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/qst/ - Quests

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The monsters have taken over earth! 115 years ago.
After multiple generations of war, subjugation and conquest, man- and monsterkind has learned to coexist together - somewhat. Make no mistake, the demons, feyfolk, angels and their like continue to run the world, but to build and maintain a stable empire, dogmatic tyranny gave way for pragmatic mutualism. After mankind had been completely overthrown within months, monsters turned their ire towards rivaling factions, making up the bulk of the conflicts that arose since the dawn of the apocalypse. And while the three remaining monster factions hold as much resentment for each other as they did at the beginning of the apocalypse, they all grew to temper their ideals and granted the humans they once enslaved more rights, moving the civilized parts of the world towards a society where the former apex species of earth can live relatively stable - though mostly oppressed - lives.

You are Sergey Ivanovich Kovlov, a wannabe diver in a small town at the edge of the Principality of Arcadia, a feudal empire controlled by the noble fairy class. Wishing to be part of something more, you've volunteered to assist a crew of council technicians setting up a classified device around his hometown. You managed to ask several questions to Dame Gwynn, a serious but polite drow changeling, Sir Pan, a stoic fairy and the eccentric Dr. Nevada, a human-fairy hybrid known as a elf, about their lives. Unfortunately, they make it clear that career paths are heavily controlled by the council, and you are destined to be a serf working mundane jobs for the rest of your life.
After finishing their project in the dead of night, you're sent back home, feeling disillusioned, but you decide to head back to at least watch the experimental tech in action. Out in the wilderness, you are attacked by Gwynn, threatening you to go back home immediately. She escorts you back, but the newly built devices go live, and detonate in a violent blast, leaving literally nothing behind. Gwynn insists your town is still safe and wants you to go with her, but you run away, hiding behind a tree. You're exhausted, she knows where you are, but you are not leaving without a fight.


If she knows you're here, you might as well make noise - you take deep breaths, and count to five. On the last count, you jump back up and spin around the tree trunk. At this range, you can barely make out Gwynn's figure charging at you with her guard up. She obviously was prepared for an ambush, but you never were planning on fighting her in the first place. You aim your flashlight at her face, and turn it on. She cries out in pain and quickly covers her eyes - being able to see in this darkness must make her really sensitive to light, and a flash at this range would make anyone's eyes sting, especially hers.
As she tumbles past you, you realize she is in the ideal position for you to bash her head with the hefty light... But you break into a sprint instead. You're not sure if it's because you're afraid she'd shrug it off or some small part in you still believes her - you'll have to sort that out later. For now, you just want to get as far away from her as possible.


Not even a second after you process what it is she yelled, one of the twins suddenly stands in front of you. You try to swerve around her, but she grips your collar and hooks your leg with hers. Your momentum lifts you off your feet, and you land head first on the ground, the impact shearing your back. Durga doesn't hesitate to restrain you, pinning your arms under her shins, and gripping your throat.

"Try that agen and yer dead!"

She isn't choking you, but it's very close. Even if you had the energy to make another attempt to escape, you have no doubt she'll kill you on the spot.

"Durga, that is enough. Please loosen your grip, I can take it from here."
"...Ye can see arright?"
"Yes, it is... it is getting better. I am afraid I will be seeing spots for some time, but it is fine."

The drow pauses, and then slowly releases her hands. A moment later, she disappears, and Gwynn puts a hand on your shoulder, applying moderate pressure.

"I'm sorry Durga and I had to be so rough, Sergey. Neither of us were properly trained in negotiation."
You cough. "...Yeah, well at least you're real good at lying."

That seemed to have shut her up. She inhales, preparing to say something, but decides to hold her tongue.

"It's fine. You win. Now send me jail, or whatever."
"That's not... Thank you."

She pulls you back up on your feet and pulls out something from a pocket located on her waist. You can fee a wire being looped around your wrists behind your back, and with a pull, you are restrained once again. The handcuffs aren't so tight that they cut off your circulation, but you aren't getting them off any time soon. She then picks up the flashlight you dropped, and shines it on your feet.

"Let's go. No more tricks, ok?"


You make the trip back to the outpost in complete silence. You can see only one van left, but you can see Dr. Nevada pace around. After moving closer, Dr. Nevada takes notice and turns to face Gwynn, but widens her eyes as she stares at you. She then throws her head down and presses both her hands under her glasses, into her face.

"...Gwynn, tell me that's not the lackey kid."
"I'm sorry, Lady Doctor Gwynn. I tried to escort him back within safe range but-"
"You tried what? You're telling me you walked right into blast range while they were priming!?" You have never seen her so shocked before.
"I- I'm sorry, Lady Doctor Gwynn. I hoped there would still be enough time if I teleported... We got far enough, but he ended up seeing... well, everything."

Nevada looks at you, then at Gwynn, then back to you. She adjusts her glasses, and returns to her usual deadpan expression.

"Well kid, 'member that NDA you sign'd? Yeah, you're just gonna have t'work extra hard to keep your mouth shut."
"Are you kidding me? You wipe out my whole town, and expect me to just sit there and not say anything to not offend the fucking council?"
"Sergey, language!", Gwynn whispers. You couldn't care less right now.
"Seems like the least you could do given what Gwynn just did for you."
"What she did for- Do what, lie to me? Attack me? Threaten me? Have her psycho twin strang-"

Nevada slaps you across the face, leaving a dull stinging sensation. She looks furious.

"Gwynn had the clearance to kill you the second you strolled out here! But instead, she just risked her life standing next to over 2 Petajoule of psychic energy! You have NO right to talk about her like that!"
"Just like you have no right to kill a whole town!"

She takes a breath and manages to get rid of the fury in her eyes.


"Course I'd have the right. We came under orders of the council, 'member? That's as right as it gets. 'sides, not like I actually did that."
"Then tell me! Tell me what just happened!" She sighs.
"I told you, it's... Know what? Fine. Your town just got sent into a stable subspace pocket where it is suspended in a frame generating artificial sunlight and gravity. Happy now?"
"What? What is that supposed to mean!?"
While she is rolling her eyes, Gwynn chimes up. "The town is... in another plane of existence, more or less."
"Not another plane, it's subspace...", Nevada grumbles.
"...Anyway, your town, and its residents, are unharmed. The blast beacons were well outside range, and everyone can still continue their lives... just, in subspace, that is."
"What if something went wrong? You could have killed everyone!"
"It's plenty safe. We've done this hundreds of times already. You think we'd just start figurin' this stuff out with 2000 people? I've been workin' on this for almost 5 years now. Your ditch is just the first at this scale, really. Never needed more than 4 beacons before."
"Then why here? Why this town? Aren't we outside of council jurisdiction?"
"...Springfield has a high degree of self-sufficiency and a low crime rate, making it ideal for sustained isolation. Adding to that, it's impossible to find a feydom that is willing to offer up a settlement of this size."
"But we're still outside the principality!"
"Eh, sooner or later you'd've join'd it anway. Sometimes they just like to jump the gun a little. 'Specially when the- ah, speak of the devil."

She looks over to the distance past you. You turn around and see a car rolling up, this time a... jeep, if you got it right. The car circles around the outpost and stops next to the van. The passenger door swings open, and out steps... Baroness Selène!? You should be relieved to see at least someone from your town again, but you just feel your stomach turn.

"There you are. You neglected to give me any directions, so we had to- What is *he* doing here?"
"Well, your highness, seems like one of your loyal subjects just couldn't let you go."
"I am not in the mood for jokes, dear 'doctor'. Kovlov, what are you doing out here? Am I to assume you were not part of whatever it was that occurred back there?"

> Ask her what she's doing here
> Ask her if she saw what just happened
> Ask her if she knew about this
> Ask her if she's responsible for this

First thread is now archived:
> The good Doctor and Ser Knight have just given me a very basic explanation of what they did and why. If I had to make a guess as to who is responsible I'd probably say that you sold my home and everyone living in it to the fucking Council?

>Adding to that, it's impossible to find a feydom that is willing to offer up a settlement of this size
>Eh, sooner or later you'd've join'd it anway. Sometimes they just like to jump the gun a little. 'Specially when the- ah, speak of the devil
Seems to me that our noble lady made a deal with the feds.
Why make a new thread?? Didnt you just start the other one like 5 days ago?
I thought it reached the bump limit. What's the usual etiquette for starting a new thread?
> Ask her what she's doing here
/qst/ is a slow board, a thread lasts about a month here so no need to go making new threads unless you want to quickly hit the thread limit. 9/10 just ride it until page 10, the 1/10 is for the rare quests that get popular to the point the site starts to chug trying to load so many posts
> Ask her if she's responsible for this
>What makes you think I was aware of any of this?
>If anyone has something to explain it is you!
Ok, thanks for letting me know. I'll keep that in mind, sorry for clogging the board.
They're intentionally giving you bad advice so your quest doesn't get too popular. Don't listen to them, always start a new thread after 5 days
>The monsters have taken over earth! 115 years ago.
Ah, man, you're gonna need to fix this opening for the next thread you make. I think it's what turned off most potential readers. Assuming you're going for a feel like "reversed expectations: they already won a while ago," something as simple as changing that last line to "115 years ago, that is," would make it flow better. In its current state, the sudden stop is kind of jarring, like it's missing something. The rest of your writing is pretty solid otherwise.
Also, Earth - the planet - is a proper noun, so you want to capitalize it.

> Ask her what she's doing here


"What am *I* doing out here? What are you doing out here!? Are you responsible for this?"
"'Responsible' might be a bit too much. I am only doing as the house Daedal asks."
"Don't act like you had no part in this! How could you do that!?"
"Listen well, Kovlov, I shall give you a lesson in Arcadian politics. If you want to drive someone into a dead end, you send them to oversee a tributary settlement. A baroness of extraprincipal land is little more than a glorified landowner at best. I was simply offered an opportunity, and took it. Do not take it personal, and do not think of me as unusually cruel. Anyone in my position would have done the same."
"Geez, you make it sound like I just kill'd everyone.", Nevada adds.
"Is that not what just happened? I suppose it makes little difference; I will not be seeing them either way."
"Are you for real!? You endangered your whole town, and everyone in it, just to get ahead in your stupid career!?"
"Hold your tongue, mongrel. You may no longer be my responsibility, but a serf shall address with respect all the same."

The two of you exchange glares, but out of the corner of your eye, you can barely see Nevada tap her chin.

"...Actually, he's still your responsibility." A grin grows from pointed ear to ear.
"What are you talking about? Even if I was still baroness of this land, his residence is gone under any legal framework. Or are you saying there is some special clause given whatever you did to the town?"
"No, nothin' like that. Just that, Gwynn told me 'bout the contract you had him sign - basically slightly tweaked temp retainer stuff, right?"
"If you want to say something, Nevada, say it immediately. I have never had the patience for your irritating attempt at theatrics."
"Alright, have it your way. The contract runs out after 24 hours. I never terminated the contract. He is still your retainer."
"So? It expires all the same. Then my responsibilities end."

Gwynn lets out a gasp.


"If I may, Lady Selène, he lost his residence, meaning the service to the residing baron or baroness has ended. However, since he's your retainer, his service, and by extension the responsibility over him falls onto you."
"I still fail to see your point. That relationship expires tomorrow." Gwynn shakes her head.
"Except there's legal precedent against this. If nobility is the sole beneficiary of the service of a retainer, the retainer's service must remain as such, until a release ordered from a higher ranking official responsible for that nobility. A temporary status would be rendered void."
"You are lying. No such ruling exists." Gwynn lays a hand on her chest and gives a bow.
"Baron Lenz versus the house of Deirdre, 84 AD. I'd stake my title as a commanding knight of the council on it."
"Seriously? Why are you arguing for me to stay with the madwoman who sold out my FRIENDS AND FAMILY to the FUCKING COUNCIL!?"
"Relax, kid. She just got back int'the council. She's not gonna kill off her retainer first order of business, the optics'd be terrible."
"But still-"
"*But still*, the contract in question, along with all its copies, were located in Springfield, which tragically went up in smoke. You have no proof." The Baroness' scowl has been getting more and more intense as the two make their case.
"Told you I didn't blow 'em up, didn't I? All your documents are still safe in town hall, in a subspace pocket. If you really wanna make a fuss 'bout it, we can go get them, but Daedal's R&D branch is not gonna be happy 'bout abortin' an experiment like that."
"If that is the case, then his residence should still be intact. That means the responsibilities shall fall to whoever shall governs the town next."
"Intact? Sure. But in a legal sense? Not so much. The town's literally gone from the planet, and there's no law coverin' extradimensional residence."
"You're welcome t'fight it in court... If you can convince Earl Daedal t'go public with the project, of course."
"Of all the..."

The Baroness stares daggers at Nevada. She clicks her tongue, takes a deep breath, and returns to an air of smug professionalism.


"Very well, I applaud your thorough familiarity with our legal system. However, as Baroness in house Daedal, I hereby relinquish custody of my retainer and transfer it to a vassal of lower rank... In this case, let us say you, Lady Nevada."
"Real funny. I don't have time t'put up with him, and you don't have that kind of authority. Even if you were still runnin' this place, a Baroness of a place like this is, like you said, a 'glorified land owner.'"
"You are correct, except for minor aspect. As of the completion of our agreement, which was the second you initiated your little experiment on Springfield, I am now the Baroness of the providence of Greenshire, effective immediately."
"What? Now you're makin' stuff up. Who goes from a tributary hovel t'a whole province?"
"I know a bargaining chip when I see one, dear *Nevada*. Besides, in spite of my... temporary demotion, I was still in good standing with many of the grand nobles of the house."
"Yeah right. Prove it."
"Your lack of trust is disappointing, but predictable. Luckily for you, in a moment of vanity, I chose to keep a copy of the contract right on my person."
She goes back to the trunk of the car and fishes out a thin, clear folder. She presents it to Nevada, who snatches it out of her hand. She starts looking over the multi-page document, flipping back and forth the pages. She then looks over to Gwynn, and tosses it towards her.

"Gwynn, is this legit?"

Gwynn pours over the document in silence, softly whispering to herself. After some time, she looks back up.

"...L- Baroness Selène's claims are correct. She's also within the legal boundaries to do this."
"You've got to be-"
"I am glad to see you being levelheaded about this, Dame Gwynn. Now if you would please be so kind?"

She holds out her hand expectantly. Gwynn steps forward and returns the folder to her owner. The freshly crowned baroness turns towards Nevada again.


"I was hoping to keeping this a secret until I could catch you disrespecting me in front of other members of the council, but you playing lawyer forced my hand. And now-"
"...Oh Christ..."
"-*and now*, I shall tolerate your flippant attitude no longer. I had a fine lesson in patience having to deal with your almost barbaric lack of etiquette, but going forward, you *will* treat me with the respect expected towards a noble such as myself. Have I made myself clear?"

It takes her a moment, but Nevada exhales and clears all signs of aggression on her face. She then gives the baroness the same bow you're used to giving her for all those years.

"Understood, Baroness Selène of the house of Daedal, regent of the province of Greenshire."
"And just when I thought that brain of yours had no room for manners. You may raise your head. I really must be going now, I wish to rest in my quarters before dawn. I do not particularly care what you plan to do with him, as long as you do not try to make him my problem again. I bid you adieu, and a pleasant remainder of this night."

She turns on her heel and struts towards her car with an air of superiority you find nauseating.

> Confront her one last time
> Keep your mouth shut for now
> Keep your mouth shut for now
Level head, level head. If even Nevada is shutting up, we probably shouldn't poke her too much, either.
...Damned if I don't want to flip the bird at her behind her back, though.

Thanks for the advice, I'll write up something different next time. Glad you're all enjoying the story so far.
>Keep your mouth shut for now
We can get back at her later, they said something about being able to abort the experiment to retrieve the documents so you could learn stuff from them.


You wish you could shove that contract down her throat, but you bite your lip and take deep breaths. If someone like Nevada is bowing down to her, you're certain doing anything stupid now will definitely be the last thing you'll do. That doesn't stop you from wishing she'll get in a car accident, though. After watching her jeep travel over the hill, Nevada stomps the ground in anger.

"Oh, sorry you couldn't weasel your way out of having to deal with me. You're gonna get rid of me now, like the rest of my town?"
"For the last time, they're not dead! All lights green, everyone's fine, your town didn't get scratched, okay?"
"If it's so safe, then why did your bodyguard have to stay clear from it, huh?" She holds her head, as if explaining something to a little child.
"That's why we pick'd this timeframe. No trade, no tourism n' no one's up t'do anything."
"How can you be sure of that? What's stopping someone from just randomly take a walk or leave?"
"...Acceptable losses."
"So you admit it! You potentially kill my own neighbors, and even make me help finish the job!"
"Don't oversell it. You mov'd some boxes around n' got us lunch."
"LADY NEVADA!" Gwynn's bright eyes are full of defiance, and her voice carries hints of desperation.
"Would you please just stop provoking him? He's right about everything. We deceived him, involved his hometown in an experiment, possibly took the lives of his friends and almost got him killed. Yes, it was out of duty to the council, and yes, I'd do it again, if that's what's needed of me. But he also is our duty now! And while you might find it expedient to have have him killed or brainwashed, I'm not going throw him aside after risking my life to save him back there!"

Nevada is looking at her stone-faced, waiting for her to continue.

"I know my tone is out of line, Lady Doctor Nevada. But by the letter of the law, I'm still the leader of this strike team, and I say that we bring him back, safely."
"Bold words, Commander Gwynn. Fine, no more bullyin' - at least, no more jokin' 'bout the dead. Alright, uh..."
"His name is Sergey Kozlov."
"Jesus, I'm never gonna remember that one. You got a nickname?"
"Middle name? C'mon, give me somethin' here."
"Ivan it is. Anyway, Ivan, we're not gonna screw you over again - Gwynn is genuine, n' I wanna respect her wishes. So for now, why don't you hop in that windowless van... n' we'll drive you somewhere far away?"


Gwynn clears her throat loudly to get Nevada's attention. You want to refuse to cooperate just to spite her, but then you start to consider your situation. You are alone. Tired. Everything in your life was literally plucked off the Earth, and you own likewise literally nothing but the clothes on your back. The closest settlement is about an hour away on foot, and you are witness to highly classified council secrets. You are a dead man walking, and here you have two high ranking vassals offering you an olive branch. Even if they are lying through their teeth, this really isn't much of a choice.

"Fine. But I first want proof that everyone in Springfield is safe. I want to know if even just one person is missing."
"You have zero leverage, but we can do that - once I get back to my lab."
"Why not now? Can't you use your computers?"
"Those 'computers' are enough to run the readings, flash the firmware onto the beacons n' browse the internet. To actually establish a connection to a subspace pocket you need a shed full of high-precision devices draining ten times the power your rinky-dink town consumes. Can't be done here."

You look over to Dame Gwynn, who just holds up her hands defensively.

"D-Don't ask me! I barely know anything about orgonomics, let alone anything the level of complexity Lady Doctor Nevada is working at. But she's right about the big machinery, if that helps."

This isn't the answer you wanted, but you at least have her word - whatever that is worth.

"Okay, I'll go with you. Not like I have much choice in the matter." Gwynn breathes a sigh of relief.
"Yes! I mean- I'm glad you've come to that conclusion. You've made the right call."

Nevada slaps you on the back.

"Knew you'd come 'round. Now then, you know how to drive shift, Ivan?"
"...Uh... I can drive a tractor."
"Good enough for me. Here you go." She tosses you the keys to the car, which you barely catch.
"Lady Doctor Nevada, are you serious?"
"It'd be a fun trust buildin' exercise, right? 'Sides, why are you against this? Thought you want'd me t'get some sleep, n' you trust him, right?"
"Well yes, but... I'm a little insulted you'd pick a tired man you don't fully trust and has only driven tractors over me, to be honest."
"Don't take it personal. I'd take the fear of the unknown over the known any day. You good to go, Ivan?"

> Accept to drive the van
> Refuse
> Insist Dame Gwynn should drive
> Other (Write-in)
> Accept to drive the van
No point in little rebellions. Save your energy for the big stuff.


"I'll give it a shot... No promises, though."
"You'll get the hang of it, once you got past the clutch. Oh right, you're probably tir'd, right?"
"It's been... it's been a long day."
"Alright, hold still."

She faces you and places both index fingers on each of your temples. What is she doin- OW!
You feel sting coursing through your skull, as if someone is pressing their finger right against your brain. Your vision blurs for a moment, but the pain vanishes as quickly as it appeared - the only remainder is a slight itch where Nevada touched your head.

"That hurt! What was that!?"
"Don't be a baby. I shocked your receptors to leak some adrenaline for the next half hour or so - barely a charge."
"Is that even safe? What if you scrambled my brain or something?"
"Not at that kind of voltage. 'sides, I've done it 7 times t'myself just today."
"...which isn't safe at that kind of frequency, Lady Doctor Nevada. That amount of adrenaline is dangerous in the long term."
"I'll manage. You feelin' better yet?"

You consider your condition. The discomfort from the shock has dissipated by now, and you actually feel... more awake? It's not the spike of energy you felt earlier when trying to run away from Dame Gwynn, and your limbs still feel heavy, but mentally, you feel pretty refreshed.

"Looks good. Gwynn, get the floodlight in the back. I'll give Ivan a rundown."

Nevada explains you how to work a clutch and change gears, and after stalling the engine twice, you manage to drive off somewhat smoothly. Gwynn, who offered to sit in the back, is giving you directions from a small window separating the trunk and the driver's cabin, and it's after you've settled on a dirt road that you realize that you are driving alone.

"Wait a moment, where is the other car? Where are the fairy and the construct?"
"Pan and Rho? I sent them ahead after I confirm'd the tunnelin' worked. I was just waitin' for Gwynn t'get back, and, well... here we are."

You cast a glance over to the doctor, who seems much more relaxed since you started moving.


"The next 80 kilometers will be bumpy, but pretty straightforward. You should be able to get some sleep, Lady Doctor Nevada."
"Are the roads further in any better? Tractors don't have nearly as much problems with this terrain."
"Some are maintained, but it's low priority. The council prefers to minimize pavement."
"Not much reason t'drive when you can just teleport. Keepin' the land green just has good optics."
"W-well, that too."

The conversation ends abruptly, the roaring of the engine and jostling of the chassis forming the entire ambiance. Nevada has reclined in her passenger chair and After some extremely long seconds, Gwynn dares to break the silence.

"I.. I know you don't trust me right now, but how about we just talk? Durga said it might help a little, or at the very least, pass the time."
"Durga said that?"
"The one who hates my guts? The one who almost choked me to death not an hour ago?"
"She doesn't hate you! She's just very direct... and really particular about serfs showing respect. And she's sorry about earlier!"
"Well maybe if she didn't use you as a mouthpiece, I'd actually believe that."

You hear a soft thud behind you. You glance back and see alabaster skin on Gwynn - Druga comes into view a bit after that.

"Gwynn! Aree daft? Ye talk to the serf, not me!"
"Now, Durga, you heard Sergey. You yourself said the best thing to do right now is to show we can trust each other, and the best thing to do that right now is for you to speak to him directly."
"Ye be the people person, not me! We talked abou-" She stops, and exhales.
"Fine. But don blame me if 'e don't like it. Serf."

You wait for her to continue.

"It's Dame Du- OW!" That must have been Gwynn punching her.
"Serf. Ye might not like it, but we 'ave ta 'ave sum level of trust. So just talk to the dame, that's all I want from ye."
"...With all due respect, Dame Durga, but I was promised an apology."
"Ye assaulted a knight of the council. After resisting arrest. I ain't apologizing for standard procedure."
"...But the choking wasn't necessary. I apologize for that."
"Thank you, Durga. I appreciate your humility."

That is considered being humble?

"Apology accepted, Dame Durga. But I doubt that shining a flashlight at someone could actually be considered 'assault'."
"Now then! With that out of the way, are you perhaps feeling any more talkative?"

Given the urgency of first phrase, you can tell Gwynn wanted to cut off her twin.

> Tell her something about you (Write-in)
> Ask her to tell you something about her first (Write-in)
> Ask what she wants to know
> Tell her you still don't feel like talking right now
> Ask her to tell you something about her first (Write-in)
Ask her what she did to make Doc Nevada afraid of her driving
> Ask what she wants to know
> Tell her something about you (Write-in)
>"I had a pretty good working relationship with some of the fae back home. They felt... human."
Subtle dig that these city slickers suck eggs in comparison. Also an opportunity to discuss (read: fling shit at each other, thanks Nevada) what it means to be human.
I wanna know about the noodle incident
good morning sirs
do the needful


"Before that, could you explain why Dr. Nevada is so against you driving? She said something about not trusting Dame Durga, but what does that have to do with you?"
"Truth be told, I never learned how to drive - Durga did. It is custom to educate future pact members in different aspects to a degree, to maximize expertise. After a pact, knowledge between either parties can be shared, including subconscious processes. So while I know how to drive, it is the muscle memory of my twin that takes over, and... well, her acceleration has been described as 'needlessly aggressive' by more than one passengers."
"...it be efficient. Gets uz where we need ta be, and fast."

You can hear Doctor Nevada mumble incoherently to herself.

"Now then, can I ask you something? You seem to be fairly unfamiliar with monstropology. Were you isolated from the monsters back h- before?"
"I had a pretty good working relationship with some of the fae. Unlike others, they felt... human."
"Ye WOT!?"
"Please Durga, I am sure he did not mean to offend. Sergey, saying something like that is very inconsiderate towards monsters. Please apologize."
"...I'm being inconsiderate to the creatures that enslaved humans for decades?"

You hear Durga inhale sharply, but Dame Gwynn cuts her off. You take a peek back, and see that the two of them have fused again.

"I know that you haven't been under a lot of monsters, but you really shouldn't say something like that. Any monster intelligent enough to be civil is doing their best to behave, and even if humans have been mistreated in the past, and still are in many places in the world, they still are people."
"Excuse me if I find that a little hard to believe."
"I'm not just making a moral argument. If the council hears you say something like this, they'll think you're a human supremacist, and send you off to a correctional facility, at best. Not even nobility is immune to this. ...You don't actually believe in human supremacy, do you?"
"That's the first time I've heard that expression. Do you mean whether I think humans are better than everyone else?"
"-more or less, yes."
"Well, not really. Fairies are are stronger than us, smarter than us and live much longer. And I heard that dragons and angels aren't much different, so we aren't superior to monsters in that regard. But I do think that the weakness of humans gives us an outlook on life that someone who is practically immortal can't ever understand, even if it would be a good outlook to have."
"...That's very mature of you. From what I've read, accepting their new place in the hierarchy is something that took a lot of effort and even more lives for our forefathers. But I think humanity doesn't need to be worse off, just because it has lost its position as the apex species."
"You are... not exactly selling me on both monsters and the council."


"I know it's easy to dismiss them both as a tyrannical force, but if you look at our history, the principality has been able to make big steps for human-monster relations, and the rights of humans. We even have elves gunning for the seat of Season Prince and Princess now!"
"Well I'm glad to hear at least someone is able to get ahead in life."
"...Anyway, you said you liked the feyfolk in your town?"
"Some, I guess. A lot of them would boss me - and most of the other humans - around, but some were pretty nice. They even weren't very particular about etiquette."
"That's good to hear. From the records I've seen, Baroness Selène was the only nobility in Springfield - the rest were servant races such as lower fey, mandrakes and elementals, correct?"

You nod.

"I heard that they tend to become more similar to and familiar with humans in smaller settlements. The ethnicities are more lopsided, and there isn't as much nobility keeping them under check."
"So because they're so low on the hierarchy, I assume that's also why they also participated in a mass experiment without their knowledge or permission?"
"Well... yes. It still is their duty, and research has very high priority. I'm sure that even right now, they accept their lot. ...Anyway, could you tell me a bit about your job? I'm interested in your finds out here."
"You mean during my dives?"


You both are startled by Dr. Nevada's sudden outburst.

"Lady Doctor Nevada! I thought you were asleep by now!"
"Not with all the yappin' here. Should've figured you were a diver, you're a walkin' stereotype."
"Don't say that, Lady Doctor Nevada. Diving is a respectable occupation! Besides, don't you support the retrieval of technologies?"
"Yeah, but what good is it if they can't-"

In an instant, the elf goes silent. She shifts in her seat to rights herself up, leans forward, and gets lost deep in thought as she rapidly taps her chin.

"Uh... D-"

After shushing you, she remains quiet for a full minute, until she finally speaks up.

"Gwynn? Let's go through some legal stuff. Where is Ivan registered to right now?"
"Well, he's your retainer right now, so by extension, he belongs to the house Daedal."
"I'm not talking 'bout that. Which city is he currently a resident of?"
"Didn't you say it yourself earlier? In legal terms, he has no residence, so right now, he is a citizen of... Wait, I guess... he lost his citizenship? He doesn't belong to Arcadia on a principal level, because he lives outside its influence. We'll have to register him as fast as possible to close that technicality!"
"Not so fast. Let's say our boy Ivan ran into some ruins, takes something, and gets out, all without a permit. What happens next?"
"What are you on about?", you inquire, but Dame Gwynn is mulling over the doctor's question instead.
"Obviously, he'd be tried as a fore- no wait, he's our retainer, so that wouldn't work. We'd be held accountable? No, divers can't be retainers, so that's not an option... Diver activity is specifically tried in accordance to their residence, but in this case... I- I think he can't actually be tried? Is that a loophole? I need to check the records, I can't think of any legal precedent!"
"Nah, I think your logic checks out. So till he fills out the paperwork, he can theoretically go diggin' through ruin sites."
"Technically, yes, but if he does anything that doesn't contribute to him responding to legal obligation, he'll get in trouble for that. Besides, the diving might not be punishable by law, but taking anything would still be theft from the earl of th- Oh no. Lady Doctor Nevada, please don't tell me this is-"
"Oh yes."
"What?" The exchange of judicial terms escapes you, but you are picking up a semblance of an idea, and it sounds like a bad one.
"You can't do this. This is abetting."
"Right Ivan, change of plans. We're going to Minsk."
"...I thought we're going to Minsk already."
"Not New Minsk. Minsk. Old Minsk. Or at least, what's left of it."
"Lady Nevada, this is extremely illegal. Sergey, as your commander, I order you to maintain course."
"Would someone explain what you are talking about?"
"I think there's less liability if we don't."
"Dr. Nevada, you clearly want me to engage in something that will get me in even more trouble. Liability isn't going to matter either way."


She sighs.

"Alright, story time. The council's always lookin' for lost tech n' old artifacts from the first 30 years AM. Anno Monstrum, if you didn't know."
"I know that. I didn't grow up without books."
"Anyway, we look for tech, it takes forever, we find somethin', get it back, n' have a look. That's how it usually works. However, since we found Minsk, we know we've been sittin' on somethin' for the last 8 years now, but we can't get it."
"Why not?"
"Because the council can't reach a conclusion on the ownership of the ruin, and everything inside it.", explains Gwynn.
"Doesn't it just go to whoever owns the land?"
"Normally yes, but this is an exception. The province had always belonged to Earl Daedal, but in 91, he signed at treaty between his house and that of house Titania, in which his part of the deal is handing over ownership of the ruins in several of his provinces - including the one in Minsk."
"So it belongs to house Titania, then?"
"...This is where it gets complicated. Minsk wasn't originally a ruin under their ownership - because it was lost. It was only after underground scans that the city was discovered. House Titania obviously wanted ownership of it too, but House Daedel insists that the treaty only applied to the ruins registered under their control at the time of the signature. Neither position wants to relent, so they've been locked in a judicial stalemate for some years now."
"Which I consider horseshit. Retrievin' n'studyin' lost tech has brought us massive advances, so t'bicker over who owns what for somethin' that will help the whole population is Arcadian drama of the highest caliber."
"I understand your frustration, Lady Doctor Nevada, but that doesn't mean we can just ignore procedure. If we act above the law, what's stopping others from doing the same? And they might not be as well-intentioned as you."
"Is everything in the council built on loopholes and technicalities?"
"When you wanna have a law for everythin', any edge case is gonna turn int'legal purgatory. Fairies live for this stuff."
"Loophole or not, the fact that you're even entertaining such an idea is insane. Sergey might not be prosecutable, but ordering him to dive without a license or permit could cost us or titles, and diving in a place like Minsk our heads!"
"But we aren't orderin' him to do anythin'."


"What are you saying? Of course we are-"
"He just manag'd to hop off the van and happened to wind up in the tunnels to Minsk. We tried our best followin' him, but didn't dare go in the ruins. He comes out with whatever is down there, we capture him , and confiscate his find. If he doesn't know about the registerin' bit, we can get charges on that dropp'd."
"You are asking me to lie to the council?"
"Yes. Please. I know you loathe the idea, but this goes beyond rank and file. This is important."
"...the ownership of any findings would still be in a legal grey zone."
"I don't care if I don't get to even look at it, Titania can have it if it makes 'em happy. I just don't want somethin' potentially life-changin' rottin' in a cav'd-in garbage bin."
"Even so, he'd escape under my watch. As acting commander, I would be help responsible for his unlawful breach into a ruin zone."
"I know how much your perfect record means to you, but I'm begging you. If we don't do this, it could be decades until we reach a conclusions, and anything down there might be gone for good by then. There's legal disputes that started in the feywilds, for crying out loud.

Dr. Nevada and Dame Gwynn are facing each other. Their desperation and guilt in their eyes mirror images of each other, though their reasons are different. The younger of the two speaks up.

"...Sergey. What do you say about this?"
"Why should I help you do something that is going to get me in even more trouble?"
"Like I said, you can't get prosecuted. And if they're tryin' to make anythin' stick, I promise you, I'll do everything I can to get you out of it."

You take a deep breath.

"Dr. Nevada. Do you really think whatever can be found in the ruins is really so important?"
"I don't know what's down there, but I know it's big. The orgone signatures were- well, honestly, I still can't work out what the hell it means, but that's all I need to know."

> Agree to help
> Say you don't feel comfortable doing this
> Ask for assurance (Write-in)
>Baron Lenz versus the house of Deirdre, 84 AD.

For the sake of clarity, AD was supposed to be AM.
> Agree to help
>"To be completely honest, your politics sound like a headache. That said, it's not like I disagree with the Doctor, even if she's... Nevermind."
>"Fine. I'll do it. Letting things go to waste goes against my principles. Besides, who knows when I'll get a chance to Dive like this again?"

Step by step, we pursue our greed.


"To be completely honest, your politics sound like a headache. That said, it's not like I disagree with the Doctor, even if she's..."
"She's not what?", Gwynn repeats.
"Never mind. I'll do it. Letting things go to waste goes against my principles. Besides, who knows when I'll get a chance for a Dive like this again?"
"There you go! See, you got your pipe dream after all. Gwynn?"
"...Fine. But please, Lady Nevada, don't make this a repeat performance. Also, we are going to stay for the night, then we can send Sergey to explore the ruins. He's exhausted, possibly hungry and doesn't have a weapon, let alone proper gear. We'd send him to his death if we went like this."
"If we'll enter a city, it'll be too late. We have to do it now, or else it won't make sense for him to have fled all the way t'an undisclos'd city ruin."
"Only if we go to a city with a teleporter station. There is a strike team outpost not too far off our route from here, we should be able to get lodgings and a chance to resupply there. We then carry on and say- and say he escaped during the second half of the trip. It will sound more believable that way... Ohhh, I can't believe I'm saying this."

Nevada looks you over. You still feel the energy boost she gave you earlier, but if she spoke the truth, you'll probably drop like a bag of rocks an hour later.

"Fine, you're right. You know the directions?"
"I'm looking them up right now. We'll have to backtrack a little, but we should be there... in roughly 45 minutes."
"Got it. I'm zonin' out, wake me up if we're here, or in an accident."

Dame Gwynn relays you the directions to reach the outpost, which are more elaborate than before. Shifting works... okay, you are starting to get a sense when and how to switch to a higher gear, but shifting down always results in the motor howling loudly - as if lashed like a beast - and you get occasionally accused of staying in too high a gear. Having to concentrate on the landmarks, shifting, instructions and the rough terrain gets even more difficult as your tiredness is slowly starting to settle in. So despite her asking you once, you aren't in a place to continue your conversation for now.
20 minutes pass. Then, 20 more. You have been staving off your fatigue for a while now, occasionally slowing down to refocus your vision or dig the nail of your thumb into your finger to let the pain distract you a little. Still, you must have made good time, because you spot a tower in the distance.


"Slow down, please. The speed limit 500 meters around a base such as this is 50 kilometers per hour."

You have no sense of how fast that is, but you check the speedometer, and release the gas pedal a little. As you approach, the headlights begin to illuminate a chain link fence and some buildings made from smooth concrete, steel and glass. The fence is periodically reinforced with bit pillars of concrete, and you notice that you're facing a gate. A man wearing body armor similar to Dame Gwynn and a rifle in his hand moves in front of you and gestures you to stop. You hit the brakes a bit too harshly, sending everything in the van to jerk forward, but before you can apologize, the engine stalls. Damn, you forgot the clutch. As the guard approaches the driver's side, you look back to Gwynn - who is nowhere to be found. You swing your head back towards the guard... And see that he is already talking to the changeling, who is standing outside. For a second, you were worried you were going to have to deal with him alone.
They seem to exchanging some words, then a salute, and walk their separate ways. The guard seems to wave to someone behind the gate, and a second later, the door is opening on it's own - you are not so technologically naïve to be impressed by a fence most likely guided by a motor along a rail, but you are surprised that they would bother automating something as trivial as opening a gate. You hear a clack from the rear, and spot Dame Gwynn entering the trunk.

"Alright, I told them we've returned from a mission and we wanted to rest for the night. I also explained that you are our retainer, so no untruths... yet. We'll be able to spend the night here, and they'll provide us breakfast."
"Sounds good, but... why did you use the door to get back in the car?"
"I can only teleport if I have line of sight to the space I'll occupy. In this case, it only works one way. ...By the way, can I ask you something?"
"Durga... wants to make sure you don't do anything while we're asleep. Is it okay if she keeps an eye on you for the night?" You feel a bit insulted.
"I thought Dame Durga was the one who wanted to build trust."
"She does, she does! It's just that... It's not like she doesn't trust you, per say, it's just that this is a military outpost with armories and potentially important people, payloads and intel. She wouldn't want anyone with sufficient clearance remain unguarded."
"Can't lock me in a cell, then? Or do you not have those here?"
"There are low- to mid security holding cells, but I already told them you are our retainer. I felt like requesting you to stay in a cell would seem suspicious... and not fair towards you, to be honest."

> Let Dame Durga watch over you
> Tell her she should trust you
> Insist that a holding cell would be better
> Let Dame Durga watch over you
> Let Dame Durga watch over you
invite her to sleep in the same bed as us if she wants to be sure


"Fine, I understand where she's coming from. If it makes her happy, she can keep an eye on me. However, doesn't that mean you won't get to sleep either?"
"Oh no, if I summon her before I fall asleep, she'll be able to persist, as long as she doesn't move too far away from me. I used to unsummon her in my sleep every now and then, but I managed to get that under control! She'll be pretty exhausted - even if she won't look like it."

She grins and suddenly braces her temple in pain - her twin must not have liked that comment.

"...Oh, before I forget, everyone here has been knighted, so address them like me. If we come across someone of higher rank, just follow my lead, and you won't step on everyone's toes."

You start the engine back up and are lead to a spot designated for the cars. Before taking out the keys, you check the digital clock on the dashboard you spotted earlier... 3:38. You rarely have been up so late, let alone away from home at this hour. Most of the artificial light in Springfield came from gas lights, and unlike the electric lights in town hall, they offered poor lighting, and depleted propane, so there wasn't much point in staying up long after sunset. You wake up Dr. Nevada and go through the motions - Dame Gwynn signs a document and you are shown your rooms for the night. The doctor seems to get her own room reserved for special guests, and as a knight, Gwynn get communal lodges separated by gender. As a retainer, however, you will have to sleep in one of the multiple double beds crammed in a single room, occupied by three other people fast asleep. Finally, you are given some clothes and shown the showers, which you waste no time taking advantage of - after everything that had happened today, you're glad to finally wash off the grime and soothe your joints with hot water, even if it is lukewarm at best right now. The clothes are a bit too large and feel thin - possibly only intended to be worn indoors only. However, you are impressed by the make, featuring uniform seams and no fraying edges. The bed is no exception - the mattress might be a bit hard, but the sheets are immaculate. You've read a bit about industrialization and it's not like you were living like a medieval village, but every piece of your wardrobe - any textiles in your house, for that matter - must have been patched up at least once, leaving them in a... lived-in condition. After making yourself comfortable, you hear the door open.

"Had a word with the guards. I be watchin ye from 'ere tonight."
You step out of the bed and give her a bow. "...Alright, Dame Durga."
"Now get sleepin. Ye'll need as much rest as ye can get."

You were thinking about making a joke about joining you, but you keep it to yourself - knowing her, she'll make you sleep in the woods for a comment like that. You lie back down and do your best to ignore the piercing magenta gaze of the drow in the corner.

forgot the name


"Ye know, I still owe ye an apology."
"You do?"
"Aye. Back in the car. I called ye a serf, but yeer no longer a serf, aree? Ye made it to servant. But I still saw ye as one, and I be sorry for that one."
"Oh... ok. I didn't realize. Are they really that different?"
"A werld of difference. Serfs got next to no rights - servants got sum protections, at least. Ye should be glad ye got in like that."
"Yeah, well, it seemed like a small price to pa- You know what? I'm tired of being passive-aggressive about this. I'm not any less mad, but I don't want to be brooding all day long."
"I ain't tellin ye cack about how ye should feel. But if ye want to do somethin about it yeself, I'll try tellin ye how."
"...Thank you, I'll think of something. Good night for now, Dame Durga."
"Aye, night."

As you begin drifting into sleep, the absurdity of everything right now is starting to crystalize. In spite of everything, you are in an Arcadian military checkpoint, and on route to dive in an untouched ruin! You can't help but reconsider Dr. Nevada's words. Sacrificing everything for the life you desire? Is this, all this, what she meant by that? Obviously, if you had the chance to get your town back, you'd take it - but how long until you wanted more again? Given different circumstances, you might have been in the same situation, except out of your own volition.
Honestly, if you were offered a choice between a life of adventure at the cost of never seeing the people you grew up with again, and remaining in your hometown with your friends and family until you die, which one would you choose?

> Adventure
> Your home
> Don't think about it
Sorry if Durga's accent is all over the place - I have a hard time figuring out a cornish dialect, let alone how to express one in text. It's the hardest part to write at the moment.
>Why settle for one when you can have both? Didn't Dr. Nevada mention the possibility of accessing that extraspace thing your town is currently floating around in? Something to think about for later. Much later, to be sure...

If a write-in isn't allowed:
> Adventure
You sacrifice a few things, chasing your dreams.
Nah, qst is dead and threads can live ages. Don't bother starting new ones
> Your home
Adventure is nice and all but not at the expense of everyone we know.

>You sacrifice a few things, chasing your dreams.
Rolled 1 (1d2)


Resolving the tie -

1: Adventure
2: Your home


With a pang of guilt, you admit to yourself that yes, you probably would still choose to see the world, even if it means saying goodbye to everyone back home. Obviously, that doesn't mean they have to disappear in some secret experiment! But leaving the place you grew up in behind is probably fairly common, and if they really are safe, then you should be able to see them again, right? Come to think of it, Gwynn did mention seeing each other again when she thought you were going to stay with the others - she could have been lying there as well, but maybe she was referring to either the end of the experiment, or some means of checking up on them. That would mean seeing everyone again isn't out of the question! Hanging onto that fact, you fall asleep slightly easier.
You're usually not one to dream, but you remember some vivid images from tonight's sleep. Talking to your father, the baroness, Dr. Nevada, it's a blur. By the time you realize a teenage boy is nudging you to awake, you have already forgotten half of them. You take in your surroundings - right, this isn't your room. In fact, this isn't your house, or even town. You scan the corners and don't see Dame Durga anywhere. When did she leave? You put your shoes on and leave the barracks. You see her already waiting for you in the hallway - no, wait, that's Dame Gwynn, already in her uniform!

