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File 151710370171.png - (43.44KB , 800x600 , title.png )
862495 No. 862495 ID: 7c55ee

Expand all images
>>
No. 862496 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710372206.png - (27.21KB , 800x600 , salq-1.png )
862496

"Ten minutes to core meltdown."

I was so close. So close. Everything was in the right place. Not one thing out of place.

I've never run this fast before in my life. My muscles scream at me to stop.
>>
No. 862498 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710375250.png - (23.61KB , 800x600 , salq-2.png )
862498

"Five minutes to core meltdown."

It's too late to avert and the entire facility is flooding. It's now or never.

"GET IN THE PODS! GET IN THE PODS NOW!!"

What few arkots were in this room run around in a startled panic.
In moments, I itemize.
Every arkot remaining is present. One struggles to get into a satellite pod.
Justifiable loss; have to go now.
>>
No. 862499 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710376734.png - (105.72KB , 800x600 , salq-3.png )
862499

"Two minutes to core meltdown."

Warmup cycle is two minutes. None of this has been tested. Nothing has been calibrated properly.
This much uncertainty is a death sentence.

But anything else is death with complete certainty.

More of my claws hit the button than necessary.
>>
No. 862500 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710378781.png - (84.35KB , 800x600 , salq-4.png )
862500

I breathe in, expecting it to be my last.
>>
No. 862501 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710379715.png - (398.57KB , 800x600 , salq-5.png )
862501

>>
No. 862502 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710381070.png - (112.21KB , 800x600 , salq-6.png )
862502

>>
No. 862503 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710382857.png - (103.80KB , 800x600 , salq-7.png )
862503

>>
No. 862504 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710384297.png - (44.37KB , 800x600 , salq-8.png )
862504

How did...

How did I get here?
Where is this?
>>
No. 862505 ID: 7c55ee
File 151710385705.png - (29.09KB , 800x600 , salq-9.png )
862505

[ Please choose a name and sex for this salikai. ]
>>
No. 862507 ID: 6780f5

Sam, Female
>>
No. 862508 ID: c2051e

Sex: Male.
Name: Varkata.
>>
No. 862509 ID: 86eb65

Velliana. Female.
>>
No. 862510 ID: 83beea

Female
Viria
>>
No. 862511 ID: 33cbe7

Female, Phyllis.
>>
No. 862513 ID: fda98a

Female, Nell.
>>
No. 862516 ID: de6d84

Male, Vafer
>>
No. 862518 ID: 3abd97

Sisirri Isukkoa

Female.
>>
No. 862520 ID: 1a6f80

Slagar Male
>>
No. 862522 ID: cc5f4f

Female, Daryl
>>
No. 862523 ID: 9d4af9

we haven't seen many Female salikai, have we? How about >>862510 this name.
>>
No. 862524 ID: 5db0a7

>>862518

Seconded.
>>
No. 862526 ID: f25286

Sarinus, Female
>>
No. 862527 ID: c88e6d

>>862505
Aiaka Vevo, Female.
>>
No. 862532 ID: 2aba49

>>862518
this
>>
No. 862535 ID: 4ee93b

>>862518
This is good.
>>
No. 862539 ID: 91ee5f

>>862518
This.
>>
No. 862544 ID: ad51b8

Sisirri Isukkoa

Female.

you know I don't think we've ever actually seen a female Salikai
>>
No. 862546 ID: 10c408

>>862544
Yes we have. There was Vanski's niece, Insaltsi, near the end of penn quest.
>>
No. 862547 ID: 10c408

Also voting for female and sisirri isukkoa
>>
No. 862573 ID: 7c55ee
File 151711708182.png - (94.59KB , 800x600 , salq-10.png )
862573

I am Sisirri Issukoa.

Okay. Okay. Everything hurts, but if everything hurts, this means I still have everything.
No lost claws, no lost limbs, everything is as it was.
Elements of the laboratory clearly came with me, which was never supposed to happen.
No sign of the satellite capsules, so the arkots are lost at best.

Air is breathable. Rain isn't burning me. I assumed far too much but I don't have proper testing equipment.

I'm in what looks to be a crater, but less concave. The base is flat, and the surrounding earth... It's as if a cylinder was pressed into the ground.

Perhaps the artifact wasn't a simple teleporter like I assumed. It also clearly wasn't indestructible.
>>
No. 862574 ID: 7c55ee
File 151711709845.png - (75.04KB , 800x600 , salq-11.png )
862574

I am exhausted. Muscles I didn't even know I had feel torn and bruised.

I roll away from the artifact right as its supports give way, and it rolls onto its access hatch. If I had waited any longer to leave, I might be stuck in it forever.

Ten years of progress, gone in minutes. Seconds.
My underwater facility, gone.
The artifact I gave everything I had to obtain, broken.
Too much trust in one lead. Too many assumptions. I grew too secure, too complacent.

I curl up as more of my body reminds me I should have paid greater care to my physique during my time on the ocean floor.
>>
No. 862575 ID: 7c55ee
File 151711711176.png - (29.25KB , 800x600 , salq-12.png )
862575

...I'm not alone.

Something spindly, crystalline. Strange locomotion, almost weightless on its tentacles. Smaller than me. I remain curled up and breathe as low and as quiet as I can.

It's like nothing I've seen before. I can't even tell if it sees me, but it is definitely moving. Twitching.

"GA UBILLA.A NI.ŠE"

How can something so small be so loud? I don't recognise this language.
>>
No. 862577 ID: 3ce125

>>862575
Got any weapons? Well, first try asking it to talk in your language.
>>
No. 862578 ID: c88e6d

>>862575
Okay, it's clearly a scoutcraft of some kind. Pretend to be dead. Maybe you're lucky and it's going to assume you're a dead animal and examine your craft first.
>>
No. 862579 ID: 33cbe7

Give it a hug with all of your legs.
>>
No. 862580 ID: 3abd97

>No sign of the satellite capsules, so the arkots are lost at best.
How will you function without minions this is unacceptable. You will have to obtain minions.

>>862575
Quick, you need something to probe it with.

And you need more data to start compiling a translation!
>>
No. 862581 ID: ad51b8

well the threat level that thing is giving off is high sooooo might not be a bad idea to run... assuming you can.
>>
No. 862583 ID: 4ceb21

Aw shit, it's gaelic, hide before it uses its evil druidic magic on you!
>>
No. 862584 ID: de6d84

See if it gets closer while preparing a surprise tail slap and run
>>
No. 862588 ID: 10c408

keep an eye on it but continue resting.
>>
No. 862646 ID: 9d4af9

What kind of augmentations do you have besides your robot eye? Anything that could be useful here?
>>
No. 862655 ID: cc5f4f

Maybe it's transmitting it to some sort of implants in your ear or head.
>>
No. 862664 ID: 56fca5

Keep resting for now. Short of hurting you, let it do whatever it's going to do.
>>
No. 862668 ID: fda98a

What is the universal way of saying: i don't understand you?
>>
No. 862734 ID: 7c55ee
File 151716994748.png - (34.33KB , 800x600 , salq-13.png )
862734

The only augmentations I have are my eye and the infrastructure necessary to support it.

I'm not in any shape to run and I don't have any arkots to send to investigate it.

I already miss the value of having arkots.

I'm too vulnerable right now to risk drawing attention to myself. I can't figure it out at all.

It screeches again. "GA UBILLA.A NI.ŠE"

I act as dead as I feel, keeping my left eye on the scoutcraft.

I see the crystals jutting out of the central mass rotate and glint in such a way that it almost seems like it's looking at me--
>>
No. 862735 ID: 7c55ee
File 151716997178.png - (247.79KB , 800x600 , salq-14.png )
862735

"GIR.MULAN.AK-- ŠERDA-- PAG"

Gaaaaaah!! My eye! The biofeedback! It's like I just had a laser shoved in it!!
>>
No. 862736 ID: 7c55ee
File 151716999572.png - (79.05KB , 800x600 , salq-15.png )
862736

I try to pull myself behind the artifact. I can feel my body shake with numbness and exhaustion.

"I can't speak your language!"

The creature squats low and launches itself into the air in a way that borders on nonsensical.

It's at about this point my body concludes it can take no more, and I collapse a short distance onto the ground.

It was all so close...
>>
No. 862737 ID: 7c55ee
File 151717003793.png - (87.72KB , 800x600 , salq-16.png )
862737

"I am Imperium. This had better be important, salikai."
"I understand you're very busy--"
"You cannot begin to comprehend how small a fraction of my attention this requires. I just don't feel like you might be worth that fraction."
"As friendly as ever, I take it. Alright. Let me go over my findings."
>>
No. 862738 ID: 7c55ee
File 151717010084.png - (48.35KB , 800x600 , salq-17.png )
862738

"I believe the artifact has the capability to transport itself, and a limited amount of attached mass, across some unspecified distance."
"Do you have data to back up that assertion?"
"The specifications of the artifact, as well as its response to various forms of stimuli. Chemical, radioactive, thermal, electric. Uploading it now."
"I have consulted the Akashic Vault, at great personal expense. No jetalium constructs match the material profile you sent."
"I don't think this is belenosian regardless. I don't know what this is. I've contacted as many archaeoxenolinguists as I can get access to, and none of them have any idea what the glyphs on the display relate to."
"I have delegated several of my core processors to analysing the glyphs but the sample is just too small. Similarities to multiple scripts of many alien species, but only coincidental. I believe I understand frustration more than I have ever before."
"It's the most challenging puzzle I've ever known in my life."
"I have existed for centuries. Parts of my core exist fully immersed in the Akashic Vault. I can safely assert that this is the most challenging puzzle I have encountered in my existence."

I'm speechless, but as I move a claw in thought, I feel dull aches. This isn't right. This happened already. This must be a dream. A memory. I don't usually dream of my memories. I must have passed out. Maybe I'm being interrogated subconsciously. I need to wake--
>>
No. 862739 ID: 7c55ee
File 151717015505.png - (32.76KB , 800x600 , salq-18.png )
862739

--ghh. I don't know how long I was out for, but I don't ache as badly, and my augmentations are working again.
Still raining, though. If anything it's only raining harder.

Is that an incredibly small heef? With... white feathers? What are those eyes?

"Who are you?"

It stares back at me and tilts its head.

"Do you understand me?"
"Zu.gir.mulan.ak.eme.ak i.men"
"I don't understand you."
"Dubsar.zu i.men"
"What?"
>>
No. 862740 ID: 7c55ee
File 151717017411.png - (70.15KB , 800x600 , salq-19.png )
862740

In seconds the creature is far too close for comfort.

"Stay back!"

The not-heef breaks into a sprint. It's looking like fight or flight are my immediate options.

The ground's getting muddier, so I need to factor this into my decision.
>>
No. 862741 ID: c2051e

Kick mud into it eyes as you turn to smash it with your tail bulb.
>>
No. 862743 ID: c88e6d

>>862740
Punch it in the face, then look behind you, it might have packmates in the area.

They've attempted a mental downlink from your mind to extract information on Imperium and your organization. Dissemble your thoughts by focusing on the immediate present.

Work to neutralize, not to kill. We have too little information and require someone to interrogate to acquire language skills and technical training from.
>>
No. 862744 ID: 6780f5

You're in a straight-walled, muddy crater in pouring rain; you'll have problems getting out to begin with, much less without exposing your back to an apparent attacker. Flight is nigh-impossible. You'll have to remember the basics of CQC.
>>
No. 862745 ID: de6d84

Dig many of your claws into the ground for stability while using one to throw mud at it's face and tail-whack it against it's momentum.
>>
No. 862747 ID: 9d4af9

Pocket Sand!

...or mud in this case I guess. You're not really in a good state to fight, so just retreat and harass the not-heef until it stops coming close.
>>
No. 862748 ID: 56fca5

Use the slippery ground to trip it up. Pin it down.
>>
No. 862751 ID: 3abd97

>>862735
Damn it they better not have hacked your implant. It's hard enough to replace compromised equipment without a lab, and even worse when you have to rip it out of your own head.

>>862740
It appears to have embedded circuitry in it's feathers? Interesting.

You could rend the hostile creature into pieces with your claws, but you're dangerously low on minions and test subjects. Let's attempt to take it alive.

Butt bulb bash!
>>
No. 862752 ID: 91ee5f

I don’t remember where exactly I’ve heard this (maybe ITQ and/or BTE), but I’m pretty sure that even though a Salikai’s arms look flimsy, they’re actually surprisingly strong and can be used to rip a neumono apart into bloody pieces!

So maybe you can grab this thing and either pin it down or, if necessary, rip it apart?
>>
No. 862753 ID: 66dad9

BULB BASH IT
>>
No. 862754 ID: 10c408

Okay. Mud's going to work against you as much as him. So brace yourself with some of your claspers while he advances. When he telegraphs his punch throw mud at his face and slap him with your tail to knock him over.

Do NOT fight fair.
>>
No. 862755 ID: 3ce125

>>862740
Salikai are strong, time for some mud-wrestling.
>>
No. 862757 ID: cc5f4f

I don't think its hostile, but be wary nonetheless.
>>
No. 862758 ID: 6780f5

Oh, yeah, definitely wrestle. You've got an advantage in both number of limbs and weight. Push them down and sit on them.
>>
No. 862781 ID: ad51b8

you got more limbs and are bigger then it. Grab it's arms and legs and pin it.
>>
No. 862786 ID: 7c55ee
File 151718149632.png - (29.47KB , 800x600 , salq-20.png )
862786

There is no such thing as a fair fight for survival.

I dig up mud from the ground and fling it at the not-heef's eyes.

It stumbles and slows down as it squawks and tries to get mud of its eyes.

While it's distracted I try my best to gain solid footing and swing my body tail-first into it before it can slow to a stop.

It goes flying. I guess it was lighter than I thought.
>>
No. 862787 ID: 7c55ee
File 151718151157.png - (49.10KB , 800x600 , salq-21.png )
862787

After looking behind me to make sure I'm not surrounded, I consider the possibility my implant has been compromised.

I decide whether or not to capture or kill. By a slim margin it feels like capture would be more beneficial.

I take the offensive, run up to the staggered creature and pin it to the ground with my greater size.

"What is this place? Who are you working for? I need answers! Answers!"

I take a moment to compose myself a little better.

"I need answers. Give them to me."

No response.

"Hello?"
[Hello.]

What?
>>
No. 862788 ID: 7c55ee
File 151718152965.png - (34.06KB , 800x600 , salq-22.png )
862788

[Goodbye.]

AAAAAGGHHHH IT BURNS TURN IT OFF SENSORY OVERLOAD TURN IT OFF GRASPERS CAN'T UNCLENCH
>>
No. 862790 ID: 7c55ee
File 151718154389.png - (44.21KB , 800x600 , salq-23.png )
862790

The first opportunity. The first opportunity I get, I'm taking all these implants out.

[Still awake? Bye.]

I feel something in my head buzz and whine pathetically.

[Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye.]
Click, click, click, click.

Well, I guess using the cheapest capacitors and batteries for the implants suddenly paid off more than I could have ever imagined.

So many options of where to go from here...
>>
No. 862792 ID: c88e6d

>>862790
Rip their fingers off.
>>
No. 862793 ID: c2051e

>>862790
Well, it's not cooperating. Time to vivisect it. See how well your graspers can tear it apart.
>>
No. 862794 ID: ad51b8

"bye"
then knock the thing the fuck out
>>
No. 862795 ID: 56fca5

Yeah, pummel this thing.
>>
No. 862796 ID: 9d4af9

Lift it in the air by the throat like Darth Vader. Ask it what it did with the plans.
>>
No. 862798 ID: 7c21ff

Choke it until it passes but don't kill it. At least not yet.
>>
No. 862799 ID: 3ce125

>>862790
Time to find out more about this species. Dissect it. Remove its implants and try to figure out how they work and are attached.
>>
No. 862800 ID: 83beea

Break its legs. It's lost walking privileges.
>>
No. 862801 ID: 3abd97

Well the hack on your implant has ceased to be an issue with the batteries failed, and the floating thing has disappeared.

Time to study the subject you have acquired! We must evaluate its potential as minion, test subject, or raw materials before deciding how to proceed with it.
>>
No. 862802 ID: 6780f5

Push its beak in. See how it likes being in exceptional pain.
>>
No. 862803 ID: de6d84

Knock it unconscious with another whap to the face, let's study it.
>>
No. 862805 ID: 91ee5f

>>862790
“I was going to let you live if you answered my questions. But after that little stunt you pulled, I’ve changed my mind.”

Then use more claws than necessary to grab it, say, “Bye.” to it, then start tearing it apart.
>>
No. 862808 ID: 66dad9

It'll be better to think about all the experiments you could do to this thing as payback if you captured it and studied it instead. Tail whap it unconscious.
>>
No. 862809 ID: 3abd97

Why are we assuming the hack overload was triggered by this pathetic creature in front of us, and not the floating thing that appeared to hack our eye earlier?
>>
No. 862810 ID: 40e460

Knock it out, worst case scenario you'll get a meatshield to throw at other things later.
>>
No. 862815 ID: fe7355

Get a grip on your rage before it makes you do something dumb. Emotional behavior is what cost you your base and got you dumped wherever the fuck this is. So pull your wits together and look at this analytically, like you ought to.

First, you don't know exactly where the hack of your cybernetics came from. While it's possible it was initiated by this being, it could also have just been used as a relay by the actual hostile party or it could have been done at range without this being involved. Second, your implants were hacked like they were nothin', so presumably you're facing a adversary that is extremely skilled at hacking implants. Third, looking at the being under you, they obviously have multiple cybernetic implants. It's a possibility that those implants under the control of a remote party and this being isn't acting of its own volition, either by coercion or direct control.

Look around for any signs of that flying thing or any other watchers before continuing. Attempt to remove or break the cybernetic bands on the being's limbs and its other implants. Perhaps if you break or remove its implants it'll be able to act freely. At the least it'll be weakened greatly.

>Well, I guess using the cheapest capacitors and batteries for the implants suddenly paid off more than I could have ever imagined.
Though with your implants' power systems presumably fried by that discharge, the question rises of how you're still hearing the attacker saying "bye" and trying to trigger the sensory overload again. No juice should mean no implant functionality and no radio. Nanomachine infestation, perhaps?
>>
No. 862842 ID: 7c55ee
File 151719146916.png - (49.74KB , 800x600 , salq-24.png )
862842

This area is not suitable for anything so sophisticated as careful vivisection or dissection.

While I scream inwardly for revenge and how sweet it would be, I swallow my anger. It is difficult.

I first begin slowly squeezing a claw around its throat, as I feel the clicking in my head increase frantically. No pithy remarks, just desperate sabotage attempts. Perhaps whatever was still powered on to pass on its messages is now losing whatever remnant power it had left.

As it gets close to passing out, a few carefully applied tail beatings render it unconscious for now, whether from giving into pain or from lucky strikes. I double check that it's actually breathing and find that it is still alive.

No bindings available, I leave it lying face up next to the artifact so I can find it later.

I try to remove its bands, but my claws prove insufficient. It feels like they're anchored to the skeletal structure, and if I wanted to tear limbs off I could have started there.
>>
No. 862843 ID: 7c55ee
File 151719148943.png - (19.21KB , 800x600 , salq-25.png )
862843

Well. My left eye is now functioning as a standard eye. Better than being blind, but it's going to take at least a day for the internal reservoirs to fully recharge. It's running on its own internal power buffer now, in the eye itself, which will last days without augmenting input.

I guess I have become more reliant on augmented vision than I ever wanted to admit to myself.

Well, I've started from nothing before. First things first, shelter.

I scavenge around the crater and find remnant pieces of the room previously housing the artifact. Pillars previously holding the added components to the artifact, and sheets of metal.

I assemble the junk and debris into a lean-to just to be free of this oppressive downpour. It still feels like it's getting stronger.

I drag my recent captive into it and lean more metal onto the open face of the shelter to enclose it.

Finally. Some security. If the wind gets too much stronger this entire structure will collapse, but it should do for now.
>>
No. 862844 ID: 7c55ee
File 151719151169.png - (13.64KB , 800x600 , salq-26.png )
862844

I scooch forward to the mud so I have something to use to record my thoughts.

It's time to do some planning.

I can think of many objectives, but I need to consider how important they are and what I should do to accomplish them.
There might be other, more important obstacles I haven't considered yet. My mind's a little scrambled. Possibly physically as well as figuratively.

Goals:
- Search for missing arkot pods and other remnants that came with the artifact
- Determine what captive is
- Establish more secure base
- Remove or modify cybernetic implants to counter threat of subversion
- Get back home to somewhere I recognise to start over
- Determine if artifact can even be repaired

>>
No. 862848 ID: 130855

For starters, you need to find some equipment and resources so you don't starve and can explore farther afield from the artifact. Finding arkots would be nice, but right now you can't feed them and there's nothing for them to do.
>>
No. 862851 ID: 3ce125

>>862844
Searching for the arkot pods is time-sensitive and could give you tools and/or personnel. I think you should do that immediately. Climb up to the edge of the crater and look to see if you can find evidence of the other pods.
Establishing a secure base will be your second priority.
Once you have a base you can start interrogating and otherwise gathering data from the prisoner.

You probably don't have the tools to properly remove/modify your implants, but it is quite important. We'll have to put that off for now, but as soon as you get the tools you should do so.
Getting home or trying to repair the artifact are things you have no way of doing anytime soon.

At the moment you should be somewhat worried about the crater flooding from the rain. Make sure the captive isn't lying face-down so she won't drown in a puddle or something. Optimally you would raise up her head to give you more time to come back and grab her after you get your arkots. Maybe you can wedge her into a sitting position in a corner? Or maybe you should just carry her with you and abandon this site. You should realize at this point that she is only the first of many. If you move away from the crash site the storm might cover your tracks.

You also have to worry about food and water! You can immediately start collecting rainwater but you need something to carry it in. Food will be tricky since you don't know what things here are good to eat. Animals are probably safe, unless they're brightly colored. Are Salikai vulnerable to organic poisons or allergens or otherwise unpleasant things that could happen from eating unidentified fruit/vegetables?
>>
No. 862852 ID: 56fca5

You need to make sure that bird thing is restrained. You don't want them waking up and wandering off to whomever they work for, much less trying to kill you again.

Food and water are important to secure, as is anyone who can help you. So, look for the Akrot pods.

Fortifying your base is probably the third most important thing for you to do unless you are absolutely sure you are within walking distance of somewhere civilized. I get the impression you aren't.
>>
No. 862855 ID: 3abd97

>>862844
I think searching for arkots goes to the top of the priority list. Recovering them ups your available resource pool, and you only have so long before they wander off, starve, or get killed being idiots on their own. Recovery is time critical.
>>
No. 862872 ID: c88e6d

>>862844
Acquiring the Arkot Pods is Priority 1. They are an incredibly useful laborforce, breed explosively, and are controllable. They are also probably edible in case of an emergency.

Priority 2 is figuring out what our captive is.

Priority 3 is a more secure base.

Priority 4 is disabling any input/output features on our cybernetics, or figuring out how to completely disable them if that doesn't work.

Priority five is repairing the Artifact,
and Priority six is figuring out how to get back. Let's face it, we got lucky the artifact didn't just vaporize us. We need far more careful experimentation and testing with its technology before we try THAT again.
>>
No. 862880 ID: 33cbe7

>Establish more secure base
>Remove or modify cybernetic implants to counter threat of subversion
>Dissect captive for analysis
>locate arkot pods
>attempt artifact repairs
>>
No. 862893 ID: 7c55ee
File 151720406151.png - (15.32KB , 800x600 , salq-27.png )
862893

Revised Goals:

HIGH PRIORITY
- Search for missing arkot pods/other salvageable remnants that came with the artifact
- Secure food and water supplies
- Restrain captive
- Acquire equipment and resources in general
- Establish more secure base

LOW PRIORITY

- Determine what captive is
- Remove or modify cybernetic implants to counter threat of subversion
- Determine if artifact can even be repaired


This crater could well flood, especially given its unusual planar shape. It's also exposed on all sides and it's likely that small skittering crystal thing has reported my presence at this point. The only thing I'm attached to here is the artifact, but it's going to be difficult for anyone to take from here. I ball up some mud as tightly as I can pack it and make a rudimentary pillow to buy time for the captive not to drown while I'm gone.

I used to be chastised for being too friendly to prisoners by... certain individuals I used to be in contact with, but both workers and test subjects alike need to be kept in good condition to be worth anything.

Also, with regards to food, salikai and arkot alike prefer vegetation and fruits. Both salikai and arkot can eat meat, if it absolutely comes down to it, but this is a dire last resort. I hate it, personally. We're also very resistant to poisons from our homeworld but this means nothing on an alien planet. It's going to require better equipment than I have to test if anything is safe to eat.
>>
No. 862894 ID: 7c55ee
File 151720407497.png - (40.37KB , 800x600 , salq-28.png )
862894

I can't build a new base by myself. There was a reason I even wanted to make sure I had at least a few clawfuls of arkots in the first place.

Time to look for them. I find the most concave piece of shrapnel I can find and flip it up to gather any rainwater I can.

I scout out the edges of the crater in the torrential rain. It's getting harder and harder to see. My augmented eye could screen out this rain, but not without proper power.

I find one of the satellite pods wedged into... how did it end up wedged into the ground? The universe finds new ways to surprise and disappoint me.

I start excavating it, digging through mud to see if I can find any signs of the entrance hatch--
>>
No. 862895 ID: 7c55ee
File 151720408717.png - (47.72KB , 800x600 , salq-29.png )
862895

pop

--or the arkot can apparently leave the pod by herself, I guess.

She looks up at the rain and frowns. Before she has a chance to rethink things and get back in the pod I bodily pull her out and set her on the ground.

I recognise the fabric band around her.

"Number 6?"

The arkot nods and salutes.

"Good. You always were one of the least disappointing. The other pods like the pod you came in are scattered all across this crater. Perhaps even further afield."

Number 6 waves her arms at me, and points at her open mouth.

"We don't have any food. Maybe you can work on that instead. Find whatever looks edible, bring it over there." I point to the shelter. "If you lose sight of the crater, come back immediately. Failure to return will result in death. Not from me, you understand. This is a hostile world. If you go too far from me, you will die. Understand?"

Number 6 nods. I've given her this talk before, and I think, but I can't know for sure, that she understands I'm explaining reality, and not just threatening her. She was always good at keeping other arkots in line when they wouldn't listen to me about the airlocks leading to certain death by drowning.

I lost at least fifteen arkots until they finally learned that airlocks weren't like normal doors. You just can't save them from themselves sometimes. I dread to think how wild arkot must live.

"Also, if you can remember wherever you found--"

Number 6 nods and runs off.

...back to looking for other arkot, I suppose.
>>
No. 862896 ID: 7c55ee
File 151720410442.png - (16.39KB , 800x600 , salq-30.png )
862896

I find another arkot pod, and...

...

...one and a half arkot recovered.

I'm just... going to put this back in the pod. If I need it later.

The eyes. The eyes are still moving. The eyes are still moving.
>>
No. 862897 ID: 7c55ee
File 151720412615.png - (27.38KB , 800x600 , salq-31.png )
862897

SLAM

Well that's unfortunately not something I can fix at present so without further hesistation or further delay let's look for more pods immediately now

I look for other pods in the crater and find only one more.

Expecting the worst, I open it up.

Hm. Nope. Just a sleeping arkot. One I don't recognise. Probably fell asleep in this pod in the place of one of my claw-picked elite arkot squad. Of course.

Out it comes. It is incredibly unhappy to be woken up and taken out of its safe, secure, warm pod into the freezing rain, but it deserves it. Its writhing doesn't help it escape my claws.

"Listen. Arkot. This is the new base." I point to the shelter. "New base. New home. Go there and make sure the prisoner inside does not escape."

The arkot stares at me, then awkwardly runs off to the shelter.

"If it escapes, you're on the menu for the rest of us!" I shout after it. A former colleague of mine told me arkots respond better to threats than compliments, and it always worked before.

...

I suddenly realise I'm incredibly hungry. I don't really know how I ignored it for so long.
>>
No. 862898 ID: 3ce125

>>862897
Well look around. Can you spot a forest or any kind of vegetation at all really?
>>
No. 862899 ID: 83beea

Avoid eating the arkots. Make a mental note to bang #6 later.
>>
No. 862900 ID: 130855

The area around seems pretty desolate, but maybe you can spot something if you climb on top of your shelter (assuming the shelter can support your weight). Shame your vision augment's on the fritz right now.
>>
No. 862901 ID: c2051e

Time to see if your prisoner is edible.
>>
No. 862906 ID: de6d84

Worst case scenario, you could eat the prisoner or even the half-torn arkot.

Return to your two other arkots and have them stack up on your head while finding the highest spot nearby. See if the arkots can see any potential area worth visiting in the distances.
>>
No. 862908 ID: c88e6d

>>862906
Do not eat the arkot, it's probably been exposed to some cosmic horror since it's still alive after all this.

Seek vegetation, though I'm starting to suspect this region at least is Post Industrial and extremely lacking in wild vegetation.
>>
No. 862929 ID: 16ae2c

Could the half gone arkot be the one that was struggling to get in its pod while you were escaping the flood?
Check the arkot pods to see if they stored anything with them.
>>
No. 862930 ID: 3ce125

Oh wait you just ordered one of your arkots to bring food back to base. Maybe she succeeded? Go check before you wander around on your own.
>>
No. 862939 ID: 91ee5f

Weren’t there 4 pods, >>862498?

You’ve only found 3, so there should be 1 more somewhere around here. Hopefully it’s a full Arkot and not another half Arkot.
>>
No. 862945 ID: fda98a

Keep looking for pods, if you don't find any, look for food, or whatever looks edible.
>>
No. 862950 ID: 33cbe7

>>862908
So has she, it makes little difference in the end. Besides, we have half an arkot sitting around being useless.
>>
No. 862973 ID: d36af7

Peek over the rim of the crater and see if there's grass or trees or any other signs of potentially edible plant life.

If you do end up resorting to cannibalism, the half-arkot should probably be eaten before either of the whole ones, since it's the least likely to be useful for anything else.
>>
No. 862988 ID: 3ae3fd

>>862973
Half-arkot is highly likely to be useful for SCIENCE! Figuring out what exactly went wrong there would say much about the operation of the device.
>>
No. 862991 ID: 56fca5

I'm not exactly sure what you can do other than keep searching. You'll find Arkots or food and that's what you need right now.

If you feel you've searched enough yourself, you can fall back on whatever #6 finds. Maybe make sure the new one isn't unbinding the captive or anything dumb like that.
>>
No. 863002 ID: 3d2d5f

>One struggles to get into a satellite pod. Justifiable loss; have to go now.
>...one and a half arkot recovered.
Cause and effect.

Interesting that she's horrified by that. Different mindset than we're used to.

>I suddenly realise I'm incredibly hungry. I don't really know how I ignored it for so long.
Is there any vegetation here?

Perhaps standing on something for a better vantage point, or rearing up and balancing on your tail, is called for in order to get a better view of your surroundings.
>>
No. 863010 ID: 91ee5f

>>862988
>Figuring out what exactly went wrong there would say much about the operation of the device.
That’s easy. Look here: >>862498 . You see the Arkot with its legs sticking out of its pod? That’s the half Arkot.
>>
No. 863019 ID: 12b116

we can eat the half an arkot if it comes down to it. See if the prisoner has got anything on it that we can eat. We know the arkot isn't poison, though.
>>
No. 863049 ID: 3ce125

The prisoner arrived naked and without a vehicle. That at least implies there is access to food and shelter within walking distance.
Unless these jerks can teleport, anyway.
>>
No. 863101 ID: 3ae3fd

The arkots, Salikai, and tentacle horror(Unless it is a vehicle) have arrived naked and without a vehicle or supplies. No, wait, 6 isn't naked, good reliable 6! But the prisoner could have been brought here by some freak effect of the device, or by some parallel causality or something. It could be as lost as we are. Still, given that the tentacle horror buzzed our implants, and then the beaky bandit was there when we awoke, it was likely aboard the tentacle horror and came out after it thought we had been subdued.
There might be a betentacled transporter hidden in the bushes, laden with supplies and alien technology, into which a young arkot could just barely squeeze. Assuming that the bird brain was stupid enough to attack someone ten times their size with no support, which seems to be a solid assumption, they probably just abandoned their vehicle nearby...
>>
No. 863145 ID: cf24af
File 151728341742.png - (9.25KB , 800x600 , salq-32.png )
863145

>Make a mental note to bang #6 later.

...

I think that discharge may have actually caused brain damage.
>>
No. 863146 ID: cf24af
File 151728344177.png - (44.36KB , 800x600 , salq-33.png )
863146

Four pods were connected to the artifact. However, there were six pods in total in that room. I was maybe a day away from connecting the last two.

If any arkots leapt into those pods, there's every chance they came with the artifact. I may even have found those ones already.

While I've spent a lot of time searching since tasking her, I doubt #6 will have returned that quickly--

Belay that thought. It's nice to be pleasantly surprised, for a change.
>>
No. 863147 ID: cf24af
File 151728347017.png - (18.64KB , 800x600 , salq-34.png )
863147

"Where did you find that?"

#6 tilts her head in the direction of the shelter.

"...Those weren't in the shelter. There's only a prisoner and, if I'm lucky, an arkot guarding it."

#6 shakes her head and shakes the pile of fruit she's carrying. #6 has been mute ever since her hatching, and it's times like this where it becomes an obstacle.
There have been many times it's been advantageous, however.
A silent arkot is much better in lower profile roles. And they listen much, much more readily.

"I don't follow."

#6 walks over to the shelter, beckoning me to follow. A little more literal a response than I was expecting. When we reach the shelter, she looks around inside the shelter, and dumps the fruit near a corner of the metal I'm using for flooring, taking care not to let it fall in the mud. I suppose all but the dumbest arkots try to keep mud away from their food.

I catch a fruit she throws to me as she ravenously begins eating.
"Stop. We don't know if it's toxic--"
#6 shakes her head vigorously and goes back to eating.

The problem, I realise, is thinking of an arkot as smarter than the rest of their kind still doesn't stop them being an arkot.

The other arkot guarding the prisoner runs over to grab a fruit and resumes guard duty, which appears to translate into "sitting next to the prisoner".
>>
No. 863148 ID: cf24af
File 151728349197.png - (10.63KB , 800x600 , salq-35.png )
863148

I can't fault the arkots. I'm finding hunger to be a far more compelling voice than reason the longer I stare at this fruit.

I split it open with my claws to inspect it. The skin is layered, shedding easily, giving way to a more homogenous flesh with an incredibly sweet fragrance.

My stomach reminds me it exists with more urgency.

I think about all the varieties of toxins I'm aware of that are completely odorless and tasteless.

I think about how juicy the flesh of this fruit looks.

Instinct and reason wage war as the fruit halves begin to shake in my claws. I didn't realise how hungry I was and it's almost overwhelming me.
>>
No. 863149 ID: cf24af
File 151728353879.png - (37.51KB , 800x600 , salq-36.png )
863149

But ultimately, reason wins. I set the two halves of the fruit on the floor and watch #6 intently as she moves onto her third fruit.

"Where did you find these?"

#6 pauses, swallows, and runs out of the shelter, squeezing through the exit gap without issue as I carefully move and replace the metal sheet acting as door and wall.

The crater wall is tough but not impossible to surmount.

...Odd. There appears to be some kind of watch post or bunker here, the door open. I can see an open container of the fruits #6 found and brought back.

Let's stop and consider this. An unlocked outpost, with full supplies, clearly recently abandoned. What could possibly happen such that anyone would evacuate so quickly?

It could be the crater. Or it could be that this is a trap--
>>
No. 863150 ID: cf24af
File 151728357280.png - (51.39KB , 800x600 , salq-37.png )
863150

"GET ON THE GROUND! GET ON THE FUCKING GROUND!"

HOW?! HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE NEUMONO NEUMONO ARE HERE NO NO NO NO NO

"NOW! NOW, YOU BIG GREEN FUCKER! LEKKA, TAKE OUT THE ARKOT!"
"It's an arkot and it's not even armed--"
"THEY HAVE TEETH, FUCKING SHOOT IT!"

A boot and then a gun are pressed to my head.
>>
No. 863151 ID: cf24af
File 151728360014.png - (66.58KB , 800x600 , salq-38.png )
863151

"I--"
"NO TALKING, WORM!"

Huaoooof, that was a forceful kick to my side.

"Ekasarra, restraints."
"Fuck, this many arms, wouldn't it be easier to just break them off? One by one? Slowly?"

"You need me," I gasp.

The faceless helmets turn to each other wordlessly as they no doubt communicate in their wretched silent emotion cloud.

"You'd have shot me already if you didn't."
"Why, after all you've done, do you think you deserve a quick death?"

All I've done? All I've done?! Neumono terrify me, I don't even know what provoked them to come after me!!

"Because I know, and you know, that if you ever want to see your homes again, you need me-- HRFFAA!"

I think I heard something in my left eye crack
>>
No. 863152 ID: cf24af
File 151728363795.png - (72.96KB , 800x600 , salq-39.png )
863152

One of the neumono takes their helmet as one keeps their boot on my face. I don't resist being systematically restrained, grasper pair by grasper pair.

Neumono.
Ancestral enemy.
Systematically wiping out salikai one by one.
Incredibly hard to kill.
High pain tolerance.
Few weakpoints that immediately down them.
Incredible biological redundancy.
Able to communicate intent between themselves silently and rapidly.

If salikai are creatures of reason, neumono are creatures of wrath. Unyielding, unstoppable wrath.
I have never known neumono to know mercy to salikai.

They terrify me. But so far, I am holding it together.

"Sisirri, right? My name is Lekka. Acting command of the Ashes Astra."
Ashes Astra is a name that means nothing to me. "When have our names ever mattered to you beyond 'salikai'?"
"Send your arkot back."

I'm incredibly confused. If they thought she was a threat they'd have shot her already. "...Number six, fall back to base."
"Thanks," says Lekka.

I feel my last pair of graspers bound.
"That's the last pair of weird grabby claws," says the neumono I can't see.

Lekka nods and looks directly into my eyes. She holds out what looks to be an arkot skull. And crushes it beyond recognition in one uninterrupted fist clench.

