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File 136262682665.png - (21.25KB , 700x700 , 166.png )
498405 No. 498405 ID: c4e5c2

"Make sure your feet are planted. It's as important as using spears."
"I... not sure if agree."
"You'll agree when you fire. Only fire a couple shots. We're only using enough ammunition so you know what firing feels like."
"This is how booming death is? Pulling the tiny lever?"
"If you don't respect the gun, I'm going to get off your shoulder and watch in safety while you shoot your foot off."
"It's understood."
"Hold it firmly. Don't tense up and clutch it, just keep it steady, before, during and after it fires."
Expand all images
No. 498406 ID: c4e5c2
File 136262685120.png - (59.86KB , 950x500 , 167.png )


"... will agree. Hits shoulder hard, and noise is... deafening."
"You'll get used to it."

Maybe not. This thing could probably tear my head clean off. Cleanly, If I'm lucky. I don't know if I would have let him fire if I knew it was going to wake the dead in every cave corner for a kilometer off. Or just alert the enemy if I want to be realistic.
No. 498410 ID: d6ef5d

Well, to be fair, you're up against the salikai and who knows what mad science. The enemy you wake could very well be the walking dead.

Status report? How long has it been since you fought your way into the cave? Have you reunited with the others and retreated deeper yet? Has Rokann been subjected to battlefield surgery and debugging yet? How's your arm?
No. 498412 ID: 6dc5a6

Encounter any metal bugs yet?
No. 498417 ID: 9ddf68

So you still up shit's creek without a paddle or did you upgrade to shit's creek with a paddle (hows the situation, still bad or getting better)
No. 498420 ID: f2c20c

We might want to relocate and/or continue moving to find our allies, if we just made a huge noise. Are we leaving tracks behind at all?
No. 498432 ID: c4e5c2
File 136263360874.png - (28.50KB , 700x700 , 168.png )

>Status report?
The time is 22:00. We entered the cave somewhere around 17:30. We're getting ready to go to bed.

We reunited with the group, and have moved far deeper into the cave. We settled an hour ago without running into any enemies, be they voklit, arkot hunter hive or bugs. The ground is too rocky for us to leave tracks, too. We don't know if we're in a deadend, or for that matter, if this spot is even a decent hiding or defending point.

My arm is healing as expected. I will take off the cast tomorrow, but treat it gently.

As usual, Katzati will process any data we get for the map into her system, which has become a more pressing issue to find out the quality of our spot. Until then, she's with Marra on Rokann de-bugging to make sure that Rokann doesn't manage to loose any restraints. She struggles constantly while Korli gets the bugs out.

"Hey, Polo." Korli says as I walk into the best hospital we've got.
"I've only got 9."

The mood is no good, to think the obvious. We're safe for the time. Still up shit creek, but we might have a paddle. Too bad we have no place to paddle to.
No. 498434 ID: 8b9215

Remind us, 9 out of how many?
No. 498435 ID: f2c20c

Time estimate?

You'd think she'd grow more lucid as you got more bugs out.
No. 498437 ID: d6ef5d

9 out of 70 or so? This is going to be slow. And I assume we're making sure the removed bugs are deactivated, and that they can't jump attempt to jump ship during the surgery?

We've got a head start on pursuit with what maps you already have, and Viln's knowledge of the caves. But the salikai will have cave based monsters, and their own volkit. Plus the hunter hive will have come with the numbers and equipment to scour this cave system.

Evasion and survival are the immediate concerns. Escape doesn't seem possible- you'd be too exposed in the open, and you have no safe way to contact the outside world, or even knowing that you're not contacting a CAI fake, or annother compromised party.

The only options, desperate as it seems, is to deal with the problem on your own.

The hive hunting you is controlled by these bugs. The bugs have four stripes orchestrating them, somehow. There's only one four stripes. If we can find him and take him out, the enemy's control of the other hive will be disrupted, or at least made less effective.
No. 498438 ID: 9ddf68

So I take it that Biler Still MIA at this point. So based off the maps you have scanned so far how deep into the caves would you guess you are. And if you had to guess how far behind do you think your enemies are. It's ok if you ballpark it.
No. 498442 ID: b33427

Nine out of how many? 50? 70? Too damn many, either way. And without better removal tools, Rokann might not make it through the trauma of removing the deeper ones. Does Korli have any ideas on what would help in that regard? A real strong, narrow magnet on a stick, maybe?

And why are those removed bugs just laying out where any one of you could accidentally step on them? Don't you have a sealed container to put them in? Or at least move them away... Actually, move them away anyway. Far away. Since the bugs form an AI link via short-range wireless, moving those nine bugs away might reduce the capabilities of the remaining ones in Rokann.

You should probably go down the tunnel with Viln to make sure you're not making camp in a dead-end anyway. Take the bugs and head twenty minutes run down the tunnel, dispose of them, then return.

Escape actually isn't completely not an option. On the surface it is, but down here the caves extend beyond the boundaries of the voklit (or is it vernaut?) reservation. Almost certainly far beyond the boundaries, considering how the sub-surface of this planet seems to be riddled with caves. Between Viln's knowledge of the caves and Katzati's maps of the surrounding area, it's likely the group could find a route where they surface far away from here. At least far enough away that the CAI is well out of intercept range so they can radio out.
No. 498445 ID: e936d0

So where is the Inspector and the Translator dude?

Biles is still MIA and, if not dead, most definitely compromised.
No. 498446 ID: d6ef5d

I'm sure the hunter hive has the resources to lock down the area outside the valley. The known exits will be watched, and their will be sure to be areal patrols, just in case.

And even if we we made it out, there is no one we can trust to call. The hunter hive had to have been compromised in advance. We have no way to know who else might be affected. We are alone.
No. 498448 ID: 57a559

ugh this isn't working
Have we figured out if they can replicate?
No. 498453 ID: b33427

Except not every cave tunnel and exit around the voklit reservation has been mapped. Even the surface around here hasn't been mapped in detail. Polo can ask Katzati what has and has not been mapped in the vicinity of the reservation so we'll know what's what.

The hunter hive might have enough resources to lock down the area immediately around the reservation, but not for a several kilometer radius. And aerial patrols don't work so well when the targets are under forest canopy, which is what is around here, or are underground.

And can we please not use the assumption that other neumono on the planet are infested as a reason not to try and contact any other neumono? If we contact everyone that everybody in the group knows how to contact, most of them aren't going to be infected, if any. And if there are any non-neumono in that list, then they're for sure clean.

We have to at least try to get the word out about this; That every neumono needs to be x-rayed. And it's not like we have to sit tight after radioing out. We'll keep moving afterwards so we don't get found.

...And, actually, how much control would the mind-bugs have over a neumono without Four Stripes acting as conductor? 'Cause unless the salikai have shipped out dozens and dozens of empathic relays and arranged for a ridiculous number of hidden communication links to connect them back to Four Stripes, the chance that an infected neumono out there will be able to be controlled well enough to stop Polo from warning everyone is next to nil as far as I'm concerned.
No. 498455 ID: d6ef5d

The problem is we're the only people we know to be clean. Any attempt at outside contact exposes us, and could potentially get us killed.

You can't assume non-neumono are safe, either. The best way for the salikai to have spread the infection in the first place would be by the use of covert agents or spies, which would have to be non-neumono out of necessity. Any alien could be one of their agents.

And the salikai don't need to keep compromised people "live" at all times- as Rokann proved, these things have a sleeper mode. They can be just sitting around, waiting until they need activation. It doesn't need to be a majority. Just the right people in the right places to fuck us all.

And as soon we blow the cover of compromised hives? Any hope we have of ending this with minimal bloodshed will be lost. It'll be all out war. Thousands will die.

>can we please not use the assumption that other neumono on the planet are infested as a reason not to try and contact any other neumono?
My main complaint is that escaping far enough to contact outside help would require a considerable effort, moves us away from actually doing anything about the salikai, exposes us to considerable risk of being caught or faked out again, all in the vain hope someone else might do better than us.
No. 498462 ID: 6dc5a6


If we're holding out on the chance that only a small group of neumono are infected then our best chance at contacting other hives on the planet is to turn the whole forest into a smoke signal. Only problem with this plan is we don't know if the salikai will conveniently leave any napalm sitting around for us to deploy. We still need more information about how far the infection has gone, we'll have to make an expedition into one of the hunter camps when the arm heals up.
No. 498468 ID: c4e5c2
File 136264517203.png - (13.61KB , 1045x447 , 169.png )

We ran down towards the traintracks, but before we went as low as them, we turned west and went down a few kilometers of twists and turns. My visor is confident of an exact location. I am unsure if Katzati is even necessary, all I see her do is plug my, or someone's, visor into her computer and lounge in her chair while an automated script does the work.

Lucera and Kort are nearby. Lucera is pacing around looking over his notes, and Kort went to bed early.

Biles is still missing. Normally we would assume him dead, but now we'll be assuming him compromised.
No. 498469 ID: c4e5c2
File 136264518918.png - (27.98KB , 700x700 , 170.png )

"This is going slowly. Is there a time estimate?" I ask Korli.
"They move, doing tissue damage while they do, not to mention the knife. She'd be a bloody pulp if I just tried to yank out all 70 or so! Already got blood on my hands, sheesh. Anyway, the estimate is 'not tonight', because we need to sleep! Never did find those plastic gloves..."
"Can they replicate?"
"The plastic glov- I mean, no. No, I don't think so."
"Katzati, how much of this territory was mapped before we came?"
>"Below ground? Almost nothing, what we have is the leading part. Above ground, we have some aerial photographs and know the topography, but never did much more than burn a dirt road into the landscape, so we don't know what's below the treeline. Why?"
"Every bit of information is better when we're starved for it. And I've got mixed feelings about calling in for help, but that's moot until that even becomes an option. Which might be the case, if we can get to a surface exit far away."
>"How do we know we won't get a CAI fake?" Katzati asks.
"At so far away? I doubt they have the range."
>"Yes, but this could... well, I mean... I don't want to say it, but this is the salikai's base, right? Isn't it possible they mapped this place out thoroughly ahead of time? It's not hard, we just haven't done it ourselves."
"I don't believe I can exclude the possibility, considering they got voklits on their side."
>"Yeah... by the way, we have two days of rations, but we should hunt for food as we can so we won't be forced to, later. After tonight's shift, which we still have to decide on I think?"
"You all sleep." Marra says from beside Rokann. "No point in taking shifts, because I can't sleep."
No. 498471 ID: e936d0

There is always a need to take shifts, especially when dealing with something like this.

I mean, fuck, the old faulty ones used on the hiveship could operate outside the body, once contact with the AI note was severed they even LEFT the body, whose to say these new ones aren't capable of leaving the body and entering another?
No. 498472 ID: f2c20c

Is she alright?

Hey, those bugs aren't gonna move on their own outside her body, right? Or are they being destroyed as they're extracted?
No. 498489 ID: 57a559

You've been handling bugs Katzati, not that we don't trust you, but we need to be careful. They might've hidden their ability to replicate, or if a single one got into your body, well that makes all information you have compromised.

Sorry, but one person on one big shift all the time is just asking for bad news, even with extenuating circumstances such as not having to sleep. Hasn't she seen the movies? Shit always goes down when it's unexpected during a shift. And it goes hard. These are voklit dumps we're talking about, rock hard as their abs kind of shit.
No. 498492 ID: 8b9215

Unless Marra is some other species than neumono, she needs sleep, same as the rest of you. We should have 2 or 3 people up while she sleeps.
No. 498494 ID: d6ef5d

Well, capturing hunter hive members and freeing them up one by one to build ourselves a resistance force isn't going to be an option at the rate it takes to debug someone.

>I am unsure if Katzati is even necessary
Just wait till the first software glitch crops up, or you have to deal with something unexpected- like false tunnels that change configuration after you move through them. Something will trip the software up eventually. Then you'll be glad you had her.

>Normally we would assume him dead, but now we'll be assuming him compromised.
There's not a bad chance he is dead. But him being compromised is about as close to certain as you can get.

>bug paranoia
Make sure the ones Korli removed are dead, or at least broken such that they're immobile. And do a quick x-ray of the people who had been working on her, just to make sure none of them tried jumping for another ship.

Well, if she can't sleep, fine, she's got watch (we can't force her to sleep, after all. Still, not something we can allow to go on for more than one night). Viln will probably be with her for at least part of the night, since Voklit need less sleep (so we have 2 people on).
No. 498505 ID: f7a438

she'd make a poor watch if she's deprived of sleep. we can't make her sleep but we should appoint a second person for the second shift nevertheless.
No. 498506 ID: bf0685

yeah have all sleep in shifts apart from the 2 who will be going out hunting for food so they're better rested for the day outside, would it be possible to set up some kind of relay so if they run into trouble they can atleast send a message further into the caverns?
No. 498517 ID: c4e5c2
File 136267345422.png - (22.91KB , 700x700 , 171.png )

Come to think of it, if a mapping glitch comes up, it is true that Katzati would be necessary.

"No. If you can't sleep, fine, but two people are going to be on shifts at a time. You're going to sleep tomorrow if you can't sleep tonight." I look at them with my x ray vision. They're clean. "Korli, have we been breaking the bugs?"
"Yeah, definitely."
"And Marra. Are you alright?"
"She's a lifelong friend."
"Don't let that get in-"
"I'm a fucking professional, alright?"

No. 498518 ID: d6ef5d

Apologize, and say you understand. (And mean it. I assume your empathy is on? ...although wait, nevermind, you'd have the stolen jammer up and running to hide from hunter hive searchers anyways).

Check on the rest of camp and everyone else before turning in.

...I must have forgotten some context, because I'm blanking on what the irony is here.
No. 498521 ID: e936d0


The irony is where she claims to be professional about it, but at the same time is claiming that she cannot sleep because it is her life-long friend sitting there infested with hijackers that could make her a threat to the entire species.
No. 498527 ID: 55d5a7

Also, the way she said she's a professional wasn't very professional.
No. 498528 ID: 9ddf68

Well if we're taking night watch shift in pairs who do you think would be a good partner for Marra? I would say you do it but I'm not so sure if anyone else would be comfortable about doing guard duty with your voklit friend other than you.
No. 498529 ID: c4e5c2
File 136268109249.png - (35.35KB , 700x700 , 172.png )

Ironic, because she said she is a professional in an unprofessional manner. Unless their ultrahive defines professionalism differently.

My empathy is not on, but it doesn't matter while our stolen jammer is up.

"Sorry." I say to Marra, getting Korli to help me take off my armor. Back at camp, Lucera is tapping away at his computer. Even without sensing the empathy, he still somehow manages to produce a sense of 'don't bug me'. Too bad I have to.

"Lucera, are the shifts set up? Marra says she's not sleeping."
>"Fine. Katz, then you, two hours each, then your voklit for 4. Plus Kort or me if Marra sleeps. Up in 8 hours."
No. 498530 ID: c4e5c2
File 136268110764.png - (11.60KB , 700x700 , 173.png )

I go to bed. It's more difficult to sleep than I thought. There's still noises in the caves. Not metallic or gunshots, just sounds of wildlife echoing across the walls.
No. 498531 ID: c4e5c2
File 136268117214.png - (14.91KB , 700x700 , 174.png )

But I must have eventually fallen asleep, as Katzati wakes me up to take over her shift.

".... your shift isn't done for another half hour. Is something wrong?"
>"Yeah, I.... Polo, w-we should move. I mean, really soon."
"Is there someone around?"
>"No, but I keep thinking and looking at the maps and there's 300 or so in that hive, and if even just a light majority are searching they'd be able to scour a large amount of space in a short time and-"
"Calm down. Talk slower."
>"... I'm thinking we aren't deep enough in. Tunnels here are long and... there just aren't many branching paths. There's a good chance they won't find us, but there's a good chance they will at any time. They're called the hunter hive for a reason."
No. 498532 ID: 9ddf68

Well unless this tunnel just turns out to be a dead end I don't see much problem in moving further in as that seemed to be the plan in the first place, but you should also check with the others in your group to see if you can move. From what I see everyone is tired and under a hell of a lot of stress and unlike you I don't think they've been in a mission like this before.
No. 498533 ID: 8b9215

Are you in command? If you are, issue orders. If not, give the strongest suggestion possible to the one in command. We need to skedaddle.

"Wake everyone up. We are moving."

Stay quiet if you can. If she's afraid they are that close they may be listening for stuff.
No. 498534 ID: d6ef5d

She's injured. Her left ear is bloody- partially covered up by the way she's holding her head.

First thing to do is make sure she's all right, and that the injury doesn't mean she has a bug in her head making her nuts (one might not be enough to control her, but it might be enough to mess with mood. Ie, the enemy trying to make us panic or paranoid, tire ourselves out, run when we don't need to, etc).

If she's clean, calm her down and spend another minute or two having her walk you through her thinking- make sure this isn't just fear or paranoia talking. (She's not exactly a military type- she's not as prepared as the rest of you to cope). Then you should probably trust her. Mapping, exploration, and the math and timeframe estimates involved... this is her area of expertise. If she thinks you're at risk, she's probably right. We'll have to cut the night short and move.
No. 498540 ID: b33427

See, this is why you have Katzati around. It may be paranoia, but in this situation, paranoia could very well save all your lives.

Yeah, definitely have her walk you through her thinking. Ask her to pull up a map of a similar cave system to the one you're in, as an example, and show you what she's worried about. If her thinking is sound, then wake Lucera and show him, and run it by Marra since she's awake already.

Considering that the salikai have almost certainly mapped this entire cave system, and they've shared that information with the hunters, they're going to be able to efficiently and effectively search the whole place. That means at least 150 hunters, probably closer to 200, in three to five man teams, plus an unknown number of teams of the salikai's own forces. So in the eight hours you have to rest before packing up, they can clear large segments of the tunnel network, and station guards to make sure your group doesn't double-back.

Plus, they'll also know where all the major bottlenecks and intersections are, and post guards there as well. It'll be nasty if your group flees and ends up careening face-first into one of those.

Also, since they know the tunnels, if they do locate us and we don't know they have, they could move teams around into all the tunnels away from our position, then completely crush us.

It'd probably be a good idea to push on for at least another eight hours anyway. The more distance between your group and the hunters, the better. Then everyone can sack out and take a long rest. There'll be grumbling, but it's better than being sandwiched between two hunter teams in a long tunnel.

Basically, all we have on our side here is a head start, and if we give that up we're done for.

And from now on, everyone keep their voices as low as they can and make as little noise as possible. The hard rock walls down here will reflect even small sounds, as your experience with the wildlife shows. In fact, your pursuers might be using audio location systems that filter out wildlife sounds to listen for your group. Check with Korli in a bit if that's a thing that is possible.
No. 498544 ID: c4e5c2
File 136268651211.png - (14.40KB , 700x700 , 175.png )

She's clean, so I move around to stand on the table and have a look at her head.

"Move your hand. Are you wounded?"
>"No, I'm just... it's noisy here." I feel for a cut or anything, but it's nothing. She is just distressed.
"You haven't been on a mission like this, have you?"
>"I've done basic military training, that's all. I'm a cartographer, I'm not ma-"
"I know. I'm not in command, though. Why did you come to me, rather than Lucera?"
>"Lucera isn't... I mean, he's just..."
"Nevermind. We're understandably stressed, and I don't blame you for being on edge."
>"I'm sorry, it's just dark and cold here, and the wilderness here keeps startling me. But I really think we should go."
"You would know it best. I just don't want you speaking out of fear and paranoia."
>"... don't you constantly think of paranoia? And have it turn out to be best?"
"No, you have a point. Show me your maps and your line of thought."
No. 498545 ID: c4e5c2
File 136268652699.png - (23.04KB , 1061x546 , 176.png )

>"Here, let me upload a chunk that we discovered without you... okay. This is what we have. Lucera and them went in through point A, you went in through point B, we met at about point one, and all moved where we're at now, point 2. There's a total of only 20 paths we didn't go explore, in total, or so. I'm sure that those branching paths have more branching paths, but... if they're moving fast and managed to go straight for us, they could catch up in an hour and a half or so. And if one of them finds us, then even if we kill that one, the hunter hive will know where we went once that hunter never returns. They might even be setting down radio relays as they go!"
"Quiet, Katzati. Do you think it's possible they have detectors that can filter out sounds from out group?"
>"Oh... i-it's possible."
"Keep your fear in check. It sounds like that's what's getting you to try and move us, but I still agree. I'll tell Lucera to move. Which way should we head?"
>"I- I don't know. Deeper in, but I have no idea if we should go deeper in south, north or what. South goes downward deeper into the caves, and north goes upward. North, I'm guessing, would be better to try to find a surface exit, but it might make us easier to find, since they might be thinking that's where we would try to go."
No. 498547 ID: bf0685

tell her to keep her cool, it's good to note these things but don't work herself into a paranoia attack about it
No. 498551 ID: d6ef5d

Whoops! No blood. Just thick lines or shadow, I guess. Oh well, got a cute almost cuddling picture out of it, at least. :V

It's good for keeping yourself from being caught off guard. So long as you don't let it make you panic or react carelessly. I just wanted to be sure. Don't afraid to come to me if you think of other concerns- I'll hear you out.

>north or south?
I'd rather head south. If north leads out, we might run right into them if they set anyone down at exterior entrances in addition to entrances A and B.

Of course, going deeper has somewhat higher risks or running into actual Salikai forces, but we have no idea where they are. Only evidence we've seen so far is them using the central pit, and we're miles from there.
No. 498552 ID: 9ddf68

I say ask the rest of your group when you try and get them to leave, I want to say south because I feel head north we'll come across the train tracks again which will be more heavily guarded but we have a wounded/slightly brain washed person on our hands that needs treatment or at least a decent medical facility to help remove those bugs. So we might want to put it up to a vote when we start to move.
No. 498553 ID: 76b151

I think ultimately we have to find the Saliki. And its also the last thing they would expect. At least as long as they know Polo is dead.
No. 498554 ID: d6ef5d

We're neumono, though. Speedy regeneration. Battlefield surgery will work just fine. The only advantage of an actual medical facility would be getting the procedure done in less time and, well, comfort. (Poor Rokann's getting debugged without painkillers. And we can't even knock her out!)

>At least as long as they know Polo is dead.
We ID-ed ourself to the hunter hive. Odds are pretty high that means the Salikai know Polo's here, unless control is done purely by empathy or routed completely through four stripes, or they didn't believe the intel.
No. 498555 ID: eaf2f5

Polo you are so tiny.

If we move topside we would have to find and take out their attack helicopters, or be blown to shreds when they find us.

So i suggest we stay in the tunnels and move south and downwards.

Also the salikai have been relying heavily on the voklit and controlled neumono to do the fighting. So their underground base might not be too heavily guarded.
No. 498556 ID: 57a559

Better safe than sorry, if we even take a chance at north and are found, we'll likely be mowed down with as much weight we're carrying. We already lost a friend. I don't want to lose any more. South is pretty dangerous too, with likely opposition we have no intel about, could be even more weird salikai experimental warfare tech down there, but descent helped us survive the last time we were in this type of situation. Maybe the cave network could expand for miles under the planet and we can head back up somewhere else entirely, far away. The objective isn't to engage the salikai, merely report it's location to command so we can get an armada. And get these bugs there to so our scientist can invent a counter for it. It might be a month long trek though, requiring constant moving of the camp.

Regardless we go north or south, we should definitely move camp every once in a while. Just to keep shifting. Find more secure areas. If we want to keep our ground instead of becoming underground migrators for what could be an entire county's worth of land mass just to find a secure escape route, we could alternate between the secure areas.
No. 498562 ID: 5bf190

I wonder if the voklits knew a secret tunnel. We already know they were going further out down here than they were supposed to, and if I were them, at the mercy of a technologically superior, traditional enemy, I'd have a back door to escape through. Given that they had an entrance to the caves right in the middle of their camp, it seems likely. Even if they didn't, the salikai must have gotten here from some direction that wasn't overland, they'd want a back door too. Several, maybe.

You should ask Viln for advice before you choose which direction to go. I assume you've already asked him if he knows the kind of exit you want, but there's already things we know he didn't know. Given his previously expressed desire to become the designated neumono-talking person in his tribe, it's possible things were kept from him. Maybe he knows someone else who might know better? Though it'd be impossible to find them at this point.
No. 498563 ID: b33427

Tell Katz that paranoia is justified in a situation such as this, just don't let it give you an anxiety attack. Actually, is she feeling extra anxious because she's not used to being in a jammer field, cut off from the emotional support of the empathic link while in a stressful situation? Ask her if that's what she's feeling.

Considering that the hunter hive has almost certainly been given at least part of the salikai's cave maps, they'll know where all the cave entrances are. That means they've likely already airlifted teams up to the nearby north cave exits to guard them. So if we go north, it'll mean we'll have to fight out, and we're in no shape to fight a team of armed, armored, and bio-armored hunters. And because they'll be close to the surface, they can easily radio to raise the alarm and call for reinforcements and helicopter support. Even if we do manage to get out, we'll have all the hunter hive on our tails in short order.

Because of this, I'm in favor of heading south. Even though it means heading deeper into enemy territory, where they know the terrain, it also means the hunter hive can't use their attack 'copters or vehicles against you... Except maybe those motorcycles, but down here you'd be able to hear them coming even farther than on the surface.

Ask Katzati if she can estimate the path of the railway you found, based on what map data she has. Railways very often don't change grade or curve sharply, so from what she has she should be able to draw out a cone in both directions from it to mark it's estimated location.

There's also something else we should be wary of: We don't know where the salikai have hidden cameras or other detection devices. At the very least they've put them on the tunnels near wherever their base is, but beyond that we have no idea how far out they've put in hidden radio relays, cameras, and detectors. If we are unfortunate enough to go past one, then things are going to get real nasty, real quick.

Also, we should definitely think about how to get our hands on the salikai's maps. Probably by taking down a small search party at first. Unfortunately they almost certainly won't have more than a partial map, and it definitely won't show where the salikai's base is, but it'll be better than what we have. Also, because it wouldn't show where the base is, we might be able to guess where it is if we get enough partial maps. That is, if they didn't put false map data in where the base is to hide it.
No. 498565 ID: d6ef5d

>Secret tunnel
An interesting idea, but I get the feeling we're already well away from the areas Viln and Vern usually hunted. It there are hidden tunnels or secret doors nearby, he wouldn't know them (unless there are Voklit markers for things like that, and he recognizes one?).

>hidden salikai cameras, relays
Yes, a concern. However, they've already proved they can hide tech we can't find, so there's little we can do about it!

It might be they limited sowing these caves with tech to increase the odds an inspection team might pass them by (obviously, killing us with the hunter hive is a plan B. Plan A would have been to go unnoticed). If, you know, luck worked out in our favor for once.

>ambush searcher for their maps
The problem, as Katzatai said, is that even if we kill them, the others will know where they disappeared, sooner or later. Which narrows down the search for us considerably. I'm not sure anything we could get in a raid is worth deliberately engaging enemy patrols if they can be avoided.
No. 498567 ID: f7a438

splitting up to cover more ground is tempting, but if we want to minimize our losses, which we definitely want to do with the low numbers we have (or with the basic sense of morality we also have), we should all stick together.
No. 498577 ID: b33427

Yeah, the salikai probably didn't install hidden cameras and detection gear for that reason. Though, I'd say there is a good chance they're deploying temporary hidden and not hidden cameras and such, and the radio relays for them, right now as part of this search. Those they can clean up afterwards without a trace.

>Searcher ambush for maps/supplies/gear
Actually, it wouldn't be an ambush with the whole group. It'd be Polo, Viln, and maybe one other, with the rest of the group hiding far, far away. It also would utilize a trap that'd take out most of the enemy group, such as a rockfall, or dumping a bunch of those glowing slugs on them while they're in a slug cave so the predators attack them. Make a good enough trap and we wouldn't have to fire a shot.
No. 498584 ID: d6ef5d

Eh... even if we use a limited party, and take out the whole enemy group, the people we take out will be missed, and that gives the enemy a narrow area to close in on trap our raiders.

It's not something I'd really want to try to we had a secure hiding place or base setup of some kind. I'd also rather not risk splitting up right now.
No. 498585 ID: b33427

Oh, of course not now, or even in the immediate future. Just throwing it out as a possible action in the future, if we get a secure location to hide in or something.
No. 498611 ID: c4e5c2
File 136270562217.png - (19.17KB , 700x700 , 177.png )

"Polo." I am not sure he was even sleeping.
"Do you know much about the caves we are in now?"
"Far north of home, forbidden territory."
"So, nothing."
"No secret tunnels?"
"Only at home. But home is no longer home."
"Alright. Don't both going to back to sleep. We're moving soon.
No. 498612 ID: c4e5c2
File 136270563288.png - (15.80KB , 700x481 , 178.png )

I turn to Katzati again. "Paranoia is justified here, but don't get an anxiety attack here. Is the lack of a jammer field bugging you?"
>"Yes, it really is, but there isn't much we can do about it, is there?"
"No, sorry. Same as if the salikai have cameras around, they're good at hiding them. By the way, do you have an estimated path for the railway?"
>"Southwest, northeast, with a slight curve to the west and north."
"I'll wake everyone up and have us keep moving, to the south."
>"Okay. Polo, thank you."
No. 498613 ID: c4e5c2
File 136270574788.png - (33.09KB , 700x700 , 179.png )

Lucera grumbles at being woken, but he is not hard to convince that continuing to run from 300 well equipped neumono out for blood might be a better idea than sleeping. We pack our bags, Viln slings Rokann to his back, and we head out.

As few words as possible are spoken now, and we travel in silence. Around 1 AM, we reach a river. Slugs tell us that, in case we miss the running water right in front of us.
>"I know this river." Viln breaks the silence. "The water moves down. Large, open cavern at the end. Lots of prey, lots of danger. Do not know where west goes, but there is the west path.
No. 498615 ID: 8b9215

Take whatever path gets us furthest away from this place the fastest. Except the railroad. It is most certainly guarded.
No. 498617 ID: f2c20c

Lots of prey and lots of danger means likely our guns making lots of noise. We DO need to hunt, though. It might be a good path. Plus, if we can set up camp near there we would be able to hear the hunters shooting at stuff if they enter the cave. It'd be a great proximity alert.
No. 498622 ID: d6ef5d

Oh goodie. A decision to make on our path without context, while being pursued. Like the early parts of the warship, all over again. Fun.

Alright... so a place with a lot of food and water has it's uses. And the native danger will be less significant since we have modern weapons.

On the downside... a big open cave is going to be easier to be caught in the open, in. And if there are multiple entrances/exits, it will be easier for the hunter hive to discover the place. And if we're forced to defend ourself from the wildlife, we're burning ammunition, and making noise in a big open space.

The unknown may be unknown, but I'm kind of not liking what lies east. Biggest downside of going west though it we're going uphill again (potentially bringing us closer to searcher?).
No. 498623 ID: 7a940c

So how is Marra holding up?

Also I believe a quick scan with the x-ray is needed, just for practicality's sake, hell, It might even tell us whether or not Rokaan has attempted to escape by fucking with her bone layout, we don't know what these bots are capable of, considering that they can apparently keep a neumono conscious far beyond what the body is supposed to take.
No. 498625 ID: 665fcd

I say if you think you've moved far enough set up camp here and do some hunting then after you guys have restocked your supplies head west as I don't think you want to have to deal with the wild life when you only have so many bullets on you and travel though there with your wounded/prisoner slowing you down
No. 498627 ID: d6ef5d

Hmm. Intriguing. Hiding near the cavern to try and avoid danger and the obvious exposure, but close enough to harvest resources and use the wildlife as an alarm system is something I hadn't considered. Hard to say if the risks are worth it, but that's certainly the way to play it if we go east.

I guess I'm actually wondering too, would that kind of cavern attract the hunters? They might like to, well, hunt while they're down here. Resupply with fresh meat, rather than lugging rations down the caves.

...okay, I think that's being a little too paranoid. If those things could free her, or rebuild her, they would have done so earlier, when that would have fucked us over.
No. 498628 ID: 57a559

Let us hunt like real Voklit and Neumono. Primative tech only! GO GO GO! Who can win, Polo or Viln? Would have been a closer match between Biles and Polo since Viln has the edge, but still place your bets here folks!

I'm serious about gambling, raise the morale a bit. Good meat and a hunt will also raise your morale and Viln's. Just make sure gambling on hunts isn't offensive to Voklit.
No. 498636 ID: b33427

Take the river route only if either Viln thinks your group could take down the prey or the danger without using firearms, or if the danger is the kind that will ignore your group if you don't go after the prey. This is a case where you can't afford to use up ammo if you can avoid it, but the big issue is the noise the guns would make. Any enemy acoustic sensors would definitely be set to listen for the distinctive sound of a gunshot.

If Viln doesn't think your group could make it through without using your guns, then take the west route. There's plenty of opportunities to hunt or gather food down here; The group is bound to find one within a couple days.

If you can, right before leaving this area send someone up to collect a couple glow-slugs. They'll be good as a light source so the group isn't running down batteries for flashlights, and as emergency rations. You also need to reapply your armor's cave camo, and everyone else should consider rubbing slug slime into their fur and clothes to blend in as well.

Did Rokann finally fall asleep once Korli stopped digging out the bugs? Or did the bugs keep her awake even afterwards? If so, that could become a problem if they keep Rokann up continuously. Laying sleep deprivation on top of everything else may just drive her insane or comatose.

Good to see you don't have to keep your arm in a sling any more. You won't have any problems if you go easy on it, right?
No. 498637 ID: b53faa

we should keep out of the prey cave, reserve that as an emergency ration-gathering area. Move west, be careful about cracks and fissures and if it looks bad head back and go the other way.
No. 498696 ID: ba5f2c

unless we have a shortage of rations, go west.
No. 498746 ID: b33427

Actually, I changed my mind. Don't take the river route; Go west instead. Priority one right now is to put as much distance between your group and the hunter and salikai forces. You don't have time to hunt in that cavern and tangle with whatever danger is there, especially since the group will have to avoid using their guns for fear of being detected. There's enough food for now, and there'll almost certainly be other opportunities to hunt within a day or two, so push on for as long as the group can before resting.

In fact, with the hunters infested with those mind-bugs, we can't stop or slow down for anything. Those bugs will keep the hunters going indefinitely, even if it turns the hosts into zombies. Our only chance is to get far enough away that they have to spread their manpower out so much it slows their search to a crawl. Plus, if we get out of the salikai mapped areas, they'll be as ignorant as us as to the terrain.
No. 498777 ID: c4e5c2
File 136277255399.png - (25.11KB , 700x700 , 180.png )

I did remove my sling, and should be fine as long as I don't stress it unduly. Marra seems fine, as much as I can tell considering that we're in a jammer field, she hasn't said a word, and hasn't changed her stone faced expression. Rokann eventually fell asleep as well once we stopped 'threatening' her with taking the bugs out.

I get off Viln, who goes to collect some more glow slugs. Lucera moves up to me and whispers.
>"Since Biles is missing, you'll continue being our guide. Katzati, you'll be next if Polo gets compromised or killed. Input, Polo?"

So we move west for about one hour. We only hit one deadend in that time, and I'm pleased at how much branching there is in this section. If we're lucky, it isn't just one path that keeps winding back into hours every couple hundred meters.

We hear a couple of rocks fall uncomfortably close behind us.
No. 498780 ID: d6ef5d

Whups. Something's there.

Everyone quiet, assume defensive positions, while the sneaky person goes to investigate. Alt visor modes may help.

If possible, it might be nice to turn down the radius of the group's jammer, so when you step out of range (silent) to investigate, you'll be able to pick up if you're being pursued by unjammed hunters.

We probably want to evade rather than engage, but we may not have a choice. And we want to know what's out there (animal? monster? Salikai trooper? Hunter hiver?).
No. 498787 ID: bf0685

split & keep against the walls, anything to minimise your sillouette (spelling?) & gain possible cover, dispite it being used so much can the xray goggles/visor be used to get a glimpse, just a mere quick on & off to save power, down the tunnel? even if it's just a brief flash it could highlight if something, voklit, creature or "posessed" neumono are following
No. 498796 ID: b33427

Something back there, but it could be anything: Hunters, salikai forces, local wildlife stalking the group, or even a prelude to a tunnel collapse. Any which way it is, you still have to check it.

Motion for everyone to stop, split up, get flat against the sides of the tunnel, and remain quiet, then listen for any movement while looking back and cycling through your visor modes. If you don't see anything, whisper to Viln to move back the way you came and ready his gun, but to hold fire until you say to; If this is just a wild animal, you'll want to take it down relatively quietly. Ready your rifle as well, in case something has to be shot, it'll be somewhat quieter than Viln's gun.