"Morning to you, Sergey. Did you manage to sleep well?"
"Oh, yes... When did you call back Dame Durga?"
"When I woke up, she informed me that you were fast asleep. I thought it to be prudent to let her sleep, so she would not have to push herself any more than is necessary. That must have been... about two hours ago, I believe."
"Two hours? What time is it?" You look around and see a clock set to 10:05.
"There is no need to worry, you did not oversleep. Lady Doctor Nevada is awaiting us at the mess hall, so finish up and join her. Do you remember where it was located?"
"I... think so? Yes, I'll be able to find it."
"Very well, I will leave you to it then."

You head back to the showers, where a helpful knight informs you of a supply of toiletries for you to use - all portioned in tiny sizes, and wrapped individually. You're glad you don't have to brush your teeth with someone else's toothbrush, but you didn't expect single use items for practically everything. You put your shoes back on and make your way to the canteen. Navigating through the building, you begin to examine it. You must have been so tired, you barely registered it, but this style of building is very unfamiliar to you. A smell devoid of anything natural, long hallways, neutral lighting everywhere, you can even see an air conditioner in every room you can peek into! You've only seen one AC before, in the Baroness' office. The availability of electricity here is in a completely different ballpark from Springfield.


You eventually find the canteen, which is almost empty, but staffed nonetheless. You know that meals at military facilities are usually at set intervals, but in this case, it seems to be far more lenient - makes sense, given that strike teams supposedly make use of this outpost without set times. Dame Gwynn is already waiting on you and guides you through the process. You order eggs and bacon and a coffee, while she sheepishly asks for double the amount. You join Dr. Nevada already sitting at an end table idly nibbling on some toast, and dig in.

"You okay, Gwynn? You're not eatin' a whole lot there."
"I am alright, thank you for your concern, Lady Doctor Nevada. I just feel a little queasy is all."
"Hey, we didn't do anythin' wrong yet." Dame Gwynn drops her cutlery and lets out a heavy sigh.
"...In any case, on the topic of legality, I was very impressed with your knowledge of our judicial system. I did not know your familiarity with obscure cases in our history was so thorough, Lady Doctor Nevada!"
"Do I look like I got time t'read law books in my spare time? I know the bare minimum t'get by in the council, that's it. For everythin' else I got you." Gwynn and you are a bit confused by this comment.
"But you knew about that caveat with the retainers to force the baroness on me."
"Pure bluffin'. I knew about you still bein' an aide to her, but had nothin' else. I was just bankin' on Gwynn to pull a loophole outta her ass."
"I- Could you please refrain from talking about my behind so casually?" Even with her dark skin, you can tell she is blushing.
"Okay, but there was that technicality... involving ruins as well. That sounded pretty obscure to me."
"I've spent the past 8 years tryin' t'figure out how to get past the deadlock. Had a couple of ideas, but nothin' that'd hold up in court. But enough 'bout that, I'd wanna leave before noon. I've already ask'd for a GPS, then I'm good t' go." Gwynn grows more tense, looking around.
"We might have to stay a bit longer to request sufficient equipment. I do not feel comfortable sending Sergey someplace dangerous without at least proper footwear, and something to protect his vitals."
"Are you expecting resistance?"
"You should not see any bandits or rivaling divers, if that is what you are asking."
"Only entrance t'Minsk is controlled regularly for signs of entry. There have been breaches in the past, but they got dealt with quick. Been months since the last attempt." Appropriate for discussing a sensitive topic like that, Dr. Nevada hushes her voice."
"Doesn't that mean I'm going to run into guards?"
"I know the schedule inside out. There's cameras, but it's not guard'd 24/7. You got plenty of time this afternoon.
"...There is a chance you might encounter some stray beasts, if there are enough animals in the ruins. But you might know more about that than us, though."


Hardly. all your dives had been small marks where you occasionally had to fend off coyotes, with the odd beast or vermin. These tend to a bit tougher and smarter than wild animals, but none of them were ever so large that they couldn't be scared off.

"If it's isolated, I should be able to handle it. It generally depends on how large the ecosystem is."

The two of them look at each other. Is it that big?

"I would really prefer if I could at least get a your baseline of your abilities and give you some basic training, it would greatly put me at ease."
"Don't have the time for that. 'member, we gotta move in a reasonable timeframe."

Dr. Nevada gets up and exits the canteen, and the two of you soon follow suit. Dame Gwynn moves quickly because she wants to cover as much as possible with the time left, and arranges some clothing more suitable for a dive.
Solid boots with a grippy sole, high-quality pants with embedded knee padding, a jacket with more pockets than you know what to do with and a vest and helmet for protection - much better than anything you ever had.
You then head for the outside of the armory, where she asks you to wait for her. You take some time to study the base now that you can see it at day. The first thing you take note of are the knights, some of which are moving with purpose, while others are standing in circles and occasionally laugh. Not everyone is in uniform, but they're almost all human, with only a few lower fae, mandrakes and elementals visible. Are they pactmates, or pure? You then scan the buildings, which look even bigger now that you can properly see them. The one you slept in even looks like it has three floors - you've seen wooden sheds at that height, but not a massive building out of concrete and steel. Before you know it, Gwynn interrupts your train of thought as she returns with a list in her hand.

"Very well, I reviewed all weapons in stock that aren't reserved right now. Here are the ones most suitable for a novice. I do not know if any of them are more suitable for diving than the others, but which one would you prefer?"
"I'm not sure, which one would you pick?"
"Ultimately, it comes down to what you are comfortable with and are most experienced in, so I can not make that decision for you in good conscience. Simply choose whichever you think is best for you."

> Revolver
> Dual Pistols
> Plasma Rifle
> Shotgun
> Sword
> Quarter Staff
> Hunting Bow
> Revolver
Gotta get the big iron. How many are we supposed to choose? If we can choose one other then I vote for the sword.
We don't have a lot of training, so we want something simple to use. It should be pretty effective against anything that closes the distance on us.

Gwynn would tell you that she can't really take anything else as she is the only one in the team licensed to carry a weapon, and you're not allowed to rent more than one per person at a time without a special permit.
> Quarter Staff
Leery of running out of ammo, but we most certainly can't afford to take on protracted fights. Thud should be a nice medium between reach, utility (walking stick, never adventure without a long pole and rope, etc) and reliability.

I'll give it 20 more minutes, then I'll roll for it.
Rolled 2 (1d3)


1: Revolver
2: Shotgun
3: Quarter Staff
Aw maan guess im too late to choose big iron
Just caught up great quest so far
Ouch. Shotgun is probably the worst option, considering we don't know how long this Dive is going to take. Yeah, it's lethal, but our primary concerns are being able to sneak about and avoid fights to begin with. We are NOT a powerhouse, we're a human on a solo dive and have Stealth as a selected skill. Shotguns tend to have limited ammo and are incredibly loud. It's a last resort tool, lacking the range advantage that even just choosing the revolvers would have given us.

I seriously hope we'll have some degree of familiarity with using it, because if it turns out Sergey's never handled a gun before, the kick is going to knock out his teeth.


"Well, seeing how it has to be just one... Close combat might be good for enclosed spaces, but I'd still like to keep my distance. I'm mostly worried about hard-to-track targets, so... a shotgun should make sense, right?"

"Given the scenario you are describing, I am inclined to agree. I will return shortly. For now, bring the gear back to our vehicle."

As you carry the equipment to the parking area, you see that Dr. Nevada is stowing away two containers as well herself. Upon closer inspection, you see that they are full of bottles of water, as well as tightly wrapped packages label as rations. You decide to finally ask her something you've been wanting to know since yesterday.

"Dr. Nevada, about my town..."
"Not now. These are all vassals of the council, but it's still classified."
"Then, when should I-"
"When we're leavin'. Plenty of time then."

So much for that. Is she busy right now? She's just staring into the sky, eating her special fries again.

"Unrelated to that, Dr. Nevada..." She tilts her head towards you, but still seems to be more interested in what's above.
"I noticed that there don't seem to be a whole lot of monsters here, at least pure ones. Does the Arcadian army prefer humans? Or are we just seen as expendable?"
"Bein' a monster doesn' make you any less expendable in war. But from a logistics standpoint, it's a no-brainer. You can give humans any slop t'keep 'em fed, but for monsters it's gotta be orgone. Sure, there's biomarks, but those're stupid heavy and unaffordable at a large scale."
"Oh, so with a pactmaker, you'd have the strengths of a monster, with the upkeep of a human!"
"Right, more or less. Pacts used t'have a bad rep not too long ago, but it's almost sad t'see how easy it is t'ditch all your principles when lich platoons are chippin' away chunks from your turf." Another handful of fries follow.
"If you don't mind me asking, how does a pact work anyway? Do you just... shake hands?" She lets out a barely audible chuckle.
"Eh, kinda. There's some prep involved, but basically, y'both have t'say y'want it, and fusion happens. There's some rules to it, though. First of all, you both have t'legit want it, no lyin' or mind control. You still can get tricked int'doing it the old-fashioned way, but that's y'own fault. Next, y'both have t' be able t'understand each other, so you gotta know the language of the monster. So if you wanna make a pact with a fairy, it's *has* t'be in Sidhe."
"Well so much for making a pact with a noble. My Sidhe is terrible."
"Trust me, that's way down on the list of reasons why you ain't gonna fuse with one."


"Does that mean you can only form pacts with intelligent monsters capable of speech?"
"Nah. If the monster can't talk, it still has t'be willing t'go through with the deal, but at that point it's more like baitin' a dog with treats: They can still refuse if they don' like you, but it's a whole lot easier. If they've got zero sentience, like Rho from before, they can't choose at all. It's just up t'the human."
"Wait, that was a monster? I thought it was a construct." She flicks your forehead for that comment, though it feels more like a static shock.
"Constructs *are* monsters, numbnuts. They're created with orgone, and still need it t'not turn int'trash."
"Huh. It sounds to me like it's fairly easy to form a pact, then."
"Well, here comes the kicker. If you want this thing t' work, you gotta have have matching personalities. Similar sense of self, ideals, mood, all of this crap. The closer you are, the more likely the pact is going t' be successful. So only a complete idiot would make a pact with someone they don' match with. Still happens, though. So once again, a lot like sex."
"...What happens if the pact is unsuccessful?"
"Best case? Nothin', you just wasted everyone's time. Worst case? You end up a freak. And believe me, you don' wanna be a freak."
"...well at least it doesn't kill you."
"It can. It just isn't worst case material."

You gulp, wondering what she could be talking about. As you look away into the distance, you spot Gwynn making her way towards you, with a large briefcase and a backpack stuffed to the brim in tow.

"What about Dame Gwynn? She seems pretty different from her twin. Is she a..."
"Not a freak. The two actually have a lot in common. Just 'cause they match doesn't mean they've got t'be the same. Oh, and Ivan?"
"Yes, Dr. Nevada?"
"Don't call someone a freak. It's really rude."

This is the first time she'd reprimanded you for your manners. Is it that bad? Or is she being sarcastic? By now, Gwynn is in earshot distance.

"I apologize for the delay, checking out the weapon took longer than I expected, and I went ahead and announced our leave. I also got some more equipment... I do not know what would be ideal for the- the excursion, so I ended up grabbing perhaps too much. I hope you did not wait on me too long."

She gives the doctor her usual bow and places the briefcase and backpack in the back of the van. You can see a box of spare shells peeking out of the backpack.

"These are for shotguns, right? You sure you can handle a big boy weapon like that?"
"This type of gun is actually quite easy to get accustomed to if you use proper posture, actually. It also is quite forgiving to grime and rarely jams, making it a good match for this environment!"

Her enthusiasm for the gun fades, and she then speaks to you more softly, trace amounts of worry and nervousness in her eyes.


"I... I am not allowed to let anyone beside me handle this weapon, so we will need to get some distance from prying eyes before I can let you get familiar with it. I do not wish to stay near the site any longer than absolutely necessary, so we will... we will..."

Gwynn is starting to look like she has something stuck in her throat. As she trails off in her sentence, her voice grows shaky. She is avoiding eye contact.

"Y-yes, Lady Doctor Nevada?"
"I know you're really stickin' your neck out for me. I'm glad that you're willin' to give me a shot. Thank you."

Gwynn shows a forced grin, but her cramped hands don't sell her supposedly relaxed demeanor. Dr. Nevada slightly raises her arms to the side, her hands barely peeking out from the oversized sleeves, and smiles awkwardly. Gwynn immediately accepts the wooden invitation to hug and throws her arms around the elf's chest.

"Oookay... Yeah, sure. Go ahead, if it helps. You deserve it."

Unsure how to reciprocate the situation, she pats Gwynn's back, who releases her grip only after half a minute or so.

"Oh great, you got my sweater wet. Aren't you s'posed to be able to deal with that sorta stuff?"

She dries her wet eyes and looks sheepishly at her feet, a slight smile on her lips.

"Normally I am not made to make a choice between the council and my... my lady."
"Don't you want Durga with you on this one?" She shakes her head.
"No, she stayed up all day. I do not want to wake her up, I can handle it by myself."

You feel uncomfortable, having been privy to such a personal exchange. You're about to step into the car, when Gwynn addresses you, this time with her usual blend between professionalism and politeness.

"As I was saying, we will be making a stop midway from here and our destination. You will get a chance to prepare there."

Should you say something to her or save it for another time?

> Say something (Write-in)
> Give her some space for now
>"Alright. And... for what it's worth, thank you for not leaving me to die last night."
actually happy with the shotgun pick, they may be loud and have limited ammo, but man do they fuck stuff up depending on the kind we got
what kind of shotgun is it? (Pump, semiauto tube fed, semiauto mag fed)
this is fine

wonder if we get our group rep up can we drop the lord and lady shit, kind of grating on me but I guess we picked it in character generation
>wonder if we get our group rep up can we drop the lord and lady shit, kind of grating on me but I guess we picked it in character generation

I've been wondering about the titles myself. I keep wondering if it gets too exhausting for the reader, but for a political structure like Arcadia they'd be a really big deal, and I don't know how to work around that without straight up saying "just imagine them using them all the time lol". Even if Sergey's rank were to change, it would still be present because for example, there is no way Gwynn would not address someone appropriately if they outrank her, unless I kill her off. I have been using titles in Sergey's thoughts to himself on and off again on purpose, but if the benefits of this stylistic choice are being outweighed by a worse reading experience I could at least drop that without sacrificing much.
Do you have any solutions for that?
Yes, I highly recommend swapping them out for Japanese honorifics of -senpai, -paisen, -sama, -kun, -chan...this is a joke
I'm fine with it, personally. Adds some character to the setting.
this isn't meta criticism, QM
I'm just saying if I was in this situation I'd hate having to bow and scrape to every elf or whatever I came across and might take advantage of my newfound agency with them to push the boundaries a little. We didn't have to explore this ruin for them, but we did, and maybe they could treat us a little better.
variable IP, both are me, etc etc
>"Alright. And... for what it's worth, thank you for not leaving me to die last night."
just finished reading up to this point, this is really neat stuff, QM


"Alright. And... for what it's worth, thank you for not leaving me to die last night, Dame Gwynn."
"Oh! That was, well, to be completely frank, I was not thinking at that moment. We were in a blast zone, I saw a civilian,... it was as though my body went on autopilot. Besides, I... I had dragged you into the blast radius in the first place. It was my poor judgement that almost had you die in the first place."
"That too, but I was talking about your decision not to just have me killed, and convince Dr. Nevada to keep me around. Were you actually allowed to take me out back then?"
"By the council, commanding knights such as myself have the authority and obligation to execute and order the execution of any serfs who can be reasonably deemed to be a threat to the council and its houses, as well as their interests. So, yes."
"...does that mean you should have killed me, then?"
"The events were a bit of a blur to me, but at that time, I must have decided that you were not, in fact, a threat. Had there been more time to escort you back into Springfield, you would not have violated any rules and the department would not have to be concerned with a potential leak."

You think over her words.

"In that cas-"

The blaring scream of the car horn make you jump. You check the driver's cabin and see Dr. Nevada already sitting on the wheel, urging you to get back in. Gwynn quickly rides shotgun, leaving the trunk of the car to you. The ride is not nearly as comfortable as before - you are sitting on the same makeshift bank (that really is just a strapped down crate with a blanket) Gwynn sat on yesterday, but you have a hard time not getting flung off it as the doctor makes sharp turns and navigates over rough terrain. Luckily for you, the car eventually settles on a more worn down gravel road.

"...and at this point, we can continue straight ahead for another 28 kilometers. I will point out the next exit as we reach it, Lady Doctor Nevada."
"How much longer?"
"The entrance to the caves of Minsk is still about 95 kilometers away, but I planned in a bit of a detour for a patch of isolated forest. It is fairly remote, so Sergey can prepare in peace here. It will add another 23 kilometers to our route, however."
"Uhm, how much would that be in miles?"

Through the small window, you can see the two in the cabin exchange a look, then Dr. Nevada turns back to you.


"Look kid, first things first, we're gonna have t' get you t'drop the imperial units. The council is real big on 'the science', so if you get caught using 'stones' or 'feet' in a big city, they're gonna laugh you out of wherever you are and send you back t'whichever plantation they think you escap'd from."
"Do you mean measurements? What's so bad about miles?"
"'Sides from the shitty conversion rates, the council really wants everyone t'use 'em. But backwater towns without much of an education like yours stick with what they're used t', which in the west is imperial."
"Most of the western territory was conquered from the Gaians, so some influence remains in the smaller pockets. Springfield uses Geomancy to promote fertility of your grounds, yes? You might already know that this practice most likely originates from druidic orgone manipulation that is commonly observed in Gaian settlements."
"...And Gaia enforces... 'imperial units', you called them?"

Gwynn's face darkens.

"Gaians do not enforce anything that does not benefit their draconic lords. Even if it comes at the cost at all of their followers."
"...at the risk of sounding treasonous, that sounds not too different from the council to me.", you quip, half-jokingly.

Gwynn immediately whips her head back and scowls at you.

"I would *highly* recommend you retracting these words immediately."
"Oh, I just thought-"
"The lords of Gaia only care about themselves and their ideals, and are willing to sacrifice everyone around them if it helps them protect either. It is because of their primitive beliefs that all their people, strong or meek, end up miserable and suffering. The council, on the other hand, has moved mountains in their feudal structure to become more progressive than any other superpower! How can you make these statements when you do not even know our history?"

You are tempted to test her beliefs and see where the doctor lies on this, but Dame Gwynn looks really on edge right now. She does have a point - you never learned a whole lot about Arcadian history, let alone that of Gaia. Besides, with how much she is in conflict with herself over going behind the council, it's best not to provoke her any further.

"I apologize, Lady Gwynn. I did not mean to offend."
"...Think about your words more carefully. Anyone having been faced with the horrors of the 'Children' of Gaia would never say something as insulting as this."

You sit in silence, letting a foul mood hang in the air. After a few minutes of think of what to say and listening to the sounds of the engine, you speak up.

"Dr. Nevada, I-"
"Not talkin' politics with you, kid. Don't have the head for it right now."
"No, that's not it! No politics, I swear. It's just that, back at the outpost, you said we could talk about my town, and... where it is right now."
"Ah great, I promis'd that? Fine, you get one."

> Ask one question about your missing town (Write-In)

Meant to be [2/2]
>Is there a feasible means of traveling to and from my town in its current state via the outside world?
seconding >>5369670
finding out if it's possible to ever visit home seems good
ask about possible rewards (titles?) and possible stuff we can find on our dive


"Is there a feasible means of traveling to and from my town in its current state via the outside world?"
"We're not at that level yet. Theoretically it should be be possible, but you'd need a shit-ton of energy and processing power to guide that amount of matter to the exact same location as the first pocket. And since this is psychic energy we're dealing with here, I don't even wanna think about the effects the natural orgone field has on the tunnels. For now, we can reliably transport an inorganic payload of up to 2.7 kilos. We usually use that t'send them data storage devices that contain explanations, instructions n' so on."
"And can the town in the subspace send things back, too?"
"Not without the right equipment. And the right math. Which we only have the first thing of. Havin' a transporter in subspace is a topological nightmare because you're dealing with holes within holes."
"Then what about water? And- and air!? Aren't they cut off from that?"
"Don't need t'transport that. Remember the nodes we set up? They're in there too, and they let us transmute the ambient psychic energy int'water and oxygen. We can cycle the whole thing - their faucets aren't gonna work as long as they're here, though. We haven't figured a way t'get around that yet."
"How long until you figure out how to transport people, then?"
"That's like asking a toddler how long until they can do a backflip after it learned to walk - there's still a world between that. We're making good progress, but unless you are okay with going back home as a meat salad, you're gonna have to wait."
"Then I won't see anyone until you make enough progress? Isn't there some other way?"
"That'll have to wait till next time. That was your one question."
"But why can't you just answer more? There's nothing st-"
"Just say it's an incentive not to screw up. If you find whatever is making that signature, and get it back to the surface, you'll get another one."
"...Very well then."
"Don't worry, you don't actually have to make it out alive t'earn another question. You probably won't care at that point, though."

There is a growing intensity in the vehicle's atmosphere that is keeping conversation light. The doctor and Gwynn exchange a few words to decide where best to position themselves while you are down there. Half an hour later, the car comes to a halt. Apparently, you stopped near a clearing after driving through a more overgrown path in a forest.

"Alright, you two do your thing. I got stuff to set up."

With these words, Dr. Nevada retreats to the passenger seat. Dame Gwynn asks you to put on the uniform, while she sets up everything else. The clothes give you some trouble as you try to fit on all these different layers and strap on multiple armor segments the right way while inside now rather small seeming trunk of the van. It also doesn't help that the doctor could turn around any second and see you in a state of undress, but she never seems to move a muscle.


You step outside the car, enjoying the increase in headroom. The uniform, which is very similar to the one Dame Gwynn is wearing, is definitely stuffier and heavier than what you wore before. However, you still appreciate the light breeze you can feel blowing through the fabric, and the material of the body armor, which seems lighter than aluminum, but much less prone to deformation.

"Is this right?"
"Ah, you finished changing. Looks g- Oh, you got the shoulder guards mixed up. I can assist you with that."

As Gwynn switches the guards, you take a look at what she had set up. The large backpack is partially emptied and resting next to the crate you sat on earlier, now filling in as a coffee table. On top of that is the opened briefcase containing the shotgun embedded in foam, surrounded by multiple boxes of ammunition with different colors. She carefully pulls out the shotgun, making sure not to line it up with either you or the car. The gun's big, blocky body immediately sticks out to you, as well its black finish, which seamlessly ends in a bump stock.

"This is a Leroy A7, a semi-automatic inertia-driven shotgun which is standard issue for frontline soldiers. First used by drow forces in 19, it is the earliest weapon adapted by the Arcadian army still seen in service today. That makes it comparatively low-tech, but due to its reliability and cheap manufacturing costs it has truly stood the test of time. Oh, and while I might have said standard issue, I took the liberty of picking a model with a short barrel, for increased maneuverability."

Knowing Dame Gwynn, you're certain that she is reciting a book she memorized, but you'll humor her.

"It can hold up to 9 rounds - 10, if the barrel is loaded. It fires 12 gauge shells - proven to be a good middle ground between stopping power and usability for goblins, which are used as the minimum viable body size for universal firearms. Have you ever shot this before?"

You pick up one of the shells displayed on the table, examine it and throw it back and forth in your hand, feeling its heft.

"Not at this caliber, no. I never really shot anything bigger than a rabbit."
"That is a shame... Nevertheless, after your first few shots, you should be able to get accustomed to the kickback."

She continues giving you a rundown of the gun, telling you how to reload, fix jams, work the safety as well as the different types of compatible ammunition. She reiterates the rules of gun safety more than once and continues to drop in historical factoids that won't increase your chance of survival, but she seems happy to share them with you. After giving you an earful, she finally lets you hold the gun, yelling nervously whenever your finger brushes the trigger. Once you are comfortable with the weight, you decide to give it a try. You grab a buckshot, load it in and pull the bolt. You then aim at a distant tree and disable the safety. You slowly move your index finger on the trigger, preparing to s-


"What do you think you're doing!?" Gwynn looks horrified, as if you just took aim at her puppy.
"Uh... practicing?"
"You absolutely must not shoot outside a firing range like that! Only if you have a hunting permit, reasonable cause as a member of the Arcadian military, or are ranked a commander or higher!"
"Then... where can I shoot? I need to get used to it at some point."
"Well, I was hoping... when you have reasonable cause?"
"I'm sorry, but if I have reasonable cause to shoot this gun and still no practice, it's going to be too late."
"You- You are correct. I was just hoping we could avoid yet another felony."
"I'm entering disputed territory under the pretense of having escaped my master and stolen a weapon of a strike team commander. I don't think that's gonna make much of a difference."
"...If you say it out loud like that I *really* do not want to go through this."
"Dame Gwynn. I'm not going to say I don't want to do this - a chance like this had been my dream for years, and under different circumstances I'd be ecstatic... But from how Dr. Nevada put it, you are going to be bearing the brunt of the legal ramifications for this. At the risk of being out of line... If you think that this is going to eat you up inside, there's still a chance to turn back without having broken any of the rules."
"No... I still believe in our justice system, but Lady Doctor Nevada make a convincing case. The Arcadian Principality has seen many changes made within its borders to acclimate to a new age of technology, therefore an existing law can become inappropriate as times change. I really wish this could be settled through legal channels, but considering what my lady had accomplished before, I am sure she could help a lot of people with whatever she believes to be in this ruin."
"Well said. I also wish I could do this without slipping through the cracks of your legal system." She gives you a weak smile.
"Please, you are making it sound much worse than it actually is. In any case, I apologize for my emotional outbursts. It is very unbecoming for a knight."
"Please, you don't have to apologize on my account. I know you are concerned with your image, but the way I see it, it makes you h- well, more of a person."
"B-back to the matter at hand, I will allow you to shoot. Just... not too much. And not too fast. And not too loud, if possible. And above all, do not load the incendiary shells."


You fire off several rounds, rotating between different ammo types. Out of the corner of your eye, you can see Gwynn wincing with every shot - not because of your form however, as she is quick to point out. Gwynn was right - while the gun has much more of a kick than what you are used too, your shots become more precise and your movement less wasteful as you become accustomed of the recoil, especially if you use the bump stock.

After firing the last shell in the chamber, you pull back the bolt to show your teacher that the gun is, in fact, empty. She nods in approval and takes the gun off your hands.

"Now that you're done wavin' your phallus around, we can now move on t'the important stuff."

You jump, ducking slightly and taking a step forward. You must have been so absorbed in shooting, that you failed to notice Dr. Nevada standing right behind you. She plants two devices on the crate, both with a miniature screen and a few buttons, and points at the left one.

"That's a GPS, it's suppos'd t'read your position at an accuracy of 5 meters. There's a good chance it'll get less accurate the further down you go, but I put in the coordinates of the signal we track'd. It can display maps, but they're gonna be useless down there, so it can only show where you are in relation to the target. The signal, however, could only be pinn'd down at a radius of 'bout 80 meters, plus we can't measure depth. Best case, it's sittin' in a plaza, worst case, you don't see jack because the thing is 10 floors below you. Or above you."

She grabs the other device.

"That's where this thing comes in. It locates orgone fields in a specific bandwidth and tracks them in three dimensions, but it's really short range - 30 meters at best. So one more time for the yokel: First you use this one till it's useless, then you use that one until you find the source. And don't press any of the buttons except this one and this one, you'll mess up the settings. Got it?"
"...Seems pretty straightforward, yes."


"Sorry, Lady Doctor Nevada, but did you just assemble this? That's really specific."
"I couldn't do that myself if I want'd t'. I literally carri'd this everywhere I go for the last 3 years for a chance like this."
"Wha- A-a-anyway, Sergey, I also got you this two-way earpiece which we can use to stay in contact with another. Then there's this scrying badge, which should allow us to view your immediate surroundings. I don't know how long the connections will hold, though."
"Wait a second, this is an old city I'm entering, right? Aren't there old maps that I could use for navigation?"
"Yeah, but preliminary subterranean scans show the place got mess'd up bad. If you actually compare maps of Eurasia then and now, the whole thing mov'd by a few kilometers."
"It moved kilometers? How does something like that even happen?"
"...Draconic geomancy.", Gwynn replies with a bitter tone.
"The entrance t'the shafts has cameras, but I know a path 'round them. Gwynn and I are gonna sit tight in the car, a good amount away from where we drop you. If I set everythin' up right, I can even get a feed of the short range scanner."
"Alright, understood. There's more gear in the backpack, right? It looks really heavy... Oh, yeah, that's heavy. I'm going to have to leave some of it behind so it won't slow me down too much."
"Yes, I ended bringing everything that seemed useful. I hope you have a better idea of what you should actually take with you."
"Hm. Do you also have night-vision goggles?"
"Night-vision? I know we're doing this during the day, but it's probably going to be really dark in there?"
"OH NO. I totally forgot about those! I'm so sorry, I normally don't need them so I never bring them but of course you'd need something like-"
"Ok, ok, it's fine. It would have been nice, but I have plenty of other light sources here... I'll just have to make due with them, somehow.
"Aaahh! What was I thinking? I'm sending a civilian into an untouched underground ruin and don't even give him infrared goggles? If he ends up dying because he runs out of light or something jumps at him out of the shadows, I'll *never* forgive myself!"


> Choose your inventory.
> Each item has a point value that will contribute to the total.
> Below 16, you will travel light, giving you a bonus in agility-related activities.
> Above 24, you will be encumbered, giving you a penalty to agility-related activities.
> The total can't exceed 30.
> Items marked with * can be picked multiple times.
> Each box of ammo contains 5 rounds.
> Every item can be held in or used by one hand.

Already in your inventory:

> Leroy A7 shotgun
> Chest-mounted flashlight
> Gun-mounted flashlight
> Earpiece
> Short-range Scanner
> Drinking water
> Waterproof lighter

> Shot Ammo * (2pt): Standard pellet shell.
> Slug Ammo * (2pt): Standard single shell.
> Incendiary Ammo * (2pt): Shoots pellets of burning synthetic lubricant that sticks to the target. Hard to remove, and hard to extinguish.
> Taser Ammo * (2pt): Shoots a single projectile that penetrates lightly and sends a continuous electrical charge through the target for about 30 seconds, disabling it.
> Rubber Bullets * (2pt): Non-lethal single projectiles. Gwynn brought them for completion's sake.
> Combat Knife (3pt): A well-weighted knife capable of cutting, stabbing, sawing and opening bottles.
> 50m Rope * (2pt): Long, sturdy rope that can be cut, but easily supports 500 kilos of load.
> Smoke Bomb * (2pt): Emits thick jets of smoke that limit visibility when thrown. The smoke is also foul-smelling and ejects smoke at different temperatures, throwing off scent and heat vision as well.
> Flash Bomb * (2pt): Emits a bright light that disorients and injures sensitive eyes. Also contains orgone crystals that impede orgone manipulation techniques for a short time.
> Remote Explosive * (3pt): A handheld trigger broadcasts radio waves to detonate the explosive remotely. Each explosive has its own trigger.
> Portable ODAR (5pt): Detects orgone fields in a range of 10 meters and displays them in relation from your position. Can be blocked by walls and concealment techniques, and can't register the orgone fields of animals.
> Ration * (1pt): Calorie-dense food that satisfies your hunger, but not your appetite.
> Sleeping bag (6pt): Keeps you warm and lets you sleep in relative comfort.
> Medigel * (1pt): Heals and disinfects minor wounds such as cuts, burns, stabs or strains.
> Panacea * (2pt): Heals a single part of your body completely.
> Runestones * (1pt): Small stones already inscribed with Optimancy. When thrown, they begin to glow and can light up a small room for an hour. 10 stones each.
> Oxygen Tank * (2pt): A small tank containing an hour's worth of breathable air. Also comes with a mask and hose.
Trying something different.
I just threw the numbers and items together and did zero testing, so I have no idea how this will work out. That said, some items are definitely less useful than others.
I also have no idea how to resolve ties.

Oh, and the shotgun comes fully loaded with an ammo type of your choice, so pick that too.
> Shot Ammo * (2pt): Standard pellet shell.
> Incendiary Ammo * (2pt): Shoots pellets of burning synthetic lubricant that sticks to the target. Hard to remove, and hard to extinguish.
> Flash Bomb * (2pt): Emits a bright light that disorients and injures sensitive eyes. Also contains orgone crystals that impede orgone manipulation techniques for a short time.
> Combat Knife (3pt): A well-weighted knife capable of cutting, stabbing, sawing and opening bottles.
> 50m Rope * (2pt): Long, sturdy rope that can be cut, but easily supports 500 kilos of load.
> Runestones * (1pt): Small stones already inscribed with Optimancy. When thrown, they begin to glow and can light up a small room for an hour. 10 stones each.
> Ration * (1pt): Calorie-dense food that satisfies your hunger, but not your appetite.
> Panacea * (2pt): Heals a single part of your body completely.
Rationale: Incendiary ammo and flashbomb for surviving whatever magic shenanigans we might find down there. Fire is a common weakness in fairytales, right? Anyways, I was thinking about how we'd get the fire pellets out there if we needed them. Can we alternate the shells in the tube like shot>fire>shot>fire? It would be easier than trying to fumble a shell into the gun when there's something around that needs burnin'
The knife and rope are for utility, Fallout taught me that going out on adventures like this without rope is hopeless, and the knife is multipurpose enough that it will surely come in handy.
The main thing I'm unsure about is not bringing along the remote explosive. It seems to be a really high value pick both for utility in clearing a path, or in dealing with anything really big and scary down there. I like the idea of staying under the limit for the weight bonus more though, since we aren't really some trained soldier that can dig their heels in and fight, and our stuff gives us a good amount of utility and survivability as is. I'm hoping that we can stay sneaky with the agility bonus, and if anything mean gets on our trail then we mess them up a bit with our tools before we hit the bricks and gtfo.
Whoops, just saw the bit about the shotgun coming loaded. Does that mean we don't pay points for the first ammo type?
How long is this Dive expected to take? Within 24 hours? Because 30 is a painfully low limit when the sleeping bag takes up 6 slots. Also, what kind of environments can we expect? Following the standard hierarchy of needs, food and shelter are non-negotiable, but if the Dive is only expected to last less than 2 days, we can probably skip the bag since these ruins are presumably mostly intact. Medicine is also a no-brainer, though I suppose we can live with only 1 Panacea instead of 2, seeing as we don't want to fight to begin with. Since Ammo all costs the same, get the most lethal ones for max effectiveness. Combat Knife and rope are also absolute must-haves for sheer utility (and also as a backup weapon). Oof, now I really wish we had a quarterstaff so we could jury rig a spear.
+1 looks good enough to me
No oxygen tank?
Yeah, if I'm reading >>5370018 right I'd like to put the two points it would free up towards an oxygen tank in>>5369979
Also we are basically a STALKER, we are heading into a zone the world has PSY storms the kit QM gives us is basic stalker kit with the ODAR being the artifact scanner. Now where are the DEADLY ANOMALIES DANGEROUS MUTANTS ANARCHISTS AND BANDITS?
in that case we're boned if we don't have an unlimited supply of bolts to throw ahead of us
> Can we alternate the shells in the tube like shot>fire>shot>fire?
There's nothing stopping you from doing that.

> How long is this Dive expected to take? Within 24 hours?
You aren't sure, but from what you've heard about diving, some people can spend several days around ruins. That being said, dives usually involve sweeping an area for as many finds as possible. You've never had coordinates this specific before and were only planning to just take a single thing however, so a lot of the time scanning the area will be cut short.

> the world has PSY storms
Psychic storms are known to form in the stratosphere, and you haven't heard of equivalent phenomenon appearing in caves. If you were to ask Dr. Nevada, she'd tell you that while pockets of stagnating psychic energy can occur on ley lines, Minsk should not be near one.

All in all this is more of a story than a crunchy dungeon crawler, so don't overthink it. That being said, being prepared helps a lot.

Current Inventory (15pt, Agility bonus):

> Leroy A7 shotgun (Loaded with x10 Shot Ammo)
> Chest-mounted flashlight
> Gun-mounted flashlight
> Earpiece
> Short-range Scanner
> Drinking water
> Waterproof lighter
> x5 Incendiary Ammo
> x1 Flash Bomb
> Combat Knife
> 50m Rope
> x10 Runestones
> x1 Ration
> x1 Panacea
> x1 Oxygen Tank

Content with the items you pick, you zip the backpack shut and sling it over your shoulder.

"You good? Then let's get outta here. Gwynn, stop mopin' n' help us get this stuff back in!"

The three of you clean up Gwynn's belongings, and much to the chagrin of Dr. Nevada, the changeling makes sure to pick up every casing you've ejected. Only after she is satisfied is when you drive off for your last stop. The doctor gives you an overview of the layout of the entrance, describing blind spots and directions while you listen carefully. After some waiting and trying to find a comfortable position with your gear on, you feel the car slowing down. Looking through the window to the driver's cabin, you can see Dr. Nevada has perked up and looking around.

"Are we there?"
"Almost. We're gettin' real close, so I gotta make sure there's no one 'round. If someone spots a van with a car with a council emblem, they're not gonna get too suspicious, but we'll have to do some rounds first."

The careful and deliberate movement continues for a few minutes, then stops. The elf turns around to face you, while Gwynn looks around nervously.

"Aright, showtime. The entrance is 150 meters thataway, you should know it when you see it. Don't forget what I told you 'bout the cameras, but if you do, I'd rather you tell me than stumble into view. Earpiece works?"
"Yes, we just tested it, Lady Doctor Nevada."
"Good. If you have any questions or need to piss, now's the time."
"Juust one question. Have there been any more earthquakes in the area? The last thing I need is a cave-in."
"No noteworthy seismic activity since I started watchin' this place. If there's a cave-in, you only got y'self to blame."
"That's... great to hear. Well, no sense standing around, then."
"First intelligent thing you said today, kid."

You pick up the backpack and fasten the straps, but it's only when you have trouble securing the buckle that you notice your hands shaking. Now that you are about to actually do this, you realize that this is scaring you more than you thought. Entering an untouched underground ruin is one thing, but doing it behind the backs of the law enforcement? That adds a whole other level of danger, legal immunity be damned. You briefly consider backing out, but grit your teeth. This is the life you wanted! If you didn't want risks in your life, you'd be repairing tractors, not climbing structurally unsound buildings to look for pre-apocalypse remnants to pawn off. You grab the shotgun, check if it's fully loaded and the safety's on, and sling the tight belt over your shoulder.

"Alright, let's do this."


You hop out of the car and close the door behind you, Dr. Nevada wasting no time to drive off. Moving towards the direction you were given, you don't see much - just a rounded hill sprinkled with bushes. As you reach the other side, however, you begin to see hints of a recess dug out in the side - hard to spot when passing by, but obvious enough when you know where to look. Keeping your distance, you check for movement... No one around, like Dr. Nevada said. You approach the edge above the recess and peek below - no blockades, no guardhouse, just some shrubs, a hole in the side side of the ground and an inconspicuous metal box - that must be the camera.

"Huh. I know that the personnel is gone right now, but I expected more security. There's not even a chain-link fence."
"That's because they prioritize stealth over defense. This location is only known to the house of Daedal and Titania, and rogue divers are few and far between. That's how they can get away with no major defensive measures."
"The guards only really show up t'check for signs of entry or triggered traps. Almost all of them aren't even pactmates. But remember, this isn't where you enter. Head further up, there should be a birch tree. That's where they cover'd up your way in."

You advance further to the birch tree she mentioned and begin stomping around. Sure enough, one spot in particular stands out, feeling and sounding different from the rest. You get down on your knees, pull out your knife and start carving out the soil. Behind a thin layer of dirt and grass is a wooden board - it takes some effort, but you manage to remove it, revealing a dark crevice leading into the ground. You turn on the flashlight on your chest and are relieved to see that while it is partially caved in, there still is enough space to squeeze through it, even with your backpack on. You enter it and after a good 2 minutes of shuffling along a tight tunnel, the path widens to a burrow that is clearly manmade.

"You're past the chokepoint. Now stick t'the walls n' get t'the elevator."

You immediately push your back against the wall, worried about getting spotted. Still, Dr. Nevada's previous record with the assessment of this place gives you confidence, and you push on. You soon make it to the elevator which required a weird angle to enter undetected, but you breathe sigh of relief - you made it past the surveillance. Taking a moment to catch your breath, you check your surroundings and see that the cave opens up on one side - and how.


Your mouth drops open as you observe the scene in front of you - a skyscraper, dozens and dozens of stories tall, broken in half and forming some makeshift brace to keep the ceiling from collapsing. Below, you see torn plates of asphalt, littered with concrete, stone, glass and metal. The only vegetation is comprised of patches of small growths that can survive in this kind of darkness. A two-story building with a sign containing illegible letters has been seemingly crushed by one of the skyscraper halves. The thing that unnerves you the most is that it seems to keep on going - while there's a wall behind you, even the piercing rays of your flashlight get snuffed out by the endless black behind the wreckage.

"Woah... Are you seeing this?"
"Unfortunately, no. Unless you're trained, scrying badges only give you a radius of about 4 meters at best. I can't see what's around you, but in this case, I can only see you in an elevator, mouth wide open."

You close your mouth and check the GPS. According to the display, you're just a few hundred meters away from the marked area. Unfortunately for you, however, these meters will most likely be filled with difficult terrain and who knows what else. Your gawking is interrupted by a sudden jolt as the elevator hits the ground and stops automatically. To help you improve visibility, you turn on the flashlight mounted on your shotgun and check the ODAR... You only see a dot in the center of the screen, but according to Gwynn, that's supposed to be your own orgone field - no one around, then. You step off and gingerly make your first steps towards the target. The ground seems solid enough, even if it is fairly jagged and broken up, but you still don't relax your posture quite yet. Looking around, you see broken remains of the city you've seen either in picture books or previous dives - road signs, wrecked cars, tipped-over lampposts and more. You continue along the street, sticking to the crushed building, until you make it to a drop. From the looks of it, the road collapsed, but it's not just that: the whole area in front of you appears to be at a considerably lower altitude.


"Hmm, looks like a fault line... How deep is that drop? I can't see the bottom of it."
"From here, it looks like... 25 feet? Maybe 30? Sorry, I don't know how much that is in meters."
"7.6 t'9.1 meters.", you hear Dr. Nevada mumble with her mouth full.
"Can you jump that? I'm not sure what you're used to. In any case, did you check the ODAR for signs of life?"
"Yeah, I can't jump that without maybe breaking a leg. Anyway, I checked earlier, and didn't get anyth- Oh shit, there's something!"

Having had another look at the sensor, you see that there is now a faint but visible line stretching from the center all the way to the top of the screen. You quickly move back from the edge and hunker down.

"It looked like it was straight down the road! It doesn't look like a strong signal, but I didn't see anything..."
"Whatever it is, it's probably in hiding."
"The ODAR you got only has two dimension, direction n' intensity. The field falls off the further you get, so you can't tell the difference between a close weak signal n' a strong distant signal with that thing."
"If you rappel down and whatever is down there is hostile and spots you, you'd be an easy target. Maybe you can find a building with a basement? if it's right on the fault line, you might be able to get down there with minimal visibility."
"Maybe. Entering buildings is always a risk though, because you never know when one can collapse."

