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File 141161298667.png - (174.16KB , 600x717 , 3title.png )
595692 No. 595692 ID: 557bac

Conspiracy of Wasps Chapter 3.

Chapter 1: http://tgchan.org/kusaba/quest/res/573652.html
Chapter 2: http://tgchan.org/kusaba/quest/res/584397.html

Wiki: http://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Conspiracy_of_Wasps
Discussion: http://tgchan.org/kusaba/questdis/res/81536.html
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>>
No. 595693 ID: 557bac
File 141161306005.png - (183.56KB , 600x600 , 3-1.png )
595693

You spin silently in place, taking in your surroundings. The forest is dark and silent: almost dream-like. So much so, that you wonder whether you accidentally touched someone and ended up in their head-space.

"Hello?"

Your voice, though uncertain, carries for some distance. You're worried, but a little too surprised to be scared yet. You are aware, however, that being lost in the woods with its many species of insects, is just about the last place you want to be.
You don't have a lot of working knowledge about the outdoors, but the trees look to be some kind of pine tree, which are common in the area. Honestly you aren't really confident in your ability to identify them and they could be oaks for all you know.

You slowly take a sip of coffee only to find it stone cold. Your bagel is cold as well.
>>
No. 595694 ID: 557bac
File 141161307817.png - (225.82KB , 600x600 , 3-2.png )
595694

You panic and check your phone to see what time it is, forcing you to juggle your bagel, coffee, phone and stylus between your hands and mouth. However, when you try to turn it on, the screen flickers briefly and then dies.

Something lands on the dead phone and you flail at it, spilling some of your cold coffee, but stop when you realize that it's one of your wasps.
>>
No. 595695 ID: 2ec61a

okay, ask the wasp f it knows about how long it has been since you walked out of the coffee shop. should be able to access your biological clock, being a creature of your subconscious.
>>
No. 595696 ID: 2fd516

>>595694
Ask if it knows where you are. Also, this is a good time and place to ask it what the hell the Axle is anyway, and if it knew what that robot-guy was. Ask it what happens to someone if their bugs get big. Does it have any idea what happened to Doug to make him question reality? Possibly the same thing that's happening to you now? Do bugs help their host in any way? Why do bugs infest people? What do they eat?

Try not to waste your food.
>>
No. 595698 ID: 10e6c3

>>595694
So, you're in a forest full of bugs. First step is to realize what that means. Did you know that an experiment was done to determine the importance of insects in the natural environment? One forest was irradiated. The other had just its ants removed. The irradiated one eventually recovered, the de-bugged one did not.
Without bugs, you'd be dead. Really, really dead, along with the forest and everything in it. So, you see, bugs are your friends!

Now, interrogate that wasp.
>>
No. 595741 ID: 11207e

OK, so don't panic or anything, but... your ears seem to be missing.

And they have been since you've arrived at whatever place this is.
>>
No. 595763 ID: fe4bfc

What type of forest steals someones ears? Can you still hear anything?
>>
No. 595774 ID: 8b533b

Look up. If the sun's visible, you get at least a rough time of day.
>>
No. 595856 ID: e53ff2

where are your ears? and eat your bagel and drink your coffee, no sense in wasting food even if it is cold
>>
No. 595860 ID: 3b1c22

I think you just ate someone else's bug.
Have you washed that mug today?
>>
No. 595862 ID: 888a93

oh god your phone better not be dead

if you were entirely out of it, then how could you have been using your phone enough for it to die?!
Phones should last about 12 hours unused at 50%!!!
Your phone was charged just this morning!
Did you have a power-hog app that stayed on all the time?!
>>
No. 595864 ID: 99145e

sooo did you just walk outside in a daze for hours and hours?
are your feet tired as hell? do you recognize the area? i think you might have lost time, man.
>>
No. 595876 ID: d20fb6

i think someone's been putting molly water in your coffee or something.

do you have a watch?
>>
No. 595891 ID: 5107f7

Ask the wasp what year it is.
>>
No. 595985 ID: 557bac
File 141178158401.png - (146.20KB , 530x600 , 3-3.png )
595985

You stop flipping your shit and address the vespid.
"Gah!, don't DO that! What the hell just happened? Where are we?"

Unzzzertain, pleazse wait

The tiny creature takes wing and flies up into the canopy. As your eyes follow it, you notice that the sun is still pretty high up. You guess its a little before or after noon. Strange, your phone should have had enough power for at least the rest of the day.

Now that you're over the initial shock, you start to become aware of the myriad buzzing, and flitting insects in the area. Things are not going well today.

The wasp returns to your hand, and cleans itself while talking.
There are power linezz roughly three hundred feet to ourrr left. Other than that, Hive's location is unknnnnown

You sigh in relief. If you are in the real world, Apex has a power substation nearby. You may not be that far from work.

"Okay, now that no one's around, what the hell is going on? What is this Axle thing? And what was that robot thing in Sharon's head?"

Much about the Axzzzle's function is unknown. It is one of many Mechanizm'zzz. We have limmmited understanding of them azzz they are dangerouzzz to interact with. Theorizzzed there may be a way to manipulate themm.

"And the robot?"

Unzzertain. A traveller perhapzzz. Itzz pzyche appears to be weaponizzzed.

"And you? What are you?"

For the first time the creature hesitates.
...Cuztodianzz...
>>
No. 595986 ID: 88960e

Custodian of what? Me?
>>
No. 595987 ID: 2fd516

>>595985
Custodians of what? Explain. Especially explain possible reasons why Doug has such an aversion to his ants. Secondly, explain why the custodians in other peoples' minds are so hostile and mute. Shouldn't other bugs be able to talk too?

What other Mechanisms does it know about? What do they do?
>>
No. 595991 ID: d90668

Hey don't be holding out on me now. I decided to start working with you guys so I will trust you if you will trust me ok?

I can understand if you have some secret information source but we are both in this together. I can not imagine things will end well for either of us if the other gets killed because we started distrusting each other.
>>
No. 596024 ID: 5107f7

What is the wasp scared of? You're not going to believe it? You're going to tell other people? The only person who really believes us about this seems to be more than a few marbles short of a game. Not to mention creepy.
>>
No. 596171 ID: 8f01e8

Drained battery implies the phone has seen heavy use. What was it used for?

... y'know, I heard somewhere that a normal cell phone can actually send a signal strong enough to reach low-orbit comm satelites, just barely.
>>
No. 596336 ID: 557bac
File 141195504082.png - (165.01KB , 600x600 , 3-4.png )
596336

You set out towards the power lines, assuming that if you head in the right direction you wont miss them.
"What do you mean custodians? Custodians of what? Is that why other bugs attacked me?"

Your wasp rubs its forelimbs together as if wringing its hands
...We are not czertain... it is a different plazze. emmpty, exzept uzz and zhe mechamizms.

"You said Mechanisms, there are more? Like what?"

Zome have namezz: Angle, Tethhher, Forge, Torrrrque. Otherzz we do not underztand."

"Well why do you infest people? Why did Diego's beetle attack me?"

Muzzt have hivve. Muzzzt protect hivvve.

"Wait, why's Doug so worried about you then?"

Unknowwwwn.

You step out of the forest into a clearing cut to make room for a a set of high voltage wires. You stop and think for a moment while having a bite of your bagel.

You're pretty sure the power station is on the north side of the facility, with lines running north-south and the sun is slightly behind you.
>>
No. 596339 ID: 2fd516

>>596336
Then the question is if it's after noon or before noon. Ask the wasps if they know how long it's been since you left the cafe. Or even, if they know what happened in the missing time between leaving the cafe and arriving innawoods. Would they know if someone invaded your mind? Victims of that go catatonic for the duration apparently, but... Diego didn't seem to notice any missing time. If it's after noon, then west is behind you and south (the direction we want to go) is to your right. If it's before noon, then go left. So... how do we know what time it is? I guess you could mark down a shadow by drawing in the dirt, and stand around for a while until it's noticeably moved away from the mark. Then you could tell what direction the sun is (seemingly) traversing the sky. You could also just sortof... look down the cleared path the power lines use, to see if you can see the power station in one of the two directions.

Hang on, if the mechanisms are part of this "empty place", why is one in your Safe Place? Is that NOT the inside of your head? Is that a different place altogether, and the "earth" is just a mental construct you created when you imagined the Safe Place for the first time? If the "empty place" isn't a real place, does that mean the blue-shift is entirely unrelated to the Axle? Or did you summon the Axle into the Safe Place's area by imagining the blue-shift as a singularity? Or... maybe the Mechanisms are the controls of the universe, and the Axle is being manipulated to cause the blue shift. Maybe to make it go away and/or deal with the robot dude, we need to find another Mechanism and manipulate it. There's also the question of why the bugs are visible out here AND inside peoples' minds. Oh, that reminds me. Ask the wasps if they wouldn't mind just... going back into the hive you gave them instead of making you itch out here, once we're done asking questions. Speaking of the Hive, ask what makes a good Hive. They seemed to show up whenever you were agitated- is a Hive normally formed by emotional or mental distress of some kind?
>>
No. 596341 ID: ccd544

>>596339
>Victims of that go catatonic for the duration apparently, but... Diego didn't seem to notice any missing time.

Users of that ability go semi-catatonic, their physical selves and id go on autopilot while the ego and super-ego are off 'visiting'.
>>
No. 596342 ID: ccd544

>>596336
>You're pretty sure the power station is on the north side of the facility, with lines running north-south and the sun is slightly behind you.
OK, so it was morning earlier, that means it MUST be afternoon; there is no way you could have been walking for 24 hours.
With the sun behind you, and it being afternoon, the sun is pointing to the West, which means if you face the sun then South is to your left...

UNLESS it is actually just BEFORE noon, and you actually got your coffee and bagel earlier than we thought it was...
What time did you get your coffee and bagel?
>>
No. 596343 ID: 2fd516

Oh yeah, lastly... earlier today the wasps said something about being close to you, almost like they were taunting you about your relationship problems. I think it's time they explained themselves. Maybe we can get them to show some empathy, instead of acting all mysterious and emotionless.

>>596341
Erm... then I guess that doesn't explain Nate's current situation. Unless he IS in someone's head?

Nate, try dreaming up your spacesuit. Or anything. If it works, you're in someone's head. If not, then you're likely in the real world.
>>
No. 596592 ID: 557bac
File 141212601768.png - (123.14KB , 600x600 , 3-5.png )
596592

>>596343
Right, before you do anything, you should figure out whether you are even in the real world or not.
Your mind conjures up the idea of a space suit, you try to feel its added weight, the stiffness of joints, the circulation of its self-contained atmosphere.

You open your eyes.

Nothing.

Well, that settles that.

>>596342
You apply some thought. You don't remember exactly what time it was when you left the cafe, but it was getting close to lunchtime. You assume that, since this is the real world, it must have been some amount of time for you to end up out in the woods. Logically, that would mean its now the afternoon and you should head right.
Hopefully you haven't been missing for a whole day.

You set out to your right.

Curious, you continue to pester the pest.
"So earlier, when you first spoke, it sounded like you were mocking me. You said that no- one would be 'as close as us'. What was that all about?"

Muzzt protect hivvvve. Muzzt protect swarrrrrm. No mmmmatter whattttt.

"Okay, so what's with the Axle, then? Is it real? Is it in my head? Is it part of this 'empty space'?"

Yezzzzz

"Well that's helpful."

Morre real than you cann imaginne.

You shiver for reasons you don't really understand.

You march through the weeds; waves of tiny, buzzy creatures fleeing at your approach. It's tempting to stop, but you realize that if you don't press forward, then you risk being caught outside at night. At least they aren't attacking you anyway.

Before long you crest a hill and looking down, the power line ending at the familiar sight of the Apex facility. However, when you last saw it, there weren't half a dozen police cars parked outside.
>>
No. 596593 ID: 557bac
File 141212602105.png - (213.33KB , 600x600 , 3-6.png )
596593

You head towards the buildings but almost immediately trip over a thick cable, spilling the rest of your cold coffee. The cable looks like it runs down the side of the metal scaffolding and into the woods.
>>
No. 596595 ID: 2fd516

>>596593
...Hmm. I'm torn between seeing what's up with the police and following the cable. I suppose we could do both. Go get an officer and lead him to the cable.
>>
No. 596596 ID: 8e294c

>>596595
This seems... excessive. Note the location and direction of the cable (do you know of anything over there that needs power?), then go ask the police what's going on.
>>
No. 596598 ID: 40935b

Examine the cable. Is someone stealing power, or what?
>>
No. 596604 ID: 07c1a3

How did you manage to trip over that? Presumably before you foot hit it, the wire was laying flat on the ground.
>>
No. 596605 ID: d90668

Hmm looks like someone is diverting power or communications somewhere. Take a look before you go anywhere.

Also you need to discuss how you got here and what happened to the time you lost with the wasps. Either you got teleported here very slowly or you have been out of it for hours. If they claim not to know whats up you better get them to step up there game.

Also until you know whats going on I would stay out of sight of the police. A guy wandering off the mountain with a mug of coffee and a bagel is going to look suspicious. Who knows maybe you got mind controlled and something bad happened in the time you were missing.
>>
No. 596624 ID: d8a627

>>596604
If there's a dip in the ground, his foot could catch into it and snag the cord when being lifted.
>>
No. 596644 ID: 2baea8

>>596595
>>596596
Note the location and direction of the cable, show it to the police, then go on your way. Probably best not to get wrapped up in this if there's a criminal on the loose.
>>
No. 597001 ID: 6e7636

Confirm that the cable is not in fact a tremendously large and carelessly placed piece of black licorice.
>>
No. 597308 ID: 557bac
File 141247068456.png - (177.43KB , 600x600 , 3-7.png )
597308

You pick yourself up out of the grass and examine the cable.
Its fairly thick, and hums slightly where it connects with the overhanging wires. The other end disappears somewhere in the underbrush, presumably hooked up to something that is siphoning power from the grid.

You memorize the location (fourth set of poles from Apex) and decide it would be best to see whats going on back at the compound before examining the wire. Maybe someone there can shed some light on its function.
>>
No. 597309 ID: 557bac
File 141247068832.png - (126.56KB , 600x488 , 3-8.png )
597309

Approaching the Apex compound, you try to look for a way to enter without being noticed, but that is hard enough to do when there isn't a police presence. Instead you opt to approach the rear gate and flash your ID badge at the guard. He gets on the horn with his superiors and talks in a low voice with a lot of "uh-huh"s. A few minutes later another guard comes to escort you inside, neither of them asking you any questions.
>>
No. 597310 ID: 557bac
File 141247069273.png - (205.29KB , 600x600 , 3-9.png )
597310

They lead you inside building D, the satellite assembly hanger, and upstairs where a pair of police officers are talking to Doug.

Nate
"Doug, what's with all the police? What's going on?"

Doug does a double take at your appearance
>"Nate? Where on earth have you been?"
>>
No. 597311 ID: 2fd516

>>597310
Tell him you woke up in the woods with a dead phone and no memory of what happened since you stepped out of the cafe. You think you may have been abducted. What time is it? What happened? Did the facility get attacked?

Tell the police about the cable attached to the power lines.
>>
No. 597312 ID: d90668

It's a long story.

Tell them you got some coffee and a bagel and went for a walk to try and relax after the mess earlier. You got distracted thinking about what could have happened and if Sharon would be ok and before you knew it you had wandered all the way up the hill. Tripping over a power line that was not supposed to be there broke you out of your reverie and then you quickly came back and noticed the police had showed up.

That is almost exactly what happened so will be easy to keep your story straight. The only thing we are not certain of is how you got out there in the first place.

Hopefully you did not just come back to them reviewing a video tape of you wandering around stabbing people before running into the woods.
>>
No. 597315 ID: a5478c

>>597310
Your wasp is showing
>>
No. 597318 ID: 2ec61a

be honest about everything except talking to your wasp.
>>
No. 597321 ID: bb78f2

Holy crap man, those officer's must have seen some shiiiit, look at those bugs. So numerous and large.
>>
No. 597328 ID: 2baea8

>>597311
This. You think somebody may have, uh, drugged you? You don't normally have blackouts like that.
>>
No. 597332 ID: 5107f7

Doug is just...standing there? Completely comfortably? With all of those bugs around? Something screwy is going on...
>>
No. 597337 ID: 4a20fa

>>597311
That.
>>
No. 597347 ID: 8f01e8

Tell Doug you've got some information from Hiro that he needs to know, but you don't want to share it with the cops because of a possible connection to Red Ants. Phrase it in such a way as to imply that "red ants" is the codename for a secret project.

His response (and some follow-up questions, etc.) will provide information with which to deduce whether this is the real Doug. Also, in the event that this is pure paranoia, you really do have some information from Hiro that he needs to know.
>>
No. 597394 ID: 2baea8

>>597347
This also sounds good.
>>
No. 597521 ID: ccd544

>>597332
> Doug is just...standing there? Completely comfortably? With all of those bugs around? Something screwy is going on...
Doug is fine with other people's bugs. It's HIS OWN bugs he freaks out over.
Like Nate, he's gotten used to pretending other people's bugs aren't there.
>>
No. 597522 ID: ccd544

>>597347
Actually, the info Nate learned from the Hive is not yet relevant to Doug's interests.

Also, he's not buddy-buddy with Nate yet, cute code names won't fly.
>>
No. 597549 ID: 557bac
File 141264642260.png - (200.30KB , 600x600 , 3-10.png )
597549

At the sight of Doug your wasp decides to land and you feel it tuck itself under your shirt collar. Apparently, it doesn't exactly feel safe around him.

Nate
"I, I'm not sure. I had just got a bagel and some coffee and I was going to go ask you something. Next thing I know, I'm standing out in the woods. I wanted to call for help, but my phone is dead. Luckily, I saw the power lines and was able to follow them straight back here."

"I'm not sure what's happening, Doug, is everyone alright? What time is it, even?"

Doug
>"Well, its about 2 PM right now. As for what's happening..."
He turns his head to indicate the window. You step over and peer down into the gigantic hanger. There, suspended by chains, gantries and scaffolding is....
Nothing.
About 500 million dollars worth of nothing.

Nate
"Holy shit... How? No, wait, What? How?"

Doug
>"We aren't sure yet. The people working on it came back from lunch and it was missing. Around the same time, security reported some kind of problem with the CCTV camera feeds. Other than that, we haven't been able to ascertain anything."

One of the cops speaks up
>"You say you woke up in the woods? Did you see anything unusual?"

You feel kind of dizzy at the sheer impossibility of a 2 ton satellite disappearing so quickly.
"I don't know if it has anything to do with the missing satellite but I did see something weird. On my way back I saw a thick cable running from the power lines out to somewhere in the woods. It didn't seem like it was supposed to be there."

The cops look at each other meaningfully.
>"Has anything like this ever happened to you before? Blacking out and waking up somewhere else? Do you remember anything else from the period in between?"

The other cop looks up from his notepad
>"You said that you were going to meet with Mr... O'Beele here? Do you mind if I ask what you were going to talk to him about?"
>>
No. 597551 ID: 2fd516

>>597549
Uh, I'm not sure you're allowed to talk about what you were going to ask Doug about. I mean, if you think about it, saying you wanted to borrow the transponder means that you'd be admitting there is a transponder... and they'd ask why you needed it, so you'd have to tell them there's a problem with COBALT...

As for the blacking out thing, no. That's never happened to you before. Um, right? There was nothing in between. It was like you walked straight out of the cafe into the woods, no feeling of time passing and you were still holding your bagel and coffee, which had gone cold.
>>
No. 597553 ID: d90668

Ask Doug how much you can say before saying anything.

If he gives you the go ahead tell them that because of the problem in the clean room today we could not build a special radio we were assigned to build today. And that Hiro thought that we could ask to borrow the radio off the satellite instead. So you were going to go ask Doug to see if you could get permission.

As for the blacking out thing you have never had anything like it happen before. One second you were exiting the coffee shop with hot coffee and a bagel and the next you were in the woods. The only reason you realized that time had passed was because of the cold coffee and dead battery on the phone.
>>
No. 597554 ID: 8e294c

>>597549
HAS anything like this happened to you before? I mean, panic attacks are borderline normal, so that's probably something you could tell them without issue, even if it's not quite the same - embarrassment is one thing, but given that you're talking to the cops, you don't want to leave anything out that doesn't have you sounding completely crazy / criminal.

Getting back on track, have you ever lost time when you're at the Lagrange point?

Also, less importantly - you didn't lose your favorite mug when you tripped over the power line, did you?
>>
No. 597558 ID: 5367c2

just tell the police that you were going to talk to him about work, if they press for information claim that the reason has slipped your mind at the moment. But now would be a good time to find Hiro, gut says he might want to talk (or rant) about this. Plus he might have a phone charger on hand
>>
No. 597560 ID: bb78f2

"Uhh, sorry, but NDA stuff. Well, I don't even know the nature of the NDA right now, considering the circumstances."
>>
No. 597565 ID: 4a20fa

>>597553
That, assuming it hasn't happened before.
>>
No. 597742 ID: 0dc9cf

Just tell them you were going to ask a question about parts for your job. He's your superior and you work here, it's not exactly suspicious. they dont need to know specifics.
>>
No. 597799 ID: 557bac
File 141290677932.png - (197.53KB , 600x600 , 3-11.png )
597799

Nate
"Sometimes I might space out a bit, but only for a second or two, I don't think this has ever happened before."

The first cop, who's nameplate reads Hunter cocks her eyebrow.
>"You don't 'think' its happened before?"

Nate
"Well, I've never woken up somewhere not knowing how I got there. So, no. It was really bizarre, even the coffee and bagel I had just bought were cold in my hands."