If there are any corners or curves that need to be checked around, perhaps Viln could hold you horizontally in one or both hands and stick you out just far enough that you can peek around them.
No. 498799 ID: f2c20c

Infrared, quick!
No. 498803 ID: c4e5c2
File 136278079133.png - (45.35KB , 700x700 , 181.png )

I'll have to remember to camoflauge myself again. Green is hardly inconspicuous against these purple rocks.

"Get close together, reduce the range of the jammer. I'm going to have a look." I say. "Viln, watch my back."

I move back the way we came, briefly flicking through my visor's modes. Nothing on normal, night, xray or thermal. I'm about ready to give up after a few minutes, as the rock could have come down an increasing number of branching paths. But I finally see something stick its head out. Just wildlife. I think.
No. 498805 ID: f2c20c

Back away slowly, getting your gun ready.

Those look like they could be robots. Infrared would probably reveal their true nature.
No. 498807 ID: eaf2f5

Try scaring them away by appearing as big as you can and waving your arms around.
No. 498808 ID: d6ef5d

Some kind of bug or bird thing? Unless the Salikai have started mind-controlling the wildlife, or that's a robot (or a really weird miklik) you should be fine.

Back off and regroup with the others. If it attacks, aim for one of those huge eyes. Check with Viln what it was (give him a description if he couldn't see from where he was). And continue on your way. We're looking for a secluded spot to hide out, if we can find one.
No. 498810 ID: 8b9215

They are wearing helmets. That's not natural. It's seen you. See if your radio will work at this short a range. It may be more powerful than any radio jammers down here. Tell them that the group is compromised. Get a better view of the creature. If it's not something you know to be friendly it's time to shoot. If you see neumono shoot them in their legs to slow them down. Headshots will not stop them from chasing you unless you take out both eyes.
No. 498812 ID: d6ef5d

We're trying not to make a lot of noise, here, and these things already seem a little skittish. (They hid for a few minutes, before sticking their heads out).

Eh, I don't see it. It's not like it's uncommon for something like a beak to be a different color from the skin fur or feathers covering the rest of a creature.
No. 498815 ID: b33427

It may be "just wildlife," or they may be some kind of weird looking robots, or a bunch of mikliks with really funky mutations.

There is a way to test if it's either of the latter two. Bring your rifle up to aim towards them while backpedaling towards Viln. If they're not wildlife, they'll pull their heads back for sure. If they are they won't, or even start moving out of cover. Also check for IR signatures to determine if they're mechanical or biological.

Once you're back at Viln, flip on all the directional lights you have and point them at the creature if its still coming, both so he can tell you if it's dangerous, and to blind it since it's been in the dark for so long. If they didn't follow, describe what they looked like to him so he can identify them.
No. 498821 ID: 9ddf68

I say see if you can get Viln to tell you if those are just the local wildlife or not and if they are how dangerous are they.

Also get your gun ready just encase things go south.
No. 498828 ID: ba5f2c

make sure they aren't constructs or have man-made equipment on them before backing off.
No. 498832 ID: c4e5c2
File 136278536922.png - (25.58KB , 700x700 , 182.png )

I move backward, pointing my gun at it with one hand and waving my left at it menacingly. I flip to thermal. It does have a heat signature, and it remains still as a statue the whole time.

I describe it once I reach Viln.

"Longbeak pecker. Will follow, but not attack, always annoying, never know what longbeaks want." Just wildlife, and a waste of time.
No. 498833 ID: f2c20c

The hunters would follow them and thus find us if they knew the longbeaks' habit of following people. How likely would that be?

How easy are they to fight off? Could we do it without guns?
No. 498837 ID: b33427

Return to the group and report what it was. How much time was wasted here, anyway?

Ask Viln how hard it'd be to lay a trap for the longbeaks, and if they're alright to eat. They might just end up being mobile rations for your group. Also ask him how likely it'd be for your enemies to track your group by following the longbeaks. It may be you'll have to either scare them off, or kill them in a way that doesn't show your group killed them.
No. 498840 ID: c4e5c2
File 136278838711.png - (14.22KB , 700x700 , 183.png )

"How easy is it to fight off without guns, and is it edible?"
"It will run away. Too quick for spear. Then it comes back to follow more. Edible?"
"Can we eat it."
"Can we lay a trap?"
"Possible, if big rock is found, and only if it does not see is making trap."
"Can they be tracked, leading the enemy right to us?"
"Harder to track than smelly neumono."
No. 498841 ID: d6ef5d

Write them off for now. We need to keep moving, and they're not a threat. If they're following us, that means they're covering any tracks or smell we leave with their own. We can try killing them for food later, if we need to.
No. 498842 ID: f2c20c

Let's ignore them. They can't be killed easily and a trap would make noise.
No. 498844 ID: bf0685

yeah let it follow, with any luck it could end up acting as an early warning/detection system or meatshield (then food afterwards)
No. 498847 ID: 9ddf68

Well that was anti-climatic. Oh well lets just keep going and see if we can't find something that is actually useful a little farther up.
No. 498854 ID: c4e5c2
File 136279032224.png - (48.44KB , 700x700 , 184.png )

I report to the others that it was just a harmless thing. No one is disappointed that the outcome was, as is the case, anticlimactic. Rather, I think we could use less things to keep us on edge. Short of shooting it and making a great deal of noise, there isn't much we can do about it, so we let it follow.

Another half hour passes. We reach another path choice. The cave continues on still downward as usual, but there is a hole now that leads nearly straight down. Shining a light down, with or without my visor modes, shows that it twists around slightly, limiting how far down I can see.
No. 498856 ID: f2c20c

Is there any way to go down the hole quietly, also without leaving a grapple behind?

Would our annoying pests following us be able to get down there? Would they TRY? I imagine it would be quite noisy for them to scrabble down that tunnel.

Seems like the best thing to do is ignore the hole. I can't think of any benefit to going down there.
No. 498859 ID: 35edd4

We absolutely do not want to go down shafts that have no known exit, unless we have the tools to carve handholds or something. Imagine if we went to all this effort and then just got trapped at the bottom of a deadend cave?
No. 498860 ID: bf0685

or... we could try misdirection, leave subtle but non-the-less noticable clues that people have gone down there very recently & proceed onwards with our current course, with any luck it could throw possible persuers off our scent for at least enough time to gain significant ground distance
No. 498864 ID: d6ef5d

Um. We have one grappling hook, and a convoy of allies lugging boxes of supplies. Descending down a vertical shaft seems logistically difficult, if not outright infeasible.

I suppose a quick zip down and up via grappling hook yourself might be doable?

Eh, the enemy has no idea where we are in the cave systems. Any attempt at misdirection narrows down where we were, and the area they need to search. It's not worth it.
No. 498872 ID: b33427

Okay, it might be a good idea to go down that hole to get ahead of your pursuers, but you have no idea whether it's going to end up in a dead end, or lands in a carnivore pit or something else nasty. And even if it does check out, it's going to take awhile to get everyone down it. You'll also have to figure out how to undo the rope used to get down, from the bottom of the hole. Perhaps tying it with a knot that had an equal lead from it down the hole, and will undo when that lead is pulled?

Anyway. Head down to scout the hole out. Tie a rope in a harness to yourself, the other end to a rock, and have Viln, Marra, and Katzati lower you down. Between the three of them they'll be able to haul you up real quick if something goes bad. Figure out a rope pull signal system before going down. You're going to have to be quick about it down there, though; Who knows how close your pursuers are.

>"Smelly neumono"
You'd be slightly insulted, except that that brings up an important point: Can your group be tracked by scent? Ask Viln how easily he and other voklits would be able to sniff out the group's trail. Do they have domesticated creatures that have an even better sense of smell they use to track. Does he know of other creatures down here that have better senses of smell. ...Could those longbeak peckers have been salikai trained trackers? Is that even possible?

Considering the group's scent trail, the next time you come to a river or pond, everyone should wash themselves and their clothes, and rinse off everything they've been carrying. It's either that or coating everyone in something that smells like creatures that belong down here to mask the neumono scent entirely, and that might not be possible.

You should leave that empty explosive shotgun with the rest of the group. It'll be one less thing to rattle against your armor, and without ammo it's only useful as a really ineffective club.

Also, remember to re-coat your armor in purple slug slime camo as the group is marching along.
No. 498873 ID: b59bfb

... It might be wise if we were to kill the beak nose, it could be artificial, mimicking the wildlife as a way to look for intruders inconspicuously. I say we kill it, don't worry about the hole, keep moving.
No. 498878 ID: d6ef5d

I still think we should be ignoring the bird things, for now.
No. 498884 ID: 9ddf68

Well if you want to give the hole a quick peek to see if there is anything of interest down there make sure you have people that can quickly pull you up encase something happens and that this time the rope you're using isn't cut. If you don't plan on giving the hole a quick look ignore it completely As I think it would be to much effort and not enough reward to try and get your whole party down there, what with all the equipment you're all carrying. Although that same problems would also burden anyone else who also tried to go down that hole too.
No. 498923 ID: c4e5c2
File 136279979253.png - (32.28KB , 700x700 , 185.png )

"The hole is too dangerous." I say as the others catch up. "Ignore it. It is high risk and a low chance of reward, plus the time it would take for mE to poke inside, myself."

I get on Viln's shoulder again after leaving my empty shotgun with Marra and start to coat my armor with the slime again. "I'd be somewhat insulted about being called 'smelly' neumono, but that brings up a point. Can we be tracked with scent?"
"Yes. Why insulted? Is smelly. Not disrespect, but fact. If voklit is nearby before smell dies, could track us."
"And what can we do about our smell?"
"..... I mean something to coat ourselves with."
"Nothing around."

We walk longer. Several hours pass this time, nothing but silently walking at a brisk pace, or the group's attempt at brisk. We start hitting deadends and paths that wrap around to areas we've been to before. We do reach a stretch of river, finally, in case we actually did want to go dive in freezing water. This one does not have slugs, and is only a brief edge of a river that comes out of an underground hole for about 15 meters before slipping back into a tunnel we can't get into without diving in. It moves rapidly, no doubt because of the rain on the surface. The time is around 10 AM, now.

Katzati motions me over to her. She sounds winded.
>"I think we may have gotten about as far as this section of caves go." Katzati says. "There's more paths, yes, but we might have to go north or south if we don't want to stop here. Let's... I know it was my idea, but let's take a break."
No. 498927 ID: 8b9215

5 hour break. Sleep, eat, whatever you need. Any spare time is spent ripping bugs out of Rokann.
No. 498928 ID: 9ddf68

I think a break sounds good. Even super solders need sleep from time to time, Much less all the other mortals you're around.
No. 498929 ID: d6ef5d

Remember that you at least got a few hours of rest- she spent that shift on watch. Plus, as the scout you're not hauling anything but your own gear, and you were carried for part of the trip. The others will be more tired.

A break gives the people who need to rest a chance to rest, a chance to dig some more bugs out of Rokann, and a chance to scout around the local area. If we're found, knowing the immediate surroundings will help, and there may be resources we can use, or threats we should know about.
No. 498937 ID: f2c20c

Fair enough. There's water here too, so we can... maybe try to get rid of our smells?

Oh, and going down a river will put them off our trail, if they're on it. Might be a good idea, here.
No. 498942 ID: b33427

Yeah, it's about time for a rest. Take a four hour break. Half the group can nap for half that time, and the other half the other half. Katzati is in the first nap. Have Korli and Marra up together so they can continue pulling bugs out of Rokann. You and Viln will be up for the first two hours.

For your and Viln's time up, you two will scout down the tunnels for twenty minutes, then return, and do that two more times in different directions to map out the immediate area. Hand your mapper over to Katzati so she can update the master map before you head out.

Ask Marra if she could talk to Rokann to check her mental state before Korli starts work on her again; Get an idea if the bugs are screwing with her in more subtle ways and such.

Oh, and if there's a spot in the river where the flow isn't bad, perhaps those who are up could take turns bathing and washing out their clothes.

>Rain on the surface flowing down here
Ask Viln how much the tunnels down here flood when it rains hard. In the upper tunnels it's not as big of a problem, but once you get down lower you may be looking at many blocked routes because of water.
No. 498943 ID: 81cda3

Take a look around, know the area, find a good secure place to take a break, then take the break.

And while we're taking it... I remember that, a long time ago now, you said the "needle trick" for hiding your empathy was a "one way ticket to insanity". But if it comes right down to the life-or-death mark, being killed or having your personality wiped, wouldn't insanity be the slightly less worse option? I mean, Rokoa is a psychotic killer, but she was lucid enough to still be useful last time. Messed up enough in the brains that a predator couldn't quite put the stopper on her murderlust. What the salikai are doing here may well be a threat to your entire species, so getting out of here, stopping them, is worth more than any individual's life or sanity. If you know enough about it to maybe tell any of your companions how, with emphatic instruction to only do it if it's a choice between that and death (or worse), it might be a good idea to pass it around.
No. 498945 ID: b33427

Unfortunately, the "needle trick" is something they can't just do. It takes lots of training for a neumono to channel all their empathic signals down one path where they can stick a needle in. There's just no time for the others to even begin to learn to do it. Plus, if they did try it, the jammer makes it impossible to determine if they're actually doing anything.
No. 498947 ID: d6ef5d

Rokoa didn't use the needle trick to try and block three stripes. She didn't know it back then- she picks it up sometime between the intermission and asteroid quest 1.
No. 498951 ID: c4e5c2
File 136280485010.png - (16.75KB , 700x700 , 186.png )

The needle trick. It is a good way to go to insanity. Rokoa was insane, but that may be because she is just insane on her own. I do not recall her ever saying she knew what the needle trick was... but, that would explain a thing or two. I don't recall her saying she didn't know what it was, and if she knows, the bitch would probably do it for fun. Yes, doing the needle trick to block empathy would be best if it's that or getting caught by the salikai, but even the needle trick needs some practice and training to hold it for any useful period of time. Damage on a brain system is already likely to happen by the time one can get to that level. I also will not teach my allies to do something that is only befitting of Rokoa. I still cannot think of her without getting agitated, if not pissed, which is not befitting me. So, enough on that.

It is true that as far as load goes, I have had it among the easiest. Even if I kept in physical shape for exactly this sort of scenario, it is not something I could expect of everyone, regardless of loads carried.

"We'll break for four or five hours. Katzati, take a nap first, you never got sleep. Same with Marra, but if you don't, check on Rokann, see if she is doing well. If so, please have Korli continue taking..." I whisper the next part to her to not trigger Rokann. "out bugs between rests." And turn to everyone again. "We also smell. Take a bath carefully, the water moves fast."
>"That about covers it." says Lucera. "For what we're doing here. But you, I and Kort have had the least work so far. What do you think about us, either together or splitting up, looking around and mapping out this string of dead ends and loops for a couple of hours? We all have enough mapping gear to not get lost."
No. 498953 ID: 8b9215

Do not split up, gang.
No. 498954 ID: f2c20c

I don't think it's safe to ever have anyone other than Polo go out of the jammer field. Keep in mind there could be tunnels we don't know about all around us. With hunters in them. Within empathy range.

Aside from that issue, sure, let's do some exploratory work.
No. 498956 ID: d6ef5d

Mapping the immediate area isn't a bad idea. Knowing the surroundings may help if the enemy get close, and there may be threats or resources nearby we should be aware of. (We might also might find a better hiding spot for a more permanent camp).

No one should be alone, though. Too easy to be compromised. ...he should be sure to check everyone who heads out when they return, though. Including us.
No. 498964 ID: 9ddf68

Go out TOGETHER, i can not begin to count how many things could go wrong if you split up. just map the immediate area so you have an idea off were to go when you take off again, even you guys will need to sleep at some point lightest work loads or not.
No. 498965 ID: d6ef5d

We have two jammers right? (One from the hunters, and the one Korli converted from the four stripes relay). That means splitting up is feasible- leave one at base, have have the non-Polo searches take the other. Protects them from empathy ID and predator broadcasts, at least.

Not sure the logistics of who's resting, watching the camp, and searching though.
No. 498966 ID: 81cda3

Well, you did eat part of her. Maybe there's some scrap of knowing what she was capable of that passed over. As for not wanting to make anyone crazy, though... well, having a bunch of bugs in you, controlling you, seems based on similar principles to the needle trick, and I can't imagine it'd have less effects on the subject's mind. If Rokann's still not all right after having her bugs out, there wouldn't be as much to lose for her. Just a thought. As you say, enough on that.

Splitting up is a bad idea; if any enemy neumono gets in range of your companions without them being in the jammer field, all your walking is for nothing, not to mention the possibility of being captured and amnesia drone'd. I don't doubt Lucera thinks he's making sense, but it's possible he's itching about not feeling anything and wants to get a spot of empathy for comfort. They all might. You should go out, go a short distance in every direction you can, and see if you can sense anyone. If you can't, then let the others take a break from being jammed, but ready to duck back into the field when they can.
No. 498976 ID: b33427

Alright, Lucera and Kort can head out with you, but they will have to coat themselves in glow-slug slime to camouflage themselves first. They're going to be taking a bath when they come back anyway, so it won't be too bad.

Map northward until it's a half-hour trip back to camp, return to camp, then do the same southwards. Mark intersections with witch way you went using a glow-slug, then wash the marks away as you head back. That way if you do get separated, or the people at camp have to run, they'll know which way you went.

Leave Viln at camp to guard, and also just in case they do have to run he can carry Rokann so she isn't left behind.

Make sure that when everyone gets back to camp, that Korli x-rays them, and you x-ray her and everyone else.
No. 498982 ID: c4e5c2
File 136281093097.png - (6.47KB , 434x336 , 187.png )

"We have two jammers, so we can have two groups, but for our exploratory group, we don't split up.""
"Are you getting bugged by the lack of empathy?"
>"Not particularly."
"Alright. Viln, stay here, and someone make sure to X-ray us when we get back. Lucera, Kort, slime yourselves."
>"Excuse me? I w.... erg, fine."

We spend the two hours uneventfully and wordlessly walking more.
No. 498983 ID: c4e5c2
File 136281097319.png - (18.43KB , 700x700 , 188.png )

We come back to see everyone still in one piece, and the sound of Rokann voicing her usual disdain about getting her bugs removed. She is a bit quieter, though. She looks to have around 48 bugs remaining.

I go to Katzati, after our x-rays, to upload our data to the master map. As suspected, there are no immediate paths west, and there is only one path north, at another river bank entry.

>"Kort and I are going to nap. After I... take a bath." Lucera states. "You can sleep too, but make sure more than one person is on watch."
No. 498986 ID: f2c20c

Oh dear. That's bad news on the map. We're at a dead end. Also, shouldn't we be heading towards the Salikai base eventually? We can't hide forever. It's literally impossible. I guess we could just swim in the river until it leads us out of the caves, and run away... but that could take so long the hunters might report back and manage to return to base to spread more bugs, leading to our leadership being compromised. With enough nanobots being constructed, the salikai could take over the ultrahive. That's an end of the world scenario for us.

...hmm, there is some silver lining here. Being at a sort of dead end means we're less likely to get headed off.

Check in on Rokann, ask how she's doing. Better, surely?
No. 498987 ID: d6ef5d

Oh that was just mean, even if it was for stealth. At least you got armor. (Karma's totally going to bite you in the butt for that later and force you to slime up naked).

Find anything of note scouting?

>camp management
Right, organize watch rotations, taking into account who's had to miss sleep with the last one being interrupted, and with differences in biology (Viln needs less shuteye).

Sleep as you need to, spend time trying to be productive otherwise (maintaining gear, figuring out how long the food we have will last, helping with Rokann, etc).
No. 498990 ID: 9ddf68

well get some rest. we are all going to need our strength tomorrow when we have to cross that river. I'm also going to be that guy that jinxes everything but it has been pretty quiet since we got away from the hunter hive and other then some uncomfort this trip has be pretty peaceful.
How long do you think until it all goes to hell.
No. 498993 ID: c4e5c2
File 136281429575.png - (21.51KB , 700x700 , 189.png )

Having Lucera and Kort slime themselves without armor may have been mean, yes, but having us discovered because Lucera looks like a bullseye is also 'mean.' I suppose at the least, I will wash his clothes, and I do not believe in karma, because there is no suitably terrible end for the salikai at this point. It is wishful thinking that there is some balance in the universe.

I am not tired, so I check on Rokann, who is now allowed to rest.

"How are you doing?"
>"I'm getting torn up from the inside out and outside out."
"Hang in there."
>"Easy to do, cause there's no choice... Can I stretch? I've been in this position for almost a full day. Asked Marra, but said it wouldn't look good if it was her that let me."
No. 498995 ID: f2c20c

Get Viln to hold her by the torso while she does it, and it'll be safe. Especially if you have her tethered to something too.
No. 498998 ID: d6ef5d

She looks beat to hell, there. I'm not sure she poses much of a threat loose. (Unless she grabbed a weapon, or the enemy cam by right now).

Get Viln or one of the big-neumono to supervise her with you though. By yourself, your only option if something happened would be to shoot her.

Probably a good time to eat something, while we're at it. How we doing on food reserves?
No. 498999 ID: 81cda3

I wouldn't have thought she'd want to stretch with a bunch of open and scabbed wounds on her. Isn't there a risk of infection from opening them up again, or at least of misaligning the tissues in the case of the deeper cuts?

Well, if you do want to let her, have someone else on hand, and see if you can only have her stretch part at a time.
No. 499000 ID: 9ddf68

sure it's not like she really wanted to be here like this and it's not really her fault so just have someone nearby to hold on to her and maybe keep a rope or something tethered to her foot or something encase she (or the bug make her) runs for it.
No. 499001 ID: 8b9215

"One limb at a time. The other 3 stay tied up."

Don't be an idiot and let her go.
No. 499003 ID: de32da


Yeah, this, one limb at a time with heavy restraint on the others, she'll understand, after all, it may hurt like a motherfucker to have us remove them like this, but at least she's still alive.

Also, we had OURSELVES scanned, but did we scan the party that actually stayed with her, I am assuming that you already did that but it never hurts to have confirmation.
No. 499005 ID: b33427

Yeah, you'll let her stretch, but there's going to be plenty of precautions, both to prevent her from attacking anyone, and to keep her from running off.

Place a tether tightly around her neck and one ankle, and anchor them down. Then have Viln pick her up off the ground by the torso with both hands and keep holding her tightly while her leg binds are undone. Once she's done stretching her legs, bind only her ankles back together for now. Have Viln hold her upside down by her legs, then have someone else release her arms from their binds, but only have one out at a time. Once she's done, completely rebind her the way she was before.

Perhaps Rokann could be bound in a more comfortable position, where her legs aren't scrunched up into her chest. if you had a sturdy pole to put behind her to bind her legs and hands to. Or a strong board of some kind. There anything like that in what gear the group has? Maybe that folding table is strong enough?
No. 499006 ID: c4e5c2
File 136281900455.png - (24.03KB , 700x700 , 190.png )

I scan everyone once again just to be sure nothing changed.

"Arms, then legs, one at a time. Try not to reopen your wounds."
>"Thank you."
"Feeling better, mentally?"
>"It's hard to think, but I feel like I'm more in control, if you know what I mean."
"Alright. I'll look into a better way to restrain you."

I have Viln hold her and Katzati keep an eye on us. That, as well, goes smoothly.

Everything is going smoothly and I have learned to treat that as cause for worry. Between that and Rokoa, I am thinking that perhaps I did not come out of the last mission as mentally unscathed as I thought. I do not know what is more terrible, that I have begun to take every possible precaution for the slightest action, or that I have been proven perfectly justified in doing so.
No. 499007 ID: c4e5c2
File 136281903536.png - (86.66KB , 700x700 , 191.png )

With that done, I go be productive elsewhere.

Legendary super soldier and spy extraordinaire Polo gets a bite to eat and performs menial tasks. While tethered to a rock in case an earthquake happens, Katzati doesn't watch where she's walking, or I trip over nothing, each leading to my falling in the river.

>"What next?" Katzati asks.
"We can't hide forever. Eventually we do have to find an exit, or find the salikai base?"
>"Wh... the salikai base? Just... walk right in?"
"We won't ring their doorbell. There might not even be a 'we', as half of you are not suited to combat. I would be content with a single place where we can sleep easy for even just a few days, but can't rely on that."
No. 499008 ID: f2c20c

So long as we don't take excessive precautions, it's not harmful paranoia. I mean, it's not interfering with our operations. Maybe the rope tethering for washing laundry is a bit much though. Sheesh.

On the other hand maybe we're just on edge because nothing's happening? Keep in mind you reacted to the annoying animals following us by doing nothing. You didn't overreact there. Be cool.

Tell her you want to sneak behind enemy lines and try to reenact the same thing you did in your last mission, where you managed to get to the salikai communications room. Even if we, again, get surrounded by arkots, it'll be worth it. We'll have sent out a warning and confirmation that the salikai is here. The salikai will be swarmed, the hunter hive outnumbered. Even if you die in the process, it would be a victory.
No. 499015 ID: 8b9215

Do whatever else you can to rest and recuperate.
No. 499017 ID: b53faa

uh, guys? What if those "harmless" creatures are some sort of tracking device made by the salikai and set into the wildlife?
Not likely, perhaps, but something about them puts me at unease.
No. 499018 ID: b53faa

remember, they have proven to be masters of biological manipulation. I wouldn't put it past them to have figured out some way to have them transmit information without machinery somehow.
No. 499021 ID: f2c20c

What? No dude, we asked Viln. They're native fauna. Besides, if they were salikai tracking beasts we'd be knee-deep in hunters by now.

Are you TRYING to make her paranoid?
No. 499035 ID: bf0685

hmm, I doubt it could harm to double check inventory & food supplies before we rest, always good to keep tabs of essentials
No. 499037 ID: b53faa

actually, yes! I am trying to push her a bit into crazyville, not to harm her cause or anything but as a sort of safety measure. Push her into the water so she learns how to swim sort of thing, only the water is her neuroses and the push is an errant thought here and there.
TL:DR I'm being an evil bastard.

No. 499044 ID: d6ef5d

>I do not know what is more terrible, that I have begun to take every possible precaution for the slightest action, or that I have been proven perfectly justified in doing so.
Technically, it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

You're being hunted by dangerous enemies who have proved to be one or more step ahead of you. Trying to second guess the next thing going wrong is a perfectly natural and healthy response- and it may very well keep you and the people depending on you alive. Yeah, maybe you're a little more jumpy than most people now, but oh well.

And I wouldn't worry too much about any mental damage from your previous mission. You were almost consumed by hate and rage at one point, but you still stopped short of killing Kort. And despite everything- you spared Rokoa (and you even still thought your hive was dead, at the time). And you put yourself at great risk trying to take the path that ended the war quickest, and saved the most lives even among the warhive (would have been a lot easier to let them all get killed). I'd say you've show remarkable mental fortitude and resilience.

Don't let the bad times get you down, Polo. Not the time to start doubting yourself.

>Wh... the salikai base?
I've survived one before. And our best bet might be to take out their predator. They integrated four stripes with the bug-tech, somehow. Without him, maybe they won't be able to control the hunter hive. Or maybe just less effectively.

Yeah, we should do that.

I agree. The animals are unlikely to be Salikai trackers, or we'd be screwed by now. Remember that Viln recognized these things- they've been behaving this way for generations- they aren't something new the Salikai introduced. We might as well worry about the invisible cameras we can't find. It doesn't help anything.

>TL:DR I'm being an evil bastard.
That's not appreciated.
No. 499055 ID: 81cda3

The salikai base offers opportunity for sabotage, even of taking out this problem for a long time, at least if they haven't found more predators. Or cloned Four Stripes somehow. Or something. Besides that, though, the salikai are guaranteed to have a back door exit, crazy prepared as they are. Or we might even hijack some of their comm equipment to get a message out. It's a high-reward target, though equally or more high-risk as well. Especially if they think Polo is in town.

Don't worry about your paranoia, Polo. So long as it's only when you're on the job, and remains justified, it's fine.
No. 499063 ID: c4e5c2
File 136284901241.png - (8.49KB , 700x700 , 192.png )

"I've survived one before. They have more resources than I would have thought possible, but their micromanagement is awful. At some point I will attempt to re-enact what I did last time. Sabotage, intel, or destruction. Plus, yes, the salikai have compromised a whole hive that was the one to come down. They bought themselves time, but eventually my hive, and I would think your hive, will miss us and start demanding more resources be put in here. Even if I die, as long as I can do significant damage, it'll be worth it."

I suppose all things considered, while I may have issues from my last mission, they are relatively paltry compared to honest PTSD or an equivalent. I can still function and perform intelligently, all things considered.

>"Geez, Polo..."

I will just have to get over these small issues, as they are still a source of undue agitation.
No. 499064 ID: c4e5c2
File 136284902713.png - (18.69KB , 700x700 , 193.png )

>"Don't think like that. We're going to make it out, alright?"

Another thing to take care of, I have had an unpleasant reaction to having a hand placed on my head. A common physical display of comfort being turned into mild agitation.

"It's fine. I'm going to take a nap before we go."
>"I'm sorry."

I am still expected to direct where we are going next, despite having little to work with. I will also take inventory of our remaining supplies prior to napping.
No. 499067 ID: d6ef5d

>Another thing to take care of, I have had an unpleasant reaction to having a hand placed on my head. A common physical display of comfort being turned into mild agitation.
Yeah, you'll have to work on that. You tiny, girl. You're going to have people doing that the rest of your life.

>I am still expected to direct where we are going next, despite having little to work with.
Well... our list of things to do works down to:

*Move until we have a hiding spot we feel moderately secure in.
*Explore area around camp (for resources, escape routes, early warnings, etc).
*Continue debugging
*Gather food. (Might as well take out the bird things when we need to go hunting. Then we get food, and we don't have to worry about them potentially being tracking devices anymore).
*Try and find an escape route and/or locate the Salikai base.
No. 499075 ID: 78c6ea

Aww, Polo has PTSD just from Rokoa.
No. 499076 ID: bf0685

hmm everybody's focused on murdering the bird... hows about this? ask Viln if it'd be possible to say tie a rope around it then use it as a form of pack-mule, lightening the load off everyones backs & potentially make it easier to traverse the tunnels for longer
No. 499079 ID: eb682d

We'd have to catch it first. Viln said they'd run if confronted and were fast. We'd then need to deal with it potentially running off with our supplies if it got loose of whoever was holding it somehow. We also don't know if it would start shrieking or something if we managed to capture it.
No. 499093 ID: 81cda3

Hmm. There's an issue. The salikai will be wanting to cover themselves up. They can't do it by letting you go, and they can't do it by just killing you. Their only option to escape is to capture you all, or at least most of you, and mess with your memories so that you go out and report that everything's ok.

Of course, they can't do that to you, unless they implant you with bugs, maybe. But most likely they'll have you killed, and have the others say you died in an accident or an issue with the locals. So the thing to avoid most of all is the capture of your companions.

Actually, for all we know, they might already have Biles, and made him feed your hives a line about some cavein or something that has you incommunicado.
No. 499095 ID: 9ddf68

Well check your stuff then take that northern passage ater your nap since that seems the only way to go.

Also you look adorable when someone pats your head
No. 499096 ID: b33427

With what you have to go on, it's nearly a coin flip to choose direction... Go north. It's slightly better because it'll keep those longbeaks from following your group, and if the group does have to flee from up north, they can jump in the river and swim back to this camp site. Better ask Viln how long he can hold his breath for, just in case you all have jump in the water.

You and Viln will have to scout across the river before the rest follow, just so you're sure it's not just a dead end or something like that.

>Killing the longbeaks for food
Actually, this might be the best time to do this. There's a section of tunnels to the south of camp with only one entrance, and a long loopback in it. If the group goes in there and down the loopback to the end, then sends Viln and Marra back into the other end of the loopback while the rest of the group makes a barricade using the gear, we might be able to trap the longbeaks between the two groups. Maybe not enough to get them all, but enough to bash a few down. Run this idea past Viln and ask how likely it'd work.

>I have had an unpleasant reaction to having a hand placed on my head.
Yeah, the stress of this situation is starting to get to you and wind you up. It also might be that in some small way Katzati reminds you of Rokoa, even though, outside of being from a snow hive, she's nearly the opposite of that psycho.

Before suiting back up in your armor, take Katz aside and let her know that she shouldn't be sorry for trying to comfort you; You just have... issues, and all of this is bringing them slowly to the surface. ...And frankly, you could use some comforting now, to push the darkness back...

Out of nowhere, hug Katz, and let her hug you back. Clear your mind and let your tention melt into her warmth and softness. Think of better times, and center yourself. It's not as good with the jammer on, but it's something.
No. 499097 ID: d6ef5d

Actually, we'd just gone about as far west as we could. We could go north or south.

My first inclination would be to head sort of south anyways (we are in the NW corner of the valley, aren't we?) but really, whichever way goes deeper is probably still the answer.
No. 499116 ID: c4e5c2
File 136286184972.png - (16.99KB , 700x700 , 194.png )

"Don't feel sorry for it. I've got some issues."

>Hug Katzati
.... a compromise.

"Put your hand back."

I'll just retrain myself to learn that a hand on my head does not mean Rokoa. And Katzati is about the polar opposite of her. It would be easier if the jammer field were off, but if nothing else, physical contact can still breach a jammer to a small degree. Small, but there. For the sake of fairness, I let my empathy go for this.

"We'll move north, past the other river crossing. Hopefully that damn bird won't follow us."
>"Do you think it's an issue?"
"As long as it really is just a wildlife stalker, I suppose it isn't harmful, but I would rather it not be around at all."
>"I get you. It keeps just poking its head out and staring, too."

I probably need to work on this hand issue more than sleep, so we stay like this for awhile more.
No. 499117 ID: c4e5c2
File 136286186313.png - (20.05KB , 700x700 , 195.png )

Inventory is as expected. Somewhat less than two days of food now, plenty of rope, tools, a decent amount of medical supplies... the load is rather heavy, although I do not want to discard anything. There is not a single particularly heavy item that is dead weight, even our folding table is light. There are simply a lot of items.

We move around to go north. The longbeak, unfortunately, followed us through the river.

"How long can you hold your breath for, Viln?"
>"Under Voklit hair. Can breathe underwater."
"... oh."

Some more time passes before he speaks again.

"Odd smell." Viln says.
>"I assume it's not us."

Then I smell it. It is that wrong smelling, unmistakably distinct gas. Neumono hallucinogens.
No. 499119 ID: 76b151

Good news. We're near enough to their base that they can flood the caves with gas.

Also good news. The gas relies on the link to work. The jammer should mitigate its effect.

Do we have air filters? Im kinda assuming its something that would come with as needed since they did use gas last time.
No. 499120 ID: 81cda3

Turn on the seals on your suit, then tell everyone, then back everyone up the way you came, keeping calm and focused. Be on the lookout for an attack, or for the gas to continue spreading. The larger people are probably affected more slowly so have them stand guard while the rest of you wait and get whatever dose you've already gotten out of your system. If nothing happens, you and anyone else who has some sort of appropriate breathing apparatus will need to come back down here to investigate.

The gas may or may not be a danger to Viln. I doubt it will have its intended effect on him, but it might still be harmful or mind-affecting in some way. I don't know if any of you know how different voklit neurochemistry is from yours?
No. 499121 ID: d6ef5d

Fuck. They found us. They can't possibly flood the entire cave with gas, they'd have to know close to where we are.

Either we walked pat a hidden camera, or the bird thing had monitors installed in it after all.

Close your armor's vents, like you were underwater. Your armor's missing a piece, but you should still be able to limit contaminated air getting to you (hopefully, with that, your past experience, your three stripes training, and holding your breath, you should be able to hold out long enough). Everyone else has to hold their breath, or break out masks or respirators, if you've got them.

Warn Viln that this is the gas you warned him about before. If we don't do something soon, he may be the only one left in his right mind. We have to get to clean air, or stop the gas.

Viln's got a superior sense of smell. Can he tell which direction the smell is coming from? That would allow the main party to try and move away, or for the two of you to go try and take out the source.

>Also good news. The gas relies on the link to work. The jammer should mitigate its effect.
It probably uses the link to build coherent, shared hallucinations. Without the link the effect may be diminished, or they might all just break off into their own delusions.
No. 499124 ID: 9ddf68

you guys have gas mask right? if not have everyone move back until you all have clean air again and you and Viln can find where it's coming from. Also If you guys don't have gas mask then just put some cloth or something over your faces to at least lessen the effects.
No. 499125 ID: 6b2fce


No. 499127 ID: 8b9215

Use any filtration you have. Tell everyone about it.
No. 499130 ID: b33427

...Fuck. They somehow know where you are. Either a hidden camera, or those damn longbeaks were rigged with remote cameras or trackers. Of course the salikai would take advantage of anything that follows intruders around. Should have killed those fuckin' peckers when we had the chance. Should kill them now if we can. Kill them, and butcher them to find the damn camera or tracker.