> What will you do? (Write-in)

Keep in mind that your items can all be used at your leisure.
How does everyone feel about skill checks? Do you prefer the readers to roll each of them, or do you not mind me making some offline rolls to keep the story flowing better?
>Search for a building with a basement
I'm fine either way with the skill checks.
>Prioritize your safety and take the building. You don't want to see any more encounters than absolutely necessary.

Offline rolls since it might take a while for a player response. You can spoiler/bracket/greentext/whatever the numbers if you want to show them in the middle of the post.
>Search for a building with a basement
maybe do some looting if this place really is untouched

>massive skyscraper, untold technological development
offline rolls are fine, you tend to post in the middle of the night for me.


"Still, if I know for a fact that something's down there, I'd rather take my chances with the buildings. If I watch my step and don't overextend, I should be safe."
"If you say so. Lady Doctor Nevada, do you know anything useful about structural integrity? Something Sergey can look out for?"
"Nope. Not a mechanical engineer."
"...Well, I used to read some books on architecture of that era. If the town is that big, it should have large underground structures, maybe even a subway. However, places with underground cavities are more likely to collapse, especially if the foundation got torn up like that."
"So the only option is to climb down, after all?"

You look around and move up and down a little, analyzing the buildings.

"Nnot necessarily. This skyscraper here... it's still intact - at least the foundation is."
"And you think there's a basement below?"
"A building that size often has one or two levels below ground. I... can't see an exit below, but most of it is obscured. I just hope I can find some access down below somehow."

You circle the building to look for an easy way in - in this state, you want to disturb as little of the structure as possible - and eventually spot a glass front that has been smashed almost entirely open. The wide entrance gives you a chance to scope out the inside without having to enter the hall. The floor is littered with remnants of furniture, one of the corners has collapsed and there even is half a car that somehow ended up in the middle of the room, but aside from that, it looks fairly safe. Still, you don't trust the integrity of the floor and you still can't see a way down, so you gingerly step into the building as close to the outer walls as possible. You shift your weight onto the first tile under the roof... and it looks good. There's a good amount of crunching from stepping on the glass shards and other bits covering the floor, but nothing is moving. Your next few steps aren't any faster - at this point you're being far more careful than you ever were on your dives, but this is a very different ballpark.

"If you keep up this pace, the council's gonna end the dispute before you get t'the signal, y'know."

Dr. Nevada's sudden comment catches you off guard, and you almost jump.

"I'm just being careful! Better late and in one piece than not at all!"

You know you're right, but that comment is motivating to move a little faster regardless. You circle half of the hall and spot a short hallway lined with metallic doors - bingo.

"I found the elevators."
"I... don't think they're going to work anymore, Sergey."
"I know that! But there could be a maintenance ladder in the shaft."


There are three shafts, but they are all closed and you don't want to use too much force prying them open. The first one... jammed for good, must have gotten damaged. The second one opens a little, but you see the elevator - no getting around that. You check the third, and no elevator in sight! With some effort, you carefully push the double doors apart, getting them to stay open. Pointing your gun down, you see that the shaft continues down a few floors - bingo. You also found the elevator: smashed at the bottom of the shaft. After noticing the ladder to your immediate left, you give it a few experimental kicks and shakes. There's some creaking, but it seems sound enough, so you decide to climb down, but not before tossing a runestone down the shaft. The stone impacts with a satisfying CLANG that reverberates along the whole shaft, and a soft blue glow illuminates the surroundings.

"These stones are really useful. I had to make due with flashlights and lanterns myself."
"The council has it's advantages, doesn't it? These are very popular for placing waypoints, signals or breadcrumbs."

As your entire weight is being supported by the ladder, the creaks of the ladder echo along the long walls. You count to five to make sure it isn't budging, and begin your descent. The sweat on your palms mixes with the layer of dust resting on the sprues and after advancing a few steps, but you ignore it. The door of the next floor comes into view, but you want to get as far below as possible to clear the drop. Since the door is halfway open, you can't help but peek into the floor anyway. You can't see much besides a hallway, but it looks like it's in better shape than the first floor. There still is some furniture lying around: chairs, shards of pottery, and... is that a rat?
As soon as you turn to fully shine the light on what you thought is a patch of fur, it moves out of the way so fast you can't tell where it went. A second later, a sharp gust of air coming from the door blasts you in the face! You almost lose your balance, but barely manage to hold on.

"What the hell was that!?"
"What happened? Are you okay?"
"I- I thought I saw a cat or something, but I think it jumped out of the way when I tried to get a good look at it. Then there was this blast of air, and... Did you see that?"
"If you're talking about what's past the wall, I can't really see anything from here. You'd have to go through it for us to see."
"No, it definitely wasn't an animal - and if that's the case, I don't want any unnecessary encounters."

Agility Check passed![\spoiler]


You continue to make your way down, this time grabbing the sprues even tighter. The ladder continues, but you've made it to the end - below you are the shattered remains of the elevator, blocking the way to the last floor. You pry open the door - with a bit more effort than last time - and step through it, finally making it onto terra firma. The room here was never intended to be as welcoming as the entrance hall - tight corridors and plain brick walls suggest that this floor wasn't meant to be seen by many people. Pulling out the GPS, you orient yourself towards the signal and start moving forward. You notice that the symbol in the corner has one less bar - Dr. Nevada mentioned that this means that the connection is getting worse. After navigating some of the hallway, you decide to calm your nerves with a light conversation.

"I just noticed. I haven't seen any human remains so far. There's no way this city was successfully evacuated 100%, right? Can you just make them all vanish like that?"
"Guess if you're powerful enough. Easier explanation would be that tons of weak of monsters ate 'em all. Probably been down there for a while now, after all."
"So how did this place get sunk into the ground anyway? You said the dragons were behind this?"
"Yes. Accounts are fuzzy because Arcadia conquered this territory long after it must have happened - which was in 66, by the way. However, the latest record that confirms the city still standing our council could verify was way back in 15, so it could have happened in a span of over half a decade."
"What and how were they fighting that they'd flatten an entire city? Did they wipe out an strategically significant base? Or did they run this city and demolish it in a last-ditch effort?"
"I can't say for certain, but I think it's neither. What you're looking at is what happens when the Children of Gaia win."
"What do you mean?"
"Above all else, the Gaians loathe technology. They see any structures as a cancer, waiting to get cut out. This town could never have seen conflict, for all we know - just its existence was enough for the dragon lords to wipe it from the map."
"From what I heard, these guys'll look at you funny if you show up with a wheelbarrow. This's totally up their alley. The fact they just shov'd millions of tons of toxic metals and undegradable materials doesn't seem t'bother 'em, tho."
"Wow... Apparently, my hometown used to be part of Gaia, but I always remember having access to stuff like artificial lights and running water."


"That's 'cause it became our tributary town before you were born. The council likes to send new settlements at spicy Gaian borders care packages with plumbing, to convince 'em to not switch teams."
"That, and your region is a bit of a special case. Because of the terrain, surrounding territory and relatively frequent psychic storms, it generally doesn't pay to have a strong influence there, so your town probably adapted to technology pretty quickly. If you built a pipeline in a newly conquered Gaian settlement that's been very entrenched in their beliefs, it would take months, if not years to get them to stop destroying them over night.
"That sounds pretty awful. I wish I could see all the big cities they razed to the ground."
"Well you're lookin' at one now. N' from here, it doesn't look that impressive."

The hallways are winding, narrow and damp, but thanks to the GPS, you think you are on the right track. You keep checking your ODAR for activity, but in these tight corridors, the effective range of the device is almost zero. You likewise don't see anything that could be a monster either - just some rats, bats and a whole lot of insects scurrying along the walls and floors. After a good 20 minutes of walking you spot a caved in section in the corner. You noticed a while ago that the GPS seems to have a function that traces the path you've already walked, which is now coming in handy. Judging from where you currently are in relation to some previous waypoints, you have a good feeling that you are as close to the edge of the cliff as you can get. You start moving the rubble and debris aside - first small and loose pieces, then you move on to bigger chunks that don't upset the balance of the collapsed wall too much. Eventually, as you pull out a block of concrete loosely still attached to some rebar, you see another piece of rubble in the wall falling towards the other side of the wall... and leaving the sound of two pieces of concrete banging on each other behind. Could it be? You grab the longest piece of rebar you've found and drive it through the hole, feeling no resistance. You can't see very well, but you might actually have broken through the outer wall! You spend the next 15 minutes carefully shearing the rebar against the hole, slowly but surely widening it with every few strokes. After the final stab seems to finally have made the gap big enough, you back up several steps and wait a few minutes for any movement, anything that could indicate a collapse...

Perception Check passed![\spoiler]


Nothing. Looks good! You take off your shotgun and backpack, carefully guiding them through the wall first. You might barely fit through the hole, but with the backpack you certainly wouldn't be able to make it through. As you clear the hole, you immediately duck behind a large chunk of road and put your gear back on. Only then do you scan your new surroundings: For the first time since you've entered the tower, you can't see the ceiling again. You made it out! Looking back to see if you've actually made it down the drop, you see a sheer wall of sediment, concrete and glass rising multiple floors above you and teetering carefully on the precipice. When you consider that you've just messed with incredibly delicate and enormous balancing act, you begin feeling dizzy and back away from the skyscraper.
You continue making your way towards the signal and merge back into a street. Judging from the line of houses with one large display after the next, you assume you're in some sort of commercial district. You stay on the lookout for any suspicious movement - you are so focused on registering motion, that you almost miss it.

Perception Check passed![\spoiler]


"Look at that! Are you seeing this?"

You point your gun at a lamppost. Despite being the first one you've seen still in one piece, the base of it is covered in countless of fine but long and deep cuts, all horizontal but none at or above knee height.

"Do you think these were made when the place was destroyed? It doesn't look like damage you'd get from a car crash or an animal."

Dr. Nevada sounds excited - at least, for her standards.

"Oh, I think I know this. The fur, the wind, the cuts, it's- what's it call'd? It's definitely a beast, not a big one tho."
"Well do you know anything else ab-"
"Kamazuchi! No, shit, Kamaitachi! That's the fucker."
"...Well do you know anything about them?"
"Number one, they're stupid fast."
"I gathered that already."
"Shut up. They're also suppos'd to have blades for feet."
"Blades for feet? How's that supposed to work?"
"I dunno, could be a big nail or somethin'. Anyway, they naturally got weather manipulation techniques, which they use to get around. So they fly in low, cut your legs n' bail. Rinse n' repeat until your skull hits the pavement and they eat your head."
"Sounds... great. Any idea how to deal with them?"
"Not a fighter. Gwynn?"
"Well, I haven't ever come across these, but from what I am hearing, you might want to look for high spots and open areas. Rooftops or plazas, maybe? Their hit-and-run tactics will be severely crippled if you can see them coming and going. Of course, that will leave you open for any other predators, as well."
"If they are light enough t'move that fast by wind, they gotta be pretty frail. I don't know how much they hurt, but if you can deal with some cuts n' get a shot in it could be over fast."
"Ideally I'd prefer to attract no attention. Do you know if there's a subway system? Maybe some parts are still intact."
"Not sure, but I think so. I can check. Why, aren't you underground enough?"
"Well, I'd like to keep my options open."
"Just remember to prepare whatever you have planned. If these beasts are as fast as Lady Doctor Nevada and you say they are, you probably will only have barely enough time to react if you get ambushed.

> Spent 1 Runestone (9 left)

>What will you do?
Shit, fucked up the spoiler tag on all of them.

I wish these were shorter but I'm having more fun writing these than I thought.
The flash bomb is an obvious solution but we only have one.

>Move near walls with an eye on the ODAR and prepare to dodge or clothesline with a shell

I'm suggesting this as we get a warning and depending on the Wind rats angle of attack it might hit a wall or other debris giving us the chance to club/shoot it while it's down
Yokel vs. Yokai, who will win?
I'll second >>5370778, if we can find a wall to creep along around here we could keep a good field of view while still having at least a little bit of cover. Ducking into the subway is tempting but I don't wanna keep getting pushed off track by every sign of wildlife, and there could be worse stuff down there...
as far as additional planning, maybe them flying with the wind would make a distinctive sound? The air is probably pretty still down here normally, so it might be something noticeable if we keep our ears open.
was also about to suggest limiting radio talk while we deal with this to be able to hear better, but I don't think that would stop the doctor from chatting...
Might want to keep the combat Knife handy in case of any emergency parrying, assuming it doesn't just shear through the steel. But yes, for a hit-and-run blitz opponent, reducing the angles of attack open to it is for the best. Stick close to walls and avoid open areas.

Also just noticed we only have 1 ration. Why did we only pack enough food for 1 meal?


You hurry towards the nearest wall, keeping an eye on the floor.

"Okay, I got a plan. Dr. Nevada, Dame Gwynn, I'm going to need both ears for this one. If you want to tell me something, now would be the time."
"Wait, when are you going to plug the earpiece back in, then?"
"I... haven't thought about that. After I kill it? But then I might never see one, and there could be more..."
"In that case, report back in 30 minutes. The GPS has a clock, use that to check. If you're unable to answer because you're busy fighting we'll be able to tell, but I want to keep each other updated."
"Understood. I'll try to be there on time."

You take a look at the GPS... 15:04, and you're just a bit over 600 meters away from the target location. Next, you pull out the earpiece and slide it in a breast pocket underneath your armor. Standing perfectly still, you then focus on the noises around you to try to get a sense of all the sounds currently in your surrounding. The slow creaking of a girder. The echo of droplets landing on a sheet of metal. Soft humming? Either that, or it's tinnitus. In any case, now that you have a sense for the background noise, you are poised to pick up anything out of the ordinary - a high-pitched howling of the wind, maybe, or the fluttering of a wi- well, blade? You make your first step... And are confronted with an immediate flaw in your strategy. The shards of the displays, almost all of which have long been shattered, are scattered along the path, especially the sides. If you want to hear this bastard coming, you are going to have to take your time. You peek up and down the road and check the GPS one more time to make sure you are moving in the right direction. You disable the safety of your gun, make sure it is loaded and rest the barrel on your left lower arm, in which you are gripping the ODAR. Feeling as prepared as you can get, you advance.


You are moving painfully slow - after each step, you pause to let the crunching of the glass die down and give yourself a chance to listen for changes in the air. How long must it have been? 15 minutes? 20? 30? You slowly reach for the GPS and throw quick glances at the display. Since you aren't on a direct path, you haven't even closed 200 meters, but it's getting close to half past 3. Should you check back in early? You feel like something is going to jump at you any second. You don't want to leave the others hanging, but you're worried that you are going to get attacked while you are fidgeting with the earpiece. You take another step, CRUNCH, and- Wait, a flash! It immediately disappeared, but you definitely saw the ODAR light up! You drop the ODAR, letting it dangle on the short string you attached to your torso and wave your gun in the direction of where you thought you saw the blip. Nothing. To make matters worse, you didn't hear anything - at least you think you didn't hear anything. Can these things move without making a sound? It certainly made noise when you saw one back in the elevator shaft, but you did stand right in the backdraft.

Perception Check passed!


Then, you hear it. A soft whistling behind you! You whip around, finger on the trigger, and spot a dark smear zooming slightly above the floor. Without thinking, you pull the trigger. The booming shot echoes throughout the street, throwing decade old dirt and debris flying. Did you get it? You feel a rush of air rustling your pants, followed by an immediate pain in your right leg. You swing around and try to track the beast. You can see it slipping between two buildings, but looks a bit slower than before. There's also a trail of blood behind it! You definitely hit it. Still, it must have gotten you good as well, because you can feel the pain pulsing with your heartbeat, in spite of the shock and adrenaline.
You grit your teeth and run for the gap the monster slipped into. As you shine a light down the alley, you get a good look of your attacker. It looks similar to a weasel, but it's the size of a dog, and bulkier. A sleek white and brown coat is stained with the blood leaking out of a wound going from the front shoulder all the way to the middle of its torso. And most noticeably, it is shakily balancing on long and sharp blades that shine like silver and curve like a sickle. It is panting heavily, but its sneer on its face is telling you it isn't done yet. You waste no time taking aim again and pull, but with a sudden burst of speed, the beast slips under your shot and comes flying towards you. This time however you are prepared, and the wounds must have taken their toll on the thing.
You jump to the side, making sure to maintain line of sight. As you land with your injured leg, the pain shoots throughout your whole lower body, forcing you to your knees. The overgrown weasel isn't doing much better, attempting to turn on a dime but dropping just next to you. You freeze for a second as you watch it trying to get back on its feet, and decide to finish it before it can do anything else. You pull out the knife strapped to your leg and plunge it into its body. The knife cuts through the neck, tearing muscle and sinew. With a final gurgle, the last bit of life leaves the monster, and you let out a deep breath.
You sit back up and lean your head against the cold wall and check your injury. Your pants aren't stained with blood? There's a big gash in it and your leg still hurts, so you definitely got hurt, but as you take a look at your skin peeking out of the torn pantleg, you don't see anything, neither blood nor a cut. As you run your fingers along your leg, you feel a small gap on your calf. It hurts, but can pull it apart, revealing a deep gash that almost runs across half your leg. While you can see the exposed muscle, no blood is leaking out. What the hell? You fish out the earpiece and put it back in.


"-rgey? Sergey, can you hear me?"
"Y-yes, I can now."
"We saw you shoot and kill the kamaitachi! Did you get injured?"
"I- I think I did, but it's weird. There's a cut, and it hurts, but there's no blood."
"These guys are s'ppos'd t'do that. Folklore used t'say they cut so fine you there's no wound, but I guess it's some kinda biomancy to keep the cut from bleedin'. Try scratchin' it, I wanna know if it opens."
"...Sorry, Dr. Nevada, but- I'd rather not risk it. Does that mean I'm not actually hurt?"
"Nah, you definitely are. Your muscles still got cut, and your orgone field might've gotten nicked."
"That can- Ah, that stings - can happen too?"
"Your orgone field is intrinsically linked to your soul, and most psychic attacks target it to injure without harming the body. Can you keep going?"
"That would have been handy a minute ago. Yes, I should be able too - I think the pain is subsiding already."
"Good, then run. You need to stay on the move, now."
"Why? I won't be able to hear them co-"
"Your shot gave away your position to anything, and anyone that could be down here. If something is big enough to not be bothered with a noise like that, you do not want it finding you."
"U-understood. Running, now."

You start to move quickly down the street, but still slow enough to preserve stamina and keep your shotgun somewhat steady. Still, your rapid steps fill your ears with the crunching of the rubble beneath your feet, so you just will have to accept the risk of getting ambushed. After 2-3 minutes of this pace, taking twist and turns, Gwynn speaks up again.

"Okay, you should've gotten enough distance from the site for now. You can slow down now."
"Hah, finally. At least there weren't any other beasts around."
"Maybe they were hiding from somethin' larger."
"Do you really think there's something bigger down here? Wouldn't that just starve without people?"
"If there's enough smaller monsters, they could sustain a large one."
"But I thought monsters can only eat from humans!"
"Correction, monsters can only survive consumin' orgone. Humans're just the best source of the stuff. Why'd you think monsters need it?"
"Well I heard that they need it to survive in this plane, right?"
"That's just rephrasin' the question. What makes orgone necessary for their survival?"

You stop your careful walk to ponder the question.


"I... I never really thought about it. Something to do with psychic energy?"
"It's 'cause they're made of orgone. A monster can eat the orgone of another monster. There's some caveats, but with enough prey, even big guys can stay 'round for a long time without feedin' off a human orgone field."
"Wow, I... I didn't know that was possible. Does that happen often?"
"Depends on where you're at, but not here as far as I know. Generally kept hush hush t'not give humans any funny ideas."

You continue navigating through the rubble and observe the many different types of buildings and methods of transport. It's a shame you're only here for one specific thing, if this place is truly untouched as it supposedly is, there must be a lot of stuff in here that would blow anything you ever recovered out of the water. You hear Dr. Nevada's voice again.

"Startin' to pick up some ambient noise on the scanner, kid. Doesn't mean much, but it's somethin'. How's the GPS looking?"
"According to this... Still 257- no wait, 252 meters. Is it getting less accurate?"
"Probably refreshin' less and less due t'packet loss. Accuracy's probably getting worse too. The target's also a rough estimate, so this thing is startin' to get useless. God, I hope the scanner goes off before that thing completely goes in the shitter. You see somethin' that looks like highly experimental magitech yet?"
"Well, actually, I don't see much of anything. I just walked into some pretty massive chunks of concrete - they don't look like pieces from the ground."
"The scrying image is wearing off. Are they from a building?"
"Nnno, they don't match any of the constructions I see here. It's too thick for any walls, even an outer wall. But these seem to be going on forever, both left and right! I can't see where they end ahead of me, either! Is this the edge of the city?"
"You mentioned a commercial district, right? Those usually are located fairly center, at least, according to Arcadian city planning principles."

You peer into the darkness, trying to make out anything familiar that could tell you more about your position.

Perception Test failed!


"You're probably right. I think I can climb over them, but from here, I can't see far enough to know what's ahead. Dr. Nevada, do you have a map of this place? Does anything look like something these boulders could belong to?"
"Found a city map all the way back from 12 BD. Don't know where you're at, but I'm not seein' anythin' weird, so they probably built somethin' till then."
"The question is, who?"
"I don't think that matters anymore. For now, all I know the orgone signal is coming from there. I really hope the target isn't buried beneath all of this mess."
"It just keeps going to the sides too, right? Maybe there's some other way around?"

You carefully weigh your options. From where you are standing, this sea of massive rubble continues at least for the next 100 feet outwards. These aren't rocks from the terrain the city collapsed in, so they had to come from some structure - but you can't see it from here. Is it better to go ahead and try climbing through the rubble? Or run parallel until you get to the end of this? Maybe there's another way past it...

> Spent 2 Shot Shells (8 left)
> Down to 8/10 HP

> What will you do?
>Run parallel until you get to the end of this.
I dunno what else to do, really. Heading straight through the rubble sounds like a bad idea.
>move parallel to the rubble
Yeah, I have no clue what the concrete chunks are, so I'm drawing a blank about what the third option could be. May as well keep a healthy fear of the unknown going for now.
I'm probably failing at it, but I'm not trying to list off a set number of choices and expect the readers to pick one for these. If you have a novel approach, feel free to post it.
Not to discourage your choice, I just wanted to make that clear.
Yeah, but I've just got no idea how to progress from here. Sorry, but a bit more handholding might be necessary.
oh yeah, I just meant that I couldnt think of a good plan besides what the protag was thinking at the end there
Hmm could it be that the target is encased in a concrete sarcophagus? What exactly are we looking for? Is the concrete wall smooth/not weathered by age? If it is what I think it is could this be here to contain the harmful energies that could emanate from the object? Nevada said its psychic or something.
also should have said "a third option" instead of "the third option", bad phrasing on my part
Some sections of the rubble still look fairly smooth, or at least used to smooth before it naturally deteriorated. They all seem to be made of the same material, however.


"Even if I can get through this obstacle course, I'll be at a complete disadvantage against anything that could navigate it better. This can't go on forever, so I'll try circling around."
"As long as you keep your eyes peeled. That kamaitachi couldn't possibly have been the only thing down there."

You take a right and move along the rubble. After about 10 seconds, you second-guess yourself and scurry down the other way instead - you might have just missed a way through! However, this doesn't turn out to be the case as you continue at a slow pace for another 2 minutes.

Stealth Test passed!

This time, the ODAR actually comes in handy, as it detects another one of those sickle weasels before you can see them - fortunately, by hiding in the chunks of concrete, you manage to sneak past it. Moving on, you eventually spot some patterns on the ground that seem - unusual. After checking your flanks, you approach it and see that it appears to to be a round-ish indent in the asphalt of the road, almost as if someone repeatedly hit it with a big sledgehammer. It's a little over 2 feet in diameter and- wait, there's more of them! You illuminate the street away from the concrete rubble and see that this mark repeats over and over again, equally spaced, and fairly straight. Footprint? No, these aren't alternating - unless something was making a big effort keeping their feet in a straight line.

"Dr. Nevada, Dame Gwynn, can I get a second opinion? This mark here... it keeps going down the street... almost like a footprint."
"Might just be. How far apart?"
"I'm guessing around 6 feet... so 2 meters? Maybe less?"
"That sounds pretty big. Do you see any other signs? If this really is a monster this big, there could be other tracks like standing building with scratch marks or other unusual patterns."

Perception Test failed!

"...No... But here's the thing, the prints are perfectly straight; no left-and-right pattern. Is there a monster that makes these tracks?"
"Probably. There's tons of weird stuff, but we don't know 'bout most of 'em. Since clades usually associate with factions, n' those don't intermingle."
"I should have guessed..."

You look back, and you notice that the marks (or are they prints?) continue through the bed of rubble - whatever left those marks, it crushed the chunks of concrete into fine debris, leaving flat patches behind! You stand inside one to give the others a view.


"Woah, these marks continue through the rubble as well! Whatever left these just crushed everything into a paste!"
"I know it's not completely clear, but do you think you could use that trail to move ahead?"
"There's still a good bit in the way-", you leave the trail and take cover next to a nearby building, "but yes, it should at least go a lot smoother. But if I run into whatever left these, I'm dead!"
"Maybe these were left a long time ago and the creature responsible is gone now?"

Dr. Nevada interrupts.

"Okay, some scenarios.
Number one, the monster's gone. Could have left before or after this place got leveled, but we don't have to worry 'bout it anymore."
Number two, the monster moves back n' forth, but makes wide rounds - that's why we've only seen one of these trails. Chance you run into one's low.
Number three, again the back n' forth, but it takes the exact same path and traces the steps perfectly. Some animals can do that, but those're usually prey.
Number four, the thing moved once n' never again. We might have pass'd it or it could be just ahead, but in either case the path's clear.
And number five, a giant ship's wheel roll'd through here and left these marks. That one's bullshit."

"And which one do you think are we dealing with here?"
"Optimist here, so I say number one."
"...I'd hate to find out the hard way. Do you have any other ideas?"
"It's always possible to keep circling, but you should start considering the time. Does it look like you're getting any closer on the GPS?"

You turn on the display. It's 4:30 already? To make matters worse, you're actually even further away from the target destination. Your throat has been feeling dry for a while now, so you retrieve a canteen from your backpack and drink take a few swigs.

"Actually, I'm even further away by now."
"Get your shit together. We're not riskin' our necks for you t'take underground walks."
"I'm sorry, Dr. Nevada, but I'm not doing this on purpose. If I can't confirm safe passage, I'll put myself in serious risk!"
"Fine. You've seen a subway station anywhere? Manholes? You should be able to cross this garbage from below."
"I don't think I saw any... Can you check the map?"
"Still no idea where you're at. Got any street names?"
"None visible here... They could have been worn down. I could look for some. Or point out some landmarks?"
"That's gonna take forever..."
"We might not have any other options here."
"What're you talking 'bout? You can just go straight 'cross. You did fine against the kamaitachi, didn't you?"
"Dr. Nevada, I don't think it's fair to compare the two - I was in a much better position, and we're dealing with something that takes 2 meter steps here..."

> What will you do?
It's highly unlikely that this is an animal's tracks, considering the fact that we're apparently underground. Plus, depending on how closely orgone stuff translates to real-life biology, anything that big would need to consume incredible amounts in order to survive. This (plus the failed check and the comment on how oddly regular the steps are) makes me think it's something else.

How sci-fi is the setting, QM? Did mankind reach a level where they could produce mecha/robots before they lost?
From what Sergey knows, he hasn't come across any references of mechas or large robots, books or otherwise. Then again, his knowledge is very lopsided since most of his education was books he got from friends and travelling merchants.
>Follow the trail
I'm sure it'll be fine.

You make a good point but it could also be that either someone is feeding it or it's feeding off of the psychic anomaly we're after. Let's hope it was just an old human mech hopping along on one leg at some point in the very distant past.
>Follow the trail
even if whatever made it is still prowling around, the weird concrete provides plenty of cover for us to hide if we hear heavy movement around


"This is the best opportunity to advance I've seen so far, and it might be abandoned. I'll have to risk it."

You put away your canteen, check your surroundings one last time and approach the trail. There still is plenty of debris left between each mark, but it usually is at waist-height, so you have a much easier time traversing the hurdles. The path continues to the point where the remains of the buildings behind you vanish in the dark, and you remain vigilant - this terrain might be too difficult for the flying weasels to launch ambushes, but there could be other things lurking between the concrete chunks. Occasionally sweeping the horizon to see any change in scenery, you slowly start to make out something in the distance - something big, and something reflective. Quickening your steps, your light illuminates more and more of the object, until you are close enough to see it: an enormous mass of metal, molten and solidified like molasses until it settled in a shape that looks somewhat like a cascading pillar that got smushed to the ground. The base is encased with a massive block of concrete - possibly the same you've been climbing through - that has been torn apart several feet of the ground. The path continues just past the chunk of metal, where the concrete façade had been particularly wiped away.

"I think I know where all this rubble is coming from. I think it's- it's a massive wall."
"What? With that amount of material, the wall would have to be massive! Are you sure?"
"Not completely, but there's what looks like an enormous steel girder sticking out of it. It's been molten down to a heap! What could have done that?"
"Fire, induction,... Plenty of ways t'skin a cat. Could've been a dragon."
"Is it a defensive structure for fortification, or an outer wall of a larger building?"
"I can't really tell from here, it-"


You perk up. Did you imagine that?


There it was again! A soft thumping can be heard from all directions - making the source hard to pin down. You slowly move on, keeping your eyes fixed on the ODAR.



Like clockwork, the noises ring out with the same interval between them; just a bit over a second. It's not getting louder, is it?


It is getting louder. And as less and less of the echo makes up the brunt of the noise, you can tell it's behind you.

"What's wrong?"
"Something's coming! Probably whatever made this trail!", you whisper.
"Ah, so it's still 'round."
"Do you see and end to the trail? Can you make it?"

You climb one of the hurdles and try your best spotting something past the inky black.

Perception Check passed!

The rubble ends a bit past the wall! And you think you can spot hints of another structure behind that! You think of the best course of action. The end is still something around 200 feet away from you - around the same distance you've traveled through the path already. If you run, you might be able to make it to the end and find a safe spot - if you can make it, and whatever is coming isn't going to speed up. You could also use the time to take cover and hide between the debris off to the side. You are not even sure if whatever is coming is even capable of spotting you, but if it can and will, you'd be an easy target.



>What will you do?
dang, the end is so close, but I don't want to run into the unknown especially when it might reveal us to whatever is behind us
>hide behind the debris to the side
Hide hide hide. Starting to think there might be some merit to my "abandoned robot" theory.


Even if you got to the end, there's no knowing what's ahead. You're dead if this doesn't work, but you *have* to take all the time you can now get to hide. You sling your shotgun over your shoulder and scale a sizeable chunk of concrete.



You balance across a few boulders to look for an ideal hiding spot. There are some gaps in which you could squeeze into, but you skip them for now. As little chance as you have, you still want *some* means to escape, should your attempt to slip past not work - but with each passing second, being picky becomes more and more of an unhealthy habit.


There! You hop down to a section that lets you completely obscure your body and give you a bit room to quickly get back up. You slide behind cover, immediately turn off your flashlight and still your breath. Now there's nothing left to do but wait for the stomps to pass...


You feel as though needles are shooting up your scalp as you realize that for the first time since the thundering metronome started, it has skipped a beat. Why did it stop? Did it even stop, or is it suddenly moving silently? Did it spot you? Were you too slow? Should you have taken the first good spot you came across?



There it is again! Why did it stop? It... it still is getting louder. You check your ODAR, covering the screen to shield the soft light it emits, but you see nothing. So is this not a monster after all? Or is the rubble blocking the sensor? You can't help but cast doubt on your hiding spot. Should you hedge your bets and start running? No, you decide, you didn't get caught yet. You couldn't possibly be.



The violent thump has become louder as ever - you feel the vibrations in the air, in the floor. Still, in this darkness, you are unable to make anything out, even if you weren't hiding behind a concrete boulder right now. You are certain that the next impact could very well land on you. But you might never know whether at this moment, you refused to run because you knew you were safe here, or because you were too scared to move.


Stealth Check passed!




Are you hearing this right? It actually - it actually is getting quieter! You can tell that the noise is getting softer. Still too tense to relax, you stay put until you're sure you're in the clear.



While the sounds are as persistent as ever, you breathe a massive sigh of relief and you could swear your heart resumes beating only now. You continue to listen to the echoing stomps, which are far more relaxing now that they are getting quieter.

"I think... I think it's gone."
"Are you sure? Did you manage to get a visual? The scrying badge cut off while you were moving through the trail." You can hear some noise in the background, like the sizzling of butter in a hot pan - strange.
"It passed me, but I didn't see anything. I didn't want to risk getting caught by peeking or shining a light at it."
"Don't move just yet. Wait a while, then go ahead, preferably with as little light as possible."
"Alright. I'll- I'll catch my breath."

The loud stomping must have left your earshot a minute ago by now, and there seems to be no indication of it returning. You turn the flashlight on your chest to its lowest setting and return to the trail. As you grip the first chunk in your way, however, you feel something wet and slimy. You immediately pull back your hand and look at it. In the close light, a clear liquid with viscosity similar to smooth honey can be seen shimmering on your palm. More worried about ill effects than disgusted, you quickly wipe it off on your pants and check your palm again for any signs of swelling or other conditions. Luckily, nothing seems to come from it, and since you don't want to take any chances staying longer on this trail than necessary, you move on, avoiding the slimy stain to the best of your ability. Curiously, these stains can be found along the whole trail going forward - did whatever passed you leak something? No matter, that thing isn't here anymore. You marvel at the enormous molten clump of iron just a stone's throw away from you as you pass it, and you finally make it to the other side.
You turn the light on your shotgun back on and take in the surroundings. The architecture has completely changed! The decorative and colorful facades with large windows and tiled roofs have all been replaced by blocky structures made of grey concrete and tiny looking slits as the only way for light to pass through. The only hint of color seems to be splashes of paint on some of the walls. You think you read about this... Graffiti? The buildings are broken all the same, but the stark contrast makes you think that a completely different city was shoved right next to the previous one. There still is plenty of debris littering the streets, but you actually can walk on flat, solid ground now. You step close to a building close to you for Gwynn and Dr. Nevada to see.


"Look at that! The buildings are completely different!"
"We still can't see anything, Sergey. And we won't be able to until I can touch it to reconnect again."
"Ah, sorry, I forgot. Anyway, these buildings just look like big blocks of concrete with some holes in them. Are they on the map?"

"No idea, but that giant fuck-off wall wasn't there either. I'm guessing no."

The buildings are all neatly lined up. You glance over some of the fronts and see that the entrances are much bigger than a regular door - possibly twice the size.

"I- I don't think these were designed for people. All the doors are, like, 3 or 4 meters high."
"Or at least designed for not just people. Lady Doctor Nevada, do you know any faction with architecture like that?"
"Never seen these before, but I'm not a tourist type. ---sn't Gaia tho, for obvious reasons."
"Dr. Nevada? I'm having trouble understanding you. There was some noise at the end."
"Shit! The signal's gettin' worse! Check your GPS."

You pull out your GPS and turn it on. You're still over 200 meters away? No, wait, you've gone much further than this!

"I think it's broken? It stopped showing me where I am!"
"It stopp'd updatin', probably all that steel and concrete in the way. I can forget my stream of the scanner then, too."
"Now what? My scanner still isn't reacting!"
"---calm, Sergey. You'll have to continue without the GPS, then. Can you see any landmarks or signage that could help you? Maybe the signal is coming from something appropriate, like a laboratory, or a military facility."

Perception Test passed!


You look around, searching for either a notable structure, or some form of directions. You look over rocks, rebar, wrecked vehicles - until you spot a metal plate. A metal plate with engravings in it! Within seconds, you're dusting it off, examining the engravings. It definitely got banged up bad and detached from wherever, but given the weight and lack of rust, it seems like it is made of steel. You look over the characters from the top - and don't recognize any of them, outside of simple iconography like arrows. Some different language? But as you look a bit further down, you see that this sign has also been engraved with English text! It seems like these are directions... You are currently standing in 'residential area 27', and to your right should be the main plaza. The only other noteworthy place seems to be something called 'church' further up ahead, and the rest is pointing to other residential areas. W-


Shit, that thing! You completely forgot about it. You check the floor and begin to see the pattern of stomps again - this time leading to the direction the main plaza is supposed to be in. Whether it actually is there is hard to tell - the smooth walls reflect sounds in all directions, making locating sources from a distance near impossible. You quickly take cover behind a building. Is it coming back?



You wait a few thuds, and conclude that the noises aren't getting any louder - not only that, but they seem to pause more frequently this time. Before you decide on where to go from here, you check back in as long as you still have the chance.

"Dame Gwynn, I have a question. Do you know what a 'church' is?"
"A church? I think I remember this from enemy intel. It's a... a building of high tactical significance to the Order of Elysium, I think. I've only been to one mission in Elysium territory, but supposedly there's one in every settlement. ---t, Lady Doctor Nevada?"
"Uh, yeah, I think that's what they call 'em."
"So this is angel architecture? Did they occupy this city?"
"I'm not sure... Like I said, I've only been to an Elysium city once - but none of the buildings looked like you've described."
"Could the thing I'm looking for be in a church?"
"I don't remember seeing any great technology in the one I've breached... Ho--- Order of Eylsium should be well below the scientific prowess of the Principality of Arcadia, really."
"Doesn't mean it couldn't have been mov'd tho. Just watch your ass, I don't want you t'eat shit until you at least describe that thing t'me."

> What will you do?
>"Your concern is appreciated, Doctor. If only you were as nice as Dame Gwynn."
>Keep note of that fact. Try not to describe everything to them right away if you do find the item; that way they have a reason to pull you through the metaphorical fire instead of just cutting you loose.
>Go for the church. If whatever you're looking isn't there, head to the main plaza.
This minus >"Your concern is appreciated, Doctor. If only you were as nice as Dame Gwynn."
Lets just keep our mouth shut and get on with the job


Dr. Nevada's disregard for your life is getting on your already worn down nerves, but this really isn't the place to snap back at her. You begin moving towards the church and aim your lights low, to avoid flashing signals far down the street. A few minutes later, you encounter a noticeably different building. You can just see the front, and it still is made of massive blocks of concrete, but it looks more elaborate and seemed to have tall windows that have collapsed by now. Left to the entrance you can make out a giant statue of... a man, most likely. Large parts are missing, but the hard edges of the concrete slabs the statue is made of remind you of the legs and torso of a human. On the right, you can see the base of the same statue, but it stops below the knees - the rest has been obliterated. You do notice, however, that more of that graffiti can be found only on the right statue.
You approach the entrance, shoot a glance into the church and see - nothing. Nothing but more piles of rubble, that is. You look to the sides and realize that it's only the front wall that survived the destruction, the rest must have collapsed long ago. Could you squeeze between the concrete boulders and try to find something? Maybe, but you check your scanner - again, no signal. You don't have the time to look for other trinkets, so you turn around - as much as you'd love to find out more about this church, you need a proper lead right now. You're about to leave, when you notice something shining between the debris. You can't reach it unless you get down on your knees, and it weighs a ton, but eventually you manage to fish it out: a slightly translucent crystal shard about the size of your lower arm, almost glowing in a deep turquoise, and with bright flakes twinkling within it. The form is unfamiliar to you, but they closely resemble...

"Dr. Nevada, how are biomarks made?"
"Huh? Why---skin' now?"
"Biomarks are minted by officially licensed monster by compressing orgone into a c---ine form and embedding the feyward emblem in it, to certify it as a coin of the principality. Why do you ask?"
"I found a huge chunk of what looks like the same material as biomarks, but it has no emblem is big enough for, about, 4-5 coins. Can it be mined?"
"---gain? I couldn't catch that."
"Can biomark crystal be- Nevermind! This will have to wait!!"

The noise from the earpiece has gotten really bad by now, you want to get out of here as fast as possible. The crystal would only slow you down, so you have to leave it for now - you at least place it next to the stone it sat under, so it's easier to get it next time. You go down the stairs to the church, reorient yourself and make your way to the plaza. You were a fairly far away from it, but you haven't heard the thumping in a while - did it leave? You hope so.


After a short trek, he narrow alleyway opens to a wide plaza in ruin. You can see simple carvings of sweeping lines in the ground, sticking out between the natural cracks of the disaster that hit this city many years ago. You check the GPS - still nothing. You check the scanner - a signal! A pointer is directing you below, slightly to your left - looks like it's underground, hopefully in the basement of one of these buildings. For now, you move towards the left, keeping your light low. With one eye on the scanner, you examine the engraved lines in the floor. They appear to signal pathways, and... this one has a symbol of a beaker on it! Understanding iconography is an oft overlooked but underappreciated skill in the toolset of a diver, since clear icons can help identify structures using little information. So it's a good thing that you recognize this graphic as a universal symbol for science - possibly a lab, research facility, but definitely something that would contain significant orgone technology! You move with more haste, until you see- blood.
For a city in ruin that possibly housed over a million people at the time of the disaster, a blood-stained floor shouldn't be an uncommon sight. However, this blood is fresh - the bright red stain on the ground glistens with saturated colors, and seemingly has followed the flow of one of the lines when it pooled over the concrete. As you scan the floor ahead and around you, you notice multiple fresh splatters of crimson have seeped into the stone. It's clear that there was some sort of struggle, but you can also see a large trail of blood - possibly wider than you - leading further ahead. Normally, if you were to run into some large threat occupying a ruin, you'd keep a safe distance, observe the movements and wait for it to leave, or even better, move on. Not that you ever got an opportunity to do that, but that's what a diver would do. However, in this case, your resources are severely limited, and you're hard pressed for time. You can't afford to wait for possibly a day, so you need to move now. You turn your lights to the lowest setting, and approach. You start hearing noises; they're hard to make out, but as you silently advance, you identify them. Crunching bone, tearing sinew and the occasional snarl.


As you ever so slowly peek over the remains of a toppled pillar, you see something moving! It's facing away from you, and the light is dim, but you can make out a large mass of thick, unkempt brown fur and something pinkish shifting as it seems to be in the process of devouring something. It's still a good distance from you, but even from here you can tell it is massive, the fur pile could very well be taller than you, and it might not even be upright right now. Unfortunately for you, the beaker line seems to lead directly to what must have once been the laboratory, but now looks like oversized gravel. Still, you can make out an entrance that seems intact. You check the scanner one more time to confirm that the signal is more or less 30 meters below you. A look at the ODAR reveals a faint glow in the direction of the fur pile, confirming that it is a monster, or at least something with an orgone field. You were told the reliable range of this thing is 10 meters, but right now you are about twice that distance away from it - and something is telling you that the sensors of this particular device are above average.
You take cover and assess the situation. For your own safety, you'll assume that this beast will act hostile towards you. That being said, you did throw some light at it and its surroundings, but it didn't react. Is it blind, or was it too distracted to notice? If it has a keen sense of smell, the intense aroma of whatever it is eating is most overpowering your own scent. Can it hear well? You didn't see any ears, but you didn't see anything you could identify as a head either. If it has some other sense it uses for navigation and tracking, you wouldn't be able to determine them. For now, you know that lab or whatever is your best bet to reach the signal, so you have to find a way to get past it, or get rid of it. You grip your shotgun tight to calm your nerves, though you have a feeling a paltry 12-gauge won't do much to harm this monster.
I'm busy for the next 4 days, so I'll only be able to update once a day, most likely.

