predictable) was your choice of tribe matching the fate she had planned for you. Your choice wasn't supposed to matter, because you were always meant to land among the Lepi. And yet it does, because you did choose them.
No. 1075870 ID: 8f9bc4


The choice was inevitable because moff
No. 1075873 ID: 932a49


No. 1075874 ID: 58dd24

No, odds are it wasn't a coincidence. The idea that you randomly picked the one culture not already hooked up with a transcendental presence was one in six, but all the cultures getting one and only one visitor landing on them is about one and a half percent odds. In that context, showing up when and where someone was actively asking for your help further stretches the bounds of probability to their breaking point.

You have been explicitly told that there is outside interference at work here, and you have now encountered evidence suggesting both probability manipulation and time dilation effects. Even if those are beyond the scope of My.a's known capabilities, they suggest SOMETHING powerful is pulling strings. You answering Lightgreen's call was not an accident.
No. 1075883 ID: 2a82d3

I would also like to raise the theory that, instead of time dilation, the Lepi were cloned on the spot because My.a was at their first extinction. (Sort of the opposite of >>1075846 ). They built their village after she found them, so the timeline syncs up. It's also possible that the mad god directly put them on ice and transported them here, but that's a level of compassion that seems unusual for her. Just how long has she been plotting this game?

If anything, dismissing the powerful malevolent entity's influence on your lives so far, as "a coincidence", is would sound more reassuring for her, from a certain point of view.
No. 1075934 ID: a7a180

You don't matter to all of the star beings. But to some, you do. You matter to this star being. And there was a star being that cared enough to make you. Yes, let the 'was' sink in. There are other star beings out there. This world belonged to one, who for reasons you don't understand either was distant for a time from it, too distant. But he cares for this world, too. On a grand scale, anyway.
It was not a coincidence you came here. (My.a lured you.) But let's leave it at that, because I don't have all the answers yet and you won't like the ones I do.
No. 1075988 ID: e139aa
File 169870604817.png - (309.89KB , 800x600 , fop-116.png )

> didn't mention the Gilded or Rainforged
I barely know anything about what's up with them, so they're firmly in the "problem for later" box for now.

> how sure are you it was a coincidence
I... mean, I did just jump to the first available signal.

> the pieces don't fit together
Now that I think about it...

> abandoned world swap
This can't possibly have happened without Vi.al noticing using technology known to the Shapeless. Vi.al needed to coat an entire moon in substrate to have enough leverage to change its course, the idea of moving an entire world like this is absolutely preposterous.

> time distortion/dilation
And the Shapeless don't have true time dilation technology. At best, perceptual time dilation, but that's hardly much of an achievement when many species of sapient organics can do the same by finding the right thing growing in a dark nook and eating it. And modifying your own perception of time too far can stray into the taboo of ego modification, and that sort of thing isn't always a crime but it isn't looked upon favourably.

> abandonment hidden from Vi.al
But how? Vi.al can forget things and overlook things, but one of its favourite worlds?

> how SURE are you that this is all a coincidence
There's so many weird things that don't all connect. Was I guided to this? The only species not already assigned a Transcendental outsider.

I see Lightgreen stare hopelessly into my eyes, and I stare back, pensive.

I will do as Lord Vi.al would do. I will give her the truth, but only as much of it as I think she can bear. Too many think Vi.al holds secrets for power and power alone, like Lord Or.ro and its vault of dangerous artifacts. Perhaps they are not wrong. But Vi.al also knows how much the wrong truth at the wrong time can cause so much pain and misery. Vi.al views truthful answers as necessary, but to be released gradually. The vicious, fierce counter-argument to this, screamed by their rivals, is that Vi.al has no place deciding who is and is not ready, but, here, now, I think I understand Lightgreen enough to know what she needs to hear and what can wait.

"I heard a call, from a vessel I could barely control, and came to that call." The fact I thought it might be a navigational signal, I will keep to myself. "And I found you, and you asked for my help. And I still want to help you. So no, that was not a coincidence. And if your kind did not matter, I would not still be here. If you did not matter, you would not be standing before me right now."

