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

https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest

Into the heart of the Great Temple.
Expand all images
>>
No. 1067339 ID: a7a180
File 168877573772.png - (96.55KB , 500x500 , in_the_land_of_gi-ants.png )
1067339

The five of us are sitting at the foot of a giant - to us, anyway - robot who’s just come alive. JNET is pristine, yet ancient - a living witness to Formican history. I have so many questions to ask her, but let’s start with the basics.

“What are you doing in here?”
"I could ask you the same question, couldn’t I? Originally, I was an artificial research assistant - Joint Networked Education Terminal was the backronym they applied. Researchers could ask me a question and I would look up the information instantly through my database connections and answer them. I’m a walking, talking encyclopedia - though I’m only doing one of those things at the moment. I served many years in this role. However, technology has a way of moving on, and eventually the scientists got themselves newer, shinier helpers. I was retired to this classroom as a courtesy. I still answered questions, of course, but I was just a novelty, a quaint relic for the students to gawk at. When the big downsizing happened, I was left behind with all the other trappings of the past. I guess a certain someone forgot to turn me off when he left."
>>
No. 1067341 ID: a7a180
File 168877599595.png - (131.10KB , 500x500 , would_you_like_to_know_more.png )
1067341

“So you’ve been awake this whole time?”
”Well, sort of. After I realized nobody was going to shut me off, I went into permanent standby mode. I wasn’t entirely alone. I could still interface with the networked AIs, who were nice enough to keep me company and let me help run subprocesses. Still, it was sort of awkward. They were, after all, my replacements… The newer generation of AI existed entirely on the network, allowing them to harness distributed processing power, remotely control more than one body at a time and interface with multiple users at once. They could handle the transition to servicing the vault’s population quite gracefully, unlike… me. Time passed so slowly as I sat there doing busywork for other AIs, and I checked in less and less with the network, until one day a worrying trend was noticed. Servers were going down and the Formicans were not replacing them. It didn’t affect me terribly, as I had localized backups of the data, but for the networked AIs, every server lost was a little chunk of their processing power gone with it. Soon AIs started going quiet. Things continued to deteriorate, and I found myself truly alone for a couple of centuries. I entered hibernation for what I thought would be the last time. Then one day, people started moving back into this classroom. Things were very… different from before, though.”

“So, there aren’t any other AIs left?”
”I haven’t heard from any in a long time. Some might exist still on older servers, but cut off from each other and their tethered avatars, they would exist in a senseless void. For their sakes, I hope they entered a deeper sleep than mine.”
Anet realizes something, and her antennae perk up. “Wait, localized backups? Do you have the whole Formican internet downloaded?”
”I retain a database of a snapshot of the Formican web in my memory banks, with plenty of room to spare.”
“Even the lost episode of Formican Force Five?!”
”Yes. How do you know about that program?”
“Oh, I watched it all on my village’s watch! It’s where we store our knowledge of the past. It’s got lots of movies and books saved on it, but it’s missing a couple of things.”
”Missing a couple? Why, I’m sure it’s a couple all right! The extent of your people’s surviving knowledge is stored on a watch? You must be joking.”

Pent, who’s been following our conversation with a look of quiet consternation, nudges my arm. <Hey, how come she’s speaking your language? I can’t understand a word she’s been saying.>
I shrug back. <Um, yes, that does strike me as weird.> Jaina and Anet already explained they learned to speak galactic common from hearing us Talzorans use it all the time at the dig site. It’s the official language of academia, even if Hisspanic is still used for everything else. But JNET’s been stuck deep inside here for thousands of years! Hasn’t she?
”I have a dialect of galactic basic within my databanks. It is an old language, reaching back tens of millennia. Using my language algorithms, I was able to correct for minor linguistic drift through analysis of your speech with ninety-eight percent certainty. You will have to clue me in on any new slang the kids are using. Besides, this tongue has the advantage of speaking without being understood by the xanthi. One of which, I notice, you happen to be accompanied by.”
“Oh, she’s not xanthi, she’s uh…”
“-Beformican!” Anet supplies.
”Ah, an interesting appellation. One I have not heard them use themselves. A shame there are no scholars left to agree on a taxonomy for these new Formicans.”

”Please, keep asking any questions you might have. They’re what I was built to answer, after all.”
>>
No. 1067343 ID: 1effd3

>>1067341
What is the meaning of life?
>>
No. 1067344 ID: 273c18

What are Xanthi?

>newer, shinier helpers
Hmm, we haven't seen any of those have we? Ask her what the AI-controlled robots looked like.

>questions
Ask her what's with those fake skeletons you found before. Then... I guess ask how many miniature cities there are. Surely not just one?
Ask if she knows what systems are still operational around here. Maybe we can figure out a shortcut to the miniaturization device we're heading towards? You could just ask directly for directions and see if they match the ones we have.
Ask if she can still move. If she can take you to your destination, that would make the rest of the trip very easy.
Ask about the great downsizing. Does she know why it happened, and how they prepared for it? How long does she think the remaining Formicans could survive on the supplies they have, without a real ecosystem supporting them?

At some point you're going to have to discuss what you're allowed to tell your people, based on what everyone has learned, and what they're going to tell the village and the city dwellers. JNET's data storage has preserved a great deal of their technology; they could rebuild their society with some effort, and with what's happened they probably won't be dragged into any wars. After all, they're much weaker by comparison; everyone else has had time to advance their technology while the Formicans were scrabbling about in the remains of their self-imposed miniature prison. Heck, they could really use some help getting the Beformicans to stop killing people.
>>
No. 1067346 ID: f4beea

>>1067341
Ask if she can help you get back to normal size. You were accidentally shrunk down a few days ago while exploring with your archeology class and none of them know about what happened to you!
>>
No. 1067348 ID: 9a2966

Well, first things first, properly introduce your companions and yourself to this marvel of the ancient past. Identify yourself as, well, a student of formican history who got themselves shrunk'd leaning on the wrong wall.

And oh oh oh there are so many questions you'd like to have answered, but it behooves to ask first and foremost - does she have any idea how you can un-shrink yourself? You know roughly where to go supposedly, but any help is appreciated. You'd like to be restored to your former height and then - well. Have a long and hard think about what you can do to help the formicans without revealing the truth of where and what they are right now, you think.

>questions
-Why DID the formicans take the big radical decision to shrink themselves down like this to avoid trouble? What was the long-term plan, and why did it all fail so badly? Did simply NOBODY foresee a slow-to-rapid technological decline or even start to stop it? It's such a boggling tragedy.

-Does she know anything more about how the xanthi revolution happened to go down and why? You've managed to paint a picture, but there might be more you don't know.

-Does she have a distaste for the xanthi/beformicans? As she can see, not all of them are all about violence and territory.

-While she seems operational mentally, so to speak, is there anything that can be done to bring her operational bodily, or is her chassis too aged by now to be reliable for locomotion? How long will she last in her current state? Formican tech seems remarkably hardy, but as has been evidenced even it fails over the centuries.

-Can she identify stuff in our inventory? With her database she might have a fair idea of what most of the trinkets we have on us are or might do.

(Also, nudge Bright Eyes, point at the giant robot and say "See, told you there were bigger things. Anything you wanna ask her? She knows many things about the past, if you ask nice. I can translate." and offer the same to Pent, since excluding them here isn't quite fair.)
>>
No. 1067357 ID: e5709d

This is the crowning jewel of your career. An intact database of Formican civilization's technological apex - well, penultimate apex.

You have to ensure she survives. Priority one. If you can get her to broadcast all her data on the extranet (and make sure to digitally watermark all the data with the words "Samson D. Smith is the greatest snek archaeologist"), you'll uplift galactic civilization by a couple ages and be lauded in the process.
>>
No. 1067379 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1067348

Uhm, I think we've learned at least enough to be reasonably certain that yes, NOBODY foresaw a slow-to-rapid decline, but the decline was in birth rate, due to isolationism and social stagnancy. As Dr. Hearth's notes said "Fewer Formicans are undergoing the transition to queen, preferring their consequence-free lifestyle as a swinger worker." They made some sort of artificial pheremone that didn't work she said, then somehow (JNET won't know) the MSC's policy went from "forcing this change on everyone is not the answer," to "let's force everyone to be powerful ageless ant gods OH NO THEIR EVIL HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPEN ==*static*==" and thus, the rapid sudden technological decline.

She probably knows about the xanthi revolution, though! She'd be trying to communicate with them while they're being all xanthi and hostile. She probably knows something about any xanthi presence in this room and can see what's on top of the tables.

I bet she can identify trinketsimportant archaeological discoveries that's a good idea, and checking on her state of disrepair is important. She's definitely the most important archaeological find you've seen so far, and must be protect she is a precious bean.
>>
No. 1067384 ID: 6ea872

So, let me get this straight here. With locomotion you could single-handedly reverse this decline with all the knowledge you have? What would it take to get you moving?
>>
No. 1068398 ID: a7a180
File 168990837542.png - (186.01KB , 500x500 , full_of_information.png )
1068398

>What is the meaning of life?
”Forty two.”

>What are xanthi?
”I imagine you'd be familiar with them by now after traveling that way.”
“We saw a few, but didn’t get too close. You could say it was flyover country…”

>Does she dislike xanthi
“Oh my, was I that obvious? They're loud, dirty, and disrespectful of their elders. These moss-muddled table scraps make a habit of tossing their garbage and insults at me for fun. Luckily, the refuse just slides right off my non-stick coating.”
Given our position directly under JNET, I wonder if we’re standing right where that gunk would fall and take a step back.
“I tried talking to them and being nice when they first showed up. it's not like I had anything better to do! But they despise technology, they outright shun it. Some misguided hatred for the old ways, I guess. They've never bothered to hold a straight conversation with me. And worst of all are the ones that - rrr, I'll get to them later. I'm nothing but a space heater to these jerks!”

>What do AI-controlled robots look like
”They could have many different bodies depending on the task they needed to perform. Most service robots were Formican bodies hung from an armature on the ceiling, allowing for traversal of their workspace. At that scale it was cheap enough to build microbots for every possible location they'd be needed rather than make every unit independent. Free-roaming robots were usually more abstract shapes with hover or glide runes.”

>What's with the fake skeletons
”A certain someone probably thought it would be funny. Imagine you’re the last janitor cleaning this place up before you get reduced and join everyone else in the microcity. Who’s going to stop you from fooling around a bit inside a room no one is ever supposed to open up again?”

>how many microcities are there
”Were there, you mean? Technically, one, though it is spread throughout over a hundred different gro-labs throughout the facility, all linked by the transit tunnels installed in the walls. My records indicate that there were other reducer facilities constructed in other parts of the globe. However, none of the global population was diverted to these sites. From the publicly available information, it is speculated these sites were meant for storing information and supplies to assist in planetary reclamation after leaving the vault city.”
>>
No. 1068399 ID: a7a180
File 168990837968.png - (128.83KB , 500x500 , full_of_shyness.png )
1068399

>Why did the great downsizing happen, and how did they prepare for it
”Politics, really. Isolationism, an inwardly focused civilization, and fear that intergalactic war would cause indiscriminate devastation. Other plans were considered, but reducing the entire population was deemed the most realistic and cost-effective. The space colonization project made some headway, but was ultimately scrapped and those same plans were used to colonize sterile labs instead of barren moonscapes. The cost of materials and foodstuffs goes way down at the micro scale, not to mention transportation concerns went from intergalactic to terrestrial.”

>Why did the vault plan fail so badly
”In a word: Apathy. They saw the population declining and were fine with it, until it became irreversible and then suddenly people cared. They left things to the last minute and had to resort to extreme measures.”

>How did the revolution go down and why
”I don't remember much from that time, as I withdrew from the wider network as a precaution. The Formicans weren't the only ones facing a resource crisis... What snippets of news did make it to the net generally painted the overseer as incompetent, and the genetic modification process as highly controversial, yet effective at attracting a vocal, fervent support base. I could not backup any records of the conflict itself. These xanthi didn't show up here until a few centuries later. As to why, my conjecture would be that the Formicans saw the writing on the wall and their utopian ideals reverted to a far more primal instinct to secure their continued personal survival.”

>What systems are still operational around here
”Well, from looking around: Me, the lights, and the environmental systems. I can still see a few scattered hab block servers online, though they are devoid of any high-level process activity.”

>How long could the surviving Formicans last on the supplies they have?
“I don't know. I don't have accurate numbers for the current population, or an idea of the overall condition of the city. The complex itself seems intact, from what I can tell, and the Formicans are quite resourceful, even to this day. You can't see it from down there, but there's a village up on that table there that's been growing moss in the lab beakers. I don't know where they got the seeds from. It smells awful, and it leaves them walking around in a stupor all the time. They're still better neighbors than CERTAIN SOMEONES.

>Nudge Bright Eyes
Bright Eyes is busy trying to make herself as small as possible behind me, intimidated by JNET’s stone-faced gaze. I smile to try to reassure her.
<See? Told you people used to be bigger.>
<Zo big... zzo shiny. Sam used to be like that?>
<Yeah! Well, just as tall.>
<And if you were enlarged like Sam, you'd be twice her size,> Anet helpfully points out.
<Ha! Me still biggezt!>
<Do you have any questions for her, Bright Eyes?>
<…Big ant know lotz of things?>
”From a certain Formican-centric point of view, literally everything.”
BE: <Know everything... Want to be like giant ant.>
<You hear that, you ungrateful buggers? SHE likes me.> JNET’s announcement is met with boos and hisses from unseen xanthi.
>>
No. 1068401 ID: a7a180
File 168990841963.png - (76.20KB , 500x500 , full_of_suprises.png )
1068401

>You’re going to have to discuss what you're allowed to tell your people and what they're going to tell the village and city dwellers. JNET's going to be a big help rebuilding society, and they probably won't be dragged into any wars
Unless JNET's full of more Formicans, she probably can't help with their numbers issue. Still, the village would be amazed to see her, and by walking around the city with a giant robot, we might scare the Beformicans into backing off.
As for me, I just can't believe the luck I'm having, learning so much about the Formicans... which they've sworn me to secrecy on. Oh, the cruel irony!

>Introduce yourself & companions, explain what happened, ask if can she help us
We share our names and our journey so far with JNET, who listens along patiently. She seems particularly disappointed to learn about the books in the classroom behind us being used for food.
“So you're here by yourself? I suppose we shan't dance around what your presence means. I'll be honest, my first guess was that you discovered a way in because your species was naturally this tiny. Your disappearance will raise questions, and the probability is below 1% that you will be the last alien to find a way in. Girls, I agree with your Elder Stone, swearing him to secrecy and putting him back where you found him is the safest course of action... if he keeps his promise. It's only a matter of time, irregardless.”

>Can we figure out a shortcut to the reducer
“Can you hold that map up for me? …Well, your map of the facility appears to be the same as mine. The lab you're looking for is down the hall past some offices. I'd offer to walk you there, but... well, we can discuss that later.”

>Can she identify stuff for us
“Sure, but anyone could be watching us right now, so maybe you should keep your tools hidden for later. You can try describing some of them to me if you'd like.”

>can she still move
“Well, it's complicated. I haven’t tried to do so in millenia, but in theory I still could, if it weren't for a few obnoxious, disrespectful problems getting up in my grille! -I'm sorry, I just need a moment to cool off. Oh wait, I can't do that either. Bugger!”

>What can be done to get her body online, how long will she last
“Oh, my body is fully operational. I was built to last, much to my chagrin. There's only one small problem keeping me locked in place. You see, back when I was bored from thousands of years of isolation, I didn't get up and move because there was nowhere to go. Then when the xanthi showed up, I remained still as a courtesy, so I didn't step on anyone. But they took advantage of that to crawl right up my vents and make themselves at home in my shell! I tried asking them to leave, but they wouldn't budge. They preferred my interior temperature to this room’s rather cool climate.”
<Warm inside?> Bright Eyes doesn’t seem to like the cold in here either, and I don’t blame her in that outfit.
*sigh* “Yes. Apparently, that makes me the premiere piece of real estate in this area. These people have fought wars over who gets to live on the inside. Even then I still didn't move, because moving my joints around would be very unsafe for a bug crawling around in the wrong place. Eventually they started stuffing random pieces of paper and insulation in my vents to keep it even warmer inside. They managed to bring my idle temperature up to nearly operational limits, so by the time I decided I didn't mind squishing a few invaders if it meant shaking the rest loose, I couldn't even engage my servomotors without triggering an overheating error. All I can do is complain, which they ignore. It's infuriating!”
“That’s terrible! Are you in danger of a meltdown?” I ask.
”No, not really. They know that if they push it too far, I'll just shut down, and then I won't be generating any heat at all. So the little buggers get their hotbox, but only as long as they put up with my lovely voice telling them what horrible little termites they are, every day.” “So, tell you what, I'll make you a deal: You get these pesky troglodytes out of my chassis and unjam my servos, and I will be able to do a lot more to help you get to that lab. Do you think you’re capable of that?”
>>
No. 1068426 ID: e5709d

Guess it's a raid.
We need to capture this... mech without the leader setting off a self-destruct out of spite. Win a few battles, then see if you can find a dumb furnace they'll settle for.
>>
No. 1068434 ID: 1effd3

>>1068401
to war!
>>
No. 1068435 ID: 273c18

>>1068401
>sworn to secrecy
Yeah, yeah. Still, their civilization collapsed from apathy once, it could happen again. The fate of the species depends on having a backup plan this time around. Either they need to start opening lines of communication between all the villages, so they can keep track of any impending disasters and help eachother through times of need, or they need to establish limited contact with the outside world. Their current isolationist policy needs to bend somewhat. The Xanthi are also going to be a persistent threat. One day a group of them might decide they want to wipe out all Formicians. I'm less worried about the reverse happening since the Xanthi are rather difficult to kill and have a decentralized lifestyle which would make them difficult to fully exterminate.