Hunter
>"Anything else?"

Nate
"Well, my phone died too, it still had nearly half charge left on the battery."

Hunter
>"Hmm, do you mind if we look at your records at your phone company to see if any calls or texts were made during the missing period?"

Nate
"Aren't you going to do that anyway?"

The other cop, who is apparently named Jones, shrugs.
>"Honestly, yeah, but its faster if we have your permission. We need to piece together what happened the last few hours, and it sounds like you might be important. Besides, you're being co-operative, and that counts for something."

You feel something under your collar starting to itch.
"Wait, does this mean I'm a suspect?"

Jones
>"Its Nathan, right?"
You nod
>"Nathan, we don't think you strolled in here and pushed the thing out on a shopping cart, but you're definitely a 'person of interest' at this point."

Hunter
>"What about before you went missing? What were you doing again?"

Nate
"Well, at the risk of sounding uncooperative, I'm honestly not sure how much I can tell you. We had a problem with one of our systems today and I was going to ask Doug if I could use a part from the satellite to help address it, I certainly didn't need to take the whole thing."

You laugh a little nervously. They don't laugh, instead they nod a little and make little "hmm" noises. You aren't sure what that means.

"I think you might need to talk to him about it if you need something more specific. I hope you understand, but its more than just my job on the line. Some of the information we deal with here is worth literally billions of dollars."

Jones
>"We also understand that you reported a possible intruder earlier today? Your boss was telling me about it, would you mind filling us in on your version of events?"
>>
No. 597800 ID: 4f004c

>"We also understand that you reported a possible intruder earlier today? Your boss was telling me about it, would you mind filling us in on your version of events?"
Well, you were in your room at the clean labs, waiting for the equipment to work with, but when it wasn't arriving, you left to check the arrival point, to find it was broken. After you called the maintenance crew about it, you were about to head back to your room when you noticed the vent shaft just outside the maintenance room was torn off. You went back to the maintenance phone to call security about it, and they said to wait in your room, so you headed back.
Once you got into your room, however, you found your coworker passed out on the floor, and called security again to tell them about this.

Or, uh, did you not call security until after seeing Sharon? I kinda forget.
>>
No. 597801 ID: 2fd516

>>597799
You were going to work on something in the clean room, but the parts were late. You went to check on them, the delivery system was stuck. You called maintenance to come fix it, then you saw something out of the corner of your eye, and the duct vent outside the maintenance closet on the ceiling fell with a clang. You went out and heard something moving in the vent. Then you went back to the phone and called security. The door to the closet doesn't lock so you went out to collect the schematics to keep them from being stolen, but saw your co-worker unconscious. You went to check on her and fell unconscious yourself. Next thing you remember is waking up to the security team. They can tell the cops what happened after that.
>>
No. 597802 ID: 436cdc

>>597800
We called security soon as we saw the vent, I'm pretty sure
>>
No. 597803 ID: 2baea8

>>597800
He called security about it from the maintenance closet, then 'had a panic attack' and passed out next to Sharon upon finding her. The security guys found him there afterwards. They'd probably have more information about what happened while he was out.
>>
No. 597804 ID: bb78f2

Well I don't think that's NDA when it comes to police since someone was attacked
Someone infiltrated through the vents, made an employee unconscious somehow, and then left, and that's all you saw from your perspective. Maybe there was more, but you had a panic attack and passed out yourself at that point. Security and the cleaning team found you later. The employee wasn't visibly injured though, no blunt object hitting her head or anything. So maybe a gas agent? You don't know.

You're not exactly the most courageous or gathered individual.

Are you legally allowed to check your own phone and plugging it in to a charger? Your honestly curious who you might have called or texted yourself, or if it has to be submitted as evidence now. If your second anxiety attack made you do something stupid, you'd at least like to check with the company lawyer first. This is a huge legal mess for yourself as much as them, and while you'd like to be cooperative as possible, you also don't want to get shitcanned, if you don't get shitcanned already because the panic attacks made you break your NDA, created a huge security hole, or just because they got in the way of doing your job.

You don't know that what you had was a panic attack, you're guessing at this point. You're just blaming them as a panic attack because you have a lot of them and they're very varied.
>>
No. 597805 ID: 2fd516

Oh! Ask if anyone else has gone missing. If it happened to you, it must have happened to someone else, surely?
>>
No. 597811 ID: 330ce5

Hide your bugs your boss is still in the room and to keep his trust you might want to calm down.
>>
No. 597880 ID: 4a20fa

>>597801
That.
>>
No. 597890 ID: 557bac
File 141305054022.png - (94.13KB , 291x600 , 3-12.png )
597890

You try to keep your anxiety under control but you can feel the wasps piling up under your clothes. They seem to be trying to keep themselves hidden, but its really making you itchy.

Nate
"I was working in the clean room and waiting for a shipment of parts. It was taking an unusually long time, so I went to go check it out and found that the mechanism that we use to transport things was jammed. I ducked into a maintenance closet and called for a repairman, but I thought I saw something move behind me. I checked it out and found that something had torn the cover off of a vent and I heard it climbing through the duct-work. It was about that time that I noticed that the lock on the door had been tampered with."
"I ran back to the phone and called for security to come check it out and then went back to my workstation to secure some extremely sensitive documents. I got back to the room and found my co-worker, Sharon, passed out on the floor. I bent down to check on her and I guess I had a panic attack and I passed out too. I'm not sure how long I was out but when I woke up, two security guards were there checking on us. After that they evacuated the area so you'd have to talk to them about whatever happened next."

Officer Hunter
>"You passed out? I thought you said you've never had that happen before."

You feel yourself floundering-
"W,well, no what I meant was that I've never blacked out and woken up somewhere else."

Hunter
>"But you've blacked out? Experienced 'missing time'?"

Nate
"I... I don't know, I guess? I think I spaced out for a minute in the hallway this morning and the janitor found me but, missing time?"
>>
No. 597891 ID: 557bac
File 141305054601.png - (174.19KB , 600x452 , 3-13.png )
597891

You feel a familiar hand on your shoulder and the unpleasant feeling of a dozen wasps squirming as they are crushed against your body. You feel a cold chill as the blood drains from your head and your stomach writhes as if infested. You force yourself not to vomit.

>"I hope you'll understand, officers, Mr. Springer suffers from a medical condition that sometimes results in extreme anxiety. We're aware of it and he has always shown himself to be an exemplary employee."

Doug gives you a mysterious smile as you look from him to his hand and back, gawping.

Hunter
>"Sir, please don't interfere. All we're interested in right now is establishing a timeline, and we aren't even sure if his absence is relevant at this point."

Sweating and pale, you turn your attention back to the police officers and continue.
"I'm sorry, I really don't know what happened to me, but I want to find out, especially if it helps find the satellite. If its okay, I'd like to see if I can charge my phone and see what my activity was: I have a charger in my car if you want to come with me. Um... also, am I the only person that went missing?"

They look at each other again.

Hunter
>"We're also trying to find one of your security guards: one Morgan Greene."
>>
No. 597893 ID: bb78f2

Morgan noramlly works outside, and was the first to tell me about a suspicious individual outside the place. A goat guy in a purple trenchcoat in sunglasses.
Just sitting right next to an RV or van. Carrying a weapon. But open-carry state... so...

Morgan said he already contacted the cops about him
>>
No. 597894 ID: bb78f2

Wait, Nate, is the fact everyone is an animal person a hallucination too? Maybe don't give out the fact he's a goat guy, it might weird out the police.
>>
No. 597895 ID: 40935b

Ask if they talked/responded to that guy with the shotgun earlier, Morgan said he called the police when you talked to him this morning. Give a description if they need one- he had a short barreled shotgun, trench-coat, (kinda tacky) shades, and was leaning on an unmarked white van.

>yfw wasps start to fall out of your pockets
>>
No. 597903 ID: 2fd516

>>597891
First, Tell Doug that crushing your shoulder is NOT helping. Second, ask for some space to calm yourself down. Tell them if they want confirmation on your medical issues, they can call your therapist. Get somewhere private, clean off your shoulder, and tell the wasps to go away. If they won't, threaten to go to the Safe Place again despite the Axle doing whatever it's doing. If they *can't*, then just try to calm down. Maybe ask why they swarm when you're nervous.
If you can't figure out a solution, call your therapist again, tell her what's going on and about what you've learned from Doug and the wasps.

Also, I just realized... Doug touched you without you knowing, but he didn't get into your head.
>>
No. 597906 ID: bb78f2

Are you sure he didn't get in your head? From his perspective, he might already have gotten in your head.

Sorry, Nate, I really shouldn't be making you more paranoid. You seem to be find, at least, save for the wasp stingers in your shoulder now.

We should have both a dialogue with the wasps AND Doug, but later. Maybe we can asks the wasps kindly to not swarm your goddamn clothes so you itch so much. Make an opening on the backside of your neck instead and have them flee through there, so it's more comfortable.
Also, it might REALLY freak out Doug in an almost funny way.
Bastard just knowingly put a bunch of hallucinatory wasp stingers in your arm, he at LEAST deserves a little bit loss of composure.
>>
No. 597979 ID: 2fd516

Hang on, I have an idea. Touch a bug of one of the cops when they aren't looking at you. You'll pass out in front of them, and be able to talk to their inner selves to either:
A) Find out what they know already about the case, or
B) Influence them to be less suspicious of you.

It'll also let you get the wasps off of your skin, and give you some time to gather your wits. Last time you were inside someone's head, the wasps stayed there when you left.
>>
No. 598073 ID: a141b0

First, worrying about Doug and the wasps is a self fulfilling prophecy. Worry just summons the wasps, and Doug will hurt them since he doesn't trust them. Calm down... or at least think hard about them swarming on the side of you opposite of Doug since you're cloths aren't doing anything to protect or hide them anymore.

But anyway, aside from putting off the confrontation between Doug and the wasps, just be as honest as you can be without delving into stuff that they would obviously think are delusions.
>>
No. 598084 ID: 330ce5

>>597979
I like this idea, expect they are police officers so they most likely have training on people sneaking up on them. Try to shift the focus onto someone else such as that guy with the gun.
>>
No. 598096 ID: fc109d

Let Doug take over and try to talk to him alown. If you need to tell the cops you feel unwell. GO with Doug.
>>
No. 598129 ID: 211558

I think we need to find somewhere to sit down and breathe for a second. Going to our not-so-safe place probably isn't a good idea but we need to get our anxiety under control ASAP.
>>
No. 598191 ID: 557bac
File 141325164369.png - (121.09KB , 369x600 , 3-14.png )
598191

You realize that Doug just touched you while you weren't looking. If what he told you is true, its possible he just got a look inside your head. You aren't sure what he would be doing in there though but you don't think you're aware of any change to your psyche at this point. For the moment you try to focus on calming down, not scratching and dispelling some of the wasps, but its hard to do with your boss potentially rooting around in your subconscious. You consider visiting your "safe-place" and confronting him, if he's even in there. For their part, the wasps aren't helping things; buzzing at a fever pitch at the sudden intrusion, but at least they aren't stinging you.

Nate
"Morgan? I saw him earlier today. He pointed out this weird character hanging out in front of the compound with a shotgun."

Jones
>"Right, someone responded to a call about him. He was asked to leave and he apparently responded that the officers were 'interfering with his sovereign rights as a free citizen'. After several minutes of discussion he got into his vehicle and left. The officers stayed in the area for about an hour without seeing him before leaving."

Nate
"He was also one of the guards that responded to the report of the intruder, last time I saw him was in the clean room of building C."

Hunter
>"We're doing a sweep of that building. We think that's that last place he was seen."

Worried about Morgan, you try to indicate how eager you are to help.
"Would it be alright if I went to my car to plug in my phone?"

The officers indicate that it would be acceptable as long as one of them go with you.
>>
No. 598192 ID: 2baea8

That sounds acceptable.
>>
No. 598198 ID: 2fd516

>>598191
You can go to the car pretty fast, and you can check to see if anyone called you during the missing time. Seems like a good investment. Leave your phone there for now, as you don't have time to wait for it to charge and you'd have a dead phone if you didn't go to your car anyway. Not carrying your phone while you help in the search is a good tradeoff too. Then go try to find Morgan. 5 bux says his mind got shattered too.

Doug can root around in your head if he wants. He's in no position to judge you for your baggage, and if he finds out about the piece of yourself you sacrificed to give the wasps a hive, you'll just have to give him the full story of what happened in Diego's mind, and about how the wasps have been talking to you. If he really believes the "cogito ergo sum" bullshit he'll listen, because it's not like he can do that while also believing he's 100% justified in killing all bugs ever.

But uh, get away from him so he can't kill more of the swarm. I don't think that's a good idea.
>>
No. 598207 ID: d90668

I have a feeling that anyone who can see the bugs can not have there mind invaded that easily. While they might be able to get in your head you would probably be able to be aware of it happening.

Honestly either way its not worth worrying about someone sneaking up on you.

If you need to I would tell the police that you need a minute to calm yourself or else you will have another attack. If they give you any crap tell them to fuck themselves and lawyer up.
>>
No. 598279 ID: 4f004c

While you weren't aware that Doug was about to touch you, you were aware of his presence right behind you. I don't think he was able to get in, as a result.
>>
No. 598403 ID: c6ec0b

Doug can look out for other bug seers. Stay with him. We want him as an ally and we need to talk.
>>
No. 598495 ID: 557bac
File 141342384681.png - (202.87KB , 532x600 , 3-15.png )
598495

Hunter agrees to go with you to the parking lot and you pull away from Doug. If he wants to root around in your head, fine: you have nothing to hide. You're worried about what he might do to your swarm however. The sudden contact, plus the possible invasion leave you kind of shaken and a little worried about trusting Doug. Once free of his grasp, the swarm settles down.

You quickly find your vehicle and plug your phone into the cigarette lighter adapter to charge. It'll take some time to charge up, but you can browse it while its plugged in. You turn it on and type in your password with the stylus.

Officer Hunter
>"Those are some interesting fingers, did you hurt them or something?"
>>
No. 598498 ID: 2fd516

>>598495
Tell her they're to keep you from scratching yourself too badly. The anxiety issue Doug told her about also involves compulsive scratching. Anxiety, scratching, fear of bugs... what else was there? Discomfort when touched? Any other, more personal details she'll have to get from your therapist.

Ah, I just realized touching someone without them knowing it may mean you have to touch them in a way they can't tell they're being touched. It's not just a surprise physical contact, they have to be completely unaware of the contact. In that case, Doug did not invade your mind, because his grip on your shoulder was overt.
>>
No. 598515 ID: a141b0

Be straight with her, no reason to lie... in fact given you were hospitalized in college once, there are plenty of reasons NOT to lie. Give her the facts, and maybe pull up your sleeves a bit so she can see the scars. She's just being an investigator and getting all the details; you're a suspect because everyone is a suspect right now.

Mind you, while the things you did during the blackout might be an issue, they are unlikely to be directly related to the theft due to where you found yourself. Worst case scenario is you find a lot of gibberish written in base eight and she mistakes it for code... which it is, but not the type of code she'd be concerned about.

If that happens, once again be upfront. Tell her it's base eight. Tell her you don't know what it's doing on your phone. The only thing you might want to be evasive about is Cobalt. If she presses says that you're worried about the spread of information concerning the mentioned problems with your systems. Whoever did this broke into a clean room and then a secure hanger, meaning they might now have the hardware they need...

...but not the software. There may has been worry about Hiro being a daredevil and stealing the satellite, but thinking about what these thieves have done to get the hardware there might be some worry about what they'll do to get the software once they realize that Cobalt is no longer talking in base ten. So yeah, best put having a panic attack over Hiro's safety on the schedule.
>>
No. 598522 ID: f47794

Tell her the truth. Then hit on her, hit on her a lot! Try do it in a way that she's not sure if you are hitting on her.

Also I've been thinking (sorry) that it can be coincidence that the incident with the clean room happened when you needed the clean room, then when you decided to use the satellite you blanked out for enough time for someone to take it and the satellite couldn't just disappear from the facility without someone noticing so it may still be on the premises, all this points to someone on the inside. WE'VE GOT A SPY!
>>
No. 598527 ID: 5eea01

>>598522
No hitting on her, you've already got a date ya goof! This is serious mystery business, not a love triangle romcom!
>>
No. 598779 ID: 557bac
File 141360038757.png - (191.82KB , 563x600 , 3-16.png )
598779

You look down at your hands. Your face burning a little, you sigh and roll up your sleeve. Hunter lets out a hiss of sympathy when she sees the lines etched into your arm.

Nate
"Believe me, there's worse. This is what he meant when he said I have a 'condition'. I see things and feel things that aren't there, and even though I know they aren't real I still have to live with them. The tape helps, but I ended up putting myself in the hospital after a breakdown in college. That should be easy enough to find if you want the records and I can put you in touch with my therapist if you need. I'm not 'crazy' or at least, if I am, its not because of that."

Hunter shivers.
>"Shit man, not what I was expecting."

Nate
"I just want to be clear: I'm not trying to hide anything and I want to know what happened as much as you do. The only way I can do that is being open with you, even if it means you think I'm... "

She nods
>"I don't think I need to tell you what kind of shit you get to see as a cop. When someone breaks down and loses it, most of the time we're the first ones on the scene. Usually its just regular people who have been pushed too far for too long. For what its worth, you're handling this a lot better than most people would be."

look back at your phone. Nothing really seems different at first glance. However, checking your call history you find that you apparently received a call from an unknown number.

One that lasted for 10 hours.
>>
No. 598781 ID: f99558

could you maybe, try to ask officer hunter to trace it back to the caller? cops can do it right?
>>
No. 598784 ID: 2fd516

>>598779
Um. Unless it's 9 PM somehow, that is impossible. Show the cop the paradoxical number. Isn't 11:05 about when you got lunch?

Oh shit. You woke up because your phone ran out of battery. You better stop charging that thing! If whoever/whatever that is calls you again, you're gonna black out!

Abandon the phone, give it to the cop if she wants it. Time to find Morgan.
>>
No. 598786 ID: d64d29

>When someone breaks down and loses it, most of the time we're the first ones on the scene.
Yeah, first responders and 911 operators aren't much fun at parties.

Well, I think that's something she'd like to know about. Ask how long you've been missing for and show her the phone.
>>
No. 598788 ID: d90668

That does not seem right. Try to figure out the timeline regarding this call. And then show Hunter your phone and ask what she thinks.

Things just keep getting more and more confusing. Someone or something is probably after Cobalt and is trying to get to it anyway it can. That or Cobalt is part of the mess.
>>
No. 598790 ID: 330ce5

Let the phone charge and chat with the cop, rushing things now seems like a bad move.
>>
No. 598792 ID: 5af684

>>598779
...the fuck? that's creepy man. can they check who the number belongs to?
>>
No. 598798 ID: bb78f2

Okay, Ma'am, please tell me exactly what day it is because I do NOT see how it is physically possible to call someone for 11 hours during an hour or two blackout.

Holy shit Nate please tell me you have an unlimited plan. I know you're an engineer and probably can afford it but christ man.
>>
No. 598822 ID: 61771b

>>598798
yeah, it's around 2pm now and that call was started at 11:05am. That's not possible.
It also means the timeline for you missing is like 3 hours.
>>
No. 598838 ID: a141b0

Remember that a phone is just a piece of hardware running software. Glitches happen, especially when you use them in ways they weren't intended.

Doesn't mean something suspicious didn't happen, in fact it means something suspicious DID happen. But what happened probably has more to do with the incoming data being something unintended by the original manufacturer than it does with time dilation. If this incoming data also made the smart phone overclock itself, it could have easily drained the battery.

Doesn't mean nothing supernatural is happening here, after all you blacked out and somehow walked into the woods rather than just falling prone right where you were. Just don't dismiss mundane answers to the weirdness.
>>
No. 598855 ID: dc54ce

You may not even need to involve the police to investigate the call. Police have to work with the phone company to get that information anyway. Since it's your phone and your account you should be able to contact them yourself to see what their records show. That said, you should let her know to continue to be cooperative
>>
No. 598868 ID: 3459b2

Get ye tinfoil hats ready lad!
>>
No. 599037 ID: 557bac
File 141385909249.png - (124.65KB , 600x481 , 3-17.png )
599037

You show officer Hunter the impossible phone log. She checks the time-stamp and her face contorts with disbelief.
>"-The fuuuck? How's that even-?"

Nate
"I don't know, a glitch possibly? Maybe the way that the phone counts time was disrupted during my blackout."

Hunter
>"Any idea as to what could make it do that?"

Nate
"Not sure, maybe tampering with the phone itself. Here, let me see if, like *69 tells us anything."

You dial the automated service, which chatters back in a broken cadence.
>Your last incoming call is: this number is unreachable. Error 88888888.

"Shit, think you can get the number?"

Hunter
>"I sure, fucking hope so. It takes more time, but we can also get more in-depth info like where it was sent if it used a cell tower."

She pulls out her own phone and calls someone at the police station. She gives them your phone number and asks them to pull up whatever they can on the unknown number.

Nate
"This thing still needs to charge: anything else I can do to help, officer Hunter?"

Hunter
>"Its detective actually. I'm thinking our best bet is either to look into your last moments before blacking out, or you show me the scene of the break in you reported and walk me through that."
>>
No. 599038 ID: 2fd516

>>599037
>88888888
Dude. Base 8, error code eight 8s? Suspicious.

