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584397 No. 584397 ID: 557bac

Chapter 2

Previous chapter: http://tgchan.org/kusaba/quest/res/573652.html

Wiki page: http://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Conspiracy_of_Wasps

Discussion page: http://tgchan.org/kusaba/questdis/res/81536.html
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No. 584398 ID: 557bac
File 140556397579.png - (209.82KB , 600x628 , 2-2.png )

On the other end of the phone, Dr. Cooper's practiced, medical monotone quickly cracks with disbelief.
>Wait, you're telling me that you touched someone else's insect? Without any prompting or anything, just out of curiosity? Nathan, that's incredible! I'm very proud of you.

"it was my co-worker Diego, who's insects are beetles; I figured it wouldn't be too dangerous. But then I had this weird vision, like I was inside his head. He had just been talking about the people he missed back in Detroit, and inside his head he was basically chained to his memories of them and unable to let go. I helped him get free, and we talked briefly. After I 'woke up' he didn't seem to remember any of it, but asked me out afterwards. "

Dr. Cooper
>Like on a date?

"I don't think either of us are sure what it is yet."

The other end of the line is quiet for a little while before you hear a long in-drawing of breath.
>Well Nate, personally, I'd say that thinking your actions somehow "caused" Diego to ask you out is a dangerous assumption. He may have just been looking to ask you for a while, and you somehow picked up on this and turned it into some kind of imaginary scenario. And on the other hand, if somehow you did cause him to take notice and approach you, and I'm not saying you did, then that could constitute a huge breach of privacy. I can tell you that it's a huge responsibility to be able to access someone else's personal secrets, and you need to take the utmost care when handling them, even if your intentions are good.

"I know, I, honestly had no idea something like that would happen. I'm not sure if I want to repeat it."

Dr. Cooper
>Either way, I am proud of you for taking that step towards conquering your fear, and I don't want for you to walk away from this scared, or thinking you did anything wrong. Did anything else unusual happen? What prompted you to touch his beetle in the first place?

"Earlier today I was stressed out about something I found out about another co-worker, and I ended up getting swarmed by wasps. They started talking and at first I thought they were taunting me, but then I realized that they were trying to warn me about something. I don't quite understand it myself, but I feel like there's something coming and they want me to do... something to stop it. I thought that, if they are trying to protect me, then maybe the bugs aren't that bad, so I tried touching Diego's. They seemed to be trying to protect him though."

Dr. Cooper
>Trying to warn you of something? Like what?

"Like I said, I have no idea. Its probably some kind of subconscious construct, I can't imagine anything like it existing in the real world. But its occupying my 'Lagrange point', and I'm not sure how safe it is to go back there."

Dr. Cooper
>I don't want for you to end up feeling like Cassandra the prophet, but please be careful. You've always been an extremely rational individual, and I know that you work hard to separate your visions from reality, so I understand when you say that you are worried. But I also know how easy it is for people to get wrapped up in their own elaborate mental landscape. I want for you to let me know if this happens again, especially if you don't feel safe in your own safe place.

>Is there something else bothering you? You said something about your co-worker triggered a wasp swarm, did you want to talk about that?
No. 584399 ID: ef7fd2

No. 584404 ID: 2fd516

Well patient confidentiality will keep this on the down low so feel free to tell her all about it. About how your co-worker was talking about dating someone else in the company you think is a bit of a creep, and it reminded you of how alone you were. Of your romantic troubles. (not sure if Nate thinks it was unfair, or if he was frustrated with himself) Then the wasp swarm showed up, and it seemed to mirror that sentiment with its weird buzzing speech. "No one is close to you, never close, never as close as us" Yet, there is a positive way of interpreting that. Like, they were saying even if you couldn't find someone, they were close to you too...
No. 584406 ID: 40935b

Well, your supervisor is kinda... off, to say the absolute very least, but he still goes through all the motions of having a life like you haven't been able to. Jealousy, basically.

...He didn't do what you did to Diego to you, did he? You nearly jumped out of your skin when he touched you, and it's been established you wouldn't remember anything if he did.
No. 584412 ID: 93ac6c

Let's keep this at the very forefront of our mind the next time we see Doug. Don't let him touch you, and keep watch for any signs that he might be a psychic too (in which case, we might be in deep shit).
No. 584413 ID: 2fd516

...oh my god. He gets everything he wants from people, and sometimes they don't even realize it- as if he's working with more information than he should, or influencing people without them knowing. Plus he's overly touchy. SUSPICIOUS. I'm not sure how it's possible to verify that though. We'd probably have to witness him touching someone's bug?

I doubt he invaded Nate's mind, though. Nate had to touch a bug to do that and he didn't have any wasps on him at that point so Doug couldn't have touched one.

Oh, Nate, after this conversation you should get back to work. Get suited up so you'll be ready for the transponder parts.
No. 584414 ID: bb78f2

It's ahh, well to be honest the work is not that stressful beyond the fact our boss said it was good initiative, touched us, and that it all kinda freaked us out a little. Weird taking a compliment so seriously but that's the only thing I can imagine actually triggering anything. He doesn't have bugs unlike others, it's just the touch on the shoulder was sudden. Maybe the compliment is just creating pressure, we don't really know. Especially since most of the initiative belongs to a co-worker and we're just doing what people tell us to do.

Which, by the way,since we're talking over the phone about it requires me to be as secretive as possible to even you, because, well, contracts and we don't need the additional stress of finding a job after being blacklisted for breaching the contract.

Other things that might be stressing us out is, well, some weird shift with Andromeda, but it's only stressful because our mind is starting to appropriate that into attacking our safe place in some way. We believe it's constructing a narrative based on that shift for some reason.

Oh, and uhhh, We're also a little curious that my neighbors also might be patients of yours. Not that that's explicitly unwanted in anyway, but we do have a hoarder for a neighbor, who's cockroaches who may be possibly real sometimes by the way, and that really causes some shit to happen. It caused the first episode today. We don't know if you have a confidentiality contract with him as well or how that works when two patients become aware of each other and have a minor conflict about each other's insecurities, but could you maybe drop a hint or two about getting a storage locker and keeping his mass of garbage clean and out of public sight in his next session? Again, don't know if he's your patient at all or if you can even say, but well... we would definitely appreciate you doing that thing you can't confirm if it doesn't go against your treatment of him. His name is Lester. When his bugs attacked me, the object in the hallucination first appeared.
No. 584415 ID: dc4b80


Doctors can and will not talk about there other patients at all and its a big no no to even ask. Would try to avoid bringing this up.
No. 584419 ID: 6868bc

Actually, since you're free to talk to her about these things without judgement... that puts her in an interesting position. Ask if she'd be willing to test this bug thing with you, by letting you touch one of her bugs and seeing if a vision happens. If a vision does happen, you can tell her what insecurity or secret of hers you were informed about in the vision, and it will be a good way to confirm or deny whether something supernatural is legitimately going on or just happening in your head. Occam's Razor implies you're just crazy, in which case you wouldn't be able to find out any compromising situation, and there's no harm done!
No. 584420 ID: bb78f2

oh wait, the thing that got triggered the wasp swarm actively talking was a coworker talking about a relationship problem and that kinda brought up some minor stuff from the past without us realizing, then when the other coworker with the beatles asked us to go out and have fun sometime it brought the rest of the past out. You know, the guy from college.

So, we can't tell if the wasps might have come from jealously or self-loathing. They both fit and we're hoping it's not jealousy, but it's probably jealousy. We're just tired of being alone but can't help feeling safe alone... and that's probably what might be why the safe place isn't safe anymore. We resent being alone and are now hating the safe place. Great. That's just perfect. Anything you suggest for dealing with a paradox of wanting to be alone but also be with somebody at the same time?

Oh, and the wasps have made us into a hive, so we've got parasites permanently now too.

Oh. Yeah, okay that would be rude
Then just bring up the fact that your hoarder neighbor has both fake and real cockroaches and their trashbags out in the hallway caused the first episode you had today and that's just it. We're not sure how to deal with that situation as it's bound to only get worse. Our other neighbor said he would try to speak to Lester about it but that's probably not going to work and that it's just going to get worse and worse until we're attacked by his cockroaches every day.
But I'm still curious whether or not he's actually stuck in a building of patients. Damn. How do you ask that without being rude?
No. 584421 ID: 6e7636

You might also try and describe your experience of being a bee piñata and how your wasp homies totally helped you out of a jam. In space. Because that was pretty awesome.
No. 584479 ID: d8a627

>About how your co-worker was talking about dating someone else in the company you think is a bit of a creep, and it reminded you of how alone you were.
Let's tone down the specifics. Specifically, intraoffice courtship. One of your co-workers was talking about how they were dating somebody else, a bug-less person who, frankly, freaks you out, and she found the guy a bit odd too. It made you think over your own situation, and triggered an anxiety attack.
>...He didn't do what you did to Diego to you, did he?
Let's keep this thought to ourselves, no need to sound crazy to the lady who determines just how crazy we are.
Seriously, DON'T bring this up. This is a personal hunch, very probably guided by our bias against him. We don't like him, so of course we're going to think bad things about him.
>he didn't have any wasps on him at that point so Doug couldn't have touched one.
Even in the case that the bugs appear for others when they don't for their host, Nate's emotions would have guided wasps away from the contact, anyways. He feels uncomfortable in the presence of that guy, and that would manifest as the wasps retreating from him.

Maybe you should bring up to the doctor that you're having some suspicions about a co-worker, but think it's just you being biased against him for invading your personal space. You might be willing to talk about it when you come in for a face-to-face appointment, but for now you can surpress that malicious prejudice. Or whatever you wanna call it.
>We're also a little curious that my neighbors also might be patients of yours
"But I'm not actually asking, since that would be a breach of confidenciality." If you want to verify, you could let them know about it, and ask them directly.
>It caused the first episode today.
Might be worth bringing this up before you mention thinking they're her patients and saying that you aren't actually asking. Let her know "If he is a patient, go ahead and let him know about me." If he isn't, no harm in asking, and if he is, it can only help him to at the very least give you a clear path and stay away from you, if not be more friendly with you for having a connection.
On second thought, rather than mentioning anybody specific as suspected of being another patient, just let her know that if there's any other patients who live near you, you don't mind at this point if she mentions that you're another patient. You trust her to know who would be bad to tell that and who could maybe even help out. She knows you approximately as much as you know yourself. Maybe somethings better than you, and somethings not as good, but approximately equal.
>Ask if she'd be willing to test this bug thing with you
Whoa, let's hold off on this until our next face-to-face.
...Well, no, I suppose you can bring it up, ask if she can put up a mental block when you try. If she lets you. It's still very awkward, unless a bug happens to be on her hand during a handshake. Actually, that's another thing to ask about, if she can focus on an area for them to go to and see how well you can get it right. A form of ESP, y'know?
...I still say it sounds crazy to even suggest, especially over the phone, but she did bring up a subconscious sense of the vaguer thoughts people emit, it's something worth testing.
>We're just tired of being alone but can't help feeling safe alone... and that's probably what might be why the safe place isn't safe anymore.
OH. Mention that you brought his memory cube into the Lagrange. It seemed to be perfectly safe from the new danger of your safe place, is it possible that it's because it's not your own personal construct, and is instead a construct supposedly belonging to a friend?
We may be losing the safe zone, but bringing in new friends should help reinforce it again. You carry their burdens and they carry yours. ...Maybe you'll be able to observe something interesting happen to the malicious construct by making a space station out of their burdens.
>Oh, and the wasps have made us into a hive, so we've got parasites permanently now too.
DEFINITELY bring this up. Once you were in the mental zone, the wasps requested permission to form a hive in you, which, when granted, it felt like you scratched yourself open and released a whole nest of wasps, which defended you. I'm very curious as to what her take on this is.
>We're not sure how to deal with that situation as it's bound to only get worse.
He did seem surprisingly friendly today, and even said he'd be sure to keep an open path to let you through. I don't think it's going to get worse.
>How do you ask that without being rude?
Like I said, ask that she lets other patients who she thinks could help know about you. You can't pull to see who's on the other side, so push and let them know you're there instead.
>a jam. In space.
You could say, it was a Space Jam.
I've had slam jams stuck in my head man.
No. 584485 ID: 2fd516

>don't tell the therapist about stuff that might be you being crazy
That's what therapists are FOR! Nate knows he has a personal bias, so he can submit his suspicions about Doug to Dr. Cooper, and she can tell him if it's reasonable or not.
No. 584620 ID: 557bac
File 140573143813.png - (140.74KB , 418x600 , 2-3.png )

"Honestly it started this morning: I was leaving for work and one of my neighbors left some trash-bags in the hall. I tripped over them and wound up with cockroaches on me, which set off an anxiety attack."

Dr. Cooper
>One of your neighbors? Hmm...

"What? Something wrong?"

Dr. Cooper
>Nothing, sorry, please continue.

"So I ended up retreating to my safe place, and there was this... thing there like a black hole that forced me out. It may be related to something I read about this morning with Andromeda."

Dr. Cooper
>They were talking about that on the news this morning; apparently its one of those "physicists are baffled things"? Unfortunately it was overshadowed by.. um...

"Yeah, sorry can't talk about it, even to you."
"But later I was talking to a co-worker and she mentioned that she's in a relationship with another co-worker. The guy she's dating... well I've told you about him before: he has no insects on him but he still creeps me out. I guess it set me off because it highlighted how alone I've been since my breakdown. The wasps started swarming and they talked to me, saying that no one would be as close to me as them. But then they were sucked up by that black hole thing, and... I actually saved one from it."

Dr. Cooper
>Nathan, this is all incredible. Tell me more about this relationship you found out about.
No. 584621 ID: 557bac
File 140573144381.png - (145.92KB , 539x600 , 2-4.png )

"He's just kind of a creep, and even she acknowledges that. She said she's frustrated by his ability to get his way whenever he wants, and he can be kind of touchy which makes me uncomfortable."

"You don't think he could me like me, do you? What if he's controlling her subconsciously? Should I do something?"

Dr. Cooper
>Unfortunately, you don't need to be a psychic to be manipulative, Nathan; some people just have that gift. He could have a psychopathic personality: they are known for having an almost hypnotic charm to them and their assertiveness can be extremely overpowering. They aren't necessarily as dangerous as they sound, but be very careful if you feel like you need to interfere. I would recommend being upfront with her, but try to respect the fact that she has the right to date whoever she chooses and support her. If its an inter-employee situation and you feel that shes in danger or being manipulated, maybe you should consider reporting it to your employers.
No. 584622 ID: 6263e4

Pretty sure she means a sociopathic personality.

You should get back to work, don't you think?
No. 584623 ID: bb78f2

Stop, man, okay I thought I wouldn't need to tell you Nate to be careful for potential eavesdroppers but I guess I should have.
Ahhh we're techncially gossiping over the phone for therapy for fucks sake
Doooooooouuuuug, don't eavesdrop on us this is private therapy.
No. 584624 ID: 2fd516

Doug's walking in. Just say you've been preemptively following most of that advice, and thanks for the talk, but you have to go.
No. 584625 ID: 6868bc

If bugs represent the things that are 'bugging' a person, like things that make them feel guilty or conflict with their conscience... well, maybe Doug just naturally doesn't feel guilty. About anything.

And, yes. Either excuse yourself from the phonecall, or start casually walking out of Doug's vicinity.
No. 584626 ID: 40935b

Speak of the devil- here he comes now. You may need to call her back.

Psychopathy explains his odd behavior and lack of bugs- no real emotion means no real inner turmoil or regrets. There are a couple of options here; you can avoid him completely, talk to him and let him touch you and see if you jump similarly to last time, or tell him you think you have a bug you don't want him to catch and gauge his reaction. The latter two might be dangerous, but we'll actually be able to learn something.
No. 584628 ID: 6e7636

Either that or Doug is covered in waterbears and we just can't see them yet because Nate's too creeped out by him to take a closer look. Yaknow, with a microscope all up in his business. He could be teeming with emotional vermin and we don't even know.

Anyway yeah you might wanna terminate this call before he hears your crazy talk. Crazy talk that happens to involve him personally and his secret dalliances with your coworker. Also, here's a more practical question, being a rat wouldn't he be able to hear you like, really, really well? At some distance, perhaps?

You might wanna text this stuff next time, buddy, just a thought.
No. 584629 ID: f461c5

Thats what I actually figured as soon as we learned the bugs are linked to the mind. If you dont have bugs to protect your mental issues, well. You must not have many issues.
No. 584635 ID: 2fd516

Wait a minute what if we're looking at this wrong? Doug patted Nate on the back. What if he put a bug there?
No. 584637 ID: 93ac6c

And just like that, Doug has gone from mildly unsettling to flat out scary as shit. Cut off the conversation as subtly as possible. I'll leave the decision to the others whether we scram like hell, see if he tries another mind-meld touch, or mention bugs to gauge his reaction. I feel like the third option is best myself, albeit still risky in case that motivates him to mind-wipe us.
No. 584640 ID: 2baea8

If Doug asks why you're making personal calls during work hours, explain that it wasn't a personal call - that was your therapist. You're having a bit of a bad day mentally and needed help sorting out your head.
No. 584645 ID: 6e7636

Christ, calm down, it's not like he's holding an axe or anything. As far as we know Doug's a manipulator at worst, I don't think it's time to panic yet. Like, at all.