"There were a dozen of us. There are three of us now. Where are they?"
"I don't know--"

AGH THAT WAS DEFINITELY A CRACK

"*cough* If you want me to answer your questions could you maybe stop trying to puncture my lungs with my own ribs?"
"That's enough for now, Kan."
"Lekka, it's a salikai--"
"That's enough. So. Sisirri. Where are our missing hivemates?"

Hivemates. Oh no no no no no no NO if there is one thing I understand about neumono it is the significance of this word to them

"I don't know!"
"Okay, Kan. You can go back to beating it now until it remembers."

Whatever these restraints are made of are surprisingly tougher than I was expecting.

I desperately try to recall the events immediately prior to arriving here.
>>
No. 863153 ID: cf24af
File 151728369575.png - (65.31KB , 800x600 , salq-40.png )
863153

Roughly seven days ago

"...but maybe it would be better fitted over here."
"The artifact, Sisirri. The artifact. I am asking you about the artifact. THE ARTIFACT."
"Yes, and I'm explaining the test harness--"
"Is the artifact operational? Have you activated it? These are simple yes or no questions, Sisirri. Salikai are creatures of reason. Surely you can comprehend and answer a simple yes or no question."
"No, but--"
"That will be all."
"The plan is to begin testing-- Imperium?"
>>
No. 863154 ID: cf24af
File 151728374024.png - (58.12KB , 800x600 , salq-41.png )
863154

Roughly two days ago

"Imperium, what's going on? Why are half the facility systems locking me out of them?"
"You have been using designs I have loaned to you. You cease to serve a purpose for me. There were additional, secondary uses for you, but after thorough inspection of your biological profile you are inadequate for them, and as a result, this operation must terminate. I am simply taking back what has been given."
"What?? Is it a funding issue? I have some more avenues I haven't tested yet, I have other contacts, I can--"
"I believe you will find it difficult to secure further resources when it is revealed that an Imperium core lies directly underneath your aquatic laboratory. A laboratory owned, designed, and operated by a salikai. The same salikai that now owns an intergalactic mystery artifact weapon with the potential to shatter star systems. What a pity. I wonder who will get to you first in this race."
"W-what? What?! There's no weapon or AI core here!! I don't understand, I've been nothing but compliant, you can't do this to me! I've bled for this project, Imperium, I've spent ten years of my life working towards this!"
"There is a particular aphorism I am quite fond of in moments such as these. Let me relay it to you. 'The devil always gets his due.' You understood the risks of working with me, the most feared and hated intelligence in the sector, and I'm surprised you weren't the one to betray me first. I had such high expectations for your species. I will find a new candidate for ascension in time. Sapient species are a surprisingly numerous resource in this region of space."
"No! Don't send that transmission! DON'T SEND IT!!"
"It was sent five days ago, Sisirri. I've been observing its impact on the networks across systems. I would describe it as 'emotionally charged'. Goodbye."
"No! NO! IMPERIUM! IMPERIUM, YOU CAN STOP THIS! I'LL DO ANYTHING! IMPERIUM!! YOU CAN'T LOCK ME INTO MY OWN FACILITY!!"
>>
No. 863155 ID: cf24af
File 151728378843.png - (95.16KB , 800x600 , salq-42.png )
863155

Twenty minutes before facility destruction

"Hey. Salikai. I know you're watching me, from whatever panic room you have in this place. You can't hide forever, monster. We're coming for you."

"Core breach immninent."

they're coming for me they're coming for me i'm losing every arkot i have nothing works anymore and they're coming for me what do I even have left
>>
No. 863156 ID: cf24af
File 151728382108.png - (55.97KB , 800x600 , salq-43.png )
863156

...nothing about missing hivemates. It's incredibly likely they perished in the facility's pointless, wasteful destruction or the events leading up to it.

They won't accept that answer. It won't fit their narrative. They will refuse to believe they were wrong or acted on misinformation.

"Do you know how many hivemates we've already lost to salikai, Sisirri?"

I hear the click and hiss of energy weapons being primed.

"Can you even understand what it's like to lose just one?"

More guns pointed at my face.

"Do you understand how it feels to feel them die in front of you, to hear their empathy scream and fade to nothing while salikai stand and take notes?"

There's no answer to this question. This is a rhetorical question. They're toying with me before killing me.

"Answer me, salikai."
>>
No. 863157 ID: c2051e

Don't give it the satisfaction. Just do nothing.
>>
No. 863158 ID: 83beea

"No. I'm sorry. I don't."

If nothing else, you can make them feel potentially a shred of empathy for you or salikai in general before they shoot you. Maybe they'll only shoot you a little bit and you can try to patch yourself up after they leave you for dead.
>>
No. 863159 ID: 10c408

"Do you know what it's being hunted and tortured by creatures stronger than you for all the wrong reasons?"

"Kill me or continue shaming your dead, barbaric cur!"
>>
No. 863161 ID: 3abd97

>>863156
As I recall, you attacked me, when I was previously killing zero neumono because your wretched species does not live underwater!
>>
No. 863162 ID: 86eb65

Fuck you. I never did anything to your hivemates. I don't even know who you are.
>>
No. 863171 ID: de6d84

You attacked me though.
>>
No. 863173 ID: 33cbe7

I wouldn't know, the experiment is still ongoing!
>>
No. 863183 ID: c88e6d

>>863156
"Do you know what it's like to be hunted by psychopathic psychic murderers because of your species?"
>>
No. 863190 ID: 91ee5f

>>863156
“You want to know the truth?! The truth is I’m terrified of your kind! I’ve spent my whole life avoiding neumono! You’re the first neumono I’ve ever met in my life!”

And then start crying because holy shit you might die and there’s a gun in your face and this is a very scary situation!
>>
No. 863199 ID: 130855

Do you understand how it feels to be hunted across the ends of the earth by creatures you know only from stories of violence? Fuck you, do it already.
>>
No. 863200 ID: 3ae3fd

Oh, there's really no way out of this... The whole project, there won't be anything left...
"Please, just don't hurt Six. She's mute and she wears a sash and I'm sure she'll be good..." *whimper* "I don't want to die... not like this... not after..."
>>
No. 863201 ID: 3ce125

Make a last request: you want food. It sucks to die on an empty stomach.
>>
No. 863205 ID: b32864

“You were tricked”

“I tend to find the biological fields of science more trouble then they’re worth so I stay away from it while I can. I worked on machines for an individual named Imperum, who 7 days ago told the galaxy at large that I held a super weapons that could take out entire star systems, I did not, then 2 days ago told me what he did after trapping me in my own base. I have no idea where your hive mates are but I can tell you that if they said I was responsible for it then you have been tricked the same way I have been betrayed. After all what better way to remove a lose end like myself then sending a bunch of pissed off neumono after her?”


Yeah, idea here is they don’t care for a damn thing we have to say and only want to hear one thing. Here’s hoping that by dropping our boss’s “name” they keep us alive longer in an attempt to learn more about him giving us more time to figure out how to get out of this mess, though honestly I think these guys might just have been right on your ass and when you did whatever you did to end up here they were close enough to get taken along for the ride... unless of course they’re asking where they buddies from the raid went off to and not something that happened before they sacked your base, In that case, uhhh hopefully by being so wrong about not knowing what the fuck they’re talking about it will buy us more time? Yeah we’re up shit’s creak right now
>>
No. 863208 ID: fda98a

OH BOY, you are in the most horrible pickle you could have gotten into. Well, the only think you can do here is say the truth, even if they don't believe you, any other option results on death.
If they are goin to kill you what ever you do or say, ask them to do you and themselfs a favor: destroy, or try, to destoy that IMPERIOUM fucker, it is responsible for all this.
>>
No. 863216 ID: 80a84b

Was there even any neumono in your lab? If not, simply say so. Then add that you were too busy running away to think about anyone else, so how would you know about the hivemates?
>>
No. 863244 ID: 33430a

Maybe your prisoner knows something about where their hivemates are, might take their attention off you for a bit.
>>
No. 863247 ID: d36af7

"I can show you where that 'superweapon' is. It won't work anymore. I used it to run away, and broke it in the process. All I have left is that, two and a half arkots, one alien prisoner (who's been treated as well as I could arrange, thank you), my own body, and a flimsy metal box under which to hide from the rain. I have never hurt any neumono who were not actively attempting to kill me at the time, and even then it has always been my policy to retreat first when possible."
>>
No. 863248 ID: 56fca5

Tell them the transmission was a trap set for you. Your testing had nothing to do with weaponry or neumono. You had nothing to do with the core failure and know nothing of the neumono that were left inside.

Tell them how each loss of your kin feels when there are maybe only dozens left. How it feels as a species to be alone and dying, hunted by creatures you had nothing to do with.
>>
No. 863253 ID: 0d45a9

I cannot. Without the link your kind shares I literally cannot, and trying to make it sound like I do would be wrong, but I had no part in the death of your hivemates. Why would I risk bringing hell down upon myself when I am terrified of your kind?

I don't know the events from your perspective, but all I was working on was a glorified teleporter! Imperium locked me inside my own base and put out that story about it being a superweapon. I'd barely figured it out in time to escape and even then it's taken me to who knows where in the galaxy.
>>
No. 863286 ID: cf24af
File 151732954796.png - (51.33KB , 800x600 , salq-44.png )
863286

"No. I'm sorry. I don't. I can't. You know I can't. I don't have the link your kind does."

The Lekka neumono looks to be slightly less angry. I'm not sure. I can't read alien emotions very well.

"What do you value, salikai?"
"I haven't done anything to your hivemates, I haven't killed any neumono, I went underwater to be the one place neumono aren't to be away from you terrifying telepathic murderers--"
"Answer the question."
"Acquisition of knowledge. Safety. Security. Right now, food, I'm starving. If you want leverage, there's your best option."
"The arkot with the sash?"
"What about her?"
"Do you value the arkot?"

I hesitate.

"I've done nothing to your hivemates, you attacked me on complete lies, if you want to see the 'superweapon' it's in that crater and I used it to run away and it's broken, you've taken everything from me--"
"Not everything. Kan, clear a path to the signal. Ekasarra, if you see that arkot again, shoot to kill."
"Killing her serves no purpose," I gasp. "You've wasted so much effort and destroyed so much already, what's one arkot worth?"
"I don't know, salikai. Seems to be worth more to you than most of them."
"The transmission was a trap, neumono! You've all been deceived by something a lot worse than a salikai!"

Lekka pauses.

"Don't shoot the arkot yet. Explain, Sisirri."
"Are you fucking SERIOUS?" shouts the neumono I believe is named Kan. "You're LISTENING TO IT?!"
"The only intel we had on the facility that turned out to be accurate was the layout. Everything else was wrong. This doesn't feel like a regular salikai hunt."
"Who cares if someone framed it? Only good snake's a dead snake."
"We can't get answers out of a dead body, Kan."

I cough up blood.

My sudden awareness of my mortality makes my head swim as I try to keep my coherence. "Do you... do you understand how it feels to watch my kin disappear one by one, to be one of a species hunted to extinction? I can't say I understand what it is like to lose hivemates, but I've lost every family tie I've had." Only one to neumono, but if I'm making an emotional plea, I suspect that part is best left omitted.
>>
No. 863287 ID: cf24af
File 151732955842.png - (182.83KB , 800x600 , salq-45.png )
863287

whhhssshKRAKOOM

"Path cleared, Lekka."

That's... that's definitely not typical ordnance. Who are these neumono and where did they get all of their equipment from? I doubt neumono minds are rational enough to develop it.

"Good work, Kan. Sisirri, you know nothing of being hunted."
"My entire life has been spent hiding and running." All of it. A waste of time. Another salikai life hatched in darkness and ended without dignity. That's all I amounted to. "Just get on with it. If I get any last requests, spare the arkots left, and tell everyone that Imperium must be destroyed."

Lekka lowers her weapon. "Imperium?"
Ekasarra paces around to face me. "Imperium, huh? What do you know about Imperium?"
"Imperium-- *cough cough*-- Imperium is a threat to salikai and neumono alike. You were manipulated by it into attacking me. Consider it responsible for any losses."
"Imperium is a myth," says Ekasarra. "No single AI could be as vast or do all the things attributed to it. It's a story that you salikai seem to have taken at face value."
"Imperium lives. It locked me in my own facility at the bottom of an ocean, and claimed a transportation device to be a superweapon. One that's taken us all far away from anyone we could warn. We've all been manipulated by it and it's the greatest existential threat to everything else I can think of."

Lekka stares at the sky, clenching her fists so tightly it seems like the armor might break from the pressure. The other neumono flinch away from her, but I have no clue why.

"Skies strike me dead for this day I take the word of a salikai to be truth." She spits the word more than ever before. "Earth swallow me for feeling sympathy for one."
"Lekka?? Are you serious?!"
"To my own disappointment, yes."
"Remember Astra--"
"Hidira is dead, and I know you want to kill her over and over again, but she's dead, and this isn't Hidira."
"So it's weak and pathetic now. If we let it live, how many millions, how many billions will suffer later in its vile schemes?"

Hidira was my mother...
>>
No. 863288 ID: cf24af
File 151732957828.png - (48.87KB , 800x600 , salq-46.png )
863288

Fourteen years ago

"You called me?"
"You disgust me, Sisirri."
"I don't understand, mother."
"I have given you every opportunity for improvement and you decline as though life as a base animal is an existence worth pursuing."
"I-- I don't think you're well, mother. This, it, it isn't progress, it looks like sickness."
"Sickness is a property of flesh. I will rid myself of such weaknesses in time. I could understand your reluctance while your body physically matured. Constant replacement would be costly and unnecessary. Yet I present the opportunity to you at great cost to myself and you deny every gift I offer you."
"I don't need them. You don't need them."
"If you will not see eye to eye on this matter, perhaps your eyes are to blame."
"I don't--"
>>
No. 863289 ID: cf24af
File 151732958932.png - (47.02KB , 800x600 , salq-47.png )
863289

"AAAAGH!! AAAAGGHH!! AAAAAAGGGNNNNN!!"
"Hold still. Let me guide you to the first step on the path of ascension."
"GET AWAY FROM ME! GET-- GET AWAY--"
"Stop resisting. I need the socket facing me."
>>
No. 863291 ID: cf24af
File 151732981907.png - (92.47KB , 800x600 , salq-48.png )
863291

i fucked up, reposted

...and so I suppose that's two family ties lost to neumono now.
No. No, her sickness consumed that tie long before.
It is not a stretch of the imagination to consider what she did to earn such passionate hatred.
But I had some hope that... nevermind.

I feel... a strange, complex mixture of emotions I can't seem to analyse and dissect.
Mostly nausea.
But that might be from the internal bleeding.

"Hey, salikai," says Kan. "You all know each other, right. Hidira ring any bells? Maybe you knew her as the Splicer? Hello? Suddenly feeling less talkative?"
"You did kick it pretty hard," says Ekasarra.
"Lekka, please tell me we aren't going to try and play doctor to a salikai or I might have to desert out of principle."
>>
No. 863293 ID: 2fe26a

You never knew her personally. That much is true.
>>
No. 863296 ID: 86eb65

Yeah I knew her. Last time we met she gouged out my eye and tried to "upgrade" me. I fled and never looked back.

Her obsession drove her mad and who knows what horrible stuff she would have done if you had not killed her.
>>
No. 863297 ID: 56fca5

Tell the full truth. And if she is really dead, it can only be an improvement.
>>
No. 863298 ID: 3d2d5f

These neumono are really getting in the way of base construction.

And what's wrong with arkots wearing sashes you have to tell them appart somehow.

>You all know each other, right.
Yes of course all salikai know each other, all members of a race know each other. Especially when we're secretive, paranoid and live in hiding.

Perhaps we can discuss my favorite neumono celebrities too? I'm sure you must know them. Lukratsa's films are a particular favorite.
>>
No. 863299 ID: fda98a

I think you can actually thank them for destroying of her. She was far gone to be even considered an normal living being. She was the worst representation of a salikai.
>>
No. 863303 ID: 915c50

She’s the reason I only have one eye
>>
No. 863311 ID: bfdaf0

"Enough to know Hidira was dead long before you killed her. What was left... took my eye."
>>
No. 863315 ID: 0d45a9

Honesty has worked so far, but you should be careful about your wording, as saying you're the daughter of the one who in all likelihood was the one who tortured their hive is liable to cause a emotional response. Mentioning that she forcibly replaced your eye and/or the fact that she stopped being your mother when she did so may mitigate that.

We need to appear useful or as a asset to them, so they don't just kill us after they've got all the info they want. Neumono go rogue when they're away from their hive for too long, and that's something they see as bad right? That's your angle, they'll want to return home / to their hive to prevent that, and as the one who knows the most about that device you're the best person to repair it.
>>
No. 863319 ID: c88e6d

>>863291
"Thank you for killing her. She's the one who took my eye.
>>
No. 863320 ID: e1c8f7

A monster. Nothing more or less. She took my eye and mother away from me.

Distance yourself from the fact she was your mother.
>>
No. 863333 ID: 10c408

>>863311
Seconding this.
>>
No. 863337 ID: 6780f5

Say that she died long before they got to her. That what was left of her gouged out your eye in an attempt to "improve you" and bring you to the same level of lifelessness. Do volunteer the fact that she was your mother after you've made certain that you're actually glad she was put out of her misery.
>>
No. 863349 ID: cf24af
File 151735013749.png - (103.57KB , 800x600 , salq-49.png )
863349

"Hidira was dead long before you killed her. The remnant took my original eye and my mother from me."
"Huh. Sounds like we did you a favour, then."

If she was the way she was when I first hatched I would be gladly rid of her.
My only disappointment would be not getting to see it happen.

But. Describing her as taking my mother from me is not inaccurate.

Things used to be different.

And I don't know why they changed.
>>
No. 863350 ID: cf24af
File 151735015243.png - (187.91KB , 800x600 , salq-50.png )
863350

The nauseous feeling lingers.

I thought I could get her back. That's no longer possible.
It was likely never possible.
But living without hope in this chaotic, disorganised, hostile universe is to invite... well... that sort of madness.

"A favour. Something like that," I half-mumble.

It hurts. It hurts like a fresh wound to lose her a second time.
Maybe Imperium was right. Maybe I'm not as rational a creature as I would like to think.

I consider snapping at them about all salikai knowing each other, or telling them that I'm the daughter of someone they clearly despised.
I decide against both of these at this point.

"You need me," I say again, weakly. "To fix the device. To go home to your hive."
"Our hive is dead," says Lekka, coldly.
"To what remains."
"We were the dying embers of the Astra hive. And now, we're the last wisps of smoke of those embers."

I cough up more blood. "I suppose that makes two of us."

I never expected to die peacefully, few salikai ever get that privilege, but I had better hopes than dying tied up in the mud at the mercy of neumono.

Here lies Sisirri Issukoa, 149 - 178 AW. Last of the Issukoa line. May it rot and perish into obscurity.
>>
No. 863351 ID: cf24af
File 151735016715.png - (21.05KB , 800x600 , salq-51.png )
863351

I had the skills to bring her back. I had ten years to try.
>>
No. 863352 ID: cf24af
File 151735019714.png - (190.47KB , 800x600 , salq-52.png )
863352

Well, that was a surprisingly refreshing rest!

I don't remember my bed being quite so slushy, but--

Wait. Slushy. I've never described a bed like that before in my life, where am I--
>>
No. 863356 ID: cf24af
File 151735083031.png - (78.66KB , 800x600 , salq-53.png )
863356

Uh. Uhhh.

There's... something red and angular in the room with me.
Looks like someone enlarged an arkot.

"როგორც ჩანს, ჩვენი მოულოდნელი პაციენტი იღვიძებს."

I struggle to open my eyes, for some reason.

"ჩვენ ვიცით, რა ჯავშანტექნიკა ჯერ კიდევ ამბობს, რომ ეს საფრთხეა, მაგრამ ეს არ არის საშიში," says... some voice, somewhere.
"მე არ ვარ დარწმუნებული, რა არის ეს, მაგრამ ჩვენ უნდა ვიყოთ ნეიტრალური. მე მაინც არ მგონია, რომ რომელიმე მათგანი აქ ცხოვრობს."
"საიდან ვიცით, თუ შევხვდებით მოსახლეობას?"
"ჩვენ არ."

"...ozaloki af rust af medik, ozaloki zi oki. Ozaloki orokat af e ulso. Onumona... berg? Brang? Brang orokat e. ...Spek zi non oki, apoloses. Nam zi Tirzi."

What?
>>
No. 863357 ID: 56fca5

Wave at the new thing. Speak if you can muster it. How are you feeling?
>>
No. 863360 ID: 0d45a9

The creature is trying to communicate, but it sounds like it lacks the ability to make the sounds needed to properly use our language.

"...ozaloki af rust af medik, ozaloki zi oki. (Salikai have rest have medic, Salikai is okay) Ozaloki orokat af e ulso. (Salikai arkot(?) are here also) Onumona... berg? Brang? Brang orokat e. (Neumono... [Attempts at bring] Bring arkot.) ...Spek zi non oki, apoloses (Speak is not okay, apologies). Nam zi Tirzi. (Name is Tirzi)"

So it sounds like the neumono brought you and your arkots to a medic, that's unexpected but in a good way.
>>
No. 863361 ID: 91ee5f

>>863356
You’ve got a scar on your chest and your tail. Apparently, you’ve been cut open and operated on.

Now if only you knew what that thing was saying.
>>
No. 863362 ID: 91ee5f

>>863360
Well if that’s true, then what about our prisoner?
>>
No. 863363 ID: 3ce125

>>863356
Tell them you managed to barely understand that, ask if they're better at writing. Does it know what this world is? Did the neumono bring that bird person you captured, as well?
If you're still hungry, request food.
>>
No. 863364 ID: 56fca5

>>863360

They seem to be speaking to the hologram in front of them, not Sisirri. It is likely they don't know we are awake yet.
>>
No. 863365 ID: 3abd97

>>863356
Dang it you're a test subject in someone else's lab this isn't fair you're supposed to be the one with test subjects waking up in your lab!

At least you're not dead, and this location appears to have much more technical resources than mud.

But where are your arkots!?
>>
No. 863366 ID: 56e50f

Steady. They don't appear hostile. Sounds like that last bit said that its name was Terzi. Start with a simple "Hey"
>>
No. 863367 ID: c88e6d

>>863356
Oh no! Your prisoner's friends found you!

But they didn't kill you and repaired the internal bleeding. Think of a list of reasons those Neumono psychos suck to guilt trip them with later, since they brutalized you so badly you bled out in the space of a conversation, despite the fact that you did literally nothing to them.

Also, keep talking. Maybe you'll find a language in common with this alien, maybe it has an AI assistant that can figure it out. Also, feel glad that your cybernetic optic has been broken so that hacker assholes can't electrocute you anymore.
>>
No. 863368 ID: 33cbe7

Ah, I see you are a salazzarine of culture as well. Tell me, which test chamber are those damnable neumono strung up in?
>>
No. 863369 ID: 3abd97

>"...ozaloki af rust af medik, ozaloki zi oki. Ozaloki orokat af e ulso. Onumona... berg? Brang? Brang orokat e. ...Spek zi non oki, apoloses. Nam zi Tirzi."
Sounds like the language you were speaking before, with a strong accent.

"ozaloki", "salikai"
"orokat", "arkot", etc.

The whole thing is something like:

"Saliaki [something something] medic, salikai is ok. Salikai arkot [is?] also. Neumono... bring? Brang? Brand arkot [?]. ...Speak [?] not okay, apologies. Name is Tirzi."

There's a language barrier, but communication appears possible.
>>
No. 863370 ID: 0d45a9

>>863364
One of their eyes is looking at us, and given the change in language to something we can just about understand, it is most likely they are talking to us.

>>863367
They were deceived, spared us despite being our species being ancestral enemies, then brought us to a medic. I believe that should mitigate some of the blame, but only some of it.

>>863362
That is a good point, maybe they woke up and escaped or got killed if they tried to attack the nuemono? Either way we're rid of that implant hacking arsehole.
>>
No. 863377 ID: 3ce125

...oh hey, these are good facilities to use to disable your implants. Also warn the red person about the bird hacking your implants.
>>
No. 863381 ID: ad51b8

soooo are we are we a prisoner right now, a science experiment, did we dream all that, did someone just happen to cross our path see use bathing in our own blood and decided to help or.... what?
>>
No. 863386 ID: 10c408

Well, you aren't dead yet. Looks like the centipede alien was able to stop the internal bleeding. Don't move and thank it i guess
>>
No. 863391 ID: fda98a

Ok. You are not in inminent danger. You are somewhere else. You have a stitching in all your belly. The only problem i see here is that six is nowhere to be seen and you don't understand a word of what that thing just said, unless you know georgian.
>>
No. 863393 ID: 91ee5f

Find a way to bang the red angular thing as a way of thanking it for saving your life.

.....wait, no, don’t do that!

Damnit, that neumono kicking you in the head must’ve worsened the brain damage you got from that discharge! And apparently this red angular thing didn’t fix that while it was fixing the rest of you.
>>
No. 863396 ID: fe7355

It appears you were brought to this medical/surgery place and fixed up by possibly that red being or a automated system. Might have been the neumono who dragged you here, might have been left for dead and found, might have been something else entirely. And you dunno if whoever this is did it 'cause you're to be a prisoner, a test subject, something else or, hope against hope, they did it for no reason other than to save your life and you're free to go. Could you really hope for something as good or lucky any more? Well, whoever they are, they aren't hostile so just roll with it 'till you find more things out to go on.

Sounds like they're attempting to speak in your language and mostly getting it right, just with a atrocious accent. Now you kinda wish your brain implant was working so it could ease figuring out what they're saying. You think they said their name is "Tirzi." Time to start helping them learn how to speak your language. Point towards it and say "Your name is Tirzi?" to confirm, then point towards yourself and say "My name is Sisirri." Then ask where you are, how you got here and who brought you and where your arkots are.

Gently look over as much of yourself as you can without bending too much, feeling yourself for physical changes. It appears you have a surgery scar down your chest and abdomen and upon your bulb. It's rather impressive that they were successful in performing surgery on a species that you presume they've never encountered before. This slush you're in is likely some kind of healing and antiseptic gel, though it appears the surgery tank was not big enough for a salikai. ...And why does the back of your head feel strange? Wait, did they do something to your implant? Did they take it out? If they did, then that's a relief 'cause you had not even a half-decent idea how to do that on your own without too much risk.

...And a errant question floats to the front of your mind now that you're not in survival mode: Why did Imperium, in the course of putting a end to you, create a situation that would most likely end up destroying the irreplaceable alien artifact you were studying? Especially when it set your base's reactor on course to detonation. Why did it not attempt to retrieve the artifact by reliable means? ...Did it do so 'cause it was betting you'd hit the big red button and activate the artifact before it all ended in the slim hope it'd save yourself? It can't be that 'cause that sounds like a stupidly risky bet compared to safely securing the artifact to activate elsewhere under controlled conditions. So what the fuck was Imperium doing?
>>
No. 863412 ID: cf24af
File 151736616877.png - (58.63KB , 800x600 , salq-54.png )
863412

I manage to parse the fractured speech into statements that make sense.
I'm resting for medical reasons, I'm apparently okay, my arkots are here too, they were brought here by the neumono, and, obviously, this red alien is having trouble speaking my language.

"Tirzi." My jaw aches. I glance down and that's when I notice the scars.

"Tirzi, why am I covered in scars. Also, are you better at writing than talking?"

I hear a sigh. Tirzi wanders out of my field of view and I hear the sound of fabric being moved and a strange symphony of gentle chimes and beeps.

"You're fortunate I had the foresight to see you complain about my inability to speak your language. I'm a xenobiologist, not a linguist. The armoured aliens -- uhhh, pneumonic? No, that's not right, whatever -- gave me no end of trouble, and not just over my thick accent. Apparently something about my physical appearance reminded them of... well, I don't know what it was, but they broke off my horn before Sitkva cowed them into compliance. I'm not sure they're used to organisms of her stature."
"My condolences. Neumono are violent, aggressive brutes. It's a shame about your horn."
"It'll grow back, but thanks for the belated tip-off on pneumonia. Ugh, this interface. Oh. Oh right the scars. Yes. You were half-dead when the pneumatic -- fuck it -- came with you in tow. They told us that you were in urgent need of medical attention, gave us some key points about salikai physiology for us to work off of, and made it absolutely clear that you were highly dangerous and not to leave our compound without their explicit supervision."

The neumono... first of all nearly killed me, and then... brought me here?
What are their intentions? Did they realise they needed me? Is this another move in their game? What are they planning to do with me?

"I'm starving."
"Based on my analysis you appear to be an opportunistic omnivore but have a strong preference for fruits and other vegetation. I've done some biochemical analysis with some of our rations and found that you can't eat what amtsvane eat, which is meat, you can't eat what salazzarines, my species, eat, which is meat, you can't eat what tan ren soon eat, which... well, we keep Ku's rations in a lead-lined crate, and Aza said he'd sooner jump down an unlit mineshaft than let anyone into his food supplies. Which is mostly slimy glowing cave moss. I've got some fungal supplements if you can stomach fungus. I haven't tested that to see if you're biochemically compatible with it, though."
"There were fruits. Fruits in a building. Near a large crater."
"Where was this?"
"...near a large crater is the only landmark I had."
"Sorry to disappoint, but this planet seems to be an active warzone. There's a lot of craters around."

Oh.

I try to move and immediately regret it. I don't even know what hurts, but trying anything that moves me out of the gel stings enough that I remain flopped in this glorified bathtub like a wet noodle. Well, I guess I didn't have much more dignity to lose.
>>
No. 863414 ID: cf24af
File 151736623658.png - (48.05KB , 800x600 , salq-55.png )
863414

"სასტუმრო გაფრთხილება"
"Hm? Hold on a second. შეიყვანეთ იგი. Looks like you have a visitor."

A visitor?

...It's #6 and she's carrying a fruit. She offers it to me. I try to reach for it but my arms feel like they're made of stone.

"You'll probably feel a little sluggish. The recovery gel tends to have that effect on physiologies it's compatible with, which, inexplicably, yours is. This sure is a world of absolutely insane infinitesimal coincidences. A million million-to-one chances. The papers that could come out of this place, were it not an active warzone."
"Explain more about that, please."
"Well, Ku and Aza have been sending out little recon drone things to get info and these weird tentacly crystal things keep shooting them down. And sometimes these weird things that look like a cross between a kigavi and a duduk-- oh right. You won't know what those are. These things that look like small ambulatory feathery beaked things keep disrupting our sensors. Once we actually had one of our drones outright subverted by them and flown halfway back home before Aza hit the emergency self-destruct in a panic."
"So you aren't working with them? The feather creatures?"
"They've contacted us. We've received exactly one message, repeated several times. Let me play it back translated to your language, maybe you'll know something more about it."
>>
No. 863415 ID: cf24af
File 151736628265.png - (31.20KB , 800x600 , salq-56.png )
863415

The display depicts a creature of monumental scale, larger than anything I've ever seen.
It's probably enlarged for effect.

"WE ARE THE KITER EMPIRE. THIS WORLD AND ITS RESOURCES ARE NOW OURS TO CONSUME."

Kiter empire? I don't recognise anything about that.
I realise there's slight motion in the image, slowed down.

"RESIST, AND YOU TOO SHALL BE CONSUMED. OUR HUNGER IS LIMITLESS AND OUR POWER IS BOUNDLESS. IF YOU WISH TO SURVIVE, SUBMIT IMMEDIATELY."

I don't see any data to verify these audacious claims--
Wait. The image is incredibly poorly composed. The creature isn't fully in shot and the way it blurs... no, nothing that large could function as an organism, never mind.
It would be physically and biologically impossible. Such a creature could never exist. It would be several orders of magnitude larger than me.

"We've been trying to find an indigenous population of this planet but every major settlement we've discovered has been claimed by these guys. And the settlements are populated exclusively by these imperialists. Diverse species, still working on cataloguing them, but I digress. We're not nearly prepared for a warzone and we're doing all we can to try and get back home but we're stuck. Now. I've been informed you're also not from these parts and are likely to possess a honed intellect. A real bright cookie. The juiciest fruiter in the mycelium. Uh. Well you get my point. You're hardly in a position to even leave recovery right now, but I was hoping we could discuss, well, collaboration. After you heal up."
>>
No. 863416 ID: cf24af
File 151736632063.png - (28.21KB , 800x600 , salq-57.png )
863416

"I'm very selective of my collaborators."
"Collaboration in exchange for access to our state-of-the-art superculture laboratories. Oh, and I guess if you say no we'll have to turf you out of the facility so you don't ruin anything with how supposedly dangerous you are."

I could say no, walk out of here, get back to the artifact, and start where I left off.
Or I could say yes, get access to laboratories and resources, and the only prices I have to pay is my independence and the constant surveillance of neumono who already beat me near to death.

This is surprisingly more difficult a decision to make than I would have thought.
Sleeping in the mud like a wild animal is a lot more appealing than working with neumono with military grade equipment watching my every move.
>>
No. 863428 ID: 83beea

Neumono who didn't kill you though, remember? And some of them definitely wanted to. You're alive, you have a kind of relationship with them now no matter what form it is, and the more you interact with them either positively or neutrally, the less likely they will be to spontaneously kill you. If you leave now you will have no resources once again, the neumono will likely hunt and kill you for having no more reason not to since you refused to give them the help that you convinced them they needed you for, and these lunatics on the screen will probably try to kill you too. You need to work with what you have, and get that artifact as soon as possible using whatever resources you can.
>>
No. 863433 ID: 56fca5

Well, think about this:

They aren't working with the Neumono; according to Tirzi they had an altercation when they met only then followed by all this.

They are only considering you dangerous as that is what they were told while you were knocked out. Now that you can speak for yourself it's your word against theirs with no reason for them to actually trust either of yours.

The Neumono also felt they had reason enough to not let you die meaning they had some reason not to kill you. I would think it reasonable to assume our new mutual benefactors wouldn't let you be bludgeoned so terribly if it even came to that again.

You need to figure out what is going on and you also need to recognize that declining is more than being dumped in the mud; it's being dumped into a war zone as an independent party. Those Kiter guys don't seem the type open to negotiation.
>>
No. 863437 ID: 91ee5f

>>863412
>made it absolutely clear that you were highly dangerous and not to leave our compound without their explicit supervision.
Tell Tirzi that the reason you almost died was because the neumono were the ones that beat you to near death. You’re not dangerous, they are dangerous barbarians and they lied about you because they’re a bunch of racists and they don’t like you because you’re a salikai.

And now you’re apparently their prisoner for no reason other than being a salikai.

>>863414
>These things that look like small ambulatory feathery beaked things keep disrupting our sensors.
Tell Tirzi you ran into one and captured it, but you don’t know if the neumono brought it with you and your Arkots.

>>863416
>Collaborate?
Tell Tirzi that you’ll collaborate in exchange for protection from the neumono. You’re pretty sure they’ll beat you to near death again just for fun.
>>
No. 863439 ID: 91ee5f

>>863437
Also, try not to choke on the fruit that #6 is shoving down your throat!
>>
No. 863440 ID: 10c408

Good grief, okay. Don't leave. The deck has been so stacked against you that pissing off the two neumono might just be the last thing that gets you killed if you leave.

To wit: you are still recovering from surgery, you are beyond starving, you have no resources, the two murder machines probably will kill you if you leave, the whole planet is a warzone apparently, you only have a trustworthy arkot and a dimwit in terms of minions and last but by no means least, you were moved away from your crash site while unconscious. Good luck finding it again.
>>
No. 863446 ID: 830fb7

>>863416
We may want to ask them (if we decide to stay) can they bring the artefact that you worked on here. It would probably help with the research and shrink the time needed by years.
>>
No. 863447 ID: c88e6d

>>863416
"I'll do it if you disarm the Neumono. They're the ones who assaulted me, and they're the reason I'm stuck here. They also let my feathery Kiter prisoner escape and tried to kill my Arkot while they were beating me to death."

But seriously, even if you don't play the sympathy card, state that if they're allowed to run wild with their weapons they'll end up blowing something up. Your base didn't even have any weapons and they blew it to pieces on the word of a random transmission.
>>
No. 863449 ID: 3abd97

#6 is the best arkot. Good girl, still getting you a fruit through that mess.

>>863416
What have the neumono offered to persuade you to collaborate with them, despite the fact they attacked you?

You are not known to me, and we have no preexisting quarrel, and we are presumably share a common enemy with the local violent imperialists as we neither wish to submit or die.

I have no objection to collaborating to you, but I have reservations about working with the brutes who destroyed my lab and beat me half to death.

>with how supposedly dangerous you are
As a xenobiologist who has already treated me, I assume you have already evaluated what threat I could pose physically, were I not incapacitated.

My intellect is more dangerous, but unfamiliarity with your systems and technology would sharply limit my ability to be a threat in that regard if we did not cooperate.
>>
No. 863450 ID: fda98a

"What did the neumono told you about me? I personally haven't had any tipe of contact with that species before, but i know for a fact that neumono and salikai are like water and oil."
I say that accept and ofer your help in the common goal of getting out of this place, as long you canstay as far as posible from the neumono. You are willing to make a truce with them, hell, you promise to never even cross them ever again, as long as they don't kill you at the end of all this ordeal.
>>
No. 863454 ID: 3ae3fd

You ought to tell them that your implants were hacked.
>>
No. 863459 ID: 3ce125

>>863416
You wouldn't be working with the neumono. You'd be working with Tirzi. Make that distinction clear, that you refuse to work directly with those brutes, and this isn't a hard choice at all. Tirzi and her large friend can be intermediaries.
>>
No. 863460 ID: 91ee5f

>>863412
>amtsvane
>salazzarines
>tan ren soon
>Aza
>>863414
>kigavi
>duduk
Ask Tirzi to please give you a description on what these species look like. You might as well learn about the native species, since you’re gonna be here for a while.

Also, ask Tirzi to either remove or improve your implants, so that you don’t get hacked again.
>>
No. 863461 ID: 86eb65

The neumono were the ones who beat me into this state. Forgive me if I doubt there definition of dangerous.

But at least they listened to me somewhat and did not finish the job.