You know that this gas doesn't last long before breaking down, and has to be continually replaced. Also, since these caves don't have a ventilation system like the war hive's ship to stir it up and distribute it, it'll settle out along the floor and in lower areas from wherever it's piped in. Get to higher ground and it should be safe to breathe.

Whisper to Viln that this is the neumono crazy-making gas you mentioned earlier, and to turn around and head back. Motion to the rest of the group to turn around immediately and head back the way they came. Climb down and whisper to everyone that it's hallucinogenic gas, and to hold their breath. If the group has gas masks, get them out and put them on. If they don't, then we're just going to have to head back until the air is safe.

Gonna have to figure out if you and Viln should track down the source of the gas and risk a fight to disable it, or if the group should stick to the higher tunnels and try to avoid it.
No. 499132 ID: d6ef5d

>birds or camera
Or we pinged some of their neumono who hit the edge of our jamming field (less likely, since we opted for a narrow bubble) or one of their miklik scouts got lucky and spied us (they are sneaky bastards, and as the CAI pointed out last time, not completely incompetent, even compared to Polo).
No. 499136 ID: b33427

Well, fuck. It could have come from anywhere, then. We could even be near the salikai's base, and they're flooding the nearby tunnels with gas as a precaution. Though, that might not make much sense, since it kinda gives their base position away.
No. 499145 ID: f2c20c

I don't think they know where we are. They're probably just plain flooding the tunnels with the gas.

I think we're fucked, unless we can figure out which direction the gas is coming from and run in the opposite way. Going downstream on the river might work regardless of what direction it is though!
No. 499147 ID: b33427

That'd only work if they have enough gas for that. We'd have to ask Korli how hard it is to make that gas, and how long it takes to make it. If they couldn't have produced enough gas in the last three months to do that, then we're looking at them either knowing where we are, or dumping gas around someplace they don't want us to come. Unfortunately, the only way to tell if it's that is find the source of the gas.

If we're going to the gas source, then Polo's helmet air filtration should still work if the helmet is compartmentalized from the rest of her armor. Even if it isn't she could work with Korli to stuff something under the neck armor to seal it up well enough.
No. 499150 ID: c4e5c2
File 136286902647.png - (21.83KB , 700x700 , 196.png )

"Hold your breath!" I say in a muffled shout behind me. "Get our gask masks on!" We did bring some, although only a few made it in the retreat. We have 4. I seal my armor. It is expected that I have excellent resistance against this, but of course I would not rely on that.

"Viln, do you know where it is coming from? This is the hallucinogen I told you about."
"Downward from low cave. Bad air is rising."
"Everyone move back, we're going back up to the river. Viln, was that longbeak one bird with multiple heads, or multiple birds?"
"Many heads." Something about the way they moved told me that.

I may wish to investigate the source, but since we do not have enough gasmasks for everyone, it would put a few of us at high risk. There is also an overall detriment of air that could catch up with us if we spend too long.

"Korli, how cheap is the gas to make for the salikai?"
>"I'm still working with outdated info. It's possible they could've gotten it down to such strength that they could afford to dilute it and double their reserves or something, and... I don't know, last I knew we didn't mass produce it because we hardly knew how well it worked." she answers. I would hope that the Salikai do not have enough gas to fill the entire cave, but knowing our precise location is not any better.

I rush back to the new front of the retreating line, and see the bird poking its heads out. I may wish to kill it, but the gunshot is still an issue. Or gunshots, given it has multiple heads.
No. 499153 ID: 81cda3


Given how humungous its eyes seem to be, I'm not sure shooting it in the head will do more than blind it. Probably keeps its brains in the central body.
No. 499154 ID: f2c20c

Get your gun out, and get a look at the MAIN BODY this time. It's been hiding its main body all this time. Maybe it's a hunter with a camera disguised as a cluster of longbeak heads.

If it's really just a longbeak, continue to ignore it and move past it to check out behind it.
No. 499160 ID: d6ef5d

>4 masks
You can seal your suit instead for a while, Rokann is tied up and doesn't matter, so that leaves Kork, Korli, Kazati, Lucera, Marra. Hmm. Still one short.

They either know where we are are are closing in on us, or they don't- and are flooding the lower levels of the caves with gas to try and drive us back towards the hunters.

If they already have made us, killing the bird won't change that- but it might prevent them from continuing to monitor us if that's how they did it.

If they haven't made us, killing the bird won't change anything, and has a small chance of compromising our position.

Er. Not sure how to resolve that.
No. 499162 ID: b33427

Distribute the gas masks to Marra, Katzati, Korli, and Lucera. Gag Rokann so she can't make any noise once the hallucinations hit. Sorry, Kort, but you're going to have to be bound, gagged, and carried like Rokann if the gas catches up.

Yeah, this is a good idea. Pull your rifle, and charge the longbeak so it runs away down a straight tunnel, that way you have a clear view of its body. If there's something obviously wrong about it, then shoot it. Otherwise hold your fire and continue going back to the river, but keep your rifle ready. If it turns out to be just a longbeak, then a gunshot now would just give your position away.

There is a way you could trap and kill it without shooting it, if the group can get back to the river. Put Viln in front and have him climb down into the river and hide where he can watch the tunnel. The rest of the group will pass over, and the longbeak will follow them. Then Viln gets out of the river a little after its passed. Meanwhile the rest of the group will stop two intersections away, then head back. Between Viln and the group, the longbeak will retreat into that dead end side tunnel, where we'll block it in and beat it to death. Then we'll butcher it and search for any devices on it.
No. 499164 ID: d6ef5d

The only problem with using the visual examination is it doesn't tell us if there's just a camera chip and transmitter hidden behind one of those enormous eyes. (They wouldn't even need a control mechanism, if these things follow people already).

...although an x-ray would show you if it's got hardware installed.
No. 499165 ID: b33427

Actually, change of plan with the longbeak. Instead of trying to corner it in a dead end tunnel, push it back so the only place it has to go is jumping into the river, to be washed away by the current. That way your group doesn't end up cornered in a dead end while beating the damn thing to death. Won't get the meat or a chance to check if it had any salikai devices on it that way, but the risk of being trapped is too high otherwise.

...Oh, god! Why didn't we think to do that earlier? Hold still and x-ray the damn bird, then charge forward so you get a look at its body. Look for anything that is obviously technological.
No. 499167 ID: c4e5c2
File 136287398523.png - (26.92KB , 700x700 , 197.png )

As far as armor sealment goes, my helmet is also compartmentalized from the rest, so my busted left armpiece is no matter for the current threat.

I run after it. Once I get closer, it bolts off as expected. Viln was not lying, it is fast, so I pull my pistol instead of attempting to unbuckle my sniper. There is nothing unusual about the body, and a flick to my x-ray mode shows nothing out of the ordinary, so that may not be the source of the problem after all.
No. 499168 ID: c4e5c2
File 136287403037.png - (76.13KB , 700x700 , 198.png )

We make it back to the river. The smell is gone, so it does not move quickly.

>"We've got to kill the bird." Lucera says.
"I think it's clean, but we can surround it, so it will have nowhere to run. Then attempt to stab it to death."
"Longbeak death cries also annoying. Last forever, very loud."
"If we surround it by the river, we might be able to get it to just jump in to avoid us."

Since Rokann is already compromised, the only person without a gas mask is Kort. Before I can decide whether or not to tie him up to be safe at the downside of needing him carried, we all hear a small, steady noise of something coming down the caves. It sounds like a small helicopter. It is coming from the south and upward, the original direction we were at before crossing the river again. It is effectively impossible to tell how far away it is.

From what we saw, everywhere north is all downhill, probably to the gas.
No. 499170 ID: 76b151

Well now, a camera drone. That means they haven't seeded these caverns with minicameras.

Destroying it would be bad. As would being seen. ... if we all held our breath in the river we could let it pass by.
No. 499172 ID: d6ef5d

Damn. Camera drone. If it's coming down though, would that be from the hunter hive? Or would they not have been issued that kind of gear since the expectation would be the enemy CAI could hack it?

The drone has to have ears of some kind. A noisy gunshot or prolonged bird-brain death cries aren't something we can risk, at the moment.

Well, regardless of whether that's a Salikai drone, or a hunter drone, we need to evade it without being seen. And then either get the hell away from the gas or disable it at the source.
No. 499173 ID: 8b9215

Into the gas we go. The gas won't report our position and sic the entire hive on us.

We can share a mask with two people like that passing the scuba breather thing back and forth. If that isn't possible, Have Marra put a rope around Kort's neck like a leash. It won't impede him in moving with the group and will impede him from running away for any reason.
No. 499176 ID: d6ef5d

Problem with hiding underwater: the damn bird would probably come up to the edge of the river to watch us and give away our position.
No. 499177 ID: f2c20c

We're trapped. They probably have something set up downstream to catch us if we run that way, because they know these tunnels. They're trying to drive us that way.

Let's analyze the situation. A drone means there needs to be someone within range to operate it, but it also means they're using it remotely so they probably won't be very close. What is the max range for a helicopter drone? It could be that the only thing that way is the drone, and it's a feint. Unfortunately if we DO go that way, there's almost nowhere new for us to go.

The gas requires a machine to pump it, which requires people to maintain it, but it ALSO means they have gas masks on. If we can ambush the team operating the gas, we can get another two gas masks to fully cover our team. Also, we have branching paths that direction, so we might be able to avoid the gas generator entirely by just going further downhill. The gas rises, so it will be coming down a single path! Viln should be able to tell which path to go to avoid the generator, or we can choose to fight whoever's guarding it.

So, we can run into a likely trap, call their bluff with the drone(and get spotted), or take a chance in the gas to either run or fight.

The only real chance I see here to avoid getting spotted is to go into the gas and pick a path that the generator's not pumping into.
No. 499179 ID: de32da

Our past experience with the river has shown us that it is a BAD IDEA to go into it, there would be virtually no chance of us staying as a group if you go down the water route.
No. 499180 ID: d6ef5d

>The gas requires a machine to pump it, which requires people to maintain it, but it ALSO means they have gas masks on.
No. We know for a fact at least some species are not affected. (Likely all others, since the hallucinogen is tailored to mess with neumono empathy. Might work on predators I suppose, but their physiology might be different enough to be safe). None of the Salikai troops guarding or in the war-hive bridge needed to wear gas masks. The pumps / generators are likely tended by arkots, mikliks, and/or voklit, none of which should need masks.
No. 499181 ID: b33427

Fuck, it's a flying recon drone. Why didn't we think of that? Of course they'd be using those to search the caves. Only question is if it's an autonomous AI controlled one, or if there's a group of enemy nearby controlling it. We might end up having to tangle with them if they are nearby, even if we do manage to evade the drone.

As quietly as you can, tell everyone it's a flying recon drone, and to head back the way you just came. Be as silent as they can across the river, then pick up the pace once out of the water. Might need to explain what the drone is to Viln once you're far enough away from it.

We'll have Lucera and Korli hold their breath and put their gas masks on Kort and Rokann every ten minutes so they can take some deep breaths before holding them again. The reason to do it for Rokann is so she isn't freaking out for a long time after you eventually get out of the gas.

Since the salikai have almost all non-neumono forces, those manning the gas generator wouldn't even need gas masks. And even if they did have them, they'd be the wrong size and shape for neumono faces. So there's really no reason to seek out the gas generator. We should pick a route that stays away from it if we can.
No. 499182 ID: d6ef5d

>So there's really no reason to seek out the gas generator.
Well, except, maybe taking out the gas generator. It is a problem, after all.

And the only routes away from it would be going higher into the cave, towards the hunters. And the gas line will only continue to creep higher the longer the generator runs.
No. 499191 ID: c4e5c2
File 136287901793.png - (222.60KB , 700x700 , 199.png )

No good. I handwave us to move back downwards to the gas.

Initially, we marginally move into branching tunnels to see if gas doesn't go down some, but it's no good, it seems like it's leveled out more by elevation than individual tunnels, except for a couple of deadends. Katzati thinks this means that the non-deadend tunnels are interconnected at some point lower down.

We swap our gas masks every once in awhile. I did find two items I should keep in mind. A partially filled air tank with about an hour's worth of air, and a small metal detector, not like we have the time to scan the walls with it.

Since we are only somewhat short on gas masks, air should not be a big issue unless we have to try to sleep inside of the gas, so we will be fine on that front.

There is a source of light up ahead, however.
No. 499192 ID: f2c20c

Do we have a hand mirror or something so we can peek around the corner without exposing ourselves?
No. 499195 ID: d6ef5d

Swapping masks will work for a while with minimal exposure, I guess. Seeing as how individual neumono can hold their breath from anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

>light source
Sneaky investigation time. It's unlikely to be an exit (because then air would be escaping and Viln would have noticed the air quality getting better). That means it's probably artificial light- most likely produced by your enemies. (Rokann's gagged, right?).

We have a knife.
No. 499202 ID: b33427

Stop, motion for everyone to hold still, and listen for any sounds up ahead. What kind of light is it? Glow-slug, electric, or something else? Is it holding still or moving? Is it moving towards or away from your group?

If the light is moving towards the group, motion for everyone to quickly move back. You want them to get around a bend in the tunnel, or down a side passage before the light gets here. You can peek back from there to see who or what is coming.

Otherwise, approach the corner, get low to the ground, and poke whatever reflective surface you have handy down there just far enough out to check where the light is. Make sure to angle it you don't reflect it back by accident.

There is one thing you can guess pretty confidently though; Whoever is using that light is almost certainly not a hunter, since they have fancy optics like your helmet visor has, and so wouldn't even use lights.
No. 499203 ID: c4e5c2
File 136288146255.png - (19.85KB , 700x700 , 200.png )

I do not hear noise, so I get low, motion everyone to hold still, and use the knife. I am not positive what it is I am looking at, but it is something. Although I am careful not to reflect light back, and my first instinct is to yank my knife back, I am not able to say with confidence that even a small knife poking out was not seen. Unless I start rotating the knife around to look more, I don't see the source of light or if there is anything around besides... that.

Rokann has been quiet. Especially quiet.

It just occurred to me that while radio range around here must be short because of all of these bends and tunnels, Rokann's remaining bugs might still be trying to broadcast outward and try to link up with whatever relay Four Stripes was hooked up to.
No. 499204 ID: f2c20c

There's nothing we can do about the bugs except extract them or kill Rokann. We're not killing her.

Ask Viln about the thing you're seeing. Quietly.
No. 499205 ID: 76b151

ANother denizen of these caverns maybe? Ask Viln
No. 499207 ID: de32da


I think that's a Miklik mutant, and not just a creature that just happens to have a fuckton of eyes.
No. 499208 ID: d6ef5d

What the heck is that? Those things kind of look like... leaves? Could it be some kind of miklik? They're part plant.

Or I suppose it could just be an animal looking plantlike for camo. Are those white spots extra eyes? Or light emitting?

How big is that? Hard to tell from that perspective, but is looks big.

Too bad you can't really ask Viln what it is if we're this close and trying to be quiet.

>Rokann has been quiet. Especially quiet.
For how long? Can you remember when she last made a normal noise?

It's kind of a given that her bugs would try to give us away when they can. Regrettably, there's no way to avoid that until we've finished debugging her.

Unless we were willing to kill her, but I don't think we are. Besides, even then, her bugs might not shut up for a while.
No. 499210 ID: b33427

Looks like a mutant miklik and not some underground creature. A real funky looking miklik too. You can see that it's wearing clothes, if you need confirmation. Just gotta hope all those eyes are actually just fake eye-spots and not real eyes.

Hold the knife still for a little bit and see if the miklik moves or makes any indication its seen you. Watch for any of its eyes looking right at you for any length of time. If it makes no indication its seen you, very, very slowly pull your knife back, watching the whole time for if it reacts.

If you get away without it noticing you, back petal to the group and tell them what you saw, and head back to follow a different route. Also check if Rokann is all there as best you can without removing her gag. There's nothing to do about the bugs, but if there's a relay nearby you've got to get away quick.
No. 499213 ID: 8ef0aa

Don't move movement brings attention with it. Just see what it does and be ready to pull out your gun and blow its damn head off
No. 499231 ID: c4e5c2
File 136289018761.png - (26.04KB , 700x700 , 201.png )

I am relatively sure that anything green is not part of the local fauna. I will assume it is a particularly mutated, enormous miklik, and I slowly retract my knife. I cannot say for sure if those were real eyes, but they were not the source of the light. Perhaps he didn't see me, at least based on the fact that we are not neck deep in hunters. All show or fake eyes, I suppose.

When I look back, I see Lucera staring at Rokann at her new, barely-more-comfortable position, so I head over. She is breathing sharply, despite there being gas around and she is without a gas mask. She does not look right. Her eyes are darting around. It is likely the hallucinogen. I don't stare at her for long, but it is getting worse, and she is beginning to hyperventilate.
No. 499232 ID: f2c20c

Someone should share their gas mask with her. Why aren't we already doing that?!

Also let's go down a different path to avoid the mutated thing.
No. 499233 ID: de32da

In addition to the lack of gas-mask rotation with her, why isn't she gagged?
No. 499238 ID: d6ef5d

>I am relatively sure that anything green is not part of the local fauna.
Yeah, and fake leaves wouldn't exactly be useful camo down here.

...so she's not part of the gas mask rotation, and she's not gagged? That's not good.

We'll either have to offer her a mask, or ask her what she sees, and try and reassure her within the scope of her vision.

...actually, the real problem is if there's noise, you guys are about to alert that monstrous miklik. And whatever else is around that corner.
No. 499240 ID: c4e5c2
File 136289172923.png - (23.04KB , 700x700 , 202.png )

We were sharing a gas mask with her once we decided to go back into the gas to avoid the helicopter, but we were also under the impression she would stick to holding her breath when she did not have a gas mask. But here she is, hyperventilating away.

I also notice her gag is off. I whisper, as low as I can, to Lucera.
"What happened to her gag? If you can answer without speaking."

Lucera, who is currently holding his breath and has the sense to not risk breathing in by speaking, gnashes his teeth and makes a demonstration of swallowing. I will assume Rokann's devouring of a gag happened just now, otherwise I would expect it would have been mentioned.
No. 499241 ID: f2c20c

Give her a gas mask immediately. Tell her she's under the effects of a hallucinatory gas, and she just needs to breathe through the mask for a while. From now on have her exclusively wearing the gas mask. I can only assume the bugs made her breathe the gas. It might be a good idea to also blindfold her while we're in the gas.

Whatever we do, we'd better do it on the move, because that mutant is still there and it will hear us!
No. 499242 ID: d6ef5d

Oh. The bugs kicked in. They didn't let her hold her breath, and they made her eat the gag. If she doesn't know what's going on, they'll have an easier time controlling her.

This is bad. We can't knock her out, and if she doesn't keep quiet, she's going to force a confrontation with the miklik and any friends he has around that corner.

You need to either get her calm, get her gagged, or prepare to jump those jerks before they can jump you.
No. 499245 ID: b33427

Dammit. Should have figured the bugs would do something like make her keep breathing when she shouldn't or make her eat her gag. Would have kept her gas mask on all the time in that case. Gonna have to do something fast. If she starts yelling and screaming, things are going to get real bad, real fast.

Get Marra to take her gas mask off so Rokann can see her face and have her gently put the mask on Rokann; Hold it on if she doesn't have time to do the straps. Marra's been Rokann's friend for a long time, so she's least likely to cause her to freak out, as long as she doesn't make any sudden moves, but she should be ready to clamp Rokann's mouth shut if she's inhaling to yell or something. Perhaps she could try placing her hand on Rokann's head to make even a small empathic link to try and calm her, or would that make thing worse?

At the same time, have everyone start moving away from the giant mutant miklik, just in case it does get alerted to our position.
No. 499251 ID: fb528f


Do this and get Viln into a firing position if the miklik makes a move towards you.
No. 499252 ID: c4e5c2
File 136289486245.png - (1.96KB , 250x250 , 203.png )

I motion to Marra, already nearby, to get her gasmask on Rokann and try to calm her down while we get out of here. Marra seems successful.

We move away as swiftly as I could ask for, and quieter than ever at that. Once at the intersection, the luck with Rokann turns sour again. We hear a helicopter drone, and footsteps. The helicopter is southwest, from where we came. There are footsteps coming from our northeast, and the miklik was northwest. As usual, it is hard to tell how far away the threats are.
No. 499256 ID: f2c20c

I hope our stalker gets spooked by the drone.

Go northeast and figure out which dirction in that fork the footsteps are coming from. Go the other way.
No. 499258 ID: d6ef5d

Ah. Surrounded. Lovely.

...the drone would be the easiest to subdue, but taking it out would alert the enemy command the quickest. Whatever the footsteps are from is likely easier to take down than the big miklik.

Obviously, we'd prefer not to alert them at all, but if we have to kill or disable a patrol quietly to slip by, we will. (Which might involve you sneaking ahead of the group, and ambushing the patrolee with your knife or something).

>As usual, it is hard to tell how far away the threats are.
I don't suppose anyone with a bigger model set of ears could provide a better estimate?
No. 499259 ID: 735f4f

Well what path has the most exits if we have to engage one of the threats? The drone will alert people instantly once taken down. The Miklik and mystery footsteps should provoke a slower response if attacked. Unless we can hide somewhere and let them pass us by.
No. 499268 ID: b33427

Just figured it out: It's the bugs in Rokann that are giving your position away. She's close enough to a relay that the bugs are linking to it, so they know she's nearby. There might even have been another relay you passed earlier, and that let 'em on to your general location. And there's nothing you can do about it now... Dammit.

First thing, tell everyone to get their weapons out and ready, but not to fire unless things go bad. Ready your rifle as well, or your pistol if you don't have time for the rifle.

If the path to the northeast branches, get everyone up to the branch and listen carefully for which path the footsteps are coming from, then you all go down the path without them.

Otherwise, have everyone run back towards the heli-drone. Maybe you'll spook the longbeak and it'll run right into the drone, destroying it, but that's really not likely. Have Viln move well ahead of the group, and when he sees the drone, he's to grab and smash it as he passes it. That'll just tell them that he's down here, not the whole group. Then everyone is to get up to the river, dive in, and swim to the previous camp site to get out.

...There's also a third option, but you will not like it, at all: Pull the gas mask off Rokann, cut her loose, drop her at the intersection, get everyone else up the northwest tunnel, and watch from around the bend. The enemy will find her, figure she got away from your group and ran down here. Then your group will follow them as they take her away. She'll be so full of hallucinogenic gas, that she won't be able to tell them anything for quite awhile.
No. 499269 ID: 9ddf68

how heavy do the footsteps from the group sound? do you think it is the hunter hive or more of Viln's people? If it is the hunter hive do you think they would have gas mask because if not then the gas around you might actually cover you making the hunter hive less effective since they will be tripping balls. Anyway you guys also need to get out of the gas so I say go whatever way leads up and see if you can't find yourselves a clean air pocket.
No. 499271 ID: c4e5c2
File 136289893008.png - (28.45KB , 700x700 , 204.png )

If I had to guess, I think it is a hunter, but they are well armored and likely have sealable armor like mine.

I make handsignals for weapons out and to only fire if fired upon or similarly dire circumstances.

We run northeast. We get there in time to sense that the footsteps are coming from the north, although they are not producing any light that I can see, but they are around a bend anyway. We run to the more east path to avoid them, but they catch up before we all get out of sight. Marra's shoulder is shot. She doesn't break her stride, but we've been spotted.

This passage also appears to be leading upwards, it may come back out of the gas.
No. 499272 ID: f2c20c

Well, shit. Get up on your walking turret so you can return fire without breaking stride. Or are you skilled enough to snap shot with good accuracy while running?

Do whatever! Shoot back!
No. 499273 ID: 9ddf68

If we are going to fight then We really need to get to an area without gas because we only have so many gas mask but if we can't get out of the gas before we are forced into a fight I say give all the gas mask to the solders of the group and make a stand then after that little fight move your ass until you find a gas free area and recover if you can.
No. 499276 ID: d6ef5d

Well, great. One gunshot won't slow her down much, but the damage is done. We've been found. That gunshot will alert the done and the miklik to come this way.

Even worse, we're now fighting and/or running in the gas. That's going to make handing masks around harder, and exertion / injury is going to make people want to breather. At least we're headed up, but there will be more searchers there.

Well, we don't want to kill them necessarily, but if we can't lose them, we may have to shoot them. Explosive snipe to the face? I mean, sure, it's load, but our only other option to shut down someone in armor is Viln's gun, which is worse, and probably more deadly.
No. 499278 ID: c4e5c2
File 136290087635.png - (26.46KB , 700x700 , 205.png )

Art error: Gas masks should have been on Korli/Marra in the previous updates.

I get on Viln and turn around to get a better shot if I have to. Katzati and Korli are the slowest ones, but they move as best as they can and Marra shoves them forward if they fall back too far. If we are being chased, then we are faster.

I don't bother thinking about which branching paths to take, they all look the damn same. It doesn't stop me from choosing poorly, and the path narrows out before it dips, eventually appearing to go at an extremely sharp incline down. I saw two other paths on the way here, and at a full sprint, we should be able to reach the previous one in one or one and a half minute, and the second to last path in around 4 or 5 minutes.

Masks are rotated again since this might be as close to a breather as we're getting.
No. 499279 ID: f2c20c

No way are you faster. They're not chasing us. They want us alive, so they're getting reinforcements, enough to ensure they can get us alive. That, or they can't track us and took a wrong turn... but that doesn't make sense, they should be able to hear you.

Retreat to the previous intersection at least to see if we're blocked and what our pursuers are doing.
No. 499280 ID: d6ef5d

>If we are being chased, then we are faster.
It's likely that the friggen hunter is smart enough not to pursue you too closely while outnumbered. This is a coordinated effort to get you- it would be much smarter for him or her to report in and get reinforcements to close the noose.

>backtrack to 1 min or 5 min
Er, 1, I guess? That puts us going SW.

Problem is we're the hunted right now. We're facing superior forces, and making decisions out of context and with little information. If we can't get some breathing room (in more way than one) we're going to be caught.
No. 499281 ID: 9ddf68

they might be trying to funnel you into a trap or kill zone so if you think ALL of you can make it back to one of those side paths then take them but at the same time they could be waiting for reinforcements and if they get enough people with them then they can just put a group down every path and going back to one of those side paths will just wast time and put them one step closer to finding all of you. Or maybe lucks on your side for once and the miklik mutant thing was attracted by the gun fire and is now fighting the hunters... and if that is the case and we aren't hearing any gunfire that means it A) wasn't as tough as we thought it was or B) took out the entire group in the short time you have been running and if that one is the case you're stuck down here with that thing and god knows how many more are down here.
No. 499283 ID: c4e5c2
File 136290304603.png - (29.25KB , 700x700 , 206.png )

Considering the way Korli and Katzati are wheezing, though, I would be surprised if we have speed over hunters.

"Viln, are you in good shape? Can you carry Korli?"

Korli and Lucera give their gas masks to Kort and Marra. I lead on backwards to the previous intersection, carefully, to find that are not blocking this intersection. Which leads me to believe that either this other path is either somewhere they would like us to go, or it is just another deadend.
No. 499284 ID: f2c20c

Sounds like the sensible thing to do is to go down that pit. How would we do that? Do we have a way for viln to go down? Like, would our grappling hook support his weight?

If it can, um... someone fighty should go first and someone fighty and light should be the last to go down.
No. 499295 ID: 1546a9

go back to where you were originally going. proceed.
No. 499296 ID: d6ef5d

I suppose that means we head back to the next turn off.

Although the problem with this logic is in order to know we're going the right way / not to a dead end we're going to have to punch past the enemy at some point.

We don't have the time or gear to take the whole party on a vertical descent. It would have been problematic before, and the prospect is worse now, considering we're closely pursued and surrounded by gas.

I guess we lost the bird thing at some point? All this doubling back we've been doing lately and we never saw it.
No. 499304 ID: b33427

The reason that the hunter scouts aren't coming right after you is that they're waiting for reinforcements. They likely sent a runner up to the nearest radio relay to call in more forces. That means that very soon all the exits from this section of the caves is going to blocked off. You can't just run away now, 'cause you have no idea what is down these tunnels, and they do.

The best option you have right now is to head back the way you came and punch through to get away, while you still can. They're expecting you to run, so instead you'll fight back. You might even get lucky in taking down the hunters and get their map as well as any other guns, ammo, and armor.

Ask Korli what happens if two empathic relays connected to the same source get too close to each other. Do they pick up and amplify feedback into each other, creating an empathic "screech?" 'Cause if they do, then maybe she could switch the one you have back into relay mode, and you carry it out to flip on while in range of the other relay. Maybe it'll feedback so much that Four Stripes will get "deafened" for a bit. It'll at least screw up his hold on the hunters around here.

Get down from Viln and get ahead of the group, out of group's jammer range. That way you can sense if there's any relays around. You might even be able to sense where the hunters are, since for Four Stripes to work most effectively they can't be under the effect of a jammer. You should probably stay off of Viln's shoulder when fighting hunters or anyone with guns anyway, since it makes you a big open target. Better to hide behind his legs and fire from there.

You sprint ahead to the next intersection, while the rest of the group takes a slower pace. Check around the corner with your knife, then proceed if it's clear to the next corner and check that one. If that one is clear, wait for the group to catch up, then proceed to attack the hunters.
No. 499315 ID: c4e5c2
File 136294205566.png - (29.99KB , 700x700 , 207.png )

>Ask Korli what happens if two empathic relays connected to the same source get too close to each other.
The same as if there is only one.

Viln should be able to have his weight supported by the grappling hook. It is strong enough to support at least a few large neumono, so if Viln rappels down alone, it should be fine. Ultimately, the only danger is that we are going to the unknown. The hole could narrow down and turn out to be too small. It could lead to hostile wilderness or hunters. It could drop me off right into Four Stripes bunker allowing us to shoot him and also find out that his room is right next to the salikai central control panel that controls everything, is left unguarded, letting us destroy it and ruin everything the salikai has except for the telecoms that allow us to report in to all of the non infected neumono. We just don't know.

Katzati says that she hears water on the south. Likely a river, possibly another dead end.

But I don't want to go in blindly yet. I move back northwest to the second previous intersection, not necessarily to fight, but to see what is going on back there. If it is just a couple of hunters and a miklik, we may be able to punch past through them and lose them in the caves again before reinforcements arrive.

So I have everyone stay far enough back that their lights won't reach me, and I move through with night vision outside of jammer range.

I find a couple right at the intersection. Fighting through might be possible, but casualties on our side far from implausible. They are also operating in pitch black. One of them must be those genetically grown giants. Either they taught them how to use technology or made new giants, but either way I will assume their old giants do not use loincloths and spears anymore.

I can sense both of them. They are waiting to attack, and the big one is unreasonably excited to do so.
No. 499316 ID: 9ddf68

well unless you think you can take both of them right here and now I think it would be best head back to the group. If you do fight them aim for their heads so the gas will miss with them.
No. 499317 ID: 8b9215

HE round to the head of the biggin. Run like a motherfucker.
No. 499318 ID: d6ef5d

>They are also operating in pitch black.
Assuming they don't have IR or night vision modes in their helmets.

...I don't like these odds. They're both armored, and we only have a few weapons that will punch through armor, (explosive sniping, Viln's gun, and not sure what else) and a giant will take a lot of hurt to go down. Plus, those damn bugs are going to keep them conscious longer than they should (almost forcing us to kill them. The hunters don't really deserve to die for being enslaved, but we may not have a choice).

And I don't see us making it through bloodlessly. Any injuries are going to slow us down against the pursuit that's sure to be coming.

Kind of tight on options though. Our alternative is the vertical descent, which will take who knows how long to get everyone down (assuming it's a viable path), leads to the unknown, and will trap us well below the gas line (which will be a problem when it becomes time to sleep).

If you do attack, obviously we want to use surprise in our favor. The smaller hunter isn't wearing the ear armor- you could snipe him right through that opening and put him out of the fight, then everyone else opens up on the giant and puts her down before she can do much.

Any sense from the non-giant how long he plans to be waiting?
No. 499329 ID: b33427

This fight is doable, if you can disable their weapons. Once their big guns are down, they'll only have pistols and knives. Then your group can dog-pile and pummel them

An AP round through the side of that big MG's firing mechanism would render it useless. What's that other weapon the giant has? A grenade or rocket launcher? Think you could put another AP round through that before they can react?

Alright, here's the plan. Run back quietly and get Viln and the group ready. Have Viln drop Rokann, ready his gun, and take a lantern with him. Everyone else drop everything but one jammer, lights, and weapons. Dial the jammer back to just far enough that everyone can bunch together in it.

Lead Viln forward in the dark by having him hold his hand on your head, and everyone else hold onto his tail. Go slow enough they don't make noise. Leave the rest of the group back so their jammer doesn't reach the hunters, then move forward with Viln. Tell them that once the fighting starts, they're to turn their lights on, crank the jammer to max range, and charge up into the fight, leaving the jammer just around the corner. You want them to get to close combat range and pile

Before reaching the intersection, whisper to Viln that once you fire, he's to turn on the lantern and roll it past the corner, then step out and fire a single three-round burst into the giant before charging it. Once at the intersection, take aim on the giant's big MG, and blow out it's firing mechanism with an AP round, shoot the other big weapon with an AP round, and then take aim at the short hunter's helmet with a regular round. Then join the fray with the rest of the group.
No. 499330 ID: 1546a9

you can't assume you'd be able to kill them before reinforcements arrive. go back and have everyone go down the rabbit hole quickly, before we're found.
No. 499332 ID: b33427

Crap! Change in plan! The hunter is on the radio, and that likely means that the rest of the forces are within its limited range. That means there won't be enough time to get away after taking them down, especially if you take casualties. No choice left here: You gotta head back.

Get everyone back to the intersection before the hole. Set the grappling hook and go down the hole yourself to check it out first. Figure out a set of rope tugs to communicate beforehand.

If it's no good, have Viln pull you back up quickly and everyone head down the south tunnel towards the water noise. If it looks alright, have Viln come down first, then everyone else. Throw the gear down that can take a hit and have Viln catch it. Last person should either be able to climb down, or willing to jump down and be caught by Viln, 'cause they're going to have to disconnect the grappling hook so the enemy doesn't know you came this way.
No. 499336 ID: f2c20c

An AP round to the big one's head, then the small one, would allow us to take their gear.

HE rounds here would be a bad idea. They're wearing the same armor as you, and that shit's STRONG against explosions.
No. 499340 ID: d6ef5d

Forgot we had AP sniper rounds, actually. Advantage: punches through armor. Disadvantage- a sucssful explosive shot (say, sniped carefully through an open spot in armor) will do a lot more damage to a fuzzball (especially one hopped up on mind control keeping them awake).

The radio doesn't tell us how close reinforcements may be. If they've been laying down portable signal relays as they go, all that means is he's close to a relay, not necessarily the people on the other end.

I am really torn on whether we should be running or fighting. Poor Polo never has enough intel.
No. 499342 ID: b33427

Alright, I've change my mind again; We're going to attack them. Modify this plan >>499329 to take out either both of the giant's eyes, or both of his helmet's goggles, whichever you think you can pull off. He'll be blind, either by having no eyes or no night vision, making his guns useless. Then take a shot at the other's visor, even if you have to put the round through his head to do it.

Yeah, we never seem to have enough intel. But if we take these two down, we might get their maps and their radios, which'll help greatly on that front. If we strip them down we might also get bio-armor, as well as regular armor. And if it doesn't fit, maybe Korli can fashion some of it into something to protect Viln's more vital spots, so he doesn't end up like Vern.
No. 499349 ID: b33427

Actually, forget trying to take their visors or eyes out. If you only manage to take their visors out, then once Viln throws down light so he can shoot, they'll be able to aim to fire back. They won't if you take their eyes out, but you're not high enough off the ground to get a good angle on the giant you could reliable take both his eyes out, and the short one you'd only be able to take out his visor.