But Nate, if you ever see him taping newspapers to the floor while wearing a plastic raincoat you might wanna make a break for it, buddy.
No. 584684 ID: 8472e7

He probably is here about the schematics you haven't returned.
No. 584754 ID: 557bac
File 140581418553.png - (147.37KB , 600x427 , 2-5.png )

>Just say you've been preemptively following most of that advice, and thanks for the talk, but you have to go.

"Well, thanks for talking to me Dr. Cooper, I really should be getting back to work. I'll keep what you've said in mind, and have already been doing some of the stuff you suggested."

>Stop, man, okay I thought I wouldn't need to tell you Nate to be careful for potential eavesdroppers but I guess I should have.

You think you hear something and idly look behind you. You don't see anybody, but there's a set of footprints marring the carefully raked sand patterns. Anthony is going to be pissssed.
No. 584755 ID: 557bac
File 140581418847.png - (160.69KB , 600x600 , 2-6.png )

>"Heyyyy there, how's it going?"

Doug holds your pilfered phone up to his ear and casually addresses your therapist.
>"Who am I speaking to?"


Doug smirks at your incredulousness, clearly enjoying himself.
>"Doctor Cooper? Pleasure to meet you... Oh no, sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to make sure this wasn't a personal call. Well, I'll leave you two to talk. Please take gooood care of Nathan; he's one of my best employees."
No. 584756 ID: 557bac
File 140581419342.png - (85.28KB , 384x600 , 2-7.png )

He hands you the phone and turns to leave.
>"I'm sure they're waiting for you upstairs. Take your time, of course, I understand how it is. And if you feel like you need to take off early for... medical reasons, do let me know. We're alllll counting on you."

With that said he continues walking, humming a meandering little tune as he goes.

Dr. Cooper
>Nathan? Nate? Who was that? Are you okay?"
No. 584757 ID: eb1d1d

take pleasure in imagining you beating him over the head with the phone he nicked.
No. 584758 ID: bb78f2

Just our boss, Cooper.

Oh, a bug, weird... that's Kim's bug isn't it? They can transfer? Maybe you should go see Kim soon after your next task if you can.
No. 584759 ID: 1f4380

Huh. A spider. Guess we can recategorize him from 'no insects and creepy' to just 'creepy'.
No. 584763 ID: d8a627

That was the guy I was talking about... Strangely, I can actually see one now. Just one, but it's the same as my coworker's. ...Should I let you know if I see Diego with wasps now?
No. 584764 ID: 53548a

Nate said that he saw bug bites on his ex-boyfriend when he thought he was cheating on him. The spider on his back is no doubt just a representation of the fact that he knows Doug and Kim are in a relationship.

As much as we may like to assign real significance to these insects, it's still nothing more than a hallucination as long as it only affects us. I think you guys are playing a little too much into the superstitions of a mentally ill person.

Inform Dr. Cooper that that was the person you were talking about, once you're sure that Doug has left.

Then, well, I already said it, didn't I? You should get back to work, don't you think?
No. 584765 ID: bb78f2

Yeah, fuck it, touch the spider and figure this shit out now.

Just warn Doug you think you see something on his jacket so it's not out of nowhere, and say goodbye to Ms. Cooper immediately and call back later.
No. 584766 ID: 53ba34

"wait a sec" and wipe his back and try to get the spider. "had some dust on your back"

"so what did you talk to kim about?"
if he reacts at all then you guessed right.
No. 584769 ID: 2fd516

Holy shit, it is the same bug. Is that his doing, or... Okay, I was gonna say go brush it off his back both to see what it represents and to make sure it's not real (if it was real it could bite him and that'd be bad for the workplace), but now I think you'd better leave it be for now and go poke one of Kim's bugs later to ask them what's going on. I'm thinking the spiders are keeping tabs on him. Maybe we can do the same thing with our wasps? Try summoning one up and sending it over to buzz around his head. If he reacts then we know he can see the bugs too.

Tell Dr. Cooper it was your boss, and you should get back to work- but you'll check in with her again later.
No. 584770 ID: 2baea8

Don't touch the bug right now.

Nate's old boyfriend had ticks on him when he normally had no bugs, signifying that Nate thought he was cheating. It's not Doug's bug, it's a representation of his relationship.
No. 584771 ID: a36601

Dude, that's not cool.

Tell her it was your boss, the one you find creepy. Oh well, you have to get back to work.
No. 584774 ID: 53548a

Yeah, actually, you might as well, even if all you get is self-confirmation of your own superstitions. Just be like "hey you've got something there" and swipe it.
No. 584775 ID: 2fd516

Yeah that could be it too. Which would mean touching it might fuck up their relationship.
No. 584776 ID: 53548a

Uhh... how?

Still, treating him like he treats you might be a good idea to test his limits. We've only seen him act one way, but the best way to gain a better understanding of his personality is to see him react to things differently. He feels entitled to get in people's personal space, does he? Well, if he gets angry when you grab his dumb sweatervest, that's just some actual proof that he might be sociopathic.
No. 584777 ID: 2fd516

Consider that the last time we touched a bug our wasp swarm killed the inner representation of it, and we meddled besides. If we touch a bug that represents their relationship, our very presence might alter the situation inside his head, or the wasps might aggro again.
No. 584778 ID: 53548a

You're clearly forgetting that Nate has a diagnosed mental illness, not confirmed psychic superpowers. In the outer world there was no effect at all, besides Diego asking him to hang out, which could easily have happened anyway. "Inner representation" is a huge stretch. Try "hallucination."
No. 584779 ID: 6e7636

So far these bugs seem to be representations of things that Nate either already knows or can surmise from just observing other people. It's like it's intuition, but not the magical kind, just like a visual cue for that little voice nagging in the back of your head when you know something isn't right with somebody. They could even be manifestations of assumptions - assumptions that might turn out to be completely wrong. Like, what if it's all a bunch of B.S. in the end, and these things appear in hallucinations because Nate either consciously or unconsciously believes they're true?

Instead of believing in something totally crazy like psychic powers (at least until we can test it to make absolutely sure) it might be wise to just assume this condition is messing with the guy and people that don't have bugs are people that he can't read. We don't wanna get thrown in a looney bin. Yet.

Doug's totally a Stepford smiler though, Christ on a bike.
No. 584780 ID: 53548a

Agreed. I know it's genre savvy and metagamey to assume that he has powers because he's in a quest run by someone notorious for his other work about eldritch survival horror, but not only is it unfair to carry it over to here, but we could actually fuck up by reinforcing his mental illnesses and end up turning him into a psychotic monster of our own creation.

I'm not saying it's NOT something supernatural. I'm just saying we should be levelheaded and not make baseless assumptions. Right now we can work in a relatively low-risk environment to gather information that we can interpret more clearly later on. We won't have that luxury in the future when the stakes get high, so we should take the opportunity now and leave the theorycrafting for later.
No. 584781 ID: 2fd516

If you want to treat it as a hallucination then why touch the bug at all? You're sending mixed messages here. Either it's useful but risky, or pointless.
No. 584783 ID: 53548a

In the event it's not a hallucination, it would be useful information to gather, and in the event it is, there's no harm done. Not a tough concept to grasp, boss.
No. 584784 ID: 2fd516

I just said why there's risk if it's real, and you just said why there'd be harm done if it's not.
No. 584785 ID: 53548a

The harm is in the difference between touching it to note down what happens, and touching it to immediately take any result as factually accurate and reliable.
No. 584786 ID: 2baea8

Assuming it's not supernatural is just as dangerous as assuming it is until we know more, and this does not strike me as the best place to test it.

Just get back to work and we can try the bug thing on someone less disturbing, whose mindscape/induced hallucination will probably be unpleasant and traumatic.
No. 584788 ID: 40935b

Alright, That's over the line. You shouldn't let him push you around like that. Whether you interact with his bug or not, you have to confront him.
No. 584789 ID: 0acb3a

I don't think we should touch it. Assuming we're NOT utterly insane and Nate has psychic powers, then touching the bug of someone whom we suspect also has those abilities and has been using them extensively is a one way ticket for us to get our astral projection selves mauled and shattered by Doug's presumably more experienced mind. I certainly wouldn't want to be in the mind of a possible sociopath.

And if we're just crazy (which could be the big twist of the story, but it would be a weak one given the potential of psychic wars and actual conspiracies as opposed to delusional ones), then touching him still doesn't do much for our psyche.
No. 584965 ID: 557bac
File 140590620141.png - (119.62KB , 600x438 , 2-8.png )

>Just our boss, Cooper.

"Sorry, that was my boss, I better get back to work. Thanks for the advice though doctor, I'll call you if I have any more trouble."

>Oh, a bug, weird... that's Kim's bug isn't it? They can transfer?

You hang up and run to catch up with Doug. Is that one of Kim's spiders on his back? Or is it something of his? If that's Kim's, how exactly did it get there?
You aren't sure if you want to risk ending up someone's psyche, especially if its Doug's... But you can't help being curious.

>"wait a sec" and wipe his back and try to get the spider. "had some dust on your back"

"Hey Doug, hang on there's something on your back-"

You reach out to grab the spider, but his hand moves in a dangerous blur, swatting the creature to the ground.
No. 584966 ID: 557bac
File 140590620527.png - (92.44KB , 600x381 , 2-9.png )

Before it can right itself, Doug's loafer slams down on it and twists once.
No. 584967 ID: 557bac
File 140590621062.png - (206.42KB , 600x625 , 2-10.png )

His trademark smile grows wider, this time showing a few teeth.

He throws an arm around you your shoulder and clamped against him, you find yourself lead into the buliding.

>"I know you must under a lot of stress lately, Nathan, and I know it feels like I put a lot of pressure on you. But I feel like you and I have... a lot in common. Don't be afraid to come to me if you need anything: concerns, help, favors... my door is alllll-ways open."
No. 584969 ID: 53548a

Could you stop touching me, Doug? I don't like being touched.
No. 584970 ID: 53ba34

"i'll keep that in mind"

say goodbye and see about scooping up a bit of spider. need someone else to confirm it. if they don't see us holding spider parts then...
No. 584971 ID: ef7fd2

"Stop. I don't appreciate you touching me."
No. 584972 ID: dc4b80

Tell him thanks and that you will.

Well he might have the same "condition" as we do. He knew exactly what the bug was and was able to interact with it. Being able to manipulate peoples inner selves through there bugs could be a powerful ability for someone like him.

Might want to investigate that later but for now lets get away from him and back to work.
No. 584973 ID: fc67cf

Make excuses and gtfaway from this guy.

Not liking how he killed it as soon as we made him aware. If it was one of hers, what was it doing? 'Claiming' him? Spying on him for her? A representation of her focus on him? ...no matter how I interpret it's presence, his ruthless destruction of it reads as bad.
No. 584974 ID: 2baea8

Yeah, let him know you're not really comfortable being close to/touching people. See if he respects your boundaries or just ignores them.
No. 584975 ID: 2fd516

Hooooly shit.

Okay. Okay, he can see them too, and he has a lot more experience with them than you. Even if he is a creep and even if he's using them for his own benefit, you could learn a lot from him. You SHOULD go to him later and ask for information. Once you've learned all you can, THEN you can consider... uh... actually it occurs to me that it would be very difficult to stop him from using his powers immorally. I mean, what are you gonna do? Get him sent to psychic jail? If you tell the company about him and Kim, and he somehow gets canned, he'll just continue doing his thing elsewhere.

You can use this situation to your benefit immediately, in fact. Tell him to please stop touching you.
No. 584976 ID: 2baea8

Also seconding >>584970 to test if it's a real spider or not, when we get the chance.
No. 584977 ID: bb78f2

We should come back and get a sample of this. Have you ever seen a bug get squished before? You must've seen people sit or lay on them before. Do they regularly leave behind residue as if they were real bugs?
No. 584978 ID: 0acb3a

Dammit Doug, everyone's being nice and trying to come up with plausible reasons why you're NOT a coldblooded scary-as-shit clarivoyant, and are really just misunderstood, and you just keep making it harder by doing ridiculously suspicious stuff like this.

Oh Hell no. I don't care if he's grandmaster of an order dedicated to perfecting psychic abilities, we are NOT going to flat out ask for his tutelage or anything similar. It's like asking The Joker for an employment opportunity.

Honestly, if it was an option, I wouldn't rule out skipping town before he considers us a threat. Unfortunately, I doubt we could find a job like this for us anywhere else.
No. 584982 ID: d8a627

Let's not be too upfront about it, maybe something like, "Er, one difference is that I don't exactly like being grasped, except for handshakes." Maybe meekly quiet down in fear while saying it, but if he lets go and offers a handshake, you'll have to take it, Nate. You can play any nervousness as part of the stress.
You might be able to take advantage of his friendliness and ask him what he feels his "Guardian animal" is, but it's way too off-subject right now.
I just had a really interesting idea, but it's not one you're sure you can play just yet, so for now I'm going to back the idea of trying to tell him you don't enjoy people placing their hands on you outside of handshakes.
Handshakes are a great way to tell a person's intentions, since not only are they absolutely visible, the hand also has a lot more tactile sensory compared to other points of the body.
Maybe not. It might have been a real life spider. It's possible that he went through something earlier in his life where he had some sort of empathic understanding, and freaked out over people because of it, but the chances of him having the same psychological condition to see bugs is a bit different. Again, there is a test that can check this, but Nate doesn't have proof of his own ability over it and I'd rather not go overboard and get him into trouble.
Ask him, if he had a subconscious sense of a person's emotions, because you're pretty sure that's what you're going through.
>everyone's being nice and trying to come up with plausible reasons why you're NOT a coldblooded scary-as-shit clarivoyant, and are really just misunderstood, and you just keep making it harder by doing ridiculously suspicious stuff like this.
...Really? I'm just seeing him as somebody who sees himself in Nathan. Perhaps he handled things differently, but he seems genuinely worried for Nate, while at the same time, certain that he can help.
>It's like asking The Joker for an employment opportunity.
PARANOIA, HO! Don't directly ask to be his apprentice or anything, yeah, that's a given, but if he confirms the previous question about subconscious empathy, you can maybe ask for a couple of pointers. Things you can work on without having to hang around him all the time. It's like being The Riddler, you trade a few bits of information (or are just flat out given) with The Joker, but you aren't directly affiliated with him and don't have to worry about his psychosis getting you dunked into a vat of acid. Which, no, I'm pretty sure Doug wouldn't do that even in a metaphorical sense, still.
No. 584983 ID: 53548a

"Well, same to you, Doug. If there's ever anything you feel like I can do for you, or anything you'd like to talk about, all you have to do is... ask."
No. 584986 ID: 6e7636

Ask Charlie Brown here if giant fucking spiders like that are common around here. I mean, it could've been real, right? Spiders are real the last time I checked. An infestation of spiders could have a detrimental impact on employee morale and productivity. It could also have a detrimental impact on your face if one of them happened to drop down on you when you least suspected it and bit you like fifty times in a fit of furious spider rage. Talk about awkward.

We're kind of getting ushered into the building so we might not have an opportunity to collect the horribly squashed remains. If this were anyone but Doug I'd suggest using the phone to photograph it but I doubt he wants anyone taking pictures in or around this building, because satellites. So we're gonna have to kinda roll with this one.

Also, you might just politely tell him that physical contact makes you a little uncomfortable. It's nothing personal, you're just antsy.
No. 584989 ID: 40935b

did you get the same feeling like you've been shocked?

His creepiness could be due to the fact that he is literally crushing aspects of his psyche under his boot. It also could have been a real bug. I'm unsure if he's actually doing that mind-link thing- although it's been established that people can't see their own bugs, we can usually see our own wasp swarm. he could just be touching you because it's a habit he picked up.
No. 585113 ID: 977760

Whatever you say to him next, please for pity's sake don't make it sound like anything you wouldn't say if you weren't crazy.
Also chill, dude. Keep calm and carry on, don't panic etc.
Last thing we need right now is a wasp themed panic attack.
No. 585123 ID: a36601

Keep calm. Ask him to please stop doing that because getting touched like that messes with you. Then go and get some work done today. I think you've had enough of highs and lows with the bugs for a bit, so time to do something completely unrelated to them.
No. 585354 ID: ccd544

Don't Summon The Wasps!
No. 585355 ID: ccd544

Ask: "Do you mean that literally?"

How he answers this question will tell us a ton about his core personality.

It's also an effective social curveball that should catch him off balance, if a bit rude by normal standards.
No. 585421 ID: 557bac
File 140608039384.png - (88.01KB , 600x378 , 2-11.png )

"Sorry, could you just..?"

You reach over with your free hand and gently pry yourself out of Doug's grip.

>"Ahh, no problem."
His flawless mask of good natured humor twitches slightly. You aren't sure whether he's annoyed or concerned.

>Don't Summon The Wasps!
You try and focus on not worrying. If Doug can see people's infestations, having your swarm show itself could be dangerous.
"Eh... so, did you see that spider? Pretty big, eh?"

Doug's laugh is sudden, aggressive and awkwardly loud.
>"HA! Yeah, we ought to send someone down there with a shovel for that guy. I don't think I've seen one that big around here before. You?"


>"Didn't think so. I swear, there must be something in the water around here."
No. 585422 ID: 557bac
File 140608039808.png - (110.53KB , 600x511 , 2-12.png )

You arrive at the elevator and Doug waits outside as you step in.
"How about dropping by my office later, Nathan? I want to ask you about something. Give us a chance to... catch up on things. If you have time, of course."