I walk slowly up to her, as she stares at me, shaking.

I slowly open my arms and walk a little closer, and she starts silently sobbing, and I slowly wrap my wing-arms around her in a gentle embrace.

"You have helped me many times, Lightgreen, and I would like to think you are my friend. And I would help my friends with or without commands from above."
She tries to say something but just sobs even harder.
I find myself humming to her a tune I remember Fo.ka.sa would sing to me when I was scared as a small, easily frightened vatling.

I hear a small beep that indicates one of the other constructs here has left me a simple message in text form. I subtly wave it in front of me.

[ We're splitting off into a subset communication, let one of us know if you need us. Figured you two should probably have some privacy, got the feeling this conversation isn't for us to be watching. -- ?.Lo.ka.Li.ni.si ]

I note the symbolic representations are all gone.

"We had no idea what was happening here," I say, humming a reduced single-voice version of the tune as I speak. "I believe, from your story, that we were prevented from knowing all of this. You said some time ago you thought the beings of the stars would have problems of their own and we do. We do. I'm very sorry, Lightgreen. None of this should have happened. I don't know how it happened like this."
And then my eyes start to water as I continue, cleaning fluid welling up in the small channels around my eyes.
"But thank you for believing in us. Please give me a chance to make amends with you and your people." My humming stops as my voice slightly cracks. "Please."
No. 1075989 ID: e139aa
File 169870607795.png - (179.44KB , 800x600 , fop-117.png )

She chokes out a 'starbird' before hugging me tightly.

And here, in the comfort and security of the relay station, with no other eyes but hers on me, I feel tears stream down my face once again. Just as with Va.ne.tu, I feel too much of a connection with Lightgreen for this to not feel personal. We're both supposed to be fulfilling a role here that exceeded our wildest imagination when the true weight of the matter was revealed, after all. And I feel sorry for her, yes, and to realise the cause of so much lepi suffering and tragedy was something we not only could have prevented but enabled to begin with...

Sometimes I think maybe our loudest critics are right when they say the Shapeless, all Shapeless, Lord, partition and construct alike, are a blight upon the cosmos.

It's not hard to see why, when they see us as alien machines, inscrutable, eating at worlds for our own needs, able to go anywhere and be anything on frighteningly small timescales.

But I've seen so many worlds marred by ecological disasters, the consequences of alien carelessness run rampant. Horrifyingly scarred biospheres, planets too broken for just one small construct like myself to fix, but... I try.

And this can be just another one of these worlds to fix, even if we caused the problems. And I will try. For Vi.al, yes, but also for the lepi, for everyone else on this world. I will try. I will make the lepi matter. That's something I can promise.
No. 1075990 ID: e139aa
File 169870611888.png - (402.28KB , 800x600 , fop-118.png )

As I let Lightgreen go, she wipes at her eyes and collects herself.

We stand in an awkward silence, before I feel my stomach rumble. "Oh. Oh right, I haven't eaten anything today. I should find something to eat soon, I think."
"I have a patch near the village outskirts I like to go to if I don't feel up to being around the others in the village, which is, uh, increasingly often lately, but, uh, yeah."
"Let's go get something to eat, then. And after that, I need to figure out where I'm going to sleep tonight."
"Oh. Is this not your new home, starbird?"
"Not yet. I need to make some changes, but I'll be fine tomorrow." I am going to go insane if I try to sleep in a relay station. The background signal processing it does is going to filter straight into my mind. Plus I didn't think to include any sleeping facilities on top of the template. I'll need some sort of extension to the structure at the very least that isn't the main relay room... I do at least send off a signal to the damaged pod to try and transmit as much functional substrate as it can to this station for later. The reserves can just pool into the walls and floor.
"Well, I, uh, you can... you can stay with me if you need to, my tent is a little further away from the rest of the village but I do have a spare bed."
"That's very kind of you, but I ought not to impose."
"It wouldn't be imposing at all. Please, starbird, if you need a place to sleep tonight..."
"I'll consider it."

