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File 168877558255.png - (140.53KB , 500x500 , l-look_at_you_samson.png )
1067338 No. 1067338 ID: a7a180


Into the heart of the Great Temple.
200 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1080166 ID: a7a180
File 170413795995.png - (105.47KB , 500x500 , pent_am_not_good_with_computer.png )

>That’s a bottle of smolfate
Yeah, it’s the same color as the stuff I fell in. I think I’ll try to avoid doing that again. JNET said the reducer doesn’t run on this stuff, but I guess it serves a similar enough purpose to keep it in the same lab.
>If you leave, the secret is out
I could just… close the door behind me and not tell anyone about it? It’s not that complex. This is a big place, and we’ve only scratched the surface of it. Technically, we haven’t even gotten that far.
>The Formicans’ hiding isn’t working
I’m not sure I have the solution for that. They’ve had thousands of years to dig themselves into this hole, and digging out of it could take a thousand more.
…Or I could just tell someone about them. It sounds simple, but again, I’m just not sure. Elder Stone pointed out a lot of problems it could entail. Are they just… not ready to do so yet? Would there ever be a better time for it?
>How would you even turn on the reducer?
I just touched it last time, it should work the same way now. I check with Jaina, and- yeah, she’s pretty sure you just touch it. She says there’s a smaller set of controls at the bottom for reduced folk.
>Want to be even taller when you grow back?
If I figure out how to tweak the reducer, then… maybe I can claim I was slouching?
>take the holo-lens
But Pent was promised she could keep it!

I’m getting distracted. What was I… Oh right, the arms! They look cool. We walk past the microscope to take a look at those. As we walk across the counter, I get the feeling we’re being watched, but… it passes quickly.
The two arms are well articulated and extendable, with a hose running up each of them to a sprayer head at the top of each arm. A small tablet lies on the table nearby. Pent and I walk over to examine it while Anet and Jaina examine the arms more closely. Its screen displays a set of six buttons. Hmm… “1 Dose, ½ Dose, ¼ Dose, ⅛ Dose, 1/16 Dose, and Target. Dose of what?” I wonder out loud.
Anet calls out and draws my attention away from the screen. “Hey Sam, there’s a square marked out on the floor in front of the arms. I wonder why?”
<What do these symbols mean?> asks Pent. When I look back, I see her pointing at the display with a finger.
“<Hold on, don’t touch anything! We don’t know what it will do yet.>”
She looks confused. <Wait, touching the screen activates it?>
“<...Pent, which one did you press?>”
<I-i’m not sure! …Hey, is that us on the screen?> The interface compacts onto one side as a live camera feed moves into view.

>Who is the camera pointing at?
>Should I try and press a different button?
No. 1080167 ID: 76615e

Looks like she pressed the "target" button, now the camera is pointed at Jaina. Definitely don't slip and press the "1/2 dose" button~
No. 1080168 ID: 273c18

>I could just… close the door behind me and not tell anyone about it? It’s not that complex. This is a big place, and we’ve only scratched the surface of it. Technically, we haven’t even gotten that far.
By my understanding, you had explored all accessible space and weren't able to get further because the material was too hard to dig through. But if that's not the case, then... wouldn't they just find this lab eventually anyway? The Formicians can't stay hidden forever, and you can't destroy this backup reducer to keep them secret because then they would have no emergency exit.

>what does this button do
Hmm, is this a device for further shrinking people? It looks like a shower head. Better get away from it, unless you want someone to be slightly smaller.
No. 1080171 ID: eb0a9c

>Keep this place a secret
The only viable means to hide the Formicans from a corporate expedition would be to murder most of them by crushing the facility and then transport the survivors to a new colony - that is, if their bodies can survive space travel.
Hard pass.

Your main objective should be to transfer the research data to the galactic community, and negotiate for long-term relief supplies and permanent land ownership. Corporations may be all-consuming, but the PR drain from displacing an entire city just to steal a literal bug-sized plot of land would be damning.

Poke the showerhead, or gesture a cross to try and cancel.
No. 1080176 ID: f14228

Is there even a proper way out of this room once you're big? Regardless, once you get out you could sell whatever 'I got lost' story you can, and then try to become employed like an assistant researcher, janitor, tour guide or guard of the ruins.

This would let you keep in touch with your new Formican friends and let you provide them with necessities and galactic news, as well as aiding them in maintaining their privacy for now. They'd also be an inside guy who could inform them of the archeologists' plans to further dig into or survey the fake ruins. And then it's up to them - you might not stick around here forever, but you'd like to support them as best you can knowing their situation.

>Who is in the camera?
Straight at Sam. Try triggering the 1/16th Dose button instead of whatever Pent pressed and curse your lack of knowledge preventing you from figuring out which gesture ends whatever's been started - wait. Four hands. Is the pause, 'back' or exit function of a Formican touchscreen a quintuple tap on each side of the screen, maybe? There has to be some universal gesture for these things!
No. 1080236 ID: a7a180
File 170424656846.png - (132.14KB , 500x500 , red_vs_blue.png )

>Push buttan
Okay, this might be a problem. I don’t know how to cancel a command. Um, is less of a dose better or worse? Maybe I’ll just split the difference? I press the Target and ½ dose buttons. The words ‘Auto: Desk’ flash onscreen, and the camera view blinks from Pent and me to Jaina and Anet. I’ve got a shrinking feeling I know what this device does, but I don’t want my hypothesis confirmed!
“I think it’s pointing at you guys! You should get away from those arms, quick!” I dash away from the control pad too just in case, but Pent seems frozen to the spot. Anet’s just standing there, watching the arms move.
Recognizing the danger, Jaina shoves her sister out of the way just in time. A puff of red gas hits where I was standing first, then the other arm sprays a blue cloud over Jaina. The two of them start coughing as they disappear in the gas.
No. 1080237 ID: a7a180
File 170424657568.png - (151.39KB , 500x500 , reversal_of_fortunes.png )

The cloud disperses, and the arms go still again. Anet rushes back in to help Jaina. But this time, she’s the bigger sister! “Are you okay?!”
“I'm fine, just dizzy… Did I shrink, or are you bigger?”
“I think you shrank this time.”
<I think you all shrank!> says Pent. The normally diminutive ant towers over all of us now. She must be three times my height, even bigger than Bright Eyes! The controller’s about eye level with me, too. I was focused on running away so I wasn’t looking, but I don’t think I got hit by the cloud? Anet’s still shorter than me, at least. That blue gas must have been a form of smolfate, a lot faster-acting than the liquid version, so the red gas must be a counteragent of some kind.
<I’m sorry Jaina. I shouldn’t have touched anything…>
“Nobody got hurt, so whatever. I just hope this wears off eventually,” says the tiny formican.

We might have a bigger problem, however. A large, hovering shape has started moving between the shelves. Its glowing red eye seems to be scanning for something…

>Keep using the controller to try and fix everyone’s size (or something else?)
>Duck and hide
>Run to another location
>Try to get its attention
No. 1080238 ID: 1effd3

It's either a security/maintainace drone, or a camera. JNET had blue eyes, so red MUST eb hostile!
No. 1080245 ID: 76615e

relocate to the other side of the sink. Now would be a good time to get someone up to regular size, but can we operate the grower at our scale?
No. 1080252 ID: 44aeb0

Can we go half and half on seeking cover and trying to communicate with this thing?
No. 1080253 ID: 44aeb0

Also, Pent is having the time of her goddamn life right now, not gonna learn any lessons about strange button pressings, lol.
No. 1080267 ID: 124485

>I just hope this wears off eventually
Yeah, it would really suck if the gas version of the smolfate ends up being permanent or it's effects last for several days instead of a few hours.

>We might have a bigger problem, however. A large, hovering shape has started moving between the shelves. Its glowing red eye seems to be scanning for something…
It might be best to hide from that, since it might be hostile.