The stainless steel doors slide shut and mercifully block him out of your life for a little while. You press the button to take you up to the 3rd floor so you can finally get to work. The way the building is set up, the first floor is maintenance, second is fabrication, the third is clean-room assembly, and the entire fourth floor is dedicated to filtration and air processing.
No. 585423 ID: 557bac
File 140608040255.png - (144.10KB , 568x600 , 2-13.png )

You step into the gowning room and prepare for the most critical and important decision of the day.

Blue or white?
No. 585424 ID: 0bd34b

Always bet on blue.
No. 585425 ID: 2baea8

Let's go Blue, it's more flavorful.
No. 585426 ID: dc4b80

Go for Blue.

Might be a good idea to talk to Doug later. He is a bit creepy but a talk could be interesting. Just try to not get to paranoid about him. Even if he is more than what he seems I doubt he is a real threat unless you are very careless in how you handle him.
No. 585427 ID: fe0db5

White is clean. White is professional. White is... Scientific!
No. 585428 ID: 6e7636

White. You can pretend you're furry Neil Armstrong or something. Just don't start making the helmet breathing noises out loud, unless it's like a joke or something in which case yes, make the helmet breathing noises out loud.
No. 585432 ID: 2fd516

No. 585440 ID: 53548a

Why would you ever not choose white?
No. 585451 ID: 2f2fc2


Here's Johnny!
No. 585461 ID: 0e7276

11 out of 10 scientists recommend white labcoats! go for it!
No. 585463 ID: 270bf5


also what if the wasps arent ours? what if theyre their own thing and they've got secret agents like mr.creepy to help them do space things....very dead spacey
No. 585582 ID: 9fabea

No. 585591 ID: 49bd61

Why not wear both at once?
No. 585601 ID: e6e228

Blue. Let's go for something different today.
No. 585683 ID: 707a11

Jones, you crazy, magnificent bastard!
No. 585694 ID: 5786d8


Blue is very much your color.

Also your boss is one HELL of a creeper and most assuredly can see those things. I think we just fucked up.
No. 585707 ID: 0acb3a

Wear both at once. Be a rebel.
No. 585708 ID: a36601

White; oh so clean!
No. 585755 ID: 502058

dude, blue with that yellow?
come on, take white.
No. 585758 ID: 2baea8

He's already wearing blue with that yellow. It just looks so natural you didn't notice.
No. 585765 ID: 2baea8

Bird's egg blue is still blue. And clashing colors depend on the observer; I happen to think that shade of blue would look better than stark white.
No. 585766 ID: 0ee153

>Bluebird eggs blue.jpg
No. 585778 ID: 557bac

That's enough of the "how blue is blue"
I've already started drawing the update, so after this point color suggestions will not be counted. If you have suggestions that don't involve color, feel free to include them.
No. 585780 ID: 78193a

Since the schematic binder and its contents aren't clean and could spread dust or paper particles into the clean room how are you going to handle that? Place it in a small isolation glovebox so you could manipulate the pages without risk of contaminating the clean room?
No. 585799 ID: 929b03

why were the last 3 updates with "Doug" and not "Toxoglossa"? Considering he shreds bits of other peoples psyches that's kinda creepy... Anyway, nate mate do you sterilize your glasses too when you do science?
No. 585804 ID: 0acb3a

No. 585805 ID: 0acb3a


No. 585806 ID: 2fd516

Pretty sure that's because Tox did an ITQ post for him right before updating, and autofill happened.
No. 585828 ID: 0acb3a

For all our sakes, I sincerely hope so.

Still need to change my goddamn pants though. I haven't jumped like that reading a quest since NanQuest.
No. 585847 ID: 557bac
File 140634791108.png - (136.09KB , 476x600 , 2-14.png )

You decide that you're going to go with the blue coverall today. You tend to prefer the white suits because they match the spotless, pristine walls of the clean room. However, the blue is kind of calming, and if anything, you could stand to feel a bit calmer today.

>Since the schematic binder and its contents aren't clean and could spread dust or paper particles into the clean room how are you going to handle that? Place it in a small isolation glovebox so you could manipulate the pages without risk of contaminating the clean room?

With that decision made, you stow your belongings in a locker and seal the schematic in a sterile bag. Then you begin the complicated ballet of dressing yourself. Its a process that takes some getting used to; requiring you to climb into a full body suit, rubber gloves, shoes, shoe covers and head covering, without directly touching the outside of any of them. While its not strictly necessary to build the transceiver in the clean room, you do most of your work there and its less distracting.
No. 585848 ID: 557bac
File 140634791760.png - (133.67KB , 600x506 , 2-15.png )

When you are finally dressed, you step several times on the adhesive doormat, walk into the air shower and are thoroughly buffeted by a set of powerful fans. Acceptably free of contamination, the fans stop and the sliding doors automatically open to allow you to enter the clean room.

You breathe in and feel your frazzled nerves unwind.


A few curious, covered faces turn to acknowledge your entrance, but then swivel back to their work. You rarely see any insects here, either because they are covered by the outerwear or because people are so focused that the infestations don't present themselves. And even if you do see one, you can feel confident knowing that it isn't real, and can be ignored. While its only rated as a class 1000, its likely the cleanest environment you'll ever see.

Its always been one of your favorite places, for obvious reasons.

The clean room is set up as a set of long corridors that branch out into individual rooms, each filled with absurdly expensive and specialized equipment. Overhead, a grid of vents pump out air to be meticulously filtered, analyzed and redistributed. A set of canisters attached to rail mounted, robotic arms glide back and fourth through the hallway, each one hermetically sealed, and carrying materials for processing and builiding satellite parts.
No. 585851 ID: 557bac
File 140634800134.png - (121.25KB , 600x446 , 2-16.png )

You head to the station you'll be using and deposit the plastic wrapped binder into a sealed chamber where you can manipulate it while you work without compromising the clean-room.

>"Morning Nate. Diego called a little while ago, said the parts you need are on their way."
No. 585858 ID: 2fd516

Hmm. Well, if they're not here yet, why not have a seat? I want to try something. Sit down and meditate, but instead of going to the Safe Place, try going to your apartment. Let's see if you can mentally project yourself on earth. Or you could actually go to the Safe Place to see if the inner-Diego or the block with the chain are still there. Just don't look towards Andromeda while you're there, and wake up soon after the visit.
No. 585859 ID: 6d3b18

Return Sharon's morning, and thank her for the message.

Then see about getting ready the tools and stuff you already have here together and/or ready.
No. 585860 ID: bb78f2

Do some jazz hands and go "Perfect"
I'm sorry but those latex gloves are calling for some Jazz Hands.
No. 585861 ID: 2baea8

Call up the wasps and see what they have to say.
No. 585864 ID: 40935b

Great, Thanks Sharon.

Gather any necessary tools or work space you'll need and give those notes a once-over.
No. 585865 ID: 6e7636

Make sure you don't let the singularity escape.

Also yes be polite to your coworker.
No. 585885 ID: 53548a

Someone turned those latex gloves inside out! Unacceptable!
No. 586096 ID: 502058

might as well look at the schematic to see what we're dealing with
No. 586192 ID: 557bac
File 140649409742.png - (122.29KB , 600x453 , 2-17.png )

>Return Sharon's morning, and thank her for the message.

"Thanks Sharon, have a good vacation?"

>"Oh God yes, I just needed to get out of here and see the SUN for once. You know what I mean?"

You don't but know better than to say so.
"Heh, yeah. This place can take it out of you after a while."

>"Not just here, the whole town is just so... grey. The corporate office is down in the Valley; at least they get a couple months of sun during the year... the bastards."

You nod and make agreement noises, speaking the universal language of co-workers sharing half-hearted grievances.
No. 586193 ID: 557bac
File 140649410371.png - (265.39KB , 503x600 , 2-18.png )

>Call up the wasps and see what they have to say.

You aren't interested in trying to attract any more wasps right now; they usually show up when you're anxious or worried. While its neat that they tried to help you, You're trying to stay focused here.

>might as well look at the schematic to see what we're dealing with

You start to familiarize yourself with the schematic. It seems pretty simple, honestly: most satellite transponders are way more complicated. More and more of them are designed to deal with audio and video compression and work on several channels. This particular device is one channel only, designed to be physically synched up with COBALT or some other ground based computer before being placed in orbit. In theory, the two systems would then produce cryptographic keys that allow them to communicate securely. That's the theory at least.

>Gather any necessary tools or work space you'll need and give those notes a once-over.

Having done that, you start putting your workspace together; setting up the tools you should need, making sure its all working properly, checking to make sure the room is clean.


Now, you're starting to wonder: what's taking so long with that delivery?
No. 586203 ID: 2fd516

Is it even possible to find out without exiting the clean room? Go check the delivery area, or whatever.
No. 586224 ID: 6d3b18

>what's taking so long with that delivery?
Well, how long has it been, so far?

Is there anything you can get started while you're waiting?

Eventually, I suppose, you'll need to look into the delay, if there is one, but it's hard to know if you've reached that point yet.
No. 586231 ID: 2baea8

Take a peek outside and ask someone nearby what's the holdup.
No. 586726 ID: 557bac
File 140667932039.png - (110.41KB , 548x600 , 2-19.png )

>Take a peek outside
> how long has it been, so far?
You peek your head outside. Its been several minutes since you arrived; even though the carriers have to be decontaminated before entering the clean room there's no reason for it should take this long to get here.

>Go check the delivery area, or whatever.
It looks like the rail designed to carry canisters is empty. You decide to follow it back to its source, a vertical airlock where they are sanitized for entry.
No. 586727 ID: 557bac
File 140667932524.png - (149.11KB , 600x600 , 2-20.png )

The inner door of the airlock is open and inside you hear the whirr of some kind of mechanical struggle.
No. 586728 ID: 2fd516

Take a look, but don't mess with it. Report it to someone whose job it is to fix these things. Assuming it isn't something supernatural, anyway. If something weird is in there, you might have to summon a wasp/wasps to handle it.
No. 586729 ID: d8a627

Go back to your assigned room and use the phone there to contact the Maintenance guys. They're the ones allowed in to see what's going on, and there's no reason for you to do it yourself. It might just be that they're doing maintenance already, and that's what the hold up is, anyways.
No. 586730 ID: 2baea8

This. Call it in.
No. 586733 ID: 40935b

Well maintenance is right next door, you could knock.
No. 586737 ID: 53548a

Yo, where'd everybody go?
No. 586808 ID: f839a9

Yup, follow procedure. Trying to mess with something like broken clean room integrity on your own only makes it worse. Even if you're capable of fixing the problem, gotta go through channels.
No. 586877 ID: 5786d8


Let's keep all appendages outside of the metal doors. Either ask maintenance what's up, or head to a phone/terminal/whatever and report the problem.
No. 587253 ID: 557bac
File 140685972337.png - (115.20KB , 600x539 , 2-21.png )

>Yo, where'd everybody go?
People are still around, they're just hard at work.

>Well maintenance is right next door, you could knock.

Sensibly, you decide to find someone to address the issue. You knock on the door marked maintenance, and hearing no answer, you go inside. Behind the door lies the cleanest janitorial closet you've ever seen. A selection of cleaning supplies are stored in clear plastic boxes, and stacked on shelves. The interior of the airlock is visible through a thick glass window, and next to it is a small panel for manual control of the airlock. Inside the airlock, the light inside seems to have gone out, but you can see the robotic arm struggle fitfully to move along the rail.

>use the phone there to contact the Maintenance guys
You spot a phone on the wall and dial up the extension for the maintenance staff.

You recognize the voice over the phone as Anthony
>"This is maintenance."

"Hey, Anthony, this is Nathan. I'm up in clean room maintenance, it looks like one of the delivery arms is stuck in the airlock. Can you come up here and take a look at it?"

You hear a sigh.
>"God, they spent how much money on those things? Yeah, I'll be right up, hang on."
No. 587254 ID: 557bac
File 140685972824.png - (112.14KB , 600x539 , 2-22.png )

You hear him hang up. Might as sit tight for a little bit: Anthony will have to suit up before he can even come in to look at the system.
No. 587258 ID: ef7fd2

Cool, let's wait around for them then, unless we have work to get to.
spooky-ooky shadow alert, looks sorta like some guy getting leechmonster'd in the chest?
No. 587259 ID: 85cf19

Looks like that kid with the squid back in the cafeteria.
Or just some random hobo hiding in the maintenance vents who has an octopus.
Or radula. You never know.

No. 587264 ID: 2fd516

What's going on in that airlock?

Take a look. Also look at the manual controls to see what you can do with them.
No. 587267 ID: 761017

Maximum Paranoia Tactic:
Call someone in the building you know won't mind waiting for you to talk for a second while you do something else, then investigate without saying anything.
This allows you to call for help if something legit is a problem without needing to run for the phone.
If the thing is nothing, then say you forgot what you needed to call them for and apologize.

Maximum Persona Tactic: Summon the wasps, have them provide a scout shield for you.
Possible Bonus: if the wasps aren't supernatural, then nate is still are engaging his subconcious brain to heighten his situational awareness to an extreme.
No. 587269 ID: 53548a

>Nate: Seek safety in numbers, find coworkers to follow around incessantly until your problem is resolved/the situation escalates.
No. 587270 ID: 761017
File 140686209222.png - (233.14KB , 1236x567 , Capture.png )

Various questions are in the picture!
No. 587331 ID: d8a627

Small room looking into a busted delivery shaft is starting to feel uncomfortable. Let's wait just outside the room.
No. 587332 ID: 502058

the fuck is that? is the air shaft thing supposed to have tentacled monsters in it?
No. 587341 ID: 55cf77

take a look through the window from as far away as you can (as far away while still seeing what's casting that shadow, i mean.)

also give the controls a cursory once over but do not touch them - we should just know in case of emergency.

you shouldn't leave the room in case the shadow IS being cast by something standing in the hallway instead of inside the airlock.
No. 587382 ID: 6e7636

You guys know what else the squiggly thing could be?

Somebody's tail.
No. 587617 ID: 557bac
File 140700408295.png - (141.57KB , 600x542 , 2-23.png )

>Take a look. Also look at the manual controls to see what you can do with them.

You spot some kind of movement in the window, and cautiously examine the chamber. You don't spot anything out of the ordinary, besides the broken carrier arm.
You take a moment to familiarize yourself with the manual control.

It looks like it has an atmospheric reading at the top, followed by controls for the arm. Below, there's switches to open each door and filtration controls for putting the chamber into a near vacuum. At the bottom are a safety warning and a panic button to open the doors.
No. 587618 ID: 557bac
File 140700408627.png - (91.81KB , 600x571 , 2-24.png )

You hear a crash from the hallway so you open the door and peek out warily. The cover for one of the vents seems to have fallen off of the ceiling. You hear the sound of stainless steel flexing as something slides through the duct-work.
No. 587619 ID: 2baea8

You've seen this movie before.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
Call Security.
No. 587621 ID: 9b35bd

Some asshole cryptocurrency whackjob from outside is probably trying to sneak in
No. 587622 ID: 2fd516

Call security. Then lock yourself in maintenance and sit down and meditate but try to imagine yourself outside the room.
No. 587623 ID: bb78f2

Yep, hey security, we're hearing something in the vents help a brother out here.
No. 587625 ID: dc4b80

Oddly enough clean room duct work is one of the few types that does look like it would in a video game. If you tried crawling in a Normal ventilation systems you would get torn up from all the screws sticking in everywhere and sharp metal all over the joints. Plus you could easily break through the ceiling because its not designed to have idiots crawling around in them.

But for clean rooms and parts of hospitals they are designed to be immaculate inside. The fasteners do not pierce the duct work and all the joints are heavily reinforced. Have to have a master sheet metal worker design the system so its up to code.

Anyways while there is the slight chance its just a maintenance engineer up there fixing things lets not test that. It could easily be someone who broke into the exhaust system and is up to no good.

So get your ass back in the room and call security and find out whats up. Tell them about the vents and that you saw a shadow with maybe a long tail through the delivery system window. Hopefully it just one of your coworkers being a idiot but better safe than sorry.

Can you lock yourself in this room for the moment? Or would there be a safer place to ride this out? Do not go panicking but if someone is trying to steal corporate secrets or something you want to be safe and out of the way.
No. 587635 ID: 40935b

Verify that you're not seeing things- make sure that the grate has indeed on the ground, then tell security something is up. You should also go to your workspace to keep an eye on those notes.
No. 587644 ID: 53ba34

don't say it's a monster, say you think it is an intruder.
No. 587822 ID: 557bac
File 140710293785.png - (158.08KB , 556x600 , 2-25.png )

>Verify that you're not seeing things- make sure that the grate has indeed on the ground

You look down at the vent cover, that's not the kind of thing you would normally hallucinate. Yeah, you're pretty sure that's real.

>Can you lock yourself in this room for the moment?
You close the door, but realize now that the electronic lock isn't working.

>Yep, hey security, we're hearing something in the vents help a brother out here.
You run back to the phone and dial the extension for the security office.

"Security? Hey, this is Nathan Springer.I think we may have an intruder in building C. I'm in the clean room maintenance closet and it sounds like someone snuck in through the ventilation system. Could you come check it out?

The guard on the other end swears
>"Shit! Okay, hang tight, we'll be there in a second. Are you somewhere safe?"