Go back to taking their big weapons out. That way Viln and the rest can light up the situation and attack without risk of being hit with major weapons.
No. 499352 ID: f2c20c


No. 499354 ID: d6ef5d

If they have maps to steal, they will be useful, yes. Less so if they're being guided remotely by controllers, or even their bugs, instead of carrying maps or mapping gear (remember, initially our mapping hardware was record only, we couldn't eve view the map on the move until we got it plugged into our helmet HUD). And if they have electronic maps, it might be dangerous interfacing them with our gear with the CAI is already hooked up to their stuff...

...is shooting out their guns something that even works? Would take a precise AP shot, or an explosion, I'd think. I'd think the opening snipe would be better spent trying to lay one of them out.
No. 499357 ID: f2c20c

Personally I think shooting their guns is a waste of perfectly good equipment that we could be using.
No. 499360 ID: b33427

Alright, fine. If Polo thinks she can pull off either blowing both of the giant's eyes away with an AP shot on the first try, or put an AP shot into the giant's helmet, followed by an explosive round into the hole the AP round made, then by all means that's what she should do. Once the giant is down, then Viln can throw down some light and shoot the other hunter.

And if they do have maps, they're likely going to be integrated into their helmet visors, so we should try not to shoot up the shorter hunter's helmet. We also don't have to interface it with our gear right away; We could have Lucera or Korli wear the helmet to use the map until we're far enough away to pull the helmet's power supply, then it's data storage, and dump it to a separate hand-held computer to sift out the map files before uploading them to Katzati's master map laptop.

Yeah, you're right about needing their weapons. Should also strip all their armor off; Especially bio-armor. Marra might be able to wear bio-armor, once we've gotten away and have enough time for it to bond to her. Also nab their rations, and any other useful gear.
No. 499361 ID: 57a559

I wonder if they're connected to a local wireless network the CAI can access at any time? (Like how we worked with Rokoa and Wendel on Iron Cove, sort of, with nodes and shit so Rokoa didn't walk off with us). I'd be extremely careful with any neumono with potential video feeds, Polo. They might have tech that allows wireless networking down in these tunnels. And that CAI's as much of a web tactical controller with comm netwroks as Four Stripes is with the empathy relays. You have two different head tactical leaders out here to look out for.
No. 499438 ID: c4e5c2
File 136298370159.png - (58.92KB , 815x700 , 208.png )

Pitch black was a bad term. I simply meant without active lighting that made things reasonably visible to the naked eye.

I wait for them to turn their focus away so that I can pop out and get at least one good shot off. I would have liked to tell my crew this, but if I go back to warn them, the situation can change too much too fast, so they will have to use their judgement. Unfortunately the only way I can get a clean shot on a visor or goggles is by entering directly in front of them, so I will settle on an explosive round while one is at the side. Specifically, when the giant turns its head. And while the explosion is more flashy than intense, it absolutely has to be enough to break the goggles and severely disorient, if not completely disable, even a neumono horror experiment. The chance happens, I fire, it works, although the scream that comes out of a mangled throat and comparatively worse face is far from pleasant.

But I immediately sense Four Stripes take over. The other hunter half dives, half is knocked down in a prone position for cover. It knows where the shot came from and immediately fires upon me. So quickly that I can't reliably fire even just a second shot with confidence, and with the limitation of ammo, I don't risk it in the hope of getting lucky. Four Stripes is also using the empathy and knowledge of the healthy hunter to direct the actions of the giant, who while is blinded, was not disabled. The giant has bugs and no one is surprised. It is trying to recover from the blast and grab one of its weapons it dropped. Its plan is to shoot in my general direction using the other hunter's vision as a beacon using the explosive weapon. While he tries to get what might be a hand mortar, the hunter fires bursts to try to keep me from getting another shot off easily.

I hear my teammates coming. They are 15 to 25 seconds away at a sprinting pace, equipped with loose fitting clothes and generic firearms. No grenades unless one of them had them shoved in their pockets away from my inventory check.
No. 499439 ID: f2c20c

Wait until they have to reload, then pop out and take a shot to disable the other one.
No. 499442 ID: 6630b7

change your position a bit, stick your hand out of cover and fire back towards the little one hoping it ducks and covers so you can get out and shoot them properly.
No. 499446 ID: d6ef5d

Hmm. The toughest part of ending this fight is going to be four stripes and the bugs forcing their hosts to keep going. Ideally, we could just main them and leave them for the hive to recover, but we're going to have a hard time getting them to stop fighting back without lethally wounding them, I think.

>What do?
You need to stop the big one from hitting you and your allies with the mortar. The easiest way to do this is is to face blast the smaller hunter as well- then four stripes loses visual targeting completely and your group can finishes disabling them more safely. It'd be nice if you could just directly disable the big one, but you likely can't do that in one shot, or the time you have, with the weapon you have,
No. 499448 ID: de32da

How close is the giant to the little one? Are they close to enough to make taking out the giant's leg and causing it to fall on the Hunter to disrupt his firing?

If not, do you suspect that one of the giant's weapons has explosive ammunition, and would shooting said weapon cause it to explode glorious?


That's operating under the assumption that they don't have backup, and that they don't have grenades.
No. 499449 ID: 8b9215

Run like a motherfucker. You got a damn good hit in on them.
No. 499453 ID: d6ef5d

We don't have time to wait for the little one to burn through a whole clip of unknown size. We're trying to get out before reinforcements show, and the big one is going to try and hit us with explosives.

Again, our goal is to punch through. Running just buys them time to recover and shoot at us.
No. 499458 ID: 735f4f

We are not going to save anyone with non lethal methods. We need to aim to kill here. This is not a temporary taken over hive.
No. 499461 ID: d6ef5d

I think the line we have to walk is we should not be held back by fear of killing hunters while trying to defend ourself (and it's entirely possible we already did so busting through the cave entrance blockade) but at the same time we aren't out to kill them. If we have the choice after the shooting stops to leave these guys an injured wreck for the other hunters to recover or to finish them, we leave them.

>This is not a temporary taken over hive.
That's only true if we fail. The hunter hive will only be taken over as long as the salikai are their to pull their string. They're mind controlled victims, not willing defectors.
No. 499470 ID: b33427

If you think the jammer would disrupt Four Stripes' control over these two, and that your group could get it up here fast enough to matter, then you've gotta let them know to turn it up to max range. Take a deep breath, pop your helmet open, and yell back to them "max jammer now!" Otherwise, if you think they'll get the jammer up here before you can do all that, then just stay quiet.

There's a hole up the cave hall where the tunnel forks, as shown here >>499315. Is it out of the hunter's field of vision, and can you scale the wall up to it before the giant gets its hand on that weapon? If yes to both, do it. Get into the hole and line up a shot on the hunter's visor to take it out.

Otherwise, move back across the tunnel, and take aim at a position just in front and to your left of the prone hunter. If the jammer field hasn't enveloped them yet by the time the giant almost has its hands on that explosive whatever, then lean over just enough to fire an explosive round into the ground near to the hunter's gun. The blast will temporarily blind him and maybe damage his visor, and will throw his aim off if it doesn't knock the gun right out of his hand. That's when you step out fully, and line up an AP shot on his visor.
No. 499475 ID: c6ec33

Polo, what do you think will happen if you isolate the hunters in the jammer field? Will it bring them back to 'normal', or is it likely their bots will just take over and have them keep fighting?

In any case, you need to be out of the way of that mortar. If you can't get a good explosive shot on the small one or the big one's mortar itself, GTFO ASAP and try to lure them into a jammer trap. Even if it doesn't fully disable them, it will limit their effectiveness and probably blind the big one.
No. 499476 ID: de32da


Considering that Rokaan is still a liability, even with the Jammer on, I don't think the jammer will do anything, we can use it on their disabled bodies, the little one is still able to fucking see and the jammer is a very, very important piece of equipment for us, and very, very fragile.
No. 499480 ID: c6ec33

Rokann only freaks out during attempts to talk about or remove her bugs. The jammer most likely blocks 4-stripe's direct control, leaving them with just the 'default programming' provided by the bugs already inside them.
No. 499481 ID: b33427

The jammer does have some range to it, you know. Just as long as whoever has it stays back around the corner from the fight, or they leave it there before joining the fray, it'll be safe.

And we don't know if removing Four Stripe's direct control will break the giant's direction or not, or if it'll just hamper it. But it is something we should at least try.
No. 499496 ID: d6ef5d

Jammers do not interfere with bugs controlling people, or four stripes controlling people via bugs. The bugs have direct access that bypasses empathy, and the bugs themselves are connected to their own communication network (which includes four stripes) that is independent of normal empathy.

We know this to be true because the hunters, while being puppeted by four stripes, were able to set up ambushes for us from under their own jammers.

All our jammer will do is (a) prevent the hunters from knowing what our allies are thinking (b) prevent the hunters from being able to use empathy to aim at our allies (c) cut off Polo's ability to sense what the hunters (and four stripes controlling them) are thinking / doing once the jammer gets within her range.

...and for heaven's sake, we don't have time to fool around. We're got an enemy reaching for a gun that sprays explosions, and our unarmored allies coming up from behind!
No. 499510 ID: 76b151

Actually that is not true. The network they use is emphatic in nature. You have to remember what Four Stripes is. He is a predator that uses the link to overwhelm a neuminos natural link and control him or her that way. That is why jammers are effective when faced with a predator.
No. 499512 ID: d6ef5d

Normally four stripes uses broadcast empathy to control neumono. That's why the empathic relay allows him to compromise people.

But that's not how the bugs work!

The bugs have direct access, that circumvents broadcast empathy- they hijack the neural network or empathic setup with direct physical access (proof- bugs control the enemy even when they hide from us under jammers). The bugs also have their own communication network of some kind (when Rokann goes really quiet, it's because her bugs are trying to talk to other bugs. Like what happened right before the helicopter ambush. Polo can tell the bugs are doing something- but it's not empathy. She can't hear it). Four stripes is remotely conducting the hunter hivers via the bugs (he's probably hooked up with cyborg implants at this point), not via an empathic relay. We can't expect a jammer to stop them.
No. 499513 ID: 76b151

The relays are still emphatic in nature. The bugs are relying on Four Stripes to direct them for more complicated matters. And that in itself is emphatic. Without four stripes directing the bugs they go to default like it was mentioned before.
No. 499516 ID: d6ef5d

Yes, without four stripes, the bugs control of the hunters would be limited to whatever the bug AI could manage, yes.

Yes, the control is empathic in nature.

But no, the bugs aren't talking with one another on the neumono empathy "frequency". Polo can't hear the bugs- but she can sense their effect on the neumono they control, and four stripes behind them.

If the bugs don't talk on the empathic frequency, it stands to reason that an empatic jammer won't stop them from talking. (And we have reasonable evidence it does not). All four stripes would need would be to have bugs in him so he could reach out and control directly through the bug-network. Then jammers wouldn't interrupt his control of the hunters.

We don't have time to wait around trying to cut them off from four stripes when there's a very simple way the salikai could have made that not work. The jammer will either help or do nothing (as I expect) when our allies arrive. In the mean time, Polo should be continue trying to shut down or disable the enemy.
No. 499517 ID: 76b151

I don't see why you think the bugs talk to one another. They have always relied on an outside source to coordinate and control them.
No. 499522 ID: d6ef5d

>I don't see why you think the bugs talk to one another.
Well, Polo does, for one. Just a few updates ago, she noted Rokann went quiet and wondered if her bugs were trying to contact the others again. They are a networked AI of some kind- wireless capacity only makes sense. And the mark I love-bugs were controlled wirelessly by one central AI transmitter, too. Even if they upgraded to a decentralized AI with a remote predator overseer, it seems silly to remove that capacity in an upgraded model.

It's also how Rokann knew about the helicopter ambush in advance. She got all quiet as her bugs went into overdrive conferring with the others waiting to hit us. Then once her bugs finished and she realized what was going on, she started panicking and wanting us to get out of there- before we were ambushed and/or we were cut off from the caves (but we continued on anyways).
No. 499528 ID: b33427

Alright, so the bugs can act as miniature empathic relays that connect either through a mesh network with other nearby bugs, by connection with a big empathic relay, or, likely, through a regular radio relay. That means that bringing the jammer up might only disrupt the direct empathic link between the giant and the small hunter, which wouldn't do much to help us. They might even be able to maintain their empathic link through the bug's empathic relay ability. Either way, Four Stripes is still pulling the strings and we don't have a way to disrupt that. Maybe if we found a portable radio jammer, but that's an objective for later.

Considering this, Polo shouldn't call for the jammer range to be increased. In fact, she should call for it to be decreased to just around the group, so she has longer to sense the two enemies, but she probably doesn't have time for that so should just keep quiet.

Plan here should be to focus on either taking out the small hunter's visor, or his eyes, so he's blind either way. Explosive round into the ground as close to in front of him as possible, then either an AP round into his visor or another explosive round into his face, depending on whether Polo can aim that well, will do.

In the future, we can also use Rokann's bugs to detect if there are bugged neumono around that are under an empathic jammer, or if there's a empathic or radio relay nearby. Any time she goes quiet it'll indicate one of those things. So, definitely put someone on Rokann-watch duty from now on.

We might even be able to get an idea of what the bugs are doing if Polo brings Rokann out of the jammer field with her. So, Polo would go out first, sense if any non-jammed neumono are around, then bring Rokann out just enough to sense her.

Also, Rokann might not have been made to eat her gag by the bugs; She might have done so in a panicked state while trying to warn us and inhaled a load of the hallucinogenic gas before she had a chance.
No. 499535 ID: b33427

We're also going to have to blindfold Rokann's eyes and plug her ears from now on as well, so her bugs can't relay anything back about where she is or what the group is saying.

Also, Polo wouldn't have to take Rokann out of the jamming field to get an empathic read on her; She'd only need another in the group to put their hand on Rokann to form that small link like she had with Katzati earlier. In fact, we may want someone to hold on to Rokann like that all the time, both to comfort her, and to know right away if the bugs connect. The risk there is that the bugs might try to migrate into whoever is holding Rokann, so somebody else should watch them with the x-ray scanner.
No. 499549 ID: c4e5c2
File 136303417271.png - (65.21KB , 700x700 , 209.png )

I am not certain how, precisely, the bugs work. I am confident it uses both a combination of conventional radio communication and neumono empathy to communicate, but how these intertwine and what method is needed to do what, I don't know much of. I will think on possibilities later when I am not in the middle of combat.

What I do know, right now, is that the giant is going for the explosive, and I am operating in split seconds that won't allow me to time to yell multiple word tactical orders to my teammates effectively. Even if whatever gave the giant its order is interrupted, the giant did receive the order, and is unlikely to stop even if the bug's method of communication is removed. It is recovering quick, so I chance popping out anyway to fire an explosive round on the hunter. My aim is as good as ever, although I take a couple of stinging hits. Nothing crucial, but it isn't doing my armor any favors and I will be bruised for awhile. I can't say the same for the hunter, who is in far worse shape.

Sure enough, the giant doesn't stop, but it is no longer able to use the hunter's sight to fire at me with any accuracy. While I fired, it successfully grabbed its weapon, and is still going to try to shoot based on my last known location. It is following one of Rokoa's favorite principles. If it's explosive enough, you don't need good aim. I might be able to get a good shot off to ruin the weapon beforehand, or I might not and wish I took the extra split second to run far away.
No. 499555 ID: 001618

well if it was just you I would say run like hell but your team is coming around the coner and could be hit in the cross fire so i say you put a round down the barrel of the gaint's gun, I mean you already frickin did it that one time on an explosive shotgun I think you can put a round down the barral of that cannon
No. 499556 ID: a5c529

Face it girl, you like Rokoa! :3 embrace it! She is a wonderful person!
No. 499557 ID: 735f4f

Any high explosives in this cave will funnel down the passages a ways. So unless you can get at least 5-10 feet away from the impact point before it can shoot you might be better off taking the shot.
No. 499562 ID: ff6171

run away from your hiding spot and jump towards the screen as the explosion expands behind you.
No. 499564 ID: eaf2f5

That thing must have a minimum prime distance, charge the giant neumono and get as close as possible.
No. 499567 ID: b33427

You're close enough that even if you did hit right down the barrel of that thing, if it explodes you're going to catch the brunt of it in the face, likely destroying your visor and taking your ears off. If you run back towards the group, it'll catch you in your sturdier back armor, but you'll still take damage. However, if you run towards the giant, around the corner, the blast will be partially blocked by the rock; You might even be able to get behind the giant as well before the shot explodes. The rest of the group are far enough away, and around tunnel curves, that they likely won't take the brunt of the blast.

So charge forward, stay under where the giant is aiming, and get behind that rock before he fires.

However, if you don't think you can make it in time, then shoot an AP round up the barrel of that launcher, then try to shield your face from the possible explosion. If you're real lucky, it'll break it so it doesn't fire, and nothing explodes. At worst, it blows up and takes out the giant, the small hunter, and seriously damages you, your armor, and your rifle.
No. 499568 ID: d6ef5d

So the choice is to blow the gun or dive for cover?

If you were alone, I'd play it safe and dive. But you got allies coming up behind you who could be rushing right into the blast while you cover.

Take her out. On the move, if at all possible- so you avoid the last known firing tactics, and so you can roll out of the way of the explosion. (If you're only lightly injured, it's worth it. Viln could carry you. It's only not worth it if you wreck your gear or seriously injure yourself).
No. 499574 ID: b33427

Actually, forget trying to fire down the barrel of that thing if you can't get around the corner before it goes off. The risk of it exploding and damaging your visor, rifle, all your front armor, and you, is too great. You just can't risk losing your rifle or visor.

Instead, turn back towards the group and sprint as fast as you can. As soon as you hear the launcher fire, scrunch up into as tight a ball as you can, shielding your rifle. The blast will catch your less vital back and tail armor instead of your front armor and visor. The sight of you running away might also make the rest of the group stop running towards the intersection if they see you running away.

Oh, and whatever action you do do, shout "BOMB!" at the top of your lungs to try and get the rest of the group to stop running towards the intersection. The giant and the hunter are deafened by now, so it doesn't matter if you yell that.
No. 499577 ID: c4e5c2
File 136304017321.png - (90.42KB , 700x700 , 210.png )

I won't be firing down the barrel of the gun, the last time I did that, the person aiming at me actually was, in fact, aiming at me to allow this. This one's aim is too off.

"BOMB!" I yell to my teammates, who may get a punch of shock should the explosion be particularly strong. I only pause to yell that before rushing forward, quiet as I can manage, to get behind the giant as it fires.

I am not familiar with the weapon, as it makes an odd, lumiscent glow for a second as he pulls the trigger and holds it down for a second. It launches some kind of gel. As soon as its out, I fire again, knocking her forward. The gel explodes on contact, flinging the giant, her weapon, and the fire of my own explosion backwards. I am losing my balance as well.

The ceiling shakes. It does not sound good, but I think the cave is still stable enough. Another explosion or two might cause a cave in.
No. 499579 ID: 8b9215

No. 499580 ID: d6ef5d

Right. Dodge the falling gaint, regain your balance. Switch to AP rounds, and if the enemy is still capable of putting up a fight, shoot them (cripple them- like the zombies last time). Mop up shouldn't take long- your allies are in range now and armed, and the enemy is blind and on fire.

Be careful, the smaller one might be up by now.

Then everyone grab anything useful the enemy dropped, leave the injured hunter hivers for their hive to recover, and get out of here before there's a cave in or reinforcements arrive.
No. 499584 ID: f2c20c

A cave in would be to our advantage. It would cut off pursuit. However, it might also suffocate these two, and we don't want to do that! They are from the Hunter tribe, right?

Snatch any dropped supplies and toss them back towards your allies. See if you can switch to normal or AP rounds to use disabling shots on our two enemies and then fully loot them. It would be great to have more armor, even if it's got holes in it.
No. 499591 ID: b33427

Don't worry about the gel launcher hitting the ground and going off; If had a hair trigger or was that unstable, it would have gone off from the force of the explosion.

Make sure that these two are disarmed, then yell back "MOVE UP" to the rest of the group. Check that neither of them are trying to set off a suicide bomb, or pulling all the pins on their grenades, or something like that. If the giant feels like it's going to flee, put an AP round through its knee. If the smaller hunter tries to flee, tackle him to the ground.

Get Viln to pin the giant down while Katzati and Marra strip its armor off. Everyone else pin down the hunter to strip him. You're looking to snag bio-armor from them, as well as the hunter's armor, and maybe the giant's if parts of its armor could be refashioned into partial protection for Viln and the others. If there's not enough time to strip them here, have Viln grab the hunter and carry him so he can be stripped on the move.

Before leaving them, break their elbows and knees. That'll put them out of the fight for a day or two, at least.

Gonna need an ammo check after this action. Think you've already used up at least half of your explosive rounds by now.
No. 499597 ID: ff6171

there is no way nothing heard that. reinforcements will be coming in soon. unless you can multi-headshot the hunter right here and now, you have to flee.
No. 499598 ID: d6ef5d

We don't have time to salvage armor, or to scrape bio-armor off these guys, even if they have it. Grabbing loose guns and supplies, sure.
No. 499602 ID: b33427

Yeah, you're right. Any forces these two were waiting for to get into position are going to be rushing down here now. There's going to be no time to loot more than the . However, Viln could still snatch up the smaller hunter, then hold him still up where Korli could work to remove his armor while they're on the move. Viln can just drop him if there's any reason he needs his hands free before Korli finishes. We kinda also want to see if there's anything we could salvage from his helmet, like the data store from a mapping unit.

Also, if the giant is fleeing, don't bother trying to stop it; That's just a waste of ammo at this point. Only fire on it if it's still a hazard, and Viln isn't there to pummel and subdue it.

Oh, and bio-armor can be rather easily cut off, just in case peeling it off the hunter is taking too long. It'll just take a bit to mend once it's on a new host.
No. 499605 ID: f2c20c

Well, if we're pressed for time, we could move these guys then create a cavein at range. Then we'd have time to strip these two, and restrain them solidly enough that they have no hope of getting free before help arrives.
No. 499614 ID: b33427

We'd only really want to even bother thinking about that if the giant has bio-armor on, and it's not some high percentage one, since his regular armor would take a bit of work to fashion into something that'd provide even partial protection for Viln or anyone in the rest of the group. We can take everything else, including the hunter, and deal with it while on the move.
No. 499615 ID: de32da

Isn't Bio-armor structured around a specific species' nervous system?

The only ones among us that could even USE the giant's bioarmor, if it even has any, would be Katz and Marra, and that's assuming it would even fit them, and they are strong enough to wear it.
No. 499616 ID: d6ef5d

...dragging along more people full of bugs who would only slow us down, and might successfully hurt someone in our party does not seem worth being able to strip them down for whatever armor we didn't wreck and possible bioarmor.

C'mon guys. The giant is huge, and napalmed. If there's bioarmor there, we aren't grabbing it.
No. 499622 ID: b33427

Alright, forget the giant. While his bio-armor could be cut down to fit Marra, it'd take too long to regenerate from the cutting, and probably drain Marra more than we'd like to repair itself. Getting the small hunter's bio-armor would still be valid, since it can stretch to fit over Marra.
No. 499625 ID: 8b9215

Switch to standard rounds and put one or two into it to see how much damage it does. Don't get caught if it tries to grab you.
No. 499637 ID: c4e5c2
File 136305966438.png - (21.49KB , 700x700 , 211.png )

Bio armor is more of a one size fits all type of thing, but it still takes some time to peel off, not to mention the difficulty in doing so now that the armor has likely been bent in many places and difficult to remove.

"Move up!" I yell back down, quieter this time. I make sure that the neumono are no longer threats. The small one wakes up again, but its arms are broken and it is unable to stand. The giant is moving more than it should, but it is blind and deaf, and moving slowly. Their weapons are knocked away, and they can't find them. I have little enough ammo as is, I don't want to waste more.

"We've got to move! Blind Rokann and plug her ears, don't let the bugs hear anything!"

Katzati frantically knocks on her head and points at the neumono without trying to directly look at it. I think she wants their headgear for mapping. I make head being exploded gestures. I doubt that any software the helmeta may have had wouldn't be destroyed. The shock must have hit me harder than I thought if I started thinking I had to gesture too.

"It's probably destroyed. Look at them."

So we just start to grab the weapons, but now I have to decide whether to try to punch through the way we came before reinforcements hopefully come, back to the hole, and whether or not to cause a cave in at some point.
No. 499640 ID: f2c20c

Yeah that's... part of why I wanted to use AP ammo here. Sheesh, guys. Explosions are not for every fight. All we got from this was their guns, because of that.

Without map data we're still kinda FUCKED. At least if we keep moving we're not likely to run into heavy concentrations of them. In fact, if we rush forwards and take out that mutant we might be able to find another armored hunter and steal its map data.

So let's do that. Use the new weapons to arm your team and rush to where the mutant and light was, and THIS time let's take down someone cleanly!
No. 499642 ID: d6ef5d

All right. Polo takes out an enemy patrol, all by her lonesome.

>Bio armor is more of a one size fits all type of thing
Honestly, still wondering how something that fit Rokoa ever fit on you. That's some seriously adaptive stuff.

>What do?
Alright, we have two basic plans of action now- double back and hopefully slip their cordon before the reinforcements arrive, or run down the rabbit hole.

In either case, a cave in could help. If we go down the hole- the cave in will slow pursuit. If we double back, the enemy may assume that's why we made the cave in, and waste time trying to get through it to us (so it serves as a decoy).

The disadvantage of a cave is is we don't know how big it might be (we could trap ourselves, or kill or injure our own), we'd have to move the hunters first, and it would prevent us from changing our mind (we could be trapped on one side in a bad situation).

On the whole, I prefer trying to slip the cordon and evading reinforcements to running down the hole. The hole puts us well below the gas line (and we face the prospect of having to sleep in the stuff) and takes us into the unknown without a means of retreat. I'd also prefer to forgo risking causing a cave in on purpose.
No. 499644 ID: d6ef5d

The thing is, all an AP round would do is put a hole in them. That's not enough to stop a tough neumono. Especially one with a predator and bugs in his or her head forcing them to keep going, and calmly controlling them without care for the pain.

On explosive wrecked the little guy. It blinded him, preventing the other one from using his sight to target, and broke his arms, preventing him from shooting. One AP round would have cost him an eye, leaving him able to shoot, and the biggun able to target. Two well placed explosions disabled the giant. Two AP shots would have barely pissed her off.

So yes, it cost us some loot, but it more than made up for it in efficiency of time and ammunition. Taking them down with non-explosive fire would have taken a lot longer, and our group would have been injured doing so. Time and blood are not quantities we can spare, right now. Even for intel.
No. 499648 ID: b33427

The more I think about it, the more I think that you should go take down that giant mutant miklik. It's guarding something important. Something like one of the salikai's trunk radio relays. That'd explain why Rokann's bugs could connect to Four Stripes as soon as you got into this relatively deep area. If you took out the trunk relay, it'd cut Four Stripes off from this area, and possibly areas further up. You might even be able to use it to tap their communications or extract a map copy before you destroyed it.

But before you do, ask Viln to smell which direction the gas is strongest, to determine if the gas generator is back there or not. Wouldn't want to fight that miklik, only to find out it's just one of those.

Is it absolutely certain that no solid-state memory card could have survived intact in one of the helmet fragments? They'd have to be built to be really quite shock resistant, after all, and would survive a surge of heat, as long as it didn't last long. Maybe before leaving turn on all the lights you have and have everyone do a once over of the area for any helmet fragments that have electronics and take them along to examine later.

How seriously was Marra's shoulder injured, and how soon will she recover? Can she use that hunter's gun effectively?

Polo, get everyone but Viln to bunch up for a moment and turn the jammers' range down so you can sense if any un-jammed neumono are nearby, and if so in which direction.

Before leaving the defeated hunters, try putting your hand on one of them to sense if Four Stripes can still control them well while they're inside a jamming field.
No. 499650 ID: d6ef5d

...why the sudden interest in killing the miklik? Our aim is to get away and leave them fruitlessly searching the wrong area for us, not to fight our way out and leave a trail of bodies to follow.

I mean, sure, if he's in our way, we can shoot him. If we find the gas generators, we'll blow them. But if the miklik was guarding them, we'd have been close enough for us to hear them, I'd think. (Or for Viln to notice the higher concentration of bad air).
No. 499651 ID: 450660


Not sure what to say for your next move aside from "get the fuck out of there". We should consider them as compromised like the zombies from before, but I don't know how likely it will be to recover them without either taking out Four Stripes or findings some kind of magical panacea.

As for the cool goo-bomb? I think it's something to the spirit of napalm or similar: a viscous, highly sticky material that catalyzes with <atmosphere> in an explosive manner. That or some kind of stable, liquid explosive compound that requires a starter that is embedded in the round. Who knows. Cool either way and may be handy to keep around.

Roast Salikai, anyone?
No. 499652 ID: b33427

It's 'cause the miklik might not be guarding gas generators, but something bigger like a major radio or empathic relay from the salikai's base up to the higher levels. Take that out and Four Stripes' control over the bugged neumono in this area, and possibly the areas above, will be severed. It'd also break the salikai's communications to their forces around here as well. That'd severely hamper them.

However, we shouldn't go in without checking first. Polo should sprint up there, with Viln in tow, and shove her knife out there to completely check the area, even if it catches the attention of the miklik. If it's not the gas generator, or more than the gas generator, then take down the miklik and any other guards that are there. If it's just the gas generator, or not anything that looks like communications equipment, then do a fighting retreat and get out of the area, back to the river.
No. 499656 ID: b33427

Okay, actually, forget going for the miklik. If it isn't want I hope it is, then we're screwed, and we don't have the time to check if it is. We'll have other chances in the future to search out for such things. And even if it was a major relay, taking it out wouldn't stop the enemy from advancing on their last orders, and knowing where we are.

As long as Rokann is in this area, they'll know we're here 'cause of her bugs. We have to get her away from here and out of range of any relays, otherwise you'll never be able to evade the enemy.

Head back towards the river and punch through there; You know the terrain there, so you're not working at a disadvantage on that front. Put yourself on point, outside of the jammer so you can sense any un-jammed neumono coming. Keep Viln behind and within sight of you, armed with both the gel launcher and a heavy MG. If you encounter forces too strong to take out by yourself or with the help of Viln's MG, use the gel launcher on them. Only use the gel launcher to cause a cave-in if there's just too many enemies coming, and there's only one way in. Otherwise, evade.
No. 499673 ID: c4e5c2
File 136308212155.png - (44.51KB , 700x700 , 212.png )

"How is your shoulder, Marra?"
She gives a thumbs up, with the shot shoulder for reinforcement.

I look at the helmets of the hunter and giant while they blindly move. They are bent, broken and charred, but it's possible that whatever computer chips make up its computer systems were lucky and well protected and still have the data. I have Marra help me yank them off of their heads, making sure Viln and Katzati are nearby in case they put up a fight. They don't. We put the helmets in the crew's backpacks. Marra keeps the gel launcher, Katzati holds onto the giant's machine gun. They are far too large for me to wield effectively.

I put my hand on one of the hunters that gets held down by Viln. I sense Four Stripes. There must be a relay of some kind nearby, but as usual, it is likely far too tiny and well hidden to be worth looking for.

"Everyone stick close and turn the jammer range down, I'll be leading ahead by around 10 meters to sense other neumono. Viln, stick between me and the crew."

We head back the way we originally came to try to push back out. I don't wish to waste time with the miklik, unless it charges us.

Once we reach the intersection, I sense 3 neumono coming quickly from, once again, the northeast tunnel around a bend. Or rather, I sense three neumono being conducted by Four Stripes. He seems agitated. I imagine reinforcements will be trickling in rather than in one big wave.

We can pass onward to the southwest without their notice, and if so, we might not have to fight them at all. Unless they somehow know where we are trying to go and don't go to the disabled neumono first, or if we have to retreat back to the downward hole again, we would probably run into them. These are risks, and there is merit in trying to neutralize them here instead of taking a chance, however small, of getting surrounded with them at our rear later.
No. 499674 ID: f2c20c

I really want to take them out with their helmets mostly-intact. Get Viln in a good ambush position behind you which lets you provide some covering fire, or something. If the others can also contribute while staying in the jammer, they should. Open fire with AP rounds as soon as they're within the field of fire. He should use his HMG, not the explosive launcher, unless you feel like ruining more valuable gear and possibly triggering an avalanche.

I think we've discovered a weakness in the bugs' mind control. They don't make very good tactical decisions on the fly! Or maybe Four Stripes is just bad at it.
No. 499675 ID: 8b9215

Gel launcher, Giant's MG, Viln's MG, Rifle HE rounds, and whatever else we have. Set up a firing squad.

Four Stripes is going to be even more agitated soon.
No. 499676 ID: 04b86a

If it weren't for the fact that it'd reveal our location and use up a perfectly good surprise that we could save for when we can actually see Four Stripe's face, I'd suggest we release our silence and just focus on Four Stripes for a few moments to see how much more agitated we can make him.

Ah, well, unless we suddenly feel like being crazy reckless I say we ambush the oncoming neumono and try to get an undamaged helmet. Maybe we can make the reveal after we've taken out this group?
No. 499681 ID: f2c20c

I just had two great ideas.

One. Can we use a jammer to interrupt Four Stripes' control? Have a jammer turned up right when the action starts to encompass the incoming Hunters. Even if it gives us a fraction of a second of distraction, it would be a significant advantage. Imagine it as if we interrupt their train of thought in the middle of battle, so they forget that they're fighting for a second.

Two. Can we alter one of the jammers to scramble the bugs? Stands to reason that if the bugs make neumono more vulnerable to the Four Stripes relay, we can make a countermeasure. This would allow us to both quickly get Rokann back in operation AND recruit infected Hunters.
No. 499688 ID: d6ef5d

>Can we use a jammer to interrupt Four Stripes' control?
No. We just tested this. The whole group, jammer included, was there with the two downed hunters. But Polo was still able to sense four stripes when she touched one of them. (Apparently using physical contact to bypass jamming is a thing now?).

>Can we alter one of the jammers to scramble the bugs?
Long term? Possibly. The bugs do have a communication network of some kind- potentially it could be jammed. Short term, no- that would take time and experimentation for Korli to work out (possibly longer than the time it would take to debug Rokann, and with no guarantee of working). And even if if we got it working it wouldn't change the fact that the bugs still have direct hardware access to their hosts- they'd probably still be in control.

>More hunters
Blargh, I'd prefer just to get the heck out of here and not risk anyone in our party getting injured and slowing us down, but if everyone seems gung-ho on hitting them (mapping data, making sure we aren't pursued) let's do this right, and set up a proper, coordinated ambush (I assume we have time for that?).

Polo, don't worry about explosive ammo and keeping precious helmets intact. There's three of them- you're not going to shoot all three of them in the face (some will go down to other fire). Taking down the enemy quickly and expediently (no matter which ammo is right for the job) is the order of the day.
No. 499692 ID: fcbc5f

go down the path you said they might not follow you maybe.
No. 499699 ID: 5bf190

I think they have a limit on what they can do. Being planted with bugs lets them leave standing orders, and they can relay orders to the bugs with radio, but the bugs have only so much memory, so they can only be pre-set with a relatively modest list of ready commands. For anything with any complexity, they need to use Four Stripes, and there's a limit to what he can manage at once.

That's still a lot, but at least we're not having to deal with an unlimited supply of perfect puppets. And if you get your enemies into a jammer, they should become predictable. So long as you live long enough to find out what "predictable" is.
No. 499701 ID: d6ef5d

The jammer. Does not. Block four stripes.

We just tested this.
>I put my hand on one of the hunters that gets held down by Viln. I sense Four Stripes.

He can still control the hunters through the bugs, even while the hunters are within the radius of a jammer. Jamming the neumono-wireless doesn't stop him from abusing his direct line.

...and even if they were cut off from him? The bugs don't need to do anything that complex- they just need to convince the hunters they're looking at an enemy (which is what Rokann described happening to her) and let the hunter's own training and experience fighting come into play.

So wait. Polo's Polo, Marra's a soldier, Rokann is out of commission, Viln has a big gun but no experience with it, Korli, Katzati and Kork are basically civilians. Wasn't sure if Lucera was civilian or military inspector, but he at least seems competent with a weapon.

Half of our available people aren't trained for this. If we do this, we need to be careful and set it up right, or we're going to hurt ourselves more than removing some pursuit or gaining maps will help.
No. 499729 ID: 0e95bf


This depends on how near Viln and Katzati were.


POLO, can you confirm you were within Jammer range while touching the compromised neumono? If so, then the bugs themselves may be acting as a relay system, and everything that could entail.
No. 499733 ID: 78c6ea

What was Marra shot with? If I recall, ballistic projectiles are a viable bug delivery method.
No. 499792 ID: d6ef5d

...that's enough to merit an x-rayed glance her way, although it's unlikely the Salikai have been able to equip the hunters with infestation round launchers or anything yet- presumably they're using their own gear.

