Tozol Quest by TestPattern

Quest single-page archive. Generated 21/02/2022 09:36:46 (UTC), 984 posts, 13 chapters

Posts from 20/11/2009 18:21:00 - 02/02/2013 03:38:00

Tozol Quest

#79880 Test Pattern


#79883 Test Pattern


#79887 Suggestion

Wake up.

# Chapter 1 - O Sleeper, Awake

#79892 Test Pattern

What? Hello?

#79900 Test Pattern

Hello! Thoughts are flitting through my head at an alarming rate. This seems unusual!

Do you remember your name, or where you are?
Uh... No. To both. Do you? Or I? Or whatever you are?

#79904 Test Pattern

Do you remember anything at all?
No. Nothing.

I suppose that's bad, yes?

I'm in some kind of liquid, lit by red lights, or normal lights in red liquid. There's an oxygen mask over my face, and tubes in my arms and legs.

What should I do?

#79913 Test Pattern

Also, is that a bullet hole in your head?
I hope not. It itches a little. It's a spot of rough tissue with no fur. I guess some kind of scar.

#79919 Test Pattern

Anyhow... tell us what those keen eyes of yours see.
The container appears to be made of metal. I can't see anything outside. There's seams. Might be a door? There's some mechanisms, but they don't look like they're meant to open from here.

There's a rectangle of glass in front of me, but it's backed by more metal.

Above me is a metal thing shaped a bit like a claw or tooth. There's another below me, oriented the opposite way.

#79921 Test Pattern

Speaking of which, do you recall having one?

You need a name. How about Penji?
What does that word mean? ...And how could you know things I don't?

You seem to have four ears. That's silly, you don't need more than two.
Do I really need more than one?

#79925 Test Pattern

Knock on the metal.


No immediate response.

#79942 Test Pattern

It was actually the first thing I thought of.
I guess that makes it the first thing I thought of.

If you don't like it, how about Tozol?
That word feels important.

Fiddle with the tooth thing on the top.

#79944 Test Pattern


#79957 Test Pattern

Ah, I've got it. Emerald.
I like Penji.

Maybe we shouldn't mess with the electrical cords while submerged in liquid.
Don't those have two prongs? This seems to be one solid chunk of metal.

#79961 Test Pattern

You had not informed use you were female.. were you aware of this?
I am now.

#79973 Test Pattern

Your left arm's got some wires or sensors on it. Can you tell if they're stuck into your arm, or if they're just sticking to it - without pulling them off/out?
Can't tell if they're wires or tubes or both. They're definitely going straight into the arm.

#80011 Test Pattern

The second one's really stuck. With effort, I manage to yank it free, though I bonk my head against the back of the tube in the process.

This one looks the same as the other.

I notice there's a lot of bubbles coming from the socket. I think I broke something and now the liquid's leaking out of the tube.

#80046 Test Pattern

Wait a while for the liquid to exit.


This is taking a long time.

#80083 Test Pattern

Touch the two teeth together above the liquid's level.
Nothing seems to happen.

#80089 Test Pattern

Is it just me mylady or do you posses multiple tails?
Yeah. They're small and black and tapering. Is that unusual?

I'm not s-



#80111 Test Pattern

Keep them above you.
I keep one above me, hooked into its own cord. Seems to be okay.

Scream and yell for someone to let you out.


#80114 Test Pattern


#80154 Test Pattern

Wait. You managed to dent it? That's quite a punch.
I figured it was just wimpy metal.

I actually feel a little weird right now. Though, it's hard to tell, since I can't remember ever having felt better.

If you're that strong you could try pushing on the door near the hinges to break it.
The metal creaks and deforms a little, but doesn't open.

#80166 Test Pattern

superfluous tails, superfluous ears... whatever she is, she's not designed for efficiency.
I... I can feel self conscious about my body image later!

Keep working it.
The metal creaks more, but holds. The glass-like rectangle part makes a ping sound. My legs are getting really tired.

#80178 Test Pattern

Alright, the glass should be easier to break. Try smashing that with one of the teeth so you don't cut your hand on the glass.
I bash the glass-like stuff loose. The shards flutter through the water to the bottom of the tank.

There's a piece of metal over where the glass was. A cover, I guess. It's leaking pretty bad.

#80183 Test Pattern

I fuck around with the plate for awhile. It's jammed due to the deformation of the door. Eventually I manage to pop it off.

Liquid's gushing out!

#80187 Test Pattern

The water levels off. I can see stuff outside.

Outside, I see a darkened room. There's equipment and machinery, a desk with a computer console, and a heavy, sliding door. I can fit my hand through the port I opened, but can't reach any of that stuff.

#80197 Test Pattern

Feel around the outside of the tube. Perhaps there's a latch or something.
Feels like, uh...

Yeah, definitely a latch, but there's a lock on it.

#80211 Test Pattern

Pick it with your wiry black tail(s)!
Okay! Let's see here.

Hoo. This is awkward.

#80213 Test Pattern

I spend five minutes trying to pick the lock with my tails. This is incredibly frustrating!

rip it out
Piece of shit!

#80214 Test Pattern

I wrench the lock mechanism out of its housing.

#80228 Test Pattern

Finally freedom.
Yes! The door comes open!

#80233 Test Pattern

I'm in a room now. Awesome.

There's a big, closed, sliding metal door at the opposite side of the room. On this side, there's the tube I came out of, and another one that looks like it, with a box in between. There's a rolling gurney, a locker to my right, and a console at the middle of the room. There's a monitor at the far upper corner.

#80248 Test Pattern

Let me just get around this... huh?

Oh. I'm still hooked by my IV tubes.

Come and think of it, I am starting to feel a little odd.

#80261 Test Pattern

yank those bitches out
Well, the direct approach seems to be serving so far...

Hoo. Skin's healed around these things. I wonder how long I've been in there.

Okay. They're out. I think I'm bleeding. Definitely bleeding a bit.

#80265 Test Pattern

Yes, I think we're looking at a pretty significant amount of bleeding.

I feel tired.

#80270 Test Pattern

Open the lockers and see what's in there.
They're locked.


They're unlocked.

#80286 Test Pattern

What's that thing on top of the safe?
Looks like some kind of toy in a box.

Medkit! Grab, open, sit, bandage
Right. Focus. Getting sleepy.

Bandage arm. Hold over head.

#80287 Test Pattern

Think I'm gonna rest here a bit.

# Chapter 2 - The Devil in Iron

#81625 Test Pattern

Awake again.

Feeling numb.

Still there, whatever you are?

#81651 Test Pattern

Check condition
Um. Little numb everywhere. I feel slower than before. I don't think it's blood loss. Something else. I can stand well enough.

Bleeding's stopped nicely.

Put some clothes on, you harlot!
I don't feel cold. Wait, what?

#81656 Test Pattern

Well, now that you're less bleeding, what all is in this room?
About the same as before, except the locker's open. Two tubes, one of which had me in it, the other which has some kind of forklift-looking machine against it. Big metal box between the two tubes. A console in the middle of the room. Blank monitor on the wall opposite the tubes, as well as a big door.

There really isn't as much fluid on the floor as was in the tube. It must've gone through a drain when I tried opening the door. I guess they'd build it that way so the place doesn't flood whenever they open one of those things.

Do you have any sense of how long you were asleep?
Not long. Or do you mean how long I was asleep in the tube? I have no idea of that one.

#81663 Test Pattern

Look over the contents of the locker again, would you?
In particular, what's that on the top shelf,
Unlabeled box. You want I open it?
and is there anything noteworthy about the safe and picture on the bottom shelf?
It's actually a cardboard box with a picture of something like a toy sitting on top of the safe.

#81670 Test Pattern

Put those rubber boots on

#81678 Test Pattern

Open the unlabeled box!
Inside are long packages labeled "E RAT."

#81684 Test Pattern

What about the labeled box?

#81692 Test Pattern

Can you get a closer look at that safe? It might not work to rip out the lock, so don't do that yet.
It looks way more solid than the locker. I'm not sure if I COULD rip the lock out.

#81698 Test Pattern

Are your tails very sensitive to vibration?
Moreso than the rest of me, I think... But everything just feels numb right now. I hope it goes away.

I spin the dial. I feel like I could figure this out if my body would cooperate, but it just isn't.

#81700 Suggestion

Looks like the safe will have to wait. Did you check the lab coats to see if there's anything in the pockets?

Also, open the 'toy' box and grab the stun gun.

#81706 Test Pattern

I put on the coat and get the stun gun.

It makes a satisfying *POP!* when I hit the switch.

#81711 Test Pattern

Then check out the monitor... and the console.
The wall monitor looks boring. It's just a black screen.

The console's another story. BUTTONS!

#81719 Test Pattern

I mess around with the buttons and stuff, but they don't seem to respond.

I notice a keyhole at the left corner of the console. In the labcoat pocket is a key, and a card. Should I use the key on this?

#81723 Test Pattern

I use the key.

A new panel pops up.

#81728 Test Pattern

Do the buttons have any markings?
I wish this place had a manual or something.

#81730 Test Pattern

Push the - button for 1.
Nothing happens.

#81731 Test Pattern


#81736 Test Pattern


"4+" makes a little squirt of liquid from one of those tubes that was in my arm.

#81739 Test Pattern

Uh, you're sure the other tube is empty right?

Oooh... That would've been a really good thing to check before I started.

#81745 Test Pattern

Oh boy this does not end well.
Oh shit oh shit!


It's empty.

#81749 Test Pattern

Nobody saw that.


It is occurring to me that there's been no sign of life whatsoever in this place. I wonder if that's why I've gained voices in my head.

Then again, I have no memory of ever not having had them. Er, you.

#83126 Test Pattern

Take a closer look at those buttons labelled 'Emergency' before you try pushing the door.
There's two buttons here, plus a big panel labeled 'EMERGENCY' (twice!) on tracks, looking like it can slide down and open.

#83134 Test Pattern

I scratch and tug at the cover, but it doesn't want to slide. I'm worried I'll break this thing...

I consider trying the 'open' button. Or is that too simple?

#83179 Test Pattern

I push the button and the panel slides open, revealing a large breaker-looking switch, currently off.

#83245 Test Pattern

I put the boot on my hand, then throw the switch. There's a very quiet hum, and the 'ACTV' button glows red.

#83379 Test Pattern

I push the button. There's a computer chirp, and a growing hum.

#83397 Test Pattern

It's coming from near the tube.

#83398 Test Pattern

Hey, what's this?

#83399 Test Pattern


#83424 Test Pattern

Ah! Ow! Fuck!

#83432 Test Pattern

I open the circuit!

The arcing bolts weaken, and then stop.

#83477 Test Pattern

Check to see how badly you were burned by the electricity.
The bolt arced into my hand, then out my foot. I have small but painful surface burns on my left hand and leg, plus across my midsection. Don't seem too terribly bad.

Apart from that, I just feel like an airplane crashed into my chest.

investigate the big door
Same as before, it's big and thick and I can't move it. There's a key-card slot next to it.

#83484 Test Pattern

Are there any pockets on that coat?

Currently carrying, uh...

#83490 Test Pattern

You seriously dropped the keycard?
I took it out earlier when I was messing with the other key. It's not melted or anything.

It doesn't fit in the slot the wide way. Doesn't do anything the narrow way. Well, a red light comes on, but I don't think the red light's what I'm after.

#83497 Test Pattern

Examine that keycard.
OK. That's the same name as is on my new jacket.

Both sides.
The back's just bar codes.

How do you know what an airplane is?
Same reason I know what electricity is, or bar codes, or jackets. idea.

#83504 Test Pattern

Maybe it DID work and the light was SUPPOSED to be red. Maybe.
Yeah. Maybe it's one of those automatic doors that stays closed when you activate it.

#83533 Test Pattern

there's what looks like a card slot just below the monitor. Try the card there.
The computer screen changed since I last saw it. Probably from the electricity arcing everywhere.

When I put the card in, it starts booting up.

Hug self?
...would that be like hugging you voices? Or would I need to hug my head for that?

#83538 Test Pattern

Okay. The thing starts up. It wants a password, but I can log in as a guest.

I'm not familiar with this crap, but it seems fairly straightforward.

I can either click things at random, or you can tell me what to look for.

The first file I clicked on was password protected, so don't get mad if I can't actually open much stuff.

It's unlikely you're going to get the emotional benefits of a normal hug without another person involved, so, y'know, whatever.
Owing to present circumstances, I am willing to seriously consider the possibility that I am completely insane.

#83550 Test Pattern

FIND: Qillig
Pulls up a big pile of what look like journal entries, most of which I can't open. The rest are long and meandering.

This is really wordy. I'm just going to skim, if that's fine by you.

Harold Qillig was a person, a human, I think, assigned to 'Quadrant Five.' He came here, and 'here' is called 'High Sec 3,' I think, from time to time to check up on things. He seemed interesting in some creatures he calls 'Ophion,' 'Nyx,' and 'Phanes,' and some kind of alien machine called 'Tethys.'

FIND: Tozol
Narrows down the previous list. A 'Tozol' is what they store in this room, I think.

Weird. The word ONLY brings up journal entries. Nothing that looks official.

Well, you're not so insane as to be incapacitated by it, at least.

#83560 Test Pattern

browse the web.
Connection is down. In fact, I can't even access a local network.

try and drag up a name for this place.
Just keeps pulling up Quadrant Five. Maybe that's it?

Can you read any of the 'tozol' journey entries?
Uhhh... Here's an early one:
"Eerie. This room is eerie. The kill switch is within arm's reach. Is always within arm's reach. They used to keep the tozol guarded constantly. It seems so weak. Like a person."

After this is a list of scientific and medical talk I don't understand.

#83570 Test Pattern

I'd see if you can skim any of the "Tozol" entries for anything useful.
Most of these are useless and perplexing. They're clearly written assuming that the reader already knows all of the shit I'm trying to find out.

Even then, it's getting less interesting as I go. Blah blah, no change, blah blah, no change...

Wait, this one's different.

"The tozol hasn't so much as twitched since I've started taking these records. The thrill of this research is largely gone where this one is concerned. The younger bioengineering subjects hold my interest now. Nothing's happening here. Nothing will happen. I'm just here to record the fact that nothing's changed since the last recording, and watch its endless sleep.

Does it dream?

I imagine not. The skin's closed up, but the rot remains. The brain is finished. It tries and tries to heal, but it's like trying to un-burn ashes.

Vital signs unchanged and minimal."

#84025 Test Pattern

I guess we're a side-effect of the treatment they did on you, or just the brain damage.
Who knows? This might just be how my brain's supposed to work. Okay, probably not.

Does the computer display a time? Compare it to the dates on the journal entries you can find.
It's 24:09, 6/13/2204

Qillig's journal entries start in 2202 and end last month.

Search Ophion, Nyx, Phanes, Tethys
The vast majority of these files are locked or not resident. 'Ophion', 'Nyx', and 'Phanes' are experimental biotechnology... creatures... kept in this portion of the facility. Mutated or engineered or... something. 'Tethys' is code for some kind of artifact that was recovered a long time ago, from something called the 'Athelhom Impact Event.'

What's the last entry for Tozol?
"The tozol's of no further use. What seemed like an assignment of prestige is clearly a joke they play on the new guy. A joke that has gone on for far too long. No matter. I've talked down the number of analyses per quarter.

Keeping this thing sedated is a waste of perfectly good toxins. I can't believe they expect it to wake up. All efforts to gain useful data from its structure have proven unsatisfactory. I'd just destroy it now if I had the authority. If the Diplomats find out about this project, it'll be on all our heads."

#84050 Test Pattern

something or at least something to eat or whatever.
Nom nom nom nom.

This tastes pretty awful. No wonder they were all unopened.

I guess open up the other tube.
It's empty, unless you mean scour the walls and stuff?

#84067 Test Pattern

Try searching for safe codes in the computer if you haven't done so already.
Oh! That seems pretty obvious now that you mention it.

Let's see...

#84069 Test Pattern

"... Matthei was on my case again about the keycard. I locked it in the safe. (Can't remember why.) I don't see the point. We're not even allowed to operate in High Sec zones without someone watching from the control point to open all the doors for us.

Reminder: Safe combination is the base number, then that plus forty, then THAT minus eleven."

#84080 Test Pattern

5 - 45 - 34
Naw, see, 'Quadrant Five' is a play on words. 'Quadrant' just means you're splitting something up four ways, into four quadrants. You can't have a fifth quadrant. It's not a base n-

#84082 Test Pattern

Oh, it worked!

Inside is a gun, a key card, and a scrap of paper with '2914' written on it.

#84098 Test Pattern

Pose as a team cause SHIT JUST GOT REAL. No, it doesn't matter that your team is only yourself.
The voices in my head make me feel less alone.

Yeah. I'm crazy. I'm crazy and I've got a gun.

#84106 Test Pattern

See if the codes unlock files on the computer.
"HINT: Name of old girlfriend's pet + Molecular weight of favorite food"

Check what's on the other side if the paper.

#84117 Test Pattern

Did we get a new name off of the keycard?
This one just says 'HI SEC.'

Search his journal entries for 'girlfriend' and 'food' anyway.
This returns one text file:

"Quit trying to guess my password."

#84131 Test Pattern

Type in that you have awakened. Then try the new keycard on the door.

Alright, fuckers.

#84133 Test Pattern

Here I come.

Tozol Quest: Thread 2

#94645 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880

# Chapter 3 - From What Hell Have You Crawled?

#94646 Test Pattern

The card chimes, the reader blinks green, and the heavy, automatic door slides open.

#94651 Test Pattern

I'm in an empty hallway. It leads from a flat wall to my left, to a closed door to my right. Another part branches off in the direction I'm facing. Fluorescents buzz quietly.

The doors all have card locks.

#94677 Test Pattern

Examine that fusebox thing

It would seem to be a fuse box.

Do you know how to use the gun?
I... don't know!

#94713 Test Pattern

I lean around and peek down the hallway. No targets.

It seems you know at least something about guns, your stance looks kinda professional to me.
It seemed the proper way.

#94739 Test Pattern

Time for lights out. Open up the Fusebox.
Hmm. That looks wrong.

#94757 Test Pattern

You might have been left behind.
That sounds bad. On the other hand, these guys did have my tube wired up with that lightning thingy.

Flip the first switch.
Okay. Nothing happens, near as I can tell.

See if you can remove the covering above the fuses and wiring.
For what purpose? They've got thick cladding. I can probably peel them open if I work at it, but it might hurt some of the wires inside.

#94765 Test Pattern

Flip the main switch. then

The lights go out.

All the sound stops.

#94777 Test Pattern

No night vision then?
I guess not. I feel my eyes trying to adjust. It's... giving me a headache, actually.

listen for anything.
I hear the faintest... maybe footsteps? It's gone now.

The harder I concentrate, the more my head hurts. Starting to feel mild nausea.

#94791 Test Pattern

On. On. Turn on now. No getting sick.
Yeah. I turn the power back on and reverse the other switch I hit. The fuse box is now how I found it, other than the cover plate.

That was really strange. I felt like I should be seeing and hearing... more. But the more I tried, the more everything felt bad. I feel a little dizzy.

What do I do now?

#94807 Test Pattern

The HS3 S1 door.
It takes a few tries, maybe because the power just went off and on, but the door whirrs open.

Looks like some storage room. There's a chest, and a big drawer.

#94823 Test Pattern

I just yank the camera out of its housing, to avoid damaging the pistol.

I think I broke it.

What do I open first?

#94842 Test Pattern

Try opening the thing you're standing on.
It's locked, but I manage to break the mechanism and oh dear.

#94858 Test Pattern

Do you recognizes what kinda creature those bones are from?
Vaguely. Hunams... or something?
The skull looks nothing like yours.
Are you just basing that on the shape of my head, or is there something you need to tell me?
Dig through the bones for useful stuff, if you're not squeamish.
Well, it's not like it died recently... uh...

These are a little damp, actually.

Hey, if there's a long, thick bone, you could use it as a needed melee weapon.
I have a stun gun. Should I have a club too? My pockets are getting full.

#94875 Test Pattern

I wipe my hand off on my sleeve. After a few seconds, it starts to hiss and discolor the fabric. A few seconds later, there's a hole in it.

...I just got this thing!

#94893 Test Pattern

whoa damn thats..wait what it doesnt burn you?
Itches a little. No smoke. No real pain. No visible damage.

#94913 Test Pattern

Speaking of the drawers, open them.
First one contains!

...packages containing rolls of tape, markers, writing implements, and batteries.

Should I open them all and mention the interesting bits?

#94924 Test Pattern

Mumble grumble...

More tape, lots of different kinds of tape.
Several towels. I use one to get the rest of the goo off my hand and crumple it up on the floor.
Wire, both insulated and non, cables with metal cladding...
Cartridges that look like they hold ink. Cartridges that look like they go to small air filters.
Lots of computer things. Drives, discs, and the like.
Random spare parts I can't fathom the purpose of.
Instruction manuals for esoteric pieces of scientific equipment.
Paper, pencils, ink, glue...
A soldering iron, a multitool, a small power drill kit.
Aaaand a pair of scissors.

#94938 Test Pattern


Now what?

#94950 Test Pattern

Well, the two doors we haven't tried are 'Control' and 'Back Access'.
There's also 'HS3-S3.' Not including HS3-S1, where I just came from, and HS3-S2, where I woke up.
Let's check the control room first

The card works, and I scan the room. It's empty and stark white. Eerie.

#94968 Test Pattern

Examine the floor plan.

Damn. It's not for the whole facility.

#94985 Test Pattern

Go to the middle, sit down in the chair.
It's enclosed in thick transparent walls, with a metal frame along all the edges. It looks too sturdy to break into.

There's a keypad lock on the back.

#94991 Suggestion

Enter '2914' into the keypad.

#95006 Test Pattern

I enter the number from the piece of paper with the creepy drawing of me on the back. The back wall of the compartment slides into the floor, and I get into the chair.

There's three keyboards full of buttons and a card reader. I don't see any actual screens.

#95017 Test Pattern

Qillig's ID card makes the machine boot.


#95018 Test Pattern


#95027 Test Pattern

Unlock Lab Control.
I do so.
I'm not sure if I can get there without opening Live Storage Outer, though, guessing from the map. Possibly Inner, too. Not certain.

For now, let's check out the Autopsy and Analysis rooms.
Um... Which one first?

#95036 Test Pattern

((Game Paused))

#97244 Test Pattern

I step into the autopsy room. The room reeks of chemicals and sour meat.

#97251 Test Pattern

Let's have a look at everything
To the left is a big shelf full of chemicals and stuff. There's a big cabinet at the far end of the room, next to a computer. There's a gurney with congealed blood on it, with equipment pointing down. There's another one of those turret cameras on the ceiling, but it's not rotating or pointing at me. There's a fridge to my right, and further down the room is a hose and a sink.

#97260 Test Pattern

Move over to the cabinet, but keep an eye on that camera
It doesn't seem to be tracking. I can see the lens through the cover and it's not pointed at me.

What now?

#97271 Test Pattern

Open the cabinet. Brace for impact.
As the doors swing open I catch a glimpse of movement inside! I ready my oh it's a mirror.

There's also a cardboard box, uhh... jars full of organs and stuff, more jars of weird chemicals, a cardboard box, a lockbox, and a giant thermos.

#97277 Test Pattern

Check those jars, are they labeled?
Sort of. Not really. No.

Hey, a bag.
Oh, that. It looks more like a toolbox, actually, with drawers that slide out. Full of surgery tools, looks like.

we are gonna say to check everything
There's a lot of things here. Most of it's jars of weird chemicals. Should I focus on anything in particular?

#97289 Test Pattern

Cardboard box ought to prove interesting.
Why do you say that?

Inside is a note, a ring with two keys on it, a circuit diagram, and a can of spray paint.

Flash the came- No, that's silly
I'm pretty sure they have a good idea of what I look like naked by now.

#97295 Test Pattern

read note

a raggedy doll that has boobs
W... what did you just call me?

#97297 Test Pattern

take keys

read diagram

#97305 Test Pattern

Oh, and I forgot to tell you, there's another scar on the back of your head.
Well, there's a spot that itches, but I'm not sure if... Oh! It feels the same as the one over my left eye.

#97310 Test Pattern

Take keys. Anything on that shelf require keys?
Just the 'counter' box, I think.

Inside are two tubes, more fully labeled 'COUNTER-SUPPRESS.' There's a hole at one end of each, and a thumb switch.

#97320 Test Pattern

The blood you say has coagulated, is it within your powers to deduce how much time has passed between now, and when it was first spilled?
Uhh... maybe a day?

Also, how do you know so much stuff
I don't know. I have no memory prior to waking up in the tube.
as well as a firm grasp on decency and proper etiquette
I put the coat on because you told me to.

Put them in your pocket
I put the 'Counter Suppress' tubes in my pockets, along with the keys, and the diagram, since none of us seem to be too solid in the memory department.

Now what? Search more here, or go somewhere else?

#97336 Test Pattern

It's just jars and containers and little boxes with jars and containers in them.

...wait, that box looks different.

#97342 Test Pattern

Be careful with not to touch the blood with your tails?.
Okay. Touching it with my finger is cool, though, right?
How do they actually work? Do you really control them, and are they useful for anything?
They move without me thinking about it. Except I just thought about it.
I'm not sure what they're for. They keep waving around and feeling over everything I come near, though.

#97352 Test Pattern

Open and examine the box to see if there's any more information about what this Suppress stuff does.


Inside are three cylinders similar to the 'counter suppress' ones, with a hole in one end and a button on the side.

For all we know you could have some active on you right now, keeping you from performing at your best.
That makes sense. I still don't know what those tubes in my arm were injecting into me. I felt okay for awhile after I woke up for the first time, but then felt worse.

#97353 Test Pattern


#97387 Test Pattern

If you really were shot, then the best explanation for your two scars is that the bullet whizzed right through your skull - possibly damaged your brain some.
That is... upsettingly reasonable. But it'd be more than 'some.' If a projectile went between the two scars, it'd pass almost through the center of my brain.

I think you should just use a counter-suppress now.
Are you sure?

#97390 Test Pattern


#97649 Test Pattern

Don't do it.
Okay. Forget it.

#97650 Test Pattern

Now what do I do?

I could search more of the room, or mess around with the computer in the corner, or go back to the control room and maybe try to open up Live Storage or the exit, or do something else entirely.

#97700 Test Pattern

There's nothing on the computer console that could relate to the logic diagram. I open a panel and look inside anyway, but the circuitry is vastly more complex than that.

I insert the ID card and boot up. This machine has no network connectivity, just like the other two I've used. Think that might have something to do with the 'BATT ONLY' reading I saw in the fuse box?

This looks like an archive, with pictures and videos and stuff for different autopsies. It's not very user friendly. Should I be looking for anything in particular?

#97730 Test Pattern

These seem categorized by case entries. So all the notes and things are all under the same autopsy heading. There's only one case entry for Tozol.

#97737 Test Pattern


#97759 Test Pattern


Better not.

try to remember why you had so many bullet holes in your body
I don't know. I would assume to make me die.

Apparently what you're made of is... metal.
It's bone. Dark gray bone. Is that unusual?

Check your own body for matching marks.
There's a little mark now in the spot where there's a big hole in the video, over my left eye. There's a matching one on the back of my head, so I guess it went all the way through.

#97797 Test Pattern

Calm down Penji
I'll try.

Is there anything in the file besides the image?
There's some video. Some text. I don't really want to look at it more.

this just proves you're really, really strong.
I don't...

#97798 Test Pattern

I don't feel very strong right now.

# Chapter 4 - Hall of The Dead

#99365 Test Pattern

I stumble out of the autopsy room. It smells too much like death.

#99368 Test Pattern

Back in the control room. Feel a little better.

What should I do now?

Could probably head back into Autopsy if we need to. I'd rather not, though.

#99382 Test Pattern

Hug yourself since we don't have form.

#99399 Test Pattern

If it's any consolation, I didn't see shattered bone or anything. Just shredded skin.
There was definitely a hole in my skull, with cratering around the edges. It was roughly at the center of the circle described by the destroyed skin, above my left eye socket.

I think I could see brain inside. Judging from the mark at the back of my head... you know, let's think about something else.

#99429 Test Pattern

Unlock the Live Storage entrance door and check it out.
I unlock the many doors in Live Storage, from the control center, and carefully enter. They seem to still needs a keycard to open. That's a good sign, I guess. Means nothing inside will open the doors on their own. Unless THEY have a keycard, of course.

You're rather clinical about the whole "I got shot in the face" thing.
Would you prefer... 'ouch'?

Yes. I was shot in the head and forty years passed and now I'm awake and locked in some facility with a machine rigged up to electrocute me to death, and a skeleton with the flesh dissolved off of it, and an autopsy table covered in congealed blood and... and...

Okay, there are three doors. I walked past a fourth, 'lab control,' to my right and behind me, because I was more worried about making sure the cell doors were closed. There's another on on the right which says 'specimen lab.'

#99473 Test Pattern

Check Lab Control

Blood everywhere. Computers all broken. No body. No parts.

#99484 Test Pattern

What are those objects under the terminal in the corner opposite you?
Shards of broken glass from a broken computer monitor build into the wall.

How the hell many computers does this place need!?

Hopefully a few less than it was built with.

Uh oh. How fresh is the blood?
I don't know. About as old as what's in the autopsy room?

#99496 Test Pattern

Is it just me, or do those bloody footprints look like your feet?
I have three toes per foot. Two forward, one back. These look like they have two forward, two kinda back and to the sides. Others are like those boots I found earlier. I guess that's the dead guy, maybe?

Search for anything of significance. Otherwise leave.
Everything's... really broken. I don't see how I can learn much more from it, unless I learn to read hard computer storage by sheer force of will.

Where should I go?

#99507 Test Pattern

I slide open the viewslit for Cell 1.

Looks empty.

#99523 Test Pattern

I check Cell 2.

#99534 Test Pattern

Now would be a good time to go get something reflective.
This one's got a mirror on the far wall. I can see the door and the walls around it, which seem clear. As far as I can see, whatever's on the floor to the right is the only tangible thing in the room, apart from the toilet.

...also, there's glass or plexiglass in the viewslit port. I think I can get it open.

#99543 Test Pattern

Try tapping on the door to see if you get some kind of response?
*tap tap tap*

No response.

#99584 Test Pattern

I open the door and carefully creep inside.

No response.

#99619 Test Pattern

Nudge it with your foot. Prepare for surprise attack.
Whatever it is, it'd better nAAAAAAAAH!

#99677 Test Pattern

I yank the stun gun out of my pocket and give the creature a zap to the face.

It's not going down, but it recoils. My foot's free.

#99703 Test Pattern

Utilize it, upper kick it directly in the face.

Its head snaps back.

#99735 Test Pattern

Shock its boobs, that should keep it down for a while.

The creature makes a high scream. It doesn't seem as interested in attacking me now.

#99770 Test Pattern

"Hungry," it says, licking my blood off its teeth. "Sorry. Hungry. Uh."

#99771 Test Pattern

" taste just like poison."

#99800 Test Pattern

"Maybe you shouldn't have bit me," I say.

"Oh no... Ohh... You taste like Suppress," says the creature. It gets on its hands and knees and starts coughing up blood and bile.

"Will you die without an antidote?" I ask.

"I don't think, but that'd be great..."

#100244 Test Pattern

"What's Suppress do?" I ask.

The creature just coughs.

"Okay. Do you want some Counter?" I ask. "I think that's antidote."

It nods.

#100279 Test Pattern

I give the creature a Counter-Suppress and a ration and back off, keeping the pistol trained on it.

It quickly backs into the corner again and fumbles to inject itself. It is now armed with a needle.

It sounds like either this "suppress" stuff is very strong, or you've got a shitload of it in your system, because all she did was bite you and that was apparently enough to fuck her up.
So you think I should use the other needle on me?

#100312 Test Pattern

I give the creature some time to calm down.

"Have a name, claws?" I ask.

"Mitzi," it says.

"What's Suppress?"

"Makes me weak. Tired. Sick. Can't do things right. You've got it in your blood. I had some in me already, though. Feel better now."

"What are you?" I ask.

"I'm a human. What are you?"

#100338 Test Pattern

I remember the skeleton I found.

"No, you're something else," I say. "Humans don't have claws and teeth like that. Theirs are more square."

She looks at me and doesn't respond. Her eyes change.

"I think I'm called a Tozol," I say.

"I don't know what that is."

"Does Suppress wear off?" I ask.


#100350 Test Pattern

That was rude Penji, real rude.
But she isn't one. You just said so. What should I be saying?

Shoot up the fucking counter-suppress already.
Okay. I think I can train my gun on her with one hand while I get the syringe with the other.

#100373 Test Pattern

"Sorry," I say. "For saying that. I just... Look, I have to go."

"Don't leave me here," Mitzi says. She sounds firm, but doesn't leave the corner.

"I'll be right back. I just have to do something."

"Let me out first!" Mitzi says.

#100377 Test Pattern

I close the door and roll up my sleeve.

#100413 Test Pattern

Not to be a contradicting voice here darling. But please don't do that.
No. We've made a decision and we're sticking to it. If I don't, we're just going to keep wondering. Besides, if it didn't mess that creature up, it's probably not going to

#100417 Test Pattern


#100441 Test Pattern

Pain. Moving outward. Growing steadily more intense.

#100452 Test Pattern

Pain I've felt for a long time. So long I didn't even remember it was pain. Only just now realizing it.

#100471 Test Pattern

That's a new voice.

I think I might need a minute, here.

#100506 Test Pattern

What new voice do you speak of?
It's not quite like you. It's not a discrete voice. It's more, thoughts. Images. And it's not telling me things. It's asking them.

At any rate, your natural regenerative ability should be kicking in to fix things.
Yes. Finally.

#100523 Test Pattern

This seems crazy, but we already know I'm crazy, so I'd might as well go forward with it.

I think I'm becoming aware of my microbiology.

It's been, well, suppressed. A lot of me has. There's parts that are still broken.

There's also more of that drug in my bloodstream. I countered some of it, but there's more. There's also what feels like little particles inside me. Tiny machines that aren't supposed to be there.

I can try to purge them, but it'll take time and energy.

#100554 Test Pattern

Both of which are in short supply.
More than you know... Well, the energy part, I mean. I have no idea how much time we have.

What I mean is, it's not just the machines. My circulatory system, many of my muscles, and my senses have problems. I can just try to let everything heal at the same rate, or I can focus on an area.

I can focus on increasing my ENDURANCE by repairing my heart, or my PRIMARY SENSES, my eyes, or SECONDARY SENSES, my ears and tails, or my SPEED by repairing flaws in my muscles.

You know what? Fuck it. Inject another C-S.
Both tubes are empty. I bet Mitzi didn't really need the whole thing, either.

How tiny are we talking? Implant-tiny, artificial-organ tiny, or nanobot-tiny?
Micro but not nano... I think.

#100609 Test Pattern

I focus on repairing my circulatory system.

One of my hemi-hearts is damaged. The other half can function on its own, but not very well.

It may take some time to see results.

The micromachines aren't supposed to be there, but do you know if they are helping or hurting?

Hey, are the tiny machines moving around at all?
They're just floating in my bloodstream, as far as I can tell.

#100649 Test Pattern

How are you holding up ya loony?

#100650 Test Pattern


#100651 Test Pattern

Not so good.

Tozol Quest: Thread 3

#103192 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645

# Chapter 5 - Old Machines

#103196 Test Pattern

The door to the Specimen Lab opened on its own. There's a tracked robot looking at me. A small red light on its head came on, followed by a larger, amber one.

#103207 Test Pattern

Well, wait to see what it does.
Okay. It's not making any hostile motions. Just rolling slowly out of the lab towards me.

It's not like it can really hurt you.
I mentioned it's got a turret, right? It has two barrels. One large-caliber, one small. It's not really-...

Wait. The amber light just turned red.

#103236 Test Pattern

A map of our present location for places to run would be much helpful.
Not really a lot of room to maneuver! The hallway is narrow and not long in any direction. About the only way to maneuver at all would be to get past it into the lab, or into another room.