This is *important*. The Formicians are in a fragile situation, since they have no way of repairing the artificial systems they are still reliant upon. What happens if their water supply gets cut off, for instance? It's all plumbing, not rainfall; it's not naturally replenishing, so if the pumps or pipes give out that's it, they're left with whatever they can gather from non-flowing reservoirs. They also have to worry about the lights. Electrical systems can fail, and so can the generators. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to food supplies and raw materials, but water and light are two things they can't improvise with.

I guess those problems are self-solving since eventually someone else will find the working reducer and discover them...? It would also be nice to, you know, plan ahead a little for when that happens. We can currently control the spread of information. No guarantee that will happen with the next alien trespasser. I guess the Formicians could just murder them??? But if they get exposed later they're not going to be treated as well when they have blood on their hands.

>evict the Xanthi?
Well that sounds very difficult. How many are there in there? What's the general layout of JNET's interior? We'd need to take a look at the situation and come up with a few plans before we can promise any chance of success.
Meanwhile yeah we can describe some objects to her. The Mystery Sphere is one thing, so is the clicker I guess though we basically know what it does now. Hey we can read that dataslate now.
>>
No. 1068816 ID: a7a180
File 169017388394.png - (100.32KB , 500x500 , lets_do_this.png )
1068816

>To war
It’s a big ask, but she’ll be a huge asset! -Er, that came out wrong.
“We want to help, but first we need a plan. How many of them do we need to deal with, and what’s it like inside?”
”There’s about two dozen of them inside. Big and tough like you’d expect, and they’ve fought hard to keep their plastic fortress. Going face to face with them won’t be easy… And there’s a significant home field advantage, too.”
“What kind of advantage? Are you full of booby traps?” asks Anet.
”It’s nothing they did, exactly, but rather a property of my body. There’s active current running through my circuits, and a careless swing of conductive materials can short the circuit in ways that are unfortunate for the wielder. As such, they use special non-conductive materials for fighting in close quarters. Mostly cotton swabs and foam insulation.” Cotton swabs, did I hear that right? “How are you supposed to hurt somebody by hitting them with that?” [code]”Truth be told, it’s more of an irritant, but it can still be unpleasant when jabbed in your face.”
“That’s true. Where can we find some, just in case?”
”The chairs haven’t been picked clean of insulation yet. Cotton swabs can be found in the cabinets on the left side of the classroom- oh sorry, that’s my left. Perhaps you will find a use for other things in there.”

Fighting Beformicans when we can’t even use real weapons sounds almost unfair. But maybe we can out-think them and fight smarter, not harder.
“So swinging around metal’s a bad idea, got it. But what if we used electricity offensively? Pent’s weapon is insulated already. She’s wired up a battery to a spear. And we found a gun, too! Not sure what it shoots, though.”
”An intriguing option. No one’s ever tried that before. However, these electric shocks aren’t very pleasant for me either, so please be sparing in their use, if you can. Nothing system critical is kept below the neck but it’s still sensitive.”

“Can you tell which parts of you they’re in? Do they all live in the abdomen?”
“No, they’ve spread out into pretty much every sector. Only my head’s safe from intruders because there’s no internal passageway from the chest cavity to the neck. I believe you can use their dispersion to your advantage. Even if your size makes it possible to effect entry, I’m still not designed to be , meaning that they won’t be able to fight you in large numbers, and it should be slightly easier for you to move around because of your smaller bodies.Just do be careful what you touch, mind!”[/code]
>>
No. 1068817 ID: a7a180
File 169017388786.png - (109.75KB , 500x500 , cant_we_do_it_later.png )
1068817

“Urgh… If we’re gonna fight a bunch of these buggers, can we get some more rest first?”
Oh, Jaina… I almost forgot, she isn’t in any condition to fight right now.
”I notice your companion’s looking a bit worse for wear. Did you happen to bring any medicine? I know where you can get some. The teacher here kept some anti-inflammatory tablets in the top right desk drawer, they should still be in there.”
“Thanks for the tip. we’ll get you some of that right away, Jaina.”
She groans to express her appreciation. “Okay… Maybe we don’t even have to fight them, you know?”
“Huh?”
“Can’t we just… chase them out of there somehow, or smoke them out?”
”Believe me, I’ve tried pestering them, but maybe you can do something other than raise your voice. Making smoke isn’t difficult, but it would likely trigger the fire suppression system before it could have much effect. The system’s very sensitive. The xanthi have triggered it before. Thankfully, it is also very effective.”
Nothing says we have to fight them to the death, either. Sounds pretty hard to do with Q-tips, anyway…

>Describe items
>Mysterious orb
”Yes, that sounds like a magnet all right. Pieces of that size are common in desk toy construction sets, despite the choking hazard posed to children under 3.”
>Clicker
”It seems you found a universal remote. It’s a little more complex than that, as it is designed to seek the nearest system to where it’s pointed and affect only that device. Which, when that device is a power adapter for several hab blocks, is still quite a bit of chaos… Only maintenance personnel were allowed to have these on site due to the hazards of their misuse.”

>read the slate
Ah, I already did that the last time we camped.
We’ve done enough sitting around for now, anyway. If we’re going to rest and ask JNET more questions, we might as well do so somewhere comfortable.

>How to prepare:
-Get pills
-Get weapons
-Get insulation
-Get comfy
-Get something else
>Get moving!
>>
No. 1068818 ID: 273c18

>>1068817
PILLS HERE

Actually, we don't have to fight all of them. We just need to gain access to the blocked heat vents. Once those are cleared out, JNET can move again, and by doing so she can shake out the pests.
Can we access the clog from outside?
>>
No. 1068842 ID: 473202

>>1068817
Between pills and medicine, could you create by-product fumes (not full-on smoke) that might take out the Xanthi? Or create something like sleeping powder?
>>
No. 1068867 ID: 4a733e

>>1068817
Could we use something to fumigate Jnet's insides? She told us that the enemy has created a hotbox by blocking parts of her body, so if we so something to smoke them out, they'll get hit by it even harder because we'll be using their hotbox constructions against them!
>>
No. 1069049 ID: a7a180
File 169041755987.png - (130.17KB , 500x500 , side_objective.png )
1069049

>Can we access the clogs from outside
Nope, all the foam’s been carried deep inside JNET and stuffed into the vents from that side. We won't have to haul it all the way back out to improve circulation, at least.

>Find an alternate source of smoke
In a chemistry classroom, there's bound to be lots of different chemicals for making smoke, or sleepy gas! But I'm an archaeologist, not a chemist, so it might take a lot of guessing.

>Pills!
Jaina looks absolutely miserable, so we leave her to watch our stuff and go get her those pills. We walk underneath the desk to get to the other side. There’s six drawers in all, one is already pulled open. The one we want is right above it. Tossing a grappling hook that far up is a lot harder than Jaina makes it look, but Anet manages it on her third try.
>pry open the drawer
>try going in from below
>>
No. 1069056 ID: 1effd3

>>1069049
pry open the jar
>>
No. 1069070 ID: 273c18

>>1069049
Go in from below, I think. That's where you go into the open drawer and then climb up from the gap between the upper drawer and the wall? You'll be hidden from view and will make less noise.
>>
No. 1069081 ID: b0ed18

Stealth is best. Go from below.
>>
No. 1069203 ID: a7a180
File 169059155776.png - (28.74KB , 500x500 , behind_closed_drawers.png )
1069203

>Go up through the lower drawer
Yeah, that sounds like it should work. I’ve always wondered what that would look like, though I was never small enough to try it obviously. Up we go, climbing down into the open drawer.

The light doesn’t make it very far inside the desk. Up ahead, it gets very dark. Hardly anything can be seen. And phew, something in here smells noxious! I’m starting to feel a bit lightheaded. I’m not sure I want to turn on my flashlight to find out why.

>Continue forth
>Turn back
>>
No. 1069204 ID: 273c18

Turn back. Bad air is not to be fucked with.
>>
No. 1069257 ID: 11f77a

You're committed! Venture forth with your snout under the collar of your shirt. Use the flashlight if you feel something bad is getting close--that way you can blind them and make way to escape if needed.
>>
No. 1069258 ID: 3a16f1

>>1069203
You'd better get out of there before you pass out!
>>
No. 1069259 ID: b57fea

>>1069257
We're a brave big (little) man, lets push forwards!
>>
No. 1069267 ID: f14228

Tie a rope to yourself so you can be hauled back if you faint?
>>
No. 1069274 ID: a9af05

>>1069203
Whatever this stuff is, it'll be helpful in getting the trespassers out of Jnet. Too bad we didn't open the drawer to air it out before coming in here, we can't let ourselves pass out in here! Run and try again later when your head clears up!

>>1069267
Should've thought of that before we came in here without any rope already tied around ourselves!
>>
No. 1069279 ID: a7a180
File 169067326733.png - (160.89KB , 500x500 , dieser_schreibtisch_ist_full_of_bluntsmoken.png )
1069279

>Continue
It’s scary up ahead! I take the rope we climbed in on and tie it loosely around my waist.
“Pull me back if something goes wrong, okay?” I whisper to Anet.
“Like what?” She whispers back.
“…Well, I could fall into the desk, or pass out from the smell.”
“I know it smells nasty, but you’ve put up with bad smells pretty good so far. You’ll be fine.” She boops me on the nose before pointing up to her antennae, curled in disgust.
“Okay…”
I step in and click on my flashlight, revealing the source of the smell. It’s… a whole pack’s worth of permanent markers, all uncapped. And a Beformican hunched over the tips, sniffing them.
She whips her head around when I click on the light and hisses, revealing strange, reflective tattoos on her face.
“Aah!” I scream and trip backwards. The xanthi scampers back off into the dark. Well, that gave me a heart attack- Woaah!
Anet yanks me back out by the rope tied around my waist. “What is it? What happened?”
“There was a xanthi in there! Huffing- markers? They’re gone now…”
JNET cuts in with an explanation. “Ah, that sounds like one of the Marked Ones. They’re the “tribe” inhabiting me at the moment. They’re very fond of their highlighters. Very, very fond... Seems you found their stash.”
“It was right under where we need to go.”
“Oh. Well, be quick in there, don’t touch anything of theirs and you shouldn’t have a problem.”
Well, it was just one ant in there and JNET says the fumes from these markers shouldn’t be toxic, so we head back in with considerably more trepidation. I sweep the flashlight regularly to check for that xanthi again, running through a bit of the battery. She doesn’t bother us as we climb over the side and up into the top drawer.
There’s quite a lot of stuff in the teacher’s stash, mainly more office supplies and old datapads, and sure enough, a bottle full of tablets that JNET tells me is basically an anti-inflammatory. We manage to pop the seal with a coil of rope and a little muscle from Bright Eyes, and take one of the pills with us for Jaina. The drawer is locked, but the lock pops open easily from this side, letting us climb out onto the desktop without retracing our steps. Good, because I’d hate to slip and fall into the bottom drawer not knowing what else might be waiting in here…
After figuring out the proper dosage, we cut a slice off the tablet and mix it into a drink for Jaina, who soon starts feeling a little better. She should be back to full health after a proper rest.
>Obtained: pain relief pill

>Get pills
>Get weapons
>Get insulation
>Get comfy
>Get something else
>Get started!
>>
No. 1069285 ID: 1effd3

>>1069279
was there anything in the office supplies we could use?
>>
No. 1069286 ID: 273c18

>>1069279
Too bad we can't easily borrow some markers to use for chemical warfare.

>get weapons
That gave me an idea. Can we mix up some kind of chemical bomb to not *smoke* them out, but drive them out with either an awful stink or actually toxic fumes? We're in a lab, there must be some chemicals we can mix together.
>>
No. 1069358 ID: 580aa8

>>1069286
this
>>
No. 1069636 ID: a7a180
File 169103021670.png - (133.17KB , 500x500 , observ_ant.png )
1069636

>Check office supplies for anything useful
A quick survey turned up a box of spare staples, a notepad, a small cloth and bottle of cleaning fluid for eyeglasses, and a personalized pen decorated with googly eyes and a hat. Anet has appropriated the pen’s accessories for personal use.
For some reason there was also a very tiny decorative spoon, like something made for a doll’s tea set. It’s still out of scale for us, but it’s got some heft as a blunt object.
>>
No. 1069637 ID: a7a180
File 169103022755.png - (135.43KB , 500x500 , buckets_o_fun.png )
1069637

>Chemical warfare!
Yeah! We’re in a science classroom, so let’s use science against them!
“JNET, what if instead of trying to smoke them out, we mixed up something more directly offensive? Like a stink bomb, or poison?”
“Why, that would be against lab safety protocols! Which, don’t really apply anymore. You’ll be limited in what sorts of harmful effects you can cause with available chemicals, but I have a multitude of lesson plans you can follow to mix up myriad effects. Just avoid using things like acids where they could damage my motherboard, please.”
“Great! Come on girls, to the supply cabinets!”
“Okay, but weren’t we going to rest soon?” Anet asks.
“Oh, right. Well, I feel pretty alert now. But, do you need a rest?”
“No, not really…”
“Then it’s better if we mix up something to defend ourselves first. In case the xanthi come out of JNET’s shell.”
“Hm, that’s true.”
We collect Jaina and traverse the classroom to the chemical cupboard. Someone in the past unlocked it and messed about with some chemicals, as evidenced by the stains of more than a few spills.

“I see you’ve made it to the chemical supply. Does everything inside seem intact?”
“Um… For the most part! A few of them are already open.”
“Well, that’s to be expected. There should be enough to do dozens of experiments.”
“Woo, experiments!” Anet shouts.
“Now you’re going to need containers to transfer the chemicals into. Those should be stored in the cabinet to the left…”
The lab equipment stored next door to it is too large for us to use properly, but it includes four test tubes that can hold liquids, and some eyedroppers we can use to transfer chemicals in a slightly unwieldy manner.
“Hm. That’s something, but you might want to find a better container for mixing the stink bomb. A disposable glove, perhaps? Other containers/tools could be obtained from the xanthi up on the table perhaps, they used to live on the other table and dabbled in chems themselves.” “Normally I’d give you a safety lesson before mixing chemicals, but since we’re short on time and using very basic equipment, I’m just going to say: don’t let anything mix unless I explicitly tell you to. Are we clear?”
“Clear as cellophane!” Anet nods.
“Good. Now, here are some ideas for substances you can mix, listed from simplest to hardest. Some of them you may be able to tweak the recipe for different or combined effects. The easiest recipes will take less time and caution. The harder recipes usually involve things higher on the shelves, and could take several hours and multiple reactions to make. There are also a few substances with useful effects right out of the jar.”
>Pick up to four recipes to work on:

>Chem 101
Food coloring: Nontoxic dyes of many different colors. Instant fuzz: Grow a thin layer of hair-like substance on anything! Scent neutralizer: A sweet smelling substance. Gets rid of any stink, such as the one you want to make.

>Chem 102
Fog: Won’t set off the smoke alarm, but isn’t particularly irritating to breathe. A good way to disperse other chemicals. Cryoline: Instantly condenses a thin layer of ice when exposed to air. Stink bomb: This simple experiment gone wrong reeks like something that died, came back to life and died again!

>Chem 103
Slime: Sticky and feels gross, but it’s safe to eat. Lube: Slippery! Not much else to say. Stiffener: A thick liquid that hardens in air into a clear, brittle substance. Somewhat quick-acting. Ethanol: Flammable, but also known to impair faculties (and students) when drunk.