I don't think the cafe is going to show us anything interesting, because I feel certain that the phone call was what caused you to black out, somehow. Go show her the clean room, since I guess we're not going to help find Morgan.
>>
No. 599044 ID: 5eea01

Oh shit, Cobalt is going TITAN. You've been basilisk hacked, son.
>>
No. 599052 ID: 2baea8

>>599038
>>599044
I knew it. We have created a psionic AI.
>>
No. 599061 ID: d90668

Tell her that you will have to get permission to show her any sensitive areas but you would gladly walk her through things if you can.

The thought that Cobalt is involved is pretty much certain now. We know its up there calculating something like mad. Who knows what it did with your phone but if you were not hindered by a small battery it probably would still be using it for something.

The next time you go to your safe spot you should try aiming a bit closer to earth. Like say next to where the satellite would be orbiting. Could be a interesting experiment.
>>
No. 599063 ID: a141b0

All you were doing before blacking out was exiting the cafe. Aside from actually taking the courage to small talk to the cashier, nothing out of the ordinary there to report unless she wants to start hunting down people who could have possibly observed you leave.

You can say as much on the way to the clean room. Warn that it will mostly be for a walkthrough of the events since there was a team in there working to get the place recleaned before the second break in broke out. Also make a point to check on the parts you had to leave there. If they've gone missing, you can crank up the conspiracy meter a notch or two.
>>
No. 599073 ID: 2f4b71

>the cafe
Hey, either our printed receipt (if we kept it) or the till's printed or electronic receipt will have a timestamp!
>>
No. 599109 ID: 4d85c5

>The only way I can do that is being open with you, even if it means you think I'm...
It's so nice to avoid the not telling the cops the really suspicious thing for dumb reasons and then looking terrible when it comes out trope.

We could show her the cleanroom, so long as no one's objecting for nda reasons. The whole 'clean' bit is pretty badly broken by this point, anyways.
>>
No. 599110 ID: 2fdec1

The eight eights *69 error code is suspicious as hell considering it came with what sounds like a normal response to an unreachable number. Maybe base-8 Cobalt is involved? Well, just to rule out if the error code is a coincidence tell the detective that you suspect that that error code is not normal and ask her if she could use her smartphone to do a search for "*69 'this number is unreachable' 'error 88888888'" to see if it's a legit error code. You'd use your phone but you don't know if it's been compromised or not.

Hey, wait a second... You weren't holding your phone when you came out of your blackout, so how was it presumably influencing you without you actually listening to the call? And then your last memory isn't of the phone ringing and you answering it but of you stepping through the cafe doorway. So maybe it wiped your memory of answering it? Or maybe it didn't even need to be answered to do what it did? Hm... Yeah, you take a detour first to the cafe and try to figure out what you did after you stepped out the door. Maybe Heather saw you get a call?
>>
No. 599237 ID: 557bac
File 141411320413.png - (127.85KB , 600x537 , 3-18.png )
599237

Nate
"I don't know if you'd find anything helpful in the cafe. I think we should be able to get into the clean room, maybe there'll be something there, but we would need to gown up to go in."

Hunter
>"'Gown up?'"

You leave the phone in your car to charge and head over to building C.

On the ride up you try to break down the gowning process in stages, but realize that A: the clean room has already been compromised and B: as a detective, she's probably pretty versed with the whole 'not contaminating the crime scene" thing.

Nate
"...And then, really important, you can't forget the shoe covers. Oh and then before you walk in, you need to make sure you step on the sticky mats."

Hunter looks a little dizzy from the crash course on clean room but assures you that she'll be fine. You step in to the men's gowning room while she goes into the women's and you begin the process of suiting up. In the interest of keeping things even you decide use a white suit, since you wore blue earlier.
>>
No. 599238 ID: 2fd516

>>599237
Alright, when we go in, walk her through everything that happened from the very start- as soon as you walked into the clean room. Trace your steps all the way. Like, lead her to where you were waiting for the parts, then over to the delivery mechanism, show her the closet, and the vent, then retrace your path back to where Sharon was, in the first room again. I think the most important place is the maintenance closet, delivery system, and vent, but don't neglect the other room.
>>
No. 599337 ID: 600b2e

>>599237
wait. the cafe. the creepy, creepy guy.
...
we should make him be the fall guy.
>>
No. 599349 ID: 2baea8

>>599337
How about let's catch the actual culprit instead?
>>
No. 599353 ID: 600b2e

>>599349
there's like a 1 in 5 chance it's the same guy anyhow.
i'd take those odds.
>>
No. 599357 ID: 4f004c

>>599353
There's like a 0% chance, if you ask me.
>>
No. 599367 ID: 557bac
File 141426628948.png - (102.31KB , 600x432 , 3-19.png )
599367

You finish dressing and step through the airlock. It takes a few moments before detective Hunter joins you in the hallway. She doesn't look too comfortable in the clean room attire, but is at least properly dressed.

You start out by taking her to your work station.

"So here's where I started off, I ran into Sharon here first and we just kind of caught up for a minute. She just got back from her vacation and was talking about the beach."

Hunter
>"You said that when you found her she was unconscious. Would anything in here be able to do that: some kind of chemical, or electrical discharge?"

Nate
"I don't think so, we don't really work with anything that volatile here, and anything like that would be done under the vent hood anyway. As for electrical, I didn't smell ozone or anything burning, so I kind of doubt it."

>"So you think she was attacked then?"

You nod.
"This is also the last place I saw Morgan, the guard that's still missing. I imagine that, after I left, they went from room to room to look for the intruder."

>"And you said that someone was moving around through the air ducts, right? "

"That's what it sounded like, but I didn't get a look at them."

>"And where do they lead?"

"It all goes through the fourth floor, the whole place is for processing and filtering air."

>"Anyone go up there?"

"They were talking about it, but I have no idea."

Should you search some more around here? Continue on to the maintenance closet? Check the fourth floor?
>>
No. 599368 ID: bb78f2

Check screens, check under those moving table things in front of you and to your right, and check the floating book in the glove box carrier thing.

Oh, you should probably also investigate Sharon's suit, if it's still around here.
>>
No. 599369 ID: bb78f2

Wait, what the fuck, the floating book dissapeared after I posted the suggestion! It was right there!
Nate, it might be important! Check the remnants of the space where the book was. There's like weird floaty blackstuff there. Also weird floaty blackstuff hovering right over that table near the phone.

That just might be a scuff mark or scratch though so... I dunno.
>>
No. 599370 ID: 2fd516

>>599367
Show her the maintenance closet since it's like right there. Then we'll go to the fourth floor.
>>
No. 599372 ID: 2fd516

>>599369
That was an art error. It was the folder that Nate had already retrieved.
>>
No. 599378 ID: 61771b

>>599367
Check the screens to make sure there's nothing weird on them.(to make sure noone was looking up less secure company secrets/schematics while sharon was out) then check the maintenance room and the broken vent.
>>
No. 599389 ID: a141b0

Show her the maintenance room. Recount your story of how you went to check to see what was keeping the parts so long, how you saw something in your peripheral vision, and then the vent dropping. That, given your condition, you did physically check to see if the vent really was dislodged, and then went to call security.

If she questions further on your necessity to check the vent grate, just say that while inanimate objects are normally outside the realm for your condition, your condition does still revolve around full sensory hallucinations and your are always on guard for things progressing. Managing your condition if your goal, and that requires a degree of self awareness.

After all that is done... well you would know better than all these intrusive thoughts in your head if it would be OK to take her to floor four. If anything the question is if you'd be the most appropriate person to escort her and answer her questions. You know the clean room procedure and you know how satellites are constructed, but that doesn't mean you know the minute details of the industrial air filter that is the fourth floor... or do you? If your not qualified to answer further questions, it might be best to hand her to someone who is so you can get back to the problem of Cobalt.
>>
No. 599425 ID: 4a20fa

>>599367
Since you've both been through the longwinded suiting procedure, you may as well retrace your steps completely. To the maintenance area.
>>
No. 599463 ID: 557bac
File 141436265128.png - (134.90KB , 600x600 , 3-20.png )
599463

Not seeing anything immediately out of the ordinary, you decide to check out the maintenance closet. You hear the hum of some kind of machine and as you turn the corner you spot Anthony running a floor buffer and grumbling to himself.
>>
No. 599464 ID: 2fd516

Ask him if he's seen anything weird or maybe if he's seen Morgan.
>>
No. 599467 ID: 2ec61a

surprise him with a "HEY!"

if that doesn't cause any bugs to appear then we have a problem.
>>
No. 599471 ID: 2fd516

>>599467
We've already seen that when people wear the clean suits their bugs are not visible. Take Hunter, for example.
>>
No. 599523 ID: 330ce5

Wave to get his attention, then Hunter should hear his side of the story. Receiving multiply angels on this definitely won't hurt anything.
>>
No. 599559 ID: 55c4cf

Ask why he is buffering the floor?
>>
No. 599572 ID: fd8fad

ask why he is buttering the floor
>>
No. 599596 ID: e26cbe

He's buffering the floor because then entire place needs to be scrubbed down. He's grumbling because it's his job to scrub the entire place down.

Has he seen anything?
>>
No. 599658 ID: 557bac
File 141455015980.png - (120.43KB , 445x600 , 3-21.png )
599658

You hail the janitor as you approach.
"Hey, Anthony! This is detective Hunter: we're trying to figure out what's going on..."

Anthony gives you both a tired look
>"Don't ask me, they don't tell me nothin'."

Hunter
>"Be that as it may, we're looking for Morgan Greene. I understand you saw him earlier today."

Anthony
>"Yeah, that's why I'm here. He made sure to track dirt through ev-er-y room in this floor looking for some 'intruder'."
He sighs
>"I dunno where he went; they let us back into the building after lunch and I've been buffing since then. This is the first I've heard about the cops getting involved... "

Nate
"Well... there's been a- well, a theft."

Anthony
>"Let me guess... more for me to clean up after..."

Hunter
>"Actually, this is potentially a crime scene. You should probably stop."

Anthony
>"Fine by me: I've got other shit I should be doing."
He turns off the floor buffer and starts rolling up the cord.

Nate
"So, you see anything weird while you were cleaning up?"

Anthony
>"I still haven't had a chance to look at the broken carrier arm or door. I still can't explain what might have happened to them. But I haven't noticed anything else out of the ordinary."
>>
No. 599660 ID: bb78f2

Is that blood up there or bug stuff?
Ask him if he can track the dirt from where Morgan started and began if he's already buffed the trail, this is a real lead to Morgan and probably our clearest yet if Anthony can help us.
>>
No. 599661 ID: 2fd516

>>599658
It's looking more and more likely that Morgan is still in the building and his situation might be urgent, despite him being missing for a long time. Maybe we should go up to the fourth floor and do a proper clear? I feel like we should have more than one cop for that though. Or are people already searching up there?

How about we delegate. He can go look at the broken arm and door, while we go check out the fourth floor?
>>
No. 599662 ID: 2fd516

>>599660
Probably synesthesia.
>>
No. 599663 ID: d64d29

shh, do you guys hear that?
>>
No. 599714 ID: 1b0956

>>599658
Dang, you see frequencies. Someone check out that duct before something bad happens. Well, something worse.
>>
No. 599716 ID: f44fa8

>>599658
So... did the air-channels get checked for the intruder?
Like, someone had a look <into> them? E.g. our missing person?
>>
No. 599770 ID: 557bac
File 141463662976.png - (194.72KB , 600x557 , 3-22.png )
599770

Looking behind Anthony, you notice a subtle difference to the hallway. A sound quietly dancing around in the ventilation system.
"Hey, you hear that? Is there something still up there? Anyone ever get around to checking the vents?

Anthony shrugs.
>"No idea."

Hunter
>"I can't hear anything. Here, give me a lift."

Feeling uncomfortable, you cup your hands for her; Anthony does the same and detective Hunter steps up. Sweating with exertion inside your coverall, you count the seconds it takes for her to undo the vent cover and, after 15 of them, there's a clang as it falls behind you.
>>
No. 599771 ID: 557bac
File 141463663863.png - (185.44KB , 434x600 , 3-23.png )
599771

>"Hey, you're right! There's someone up here! Hang on!"

Before you can stop her Hunter grabs hold of the intruder and pulls. The weight is too much for you and the two of them collapse on top of you.

The instant the stranger's body land's on yours, you experience a familiar sensation: as if falling through the dark.
>>
No. 599774 ID: 2ec61a

hold them here!
>>
No. 599776 ID: 2fd516

>>599771
Well alright we're gonna be in someone's mind now. Once you're in there, armor up immediately. Then check around to see if there are any active threats. If not, turn off the armor so you can move freely. Maybe summon up a ballistics vest for some basic protection you can move around easily in.

It'll also be a good time to talk to your wasps, and ask them if Doug invaded your brainspace. If he did, maybe ask them if he did anything?
>>
No. 599889 ID: 8f01e8

>>599776
>turn off the armor so you can move freely.

Sure, if by "off" you mean "into a powered exoskeleton." As a professional engineer and hardcore space nerd, why should Nate's imaginary protective gear be limited to duplicates of existing equipment?
>>
No. 599984 ID: a141b0

>>599889
Nate is familiar with the exosuit since he originally pictured one during his early training with his therapist. Making it armored was a small leap of faith easily boosted by an instinctive desire for protection. Giving it a powered exoskeleton without first familiarizing himself with the potential technology might be too much to ask for. Remember, he's an engineer but primarily a satellite engineer. He's used to building delicate moving parts and packaging them for the rocky ride up into orbit; expecting him to be familiar with powered exoskeletons might be a bit too much.

>>599771
So, yeah. You're about to be plunged into someone else's mind. Resist temptation to meddle... particularly if this is the invader who hurt Sharon's mind. They might be more than capable of defending themselves. He attacked with electricity before, so insulation should be a higher priority than armor. Not that those claws didn't look deadly, but unless you can imagine super strength you're main offensive will probably remain the swarm... if it comes down to that.

It might be tempting to meddle. It might be tempting confront the owner of this mind away from prying eyes. But in the end your best bet might be to just get out of there as fast as possible. Summon the wasps, and while I agree you should ask them about Doug getting into your mind, you should also ask them if there is any way for you to leave the mind you're in without going to Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1 and the awaiting Axel.

If possible, try applying the technique you use to reach the Lagrange Point to instead go somewhere else you feel safe; not your apartment since you're not sure if the person whose mind you are in can follow you, but maybe a childhood home or retreat where you always felt safe?
>>
No. 600088 ID: b251f2

>>599984
What is an exoskeleton if not some delicate moving parts packaged up for a rocky ride?
I say give it a go.

Anyway, we probably shouldn't be focusing on worn armour when we have a cloud of wasps at our disposal.
How many wasps can we output at one time?
Can they be used defensively?
How quickly can we replenish wasps?
>>
No. 600128 ID: 557bac
File 141489727016.png - (167.93KB , 476x600 , 3-24.png )
600128

Knowing that you've potentially entered hostile territory, you focus and re-imagine yourself covered in armor. Anxiously, you peer into the darkness. A few wasps creep out of you and start to buzz around

Nate
"Hello?..."
>>
No. 600129 ID: 557bac
File 141489727756.png - (461.85KB , 600x600 , 3-25.png )
600129

Suddenly you find yourself assaulted by sound. It pours through the thick protection of the space suit and you find yourself dazzled by a display of color and shape like you've never experienced. The sensation is completely overwhelming, but beautifully captivating once you adjust to it.

A lone, commanding figure stands like a lighthouse in a storm, the tide of sound washing over them in great rolling waves, apparently oblivious to your presence.
>>
No. 600130 ID: 2fd516

>>600129
Go take a look at the conductor's face. Don't disturb them if you can help it. Talking to them will probably result in a Custodian showing up to attack. If you don't recognize them, ask who they are. Tell them this place is beautiful, if they don't seem immediately hostile.

With the music so loud there's no way you'll be able to talk to your wasps. Hmm. Because of that it's tempting to ask the conductor to turn it down, but that might insult them or attract the attention of a Custodian. Instead you could imagine more insulation around yourself, and talk to a wasp inside your suit.
>>
No. 600204 ID: 3a4d97

Get directly behind the figure so you can avoid the noise. Try not to bother them until you have a better idea of what's going on around you.
>>
No. 600228 ID: 330ce5

Oh a person, let's go see who it is and also ( this is kinda a long shot) can you use the drone of wasp wings to block out the noise?
>>
No. 600402 ID: 557bac
File 141515646727.png - (326.26KB , 600x600 , 3-26.png )
600402

You shelter yourself in behind the figure and retract your helmet so that you can cover your ears properly.

Looking up through the light and noise, you try to discern who your host is. Now that the sound isn't ringing around your helmet, you can recognize tempos, rhythms and melodies but don't recognize the song being played. Whatever it is, there sounds like a whole orchestra is playing.

The figure's arms start to move, forming a startlingly precise series of commands. The music swells in response and you brace yourself for another wave of light and noise.
>>
No. 600403 ID: 2ec61a

feather between your legs, looks like peacock.
>>
No. 600406 ID: 2fd516

That peacock feather means you're in Anthony's head. The conductor doesn't look like it could be him... but... maybe Anthony is part of the orchestra?

I'm starting to think there's no reason to be here. Summon up some earplugs or sound-dampening headphones and a welding mask. That should be enough to weather the storm and get a better look at what's going on. If you can see Anthony and he's either the conductor or a musician, then just wake up, because I don't think anyone else is here in that case.

If the conductor is obviously not supposed to be here you could disrupt the performance, because it could be how Sharon's mind was shattered. I suspect that while you're in here the trespasser is getting away though.
>>
No. 600424 ID: de8b4d

Punch him in the ass to get him to stop.
>>
No. 600425 ID: 4f004c

Your wasp is pointing out the peacock feather for you, so it must be an important clue.
It's possible that the conductor is the intruder, and that anybody who's head they're effecting becomes a part of the orchestra, something you could confirm if there's any penguin feathers here, since Sharon's mind was never properly restored. It's also possible that Anthony himself is the conductor, though the purposes of the sound-light are uncertain in that case.
>>
No. 600444 ID: 417abc

>>600424
Seconding operation asspunch
>>
No. 600475 ID: 330ce5

Jab the stranger in the leg! We demand attention!
>>
No. 600481 ID: f8a15c

>>600425
It's more likely that the conductor is Anthony. As assaulting as this display is, this while setup seems more like a private space than anything else. I'm betting it's tied to his past. Plus, the intruder we encountered before was a lot more direct with his methods (i.e., blowing giant holes in things).

At any rate, the figure seems to be concentrating. Firmly tap them on the shoulder so you don't freak them out. If that doesn't work, thirding the butt punch.
>>
No. 600515 ID: 557bac
File 141524129503.png - (245.76KB , 600x481 , 3-27.png )
600515

Your wasp catches your attention, crawling over a tiny iridescent object.

Is that.... ?
"Wait...Anthony?"

The music clatters to a halt as the conductor turns around and folds his arms.
>"Yes, who's there? Nathan, what on earth are you doing here?"

You look around and find that you're standing in a vast, cavernous performance hall; its rich, opulent walls scarred with the tell-tale fragments of a broken psyche.

Nate
"What am I doing here? What are you doing here?"

He indicates the stage, which is bathed in an unusually deep shadow.
>"Performing? Its something I've been working on to pass the time: I call it Les Concierges."

Nate
"But then... how did I end up here? I couldn't have touched you: not before whoever was in the vent landed on me."

Anthony
>"The hell, are you talking about? What vent?"
>>
No. 600516 ID: 2baea8

Voting to leave this place alone and try to regain consciousness.
>>
No. 600518 ID: 89b2a2

>>600515
Why is the theater all smashed up in the background?
>>
No. 600520 ID: 2fd516

>>600515
Dude, their subconscious selves don't perceive recent events in the outside world. They probably only gain information during dreams.

If I had to guess, you're in two heads at once. Anthony should remain here, because if you try to move him, his Custodians will likely attack.

Conjure up a flashlight and see what's in the darkness... but ask Anthony to turn around first. He normally can't see what's in there, so it might be dangerous for him to.
>>
No. 600523 ID: d5f3c4

Don't try too make sense of the dream-scape to someone trapped in it, that's just silly. Ask him about his music, how long it's taken him to compose it, where his inspiration comes from. Once you have a handle on that ask him about the dilapidated theatre.
>>
No. 600527 ID: 4f004c

What theater wouldn't have ventilation? Tell him to take a look at the state of the theater, and ask if he remembers what caused that to happen.
>>
No. 600552 ID: 2fdec1

He doesn't remember what just happened out there? How could he not remember that? ...Wait a sec... How damaged is his psyche? On the level of Sharon? 'Cause if it is then shouldn't he be passed out like she was and not walking about like when you met him? ...Yeah, something is definitely not right here.

Ask what's the last thing he can remember from outside, before this mental session working on his performance; Compare what he remembers with what you remember. Then tell him the basics of what happened before you ended up in here, starting from when you entered the clean room with Detective Hunter, as well as the reason for coming there.

Oh, and compliment him on his performance. What you heard of it was quite captivating, though your synesthesia made it a rather more intense experience then you'd have liked. Is composing orchestral music a hobby of his or a dream or what?
>>
No. 600577 ID: 330ce5

Look out for scorpions!
>>
No. 600590 ID: bb78f2

We're in your brain, Anthony. You're free to not believe me, but we were just at work and had something collapse on top of us.

Are you sure you don't remember anything? I mean, if this IS your hobby that you do in your spare time, you do remember you work at our facility right? Do you remember detective hunter?
>>
No. 600607 ID: 557bac
File 141532839919.png - (158.61KB , 478x600 , 3-28.png )
600607

Nate
"Someone fell out of a vent onto me, that's how I got here...at least I think so."

You peer into the darkness of the stage.
"What's this performance, then? An opera?"