Another thing I'm wondering about - how's the formatting? Should I add more paragraphs, or is it fine as is?
More paragraphs, please.
>Kill it with fire. Load up some Incendiary Ammo and prep a Flash Bomb before blasting it six ways to Sunday.
I'm fine with either. Assuming we're meant to do something?
>Load up the incendiary ammo just in case but try to sneak past it
We don't have alot of ammo and we still need to get out of the ruins once we've found the anomaly so lets try to avoid fighting if possible.
seconding >>5374277
I'd like for this thing to be dead, but we don't know how long we'll be searching this place, and firing off the gun could bring more beasts around
was also thinking about using our runestones as a distraction we could throw away from us while sneaking. It would be good for animals that would be distracted bright lights showing up, but I don't know if this thing would notice it
Anon, Ammo is the only thing we have a lot of.

> Leroy A7 shotgun (Loaded with x10 Shot Ammo)
> Chest-mounted flashlight
> Gun-mounted flashlight
> Earpiece
> Short-range Scanner
> Drinking water
> Waterproof lighter
> x5 Incendiary Ammo
> x1 Flash Bomb
> Combat Knife
> 50m Rope
> x10 Runestones
> x1 Ration
> x1 Panacea
> x1 Oxygen Tank

9 Runestones and 9 Shot Ammo left since we hit that Kamaitachi. I want to kill it now since it's distracted and we'll probably have to come back this way once we find the signal. If we can do it quickly, it hopefully won't draw too much attention. I guess we could also try to sneak up on it with the knife for a melee kill, but that's way, way, way riskier.
We need to try to save our ammo as much as we can for emergencies and we're better off not fighting at all if we have the option. The whole point of going in with a light load was so we could be quick and quiet after all. Besides, killing it quickly won't make the shotgun any quieter so if we kill it now we might just end up having to deal with another monster on our way back anyways.
You have 8 rounds left in the gun, you shot twice.
Shooting a shotgun could end up being more trouble than it's worth, so you put it back for now. You pull out a runestone from your backpack, taking case not to rustle its contents too much, and carefully approach the beast behind cover. You then squeeze the stone in your hand, and throw it with all your might away from the building. On the first impact with the ground, the beast immediately springs to all fours, and runs towards the increasingly radiant distraction. It seems quite occupied with the stone, so as it is standing in the soft white light, you finally get a good look at the monster.

Stealth Test passed!
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You see a massive beast partially covered in a thick pelt and partially exposed with a taut, dry looking skin tightly encasing bone and sinew. Though canine in its appearance, the skull is flat and almost human-like, with large brows, and seemingly no lips or nose exposing an unsettling facial structure. The eyes appear hollow, the face is covered with drooping flesh and tightly packed wrinkles and on top of the scalp, two massive horns protrude upwards. Adding to the eerie familiarity is the fact that its paws - both front and back - have been replaced with massive, hairy hands. They support the massive weight between the knuckles, but if this monster were to make a fist, it would probably be the size of your head. And while the visible tendons and bones jutting out beneath the skin might give a frail impression, from its impactful movements its clear that the is a lot of power hidden behind the brown tufts of fur.

Wasting no further time, you sneak past the mangled corpse the beast is consuming and enter the building. It seems like the predator has made its home here - a particularly smoothed out corner is littered with long brown furs, and another corner is stacked with a pile of crystals. You immediately recognize the color as the one you saw earlier.

Perception Test failed!


After some scanning, you spot another entrance behind some dented steel frame. You have to duck to move past the debris, but you make it into a hallway that is mostly collapsed. Facing you mounted on the wall, you see a large plate covered in grime. You can make out faint hints of text and diagrams... A floor plan!? You quickly pull out a rag, wet it and start cleaning the plate. After some scrubbing, you can read the writing, assuming it hasn't chipped off by now.

> 4F Appl--d Orgon-m---
> 3F: Experim---al W-aponry
> 2F: -rgone-drive----ans----
> 1F: --counting--Human & -------esource-
> 1B: Cen-----f Pact ----ation
> 2B: Stora--
> 3B: ----ine-e---Proje---------

Looking at the text, you realize that this time, there is only English. Maybe there's supposed to be another plate with the other language you saw earlier? You don't see any here, but it's possible that it got lost. You try contacting Dame Gwynn and Dr. Nevada for an update, but you get no response - in here, your earpiece seems to be completely cut off from the van and the others. In any case, you need to decide where to go from here. Obviously, every floor above the first one is gone, and there might only be a few here that haven't caved in completely. You look for a way down, and spot a stairwell around the corner - seems like that's your way to the basement. You check the Orgone scanner, and see that the signal is still well below you.

> Where will you go?

> To the signal, with no distractions
> (Write-in)
>3F Experimental Weaponry
>2B Storage
Our best bets of getting something we can immediately use. I'm leery of that Perception Check fail.
>Poke around the first floor a bit before heading deeper
Sounds like the building is pretty well covered by rubble, but we may as well see if there's any other exits we could use out of here that won't lead us back through the devil dog thing's den and the kill it was working on
I think all the stuff above the ground floor is wrecked
> Applied Orgonomy
fourth floor? wonder why it's so high
>experimental weaponry
>orgone drive?
>accounting and human resources
obvious, we don't want to go here
>Cen-----f Pact ----ation
pact preparation?
something project.

floor 1 is human resources man, we don't want to loot paperwork

in a perfect world, I would want to go everywhere except the floor we're currently on. as for my vote how about we go to
>experimental weaponry
and from there hit the top floor and see where we're at from there before we go into the basement. I reeeeally want to check out the basement but that monster on the floor we're on is spoopy
> To the signal, with no distractions
It's shame we don't have enough time to explore the place fully. Now lets see what these XCOM motherfuckers were cooking up down there.

>Obviously, every floor above the first one is gone
No plasma rifles or power armor for Sergey.
fugg I missed that
storage first then the bottom floor I guess


You scan the hallway for possible exits, but there seems to be no other way other out - none you could fit through. There is one small gap between collapsed slabs of concrete, but you might be able to widen it like before - if you don't get crushed from the collapsing structure, or alert that beast, that is. For now, you decide to head down what remains of the stairs, occasionally shimmying over missing sections until you reach the second basement level. It seems like the levels below ground (well, more than usual) have sustained less damage, but the shearing of the foundation and tremors still left the only room here in complete disarray. The double door only open after heavy persuasion, and the shelves lay in waste, its contents spilled across the floor.
Most of it seems to be either simple materials such as screws, tools or copper wire, while the rest are boxes and gadgets with unknown purpose - prototypes perhaps, without knowing what they do, you're better off not messing with anything. You check the scanner, and see that the signal is emanating below you still. A shame really, any other day a room like this would blow all of your previous finds out of the water. But while you might very well find something valuable like an antique computer or rare metals, you probably will end up wasting hours sifting through bolts and glass shards. 10 minutes, that's how long you'll allow yourself to skim through the place to find anything valuable.

Perception Result: 5


After 8 minutes of shifting scratched aluminum pipes and cracked plastic shells around, you spot something glinting between the layer of dust. You quickly brush away the filth and pick up a stack of paper-thin wafers with a metallic sheen and yellow tint. The outside is fairly banged up, but the inner sheets are so smooth and polished, you easily blind yourself with your own flashlight. Is this gold?
You've never seen gold in person before, but you have read a book or two depicting the metal. You're not sure how to make sure it really is gold, but you know two things: it looks the part, and is definitely heavier than aluminum foil. At this quantity, it won't get a collector to pay you enough to fund the rest of your life, but if it is the real deal, it certainly is nothing to scoff at. You carefully place it in your backpack and head back out - time to check out the very bottom of this building.
As you make your way down the last set of stairs, you notice two things. One, this level seems to be much deeper than you'd expect, meaning it either has very high ceilings, or very thick walls. And two, as expected, your relative height to the signal is decreasing more and more until it levels off as you reach the bottom - you finally made it. You're standing in a small chamber with a tall doorframe, holding a solid metal door. The door looks like the kind of thing you wouldn't be able to open with either the right key or an obscene amount of firepower, but it seems like neither will be necessary. The shearing at this depth seems to have been much more severe, and the large door has been ripped from the frame from the immense seismic forces. It still is being held in place, but the slanted doorframe reveals a gap large enough for you to slip through - with the backpack off your shoulders, of course.


Once past the door, you see a hallway with 6 identical rooms. You say rooms, but they are more like displays - a nook behind a door and mesh wire. The floors are littered with glass and some shards still encase the wire fencing - some sort of security glass? All the rooms behind the glass are empty except for a pedestal, but the signal is coming from the one in the back right. You push and pull the large handle, but the door won't open. It's either locked or jammed, but that doesn't matter either way. Seeing the wire without the glass gives you an idea, however, so you hurry outside, climb the stairs and retrieve a wire clipper you saw earlier. Between running back and forth and clipping one part of the fencing after another, it takes you a whole 30 minutes or so, but you finally slip past the last barrier. Now what is the scanner picking up? From outside, the room appeared empty, but looking behind the pedestal, you see something.
Lying on the ground is a box, about 10 inches across all dimensions, with yellow panels and beveled corners. At first glance it looks very unassuming, but as you shift your light and perspective, you can see intricate but unintelligible script etched into all visible sides of the object. You didn't feel it before, but ever since you've stood inside this tiny room, you've felt some pressure on your chest, and you don't think it's the stale air.
Dr. Nevada never informed you about some protocol on how to interact with something like this. Dammit! With her attitude, you can't tell she neglected to mention this because she forgot, doesn't think it's necessary or because she doesn't care about your safety. Either way, you can't ask her buried beneath all this steel and concrete, and running all the way back until you get a signal would not only be incredibly cumbersome, but also highly dangerous.

> Obtained Stack of Gold Foil

> What will you do?
>open the box
this is the only natural action
>I literally carri'd this everywhere I go for the last 3 years for a chance like this.
Based Nevada, lol
Did any of the boxes in >>5376172 seem thick enough enough to insulate against whatever is coming from the artifact? If not, I guess we could try wrapping the artifact in some of our gold foil, lol.
I mean, gold is decently dense, right? Whatever, I bet Dr. Nevada will laugh at us for mashing precious metal against the scary box like a caveman, but it's better than doing nothing and just hoping that we won't croak from super magic radiation before we make it back.

One for opening the box, one for wrapping it in gold. Any tiebreaker?
Option 2, if it is making us feel bad already maybe we should keep it in the box

Perhaps the gold could have some isolating effect? You pull out some sheets and carefully drape them over the box, doing your best to not come into direct contact with the device. The wafers easily wrap around the cube, and after covering all sides, you pick it up. The moment you come into contact with it, the pressure on your chest increases, so you quickly stow it away in your backpack. Should you not have done that? Were the sheets sufficient? After letting go, the pressure returned to its previous strength, but after putting the backpack on your back, the pressure increases - it's tolerable, but pretty distracting, and with the added weight on your shoulders, you'll have an even harder time moving around.

> Agility Bonus lost

It takes you great care, plenty of sweat and a long time, but you eventually manage to return to the ground level. You take a peek out the door leading to that beast's nest - you don't see anything, nor hear anything. But is it safe?

> What will you do?
>load an incendiary shell into the chamber of the shotty
>carefully creep forward
is the nook that we had to duck through after the nest to enter the building small enough that the beast would struggle to fit through? it could be a good spot to fall back through if we're spotted before we get out into the open
It can't fit, the door is about 2 meters high. Whether it could break through is a different story, and unclear.
Qm, does agility bonus applies to stealth?
Also what kind of dice are you rolling?
I have a feeling we will have to kill this thing, so
>Load incendiary
>Prepare magic flashbang
>Peek out and try to figure out where is the Thing
>If no Thing spotted, throw glowing rock to make sure it's not waiting for us
D10, and agility and stealth are seperate skills.


You load an incendiary round and throw another rune stone as far away from you as possible. It lands near the main entrance and starts emitting a gentle yellow light. You wait a minute... Nothing. You then take a look at the ODAR and make sure it's not picking up anything either... Also clear. You slowly crawl through the doorframe, and move towards the exit, making sure to stick to the walls. The place really does seem to be empty, and you cant hear the tearing of flesh and bone you heard earlier. Did it head out? You approach the exit, and finally leave the building.

Stealth Test failed

As soon as you turn the corner, however, the hollow eyes of the beast stare right in your face. The monster is perfectly still, is it blind? Has it not noticed you? Can you keep sneaking past it? Your imagination is keeping you on the spot, too busy thinking up scenarios and plans to move, until a shift in weight of the devil dog is forcing you to act. Gun already in hand, you swing the barrel up, line up the sights with the head and pull the trigger. By the time you feel the resistance of the mechanism, you can already see it lunge forward.


It all happens so fast: a loud bang, a streak of yellow-orange and a sharp, deep howl all fill the otherwise lifeless plaza. You use the stagger from having part of its face and chest go up in flames to get some distance, but the monster is hot on your heels. You suddenly feel a sudden pressure on your hip, and a force lifting you in the air - it is only after the beast swings you violently to one side that you realize it has snatched you off the ground, and is currently driving its canines through your torso! Before the pain even has enough time to settle in, the monster has already swung you to the other side and releases you with a powerful throw. You manage to hang onto your gun, but just barely. Like a ragdoll, your body flies through the air until it is immediately and painfully stopped by a solid concrete wall. Impacting hip first, you can feel your left leg bend towards place previously physically impossible. The back soon follows, knocking the wind out of you.

As a small saving grace, your fall onto the concrete floor is cushioned by the mauled cadaver of the beast's previous victim, covering half of you in blood. Still high from the shock, your first reaction is to get your bearings and look for your attacker - you see it right where it threw you, the lubricant in its fur burning only slightly. Still high from the shock, your first reaction is to get your bearings and look for your attacker - you see it right where it threw you, the lubricant on its skin burning still slightly. And in spite of the flames exposing burnt flesh, it is slowly moving towards you. Its face, now slightly melting from the incendiary solution clinging on its flesh, is still frozen in a grimace of dread. It just seriously injured you with a single throw, and you don't think you can survive another attack like that.
You remember that potion you brought with you, but you don't know how long it takes to heal you, nor if it works with your whole body battered like that. You have enough time to get another shot in, but will it be enough? As the dull pain all over your body is slowly emerging in a sea of numbness, The pressure from the b- The box! You must have landed right on it when you hit the wall - explaining the sting in your back. Did it break!? Is it going to blow up? First things first, you look back at the beast - it's still approaching slowly. Does it think you're dead? Or is it toying with you? Next, make sure the box is still in one piece. You carefully lower the backpack while keeping an eye on the stalking predator and open it.
You steal a quick glance down - it seems like nothing happened to it. But maybe something inside broke? Maybe it's running hot until it explodes? You check the temperature by touching the gold foil enveloping the box.


You open your eyes. Or were they always open? You still can't see a thing. You look down and see yourself - at least, you think you see yourself. When did you get here? Were you always here? Weren't you just... in an underground ruin? Or was that a dream? You try to move, but you have no idea whether you actually are moving, lacking any reference point. It is only when you stop moving that you notice things around you. Details. The sun reflecting off a piece of metal. A pebble in the shape of a fist. The heat on your forehead. After you stop being distracted by the small things, you understand the scene in front of you. It's you, but not you as you are, or as you remember being. Is this a time yet to come? Or a life never lived? Nevertheless, you observe this different you.

> You see yourself...

> as a vicious beast bearing fang and claw, rending the flesh of your enemies. You are met with painful resistance, but each bite keeps you pushing on.

> on top of a gallant steed, radiating a warm light. The sick around you bask in your healing rays and cherish the protection they bring.

> riding a winged creature into fray. From your sheer presence, the people below run in terror, making them an easy target.

> as a conductor, guiding the forces of nature to manipulate the battlefield. Just like a rock, pushing the stream of the elements comes naturally to you.

> summoning a creature. The creature is small, but the agents of change and potential lie within it, evoking growth and strength.

> as an amalgam of blade, spike and all other things deadly in the shape of man. Whoever you search, you track down... and consume.

> blazing down a road, leaving fire and pestilence in your trails. Your target may be fast, but it can't outrun death.

> moving towards a horde of monsters, all different except for one thing: sin. You stand alone, but you always have one ally with you.

> encasing yourself in a shell of either steel - or is it sinew? - that fits you like a suit. Driven by a strong emotion, you clash with waves after waves of enemies.

> carried by hundreds of eyes, shielding you from attempted blows and biting and scratching and stinging everyone close to you. You are the only survivor of the hellscape you create.

> one with your surroundings, with nature. You hold your ground, and anyone foolish enough to approach is lost in the wilderness you harbor.

> formless, but of many forms all the same. Ever changing, you express the power of the shape you assume.

This and the next choice are pretty major so I'll give you more time to catch up and decide.
hmm, tough choice
Rolled 3 (1d3)

A lot of interesting picks, it's hard to choose. I think my favourites might be Paladin Sergey, Battlemage Sergey and "Sergey's gone Berserk™!". So I think I'm just gonna let Fortuna decide for me.
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> encasing yourself in a shell of either steel - or is it sinew? - that fits you like a suit. Driven by a strong emotion, you clash with waves after waves of enemies.
Fortuna had spoken! Looks that fickle bitch wants Sergey to Struggle™.
Damn, that came out of nowhere. Did Sergei die or something?
>riding a winged creature into fray. From your sheer presence, the people below run in terror, making them an easy target.
For the dragon anarcho-primitivist origin that lost the first vote and never happened.
What could have been
It's because we touched the spooky box.
yeah, seems like the box made us touch it? Othervise touching it in the middle of a fight seems kind of retarded.
Sergey touched it to make sure it didnt break.
Instead of going for a second shot on a slow moving target or a healing potion? In the middle of the fight for his life? Ok
> formless, but of many forms all the same. Ever changing, you express the power of the shape you assume.
Changeling would be pretty baller if we're going to go the stealth route. Dress up as an elf, or anything.
>ever changing you express the power of the shape you assume
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>> riding a winged creature into fray. From your sheer presence, the people below run in terror, making them an easy target.
> formless, but of many forms all the same. Ever changing, you express the power of the shape you assume.
aw, well, there goes my attempt at multiposting. discard my votes ig
> riding a winged creature into fray. From your sheer presence, the people below run in terror, making them an easy target.
We Bellerophon now
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Doom marine'd be fun
> encasing yourself in a shell of either steel - or is it sinew? - that fits you like a suit. Driven by a strong emotion, you clash with waves after waves of enemies.
Current tally:

> encasing yourself in a shell of either steel - or is it sinew? - that fits you like a suit. Driven by a strong emotion, you clash with waves after waves of enemies.
3 votes

>riding a winged creature into fray. From your sheer presence, the people below run in terror, making them an easy target.
2 votes

> formless, but of many forms all the same. Ever changing, you express the power of the shape you assume.
1 vote

I'll leave the vote open till tomorrow.

I haven't read Berserk so I had something very different in mind when I planned this path.
> formless
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That's fine I just think the Berserker armor looks neat and the "driven by a strong emotion" bit reminded me of it.
Hey the winged one has 3 votes
Rolled 2 (1d2)

we are specced into stealth, hmm. doom marine'd be fun but I don't know if we can utilize it the best. rollin for it, 1 is doom marine, 2 is shapeshift
changing my vote here >>5378724 to shapeshift
>> formless, but of many forms all the same. Ever changing, you express the power of the shape you assume.
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Ok, tally so far
3 Dragon rider
2 Suit of living armor
3 Indecisive shapeshifting
1 discarded for samefagging
Shapeshifter is probably the most versatile option out of the lot, especially if Sergey can use the abilities of whatever he shifts into. I'm sure shapeshifting has some limitations but imagine transforming into a dragon or a werewolf during combat plus if we can turn into other people then that makes getting revenge on that bitch Selene a lot easier.
it's also kind of a copout option
Yeah but I would rather preffer for her to see it coming. From the sky.
If we are specced into stealth why choose dragon rider?
>specced into stealth
"specced" makes it sound like we've been focusing it over other things for a long time, we just have a bit of a boost to it from our background and we practically just started
Armour of steel and sinew could be more versatile since not only could it make us stronger in open combat but also allow us to preform hectic parkour shit in stealth? Im thinking like warframe that we wear perching on hard to see places and stuff also it makes us more agile I assume?

> encasing yourself in a shell of either steel - or is it sinew? - that fits you like a suit. Driven by a strong emotion, you clash with waves after waves of enemies.
well, now it's a 3 way tie
any more 1 post IP's to come out of the woodwork?
30 more minutes, then I'll roll for the tiebreaker.
Rolled 1 (1d3)


Time's up, so fate shall decide.

> riding a winged creature into fray. From your sheer presence, the people below run in terror, making them an easy target.

> encasing yourself in a shell of either steel - or is it sinew? - that fits you like a suit. Driven by a strong emotion, you clash with waves after waves of enemies.

> formless, but of many forms all the same. Ever changing, you express the power of the shape you assume.
Looks like we're going to be the proud owner of a dragon or a griffon or something


Parts of it are still a blur, but you are definitely perceiving a scene of yourself riding a large creature. You set your sights on the vague form of an enemy, and take off to the air to cross the chaotic battlefield. Your target tries to evade and aim for whatever - or whoever - you must be guarding, but you soon strike them down with a blast of energy. Fire, perhaps? It's a little hard to tell. Your presence is impossible to ignore, be it from your aura or the sweeping attacks you launch onto the opposition. You work in tandem with the monster - it has to be one - you are riding, so you try to focus your attention on it. You see...

> a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy.
> the enormous body of a snake, with feathered wings that seem to small for its size.
> a proud beast of fur and feather, parts of which seem familiar, but are foreign when put together.
> a brilliant collection of gold, wings and eyes, moving through the fray with grace.
> not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.
> an unfamiliar shape, barely natural. Staring at it gives you the same feeling as gazing into the stars.

Again, leaving this one open for two days. Feel free to post images based on the options for inspiration.
> Not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.

Mecha time
> not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.
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> Feel free to post images based on the options for inspiration.
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> not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.
Mech Warrior Sergey is way cooler than Dragonrider Sergey. Even better if it's a human-made mech.
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I also like this one even if it is a bit generic. I think the little arms are both cute and useful.
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Oh yeah one more. I know they're technically cyborgs in XCOM but punching angels in MEC armor sounds like a good time.
>> a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy.
I just wanted a dragon
That might be a phoenix though, but then I don't know which one is a normal dragon
>> a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy.
Either a dragon or bird
> the enormous body of a snake, with feathered wings that seem to small for its size.
chinese flying noodle
> a proud beast of fur and feather, parts of which seem familiar, but are foreign when put together.
> a brilliant collection of gold, wings and eyes, moving through the fray with grace.
Biblically accurate angel
> not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.
> an unfamiliar shape, barely natural. Staring at it gives you the same feeling as gazing into the stars.
eldrich fuckery
It could be a western dragon if enough people would rather have it be one. I'm describing a Mayan dragon AKA Quetzalcoatl - it's a little hard to make a vague description of a flying dragon that encompasses the most prominent variations across all regions.
>I'm describing a Mayan dragon AKA Quetzalcoatl
huh, it does look cool. It's also a noodle though, like the asian one.
I'm okay with the aztec dragon, most people are gonna pick mech anyway
>> a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy.
The mayan one is called kukulkan by the way.
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would he/she be sentient or just a smart animal?
Who knows?
You do.
>> the enormous body of a snake, with feathered wings that seem to small for its size.
I like the sound of teaming up with a terror noodle, but I'll still be happy if the mecha vote keeps the lead. Any of the choices sound like they'll be neat to see executed.
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Final Tally:

> not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.

> the enormous body of a snake, with feathered wings that seem to small for its size.

> a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy.


The sensation isn't unlike sitting in a car - you are seated, almost standing, the outside clearly visible, but surrounded by steel - and stone? You scan the area, and see that all opposition is gone - not just lying dead on the ground, but completely gone. You land on the scorched grass and notice that the... thing you're sitting in is beginning to fade into some sort of mist, or haze, and dropping you from a height of about a meter. The mist seems to linger, but then starts picking up speed, swirling around you - until it finally shoots towards your chest, as if guided by a sudden gust.
The haze doesn't seem to move around you, but rather seems to permeate you. With each passing moment, the same kind of pressure you felt when carrying the box builds up inside you, further and further. Despite there being no physical strain, you feel like your whole being is being squashed, as if you're running out of space in your own skin. You grip your head, hoping to get some release, and start seeing random images. Almost all of them vanish as quickly as they appear, but some stay in your mind - indistinguishable people, blood, and horned humanoids. You think you can feel the pressure lighten ever so slightly, and then it's over. You are back in a featureless void, but before you can look around, you hear a monotone but aggressive voice from all around you.

"Merge complete. Orgone siphon efficiency at 97.5% efficiency. Unit redesignation as Dragoon Carrier... complete. Relaying initial database and equipment..."

What is it saying? Merge? You didn't agree to a pact, did you? You'd remember something like that, but what if you forgot? What could have made agree to that? Suddenly, a stream of information enters your consciousness. Phrases new, but soon familiar to you. They are...


> Subject: Human

Pick one skill:

> Adaptive Host Structural Integrity: Subtle shifts in your physiology raise your strength and endurance to that of an athlete. (Fortitude)
> Behavioral and Customs Observation Routines: Understand and replicate social gestures and obligations easier. (Etiquette)
> General Database of Manufacture & Craftmanship (Lite): Gain general knowledge and aptitude on how to create and repair all manner of objects. (Arts & Craft)

Pick one trick:

> Dragon's Hoard: Once per day, automatically succeed a Wealth test.
> Fast Recovery: You can be treated with Healing tests once per day instead of once per week.
> Linguist: You understand all spoken and written languages.
> Voice of Reason: Once per day, automatically succeed a combat Intimidation test.

Pick one support tech:

> Fire Wall: Create a wide patch of hard to cross fire.
> Intimidating Gaze: Mark an opponent a few meters away from you, making it hard for them to divert their attention to anything but you.
> ERROR P64002: Incompatible Host
> ERROR P64002: Incompatible Host

Pick one attack:

> Orgone Vent: A hard to avoid Burst that hits everything immediately next to you and leaves you in a defensive stance.
> Predator Bolt: A shot with great range that damages and marks its target.
> Optic Lance: A Line of bundled energy with outstanding reach that might be weak, but penetrates everything in its path.
> Breaching Joust: A full dash forward, hitting a target with a stinging attack that leaved them marked.

Pick one advanced attack:

> Defender's Flame: A well-aimed, concentrated medium-range shot that becomes even more powerful if the target is marked.
> Intimidating Strike: A strong and hard to dodge blow that leaves the target in fear of you.
> Burn to the Ground: A fleeting but fierce Blast of fire that scorches everything in a 5 meter diameter and leaves them in flames.
> Terror Wave: A quickly dissipating Wave of sonic energy that reverberates through the soft tissue of anyone within and leaves them afraid.

Pick one feature:

> Punishing Salvo: When a marked Enemy targets an ally, you retaliate with a blast for each ally attacked.
> King of the Battlefield: All your attacks that affect an area instead of a single target (Blast, Bursts, Lines and Waves)
> Terror Prowess: When you inflict fear using an attack, you can choose to deal additional damage instead.
> Instant Immunization: You cannot suffer from delayed damage such as poison or burning.


> Subject: Monster

Pick one trick:

> Alchemy Lab: Once per day, automatically succeed an Arts & Craft test.
> Field Medic: Once per day, automatically succeed a Medicine test.
> Nocturnal Adaptation: You can see in the dark, even without any light sources.
> Soft Fall: You never take falling damage, regardless of height.

Pick one support tech:

> Impurity Cleanse: Recover from one Ailment of your choice.
> Soul Peer: Mark an opponent a few meters away from you, making it hard for them to divert their attention to anything but you.
> Orgone Thrusters: When moving, you are airborne and are able to ascend higher.
> Phase Walk: For the purpose of horizontal movement, become intangible. Warning: Do not disengage Phase Walk within solid matter such as walls.

Pick one attack:

> Vectored Missile: A homing missile with great range that is hard to avoid.
> Plasma Cannon: A concentrated Line of guided superheated gas with good range and high penetrative power.
> Seizing Matrix: A combination between grappling and magic caging locks an immediate target in place, leaving them immobile, and at a disadvantage to retaliate.
> Point Blank Impact: A fast close-range maneuver that is hard to react to, leaving the target damaged, knocked back and unable to attack.

Pick one feature:

> Regenerating Curse Shielding: Negate the first point of Damage you would receive each Round.
> Orgone Core Lead Plating: You are immune to mental ailments.
> Sisyphus Engine: You cannot be inflicted with ailments impeding your movement.
> Universal Deterioration Protection: You negate any damage accrued from extreme environments.


This post is just an editor's note, but I wanted to elaborate a little. In any case, starting from now, we'll return to our usual pace.

First of all, just because we're deciding on a bunch of attacks doesn't mean the quest is going to heavily revolve around combat - I still would like to give you the option to decide the direction, this could just be flavor, if you wanted.
This is where the limits of flavor text and the fourth wall really gets tested, because it's where we decide (amongst other) on combat abilities, which is arguably the most developed part of the system. As such, I'm a bit unsure how much I can give you a fair overview of the possibilities of the system, and how much you are actually interested in seeing. If you have any questions about the many terms I threw around this update, I'll elaborate to the best of my abilities; and if you feel like you aren't given enough information to make an informed decision I could explain the potential for growth of a character.
However, if you don't care about this level of depth, would rather go in blind and/or want me to focus more on colorful storytelling than tactics, I could still move the combat mechanics more into the background to the point where it's more flavor than anything.
Thanks for sticking with me so far, and let me know what you think.
>Final Tally:
>> not a creature, but a humanoid shell of manmade material protecting you.
>> the enormous body of a snake, with feathered wings that seem to small for its size.
>> a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy.

wrong, "a deep plumage accompanied by a massive wingspan and streaks of energy." has two
but whatever, mech wins anyway
so if I'm understanding these posts correctly we're picking skills for both the mech and us?
> General Database of Manufacture & Craftmanship (Lite): Gain general knowledge and aptitude on how to create and repair all manner of objects. (Arts & Craft)
peak utility for a diver
> Linguist: You understand all spoken and written languages.
fun utility, all of them look good though
> Intimidating Gaze: Mark an opponent a few meters away from you, making it hard for them to divert their attention to anything but you.
> Predator Bolt: A shot with great range that damages and marks its target.
> Defender's Flame: A well-aimed, concentrated medium-range shot that becomes even more powerful if the target is marked.
> Punishing Salvo: When a marked Enemy targets an ally, you retaliate with a blast for each ally attacked.
mark stacking sounds like fun
> Nocturnal Adaptation: You can see in the dark, even without any light sources.
need us some NODs
> Phase Walk: For the purpose of horizontal movement, become intangible. Warning: Do not disengage Phase Walk within solid matter such as walls.
walking through walls sounds fun
> Point Blank Impact: A fast close-range maneuver that is hard to react to, leaving the target damaged, knocked back and unable to attack.
I think a CQB attack rounds out our skills fairly nicely
> Orgone Core Lead Plating: You are immune to mental ailments.
mental fuckery sucks, but I could just as easily see us going with any of the other ones.
> General Database of Manufacture & Craftmanship (Lite)
> Linguist
These two are bound to be good utility
> Fire Wall
Sounds handy to create some room to breath for shotgunnin' or getting in the mech
> Predator Bolt
We've got our shotgun if we're out of our mech, and I'm assuming a punch from the mech is decent enough in a pinch, so getting some ranged ability sounds good.
> Defender's Flame
considered Burn to the Ground, but wasn't sure if that one was limited to being centered on us, plus this has synergy with the previous choice
...btw are we able to do these things while in the mech, too? I just want to make sure
> King of the Battlefield
besides being important for if we have a lot of stuff wanting to kill us, AoE ability might help ensure our ranged attacks hit in general
also it'll look cooler lol
> Soft Fall
> Orgone Thrusters
acrobatic shenanigans
> Plasma Cannon
this plus the thrusters and soft fall for death from above
the melee options are tempting, but anything big enough to need a special melee option probably needs more durability to go toe to toe with and I'm voting for:
> Orgone Core Lead Plating
All sorts of wacky magic tricks could be played on us that would bypass being in a mech. The damage negation option is really nice, but hopefully our maneuverability will help keep us from taking the worst stuff
>Thanks for sticking with me so far, and let me know what you think.
This is fun, I wasn't sure how a mech would go as opposed to the other pacts, but after that last update and thinking about the choices I'm looking forward to it. Dunno what to say about the balance between combat/storytelling, I think it's alright but we only really fought the wind weasel so far so it's hard to say.
meant to say *mind magic tricks
> General Database of Manufacture & Craftmanship (Lite)
We can be our own mechanic. Looks like Sergey's father got his way after all.
> Linguist
> Intimidating Gaze
> Optic Lance
This might be good for humans and less resilient monsters and it has long range. Plus getting behind cover won't help them.
> Defender's Flame
Matches well with Intimidating Gaze
> Instant Immunization
Dragons can go fuck themselves and we don't have to worry about some Arcadian noble prick trying to poison us.

> Soft Fall
> Phase Walk
This one could be insanely useful inside and outside of combat.
> Point Blank Impact
> Orgone Core Lead Plating
ok so here are the votes thus far, greentext is unanimous. kinda want to build something we all agree on?
>Database of Manufacture
we have two for intimidating gaze and one for fire wall
we have two for predator bolt and one for optic lance
>defender's flame
one for punishing salvo, one for king of the battlefield, one for instant immunization
two for soft fall, one for night vision
one for thrusters, two for phase walk
two for point blank impact, one for plasma cannon
>Orgone Core Lead Plating

>human feature
instant immunization might be better than the salvo that I voted for but it is situational. I do like it plus the orgone core plating that makes us immune to the more sneaky attacks.
>mech trick
soft fall is fine, the night vision we can augment ourselves with later so it's C tier actually. what might be better is the alchemy lab since its (arts and crafts) auto success synergizes with our database of manufacture.
>mech support
maybe impurity cleanse instead of thrusters or phase walk if we're trying to buff up our resistance to ailments? (works well with immunity and the Core Lead Plating) Might be redundant. Not unhappy with either of the options voted for though
>mech attack
Either the plasma cannon or the point blank impact are fine

what do you guys think?
>human feature
I'm sticking to immunization. It would be embarrassing to become a mech warrior and fistfuck people into oblivion but then get poisoned by some asshole noble.
>mech trick
You make a good point about the alchemy lab. Assuming it gives us everything we need to make field repairs I'm willing to change my vote to alchemy lab. The only reason I voted for soft fall was so we didn't have to worry about flying enemies picking Sergey up and dropping him to his death.
>mech attack
If you've ever played XCOM:EW then you know that you should always choose Kinetic Strike Module.
Also I think the optic lance is a better pick than the predator bolt just because of it's superior penetration. But either one is good. Wait is Sergey a cyborg now?
>You land on the scorched grass and notice that the... thing you're sitting in is beginning to fade into some sort of mist, or haze, and dropping you from a height of about a meter.
this suggests that the mech itself is summonable. I don't think we're a borg now but maybe we can materialize bits of the mech around us? MPQM?

as for optic lance it might be redundant with predator bolt. I'm fine with swapping my pred bolt for optic lance as long as we keep intimidating gaze, we gotta have some way to mark enemies if we're going to keep defender's flame, but losing pred bolt removes our ability to mark stuff at any range I think. piercing cover is good however
fair, I guess, immunization would be good for poison, I can switch to that
Yeah, I actually really want the lab since we all chose the crafting database. only exception is if we choose the flying module since it'd suck to fall.
i'll stay with melee module then if you say so
I'd be fine with swapping fire wall out for intimidating gaze, dunno how often we'd be laying down fire walls with all the other options we have anyways.
Getting the mark from the gaze and then comboing it with defender's flame sounds faster than predator bolt->defender's for stuff that's close up.
Punishing salvo sounds kinda niche though, and would conflict with the gaze drawing attention to us so it would happen more rarely.

I might switch my vote to immunization, but I think I may have misunderstood king of the battlefield. I read it at first as saying all attacks do area damage, but it looks like it may be talking an effect for only area attacks that got cut off
I still like the plasma cannon over the point blank impact, just seems a lot more flexible, there's nothing that says we can't punch holes through close up stuff with our plasma cannon, you know?
Also if the orgone thrusters are jets that are strong/consistent enough to slow us as we fall instead of something like just a boost to our jumps, then I'd definitely change the soft fall to the lab.
Anyways, I'll hold off on changing up anything until the qm can chime in on what we're talking about just so there's less confusion with the votes.
I messed up with King Of The Battlefield. Here is the full description:
> King of the Battlefield: King of the Battlefield: All your attacks that affect an area instead of a single target (Blast, Bursts, Lines and Waves) automatically mark all enemies hit by the attack.

>so if I'm understanding these posts correctly we're picking skills for both the mech and us?
You are picking abilities for both you and the monster. Keep in mind they won't be available to the other, unless you are riding it.

Thanks for the summary so far.

>Also if the orgone thrusters are jets that are strong/consistent enough to slow us as we fall instead of something like just a boost to our jumps, then I'd definitely change the soft fall to the lab.
The rules say that per turn, characters fall a certain height per round, and take damage per meter exceeding the characters movement range when hitting the ground. If you fall a greater height beyond that max falling distance, you have enough time for additional actions and could activate flight or whatever (phasing wouldn't stop the impact, though). When riding the monster, you have increased movement speed so you aren't as susceptible to falling damage as most others but it's still less than the maximum fall distance per round.
For the purposes of the quest, Slow Fall would prevent damage from falls that either take us by surprise or exceed what we are comfortable with; it would also allow us to not have to worry about catching our fall on the way down and focus on attacking instead.
So this is what I'm thinking now:
> General Database of Manufacture & Craftmanship (Lite)
> Linguist
> Intimidating Gaze
> Predator Bolt
> Defender's Flame
> Instant Immunization
> Soft Fall
> Orgone Thrusters
> Plasma Cannon
> Orgone Core Lead Plating
swapped out fire wall and king of the battlefield, don't think we need the extra marking instead of the immunity with our other marking options

soft fall still seems good and I'm sure we'll be getting use out of it (remember how getting down from a ledge was one of the first decisions we faced in our dive)
unless we have an idea of really tough things we wanna try creating that are beyond our boosted crafting skill alone I dunno about the alchemy lab now

voted for plasma cannon but I'd still be fine with the impact strike, if you guys vote to for the impact I'd like to keep the thrusters just to make sure we can reach what we want to smack

Final results:

Human Skill:
> Database of Manufacture

Human Trick:
> Linguist

Human Support:
> Intimidating Gaze

Human Attack:
> Predator Bolt

Human Advanced Attack:
> Defender's Flame

Human Feature:
> Instant Immunization

Monster Trick:
> Alchemy Lab

Monster Support:
> Phase Walk

Monster Attack:
> Point Blank Impact

Monster Feature:
> Orgone Core Lead Plating

I hope I got everyone's vote right. Next update might take longer than expected because of work.


"Database Relay complete. Finalizing Setup. Exiting Stasis."

The disembodied voice ends with a might reverb that turn more and more into droning. You cover your ears, but it makes no difference. You press your eyes shut and a moment later, the droning is gone. You open your eyes, and see blood on your hands! You look around and check your body for wounds, but don't see any - not even where your clothing was torn. Did you dream all that? Was it a vision? It seemed very vivid, but it felt completely different...
It's at this point that you notice you are once again surrounded by massive chunks of broken concrete, and a lukewarm cadaver of an unfortunate monster - hunted by the same monster still slowly walking towards you. Your mind is still a little fuzzy, but you roughly remember where it stood when you touched the box - assuming it didn't stop, you must have been unconscious for a few seconds, at most. The box! You look down and see that it's still in your bag, albeit slightly different. One of the panels seems to have extruded to reveal complex machinery and glittering materials, and the finely inscribed font looks like it has dulled a little. Now that you're sure the artifact isn't going to blow up in your face, you direct your attention back to the beast approaching you. You slowly reach for your shotgun...

"Firepower insufficient."

Did you just hear right? The same disembodied voice as before fills the deafening silence, but the beast doesn't seem to react. Your eyes dart around, and you carefully mouth "What?", still worried about making noise.

"Firepower of chosen armament insufficient. Commence Mounted Summon to maximize destruction."

That wasn't a dream, was it? If you really did enter a pact, your best bet is to do as it said. You remember seeing the destruction you caused, and you vaguely remember the feeling of new information entering your brain, but you can't recall any new information. Slowly starting to panic, you form another question in your mind, hoping you can communicate telepathically as you saw Dame Gwynn do.

"What do I do? How do I do that?"
"Factoring in host ignorance, 3 registered patterns for activation found."
"Just give me any! I don't care!"
"Voice Command: Lugalbanda."
"Lugal- Wait, voice? What if that thing'll hear me?"
"It won't matter."

The voice maintains a constant inflection and tone of confidence and aggression, but somehow the last sentence sounded particularly filled with conviction. You get on your feet and clench your fist, take one last breath and say firmly,




You see dozens, if not hundreds of mechanical parts of iron and stone almost grow in front of you, quickly assembling into what look like sleek but large legs, almost insect-like, but about as tall as you are. As more and more panels, wiring, joints and slates appear to form the beginning of a torso, an urgent but intangible force guides you up the legs. You follow, and notice a protective shell barely big enough for you forming around you. The seal cuts you off from the outside world, leaving you blinded, but as soon as you worry about that, the front almost seems to fade away, only leaving behind a faint mesh that barely obscures the surroundings illuminated by a flashlight. It also lets you see that the beast has also taken notice of the enormous machine assembling itself from nowhere within 2 seconds. The flames on its body have almost died down, and it's keen on finishing the job: It rapidly closes the distance between the two of you - or is it three now? No time for that, what do you do now? Lights are flashing around you, some red, some orange, a lot turn green, but you don't see a wheel or anything. You spot two handles on either side and clutch them tightly - but nothing happens, even after shaking them around.

"Rider input timeout. Initiating violence autopilot."

Lights start flashing yellow and you get jerked around, almost hitting your head on a wall as the machine assumes a defensive posture, and you can see a large arm with a mechanical hand that reminds you of a skeleton shield you - or would it be its torso? You watch the beast leaping at you at full speed, but in the blink of an eye, your "carrier" swings its left arm forward and down, suddenly holding a massive shield. You can feel the violent impact reverberating through the entire chassis and spot a yellow flash trailing behind the arm, but the swing continues uninterrupted and sends the beast reeling backwards. It quickly lands back on its feet and starts circling around you, but you keep your eyes locked on its wild movements, until it disappears behind a nearby wall.
The machine starts moving forward, briefly leaves the ground and lands with a grace you didn't expect from something this massive. Not only that, but the heavy movement seems to have been replaced with a smooth glide over the debris, as if you are sliding on ice. You can also hear some mix between a blazing fire and a high pitched whining behind you, but you're unable to look behind you. As you observe the machinery accelerating more and more through the debris, a sense of familiarity begins to swell inside of you - you are getting a sense of how it moves and the joints it engages to create motion, similar to a limb you only now noticed and are manipulating for the first time. Ever so slightly, you can predict the little weaves and shifts, and that it's not trying to avoid that wall it's blasting towards- OH SHIT!