You look back at the door.
"Uhhh, not really. The lock on this door isn't working."

>"Get yourself somewhere safe, then. Stay away from the vents while we check it out. "
No. 587823 ID: 2fd516


Alright let's... go in the opposite direction the vent-thing was going, and find a room without a vent and a working lock. Warn the others while you're at it.
No. 587827 ID: f839a9

Right. We'll get out of the way. Hopefully no one's authorized to go climbing in the vents.

...wait. Where can we go in the clean rooms that don't have vents? The whole area should be vented to carry out particulates, right?
No. 587832 ID: 2baea8

First thing to do is warn the others. There's also some measure of safety in numbers; including that they can help you find and secure a safe location.
No. 587847 ID: 40935b

Go to your work space and get those schematics. If anything happens to them, your ass is in six kinds of hot water.
No. 588150 ID: 557bac
File 140720820196.png - (143.49KB , 700x520 , 2-26.png )

>Go to your work space and get those schematics. If anything happens to them, your ass is in six kinds of hot water.

You rush back to your work station in a near panic.
Inside, Sharon appears to have collapsed. Nothing else seems to have been touched.
No. 588151 ID: 2fd516

Shit. Try to shake her awake. Can you see if she's breathing? You might just have to grab the schematics and run. It's not like you can administer medical care.
No. 588152 ID: 2baea8

No. 588159 ID: a36601

Pretty much this.

((I see what you did with the background. Noticed it when I went to look if the book was in there the first time.))
No. 588160 ID: e3aff6

>Nothing else seems to have been touched.
So there is a good chance that the infiltrator has already been in here and taken a picture of the schematics.
No. 588162 ID: ef7fd2

Grab that stool, it will do us good to have something to defend us with and it's the only thing I can see that would work.
No. 588166 ID: 40935b

Call security again and give them an update.
No. 588170 ID: dc4b80

Your job right now is to keep yourself safe and try to help your coworkers that might not know that something is going on.

As for the schematics its not your job to protect company secrets from getting stolen from the most secure area you have. At this point you are one of the company secrets that needs protecting.

Shake Sharon slightly to see if she is at all responsive. Then check her breathing and pulse if you can. If she seems fine then avoid moving her just in case and see if anyone else is out of it.
No. 588176 ID: f839a9

People first, plans second. Touch for a pulse. Don't worry about your phobias, there are suits in the way, you're fine.
No. 588191 ID: 2fd516

Actually wait, does this room's lock work? You could hide in here. Well, if it doesn't have a vent anyway.
No. 588193 ID: d8a627

Let's try and wake Sharon and see if she didn't just happen to fall asleep, first. It's pretty damn hard to get any sort of sleeping drug into people wearing cleanwear like that, so if she were clobbered or something, she would have noticed it.
No. 588232 ID: 2f4b71

This. Besides, workplace injury! Duty to report!
No. 588244 ID: 6e7636

Check for a pulse and try to wake Sharon up while giving your best Ozzy Osbourne impression.
No. 588246 ID: 9fabea

check if she's still alive/breathing and move her out of the way.

i wouldn't touch the schematics in-case the intruder touched them and left prints. you have gloves on but they're rubber so your fingerprints might just press through anyway.
No. 588247 ID: 2fd516

Fingerprints do not work that way. They are left because the finger leaves behind oil or other residue which can be picked up by forensics. There is no residue on Nate, he's clean.
No. 588279 ID: 761017
File 140729779996.png - (174.00KB , 700x520 , 140720820196 copy.png )

She looks like she may be just sleeping!

Is this how you sleep in a clean room on a long shift?

You would know better Nate!

Wake her up anyways, say that someone just broke in through the cargo airlock!
No. 588284 ID: 2fd516

The gloves were like that before.
No. 588309 ID: d8a627

Take a look >>586192 those are her eyebrows.
No. 588316 ID: 4a20fa

Get on the phone again. Now you need first aid in here, unless you're appropriately trained.
No. 588329 ID: e31ca1

If the clean room is compromised, what's the damage that could be done? We need to know so we an assign prorities to actions.
No. 588429 ID: 557bac
File 140737668277.png - (351.35KB , 600x600 , 2-27.png )

>check if she's still alive/breathing
It looks like Sharon is still breathing and doesn't appear to have been attacked physically.

> Try to shake her awake.
You hesitate, and then reach down to shake her awake.

The world stretches out and tunnels into a single point.
There is a nauseating wrench, and your perspective is shattered into thousands of glittering facets. Each one seems to reflect portions of a lifetime full of memories.
No. 588432 ID: 557bac
File 140737692636.png - (299.16KB , 700x700 , 2-28.png )

You find yourself standing on a beach, about a hundred feet in every direction, the world disappears abruptly. Fragments of her universe hang in alien constellations across the sky. Nearby, a much younger Sharon plays in the sand with the deliberate, focused attention of a child trying to pretend she's having fun.
No. 588433 ID: 2f2fc2


go and see what the totally cute penguin girl is up to? See if she'll talk unlike last time
No. 588434 ID: d8a627

Uhh. I'm not sure what to read from this. Judging by the images, it looks like she might have been poisoned by somebody wearing a clean-suit and something with a fish-emblem, but it's probably just showing random memories from all across her life, not just today's.
Nevermind! That's a car viewed from above, not somebody wearing a mask. Definitely has nothing to do with her being unconscious.
Ask her if she knows what's going on.
No. 588435 ID: 2fd516

WELP here we go again. This time let's try not to "fix" any trauma. We're just here to restore her mind back to how it was.

I say immediately check your side. The hive should still be there, and we can ask the wasps how the hell we can fix this, and what caused it. Then, with their guidance, we can recruit the youngster's help.

Actually maybe we can ask her if she remembers anything that happened in the lab.

If there's no immediate solution to this, just wake up. Keep in mind you're exposed. The same thing could happen to you.
No. 588436 ID: bb78f2

While you're in here you might want to try and peruse the glass shards to find out who her attacker might be.
But I do suppose sad penguin girl is more important, because sad penguin girl.
I guess one of her bugs must have bit you through her suit.
No. 588437 ID: 40935b

Well, she was just talking about her vacation. Go see what's up, and ascertain where the wasps are in the meantime.
No. 588438 ID: 53ba34

her mind is shattered and the waves prevent any meaningful rebuilding. you need to protect her constructions so they can become sturdy enough to withstand the waves.
No. 588443 ID: dc4b80

Everything being shattered could just mean she is dreaming.

Anyways go chat with the little girl and see if we can find out anything.
No. 588551 ID: 5f5b96

Oh come on! You didn't even touch a bug, this time. You didn't even touch a person, there was a suit in the way!

Stupid psychoses not following rules that make sense to you.
No. 588589 ID: 502058

"There is a nauseating wrench, and your perspective is shattered[sic]"
that doesn't sound healthy.

we are not supposed to be here. this is none of our business. look around you and see if you can find an invader or some huge bugs or whatever it is that is doing this. also any sign of your buzzing friends?
No. 588703 ID: 5341db

does SHE have any bugs? If so where are they? remember that last time we were in this zone they attacked us. That'll be annoying here.

We really want to get out. Last time, it was curiosity. This time, it's an accident when there's an intruder and we don't know the time dilation of these events. We don't want to give the intruder ANY time or opportunity to do something bad-er than they may have already done.

Find the EXIT.
No. 588704 ID: 339398

offer to play with the penguin girl.
No. 588717 ID: f2cf24

Whatever caused her to be like this has clearly moved on. We're probably safe to spend time here. She may not wake if we don't. Talk to her
No. 588724 ID: 2baea8

Greet Sharon.
No. 588894 ID: 557bac
File 140764605197.png - (208.95KB , 600x600 , 2-29.png )

You scuff your way across the beach, sand getting into your shoe-covers.

>Anyways go chat with the little girl and see if we can find out anything.

"Er... hey, Sharon... um... nice sand castle."

You never have been very good with kids; they're unpredictable and have a habit of invading your personal space. However, you get the idea that Sharon's unenthusiastic response has little to do with your presence. She keeps working, her gaze turned down, away from yours.

>"S'okay... they're better when dad helps..."

>While you're in here you might want to try and peruse the glass shards to find out who her attacker might be.

You cast your eyes around at the spinning fragments, trying to find a clue to explain her collapse. You don't spot anything from the lab yet, but you keep looking.

"Do you know what happened here?"

Sharon stops working and idly starts pouring sand onto the front of her skirt, slowly burying her knees.
>"...I dunno. I think somebody broke it."

"Somebody broke it? Do you know who?"

>"No, I dunno who. Why are you wearing pajamas?"

"What? No, they aren't pajamas, well, not exactly."

>"You're wearing slippers too."

"No, they're not slippers, they're for my job. Your job too, I suppose."
No. 588895 ID: 557bac
File 140764607435.png - (172.44KB , 365x600 , 2-30.png )

>does SHE have any bugs? If so where are they? remember that last time we were in this zone they attacked us.

Suddenly, you remember: when you were in Diego's mind, his beetle attacked you, and it was HUGE. You cast your eyes around for Sharon's-

"Holy shit!"
No. 588896 ID: ec2e47

Ask her if she can ask the crab to calm down.
No. 588897 ID: a19cbe

Back away from her, and hold your hands up in an appeasing gesture. You're not here to change anything, maybe you can get the crab to recognize that. Be nice not to have to pay whatever price you paid getting the bees to fight that beetle, again.
No. 588898 ID: 2baea8

Yes. Explain that you're here to... 'un-break' it. If that doesn't work, try to outmaneuver the crab and send your wasps to start pulling the broken pieces back together.
No. 588899 ID: 40935b

Well our options are to impart wisdom on the transient nature of life, using the sand castle as a metaphor, which might not work because she's a child
you could put your engineering degree to good use and help her build the best damn sand castle ever.

Ask her if she has any idea how to fix it.
No. 588900 ID: 0acb3a


But seriously, see if we can get Inner Child here to calm Cancer here down a notch.

Also, of course, we need to find out who exactly just unleashed a floorwide can of psychic knockout (besides the obvious guess who's so suspect that at this point it probably ISN'T him).
No. 588904 ID: 53ba34

hide behind her, i highly doubt a mental construct would attack it's owner.
No. 588908 ID: d8a627

Well, if Sharon doesn't realize the crab is protecting her... It wouldn't be nice to abandon her to the crab. Maybe take a few steps away and ask her if that crab has always been there, it might calm down from the slight distance or she might recgonize it.
No. 588947 ID: ebe537

Excuse yourself for swearing (she is a kid, after all) and find something to hide behind.
No. 588948 ID: 2fd516

I'm not sure we can do anything here to fix things, and we certainly have no reason to fight this time. Try talking to the crab, ask it what happened here, and if you can help un-break things. Maybe the wasps can work as a translator?
No. 589358 ID: 557bac
File 140798517769.png - (296.56KB , 600x600 , 2-31.png )

>hide behind her, i highly doubt a mental construct would attack it's owner.

The guardian crab barrels out of the surf and...

Cautiously, you stand up and brush yourself off while trying to pretend that you weren't literally hiding behind a little girl.

"Er... sorry..."

>"Dude, really?"

You inch closer to examine the creature. There is a gaping hole in the back of its carapace sloshing with brine and cyanoglobin. The limbs on the left side of the creature appear to have been mangled by some tremendous force.
No. 589359 ID: 53ba34

oh, it's broken too. drag it out of the water.
No. 589360 ID: 2fd516

Whatever did this might still be here. Open your suit and reveal the Nest, so that the wasps can come out. You'll need them to defend yourself.

There's a house. Tell her she might want to take shelter there. It's her house, isn't it?
No. 589363 ID: d8a627

"Wait... These things are supposed to guard the person they live near... That would be you, Sharon. What hurt this guy so badly?"

Also, shoot, you didn't do this to Diego's beetle, did you? That would be horrible! Might be worth asking her if you can try and heal the crab. Your wasps could probably replace the missing portion with hive matter.
No. 589364 ID: 40935b

I've got a phobia, alright? look, if you're not having any fun, why don't you go to the house?
No. 589366 ID: 4b571b

>Dude, really?
The last giant bug I ran into was somewhat less mangled.

Seriously, how was he moving, when hurt this bad? Or was it fine before, and the attack was just so fast we missed it?
No. 589380 ID: dc54ce

Soooo... the crab was just okay when it was coming at you and then collapses with a hole in its back. Did something attack it from behind but you didn't see it behind the wave of water? Double check the water to make sure nothing is there.
No. 589381 ID: 2baea8

Consider that it might not be so much attacking you as running from something.
No. 589524 ID: 5fe40f

i think we're looking at this the wrong way....maybe the crab meant something
No. 589625 ID: 761017

Nate is still wearing his clean suit.

Aren't those things giant onesies that have no opening?
No. 589674 ID: 557bac
File 140821348843.png - (238.99KB , 600x600 , 2-32.png )

Sharon picks up a stick and starts to poke at the giant carcass scientifically.

>"You don't have to be scared, its dead."

"Well, I was attacked earlier by a giant beetle, so you'll understand if I'm a bit nervous. Plus, I kind of have a thing about bugs."

The crab doesn't look like its been dead for long, but it seems like it was washed up, or thrown up on shore rather than moved under its own power.
A sudden chill runs up your spine.

What if whatever did this is still here?

>Whatever did this might still be here. Open your suit and reveal the Nest, so that the wasps can come out. You'll need them to defend yourself.

You unzip the front of your coverall a bit, and a member of the swarm clambers out.

"Hey, I don't suppose you know what did this, do you?"

Unknowwnnnn. Zzzztrong. Much dammmage.

>Also, shoot, you didn't do this to Diego's beetle, did you? That would be horrible!

"When we were in Diego's head, you didn't kill his beetle did you?"

ZzzzZNnooo. WWwe coulld not killlll it. Not zzztrong eeeenough

>There's a house. Tell her she might want to take shelter there. It's her house, isn't it?

"Hey, Sharon, we should get out of here, let's go inside where its safe, okay?"

Sharon hesitates, but looks back at the crab and nods.
No. 589675 ID: 557bac
File 140821349408.png - (187.82KB , 600x600 , 2-33.png )

Together you race up the dunes, hearing something something thrash behind you in the surf, but not daring to look back. You stumble into the living room, and find yourself interrupting... something?

Whatever it is, it stands in the middle of the room with its appendage outstretched, manipulating a cloud of tiny fragments.
It turns its machine-like head, studded with tiny lenses, and fixes you with a cold stare.
Sharon starts to scream.
No. 589678 ID: bb78f2

Okay that shit right there's fucking with her mind.

No. 589680 ID: d8a627

We don't know this for sure, but given that Sharon screamed upon seeing it, that's probably right. Ask them what they're doing, and why they're here.
No. 589681 ID: 2baea8

Shit man it's the robopocalypse! Our machine overlords have developed not only consciousness, but psychic powers!

Or, y'know, that's just armor he/she made (like your space suit).
Ask what the hell's going on.
No. 589682 ID: dc4b80

That thing is ripping apart her memories to find something. Not sure what it wants but its most likely looking for information on COBALT and such.

Could be a competitor that has a guy like you who can get into peoples heads to steal info. Or could be crazy aliens from that creepy thing in the sky.

We just need to figure out how to drive it off and help repair her mind if need be.

Lets hope the wasps have had time to heal up because this could get messy. Send them after it and see if they have any advice.

If you heard something thrashing on the surf it might be her crab trying to put itself back together and help. Not sure if we can do anything about that but if we could find a way to heal the crab it could help drive this thing off.
No. 589684 ID: 918b96

I think this is an obvious enemy. The mind's owner doesn't like it, and we're getting chills up the spine in a place where dream logic prevails. Tell your swarm to boot it out of this mind and ask how you can help. Tell it to prioritize not dying over accomplishing the goal.
No. 589690 ID: 2fd516

That... could be Doug, looking through her memories to see what did the damage. The body shape is right for Doug.

Unleash the swarm anyway, and take a defensive posture. Also look around for something suitably sturdy that you could use as a weapon. Don't just let your wasps do the dirty work- bash that fucker's head in if it turns out to be a threat.

Ask who it is and what the hell it's doing.
No. 589699 ID: c8246f

If it's Doug, then we can add "obsession with Alien" to the list of creepy things about him. However, while the body type's a close fit, let's not assume anything for now; we can't get blindsided here. And be wary for traps, this could very well be one.
No. 589710 ID: 5cd090

hmm.. yell "DOUG WHAT THE FUCK!?"
No. 589718 ID: c8246f

Let's do this.

And if it doesn't reveal who the Gigerbot is, say "Sorry. Thought you were someone else," before braining him with whatever's on hand.
No. 589720 ID: 0a9ce8

That tail... I think we can say with reasonable certainty that we are viewing the source of that shadow we saw earlier in the maintenance room.

Can't be, look at the legs.
You just can't squash feet into those spindly ass things, also digitigrade.
Unless Doug's mental image is a robot, it's probably safe to assume that we are not in the presence of Doug.
No. 589746 ID: e3aff6

If this is like your safe space you will likely be able to imagine a weapon for yourself. I believe a crowbar is traditional for this sort of thing.
No. 589747 ID: 53ba34

grab it and take it to your "safe place" and SEND it into the giant space anomaly. on purpose.
No. 589749 ID: 40935b

It makes sense if he's a psycho/sociopath.