Anthony
>"A symphony actually. Here's the score if you're interested."

He hands you a folder full of musical notation. You never learned how to read sheet music but there is a synopsis printed on the first page. It appears to be a political drama set in a mountainside hotel, involving a series of catastrophes and is told through the point of view of the staff.

He fiddles with his baton nervously.
>"I... haven't told anyone about it, yet. I don't know what they'd think, and I'm just a janitor, you know? Anyway, like I said, its something I've been playing with while I work."

Nate
"It... looked, er sounded good. Sorry, I don't know much about music."

Anthony
>"That's okay, it needs work. You're the first time its had an audience."

Nate
"So, wait... if you don't remember the guy in the vent. What do you remember?"

Anthony looks pained as he struggles to remember.
>"I... was buffing the floor.... and I saw someone down the hall. That engineer, Shanon? Sharon? You know, the one with the eyebrows. I tried to go talk to her but... she ran off. I followed her and as soon as I turned the corner, I felt something pulling me off my feet; something grabbing me from above."
>>
No. 600608 ID: d90668

Did you get a look at whatever grabbed you?

If not its no big deal just would help me figure out whats going on.

As for your musical you should keep working on it. Once we get out of here I would love to take a closer look. Am sure there are plenty of people at work who would give you advice and constructive criticism as well.
>>
No. 600609 ID: d5f3c4

Tell him you'd like to hear more, though maybe with the volume turned down a little, as it's hard to listen to the music with the powerful synesthesia.
>>
No. 600611 ID: 2fd516

>>600607
...oh dear. You touched the person in the vent, alright. You know how you pulled Diego into your Safe Place? The intruder pulled Anthony's inner self into its head. You're in the intruder's head, and so is Anthony, along with apparently part of his mindscape. But what happens when someone's inner self is taken out of them for a long period of time? Diego wasn't in your Safe Place last time you were there... did he make it back out like you wanted?

You can fix this though. You could grab him, take him into your head, wake up, then touch Anthony, and pull Anthony's inner self back out of your head and back where he belongs. Hopefully you can do this before the Axle sucks you in again. Maybe ask the wasps if this is feasible?

This explains why you haven't been attacked by Anthony's scorpions yet. Hmm, I wonder if you could explore this mind before doing the swap, to see if you can find out anything about the intruder?


...alternatively, you're really in Anthony's head right now, because he was stuffed in the vent, and the Anthony you saw walking around is not Anthony.
>>
No. 600612 ID: bb78f2

Sharon was attacked, then apparently possessed and doing weird things? Maybe like you did?
Oh fffuuuck, we need to get out of here and find hunter before she does weird things like you and Shannon!
>>
No. 600613 ID: a141b0

>>600611
Yeah. These two options are the big clincher to how we proceed.

Option One: You're in the intruder's head and they, for some reason, sucked a part of Anthony mind into their own... which I find more and more unlikely the more I think about it, unless they have some strange astral projection power where they can control bodies remotely at the cost of leaving their own immobile.

Option Two: You're in Anthony's head and it was actually the intruder you were talking to in the hallway. A little contrived that they just happened to be a blue feathered avian, but possible since that does make Anthony a target.

Chances are you might want to do what good you can for Anthony quickly before getting out of here. If it was the real Anthony in the vent, then there's a good chance the real intruder is trying to use the confusion to mind-warp the detective. Last thing we need is for you to have an unprepared battle in the detective's mind.

One of the ways you can help Anthony... ask where is his scorpion? Since this is the mindscape version of him, he might just know about his own bug. Back in Sharron's mind, the intruder looked like a mechanized humanoid... but it amongst all those many alien features was a scorpion like tip on it's tail. Your wasp later described the intruder as have being weaponized... rather ominous now that we drag Anthony into the equation.
>>
No. 600614 ID: 2fd516

>>600613
Well, it's possible that the Anthony in the hallway is a shapeshifter or something. I guess the theory would have to be true sooner or later.
>>
No. 600615 ID: 8e294c

>>600613

Option 3: A little bit of both. We could be dealing with a mind swapper. This would also explain why Anthony was being noncommittal, cleaning up potential evidence, eager to leave, and saying he "hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary" as opposed to what he's telling us now, which is... the story of him getting pulled up and stuffed into the vent?

Okay, that last bit doesn't quite work.
>>
No. 600650 ID: 8f01e8

>It appears to be a political drama set in a mountainside hotel, involving a series of catastrophes and is told through the point of view of the staff.

Sounds a little bit autobiographical.

Want my advice? First, if you haven't already, get as much of it as possible written down, and store copies in several different places: in a fireproof box at your house, in digital form on some remote server, safe deposit box at a bank, etc. Then, talk to a laywer. Ask for advice, and specifically about how much experience they have with business contract stuff and copyright law specific to music. A lot of lawyers will give you the first half-hour or hour free, specifically for that reason. Ask for them to recommend somebody who'd know more about what you need. Ask lots of different lawyers, until the recommendations converge on somebody. Then, with that professional help on the running-a-business stuff, set it up as a kickstarter project or something.
>>
No. 600800 ID: 557bac
File 141548804155.png - (184.77KB , 447x600 , 3-29.png )
600800

A chill runs up your spine. Something is very wrong here...

Anthony contradicting himself? Sharon up and running around? Was Anthony standing in the hallway with you, or did he fall out of the vent? You're not sure who is who anymore.
The only thing you can be sure of is that he's been attacked somehow.

"Shit... Well, while I'm here is there anything I can help with?"

There's a sound from the darkness: something heavy dragging itself across the stage. Hissing, dripping ichor, and missing several limbs, Anthony's massive scorpion guardian lurches out of the gloom in your direction.

>HSSSSSsssss. Machine, ssstop the machine
>>
No. 600802 ID: 2fd516

Verified: other Custodians can talk, and you're in Anthony's head, because the giant version of his Custodians are here. This means the Anthony that was cleaning was an impostor, somehow.

Time to move. Helmet up, and run, follow the blood trail. Put a light on your armor so you can see where you're going. Tell Anthony to come help if he can imagine up some protection and weaponry. This time don't drag the machine into your head, that was a bad idea. Just beat the shit out of it this time. If you can think up a shield of some sort like that chair, that could deflect its blasts.
>>
No. 600814 ID: d90668

I will stop the machine if I can. But before I go is there anything I can do to help Anthony?
>>
No. 600826 ID: b251f2

Maybe the person we just touched had some kind of mental safeguard where instead of going into his mind, we instead go to the mind of a random person near by.
>>
No. 600833 ID: 2ec61a

ask where the machine is, you will try to stop it.
>>
No. 600846 ID: 2baea8

See if you can heal the scorpion. If not, pull up memories of your time in the hospital from your scratching problem, and try to manifest bandages on the scorpion to at least stabilize it. Then follow the blood trail.

Make a wooden shield and club to use.
>>
No. 600847 ID: a141b0

Remember a machine could mean one of two things: an Intruder or a Mechanism.

If it's an Intruder you may not have the element of surprise this time, but it's still the safer option. Just be alert, it might not be "weaponized" in the same way the first Intruder was.

If it's a Mechanism... it isn't going to be as bad as another Apex... it's going to be worse. Each Mechanism has a different function. I have theories about what this one might do... but the last thing you need is an intrusive voice spouting theories at you when you're about to find out the truth in twenty or so seconds.

Just be on your guard, and be ready to react wisely to surprise. Honestly, if wasn't for the fact that the only assured way to leave was to have another confrontation with the Apex, I'd remind you that you're not a hero and should just leave right now.

...speaking of, if you do end up leaving without any passengers, you should really consider taking your time to go to anywhere OTHER than Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1. I know it probably took multiple sessions with your therapist create that safe place in your mind, but until you know more you should keep your encounters with the Axel to a minimum.
>>
No. 601065 ID: 330ce5

Save the people, SAVE YOUR FRIENDS!
>>
No. 601302 ID: 8f01e8

Since you're in Isaac Clarke cosplay, and this place works by dream logic, you should also have, close at hand, a device for slowing down time and a device for cutting things at a distance. Overcharge the former and reverse the polarity on the latter. Use the combined effects to rewind to the moment of injury and reattach the scorpion's severed limbs.
>>
No. 601657 ID: 557bac
File 141576329998.png - (158.05KB , 600x374 , 3-30.png )
601657

Nate
"What do you mean by 'the machine'? Do you mean a mechanism or that intruder?"

>It isssss building the massshinee: the Ssstar-mover. It mussst be ssstopped.

You cautiously approach the wounded creature.
"Let me help; maybe I can heal you."

The wounded arachnid snarls, and raises its remaining claw to defend itself.
>>
No. 601658 ID: 557bac
File 141576331190.png - (434.69KB , 700x700 , 3-31.png )
601658

There's a streak of color and a crunch that splatters you with bloody fragments of chitin.

Your guardian's stinger pulses as it pumps venom into the scorpion. It stands up: a shimmering champion of gold and purple, its voice is not without a hint of reproach.
Be morrre carrreful, hiiiive.
>>
No. 601662 ID: 07a835

>>601658
Ah. I believe you have just discovered what Doug was warning you about. Your inner guardian, once stronger, will act on its own with just as much over-protective hostility as the ones you've encountered in the minds of others. In fact, I think it might actively hinder you if it feels it is stronger than you.

Tell it to call you Nate. You are not just a hive for it to live in. Ask if it will follow your orders from now on. Also, the scorpion knew more than our wasps did, apparently.

Regardless, don't take too much time standing around. You need to find the intruder... if it's even still here? Try exiting the theatre, if there's no way to go backstage. When you were in Sharon's head, the guardian crawled out of the sea, and the intruder was in the house in the opposite direction. So, if that pattern holds true, you should try finding the exit of the theatre.
>>
No. 601681 ID: bb78f2

I'm sorry, what did you just call him?
His name is NATE.
>>
No. 601684 ID: 89b2a2

>>601657
>>601662
Yeah, but keep in mind it straight up asked for help from you. Obviously whatever it is is important.

"The name is NATE, not hive!" while running towards the path it came from.
>>
No. 601690 ID: 8f01e8

Careful? 'Careful' you say, while reflexively murdering this source of intel on a what may be a galactic-scale threat, possibly our best source to date. 'Careful' you say to the man whose very first action upon entering this theater was to armor himself! Back off, you buzzing bastard, unless you want to make Doug's brand of carefulness look safer than cooperating with you.
>>
No. 601692 ID: 2ec61a

it spoke of the star mover... the axle.
>>
No. 601693 ID: a141b0

...yeah. Don't be too sensitive to the whole being addressed as "hive" all the time. There is obviously a communication issue going on here and you need to take the higher ground, not childishly burn bridges over a name.

Instead, chide it for killing a potential ally. Sure, the scorpion probably would have only worked towards the protection of it's own hive, but that hive is Anthony. Ask it how Anthony, the scorpion's hive, is supposed to recover without his custodian. In fact throw Sharon into the mix.

If it starts chide you on being concerned for other hives, push back on that issue. Tell it that Custodians might be protective of their hives, but the hives rely on each other to survive. Yes, there is competition, but there is also cooperation. Even if your ability to see other hive's Custodians has left you apprehensive with approaching other hives, you still wouldn't be alive if you didn't work with them.

Finally, if it warns you of the dangers of helping, just tell it the choice is help Anthony's mind recover or return to Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1 and the Apex again. Honestly, I'll be the first to say that you aren't a hero, but if it's between playing a hero or facing down a singularity of destruction... hand me my tights.
>>
No. 601696 ID: 2baea8

>>601693
I favor this approach, and so second it.
>>
No. 602176 ID: 557bac
File 141593620359.png - (294.95KB , 561x600 , 3-32.png )
602176

Furious, you admonish the creature.
"I'm not just your damned hive! I have a name! Its Nathan! And why'd you have to go and kill it? That thing had vital information!"

Suddenly the wasp advances, closing the distance between you in two long strides. You scramble backwards until you find yourself flailing for balance on the edge of the stage. It leans over, until its multifaceted eyes are staring into your own.

Nathhhhannn...

There's a sudden movement by the side of your head, and the swarm holds something up to your face with its pincer. You recognize it as your ear, and your hand automatically goes to the ragged, papery hole where it once was. Something inside wriggles in response to the touch.

You arrrrre an arrrrrogant, frrragile littttle thing, Nathhhann. Youuu woulllld do welll to remeberrrr that. Ourrrrr zzzzurrrrvival is tied to yourrr own and wwe willl act azzz we zzee fit to prrrrotect ourrrrzelves.

It steps out of your personal space.
A wounnded crreature izzz dannngerous. Desssperrrate.

You look over at Anthony as he regards the corpse of the giant arachnid.
"What'll happen to him with his custodian dead?"

Mmmmay recoverrrr. If wwwe arrrre victorrrrriouzzz.

"Can we help?"

Onllly by rrreturrrrning what izzz mizzzing.

"Wait, that thing mentioned the "star-mover"? Is it talking about the Axle?"

Unlikellllly. Zzzze Axzzel izzz difficullllt to interrract with; zztopping it woullld be nearrrly inconcievvvvable . It wazzz morrrre likely to be rrrefrrrerrring to a constrrrrruct.

"Okay, first mechanisms, then machines, now constructs? What the hell is that?"

You arrrre unnndoubtably awarrrre of yourrrr limitationzzzz when attemmmpting to mmmmanifezzt objectzzz, yezzz?

"Yeah, it seems like I can only manifest one thing at a time. Not sure exactly what I'm capable of."

It requirrrezzz willpower to crrreate objectzzz, and alone zzey arrre of limmited uzze. Howeverrrr, mmmindzz worrrking in unizzzon arrre capable of achievvvving... complezzxity.

"And so that's a construct: a machine built with willpower from multiple people? So what's the 'Star-Mover', then?"

We cannn onllly inferrr that it izzz forrr movinnng zzztarrrs.
>>
No. 602184 ID: d90668

Arrogant? How do you get off calling me arrogant?

I do not pretend to know more about this mess or claim to have any amazing powers. I might be a fragile little thing but that's only because no one ever taught me the limitations of my abilities.

I am doing the best I can to keep us both safe with the limited knowledge I have. Did I try to kill you off like Doug does to his ants? No I trusted you and let you improve your hive so we could have a better relationship. If you want me to do things different try warning me beforehand and stop being so stingy with the information.

Anyways how many people would have to work together to move a star? If its a ton of people we will need our own reinforcements.
>>
No. 602187 ID: 07a835

>>602176
...It sounds like the enemy is taking apart minds to shove bits of them into itself. ...or straight up abducting the inner selves of its victims. You sortof did that with Diego. I bet you might be able to get somewhere if you started taking more people into your mind.

Grab Anthony and as much of this mindscape as you can focus on, then pull him into your mind. Tell him to stay put, you're gonna need his help later. Then wake up.

As for the swarm... well, it's partially right. Your dreaming body is now as fragile as paper due to being host to the swarm, so you took an unacceptable risk in getting so close to the foreign guardian. However, the swarm could have easily pulled you away or blocked the attack rather than destroying a potential asset. It's trying to make excuses for its mistake, and its ego and disregard for your desires may backfire upon it. Besides, haven't you been utterly destroyed by the Axle twice now, yet the swarm survived? Why is it concerned with your body now?
>>
No. 602188 ID: bb78f2

You're not trying to be arrogant. You just don't like to be objectified.
>>
No. 602200 ID: 311774

>>602187
Normally people wait until after the first date to start trying to take stuff inside them!

Serious talk, maybe we should first see what the killing of Anthony's guardian actually has on his mental state before we start talking about kidnapping his goddamn consciousness.

And don't trust a goddamn word that wasp is saying. Bugs are a manifestation of people's insecurities, what makes ours any different? The wasps aren't acting out in any rational manner, they're acting to protect us from ourselves.
Think back to Diego. When we took him away from his guardian, he suddenly gained the courage to ask us out from seemingly nowhere. The beetle wasn't protecting him, it was holding him back.
>>
No. 602219 ID: a7efea

>You arrrrre an arrrrrogant, frrragile littttle thing, Nathhhann. Youuu woulllld do welll to remeberrrr that. Ourrrrr zzzzurrrrvival is tied to yourrr own and wwe willl act azzz we zzee fit to prrrrotect ourrrrzelves.
Concede the point, and promise you will be more careful. But when they are in a clearly superior position to a potential threat, you would ask if they could show some discretion in their use of force. They could have blocked or removed the claw instead of impaling the body. Or you could have simply pulled Nate back!
>>
No. 602221 ID: 95b7a3

>>602176
>You arrrrre an arrrrrogant, frrragile littttle thing, Nathhhann. Youuu woulllld do welll to remeberrrr that. Ourrrrr zzzzurrrrvival is tied to yourrr own and wwe willl act azzz we zzee fit to prrrrotect ourrrrzelves.
Don't take that shit.
Confront the wasps.
>>
No. 602261 ID: 8f01e8

Put your helmet back on.
>>
No. 602262 ID: 144fb0

Fuck them! your the one that gave them permission to have a hive! you command them! they serve you not the other way around! Or do them want us to start hanging out with Doug more.
Come on Major tom, put your helmet on and summon forth a nerd weapon like a lightsaber or Thor's hammer. let your nerd imagination run wild!

And yes this is necessary, us and the wasps could have been friends, but if this is how they want to play it we need to put them in their place now while we still can and before the get big heads.
>>
No. 602264 ID: 4a20fa

Punch it in the snout to establish dominance.
>>
No. 602270 ID: 534cc4

They can't do shit to you, if they hurt you at all, then they hurt themselves, and even if they do something non lethal like knock you out all that would do is make you a still target for an enemy. Man up and tell them that you make the decisions.
>>
No. 602280 ID: a141b0

First thing, calm down. And I don't mean "don't get angry again". I mean don't act like a spoiled child. If you're going to be angry, make it a cold fire.

Warn the wasps that it is, ironically, probably only the danger of the Apex in your mind that is keeping you safe from these people. Whoever these people are, or person if they are linking up enslaved minds, they appear very adept at taking down custodians. It needs to decide; either stop thinking of you as just a resource to protect, or start working with the other custodians.

(Technically there are more options, but most of those would brand the wasps as some level of villain to even the most level headed of us intrusive voices.)

Next, put your helmet back on and look around. Now that there isn't any music blaring, any sound being created in the distance should create some disturbance to your Synesthesia. If there is really still a danger here, you need to know where it is and what it is before making the judgement call of facing it or risking a confrontation with the Apex.
>>
No. 602383 ID: c6ec0b

As communication is limited right now, blowing up at the Wasp is no good. We are, in a way, “arrrrrogant”. You are acting in unknown territory, even if your intentions are good, we are risking the Wasp’s life at the same time. Understand that you and the Wasp are not responsible for each other’s actions but share a lifeline. Try being polite first, for Anthony… pleas
For now we should focus on teamwork so we can fix any damage done to Anthony. In your counseling sessions, you surly signed an informed consent document. In it, you would have been told that because the power the counselor had over you, the counselor would focus on your wellbeing and not force their values and beliefs onto you. We are in a place of power; you should step-up, and work to help together to Anthony.
>>
No. 602447 ID: 557bac
File 141607413181.png - (94.28KB , 464x600 , 3-33.png )
602447

We zenzzze that you innnntennd to uzzze forrrce to connntrrrroll uzzz. We zzzztronnngly zzzzuggezzt you rrreconsiderrrr.

You re-deploy you helmet and glare at the creature through the faceplate.
"Man, fuck you! I've spent the better half of my life suppressing you, don't think I won't do it again! I never asked for all this, I saved you from the Axle and gave you my body to rebuild yourself, the least you could do is give me some respect."

We underrrzzztand... Nathannnn. You havvve beennn of grrreat azzziztance to uzzz, annd we rrrezzzpect that. Howevvverrrr, you arrrre deallling with forrrcezzz funnndamentalll to ze orrrderrr of thzingzzzz and yourrr opponnent hazzz unntolld exzperienze innnn pzzionic warrrfarrre. Innn thizzz plazzee you arrre a chilld, pllllaying drrrrezzz upppp annnd toyinnnng with zzhhhadowzz.

Nate
"Shadows?"

Zhhadowzzz on ze walllzz of a cavvve. Onnne that izzz vazzt annnd darrk annd full of thinnnngs you cannnot imaginnnne. We havvvve mmutualll goalllzzz and ourrrr zzurvivalll izzz tied to onnnne annnotherrrr, but do nnnot thinnnnk forrr a momennnnt that we arrrrre yourrr minnnionnnzzz to commmannd.

Nate
"Well if what you said is true, then whoever is behind all of this is taking people apart to build some kind of device. That means that we need to be protecting people, not attacking them. We should build a construct of our own, something to counteract a 'Star-Mover'. What would that take?"

Unnzzzerrrtainn. We zuzzzpect we woulllld need, at ze leaazzst annn annchorrr, a tetherrrrr, a zzzparrrk, a brrraczze, ann ennnginnne, annd a leverrr. Eachh minnd worrrkzz to mannnifezzt a prrrimorrrrdial, connncrrrete connnnzept: annn ideallll forrrm. Togetherrr they becommme a connnztruct.

Nate
"Okay, that's a start but we need to help Anthony first."
>>
No. 602448 ID: 557bac
File 141607413629.png - (66.27KB , 335x600 , 3-34.png )
602448

Anthony seems to be in a bit of a daze, and you shake his shoulder to get his attention.
"Hey, I don't know if its safe here. Why don't you come with me?"