I can open any of the doors around me, including the one behind me, but it'll take a second.

#103290 Test Pattern

I take a shot, hitting it in the center of the head, where the smaller red light was, and start dashing.

#103291 Test Pattern

It's still moving, but hasn't fired yet.

#103308 Test Pattern

Move to the side slightly
I move, and just far enough to miss a shot from the larger barrel.

Looks like some kind of launcher, rather than a real cannon. The dart it fires is large and fast enough to send metal fragments spinning as it hits the cell door, however!

#103360 Test Pattern

I run and take a leap over the machine before it can fire again.

Shit! It clamps down on my ankle!

#103387 Test Pattern

Drop your hands and use your leg as leverage against the side, kick with all your might.
I scrabble to gain purchase against the machine's moving treads. Having a gun in one hand doesn't help.

The machine grabs my leg with another arm and slams me into the wall.

#103474 Test Pattern

Shoot the arm, aim for the joints.
It keeps throwing me around, but I take careful aim and shoot, hitting the joint of the first arm that grabbed me, nicking the second, and somehow managing to avoid hitting myself.
It's still holding me, but it's been significantly weakened. Should I focus on freeing myself, keeping moving, shooting more, or something else?

#103904 Test Pattern

that the thing still seems to be able to tell where we are and what appear to be four to seven guns on its head
They're cameras. That's probably how it can see me.

#103909 Test Pattern

Does it have any obvious sensors? Engage those.
I engage a hole right through the biggest one.

#104001 Test Pattern

Either tear yourself free from the weakened arms or keep destroying the cameras.
I multitask! The bullet just deflects off the corner of its head, but I rip free of the machine's grip, taking a claw with me.

The turret's tracking me again!

#104049 Test Pattern

I crawl up close to the bot, below the depression of its guns.

"Hello?!" I yell. "Turn this off! Do it or I'll break it!"

#104056 Test Pattern

"More, I mean!" I yell.

watch its hands and tracks.
Its tracks start to move in rev-FUCK! MY EAR!

#104083 Test Pattern

Grab the gun barrels with your hands.
I grab the barrels and push. The mechanisms howl and grind. I force the guns to maximum elevation, and the robot's suspension tilts. I might be able to flip it over!

#104099 Test Pattern

I keep pushing. I try swinging around, but I can't get enough purchase against the floor to overwhelm the turret mechanism.

I feel a tight, cold grip around my neck.

#104125 Test Pattern

Are you capable of using the gun with your strange clawfeet?
I can try!

#104127 Test Pattern


I manage to put a round through the shoulder joint. The arm freezes, locking around my neck. I can still breathe, with effort.

The gun's down to two rounds, meaning the robot has more cameras than I've got bullets.

#104146 Test Pattern

Managing not to get my hands caught in the treads, I flip the thing on its side. It was too busy trying to grab at me to catch itself, but I hear it trying to right itself now.

The gun barrels try to retract again, but they seem stuck.

The whole machine's become a racket of clicking and whirring and grinding.

#104182 Test Pattern

rip and tear
I don't see a significant seam or fracture I can grab hold of.

So I make one.

#104194 Test Pattern

I rip the belly plate off and yank out cables and components.

This is pretty fun!

#104201 Test Pattern

I think we're done here.

#104202 Test Pattern

What next?

# Chapter 6 - Monsters

#108674 Test Pattern

Carefully, I turn to the mutant's cell.

I have only one bullet left.

#108999 Test Pattern

I let the creature out. She seems hostile, but cautious. More nervous than when I left her.

"Do you have any more Counter-Suppress?" I ask.

"No. I needed it."

"I needed it more," I say.

"No way," she says. "I saw what you just did."

#109003 Suggestion

Well that wasn't very nice either, you should apologize again. It's true though, you kick ass.

Ask her what she did prior to your meeting, see if she still has her memory.

#109013 Test Pattern

"Sorry about locking you up," I say. "I didn't know if it was safe. Guess it wasn't."

I'm not technically lying.

"Right. Fine," she says.

"What are in the other cells?" I ask.

"My brother's in three. Can you get him out?"

#109018 Test Pattern

"Is HE gonna bite my foot?" I ask.

"I could walk in front."

"Then sure."

She stands there for several more seconds, just staring at me.

"What ARE you?" she asks for the second time.

#109040 Test Pattern

"I don't know," I say. "I don't remember anything before, uh... about two hours ago. And I spent an hour of that asleep. I don't even know my name."

"Oh..." says Mitzi. "Cause that was going to be my next-"

"Call me Penji."

Say, Penj, have you had a good look at your own anatomy? It's clearly different from a human from what we can see, but even those things that seem close to human... what are they like?
I don't really know anything about humans.
Are your fingers the same, are they clawed or stronger or sturdier?
I have small, retractable claws. They don't seem good for hurting things. Maybe they're so I can grab onto things?
Is your spine more, less flexible?
All I've seen of a human spine was a little pile of vertebrae. So... Less flexible than that.
How long can you hold your breath?
I don't know. Maybe ten minutes if I'm not doing anything, at a guess? My endurance is getting better as I heal.
Do you have similar lungs, digestion, skeleton?
The bones in the box had cylindrical ribs. I have bands and small plates protecting my torso.
Reproductive organs...? :3c
Yes. Why?

#109047 Test Pattern

Hey, did your ear regenerate completely already?
((Nope! I just fucked up drawing it.))

#109243 Suggestion

Ask Tazer Tits if she knows who 'Ophion', 'Nyx', or 'Phanes' are. Also does she know anything about the 'Athelhom Impact Event' or some kind of alien machine called 'Tethys.'

>Search Ophion, Nyx, Phanes, Tethys
The vast majority of these files are locked or not resident. 'Ophion', 'Nyx', and 'Phanes' are experimental biotechnology... creatures... kept in this portion of the facility. Mutated or engineered or... something. 'Tethys' is code for some kind of artifact that was recovered a long time ago, from something called the 'Athelhom Impact Event.'
'Ophion', 'Nyx', and 'Phanes' are experimental biotechnology... creatures... kept in this portion of the facility.
kept in this portion of the facility.

I think we found one of them......
The second is in cell 3 and the third one is likely responsible for the mess in lab control and autopsy.

Forget about asking Mitzi if she knows anything about the experimental creatures. Ask her which one she is.

#109564 Test Pattern

I think back to the file.

"Do you know anything about Ophion, Phanes, or, uh..."

"I'm Nyx," she says. "They called my brother Ophion. His real name's Marcus."

"What's Tethys?"

"I dunno," she says. "Can we let him out, now? Or does it take awhile?"

"Well, wait a second," I say. "Something to do with the... Athelom Impact Event?"

"Athelhom? That was the town that got blown up, right?"

#109592 Test Pattern

"It's just a name I saw," I say. "Like the others."

I walk past her, and open the view slit to cell three.

#109609 Test Pattern

Turn around and look for any hostility
Mitzi's looking in. She stares through for awhile.

"Nyx, I'm sorry..."

"Open the fucking door," she says. "Whatever you are."

#109615 Test Pattern

Mitzi heads for the body under the blanket. I check my corners.

There's another corpse. Human, I guess. This one's wearing a lab coat.

#109616 Test Pattern

"This... this isn't him." Mitzi says. She doesn't sound sure. "Can't be. Can't be."

#110325 Test Pattern

I examine the dead thing in the corner while Mitzi continues examining the one under the blanket. It has rough lacerations and tears in its skin on the neck, face, arms... pretty much anywhere I check.

Check if the corpse is wearing clothes other than a lab coat.
It's got more on, yeah. Pants and shoes and stuff. One of the labcoat pockets has a rectangular device. The other pockets are empty. One's pulled inside out.

What's that up in the corner of the ceiling? Broken camera?
Yes. Point impact of some kind broke the lens. A little more precise than what I've been doing to them.

#110369 Test Pattern

Look over at Mitzi, see how she's doing.
She's sitting by the other corpse. She put the blanket back on it.

Neither of us say anything.

#110381 Test Pattern

Grab the rectangular thing.
It's shaped sorta like the stun gun, but with an array of little domes, lenses, and a fold-out antenna instead of the prongs, facing off at an angle. I hold those parts away from me.

There's a readout, currently blank, on the side opposite the lenses. There's a thumb switch, with a plastic cover, and another switch for my finger. There's also a little dial, labeled 'A' through 'I.' It's currently set to 'A.'

There's a computer port on the base. It doesn't look like any I've seen so far.

#110397 Test Pattern

You say one of those buttons has a safety cover?
Yep. It's not locked or anything. I can just flip it open.

That's a scanner. You need to plug it into a computer database to retrieve base data and to input ner data.
That might make sense. It'd explain all the sensor-type things on the front. But what the hell does it scan?

#110410 Test Pattern

...Just to be safe, how about Penji tries to scan the dead scientist instead?
I point it at the dead human without pressing any buttons. Nothing happens. Surprise!

#110416 Test Pattern

Tap the finger button.
No go.

#110433 Test Pattern

look for a on/off button/switch.
There are TWO buttons on the device: The one that doesn't do anything, and the one you don't want me to push.

Should I just leave it here? My pockets are full.

I guess I could take the dead person's pants, but they're ripped and drenched in blood and probably don't fit me.

#110442 5Copper

ask mitzi to hold it. it may need batteries.

ask mitzi if she found anything asides her brother's last week dinner bleeding everywhere.

#110476 Test Pattern

"Hey," I say. "Mitzi. Found anything?"

"It's got no skin," she says.

"Oh. Well, that's bad," I say awkwardly.

"I don't think it's him," she says.

"Then that's not so bad," I say.

"That means he left me here," she says. "Or he's dead."

#110515 Test Pattern

"Then we'll find him," I say. "Or we'll kill whoever murdered him. Now hug me. I'm soft and fuzzy."

I hug her.

"Thanks," she says, after awhile. "And you're... um... good at killing things."

#110530 Test Pattern

"Only killed one thing so far," I say.

"That was the robot they'd use to take me into the lab when I didn't want to."

"Well, now it's dead, and we can work on getting out of here," I say. "So we can find some more stuff to kill."


#110565 Test Pattern

I leave her to try and salvage some clothes from the blanket and the dead guy.

Dead not-brother guy doesn't have anything interesting on him, right?
No loot. No clothes. No skin. Or at least not nearly as much as he ought. No wonder Mitzi couldn't tell.

"So, that gadget I was waving around. What's that?"

"Beats me," she says.

"What's in the lab?"

"Bad stuff," she says.

"Anything useful?"

"No." She says it without hesitation.

"Okay... Any ideas how to get out of here?"

"Open the door."

"How?" I ask.

"Well... what's keeping it closed?"

#110574 Suggestion

I'm still curious about what is in the lab. Maybe take a quick peek?

#111518 Test Pattern

I check out the Specimen Lab while I'm waiting.

How many rooms do these guys need to kill someone in?

#111539 Test Pattern

See if you can dislodge the machine gun from its holder
Thick barrel with no muzzle brake, looks connected to a floor socket, no large ammunition box visible... I think it's a coilgun. Probably has to be connected to the building's power to work. The mounting also looks heavy-duty. I might be able to break it if I put some ass into it. Can't tell just by looking.

So that belt along the floor.
Seems to be rails. Like, for moving this equipment around. The rails lead to the door on the opposite wall. I don't see any means of opening it form this side.

#111547 Test Pattern

How fresh is the blood?
A day, maybe? I don't know much about human blood. Or mutant blood.

The splatter is a little funny.

#111557 Test Pattern

What's those doo-hickies right next to you, next to the coilgun?
The one closer to the door I came in is some kind of beefy dish looking thing at the end of a big, durable looking case. Maybe some kind of energy projector?

The one on the other side, that I'm messing with now, looks like a big camera with a ton of lenses and stuff.

What's that window behind the Coilgun?
Leads to the Lab Control room. I guess they'd sit in there and make things happen here.

Whatever the method, get to that computer.
There's four monitors covered in thick, transparent material. They're turned off. I see no obvious controls.

Don't step on the belt though.
What belt?

#111570 Test Pattern

Go to the lab control room unless you've been there already.
Been there. Place is fucking trashed. If the stuff in this room got controlled from there, I'm not going to be doing much with computers.

Now speaking of blood, what's so strange about that blood splatter?
Well, it looks like the wall got splattered by the coilgun, right? Except there's a whole lot at the edge between the wall and the floor, instead of being centered right under the frame. There's also not really that much blood on the restraints themselves.

What's the door to?
Going by the map I found, it leads to 'Lab Back Access,' or something like that.

#111606 Test Pattern

Or perhaps instead all this blood is from someone or something getting shot and killed while it was not restrained
The gun doesn't look made to rotate, at least not quickly. Why would anyone stand directly in line with th-I move out of the way.

#111620 Test Pattern

can it -tilt?- Like up and down?
Sure. Is that important...?

...Maybe the gun fires blood or something.
Or water balloons full of blood! Made out of something that dissolves in air!

#111642 Test Pattern

Is the door locked?
The one at the far wall, yeah.

Let's get going before one of the weapons decides to randomly fire and kill us.
This place is dead anyway.

#111643 Test Pattern

I return to the hallway.

Mitzi is here.

#111656 Test Pattern

"Nice outfit," I say.

"I look like a flintstone."


"Forget it."

"Ah. Uh. Upset about something?" I ask.

"Lotta somethings. I'm just finally getting lucid enough to mull them over," she says. "For starters, what's happened to me. And how much time I've lost."

#113903 Test Pattern

"I don't know about you," I say, "But apparently I've been in a jar for forty years."

"Wow," she says. "And you can't remember anything."

"No," I say. I don't mention the autopsy. "And you?"

"Just stuff," she says. "My last name's Tibur. I was studying engineering. Me and my brother were called in for genetic screening. They injected me with something. I ended up here, in a haze. Lost track of everything. Now I can grow claws and who knows what else."

"And your eyes," I say.


"Your pupils keep changing shape."

"Great," she says.

"Anything useful?"

"Just bits and pieces. Maybe more later. Hey, shouldn't there be guards and stuff?"

"The place has problems," I say. "The fuse box said 'battery only,' none of the cameras are tracking, and the computers aren't connecting to anything."

Where should we go? I still haven't explored Analysis, Storage 3, or Back Access.

What is that thing on the far left as you entered the room?
Some kind of scanner on an articulated mount.

#115572 Test Pattern

We walk out into the central control room.

"Let's check Analysis," I say.

"What's there?"

"Don't know yet. Maybe some gadgets we can use to get out."

"I could mess with the door while you're doing that," says Mitzi.

We are going to have to tell Mitzi about the whole voices thing eventually.
No we don't.
It's going to be pretty fucking difficult to explain some things otherwise.
So, I'll just not explain them. Whatever they are.

#115621 Test Pattern

check the locker
Reams of medical texts, uninteresting looking paperwork, boxes of paper, pens, and a laptop.

#115640 Test Pattern

Yeah. I'm gonna go science something in the head.

#115650 Test Pattern

It's locked. SURPRISE.

"What are you doing?" Mitzi asks.

"Messing with this machine. Know the password?"

"No. But I bet I could wipe it and do a fresh install, if I can find a disc."

"Will that let you see what's on it?"

"Not unless they're dumb."

#115657 Test Pattern

Maybe they're dumb. Try "password" or "admin" or "dmatthei" or "damien" or "matthei" or "god" or "damienm"


Wait, did you say 'or'?

#115687 Test Pattern

Let's get moving

I'm in Analysis now.

There's a bunch of scanner-looking things pointed at a big container at the far wall. It's currently got a little scrap of something inside it.

There's also a chemical hood and some kind of smaller analyzer to my right. There's a computer to my left, but it looks like it's having problems. Just like every computer around here.

#115692 Test Pattern

Chemical hood? like for head protection?
No, like where there's a big glass box with a small area to reach through, so chemicals don't waft out as much.

There's two canisters inside.

#115704 Test Pattern

This one looks like the one I found on the shelf in Autopsy.

#115706 Test Pattern

The other looks... different. Perhaps like a sea creature.

I feel like I should recognize it, but I don't.

#115723 Test Pattern

Let's see the main attraction in the big container.
Yeah! I bet it's something cool!


It's a tiny scrap of metal.

#115727 Test Pattern

I bet it's really weird metal though.
Well, it feels rather hard. This is no thicker than the lockers, but doesn't have nearly as much give.

Is it safe to examine it further?
Gosh, I hope so.

#115732 Test Pattern

taste it.

It tastes okay. I could perhaps metabolize this alloy, given time. At least in theory. It'd really cause problems with the ol G-I tract if I tried eating it, obviously.

Is it shiny? It looks shiny.
It is damn shiny.

#116135 Test Pattern

You can digest metals!?
Not... large pieces. Doesn't everyone need some metal in their diet?

try biting it
It's an alloy of a composition I can't identify. It's quite strong. Even this thin, deformed sheet is very difficult to bend or dent, and only after flexing significantly.

What? Why?

I could probably eat her flesh, if that's what you're asking. Are you sure that's a good idea? It doesn't seem like a very good idea.

Hugs are awesome.
I already did that! Why do you want me to comfort her if you also want me to eat her, anyway?

Remember when I asked you in you can read the Tozol journey entries? I meant journal.
I already skimmed most of the ones on the console in storage two. Are you looking for something specific?

#116172 Test Pattern

let's go back
Okay. I run into Mitzi. She's messing with the control booth.

"Gotten anywhere?" I ask.

"I'm trying to figure out the damned code number on this thing," she says.

You should lose some weight. Then you could slip through the airducts and stuff.
I... I bet I could fit through stuff! But the only air ducts around here are tiny cracks with filters on them. Maybe because they're experimenting on creatures who can change shape?

#116411 Test Pattern

The only point to licking her would be to tease her.
What? Why?

Lighter Isotope.
What? I don't know what you mean.

Yeah, he's pretty much implying you're fat


#116412 Test Pattern

How do you expect to find a husband if you can't even take care of yourself?

#116415 Test Pattern

Hug Mitzi to overcome newfound depression over being faaaaat

ask mitzi if its OK to suckle erotically on the piece of metal you found

Nobody is big-boned. They're fat. Stop sugar coating it, you're just tempting her.

see pic

#116424 Test Pattern

"Are... are you okay?" Mitzi asks.

"Nothing," I bark. "I'm just... Thinking. Hard."

"About what?"

"The code is 2914."

"O... okay."

#116566 Test Pattern

to storage 3
Right. I hurry there while Mitzi fucks with the control box. It'll probably take her awhile to get anywhere, so I have time.

#116567 Test Pattern

Time to calm down. Time to think.

By the precursors. I have to get out of here.

#116573 Test Pattern

What do you mean by "precursors"?
I'm not actually sure, but the word feels comforting. Old. Well, okay, obviously old, but more than the obvious. The ancient masters. The star gods.


How strange that I should think such things and not know why.

#116580 Test Pattern

So what's that thing in the corner again?
Camera. Motionless like the others. Looks nonfunctional. Or is that the idea...?

#116601 Test Pattern

Break it to relieve stress.
I break the camera and wrench the locker open. The metal squeals as it deforms. I didn't even check if it was locked.

I feel a little better now.

#116602 Test Pattern

Inside is a strongbox. On its front are six switches, all currently off, and a button.

#117014 Test Pattern

hah, nice. First two and the last one need to be turned on
The box begins ominously beeping.

On, On, On, Off, Off, On.
I change it to this and hit the button. The beeping stops and the box clicks. I lift the lid.

Inside is a semiauto with a reload and two tubes of Counter-Suppress.

#117037 Test Pattern

take the Semi-auto, ditch your current wepon.

This new pistol is much lighter. It fires smaller, weaker bullets. 7mm. My old one fires 13.5mm armor-piercing rounds.

...well, round, singular.

Ask Mitzi if she needs more counter.
Not trying to tell you what to tell me to do or anything, but keep in mind I had no idea that I had any in me before I used a Counter. Suppress seems to be very numbing in many ways. It's very difficult to gauge how much is in me, even with my heightened sense of self. It's probably the same for Mitzi.

#117072 Test Pattern

I inject one.

This doesn't hurt as much as before, but it still hurts. I can understand the pain better this time. I'm still very broken. Clearing away the toxins just lets me feel it.

both suppress on yourself! She got more than enough counter to block out the little she got from you blood.
Mitzi has been dosed up for a long time, from the sound of it. But... the fact that a taste of it in my blood was enough to make her even notice indicates that my dosage is vastly higher than hers.

#117074 Test Pattern

I give myself some time to let the stuff circulate. The pain subsides. Or at least, I get used to it.

My heart is still healing. It's making progress. Even these few minutes leaning against the locker are helping. I'd benefit from more rest, or even sleep.

My microbiology's functioning a little better now. I can increase the rate of healing my heart, or clear away the tiny machines in my bloodstream, or focus on another area, like my PRIMARY or SECONDARY SENSES, or my SPEED.

The remaining tube is looking pretty tempting.

#117430 Test Pattern

I begin strengthening my weakened immune system to wage war on the machines in my blood. Part of me wonders if this is something that is actually happening, or if I've just gone utterly mad.

In either case, they don't appear to be reacting to me yet.

#117452 Test Pattern

I pocket the C-S for now. There's nothing else in the locker apart from a little box of empty data discs.

The crate is more interesting. It has a set of heavy manacles and hobble chain, a spit hood, a small pry-bar, and some clothes.

The idea that this stuff could be related is a little unsettling.

#117477 Test Pattern

Are the clothes better than what you have?
I'm naked under the coat, remember? I'm only wearing this thing because you guys told me, anyway. The pockets are handy, though.
There's three pairs of clothes here. None of the pants are made for legs like mine. There's also a backpack, which is handy.

#117508 Test Pattern

Anything in the backpack right now?
Yeah, actually.

A mechanical engineering book, an electrical design book, a calculator, notes on paper, some keys.

Not really much room left. Should I dump this junk out?

See if the clothes fit and if there's enough for the both of you.
Um... like I just said, there's three sets of clothes and they're not really made for my shape or size, but I could probably manhandle something, especially if I'm willing to destroy bits.

Think wearing the backpack would impede your speed?
Not much. Weight isn't a big deal for me, but it'd increase inertia.

#117527 Test Pattern

Read notes

How much of them do you want me to read?

#117579 Test Pattern

considering the pristine quality of paper, maybe she hasn't been kidnapped for 30 years.

That's probably true. I'm flipping through more pages, and there's not much sign of wear. I don't know how long these materials last, but they just don't seem like they've been in a box for decades.

also, we tooked her supressants.
Hers? Wait. Are you suggesting she's a part of this?! Does that mean she's lying about not knowing what I am?

#117636 Test Pattern

I get some clothes and the backpack and head out.

"Hello," I say.

"Hey. I unlocked the door, but I still need a card. I was going to get you, but then I noticed the scanner isn't lit. Door power's out, looks like."

"That sounds bad," I say.

"Yeah, well." She pauses. "Uh, this is a really heavy duty door. We can't just pry it open, I don't think. We need something to get in at the wiring to reconnect the power."

#117639 Test Pattern

"What if it's cut from far away?" I ask.

"It isn't," says Mitzi.

"How do you know?"

"Because if it is, we're fucked," she says. "So it isn't. This area's running on battery power. There's no alternate supply."

#117694 Test Pattern

tell her you found her stuff.
"On the bright side, they kept your things," I say. "I found your books and clothes and things."

"My... oh," she says. "Thank you."

"You didn't seem happy about your outfit. I thought it was okay."

#117695 Test Pattern

"Thanks, I guess," she says. "You, uh, seem to be doing well with the labcoat-and-naked combo."

"Thank you."

"It makes you look more like a woman and less like... you know."

"I don't know," I say.

"Forget it. Find anything useful?"

#117701 Test Pattern

"Some restraints, and this."

"That'll help a lot. Anything else?"

I hesitate.

"...Some more Counter."

"Enough for both of us, you think?" she asks.

#118151 Test Pattern

"I could drink a jug of that stuff and still need more," I say. "But... if you really need it. Say, do you have little machines in your blood?"

"Not... that I know of..." she says. "Why do you ask?"

"Because I do. I'm trying to fight them."

"How could you know that?" she asks.

"Just do."

#118153 Test Pattern

"Great," she says. "Amazing."

She doesn't look very amazed.

"Listen, could you maybe pry this panel open for me so I can get at the wiring?"

"I was thinking," I say. "Maybe the bathroom has vents or something we can shimmy through."

"Um. Not impossible," she says. "But that'd be kind of an obvious oversight. Unless you think you can fit through a sewer line."

#118215 Test Pattern

Okay, pry it open.
No problem. The material separates with a bang.

"Careful!" says Mitzi.

#118218 Test Pattern

I get Mitzi the tools I saw in storage. She gets to work. She definitely knows this way better than me.

"What'd you do with the Counter?"

"Well... I took it," she says, without looking up. "I figure I needed to think clearly for this, right?"

#119356 Test Pattern

Well, since you didin't tell her just how broke you are
Yes I did. I told her I need a jug of the stuff.

Oh, you mean we don't have anymore?
I used one and Mitzi apparently took the other while I was gone.

We should watch her back while she works.

I sit by and watch her work. I think she benefits from a task to focus on. Something to keep her mind off the growing sense of dread she must be feeling, as I do.

#119357 Test Pattern

How can someone who's slept as long as I have feel so tired?

Tozol Quest: Thread 4

#120515 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645
Thread 3:>>103192

#120526 Test Pattern

I died thirty nine years ago. I still don't know how, or why. I don't remember who I am. I don't remember what I am, or what you are.

I don't even remember my real name.

#120527 Test Pattern

But I remember this.

# Chapter 7 - A Coin from Acheron

#120534 Test Pattern


#120551 Test Pattern

The door has opened.

Mitzi looks into the short hallway, the one labeled 'DECON' on the map, then looks at me.

"Well?" she asks.

#120568 Test Pattern

Not with all of those vent looking things on the walls.
There's vent looking things on the floor and ceiling.

I have no idea what the things in the walls are. They're just... big metal discs built into the surface, forming slight depressions.

#120598 Test Pattern


This stuff hurts like hell to pull out.

#120601 Test Pattern

Okay, I toss some hairs in. For just a second, I think I can hear a faint...


Perhaps it's my imagination. I've had quite a lot of that lately.

#120642 Test Pattern

I stick the crowbar in.

I hear a definite hum, but nothing else. Could be a scanner or... anything.

Mitzi backs off towards the storage areas.

"Hey, you managed to power this up, right?" I ask.

"I plugged the door into the main breaker, which had enough juice, but then I turned it off. Froze it open. Whatever's happening isn't from the main battery, I don't think."

#120672 Test Pattern

"Hey," I say. "What do you know about this hall, anyway?"

"Just that we're not supposed to be able to get out," she says. "And it just gives me the creeps. The sound it makes..."

"Are there any other ways out?"

"Not... not that I know of," she says.

#120748 Test Pattern

"Better make sure first," I say. "I guess. It'd be like these guys to go through all this security trouble and then put a back door in."

"No. It really wouldn't," says Mitzi. "At all."

Doesn't that mean that whatever killed all the humans is still here, on our side?

"...hey," I say. "If anything escaped, how'd they get past that hallway?"

"I don't know," Mitzi says. "I don't know how it works."

"Well, there's no skeleton in the hallway. You've got one of those, right?"

"We all make our little assumptions," she says. "By the way, door took a lot of juice. They'd made it to stay shut with a lot of force from several different techniques. Battery's looking at some significant drain, but I can't get an accurate idea of how much."

"Well, door's open now."

"Yeah, but the ones past Decon look even worse, on the map," she says. "And there's no other power source in here!"

"No problem," I say. "I'll just have you whine at them until they lose the will to function."

#120757 Test Pattern

I go into Back Access.

The equipment rails from the Lab lead here. There's a robot here, which eye warily. There's also a scanner on a boom, some kind of gun resembling the turreted dart launcher on the other robot, and what looks like a large, chemical projectile weapon.

All of these are on rails, and seem unpowered. Including the robot, thankfully.

There's also a reinforced, transparent cylinder. I'm just guessing, but it looks like something you'd ship a shapeshifter in.

don't be a rude butt.
Yeah, yeah... Don't charge down the hallway swinging a sharp object. Don't yell at people. Don't eat anyone...

#120769 Test Pattern

Oh man, check the cabinet!

Looks like... Environmental suits, I guess?

#120778 Test Pattern

Admire your own reflection.
I can see up my nose!

Those still won't accommodate your legs, will they.
Not if I want to walk.

What's that thing in the corner?
The box? Or the computer console? Knowing this place, the computer's a dedicated system, so if it contains anything relevant whatsoever, it'll probably be test data from experiments.

#120782 Test Pattern

Loot the box
There's quite a lot of stuff here.

...and not a drop to drink.

#120787 Test Pattern

I get another Suppress and three Tranquilizers, stick them in the helmet of a suit, which I bring along.

The robot seems a little unsettling, so I pry a panel off and yank out some important looking bits. That'll learn ya!

I'm not that thirsty. It's only been a couple of hours since I got out of that tube.

Should I dick around with the computer, brave Decon, or do something else?

#122841 Test Pattern

Check the computer. Computers are a must.
I'm kinda tired of them. I want to get out of here before more robots arrive... or something.

Fine. I start messing around with the machine. The structure is similar to the console in the autopsy room, if perhaps even less intuitive. Experiment files organized by date and keyword. This feels like a secondary access medium, which I suppose it is, but the lab control room is trashed.

Am I looking for anything in particular?

Burst in to tears from tension, fear, anxiety, and existential horror!
Tempting! Maybe later.

#122902 Test Pattern

You are looking for anything mentioning Ophion, Nyx, Phanes; Quadrant Five, its location; nuclear weapons; railguns; and decontamination by name or otherwise.

Over a hundred results for the first three, zero for the rest.

Check whether the net is down here as well.
I don't know how to check.

See if you can find a way to power up one of those giant weapons
Well, the biggest one's a chemical projectile weapon. Those don't use power. It's just got a remote trigger.

#122922 Test Pattern

Let's go with, uh, Nyx, first. I guess.
Subject is a female caucasian age twenty one blah blah...

Ah! Here we go. Selected for genetic and metabolic compatibility with experimental valcien-derived proteus retrovirus.

#122925 Test Pattern

Did you check for Tozol?
Yeah. Nothing.

Check a random entry for Nyx.
One second.

Oooooh... I guess she DOES have a skeleton.

#122956 Test Pattern

Who's Nyx again?

Can you have sex with him/her/it?

Danger / Security level / Breasts / Real names / Subjects
These words are all over the place in almost every entry! Well, except breasts and real names.

What's a Valcien, though?
Umm... Oh! Biotechnological organisms. That's all I remember.

#122964 Test Pattern

Sound on the door!

"Hey! What's going on in there?"

#123037 Test Pattern

I let Mitzi in.

"Lots of things in here," I say. "I think I could make the big autogun shoot at stuff."

"Well," she says. "It'd depend on the."

#123062 Test Pattern

"The what?" I ask.

Mitzi doesn't respond.

#123072 Test Pattern


#123093 Test Pattern

Back. Away. Slowly.
try to offer emotional support.

"Mitzi! Hey! Hey!" I say.

"Get away. Get away. Get back get away," she says.

"Listen to me!" I say. "There's worse of me!"

At this point, I'm not sure it's worse. On the recording, there's little tendrils wriggling from inside her.

#123094 Test Pattern

"Don't touch me don't touch me don't touch me don't touch me!"

#123112 Test Pattern

"You're still you," I say. "You're still here. You're still you!"

She takes off running. Her shouts have turned unintelligible. Should I follow?

#123130 Test Pattern

Don't follow. Let her calm down.
Right. Okay. She disappears around the corner, towards the main room.

Well. That went incredibly badly.

#123132 Test Pattern

The implications of having an insane and highly-unstable mutant running around a medical facility with very delicate objects that if destroyed may trap us forever are very bad.

I throw a tube of Suppress through the computer monitor.

I feel a little better.

#123157 Test Pattern

oh god make sure she's not about to jump in the decon chamber
Shit! I'd better...

Actually, the screaming stopped not long after she ran off. So either nothing awful's happening to her, or it was over instantly. In either case, perhaps I should give some space, like you said.

Moreover, well... if we're going to avoid that hallway, how the fuck are we getting out of here? I am not posing an idle question! I want out of here!

#124213 Test Pattern

didnt we gaved mitzi a gun?
It's in the backpack, in the main room. I've got the bigger gun with one bullet.

bring out the big gun and chase.
The track-mounted thing? That will take time to wrench free without breaking it, but if I can fire it manually, it looks useful and dangerous.

I think giving her some space might be preferable, I'm also AFRAID of leaving her alone, less she do something really BAD. Two bad there isn't two of you. one of me could give her space and the other could follow her around?

#124215 Test Pattern

We need some goal-oriented thinking here.
Yes. We do.

Think about getting to the break room and raiding it of cookies!

#124254 Test Pattern

go go go.
Fuck this shit.

Mitzi is locked in the control box. She's curled up in the seat, clutching her head and crying.

I get the crowbar.

#124258 Test Pattern

Got a plan?

If not, I'm just going to march into Decon and pry it open.

#124268 Test Pattern

poke yourself and flick some blood in there.
I pick at the scab on my ear and flick that in there. Again, I think I hear something without being sure I hear something.

#124286 Test Pattern

Oh just stick a hand in.
There's the hum.

#124289 Test Pattern


My hand grows very hot.

My fur is insulating against it.

#124313 Test Pattern

Okay, uh, pull your hand back
Fine. The machine switches off... after a few more seconds.

Put something big and metal in there.
It hummed when I inserted the crowbar, but it didn't warm in my hand.

Looks like you're gonna want to smash the walls.
The discs look very sturdy. I'm sure I can hurt them... given time. The crowbar may suffer damage in the process, as might I.

I think we need some metal or suit or something like that
I have seen no such suit.

until we figure out if we're just gonna have you charge through this thing or what.
Listen, brain. Come up with something fast, or I'm turning this one over to the arms.

#124332 Test Pattern

run for it and try the door
I take off.

Fuck, this hurts! Especially my eyes and tails. Eyes are agony.

#124342 Test Pattern

If you can't take it before you get half way run back.
I'm more than halfway already. Almost there.

Pain's getting pretty intense! Should I force my eyes to stay open, or try to do this blind?

Your gonna get eye and tail canc... does cancer work that way?

#124351 Test Pattern

Wait, won't some of the things in your pockets explode in microwaves?
I hope not! Haven't heard a sound yet.

Shut your eyes and run
I make it to the door!

#124355 Test Pattern

Is it open?

Rip and tear!

My most exposed bits, my eyes, ears, nose, and tail, are undergoing some especially severe agony, though no part of me doesn't hurt. Also, I smell quite a lot of smoke.

#124368 Test Pattern

Get the hell through the door, then.
The door's making horrible grinding noises, and I hear clicking noises beyond, but it's coming open.

The heat is incredible.

#124373 Test Pattern

I knew you could do it!

can barely see anything

everything smells like smoke

still a clicking sound from up ahead

#127118 Test Pattern

Not seeing any immediate threats, a great tiredness takes hold. I tell myself to get up, but it seems pointless. My body feels as dead as the rest of the corpses in this place.

I'm ready to surrender to exhaustion, when I hear a sound I haven't heard in forty years.

#127121 Test Pattern

My heart, whole and functioning. It pumps hard, pouring strength back into my limbs.

#127146 Test Pattern


Wait so this whole time we've been talking to you your heart has been on the fritz?
As I said before, one of my hemi-hearts was damaged. That's what I focused my energy on healing first. It's better now... Mostly.

These energies I can now direct elsewhere. I have SURFACE DAMAGE, recently acquired from the decontamination system. (This would also go towards normal wear and tear) This is probably the best plan, but I could alternately just leave the damage and focus on my PRIMARY SENSES, meaning my eyes, my SECONDARY SENSES, my tails, ears, and nose, or my SPEED, by healing faults in my muscles.

#127157 Test Pattern

Surface damage. You can basically see right?
I might have misspoken... or mis-thought. I blame the pain.