You do know you can delete posts if you want to completely change your game plan?

...and that sounds needlessly complicated, splits us up unnecessarily, plans on attacking a drone that could be anywhere right now (all we know is it's not within earshot) and nothing like a simple ambush. Which involved hiding behind cover, letting the enemy come to you, and then shooting them when they don't expect it. Done right and with a little care (we've got several military peeps here, they gotta know how to set an ambush) that should do the job fine.
No. 499795 ID: b33427

Alright, fine! You're right! My plans are too fuckin' complicated and make too many damn assumptions. I'm throwin' them out. We're going with a simple ambush here, for real.

Polo, Viln, and Marra on the corner. Viln and Marra with big MGs, Polo with her rifle as usual. Polo watches 'round the corner with her knife. As soon as the enemy rounds the bend she pegs the most dangerous target in the head with an explosive round. At the same time Marra and Viln lean out and open up full-auto with the big MGs. Shoot until enemy is incapacitated. There. Simple.

What's the range on the x-ray goggles? Could Marra wear them to target these enemies in the dark?

They didn't appear to have anything that could launch a mind-bug, but if the shot wasn't through and through, check with the x-ray. It could also be a tracker round, if it's too small to be a bug.
No. 499797 ID: f2c20c

>the jammer didn't block Four Stripes
Wait, how is that possible? He shouldn't be able to connect at all without an empathic link, unless the bugs are hijacking it and transmitting/receiving over a different method like radio? In that case, why is Rokann not being taken over by Four Stripes?
No. 499798 ID: b33427

The bugs are acting like an empathic relay, which, from what we've seen, converts neumono empathic signals into a form that can be transmitted electronically, including by radio, and converted back to empathic signals. Since the bugs are in direct contact with their neumono hosts, the empathic link isn't blocked by the jammers, similar to when Katzati and Polo could form a weak link while they were in a jamming field just by Katz putting her hand on Polo's head. So all Four Stripes needs to take control is for the bugs to get within range of a salikai radio relay.

Rokann probably is or was taken over by Four Stripes. Why he made her only eat her gag and breathe in the hallucinogenic gas is a mystery. Maybe the gas screwed up the bugs control over here? Who knows.
No. 499799 ID: d6ef5d

Four Stipes might just be limiting himself to personally controlling people in a position to do something he sees as useful. It could be he doesn't care to micro-manage trying to get our mostly immobile prisoner messing us up, preferring to manage the people shooting at us instead (from a personality perspective, aggression seems much more his style than subtlety, or manipulation. I could see trying to get at us from Rokann's position being frustrating for him).

It could also be our debugging is a problem for him. Maybe there needs to be a certain number of bugs in a person to process the bandwidth of Four Stripes assuming direct control, and Rokann is now below that threshold?
No. 500168 ID: c4e5c2
File 136337704249.png - (29.20KB , 700x700 , 213.png )

When I touched the hunters to get a feel for them, I was within the jammer. I am thinking that Four Stripes is somehow able to control the neumono's empathy, at least on an individual level, through a bug's non-empathic links. I am still certain they are not flawless, although it may be some time before I am able to get a concrete idea of how this works, and whether flaws are because Four Stripes is no tactical commander, or because the bugs are flawed.

Marra was shot with a regular bullet. She did not get injected with bugs, and the range on our normal x-ray goggles are sufficiently long, so Marra will use them.

There are some dips that act as trenches slightly around the southwest. Marra, Kort, Viln with Rokann, and Katzati move in, while I remain behind the corner just out of jammer rance. Lucera and Korli move back east out of combat with the second jammer.

Everyone gets in position and turns off the lights. Four stripes appears to dim down. I still sense him, but the other neumono are more or less in command, as much as they can be, anyway, of themselves. And they think something is wrong.

>"54, come in. Aqua Queen, come in..."

They start getting their weapons. Katzati still has the gel launcher. I may want to give her the command to use it. As risky as it is between caveins and loss of helmet data, they may not be sufficiently caught off guard.
No. 500170 ID: 8b9215

No. 500198 ID: d6ef5d

Meh, between the three of them, odds are one of the helmets will be useable if you gel them once. And we can't afford to get our people hurt holding back in a fight (intel won't help us if we can't move, or move quickly). As for cave ins, I think it's a low risk- we've moved away from the damaged area, and that place weathered 3 explosions. Katzati's the terrain person though, isn't she? If the area looked unstable to her, I'm sure she'd be smart enough not to fire it.

Take 'em down, coordinated fire. Again, we're going for disable rather than kill, but don't hold back.

If possible, after the fight (assuming nothing goes horribly wrong), when you're looting helmets and guns and stuff, see if you can replace the missing arm piece of your armor that got broke with one of theirs.

Note to self- these guys all wear armor like yours. Make sure you never put yourself in a situation where your friends are going to mistake you for one of them.
No. 500201 ID: 9ddf68

well are you still trying not to kill them? if so I say use your gun (AP ammo) IF you're still in the gas filled part of the cave and just try and brake there breathing unites. well it probably won't stop them from being a threat I don't think they will be as effective if they're gassed up, and unless they store there mapping units in there mouth piece this gives you the best chance to grab one.
If you're not in a gas part of the cave or just don't really think that getting out of here without shedding some blood is possible then just gel the crap out of them and hope something remains when your done.
Or you could just let them pass and try and sneak behind them and go down that tunnel. I mean they're a hunter hive I really don't think they would expect the prey they're tracking to just slip past them so it could give you some breathing room for a little bit.
No. 500216 ID: f2c20c

Hmm. Alright, I agree. I expected them to continue rushing in and fall directly into our ambush, so this isn't as optimal a situation.

Just be sure to use conventional ammo after the initial blast, so that we get at least one intact helmet.
No. 500224 ID: b33427

Dangit. Four Stripes has a little more sense than we thought; He gave them back enough control to use their own, better, judgment, and they didn't just rush into our ambush.

We might be able to take them with just guns, but the risk with that is if even one of them lobs a grenade into our cluster of unarmored folks, we're screwed. We'd also be screwed if Viln gets a bullet to the brain, or if our group takes too much fire from them and can't get away. It's looking like the gel launcher is the safest option in this case, even if it does leave us with less loot afterwards.

Gesture to Katzati to use the gel launcher, but to aim behind them wherever the gel will land closest to them. That way the blast will carry them forward, out where the rest of the group can shoot them if need be. It also will put the brunt of the blast at the backs of their armor and helmets, the visors will be more likely to come out intact. And if there is a cave-in, they'll be blown away from it on our side, instead of being crushed or thrown back where we can't reach them.
No. 500229 ID: f2c20c

Hang on a second. Aqua Queen? Did you just take down a Queen?! That must've been the smaller one, come to think of it, if Aqua is the name of their hive and water-attuned neumono tend to have flat ears.
No. 500231 ID: 155aa5


Aqua Queen is most likely just referring to a squad leader or officer.

Aqua would be the squad / division name and Queen would be the commander of it, rather than an actual Hive-Queen.
No. 500233 ID: 7b3680

don't interrupt him mid-comm. wait until after he talks with base to blow them all.
No. 500885 ID: c4e5c2
File 136364406013.png - (34.86KB , 800x800 , 214.png )

>Did you take down a queen?
Of a minihive. If it follows a similar structure, then every giant is or was a queen of their hive of about 8 or so neumono. It is not an accomplishment comparatively to Rokoa's queen, and nor was this queen particularly strong empathy wise.

That was all I could hear out of their communications. They start getting close. One of us must have been poking their heads out while the enemy either has some good eyesight or flipped to thermal.

>"Contact!" one yells.
"Katz, Gel!" I yell, and I hear a yelp from Katzati, but she was able to fire fine just before she gets shot in the head . She must have aimed high in fear that she would make it land too close to us, but having the explosion come behind them is perfectly fine. They get launched forward while the rest of us open fire on the unfortunate enemy who somehow managed to stay clumped together while getting knocked off balance.

Marra or someone turns on our light so the majority of us can fire back. I fire a few AP rounds. 12 shots with that ammo remain, and I swap out of night vision.
No. 500886 ID: c4e5c2
File 136364407380.png - (22.11KB , 800x800 , 215.png )

I end up on thermal vision.
No. 500887 ID: 76b151

Cloaked enemies! dodge! Aim at the one near the center of those being shot. Then draw your pistol, to get the one near you.
No. 500895 ID: d6ef5d

>Katz gets shot in the head
Oh, fuck. That's gonna mess her up. Even if she didn't lose an eye or anything, she isn't one of these crazy Rokoa tough people. She's out of this fight, and she'll be slowed down as we move- that's real unfortunate considering her size (might need Viln to help her walk or something, he's the only one bug enough for it).

...to say nothing of the fact it's unfortunate the cuddly non-soldier had to catch a round.

>Cloaked foes
Goddamn. Visual cloaking suits? At least that probably means they aren't heavily armored.

Dodge and start shooting the ones trying to flank you. Either explode them, or swap to the pistol and rapid fire. Yell to warn Viln and Marra of the one approaching on their left (maybe Viln's eyes will be good enough to see it? Or his improved nose will tell him where to shoot).
No. 500899 ID: 9ddf68

Well those invisible enemies are the most immediate threat right now so I say deal with the one trying to gut you and warn Viln that an invisible guy is about to try and flay him alive.
No. 500905 ID: 8b9215

Yell Cloakers and fire at them specifically. "Mark" each one with an HE round so your allies can see them.

Don't worry about collateral. It's better that allies are wounded than dead.
No. 500911 ID: d6ef5d

>Don't worry about collateral. It's better that allies are wounded than dead.
Collateral is still a bad thing. Wounded allies slow us down and put the whole group at risk (and limit the manpower and skills at our disposal). The whole goal here is to shut down the enemy as quickly as possible with as little collateral damage on our side as possible. We don't have to win this one battle- we're in this for the long haul.

And I think High Explosive rounds would do more than "mark" the enemy, judging by the last guy their size we shot. I'm not sure if Polo can bring her rifle to bear quickly enough on the people flanking her though, use it effectively at that range. The pistol may be a better choice. (I'll leave that call to her to make though).
No. 500916 ID: f2c20c

Shoot the one about to hit Viln, first. Dodge the one next to you and shoot it next.
No. 500956 ID: f59095

for the love of god warn Viln of the invisible guy to his left
No. 500962 ID: f2c20c

I disagree with using HE rounds. They have cloaking tech which we should STEAL.
No. 501027 ID: c4e5c2
File 136367932186.png - (16.60KB , 700x700 , 216.png )

"Cloaked enemy, at your left and front, Viln!" I say, shooting it.

It did, however, throw some kind of dart at Marra even as I hit it. While if I shot an HE round, it may have failed, the neumono was close enough to Viln and the others that it would almost certainly injure them. I hit it with an AP round instead, messing its cloaking up enough for Viln to see.
No. 501028 ID: c4e5c2
File 136367934341.png - (12.08KB , 932x700 , 217.png )

I get the shot off just in time to manage dodging the knife strike from the cloaker by me. I go for my pistol. She goes for something as well, perhaps a pistol as well. Marra turns the machine gun on my assailant, thankfully with good aim.
No. 501029 ID: 155aa5

We should probably tell Marra to just go ahead and rip that entire ear off, with great haste.

It's either a toxin, a tracer, a bug, or some of the nanites inside the bugs for temporary control.
No. 501030 ID: 57a559

X-ray! X-ray!
Wait, how many are left?
No. 501031 ID: 8b9215

Tell Marra to rip off her ear that got hit with that dart.
No. 501041 ID: f2c20c

Whatever it's got, do not get hit by it, or at least not with your bad arm. Be agile. Stay on the defensive.
No. 501046 ID: fb528f

I hope we can steal that guy's cloaking device. Shoot his eyes then break out the knife to finish him hopefully his bugs aren't responsible for the cloaking.
No. 501049 ID: bf0685

yeah as nasty as it may be, prompt ear removal would probably be best, also dispite only seeing their highlights through the visor, does anything stand out off that could be ripped off that could be generating the cloaking field around them? if not, try destroying their neck, remove the head from the body
No. 501057 ID: d6ef5d

Huh. Cloaking field of some kind, not a suit. Means it might be lootable, although it seems to preclude them wearing even bioarmor. Nos sure trading both layers of armor for cloaking that can be seen through would be worth it.

Still, we can't worry about trying to take equipment until we've got them all down.

That's 2 of the cloakers down. There should be a third near you, Polo. Gun it down while yelling for Marra to get that dart (and or ear) off before it does whatever it's supposed to do.
No. 501069 ID: 450660


Scan for possible compromise. If so, remove ear ... surgically, jeez.

If not, keep an eye on her. It's likely designed as a sedative. They probably are just trying to drug the hell out of you guys, bring you in, and do whatever it is salikai do.
No. 501072 ID: d6ef5d

...or, in a bout of absurd irony, the dart contains a drug to break mind control. Because the hunters came prepared to fight the salikai, don't know they're compromised, and they think we're fighting them because we are.
No. 501094 ID: 9ddf68

if we brought all of them down start looting them and moving on and don't forget to see who got hurt in the fight and how bad
No. 501103 ID: c7b0d3

No. 501112 ID: c4e5c2
File 136371998742.png - (29.35KB , 700x700 , 218.png )

"Marra! Rip your ear off!"
>"What?! What do you thi-"

"It could be anything! Slice your damn ear off!" I yell with no small amount of urgency in my voice while I start shooting the cloaker. It's like I'm wasting ammo without how much she cares. Marra is forced to reload. I checked Marra with my x-ray, and although there are no bugs or anything weird I can see, I do not feel relieved.

The cloaker by me pulls out a grenade while dropping her knife and tearing her face cloth off. She sticks the grenade in her mouth, and proceeds to try and grapple me even as I shoot. She's going suicidal.

She is blocking my view of what the other cloaker is doing, but the normal hunters appear to be down and out.
No. 501113 ID: 9ddf68

she hasn't grabbed you yet, jump out of the way and keep rolling away until you hear a boom. then help finish off that last cloaked guy before we loot and run.
No. 501114 ID: fb528f

Kneecap her and get as far away as possible. You may lament the loss of a cloaking device only after the grenade detonates.
No. 501115 ID: 450660


Well, there goes that theory. Damn. You could try to incapacitate, but I've a feeling that Four Stripes is ready to have them all suicide if need be. Best option is probably evasion.
No. 501116 ID: c7b0d3

kick her in the face.
No. 501118 ID: d6ef5d

Hmm. Actually, that cloaking material is looking more like some kind of skintight suit or painted on coating now. Looking pretty ruined, too. I doubt we're looting any of the stealth gear, even without the grenade.

After action, if Marra voices any complaint, tell her, complete deadpan, if you turn out to be wrong and the dart was harmless after all, that you will gladly tear off your own ear to make it up to her when this is all over.

(I mean, it has to be a drug or implant or something nasty. A tracker dart wouldn't be worth using on a neumono, since they can just cut it out. And using a dart for damage is even more pointless).

Damn. And here I was hoping not to kill any of them. Crazy bitch.

You need to get the hell out of the blast radius. Is suggest jumping and rolling backwards, possibly even firing your grapple behind you like a hookshot to pull yourself out of range. As you do so, shoot the crazy one on one side of her jaw. If you break the jaw or the attaching joint, the grenade should fall free, and maybe she'll only half kill herself.

Be sure to yell "grenade!" as you do, so your allies aren't caught off guard. You'll have to rely on Viln or someone to shoot the third cloacker you can't see.
No. 501121 ID: 04b86a

>I could find a good little poison to knock out a neumono without that troublesome empathy linkup getting in the way.
It's a good thing that hit Marra in the ea-

>Nuemono is practically ignoring bullets
Oh. Oh. Use the dart on her-

>Grenade in mouth
Oh. Never mind about the dart. There's only a few seconds until it goes off, so I guess you should either dive away from her or try to rush past her.
No. 501140 ID: 69aeea

Smack her with the gun so that the grenade goes down. Even humans have had a grenade go off inside them without anything getting out to damage someone else (there have been some suicide bombers who rather tragilariously underestimated their own bodies), so she should take enough of the blast to stop you taking damage. You might even be able to salvage her suit and anything else she has.
No. 501175 ID: f2c20c

Judo flip! Toss her somewhere unimportant.
No. 501192 ID: d6ef5d

>face kick
>judo flip her
Don't do anything that involves getting closer to her. Those tactics might work, except you're pretty small (and at a mechanical disadvantage), and you've trained for evading larger opponents and grapples, not for offensive close combat. The consequences for screwing up would be disastrous (grenade at close range would wreck your gear, and put you out of it for days, provided you survive), and for all we know, suicide girl here is an expert grappler.
No. 501204 ID: 35037c

Holy shit, run like the wind Bulls-eye!
No. 501210 ID: c4e5c2
File 136374390033.png - (57.12KB , 700x700 , 219.png )

I shoot her kneecap then pistol whip the grenade, trying to get her to jam the grenade in her throat or something, although she's biting tight, and I effectively pistol whip her teeth. I also have to retract early to avoid a grab on my arm, as while she is not massive, she is still a step above me, and getting grabbed here will either mean death and getting put out of commission for days, which may, if my group is unable to escape, may end up worse than death if the salikai get a hold of me.

"Grenade!" I yell and, during that, I use my other hand, to grapple to another rock and reel myself away. I keep my sniper under my elbow just to make sure she can't use it on my in the last seconds and ruin it.

She chases me, and she is fast even with a crippled knee. I'm not going to get out of the blast entirely, but once I run with the grappling hook, I am mostly out of it.

She decides instead to spit it back out and try to throw it.
No. 501211 ID: c4e5c2
File 136374391365.png - (30.60KB , 700x700 , 220.png )

But it explodes just after it leaves her hand, closer to her than me. I get knocked under some rocks, and I hear another grenade explode back at the group.

>"Polo!" I hear Marra yell.
"I'm fine! Are you?"
>"Yeah, I threw the fucker!" It would be nice if I could just 'throw' someone several meters away.

I do not see a third cloaker, although in retrospect it did look like there were three inconsistencies that I blankly ignored over 3 hunters coming down the path. Either way, I think the third cloaker is gone, at least from my vicinity, and it looks like we have a moment's peace.
No. 501212 ID: f2c20c

Check your gun while getting over to Katzati and the others. While I'm sure she can survive, can we keep her operational with our medical supplies?

Keep the infrared on and scout further down the passage where they came from, if we're not needed to help Katz. It's quite possible the gel knocked a third cloaked hunter back.
No. 501214 ID: d6ef5d

>3rd cloaker?
Uh, looking at the reveal again, I think what I though was two people flanking you might only have been one? Either way, we'll just keep an eye out with IR from now on.

Still, cloaked ninjas with nasty darts and willing to resort to suicide tactics when pressed? Not fun.

>What do?
Assess your own people first. Someone check out Katzati (she needs first aid at least, and we need her ready to move and function, or someone helping her move), and Marra needs to take that ear off (it has to be drugged or something. What would be the odds they would bother with harmless darts? Use the line from here >>501118). Double check yourself for injury, too.

Then grab what we can off the enemies. Replace your damaged armor piece if possible, loot weapons and supplies, and get their mapping doodads. Stealth suits look torn to hell, unfortunately.

If Katz is up to it, we need her going through and integrating the enemy map data. Be wary of the a virus or CAI trap or something- we can't afford to lose what maps we do have.

And we need to be on the move as soon as possible.
No. 501220 ID: fb528f

Get a closer look at what the cloakers were wearing and see if the material shows up on x-ray while you're at it.
No. 501224 ID: 9ddf68

check your group to see how hurt they are and then get to looting anything of value from your attackers. Also grab on of those darts and Marra's ear she tore off and see if we can't get Korli to see what those darts do.
No. 501279 ID: 2595b0

scan the area with infrared, and if you're in the clear, check the situation with the team. is everyone okay?
No. 501310 ID: c4e5c2
File 136380712410.png - (26.05KB , 700x700 , 221.png )

I check the cloaker cloth with x-ray. It shows up dimly, and I doubt it would completely hide the skeleton underneath. Still, thermal is the most visible. I keep thermal on for the cleanup in case another stalker is around, but it is not hanging around the corner I was blown into, nor around the vicinity.

I find an armor piece in my range of sizes, and can size it down to fit on my arm. I also make sure to get my guns back. 9 shots left for my pistol, 11 AP and 8 HE for my sniper.

"Katzati, how are you?"
She starts to nod, but then shakes her head. All of her is shaking, in fact.
"... hang in there. Do you need help walking?"
Her head shakes again slower, this time.
It does not look like it hit her eye, but grazed through her head at the side. "I'll patch you up. It looks like the bullet went through, so surgery is unnecessary. Korli, what do you think was in this dart? The first salikai I met said he could make a knockout fluid, but if it is, then it was not good enough for Marra."
She shrugs, then forms sign language to say that she will take a look at it later. It would have been nice if these gasmasks also allowed the wearer to speak.

I appear uninjured. Marra had another grazing shot on her arm. And although she does not look happy, she does not voice any complaint after all about her ear. So, I do not make any promises that I'll tear off my own ear if I was wrong about her having to do so. Not like I would during our mission here, as self mutilation for 'fairness' would be terribly misguided right about now.

Viln also got shot in the neck, but again only at the side and nowhere critical. Although the bullet is still inside, so I will need to pull it out at some point before he regenerates too much.

The thrown stalker that suicided made an explosion that threw a rock right at Kort's jaw, but it did not break.

>"We have to get moving." says Lucera.
No. 501311 ID: d6ef5d

Oh, right, we're still inside the gas cloud. Another reason those hunters might have been willing to resort to suicide so quickly (besides the bugs and four stripes). Who knows what they were seeing.

Lucerra's right. We need our people patched up and on the move as soon as possible. You could ride with Viln and pull that bullet out of him, although you're probably more useful on point, outside of the jammer bubble to try and pick up hunters and scouting threats ahead of the group.

Hopefully we've made enough of a hole now that we can slip the cordon of hunters closing in without more combat, and get above the gas. Then we need to find a place to hide so injured people can recuperate, and Katzati can process the stolen map data (gotta be careful it doesn't contain CAI protection or a virus or something that would wipe the maps we do have).

Any useable ammunition to grab? We're getting kind of low. There were several pistols on those guys, at least. They should have clips, right? And check for mapper things! Katzati might not be up for it right now, but they should come in handy later.
No. 501312 ID: f2c20c

Alright. Loot guns, ammo, grenades, and nav systems. See if you can figure out if the cloaking devices are useful for any of you, and if so, grab 'em. First priority is getting clear of the area so we aren't attacked again. Second priority is getting an updated map.

Marra was talking a bit- does she need some clean air? She should borrow a mask if so.
No. 501314 ID: 9ddf68

ok then we need to keep going forward or at least where we haven't been already, preferably up but I'm not sure if we have that luxury and maybe if we do find the salikai base they could have left the inside of the base ungased. But that's probably just wishful thinking on my part
No. 501319 ID: 78c6ea

Keep the ear. Someone might be able to eat it before it goes bad.
No. 501322 ID: d6ef5d

...the ear we suspect is darted full of poison and/or drugs? No. That's not smart.
No. 501354 ID: 8b9215

Loot and scoot.
No. 501389 ID: 2595b0


we could make some really metal socks out of it though. I still say we keep it.

continue down the side tunnel you took just now.
No. 501398 ID: c4e5c2
File 136382528899.png - (27.75KB , 700x700 , 222.png )

We loot what we can, I am sure to get the guns that still have ammunition. I find a pack of 24 bullets from them that can be used for our pistols, but otherwise their gear is ruined. The hunters had submachine guns with some ammo remaining, and one grenade is found. The load is still light enough for us to move steadily, even with wounded.

"We'll move out. Viln, I am going to remove your bullet later, but for now I will take point as usual, outside of the jammer bubble." We will keep Marra's ear. It is unsafe to eat, but we might be able to patch clothes with it. "Marra, you were talking. Did you breathe at all?"
I will have to take her word for it that she can speak so much without drawing breathe, but we swap gas masks around again anyway.

I head out of the jammer bubble and start moving. I sense a faint neumono. It is not far away, just faint, barely there, dying and confused. It takes me a moment to realize where it's coming from. It is inside the dart. There is conscious neumono brain matter inside of the dart capsule that I kept on my person.
No. 501401 ID: 2595b0

oh that sıck salıkaı motherfuckers are goıng down.

ponder on the ımplıcatıons after everybody ısn't bleedıng anymore.
No. 501405 ID: d6ef5d

>Brain matter dart
...what the fuck.

So they were trying to infect her with foreign memories? Or a personality? It was a subversion or conversion tool? That's... pretty fucked up. Would that even work? Could as little material as is in the dart even significantly affect a target if absorbed?

We'll tell the other when next we get the chance- I'm sure Marra will be glad she got that out of her after all. Maybe Korli will have some insight- I'm pretty sure her hive or the salikai have conducting grafting or memory experiments (I mean, c'mon, they do specialize in mind control tech).

Like we really needed another form of mind control, though. And one that's subtler, harder to detect, and possibly impossible to reverse once successful.

>What do?
Keep moving. We've got a cordon to slip, gas to escape, and a tired, injured troop we need to find a safe place to hole up for.

...unless you're afraid Marra is compromised already? Then we might want to tell them first. I would think the memory implant wouldn't have had time to get past her ear before she severed it, but you would know your own biology better than I would.

You've been relying on your reserves in your airtight helmet, and breath holding. How long till that runs out and you'd have to join the gas mask rotation?
No. 501406 ID: 9ddf68

I have not idea what that would mean if it got inside of someone but I can't believe it would be good.
also once again salıkaı have proven to be sick fucks. Do you have any idea what would happen if this got injected into someone?
No. 501407 ID: eb682d


Anyway, try to keep this on a need to know basis, we don't need any big hits to our team's morale, especially Katz who has been doing pretty badly ever since things first went south.
No. 501427 ID: f2c20c

Tell Marra what they were trying to inject her with.

Hey, we're not leaving any blood trails are we? Make sure nobody's dripping.
No. 501430 ID: e081fd

So they are doing biological warfare...using your own biology.

Hell, it probably has something in there to amplify the effect and make it able to hijack her, or was meant to cause temporary insanity and memory merge to break up the team dynamic.

Fucking Salikai, I vote we tell the group of this, especially Marra, because it was in there for a few moments, she might start showing some of the effects, like paranoia.
No. 501437 ID: fb528f

Check Marra's ear for the wound where that dart hit. As long as it didn't hit near any veins or arteries she should be in the clear.
No. 501439 ID: d6ef5d

Actually, you guys are overlooking the darker possibility. That these darts are something the hunters came up with on their own. Assimilation rounds based off basic neumono biology, that only take low tech surgery to manufacture.

Perfect for neumono on neumono conflict.

...although, maybe they had a more benign reason for bringing this kind of gear on this mission? If they expected to be fighting enemy mind control, it sort of makes sense as a counter measure- their own mind control to try and restore compromised hivemates? Suicide troopers also look less dark if they were training and preparing to keep themselves from being compromised. Too bad none of it worked.
No. 501440 ID: e081fd


I'm sure that if the Hunter hive came up with those, they would have quite possibly every other Hive out there, not just the Ultra-Hive, ready with an axe, it's hard to keep stuff like that secret when it's quite honestly an abomination against the species.
No. 501444 ID: 04b86a

I doubt that that little brain matter would be any good at altering someone's mind. It possibly could, sure, but the memories encoded in it would have to be very specific to even have a chance at having any meaningful effect.

I think it might actually be a tracker of some sort, for use against non-neumono or neumono who can hide their link without a jammer that the dart user doesn't expect to be able to subdue.

Or maybe the tissue's been engineered to produce some sort of toxin. That could be useful, and is a lot more feasible than using it as an empathy beacon.
No. 501454 ID: f2c20c

I'd like to point out that the hunter hive isn't using jammers. Could we take Marra out of the jammer to check her empathic signature to make sure she's not compromised?
No. 501456 ID: f2c20c

Oh. Wait, they are sortof using jammers. Those cloaked Neumono had no empathic signature.
No. 501458 ID: d6ef5d

During the battle, that's because they were within the range of our jammer (we would have had it covering the field of the ambush, so the hunters wouldn't sense our allies lying in wait as they approached). Before that, when Polo sensed enemies approaching, they were either out of range, under one of their jammers, or pinged as just another hunter.

I don't think Polo knows Marra well enough to pick up on what is probably a small and subtle change (if there even is any), and it's not worth the risk of exposing the group to detection.
No. 501482 ID: 8b9215

Don't tell anyone right now.
No. 501493 ID: b33427

That is... bizarre, to say the least. Though since it's salikai tech it should be considered dangerous, even though you can't see the reason for it. Cover the needle point for now, just to make sure it doesn't accidentally inject you or anyone else.

Fall back to the group and hand the dart over to Korli, telling her what you felt, and that she doesn't have to answer in full right now because of the gas mask, but could she nod if she knows anything about this or not.

Once you're out of the gas, and in relative safety, Korli can step just outside the jammer field while holding the dart just long enough to sense if she recognizes the signature. For all we know, it could be a member of her hive, or someone else she knew.

Make sure that whoever is on rear guard is wearing the x-ray scanner and checking side tunnels as well as behind the group for any oddities. It's no thermals, but it's better than nothing when checking for cloakers.

>Ruined enemy gear
Dammit. Yet another bust on the map front. Were their helmets in worse shape than the two earlier ones that got exploded? Not worth trying to salvage the electronics from?

>Marra's ear
Actually, use this right now to try and figure out what the point of that injector dart is. Jab the dart into the ear, inject it fully, and later on sense what it did. Do it right now, so it'll be doing whatever it does during the time you're traveling. Just keep it within the jammer field, and in a container, to be safe.

Afterwards it'd be safe for Viln to eat, since anything that did get into it would only be hazardous to a neumono. If you wanted to be extra safe, cook it first; That'd destroy or kill anything injected into it.

Actually, it didn't appear that the cloaker fighting Polo gave off an empathic signature until she ripped her cloaking suit. Perhaps Polo could shed some light on when she could sense them, and when she couldn't, just to try and figure out if their cloaking suits either block empathic signals, or act as personal jamming units.
No. 501541 ID: 440525

The legit fuck. We need to tell the team, that is really disturbing.
No. 501766 ID: c4e5c2
File 136398348470.png - (23.90KB , 700x700 , 223.png )

I can hold my breath for a couple of hours, so I still have plenty of time before I will absolutely need to be included in gas mask rotation.

I don't know what getting injected with this would do, or if it would even work. Knowing the salikai, with the neumono that they have, they likely have already tested it. Either it does something, or they were testing it on us. It did not hit any major veins in Marra's ear. I am not terribly worried about Marra's injection as I am about just about absolutely everything else.

>What about the helmets?
Right. We did pick those up. They are in decent condition, and if it is possible to extract map info or anything, it will be off of those.

I drift back into the group and bring Marra and Korli to the side. The jammer's range is increased for the moment so we can keep moving while I speak to them and them alone.

"This dart has living neumono brain matter. I don't know what it does. Korli?"
>"Shit what? Geez, you know, that salikai Rokoa killed on the electric bench that you first met was the most practical of people, he'd have made a plain old knockout fluid. The others go way over the top!" Korli says in sign language.
>"Barely any got in me." states Marra, also in sign.
"I think you'll be fine, but some of us should know."
>"Yeah, uh, I'll definitely try to see what I can once we're in the clear." continues Korli. "Buuut I am betting that it's condensed brain matter that might try to take over its host, but that brain matter would have to be crazy strong to do that. But, uh, yeah, no way that tiny bit that was injected would manage to get out of the ear that quick, and then have enough remaining in Marra to do anything but die off.
No. 501768 ID: c4e5c2
File 136398362640.png - (23.19KB , 700x700 , 224.png )

I put the capsule back my pouch. Neither of them were leaping to offer to hold it themself, and its signature is too weak to give away my location past a few feet. We keep moving.

It's quiet for too long to be comfortable. We are about 2 minutes from the river. The others then look behind them, and I realize that the helicopter drone is coming in from behind us.
No. 501770 ID: f2c20c

Just go shoot it this time. They already know our general location. Use pistol ammo, as we've got a surplus.
No. 501773 ID: d6ef5d

>that salikai Rokoa killed on the electric bench that you first met was the most practical of people
He really was the most reasonable of them. It is a pity she killed him. We were even willing to work with him, for a time. The others are just plain nuts in comparison.

I wonder if that's why he was alone and on the outskirts, instead of inside and well defended like the others? He just didn't fit in with the others. Something maybe to ask Korli about later, once things calm down.

>that brain matter would have to be crazy strong to do that.
It's suped up on some kind of drugs to help with that, I imagine. Also to help keep the sample alive longer.

Evading it, if possible, would be preferable (maybe hiding in the river would work, now that we've lost the bird thing). Let them go looking the wrong way for us.

If you can't evade it, and we're close the the site of the battle anyways, just shoot it.
No. 501783 ID: 9ddf68

just can't catch a break can you? oh well just see if you can avoid it for now and if not just blow it out of the sky the quietest way you can and start moving double time. with or without that damnable drone they still now your somewhere around there so I think it would be best to not be around there anymore then necessary.
No. 501785 ID: 34f12d

Putting down ten bucks it was extracted from a tumor.

They're giving you brain cancer.
No. 501787 ID: d6ef5d

The biggest danger of encountering (and or killing) the drone isn't getting a fix on our general area (which they already have) but telling them which way we're going.
No. 501847 ID: b33427

Evade the heli-drone, and destroy it if you can't evade it.

If the vital gear, such as the jammers, weapons, and Katzati's laptop, are waterproof or in watertight containers, run to the river and have the group slip into the water; Don't dive, as even a splash would be suspicious. It won't be safe to stay close to the crossing, where there's air over the water, since if the drone flies over you if you stay there you won't have any idea if the group's been spotted or not. You're going to have to swim downstream to at least a point where the ceiling is low enough that the drone can't follow. Might have to swim all the way back to the spot where the camp was and climb out there, if the group can't claw their way back upstream.

However, if important gear wouldn't survive a dunk in the river, you'll have to head down the side tunnel on just this side of the river; You'd cross the river and try to lose the drone in the tunnels on that side, but there's just not enough time. Keep heading down the side tunnel, and if the drone doesn't follow, then turn back and head up again. If it does, then keep going, taking random branches, until you lose it, or it catches up and you have to either destroy it or capture it.

It's very likely that this flying drone is being controlled by an autonomous simple AI, since radio doesn't travel far down here. If it's destroyed while out of radio range, you'll have a bit of time until the fact its missing is noticed. Just try not to use a gun at first, since the noise might give you away. Have Viln wait in ambush at a corner, then snatch the drone out of the air, and smash it thoroughly. Then scrap up the pieces and pack them away so there's no sign it was destroyed. If Viln misses, then shoot the drone down.
No. 502327 ID: c4e5c2
File 136425160469.png - (137.04KB , 700x700 , 225.png )

Our gear is waterproof if we have to hide in the water. With the rain, however, the river still moves quickly, and it is relatively clear water anyway. It would be risky even to just dive in to go back to our last camp, and that is assuming the river does not split off somewhere between here and there.

I motion us to evade and pick up the pace. We do so. The sound does not diminish, and we appear to be going at the same pace as it is, but we are nearly at the river anyway. Just before the last bend, there is a neumono with his hands. He has a jammer.

Korli dives in front of me and starts making sign language. It is someone from the her science hive.
No. 502328 ID: 78c6ea

Gun gun gun! He comes no closer. We need info bad, but not bad enough to let him close enough to stab us with neumono brains.
No. 502330 ID: f2c20c

X-ray scan him. If he's not infested, tell him to keep pace with us. Also check his ears for earbuds to make sure he can't just radio in our position. We gotta get away from that drone and make sure it doesn't see this guy, if he is on our side.

Oh, and I have an idea for us to catch a break. Can we go down the river a bit and set up an anchor in the wall or something, which would let us either put a floating platform up to rest or just find a small spot where people can stand against the wall? I doubt they will expect us to stop halfway down the river- they probably expect us to just go downriver until we find another passage. That should buy us some time, and it would be difficult for them to attack us on the river with anything but armed heli-drones.
No. 502331 ID: 76b151

Hes been in the river. Cover him in case things go south but let Korli do her thing. Also remember jammers can be modified into bug relays so have someone watch Rokann as well.