Anthony looks around at the crumbling facade of the theater and sighs.
>"God, how many years have I spent here? Just toiling away while the world slipped by around me?"
>>
No. 602458 ID: bb78f2

It sounds like you were making something Anthony. The time you spent here wasn't wasted. The creator's and engineer's of this world need a place like this to make it a better place.
>>
No. 602459 ID: 5d2f8c

>anchor, tether, spark, brace, engine, lever
So six people not counting us?
Same goes for our opponent too; he has a few already done. (at least one, maybe three; I just hope we aren't a part already)

>>602448
Time to grasp the world then. How does one go about becoming an orchestral composer though? Show the music to a band teacher? Some college students in band?
>>
No. 602461 ID: 2baea8

Minions? No. Partners? Yes. Facilitating better communication will be important if we want to succeed. The wasps seem inherently aware of our intent on some level, but mutual cooperation is impossible if they don't let us know their goals and intents. And if we're so busy fighting each other instead of the enemy we're both doomed.
>>
No. 602463 ID: 07a835

...Diego is your anchor. His world is made of blocks attached to chains... which, when brought into your inner space, did not move despite the Axle's presence.

>>602448
Tell him you will help show the world his music, if you can.
>>
No. 602469 ID: 2ec61a

that cube we pulled in, that would make a great anchor. it's sitting out there and the axle hasn't budged it.
>>
No. 602529 ID: a141b0

I agree with the other intrusive voices that Diego should be a good anchor. It's just a question of how to use his strength without... well, using him. Partners, not minions.

As for Anthony, don't go around making promises just yet. Probe first. Ask him were his drive for music came from. You're an engineer; find out what needs to be fixed before slapping on duct tape. There's a good chance Anthony could be the spark, given the nature of music, but you shouldn't force the issue. Based on the trance he was in before, that's exactly what the maker of Star Mover was trying to do. Coax it naturally, and if it doesn't work... help him anyway.
>>
No. 602538 ID: f15710

>>602448
Nathan: Consider the real world implications of Diego being your "anchor"
>>
No. 602687 ID: 2baea8

>>602448
Just had an idea: you're a computer-savvy science nerd guy, right? Offer to help Anthony get his hands on a digital music production program and round up some musicians over the internet to contribute to his orchestral arrangement. Maybe you can help bring some of his music to life.

Once we get back into the real world we'll need to find a way to get the message to him there without it being too awkward, assuming he doesn't come forward and ask us like Diego did.
>>
No. 602780 ID: 311774

>>602448
Offer Anthony half of your sandwich.
>>
No. 602792 ID: c6ec0b

I say Diego would make a better tether than an anchor. His problem was isolation and loneliness. This will make his weakness his strength.
>>
No. 602816 ID: dde2af

>>602448
dude, your music is a huge part of your life. it's your dream and that's great, not many people have that. don't ever feel bad for having a dream. if you feel the rest of your life is neglected then you can always apply some more time to it, but don't give up your dream.
>>
No. 602868 ID: 07a835

Wait a minute, if people can make things in dreams... You're still carrying the schematics for the transponder. Could you make a transponder in your dream by following the schematics?
>>
No. 603193 ID: 4f004c

>>602868
Chances are, that would require the assistance of at least Hiro and Diego. Nathan does already have a connection to Diego, but if it's just the three of them, it will probably be rather taxing. Bringing Sharon and Anthony in on it ought to help, even if they were unrelated to the job they can still take a bit of the mental load off.
>>
No. 603333 ID: 557bac
File 141628212402.png - (231.81KB , 600x552 , 3-35.png )
603333

You look out into the empty and broken theater.
"Come on Anthony, I don't think there's anything for you here anymore. I thought your music was incredible and I don't want to see something that's clearly a dream of yours die. You should figure out some way to get it out to the rest of the world."

He sighs and fidgets with his baton for a minute before slipping it into his jacket.
>"Alright, where to then?"

You take hold of his hand and after a moment find yourself standing in the pitch black void. The first thing you notice is that the Axle seems to have settled down since the last time you visited. However, there's a small glittering set of lights forming a strange constellation on the far side of the gravity well.

Anthony
>"My God. This is amazing, Nathan; very 2001: A Space Odyssey."

Suddenly you feel something pulling at you. But rather than the flesh-bending gravitational pull of the Axle, its a localized sensation. Anthony's musical notes begin to emit a pulsing corona before being dragged from your grip and forming a tight orbit around Diego's immobile cube. As you watch, a web of light ties the two together into some kind of tiny binary system.
>>
No. 603335 ID: bb78f2

That constellation, that must be the manifestation of your enemies work.
We may need to dismantle it.
>>
No. 603337 ID: 07a835

...fascinating! It's happening automatically. I feel as though we missed out not pulling Sharon in. Oh shit. That constellation is the machine's work! You're one behind, Nathan! We finally have something to do with these mind-travel powers you have... You're going to want to get excuses to invade peoples' minds.

Wait, this means... is this not your inner world? Why would the machine be building its device in your inner world? I think this place is the void between minds or something like that. Tell Anthony to keep safe and stay away from the Axle. Then wake up. ...unless you think you can imagine yourself over to the competing constellation, and sabotage or steal it.
>>
No. 603338 ID: a3ee32

>>603333
So the emotional baggage we strip from people's psyches may be of more use to us than just giving them a little peace-of-mind.

I'm not so sure going up and trying to mess with that opposing construct/constellation is such a good idea for the time being; things are changing so rapidly it's hard enough to keep up to the learning curve without reckless experimentation. Getting a good look at its components would be a safe start, as that may give us an idea of from whom it originated. The wasps may have some insight as well.
>>
No. 603341 ID: 95b7a3

Take a look at the other construct.
What it's made of could give valuable clues about what you're up against.
>>
No. 603373 ID: a141b0

The wasp mentioned "returning what was taken" as the true means to heal Anthony. That probably means dismantling the opposing machine and returning the pieces to their owners' minds.

The question is what is the aggressor's machine doing up here as well? Talk to the wasp before investigating. If this place really is your mind, you can't afford not to investigate. If it's something other than your mind... you need to play it safe for now.
>>
No. 603408 ID: 2baea8

So my guess is:

Diego - Anchor
Anthony - Tether
>>
No. 603459 ID: c6ec0b

Diego desires to be connected with others so the Tether may makes more sense.

I Dont know what Anthony shold be
>>
No. 603480 ID: 2baea8

>>603459
It was an observation, not a suggestion. Diego's block is heavy and wasn't moved at all by the Axle, Anthony's music has created some sort of link between the two that is described as 'tying the two together'. Seems like that's what they are. We'll know for sure once we get more pieces I imagine.
>>
No. 603495 ID: d5f3c4

Theres your spark. Interesting it's assembling itself without any prompting from you.
>>
No. 604025 ID: 557bac
File 141653830940.png - (177.38KB , 600x600 , 3-36.png )
604025

"This is kind of like my theater, Anthony. Its someplace I go when I need to feel safe. You should be okay here, just... stay away from that big swirly thing. I'm not quite sure what its doing here, but its pretty dangerous."

You leave Anthony to admire the infinite glory of the void and go to check out this new constellation. Skirting the edge of the Axle's gravity well, you keep your distance in the event that there's some kind of anti-nerd defenses to the construct.

At one of the vertices you see what appears to be a bicycle pedaling itself and spinning a spidery network of lines. There is also a stuffed animal of some kind as well as a brilliant stage-light.
>>
No. 604026 ID: 07a835

>>604025
The stage light is Anthony's. I suspect if you returned it to Anthony's head you could repair his mental state.

Same with the stuffed animal and Sharon, but we'd have to get to Sharon again to put it back. I wonder who the bicycle belongs to?
>>
No. 604028 ID: 2ec61a

wait, no. they seem to be not being sucked into the void. we can give them back later, right now they are useful.
>>
No. 604029 ID: bb78f2

You know Doug seems like Bike kind of guy, but it's probably Morgan's though.

Yeah, this is the enemies work.
Dismantle it. Get Anthony over here and brainstorm.
>>
No. 604041 ID: a141b0

Yeah, the purple lightening effect is definitely a sign that this is the intruder who you've been working with.

Spot like is also very likely to be Anthony's, though getting it back to him might be dangerous with that lightening.

More important question is why is the intruder building his ever important machine in your mind? It seems counter intuitive to do this. Ask the wasps; we need to dispel any doubts on whether this is your mind or not. Also, if it is your mind, why would the invader be building the device within your mind? The lightening might be dangerous, but it's nothing a rubber suit won't protect you from. The Axel is more dangerous than any defense the intruder could create.
>>
No. 604042 ID: 311774

>>604026
>>604029
They look like they're covered in electricity.
Something tells me "returning what was lost" won't be that easy as just dismantling... whatever the hell that is.
Still, tentatively touching it probably won't backfire. Too badly, at least.
>>
No. 604359 ID: 0dc9cf

Instead of just touching things that MIGHT be dangerous, lets get our bitchy wasp queen out. That way she can stop us IF we are going to accidentally hurt ourselves.
>>
No. 604439 ID: 557bac
File 141671033427.png - (292.37KB , 600x600 , 3-37.png )
604439

You drift closer to the construct, noticing that it has the same brilliant arcs of energy as the creature you encountered in Sharon's head. You're cautious, but your armor protected you last time from major damage, and want to see if you can interact with the object.

There's a crackle of light and a brilliant discharge. Something hurls past you and takes your arm off all the way up to the shoulder in its hurry to get by.

Seems like its adapted since the last time you encountered it.
>>
No. 604443 ID: bb78f2

Imaginate your arm back.

Maybe four.
>>
No. 604444 ID: 07a835

>>604439
Yep, back off. In fact maybe you should just immediately wake up before any wasps get exposed to vacuum.
>>
No. 604553 ID: ac5f65

Imagine Captain America's Shield. You are now the winter soldier.
>>
No. 604582 ID: e878df

>>604439
yeah ok, grab that arm and gtfo
>>
No. 605534 ID: 557bac
File 141696453914.png - (113.44KB , 600x479 , 3-38.png )
605534

You grab your free floating arm and not seeing any escape, you dive back into consciousness. Your eyes take a moment to adjust to the stark whiteness of the walls. You find yourself pinned underneath someone and you spaz out a little as you disentangle yourself. There is no sign of Hunter but you hear two pairs of footsteps racing away from you.
>>
No. 605535 ID: 07a835

>>605534
Alright, that's Anthony unconscious there. Chase after Hunter and the fake!
>>
No. 605585 ID: 311774

>>605534
Did you wake up holding his hand or is that something that you grabbed to disentangle yourself from him?
Regardless, turn him over and check that that is indeed Anthony, and maybe like lean him up against a wall rather than leave him lying on the floor like that, and chase after those footsteps!
>>
No. 605915 ID: 2baea8

Take a moment to make sure Anthony's okay. He looks like he's twisted in a really awkward position from the fall.
>>
No. 606093 ID: 557bac
File 141713134896.png - (98.66KB , 600x336 , 3-39.png )
606093

You check out the prone body of Anthony. He looks like something folded him up like a lawn chair with complete disregard for skeletal limitations.
>>
No. 606094 ID: 557bac
File 141713135211.png - (158.74KB , 600x600 , 3-40.png )
606094

You scramble to your feet and, slipping over freshly buffed tile, you take off after the receding footsteps. You turn the corner to find Hunter pound her fist on the airlock to the men's gowning room. She darts inside the women's airlock and the door slides shut as she punches the button to start it cycling.
>>
No. 606122 ID: 381565

>>606093
>>606094
Oooooh dear.
That looks like Anthony might be seriously hurt...
How long will the airlock take to fully cycle so we can get out? If it's too long, find a phone and call for help. If soon, get the hell out of here and chase after whoever Hunter's after.
>>
No. 606124 ID: a141b0

Call for help for Anthony. That should be a priority. Warn security that the detective is chasing someone and needs assistance, but focus on Anthony. I know you really want to help, but this is the real world again. Everything you've seen says that psychic powers require a degree of vulnerability, and a fired up police detective is going to be hard to catch unaware.
>>
No. 606125 ID: 9b57d3

>>606094
Get to that security callstation and alert everyone to the situation.
>>
No. 606130 ID: 2baea8

>>606124
Agreed.
>>
No. 607097 ID: 557bac
File 141738978732.png - (149.32KB , 600x633 , 3-41.png )
607097

Rather than try to get her attention, you turn around and rush back to the maintenance closet to call for security. However, you find the phone has been ripped off the wall and thrown in a corner. In its place is some kind of bizarre, duct-taped together mess of electronics.
>>
No. 607098 ID: e878df

>>607097
destroy. it's the enemy's. we don't know why they want it there but if they do then we want it gone.
>>
No. 607101 ID: d90668

Someone has been using your internal phone network for something nefarious. We will want to show this to the engineering team later.

I would not spend to much time examining it unless you have experience with hacking phone networks.

Do not destroy it but carefully cut the wires connecting it. Will be interesting evidence later.
>>
No. 607103 ID: 8f01e8

Don't smash.

Go back to the work area, grab a pair of wire cutters and a square yard of shrinkwrap, bundle it up to preserve trace evidence, then shut down whatever ridiculous god-tier infowar shenanigans it's enabling by cutting all the wires connecting it to the wall.
>>
No. 607129 ID: 6e79d4

Check that screen, see if you can't do anything. Otherwise, pull with both hands.
>>
No. 607387 ID: a141b0

That smart phone might be a problem. While it is probably mostly there as a computer interface, it is also still a phone. You should probably do something to keep the phone from dialing out an alert about it being disconnected.

Unfortunately this particular intrusive voice is not an engineer so I'm not certain what to suggest to do to disable the phone without destroying evidence... maybe remove the SD Card? But yeah, I'm otherwise in agreement with everyone else that you should not damage this thing while removing it.
>>
No. 607962 ID: 557bac
File 141757366851.png - (114.54KB , 456x600 , 3-42.png )
607962

You notice an older model phone, its back pried off and crudely hooked up to the tangle of circuitry. The LCD screen is crosshatched with damaged pixels, but the center displays the message Call ended: 10h1#_Xs. You decide it might be best to take it with you, and after a quick hunt through the maintenance closet, you find some Ziploc bags. The wires, which are just twisted together, pull away from the wall with some gentle tugging and you bag it as evidence.
>>
No. 607968 ID: 687279

>>607962
I bet that thing called your phone.

Ok, while Hunter is chasing that guy, go up to the floor with all the ducts; find Morgan.
>>
No. 608002 ID: 71c006

>>606124
Seconding this suggestion. Why do I only see one suggestion to call for help for Anthony? That shit don't look natural!
>>
No. 608009 ID: 687279

>>608002
Well... we can't, unless there's another phone in the lab, or the male airlock has cycled so Nathan can go through and use a phone elsewhere.
>>
No. 608022 ID: d90668

With how badly Anthonys body was bent we should really have checked on him first. Not much we could do for him medically but we should have taken a closer look and checked his vital signs.

Was the Anthony in the hallway we talked to the real one or the intruder? And if he was the intruder in disguise and Anthony was the one jammed in the vent why did he help you two find it?
>>
No. 608090 ID: 4a20fa

>>607962
Why are you tampering with evidence at a crime scene. Go find Hunter, or another officer.
>>
No. 608120 ID: a141b0

>>608022
Nathan can't physically touch the body of someone who is unconscious without entering their mind. We have done what we can do for the moment, and need to get someone who can do more down here.

>>608090
It was an electronic device potentially doing something to the building's systems. That doesn't make it a crime scene, that makes it a crime. Nathan is in the clear.

But yeah... speaking of building systems, Nathan knows where the next nearest phone is, so that should be his objective. The sooner Anthony gets some help the better.
>>
No. 608388 ID: 311774

>>608120
Yeah seriously
Quit messing around and go find a damn phone. Anthony's life might genuinely be at risk here. Do you want to be responsible for his death, Nate?
>>
No. 608590 ID: 350a50

>>608090
We are literally not contaminating the evidence in any way, because we are in an airtight clean room suit.

I agree though; leave the chase to Hunter. Anthony is priority #1 here. Go find help.
>>
No. 608874 ID: 557bac
File 141775093537.png - (121.89KB , 600x464 , 3-43.png )
608874

You remember now: there's another phone in your work-space!
You rush back to the room, set down the bag of electronics and grab the handset. You're halfway through dialing when you're distracted be the smell of plastic burning. Shit! There's some kind of chemical reaction going on inside the bag, Within moments there is a small but intense fire blazing on the table.

You panic and hunt around desperately for a fire extinguisher as smoke curls towards the ceiling.
>>
No. 608876 ID: 557bac
File 141775094294.png - (111.92KB , 600x600 , 3-44.png )
608876

Suddenly you're slammed by a wall of sound. You stagger as your vision is engulfed in white hot color, knocking you off balance.
>>
No. 608877 ID: 557bac
File 141775095368.png - (108.88KB , 600x600 , 3-45.png )
608877

Again your senses are hammered and your scream of agony is lost in the roaring tsunami of noise. You screw your eyes shut and cover your ears as you're driven to your knees by the sheer volume pouring into the room.
>>
No. 608878 ID: 557bac
File 141775096328.png - (153.17KB , 600x600 , 3-46.png )
608878

The fire alarm barks again and again and again. Overwhelmed, you curl up on the floor, your arms reaching blindly in every direction for help. You're dimly aware that there's a fire still burning in the room but can't bring yourself to process it.
>>
No. 608889 ID: 2ec61a

image the drone of a million wing beats.
>>
No. 608896 ID: a19cd5

>>608878
Note to self: Invest in sound-cancelling earmuffs
>>
No. 608922 ID: 687279

You wouldn't be able to extinguish the chemical fire anyway. Crawl out of the room.
>>
No. 608954 ID: 350a50

Try to retrace your path. Crawl back through the door into the hallway.
>>
No. 609025 ID: 84a9e4

pass out
>>
No. 609026 ID: 4f004c

>>608922
Those place are supposed to come with Chemical extinguishers.
>>
No. 609054 ID: beef12

what the fuck is with this alarm? Alarms are supposed to warn people, not send them crashing to the floor in pain.
>>
No. 609072 ID: 311774

>>609054
The overwhelming nature of the situation might be causing Nate to break down.
But the situation is far too severe for him to retreat back into his mind...

Get the hell out of there Nate.
>>
No. 609118 ID: 825af6

Why isn't the fire suppression system in here activating? You should be drenched in water or foam or... or... Shit! Nate, try to remember what kind of fire suppression system the clean rooms have. Is it water, fire suppression foam, a gas like CO2 or Halon or something else? 'Cause if it's a suffocating gas you gotta get outta here now 'cause you're at floor level and that's where the gas will collect. However, a gas system wouldn't be designed to go off automatically immediately since this is a occupied space; It'd have a manual activator for use when everyone that can get out got out. Unfortunately, somebody might pull it not knowing you're in here, or worse, pull it with the intention to kill you. ...Aw, geez, Anthony! He's laying on the floor! If it's a gas system and it goes off he'll suffocate there! In that case you have to get out to stop it from going off before he's pulled out of here.

Call on the wasps to do something, anything, to deaden the visual and auditory overload you're experiencing. Beat their wings in your ears to generate white noise or plug up your ears or something; You don't know what they can do to help.

Yank your goggles and your gloves off then reach in through the front of your clean suit cowl to stuff the gloves' fingertips into your ears as makeshift earplugs. If you do that and hold your hands over them that might deaden the sound enough that you can see enough to crawl away.

>>609054
We think Nate has a form of synesthesia where he sees sounds. That means a fire alarm would be not only deafening but blinding for him, even if he closes his eyes, and especially if its been tampered with to increase its volume as this one might have been.
>>
No. 609261 ID: 557bac
File 141783697603.png - (114.72KB , 600x600 , 3-47.png )
609261

You spend roughly a million years washed up on the shore of a sea of noise. Every time you evolve a backbone and try to stand up, cruel waves wash over you and hurl you back into the primordial soup. Defeated, you writhe your way towards where you remember the door being.

Someone light years away is saying your name. You feel strong hands scoop you up by the armpits and drag you to your boneless wobbly feet. You throw your arms them like a drowning person clutching a raft and together you stagger until you smell fresh air.
>>
No. 609262 ID: 557bac
File 141783698258.png - (259.22KB , 600x600 , 3-48.png )
609262

The alarm fades, leaving the lingering whine of tinnitus and your vision starts to clear. The blurred figure carefully pulls your hood and goggles off and looks at you with worry etched over their face.
You think he's asking if you're okay....
>>
No. 609265 ID: 6e79d4

Make the international gesture for "I can't hear shit", shout that Anthony needs help.
>>
No. 609266 ID: 687279

>>609262
Tell him about Anthony's boneitis, also that the intruder can disguise itself as other people. ...how do we know this isn't the intruder? Ask why he's even here.

Also look around. Is the evidence bag completely fucked?
>>
No. 609267 ID: 84a9e4

Hug and cry
>>
No. 609270 ID: 311774

>>609262
Don't even try to process what he's asking. That'll take too long.
Just shout at him to go get help for Anthony.

We need to focus on getting it together right now as quick as we can.
>>
No. 609323 ID: 95c255

>>609262
Try to signal that you can't hear anything.
>>
No. 609345 ID: 350a50

Shout to help Anthony, something something his bones a shit.
>>
No. 609860 ID: 55c4cf

Mime that you cannot hear so communication can move smoother.
>>
No. 610346 ID: 557bac
File 141818011274.png - (125.60KB , 600x600 , 3-49.png )
610346

Nate
"Diego? Where are we?"

Diego says something, it looks like he's saying: "You're safe now."
You finally manage to take in your surroundings: you're sitting down on a bench in the courtyard.