Surface damage in this case includes the damage I just received to the surface of my eyes. My eyes also, however, have fundamental problems, structurally and neurologically.

I think it's caused by years of being pumped full of Suppress. Gotta be that. I mean, in the autopsy, my left eye was GONE...

I focus my surplus energies on healing the new damage. The remainder is still working on finding a way to fight the microbots still in my blood.

#127166 Test Pattern

are you healthy enough to stand up?

With a few quick motions, before Decon has time to power up again, I retrieve the crowbar, the pistol, hoping its one bullet still works, and the two passcards. Everything else I brought is either out of reach or melted.

I confront three doors.

#127175 Test Pattern

Destroy the vital testing apparatus.
Gimme a second... This one's a little more permanent than the others.

...Say, that reminds me. Should I be healing my scars?

#127187 Test Pattern

Nah, the scars look cool.
Hey, yeah! And it's becoming obvious that I can't rely on my equipment for THAT.

Check the breakroom. Might be edibles.
I head in. No bodies or handprints or 'please don't kill me' written in blood. It's almost more ominous than if there was.

There's four dispensers here, appears to be two for beverages of some kinds, two for foodstuffs wrapped in plastic. Yay!

#127197 Test Pattern

Chow down.
Mmm... Water, sugars, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, hydrocarbons, rare elements, trace metals...

Could really go for some superconductors. Ah well.

#127209 Test Pattern

You really need to educate us more on your diet.
I'm kinda playing it by ear. Ears. Heh.

From now on when we come across a new material, lick it. If it tastes good, eat it.
I guess that's a good idea and you're not just saying that because you want me to lick everything.

You eat superconductors?
Well, we HAVE established that I'm crazy...

#127219 Test Pattern

Would you be able to smell them, or what?
I'm not sure. Probably not.

Interesting. You appear to be taking on traits of a metalvore.
But all this other stuff is tasty, too! Cookies, fizzy sugar water, little cakes, polymers...

I fear I shall grow fat.

#127232 Test Pattern

I'm sure you'll get plenty of exercise in this hellhole tubby.

#127253 Test Pattern

check the bathroom

Security guard. Quite dead.

Now there's the decor I've grown to know...

Holster's empty. No armor or helmet.

#127270 Test Pattern

Does he have any cards or a wallet or anything?
No, annoyingly.

No corpse so far has had any wallet or anything, that I can remember. How the heck many sets of IDs does this thing need?!

Explore the guard's belongings
Ruined clothing, coins and two bits of paper money. Shoulder strap no longer connected to anything. Tag on shirt says 'G. Alton.' Nice belt and holster. Adjustable.

Kinda like someone sodomized him to death.

It killed him from the outside with the door closed?!
Oooor it cleaned up. Granted, it didn't bother to clean up after the other kills. Maybe it has something to do with the location?

#127283 Test Pattern

I take the holster and go to Security. The keycard doesn't work, but the crowbar does.

There's a gentle whirr and hum of electronics, though the screens are off. A rack of weaponry beckons, though the guns seem hastily positioned. There's a first aid kit and a locker to the left.

#129112 Test Pattern

Check out the first aid kit and locker.
I check First Aid first. I don't know what most of this crap is, but there's a C-S, so hey, nice.

#129117 Test Pattern

I check the gun rack, and the foot locker underneath.

The thick-barreled gun can fire Suppress darts, just like the robot could. That'd explain why they have the counteragent here.

I don't recognize these designs. They seem pretty straightforward rifles, but my instincts warn me against using military spec firearms without familiarizing myself.

#129608 Test Pattern

I empty the C-S into myself. As before, an intense pain boils in through the injector, pumping through my veins. It's faster than before, thanks to my repaired heart.

To distract myself, I snap one of the locks off the locker to the left, before realizing they're just being stored in the loops, not actually holding them shut.

#129609 Test Pattern

Small wonder. It's empty save for a helmet.

#129619 Test Pattern

I turn my attention inward.

My burns are feeling better already, but they'll take time to heal. Meanwhile, my immune system is ready, or nearly ready, to attack the tiny machines in my veins. When it begins, it'll put stress on me, like a sickness. Augmented by the fact that I actually have to get them out of me...

With another dose of Suppress neutralized, more of my metabolism awakens from its decades-long numbness. It's enough to heal more of my deeper injuries. My PRIMARY SENSES, SECONDARY SENSES, or muscular SPEED could benefit from this focus. Alternately, I could work on dealing with either the burns or the nanites more quickly.

#129695 Test Pattern

I'm uncertain if I've been clear.

Each time I've taken a Counter-Suppress, I've freed up enough of my metabolism to get to work healing a system of mine. I can now handle three such tasks, which I can distribute to healing three problems, or two with greater speed, or two, one with significantly greater speed, or even just focus entirely on one.

However, I've already got two earmarked towards my burns, and the machines, leaving a third free. Halting work on either of those seems a poor idea... or at least my paranoia says so, with regards to the machines...

Get the nanites out? Wouldn't it be way faster to just metabolize them?
Say, that might be possible!

#129709 Test Pattern

I start repairing my SECONDARY SENSES: My ears, nose, and tails.

Maybe I'll finally figure out what these damned things are for.

Will you still get as sick if you metabolize the nanos instead of purging them?
Uncertain. How bad could it be? They're just teeny pissant machines. As far as I can tell, they haven't done a thing since I woke up.

#129732 Test Pattern

Take one of the rifles Load a FMJ mag and pull the charging handle then lift it up and look down the sights. Does this seem familiar? Kit yourself out with webbing and spare mags. Make sure to carry the two sabot mags.
I do this, then lower the barrel.


This feels... right.

I felt naked before. You voices had convinced me it had to do with clothes, but it wasn't that. I didn't have a rifle.

Still, it's an unfamiliar design. I don't trust it yet.

Perhaps I should test fire it, somewhere. On the other hand, I have to focus on getting out of here. I don't know how much time I have. That clicking sound earlier made me nervous. Its absence makes me nervous now.

Any ideas of how to defeat the big door? I'll need Mitzi's help, but she'll need either a power connection to the rest of the facility, or a powerful source of energy in this wing. How can I find either of these things?

Don't digest them. They might contain toxins
Guess we're sticking with plan vomit.
Lick the helmet.

#129753 Test Pattern

the back of the rifle's supposed to rest on your shoulder, to allow bracing for recoil.
Yeah, I know. I lowered it from a firing stance. That said, I should find a better place for the ammo case on the upper left strap.

Check the computer console to the far right in the room.
I wake the computer.

What the fuck?

#129773 Test Pattern

[suggestion was deleted, but I already drew this]
check decon
I quickly move to investigate.

There's a pile of heat-damaged things I left behind. Burned and melted E-rats, a pile of ashes from my labcoat, the mysterious button device, the stun gun, a few tubes of Suppress...

#129782 Test Pattern

Is there anyway to tell if the stungun and the button device still work?
If I risk another zap, I could yank the stun-gun out. The mystery button? You told me not to press it, so no.

Find a way to shut down D-Con then.
As soon as I start pushing buttons, this error box pops up and doesn't want to go away.

You have a gun you want to test fire and a hallway you want to disable. Where is the difficult decision here?

#129838 Test Pattern

What kind of fuckwits installs keyboards that doesn't work?
Press "enter" and then only hit the keys that you want to hit to spell out words
I've only used the mouse so far! The cursor moves around just fine, but it errors when I click things. It's like it was screwed up before I got here, but only realizes it when I touch things. Well, okay, I hit enter once, but it gave the same error each way.

You know, I do think I saw a phone on the far wall of this room. I don't quite know who you'd call
There's a speed dial. I could try that.

#129839 Test Pattern

Don't think you want to be firing an automatic weapon while Mitzi's still missing. It'll probably drive her deeper into hiding.
Hiding? We're trapped in a dozen or so rooms. Where the fuck's she gonna hide that's gonna take more than five minutes to find?

#130049 Test Pattern

I think I'm gonna try the phone, but first I'll check if anything obvious is wrong with the computer.

Let's see. There's a network cord, sound, monitor, mouse and keyboard, and a thick cable I don't recognize, which leads to a box built into the wall.

#130058 Test Pattern

The power cord's higher up.

I pull the mystery cable out.

... I hear a hum. I think the hallway's powering up!

Should I put it back?

#130079 Test Pattern

Let's put it back for now.
I plug it back in. I also move the computer aside to get a better look at the box it's connected to. I guess this is where DECON's back-end bits are held.

So apparently that wasn't decon. That was "make sure everything that's coming out is human, otherwise fry its ass"
Maybe it's dual purpose. Or maybe they just decided not to label it 'TRAP FOR KILLING MONSTERS. IF YOU ARE A MONSTER, PLEASE STAND INSIDE AND COUNT TO TEN.'

#130090 Test Pattern

I pry the case off of the box.

Woah. This looks like some serious aftermarket shit, right here. There's wires and soldering marks all over, and a pair of circuit boards just dangling free. There's also three metal pins that don't even look like they belong in a computer case, bridging terminals.


I can't even begin to figure out what all this is doing.

#131170 Test Pattern

You could try checking the backs of the panels you're removing for a circuitry map, possibly.
No go.
She just gave us a wiring diagram by looking at it.
This isn't logic gates on a piece of paper! This is hundreds, probably thousands of circuits running between dozens of microchips! I'm not even good with electronics, much less weird backwater shit.
Do you think you could put the pins back exactly how they were before, if you decided to remove them?
I'll remember which contacts they're across, but I'd need a soldering iron to reattach them.

Check out the phone, let's see if it still works.
I work through the speed dial buttons. It gives me a bunch of failure sounds.

Uh. Except the emergency line. That one's ringing!

#131175 Test Pattern


#131179 Test Pattern


"Hello," says the earpiece.

"Uh. Hello!" I say. That sounds human, right?

"HS3? To whom am I speaking?" asks the voice, flat and calm.

#131829 Test Pattern

I consider using one of the names I've seen, but most of me seems opposed. Of course, telling them what I am seems suicidal.

"I just woke up here with a pounding headache," I say. "There's bodies all over. I think one of the subjects escaped!"

"Please remain calm," says the inflectionless voice. "What is your name?"

I pause, but I can't say nothing.

"Penji," I say.

"What is your surname?" asks the voice. "I see no record of a Penji. What is your situation?"

It didn't seem to spend a lot of time checking.

#131850 Test Pattern

"Alton," I blurt. "Penji Alton."

"A relative of Gislin Alton?"

"Listen," I snap. "I'm trapped in High Sec three with a bunch of corpses. One's burned down to a skeleton! I think a subject murdered all these people and got away. You need to get a team in here to find out what direction this thing went, and get me OUT of here!"

I hope I sound convincing. The emotion isn't an act.

"Please remain calm, Ms Alton," says the voice. "HS3 is currently disconnected from facility electrical and data services. Only this emergency line appears to be intact. Be aware that Quadrant Five is currently in class three general lockdown. Please remain where you are. Power and networking will be restored to your area as soon as possible. A security sweep may then begin."

#131854 Sigma


Why we are locked down?

What is going on?

Can you please help me??!!

#131859 Suggestion

Addendum: "I've met a subject down here and they seem to be alright, if a little moody. The security sweep won't kill her, will they?"

#131880 Test Pattern

"Why are we locked down?" I ask.

"Yours is not the only escape," says the voice. "The situation is under control, but will take time to resolve."

"How MUCH time?"

"A team should be present to assist you within six hours," it says.

I'm not sure whether to be upset over how much time that is, or how little .

"I, ah... have another subject alive down here," I say. "She's not given me any problems. Your sweep won't kill her, will it?"

"All High Security subjects are to be considered hostile and extremely dangerous. If possible, instruct it, from a distance, using the PA system, to remain in its cell. Do not approach it or any other subjects for any reason."

I don't respond, not being certain what to say. The voice continues.

"When HS3 is reconnected, remain in sight of cameras, and follow all instructions as given," it says. "Any failure to comply may result in your death."

#131910 Test Pattern

"How do I access the PA?" I ask.

"Each security station console has a button labeled as such. It's to the far right. Lean forward to speak into the microphone. It isn't easily visible."

"Uh, thanks," I say. "Will you kill the subject when you get here?"

"If the subject remains in its cell as instructed, and it proves unrelated to the other escapes, there should be no immediate cause for termination."

"And non-immediate?"

"Further details are classified."

"Just... if you're going to terminate her or otherwise dispose of her, please let me know now so that I can start shielding myself emotionally."
If you're worried about that, what the fuck do you think they'll do to a monster corpse that woke up and raided the armory?!
You need to get somewhere where nobody is coming to kill you, and hide.
How? Mitzi said she needed external power to open the outer door, and the voice just said it was cut! There's no power source in HS3 with enough juice, unless I'm missing something.

Should I say anything else, or hang up?

#131922 Mneme


There's no power source in HS3 with enough juice

The heat is incredible.

no power source

Burned and melted E-rats, a pile of ashes from my labcoat,

no power source

Should I say anything else, or hang up?

Yes, hang up, and then get out of there. Use the electricity powering the decon chamber to open the external doors.

Humans focus too much on strengthening doors. If you find a window out anywhere, a well placed explosive should at the very least weaken the wall enough for you to bash your way out of there.

#131932 №2

Ask if it knows how many people and subjects were in HS3 at the time of lockdown.
Also ask if there's anything to be afraid of regarding the subject held in HS3-S2.
Tell them you wish them a good day and hang up.

Get on the PA and tell Mitzi you haven't been able to disable Decon from there and inform her of the news. Tell her about the dodgy computer guts and ask her opinion on it.

#131943 Test Pattern

"Can you tell me how many personnel were in HS3 at the time of lockdown?" I ask.

"I'm sorry," says the voice. "I'm afraid the record is unavailable."

Of course. That'd be too easy.

"Um..." I hesitate. "One last thing. There's... something, stored in HS3-S2. Is it dangerous? If it were to wake up?"

The voice pauses. The first real pause I've heard from it so far.

"Incomparably," it says.

I don't say anything.

"Miss Alton," it says, sounding deadly serious. "This is very important. Is the creature stored in S2 still dormant in its containment vessel? "

#131944 Suggestion

"Yeah, it is. Still fucking creepy seeing it floating in there."

#131950 Test Pattern

"Now you calm down," I say. "I only asked because it looked scary in there. It's still in the tube thing."

"Of course," says the voice. "Please stand by for further instructions."


#131952 Test Pattern

I hang up.


Footsteps! Barefoot.

#135185 Test Pattern

I level my pistol and open the door.

Mitzi gasps.

"Oh, hey," I say. "How'd you get through the corridor?"

"By... walking?" she says, very carefully.

#135192 Test Pattern

"It didn't zap you?" I ask.

"No, she says. "Ashes had me worried, but you got through okay, right?"

"Heh," I say. "No. Fucked me up. Feeling better now. And you?"

#135196 Test Pattern

"Yeah," she says. "I guess. Just... a lot to get used to."

"Being trapped here?"

"No. What you said before," she says. "How I'm not human anymore."

"I wouldn't know anything about that," I say. "I've never been human."

"I guess that should make me feel better."

"It gets better," I say. "I found cookies."

"Ah. That's good," she says.

"Also communicated with a voice on an emergency line. It said we're trapped here, that the data and power lines are cut, and that a team will be here to investigate within six hours."

"That's bad," she says.

"Real bad. Also the hallway scanner thingy's been screwed with. Rewired."

"That's... something," she says.

"Well, we need a lot of juice to get out of here, right?" I ask.

"That... might work," she says. "Gonna take awhile."

#135216 Test Pattern

I explain what I've learned so far. She gets the tools from S1, again, without so much as a hum from Decon, and gets to work on the machinery.

While she's doing that, I head to the hallway with my new rifle, load, charge, take aim at one of the emitters, and...


Does this place just hate me? Is that it?

#135723 Test Pattern

Is the safety on?
Of course not.

#135728 Test Pattern

Barrel looks clear. No visible jam. I chamber a fresh round. Still nothing.

I also try the other two assault rifles, with similar results.

If I bother Mitzi about this, it'll slow her down. I don't want to slow down getting out of here.

I could disassemble the gun. I'm confident I can figure it out, if I spend some time. Or I could do something else.

#135743 Test Pattern

get to your destination first, then check
Uhh... I guess that means don't bother Mitzi?

Do it. It's probably a DNA lock. We might be able to bypass it. Hopefully. Fuck.
Well, short of that wear-skin-like-a-glove idea, I think that's gonna need some dis assembly.

Disassemble the gun.

Progress is slow since I'm feeling my way around without instructions, careful not to break anything or take anything apart without remembering how to put it back together.

#135745 Test Pattern

Aaaaand the bolt carrier has no firing pin.

On the up side, that's a lot simpler than a DNA lock.

On the down side, I don't exactly have a machine shop. Whoever did this probably bent them into rings or flushed them down the toilet or ate them or something.

#135760 Test Pattern

...You can't replace it with a pistol part can you?
No way. Not the right size.

That MG on the robot should have a firing pin
That's a different caliber, I think. Even if it wasn't, it's probably not the same type of breech.

Well, tits. I guess check all the guns to make sure.
Why the hell would they break just one? This is infuriating!

Three metal pins that don't look like they belong in a computer case?
Oh come on! That's the dumbest thing I've ever

#135761 Test Pattern

>Three metal pins that don't look like they belong in a computer case?
Oh fuck me.

#135772 Suggestion

No way man.
1) Jelly Rolls
2) Those tails!
3) That insanity.

#135776 Test Pattern

Go get them pins!
I rush into the room.

"Hey," I say.

"Oh, hey. I was just thinking, if I could bend this pin a little, I-"

"DO NOT DO THAT!" I bark. "I need one. Preferably two!"

"Seriously?" she asks, not seeming to appreciate the gravity of the situation. "Listen, this is really amazing stuff. It totally reworked the scanner. Counts everything as hostile except mutants with my signature. I bet Marcus did it!"

#135783 Suggestion

"Those are the firing pins for these guns. We need them out of there and undamaged or else we can't shoot."

#135786 Cheren

I meant to take the whole damn gun and use that instead.

#135839 Test Pattern

"They're firing pins for these assault rifles!" I say. "We need them. Look, I saw wires elsewhere. We can use those."

"Huh. Well, they're doubling as resistors right now," she says.

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning you can have either your guns, or this people-burning hallway, or else I'll need, like, an hour, minimum, to jerry rig another solution."

"It's also a me-burning hallway."

"I can fix that," she says.

#135842 Test Pattern

"I would be... much more comfortable, with a working rifle."

She gives me a look.

"Well, can't have it both ways," she says. "Either I focus on getting us out ASAP, or barricading us in while we work on something else. Hell. I'm not actually sure if even THIS machine has enough juice to open the outer door."

"You're joking."

"I gave it a look while you were humping your gun. It's made to lock like a motherfucker in the event of power failure. I need an absolute ton of juice to counter that. Decon has a lot of capacitance, but I think we'll need to run it in parallel with something else like it. Some other big power-hog kill machine, or whatever."

"Where the hell would we find that?" I ask.

Mitzi shrugs.

"I don't know. You've been in more rooms than me."

I looked at Hugs' gun when I was tearing it apart. It's a chaingun. Needs power to operate. However, there is that bigger MG in Back Access. It'd take some work to detach from the ground, but maaaaaybe I could make it work manually.
3) That insanity.
That's your fault!

#135881 Test Pattern


"Mitzi! I can get us out!" I say. "I mean, uh, I can get enough juice."


"They were keeping me in a tube full of conductive liquid. There was a giant power box running to a pair of electrodes in the tank. It was basically made to run a bolt of lighting straight through me for awhile."

Mitzi doesn't say anything for awhile.

#135883 Test Pattern

"Penji," she begins. "I know I've asked you this before, but... What in all the names of God and Satan ARE you?"

#135907 Rurik

"I don't know. ...except that apparently, I am the most bad ass motherfucker who ever lived."

#135975 Suggestion

Take the non-needle end off a tube of Suppress and dump it out in the sink. Rinse it out thoroughly.
Cup some water in one hand, put the open end of the tube in your mouth, and try to use the needle to suck up some water. It will probably need a lot of suction for not much result, but if it works at all you can use it as a crude tap.

If it works then find something sharp and cut back the needle so it has a wider aperture, but be careful not to pinch it shut.
Once you have some time, you're going to jam this into a vein and apply suction so you can control the rate of blood loss, which you couldn't do if you just tore your flesh open.
We know the needle will keep the hole open so the blood can flow since those IVs were in your arm for decades without being healed.
You want to be able to measure-out a quarter liter. That's about how much blood a healthy human of your size could lose before it started to become noticeable. If you can replace blood quickly then you're going to want to bleed out at least that much before you start the regeneration process so you can get the most tainted blood you can out before you start adding fresh blood.
If you're feeling confident then go for a half-liter, but be aware that you might start impairing your capabilities at that point. Take care before going over that.

If we assume you have about as much blood as a human, then every 0.25L you bleed out before regenerating contains 4.5% of the Suppress in your system. 0.5L means 9%, 0.75L means 13.5%, 1L means 18%.

Let Mitzy know before you try this, and keep in mind that the Suppress won't be ANY less effective until you start rebuilding your blood supply.

#138226 Test Pattern

"I already told you I don't know."

"Don't give me that," she says. "You know something."

"I know this. The mark above my left eye is from a high powered weapon," I say. "Probably a beam or kinetic kill munition. The mark on the back of my head is the exit wound. I found my autopsy file. Much of my brain was gone, with surviving nervous tissue suffering visible burns."

"What? I... I had guessed something, but..."

" Visible burns ," I say. " On my brain ."

#138229 Test Pattern

She makes a sound, trying to find words. I cut her off.

"All I can remember is an explosion," I say. "A fireball miles tall. Burning everything. Turning the night red."

"Athelhom," she whispers.

I have her attention.

Should I be nice, or firm with her?

Being 'badass' doesn't come from your genes. The greater your natural ability, the more is expected of you.
You're assuming it's only in my blood.

#138231 Durandal

Subjugate her.

Oh wait, wrong quest... or is it?

#138232 Epsilon

Gentle firmness.

Ask nicely, but put a bit of a grave serious tone in your voice.

#138233 Suggestion


Whoever you were is long dead. You are a new person who was born earlier today by clawing your way out of a metal womb. You know nothing but skills and flashes.

#138249 Test Pattern

"Whoever built this place thought I was dead. They were right," I say. "I died a long time ago. Whatever I am now, it's not who I was."

"Penji..." she says softly.

"I am leaving," I say. "If you can trust me, I will do everything I can to protect you and bring you safely out of this place. If you can't, then get back in your cell."

#138250 Test Pattern

She's quiet for a time.

"Promise me," she says. "Swear to me that you're going to get me out."

#138259 Test Pattern

"I can't promise you that," I say. "But I promise that I'll die trying."

"I guess... I guess that's all I can ask for," she says quietly. "I'll trust you."

"Good," I reply. "Because I don't have a clue how to get out without your help."

#138260 Test Pattern

We get to work. There's a lot to do.

#138261 Test Pattern


Tozol Quest: Thread 5

#141320 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645
Thread 3:>>103192
Thread 4:>>120515

#141322 Test Pattern

Two hours have passed since the phone call.
I've repaired two of the rifles, though Mitzi claims she's never used a firearm before.

With my help, she's rigged the power supplies from the killswitch and the hallway to provide enough voltage to unlock the door and leave. Neither of us know what's beyond, what the rest of this facility is like, or who might be waiting.

My hearing has improved greatly. I can hear Mitzi's heart beating, her breath, the hum of electronics, the buzz of the lights, inaudible before. If only I could hear through the door. It's thick and heavily insulated. Pipes transmit some vibration, dampened too much to discern anything useful.

My nose is more keen. I've picked up many scents. Many humans, though it's hard to count without more practice. Mitzi smells different from them.

More recently, I've learned what the tails are for. Their sensory information has grown stronger, and gained meaning. I can feel vibrations in surfaces they touch, and localize sharp sounds even better than before. I can read air currents. Ones I wasn't even aware of before, entering and exiting tiny vents built into the walls, flowing over and around objects, down corridors, across floors. I can feel a room's shape.

# Chapter 8 - Totentanz

#141323 Test Pattern

But nothing will tell me what's past that door. Not until it opens.

#141337 Test Pattern

open the door.
Of course. We made up my mind on that part. Only question is what to bring, and how to go about it. Should we hide as the door slides up, or rush out as soon as there's room to crawl? Should we spend an hour trying to get that heavy automatic weapon in the access room working, trusting in the voice saying we have ample time? Should I try to teach Mitzi how to shoot?

Just out of curiosity, where are you? We can't see you for some reason.
You use my points of view, as I use yours. The real question is, why could you see me before? And I think we have an answer. I think you were making limited use of this blindsight before I could.

Should we be deciding where to refocus your regeneration, then?
Not done yet. I feel there's even more to my secondaries than this. I guess it really is my birthday.

I can deal with the machines in my blood whenever I want, but this too will take time.

#141371 Test Pattern

I thought your secondary senses were supposed to augment your primaries, not render everything in blind cave rat vision.
My eyes were closed. I can do both. Just gonna take some getting used to.

#141374 Test Pattern

This here is what you should pack
Okay. That should fit.

Add to that examining the manacles you saw earlier.
Seems normal. One set goes on ankles, with adjustable hobble-chain, and another for wrists. I could probably break them. Not sure without actually trying to break them, though.

#141438 Test Pattern

Get those fucking machines out of you.
Okay, okay.

I spend the next twenty minutes giving Mitzi unenthusiastic drill instruction while I spit dark blood onto the floor.

She's a lousy shot, and likely to get worse in an actual firefight, but at least she's looking more confident. I also learned that the sabot rounds are caseless, while the FMJ rounds aren't. Mitzi runs through a magazine of the latter, and two rounds of the former. This leaves ten mags of FMJ, and (almost) two of sabots.

I think the machines are all gone, now. I still feel sick.

will you know if you smell him again?
I don't think I'll be able to follow a trail. However, if I'm around him, he won't smell human. Unless he figures out a way to trick me.

How much time do we have left?
The voice said within six hours, a little under two and a half hours ago.
How much time will it take to get the big gun loose/working?
Not sure. Maybe an hour.
How much ammo does it have?
One box of 100 rounds.
Is it like a .50 cal where it can get through 1 inch steel plate?
Thereabouts, yes.
How well can you move while carrying it?
I can lift a lot, but the inertia will make me less agile. And it's gonna be a beast to fire.

Kiss Mitzi
I've got blood all over my mouth. Are you sure?

#141454 Test Pattern

don't kiss
I have more important things to worry about!

Let's compromise.

"There," I say. "Now you can't say you've never used a gun before. And you're already getting better. Just quit taking your eye from the sight."

"Thanks," she says.

"If we get in a fight when the door opens, and you don't fuck up, I'll give you a kiss."


"You heard me."

She doesn't say anything, or look at me, staring at the doorway she's been shooting into, instead.

With that out of the way, should we salvage the big autogun first, or make a break for it immediately? Last call, here.

#142758 Test Pattern

That gun looks awfully heavy to be firing from a standing position. Is she as strong as you?
It's not heavy. At all.

if there's a hostile resistance on the other side that's what they'll be expecting. If you plan on killing everyone between you and the exit, it'd be best to funnel them through a trap or two
Like what? And yeah, if I find hostiles, I was assuming the idea was to kill my way out or die trying, unless you have a better idea.

Fuck it, let's go for it.
All right. Mitzi's already got the backpack and the boots you lot reminded me about. Couldn't hurt. Except that her footsteps are louder now. Not as loud as gunshots.

"Hey," I say. "I'm ready. Let's go."

"What about the big gun?"

"Gonna take an hour of work. We might not have an hour."

#142777 Test Pattern

"There's lights! Why didn't you disable them!"

"You're in a hurry right?" Mitzi says. "Besides, the ones on the other side-"


So, is the strategy to go charging out the door as soon as it's cracked open the first 18 inches?
It's that open.

Feels like a hallway. Twelve or so meters long. I can sense movement nearby, but not in a line of sight.

#142791 Test Pattern

That door's what, three inches thick?
Five, I'd hazard. And it is taking its time.

Drop prone
Another one of those tracked machines! Its scanners aren't visible, but the turret has a camera. It hasn't moved, so that's not the movement I sensed.

There are voices. They're heavily muffled. They probably don't realize I can hear them.

"Control, there's movement from the HS3 accessway!"

There's a pause. If there's a response, I can't hear it.

"Fuck your readings," says the same voice. "Bring the bot up to weapons free!"

#142813 Test Pattern

I REALLY hope that gun has Armor-piercing bullets.
Loaded with FMJ. On the bright side, they're a little fancier than the name implies.

if you think you can snipe it try to take out the camera
I open fire. Single shot, but squeezing the trigger as fast as I can.

#142815 Test Pattern

Twelve shots. Most glance off the turret armor. I score hits on its optics. Eight rounds left.

"Shots fired! Shots fired!" I hear from downrange. "Bravo, defensive posture! Alpha, get here now!"

"What do I do?!" Mitzi screams.

#142817 Suggestion

Tell her to get down, maybe out of LoS from the hall.

Then shout at the guys "Hey, what the fuck guys, throwing a robot at me immediately! Not cool!"

#142849 Test Pattern

I gesture for Mitzi to get out of the line of fire and call out.

"Mistake! Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" I yell, and start moving forward.

A voice booms down the hallway.


It's coming from behind the robot, to my right. It doesn't have a line of sight. The robot starts moving forward. It'll be able to see me again any second.

"Scanner's showing nothing in the hallway," comes a second muffled voice.

#143972 Test Pattern

I, Uh!
Attack but go nonlethal / Flip the robot
Taking this option for now! I sling my weapon as I run, latching it to the harness.
Dodging turret fire by erratic movement.
I dodge from where the barrels point. It sprays chaingun rounds into the hallway.
Watch for the arms.
This one has some kind of ballistic shield in place of the arms, topped with a sensor package. There's a figure crouching behind.

"Subject! Subject inbound!" shouts one of the voices.

" HALT! " says the same voice, this time amplified rather than silenced by its mask.

#143999 Test Pattern

The room ahead feels large and open, with a few large crates or cargo pallets. There are five distinct targets just ahead, including the robot.

Movement in red. Me in blue.

#144028 Test Pattern

flip the tank
I run into it at full tilt. It weighs a lot more than me, so this does little. I manage to get below its traverse and lift, however. It pivots on the rear of its right tread as it rolls onto its side, still firing.


"Engage! Engage!"

They start shooting.

#144087 Test Pattern

Use it as cover
I hold on as I get behind it. There's already some angular momentum, so I move it around rather quickly. They shoot me in the back twice, but the heavy slugs flatten and fragment against my bone plates.

I feel them moving out of easy melee range and spreading out, while laying down suppressive fire. I ready my rifle.

"Maintain base of fire! Did you see that? Operator, did you see that?"

A pause. I can feel the door that was to my right as I exited the hallway opening, and more movement from beyond.

"Why didn't you warn us?!" shouts the same voice. Difficult to keep them straight over the gunfire.

#144149 Test Pattern

I peek out to see if the new arrivals are friendly, and to make myself heard.


#144152 Test Pattern

They're armed aGFRGJK!

#144159 Test Pattern

I feel very disoriented. And symmetrical.

"Grenade out!" shouts one of the humans.

#144224 Test Pattern

Look for the grenade via your secondary senses, then SWIPE it back at them. Don't actually grab it, just smack it.
Doing this, I start moving to kick the grenade before it finishes landing. And not a moment too soon. Several fragments hit me, but I'm lucky, and functioning. Any slower and I'd be in trouble. More trouble.

I should tell you that I can probably manage fast center-of-mass shots, or fast shots to specific body parts at very close range, but if you want me to hit specific body parts at range, I'll need to take careful aim.

#144234 Test Pattern

Can you aim with your secondary senses? If so, shoot their arms.
Not with that kind of accuracy! And my blindsight's a little wonky from the blast.

#144553 Test Pattern

Humans moving to flank. Stop them.
Yeah, three of the new ones are moving. The fourth of their fire-team is trying to suppress me with something on full auto. The other team of four has backed away in a wide, staggered formation and is also firing to suppress.

I shoot at the three runners, while avoiding sight with the others.

One falls in a splash of blood and crawls into cover. Another stumbles but stays on its feet, and the third appears undamaged, though I'm certain I hit at least once.

Either these guys are very robust, or their armor is sapping most of the energy from even penetrating hits.

"Man down! It's got an LMG!" one shouts.

"No. It's a rifle!" barks another.

"It's an MG! It hit all three of us!"

Strange that I don't overhear more chatter. Perhaps their silencing gear blocks some, or maybe they're being closely guided by radio.

Magazine's empty.

#144636 Test Pattern

Reload with mini-APFSDS. Go to right side of tank and sweep left.
While the humans to my left are recovering, I switch corners, reload with sabots, and open fire. The target nearest the corner takes a dart to the chest before it notices. I traverse left and put two rounds in another human, then return to the first and shoot him in the head as a hurricane of fire surrounds me.

I take grazing hits to the arm and thigh, but the humans have switched rounds as well. The armor-piercing darts don't have a lot of stopping power.

are you shooting single shots more rapidly than an Machine gun?
Of course not, but almost all of my shots are hitting. The humans are not nearly so accurate. They must think I'm firing dozens of times.

Can you spin the tank around and wrench the shield off of it?
Not quickly. It looks very secure. I could try pushing the whole tank. Not fast enough to actually hit people trying to get out of the way, but it might startle them into retreating.

#144718 Test Pattern

I put my back to the robot and push, keeping my weapon shouldered. Bullet fragments itch underneath my skin.

"Fucking hell!" one shouts. "How do we stop it?"

"We need smoothbores! Gyrocs!"

"Grab the wounded and fall back. Marching fire. Eugen! Your satchel."

#144745 Test Pattern

Hows your blindsight?
There's so much gunfire. Too much to process. Echoes and shockwaves everywhere. It's hard to be certain of distances. No way I can resolve shapes.

#144754 Suggestion

Pic is a bit confusing so I'll give you the simple version.

Stand on the purple dot.
Shoot the guy circled in green if he so much as pokes his head out.

The guy circled in green is named Eugen. He is arming an explosive device to attack you with. He will expose himself in order to use it. Kill him.

#144786 Test Pattern



#144787 Test Pattern


#144838 Test Pattern

Get behind cover!

#144843 Test Pattern

The fireball flattens against the ceiling. Concussion's overwhelming. Blindsight's totally scrambled.

#146863 Test Pattern

The explosion ripped a storage container and set the contents ablaze. There's no sign of the human that was standing next to it.

I leap over what's left of the robot and charge through the fireball, firing.

#146871 Test Pattern

I send armor piercing darts into the LMG gunner's chest and neck. He falls backwards, making a quiet gurgle.

Four remaining active targets, one just dropped onto its hands and knees, one sitting up with a rifle, two standing up.

#146940 Test Pattern

I'd appreciate if you limited posts in this thread to suggestions and direct responses to the situation, rather than argument. You know where the discussion thread is.

I switch to burst fire, drop the standing human before he can get a bead on me, then take aim, trying to be both fast and careful, and shoot the other one in the right forearm. I seem to remember that humans have one arm that works better than the other.

My mag's running low, but I can't provide a precise count.

A burst of gunfire hits me in the ribplates.

#147004 Test Pattern

Damage report!
Even sabot rounds aren't penetrating my bones, but they're causing cratering and ablation.

Take out whoever's shooting you while moving in closer to eliminate the last one with CQC.
I traverse right and engage the standing human. It shoots me again in the chest, then jerks and slumps against the wall.

The one that it had been dragging shakily draws a heavy pistol. Same make the one I used to kill the robot back in the lab.

Living targets I'm aware of are this prone one, and the one I shot in the forearm a moment ago. I assume the one nearest the blast was killed. mag is dry. I can reload or try close combat. Target is five or six meters away.

#147110 Test Pattern

draw your pistol
The human must have seen me reaching, because it takes a shot as soon as I do. In its rush, it misses. I put a round in its chest.