If I work with you its only working with you. I don't want the neumono looming over me. Even though they would have died anyway those assholes killed most of my arkots!

Also if we do find a way home I want to go with you and not back home with those idiots. I will just get killed on my planet now that all my resources are gone.

Just give me a job researching artifacts all day with my arkots and you get another scientist.
>>
No. 863464 ID: 130855

You shouldn't decide what you're going to do yet. Wait until you know some more about what's going on here and are able to walk and such.
>>
No. 863466 ID: 830fb7

>>863446
Also while we are stuck here being healed we should ask for some sort of computer so we can do research, instead of sitting here doing nothing we should be exercising our brain and expanding our knowledge base so when it comes time to choose/work we have as much information at our disposal as possible.
>>
No. 863467 ID: 33cbe7

I'll be easier to kill them in their sleep if you're sleeping in the same place.
>>
No. 863488 ID: 3adb50

>>863416
Easier for them to kill you if you don't have allies. These allies have held them at bay before, they can do it again. Association is advantageous.
>>
No. 863508 ID: 13cc26

>Such a creature could never exist. It would be several orders of magnitude larger than me.
Hold that thought.

See if you can't explain the situation between salikai and neumono. Unfortunately you're playing defense here since they made contact before you did, so it might help to be... deferential, as much as the thought probably sickens you. If these guys are willing to keep you separated from the neumono, I imagine you'd have less in the way of reservations.
>>
No. 863511 ID: ad51b8

ask how long it will take before you can move normally again. Also ask what exactly was broken inside of you.
>>
No. 863567 ID: 56e50f

No decisions until you're fully healed.
>>
No. 863571 ID: ce19bd

You might want to tell them one of those featherheads shorted out or hacked your cybernetics in an attempt to kill you.
>>
No. 863625 ID: d36af7

Don't eat the fruit yet! Hand it to the medic to analyze and replicate, so you can have more! And also because technically you never confirmed it isn't poisonous.
>>
No. 863629 ID: 90124d

>>863508

Do this, the faster they know what is going on, the less time the Neumono have to make up a story or an excuse. They're creatures of wrath, they need time for that kind of logic. Use your species' advantages against them. If you reveal this they might ALSO be monitored, even if you decide to say no.
>>
No. 863675 ID: cf24af
File 151745487975.png - (28.08KB , 800x600 , salq-58.png )
863675

I bite into the fruit #6 is currently trying to ram into my mouth like ammunition into a primitive firearm.
It tastes even better than its sweet aroma. Kirzi waits for me to finish ravenously eating it.

#6 half leaps and half falls from her precarious perch on the edge of this tub of healing gel.

"I'll collaborate. It sounds like we share a common enemy and similar goals. But first I would like to explain a few things, and ask some questions."
"Well, whew, you've already settled a number of worries I had by agreeing to help out. I don't know if I could have lived with myself meeting so many new sapient species that didn't want to kill us outright and then immediately said goodbye to the discoveries of a lifetime. By all means, explain away. This thing logs my sessions anyway so I can take some notes."
"Additionally, if it is not too much trouble, I would like some form of computer to do research. I can't bear to leave my mind idle for long."
"Heh." I'm not sure why Kirzi typed 'heh' when I can hear her make what I assume to be a salazzarine laugh. Maybe it was a sneeze. "Fortunately what we're lacking in personnel we aren't lacking in resources. We got a lot of our equipment moved over before the anomaly abruptly cut us off from home. I'll see if I can find something designed for salazzarine. It looks like it'd be more compatible with your claws."
"Thank you. Let me explain something about the salikai, my kind, and the neumono."

Tirzi nods and moves in front of me, as the wall suddenly gains some sort of screen. Reverse projection?
>>
No. 863676 ID: cf24af
File 151745490661.png - (14.28KB , 800x600 , salq-59.png )
863676

"The neumono have told you I'm a dangerous monster to be feared, yes?"
"Words to that effect, yes. A master schemer, a manipulator above all else, only viewing other creatures as game pieces to be moved, emotionless but capable of faking emotional display to engender sympathy, strangers to the concepts of love, friendship, honour, and all the neumono value."
"An incredibly evocative and highly misrepresentative description."
"It was a little hard to take at face value after they shot off my horn. You haven't had a chance to give your side of the story yet. I mean, I'm not going to lie, I'm wary."
"I would describe the salikai as natural thinkers, planners. We are secretive in nature, we value self-improvement to a high degree, and express emotion in different ways to many other species we've encountered. We're also not very good at understanding or reading alien emotions."
"They said something about your species all being lying amoral scientists."
"We tend towards intellectual pursuits, yes."
"Uh huh. And the rest of that?"
"We are, above all else, pragmatic. And, let me explain. The neumono are hunting us to extinction."
"Huh. Now that is definitely something they neglected to mention. They didn't explain a lot about why they seemed to hate you so specifically. I mean, they were incredibly reluctant to discuss anything about events before they somehow showed up on this world. They said it wasn't important, and changed the subject to making sure you were attended to before you bled out completely."
"You know they're the ones who nearly killed me, right?"
"They didn't tell us that but I pieced it together after examining your injuries. I figured they were your wardens and you were their prisoner."
"They are murderous savages convinced that, because one salikai has wronged them before, all salikai must die."
"...I'm just going to make a note that we'd do best to keep you guys separate. The compound's large enough."
"I would ask that be a condition of my collaboration."
"Noted."
>>
No. 863677 ID: cf24af
File 151745492762.png - (11.91KB , 800x600 , salq-60.png )
863677

"So, your name is Sisirri, right?"
"Correct."

She looks around, side to side, almost conspiratorially, and swipes a complex series of gestures on her... interface surface? Whatever it ought to be called.

"I'd like to tell you a story about the salazzarine."
"I'm listening." It isn't like I have much choice.
"Throughout much of the superculture -- I'll get into that in a bit but basically it's where we're from -- salazzarine had a very difficult time integrating. We were seen as overly emotional murder machines. I mean, we're able to form sharp surfaces over almost our entire bodies, we regenerate our limbs and appendages at an alarming rate, and when we feel emotions they can sometimes be overwhelming. We are, I suppose, passionate creatures. And we developed a reputation for being dangerous."
"Sounds familiar." Oh good, there's two of them now. Well, at least she hasn't mentioned empathy.
"We are born as tiny almost mindless larvae that know nothing other than to devour our siblings to survive in a lethal competition. Almost. The psychic shock of that start to life seems to never truly fade. We cocoon ourselves when large enough and hatch into larger nymphs, and then cocoon ourselves later once more, conscious each time. We are trapped in these cocoons, dreaming, helpless, stuck in a winding maze of our own psyches disconnected from any passing of time but our own heartbeats. In our emergence as a sapient species, the trials never ended. We were apex predators, and we bred explosively. Competition between salazzarine was high. Our regeneration prevented our extinction from our own constant violence and conflicts."
"If you're trying to put my mind at ease around you, it's not working very well."
"Let me finish. We emerged into the galactic stage as the perfect image of a species of murderous monsters when all our steps to civilisation were made to combat the necessary violence of our pasts. We are not remorseless monsters, Sisirri, and we never were. We went too fast from prey to predator, and our evolution never could catch up. But we were seen as warriors. We were exploited by many. Enslaved as soldiers. Used as test subjects. The worst of it was when we were viewed as a fast breeding menace that would descend upon all other worlds and take what we could. I won't lie. At least one salazzarine empire tried to do exactly that for the sake of survival."
"I appreciate this history lesson but I'm not sure why you wanted to tell me this."
"I didn't appreciate the neumono taking my horn off but I can very, very much understand that a large chunk of what you've told me about the neumono sounds a lot similar to the same sort of propaganda my ancestors had thrown at them. I'm almost positive what I'm hearing isn't coming from you but from some decades, centuries, maybe even millennia propaganda or ancestral fear. You both speak about each other as archetypes more than people. They let slip some of what a specific salikai did to them and they were quick to conflate that name with your species name. I'm not here in this expensive hi-tech compound because I'm stupid, salikai."
"They beat me to near death."

Tirzi pauses. A lot longer than I expect. I see her rubbing her strange arm blades together.

"If Sitkva hadn't been around, I think I might be in a tub too. Anyway my point is I know what it's like to be persecuted based on fear of what you could be instead of what you are. Uh. What I'm trying to say, I mean, I am incredibly sympathetic towards the neumono, but, well, by deeds alone, I'm in your corner at the moment."

She laughs again.

"Okay, I'm explaining all this wrong. I guess what I want to say is we big ol' scary space bugs need to stick together."

I'm... incredibly lost at this point.
>>
No. 863678 ID: cf24af
File 151745497363.png - (19.81KB , 800x600 , salq-61.png )
863678

"So. That superculture you mentioned."
"Oh. It's kind of misleading. I might as well have said I come 'from space'. The superculture is less a specific entity and more a weird blurry cloud of a large number of various entities that more or less share some common cultural precepts but otherwise have as much to do with each other administratively as a... uh... well they don't do that much. You'll get the odd giant alliance or concordance or federation and that might last a while but they're very fluid and there's never really a main one. I've explained it before to other aliens that the superculture isn't so much a place or an organisation as it is something of an idea."
"So it's a stateless society?"
"Oh, absolutely not. There's all kinds of nation states and alliance networks and interplanetary coalitions. Alliances are made for idealistic and practical reasons and last as long as they make sense to do. Wars break out for all the same kinds of reasons wars usually do, but there's usually efforts by non-participating parties to make sure said wars don't grow out of control, or affect too many bystanders, and don't involve atrocities, the usual."
"It sounds like this 'superculture' is just a synonym for an inhabited galaxy."
"Well, uh. Hm. Well, it's like a planet writ large on a galactic scale, I suppose. As above, so below, and so forth."
"...so it's like an inhabited galaxy."
"Okay did you have any other questions? I think you had other questions."
>>
No. 863679 ID: cf24af
File 151745499855.png - (33.95KB , 800x600 , salq-62.png )
863679

"You've mentioned a number of species. Amtsvane, tan ren soon, kigavi, duduk. Can I get more information on them?"
"I guess? I feel like it'd be more pressing to discuss the species actually here. I was just using kigavi (which are feathered) and duduk (which are small) as a point of reference. Also it'd be good for me to show you the team just in case one of them sets off some sort of instinctual fear response so we know sooner rather than later. There's myself, Tirzi at Serizi ssir Abir, salazzarine, xenobiologist."

A few brief tappings of the console, and the monochromatic display becomes full colour.

"We also have Sitkva Matvare Gantiadi, amtsvane, xenogeologist. Here's an image. She's big. I'd say probably close to fifteen times your height."
"That's absurd."
"That's amtsvane. They're big, and they have a reputation for being lazy but that's more of a side effect of their metabolism. As a scientist she sometimes overlooks key details, but what she lacks in attention to detail she makes up for in enthusiasm and a generally pleasant demeanour. It's been a pleasure working with her. Although try to not get on her bad side. You didn't hear it from me but she has a mean streak a mile wide sometimes. Literally."
"I don't think that can be literal."
"It was a size joke-- never mind. Her speciality is in terrene planets such as this one, which are rare gems. She's written several papers showing very similar processes of geological formation and continential drift patterns across these worlds, and also the long term impacts of hosting organisms on planetary structures versus planets with similar atmospheric profiles that don't host life. So, you know. Incredibly, incredibly dull stuff. Yet she's passionate about it. Passionate about rocks. Some people."
>>
No. 863680 ID: cf24af
File 151745501994.png - (37.55KB , 800x600 , salq-63.png )
863680

"This here is Ku Gat, a tan ren soon. Oh, in this photo he's the black one, the teal one is I think a former work partner of his. One thing I've noticed as a xenobiologist is that most of the sapient species we've encountered sort of fit the same bill of being fleshy and water based and other wonderful traits like that, so when we came across tan ren soon space we first thought they were some kind of robots. They look metallic but their skin clearly deforms in a manner similar to more organic skin, which is a physical process I have no clue about. Sitkva mentioned she'd noticed something similar happening on some random magma spewing death world no one cares about but her, so when we get back that'll be something to look into-- sorry, sorry I digress. Also, their eyes glow, and they eat radioactive minerals, somehow extracting the fissionables from the ore, feeding on the fissionables and using the ore to build up what I'm going to call their tissue. They're incredibly heavy and incredibly resistant to damage save for puncture wounds. If something can actually breach that thick metallic skin of theirs, some kind of pressure differential or thermal reaction seems to cause their insides to rapidly become outsides. They have very effective natural sealant for small punctures but an intentional puncture wound is almost always death. They have historically had a lot of smooth curves and lack of spikes and other pointy forms in their architecture, incidentally. They also seem to have a problem with thermoregulation in "colder temperatues", by which I mean temperatures we find comfortable. They prefer temperatures I'd probably die of heatstroke in. Still, that's not Ku Gat, that's just what he is. He used to work as what the tan ren soon called a 'Reclaimant', but what we've called a specialist post-industrial archaelogist. At some point in the tan ren soon's history their homeworld had some kind of hubristic collapse, and so many of them attempt to sift through the wreckage of their old homeworld, now called Reclaim, to gather insight as to what technologies were lost. One of the key technologies that was previously lost was a substance known as shapemetal, bluemetal, argent of creation, many other names, but it's a polymorphic metallic substance modelled on the same biophysical principles as tan ren soon skin. It's an incredibly durable substance able to take any form."
"Jetalium? Are these tan ren soon at all familiar with the belenosians?"
"What?"
"Never mind."
"Uh. Okay. Anyway basically he's skilled at data extraction and analysing ruins and a few other useful skills that come in handy when trying to study the AI-ravaged ruins of your species' former zenith."
"They might have a lot to discuss with the belenosians. Do you also have issues with neo-imperialists?"
"...Oddly, yes. There's some backwater region on the galactic edge called the Helix Dominion trying to bring tan ren soon glory back by 'conquering the superculture', which makes as much sense as someone running on a beach with a sponge claiming they're going to drink the ocean."
"What fascinating parallels."
>>
No. 863682 ID: cf24af
File 151745505476.png - (79.48KB , 800x600 , salq-64.png )
863682

"This is our cybernetics expert, Aza Oonoo, a noxon. ...nice shooting, camera holder. Got your weird glowy goo all over the lens there. Noxon are small creatures that emit a lot of bioluminescent chemicals which they used to light the cave systems their ancestors once dwelled in. They're incredibly fearful of the dark and have a fascination for light and colour, sight being the strongest and most nuanced of their senses. Where most of the sapient species known to the superculture were apex predators, the noxon were definitely prey animals who appear to have developed intelligence and society as a way of mitigating the cthonian horrors of their homeworld. Seriously. I've studied some of the creatures of the noxon homeworld, and they're nightmare inducing. I'd be scared of the dark too."
"A world filled with predators and threats. Sounds almost nostalgic."
"From what I've heard speaking to the neumono, it sounds like your homeworld was some kind of probablistic anomaly. There was only one sapient predator species of noxon, the rest of them were all cunning animals but animals nonetheless. The sapient predator species... The noxon assured us that a peace accord was made. There's ancient statues of the predators and the noxon working together to forge a new society, as the predator species had plenty of easier options than the rapidly advancing noxon to eat. But they're not around anymore. And the noxon are very, very upset if their statues of them are damaged in any way. But they're incredibly secretive about the whole thing. ...whoops, sorry, waffling again. Aza is an expert in robotics, cybernetics, and has a passion for technology that almost feels religious. He's very cagey and wary about applying any cybernetic implants to himself and constantly warns us about things like cybersecurity and making sure to keep a clean layer of separation between mind-machine-interfaces and application layer stuff and this and that and a whole bunch more jargon I don't understand. He also has kind of a low tolerance for technology messing up. Which makes me wonder why he's so into it, but, eh. He's also kind of a coward, like a lot of noxon, but really, really hates it. One time Ku took the lights out of his room and the shrieks woke us all up, and I've never seen him more furious. He came to all of our rooms one by one, even Sitkva's, to scream and lecture us about his species' need to have readily available light and how whoever was responsible violated his personal quarters. Then I think I heard him crying when he was back in his room. ...You haven't heard any of this from me, though."

Filing that one away for possible leverage if it comes up.
>>
No. 863683 ID: cf24af
File 151745507702.png - (29.38KB , 800x600 , salq-65.png )
863683

"Oh, right. There's also... uh... lemme check the file... that's her full name?.. Sabatabagatabana. Mercifully, she goes by Saba. She kind of creeps me out. She's an elghark, and they're weird brain parasites that thankfully only inhabit non-sapient species from their homeworld, or genetic deriatives thereof. Apparently they can only survive in a sapient state while in a host, otherwise they rapidly lose their acquired memories and knowledge until they become mindless leeches. She doesn't really ever come to talk to us in person. She prefers staying put in her part of the compound. She basically takes care of logistics and administration. I'd be loathe to say she's our boss, there's so few of us here this side that our organisation is pretty flat, but she has a natural attunement for understanding the needs and capabilities of wildly disparate organisms. I guess because she's been so many of them. She has what she considers a 'personal body' that she's usually in, and keeps her other, uh, bodies around for specific tasks. I've only seen one of her purpose-designed bodies once and she was incredibly flustered about being seen in it. I'd advise knocking on her door first. She also doesn't like eating in public. I'm... kind of sorry for her that this is the only photo we have. It's probably not how she'd like to be represented but she absolutely hates cameras. And mirrors. And reflective surfaces. Girl's got some major self-esteem and identity issues."
>>
No. 863684 ID: cf24af
File 151745511065.png - (18.06KB , 800x600 , salq-66.png )
863684

"I had cybernetic implants, and I've had them compromised already. Are you capable of improving or removing them?"
"I, uh. Aza freaked out when he saw them and demanded they be disabled right away before our feathered friends got to you. Something to do with security issues, yeah. Said that he could tap into them like someone left a door opened and unlocked and wrote a sign saying 'free candy'. Then he ranted about how that should be completely impossible given the differences in alien biology and psychology and cybernetics. But, uh, I don't know how your neural physiology works at that fine a level, so I opted for total removal. I made every effort to not so much as brush against what I assumed was your brain tissue, and very carefully decoupled every organic terminal I could find and removed the entire thing. ...Maybe don't take that bandage off for a while. The gel is working on repairing all the way down to your skull. It's, uh, a fairly deep head wound. Also the gel should render the entire area painless so don't touch it either in case you stab yourself in the brain or something. That gelplate will handle and divert a lot of pressures, like, say, resting your head, but it doesn't do well with poking or any sort of precision pressure application. But everything is fine. Everything is fine and you in no way have any sort of brain damage and I know you're wondering how I'm aware of that and the answer is I am because I am very good at doing what I do, yes yes yes. One hundred percent fine. A good strong 97% certain at the very least."

I see her eyes nervously dart all over the screen. Here comes the nausea again.

"You kept the implants, I hope."
"Aza would have been livid if I damaged never before discovered alien cybernetics. It's surprising how much anger can fit into something so small. He's been studying them since I let him have it, and he's been treating them with more care and reverence than I've seen people treat holy relics. For all I know he probably thinks of them as holy relics."

Mental images of my mother flash by. I fight the nausea some more.

"But I can still see out of my left eye."
"Oh I left that alone. That wasn't the source of the problem. That seems to run on a different physical setup."

...Hold on.
I was lead to believe that the panel in my head was for infrastructure vital to the continued functioning of this prosthetic eye.
Why? Why did I take that assertion at face value and never check? That's... I make a lot of careless assumptions, sometimes, but...
I've had the parts for fourteen years and I never even considered checking?
Why?

"How long am I going to be stuck here? What was broken in me?"
"Well I have no data on how long it takes for salikai to recover from severe blood loss, broken rib-analogues, a ruptured... I haven't got a name for it yet but it clearly wasn't meant to be leaking, and cranial surgery with a touch of very minor brain surgery. And whatever the organs in your tail bump are. Seemed like those got kind of mangled--"
"Preexisting condition."
"Hm. What condition--"
"We will not broach this subject. Is there nothing I can do to not be stuck in this container for time indeterminate?"
"I mean, you can probably ask Aza to make you a drone if you really want the mental stimulation of going for a walk. I'll need further data on your condition as it improves to give you a better time estimate. Sorry. I'm going to go get you that computer now."
>>
No. 863685 ID: cf24af
File 151745514722.png - (63.75KB , 800x600 , salq-67.png )
863685

Tirzi leaves and quickly comes back with something very similar to what she was using previously, but it seems to have a smaller version of the holographic projector I saw embedded into it.

"We don't have a dedicated medic so I'm taking up the role of field doctor. Granted, alien medical treatment is something I've found a lot more engaging and rewarding than writing papers as of late. I have some physicals to do on neumono so please just shout if you need anything. I'll get a call if you're in distress."

She sets the device down. I find I can move my arms sluggishly so that my claws rest on the smooth surface as lights trace my motions and swipes. The holographic display pops up with a message saying "CUSTOM LANGUAGE 3 LEXICON LOADING, PLEASE WAIT -- 0%"

For all Imperium betrayed me, for all that I despise it with every last cell in my being, at least its machines didn't have such appalling loading times.

#6 waves at me.
"Dimissed."
#6 falls asleep on the spot. Hm. She didn't even look that tired.

"Ah good there's a translator here too. Hi. Ekasarra, is it?"
"Once again, I'm very sorry for my colleagues' hasty actions. We've... we've all been through some considerable stress recently."
"Like I already explained, nine times or more by now, it's fine. I'm not dead and it'll grow back. ...Wait. You're crying. Uhh. That's bad for aliens, right?"
"I-it's n-nothing. *sniff* It's... it's only now s-sinking in. All my friends and family, gone."
"I'm sure we'll get us all back home, right? Then you can tell them how much you loved and missed them! ...oh no that made it worse excuse me a second I'll go get some tissues"

Ugh. It's hard enough needing to wait for this to load without having to listen to the lamentations of neumono.
>>
No. 863687 ID: 86eb65

Look into getting a drone back to your landing site and finding your remaining surviving arkots.

If you don't want 6 to be your last arkot you need to get her breeding.

Explain to your hosts that your arkots are a symbiotic organism that Salikai have co evolved with. And that you are in danger of loosing your flock. Which would be horrible.
>>
No. 863690 ID: c88e6d

>>863685
Dammit. Their pain isn't even fun to listen to. Oh well, maybe they'll be so busy weeping they'll just assume we died.

....Did they not say that they'd make sure the Neumono would be far away from you? They're in the same damn building! This is horrible.

Oh well, time to find the network browser for this base and see about translating our way through their exogalactic wikipedia. First thing to look up is this biological repair gel we're lying in. It might be very useful were we to figure out some way to generate it internally. Then we can see about finding earmuffs so we don't have to listen to Neumono crying about how their friends are dead because they chose to take a random transmission at face value.
>>
No. 863691 ID: 33cbe7

Hack into the mainframe and download more RAM to your terminal.
>>
No. 863694 ID: 3abd97

>Let me explain something about the salikai, my kind, and the neumono.
You know you didn't actually explain very much about neumono to them. Someone has to give them accurate information to counteract whatever overly positive stories the neumono told about themselves! What if they tried to keep their empathy hidden for a strategic advantage, for example? Or if they left out the fact they're all going to go insane and turn into (even more) violent self-destructive rogues in a few months?

>I've had the parts for fourteen years and I never even considered checking?
>Why?
Because they were connected to your brain.

Congrats, your judgement has been compromised by brain hack for 14 years.

>It's hard enough needing to wait for this to load without having to listen to the lamentations of neumono.
I thought they were keeping you separate why are you close enough to hear them whine.
>>
No. 863695 ID: 10c408

I'm sure the blood thirsty neumono duo will be transferred further away from you soon enough. For now, don't confirm the whole "amoral scientist snake" rep for Tirzi.

And yeah, see if you can't get in touch with Aza on using the computer to commission a drone so you can try and get your other arkots back.
>>
No. 863696 ID: 3adb50

It sounds as though the cybernetics were a backdoor to make it possible to seize direct control of you. The question is, was your mother the perpetrator or another victim?

>>863687
This.
>>
No. 863697 ID: 130855

See if you can get in contact with the other people that you were just given the entire life histories of. Get their sides of the situation.
>>
No. 863699 ID: c88e6d

>>863694
That's not how Rogues work, Rogues go berzerk by rubbing against the empathy of their hive and being rejected.
>>
No. 863711 ID: 91ee5f

>>863679
>I'd say probably close to fifteen times your height.
Remember earlier, right here: >>863415 , when you said, “no, nothing that large could function as an organism, never mind. It would be physically and biologically impossible. Such a creature could never exist. It would be several orders of magnitude larger than me.”?

Well, you’ve just been shown that something that big does exist.

Also, it’s nice to know that Sitkva is capable of handling the neumono!

>>863680
>Something similar to Jetalium.
How often do you get a chance to get your claws on something like that? You don’t! Because the technology to make that stuff was lost when the ancient belenosian civilizations collapsed!

And now, here you are, in a place where something like that exists! Maybe if you ask nicely, you’ll be allowed to do stuff with it?

>>863684
>Implants removed.
Now that you’re awake, you could call in Aza and help him examine your implants so that he can understand them better.

>“Preexisting condition.”
Let’s me guess, you can’t have kids, right?

>>863685
>Tirzi leaves.
Wait, you forgot to ask about your prisoner!

>Load times.
Be patient. This is an unknown computer system, so the load times might be faster than what you’re used to!
>>
No. 863720 ID: b1b4f3

>>863711
"orders of magnitude" is powers of 10. That thing was apparently 100-1000 times larger than a Salikai.
>>
No. 863731 ID: 85e349

>>863711
>Remember earlier, right here: >>863415 , when you said, “no, nothing that large could function as an organism, never mind. It would be physically and biologically impossible. Such a creature could never exist. It would be several orders of magnitude larger than me.”?

>Well, you’ve just been shown that something that big does exist.

No. Each order of magnitude is ten times higher. Several orders of magnitude would be at least a THOUSAND times larger, and that species is only 15 times his size.
>>
No. 863740 ID: fda98a

>>863677

It's not hard to understand Sisirri.You all have something in common. You have a misformed perception about all of you. It is true that salikai are colder and more calculating, neumono is more aggressive and sentimental, and apparently this race that you just met has an extremely predatory evolution. But you only see those facts, those factors that make you look like barbarians, insensitive or killing machines. You do not stop to analyze the individuals, and put all those bad parts of your respective species to your entire population. SOME salikai are backstabbers and plan only in their favor, SOME neumonos are murderous barbarians and SOME salazzarine seek to exploit their abilities to dominate solar systems, or something like that. But look around you. This salazzarine cured you, decided to listen to you and told you about its kind. Lekka spared your life, brought you here so you could be treated, and the rest of their companions lament the loss of their comrades, their relatives and feel sadness. You also felt that way, or something similar, when you remembered your mother, right? You remembered with some affection what your mother was before transforming into that monstrosity, and you felt sad when you remembered her change. You are not so different, Sisirri.
Hell, you might feel some afection for six right beside you.
>>
No. 863743 ID: 91ee5f

>>863684
>Everything is fine and you in no way have any sort of brain damage
Well, that’s good to know. Now you don’t have to worry about having anymore strange thoughts involving somehow banging #6.

.....damnit, you’re still getting those thoughts. BEGONE THOUGHT!!!!!
>>
No. 863768 ID: 3ae3fd

>several orders of magnitude larger than me.
>fifteen times your height
There are many ways to measure size. Mass, volume, height, length, the volume of a rectangular prism level with the ground that would perfectly contain you... 15 times her height could be 15x15x15=3375 times her volume, which is within 3-7 orders of magnitude.

Double check your opinion of that giant thing. You knew that it was huge even with very little in the way of reference points. Did they leave something in your head to make you inclined to respect them? Could brain damage be weakening your objectivity? The observer is almost certainly the size of one of those little feathered things which are only a fraction of your volume. Being massive to something so small leaves a lot of room to be not so massive to everyone else.
It is almost certainly a fake, but that is due to the dodgy image and clear propaganda rather than any guarantee that nothing has found a way to exceed what you believe to be possible.

These people, for all their faults, seem to be scientific, and likely willing to have you continue your work. You should try to provide an impartial primer on Salkai, Arkot, and Neumono. knowing all they can about the abilities and care of the beings you apparently brought here would prevent mistakes and make things more predictable. Any threat they pose to Salikai is more likely to come from examining your implants than anything about your culture or biology. There should be no call to tell them anything about security protocols or technology outside of the capabilities of scientific tools with which you are familiar. Hopefully it just won't come up...
>>
No. 863769 ID: 13cc26

>>863699
Neumono go rogue if they're separated from their hive for long enough, due to empathy drift or whatever.

I guess they only have the one medical wing, then? Having to put up with neumono vomiting their emotions everywhere is probably not great for concentration, but you're too weak to move and I suspect at least one of them is similarly indisposed if they decided to pick a fight with the giant green thing.

At least you don't have their empathy. I bet that would be miserable to be around.
>>
No. 863797 ID: 56fca5

Well, there isn't a whole lot you can do until it loads. Asking if they can find more of your arkots is a good idea. One way or the other you will probably want them.

Maybe you can see if you can speak to one of Tirzi's other team members. You will be working with them soon and I get the feeling you don't have much experience working in a cooperative environment. Hopefully whatever form of communication they can provide with come with some form of translation.

Other than that, I guess the only other option you have while waiting would be to listen in on the neumono. Gain some insight into their condition and situation. We can use this information later.
>>
No. 863811 ID: 3cc68c

Continue focusing on the most time sensitive of your original goals.

1. Find your remaining Arkots and get them here before they die off.

2. Retrieve any bits of artifact that might still exist for study.

Once those two objectives are complete you can relax in your healing bath and study up on your new hosts.
>>
No. 863812 ID: 3abd97

Check superculture internet for porn.
>>
No. 863813 ID: c2051e

>>863769
Not quite. The emotional drift happens, but it isn't sufficient to make a neumono go rogue. They have to feel a former hive member's empathy and realize that they've changed, so to speak. They don't magically know they're a rogue until something actually sparks the realization.
>>
No. 863814 ID: 12b116

Good, the neumono need to suffer a bit. A lot.

See if you can get in touch with the cybernetics expert Noxon, has he figured out what that stuff was actually for?
>>
No. 863866 ID: cf24af
File 151752863601.png - (23.80KB , 800x600 , salq-68.png )
863866

>Now you don’t have to worry about having anymore strange thoughts involving somehow banging #6.
>Check superculture internet for porn.
97% certainty of avoiding brain damage. More likely 97% certainty of brain damage.

>Forgot to ask about prisoner
Almost certainly escaped after I lost consciousness. A single arkot is not a very effective guard.

>Brain hack, cybernetic backdoor
Harrowing. The more I think about it, I can't even directly recall when it was installed. I know I received it at around the same time I had this eye implanted.

>size estimation
I may have made some miscalculations.

>Preexisting condition
I don't want to think about it. It's not relevant.

>impartial primer
An important goal. However there are slightly more time-sensitive goals to attend to first.

>Was your mother the perpetrator or another victim?
If Imperium was the direct cause of my mother's sickness, and if Imperium meant to do the same to me, then I wish an unending series of disasters and misfortunes on it.
However, I know all too well how futile revenge would be.
Imperium is too vast an entity to injure. The scope of its operations and ambitions is such that it likely considers the loss of the artifact as trifling.
It definitely valued avoiding its own discovery enough to throw away both the artifact and myself as a collaborator.

Ten years and it fooled me so deeply I let my guard down. Stupid. Stupid.

My completely impotent rage is enough for me to at least raise my clenched graspers out of the fluid for a moment before they fall back in.

I cannot stand feeling so powerless. I need control. I need control over something again. Anything at this point.

I navigate through this interface until I find something that seems to resemble a communications panel, and contact Aza, asking about a camera drone.
I almost immediately get a response.

"hi hi yes yes tirzi already said you want me i'm actually already here"
>>
No. 863867 ID: cf24af
File 151752866368.png - (31.39KB , 800x600 , salq-69.png )
863867

The door immediately opens and I see the alien from the photo, who seems to be carrying some kind of tablet or slate. He waddles over.

"Greetings, salikai! Sisirri is being your name yes?" His voice is high pitched and has an unpleasant wetness to it.
"Yes. You don't need to use a translator?"
"For three days you are being, how you say, 'out of action' I am studying your language with help of least scary neumono Ekasarra better to help understand cybernetics previously inside your skull."

Three days? I was honestly expecting far worse, but that prisoner is definitely gone now.

Aza doesn't seem much bigger than an arkot. He pushes what I can only assume is a small crate next to the tub and hops onto it.

"Firstly I am wishing to say your cybernetics technology is not only impressive but sublime. Deep hierarchy of terminals down to cellular scale, truly is beautiful and elegant in design. Secondly am wishing to let you know I thinking this is incredibly, incredibly dumb-- er, misspeaking, sorry, misguided idea to hard link neural tissue to machine terminal with no interface guarding."
"Yes, lecture me on what sensible ideas are after asking your colleague to operate on me. I didn't consent to brain surgery. Those implants are my property, not prizes to be looted from me."
"No, miss salikai, you are misunderstanding Aza intention. Not treating you as strange piece of meat with mysteries to extract, no. Neumono said you are dangerous but neumono also not making best first impression. Aza protecting you from known threat. The hacker aliens somehow already forcing easy access directly to brain structure. So easy and even advertising it to other cybernetic systems. If wanting to I could have done very bad things with my comparatively primitive implants. Horrified, salikai. Horrified that anyone so vulnerable. Cybernetic equivalent of walking around with exposed brain tissue."
"Presumably much like I have right now."
"Tirzi is not trained neurosurgeon, yes, but despite clumsy looking blade claws is actually very delicate in approach. Has worked with variety of alien biologies in past. Removed explosion gel gland from living boomer animal from noxon homeworld once, yes. Delicate operation, chemical highly sensitive to even slightest twitch. Even dexterous noxon tendrils not always helpful there. Superculture medical technology also second to none ever encountered, even noxon medicine. Remarkably adaptable, even clumsy gill-clogged oaf can be good doctor with superculture medicine."
"That's not very comforting."
"Best of bad choices, Sisirri. Risky brain surgery, or open door into head for strange hostile hacker aliens to do whatever they wanted. Are you knowing how much information about you implant was giving away for free?"
"...Wait. No. What? What information?!"

Aza makes some weird gurgling noises mixed with squeaks. He waves his tendrils around in front of him in some sort of focused trance as though interacting with something not there.

"Yes, here. I recorded data from it for cross referencing purpose when analysing implant, assisted in translation. Name, species, age, sex, apparently 'generation six', whatever that is meaning, and then some weird note about being a 'final generation' and 'evolutionary dead end'? The rest is at least encrypted. Couldn't break it though as you are probably happy to hearing."

I am completely unsure how to process this information. Aza notices my silence, meekly looks side to side and leans closer to me.

"...Is Sisirri suffering from self-esteem issue? Aza can relate, went through similar phase not long ago. It okay, Aza not judging. Neumonos said you are being smarter than them, though. They didn't say it like those words but it is what is not said and how what is said that mattering more sometimes. Maybe when you are helping do science again you will remember you are having value."

Why are all these strange aliens pouring their hearts or equivalent organs out to a complete stranger? Are they deranged to show such weakness and trust so quickly? How did they not get killed already??

"I'm fine. I'm completely fine."
"Really? I would not be feeling fine stuck in tub of heal goo after near death experience. I would be sad or maddening with boredom. I however am having gift to improve on situation."
>>
No. 863868 ID: cf24af
File 151752870279.png - (46.84KB , 800x600 , salq-70.png )
863868

Aza makes a few more squeaks and something floats into the room.

"Class 2 'Skysurfer' aerial surveyor drone, version 3, ion-repulsion grav-drive variant, with many many personal modifications. Including shapemetal interface module for allowing control over limited internal shapemetal reservoir for adaptability of tools. Many speakings with Ku on getting it working right. Also flashlight of varying luminosity and hue. Also also sonic burst deterrant for protecting drone from aggressive wildlife. My third best drone and very proud of it is Aza indeed. Only problem is being limited battery power, so installing solar collectors. Require manual deployment as very much not aeryodynamic."
"Impressive."
"Is eye accepting input?"
"I can see, yes?"
"No sorry. Am meaning prosthetic eye. Is capable of relay?"

I think. There were a couple of times I tried to have my eye able to switch to cameras in my facility but I stopped doing it because it was nauseatingly disorienting.

"It is. How is your drone controlled?"
"Most robust method using at moment is simple encrypted low frequency radio signal. Have trialled more exotic methods but not faring well in constant storm climate. Never seeing rain so long before. Already connected to compound systems for convenience. Can using interface you have to control it. Also can be streaming camera view to eye but would recommending covering other eye and not moving too much if wanting to not remove food from body."
"I'm incredibly aware of the disconnect between visual input and other sensory input, yes."
"Oh, yes. You are probably knowing more so than me. I actually having few implants myself. I will get slate and upload better instructions and documentation to interface. Also eyepatch."
>>
No. 863869 ID: cf24af
File 151752873706.png - (17.61KB , 800x600 , salq-71.png )
863869

After what feels surprisingly quickly, Aza and myself get the drone operational. Controlling it via claw swipes while seeing through it is still not ideal, but after some test flights around the room, the disconnect between what I see and feel starts to fade. My other graspers start almost to flinch involuntarily as though I were walking.

"Thank you very much, Aza. Before you leave, did you find out what that implant was for?"
"Eh? I was also coming here to asking you same thing."
"I thought it was infrastructure for my eye."
"Completely separate physical system. ...Curious. Will investigating further and letting you know, but troubling if you are not knowing why had it."
"Yes. It is. Please keep me updated."

Aza nods at me-- the drone-- Aza nods facing whatever I am looking through, and takes his leave.

Within moments I, hm, no, the drone is flying through the corridors of the compound and out of a window.

Well. Seems like the rain has abated, but the clouds are darker than ever. It wouldn't surprise me if it started raining again.

I want to find my remaining arkots and I want to find the artifact and its shrapnel but it just occurs to me I have no idea how to even begin doing that.

Hm. For an inhabited planet, there sure is a considerable absence of plant and animal life. And a lot of strange, extremely tall buildings.