I turn to the door (which, as is standard for Vi.al architecture, is a wall that's waiting to be commanded to allow things through) but suddenly pause.

Things don't seem right. I can't figure out why, but I realise it's something I hear. Feel. One of those two.
No. 1075991 ID: e139aa
File 169870614299.png - (463.66KB , 800x600 , fop-119.png )

I turn back. Lightgreen also looks like she senses something amiss.

It feels vaguely like My.a is in the room with me, but that's impossible. Shapeless Lords can't just sneak up like that, they have too many signals flying around them at all times. Some sort of proxy, perhaps, but the nature of which I can't ascertain. It can't be Va.ne.tu either, Va.ne.tu didn't have the same sort of signature as My.a does. Well, there's a common element between them, but--

I see a shimmer in the room.

"Lightgreen," I say, quietly, urgently. "Door is this way. Leave, I'll see you in a second."
Lightgreen looks in the direction of where I saw the shimmer, and, glancing at me and back to it, quietly walks up to the wall-door and tests it, poking it hesitantly but purposefully. After her hand goes through it, she takes a deep breath and walks through it. I send my flocklet out with her just in case I have to tell her to start running.

"Who are you," I say to the room. "I know you're working for My.a, whoever you are. How long were you here?"

No response.

"I know you're here. Start talking and I won't feel compelled to make threats."

Still no response. I can't directly pinpoint where the invisible smudge is anymore, because it's getting increasingly harder to pinpoint a location with growing signal fuzz and ambiguity.

However, whoever or whatever it is, however they got here so fast (and slipped in so quickly), has made a significant error. They came into a relay station I have complete schematic knowledge of and complete command over. I'm not nearly as good as a lot of constructs at manipulating substrate, but I could crush them with the walls and floors if I can figure out where they are with more precision.

First things first, I quietly lock down everything with the quietest directed signals I can mumble to the floor. If I go down, they're not leaving, and if anyone tries to contact me, they'll get a standard alert that this site is compromised. There's no safer place I could be thrown into a repair coma than where I am right now.

I'm also extremely annoyed to be dealing with this right now.

"My.a, if this is some sort of weird trick just tell me what you want from me right now, I'm really quite busy--"
No. 1075992 ID: e139aa
File 169870620434.png - (345.79KB , 800x600 , fop-120.png )


What the--
No. 1075993 ID: e139aa
File 169870622763.png - (526.45KB , 800x600 , fop-121.png )

"Okay so we're doing this now, then."
I should be worried that I felt an impact and no pain. That does not bode well. The projectile is substrate in nature and I don't recognise whatever complex form it's taking, but I get the impression it has a payload, and said payload has not yet delivered. I set some of the idle processing capacity of the relay station to trying to figure out whatever this thing is, and find a solution to whatever ill effects it's intended to cause.

"need answers," I hear a voice echo around the room. Quiet and soft, but omnidirectional.
"Answers to what?"
"current plan of action," says the voice. I realise, as I hear the voice, it starts getting easier to pinpoint where this intruder is. "long-term plan of action for lepi collaboration. location of vi.al focus arrival point. duration of transit. comply, else be removed from further consideration."

Really not a fan of how vague that threat is. Also I cannot place this accent of symphonic language, but the fact it's symphonic means I have to be dealing with something of Shapeless origin.

After a slight pause, the voice starts to distort more, and I lose the source of it again. "further efforts to triangulate my current position will be met with swift and efficient violence."
"It's what my station just does by itself."
"swift. and efficient. violence. no answers, no need for vi.al construct running its mouth. what does the vi.al construct choose?"
"Well I was thinking I might just crush the entire cavity of this station inwards around everything except me, because I am not in the mood to be dealing with more of My.a's stupid little schemes on an empty stomach. You know I have complete control over this station, right? And also, if anything happens to me, this station is going to send out a distress signal immediately to Lord Vi.al directly. You really picked your moment here." Not entirely true, but it wouldn't take long for me to tell it to do that unless I went unconscious instantly. I feel like I should be more afraid than this but I'm furious</