Instinctively, you hold your breath and close your eyes. You feel a slightly unpleasant sensation, as if you were running your hand along smooth stone - except all over your body, including your inside. The feeling immediately vanishes, however, and you open your eyes to see the beast jumping in place to your right. The construct immediately swings around and holds out it right hand. Lights change once again as you see an enormous thin rod form in a similar fashion as before in the outstretched palm, ending with a big decorated spearhead at the tip. The oversized mutt is already charging around in a zig-zag pattern, trying to outflank you, but you are beginning to predict - well, not quite predict, but rather closely match your pactmate's decisions, so you see the next maneuver coming.
The construct swings the lance forward and takes aim, trying to lead the next shot. Then, the hollowed out center of the spearhead starts glowing orange, and you briefly see it swing open like a pair of scissors before a bright yellow bolt shoots out of the tip of the spear and travel straight at the opponent. However, it barely manages to drive its bizarre hand-paws into the littered concrete and slingshot its massive weight away from the projectile, barely dodging it. Using the momentum, it lunges at you and tears open its massive maw.
It sinks its teeth right into the construct's torso, scaring the crap out of you as you can see down its undulating throat! The fact that there appears to more than a thin mesh protecting you from the enormous canines from puncturing your body just feels like only a minor blessing right now. Still, you can feel the sting of the crushing bite all the same, even though you aren't injured. Not letting go, the beast then reaches up with its front limbs and tightly grabs the large body, using the increased leverage to lift the both of you up and launch you against the wall you came from.

"Phase Walk, now!"
"Deployment window insufficient, buffoon."

You violently slam against the solid wall, creating a booming noise from both the shattering concrete and the bending and breaking hull of the construct. You feel pain - both blunt and sharp - all over your back, not unlike how you felt when the beast flung you the first time. As invincible as you felt just a few seconds earlier, you just received a painful reminder that you still can't underestimate something as big as this. You bite through the pain and can feel frustration and desperation build up. You find the mutt recovering from its feat of strength - between the fire, crushing blow and spent effort, it's clear that it too is greatly wounded. You're both staring each other down, slowly getting your bearings, while you continue to cultivate a swell of aggression that almost seems to manifest itself in a prickling sensation in your chest. You are not going to go down, and you know you now have the means to make sure of that.


You right yourself up and knock a piece of rubble aside without breaking eye contact. Time to make this count.

> Take no chances. Hit it with all you got.
> Swallow your anger and attack it more carefully.
> Go on the defensive and try to escape.
> Let your pactmate decide - this is still too unfamiliar to you.
>> Take no chances. Hit it with all you got.
Better keep it from taking the initiative again. I bet it's teetering on the brink of being out of the fight, but it's shown that it's still plenty dangerous. Let's slap it down before it can get a second wind. Or in other words:
> Take no chances. Hit it with all you got.



"Auxiliary Orgone batteries at capacity."

Despite being encased behind a shroud of metal and more, you know that the beast can feel your gaze all the same, provoking it to make a move. As soon as you see it shifting its weight forward, you direct your monster upwards and feel engines revving and crystals charging up. Subconsciously, you start to let out a yell, both to drown out the pain and steel your nerves. The both of you throw out your chest and arch your back, and a fiery blast erupts between the thick armor plates of the chest and waist of the construct. The scorching hot blast lights up the surrounding and it hits its target dead on, not giving it a chance to dodge.
It cries out with an awful roar, reminding you of an old man screaming at the top of his lungs, and the deep throes of a choking tractor engine. You brace yourself for retaliation, but despite some last efforts to stay upright, it loses its balance, and the scorched body drops lifelessly on the hard floor. You breathe a loud sigh of relief, and as your pulse begins to calm down, you start feeling the pain from the impact returning. The sensation is topped off with a headache and slight nausea that fades only very slowly. You try your best to ignore it, but still can't help out a small wince.

"Surface Diagnostics reveal no lasting damage. You'll live."
"It still hurts- Ah! What about you? You got smashed bad! Wait, what or who are you even? What just happened?"
"Artillery still fully operational, Orgone healing currently running. Preparing for further combat."
"Combat? No way, we need to get out of here! We'll grab my backpack, and we leave! Who knows what's down there?"

The construct is shifting side to side, presumably to observe its surroundings.


"Internal clock appears to be out of sync. Current year Anno Monstrum?"
"Uh, 115? Wait, you were in that box, right? Just for how long?"
"...Regrouping is now a main priority. You win, we'll leave for now."
"Can you give me some answers? What are-"

You can't finish your sentence as you quickly turn on a dime and boost through the wall once again, the solid matter cutting off your airflow abruptly, as if someone suddenly poured sand down your throat. While you are busy coughing, the monster of few words picks up your backpack and moves it behind its back. You can't see, but you have some notion that it is integrating it within its chassis, similar to you. It then stands still, as if waiting for something.

"Cannot establish a connection to a GPS node. You know the location of the closest exit, correct?"
"I'm not getting a signal either, but I know how to get there, yes. I want answers on the way out, however."
"...Information will be relayed if possible. Now lead the way."

By now you understand that while this cabin is lacking physical controls like a steering wheel, switches or buttons, you are able to manipulate the body telepathically on an indirect level: you think about moving a certain direction, and it moves. You want the right hand to grip something, and it does - similarly to how you don't think about engaging every muscle in your legs when you walk. You are still not entirely familiar with all the workings however, because your pactmate interrupts the relatively slow walking speed with a shift into a gliding position, using the back thrusters for propulsion, similar to how your father would rip the threading tap out of your hand to do it himself whenever he felt you weren't doing it right. The fact that you used the word 'back thruster' strikes you as odd, considering that you don't actually know what its back looks like, or what a thruster was just a few minutes ago.
This form of travel makes considerably more noise than your careful walk when you entered the city, but at this speed and maneuverability, you're confident that you can stay out of harm's way much easier than before. You soon make it past the enormous broken down wall, and navigate through the sea of debris with ease as you are now able to phase through the large rubble which now only reaches to your waist.

"We're out of that concrete city, at this pace we should reach the shaft in under an hour. But I still have questions."

> What do you want to ask about?

> About itself.
> About that artifact you retrieved.
> About that concrete city.
> Whether you just entered a pact, and what you are now.
> Other (Write-in)
>> Whether you just entered a pact, and what you are now.
> Whether you just entered a pact, and what you are now.


"First of all, you're not just a monster, right? We entered a pact, right?"
"Correct, shrimp."
"But how is that possible? I never agreed to a pact! Isn't that the first thing you need for one to work?"
"This is necessary, also correct. How one could succeed with both parties not showing consent is unknown to me as well."
"Then how- Wait, you didn't agree either? I thought constructs can't decide that."
"Highly inaccurate assumption, shrimp. You lack authorization for pact procedures with pandemonic constructs."
"Pandemonic? Great, more red tape. Am I going to get arrested for being forced to merge with a monster?"
"Unclear. Parameters beyond this state are ill-defined."
"...You don't know what's going on here either, do you? Can you at least tell me what I- we are now? Am I part machine now? Am I going to grow gears or something?"

The voice around you creates a fuzzy noise you feel like could be a stand-in for a frustrated sigh.

"The merge didn't manifest as a hybrid, so you are still a squishy human. Limited abilities such as Predator Bolt are still accessible through channeling of my superior hardware, however. We are pactmates, from now on. Pact classification: Rider, subcategory: Dragoon."

You are left speechless as you try to process this. 24 hours ago, you were told that you'd never be able to form a pact with a monster, and now you did just that - against your will, even. Granted, you weren't opposed to the idea, but you wanted to make sure you could trust and befriend your pactmate before, although in the situation you were in, you were left with little choice. Though you don't verbalize anything, you can guess your 'other half' can hear every thought, but it seems to ignore you. You reach the beginning of the ruined architecture you're more familiar with. The light produced by the construct's headlights aren't much better, but your greater speed and raised eye level makes the city streets look much smaller than you remember.

"...Architecture and signage matches up most closely with Minsk, Belarus. Is that correct?"
"Belarus? I don't know about that, but I think Minsk was the name of this place. Have you been here before? Before it got flattened?"
"In limited capacity. GPS is still unavailable, so accurate navigation is still impossible."
"Wait, really? I still had a good connection at this point- Oh! I should report back, I should now get a signal and we haven't talked in..."


You reach for your ear and notice... nothing. Your earpiece is gone! When did it fall out? While you got attacked by that monster? While you were climbing inside that facility? Maybe it's still in here, with you? You shimmy around in your tight cockpit, trying to see down your legs.

"There is no earpiece present. You are wasting your time."
"Oh great, we haven't even settled on how they'll pick me up. Wait, you're technological, right? Can you maybe do something to fill in as an ea-"
"Normalizing Irritation Tensor. Categorizing your understanding of technology as "Negligible". My functions are limited, and can only be expanded by integrating items on your frail person. If you hadn't lost the tool, 'filling in' for your toy would be trivial."
"Hey, for all I know, it's hundreds of years ahead of you."

No response - it's either ignoring you, or your quip got it to shut up. You recognize the street you're currently coasting through as the one you fought that bladed weasel in, though it was a fairly long promenade. Speaking of which, you notice that you haven't seen any on the way back - maybe they are hiding from the large construct propelling itself through the streets. You also didn't see or hear any evidence of that stomping thing - did it also go into hiding? Did it leave for somewhere else? Or maybe it was that unrecognizable thing that devil dog was consuming? Whatever it may be, it looks like you aren't going to run into much - if any - resistance, giving you more time to focus on backtracking and finding out more.

> There's still time to talk. What else do you want to know about?

> About itself.
> About that artifact you retrieved.
> About that concrete city.
> About the destroyed city of Minsk
> Other (Write-in)
>What is the significance of Lugalbanda?
>What was that box I grabbed?
>Who created you? Humans, monsters, what?
>What happened to the city?
>> About itself.
>The voice around you creates a fuzzy noise you feel like could be a stand-in for a frustrated sigh.
I <3 our new death machine buddy
> About itself.


"Okay, about you then. What are you? You're a construct, right? Do you have a name?"
"Identification: Serial number 490021-3827003."
"Uh... that's your name?"
"That is my serial number. No unique signature or pseudonym given."
"Then what do I call you? 003?"
"I am designed to identify with my model name, or a subset thereof. Tau Enkidu."
"Enkidu, then? My name's Sergey. Wait, who even designed you? Does that mean there's more of you?"
"Series Tau Enkidu was developed by leading Orgoroboticists. Leading up to the 3827 batch, over 500 have been commissioned to be produced for combat and peacekeeping purposes. That is the limit of my knowledge."
"So you were made to form pacts?"
"Pactmaking is an application, but not the sole intention. Especially not for shrimps without authorization."
"Well I wasn't intending on this, either. Let me guess, you'd have to get a writ of pactmaking from the high Arcadian council?"
"An enemy institution? Don't make me engage mocking laughter. You have no indication of citizenship."
"Wait, who did this city belong to? Or, at least, what faction are you from?"

Enkidu suddenly stops dead in his tracks, skidding along the littered cobblestone and knocking you forwards.

"...Reveal your affiliations and allegiances, now!"
"What? Why did you stop?"
"You are suspected of being an Arcadia sympathizer or spy."
"I- Well, I live in the outskirts of Arcadia, but-"
"You are in a position to access state secrets. If you are intent on leaking information, you will be stopped, by any means necessary."
"Woah, hold on! Who are you with?"
"Clarification would be pointless."
"Look, you've been gone for a long time, right? A lot might have changed, maybe everything you know has been leaked already! I don't like the council either, and I've lived outside its influence for my entire life, so I don't want to tell them anything if it means you'll kill me either! What faction do you belong to?"

Silence - it seems Enkidu is thinking.


"Rider status currently pending between traitorous coward or lying turncoat. My services belong to the Pandemonium Federation."
"Pandemonium? I- never heard of that. Was that the old name of the Order of Elysium? Children of Gaia."
"Enemies to the Federation both. Record high ignorance in geopolitical awareness noted."
"...From what I know about this city, you have been locked away for at least half a decade. Maybe- Pandemonium is gone."

With this, you accelerate down the promenade again - it's probably best not to linger.

"Do you know when you got put in that box? Or if you were even here when that happened?"
"No further information shall be given until your standing with Arcadia can be confirmed, or intel supporting your claims verified."

You were hoping to get more out of him, but you can see where he's coming from. You're curious about this Pandemonium yourself - you recall hearing about communities outside any of the major three before; maybe this is one of them now?

After several minutes of sliding through the city ruins in silence, you spot the large cliff you descended from when you first entered this cavern. You aren't keen on entering the haphazardly balanced building you came from last time, so you might have to scale the wall directly now.

"Can you get over that cliff, Enkidu?"


He speed up and phases through the debris to move in a straight line. Just a car's length away from the sheer cliff, he jumps up to direct as much momentum as possible upwards and disables the phase, using his thrusters to gain more and more altitude. Before you reach the halfway mark, however, you seem to loose speed, but as soon as you can start falling back down, Enkidu summons his spear and rams it into the foundation to create a point to support his entire weight on.
The forceful strike sends more rocks flying and ripples through the torn up ground, causing teetering debris to lose their balance and fall down - you swear you can even hear the buildings next to you creaking in agony. You worry about the structural integrity, but your pactmate either fails to or chooses not to notice. He then fires up the thrusters once again, tucks his legs against the wall and leaps a bit higher. You see the spear deconstructing itself as soon as he lets go of it, and reassembling at the same time in his hand. He repeats this process a few times and clears the top of the cliff.

"Alright, up ahead is an elevator. You won't fit, so I guess I'll have to unsummon you?"
"Is the unsummoning procedure unknown to you as well, shrimp?"
"...No, I think I got it this time."

If there's a voice command, you don't know it - but you have a feeling you won't need it now. You close your eyes to help you concentrate, and imagine Enkidu receding into you, his physical presence reverting to a spiritual one. As you open your eyes, you can see the parts making him up detach and disappear in a weak white light. The front of the torso vanishes first, allowing you to step out of the cockpit and hop back onto solid ground. You turn around, hoping to get a glimpse of him from the outside, but at this stage you can only make out a rather striking silhouette breaking up rapidly.
Your backpack, which is slowly dropping further and further down as more of the chassis supporting it disappears. The individual parts all fade into a soft shimmer that travels towards your body. As the flakes of energy, or whatever they are, float through your skin, you feel a sense of fullness - not completely unlike the one you felt during your... dream, but this time comfortable. As if you didn't notice there was something missing inside you, until it was filled just now - man, Lady Nevada was spot on about the innuendos. You pick up the backpack, confirm that everything is still here and enter the elevator to head back to the surface.


"Identify 'Lady Nevada'. Is she allied with Arcadia?"
"OH, you heard that? Uh, well, she does work for the council, but-"
"You are to cease contact with her. She is a threat, albeit a weak one."
"But she can be trus- Okay, scratch that, I don't completely trust her. But she might know something, and she isn't a big fan of the council either. The only reason I was here in the first place is because she went behind the back of the officials."
"False Conclusion Detected. Her distrust of her own government doesn't show neutrality, it only shows incompetence in the council of Arcadia."
"I don't think you're the only one who'd say that... But we're in the middle of Arcadian soil here. You're not going to find Pandemonium sympathizers anytime soon, and she and Dame Gwynn are the only people I can trust right now."
"Reaffirm: This territory has been taken over by the weaklings of Arcadia?"
"Arcadia, and Gaia before that. The latter were probably responsible for sending this city underground."
"...The most effective plan is to use target Nevada to extract information. The following step is to kill any Arcadian witnesses, followed by immediate exfiltration from enemy contr-"
"Okay, knock it off! If you're built for battle, I don't know if you even have the ability to think for yourself, but we're not killing them! Stop assuming the worst of everything, and stop being stuck in a war your side might have lost decades ago!"
"Provocation successful. Failure to comply can lead to incapacitation, incarceration or even death."
"I already know how this works. You might have control outside, but unless you're summoned, you're just a voice in my head! You can't threaten me!"
"Voice Synthesis is still sufficient for psychological torture. Observe."

You suddenly hear a scratchy high pitched whine fill your head. You plug your ears, but it doesn't help - It's coming from inside you, already.

"No reference to Pandemonium will be made. As unknown technology most likely created by Pandemonic scientists, the recovered cube shall not fall into the dainty hands of Arcadian researchers. My existence, and your pact shall remain undisclosed, to protect the mission. Should there be any indication of suspicion or attempted contact with Arcadian officials, any humans or monsters in question shall be eliminated Understood?"

> Agree to everything he said.
> Try to convince him to see it your way or negotiate. (Write-In)
> Do your best to ignore the overpowering noise and move on.
>> Try to convince him to see it your way or negotiate. (Write-In)
>"Do you really want to just walk out of here blasting anyone from Arcadia? Great, you'll get us killed! This whole place is a restricted zone, it's contested land that's monitored for trespassers. If they find out some kind of war machine suddenly came out guns blazing from ruins they thought were empty, you'll have the entire Arcadian military bearing down on us before the day is over! With that, you'd just be delivering this cube and whatever is left of you straight to their doorstep for them to study. Dr. Nevada was the only reason I was able to make it into the ruins to find you, and whether you like her or not, she's our only ticket for getting the heat off of us for being here."
something like that, just gotta drive home the point that we're in a spicy situation, and the only way to not get btfo is to finish following through with what the doc has planned
this, if we start killing people we're going to run into a lot of trouble really quick. also inform him of the recent forced relocation of our home town to reassure him that we don't have a lot of loyalty towards the Arcadians

can we try to use our tinker skills to analyze the cube?
>can we try to use our tinker skills to analyze the cube?

Arts & Craft is more about building, creating, repairing, fixing, etc. You could try to repair it, but you don't know what it's supposed to do or look like in the first place. Otherwise, you could use the skill to repurpose the parts to create something else.
But if you want to analyze something, you'd need Academics and/or Orgonomics, depending on the origins of the object.


You do your best to block out the noise and try to talk some sense into him.

"You- You really want to just walk out of here blasting anyone you think is your enemy? You'll get us killed! This whole- This whole cave is a restricted zone, it's contested land that's monitored for trespassers. If they find a war machine suddenly come out guns blazing from ruins they thought were empty, you'll have the entire Arcadian military bearing down on us! Before the day is over!"
"You are a trespasser?" The whine stops right before Enkidu starts to speak again.
"Yeah. If I get spotted, two houses will do everything in their power to track me down. With that, you'd just be delivering this cube and whatever is left of you straight to their doorstep for them to study."
"Likelihood of you entering undetected at 87%. Clearly you were prepared to exit without their notice, then."
"Right, but I can still walk in front of the cameras. Even if you'd manage to give me a stroke with that noise before that, I'd still serve Arcadia the Pandemonic artifact on a silver platter."
"...Handing over Pandemic technology shall be punished with a fate worse than death."

You're running in circles - you need to get him to trust you, fast.

"Look, Enkidu. I don't want us to keep antagonizing and blackmailing each other."
"Evidence severely lacking.
"-I've barely experienced what life in the Principality is like - I've been too remote to grow up as a blind patriot. But my first major interaction with the council was me helping them take my entire village, and my entire life with it, hostage. Just so they can run their experiments. My home is gone, and I'm an undesirable in the country that took it - we have more in common than you think. If I have information that could help them hurt even more people, I don't want to share it with them."
"Dr. Nevada was the only reason I was able to make it into here in the first place, and has already shown to be willing to lie to the council if she thinks it will benefit people - or just herself, I can't tell for sure. In any case, whether you like her or not, she's our only ticket to get around in Arcadia, and figure out what this box is supposed to be."
"...Premise acceptable. However, classified information will remain undisclosed."
"I'm completely fine with that."

You reach the end of the elevator, remembering the security camera to look out for. Once you're past it, you enter the side tunnel leading to the outside - it's a bit trickier with your back still aching, but you finally crawl back to the surface, and not a moment too soon. You put the cover back over the hole and throw some loose dirt on it - obviously it won't fool anyone and Dr. Nevada's plan relies on a legal loophole rather than breaking and entering without a trace, but it calms your nerves a little.


You check the GPS for the first time since it stopped working - the waypoints are all layered on top of each other, but you can see where the path started, and head that way. It looks like the car isn't here, but you notice some tracks leading further into the vegetation. You probably would have agreed on a meeting spot had you still been in contact with them, but you'll have to track them down now. You follow the tracks - you could cover more ground with Enkidu, but you're worried about being spotted with a 10 foot construct and screaming engines. A few minutes after following manmade looking traces and cracked twigs, you're starting to worry a little - wait, is that a window?

"There you are!"

Dame Gwynn suddenly stands in front of you, almost knocking you off your feet. It's only after you process what just happened that you notice you instinctively took on Enkidu's pose when he first summoned his spear - it looks like his muscle memory (if you can call it that) is starting to affect you too.

"Drow target acquired. Recommended opening maneuver: Predator Bolt."

You don't know if Enkidu has some influence on you after all, but for now you need to calm him down.

"No no no! That's Dame Gwynn; she saved my life! We can trust her!"

You desperately try to not think of the fact that she's a hardcore Arcadia loyalist - your pactmate has proven to be able to catch your surface thoughts. Luckily, he doesn't respond - either he's plotting something, or he actually wasn't able to read your mind just now.

"Hello? Sergey?"
"D-Dame Gwynn! You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"I could say the same! Why didn't you report back in! I know the signal was bad, but you clearly should have had a chance to reconnect with us!"
"I'm sorry, I lost it! It must have fallen out... But didn't you see me using the scrying badge?" She shakes her head.
"Once the scrying spell is interrupted, it needs to be reactivated in person. At first we thought you just spent a long time in the shielded area, but when Lady Doctor Nevada saw the scanner go online again, we knew something was wrong - I was worried your dead body was being dragged around by some beast."
"That's... Not something I'd think of first. I ran in some trouble, but I managed to locate the source of the orgone signature, but-"
"Really? That's great! Were you able to recover it, or at least part of it? Maybe some documentation?"
"Well, turned out it was this small box - it's in the backpac-"
"The whole thing! Lady Doctor Nevada will be over the moon! You'll have to show her immediately!"

She snatches your wrist and drags you toward the direction you saw the glint of light from.


"Honestly, I'm already a little worried about Lady Doctor Nevada already - I know she's going to lose a lot of sleep studying this box, but I'm glad I didn't risk my position for nothing... Oh, and you your life, of course."

Choosing to overlook that last statement, you approach the van. Dr. Nevada is exiting the driver's side and moving at you in quick strides.

"About time! Tell me you got something!"

She's giving you a look you haven't seen on her before - or most other people, for that matter. Like she hasn't eaten in days, and you just showed up with fresh bread.

"I- found something the scanner was pointing me towards."
"He said he managed to bring the whole thing generating the signature with him! Isn't that great, Lady Doctor Nev-"
"God, yes! Hand it over, before you break something!"
"I am glad to see you again as well, Dr. Nevada."

You take off your backpack and open it up, glancing to Dr. Nevada. She is acting really obsessive about this, but it shouldn't come to too much of a surprise to you, given that she's been waiting years for this. Still, if you didn't know this wasn't some super-bomb that could take out an entire city, you wouldn't feel comfortable giving it to her. As soon as you pull out the opened box, she snatches it out of you hand and holds it up to study it.

"I found this in-"
"Shh. Damn, this's bang'd up here."

She occasionally tilts it and turns it to another side, causing the engraving to catch the light.

"Lady Doctor Nevada, do you know what language that is? I feel like I've seen this before."

She squints at the faded writing to analyze the symbols. As you take a closer look at them since first seeing them more prominently when you first found it, the letters start to make sense and words begin to form. You can't name the language and because it's hard to see you can't read a complete sentence, but you can extract meaning from the text as easily as you would from one in English. Is that another piece of knowledge you've inherited from the pact?

"That's... Supernal. I think."
"Supernal? That's the language of the angels, right? How could they possibly have tech this advanced?"
"...I'm not sensin' any orgone energy from this. I'm no good at divinin', but there ought t'be somethin' if we could pick it up with the scanner."

She shoots a glare over to you, her eyes squinting behind her half-rim glasses.

"Ivan, was it like this when y'found it?"

> What do you tell her?

> No sense hiding anything, tell her everything.
> Say you accidentally activated the machine, but don't say anything about the pact or Ekidnu.
> Inform her that it got banged up a little when you got attacked, but it was, otherwise, like that when you found it.
>> Say you accidentally activated the machine, but don't say anything about the pact or Ekidnu.
> Say you accidentally activated the machine, but don't say anything about the pact or Ekidnu.
At least we tried not to touch it directly.
> Say you accidentally activated the machine, but don't say anything about the pact or Ekidnu.


Entering the ruins might have been a legally grey act, but making a pact without permission is definitely a crime, so you don't want to reveal that information just yet. Besides, your pact is obviously an anomaly - Dr. Nevada would most likely consider you another experiment to examine.

"Not exactly - the gold foil I used to avoid touching it directly. Unfortunately, I ran into a beast - a really big one."
"Gold foil? Where you shoppin' for treasure?"
"N-Not at all! It was just nearby!"
"Wait, something that big attacked you? You don't look hurt at all!" Dame Gwynn looks you over, noting the ripped uniform.
"I-I guess it's like that weasel thing from earlier? Trust me, I'm still hurting all over."

A half-truth, as you really don't have any physical injuries - the dull pain was caused from your pactmate getting heavily damaged, although it doesn't feel nearly as bad as it did before.

"Anyway, It attacked me, and in the process the artifact got damaged."
"Damaged!? So did y'feel the orgone field?"
"When I picked it up, I felt some sort of pressure - I guess that's it? Anyway, I was worried about it blowing up or leaking something dangerous, so I threw the backpack off. A bit later, there was..."

You panic a little, trying to come up with a believable cover story on the spot.

"-well, it's hard to describe. I'd say it was big, purple flash? It scared off the beast, but it stayed like that afterwards."

Dr. Nevada glances at you in disbelief.

"You're tellin' me we went all this way for a glorifi'd flash bomb?"
You throw on your best poker face. "Dr. Nevada, I'm telling you that there was this purple flash. I don't know what it did exactly, but as a result, the monster ran off."
"Lady Doctor Nevada, do you think he might be irradiated? Could he be contagious?" The changeling takes a step away from you.
"If it's psychic radiation, which it sounds like, the effects went with the orgone energy. He still speaks English n' his fingers aren't falling off, but we'll have t'run tests t'find out if he's impotent or somethin' now."
"Wait, that can happen? The storms I've witnessed usually break houses or set crops on fire."
"There's been cases for all of that. Anyway, Gwynn, you're more sensitive t'that stuff than me. You feel anythin'?"

Dr. Nevada holds out the cube and Gwynn gingerly places a hand on an exposed panel.

"Hm... No, not from touching the artifact. However, I've been picking up some sort of field since Sergey returned - maybe some residual energy?"
"Could be. We're not gonna find out more 'bout this thing in the middle of nowhere, let's get back now."
"Back where?"
"New Minsk. My lab is in Limur. Get that black crate in the back, I want this thing secured."


You climb into the trunk of the van and pull out the crate, watching Dr. Nevada carefully placing the artifact inside it and ensuring that it is snugly secured against any shocks.

"Nevada was considered an ally. Now information involving the pact is withheld. Elaborate."

Enkidu suddenly chimes up, almost causing you to gasp. You look towards the doctor - despite hearing his voice clearly, she isn't batting an eye. You really are the only one who can hear him like this, similar to Dame Gwynn and Durga.

"I said she could identify the weird tech. I'd still rather keep you a secret if possible. Even if they won't sell us out to the council, I have a feeling she'd keep me around as a labrat."
"Ivan! I said secure that crate to the wall! If I hear that thing rustle around, you're dead!" Dr. Nevada's sudden orders knock you out of the internal conversation you were having.
"Oh, uh, right!"

While you strap the crate to the wall, the other two get back into the driver's cabin and start the car. Dame Gwynn gives directions, and soon you seem to be back on the well-treaded path that counts as a road.

"Vastly inferior infrastructure detected. Arcadian logistics are greatly underdeveloped, tactics of attrition recommended."
"I think, cars just aren't that important to them. I read that highways used to be really common, but they don't need them."
"A critical mistake. Fey oversight of technological prowess will surely be their downfall."
"What are you talking about? Arcadia is miles ahead of everyone else in science!"
"Inconceivable. Pandemonium Federations have experienced major growth through superior technology."

"You need t'shit or somethin', Ivan? Tell me before you make a mess."
"W-What makes you say that?"
"You lookin' constipat'd."
"W-well, now that you mention it, I did drink a lot, and hadn't had the chance to, well, relieve myself..."

Dr Nevada sighs heavily and you can just imagine her eyes rolling. You weren't aware that you were making faces, you'll have to work on being more subtle.

"I swear, it's like lookin' after a lil' kid. Fine, we'll stop. But no more breaks after that."

You feel the car slow down and turn to the right. A little surprised by her consideration, you quickly do your business and the three - well, six, at this point - of you resume the trip.


"How much longer, Gwynn?"
"I think it should be... an hour, at most? Do we have enough fuel?"
"I had 'em fill the tank back at the outpost. Yo, Ivan."
"Oh, what is it, Dr. Nevada?"
"I've been wonderin' about one thing. We couldn't tell what was goin' on after you lost contact, but eventually the short-band scanner did give us a signal after a while. Thing is, from when it went online, you got back t'the surface way faster than you did reachin' that concrete city. Mind tellin' me what's up with that?"

Shit. You weren't thinking about covering your tracks at that point, and only wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

"Well, I found a shortcut that let me cross that big debris much easier! Plus, I knew the way back already, so I quicker on the way back!"
"That must've been one hell of a shortcut. The time it took you t'get back was four times faster than on the way there, you'd have to be sprintin' the whole time. That would've been impossible with all that stuff on your back, and I know you wouldn't have done that. You're too careful, you would've taken your time."

Those sharp eyes in the rear-view mirror bore into you, showing confidence and suspicion. She's right on all counts.

> What do you say to her?

> (Write-In)
I really need to proofread these more. I've been making more and more mistakes, sorry for that.
fake it till ya make it man, no one's checking your grammar
>uhhhh uh fuck uhhh yeah the box may have helped me go fast
>ask Enk if he cares if we let them know about him
>"Nevada was considered an ally. Now information involving the pact is withheld. Elaborate."
oh, I figured that part of the classified info that we agreed keep secret earlier was Enkidu's existence, whoops
Yeah, I dunno if we can talk our way out of this. At first I was trying to think of a cover story using the subway system we didn't check out, like we searched it and found a working service car that let us get back fast or something. I don't know if our guy would even know about that sort of thing though, and if Enkidu isn't going to start blasting white noise again for revealing him and our pact then it might be best to come clean.
>admit that after touching the box a pact was automatically made
uhhh and I guess
>explain that we were hesitant to bring it up because an unauthorized pact would just add more knots to the complicated legal situation we're trying to get out of
it's true, but it also gives a reason for us to have lied at first that isnt "well my pact buddy hates you arcadia guys and [all that other stuff we agreed to not mention]"
>oh, I figured that part of the classified info that we agreed keep secret earlier was Enkidu's existence, whoops

I guess I should have explained that better: The pact isn't classified information because neither the cube nor his existence has been regarded as classified. He wouldn't want Sergey to reveal him if it means he'd be held captive, but didn't say he had to keep the pact a secret, at least after negotiations.
Yeah might as well come clean if Enki isn't going to kill us over it. The only other excuse I can see potentially working is suggesting that it must've been a problem with the scanner or something.


"Oh, uh... maybe that artifact made me move at superspeed? Like you said, I felt like I was moving really fast!"
"You sure 'bout that?"

Your pulse quickens. Time to ask Enkidu for advice, maybe?

"Sorry. I tried to keep you a secret, but I don't think I can talk our way out of this one. Do you have any ideas?"
"Violence is always an option."
"Without murder, obviously!"
"Pactmakers are easily identified through diviners, and extraction is considered improbable. A traitor on our side would improve survival in a covert operation. Additionally, your last statement already marked you as a scientific anomaly."
"Oh, you're actually... right. Thanks, especially for giving Dr. Nevada a chance."
"This is the optimal course of action given the situation you have forced yourself in."

You look the elf in the eyes through the mirror, her gaze slightly relaxed, but still as accusatory as ever.

"Thought of a better lie t'tell?"
"I'm- I'm sorry I haven't been honest, Dr. Nevada. Actually, the cube didn't release purple light - at least, I don't think it did. I touched it, to make sure it was okay, and then it kind of... made me go unconscious."
"Out with it. What. happened?"
"I think the box was some kind of container for a monster - and I ended up in a pact."

Gwynn is suddenly covering the entire window towards you, fighting the seatbelt from pulling her back. Her face reads mostly shock, but you can clearly see anger in her brows.

"I'm sorry, Dame Gwynn, but would you rather I'd get eaten by a giant beast?"
"I understand that in life-threatening situations, pactmaking seems tempting, but you just threw your life away just as well! Your entire legal immunity Doctor Lady Nevada was relying on went out of the window the second you accepted that pact!"
"I didn't accept!"
"Do you expect me to believe that? You can't make a pact without consent! Even if you were tricked, you-"
"No, I did not agree to a pact! Neither did my pactmate!"

The car stops abruptly, sending both you and Gwynn flying forward. Dr. Nevada looks at you once again, slightly perplexed, but still as focused as before.


"Ivan, you serious?"
"I swear, Dr. Nevada. My memories at that point are a bit fuzzy, but neither of us agreed to merge. When I woke up, the pact already was done."
"Get out of the car."

For a moment you think she if going to throw you out and drive off, but she turns off the engine and gets out as well.

"Gwynn, you too." She swings the rear doors open.
"No one's goin' anywhere till we figure out what's what here."

Hesitantly, you get up and exit the car.

"First things first. You a hybrid?"
"N-no. Do I look like one?"
"Just askin'. Your eyes're yellow now."
"Oh gosh, you're right! I didn't notice!"

You run to the mirror on the left side of the car and look at your reflection. She's right - not only is your iris yellow, it's so bright that it seems to glow, and drown out the black of the pupil. You turn back to Dr. Nevada.

"So you could tell the whole time?"
"You were actin' fishy since you got back, but the eyes I notic'd when I ask'd you 'bout the timeframe. I didn't know why you were lyin' 'bout that, but I figur'd they chang'd from psychic energy. You said your pactmate didn't agree t'the pact, right?"
"Yes, he said I wasn't authorized. He's a construct."
"Does that mean he's dangerous? Is it safe t'bring 'im out?"
"He kind of sees Arcadia as an enemy..."
"WHAT!?" Oops, that wasn't very diplomatic. You see Dame Gwynn already reaching for her sword.
"Wait, I did convince him to trust you, however! Let me- Let me ask him real quick."


You address Enkidu, this time voicing out your question - transparency is key right now.

"You've been paying attention, right? Can you promise me to not attack them?"
"Nevada is currently considered an ally under parole. An ambush would eliminate that advantage. This has already been established."
"I know you said that, but I just wanted to make sure. Dame Gwynn, he said he wouldn't fight you. You can relax, please."
"Promises might be nice, but I'd still rather keep a hand on a hilt than a wound. I trust you, Sergey, but I can't trust a self-proclaimed enemy of the council."

You see the tension in her expression and posture, and is slowly getting between you and Dr. Nevada.

"She may continue. Her defensive measures would be irrelevant in actual combat."
"Underestimating your opponent seems like a pretty bad habit for a construct built for war...", you mutter.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Uh, I was just asking if you would want me to summon the construct right now!"
"No duh. Got some questions for that walking pile of junk."
"Okay, but it's best not to provoke him! Not that he'd attack you for it, it would just be-"

Your explanation is met with two icy glares, one of impatience, the other of wariness.

"Yeah, I'll just- I'll just be summoning him... Over here, I guess."

You try to reproduce the same sensations you've felt when summoning and unsummoning him for the first time. You could use the voice command, but you feel a little silly saying it, and you'd rather get used to an easier way of bringing him out. After getting a fix on something, you push further, as if you've found an angle where you can pull out roots with ease. Similar to the first time, small flashing lights fading into mechanical parts and crystals appear from the ground up, assembling themselves into large legs. You feel the same force suggesting to enter the cockpit, but you ignore it, choosing to watch the process as an outsider instead - this will be your first time seeing your pactmate in full, after all. The summoned parts get larger and larger as the upper body is being constructed, with the largest piece being a massive stone wheel with many engravings making up a good chunk of the torso, which quickly gets covered up by more panels. Finally, Tau Enkidu stands before you in his full glory.
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Seeing him on the ground this close, he looks even taller than he felt like when riding him. He is clearly humanoid, but with very exaggerated proportions. His shoulders are incredibly wide and carry massive guards that remind you of horns. His tall, tapered head has a V-shaped visor with a single yellow dot shining out of it. This combined with the zig-zag pattern on where his mouth would be makes it look like he is perpetually scowling at everyone. Even more unfriendly is the chest, which is styled to look like a skull glaring at its opponent - the instinctive knowledge on Enkidu's functions tells you that the large eyes are used emit frequencies that provoke susceptible humans and monsters. The pelvis completes the appearance of the skull with teeth hinting at a lower jaw, and juts forward - this must be where your legs are positioned when riding him.
His legs, covered with more thick plating, start with robust pillars and end with fine, segmented and curved poles that look too thin to support his entire weight. His lower arms seem unusually long, and are clearly reminiscent of a human skeleton, as are his hands. His back is covered in three large thruster (one for propulsion, two for steering, you just understand) and to finish off his inhuman design, a wide tail wrapped in some sort of thick rubber sprouts from where the small of his back would be, and tapers into two hooks.
His different segments seem to clash with each other, as if they belong to different constructs, but put together, make for a somehow coherent and intimidating appearance. You feel like you've heard a word for it when the older folks of Springfield when describing the different beasts that used to inhabit your town, but it escapes you now. His entire body is mostly white, with some dark grey and dark purple accents, though both the dot in his visor and the fake eyes in his chest glow with the same yellow your eyes shine. That must be where you got them from.
You look over to the others - Dame Gwynn is clutching her sword even tighter, and Dr. Nevada... Is looking furiously at you?


"You retarded or something!? Call him back, NOW!"
"What? What do you mean?"
"You didn't tell me he was 3 meters tall! You can see him from everywhere out here!"

Oh. She has a point.

"Lack of road maintenance minimizes visibility already. Additionally, potential witnesses can be captured and, if necessary, e-"
"Sorry, big guy, but she's right! Let's try that again in the thicket!"

With a desperate grin, you quickly mentally command him to return, and he does - this time seemingly faster than before. It looks like you have some sort of control over how fast you summon and unsummon him, at least that's good to know. You move a bit further into the wood, and find a spot wide enough for Enkidu to move, but deep enough to not be seen by anyone passing by - even if you haven't really seen any so far. You bring him out again, this time a bit quicker - all this back and forth is good practice.

"Dr. Nevada, Dame Gwynn, this is Tau Enkidu. Enkidu, this is Dr. Nevada, and this is Dame Gwynn."
"Be careful, Lady Doctor Nevada - I don't recognize this construct design at all."
"Me neither. Who built you?"
"The Tau Enkidu series was developed and manufactured by the Pandemonium Federation."
"Pandemonium? Never heard of that before. Lady Doctor Nevada?"
"Uh, not sure. Some splinter faction? Someplace tucked far away too annoyin' t'explore?"
"He said he's been to Minsk, and he's been stuck in that box for a long time. I don't think that's it."
"So it was a faction that ate shit a long time ago, then!"
"I don't recall reading about a faction of that name in any of the history books. I know there were a lot of small unions in the first stages of the war, but I highly doubt a nation capable of producing constructs this large in series would be too tiny to not mention."
"What d'you want me t'say? I didn't study history!"


Gwynns eyes widen in shock.

"Oh, sorry, Lady Doctor Nevada, I didn't mean to accuse you! There is a chance this monster could be lying, however."

Her expression sharpens into a focused glare again.

"Sergey, can you tell if he's deceiving us?"
"Am I supposed to as his pactmate? Sorry, your guess is as good as mine."
"The insinuation of the knife-ear is erroneous."
"No motivation to obscure my allegiance to a country at war with Arcadia can be found."

Now you're on the receiving end of her sour glare. What did you do?

"You're lucky you're bound to Lady Doctor Nevada's retainer. You'd be in pieces otherwise."
"All Tau models have been designed to be immune to threats from creatures too weak to lift their main form of propulsion."
"Okay, okay! Let's stay diplomatic for a while longer, please! Like I said, Enkidu, your country might not even be at war with Arcadia anymore! Why don't you tell us when exactly you got trapped in that cube?"
"...Searching... Last log date prior to today is dated 21st December, 26 Anno Monstrum."
"Almost 100 years? No wonder you didn't know about the state of things now!"
"That's well past the annex of the last minor monster faction. As I suspected, there is no Pandemonia. Identify your true allegiances, NOW!"
"Hypothesis: Your ignorance of the Pandemonia Federation was caused by mediocre education, either by accident or design."
"How DARE you-"
"Dame Gwynn, please!"
"He's been repeatedly insulting the Principality, and a knight thereof! Enemy or not, he has to be taught a lesson!"
"He's a construct, he was designed and built by someone else! Maybe he's made to talk that way!"
"My conversation tree dispenses truth by design."
"Even assuming that is a worthwhile excuse, he is still lying to us! Don't tell me you believe him!"

> Who do you believe?

> Gwynn
> Enkidu
>> Enkidu
I mean, there's plenty of mysteries around those ruins, what's one more?
dang this looks great, did you draw this?
>dang this looks great, did you draw this?

Yes, as well as the other illustrations, except for OP from the first thread. Glad you like it.
I want to draw every major character and enemy going forward, except possibly Sergey. Expect Nevada for the next thread.
Forgot the trip, it's-a me.
> Enkidu
He probably isn't lying. Probably. What we do know for sure is that he definitely isn't from Gaia and likely isn't from Elysium.
> Enkidu
agree, he for sure isn't a treehugger
nice stuff, did you base the fur pile monster on any preexisting monster/folklore sort of thing?
It's based on a jinmenken.


"Dame Gwynn, you're correct in that he shouldn't talk to you like that. But-"
"Have him apologize, then."
"Apologize? To you?"
"Yes, of course! Insulting me is one thing, but I couldn't face the council if I let slander like this stay unchallenged!"
"Well, you heard her. Could you apologize to her?"
"Prior act to apologize for not found."
"It's not about that! We have to communicate right now. Isn't that the ideal choice in this situation?"
"...Apologies. Awaiting apology acceptance..."

You give Dame Gwynn a forced smile.

"That's got to count for something considering his behavior, right?"
"...Fine, apology accepted. Just keep in mind most in service of the council aren't this lenient. Continue, Sergey."
"Thank you, Dame Gwynn. Now... while I know it might be hard for you to accept this, what if he's right? Not about the mediocre education, of course, I'm sure you studied everything there is, but... what if Pandemonia is classified information?"
"What? Why would some extinct society of barbarians be considered sensitive information?"
"I don't know either, but I really don't think Enkidu is lying about this. Dr. Nevada, don't you think it's possible that the council is covering it up?"

She considers your question for a moment.

"The council could cover up parts of history if they want'd t'."
"If that's the case, there must be a good reason for it to stay secret! The council would only classify information if it's for the good of the populace!"
"Or some Season Prince just didn't like the name. The bigwigs're petty like that."
"Lady Doctor Nevada, I'd appreciate if you took this serious."
"I am! I just think whether he's lyin' 'bout his country's irrelevant. What I wanna know is whether he's lyin' 'bout the pact."

She looks towards the two of you.