Well it looks like we know who's been killing bugs. Let's not go to our safe place right away, it hasn't been particularly safe as of late.
No. 589796 ID: d8a627

What? No. That's for Black Mesa scientists. Nathan's an Astronaut. He'd have a Pistol-Grip drill.
http://www.universetoday.com/31005/super-tools-essential-to-hubble-mission-success/pgt/ this guy's got one holstered here.
No. 589894 ID: 557bac
File 140831401627.png - (243.21KB , 600x432 , 2-34.png )


You push Sharon behind you and pull your coverall open and the swarm comes pouring out.

"Hey! You! Er- stop that!"

Unimpressed by your tone of voice, the figure turns and its faces you. It's arm crackling with strange energy.
No. 589895 ID: 557bac
File 140831402173.png - (214.58KB , 600x417 , 2-35.png )

> look around for something suitably sturdy that you could use as a weapon.

You pick up a chair and hold it in what you hope is a threatening manner.

>That... could be Doug

"Who are -? Doug, is that... you?"

Its answer, if it can be called that, is a burst of violent static. It points its claw at you and a blinding arc of light earths itself in the chair, leaving a smoking hole in the wood.
No. 589897 ID: 53ba34

you need to grab it somehow, maybe by the tail, and drag it into your head, which has something a LOT more dangerous in it.
No. 589911 ID: 918b96

Rush him, using the chair as a shield, and drag him with you into the black hole zone. Either leave your swarm here or recall it back into your hive.
No. 589918 ID: f6f4c3

This thing looks like a scorpion, eyes, tail, claws.
No. 589919 ID: bb78f2

Hey, idea.

Hive Husk armor! Ask hive to make you some bitchin' husk armor or whatever. His bugs gave him that wicked techno suit somehow. Shit, even a husk shield will do.
Maybe a stinger rapier with some poison venom on it too? Get him in the joints!
No. 589923 ID: 4b571b

It fights with lightning, huh? Using a conductor like wood as a shield sort of works, but what you really need is a lightning rod to or something to divert it to ground.

...also, if it's made of metal, that's going to make stinging or venom kind of ineffective.
No. 589948 ID: 2fd516

Not Doug, then.

Imagine a spacesuit, as you used to do, but make it armored. And with weapons on it. Like, I don't know, lasers, miniguns, big weapons. Strong weapons. Alternatively, you could see if you can focus and retaliate with some sort of energy blast of your own.

The swarm should do its thing. Maybe it can split up into small wasps and sting through cracks in the robot's armor. Don't be afraid to tank some shots for it. As we've seen, injury to your mind-body regenerates relatively quickly. The swarm, however, seems to recover slower... or maybe that was just because it didn't have a Hive.
No. 590001 ID: 7c0a55

Have you played any games, Nate? If not, let me suggest you this for a battle-armor.
No. 590002 ID: 037770

No, if you're going to fight aliens and deal with crazy mind shit in a spacesuit this is the only choice!
No. 590013 ID: eb4df0

Nate doesn't just need a space suit, he needs protection. He needs a suit of armour.

He needs the AX-2 hard-shell prototype space-suit.
No. 590014 ID: da6dcf

As much as I'd like to go anywhere else with it.....

this is the best idea for a biological bee suit
No. 590042 ID: 037770

I'm actually kind of okay with this.

This I'm less okay with. Looks like something rejected from Power Rangers.
No. 590091 ID: 953e02

Dream up an EMP gun (like in the Dark Knight Rises or Arkham City) or some chaff grenades (like in MGS1). If the singularity doesn't work, we need to be prepared.
No. 590378 ID: 557bac
File 140858543758.png - (158.26KB , 600x533 , 2-36.png )

>Imagine a spacesuit, as you used to do, but make it armored. And with weapons on it. Like, I don't know, lasers, miniguns, big weapons.

You concentrate and wrap your mind in a protective EVA suit. As you feel it's weight cover your limbs, you try to conceptualize a weapon in your hands.
Unfortunately, that doesn't work so well. You get the feeling that you're trying to manifest too much and you really aren't that familiar with guns. Instead you hang on to the smouldering chair.
No. 590379 ID: 557bac
File 140858544213.png - (266.93KB , 700x501 , 2-37.png )

>Rush him, using the chair as a shield
Shielding yourself, you catch another blast with the chair as you rush the figure but the suit is slowing you down.
No. 590380 ID: 557bac
File 140858544834.png - (369.74KB , 600x600 , 2-38.png )

>The swarm should do its thing.
It readies itself to attack again but before it can, the swarm assembles behind it and pins its arms to its sides.
No. 590385 ID: 2fd516

Alright, not familiar with guns? You are familiar with circuitry and such, though. Make a makeshift tazer. Battery, contacts, button. Fry the robot with it. Oh, or an arc-welder.

Or just fucking smash its head with the GUN.

Consider making your boots lighter so you can move faster.
No. 590392 ID: 2baea8

You are, however, familiar with video games. Attack its health bar directly!
No. 590408 ID: dc4b80

Do a scooby doo reveal and tear off its helmet if you can. If there is someone in that suit it would be nice to see there face.

Depending on how lively it is when you get there might have to smack it around a bit before you try anything though.
No. 590410 ID: b651f5

It hasn't been injured yet but has lightning coming out of it. Warn the swarm; I think it is going to try and shock them off.
No. 590456 ID: 487455

Smash its face in.

Not familiar enough with guns to dream up a good one? Imagine a tool from work. There's any number of metalworking, circuitry and mechanical tools that work as improvised weapons. (Anything from a wrench to power tools).
No. 590463 ID: d8a627

No. 590468 ID: 2baea8

Create the power drill that will pierce its skull.
No. 590470 ID: 81a9c9

Some kind of bandsaw sword?

or that, that'll work.
No. 590510 ID: 6e7636

You already have a chair.

What about a metal chair?
No. 590512 ID: 2fd516

That's so crazy IT JUST MIGHT WORK!
No. 590520 ID: b651f5

But its attacks looks like they might be lightning based. It does block the shots as it is however, so we could imagine duplicate chairs to replace the ones that get broken.
No. 590524 ID: 2baea8

This. Don't fix what ain't broke, wood is working.

There's an idea. Ever play Dungeons and Dragon, Nate? Make your chair become Ironwood, and make an Ironwood weapon.
No. 590531 ID: 36ae6a

>wood weapon
No. 590533 ID: 438d31

Soooo.. why not make some lightning rods? Or stuff that absorbs electricity? He's a engineer science guy. There's likely some big devices that can ground and take in large amounts of electricity.
No. 590559 ID: 436cdc

Ok, but why aren't we fighting with rocket boosters? Just smite him with the unmatchable power of a rocket engine to the face.
No. 590561 ID: 2fd516

Yeah! Rocket boosters on the suit, for GO-FAST. Rocket-boost a punch for a ROCKET PUNCH!
No. 590562 ID: 557bac
File 140868161481.png - (215.12KB , 600x600 , 2-39.png )

>It hasn't been injured yet but has lightning coming out of it. Warn the swarm; I think it is going to try and shock them off.

"Swarm! Watch out!"

There's a crackle of ozone and a cascade of sparks pours out of the the machine figure. The swarm manages to escape the blast, but a handful of errant wasps are incinerated by the attack.

>Rush him, using the chair as a shield, and drag him with you into the black hole zone.

It snarls a curse in a burst of static and starts to attack, but you're already on top of it. Your mind flickers through an arsenal of weapons, dozens of tactics, a thousand possibilities, but you can't afford a second to hesitate. The heavy suit, while slow, plows into the stranger like a truck, letting you grab its wrist. A bolt of magenta lightning scars the tough skin of the space suit but you're already dragging it into your safe place with you.
No. 590565 ID: 557bac
File 140868200733.png - (174.69KB , 357x600 , 2-40.png )

You aren't sure what to expect from the invader, you just wanted to get it away from Sharon's mind, where it was clearly doing damage. However, rather than attack, it shakes loose from your grip and surveys its new environment.

Then it sees the Axle, and its shoulders start to shake.

Wait... is it? Laughing?

You reach out to grab it, but its silhouette breaks up, and disappears, leaving only six glowing "eyes" which quickly fade into the background radiation of the night sky.
No. 590566 ID: dc4b80

Well we got it away from her but I think this is where it came from judging from its reaction.

Look around while you are here to see if anything has changed. Is that the box with the chain from the last dream we where in over there?

Then either head back to the real world or back to her mind to try and help repair things.
No. 590568 ID: 2fd516

It's going back to the waking world. You should too, because otherwise it can attack you while you're in the trance. Don't go back into Sharon's mind yet; you need to get to safety, and you can help her later. It's not like the damage will get any worse.

A few things to note:
1) despite the Axle being in full view, it has not sucked you in.
2) the cube is STILL THERE. We can apparently permanently bring things in here. I'm guessing Diego is not though because you told him to try to wake up, and that made him go back home.
3) I think the robot laughed because it knows what's causing the anomaly and it doesn't look like that at all. We're lucky it chose not to damage Nate's mind.
No. 590571 ID: 40935b

Flip him off and get the hell outta here. I have no desire to be sucked up by some crazy ass spatial anomaly today.
No. 590577 ID: 487455

Well, hell. We got it away from her, but we gave it a route out with whatever it got, too.

Double back, maybe? Check if she's all right, or if things are going back to normal?
No. 590836 ID: 557bac
File 140883468417.png - (321.13KB , 600x600 , 2-41.png )

>Well, hell. We got it away from her, but we gave it a route out with whatever it got, too.

Well, that wasn't too bad. Hopefully that was the last of... whatever that was.

>Look around while you are here to see if anything has changed. Is that the box with the chain from the last dream we where in over there?

Yeah, it looks like Diego's giant cube is still here. You aren't quite sure why. It seems to still be resisting the pull of the Axle for some reason.

Hang on, something's happening, however Its hard to tell exactly what. The accretion disk around the Axle starts to speed up, and the diameter of the ring starts to close.

There's a great buildup of energy. Suddenly, the linear singularity wrenches and is torn wide open; leaving a gaping, seething wound in the fabric of the universe.

"Oh my God. No, no no no no."

You need to get out of here.
You need to get the HELL out of here.

You concentrate, trying to escape before it tears you apart again.
No. 590837 ID: 557bac
File 140883469054.png - (248.05KB , 600x664 , 2-42.png )

You feel someone shaking you and It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the sudden, brilliant white of the clean-room. You find yourself looking into the concerned faces of a pair of security guards.

>"Nathan? What happened, are you two okay?"
No. 590842 ID: 2fd516

Tell him you're okay, at least for the moment, but you're not sure about Sharon. Take a look at her, see if she's awake. If she's not responding, go ahead and just tell them her mind is shattered, and the intruder was the one that did it. If they don't believe you, don't even bother talking about the Axle or mindscapes or whatever. Just go talk to Doug. He may be able to help fix her, and we can tell him about the robot in Sharon's mind and the Axle in your Safe Place.

...just in case, ask Morgan to escort you there and stand guard outside the door. Tell him you don't feel safe anymore. If Doug is somehow on the same side as the robots (though I doubt it- why would the robot steal secrets from Sharon when Doug has access to them already?) then we can get help from Morgan.

The first question we should ask Doug is "Why don't you have any bugs?" The second thing we should ask is "Why did you kill that spider?" The third thing is "Do you know of the Axle?"
No. 590843 ID: bb78f2

You found Sharon unconscious after you made the call, had a panic attack and kinda fainted.
No. 590844 ID: 2baea8

No. 590845 ID: 487455

Great. The entire clean-room has to be decontaminated and cleaned back to standards. That won't be costly or time consuming.

Yeah, that's probably the best reaction, and very close to the truth.

Is she okay?
No. 590846 ID: d8a627

This. Don't tell them anything pertaining to what might have all been imaginary. If Sharon's mind is shattered, you knowing it before they run tests would make you the suspect.
No. 591089 ID: 761017

I also support this.

Wait, are there cameras in the clean rooms?

We should be able to get footage of whatever Nate did while Nate was in imagination space!
No. 591148 ID: 257e78

How long will it be until the clean room is fully investigated for signs of the intruder, and then restored to usable condition? I'm no expert, but "hours or days" sounds plausible. Crisis or no, you can't do your job with crud everywhere.

Answer any questions the security guys have, give them whatever they need to do their own jobs, return whatever mission-critical tools and documentation you've been entrusted with to appropriate storage, then tell the boss you're taking half a sick day this afternoon 'cause it's better for everyone involved than sitting around doing nothing on company time, or worse yet wasting valuable materials by assembling contaminated garbage in a burglarized clean room. This is maybe not the best option politically, but you have legitimate technical, medical, and possibly cosmic problems, here. If somebody raises a stink, the magic words are "reasonable accommodation for a disability."

Then clock out, drive to Dr. Cooper's office, and get your therapy on via the low-latency, high-bandwidth, moderately secure channel known as face-to-face conversation.
No. 591152 ID: 4a20fa


And check on the super-secret plans.
No. 591155 ID: 01745f

>Great. The entire clean-room has to be decontaminated and cleaned back to standards. That won't be costly or time consuming.
Eh, the intruder was already probably unsanitary.
No. 591305 ID: 557bac
File 140911004835.png - (113.05KB , 600x388 , 2-43.png )


You turn your attention back to Sharon, who is still unconscious on the floor. You aren't sure how well she'll recover, but at least you got that thing out of there.

"I-I'm not sure, I was in the maintenance closet, because the delivery canister is stuck and I noticed that the lock wasn't working. I saw something move in the delivery chute and I heard it crawl into the ventilation system. That's when I called you. I went back to my work station and Sharon was passed out here, I guess I panicked and fainted or something."

The other guard, who's badge reads Paul, looks up at the ceiling.
>"Damn, anyone check things out upstairs?"

>"Not yet, but we have all the entrances sealed. Did you get a look at this guy?"

"Not really, I just caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. By the time I looked, he was already in the vent."

Anthony bustles in, clearly dressed for the clean room in a rush.
>"Hey, what's the deal here? What hell are are you doing? You realize that I'm going to have to scrub this whole place now?"

>"Sorry man. Word is that there's some kind of intruder, we had to respond immediately."

Anthony starts violently massaging his forehead in frustration.
>"Son of a... Okay, just... try not to touch anything, okay?"

He points to Sharon.
>"Think its safe to move her?"

You shrug.

>"She doesn't seem to be in immediate danger, best to leave her here for now rather than risk it. We'll call for an ambulance, have them come and get her out of here. In the mean time everyone should evacuate to the courtyard while we sweep the area."
No. 591306 ID: 557bac
File 140911005881.png - (116.31KB , 600x546 , 2-44.png )

Anthony grumbles, but obliges by leaving. You grab the binder full of schematics from the glove-box, before heading out; It seems like it hasn't been tampered with, but with everything that's been going on... you feel like you can't be sure of anything.

You stop by your locker before leaving and consider calling Doug or Hiro to update them on the situation and see what you should do.
No. 591308 ID: 2fd516

Call Doug, tell him what happened to Sharon (her mind was shattered by some kind of robot) and that you think something fucking huge is going down. Tell him you need to know everything he knows about the bugs and these mental worlds because there's something called the Axle that you've been seeing and it's scaring the fuck out of you, mostly because the robot seemed to recognize and trigger it to do... something.
No. 591311 ID: 019cc5

Don't be that up-front with Doug about the situation. As far as we can presently assume, he cannot be trusted.
If we are to open dialogue with him about this affair, we should proceed tactfully. Open with something about the mind-spider in the courtyard if you must.
No. 591322 ID: 2baea8

Go see if Doug is in the courtyard for the evacuation. If he is, ask what he wanted to speak to you about earlier.
No. 591327 ID: 2fd516

...I'm pretty sure if we continue to tell nobody about the Axle, the world is gonna end before we find out what it even is.
No. 591335 ID: 436cdc

Hm. You know, if doug writes us off as nuts we can chalk it up to a mental breakdown from the intruder situation. Or even perhaps lingering delirium from being knocked unconscious in the labs?
I say go for it, we have cover story now.
No. 591339 ID: 2fd516

...he won't write us out as nuts. He sees the bugs too!
No. 591363 ID: d8a627

Y'know what, calling Doug might be worth it. But don't outright say everything you've been experiencing, try to put it more carefully, like "After that intrusion, I suppose I don't have much to do but think about things, and I suddenly find myself wondering about your offer... Just to avoid confusion: Did you see swarms of imaginary insects when you were younger?" Just that you see imaginary insects is enough that, if he misunderstood what was going on, you aren't going to get into a whole lot of trouble over, after all, you can identify that they are imaginary.
No. 591366 ID: 2baea8

We don't specifically know that. We need to find out what he wanted to talk to us about. If he brings up the topic, we can go from there. If not, we can bring it up after whatever he wanted to talk about.

We need to return the schematics anyways.
No. 591376 ID: ccd544

Doug offered his help as an open invitation at any time.

Take him up on that offer as a chance to talk things out in private.

Also, Doug is your boss, so he will assume that you already have a great concern that he needs to address face-to-face since your workplace has been violated!
No. 591389 ID: 2fd516

No. 591394 ID: 2baea8

We have no specific proof that was a supernatural bug.
No. 591400 ID: 2fd516

It was exactly the same as Kim's spiders.
No. 591401 ID: 2baea8

Zeke's bees are exactly the same as normal bees.