...and a lot of those weird tentacled things in the skies.

"...used to be s-s-so much m-m-more of us, we c-called ourselves the Astra hive."
"Hive? Your species is eusocial?"
"No, w-we live in *sniff* close groups with closely aligned empathy. L-like a... l-like family. You know what family, is, right?"
"Hey, the day I find a sapient social species that has no concept of familial bonds is the day I think we finally find something too alien to reason with. I'm so sorry, Ekasarra. What happened to them?"
"Hidira, the Splicer, a salikai. A monster so vile the survivors-- I don't know, I think it was wrong but I-- I can't be rogue, Tirzi, I don't, I can't, I want so badly to stay with the last hive members I have, but the empathy of what was left of Astra, it's, it's like a burning broken desire to do nothing but avenge the hive. It's-- it's like everything else was burned in the flames. My-- my conviction is failing, we lost even more of us because of that desire, but if I doubt my conviction I lose my hive! You can't understand what that would be like!"
"Well, uh, I have... no idea about... any of that, yeah, gonna be frank, in over my head here, but maybe I could help mediate you raising your concerns with your, uh, hivemates, was it?"

Oh good grief I can still hear them next door or however far too few rooms across they are.
>>
No. 863872 ID: 1561e1

Come on, you can at least learn about the emotional states of the neumono and potentially gain valuable information about them. Which ones are the most unstable and best to avoid, etc. Maybe ask Aza for the direction the neumono came from, you could try that. Failing that, the trail might still be fresh enough to follow if the moisture didn't obliterate it completely, look carefully to try and pick it up.
>>
No. 863875 ID: 4854ef

If nothing else, you could maybe ask for something to keep things silent.
>>
No. 863877 ID: ad51b8

fly the drone around the base and see if you can't find some non neumono to point you to where they found you... this drone has speakers right? Say you didn't come alone and want to collect some more members of your team(?)/crew(?) who you fear may still be left in the crash sight as well as the artifact as you also don't want someone to steal that for scrap or some other equally damning reason... oh crap only the neumono know where they grabbed you from right? Shit, uh, this place has got to have cameras right? see if anyone at least knows what way they dragged you in from. It would be better then nothing at least.
>>
No. 863882 ID: 10c408

Okay Sissirri, you've got a choice to make.

Either you keep the secrets of your cybernetics to yourself OR you tell Aza and Tirzi that they were forcibly installed without your explicit permission and you didn't know about the security breach because you didn't fuck with it.

Now before you throw this suggestion out the window for being absolutely counter-intuitive, fact check the following

1: Aza and Tirzi aren't salikai. They aren't going to respond to your secrets with malicious intent.

2: If you don't come clean now and let them read between the lines about some of it, they'll draw the wrong conclusion. And depending on what that conclusion is, the fallout could range from being troublesome to downright deadly for you.

3: If you pretend to not be a remorseless cold blooded control freak, then you can get away with more shit than you likely would if you keep up the stone cold personality.

4: and furthermore, if you strike now while the proverbial iron is hot you will be suckering them into being more on your side than before and this will also maybe open up some opportunities to socially back stab a certain pair of regenerative psychic alien rabbits that you despise.
>>
No. 863883 ID: 56fca5

Ask for an idea of where to begin looking. A general direction is better than nothing.

Have some patience with the neumono. There is information to be gained from listening. If you really can't take it, find or ask for a way to block out the noise from the medbay. Whatever you do, don't go complaining about someone breaking down. It is guaranteed to only cause problems.
>>
No. 863884 ID: 3ae3fd

Odd that Imperium didn't mention your identity if there was a small army of Neumono seeking revenge against your mother. It might have been trying to hide your connection to your family if they were an ongoing project, but then why mention your race at all? It was bound to attract the Neumono and they would have drawn parallels between you and her. Enough that they would have figured out a connection if they found both of your full names and there are likely no shortage of data stores at your lab that they could have gotten your name from and little chance of you putting up enough of a fight for the facility itself to suffer much damage.

Ugh. The Neumono are not going to disappear, and they are not going to forget about you. Distasteful though it may be, you had best gather as much data as you can while this opportunity exists.

Those Kiter things seems to be ludicrously good hackers. Best to avoid contact as you are unlikely to get another drone as good as this one.

The crater you... "landed" in is probably... "cleaner" than those made by weaponry. Try looking for a particularly perfect circle and lack of residues. Can this drone detect obscure energy frequencies? The artefact may have produced something odd when it activated...
>>
No. 863885 ID: 90124d

Keep listening to the Neumeno. You should know knowing your enemy's counterargument ahead of time will also allow you to have more time to prepare and will help you not get caught off-guard by an angry xenobiologist if one of them manages to convince her that you are actually evil somehow.

Also, few notes for "things to reveal if pressed hard by xenobiologist"

Your base got hacked by an AI while they were invading and you evacuated and ended up here via an experimental device that blown up soon after you bailed away.
No, you don't have blueprints or anything like that for said device.

Notes on encrypted information.

I bet it's spyware recording everything you've done, basically allowing you to be played like a fiddle by your mother with 100% information on everything about you. Damn, stuff that accesses brains are scary. I would not discredit potential memory manipulation.
>>
No. 863887 ID: 91ee5f

>>863869
Is there a way to speak through the drone? Because even if you find your arkots, they’re not gonna follow the drone unless they can hear your voice coming from it.

>Empathy problems.
You could mention building a jammer, but that would require helping the neumono and you don’t really want to do that. Also, they might get the wrong idea about why you want to build a jammer and then they’ll beat you up again.
>>
No. 863893 ID: 86eb65

These strange aliens are poring there hearts out to you in a attempt to gain your trust. And of course this seems alien to you because your species has issues with trusting anyone. Compounded by years and years of your own personal issues.

Look at it this way. They found a implant that either your mother or Imperium was using to do who knows what to you and saved your mind removing it. (thinking mom sold you out to her machine overlord). Should probably tell them that you might have had that implant forced on you.

They healed and housed you and gave you access to there technology. You have the chance to make friends with them and have a better life here if you want. All you have to do is avoid instinctively backstabbing them until you get the lay of the land.

As for the neumono? While I would never trust them it takes to much energy to hate people who have been fucked by imperium just as much as you.

So reverse the drone for a second to ask for directions to where they found you. Mention the importance of saving any of your arkots while there is still time. While you are there mention that neumono empathy is a actual hive mind link. And that there other guest are a mess. They have literally lost a good portion of there mental landscape.
>>
No. 863894 ID: c88e6d

You should immediately suspect that Imperium was responsible for driving your mother insane, and that the implants in your head were created by Imperium to try and engineer obedient Salikai servants.
>>
No. 863900 ID: 3abd97

>information about you implant was giving away for free?"
>The rest is at least encrypted.
Breaking that encryption so you can discover what data about yourself was being broadcast from your neural implant definitely goes on the priority list.

>>863869
>Oh good grief I can still hear them next door or however far too few rooms across they are.
You probably need to explain everything you know about neumono psychology and empathy to the aliens if they're going to manage the furry little murderers as they come apart at the seams.

The neumono sure aren't in any condition to explain themselves coherently, by the sound of it.
>>
No. 863943 ID: cf24af
File 151755021773.png - (182.00KB , 800x600 , salq-72.png )
863943

I suppose there's some advantages to these aliens who share their secrets and innermost turmoils with the ease of breathing air. I'll keep listening but so far all I'm learning from the neumono is that my mother and Imperium both made their lives far worse.

They can take a number and sit down. It isn't my fault they attacked my facility unprompted. No one fact checks anything anymore, I swear.

>explain how neumono work before they break completely
I'll cover that in the primer I'll write after I've rounded up any remaining arkots and artifact shards.

>breaking that encryption is really important
>it could be spyware
>it could have been mind control
I need to revise my goals in general after I find out what's happened to the artifact site. But yes, it is paramount.

>ask for an idea of where to go
I overlay the communications process over my drone vision and start typing.

"Hey, Aza. What direction did I arrive from?"
"not sure but probably away from the pylons i think, neumono said they felt some sort of weird wrongness coming from them"
"Wrongness?"
"i thinking weird alien senses not gelling with weird alien pylons, said it felt wrong and oppressive the closer they got and couldn't explain any better"

Interesting.

Nonetheless, I'd prefer to avoid this drone being detected.

I cycle through the sensors of the drone. Visual, infrared, ultraviolet, echolocation, and then I find something a little stranger. The interface labels it as "<ARTI> ANOMALOUS SOURCES [DO NOT USE EVER - AZA]" and...

Well, this is different. As I fly high enough I see the artifact, as well as strange sights completely invisible on all other sensor readouts.
>>
No. 863944 ID: cf24af
File 151755025991.png - (255.50KB , 800x600 , salq-73.png )
863944

I spin the drone around to see how the 'pylons' look and AGH WHAT IS THAT OW OW OW IT BURNS


S A ͡ L ҉ I K ͜ A ̵ I
͟ S ͘ U B ͟ M I ̴ T ͠ P ҉ R ́ O ͡ S ̵ E ̶ L ̕ Y ͜ T ́ I Z E ͢
J O I N M ̶ E R G ̵ E ̴ H ̷ A R M O N ͏ I Z E ͏
T O G E ͠ T H ͠ E R ̕ N E S ̨ S ́ U ͞ N I ͠ O N ͟ ̢
R ̸ E S ͡ Y ̀ N ̀ C H R ͝ O N ͝ I Z ̵ A ̕ T I ̶ O N S E ͡ L ̀ F
A L ́ L ̛ O T ̛ H E ̴ R ͢
̡ S ̀ U ̷ C C U ͢ M ̴ B
̶ A L ̴ L ͝ S U C ̢ C ͟ U M ̡ B ̨
A ͢ L ̕ L S ̸ U ̶ C C ̸ U ̀ M B ̵
A L ̀ L S U ͞ C ̀ C U M ̷ B


I CAN TASTE IT SPEAKING I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S SAYING OR HOW I'M HEARING THROUGH SIGHT I CAN FEEL THE TENDRILS IN MY HEAD
>>
No. 863945 ID: cf24af
File 151755029496.png - (24.71KB , 800x600 , salq-74.png )
863945

I switch back to visual immediately and the unpleasantness immediately ceases, although I feel an odd compulsion to drive the drone closer to the pylons that I immediately shut down and ignore.

Let's. Let's focus on the task at hand. I think all the stress is making me hallucinate. That's far more plausible than whatever... whatever that was.

I take the drone to the artifact right away without further dalliance, and...

Huh.

I can't say I'm exactly too surprised with how quickly they breed although I'd love to know where they found a source of food.
>>
No. 863948 ID: 91ee5f

>>863945
Great, you found them. And I say again, the arkots are not going to follow the drone unless they hear your voice through it. So again I ask, does the drone have a speaker or something you can use to talk to the arkots?

Also, if you’re going to bring them back to wherever you are, then you’re gonna have to tell Tirzi and the others, so that they can stop the neumono from trying to kill your arkots!
>>
No. 863950 ID: c2051e

>>863945
Well, now you have a source of food.
>>
No. 863951 ID: 90124d

Tendrils in your head? I'm pretty sure that's not normal, nor is your head unaffected from something like that.
>>
No. 863952 ID: 130855

You'd better go retrieve them before they outcompete all native life through sheer numbers. Also, having minions is always a good thing.
>>
No. 863953 ID: 10c408

...Good grief, that's another 12 arkots if I've counted them correctly.

And yeah, see if you can't get in contact with and wrangle them before they do something stupid.

Sidenote: You still have to come clean with Aza/tirzi and also message them about how neumono's quirks just to cover your butt down the line.
>>
No. 863955 ID: b1b4f3

>>863945
If you can't speak through the drone, immediately tell Tirzi so she can get someone out there to wrangle the arkots.
>>
No. 863959 ID: c88e6d

>>863945
Welp, send a text message via the system. Also mention that the awful pilons do NOT play nice with your cybernetics either.

Meanwhile, attempt to locate more of those creepy psychotic hackers.
>>
No. 863964 ID: 3ae3fd

The pylon's "message" looked/sounded like basic obedience/mind-control/politely-walk-up-to-them-and-let-them-have-their-way-with-you stuff... Very definitely not something to let into your thoughts. If it was giving the Neumono trouble though... maybe it can visualise empathic forces? If you can get a reading on the Neumono it would be... well, it would be direct observation of empathic abilities. Not many sensors can get that data.

There was supposed to be some sort of malleable all-purpose device made out of their impossible metal-like substance. See if you can manipulate it into broadcasting the necessary sensory cues to get the arkots to obey it as if it were you, and then see if it can do anything to have them obey even better than if it were you, like emitting a food-odour or preferable temperature or comforting lighting or something...
>>
No. 863974 ID: 91ee5f

>>863959
>Meanwhile, attempt to locate more of those creepy psychotic hackers.
No, let’s stay away from those guys, Sisirri doesn’t need any more brain damage.

If she gets anymore brain damaged, then she’ll try to actually bang #6 and- DAMNIT, IT’S GETTING WORSE!!!!! DX
>>
No. 863984 ID: 3ae3fd

Oh! If empathic mind-control pylons that interact with Neumono empathy show up on the same sensors as residual energies from your artefact, perhaps there is an empathic element to the artefact's technology! It is pure specualtion at this point, but it might explain why the destination was so arbitrary if the local mind-control pylon network was acting as a beacon of some sort. Or not, just a hypothesis for now, but it might be worth testing once you have laboratory facilities again. Especially if it means that next time it might select a destination based upon where the Neumono want to be...
>>
No. 863993 ID: de6d84

Look away briefly and watch more arkots pop up.
>>
No. 864024 ID: ad51b8

short term let's see if we can't herd these little buggers back to base and tell them to grab as much as the artifact as they can and as much food as they can... also see where they're grabbing the food from. Maybe pop Aza another quick question to see if the drone has a speaker and if so how to use it if you need to.

Although I do think I see a long term goal here, we're going to need to spruce up our new base's defenses because it looks like it's just sitting out in the open waiting for anyone to just come up and find it... like the neumono did. Probably should check around the base once you get your minions back and see what we have to work with because we are in the middle of an active war zone so if this base looks to fragile it might be better just to see if we can't build a second base somewhere more defendable/hidden incase we get raided again. Get trapped inside your own base while it get's torn down around is an experience you only need to live through once so we should also make sure that this base at least has a good emergency escape route should we need it.

Again though that's long term, more useful use of our more immediate time, after getting these guys back that is, would be meeting the rest of the crew to see how skilled they are in their fields and to make sure the neumono don't turn them all against you before you even get to see them, seeing what resources we have to work with, and seeing what we can do around here to help out if only to try and kill boredom while you wait till you can move around normally again.
>>
No. 864031 ID: 56fca5

If you have a means to communicate with the arkots, you should lead them back. Take note of the location of the artifact's crash site. We'll have to ask for the resources to relocate it. If we can recover the arkot's food source we'll have something for us to eat as well.
>>
No. 864038 ID: 86eb65

Ok the Arkots look good so find the artifact or any pieces of it that are lying around. Then have the Arkots each grab a hunk and start dragging them behind your drone as you lead them to the new base.
>>
No. 864049 ID: 3d2d5f

>>863944
I think you can independently verify the reports of "weird wrongness".

>>863945
One of them looks like it's wearing the same arm and leg bands as your prisoner earlier. Hopefully that's a sign of looting, not that your workforce has been compromised or recruited out from under you.

Does this drone have audio projectors? Time for a good old fashioned "I am your master!" speech.
>>
No. 864051 ID: 91ee5f

>>864049
>One of them looks like it's wearing the same arm and leg bands as your prisoner earlier. Hopefully that's a sign of looting, not that your workforce has been compromised or recruited out from under you.
Or looking at the pylon has messed with Sisirri‘s vision and one of those guys just looks like an arkot.

Or her vision has been messed with after looking at the pylon and she only sees arkots because that’s what she’s been looking for and the pylon is making her see what she wants to see, but there aren’t actually any arkots there.

So many possibilities.
>>
No. 864068 ID: fda98a

This is worrying. If both you and the neumono can sense this empathic or psychic mensaje, then there is something intelligent deep in the planet. Something powerful. You have to tell the other scientists about this, they might know somthing. And i know you will not like this, but you need a more spescific roport of what the neumono felt from those pilons.
>>
No. 864284 ID: cf24af
File 151768547008.png - (28.87KB , 800x600 , salq-75.png )
864284

>does drone have speaker
The drone has voice relay capability, I quickly discover. It's fortunately a separate system to the sonic stunner, so I can safely give orders without blasting some of my arkots into unconsciousness.

>empathy visualiser
If this drone somehow has an empathy visualiser then I suppose that's of some scientific note. I understand now why it had a "do not use" warning on it, though. I assumed that was merely some sort of possessive thing, not a legitimate warning of danger.

>artifact possibly empathy related
If the artifact is somehow influenced by empathy then this is one of the many forms of stimuli I never thought to test. I didn't want to do anything that would even slightly cause neumono to show interest in where I was working and I didn't want to take chances that there wasn't some ridiculous finely sensitive empathy sniffer halfway across known space that'd pick up on it.

>arkot with bands
That would be Number 3. Lost his left eye at some point from one of various failed artifact tests, and I engineered a replacement. It's not as sophisticated as my eye, though. I'm not very good at the theory or practice behind mind-machine-interfaces, so my understanding of how #3 has acted since is that it works, but doesn't seem very good at distinguishing fine detail. The bands are... I forgot why I gave them to him. I gave the sash to #6 so I could pick her out of a crowd. Why I gave #3 two fabric bands I have no recollection. Anyway, like #6 he's one of the more competent of a species of irritable idiots. Where #6 is apparently loyal without fault, #3 is almost disturbingly talented at figuring out how to use devices he's never seen before. Only problem is he's slightly more independently minded. And even more reckless than most of his kind. Except where most of his kind can probably be counted on as reckless idiots, #3 is a reckless idiot who genuinely ought to know better. Dangerously curious.

>all those arkot
They do breed quickly, and the smallest of them were definitely hatched this side of whatever distance we've travelled, but I doubt four (at max) arkots could reproduce this quickly. I suppose the same strangeness that swept the neumono here also took more of my arkots.

So, it would have probably been better for the arkot half in a pod to just stand next to it instead. Well, that's a useful discovery. I made those pods to protect their inhabitants. If I had any idea you could just be swept up in the artifact's wake I wouldn't have bothered making those blighted death capsules.

Altogether it seems I have 14 fully grown arkots here, with one of them being #3.
Sadly, none of my other notable arkots appear to have made it. Just #3 and #6.
Maybe the other arkots are trapped in a flooded facility.
Maybe they wandered further afield in a barren wasteland controlled by hostile alien invaders.
They're doomed either way.
A complete waste of valuable resources. All the time spent training them... ugh.

>weird wrongness
But I don't have empathy senses. Nor do I ever, ever want them. It felt like some sort of reaction with my eye prosthetic. Changing camera modes made it stop immediately and it was considerably weakened when my eye reflexively closed to the sensation of brightness. ...Begrudgingly, getting more intel from the neumono on what exactly they felt will be crucical to understanding whatever phenomenon these pylons are a part of.

>shapemetal tools
I find to my disappointment that there's just some presets on this interface. I suppose I'll need to ask about a finer level of control.

Still. I wanted control, and I have been handed it to me on a silver platter. Let us proceed.
>>
No. 864285 ID: cf24af
File 151768548891.png - (81.38KB , 800x600 , salq-76.png )
864285

"Arkots! This is Sisirri, your master!"

They all look up to the small white speck shouting at them, then go back to their rabble.
Oh no. They're not ignoring me. Not after everything else I've just gone through.
Let's see. Volume levels. Enhancing to 400%.

"Excuse me! I don't think you heard me, arkots! I am your master, Sisirri! All arkots are to report to this floating device. I expect answers! Where are you getting your food from, and-- I can see you ignoring me! There will be consequences for this insubordination! Ten seconds to stop that and pay attention! Last warning! Five! Four! THREE! TWO! OOOONE!"

I aim the drone at the arkot that most irritates me, and experimentally fire the sonic stunner. It goes down, as do the two arkots next to it from sort sort of concussive force. Okay. I thought that was low power, but there's more explosion on this thing than I would have liked. Not as precise a tool as I thought.

The arkots stagger back on their feet within seconds, so at least the low power setting worked.

That gets their undivided attention. I can barely hear #3 shouting to the other arkots that it is me, and then for what my questions are in arkot babble.

"Too late for questions, I have orders. Collect all the food you can and all fragments of the artifact, especially the big sphere part, and follow this drone. We have a new base of operations."

#3 salutes the drone and starts screeching the exact same orders I gave, but angrier. Thanks for your vital help in saying what I just said, #3.
They won't get all of it, but if they can at least retrieve some of it that's better than nothing.
I make a copy of the drone's telemetry data so I can get back to the artifact site later.
I mentally estimate about... three hours travel at arkot pace, given as they don't have flight. Doubling that, because arkots, that's six hours. It's roughly midday, so I estimate they'll get here--
Hmm. When does night fall?
Hold on one moment. Comms time. I don't recognise these names... oh, good, show real names next to network identifiers. Check that. Good. Here we go.
>>
No. 864286 ID: cf24af
File 151768554597.png - (196.63KB , 800x600 , salq-77.png )
864286

> -- VoxNet connection established -- <
> -- Autotranslation in effect -- <
> -- Joined #main -- <
> -- Channel header: General lab talk -- <
> Guest-04 [Sisirri]: General question. Does anyone know how long it is until nightfall?
> saba! [Saba]: no sorry
> CybLux [Aza]: thinking maybe in five or six hours? what is you meaning by 'nightfall', can be very vague term
> LessEdgyThanYou [Tirzi]: I just told Ekasarra this, she wanted to go for a walk.
> saba!: a walk in an active warzone?????? you idiot call her back
> LessEdgyThanYou: She was very, very insistent on it. Said she had to get away from her friends for a moment. Then she looked aghast she said that and stomped out and I didn't really want to set her off again.
> Guest-01 [Lekka]: Givbe her tikme shre'll be ovber it spoon
> Guest-01: Do9ing bett5er, sa;likai?
> Guest-04: Better than you at typing, clearly.
> Megalith [Sitvki]: Knock it off, both of you. Keep it cordial. You have no idea how many risks we took even letting you in here. If you're going to start making our workplace hostile we can throw the lot of you out.
> Megalith: I already had to ban one of you from this channel.
> Guest-01: sokrryg abouht tha\tf
> Guest-01: k4an's goinbg throufgh so0me thinbgs r4ight now
> Guest-01: i'kll tazlk to him
> Guest-01: latrr saliokai, don'5t commit an6y atrociotiesd whbiled wse're gonde
> [Guest-01 disconnected]
> saba!: does anyone know what that guy actually said it just came up as gibberish for me
> saba!: the autotranslate only goes so far
> saba!: it doesnt speak interface plate murder
> Guest-04: I wouldn't worry about it. Something about personal issues, I think.
> Guest-04: So what was the answer, Tirzi?
> LessEdgyThanYou: Oh. Uh. Uhh. It gets dark in about five or six hours.
> CybLux: just saying that!
> CybLux: where is being Ku anyway, going to go looking for him
> [CybLux disconnected]
> LessEdgyThanYou: Yeah, I should get to work analysing these testing results. It's... uncanny meeting another species with potentially more regenerative capacity than salazzarine.
> saba!: ill come barging into your lab at midnight
> saba!: if you stay up all night because of your weird xenophilia i am going to gently take you to your bedroom and tuck you into bed and punch you in the face until you are unconscious
> LessEdgyThanYou: It's alarming how fast that went from cute to creepy and then to outright threatening.
> saba!: im a creature of many faces
> saba!: literally many faces
> saba!: and you dont need to see the worst of them if you remember to go to fucking sleep by yourself like an adult
> saba!: saba OUT
> [saba! disconnected]

>>
No. 864287 ID: cf24af
File 151768559096.png - (153.05KB , 800x600 , salq-78.png )
864287


> LessEdgyThanYou: Ok bye Saba I guess.
> LessEdgyThanYou: Sits, where are you?
> Megalith: Rec room. On break for the day. I wouldn't be policing the chat if I had urgent things to do.
> LessEdgyThanYou: I think Saba had a point. I'll wrap up this analysis in a couple hours, if you're still there I'll come swing by.
> Megalith: Cool.
> Megalith: Sisirri, you still holding up alright?
> Megalith: I'd like to introduce myself in person but I don't think I can fit in that broom closet Tirzi calls a lab.
> LessEdgyThanYou: I told you, the large scale xenobio lab has to be kept as empty as possible! It's wasteful to occupy it with specimens that don't require it!
> Guest-04: Specimens.
> LessEdgyThankYou: Or patients. Look. The lines sort of blur when dealing with unknown alien medical care, alright?
> [saba! connected]
> saba!: the neumono want HOW much food
> saba!: we give them a place to stay and they want this much food
> saba!: id start having to butcher spare bodies just to feed these guys and i am not about to start doing that for any fucker
> saba!: do they know we only have finite supplies for us
> saba!: weve been cut off from further supplies
> saba!: and our geologist is the size of a fuckin building
> saba!: fuck i thought amtsvane nutrition was hard enough to keep up with
> saba!: might need to slaughter a spare body just to remove a mouth to feed
> Guest-04: Oh, right. I'm bringing some food to the base.
> saba!: how
> saba!: how are you doing that
> Guest-04: I found some of my arkots. I'm leading them back to the base. With food and artifact pieces.
> saba!: youre fucking what
> saba!: youre bringing even more things to feed here
> saba!: oh for fucks sakes
> saba!: you better hope theyre carrying the fucking horn of plenty if youre doing that
> saba!: you are a guest here alien not a permanent resident
> Megalith: We have been pretty chronically understaffed, though.
> Megalith: Any extra hands helping us get the heck out of here are appreciated.
> saba!: gghhghghghghgh
> saba!: alright fine but priority one is getting more food before we start eating each other in some horrible gory enactment of survival of the fittest
> saba!: because im winning that one
> Megalith: Yeah. Right.
> saba!: im gonna eat your brain from the inside
> saba!: or something
> saba!: then use you to eat everyone else
> Megalith: Rude.
> saba!: thats survival of the fittest kid
> saba!: hey salikai are arkots edible
> Guest-04: Yes.
> saba!: that was a joke
> saba!: your species understands comedy right
> saba!: well whatever tirzi you said arkots were sapient right
> LessEdgyThanYou: The quiet one with the sash was pretty good at solving the basic puzzles I gave her, if resentful about doing it.
> LessEdgyThanYou: It was the neumono who said they were sapient but usually found as salikai, uh, property.
> saba!: oh so we have a slaveowner here
> saba!: great were doing so well here
> Guest-04: The relationship is closer to domestication. Arkots are self-aware and able to learn but are predisposed to self-destructive ignorance. They follow me because it helps them.
> saba!: uh huh
> saba!: i was trying to think of a snarky comment about my other host bodies being domesticated, not your self-aware tiny bug lizard dudes
> saba!: but i guess i dont have much moral high ground to stand on
> saba!: i literally need to be in a host or i die
> saba!: but whatever
> Guest-04: To be honest 'self-aware' feels like a stretch for a lot of them.
> Guest-04: I've seen toyas with greater demonstration of self-awareness.
> saba!: yeah i dont know what that is and i dont care
> Guest-04: Anyway I'm busy now. I'll take my leave.
> saba!: have fun wrangling your gaggle of hungry idiots to the promised laboratory
> -- VoxNet connection terminated -- <


I spend the next two or three minutes setting up a clock overlay with readouts on nightfall and midday so I never have to wait so long for a simple answer for a simple question again.

Piloting the drone back to this lab with the arkots in tow will take me the rest of the day.
While I lead the arkots I start writing the primer to neumono empathy and hives but I only know half the story myself. Still more than Tirzi knows, likely.
>>
No. 864288 ID: cf24af
File 151768562476.png - (29.98KB , 800x600 , salq-79.png )
864288

Three hours later...

I can't believe they've already taken three hours! There's still at best two hours to go! Night is approaching, it's pouring with rain and I need to keep waiting for stragglers or artifact piece fumbles and I very nearly lost the food crate they're dragging with them.
Turned out their food source was just looting that bunker from before.
And I'm hungry and we ran out of fruits here.
Still, we're getting there--

knock knock

Oh good. Company. I set the drone to autopilot its way back home at a glacial speed, seeing as I don't need, nor do I want, to spend another hour watching arkots fail to climb a shallow slope.

"Who is it?"
"E-ekasarra."

...

"Go away."
"I just-- I just want to t-talk. That's all."
"I am neither interested in talking to you nor hearing what you have to say. Please leave before I call for assistance."

The door opens and in steps through a neumono who doesn't understand simple instructions. At least she's unarmed and unarmoured.
I don't think I've seen a neumono with as many cybernetics, uh, anywhere.
She holds her hands up and stays near the door.

"There were never any weapons, were there?"
"I already said there weren't. If I had some kind of ridiculous super weapon I would have used it to defend myself. And no, you idiot neumono attacked my one place of comfort and security over the merest possibility that I might be a threat because, oh no, the scary salikai has a doomsday weapon! Better not fact check anything and charge in recklessly, leading to a large amount of pointless destruction and unnecessary casualties!"

Ekasarra nods slowly, silently.

"If that's all you wanted to know then I've answered your question. I'm not in any mood to accept visitors so please leave."
"Hidira was your mother."
"No, I said she killed my mother--"
"Sisirri, please, I know I don't deserve the time of day after what we put you through but this is important. During that... mistake of an invasion--
"Mistake. The destruction of my home and the slaughter of my workforce was a mistake. I would describe it as a disaster."
"I know you won't believe me but I am more sorry than you might ever appreciate about what happened. I was in charge of gathering any intel we could find. I found... records. About you. About Hidira."

Ekasarra breathes in and out, a shuddering as though she's about to start weeping again any moment.

"Sisirri. Please. I have a loaded pistol with one bullet for the day I turn rogue and that day feels like it's getting closer and closer."

Probably already arrived. You don't even need to be empathic to see the writing on that wall.

"I just want to know." Her voice starts quaking slightly. "What do you know about Imperium?"
"Oh, that myth we salikai have taken at face val--"
"Imperium is real and I know it. I... I..."

Ekasarra trails off.

"I did some work with your mother," she adds, choking up. "And I want to know. How do we stop it? How do we stop Imperium?"

We can't, but perhaps if I give a different answer... this neumono is clearly emotionally vulnerable.
Perhaps I can exploit that to somehow prevent the other two neumono being a threat to me.
Maybe I can get some more answers out of her too.
But what to say...
>>
No. 864290 ID: 1561e1

Before answering anything, see if you can confirm that she didn't just "take a walk" into one of those mind control pylons and is now trying to gather information from you that will help somebody ELSE.
>>
No. 864292 ID: 130855

Ha! If I knew how to handle Imperium, I wouldn't be here! Go away.

Trying to manipulate Neumono is not something we need to be worrying about right now.
>>
No. 864293 ID: 0d45a9

First, cool it Sisirri, yes you can despise them for what they did, but it's not helpful at the moment. Be the rational species you tell yourself you are. Besides, she was the one advocating for you during that mess of a confrontation, show a bit of gratitude or at least take the barbs out of your words.

Given your mother's obsession with cybernetics, and the degree of cybernetics on this neumono, it's likely she's telling the truth about working with your mother.

She wants to know about Imperium, and she has information about you and your mother. A exchange of information will be beneficial. Tell her about Imperium, and ask about the records she found. It might answer what that mystery implant was, or the cause of whatever sickness turned your mother into whatever she became.
>>
No. 864295 ID: c88e6d

>>864288
She's suicidal and has been mutilated with cybernetics despite Neumono's innate incompatibility.

Do not antagonize. Our best chance for survival at this time is to, politely, explain that Imperium is a heavily distributed and hostile artificial intelligence with advanced techology and weaponry that was willing to throw away an intergalactic teleporter and a full base with a Salikai out of spite. Imperium's greatest weakness is its overwhelming arrogance and distaste for other sapient life.
>>
No. 864296 ID: 1561e1

Tell a sugar-coated, hopeful version of the truth. You certainly can't do it alone, though there's more people like you and her that have information about it. If you pool your information, you might be able to find something that could lead to a weakness. Most importantly, that means both of you have to stay alive if you want any hope of Imperium being stopped.


(Of course, actually killing it will be extremely difficult unless it has some unknown quirks like not wanting or not being able to back itself up, having a single central location that has the necessary setup to operate its 'empire', etc. but without that it could still be possible to severely cripple its resources somehow. Especially if there's some ancient tech artifacts with unknown capabilities to take advantage of!)
>>
No. 864297 ID: b1b4f3

>>864288
"How do you eat an elephant?" is an appropriate analogy here. One piece at a time. Also you'd need an army to keep it from constructing more servers as you destroy them. The most damaging thing your limited forces could do to Imperium is prove it exists. Then the entire goddamn galaxy will unite to destroy such an existential threat. Maybe more than one galaxy, even. It seems you're in a different one, and if research into this transportation artifact yields any results you may be able to develop intergalactic travel for ships to use.

So uh, hang on a moment though. This is the Neumono that went on a walk? In a warzone full of hostiles that are able to hack cybernetics in seemingly impossible ways? How do we know she's not brainwashed now? ...I guess the other Neumono would notice if she was compromised... but she's still a huge idiot and soon to be a Rogue, which will result in her two ex-hivemates becoming very aggressive towards her.
Maybe you can use that though? Take her under your protection?

Regardless, you should ask her what work she did with your mother. Perhaps she can explain why your implant is not what you thought it was.
>>
No. 864298 ID: 86eb65

We start by analyzing your and my cyber tech. Mine had a backdoor I suspect Imperium engineered. There could be lots of valuable info on what that backdoor did and how it was designed.

So unless you are 100% sure yours is safe you should have the aliens here test it or remove it.

Then we gather food and help our hosts secure this base. Once we are safe and have plenty of resources we analyze the artifact and see if we can get home.

Oh and stop deluding yourself about going "rogue". You can't go rogue if you are the last of your hive. You just end up the last of your hive. I don't like you but we have a common enemy. If you fall apart I am probably going to say fuck fighting Imperium and ask to go live with these aliens. Less chance of neumono murdering me for saving people that way.
>>
No. 864304 ID: 563dc1

A Neumono working with a Salikai ...? This seems irregular, and well worth understanding. Assuming Ekasarra isn't lying, this suggests they might be sufficiently open-minded to allow for effective cooperation. Either way you'll want to know about what happened there.
Given that she knows about Hidira and you, she might also have valuable information about your implants.

Strong second on making sure her cybernetics aren't compromised. Maybe check with Aza about it.

Don't outright lie; that's generally dangerous, and more so since you don't know what she knows. Amongst *Neumono*, they'll generally be able to sense lies. They can't sense yours. A reputation for honesty could be very useful here. Shade the truth if it helps.

In line with this, admit to Hidira having been your mother, talk about what she became and what she did to you, and how that made you stop thinking of her as such.
You have a sapient in front of you who is struggling with the loss of the people closest to her. You lost your mother - to some combination of her own delusions and Imperium's manipulation - and it still hurts. This is something she should be able to relate to, and something you can use to explain part of your motivation to get back at Imperium. It could be an effective way to build a connection and get Ekasarra to open up to you, if you can put your hate for her kind aside and talk frankly.
>>
No. 864309 ID: 3adb50

>>864288
If she commits suicide it helps with the food problem. However, if she commits suicide in your room you will have the other two trying to blame you for it and then trying to kill you for it.

>>864295
This.

And if she does attempt to blow her brains out here, politely ask her to do so somewhere else.
>>
No. 864313 ID: 3abd97

>>864287
Neumono do take ridiculous amounts of food, and a disproportionate amount of meat. They probably eat more than your whole pile of arkots!

>While I lead the arkots I start writing the primer to neumono empathy and hives but I only know half the story myself. Still more than Tirzi knows, likely.
You can confirm the ridiculous appetite and regeneration, at least.

>>864288
>I have a loaded pistol with one bullet for the day I turn rogue and that day feels like it's getting closer and closer.
I assume she's speaking metaphorically or that's a high yield explosive bullet because I don't see how else she plans on killing herself in one shot.

>We can't, but perhaps if I give a different answer... this neumono is clearly emotionally vulnerable.
>Perhaps I can exploit that to somehow prevent the other two neumono being a threat to me.
>Maybe I can get some more answers out of her too.
>But what to say...
Weird as it might sound, honesty might be your best approach.

Imperium had far more resources at its disposal than I ever did, even before the loss of my lab. More resources than your hive would have had at its zenith. Frankly, I don't know how we could meaningfully opposite it at this juncture. Never mind the fact the artifact teleported us to what appears to be another planet, possibly another dimension. Reaching Imperium, in order to oppose it, will be a significant challenge.

Any plan to oppose Imperium will necessary need to begin with survival, and likely cultivating the aliens who have taken us in as allies and/or minions. Followed by a build up of resources, and research on the artifact so it becomes possible to move troops or material against Imperium. Your hive not trying to kill me would be helpful in these endeavors.

This would be a long term project. If you have first hand insight and knowledge that would be useful, you might want to reconsider your plans for suicide, Ekasarra. You can't contribute to any effort for revenge or justice dead.

If I may ask a personal question, why the cybernetics? Neumono regeneration should have both been capable of replacing lost limbs, and makes maintenance of cybernetic components costly and complex. I understand if Hidira forced them on you, but unlike me, you had the option of not keeping them once you were free of her.
>>
No. 864316 ID: 91ee5f

>>864284
>That would be Number 3. Lost his left eye at some point from one of various failed artifact tests, and I engineered a replacement.
Oh, great, now #3 is a target for those hacking not-heef things, just like you were earlier.

>>864288
>I don't think I've seen a neumono with as many cybernetics, uh, anywhere.
Ok, the cybernetics in your head were a problem, but how is she not considered a problem?! Did Tirzi or someone else not explain to her the risk of getting your head hacked into?!

Uh, don’t say anything about it out loud, but do remember to send a message to Tirzi about it later.

>”Hidira was your mother."
Go ahead and admit to her that Hidira was your mother and she was also the one that shoved this artificial eye into your head, despite protesting the entire time that you didn’t want it.