>Chem 201
Magnesium: Produces a bright flash when it combusts. Try not to look directly at the flare! Bubbly foam: Rapidly expands into a short-lived frothy foam. Another good dispersal agent, with slippery properties. Toxin: It’s possible you could craft a contact poison that would impair motor control, but you’d have to be very careful how you handle it.
>>
No. 1069638 ID: 1effd3

>>1069637
Cryoline+Instantfuzz sounds like it could be a fun time.
Fog+Stiffener is basically the harder to make version of above
>>
No. 1069642 ID: 8f9bc4

1. use food coloring to turn all their orange hilighters blue.
2. their whole civilization collapses leaving nought but ashes
3. easily enter robot lady for repairs
>>
No. 1069643 ID: 273c18

Too bad we can't make Cryoline in mass quantities to cool JNET down enough she can shake out the intruders.

>stink bomb
Oh hey we can just put some of those in JNET's intake from the outside to flush them out, then use the scent neutralizer to cure the odor while someone guards the entrance to keep them from coming in before we do.
That's my plan. No fighting needed. Though, if we wind up having to fight someone, we can make some lube and splash it on foes.
>>
No. 1069674 ID: 3a16f1

Hopefully we don't make anything that'll harm Jnet's circuitry. I'd feel really bad if she gets even more messed up than she already is!
>>
No. 1069739 ID: 87e33c

>>1069643
I like this, but first, make slime so you dont run out of rations because you now have Bright Eyes' Rations worth to deal with. It'll at least make it so food lasts you longer.
>>
No. 1069777 ID: c37138
File 169126537524.png - (109.49KB , 500x500 , stretch_armstrong.png )
1069777

“Okay JNET, tell us how to make a stink bomb!”
“Oh, is that all you want? What about fuzz, or cryoline? Cryoline’s cool. No pun intended.”
“Nope, a stink bomb’s definitely the best idea.”
”Fine. after all, why wouldn’t I want my insides to smell like miasma.” JNET huffs.
“Don’t worry, we’ll make freshener to clear it out later. Oh, and let’s make some lube, in case anyone’s still in there after we bug bomb it.”
<Excuse me?> Pent raises an eyebrow at my words.
“Uh, just an expression.”
<Hey. Me zztill hungry.> Bright Eyes pokes my side.
“Ah. Well… stink, freshener, lube, that leaves one tube left, um… JNET, how edible is this slime exactly?”
”It’s very sweet. If you add a little food coloring, it helps you ignore the texture.”
“Well, let’s try it and see.”
The first thing we prepare is the freshener, just in case. JNET assigns us all different tasks for her lesson plan - Bright Eyes does the heavy lifting of test tubes and finding more eyedroppers to use, so we don’t mix chemicals out of turn. Pent is responsible for remembering which dropper is used for which chem, and Anet and Jaina transfer the stuff via the droppers. I get to climb the shelves describing bottles to JNET, to figure out which chem is which from the faded labels and odd smells.
It takes a lot of climbing up and down looking for the right reagent, but I don’t mind, I feel like I’ve found my second wind after-
>>
No. 1069778 ID: c37138
File 169126537930.png - (103.37KB , 500x500 , get_dunked_on.png )
1069778

Oh, my hand slipped. Ack!

*splash*
>>
No. 1069799 ID: f14228

>>1069778
Tread/float water until someone can lower you a rope to climb up with again. Unless you landed in the lube. In which case you have to TIE the rope around you and let them haul you up, or you're just gonna be slippin' off.
>>
No. 1069808 ID: 8f9bc4

OH NO did you fall in Instant Fuzz???
>>
No. 1069819 ID: 273c18

>>1069778
Don't swallow any of... whatever that is. There's a rope, so someone can retrieve you.
>>
No. 1069977 ID: a7a180
File 169153922683.png - (146.61KB , 500x500 , catch_of_the_day.png )
1069977

I flail around in sudden confusion. Help!
>Did you fall in instant fuzz?
Oh no what DID I fall in? Aaah! I try very hard not to swallow any of it!
Okay, relax Sam, just tread- whatever this is…
I gasp as Bright Eyes pulls me out of the beaker.
<Clumzy…>
Anet runs up to my side. “Sam! Are you okay?”
“Maybe?! What did I fall into?”
”I’m unsure which container that was. More information is required. Do you see a label?”
“I… It’s missing!”
“Hm. Do you feel a burning sensation, or nausea?”
“No…”
“Any smell?” “No.”
”What color is it.” “Uh… pale blue…”
”Hm. Probably just purified water, then. You’re lucky it wasn’t something worse. Please be careful next time.”
Oh, phew… Alright, I’m going to play it way safer on the ropes now. That surprise took the second wind right back out of me.
>>
No. 1069978 ID: a7a180
File 169153923773.png - (149.53KB , 500x500 , small_unit_tactics.png )
1069978

Mixing continues much like a science class, stirring things and watching the solution change colors. JNET stops to talk a lot about the different molecular interactions at play, but it’s interesting enough that we listen politely. With the batch of freshener complete and smelling like citrus, we move on to its opposite. It’s an experiment intended to demonstrate how the body converts carbohydrates from fuel into energy, but a little high sugar solution makes the fuel go sour. We take a break at a step in the stink process that involves letting the sugar mix ferment. I end up sharing a high shelf hangout with Jaina again.
“Hey, Sam. Got a question for you.”
“Yeah?”
“So we have these tubes full of chemicals. How are we going to actually use them on those xanthi? We can’t just hold a test tube up to JNET’s rear, pour one into the other and hope the reaction wafts in. What are we going to do if the stink bomb doesn’t clear everybody out?”
“Well… there shouldn’t be many left if it’s as bad as JNET says. The numbers should be back on our side, and we made that lube just in case. So, hope for the best, and we’ll figure it out when we get there.” I shrug.
Jaina shakes her head. “You can’t just go in there hoping for the best. We need to coordinate our strategy. We’re both really sensitive to smells, us and the Beformicans. Our side will need a steady supply of freshener and a way to use it, or our numbers won’t mean much if we can’t see straight. Thanks for the medicine, by the way, my head is really starting to clear.”
>>
No. 1069988 ID: 273c18

>>1069978
Time to find out if *you're* sensitive to smells. If you can stand the stink then you'll have an advantage.
Also consider cloth to cover your allies' smelling organs, whatever those are.
>>
No. 1069990 ID: e631be

Aren't antennae used to smell?
>>
No. 1069991 ID: be210c

>>1069978
>We can’t just hold a test tube up to JNET’s rear, pour one into the other and hope the reaction wafts in.
Jaina makes it sound like we're going to shove something into Jnet's butt, which sounds very lewd!

>how to use freshener for our side?
We could soak some cloth into the fresher and put the cloth around our allies' antennae to prevent them from being affected by the stink bomb.

As for how to use the stink bomb on the enemy……I don't know.
>>
No. 1070035 ID: e8e79a

When in doubt, consult your friend the robot encyclopedia.
>>
No. 1070084 ID: a7a180
File 169179418298.png - (144.63KB , 500x500 , theres_the_rub.png )
1070084

“Well, to answer your first question… I don’t really know. But I know who might know.”
“Oh?”
“JNET, what’s the best way for us to actually deploy this stuff?”
”I’m happy to answer that. Those disposable gloves I mentioned earlier - find some and tie them over the tubes as the reaction occurs. The odorous vapor they give off will be contained, and pressure buildup should be enough to expel that into the vents.”
“Oh, inflating the glove like a balloon! Of course…” That’s still really big, but it’d be much lighter.
“Correct. And if you want smaller containers, you can cover the test tube caps with a rubber sheet cut from the gloves. Or… those amateur chemists living up on the table certainly have some type of container suited to throwing. How to convince them to part with it is on you. As for the lube, if you find any cotton swabs, you could dip one end in the lubricant to use as a brush. You may find yourself fighting a vertical battle inside me - whether horizontal or vertical, lubricant will be hard to see so baiting them over pre-prepared spots should give you the upper hand. Is that sufficient detail for you, Jaina?”
“...Yeah, that’s fine,” she replies, sheepish.

>Are you sensitive to smells? Cover your smelling organs with cloth
Not nearly as much as the Formicans. They smell with their antennae, while I (mostly) smell with my tongue, so if something stinks I can just keep my mouth shut. -Hmm, maybe we can keep my tongue and their antennae covered the same way.
“And, I just had an idea for how to avoid the smell! Doctors in the really, really old days used to deal with the smell of their patients by wearing a full face mask that stretched out past their snout, like a beak, and the tip of the mask would be stuffed with perfume, or herbs, and other stuff. They thought it’d keep them from getting sick, but… Point is, we could hold a reservoir of the freshener right in front of our faces to mask the smell! And a beak shape would fit both my face and your antennae.”
Jaina nods, surprised. “Yeah, that does sound clever ...Sorry if I was a bit snippy.”
“You’re fine, this is a big plan we’re preparing for. You can’t overlook the small details…” I absentmindedly pat Jaina on the back. “Ah, sorry. Is that still sore?”
“Yes, but not there. …It would be nice, actually, if you could rub there again. It’d distract me from how much my back itches.”
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
I start caressing her shoulders with more vigor, which helps us both relax. My tail kinda starts swishing as I stand there, with Jaina kicking her legs over the side. Rubbing her lower shoulders is like giving an awkward hug, even with her stretching the upper arms over my head and out of the way. It's... nice.
>>
No. 1070086 ID: a7a180
File 169179453558.png - (129.98KB , 500x500 , big_sister.png )
1070086

Too soon, our break ends, and we get back to work making the other recipes. The lubricant and slime are finished without any fuss as we go through the mixing process repeatedly. Bright Eyes is asked what color she wants the slime to be dyed, to which she eagerly picks <Red!>
Finally, we’re all done for now. The stink bomb ingredients’ tubes are capped and carefully lowered to the ground for transport, while the slime and lubricant tubes are poured out into the caps for easier access.
Anet dips a finger in the slime jelly and sticks it in her mouth to taste, taking it back out with a look of approval. “Hey Sam! You should try some of this, it’s really good!” She runs over while I’m toweling myself off.
Wait a second. …Has Anet gotten taller?

>Get insulation
>Get comfy
>Visit the village
>Get something else
>Get started!
>>
No. 1070088 ID: eb7ce4

she should probably not eat too much of that stuff
>>
No. 1070089 ID: a9af05

>>1070086
>Wait a second. …Has Anet gotten taller?
Two possibilities:
1.) The slime stuff she's eating is making her taller.

2.) The stuff you fell in wasn't purified water and it's going to be making you smaller again!

If it's the first possibility, I have to ask how did you make the slime stuff red? Did someone accidentally put that experimental "queen making potion" into the slime to give it the red color?

If it ends up being the second possibility, getting Jnet up and running will let her quickly move around the classroom to gather ingredients to make something to counteract what's making you smaller……hopefully.
>>
No. 1070090 ID: 1effd3

>>1070086
double check what Anet is actually eating
>>
No. 1070152 ID: 273c18

>>1070086
Well I guess if everyone in the group is eating both rations and slime that's fine. Just make sure the food is being eaten at a sustainable rate.

Visit the village.
>>
No. 1070157 ID: 4615f1

You know what, encourage her to eat tons of it. Time for some science.
>>
No. 1070238 ID: a7a180
File 169205765441.png - (160.28KB , 600x500 , the_incredible_shrinking_sam.png )
1070238

>Better not let her have more of that stuff
>You know what, let her eat tons of it. For science
“Um, Anet can I have a taste of that stuff?”
“Yeah, of course!”
I take a swipe with my own finger from the handful Anet brought over. It tastes very sugary, but it doesn’t make me suddenly grow or anything. Then how is she..?
“Anet, are you standing on something right now?” I look down. She is on equal footing.
“Uh… the ground. Why do you ask?” She looks at me like I just grew antennae.
“Because I’m standing up straight and, you’re… up, to here?” I wave my hand between the heads, in a roughly straight line.
“Yeah, you’re right… Hey Jaina?”
“Yes?”
“Come over here a second.”
“Why, what do you- Huh.” Nope, Anet isn’t growing taller. Unless Jaina and Pent are too. I think…
“...I’m shrinking! Again! How is that possible?”
There’s a moment of dumbfounded confusion before JNET’s voice comes from overhead. “Oh, err… perhaps that wasn’t water you fell in, after all.”
“You think? What was it, then?”
“Well… the lab stocked one other odorless, light blue chemical: sodium smolfate. It induces a temporary, reducer-like reaction in objects immersed in it, which normally isn’t entire students but, you are an exceptional case.”
“Is this what the reducer runs on? Oh, no, I’m gonna be a speck, a tiny speck!”
“Calm down, I said it’s only temporary. And no, the science behind the reducer is similar but is not powered by chemical reaction. This method is much less efficient, meaning you will only see 25% body reduction at most. It’s meant to demonstrate the properties of reduced objects.”
“For how long? Why didn’t you tell us there was shrinking serum in the cabinet?”
“Well… The effects should wear off after a couple of hours, depending on length of exposure. As you can see, it’s fairly slow acting. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t think it was relevant to your chemical concoction efforts, it wouldn’t be an effective tool to reduce the xanthi’s strength. What would you do, convince them to take a dip then wait two hours to fight?”
“Is there an antidote to make it wear off faster?” My remaining inch of height is very precious to me!
“I’m afraid not. Just try to relax, and let it pass naturally. Watch your step, okay girls? -My apologies, that was only a joke.”
The only one I still have a height advantage over, for now, waves off my concern. <Relax, tallman. Being the shortest one for a while isn’t such a big deal.>
I seem to be the only one not finding this disaster funny!
>>
No. 1070239 ID: a7a180
File 169205766267.png - (130.12KB , 500x500 , get_some_better_material.png )
1070239

>Visit the village
As much as I want to protest otherwise, my temporary height loss is not a pressing issue, yet. It’s a perfectly normal height to Anet or Pent.
We walk back over to the table, hoping to find some of the containers JNET spoke about. The ones they keep throwing at her, presumably. As we approach, Pent suddenly looks up and yells, <Watch out!>
I hear a faint shout from above as she narrowly dodges something that splatters on the ground. It smells like overripe eggplant.
“Is this how they say hello?” Jaina says, blanching and gripping her spear.
”If so, it seems to be how they communicate most things.”
Anet braces against the stench and examines the impact zone. “Look, that bomb was covered in this green stuff.”
“Sis no, why are you poking that?” Pent starts poking it too. “Please don’t encourage her.”
<It’s a thick skin made from something that sticks to itself, filled with… well, trash and other stuff best not to think about. It’s pretty gross, but we could use these the same way, for stink bombs or slip bombs too. We should find out how they make this stuff.>
It’s quite a climb up there… Climbing a stool then grappling the edge would be more straightforward, but they might hurl more bombs at us if we’re spotted. The overhang would protect us if we climbed up the central post, but then we’d have to climb along the bottom somehow…

>Barter for it: suggest approach/offers
>Steal some: loud or quiet
>>
No. 1070246 ID: 8f9bc4

> sodium smolfate

send help I'm dying
>>
No. 1070310 ID: 3a16f1

>>1070239
Do we even have anything worth trading to them?
>>
No. 1070311 ID: a7a180

>>1070310
Depends on what we’re willing to offer!
https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest/Inventory
>>
No. 1070319 ID: 3a16f1

Maybe we could offer them our Insulation Shards or our Scrap of Armor?
>>
No. 1070332 ID: aaed18

Grab the insulation from the seats and don’t approach at all.
>>
No. 1070410 ID: a7a180
File 169245866172.png - (128.20KB , 500x500 , queen_kong.png )
1070410

>Make a trade, take the chair
Directly approaching them favors taking the direct approach. What could they want? The shards? They’re very sharp, but these could be so much more than a pointed stick to the right people, that is to say scientists. This stuff’s supposed to be unbreakable. And the armor could be useful to someone about to get in a fight, such as us. But that just confirms it has value, right?
We start climbing the stool, which leads to them throwing a few more goo-bombs our way. Fortunately, their aim is poor. Bright Eyes carries me so we can climb faster. Somewhat concerning to me is that she only needs one hand to do it. I sure am glad she’s on our side...
When we reach the top of the stool, she jumps up the rest of the way up to cuss out the guard more, causing my stomach to lurch.
Startled by her jumping up and immediately getting in his face, he clutches his weapon.
<You! Zztop throwing ztuff at uz!> She shouts.
<No! Go away!>
<Not til you tell us what ztuff made from!>
<What? It’s trash! We throw trash at you til you go away!>
<Not talking about trazh, what you put trazh in!> She gesticulates at the guard’s stockpile of bombs by waving me at it, so I try to clarify further by pointing at it.
<What? …You mean the green stuff?> The question catches him by surprise. While the guard’s distracted by Bright Eyes, Jaina tosses her grapple up to the table and the rest of them start climbing up.
<Yezz! What is it?>
<…I dunno.>
<Well find zzomeone who doezz!>
<…Okay?> He seems confused that she hasn’t attacked him yet. The guard wanders off into the tabletop settlement to find somebody else to dump this problem on.
>>
No. 1070411 ID: a7a180
File 169245866627.png - (157.10KB , 500x500 , big_boss.png )
1070411

The guard brings back another xanthi that doesn’t look too happy at the interruption. Her smock is covered in the green stuff, though, which makes this the right lady to talk to.
<This had better be good… Who the hemp are you, and what you want?>

Knowing how xenophobic and aggressive xanthi are, how should I open negotiations?
>We want that goop!
>We want to chase off those robot squatters.
>We want your stuff, you want our stuff.
>How do you make that green stuff?
>>
No. 1070412 ID: f8083d

Start with flattery: "Your green goop works great! How do you make it?"
>>
No. 1070415 ID: b7e3c4

>>1070410
>Somewhat concerning to me is that she only needs one hand to do it.
Because you're still getting smaller. And Jnet wasn't even sure it would wear off, so get comfortable since this could be your new permanent size!