Look, I'm pretty damn sure Doug is seeing the bugs, but it's not an assumption we should immediately base our actions on. We must account for the chance he is not aware of the bugs and first determine what he does know, and what he is willing to let us know he knows.

We shouldn't tell him about the robot or what really happened to Sharon until we're certain he's more valuable as a potential ally than he is dangerous as a potential enemy. Look for all the tells before we go all in.
No. 591414 ID: 2fd516

If you can look up the species of spider and demonstrate that they are really that big, THEN you'll be justified in thinking it might've been a real spider.
No. 591434 ID: 2fd516

They're not tarantulas. The other emotion-bugs are generally of the correct size, that's true.

Even if you think it was a real spider, why was it in the building and on his back if it's not one of Kim's? It's not like we're in the middle of a forest where it's likely for Doug to have accidentally bumped into a gigantic spider web housing one of those things.

The fact of the matter is Doug is the only one who has even a slight chance of giving us any information on what's going on with the bugs, and if we don't tell him anything then we will be stumbling around with NO idea what we're doing. If he's with the enemy then we've already lost, because there is no one else that can help us. Hell, we can confirm it easily by just asking him "Hey do you see bugs on almost everyone?" By not saying ANYTHING we're just sitting on our thumbs and letting things get worse.

Well, there is Lester too, but I doubt he can see the bugs, he's just noticed the movements of the enemy if anything. Calling him might get us somewhere, but we have no way of knowing he's tracking the same group. His conspiracy theory might be made up, and from what he's told us he doesn't know what he's even tracking. Also I'm not sure we have his phone number.
No. 591439 ID: 4a20fa

Don't be a crazy person. Just tell them the clean room's out of action because you think an intruder got in so you can't make the thing to do the things. You need a plan B or to swallow a delay.

Dude, you've posted a half-dozen times since the last update. Use >>/questdis/81536 already.
No. 591440 ID: 53548a

I agree with this guy.
No. 591468 ID: 557bac
File 140919326157.png - (124.47KB , 459x600 , 2-45.png )

You peel off your gown and grab your things before heading down to the courtyard.

>Call Doug, tell him what happened to Sharon

Once you get downstairs, you decide the best thing to do would be to call Doug and tell him about the clean room. The phone rings twice and you hear the other line pick up.

>"Y'ello? Doug O'Beele, who's this?"

"Its -"

>"Just kidding Nathan. What can I do for you?"

"We've had a problem. It looks like someone broke into the clean-room through the vents, and I think Sharon has been attacked somehow. Security is up there handling it, but the whole clean room has to be scrubbed and sanitized."

>"What do you mean attacked 'somehow'? Is she alright?"

>Don't be that up-front with Doug about the situation. As far as we can presently assume, he cannot be trusted.

Hesitant to reveal the nature of your condition you try to describe what you saw.
"She's... unconscious. It doesn't look like she was physically attacked, its more like ..."

>"Wait... you know what? Let's not talk about this over the phone. Why don't you come up to my office and you can tell me everything."
No. 591470 ID: d90668

Go up to his office but tell someone where you are going first. Like phone Hiro and tell him what happened and that you are going to go give Doug the blueprints and all the details.
No. 591473 ID: 2fd516

It really sounds like he knows something. Go on. Enter the lair of the creepy guy.
No. 591476 ID: 8b6612

(Snort) O'Beele? Wow.

Back on topic, it seems ever more likely that he knows, and that he knows we know. I'm still not counting him as someone to be trusted, though. More a momentary ally. Still, I suppose we should go talk to him. Try letting someone know you're going to see him beforehand, though. Hiro, Diego, that nice barista (Paula was it?). The more people the better.
No. 591499 ID: 2baea8

>we can confirm it easily by just asking him "Hey do you see bugs on almost everyone?"

That's what I wanted to do. Before we started telling him about Sharon. I didn't think I was terribly unclear on it, but I guess I was, since we spent like twelve posts arguing.

But, it looks like that's out the window anyways.

I agree with the others on letting some people know where you're going. Partially in case something happens to you, partially because everyone's supposed to have evacuated to the courtyard, so it might seem suspicious if you suddenly leave without notification.

After that head on up to see Doug.
No. 591506 ID: 4a20fa

That. Should be able to do it on the move.
No. 591601 ID: 557bac
File 140928401283.png - (133.15KB , 600x600 , 2-46.png )

>phone Hiro and tell him what happened and that you are going to go give Doug the blueprints and all the details.

You head up to Doug's office, but decide to let Hiro in on what's been happening along the way.

"Hiro, this is Nate. Something's come up in the clean-room and we've had to evacuate. I have to go meet with Doug in his office."

>"What? Damnit, what about... that thing you were working on?"

"On hold, unfortunately. I can't work on it till they let us back in."

Hiro's groan carries through the speaker
> "Naaaate, you're killing me here. Okay, we can salvage this... I've got an idea, like, a fucking desperate, insane, sleep-deprived idea. Meet me in the coffee shop after you talk to Doug and you can tell me how much of an awesome, crazy genius I am."

"Er... sure, I'll see you later then."

> Enter the lair of the creepy guy.

You reach the door to Doug's office; somewhere inside, Freddie Mercury croons a lament over ever being born at all. You knock and, unsure if he heard you over the stereo, you let yourself in. Doug's office is decorated with the kind of enthusiastic, motivational crap that you've come to expect from a corporate manager: posters about dreams and reaching for them, small nick-knacks with the company logo on them, . In the corner a record player belts out Queen from above a small shelf full of vinyl. Doug stands with his back to you, looking out of the window.

"Helloo? Doug?"

He turns around, still nothing but smiles.
>"Hello Nate, I know I said my door is always open, but I need to close it if I want to play something. Why don't you sit down and tell me exactly what happened."
No. 591603 ID: 2fd516

Okay, but one question first. Can he see the bugs too? On everyone- well, almost everyone?
No. 591608 ID: d90668

Well sit down and carefully tell him what happened from the moment he last saw you until you saw Sharon on the ground. Go nice and slow and try to visualize every detail that happened.

Once you get to the part where you found Sharon mention how you were worried and checked her for a pulse.

Then either stop there and wait to see how he reacts or go into a detailed description of how you had a "dream" where you used your amazing psychic powers to fight off a memory stealing robot.

If Doug does have a power like yours we might as well find out now. If he is a enemy I think you can defend yourself well enough to deal with him trying anything. Who knows he might end up a ally or friend if you are lucky. And if he has no powers he knows you are a brilliant but troubled engineer. So no worries there.
No. 591613 ID: 2baea8


If the answer is yes, tell him what really happened.

If the answer is no, tell him what you told the guards.

If he dodges the question, tell him it's a matter of perspective on what happened.
No. 591637 ID: 4a20fa

Tell him what happened except the crazy-person hallucination part. Do not ask about bugs.
No. 591640 ID: 2f2fc2

You guys really need to fight this urge to just spill all this shit. You need to do this with tact.

Tell him you have something that's been bothering you...that your "issues" keep popping up and it might stop you from continuing your project. Make doug think that whatever your issue is it'll keep you from your work and then tell him about it in a manner that'd make him reveal himself "IF" he has a similar thing going on.

and only about the bugs... no head jumping crap...that's too close to the crazy train....he has to feel like the only way you can keep working on this project he's so worried about would be some sort of relief of your psychosis. If he knows about the bugs then getting you to keep working by telling you he knows about them too would do just that. If he doesn't he might just show force to get you to work or figure out a way to give you some relief/let you see your doc
No. 591744 ID: 4c3bc7

For the bug thing, just mention the spider from earlier.

Something like "Hey, about that spider earlier...", the trail off says a lot.

He'll pick up what you're really asking if he knows about the bugs, and if he doesn't you can dismiss it and go on about what happened.
No. 591751 ID: 557bac
File 140936561334.png - (143.10KB , 600x600 , 2-47.png )

>Well sit down and carefully tell him what happened from the moment he last saw you until you saw Sharon on the ground. Go nice and slow and try to visualize every detail that happened.

You sit down in front of his desk and clear your throat, laying out what happened between the last time you saw Doug, and finding Sharon's unconscious body in as much detail as you dare.

"... and then I reached out to check if she was alright and.. I guess I blacked out. Next thing I know, I'm looking at some guys from security."

Doug is quiet for a second, and leans over to turn up the volume on the record as the rock intensifies. There's a groan of protesting leather as Doug sits down in his chair. He steeples his fingers and when he speaks, its barely audible over the music.
>"I want to ask you something... don't worry too much if you can't answer."

-Can't do this to me BABY-
No. 591752 ID: 557bac
File 140936563486.png - (83.95KB , 600x342 , 2-48.png )

>"How does it go again? 'Am... I a man, dreaming I'm a butterfly? Or a butterfly, dreaming I'm a man?'"
No. 591754 ID: 2fd516

I am getting really sick of not telling anyone anything except for Nate's therapist.

He is clearly saying he has trouble telling what's real or not, too. TELL HIM YOU SEE BUGS ALL THE TIME.
No. 591755 ID: d90668

I think that would be a apt description for the situation.

If he has the music up he is worried about being listened in on or that his office might be bugged. No pun intended.
No. 591766 ID: 40935b

Let's start slow. Say that in the interest of- I dunno, full disclosure? You do experience hallucinations. However, they're of a consistent nature- invertebrates hanging around people- and what you saw today is just not consistent with the things you usually see. If the bugs are something other than a hallucination and Doug knows about it, he might say as much, otherwise we're still somewhat on topic.
No. 591772 ID: bb78f2

"All I can think of right now is scorpions and wasps man, but there's no song with those and I don't know why they come to mind."
No. 591774 ID: 2baea8

"But man... what if it's both?"
No. 591785 ID: d8a627

"I think I'm more of a man dreaming I've a hive of wasps, sir, or a hive dreaming it's a man."
No. 591787 ID: 53ba34

i think it's time. tell him of the bugs.
No. 591789 ID: 2baea8

I would also like to point out this man's observation


That Doug is purposefully making loud noise and being covert. He may think somebody's watching/listening. We shouldn't just say it plain as day, but this is definitely the time to tell him.
No. 591799 ID: 4a20fa

Say you're not comfortable with this line of inquiry and would prefer the meeting were kept professional.
No. 591806 ID: 0acb3a

"And what do wasps dream?"
No. 591889 ID: 557bac
File 140944434934.png - (146.45KB , 600x456 , 2-49.png )

There's a long moment of shock...

"I... I don't know. Both, maybe?"


Doug starts to chuckle, his chest heaving as if trying to contain a whole ocean of mirth inside him. Soon he's laughing but its oddly high pitched and he rests his cheek in his hand in an effort to compose himself.

-nothing really matters-

He manages to speak, his voice squeaky as he tries to keep it together.
>"I know right?"

-anyone can seeee-

>"I mean, how do you even know?"

-nothing really matters-

>"Does it even matter?"

-to meeeeeeeeee.
No. 591890 ID: 557bac
File 140944435407.png - (145.80KB , 600x483 , 2-50.png )

The rhapsody wraps itself up and you look at him: his face streaked with tears and shoulders quaking.

You speak carefully and quietly; desperately trying not to provoke him in any way.
"You see them too. You see the bugs."

Doug giggles and chews on a fingernail as the record launches into a rock ballad version of "God save the queen."

>"I like you, Nate. I think you might be real."
No. 591891 ID: bb78f2

Ask him if he's in pain?
Does he need help?
Those look like a mix of tears of sadness and relief.
No. 591892 ID: 697427

Nate, I know this seems like a tricky social situation, but it actually boils down to a relatively straightforward computer security problem. You're looking for a zero-knowledge proof: something you can say or do that means "I can see the bugs, too" to someone else who can, but doesn't mean anything to somebody who can't.

Mention the spider in the meditation garden as an unprecedented/extremely rare thing, and then refer to something technically-true-but-utterly-irrelevant that Doug has in common with Heather from the cafe.
No. 591893 ID: 53ba34

i think this is the first genuine smile he's had. tell him you don't think the bugs are bad, they are simply manifestations of thought's and feelings. and you think you can kinda.. enter people's minds.
No. 591895 ID: 40935b

I am afraid.

... I think he's afraid too.

I think it's time to elaborate on the time period between passing out and waking up.
No. 591896 ID: d8a627

>"I like you, Nate. I think you might be real."
Wait, so he's not just seen bugs, but false people as well?
Is he okay? I think he's been dealing with his hallucinations all on his own, with nobody to help him through it. Maybe ask him if he would feel better if you told him what you discovered about the "condition."
No. 591898 ID: 2f2fc2

This is getting way to odd....

I'm not sure what is going on
No. 591899 ID: 2fd516

Oh boy. I thought we were going to get his help, but I think we're gonna wind up helping him.

Tell him you are real, and you can explain what really happened after you touched Sharon, but you want him to calm down first.
No. 591900 ID: d8a627

Oh, shoot, right, he's opening up and showing emotions Nate. He uses the radio to try and act as a sort of gray-noise. Not white passive, but it drowns out outright harmful senses anyways. However, even so, you might start seeing a few invertebrae showing up.
No. 591902 ID: 2fd516

If his bugs show up, he's going to try to kill them. With how fast he killed that spider, I think that's why we can't see his bugs... he's killed them every time they show their faces.

I'd like to ask him to stop if that happens, and explain what the current theory is on what they are: psychic parasites that feed off of emotional baggage.
No. 591904 ID: 0acb3a

More likely, he's never seen imaginary people, but he's never considered people as people before, either. Remember, our first assumption was that Doug was a sociopath, someone who sees people as objects. The hints of how he treats Kim and possibly manipulates their bugs/baggage contributes to that theory. This might still be true; it's just that Nathan being the first person he knows to actually see the bugs makes him the first person Doug's actually viewed as a thinking, feeling life like his own.

Either way, I most certainly do not find Doug any more trustworthy now. It seems less likely he'll manipulate and backstab us if he views us as a rare kindred soul, but we now TRULY see just how unstable (and, if we do something he dislikes, possibly volatile) he is under the mask. Less Moriarty from Sherlock, more Kenny from The Walking Dead.
No. 591908 ID: 6e7636

A rational assumption to make here is that Doug practices this Stepford wife act because he's scared.

He thinks people are watching him, listening to him. He carefully considers everything he says and does. He always smiles, he never shows weakness. Conversely, he's always watching, always keeping an eye on other people, and seemingly trying to maintain total control over his surroundings. If this outburst is genuine and not an act, we should assume that Doug is paranoid.

This could make him dangerous. Nate will need to be very careful what he says and does from here on out so that Doug doesn't act on that paranoia. If it's all pretend, he may be trying to manipulate our hero here.

Ask him what he means. What does he mean by 'real'? Be supportive and get him to explain his side of things but don't take it as gospel. Not yet, anyway.
No. 591926 ID: 2baea8

"Doug, have you been killing all your bugs? Because I think that's probably bad. So far what I've seen is that the bugs are designed to protect their hosts' minds."
No. 591956 ID: d90668

If you grew up seeing things all the time you would eventually have to deal with it somehow.

Nate was fine as a child but in later life went the route of trying to repress and ignore them until recently. He then got some help and has made improvements in dealing with the situation.

I am guessing that Doug went the other way. Probably had a traumatic event happen involving his powers and internalized things in a bad way. Now he possibly kills his bugs and can't treat anyone who has them as real people in his head.

So go very slowly with Doug. For now just try to find out more about him. Keep your wasps out of site and figure out how he views the insects.
No. 592025 ID: 557bac
File 140952553792.png - (119.02KB , 600x466 , 2-51.png )

>Does he need help?

"Um...thanks, I think. Are you- are you alright? Do you need help?"

Doug wipes his eyes.
>"What d'ya mean? Heh, I'm fiiiine. I'm cool, I'm ay-oh-KAY."

>Mention the spider in the meditation garden

As nice as it is to know someone else shares your affliction, you realize how sensitive this must be for him.
"Oh, okay then. So, the spider in the courtyard: that was Kim's, right? Is Kim 'real' then?"

He shrugs
>"I dunno, real enough, am I right? What's it really matter?"

>If his bugs show up, he's going to try to kill them. With how fast he killed that spider, I think that's why we can't see his bugs... he's killed them every time they show their faces.

"But then, why'd you kill it if you knew it was hers?"

Doug's sardonic grin crumples up into a car accident of a snarl.
>"Don't trust them, best kill them when they're small, before they can..."
He trails off. His stereo, having reached the end of the record, utters a bump of static every second or two in moment of quiet.
>"Nathan, don't ever forget: 'Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am'. That is all you can be sure of. Ever."
No. 592028 ID: a3ee32

Well shit, we've gone from "Someone we can finally open up to besides Dr. Cooper" to "Weigh and measure our words carefully" with him, thanks to all that whole 'entrusting your psyche's home defense to the insects' ordeal.
No. 592030 ID: 40935b

What makes you question the nature of existence?
No. 592031 ID: d90668

Well if the music stopped he is probably not going to want to talk openly without it.

I would not try to change his opinion of the bugs anytime soon. He has a lifetime of issues to deal with so lets not start trying to preach at him. Just make sure your wasps know its not safe to be seen around him.