>”Sisirri. Please. I have a loaded pistol with one bullet for the day I turn rogue and that day feels like it's getting closer and closer."
I’m pretty sure both of you know for a fact that one bullet is nowhere near enough to kill a neumono.

In fact, she’ll still be alive, but she’ll have just wasted a perfectly good bullet.

Again, don’t mention this out loud.
>>
No. 864318 ID: 6780f5

If she's emotionally vulnerable, definitely swallow your fear for the regenerating murderbeasts and just try to be honest. She's clearly opening up to it by not rejecting the possibility right out. If she gets convinced enough that you weren't actually at fault, then the other two might get convinced by her and you wouldn't have to worry about them anymore. All without having to get out of your bath.
>>
No. 864324 ID: 3ae3fd

Check on the arkots at regular intervals. You know better than to leave an unstable project to its own devices, especially when its devices are arkots. Do tell the intruder what you are doing though. It is bound to affect your concentration and the odds of them reacting violently to you acquiring more arkots seems low. Recovering the artefact should favour their interests.

It is odd that the most "considerate" Neumono seems to be the one most heavily modified by The Splicer. Imperium's goal seems to involve heavy use of implants, possibly converting creatures into remote nodes for itself. The Splicer's operation seems to have been focused upon that goal, testing the limits of Neumono compatibility with implants. There is always deviance, but it seems odd that the most compromised Neumono would not also be the most angry. Could she be compromised? The staff at this facility were merciless with your own compromised implants which should have operated from the same technology. For now let's just hope that they caught all the Imperium mind-control...

Your mother protected you and taught you to understand the world. The Splicer installed extensive cybernetics into you, while you were conscious, with no sensory nullification, didn't even use designated surgical facilities... You can only hope that Imperium had completely taken over and your mother never even saw that happen...
And your brain implant was, at least in part, a monitoring device, like one would install in an experiment...

With the amount of data Imperium collects it cannot possibly perform heuristics on all of it. The first step to defeating it is to determine what data-points it scans for and don't be one of them.
>>
No. 864341 ID: 10c408

Knowingly or not, Ekasarra just gave you a good puzzle that you can solve without having to leave the surgical bed.

Unfortunately, it's got some strings attached. And the biggest one is don't drive the cybernetic neumono to attempt suicide because you might not survive the consequences.

"Ignoring our present situation entirely... It would have to be war, I think. A war on two fronts across the entire galaxy as the allied front against imperium scrubs the universe ship, planet and holdout of his shadowy reach bit by bit."
>>
No. 864359 ID: 12b116

Tell her we can't. Especially not after what they've done.
>>
No. 864363 ID: 33cbe7

'You ensure the survival of the next generation so they can figure out a way. It's not happening in either of our lifetimes.'
>>
No. 864371 ID: 56fca5

You are getting increasingly hostile. You need to cool it or you are going to create a conflict. One we cannot afford.

Forget about using the neumono. We'll deal with our situation using the resources offered by the facility's crew. Give her your real assessment of Imperium. There is no chance of a small group of neumono and a salikai stopping it.
>>
No. 864378 ID: 9bad90

Before anithing else explain what excuse Hidira used to justify augmenting a neumono. I can only assume her delusions only got worst since the last time I saw her, tell me how far have she gone.

The first thing we are going to need to be able to Imperium is a way back. Beyond the time it will take for me to restore the transporting device, we will need to decide if it's worth. I don't have all that much to return to and the prospect of starting from scratch must be even more tempting for your group that can reproduce and form a colony.
Once returned to fight the master of conspiracies you would need to be extremely paranoid and resourceful, exposing associated military bases and discreetly attacking essential infrastructure before it could be moved.
The entire process will take many years, so if you want to have any chance to satiate your hive thirst for revenge you better be able to overcome your suicidal though. It doesn't matter if you will reintegrate to your hive mind or act independently, as long as you live you have a chance to fight the shadowy titan.

Now go bother Aza to remove your implants. There are hackers around and you will not be doing anyone a favor having hostile aliens tinkering with your though.
>>
No. 864382 ID: cf24af
File 151771155243.png - (12.09KB , 800x600 , salq-80.png )
864382

>cool it
>swallow your fear
Yes. Calm. Cool. Collected. I am better than surrendering to my emotions above reason.
Salikai are creatures of reason and rationality. The greatest of the homeworld species at rational thought and action.

>check on the arkots regularly
I can do so and talk at the same time. I start doing so. Some progress has been made up the shallow hill.

>a neumono working with a salikai?
>a sapient creature that has lost the closest to her
We are more alike in some regards than I am comfortable with. Perhaps an alliance against a greater mutual threat may be logical.
With appropriate safety checks and countermeasures for a likely inevitable betrayal.

>soon to be rogue
>take her under protection
I can barely protect myself but this is an intriguing possibility. Instigating strife deliberately among these broken neumono would be uncomfortably unpredictable, but perhaps the notion of trust will bleed from her to the others. Yes. Yessss.

>could be compromised
>maybe 'took a walk' into weird pylons
But first I need to be sure of something.

"You have had your cybernetics analyzed by Aza to ensure they're not compromised, correct?"
"What? What are you trying to say?"
"You 'took a walk' outside in that field of pylons. We're in a warzone with entities of impossible efficiency and effectiveness at electronic warfare. Those cybernetics seem linked to your mind... body... thing." Yes. This conveys my expertise in such things. Highly technical terms such as 'mind body thing'. Whatever. "I want to be sure, given your sudden apparent change of heart, that you're not asking me questions for the sake of something else. I'm surprised Aza didn't already take out your implants."

Ekasarra pauses. "Aza is the little glowy one, right?"
"Yes."
"He investigated my cybernetics two days ago. He asked if I could part with them, and I told him no. So he told me I either had to let him examine my cybernetics or he wasn't letting me step foot inside the facility. It was a very, very tedious process." She smiles slightly. I'm not sure why. "And then he confirmed that he couldn't break into any of my systems with direct or wireless methods."
"Intriguing. I'm surprised a neumono has so many cyberneti--"
"Not by my own choice, Sisirri."
"Why not remove them?"

Ekasarra swings from despondant to frustrated with alarming speed. "If it was that simple I'd have done it already! Your mother--"
"The thing that gave you those cybernetics was not my mother."
"...I'm sorry. I know you were a victim in this too." She looks at my cybernetic eye. "The Splicer gave me these parts to see if she could override neumono regeneration with cybernetics. As I said to Aza and also Tirzi, the cybernetics aren't removable anymore. I'd survive, probably, but it'd be... I don't want to think about it. They... they extend deep into my body. Aza determined there's strands of them through my torso into my thighs."
"An unwarranted and undesired integration of machine and flesh. That sounds like her work."

Ekasarra nods slowly. "I got off lightly. I have... flashbacks. I asked the Splicer to remove any memory I had of my work with her each time, but the removal didn't always... take properly. All I know is I'm a successful experiment. You... you don't w-want to know what the failures looked like."
"I consider the 'Splicer' to have been the greatest failure of all."
"We're getting off track. Imperium. How do we destroy it?"
>>
No. 864384 ID: cf24af
File 151771156613.png - (9.05KB , 800x600 , salq-81.png )
864384

>how do kill imperium
"Firstly, you can't kill it if you're dead, so survival is paramount. Secondly, I believe there's common traits between our respective cybernetics given their developers and benefactors. If Imperium had influence over these designs, we can use its own designs against it to determine any means it uses to collect information. Thirdly, it has more resources than I ever had and your hive likely ever had at its zenith. In conclusion, war. A war across the entire galaxy as all opposed to Imperium systematically scour every corner of space of its insidious presence. It may take generations."
"I... I guess I'd need to survive to see all that through, but going rogue is already a death sentence, I--"
"You can't exactly be rogue if you're already the last of a hive. Also, usually it is customary for a judge, a jury and an executioner to be separate entities."
"You're a salikai, Sisirri. It wouldn't be fair to expect you to understand."
"From what I've understood, the process of going rogue involves a fundamental disconnection from one's peers and family, yes?"
"Y-yes?"
"I've witnessed a fundamental disconnection of a family member from myself. I think I understand well enough. You're also too useful to die by your own hand. It would be incredibly wasteful."

Ekasarra is silent as I realise I'm perhaps not the best at motivating others.

"...also your hivemates would be sad, and sadness is incredibly poor for working morale. Also a waste of ammunition because I am fairly certain one bullet isn't going to actually do much--"
"Stop! Sorry, uh. You can stop there," says Ekasarra. "Thanks. I think."
"You're welcome. Regardless, here we can't do anything to strike back at Imperium. Our primary goal is to recover and repair the artifact that brought us here, with the assistance and aid of this alien science team, which will require securing this base and gathering greater food supplies. We also need to survive long enough to see this through to completion. It would also be beneficial if you could convince your hive to stop trying to kill me."
"I'll... I'll do what I can."

Success. I am the master of manipulation.
Now I know my true strengths lie in making aliens feel so awkward and uncomfortable they agree to my whims just to end the silence.
I may need to work on my social approach.

>tell about arkots
"Also, in the interests of transparency, I'm bringing a group of roughly a dozen arkots to this laboratory via remote drone. The few survivors of your colleagues' terrible invasion. Don't be alarmed if you see more of them, and please don't kill them."
"What? They're arkots, if they're not trying to kill me I couldn't care less. Oh. Okay, I'll tell Lekka and Kan but I'm pretty sure they know where they stand if they try to harm anyone in this place."
"It's taking a lot of my concentration to talk and lead at the same time."
"Ah. Yes. I should probably go get food, anyway."

There's another heavy pause.

"...Thank you, Sisirri."
"For what?"
"For talking. And listening."

Before I can ask her why this is important to her, she's already gone.
>>
No. 864387 ID: cf24af
File 151771160419.png - (100.95KB , 800x600 , salq-82.png )
864387

I focus purely on leading the arkots, after filing a request with Tirzi to bring me any fruits left over. She tells me she'll get Aza to get a drone on it.
#6 is still peacefully sleeping by my side like some kind of pet toya.

Meanwhile, back outside in the twilight of dusk...

Uh.
Uhhhh.
Between where I am and the laboratory, there seems to be a gathering of some description.
As well as some incredibly strange looking plantlife? And a glowing pool??

I definitely took this route during my search, this was not here three or four hours ago.

I drive the drone down to ground level and harshly whisper at the arkots to stop and gather themselves here. I dim the lights on the drone.

I spin to face the gathering and zoom in as far as I can. The drone camera compensates for the lack of lighting.
Four insectoid things, two feathered things, a couple tentacled things. Some of them look armed with weapons I don't recognise.
They seem like they're... waiting? Guarding? They seem preoccupied with something in their encampment.
They don't appear to have noticed us, but the fact they're facing our approach back to the lab is... troubling.

Some strange light apparition bubbles out of the pool and hangs in the air, as one of the feathered creatures appears to manipulate it.
>>
No. 864389 ID: 12b116

Call the xenobiologist back over and see if she knows what these are
>>
No. 864390 ID: b1b4f3

>>864387
Well, you've got weapons on the drone but I doubt they're enough to handle this group. You've got allies that might be strong enough? Contact someone and see if they'd be interested in attacking the group.

For now you're forced to watch, and maybe find a route around them.
>>
No. 864392 ID: 10c408

uhhh. Huh. Is there a screenshot function on the drone, or perhaps a video recording function? Either would work, but taking a video recording for later reference would be preferably.

Don't spend too long filming though, have the arkots backup a little bit, then skirt around this cluster of unknowns. Try not to get spotted, it looks like they've got rifles of some kind.
>>
No. 864393 ID: 56fca5

Report this immediately. Regardless of their intent, we cannot have enemies gathering so close to the base. You aren't going to be able to do anything about it with your arkots and that drone alone.

I assume you can take a picture to send? Saba sounds like the person you would want to inform.
>>
No. 864395 ID: 86eb65

Transfer this feed back into the base. Get your new allies help.

These things would mess up your arkots badly if you brought them to close.
>>
No. 864398 ID: 2def03

we probably should tell the others around the lab about this and try to lead our arkots around these fucks because I don't want to lose our workers, food, or risk the artifact.
>>
No. 864401 ID: 91ee5f

>>864387
They’re waiting for your arkots so that they can take the artifact. They know that the arkots are too weak to stop them.

I believe you need to alert everyone in the base to see if they can help. After all, they’re facing your arkots, not the base. Someone could easily walk outside and shoot a few of them before they could react!
>>
No. 864403 ID: c88e6d

>>864387
Call the Xenologist, ask if they have some of those Neumono terrain-wrecking guns
>>
No. 864405 ID: 6780f5

Just stay low and make a big circle around them, no need to further agitate the locals and take unnecessary casualties. Xenologist might definitely be interested in this behaviour, though.
>>
No. 864410 ID: 3abd97

>>864384
100% masterful manipulation.

>Before I can ask her why this is important to her, she's already gone.
Neumono are social creatures, more social than salikai are. And she's currently having difficulty communicating with her peers. You provided an outlet for a need.

>>864387
The presence of these aliens is tactically important information. Share it with the alien researchers before taking other action.

Is it possible to redirect the arkots around this checkpoint?
>>
No. 864413 ID: 91ee5f

>>864405
>>864410
>Move around them.
That’s not going to work because the arkots are moving very slowly, they’ll never make it before they get spotted. Also, it’s a big wide open space with no hills or anything that can be used to hide, which means the arkots are going to be spotted even sooner.
>>
No. 864425 ID: 0d45a9

>Taking a species known for it's extreme durability via regeneration and disabling that to allow extensive cybernetics for the sake of seeing if it's possible
How disgustingly inefficient. Such a pointless experiment only shows the depths of the splicer's sickness. No offence meant to Ekasarra.

As for why she's thanking you. She probably feels a bit alienated from her hivemates, given her recent worries about going rogue, and (Assuming the other neumono don't have similar cybernetics) the degree of cybernetics she has. So she doesn't feel like she can talk to her hivemates, and the other aliens wouldn't understand. So you're the only one she feels like she can talk to about this stuff?

I'd report this situation to the other base personnel, it's likely this is a ambush to get the artefact parts. I'd try to sneak around the ambush, depending on how quick the drone is, you could use it's sonic stunner as a distraction: Find somewhere where they can't see and has a path back to your current location that they also can't see, blast something with the stunner to make a loud noise, return to original position while they investigate.
>>
No. 864435 ID: 130855

It's possible that these guys are here to intercept your artifact. You should try to go around them, and get in contact with the Tirzi. Send your arkots down different routes, so even if these guys kill some, you don't lose all of them.
>>
No. 864437 ID: 3ae3fd

Ew! I am not convinced that there are any insectoids amongst their personnel. Those tentacles look parasitic and dominant... Probably of interest to the xenobiologist, and potentially the parasite.

That interface looks absurdly esoteric for most purposes, which suggest a highly versatile device. The surrounding structures and immaterial nature of it combined with knowledge of those massive spires suggest that the "pool" is a focal point for a massive energy convergence. I am certain that there is a perfectly technological explanation for all of it, holograms and repulsion fields and matter synthesis and whatever else, but it is easier to just say "magic". If they start shooting lightning from their fingers, summoning creatures from mythology, and throwing around curses, just remember that sanity can wait until after battle.
>>
No. 864440 ID: b1b4f3

>>864437
Could by symbiotic. One is using a tentacle as a leg.
>>
No. 864517 ID: 38de21

Yeah, tell Tirzi and the rest of them about this situation.
>>
No. 864566 ID: c88e6d

I suspect the tentacles are similar to Cordyceps in that they are a fungal lifeform piggy-backing on an insect. There's no real way of telling which is in charge without a medical examination.

For all we know the insects and fungus are nonsapient eusocial organisms but when combined they form sapient individuals. Still, we should come up with a plan to blow them up.
>>
No. 864605 ID: cf24af
File 151779968381.png - (142.21KB , 800x600 , salq-83.png )
864605

>move around / redirect
>no that's too slow
It seems incredibly likely that the arkots are going to be spotted if we go around.

>they're waiting for the artifact
If they wanted the artifact, they had three days while I was out to take it. Why now?

>share the information
I jump into the aliens' comms network and tell them something urgent is stopping me bringing back my arkots.
I show them the feed.

I can hear dim, muffled shouts in languages I don't speak echo through empty corridors.

> "Voice conference active. Reason given: active emergency."
> "Salikai. Sisirri, sorry. My name is Ku Gat," I hear my interface surface say. "Aza is patching through the drone sensory stream into the xenolinguistics lab. I've been able to isolate signals coming from that location. They're requesting backup and transmitting locations for... oh no. You need to get your friends away from them as soon as possible. They know exactly where they are, based on these transmissions. Copying them to your interface. Aza's telling me he's picking up a lot of activity in the upper atmosphere, they're mobilising something. I'd tell you more but we're scientists, not generals, just... I don't know, keep them moving!!"

No panic. Mind clear. Mind calm.
"GET MOVING FASTER OR YOU'RE ALL GOING TO BE CRUSHED FROM ALL DIRECTIONS! THIS IS A PRIORITY ONE THREAT SCENARIO!"

At the mention of "priority one threat scenario", a term I haven't said since the invasion on my facility, the arkots start pushing the crates and artifact pieces faster.
I hear #3 switch from angrily shouting useless orders to 'move faster' to actually ordering individual arkots, if they'll listen, to where more help is needed.

Note to self. Incredibly imminent mortal peril appears to motivate arkots.

Still, something sits with me uneasily. They could easily dispatch my arkots, what are they planning?
>>
No. 864606 ID: cf24af
File 151779969427.png - (17.42KB , 800x600 , salq-84.png )
864606

> "Sisirri this Aza noticing high density cluster drone movement towards our drone position, not being mine, suggesting evasive maneuvers immedi--"

Hrngh!!

I lower my head slowly as my view returns back to the ceiling of the xenobiology lab, or medbay, or whichever it is.

> "Sisirri that is not being evasive maneuvers! Okay am going to need to recover it later, bigger bugs to crush right now."
> "I'm a fuckin' administrator, not a tactician,", says a voice I don't recognise but quickly guess to be Saba. "Throw the furry gunhavers at them, they had weapons and armor. They're probably military or at least paramilitary. Fuck, even if they're just armed police we can make them earn their ridiculous food requirements."
> "Tirzi here, Kan is still not in a shape to fight. Lekka's armed and ready to go. Ekasarra's getting ready. I didn't even need to do much beyond say 'we're under attack maybe.' It's like they were waiting for a reason."

Wait.

"Sisirri here. Have you not faced attacks before?"
> "Not here," says Tirzi. "They've never come after the lab for some reason."
> "Oh they've attacked further afield. Sitkva here. I'm getting the long range drills and I'm going to go take out some frustrations."
> "No!" Tirzi sounds agitated. "You're a geologist, not a soldier! I don't know a lot about these guys but the bug things are biologically merged with their guns! We have no idea how ridiculous their aim or reflexes are but they're clearly augmented! You're huge, they're gonna hit you with every shot!"
> "It's not like they have anything bigger than me," says Sitkva. "I'll get the heatsuit."
> "A bullet is gonna go through a heatsuit like paper!"
> "This is an interstellar invasion force. They probably don't use bullets, and this thing'll be great protection against dangerous heat sources. Like, you know, directed energy weapons."
> "Okay that's like five assumptions too many-- SITS NO I CAN HEAR YOU WALKING TO THE SUPPLY ROOM DON'T DO IT THIS IS REALLY DUMB"

"This is ridiculous," I say. "Sitkva, from what I have heard, your sole advantage in combat is your size--"
> "I'm going after her," says Tirzi. "I held my own in the noxon homeworld without any gear, I'll be fine, I just need to convince her to come back."
> "You are going to give my favourite body a heart attack, you fuckers," says Saba, who sounds... I don't have a frame of reference. She sounds strange. "Tirzi, if you go after her we lose our only medic-- YOU FUCKING LEFT ALREADY FUCK THIS FUCK EVERYTHING."

I hear what sounds like a very loud slam over the conference system.

> "Aza is sending one very shouty drone for both of them, yes. And two dozen cheap combat drones for assisting in mess they are certainly getting in. Going into piloting fugue, seeing you all on flipside."
>>
No. 864607 ID: cf24af
File 151779974849.png - (10.11KB , 800x600 , salq-85.png )
864607

So, that's it, then. My link to my arkots is severed and I have to rely on two neumono, two overconfident or suicidal scientists, and a smattering of drones to somehow solve the problem.
The neumono have at least proved highly effective at destruction, but I predict high collateral damage.
The geologist and xenobiologist are undoubtedly entering a situation far outside their fields of expertise.
This is bad. If we're lucky they'll come to the senses before they walk within firing range.
If the xenobiologist dies it sounds like no one else has the skill to aid my recovery.
If the geologist dies, it will likely be bad for the morale of the others.
...the neumono perishing in combat I would typically consider a favourable outcome but we may need them later.

This is an intractable mess. I've lost control of the situation once again. Intolerable. Intolerable.

> "Ku here. Uh. Salikai? I'm... I'm patching through a transmission I just, well, it was sent to us. To this lab. From an orbital source. In... in our tongue. One of the superculture languages."

I watch the text assemble itself on the interface projection, as a translation fades in over it.

SITE FOUR. WE ARE PREPARED TO EXCHANGE.
EIGHTEEN DISTINCT INDIVIDUALS OF SPECIES G-2024. FOUR OF WHICH NEWLY BORN.
TWO DISTINCT INDIVIDUALS OF SPECIES G-2028.
ONE DISTINCT INDIVIDUAL OF SPECIES C-2067.
ONE DISTINCT INDIVIDUAL OF SPECIES C-2106.
TWENTY TWO LIVES VALUABLE TO YOU.
IF WE ACT, THEY DIE.
DELIVER THE SALIKAI. WE REQUIRE IT ALIVE.
ONE LIFE FOR TWENTY TWO.
WE PERMIT NO FURTHER DISCUSSION OR NEGOTIATION OF TERMS.
YOU HAVE TWENTY MINUTES TO COMPLY.
IF THE SALIKAI IS NOT REMOVED FROM SITE FOUR, ALL TWENTY TWO WILL DIE.


Impossible. Impossible! What do they want or need from me?

> "Before I show this to Saba, who is incredibly pragmatic," says Ku, softly, "I'd like your input. They translated 'salikai' into our language. This is the first transmission we've ever had from them so directly."
"My input?"
> "If you think you can come up with a convincing argument for Saba to not giftwrap you and throw you outside as fast she possibly can, well, I can withhold this news for a minute or two."

Visions of helplessly watching my facility fall apart creep into my mind. My graspers shake in frustration and terror.
I was too quick to assume these aliens were so naive and trusting.
They are quick to consider leaving me to my death for their own benefit.
More disproven assumptions.
>>
No. 864608 ID: cf24af
File 151779977469.png - (27.98KB , 800x600 , salq-86.png )
864608

> "Sisirri? Hello?"

It takes considerable effort, but I crawl out of the container.
I'm not dying while pickled.

> "Look, I'm just saying we're going to have to make tough decisions, Saba isn't a monster, she isn't going to send you to your death, not without some kind of better plan than that."

I screen out the most transparent attempt at deception I've heard.

I shakily get to standing posture, and grasp the interface slate.
It hurts in every limb to stand, but I struggle and limp along.
A convincing argument for why I should live and twenty two others, including two individuals valued to these aliens, should die.

I'm sure I can think of something. Something to do when my argument inevitably fails, I mean.
>>
No. 864612 ID: 3abd97

>>864606
...well the main thing I'm getting from this exchange is the alien researchers lack a coherent command structure. That's potentially a void you could fill. They don't have anyone doing tactics and leadership. At least not anyone being listened to.

Assuming you can somehow survive and stay in a position to install yourself in that role.

>>864608
The simplest argument is these beings have positioned themselves as hostile to everyone currently cooperating in this research facility.

Appeasing them by sacrificing one individual might serve short-term survival of the group, but long term, you're further the interests of an enemy. This strategy is not sustainable.

If I am strategically valuable to them, if I am important to them, you don't want them to have me.

>what do
We have 20 minutes to plan and implement a counter action. Either we need to strike at the forces targeting us, or we need to use this proposed prisoner exchange as a Trojan horse.

Playing this straight will end with us all subjugated or dead, one way or another.
>>
No. 864613 ID: 86eb65

Ok here is a list of things they need to consider.

1. How did they find out your species?
2. Why do they want you and for what reason?
3. What do you have that they want. Note that its not going to be a possession but an info or ability. They are not asking for your artifact.
4. What can they gain by keeping you.
5. What they can gain by getting rid of you.
6. What the enemy will gain by getting a hold of you.
7. What you will willing give the enemy if your allies turn out to be false.


If they are at all reasonable they will realize that there are far more dangers in turning over the new guy (who knows a lot about them now) than supporting and protecting him.

Oh and they will burn down the base regardless. That's just how these things work.
>>
No. 864614 ID: 91ee5f

>>864608
No, it’s not you they want, it’s your implant that was taken out that they want!

Think about it, when your implant was taken out, you were told that it was literally transmitting things about you that made you a beacon for anyone to home in on. And let’s not forget your implant was also encrypted!

So even if you go out to them, once they realize you don’t have your implant and it’s encrypted data, they’ll not only kill you, they’ll also kill everyone in this facility to recover that implant!

This does bring up the question of what’s so important on your implant? What did Imperium put on there that these guys want?

Or, an even more disturbing thought, Imperium planned to have you come here and you were supposed to be captured and have that data on your implant delivered to these guys that are threatening everyone?
>>
No. 864615 ID: 830fb7

>>864608
it also helps that your probably the only person with the knowledge/ expertise to repair the artefact at this stage.
>>
No. 864616 ID: 13fded

1. I don't want to work for another genocidal technocrat.
2. They aren't asking for me for personal reasons. Whatever information they gathered from their earlier scout convinced them that I'm valuable to them. If they are right giving me away will make your enemy stronger.
3. You've been ignored by a declared conquered so far, probable for a good reason. If not an existential threat you are at least an affront to their authority, meaning that they spared you from confrontation because they weren't confident on their chances of success. Assuming they have the advantage and surrendering to their demands will define your relation to them as subaltern and stimulate similar future demands.
>>
No. 864619 ID: b1b4f3

Hang on, they only mentioned TWO of species G-2028. Those must be the neumono since there aren't any other duplicate species here, which means they left one out... they're not threatening anyone inside the facility. They must be completely unable to enter! That's why they've never attacked this place, and it also explains the odd phrasing at the end. They want you out of site four so that they can collect you.

Knowing this, all you'd have to do is get everyone back inside and I guess sacrifice the arkots. You are definitely worth more than eighteen arkots. I wonder if they'll be able to make the mad dash in 20 minutes if they abandon the artifact? Is it possible for someone to relay that change in priority?
>>
No. 864620 ID: 10c408

>>864612
This has my vote. There's no guarantee that after confirming my position they kill their captives anyway.

A trojan horse operation would likely go much better if it looks like the facility really is selling you only for your arkots to strenuously object. At which point the shooting starts when the enemy is looking the wrong way.
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No. 864622 ID: c88e6d

>>864608
They're only threatening the idiots who went outside the facility. Tell them that they're launching an orbital bombardment and that the lab is safe. Yell at them to come back. Even if most of the arkots are killed by whatever they're firing some will probably make it. Meanwhile the morons will think you have an attachment to ARKOTS of all things.

Anyway, the people in this facility have never fought for their lives, whereas every Salikai old enough to think for itself fights a never ending battle against genocidal space marines. You must take command with authority.
>>
No. 864623 ID: b1b4f3

Oh, and since they're unable to enter Site Four that means you need to find the reason why that is the case, and either weaponize it or make it mobile like a shield so that people can go on supply runs.
>>
No. 864624 ID: b1b4f3

Or, another crazier plan is to take all the guns and go out there on your own to destroy all enemy forces. They want you ALIVE, so they won't kill you, and you don't have a brain implant for them to hack anymore. The only issue is they might have some sort of nonlethal energy weapon to use on you, or precise enough weapons fire to disarm you without endangering your life.
>>
No. 864628 ID: 91ee5f

>>864619
>Hang on, they only mentioned TWO of species G-2028. Those must be the neumono since there aren't any other duplicate species here, which means they left one out...they're not threatening anyone inside the facility. They must be completely unable to enter! That's why they've never attacked this place, and it also explains the odd phrasing at the end. They want you out of site four so that they can collect you.
That actually makes a lot of sense. There are more than 22 of you guys here, so whoever’s inside this building is invisible to them!

Meaning that if the building was completely empty, they wouldn’t be able to tell! Not that you guys could sneak away.
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No. 864629 ID: 1561e1

>>864614
That's a good point. Maybe you could threaten to destroy it. It's just a piece of equipment. If it's what they want, that might give you leverage.
>>
No. 864630 ID: 3ae3fd

Their interest is specific to you. This makes no sense. The Salikai have had no opportunity to demonstrate unique value and the lack of interest in Neumono indicates that the interest does not pertain to your alien nature.

The only known reasons to be after you specifically would be to follow up data gained when they hacked you, or Imperium...
The ones that hacked you should already have the desired data or not have enough data to have reason to obtain you over the Neumono, which should have similar, if not greater value in terms of biology and technology.

This heavily indicates that Imperium has influence here, but your current state of being alive suggests that it is limited. Imperium's primary interest probably lies in the spread of your knowledge. It wants to know how widely you have communicated its existence so that it can eliminate that knowledge.

"They must either want my knowledge of Imperium or the artefact, or want to destroy it. Either way they will try to maintain its exclusivity by muting anyone I have contacted. Your best chance of survival is to prevent them from determining who I have communicated with while maintaining the prospect that they might learn such later and that you will not be spreading such information."

It seems useless to pretend that you are not here, send a reply: "Salikai dismantled and processed, please submit inventory of desired components." It is technically true, for what that is worth, and establishes a cause for them to state more clearly what they seek and to cause delays on their end as the process the input.

Hostile negotiation is like training animals, give them a treat and they will keep doing the same thing.

Ask 6 to help you to walk.

Review your terminal for facility schematics and find a location with enough enough devices to conceal the presence of your implants and enough biomatter to conceal your body... Hide above or under the larder or Saba's zoo, somewhere cramped and cosy, with 6. They will find you of course, but outside is an overexposed warzone and anything you could do to threaten the scientists would compromise the facility, and you need the facility to protect yourself from the outside, so hiding is the only option.
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No. 864635 ID: 3abd97

>>864619
>>864628
Yes, they're threatening to kill the 22 arkots, 2 neumono, 1 salazzarine and 1 amtsvane already outside of the base. They are apparently unwilling or unable to attack the research base, for now.

That might just be because Sissiri is inside and they want her alive.

>what do
Another problem is regardless of what happens between ground forces, the enemy apparently has air support. If we don't develop an answer to that quickly, there's no way straight combat ends in victory.

We need access to the research ship's systems, and if there isn't a weapon we can use to disable the enemy's air support, we have a very short window to apply salikai science to jury rig one out of existing systems.
>>
No. 864643 ID: b1b4f3

Further argument supporting letting the 18 arkots die: they'd be a burden on our already-limited food supply and of questionable value as workers. Normally Salikai use them because they are very loyal, not because they're good at doing things.
>>
No. 864645 ID: 91ee5f

>>864643
How about getting them and the important artifact they’re carrying into the building first?
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No. 864653 ID: b1b4f3

>>864645
Last time estimate I heard was well over 20 minutes.
>>
No. 864659 ID: 91ee5f

>>864653
That’s enough time.

Especially if they rush like their lives depend on it, which they do. And Sisirri has pointed out that’s a very good motivator and they’ve actually sped up significantly.

Also, anyone that just rushed outside will give covering fire or, if the arkots are close enough, assist in getting them inside.
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No. 864663 ID: 13cc26

You know what? Just figure out how you can tap back into the systems and drone network so you can get a view of what the hell's going on out there and assist.

Given that no one here really seems to be any good at planning or command (the only person even trying from what we've seen is Saba), I have a feeling that if you just sort of assert yourself as the person who does that it'll work at least long enough for you to try and salvage this situation.

The ideal scenario is probably some way for Sitkva to meet up with your arkots, since she can probably get all of them back to the base a lot faster than they can themselves and whatever we're going up against doesn't seem to be able to directly attack the facility even with orbital support. (Would be nice to know exactly why but we need to try to get everyone back to safety first.) That might be asking too much, though, since she's a giant target.

Unfortunately we don't know exactly what things look like out there, so step one is fixing that as best we can. See if you can catch Saba before she probably does something stupid like follow the other two aliens out there.
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No. 864666 ID: b144ed

I have an entirely horrorble idea. The enemy let it slip that they want us alive for whatever reason, and what’s to stop the enemy from simply bombing this place after they have us? The only thing we have that they don’t is ourselves so maybe by at least pretending we’re being held hostage. They make a move on the base, we die... like I said this is a very bad idea but it should buy us time if nothing else.
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No. 864670 ID: da145f

>>864619
Excellent point. If the site can't be attacked, this gives an opportunity.

Sitkva's great size should provide her with impressive speed and carrying capacity. If the neumono distract/pin the enemy squad, could she rush past them to hit-and-run rescue personnel and food?

Meanwhile our job will be to buy time. Pretend to give in, but mention the specimen/prisoner is injured and needs some additional precautions to safely transport. At the last minute, ask if they want the "belongings" (implants) too, and take some time "packaging" them. Anything to give the field operatives a few more minutes.
>>
No. 864708 ID: ad51b8

quick question? could you ask Aza to swing those drones around the enemy force and pick up your minions, artifact, and food and race them back to the base before the timer runs out?
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No. 864715 ID: 90124d

This scenario is too similar to the what happened to the Maya. They're asking for you to capture you or whatever, then they bomb the site from orbit. Get the objective without any causalities and fighting. They need you and an invasion may cause you to be injured/killed or them to possibly be repelled. Your practically keeping them alive right now. See if you can organize a defense of some sort, I think it's time to take over the situation, you're the only one with any experience with this kind of stuff. Arkots gonna die anyways unless you can somehow mobilize a force to rescue them, unlikely, since we're really in a bad scenario.

Initiate a Bavarian Fire Drill. You're the only one with the skills to initiate a kind of defense. Take over the situation and start shouting orders for defense, also, could we get a map of the compound?

This is also good in the long run, since it's a form of emergency authority that could help you in a bad scenario. If anyone questions your actions, claim your the only one with experience with tactics and defense.

Also, they are using the "Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao" Stratagem.
Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao: Avoid a head-on battle with a strong enemy, and instead strike at his weakness (for example, a weaker ally) elsewhere.

They can't attack the Lab, probably because it'd either cause them a Pyrrhic victory or a defeat, due to Lab's internal defense measures. They're taking hostages to either try to get them to surrender you, basically getting what they actually want, or to force you to leave home base.

Also, assume you only have 10 minutes until they launch a full out invasion on the lab. 30 minutes is too long for any normal hostage scenario.

Final thing, There's a way to use the translator's failure to pick up bad typing, that Neumeno was doing that on purpose to talk to you only. For example:

Herllo, Sal:kik h'ow ar;e y.ou doi,ng to[day.
This wouldn't be picked up by the translator, and is effectively encrypted so that only Salkiki and Neumeno at this facility can hear it.

Also, assume Communications are compromised. Any listening devices probably also compromised too, one alien race shows the ability to hack really effectively, and since this race hasn't fallen on it's knees yet with everything electronic hacked, they probably also are somewhere around the same ability of said other race.
>>
No. 864775 ID: 3adb50

>>864608
Give yourself up.
>>
No. 864807 ID: 56fca5

>More disproven assumptions.

I guess by judging so quickly and harshly that you wouldn't consider the same?

Anyways, it appears likely that they are looking for the data in your implants. They probably want you alive because they assume you know how to decrypt the data.

We can use this assumption to gain leverage. Threatening termination of the data or yourself if hostile action is taken. The administrator should do so, to make it seem more believable. Instructing Sitkva to escort the arkots and the equipment back seems like the best way if we decide we want to bunker down. The neumono can offer fire support. I'm not sure what support Tirzi can offer in the field.

Honestly, if the opposing force has as many resources as they claim we don't stand much of a chance. If they absolutely need you alive, then your life is the only form of leverage we have access to.
>>
No. 864811 ID: 12b116

Maybe tell them you died when they took out your implant, but can turn that over? This is assuming they don't actually know you're in there. If they do know you're in there and not dead then I have no idea what to do because it seems like we're SOL
>>
No. 864821 ID: 074011

>>864807
Good point about the leverage. They are in a position to besiege the facility. They can afford to wait. Taking Sissiri's life as a hostage in exchange for a permanent stand-off is to their advantage, and the population of the lab is a minor feature. In fact, the more mouths to feed the better from their perspective, although they might not take kindly to the arkots bringing in the fruit, although if it was made clear that the salikai would die if it didn't have food then it might change things a bit.

They can either wait and try to find another way to get what they want, or rush things now and guarantee its destruction, or do things the petty way and try to damage what they can, but then they leave their target surrounded by beings who regard it as the cause of the other lab personnel's destruction, which again results in the loss of their objective at the hands of angry scientists. Remember to add in the threat of broadcasting the salikai's data to neutral parties...

Best to quarantine everything that comes in. Who knows what sort of infiltration they will attempt. nobody wants to find out that they are hosting fungal mind-control parasites or tiny hacking robots here to turn off the power.

Does the lab have external speakers? At this point it is probably best to just tell the arkots to move, waiting is not looking favourable and the arkots might at least be a distraction...
>>
No. 864833 ID: 91ee5f

>>864821
>At this point it is probably best to just tell the arkots to move, waiting is not looking favourable
They’re already moving. That’s what Sisirri told them to do before she lost the drone she was controlling.
>>
No. 864848 ID: de6d84

>>864635
This.
>>
No. 864900 ID: 10c408

Come to think of it... We could just pass along the message that ssirri died on the operating table and that threats will get them nowhere.
>>
No. 865035 ID: 56de11

A good question is are they after you or the implants or both?
And giving yourself up doesn't necessarily mean death. They said they wanted you alive so they see some value in you, if we can find out what that is we can use it to our advantage.
Hell they may be able to help with the Artifact better then your current allies.
>>
No. 865207 ID: cf24af
File 151795375001.png - (28.13KB , 800x600 , salq-87.png )
865207

>neumono typing badly intentionally to only speak to you
Unlikely. I've seen those mittens they call hands. Probably mashed the keys while typing.