I sense movement in the direction of the last human. Rapid!

#147175 Test Pattern

I drop my pistol and move to disable, only to find the source of the movement.

"There was another," she says, sounding strained. "I... I took care of it."

#147298 Test Pattern

Go tend to the wounded.
I'm not sure if any of the others are alive. They all have what appear to be penetrating hits to either the chest or head. Except for the one Mitzi took down, which has marks all over its neck. I hadn't noticed her because my blindsight was still fucked up from the blast and fire.
Relieve his gun. Take off his helmet.
After some fumbling with clasps and seals, I get the helmet off.

"Cooperate and I won't hurt you," I say.

"You already hurt me!"

"Cooperate and I won't hurt you more," I say.

The human doesn't reply.

"What are your orders regarding escaped subjects?"

"You... You still haven't escaped yet!" it says.


"You keep trying to get out, we'll keep putting munitions into you until you stop."

"What choice do we have?" Mitzi hisses.

"Get in your cells and dose up with Suppress," he barks. "You killed my whole fucking squad, but if you do that, you could still live."

#148180 Test Pattern

"Idiot," I snap. "I told you to get out of my way. All of this could have been avoided."

"Don't play innocent!" he says. "We told you to halt and drop your weapon. You told Operator you were human. You said not to shoot. Then you wiped out my team. You think you can just kill your way out of here?"

"Yes," I say. "You've got no right to keep me here, and you can't stop me."

"You don't even know where here is!" he barks.

"Enlighten me."

"Fuck you."

His arm looks stiff where I shot it. I think his armor formed a splint, or cast of some kind. I wonder what else it's doing for him.

how long to heal your injuries?
Can't say. Too many variables. How much I exert myself, how much the wounds are jostled, whether I take the time to manually remove the bullets...
I'm going to put all of my energy into healing wounds for now, unless you say otherwise.
turn him into a mutant
I'm not a geneticist and neither's Mitzi.
We can salvage enough armor to give us two undamaged sets. There's also more ammunition than I can comfortably carry. My webbing has seven ammo cans, which can carry two magazines each. I can wear that outside of armor. The guard kit might let us carry more, but I'm not sure how much I can comfortably manage, total. There's also grenades, flashbangs, a weird little scanner, not like the one I found then melted, and zip-cuffs. No more satchel charges, though. This is just what I see. A more thorough search will take time, but I'm not sure how long I have.

Should I talk to the human more, try his radio, stock up and leave, or do something else?

#148231 Test Pattern

I haul the bodies away from the doorway leading to the rest of the facility, and shove the robot tank to block the way. There's another one of those big security doors, so I place the tank directly underneath. Hopefully the door at the other end of the corridor isn't as hard to open as these.

Mitzi gets to work tying the human up and getting some equipment together. I think there's enough armor for both of us, if we scrounge.

Do you think I can use a hostage to get out of here? If not, I probably shouldn't bring the prisoner.

#148235 Test Pattern

As the scraping noises die down, I hear a voice from the helmet I left laying nearby.

"Penji?" it asks, calmly. "That is you, isn't it?"

I think it's the same one from the call earlier. As if on cue, the phone back in HS3 rings.

#148921 Test Pattern

I pull the mic and headset from the helmet. In the unlikely event of a bomb, the worst it'll do is blow my tits off.

Answer but fuck around.
"This is Penji actual," I say.

"You weren't very truthful, earlier," says the voice.

"And you said six hours."

"I said within six hours," it replies, putting just a hint of emphasis on the key word. "Moreover, we had to take precautions. It seems they were grossly insufficient."

"Your kill team didn't even know I was in here, did they?" I ask.

"The odds seemed remote. You have been asleep for longer than they have been alive."

"And now they're dead," I say.

"Perhaps. There is a chance some may be recovered if a medical team can get to them quickly."

#148923 Suggestion

Ask what he/she/it means and why you should possibly care.

#148954 Test Pattern

"What's it worth to you?" I ask.

"It is worth nothing to you," replies the voice. "We will not negotiate for hostages. However, full cooperation on your part will result in the greatest chance for mercy and further negotiation."

"That's not very reassuring."

"Would you prefer platitudes?" asks the voice, coldly. "Promises you have no reason to believe? I will promise you this instead: You cannot escape. The only question is how many must die to see you killed or captured."

"Is that supposed to make me afraid, or angry?" I ask.

"Consider your options objectively," it says. "Regenerating your brain was an incredible feat. Put it to good use."

#150503 Test Pattern

I toss the helmet comm aside and head back into HS3. Mitzi and the guard have gotten louder. He says something about how he swore an oath to protect humanity from abominations.

"Shut up," she says. "Shut up! Shut up!"

I hurry to cell one.


On the bright side, he shut up.

#150520 Test Pattern

"Mitzi's human," I tell the guard. "You guys just fucked her up with valcien parts."

He doesn't say anything. No real surprise. Mitzi's gone quiet, too.

#150536 Test Pattern

"Hey. Stop that," I say.

She's already, er... withdrawing.

The human slumps blankly to the floor.

"I..." Mitzi says, not quite looking at me. "Did you say Valcien?"

"Yeah. I checked your records."

"They rewired me with space shark!? "

"Uh," I say, unsure how to respond. "That's what the word means? I remembered it as something different."

"Oh God," she says. "Oh Jesus. Oh Murphy's black mind."

I should say something.

#151220 Test Pattern

Just grab what we can and run
Good idea. At the very least, it gets Mitzi away from the human. I take her by the... hand? Maybe not.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

"W-what the hell do you think?" she says. "I'm spliced with some... some... Look at me! I've got thumbs on my feet!"

"Yeah, me too," I say. "They're handy. Get it?"

"I have tentacles!"

"At least yours aren't on your butt."

"I... I killed people!"

"Prisoner's still alive, so only one," I say. "Maybe zero, if medics can really save those without brain trauma." I suppress a shiver. "I'm way ahead of you."

"Wait. What medics?"

"Talked with the weird voice again," I reply. "I think the best thing we can do for these guys is leave."

"How will they know we left?"

"By checking ten minutes after we're gone, if we're very lucky."

"Oh..." she says. "So... how do we do this?"

Good question. We don't know what's beyond the door I barracaded. My instincts say to be either sneaky-but-fast, or fast-but-sneaky. That means not being methodical, though.

What did she find out in his mind?
Can she do that?! I should ask. I'm worried about sending her into another freakout, though. Are all humans this unstable, or is it a side effect?

#153866 Test Pattern

The humans have a few different types of armor, but we can kludge two suits together without much trouble. More or less.

"These are all too big," I say.

"Well, you're what, five foot seven?" says Mitzi. "Go back one or two centuries, and that's about average for human males. Soldiers these days get boosts. Strong, robust. That kinda thing."

"Looks like they're trying to figure out how to do better."

"Well, they figured that out a long time ago. Just, you had to be born with it. All kinds of social problems. Most of the Ascendi left for alien space. Brain drain. Heh."

#153873 Suggestion

Ok, some questions for Mitzi.

What are Valcien.
What aliens do they know of.
Who were the ascendi.

#153874 Test Pattern

"Speaking of that..." I say.

"I don't know what I was doing," says Mitzi. "Just... got so angry. Went with instincts. Not... human instincts."

"Did you learn anything?"

"Not much. His name's Daniel. Twenty seven years old. Said most of that stuff because he's scared."

"So he doesn't think you're... you know?"

"Oh yes he does," she says. "I don't think we're talking our way out of this."

"Guess I should've given you more time."

Mitzi shrugs.

#153913 Suggestion

"What is your civilization like? Technology, space travel, aliens?"

"All I know about myself is that I said some non-human phrase out of habit, 'By the precursors'. I'm not actually sure what it means, but the word feels comforting. Old. Well, okay, obviously old, but more than the obvious. The ancient masters. The star gods."

"That and one of the weird creatures they have preserved in a jar in analysis. It was perhaps a sea creature. I felt like I should have recognized it, but I didn't."

"My diet consists of pretty much anything. I found myself eating the food wrappers without thinking about it. And some metal I licked tasted edible. And I still have a craving for superconductors."

#153964 Test Pattern

"Ascendi? Who are they?" I ask.

"Uhh, transhumans, posthumans, parahumans, bioroids, whatever," she says. "Smart, adaptive, different body types, all that crap. Kinda put them aside from the regular humans. Lot of social tension. Probably would've sorted it out in another few decades, but then the aliens found human space. Alien economies only wanted the best and brightest, and we'd been giving them a hard time, so they started leaving. The more that left, the less popular they got. Not too many around, these days."

"What kind of aliens?" I ask.

"Uhh... major ones," she says. "Vertai. They're like lizards with fur and six legs. Tesau, they're like, dragons, sorta. Cobra heads, tail that splits into three. Four eyes. You'd like them."

I don't know what dragons or cobra heads look like, but I don't want to interrupt.

#153967 Test Pattern

"Diplomats," she continues. "Nobody knows shit about them. Four legs. Like to be invisible. They usually mind their own business, until they decide you're their business. Decided we were their business after Athelhom, for awhile. Oh, and Valcien. They don't usually have much to do with people. Big monsters in space. Like whales. Sharks. Living starships. Eat asteroids or something."

"No Tozol?"

"Never seen or heard of you," she says. "Neither had Dan, there."

"Do you figure he knew you were human?"

"I ... think so," she says. "Maybe not me specifically, but humans get brought in here and don't leave. Sacrifice for the future."

She sounds unconvinced.

#154028 Seven01a19


#154091 Test Pattern

She's having some trouble getting her armor adjusted. You'd think it'd be easy when you can just shapeshift to be the right size.

I approach to help, but when I draw near, I put my mouth to hers.

It feels incredibly awkward, but I try not to let it show.

"I. Uh. Thanks," she says.

#154211 Test Pattern

I help Mitzi fit her armor.

"I don't get it," she says. "Armor, guns. How can you know more about this than me?"

"It seemed the proper way."

"Maybe humans made you," she says. "Or, I don't know. Maybe you were human before."

"Maybe," I reply. "But I had a term pop into my head earlier. Precursors. The Star Gods. The Old Masters. The words felt comfortable."

Mitzi doesn't say anything.

Maybe we can temporarily connect with him too! We have tentacles!
I think he's had enough tentacles for one night.
Other HS wings.
"I was thinking of trying to check the other high security rooms. Think we can do that in a hurry?"

"Probably not. This one took an hour," she says.

I feel we've already taken too much time. Anything else, before we leave?

#154266 Test Pattern

They came out of the hallway to HS2
No. They came from the hall to the rest of the facility.

No! Leave now!
Now you're talking my language.

We move past the wrecked bot and into the dark corridor. There's rooms branching off to the left and right, but we probably don't have time for that if we're to avoid whatever they're sending to stop us.

#154273 Test Pattern

Might already be too late.

Tozol Quest: Thread 6

#160101 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645
Thread 3:>>103192
Thread 4:>>120515
Thread 5:>>141320

# Chapter 9 - Interdiction

#160104 Test Pattern

Not much time has passed. The burning wreckage from the blast is still audible, crackling in our wake.

We ran into another door, but Mitzi can hotwire it open. She says this one's easier. I guess they figured five layers was enough.

When it does open, we'll finally be into the facility proper. I have a few minutes to think of how we should move when it does, but very little information to work with.

#160132 Test Pattern

Mitzi stands aside as the door opens. A moment later, I realize I should've done the same, as I dive out of the way of a bomb blast.

#160134 Test Pattern

And then there were nine.


Nasal filters slide into place in my sinuses as smoke billows all around me. On the bright side, no one's storming in behind the charge.

#160148 Test Pattern

Okay. Blue is me and Mitzi. White is objects as far as I can determine. Red is movement, but right now that's all fucked up.

I can't "see" very far down the corridor, unfortunately.

Use your ears instead.
Funny story, but the explosion is interfering with that, too. Still, if anyone is in the immediate vicinity, they're being incredibly quiet.

#160171 Test Pattern

Thats a long hallway to get stuck in the crossfire on. Got anything shiny you could use to peek around the corner?
Not shiny, but if I stick one of my tendrils around, I can get a better angle to dete-FUCK! FUCK! FUCK EVERYTHING!

#160239 Test Pattern

I toss a few empty tubes and stuff into the hallway. Nothing else detonates, so I risk another tail, and then peek around.

I appear to have attrited my way through the traps. The hallway extends for, uhh, two hundred meters to the left, and at least four hundred to the right. Hope we're not going to be sticklers for checking every room from now on...

Under two hundred meters down the right path, there's a branch to the left. I can hear footsteps echoing from that way. At least a squad worth, I think.

One of these doors across the hall feels like it leads to another corridor. We could also try running down the hallway to the left... or straight at the enemy... or try a smaller room to hide, or flee back into the HS rooms, or something else.

Check on Mitzi.
She dove into a machinery room, behind me, after the first blast. Good thing, because the wall she was in front of got pretty badly pitted by the second blast.

#160248 Test Pattern

Check room names for any clues to what is inside.
Most are just numbered, but there's this thing nearby.

So... Going by this, left is technology research, right is engineering, evacuation route, and (apparently) security. Across the hall is biological research.

You know, in case you forgot how to read just now.

#161420 Test Pattern

Mitzi hesitantly comes forward. I tell her about the footsteps. She can't hear them yet, but they're definitely getting closer. She tries the high-security keycard on the biology door.

"Problem," she says, pointing to a panel to the right of it.

"What is it?"

"A high five machine."

"What is it?"

"A hand scanner," she says. "I guess maybe the keycard didn't work. Or maybe it needs to scan you AND you have the card?"

"Can you hotwire it?"

"Do I have ten minutes?"

"You have ninety seconds."

"Then no."

#161438 5Copper

im pretty sure its way more that 10 people. and they may have specialized weapons and armors so try not to count on this.

tell her to either attempt to use the already existing sweat on the hi-five machine or to try her own hand. remember she is a space shark that seems to mimicry humans, maybe she can mimicry other humans

#161510 Test Pattern

advance escape fall back attack defend hide negotiate
Uh... I take up a defensive position, using the HS doorway for cover.

"Hey," I say. "You can mimic people, right? Absorb some human genes and make a handprint."

"DNA doesn't do that," she says. "But that's a thought... Should I try mimicking the hands of the dead guys?"

I'd think it over, but the situation's now measured in seconds.

"If you think it'll work, just do it!" I say. "Hurry!"

#161523 Test Pattern

Mitzi dashes back into the security zone.

I've got maybe thirty seconds before the bullets start flying. I take stock of how many bullets we have to work with.

#161604 Test Pattern

"Maybe your hand works!" I shout.


"Forget it!" I say. "Just hurry!"

I open fire.

#161606 Test Pattern

Definite hostiles. They're security troops.

I've got no sabot rounds for the LMG. The slugs send the corner-man's shield recoiling, but don't seem to penetrate.

"Taking fire!" I hear, though between the distance, the gunfire, and their silencing gear, it's difficult. "Oh shit, it's Tethys!"

#162951 Test Pattern

I walk my fire across the shield. I score at least one hit on the visor, which seems to be bulletproof, and one on the guard. He immediately drops the shield down to block further hits.

"Shit! Fuck!" I hear.

"Stay put," a second says.

Another target swings around, leveling a wide-barreled weapon. He fires single shots, fighting against considerable recoil.

I bank a few LMG shots off his armor, and the shield. Burst fire is not suppressing this guy, but if I go full auto, I'll run through my ammunition in seconds.

#162961 Test Pattern

At least I'm throwing off his aim. Most of his shots are impacting the corridor walls and detonating without effect.

One airbursts above me!

I'm peppered with several fragments. They're pissant, though. No damage.

I'm worried about what other payloads he might have, though.

"Mitzi! Hurry it up!" I shout.

"I am hurrying!"

yell at them to leave
There's no word in any language that says 'go away' as strongly as automatic fire.
I'm strong, but those flaws in my musculature I mentioned will make an accurate throw at this distance nearly impossible.

#163027 Test Pattern

I focus my fire on the big gun. The guard gives a shout of anger and stumbles out of sight.

"Gotcha, bro!" says another, taking his place and firing another oversized weapon. In a moment, a trio of rockets streak from its barrel, impacting around the corridor ahead of me and detonating.

"Fuck this!" I hear. "Radko! Load displacer!"

#163091 Test Pattern

"Mitzi!" I yell. "Stay back!"

"What?!" she shouts back.

"Forget it!"

I keep firing, managing to chase off the gyroc gunner. Maybe wounded, maybe not.

Another guard swings into place, wielding a missile tube. I focus on the weapon, but he fires almost immediately, and the barrel heat's affecting accuracy.

I try shooting it down. I feel I should be able to, but I'm too slow.

#163093 Test Pattern

Much too slow.

#163094 Test Pattern


#163394 Test Pattern


#163398 Test Pattern

The light fades. My ears ring from the thunderclap. My equipment straps smoke.

I'm in a crater. A hemisphere of polished stone and metal. The missing material is not blasted, or vaporized, or blown away. It's just gone. Everything within several meters of the point of detonation is gone.

Except me.

#163438 Test Pattern

Everything but you got... teleported?
Little disoriented. Gotta focus.


I landed on an irregular, rounded board of floor material. It looks like everything within a few inches of my body was intact, including my rifle, my pistol, and something like half of the LMG.

Hot water's splashing into the crater from a broken pipe in the ceiling, pooling at the bottom. Steam's billowing up in quantity. Maybe enough to obscure vision, soon.

Door to the bio lab's open. Gone counts as open.

"Direct hit!" I hear, echoing down the hall.

#163506 Test Pattern

"W-what the fuck!?" Mitzi hisses, thankfully keeping her voice down.

"Shut up," I whisper. "Biolab's open. Hurry up."

"Oh shit," she says. "Are they still here?"

"About two hundred meters that way," I say, gesturing. I wish I knew which way's north. "They shot something called a displacer."

"Oh shit," she says. "Oh fuck."

"Shh! Focus!" I whisper. "Get down here."

#163518 Test Pattern

We silently crawl up into what's left of the Bio-research entrance. It's harder than it sounds. The rock's smoother than polished marble.

"What's with you?" I whisper. "I say troops coming in ninety seconds, you barely care. Now you're freaking out again."

"It all just... Just doesn't feel real," she says, fumbling to get the inner door open. "It's too strange. Don't you feel that?"

"No," I say, quietly.

Still no movement inbound.

#163533 Test Pattern

I slip down and grab the broken LMG. It's totally unworkable, but the longer it takes them to realize I'm alive, the better. I grab the piece of floor, too, quickly but carefully hauling the wreckage out without making any noise.

#163536 Test Pattern

A quick recap of the area, before we leave.

I could probably scramble in to the room to the left instead of going in the main entrance, but Mitzi's already got the door open, so we'd might as well go that way, so there's more to close behind us.

#163550 Test Pattern

"Still no movement. Scans showing nothing, either."

"Means nothing. Fucking grey thing didn't register on scanner at all. Even pointed right at it."

"Well, now it can go be invisible smeared across infraspace. Hey. They're cutting the water now."

"Good. Move in by team. Extreme caution. There's wounded and terminal friendlies, but any could be a shapeshifter. Blood test everyone. If you find one, don't wait for the order. Smoke it."

#163551 Test Pattern


# Chapter 10 - Blood of the Gods

#165346 Test Pattern

We head down a long corridor. There's half a dozen doors along the way, but the keycard gets us through without incident. Mitzi opened a panel and disabled one behind us, and I stashed the wreckage and the broken LMG inside.

We've gone the better part of a hundred meters and seen nothing. The lab must be enormous.

#165348 Test Pattern

Here's something different.

#165349 Test Pattern

Not gonna lie. I'm feeling a little daunted already.

#165385 Test Pattern


" just jumped up on the ceiling," Mitzi says.

"Yeah? Less noise than a bullet."

"I mean, how did you."

"Just jump and grab. Too sturdy to pop off from weight, so you just put your feet on the ceiling and..."

I give it a yank, and it gives a crunch.

#165397 Test Pattern

"Really, I should've popped this the second I came in," I say. "To be on the safe side."

"I mean. I can't do that," she says.

"Bullshit. I've seen you move. You're fast. Fast as me. Faster, probably. At least for now."

"For now?"

"Yeah, uh, I'm hurt, still," I say, struggling for words. "Deep inside."

"...Emotionally?" she asks.

"No. I mean, I've been full of toxins for a very long time. I've got all these problems with my body. I know I should have better eyesight than I do. I know I should move faster. Up until about an hour ago, my hearing was complete shit."

"Oh," she says, sounding a little worried.

"Hey, relax. You're improving, too. I can read it in your movement."

"Oh," she says, somehow sounding even more worried.

I just can't win.

#165421 Test Pattern

I don't hear any footsteps or... anything. It's definitely not business as usual in here. That's good and bad. We're not likely to run into many humans, but if it's compromised, and not just closed or something, it's only a matter of time before they send troops in to re-secure it.

Okay, so how about that whatever-it-is on the wall, now?
As predicted, it's a map.

It's numbered, with a little key in the corner. Most of these are uninteresting. Offices, break rooms (tasty, but uninteresting), rest areas, general stores, environmental equipment, machinery, that sort of thing. We don't know how much time we have.

A few look promising.

#165467 Test Pattern

You're probably right.

"It's okay, Mitzi," I say "I'll help you through this."

I hug her. She says nothing.

"I know this is hard for you," I say. "And... I know I'm not great with words. But I'm going to keep my promise. I'm going to get us out of here. I don't know how yet, but I'm getting us out of here."

#165476 Test Pattern

"Penji..." she says. "I'm... I'm sorry I'm being like this."

"It's okay," I say. "It's just a human thing."

She pauses, then hugs back, putting her head against my shoulder. Her heartbeat slowly calms.

"There's a records room for the lab," I say, after awhile. "I was thinking we could start there, but I don't know anything about breaking into a computer. Can you help me?"

She nods.

#166204 Test Pattern

We head to Records. It's not a very long trip.

There's machinery working, this way. Active air cycling and filtration, doors, computers, pumps... I think my blindsight is fully repaired, but it'll take more practice to properly interpret what I sense.

Records is a whole sub-complex, with server rooms, analysis rooms, and so on. We head to what looks most important.

#166208 Test Pattern

I put two rounds into the camera as I sweep the room.

The lights are strong here. There's a bank of computers to the left, and a desk loaded with computer terminals at the far corner.

A constant rush of air flows from a vent above to one at the far wall.

"Christ and Cthulhu," Mitzi says. "How much storage do these guys need?"

"Forty years," I say, half to myself.

#166268 Test Pattern

I leave Mitzi and start sweeping the area. I find lots of computer stuff. Storage devices. Parts. Software cards. Probably useful. I make a note.

I'm finding neither combatants or noncombatants.

Well, unless you count this.

Blood splatter. Glasses. Torn cloth. A few buttons and other detritus. No corpse. No remains of a corpse other than blood.

Reeks of human, of course. The stain's been here awhile. Hint of another scent, alien to me. Different from anything in HS3.

#166338 Test Pattern

Wait, is that thing on the terminal a phone or a key card?
It's one of those personnel cards. Like the one that let me into the computers at HS3 until it melted.

Also did anyone check the piece of paper stuck vent in the room you left Mitzi?
The... what? No, I did not.

if something ate the bodies there would be piles of shit everywhere.
I suppose that depends on how discerning they are. I'm finding neither shit nor corpses.

#166359 Test Pattern

Anything interesting about whatever is offscreen to the right?
Not unless teeth count!
If there isn't anything, head back to Mitzi and check that paper.
I return.

"Hey," Mitzi says. "Without a personnel card, it's going to take me-"

"Found one," I say, tossing it to her.

"Oh..." she says. A few seconds pass. "Well, I still need a password to access anything in-"

"Also, I found a piece of paper on the vent."

"Let me guess," she says. "It's got the fucking sysadmin password just written right on it."

"Carvermutt four eight five," I say. "All one word. Alternating caps beginning with a capital."

"Oh goddamn it."

"You're welcome."

Who says I don't know anything about hacking?

#166364 Seven01a19

Tell her you're pretty sure her brother set this up, but she should lock the doors and not open them for anybody but you.

#166429 Test Pattern

I stand by to cover Mitzi. I checked most of the nearest rooms anyway.

Well, it was more like one tooth. I could go get it, if you want, but for what purpose?

"Can you lock the doors for everyone but us?" I ask.

"No. I can only really access the database from here. The base network's down or inaccessible. Y'know. Obviously."


"Why do you ask? More bodies or something?"

"Or something, yes. So what CAN you do?"

"Uh..." she says, then seems to decide against pressing me for details. "I'm still figuring that out, but... hells, it looks like I've got access to most of the database. The whole archive for the lab! I can even download the encrypted ones, for when we get out of here."

"So... what's it say?" I ask.

"Fuck," she says. "There's exabytes in this thing. I don't even know where to begin."

Nice to see her excited about something. I suppose I should be excited, too. I've run into nothing but questions since I woke up.

#167155 Test Pattern

My bullet wounds are mostly healed, and my tails are rebuilding steadily, so I devote most of my energy to healing my eyes, and repairing those flaws I detected in my musculature.

This is going to take awhile, but hopefully there'll be steady improvement.

#167166 Test Pattern

"Let's start with what the fuck am I," I say. "That's something we're both wondering."

"Yeah," she says. "And hopefully I won't find any footage that makes me want to curl up in a puddle of my own vomit."

Several seconds elapse in silence.

"Okay, I was wrong," she says. "Jesus. Listen, you might not want to see-"

"If it's the autopsy, I already saw it," I snap.

"Penji..." she whispers.

"Just find an overview."

#167167 Test Pattern

"Right. Uh. This alternates between what you probably already know, and what you need a doctorate to understand."

"Maybe we should just download this."

"Well, first I need to figure out which parts to download," she says. "Ooh! Ooh! Interviews!"

"Fire it up."

#167170 Test Pattern

Mitzi picks a file. One of the earlier ones.

"...You need to stop looking at this creature like a parahuman, or even an alien. Its metabolism is closer to what little we've read about precursor artifacts than anything we'd consider normal."

"What are you saying? This is a machine?"

"I'm saying it's a weapon, sir."

"This is a little much."

"It's more than consistent with what we saw at Athelhom. We fought survivors, sir. Walking wounded. And, meaning no disrespect, we didn't even face the brunt of them."

"But, precursor weapons? I'd have expected... different."


"Unfathomable shit. Thunderbolts from on high. Uh... Intelligent, self-replicating kill-drones, or something."

"That last one is not inaccurate. The other two are a matter of opinion."

#168143 Test Pattern

"Well," Mitzi says. "I guess I'm not that surprised. No offense."

"None taken," I say. Neither am I.

The figures move on to less interesting, or at least less pertinent subjects.

#168144 Test Pattern

"There more like this?" I ask.

"Gimme awhile and I'll tell you how many hours of it."

"How about an inventory? Or a map?"

"Well, with this much data, it's probably in here somewhere, but I don't know where to start," she says. "The system's really set up more along the lines of, like, someone spending three weeks writing a report on your reproductive system."

#168145 Test Pattern


"Well I thought it was funny," she says.

I decide to change the subject.

"Tell me about Athelhom."

"Hoo... It was this town that blew up forty years ago," she says. "Actually, three blasts occuring within about a second. First, a multi-kiloton blast at some lake, then a multimegaton blast centered almost right over a nearby town with that name, then a fucking huge one at the same spot as the first blast. Like, a hundred megatons, I think."

"What did that?"

"Well, I'm starting to think you did," she says.

#168148 Test Pattern

"Right, sorry..." she continues. "Official story changed a bunch of times. What we know is that then the government sent in the army."

"To help the victims?"

"What, to un-vaporize them? They mobilized five fucking divisions within a couple hours, high readiness levels with a war looming, see, and sent them right into the area."

"Then what happened?"

"Shit, pick a story," she says. "Radioactive zombies, a portal to Hell opening, robots from the center of Inacayo, mind control gas making everyone go crazy. Uh. Tozols... Four thousand soldiers died. The fucking Diplomats, capital D, showed up afterward, and I mean right afterward, and started channeling tons of aid money into the government. Then the war started, and-"

"Wait. Which government?" I ask.

" The government," she says. "Like I was saying: Then the war started and they conquered the planet."

#168154 Suggestion

WHO conquered the planet? Who are the Diplomats? Which planet are we talking about here?

#168228 Test Pattern

"No. Stop," I say. "Who conquered the planet? WHICH planet?"

"You sure as shit are an alien," she says. "You're on the human world of Inacayo, unless I'm very, very mistaken. In 2169, the state of Melusina, one of the successors of the original colonial charter, put the boot down on the planet proper, thanks to a fat sack of interstellar credits, courtesy of the Diplomats. Xeno tech. Mercenaries. All that. Now it's just Inacayo. State, planet, and government."

but in a different note, how many babies at once could you deliver?
Always one at a time. I know that without having to look it up. But this is not the time or place.

#168608 Test Pattern

Well, she's the perfect weapon.
If you already have the perfect soldier, why waste time with genetics?
Perfect, huh?

Okay. So wait a second.

If I'm perfect... why did I get a big hole through my head?

#168650 Test Pattern

Mitzi searches for information on other tozol survivors, while I fetch some computer equipment. She thinks we can rig the laptop we found but can't unlock with a new hard drive, so we can access the information we download.

Also ask Mitzi if you're the first Tozol humanity has encountered
She'd never heard of the species before, so she wouldn't know. If they covered up such a massive incident for so long, who knows how many others there might've been?

Tozol survivors? Are there more like Penji?
Mitzi points me at the results, and gets to work.

"CRONUS: Xenoform. Recovered alive OCT-2-2163 from Athelhom security zone. (DECEASED: JAN-18-2168)

HYPERION: Xenoform. Recovered alive OCT-1-2163 from Athelhom security zone.

TETHYS: Xenoform. Recovered alive OCT-2-2163 from Athelhom security zone."

#168697 Test Pattern

I pull up the file. A tozol stares through me.

I wonder what a Tozol-spliced human could do.
This file mentions something about a 'Half Tozol.' I'm not sure that's quite it, however.

There's a timeline summarizing what they did with Hyperion. It's fairly grisly.

They're probably back in HS-1 and HS-2.
Hyperion was moved to an offsite facility decades ago. Cronos is kept in Artifacts.

#168745 Test Pattern

OCT-1-2163: Subject HYPERION recovered, brought to interim lab for study. Limited regeneration observed in spite of catastrophic wounds and radiation dosage, halting presumably as nutrient stocks depleted.

OCT-3-2163: Subject regains consciousness. Immediate hostile response. One casualty. Suppress applied.

OCT-5-2163: Heavy restraints constructed. Nutrient drip administered.

OCT-6-2163: Metallic shell constructed secured to subject bones to prevent further regeneration.

OCT-21-2163: Suppress partially countered. Subject regains consciousness. Immediate hostile response, but unable to defeat restraints.

NOV-5-2163: Subject remains uncooperative.

NOV-19-2163: Subject remains uncooperative, but begins displaying periods of apparent sleep.

JAN-5-2164: Biological studies to date proving less fruitful than anticipated. Subject moved to QUADRANT FIVE. Subject remains uncooperative.

FEB-1-2164: Containment shell undergoing unexpectedly rapid corrosion.

FEB-6-2164: Shell replaced with newly acquired xeno alloys. Modified to allow access to subject nervous system through wounds.

FEB-20-2164: Nervous system experimentation begins.

SEP-8-2164: Shell displaying no significant detereoration. Nervous system experimentation continuing without significant progress. Subject remains uncooperative.

DEC-7-2164: Nervous system experimentation continuing without significant progress. Subject remains uncooperative.

AUG-25-2165: Nervous system experimentation continuing without significant progress. Subject remains uncooperative.

OCT-18-2165: Nervous system experiment to be run during period of subject sleep. Subject remains uncooperative.

OCT-22-2165: Subject loses consciousness. Sleep cycle experimentation begun. Subject awakens immediately.

DEC-1-2165: Subject loses consciousness. Sleep cycle experimentation begun. Subject awakens immediately.

MAR-9-2166: Subject loses consciousness. Sleep cycle experimentation begun. Subject awakens immediately.

APR-11-2168: Subject loses consciousness. Sleep cycle experimentation begun. Subject awakens immediately.

FEB-15-2169: Subject requests that it be killed. Request repeated between one and twenty times per hour for next four hundred and ninety days.

JUL-23-2173: Subject remains conscious. Has ceased almost all action. Has ceased responding to auditory stimuli regardless of duration or intensity. Remaining eye tracks movement.

SEP-8-2182: Subject consciousness impossible to determine. No longer reacts to any stimuli in meaningful way.

#170626 Test Pattern


#170637 Test Pattern

"Tell me you found something useful," I say.

"I found a map."

#170638 Test Pattern

It's not really that useful, but it cheers me up a little.

#171202 Test Pattern

The Tethys file has a picture of me. Scars and all.

The one for Cronus makes him seem more intact than Hyperion, but all we find in the artifact room are bones. There's a small, rectangular hole at the base of the skull, and a pair of partly healed drill holes in an eye socket.

Mitzi gives me a few minutes alone.

I feel like I could use a few days.

#171207 Test Pattern

She finds a few items crosslinked to my file. She doesn't know what they are, but I recognize them immediately. One's a medical tool and kit. The others are packaged tozol ration bricks. One caloric, the other two are 'building material' nutrients.

"Says they had more of these, but they reprocessed most of them for materials," Mitzi says. "Weird."

#171598 Test Pattern

try putting a little of your blood on it.
He's gone.
I wish I knew his real name. Or Hyperion's, for that matter. Or even mine.

Eat one of the building material bars.
I break the seal on one and start munching. Still good after forty plus years. And by 'good' I mean 'horrible.' No wonder I liked those cookies so much, if this is what I'm used to.

I should specify that this is more like a vitamin than regular food. It's for stuff we're not likely to find in the field. Exotic compounds, superconductor components, and so on. I know that my body can synthesize a lot of stuff, but it's incomplete, energy intensive and time consuming.

I unfold the shrapnel claw from the medical tool and start digging out the bullets. Nnh.

Pain is only a suggestion.

"Apparently these guys couldn't figure out how your gadget there works," Mitzi says, averting her gaze.

#171601 Test Pattern

"They were probably overthinking it," I say. "It's just a multitool to clamp wounds and remove bullets and stuff. The electromagnet's the fanciest part. Also, you should consider trying one of these rations. Your biology might need it, now."

"I'll think about it," she says. "Not sure. You're pretty exotic. Did you know you don't have DNA?"


"They couldn't even agree on a proper name for what you use. Weird, branching sort of macromolecule. And only a tiny fraction of your cells keep the whole code. The rest are just sent what they need to function. That is crazy."

"I don't see how that's really... Wait, EVERY human cell has the WHOLE genome in it?"

"Yeah," she says. "Pretty much all life does that, as far as I know."

"THAT is crazy."

#174417 Test Pattern

does the bullet extractor has a... suggestive shape?
I don't know. Does this suggest anything? And I already said it's called a shrapnel claw.

look up nanites inside Tethys.
Mitzi finds an overview, plus links to files we don't have.

"...microscopic constructs supplied by the Diplomats along with substance XS-185A colloquially known as 'Suppress,' and XS-185B, its counter-agent..."

#174419 Test Pattern

We book it back to the archive room to grab some more files. It's just down the hall.

also look up Tozol armor and Tozol weapons.
Armor and weapons are only mentioned tangentially, but there's more on the microbots.

"...the presence of which, thus far, is the only known means by which a hyperwave scanner, deep radar emitter, or psionicist of any tested variety or strength is able to even detect a Tozol's presence, much less interact with them by any direct means."

"Their invisibility to scanners, combined with observed thermal stealthing and controlled albedo variation, makes these a security necessity."

"In spite of the potential that these may have the secondary purpose of transmitting information to the Diplomats themselves, it was deemed too dangerous to refrain from the use of 'transit micrites' on recovered live Tozol."