"...Well, like I said, after I touched that cube, I had this weird... vision? I saw myself in a battlefield, riding Enkidu. He mentioned things about the pact, and then I came to."
"What things?"
"Information regarding pact procedures of Pandemonia constructs classified."
"S-Say, Enk, can you tell us what you experienced on your end? Did you notice something that could help?"
"Perception of self and environment most likely disabled for the duration of stay in containment unit. First logs past boot-up sequence created by pact procedure, skipping confirmation and authorization phases. Classified as 'Metaphysical Impossibility'."
"...Uh, you understood that, right? He also said he doesn't recognize the cube, so that must have been it."
"Slow down, kid. Occam's razor says he's just lyin', n' your noggin got wip'd. Makin' the artifact just a portable prison."
"Pact approval beyond my decision making permissions. Rider was and still is ineligible to form pacts with Tau model constructs."
"Unfortunately for you, with your country missing, you have no way of backing that claim up. Making your story, as you said, a 'metaphysical impossibility'."


Gwynn is still shooting daggers at the monster twice her size and somewhere between 10 to 20 times her weight. She's not actively pulling out her sword from her belt anymore, but the two aren't going to become friends anytime soon. You suddenly remember something that could help settle this.

"Dr Nevada!" She is slightly startled by your sudden outburst.
"Huh? What?"
"You said you wanted to examine the artifact, right? Wouldn't you be able to tell what it did to us?"
"Maybe? I'm definitely gonna comb thru evr'ythin', but reverse-engineerin's a different beast. It's gonna take a while."
"How long? I'd like to work this out as soon as possible, before Dame Gwynn is going to stare a hole in my head."
"We only got one of these, so at least a month, two tops. God knows what you broke, it'll take even longer then. If it's got an operatin' system, I'll need help, I'm no good at that - but they're gonna be slow as shit. And if you flattened some important data storage, we might just be fucked altogether."
"So, a few months, at least?"
"That's assuming I'm working full-time on this, which I won't. I haven't decided whether I'll report it t'the House yet, but they gonna want me doing other stuff. All in all, a year? Two?"
"Two years? What am I supposed to do then, live in prison?"
"Don't be silly. Anyone in there for that long'd either agree t'be a bottom feeder slave or dead."

"Sergey raises a valid point, actually. We haven't discussed his punishment for violating pact law."
"Shouldn't we rather discuss how to avoid it?"
"I'm sorry, but the rules should and must be enforced. But don't worry, if we make an appeal, you might just be made to perform labor like mining or constructing outposts in hellscapes! You'd be set for life!"
"Yeah, I'm with Ivan. I'd rather we keep 'im."
"Dr. Nevada, thanks-"
"Don't read too much int' it kid. I'm a theoretical orgonologist, you're an orgonomic anomaly. I'd want you 'round even if you tried t'kill me. Gwynn, do the rules say you're not allow'd t'specifically agree t'a pact, or..."
"No, Lady Doctor Nevada. The council categorically criminalizes being in a pact without permission, not forming one. Besides, even if that was the case, there is no evidence to prove Sergey didn't agree to the pact."
"Urgh, knew you'd say that. Any more wacky loopholes we can exploit? Mergin' in an undocumented ruin with a construct?"
"Let me think... No, this is a fairly open and shut case. However, you could always c-"
"Don't even say it. I'm gonna do it, but at least don't make me think 'bout it."
"What? What is she talking about?"
"I was just going to suggest collecting fa-"
"AH! NO MORE! If you wanna give 'im a lesson in bullshit politics, do it without me!"

Dr. Nevada throws her hands in the air and enters the back of the van. She loosens the restraints of the crate containing the artifact, and slams the rear doors shut.


"What was that?"
"Possible explanations include hysteria and menstruation."
"Don't talk about Lady Doctor Nevada like that, tin can!"

She bares her teeth at Enkidu, sighs, and looks over to you.

"We were referring to collecting favor."

You stare at her in shock and concern. That... sounds really seedy. She immediately takes on an accusatory tone.

"AH, don't even think about that! It doesn't have to do with anything underhanded. That's the thing about you serfs, you can be so unrefined..."
"Uhm... I'm believe technically not a serf anymore. I was also hoping your opinion of me was a little higher than that."
"Oh, sorry! I wasn't thinking. It's something that isn't actually codified in the lawbooks, so usually people outside the council don't know about it."
"That... still kind of sounds shady."
"Not at all! Collecting and exchanging favor just refers to agreeing to and offering services and seats or trading possessions to garner good faith. This in turn can be traded in for other favors or pardons of equal weight - in your case, a pardon for your crime as an undocumented pactmaker. That doesn't mean councilmembers can just ignore the law - pardons shouldn't be used in anticipation of a crime."

While explaining, her friendly and gentle smile returned, as if she's forgotten all about the giant monster next to her and is just happy to tell you more about the inner workings of Arcadia.

"...I know this sounds normal to you, but it seems incredibly corrupt. Doesn't that lead to a lot of problems?"
"Record high corruption levels registered in Arcadian government."
"It. Is. NOT! Corrupt! It allows councilmembers more flexibility, promotes cooperation between Houses and encourages positive actions outside the frame of the law that could lead to amends in the constitution!"
"A-are you completely convinced of that? Why is it not codified, then?"
"Because as a protocolled procedure, it would be subject to the same rigidity of regular laws! Isn't that obvious!?"
"And what about people outside the council? Are they given that luxury?"
"Most serfs have little to offer, but the majority of councilmembers give up favor to pardon their misdeeds all the time regardless! Don't talk of things you know nothing about!"

Clearly Dame Gwynn is getting agitated for having something so important to her taken apart without someone to back her up - especially if they don't know what it looks like in practice. Maybe it's best to give her some affirmation and change the topic.

"Okay, I apologize, Dame Gwynn. I'm sure there's a lot to the council that would seem strange to me as an outsider, but exists for a good reason. I don't want to accuse anyone without proof, either. Could you tell me why Dr. Nevada is so against this- ritual?"

She catches herself and you can see hints of red on her black cheeks. She takes a deep breath, clears her throat and finally fixes her posture before continuing.


"R-Right. Lady Doctor Nevada has never been to keen on relying on favors. She once told me that she prefers hard rules over negotiable guidelines. Additionally, there are a lot of unwritten - well, in this case unspoken - rules regarding proper conduct for this ritual. Invitation, attire, seating order, music, food, drink,... Councilmembers are expected to follow all these rules as a sign of respect towards the process. It's said to have originated from fairy courts of the feywild."
"I can see why she wouldn't be a fan of this. But can't you fill in for her? It seems right up your alley."
"I would if I could, but to send a delegate would be seen as a complete insult. I would collect favor myself, but as a knight, my rank is too low to engage in the ritual. As a head scientist and honorary member of the inner circle of House Daedal, only Lady Doctor Nevada would have high enough standing to negotiate. Besides, I'll most likely be in need of some pardoning myself, for abandoning my duties as a strike team commander."

"I'm surprised you're not outright shooting this idea down. Are you not suspicious of Enk anymore?"
"Believe you me, I still am. But if Lady Doctor Nevada wants to pardon you, and by extension... him... then I have to respect that. That's the nature of favors, it's in poor taste to protest the results."
"Can't you just ask someone in House Daedal to do it for her, then? Surely she's well respected there, right?"
"That she is, but that would just be passing the obligation down the line. Even close allies and fellow housemembers are expected to follow the procedures and exchange favors of equal value."
"That sucks. Is pardoning me going to take a lot?"
"The pactmaker population is very tightly regulated, so yes, unfortunately. However, if we can make the case that your freedom is for the benefit of Arcadia, it will be a lot easier."
"Benefit? Like what, community service?"

She stifles a giggle.

"Something like that, yes. The majority of pactmakers are employed by the Arcadian military, with a disproportionate amount ending up in strike teams - only changelings can be commanders, however."
"What else is there in the military? It sounds like strike teams cover a lot already."
"Strike teams usually do a variety of tasks, and are beholden to a house. The other branches of the military serve under the high council directly, and are more specialized. Strike teams unfortunately tend to look down on the rest of the military, but I think they all fulfill a vital role for the safety of our people, and I'd be proud to serve any of them! ...Though, I've got to admit, I wouldn't want to be in the navy if I had a say in the matter."

She lowers her voice a little for imaginary eavesdroppers and looks slightly embarrassed for that last comment.


"But, anyway, there's a lot of all types of pactmakers working in law enforcement as well! People with monsters that possess great social skills often end up working for the council, and can attain a rather high status for non-fairies. Of course, the highest positions are reserved for true fairies and hybrids thereof only. Oh, and there actually is a surprisingly high number of pactmakers working in the entertainment industry! I think it has to do with their scarcity, though the ones that become musicians are usually empowered by their music."
"Yeah, they are usually called sirens. They manifest their abilities through singing, dancing, what have you. I once worked with a Siren - it's a bit weird hearing her sing between gunfire, but it really did help."
"Huh. What about divers?"
"Oh! Yes, a good section of them have undergone a pact. However, they aren't allowed to be affiliated with a house, and there's still the matter of you being Lady Doctor Nevada's retainer and your residence... It would take a while to work that out, and not viable for an appeal. The judges would see it as a ploy from House Daedal to insert a mole in the diver's guild. Sorry."

"That's a shame. That would have been my first choice. Well, I don't think I'm suited for social settings, and I can't sing, so I really only have fighting as an option, huh?"
"Incorrect. Dragoon units reported to show success rate in verbal combat due to superior passive orgone field radiation and intimidation tactics."
"Passive orgone field?"
"Referred to by peasants and morons as 'aura'."
"...While I don't condone intimidation as a form of negotiation, and I say this with great hesitation-! He does have a point - somewhat. Naturally, some types of humans and monsters tend to do better in some areas, but I've seen exceptions everywhere. If there's something you can excel in, be it through natural traits or hard work, that's where people in Arcadia usually go. That being said, what do you think should we advertise you for? Keep in mind this isn't going to be a contract, so nothing will be set in stone, but I think it's good if we think of something we could propose you could do for the principality."

> What do you want to suggest?

> Strike Team Member
> Arcadian Military
> Law Enforcement
> Retainer
> Other (Write-In)
It's fun to write big dialogue again, I hope it's not stale for you.
Can you tell me which parts you've been enjoying the most? The worldbuilding, the exploration, the characters, maybe something different?
Strike Team sounds good, but what would retainer entail? Would that mean sticking with Dr. Nevada as she goes around doing research or would the council stick us somewhere else since Gwynn is already helping her?
Yeah, I like the worldbuilding. The exploration really stood out though with the ruin section, and I liked how the way we had to carefully consider how we navigated the space and threat of monsters set up a nice contrast with how things were after the pact was formed.
>we made a robot that can tear everyone here limb from limb apologize to a bureaucratic airbag
> Other
doooo we even have to tell anyone we're pack'd/go through the needed legal asskissing? I wouldn't really mind just keeping on as a retainer to Nevada and working with research or whatever. Would get chance to learn more about what happened to our town.
worldbuilding's fun, yeah. Be interesting to get more history
Retainer doesn't necessarily mean working as a research assistant, it's more of a gauge whether you want to be in a setting that sees more social encounters, exploring new places or combat. I was thinking of calling it "Council Assistant" or something, but retainer seemed catchier - you might not even end up staying Nevada's retainer.

I think it's best to share the direction I imagine the roles to go:

> Strike Team Member
Fairly balanced mix between combat, exploration and social. Varied tasks in different settings depending on the mission type. You might end up seeing folks from the noble class, lower class and maybe some foreigners.

> Arcadian Military
Focus on a single task with the least potential for social interaction, but the most for exploring uncharted territory and contact with other factions. You're in a team, and you stick with it.

> Law Enforcement
About equal parts of combat and social encounters, but very little opportunity to move beyond your assigned city. Most contact will be with lower class citizens, but there's interactions with nobles and their retainers as well.

Almost no combat, but tons of talking, diplomacy and petty politics. Could actually have a good amount of exploration on account of travelling between cities. Lots of different faces belonging to the noble class and their staff.
>Strike Team Member
Having a little bit of everything sounds good
Are you voting Other?

> do we even have to tell anyone we're a pactmaker to go through the needed legal asskissing?
I hope interpreted that sentence correctly - you don't know what the council looks like, but you'd obviously be registered as having made a pact. That being said, people don't know the list inside out, so you can keep it a secret unless your superior would tell you otherwise.
> Strike Team Member
I’m >>5387905 phoneposting btw
Got it, figured as much.

The final pick is Strike Team Member!
Writing now.


"I still think a strike team would be best for me. If that's not unrealistic - it sounds like it's reserved for the best of the best - that, and my pactmate isn't exactly ready to give his life for the council."
"I'm not going to lie, under normal circumstances, I'd vote against it, and I still want to. However, we might not have a choice. You shouldn't worry about whether you are eligible by the letter of the law - the heads of the House are trusted to use their best judgement for candidates, and aren't met with a lot of resistance against their choices."

She gets her serious glance back.

"But understand that as a strike team member, you would represent some of the finest the Arcadian army has to offer. I'll expect you to show excellence in ability and etiquette whenever you are on duty, understood?"
"Uh- is Dr. Nevada an exception?"
"She is... free to overlook manners because that wasn't really a strike team, it's just classified one in the loosest sense. That type of escort just required a commander for supervision."
"Well, I'm probably lacking in the finer points of etiquette, but I'll try my best."
"Anyway, I think we should hear what Lady Doctor Nevada thinks about this."

You open the back of the van while Gwynn keeps an eye trained on Enk. You see Dr. Nevada, hunched over the closed crate, examining the cube on top of it. She doesn't seem to notice you.

"Dr. Nevada?"


"Dr. Nevada!"
"Hm? Oh, you done talkin' 'bout the f-word? Good, you need t'tell me somethin'. See these letters on the side here?"

She points at the Supernal font. It's inscribed so tightly you can't make it out, but you nod.

"Right. That look different before y'fucked it up?"
"Actually, it was glowing at first. I looked at the artifact right after the pact, and the glow was gone. How did you know? What does that mean?"

She carefully puts the cube aside and hops out of the van, this time facing your pactmate.

"Snark aside, you've been real cooperative for a killer machine. What's your M.O?"
"Cooperation considered optimal given situation. Evaluation of potential ally still ongoing."
"That's us, right? What happens if we fail the test?"
"Removal of witnesses."
"Oh no, you won't! Think about this, Dr. Nevada is already willing to c- well, go through a lot to make sure we can stay! There's no need for some cloak and dagger operation!"
"Mission and classified technology still at risk due to favor system. Any political immunity can be overridden by enemies of Pandemonia."
"Mission? What mission?"
"Gonna stop you right there. Let's say your country's gone. Like, off the map, no one's left. Then what?"
"No protocol found for this hypothetical."
"You can think for y'self, right? You said so earlier."

He pauses and looks to the side.


He remains like that for a few seconds, then turns back.


"Most effective strategy: Prioritize survival, then search for signs of remaining Pandemonia territory or leaders. If found, make contact and await further instructions."
"Doesn't Sergey get a say in this? He is your pactmate, and you'd be nothing without him!"
"Authorization insufficient for Rider. Current of former Pandemonia army service required."
"A'right, let's go with that then."
"Functionally speakin', the federation's gone. We don't know if it's real, and if you do know where it's at, but won't tell us, we can't believe anythin' you say. So stayin' in line and not schemin' terror attacks is a no-brainer for you."
"...Correct. Until Arcadian firepower has been quantified, an armistice is preferable."
"Phew, thanks, Dr. Nevada. I'll try my best to keep him in line."
"I just hope you know what you're doing, Lady Doctor Nevada. It's exceedingly rare to allow enemy forces into a city, let alone the capital."
"Psh, it'll be fine. He's a hundred years old, all his communication channels were probably decommissioned for a few decades ago. Who's he gonna contact?"

Gwynn resigns herself to letting out a heavy sigh.

"Setting that aside, I told Sergey his pardon would be easier to get through if we made an appeal for his potential service to the country. He thought he'd be well suited for strike team tasks - I'm inclined to agree... present company notwithstanding."
"Huh? I need t'study you, so no. Can't have you runnin' 'round the planet."
"Consider this, Lady Doctor Nevada. Not only did he enter a pact, he also did so with a monster that openly admits to have been and potentially still is an enemy of the principality. The odds are heavily stacked against him. If you want to pardon him, you'll need a strong case for his value as an official pactmaker."
"He breaks the laws of pact orgonomics. I'd say that's as strong a case as you can get."
"That may be true, but that wouldn't require his charges to be dropped. You could still observe and perform tests on him while he's in captivity."
"...Wait. You tellin' me I can keep 'im as a labrat without havin' t'rub shoulders with the Earl?"
"Uhm, yes, but-"
"Well shit, problem solv'd! Saves me a lot of trouble!"
"Wait, what? I thought you said you were going to pardon me! You're fine with me sitting in prison?"
"Yeah, 'cause I thought there was no other way. Like I said, I want you for research."

You see the eyes in Enkidu's chest light up.

"Betrayal will be met with heavy resistance. For your health, reconsider."
"Pshh, you're still damag'd from your tussle, you couldn't get past Gwynn. And even if you did, you'd have every strike team available on your asses."
"Lady Doctor Nevada, don't you think that it's-"
"Now you're complainin'? I thought you want'd him behind bars?"


You give Gwynn a pleading look, who reciprocates with guilt in her eyes. She closes them, and takes a deep breath.

"No. That's not right."
"If you're bankin' on your authority as commander, that won't work. The mission's over once we get back."
"I know that. And I know that this is selfish of me, but I want to stay true to my decision yesterday. Sergey's a victim of circumstance, and at the risk of regretting this decision, I want him to have a chance. If there's something I can do for you in return, don't hesitate to ask me."

She gives a deep bow, the same you've seen her do when she greeted Baroness Selène. Dr Nevada watches her in silence.

"N' what does Durga think 'bout this?"

Gwynn slowly rises.

"I'll let her speak for herself."

In a fraction of a second, a black flash leaves Gwynn's skin white as snow and Durga stands next to her.

"I sez it right now, I can't stand the fat junk oaf, Ledy Docta. But I'm wiv 'er on the lad, I wanna see w'at 'e can do fer the 'ouse."

The doctor turns around away from you. You hear her groan loudly and see her take her glasses off and most likely palm her face, hard.
She turns back, slightly more composed, but visibly annoyed.

"Fine. But he better pull his own weight - the big one's weight."
"I can not thank you enough, Lady Doctor Nevada."

She looks over to you, scowling ever so slightly.

"Must be feelin' real special. Can't go half a day without havin' either of us bend over backwards for you."
"Believe me, I only feel really grateful right now. Thank you for helping me."
"Well tell me that once you actually walk out scot-free. Let's go, we've wast'd enough time."

She spins on her heel and walks towards the van, but stops halfway.

"Oh, n' one thing. Listen up, this is important. Remember that shit I told you 'bout your obsession?"
"You mean that it's important to keep it in mind? That it can corrupt me? Is that it?"
"Now that you made a pact, that shit counts tenfold. Got it?"


"What? Because of the pact?"
"You two merged orgone fields, so you can manipulate orgone energy now. You rely on that too much, it messes up your head, FAST."
"You mean like Gwynn teleporting? Is she in danger?"
"No, that's not enough. I'm talkin' 'bout really burnin' thru your reserves. You said you fought that thing off. You use the construct?"
"More like it used me, but yes..."
"You hit a point where you went all out, n' it left you dizzy?"
"...Yes, exactly. Is that bad?"

"It can be. Like adrenaline, excess orgone builds up when you fight. If you leave it, nothin' happens, your monster eats it. If you throw it all out in one go, it doesn't just give you heartburn. It fucks up your soul, leaves you twisted. You don't notice it, but you get a lil' crazier. It's not that bad at first, but if you keep doin' it? Orgone-induced psychosis. N' Gwynn gets t'put a hole thru your head."
"A-Are you serious?"
"While there are cases of rehabilitation, she is correct. If one gets too addicted to the power and their desires, they experience a severe shift in personality and are extremely dangerous to the people around them, even if they once were close friends. It is not enforceable, but the council recommends taking such people out of their misery before they can hurt anyone."

She looks down on the floor, hiding her green eyes.

"Wait, does that mean you've experienced it too? Or are you trained not to use it?"
"It is only to be used as a last resort, but I had to rely on it once myself."
"Never used it myself, but there's other ways t'advance it. I mean, do I really seem like a well-adjusted person t'you?"

She gives you a smirk. You decide to leave that question rhetorical.

"Does that mean we're all are doomed to go insane? Even if I don't do anything?"
"Please, relax! Many pactmakers live long and happy lives, and recent studies have shown there are methods to fight off the effects of soul deterioration. This is standard knowledge for strike forces."
"You can've your anxiety attack on the way back. Help me secure the artifact, then we're leavin'."

Both you and Gwynn unsummon your monsters and get back in the car. You quickly make your way back on the road and drive in silence. After a few minutes, you hear Enkidu speak up.

"Measurement of pactmate perception required. Do you still trust targets Nevada and Gwynn in light of previous encounter?"

> How do you reply?

> Write-In

> Additionally, you can name something to ask Enkidu about!

> Write-In
> How do you reply?
I trust Nevada to keep us alive long enough to study our pact but beyond that, not really. Gwynn is a little more trustworthy but she's also fanatically loyal to the Principality so we should probably watch what we do and say around her more carefully from now on. So try not to insult anyone or badmouth Arcadia whenever I summon you, please.

> Additionally, you can name something to ask Enkidu about!
Can you tell me more about Pandemonia?
seconding >>5388807
Dr. Nevada isn't exactly on our side but we know what she wants and that happens to coincide with our goals a bit, and though Gwynn is absolutely loyal to Arcadia she did help us out. So yeah, I think we can trust that they'll go through with what was discussed.
Sorry, no update today.
I'll be back tomorrow.
God, Enkidu is just the best. Big fan.
Happy to hear that! I usually think of the personalities on the spot, so it always takes me some time to figure out how exactly they should behave. I'm glad to know it doesn't detract too much.


"I trust Dr. Nevada to keep us alive long enough to study our pact - but beyond that, not really. Gwynn's a little more trustworthy, but she's also fanatically loyal to the Principality... So we should probably watch what we do and say around her more carefully from now on. Try not to insult anyone or badmouth Arcadia whenever I summon you, please."
"Request to adjust behavior patterns in review. Promotion of Pandemonic excellence will be weighted against penalty to social standing."
"Well, at the very least, you can stop calling humans and monsters 'knife-ear'. That's not doing your PR department any favors. Actually, on that note... Can you tell me more about Pandemonia?"
"State secrets are to remain undisclosed. This was prev-"

"Yeah, yeah. I know that. But there's got to be something you can tell me that everyone should know. For starters, where was the Federation? Was it big?"
"Reporting status from last update - the federation spans across all of North America, and includes colonies in Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Africa and Australia."
"Are you serious?"
"I am always serious."
"I didn't think it would be that big... I can imagine the council covering up a small country, but colonies all over the world? How could you have kept that up?"
"Exponential growth was achieved through superior adaptability, technology and unity. Simulations projected world domination 25 years after founding of the federation."
"Looks like those were a little off, huh?"

You let out an uncomfortable little chuckle that earns you a raised eyebrow from Dr. Nevada, and you quickly break eye contact.


"...Just kidding."
"Humor registered and denied. Unknown variables must have interfered to alter the end result."
"Like what?"
"...Variables labeled as unknown for a reason, shrimp."
"Uh, on another note, I was wondering, who built you? I know you said scientists from Pandemonia, but I mean, what were the people that built you? Humans? Fey? Plants? Angels?"
"Development team of Tau Enkidu series exclusively human. Three most common clades of manufacture are humans, giants and demons, in that order."
"Hold on a second. I know giants are supposed to be extremely rare, but demons actually existed? I thought that was just a myth."

You hear a deep rustling that sounds a bit like... scrubbing something hollow with steel wool? It's hard to place these sounds.

"Inquire target Nevada regarding whereabouts of demon clade immediately. Awaiting more educated opinion."
"You could just ask nicely... you're lucky I'm curious too."

You clear your throat to get her attention.

"Dr. Nevada, do demons really exist?"
"The hell're you discussin' back there?"
"Well, Enkidu just mentioned that demons used to live in Pandemonia. Which sounds a little on the nose, saying it out loud, but I was always told the stories about demons also invading earth back in Doomsday were myths."
"Nah, they're real."

"They are? I've never met anyone who has seen one before!"
"According to the documents, demons were amongst the monsters that came to earth. They supposedly had large ranks, but were thinned out in the first years of the conflict. Of course, completely annihilating a race of monsters is near impossible, so some stragglers will most likely always keep them alive. From what I've heard from reports by border patrol and scouts, groups with demons are sometimes seen skirting the edges of society, living a nomadic lifestyle. A few manage to find refuge in conquered territory, however."

"Yeah, as pets. Nothin' says fat cat like ownin' a demon servant t'show off with."
"Lady Doctor Nevada is making it sound much worse than it actually is, but she is right about one thing. Demons are seen as extremely elusive monsters, so being master to one's a very noteworthy status symbol."

Your attention turns inwards, to ask your pactmate.


"Your thoughts?"
"Demons considered superior monster species. Proposed current status seen as affront to demon if correct, and dismissed as falsehood until proven otherwise."
"With a name like Pandemonia, am I right in guessing that demons were the ruling class?"
"Ruling class of monsters. Last available census reports 63% of population and 50% of governmental positions as demon."

Dr. Nevada interrupts.

"Lemme guess, he doesn't believe me."
"Yes, but he did say that demons ruled the federation, had territory all over the planet and were still growing. If that's the case, I'd also have a hard time believing there wouldn't be a trace of them and their country left."
"Well tell 'im he's full of shit. Think 'bout it, the fact there's nothin' makes 'is story bull."
"Target Nevada is incorrect."
"I know you think that, but then how did it fall?"
"...At this time unknown. More data required."

"Hmm... What about that place I found you in? Not just the normal looking one - I'm talking about those big concrete buildings. Was that one of your cities?"
"Brutalist architecture, signage and layout matches 81% of Pandemonic city planning guidelines."
"That huge wall on the border too?"
"Outer wall of main sector used for defenses, albeit bigger than standard issue. Additionally, Minsk, Belarus was not reported to have gone remodeling."
"Maybe it came later? That's good to know, though - that means we'd have proof of your country, then."

Proof that is buried deep within a restricted cavern, but proof nonetheless. You turn to Gwynn.

"Dame Gwynn, do you know who would have ruled over this land back around 26?"
"Hard to say. As you might know, during the first two decades monsters destroyed most of human civilization. That left almost all infrastructure, trade and communication in ashes, so the first half of the century is poorly documented. We took took this area from the Gaian luddites, but you've already seen that they aren't keen on preserving remains to study for future generations."
"Actually, that's the thing. Remember that big concrete city I mentioned during the dive? Enk says that belonged to Pandemonia! That should decide who's right!"
"...Y'know, maybe no one's lyin' here."

Both you and Gwynn look at the doctor in confusion.


"S'ppose we live in a world without that demon empire. Your new buddy lived in one with. He'd just hops across planes or somethin', and we got two conflictin' stories."
"That's a tremendous assumption, Lady Doctor Nevada. Do you really think this could just happen?"
"Just a hypothesis. This used t'be a world without demons, too."
"But the rifts haven't appeared since they first closed, right? Or were there other ones I'm not aware of?"
"None I know of, and I'd know. But if you work with Orgone long enough, you learn that none of it makes sense, and you can't rule anythin' out."
"Do you think the artifact I found could be responsible?"
"No way that lil' thing can do all that. Anyway, no way we can confirm anythin' from here."

"Oh! I forgot, this probably is your first time entering council property, right, Sergey?"
"It's my first time entering a city. I haven't had the chance to travel a lot so far."
"That's a shame, they're an architectural marvel! Don't worry, you'll get- Oh no."

She suddenly stops, fidgeting with her chin to help her think.

"...What's wrong?"
"I just remembered, your pactmate would be able to see the structure from within - he could see chokepoint, blind spots, vital areas!"
"Are you saying I can't enter because you're still afraid Enkidu is a spy?"
"Well, I'd at least would want you to not see anything until we've gone through with your registration. Maybe I could give you a blindfold until you are in an undisclosed location?"
"You... make it sound like a kidnapping."
"That's not my intention! You have to admit, I technically am guiding a potential threat into a civilian area!"
"C'mon, you're overreactin'. You scared he's gonna see a school and go berserk?"
"And, he already agreed to a truce! You wouldn't do that, right, Enk?"
"Armistice still ongoing. However, assessment of siege potential will not be suspended. Preparing scan for possible signs of entry and tactically valuable structures."
"Uh... He said he'll be on his best behavior."

She is mulling over her options, visibly uncomfortable with either option.

"...I guess a safe zone to keep you in would be a bit too much. But I'd still rather have you wear a blindfold, at least until we're past the densely populated areas and made it to the circle station."

> What will you do?

> Agree to the blindfold - you'll get a chance to see New Minsk another time.
> Insist that you want to see the city - this is your first time, after all.
> Insist that you want to see the city - this is your first time, after all.
fuck blindfolds
> Insist that you want to see the city - this is your first time, after all.
It's interesting that while they're the majority of the Federation's population and the presumable source of the 'Pandemonium' name, the Demons were actually proportionately underrepresented in governmental positions.
I wonder if Giants and/or Humans would be proportionately overrepresented then? Or perhaps the manufacturing clades were merely that and the Giants or Humans were overrepresented in that field relative to their political sway.
>Brutalist architecture, signage and layout matches 81% of Pandemonic city planning guidelines
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that demons have shit taste in architecture.

> Agree to the blindfold - you'll get a chance to see New Minsk another time.
Might as well just agree so she doesn't become paranoid about Enki going on a rampage. All this stuff with Pandemonia's pretty interesting though. It seems like the actual literal demons were more human-friendly than fairies, dragons or angels ever were. But they still have shit taste in architecture.
>> Insist that you want to see the city - this is your first time, after all.
I hate to push back on Gwynn after what she's done for us, but it shouldn't hurt too much to ask. And come on, Sergey's lived in the boonies for ages, he should enjoy the sights for a bit before getting grilled over the laws that he broke. If us being a soon-to-be asset for Arcadia isn't enough to be allowed a street-view, then I guess we can always just try looking really sad as a last ditch effort before the blindfold goes on lmao
> Insist that you want to see the city - this is your first time, after all.
Put on the doe eyes, Sergey boy. Your first time should be special, after all!
Hey, not quite an update, but I'm asking for player input.

I am looking for some colloquial terms for different groups and concepts. And instead of brainstorming for hours on my own to come up with something halfway decent, I figured I'd just ask you!

The terms can be clinical, derogatory or friendly - I'm not looking for the best one of each, I'd prefer to have different words to be used by different species, standings and backgrounds. I could use terms for the following:

> Human who has entered a pact
> Monster who has entered a pact
> Human pactmate
> Monster pactmate
> Human without a pact
> Monster without a pact (I already have "pure", but more can't hurt)
> Hybrid (like Nevada)
> Summoner (like Gwynn)
> Rider (like Sergey)
> Elf (human/fairy hybrid) noble
> Strike team member
> Changeling (human/fairy summoner)
> Arcadian metropolis
> Humans working directly for the council
> Humans working in the Arcadian military
> Monsters working in the Arcadian army
> Servant monster species (redcaps, mandrakes)
> Drow (count as fairies)
> Angels
> Fairies
> Lower Feyfolk (everyone but fairies)
> Beasts (count as a unique clade of monsters)
> Dragons
> Constructs
> Demons
> People from Gaia (dragon country)
> People from Elysium (angel country)
> Tributary towns (like Springfield)
> Orgone
> Psychic storms
> Orgone-induced psychosis (becoming corrupted from overusing orgone)
> Hybrid (like Nevada)

> Drow (count as fairies)

> Angels

> Dragons

> Constructs

> Demons
Devil (mostly used in a positive way)
Burnt Chickenmeat

> People from Gaia (dragon country)

> People from Elysium (angel country)
Necrophiles (Elysium practices necromancy, right?)

> Tributary towns (like Springfield)
Gopniks (because we're in Eastern Europe)

That's all I got idk
Thanks, some of these are pretty nice. Any amount is appreciated.


"I know where you're coming from, Dame Gwynn, and I appreciate the concern, but I would prefer not to miss out on the tour through New Minsk. Above that, if I can't be trusted to see the inside of an Arcadian city, I can't be expected to become a member of an Arcadian unit, after all."
"Hmm... You do have a point. Just promise not to summon your pactmate while in town, at least until you get permission to."
"Alright, fine."
"Restriction heavily limits survivability. Betrayal highly recommended."
"It's not like we're defenseless, and you being out could attract just more unwanted attention. Besides, would you rather have me walking through a densely populated city blindfolded?"

"...then, in that case, we'll have to go through some basics first. We'll have to leave the van on the outskirts of New Minsk. There aren't really any roads in most Arcadian cities - none this car could drive on, anyway."
"Does that mean we'll be walking?"
"Oh no, we luckily can use gondolas for the most part. You should be able to get a good view of the city from them... Just... try not to look at any railways or load-bearing pillars, or educational facilities. I don't want your construct to get any ideas. Also, there will be a bit of a walk between the entrance and the nearest gondola station. Make sure not to wander off, and don't get distracted - it's easy to get lost, especially if you're new."

You think back to the descriptions of metropoles you've heard from Gretzel, Gora and a few others who have been there before: Big, bright, crowded and convenient - that's the takeaway you got from their retellings.

"Does everyone really have electricity in their own homes?"

Dr. Nevada snorts in response, and Gwynn fails to hold in laughter.

"Hah... Yes, electricity is easily accessible to anyone paying their bills. Is that unusual to you?"
"You didn't see the powerline? Their town hall was the only buildin' that had power."
"Oh, that's... that's really something. I mean, I have to be ready to be cut off from power and the oracle for missions, but I don't know if I could live even a year without it. I guess you don't miss it if you don't know it in the first place, right?"
"...Yeah, right."

You would have liked to ask what an oracle is, but you don't want to look like an even bigger fool, so you hold off for now.

"Alright, this is it! Can you see the outer walls?"


You move closer to the window - the sun has gotten fairly low by now, and it's a little hard to get a good view from the back. Stretching out in front of you is a massive structure - one that reminds you a lot of the remains of that huge wall you saw, but taller still are a line of buildings peeking out over the top, with one outranking them all. As you look outside, you see that the wind seemed to have picked quite a bit up, carrying what little dust is covering the bare stone. The car approaches a segment of the wall with some type of watchtower sticking out, and comes to a halt.

"Strike team commander Dame Gwynn of House Daedal speaking. Open the gates, if you would."

You see Gwynn is speaking into a handheld device. If she can hear someone else, you're not privy to it. She puts it away, and a few seconds later a muffled crunching noise seems to be coming from ahead of you. The shallow angle of the light and pronounced shadows make it difficult to make out exactly what is happening, but it looks like the wall is... opening? This doesn't just look like a large door sliding open, it actually seems like there's a hole growing at the base of the wall, until it is a fair bit larger than your car. Once it settles, Dr. Nevada continues through the newly created opening, driving through an artificially lit, short tunnel that quickly opens up. The car rolls onto a wide area that has been fully paved, and highlighted with bright markings - not one patch of dirt of tuft of grass is visible. Following trails and arrows forming on the ground, the ride ends in an open spot between two identical vans.

Thrilled about just what exactly you'll see, you make a break for the doors in the back and hop out to get a good look. The scene reminds you of that outpost you've stayed in this morning, but on a bigger scale. The buildings surrounding the square stretch high into the distance - not quite as tall as some of those towers you saw back in Minsk might have been, but well above anything you're used to. Looking back from where you came from, you see just how massive the outer wall you just passed really is - it makes the buildings adjacent to it look like a toolshed. And now that you can see it this close, against the bright lights from the poles affixed to the architecture, you notice that it's not smooth at all. Instead, it looks like it is made up of thousands, if not millions of overlapping bricks, creating an uneven, chaotic and natural looking surface - very unlike the straight, clean lines of any manmade structure that maximizes stability.

"Possibly adaptive structure chosen for bulwark. Composition unknown, likely less resilient than inert material."

You're literally jolted out of your daze as you feel a shock on your right arm - you turn around to see Dr. Nevada.

"We didn't bring you here t'go sightseein'. I said, go get the stuff out, we gotta move!"
"R-Right, Dr. Nevada!"


Your superior moves ahead while Gwynn, Durga and you move the contents of the car out to a spot marked for cargo, taking extra care not to jostle the crate containing the artifact too much. Most of the luggage was brought back earlier by Sir Pan and the assistant construct, but there's still quite a bit left - more than you could reasonably carry.

"If we can't drive any further, how are we going to bring Dr. Nevada's equipment along? Are we going to have to go twice?"
"Courze not. We gots the bricks fer t'at one, see t'ere?"

Dame Durga directs you attention behind you, where you see the doctor returning, with two constructs in tow. They look similar to the one you saw back in Springfield, but these one's are much bigger. Not as big as Enkidu, but still big enough to fit one of these crates onto a single shoulder.

"These ones. 'cept for that one on top, I'm carryin' that one myself, y'hear?"

The creatures made of stone sound a beep of acknowledgement and move past you, easily lifting the crates you had to bring out of the van with the help of another person. Gwynn pulls out the sword on her right hip, and hands it to her pactmate, who sheathes it back on her left side. Finally, Gwynn steps ahead.

"Come along now, Sergey. And remember, no idling, please. As much as I would like you to see what our culture has to offer, we have to move with haste - you still remain unregistered, after all."

You follow her next to Dr. Nevada, with the constructs and Dame Durga behind you. A short walk along the buildings is stopped by a fairy guardsman, holding up a device towards your group, one by one, until he gets to you.

"You are unregistered, human. Are you an outsider? What do you think you are doing here?"
"Hey, tough guy, he's with me."
"Lady Nevada, is it? Would you be so kind as to explain why he cannot be found within the database?"
"Tributary town. No registration there. Got it?"
"Be that as it may, if he lacks identification, he should have a temporary visa. Where is yours, boy?"
"Uh, I-"
"Look, we gonna have t'skip that, just this once. We didn't really have time for this, special circumstances, important stuff, you know the drill."
"Apologies, but I am under orders to not-"

"You really wanna do this? We just got back from a highly classified mission, we're behind schedule, there's stuff in those crates more worth more than you make in a decade, and there's you thinkin' it's a great idea to stop a head researcher because her new retainer isn't registered to go to the department of human citizens - he has to be at, mind you - to get registered in the first place?"
"Retainer? But there is no way for him to-"
"You really sure about that? Go ahead, kick 'im out. See if you can keep your job after assaulting the retinue of a noble."
"I... Very well. Please ensure that he makes it to the department, posthaste."
"Yeah, whatever."

You pass the visibly conflicted guard, taken aback by Dr. Nevada's outburst.


"I apologize, Lady Doctor Nevada. I completely neglected to request a temporary visa-"
"Forget it, even if you'd done it yesterday, we'd still be waitin' 3 business days. I just hate pullin' the noble card, makes me feel like such an asshole."

You exit the compound through a tight tunnel that reminds you of the cramped hallways you walked through in that skyscraper. Unlike that place, however, the light here is bright and floods the room evenly, and the walls are lined with colorful moving images displaying scenes, people, logos and dates. Some high-tech monitor, maybe? This looks way more advanced than the ones in town hall, and even those not even your dad could fix. After a slightly embarrassing encounter with a working escalator, you exit the enclosed tunnel to get your first good view of New Minsk.

It's... cramped, really cramped. Both in the sense of the lines of people in every nook and cranny, and the towers covered in windows, lights and displays jutting out everywhere, making it impossible so see further than 200 meters or so. You look for some parts that open up more, when you realize that you are actually standing on a transparent walkway - and you see at least two more levels below you, both just as crowded. Just in this corner alone, you've definitely seen more people than there are in your hometown - and you barely even moved. You stop to read some of the displays.
You can read all of it, even if you are familiar with a lot of the characters. There's a good amount of English, some Sidhe (your Sidhe has always been terrible, but you still recognize some of the flowery symbols) and two languages you don't recognize, one of which looks more like the English alphabet than the others. Merging with Enkidu gave you a strange mastery over languages - you intuitively understand them, but you don't know what they are, and what they sound like - you probably couldn't write in them if you wanted too, either. The texts speak of all sorts of things - food, available housing, booze, pleasure, the council- and some signs in seem to point to places of interest in different languages, like this one that says 'gondola station'.

"Arree azleep? Get movin' arredy!"

With a firm slap on the back, Dame Durga rudely interrupts your observations.


"Sorry! I just got a little distracted - I've never seen anything like this before."
"Aess, I b'lieve you. T'ere's more people in just one o' those buildings t'an yer whole village."

You take a glance at the buildings she is pointing towards. They're tall, but they are very thin - about the same size as town hall.

"Wow, really? Their apartments can't be very large."
"Tey be crammed in their flats real tite. Nawt a lotta real estate te go round."
"But why? There's so much uninhabited land outside!"
"Ferst, that be private. You can't get a town started like yours w'en 'ee feel like it. An' next, it's deng'rous out t'ere."
"Really? It didn't seem that bad."
"Ye shed see it come winter. Won't sez that fer long. Anywey, last be the cash. You wants te build housin', it gots te come with protection, an' that won't be cheap. Best te keep e'ryone in 'ere, aess?"

You look around, observing the crowd. You see all sorts of different faces: human, fairy, goblin, mandrake, elemental, gnome and many more you don't recognize.

"Hey Enk, do you know what monster this one is?"
"...Target not matching any database entry. Fey bestiary lacking."
"Promise me not to use the word 'bestiary' when you're summoned. I'm new to this myself, but I'm pretty sure most monsters would get mad if you said that."
"Censorship approaching unacceptable levels."

You're starting to wonder if Enkidu actually has all these measurements built in, or if he's just messing with you.
At this point, you consider if you stand out much. You're currently wearing a uniform, but do you even look the part? Gretzel often teased you about being a country boy, so maybe the residents here could pick up on that too. Their clothing definitely isn't anything you've ever seen. There's a lot of variety, but they seem to fall in three categories: utilitarian and dirty (most likely people coming from or going to work), muted and flowing, and lastly flashy and bright, with inorganic shapes. Most of them seem to be occupied with their own lives, but some of them are staring, usually at Dr. Nevada's direction.

"It's probably rare to see a head researcher walk through, right?"
"Aess. There's allays people from the council comin' an' goin', but som'one like the Ledy Docter? That's not e'ryday. Specially if-"


Without any warning, you see Durga appear a bit ahead of you, next to Dr. Nevada. She is standing straight like an arrow, a hand on the hilt of her sword, and staring down a gnome. The squat monster is wearing a shaggy coat that is mostly obscured by his thick beard, and outdone by a tall but crinkled red cone on his head.

{Don't go thinkin' I don't sees yer knife, biskit. Now 'ee goes back in line, or they'll be carryin' w'at's left o' you in yer daft hat.}
{No need for violence, pleese! I just got the wrong person, no? I didn't know she was from the council, I sweer!"}

Wait, he had a knife? You barely noticed the small guy, let alone a weapon on him. Aside from the sudden confrontation, you're taken by surprise that they both are speaking Sidhe, and you can understand them perfectly fine. Weirder still is the fact that you somehow even manage to pick up on the accents of both parties. The gnome looks really shaken and slowly backs up, but Dame Durga isn't convinced.

{Sure 'nuff you gots the wrong person. Stick te yer own kin, you hear me?}
{Get off your high horse!}

You to the left to see a small monster that looks like a tiny fairy fluttering at shoulder height.