That reminds me do a check on this guy to see if he is bugged.
No. 502333 ID: d6ef5d

Cover him with your handgun, and check him with the x-ray. (I'd kind of suspect they'd bugged the whole science hive. We've seen from Rokann that the bugs have a passive mode- they could just have them sleeping in all the science hivers, and only turn them on if they run or rebel, preventing another Korli or Likol from happening. We might have gotten lucky though?)

If he's clean, bring him with us. We suspect someone from inside was helping us already- the science hive has a propensity to rebel, and someone snuck that voice synth warning in along the radio jamming signal.

See if he has anything to tell us. If he's clean (and not a double agent) he's here to help- he may know something useful to evading our immediate pursuit.
No. 502334 ID: 8b9215

Get your pistol ready. Make some distance between him and you. We are going to have Korli talk to him. Scan him with everything you have.
No. 502335 ID: d6ef5d

Obviously, we need to move/talk fast, since the enemy drone is closing in. We need to know why he sought us out (probably to help) but more importantly, even if he's clean, we need to verify for sure that he's here to help us, and that he's not a Salikai trick. (Ie, send a clean but loyal science hiver to lead us into a trap).

After the bug check, Korli should use physical contact to bypass the jamming so she can read him- as a hivemate she'll know his intentions and if he's lying better than anyone else.
No. 502338 ID: 9ddf68

check him for bugs and if he's clean start moving him and striping him any weapons he might have and have him talk as you walk because that drone isn't going to stop moving just because we want to have a nice friendly chat with Korli's old friend.
No. 502341 ID: 76b151

No talking, that drone could pick it up.
No. 502342 ID: 57a559

Is he her boyfriend?
No. 502345 ID: b33427

Pull you pistol to cover him while doing an X-ray bug check. If he's dirty, then he gets tackled, bound, gagged, and hauled by Viln, same as Rokann.

Even if he's free of bugs remember that it's very likely Four Stripes could brainwash a neumono into being a sleeper agent even without them, given enough time. You're going to need a more careful check of his empathic signature than what can be done with direct contact within a jamming field.

Haul Korli up and over to him and stick her hand against his forehead for a preliminary check. Gesture for the group to stop just as soon as Korli's hivemate is within the group's jammer range. Flip his jammer off, then step outside the jamming field to check for other neumono. If it's clear, pull him and Korli just outside the field, keeping your hand on him so you can sense him as strong as you can for any oddities. Then whisper "which way?" to him, and carefully sense how he responds.

If he checks out, pull him and Korli back into the jamming field and follow his directions and instructions. If he doesn't, then he gets tied up, gagged and thrown over Viln's shoulder.
No. 502405 ID: 6179a7

x-ray goggles, yo.
No. 502436 ID: c4e5c2
File 136433146226.png - (20.31KB , 700x700 , 226.png )

No bugs or abnormalities show up on x ray, thermal or otherwise while I keep a gun trained on him. I motion him to start walking quickly in front of me so we avoid the drone. He has a jammer at his back, and I tell him to reduce its range. He explains it is already minimal, and I check to make sure there are not currently any neumono behind him outside of his field. Physical contact with him yields a plain empathy. Odd, but odd in a strange person kind of way, not an odd in a bugged, artificial way.

Korli says she trusts him. I resist the urge to ask if he is her boyfriend, mostly due to hives not particularly having the concept.

"Where can we go to get out of here?"
>"Down the river. Hello, Korli. Polo, do you have an explosive tooth or some equivalent?"
"A what?"
>"Something to kill yourself with. Unlike the rest of you, Vanski is not after your life, just to make sure that you wish he was. He is no longer reasonable. There is a waterfall at the end of this that goes into a calm lake. I do not know what the wildlife is like around here, and if there is dangerous aquatic life, but the alternative is to get pinned here with salikai forces. They will probably be releasing the spiderbots before too long."
No. 502437 ID: da61c0

before too long? why weren't they released already? i don't trust a thing he says. he might be leading us to a trap.
No. 502441 ID: d6ef5d

If our choices are between going over a waterfall and risking the native wildlife versus getting pinned by enemy forces, the choice isn't that hard. Over the falls we go.

We may also not be completely in the dark in the river- if Voklit have hidden gills than it's likely Viln's been underwater underground before. He likely knows a thing or two about the dangers here.

>suicide option?
...I suppose I've got a grenade, if it comes to that. Otherwise- no. Maybe I'm an optimist after all.

I know we're on the move, and we have little time, but get as much out of him as we can while we're going. He's got fresh intel that we need. (Some of this we're obviously going to have to ask later- once we've reached somewhere safe and can actually talk).

What can he tell us about what's going on? Does he know how far beyond the hunter hiver the Salikai may have compromised? Or even how far in advance they did suborn the hunters?

...and no offense, but why isn't he bugged? Given the science hive's propensity to rebel at the first opportunity, I expected to find the whole hive infested as a backup control mechanism. How did he slip away and get to us ahead of the enemy?

Four Stipes. How closely integrated is he into these new bugs? (Ie, will killing him cripple them, or just limit the effectiveness?). Where are they keeping him?

Location of the Salikai base! And maps, if he's got them.

How's the gas being distributed in the caves? Korli could only speculate, but hard intel might help us do something about it.

Does he know anything about the brain darts?

If Vanski isn't reasonable, are any of the others more so, or afraid of V's course of action? Might it be possibly to play divisions among the salikai against each other?

And his name, naturally.

...we don't have the ammunition to be fighting robots. Nor the right kind of weapons for it, really. We'd be overrun, easily.

Korli's had a chance to read him, and she's a hivemate. If she thinks he's here to help and thinks he's trustworthy, that's the best judge of his intentions we could hope to get.
No. 502442 ID: 9ddf68

fighting wildlife or fighting mind controlled solders and robotic death bugs... I like option A just a bit more, and besides it's not like we have a destination in mind, we're just trying to survive right now and hope we come out of this more or less not dead. But still be careful. I, like anyone else, likes a good Deus ex machina but seeing how nothing has really been going our way as of late I'm a little hesitant to just take anyone into our group just because they say they're a friend, especially when mind control is a fracture. and even if this guy isn't going to stab us in the back he did just say that the wild life here isn't all that friendly either. So I say just grab him and get your group over the falls as that drone is still on your ass and once we're in the 'safety' of the lake then we can play 20 questions.
No. 502443 ID: 57a559

Hey, yo, can we get a sitrep about the bugs? An official sitrep? Like how they got EVERYWHERE, like onto an entire ally hive? How they work? And efficient means of removal? Granted, okay, maybe he's not going to tell us but you know, anything true he would be willing to tell us about those would be awesome.

Yeaaaaaah, that would be great.
No. 502447 ID: f2c20c

I don't think he knows the situation. Inform him that the Salikai already released the bots, on the hunter hive we called as reinforcements. If the Salikai has EVEN MORE of them then well fuck. Also what made him decide to run off from his boss? Also also how long has the Salikai known that we're Polo and not just some other Neumono running around in a silenced biosuit?

We were going down the river anyway, so let's do that. Trust Korli that we can trust him.
No. 502455 ID: b33427

I'd be rather wary to trust what this guy has to say, since any neumono that's been around those salikai for any length of time are suspect. Voice this to him and ask how you could trust what he has to say, what with all the neumono mind-screwing methods the salikai have at their disposal. Another big question you have is how he found out where you were and got here so quickly.

However, you are going to have to take the group down the river anyway, since it's the best option right now. The only other options were to take an unknown tunnel right before the river, or cross the river into a knot of tunnels that only have one other exit. The first one could easily be a dead end or run right into enemy forces, and the second would be too easy to get trapped in. So better prep everyone to dive in and swim downstream.

Ask Viln what kind of dangerous creatures live in the rivers and lakes down here. Break out the ropes and tie everyone together with at least two rope each, with Viln in the lead. Give that partially filled air tank to the member of the group that can hold their breath the shortest. As soon as the group is out of the gas, pull and stow the gas masks so they're not fouled by the water. Spread the jammers out so if a part of the group does get separated, they'll more likely still have coverage.
No. 502457 ID: d6ef5d

Spider bots are presumably different from what's been already released. The first gen love bugs looked spider-ish, but the new and improved second generation mind control bugs show up as slivers on x-ray.
No. 502466 ID: b33427

Oh, wait. Could these "spiderbots" be the same kind of bots that jabbed Three Stripes in the eye, back in the hidden hive ruins? Though it'd be a bit odd to call them spider-like, since they only had three legs.

Better confirm with this guy what the spiderbots look like, what they're capable of, and where they can go.
No. 502474 ID: d6ef5d

Unlikely. Considering they were broken multipurpose bots. >>/questdis/61577 I'd assume what they're releasing now would be more along the lines of killbots.

And coming back to the suicide option: while having something like that prepared might spare you from a fate worse than death if captured, ultimately, I don't think it would have been a good idea to have one prepared. If you have something inside you that can kill you quickly, what happens if it goes off when you don't want it to? The device could be hacked, or set off accidentally (by an impact, or a bullet, etc). So I don't think it's a bad thing you overlooked a built in suicide pill of some kind, Polo.
No. 502477 ID: c4e5c2
File 136434922859.png - (39.28KB , 700x700 , 227.png )

"I don't have any suicide option other than a grenade. I guess I'm an optimist. Are the bots the three legged ones in your old abandoned town?"
>"It is your choice. And those are the ones. They've been fixed up and outfitted with miniturrets."
"They only had three legs."
"That is not a spider."
>"Spiders are not mechanical, either."
"... anyways, I am going to have a lot of questions for you, but for now, what made you leave your boss?"
>"For the same reason as Korli. We all want to leave. The salikai just has to make each of us selfish enough to find an opportunity to do so."

We arrive at the river.

"Viln, are there dangerous fish in the water?"
"The fish here are small, tiny. Mostly harmless."
"Group of flesh eaters sometimes come. Very rare, but only way to live is to get out of water." Although he is not shouting it down the cavern, everyone heard him.
No. 502478 ID: 76b151

right, you go first. You have armor and can use that ear she tore off as bait in case there are piranha in the water.
No. 502479 ID: f2c20c

Very rare, he says. So we'll probably run into them.

We'll go first, since we have armor. If we run into anything that looks like a flesh eater- get a description- we can yell back to get out of the water.
No. 502481 ID: 9ddf68

well you're the supper solder here, guess that means you pick the short straw by default. So get in that river and then have everyone else follow, just make sure someone is watching our new 'friend' as he has yet to earn our trust.
No. 502482 ID: d6ef5d

Mini piranhas? Great.

We have wounded. Blood in the water's not going to draw them right to us, are we?

Otherwise, I think we have to risk it. Korli's hivemate risked his life to put us on this path, believing we'd be caught otherwise. We trust Korli, and she trusts him- meaning we have to trust his intel. And he wasn't bothered underwater, at least?

Armored tiny person goes in first to test the waters. Should have Marra's ear ready to sacrifice to draw murder-fishes off, if necessary. Then we all head in, tied together if we've got the rope for it. Viln should probably be at the front of the line with you- since he's the strongest (hauling the line along), and voklit are apparently partially aquatic (gills hidden under the fur and all).

...remember to thank Viln when we eventually surface. Don't want to take him for granted, and he ain't a slave no more.

>old three legged spiderbots
Well, on the plus side, those weren't terribly durable. Anti-personal guns should kill them. On the downside, they're going to be small, nimble, and probably be a lot of them at once. Not a fight we really want to have.

>Very rare, he says. So we'll probably run into them.
Of course.

Well, Polo had a good run as an optimist. Lasted a good minute before going back to expecting the worst.
No. 502486 ID: b33427

Well, the somewhat good news is that with all the rainfall the river's going to be flowing so fast that even fish couldn't swim upstream, and any scent from your group would flow downstream. As long as the group doesn't jump in in the middle of a school of those fish, you'll be fine.

Ask Korli's hivemate (who you should get the name of) about how far it is from here to the waterfall, estimate how fast the water is flowing, and figure out how long it'll take to get there and check if everyone can hold their breath that long. It'll probably be even shorter than the estimate, since everyone should be swimming downstream the whole way.

Stick Marra's ear on a grappling hook, slice it partially open so the blood inside can seep out, and throw it in to see if a horde of fish descend on it. If so, yank the ear back immediately, pull it off the hook, and throw it back in so they follow it downstream. Then it'll be safe enough for everyone to get in.
No. 502491 ID: f2c20c

Hang on, bots that size would tip over if they used a minigun without some sort of recoil compensation.
No. 502501 ID: d6ef5d

Then they probably have it. That, or they can't run and gun- they dig in with their claws and adopt a stationary firing position.

Problem with that. If we're going to ride a waterfall into a lake, we'll be going downstream! Also, I would think we'd rather try and avoid attracting the piranhas at all, rather than trying to lure them in and feeding them, and hoping we get clear before they finish. We should use the ear as a distraction to buy time if we find them, not to bring them to us!

Also, we may need the grapple to get out the water quickly, or as an emergency anchor. Tying it up as a bait line seems a waste.
No. 502502 ID: b33427

Actually, I was suggesting that Polo stick it on the grappling hook and throw it into the river just long enough to check that her group isn't jumping headlong into a school of flesh flaying fish. Though the risk of them being in a rapidly flowing river isn't that big, they could still be washed down from somewhere above. The real big risk is that they're infesting the lake at the waterfall, in which case everyone should be warned to get out ASAP once down the waterfall.
No. 502504 ID: f2c20c

Let's not forget there's a drone following us. If it sees us go into the river they'll just follow us.
No. 502517 ID: b89cf7

spiderbots are a lot worse than flesh-eating fish. swim.
No. 502530 ID: 450660


Well, looks like it would be safest to go one at a time? That way we have a scout or two to ensure it's safe, rather than worry about the whole party popping up in an accidental ambush.

Polo, since you're the one covered in armor, it might be best to test the waters -- since I assume flesh eaters aren't accustomed to chomping through metal plates.
No. 502531 ID: d6ef5d

It might be a good idea to swap masks around again before going under- we don't know how long we'll be underwater, so let the people who've been holding their breath fill up again before going under.

Yeah. We can't afford to faff around much before getting underwater depending on how much time we have before the drone catches up.
No. 502538 ID: eaf2f5

Say YOLO and do a backflip into the river
No. 502546 ID: c4e5c2
File 136441639695.png - (26.82KB , 700x700 , 228.png )

Bots that size would probably tip over of the minigun had any decent calibar. They probably have recoil compensation, but that is for later to worry about.

"We have a moment, and only a moment, before the drone gets up. Everyone tie each other in a line. I'm going first, Viln second."
>"It's irrelevant if they see." the science hiver says. "Our goal is not to lose them just by entering the water tunnel, our goal is to buy time so that we can."

Either way, we start to tie each other together in a line, and I get to Kort.

>"I'm not going in." Kort says, his first words in a long while not being ones I like hearing.
"Then you're getting shot, captured, and then wishing you got killed from getting shot."
>"Don't care! I don't want to go in there. Can't do it. I'm not doing it. I am sick, of this fucking shit."
No. 502547 ID: 78c6ea

That's why we're going in. We're all sick of this shit! You want to stop trying, inhale deeply and enjoy your unspeakable nightmares. Rest of us are taking the easy way out.
No. 502552 ID: 57a559

No, you're going through so they can't torture your sorry ass for interrogation, or worse, compromise you. Here's the thing, the salikai? If it gets its hands on you, it'll send you after us in psychological warfare. If you care about anyone in the group and don't weant their potential blood on your hands, or for them to carry the guilt of killing their comrade, he'll go through.

Give him the illusion of option. For a little bit. Then knock him out if he refuses and carry him with you, we can't afford the salikai the chance of using psychological warfare for even a little bit. We can't rely on our allies to being able to shoot and kill him if necessary, and we can't do it ourselves less we lose the loyalty of our members.

He'll come around later, if we're in a place of safety. He'll have time to think and reflect then.
No. 502554 ID: 001618

Tell him we're all tired of this shit but what is giving up going to do? Nothing that's what, we have to keep moving, to keep pushing foreword through all of this Bull shit. Because that is the only way this is ever going to truly stop.
No. 502556 ID: d6ef5d

>It's irrelevant if they see.
Then we might as well shoot the drone. It's going to catch up as we deal with Kort.

Godsdangit, language man.

Honestly, my first reaction is to stomach shoot him and have Viln carry him. But he can't hold his breath if he's unconscious, and the blood might attract piranhas. So that's out.

Time to bluff. We're going scary Polo again- like you did after blowing up the shotgun QI.

Draw your sidearm. Speak with a cold fury- and turn off your silence and grab him for the empathic impact. Fine Kort, you're too stupid to be afraid of our pursuit. What you should be afraid of is me. I don't know if you know my record, but I have this thing about completing missions. I volunteered for what should have been a suicide run to see the last one through. And I am a successful assassin to boot.

So don't think for a moment I won't shoot you myself if that's what I need to do to keep the rest of these people safe. I am not leaving you behind to be interrogated and place the rest of those I am responsible for at risk.

Then shoot the drone for effect- it should be here by now.

Do we understand one another?

...if he still fails to comply, he's getting tied up at gunpoint and lugged along by Viln. Who you'll apologize to. You're sorry to force him to carry an idiot- but you can't leave him behind. It's your own kind of honor.
No. 502562 ID: e9140c

staying here won't make the shit go away. in fact, you'll be so deep in shit when the salikai get here and capture you you'll miss this moment of being tired of this shit during the few lucid moments you get in-between physical and mental torture so horrible a neumono couldn't even conceive of it. so decide quickly to either stay or come, because we sure as fuck aren't going to stick around and waste time on your disorderly ass while they creep closer and closer. just do yourself a favor and stick a grenade in your mouth and pull the pin in you do decide to stay because you'll wish you had if you don't.

No. 502587 ID: fafb12

Careful. Come on too strong and he might fall into fullblown apathy. Turn up the anger until you break his resistance, but don't push him beyond that.
No. 502591 ID: b33427

Fuckin' hells! Does Kort not get how fuckin' serious this is? Does he not get the fuckin' gravity of the situation? He's going to lay down and get mind-fucked by the salikai's pet predator and turned into on of their goddamn puppets, all 'cause he has a sudden case of aquaphobia?! Well, fuck that! You're not going to let him.

Impart on him how goddamn fuckin' serious this is by tackling him to the ground, clamping both hands around his neck tightly so you've got a good empathic conduit and to shut him up, and letting your empathic block drop. Tell him in no uncertain terms that you are not going to leave him behind. 'Cause no matter how much he's scared of going into that water, it is nothing compared to what the salikai will do to him. Nothing! Not even in the same fuckin' galaxy in comparison!

If he still feels like he's going to try and stay or run, call Viln and Marra over to pin him down, tie him up, and gag him. He's coming with, whether he wants to or not.
No. 502592 ID: d6ef5d

...no tackling. We're not built for it, and the trick here is to make him afraid of what Polo will do to him, not to force him into fighting back against an ineffectual attack. We're trying to push him into flight, not jump right to fight.
No. 502598 ID: 8b9215

Pop Pop Pop Pop elbows and knees. Viln, drag his ass along. Don't waste time tying him up.
No. 502601 ID: fb528f


Go with this if using empathy with physical contact fails, at least you'll be close enough to shoot the knees without complications.
No. 502604 ID: 57a559

No blood should be drawn
It might attract the flesh eating fish.
No. 502605 ID: d6ef5d

This is correct.

Additionally, there's no need to waste for shots crippling him if we could force him into hibernation with one shot (he's not going to be tough enough to resist the stomach shot). And there's no need to shoot him at all considering Viln could restrain him one handed while we tied him up, if need be.

Considerations of what kind of force to apply only come into effect if Polo can't scare him into obeying, of course.
No. 502607 ID: f2c20c

Don't be a monster. It's his choice if he wants to keep running or not, but we need to fully understand him, so we should probably have an empathic conversation.
No. 502609 ID: b33427

Okay, okay. Yeah, you're right. Before getting all shouty, best to at least ask him why the heck he'd rather put himself at the mercy of the salikai, knowing full well what they can and will do, than jump in the river. Perhaps he has extreme aquaphobia or some other reason, and you could talk him down. Though, he's still coming with, even if it's bound and slung over Viln's shoulder.
No. 502628 ID: 450660


Well, we've got two options. The rest of us feel like shit for letting him die a horrible death, or he can get over it and whatever fears or butthurts are holding him back.

There's also the third option: we bring him along anyway, even if that means smacking him over the head a few times.

Okay, I'll be honest here. Talk him down. No matter what, it's a risk, but we need as many as we can keep with us.
No. 502646 ID: beeca1

>empathy conversation
>dropping silence right now


Also, how is that "monstrous"? "Monstrous" would be raping him, implanting bots in him, and making him come with us. Dragging him along isn't monstrous, especially since we're saving his life and keeping everyone safe.
No. 502647 ID: d6ef5d

Oh hey, just noticed he's not wearing a mask. Could it be the gas is making him stupid here? It kind of makes sense that encouraging you to give up and stick in one place might be part of what they're selling.

Saving his life from his own stupidity and keeping everyone else safe in the process, isn't being a monster. Even if it involves being intimating or mean in the moment.

We're inside the range of a jammer (more than one, actually). Dropping silence wouldn't risk exposure- it would just allow empathic contact with anyone Polo were to physically touch. And if we're going to bully or scare him into coming along, letting him feel the full weight of Polo's frustration, cold anger and the dread certainty she will do what she has to do to keep the group safe, including shooting him if need be, seems like it would be productive.

And yes, we don't have a lot of time for a deep touchy feely heart to heart talking him out of his insecurities, but I'd rather try to intimidate him into complying before dragging him. Once we have to tie him up he's just more dead weight.
No. 502648 ID: beeca1

That's the point- we really shouldn't touch him if the gas is affecting him. No empathy contact with possible crazies, period.

Also, the jammer could be destroyed by the drones in the near future, so I'd rather not rely too heavily on it.
No. 502651 ID: d6ef5d

Um. Empathic contact with people affected by the gas isn't harmful. It's not infectious that way. Polo was receiving empathy from everyone affected the whole time the warship was gassed, even after she broke free, without ill effect. (Her silence can't block incoming signals, after all). And the jammer in the brig didn't protect us from getting sucked into the mass hallucination, anyways.

And being able to pick up on whether he's just making a stupid decision out of fear and stress, or whether he's been addled by the gas, would actually be a nice think to know. And should factor into how Polo responds.

And keeping silence on for fear of the jammers being destroyed isn't rational. If the jammers are broke, our position is exposed- whether Polo silent or not. And she can turn it on or off at will if she needs to, anyways. So there's no reason not to turn silence off when it's helpful to do so.
No. 502673 ID: 57a559

Well, if we're this conflicted about hurting him I could just act accordingly to my name and nature and suggest, as neumono might say, a "play session in the ballpit" once we're safe.

Or hell, I'll be slightly less disgusting and more dignifying and just say he'll miss out on the celebratory strip poker game once we're in the clear.
No. 502675 ID: 450660


Wouldn't it be fine if we're wearing armor? I mean, empathy doesn't work through clothing, right? At least, I don't think it does.
No. 502676 ID: c4e5c2
File 136452054749.png - (16.60KB , 700x700 , 229.png )

"We are all sick of this shit, and you are going to miss the bygone days of being hunted should you be caught. Which I am not going to allow. You are going in the water. On your own volition, tied up, or kicking and screaming. Are you going to be dead weight?"
>"I was here to translate for voklits, not get mixed up in this salikai crap!"
"Missions change. I was here to search for the salikai, not have therapy sessions for people afraid of the water."

There is a moment of silence. I resist the formidable want to punch him repeatedly. I almost hope it is the gas speaking, because at least it would mean he is not normally like this.
No. 502677 ID: c4e5c2
File 136452070267.png - (132.43KB , 700x700 , 230.png )

Or half of one, I was not planning on giving him a moment, but he opens his arms and lets me bind him before I make him.
"Now stop talking. You have no gas mask."

Physical contact wouldn't do much for intimidation. While it may let him know I meant business, it would be weak and do little to sway him any more than my words. Thankfully the words were enough. Between normal clothes and the armor, it would have been even more difficult as well.

We go through the water before we see any commotion. The flesh eating fish do not come, and we end up spilling out into a lake a solid 10 minutes later. Kort freaked out the hole way and ended up breathing in water, but he will be fine after a coughing fit. Lucera drifted off a bit far and managed to bang up his side on a rock. It looks worse than it is.

"Korli's friend. What is your name?"
"Alright. Where are we going?"
>"Not very far. Far enough such that they will need to split up, but I believe the salikai will expect us to keep moving as quickly as possible for an escape. We will be best off hiding under their noses. There are calmer rivers that we can swim through to get to underground alcoves. For now, we need to stop ourselves from leaving a trail of water."
No. 502680 ID: d6ef5d

Oh hey, we got out of there before the drone caught up. That's something. That means our pursuit can't be immediately sure if we went into the river or across (although I suppose a clever drone pilot or AI could look at the opposite bank for evidence of us getting out? If the camera's good enough to see wet footprints on dark rock).

I don't suppose we're lucky enough that the river brought us somewhere the gas hasn't reached yet? It might be possible, if we passed through a completely underwater tunnel (no air gap) and the gas doesn't mix well with water.

Yes, because it worked so well when Polo resorted to that with Rikek. :V

>physical contact jammer bypassing empathy weak
>not good for persuasion
Noted. We'll stick to using it for emergency sympathy sessions and necessary are you evil, crazy, compromised, or lying to me checks then.

Well handled though, Polo. You talked him into it that with a minimum of threatening. (We may have to talk to him later though, if his moral is going to be a problem. We've done a decent job of keeping Katzati going).

>Lucera drifted off a bit
Dang. Roping the group together was supposed to prevent that. Oh well, he probably would have drifted further, otherwise.

>We will be best off hiding under their noses.
Yeah, I agree with this thinking. If we can find a secure place to hold up while they run around looking for us, that's better than running ahead of them. Then that frees the group up to heal, recover, process stolen maps, finish debugging Rokann, and possibly free Polo up to take guerrilla action instead of having to shepherd and protect the group.

>we need to stop ourselves from leaving a trail of water
Short of shaking off and risking a quick break to dry, I'm not sure how to do that. It's not like you guys brought towels. Unless Viln's got a trick for it? I'm not sure how often hiding a water trail would have come up hunting down here.
No. 502682 ID: 57a559

Hey, that was a completely different situation with predator hypnotism and a half-assed motorless motorboat. We never allured Rikek with tantalizing strip poker games or ballpit fun. New strategies in new situations with minimally related basics.

I suggest using each others' ears as makeshift towels, or any spare fabric for getting rid of the water trails. Viln may also have advice because I'm sure voklit handle this all the time in tribe warfare or in hunting.
No. 502684 ID: f2c20c

Alright, let's shake off that water, then. Get dry fast, or at least get rid of the excess water so that you don't drip.

Let Rokann down so that she can dry herself too. Just tie a rope around her waist for it, no need to get all complicated about it. I'm not sure if she should keep the blindfold on or not.
No. 502685 ID: fb528f

Ask Viln if he smells any hallucinogenic gas. Check with Niam and see if you can plan a raid on a Salikai armory at some point. Just imagine the legend you will leave if you can get your hands on that cloaking suit the infected neumono had earlier.
No. 502686 ID: b33427

Everyone that's wearing regular clothes is going to have to strip down to their skivvies to dry off and wring out the clothes; You and Niam can just brush the water off your respective armor and wetsuit. Pass around any combs the group has to work the worst of the water out of their fur, and comb it out of each other's hard-to-reach spots like their tails. You might have to comb the water out of some of Viln's mane, unless he has another option to get the water off.

Take a second to check how Katzati and Lucera are doing, respectively mentally and physically. How's Katz holding up? Was Lucera's injury enough to break ribs, and if so would they benefit from being bound right now? Maybe check him on x-ray for that.

Ask Marra to get Rokann down and check on how she's doing. See if her bugs are active, and make sure her earplugs and blindfold are on good. You're also going to need her to help you strip Rokann's clothes, dry her off, and put them back on.

Ask Niam that, if he's going by the salikai's maps to know where alcoves are, as you assume he is, how come they won't send search parties to check them; The voklits on their side would be perfect for that job. Or do the salikai somehow not know about those alcoves?

Take a moment to tell Kort that you won't apologize for what you said before, since you meant every word of it, but you are sorry that he has to go through aquaphobic hell in order to escape. He can at least take solace there's going to be a dry place to rest at the end of it.

>Kort inhaling water
Dangit, forgot about that partially filled air tank. If it had a watertight breathing mask, or one of the gas masks was watertight and had an external hookup, he could have worn that. Even if the air supply is off, it'll keep him from inhaling water when he flips out.
No. 502687 ID: d6ef5d

I guess wringing out tails and ears over the river and using them as towels works? Cue awkwardly silly drying scene.

Add it to the list of things to ask when once we've reached a safe hiding place, we've got quite a few as is. (Although I hardly think Polo's worried about her legend. She's already soloed a vernaunt and grottle and killed a Salikai barehand, remember? :V)

Although, personally, I wasn't every impressed with the stealth suits. They damaged very easily- more suited to a one off surprise attack than a longer campaign. They were skintight- and seemed to preclude wearing armor, possibly bioarmor as well. And for some reason the ninjas were equipped with knives, darts, and grenades. No guns!

Not sure why. Possibly because you're limited to things you can slip into the stealth suit (a cloaked sheath for the blade, cloaked pockets for the rest). A larger rifle or backpack with gear wouldn't be able to be cloaked. Not sure why they didn't have handguns though. Still too big to conceal, or maybe just firing is enough to damage the suit, or get residue over the cloaking?

All in all, seems like there are a lot of drawbacks and except in very specific situations, I don't see the visual stealth being worth the other trade offs. Especially inside the salikai base. Their cameras can probably see IR.
No. 502689 ID: 9ddf68

Are your packs you guys are using to hold you gear water tight? If so you have got to have some kind of fabric or something like it in at least on of them to be able to use as a towel. And now that we are a little more free lets have a nice quiet conversation with Niam to see what we can find out about the Salikai and there plans.
No. 502692 ID: 78e3e7

yeah check on kort, try & keep him calm if he's still freaking out, for now I guess we could drip-dry & have a quick bite to eat just to help settle everyones nerves & regain some energy, how is everybody? some seem to be troopering better then others but it could be a delicate situation if kort's panic could set off the others.
No. 502717 ID: c8a283

shakeity shake
No. 502738 ID: 450660


If you've got water-tight packs, maybe put major garments in there. At least keep those from adding to the mess. Not sure about what to do with being covered in fluff and all. How fast do you guys dry out, anyway?

I mean, are we talking about leaving a 3ft trail or a 30ft trail, here? If it's a difference of a few feet because you're all furry sponges, well ... not much point, eh?
No. 502743 ID: 997ce7

Pretty much. Weigh any reduction in length of trail versus how much more time it would give the hunters to catch up.
No. 502786 ID: f2c20c

Hang on, if we need to hide right under their noses, shouldn't we leave a false trail? Dry off a bit here, then leave a watery trail in one direction before doubling back and going another way once we're drier?

Also if we're going to spend time drying off, maybe we have enough time to get a map from the recovered helmets.
No. 502787 ID: b33427

I think Niam is thinking that they'll think that we're going to stick to the water and swim with the current in order to get as far away as fast as possible. In that case, we either don't want to leave any indication we got out at all, or that if we did we got right back in in the same spot.
No. 502797 ID: c4e5c2
File 136463504419.png - (56.94KB , 700x700 , 231.png )

"I don't suppose you know any good ways to dry off, Viln?"
"Not the voklit problem."
"Do you smell gas?"
"No wrong smell."

At a closer look, Viln's main does not appear to absorb water like normal fur does, or at least not as much. He shakes it off.

Kort is not moving much outside of shaking, likely more from mental duress than physical. I will attempt to keep an eye on him, but he does not appear to be any mood to be spoken to right now. An X-ray on Lucera shows that his ribs appear intact, it was mostly a skin scrape and bruising.

"And Katzati, how are you doing?"
>"My head is pounding, but... better..."

The stealth suits are no good from what I see. There are too many limitations, do not block IR at all and only somewhat obsure x-rays. They must be prototypes, as I have not heard about cloaking suits ever being used to much effectiveness in combat.

But I am distracting myself, and everyone is shuffling uncomfortably around each other about this 'get dry' concept and clearly would rather keep moving. We are certainly dripping, and would leave a lengthy trail that I doubt evaporates particularly quickly around here. I don't think we have the means to make a false trail that looks like we kept on moving and did not just turn back around. There are various means to get partially dry, but nothing effective enough to get rid of as much as we need to. All thoughts converge on one option, and, despite how petty it is in the face of brain-tubes and hijacked hives other monsterous concepts, I don't like it.

"Niam, if the salikai's maps know where the alcoves are, what is stopping them from searching?"
>"Nothing. Although maps are only available with certain chunks at a time for CAI defense, they have nearly the whole cavern mapped out. We are maximizing our chances of being missed, but it is still up to luck."
"Alright... everyone dry off, use dry clothes from our pack if we have to, after..." No mission spares me from such scenarios. "Strip down to your underwear and... oscillate. Rokann, I'll watch you while you do it too." Lucera stares at me like I told him to slime himself, and keep the slime on this time. Some others simply hesitate for a moment.
No. 502798 ID: c4e5c2
File 136463506309.png - (28.40KB , 700x700 , 232.png )

Oscillating ourselves to get water off is not done in modern hives anymore. In part of our modernization, we are firmly taught at a young age to not do certain things. Don't eat spaghetti sauce with bare hands. Wipe muddy feet when entering a carpeted building, or wear shoes. And whether or not shoes are worn, wear clothes.

Included is 'don't shake fur out.' It's a small action on its own merit, but it is explicitly taught to young neumono who go to school. Unlike off the wall disgusting actions such as sliming oneself, this action explicitly hits home. It just is not a big act on its own, but I can practically sense the awkward empathy emanating from everyone, like the scenario has reduced them to primitive snarlers.

I can tell that some of us have forgotten that we even could oscillate, but millions of years of evolution will not be miraculously erased when a human teacher screams "NO" as we walk into school during the rain and shake ourselves off. Right in front of the principal who happens to be walk around the corner at that exact moment. Once again, I am glad for my armor for more than its 'not getting shot through the face' qualities.
No. 502799 ID: c4e5c2
File 136463507444.png - (24.38KB , 700x700 , 233.png )

Niam leads us through another series of tunnels after we put that behind us, as apparently what he has in mind is not accessable directly from the lake's water flow. After all that work drying off, we dive in again, thankfully in a wider, calmer river. From below, we see the underwater alcove and swim upwards into it. Me, Viln, and Niam who led us, get out first, quickly following everyone else who was tied together again. It is a small cavern that quickly becomes blocked off from a wall with a doorless entry.

"A building, Niam?"
>"From long since dead hive. There are spots like this throughout the caverns, and one large burrow several kilometers from here. There is nothing inside here, it is no better than the rest of the cave for living space."
"Entrance. Too small." Viln says behind us.
>"There is room out here. Otherwise, smash the wall and make an entrance."
No. 502801 ID: f2c20c

Break the wall, but try to do so without making a HUGE racket. Like, pull at loose bricks instead of exploding it. The wall looks loose so it shouldn't be hard.

Of note is that even if we do make some noise, there's nowhere for the noise to go. This is an isolated cavern. The sound will spread out through rock and water and become lost in the ambient noise of the caves. If this connected to any other tunnels then it would be of some worry... but it doesn't.

On the other hand, we don't have much reason to go in there... aside from it being a possible chokepoint and cover if we get found before we decide to leave.

Altogether I don't see a big difference between the two choices. Each have slight advantages and disadvantages. Leaving the wall intact means we make less noise (just in case there are hunters in nearby tunnels that could triangulate the sound) but we're exposed if we get found. Breaking the wall increases the risk of being found, but we're in a better position to fight.

Hey, a thought occurs to me. Could we dismantle the wall in a manner that makes it possible to put back together? Like, if the mortar is so loose that we can just slide all the bricks apart, we could slide them back in once Viln is past. If the mortar isn't particularly loose, could we chip away at it without spending a huge amount of time doing so? That would mean any hunter popping their head out of the water would go "Nope, no giant Voklit in the cave and that entrance is too small for him, so they must not be here." That would be the BEST OPTION.
No. 502805 ID: c8a283

use your head like they did in Toy Story 2.
No. 502808 ID: 78e3e7

yeah I like this option if we can put the wall back together, if we can't would it be possible to just hide the bricks away to make it look like it broke a long time ago or something, or at least just break enough so viln can crawl through rather then needing to just walk?

for now tho I think this could be the better route, even tho we got told theres nothing really inside a structure could be much more easy for us to navigate through then the tunnels and possibly give us better chances for ambush positions if/when we do run into trouble
No. 502810 ID: f96bde

Be careful when trying to make an entrance. Avoid dropping bits of stone if at all possible - it's conceivable they have seismic monitors.
No. 502811 ID: d6ef5d

Jeez. An awkward schoolyard social taboo about shaking yourself dry.