>can we operate the grower at our scale?
We were told that there’s a smaller set of controls at the bottom of the machine for reduced folk to operate it. We should have no problem using it once we get to it.
No. 1080277 ID: 1013bd

You and Anet should find out what the 1/16 dose does, together.
No. 1080278 ID: eadaf2

>But Pent was promised she could keep it!
So ask her - she understands kindness. For her it's a curio. For you it's the rest of your life. Plus if you get to stay with archaeology you'd be better poised to keep the whole secret via misinfo. Oh yeah, red eyes. Hide. Observe. From its behavior make educated guesses as to what it is and does.
No. 1080285 ID: 273c18

I imagine for her it's just as important a reminder.
No. 1080288 ID: 913c45

I wonder if we can shrink the red eyed thing
No. 1080400 ID: 7ba85a

This does seem like it can end up being perfect situation to get our companions to 'big' or rather 'regular person' size.

Or bigger honestly but I don't think it will be viable in this situation. Still, I can't help but wonder how much smaller could you be reduced through the machine... For now, we have to focus on the threat.

>Duck and Hide
No. 1080632 ID: a7a180
File 170475398043.png - (161.30KB , 500x500 , final_boss_a_flying_roomba.png )

There’s no time to worry about who’s tall or small, I don’t want to be caught in the open by something much bigger than us! We scurry for the nearest cover. Anet and Jaina hide behind the legs of the beaker stand. Pent scoops me up and dashes silently behind the microscope. She may be the largest ant right now, but she’s still the stealthiest.
The hovering drone emerges from the shelves and does a low sweep past the countertop. I get a brief glimpse after it passes us. Its body is a smooth, white geometric shape, like how JNET described the simpler drones looking. The only distinguishing features are its bright red visor on its front and stubby wings on its sides, perhaps housing its propulsion.
A hatch on its side opens up and a tubular arm extends with a wide nozzle at the end. It uses this attachment to dust off the shelves above us with a quiet hiss of air. It moves away for the time being, but it remains close by enough to make staying in the open likely to get us caught. The sisters slip over to us and we begin discussing what to do next in hushed tones.

“How are we going to get to the reducer with that robot out there?” I whisper.
”We’re going to have to get rid of it somehow. Maybe we can drop something on it and break it,” says Jaina.
“Can we immobilize it somehow instead?” Anet says. “Or just distract it, long enough for someone to reach the reducer.”
“That’s a big risk to take when we don’t know what it’ll do if it spots us. We can’t outrun it. Though... a distraction could lure it into a trap.”
Hmm. The thought occurs to me: “Maybe we could shrink it with the gas?”
<What if the gas just makes it bigger instead?> points out Pent.
“That’s a fair point. We’d need some more time to figure out how it works exactly…”
<Not to mention we’d have to get back over to those arms. You’d be out in the open.>
Anet remembers, “There was a hole behind the arms, for the hoses. We could climb up from that for a sneaky approach and drag the controller over! We’d just have to get underneath the table first.”
Everyone goes quiet again as the drone’s humming becomes louder. We wait for it to leave again before resuming our discussion.
Jaina sums it all up: “Whether we shrink it or otherwise, we have to use whatever we can find in this lab to deal with the robot. First we figure out what we’re using, then we figure out some kind of bait, and then we'll carry it out. We're not turning back until we get Sam home. Stick to cover, stick to the plan, and we can do this.”

>So, what’s the plan?
No. 1080637 ID: 1effd3

we could drop one of the cages/container son the top shelf onto it
No. 1080660 ID: 76615e

Could Pent use her new size to drag the tablet over to the microscope? Shrinking this thing seems like our best bet, unless there is a quick or hidden way to get up to the cages on the top shelf.
No. 1080671 ID: 70f804

>Shrinking this thing seems like our best bet
I don't think we can shrink it, since it's a robot. It needs to be a living person that can breathe in order for the gas to affect it.

If we want to shrink it, we'd need to use the Reducer, since that doesn't require the target to breathe in any gas to change it's size. However, I think the robot would catch us before we can reach the Reducer.
No. 1080674 ID: c91841

That doesn’t make any sense, or else their clothes wouldn’t change size with them.
Maybe you can lure it by turning on the sink.
No. 1080702 ID: 8d26ce

Maybe we find a way to distract it, yea-

Use the Clicker on it!
No. 1080968 ID: f34fe7

Didn’t the ladder up have a hatch halfway up? That might connect to the hole behind the arms, letting you sneak back over.
No. 1081082 ID: 7dda3e

This is the only idea that makes sense to me, possibly combined with dropping a shelf on it.

Use clicker as distraction, and drop cage on it once it’s in position.
No. 1081273 ID: a7a180
File 170554564709.png - (139.60KB , 500x500 , just_a_small_town_girl.png )

>The beginnings of a plan
If we push the cages over the shelf, it should create a distraction, or even hit the drone if we’re lucky. If not, then we’ll spray it with the arms, which should be much harder to dodge while it’s distracted. It’s a plan with a layer of redundancy, but there’s still some problems left to solve: the first is how to move the cages, and the second is how exactly the arms work.
<Just hit Anet with the big gas,> suggests Pent. <Maybe our combined strength can push them over.>
I shrug. Maybe it’d work? “Well, that depends on our other problem, figuring out how that gas works by using the controls more. …Um, are you going to put me down, by the way?”
<Why, are you going somewhere?>
“...Fair enough.”
Jaina has another idea. “Even if all three of us got stronger from getting hit with the right cloud, we might not be able to push them over ourselves. Maybe if we tie some weights to the cages with rope, those could drag it off instead… That box up there might have stuff we could use.”
Anet suddenly remembers something, then digs around in her bags. “What if we use the clicker? Turning the lights on and off might distract it.”
“…Wait, that’s it.” I say. “Anet, that might not just turn off the lights, the robot could have an off switch too.”
A look of realization lights up her face. “Oooh! Wow, am I glad I brought this.”
She takes the clicker out and immediately presses the red button. Instantly, the lights go off, and the robot drops to the floor with a heavy thud. We’ve done it, we defeated the robot!

Well, I guess we can just walk to the reducer now that nothing’s in our way. A few minutes into our walk, the transformation from the gas wears off and reuters Pent and Jaina to normal size. So, the gaseous smolfate not only works faster, but wears off faster too… Pent’s disappointed, but Jaina at least is relieved to not be looking up at everyone’s abdomens as we walk.
Unfortunately, once we trek to the reducer we realize we’ve made a terrible oversight: the reducer has been shut off, just like everything else in the room. We’ll have to power everything back up in order to use it, and that means the robot as well…
“Well, what if I stand next to the machine while you turn it on?” I ask the others.
Jaina shakes her head. “Hmm… No, it’s too risky. What if the drone comes online before you can get it to work?”
“We won’t know until we try!”
“Then we should try it from a safe location,” she insists. Defeated, I give in to her reasoning. Man, and I was so close… Instead, we end up back in the glass hut we started in, as Anet pushes the green button.
The first thing to come online is the arms, which jerk to life suddenly and swivel around as if looking for something. They end up focusing on the beaker next to us and spraying it with a blue cloud. The stand shrinks to half size immediately, but the beaker explodes in a spurt of liquid, spraying liquid smolfate all over the counter. I guess that’s what happens when a container suddenly halves in volume, but its contents don’t. That’s going to be a hazard moving forward, even if we probably won’t shrink just from touching it. As for why the arms did that, I guess it repeated the last command it was given to spray something on the desk. It’s something to keep in mind next time we cycle the power.
The drone is next to come online. It beeps angrily and does a full sweep around itself before resuming its duties. Finally, To my dismay, the lights on the reducer’s machinery return to normal, meaning that even if they just walked over and turned the thing back on the drone would have time to react before I could use it. Jaina made the right call.
Still, being able to shut the drone off makes moving around to set up a trap much safer.