Tell him that you would love to chat more about mutual interests sometime when things are safer. For now let him know about the invader and how he seemed to be interested in something Sharon had. Then motion to your head when you say the last part. Also mention that whoever it was might not have been from around here and point up.
No. 592032 ID: 2fd516

He thinks the bugs are evil... Probably shouldn't tell him about your Hive then- he'll think you're compromised or something. How about we wait for the stereo to kick back in and we have privacy again, then tell him about what went on in Sharon's inner world? Don't tell him about your wasps helping you, just tell him you made yourself a protective suit and tackled the robot, sending him into your Safe Place, at which point the Axle did that weird shit. If he asks how you first found out about the Axle, tell him you use the Safe Place to get away from your bugs, but they were also saying something about an "Axle" and the anomaly looks like one so that's the name you've been using for it. Don't say you saved one, or that you let them use part of you as a Hive. If you bring up Diego's mind, don't tell him the wasps helped you there, just say you dragged Diego into your safe place by barely dodging the beetle.

On the other hand, he's saying the only thing you can ever be sure of is that you exist. Maybe he's not even sure the bugs are bad. Ask him what the bugs do if they get big. ...come to think of it, all the invertebrates we've seen inside peoples' heads are super-sized. The wasps are not, only getting "big" as a swarm. Maybe we should endeavor to kill the bigger ones... the robot thing killed some of the big ones. I wonder if it's not a threat to the world at large, but instead trying to wipe out the bugs somehow? We know Sharon's mind is broken, but was that because of the robot, or due to something the crabs did to try to fight the robot?

We came to Doug for answers but all he's said so far just muddies the issue. Ask him if he has experience entering peoples' inner worlds- if he can tell you what he's learned, if he's done it.
No. 592044 ID: d20fb6

ask him how long he's been seeing the bugs.
No. 592270 ID: 557bac
File 140970774603.png - (217.24KB , 500x600 , 2-52.png )

>ask him how long he's been seeing the bugs.

"How long have you been able to see them?"

Doug looks tired.
>"Not sure; as far back as I can remember..."

>Ask him if he has experience entering peoples' inner worlds

"And... people's thoughts, can you see them too?"

>"Since my eighth birthday."

>What makes you question the nature of existence?

"What happened? Is it why you question reality?"

A movement draws attention: a tiny patch of red marching across the fine grained wood like a stray drop of blood. Doug's hand pounces, and the ant becomes a smear that blends almost perfectly into the rich mahogany.
No. 592272 ID: 557bac
File 140970787631.png - (136.57KB , 600x600 , 2-53.png )

You look back up at Doug's face: the "mask" is back, perfect, helpful, smiling, Its worrying but at the same time, you understand; you have defense mechanisms of your own, and it sound's like he's never had the kind of help you did.

"Okay, this might sound odd, but have you ever heard of something called 'the Axle'?"

An eyebrow elevates.
>"I don't think so, what is it?"

"I'm not really sure myself. Its something that's been showing up in my head today, a pair of singularities, one circular the other linear. I think it has something to do with what's been going on, but I have no idea what it means. I was just hoping you might know something about it."

Once again, the only sound is the sound of A Night at the Opera skipping as it spins.
>"Who calls it 'the Axle'?"


>You said its 'called the Axle'. Who called it that?"

You think fast, trying to keep your relationship with your wasps under wraps.
"Oh, eh, me I guess? It looks like one, you know? Like a wheel turning on an axle? So I called it an axle."

>"The Axle."

"Right. The Axle."
God, you hope that didn't seem too desperate.

Doug stands up and finally turns off the record player.
He's quiet for a second.
>"You know, with the clean room out of commission, there really isn't much more you can do today. If you want, you can clock out and head home."
No. 592274 ID: 2fd516

Welp, he doesn't trust Nate now.

Tell him Hiro had something to discuss with you first, there may still be something left you can do to help him. Also tell him he should probably talk to a therapist. Having one has really helped you. Wait... how old were you when you played with the real ant pile and developed your itchy trauma? Were you eight?

At some point we should ask the wasps what he was talking about- what happens when a bug gets big? Can the bugs take over someone's mind?
No. 592275 ID: 6e7636

He's becoming suspicious.

Take him up on his offer, but ask if you can check up on Sharon's condition before you go. Make an excuse to poke around, see what the others are up to before you take off. See how he reacts to that, if he does.
No. 592284 ID: bb78f2

Well, I think you should tell him at least about the scorpion guy and the fact that the guy that invaded and knocked Sharon unconscious is likely like the two of us. He fucking wrecked her crab with a giant hole in it.
So, like, be on the lookout for infestations with scorpions or hints of them, Doug. Oh and maybe do a background check on the coffee guy that works with Fran. You think you might have caught a sliver of his octopus parasite's shadow in the clean room. You're not sure, but he's the guy with the weirdest parasite around so it might mean something.
No. 592285 ID: d90668

I would but Hiro said he has a crazy backup plan for getting things running so going to check on that first.

Be careful Doug. I think the intruder is one of us. I found something inhuman trying to mess with Sharons memories.

So looks like his mask is back up. And he might be suspicious about us talking to our insects. Guessing he really has a bad relationship with whatever he has. Nothing we can do about that. Not going to undo a lifetime worth of damage in a day.

One good thing you can take from this conversation is that anyone without noticeable bugs might have the same sort of abilities. Doug kills his and others might hide them for other reasons.
No. 592288 ID: 6e7636


Alternatively, ask him if he's asking you to leave. Let him know he can be honest with you, and that it's okay if he does.

If he's not playing, he might be uncomfortable right now, so some reassurance wouldn't hurt.
No. 592301 ID: 0dc9cf

Thank him. Tell him you are going to check in with Hiro first to make sure he doesn't need any help, then leave.
Also tell him something solidarity-like, for the love of god. It's nice to know that there's somebody else who can see them and you're not the only one; you should at least express that.
No. 592313 ID: 8bd2b1

"I... I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid you'd get suspicious, but my bugs called it that before I killed the latest batch that appeared in my dream space."

Come on, Nate. Good lies are a blend of truth and fiction.
No. 592404 ID: 257e78

If you want to get sort of meta, point out that inconsistent terminology like that is, rationally speaking, evidence in favor of having made up the term yourself. The Axel was just so singular, in so many ways, it didn't occur to you until this very conversation that it might be part of a larger class of axel-like reality-shredding megastructures.

That's how good engineers work, right? First you have to figure out an adequate solution for the special case right in front of you, even if the problem is as simple as "what's this called," then clean it up and generalize it for presentation to the boss.
No. 592405 ID: 40935b

Be sure to say you're glad you had this talk.
No. 592408 ID: d8a627

Yes, thank him for the talk, and let him know that Hiro had another idea. You'll let Doug know if something comes up--be it what you talked about with him, or what you will talk about with Hiro.
No. 592446 ID: 0dc9cf

Don't lie to Doug anymore about the bugs. He'll find out eventually and he has enough trouble with telling reality from fiction. Nate knows how hard it is better than anyone. Just leave it alone, don't be an asshole.
No. 592553 ID: 079914


If Doug is actually who we encountered during the last hallucination (a no longer remote possibility now that we know these things about him) he could probably see Nate clearly in Sharon's mind. He'll immediately know we're lying about destroying the swarm in that case.

If not, and he's still able to enter Nate's head, he may discover the deception on his own and quite possibly by accident. (Just touch is required.) He'll know Nate cooperates with the bugs.
No. 592559 ID: ccd544

"Doug, are we allies now? I'm willing to take you seriously if you are willing to take me seriously. I'm tired of doing nothing to change this weird reality we live in."
No. 592561 ID: ccd544

"Is there someplace we can speak securely in private?"
No. 592562 ID: d8a627

Not now guys... We just were speaking in private, and Doug says the meeting is over now. Gotta head out and talk to Hiro.
No. 592628 ID: 2baea8

Correction: Is there somewhere we can speak privately in the future?
No. 592797 ID: 557bac
File 140997016132.png - (135.54KB , 600x600 , 2-54.png )

>ask him if he's asking you to leave.

"Are you asking me to leave? I hope I didn't offend you."

Doug is oddly serene
>"Nooo, no of course not, Nathan. It was nice talking to you; I haven't met many people that I think are real."

"Er...thanks again. Hiro wanted to check in with me though, I'm going to see if I can help him before I leave."

Doug smiles and nods once.

>"I... I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid you'd get suspicious"

You hesitate before you leave.
"Doug, when I tried to touch Sharon I went inside her head. I didn't want to tell you at first: I assumed you'd think I was crazy...
.. someone else was there. Whoever it was, they broke everything up and killed her insect, well, her crab. I don't know exactly what it was up to, but I managed to pull it out of her. I just wanted to warn you that there might be someone else around here that do what we can, and it seems like they're responsible for the security breach. They looked, well, almost robotic actually."

>"Facinating. Someone else? Thank you for the warning."

"I'm glad there's finally someone else I can talk to about this kind of stuff, besides my therapist. I hope Sharon will be okay."

>"Don't worry about it, I'll make sure she's well taken care of. Oh, and hey-"

You stop with your hand on the doorknob and look back at him.

>"Not sure if you knew about this or not: If you touch someone while they aren't aware of it, you'll be drawn in. But as long as they know that you're there, thier mind will block you out. I still haven't figured out why, but its handy if you don't want to get wrapped up in everyone's baggage."

For a minute there you don't know what to say, blinking silently.
"T- Thanks! That's really good to know, Doug. For a while there I was worried I'd never be able to touch anyone safely again. I've got so much I want to ask you, but I know I should get going."

>"Like I said, stop by anytime: my door is always open. Except when its not. You know what I mean."

With that you say goodbye and step out into the hall, your head buzzing with new questions and concerns.
No. 592798 ID: 53ba34

while walking to hiro see if you can call up a wasp and ask if it knows anything about the robotic figure.
No. 592799 ID: 2fd516

Ah, now we know how to do it on purpose, too. ...also, how to avoid the robot getting in Nate's head.

Head towards the coffee shop. I'd like to ask the wasps what could have happened to Doug to make him hate his ants so much, but there's no way to just summon them out here. It takes emotional discomfort to bring them out in the waking world. Oh! Another thing you could do is call your therapist again, after you get to a secure location of some sort... but I'm not sure there are any secure locations here at the moment. Last time you tried that you got partially overheard by Doug.
No. 592800 ID: 53ba34

what? everyone else seems to have them on all time, i think they only appear when nate stresses is because he has been actively trying to suppress them, but the higher emotions override the block.
No. 592849 ID: 2baea8

This. Ask your Wasps some questions.
No. 592871 ID: 2fd516

I would caution against Nate walking around apparently talking to himself. He'll either look like a crazy person or a spy talking into an earbud or something.
No. 592966 ID: ccd544

There are now rampant possibilities of you two "touching eachother" to "learn more about eachother".
No. 592977 ID: 6e7636

Don't be paranoid, be alert. There's a difference.

Try to stay calm, keep an eye on your surroundings, and try not to get in a hurry. This prevents bumping into people didn't notice, like going around corners. It also keeps you from getting snuck up on, like by scary robot man. I know not getting startled is kind of difficult for someone with a panic disorder but there's never been a better time to improve those coping skills.

You might consider getting some chewing gum, works wonders for nerves. They might not allow that shit in the cleanroom though.
No. 593018 ID: 0dc9cf

Instead of wasping up right outside Doug's office, lets get back to Hiro. He's been holding this entire bitcoin debacle in check for like 24 hours straight, he needs to know whats going on.
No. 593192 ID: 557bac
File 141014084969.png - (105.42KB , 600x386 , 2-55.png )

>Instead of wasping up right outside Doug's office, lets get back to Hiro. He's been holding this entire bitcoin debacle in check for like 24 hours straight, he needs to know whats going on.

>I would caution against Nate walking around apparently talking to himself. He'll either look like a crazy person or a spy talking into an earbud or something.

You head down to the coffee shop, but in the back of your mind you wonder what could have caused Doug to break so heavily from reality. You wonder if the wasps would have any kind of answer, but they aren't around at the moment and you aren't really eager to try and summon them. You kind of doubt they would know anyway without visiting Doug's psyche, hopefully you won't ever need to though.

You enter the shop and look around. Its mostly empty this time of day, but there are a few engineers sitting at tables still wearing clean room scrubs. They quietly gossip among themselves about the events in the clean room and grumble about work being interrupted.

You spot Hiro at a booth seat towards the back and join him. He doesn't look up from his laptop as you sit down.
>"Hey, how's King Creep doing?"

"You mean Doug?"
You think about the mental break you just witnessed.
"He's... okay, I suppose."

>"So, whats all this shit about the clean-room?"

You lower your voice and lean over.
"We had some kind of break in. Sharon got attacked, I think. Not sure exactly what they did, but I had to call security in and they evacuated the whole floor."

>"Annnnd, now the whole place has to be scrubbed down before any work can be done? Nice. Which one's Sharon again? She the one with the eyebrows?"


>"Sheeeeit. She going to be okay?"

"Not sure. She was unconscious, but seemed stable."

Hiro gives you another drawn out "Sheeeeeiiit".
No. 593193 ID: 2fd516

So... what's the plan? How are we gonna talk to the satellite while it's playing crazy eights?

Is the bugless cashier lady still here? After Nate talks with Hiro we can maybe go confront her about the bugs, now that we know they're real. It'd be easy. Just go up, and go "Hey, can you name 5 invertebrates? I'll go first." then start looking directly at people and stating out loud the name of their invertebrate. It doesn't have to be 5. Optimally it is half the number of people that are here with visible infestations. Then she can name those on the people you didn't point out, and that would confirm you can both see them. At that point you can exchange numbers, saying you must have something in common and you can be friends. Call her after work and ask her what her deal is.
No. 593229 ID: bb78f2

Hiro, you think it's a coincidence that when we're doing all this bullshit we get a break-in? Cobalt being all weird, we try to find a way to fix it, and then a break in?

Maybe our project was delayed on purpose? For whatever cobalt's doing now? Can we do anything short-term by ourselves? They didn't seem to actually steal anything. They just broke into the place, knocked Sharon out, and essentially contaminated the place.
No. 593234 ID: a36601

Good god I love they way you phrased everything in your post. Not sure it's the right idea but it just sounds so cool. (especially the crazy eights thing)
No. 593283 ID: 2f4b71

We could rig up the transceiver at a regular workbench. It doesn't need to operate reliably for a long time, just long enough to either get Cobalt under control or for the clean room to be scrubbed for building a to-spec unit.
No. 593288 ID: 323980

Ask Hiero what his crazy plan was to make this satellite rescue operation still work.
No. 593490 ID: 557bac
File 141031468727.png - (111.31KB , 600x600 , 2-56.png )

>Hiro, you think it's a coincidence that when we're doing all this bullshit we get a break-in? Cobalt being all weird, we try to find a way to fix it, and then a break in?

"Do you think this is all coincidence? First COBALT goes down, then we have a break in that shuts down the clean room and Sharon gets attacked. Nothing looked like it was stolen so what was the point?"

>"I'm not sure. There's no way its a coincidence, but I don't know what the goal could possibly be. If they wanted to steal something the most valuable thing I could think of would be a synched transponder: in theory I suppose you could make a "ghost" satellite like we're doing and use it to look at what COBALT is doing. But why break the damn thing in the first place? And why shut down the clean room?"

>"No, maybe they want it shut down? Maybe they want to force us to publicly admit what COBALT is: that would pretty much ruin the whole Midas/COBALT network for its current application."

"It would? Why's that?"

>"You know why were doing piddly-shit math homework for a bunch of neck-beards with monopoly money? Because, basically, we can't get COBALT to do anything else yet. But its so powerful that once we do figure it out, it'll basically make all of that e-cash completely obsolete. As well as most cyber-security systems in existence."

"So as long as no one acknowledges what COBALT is, the money is still worth something? Then what's the point of investing in this satellite network?"

Hiro shrugs
>"Infrastructure. Not sure what all of the game plan is, but once its in place, the sky's the limit. We could even create our own cryptocurrency, one that would be more or less bulletproof."

>Ask Hiro what his crazy plan was to make this satellite rescue operation still work.

"Well, now that you've got me here, are you going to tell me about this plan you mentioned?"

Hiro smiles and shuts his laptop.
>"Okay, so the clean room is out of commission, right? But! There's another clean room, right? Kept separate from the main facility."

"The satellite assembly hangar, yeah. But we don't need a clean room to build the transponder: its not going into space."

>"True, but what's in the hangar, Nate?"

"Right now, we're prepping Midas-- Oh you son of a bitch."

Hiro get's that look on his face: the one where he knows he's being a smug son of a bitch and doesn't care. Not that he seems to care much about what people think of him.

Your voice drops to a hiss and you lean forward
"You want me to steal the transponder out of satellite #20, don't you?"

He leans back and puts rests his hands behind his head in feigned nonchalance.
>"Hey, without COBALT that thing is pretty much a half-billion dollar paperweight anyway."

"Yeah, but- Holy shit, half a billion?"

>"Well, that's with launch costs and everything. You don't go to the big corporate events do you?"

You shake your head and quietly shudder at the thought of all of those people packed together under blaring music and flashing, mile-wide projection screens.
"I- I try to keep up."

>"Mmm hmmm, clearly."
No. 593492 ID: 2fd516

This sounds like an unneeded and risky shortcut. If we don't need a clean room, just slap together the parts in the coffee shop or something.
No. 593499 ID: 2fe846

An Urchin...This guy's solution seems prickly enough to match the appearance of that if nothing else. Hrrm.
Well that plan sounds needlessly complicated and maybe even a few too many notes of CRAZY, especially given the....Issues, we gotta manage.
No. 593620 ID: 257e78

Do not re-allocate mission-critical assets without appropriate authorization. If there is a chance that some horrible catastrophe could result from your action, get the authorization in writing and put a copy somewhere it can't be meddled with.