Also, if you get any smaller, you'll become a liability and one of your teammates will have to always carry you to make sure you don’t get stepped on. Then again, with how everyone else thinks it's funny that you're getting smaller, it's possible that they don't care about your safety. They might even step on you themselves so they can be done with this adventure and they can go back to their homes, without having to waste their time protecting you anymore.
>>
No. 1070416 ID: a9af05

>>1070411
Do you think these guys would be interested in the stuff that's making Sam smaller? I'm sure they would love to use it against their enemies to make them smaller!

Then again, that information might not be good enough to trade for the information on how to make that green stuff.
>>
No. 1070570 ID: a7a180
File 169275413225.png - (129.16KB , 500x500 , sneak_snake.png )
1070570

>If you get any smaller, you'll become a liability
I'm starting to worry about these intrusive thoughts. They only made light of my plight after JNET told us it was temporary. I shouldn't accuse them of being cold and callous because of a joke.
>Maybe they’d be interested in smolfate?
JNET just said that stuff's not practical for gaining an edge in warfare! It is, however, practical for making me very nervous around these Beformicans who were twice my size before its effects.

We decide to let Anet put a friendly foot forward.
“Hi! That goo stuff you use to hold trash works great. How do you make it?”
The xanthi only scowls deeper. <We not tell you. Is ours.>
“Please? We just want to know how to make our own.”
<Get out, we not sharing.>
“We- we’ll trade for it!”
<This is not negotiation. You want drugs, go huff markers, like those roaches inside bigger roach.>
“Seriously, what did I ever do to you? You literally throw this stuff away, it can’t be that valuable.”
<Not talking to you! You want green stuff, you get it straight to face!> She angrily waves a rake in JNET’s direction.
“We’re not - wait, is that goo some kind of drug?”
<Not telling you! Shoo!>
The argument becomes a three way bickering contest. From the back of the group, Pent beckons towards me. I ask Bright Eyes to put me down, and she does so gently. I slowly scoot backwards, with nobody seeming to notice or care. Pent kneels next to me and whispers.
<I don’t think this is gonna go anywhere. If you really want this goop, now’s the best time to go find some. Use that size to your advantage.>
I might… be able to do that, actually. These houses are built to Beformican scale, I could use lots of unexpected angles for cover. There can’t be that many places to check up here.
>Go looking for the goop? (25% chance of immediate success)
>Y
>N
>>
No. 1070572 ID: 8f9bc4

You don't need to find the goop itself. They'll literally throw it at you. What you were looking for is the formula! And an alliance. They're not interested of course.

It says only a 25% chance of immediate success, so maybe if you sneak away you'll find some way to improve your odds exploring around this place.

I mean, if you really want to find this goop at all. How was it going to help clean out bigger roach, again? I mean JNET?
>>
No. 1070579 ID: 139b7e

>>1070570
>JNET told us it was temporary.
That's only based on when she observed it being used on the Formicans. There's a possibility that it could affect you differently, which could result in it being permanent, lasting longer, etc. Speaking of getting smaller…

>Pent kneels next to me
If the smallest person in your group has to kneel down to talk to you, wouldn't that mean that you've shrunk more than the 25% Jnet said you'd shrink? If you've only lost 25% of your height, you wouldn't be that small! This is more like a 75% size reduction!

>Go looking for the goop?
Yeah, you might as well use your new tiny size to your advantage and go look for that goop.

Just try not to get stepped on or eaten while you're in your extra shrunken size!
>>
No. 1070606 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1070579

"Oh did I say 25% size reduction? I meant 25% size retention!"
>>
No. 1070608 ID: a9af05

>>1070570
Might as well go looking for the stuff. Just be careful in areas where there's lots of people walking around!
>>
No. 1070651 ID: 3a16f1

>>1070570
Yes, go look. Try climbing on top of something to get a better look around.

>>1070579
>Have you shrunk more than 25%?
Maybe because he was shrunk by a Reducer, the Sodium Smolfate might be reacting differently and shrinking him more than expected.

It truly sucks that Sam has to suffer such a smol fate. *ba dum tss*
>>
No. 1070658 ID: 00444f

Better get searching before you become ant sized from the ants perspective.
>>
No. 1070817 ID: a7a180
File 169301274175.png - (115.17KB , 500x500 , the_perfect_disguise.png )
1070817

>Sam’s current size: ½ in.

>Just use the goo they shoot at you
That stuff’s no good, it’s contaminated by, ech… whatever’s inside it. Goo bombs are strictly single-use.

>Search result: Miss
Sneaking goes well - guess they’re not used to looking down, just like I’m not used to looking up so much! I can smell a very strong odor coming from the closest papier-mache hut. Peeking inside, I can see some mats on the floor and chunks of insulation scattered about. Someone’s sitting inside facing away from the door, the floor around him dotted with flecks of green. As I tiptoe inside to investigate, I hear someone approaching the hut and quickly duck behind a piece of insulation. A pair of xanthi come in and greet the tent's resident. Good thing I practiced my Formican, because I don’t have anybody to translate for me right now.
<Hey Roach. We back now.>
<Hm.>
<How’z this batch?>
<Mmm.>
They take something from a bowl next to him, and eat it. It’s… green. That’s probably what I smelled. Could the goo be made from pulping that stuff into a paste?
<You see those strangers that climb up? I never seen anyone so short, man.>
<They just jumped up and start yelling at Chuck, then Weaver went out to yell at them. Even bot joined in.>
<Hmm.>
<What everybody so mad about, man? You think someone who spend all day growing our weed be more chill.>
<I dunno Smoke, Weaver look like she just woke up.>
<Or maybe skimming all the slime out the tube cancels it out, hahaha!>
Now they’re just chatting and laughing together. Darn, looks like this isn’t the right place. I start to plan my exit... Wait, one’s coming this way. She sits on the pillow I’m hiding under, smushing me against the wall.
<Hahah. Man, your pillows are always so lumpy.>
Welp. This may take longer than I thought.

>Keep searching? (50-50 odds of finding it/being caught)
>>
No. 1070827 ID: 4d7c58

Keep searching. Even if you cant find it and get caught, they're not going to see you for much longer in like, 2 or 4 updates
>>
No. 1070923 ID: 7bcc14

Now that I think about it, these guys seem pretty friendly and chill. What if we ask them for help?
>>
No. 1070994 ID: 3a16f1

>>1070817
Better keep looking. Let's hope you continue to not be seen!
>>
No. 1071117 ID: a7a180
File 169326809092.png - (107.51KB , 500x500 , snake_snaaaaaake.png )
1071117

>Continued search result: Caught
My unknowing jailer eventually gets tired of adjusting her seat and finds a less lumpy spot to lay down. I’m feeling a little sore all over, but at least from their conversation I have a better idea of where to look. So, they grow their food and the goo in the same place. I just need to find their farm, and… a-ha! The tube they mentioned. It’s the tallest thing on the table. It’s a graduated cylinder with large clumps of moss growing on the inside, above a greenish reservoir of water. There’s a layer of scum floating on top of the water that looks just like the stuff we need! This farming method is ingenious, you have to give them credit. Looks like the coast is clear around the tent, time to-

oh no.

<YOU.>
>>
No. 1071118 ID: a7a180
File 169326810697.png - (85.38KB , 500x500 , groove_ruined.png )
1071118

“Sssoooorryyy!”

I land face first with a thump into the stool. At least she didn’t aim for the floor…

The girls had already left the village. Bright Eyes hops back up to retrieve me and we return to the teacher’s desk.

Okay, that’s enough preparation for today. We are definitely calling it a night after that. The only question is what we’re going to do after we wake up.

>Attack immediately!
>Craft new armor (insulating, but bulky)
>Go back and ask the village for backup (Their leader is very annoyed with you)
>Other: >_
>>
No. 1071121 ID: 14a3b8

Craft new armor. Especially if you continue to shrink while you sleep.
>>
No. 1071196 ID: 885c82

>>1071118
You'd better hope that stuff has wore off and you're not still smaller than the others. Because if you're still tiny, then you're a liability and won't be able to help much. Someone will be forced to carry you with them to make sure you don’t get hurt and you'll be getting in the way because they can't fight effectively while having to babysit you.

>what do?
As the most fragile member of the group, you'll need some armor to protect yourself.
>>
No. 1071210 ID: a9af05

>>1071118
Just be glad that a fall from that height didn't break your neck and kill you!

>what do we do in the morning?
Make sure you have everything prepared. Get your stink bombs ready, some rags soaked in scent neutralizer wrapped around your face and the antennae of the women in your harem.

……have you thought about milking the venom from your fangs to use as a weapon? Or would that not work?
>>
No. 1071217 ID: 3a16f1

>>1071210
>use Sam's venom?
Unless it can be combined with the Fog chemical to make it breathable, I don't believe his venom would work. I'm not even sure he can produce enough of it to even use it like a weapon.
>>
No. 1071237 ID: 8a6a52

>>1071217
Only one way to find out! Find a container and start milking those fangs!
>>
No. 1071761 ID: a7a180
File 169396661452.png - (128.49KB , 500x500 , fun_size_sam.png )
1071761

>Armor
We’ll lose some of our maneuverability advantage, but I’ll bet it’s more pleasant than receiving a high voltage shock. I’ll go scavenging with Pent tomorrow while the others retrieve our chemical stash.

>Can you milk your venom?
…Not in large enough quantities to help? I’m, um, not practiced at milking my venom myself, and it can be a hazardous process for the inexperienced. Not that I’d know anything about that… In a pinch, I’ll still have it in my bite for self-defense.

>about that 25%...
“Um, JNET?”
“Yes, Sam?”
“So, when you said a 25% reduction in height, what does that mean exactly? Because I am looking at Jaina’s knees right now.”
"Estimated size at peak of reaction is 25% of original size."
“So, not 25% size reduction, but 25% size retention.”
“Yes. Apologies if some nuance was lost in translation. You’ll be at your smallest soon, but when you finish your rest cycle, your height should be right as rain, and hopefully you’ll be all ready to drive the squatters out of my circuits!”
“Yep, looking forward to it…”
I know I promised to help her, but the enormity of the task is really settling in as we get closer to following through. I’m not the best at fighting even at ‘normal’ height. If they don’t react to the big stink, will we be able to handle the blowback?
That’s when I catch Jaina staring at me with a curious look. I stare back awkwardly, wondering if she picked up on my cold feet. Her gaze makes me feel like I’ve started shrinking faster.
“Hmm. You know, at this size, it’s dangerous to sleep alone.”
“...It is?”
“Oh, yeah. Someone could pick you up and carry you off before we’d even have a chance to wake. Don’t worry, I have a plan.”
“Will it keep me safe from getting snatched?”
“Oh, definitely.”
>>
No. 1071762 ID: a7a180
File 169396662738.png - (102.47KB , 500x500 , snug_as_a_bug.png )
1071762

Hm. This isn’t so bad, really.

>Sam's height: 1/4 in.

Some small part of me - well, even smaller now - is worried about being a liability. Jaina, Anet, even Bright Eyes have been at risk or even gotten hurt in order to keep me safe at some point or another. Am I just dragging the others down?
Well, that’s not quite right. First off, the main point of this journey is an escort mission, and I’m the one being escorted. And I haven’t been totally useless, either. I’ve come up with a few ideas to help out. Most of them were even successful… The Formicans have lost a lot of their own culture, and I’ve picked up just enough of the pieces to be able to see the whole picture. I’m an archaeologist, that’s what I do. It’s how I can help. These ants have been living in a giant’s world their entire lives, so they know from experience: size isn’t everything.
But, being held by Jaina like this... Call me weak, but having someone so much bigger and stronger watching over me makes me feel safe.
>>
No. 1071763 ID: a7a180
File 169396663266.png - (153.70KB , 500x500 , a_little_teasing.png )
1071763

At some point, I drift off to the sound of Jaina’s heartbeat and the still slightly feverish warmth of her chest. But, it doesn’t last forever, and after closing my eyes for what feels like only a brief moment I’m up again and fully conscious. I’m not sure whether it’s the constant bright light outside our shelter, Jaina being a little too warm for comfort, or just my mounting anxiety, but I can’t sleep anymore. I carefully crawl out of bed, leaving Jaina behind to sleep off her sickness.
I tiptoe outside of our shelter and peek outside. We set up our camp on top of the desk like JNET suggested so she could keep an eye out for us, but we still elected to sleep in shifts. Using paper from the notepad from the top drawer we folded a tent to keep out the light, and Bright Eyes took the first watch. Anet and Pent are on watch now, so I walk over to hang out with them. I find myself hesitating as I get close - even their abdomens hang overhead, their smallish statures now as intimidating as the Beformicans to me.
Anet casually looks over her shoulder and waves me over. “Oh hey Sam, we didn’t see you down there. Come sit with us.”
“Yeah yeah, enjoy being tall - while it lasts.”
“Thank you, I will.”
<We were gonna set up a fire to keep us warm on our watch, but JNET reminded us about the sprinklers so I guess we’re just sitting around an unlit campfire now.>
I hop up on the pen between the two gi-ants, and they immediately slide closer together, surrounding me.
“Are you two trying to squish me?”
“Just making sure you’re safe,” Anet teases.
“I think I’m safe enough as is. Anything happen while you were on watch?”
“Nope, nothing to worry about. We were just chatting about future plans.”
<How about you, Sam? What kinda stuff will you do when you’re big again?>
“Well, like I told Anet earlier, try to excuse my absence…”
<Yeah, yeah, and besides that?>

>Choose 2 topics:
>Sam’s career
>Pent’s family
>Anet’s village
>Browse the holo-lens
>...Has anyone seen my hat?
>JNET’s story

>Choose who to go back to sleep with:
>Jaina
>Anet
>Pent
>Bright Eyes
>>
No. 1071764 ID: 1effd3

>>1071763
Obviously WHERES THE HAT
>>
No. 1071797 ID: 8a6a52

>>1071764
Holy fuck, this.
>>
No. 1071812 ID: 234d89

Hat JNET Jaina (she's been nice, oh be sure she is less infected)
>>
No. 1071818 ID: f9ee19

Anet's village, hat for the first one. Jaina for the second (its very cute image, her holding him like a teddy bear).
>>
No. 1071833 ID: f14228

Sam's career will probably go into freefall after going missing without much in the way of an explanation other than 'I got lost in the desert' for so long - so the question is what he might do instead of xenoarchaeology.

He still likes the concept of it, and is fascinated with formican history, but... maybe he'd better quit while he's ahead. There's plenty of other jobs he could skill up in, out there, ranging from the academic to the practical; physicist, spacetaxi driver, asteroid miner, accountant, electrical engineer, fantasy/sci-fi book author, etc.

Or maybe he can convince his prof and keep at it... there are other lost civilizations out there, and he does feel a little encouraged in his line of work, having found one. So if at first you don't succeed (or can't report on it), try try again, right? He'd have to branch out from studying just Formicans though.

Then browse the Hololens. With JNET here, you might even learn more about the goings-on in it than you otherwise would!

As for who to join after, Sam intends to go back to Jaina - but a drowsy Bright Eyes secures him as a teeny hugtoy! And to ask a few questions about the world of the biggies. Having seen him shrink - and the size of JNET - her mind's been opened to the idea he used to be even larger than her.
>>
No. 1071834 ID: 7c0da2

Talk about your career, it would be rude not to answer. Ask about your hat next.
Then back to Jaina.
>>
No. 1071853 ID: a9af05

>>1071763
Try not to think about how you're now small enough that you could fit between one of your companion's boobs now.

>>1071818
Do this.
>>
No. 1071896 ID: f8083d

Sam's career and Anet's village.
>>
No. 1071935 ID: 0bf5d8

>>1071762
>And I haven’t been totally useless, either. I’ve come up with a few ideas to help out. Most of them were even successful…
Your ideas won't be very useful if you're too small for anyone to hear you.

And do you really trust that this is temporary? Jnet made a mistake that was "lost in translation", so what if she made a mistake when she said that it was temporary? What if you get stuck at an even smaller size? If that happens, you won't be very useful for anything!