Now, it’s time to start preparing our trap. First, we need to move the arms’ controller to a safe spot behind the microscope. Anet and I will come up through the hole behind the arms to avoid the smolfate spill. Luckily, I was right about that hatch in the shaft under the hut, it opens into the cabinet underneath! We can cross this way to avoid stepping in chemicals. My flashlight’s dead, so we leave the lights on to let some light filter in. As soon as we’re up top again, we’ll deactivate the robot so Jaina and Pent can toss a rope over to us. We’ll tie it around the controller, and they can drag it back across the spill with no risk to us.
…As soon as we manage to stumble our way through the dark to that hole, anyway.
“Ow, my foot! What are these things we keep bumping into, anyway?” complains Anet.
That’s a good question. There’s a ton of of identical blocks stored on this shelf in a fairly uniform, cramped grid. They seem fairly heavy, but glide when pushed like they’re on wheels. Their surfaces are very detailed for their size. After my eyes adjust to the darkness more, I realize… “Wait, these are hab blocks! Like the ones in the city, but- tiny!”
“Wait, really?”
They may not be covered in leafy vines, but the silhouette is unmistakable. So, even these things can be reduced for storage. They’re not so tall to a tallman, standing about as tall as Anet. It’s amazing to realize just how short these skyscrapers are in reality, after walking through them at ground level.
No. 1081274 ID: a7a180
File 170554565306.png - (64.71KB , 500x500 , a_really_small_quest.png )

Amidst all the hab blocks in storage, we find something else unexpected: A rune-powered, freestanding wall panel and accompanying pad, just like the reducer. Only instead of up and down arrows, thus one only has one arrow pointing to the right.
“What could this do?” I wonder out loud.
“Let’s find out!” says Anet, stepping on the pad.
“Woah, slow down!” I try to stop the impulsive ant, but she touches the arrow before I can react! Anet disappears with a quiet pop.
Is she always this impulsive when exploring?! No wonder Jaina’s always worried about her. Oh no, what if it’s shrunk her even further? I can’t move until I know she’s not underfoot!
While I’m trying to think of what I’m going to tell the others, Anet reappears unharmed. Her words come out all at once in a rush of excitement.
“It’s a teleporter! I pressed the button and then there was a little zap and then I was standing back in the hut! I was behind the others but they didn’t see me ‘cause they were looking the other way and I didn’t want to alert the robot, so I pressed a glowy rune that showed up on the pad I was standing on and it zapped me back here! Go ahead, you try it now!”
“-Uh, really?” A teleporter! Formican tech really was incredible. I do share her enthusiasm for it, if not her impulsiveness, and she’s already shown it’s safe, so why not? “Let’s see… -Oh, there’s some more lights on here, and they’re labeled too. Looks like the first light’s called… Test house. That’s where you went. This next one’s labeled ‘spare lab’. Guess I’ll try that one.” Here goes!
I feel a small zap as promised, and find myself standing in an exact copy of the lab we’re in. Except that one, the door isn’t blocked by rubble, two, the teleporter pad is where the reducer would be, and three, everything’s in my size! Even the robot arms are repeated. The shelves are similarly stocked with lab equipment, but the cabinets don’t contain rows of tiny hab blocks. The ceiling lights are off, but there’s a strip of backup lighting illuminating the room at a lower intensity.
Also, I can hear a strange noise coming from somewhere outside. Not sure what it is, I follow it into the hallway. It sounds like… a low pitched humming throughout the building? I open a door to where the hum sounds loudest, and- Oh.

Is that- Anet?! She’s gigantic! …No, she’s just standing next to the hab block that I’m inside. …Nope, nope, nope! I sprint back to the teleporter, suddenly feeling very dizzy.

“You’re back! What’d you find?”
I have to catch my breath before I answer. “...I want to go somewhere else first!” I need something to get my mind off what just happened! Plus, I might just need a second away from Anet to calm down.
“Oh. Well, okay…”

The third destination is labeled ‘garden’. Sounds safer... This time I’m zapped into a hot, humid environment that’s actually rather pleasant after the temple’s constant frigid air. There’s a mixture of giant leafy plants and smaller, flower-like bulbs all growing around a reduced tree. These must be some of the original flora of the Formican homeworld, or at least they’re no flora I’ve ever seen before. The whole affair encased in a glass jar overlooking the lab - the full-size one. I must be in the terrarium up on the middle shelf. That means this teleporter is the only way in and out of here without breaking the seal. Clever.

So, this teleporter seems like another useful tool we can use. By the way, the whole unit and its destination pads can be moved, so the one in the hut at least can be relocated somewhere else easily for getting around when the drone is active.
Finally, we make it over to the hole in the ceiling and climb up the hoses from the chemical tanks without further incidents. Once we’ve dragged the controller across the counter and rejoined the others, I tell them about the new opportunity we’ve discovered. The possibilities are… intriguing!

Now, it’s time for the next phase of preparation: Figuring out how this controller works exactly, and priming the cages to be dropped.
>Input more commands to try when figuring out how the arms work. (See >>1080236 for more info)
>Should the plan be changed to include the teleporters somehow?
No. 1081278 ID: 273c18

The teleporter instantly changes your size at the same time it moves you? That's EXTREMELY fancy tech.

Anyway, here's what you can do: first, tell the arms to shrink something. Second, lure the drone over to the arms, so that third, turn off the power so that the falls down within range of the arms. Then when you turn the power back on, the drone will be shrunk and you can all smash it or grab it or ignore it depending on how small it is.
No. 1081283 ID: 922417

Oh that is super useful. Hell, if needed we can shrink Formicans more in case they want to remain hidden… but there is Teleporter tech that doesn’t exist or hasn’t been invented yet outside Formican civilization. Original flora is saved. We can facilitate a better return to Galaxy, in limited numbers of course.

I agree with this Plan. Plus in a pinch we can always set up cages to drop where drone would be in case the main plan doesn’t work.

We should go back to the micro lab and try to pick up something that might be useful to us at normal size. It’s fully equipped, right? We could use it to further analyze what is going to be in full size lab so that we can prepare, maybe we can see smaller version of drone we can try to understand. Maybe something we can use on drone or something to clear out rubble with when we’re normal size. In fact… let’s use it to learn how to operate the Arms safely. Of course we need Anet to keep us safe from outside.

Could we use teleporter to move the big arms controller?
No. 1081284 ID: 922417

Wait yeah! If there’s arms in micro lab it means there’s another arms controller we can use!
No. 1081339 ID: 5ebd37

Set up a little demo in the spare lab to test the cage fall trap. Also practice controlling the arms without the risk of getting sprayed.
No. 1081739 ID: a7a180
File 170606885334.png - (147.89KB , 500x500 , group_photo.png )

>Two arms
After Anet and I retell our trip through the cabinet, Jaina brings up an idea she had while we were gone. ”If the arms repeat the last command made, then we could store a command in there to shrink the nearest thing, and use it to blast the drone before it can react. In case we miss with the cage, or something.”
I agree with her, that seems like a sensible plan. My own idea, however, I’m less sure about.
“You know, since the other lab is an exact copy, even of the arms, I suppose, we could, use it for practice…”
“Good idea, the drone can’t reach us in there.“
“I’m just not sure if it’s safe, being so tiny.”
Jaina scoffs. “So what? We’ve always been tiny. It’d be just like those other buildings we went through.”
Anet concurs, with both of us. “Mhm. Sam’s right though. I’ll stay outside and make sure you’re all safe.”
Jaina gives her sister an unamused look. “Uh uh, I see what you’re trying to do Anet. The only outside hazard we’d need to watch out for would be you.”
“You wouldn’t see us anyway, because the lab doesn’t have windows,” I point out.
Anet perseveres, pleading with us. “I know, but c’mooon it’s like I get to be a tallman! Could you at least come out so I can look before I follow you through?”
Jaina relents. “…Fine, but no picking anybody up.”
Jaina, Pent and I take the teleporter to the labs and walk out to the balcony together to indulge Anet. I call out to her while waving my arms, “We’re over in this one!”
Anet’s face turns and focuses on us like a billboard ad come to life. “Hiii, tiny people! Hold still, I‘m gonna capture this with the mirror lens.” She orbits around us, taking in the sight from every angle while she lines up a shot with the holo-camera. Just to rub in how small we are, she holds up her fingers next to me for the picture. “Smile!”