>quick to judge
>you'd do the same
...Not entirely inaccurate.

>specific interest in you, not salikai in general
>implant
Well, the implant apparently singing every facet of my being without my knowledge would indicate that the implant is why they even know I exist.
Thanks, mother.

>no command structure
>bavarian fire drill
>assume control
Of course. Of course. I've been living in secrecy and needing to defend my assets, technology and contacts for as long as I've been alive.
I have experience in crisis management these lackadaisical bleeding heart aliens could only dream of.

>list of things to consider
"Alright. Ku. Do you think I'm better off in the hands of the enemy? Someone they're willing to risk combat to go after? Especially with all of the information I now possess about the manifest and roles and skills of your organisation here? Do you think the enemy is better off with my skills and knowledge than you are? Do you think they'll even stick to their word when they get me?"
> "No, I don't. I really don't. Let me just make that point clear to Saba when I pass this message on--"
> "I'M ALREADY LISTENING, YOU LITERALLY DENSE FUCKER, KU, AND THANKS FOR GOING BEHIND ALL OF MY BACKS. Salikai. Sisirri. Do you know what the fuck they want you for?"
"No. I am willing to suspect it's related to the implant. Now. We have some choices here. We can feign that I'm already dead and in pieces for dissection."
> "That's... why would we do that to a sapient creature?" asks Ku.
"Many reasons. Perhaps I was discovered dead. Perhaps your experimental surgery or attempt to save my life failed. Perhaps you decided I was too much of a risk kept alive. At this point, why not treat a dead alien as a cadaver to analyse?"
> "It's... it's so disrespectful--"
"Whatever, moving on. Second option. If it's just the implant they want we can just turn that over. I don't like this idea, but if they stick to their word it will at least buy us more time to get everyone into this location. They didn't mention any of us inside. Either they don't know we're here or they can't reach us in here. Saba, Ku, can either of you send a transmission back at the source?"
> "I can do it," says Ku. "I'll need your help, Saba."
> "On my way."
"Tell them I'm dead on the operating table. Threats will not help. If they have a specific inventory of components they can be delivered."

There's a stunned silence.

> "They said there's no room for negotation!" says Ku.
> "No, no, I like her plan, fuck it, we're going for it. We're fucked either way, we might as well throw them for a fucking loop first," says Saba.
> "Alright. I hope they understand our language better than we understand theirs."

"Number six, please help me stand."

#6 is quickly by my side, holding up some of my body as I lean against a wall.
>>
No. 865208 ID: cf24af
File 151795377919.png - (26.45KB , 800x600 , salq-88.png )
865208

"Aza. Can you hear me?"
> "Busy focusing but yes. Needing?"
"I wish for control over one or more drones. Failing control, at least visuals."
> "...not planning on engaging enemy, Sisirri, only rounding up stubborn Sitkva and panicking Tirzi, combat drones for insurance."
"Aza. I am, at heart, a tactician. A strategist. Without seeing who is where and what is going on, I cannot help any of you."
> "Fine. Aza sparing one drone. Try keeping it not broken, please."

I realise I can't divide my attention between trying to stand and commanding an operation. I slowly sink onto the cold floor. #6 stops trying to hold me up and instead... runs off.
Whatever. I'm sure she has something planned. She's the most loyal arkot I've ever had.
No time for that right now.

I rapidly piece together the systems that control the drone and synchronise it with my eye.
I'm back on the field, but a lot farther from the camp.

The camp appears to be focused on my arkots, who are still trying to push along their cargo.
Sitkva and the neumono appear to have taken some position just outside the lab and are taking aim with an incredibly unwieldly contraption and two energy weapons respectively.

That's strange. Based on the transmission we got they know they're there. Why is the camp focused on my arkots?

The combat drone I'm now patched into is definitely a different beast to the previous drone. It feels heavier, more sluggish, and has an interface designed to track and fire some form of projectile.
I have no idea what the properties are of the weapon but it appears to be designed for hostile xenofauna. Beasts. Not soldiers.

> "Sisirri," says Ku. "We... we got a reply. Actually, we got, uh, two. From two different directions. Sending them."
>>
No. 865209 ID: cf24af
File 151795380914.png - (17.42KB , 800x600 , salq-89.png )
865209

-source 1-
SITE FOUR WE REQUIRE EVERY LAST CELL OF THE SALIKAI YOU POSSESS
LIVING OR DEAD IT IS WHOLLY REQUIRED
DELIVER THE SALIKAI COMPONENTS, RECALL YOUR FORCES
AND NO HARM WILL COME TO THEM


-source 2-
SITE FOUR ALL NON-ORGANIC COMPONENTS MUST BE DELIVERED
ORGANIC COMPONENTS ARE NOT REQUIRED
DELIVER ALL CYBERNETICS, RECALL YOUR FORCES
AND NO HARM WILL COME TO THEM


Two contradictory messages from different locations. That was unexpected.

> "...there's... more of them," says Ku.

-source 2-
DISREGARD PREVIOUS MESSAGES
DELIVER ALL SALIKAI COMPONENTS, BIOLOGICAL AND MECHANICAL
RECALL YOUR FORCES
FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN IMMEDIATE TERMINIATION


-source 1-
DISREGARD PREVIOUS MESSAGES
DELIVER SALIKAI COMPONENTS AND ONE SPECIMEN OF EACH SPECIES TO NEAREST PYLON


-source 2-
DISREGARD PREVIOUS MESSAGES
DISREGARD PREVIOUS MESSAGES
DISREGARD PREVIOUS MESSAGES
FLESHWEAVER INSUBORDINATION WILL NOT BE TOLERATED
FURTHER ATTEMPTS TO UNDERMINE STRAN AUTHORITY WILL BE MET WITH BIOMASS RECLAMATION
SITE FOUR, THE CYBERNETICS
BRING US THE CYBERNETICS
THROW THEM OUT OF A WINDOW, SO LONG AS THEY ARE OUTSIDE SITE FOUR
WE ARE PREPARED TO DISPATCH FIVE ESS, FIFTY NEBURI, TWO HUNDRED CARAX AND ONE HUNDRED ECOG
TO STORM YOUR ANOMALOUS POINTLESS SITE, AT ANY COST, TO RETRIEVE THOSE CYBERNETICS


> "Do they just assume we know what the fuck those are?" asks Saba.
> "I'm getting the impression there might be a little bit of a disagreement in the ranks."
> "No shit."

You know, I would find this amusing if whatever creatures arguing weren't the ones with more numerous forces on their side.
I had wondered how an interplanetary invasion force would stay coherent enough to form a unified front for the length of time it'd take to win an entire planet.
I suppose this is my answer. It hasn't.

New possibilities. If only we-- we? If only I could get into contact with one of these two and drive them against each other...

"Ku, are you able to send a response to only one of these sources?"
> "There's no guarantee it's not going to get intercepted but I think the lab equipment can do tightbeam transmissions, sure."

Iiiinterestiiing... heh.
>>
No. 865218 ID: 56fca5

As you already stated, pitting one source against the other is probably our best way out of this.

I have a hard time believing we could spoof a message that looks like it came from one of the sources, but if so we could make it look like source 1 intends to supersede their authority?

Also possible, we could set up two individual trade-offs and locate them in a way that it looks to each that they are moving on each other.

If we can get them to not trust each other enough, it might be enough to trigger a firefight.
>>
No. 865224 ID: 13fded

We should inform source 1 that we are preparing to acquiesce source 2 request, but wording in a way that make it seem we cannot distinguish between the two. We could do the exactly opposite, but if we end up needing to actually delivery something the implants are better than our corpse. We can do both but that would risk interception or communication between the sources.
>>
No. 865225 ID: b403b3

>>865218
Other possibility in disinformation arsenal: We can try to send a message only one "source" should receive, but addressed to the other source, i.e. making it seem like they have intercepted a communication to the other source.
>>
No. 865241 ID: 074011

Lying is... bad... a lack of evidence can be a problem and reliable data prevents your position from being incompatible with itself. That said, we are already selling our corpse at this point, one hopes that this is now entirely in the realm of fiction...

The factions seem to be a biological manipulation set and a technological inclusion set. it might be possible to mply that they have to choose one or the other. Perhaps the implants have an evidence destruction feature that will destroy the biological components if they are exposed to atmosphere without destroying the implants. It would be rather convoluted, but might drive them to hostility if granting one request permanently thwarts the other.

Alternatively it could be implied that they cannot be separated. Through extreme integration or some sort of preservative effect or self-destruction in case of separation or something. It is more plausible and might inhibit them from coming to an agreement to divide or pool the loot.

Of course, we have gathered a great deal of information. Based upon their heavy integration with the insectoids, It seems likely that the probably-fungal-like tentacle beings are the source 1 "Fleshweavers" and have tentative control over the pylons. Source 2 "Stran" are likely the "small heef" due to their interest in implants, which they appear to make extensive use of. They're interest in the material being "just outside" implies that they have more effective transportation and are less bound to the pylons...
>>
No. 865247 ID: 074011

Ooooh, thought! Source 1 wanted samples of all personnel. This is somewhat frightening. Request that all Source 1 personnel be removed from the immediate vicinity and that the facility be provided with means to evacuate the planet before Source 1 can attack in order to steal our pure bodily essences. If it can actually get you off of this miserable world and away from the warring factions then it would probably be worth sacrificing the implant, and even your eye if it helps sell the deal. Not that giving potentially dangerous technology and contact with Imperium to an overtly hostile faction is ideal. Nor that losing the evidence of what that implant did to you should be dismissed. In the short-term though., If they agree, then it would brew immediate conflict if they evict the Fleshweaver soldiers and prepare the means to send away the biological samples.
>>
No. 865248 ID: c88e6d

>>865209
Offer to give the entire corpse to the first guy on an insecure transmission.
>>
No. 865260 ID: 10c408

Oh man, this is the setup you could have gotten. Open broadcast message to both, ask which oneis in charge.

Also, inquire as to whether there's any kind of high grade explosive on hand that we can package with the cybernetic implant when it's "delivered"
>>
No. 865268 ID: 91ee5f

>>865209
They even admitted that the lab is an anomalous site! That means there is definitely something here that is interfering with them and they don’t like it! We’ve gotta find out what it is so we can use it next time!

>Recall forces.
We’re trying to recall our forces (arkots), you guys aren’t letting them get recalled!

>If only we-- we?
Yes, “we”. You’ve all gotta work together to get through this.

>Turn them against each other.
Now you’re talking!

>>865260
I’m pretty sure they’ll detect the explosive and then hack it to turn it off before it gets a chance to explode in their faces.
>>
No. 865289 ID: 3adb50

>>865268
>I’m pretty sure they’ll detect the explosive and then hack it to turn it off before it gets a chance to explode in their faces.
Not if we go full analog.

>>865209
Answer to source 1, as if you are complying with their demands. Act as if you never even received the messages from source 2. Since source 2 sounds like the one with official authority, they were probably the one that originally contacted you. Since you are (apparently) no longer receiving their transmissions, but are receiving source 1's, source 2 will assume they are being intercepted and jammed by source 1 in a power play for the prize.
>>
No. 865295 ID: 91ee5f

>>865289
>Not if we go full analog.
Do they even have something like that?

And that’s incredibly risky, since it’ll result in the enemy attacking us to get back at us for doing that! And like we’ve already been told, if they swarm in, we can’t hold them off!
>>
No. 865297 ID: 10c408

>>865295
So we just give up the implant and hope to some unproven god that they don't betray us at any point after they have it?

Fuck that, beat them at their own game and employ far more underhanded treachery to achieve victory.
>>
No. 865301 ID: b1b4f3

>>865209
The final transmission only requests cybernetics. You managed to get what you wanted. Deliver it.
...that may mean removing your eye. Well, it's a sacrifice you'll have to make. You can make a new one later.
>>
No. 865333 ID: 91ee5f

>>865297
I never said anything about giving them what they wanted.

I’m just saying, let’s think of something that isn’t obviously caused by us, so that they’ll attack each other instead. Because planting a bomb on the thing we’re supposed to give them would be painfully obvious that we attacked them instead of the other group.
>>
No. 865451 ID: 5c850a

>>865333
I never said when we'd deliver the implant. Ideally, we get them to fight each other until one side 'wins' and demands the implant. that's when we give it to them with an analogue timed/radio signal armed explosive. The deliveree runs like hell and the enemy survivors get mowed down.
>>
No. 865453 ID: ad51b8

think we could fuck with them and say that we received multiple messages and they got garbled together and as such ask again what they're demands are, then repeat it back incorrectly by using one of the earlier demands and see if they don't brake out into infighting... or at the very least yell at each other so much that our arkots can get past their solders and to the base before they realize what's happening? Also Ask Aza if he has any cargo drones or something that can pick up your arkots with. The quicker we can get them in here the quicker we don't have to worry about them and can focus our efforts onto the solders threatening to steam roll the base with numbers.
>>
No. 865483 ID: b15da4

As long as you throw something mechanical-looking and covered in salikai blood out the window it seems you can count on the two enemy factions to fight each other instead of you. Post-battle, express shock and dismay that anyone would have a bomb implanted in their skull-analogue.
Given the ease with which your cybernetics were hacked earlier, perhaps it would be best if you had a less direct connection to that drone Sisirri. If they realize it's you behind the controls, the jig is up.
>>
No. 865543 ID: 12b116

If we want to give them a fake cybernetic we do need to make sure that the real one is completely deactivated and not still sending signals.
Either way covering it in traces of salikai blood is a good idea
>>
No. 865573 ID: cf24af
File 151804023482.png - (15.55KB , 800x600 , salq-90.png )
865573

>if they figure out it's you in the drone the jig is up
Good point. I disconnect from the drone, provoking a squeak of surprise from Aza.
> "Thanks for warning, Sisirri!! Not like piloting skills already taxing from swarm!"

>does aza have cargo drones
"Ah. Aza. If you have any cargo drones, pick up the arkots and their cargo with them."
> "They will being shot out of sky!"
"Trust me. I have a plan to buy us all more time."
> "What is being plan?"
"Not enough time to explain fully. Turning the enemy on itself. Get those cargo drones going."
> "...Ok, but pulling back if shooting starts!"

>they admitted the lab is anomalous
Vital information.
"The enemy appears unwilling or unable to engage anyone or anything in the laboratory. Aza, get this message to our people outside."
> "Aza can only be doing so much at once!!"
> "Saba, you're up," says Ku. "Patch her into the comms drone, Aza. Saba, tell them the lab is safe and yell at them like their lives depend on it."
> "Ohhhhhh yessss."

>ask which source is in charge
>claim messages were garbled
>repeat back demands incorrectly
Yes. Good opening.

"Ku, can you assist in sending another transmission?"
> "I gave Saba shouting duty for a reason. I'm all ears. Metaphorically. Whatever, let's go."
"Send a broadcast message that the message received was garbled, and that it seemed like we got messages from different sources. Ask who's in charge."
> "I like it. Distract them with infighting and bickering. You're not bad at this. Alright, let's go."

#6 runs back in with a rolled up thick blanket twice her size. I shakily half-stand and she slides it underneath me.
Well. It's more of a throw and a skid, but the outcome is the same.

"Thank you, #6. Are there any more fruits available?"

#6 shrugs and walks off.
>>
No. 865575 ID: cf24af
File 151804026944.png - (167.64KB , 800x600 , salq-91.png )
865575

-source 2-
WE SPEAK WITH THE AUTHORITY OF THE STRAN AND THE KITER EMPIRE
WE REPEAT: DELIVER THE CYBERNETICS
ORGANICS ATTACHED OR OTHERWISE


-source 1-
FOR YOUR PURPOSES I AM IN CHARGE
WAIT NO DON'T SEND THAT ONE
FOR YOUR PURPOSES WE ARE IN CHARGE
SEND US THE SALIKAI COMPONENTS
WE HAVE INCREDIBLE AMOUNTS OF BIOLOGICAL DATA ON YOUR SPECIES AS IT IS
WE ARE NOT AFRAID TO DEPLOY VIRAL AGENTS TO INCAPACITATE AND DESTROY ANY OPPOSITION


-source 2-
IGNORE ALL OTHER TRANSMISSIONS BUT OURS


-source 1-
PAY NO HEED TO THE COORDINATOR HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE VALUE YOU ALL HOLD


>answer exclusively to source 1
Let's upset this incredibly delicate balance even further now.

"Send a message to source 1, but broadcast it, don't send it directly to them. Say we'll comply with handing over all biological parts of the salikai corpse as requested."
> "We're not actually doing that, right?"
"Absolutely not."

-source 2-
WE WILL OPEN FIRE IF YOU DO NOT PRESENT US THE CYBERNETICS


> "Are you sure about this?"
"Positive."

-source 2-
SITE FOUR YOU WOULD DO WELL TO NOT IGNORE THE IMPLICIT AUTHORITY OF THE KITER
IT WILL END POORLY FOR YOU


-source 1-
DELIGHTFUL! IF YOU COULD ESCORT THE COMPONENTS FROM YOUR STRUCTURE TO THE PYLON NORTH EAST OF YOU
THAT WOULD BE APPRECIATED


-source 2-
VOIDSONG YOUR DAYS ARE NOW NUMBERED FOR THIS TRAITOROUS INSUBORDINATION


-source 1-
THERE ARE MORE APPROPRIATE CHANNELS FOR INTERNAL DISCUSSION THAN SHOUTING SO LOUDLY SITE FOUR CAN HEAR IT, COORDINATOR
IF YOU WISH TO BROADCAST YOUR HORRID LACK OF SUBTLETY AND TENUOUS GRASP OF YOUR OWN COMMAND THEN BY ALL MEANS CONTINUE
BUT I BELIEVE REPRESENTING THE KITER EMPIRE AS A SQUABBLING CHILD IS TO BOTH OF OUR DETRIMENT?


-source 2-
I WILL BRING THE FULL FURY OF THE STRAN THEMSELVES FROM THEIR ORBIT
FOR THIS RUINOUS TRANSGRESSION
YOU SQUEAKING SACK OF SCARS AND DEVIATIONS!!


-source 1-
YES YES I'M SURE THE STRAN HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO THAN ANSWER THE CALL OF THE BLAUKESCH THEY ENTRUSTED WITH FIRST CONTINENT OPERATIONS
BECAUSE HE GOT HIS FEELINGS HURT?


-source 2-
ALL UNITS, ENCIRCLE ANCHOR PYLON 17


-source 1-
THIS IS RIDICULOUS, GOL


-source 2-
ALL UNITS, BRING ME VOIDSONG'S HEAD IMMEDIATELY


-source 1-
GOL LET'S NOT DO THINGS WE'LL BOTH REGRET
NEITHER OF US WANT THE STRAN TO BE INVOLVED
COORDINATOR THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO RESOLVE THIS


The seconds that pass feel like hours.

> "Aza speakings. Cargo drones not being shooting at, visible hostile aliens... wandering off in direction to pylon to north east?"
> "Saba here. Tirzi and me have gotten into the thick, thick skulls of the neumono and our renegade geologist giant. They're keeping their gear on but they're at least falling back to inside the lab."
> "Wow, that was..."
"That was less a skillful play, it feels, and more lightly tapping a house of cards."
> "Uh. We're... we're getting a considerably different signal from source one's location. Incredibly narrow transmission. It seems to be... they're... hailing us?? How do they know superculture hailing protocols? Oh whatever. Crazy genius hacker aliens, probably. I'll give you one-way visual, Sisirri, but I'm not letting them so much as hear your breath."
"Noted."
> "Should we talk to them? I'm not transmitting any camera feeds from here."
"Might as well listen to whatever they have to say, with how freely they're leaking information." Honestly.
>>
No. 865576 ID: cf24af
File 151804033395.png - (27.26KB , 800x600 , salq-92.png )
865576

I adjust myself as #6 gently places a fruit in one of my outstretched claws. I bite into it and am reminded I still haven't eaten anything very substantial.

The interface slate resolves itself into a full colour moving display. I'm surprised the display is typically so monochrome. Maybe it appeals greater to wider alien demographics.

"Aliens! I am Fleshweaver Voidsong, kiter neno fi of the Kiter Empire," speaks a voice, or, perhaps, a small chorus of voices that sound masculine and feminine, squeaky high-pitched and rumbling low bass, with periodic clicks and buzzes. "From what I have seen of you all, you are intriguing specimens. Now, I am aware our local Coordinator may have been showing you some hardship, but I personally find you fascinating! Faaaascinaaating. I am an artist-engineer of what you might crudely refer to as 'biological engineering', but my work is unparalleled and I am always looking for new pigments to add to my palette, so to speak. I wish to extend to you all a formal invitation to my own private chambers to discuss genetic sampling? One representative per species, of course. After all, you are merely bystanders. I have no quarrel with you, and if you desire an escort for fear of my more bellicose associates, well, one can be easily arranged. Be swift with your reply, I'm in the middle of some neburi strain breeding experiments, and if I don't get back to them soon all I'll have left is biomass to recycle."

> "Should we even bother replying, Sisirri?" asks Ku.
>>
No. 865577 ID: 12b116

This smells like a trap, how can they prove they're not acting in bad faith?
>>
No. 865578 ID: c88e6d

>>865576
Invite them to a meeting OUTSIDE the labs. We are not so naive as to assume an invading imperialist state with unstable command structures would hold to diplomatic laws and not simply fill the team with lead and salvage their tissues.

Attend the meeting via reconaissance drone. Do not let anyone or anything organic near that bio-engineer, and do not allow the drone inside once the meeting has concluded.
>>
No. 865580 ID: b1b4f3

>>865576
>biological sampling, implied safe
Hmmm... well, might be worth considering in exchange for food supplies, or some sort of device that would ensure we won't run out of food.
Asking for more details can't hurt. What is the process like? How can we be sure they won't kill whoever we send? Could even ask what we're bystanders IN. What is the war about and what are the factions involved?
>>
No. 865583 ID: 5f4a63

Tell them that you would love to discuss the fine art of flesh shaping, but tissue samples is coming on a little strong so early in this relationship! There's so many delightful preliminaries to discuss first.

Either they're planning to screw you over or they want your information and potentially will accept some manner of relationship with you; either way, taking things slow is your best bet to suss out more of their mindset and get them to show their hand. If they're genuine and sane enough to deal with, they won't mind you going a little slow.
>>
No. 865584 ID: ad51b8

...
...
...
yeah I got nothing. If I had to guess they might be trying to simply get everyone to leave the base so they can just collect genetic samples so they don't have to send troops after us since they need them to fend off their "friends". Or it could just be that since we "agreed" to hand over the Salikai remains they're hoping that we will still honer the deal despite the cluster fuck that just went down. Or both. So kinda don't really want to deal with them. On the other hand though doing so might be able to win enough good graces from them to keep their "friends" off our back for the time being, but that's assuming they just don't stab us in the back in the first place.

I say respond, see EXACTLY what they want from us, give them some BS line about not being able to do so now but maybe at a later date, then use that time to see if we can't either figure out a way to get off this rock, get salikai DNA in a large enough quantity to make it actually seem like we really are dead, and/or crack the encryption on that implant that was in your skull and hope that will give us some clue to why people want it so damn bad.
>>
No. 865585 ID: 91ee5f

>>865576
>"Should we even bother replying, Sisirri?" asks Ku.
Nah, don’t bother.

And considering this guy is a bioengineer anyone organic is at risk of somehow being affected by whatever he’s got over there.

>>865580
I wouldn’t trust any food from that guy, since he’ll probably have bioengineered the food to do something to us once we eat it.
>>
No. 865586 ID: 3abd97

Excellent. Evidence the superior military force on this planet is not united, and may have factions operating at cross purposes.

>> "Should we even bother replying, Sisirri?" asks Ku.
Text only, politely decline for now, citing prior obligations, so it can return to its experiments.

Letting them sample us seems a poor idea, but we should keep open the appearance that we're willing to cooperate so we have options for continuing to play forces against each other, or possibly to align ourselves with one faction for protection if we lack better options.


...if the immediate crisis is over, we're going to need to prioritize defense or escape. That distraction won't last forever, and we need to be prepared before they turn their attention back to us.
>>
No. 865606 ID: 3adb50

>>865576
Express skepticism and ask for a gesture of good faith.
>>
No. 865611 ID: 91ee5f

>>865585
Also, Sisirri, I know you didn’t want to die while pickled, but you should probably check to make sure you didn’t reopen any of your wounds or quietly dying of internal bleeding.

Sure, you didn’t move around much, but it doesn’t take much to reinjure yourself when in your current physical state.

>#6 doing what she does best.
Reward her with head pats and telling her she did a good job!
>>
No. 865631 ID: 12b116

This could also be a thinly veiled attempt to take hostages as well. They were just threatening us not five minutes ago
>>
No. 865638 ID: 35055d

>>865576
Offer to send genetic samples in exchange for the protection of groups of arkots sent to obtain food and suppies. (Artifact pieces too, but don't specify them.)
>>
No. 865641 ID: 91ee5f

>>865638
I wouldn’t trust any food a bioengineer offers us. There’s no telling what kind of viruses or mutagens will be in that stuff! It’s an easy way to kill everyone in the lab from the inside!

Let’s not forget that he was threatening us a few minutes ago. And like >>865631 said, this could be an attempt to take hostages.
>>
No. 865644 ID: b1b4f3

>>865641
This is a different fleshshaper. Or at least someone claiming to be different. Voidborn instead of Voidsong.
>>
No. 865654 ID: cf24af

>>865644
HI I FUCKED UP IT WAS MEANT TO BE VOIDSONG
>>
No. 865672 ID: 91ee5f

>>865654
>Confirmation that this is the same person from earlier.
And with that, I’m sticking with my previous statement of not trusting this guy!
>>
No. 865677 ID: b1b4f3

>>865654
oh ok nevermind
Do not actually take Voidsong up on their offer, no matter what they say or barter with. Can't even really trust an offer of peace. We've seen how quickly enemy drones can swoop in, and they could have other ways to ambush us.

Might be worth asking why the salikai was in such high demand?
>>
No. 865691 ID: 3adb50

>>865660
Source 1 is the biological one.
>>
No. 865692 ID: 33cbe7

They seem to be something of a Salikai fanboy, going by the shape, and dangerously unhinged, going by the insubordination? I think you're better off ignoring him and complying with Source 2's non-biological imperative.
>>
No. 865752 ID: 56de11

I'm kind ok with him, he's far more friendly and level headed then his machine loving counterpart.
I don't trust him thought.
Keep in contact but decline offer until situation is less tense and more info gathered.
>>
No. 865767 ID: 1675e9

If you ever agree to anything, it mustn't be more than sending him samples by drone. You have your own biologists who can take care of sampling without the need to move personnel to untrusted territory.
>>
No. 865906 ID: e1c8f7

>>865767
This seems sound. Let's play ball with them, maybe they can be our ticket to the rest of their forces ignoring us.
>>
No. 865908 ID: 86eb65

If he wants your biomatter he had better be prepared to trade in equal value for it.

New genetic samples are worth a bunch to a biochemist/crafter. Make sure you get what they are worth.

Payment in tech or supplies or whatever you need.
>>
No. 865915 ID: 074011

What Sissiri, and the whole lab, most require, is a safe way off of this rock, preferably with all their stuff. Sadly this is very difficult, as they could likely destroy any vessel as it leaves regardless of sabotage. Perhaps leaving in two groups? The first group can spread the word about their betrayal if the second group doesn't arrive safely after handing over the samples.
...
Okay, this is completely insane, but just double-check that the lab doesn't have propulsion systems. It is ridiculous that this building could be some sort of vessel, but crazier things have happened and you would be kicking yourself if you found out later.

It is nice to think that the artefact can be used to escape, but it took 10 years to move randomly with a random passenger list. The arrival was safe-ish. Everyone appears to have arrived on stable ground with a breathable atmosphere, so the destination being completely unknown isn't that bad, but the lack of control over who comes with is a bit of a deal-breaker. The satellite pods did work, technically, but... would they still work after being scaled up from arkots? Using the artefact without permission, for just yourself and the arkots, would almost certainly bring some large and angry scientists along at random.

Negotiating for interstellar travel seems necessary unless one of these people can somehow figure out your artefact in the few days you might have before everything goes wrong.
>>
No. 866005 ID: 66b5eb

We need reassurances that we will be safe from both you and your threatening compatriot before we take any action. Furthermore, we need to know why you suddenly decide to change your tone with us from "surrender or die" to "come on over".
>>
No. 866190 ID: 90124d

This is Source 1. They want all your biological components. The only sampling that's gonna occur is them cutting you (all?) up.

They know Superculture hailing procedures, but they probably haven't hacked into the electronics in the base, surprisingly.

Could we invite them in the lab to just annihilate them via venting oxygen/gassing/turreting to death/annihilating/blowing up because that would just make everything so much easier.
>>
No. 866191 ID: 90124d

I'm pretty sure this is to check to see if you're actually alive.

This came out of the blue. If they get a witty, smart, cunning, or reverse psychology response/reverse reverse psychology response they will probably realize you're alive.
>>
No. 866192 ID: cf24af
File 151821907421.png - (52.79KB , 800x600 , salq-93.png )
866192

>check you aren't dying of internal injuries
"Get Tirzi here to check on me."
> "Hi, uh, I'll be over soon, are you feeling worse?" asks Tirzi.
"No, I just may have acted a little rashly."

>does the lab have thrusters
"Does anyone know if this lab has thrusters?"
> "Uhhhh," says Ku. "We can't get into the floors below ground level, but that's sure been a theory we had. Ask again when we're not in a crisis?"

>pet #6
I suppose a pat on the head for work well done isn't out of the question. It isn't like arkots are completely unresponsive to positive reinforcement. I pat #6 on the head.
#6 stares at me blankly for a moment before confusedly gesturing in a way indicating concern for my health and wellbeing.

>do not take up offer
>do not allow anything organic near this thing
>TRAP
>DON'T DO IT
No deals will be made with this individual at this time. It is a transparent ploy and I see straight through it.
Perhaps, if we have more to bargain with, but at this point in time we only need time enough for Aza to retrieve my various possessions and, well, lackeys, for want of a better word.

>only send text reply
"Ku, send back a text response. We are politely declining, for now, due to prior obligations. We would respectfully ask why the salikai is in such high demand, and as to what the nature of this conflict is."
> "I'll cut the link after that."
"Wait for a response first, then cut it."

We soon receive a response.

"How utterly disappointing, aliens," says Voidsong, in something of a purring whistle. "I had hoped we could overlook these shaky first steps in our first contact. It is not as if anyone has been harmed, no? I will however indulge you in your questioning. Walk with me, assistant, bring the reseer. I need hardly devote too much attention to maintenance of this next batch but there are certain critical points, you know how it is, perhaps, or perhaps this is all a bit above your simpler comprehension, but I digress."

The view of "Fleshweaver Voidsong" shifts constantly as though he..? She..? As though they are being filmed on some handheld camera with poor stabilisation.
Voidsong moves along to some... bizarre display of bird creatures, all imprisoned and attached to some pulsing... I can't tell if the structures are plants, fungal, maybe even something else, but they're unquestionably organic and painted with veins over their surfaces.

"I've been working on a new neburi strain, as I may have mentioned previously. We have a considerable deficit of neburi specialists in the field of biotechnology, so I am attempting to engineer an experimental neburi that can host carax fungus as an intermediary step. Hee, I can already hear the Coordinator fuming at revealing such insight into our processes, but what does it matter, really?"
>>
No. 866193 ID: cf24af
File 151821910830.png - (27.43KB , 800x600 , salq-94.png )
866193

>value of the salikai
"Well, you see, to the greater Kiter Empire the salikai holds precious little value whatsoever, but I for one have noticed some unusual discrepancies in their cognitive structures that would be wonderful for incorporation, whether as a new strain or a simple modification of the blaukesch. Rankles the Coordinator a bit, you see, the idea of being superceded by my designs. It is not my fault of the Coordinator feels themselves above somatic modification. That mentality alone will lead to his redundancy in our tumultuous technological and political landscape, for sure. Once again, however, I digress! Oh, do pardon me, it has been all too long since I have had receptive aural sensors attuned to my opinions, I cannot help but gush forth my inner ponderings and radical opinions! Besides, I am certain the Coordinator is listening intently to our little conversation, so I'm sure I am not discussing anything he did not already know. Reseer off, assistant. Yes, that should be the correct ganglion."

Voidsong absently runs their tentacles over various parts of the display, gently moving tubes between the different clenching sacs and occassionally pausing to... rub caustic substances from the array of organic containers on their skin. I can see they're caustic, as they're leaving some quite visible bleeding wounds. I can see their eyes water. I don't understand.

Voidsong's smile does not falter. If anything, it deepens. It's as if burning themselves with acid is... desirable? Surely this must be some quirk of their alien physiology. It makes no rational sense to willingly damage oneself so casually.

They give a long, shuddering sigh as they run their tentacles over their wounds and shake themselves vigorously, clicking and humming, acting as though nothing had just happened.

>the war
"Reseer back on, please. It was always on? Oh. Well, keep it on. As for the subject of the conflict, well, life is a conflict, is it not? Survival of the fittest may cease to apply to individuals when the evolution of ideas outpaces the evolution of genetics, but then it becomes all about the survival of lasting ideas. Our ideology is very simple. Join the Kiter Empire or feed it. Either way, all life we encounter becomes part of us. Many species have had their countless diplomats argue how pointless our conquest is, how self-defeating it is, how a fire cannot burn once it has exhausted all fuel, but the simple fact of the matter is we are the Kiter Empire. We conquer and subjugate. An existence outside of our societal framework is an existence that challenges our survival. However, this is all moot, my dear aliens! You are but lost travellers that have washed up upon a beach as we seek to claim the land. If you do not get in our way, we have no need to aggressively integrate you into our greater expanse."
>>
No. 866194 ID: cf24af
File 151821912230.png - (36.42KB , 800x600 , salq-95.png )
866194

Voidsong reaches into its strange arrangement and pulls out a bird creature. It... doesn't look well.

"Oh. Hm. We will need to discuss things another time. This urgently does require my careful, expert attention to mend. This conversation, although very one-sided, has been fascinating. Do contact me again, you know where to find me, so I bid you all farewell! Make sure to keep healthy, all of you~! Reseer off, assistant, or you're taking her place in the mesh."

Ku cuts the feed.

This individual is either more alien than I'm accustomed to or possibly deranged.
It kept smiling for the entire discussion. Perhaps it was trying to look reassuring. It did not help.
>>
No. 866195 ID: cf24af
File 151821916278.png - (21.76KB , 800x600 , salq-96.png )
866195

Back to pressing concerns.

"Aza, how are the cargo drones doing?"
> "Cargo drones are entering via upper floors, is being tight fit going through windows but am sure will fitting okay."
"All arkots, crates and artifact pieces accounted for?"
> "Big rolly ball is still being smaller than amtsvane preferred window size. Will managing fine."
"No problems with the arkots?"
> "Arkots running but not easily outrunning drones. All eighteen accounting for."

It's unbelievable. Something went right here.

> "Ku here. Again. Uh. We. We're probably fine. Saba, double check we have the doors all locked again."
> "Yeah they're locked. I checked. Believe me I checked. Actually I'm gonna go check the windows."

"Ku, where are the enemy forces?"
> "All transmissions have gone back to regular noise. Nothing about our location. The troops heading to that pylon appear to have entered it."
> "Now that drones are piloting selves back to hangars, Aza is checking Ku's work. Oh. We got transmission from source 1, the orbital one."

-source 1-
WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING YOU
YOU CANNOT STAY INSIDE THE ANOMALY FOREVER
WE WILL TAKE WHAT WE DESIRE BY FORCE
AS IS OUR RIGHT AS THE KITER EMPIRE


> "So they're just posturing now," says Ku. "Issuing threats instead of trying to make a deal. Vague threats. It's almost as if they can't do anything."
"Or they're trying to get our guard down."
> "Why do they need to do that? They outnumber us on a scale I have trouble even calculating. They seem like more of a threat to themselves than we are to them."
"You're not wrong there."

Tirzi arrives.

"Aghk! Ozaloki zi af medik awt! Nai wai!"
"What?"

She runs over to the interface stand in the corner.

"You're not supposed to be out of that recovery gel bath! Now hold still so I can check up on you."

She puts on her strange claw-gloves and places some kind of instrument on me. It's cold. I flinch involuntarily.

Tirzi stares at it.
"Everything alright?"
"Maibi... meebee... net. Nat? Nat moov lats," says Tirzi. She seems visibly frustrated she can't speak my language clearly.
"Not move lots?"
"Yass. Not moov lits. Lots."

I'm loathe to assume we have a quiet interlude now, but it does at least feel like we aren't facing imminent death.

"Fel viry smoof," says Tirzi absent-mindedly. "Laik salazzarine wen raisten."

So.
If we do have time to spare... where do I even go from here? There's arkots supposedly several floors up, as well as food and artifact pieces. I don't even know what the capabilities of this lab are, but they evidently have xenobiology labs, and wherever Ku and Aza have been conducting their analyses and drone control respectively.
Although the effort of trying to walk in a less than optimal condition has made me feel incredibly tired.
Perhaps I should rest first. The soft strokes of Tirzi's gloved blades as she gently moves her instrument over my body put me further at ease.
This blanket is very comfy, and warm.

Yes, to sleep,
>>
No. 866196 ID: cf24af
File 151821917635.png - (19.42KB , 800x600 , salq-97.png )
866196

perchance


to dream
>>
No. 866197 ID: cf24af
File 151821919389.png - (78.80KB , 800x600 , salq-98.png )
866197

It's my lab. Two years ago.

"Sisirri."

It's Kitsiksu.
He has been supplying me with technological assistance in fields I'm less skilled in, and I have been helping him in the same way.
His speciality is in bioengineering, mine in robotics and mechanical systems.
I already know who he is, but there's always that lingering thought that someone could be faking the identity of one of my contacts.
On that note, I open with the first pair of keywords.

"Red ochre."
"Blue nebulae."
"Five arkots."
"Seven arkots."
"Lenticular atavism."
"Elliptical outreach."