>entrance, too small
I would note that entrance is Polo height. Viln isn't the only one who would have difficulty getting in. Although I suppose the bigger neumono might be able to crawl in. Viln would still be too wide for the entrance even if he tried, though.

Expanding the door doesn't make us any easier to discover than not. If we leave the door as is and camp here, (or even came and went with Viln stuck on one side), we're discovered as soon as an enemy comes up the underwater entrance. If we're all on the other side of the door, we get another minute or so before we're discovered (unless the scout doesn't investigate the door).

So I see no issue in expanding the entrance, especially if we can make it look like a natural collapse.

>big list o' questions!
If we've finally reached a safe area, it's time to get as much info as we can out of Niam (and so he can bring Korli up to speed on things she's out of date on). Things to talk about:

Does he know how far beyond the hunter hive the salikai may have compromised? Or how far in advance they got to them?

Why isn't he bugged? After seeing what they did to the hunters, I kind of expected to find the science hive completely infested as a control mechanism to prevent, well, exactly this. And for that matter, how did he manage to slip away? You'd think they'd be more on guard for that now, and they had searchers throughout the cave.

Does he know what happened to Biles? Presumably, if he's not dead, he's under Salikai control.

What can he tell us about the new generation of bugs? We know four stripes is integrated into them- but how dependent are they on that? (For instance, what happens to the infested if he's killed? Are they freed, or is the control just messier?). Where are they keeping him?

Location of and intel on the salikai base. And any maps of the caves or base, if he's got them.

How the gas distribution works. Korli was speculating before, but he should have better information on what's pumping it, where, and how hard it is to produce and keep that up.

Whatever he knows about the brain darts.

The interpersonal / political situation between the salikai. If one of them's gone insane with Polo-torture lust, maybe we can play the divisions against the others. Playing them against one annother kept us alive before.

What's the deal with the voklit? Does he know what happened to the village when the Salikai searched the surface? Or what's with all the gun toting ones they have working for them?

...is there anything we don't know about yet that we should? Another horrible science project in the works they haven't sprung on us yet? Evil clones, neo-jetalium, a planetary death ray, a time machine? Anything?

>other stuff
Of concern is setting up camp and seeing to everyone in need of medical care and/or rest.

That includes finishing Rokann's surgery as soon as is reasonable, and having Katzati dig through stolen map data as soon as she feels up to it.

Then, assuming we haven't been discovered yet, we begin planning our next move.
No. 502813 ID: 450660


Best to work in the vertical. Hit the apex of the arch and a good portion should fall in once the stress shifts. Sideways may compromise load bearing portions.
No. 502828 ID: 9ddf68

I think we should just set up a quick camp right outside the wall just to let every catch there breaths, I mean they have been holding it for how long?

Well they recover talk to Naim about anything you can think of to help us get an upper hand on the Salikai and maybe how are they doing certain things, like bug an entire hive, where do they get the resources to afford all of there weapons, gas, and technology without anyone noticing, and earlier Naim said something about how this Salikai want's use alive, does that mean there is only one Salikai, and if so where are the others?

Once we're done talking take whoever looks the least drained and can fit into the wall entrance explore it a bit before you start knocking walls down, mostly because I'm not entirely sure that there isn't some deadly animal or something in there and seeing how our little group is already starting to fall apart I think we should try and limit stress on them as much as possible.
No. 502829 ID: b33427

It'd be for the best if there's no obvious sign that we've come out here for anyone who comes out of the water, so Viln is going to have to get out of sight.

The best choice would be to take the wall apart enough that Viln can squeeze through, then put the wall back, but that's probably not going to happen, even with Viln, Marra, and the rest of the group working together. That means busting the wall open. In that case, the best option is to find a weak area of the wall, preferably the doorway so we don't have more than one opening in, and start working the stonework back and forth. We want to make it look like it collapsed on its own.

Once everyone is in, set up watch rotations for the entrances, and to listen for anything coming out of the water. You'll go first, since everyone else is exhausted. Viln too, if he's not starting to tire out.

Also, unfortunately, the extraction of Rokann's bugs should immediately continue once everyone is settled in. It's going to be hard, but the sooner those things are out of her, the sooner she can get back to not being a liability to the group. Also ask Niam if he knows anything that'd help remove these bugs with greater ease.

To add to the wall of questions for Niam: What kind of radio jamming units were the salikai using earlier? Are they man/neumono portable units? Does he know where they are? 'Cause if we could get one of those, it might be able to be tweaked to disrupt the empathic relay's radio connection. Possibly disrupt the mind-bug's short and long range communication as well. Then we might be able to capture and de-bug a member of the Hunter Hive to get intel, and another ally.

How much does the salikai's CAI like working for the salikai? Is it loyal to the salikai, and if it isn't very loyal, how do the salikai keep it in check? What control do they have over it?

Also, don't forget to share everything that has happened to you and group and what you know with Niam to bring him up to speed.
No. 502834 ID: c4e5c2
File 136467913038.png - (60.22KB , 700x700 , 234.png )

"Viln, others, see if you can just take the wall apart and put it back together. Otherwise, just take it down and try to make it look like it naturally fell. Question time, Niam. What have the salikai been using to jam radios?"
>"Small ones that can be moved easily, but one does not do much on its own. There are simply a hunred of them put intermittently in the trees all over the forest."
"Do you know what happened to Biles?"
>"He escaped. I do not know how he got rid of the bugs by himself, it should not be possible, and I do not believe that the bugs placed in him were defective. Nevertheless, he has also evaded recapture."
"Good. Why aren't you bugged?"
>"Because it may cause complications involving the experiment I am in. I am not the real Niam. I am one of the first successful neumono clones."
"... why is it that things that haven't been invented by enormous research labs have been invented by a small science hive and a few salikai?"
>"We do have a CAI as well that does have science minded AIs. Otherwise, it speaks well of us and poor of the researchers above ground."
"How far beyond the hunter hive have the salikai managed to compromise?"
>"From a flat number, not many. Around 1,000. From an influence point, heavily. Those 1,000 are in the upper echelon of the ultrahive. Not yours, but the one that sent you here. Once we learned you were alive, you were sent down here in hopes to capture you. The admiral, for instance, was compromised by the time you met him, if I am correct. Nevertheless, our systems and logistics are as sketchy as ever. Such is how I was able to escape, the guard back at home is nothing but a skeleton crew. Even the arkots are skimming the bottom levels. I am sure that other science hivemates have had the chance to escape, but ever since Korli left, the Salikai has promised that if any new hivemate abandoned the salikai, the remainder of the hive would be punished. In what have may been an oversight, I do not believe that stipulation extended towards clones, as while I have proper empathy, I am not considered part of the hive itself."
"What other clones have been made?"
>"That is only known by the salikai and our two specialist biotechnicians. Needless to say, despite the high cost to grow a clone, I am certain there are clones being made."
"I want to have the maps you have, and the location of the salikai base."
>"I will give them to you."
"Give them to Katzati. What do you know about the brain darts?"
>"How they work is also only known by the biotechnicians. What they do is effectively a hyper regenerative. It attempts to transform a foreign neumono, that is, the one injected, into the neumono whos brain matter was in the tube. Success is limited, as the brain matter is insane to begin with, something is wrong with it, but it was the only copy of brain matter we have that is strong enough to both live and do anything once injected. I do not know what neumono the original brain matter is from, but either the injected neumono turns into him, gets corrupted regeneration and ends up mutated and disfigured, or nothing at all. If one of you was injected, then if it was going to do anything, symptoms would have shown up by now."
"If Vanski is so obsessed about me, is it possible to play divisions of the other salikai against each other?"
>"Others? It is only Vanski and Ohidi, now. Sigira, Kiiu and Rosotski were all killed by Rokoa. But for Ohidi, it is possible, yet improbable. Ohidi has shown nothing but loyalty to his father and our leader Vanski, and although Ohidi does disapprove of the obsession with you, he expresses such things with great tact. Vanski kept his composure for a week after Rokoa killed the others before their deaths finally seemed to hit him. He wants revenge on Rokoa most of all, but she is gone and out of reach, so you are what he has to settle for."
"And about the Voklit. How did the salikai get them to start toting guns bigger than me around?"
"I do not know when it started, but all I know is it was a slow procedure. Months of poking around seeing what the voklit were like before any move was made, and eventually only getting one or two at a time on our side. We targeted the cave voklit since they were the ones already breaching galactic neumono contract anyways. Once he had enough, we were able to hold influence over the forest voklit. Not much, but enough to get them to stay out of our way and not sell us out. I know that my details leave lots to speculate, but that is all I have, the science hive as a whole has had very little direct dealings with the voklit until it became time to make their guns."
"Does the CAI have loyalty to the salikai?"
>"Sort of. It would not take much to get them to turn coat, except that they will die without the salikai. They are an experimental CAI with an inbuilt anti-CAI safe measure, in which the CAI is plagued with a continually growing disease. It would eat the CAI from the inside out, but there is an algorithm that does not cure the disease, but it resets it back to its initial phase. It uses a backdoor to avoid being absorbed by the CAI's personalities themselves. Plainly, the CAI will die if the Salikai are not around to save it."
"How do the bugs work?"
>"A combination of empathy signatures and radiowaves. The salikai have worked out how to turn radiowaves into empathy and vice versa, which is how our predator can still control a neumono inside of an empathy jammer. The bugs attempt to work with empathy first, but if that fails, it will attempt to use radio waves to communicate. They have built in commands that are still active even if both empathic and radio jammers are around, they simply will not be able to have new commands inputted via predator. This includes protecting the bugs from removal even moreso than ones own flesh, among other simple commands. Unless I am wrong and there are defective models, then Biles has found a way to circumvent this."
No. 502836 ID: fb528f

Check on Viln's progress with the arch. Biles sounds very useful if he managed to find a away to circumvent the bugs but given the redundancy of the bugs can Niam confirm that Biles got away on his own without guidance?

What kind of logistics problems are keeping the Salikai from infecting more than just the leadership of the ultrahive?
No. 502839 ID: d6ef5d

>Biles escaped
You go, Mr. crazy survivalist! Glad there's hope we won't have to shoot you when we next see you (unless you drove yourself crazy in the process of breaking free or something). And gives me hope for Polo's own chances at possibly resiting mind control if it comes to that. Not that we want to have to test that.

>Niam is a clone
>not considered part of the hive itself
...does Korli know? In any event, make it clear we don't think any less of him for being a clone, and we're glad to have his help.

Speaking of his help, did he have a plan past helping us evade being captured this time around? His stunt has bought us time, but that's it.

>I am certain there are clones being made.
Called it!

Polo, be prepared for the possibility of running into your own clone, or Rokoa's. And for having to kill them if it comes to that. Anyone who was in the previous salikai facility might have left behind enough genetic material for it- you lost an ear, Rokoa was in their hospitals, and Korli used to live there (I suppose Rikek and Rakae are possible too, but the salikai would have less material to work with, and clones of them are less of a threat). Go ahead and institute password systems with the group- so the group can't be infiltrated by a look alike you or Korli in the future.

Nothing personal Niam, but are there any obvious tells that someone is a clone? Does the process leave a marker of some kind if you know where to look? (Say, a lack of a bellybutton or something. ...not that I would know if neumono have those to begin with).

>brain darts are crazy conversion ammo
...jeeze, I wonder who we know who's crazy and has a will to survive that strong. You really can't escape her. And while it's no spit-bullets, drain-darts are pretty close. No surprise, here.

How long would a dart have to be in to be effective? The biggest flaw seems to me is it relies on the enemy not pulling the dart free almost instantly.

>Key people in the non-Polo ultrahive compromised by bugs
Well, that certainly makes calling for backup a problem. Should have shot that admiral after all, I suppose.

Is there a central control for the bugs that can be sabotaged or destroyed? Or are the infected fully autonomous?

>CAI plagued with a disease that forces it to reset over and over
*cough* UnSe *cough*

Assuming we freed the science hive and the CAI, wouldn't it be possible for the science hivers to reserve engineer whatever cure the Salikai has been using? Or just disable the safety in some way?
No. 502844 ID: f2c20c

Here's a theory on how Biles got rid of the bugs: he resisted them via willpower and corralled them somehow into one limb, which he then cut off. Or maybe he just has some freaky survivalist trick like a special type of poison or... Come to think of it, aren't nanobots and small machines really vulnerable to high temperature? Maybe the easiest way to get rid of them is to set yourself on fire, or otherwise overheat. Or maybe he just had an electrical prod or something like that, which he could use to shock the bugs to death.

It sounds like if we want backup, we'll need to contact our own ultrahive, and tell them about the bugs and... well, everything. Actually, Biles may be trying to do that himself. He's certainly in the best position to do so at the moment, since we're distracting the Salikai forces. Maybe we can get through this without even assaulting the Salikai base?

That would be boring.
No. 502850 ID: b93170

Ok then we now have actual goals.

We now need to find four strips and kill/disable him to cripple the mind control thing, get evadince of corrupted hives to further cripple any plans they have, and maybe see if we can't get the CIA on our side since that would most likely have all the information we need and give us a step by step details of their plans now and future
No. 502859 ID: d6ef5d

Oh, hey, we should also ask him what's with the monocle-goggle. That's kind of unusual. It do something, or is it some kind of implant?

>protecting the bugs from removal even moreso than ones own flesh
>then Biles has found a way to circumvent this
If the bugs protect themselves by hijacking one's own self preservation versus self-mutilation instinct, that may not work if the person in question has no problems mutilating themselves. Biles already told us he used to make clothes from his own skin, remember? With his training, he's probably learned to set aside all kinds of basic hardwired instincts in favor of conscious survival decisions. He's kind of the perfect person to resist that kind of control.

>so the group can't be infiltrated by a look alike Polo or Korli in the future
...or a Niam look alike. Conceivably, they made more than one of him, or they could send his original out to infiltrate and replace.

We might want to just ask if he knows how much material is needed to start a clone. Could cut down on our level of paranoia if we knew.

>hive stuff
Hey Polo, what were the hive lines again, anyways? Is everyone besides you and the science hivers from the compromised ultra-hive? Or was that just Lucerra and the others are loaners as well? None of the rest of the inspection team are proper hivemates, right?
No. 502866 ID: b33427

With the salikai's base running on a skeleton crew, now would seem to be the best time to attack. Better ask about what forces are guarding it right now, what kind of fixed defenses such as turrets are there, and where its power source is.

Backup plan would be getting a communication link out of here and contacting someone lower down in Polo's hive who'd have the tools to check for bugs, then anyone and everyone else we can think of that'd be low down enough to not be bugged and can check for bugs; Especially non-neumono.

Also ask Niam if the salikai have a dead man's switch "fuck everybody else" plan in place if either or both of Vanski and Ohidi are killed. Do they have something like a base self-destruct tied to them, or would an order go up to the command of that ultrahive to launch everything they have at every other hive on the planet? That'd be real bad if they have nukes.

Ask how the bugs authenticate orders they receive are legit. Do they all have Four Stripes' empathic pattern stored in them to compare to, do they use a separate encryption key, something else, or a combination of the above? How hard would it be to give them false orders, either over empathic link or by radio?

Is there any way to disrupt the bugs, either permanently or temporarily? Any way to jam their radio connection?

Also ask how much visual and aural information the bugs can send back up the relay, and how clear it is. We'd like to know if we can take Rokann's blindfold off and earplugs out.

Perhaps he could resist and remove the bugs 'cause he has no problem with cutting himself to pieces, and has enough willpower to keep his focus through it. Maybe enough willpower that he could even back-connect to the bugs and order them to move into an extremity to be cut off. No way to know without finding him, and unless he went underground that's highly unlikely. Still, ask where he as last seen by the salikai's forces.

Ask Naim how long it takes to make a neumono clone, how much original tissue is needed, and how much, if any, of the source neumono's memories are carried over. Does he have some or all of the original Naim's memories, or were his knowledge and memories created and implanted?

Most importantly, ask if they've successfully cloned a neumono predator, or are close to doing so. 'Cause if they have, then killing Four Stripes might not put as big a wrench in their plans as we'd hoped to, and if they're near to succeeding then it's all the more reason to stop them now.

And as far as you're concerned, you don't have much of a problem with him personally for being a clone; It's more unexpected than anything else. It's the implications of there being neumono clones that is worrying you. Korli, on the other hand, might have issues with him specifically. She should still be told so she can make her own decision, though.

Once Viln's free, get him over here, lay out what Niam said about the voklits, and ask if we encounter any forest voklits what it would take to convince them to turn against the salikai's forces and come fight at our side. Not all of them; Just a few, or one.

Better bring everyone up to speed on what Niam said once the work with the wall is done. It's going to upset them to a degree, but trying to keep it hidden is likely to bite you in the tail later on. You can deal with any potential freak outs here and now, where it's relatively safe.
No. 502872 ID: 57a559

SO the bugs are immune to EMP weaponry I take it? Are they capable of destroying the host their in?
No. 502881 ID: f2c20c

Perhaps we should explain how we've been debugging Rokann, and if he knows of any specifics on what we should be careful of with her.
No. 502925 ID: da61c0

wait, you're telling me they had access to our direct command? they could have sent us anywhere, with anyone, under any conditions?
why didn't they send us with other compromised people? with they hunt hive for instance. they could have overpowered us before we knew what was going on.
why didn't they send us to a trap instead of to their head of operations? they could have set anything up anywhere and transported us here after we are subdued.
why didn't they give us a faulty parachute?
why didn't they order us to go without weapons to "respect the volkit" or something?
why didn't they send us alone?
why didn't they inject us with the bots as a "vaccine"
why even tell us we're going to look for the salikai? we would have been less suspicious if they only told us it was a routine escort mission.

too many holes. the only options that explain all of them fully are:
1. the salikai fucked up. they were either dumb and incompetent or they seriously misjudged you, even after the whole mess we proved we could do.
2. Niam is a spy and is making us wait in a place with no good escapes while telling us lies that will make us not attempt to leave to the surface, trust the compromised Biles, not attempt to mess with the bugs and generally stay put until help arrives to take us in.
and 3. Lagotrope didn't think this through..

personally, i am leaning towards 2.
No. 502928 ID: d6ef5d

Oh, and adding to the list of questions- we didn't ask about the gas. How they're distributing it, or low long they can keep up it up.

The answer to some of those questions is because Vanski wants Polo alive. And because the Salikai have never been very good at this kind strategic planning (we've got countless examples of glaring flaws in their past plans and strategies), and and a grief driven insane obsession can't be helping.

And if even if this cave is a trap (which I doubt) it's not as if it makes our situation any worse than it was. Our only options were to run or hole up somewhere, and we were starting to run low on ammunition, and we had injured people, tired people, and bad moral. We couldn't keep that up. We would have been caught, cornered, and overrun within hours at most. A chance at a reprieve is better than what was slow, inevitable failure.

And I didn't read anything about having to stay put or ignore the bugs. Yes, we're hiding for the moment, but that hardly precludes taking future action (in fact, our survival will likely depend on it. If we take no action and stay in one place indefinitely, we will eventually be found). And as for Biles, we'll see what state he is in when we find him. Obviously he gets scanned for bugs, and we have to be wary he didn't drive himself insane breaking mind control or something. And we have to be careful that he may be hostile because he thinks we're compromised.
No. 502935 ID: da61c0

another question: where are the salikai and what is their defenses?
Polo, please check and see what the escape options are for this place. if there are none then you finish a quick rest break and hightail it out of there or else when the enemy shows up you'll have to fight through their whole army.
No. 502938 ID: c4e5c2
File 136475169185.png - (18.07KB , 700x700 , 235.png )

>Who was in what hive/ultrahive again?
Korli and I are in the same ultrahive now, and the science hive will likely be in the same ultrahive if they are rescued. This mission was arranged from another ultrahive, of which every other neumono around me belongs. Every single one of us are from a different normal hive, however.

"So the admiral was bugged. That doesn't sit well with me, not just because he's bugged, but the salikai had me. They could've given me a faulty parachute, sent me alone, sent me without weapons, sent me with other compromised people, and a good number of other issues. A lot of holes come with that news."
>"That is true, except they would not give you a faulty parachute or otherwise deal with you while on the ship. First of all, the salikai have been exceedingly careful in their bugging. It would only take one neumono to be found with bugs to have everything fall apart. If you were killed because of a 'faulty parachute', I am sure such a death would be cause for investigation. Moreso, Vanski has, many times, said death is too good for you. Of course, he says that about all of the neumono. He knows his days are numbered, but still, he is not after the death of all neumono. He wants to 'teach everyone a lesson'. I believe he wants our species to experience what it is like to be a salikai after alien contact. Constantly hunted and killed, I suppose. While he is obsessed with you, perhaps he was not willing to sacrifice everything else he has just to get you after all. He may not have thought capturing you then and there would be worth the risk involved in the admiral performing overt actions, and so chose to be on the side of caution. I do not know, and I am dangerously close to forming wild, unfound speculations. But you are correct, no matter how complicated the scenario may have been, they had the opportunity to have you captured or killed, yet did not take that chance."
"I am also willing to believe the salikai are just completely incompetent at such planning." Though I am aware of the dangers of underestimating my opponent. "Korli. Does it bug you he's a clone?"
>"Uh... it's weird and I don't know if I should feel like we're buds still or if he should be new? Still the same guy, though. Hey, clone-Niam, do you have all his memories and stuff?"
>"To a degree. They are weaker. I remembered you, and other things common in Niam's life. It is all rusty, though. Topics that were on the fringe such as old phone numbers Niam would know I have forgotten and unable to reconstruct."
"Are there any definite signs between clones and originals?"
"No. We have only managed cloning a constant copy, and the only differences are unintentional. Some are tagged on the ear with a barcode label, but nothing involving their physical body."
"What are those monogoggles you have?"
>"The cloning is not perfect, at least it was not with me. I have poor eyesight. It is an external implant."
"How long does it take, and how much tissue is needed?"
>"We condense a good deal of tissue over time to a relatively small volume, and proceed to give it brainless neumono flesh to mold around, to put it in near offensively simple terms. Hence is why I have many memories, but they are weak. It takes approximately one month of intense care and supervision."
"... can they clone predators?"
>"Not to my awareness, but cloning most species has been accomplished, and now neumono. I would not expect predators have many hidden mysteries about them anymore."
"Are the bugs capable of destroying their host?"
>"Yes, they can drive a neumono permanently insane in approximately 37 seconds on average, or 46 seconds to braindeath."
"Do the salikai have a deadman switch or other sort of trigger to attempt maximum damage?"
"Is there a way to disrupt the bugs at all? We are removing them from Rokann manually."
>"Jammers of radio and empathy will block outward communication, but there is no particular way I am aware of to disrupt them internally. They are highly EMP resistant, though perhaps not perfectly so. What you are doing with Rokann I would recommend continuing to do."
"Can they send visual or aural information through radio?"
>"Yes, although it is not often clear. The bugs do not act like a camera, rather, they intercept the signals that the eyes send to the brain to process, which often complicates trying to communicate that through radio.
"Tell me about the gas, and how they are distributing it."
>"They've installed pipes sporadically around, I do not know the locations of them. There is not much difference, conceptually, between the new gas and the gas we put on Rokoa's ship. It is only marginally stronger, in fact, but it is far cheaper and faster to make now once we made a few substitutes. It is still finite, but I doubt they will run out soon."
"How much of that brain matter in a dart has to be injected to do much?"
>"Just a portion. It is hard to say how much. Your ally may have been fine without slicing off her ear, or she may not have been fine."
"What is guarding the salikai's base now, and where is it?"
>"I will upload the location on your map systems I overheard one of you said you had. Many of the arkots, I imagine some clones, voklits, vernauts where they will fit, and grottles in whatever ducts are installed are the primary source of defenses at the moment. Essentially speaking, people and things that Vanski and Ohidi would like to put to good use, yet not let out of their sight. Due to technical issues we have had, stationary turrets are, to my awareness, out of order.
"When you work with Katzati, please include any possible escape routes. Give me a moment's break."
No. 502939 ID: c4e5c2
File 136475170549.png - (21.77KB , 700x700 , 236.png )

"Hello, Viln."
"What would it take to get forest voklit to fight with us against the salikai?"
>"To assist neumono in neumono wars? Would have to move the mountain."
"Even if it were just a couple of Voklits?"
>"Voklit do not change sides so..." He pauses, I presume thinking about the fact that he was not aware there were so many voklit working for the salikai either. He stares for a few moments at his gun. "Viln does not know what the beliefs are, today."

I'll leave him to removing the wall. The mortar is loose after all, so it should be possible to take down the wall and put it back together later. At least the ceiling is tall enough for him.
No. 502940 ID: c4e5c2
File 136475172273.png - (51.50KB , 700x700 , 237.png )

I head inside where most of us now are, setting up camp.

"Katzati. Are you okay to work?" She looks to her right, first, thinking I am over there. It looks like she still cannot hear out of her left ear.
>"Yeah... I'm looking at what we have. It looks like they tried deleting the files on death, but it didn't get far. Most of it's there, just... well, it's corrupted, but I think Korli can help with recovering the map data. I'll work with Niam too to get the salikai base and all that stuff. Maybe he'll have a way out, too."
"I'll send him in, but first, I have one more question I almost hope he doesn't have the answer to."
No. 502941 ID: c4e5c2
File 136475196132.png - (11.84KB , 700x700 , 238.png )

"Alright, Niam. You said you don't know who the brain matter is from, but have you seen any transformations?"
>"Yes, there have been two tested transformations with success. They are expensive to make, but I do imagine they sent a stalker after you with the dart to test it in combat."
"Describe what they turned into."
>"I did not see the final effect, or I do not remember, but the first signs of differences were that the skin turned black and the fur a light gray with a slight blue saturation. A snow neumono. Oh, it was my memory, yes. Rokoa. Now I remember. I am sorry, does her being cloned bother you?" he asks. I must have made some sign of discomfort, to make a gross understatement.
"... does it bother me?"
>"She may remember you, as it may prove too difficult to isolate and remove exact memories. You two were allies, were you not? Now that I remember this, I am uncertain why Vanski would want, or think it a good idea, to copy her of all people."
"I don't want to talk about that. Do the Rokoa copies turn out as strong as the original?"
>"Close. It uses similar concepts as cloning, so there may be certain issues, but I, for example, am approximately just as physically strong as the original Niam."
No. 502942 ID: 76b151

Ah fuck. Rokoa clones... and with our luck they'll all want rematches.
No. 502944 ID: 9ddf68

... oh shit

ask him how many do they have and if he doesn't know tell him to ball park it. This might be a good thing as like Naim said you two were kinda friends so you might be able to get them on your side, but at the same time this is Rokoa we're talking about and she has a very good track record of not doing what other want her to do. Also ask Naim if the Rokoa clones would be more likely to be in the tunnels hunting us down or do they fall under the 'like to keep a close eye on' category and would most likely to be at the salikai base.
No. 502947 ID: d6ef5d

>Rokoa clones!
Well. Looks like you're getting to that next rematch sooner than expected.

Niam- how the hell are they controlling the copies? She was already insane and nearly uncontrollable before. A predator could barely get her to stop killing- but it couldn't get her pacified or controlled. You have serious doubts as to how effectively a Rokoa driven fully insane by the dart cloning process could be controlled, even by the bugs.

Now, there are obviously downsides to the enemy being able to deploy multiple Rokoa clones. There are some potential advantages though. If they ever lose control of any of them, that's pretty good for us. And if any of them are actually sane, or have the right memories, it's possible they can be turned.

Plus, hey, you'll get to shoot her again. (...real fucking pity we're out of explosive shotgun ammo, though).

...what happened to Marra's ear? Did you get a Rokoa ear blanket to cuddle after all?

>Other stuff
Rokoa clones are obviously the worst case, but don't overlook the possible risk of the group being compromised by other look-alikes. There's Niam's original (and the possibility he wasn't the only clone), and both you and Korli were in the Salikai base long enough they might have had the material to clone you. Set up call and response passwords to guard against this.

In the meantime, we need to do camp stuff. Tend to the injured, work on Rokann, tend to the gear, tally how much food we have, set up a rotation watching the entrance, and let people rest and recover.

After the group is rested up, Rokann is clean, and we have maps, we can start planning the next move.
No. 502948 ID: 57a559

Many would probably have acceptable feelings of shock and fear after this revelation, and they probably should.
But I think now we should get a little hyped.

This is going to get fun, fast.
No. 502956 ID: fb528f

I wonder if Rokoa's brain tissue is insane enough to override the bugs...
No. 502962 ID: da61c0

so there is more than one rokoa.
No. 502965 ID: 7e6e35

At the very least, it seems that although they can make clones, the very process itself makes those clones' loyalties very suspect, especially if they're cloning people who weren't their servants to begin with. On the other hand, the different method with the Rokoa clones probably leaves them with less memories and more different from her than the normal clones are. And they can still just bug the clones.

... So, Rokoa's neural matter is particularly hardy and virulent! That might explain... some things. You need to be careful next time you snack on her limbs.

Anyway. If the regular clones preserve the original's memories and empathy, then chances are that they have cloned you, Polo, to get clones that have your ability. However, they probably can't bug them, because the bugs release empathy when they try to control their host, which would ruin the stealth. So if you do run into them (most likely they've been confined for study, if they exist, unless the Salikai are REALLY dumb), then they'll probably not be too hard to persuade to help you. If the salikai are the smarter kind of dumb they'll have bombs in their brains or something, but it's something to keep in mind.

You should ask how the clone's loyalties are supposed to be enforced. Perhaps for the science hive clones, that's not an issue, but any other seem like they would have to be bugged, confined or killed. You should also ask Korli and Niiam what the chances are that the salikai or clone team have had you cloned, if they had opportunity.
No. 502971 ID: b33427

Well, this is an unwelcome development, but by now unwelcome developments are regular occurrence for you. This one is just a little more so than usual.

Since the brain matter used for the Rokoa transformation was almost certainly taken from before your duel with the real Rokoa, whatever memories it would have of you are not going to help you sway the Rokoa clones in any way. So don't expect any sudden changes in sides on their part.

Thankfully it sounds like the neumono cloning process requires extraction of a fair bit of brain tissue from the original neumono, so you don't have to worry about clone yous showing up since the salikai didn't get such a sample from you. Now, Korli, on the other hand, might have a clone or be able to be cloned if they had a sample from before she ran. Better ask her if she remembers having such a sample taken.

Vanski might not have had a choice in using Rokoa's neural matter for the brain-darts if hers was the only one sample that could survive the process and still be potent, or hers was the most effective by a wide margin. Or he might have chosen her so he could enjoy bending her clones to his will, and having control over them. But this is just speculation, and we don't really have a reason to find out, unless getting into Vanski's head would help us decide what to do.

Niam didn't mention the giant neumono as being in the base defense, unless they were in with the clones. Are they all out in the search parties? How many of them are there down here, anyway?

>Voklits changing sides or not
It would be hard to get the forest voklit on our side against the salikai, so what would it take for them to turn against just the cave voklit that allied with the salikai? Or to not even fight on any side and just flee into the forest and caves for the duration?

>Salikais' deadman's switch
In whatever plans we do make, before making a final move on the salikai we're going to have to find out if they have one of these setup, what it does, and how to disable or counter it. 'Cause if it includes a base self-destruct nuke, that'd be nice to know about beforehand.
No. 502978 ID: 7e6e35

>the brain matter used for the Rokoa transformation was almost certainly taken from before your duel with the real Rokoa
>you don't have to worry about clone yous showing up since the salikai didn't get such a sample from you

They could have gotten large samples from either of them shortly before or during the initial stages of the communal hallucination, I think.
No. 502980 ID: d6ef5d

I'm not sure trying to persuade the voklit to change sides is the way to think about it. They take their honor and personal loyalties very seriously. Viln only took up a gun because he sees his people as being enslaved now- worse than the reservation situation the neumono forced upon them. He's fighting so his people and their way of life (or even the memory of that way of life) can survive. The salikai have likely played off something similar- convincing voklit to set aside their ways and serve them in promise of some kind of better life, or some kind of revenge against the neumono who have oppressed them.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is what will happen to them if we successfully defeat the salikai.

Unlikely. I got the impression the surviving salikai troops went right for the bridge as soon as the gas kicked in for their nuclear endgame. If they had the chance to take samples from Polo and Rokoa while they were snoozing in the brig, they would have likely have taken the opportunity to kill them as well (in the comm conversation we overheard at the end they were lamenting they had not had the chance to do that).

The most likely source of the Rokoa material would be during her stay in their hospital facility.

But depending on how they're controlled, what they remember, and how sane they are, we might be able to get through to the clones, regardless. Rokoa is the sort who might honor the results of a duel she doesn't remember if she truly believes it took place. And she's hated the Red Queen for decades, if not years. And she's grown used to coping with memory loss from traumatic injury before.

The problem is if the copies are too controlled, too insane, or too different from the person Polo knew to do anything with. (Which is possible- Polo didn't recognize the dart by empathic signature, for one).
No. 502982 ID: f2c20c

Niam has been an amazing source of information for us. You know what they say, knowledge is power. He may have just turned the tide for us. Ask him if he has any requests in exchange for all this help.
No. 502995 ID: c4e5c2
File 136478106474.png - (12.63KB , 700x700 , 239.png )

"Niam, how are they controlling, or attempting to control her, and why is their base still intact. She was supposedly under a predator's control but apparently was not."
>"Keep in mind that that was for a few hours from an untrained predator. I am certain that brain matter has been indoctrinated extensively through four stripes and every other means we have. That is not to say I claim that Vanski has succeeded beyond doubt, merely that Rokoa resisting what she did around you means little comparatively."
"Unrelatedly, is it possible for her brain matter to infect people by eating her flesh?"
>"Typically it goes through the digestive system and brain matter does not get absorbed into the eaters brain. But, if there is any neumono brain matter that would get through, I suppose it would be that."

In recent months, ever since my last mission, I have still had a disconcerting number of thoughts involving Rokoa, and the occasional dream in which... well, they are not solid, but they are too Rokoa-like than I would like, as vague as it is. I have been thinking, or at least telling myself, that it was merely because of her external influence getting to me, not because of what I ate. I will alert everyone to be on the watch for clones.

>"I doubt you will fight yourself, as I do not believe they got enough sample from you to make a clone, at least not a good one. But, you are aware that if they are able to indoctrinate Rokoa, then it is probable you will have to fight her? You will have to prepare to fight her if you wish to pursue the salikai."
"Yes, Niam, thank you, I am very much aware of that, but I do not need to 'prepare' to kill Rokoa. She is a disease, and the salikai are trying to spread it. How many Rokoas are there?"
>"At least two. I am certain that if Vanski is confident in her, then there are more."
"And the giant neumono. Are they in the search parties?"
>"I believe I left before I had a chance to learn where they were or were not going."
"In any case, you have been invaluable with this info, if it is remotely correct. Are you wanting anything in return?"

>Where is Marra's ear?
I still have it. Aside from not quite being large enough to make a decent blanket, in light of recent events, I feel more inclined to burn it.
No. 502997 ID: c4e5c2
File 136478122369.png - (17.64KB , 700x700 , 240.png )

I take the neumono sample, apparently of Rokoa, and wade out just outside of the jammer bubble.

It is weaker. Whatever keeps it alive does not seem to be transferrable to a tube. But is is still dying and it is still confused, both aspects which do not resemble Rokoa. That said, I would not say it is afraid or panicking, which I imagine would be the more natural response to waking up with absolutely no senses, only your own thoughts. Although neumono brain matter is exceptionally soft, I have not attributed it to being so malleable as to resemble a liquid. I almost feel bad for the shaking she has gone through, but I do not know how that would affect her.
No. 502998 ID: c4e5c2
File 136478123285.png - (17.14KB , 700x700 , 241.png )

Marra and Korli are busy debugging Rokann. Lucera is taking inventory. Kort is hiding under his blankets, Viln is finishing the deconstruction of the wall, and Katzati and Niam are working on the maps. There isn't much else I can think of to do to help much at this moment, so I rest for some time, keeping watch on the water before heading to check in on Katzati.