…It occurs to me, I didn’t get to take my camera on this trip, but at least they’ll have this memento. I’ll become a part of history in the Formicans’ books, if not my own species’.
No. 1081740 ID: a7a180
File 170606885752.png - (181.14KB , 500x500 , girl_power.png )

Now, onto testing the arm controls.
We already know what the 1/2 dose does, so we might as well test the two extremes first. But before that, I press the target button. The machine doesn’t spray anything when I do, instead cycling through three modes: Desk, User, and Manual. The first two options suggest it’ll target something that’s placed in front of it or whoever’s holding the controller, respectively. The manual option brings up the camera view as well as controls that move both arms around. The arms can stretch pretty far, nearly triple their normal length, but their movement is rather slow and the controls are somewhat laggy.
So, now that we can tell what way it’s pointing, what are going to test 1/16 on?
Anet’s hand shoots up. “Me! I want to test user mode.”
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“Yeah, why not?”
Anet takes the controller and orders the machine to shrink her. An arm rotates to face her and sprays a large blue cloud in an up and down pattern. For a moment, she’s still standing inside the cloud as it spreads to cover her legs, and then she appears to vanish as the cloud disperses. Of course, she’s not gone, she’s just standing at our feet, now the most miniscule ant to ever exist. She’s jumping and waving up at us, though we’re already looking right at her. I kneel down to get closer, trying not to speak too loud. “All good down there?”
She calls out in a tiny voice. “Hello up there! I feel fine, just really, really short!”
“Anet, you realize how small you are on an objective scale right now? Like, you are a sixteenth of a sixtieth of an inch tall. …That’s nearly a thousandth of an inch. You should be seeing microbes at that size.”
She looks around and shrugs. “I don’t see anything weird! I feel really light, though!”
Jaina bends down to pick her up and sets her on the table. “Okay, so obviously that makes the other end of the scale the red gas. Time to grow up, Anet.”
“Ooh wait, hold on! Put me on the top shelf, I want to try pushing the cage!”
“Oh, hmm. Another good idea, we can test our plan here too.” Measuring her up next to the microscope, Anet’s about as small relative to the lab as Pent was when enlarged.
Having the height to reach the shelves easily, I pick Anet up by the waist and place her on top next to the cages. She throws all her miniscule might into pushing the smaller cage. She doesn't make a lot of headway.
After a few attempts, she says, “It’s heavy, but I think I felt it budge it a little!”
“It might have moved? Let me check something,” says Jaina. “This looks like a scale over here…” She picks up the cage and Anet along with it, and places them on the scale next to the sink.
I point out an issue with this test to Jaina. “Would its weight here even mean anything? We’re all a lot smaller and lighter right now.”
“The measurement units are the same ones I know, and the point is just to weigh it relative to her.” She continues steadfastly with her measurements. “…Yeah, this could work, if all three of us pushed. We won’t even need the weights dragging it over.”
With our projections for the plan pointing positive, it’s time to test the other end of the scale. Rather than waiting for Anet to regrow, since she still has the controller she becomes the de facto target for this test too. She sits on the edge of the counter and presses the button labeled 1. The red gas returns her to her previous size, and she hops down. Well, previous-ish? We didn’t do any measurements beforehand…
“She seems a little taller to me,” says Jaina.
“Maybe your dose of gas just didn’t wear off fully?“ suggests her sister.
“No, I think you just got taller,” Jaina suggests a little more firmly.
“Maybe we should try shrinking and growing something else, to be sure,” I interject.
We test again with the 1/4 dose, then the 1-dose on an empty beaker. Its size seems restored to normal after regrowing, no more, no less. Jaina concedes that she was probably just imagining things.
“So if that’s just an antidote to the shrinking, why’d Pent grow from exposure?” She asks.
<Maybe I just react differently to it than you?> says Pent.
Jaina thinks. “Well, she wasn’t hit with blue gas first, so… do we have the room to test that here?”
“The only one who hasn’t been hit with any gas yet is Sam, so…” Anet and Jaina both look at me expectantly. I guess I’m next. I’d better sit on the floor, just in case. This time, we mark my height on the wall beforehand.
Here we go… I hold my breath and close my eyes by reflex when the cloud sprays. When I open them I feel a little different, but I’m not sure how. I walk back over to the mark and… “Oh, wait! I actually did get taller.” Only by about half a head, though. There must be a growth effect if you haven’t been reduced first, but it’s nowhere near enough for me to reach normal size.
<But why didn’t you triple in size?> Pent asks.
I think about it for a moment. “Well, compare our relative sizes to the machine at time of dosing. Isn’t it the same amount of growth, objectively? Even a few inches can be pretty dramatic when you’re as small as we are.”
<Guess so. Hm, almost a shame it’s only temporary.>

>mini lab, mini drone?
Hmm, let me check the back. …Aha! This lab does have its own version of the drone. Although this one’s spherical instead of boxy. The mini-drone powers on when I poke around for a switch, but it doesn’t act - it just beeps in an error tone and shuts back down. Like the robot we found way back in the doctor’s office, it must be dependent on the hab block’s building wide systems, and those aren’t powered right now.
I spend a little more time driving the mini arms around until I’ve got the hang of it. With that, we’re all set to pull off our plan, and I can finally leave this microscopic mini-lab…

We teleport back to the glass hut where we entered this room, and wait for the drone to be looking away when we run back to the microscope. Anet hands off the clicker to me in case it’s needed, as they will all be jumping up to the top shelf to push the cage together. Aiming manually, I target all three girls with the 1-dose, growing them into miniature giants. They back away from the arms, and I input a 1/16 command targeting the desk, in case the power gets switched off. The arms search the target zone but find it empty, displaying an error. That zone being empty didn’t seem to stop it from spraying the closest object last time, so it should be fine. I switch the controls back to manual and look up at Jaina one more time.

>“Are you ready for this, Sam?”
No. 1081741 ID: 1effd3

Lets go!
No. 1081743 ID: 922417


We're ready!
No. 1081871 ID: 5ebd37

As ready as we can be
No. 1081911 ID: a7a180
File 170630850853.png - (111.50KB , 500x500 , foreign_object_detected.png )

“As ready as we can be.”
Jaina nods back. All together, the others jump to the top of the shelves in two giant leaps for Formican-kind. I settle into my hiding place, and we wait for the drone to pass back this way.
This is it, the big moment. It’s entered the reach of the arms... I hear the cage scraping along the shelf above. Once again, they’re showing off their incredible strength pushing that cage off the… wait, hang on a second. Oh. Oh no. Oh sweet Talzor. From this angle, it is immediately apparent that the cage is going to fall way too close to where I am. I may have left a small oversight in this plan that is about to leave me two-dimensional.
I can’t run now, I won’t make it far enough. I can’t call out for them to stop either, because I’ll alert the drone! There’s nothing to do but duck under the microscope tray and hope it shelters me. I hope this works..!

The cage falls with a deafening bang, slamming into the microscope. The impact sends the cage bouncing away to the floor and knocks over the microscope, shattering its precision lenses with a violent crack. Somehow I’m left standing amidst the chaos. That ruckus certainly attracted the drone’s attention!
The controller’s still in one piece. I rush back to it, frantically tapping away as my aim zooms in on the drone… Unfortunately, with my hiding place toppled over the drone spots me. I have the robot in my sights, but I’ve overextended the arms. The drone moves too close and knocks them aside, swinging them out of position! I’m in real trouble if I don’t think of something fast!

>What do I do?
No. 1081913 ID: 1effd3

No. 1081916 ID: 8f9bc4

Nooo, those precision lenses!
No. 1081917 ID: f93fe1

Shout out to the others to make a big mess. It'll go after that instead!
No. 1081934 ID: 262ea3

Wait till we see what the drone is about to do, THEN press Clicker!

We don't know WHAT the drone is going to do to us, actually. If we see it's about to do something dangerous, that's when we can click. But for all we know it could be good. We are only terrified cause RED LIGHT is menacing!
No. 1081945 ID: 5ebd37

Trigger the shrink mist and run through it, the drone should loose sight of you when you change size. At a very small size you should be able to hide among the arms.
No. 1082738 ID: a7a180
File 170730840229.png - (129.01KB , 500x500 , sucks_to_be_you.png )

I’m paralyzed with fear. A thought flashes through my mind - is it really dangerous? All we’ve seen it do is dust off the shelves. Its gaze lingers, like it’s trying to figure me out the same way I’m trying to guess its motives. An arm comes sliding out its side once more, a miniature roar issuing from the air hose. It’s gone from blow to suck. Okay, yep, turns out there’s good reason for tiny things to be afraid of bigger ones!