Kitsiksu's graspers lower by a few degrees. Mine do too. Some of the tension abates from the successful handshake of phrases.
Kitsiksu peers at my image on his screen. "Turn your head to the right."
I comply.
"Still carrying that wretched thing in your skull, Sisirri? You need only give the word, I can deliver you an organic replacement, prepackaged for easy installation."
"It isn't worth compromising either of our positions over. And I note that you haven't repaired your own injury."
"It's difficult to work on oneself. Nevertheless, you have such doubt in my abilities? Tch. Well, whatever. The offer is always open."
"Why did you call me, Kitsiksu?"
"The chess game. Let's finish it, Sisirri. It is... playing on my mind."

I sigh.

"I don't have time for games."
"Oh, come now, we both know that isn't true, Sisirri," says Kitsiksu, leaning forward on the screen and smiling. "What is life without idle distractions? It is unhealthy to work without a break now and then."
"Nothing about this game is exciting enough to warrant a call."
"I disagree," says Kitsiksu, looking off to the side.
He's acting suspiciously. He's planning something.

"Very well. I will humour your strange alien game fixation for an hour or two."
>>
No. 866198 ID: cf24af
File 151821920717.png - (90.86KB , 800x600 , salq-99.png )
866198

Two dream hours later...

"Check," says Kitsiksu. "Sisirri. I wish to make a proposal."
"Now? You force me to run through the motions of this poorly designed game only to now say you had a reason to call?"

The king is threatened by too many pieces. Kitsiksu had been managing two direct avenues of attack when I was only in a position to defend against one.
This is a stupid game and it's not my fault I'm losing. I don't understand how castling is an action that can be justified in any game.
I'm not even sure it's legal.
No, the rules say it is. Terrible, terrible game.

I move the king onto an arbitrary adjacent square and wait for Kitsiksu to end this pointless waste of time.

"That is your move, then? Sisirri. Opportunities such as these rarely come along", says Kitsiksu, "and the clock is always ticking. Check, mate. Relatedly, I wish to discuss a more direct meeting. In person."
"What possible reason could you want for that?"
"Matters of reproduction," says Kitsiksu, in a tone of voice more suited for his enthusiastic ramblings about new alien games he's discovered than the sincere business proposal he suggests.

"I can't accept your proposal."
Kitsiksu hesitates. "My sincere apologies, I did not know you were already contracted, perhaps we can revisit the matter at a later date--"
"I can't accept a proposal I'm unable to deliver on."

During the eternal seconds of silence that follow I consider feigning a signal loss and dropping the connection.

"I see. Well, I don't mean to brag, Sisirri, but there isn't a salikai deficiency or ailment I've discovered I haven't been able to treat in some way."
"I won't be anyone's test subject, Kitsiksu."
"Test subject? No, Sisirri, collaborators! You are perfectly comfortable with working with others, you were perfectly comfortable working with me on previous projects, perhaps I can even fix that eye of yours! I find your creative perspective strangely fascinating. Our specializations are so distinct, yet so synergetic. Sisirri, if our children have even a fraction of your insight I would be hard pressed to find a better mating partner. Do you wish to accept my proposal?"

I stare at the screen.

"You are proposing a deal at significant cost to yourself. I don't believe your intentions of equal collaboration to be anything but false promises. I am not so naive."
"Sisirri, please, reproduction itself is the only cost I ask you pay, but if you will not entertain this deal then no matter. I can find a different supplier for that particular requirement."
"...Do you actually even think you can work with defective components?"

Kitsiksu grins widely. "I've printed whole arkots before from nothing. Salikai organ repair is trivial. There's nothing outside my reach."
"Then I accept."
"I'm sending you the co-ordinates of a rendezvous point at one of my satellite facilities. Meet me there in four days and we can... discuss things further."
"I look forward to it."
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No. 866199 ID: cf24af
File 151821923699.png - (169.63KB , 800x600 , salq-100.png )
866199

And that was the last thing I heard spoken by him.

The next message I received was entirely by encrypted signal.

SISIRRI -- DO NOT APPROACH -- THEY FOUND ME -- SITE INSECURE -- WILL CONTACT SOON

Contact never came.

A mere two days later, Imperium would independently confirm that the site co-ordinates I had been given had been bombed out of existence, as had many areas elsewhere.

I deleted every trace of ever having spoken to him from the facility logs just to be safe.
Our plans. Our trades. Our conversations. Our games.
Just in case it would signal me out to be the next one in line.

Everything but one hardcopy image to remember he was ever even alive.
The first and only time he ever beat his siblings at anything. Some gaming tournament. I don't recall which game.
One paper photo, now a disintegrated mess in a flooded structure, at the bottom of a nameless ocean, on an unremarkable moon, of a planet with a designation of twelve alphanumeric characters.

Back then, I trusted Imperium.
Now, I cannot be certain it wasn't Imperium that decided, for whatever reason, to murder a contact of mine to ensure complete control over me.
But that makes no sense. Why did Kitsiksu have to die so wastefully if I was to be thrown away at a moment's notice?
Years and years of experiences and expertise needlessly destroyed.

Then again, what does it matter?
We all die anyway. All memories, all knowledge perish in the only timescale that matters.
Our reality is actively hostile to sapience.

Why did I have to remember this? Why is my subconscious digging up ghosts?
I hadn't even thought of Kitsiksu in a long time.

What changed?
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No. 866200 ID: cf24af
File 151821924918.png - (61.38KB , 800x600 , salq-101.png )
866200

"...no visitations at this time, she's evidently exhausted, no thanks to what you did to her, and I don't care if you do think she's a manipulative villain, she was very insistent you not throw your lives away needlessly. You know who told us to come back in the lab? Sisirri did. I mean, I don't claim to be a master manipulator myself but if you just ran out there recklessly and I hated you to the point of wishing death on you, I wouldn't have called you up to tell you to come back to safety! I cannot believe the audacity you have here!"

I awaken to the sound of an angry Tirzi with inflection and nuances so reduced by automatic translation as to sound, at best, like someone who has dropped something on the floor.

"Listen well, bug," says the neumono Kan. "If I have to go through you to make sure that monster doesn't kill us all, I will not hesitate to do so with my bare hands."
"Yeah, Sitkva? Yeah, it's the angry one again. Yeah, if you could come down here and tear off an arm or two that'd be nice."
"You won't have your pet around to guard you forever. Are you so helpless you need to go running to your domesticated lizard every time something challenges you? I heard your species were natural warriors. Your ancestors would spit on your pathetic--"
"Hi!" yells Ekasarra. "Hi me and Kan were just leaving. To talk. About things. Kan. Aren't we. To talk about things. Me, you, and Lekka."
"Your presence is grating, Ekasarra. Leave."
"My presence?! You're riling up the aliens with your thick-headed bigoted sanctimonious zeal--"
"HAVE THIS ARGUMENT SOMEWHERE ELSE!!"

I hear the skittering of salazzarine claws and a loud slam of a hydraulic door closing.

Tirzi looks over to me, her glowering almost immediately lifting.

"Morning, Sisirri! How do you feel?"
"Sore. Hungry." Wait. "Morning?"
"Your arkots are... well, they're in the lab. Saba was, uh, apparently very good at wrangling about half of them into my larger xenobiology lab. The rest followed along. I wanted to ask your permission to study one of them, they're odd little creatures. Oh, right, yes, morning. Yeah, it was a tense night, Sitkva, Lekka and Ku took different shifts for the night watch, but nothing happened. It's all tense and quiet outside. As for food, well, Saba was working on a jury-rigged hydroponics setup, she's been trying the seeds from those fruits you seemed to like."

I realise I fell asleep in more or less the same position I was.

"I was about to fetch you some of those fruits when, well, Mr. Fuzzymurder came along. Do you want anything else before I go fetch that?"
>>
No. 866204 ID: 4ac1a7

What happened while you were asleep? Can she give you the ability to eavesdrop on the neumono? they're completely untrustworthy and might need to be threatened with expulsion if they don't behave.
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No. 866210 ID: c88e6d

>>866200
Presumably, having driven your mother insane and having spent six generations working on your family, Imperium decided to terminate the experiment at the point it left you to die.

Repairing your damaged anatomy would have compromised its test data, therefore it murdered your only ally close enough to even remotely consider a friend.

Note upon identifying a return travel method from this galaxy and identifying a method to kill Imperium: Spend some time devising a method to ensure artificial intelligences suffer as long and intensely as physically possible before expiration.

Ahem, anyway either Kan is Rogue or Kan AND Lekka are insanely zealous to kill you. Why would they even bother turning you over to these people?

Kan is extremely volatile and is almost certainly going to end up shooting someone. We should recommend stealing his ammunition while he's distracted to ensure he's limited to whatever weapons he can carry on his person, hopefully minimizing the damage when he inevitably goes on a rampage.

....I just hope we can figure out a tactful way to phrase that. As to the enemy outside and on the surface, provided we can figure out a food supply they are a non-threat until they figure out how to enter this complex.

Voidsong is mentally ill, as indicated by their love of self-mutilation and open enjoyment of extremely invasive and hazardous experimental modification. The fact that the enemy employs her implies their command staff possess a wide spectrum of mental illness. This can be a boon to us, but it also means the enemy force CANNOT be relied upon to behave logically or rationally.

Worse, they are ideologically driven and are apparently loyal to people willing to torture and experiment on them, so ground forces cannot be relied upon to defect. Assume they are domesticated or indoctrinated completely.

Anyway, right now we need to figure out what's with the cybernetics that were yanked out of our head. Also, we should figure out what Kan wanted, besides shooting you in the face.
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No. 866215 ID: 4854ef

There's an almost odd correlation between Kitsiksu and Voidsong. The marks upon the head almost seem as if they nearly matched.. Which may be why you dreamed of him. Given that he was a biological specialist and same with Voidsong, the coorelations as to why that dream came to mind may be why.
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No. 866218 ID: ad51b8

alright so we got our minions back, we got the artifact, and we learned a lot about the aliens trying to kill us, as in they're insane/very alien and seem to be a breath away from killing each other... if worse comes to worse we may have to try to engineer some decpatnation strikes against the enemy leadership and hope to god they fall to infighting. Ba, we also still need to take inventor of this entire base to see what exactly we have to work with, what kind of skills and how skillful this base's crew have, and how to get off this damn rock alive and whole.

But for now, maybe have her also bring your arkots in here, you know to at least have some protection if fuzz murder get's in since you still look like you have trouble moving. Also yes she can look at one if she wants as long as it doesn't come to any harm. Look we just got those little fuckers back and I don't want to lose them over something so wasteful when we're probably going to need them to act as our graspers for awhile.
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No. 866221 ID: 86eb65

Why are you dreaming of a lost love?

Because you have spent years and years afraid and alone. And for the first time in a long time you find yourself among people who might not be trying to kill you. Maybe even some of them you could make friends with.

Long story short you were lonely and hurt and you are enjoying the company here. All strange aliens yes but they have no preconceived notions about you.

As for what she can get you. A fuzzy blanket to wrap yourself in and the morning newspaper.
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No. 866224 ID: 91ee5f

>>866200
You should probably explain what’s happening with the neumono right now. Tell Tirzi about their empathy and explain what Rouges are, because the way things are going, someone is going to end up going Rouge and they’re gonna be really depressed and the last thing we need is one of those guys getting suicidal from going rouge.

>I wanted to ask your permission to study one of them, they're odd little creatures.
Sure, go ahead.

>Do you want anything else before I go fetch that?
You should explain to her that’s what you’ve got arkots for and tell her that if she can get them trained properly, they’ll do the fetching for her.

And then explain that your most competent arkots are #6 and #3, both of which will help keep the other arkots in line.
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No. 866227 ID: 13fded

>>866218
I was gonna say this is a silly concern, unremarkable arkots are disposable, but than it occur to me that Tirzi only need to wait until they find a way to become corpses on their own.

Tell her not to get too angry with the neumonos. Their emotional empathy makes them unstable and immature. If their stubbornness ever cause you irritation imagine you are talking with children. Very dangerous children soldiers.
At some point we will have to talk about their drama and how to prevent them to stupidly rampage this lab, but if possible let's postpone it for as long as possible. So tired of their drama...

We will not be able to defeat the Kiter Empire, a peaceful resolution would only mean we will be ignored for longer and turning their factions against each other require dealing with powerful derange individual. The best option we have is to find a way to get out of their reach. Until we have a way to do so we must figure out why they cannot attack us.
Let's hope this scientific team can contribute to Sisirri's research, there is a lot we want to transport safely and it would be great to be able to aim a destination.

And talk with Tirzi about that dream with your boyfriend. The possibility of interference from Imperium illustrate why you don't want to serve a crazy immoral empire even if they agree to not mutate your mutilate you.
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No. 866231 ID: 3adb50

It was mentioned that there is more facility below, but it cannot be accessed. Have they found no means to get there, or have they found something and discovered that it was locked? If the latter, offer to take a look at it.

Whatever anomaly is protecting us may be below. If this place is mobile, or the anomaly is mobile, we might be able to avoid a siege situation.
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No. 866234 ID: ad51b8

>I was gonna say this is a silly concern, unremarkable arkots are disposable
after all the shit we went through to get these bastards I feel we have a right to be clingy. I mean we did kinda lose everything so it makes since to latch onto the few things we didn't lose. At least unnecessarily anyways.
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No. 866237 ID: 91ee5f

>>866224
Oh, and also about the way they kept calling our location anomalous. They can’t see us in the building, so maybe the reason they haven’t attacked yet is because they don’t know how many of us are in here and that scares them. As long as they don’t know our real numbers, they’ll hopefully continue to believe that we might be hiding enough firepower and soldiers to hold them off. But once they find the truth, they’re gonna swarm in here!
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No. 866247 ID: b1b4f3

>>866200
Study? Sure, go ahead, I'll give them orders to follow your instructions. Don't kill it, I'm sure an arkot corpse will be available for dissection sooner or later. Speaking of which there's half an arkot corpse out there near the crash site. Hopefully not still twitching. Could try to send a cargo drone to retrieve it.

Ask how they arrived. Voidsong seemed to imply everyone here was an alien to this galaxy.
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No. 866255 ID: 56fca5

You are thinking of Kitsiksu because you cared about him. You've spent years since he was taken from you completely alone. You aren't alone anymore. It is simply reminding you of those feelings.

>>866210

Taking away that Kan is maybe showing signs of becoming rouge is an important insight. It is also important to recognize that this is a sensitive matter. It would be really easy to see stating this as being manipulative given your relationship with the neumono. It would be best to confide both your concerns about Kan and how it would be perceived with Tirzi. If she knows about both the issue and your concern that it will be seen as taking advantage of a bad situation, she can vouch for your sincerity.

She can examine the arkots if she wishes. I am not so sure there is anything tangible we really need right this moment. We should do some research on the computer we were given now that we have some breathing room. Maybe catch up on the information they already have on the Kiter. Learn what we can about the others that we haven't already been told.
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No. 866256 ID: b1b4f3

>>866255
Eka is the one going rogue. Kan is still true to her hive's empathy, or at least what she saw of it last. The problem with small groups of neumono like this, isolated from a hive, is that they'll start to drift away from the hive empathy, at varying rates.
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No. 866261 ID: 3abd97

>We can't get into the floors below ground level, but that's sure been a theory we had.
I was assuming this was a lab of their construction, or a spacecraft that had landed. Their level of unfamiliarity suggests they might have found it? We need more details on how they ended up here.

>It makes no rational sense to willingly damage oneself so casually.
A psychological tactic possibly? The "fleshshaper" title and what we can see of its labs suggests it has the means and resources to reverse such damage.

>It kept smiling for the entire discussion. Perhaps it was trying to look reassuring. It did not help.
Also a possible psychological tactic.

>>"Arkots running but not easily outrunning drones. All eighteen accounting for."
Wait there were 22. Did the 4 immature ones get left behind?

>I wanted to ask your permission to study one of [the arkots]
Granted.

There's nothing you really need to keep secret about arkots, you can certainly afford to have one less available, and it's a cheap price to pay for continued goodwill and favor.

>angry neumono argument
You really need to fill the aliens in on what you understand about neumono psychology and sociology if you haven't already. It sounds like what little is left of this hive is rapidly deteriorating, and you need to limit the damage they can do to your current allies by making sure they're forewarned.

>If we do have time to spare... where do I even go from here?
First priority is familiarizing yourself with alien systems so you can make use of them, and familiarizing yourself with the available resources so you can plan more effectively.

Once you have a better grasp of the tools and resources available to you we can plan what the most efficient order to address other priorities is.
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No. 866262 ID: b1b4f3

>no sense for it to damage itself
Masochism.
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No. 866269 ID: 91ee5f

>>866261
>Wait there were 22. Did the 4 immature ones get left behind?
No, there were only 18 arkots. The other 4 lifeforms that we’re detected outside of the base were: 2 neumono, which were Lekka and Ekasarra, 1 amtsvane, which was Sitkva, and 1 salazzarine, which was Tirzi.

Those were the only people that were outside of the base when 22 lives were being threatened by the enemy.
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No. 866272 ID: 90124d

The status of the enemy forces and theories on "Why aren't we all invaded and dead yet" would be nice, thanks.
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No. 866273 ID: b1b4f3

Oh, speaking of drones, if we can get a cargo drone out there to retrieve the destroyed recon drone it could be brought in for repairs. Sisiri is a robotics expert, after all.
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No. 866288 ID: 10c408

Ask him what your updated prognosis is since you fell asleep while he was examining you and you would like to know if you can leave the medical ward if you aren't going to rupture anything.
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No. 866313 ID: 074011

Offering one of the new arkots and their parents for study might be wise.
It would give the staff a complete unit to study, allowing them to understand the capabilities of arkots and reassure themselves that the arkots really aren't much of a threat nor that they would benefit from independence. This would build trust and strengthen your position compared to the Neumono.
If you ever have to act against the instructions of the others in this facility, it will require more subtlety and precision than can be expected of the arkots, so it is unlikely to limit your options.
Consider announcing your cunning plan to win the trust of the facility staff loudly enough that the Neumono can overhear. If they can be goaded into civility and collaboration with our current allies in order to compete with you, then so much the better.

Recommend that the Neumono be provided with stimuli and a collaborative task. If their hive has something to work towards than it might distract itself from mutual decline cascades of individuals self-blaming for failing to support individuals when they are accustomed to supported from at least dozens of other minds.
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No. 866335 ID: 56fca5

>>866256

It is my understanding that the danger lies in them not being able to reconcile their empathy and feeling driven to fight each other because of it. If the problem with being rouge is that the hive casts you out, Kan is the only outlier. Eka might be panicking because of her feelings it seems to be born out of her finding she isn't as angry at Sisirri as she would believe she should be. While Lekka isn't as concerned with her feelings, she also doesn't act nearly as hostile and volatile as Kan. If two out of three are mostly in agreement, then Kan is the one that would more than likely become 'incompatible' with the other two, not Eka.
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No. 866360 ID: 3adb50

>>866335
So driving a wedge between Kan and Lekka would increase the chances that Kan goes rogue, and Lekka turns to Eka for support, building solidarity between them. Thereby saving an ally from her suicidal urges and perhaps gaining another one, while removing a threat.

The easiest way I can see to do this is to earn Lekka's trust. If both Lekka and Eka feel a form of trust - or at least neutrality - towards us, Kan will be the odd man out.
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No. 866371 ID: 10c408

>>866360
As great as this idea is, we're going to have to be damned subtle about it so that it can't get back on us. Because then we'll be murdered.
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No. 866385 ID: 3adb50

>>866371
Lekka is level-headed and was the one who spared Sisirri in the first place, and we're now Eka's confidant and some sort of weird support for her. It shouldn't be difficult to maintain trust with them if we continue to be helpful and sympathetic, and Kan will either conform or do the rest of the work himself.
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No. 866388 ID: c88e6d

>>866385
I agree, this plan has very little downside for us and considerable benefits, with little material cost and only moderate risk. We'll need to be subtle and indirect, but it's worth it.

Kan is a paragon of Neumonos' worst aspects anyway, he's going to do most of the work himself.
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No. 866394 ID: 3abd97

This planning about who goes rogue misses the fundamental point that they're all going to go rogue. This is inevitable, unless there are more survivors of their hive.

If a hive's population falls below the minimum critical mass necessary, the hive will gradually fall out of sync, fall apart, and everyone goes rogue. Three individuals is not enough, to say nothing of the fact there appears to be additional stressors driving wedges between these three and accelerating the process.

They could be kept together if we had a cooperative predator to keep them from drifting out of sync until they built up their population to the size of a tribe hive, but we don't have that. And I don't think Sisirri has the necessary information to build something artificial that could play the same role as a predator.

It may be possible to arrange things so some or all of the neumono are still willing to work with us and each other, but that doesn't stop what's going to happen. All our options come down to mitigating and managing a crisis, not preventing it.
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No. 866416 ID: 3adb50

>>866394
Still better than an unrestrained, uncontrolled crisis.
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No. 866430 ID: 074011

>>866416
Not necessarily. Influencing the thing most inclined to harm Sisirri into losing control has a fairly obvious downside, and killing them, even if we are attacked first, would be very harmful to our social position. Unless I have badly missed my guess about the scientists' inclination towards killing or the Neumono's inclination towards dead hivemates. And it goes without saying that Neumono have already entered our presence unescorted, it seems doubtful that one inclined to "save its former hivemates by ending the Salikai threat" would be unable to reach us to force a conflict.

Their subhive collapsing would be a mess, but one individual feeling completely isolated and convinced that it has no remaining purpose other than to kill Sisirri would probably be worse.

It would be better to try to turn them away from wanton violence towards Sisirri prior to them collapsing completely. Try to find a non-fatal way for them to feel that they are satisfying their need to oppose her and try to find something other than memories of their lost hive and failed attack to focus upon. Then perhaps they might feel they have something better to do than to kill a brain-damaged Salikai. Not to mention that they ought to know enough about biology to know that a single Salikai is an inherently doomed population. Wiping out this "infestation" only requires waiting...
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No. 866447 ID: cf24af
File 151831288684.png - (8.82KB , 800x600 , salq-102.png )
866447

>voidsong and by extension all the other kiter empire command must be crazy
A worrying possibility. If the Kiter Empire is run by the insane, it's going to be difficult to anticipate their actions and motivations.

>talk to tirzi about kitsiksu
Far too personal. Also, if I bring him up I might be too emotionally affected to retain the level-headedness vital to my survival.

>what happened while asleep
>retrieve drone
"I would like to ask a few questions first. What happened while I was asleep?"
"Well, like I said, Saba wrangled your arkots into the room next door where they've been, uh, socialising, I guess? We had no other communications arrive during the night, and Aza flew some drones around for reconnaissance. His third best drone was missing, though, so he's convinced the 'Kiter Empire' as they call themselves took it. He's not happy about it. He doesn't blame you, though. He was absolutely furious and we had to gently remind him not to stir things up by sending combat drones at 'those wretched stupid bird things'."

>arkots
"Feel free to study one or more of my arkots. I'm sure in due time there'll be a specimen you can dissect, as well."
"I didn't intend to harm them, mostly just take some measurements and run them through some simple physical tests, I've already tested their mental capacity."
"Oh? What did you find?"
"The one you called 'number six' begrudgingly completed all the simpler tests without issue, but struggled with some of the more complex tests before throwing the interface slate across the room."
"Anything else?"
"I didn't test the one wearing the blue bands but I found it independently answering the questions on an interface slate. It got all the simpler ones right and then just drew a line in the box for the harder ones. So I guess it figured out how to trick the test into thinking it was finished."
"Any others?"
"The rest I tried to test tried to eat the interface slate."
"There we go. That's what I was expecting to hear."
"I figure I'll try it again when they're fed."
"You won't get much of a different result. Arkots can be trained very easily but their capacity for independent problem solving is, well, rare. #6 and #3 are special cases."
"I have empirical evidence to back that up now. I'm mildly concerned about your comment about having a specimen to dissect soon. Short life span?"
"They're very, very, very stupid."
"Childproof everything next door, got it. There's actual babies running around, so that's something I should do anyway. We don't exactly have a creche facility this side, but, well, I'll... see what I can do?"

>neumono
"Oh. While I think about it, I authored a brief primer on neumono physiology and empathy. What little I know of it, but the empathy is pertinent."
"Ekasarra discussed it with me while you were asleep. She's... she's been coming to me for moral support. I can't claim to fully understand it. Makes me wish Nanili was here, she'd have insight. She's a kigavi. They have more of an insight into, uh, weird psychic stuff? Which is what 'empathy' sounds like to me. Weird psychic stuff. I thought she was just talking about the concept of understanding emotions at first. It was a confusing start to the discussion."
"Where is Nanili?"
"Oh. Oh, of course. No one's told you how we got here?"
"No, but before we get onto that topic, I must stress that the more their hive breaks apart, the more likely the neumono will act in increasingly violent and erratic ways."
"Is there a way to repair their hive?"
"I'm not an expert on neumono. As far as I'm aware, once this sort of degradation takes place, it's a matter of when, not if. We will need contingencies. I'm especially concerned about Kan."
"You're not the only one. Lekka apparently asked Saba to keep Kan's weapons locked up. She said that she can feel him 'slipping away'. Is that the same as 'going rogue'?"
"Probably? You would do better to ask her yourself. Be incredibly tactful if you do, however. Neumono do not like discussing such matters."
"Lekka seems the most pragmatic of the three. I'll talk to her."
"I would strongly advise finding some task for all three to do together. If they have a common purpose it may prevent or even reverse their empathy collapse."

>announce plan to win the trust of the facility
"A thought occurs. The neumono consider me a manipulative schemer. Perhaps we can use that to our mutual advantages. Make it clear that I'm being very helpful and cooperative. Perhaps if they feel they need to compete with me to earn your favour and lower my status, they'll be more cooperative."

I spoke with volume but I don't think any of the neumono heard me unless they're right outside.

"Isn't... isn't that going to backfire? Don't get me wrong, I can see exactly what you're saying, and I think it's kind of a silly but helpful idea, but if you want me to tell them that, it's just going to sound like I'm trying to manipulate them. Or like we're all a bunch of gullible idiots already dancing to your whims."
"You aren't already?"
"Uh..."
"That was a joke." I'm perhaps too deadpan in my delivery. "It is hard for me to consider anyone here gullible or foolish when there are arkots running around. You have all been incredibly helpful and shown me kindness and altruism on a level I have not seen since I was very young. Part of me considers this all a long game, a trap to spring if I ever let my guard down."

Tirzi taps my rostrum softly. I'm taken by surprise and flinch. "Oh, sorry! Still, you're worrying over nothing. Kinda ridiculous, really. If we meant any harm to you don't you think it would have happened by now? We're scientists, Sisirri, not slavers."

Part of me badly wants to believe I can count on these aliens.
The rest of me is too busy reminding me that everyone else I've ever trusted betrayed me or was killed.
If they are worth trusting, I need to make sure they stay out of harm's way or they'll get themselves killed as well.
Yes.
I can administrate them. I can guide them, harness them, keep them safe from themselves and everything and everyone else.
Yes. Trustworthy individuals are a rare resource. I must make use of them.
And if they seek to betray me, I must be in a position where their betrayal will hurt them far more than it will hurt me.
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No. 866448 ID: cf24af
File 151831291465.png - (182.70KB , 800x600 , salq-103.png )
866448

>status of enemy forces
>why aren't we invaded and dead yet
"Do you have any idea on the status of the enemy forces and why we haven't been invaded yet?"
"Absolutely none on either count, sorry. Ku might be better to ask."

>how did the aliens get here
"How did you get here, before I forget?"
"Ah, yes. We were members of a larger research team, see. There was an anomalous structure discovered on an uninhabited planet, Miim, which bore evidence of once harbouring life. The structure was nothing like the other ruins, though, and was of sufficient size that we effectively built the laboratory around it to study it further. We found other scattered artifacts, likely by the same designers, which we dubbed 'Civilization Y'. We already used 'Civilization X' for the ruins we were originally there to study. We determined that the structure seemed to be some sort of, well, hyperspatial linkage. A door, if you will. We managed to somehow activate it and beyond the linkage appeared to be a mirror reflection of our own laboratory. We were apprehensive at first, but it seemed like the connection was stable. We soon discovered that the world outside this mirror lab was blasted and ravaged by war. Observations of the stars found our own galaxy in the sky. We kept our studies mostly in this facility, finding that, although it looked at first to be a perfect copy of our lab, there were strange discrepancies. Mostly where personal touches had graced our lab, strange metal and rock constructs appeared to have formed to mimic them, with no further mimickry past the point we opened the door. Our plan was to migrate part of the team into this mirror lab to investigate it further and we were nearly done moving supplies through when the door suddenly ceased to exist. When we haven't been busy trying to understand this world, we've been trying to figure out how to open the door again, or at least even get a message back to the other side to let them know we're alive and safe. Well. Safe-ish. We're fairly lucky. We've only been trapped here for about a couple of weeks. We're going to start having severe problems with resources in about two weeks. The weird thing is, the artifacts you wanted recovered? They look like Civilization Y's handiwork too. Whatever the creators of these items intended for them, they've scattered them across at least two galaxies. That scale is inconceivable to me. And they left no biological remnants or any depictions of themselves as far as we can tell. It's an ancient, ancient mystery with no answers. The research opportunity of a lifetime, always leading to new discoveries. Then we ended up stuck here after one bad day. An entire galaxy away from home."

>prognosis
>can you leave
"Also, am I able to leave this ward yet?"

Tirzi scratches her chin as she contemplates.

"I'd recommend one more day of rest. Even the healing gel isn't that miraculous. If you really, really cannot stand the idea of staying here, then I just suggest not exerting yourself."
"Thank you."
"If you do decide to take a walk around the lab you'll probably want one of us as a guide. Me or, uh. Actually, Sitkva'd be too big, Ku is always pouring over analyses, Aza is either flying drones or tinkering with them, and Saba is busy record-keeping most of the time she isn't tending to her, uh, entourage. Guess it's me, then. Still, I'll go grab those fruit. Do you want a coffee?"
"What's that? It sounds vaguely familiar but I don't think I've ever ingested anything by that name"
"Uhh... a hot drink that contains caffeine and some other stuff I don't remember. Bitter. Brewed from cherries. Has a stimulating, awakening effect on salazzarine, amtsvane, duduk, sagudo, kigavi, maybe more. Does nothing for tan ren soon and noxon apparently just feel more anxiety if they drink it. I mean, when I was doing some basic biochemistry tests with it, it didn't look like it was harmful to your tissues but I didn't exactly have much tissue to work with, so, uh, up to you."
"One cup of coffee and one cup of antidote, please."
"...sure? I... I think we probably have some neutralisers around, if I can't find any I'll just get you a hot water."
"Also acceptable."

As Tirzi leaves, I call after her.

"Remind me to help you train the arkots so they can get the coffee next time."

I hear what I assume to be a mild salazzarine laugh as she smiles and waves.
>>
No. 866449 ID: cf24af
File 151831294448.png - (13.33KB , 800x600 , salq-104.png )
866449

Tirzi goes to fetch me poison I have apparently elected on attempting to try, because evidently I am losing my mind, explaining why I feel any trust for these aliens and why I am caring so much about what neumono are doing.

I find myself distracted with visions of the bird creatures the 'fleshweaver' so gleefully discussed.
Memories of mechanically separated, screaming neumono flit through my mind, as my mother carefully extracted and replaced whatever parts she felt inclined to try that day.
I never wanted to look at what she was doing, but I could see the shadows and reflections, and I couldn't ignore the screams.

All these questions and long buried emotions are surfacing in this inopportune moment where I can do nothing either way.
I tap the covering on my head.

The covering.

The implant.

If Imperium was somehow controlling my mind with a neural interface, perhaps its control was more insidious than I assumed.
It never needed to puppeteer me like a crude flesh instrument.

All it would have needed would have been to give careful nudges.

Suppress recollection of key memories that evoked emotional responses unfavourable to its whim.
Carefully monitor my emotional states and trigger neurochemical releases to keep me trusting and compliant.

Not even forcing me to do its work. No, tricking me into believing all I wanted to do was its work.

For ten years.

Ten years. Ten years of pruning my memory recollection and cultivating a relaxed state of contentment.
The illusion of control.

I've... I've just cut this blanket to shreds. That wasn't... My emotions may be getting the best of me. Perhaps a focus drink will help.
>>
No. 866450 ID: cf24af
File 151831296604.png - (11.68KB , 800x600 , salq-105.png )
866450

Tirzi comes back with the coffee, a small blue bottle, and a small fruit basket. She places the items down near me, and notices the torn up blanket.

"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine."
"Yeah, don't worry. That's probably the recovery gel. It dulls reflexes and interferes with fine motor control sometimes. One time I shredded up a perfectly good apron just trying to put it on. I can sympathise. Take it easy, Sisirri."

I eat the fruit and take a sip of the coffee.

"Thank you for all of this."
"You're welcome. Now, I guess I need to see if those little things have tried eating any more lab equipment."

Tirzi leaves again.

Well, I don't feel poisoned.
Actually I feel a little calmer.

I take a few more sips.

Much calmer.

So, I suppose next steps are determining an escape plan. Granted, knowing that the aliens here will probably want to traverse an entire galaxy to get back home, this rules out most forms of spaceflight I'm aware of. Which leaves the artifacts.

I wonder if I was also sent over a galaxy away. The scale hardly matters, as either way the distance travelled via the artifact is no doubt ridiculous. I have never heard of a 'kiter empire' before now, nor seen any of its member-species.

This coffee is incredibly good. The sweetness of the fruit and the bitterness of the coffee are mixing and producing an intriguing flavour.
I feel a tiny bit dizzy but I feel like my horizons are expanding. Life is good. I have a new lab, I have new partners, and things are currently going great.

Let's get to work!
>>
No. 866452 ID: cf24af
File 151831302292.png - (53.77KB , 800x600 , salq-106.png )
866452

Three minutes later

My body feels a little sluggish, but this is to be expected, what with what Tirzi mentioned. I get to my feet, a little shakily, and stumble around.

A guide? I don't need a guide, I'm incredibly familiar with lab complexes. I've lived my entire life in one complex or another! I know my way around.

I march on with my coffee in one hand and a half eaten fruit in another, and a not eaten fruit in yet another.

I'm going to the robotics lab! There's precious little time to waste. We have science to do!

I don't remember finding it difficult to co-ordinate my legs like this.

Huh. That's new. I don't remember finding it difficult to walk in a forward direction before.
It's funny. My limbs are all moving the right way.
Hey, if I wave them in the right way it makes a sinusoid curve. That's neat.

Okay back to looking for the robotics lab. If I was a robotics lab where would I be?
I'd probably be where the robotics is. Yes. The robotics would be where they need to be I think?
Yes that makes sense.

This is really good coffee, wow.

Okay so robotics. Robotics is a field of science involving the application of automation to something or other.
I need to find where they automate the, uh, the things.

Heh, my normal eye and my robot eye are out of sync. It's kind of cute, I can see the input lag in my robot eye.
It leaves pretty afterimages if I look at the lights. Okay, I'm bored of that now.

I need to automate my legs better. Maybe I could replace them with robots? No that seems like a bad long term idea.

Aw, no more coffee. I need to get #6 to get me more coffee.

"HEY, SIX! GET COFFEE, PLEASE!"

I'm sure she'll hear that. She's a good arkot.
>>
No. 866453 ID: cf24af
File 151831304322.png - (30.41KB , 800x600 , salq-107.png )
866453

Probably like ten minutes later or maybe fifteen, maybe twenty??

I found the robotics, it was in the science room. The science room had it.

Okay, I made a robot.

I forgot what I was doing. Robots? Robots.

The robot fell over. It is a bad robot.

I give the robot six legs instead of two. It walks better. It is now a good robot.

I don't remember quite why I made this robot but it is a good robot and with it I will surely achieve my many goals.
Like making a place to live that's safe.

I tape a knife to the robot. Now it will protect me from my many many enemies as a salikai.
Go, knife robot. Kill for your master. Kill all the threats.

Go?

Robot, that is a wall. Hm. It needs a way to overcome wall structures. I need to think of something better than a knife.
>>
No. 866455 ID: 1561e1

Perhaps it is not the weaponry that is the problem. Perhaps it is the locomotion. Try adding an adhesive or something van der waals based to the bottom of the feet so that it can climb up and around walls. Definitely add a camera and microphone too so you can see what it's seeing and hear what it's hearing for better troubleshooting later.
>>
No. 866457 ID: 7fad5d

Apply antimatter.
>>
No. 866459 ID: 3abd97

>Weird psychic stuff
>I thought she was just talking about the concept of understanding emotions at first. It was a confusing start to the discussion.
Yes, sorry, jargon. When discussing neumono "empathy" they mean their specific weird psychic stuff. (Translation and jargon can be problematic, too).

>>866448
>stranded here by tech apparently from the same root as your artifact
That's encouraging, actually. Two different means of possible long-range travel, and you already have a decade of experience studying one artifact. Some of what you already learned may be helpful in unraveling what they were studying here.

>"Remind me to help you train the arkots so they can get the coffee next time."
The next patients of the medical ward are going to be a gaggle of scalded arkots.

>>866453
...did Kitsiksu ever discus salikai-effective narcotics with you? Or what the symptoms would be?
>>
No. 866460 ID: b1b4f3

>>866447
>Six is smart but emotional, Three is smart and takes the initiative.
I wonder if Six might be emotionally attached to you? Ask if she stood vigil over you while you were initially recovering from your wounds.

>>866453
Remember your previous robots, what did you arm them with? Compare them to this one. Call Tirzi and brag about your cool robot you made.
Slowly come to the realization that coffee gets you HIGH AS FUCK.
>>
No. 866464 ID: 13fded

You know what would make this robot better? More robots! Make a factory robot to continually build those tiny robots, that will be much faster than make one by one.
>>
No. 866466 ID: 4ac1a7

SO not only are we not in the right galaxy, it seems like we're also stuck in an alternate dimension. On the one hand Imperium probably can't influence anything here, but on the other hand there's no food.
>>
No. 866470 ID: 074011

> evidently I am losing my mind, explaining why I feel any trust for these aliens
Well that could be the brain-damage from beaing beaten senseless. Or the brain-daamge from having an appliance removed from your brain by someone who knew neither the biology nor technology involved and was not a specialist in the field. Then again it might be the brain-damage caused by the operation of the removed device, which was apparently nefarious. Or maybe it could be the brain-damage caused by the bird-thing hacking your brain interface and making it overload. At this point it is best to just accept that your brain is a spectator sport...