Consider going back to Doug and letting him know that, actually, there is some useful work you could do in a clean room today, if he's willing to officially order it.

Once the transponder is available, any sort of estimate on how long the software side of the problem will take? Is it possible to just give COBALT a hard reset, clear out any weirdness that way?
No. 593640 ID: 2baea8

No. 593650 ID: d8a627

Hmm. Tell Hiro that you'll ask Doug about it. He's been surprisingly open to new ideas from you, you aren't entirely sure why it is, but you guess maybe he sees himself in you?

When you call up Doug, let him know you have something to talk to him about--Involving "both subjects."
No. 593652 ID: d90668

While its a good idea I would not move anything without permission right now.

I mean you just had a intruder break in one of your secure labs and did who knows what besides taking out Sharon. If Hiro can get you clearance I would say no problem.
No. 593683 ID: 323980

>Is it possible to just give COBALT a hard reset, clear out any weirdness that way?

Refer to the previous chapter to see these

>The Midas satellite on the other hand, was built to pump all of those absurdly complex calculations directly into Cobalt while at the same time remaining absolutely secure.

>Midas is only part of the problem; apparently it received a string of information from somewhere and sent it straight through to Cobalt. Now, Cobalt's stopped responding to our input and is working on whatever Midas sent it. I was up all night working on a framework just to get the damn thing to talk to me. "

>Cobalt generates the crypt-keys and we've lost control of Cobalt; that means we've also lost access to Midas as well.

>Midas has a transponder in it that we hooked up to Cobalt in order to synch them up. What we do is make a fake transponder, synch it with Cobalt, and then hook that up to a computer. We should be able to use it to trick Cobalt into thinking that we're another Midas satellite so that we can send it commands.
No. 593863 ID: 557bac
File 141057596169.png - (1.27MB , 600x600 , 2-57.png )

>Do not re-allocate mission-critical assets without appropriate authorization.

"I don't know if we should be taking parts off of one project just to fill the short term needs of another, Hiro."

Hiro dismisses you with a hand wave.
>"Baaaah, you're no fun. Its not like we're stealing it."

"No, but I should at least get authorization to do something like that."

Hiro sulks
>"Fffff-fine, yeah. I was just going to tell them afterwards, once we save the day and everything."

"I should run it by Doug. He's the one that set me up with the transponder schematic, I bet he would be willing to help. I could still build it on my own if I had the parts, but those are still in the clean-room."

>"Up to you, man. If you think you can get permission, go for it. Otherwise, we either have to get those parts or we just wait till the clean-room is opened up again."

> Any sort of estimate on how long the software side of the problem will take?

"What about on your end? How's the base-8 fix going?"

>"Pretty well actually. I slapped together a quick program that picks up parts of the program and runs them through an octal translator. It's getting a lot of garbage, but I've been able to piece together bits and pieces of what its been doing. Still can't actually send any commands though. Still have a lot of work to do before we get anything I'd call functional. Tomorrow, I'll have something hopefully."

He flips the laptop open again and swivels it to face you.
>"Check this shit out though."
On the screen it looks like a rendering of several three axis graphs or maps, plotting out a tangle of forces. Some of them appear to show trajectories, while others appear to represent distortions in some kind of surface.
>"Weird, huh?"
No. 593864 ID: 2fd516

I think this has something to do with The Axle. Like, maybe Cobalt analyzed it, and came up with a plan of dealing with it?

Call Doug, ask if you can get permission to borrow the spare transponder, or lacking that, let you grab the parts from the clean room so you can put it together. Tell him it could be extremely important.
No. 593872 ID: d90668

That looks like its plotting celestial mechanics and distortions in space time.

Which would point to our guess that this is somehow related to our big blue shifted friend upstairs.

Let him know what you think of the diagrams but avoid mentioning anything about the bugs or the axle. While they are probably related until we know more there is not much we can do about it.

Although Hiro is probably one of the few people here who would believe you if you had even a little evidence.
No. 593875 ID: d8a627

"Did this come from Cobalt?"
No. 594259 ID: 557bac
File 141082608862.png - (164.63KB , 534x600 , 2-58.png )

>"Did this come from Cobalt?"

"Cobalt did this? Any idea what it means?"

Hiro shrugs
>"Hell if I know. As I said, this is just a piece of what its doing."

>That looks like its plotting celestial mechanics and distortions in space time.

"It looks almost... celestial? Like something from space, I mean."

>"What? Like, what do you mean?

"Well, it looks to me like there's orbital mechanics, trajectories, gravitational forces..."

>"It would look like that to you, space nerd. It could just as easily be quantum mechanics, dude. It would make sense to use Cobalt for that."

You can't help but look a little triumphant as you pounce on Hiro's statement.
"Ah-ha. So Cobalt is a quantum computer then?"

Hiro rolls his eyes. You've played this game many times before: trying to get Hiro to tell you about Cobalt itself, while he dismisses you with sarcasm. You can tell that he probably would like to talk more openly about it, but part of the agreement for working with Apex is that he keeps it secret. Now that you know more, you can understand why, though Hiro can be pretty cavalier about what constitutes a secret.
>"Pshhhhh, its a pain in the ass, is what it is. Just like you. Now are you going to get me a transponder or what?"

"Let me talk to Doug; see what he thinks."

Its half hearted, indicating acceptance and that you're probably right.

>Is the bugless cashier lady still here?

On your way out you decide to stop over and see how Heather and he co-worker are doing. Since its getting pretty close to lunch, they look like they're cleaning up before the rush.

Heather looks up from restocking the bagel bins and greets you.
>"Hey, look who's here! What's with all the guys in scrubs?"
No. 594261 ID: 2fd516

...waaaaaait a minute. Wasn't that thing we almost saw in the clean room sortof tentacley? I am somewhat suspicious of that guy in the back, now.

Tell her there was an intruder in the clean room and so everyone is evacuated for now. Then go with the plan here: >>593193

Also get a bagel, you haven't eaten anything in a while.
No. 594262 ID: bb78f2

These are not fellow employees you can spread the truth to. These guys probably have signed no confidentiality forms to get these jobs, which means you can't mention a break in. You can probably say something like some bugs also got into the room somehow. A wasp, I think. Or was it some sort of porcupine bug thing. Hell, I thought I saw even an octopus or squid in a shadow but it was probably just a trick of the eye.

Some sort of infestation. Terrible really. At least it's clean around here.
No. 594264 ID: d8a627

Man, somebody wasn't following protocol, few bugs got in. Wasp here, spider there, now they gotta scrub the place down. Kind of stressful when the clean labs get shut down, too; looked kind of like there was a squid in the shadows.
No. 594267 ID: 40935b

The clean room got contaminated- security responded to a suspected break in. You know something was off, one of the vent covers was removed. So now I'll be jumping at bugs or the sound of the building settling like a dog in a storm for the rest of the day.
No. 594350 ID: ccd544

Nate needs another coffee. Nate never had a chance to drink the one he ordered earlier. Remember, a fly flew into it?
No. 594416 ID: 557bac
File 141092022792.png - (145.55KB , 600x463 , 2-59.png )

>The clean room got contaminated- security responded to a suspected break in.

"Well, basically the clean-room got contaminated. Something got in that shouldn't have."

>"Awww, dang. Do you know what it was?"

"Not really, It happens from time to time. Sometimes its just like a bug. You know..."
You cast your eyes around.
"Um.. spiders, moths, flies, er... urchins?"

>"Urchins, really? Are you messing with me? You're messing with me, aren't you?"

Her co-worker smirks and suppresses a chuckle as he fills the bus tray.

>"I swear, you engineers...."

> After Nate talks with Hiro we can maybe go confront her about the bugs, now that we know they're real.

"No, no um... sorry, I wasn't trying to mess with you. My mind was just drawing a blank. I mean, you must get bugs down here sometimes. right?

>"Just the occasional roach, really. We had some bad fruit-flies a while back but we took care of that, they were breeding in the sink trap."

"Anything else: wasps, beetles, ants?

Heather's mouth twists up and she pokes her tongs at your chest.
>"What are you, the health inspector? You gonna order something or not?"

>Nate needs another coffee.
>Also get a bagel, you haven't eaten anything in a while.

You realize you're sweating and your skin is starting to itch. You also realize that you're getting hungry.
"Er... Could I just get a dark roast, please? And a Bagel?"
No. 594419 ID: bb78f2

Apologize, just say you're super neurotic about bugs and stuff and when you think you saw one up there you're looking everywhere. It's a huge fear you have, very sorry. Just neurotic.
No. 594420 ID: bb78f2

Wait, Nate, can you describe those orange things around her?
Was she trying to get in your head through that prong?
Super weird.
Could that mean she's being defensive?

Something to asks your bugs later. Might excuse yourself to the bathroom.
No. 594421 ID: 2fd516

Nope, she can't see them, and you made yourself nervous so the wasps are back. Try to endure their presence until you're alone, at which point you can ask them what the fuck is going on, and also tell them to stop manifesting out here.

Did the guy carrying the dishes react at all? I wonder why she has no bugs, if she isn't killing them... maybe they're just really small, like Doug's. Wait, what are those yellow lines her bugs, just moving fast? Don't touch them.
No. 594427 ID: 2f2fc2


touch her bugs you must figure, this all out
No. 594446 ID: 2baea8

I think those might be motion lines for her turning around.

Though small bugs is a good point. Fruit flies, fleas, ticks, or such maybe. Just so small they go unnoticed.
No. 594447 ID: d8a627

This isn't the time to be passing out. It'd look really suspicious.

Those yellow blurs are rather interesting, but we don't have the time to figure it out. We also shouldn't be saying that Nate's neurotic. Just stressed out over being unable to work at the moment. Big project and all that.
No. 594449 ID: 2baea8

Doug said it only happens if the person doesn't know you're there or isn't paying attention. Like with Diego, who was focused on his work at the time. Or Sharon, who was unconscious.
No. 594450 ID: 2000fd

We still don't have actual confirmation if all bugless people are like Doug. Doug's statement of 'people he thinks are real' may indicate there are other bug-seers, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they cope with bugs the same way. Nate doesn't kill his bugs, but Doug exterminates them immediately. Maybe Heather's bugs are all chilling in her hair or something. Maybe they're more adventurous. Bugs seem to like to travel, as evidenced by Brandon's sudden acquisition of the red ticks or Doug picking up that spider. Or maybe Heather just has 17-year cicadas and they're in their dormant cycle and she's going to explode with insects all at once. I've seen it happen before, 17 year cicadas are the worst. I had the misfortune to visit Wisconsin while Brood XIII was in full force. Couldn't go a block without getting nearly deafened with the sound. They landed all over you too, they didn't give a fuck.

How far are bugs willing to travel from their hosts? I'm sure that's been asked before, but I think it's a question that bears repeating.
No. 594687 ID: 557bac
File 141109918208.png - (102.57KB , 410x600 , 2-60.png )

You still aren't sure how far the insects can travel from their hosts. You've never seen them move more than a few feet, but its worth it to consider experimenting.


"I didn't mean to imply you had bugs here its just... sorry. I just have a... thing about bugs."

Something is there, and then it isn't. A streak of color swooping past your vision. She smiles in sympathy.
>"Don't worry about it. They work you guys too hard, you know that?"

Heather goes to pour you some coffee and, while her back is turned, you rub your eyes and check your glasses.

The heck were those? You aren't sure how to describe them besides fast. You've seen flashes of color and light before, but they're usually caused by sound. You think that might have been a bug; but if it was, it was very short lived.
No. 594688 ID: 557bac
File 141109918862.png - (95.23KB , 369x600 , 2-61.png )

Heather hands your mug back to you full of piping hot coffee.

You take a sip while waiting for your bagel, the warmth spreading through your body helping you settle your nerves. She leans on the counter and looks at your hands.
>"This thing you mentioned about bugs: does it have something to do with those?"
No. 594691 ID: 879a42

(Avoid panic) "Those?" Let her specify. Its the safest option.
No. 594692 ID: 2fd516

Hmm... fireflies, I'm thinking.

Yeah. It helps avoid scratching. You know how your skin itches sometimes when thinking about mosquitoes or other biting insects?
No. 594695 ID: bb78f2

"I have developed an awful non-voluntary habit over the years, and it probably has something to do with my thing with bugs. It's not nail biting. I just itch a lot, too much. I don't even feel an itch on the skin, my hands just do it like there was."
No. 594697 ID: d8a627

Fast, small, yellow? Could be a Southern Dart. Tiny, fast yellow butterflies.
As for being short lived, well, the insects seem to react to emotion. She's a very calm, yet energetic, happy lady. There's not a whole lot that upsets her, especially since people don't have any reason to insult her. However, she felt a little insulted when she thought you were implying there were bugs in her shop, which was a sudden surge of emotion, no longer in her comfort zone.

Think back to Doug. He calms himself and keeps himself in a comfortable state of being, and yet when his emotions start surging, his ants come out.
And you? When your wasps started to come out, it was because you were experiencing some emotional turmoil, although the fact that the wasps would show up left you panicking even worse. But when you retreated to your safe spot, where you felt the most comfortable at? The wasps typically disappeared. Comfort keeps the insects at bay. Most people around you don't seem to be in a state of comfort very often, so you see their bugs.
No. 594710 ID: c6ec0b

I think its possible Nathan and Doug used to be childhood friends. Nathan used to not be afraid of bugs until he decided it would be a good idea to play with an Anthill (See Thread one). If Doug’s “bug” is the ant we saw him crush on his desk (Thread 2) then maybe the reason Nathan thought ants were friendly was because he saw it on his friend Doug all the time.
Anyway I want to support Doug and act as his “reality anchor”. When you go to get permission from Doug try seeing if he will do something after work.
No. 594999 ID: 557bac
File 141126838401.png - (106.87KB , 523x600 , 2-62.png )


You hold up your fingers
"These? Yeah... Its like; you know how that feeling you get when a bug is crawling on you? I feel that pretty much all the time, even when nothing is there. The tape helps when I can't stop from itching. Its wierd, I know."

>"Aww man that sucks. I know how it is: my mom has OCD, like serious 'count-every-doorknob, constantly-wash-your-hands' OCD. I had to help out around the house a lot growing up, 'cause it could be really exhausting for her. It was frustrating but I still love her, and I think it was pretty badass to raise a kid while dealing with that kind of condition."

There's a clunk as your bagel slides out of the bottom of the toaster.
>"I know its not the same, but still its one of those things. All this time I had thought you hurt your fingers or something. Sorry I snapped at you, I don't think you're weird. Or at least weirder than any of the other guys around here."
No. 595003 ID: d8a627

>Or at least weirder than any of the other guys around here.
"Yeah, a lot of people who work in, well, scientific fields have some quirk about them."

Nate, do you typically hide what the bandages are for, or do people just not ask? If they just don't ask, say "It's not that I'm keeping it a secret, even, just that nobody cares enough to ask. Nothing wrong about that, our work takes a lot of focus."
If you have lied, then leave that part out.
Either way, follow up with "I've been getting better about it, but it's not perfect. Did your mom manage to get over some of her OCD, so that she can take the day a bit more calmly?"
No. 595330 ID: 557bac
File 141143829494.png - (137.74KB , 600x600 , 2-63.png )

You used to be much more self conscious about your fingers and hid them in your pockets constantly. Unfortunately, the more you tried to hide them, the more obvious you felt about it. Lately you've tried to go about things as if things were normal and ignore most of the stares. You get surprisingly few questions about them though.

You share a chuckle and pay for your food.
"Yeah, we're a pretty odd bunch."
Snacking on your bagel, you leave the coffee shop feeling a bit better about yourself. You suppose things could be worse, just look at what Doug has been dealing with. You wonder if there's anything you can do to help: clearly he's looking for some kind of support.

You decide to head up to Doug's office.
No. 595332 ID: 557bac
File 141143830668.png - (216.59KB , 600x600 , 2-64.png )

But somehow, you find yourself standing in the woods.

No. 595339 ID: 2f2fc2

wait that coffee up.....
No. 595360 ID: 2fd516

Man, that's a powerful bagel.
No. 595365 ID: 879a42

Seems legit. Prepare for trip in the next thread.
No. 595367 ID: 2baea8

Conserve bagel and coffee for food.
No. 595391 ID: d8a627

I think your wasps--And therefore, you, subconsciously--were aware of something approaching. They were out before you left the coffee shop, and now are perched upon your shoulder. Likely, somebody was entering and not watching themselves, as you weren't watching yourself, and now you're in their mind.
No. 595456 ID: 8e294c

You should have some coffee.

No, really. Checking how much the coffee has cooled can tell you if you're missing time. Or, I mean, you could just your phone, if you happen to remember what time it was.
No. 595466 ID: 99145e

hey hey.
you know what's in the woods?
there are so many bugs in the woods.
there are literally more bugs than trees in the woods.
No. 595480 ID: bb78f2

You know what ELSE is in the woods?
Pope and Bear shit.
Nate, next chapters be careful for wild bears and wild popes.
No. 595607 ID: 648023

I'm going to guess that we touched someone (or someone's bug) on accident.
No. 595619 ID: 2f2fc2

if the pope shits in the woods does anyone hear it?
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