Time for the backup plan. I mash both buttons on the clicker in a panic. Immediately, the drone thunks to the table and the vacuum goes limp. Phew. Now the sprayer arms will have a chance to recalibrate and spray the bot. Any moment now…
They’re still calibrating. Why is this taking so long? If they don’t spray it soon, the drone will get back up and- yep, too late now. Nothing’s going according to plan and now the bot is active again and angry!
“Help meee!” I shout, running as fast as my tiny legs can take me. The drone reaches for me again, but suddenly something bounces off its chassis. The girls have started tossing junk down from the top shelf! The distraction slows it for a moment, but I can’t outrun the hovering behemoth for long.
The arms, go for the arms!” Anet calls down.
That’s right, I can hide down in the hole! I still don’t think I can make it in time, but a small chance is better than none. I make it halfway there when finally the arms come about and blast both me and the drone with the shrinking gas.
All the fixtures of the desk seem to recede into the distance in an instant, leaving me alone on a vast plain in the cloud of blue smoke. I’ve lost track of the drone too - hopefully, that means it’s lost track of me. The drone is finally tiny - but so am I, which means it’s just as big a threat as before if it catches me.
Just as I’m thinking that, the vacuum noise returns. The smoke’s sucked away to reveal the drone hovering over me! There’s no getting away this time. I feel the wind tearing at my clothes, threatening to knock me off my feet. I start desperately clawing at the ground, trying not to get sucked in!
No. 1082739 ID: a7a180
File 170730842389.png - (164.70KB , 500x500 , big_sister_comes_in_clutch.png )

<-Gotcha, you flying bugger!>
I’m saved from impending suction by a gigantic Pent grabbing the drone and wrestling it away from me. Pent, Jaina and Anet have all jumped back down to corral the much-reduced drone. It jerks in alarm and still struggles to reach for me with its long arms. Trying to counteract its unpredictable lunges, Pent’s feet dance back and forth in front of me, moving from a football field away to stamping down dangerously close by in seconds as it tries to buck her grasp! Jaina scoops me up to keep me safe from the ongoing rodeo.
“You okay?” she asks.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reply, feeling dizzy from the rapid shift in altitude. “I just got caught in the cloud.”
She glances at the shattered microscope. “...That could have gone better.”
“There were a few holes in my plan, yeah. Like not thinking about where the cage would land if it missed the robot… Good thing we made backup plans.”
The drone beeps in protest. Jaina barks at it, “Quiet, you!” and it immediately shuts up and stops struggling.
<Oh, that’s much better,> says Pent. <So, it obeys things that are bigger than it huh? How nice.>
“Of course,” says Anet. “It was built by our ancestors to serve us, not hunt us.”
As for our slight miscalculation regarding the cage, the girls are very apologetic for not pointing it out sooner, even though it was kinda my fault too.
Anet tries to reassure me by vigorous head patting, until Jaina has to shoo her away. “I thought you would be controlling the arms from the hut, but I don’t know why I assumed that!”
<Wait, he was waiting for us to drop the cage from directly underneath? Uh… Bugger. Glad you’re okay.>
Jaina nods grimly. “I only realized it as the cage was going over. I’m glad you thought to dive under the scope.”
I hug one of Jaina’s fingers tightly. “Well, next time I’ll remember to think a little bigger. Though hopefully, there is no next time…” Because, as I am slowly realizing, we did it! The drone has been subdued and there’s nothing left standing between me and the reducer, except for a very temporary size impediment!

The drone is under control now, but it won’t stay small forever. What should we do with it?

>Spare robot
>Scrap robot
No. 1082742 ID: 32f736

Put the drone on the teleporter to the smaller version of the room and send it, that way it will stay smaller than us.
No. 1082748 ID: 957275

Spare robot, teleport it to the small lab and order it to move outside onto balcony so the girls can pick it up from lab.

How small exactly are we now?
No. 1082749 ID: a3931e

……I just now thought of something else we could've done.

We could've shrunk the microscope and tricked the drone into sucking it up. Then we could've waited for the microscope to grow back to normal size, which would've damaged the drone from the inside and prevented it from sucking us up! Or the microscope could've weighed the drone down and made it too heavy to move.

Oh well, too late to worry about that now.

>spare or scrap?
Spare it. Teleport it to the tiny lab, so it remains small.

>the tiny lab
I've got an idea! Sam, earlier right here: >>1080166 , you said, "If I figure out how to tweak the reducer, then… maybe I can claim I was slouching?" I know how you could make yourself taller!

While you're tiny from the gas, go into the tiny lab and teleport out of it to make yourself bigger. Then when the gas wears off, you'll become bigger! That's when you use the Reducer to unshrink and it should make you bigger than your original size!

So if you still want to make yourself taller than you originally were, you should do that!
No. 1082751 ID: 1effd3

No. 1082785 ID: 5ebd37

Spare if we can. Is there an off switch, or could we disconnect the vacuum?
No. 1082822 ID: 273c18

Test how well it can obey orders to leave living creatures alone during cleaning.
No. 1083398 ID: a7a180
File 170795769736.png - (136.57KB , 500x500 , a_small_miscalculation.png )

>Teleporter tricks
“I know how we can deal with the bot, permanently.”
“By tossing it in the sink?” suggests Jaina.
“No, we’ll shrink it. It’s small enough to fit onto the teleporter now, isn’t it? We can send it to the other lab so it’ll be tiny even when the gas wears off. It’ll have to be carried outside before the gas wears off.”
“Ohh, that’s good. But first, let’s get you back up to scale.”

>how small are you right now?
After the rapid shrinking has fully taken effect, I’m only a sixteenth of an inch tall. I know, that’s incredibly small, and it certainly feels that way when I’m being held in someone’s hand,, but it’s actually not the smallest I’ve been lately. Being in the shrunken lab makes me nearly four times as small, which means I’m actually far too big to fit inside there right now. I can’t get bigger that way, unfortunately, and even if I could, I’d be way too big for the main lab if I went through the reducer after that!
A dose of the neutralizer/growth reagent brings me back to baseline miniscule proportions. The drone is given an order to shut down in preparation for moving it, which it complies with. Pent carries it down to the teleporter, while I teleport in ahead of the drone so it can be dragged off the pad. I wait for Pent to come through to help me drag it through the halls, but the delay before she comes through is longer than expected.

<Hey, Sam, can you hear me?> Pent’s voice booms from outside. <The teleporter won’t let me through. I think I’m too big. -Hold on, I’ve got an idea. Just wait there a minute!> Where is she going? This gas doesn’t last forever, and if the robot regrows in here it’s going to wreck the whole building!
Thankfully, Pent appears on the teleport pad in under a minute, as promised.
“You’re back to normal size! How’d you do that so fast?”
<Oh, I had a clever idea! Instead of waiting to get small, I just made the pad from the hut bigger! That way I was the same size as the pad, and I could go through it just fine.>
“Nice thinking! Now let’s hurry up before the gas wears off on this drone.”
Pent easily carries the drone out to the balcony with me leading the way, and we pass the drone off to Anet, who’s waiting outside for us. We teleport back out to join her and watch the bot become its new permanent size. The plan went off without a hitch!
Well, almost. Within a few moments of each other, Anet’s increased size wears off, and so does Pent’s. She shrinks down to around our ankles, while the drone regrows to that same height. We’ve succeeded in using the teleporter as a shrink ray - twice.
<…Oops. I forgot the growth was going to wear off, too.>