Can you redesign the robot to protect your brain? Perhaps incorporate it into a hat of some sort?
>>
No. 866478 ID: 10c408

Oh good, we've found narcotics grade coffee for our protag. Nothing bad will happen because of this.

Disassemble knife-robot, it is no good to you like this. Instead, you should try and see if you can't find your arkots! #3 has seen you at all since you ordered him into the escape pod so he's likely VERY heartbroken over it.
>>
No. 866481 ID: 13fded

More coffee? 6, you are the best. Such a good arkot! I should do something for you. What would you like? I know! You will gain a flying machine. A little plane? Maybe. A winged backpack? Definitely!
Ekasarra? Hey Ekasarra! Ekasarra... That metal hand look weird. I will make a new one! A pretty claw! No, that would be weird... I will make one just like your real hand! What you mean you don't want two left hands? Just ask Aza to plug it, I don't like the biology part of bioengineering. Or is it cybernetic? There is no "bio" in cybernetic... More coffee!
>>
No. 866484 ID: 91ee5f

>>866453
Ok, no more coffee for you young lady! It’s making your thoughts scattered and you’re unable to focus on anything!
>>
No. 866485 ID: ad51b8

I never knew I needed to see a drunk salikai before today and I'm so glad I got to see it. Oh god if any of the neumono see us like this they'll probably start questioning reality as they know it.

it seems to have problems with sensing objects... YOU SHOULD GIVE IT A JETPACK SO IT CAN GO OVER OBJECTS!
>>
No. 866496 ID: 56fca5

Aza is the robots guy. Get him in here to help you with your robots. And more coffee. Make some bigger robots. Bigger robots might be heavier so get Sitkva to help. And to get more coffee. I bet she could make soooo much coffee. Where is #6 with your coffee?
>>
No. 866497 ID: 91ee5f

>>866484
Also, your robot needs a drill so that it can pierce the heavens!
>>
No. 866499 ID: cc5f4f

It seems that coffee intoxicates you. It acts like a drug that turns salikai tipsy.

You know what weapon your robot can use and not miss? A flash gun! Shoots a bright flash and bam! Your foe is subdued... granted that they have eyes.
>>
No. 866503 ID: 4854ef

>>866485
Tiny jetboots.
>>
No. 866513 ID: 3adb50

>>866453
Flirt shamelessly with Tirzi when she finds you.
>>
No. 866517 ID: 91ee5f

>>866513
But that would require cheating on #6! And then we’d somehow end up banging Tirzi instead of #6!

.....oh, wow, this coffee stuff is makeing the brain damage even worse. Maybe we should stop???
>>
No. 866519 ID: 074011

That is a good robot. You made it so effortlessly that you do not even remember doing it. You are the best at the robotics, better than ever before. The coffee makes you the best at the robotics!
You must use your greatness! Build infinite robots to be safe from all of the threats! You need your assistant, and more coffee and more robotics. Call #6 for more coffee, or more robotics, both are important! The knife might not be enough. Build a robot with a scissors! And one with a shield, to protect the others. And one that can blow up like a balloon to stop the threats getting in. Get #6 to help. You need more robots, you have enough limbs, make three at once, it is the best idea! And one with a sensor and a siren, that signals the siren if it detects a dangerous sound, so that you know if the there are threats. You just need enough robots to be safe.
>>
No. 866534 ID: c49598

Your Drunk.
>>
No. 866537 ID: 9d4af9

Go find Tirzi again so she can record the novel effects of caffeine in salikai :3

We know how neumono are with caffeine, so maybe we should have expected this...
>>
No. 866543 ID: 6780f5

Flirt shamelessly with #6. This wakes the salikai.
>>
No. 866544 ID: 3adb50

>>866543
Hopefully only after the tongues come out.
>>
No. 866545 ID: b403b3

> It needs a way to overcome wall structures. I need to think of something better than a knife.
Give it sucker feet!
>>
No. 866546 ID: 33cbe7

Modify it to shoot laser beams using technology from your own cybereye.
>>
No. 866549 ID: 3adb50

>>866546
Unfortunately it's just a laser pointer due to lack of sufficient power cells.
>>
No. 866555 ID: 689e8d

The best way out is always through?
>>
No. 866577 ID: 767ff9

>>866453
Okay that is just adorable. Embraced this side of yourself and be adorable sometimes.

On a side note its hard to see with Neumono, and salikai are wired to be paranoid, but a lot of sapient creatures will be good to each other because they want to be treated the same. It so ingrained in many cultures that they get an endorphin rush when they help other people. They probably won't betray you unless their desperate and or you have made your self a pain to be around. Being nice right now is pro survival. Plus it will frustrated the zealotius fuzzy gun havers.
>>
No. 866581 ID: 90124d

>Noxen

*PANIC'D SCREAMING*

>Robot not walking up walls

Adhesive, or make it's programming better for moving around... But I'm pretty sure we're missing the point here. The objective is to figure out a way back to your previous galaxy.

Consider the possibilities of setting up shop in this galaxy since it seems better than the other one.
>>
No. 866597 ID: c88e6d

Apply post-it notes to the robot's feet!
>>
No. 866600 ID: 074011

That snoot-boop gives me an idea. It needs to get to the other side of any object that blocks it. What if bumping into a wall caused that wall to retract? You just need the mass to stop being an obstruction. Just take an artificial gravity generator's ability to effectively increase mass in a given direction, invert that to reduce mass, apply it consistently over a field instead of broadcasting in a direction, ad your robot could have a bubble of temporarily neutralised mass to walk through. Then your robot could could get through obstacles without compromising your defences.
>>
No. 866667 ID: c327ae

Walls are good, as the area around one is definitely going to be free of obstructions. Maybe if it followed along the wall went it found one? Simple, easy, and harder for bigger people to notice.
>>
No. 866751 ID: cf24af
File 151841066495.png - (9.57KB , 800x600 , salq-108.png )
866751

>did you ever discuss salikai narcotics with kitsiksu
>you're drunk, sisirri
Nope, salikai have to be masters of their minds or we make mistakes and something kills us!
Besides I don't think I'm under the influence. That's silly.
It's probably the medical goo or something? Yes that seems plausible. It's that.

>disassemble knife robot
Yeah this is going nowhere I need to start over.

>more robots
YES yes this is the BEST BEST idea
I can't find any more materials though so maybe I need to modify this robot to find them

>better locomotion
Yes, sucker grips on the feet for wall climbing. It will climb all over the walls.
No, no grips! No legs! It shall fly. Yes. Like Aza's.

>more coffee
"SIX COFFEE"

I hear arkot footsteps scurrying down the corridor, and #6 shows up with coffee.
In a pretty cool and obviously elegant swing of my claws I grab it from her and take a long sip.
Blegh! This coffee tastes terrible! I drink it anyway.
"MILDLY ACCEPTABLE!! You live for now!"
#6 stares at me like I've completely lost my mind, slowly nods her head and takes a few steps back.

"More coffee!"
#6 tilts her head, looks down at the floor for a second and then gives me the same cup I already put down.
"This is empty, six! I need more of that beverage in this container!"

#6 looks around and takes the cup from me. She seems concerned. I don't know why. I didn't think arkots could be concerned.
It's probably just confusion at my prowess skyrocketing so quickly.
"Yes! Refill, now!"

#6 puts the cup down on the floor.

"No, I said coffee! Not floor! Tirzi! Tirzi, I need coffee! My arkots don't understand!"

#6 picks up the cup and scurries off.
>>
No. 866755 ID: cf24af
File 151841075028.png - (314.86KB , 800x600 , salq-109.png )
866755

Another fiveish minutes later...

"Tirzi! Thanks for the coffee!"
"Eh? Zis kafee iz min, wat are yuu--"

I take the coffee cup Tirzi so generously offers me and down it in one gulp. The coffee. Not the cup.

"...okei, zhen. Sisirri, are you feelink alrite?"
"Never felt better!"
"Wei are you makink... roboks? Jronez? Wet are zose?"
"I need to make the robots to protect me, Tirzi. To protect me from all the threats. And you as well I guess. All of you."
"...how manny cupz aff you drank alreedy?? Did nat thing kafee wold haf zis zort af effekt..."
"Coffee boosts salikai performance! It's the best! Thank you for introducing me to it!"

I pat Tirzi on the head, and she stares at me for a second.

"Yezz. Boozts performanze." She nods and smiles and pats me on the head. "Maybi no morr kafee fir now."
I will not be outmatched at head pats. Salikai exceed at all things they attempt! I pat her head back.
"Wet are you doink?"
"Patting your head."
"Okei, wei?"
"Because I'm the best at head pats."

Tirzi makes a strange sound like a laugh except it sounds like she's trying to prevent the sound escaping from her body.
"What does this sound mean in your culture?"
"Oh nothink nothink." She pauses. "Ken you kom vith me?"
"What for?"
"Uhhh. Zscienze."
"Science? Science always requires salikai for its advancement! Have you seen what we are capable of? Well probably not because you're an alien from maybe another galaxy but we're pretty good."

Tirzi gently fits a blade between one of my claws and tugs at me until I start following.

Midway through our journey I see #6 with a full cup of coffee.

"SIX, COFFEE!!"
"Zix, pleeze tek zis kafee to xenobio one, okei?"

I miss my window of opportunity to grab the coffee as #6, my loyalist of arkots, betrays me deeply and utterly, taking the precious coffee off to parts unknown.

"You betray me for the last time, #6! Retribution will be swift!"

#6 rolls her eyes. How dare she! I'll make sure she pays for this! Pays dearly! Right as soon as I remember which order my legs go in.
>>
No. 866756 ID: cf24af
File 151841076514.png - (13.23KB , 800x600 , salq-110.png )
866756

I am somehow back where I started and am not entirely sure why.
My revenge against #6 can wait.
There is instead something far more dire and sinister occupying my attention.
My coffee cup is full of water.

"This isn't coffee, it's water! I've been tricked!"
"Trust me, you should probably drink less coffee and more water right now."
"Feh! Whatever! What is the science?"
"The science is I want you to just do some simple exercises for me. No problem, right?"
"I'm above simple exercises! Explain!"
"Uhhh. They're... tasks... to help build up, uh, training data? Yes, training data."
"You're too good at talking my language to be stuck on that terminal, what are you still using it for?"

Tirzi freezes up. "A'm reelly net, tho. I kan tel I zound laik I donut no wet a werdz iz."
"Your voice has a far more pleasing timbre to it than that sorry excuse for a simulacrum of vocal apparatuses. Apparatusi? Machinery. Vocal machinery."

Tirzi taps her blades together. "Uhhh... umm... zhankz I guezz?"
It will be easier for me to understand her if she's closer. "Come closer! You shall instruct me on how to speak your language, salazzarine! I cannot abide not knowing something so pertinent!"
"I'm reelly net a goud linguistikz teachair, Sisirri, I donut think I ken--"
"Try, Tirzi, try! You have no idea what you're good at if you refuse to ever try something!"

Tirzi pauses, and speaks something a few times. "Try zat."
"Uh." I repeat it. "[Calcified apple.]"
Tirzi makes that same noise like a laugh she's fighting. Strange alien gestures. "No, try zat ageen."
"[Haylelo.] Hrm. [Hellolol.] Uh. [Hello.]"
"Yez! Goot!"
"[Hello!]"
"[Hello.] Thet wiz fazt! Uhh. Maybi werd fir help gud idee. [Help.]"
"[Fast action.]"
"Ageen?"
"[Help.]"
"You sure learn fazt! Veri gud!"

Yes. Of course I'm good. I'm the best. I feel something within me glow with pride. I'm the best at what I do.
I think I was going to do something else? Well whatever it was can't have been important. I must master this alien tongue.
>>
No. 866757 ID: cf24af
File 151841077964.png - (22.48KB , 800x600 , salq-111.png )
866757

Two or three hours of impromptu language class by a completely unskilled teacher later...

I suddenly hear Ku speak in person for the first time. His voice is buzzy with crackling to it, like an arc flash trying to talk.

"[Hey, Tirzi? You're in here, right? I just came by to ask if you'd seen Aza, I promised I was going to have lunch with him and--]"
>>
No. 866758 ID: cf24af
File 151841079573.png - (33.47KB , 800x600 , salq-112.png )
866758

"[uh. I. I can come back later--]"

"That won't be necessary," I say. "I personally haven't seen Aza and I've been engrossed in learning your language!"
"[oh no Ku I know what this looks like and it is not that okay]"
"Tirzi has been teaching me valuable terms of the salazzarine anatomy like the [claw] and the [midlimb] and the [mating flaps]!"
"[SHE MEANS HIND ABDOMEN, MATING FLAPS ARE A FEATURE SALAZZARINE DON'T EVEN POSSESS, AND I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE'S GARBLING IT THAT BADLY!]"
"Oh. You weren't correcting me so urgently before."
"[IT WAS FUNNY BEFORE AND NOW IT'S NOT FUNNY ANYMORE]"
"Ohhh! So those barely suppressed laughs were actually laughs! I understand now!"
"[AGGH!! Ku, Sisirri is, uh, 'tired and emotional' right now, I kind of need to make sure she doesn't harm herself or do anything stupid, ok??]"
"I'm neither tired nor emotional and feel frankly insulted you would suggest I lack the wherewithal to identify these states within myself! Salikai are excellent at self-diagnosis because we are the best at all diagnoses, biological, system, mechanical, all of them!"

Ku tilts his head. "[Okay, that's great and all but, while I'm not exactly one to give a lecture about interspecies relationships, maybe don't take advantage of a drunk alien, Tirzi.]"
"[THAT ISN'T WHAT'S GOING ON HERE, KU, I AM TRYING TO KEEP HER OCCUPIED WHILE SHE SOBERS UP!]"
"[It sure looks that way!]"
"[NOT LIKE THAT!]"
"[Well I best go find Aza before I find him simmering with disappointment over my missing yet another lunch I promised! You know how he gets when he eats by himself. Bye!]"

Ku leaves as quickly as he can. I hear some kind of strange buzzy laughing sound echoing down the corridors.

Tirzi groans. "[Well, I guess this is my own fault for finding this whole situation so absurdly comical.]"
"The pursuit of knowledge is deadly serious."
"[Sisirri, I want to ask. Are you actually this naive or are you fucking with me?]"
"I would not consider that sort of act with an alien, Tirzi, as it would be a fruitless endeavour even if I were more up to the task at hand!"
"[Oh, I have so many questions for you when you're sober.]"
"Then you may ask away, for I currently exist within an incredibly sober state of mind! In fact, I have many questions for you too! NUMBER SIX! GET ME A COFFEE!"
"[Please don't drink any more coffee.]"
"Fool! Sisirri does as she pleases!!"

I have more questions for Tirzi, yes? No? I have ideas for what to do next? I think? More language learning? Maybe something else?
>>
No. 866760 ID: 33cbe7

Yes! No! Yes! Yes! No! Go bother meet Sitkva. They are a uniquely massive specimen/jungle gym. Your knifebots need to be bigger, so study her for clues to how she defeats the dreaded square cube law.
>>
No. 866762 ID: b1b4f3

>>866758
Okay so learning is unaffected(or even accelerated?), but execution is hampered. Or maybe drunk salikai are bad at science but good at language.
Learn more things. Try to learn other stuff too like what she found out from studying the artifact or the basics of first aid for the species she knows about.
>>
No. 866763 ID: c88e6d

>>866758
Agreed. Go and ask Sitkva for her bones, they must be the means by which she defies gravity!
>>
No. 866765 ID: 12b116

What kind of exercises did she want you to try again?
>>
No. 866769 ID: 91ee5f

>>866758
While you’re in that position, ask Tirzi if salazzarine are ticklish? And then start tickling her while declaring that she’ll get no mercy until she gives into your demands of more coffee!
>>
No. 866773 ID: b055fc

Investigate ticklishness. It's a vital component of the nervous system and the way the brain responds to stimulus.
>>
No. 866781 ID: 3adb50

Learn more of the language, their galaxy sounds like a better place to live than where you are from. So clearly you should go live there, and to do that you'll need to fully learn the language.

You're also going to have one hell of a hangover and/or caffeine crash.
>>
No. 866793 ID: 074011

This is valuable valuable learning! But there are more pressing issues! While your mind is at its peak! The artefact must be understood! The facility must be examined! Your Implant must be decoded! Perhaps you can turn it into a robot and have it reveal its secrets voluntarily to your superior Salikai powers of persuasion!

Or... You could teach this new language to the arkots! They might need to go on missions interacting with the locals...

Or you could learn to make coffee! Or find a solution to Neumono insanity! If they weren't such lunatic murderhobos all the time then they wouldn't be killing everyone... And then Imperium wouldn't have had anyone to use to kill Kitsiksu, and your mother, and your base, and all your arkots, and you could just do your research in peace, and make all of the things because there would be none of the threats, and you wouldn't need implants or underwater secret bases on remote barren secret planets and you wouldn't need to get help from evil traitorous murder programs or use untested alien technology or get beaten to all but death on some random world an impossibility away from the futile hope of recovering anything of the broken ruins of everything you ever valued...

How is Tirzi still alive? They don't have a murderhive or an army of murderbots. Aza has murderbots. you should take Tirzi to Aza to be protected. Then you can build an army of murderbots for yourself, and then Tirzi, and then everyone else, and then when everyone has an army of murderbots then everyone will be safe...
>>
No. 866794 ID: 67ceb7

You should try singing in her language. Song usually emphasizes punctuation of the words and it requires you to be familiar enough with the words to get them to rhyme.

is it wrong for me to want to see drunken karaoke by a salikai
>>
No. 866801 ID: 10c408

>>866794
No, but I doubt that there's a proper setup for it. Not yet anyway...

Tirzi just mentioned that she has questions! you should answer them. Who cares that you don't even know what the questions are, just start giving answers! Information wants to be free, after all.
>>
No. 866866 ID: 3d2d5f

>I have more questions for Tirzi, yes?
Yes start asking questions about their home. Cultural stuff, for understanding and better manipulation of course! Certainly not increasingly awkward personal questions.
>>
No. 866879 ID: 3adb50

>>866794
Nursery rhymes are sometimes quite helpful in learning a new language.
>>
No. 866897 ID: 12b116

We should encourage our two smartest arkots to breed and see if we can make improvements to them as a race. We have all the other arkots as a control group.
>>
No. 866947 ID: 90124d

WE NEED MORE ROBOTS

Ask what a Noxen is. In fact, just ask more about other species. You're knowledge is... too... Focused... on one species. It won't be as useful as knowing a bit bout everything.
>>
No. 866956 ID: 3adb50

>>866947
She was told about Noxons here >>863682
>>
No. 866972 ID: 56fca5

>>866760

This
>>
No. 867010 ID: 66b5eb

Go! Talk to the Amtsvane! Also ask Tirzi how long until you return to your regular inferior and less scientific mode of thinking.
>>
No. 867015 ID: 93be1c
File 151849209899.png - (8.54KB , 800x600 , salq-113.png )
867015

>singing
>nursery rhymes
Beneath me! Even as linguistic tools of learning I feel I will not be requiring the aid of either of these tools.

>breed the smartest
This is a fantastic idea! Then I remember #3 and #6 absolutely hate each other with a passion I've never seen in arkots before.
A simmering, cold hatred not erupting into fights or screaming matches, but a quiet, incredibly suppressed contempt and disdain for each other's existence.
Almost like some kind of hate-based infatuation, they always go out of their way to make the other more of a target for mockery for the other arkots.
One time #3 filled an entire room's worth of displays with fake orders from me that #6 was to have her sash confiscated ASAP. #6 was trying to evade her sash being stolen for a week or two before I lectured them all on such ridiculousness.
It's kind of fascinating and endlessly entertaining. I had some notes on my observations of their interactions back at the lab. Oh. Oh well!

>bother Sitkva
A great idea!

"Tirzi, I need to investigate how Sitkva is so big! There's megastructural secrets in her bones! I need all your amtsvane x-rays pronto!"
"[What? Uh, I guess there have been arcitectural advances inspired by amtsvane biology but I don't follow your logic too well because the structures of amtsvane bones are not trivial to replicate in any random materials--]"

>solve neumono instability
"Very well, when we have the resources! I instead have had an even greater idea!"
"[I don't think you quite have the full capacity to properly self-evaluate the worth of your ideas--]"
"My ideas are always good because I am smart! Where's more coffee?"
"[...you're, uh, holding it.]"
"Oh. Bah! I've been holding this cup idle for too long! Six! Bring me a fresher cup of coffee!!"
"[oh thank the stars she isn't drinking it]"
"What? You need to speak up, Tirzi, you're very quiet sometimes! Anyway, my idea is as follows, if neumono were less aggressive and violent then they wouldn't keep trying to shoot us, and everything wrong in my life would be over! I wouldn't have had one of my most trusted partners end up dead before I even got to visit him in person, and my mother wouldn't have gone mad and tried to turn me into a robot, and I wouldn't have had to live my entire life in fear in a facility at the bottom of the ocean and I wouldn't have been beaten to death and dragged here probably galaxies away from where I lived but my home is now a flooded mess, Tirzi, it's a flooded mess and everyone is dead and probably the neumono are dead and these neumono think it's my fault when they invaded my home and blew it all up and for some reason didn't think through the consequences of bringing down an airtight structure on the bottom of the seabed and what that might do and now all my work and research is gone and most of my arkots are drowned and everyone I trusted is dead or betrayed me and everything is ruined and all I have to look forward to when I get back is starting my life over with one place of security over and more hiding from neumono until they find me and I don't survive."

Tirzi stares at me. I do not know if it surprise or shock or what emotion is on her face. She looks bewildered and looks all around the room.

"Are you okay?"
"[I'm... no, I'm fine, are you okay?]"
"Yes! Why would I not be okay? I'm the best at all of the things including being okay!"
"[Sisirri...]"
"Yes, that is my name, but you already have my attention, what do you need? Is it to ask those questions?"
"[You really spent your entire life at the bottom of the ocean?]"
"No, not my whole life! Just like twelve or thirteen years, I was in a different facility before then and I don't feel like talking about that one right now."
"[You don't?]"
"I don't! It was kind of terrible, really!"
Tirzi looks sad. I think that's what that expression is.
"It's okay," I add. "That place blew up, it doesn't really matter anymore!"

"[Everything I've worried about feels so small now...]"
"Pardon?"
"[You do have someone out there who still cares about you, right?]"
"An ancient immortal superintelligence wants me dead, I think! They were my best friend and then they tried to kill me."
"[Wh... okay, you're making this all up, aren't you. Okay, whatever, sure.]"
"I never lie! Not blatantly, anyway. I mean I omit the whole truth a whole bunch but that's not quite the same thing."
"[Okay you're being far too candid for me to think this is some manipulative ploy. ...there's someone who misses you being gone right now, right?]"
"I... I don't think so? Everyone who would have is dead or probably celebrating that I'm dead. Salikai aren't very well liked back home. Even other salikai are pretty wary of each other. We need to be shifty and deceitful and manipulative and the best at everything or we die, just like all my friends and family have!"
>>
No. 867016 ID: 93be1c
File 151849211618.png - (18.37KB , 800x600 , salq-114.png )
867016

"Are you having problems balancing, Tirzi? Why are you holding onto me like this?"
"[You don't even understand how miserable your life has been, do you??]"

Tirzi makes some strange keening noises and holds onto me tighter.

"Are you trying to crush me? I don't understand."
"[Salazzarine gesture of trust and affection.]"
"Affection? Why would you feel affection and trust in someone you've only known for two days? I'm not sure I understand."
"[Sisirri, you're dumb. You're so, so stupid. I'm sorry. Maybe it's for the best you don't understand right now.]"
"Stupid?! I'm a salikai, we pride ourselves on our intellect! You best come up with a reason for this heinous accusation, clingy red spider alien! And why I don't have any more coffee!"
"[How can you lose everything and be this damn upbeat?? Do you know how it felt just to realise we were stuck in this lab?! And that was knowing there's still friends, still family on the otherside of that doorway! Still my entire life! I'd be a wreck in your situation, and all you're doing is... worrying about... coffee.]"

She makes the same keening noises a few times.

"[Don't drink any more coffee again, Sisirri.]"
"It boosts my--"
"[If you end up addicted to anything because I was a complete and total idiot and assumed it would perhaps, at best, have mild effects, not turn into some kind of euphoric depressant, I am never going to forgive myself and I am not going to let you drink yourself into a mindless stupor. Your sober self would never forgive me, I can just tell. If I've harmed you, if I've harmed you in any way I'm never sleeping again. Oh, why am I such an idiot??]"
"Euphoric depressant? That doesn't make any sense, I'm thinking better than ever!"
"[No, Sisirri, you just think you're thinking better than ever.]"
"Impossible! I'd notice if my capacity to notice... if I noticed worse... if I noticed my own thinking slower but my own thinking would be slower... so I'd feel the same and oh. Ohhhhhh."

I blink slowly.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. That's why everything suddenly felt so nice, isn't it."
"[Probably. I don't know. Maybe I can leave those reflex tests and comprehension exercises for later. A lot later.]"
"Have I damaged my brain even more?" The general feeling of superiority suddenly starts to buckle and warp into something closer to dread and anxiety.
"[Probably not.]"
"So... if my judgement is impaired, no more coffee to continue impairing my judgement? I think I understand now."

I realise Tirzi has not let me go still.

"You're still holding onto me."
"[I am.]"
"This isn't a gesture I'm familiar with." Not entirely accurate. I have dim, dim vague memories of my early childhood and curling up with my mother.
"[I can let you go if you want.]"
"I feel it'd be impolite to interrupt your trust display."

Seconds pass.

"[Sisirri, are you sure you're alright?]"
"What do you mean?"
"[Losing everyone you cared about, losing your home, your research.]"

I feel sick.

"...no, Tirzi. I'm not alright. I'm really not alright."
"[I'm so sorry, Sisirri. I'm so sorry.]" She makes more whimpers.
"Exposing myself like this. I really must have brain damage. Showing this much weakness, I'm expecting someone or something to take advantage of it."
"[I won't. You have my promise.]"
"I can't trust you, Tirzi. Not like I've trusted others. I can't trust anyone or anything. Trusting others just hurts them or leaves them ample room to hurt me."
"[I can't make you trust me,]" says Tirzi, finally ending her strange grip and standing. "[But... Well. I'm... I'm sorry for bringing any of this up.]"
"I feel nauseous."

Tirzi breathes in and out, and tries to recollect herself.

"[Yes. Let's not dwell. Focus on the now. I'll go get you something for that nausea. Actually, no. Come with me. I'm sick of this room for now and I'm sure you are too.]"
>>
No. 867017 ID: 93be1c
File 151849213482.png - (26.07KB , 800x600 , salq-115.png )
867017

Ughh I feel so ill. I'm following Tirzi as the feeling of vigour I had through my body seems to be fading. Now all I have is the sluggishness and numbness.

My vision's a little unfocused with my cybernetic eye now beginning to boot up its advanced systems, apparently having had time to recharge back to maximum capacity.
As a result, I have blurry vision in my natural eye, and an annoying blue mess of diagnostic text in my artificial one.

We briefly pass by a room where I see Sitkva, leaning back on the floor and staring at some form of display on the ceiling. I can't hear what's going on but it seems like some kind of broadcasted entertainment content, like the sort I used to sometimes spend time listening to for background noise while working.

Tirzi leads me beyond this room to some sort of... canteen?

"[If Sitkva feels like moving today she'll probably come down and join us for lunch. Ku and Aza will probably be here soon too. Saba... sometimes she comes down for lunch. Not often.]"
"I'm not really... actually, I guess I am pretty hungry."
"[I was just going to get you a drink but I guess I can get you food instead. I'll be right back.]"

Tirzi comes back with a tray precariously balanced on her claws, a plate on one with more of those pink fruits, which, while delicious, are starting to get incredibly samey, and a plate of... something that looks like a bowl of wet fungus. In addition, two vessels with rough bands around them. I suppose designed for salazzarine grip. Fortunately they work well with my graspers too.

I bite into a fruit and things immediately feel better. Samey is still comforting.

"After this, I actually think I want to look into something else to eat other than these fruits."
"[This is my sixteenth consecutive day eating fungus for lunch. I know what you mean.]"
"We need to assume we'll be here for a long time. Longer than two more weeks. We have to solve our food problems sooner rather than later."
"[We do, but we can spare a few minutes to clear our heads and focus on things that aren't work.]"
"I don't... I don't think I understand such a cavalier attitude in the face of looming crisis."
"[I don't know about salikai but I know most of the superculture species need some time to relax. Constant stress is bad for health. Surely you did not spend every waking moment of yours focused on your projects?]"
"Close to. I guess I had a few guilty pleasures."
"[Oh?]"
"Games, videos, movies, music. Specific food in rare quantities. I spent a lot of time motivating myself with promises of more of them for each batch of tasks I could get done."
"[I've tried that before but I just end up wasting time instead.]"
"Self-discipline is one of the earliest things salikai are taught. It's a vital necessity for survival."
"[Oh. Oh, of course, I guess it'd have to be.]"

We eat our respective dishes. I take some sips of whatever beverage Tirzi's picked out for me, and I feel the headaches and dizziness I'm starting to get mildly abate.
>>
No. 867018 ID: 93be1c
File 151849215190.png - (15.92KB , 800x600 , salq-116.png )
867018

Someone else enters the room. It's a neumono. It's not Ekasarra, and based on the facial markings I assume it to be Lekka.
Unlike the last time I saw her, belly in the mud and graspers tied behind my back, she seems to be in civilian clothing and not powered armour.
She still wears the same dour expression.

"Tirzi! And the salikai, I suppose."

I tense up. I'm not sure if the immediate emotion I feel is fear, anger, or some combination of both. I smile.
"Ah, Lekka. So good of you to join us for lunch."
Lekka rolls her eyes. "Spare me your sweet talk, Sisirri. I'm only here to tell Tirzi something urgent and then I'm out."

Something bugging me in the back of my mind leaps to my attention. "Lekka, can I ask you a question?"
"What is it?"
"Why did you try to save my life?"

Lekka looks taken aback. "W-well, it was a simple rational choice. You're the reason we all ended up here, so if we want to go back home, we need you."
"So you intend to kill me once you get back home?"

Lekka looks genuinely uncomfortable. "The driving cause of those few survivors of the Astran hive is to ensure what happened to our hive can never happen again, by the eradication of all threats to neumono hives in the future, such as free roaming salikai."
"[That's--]"
I wave a grasper at Tirzi. She falls silent.

I tilt my head closer to Lekka. "I didn't hear an actual answer there. Could it be you're having doubts, Lekka?"
"Doubts? Doubts about what? The rage and despair of my hivemates perishing in the flames of Astra's charring echoes within my head and heart forever, salikai. You said yourself you could never hope to understand such a thing, so how dare you accuse me of doubting our righteous cause."
"So you no doubt need to kill me to prevent future threats to neumono, yes?"
"[Sisirri!! What are you doing?! Why are you trying to stir things up after I tried so hard to convince them you weren't some manipulative monster--]"

"No, Sisirri," says Lekka, clenching her fists. "Despite your insufferable smug attitude here, no, we don't think you're deserving of death. We have no evidence you committed any atrocities against neumono and we now have ample evidence that we were all played like boardgame pieces by a greater threat than we even believed existed. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"No," I say, taking a casual bite of fruit. "What I would like to hear is an apology."

Lekka looks furious. Tirzi's head goes into her fungus with a mild 'splat'. I can't make out her mumbling clearly, but it sounds like a muffled stream of profanity aimed at alien stubbornness.

"On behalf of the Ashes Astra, the last charred remnants of the Astran hive, I, Lekka rozu Astra, extend my formal apologies to you, salikai."
"Sisirri."
"Sisirri. What does it even matter? What point are you trying to prove? I saved your sorry hide from bleeding out in a warzone, is that not apology enough?!"
"Oh, I didn't have a point to prove." Other than the fact that I was completely innocent this entire time. Which I knew. "I just wanted to see if you knew you were in the wrong for attacking an innocent for no other reason than her birth species."
"You've made your point incredibly clear, Sisirri, but this does not absolve your fellow salikai of their crimes against neumonokind. We do not usually learn of the presence of salikai who keep to themselves and harm no other individuals. Lessons have been learned, and we will take steps not to become the very thing we are fighting against to begin with."
"I'm glad to have managed to get through to you." I managed to get one of the neumono to admit their fault. The rope tightens.

Lekka still looks incredibly irritated, and seems to be avoiding my gaze more out of shame than disgust.
I suppose the righteous avenger sort does not accept being in the wrong very easily.

"Tirzi," she says, after a long pause.
"Yez?"
"Ekasarra and myself are concerned about Kan's... mental stability, might be a good way to describe it. We aren't aware of any means of addressing his... growing instability, but I wish to inform you that we are relieving him of his weaponry and armour until... until..." Lekka sighs. "Pending stabilisation of his mental condition."
"Oh. Hao lung do yu exzpekt zis to teek?"

Lekka closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, in and out, slightly shuddering.
"Indeterminate. It may take a very long time."
That all but confirms it, then. I may not know a whole bunch about neumono, but it sounds like Kan is going rogue. And if Kan's empathy is no longer aligning with Lekka's and Ekasarra's, it's a one way street.
Either Lekka doesn't want to admit to herself that this problem isn't going to fix itself, or she's trying to convince Tirzi that she has the situation under control somehow.

"It won't fix itself," I say. "Even I know going rogue is a one way process."
Lekka stares fiercely at me, teeth gritted. "We are taking every measure we can possibly muster to bring him back into our fold."
"Your fold of two."
"Damn it, Sisirri!" Lekka slams the table with her fist. "Just because you're correct does not grant you the right to be so smug about this tragedy befalling us! The loss of so many of our greatest warriors in a doomed charge against a laboratory structure that posed no threat to anyone, the loss no doubt incredibly severe to you yourself, and now we're starting to slowly be peeled apart by this insane world and its constant whispers in the darkness!!"
>>
No. 867021 ID: 93be1c
File 151849219451.png - (88.54KB , 800x600 , salq-117.png )
867021

"Wait. Whispers?"
"Whizperz??"
"Whispers," says Lekka, taking a moment to compose herself. "Yes. The reason I even came here." Lekka marches off, grabs an interface slate, somehow, and brings it to the table.

"Ekasarra showed this to me. I thought it was the stress of losing so many hivemates and being lost on an alien world getting to me, but this world is actively hostile to us. Look."

She scrutinizes the interface slate, nods, and taps it. The reverse of the interface slate displays what looks to be a heatmap of... energy fields? With a dot in the centre and a conspicuous absence around said dot. She remains staring at the image on her side of the slate.

"Ekasarra's cybernetics include, among other sensory apparatus, a means to measure what we refer to as 'empathy'. It is vague and hard to quantify, but it can be detected in terms of relative changes with her devices. She started recording her sensory input as she slept because she felt something 'wasn't right' and now we have empirical evidence. I don't know what's out there and it sounds like none of you do either, but there is something out there using... using empathic signatures to communicate. Many somethings. It's... we can't feel it directly, but there's this ever pervasive sense of wrongness coming at us from all directions. Flickers of thoughts and emotions we don't welcome. Locations. Commands. While we're inside this lab it's much, much more subdued, but it's still there. The dreams. I..."

Lekka trails off.

"The dreams I'll have our hive remnant write a report on. If nothing else, maybe it will serve as a means to bring us back into cohesion."
"Oh," says Tirzi. "I waz goink to juzt rekommend the zame."
"I'm acting command for a reason," says Lekka, giving a brief but fierce smile. "I didn't get to be second in command just for having a pretty face. Still. Sali-- Sisirri. Do you know anything about jammers?"

I pause mid-bite of my fruit and swallow. "I know they exist. I have no idea about the theory or mechanics behind them."
"I know you likely wish us to quietly all drop dead, but, if we can't get a jammer constructed, I don't know how much longer we can last here with ourselves intact. We've been holding together mostly with a sense of righteous duty to the neumono species as a whole, and now there's three of us, and this on top is slowly flaying our psyches. And me and Ekasarra, at least, are horribly, consciously aware this is happening. We're feeling ourselves lose our minds and we're feeling each other losing our minds. It's... not an incredibly optimal situation we find ourselves in. But what I'm sure we've all realised by now is that it's beneficial to all of us for us to be in a functional capacity. We all need to pull together if we all want to survive. I want your help. All of you. Please."

Tirzi nods gravely.
I wring my graspers together. "The only option we'd have, if you wanted me to make a jammer, is to somehow redevelop it from first principles."
"I am putting the fate of myself and my two hivemates into your ha-- ...claws? Graspers. Whatever you need, name it."
"I... I'm an incredibly skilled mechanical engineer and system architect. But I know next to nothing about neumono empathic parapsychological theory, much less how empathy can be manipulated through artificial means."
"Ekasarra has mechanical components that interact with empathy already. The 'empathetic relay' device implanted into my forehead may also be of use, if Tirzi and Aza are willing to try to extract it, but it hasn't done anything in the entire time I've had it. For the sake of all of us, neumono or otherwise, I highly recommend working on this jammer as a top priority before we lose ourselves completely."

I strongly resent being told what to do by this neumono, even if she is surprisingly pragmatic and rational for a neumono.
Admirably so for one apparently under constant psychic attack.
Should we maybe just throw the neumono out? They did save my life but they also endangered it to start with.
Do I promise them a jammer? Do I promise them I'll at least try? Do I actually want to make them this jammer?
What if it all goes horribly wrong and I end up creating a neumono torture device by mistake?
Will they trust that I'm not making a neumono torture device??
What do I do here?!
>>
No. 867022 ID: 1561e1

All of your available options here have end results that suck EXCEPT successfully making what they need. Get on it, Sisirri. Just do your best to be as transparent as possible through the whole process so they can't accuse you of having a black box device capable of killing them.
>>
No. 867026