You point to your ears, which are still ringing,
"Sorry, I can't hear you! Give me a minute!"
You wring your pinky around in your ear canal, slowly your hearing starts to return, although extremely muffled.

"There, I think. Diego! Anthony is still in the clean room! You know: the janitor? He's unconscious and needs help!"

He nods and indicates that you should remain calm. After a moment of looking around he runs and intercepts a pair of cops running towards the building. There is a hasty conversation and they clearly indicate to "stay here" before rushing into the building. You suddenly start worrying about having to explain to them why potential evidence just burst into flames and why there is a person with his limbs on backwards in the hallway.
>>
No. 610350 ID: d90668

You need to warn them that there is a dangerous intruder in there somewhere. Also might want to mention the disguise part.

As for the rest no of that was your fault. The intruder hacked into your network with a booby trapped device and attacked Anthony. What actually happened was a bit more complicated but you do not need to say much more.
>>
No. 610363 ID: 311774

>>610346
First: give Diego a hug for dragging you out of there. That can't have been easy, especially to get all the way out here...

Second: Hunter can vouch for what happened with Anthony, and shouldn't there be security footage showing you finding the phone?
Failing that, be completely honest and explain to them what you found.
>>
No. 610365 ID: 687279

>>610346
Tell them you don't know why the electronics caught fire. They were attached to the wiring of the building and you figured it was probably a bad idea to keep them there so you put them in a bag. You were going to use a phone to call for help but then the bag caught fire... which I guess got help here anyway?

As for Anthony, tell them everything except about how you went into his mind. You were walking through the building with Hunter, saw someone who looked like Anthony buffing the floors, heard something in the vents, the two of you lifted Hunter up and found that something which turned out to be Anthony.

Only once Hunter comes back (or you find Hunter) should you consider spilling the beans to the police about the inner mind stuff and the "machine" being the impostor. At this point, Hunter must know something weird is going on, so you should probably ask Diego if he saw where Hunter went. ...I kindof want to try to convince Diego you were in his mind but he'll probably just accuse you of spying on him or something. I think the only way you're going to convince anyone is if you do it to a complete stranger. ...unless Diego trusts you?
>>
No. 610372 ID: 84a9e4

Hug now
>>
No. 610406 ID: 350a50

Thank Diego for saving your life.
>>
No. 610581 ID: 557bac
File 141826875575.png - (160.82KB , 600x556 , 3-50.png )
610581

Diego rejoins you, still worried and his words still muffled by tinnitus.
>" You okay, Nate? What happened in there?"

You hesitate and, reaching out, you take his hand in yours.

"I wish I knew how to tell you... but thanks for saving me"

He looks a little stunned, but after a moment he smiles and you feel him squeeze your hand in return.
>"Sure man. I'm glad you're okay."

Nate
"But... how'd you even find me?"

Suddenly he seems confused, and struggles to put his response to words.
> "I... I'm not sure. I heard the alarm from downstairs and ....for some reason I knew you were in trouble. Like, as if there was this voice in my head that was telling me to come save you. Does that sound weird? I mean, voices in your head, right?
He looks away and seems a little embarrassed to admit this.
>>
No. 610583 ID: a19cd5

Not as crazy as you'd think.
(it was the waaaasps)
>>
No. 610585 ID: 687279

>>610581
...oh man. Side effects! Tell him tell him tell him. Um, how to phrase this...

Tell him you think that might be your fault. You accidentally discovered you can do something... weird. It's like you can visit peoples' mindscapes and speak to their inner selves.
>>
No. 610606 ID: 5eea01

As a side note, are you guys still on for that date after this mess blows over?
>>
No. 610607 ID: a141b0

Don't outright tell him anything just yet! You don't know anything for sure, and what you think you've known you've known only for twenty four hours. That is hardly scientific. Besides, you need to build a stronger bond of trust before he'd believe you.

With that said, if you're going to spend more time with him, you're going to eventually explain your sensory issues. So start laying the groundwork for that.

The line, "We all perceive the world differently," seems like a good place to start, moving onto something along the lines of "Everyone has intrusive voices. Hearing one telling you a friend is in danger is an endearing coincidence when you end up saving them. Definitely not crazy.". When he asks "were you got that from" reveal to him that you've been seeing a therapist in some form or another for most of your life in order to cope with the anxiety over how you personally perceive the world.

Tell him further explanation will have to wait to be the ice breaker for whenever you manage to get off of work. With everything going on, the only thing keeping you from getting less sleep than Hiro tonight is how often you've been blacking out.
>>
No. 610614 ID: 311774

>>610581
Tell him it's not that crazy, but you might not be the best judge of that.
>>
No. 610622 ID: ea0ad9

Tell him it's probably just a form of empathy, that your work together made it easier to connect, and then add on, with a chuckle, "or maybe I've formed some sort of psychic connection."
>>
No. 610629 ID: 350a50

>>610607
Second.
>>
No. 611313 ID: 557bac
File 141851956656.png - (151.46KB , 600x557 , 3-51.png )
611313

Nate
"I not as weird as you'd think. Everyone has some kind of intuition, how you hear it is always different. Or, maybe its just some kind of connection, like an empathic thing? I've heard of stranger stuff happening."

He nods and looks relieved.
>>
No. 611316 ID: 687279

>>611313
Doug spotted. You may have to excuse yourself and talk to him a bit out of earshot to explain what happened in there. Tell him you would like to visit his inner mind to see if he can provide a piece for your construct.
>>
No. 611332 ID: 311774

>>611313
Doug incoming six o'clock.
Engage in evasive maneuvers unless you want an incredibly awkward talk about workplace relationships.
>>
No. 611363 ID: 7e65da

>>611316
Yes, you do need to tell Doug some of what happened, but outright asking to borrow a piece of his mind would qualify as a bad idea.

Tell him about the invader. That on top of impersonating Anthony he wrecked his mind and shoved him into an air vent. Mention the constellations of objects that are shaping up around the Axel, one protected by the same lightening the invadered used in Sharron's mind, and one formed by objects you unintentionally brought along when escaping from other people's minds. Do NOT describe the constellations as machines just yet, you don't want to make him suspicious.

Mind you, you will need to deal with his issues with the bugs eventually, but that is an issue that will take time and tact to work bring up.
>>
No. 611381 ID: 687279

>>611363
>suspicious
of... what?
>>
No. 611445 ID: 8f01e8

>>611363
Don't tell Doug any headspace stuff at all. There's plenty of important info just about what went down in the clean room.
>>
No. 611581 ID: 4a20fa

>>611445
Yes, at least start with all the real-world stuff which is entirely appropriate to relay to your boss without requiring further privacy.
>>
No. 611582 ID: c6ec0b

Kiss him that will make Doug feel awkward and leave
Perfect plan!!!
>>
No. 611817 ID: 350a50

Greet Doug in an extremely awkward manner and ask what's the word.
>>
No. 612186 ID: 557bac
File 141869602816.png - (107.87KB , 600x431 , 3-52.png )
612186

You both jump as someone behind you clears their throat.

Doug
>"Sorrry if I'm interrupting anything, but anyone care to explain why the fire alarm is going off?"

Nate
"Doug! Oh, yeah we were just...um."

He smirks at you and waves his hand in a kind of "out with it" motion.

"We, that is, officer Hunter and I were examining the clean room and we found Anthony, the janitor, injured and stuffed in the vents. She went running off after the person who did it and I went to go call security, but found this... weird device hooked up to the phone line. I took it off to examine and it caught fire, setting off the alarm. Diego heard the alarm and pulled me out of there before I got hurt."

Doug sighs and rubs his forehead.
>"Just what we need... Did everyone get out?"

Nate
"I'm not sure, I haven't seen Hunter or the attacker, but some police went in to rescue Anthony."

Doug
>"Well, I have some good news at least: we found Midas. Well, most of it."

Nate
"You did? Where?"

Doug
>"Officer Jones and I went to go check on that wire you mentioned coming off of the grid. We followed it into the woods and found it hooked up to a big chunk of the satellite as well as some other junk. We're still assessing how much damage has been done to it and how to get it back to the hangar."
>>
No. 612190 ID: 687279

>>612186
Tell Doug there's something else you'd like to discuss with him in private.

In private, tell him all the details about the "machine" and the "construct".
>>
No. 612234 ID: a141b0

>>612190
Oh for... do not use 'buzz words' that might alert Doug to the fact you're actually talking to the wasps. Just think about how much he put up his guard when you mentioned "The Apex". Dropping lines about "construct" and "machine" is the last thing you need to earn his trust.

Take a page from Doug's book and at least keep up the appearance of business as usual. Ask if the transponder was taken from Midas. If the transponder has been taken, express worry about Hiro since with the transponder the only thing missing for the robbers to contact Cobalt is Hiro's software.

There are multiple reasons to want to talk to Doug privately, ranging from the phone call lasting ten hours to the constellation of foreign objects forming around the Apex. Thing is... Doug is your boss; the only reason to be covert about asking to see him is the fact that Diego is standing right there.

Just say that you want to talk more about the Midas problem, but only after you see that Anthony is OK. Be sure to mention that this is because he was unconscious when he fell on you back in the clean room. Given that it was Doug who told you about the conditions concerning entering someone's mind should be more than enough to tell him that you inadvertently jumped into someone's mind again.
>>
No. 612236 ID: 687279

>>612234
Excuse me, Anthony's guardian was the one who used those terms first. If necessary we can simply say that's where we found out about the problem.
>>
No. 612278 ID: 3bb464

>>612236
Doesn't matter whose guardian we heard them from: Doug is mentally unstable.
>>
No. 612279 ID: 687279

>>612278
Uh, yes it does? The only worry is making him think Nate has allied with his wasps. Just hearing a dying guardian talk about machines and constructs does not implicate him whatsoever. Nate would still be independent, then, and relaying information that has proven to be important.
>>
No. 612281 ID: 350a50

>>612236
I agree.
>>
No. 612341 ID: 311774

>>612279
Doug will question as to why we entered Anthony's head then, and for that matter why we trust the words of something Doug considers kill-on-sight.
He's already mistrusting of us. He thinks we're allying with the insects, and if we start talking about stuff the insects say then we're only going to be digging a deeper grave with him.

>>612234 has the right idea. Business as usual. Do not start blabbing on about the goddamn insects.
>>
No. 612344 ID: d90668

Ok so we have two leads we can follow.

In the real world someone is trying to build a transponder to talk to your quantum computer in orbit. They might have stolen your notes or are just a amazing engineer but they also have some crazy powers that make finding or confronting them dangerous. Make sure the other two know that the intruder had to have disguised themselves almost perfectly to get in.

Then in psychic space land you have some giant mind construct being built by who knows what. All we know is its probably not friendly and we need our own thing to fight it. For now keep your friends alive and keep looking for unique minds to befriend to build your own machine.

So right now you need to do your best to keep yourself and your friends safe while looking for information. Watch for the intruder and if Hunter comes back make sure she is not someone else in disguise. Also if you can get a look at the satellite it might tell you more about what they were doing with it.
>>
No. 612514 ID: 8f01e8

I'd say go need-to-know-basis with the headspace info, and Doug doesn't need to know.

He DOES need to know that there's somebody running around in his base with uncanny disguise skills but imperfect acting, though, so he can ratchet up the institutional paranoia accordingly.
>>
No. 612515 ID: 687279

>>612514
>Doug doesn't need to know
>The only person who would believe us and can help us
>>
No. 612526 ID: 8f01e8

>>612515
Nate also has an actual therapist. She can't see the bugs herself, but has overall been vastly more useful and less creepy than Doug.
>>
No. 612575 ID: 687279

>>612526
She can't help us, though.
>>
No. 612644 ID: 3bb464

>>612515
Do you not remember how fucking nuts he is?
>>
No. 612645 ID: 687279

>>612644
Nnnnot very? He went through a traumatic experience and is dealing with it in an unhealthy way. That's it.
>>
No. 612715 ID: 6630c0

>>612186
>Inform him of our gained knowledge pertaining to the nature of insects.
1) They are dependant on the survival of their hosts.
2) They do not care about the goals and well-being of their hosts.
3) They are quick to kill other insects, having no sense of race loyality, as far as you have seen.
>>
No. 613044 ID: 557bac
File 141895935222.png - (109.77KB , 600x528 , 3-53.png )
613044

Nate
"Doug, do you know if the transponder on Midas is missing or not?"

Doug
>"I'm not surrrre, once we found it we took some photos of the scene and came right back. We'll have to open it up to find out. Diego, you have clearance to enter the hangar right?"

Diego nods.

>"Can you run in and grab anything we'll need to take Midas apart?"

Diego looks worriedly at you but knows he has a job to do ahead of him.
>"Sure thing, I'll see you later, Nate. Take care."

Doug silently watches him leave before turning back to you.

Nate
"Listen, Doug, about Diego-"

Doug interrupts you with an exaggerated groan.
>"UUUGhhhh. Nathan. I don't give a shit, okay? Stay out of my relationships and I'll stay out of yours. Capiche?"

Nate
"Oh... sure."
>>
No. 613045 ID: 557bac
File 141895936257.png - (134.37KB , 537x600 , 3-54.png )
613045

Doug
>"D'you want to tell me what really happened now?"

Nate
"Yeah... one thing. Whoever is doing this, it seems like he can disguise himself as other people."

Doug's whole head snaps back, as if punched in the jaw.
>"What? You're serious? How?"

Nate
"I'm not sure. All I know is that: one moment we were standing in the hall, talking to Anthony; and then Anthony, the real Anthony, falls out of the vent on top of me. The other one took off with Hunter chasing him."

Doug goes a little pale and takes a step away from you.
>"Shit..."
His attention is drawn to a pair of police officers carrying Anthony's twisted body between them.
>"Shit..."
>>
No. 613048 ID: 330ce5

Try to give Doug some space but keep him from having a panic attack. Also can you see something red in his ear?
>>
No. 613062 ID: 687279

>>613045
Cogito ergo sum, Doug. Tell him to get a handle on himself, you need his help. The disguise thing can be dealt with by using the buddy system. Also you have a feeling the intruder can't disguise the bugs, so he'll be able to tell if someone is who they say they are. So will you, except for him and the cafe lady whose bugs are too hard to see to notice most of the time. Also, we don't know how good the intruder is at disguising itself. We only saw part of the fake anthony's face, so it might not be able to pull the same trick off outside of a clean suit.

>>613048
It's an ant. Doug's custodians are ants.
>>
No. 613067 ID: 350a50

Lower your voice a bit. "Cogito ergo sum." Tell Doug you may know someone else who's catching onto this. A guy living in your building, a conspiracy nut named Lester. He had suspicions about some kind of conspiracy - people who were in disguise, who weren't who they seemed.

Lester doesn't seem to know about the bugs, but he's noticed people acting strangely and out of character. At the time you dismissed it as paranoia, but it's possible this is related. If the two of you could examine some of his 'persons of interest' you might be able to figure out a way to tell who's real. You've had some suspicions that the bugs might be a clue to telling who's still themselves, but the only time you saw this 'fake' in person they were in a clean suit - no way to see if they had bugs on them. If these people Lester found are 'fakes' too...

The one thing we know is that the bugs are trying to fight this thing when it invades their hosts' minds, and they're losing. Dying.
>>
No. 613070 ID: d90668

Crap you look like you just realized something bad. Did someone ask or do something suspicious that being disguised would explain?

We need to come up with a buddy system. You and me can watch for bugs but everyone else needs something.
>>
No. 613084 ID: a141b0

First, Doug didn't call attention to your wasp, so don't call attention to his ant. Once he notices it, he'll not only kill it but withdraw like he did near the end of your conversation in the office.

You need to get him to calm down, but you can't do it in a way that makes it obvious he's doing so. He reacted negatively to offers of help in the office; years of coping with his perceptions of the world on his own has left him defensive about being treated as a nut case.

Thankfully there is hopefully an easy out. He's your boss. He's in charge. Remind him of that. Ask him one simple question, "What do you need me to do?" Don't offer help, but instead ask for orders. That should remind him that he isn't alone without being sappy in a way he'd reject the outstretched hand.
>>
No. 613090 ID: ea0ad9

Wait... Dig Doug talk to Nathan while Nathan wasn't there?!
>>
No. 613099 ID: 311774

>>613045
Hug Doug to try and get him to calm down.
>>
No. 613134 ID: 350a50

>>613099
That is probably among the worst things to do right now. Much too aggressive.
>>
No. 613155 ID: 1071f4

>>613045
also, there's a bug in your ear. is that a scorpion?
>>
No. 613182 ID: e607cd

>>613155
That appears to be a red ant.
>>
No. 613215 ID: 8f01e8

Tell Doug that the good news on the shapeshifting infiltrator front is they aren't great at staying in character, and they absolutely can't fake the bugs. So, it should be possible for you or him to confirm familiar individuals as trustworthy, and work out other security measures from there.
>>
No. 613342 ID: 350a50

>>613215
We don't know about the bugs for certain yet. 'Fake Anthony' was in a full-body suit.
>>
No. 613560 ID: 557bac
File 141912064831.png - (145.59KB , 600x505 , 3-55.png )
613560

Recognizing his panic you spring in to action, trying to calm him down.
"Woah woah woah, its okay Doug, Its me: Nate. Cogito ego sum, remember?"

You nod encouragingly and Doug slowly starts to nod along with you.
>"Yeah...yeah.. okay, right. Cogito ergo sum..."
His smile comes back exposing two gleaming rows of perfect teeth.
>"I knew you were real. I knew it.Thank you...."

Nate
"Whoever this is, I'm not sure if they can disguise their infestation. I don't even know if they have one, to he honest. Also, when I went into Sharon's head her crab was dead and Anthony's scorpion was mortally wounded."

Doug
>"So you're saying we might be able to ferret this person out then? Excellent. Are you sure that Diego is actually Diego?"

Nate
"Uh... yeah I think so? He had his beetles around him at least..."

Doug
>"Good, good. We're going to fix this thing, just you and me. Go meet up with Diego, I'll be with you two in a minute. If you see anyone acting strange just let me know."
>>
No. 613561 ID: 1071f4

oh fuck, the one acting suspicious is doug, isn't it. he freaked out because he thought we were onto him.
>>
No. 613573 ID: d90668

>>613561

Na he got freaked out because he is slightly insane and is not sure if anyone else is real because they can not see the bugs. The idea that someone was wandering around able to disguise themselves perfectly rattled him for a moment.

Ask how you are going to contact him if you need to. Tell him about your cell phone and your suspicions that it was compromised. Do not want to pass on info when someone could be listening in. Also mention the device hooked up to the phone network.
>>
No. 613592 ID: 742b4a

>>613560
Ask him what he's going to do. You have a plan of your own, actually. You're making something in your headspace. Tell him if he wants to know he'll have to agree not to do anything drastic. This is a team effort now, he's not the boss of your psychic abilities.
>>
No. 613701 ID: c6ec0b

Ask Him not to kill his bug, at least till this is all over, so you know its Doug is not an/the impostor.
>>
No. 613703 ID: 350a50

>>613701
This. It's not certain, but it's our best clue thus far.
>>
No. 613779 ID: a141b0

>>613701
This is a very good idea. Not only will it help you identify people, but it might force an act of progress with Doug to have him not killing his ants whenever they rear their heads.

Once you've suggested this, I would suggest politely making your leave and finding Diego. Yes, you will need to discuss all these other things with Doug eventually, but now is too soon. At best, he'll start wondering were you're getting these ideas from. At worst... he might try to undermine you. Best not risk it till you have a firmer basis of trust built.
>>
No. 614129 ID: 557bac
File 141930052270.png - (93.80KB , 523x600 , 3-56.png )
614129

Nate
"Well... okay. My phone is charging in my car, so I may be hard to reach until I can get that back. I think that device that caught fire may have had something to do with my missing time: both my phone and the device said they had completed a call over 10 hours long. So be careful of taking calls from unknown numbers, I suppose."

"Also, I know you don't like them, letting an insect out or two might help me tell if you're an imposter or not: in theory at least..."

Doug makes a face. His eyebrow twitching as a red ant crawls over it but he makes no move to swat at it.

>"I'll... try. But don't say I didn't warn you..."
He turns and stalks off on long legs towards the administration building.
>>
No. 614131 ID: 557bac
File 141930053662.png - (146.16KB , 600x600 , 3-57.png )
614131

You head over to the hangar building and find Diego carrying a pair of heavy looking metal suitcases.
>>
No. 614133 ID: a19cd5

"Need any help there?"
>>
No. 614135 ID: 742b4a

>>614131
Tell him Doug's gonna be along shortly. Also, he's gonna keep out of your personal business. Offer to carry one of those cases for him.

Do you still have those files? Or is that stuff in the airlock?
>>
No. 614144 ID: 6e79d4

I don't know if that was Doug. "Stay out of my relationships and I'll stay out of yours" isn't really his style, especially after he snatched your phone, and I distinctly remember his bugs being spiders, not ants. That's nothing conclusive, but be careful.
>>
No. 614151 ID: 742b4a

>>614144
"A movement draws attention: a tiny patch of red marching across the fine grained wood like a stray drop of blood. Doug's hand pounces, and the ant becomes a smear that blends almost perfectly into the rich mahogany."

Also keep in mind he snatched the phone before we brought up his relationship.
>>
No. 614182 ID: 350a50

>>614144
Spiders are his girlfriend's bugs.
>>
No. 614277 ID: c6ec0b

Tell him you will carry one.
Doug may not be the best to inform Diego about the bug stuff.
Ask if you can make a detour to the lockers (or whatever) to get changed.
>>
No. 614347 ID: a141b0

>>614277
Lockers are probably a crime scene right now, since that is where the suspect exited the clean rooms. So no changing into normal cloths just yet.