Download everything containing Althelhom, Tethys, Tozol, Nyx, Ophion, Diplomat (alien)
We should already have most of this, but we spend a few more minutes scooping up related files, until the hard drives (redundant, in case a bullet hits one) are pretty full. Mitzi's fairly optimistic, even though it only took a few minutes to run into something we wanted but didn't have, before. It'll have to do.

#174809 Test Pattern

We carefully advance to Live Storage, through a minor security checkpoint, then to the cells proper. Thick, transparent, sliding doors stand between us and the enclosures. Blood splatters paint the insides of several. No creatures are visible at first glance. At the end of the corridor is a first aid station.

I reload my empty rifle mag.

#174827 Test Pattern

I start examining cells more closely. They're all blank-walled, with the only distinguishing feature being a steel mirror at the far end.

#174849 Test Pattern


"Mitzi," I say, trying to sound calm but deadly serious. "Some of these cells have creatures in them. Big ones."

"How big are we... Oh shit, that's pretty big," she says, looking into another one.

Getting a closer look means pressing up against the doors to peer around the corner. The seals are airtight, so Blindsight's out, and there's no smell save for the lingering, alien scent spread throughout the whole biology section.

#174886 Test Pattern

We head for the first aid station, trying to avoid a direct line of sight to the monsters, at least from close up.

Are they all full of the same creatures?
They all look alike, though I'm trying to avoid taking a close look.

"Did you see any different species?" I whisper.

"No," Mitzi says at normal volume. "Also, if your gunshots didn't get them going, I doubt talking will."

"Gunshots don't sound like meat," I say.

"Around here, it should."

#174895 Test Pattern

"Bingo," she says.

"Whose turn is it?" I whisper.

"Uh. Little reluctant to use more of this just yet," she says. "I'm... probably mostly clear of Suppress," she says.

I can relate to her confusion. It tends to shut down your ability to tell if it's messing with you.

"Mostly?" I ask.

"I just don't want to rush things," she says.
"What if I lose control? Can we please not argue while we're freaking surrounded?"

I might need her at a hundred percent soon. On the other hand, I could certainly use the Counter-Suppress. On the other other hand, we should maybe focus on getting the fuck out of this room.

#176788 Test Pattern

Slowly, carefully, we head down the length of the block, then back out of the room. If the creatures can escape, they choose not to. Mitzi closes the door and stands watch while I prep the tube of counter-suppress.

I think the needle's built to punch through monsters like the ones in the cells. Handy. One made for a human might not get through my skin.

#176791 Test Pattern

The mind in my head that guides my health grows a little clearer.

The fog of drugs is slowly starting to lift. There's still a ways to go, and there's much to repair.

I think I can purge the Suppress from my system without further help, but that could take days. Better focus on something else.

This dose of C-S, in addition to the superconductors I ate, could let me begin work on repairing my HEAT CHANNELS: A complex vein-like network spiderwebbed through my body. If repaired, this allows me to make certain parts of me highly conductive or highly resistant to temperature. I'm not fully sure what that would do, but my instincts seem to know how to work it.

For now, I continue to focus on repairing my SPEED and SENSES. When they're better, I'll be able to work on improving my deteriorated REFLEXES, or my TERTIARY SENSES, which detect energy signatures of various kinds.

#176817 Test Pattern

I decide to stick with what I was repairing before.

Mitzi's in an adjacent room, security, from the looks of it, with a panel open.

"I thought you were standing watch," I say.

"I thought watching screens would be better than walls."

"But, what are you doing now?"

"I saw another pry-mark," she says. "Like the one on the incinerator hallway control. The cell door circuits have been tampered with. I'm not sure in what way."


"I hope so," she says.

"Think you could figure it out?"

"Prolly. Not really too many different ways you can fuck with a door. How long do I have?"

#176882 Test Pattern

After five minutes, she seems to be making progress, so I give her ten more.

"Come on," I say.

"Normal people would get hours to work something like this out."

"Just give me something," I say.

"I think... I think it's on a timer."

"What is?"

"The doors."

"Which doors?"

"ALL the doors. The cells, the security doors... Who knows what else?" she says. "If it's just a timer, it could be a dozen systems that aren't even connected."

"How long?"

"I don't know," she says. "Hours... I hope."

"Can you be sure? And can you turn it off?"

"Might trigger it by accident if I do either," she says. "It's wired like a bomb, okay?"

#177141 Test Pattern

You don't think 20-something hungry mutant bears let loose is dangerous?
I sure do, for the record. Why do they have so many?

I go silent for several seconds as conflicting thoughts bounce around my head. If we find ourselves neck deep in these things, that's apt to be the end of our little adventure. On the other hand, could be real handy if they attack anyone who isn't us.

Meanwhile, Mitzi might accidentally trip some booby trap, or just cross the wrong wire and set it off prematurely.

"Okay. Good work," I say. "Close it up."

"I still don't know how long we have."

"Longer than we'll have when you're done figuring it out. Let's go."

we could just open a vent or something, climb in and let them pass by
They might not be the impatient type. None of them moved a muscle, near as I could tell, while we were around. I couldn't even hear heartbeats, though the thick walls might have played a role.

#177143 Test Pattern

Part of me is certain I've made a mistake. Knowing exactly how long until this thing goes down could be invaluable.

Fuck it. Thing probably was trapped.

#177146 Test Pattern

We arrive at Stasis.

I'm standing on a catwalk overlooking a huge room. A hundred quiet hums fill the lonely space: computers, sensors, electronics, and the subtle clicks and sloshes of liquid pumps.

Cylindrical containers, most a bit bigger than the one I woke up in, line long racks. At the far end is a huge tank; far, far larger than the others. It looks big enough to hold every one of the creatures in Live Storage with room to spare.

#177569 Test Pattern

What's in the tubes?
Hard to say. The machines here can't connect to the database or... anything. I could get Mitzi to try making them work. Don't know how long that might take. The viewports are all closed.

#177571 Test Pattern

Is the tank empty?
It's the only thing here with an uncovered window. Several, actually. There's red light coming from inside. Dimmed by something, though. Maybe the contents. I'm reminded of the liquid in the tank I woke up in. (Wasn't water, whatever that stuff was. I don't float in water.)

#177644 Test Pattern

I consider yanking the viewport off of a random tube, but then decide to have a better look around before doing any more damage.

I climb the ladder on the big tank, then lean in for a closer view.

There's definitely something inside.

#177647 Test Pattern

Something big.

#177693 Test Pattern

"There's a... I think there's a Valcien in here," I say.

"Holy shit!" says Mitzi. "How's it fit?"


The creature looks at least fifty feet long. What was she expecting?

"Must be young," she says. "Goddamn. I figured they had a cell culture or something, not a whole one!"

"I think it's asleep," I say. "It's not moving, but there's a lot of lines and stuff attached, so I don't think it's dead. Do you think Suppress works on them?"

"Well... it works on me."

#182669 Test Pattern

We spend about twenty minutes examining the valcien tank.

"There's a dose of Counter-Suppress built into the tank," Mitzi says. "In a liquid junction box up there somewhere. But... that's not a lot for a big creature like this."

"So not enough to wake it up? What's it for, then?"

"I don't know. Maybe it can," she says. "Or maybe it's just to keep it stable if they accidentally overdose it on Suppress."

"So, what? Maybe we wake it up, maybe we just have it groggy and confused, maybe it does nothing?"

"Probably one of those three, yeah," Mitzi says.

"Can we just pry the tube out of the plumbing?"

"Probably," she says. "Hope it doesn't do anything bad if we do."

#182721 Test Pattern

We carefully disable and remove the Suppress dispensers. The tank had been injecting a slow trickle of the stuff into the valcien.

Freed from the supply, the creature should metabolize the toxins on its own... but how soon? Days? I don't think it has days.

I carefully pry the C-S tube free from its mounting. I can take it, or give it to the dormant creature. If the latter, swimming into the tank is most efficient, so less material is wasted in the pipes.

#187811 Test Pattern

Dive into the tank
have mitzi come with you

We enter the tank. Mitzi has to wear part of her armor to swim downwards. I guess she doesn't have the density of a real valcien.

"Hey, can you hear me?" I hear. It takes me a second to realize it's not the creature. I nod.

"Great. Wasn't sure if this would work," Mitzi adds.

There might be some way for me to do the same, but I can't think of how, and don't want to drown in the attempt.

#187812 Test Pattern

I carefully approach the valcien. Mitzi follows, hesitantly.

#187813 Test Pattern

The thing's surface is pretty hard. There's layers below the skin that feel like a warship hull. Looking closer, some of the lines that have been inserted into its body are actually riveted in place. I can't tell if the needle can get through, so I run my hands along its surface until I find what feels like a weak point.

There's no reflex, even as the needle sinks deep into its flesh. Counter-Suppress floods into... some part of it. I don't know anything about valcien biology. I hope I'm not hurting it.

#187833 Test Pattern

just back up a little but don't exit tank.
We put some distance between us and the valcien. I tread water near the top of the tank.

For several minutes, nothing happens. But then, its upper surface shifts. A ripple, almost imperceptible even to my improved vision, flows over it, and then tendrils start corkscrewing up through the liquid towards us.

#187880 Test Pattern

We scramble out of the tank, just ahead of the tendrils.

"Can you try communicating with it?" I ask. "I don't know what it's doing."

"Can't you hear it?" she says. "It's howling. It's scared and numb and wants to get out."

"I don't hear shit, Mitzi."

"I... I think it recognizes my scent?" she says.

"Because you're spliced?"

"I smell like someone who was in the tank before."

#187951 Test Pattern

"Marcus was here?" I say.

Mitzi keeps crawling backwards as the tendrils move toward her, forming secondary shapes I can't guess the purpose of. They're less interested in me. One poked my foot, but either couldn't or didn't hurt my skin.

It's slowing down now. Is this as far as it can stretch, or is it getting tired?

"It... it wants to talk to me," she says. "Wants to talk to anyone."

"Like you 'talked' to the guard?" I ask.

Mitzi doesn't respond. That was probably a poor choice of words. Still, should I get her away, or tell her to make contact? If she had the psionics to respond to the creature from afar, she'd have certainly done that by now.

#187999 Test Pattern

"Talk to it, then," I say.

"I'm not... I'm not really sure if..."

"It's getting weaker," I say. "In five minutes we might have missed our chance. Quit trying to decide and just do it."

"... Okay," she says.

#188000 Test Pattern

They carefully touch. It might almost seem intimate if it didn't look so strange.

#188006 Test Pattern

"Holy shit," she says.

"Is that normal?"

"None of this is normal!" she says. "Nothing about any of this is normal!"

#190824 Test Pattern

She goes quiet for a spell.

"Talk to me," I say, keeping the pistol trained on the tendril.

"Niraem Zanalach," she says. "Of Fleet Orqu. He doesn't understand how he got here. His thoughts are disorganized. His system's flooded with Suppress. He doesn't know it. He does now. He wants the counter-agent. He is concerned that a Tozol is here. Tozols are dangerous. Tozol thoughts cannot be detected. Tozols fly fast ships with accurate weaponry. They have the old power."

"What about a way out?" I ask. "Something we can use."

"He doesn't know," she says. "He's sad that I don't know. He's furious, now. He wants to fight something. He's finally wondering what I am. He's trapped. He's so weak he can barely move. The counter-suppress only cleared away an area of toxins, enough to let him think. Before long, it will equalize and he'll be unconscious again. It terrifies him. Valcien are not supposed to sleep."

#190855 Test Pattern

"Tell him we'll try and get him out, but we can't do it yet. Make sure he understands we're on his side," I say.

"It's not... It's not words," she says. "Thoughts, feelings, flashes, something."

"Merged minds?" I ask, hesitantly.

"I don't know," she says. "High bandwidth communication at the wrong layers. I feel strange. Feeling into my brain. He can read my thoughts but doesn't know what to do with them. What are you? What is a door? What is a facility? What is a melancholy? What are you? What are you ?"

"Tell him!"

"Confusion. A human that is also a valcien is like a moon that is also a star. What is geocentrism? What is Copernicus? Humans are components and not a whole."

"Fuck this," I say. "Can it get us out of here?"

"He wants to kill. Kill! Kill! Kill!" she barks. "A tozol understands. The only thing a tozol understands."

#190958 Test Pattern

"I understand cooperation," I say instead, realizing it can hear me through her. "We share a goal. I will come back for you, if I can. Then, you will help us get out, if you can."

"If if if if," Mitzi says. "What is trust? Concept is incompatible with situation. Tozol infantry presence at point blank! Birdstrike danger."

"The only danger is what will happen to you if you eat my friend," I say. "What are tozol? What do you know? Where are more of us?"

"Third-plus-hand knowledge," Mitzi says. "Once noteworthy space hazard. Major drop in activity long ago. Second activity drop more recently. Unable to express compatible time unit. Sixty? Forty? Fifty years? Almost no recorded encounters within last thirty years. A significant bounty is offered for information regarding extant tozol population clusters."

"What?!" I say. "By who?"

"Diplomats," she says. "Pressing concern! What is this tank? This harness around my hull? What is explosive hazard? I taste no significant weaponry."

"What does that mean?"

"A destruct mechanism," Mitzi says, sounding a little more like herself. "Bands of explosives are strapped against it. But. They've been emptied?"

#191287 Test Pattern

hug Mitzi
stay until he falls unconscious again

Niraem grows angry. He rants through Mitzi. He tells me about flying, plunging in and out of atmospheres, learning how to maneuver, how to shoot, disguising against asteroids, in nebulae. He doesn't understand how he went from that to this. He doesn't know how long he's been trapped. Years, at least. He tries staying angry to stay awake. He realizes it's not working, but doesn't quit.

Mitzi's voice fills with remorse. Niraem doesn't think he'll ever escape. He doesn't know how to get home. Valcien haven't been part of interstellar culture in decades. A century spent as mercenaries, privateers, and pirates left them with more enemies than firepower, driving them to barren star systems at the outskirts of known space. He says Penji should relate. Niraem was raised on stories of defeat and lost glory, watching civilization from afar, relearning how to survive on biotech alone.

He still doesn't understand what Mitzi is, but she's all he has. He says valcien don't have a fixed life cycle. Some start as rooted creatures, or great, living, burrowing machines feeding on the metals and organic compounds of a planet's crust. He wonders if Mitzi is a larval phase. He hopes to meet her again some day.

His thoughts grow more disjointed, pleading for escape, pleading for us to contact his fleet, until finally, his connection decoheres, mentally and physically.

He's gone.

#194470 Test Pattern

I wait with Mitzi for awhile, then get dressed.

The place has more tubes, most larger than the ones I woke up in. Most of these are clearly empty. I can start ripping off the shields to the viewing ports and seeing what's inside, as was suggested earlier, or I can just leave.

The room's filled with all kinds of scents, but my sense of smell isn't as useful as it is strong. I don't know what smell means what, or whether a sensation of similarity means something is the same species, or the same individual. I can recognize things like blood, humans, and Mitzi, but anything particularly useful is beyond me. It's like if I'd woken up with no visual memory. Without any idea what all the shape and color my eyes were giving me. Just sensations.

#194475 Test Pattern

Speaking of eyes, I think I can see in infrared, now.

#195113 Test Pattern

look in the viewport of a warm tube

Inside, motionless.

#195117 Seven01a19

Check one or two others; see if there's anything Mitzi can identify.

Also do this.

#195126 Test Pattern

The creature seems inactive. Its eyes are open, but I don't know if they're capable of closing. It seems alive, but totally immobile. I can't hear a heartbeat. Just a slow movement of liquids.

I clamber up onto the tube and search the chemical dispensers. Tranquilizers, nutrient drip, and some other things I don't recognize. Nothing particularly useful to me.

#195137 Suggestion

Let's move. We're done here. We can look up what kind of creature that is later.

Let's go back to the panel and find out how much time is left.

#195174 Test Pattern


The odds of finding anything useful are looking slim. I decide to check one more before leaving.

This one's got a 'hostile contents' warning on it. Strange, seeing how the one with the jagged-toothed creature did not.

#195179 Fredrick



no but seriously he looks like a giant goddamned human. I wouldn't mess with him because even though he looks pretty placid right now he's probably fucking berserk or something when awake. Leave him be.

#195455 Test Pattern

I disengage the locks, letting the liquid drain free. The human hangs limp from many wires and connections locking into metal plates embedded in its body.

I bind its arms with the shackles we found.

#195460 Test Pattern

It is quite large. Over a foot... maybe a foot and a half taller than me, making it the largest human I've seen here by a considerable margin.

I use the antidote we found in the medical kit. Broad-spectrum antitoxin. Maybe it'll work on whatever it's dosed up with.

#195463 Test Pattern

It snaps awake, instantly breaking the shackles. I let go of the syringe an instant before it can grab my hand around it. It grabs my pistol, pushing it aside.

#195465 Suggestion

Jump backwards, clear pistol yell freeze. If he doesn't shoot him in the leg

#195499 Suggestion

Don't let him get the gun. Communicate that you are not here to kill him, and that he should calm down so we can talk.

It goes without saying that we shouldn't shoot him unless he is seen to be completely unreasonable and hostile to us.

#195516 Test Pattern

"Freeze!" I yell. "I'm not with them!"

Using both hands, I manage to pry the pistol free of the human's grasp without breaking it.

The human stabs me in the eye. The needle drives straight into my pupil with more force than a bullet, tears through my retina, and crumples against the bone of the socket.

#195548 Test Pattern

I backpedal, hoping that the tubes and wires connecting him to the tank will slow him down. They don't, and the wires snap noisily. I shoot him in the ribs, and my head snaps to the side from the force of a powerful right cross.

Whatever this creature is, it isn't human.

#195569 Test Pattern

He moves his waist to keep his groin protected, so I kick him in the stomach. It knocks him back only a tiny bit, but sends me flying.

His arm snaps down to catch my ankle, but I'm a hair too quick. I'll land a dozen feet away.

Mitzi was wandering around and looking at other tanks when I decided to open this one. She'd be somewhere on my blind side. The backpack is close to the tank, also to my right. It contains tools and ammunition, but no firearms.

#195595 Test Pattern

As I land, I switch hands and start shooting. The range is short, but I'm moving as quickly as I can, and am not used to missing an eye. I land two hits to the target's torso. The heavy slugs should put him down, but he shrugs them off. He rips the control console for his tank from the floor and throws it, very hard, at me.

#195612 Test Pattern

stand your ground
Rooting my stance firmly, and leaning into the blow, I slap the projectile aside.

The humanoid is already running at me, perhaps hoping to find me off-balanced and vulnerable after his attack. I am still steadying my weapon.

I wish I'd started improving my speed earlier.

where's your rifle?
Still on my back.

#195968 Test Pattern

I focus on shooting him while maneuvering away, but he's focused solely on closing the distance, and is faster than he looks. My pistol sends rounds through his chest, his arm, and glancing once off his skull. The bone there, visibly damaged, gives a metallic glint, but he's not slowed at all.

My weapon runs dry. He hits me, and I reach for my rifle, but don't get a good grip before my back slams into another tank, hard enough to deform both it and my armor. I avoided crushing the rifle, but it could still be damaged.

The human-thing, whatever the fuck I should call him, grabs my left hand and pushes it away. Before I can recover, he drives his knee into my side.

#195974 Suggestion

Penji I cannot stress how important it is for you to not let him stab you in your eye again.

GET THAT SYRINGE AWAY FROM HIM. It's grapplan time. Use all four limbs. I think your left leg is the best limb you can use to grab his syringe hand. Use your other two free limbs to attack his groin and eye.

#196297 Test Pattern

I knock him back and grab his wrists.

His greater mass lets him punch harder and knock me around, but I think I'm stronger. Nevertheless, one wrong twitch will let him grab my ankle and swing me like a club.

My pistol's free, but empty. I have reloads, but they may be damaged from the impact.

#196438 Test Pattern

I try to gouge his eyes, but he turns his head away and keeps moving, making them a hard target. I start slashing at his gut, instead. My feet are made more for gripping than for hurting things, but soon enough, I'm tearing out chunks of meat.

He slams me from wall to wall in the meantime. I nearly lose my grip as my head hits a control panel hard enough to smash it to pieces, and my armor's turning into scrap metal. He isn't slowed down by the damage I'm doing, save that the muscles I'm destroying are no longer in use.

He spots Mitzi drawing near. She has her claws out, probably not wanting to risk hitting me with gunfire.

#196638 Test Pattern

He hits Mitzi, hits me, and hits Mitzi with me.

We saw and tear through him, until he's weakened enough for me to snap his head all the way around without losing my other eye.

Somehow, he keeps fighting.

#196639 Test Pattern

I put a stop to that.

#199474 Test Pattern

We take five. Mitzi seems only a little shaken. I have cuts and bruises all over, and some minor internal injuries, in addition to the eye. I find a medical kit and rig up a patch. It's probably unnecessary. My lid's already sealing shut. Maybe this will look less unnerving than blank flesh where the eye should be.

Are we sure I should focus my healing entirely on the wound? Fully restoring my left eye's function will take less time than healing my wounded right. Binocular vision is best, but I do have some stadiametric rangefinding ability.

And you look like you enjoyed that quite a bit too. Did you?
Yes. I like killing.
You should eat its heart. Take its strength and add it to your own.
It doesn't work that way. Still, I eat some muscle and cybernetic components when Mitzi isn't looking. I can use the materials.
but he's probably full of Suppress

I'm a little more cleaned up, if you want me to try the hug thing. We should really get moving, however. We could see if there's any survivors in the Panic room, or head back to the Cells to see how much time we have before the big surprise triggers (assuming we have more time than it takes to figure that out), or we could leave the Biology section altogether. Maybe try Technology. Maybe just go anywhere but here.

#199705 Test Pattern

I focus on repairing the injured eye. Best to have two, even if it means I'm slower for longer.

I find Mitzi, out of sight of the corpse. She's cleaned herself up, but still reeks of blood. I put a hand on her shoulder. She doesn't react at first, then puts her hand on mine.

"Hey," I say. "You holding up?"
"Yeah. Sorry about your eye."
"It's my fault," I say. "You did well. No hesitation that I saw."
"Yeah, I didn't think about it. Just killed him."
"Whoever it was-"
"Second Lieutenant Tadeu Ruben," she says, absently. "I looked it up."
"Who ever it was," I repeat. "It wasn't a person when we found it. I just wanted to let him out, but he was dead before we got here."

Mitzi doesn't say anything to that. I don't know if she believes it. I don't know if I believe it. He died when I twisted his head off and tore his torso in half.

"We need to get moving," I say. "We've spent an hour here. Don't know how much longer we have."
She nods.
"Let's check the panic room. Might find someone to blame."
"Is that important?" Mitzi asks.

#199720 Test Pattern

"If they can help us get out, then yes," I say.
"And if they won't?"
"I'm not above forcing them. You shouldn't be, either, after what they did."
"It's... You're probably right," she says. "It's just a lot to process, I guess. I get flashes of what they did to me. Flashes of Niraem, too. What he told me. What they did to him. It's horrible. I know I should be angry. Or terrified. It's just too strange to wrap my head around."
"You'll have years to figure it out," I say. "After we get out of here."
"It's more than emotions," she says. "Talking with him, or whatever we did. There's more to it. Images. Concepts. Things in my brain too alien to taste the shape of."
"I don't understand," I admit. "But you're taking it pretty well."
"Heh," she says, without a trace of humor. "Like you said, I can freak out about what kind of fucked up monster I am later. But, for now, I need to figure out how to be a kind of fucked up monster that will help us escape. And I think talking with Niraem helped. He gave me a lot of data. I know it's useful."

#199722 Test Pattern

"...I just have to figure out what it means. "

Tozol Quest: Thread 7

#202825 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645
Thread 3:>>103192
Thread 4:>>120515
Thread 5:>>141320
Thread 6:>>160101

# Chapter 11 - The Magician

#202827 Test Pattern

Mitzi and I make our way through the darkened lab. Though it's powered down, there's enough lingering heat sources for me to navigate by infrared even in pitch black. The panic room's surroundings are lit by meager emergency lights, and by the flickering lines of a broken monitor.

#202828 Test Pattern

The area smells like blood, but everything in Biology does. At least here there's a visible source.

As we approach, the camera in the corner rotates to track us, and a screen flickers to life opposite the malfunctioning one, displaying nothing.

#202830 Test Pattern

"Marcus and Mitzi Tibur, I presume," says a voice from a pair of speakers.

#202950 Test Pattern

I give Mitzi a surprised look. It's not too hard to fake.

"Ho-o-ow'd you know?" she asks.

"Active tozols control their heat signature," says the voice. "Though. The mechanism for that is still poorly understood. Perhaps it takes time to generate the necessary materials. But this is quite secondary to the fact that Tethys has been brain dead for forty years ."

"Ah," Mitzi says, to fill the silence. "Pretty good, though, huh?"

"Oh, I'm confident it will suit your purposes," he replies. "Dress up as such a high priority target that they'd never suspect it's a trick. Grab their attention, then melt away as something else. Somewhere else."

"So who are you?" I ask. It's not like he'll recognize my voice.

"Haven't we met? Were you Yong? Or Matthei?" He asks. "What I really want to know is what you're doing here. Whatever you've done out there, and it WAS you, wasn't it, you finished it hours ago. What do you want with me? Cooperation under threat of violence? I have supplies for weeks, and those guns won't penetrate this door."

#203312 Test Pattern

"I've been getting chased, blown up, shot, and stabbed," I say. "I only want to leave."

"And you think I'd help you?" the voice asks.

"We can talk, at least," I say. "You still haven't told me who you are."

The intact screen resolves into a video of a human.

"Harold Qillig," he says. "I'd be happy to stall you for as long as you like."

The panic room probably has some degree of comms to the rest of the base
As far as we can tell, this entire section has been cut off from the rest of the base. It's hard to believe that they'd not have troops here already, if they have any idea what Marcus has been doing.

#203435 Test Pattern

"Why are you people making supersoldiers?" I ask. "What do you need them for?"
"Are you trying to seem stupid?" he asks. "Or do you merely want my opinion on the obvious utility of nigh-unstoppable living weapons?"
"I think I already know your opinion about those," I say "I found the sketch you made of Tethys."
"Sketch?" he asks. "Oh. Silvis. He was fond of drawing creatures. Especially Tethys. Strange fellow. Too well connected for any of us to terminate."
"Terminate? As in, make into the next test subject?"
"As in fire," he says. "My superiors collect subjects from the global population based on mental and biological suitability, and the ability to make them disappear. Surely you know this by now."
"My mind's not what it should be," I say. "What did you do to us?"
"Spliced you with Valcien, as they say," he says. "Of course, to call the fundamental reengineering which took place, in vivo, I might add, a 'splice' is practically an insult. Limbs, bones, organs, brain. Every cell of your body has been completely redesigned. The fact that your mind continues to function at all, in emulation of the human you were, is a testament to our success."

#203751 Test Pattern

"I'm still human," I say.
"No. You aren't," he says. "Look at you. You could be Tethys back from the dead, for all I know. You've replicated every last detail, aside from that silly eyepatch."
"Nice tie," I reply.
"Thank you."
"What about the Diplomats?" I ask. "What happens if they find out you have live tozols here? Never mind things like me and Mitzi."
"How do you think we've kept the secret?" he asks. "They'd see it as a betrayal. No one would be safe. Not even the whistleblower."
"Why do they care so much?" I ask.
"They've been destroying tozols for centuries," he says. "Try as they might to keep their motives hidden, that much is obvious. Whatever you're doing here..."

#203753 Test Pattern

"What makes you think I'm doing anything?" I ask, trying not to react to the rest.
"The announcements? The misinformation? The communications outage? The jabberwocks? " he says. "And now you standing here? What ever you're doing here, I hope you haven't gone mad enough to try calling the Diplomats. If, by some chance, you succeed, the entire planet will suffer for your petty revenge."

#203950 Test Pattern

"Help us escape," I say. "And we'll just leave. Steal a ship, head off planet, never come back. Otherwise, yeah. I'll fuck this whole world."
"Or," Qillig replies, with a pause. "We recapture or kill you, and resume the work. This damage will make officials unhappy with the project, but I think it also offers a tantalizing glimpse of what can be accomplished, once we get your kind under control."
"Our kind?" Mitzi interjects. "How many like us have you made?"
"Out of over a hundred attempts, three survivors, and only you two show real promise. But we finally have an idea of how to do it. Work slowly, replacing only segments at a time, allowing the brain to work out the changes over months, and incorporate its new substrate. Well, that and accounting for the mechanical aptitude you two display."
"What?" Mitzi says.
"You two were both in the top percentile for engineering test scores," he continues. "And it IS genetic. Make no mistake. Probably designer genes in your ancestry. Or you're natural outliers, like me. It's more than knowledge and practice. It's a function of your mind, to understand your work. Machines. Circutry. We believe that's why you are able to survive the process and modify your own body, on the fly, subconsciously, in spite of your lack of biological learning. Incredible. Unfortunate that the rest of your kin went into hiding after your disappearances."

#203952 Test Pattern

"Unfortunate," says Mitzi.
"With a more stable pool of personnel to draw on, we could build on this."
"Unfortunate?" says Mitzi.
"Please," says Qillig. "We've spent years stumbling around in the dark, waiting for our processes to slowly, tentatively, fail. I spent most of my work days for over a year just staring at Tethys's corpse floating in a tube, waiting for you two to surface from your drug-addled chrysalis."
" UNFORTUNATE?! " shouts Mitzi.
"Marcus. Control her," says Qillig, sounding bored.

#205113 Test Pattern

"No," I say. Something in my voice makes Mitzi freeze. "You don't even understand what kind of an enemy you've made. You've had forty years and you still don't understand."
"Forty..." he says, trailing off.

#205114 Test Pattern

Before he says anything else, I rip the screen off the wall and throw it into the camera with enough force to smash them into a cloud of shrapnel and sparking debris.

If he still has working speakers, he doesn't use them.

#205148 Test Pattern

Plot demise of Qillig
This isn't so much 'plotting' as 'prying open a door,' but I'll give it a shot.

Oh man, this thing does not want to open.

"I don't suppose you can beat the lock?" I ask.

"Seems like it'd be pretty specifically designed to resist that," she says. "It's not like a security door where I just have to make it think we're authorized, or just fire up a poorly protected motor."

"You can try, though," I say.

"Well, I can try anything," she says. "I can try learning to fly, for all the good it'll do."

"You're half made of starship," I say. "Who says you can't?"

She doesn't respond. I feel I can get this door open, but it could take half an hour or more, if I have to peel it open layer by layer. She might be able to hack it, or I could have her peruse the database for info. Or we could just leave.

#205201 Test Pattern

We both get to work trying to get inside. The crowbar very quickly bends into uselessness, so I start digging at the armor plating with my bare hands. I keep thinking of what Qillig said. It makes the work easier. I don't know if I share the full spectrum of emotions that humans have, but I know all about anger.

Mitzi and I work silently. We aren't really cooperating. It's more of a race to see who can beat the door first. A very slow race.

Still, Mitzi thinks that if I can get through the outer door, she'll have more luck. I didn't even know there were multiple doors...

My eye's healing about as quickly as it can, so I resume improving my other eye, and fixing the flaws in my muscles.

#205372 Test Pattern

Mitzi disables a defensive layer, saving me from a nasty shock. I keep digging through the armor, yanking out ceramics, wrenching apart metal, until my heart is pounding, and I learn that I can sweat.

As I tear a hole through the outer door, I catch a scent in the air. Growing stronger. It's... a pheromone, I think. An odd one, if so. Alien, maybe. Not mine, either. I have no idea what it might mean.

#205745 Test Pattern

I stop digging and turn my attention toward the lab surroundings. We're in a large room, empty save for some equipment, cabinets, and work surfaces along the far wall. There's four exits, plus the panic room. They all lead to more labs, though we can make a beeline to the hallway leading out, through one of them.

"What is it?" Mitzi whispers, kneeling alongside me.

"I smell something," I whisper back. "Some kind of pheromone. Getting stronger."


"Something alien," I say. "Qillig mentioned something called jabberwocks. I think your brother's timer might be reaching zero."

"Oh," she says. "Then shouldn't we be running?"

#205896 Test Pattern

Keep working on the door.
I continue, at a more frantic pace. Minutes slip by.

#205897 Test Pattern

Suddenly, monsters attack.

All the doors, save the one to the panic room, open, and six-eyed creatures emerge from the darkness. Floor and wall panels begin denting inward, filling the room with a cacophony of banging and screeching metal.

#205938 Test Pattern

Shoot any that come to close.
We stand our ground. These things are much faster than they look. By the time I finish telling Mitzi not to shoot until they get close, they're here.
FMJ just bounces off their forward surfaces. My pistol's AP rounds put holes in them, as do sabots, but they aren't going down!

Go and tear up those unlucky basters with your claws.
Their claws are much bigger!

This is just the kind of stress relief that you two need.
Fuck you!

#206016 Test Pattern

I get slashed a few times as I manage to get us out of our little deathtrap. We start running, but they're right on our heels. I count five of the creatures.

Mitzi is faster than you
I've gotten quicker since then. I'm keeping ahead of her, but it's not a straight line. We're dodging and weaving.
consider pheromones
I don't know, but if I had to guess, judging from circulation, I'd say that they're all throughout the Biology section.
go to stasis
Are you sure? There's at least one there, and it's right next to Live Storage, where we saw twenty more.

I keep shooting while we rush for the exit to try and keep them at bay. Mitzi screams.

"It's got my arm!" she shrieks. "Heeeelp!"

#206039 Test Pattern

"Mitzi!" I yell. "Try shifting the mass out!"

I rush at the monster, the jabberwock, I guess, firing at point blank.

Jam the rifle in its mouth
This proves unnecessary. It chomps my rifle in half, very nearly getting my hand as well. Mitzi scrambles away from it.

"Where's your gun?" I snap,

"It ate mine, too!'

Are they disarming us on purpose? Or just going after heat sources?

#206067 Test Pattern

Don't suppose we've got any flares, or anything in the lab that looks like it could be made to catch fire on the run?
I don't know what any of this stuff does. The only heat producing gadget I've got on me is a flashbang, and that only lasts a moment. I don't think grenades count.

I leave what's left of the rifle. The others circled around behind us while we were slowed, so we jump.

#206069 Test Pattern

One of them catches me in midair. Its claws punch through my skin, sinking into muscle, yanking me down. Its sickle toe slashes at me, scratching my spinal plates.

I cry out. Not from pain, though there's plenty of that, but to let Mitzi know. She's clear of them, now. She can get away, at least for awhile.

#206104 Test Pattern

I scramble for the flashbang, and struggle to keep the jabberwock from tearing out my guts. Its claws dig and dig at the muscles in my back. My blindsight can feel Mitzi behind me, frozen, neither moving to help, nor moving to escape. Soon, she'll be able to do neither.

I hear laughter.

"Stupid, shortsighted, pointless, petty revenge, in the face of looming disaster," he says. "This is your drive? This is your tactical acumen? This is the function of neurology men have wasted lifetimes trying to decrypt?"

I yank the pin from the weapon.

"You were wrong," he says. "I know all I need about what you are."

#206120 Test Pattern

There is flash. There is bang. There is a tremendous burst of infrared.

#206123 Test Pattern

The jabberwocks recoil, one of them ripping a long gash through my flesh in the process. I stumble to my feet. I'm still tired from digging through the panic room's outer door, and these wounds slowing me down.

Mitzi is still behind me, and still hasn't moved or said anything.

"You're almost like a person," Qillig continues. "How disappointing."

#209503 Test Pattern

I'm tempted to say something back, but decide against it. The sound of Qillig's voice seems to have distracted the disoriented creatures.

I back quickly towards the door. My free hand quietly snags a grenade. I pull the pin and cook it off.

#209512 Test Pattern

Blast and fragmentation scatters the jabberwocks, but they seem more surprised than hurt.

I break into a full run.

#209522 Test Pattern

Mitzi and I charge into the twisting hallways. I close the way behind me, and hear the sound of powerful, alien flesh and bone hitting the metal, denting and bending the door in its frame.

"We should get to stasis," I say.