"How are things?"
>"I've got most of it." Katzati replies. "There's even exits! But..."
>"The nearest is 8 kilometers or so. There are several around. They are certain to be guarded, and even if we are able to push through them, the hunter hive still has personnel above ground with helicopters and such things, including wider range radio jammers." Niam explains. "Escape, or reporting to non-infected hives, is improbable by brute force. There is, however, one chance I can see, that may fit with our wishes. We wish to escape, you wish to enter the salikai base, I take it. I believe there are 3 primary radio links that branch out from the salikai's base. If they are taken out simultaneously via timed explosives, then they will temporarily lose connection with the outside world. It will not be for long, but it may be all we need to make a push outwards while the salikai are unable to converge all of their forces on us. I will tell you more if this sounds like something you wish to do, but this is a delicate logistical plan that has numerous chances for failure."
No. 502999 ID: 9ddf68

yeah well you make this sound like this isn't our first suicide mission we've been on so unless we lack the bombs and/or timers I think that as good a plan as any.

As for the plan itself I guess Polo and any combat neumono & maybe viln if they feels up to it will go to the salikai base well the rest of the group heads toward an exit with at least one combat anyone (anyone who knows how to fight and WASN'T just here to write down maps or translate). Also group B's goal should be to make contact with the ultra hive and tell them of the infected hive and basically get the word out about the bugs and Group A's goal is to basically cause as much damage to the salikai base as possible and get as much info as possible. After that is said and done both groups job is then to get the hell out of here.
No. 503001 ID: 57a559

Completing the objectives is going to be the easiest thing, keeping everyone alive is what's going to be hard.

I'm unsure if we should simply go solo for the infiltration bits to minimize casualties. Finding Biles should be a secondary priority, his knowledge of getting the bugs out will be detrimental. We can save a LOT of the hunter hive if we can understand his technique. It should be possible to make the CAI slightly suicidal, which means it could help out. Kill Four Stripes is obviously top of the list. Does the clone know where 4stripes would most likely be located?
No. 503002 ID: d6ef5d

>I have still had a disconcerting number of thoughts involving Rokoa...
It's very unlikely you were affected by the Rokoa jerky. It was days dead and dried out before you even ate any. It's not going to affect you the same way those darts affect people. You had an unhealthy obsession with her before that, as well. Just... don't worry about that.

...I'm not sure what to do with the dart. I almost feel sorry for her. It? Suppress insane impulse to stab yourself with it. Part of me wants to mercy kill it, another to hold onto it. Maybe it would be useful against a Rokoa clone? Infect a 'controlled', trained, or brainwashed one with a cleaner sample, and suddenly it's forgotten all the salikai programming and conditioning?

>take out radio beacons with timed explosions
>allow others to make a push for the outside
A big problem I see with that is we lack timed explosives. We don't have C4 in inventory- only a single grenade. We'd have to procure on site- raid a salikai armory or something (You're also out of shotgun ammo and low on rifle ammo. Not exactly what you want when taking on Rokoas or worse). We also lack the ability to communicate with our allies at a distance- so we can't single when it's time to make a push. We'd be dependent on prearranged timing. A single hold up on our end and we're sending them to their deaths.

Also, presumably they're using the radio interruption to break past the guarded entrance, and then get clear before hunter hiver helicopters can arrive? That means they have to cross 8k of caves without being caught or delayed by any searchers as well. Or else, window missed, again.

I mean, Polo's all for infiltration and sabotage, even risking her life on almost certain death, but the odds of success on that look bleak.

Could we do anything to improve our chances? Could we pull the communication equipment from the hunter helmets? Those seemed to work underground, and through the salikai's jamming. If we got ourselves working comms, that cuts out one of the big problems (piggyback on the relays they set up down here?). That and/or the ability to listen to enemy communications would make Polo's breaking in and the others evading searchers as they move to the exit a lot easier.
No. 503006 ID: 78c6ea

Huh, I just noticed a flaw in this whole setup.

Someone kill Four-stripes, and all the Rokoas go into an insane unstoppable rage. Then fall over.
No. 503008 ID: fb528f

Blow up the radios without turning into Rokoa, sounds simple enough. Hold onto the dart. We may want to locate the cloning facility later on see if there's any convenient neumono tissue sitting around we can infect with Rokoa as a distraction.
No. 503013 ID: eaa6fc

it's.... risky.... but due to the fact the brainmatter tries to assimilate, could it be used on non-neumono targets either lethally or enough to debilitate? basically "short out" a larger non-neumono target by say putting a limb out of action or hitting the chest & letting the matter try to assimilate the heart &/or lungs? naturally it won't turn whatever into a "rokoa" and probably ultimately reject it but the damage should be done if it works.
No. 503014 ID: 76b151

I seriously doubt Rokoa's cells will know what to do with for example Arkot flesh. They aren't nanomachines.
No. 503015 ID: d6ef5d

Guys, let's not all jump on this just because it's what was offered. We want to figure out a plan that works while we can.

An important question to consider is if we don't go with this plan, what are our alternatives? We've ditched pursuit for the moment, but eventually they will be back to search this area more carefully. We are on a timetable.

Another logistical constraint: how far is the base or infiltration point from where we are now? Polo will have to make it from here to there while evading patrols. And there's also the problem of the nearly undetectable cameras- they're sure to have them close to or in the base. How do we bypass them without being seen?

Finally, there's timing. How long do we wait before we attempt something like this? It would be nice if the wounded had sufficient time to recover, including Rokann to where she can fight with the others. Of course there's a tradeoff- the longer we wait to act, the sooner we may be discovered.

>Marra's ear
I think the intent of my question got lost in the blanket joke. Has the ear undergone a visible transformation at all? The color start to change?
No. 503016 ID: d3bdc2


Normally predators turn their mindslaves into vegetables, but for the rokoa clones to be most valuable they need to keep her memory and skills, and it was implied they'll keep at least some of those. Four stripes may have been trained to do things better, but it probably means they'll be a little more independent if he gets killed. In any case, they could possibly still be fixed if you got the original Rokoa and injected them with her.

It sounds like this plan could also be used as a cover for you, Polo, to slip into their base and kill Four Stripes, but at the same time, I wonder if the intent of the salikai is not to capture you and clone you so they can have their neumono hunters.

On the other hand, just plain getting out and getting help may cripple them for a while, but they likely have yet more fallback positions, and the time it takes to get help may be long enough for them to run away again. You should ask everyone what they think.
No. 503031 ID: 78c6ea


Even better! The attempts to carefully control them will fail and they'll go into an unstoppable rage spontaneously.

...how is their base still intact, again?
No. 503215 ID: b33427

This plan practically menaces with points of failure, but compared to the alternative of evading the salikai's forces indefinitely it might be slightly better. Emphasis on "might." After all, the group has maps now, so evading the salikai's forces for a long time is a much better possibility than before.

Alright, you'll hear Niam's plan and decide if you'll act on it afterwards, but only if he can assure you of two things: That he's certain the salikai's base has no other way to communicate out once those three radio links are down; Not even an extremely slow way. And that the salikai have absolutely no place to escape to, because you're not going to put everyone here at risk if even if the plan succeeds the salikai can still slip away and hide.

The biggest question in this plan is how you're going to get into the salikai's base and plant the timed explosives without you or them being detected. There's undoubtedly loads of surveillance cameras all over their base, and AIs continually monitoring them. Second biggest question is where you're going to get the timed explosives. Somehow steal them from the salikai's base without being found out?

Katz sure looks like she could use a hug and some reassurance right about now, so go over there and give her that. Half the group probably could use the same, so half-jokingly tell her that her duties now include giving hugs to keep morale up. Lord knows at least Kort could use a big hug and some comforting; He looked like he's about to have a nervous breakdown after going through all that water.
No. 503266 ID: c4e5c2
File 136485190117.png - (14.58KB , 700x700 , 242.png )

>Has marra's ear undergone any transformation?
No. Chances are it has minimal brain matter, if any, for Rokoa to hijack.

"I am skeptical, but let's hear it."

>"Alright. All radio links are lining this outer shell of Vanski's base. We were unable to place them inside, thankfully, due to required wavelengths performing poorly through our thick base walls. Therefore, you do not need to enter Vanksi's base itself. For this operation, we would all agree on one precise time of action. Let's say, arbitrarily, 10:00. At 10:00, everyone but you be at one exit that remains to be chosen, and push our way through. We would be found out if we simply hung by any exit far in advance, so we will attempt to procure any hiding place as close as possible so that we can arrive right at 10 AM with minimal chance of discovery.
>Likewise, explosives will be sitting timing down. More time spent doing this means more chance that they will be discovered. Therefore, it would also be best if you start as late as possible, but if anything holds you back, then you will not be able to lay them down in time. Another tradeoff. We will have no way to know this, and will charge at 10:00 regardless, having to place our faith in you. It is also imperative that you are not found at any location laying explosives. If any link is left intact, Vanski's whole web will still work. Fortunately, our camera systems are not omnipresent, in no small part due to Korli's hive's lack of motivation to do fine jobs. Plus, our wall cameras have certain looks. I will install them into your visor to automatically detect and point out any cameras. I am familiar enough with Katzati's software to perform this. In fact, I will be doing that regardless. Remember to use IR for any laser alarm systems. They detect minute, quick changes in heat.
>If you wish, you may decide on coming with us and simply lay explosives with enough time to come back to us. This will make any discovery of explosives being found prematurely heighten. Otherwise, you will just give yourself enough time to escape blast radius while we will escape, leaving you trapped inside once again. Once so, we will radio out as soon as we can, to any and every frequency you give us. I will tell everyone what I know."
"Problem. Where will we get timed explosives?"
>"That is problematic. I have two wrist watches. With several hours or, hopefully not, days, I may be able to work in some mechanisms to make timed explosives. If we have any explosives at all that I may dismantle, they do not need to be big. Otherwise, we will require salvaging explosives from Vanski's forces ahead of time."
"Can we not communicate using hunter helmets? They may have strong reception."
>"Unlikely. I am unable to hack into their radio system to use their own linkups, and linkups are what provides their helmet's working communication."
No. 503293 ID: d6ef5d

>upgrade visor hud to detect and point out hidden cameras
That is like the best news we've had all day.

>making explosives
Not a bad idea, even if we end up scrapping this plan. Ultimately shit will need to be blown up. Problem is, all we've got is a grenade and our rapidly dwindling explosive ammo. Both of which are kind of hard to take apart, in short supply, and kind of needed for their original purpose. Hopefully Lucerra finds some more stuff in inventory to be used.

We're going to need another watch, though. We need three timed explosions, not two.

If it's going to take hours or days though, that's time we should use doing something else. Possibly stealing more supplies, scouting routes to be taken, or gathering food. If we're going to do this, we want to prepare as much as we can to tilt the odds in favor of success.

>choice between laying the bombs and running with everyone else, or hiding and holding out as long as you can while the others escape
...I think we know which Polo will choose. Not only does running early leave more time for the mines to be discovered, but the longer you're causing problems for the salikai, the less resources will be sent chasing after your allies.
No. 503294 ID: 001618

ok we are going to need to raid an Amory or something if we want to get the explosives we need to pull this plan off and I think it would be best if we went to the base solo. Mostly because it's like Naim said, if we can get the word out to the hives about the bugs we can cripple a large part of the salikai's plans and even if this is the mission where polo bits the dust if we can get the news out we still win in the long run.
No. 503313 ID: f2c20c

How many grenades did we loot?
No. 503328 ID: c4e5c2
File 136486245332.png - (32.23KB , 700x700 , 243.png )

"I will be staying inside, so explosive timers will be minimal. But the explosives we have will be needed for their original purpose. Is there an armory or some equivalent?"
>"Yes, inside of the base. There may be staging zones where supplies have been gathered. They are sure to be guarded anyways, and it is possible they move them frequently. I would recommend simply wandering the caves somewhere else and attempt to steal supplies from wandering patrols." says Niam.

>How many grenades did we loot?
None. I am also skeptical of Niam's idea for getting supplies due to the fact that they seem to be aware that when we withstand what they throw at us, we are better equipped for the next time. They have not carried much.

I will do more minor things around camp first, anyways. Namely, morale.

>Hug Katzati
Perhaps I should have simply gone for it, but I do not know how to go about hugging her form. It seems logistically awkward, she is sitting, and now she is staring at me.
No. 503332 ID: 8b9215

Continue having an awkward silence.
No. 503333 ID: 57a559

Just give her a thumbs up then.
It'll be an awkward thumbs up, but it'll be cute.
Or fist bump. But then you end up hanging for a few seconds while she understands which gesture your intending.

If you're broadcasting thoughts right now, I have no idea why you would, but please don't think of dubstep and her breasts at the same time above all else.

I don't like how prepared Niam is for this, like, he's perfectly balenced between perfect preparation to be too suspicious and not prepared enough. Not only that, but his plan leaves you quite vulnerable when it's time to escape. I think he'd betray us, for some godawful reason. Or maybe his ocular external implant might have one of those linkups he's talking about with the enemy. He might be a sleeper agent of some sort. He might not even do anything directly hostile, he just has a tracker and recorder on hand maybe he doesn't even know about.

He has perfect explanations for why he can abandon his hive beyond the fact that cloning is farfetched. He's a godsend in this constant flux of terrible shit being thrown at us otherwise. How did we catch this lucky break? Do not share your suspicions at all. Just please, while you enact any bits of the plan that you keep a close eye on him. And if you have ways of tracking these linkups, do so. Just tracking, find out where they are and where they go. But not what they send to each other. We'll be able to piece most of that out with logic without making ourselves vulnerable.
No. 503351 ID: d6ef5d

>ambush patrol(s) for supplies
Well, it does have some downsides. Yes, the groups we've seen so far haven't been carrying much. But if you're not escorting the entire team when you go on a raid, it'll be easier to move quickly and sneaky. And hitting a patrol is actually something we know we can pull off- an armory raid is more doubtful.

Of course, the biggest problem with hitting patrols is it gives away your location- or at least where you're near. And you'll then have to evade the response teams that come running.

There's an opening right above you. Glance up- nothing in there, right?

>Korli's hive
The clones weren't considered a proper part of the hive, and his speech seems to indicate he doesn't think of himself as one either.

>I do not know how to go about hugging her form
Just go for putting a reassuring hand on her, I guess. Not much else you can manage from your current position, and it's a nice callback to your earlier encounter.

I don't see much stock in assuming he's a double-agent. If they could have placed a traitor to intercept and mislead us, they could have placed a team to catch us. And his information is hardly too good to be true. Plus there's precedent- literally every other person from the science hive given the chance to turn on the Salikai (Korli, Likol, and the other 7 or 8 the warhive captured) has taken that chance.

No harm in keeping an eye peeled, though.
No. 503358 ID: 9ddf68

then just pat her on the shoulder or something and ask how her head wound is doing and how she is holding up in general, if things for whatever reason start to get weird or if you just run out of things to talk about then ask her how the map data is going and if there is anything to note.
No. 503384 ID: b33427

Outright tell Katzati that she looked like she could use a hug, but you had to think a moment about how to go about it. Then climb up on the table, step down onto her legs, and embrace her from there. Alternately, hug her from her right side as far as you can reach and she can put her arm around your back. Take a moment to drop your empathic block and thank her for what she did for you back at the last camp, and ask how well her ear is healing up.

Once the moment has passed, ask Katz to look at the maps around the cave exits and pick out the one with the most hiding spots and ways to evade patrols within about an hour's travel around it; That'll be the target exit. Then ask if later she could help you talk to Kort about his fear of water.

Thinking about it, there might be a way for the escape group to have some idea if you were successful or not. Ask Korli and Niam if it'd be possible to listen in on the frequency and wavelength the salikai use and detect if there are messages going over the channel; Not decrypt, but just know if there are messages. Then when the time comes to storm the exit, they can listen for a spike or dip in traffic on that channel. If they need a transceiver with the right characteristics the one from the empathic relay might work.

Alternate test for your success would be to flip the empathic relay back to relay mode, put it on one of the escape group's backs, and hold them outside the jamming field for a few seconds. If that person starts to be hijacked by Four Stripes, then the escape group will know you've failed in destroying all the radio links. Downside to this test is it'll have to be done after taking down the exit guards, because otherwise the neumono guards would sense it.

Also ask Niam what the area around the radio links looks like, so you'll have an idea of how to camouflage the explosives, and if any of the radio link electronics are in enclosures on the outside of the base. If there are, you could open one and hide the explosives inside. Might not even need explosives if he could rig up something that'd attach to the high voltage line in there and completely fry the circuit boards when the timer goes off.

As for getting explosives and such, head out by yourself so you can move quickly and quietly, find a patrol, and tail them for a bit to see if they head to staging area. If they do, then hide and watch the staging area to see if any of the patrols that are leaving from there are carrying explosive gel launchers or other kinds of high explosives. Then tail that patrol until you have a chance to strike or steal.

Didn't you get a single grenade off of that group that had the cloakers in it?
No. 503411 ID: d6ef5d

Hmm. Trying to jury rig something to just detect the level of enemy chatter, without actually trying to decode the transmissions, is pretty clever.

If we're going to do a full moral roundup, checking on people before we head out for the next stage of whatever we're doing, we should probably check with Lucera and the inventory. See Rokann once she's clean. We'll have to talk to Viln too- he's been through a lot here, and you'll likely be separating soon. Kort could probably use some reassurance.

...and hope no one else wants to talk to you about the Roklona situation.
No. 503461 ID: c4e5c2
File 136488558627.png - (22.64KB , 700x700 , 244.png )

>There's an opening right above you.
There is, but it is merely where the carved stone has fallen. There is only more rock underneath.

I walk up to Katzati. I start to give a thumbs up, but I do not give thumbs up and my hand just hovers for a stupidly awkward split second. I salvage this by continuing to move it upward and patting her on the shoulder.

"How is your head doing?"

Physical contact is still weak with the jammer, but once again, it is there once I drop my silence. Her head still pounds, but she is hanging in there. She responds well to whatever scraps of empathy she can get. I suppose it may have been better if I did follow through with my original thought of a potential hug--
No. 503462 ID: c4e5c2
File 136488559546.png - (15.93KB , 700x700 , 245.png )

Okay. She sensed that I was going to hug her and she took that to mean swiftly pull me up and squeeze me hard enough to make me think that she is trying to make a permanent Polo-shaped indentation in her front.

She is strong and reminds me that if I enter combat with Rokoa, I am going to have to use my melee training just to not get grabbed by her. It will mean death or worse. Such as getting injected with Rokoa. For the sake of mental health, in regards to both of us, I will stop thinking of such things for the moment. I am uncertain why she cares to latch onto me when there are other neumono around who likely have... who maybe have more relaxing thoughts than my own.

As for her, she has an odd, newfound admiration that I am apparently so quick to just tell everyone to go on ahead while I stick behind. She still has excessive worry on her mind. And that hugging someone with armor is not ideal, but due to the possibility that a team of voklits or hunters or whatever could surface during however long she is planning on latching onto me for, I am not comfortable with taking it off. She would crush me anyway.

Maybe she can sense that maybe I could have used a - I am done thinking for the moment.

"I will need you to look at exits to see which has the most hiding spots."
>"I know, I will. Niam has to use the computer anyway."
No. 503469 ID: f2c20c

She's still uncomfortable about the jammer, and this helps. Let her have this. We're not doing much of anything right now anyway.

Has Viln's bullet been extracted yet?
No. 503492 ID: d6ef5d

>who maybe have more relaxing thoughts than my own
To be fair, pretty much everyone is going to be worrying about something right now. And your thoughts are the only ones that went to comforting another. So yeah, you're pretty much as good as it gets, here.

>Has Viln's bullet been extracted yet?
I don't think so. We might as well work on him, next. And he might need the chance to talk to you too- he's caught up in a world he doesn't understand while everything he knew falls apart.
No. 503514 ID: 9ddf68

well that is one person in our little group checked upon now we just have to see how everyone else is holding up. I think we should check on Viln next since we did say we were going to take that bullet out of him, then see how well Kari was it, is doing. then check on that one guy who has a name i can't remember who was afraid to go into the water seeing as at that point he should have calmed down enough for us to talk to him, then end it by talking to the solder types and also squeeze debugging in there somewhere as we need to get that done as well.
No. 503520 ID: 55d5a7

Aw, Polo needed a hug, too! Relax into it, girl. :)
No. 503533 ID: c4e5c2
File 136492680749.png - (12.58KB , 700x700 , 246.png )

I let her hold onto me for some time. The last thing I sense from her is 'thanks' before she lets me go.

"Niam, I have a possibility to prevent you from being in the dark about whether or not I succeeded. You may not be able to decrypt radio chatter, but if you are merely about to get on the frequency and see whether or not there is a radio frequency, you may be able to see if there are spikes or drops in activity at our explosion time. In other words, if there are spikes, then I failed, if there is a sharp drop, I succeeded."
>"... smart. That can be done."

I head to Viln next.

"I'm going to get the bullet out of your neck." He lays down where I can work on him. "Stay still. We don't have any anaethesia."
"What is anistheez ya?"
"Drugs to dim the pain."
"No need." Figures he'd say that.
"It hit near the back. I may need to trim some fur."
"Would rather keep bullet in neck. Do not remove fur."
"... I'll work around it, then." Not like I am wishing he still considered himself my slave, but he was certainly easier to work with then. "I don't think I ever asked. Do you have family back in your village?"
"No longer."

I could probably have had more tact than to ask about such things.

"Were you listening to our plans on escape?"
"You will be with everyone else, helping them escape."
"You do not think I or other neumono are of help to you?"
No. 503535 ID: 9ddf68

no it's not that it's just that everyone wants to survive and where I'm going survival isn't likely and we need at least one person to warn the other hives about the Salikai and there plans.

If he persist with coming with you I don't think it would hurt to much and it would be nice to have backup. and because he isn't a neumono we don't have to worry about him being picked up on the empathy link either
No. 503545 ID: c4e5c2
File 136492950536.png - (66.94KB , 700x700 , 247.png )

"Everyone wants to live, but where I am going, that is unlikely."
>"Polo believes I fear death as I am?"
"No, but there is a difference between not fearing death, and throwing your life away. You can find a new one outside when you escape."
>"Where? No home, cannot live with neumono."
"Why not?"
>"Would never accept me."
"Viln, I have gotten my hive to take in a predator and treat it well. They are the very apex of what neumono fear, so I would have a tough time believing that they will have the slightest hesitation in accepting you."
>"Then why treat forest voklit like inconvenient pet?"
"That is the other ultrahive. Not all neumono play on the same team. Besides, you wanted your way of life to at least be remembered if not practiced, right? There's a lot of people that would be interested in voklits."
>"No species other than voklit has cared for voklit ways."
"Aliens do. Odd, but true. The world has changed, you know that as much as anyone."
"Anyways, I found the bullet. It wasn't that deep after all."
No. 503546 ID: c4e5c2
File 136492951673.png - (12.24KB , 700x700 , 247bu.png )

I move over to my next target of attention.

"Hello, Kort."
>"Hrmph." He rolls back over in his bedding.
"Are you still wishing you let the salikai capture you?"
He doesn't respond.
No. 503548 ID: af8414

Physical contact, make some empathetic reassurances.
No. 503549 ID: d6ef5d

Hmm. Is the triply redundant communication system we're blowing what they run everything through? Including the predator things, and the compromised ultra-hive's leadership?

If so, great. Once our allies get clear and call in, there will be a window to move against the compromised and/or sleepers before they can be warned or receive new orders. If not, central control for the bugs and/or four strips should probably be our next target.

You're going on a sneaking, sabotage, and hiding mission. The other neumono aren't so good at that, and will be limited by jammers (I don't think we ever explained to Viln how Polo is different). And they're not all warriors, either. And offense, but you're kind of huge.

And the whole point of what you're doing is so the others can punch through. We can't win this fight on our own. The only way to end this is to get the word out. Break the silence and the secrecy and the Salikai lose before they can do more damage. Someone has to fight that battle.

And if I fail, the group will be trapped in these caves longer. They'll need someone who knows how to stay alive down here.

...of course you're free now. I can't make you do anything.
No. 503550 ID: 9ddf68

ask Kort if he is afraid of water or was that just what finally pushed him over the edge. also ask why did he come along on this trip if there would be a chance of running into Salikai. say all of this in a reassuring tone or as close as you can get to it we just need this guy to open up. Hell maybe you can tell him about the first time you faced the Salikai. you were just on a hunting trip with a tourist before you fell into that first batch of trouble.
No. 503551 ID: d6ef5d

(goshdangit, missed the update. I suggest too slow. >:V )

Something else for him to live for is the voklit who survive this are going to need someone who understands the neumono they're dealing with. Viln's got a better perspective than most.

...there's no shame in fear, you know. Or being caught in a situation you aren't prepared for.

And if he wants to be useful at what he is good at, he's going to have the opportunity. If we can get out of this, there's going to be a lot of talking to voklit. This whole mess has pretty-much shaken the previous agreements to bits. Or he can talk language stuff with Viln- he's been eager to learn, and you're not going to be around to do that.

>Everyone wants to live, but where I am going, that is unlikely.
Well, you alone have a better chance of hiding behind enemy lines until reinforcements arrive. You're trained for this- they're not. And the more of you there are, the higher odds of discovery.
No. 503575 ID: c4e5c2
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"Afraid of water?"
>"What gave it away?"
"Subtle hints. Why did you come on this mission if there was a chance of running into Salikai?"
>"You think I'm fucking glad I did?! It was a small chance of Salikai! And if it came up, then me, Lucera and Katzati would get lifted right out of this hell hole! Not like the rest of you that were made for shit like this to happen."
"Hardly. My first run in with them happened when I was on a hunting trip with a tourist."
>"And you got buddy buddy with psychotic killers."
"No. We were at each others throats. Everyone apparently only heard about our tenuous alliance at the end."
>"Where you saved everyone and was forever lauded."
"And was thought dead. I did not do what I did thinking I would save more than a hive from a ridiculous queen. Anyway, if you get out of it, you'll be in your element. This whole voklit agreement obviously went downhill, so there's going to be a lot of need for it."
>"Great." Sarcastic.

I take off a glove and put a hand on him. He is still in a bad mood, in a tantrummy sort of way, like a child who had his candy taken from him. Except this situation or worse than stolen candy, but the resemblance is there. This is about as good as he's probably going to get for the time being.

>"There are 9 exits I am aware of." Niam comes to me and starts saying. The first is 5 km away, but there are few hiding spots in its vicinity. It is risky. Option 2 and 3 are not close to each other, but are around 8 km from this point. Two has plenty of hiding points, but the exit is in a long hall that may make trying to push out difficult. Three is the opposite, fewer hiding points, but curvy enough that pushing out will be swifter. Four and Five are mostly negatives. Size is approximately 19 km, has hiding spots, decent exit terrain, but is still 23 kilometers. Seven and Eight are simply the exits that were close to your camp, I would not recommend them. Lastly, nine is through another river flow that exits in a waterfall. While it is by far the easiest to exit out of, we would likely be dumped into a lake surrounded by some guard, and would not be ideal for fighting our way out."
No. 503580 ID: d6ef5d

Exits 7 and 8 are out. They'll be guarded, and ideally we want to come out on the far side of the mountains, not into the valley. Or else they'll have to fight out the the valley, as well. The pass out of the valley will be guarded, and there will be radio-jammers in the trees.

9's no good either. Except maybe for Viln, you'd all be sitting ducks (literally) in the water for anyone on the banks with guns. And you'd have to be dragging Kort, who would be hysterical or unresponsive by the end.

5 and 4 he already eliminated. 1 is close, but risky in execution. 6 sounds good for escape, but it's so far that the odds are pretty good they'll be intercepted somewhere along the way.

2 and 3 sound like a best options, and the most reasonable balance of risks. Which we pick will depend on what we can do to mitigate specific risks- can we come up with anything that will make assaulting a hallway easier, or aid in improving our hiding? (Sliming the party up maybe, or relying on Viln's experience in the caves and heightened sense of smell?).

Hmm. If we're bringing our IR helmet with us, what defense does the rest of the group have if there are more cloakers along the route, or among the guards at the exit they break through?
No. 503581 ID: fb528f

Option 3 sounds good, it'll give the group more confidence about running away when the time comes to exit, but we'll have to hit the salikai fast and hard to keep them too busy to intercept. Option 2 gives the runners a chance to get out quietly and discretely inform the hives but we'll have to spend more time distracting the salikai.
No. 503594 ID: 57a559

I pick number 4.
It's what the enemy would least suspect, is an unlucky number in some cultures, an even number, the first second number that can be square rooted, exercise is healthy, and because it is the least stupid of the stupid options in this situation aside from 5.
No. 503597 ID: f2c20c

I like option 2. Remember, they will be very spread out so long as they don't catch on to what we're doing. Option 2 has a bunch of hiding spots so it gives the maximum chance of having little resistance when it comes time for the push. They will likely be counting on the ability for reinforcements to arrive quickly and in mass quantity, so I don't anticipate heavy guard. On the other hand, maybe they won't need heavy guard.

How does exit 3 compare to exit 1 in terms of hiding spots? Also, it not being very far away means that there might be more scouts near it looking for us.

Actually, there's an element he didn't mention. What's the general structure of the tunnels near the exits? When the shooting starts, nearby scouts will hear and come to assist, possibly resulting in being shot from both sides. We want to minimize that. Heck, if that's a problem with exit 2, then exit 3 is probably better.

Also, does he know how, in general, the hunter hive is proceeding with the search? What search patterns are they using?
No. 503598 ID: f2c20c

You mean number 6.
No. 503614 ID: c4e5c2
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"Do you know what search patterns the hunters are using?"
>"Not in detail. They are likely using sweeping patterns all at once, so that there are no tunnels in branching paths that have to be skipped. I do not know how successful they have been in organizing that."
"I am leaning either 2 or 3. How does 3 compare to 1 in hiding spots?"
>"Somewhat worse. There are a few, but they barely constitute as adequate."
"Do those goggles of yours include IR? It may be troublesome if there are cloakers on your team."
>"Yes. More helmets would be nice, of course, but I will check for working IR's based off the of last few neumono you shot."
"And are there some caves that are more likely to have nearby scouts? It will not be good if you get flanked."
>"I doubt there is going to be a predictable difference. I am working off little information. You are welcome to scout the exits if you feel confident in doing so, especially if you are still going out to hunt for supplies and explosives."
No. 503616 ID: d6ef5d

Alright then.

Do we have anything left to do before we resort to scouting and/or raiding? We will need to procure more explosives for this plan to work.

Is Rokann clean yet? Maybe we should check in on her before we head out.
No. 503629 ID: b33427

Alright. Looks like the next step is to scout out these exits, starting with the nearest one, then raid an enemy patrol on the way back; Just have to decide whether or not to bring along backup in the form of Viln, Marra, or both. That is, after you get some rest. How long do we have here before we have to move to a new camp, anyway?

How does exit number one compare to two and three for the approach to the exit? How straight or twisty is it?

One thing you forgot to ask is if the forces in the field can still communicate over short distances using radio once the salikai's radio link is down. The risk is the guards at the exit will be able to call in any other troops that are nearby as reinforcements, even if they can't call back to the salikai's HQ or up to the Hunter's helicopters.

Another factor is how far away the exits are from the salikai's base. It'd be good if you could escort the escape group part of the way to the exits, since you can scout to sense un-jammed neumono ahead, before turning back to get to the base in time.

The best time to make the push out would be at dawn, so the escapees can all see where they're going and move at full speed. You'd choose dusk, but the lack of night vision for almost all of the group, and the prevalence of it among the enemy, makes traveling at speed in the dark more of a liability then a benefit.

There's also something else you like Niam and Katz to check. You've noticed that the caves are structured where there's knots of tunnels with only a few entrances in and out of those sections. You'd like them to go through the maps we have and find and count up all the choke-points. 'Cause if there's a low enough number of them, then the searchers would likely post sentries or set up hidden surveillance devices there, in order to section off the caves as they search and clear each area. This also means going back to areas we've been is not an option, even if the enemy has searched and cleared them already.

Has Niam gone around the group and asked for wrist watches and other timing devices? Just make sure there's at least one clock in the escape group that's been synchronized to your helmet's internal clock. Don't want this plan to get blown cause of a synchronization screw-up.

>Cloaker detection
The x-ray goggles also work to detect cloakers. Not as effective, but it's better than nothing. Still, add intact visor helmets or other advanced optics to the list of items to try and get while raiding enemy patrols.
No. 503632 ID: f2c20c

As for our explosives... don't we have extra clips for our sniper ammo? I distinctly remember having extra ammo. Also, can't we use some of the gel launcher's ammo for it? Or salvage gunpowder from extra bullets we're not likely to use?

I don't think we should scout the exits. If we're spotted, they'll know we know where the exits are, and will reinforce them. Raiding carries some inherent risk as well, since once Polo's position is reported they will focus a search near where she was spotted. That could result in this hiding place being discovered.

Thinking on it, I'll discard 3 as an option and go for 2 at this point. 6 is so far away they're likely to be spotted while heading towards it, which would ruin everything. Actually come to think of it, maybe they're already reinforcing the exits since they know Niam wants to escape and he knows where the exits are.

So, to sum up:
1= 5km approach, few hiding spots, standard exit?
2= 8km approach, many hiding spots, tough exit
3= 8km approach, inadequate hiding spots, good exit
4= bad
5= bad
6= 23km approach, adequate hiding spots, decent exit
7= bad
8= bad
9= river approach, watery hiding spots, watery & very dangerous exit.

Which exits are near the salikai base? Also, what about the railroad? Can we get out like that?
No. 503637 ID: d6ef5d

>scouting multiple exits
The problem with that is they're all kilometers in different directions. That'll take a lot of time (and energy) and we're exposed to patrols the whole while.

>don't we have extra clips for our sniper ammo? I distinctly remember having extra ammo.
We have 33 pistols rounds, and 11 AP and 8 HE for the sniper rifle (and some unknown number of normal rounds, I think). And we're out of shotgun ammo. Maybe we'll luck out and Lucerra will find more ammunition while taking inventory of everything they scooped up and ran with at camp, but I'm doubtful.

And I kind of think Polo's going to need what little explosive ammo she has to survive. Multiple Rokoas, armored opponents, monsters and all. Granted, survival will depend more on stealth than anything else, but we need the capability to kill things too.

>sum up
forgetting that he classified 1 as risky, for whatever reason (better than bad, but still).
No. 503641 ID: b33427

Okay, on second thought, scouting out the target exit would be a bad idea if Polo is spotted. Even if she gets away, it'll signal to the enemy to put more guards on not just that exit, but all the exits. Better stick to raiding patrols far from both the exits and the camp.

>Extra ammo
At last check, Polo also had twenty regular rounds for her sniper rifle. Not that great considering all the armored targets she's been encountering. Might be useful against non-neumono unarmored targets, but the only one we've seen so far is that giant mutant miklik. Best use I can think for it is hunting, but that'd only come up if food is running dangerously low.

>Exit 1
Other than the lack of hiding spots, would it also be risky 'cause it's the closest exit to the party's last known position, and there might be more patrols and guards there?
No. 503644 ID: 9ddf68

I think we should chose an exit based off how big of a presents we want to make at the salikai base. I mean if we plan to go in and only make our presents know after we blow the radio towers to hell I say pick exit 2 as most of the guards will be still at the exit tunnels and not trying to reinforce the salikai base, If we are planing to make our presents know before we blow the towers then go with exit 3 as the exit guards will be either all be running back to reinforce the base or only have a few guards stay at the exit still making sneaking pass easier or at the very least making them easier to over power, especially if we have all of our fighters but polo in that group. This is of course if they don't just have reinforcements come in form the outside world into the caves to reinforce the cave troops but eh, that's all maybes.

As for scouting lets get a look at exit 3 since it seems we're leaning toward exit 2 so if we are seen they start guarding exit 3 more and leave exit 2 more or less alone, and if we aren't found out then we still get good details on a possible exit. Also bring Viln with us since he isn't a neumono, so that right there cuts half of the salikai defense measures in half and he's big and strong so he can carry more loot with him for when we go a raiding.
No. 503646 ID: d6ef5d

If we're successful, no one will run back to reinforce the base no matter what we do. Because we're killing their communication network and all. Enemy forces will default to standing orders, or do whatever the local commander says.

I would think we'd only want to take further action at the base (going for bug control? Killing four stripes? Destroying the Rokoa brain slurry?) after planting the explosives, yeah. Although we have to be careful- Polo's only way out of this is to survive until reinforcements arrive, which could take a while.