But yeah. Offer to carry one of the suitcases. You'll either need to use both hands or be hilariously unable too, but under the circumstances it would be polite to offer.
>>
No. 615961 ID: 557bac
File 141972052220.png - (129.28KB , 281x600 , 3-58.png )
615961

Nate
"Hey, Doug said he'd be just a minute, need a hand?"

Diego thanks you and hands you one of the suitcases. It turns out to be heavy, but manageable as long as you use two hands.

Diego
>"Just be careful..."

Nate
"Cripes! What's in these?"

Diego
>"A pair of pistol grip tools"

Unable to help yourself, your face lights up with childlike glee.
"You mean the kind astronauts use? With computer controlled torque and everything?"

Diego
>"Not quite, rather than try to buy them from NASA I think Apex just had them custom built. Knockoffs, basically."

You don't care, its still cool.

Diego
>"You sure you're okay? You had me really scared back there."
>>
No. 615972 ID: 742b4a

>>615961
Tell him about your synesthesia. Also that the intruder was in disguise somehow so to look out for people acting suspicious.

...hang on, you need two hands to carry that thing? How easily was he lugging them around? Do you work out, does he? I'm trying to gauge if it's unreasonable for him to be able to carry both without straining. We know the intruder is extremely strong, considering what it did to Anthony.
>>
No. 616076 ID: a141b0

Tell him about your synesthesia, assuming you know about your synesthesia. Give some mention to how it's one of several issues you see your therapist about. Don't go spewing details, but you need to lay some ground work for if and when you two get serious.

>>615972
Nate is someone who did not spend a lot of time outdoors past the age of eight due to the anthill incident, and most likely avoids public places like gyms whenever possible. Back in chapter one he said himself that he wasn't very athletic, so overall him being a few steps below a wimp is to be expected.

Doug on the other hand works in a machine shop, cutting large metal objects into smaller metal parts. He might not be a beast, we've seen him in a tank top after all, but he certainly has thicker arms than Nate; don't let the added fluffy "bulk" Nate's frame has due to his clean room suit throw you off.
>>
No. 617147 ID: 557bac
File 142008055795.png - (192.82KB , 600x526 , 3-59.png )
617147

Nate
"Yeah I think I'm okay. That happens to me sometimes with loud noise: I just get overwhelmed and I can't process everything. Usually I can deal with it, but it just took me by surprise this time."

Diego
>"Does that happen a lot? I would hate to imagine reacting to a fire alarm like that."

Absurdly expensive power tools in hand, you follow him out to the rear of the complex to wait for Doug.

Nate
"Pretty rarely, I don't usually expose myself to really loud color or sound."

Diego
>"What, like, Hawaiian shirts? You mean bright color or what?"

Nate
"I, no not like that. I mean... like its hard to describe."

Diego
>"Are you talking about synesthesia, Nate? You've heard of that?"

Nate
"I... I think so, where you see sounds? I.... guess I am..."

You trail off and there's a long silence as you realize how much sense that makes to you. You've always realized that you don't see things the same way most people do, but have only really worried about the swarms of insects that plague your everyday life. The colors and shapes were always... just part of the scenery, You don't think you've even mentioned it to Dr. Cooper.

Diego
>"Nate, are you okay? Did I say something wrong?"

You realize you've been staring off into the distance for a while.
"Do... you think that's weird?"

Diego looks shocked and then a little embarrassed.
>"What?! No! If that is what you have, that's pretty cool, I think. I mean, not when there's fire alarms involved...."

There's another gap in the conversation, wherein Diego shifts his suitcase to his other hand.

Nate
"Soo.... uhh... do you work out?"

He looks a little self conscious, despite brightening up at the change of subject.
>"Eh... I used to back in Detroit. There was this boxing gym that used to be a fire station back at the turn of the century I would go to. Never picked it back up when I moved. I'm getting flabby again, would you believe that? Even though there's, like, nothing but health food stores around here."

He laughs. Its deep and loud enough that you can sense it echo off of the pine trees. You smile but are reminded that you've used a doctor's note to get out of every gym class since fourth grade. Despite a lot of self awareness and awkwardness you're enjoying yourself more than you have in a long time. You also realize how long its been since you talked to another person and not felt like they were some kind of monster.

You're starting to wonder what's taking Doug. You wonder whether you should go ahead without him or sit tight and wait.
>>
No. 617151 ID: 687279

>>617147
He said he was gonna be a minute. Hmm.

I don't think you should go without him. Wait a couple more minutes.
>>
No. 617172 ID: 216d55

Invite him to dinner you dork! Also wait for Doug.
>>
No. 617176 ID: 687279

>>617172
Nate already asked him out basically, right after rummaging through his head.
>>
No. 617177 ID: 350a50

>>617172
Diego's already going to drop by Nate's after work to hang out and play some video games. Though when 'after work' will be is growing increasingly unclear at the moment.
>>
No. 617194 ID: a141b0

Wait for Doug. You probably just gave him a lot to think about.

If you need something to talk about, ask Diego if he has Hiro's number on his phone. With all these attacks on the hardware, I'm getting worried about the software.
>>
No. 617235 ID: c6ec0b

I vote to wait for Doug.
He's cooperating by not crushing the ants after all
>>
No. 617576 ID: 557bac
File 142025338261.png - (122.91KB , 445x600 , 3-60.png )
617576

You decide to stay put and wait for Doug to finish his mysterious errand catch up. While you're waiting you ask Diego if you can borrow his phone to call Hiro.

Hiro
>Yo, D. Whaddup?

Nate
"Hiro? Its Nate. How's it going?"

Hiro
>Nate? The hell is going on out there? I heard you went missing or some shit.

Nate
"I was, kind of of a weird story, I'll tell you later. I just wanted to check up on you and Cobalt. Has there been any more traffic from Midas?"

Hiro
>Funny you should ask. There was a little bit maybe 30 minutes ago that tried to go through. I have Cobalt isolated though, so it didn't accomplish anything. Got the whole thing logged though.

Nate
"Well, we've been having problems out here, someone causing problems with the clean room and attacking people."

Hiro
>Well, don't worry about me. As soon as the police were called, security notified me and I put the server rooms on lockdown. Until I get an all clear, the only way in here is with a warrant.

Nate
"Seriously? Isn't that a little excessive?"

Hiro
>Nate, you realize that Cobalt is, literally, a computer that makes money, right? This place is built like a bunker, dude.

Nate
"Oh... Are you okay in there?"

Hiro
>Meh, I've spent more than a couple nights here already. Its alright as long as you don't mind MREs and sleeping on a fold out couch. Listen, call me back if you get a hold of a transponder, I can't really do anything until we get that going.

Nate
"Yeah, believe it or not I'm still working on that. But I've run into a number of problems: I'm not sure if making one is possible at the moment."

Hiro
>Well unless you want to wait for me to reprogram the whole damn system to octal, I suggest you think of something.

Nate
"I'll try. Talk to you later, Hiro"

You hang up and hand the phone back to Diego right as you spot Doug headed your way.

He claps his hands together enthusiastically.
>"Well! We ready to go?"
>>
No. 617579 ID: 687279

>>617576
Yep. Although... how long has it been since you put your phone on the charger? If it's likely to have a good amount of charge and the car is on the way there you could grab it.

If it's not, just go.
>>
No. 617585 ID: d90668

Double check that Doug is Doug and you probably should have mentioned that there is a disguise master on the loose while you were talking to Hiro.

We should be good to go though.
>>
No. 617591 ID: 350a50

Ant on Doug. Probability favors that he checks out for the moment.
>>
No. 617596 ID: a141b0

>>617585
The master of disguise is a little hard to mention without Hunter's testimony. Nate knows that it was Anthony's mind he was in because it was the person dropped from the vent who fell on him triggering a psychic visitation to Anthony's mind. Since Nate blacks out when he enters someone else's mind, it isn't possible for him to tell anyone but Doug that it was Anthony who fell from the vent... at least with a convincing level of certainty.

Doug has an ant showing, and he's smiling. Not much else to check; plenty of things to watch out for, though. Keep an eye on the ant, how Doug reacts to it. There should be a degree of irritation since he knows it's there and wants to get rid of it but is suppressing the impulse to do so due to your request.

Back to what you should do, Nate... just push forward and keep your head on your shoulders. You're there to examine the transponder and see if it's in working order. Remember, working order for space is different from working order on earth; keep that in mind when looking for repairable damage.
>>
No. 618017 ID: 557bac
File 142041509649.png - (175.64KB , 600x464 , 3-61.png )
618017

As Doug approaches you see one of his ants clambering around his scalp. His eyebrow twitches.
You pick up your suitcase and nod, falling in behind Doug and Diego.

Together the three of you follow the power lines until you reach the mysterious cable, turning abruptly to head into the woods. Once again, the myriad sounds of nature surround you. Uncomfortable, you stay close to the others.
>>
No. 618018 ID: 557bac
File 142041510279.png - (248.20KB , 558x600 , 3-62.png )
618018

After a few minutes journey, you find yourself standing in front of the Midas satellite.

The cable connects to what appears to be a homemade transformer of some kind, buzzing with current. That, in turn, is connected to the satellite itself. The satellite itself appears to be missing a large chunk of the body, and not in an unfinished way. The missing section looks as though it was sheared off leaving the smoothest, cleanest edge you've ever seen. Nearby appears to be a small CPU, a bundle of wires snake their way from the back of the case into the satellite.
>>
No. 618019 ID: a19cd5

>>618018
>sheared in half
w h a t
>>
No. 618021 ID: 687279

>>618018
Alright, crack open those briefcases and do what you came here to do. Look for the transponder, and maybe try to figure out what the computer is connected to while you're at it. I wish we could tell what the computer is DOING, though.

Did the police say if you should disconnect anything?
>>
No. 618103 ID: 375872

So...we're all recognizing that there is no known technology that could have done this, right?

A moving blade or cutting torch would have taken forever to cut through that, and it would have left rough edges and/or warped metal.

Unless someone took the time to meticulously buff out all the little imperfections while they were transporting this bastard into the woods, this is clearly the work of ALIENS.

Speaking of moving this thing, do you see any indication of -how- this thing came to be here? If it was dragged or carted on wheels, you would see tracks. If some superhuman alien carried it, they'd leave deep footprints of some description.
>>
No. 618108 ID: 7e65da

That... is admittedly unnerving. Don't let it get to you. Focus on what your job is at the moment.

Let Diego handle the heavy paneling. You're here to handle the circuitry. Identify where the transponder should be and focus there.
>>
No. 618112 ID: 8f01e8

Try to identify and disable/remove any sort of incendiary or other self-destruct mechanism before other meddling. Wouldn't want to make that mistake twice, especially out here where there's a lot more greenery and a lot less fire-suppression plumbing.
>>
No. 618115 ID: 687279

>>618019
I'm betting it got teleported in half. As in, only this half got teleported. The other half is somewhere else.
>>
No. 618178 ID: 350a50

>>618115
Seems logical. I mean, given everything else going on and all that.
>>
No. 618228 ID: c6ec0b

A Bug could mean that
Hunter - Dragonfly
or
Zeke - Bee
are near
>>
No. 618383 ID: ea0ad9

>>618228
Okay...? What makes you say that?
>>
No. 618792 ID: 557bac
File 142068552811.png - (167.78KB , 600x361 , 3-63.png )
618792

Nate
"What the hell? How did it even get here? There's not even any tire tracks...."

Doug
>"I know, right? Weird as hell. Lets figure out "how" later, Get this stuff out of the great outdoors as fast as possible."

Nate
"Isn't this, like, a crime scene or something?"

Doug shrugs
>"Yeah, probably."

You and Diego share a worried glance.

Doug looks impatient.
>"Well?"

Diego sighs and starts unpacking the gleaming chrome pistol grip tool. He goes to work examining the missing section and assessing what will be highest priority to salvage and is easiest to transport.

Nate
"Wait, before we touch anything, the fire in the clean-room was caused by some kind of trap or failsafe. We should check to see if there's anything like that around."

Diego nods and casts his eye around for anything suspicious. You check for the transponder you've been desperately trying to get your hands on. Actually, you find three of them as well as a gap that looks suspiciously like it should hold a fourth transponder.

You swear.

You start to remove them, wondering whether or not these can be synched with Cobalt. Even if they can't, they need to be secured.
>>
No. 618794 ID: d90668

Let Doug and Hiro know that someone who knows what they were looking for has a transponder.

I mean you cant stress this enough. Someone who knows exactly what your computer is and how you talk to it broke in and stole basically everything you had here. And mangled some employees.

Even with all the mind reading possibilities of the bugs someone knew way to much info about your company. Is a good chance this was a inside job or that someone got into one of your heads days or weeks ago.
>>
No. 618795 ID: 687279

>>618792
Ah, tell Diego to try not to get his fingerprints on anything. You have gloves, he doesn't.

Oh, ask Doug what delayed him.
>>
No. 618838 ID: 31ed5c

>>618795
does diego even have fingerprints? I mean with the scales and everything.
Scale-prints?
Hmm...
>>
No. 618855 ID: a141b0

Let them know about it looking like there is a missing fourth transponder. Also mention that Hiro blocked a communication attempt to Cobalt just a half hour ago.

Getting Diego a pair of gloves would also be wise. Last thing we need is the drama of the police apprehending an innocent party and giving the real culprit an alibi.
>>
No. 619985 ID: 557bac
File 142112278113.png - (181.16KB , 600x557 , 3-64.png )
619985

Nate
"Craaaap."

Diego
>"What is it?"

Nate
"A transponder is missing: the one that talks to Cobalt. This is weird, Diego. Whoever is doing this, they know too much about this. Hiro even told me that there was more traffic that came in a little while ago that he blocked."

Diego
>"Not going to lie, this is bizarre. Like... if they just wanted a transponder, then whats with the power cable and the PC? And how did it get out here? How did they cut it in half?"

You shrug as you dislodge a transponder.
Before long you have all three of them removed, while Diego is taking apart the communications array as carefully as he can.

Nate
"Doug, are you sure this is okay? I mean, if its a crime scene, we shouldn't disturb it, right?"

Doug looks up from examining the PC.
>"Don't worry about it. I'll handle any questions the police might have, and we documented everything before coming back to find you. Getting this thing secured is more important.
>>
No. 619987 ID: 820a29

Purple space lobster next to the PC?
>>
No. 619997 ID: 687279

>>619985
That is not an earth bug. It must die. Just point at it and go "bug.", Doug should do the rest. He's had practice.

Also hang on why is there purple shit inside of the computer? I mean, initially I thought, LEDs, but that's too much purple shit.
>>
No. 620004 ID: d90668

How far can the bugs be from there host?

There could be someone just out of sight or that computer is more than it seems. Either way let Doug know quick and warn the other that someone might be nearby.

Ask the wasps what there range from you is like and if they know of any ways of extending it with devices.
>>
No. 620005 ID: 350a50

>>619985
"HOLY SHIT DOUG IT'S A ROBOT BUG!" would be an appropriate reaction here.
>>
No. 620114 ID: a141b0

>>620004
Yeah... doing all that might be a bit ambitious. Going on... let's call it "high bug alert" around Diego is probably a bad idea unless there is real need for panic. Still, that mechanical bug is a concern.

Instead of just shouting "bug" or outright talking with your wasps in front of Diego, investigate the computer as well. Do it from an angle that allows you so see the mechanical bug, and do your best to make sure your body language draws Doug's attention to it.

If you really feel the need to draw on the Wasp's wisdom right now, or anyplace in public, use an open ended question along with body language. Simply the question "Thoughts?" coupled with looking directly at the wasps should be enough to prompt them to add their two cents.

As for warning Diego about someone possibly being near... not necessary for two reasons... well one reason and one theory. The reason is that Diego knows there is an unapprehended intruder on company grounds, so he should already be alert in that regard. The theory is... using the bugs to tell if someone is close feels like a red herring... particularly where this intruder is concerned. A lot of what we've seen seems to indicated that his bugs can be very remote from him, after all he just left one within Shannon to wreck house without maintaining physical contact with her.

If you want a crazy theory... the intruder's power of electricity in the mindscape, and his gifted touch with electronics in the real world... that computer could be there partly to act as an anchor for his "mechanical bug". But I'm just a very talkative intrusive voice in your head, Nate. What do I know?
>>
No. 620165 ID: 8f01e8

Just point at the purple space lobster and say "Hey, what's that?" Doug's the one with the social skills, leave it to him to justify to Diego why he'd be abruptly stomping the shit out of something invisible.
>>
No. 620186 ID: a19cd5

>>619985
>Robot bug
Antagonist is a self-aware AI confirmed
>>
No. 620272 ID: 350a50

>>620186
It's always the robot uprising, man. Always the robot uprising.

But nobody expected psychic robots, did they?
>>
No. 620553 ID: 557bac
File 142136898568.png - (141.88KB , 600x534 , 3-65.png )
620553

Startled, you cant help yourself from jumping.
"Bu- Bug!"

Doug looks around, alarmed.

Diego looks at you quizzically and then at the computer.
>"Huh? Hey, what the hell is that?"

He peers into the open case and examines a strange, glowing piece of hardware. Now that you get a better look, you realize that all of the hard drive slots are empty and the glowing object seems to be hooked up in place of one.

Diego
>"Never seen a case mod like that."

You peer into the guts of the machine and asses some of this weirdness. There's a tangle of wires linked directly to the satellite, the fan is burning itself out so its safe to assume that its been overclocked, even the power supply looks modified to attach to the transformer.

Plus, it has a bug.

Why is there a bug?

And what the hell is it?

Where's its owner?

You hear a whisper in your ear...
NNnaaaathhaaann Zzzzprinngerrr, zzzzaaat mazzzhine izzz zee ownnnerrrr.
>>
No. 620554 ID: 687279

>>620553
...if you touch the bug, wouldn't you go inside the machine's head? Wait, did Doug even see it? I expected Doug to immediately kill it, to be honest. Maybe he's as curious as you are.

We gotta touch the bug regardless, but that means you're gonna be out of it for a while. Question is, will your body keep going on autopilot or will you become unresponsive? We don't know for sure what it looks like to people watching. Ask doug, quietly so Diego can't hear you. Tell him what you want to do, and why, so he knows the context of the question.
>>
No. 620563 ID: d90668

Oh man if that machine has a bug that means that Cobalt probably has some. Heck it might be trying to hijack itself!

Well I say try touching the bug and seeing if you end up in the computers mind. If it does not work you know it is aware of you.
>>
No. 620568 ID: 350a50

Say hello?
>>
No. 620596 ID: a141b0

>>620554
This, but I'd also go so far as to phrase the question in such a way that even if Diego does hear you talking he'll assume the subject matter is something else.

The simple question, "If I touch it, will I pass out," seem broad enough, given how this computer case seems to be more like something from a SciFi movie than your local Radio Shack.
>>
No. 620605 ID: b6178d

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

Or.

Can a hyper-intelligent machine have the bugs of consciousness?
>>
No. 621236 ID: 557bac
File 142172156074.png - (80.40KB , 600x470 , 3-66.png )
621236

You glare at the alien invertebrate and, realizing its been seen, it tries to scuttle away. With nothing else for it, you grab it before it can escape.
>>
No. 621237 ID: 557bac
File 142172160415.png - (228.20KB , 600x501 , 3-67.png )
621237

You feel the familiar sensation of your consciousness entering someone elses, and after a moment of nausea you take a look around. You appear to be standing in something very much like a clean room; however, the equipment is unfamiliar and alien. A creature in a strange uniform regards you curiously.

There is a buzz of static and a thought enters your head.
>[Identify selfnoun?///Purpose?///]
>>
No. 621246 ID: bb78f2

Name: Nathan
Purpose: Figuring out if a custodian belong's to an AI or not. Plus, maybe figuring out what psychological problems an AI might have that would manifest a custodian out in the real world.

Compliment him that it's neat that it couldn't possibly have had much time to learn but knows that people have names and purposes. Cool!
>>
No. 621255 ID: 687279

>>621237
Tell them your name is Nathan and you are an engineer, currently investigating a strange machine attached to one of your machines. Ask who they are, what their job is, and what they're doing here. Also, ask what this place is.

Wait a minute, we've never seen a small-size custodian bug inside anyone else's mind. They've always been giant "guardian" types. This is different... Anyway, keep your distance. Guardians seem to care most about proximity.
>>
No. 621258 ID: 350a50

>>621255
Correction: Second this one.
>>
No. 621260 ID: ea0ad9

>>621246
Robot people are people too.
>>
No. 621262 ID: 350a50

>>621260
Not sure it's a robot anymore. That other one certainly looked robotic, but this one just looks alien. Maybe it's jacked into a computer network using cybernetics?
>>
No. 621264 ID: 01745f

The attacker from Sharon's dream was very similar to this guy (though oddly, the attacker had a tail whereas this guy does not), so they are almost certainly from the same civilization, though it is not certain whether the attacker was one of this species in power armor or an android that looks like them.

Also this guy has a little Axle on his lower left holo-display. Maybe ask about what that is after your other questions.

>Wait a minute, we've never seen a small-size custodian bug inside anyone else's mind.
Aside from our own. Maybe his bug also acts in swarms.
>>
No. 621269 ID: 687279

>>621262
I feel like this is a fragment the robot stole from another civilization, and somehow stored in the purple thing in the computer.

...OH SHIT. The robot had the same shape as this guy! Three eyes on each side of the head, same weird feet. This guy doesn't have a tail, though. Regardless, this is definitely not the robot. They'd recognize Nathan.