"Stasis?!" shrieks Mitzi. "There's more there! And that's right next to the cells! There's probably more there than anywhere else!"

"I know that!" I shout. I'm filled with a deep and sudden confusion.

"Why would we want to go there?!" she yells.

"I... I don't know!" I reply. What else can I say? The voices told me to?

Mitzi goes silent, then starts screaming.

We're currently running towards the center of the biology section. From there, we can either head towards a specific room, or out of the place entirely.

#209573 Test Pattern

"We are leaving the area!" I shout.

"Finally! Christ!" Mitzi shouts. "What is wrong with you?!"

I don't have an answer. It feels good to run. I'm pulling ahead, but only because she's the one opening the doors. We're breaking forty miles per hour between stops.

"Fucking answer me!" she says. "Are you fucking stupid?!"

"I'm not the one yelling where enemies can hear."

"No, you're just the one who decided we should stay here and get eaten!"

#209589 Test Pattern

"I'm sorry!" I say. "I panicked!"

"I thought you were some kind of... of..."

"Whatever I used to be was shot in the head!" I say. "Shit! Jump!"

We narrowly manage to leap over a jabberwock that crashed into the hallway ahead of us. Surrendering to reflex, I unload my weapon into its limb joints to slow it down. At such close range, the API rounds easily penetrate.

#209592 Test Pattern

We leave the wounded creature behind. It doesn't roar. It doesn't make a sound, except through movement. None of them do.

This means there's yet more of them scattered through the area, and that was my last magazine.

We need to think about where we're going next. I am... feeling less than inclined to follow the impulses I get from you, but I don't know what to do!

I try to calm down. I just need to put more thought into what I'm doing.
What am I doing? We're almost to the bio lab's exit. Where am I going? And, this time around, why?

#212045 Test Pattern

We make it back to the entrance to the biolab. The crater still has water pooled at the bottom, but the flow's long since stopped, so there's no steam to hide us.

I stop and peer around the corner with my blindsight. There's a signature. A large one, not moving very much, but with enough mass that my tails can feel it through the steel, as well as the air.

"What is it?" Mitzi whispers.

"One of the tank-bots, I think. Must've left it to keep watch."

#212047 Test Pattern

what do you have on you?
Mitzi still has the backpack. It has the stuff we found in HS3. Tools, duct tape, computer storage, that sort of thing. I have a pistol but no pistol rounds, and sixty rifle rounds but no rifle. My only working weapons, not counting hand to hand or thrown scraps, are two frag grenades.

Instinct, Penji. Instinct. Aside from 'away' where does it tell you to go?
It... doesn't. But it is does say that I need more weaponry. A lot.

We should go to technology/research. Maybe we can find something in there we can use as a weapon.
That makes sense.

Stores will have C-S
Maybe so, but C-S doesn't provide instantaneous benefit. Weapons do. It can be second.

"Mitzi," I whisper. "We need to get to Tech research. Fast."

"Fuck that," she replies. "You go do that. I'm not getting shot. I'm going back. Find an airtight place. Hide until the bombs go off."

"We didn't find any bombs."

"Marcus didn't grab those explosives for fun," she whispers. "I think he's giving these critters more ways out. I think it's soon."

#212050 Seven01a19

Sit and rest.
Tell Mitzi that pain has been clouding your mind and you need to take a few minutes to calm down and collect your focus. Apologize for making poor judgement calls.

#212120 Test Pattern

How is your eye doing? I know it's been a total of maybe 5 or 10 minutes
It's been over an hour, but it's not ready, yet.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I've been in a lot of pain..."

"Bullshit," she hisses, just barely staying quiet. "You didn't mention pain, before. You didn't mention your brain being broken. You just told me to trust you."

"I'm doing the best I can," I say.

"Fine," she says. "Great. Whatever. I'm glad. I'm going back to find a hiding place. You can follow me or not."

#212762 Test Pattern

"You sure?" I ask.

She doesn't reply.

I don't think we should go hide
Hell no, we shouldn't.
We need to find a weapon before we go anywhere with Mitzi.
Definitely. I need a gun. Or even a good, solid blunt object.
Follow Mitzi and let somebody else make a few decisions for a change.
I don't want to! I've wasted so much time already.

"Good luck," I say as she leaves.

#212763 Test Pattern

I consider the guard robot, estimating the distance, and ready a grenade.

Hiding somewhere and passively waiting is a recipe for disaster.
Definitely. You think these guys only have so many guards? This place is secret, but how important will that secret be when the jabberwocks roam free? How long before the humans bring in whole infantry units to pacify the place?
No, tackling it currently is suicidal.
No, it isn't. If my throw is good, I can blind its sensors with fragments and use a piece of wall as a shield while I run to Tech Research.
We want to keep our promise to her.

#212764 Test Pattern

We promised we'd get her out of here.

Damn it. Damn you.

#212765 Test Pattern

I follow her without a word. We quietly prowl the storage rooms. She finds a row of meat lockers. All are active. All have been emptied, and one's been refilled with what I can only guess is jabberwock shit.

We sneak into an empty one, nearest the blowing heat exchangers that will make our scent hard to localize. The refrigeration unit and thick, insulated walls should mask both our heat and noise, but I don't have anything to do or anything to say.

We're now relatively hidden, and relatively safe, but I feel defeated. And cold.

#212778 Suggestion

Okay, I'm not sure if this voice will be heard, and I'm not sure when the best time to do this would be, but apologize to her.

Mainly, apologize for your/our actions at the gate. Frankly, we let our emotions get the better of us. You/we wanted to rip that smug bastards head off for Mitzi. You/we wanted to make him PAY. You/we knew the monsters were coming, and thought there was enough time to get through the door before they arrived. And you/we were wrong.

Apologize for that.

#212788 Test Pattern

"I'm sorry," I say, again. "I thought we had enough time. I really wanted to kill that guy."
"Me too," she says. "But... I should've thought it through. Even if we did kill him. So what?"
"You could've hacked his brain," I say.
"Right. Almost managed to forget they don't gotta cooperate," she says. "Shit. Maybe if I learn how to actually find out useful stuff with that."
"So, I guess I'm in charge, now?" she says. "I don't know what the fuck to do next, but neither do you."

Hey, a hook. We can use that for a weapon.
Good idea. But I don't want to make that much noise, yet.
May you recap your health status for us, please?
Eye will be ready soon. The claw wounds have all closed up, but there's some underlying damage to my muscles and breasts that will take longer to heal. Not that I actually need tits. The rest of my healing is still devoted to primary senses and speed .
I still don't know why we made speed the lowest priority. We've put less healing into it than anything else. And if we'd put any less into it, I'd be dead right now. I appreciate that we wanted to focus on all my senses, so I can see threats coming, but that's not useful unless I actually take steps to avoid them.

#212811 Test Pattern

How long do you estimate we have in here?
Not sure. Get the Jabberwocks psyched, then let them out. How long's that? Ten minutes? An hour? How long after that happens do we stay here?
you should always prioritize speed.
If I'm really a goddamn alien war drone, I should probably start acting like it.

I've finally got time to think about what that means. On some level, finding out I'm some kind of living weapon system feels... natural. Like being reminded of something I already knew. But, it's also really strange. Like it isn't me. I don't feel like a robot. I don't even feel like a soldier. I don't know who my superiors are, or what my orders are.

Actually, it seems strange and unnatural that I don't know what my orders are.

next stop: awkward-silence-ville?
Ask if she wants to see just how incompatible Tozol minds are
Are you sure?

#213389 Test Pattern

you need someone who can give you orders.
Isn't that your job? Or am I doing this wrong?
Make a thermal barrier
There's not a damn thing in here but ice and metal and us. I wish I still had that labcoat.
We've all cooled down a bit.
... Heh.

"How long do you figure we have?" I ask.
"Ten minutes until the blast. Educated guess. Figure we'd stick around a half an hour after it blew."
"Could be an hour," I say. "Should we huddle for warmth? Or are you still mad?"
"Maybe both."
"Maybe," I reply. "I was also thinking. About what you said a minute ago."

#213390 Test Pattern

"About trying to forget?"
"About the mind-hack thing, yeah," I say. "I was thinking you should practice on me."
"What?" she says. "Are you fucking serious?"

#213391 Test Pattern

"Murphy's balls. Why?" she asks. "Is this really the time to practice shit like that?"
"Maybe my brain is broken," I say. "Maybe you can fix it."
"I don't think I'm rated to service space weasel brains."
"Worked with the valcien."
"I'm made of the same stuff as it, I think," she says. "You're something different."
"Maybe I'm designed for it."
"Buuut maybe not," she says. "Maybe you're built to resist that, for all we know."

#213459 Test Pattern

Deciding against the mind-link idea, for now, we open up the laptop.

We look up Phanes. Another attempt at a Valcien splice, but along different lines. A different mix. Different techniques. Mitzi knew him, but only as a dim memory of a voice named David Cerikin. A voice that grew more pained by the week. More desperate. Less rational. Louder, even after they soundproofed the ventilation. Until, finally, they took him away. She never saw him. Not with her eyes.

"Jesus God," she hisses. "I know this thing! I have nightmares about it."

#213461 Test Pattern


#216534 Test Pattern

Look up Jabberwocks (capabilities and weaknesses)
Mitzi sifts through medical files. There's a lot here.

Jabberwocks are considered an extreme ecological hazard, and a significant military one. They're sneaky. They cooperate. They see in infrared as well as normal light. Each pair of eyes is tuned to a different part of the spectrum, though with some overlap. They have a frightfully quick and efficient metabolism, totally unalike most life forms in known space, which is what the facility was researching.
Also, there's only supposed to be ten in the whole facility.

How about you just look up "Valcien" next?
Valcien shapeshifting doesn't scale. The bigger they get, the less they can alter themselves on short notice. And they can get very, very big. It's not just the size, though. Valcien grow more solid components inside the protean substrate. Durable frames, armor plates, reactionless engines, brains... even things like beam weapons and force field projectors.

Many are psionic. Maybe all of them, though the humans aren't sure. Apparently, no species is known to be universally psionic.

#218517 Test Pattern

I suggest looking up a more detailed overview of the complex.
Mitzi quickly does some data mining. Enough to make some educated guesses.

Vehicle Bay stores craft for the facility. Offloading new specimens and so on. It doesn't hold alien spaceships or warplanes. It does mean there's big doors out of here, but we already knew they brought the valcien inside.

Tech Research looks promising. That's where they study most of the alien devices they've recovered. The most dangerous stuff is kept far away, but there's a few things from the Athelhom event. Actual devices, not just wreckage. Mitzi doesn't find specifics, but I doubt me and a bunch of other tozols were carrying around farm equipment and filing cabinets.

The Chemistry labs are where they do keep wreckage. It's where they study metals and chemicals and shit (probably including actual shit) and learn how to make useful compounds. If anywhere in Quadrant Five can synthesize C-S, it'd be there. I have no idea how long it'd take, though. They could have a machine ready to go, or it could take days, assuming we can even figure it out.

#218518 Test Pattern

Engineering's where they build stuff, or try to. The rest of the facility researches how things work, how to make compounds, alloys, gadgets, and then Engineering tries to put them together. That means anything we find there is likely to be only partly built. If Mitzi's really an engineering savant like Qillig said, maybe she can build something useful. Of course, if the cameras actually work in these places, we'll have minutes, not hours.

Mitzi can't find anything about the other High Security zones, but we know that's where they keep their most secret and most dangerous subjects.

All we can find about Stores (at least, without spending an hour) is basic, uninteresting stuff. Lots of food, lab equipment, scanners, clothes, spare parts, chemicals, computers, pipes, armor, and ammunition. No weapons, and no word either way on C-S.

Offices are self explanatory. Lots of places to hide and information to steal, but that's about it. Mitzi says it's 'predawn on a Sunday,' which means there's probably nobody there.

Waste Processing pulls up some disposal procedures. Short version: trying to crawl through a small pipe full of ash and burnt sewage isn't my idea of a good time. I'm not too proud to escape that way, but if they screen it more than once, we're screwed.

#218535 Test Pattern

Rumbling explosions shake the walls, showering us with flecks of ice. My right eye reflexively peels open, not fully repaired, but functional.

"Hope that worked," Mitzi whispers.

if we can't get to Chemistry, some hi-tech gadgetry wouldn't hurt either.
I think we can get there, probably through a bunch of new holes in this section, but Tech Research is closer.
you said there's armor and weapons in Storage?
I said no weapons. There should be armor and ammunition, though.

I decided to go to Tech before, though I'm amenable to reason. The real trick is getting Mitzi's ass in gear. That is, unless it's smarter to stay put...

#218556 Suggestion


Let's go to technology. Tell Mitzi if we're gonna get out of here we need weapons, so we should hit the tech labs on the way out.

#218651 Suggestion

Offer to go to tech while she stays here, safe in the freezer. You can do recon, then report back to her. If that robot just so happens to get destroyed during said recon, that's just how things go in hostile territory.

#218683 Suggestion

"How long do you figure we have?" I ask.
"Ten minutes until the blast. Educated guess. Figure we'd stick around a half an hour after it blew."

Listen to the woman. We wait half an hour.

#218740 Test Pattern

I hear distant, staccato popping. Gunshots.

"We're wasting time," I say.
"I'd say we're spending it," she says. "On not getting eaten. Good investment. High dividends."
"I'll go for Tech Research. Got to be useful things there," I say. "You head for Storage for more armor, ammo, and kit."
"Y'know, if you're cold, you can just say so."
"We'll be together most of the way there," I continue. "Split up at that main hallway. Meet up ten minutes later."

#218743 Test Pattern

"I get why you want to hurry," she says. "Totally understand. But we need to wait until these guys have beaten the piss out of each other."
"Too optimistic," I say. "I'll go alone, then."
"Don't be like that," she says. "You don't have to prove anything. Just... do the safe thing, for once."
"I'll come back," I say. "Half an hour. You weren't planning on leaving until then, anyway."
Mitzi goes quiet for awhile.
"Good luck," she says.

#218744 Test Pattern

The hallways here are quiet, but the distant gunfire grows more frantic. The airflows have all changed. There's definitely multiple breaches in the section. More ways out. Should I leave Bio the way we came in, or try and find a shorter route? Fast, or sneaky?

#218812 Test Pattern

Go a shorter route
I creep around and avoid what movement I sense. I have to backtrack a few times, but I'm not detected. In the meantime, I can hear alarms blaring outside of Bio.

I'm closer to Tech Research, now. I was hoping I'd find a hole blasted straight into it, but I don't think there is one. Any bright ideas, or should I resort to the main hallways?

#219011 Test Pattern

Use your slinky weasel powers to sneak through an air vent
Does that actually work? Won't there be a ton of grilles and filters? And security partitions? And fan mountings?

The alarms will cover the noise

#219013 Test Pattern

This was a lot smoother in theory. I'm making a racket by smashing through everything in my way and stuffing the wreckage into branching ducts. Still, I'm making progress. I've gone past a few cameras, I think, but they were unpowered like the rest.

The way's getting even narrower. Airflows are too restricted for my blindsight to work, and there's no nearby vents. I'm not certain if I've made it into Tech Research, or if I'm still in Bio, or somewhere in between. I can keep going until I find something, or maybe just smash my way out and hope for the best.

#219708 Test Pattern

I rip through a few layers of metal between me and relatively open air.

Sensing no immediate movement, I put my tails through to get a sense of the room. It's big, dominated by some kind of large, irregular object and some smaller ones. Quite a drop to the floor. I don't hear/sense any moving cameras.

#219721 Test Pattern

Yes. It's a medium dropship. Invoker -class.

There's some kind of sensors or cameras, but they're all pointed at the craft. In fact, most everything in the room is pointed at it, in one way or another.

see if you can see how much further the vent leads
It's embedded in the ceiling, but it can definitely take me to the next room.

#219733 Test Pattern

How the fuck do you know so much about that ship?
I don't know how I know anything. I remember objects, names, concepts, but no specific memories. It's frustrating.
However, I think I remember what the inside of one looks like.

You could peel a long strip of metal out, or just plan pull the vent down
Possible, but would take a very long time. Way too long, if I'm intending to return to Mitzi soon.

Keep moving.
Drop down and try to find a way out, or continue through the ducting?

#219749 Test Pattern

Drop on down
It's quite a drop. I hurt my right ankle. Nothing serious, but it'll slow me down.

I'd like to investigate the dropship, though if it was flyable, they probably wouldn't be keeping it underground.

There's half a dozen doors, split between (assuming up on the map is north) the north, west, and south walls. There's an aircraft-sized something on the east wall. Tracks or seams running up the wall. Could be a door, or a mechanism of some kind.

I still have the high-security keycard, as well as Qillig's ID. I left the other ID card I found with Mitzi.

#222342 Test Pattern

have we dropped down to a lower level in the complex?
Yeah. We're a story below where I left Mitzi, give or take.
How long have we been gone so far?
Bit over ten minutes, I think. I've been moving pretty fast. My speed is helping.

disable stuff pointing at dropship
The control console was left powered up and unlocked. They must've left in a hurry. I wonder why anyone was here at all. No obvious clues present themselves.
I disable the cameras and then spend a minute throwing scraps of metal to disable anything that still looks suspicious.

#222343 Test Pattern

Entering the ship isn't difficult. Everything's unlocked. The doors are powered. Panels lay open, displaying damaged and missing components. Our... this dropship is built with a lot of redundancy, but there's no way it's flying. No armor, weapons, or tools, either.

The cockpit has three crew stations. There's a subtle hum that begins only as I enter. That's what I'd hear if the craft were intact. Computers detecting a tozol. Feet exerting pressure, body transparent to scanners, that sort of thing.

Standing here feels... safe. More than familiar. Routine, somehow. Like I can just take a seat in the passenger compartment, close my eyes, and soon I'll be home.
It's a hollow sensation. Synapses responding to obsolete stimuli, decades old. The ghost of whoever I used to be.

#222540 Suggestion

Take a seat in the pilot's chair and perform the startup sequence. See if the computer still works.

Failing that find anything on the dropship edible or suitable as a club. Remember the dropship is edible.

#222579 Test Pattern

I like spaceships, but I don't think I could eat a whole one.

Security scans me. Biometrics, footprint, handprint. Retina scan fails, perhaps because I've replaced both of mine, but it lets me in anyway. Screens power on, information sliding across the surfaces, graphical readouts and text in the utility language. I trust in my reflexes, my memories. I... don't think I'm a pilot, but I can navigate the computer. Maybe I was rated for ground crew?
If maintenance was my job, no wonder this thing's falling apart.

I'm not certain what to try asking it.

#222582 Θ][Σ

I'd say that spoiler thing behind her is for that. Probably some kind of sensor matrix which detects how they move and responds aptly.

#222597 Test Pattern

An authorization code pops into my mind, and the computer opens up.
The dropship's called the Cloud Breaker , based from the frigate Zeal Like Madness .
If you meant me, I'm not on the crew roster. I just satisfy the security program.
Information flickers in front of me faster than I can read it. I slow it down. The interface is made for someone with faster eyes and a faster brain than mine. This is going to give me a headache, but we are in a hurry.
There's a general knowledge database! It's very small, and scrubbed for opsec, unfortunately, but that's better than deciphering human research.
Uncertain. Equipment's present, at least. I start a diagnostic. It'll take a minute. I can do other things in the meantime.
Weapons are gone. Engines are mostly broken and the fuel tanks are empty. If there's something of value here other than the computer, I haven't thought of it.
The mission of the squad, and what caused the explosion/crash?
The Cloud Breaker had thirty one crew and embarked at last count. Mission was... to stand by? That's weird. Remain hidden at all costs. Then, there was a recall order logged. Enemy presence in orbit. Diplomats suspected. The crew abandoned the dropship and exfiltrated on foot towards the Zeal , which was hidden under a lake. A few minutes later, the point defense computer logged a massive explosion in that direction, plus two smaller ones.
Good guess. I can feel the shape of the hangar via blindsight right now.

#222835 Test Pattern

I lock, but don't power down, the ship's computer.

I double-check the area for anything weird or hidden. The humans have had this thing for forty years. It seems unlikely that they'd miss very much, but it's at least worth a look.

Right in the cockpit, at the Flight Engineer's station, there's a handle that seems out of the ordinary.

#222858 Test Pattern

It's stuck pretty firmly, so I give it a good yank, and the whole object pops right off.

Please be a sword.
Kinda small for a sword. I'm not ruling out anything, yet.

#222867 Test Pattern

Any activation studs or anything on it?
I find a button, unlocking the scabbard and revealing a narrow blade, tapering and triangular. A mercy-giver.
It's heavier than it looks. Several times heavier than steel, I'd guess. Probably collapsium. Very durable.

I remember that it's possible to key gadgets to tozol biology, if there's a physical connection. A human pressing that button would have accomplished nothing, and he wouldn't have been strong enough to yank it free of the chair. It must have seemed like another part of the dropship.

#222882 Test Pattern

metal that collapses?
No. It's already collapsed, so to speak. Very dense.
Does "collapsium" mean that it doesn't obey the laws of conservation of mass and you can change its size?
No, but I can traverse the blade ninety degrees through the guard. Put my whole forearm behind a stab.
I'll have to ask Mitzi where a jabberwock keeps its brainstem.

What now? I could stay and poke around, or try the comms, but I bet there's more to this section of the facility than I have time to explore.

#226703 Test Pattern

HEY, the ship has sensors
I don't know which sensors the humans can detect and which ones they can't. I can go active with the ship's blindsight, I bet. At least briefly, at low power.

There's ... quite a bunch of rooms in here. The ones to the north and south seem to have more signs of heavy equipment. Probably. Could just be the acoustics. This ship wasn't really made to work underground.

#226764 Test Pattern

Go south and check out that big room.
My keycard lets me pass.

I saw a security camera in the room across the hall to the west, but none in here. It wasn't angled to see me.

The room is dominated by a large machine with a hatch on top. There's also several smaller, safe-like containers.

#226790 Test Pattern

They've got warnings up all over the place around that machine. Obviously, you need to investigate that first.
Maybe we'd better leave that hatch alone.

I compromise and try the control console.

Some kind of artifact undergoing a multi-tier composite analysis.

"Brief: 565-8 is one of only two intact Ath-565's, AKA: 'Weasel Bars' that we were able to recover from Athelhom. Recent breakthroughs in xenobiology (see attached notes) offer the possibility that we may finally be able to replicate Tozol biometric keys and activate or even reverse engineer this device. Regardless, it has yet to undergo a complete analysis since we upgraded the composite object mapper."

How much time do we have left before we need to return?
We're probably around halfway to the 30 minute limit.

#227285 Test Pattern

Rev up those attached notes
"...Under these circumstances, cytokine samples were observed to include 19 hypothetical proteins and 21 with unknown function. Via RT-RCR, we can..."

Blah blah, cytokine samples. Blah blah, highly refined endocrine system blah blah auxiliary nerves providing additional internal channels of communication in tozol physiology...

I unlock the machine.

#227286 Test Pattern

I fish out a metal bar about half a meter long. It grips firmly in my hand. It has a good, solid weight.

Memories trickle back. 'Weasel bar' isn't a bad term. We just called them wrecking bars, but it shouldn't share a moniker with human garbage.

Now if I could just remember how to set it.

#227292 Test Pattern


#227293 Test Pattern

so what is it? a hi-tech crowbar?

#227308 Test Pattern

So... Can it make different heads? Like instead of a crowbar head, something like a tire iron's lug wrench?
It's a durable shape-memory polyalloy. Somewhere around a hundred preset shapes. Can resize some, too.

#227312 Test Pattern

imagine an axe
It really is my birthday.

#230653 Test Pattern

Attempt to force the biggest safe.
No problem. A minute of noisy work and I'm in.

#230654 Test Pattern

Inside are shelves brandishing recovered equipment, mounted like trophies.
The far wall holds helmets, every one sporting holes. One of them is just shrapnel that's been loosely pieced together. The most intact looking one is much too large for me.
To the sides is mostly just wreckage, but a few pieces of gear look more intact than the others.

#230680 Test Pattern

is that YOUR helmet?
It fits, in more ways than one.
Hole in the back, too.

reclaim your helmet
The helmets are all very badly damaged, but if you insist.

#231777 Test Pattern

Are those... PAULDRONS?
It's a helmet that's been cleanly bisected, right down the middle.
Does the helmet restrict your senses in any way?
The visor's gone opaque to infrared. Probably warped by heat.
How are we on time?
Five more minutes before I definitely gotta leave. Plus however much time Mitzi gives past what we agreed on. Can't really guess that.
Any salvageable equipment in here?
The most promising pieces are two anti-tank grenades and a weapon power pack, but they're damaged. After forty years with cracked cases, they're probably inert.

#231778 Test Pattern

Open the other two safes
I start with the southern one, which looks the most promising because it's got the biggest warning on it.

Beneath the outer door is a card reader, a big unlocking mechanism, and a more detailed warning:
DO NOT open blast pit without authorization and procedural instruction
Don explosion-resistant suits, located in lockers, prior to opening
ALL samples must be returned to blast pit or authorized, reinforced experiment module before exiting lab
(this means you)"

#231803 Test Pattern

Are there any lockers nearby, four-ears?
Yeah. In the corner. To the right is some first aid and anti-contamination gear and stuff. To the left is probably what it's talking about.

#231804 Test Pattern


#231826 Test Pattern

No ignore them
If you insist.

GO, goddamn
Go where? Get back to Mitzi early? Guess it couldn't hurt, if we don't want any of this stuff.

If there is nothing left to break open besides the explosive box
There's one last one. North corner of the room.

#231827 Test Pattern

Inside is another power pack, looking intact, and a device I don't recognize.

#231838 Test Pattern

I thought you said it'd probably take you longer to get back than it took you to get here since you messed up your leg
That's not what I said. On the way here I had to wander around to find my way, then bash through a ton of fan mountings.

#231856 Test Pattern

Use a suit as a shield.
I need two hands. Maybe I could try wearing one? They aren't built for me, but with the weasel bar, that's more of a suggestion. I can just chop off anything that gets in the way.
Open it up!
I insert the ID card. Qillig's still authorized, looks like. I activate the mechanism.

#231857 Test Pattern

Hey! It ate my card!

The whole big chunk of machinery whirrs to the side. A new switch reveals itself. I guess to close it again?

#231858 Test Pattern

Yellow lights bathe the room. A rack slowly, smoothly slides upwards from under the floor, brandishing a pair of anti-tank grenades and a flash bomb.

"Explosive hazard," says a mechanical voice. "Lab is now in lockdown."

#231869 Test Pattern

Loot and close.
Right, except that...
You won't be able to take those out of the room.
I don't know how to...
Maybe try tricking it with then bad bombs?
Oh, good idea.

It seems to work. I get the anti-tank grenades, but leave the third munition.

#231871 Test Pattern

I upend a trauma bag and fill it with loot. The power pack, the grenades (carefully stowed), the mercygiver (since I'm out of good spots on my belt) and maybe anything else you guys wanted me to grab.

Not sure what to do about the armor. I can't really wear it in the air ducts, but it seems like a real shame to leave it here. I can't trust that I'll be back later. Mitzi hasn't been keen on letting me lead her places, lately.

#231998 Test Pattern

...any counter-suppress?
'Fraid not.
You should be able to drag it along with you.
I've got:
-Human-made shoulder and thigh armor (the rest was pounded to scraps)
-My extremely damaged helmet
-The large helmet (holed, but with intact sections Mitzi can hopefully use for a patch job)
-Blast-resistant suit
-Belt + holster
-High Security Keycard (which I've been using to open doors around here)
-Qillig's ID/passcard (did he have two?)
-Weasel Bar
-Device I haven't had time to examine. Label reads 'Hornbook' in the utility language.
-Pistol (no rounds)
-60x Rifle rounds (no rifle)
-1x tozol power pack
-2x Fragmentation Grenades
-2x tozol Anti-Tank Grenades
-0x tozol Flash Bombs (grr!)

Around a hundred pounds, all told. Mostly the blast suit.

My helmet just fits inside the big one. I pack that and most of the stuff inside the blast suit, and rope it into a bundle.

#232081 Mneme

I know where you can store the weasel stick :3c

#232094 How do I shot Trip

Oh, hush, as far as we can tell, she doesn't have one. >:V

#232115 Test Pattern

If my species really has been exterminated, at least it'll keep you lot out of my sex life.

I really need to figure out how to turn you off when I don't need you.

#232117 Test Pattern

With the meat hook, I secure a line back up to the air duct.

As I'm about to climb up, I hear a faint, electronic chirp from the dropship's cockpit. A few seconds later, it repeats.

#232135 Test Pattern

Bring out your sharp pointy thing you got from the ship and duel wield with your weasel stick
I creep into the vehicle. The chirping continues, echoing softly. It's definitely coming from the cockpit.

I can't hear anything else inside but me. Minor heat signatures snake through the walls. Electronics, conduits, machinery.

#232440 Test Pattern

Get in there! Quickly but sneakily.

#232442 Test Pattern

Nothing. Compartment's clear.

Sensing my presence, the screens switch back on.

Incoming communication. Low power, tight-beam hyperwave. Seems to be nearby. Less than a kilometer. Probably somewhere inside the facility.

#232474 Test Pattern

Answer, but cautiously
I have to go active to complete the handshake. Just a chirp. Easily overlooked, I hope.

"Hello, Tethys. This is a recording," says a voice, masculine, level, nearly inflectionless. It reminds me of Operator.

"My name is Marcus Tibur," it continues. "I used to be human. I'm a specimen now, like you. I seek the destruction of this facility and the death of all its personnel. Whatever your objectives, you must want to escape. The only way out is through the forces arrayed against you. You'll need weapons. There aren't many on level three. You also need a drug called Counter-Suppress, to clean the poison that's in your blood. There is an armory containing both, in large quantities. It's located two hundred meters west of the main lift on level two. That puts it directly above the Security section on your level. You can get inside either via the main lift, or through Security."

The voice has gained tone. Emotion. He hoped.

"If you can make it there, you'll have all the tools you need to escape. I will do what I can to help."

#232970 Test Pattern

He's been able to figure out where you are
Not necessarily. It's a recording aimed right at the dropship. Probably pulsing the handshake signal at long intervals. He must have known I was the only thing here who could unlock the ship to hear it. Question is how he knew I'm alive.
Can you send anything back?
His gadget must have recorded a receipt. Beyond that, if he was able and willing to talk, he wouldn't have made a recording.
Any tips for Mitzi to grow a comm relay or something?
I've got a comms suite right here, if you can think of anything worth transmitting.
Odd that Marcus would know about us yet not give us a message for Mitzi
Why would they keep the weapons and the CS in the same place? You want to keep both of them out of the hands of any escapees...
I think that's probably it.

#233028 Test Pattern

What was the count of Tozols aboard Zeal Like Madness and accompanying craft?
Five hundred twenty seven.
If we had some of those displacer missiles, it would let us get around most obstacles
I think we know where they keep those.
There's nothing else for us here, and we're short on time.

#233029 Test Pattern

You have orders now.

Tozol Quest: Thread 8

#233992 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645
Thread 3:>>103192
Thread 4:>>120515
Thread 5:>>141320
Thread 6:>>160101
Thread 7:>>202825

#233994 Test Pattern

Leaving the salvaged dropship behind, I crawl through the air ducts, back towards Mitzi's hiding spot. My limbs feel quicker, smoother, more precise. Even lugging a hundred pounds of gear behind me, I move rapidly, if noisily. My eyes adjust to light they couldn't detect before. My vision now reaches from infrared to ultraviolet. My body is feeding my mind information more quickly than just a few hours ago, and my improved speed demands I keep up.

#233998 Test Pattern

My ankle's knitting nicely. I need to decide what aspect to heal next.

With the major flaws in my musculature dealt with, I can make a further improvement to Speed . Seeing as I'm trying to escape, I guess that might be an obvious one. Maybe not, though. You voices aren't the only thing wrong with my brain. I don't have two scars on my head. It's one scar running all the way through. I'm not sure what to think about that... which might be part of the problem. There's also flaws in my nervous and endocrine systems from being embalmed in Suppress for decades. Focusing on this will give me better Reflexes .
My body also contains a network of thermal conductors, biological threads made from complex compounds, metals, and superconductors. Completely broken. Healing my Heat Channels will let me turn sections of my skin and fur into insulators or radiators.
There's also an itch. Something tickling at the back of my mind, flickering just outside my peripheral vision. More sensory information I lack. Tertiary Senses .

Like I can't see in enough fucking colors already...

#234062 Test Pattern


#234063 Test Pattern


# Chapter 12 - Determination

#234065 Test Pattern

Mitzi seems okay, if cold. And surprised.
In hindsight, I probably should've put the helmet on after I got back.

There's lots to do. I'm not sure where to start.

In the meantime, I start repairing my Reflexes . After all, the best way to react faster to things is to... react faster to things.

#234570 Test Pattern

"Penji, you scared the hell out of me," says Mitzi. "Nice outfit."
"Sorry," I say. "I found some equipment, but no firearms. Got a big stabbing knife you can use. I also got a message from Marcus."
"Well at l-what?" she asks. "Wait, what? "
"He set up a tightbeam hyperwave radio aimed at a tozol dropship. He knew only I could unlock it."
"A dropship! What did he say?"

#234571 Test Pattern

I tell her what I found, and relay the message.
"You think it was him?" I ask.
"I... I think so," she says. "Wanting to kill everyone doesn't sound anything like him, but... I think he was more lucid than me during the tests. I can't imagine what he must feel like... He didn't mention me?"
"No," I say. "So this cache is legit? If it's legit, we should go for it."
"I guess he wouldn't mention me," she says. "Unknown alien. No reason to assume you'd bring me with you. He must have heard you were alive, then made the message before they thought they killed you..."
"I heard gunfire through the vents," I say. "It's sporadic, now. Could mean anything, but I wouldn't bet on Security section being abandoned."
"So we should go through the main lift, instead?"
"I don't know," I admit. "Not enough information."
Her shoulders sag. She goes quiet.
"Hey, is that really your helmet?" she asks. "From before I was born?"
"That is... really cool, actually," she says. "How can you tell? Is your name on it?"

#234640 Test Pattern

"This hole," I say, pointing. "It-"
"Yeah, stupid question," she says. "Easy to forget that. You know. Listen, about earlier..."

#234641 Test Pattern

"I actually didn't think to check for a name," I say.

#234648 Test Pattern

"Saon Vocta."
Mitzi doesn't say anything.
"And a rank," I say. "Human word would be sergeant, I think."

#238035 Test Pattern

"What were you saying?" I ask.
"Just... that I was maybe too harsh," she says.
"I made some really bad decisions."
"Yeah. Uh..." Mitzi trails off. "You've got a good excuse, is all I'm saying."
"And that I definitely want to stick together," she continues. "Within reason."
"Within reason."

#238069 Test Pattern

We start unpacking our gear. Wouldn't hurt to look over what we've got, at least so we can pack back up so it doesn't make as much noise.

"Christ, this thing is heavy," says Mitzi, dragging the mercygiver up along the floor, leaving a scratch.

"I was thinking that could be yours," I say. "The bar works better when I use it. Can you handle the weight?"

"Yeah, just... Christ, it's not even big."

"That's the idea."

jumping security squads?
Might work. Would be easier than taking on Security unarmed.
Can we try to focus?

#238071 Test Pattern

We've got...

Weasel Bar
Pistol (no rounds)
40x FMJ Rifle rounds
100x Saboted Rifle rounds
1x tozol power pack
2x human Fragmentation Grenades
2x tozol Anti-Tank Grenades
2x Tranquilizer tubes
2x Suppress tubes
1x Counter poison tube
1x Stimulant tube
Device I haven't had time to examine yet. Label reads 'Hornbook' in the utility language.
Laptop containing Bio Lab data
Extra hard drive we can't unlock
High Security Keycard
2x ID Passcards
Soldering iron
Small power drill
Rolls of tape
Small batteries
Tiny shiny scrap of metal
Can of yellow spray paint
Writing utensils
snacks, rations, and water
A suit of human security armor (which Mitzi's wearing)
A suit of human blast armor (which I'm wearing)
My helmet
Large helmet (tozol?)