{Like you're so much better! You're just a drow! Can you really call yourself a changeling?}

Durga is not even giving her a quick glance, her eyes still trained on the gnome. With her right hand still grasping her sword, she casually raises her left arm, her fingers looking like they are poised to snap.

"Durga, stop makin' a scene."
"Apologies, Lady Docter!"

Just as fast as before, Durga vanishes in a black flash and reappears slightly behind you. While the gnome quickly disappears in the crowd, the tiny fairy continues yelling after her.

{Yeah, run back to your master, and leave us be!}
"...as I waz sayin', some folk just try te get lucky. That's why we're 'ere."
"Uhm... What was that about?"
"The gnome tried te attack the lady an' make off with the goods. The pixie was yellin' at 'im too."

Why is she lying- Oh, you actually haven't told anyone you can understand Sidhe, and any other language you're come across so far, now. While you could pry, it doesn't seem like a good idea, so you keep quiet and moving for now.


After just another minute of walking, you enter a building with a sign above that says 'Gondola' in Sidhe. There's a guard stationed just inside, but Dr. Nevada flashes the badge on her labcoat, and all of you are let through. This building is fairly spacious, and much more subdued and cleaner than the tacky lighting and grimy walls you saw before. On top of that, the wall on the other end is missing, opening to a walkway. Evenly spaced near the walkway are elegant looking constructions with lots of wood paneling, multiple poles sticking out to the side and swooping lines. It seems to be floating lazily in midair, despite having no sign of lift attached to it. Are these the gondolas? While Dr. Nevada is talking to someone near the walkway, you overhear the changeling halves.

"I thank you for interfering earlier, Durga."
"You sez that like it ain't my duty. We cudda stayed 'ome otherwise."
"I am well aware of that, but-"

Durga holds out her sword to Gwynn, hilt first.

"You knows the rules, aught summons on board. Hold onto 'er till then, arrite?"

Gwynn gives a weak grin, takes the sword and puts it back on her belt. Finally, she calls back Durga, and the dark skin and magenta eyes are back. She regains her trademark smile and moves ahead of you.

"You're not scared of heights, are you? I'm sure you'll love it!"

You follow her to catch up with Dr. Nevada, who is in the process of boarding a gondola. Standing on the walkway, you can see that there is yet another floor above and below you, with more spots for gondolas, though most of them are empty right now. Moving from solid ground to the vehicle is a weird sensation - it is reacting to the shifts in weight similar to a seesaw, just in all directions. As soon as you're all seated and the cargo is secured, a light barrier about 2 meters high appears around the edges of the platform you're allowed to move on. Slowly but surely, you are leaving the station, until with a sudden jerk, the gondola engages in smooth, but fairly fast motion. As you gain altitude and simultaneously are distancing yourselves from the nearby walls and towers blocking your vision, the horizon getting is less and less obscured, until it finally opens up.


Even above the tallest building in this local area, you see that there still are many buildings that are much closer to the sky still. Especially one - an enormous structure decorated in gold, steel, glass and metal, located right in the center of the metropolis. It looks like a bit like a pyramid, if you were to slice the upper third off, and place enormous antennas with the width of a silo on top of them. Looking down is just as record-breaking. the entire city is densely packed with multi-story buildings and walkways. You can see that towards the center, the architecture actually gets more spacious - larger plazas, statues, cleaner buildings with more natural colors and you think you can even see patches of grass and the odd tree down there. While you can see the outer wall circling along the edge of your vision, the city still seemingly goes on forever, and no space is unwasted.
The low sun uses the overpowering central structure to cast a long, long shadow over a major section of the city, but it isn't any harder to spot. Instead, the strong artificial lights paint a neon cacophony of colors against a dark background, making you wonder if these lights actually turn off at some point at night. Taking all this in, you can't help but express your amazement in a succinct manner.

"Oh, wow."
"Reluctant agreement. Unprecedented growth detected. Deviation of Arcadian society progress model at 800%."
"Pretty impressive, right?"
"Eh, get's a 'lil stale after seein' it 500 times."
"It's still a rush for me to see, no matter where I am. It's hard to believe there used to be nothing here just 40 years ago."
"That's... ridiculously fast. It took my dad 2 years to get around to building a shed."
"Arcadia ain't nothin' if not efficient."

> What do you want to talk about?

> Human population
> Monster population
> Pyramid in the center
> The outer wall
> City in general
> Drows
> What to do next
> Something about either of them (Write-In)
>I have to be ready to be cut off from power and the oracle for missions, but I don't know if I could live even a year without it
Is the oracle the magic internet? Is Gwynn terminally online?

> City in general
> What to do next
> Pyramid in the center
Wouldn't mind asking about drows but it feels kinda rude to ask right after Durga had to merge back lol
also glad we got the language ability and that it's undisclosed so far, bet there'll be all sorts of people assuming we can't understand what they're saying
>Is Gwynn terminally online?
I guess I worded it poorly, what I meant is she might not have access to electricity and the oracle when she's on a mission.
Forgot trip

You suggested 2 topics, so I'm picking the one other guy chose, as a tiebreaker.


"What's that huge building in the center? Is that the council?"
"Hah, that's just a Midsummer Maypole. You know, to protect against psychic storms?"
"That's a weather machine? It's massive!"
"You mean a weather control unit? No, maypoles are something different. They're designed specifically to combat psychic storms."
"There's a difference? I thought it would keep any bad weather at bay."

Gwynn is looking for words, but Dr. Nevada jumps in.

"Psychic storms aren't weather, at least not like other weather. They form higher up, n' don't follow the atmospheric flow in the troposphere - they like t'do their own thing."
"If that's the case, how does a maypole work?"
"The orgonomic cathodes - those big antenna - are pumped with diffused orgone, and induce big pressure spikes at around 28,000 meters height, give or take. That creates a pinpoint stratospheric flow from the unit outwards, carrying away the psychic storms that form at this height. Messes with the natural weather patterns a lil', but those haven't been natural in a long time."
"Uh... So it creates a strong gust in all directions that blows the psychic storm clouds away? Did I get it right?"
"In simpleton terms, sure."
"How much land does it cover? It looks like it would go on forever."
"You kiddin' me? One of that size is just enough t'cover the city, n' some extra. If you'd crank up the output you'd be burnin' orgone faster than this place can produce."

This makes you wonder how other civilizations deal with psychic storms. It's supposed to be a global phenomenon, so any faction big enough would have to deal with them.

"Enkidu, how did Pandemonia ward off psychic storms?"
"Search for 'Psychic Storm' yields one result: American Punk/Metal music band formed in 19 AM. No defensive measures were taken."
"Wait, so you don't know what they are? Really?"
"No reports of meteorological events of that name."


You look over and see Gwynn looking really smug and proud.

"Hehe... I bet you didn't know this scientific wonder wouldn't have been possible without our Lady Doctor Nevada herself!"

The scientist lets out a sigh.

"Don't know 'bout impossible, but I was part of the development team. Figur'd out the band the psychic storms show up at n' did most of the work on the emission side."
"You shouldn't sell yourself short! Earl Daedal himself made you an honorary member of his inner circle!"
"Yeah, and I'm drownin' in useless obligations 'cause of that. Only good thing's that I don't have t'be such a stiff like Gwynn n' get away with it."
"...I didn't think maypoles had to be this big to work. I mean, this city is huge, but that building makes everything else look like barns."
"The whole thing isn't the maypole. It's just gotta be that structure t'work right."

"Most of the space inside is occupied by office spaces and factories, as well as the ring station, like any other metropolis. That's where we're headed, actually."
"The ring station? You said we'd have to go to the department of human citizens first, right? Does that mean it's not here?"
"That's right. It's where every other principal office for the region would be: Limar. We'll be taking the fairy rings for that, obviously."

You recognize that name - you've seen it on all sorts of documents when cleaning up Gretzel's messes. Despite not actually knowing where it is aside from 'way southeast from here', you recognize it as the capital of Arcadia. You can't help but feel excited at the prospect of globetrotting and seeing more of this strange world that has always existed just hours away from your home.

You look over into the distance. Despite being much faster than you'd be on foot, there's still some time until you make it to the ever growing base of the midsummer maypole.

> Something else you want to bring up?

> Human population
> Monster population
> Fairy rings
> The outer wall
> City in general
> Drows
> What to do next
> Something about either of them (Write-In)
> Enough questions, smalltalk is fine too.
> Don't say anything and enjoy the ride
>> City in general
> City in general
Sorry, no update today either.


"Dame Gwynn, you mentioned something about there being nothing 30 years ago?"
"Hm? Oh, yes. New Minsk is one of the few current major cities that wasn't built from an existing one."
"Do you mean it was unpopulated before then?"
"Well, there were some small former Gaian settlements left over after reclaiming this land, but they were unsustainable and hardly noteworthy. The construction was started two years after, and could house citizens six years after that."
"Just how many people live here, actually?"
"Hmmm, I haven't checked the consensus in a while... Oh, 4.1 Million, if you count both monsters and humans! Thanks, Durga."

A number so large, it is meaningless to you. You can't even imagine a million, and it's three times that?

"Is this normal?"
"For a city of this size, I'd say yes - there's plenty of larger ones. It's one of the younger ones, after all."

You look out the other side of the gondola and see Dr. Nevada having pulled out her endless bag of fries again. Behind her, however, you spot fields of vegetation and trees on rooftops, kept in meticulous condition.

"Oh, there's some green! I was starting to wonder if this place had any plants at all!"
"Of course we do! There's a number of parks and greenhouses in any leisure district. It is important for the wellbeing of humans mandrakes, and many species of the feyfolk, after all. And that's not including our state-of-the-art vertical farms!"
"Yes, vertical! See these structures over there? Every floor is filled with vegetables, herbs and other useful plant life that is grown using nutrient-rich water and biomancy. Each city produces enough food to feed its population for years, even in cases where travel would be made impossible!"
"I'm used to seeing biomancy used in farming, but I didn't know it's enough to do away with the ground completely. Makes me feel a little bad for my neighbors having to put in so much work - they say it's hard growing something useful with the soil we have."
"That's why personally, I am in support of the abolishment of tributary societies. It seems cruel to not give them the same security and access to resources and technology in a hostile environment with raiders or psychic storms, or even both."

"I won't lie, it's a pretty weird feeling seeing how people from the city have been living in comparison. But, what do you mean with abolishment? What happens to the residents of tributary towns after that?"
"Isn't it obvious? Move to a city like this one, of course!"
"And those who don't want to leave?"


"I'm confused, why would they? You just agreed that a city gives them safety and resources they don't have!"
"Well, psychic storms and the odd beast attack aside, I didn't really get a great sense of hostility from my home. Back in Springfield, there's this redcap lady who said she preferred working in a tributary town over New Minsk."
"Aw, how sweet! She must really care about helping people in disenfranchised communities to say something like this!"
"I- don't think that's where her preference comes from."

She didn't really answer your question, but you leave it at that - with all that has been happening today, discussing more politics is not something you wish to spend your energy reserves on. Even with the adrenaline of getting assaulted with completely new and strange experiences, you still begin feeling a little exhausted - and hungry, to boot. You haven't eaten anything since breakfast, but it was a very big and late one. Even with the exhaustion from the dive, you feel like you haven't eaten in two days. What's going on?

"Healing processes increase passive caloric consumption by 60%. Accessing reserve fuel cells to maintain energy supply until systems are fully recovered."
"Wait, you're healing me? Is that why the pain has been going away so fast?"
"Clarification: Self-Repair ability performed by Rider. However, likelihood of process being replicated by human without monster, or Tau series model or greater."
"That's great to know, but for now I really need to eat something."

You turn to your superior, still nibbling on her pseudo-food.

"Dr. Nevada, is it safe to use a fairy ring with a full stomach? Because I was hoping we could stop to eat something after this ride - I haven't had anything since this morning, and apparently, I've been using up my energy much faster because I'm healing from the attack."

Before Dr. Nevada can react, in the corner of you eye, you see Gwynn perk up.

"Yes! While not permitted due to hygienic reasons, eating and drinking is completely safe inside a fairy ring! Humans with pacts require more energy to maintain their increased orgone production! Talented users of orgonomics are capable at accelerating their healing at the expense of burning calories faster! And staying well fed is beneficial for your health!"
"...You wanna eat somethin', just say it, Gwynn."
"I- I'm sorry for not being open about this. I wanted to wait at least until we were finished with Sergey's registration."


"Whatever. Listen up, kid. Once we're off that gondola, we're on council property. That means, no simple folk allowed, so not only should you not be here, almost all of the ones who should, are pompous clowns.
Meanin': Don't look like you shouldn't be here, don't talk t'anyone unless I say so n' for cryin' out loud, don't accept anythin' from anyone but us.
If someone gives you shit for not followin' orders, tell 'em it "goes against your masters wishes". You're new, so no one'll have the guts t'call your bluff. Oh, n' stick close t'Gwynn, it should hide your orgone field."
"Al... right. I'll keep that in mind."

You get a better sense of scale of the central building as you approach it, and the previously smooth looking surface begins to break up into individual panels, windows and crossbeams, which continue from the top as far to the bottom as you can see. After moving a stone's throw away from wall, your vehicle starts to ascend, rising above floor after floor until it makes it to about the top third of the structure. The gondola passes through a wide opening that reveals a much larger station with several other vehicles either remaining stationary next to a walkway, or moving out to fly someplace else. After settling at a platform at one of the higher floors, you make it back to terra firma. From the several people you saw while leaving the station, everyone had much nicer clothes than before. Some had uniforms similar to Gwynn, others tailor-made clothes, and there was at least one person in every group with a badge, emblem, or something similarly important looking as Dr. Nevada's badge.

Further into the building is just as extravagant looking, with less people and wider walkways contrasting sharply with your first impression of the city. On the way to following the signs to the ring station, you stop at a court lined with food stalls to pick up a hearty meal which you all quickly devour - Dr. Nevada proclaiming to no one in particular that she deserved it. After moving down a few floors, you make it to the ring station - at least, that's what the sign said. The station seems to be a large room shaped like a wide curved hallway. One side looks more like a lounge, with comfortable looking chairs, coffee tables and a bar, while the other has evenly spaces double doors with the numbers 8 to 15 and a display above them. A neatly dressed and well groomed human woman approaches the doctor and bows to her.

"Good evening, Lady Nevada of House Daedel. Can I assist you and your entourage?"
"We need t'get t'Limur. Got anythin' open?"
"If you don't mind company, we do have one cabin departing in 8 minutes. Is that alright with you?"
"Sure, fine. As long as we can still fit these guys in there."

She points at the two constructs carrying the crates ever so dutifully.


"Of course, that won't be a problem. I see that we have a commander here, but is your other guest an unpacted human?"
"Yeah he is. That alright?"
"I'm afraid I will have to ask the other passenger. If you would please wait a moment?"

With a bow, she steps back, turns around and starts talking while holding her hand to her ear. After a few seconds, she turns back.

"Pardon the interruption. I'm pleased to say that there won't be any trouble letting him board the cabin. If you would make your way to cabin number 12, please?"

You're taken aback by the exchange - unpacted human? Are they not allowed to use the ring if someone doesn't want them on board? You'd like to ask Gwynn about it, but you remember Dr. Nevada's advice and stay quiet.

"Anti-egalitarian structure detected. Inferior form of government has high likelihood of collapse of civilization."
"Woah, Enk! You surprised me. What do you mean, egalitarian?"
"Definition: Belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all monsters and humans."
"That's- not something I'd expect you to say, much less believe."
"Pandemonia Federation only government to accept premise and thereby achieve supremacy."
"Didn't you call demons the superior species? What happened to that?"
"False recollection. Demons superior monster species. Other monster species free to compete with and be outclassed by demons at equal grounds."
"Monster? That doesn't include humans?"
"Psst, Sergey!"

You look over to Gwynn, who tries to look inconspicuous.

"You have that 'I'm talking to my inner monster'-stare."

As much as you'd like to continue this conversation, you'll have to pick off later - if Dr. Nevada just lied about your pact, you shouldn't undermine her immediately after. You make it to door #12, and sure enough, the display above it says "Limur", again only in Sidhe. Come to think of it, while on the way there you saw some signs with multiple languages, most of them only had the one on them. The double doors swing open, revealing... an ordinary room? To be fair, it's hardly ordinary - it's as fancy looking as the lounge outside, perhaps even more so - but it's not what you expected from a cabin used for travelling via teleportation. It even has a skylight, which not only shouldn't be possible, but is also displaying a bright blue sky you should have seen a few hours ago!


You then direct your attention to the person sitting in one of the multiple chairs - a slender fairy with blonde, whispy hair and slanted eyes and gentle features - the thin, sweeping branches adorned with small leaves indicate that he's male, however. He is dressed in a suit with earth tones reaching all the way to his mid-thigh and a long scarf simply hanging over his neck. Upon seeing the new passenger, he immediately stands up and puts on a smile.

{Ah, Lady Nevada! What a pleasant coincidence! It is rare enough to meet an acquaintance in one of these stuffy chambers, but a fellow Daedel, and one elusive as you?}

Anyone blinking would have missed the doctor beginning to make a face of disgust, as she recovered in a wide, obligatory smile - no teeth, of course.

{Evenin'... Lord... Fff-}
"Firdaus, Lady Doctor Nevada.", Gwynn whispers.
{-Firdaus! Tip of my tongue, really.}
{Well, I just have to forgive you for having trouble with my name - I do not think we had the chance to speak much. But please, do not stand on my behalf - take a seat!}

You head inside the cabin and sit down. Dr. Nevada sits down on the armchair furthest from Lord Firdaus, Gwynn and you sit down on a couch wide enough to seat three and the constructs automatically stand in a corner, away from everyone else.

{Seeing a scientist carrying this many crates with them evokes a feeling of intrigue, I might say. Are you able to discuss what you need them for?}
{No, I'm not. This stuff is off limits, even for other Daedals.}
{Oh? Should I be worried about it potentially interfering with the ring, then?}
{Nah, these just have components for my mobile lab.}

She throws a quick glance at the container in her hand while the fairy is occupied analyzing the crates in the hands of the constructs.

"Yeah, should be fine."
{Well if a scientist of your caliber says something like that, I have no choice but to trust you! Is that crate in your hands a simple component as well? I am surprised you would not have the couriers or even one of your escorts carry it for you.}
{That's my gamer keyboard. No one's touchin' my gamer keyboard.}

Her expression and delivery was so deadpan, it made her usual statements look brimming with life.

{...Well... I suppose everyone has their attachments to material goods, right? Take this ring for example - without even getting into the sentimental value of it, it really is one of a kind! Now, as you can see, it is a solid silver band with three inset gems - this diamond being from a centerpiece decorating an Elysium uniform worn by only...}

Lord Firdaus continues his monologue about this one ring while Dr. Nevada increasingly looks like she might either pass out, throw up or strange the man. Clearly, she regrets her excuse for giving him this tangent.


{...being amongst one of the only pieces of treasure ever to be confirmed to have been taken from the hoard of Taroth. But if you want to know why these gems were assembled and by whom, you will have to ask me another time!}
{Oh dear. You got me on the edge of my seat now.}

At this point, she has completely given up on sounding believable, but he either doesn't or pretends to not notice.

{But enough about me, there is one other person here I am curious about. I was informed there would be a human without a pact travelling with us? I remember seeing her a few times before, so it would have to be him, right?}
{You said you'd be fine with that, right?}
{Oh, I am! I am not so arrogant as to think a common human is unfit to be in the same room as me. You there, introduce yourself.}

You are about to say your name, but Dr. Nevada's warnings make you hesitate.

{He's from a tributary town. He doesn't speak Sidhe, English only.}
{I... see. Now then, while my listening skills are exemplary, it has been a while since I last spoke English... Ahem!}

He turns do you and switches to a slightly broken English.

"Hello, little boy. Say your name."

You glance over to Dr. Nevada, who rolls her eyes and gives you a nod. You give a little bow, unsure whether this counts as a greeting.

"My name is Sergey Kovlov, Lord Firdaus."
{Hm, unusual name...} "You are human from tribute village, yes?"
"Yes, m'lord."
"No pact made?"
"No, m'lord."

He looks you over.

"I get two questions: Your eyes are yellow why, and your clothes are strike group why?"

You hesitate, unsure what to say.


{Hmm, did I say that wrong? Please help me out, how do you say 'strike team uniform' in English?}
{If you're wondering why he's wearing this, it's not because he's a member. We just got him a spare uniform 'cause things got a little dicey and it was better than a linen shirt.}
{I was hoping I could practice my conversational English a little by asking him.} "Your eyes are yellow why? Lady Nevada did this?"

{I know we haven't talked much, but don't go thinking I dye the irises of my retainers in my spare time.}
{Why? It's nothing unusual, and I'm sure you have the know-how-}
{I work in a lab, not a beauty pageant. I've got better things to do. He got the eyes from a psychic storm.}
{A psychic storm? Some people have all the luck. A former servant of mine once got caught in one during a mission I gave her... Poor girl supposedly went mad and ran off into the desert, leaving all her belongings behind - even her clothes. It was a real shame, she was an excellent-}

Thankfully, he stops his second monologue before it can begin.

{One moment, did you say he was your retainer? I assumed he was going to participate in an experiment of yours, or is worth investigating due to some rare condition. But you actually made a human from the boonies your retainer?}

Gwynn inhales sharply, yet quietly through her teeth while Dr. Nevada rolls her eyes.

{What's so strange about it? People started getting staff from weird places all the time lately. It's nothing new.}
{That may be true, I am guilty of that myself, but you do not strike me as the type of person to follow trends, Lady Nevada. Also, I do not remember ever coming across a retainer of yours... Is that correct?}
{I've had one for a few years now. What are you getting at?}

{Please do not misunderstand - I do not doubt you, and I have no reason to believe you are lying. I am, however, very curious about this Kovlov character. What does he have that would make someone as selective as Lady Nevada about her retinue consider an outsider - with most likely little to no official Arcadian education - as a retainer?}
{That's because-}
{I apologize for cutting you short, but I would like to hear this from himself first. I know it is rather silly, but I am very curious about these things, so please humor me.}

He clears his throat another time, and returns to English while facing you.

"You are retainer of Lady Nevada why?"

> Tell him why. (Write-In)
> Explain to him that she didn't chose you.
> Tell him you can't say.
> Don't say anything.
This wasn't supposed to be this long...
Is there such a thing as "too long an update" for you? I try to keep it at around 10k characters, but sometimes it's hard to find a good stopping point.
> Tell him why. (Write-In)
>I'm not sure, Lord Firdaus. Maybe it has something to do with me surviving a psychic storm? I've heard horror stories about people who were caught out in psychic storms like I was going mad and running off into the wilderness screaming or worse so maybe I'm just an anomaly to study? You'll have to ask Lady Doctor Nevada, my lord.
I'm assuming getting caught outside in a psychic storm is basically a death sentence like getting caught outside during an emission in STALKER or something.

I'm not afraid of a little reading.
seconding >>5394723
was going to pick the second option, but it's smart to play this carefully. Also we might try rambling a bit in our answer, his comprehension of the language might be low enough that we can trip him up and cut off his curiosity that way
>emission in STALKER
lol that was all I could really think of when he was asking for slang suggestions. Wasn't sure if "blowout" would fit well for the storms, though
>I'm assuming getting caught outside in a psychic storm is basically a death sentence like getting caught outside during an emission in STALKER or something.
It's not that severe, though it could have the potential.
In most cases it comes in the form of a heavy rainstorm, but the drops carry strong and unpredictable effects. If you're lucky, it could just rain dead fish, but a bad storm could turn you into stone, set you on fire, or tear holes in your skin with every droplet. However, depending on the circumstances, a storm could last hours.
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Well that changes things. Will the excuse be at all believable if we say it was a really bad one? Just in case I'll make up another lie.

This lie will use the knowledge we gained from the pact as our excuse but we'll try to derail the conversation into a circlejerk about how shitty and evil Gaians are and how amazing Arcadia is by comparison while also rambling a bit to make it harder for him to understand like >>5394776 suggested.
> Tell him why. (Write-In)
>Oh I think it's because I'm fairly competent with machinery and technology despite my upbringing, Lord Firhaus. It's actually pretty ironic since my home town used to suffer under Gaian rule, my father said they didn't even have running water back in his youth and that people are persecuted in Gaian territory if they owned anything more technologically advanced than a sharp rock strapped to a stick.
yeah, this sounds good, we're a long-term research subject that isn't total deadweight at the same time. Hopefully any details that seem off can just be waved away by us being an ignorant human misunderstanding the big picture.


"Oh, I think it's because I'm fairly competent with machinery and technology despite my upbringing, Lord Firdaus. It's actually pretty ironic, since my home town used to suffer under Gaian rule! My father said they didn't even have running water back in his youth and that people are persecuted in Gaian territory if they owned anything more technologically advanced than a sharp rock strapped to a stick!"

Both Lord Firdaus and Dr. Nevada look at you surprised. He directs his attention back to her.

{His competence with machinery? Surely someone with an upbringing as simple and disadvantaged as his is easily outclassed by an up-and-coming graduate of one of the universities in Asun. I am positive that any of them would be dying for a chance to work under your tutelage.}
{Well, uh, his thinkin' is rather 'out of the box', as it were. Who knows, he might end up doin' something different, he's talented like that.}
{I am moved by your faith in his abilities, though I am unsure how a simple human can compete with the brilliance of a pacted human, let alone a fairy. Nevertheless, I shall respect your choice. I have one small recommendation, however. Not to tell you how to keep your retinue, Lady Nevada, but at the very least, you should have him wear proper clothes - it gives others a bad impression of House Daedel.}

You hear a chime ringing out from somewhere above.

{Dear passengers, the cabin will depart shortly. Please remain seated for the duration of the trip.}

You watch the countdown shown on a display above the exit while the two nobles continue their conversation, Dr. Nevada giving the minimum possible input to satisfy the talkative fairy. As it reaches zero, there's a light jolt that seems to shake everyone towards the exit. Is the entire room moving? Beneath the soft ambient music, you can hear a faint hum coming from beneath the walls. The motion slowly stops, then picks up again, this time coming from a different angle. Another stop, and another jolt, this one slight more sustained than the first two - not unlike the acceleration of a car, just much more subtle. You don't want to show it, but you start getting a little nervous.

"Don't worry, it's completely harmless if you stay still. I recommend holding your breath for the first time."

Gwynn's words of encouragement help a little, and you take a slow breath through your nose. You look at the other passengers - the two nobles are completely nonchalant, the lord continuing to prattle on, the constructs are just as still and unmoving as ever and Gwynn - well, she is looking as stiff as the constructs, though her face has a much more polite and approachable expression. You straighten your back in kind.


Out of nowhere, the entire room is bathed in a blue light! It isn't unpleasantly bright, but it still somehow swallows up everyone in the room, like a heavy fog. The entire room begins rumbling, but it quickly settles to a soft shaking, as if going from the heavy jostling of a tractor to the light vibrations of a wheelbarrow. Nevertheless, you still feel queasy, and your skin is tingling. A few seconds later, you've somewhat gotten used to the sensations and allowed yourself to breathe normally again. How long is teleportation supposed to take, anyway? Whenever Gwynn or Dame Durga do it, it seems to be inst-

Appearing without a warning once again, a soft blue light fills the room again! The heavy shaking picks back up again, and you feel as if someone has pressed down on your lungs and excavated all the air inside. You instinctively take a deep and hasty breath, coughing loudly.

{Oh, dear. It seems like the boy has not even become accustomed to teleportation yet. He must have been really isolated, a child would not have such trouble controlling their breathing. I do not want to be one to judge, but are you sure you have made a wise decision appointing him as your retainer?}
{He's a fast learner, he'll get the hang of it.}
{In that case, I am interested in his development. Perhaps you have found a diamond in the rough.}

You feel the room gently decelerate, as it were. After coming to a stillstand, the display shows a green light, and the doors open automatically. The disembodied voice speaks up one last time.

{I hope you had a pleasant trip. Bless Her Supremacy!}

Dr. Nevada wastes no time getting up and leaving.

{Well, I've gotta go. Still have stuff t'do before headin' off t'bed, so later, Lord Fir... Firdaus!}
{Oh, before you go, I thought it might interest y-}
{Look, I'm real busy. Just send link me the story bout your ring, I'll definitely check it out! Good night!}

She immediately rushes off, moving as fast as she can without outright breaking into a sprint. Not wanting to be left behind, Gwynn, you and the constructs follow, but not before quickly bidding the lord farewell - if Gwynn didn't do it, you probably would have forgotten about it. You catch up with the doctor.

"I knew we should've just waited for the next one! Never ridin' an unreserv'd cabin again, I swear."
"Lady Doctor Nevada, I thought you've carried yourself quite well! ...relatively speaking, of course. Lord Firdaus has a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a motormouth."
"Yeah, no shit. Ivan, why the hell did you answer? I told you not to talk t'anyone."
"I- I thought you gave me the go-ahead, Dr. Nevada."
"For your name, not your backstory! And why'd you say that bit about 'machinery and technology'? You didn't even know what an impact wrench was yesterday!"


"Well... Pactmates can exchange knowledge, right? It's strange, but I think I have a much better grasp of that topic now because of that!"
"Congrats, you can change a tire. That's why I pick'd you over some bootlickin' overachiever with 12 combined years of education in orgonomy."

"Lady Doctor Nevada, if I may, I think you are being a little unfair. In this situation, calling him a subject for an experiment of study would have drawn less attention, and I think you know that as well. Additionally, he didn't understand a word you two were saying, so Lord Firdaus suddenly putting him on the spot like that would make anyone trip."
"Yeah, yeah. Kid, you gotta learn Sidhe, fast. By now you know it's the official language of the court, so every time a bigwig talks to a fellow bigwig, that's what they're gonna use. It's all most of the geezers know."
"I'll try my best!"

You're not sure why you haven't mentioned your new ability yet - maybe you want to keep an ace hidden up your sleeve? If so, what for? At the very least, you won't have to study for your Sidhe lessons.

As Dr. Nevada crosses one of the exit gates of the station, a shrill beep emits from a speaker above and a signal light marks her location.

"Oh come on! I don't have time for this!"

A fairy in a uniform approaches her - or is it a changeling? You can't tell.

{Apologies, m'lady, but our sensors indicate that you might have p-}
{I know what the sensors do. I'm authorized to transport psychic energy containers, generators and all that jazz, see?}

With some effort, she pulls out a piece of paper without dropping the crate.

{I see. Many pardons, m'lady. Will the couriers be carrying similarly restricted devices?}
{Nah, I'm not lettin' them carry that. Now move, I've got a schedule to keep!}
{Right, m'lady! Bless Her Supremacy!}

The guard steps aside and bows deeply, while the doctor just walks past her.

"Gwynn, you take the lead. I got no idea how t'make sense of these damn signs."
"Very well, Lady Doctor Nevada. But that was the permit you've got for the mission, correct? This was granted to you to transport the beacons through the fairy rings, nothing else!"
"Correction: I got it for the mission. And till we are back at the lab, the mission isn't over."

You take a look at one of the aforementioned signs: dozens of boxes with different colors and designs, numbered with seemingly no rhyme or reason and pointing towards all sorts of connections - you don't blame her in the slightest for not being able to decipher this. While you're at it, you take in your surroundings as well. The hallways, balconies and plazas within the structure are even more so spacious and extravagant than the ones you saw before.


"We're in Limur now, correct?"
"Yes, we just traveled over 5500 kilometers within seconds using the amazing magitechnology of fairy rings! Quite impressive, right?"
"5500? I never knew the principality was that massive!"
"Oh no, it isn't. Most Arcadian settlements are isolated, geographically speaking, since we don't have to rely on direct trade routes. Short-distance teleportation magic might be possible for other countries, but only Arcadia has mastered instant global transportation!"
"Requesting access of information regarding the source of this technology.", Enkidu demands.

"How were they invented? Did Dr. Nevada help with the development too?"
"Nah, they've been round before I was born. Were a hell of a lot more inefficient, tho."
"The modern fairy ring is based on old fey spellcraft that used to be much more abundant in the feywild, and the middle ages of Earth."
"Middle ages? Spellcraft, back then?"
"You don't know about that either? Oh dear, we have to give you a primer in feyfolk history once we get the chance."

You continue to navigate through the busy crowd - it's not as dense as back in the packed streets of the first district, but it's much more than what you saw inside the pyramid in New Minsk. On top of that, there's fancy clothing and strike team uniforms everywhere you look.
After about 15 minutes of walking down hallways, riding elevators (multiple!) and waiting, you finally make it to the department of human civilians. Dr. Nevada carefully hands Gwynn the artifact and approaches a drow behind the counter. Seeing the monsters and hybrids working on their computers and organizing files reminds you a little of your town hall - though there'd never been this level of productivity.

"Gwynn, fill out this form real quick."
{Apologies, my lady, but I am afraid you must fill out this form yourself. Would you please...?}

She lets out a heavy sigh and begins writing. The clerk occasionally points out missing sections and necessary signatures. After 20 minutes of writing, the drow accepts the form with a smile and hands her a different piece of paper in return.

"Finally. Here you go."

She presses the paper in your hands and retrieves the crate from Gwynn.


"Do I have to sign something too?"
"Nope. Let's get out of here."
"That seems a little odd - shouldn't the person seeking citizenship be the first to confirm this document?"
"What do you mean? At this point, he wouldn't be a citizen. You can't just sign documents without a citizenship, or at least a permit."
"But how do people apply for citizenship?"
"They don't? They receive it automatically at birth."
"But what about people born outside of Arcadia?"
"Well they can't apply, of course - a noble would have to do that for them."
"So if someone wanted to move to an Arcadian city, they couldn't get in?"
"Of course they could! They'd just need to convince a noble, like you!"
"I dunno if you can call that convincin'."

You look over the document and read the title: "Temporary Arcadian Visa".

"You can read Sidhe? I thought you only know English."
"Oh- I, I never really learned it, but I picked up some words from official documents like this when I helped out at the town hall."

Technically no lie here. It feels weird lying about being multi-lingual to a person who knows about your two biggest criminal acts in your life, but the timing to mention your new ability seems rather poor right now.

"So this isn't my official proof of citizenship?"
"No, that won't arrive until at least ten business days. After that, the department will receive your license, which will need to be activated."
"And then we're done?"
"No, we gotta do the whole spiel for registerin' you as my retainer too. And I gotta be present for all of this. You startin' t'get why I hate the noble shtick?"
"Please don't forget about his proof of residence! You won't be able to activate his retainer license without it!"
"What about my... yellow eyes?"
"We'll.. cross that bridge when we get there."

Over an hour later, you exit the ministry of retinue documentation with a temporary retainer license. Once again, Dr. Nevada had to fill out the whole five pages, while you at least got to sign once. Gwynn had the foresight to give you a summary of the document and any noteworthy clauses before you left your signature, so she could give both you and herself the assurance that you aren't signing anything without knowing the terms and conditions.

"Gwynn, time."
"Right now... it's 0034, Lady Doctor Nevada."
"Jesus Christ, we've already wast'd so much time?"
"I feel like it was 7 just a bit ago. Are you sure your watch isn't broken, Dame Gwynn?"
"We've definitely spent a while in Limur already, but that leap in time you're feeling is because we moved 3 time zones ahead."
"Time zones? Like time travel?"


Gwynn fails to hide another snicker as she tells you about time zones - even Enkidu calls you an imbecile for not knowing about them. While it's irritating to have Dr. Nevada slowly explain to you that the earth is not flat, you never made the connection that people would see the sun go up sooner or later, depending on where they are. Not much sense learning something like that when you live in a small town, you suppose.

Finally making it to the gondola station, this construction makes the ones you've previously seen look like a joke as well, with treadmills on each one of the long and many walkways leading to bigger and more expensive looking vessels. There's also much more activity, leading to a mesmerizing dance of the gondolas weaving around as they find a way through the obstacles and other vehicles. Once you've made yourself comfortable in one of the smaller ones, Dr. Nevada speaks up.

"Gwynn, got an idea where he's gonna sleep?"
"Well, I don't think we could get a retainer apartment for him on such short notice. My first thought would be an ambassador hotel-"
"Not happenin'. Too expensive, and I don't want 'im off Daedal property."
"Well, in that case, our options are limited. My first thought would be one of the servant barracks - there's usually at least one pod available."
"I don't like it... he'll get drill'd with questions by whoever's up."
"Beyond that, I'm not sure... what about Tristan?"
"Springing a roommate on 'im this late's just askin' for a headache. Let's just put 'im in a guest room - no way they're all occupied."
"Those are for guests of House Daedal only! You can't just use them unannounced!"
"I'm sure he'd appreciate a comfy bed. Yo Ivan, what do you think?"

"Excuse me, but who is Tristan?"
"He's my retainer. Weird kid, but he's a workhorse."
"I'm a bit surprised you'd even have a retainer, Dr. Nevada."
"The other high members made me get one cause they thought it'd make the house look weak. Normally I'd just boss around the research staff, but him I can send on errands even outside of work."
"Do you have an apartment as well, Dame Gwynn?"
"Me? Naturally, why- Oh! Uh, well, I'm really sorry, but Durga wouldn't like ano- Ow!"

She holds her head.

"Okay, that, and I don't feel entirely comfortable letting another man sleep in the same room as me. Not that I don't trust you, Sergey, it's just a habit of mine."

> Where do you want to stay for the night?

> The Servant barracks.
> Tristan's apartment.
> One of the guestrooms.
>> One of the guestrooms.
> One of the guestrooms.
We could've just shut our mouth? I should stop overthinking shit.
Sorry, no update today either. I might have to make Wednesday my off day in general, since it's always pretty packed.


"Is it okay if I sleep in one of the guest rooms?"
"No, it isn-"
"Yeah it's fine, what's the harm in one unannounced stay."
"There is a process to this! Even if Sergey's a retainer of House Daedal, they-"
"He's my guest, then. Guest of an honorary high member good enough?"
"...I suppose so. It's highly irregular, though."
"Good, we'll have t'get you an actual apartment asap."
"Thank you, Dr. Nevada."

You take the time to look over the city - in Limur, the sun has been gone for a few hours now, but the city is bathed in light all the same. Bright letters and illustrations paint a technicolor picture in one tightly knit corner of the city, while open plazas and parks are evenly lit up, as if you could experience daytime all day there. Massive floodlights illuminate the variety of facades that can be seen everywhere you look: simplistic, organic, pre-doomsday, intricate and even some that remind you of the supposedly Pandemonic architecture you saw. But towering above else in the distance is, of course, the midsummer maypole, as visible as ever. Wait, in the distance?
You turn around to see the enormous slanted wall of another pyramid, just like the one you just saw.

"There's a second maypole?"
"Ah, you just noticed that? Yes, Limur is so big, it needs three to protect it from storms in its entirety!"
"Efficiency goes up exponentially with surface area, so we had t'triple up here. Y'got no idea how hard it was t'get around the interference."

The gondola lowers its altitude and begins to circle around a building made of glass and steel, until it has a clear path to the exposed walkway. You exit your vehicle, and a few seconds after you've all made it safely onto the platform, it takes off without any passengers. The moment you left the gondola, you feel a shift in the air - it is hotter, and more humid. As you head towards the exit, a fairy in a gray uniform approaches Dr. Nevada and bows.


"Good evening, Dr. Nevada. Sir Pan arrived a day ago - I hope you did not have any complications on your way home."
"Evening, Mordecai. How are things?"
"Ah, Dame Gwynn. Things have been a bit tumultuous since our Baroness Selène-"

He looks over to you.

"I do not recall ever seeing this young human before. A visitor, Dr. Nevada?"
"A complication. Don't worry, we did the works. He's allow'd in. Ivan, show 'im."
"Show him what? The civilian document, or..."
"The retainer one, obviously."

You quickly fish out the temporary license out of the binder you got earlier and show it to the fairy.

"Retainer... of you, Dr. Nevada? I did not think you would be looking for another one.
"He kinda came outta left field. We'll be on our way, then."
"O-of course. Good night, Dr. Nevada, Dame Gwynn."
"Hah! Good one."
"Until next time, Mordecai."

The doctor walks past him, with the rest of the group hot on her heels. You step into a clear elevator, from which you can see a large areal partially plastered with decorated walkways and partially filled with meticulously kept grass, embellished with unrealistically clean beds of flowers and trees with no loose branches - it's nature, but so pristine that it looks unnatural. Framing the large space are several buildings of various sizes and importance, and multiple flagpoles display banners all over the park.

"Is this where you live?"
"Yes, it's the campus of House Daedal."
"It's... Once again, it's completely different from anything I've seen."
"I'm sure it is. See that building down the middle? In the right wing is where you will be staying the night."
"I kind of feel bad for sleeping here - like I didn't do anything to deserve living in such a nice place all of the sudden, while the others are stuck... well, you know."
"Well yeah, you don't. But sometimes, t'get ahead, you just need dumb luck."
"Don't say that, Lady Doctor Nevada. As far as our country is concerned, anyone capable and hard-working enough deserves their position legitimately."

She looks over to you.

"...Well, with very, very rare exceptions."
File: daedal.png (34 KB, 695x656)
34 KB


You reach ground level and cross the park, taking note of how clean everything is - including the vegetation. The banners come in two varieties: One a dyed a light blue, with the emblem of Arcadia, and the other a dark red - the same dark red as Gwynn's uniform - with a pattern of simple cyan and black shapes.

"Is that the emblem of House Daedal?"
"You'd call this an icon, but yes. Do you like it?"
"I... think so? Is it supposed to be something?"
"Can't you see the butterfly? It's a bluebottle butterfly, famous for its amazing sense of sight. It represents the house's ability to observe the world and see potential for new innovations that others can't see."

You'll have to take her word for it - you can't say if you've ever seen this specific type of butterfly, but this icon only vaguely looks like one.

Stepping through a wide entrance, you take in the inside of the center building. A wide, three story high main hall decorated with bizarre looking statues and paintings, glass cages encasing strange looking contraptions and once again, a corner dedicated for comfortable seating. Stairs and exits seem to go in all directions, but for now, Dr. Nevada approaches an empty counter.


{Welcome back, Lady Nevada, Dame Gwynn. I'm glad to see you've made it back safely as well. Could you identify this human for me?}

From the countertop comes fluttering a small winged woman, not unlike the one that yelled at Dame Durga back in Minsk. You didn't notice her at all!

{He's my new retainer.}

She looks you over.

{Are... you positive, Lady Nevada?}
"Ivan, show 'er."

You retrieve the document confirming your identity as a retainer and show it to the woman.

{Well I'll be... Ah, welcome then, Ivan. My name is Belleverde, I'm the receptionist of House Daedal.}


{He doesn't speak Sidhe. English only.}
"Oh! Ahem... Welcome Ivan, Belleverde is my name, I am receptionist in House Daedal."
{I apologize if my English isn't as fluent as yours, Lady Nevada. I must ask: Is he a strike team solider of a different house? He looks somewhat disheveled.}
{Not a solider, no. Gwynn got him the uniform for protection. Got in a small tussle with the wildlife.}
{Oh my! Does he need medical attention?}
{Nah, he's fine. Just someplace t'stay for one night.}
{Of course!}

She starts typing on a presumably tiny keyboard hidden underneath the counter, but your superior interrupts.

{Don't bother, he doesn't have an apartment yet. He's my guest for tonight.}
{Your guest? But he's your retainer...}
{And? Shouldn't be a problem, right?}
{It's... highly unusual, at the very least. I can't imagine the high members being happy about this.}
{It's just a night. You can't tell me all the rooms are taken already.}
{No, that's not it.}

She sighs.