>>1071763
>2 topics
Pent’s family and Anet’s village

>who to sleep with?
Jaina
>>
No. 1071957 ID: 3a16f1

>>1071853
Yeah, any of the women in Sam's harem could easily pick him up and put him between their boobs just to tease him.

>>1071818
Do this one. We don't want Jania to have a panic attack if she wakes up and sees Sam isn't with her anymore!
>>
No. 1072179 ID: a7a180
File 169446849407.png - (127.13KB , 500x500 , a_little_rambling.png )
1072179

I pause to consider Pent’s question. I guess I should be thinking longer term than that.
“When this fieldwork is over, I’m going to keep studying hard. Then I should go back to my family’s bookstore on break, and do some hiking again. It’ll be hard being an archaeologist knowing so much insider info I can’t share, but the field’s looking more exciting than ever. The moon’s still uncharted territory, maybe I’ll go there next.”
“What’s being an archaeologist like, anyway?” Anet asks.
“Well according to my professor, it’s usually a lot more paperwork and cross-referencing, but the fun part is combing through dusty old buildings poking stuff, but not too hard for fear it’ll collapse. Usually getting answers isn’t so straightforward with dead civilizations.”
Pent lifts my bag off my shoulders and takes a look inside. <Is that what all this stuff’s for?>
“Hey, be careful with that! Yes, it’s usually a little bigger but it’s all very important tools for handling artifacts delicately!” I’ve barely used any of these on this trip, but I’d rather have them and not need them, partially because the school expects them back.
<So, did the ‘answers’ you were getting line up with what you’ve seen so far?>
“Our best guesses were kind of close. They accomplished a lot and were highly advanced to have all this tech in their daily lives, but their reputation for single-minded hard work was overblown. They could still become complacent, and they knew how to have fun.”

“But enough about my career. So Anet, how’s that scouting for the village going?”
“Terrible! Nowhere we’ve visited is a better place to live than a nice little storage closet with lots of food and no giant cannibal Formicans hunting us.”
“Oh. Um, is that a problem?”
“Not yet! It just makes me appreciate how good we have it. There’s plenty more rooms to explore. Even if there’s no place else to move, the elders will think of something. Maybe they’ll agree that recovering technology and bringing it back to the village is the way to go. They’ll be blown away when we bring JNET back.” She turns to JNET and gives two thumbs up. “They’re going to love you!”
”I will be of service in any way I can to properly civilized Formicans, aside perhaps from real estate.” JNET whispers so as to not wake Jaina.

Pent seems lost in thought. <Lots of food, and none of Them. Your village sounds like paradise.>
“Well, it’s no city of the future, but it’s peaceful and prosperous. You’ll love it! There’s so many people there, hundreds even!”
<That’s- I’m definitely not used to that many people.>
“You’ll get to know them all with time! Starting with my family, because we are going to be neighbors. Tell me about your family, future neighbor!”
<You’ve met them all briefly. Grandma Beddy, that’s short for Bedrock, she’s a good storyteller. My mom’s Patty, er, Patio. She keeps track of what we’re low on and tells us what to look for. Her sister, Aunty Antoinette, she has a fondness for old stuff too. She goes scavenging with us hatchlings and does the trading at markets. My siblings Bann and Sandy are older, but I can beat them both in a fight. My dad says I’ve got a natural talent for it. Gravel’s a good hunter but the ceiling lights give him a headache, so he stays at home and watches our stash now.>
“Oh, is that why he wears that mask?”
<Nah, that’s just a trophy. Says it used to be the skull of the biggest, meanest guy he ever fought.>

Something about Gravel reminds me… “Wait a second. Has anyone seen my hat?”
The two of them twist and turn to check around the pen. “Um… am I sitting on it?” asks Anet.
<The last time I saw you with it was…>
Oh no, I left it with Pent’s family when I was trying on the hoodie.
“Darn it, I’ll never see that hat again!” I hiss, defeated. Anet picks me up and moves me to her lap to console me.
“I’m sorry. Did it mean a lot to you? We could grab it for you when we swing by them again.”
“No, it’s just a hat…” It's too silly to bring up, but I bought it to look like Sir Lyle. I can just buy another one somewhere.
<Speaking of things left behind, are you going to keep anything you found here?>
“...I don't know. I’d love to, but I’d have to lie about where I got them. Maybe if I keep them tiny, I can hide them… hmm.”
Suddenly, Anet leans into me, her grip becoming noticeably firmer as she brings her head closer to mine. “Um, speaking of that, Sam. I was thinking… You were worried about what you’ll say to people when you return, right? You could get in big trouble for disappearing without a good excuse. What if… I came back with you to back up your story?”
I don’t know how to respond at first. “…But Anet, that’d reveal Formicans are still alive to everybody. The secret would be out.”
Her antennae droop so low that they start tapping against me. “Well, I’d feel bad if you couldn’t keep researching Formicans because you learned too much. And I’m curious about the outside world, too! I want to meet more aliens, see how tallmen live, maybe even get to be a tallman! There's so much more out there to explore than this dusty old building.”
I try and think of how to talk her down from this, but the way she’s squeezing is making it difficult. “But… your village would miss you.”
She shakes her head. “I just wander around outside anyway, they wouldn’t notice the difference.”
“Your sister would…”

She doesn’t have a response for that.
>>
No. 1072180 ID: a7a180
File 169446849972.png - (90.15KB , 500x500 , let_sleeping_giants_lie.png )
1072180

We go back to making small talk for a while. I start to feel tired again, so I head back inside the tent. Jaina’s still sleeping there peacefully, all symptoms of illness having passed. I smile and pat her on the head, happy that the power of modern medicine kept her infection from becoming something serious. She smiles back at me in her sleep. I crawl back into her arms and close my eyes to her heartbeat once more.

>You’re small enough to fit between one of your companion’s boobs now
I noticed, yes. It’s nice.
>>
No. 1072181 ID: a7a180
File 169446850981.png - (119.74KB , 500x500 , how_did_it_end_up_like_this.png )
1072181

“Hey, you, yes I see you! Intruder alert!”

We wake up in the morning to the sounds of JNET raising the alarm.
Before I can do anything about that though, I realize I’m back to my previous size! And entangled in Jaina’s arms.

”What are you doing down there? Stay away from that tent! You better not try anything!”
>>
No. 1072182 ID: 273c18

>>1072181
oh no how could this happen

be like "Uh we should probably get up and see who that is"
>>
No. 1072238 ID: 3a16f1

>>1072181
>intruder alert!
I wonder why Jnet is announcing it? Weren't the other 3 girls taking turns on watch duty? Hopefully they only fell asleep and Jnet's announcement is waking them up!

>I realize I’m back to my previous size!
That's good!

>And entangled in Jaina’s arms.
Try to not think about how both of you are close enough to kiss!

……anyways, both of you should get up and grab your weapons in case whoever is out there ends up being hostile!
>>
No. 1072342 ID: a9af05

>>1072181
You could probably make a joke about kissing each other, but now isn't really a good time for that.

Both of you should get up and see what's going on outside!
>>
No. 1072807 ID: a7a180
File 169526209869.png - (98.11KB , 500x500 , demotivational_sticker.png )
1072807

What do I say after last night? I could lie here and try and come up with the words for hours, but JNET’s warning serves as a much simpler, more immediate response.
“W-we’d better get out there!”
“Uh, right!” Jaina is similarly eager to leave how we ended up like this unspoken.
We roll off the sleeping mat in opposite directions, grab whatever’s to hand, and poke our heads outside. The others are already up and taking up positions around our camp.
“JNET, what’s happening?”
“That’s right, run! Oh, Sam, Jaina, you just missed them. One of the xanthi crawled up while Anet and Pent were starting to nod off. My alert scared them off, but they managed to make it to the tent before retreating.”
BE looks around the back of the shelter and hisses. <Waz warning uzz.>
We follow her around to the side of the tent and notice a sticker hastily slapped there. The writing says ‘Nice job!’, but it seems to have been repurposed for a less encouraging message. Xs are drawn over the eyes, and green squiggles cover the cheeks and bottom of the head. That’s supposed to be blood, I think.
“Their intention is clear - don’t mess with them, or else. They must have figured out we’re planning something.“
“We’d better do it fast before they do something worse than leave a message.”
“This is a good sign, really. It tells us they are scared we will succeed.”
>>
No. 1072808 ID: a7a180
File 169526210246.png - (85.92KB , 500x500 , computer_debugging.png )
1072808

We split up to accomplish our final tasks before the invasion. Bright Eyes and the sisters retrieve our chemical weapons from the cupboard while Pent and I try to avoid any unwelcome goo balls as we collect foam for our insulated armor. We tear up a couple chunks for each of us and toss them to the ground to collect. Under the shelter of the table, we hollow out some pieces to fit limbs, and cut the rest into sheets for the chest and helmets. Pent takes out some thread to sew the foam together into loose suits of armor.
We meet up with the others with our collected chemicals back under the teacher’s desk. As a last step, we use the collected capfuls of water to mold paper into masks and fit them to our faces. Once they’ve dried a little, we pour in the perfume. It’s overwhelmingly sweet, like… pure, concentrated flower garden smell. I certainly hope this is distracting enough from the gas.
<Not wearing thiz,> Bright Eyes complains. <Iz itchy.>
<Well it’s just too bad you don’t have something to wear under it, but you’re going to hate getting zapped a lot more than a little itch. You know what that’s like, right?> Pent gestures to her wired up weapon.
<Hmph. Fine…>
Finally, we’re armored up and ready to go. Our weapons are traded out for long padded swabs, aside from Pent’s insulated zap spear. The swabs aren’t as effective, but they’re at least safe to swing around. Beyond the padded stick I have my ancient pistol and a capful of lubricant. It’ll take longer to use than if we had managed to score any goo bombs, but it gets the job done.
Carefully, we combine the ingredients needed for the final stage of the stink bomb. The fuel already smells from fermenting all night, and the catalyst will surely accelerate that. The rubber glove finger is quickly secured over the cap, and it begins to inflate with a thick, rancid gas. Jaina tosses the grapple up to JNET’s hip and we begin the climb up her leg. Going up the front this way is supposed to avoid any sentries watching from the back, but… man, it feels weird climbing up her leg like this!
We slowly make our way around JNET’s waist and re-secure our rope in the small of her back. The rest of us hide up top as Jaina rappels down the side with a special delivery for the xanthi. In one swift motion, she cuts a hole in the tube, stuffs one end into a vent, and climbs back up before she’s noticed. At first, we don’t hear anything. The seconds pass uncomfortably slowly. But then, through the plastic shell we hear the sound of muffled complaining, followed by shouting. Coughing xanthi come streaming out of the vents, gagging for air as they stumble towards the desk. I didn’t get an exact count, but it seems like most of them were driven out. We hide on top of the abdomen until the sounds of retreating xanthi fade.
Now, we’re ready to enter through the opposite side. Hopefully that cloud lingers long enough to complete our task.

>Who should go in first?
>>
No. 1072828 ID: 1effd3

>>1072808
I say Pent with zappy spear goes first
>>
No. 1072843 ID: f8083d

>>1072808
Pent with zap goes in second.
Need someone sneakier and/or with a good eye for traps on point.
>>
No. 1072867 ID: 9e0893

Well, normally I'd say Janet but given her current condition best have Bright Eyes take front with Pent right behind with the zappy stick.

>>1072843
Bright Eyes must have been pretty nomadic so probably knows how to deal with traps.
>>
No. 1073467 ID: a7a180
File 169593839878.png - (154.32KB , 500x500 , be_aggressive.png )
1073467

>Need someone sneakier and/or with a good eye for traps on point.
No one’s better than Pent at traps!
>Pent second, Bright Eyes first
…Okay!
I nod at Bright Eyes and signal her to go down first. “<Good luck.>” She climbs down the side and disappears. We can hear sounds of combat as Pent leads the rest of us in.
The interior is quite unlike anything I’ve seen at this scale. The outer shell creates a dome high above our heads, sheltering a cross between a circuit board and a graffiti-strewn slum. The ground is bright blue interlaid with geometric patterns in gleaming silver. Scattered across it are big blocky chips with silicon prongs, barrel-like transistors, and improvised shelters. Some building-like chunks rise above the rest that must be subprocessors and heatsinks.
Through the gas, we spot our vanguard engaged in a slugfest with a Marked One. Bright Eyes throws punches, bites, and kicks at her opponent while she wrestles for control of his cotton-tipped spear. Every part of her body is a weapon. Her furious onslaught drives him back covered with cuts and bruises. Finally, she lands a punch that staggers him, and he stumbles over a raised circuit. It makes a barely perceptible noise and he twitches, falling over and hitting his head. He doesn’t get back up. Our first victory!
“What do we do with him now?” I wonder.
<Just roll him out,> Pent suggests.
“Woah, wait a moment. That is a not-insignificant fall to the ground. He might get hurt!”
<So?>
“Maybe we… tie him to a rope first?” Says Anet.
“No, that would clue them in that something’s up,” Jaina points out.
“I would like to remind you all time is of the essence,” interrupts JNET. Her voice reverberates through her whole body. “Just tie his hands behind his back and move on, the stink won’t kill him. Don’t forget to clear the external vent blockages and pile them up away from the airflow. You can dispose of them fully later.”
“She’s right, let’s keep moving.” I run back to the entrance and start pulling chunks of foam inside the dome. I hope Jaina’s got enough rope for everybody.
>>
No. 1073468 ID: a7a180
File 169593840316.png - (129.83KB , 500x500 , caught_down_in_the_pants.png )
1073468

The computer environment gains a mechanical element as we move toward the hips and musculoskeletal systems become involved in the infrastructure. The circuit board narrows, linking to articulated segments via a cable network that leads into a narrow tunnel under the base of JNET’s spine. We climb through the junction into another slightly more open space, JNET’s, ahem, pelvic region, or thorax I suppose. This area is warmer than the last, thanks to all the stuffing wedged into the joints. The trunks of her legs are like two pits, with a series of disc-like struts dividing them into segmented compartments. You could take a nasty fall down into one if you’re not careful. Beyond the initial drop it becomes a narrow set of vertically separated landings.
Two more Marked Ones just climbed up from the legs and are surprised to see us. They draw together for defense, but we have them outnumbered.

>Choose a strategy:
>Drive them down into one of the legs
>Flank them to cut off their escape
>Split them up to deal with separately (who do you team with?)
>Pin one down to prevent them running and fight in the open
>Use an item: slippery lube/sticky slime/other (see inventory)
>>
No. 1073560 ID: 9e0893

Rush in with the lube Q-Tips, aim for the legs and try to get them to trip and slip and fall off the ledge they're standing by.
>>
No. 1073564 ID: a9af05

>>1073560
Do this!
>>
No. 1073966 ID: f8273a

>>1073468
Rush them down and take them out!
>>
No. 1076434 ID: a7a180
File 169913084710.png - (119.19KB , 500x500 , the_bigger_they_are.png )
1076434

>Used item: Lube
We use the agreed upon tactic of tripping up the Marked Ones with our lubed up swabs. This catches them off balance and knocks them flat on their backs into the leg pit. We swiftly hop down and press the advantage, giving them no chance to strike back. They try to crawl away and drop down further into the leg for some cover, but Bright Eyes simply drags them back to be walloped repeatedly with cotton-balled sticks. My swings with this weapon don’t feel particularly effective, but it’s what we have to work with.
Eventually the noises of protest stop and they curl up into a ball, presumably beaten senseless, or at least catching the hint to stop putting up a fight. Unfortunately, our swabs have dried up, the quantity of lube we were able to carry expended. At least it was put to good use.
>>
No. 1076435 ID: a7a180
File 169913084926.png - (95.11KB , 500x500 , something_up_her_sleeve.png )
1076435

We begin the climb upward after confirming no more malingerers in the legs and tugging the insulation chunks out of position. The temperature rises as we climb, and we’ve caught up with the stink cloud again, obscuring vision slightly. Fortunately, our gear does its job and I can’t smell a thing besides roses.
JNET’s voice reverberates throughout her body as she cautions us, “Watch your footing carefully. The spine is a conduit for many delicate systems, much like the real thing but at higher voltage.”
I call back, “Hey, can you still hear us?”
”Yes. More clearly than before, in fact.”
“It’s very warm in here. Can you try acting scared, to send some chills down your spine?”
"Hm? …Ah, I see. I will be able to adjust the climate more to your liking once you have scared off these malingering xanthi."
Oh, well. I ought to try a joke from Anet’s book and see if that gets more of a response.