Fortunately, restoring Pent is an easy fix, as she can just teleport back to the enlarged pad to undo the shrinking. …Actually, thinking back on the tiny lab for a moment…
I take Anet aside before we climb topside. “Could you do me a favor and help with one last experiment? I want you to go back to the other lab, drag the teleport pad over to the arms, then hit it with the red gas. Then I’ll follow you through.”
Oh, I wonder what the results of this experiment will be?” She teases. “Sure.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“Don’t mention it! Really, don’t mention it to Jaina. We’ll let her keep wondering if that gas wore off.”
“Aw, don’t be so mean to your sister.”
“Oh fiiine, I’ll let her know… later. And while we’re waiting for the teleporter to change back, let’s look around the inside some more. There’s a whole building to explore!”
No. 1083399 ID: a7a180
File 170795770161.png - (54.96KB , 500x500 , going_up.png )

…Finally, it’s time to go home. The walk across the counter is quiet, followed by a long rappel down to the floor. The reducer looms overhead. The facade of the temple wall that makes up its control surface hides the connections to the complex, humming machinery behind its miracle of ancient technology. In a way, we’ve come back to where we started.
I think about what it took to get here, and what comes next. I didn’t expect a school trip to be so life changing, or that I’d end up discovering living Formicans and walking a meter in their shoes. My incredible journey over the last week would have been barely a couple of minutes of walking if I hadn’t been so small. I’ve gotten to know Formicans from very different walks of life, and parts of their history in more detail than anyone’s managed to glean from the ruins on Dirt. This is the kind of thing you’d write papers about, if I could tell anyone that is. …Actually, there’s not much in my studies on ancient Formicans that was related to what I learned on this trip. I kind of skipped all the course material all the way up to a chapter no one knew existed! I learned that they drank coffee, I suppose?

…That’s just a distraction from the promise I made to the Formicans. If I tell anyone where I’ve been, then I risk people following in my footsteps. And if people find a way inside the Grand Temple, then they’ll be completely at the mercy of the tallmen. What chance does a civilization of agrarian closet dwellers have of maintaining their autonomy? They can’t leverage their ancestors’ advanced technology, they’re a tiny population of tiny people, and their homeworld is technically the property of Talzor. I may buy them the time they need to recover by lying about what happened, even if it might mean I won’t get to take more trips here. But then again, it might not just be my college career at stake, but the future of the entire species as well. Maybe becoming a client species of the Talzorans is what it takes to prevent them going extinct where no one will even notice. It could take a long time, maybe even centuries for it to happen, but how many centuries do they have left? After I step through the reducer, I won’t have that long to make my choice.

The girls are getting ready to back off so I have room to regrow. This is my chance to say my final goodbyes to them. …It should probably be a little more eloquent than my goodbye to Bright Eyes. I’ve gotten to know them well over the past few days. I’m going to miss them when I leave… especially Jaina.

>Any last words for them?
No. 1083400 ID: 2a82d3

If there was ever a time for the L word, this would be your last chance. The question is whether or not you should.
No. 1083406 ID: 1effd3

It's been awesome to meet you guys, and, I hope we can get to see each other again someday.
...But sometimes we just have too... <i>grow up...?</i>
No. 1083407 ID: 8f9bc4

You were fools for trusting me! Ahahahaa!
No. 1083412 ID: eb0a9c

whatever happens... it's been small
No. 1083414 ID: 5ebd37

You know...
If one of them were to come with you, it would be easy to spin a tale of having stumbled onto a teleporter into some other dimension. A teleporter that is now conveniently vanished. As long as you don't mention being shrunken, your adventure would just sound like it took place on an alien world. The easiest lie is one that is mostly truth after all.
Bringing a Formican back with you would give credence to anything you tell the people back home, and gives a ready excuse to stay around the temple; your guest will need to find a way to return home. We know the Formicans inside the temple can observe what happens outside, so communication would be simple; tiny dead drops in the room where you first entered the temple. Excuse for entering that room so much; Formican guest needs to pray at the temple every week.
This route would be a long shot, but it would maintain secrecy while still allowing for negotiation between Formicans and tallmen.
Even if you return alone you could still do the dead drops, if you're able to stay on planet at least.

This has been an adventure you'll never forget, and though you've only known them a brief time you think you've become close friends. You'll do your best to keep in touch, but even if you can't, they'll always be in your thoughts.
No. 1083419 ID: ab46e9

"...I'm really going to miss you."
No. 1083420 ID: c1fc43

"Huh. Should have asked JNET if she has an encrypted connection for secret contacting. Oh well. So do you have ideas about where an 'artifact' might be that historians would like but nobody else? Just on the offchance?" Only now do I realize a board game would have fit the bill. Oh and GROUP HUG!
No. 1083611 ID: 622677


People will discover this place anyway, after all, even if we don't reveal the truth. But we have access to teleporters that can be used as shrink and potentially growth rays. They hvae so much knowledge in their databases, but also they have interesting thing.

The Hab Buildings, as seen in lab, are on wheels and can be moved. They're as tall as person one un-shrink up. We could have all the Formicans live inside a proper hab building and actually take it with us proper, to keep them safe, while those who want to grow to Tallman size to rejoin galaxy can do it AND potentially help protect the Formicans who enjoy the shrunken life.

Hell, at the very least I want Anet to have that chance to go with us, as she seems most interested in life beyond the village. And we bonded so much with Jaina and they both would worry about each other. We should at least offer them that choice so...

>Offer Anet and Jaina the choice of coming with you, bringing the others would be up to them.
>"Are you sure... you don't want to come with? I... don't want this to be last time we see each other or the last time we have an adventure together..."
>To Jaina "I... love you, Jaina. I don't want to lose you..."
No. 1083650 ID: 124485

I'm not sure if we should say that.

Also, Sam already said that he wouldn't even attempt to convince anyone to go with him earlier: >>1080143 .
No. 1083661 ID: 273c18

The only way he's gonna see them again is if he figures out a way to sneak back in, or spills the beans and becomes their ambassador.
No. 1083664 ID: f14228

This is pretty on point, but not enough.

Thank them for going on this journey with you, for taking all these risks, real as they were, to see you so you could go home again with all the risks, real as they are, that your return entails. You're honestly humbled. On top of this, fun and adventure was had through it all too, on an amazing journey of discovery through the ruins of the past, a thing a student of an ancient civilization might only dream about.

You like to think you made friends in the few days you've been together - and that you'll remain so however long may pass. You don't know if the Formicans that remain will allow themselves be discovered in your lifetime - so much of their actual tech, if re-discovered, could change things in the universe for good and bad - but you will try to keep your promise to them and stay mum on their existence. You do think they deserve their autonomy, and if they are discovered as they are now - well. It'll be a difficult time, you're certain. It would be good if someone were to lay some groundwork first, at the very least.

It's a big world out there and you can't even say that the Formicans of old were wrong to seek isolation (though obviously things could have gone better - a lesson on the over-reliance of automation, eh?). And yet, though their ancestors plans went awry, they did leave plenty for the future to find and build on, and you wish them and their peoples all the best in the rediscovery and in persisting as one of the universe's secret little wonders.

You hope they all will continue to seek their own destiny and learn from ancient technology and what happened to the Formicans of old - though stay safe! - as much you'll seek your own path outside this complex. And... if there's ever any need, any way you could help and they had some way of getting that news to you, you think you'd answer that call in an instant.

(In fact, you should give them your comms details, with a warning that such things might get, aheh, bugged and recorded. If they ever somehow get ahold of a communicator for a call or message to be sent, they should mention something only those who went on the journey here would know. As for using such tech safely and untracably... JNET might offer some advice there. Not your field, honestly!)

The future is uncertain for all, but you will hope for - and hopefully be able to work for - that things may turn the better for all. In whatever way, small or large, you think that can be done.

And yeah, you'll miss 'em all.
No. 1083670 ID: 34e119

>I love you Jaina
I'm not entirely sure that would be an appropriate thing to say. I don't even think either character even developed feelings for each other.

Honestly, it would feel kinda weird to blurt that out.

This sounds nice. Let's go with this.
No. 1083699 ID: 622677


It's more the wording on my part is awkward but you have to consider, as far as we know, this is going to genuinely be the last time we ever see each other... and Jaina and Sam DID develop feelings for each other, we saw it in the time spent together, them sleeping together, the heart-to-hearts they had.