Could it be our enemy is from this guy's civilization? A robot that went rampant?
>>
No. 621284 ID: a141b0

>>621255
Definitely keep your distance. You'll get more information the longer you keep the natives nonhostile.

Purpose is a little hard to define... did you really have a purpose for grabbing that bug? You have things you were doing in the real world, but I'm not sure if you can get them into terms that a fragment of someone's mind trapped for who knows how long can understand.

It might be a moot point. This person appears to have a transmitter attached to the bottom of his skull... in the physical world that means you wouldn't be able to communicate with him. How much that applies in the mental world probably depends on how much he realizes what is happening to him.
>>
No. 621291 ID: 8f01e8

Landscape outside the windows looks like it might be on fire.
>>
No. 621307 ID: 01745f

Another observations: Four fingered hand * two limbs is eight total fingers; octal vs base ten

And in the background... an enormous red sun in the horizon, a diagram of a celestial machine called a "star mover"... They're after our sun, aren't they? Their sun is a late-stage red giant and they want to swap it out for our younger star, targeting an inhabited planet because those are the only ones they can get to using psionics.
>>
No. 621523 ID: 557bac
File 142189783630.png - (0.96MB , 600x409 , 3-68.png )
621523

Nate
"Um... Selfnoun: Nathan? Purpose: engineer? I'm investigating anomalous machine... What's your name, er selfnoun? Purpose?"

>[Interrogative recognized/// Selfnoun:Tch'arl352///Purpose: Massfold technician/// Prepare(future tense) planetary massfold instructions///]

Nathan
"Where are we?"
Your eyes are drawn to the light show outside, fairly sure its not synesthesia this time. It looks like the entire sky is lit up with an aurora of immeasurable intensity. You're struck by how beautiful it is but at the same time, terrifying. Whatever is happening up there is involving a lot of energy: you suspect it is coming from the very large, very angry looking star in the sky.

>[Primeworld selfnoun: Maar/// Stellar radiation intensify(past tense)///Collapse imminent/// Upper atmosphere damage/// Massfold repair(future tense) damage/// Purpose: preserve Maar///]
>>
No. 621525 ID: 557bac
File 142189789317.png - (1.51MB , 502x600 , 3-69.png )
621525

You cautiously approach the workstation.
"Massfold? Wait, I've seen this before!"
You point to a glowing hologram.
"You're talking about the Axle, right? What is it?"

The creature cocks its head.
>["Axle"///]

It waves an appendage and the hologram animates itself, at the same time information pours into your mind in a telepathic cascade, leaving you with a ringing headache.

It describes the Axle as a ring shaped singularity in orbit around a 1-dimensional spacial defect or cosmic string. By manipulating the diameter of the ring one can increase the gravitational pull around the string and pull it open by the seams, opening a kind of "fold" in space. Since the string is 1-dimensional, the distortion travels the entire length of the object, which is more or less infinite. Thus, by aligning the string and properly folding, one could theoretically transport anything in the universe anywhere.

You stagger as the implications of this cosmic engine hit you and even more questions arise. Your host on the other hand appears curious about the wasp hanging from your shoulder.

>[Interrogative: formname liminal entity/// Bond query: proto-development(past tense) form/// Detecting broodform mass///]
>>
No. 621526 ID: ad3494

Freak out and have a fit.
>>
No. 621527 ID: ad3494

Freak out and have a fit.
>>
No. 621529 ID: 687279

>>621525
Tell them your bug is called a "wasp", and you aren't sure what it is or what its purpose is. All you know is that it can protect you while you're traveling like you are now. Ask what the entities do, and if they can be dangerous to you. Once you get a bit more information, maybe then you can tell the alien about the hive body thing.

...shit. They sent a robot scout here in order to operate the Massfold, and they plan to use it to siphon off the outer layer of the sun, to put in their sun. Except... according to our observations of all the stars blue-shifting... are they doing it to stars all over the place? Or is that a distortion of light because of the proximity of the Massfold? If they're targeting the Sun, why? Can't they pick a different star without a fucking civiliation that needs it? Don't accuse this guy of anything just yet, he/she seems to be rather free with information so far, and boy howdy do we need information. Maybe ask how they're going to repair their star. How are they even manipulating the singularity's diameter?
>>
No. 621548 ID: ecd0ab

If the star is such an issue, why not just move the planet???

I don't understand why they couldn't find a perfectly good star somewhere else to orbit. If they have something that can move stars that shouldn't be much of a technical challenge.
>>
No. 621549 ID: 01745f

Ask how they plan to fix the sun, and if they don't bring up the axel's involvement in that ask what they plan to move with the axel.

>Can't they pick a different star without a fucking civiliation that needs it?
My guess is that they literally cannot use an uninhabited system due to traveling with weird mind powers and therefore needing sapients on the receiving end.

>Freak out and have a fit.
We can do that after we are done here. Right now we need to keep our wits about us until we are finished with this conversation.
>>
No. 621569 ID: ea0ad9

>Detecting broodform mass
Broodform... Like the bug he's got? Ask if that's what the "Broodform" is. If he answers with a yes (or affirmative), then: Broodform name: Wasp. Bond level: Working, that is, present-term, to be colleagues. Some bond has already (past) been formed.
>one could theoretically transport anything in the universe anywhere.
Problem: Relocating (future) solar radiation may harm our homeworld, Earth. Could you move Maar instead?
>>
No. 621571 ID: 687279

Oh, there's another very interesting question we could ask as well. If this is really Maar and not a mental representation of it, how did you get here?
I suppose we should check. Nathan, imagine up a screwdriver.
>>
No. 621592 ID: a141b0

...'k. I think the other intrusive voices got this handled. You just stay calm right now while I do enough freaking out for the both of us.

...actually, no. If you don't get to freak out, I don't get to freak out. So instead I'll give one bit of advice. This might not be real; this might just be someone's mental fiction, or maybe even a echos of long dead civilization rather than something in the present. Right here and now, treat it as real because not doing so would be dangerous. Once you're back in your own body... take the time to hyperventilate and freak out.
>>
No. 621637 ID: 2f4b71

>>621523
>planetary massfold
>Primeworld selfnoun: Maar
>Upper atmosphere damage
>Massfold repair(future tense) damage
>Purpose: preserve Maar
Uh, I'm pretty sure they intend to move Maar (the planet), not the local star.
And I don't think they can move anything anywhere, unless they happen to have created an artificial Cosmic String rather than harnessing a naturally occurring one. If it's natural, then they would be limited in exiting at some point along the string, and thus limited to exiting around any solar system the string passes through that happens to have a star with the right mass and in the right place to exit right into orbit. The universe is big but finite, and the chance of a single random path intersecting anywhere, let alone a useful destination, would be literally astronomical. They may not have many choices of viable exits.
>>
No. 621680 ID: 557bac
File 142197922201.png - (147.16KB , 501x600 , 3-70.png )
621680

Nathan
"Formname: wasp. Purpose: Unknown? Bond form...erm, unknown? Working on it, I suppose. Its protected me and helped me, but I'm not sure what you're asking. What do you mean by broodmass?"

For a moment you feel like someone is rifling around in your skull and gathering information.

>[Wasp: hymenoptera: parasitoid swarmform/// Broodform develop (active tense) inside selfmass Nathan/// Curious/// Selfmass think (past tense) targetworld inhabit (past tense) sapient proto-liminal species/// Probe report(past tense) negative bondform, negative Awareness///]

The Maar-tian fidgets; you aren't good at reading its emotions but you think its uncomfortable with this new information.

Nate
"So you plan on moving your planet? What happens to Earth; my primeworld? There's billions of us living here- er there- no wait, here I suppose."

There's a moment of hesitation.
>[Instructions: planetary massfold exchange (future tense) Earthmass///

Nate
"You can't! There's an infinite number of stars out there, pick another one!"

>[Probes deploy (past tense) 638/// Earthmass orbital movement 99% ideal. Probes unresponsive (past tense) 95%]

It chews on one of its eight opposable fingers looking torn.
>[Imperatives of Maar: preserve Parallel/// Preserve Maar/// Preserve Aware/// SpeciesEarth aware/// Situation require reassess///]

Nate
"Well then can you do anything? Am I communicating with you on Maar or what?"

Tch'arl352's empty hands do a complicated gesture that clearly indicates helplessness.
>[Negative/// Selfmemory transfer to information shard storage///]
It indicates a cabinet of glowing objects similar to the one in the anomalous PC.
>[Small runtime loop/// Selfmemory construct for transfer of planetary Massfold instructions/// Secondary purpose: assist assembly of "Starmover"///]
>>
No. 621681 ID: 5eea01

Ohhh. Should we tell him about the other alien consciousness? The one that obviously knows the planet is inhabited and is doing bad shit?

Cuz I don't think they realized there's sapient peeps on this planet.
>>
No. 621684 ID: 687279

>>621680
Tell him to stop assisting the robot drone until we can find out a solution. Maybe... arrange things so that we move the planet, but not the people? So everyone would live on Maar, alongside their civilization? Obviously their planet is a higher priority than Earth because it's got more advanced tech on it.

Also ask for his assistance on constructing a counter-starmover. The failure of the starmover to operate would be a sure sign that there are broodform/aware people here, right? Then his civilization would send another probe or something to see what's wrong.

Oh, right, ask him if he wants to come see your progress and the drone's progress. You can take him into orbit. You can explain how you tried to approach the drone's starmover constellation but you got attacked by some sort of defensive mechanism.
>>
No. 621692 ID: 01745f

How quickly do they need the Starmover to work in? If they have some time they could delay the Starmover construction until we can figure out an alternative. I think Earth astronomers have located some planets with earth-like orbits; maybe they could use one of them.

>>621684
Don't mention our plans for stopping the starmover in case we are unable to convince him to want it stopped.
>>
No. 621694 ID: d90668

So we are talking to a memory of him that he put in a computer?

We need to find a way of talking to the original or somehow letting them know what there agent on earth is up to.

See if you can find out what its agent is doing with Cobalt.
>>
No. 621699 ID: ea0ad9

Try generating up a sort of miniature sculpture of the invader you saw, and ask if he knows it.
>>
No. 621703 ID: 350a50

Suggest a possible solution in both living on one planet. Or is overpopulation too much of a problem?

If their leadership won't let them move somewhere less ideal, could they at least move Earth somewhere else its inhabitants can survive?
>>
No. 621713 ID: 8e294c

Alright, if their memory construct can't do anything about this whole replace-the-Earth deal, is there any way to... update the probe's report, so that the situation can be reassessed by whoever/whatever does the reassessing? Is there a specific time window that this is supposed to happen in, or can they get away with delaying it while we work this out?

Honestly, Nate, this Tch'arl352 fellow seems a bit like you. Kind of curious, anxious, and will probably be relieved to pass on the responsibility of all this to someone else.
>>
No. 621749 ID: 8f01e8

Arright, Marr, what you need to do here is call your boss and tell him to realign the starmover plan so that it's aimed at the earth-sun system's L3 Lagrange point (on the opposite side of the sun relative to Earth) instead of the Earth itself. All the same convenient orbital properties, none of the ethical mess.

Unless there's a third planet inhabited by sapients already there, in which case we start having to think about Kemplerer Rosettes and the chance of some cataclysmic tidal interaction with the rest of the system starts getting increasingly likely.
>>
No. 621760 ID: a141b0

>>621749
This seems like a good plan, and one Nathan can suggest since he's familiar with the Lagrange points. Chances are, though, the real complication is long term balance of gravity within the system. Still, it's strong argument to begin with.

Otherwise... tell him that different species perceive things differently. The fact that you're able to perceive the parasite swarmforms is a mutation; one that has caused you a lot of anxiety since it's interpreted as a hallucination by the rest of your society. The only reason your swarmform has been making the change into a broodmass is because of the stressful stimulus caused starmover and probe's provocation.

That is all lead up to telling him of the probe/invader and how it's not only assaulting people in their mental space to gather the parts to assemble the starmover, but also imitating the form, vocal communication, and mannerisms of the local sentient life to move about unopposed. It is clearly aware of the sentient life on this planet... but if it is really just not a machine, it might not recognize sentience without a broodmass.
>>
No. 621779 ID: 2f4b71

>>621680
Sounds like they consider life without a 'bondform' (bugs) as non-sentient. The last time they checked Earth, sometime in the past, they found nothing and concluded the planet was not inhabited by a sentient species.
The guy's effectively a copy, possibly hosted by Cobalt. The first thing to ask is if he has a communication method back to Maar.
It may be possible to modify the massfold for a partial transfer (Antarctica is mostly uninhabited and could probably be evacuated the fastest, and if the density of Earth and Marr are roughly equivalent the subsequent megaquakes might not be a global extinction event), of if the Marr-tian solar system has any moons that could be used to replace our Moon, as a massive lifeboat.
>>
No. 621782 ID: ea0ad9

>>621749
From what he's been saying, he can't just teleport something, he has to swap its location with something. Mars might work, though. While it is about half the size of Earth, it is still in the Goldilocks zone.
>>
No. 621784 ID: 350a50

>>621782
Oh, that might be a better idea. And they can even be real-live Martians.
>>
No. 621791 ID: ea0ad9

>The Maar-tian fidgets
By the way, Maarling sounds a lot better.
>>
No. 621951 ID: e221c5

>>621680
Wait wait this isnt a problem, just temporarily move maar to the exact opposite place to us in our orbit.
The same orbit, but 180° out of phase.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-Earth#Scientific_analysis

Might have some problems with venus but, as long as its only there long enough for the maartians to make another star mover to somewhere else, I'd say its worth it for the first contact.
>>
No. 621970 ID: 8e294c

>>621951
I'm not sure, but the impression I got was that part of the way this works was that Maar had to swap places with Earth. Sort of an equivalent exchange, balancing both sides of the equation kind of thing. But hey, I'm not a massfold technician.

Oh, also, before we leave, we should probably get the name of the weird alien bug. It'd be polite. Trying to save the earth should probably still be priority though, obviously.
>>
No. 621991 ID: eb959a

>>621951
I was thinking the same shit bra, if these guys can make a machine that moves planets then they should be able to make this idea work.
>>
No. 622350 ID: 2f4b71

>>621951
A pity L3 isn't stable. L4 or L5 would be better, but with two objects of very similar mass the system would barely be semistable. Lagrange point stability assumes the third body to be of negligible mass compared to the two main bodies.

Swapping things of equal mass is needed not just for the assumed requirement of a 'Massfold' to swap an equivalent mass, but for the solar system to remain stable. You can't just drop in or pluck out planetary masses without messing up everything else.
>>
No. 622367 ID: ecd0ab

>>622350
If they can build that thing, I see no reason they couldn't easily manage it.
>>
No. 622394 ID: 557bac
File 142233369771.png - (115.23KB , 600x444 , 3-71.png )
622394

You plead with the alien
"There has to be something that can be done, could we send a message to stop the move? What about changing the orbit to sit opposite of my Earth?"

Tch'arl
>[Negative message: insufficient travel time/// Require many Earthmass stellar cycles/// Change orbit plans////////]
The creature pauses to think, and exchanges a glance with its custodian.
>[////Possible/// Self Tch'arl require time to recalculate/// Possible impact of orbital path Earthmass///]

>[Another thought/// Massfold to Maar/// Bring message///]

You sputter, incredulous.
"Massfold? Me? I just became 'aware', I don't know if I'm ready for intergalactic teleportation just yet."

Tch'arl
>[Would require working starmover/// Also secondary Aware to send selfmass Nathan/// Or require other messenger/// Can not massfold selfmass///]

Nate
"Is that why you sent the probe? You can't teleport yourselves?"

Tch'arl
>[Affirmative/// Results in/////// unpredictable events/// Historical selfmass transport result (past tense) gravitational collapse/// Large mass pull (past tense) from local galaxy///]

Nate
"What about this probe, thing? If you need it to massfold, can we stop it?"

The alien looks anxious again.
>[Difficult/// Probe design (past tense) to be adaptable/// However/ Probe require (future tense) assistance to engage planetary massfold/// Require complete upload from primeworld Maar///]

>[Caution/// Species Maar-a evolve (past tense) complex mental/social network: Awareness/// Not design (past tense) for extended time away from network/// Probe organic selfmass experience possible instability///]

Nate
"Well, if you really want to help then, could you help me assemble a starmover? Or some kind of counter- starmover?"

>[Selfmass assist (past tense) probe with Tether/// Possible Brace available/// Unsure/// Memory construct is limited///]
>[Interrogative: Send liminal entity selfmass assist search///]
>>
No. 622401 ID: d958ad

>>622394
...I'm not certain, but is Tcharl suggesting we send out the swarm of wasps to investigate people in the facility to find more starmover parts? That's a good idea regardless. Ask how that would be done, exactly. How would we tell? Hey, we could probably find Morgan this way too. While we're on the subject, ask Tcharl if custodians can be dangerous to their hosts. Tell him you know of another Aware that seems to fear his broodmass greatly, and won't say why.

Also holy shit Nate if you succeed and send yourself to Maar, you would be GOING TO SPACE. Doug would have to send you, of course, unless we come across another Aware somewhere. On the subject of the drone's starmover, is it possible to sabotage it without getting close to it?
>>
No. 622509 ID: 8f01e8

>>622367
I'd be careful about throwing around the word "easy" when you're talking about any big engineering project, especially for values of big that involve superjovian masses and intergalactic distances.

Sticking Maar into the earth-sun L3 isn't a long term solution, it's just a bandaid that leaves both inhabited planets in the same goldilocks zone, close enough for speed-of-light communication with less than an hour of lag so diplomacy can begin in earnest, yet far enough apart to avoid immediately destroying each others' coastal cities with tidal effects.
>>
No. 622516 ID: 2f4b71

>>622394
>>[Affirmative/// Results in/////// unpredictable events/// Historical selfmass transport result (past tense) gravitational collapse/// Large mass pull (past tense) from local galaxy///]
Sound like:
- You can't teleport yourself, only someone else. Nathan could not Massfold Nathan, he'd need to find someone else on this end to Massfold him.
- When the Maar-a experimented with self-Massfolding, they created a gravitational anomaly and yanked a 'large mass' from a local galaxy.
Which actually sounds a LOT like the big chunk of Andromeda that suddenly blueshifted last night (thread 1 intro). Either someone on Earth experimented with a self-massfold, or we just saw Maar's experiment with a 2.5MYear delay (light speed lag).

Also, Tch'arl may not be sticking around to help for long:
>>[Caution/// Species Maar-a evolve (past tense) complex mental/social network: Awareness/// Not design (past tense) for extended time away from network/// Probe organic selfmass experience possible instability///]
It sounds like the Maar-a are highly social creatures, and spending too long on their own is bad for their mental health.
>>
No. 623558 ID: 557bac
File 142310644139.png - (226.84KB , 600x600 , 3-72.png )
623558

You're just about to ask what Tch'arl means when the sky goes dark and the city evaporates into mist. You stare at the alien desperately as he flickers. You make a lunge to grab hold but the figure breaks up in your closing fingers.
>>
No. 623559 ID: 557bac
File 142310644775.png - (201.44KB , 600x525 , 3-73.png )
623559

You feel like your whole body is a static charge fizzling in an empty space. You feel your consciousness earth itself back in your body. You wake up.

You find yourself laying flat on your back with Diego's concerned face hovering over you.

Doug
>"Are you alright, Nate? You had a bit of a shock there!"
>>
No. 623561 ID: d958ad

>>623559
God damn it, Doug unplugged the computer while it was still running. Makes me wonder if the mind-parallel of Tch'arl has been destroyed... Ask what happened, was the computer case electrically charged? Then you'll want to take Doug aside and tell him what you saw. Also, that you want to tell Diego what's happening, so you can have his help without having to keep him in the dark. Unfortunately I think we will have to abandon trying to catch the drone, because it is likely too powerful to confront directly.

I suspect Tch'arl was telling you that you can send the wasps out as scouts, to examine people for possible starmover parts. Remember, you saw the spider on Doug? I bet you can do the same thing.
>>
No. 623590 ID: ea0ad9

The computer's still got a glow, so you can probably talk to the guy later... Once it's safe. Tell Doug that you think the computer should be brought in for study, figure out about who did this all.
>>
No. 623599 ID: d90668

Can't blame him to much for pulling the plug. You did not tell him what you were doing and for all he knew you could have been in danger. Still is horrible timing though.

I think the biggest thing we can take away from your conversation is that the probe they sent is the guy who has been running around breaking and stealing things. And that it could be having mental issues due to it being away from its civilizations network.

Will have to let Doug know what you found out of course.

As for Diego you will have to figure out what to say to him. If you are going to be getting his help to make a mind construct you might have to tell him whats going on eventually. Things have been getting odd enough that talk of psychic bugs and aliens will not be considered crazy.
>>
No. 623605 ID: d958ad

Oh, and your glasses are right there by that rock.
>>
No. 623716 ID: 557bac
File 142319853695.png - (148.51KB , 533x600 , 3-74.png )
623716

Shakily, you pick yourself up off the ground and find your glasses. You return them to your face and the world pops back into focus.
>>
No. 623717 ID: 557bac
File 142319854340.png - (310.09KB , 800x494 , 3-75.png )
623717

And turns into a nightmare.

END OF CHAPTER 3.
>>
No. 623718 ID: d958ad

>>623717
I guess it's time for Nathan to flail and toss his glasses into the forest.
>>
No. 623720 ID: bb78f2

Doug, you got your ants ALL OVER our glasses.
Did you use them as freaking cotton swabs for those big ears of yours?
>>
No. 623722 ID: 5eea01

THAT WAS AN ANTHILL, NOT A ROCK
>>
No. 623731 ID: 321d85

>>623722
WELL, F.
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