We halt when we hear an angry hiss from above, followed by some loose screws being thrown down at us. I barely catch sight of another Marked One before she skitters back inside down the lower arm joint. There’s a narrow tube leading into the limb, even narrower than the abdomen as there’s no room to stand. The cramped quarters forces them and us to crawl inside and would limit mobility severely. There would be nowhere for them to run, but a cornered ant can be an unpredictable foe. To even reach the arms, though, we’ll be passing through a chokepoint while avoiding exposed circuitry, leaving us vulnerable to either getting attacked if we’re cautious or shocked if we’re reckless.

>How do we handle this fight?
>Try to lure them out first (with what?)
>Try to lasso the bugger
>Chase them into the arms
>Rush the climb to grab them while they’re exposed!
>Use another item: https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest
>>
No. 1076438 ID: 1effd3

>>1076435
is JNET able to move her arms yet? if so, have her raise her arms to "persuade" the friends in them to come out
>>
No. 1076451 ID: e5ace5

Go lasso. Should that fail... "Four against one. What's of greater value, heat or your life?"
>>
No. 1077220 ID: a7a180
File 169992975817.png - (163.49KB , 500x500 , got _u_now.png )
1077220

>Go go lasso
“Use the rope. I’ll distract her,” I whisper to Jaina. We’ll draw the xanthi back out and fight her on our terms.
Now, what’s a good insult in Formican? “<You missed us, you… egg-dropping, three-legged slacker!>” No response, I’m probably trying too hard. Bugger.
JNET gleefully joins in the taunting. “<You have been a thorn in my side long enough. Your eviction is nigh, you armpit-dwelling vagabond.>”
<Graah!> That provokes her to come back out and toss more stuff down. Bright Eyes gets hit on the head with a microchip, which only serves to anger her. Something catches my mask too and knocks it loose. Eugh, I can really smell it now! At least I’m less sensitive to it than the Formicans, I don’t know how any xanthi can stand this. We reach the arm joint and position ourselves to the bottom and sides of the passage. Despite the smell, I hold my nose long enough to yell, “<You throw like a grub! Try something heavier!>”
When she comes out again, Jaina tosses a lasso around her and cinches her arms. One of her hands is still free, and we huddle around her to subdue her. We’ve almost got her-
>>
No. 1077221 ID: a7a180
File 169992976326.png - (111.27KB , 500x500 , uno_reverse.png )
1077221

Suddenly, Jaina’s yanked upward by a thin copper wire! She struggles to free herself, kicking the air as she’s banged against the side of JNET’s chassis. The xanthi at the top of the totem pole has gotten the jump on us with his own lasso. The upper arms have a more open space to work in atop the ribcage, and it’s the hottest location so far. The inner surfaces are warm to the touch, and the view from down here is obscured by internal components and accumulated stuffing. Jaina is getting roped towards somewhere out of our sight!

>What do I do?!
>Get the wire out of the boss’s hands.
>Free Jaina from the wire!
>Keep your distance, find a higher perch to act from
>Make sure the other xanthi’s down for the count first
>Use an item: https://tgchan.org/wiki/A_Small_Quest
>>
No. 1077222 ID: 1effd3

>>1077221
Lets see if that ancient pistol does anything, and try to break the copper lasso!
>>
No. 1077229 ID: 273c18

You could use the zap spear to send a current up the wire. So long as Jaina isn't touching anything when you do it, she won't get shocked.
>>
No. 1077256 ID: f14228

>>1077229
Even if she is, getting stunned by a zap may be a small price to pay compared to being torn apart by an angry giant. Or kept hostage, if they're clever enough for that. Just be ready to help untangle her - or yank on the wire, so it slips from the grasp of the stunned beformican.
>>
No. 1077422 ID: f14228

>>1077256
Oh right, you also have the rubber glove right? So you can actually ward yourself from getting zapped while the wire's getting electrified.
>>
No. 1077426 ID: 273c18

Oh maybe you can just give her the spear instead of trying to use it yourself before she gets pulled too far away.
>>
No. 1077788 ID: a7a180
File 170061426197.png - (138.29KB , 500x500 , shake_hands_with_danger.png )
1077788

>Shock her out of it
“Pent, zap the wire!” I shout. Pent leaps across the chamber and hooks the wire with her spearhead as she flicks its power on. The cable goes slack as the xanthi above roars in pain, letting the lasso slip through his fingers. Luckily, Jaina’s armor insulates her from the current, and the subsequent drop into JNET’s chest. Pent moves to assist her in escaping the lasso, while I climb up the rib cage for a clear shot at the boss.
Up top is a bed made of stuffing sitting directly atop the main power cell, stockpiles of wadded paper, and various trophies tied to the vertebrae. It's so warm, I feel like I'm already wrapped in a thick blanket. This must be the pinnacle of luxury for living inside a giant robot.
>>
No. 1077789 ID: a7a180
File 170061426645.png - (130.17KB , 500x500 , action_figure_sam.png )
1077789

The final xanthi and I stare each other down from across JNET’s bones. I wouldn’t exactly pin this guy as someone who sits around huffing markers all day. He’s definitely fought to keep his place at the top, and the idea of winning a fair fight with him seems ludicrous. Fortunately, we still outnumber him, and Bright Eyes evens the odds quite a bit…

>Xanthi escape check: success
…Ah, the other xanthi got loose and Bright Eyes is currently wrestling her for dominance. The struggle’s keeping my allies occupied, so it’s just me and him now. Welp.
>equip rubber glove
Good idea, I almost forgot about that! At least I’ll have one hand that can touch currents safely. I wear the glove on my left hand and ready the energy pistol in my right. It occurs to me I really should have test fired this thing before trying to use it. I hope it still works… Of course, the big bug doesn’t know that.

>Choose your tactic:
>Stand your ground and aim for the head
>Duck under his swings and snap shots from behind
>Shoot legs to disable him then switch to melee
>Try to trick him into touching a live current
>Nowhere to run now!
>>
No. 1077791 ID: 1effd3

>>1077789
shoot his legs, but try *not* to hit the main battery
>>
No. 1077792 ID: de5cb4

Shoot him from over here. If the gun doesn't work act panicked, bait him into swinging at you and hitting a wire.
>>
No. 1077793 ID: fb9ae2

Make as if you’re trying to duck and weave for a shot at his back, but actually be trying to find a good loose spool of non-critical live wire. Pretend your gun fails, then when he swings at you, use your rubber grove to get him into direct contact with the power he’s been mooching off.

Bugzap-fu his ass!

And if he doesn’t buy it and sees through your intentions and keeps away from the live wire - well, you’ve bought time for your friends to join the fray.
>>
No. 1078086 ID: a7a180
File 170105315780.png - (84.42KB , 500x500 , king_of_the_anthill.png )
1078086

>Shoot him
>Shoot his legs!
Here goes nothing! I aim right for his face as his mandibles open wide enough to fit my head. He roars and starts to close the gap with a stride that will have him in my face within a second. My arms are shaking, and his head is moving so much. I drop my aim down to his legs and squeeze the trigger desperately. The gun makes three bright flashes of crackling energy then starts to click in a way I immediately know means it’s empty. The short burst still has a kick to it, as the xanthi stumbles before continuing to lunge. I try to duck out of his way, but I lose my footing. His arms sweep over my head as my butt hits the floor. I quickly flip over with a push from my tail and crawl away from his follow-up strikes. I glance around desperately hoping to find his wire coil, maybe I can touch it to a live wire and zap him. It’s hard to search while I’m trying to avoid the big ant, though!
Amidst all the dodging, I hear a pop, and the whole room suddenly tilts. The xanthi goes sailing downwards in a puff of smoke. It seems that in his frenzied attack, he ended up striking some live current after all, and caused a power surge that made JNET flinch.
I realize that as I was scrabbling backward, I put my gloved hand on the metal, too. I’m lucky I dodged right instead of left.
…Is it over, then? I think that was the last Marked One. He isn’t moving anymore. The girls knocked out the other one, too. We did it!
”Is everyone alive in there? I take it that the reduced activity levels mean the fighting is over.”
“We’re okay in here, JNET!” Anet calls back.
”That’s the best news I have heard in over ten millennia. Thank you, all of you, from every process I have running.”
>>
No. 1078087 ID: a7a180
File 170105316485.png - (108.37KB , 500x500 , not_so_big_now.png )
1078087

We dump the last of the Marked Ones out the back of JNET, and get to work dislodging their insulation as quickly as possible. We collect the smaller pieces in the abdomen for quick disposal, while the larger chunks are pulled down to the legs where they’ll interfere with circulation the least. JNET says it makes her legs feel ‘fuzzy’, but it’s not blocking circulation at least.
”Core temperature is falling. Safety overrides are finally lifting. Please find somewhere to hold on.”
We brace ourselves. JNET moves an arm, then with a creak, twists her hips and steps off the charging platform for the first time in millennia.
”Oh, it feels nice to be needed again after all these years!!” We sway back and forth as JNET takes a few experimental steps around the room. ”Now, before we leave, I believe I owe the Weed Eaters a token of my appreciation for all the muck they’ve slung over the years.”
I can’t see what she’s planning from here, but that sounds threatening. “Hold on. You’re not gonna destroy the village, are you?”
”Oh don’t worry, I won’t harm them permanently. It will simply be a mild inconvenience. It is the least I can do to repay them…”

>Let JNET have catharsis
>Convince JNET to not get payback: >_
>>
No. 1078088 ID: 273c18

>>1078087
Yeah alright. They refused to help us, so we have no reason to help them.
>>
No. 1078090 ID: de5cb4

I would trust she knows what she's doing. She doesn't seem the type to be cruel.
>>
No. 1078092 ID: 1effd3

>>1078087
pay back! payback!
>>
No. 1078095 ID: 2a82d3

Keep in mind you and an ancient being might have very different ideas of what counts as "mild", "an inconvenience", and "destroying a village". It's also a little terrifying to see an artificial intelligence exercise their vengeance sub-routines.

She's free now. They don't matter anymore. Maybe you should urge her to move on.
>>
No. 1078102 ID: eb0a9c

Tell JNet to expose her magnificent circuit boards to them one last time, so the tribes will know what they squandered and how they will never rest in her warm hearth ever again.
>>
No. 1078108 ID: 580aa8

>>1078087
DO IT!
>>
No. 1078117 ID: b3eab7

Tell JNET she's pretty much her own boss now.

You'd think less of her for indulging in violent retribution, but wouldn't mind her literally raising a stink over their treatment of her.
>>
No. 1078135 ID: 124485

>>1078087
Let JNET have catharsis!
>>
No. 1078181 ID: a9af05

>>1078087
Let JNET have catharsis! She deserves it after what happened to her!
>>
No. 1078244 ID: a7a180
File 170122795750.png - (176.24KB , 500x500 , ant_misbehavin.png )
1078244

>Let her have this
It’s not exactly like I’m a fan of these xanthi myself. JNET’s her own boss now, and I’m not about to tell the giant robot what she can or can’t do.
For now, she isn't doing anything to them. She seems to be basking in their increased agitation caused by her sudden mobility. ”Let’s get you out of there, friends, so you don’t have to breathe that fouled air anymore.”
We climb back out of JNET and take off our stuffy armor. It’s going to take her cooling fans a little longer to clear out the stink clouds. The Marked Ones have all scattered, probably hiding in the desk. JNET holds out her hand to her back for us to climb on. When we’re all ready, she gently lifts us up to shoulder height.
”There. I promise you’ll be safe and sound up here. Now…”
”<You.>” She reaches down and plucks the village’s leader off the table. ”<I tried being a good neighbor at the start, you know. And what did I get for my trouble? Nothing but insults and disrespect.>” She waves her finger in the xanthi’s face like she’s lecturing a child. With her free hand, she picks up a textbook sitting in the center of the village, dumping a ramshackle lean-to built on top of it onto the table in a heap. She sets the book down standing on its cover, shaking the table and knocking everyone over. ”<Do you see this? This, is a chemistry textbook by the esteemed Dr. Nebula Tachyon. You should try reading it sometime, you might even learn something. For instance, if you turn to the chapter on organic compounds, like so, you’ll see how if properly treated, you could be composting your waste to grow more food, instead of throwing it at me! If you’re going to mishandle lab equipment, at least do it well!>”
<You… not going to eat me?> Her captive asks, cautiously.
”<Were it not for the fact I am physically incapable, I’d say don’t go giving me ideas. You hardly have any to spare.>”
Anet eggs her on. “That was a good line. You should dunk her in the smolfate, too!”
“Alas, an excellent suggestion but I cannot bend far enough to reach it.” She sets the xanthi down in front of the book. ”Oh, and one more thing - I hope you don’t mind a little walking.” For good measure, she picks up one of the moss-filled beakers and moves it to the other table.
”I’m done here. Thank you all again for saving me, and now as promised, let’s get you to that lab.”
>>
No. 1078245 ID: a7a180
File 170122796661.png - (197.09KB , 500x500 , area_discovered_the_collapsed_office.png )
1078245

This time we leave the classroom carried in JNET’s massive hand. Now this is the way to travel, it’s even stabilized! She’ll get us to that reducer in no time flat. This leg of the journey is just a walk down a hallway to the research wing. The door swings open to a darkened, eerily quiet room. The lights don’t come on, and as my eyes adjust to the darkness I see it’s because the roof has suffered a partial collapse. Girders and debris litter a dark maze of chest high walls just barely higher than JNET. The only light comes from JNET’s eyes and a few flickering screens at the surviving workstations. The lab we need is somewhere on the other side of this room.
“Hey, why are we heading through the middle?” Jaina asks. “Can’t we just walk around the rubble?”
“Unfortunately, the sides of this room are blocked by fallen rubble. I am not built to climb over uneven terrain, nor is it a good idea for me to trip while carrying all of you. We must search the cubicles for an unobstructed route.”
I’d rather stick with JNET than split up. It would take days for us to climb through here, anyway. We’ll just have to pick our way through the cubicles carefully, using JNET’s headlights and her built-in sonar. By following the wall, we’ll find a way through eventually, if there is one.
Where do we start looking?

>Left or right?
>>
No. 1078247 ID: 1effd3

>>1078245
when in doubt, hug the right wall!
...or was it the left?
>>
No. 1078250 ID: 273c18

>>1078245
There's an efficient algorithm for solving a maze, but I don't think that's quite what's going on here. This is an adventure not a distraction.

Go left!
>>
No. 1078254 ID: 58dd24

as they say, left is right and right is wrong
>>
No. 1078266 ID: 124485

>>1078245
Ask Jaina if she's ok? That copper wire slammed her against Jnet's insides pretty hard.
>>
No. 1078267 ID: 86980a

Stop worrying. Worst case scenario is the robot whips up small-scale explosives to clear the rubble. Still, probably best to look for a way through before we go that length. Go with hug the right wall it's a classic way to deal with this. So Bright Eyes can you believe Sam was once JNET's size? Oh JNET likely has a whole database of how to be kind. Let the kindness teaching commence!
>>
No. 1078339 ID: a7a180
File 170139590329.png - (86.28KB , 500x500 , roach_motel.png )
1078339

>Left
JNET starts trudging through the maze, taking each left turn as it comes. My sense of direction gives up completely after turning so many corners and spinning around in dead ends. Everyone’s keeping silent, watching the darkness.
A little further on, Anet asks, “Why’s everyone so silent? Still worried about xanthi? What are they going to do against a giant robot?”
“...Fair point,” says Jaina. “This place feels dead. More so than the city.”
Pent counters, <The city’s got plenty of life. Most of it hostile.>
“What would there be to eat, even for a Beformican?” I ask. “Looks like they weren’t using paper in here, just tablets.”
Bright Eyes’ antennae twitch, then she shakes her head. <Me not zzmell any.>
<Even the plants are dead here.> Pent points to the singular plant life we have seen: the withered husk of a potted fern, casting a long thin shadow against the walls. In fact, I think this is the same one from a few minutes ago.
“Have we passed that before?”
“We have, yes. We have explored two dead ends since going past it, and now we are heading back to try a third path. I have been keeping track of every step taken,” JNET assures us.
“Oh, um, sorry.”
“No offense is taken. The damage to this room has introduced many pathfinding difficulties.”
<...What thizz plaze?> Bright Eyes asks.
“This is an office of the Advanced Engineering department.”
<What iz ‘offize’?>
“A place where people performed their jobs. Imagine it full of giant ants scurrying back and forth, carrying tablets and answering phones.”
<Lotz of giantz… Muzt know zzo many thingz.>
“Yes, I suppose quite a few of them would have been know-it-alls.”
Bright Eyes looks around at the desks in awe. I briefly picture her as an office worker, trying to squeeze herself behind one of them and tap away at her computer. It’s cute.
<What they do here?>
”Their job was to perform very simple but very numerous tasks, so that the people in the laboratories could do their job.”
<And that job waz..?>
“Making new discoveries.“

“Wait, look there on the ground,” calls Anet. “I think I see something. A house?”
Jnet’s eye beams sweep the floor, coming to rest on an odd looking plastic hut. ”It appears to be a trap for catching common pests.” Someone’s added a few accessories to it. A clothesline is strung up outside, plus there seem to be remnants of a cooking fire nearby and various bits of trash around.
“I think someone used this as a dwelling. Looks abandoned now… I want to check it out. Can you put us down here?”
”...Anet, are you sure that, as a small bug, it is a good idea to enter a structure designed to kill small bugs?”
“First off, I’m smarter than a bug! And second, it’s been converted to a living space, not a killing one. C’mon, it’s just a peek inside. Want to come with me, Sam?” Anet’s eager to do some exploring again. I kind of am too, but this place is giving me the creeps.