{Very well, I will make sure your... guest will be made comfortable. Is there anything else I can do for you, Lady Nevada?}
{Nah, we're good. Gimme a minute, then you can send him to his room.}
{Understood. Have a pleasant night, Lady Nevada, Dame Gwynn.}

Dr. Nevada spins on her heel and gestures you to follow.

"Aright, my arms are startin' t'fall off. I'm headin' back t'the lab. Gwynn, you report back n' wrap up the mission. Ivan, you follow the maid t'your room. N' remember, it's not your room, so keep it clean in there. From all the complaints I'll be gettin', the cleanin' staff really doesn't've t'be part of 'em. When does our staff management open?"
"Friday would be 0700, I believe."
"Got it. Ivan, show up at six thirty. I really don't wanna drag out the paperwork any longer. Any more questions?"

> No more questions
> Write In
>> No more questions
Heh, tiny fairy keyboards. I guess it wouldn't do for them to have to jump around on full sized keys.


"None, Dr. Nevada."
"Good. Later."
"Good night, Lady Doctor Nevada. It was nice working with you again."

Gwynn bows while the doctor heads back outside, with the constructs in tow. You quickly say your goodbyes as she is leaving, after which Gwynn turns to you

"By the way, we'll have to return all that stuff we borrowed. I already left most of it back with the car, but the backpack and the armor has to go back too."
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Do we have to go back?"
"No, you can just return it at the armory at our campus. Tell them I borrowed it, items like that are tracked with a serial number."

Her eyes suddenly widen, pulls you closer and starts speaking in a hushed voice.

"I just remembered: It's faint, but you still have an orgone field that can be felt. You can't suppress it, can you?"
"I... don't think so. One moment, please..."
"No results found for Orgone field suppression. Either seen as impossible, or irrelevant for Dragoon purposes."

You shake your head.

"I thought so... It'll take some time to practice. Luckily, most folks shouldn't be able to pick it up, and if you stay near monsters and pactmakers, no one will notice. Unless you run into a diviner, you can chalk up any suspicion to leyline fluctuations."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Dame Gwynn."

Worry creeps into her eyes.

"Don't thank me yet. The worst is yet to come. Get some rest now, you need it. Until next time, Sergey."

She heads outside after bidding farewell to Belleverde. From behind the counter, a small young woman with green hair in a black dress and a white apron bows and gestures to follow you.

"This way, please~"

She guides you to the end of the main hall and up an elevator, leading to a series of hallways. Moving so closely behind her, you notice three things about her: her hair seems to be made up of plants, she doesn't have ears and up close, her skin looks more like polished wood than normal skin. A type of mandrake? You've barely seen any. You feel a bit guilty for staring so much, but her aloof expression suggests that she doesn't even notice. After a short walk, she stops in front of an open entrance and speaks up in a relaxed tone:

"Here we are, dear guest - énjoy your night, ánd feel free to use the minibar~"
"Uh, thanks."


She gives you a bow and waves you goodbye as you walk through the entrance to the guest room. Just as you wonder about the missing door, a number of vines and roots shoot out of the sides of the doorframe and entangle themselves, creating a solid wall out a beautiful braided pattern. Approaching the "door" doesn't seem to have an effect, but as soon as you touch it, the vines retreat just as fast as they appeared. Your guide is still standing here - she turns to face you, and gives you a smile.

"Is there something élse you need~?"
"Oh! Ah, no, thank you. That... will be all."

You take a step back and watch the door reform - you've gotten used to automated doors and gates, but this is a step above the rest. Thinking back to the degree of which the farmers back in Springfield were able to manipulate crops with Biomancy, you can't imagine the level of magic at play here.

You scan the room - needless to say, it's as fancy as it is spacious. You don't know much about architecture past doomsday, but you can tell everything from the materials chosen to the design of the furniture is as high-class as it can get. You drop your backpack and take off your boots - as soon as your feet touch the tiled floor, you notice that it is heated. An experimental drop into the bed big enough for two people confirms that it is leagues above anything you've ever slept on.
It is only with great willpower that you manage to get back up to find the bathroom and take a hot shower (There's a shower, bathtub AND a separate room for the toilet!) to soothe your back, which still feels a bit sore from earlier. You change into the loose shirt and pants that were lying on the bed and feel softer than anything you've ever worn before - you can wear this, right? They wouldn't put it here if you - or rather, the person staying in this room - couldn't wear it.

You sit down on one of the chairs near the window. Most of the scenery outside is dark, but the well-lit park you passed earlier continues to give you a nice overview of some green, and the individual distant lights fill the otherwise black void with shiny colors. Is there something you want to do before going to sleep?

> It's really late already, let's just sleep
> Talk to Enkidu
> Try to find the "minibar"
> There's a brochure on the coffee table, let's read that.
>> There's a brochure on the coffee table, let's read that.


You take a closer look at the brochures on the table next to you. Apparently, there's both a version in English and Sidhe here - you pick up the one in English.

> House Daedal - A New Look at the World

Unsure what to make of a title like that, you open the brochure and start reading.

> With its earliest records appearing in the 3709th solstice of her supremacy, House Daedal has been a part of the history of feyfolk and Earth for many centuries, but it was not until the invasion of enemy monster forces that it proved to be an invaluable cornerstone for the establishing of Arcadian soil and the survival in Earth's hostile landscape as it lashes out in wrath.
>Today, we at House Daedal continue to drive forward the field of magitechnology using the same principle we had since its inception: To observe the world and see potential for new innovations that others cannot see. We are reminded of this every time we look at our icon - the bluebottle butterfly, best known for its amazing sense of sight.
>Using this principle, we were able to develop the modern midsummer maypole, an essential pillar of the survival of Arcadia and all its inhabitants by keeping our cities safe from deadly psychic storms, and serving as a central beacon that can be seen from every district.
>What else can House Daedal do for you? Please do not hesitate our friendly vassals for more information about our research and solutions.

The rest of the brochure are mostly images, either of a variety of smiling humanoid monsters, or fairy and elf scientist working in a laboratory. That was something... Honestly, you aren't really sure what a "House" was supposed to be, but from what you can gather, it seems to be a company that makes their money from research and inventing - pretty good money, from the looks of it. Makes sense, considering Dr. Nevada was made an "honorary high member" for her accomplishments. A glance through the other brochure confirms that it has the same information as the one you read, just worded slightly different.

Feeling the exhaustion kick in, you find a light switch and go to bed. You lament the light pouring in from the outside and the lack of curtains to block it, but the moment you lay down, it dims down to barely noticeable levels - the glass turned semi-transparent, as if someone coated it in soot. With everything in this room enticing you to sleep, it doesn't take a minute until you doze off.


You walk down a hallway with numbered doors. You know you have to go through one of them, but which? Eventually you feel like just looking through one would be better than continuing to walk until the answer comes to you, so you stop and open door number twenty- ...something, you couldn't quite make it out. You see a small room with a sofa and an armchair, and two people sitting in each - one a human, and one a fairy.
They seem to be talking about something and while you can understand them, you retain none of the information said. As the conversation continues, it gets more and more heated, until they both get up and stare each other down. In an instant, the human pulls out something from behind his back and thrusts it square into the chest of the fairy. A knife!?
A moment later, blood comes spraying out of the wound, dyeing the human a deep shade of crimson. Wait, it's not crimson... The more you look at it, the more the color shifts. From red to magenta, from purple to blue, and further. You slam the door shut, and as you run away, the hallway blurs into a featureless mess.


You awake to the feeling of sunrays warming up your skin. While you feel more rested than you have in months, you're a little bit out of it - between all the impressions you've got yesterday, it's hard to sort out which actually happened, and which you've dreamed of. You step out of the bed and look through the window - it's no longer dimmed, and you can see the sun shining brightly on the plaza outside, this time populated with all sorts of people. You remember that Dr. Nevada asked you to meet up at six thirty... what time is it now, anyway?

Oh. A look at the display embedded in the wall tells you it's almost seven! Normally you don't have a lot of trouble getting up on time, but you must have been more exhausted than you thought. You quickly change back into the clothes you were wearing before putting on the uniform, cram your belongings into your backpack and head outside. Without wasting any more time, you run- run where exactly? The color drains from your face as you realize that you don't recall Dr. Nevada ever mentioned where it actually is you're supposed to meet.

"Enkidu, do you remember her telling us where we're supposed to meet?"
"No recollection of information found. Target Nevada was careless."
"Oh, that's just great."

You decide to head back to the entrance. Best case, she intended to meet you here, worst case, you could talk to the receptionist again. You rush back downstairs, garnering concerned looks from both servants and nobles passing by. As you enter the main hall, you look around - but don't see Dr. Nevada anywhere. She must be waiting for you elsewhere! You walk towards the reception counter, but you see that it's staffed by a different woman: much taller, almost your height, and very slender. She seems to be occupied looking at something behind the counter, so you speak up.

"Excuse me, do you speak English?"

She scans you and gives you a haughty look.

"Erm, who are you supposed to be? How did you get here?"
"I am Dr. Nevada's new retainer! I was supposed to meet her half an hour ago."
"Hah, as if. I can picture Lady Nevada letting her retainers wear something hideous like this, but I can NOT picture her getting a retainer as unpunctual as you. Oh, and another thing, dud? It is LADY Nevada to you."
"No really! I have the document, see?"

You pull out the document that has helped you multiple times before and hold it out to the woman, who snatches it out of your hand. As she looks over it, her expression goes from cock-sure to bewildered.

"How did you get that?"
"From Lady Nevada, obviously. Do you believe me now?"
"That's... Fine! I don't know what Lady Nevada is thinking, but it is not my concern. Now what do you want?"

> Directions to Dr. Nevada's lab
> Directions to the retainer management department
> Directions to the staff management
> Write-In
>> Directions to the staff management


"I was wondering if you could tell me where the staff management is."
"You d- Very well."

She fiddles with a device behind the counter and turns to the side.

{Briana, to the reception, now. There is a... grungy looking human. I want you to direct this man to staff management.}

She turns back to you and puts on a grin.

"Wait here. Someone will assist you shortly. Oh, and one more thing? Don't tell Lady Nevada what I said, or you'll regret it. Got it?"

You'd talk back, but you don't have the time for this. You step away from the reception to get some space from the sketchy woman and wait for 5 minutes. You're late enough already, how much longer is this going to take? Most of the people walking past you at least give you a confused glance, some look almost offended by your presence. Finally you see someone arriving at the reception - it's the same green-haired woman that led you to your room yesterday! The receptionist gestures towards your direction, the other woman bows and heads towards you.

"This way, please~"

She leads you to the elevator - at a very leisurely pace, but eventually she leads you into a room labeled "staff management".

"Here we áre~"

You thank her and immediately look around - but you can't see Dr. Nevada anywhere in here. You ask the red-haired fairy sitting at one of the front desks but he tells you - in Sidhe - that he doesn't (or won't) speak English. The human next to him however interjects and agrees to speak English with you, much to the chagrin of the fairy.

"What do you want? Are you even staff here?"
"Y-yes, Though I only have temporary permits on me right now. I was supposed to meet D- Lady Nevada here - has she been here already?"
"Lady Nevada, you say?"

He types away on his computer.

"No, she hasn't been here since we opened."
"She might be waiting at her lab. Could you tell me where she works?"
"Haven't you tried contacting her?"
"Contacting? How?"
"A message or a call, obviously. Don't you have a phone?"

You shake your head.

"That would explain your wardrobe. I'll give her a call - please step away from the desk so you won't interfere with anyone else coming in."

You thank him and you nervously move to a corner of the room. A minute later, he clears his throat to get your attention.

"Lady Nevada said she will be there shortly and asked you to remain here until then. She also wanted me to inform you that you need to stop slacking. I think I don't need to tell you that making such a poor first impression is not only unacceptable in House Daedal, but any workplace. Please await her arrival outside."


You apologize and let out a sigh - he does have a point, your pardon for your pact relies on the argument that you'd be a big help for Arcadian forces, so you can't give them a reason to think you're the opposite. You exit the office, and to your surprise, you see the woman that guided you here sitting on the bench next to the door, looking at a small screen in her hand. You take a seat as well, and after a few moments of you looking at your shoes, she strikes up a conversation.

"Hey you, where did you buy that shirt~? It's so retro~"
"Uh, Briana, was it? Or, should I be addressing you with a particular title?"
"No, ít's just Briana~ Cute name, right~?"
"Er... yes. This shirt? It used to belong to my father, but I never asked him where he got it from... probably from our seamstress."
"Whaaaaa~? You have your ówn seamstress~? So your family must be, really high nobility, right~? I dig your farmcore look~"
"No, not OUR seamstress. I meant the seamstress of our town."
"You mean district~? Did your dad buy ít during the last wave of local underground business, ór ís that getting back ín style again~?"

"I- honestly can't say. I'm not hindering you from doing work, am I? I don't need any more directions, so I'm good for now."
"Óh, that's good, that means I don't have to do ánything élse~ Can you át least tell me where that seamstress ís~? I really want some cute óveralls, but none óf my úsual spots have them~"
"She's- hard to reach, at the moment. By the way, thanks for speaking English with me. I never really learned Sidhe."
"There's still people like that~? That's so cool, I'm real jealous~ English and Russian áre áll the rage lately, but if you work for the council, you barely get to úse ít~... So I take évery ópportunity I can get to practice~!"
"You're pretty good, actually. I know a mandrake who's been living in a community with almost no Sidhe for as long as I can remember, and his accent is still pretty thick."
"ÓMG, really!? I try really hard to hide my Primal, so ít makes me super happy to hear that~!"

"No problem. Anyway, you said your shift was over?"
"Hm~? No, I'm still working~"
"Do you have business in staff management too, then?"
"...Excuse me, but then why are you still waiting here? I assumed you had to be at the reception, standing ready for another task."
"But I can do that here too, can't I~?"
"I guess so... Are you allowed to do that?"

You're somewhat taken aback by her bluntness.


"But ít álways works óut somehow, so ít's fine~"
"I'm a little surprised. Honestly, I thought a house would be really strict about the performance of their staff."
"They áre, but they can't keep track óf éverything~ Ánd íf they complain ábout me loitering, I just áccuse them of discrimination, and they'll back off~"
"That seems- to be frank, that seems pretty manipulative."

She shrugs her shoulders.

"Don't get me wrong, I do work á lot - more than most servants that áren't mandrakes. But since you áre á bit óf á dummy ábout this, I'll give you some ádvice: There's tons óf prejudice, ánd ít's éasiest to play ínto that!
Fairies álways try to change éverything to fit their worldview, ánd íf you try to fight that, they'll change you too~ Íf they think áll mandrakes áre slow ánd can't do hectic jobs, then that means I won't have to do kitchen duty ór run áround ánd ruin my hair~"
"Wh- OW!"

As you watch Briana adjust her skirt and stand up without explanation, you suddenly feel a light, but blunt and sudden impact on the top of your head, followed by a sharp sting that immediately fades away. You hold your head and turn around, while Briana gives a curtsy.

"Good morning, Lady Nevada~"
"H-hello, Dr. Nevada! I-"
"Glad t'see y'still find the time t'hit on mossgirls after bein' an hour late, kid."

She actually doesn't look that upset, her eyes squint slightly more, at most - but that could mean a lot in her case.

"I'm sorry, I ended up oversleeping! But I also didn't know where we were supposed to meet, so I went here first and f-"
"Yeah, whatever. Let's just get this done."

She walks past Briana without acknowledging her and enters the office, and you follow. Inside, Dr. Nevada and the fairy worker exchange numerous forms and information apparently necessary. It is at this time you get a better look at the permits you were handed yesterday, and notice an error.

"Dr. Nevada, could you look at this? It looks like you got my name wrong: you wrote 'Ivan Kovlove'."
"Told you I wasn't gonna remember your real one. This one's easier."
"But you could have just asked me! And 'Kovlov' doesn't have an-"
"Who cares? Your last name doesn't matter when you're part of a house, and you respond'd t'Ivan just fine yesterday."
"Isn't there at least some way to rectify this? I could change it now myself."

She rolls her eyes and exchanges some words with the worker.

"Two months after you activate your resident license. Now sign this."


She hands you a document - all in Sidhe, of course, and with a blank space at the bottom of the second page already highlighted for you. You wish Gwynn would have been here for this - you don't want to sign something you don't know the content of, but in this situation you aren't really in a position to negotiate.
You try your best to read the the contract - you have no problem deciphering the characters, but the phrasing is as confusing as ever. It seems your translator quirk doesn't regard legalese as a language. Something about not harming someone? Maybe Enk knows something.

"Text analysis not available for Tau Enkidu model. For text and image processing and transformers, Tau Paracel is recommended."
"Well, I can see that a construct designed for combat wouldn't need an in-depth knowledge of law."
"On-board information on laws regarding self-defense, firearm ownership and permissible acts of war of Pandemonia estimated to exceed total understanding of law of rider. Warning: Trace levels of orgone detected on paper."

"Really!? So I wasn't imagining that? I felt like that document seemed off... the way it lies in my hand, and the texture. Do you know anything about that?"
"Search for reason yields no results. Material too weak and light to cause harm, no tactical benefit for enchanting found."
"Dr. Nevada is a jerk, but I don't think she'd trick me like that. What should I do?"
"Recommendation: Capture of employee, followed by interrogation."
"I think you still need some time to get used to the whole covert ops thing."

You weigh your options.
You could always refuse, but you're not sure what would happen in that case. Even if she will be annoyed, you could ask Dr. Nevada, but there might be parts to the contract she doesn't know about. Gwynn would definitely know, but she's not here... You could ask someone to contact her, but she could be busy right now. The human clerk must also know everything about the contract, but you're not sure he can be trusted - would he hide details about it?

> What do you do? (Write-In)

I would like to try a slightly different format for the prompt. What I am interested in knowing is whether you like it, and whether the last paragraph gave you information you didn't know before, or possibilities you didn't consider before.
> What do you do? (Write-In)
Ask Nevada questions
What is the document I am signing for and will I have to sign others?
Are there more to these documents than just ink and paper?

This 'enchantment' she should know about because of her research with orgone, it would be good to ask her about it even if she calls us a moron for not knowing.


"I don't mean to bother you again, but what is this document for?"
"It's the actual contract makin' you my retainer. Same stuff we went thru already."
"I'm sorry, but I don't want to sign anything I don't know about."
"You can't refuse. You agreed t'the whole retainer thing back with the temp job, remember? We just need your signature here."
"But you normally wouldn't need me to sign then, right? Is there something else to this contract you're not telling me?"

The human worker stands up to protest, but Dr. Nevada gets in his way and groans.

"Yeah, it's spiritually binding. It's a standard thing. You can look this up later, I wanna get back t'my research."
"Spiritually binding? Am I trading soul for this?"

She facepalms, driving her fingers between her face and glasses.

"That's bullshit. It's a derivative of pactmaking where an agreement manipulates your orgone field int'reactin' t'stuff that violates the contract. Like court, just instant."
"So it controls my actions? How is that okay?"
"...If we'd waste so much resources on makin' every retainer contract micromanage everythin' they do, we'd go bankrupt before we're done with the high members. This just keeps you from killin' me, our Earl n' the Season Princes."

You look at the contract, unsure whether that's really there's all to it.

"Do you know anything about this, Enk?"
"No contract of suggested nature found. Likelihood of bluff not negligible, but serves no tactical advantage. Restriction of termination of high-value targets would severely limit ability to destabilize Arcadian government."
"I have no intention of killing someone, or destabilize a government. I just don't want to lose my freedom."
"Conclusion using empirical data: Freedom already heavily compromised. True liberty deemed as impossible in Arcadia."

Dr. Nevada breaks the silence in the room.

"You really think if I want'd t'screw you over, I'd do it through the legal system? Have you been payin' attention?"
"...Fine, I'll sign it. I really wish I could know more about this, though."
"Yeah, same. Wish Gwynn went over this with you."

As soon as you write down your name, You feel a prickling sensation in your right hand. It travels along your arm, until it reaches your chest and becomes more intense, before fades away. You don't feel different... Was that it?


"So I'm not allowed to hurt you now, Dr. Nevada?"
"You weren't before, obviously. You just physically can't do that now."
"Hypothetically speaking, what would happen if I were to attack you?"
"Not sure, depends on the contract."

She takes the document and turns to the fairy that has been helping her so far.

{What does this contract do on violations of clause 38?}
{With contracts of this type, clear attempts at the beneficiary's wellbeing would be intercepted by forcibly shutting down the nervous system of the retainer and induce a coma.
The recipient recovers after 2-5 hours without any lasting damage, giving authorities ample time to secure the would-be assassin. Of course, mental suggestion into harming the beneficiary will change the target to someone else in close proximity, as is standard with any non-lethal contract.}

She looks back to you.

"It knocks you out for a couple hours."

There are more documents Dr. Nevada has to go through, but there's nothing else you have to sign. You offer to help and overlook some of the forms, but she declines and reminds you all these files are in Sidhe anyway. After 30 minutes of doing nothing but reading and filling out documents, she steps away from the front desk and lets out a sigh of relief.

{I apologize for my impudence, Lady Nevada, but I must remind you that your retainer currently violates the dress code. Please see to it that he-}
{I know, I know. He doesn't have anything better. Now don't bother me until you're done.}

She steps back outside with you behind her. You note that Briana is still sitting here, as if she hasn't moved at all.


"Hey, no oglin'. T'sum it up, you're gonna get a phone n' apartment b'fore the day's over. Those still belong t'the house, so don't break either. I need t'go back t'my lab, but I want you t'get new clothes first. I don't need PR gettin' on my ass for havin' you look like a hobo."
"Okay, then. Am I going to wear a uniform?"
"Listen, Ivan, I've just been fillin' out stupid forms for almost an hour. I don't wanna see one again for the next few months. You're a retainer, so you don't need t'wear one, you just don't have to look like you escap'd from a farm. Just buy somethin' at a store nearby."

She searches for something in the inner breast pocket of her coat, and pulls out a slightly bent strip of paper with nothing but a shimmering frame on it. But as you hold it, her signature slowly appears on it.

"That's an IOU. Give it t'the clerk at the checkout n' my account'll get charg'd. Don't take that as a free pass - I find out you've been clearin' out their designer stock with this, and you find out how much more damage t'your spine you could've walked away from."
"I... have no intention of doing that, Dr. Nevada. However, I don't know where I could buy new clothes."
"Right, you need help with even that, don't you? Before you say it, I'm not callin' Gwynn. That girl's got better things t'do than teach a yokel how t'shop."
{Éxcuse me~}

You both turn to the side and see that Briana has butted into the conversation, despite the fact that you've gotten some distance from where she was sitting.

{I couldn't help but óverhear that you need someone to help your retainer find something to ímpress the whole House of Daedal~!}
{Yeah, no. I just need 'im t'wear somethin' that won't get me in trouble for not enforcin' the dress code.}

Dr. Nevada looks at her closer.


{You're that moss bimbo from before, right? Aren't you still on the clock?}
{Serving óur noble guests ánd vassals ís my calling~ What better way to assist you ín this moment, Lady Nevada~?}

She gives a small curtsy.

{...You're just lookin' for an excuse t'go shoppin' durin' your shift.}
{Ít would be like ány óther task for óur house to me, Lady Nevada. The fact that I'd enjoy this óne is just a happy bonus~}
"Y'know what? Fine. I don't wanna deal with this dumb shit. Ivan, you have fun with your shoppin' spree, she's gonna show you 'round. Just be at the lab at three, at the latest. Think you can do that?"
"I won't be late again, Dr. Nevada."
"Sure hope so. Later."
{Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, Lady Nevada~}

With that, she marches away with wide steps.

"Thank you soo much for allowing me do this! You should get into trouble for violating the dress code more often~"
"Sorry, I really don't intend on making this a habit. Did you plan all this?"
"Do you take me for some kind óf mastermind~? I just overheard you talk, that's all~"
"In any case, thanks for the help - I have no idea where I could get clothes, where do we even go? Is there something nearby?"
"Hm, depends, really~ What style áre you going for~? Óther than your current óne - that ísn't allowed, únfortunately~"
"Well it has to adhere to the dresscode, so-"
"You're a retainer, so you're fine~! I'm so jealous~... Ás a male humanoid, ás long ás you wear shoes, long pants ánd cover your chest, you're állowed álmost ánything~"

> What sort of clothes do you want to wear inside the city?

> Casual classic (Similar to what you're wearing, just cleaner. Shirt, jacket, jeans,...)
> Formal (Something similar to what Lord Firdaus was wearing: Suit, tie, and other elegant clothing items)
> Uniform (Not an actual uniform, but something that looks similarly official)
> Modern (You're unsure what that would constitute as, given what you've seen)
> Colorful (Loose linen with technicolor design)
> Tactical (Lots of black and pockets, won't necessarily help in actual combat)
> Let Briana decide
> Other (Write-In)
>> Colorful (Loose linen with technicolor design)
mite b cool
as long as Briana gives the okay that we aren't putting something silly together
I hope you aren't upset that I had Sergey sign the contract without you stating it - the prompt seemed too much of a repeat of the previous one, and to be honest, I wouldn't really know where to go if you were to refuse to sign it.


"Well... If that's the case, I like to wear something comfortable, something loose. Oh, and something with color?"
"Hmm... Ókay, I can work with that~"
"You make it sound like my wardrobe is your pet project. I just need to know where I can buy some clothes."
"You're no fun~ Át least let me look over your picks so I can keep you from buying ány mistakes."

The two of you head outside and leave the campus grounds through the park - still at Briana's casual pace, of course. Just past the guarded gates, the walkways and passages remind you more of the ones you saw in New Minsk, though they are still much wider and nicer.

"Lady Nevada called you Ívan, right? You don't look like án Ívan to me~"
"That's... surprisingly accurate, actually. My name is Sergey, she just calls me that because she can't remember it."
"ÓMG, I knew ít! I have a sixth sense for that sort óf stuff~"
"Honestly, I feel like she knows my name by now, and is just doing it to bother me. By the way, is the store nearby? Or are we taking a gondola?"

She doesn't answer, and instead probes you with her half-open eyes and a slight grin.

"...Is something wrong?"
"You're not from any Arcadia, are you~?"

You try to recall Dr. Nevada's previous statement to make sure not to say anything that would contradict her.

"I bet you're from Gaia, right~?"
"What? No! I'm from Arcadia! I- just lived in a tributary town until now."
"Áww, I was hoping I could finally make friends with á foreigner~"
"Do folks from other factions really become retainers?"
"Íf it happens, they úsually énd úp as servants, but éven that barely happens~ The council doesn't trust énemies, éspecially the ónes that would be worth keeping~"


"...Do you have a problem with that?"
"Not really, no~ But I wouldn't mind seeing óther faces, you know~ I'd love to meet án ángel someday, they're supposed to have gorgeous accessories~ We're here, by the way~"

She points at a sign in Sidhe that says notes the building in front of you as a train station, and enters it.

"This ís how servants have to get áround the city, you know~ Gondolas áre just for nobles ánd strike teams~"
"Ah, that makes sense. I'm guessing it also works with a permit?"
"You guessed right~ Retainers have á much easier time getting permanent ónes, though~"

You pass through a checkpoint - Briana is allowed by flashing a slip of paper from her wallet, while you have to pay a few biomarks you kept in your pocket. The train is very different from the ones you're used to seeing. The shape is much more organic, and the inside looks like a garden, down to the flowers and grass floor.

"They're growing grass in the train? I read up a lot on pre-doomsday technology, and I've never seen anything like this."
"It's not real, sadly~ Ít helps most folks relax, but real plants would get too messy. Ány mandrake can tell you ít's fake right áway though, so I think ít's just really tacky~"

>What else do you want to talk about? Pick up to two topics.

> Your itinerary
> Why everything is kept on paper
> What she thinks of other factions
> Her thoughts on Lady Nevada
> The nobles of House Daedal
> Her history with House Daedal
> Her coworkers
> Her job
> Her species
>> Her species
>> The nobles of House Daedal
Get a phone or something to communicate while we are at it, and get the mandrakes number.
Flit with fellow low born citizen since this is probably the only time poor Sergey will receive any affection. That isn't tied to being a lab rat that at-least.
No update yet, but I'll try my best to finish it tomorrow. I'll be gone till Saturday and start a new thread after that, so I want to leave you with a somewhat decent prompt.


"Do you mind if I ask you about your species? I've only known the one mandrake, and he wasn't very talkative."
"Sure, go áhead~"
"I'm sorry if this sounds stupid, but... Are- you actually plants? Or do you just look like them?"

She lets out a laugh.

"I like you, you don't have á filter~ It's just á little silly, but if you say something like that, you can get in trouble~"
"Oh, is it a touchy subject?"
"Í don't know á mandrake who would complain ábout that, but someone could report you on grounds of racism~"
"-Forget I said anything then."
"I don't mind telling you, it's just á funny question~ What would you say if I asked you if plants were mandrake body parts~?"
"Is that how you see them? That's got to look horrifying for you!"
"Hehe, I'm just kidding~ I never paid much áttention in Bio, but mandrakes are made out of cells, and they're similar to plants or mushrooms~ I think we move with orgonomics ínstead of muscle~? Sorry, I'm no good at that sort of stuff~"

You watch swathes of people leave and enter the train with each stop.

"What clade of mandrake are you, actually? I mistook you for a human, or a hybrid, at first."
"Aww, thanks~! I take good care of my áppearance - I work in customer service, áfter all~! I'm á moss woman - we úsed to be called tree nymphs, but you can't say that ánymore~ What clade was the one you knew~?"
"I actually don't know. He was pretty big, was covered in thick, dark roots and instead of a head, he had this stump with a really large red flower with thick petals on top of it."
"Eww, a rafflesia~? No wonder they had him work in the middle of nowhere~"
"What, do you mean by rafflesia? He seemed like a nice person."
"I just can't deal being near parasites~"
"Parasite? What do you mean?"

"The flower, the rafflesia, that's your friend~ The rest ís just plant matter he's slowly leeching off - maybe éven part of some óther mandrake~!"
"Seriously~ Álthough he'd be out of a job if he actually butchered other monsters, obviously~"
"...In any case, he still was a hard worker and could be counted on. I don't see why he'd have to get pushed out of the city for that."
"Hmm... Think of it this way~ How would you feel if your coworker always showed up with skin, hair and flesh stapled to his clothes~? Would it even matter to you if it was from ánother human or not~?"
"Okay, I can see where you're coming from."
"I'm glad you do~! This is our stop, by the way~"

She gets up and heads to the exit moments before the train comes to a gentle stop. You're right behind her as she enters an elevator, and the two of you move up 10 or so floors.


Reaching your destination, you're overwhelmed through all your senses. Soft melodies with rhythmic beats are barely audible through the unyielding noise of hundreds of people moving and talking, the mouth-watering aroma of fried food is fighting with strong smells of perfume wafting from boutiques and everywhere you look, there are bright, contrasting colors directing you towards the devices, decorations, furniture, clothing and much more on display, as well as the monsters and humans walking from one storefront to the next.
From the looks of it, you are on some type of balcony - one side is lined with stores, while the other stops at a ledge protected by clear fencing. It reminds you of a strip mall, or a shopping street, just several feet above the ground. Briana just has a wide grin on her face.

"Here we are, the Limur-Sundar mall~! At this hour, it's álmost empty~!"
"Empty? There's still lots of people here."
"You should see it during a global sales day~"
"...I can only imagine. So where are we going, exactly?"
"This shop right here~"

She approaches a storefront filled with jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches and everything in-between.

"Uhm... Does this have clothing further back or something?"
"Hmm~... No, I don't think so~"
"Then, why are we stopping here, then?"
"Óh, don't worry, this is ímportant~ I can't go any further without it~!"

You watch her take small steps towards the closest display of brooches and starts carefully looking through them. She picks out a handful, and puts on one after the other in front of a mirror. Is she seriously...

"What are you doing?"
"Well I have to try them on before I pick something, right~?"
"You said this was important! I don't want to get in even more trouble for slacking off!"

She holds her hand in front of her mouth and giggles. She continues with a big grin plastered on her face.

"But this is ímportant~ We're not állowed to áccessorize on the job, but I can't just waltz through a mall without something cute~"
"You've got to be- You look fine!"

Her grin grows wider still.

"Thank you~!"
"No, I mean- I mean... Look, you heard Dr. Nevada. I have to be at her lab in time!"
"She said that, didn't she~? But don't worry, it's not éven ten yet~! There's plenty of time~ Be honest, what do you think of this one~?"
"Sure, it's cute. Buy it, and let's move on."

She pouts, even if neither of you are buying her attempt at garnering sympathy.

"If you say it like that, I can't trust your judgement~"
"Fine, how about this? You can do your shopping, and I'll do mine. Can you just tell me where I can find the store you had in mind?"
"I don't think you'd find it~ It's a pretty big place~..."
"It's just a strip mall, right? I can only go up or down the walkway."
"Óoh, is that what you think~? I think you should get a better look óutside~"


You head outside while Briana returns to sampling decorations for her hair. As you get closer to the glass wall keeping shoppers from falling, you notice that a good 50 meters across the gap, a similar arrangement of various shops is running parallel to the glass wall along the opposing ledge. In fact, the whole gap is more of a big hole, completely surrounded by walkways and shops. Looking down and up, you realize that you are standing on just one out of at least 15 floors filled to the brim with commerce. You return, worried that you could lose your only guide through this maze.

"Okay, I did not expect it to be this big."
"Told you~ So stay close, I'd hate to have to pick you up at the lost and found~"

"Target Briana classified as 'irksome'."

"You're taking your job as retainer way too seriously, you know~ Lady Nevada just told you to buy a new wardrobe and meet her at fifteen - if you have time between that, you're free to spend it however you wish~"
"Fine, you win. But if you take forever, I'll just head for the first store selling clothes I see and grab whatever is nearby!"
"You wouldn't dare! I'm not letting you buy anything without my approval~!"

You watch her go through one accessory after the next, carefully considering different combinations at her usual pace. You get more uncomfortable with each passing minute, but she does have a point - you do have a good amount of time before you have to report back to Dr. Nevada. You suddenly hear a jingle come from Briana's direction. She pulls out what you assume is her phone, clears her throat and answers.

{How may I help you, Nemonée~? ... Ah, unfortunately, I am occupied right n- ... Please, I'm not trying to hide anything from you~ I may be at the mall, but I'm just doing as I was ordered to~ ... By her Lady Nevada herself~! You are free to ask her, of course~ ... I'm a little saddened that you wouldn't trust me, dear Nemonée, but I understand. Goodbye for now~}

She stores the phone back into a concealed pocket in her apron and gives you a wide grin.

"Just a friend~"
"...I highly doubt that. Do you do this often?"
"Shopping, or working~?"
"Both, at the same time. Like right now."
"Not as much as I'd like~ But just so you know, I don't just sneak off campus during work~ If I'm on the clock, I ónly go here for business purposes, like any good employee~!"
"...Like buying bracelets so you can look nice?"
"Well, beauty is an important virtue for ányone working so closely with nobility~ I'm sure most nobles would appreciate me wanting to look my best~!"
"I'm sure Dr. Nevada wouldn't."


"Hmm, are you sure about that? She's quite the fashionista herself."
"Dr. Nevada? Lady Nevada? Are you sure we're talking about the same person?"
"Why are you so surprised~? She has great style~ She started the designer labcoat trend, you know~!"
"...I think her combat shoes were untied."
"I know, it's such a great contrast to her skirt~ Do you think I should get an anklet too~?"
"For the sake of brevity, no."
"Hmm... You're right, I couldn't make it work with socks this long~ Alright, that's everything~!"

Her elegant but simple uniform is accented by glittering and colorful knickknacks in her hair, on her neck and hands. She does have a point - the strategically placed jewelry does make her appearance stand out more, which, ironically enough, makes her blend in more with the lively crowd populating the mall. She holds out her phone at arms length, striking poses and making faces to no one in particular.

"What do you think~? Much better, hmm~?"
"Yeah- yeah, sure. It looks good, honestly."
"Aw, I áppreciate that, I really do~! I know you prefer farmcore, but this dress really does need something more feminine~"
"I'm not core-anything, these are just the clothes we wear. Speaking of which..."
"Hehe, I únderstand~ No more ímportant pitstops, I promise~"

She leads you to a set of stairs, explaining that the store she has in mind is two floors further down. Gauging from others' reaction to your clothes, Briana might have been right about your clothes being trendy - unlike back at House Daedal, the few stares you do get seem to be born from inspiration or even admiration. Maybe your fashion sense isn't that off, after all!

"Hey Enk, did you ever meet any Mandrakes before you got sealed away?"
"Minimal records found involving first-hand encounter with Mandrake targets or Mandrake allies."
"Targets and allies? So they were on both sides?"
"Correct. 2.2% of Pandemonia population comprised of Mandrake species."
"Are they always this... much?"
"Speech intonation and movement speed are consistent with Mandrake specimens previously observed. Speech subject matter and capacity for manipulation and deception is not, however."
"Mmaybe that's more of a female thing than a Mandrake thing. Don't tell her I said that, though."
"Curiosity in interpersonal tension estimated roughly equal to likelihood of encounter."
"Ah, you're probably right about that."

You finally reach the store Briana picked out for you - a multicolor display of every piece of clothing, ranging from muted earth tones to brilliant blues and yellows. Had you come here directly from Springfield, you'd be struck by the strong hues, but compared to what you've seen while navigating through the mall, it seems positively subtle to you now. The words "Terra Albedo" are written in English on a sign above the entrance.


You try to get an overview and look for a simple pair of pants first, but Briana is already ahead of you, pulling shirts, pants, even underwear from the racks at random. Before you can even find something similar to what you normally wear, she already hands you a pile and goes straight back to looking for more.

"There's a changing booth in the corner - try these on in there, if you would~"
"What are all these? You don't even know my size!"
"Trust me, I never get this wrong~"
"Shouldn't I be the one picking?"
"Hmm, but I'm having too much fun with this~ It's not óften I get to dress up a human, let álone a male one, you know~!"

As easy-going as she appears, she really doesn't relent when it comes to fashion. You sigh in defeat - if she did get your size right, she's at least saving you a lot of time trimming down the large selection available here - even if some of the patterns you see peeking out of the pile wouldn't be your first choice.
As you try on the various clothes, Briana continues to lob more and more "must-try" items over the curtain, occasionally demanding to show yourself. After a while, the trickle of new addition ceases, but there's still plenty to go through, so she waits outside as you get talking again.

"I've been wondering about the nobles beside Dr. Nevada. Are they as strict as her?"
"Hmm, I can't speak from éxperience when it comes to óther houses, but she never struck me as someone éspecially strict~ But it depends on how much ínfluence the noble has, really - they are far from equal standing between each óther, if you didn't know~"
"How many people at House Daedal are nobility, anyway?"
"Hmm, well~ I stopped keeping track of that number a while ago~ A bit óver 500, I suppose~?"
"How many of them are high members?"
"Óh, there are just éight of them, not counting the Earl and Lady Nevada~ Mind coming out for a spell~?"

You step out of a booth, wearing a pastel hoodie and baggy pants with deep blue patches.

"Hmm, maybe not this, after all~? Sergey, why are you holding out on me~?"
"What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb~ You know I gave you more fun clothes like that, so stop being picky by only wearing the safe ones! Try being more adventurous~!"
"T-Trust me, I think I've been plenty adventurous. I know I've said 'colorful', but I didn't expect you picking out something THIS intense."
"Oh, don't be like that~ I even avoided the really bright stuff, you don't have the skin tone or hair color for it~"
"Fine, I'll try it. But don't expect me to like it."

She gives little claps as you begrudgingly return to the booth. Might as well ask her some more questions, while you have the chance.


"This might sound weird, but what exactly is a noble?"
"...You don't éven know that~?"
"Ahem, no. I barely had any contact with them, and our curriculum is... a bit different from yours."
"That makes me wonder what they do teach out there~ Basically, nobility means a position in a house or supreme council with éither a lot of responsibility or fame - big shareholders, CEOs, ímportant researchers, barons and such~ Oh, and their family, of course."
"I'm a little confused. Does a house run a company, or a city?"
"Both, of course! Éach city is run by a house that takes care of the safety and development~ Most folks are émployed by the house in charge of their city, you know~"
"Is that so? Sounds... sounds a bit odd to me."
"You think so~? I suppose you are a bit sheltered, áfter all~"
"That's not-! Whatever."

Despite her persistent teasing, over time, you actually get into trying on different clothes - you've never been able to cycle through so many different shirts and shoes before. And as much as it pains you to admit, she was right with some of the more out there designs she recommended. You end up with a good selection of clothes, and Briana helps you pay with the IOU you got from Dr. Nevada. According to a clock suspended near the ceiling, it's a bit before noon - still plenty of time.

"You must be hungry by now~ Don't you want to eat something~? There's a taco stand with five stars a few floors up~"
"I am hungry, actually, but I don't want to keep you any longer. I mean, we are done, so you should be going back to your post, right?"
"Is that so~? Are you sure you don't want to give them a try~? It'd be my treat - as thanks for giving me such a fun break from work~"
"There, you called it a break! You can't even pretend this is a business trip to you!"

She breaks out into a giggle fit, covering her mouth with her hand. After a few second, she composes herself and takes on a more restrained and focused tone.

"I am, of course, referring to a change in tasks from my úsual duties, as I rarely get the ópportunity to act as a guide to a retainer of one of most esteemed vassals~"
"...You're scarily good at this."
"Hehe, but it's the truth! Tacos, then~?"

> You have time, you're hungry, you're getting invited by a cute girl. Why not?
> You might have some time left, but she doesn't. Insist that you get back before either of you gets in trouble.
It ended up more long-winded than I anticipated, not ending with an exciting point to jump in and 2 days late, but here's the last update of this thread. I'll try to post thread #3 on Saturday. Before I archive this one, I wanted to look back on the story so far and touch on some points I wish I had written different, and might treat differently than they were established over time.

The biggest problem for me is that I didn't pay enough attention of the established lore of Arcadia. For the starting point, I wanted a safe and neutral town that works for any faction and lets the player discover the facets of the faction along with Sergey. However, that's extremely unlikely for the setting, since the world outside the big settlements is a dangerous place. I also didn't keep the isolated cities and portals in mind enough - had I done it over again, I would've put Springfield in a far more remote area, instead of between the borders of two warring factions.
Speaking of borders, it doesn't really make sense for nobles to own unpopulated land - Arcadia mostly has no ability to defend land outside of their physical borders. To be fair, that would have made setting up the ruin much more difficult though.
I would have done the inventory system during the dive differently as well. I wasn't really aware of this, but this system handles equipment very poorly, and doesn't really support items like incendiary shells or radars in a manner I'd prefer. It's not really an issue anymore since having a proper character class puts us in a very different ballpark, but even if I had fun writing the segment, I think the availability of some of the items set a bad precedent.
This is unrelated to revisions, but I've also been very concerned about the pacing of the story lately - I wanted to put a spotlight on life in an Arcadian city, but in doing so, I've put in a ton of fluff. I don't know if I'd change it though - I have fun playing out the scenes in my head, but I do wonder if they do more harm than good.

Even if it's just a handful of you, thank you very much for sticking with me for over a month and hundreds of posts. As always, feedback is much appreciated.
>> You have time, you're hungry, you're getting invited by a cute girl. Why not?
Well, we gotta eat sometime and I doubt the doctor is planning on taking us anywhere, so why not
I like all the worldbuilding, it's been really good. All the stuff about different species has been on point and interesting too, like learning more about the rafflesia back home.
If there's any time for a slower pace and fluff it makes sense for it to be here imo since this is all completely new for our guy. Looking forward to seeing where things go in the next thread