Plus, while Sam did say he won't try to convince them in any way, Sam's view on stuff did change as the threads went on, that's why we're given this chance, no?

Plus, what Sam was saying is that he won't keep Formicans as TINY friends with him. There was nothing about them joining him with them at Tallman size. It's just 'keeping tiny formican in pocket is not right'
No. 1083740 ID: a7a180
File 170840167896.png - (99.48KB , 500x500 , hes_actual_size.png )

I’m standing on the reducer’s pad now. I really hope this thing still works... I wave up to the girls on the counter. They look so far away, for the moment.
I call up to them, “I hope we see each other again someday, but sometimes you’ve just got to grow up!” Their expressions tell me they got it.
I step up to the controls and touch the up arrow. In an instant, everything’s normal sized again. But I’m not in a microscopic copy of the lab, this time it’s the real deal!
“Ha, it worked.” I let out a nervous chuckle. “Woohoo, I’m big again!” I have to be careful to watch my volume, and where I step! I look down at the tiny Formicans standing around me, and I can’t help but give them a smile a mile wide. They’re waving their hands in celebration too.
“It worked! Yaaay!” I can hear Anet’s raised voice just fine.

>Take (big) Anet with you to back up your excuse
>Lie about where you found them, but not who you found
I’m tempted again… but no, I can’t tell the university a half-truth. They will find out where the Formicans really are if I give them cause to go looking. I’ll have to explain this on my own.
>Should have asked JNET for her number
Unfortunately, even if I had my commlink to give her, no signal carries through the outer walls of the vault.
Speaking of, I have to tell JNET the reducer worked! “Hey, JNET! Can you hear me?” I call out over the rubble blocking the door. “We made it to the reducer! The others will be heading back soon!”
Her response sounds muted echoing from down the hall. “Congratulations! Just so you know, Bright Eyes is waving to you.”
“Tell her I’m waving back! Time for me to go home now.”
“So it is. It was nice meeting you, Sam. I’ll keep looking after the girls in here.”
No. 1083741 ID: a7a180
File 170840168837.png - (87.68KB , 500x500 , hugs_and_kisses.png )

>Bringing an artifact back for historical value
Thinking back, maybe we should have brought that board game with us after all. It’s for the best, as explaining where I got a pristine artifact like that might be difficult. I’m keeping Anet’s book of jokes with me, and I still have the insulation shards and that chunk of plaster in my bag. I handed over the rest of my inventory, including my flashlight, to Anet. They’ll have a more practical use for these items here.
I look back down at my feet. I take a moment to collect myself, squat down, and say my goodbyes for real.
“Girls… Thanks for taking me on this journey, and sticking your necks out for me. I’m honestly humbled you did all this to get me home. I’ll do my best to keep in touch, but even if I can't, you'll always be in my thoughts. …I’m really going to miss you.”
Anet’s fulfilling our end of the deal with Pent and handing over the holo lens. Jaina steps forward, looking up at me with shiny black eyes. “We’re going to miss you, too. Making the trip out here has been… worth it.”

>Time to use the L word?
Lummox? -Oh, that one. I hesitate. I could still see them again... but I might not. Might as well try it out.
“Bye, Anet, bye Pent, bye Jaina... love you.” I mumble through my words.
Jaina’s expression changes to one of surprise, then cunning. “What was that? Say it again so I can hear you.”
Embarrassed, I do as she says. “...I said I love you!”
Jaina’s hand covers her mouth as she processes what to say next. Then, she just blurts it out. “…Yeah, me too!”

Anet and Pent’s attention has turned towards us. Anet runs up and hugs her sister with glee. “Awww! Congratulations, you both managed to say it out loud! Come down here Sam, let’s have one last group hug!”
That sounds like a very nice idea. I carefully lay myself flat on the floor and let the others gather around my head for a hug. Anet and Pent hug my face from the sides, while Jaina plants a kiss right on my lips. Well then! My cheeks are quite flushed right now. We stay like that for what feels like a long time, and yet not nearly enough. I gently get up, give them one last wave, and then walk away.
No. 1083742 ID: a7a180
File 170840169405.png - (128.49KB , 500x500 , guess_whos_back.png )

…Oh, right, I don’t have anywhere to go yet. The lab door’s blocked by debris, and would only lead back inside the temple. How am I going to get out of here?
I start by looking around. Huh, the Formicans are already out of sight. They sure can move fast on their tiny legs. The wall opposite the door is mostly bare, it must be the exterior-facing one. Maybe there’ll be scuff marks on the floor where part of it swings open. What’s this circle halfway up the wall? Is it another rune? …Oh! It glows when I touch it, and a hidden door slides inward and to the side, with only a quiet hiss despite its age. The door is a cross section of the temple’s stone facade and insulation, separated by an inch thick layer of shiny, dark barrier material. Seriously? This is the barrier that modern science can’t break through, no matter how hard we’ve tried? Scientists’ heads will spin when they find out.
I step through, and the hidden door seals up behind me with a whoosh. I can’t even find a seam left in the wall. Well, no going back now. Wait, I recognize this part of the temple! The bench where I was supposed to be cataloguing samples is down this hall to the left. The light filtering in from outside the temple suggests it’s late afternoon on Dirt. I think I can get my bearings from here, and head back to base camp.

After wandering in the general direction of the temple’s exit for several minutes, the first person I run into is Gail. She looks like she’s seen a ghost.
“Sam!” She runs over and wraps me in a tight hug. “I was so worried! I turned around and you were just gone! What happened?”
I return the hug and wait til I can breathe again to respond. I was not expecting this welcome! “Well, it’s a long story…”
“Wait, before you tell me, I need to find Professor Telgrade first!” That’s the teacher in charge of the dig site. Gail grips me firmly by the hand and leads me back to camp, making sure I’m right behind her. She goes directly to the teacher’s trailer and bangs on the door. “Professor, we found him!”
“Found who? Samson? Here?” Professor Telgrade pokes his head out of his trailer, looking slightly disheveled. He sees me and immediately ducks back into the trailer to make a quick call to tell someone. “Someone found him! Yes, here at the digsite. Hold on, I’ll ask.”
The professor comes back out of his trailer, dressed hastily and looking very upset.”Mr. Smith, we thought you had snuck offworld by now! The staff has been combing over half the planet looking for you. You’d better have a very good reason for disappearing on us. If you can’t explain where you’ve been for the last five days, there could be serious consequences for your education. We may even have to revoke your internship…”

I was afraid he’d say that! What do I tell him?
(This is your final choice.)

>Tell the truth
>Lie about it
No. 1083746 ID: 622677

As much as I'd love to get the girls out into the galaxy... it would only be done if they want it to be that way. With things as they are, the best thing to do, no matter how much it will affect us, is...

>Lie about it

If we really love Jaina, we will respect her and keep her safe
No. 1083747 ID: eb0a9c

*deep breath*

You don't need these fascist archaeology-posers or their scam of a degree. You discovered an ancient civilization and lived long enough to tell the right people about it.
And they are not the right people.

You are an adventurer. March onward, head high from what you know deep down, to your next expedition!
No. 1083748 ID: 462d8c

Even if you lose your internship, you're going to make a billion bucks writing a book about this adventure.
No. 1083749 ID: 1effd3

We have to >Lie about it.
But we can maybe tell a half truth and say that you triggered some kind of trap and got teleported somewhere and had a wierd dream.
No. 1083752 ID: 5ebd37

Aye, the best lie is mostly true. You can even mention the rune (that shrank you), since its now deactivated.