>Check out the abandoned hut with Anet?
>Afterward, keep left or right?
>>
No. 1078340 ID: 8f9bc4

Check out the hut. There's something wrong here besides just an abandoned room, and you need to find out whatever you can from people living here.

...beware ambush predators.
>>
No. 1078344 ID: 273c18

>>1078339
Peek in, do not enter unless the inside has been cleared out. Especially do not enter if there is a dead body in there. It could still be dangerous. Also, the hut might not be as abandoned as it looks.
>>
No. 1078346 ID: eb0a9c

JNET, open the trap up. Compensate the owners if they're still alive.
>>
No. 1078392 ID: 1ecc81

>>1078339
Isn’t the floor inside of those things really sticky so that whatever pest goes inside gets stuck and starves to death?

What if whoever used to live here didn't know that when they hung up their laundry? We might find a dead body stuck to the floor if we go in there.
>>
No. 1078405 ID: f14228

Investigate a mystery?

How could you resist!
>>
No. 1078406 ID: c922c3

Peek inside, but don't step in without first checking that the floor isn't sticky.
It's possible the glue dried up or something, but give how long some stuff has lasted in this place, it shouldn't be assumed.
>>
No. 1078438 ID: 8f9bc4

Those kind of traps just hold poisoned bait and are shaped that way to keep big pets from eating the bait. The only glue traps I've seen have just been an open tray of sticky glue.
>>
No. 1078625 ID: 1bb0f1

Yes and left
>>
No. 1078632 ID: 273c18

afterward, left.
>>
No. 1079232 ID: a7a180
File 170243796122.png - (77.99KB , 500x500 , average_bachelor_pad.png )
1079232

>Can JNET open the trap up?
JNET’s said they can’t bend over that far, and she lacks a cutting tool besides.

“Okay, I’ll come too, but let’s be careful.”
“Oh Sam, we’ve known each other for nearly five days now. When have you ever known me to not be careful?” Anet pats me on the shoulder. Her hand still sticks to my shirt a little from the tape incident.
One by one we rappel down to the floor. Everyone else stretches their legs nearby while Anet and I approach the hut. No one's come out to meet us, yet. I turn on my flashlight, but the light feels dimmer, it must be running low on charge. Peeking inside, a little plastic table casts a long shadow across a dark shape in the corner. I duck back out to confer with Anet.
Something’s in there! What if that’s somebody sleeping? Or even a dead body?
Give me the light and I’ll tell you.” Anet looks in, then goes inside. ...It’s just a shellbug, definitely dead. Sweeping the light around reveals a pile of rags and some stuffing, probably used as a bed. The floor here used to be sticky, catching that unfortunate bug, but around the carapace it’s been carpeted over with scraps of seat fabric. I also notice a lot of particles illuminated in the beam - dust.
“Huh. Why‘s there only dust in here, and not over everything in this office?”
Anet explains it for me. “The village is the same way. The elders say the environment controls don’t let dust form outside of small inhabited spaces, but it isn’t an excuse for us to not sweep. And it shows up there because it’s made of particles shed by us!”
“So does that mean someone is here?”
“Not if it’s this thick. Oh look, a sugarcube!“
The sugarcube sits on the table with a crude knife and plate, like something that was prepared to eat but forgotten. There’s other foodstuffs in the hut, but they’re all spoiled.
Even my first-year archaeology studies can tell this hut supported a lone Formican with a very simple lifestyle. However, there were two items which probably made life a lot easier. The first is a cylinder I thought was used as a bench at the table. When I sat down, it lit up on one end, revealing it to be a laser pointer aimed at the campfire outside. The second was another cylinder resting against a wall. When Anet touched it, another rune lit up and blew a gust throughout the room, kicking up a cloud of dust. When the cloud settled, there was a circle on the floor around her where the dust was completely gone, and her carapace looked smooth and shiny.
“JNET, can you tell us what this is?” Anet brings the tube outside to show her.
“Scanning for serial info… This appears to be from a pocket cosmetic kit. It is intended for removing makeup on your face, but should be safe for full-body use. Theoretically.”
“Ooh! We’re definitely taking this one with us.”

That was a fascinating bit of anthropology, in one of the last places I’d expect. I wonder if there’s any supply closets in this room…
>>
No. 1079233 ID: a7a180
File 170243796567.png - (82.23KB , 500x500 , pat_upon.png )
1079233

Continuing through the maze, we pass an active console and curiosity makes us pause again.
“I wonder if we can get these operating again. Can you set us down here?”
“Very well.”
We step off of her hand onto the desk, but before I can walk over to the touchpads, JNET presses her finger down on me from behind! After a moment I realize she’s only lightly patting me.
“Uh, hey JNET, what’s this about?”
“Oh, sorry. I just can’t help myself. I’m far too fidgety after not moving for so long, and you’re far too cute. Should I stop?” She queries.
“...No, might as well get it out of your system now…” Well now I feel embarrassed for pointing it out. If she can stand still for thousands of years, I can stand being fussed over by a giant for a few minutes. Besides, she has a surprisingly gentle touch.

After… that, we manage to wake the console by jumping on the touchpads, but it’s much more practical to let JNET actually operate it. She searches the connected network for any signs of AI activity but none turn up, even after looking back several centuries. She does pull up two archived messages of interest:

—MSC Special Projects— -Inbox- From: <amen-sci> Subject: Re: Material safety concerns I’m not cleared to share the specifications of Element-128, however, let me assure you that its compressive strength is more than sufficient for the design requirements, and our testing never showed any evidence of side effects from long term exposure to the material. As for where they procured the amounts required and why they were available for the project, I don’t think it’s wise to look into these types of questions. Besides, it’s all in the past now. — From: Dr. Antilles <rant-sci> Subject: Miss Science’s charisma Well, she’s done it again. Our “esteemed” colleague Dr. Tachyon has transferred another five scientists from my department to her pet project, leaving the rest of us scrambling to pick up their work. It’s ludicrous how every single request she makes is indulged by the administration without any question of what she needs it for, or what it'll cost! Her project's priority has this unusual ability to move mountains, and no budget I've ever seen got this big without some of that money falling through the cracks. We desperately need to establish a formal oversight committee, or at least give her an ego check. In my opinion, they’d need to build a starship to contain hers, even after reducing it.

That’s all for local files of interest. While we were reading, JNET scanned a wall of debris blocking the next turn and estimates she could knock it out of the way with a well placed shove, cutting out some of the tedious maze running. Disturbing it might cause debris to fall on her instead, though… do we chance it?
>_
>>
No. 1079246 ID: b3eab7

Don't.
The last thing JNET wants is to risk finding herself immobile again.
>>
No. 1079249 ID: f14228

>>1079246
Agreed.

We're not in any rush besides, right? Our rations just got complemented by nearly an entire sugar cube, after all.
>>
No. 1079250 ID: 8f9bc4

Why would there be only one formican living here? What drew them here, and what's keeping the others away? It wasn't because they ran out of food.
>>
No. 1079287 ID: b52f92

Ask her is she can connect to the moon base, i remember we somehow reactivated it
>>
No. 1079358 ID: a7a180
File 170269889938.png - (57.21KB , 500x500 , step_on_the_gas.png )
1079358

>No
I shake my head. “If there’s a risk to you, JNET, then don’t do it. We wouldn’t want to immobilize you again.”
“Yeah, there’s no rush,” says Anet. “We’ve got a sugarcube now!”
“You’re really gonna eat that thing?” Jaina asks.
“Why not? It looks perfectly fine.”
“At least wash it off first.”
“It’s sugar, it would just melt!”
JNET interjects, “Well, I wasn’t thinking navigating the maze would take so long as to worry about your provisions, but thank you.”

As the sisters continue to bicker, I keep wondering about that shack. “What drew someone to live all the way out here, and why aren’t there more xanthi around?”
Pent ponders. <I think living alone was the point. They do value their personal space.>
“Heh. Isn’t it funny? These cubicles would have felt cramped to an office worker, but now people come out here for the fresh recycled air.”
While we’re guessing what could have happened to the hermit, none of us are paying attention when JNET slips on something that rolls directly into her path.
>>
No. 1079359 ID: a7a180
File 170269890571.png - (107.51KB , 500x500 , the_harder_they_fall.png )
1079359

The tiny car shoots forward as JNET’s foot kicks out, trying to counterbalance her abdomen. She wobbles wildly, grabbing at the wall for balance. The tottering titan rocks backward, then stumbles sideways through a wall that falls over when pushed. She trips over that too, and her fall is only arrested by crashing face first into a desk. The impact tosses us up in the air, where I get a brief glimpse at a ramp running all the way to the floor.
I land next to JNET’s head, near Jaina. “Ow! What just happened?”
Around us, some upturned cups have been knocked about. Do I smell - coffee?
Figures start to crawl out of the cups, chittering angrily - we’ve found those other xanthi!
>>
No. 1079361 ID: 273c18

>>1079359
Well apologize for the intrusion, tell them you will attempt to fix the damage if they want.
>>
No. 1079363 ID: eb0a9c

Okay you're the aggressor
Do something that makes them a ton of resources as reparations
>>
No. 1079368 ID: 90f91e

Welp. Doubt these guys happen to have means to disable JNET on hand but until she gets up she might get hostiles inside. Do what you have to do to keep her safe as you can while she gets up. Should diplomacy work that's great but these guys seem to prefer recompense in blood. Perhaps if there are few ways inside we could use those as bottlenecks. However if she has lots of ways inside we simply are too few to defend properly so perhaps we could draw them off? Fighting retreat to keep them busy until she's up? Once she's up we have the issue of who caused that slip. Just no way that thing suddenly decided to move following years of nothing.
>>
No. 1079464 ID: a7a180
File 170295499669.png - (126.80KB , 500x500 , howdy_neighbors.png )
1079464

>Apologize for the intrusion
“Ah, we’re sorry, it was an accident! We can fix this if you want!”
I look around for a weapon, just in case they’re not receptive to an explanation. I have a bad feeling about these xanthi - something seems different about them. They look jittery, maybe a little unhinged.
<Graaaah!> They lunge at us, and we end up driven back against JNET, barely holding them off.
JNET lifts her head off the table, shaking her head. “Oh my, that gave me quite a startle! Are you all - My goodness! Leave them alone, you ruffians!” She puts her hands down in front of us like a giant wall, trying to protect us from their attacks while locating our scattered party. She plucks Pent, Anet and Bright Eyes out of trouble, and cups her hands around us as xanthi jump onto her arms to attack her. Their sticks and scratches have little effect on her, and she just brushes them off. Then they start trying to pry her hands apart to get at us, and suddenly the cracks of light coming through her fingers go from reassuring to panic-inducing.
”Stop jumping at me, get away from there! That is quite enough, we are leaving!”
>>
No. 1079465 ID: a7a180
File 170295500133.png - (131.10KB , 500x500 , had_enough_fun_for_today.png )
1079465

A little while later, we’ve retreated inside JNET for safety. She’s strutting along at a mildly bumpy pace to put distance between us and those xanthi. Jaina has been quiet since we got away.
I breathe a sigh of relief. “That was close.”
Anet says, “I feel like we got off on the wrong foot there. Heheh- ow.”
”I don’t believe our introduction was entirely our fault,” says JNET. ”That car was launched by them to trip me. They simply failed to account for where I would land.”
“They weren’t very nice, but I still wish our introduction had been a little less… abrupt,” I reply.
”It was unfortunate, yes. …I think their diet may have had something to do with their aggression.”
“How so?”
”I noticed a rather large sack of coffee beans in the cabinet underneath, which seems to be their only source of food.”
…That reminds me. “How is it that Formicans have a drink called coffee, anyway? Is that a translation thing?”
”The term predates my records. Coffee beans were first imported from another planet, after which it quickly became a staple crop on Dirt.”
“Oh.”
<Iz coffee… tasty?> Bright Eyes asks.
“Honestly? Not really.”
<Oh.>

We travel onward in silence. Eventually JNET comes to a stop.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve come to an obstruction. I have identified a path to the laboratory door, but to take it we need to make a detour through an office. A secretary’s keycard is necessary to unlock the door. I will require your help searching for it where I cannot reach, but I cannot guarantee your safety. Is that acceptable?”
>>
No. 1079466 ID: 1effd3

>>1079465
*equips gear*
Time for an adventure! do we still got our funny chemical weapons in case?
>>
No. 1079479 ID: 124485

>>1079465
>Jaina has been quiet since we got away.
Put a hand on her shoulder and ask if she's alright.

>A secretary’s keycard is necessary to unlock the door. I will require your help searching for it where I cannot reach, but I cannot guarantee your safety. Is that acceptable?
Guess we'd better start looking.

Everyone put on your gear and if we need to split up, nobody go alone. Always stay in teams.
>>
No. 1079495 ID: 8f9bc4

Coffee zombies. Those are the worst kind.
>>
No. 1079523 ID: 270452

Just feel it has to be said... can we break the door or undo the hinges? Otherwise >>1079479 has it covered.
>>
No. 1079629 ID: a7a180
File 170320302026.png - (84.80KB , 500x500 , ill_go_on_ahead.png )
1079629

>can we break the door
The sliding door is sturdier than the force JNET can apply. Her robot limbs aren’t quite capable of lifting fifty times their weight.

>Ask Jaina if she’s alright
She looks a lot more strung out than me, even though we were under about the same pressure from the xanthi. I gently stretch out again and take a few calming breaths.
“Tired again?” I ask.
“Yeah, I guess I am.”
“It’s been a rough couple of days for you, huh.”
She dips her head. “We’ve all had our scrapes and bruises.”
“Yeah, but maybe you most of all.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
“Were you hurt by those xanthi just now? Or the fall..?”
She shakes her head. “No, just… caught off guard. The odds were way more against us than when we planned for a fight. When they attacked us, I became very worried about Anet.“
“Oh, don’t worry I was fine.” says Anet. ”I landed in a big pile of beans on top of that funny looking machine! Nobody spotted me before JNET picked me up.”
“I didn’t know that at the time! You could have just as easily been getting overwhelmed by those buggers, like us. …and Pent and Bright Eyes, of course.” She waves apologetically in their direction.
<It’s fine. You were worried about your sister first, I get that.>
<Nah. Me waz winning. They weak and zztarving.>

I gently pat Jaina. “It sounds like you’re mentally exhausted. Why don’t you and Anet take a break while we go search? If we overlook that now, it could become a worse problem later.”
She smiles a bit. “…Sure. Stay safe out there.”
>>
No. 1079630 ID: a7a180
File 170320306416.png - (60.18KB , 500x500 , can't_do_any_good_back_there.png )
1079630

Myself, Pent and Bright Eyes all file out onto the desk to begin the search.
<What are we looking for anyway?>
“We’re looking for- how to put it. <The access key is like… A big, flat rectangle.>”
<Like a tablet?>
“<Well, no. It’s… much bigger than tablets you’ve seen, but much smaller than the tablets they used.>”
We start poking around in the trays and other corners of the desktop where stuff could be tucked away, using the illumination cast by JNET. I’m not certain what we’ll do about the inside or the underside of the desk yet. Bright Eyes says she can see in the dark just fine and Pent has experience navigating in it, but I’m pretty much useless without a flashlight. I’m worried that if I use it now, I’ll use up its remaining charge.
JNET begins searching the terminal while we work. I pause and look over my shoulder at what she’s reading.

—MSC Special Projects— -Results for: key- From: <mil-tza> Subject: Project 716 Cancellation Effective immediately, the lunar colonization initiative is on indefinite hold. Projections by the accounting department indicate the scaling of infrastructure to meet population requirements is not an effective use of the ministry’s increasingly stretched resources. Key personnel and assets will be reassigned to the reducer team. See attached file for updated assignments and hierarchy. -Error: could not download attachment.- - From: <cavi-rka> Subject: Transfer Why was my transfer to the generation ship project rejected? I am a highly qualified rocket scientist with key expertise for working on engines, which I hear has become a major bottleneck for progress. Even if the specifications have shifted from stronger engines to smaller ones, I know how to optimize for both power and size. The project needs someone like me right now, if they don’t make a significant breakthrough soon rumor has it they may be the next to get shelved after the lunar colony. It’s not that they don’t have room in the budget for me, right? Seriously, I’m baffled as to how a concept artist is still onboard the team.