#238120 Test Pattern

"What's that?" asks Mitzi.
"Says it's hornbook," I say. It clicks open, forming a screen. I start reading.
"So what's that, in this case?"
"It's a guide," I say. "A tozol guide. Basic fieldcraft, tactics, doctrine, and philosophy."
"Like a field manual?"
"Yeah, for babies," I say.
"So you know all of it?"

#238124 Test Pattern

Mitzi snickers.
"Sorry," she says. "Sorry, uh, Saon."
"Penji's fine."
"Is that, was that a nickname?"
"Maybe," I say. "I don't know. I don't think so. Just thought it up because I didn't have a name."
"Well, now you do," she says.
"Name doesn't mean much to me," I say. "I think I'm someone else, now."
Mitzi doesn't say anything.

#238146 Test Pattern

You're a pure-bred tozol goddammit from the tozol army. A POW being experimented on. You sure as hell don't belong to them.
The most useful info right now is fieldcraft and tactics. Doctrine and philosophy are neat too I guess.
"Tactics I get," says Mitzi. "But... tozol philosophy? Seriously?"
"It all sorta slides together," I say. "Camouflage. 'The only place to hide a shadow is inside another one.' 'Destroy the contrast of shape and silhouette, shine and shade.' 'Move as your environment moves. Feel the pulse of the wind. Bend the grass as it would.'"
"That'd be really cool if there was any grass or wind here," says Mitzi.
"Yeah, the long hallways are really nice for security," I say. "Basically no way to avoid being seen, unless we fill the corridors with smoke or avoid them."
"Can we avoid them?"
"Not easily," I say. "We'd need to go through every intervening section, then find ways through the security doors. Not impossible. Was thinking about heading back to Tech Research that way."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Not necessarily," I say. "Everything can be replaced except time."
"And alien artifacts," she says. "Add that to your book."
"Well, it says 'do not lose or deface' on the back..."

#240615 Test Pattern

See if it has anything on protocol for being trapped behind enemy lines.
"The front line is a strategic abstraction," I translate. "A one dimensional symbol which disguises the truth. A front may be of any thickness, any density, any composition, and any phase state. It is always permeable, however, by way of guile or concentrated power. A front means enemy strength to be disrupted, misled, corralled, and above all, bypassed. Linear, force-on-force thinking represents a failure of the tactical and strategic problem solving method."
"Can I get the short version?" Mitzi asks.
"Avoid strengths. Blow up trucks and trains. Throw grenades in command posts. Scramble their communications," I say. "Being behind enemy lines is a good thing. It means their combat power is facing the wrong way to protect their soft parts."
"But that's not us," she says. "These guys know we're here, and we have to go past their guards and shit to do anything like you're saying."
"Then we're not behind enemy lines," I say. "We're in a pocket."
"That's a bad thing, right?"
"The worst."

#240947 Test Pattern

And while you're at it, look for any info on alien species, particularly the Diplomats.
The word tozols use also translates as Diplomat. I had expected a true name. The picture is visible only in the infrared spectrum.
'Aggressiveness: High. Diversity: Low. Threat level: Extreme.
The great enemy of the modern era, possessing technological, industrial, and economic power far beyond that of any other known, extant polity. Full resource base is unknown, but vast. Through primarily peaceful, diplomatic means, they exert political and economic domination over other species. So long as they maintain their hegemon, no species not born of the Precursors can be trusted. Lavish bounties turn all creatures into potential enemy spies.' It continues along these lines...
A search on humans wouldn't do much harm, either.
Aggressiveness: Low. Diversity: Moderate. Threat level: Low.
'A relatively widespread minor species, with major population centers in thirty two known star systems, not including Human Diaspora. Warm-blooded bipeds,' etc.

#241029 Test Pattern

Look up Valcien.
Aggressiveness: Moderate. Diversity: Extreme. Threat level: High.
Biomechanical self-replicating entities. Living starships. Organized into semi-independent fleets. Often hired by other species, paid in manufactured goods, weapons, and applique armor.
It'd be nice to know if the big guy in the tank's fear of us was justified.
They're killable, yeah. They need resources, usually from planets or asteroids, which can be seeded with mines and EVA hunter-killer teams. Or just sneak up on them with a warship and blow them away when they don't expect it.
Does this mean that diplomats are... invisible?
That'd fit with what Mitzi said.
It looks like the Tozols were not willing to take bribes.
I don't know about that. I'd certainly rather take a bribe than go to war. I could read the history, but maybe I should be doing something else?
Mitzi is hurt
Oh if it's not the one thing...

#241133 Test Pattern

Chide Mitzi for playing with her new toy irresponsibly as only a Tozol mother could.
"Okay. First off, it's sharper than it looks," I say. "Which is important, because it looks really sharp . Second, you're holding it wrong..."
Instruct her in the basics of how it works.
It's not very complicated. You sneak up on someone, or find an enemy that can't move, and then you stab 'em in the spine or the brain.
Also ask Mitzi if she found anything on the laptop after you left.
"More of the same, mostly," she says. "But I think I know where to kill a Jabberwock. Behind the peak of their head. Where the neck meets the skull. Angle it forwards."
She makes a stab with the heavy blade. There's a tremble in her hand.
"What's the more of the same?" I ask.
"Uh," she says. She missteps slightly. I correct her footing. "Y'know. Interviews. Archival footage."

#241136 Suggestion

I think she researched herself. Didn't like what she saw. Tell her if there's something bothering her, she can talk to us about it. We're about to go into combat and she needs a clear head.

#242785 Test Pattern

I think she's strong enough to wield the mercygiver. Whether she's actually effective with it is another question.

"If you found something while I was gone, if anything's bothering you, we can talk about it," I say.
Mitzi shrugs. Her fighting stance softens.
"I need you to be able to focus," I say.
"I found some footage, yeah," she says.
"What was it?"
"Jesus," she says, and trails off. "Listen. Uh. I wasn't sure at first, but I think... I think I know what... got you. At Athelhom."

#242823 Test Pattern

"So what was it?" I ask.
"I'm not sure."
"But you said..."
"I saw a video," she says. "Gun-cam footage. There's a bright line, out of nowhere. Not even from off camera. Just... propagating from nothing. It was cross-referenced with Tethys."

#242852 Test Pattern

"Your laptop still powered? I ask. "Let me see the video."
"I'm not... Are you sure?" she asks.
"Yeah," I say.
"Penji," she says, barely above a whisper. "I, uh... I need you to be able to focus, too. You know? Seeing something like that. I think it might be best if we wait until later."

She might have a point. We've wasted more than enough time in here already. Every minute increases the odds that the humans will cut their losses and swamp the facility with troops, or that the jabberwocks will find us. Besides that, I'm fucking cold.
And yet... I want to see it. Even if it wasn't me, even if Saon died forty years ago, even if I don't actually learn a single thing I didn't already suspect, I feel like I have to know.

#245485 Test Pattern

I have to think about it. My thoughts grind in both directions.

"Fire it up," I say at last.

#245486 Test Pattern

The video is grainy, ancient light enhancement. I wonder why they aren't using thermals.

The viewpoint is some fighting vehicle trundling along behind another one. Its aimpoint traverses towards its friend.

#245487 Test Pattern

An indistinct shape streaks into view. Incredible speed. Seventy-plus miles per hour and maneuvering.

#245488 Test Pattern

The viewpoint opens fire. The figure's already scrambled atop the other tank.

#245489 Test Pattern


#245490 Test Pattern


#261503 Test Pattern

The tozol in the footage jerks back from the beam blasting a hole through its head. It tumbles to the ground.
Do you have a favorite song Penji?
I hope so. I'll tell you if I hear it.

The tozol in the film goes limp the instant the beam hits. Dead before it hits the ground. Dead before it knows it's dead.

Stop calling her Saon. That's not who she is anymore.
I don't know what I am. I don't know anything.
I shut the laptop. My head hurts. I don't know what to think.

#261504 Test Pattern

Suddenly disoriented. My head hurts. I try to focus.

I imagine that I can feel the beam boring through me. My head snaps back. I tumble to the ground. Strange. I can't seem to conceptualize anything before that instant.

The productive thing? Kill all humans.
Please respecify.

#261509 Test Pattern

nobody's going to blame you if you had any long-term memory vaporized
Can't even conceptualize it. Memory shouldn't matter. I can't possibly be remembering the other thing.
Flash. Impact. I tumble to the ground. Smoke and vapor.

Let's not kill all the humans.
I'm getting mixed signals.

#261645 Test Pattern

The old Tozol died, a new one was born here in a tube.
Starting to think you're right. Starting to think Saon Vocta died that night. Think I'm just something that grew inside her head.
You're Penji now, and that's what matters.
One way or the other.

#261646 Test Pattern

"Enough," I say. "We're leaving."
"Are you sure?" asks Mitzi. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Doesn't matter how I feel. I'm mission capable."
"Don't you need a gun for that?"
"We're going to the Armory," I say. "Through Security, I think."
"Like how?"
"Gonna play it by ear."
"I guess you'd be good at that."

#261681 Test Pattern

We move out, quietly, trying not to keep too close to the walls. I'm smelling smoke. Burning plastics, paint, fabric, and flesh.
Quickest way out of Bio is straight to the long corridor with the crater. Last we checked, the humans had a guard bot posted. That was before the Jabberwocks, but it's still a great big straight hallway with nowhere to hide, and we've got no guns.
We could also try going through the wall to Engineering to get closer to Security. We heard some sizable explosions about an hour ago. We're pretty sure that was Marcus making more exits. Still, that'll take longer, and we have no idea where the Jabberwocks are.

#261699 Test Pattern

We manage to sneak through Bio without a jabberwock spotting us. At one point, I thought I sensed one behind a wall, but I wasn't certain. I'm not confident in my ability to detect these things. They're incredibly quiet, and they mask their heat signatures with insulation or hot equipment.

Following a siren, I find a breach into Engineering. I can smell more smoke here.

Should we look around for a map or something, or just try to sneak through?

The alarm's pretty quiet as far as human sirens go, but it'll still mask sounds.

#261845 Test Pattern

Rather than looking for a map, we move east. We keep getting turned around, but we keep moving. The power's active in the place, but we're not hitting the forest of cameras like in HS3 or Bio. Those we find aren't hard to avoid, mostly being oriented to find people sneaking in through the doors, not through a wall.

The enemy might be anywhere. Creatures with rifles and creatures with claws and metal-rending teeth. Despite this, my thoughts drift. I think instead, again and again, of things that aren't even on this world. Things I don't have time to think about. All I can think of when I blink is an all-consuming flash of cyan.

Checking a door, Mitzi gives a low whistle.

#261846 Test Pattern

"Hey, nice," she says. "They're trying to build stuff, here... I mean, uh, that's what the whole section's for, but it looks like they were right in the middle of a project."

"Any idea what?" I ask.

"Guns, I think."

"That is nice."

"Weeelll..." she draws out, skeptical. "If they were working, they wouldn't, you know, be working on them. Right?"

#261923 Test Pattern

Busted vent. Check it out.
No lingering heat. Shell casings on the floor are cool, too. 8mm. Blood's definitely jabberwock. Vent's ripped outward, so it must have entered the room here. It probably left the same way, since there's no other signs of forced entry. Then again, those things can get underneath floor panels somehow or another.

I bet they have superconductors here.
I ate an entire materials ration brick around three hours ago and we've got another one. Healing my Reflexes and Heat Channels will consume a lot of that, but it's not urgent that we find more.

#261928 Test Pattern

Maybe they are working, and people were just trying to figure out how.
Tech Research analyzes artifacts. This section is for building and repairing things.

Mitzi and I scrounge through the junk. Only two pieces look promising.

One's a great big fucking beam weapon with an external power pack. It looks like it can burn big holes in things, but Mitzi says she needs to read some notes before she knows anything.

The other's a short slugthrower with a very heavy barrel. Sticky notes say it uses xeno-derived propellants. I find nine bullets and pack a magazine.

Both have terrible ergonomics, but it beats throwing rocks. If they work. Maybe.

We'll need to spend some time figuring these things out. Picking one to work on could save some time. Or I could just pull the triggers and hope for the best!

#263085 Test Pattern

I lock the slugthrower in place and pull the trigger with a string. It makes a thunderclap, jerks back and nearly flies out of the vice. This thing isn't fucking around. Louder than I expected, too. Hope it'll scare away more than it'll attract.

It doesn't hit the aim-point. It's either inaccurate or the sight's crooked. Can't tell without firing more, and there's only eight rounds left.

#263086 Test Pattern

Mitzi reads up on the laser. It uses an experimental method of lasing observed the last time a valcien (Niraem, I guess) woke up. And it's not working.

"Can you fix it?" I ask.

"Fix? They didn't get it working at all. Well, not this one, anyway. Miniaturization's a bitch."

"Is it something that might be finished later?"

"Yeah, I guess," she says. "The guys working on it seemed to think they were close."

"Like how close?"

"Uh. Is this important?"

#265012 Test Pattern

I don't want to use another bullet. The short barrel makes me think I might be wasting my time trying to zero it. I make a note to watch where the next shot lands, though.

"Yeah, it's important," I say. "What's wrong with it now? Can you get it working?"

"Uh. Mostly issues with the computer," she says. "Actually, just the computer. Though, they didn't realize it."

"But you do," I say. "Probably because of the information Niraem put in your brain. Right?"

#265014 Test Pattern

"It's not that simple," she says.

"I didn't say it was simple. I just said you can do it."

"Do what , exactly?" she asks.

"Fix it. Control it yourself. Do the Valcien thing. Just make it work," I say, and remember her words from a few hours back. "Be the kind of fucked up monster we need right now."

She doesn't reply at first.

#265015 Test Pattern

"I'd need half an hour," she says. "At least. If I can really do this."

#265050 Test Pattern

"Too long," I say. "Bring it with you and work on it later. You can fake most tools, I figure."

"Not if I have to fabricate a part."

"If you have to do that, then forget it right now," I say. "It'll just be one more one-last-thing after the other. In four hours you'll be sanding something. And then a door will open and a satchel charge will fly in."

#265051 Test Pattern

We sneak the rest of the way through Engineering, giving a wide berth to a few suspicious heat signatures.

Through this wall is another main hallway. Right across is the Security section for this level, right underneath the Armory on level two. Here would be at about the midpoint of that hallway, which is where I'd put the Security entrance, so that anything coming from either direction has to walk down a big straight stretch with no cover before it can get in.

So... either I devise a way to bust through this wall, or just hack my way past it with the weasel bar and hope nobody figures out what the sound is in time (or that they don't do a good enough job of stopping me)...
...or go around, which might be more realistic, but almost certainly means another hallway fight, where we'll be outgunned.

Or maybe the jabberwocks ate everybody.

#265144 Test Pattern

You can use your sensory abilities to figure out what, if anything, is in the hallway as long as you can access even a small part of it, right? So do a bit of sensing before making the call.
The wall is thick, airtight, and insulated, with spaced sections. I can't tell what's on the other side.
I wanted to save the tozol grenade but I suppose you could make it into a shaped charge to bust down the wall...
The two tozol anti-tank grenades I liberated are already shaped charges. They can blow holes through walls much thicker than this one, but not very wide ones.
...what kind of hole do you reckon you could make in the ceiling?
Judging from the crater the displacer missile made a few hours ago, there's an unknown thickness of solid rock involved. Could be two feet, could be ten meters.
Borrow the mercy giver, put a small hole in the wall either by the floor or the ceiling
This will probably take more prying and digging than you're thinking, because I think the wall's thicker than the blade. Plenty of that's empty space, though. Shouldn't take more than five minutes if I work hard, but it could be noisy.

#265219 Test Pattern

I decide to scout the Security main hallway from the north.

We move carefully.

Either we're getting lucky and avoiding them, or the Jabberwocks aren't as interested in attacking us as they were before.

#265221 Test Pattern

We've traveled something along the lines of this route.

#265222 Test Pattern


#265246 Test Pattern

I hold still and let my tails do their thing, feeling the floor plates and the motion of air, hearing minute sounds echoing down the hallway, slowly building a picture in my head.

At the midpoint of the hall, perhaps seventy meters south of me, there are a pair of tracked robots. I can feel heavy gun turrets traversing slightly. There's also four soldiers manning two machine guns.

They're set up to guard the Security section entrances, one bot and one MG team in each direction.

#266728 Test Pattern

We back off, returning to Engineering.

How big a hole will the grenade make?
According to the hornbook, it fires an armor piercing penetrator that explodes inside the target. Not sure how the detonator will react to flying through a hallway, but the penetrator will only leave a hole a few inches wide at the most. That should at least give me a good angle peel away wall layers. Depending on how big a blast it makes on the far side, I can hopefully be through before they've recovered enough to deal with me.

As for putting a hole in the Security bulkhead itself, I'm not sure, so I ask Mitzi.

"If I was building this place, I'd armor that compartment like a battleship," she says. "Metal's cheap and there's no weight limit."

"I bet my bomb will still put a hole in it," I say.

"Not wide enough, though," she says. "I mean, unless we modified the penetrator to go off inside the wall. I don't even know where to begin with that, though. Prolly just blow my hands off."

"They'll grow back."

#268017 Test Pattern

How long would it take you to fashion a reasonably durable riot shield?


#268018 Test Pattern

Fuck it.

One irreplaceable munition expended. All glory is fleeting!

#268020 Test Pattern

I get to work opening a path. The explosion echoes up and down the hall. Electronics spark, fire crackles, metal creaks.

"Sergeant Harith," says a voice. It's the one I heard over the comms back in HS3. The one they called Operator.

"An electromagnetic pulse is interfering with radio," it continues. "Damage and source of damage unknown at this time. Sergeant Harith, please reply. All security personnel, please reply."

#268162 Test Pattern

Going around would be much faster. I'd just have to hope the machines are inactive.

I peer through the hole.

Neither robot seems to be moving. One's gotten its treads thrown off. Impossible to determine if the guns are operative.

"Help. What. What happened," says a human voice. "What happened. Can anyone hear me. What happened. What happened. Help. Help!"

#268170 Test Pattern

I take off. Mitzi knows by now to start running when I do. I'm still holding the weasel bar, but I have time to switch it for the slugthrower if you think I should.

"New plan!" I say. "We're going around!"

"There's guns!" she says. "Robots! Guys! Guns! Are they dead? I heard voices!"

"You can stay behind, again," I snap.

"Should I? Penji. Penji! Should I?"

#268267 Test Pattern

"Pressure and EMP effects," I quickly say. "Should provide a brief period of vulnerability. Give me a wide lead in case there isn't."

She nods as we reach the corner leading to Security.

I take a second, and I mean one second, to think about my approach. Running straight in might be the only option, but if you have any bright ideas, let me know. You're my brain, right? That's what you're for .

#268322 Test Pattern

Hey, weren't we going to avoid killing that one guy?

Oh well. I throw a grenade down the hallway and then run after it.

#268327 Test Pattern

Halfway to the target, a hidden explosive detonates, slamming the makeshift shield into my side and barraging me with a wave of bullet-like pellets.

#268378 Test Pattern

My legs are bleeding, but most of the blast hit my upper body. The armor took the brunt of the damage. I'm still mobile.

The bot opens fire.

#268380 Test Pattern

My grenade goes off. This sets off another mine, obscuring the bot behind a cloud of fire and smoke.

Its fire grows less accurate, but I'm still taking direct hits.

The bot's firing beastly heavy rounds that go right through my shield. It's slowing them down, however. Only serious damage so far is a shot in my thigh, slowing me down.

I can return fire and hope that accomplishes something, or just focus on running.

#268393 Test Pattern

Fuck this. I unload the magazine.

#268394 Test Pattern

The heavy rounds slam into the machine's turret. The rounds start flying by my left side. I hang right.

#268395 Test Pattern

I get beside the machine. It's a fucking mess up here.

Two doors have been peeled half open, one labeled 'ROBOT ENTRY,' the other what looks to be the MAIN ENTRANCE.

#268397 Test Pattern

The bot continues firing to my left, traversing towards me, but I have a moment to react.

The second robot is still facing down its side of the corridor, motionless for now.

Two of the guards have been turned to flecks of meat and metal. One's a dead tangle. The last, the one that spoke before, is propped up against the wall. I can't tell if he's going to shoot me.

I drop my empty gun. All I have left is the Weasel Bar, a Tozol Grenade, and a Human Grenade.

#268409 Test Pattern

I take the human's LMG away.

Hot air swirls around the hallway. Whatever's inside the main entrance, it's on fire.

The robot ahead of me lurches forwards, stops, and begins turning around. Its turret is immobile.

The one behind continues traversing its damaged turret towards me.

#268416 Test Pattern

I immobilize the mobile one, then disarm the armed one with an axe head in the ammo feed.

Suddenly, I hear footsteps over the fire. I snatch a foot out to grab the LMG.

"Shit!" says a human.

The hot air from the fire masked his approach from my blindsight. It's hard to read air currents when they're doing their own thing.

"What the fuck hap- Who is-" he says, spotting me.

It sees human armor. It'll take another second to realize I'm a target.

#269941 Test Pattern

I leap at them, dragging the LMG along with my launching foot.

They open fire.

#269942 Test Pattern

I drop the gun and the shield bounding through the rent in the door. I don't dare slow down. The weasel bar finds a target, and I crumple another's faceplate in my left hand, snapping its head violently back.

The other two traverse heavy weapons towards me. A gyroc launcher and a smoothbore.

#270014 Test Pattern

I dash past the gyroc gunner, who goes full auto. The other doesn't get a round off.

Rockets bounce and corkscrew around like an ammunition dump on fire. One digs into my suit instead of bouncing off, then explodes against my side.

#270025 Test Pattern

Kill him
He recoils at the last instant and starts to say something, but it ends in a gurgle from an empty neck.

#270027 Test Pattern

Vibrations from boots on metal echo through the structure. Through the door at the end of the hallway, an alarm howls.

Halfway there, something, I figure a security checkpoint, is aflame. Hot air boils out, making it harder for my blindsight to work. A penetrator from the anti-tank grenade must have ricocheted in there.

My side hurts, but I was lucky. The round detonated outside the innermost suit layer. I've got fragments in my muscles, but nothing even scratched my bone plates.

Why didn't you kill them both at the same time like the last two guys you killed at the same time.
This isn't a fucking wargame! I do not have an attack rating! They were both reacting.

we wanted one alive

#270121 Test Pattern

Since I've already got some rifle mags (2x20 Sabot, 1x20 FMJ), I snag an AR. I also find ammunition for the big beefy pistol I've been carrying around (3x7 API), which I take on sheer principle. It should go through armor at close range.

I need to decide which heavy weapon to choose. I can take two, but three longarms clattering around, plus the bomb suit, plus my shield, plus ammunition, plus grenades will be really awkward.

On that note, there's more grenades here than I can carry, all either fragmentation or flashbang. I can carry maybe six grenades, plus my antitank bomb, before I'll run out of places to put them.

I could organize this better if I had more time, but I'm not willing to take that chance. I need to either move down the hallway or get out of here.

Estimates on contact Penji?
Somewhere between 'any second' and 'until relief arrives.'

#271955 Test Pattern

I pick the biggest, meanest gun presently available, a 'Césare Arms 28mm Tactical Smoothbore.' I consider ditching the rifle, but keep it, sabots loaded, for suppression value. The LMG would be better at that, if it had bullets that could reliably penetrate a guard's armor, which it doesn't.

I advance quietly while I fumble with my new weapons.

"Fuck! Are you okay?" Mitzi calls from around the corner behind me. "Is it over?"

"Indeterminate activity ahead," I hiss.

"The fuck do I do with that? " she asks, fear rising in her throat. Her pitch wavers, her chords perhaps forgetting their proper shape for an instant. "Should I come out?"

#271958 Test Pattern

Sudden movement interrupts us. The door ahead snaps up, shutter-quick. There's an open room beyond. I stare down the barrel of a shielded heavy machine gun emplacement at the far end.

My half-repaired reflexes struggle to work at speed.

The burning checkpoint is to my right. I can dive into it for cover, but then what? Retreat means running down a long corridor. Charging means running down less of it, right into the jaws of that emplacement and whatever else is in there.

#272193 Test Pattern

I dive out of the way as heavy rounds scream past. Mitzi screams a curse, but sounds uninjured. The checkpoint's door is open for some reason. I'm not complaining. Flames lick at my side. Smallarms ammunition pops intermittently.

I toss a flashbang and a grenade towards the HMG emplacement.

#272195 Test Pattern

"Grenade!" shouts a human, his masked voice barely audible over the staccato roar. "Grenade! Grenade! Get down!"

The weapons go off in tight sequence. Concussion overfills the tight hallways. The area's so small and chaotic that my blindsight will need time to work.

I reload the smoothbore with HEAP. It should penetrate most of what's around to aim at, but it needs direct hits to kill. Trying to hit the actual gun part of the gun emplacement, by wheeling around this bigass longarm, in a hurry, will be a bitch.

I consider the Tozol grenade, but it's my last one, and is orders of magnitude of overkill against this target. That said, I'll feel pretty damn stupid if I die without using it.

#272588 Test Pattern

Do toss another flashbang and another frag down the hallway towards Mr. Chatty who's giving away his position.
I toss my second and last flashbang. I don't have anything resembling a line of sight with the target I heard, but I bounce the grenade his way, pitching it a hair slower than what I think might crack the casing.

Now down to two frags and the irreplaceable fuck-everything-in-one-direction device.

#272589 Test Pattern

Use your superior Tozol senses to figure out-
It's not radar! It's... There's so much disruption in the air. So much random noise to pick through. Raw data boils up my spine too quickly to process. The flesh is willing but the mind is weak. My thoughts lurch, accelerating and decelerating at random, wetware attempting to operate at combat speed and failing.

And then, suddenly, a sensory epiphany. Pure information slicing cleanly through the morass. It's so obvious once I can think quickly enough to process it. A smooth, geometric shockwave crystallizes for an instant in my mind: a four dimensional snapshot of it rolling past my tails.

#272590 Test Pattern

I trace it backwards.

" AAAHH! "

Weapon's got some real kick this far from my center of gravity.

"Shit! Grenade! Shit! Shit!"

"Asher? Asher!"

"Grenade out!"

"Tethys?! Bullshit! Radko! Incendiary!"

#272830 Test Pattern

What did we hit?
For the second time, I traced the HMG rounds back and fired at it! Apparently, I hit the gunner.

If and only if you're pretty sure you just killed the gunner, push ahead.
He wouldn't be screaming if he was dead. The screams are tapering off. That could mean he's dead, or climbing back towards the gun.

How are you handling that roaring inferno right behind you?
I am figuratively boiling.

Might wanna get out of the way of the mass of grenades they're tossing in first.
What direction do I go?!

If you can make short work of the door's hinges
What? What hinges?!

My flashbang and grenade detonate. The targets curse, but nothing sounds decisive.

#273336 Test Pattern

I charge, and see something familiar.

Oh, right. That Radko.

#273337 Test Pattern


#273339 Test Pattern

The sheet of flames detonates a mine hidden at the end of the corridor an instant before I tumble over it. I guess I was lucky, but it's hard to feel that way because I'm on fire.

I've fallen down. White-hot liquid fire is burning through my suit and skin. No one's started shooting yet.

Please suggest an action.

#273637 Test Pattern

I feel heavy. I feel like I might be dying, but I don't have time to worry about that. I fire at the target furthest left, then leap up and start running.


#273639 Test Pattern

A wave of concussion and metal engulfs the room, scouring the spot where I lay moments ago. HMG rounds drill into the walls and console beside me.

"It went right! Get it! Get it!"

My smoothbore is dry. All the reloads are burning except a mag of sabots at my side. The rifle's gone. I don't have time to check the pistol. I see now that the guy I took out was carrying a gyroc, not a rocket launcher.

I take a second to try scraping at the burning compound with my shield. The back of my suit is burning and melting, but all I care about is the agony on my lower legs. The lower layers of my skin are a soft armor, but that's being incinerated.

A large shotgun blast pits the wall ahead of me.

#273789 Test Pattern

I snatch up the dropped gyroc and unload it wildly at the nearest enemies to suppress them. Rounds detonate right next to the two in cover, but neither go down.

Throw all of your grenades
I'm fast, but I've only got two hands.

#273792 Test Pattern

I'm slowing down... even before another shotgun blast clips my left leg, splattering the deck with blood and burning compound. I can still stand on it, but not well.

I slide behind the table. The base of it is thick, probably filled with computers and shit. Hopefully it'll at least send the HMG rounds into a tumble.

"Blow the charges!"

"They're dead! So's Danilo!"

"Grenade out!"

She just said her smoothbore is dry. That means 'out of ammo'.
I reload with the sabot mag. Last one.

#274312 Test Pattern

Use tozol grenade on convenient LINE OF ENEMIES
I don't know how to arm it like that! It has to go off in front of a wall.

Slap away the grenade, get close to the westmost barricade, kill the guys behind it with whatever seems most reasonable.
I lose what's left of my shield to a burst of HMG fire as I bat the grenade away. No idea where it went. Tails are too burned to get more than fragmentary blindsight readings.

I get up close to the left barricade.

"Bravo team, displace! Dis-!"

#274908 Test Pattern

"Shit! Shit! Oh shit!"

"Fall back! Asher, suppressive fire!"


"I got this."

I bound towards the enemy.

The one named Radko looks ready to fire. Another tracks me with its rifle. Another levels a smoothbore.

The HMG goes cyclic.

#274909 Test Pattern

There is a terrible, disorienting impact.

#274912 Test Pattern


I fall through the bottom of the world and land behind the left barrier.

A heavy round penetrated my helmet and lodged itself in the thick frontal slope of my skull.

There's a river of bullets between me and the humans.

#275219 Test Pattern

I fumble with the grenade, but it doesn't have far to go.

"Grenade!" I hear, barely audible over the gunfire.

"Grenade! Got it! Take the shot!"

Oh shit.

#275220 Test Pattern

A thunderclap splits the room.

The HMG stops.

#276389 Test Pattern

I start moving to flank them, and to get out of the goddamn way, by leaping in front of the barricades.

Radko fires.

#276390 Test Pattern

Something goes right through my burning suit and penetrates my back bone-plate, tearing through a lung compartment, then impacting against the inner ablative layer of my front ribplate. Something else drills through the meat of my left arm and out the other side.

The arm buckles as I vault, and I fall into a heap.

"Asher's down! Fall back! Go go go!

#282794 Test Pattern

Get up.
I haul myself up and open fire. Disorientation swirls through my head like a weather pattern and the heavy injury weighs down my left arm. My accuraccy is shit, but I manage to land a hit. One human, the rifleman, goes down, his knee exploding into gore.

#282795 Test Pattern

Shots ring out. Heavy pistol rounds. Armor piercing, incendiary. They hit me in the back, drilling through ruined, burning plastic, broken ceramics, blackened cinders that used to be meat, into my damaged bone plates. Hurts so much worse than the rifle rounds. Low velocity. Killing power in the payload. This is the weapon they kept in the room where I woke up.

This type. Actual weapon's on my hip.

#285313 Test Pattern

Tired of this. Tired.

Feel slow and weak. Wounded arm keeps throwing off my aim.

I drop the smoothbore and go for the pistol.

#285314 Test Pattern


#285315 Test Pattern

I science him in the head.

#286477 Penji

I force myself back up and take a shot at the retreating humans, but the door's already closing.

#286479 Penji

The last three are escaping. I doubt the door will be so kind as to obey our keycards. Especially since I think mine melted.

I'm in serious danger of overheating, and I don't even want to process the signals my damage control screams at me. I ditch my burning pack and strip the suit off as fast as I can.

"Holy fuck!" Mitzi yells from the burning corridor. "You're on fire!"

"I am on fire," I confirm. "Get here as fast as you can."

"I'm, give me a second," she says. "Shit, shit, shit. What do we do now?"

#286609 Penji

"Are you okay?" she asks.

"No. Legs are in bad shape. Back's real burnt. Damage to my lungs. And three of them escaped."

"Jesus. Uh. So, uh, what next?" she asks.

"Nnh. Maybe my book knows how to treat this stuff," I say, but I don't know how long we have. "Just get this burning shit out of my skin."

#286612 Penji

I tell Mitzi to hurry. She says she thinks she's going to throw up.

I feel like I could sleep for another forty years.

As I see it, we can either take some time, prepare, let me do some damage control, maybe do something fancy with leftover explosives... or I can just pry that fucking door open with the weasel bar before they have time to set up another machine gun or something.

It hasn't been long, yet.

#288149 Penji

Compliment Mitzi on taking out the machine gunner
"Thanks for killing that guy," I say. "You did good. I was in real trouble."
"Thanks," she says. "Feels weird. Not bad, I guess. No time to think about it."
look at that heavy gun emplacement; are you strong enough to carry that? Can it be removed?
"Speaking of that thing kicking my ass, could you unmount that weapon and ammo hopper?" I ask. I'm reminded of the HMG back in the high security wing. "How long would that take?"

"Not long. This has a trigger and a manual sight already. Give me some minutes."

I wince. Not just from pain. Any time at all feels too long.

#288150 Test Pattern

Healing the damage needs at least an hour, minimum. I don't have an hour. I might not have five more minutes. My repair cells are breaking out the proverbial duct tape. A patch job. Enough to stop me from hurting myself more by moving, and to steady my aim.

check the door on the right wall
I fight it open. Basic stores. Little of immediate utility. Food, supplies, parts, cleaning chemicals, drinks, spare clothes and armor. Ammo, but no explosives or weapons... except a minigun. It looks nice, but I don't have any time to fuck around with it.

#288152 Test Pattern

I find a first aid kit with a dose of C-S in it.

I'm more than half clean of Suppress, now. The more I do away with it, the more clearly I can feel what remains.

It's disgusting.

With each dose, I find new pockets of repair cells drifting aimlessly, my brain too drunk to control them. I am teaching my damage control network to stop shitting on the floor.

I want to be rid of this poison. I want the counteragent. I want to kill everyone between me and it. I want to kill everyone in this facility. I want to kill . I want to feel blood splashing on my face. I want it more than freedom.

#288942 Penji

Check that next door.
I pry it partly open, and am met with a burst of heavy machine gun fire. It doesn't have an angle on me, however. I'm peppered with ricocheting fragments, but I'm fairly safe where I am.

My tails are still too burned for blindsense to work, but let's see here...

#288945 Penji

There's a hallway through this door. Gunfire's coming in parallel to it, so it must be a ways away.

I saw another door across the hall before I dove back. It said 'Barracks.' That would be a good place to keep the armory entrance, but I'm just speculating. It's just a dozen steps from where I am, but if I can't take out that MG first, it'll tear me to shreds before I can get inside, armor or no armor.

What do I equip? I could put what's left of the bomb suit back on, or standard security armor, or even try wearing both, which would be heavy and awkward, but offers maximum protection. The dead humans have fragmentation grenades and flashbangs, but no smoke.

Mitzi's still bonded to the laser, and is carrying all our shit in a backpack and a duffel bag.

#295931 Penji


This'll do.

remove barricades
They're pretty secure. If I'm going to do that kind of engineering, I'd rather try digging through the south wall. How hard could it be?

In the meantime...

#295932 Penji

Can you mix the cleaning materials into something of an improvised Molotov Cocktail?

#295934 Penji

The improvised munition explodes short of its mark.

... Now the sprinklers work. Water hits the chemical fire, churning up thick, oily smoke that billows up and down the corridor.

The enemy emplacement fires random bursts into the flames.

I can use this either as a screen to attempt a frontal attack, or a distraction while I try digging through the wall to flank them.

#305905 Penji

I dig.

The humans keep firing bursts through the smoky hallway. Good thing, because I'm making a fucking lot of noise in here.

I rip through layers of metal and start chipping through the stone beyond. The weasel bar shatters rock with each strike, but it's hard work, and I'm tired, and I hurt everywhere. I've got just enough of a patch-job on my back muscles to hopefully prevent further damage, but I can't guarantee even that.