They won't believe your crazy story, but it would make for a great book series. And if you were a famous author it would be easier to get to come back here, for inspiration for your next book of course.
No. 1083755 ID: e51896

lie about it, dont even half lie, cause it might make them suspicious.
No. 1083756 ID: 622677

Did we ever get confirmation it was deactivated? I think all we were told was that they were surprised it was still working, and that it can't grow us back
No. 1083758 ID: 75b262

Lie lie lie
No. 1083760 ID: 890083

Lie. "Got lost and chased by an animal. Fell in a hole. Waited for animal to leave. Got stuck in a hole. Finally improvised a way out of hole. Found out animal was close. Got stuck in a hole. Waited to be *sure* animal was gone. Got lost-ish. Finally found way here, so real-life bad dream is done. Should you ever find my hat you'll have an idea where I was. Fired or otherwise you're not stopping me from getting a warm shower, fresh clothes, fresh water and a hot meal. Plus a therapist to help deal with this. Still would like to pursue archaeology though I'm never going anywhere without a GPS."
No. 1083762 ID: ab46e9

Lie about it.

It'll make a great fiction non-fiction book, though.
No. 1083774 ID: 273c18

Unfortunately any believable lie we give will require an explanation of how he didn't die of thirst or hunger. He's also not filthy or injured. Getting trapped in the building somewhere would mean he found somewhere with food and water, which means they'd want him to show them, and we can't do that.

I think the most believable explanation is that he got sick and went home to recover, but his phone broke or something so he couldn't tell them.
No. 1083777 ID: 9b15e8

We know there are colonies on the moon, say you found yourself up there and just returned with some teleport
No. 1083778 ID: 9b15e8

And if the colonies are ruins even better, cause you can say everything was nice a clean with dust, like it was just made, for what the fuck time travel? I was away just a day
No. 1083779 ID: e1e416

Lie about it. Don't say anything and don't even hint at what happened to you.

I don't think it was confirmed to be deactivated. So yeah, its best to not even mention that.

That would require us showing them where we stumbled into the teleporter that got us up to the moon, which we can't do.

And if someone flies a spaceship up there and they see the colony is in ruins, to the point where it's not at all possible for anything to live inside it, they'll know we lied.
No. 1083789 ID: dee638


For food thought he had rations? Or perhaps he just "happened" to have a few snack bars in his clothes? Even ignoring those 5 days without food is bad but not lethal. Per water there's rain or creeks or lakes or aquifers in a hole. Per clothes, well, no changing for 5 days has to have gotten filth.
No. 1084021 ID: f7d131

I really, really really want to tell the truth, but that might up mucking up the formicans' cozy lives in the long run.

Still, I'll be damned if I let Samson lose his career.

"I'm sorry, I just got sidetracked due to an intriguing discovery. One that led me down a very long ant trail that I just found my way back from."

"Do you see this wall over here, it turns out one of these symbols is actually the activation button for an old temple mechanism. If you would press, you will see tha- oops haha! Hello down there! Oh, I'm sorry professor, you wouldn't have believed me if I had told you."
No. 1084132 ID: 8f9bc4


If I recall, he only promised not to reveal the Formicans, said nothing about revealing the reducer.
No. 1084134 ID: 330620

Lie about it! Do not reveal anything!

Revealing the Reducer will lead to revealing the Formicans! And I'm pretty sure revealing any of the technology we found would be a betrayal of trust!

Do NOT do that!
No. 1084379 ID: 8f9bc4


A trust extracted at the point of a spear, mind you.

Really it's astonishing that your archaeology team hasn't discovered the reducer themselves yet. Not like discovering it would let them get past the wall of unobtanium keeping them out of the inner workings of this place.

Just trying to think of something to say that won't cost Sam everything he cares about.
No. 1084470 ID: a7a180
File 170883340568.png - (129.40KB , 500x500 , a_tale_of_derring_do.png )

>Lie about it
The best lie is one that starts off close to the truth, and then veers off in a completely different direction. I spun a tale of leaning on a trap door and getting stuck in a previously undiscovered chamber of the temple! I was careful to say I was touching one of the columns at the time, not the wall… Anyway, I wandered those dark passageways for five days, lost and alone, with nothing to subside on except for my water bottle and a few snack bars I had packed, just in case. At some point I dropped my flashlight and lost it, leaving me to push blindly at the walls hoping to find another secret door and escape.
To my surprise, Gail and the professor completely bought my story. I guess the general disarray of my outfit helped to sell it, along with the scrapes and bruises I had acquired. The researchers at the dig site ended up taking it as a cautionary tale about why you’re not supposed to touch anything unsupervised, and now they enforce the rule even more strictly.
Gail was deeply moved and said it sounded like a truly awful experience. She promised to provide me with whatever emotional support I needed afterward. The professor didn’t care to press me for specifics and was just relieved I was alive and well. He offered me full credit for the internship if I agreed to sign a waiver. I was equally happy to not have the matter investigated further, so it was a win for both of us. I was still quite eager to pursue a degree in Formican archaeology, after all!

You know, someday, I think I might write a book about my adventures. Elder Stone probably wouldn’t approve of me basically telling the entire galaxy what I discovered in there, but hey, she’s never going to read it, right? I’ll just have to make sure it can’t be traced back to the real events. I’ll use a pseudonym, and change a lot of the identifying details - names, locations, species… Hmm, how about Ancient Apians? Yeah, that should work…
No. 1084471 ID: a7a180
File 170883341387.png - (154.77KB , 500x500 , hello_new_neighbors.png )

As for what will happen back inside the Great Temple, I suspect the return trip will be a lot faster and safer riding in a giant robot. Neither the Xanthi of the outlying offices or the Beformicans of the inner laboratories will pose much of an obstacle to picking up Pent’s family and giving them a ride to the promised land of the village. Once there, their hardened survival skills and experience with lost technology should fill a much-needed niche in their society, and in return, they’ll be able to settle down somewhere with a steady supply of food to eat and without the constant threat of being eaten. Even Bright Eyes, with her open mind and impressive capacity for manual labor, will likely be accepted as a friend and guardian. JNET has a lot to teach her, and all the villagers, about history and science. With villagers, scavengers, and Beformicans all learning to work together, I have no doubt the Formicans are on a greatly accelerated path to reclaiming their legacy. Perhaps even within my lifetime, they could make their first steps outside the Great Temple in millennia.
No. 1084472 ID: a7a180
File 170883341837.png - (140.06KB , 500x500 , a_little_surprise_for_you.png )

And what about Anet and Jaina? I have no doubt Anet will want to keep going on exciting journeys far away from the village, and after her biggest adventure yet she’s only going to set her sights higher. Wherever she goes, Jaina won’t be far behind to keep an eye on her big sister. She may sound harsh when she’s providing the voice of reason, but I know it’s because she cares deeply about her family and friends.
I don’t know when I’ll see them again, but I have a feeling it’ll be soon… I’m looking forward to it.

>KILLS: 64% (43%)
>ITEMS: 71% (66%)
>SECRET: 58% (63%)
Thank you for reading!
No. 1084477 ID: 838b19

Where exactly are they in this picture, if I can ask? I'm quite curious. Seems to be a pocket but... I don't think I recall anyone having pockets of that color so...
No. 1084478 ID: ad7e61

And thank you for making! Was a good’un.
No. 1084479 ID: 1effd3

thanks for the adventure!
No. 1084482 ID: eb0a9c

Where'd all the kills come from?
No. 1084483 ID: 124485

It looks like Anet and Jaina snuck into one of Sam's pockets. Sam will be surprised when he finds them!
No. 1084484 ID: 5ebd37

Dang only half secrets?
Thanks for a great quest
No. 1084485 ID: 273c18

"kills" from fighting beformicans etc. Probably not any fatalities.
No. 1084490 ID: 96dce5

Gratz on completing. Hats off to tippler and Hatticus. When's the sequel?
No. 1084493 ID: 01fe07

I'm surprised nobody else has accidentally found that Reducer.

But just imagine how different this would've been if Sam accidentally leaned against the "grow" button!

Yay tiny friends are coming with Sam!

I mean, there was that one part where we knocked a bunch of Beformicans off the top of a giant speeding segway in the area where we met Pent and her family. Pretty sure they ended up dying when they were knocked off.
No. 1084494 ID: 8f9bc4

Nice! Lying about it is way better than going back on your word! One might even wonder if some supernatural being were watching out for the Formicans, to keep their secret safe. They can now quietly continue to stagnate and diminish until they're completely extinct.




There is no grow button on that one. That's why he had to delve into the depths of the complex.
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