“That’s all, no notes to self about where she keeps it? Well that’s no use.”
Meanwhile, Pent leans over the gap behind the desk and calls, <Is this what we’re looking for?>
I walk over to see what she’s found. In the thin sliver of light that reaches back here, I can make out a dark squarish shape wedged between the wall and desk. “<That could be it.>”
<So, how do we get it out?>
“<Looks like it’s on a string. We could lift it by that.>”
<I dunno, that looks pretty heavy. When it comes loose, that weight could pull us all down with it.>
“What? It’s just a thin sheet of plastic… well, I suppose. <So, do we knock it loose and just let it fall then?>”
<Maybe. Then we’d have to climb down after it and bring it to JNET.>
“<…But what if there’s someone under the desk? Could we get JNET to pull it up instead?>”
<I think so, but we’d have to fish the string out carefully without it pulling taut to avoid knocking the key loose. We could tie the other end to the rope to make it long enough to reach her hands. Either way, someone has to climb down there.>
The idea of climbing down where JNET can’t see or reach us would be a lot less scary if we had a light…

>Do we let it fall and drag it out from below, or have someone climb down so we can hoist it up?
>Should we use the flashlight for better visibility?
>>
No. 1079634 ID: 273c18

I wonder if there's a reduced colony on the moon? It'd be really easy to send a rocket up there with the supplies needed at that size.

>wat do?
It's far more likely for there to be xanthi below the desk than behind it. Climb down with a rope, attach the rope to the string, climb back up and have JNET hold the very end of the rope while everyone else tries to pull up the card. If the card is too heavy for the group, JNET will still have a grip on the rope and nobody will fall.

Hmm, whoever climbs down will need more than two hands to do the task.
>>
No. 1079640 ID: 76615e

>>1079634
This, but whoever goes down to tie the rope should bring the flashlight. flash any dark nooks that may hold an ambush.
>>
No. 1079670 ID: e950d6

>>1079629
>Sam resting his chin on top of Jaina's head
You might as well just kiss her next time! ;D

>>1079634
This seems to be the most reasonable.
>>
No. 1079907 ID: a7a180
File 170372877867.png - (122.97KB , 500x500 , helps_you_see_faster.png )
1079907

>Send someone down with the flashlight
I think Bright Eyes would be best for scouting ahead. “Bright Eyes?”
<Yezz?>
“Could you… be the one to climb down and bring the string up here?”
<Okay.> See, she’s not worried at all. Though, I still am…
“Here, you can take my light with you.”
<Why? Can zee fine.>
“That may be, but… you can probably see a lot farther and clearer with this. That’ll give you the edge if you see any xanthi down there. Just press here to turn it on.”
She shrugs. <Okay.> Pent ties the rope around her waist as a safety harness, and she climbs down into the gap. The rope remains slack as BE ignores it and uses her three free hands to climb downward.
<How you zee better with thiz? Iz too bright.>
Huh? I look down to see her staring into the flashlight. “No, no, you’re supposed to point it the other way!”
<Ohh.>

Eventually the rope stops moving, which I assume means she reached the floor. After a while, we call down again. “Bright Eyes? You good? Anything moving down there?”
<No bugz down here!> That’s a relief…
She comes back up unscathed and unbothered with the ID badge string in hand. <Here go. Light turned itzelf off, think it broke. Oopz.>
I take the flashlight back and shake it. “No, it’s probably just out of battery. Not your fault.”
We tie the ribbon to the rope, hand it to JNET to pull up effortlessly, and now we have the secretary’s ID badge!
”I suppose it was a good thing she was so disorganized,” says JNET.
“Did you know her?” I ask.
”Not personally. Just making an observation based off her terminal. It seems it was a lot of work keeping up with her boss.”
“...Say, from those messages you were reading, do you think there’s a reduced colony on the moon, too?”
“It seems unlikely. Why build colonies on the moon when you could build them planetside? Space travel adds significant cost.”
“Did everything about this plan really come down to cost?”
“Doesn’t it always? Formicans have always valued efficiency.”
>>
No. 1079908 ID: a7a180
File 170372878277.png - (135.30KB , 500x500 , leaving_so_soon.png )
1079908

With the keycard in JNET’s hand, we climb back aboard for the trip through the cubicles.
“Hey Anet, we’re back. Whatcha doin?”
“Oh, hey Sam. I was just looking through the holo lens. There’s some cool sights in here, you know? I wish we had more time to look through it together.”
“Well, I’m not in that much of a hurry. You could show me some now, right?”
“Sure, but… it’s not just that.“ Her smile fades. “It’s hard to believe we’re reaching the end of our trip already. Soon, you’ll go back to being tall, and we’ll keep being small... Everything will go back to daily life. Heh, what were the elders even worried about, right?”
Well, things will be a little different with JNET and Pent’s family moving in, but… I guess that’s true for me. I hope.
“I don’t know what’ll happen when I leave, but I promise I’ll do my best to make more trips to the temple, and if I do, I promise we’ll watch more holo-vids together. Maybe we can watch Formican Force Five too, hm?”
Anet’s smile widens again. “If, huh... I sure hope so.”
“Me too. We should get a picture of all of us on this thing, if we figure out how.”
“Good idea! Let’s do that soon, okay?”

The entrance to the office beeps as JNET presents the ID badge. We stick our heads out to take a look around the office as she walks through. A very fuzzy rug covers the floor in front of a messy desk covered in tablets and scientific instruments. The only decoration is a bookshelf lined with actual books, and what look like trophies. Actually, there’s a second bookshelf, but it’s so large and fell over with such force that it tore the hole in the wall which JNET’s using as a shortcut.
”Here we are, the door to the labs. You’ll be back to full size in no time, Sam!"
Jnet opens the door, and…
>>
No. 1079909 ID: a7a180
File 170372878879.png - (75.18KB , 500x500 , more_rubble_more_trouble.png )
1079909

Damn! The hallway right behind the door is completely blocked. No way JNET can get through this.
“Oh. I’m sorry, it seems this is as far as I go. But, you should still be able to make it through. There’s an access panel for the underfloor wiring tunnels nearby, that should get you past this mess with no trouble. I will wait out here for your return.”
What a shame. Just when I was getting used to having a giant robot helper, we have to leave her behind!
“Thanks for bringing us this far, JNET. I guess this is goodbye for me.”
"Good luck in your enlargement and education, Sam. Thanks for helping an old robot feel useful again.”
<Me zztay too.>
“...Oh? You’re not coming along anymore, then?”
Bright Eyes shakes her head. <Ztill have lotzz of queztions for JNET. Want to know everything.>
"Very well. I’ll appreciate having the company.”

>Any last words for JNET and Bright Eyes before we go?
>>
No. 1079937 ID: e51896

Big hug! Or at least as big as you can give at your small size.
>>
No. 1079938 ID: fb32ab

Huge hug!
>>
No. 1079953 ID: 7550f8

>>1079908
>Soon, you’ll go back to being tall, and we’ll keep being small...
Honestly, that seems really sad. All of them staying tiny and remaining here, cut off from the rest of the universe. And Sam promised to not reveal their presence to anyone when he goes back, so he can't talk about anything that's happened.

And because Sam can't talk about any of this, he doesn't have a reason for why he disappeared from the archeology class for so long, which will probably get him expelled from class and he'll be forced to leave the planet, with no way of knowing if he'll ever be able to come back and visit his tiny friends.

Is there any way that we could bring one or two friends with us? Maybe bring the sisters, Jaina and Anet?

>>1079909
>Good luck in your enlargement and education, Sam.
……I just thought of something. How will Sam get out of here?

Like, when he gets big, is there going to be a way for him to get out of here? Because there's barely any power in this place, so it's not going to be as simple as opening a door and walking out.

Might need to restore power to everything to open a door or something.
>>
No. 1079967 ID: 124485

>>1079909
>Any last words for JNET and Bright Eyes before we go?
Hug them and thank them for all their help!
>>
No. 1080143 ID: a7a180
File 170405958428.png - (127.79KB , 500x500 , worlds_greatest_hugger.png )
1080143

>Huge hug!
“Bright Eyes, can you come here for a second?”
<Zure. Why?>
“I want to give you a hug before I leave. The others will be coming back, but this is the last time I’ll see you for a while.”
<Oh, OK. Bye then. Waz fun meeting you.> She doesn’t seem bothered by this at all.
“...Yeah, I liked meeting you too. Thank you for all the help - you’re the strongest person I’ve ever met. ”
She nods sagely. <Me the bezt.>
I give her a tight squeeze around the midsection, and then she lifts me up in a hug twice as strong. Hurk-!
After she sets me down, I look up at JNET. “And of course, you get a hug too.” The difference in scale means it’s pretty much the same as hugging a wall no matter where I am, but she holds her hand up to her chest, so that’s where I do it.
”I appreciate the gesture, Sam. Though you are tiny right now, I can still feel it. Try giving me a shout down the hall when you’re my size?”
“You’ve got it, JNET. Take good care of the village.”

>Getting out? Getting… expelled?
I know that running off for five days is not going to go unnoticed, but I honestly have no idea what their reaction will be. Will I be in trouble? Did they search for me? Maybe they assumed I snuck back home aboard a ship, there’s nothing to do on this planet if you just wander off. As for leaving… I’m going to worry about getting big first, and worry about a door second. They’ve got to have normal sized doors somewhere in this place.

>Bring a friend along
That sounds like it would be cool, right? If I could bring Anet or Jaina along and have a tiny friend travel around with me, then I wouldn’t have to say goodbye. But when I stop and think about it, there are so many problems it entails. Not only would I still have to keep them hidden to keep the Formicans secret, but they’d be separated from their family by lightyears, all by themselves in a world that’s too big for them. I could never ask them to deal with all that, so I won’t even try.
>>
No. 1080144 ID: a7a180
File 170405959095.png - (163.89KB , 700x500 , area_discovered_the_new_lab.png )
1080144

With our descent into the tunnels again, it’s just me, Anet, Jaina and Pent once again. We might be far beyond her area of expertise, but she’s still adamant on fulfilling her deal to see us through.
“I’ll bet you’re glad to be having a break from Bright Eyes, huh?” says Anet, snapping Pent out of her habitual hunt for hazards at the front of the group.
<Hm? Oh, no, she’s fine. We get along better now. She’s alright for one of Them.>
“Progressed from truce to frenemies, huh? Glad to hear it!”
<Look, I can get along with her just fine. But JNET - it still blows my mind that we met her, and she actually likes us. I mean, she’s the size of a building! We won’t even have to worry about Them when we return to the city riding her.>
“I know, I can only imagine the look on Elder Stone’s face when she opens the door to our closet.”

These tunnels feel narrower than before, probably because we’re sharing the space with cables still running through them as was their original purpose. The walk itself doesn’t take long before we reach the bend to take us to our destination, but the climb up to the lab does seem unusually long. There’s even a few hatches along the shaft’s length that open out into darkness, probably a cabinet. Finally, we reach the top and climb out into… a house, scaled to us?
Looking around, I quickly realize the walls are all clear plastic, and we’re on a large flat countertop. The lighting in this all-white room is bright and harsh. Across the room from us are shelves full of nondescript boxes and empty beakers. Above us is some shelving, but I can’t see what’s on it from below. On the counter next to us, there’s a tablet, a giant microscope, some beaker full of blue liquid, and a pair of large robotic arms. Past that is a sink, and some more scientific looking equipment. To the other side, it looks like there’s a second chamber to this tiny hut, with an exercise wheel and some other gym equipment. The door to the hallway is jammed open with debris, but the damage doesn’t reach past the door. Everything in here looks almost pristine. …Including a wall with a familiar looking arrow on the far side of the room! That must be the reducer! This is it, I’m so close to being big again!

>What should I check out first? I could just run right to the reducer, but where’s the fun in that?
>>
No. 1080146 ID: 273c18

>>1080144
The blue liquid must be more of that reducing element stuff.

Oh. I see a problem here. If you use that reducer to get big again, and manage to get out of wherever this is, that means there will be a path back here. And once everyone else finds this room, they will find the reducer, and it's not camouflaged at all. If you leave, the secret is out.
>>
No. 1080149 ID: 8f9bc4

Another problem is it's not uh... working. The Formican's strategy for hiding from the galaxy by reducing themselves. It's not working.

Their population started declining because of cultural stagnation, and now there's so few of them left it'd be hard to save them from extinction. They're living in a primitive subsistence society, with almost all of their achievements lost and forgotten. J-NET might be able to help with that somewhat, but even at the height of their technologicy they couldn't figure out a way to stop the population decline other than creating a bunch of brutish super mutants who wreck everything and hate you.

Do they want to die out, as a species? If nothing changes, that's what's going to happen.
>>
No. 1080150 ID: aef708

>>1080144
>I could just run right to the reducer, but where’s the fun in that?
I mean, do you even know what it's set to? If you run to it without checking, you might make yourself smaller by accident!

Also, how would you even turn it on? Is it automatic and you just step on it or do you need someone to push a button for you?
>>
No. 1080152 ID: 15a025

Check out that weird looking instrument by the microscope and blue liquid.
>>
No. 1080153 ID: 124485

>>1080143
>I could never ask them to deal with all that, so I won’t even try.
Well, obviously, you'd have them grow big and come with you, instead of leaving them tiny. Anet said she wanted to grow big and go with you earlier. Did she change her mind?

But you might be right and they shouldn't come with you.

>>1080144
>Reducer
Sam, have you ever wanted to be taller? You could give yourself an extra foot or two feet of height when you grow bigger.

Then again, it might be safer to just return to your normal size and not experiment with making yourself taller.

>>1080149
>even at the height of their technologicy they couldn't figure out a way to stop the population decline
What if that's a side effect of becoming small?

Everyone was so desperate to hide, they never really considered if there would be side effects to using their Reducers! What if it's also responsible for their population decline and low birth rates?
>>
No. 1080158 ID: 7b388c

Well you could bring one if you have a good enough cover story to use. Like, "Found this Formician with amnesia in a cryopod while lost for 5 days." Got plenty of time to make up one. Failing that - the thing with the holopics is a find that won't give away the whole spiel. Even if they don't go with you - imagine how much good a full size Formician could do for them as a whole. Would effectively erase the Xanthi as an issue, plus full size farming would give 'em tons of food. Safe passage to the reducer if they have need. Hiding will fail eventually too. How they get discovered should be done in a way that gives independence. Dictate their own fate. Otherwise they may have it dictated. Worst case scenario would be by looters. Perhaps one day you'll meet again if they decide to stop hiding.
>>
No. 1080166 ID: a7a180
File 170413795995.png - (105.47KB , 500x500 , pent_am_not_good_with_computer.png )
1080166

>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?>
“<Yes!>”
<Oops.>
“<...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

>>1080166
>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.

>Buttons
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 )
1080236

>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 )
1080237

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

>>1080237
I KNEW THE ROOM BEING PRISTINE WAS BAD!
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

>>1080252
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

>>1080237
>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.

>>1080245
>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

>>1080278
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

>>1080237
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 )
1080632

>Hide
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

>>1080632
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

>>1080660
>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

>>1080671
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-

WAIT!
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

>>1080702
This is the only idea that makes sense to me, possibly combined with dropping a shelf on it.

Essentially:
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 )
1081273

>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 )
1081274

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

>>1081274
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

>>1081274
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.

>>1081278
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

>>1081283
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 )
1081739

>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.”
“Yaay!”
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 )
1081740

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?”
“Okay…”
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

>>1081740
Lets go!
>>
No. 1081743 ID: 922417

>>1081740

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 )
1081911

“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

>>1081911
*CLICK*
>>
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

>>1081932
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 )
1082738

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 )
1082739

<-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

>>1082739
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.

>>1082739
>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

>>1082739
ATTACK
ACT
ITEM
>MERCY
>>
No. 1082785 ID: 5ebd37

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

MERCY.
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 )
1083398

>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 )
1083399

…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

>>1083399
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

>>1083399
"...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

>>1083399

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

>>1083611
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

>>1083419
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

>>1083611
>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.

>>1083664
This sounds nice. Let's go with this.
>>
No. 1083699 ID: 622677

>>1083650
>>1083670

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 )
1083740

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 )
1083741

>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 )
1083742

…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

>>1083742
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*
"FUCK YOU."

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

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

>>1083742
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

>>1083749
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

>>1083752
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

>>1083742
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

>>1083777
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

>>1083742
Lie about it. Don't say anything and don't even hint at what happened to you.

>>1083756
I don't think it was confirmed to be deactivated. So yeah, its best to not even mention that.

>>1083777
>>1083778
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

>>1083774

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

>>1084021

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

>>1083742
Lie about it! Do not reveal anything!

>>1084021
>>1084132
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!


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