As the minutes tick down, I think of the hour and a half I wasted at the panic room door.

#305906 Penji


I hit metal again after less than a meter. Some more work, and some prying, and I emerge into another compartment.

I'm sweaty and completely exhausted.

#305907 Penji

I'm in a firing range.

A burst of gunfire makes me jolt. It's the hallway HMG, extremely loud even in here. It sounds like it's directly outside the door.

I'm a wreck, but I can still fight.

How are we doing this?

#312158 Penji

We already have guns. That said, what's on that rack on the wall?
Some kind of sniper rifle. Not gonna bother with it right now.
Really center yourself.
I am so fucking centered right now it's unbelievable.
Get in your happy place, open the door, and use that second to murder them.
With luck, I'll show you my happy place very soon.

#312160 Penji


I storm through the door and narrowly duck a stream of autocannon shells.

#312162 Penji

This thing's a fucking tank turret!

The door across the hall is closed, and between my wounded tails and ambient noise, I can't hear anything useful. No humans are immediately visible.

#314175 Penji

I hack the turret.

#314176 Penji

With that taken care of, I can go for the monitor room beside me now. The last guards are probably there. Probably.

However, smoke's cleared enough that I can see that one door I couldn't get to before.

There's also some other doors further down the hallway , but I can't read them from here. Even infrared's hazy through all this hot smoke.

#317464 Penji

TQ793 can\'t have nice things.png
Destroy camera.
Already done.
can you crimp the door of the monitor door so it is jammed shut?
Crimp monitor room door shut.
It's not so much a 'crimp' as it is 'hitting it a lot with a fucking hammer' but I think it's good and shut. And I doubt anyone on the far side is going to want to open it anyway, between the dents and the noise.

#317465 Penji

When strutting past the storage door, make sure a bunch of humans didn't gag and hogtie your wife.
How would you even...? I mean, she can...

Never mind. She's fine. Maybe a little panicked. You'd think that big laser would help.

"Penji!" she says, moving her gunsights off me. "Oh thank Christ! I thought... let's go!"

#317467 Penji

I head into the barracks. Beds, foot lockers, personal effects. Room's clear.

There's the armory. It smells like gunpowder and objective .

"It's just a lift?" Mitzi asks. "What if they stop it? I don't even know how to start it! They could trap us halfway up!"

"A broken dumbwaiter is not going to stop me."

This isn't even a proper elevator, just a box for guns and things. Gonna be a tight fit. Last chance to turn around or try something clever.

#318863 Penji

I open a few lockers and find little of value. Mitzi urges me on. They seem to make her uncomfortable.

There's several more grenades in the barracks. We could rig them into some kind of bomb to send up, if we really want.

The lift's door opens without any hassle at all.

If it's not a proper elevator for people, this might even be the more surprising path
It isn't, though it's clearly big enough for it. There's some scaffolding to discourage the attempt, but I can rip it out no problem.

Rip open elevator. Sneak up. At the first hint of attack, drop down the elevator shaft to avoid damage.
I explain this to Mitzi. She says okay, but that if she built this, she'd add at least one blast door. I tell her it's smart of them to worry about explosions because after I escape I'm coming back to blow the entire place up with a huge bomb for being so consistently infuriating down to the smallest detail.

#318874 Penji

look at computer
Just the usual login screen.

What's that to your right? Something colorful...?
The material's different from the rest of the lift. A panel screwed in place more haphazardly than the rest.

My eyes adjust in a way that makes my head hurt. There's one word visible only in infrared, the other in ultraviolet.

#318889 Penji


"Bless you," she says. "Wait, what are... I guess we're digging now."

"There's words on it. I don't think a human would be able to see them. I can barely see them. Visor's gone opaque to IR."

"Maybe it's a login or something!" she says. "Wait, is that a thumb drive?"

"What? It's like the size of my h-oh, on the back."

#319835 Penji

Mitzi tears out the door power, locking us in.

I give the words to the console. An audio file begins playing.

"I have no way of knowing who's listening," says a quiet voice.

"Oh shit, it's Marcus!" says Mitzi. Then it was him I heard before.

"Tethys... Tozol," continues the recording. "If this is you, if my transmitter worked correctly, if you understood, if you weren't killed or recaptured... then I suppose Murphy lays dead at my feet. I've already benefited from more than my share of dumb luck. After I read your file, I felt like I wasted a bunch of counter-suppress trying to wake you up. I guess we all underestimated you."

"Man, he sounds weird," Mitzi says. I say nothing.

"Near you, I've hidden a small device that will fit in a data port on this console. If I know anything at all about your kind, and maybe I don't, its location should be obvious. It will send a signal elsewhere that will locally blind the security system, open the shaft's blast doors, and start the lift. At the top is more firepower than even you could possibly use.

"In the much more likely case that I am speaking to a security team, you'd better fucking hope you've killed me by now.

"My name's Marcus Tibur. I am hunting you."

#319854 Penji

No sense waiting. We pile into the lift and activate it.

It's a tight fit. We're carrying:

Heavy Machine Gun + Ammunition container
Laser Rifle + Power Pack
2x Pistols + Ammunition
Rifle + Ammunition
tozol power pack
8x human Fragmentation Grenades
2x flashbangs
1x tozol Anti-Tank Grenade
2x sets of guard armor
My helmet
Weasel Bar
Tozol Medical Tool
tozol rations
Large helmet (tozol?)
Laptop containing Bio Lab data
Extra hard drive we can't unlock
High Security Keycard
2x ID Passcards
Soldering iron
Small power drill
Rolls of tape
Small batteries
Tiny shiny scrap of metal
Can of yellow spray paint
Writing utensils
snacks, rations, and water
2x Tranquilizer tubes
2x Suppress tubes
1x Counter poison tube
1x Stimulant tube

#319856 Penji

We're already armed to the teeth, but it's the teeth I'm worried about. There should be enough counter-suppress to finally cleanse the poison from my body.


Things are about to get a lot easier, or very, very hard.

Tozol Quest: Thread 9

#338579 Test Pattern

Thread 1:>>79880
Thread 2:>>94645
Thread 3:>>103192
Thread 4:>>120515
Thread 5:>>141320
Thread 6:>>160101
Thread 7:>>202825
Thread 8:>>233992


#338580 Test Pattern

Welcome to level two, voices and gentleminds.

# Chapter 13 - Zeal Like Madness

#338582 Test Pattern

Mitzi and I made it to the armory. We walked right past two inactive gun turrets on the way in. One was pointed right at the lift. (I already disconnected the ammo feeds)

I don't know how he did it, but we're in. Through trickery, hacking, brute rewiring, or sheerest fucking magic, it looks like Marcus managed to shut this area down under the nose of what we think is a no-shit AI.

#338586 Test Pattern

The armory looks approximately fifty meters square, surrounded by main hallways we'd like to steer clear of until we're good and ready. Weapons and ammunition, crates and crates of them, are stored in separate rooms.

Doing an inventory might take some time, but I can tell you right now that there's probably more guns here than these guys were ever going be able to use. Even mobilizing to fight the jabberwocks has left the racks packed with goodies. Maybe the place was built for a larger garrison than it has?

Nine tenths of the guns look like toys next to my HMG, but there's lots to search. Question is, what are we after?

#338631 Penji

From my scrounging, I've gotten a feel for the layout of the place.

But that's not what I'm here for.

#338632 Penji

TQ807 low whistle.png

#338633 Penji

This is.

#338640 Penji


#338642 Penji


#338643 Penji


#338644 Penji


#338646 Penji


#338654 Penji

I feel normal. Relatively normal, for the first time in memory. It's indescribable. I feel relief, but only for a moment as a sense of dread bubbles up inside me like clogged plumbing.

There's a wave of nausea as I finally look inwards with freshly uncovered eyes and see with full resolution the terrible shredded mess that's me . Gross structural damage, burns, torn flesh, microfractures, chemical imbalances, degraded connections, the sickeningly jury-rigged patchwork of crass neural matter built by repair systems led by a deranged, lobotomized hindbrain too stupid to give up for thirty nine blind, fumbling years, basting in poison, spasming core functionality healing, healing the gaping hole, brain more than fifty percent destroyed and that's me! That living scar! That's Penji Vocta, insane inbred cripple daughter of dead Saon.

But that's not all. Sitting in a lump in my chest is another end product. A whole stagnant mass of gray cells, the mobile instruments of my repair network. My body kept spawning them, more and more that it could not control. Could not understand it could not control. Too many to use efficiently even now.

#338656 Penji

But I can still use them, however poorly. I can spend them. Throw them at a task and burn them like cordwood to get the job done. Get it fixed. Unfuck myself.

No, no. Too wounded even for that. If I wasn't so hurt, this might let me fix a broken system in minutes.

Hell, I still can do that, if you think I should.

Should I spend them on my critical wounds , or fixing a broken ability ?

#339590 Penji

Fix your ABILITY to fix yourself.
That's what the Counter-Suppress was for. I can now heal about as fast as I ever will. Unfortunately, there's still so much work to do.

I think what she means is up until now her body was basically one giant patch job.
Well, yes, but that's everything . Every 'system' I mention is a part of me that was broken when I woke up. It's just that I also have nearly catastrophic levels of recently sustained damage. Before I took that, I was repairing my nervous system enough to upgrade my reaction speeds.

But that's not as important as incinerated tissue, shredded muscles, or having enough ligaments to not worry about falling in half. I may have closed up the skin, but the wounds are still underneath.

I cannibalize the spare cells to help heal my wounds, like a fresh coat of paint on a debris field.

I return to Mitzi...

#339591 Penji

"Any luck?" I ask.

"Nonvital systems down," she says. "What, like the inventory computer isn't vital? Whatever. I'll have it up in minutes."

"I found a ton of Counter-Suppress," I say. "I think I'm clean now."

"I should fucking hope so after all those doses you took," she says. "So. Uh. Feeling better? You were kinda zonked out, there."

#339805 Penji

"I'm kinda, putting myself back together. Mentally and physically," I say. "Mostly physically."

"But you are feeling better. Right?"

"Yeah, sort of. Finally able to feel how fucked up I am. But that's better. More... sober?"

"Good," she says. "Because I'm guessing Plan B is for you to shoot everyone and everything between here and an exit and hope there aren't too many guards left. You'd better not lose your edge because you're hung over."

"What's Plan A?"

"My brother didn't tell me."

#339806 Penji

"Actually, I did have one plan," I say. "I found a great deal of counter suppress."

"I think I'm clean," she says.

"Make sure. But I was thinking about our sharky friend back in Biology."

"N-Niraem?" she asks.

"The last guy we woke up didn't turn out too well, but you can talk to him, right? You can make him understand who did this to him. If that doesn't work, we run away and climb out the hole he makes."

"Gods above," she whispers.

"That's the idea."

#339816 Penji

You're right. I can be getting stuff done. Scope out the area. Just hope I don't give away our position before we're ready.

Just peek around corners with your extrasensory butt or something.
No can do. They're healing enough that I'm getting flashes of my surroundings, but they're too damaged for that.

I get ready for a little excursion.

Start acting like a Tozol and go drool over all the shiny weaponry that's within arms reach.
Hells yes!

I sorta maxed out my grenades earlier, but there's varying degrees of maxing out. I grab a bag and start filling it up. In addition to the 8x Frag and 2x Flashbangs we brought in here, I've now got 2x directional mines, another 4x Frags, 2x Flashbangs, 4x Smoke rounds, 4x Proximity grenades (How hard can they be to set?) and a satchel charge. I can definitely carry more, but it's already getting unwieldy.

"Alright!" Mitzi calls. "'Puter's cycling on."

#339817 Penji

"-ing be there. Testing one... Aha!" says Marcus Tibur. "Tozol! Prepare to defend yourself. You must hold as long as possible."

#340189 Penji

"How many? Coming from where?" I ask.

"Murphy's balls. You are real," he says. "Estimate one hundred infantry mobilized. Force moving in from the rail line to your northwest in unknown but significant numbers. Command structure doesn't know what caused the blackout, but it has fears. Accurate fears."

"How did they have that many in reserve!?" I snap.

"Not security. The fucking Army's here," he says. "A quick reaction company of Aldon regulars, if that means anything to you."

"Keep the lift active," I say. "I have a plan for the valcien."

"I can't," he says. "The whole section will be locked down by now. I shouldn't even be talking to you. You will hold your ground, tozol."

#340190 Penji


#340191 Penji

"Mitzi!? But. Oh, no. NO!" shouts Marcus. "This is not happening!"

"Marcus..." she almost whispers. "Marcus what's the plan? What are we doing here?"

"We?!" he says. "Why is there a we? It's too late, Mitzi! I can't stop this!"

#342644 Penji

Mitzi seems stunned. I interject, all business.

"Is there time to intercept the rail line?"
"Unknown," says Marcus, regaining his composure. "Unlikely, but I can't accurately say."
"But I can sally out and engage them before we're surrounded. Or break out and move elsewhere on this level."
"The security doors will be sealed by now," Marcus says. "That will slow you significantly."
How significantly? I think, but don't waste time asking. His plan was for me to defend myself here. Presumably, until I die. Can I trust him to be honest about this, even now that Mitzi's entered the equation?
"What am I facing?" I ask. "How heavily equipped?"
"Mostly rifle-wielding infantry, however, antivehicle weaponry present. Supported by powered armor of two sizes. The heavier may require sustained fire from even your thirteen millimeter."
I make a displeased sound. "What's your big plan?" I ask.
"Operator is catching on," he says. "This line may be tapped."

Should I press him for details, ask other questions , or get to work ? Whether we're making a run for it, advancing to contact, or bunkering up here, we'd better start soon. Still, this could be the last we talk to him.

#344541 Penji

"Fine," I snap. "Forget it. Wasting time."

"Very well," he says, voice wavering. "Goodbye, Mitzi. Goodbye, tozol."

"Penji," I say, putting on my helmet. "Calling myself Penji. My name was Saon Vocta. I'll... figure it out later."

#344542 Penji

"I'm not sure that you will," says Marcus. "But for what it's worth, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of this. For what's happened. For what's about to happen. Maybe, if I had more time... But, I don't. And I think you deserve to know this. If I could stop this now, just teleport the three of us out of here instead of this... I don't think that I would."

#344543 Penji

The screen darkens, and goes quiet.

"Mitzi," I say.

Silence. I think I might hear footsteps.

"Pull up the inventory," I say. "We need an antimateriel weapon, and every displacer."

"Penji, we're going to die," says Mitzi.

#358100 Penji

"Mitzi," I repeat. "Pull up the inventory."

"You gone stupid again?" Mitzi asks. "Did you not hear any of-"

" Mitzi. Pull. Up. The. Inventory. "

"I... But... What are you even going to do with it?" she asks, sounding dejected but cooperative.

It's a fair question. I've sorted most of my thoughts into four basic options...

#358101 Penji

a) Hold the Line

Sort of a default plan. Set up mines, dig holes, and set up fields of fire in the hopes of facing the enemy head on and defeating it. We can focus on securing only a portion of the armory, and maybe set fire to other parts. If things get untenable, we can try to fall back to the blast shelter, but unless Marcus does something fast and decisive, that would only delay the inevitable.

#358102 Penji

b) Sally Fort

Here, I tear open one of the doors out of here and rush the enemy, bloodying them before they expect to fight me at all. Then I do a fighting retreat back here, assuming I'm not pinned down and killed, and think of a new plan. Hopefully Mitzi will be able to set up some defenses in the meantime. Seizes the initiative and will hopefully discourage the enemy from aggressively assaulting us.

#358103 Penji

c) Strike the Earth

The lift shaft is locked down and sealed with security doors, but we've got friggin' displacer rockets and high explosives and thermite. Here, we focus on trying to get the fuck out of here, back down to the level we came from, and backtrack to Niraem or something. This unfortunately won't be too subtle. Realizing we're running, the enemy will likely rush in to stop us. I can try to do a fighting retreat, but that's often unfeasible without a rearguard. Be aware that the lift room itself isn't very defensible against troops that can knock down or shoot through interior walls.

#358104 Penji

d) Rearguard

Here, I stay behind, hopefully temporarily, while Mitzi focuses on escape. She starts blasting her way out, the enemy rushes in, and I try to hold them off from a good defensive position. If they're focused on the lift, I might even be able to fall back to the blast room, or escape through one of the doors.

This is probably the best chance of getting Mitzi out of the armory alive. Maybe out of the whole facility, if she can wake up Niraem. I'm the priority target.

You've been wondering if Valcien can fight? My cell had an electrical kill-switch and a pistol in a box. Niraem had a harness containing enough explosives to blast a hole several meters wide through a security wall rated against jabberwocks. Which specimen sounds more dangerous to you?

#358105 Penji

Mitzi's got the inventory. Items of interest include:

-Rocket launchers, like Radko's, with plenty of incendiary, high explosive, anti-tank, cluster, and DPICM rockets
--3x Displacer Rockets for the above
-A minigun. Fires much faster than my HMG, and with more shots per pound of ammo, but with far inferior armor penetration. Probably not the best option.
-A 14mm Antimateriel Rifle, hybrid chemical-propellant and magnetic acceleration. Five round magazine/battery packs, but plenty of spares. Probably made for killing power-suits.
-An automatic grenade launcher with cans of 48x HEAT and fragmentation munitions.
-Belts and belts of ammunition for my HMG, both Sabot and Armor-Piercing-Incendiary.
-Frag grenades, thermite grenades, flashbangs, smoke grenades, flares, sonic screamers, teargas, sticky goo bombs,
-Directional mines and traditional mines
-High explosives, satchel charges, detcord
-Several large powerpacks like the one Mitzi's wired to her laser
-A single EMP bomb, about the size of a satchel charge
-A bunch of other random shit and many dozens of guns vastly worse than my HMG

Hard to say how much of this garbage I can use at once. Use your judgement.

#358527 Penji

I explain the plan. I'm staying behind, at least until she drills to the bottom. With three displacers, it shouldn't take her very long, I hope. Once she figures out how to use them.

"Penji..." Mitzi says, like a whisper. Maybe like a plea.

"It's your best chance," I say. "Try to work fast. Please."

"Penji," she says. "Thank you."

#358528 Penji

"Yeah," I say. "I promised I'd get you out. And who says I'm dying?"

Mitzi doesn't reply. About a hundred rifles do , I think.

"Hey. Keep a hold on those hard drives we picked up," I say. "If they're damaged, redownload what you can from Bio. I don't know what the world's like out there, but it should know. It should know what happened here."

She hesitates, then nods.

"Get to work," I tell her.

#358530 Penji

We separate. We're still in earshot, but only if we shout. We don't.

I spend several minutes ripping up floor plates to dig a pair of shallow fighting positions and laying mines. Think the 'plan a' map. I don't dare spend more time, since we decided I'm sallying forth.

I load a rocket launcher, but only to blast my way out. I need something more... cyclic to fight with.

#358531 Penji

For starters, I'm taking my Pistol , and the Weasel Bar . Obviously. Need to pick a main weapon, too:

A) Heavy Machine Gun : Still haven't had a real chance to try this baby out, but I've seen it in action, and it hurts like a motherfucker. Should penetrate anything short of heavy power armor, and offers the most ammunition and best rate of fire of the three choices.
B) Automatic Grenade Launcher : Found some cans of mixed ammunition, alternating HEAT and fragmentation. That is good. Each HEAT round should be as good or better at penetrating armor as an HMG round, but I'll be firing fewer of them. It'll also be making explosions and throwing out lots of fragments.
C) Antimateriel Rifle + Assault Rifle (w/ Sabot rounds): The AMR is my best bet for taking out powered armor or minitanks. It's also the lightest of the three choices, so I can carry a standard rifle as well, which is good because I am not going out there without an automatic weapon.

I should be able to lug some explosives, as well. I can go with:

a) An EMP bomb , two smoke grenades, two flashbangs
b) A Satchel Charge , three smoke, three flash, four fragmentation.
c) A big bag of smoke/flash/frag grenades.
d) ...or maybe I shouldn't load myself down so much after all. I'll move a little faster without as much weight and bulk. Just two smoke and two flashbangs.

#358890 Penji

Antimaterial Rifle, Automatic Rifle, Pistol, Weasel Bar, and a bag of grenades, including the tozol-built Antitank grenade.

I activate the mines I hurriedly set, except at the entrance I'm charging through. I leave the HMG next to the last arming switch, set up at a hole in the floor I'm optimistically calling a fighting position.

I tip over a rack of equipment so it'll be less useful as cover. In the process, I finally find a set of bracers that fit me. I realize I'm stalling. Am I afraid? I am afraid.

#358891 Penji

say goodbye to Mitzi
I don't know what to say to her. Instead, I say "Breaching."

I detonate a charge at the north exit. Concussion rolls down the hallway and smoke fills the air. I fire a rocket through the smoke, in case the blast wasn't enough, and because fuck it.

#358892 Penji

I leap out, hoping to see some casualties from the rocket, but nobody's here yet. That's good, I think.

I hear voices from two directions.

#358893 Penji

My blindsight still isn't working, so we're just going on maps and conjecture.

I hear footsteps, though. Lots of footsteps down both corridors. I hear surprised humans reacting to the blast.

"Union, this is Union-Two-One," I make out. "We just heard an explosion... two explosions from the armory. Please advise."

#359125 Penji

I approach the left corner, that's at the northwest corner of the hallway surrounding the Armory.

"Move up," I hear. "Two-one, secure the north entrance."

Staying out of sight, I shift the weasel bar into a mirror and peek around.

#359126 Penji

There's a squad of infantry closing fast. At least six unpowered light infantry, two in heavier power-assist suits, and some great big fucker stomping in behind them.

They can't be more than twenty meters away!

#359579 Penji

cook grenade
throw grenade
throw smoke
five rounds rapid
Here I go!

#359580 Penji

Detonation. I lean out.

The weapon thunders against my shoulder. The magnetic component sends saboted darts whipping out of the muzzle flash at fantastic speeds. Smells of cordite and ozone. I empty the mag as fast as I can handle the recoil.

#359581 Penji

Troops are scattered and shocked. Shoot the big fucker first, but it's knelt behind a huge shield covered in cameras and explosive charges. No immediate result.

Shoot the two lighter suits instead. Gonna call those heavy infantry. Not heavy enough. Dead and dead.

Return to the heavy suit. First round penetrated the shield but didn't appear to harm the target. Fire again, straight through a camera and where I think the helmet is. It moves to return fire. I put a round through the knee and hear a roar of pain amplified through a speaker.

#359582 Penji

The big snivel suit returns fire. Its shots go wide. Pussy. Troops are shooting too. Rifles appear to have silencers. They score a few hits but fail to penetrate my security armor.


I definitely saw a second squad moving up behind this one. If Marcus's estimate is accurate, we're looking at upwards of twelve squads. Probably organized into three platoons of four squads each, or four platoons of three each. Depends on total numbers and how they've slotted the heavy suits. I can't guarantee there aren't more advancing along other vectors. Remember the map I saw earlier.

I can reposition to the other corridor as we discussed, or continue engaging here, or do something else .

Moving back and forth might dissuade them from advancing and keep them on their toes, but means fewer kills in these critical opening moments of the firefight.

#359764 Penji

"Fire! Suppressive fire!" I hear behind me. "What was that?"

"It's a fucking Athelhom demon!" someone screams.

I hear panic, but I don't think I'll be able to induce a friendly fire incident. Not one big enough to matter.

I drop a smoke grenade anyway, because every second helps, and dash for the other corridor.

Yell loudly as if to give orders to someone else, make them think there's more than one of you.
I hiss security padding at no one in the battle language.

#359765 Penji

I arrive with only moments to spare. There's no time to cook this grenade, but it sends them scrambling away. Same squad layout as the other group.

"Contact! Cont-"

The heavy power-suit doesn't bring its sheild up in time. My first round glances off the thick canopy, but the next hits obliquely, and penetrates.

I spend the rest of the magazine taking out two heavy infantry.

#359766 Penji

I toss a smoke round as my grenade detonates. The humans are shouting at each other and firing. They seem uncertain if they're facing multiple targets.

I saw a squad advancing behind the one I just engaged. Above the gunfire, I hear sounds coming from the hallway to the east. Lead elements of a third platoon, perhaps.

I've still got plenty of ammo. I can keep feinting back and forth , or brave the suppressive fire to try to rack up kills , or retreat to the armory , or do something else .

#360185 Penji

back and forth
charge and loot
I compromise by banking a grenade down the left hallway to make them think I'm still camping the corner. I throw another one down the hall to my right. I don't think targets are there yet, but it'll hopefully make them slow down.

My tails are still hurt and numb, but bullets that pass produce shockwaves with crystal clarity, letting me track rounds back to the source with mediocre precision. At least I'll know right away when I've been flanked!

#360187 Penji

I dash into the hallway where I was standing a moment ago. The enemy got those doors open, at least the ones into the barracks proper. Using them for cover and laying down fire with guns and underslung mini-rockets. They score hits on me as I advance, one of which penetrates my body armor and stops against my sternum plate.

I return fire with my pistol. Smoke's everywhere. I've got no depth perception in infrared due to how cooked my visor is.

#360188 Penji

What's left of the forward squad retreats further into the Barracks. The squad further down the hallway is intact, but didn't have a lot of time to shoot me before I find cover. I toss several grenades into the open barrack doors, churning up the smoke and spattering my armor with bouncing fragments. With the weasel bar, I relieve the dead suit of its shield. It's really big, but I can carry it.

I'm going through grenades like crazy but I've still got a bunch left, plus most of my bullets. If the enemy's smart and aggressive, they're in a position to quickly surround me.

Thunder makes the walls shake. Mitzi's breaking out the heavy demolitions. I can stay here and keep fighting, fall back a ways and keep feinting , retreat to the Armory proper, dive into the barracks and hope they follow me and not Mitzi, or get really aggressive by charging down the hallway with the shield... or something .

#362247 Penji

Keep feinting
I take my new shield and fall back. Smallarms fire bounces pleasantly off.

Do you think it'd be at all possible for you to do some trick shooting and hit the guys in cover?
No. The angles would make my rounds penetrate when they'd need to ricochet, and vice versa.

There is no way I can run back and forth fast enough while carrying the shield, so I stand it up facing the hallways to my right.

The enemy must think there's more than one of me, because every time I reposition, I have to run a good sixty meters, and there's enemies twenty or thirty meters from each corner. Even with the rushed healing, I'm not moving much faster than a human. They're just not risking it.

#362249 Penji

They are, however, laying down lots of fire, scoring hits every time I expose myself, and narrowly missing with underslung mini-rockets.

I'm hearing more and more footsteps. Troops definitely approaching from the east, from the northwest to reinforce those in the hallways I'm suppressing, and maybe elsewhere. Hard to localize between the echoing halls, Mitzi's enthusiastic demolition work, and now a familiar voice.

"Miss Alton," says Operator. "Penji. Please consider your options objectively. It is not yet too late to surrender."

#365017 Penji

Don't fall back quite yet
I brave the suppressive fire one more time.

I set up at the left corner. As I lay the gun, I see a target peek out.

For an instant, I feel like a tozol.

#365018 Penji

Ignore Operator
In the Utility Tongue, I tell it I will leave one last camera working so it can watch while I eat its thinking components. I can't tell whether it understands.

Grab the shield and get out
I go for the shield.

#365019 Penji

The shield explodes.

#365020 Penji

A big chunk of metal clocks me in the head. For a few seconds, I'm too disoriented to think, but my body doesn't stop. Something like instinct and something like programming carries me to the north entrance of the Armory.

When the humans move up, I can either fight them through this hole I blew in the door, or fall back at once to a fighting position I dug and arm the last mines.

#395898 Penji

I decide to stay a little longer. Make them fight for every meter. I don't have a lot of them to spare.

When they poke around the corners, I spray automatic gunfire. I score a few hits, but mostly just scare them off. When they concentrate, I throw a grenade.

They're willing to absorb casualties, but not rushing me. I can hear more footsteps through the din. More must be flanking. I haven't heard any mines detonate yet, unless I missed them between the grenades and Mitzi's blasting charges. I don't think I have.

#395900 Penji

Heavy infantry set up positions at the corners and lay down a curtain of suppressive fire. I hurl more grenades their way, but I'm nearly blind unless I want to charge into fire. I think I do.

I can rush them , to help keep them away from Mitzi. Suicidal, maybe, but I'm running low on non-suicidal options, and I need to buy her more time. I can withdraw to my prepared positions and hope to halt them, but then my back's truly against the wall. I can keep fighting here , just chuck munitions and hope for the best, or I can do something else : try to start an ammunition fire, hide in a corner to leap out at them, devise a trick. Something.

#395986 Penji

Give ground now so you can kill more of them later.
add in lots of grenades.

I chuck fragmentation as I leave, and start filling the place with white smoke. Good thing I packed all these things. Got more at each shitty crater I've optimistically designated a fighting position.

Feeling pretty vulnerable. There's more than one angle on me right here, and ways for them to sneak up behind. If there were two of me, we might be able to hold the enemy indefinitely, but there aren't.

I really wish Mitzi would hurry the hell up.

#395987 Penji

Don't forget to arm the last mines.

It isn't long before I hear the distinctive blam-crackle of a directional mine from the southeast half of the armory.

Humans are shouting now. They were keeping quiet, but no longer. I can't easily make much out

"The whole place is mined! We need EOD bots!"
"Fuck your radio silence! We've lost two squads already!"
"Need time to bring up enough Battlesuits."
"Say again?! No, I do NOT copy!"

#396097 Penji

I move southeast to disrupt the enemy in the ammunition store.

" Miss Alton, " thunders Operator, still calm and even, but with enough raw volume to make the walls shake. " We have every reason to accept your surrender, even now. We have more to learn from a living Tozol than from a corpse. We had forty years to study your corpse. We shall have decades more, beginning very shortly, unless you cease hostilities IMMEDIATELY. "

I find some sappers at the east entrance, trying to disarm my mines.

" What more can you offer your dead masters? Your dead species? Our mercy is your only remaining resource, and it diminishes with each passing instant. "

#396098 Penji

This is only an estimate...

Red: Enemy
Blue: Mitzi and I
Turquoise: Mines
Purple: Fighting Holes

So far, they aren't swarming in, but that could change any second. If I'm going to start an ammunition fire, I'd better start now. It'll only affect the southeast half, though three of the four entrances lead here. It might not be very large, depending on what failsafes are in place.

" Please consider your options objectively ," says Operator.

#396567 Penji

I'll feel pretty stupid if I die with all this ammo just sitting here. I start tearing open boxes and dropping flares inside. I grab a few satchel charges, too, just in case. I hope Mitzi doesn't need more explosives. I haven't heard a peep from her, apart from the odd blasting charge.

The humans have quieted down, too. They still aren't rushing in. I wonder how much materiel they hope to mass before making their move.

#396569 Penji

There's some fire detectors here. They haven't gone off, yet.

I can shoot them and hope they don't failsafe, try blinding them somehow (ideas?), ignore them and hope for the best , for all I know they're already disabled, or incapable of stopping a large fire. (Entirely possible, since chemical propellants don't require oxygen) Or, I could get Mitzi . I'm sure she can disable them, but every minute she has to work on digging us out is a jewel beyond price.

#396829 Penji

I ignore the devices and focus on setting this fire.

Nozzles project from the ceiling and start spraying foam, but it can't extinguish the fire, only stop it from spreading. That doesn't stop me from spreading it!

#396830 Penji

"Penji?" asks Mitzi. "What was that? Penji? What's going on?"

"Uh. I set all the ammo on fire."

"What? Why?!"



#398360 Penji

The enemy in the northeast entrance might bypass the fire by heading through the emergency blast room and explosives storage.

Good point.

A solution presents itself.

I'm not sure which explosives (if any) will detonate sympathetically, so I slap proximity mines on everything as fast as I can and hope for the best. Maybe it will scare them off.

#398361 Penji

"Mitzi!" I shout. "Why am I not hearing displacer rockets?"

"I- I'm not sure if I've cleared far enough," she says. "And... and I'm not sure if I know how to arm them safely. And... and I think I need to turn off the range arming so it'll detonate this close, but if it's too close then-"

"Mitzi, inside of five minutes, giant fuck-off suits of powered armor are going to crash in and mow us down with rotary cannons. Adjust your concept of safety accordingly."

#398362 Penji

cycle from entrance to entrance
I'm not sure how meaningfully I can do that. I'm not THAT fast. Not with my legs this fucked up. And what if they rush in all at once? That is, if they can maneuver past the increasingly intense ammo fires.

Oh, and these mines. The interior mines (flashing) aren't armed, because I had to shut them off to fuck around out here.

Should I cycle from entrance to entrance , find an ambush spot in the smoke, or rearm the mines and hunker down in a prepared position ? (The northwest one, presumably)

#400168 Penji

Find an ambush point in the smoke

Almost as soon as I do, I hear explosions from all four entrances.

"Bots are down," I hear. " All of them."
"Go go go!"
"We're out of time! Let's GO, rifles!"

More explosions.

#400170 Penji

They're not backing off this time. I hear smallarms fire in between explosions. They're shooting whatever mines they can see, but there's dozens, many of them able to kill at a distance, in a choking soup of smoke and heat.

"Aah! Aaahh shit!"
"Man down!"
"Northwest is intact. Wait, there's more mines. Look directi-"
"I say again, route is still mined! Find us another way!"
"-still breathing, get him out of here."
"Oh God oh no..."
"Sergeant Braden!"
"Entire place is on fire. Southeast route totally impassable."

Two battered snivel-suits advance from the northeast entrance.

#400171 Penji

"Munitions are cooking off!"
"We can't stay here! We need to fall back!"
"What was-"
"Alonzo! Contact contact!"

#400172 Penji


#400587 Penji

It's too late to choose where to land. The target's minigun blazes a sweeping arc of bullets that narrowly miss me. I drive my weasel bar into the armored canopy, but don't hit anything vital.

if those are false-helmets...
It's secured to the chest, very thick and durable. Even my antimaterial rifle (left on top of the shelving!) needs an oblique hit or it glances off.
that thing to the left of his head, is it a camera or does it shoot shuff?
Camera. Probably IR.

I'm slow. Maddeningly slow! My nervous system's working adequately, but my body's close to its breaking point. Do I focus on a killing blow to the armored head/torso, try to cripple it with strikes to the limbs, trash its weapon and run , or something else ?

#400658 Penji

Equal disarm and cripple
I shove the weasel bar into the spinning barrels and twist in the other direction. Hard.

Watch for the explosives on their shields
Oh right! Shit!
I don't actually know how it triggers them.

While it's distracted with the minigun, I chop at the inside of its right elbow and hope for the best.

#400659 Penji

The target knocks me away. I was just leaving anyway. It babbles into its radio, but not in very great detail, most likely trusting in its electronics to provide context.

Do you have the mercy giver with you? This is exactly what it is designed to kill.
Mitzi has it.

The armored human manages to detonate its charges, but I'm gone by then. It makes a terrible beehive racket of ricochets sending burning cinders everywhere.

I'm off to a good start. I feel lighter on my feet.


#401395 Penji

I flip my backpack upside down and hope the lid stays closed. I've only got a few grenades left, including the tozol antitank weapon. Rifle's gone, too, though there's crates of the things around here. I manage to retrieve the antimateriel rifle in a hurry and run that way, back to my forward prepared positions.

Checking an aisle corner with my mirror, I see the humans have gotten there first. It's hard to tell from here (even in IR) but there's at least four at my foxhole. I can hear battlesuits but can't see any. My tails still don't work.

I can't arm my mines now. Maybe I can if I retake that position by surprise, or maybe the wires are already cut.

There's a terrible thunderclap, and a whirlwind of smoke blowing past me. A Displacer. Mitzi must have fired it correctly. I know this because if she just killed herself, I'm already dead. Therefore, she did it correctly.

Fuck do I do now? There's still a heavy machine gun at my second position (that's the southern yellow square), but then there's nowhere left to run, except to Mitzi. If I try to retake my first position , I could be cut down from all sides. Or maybe you have something clever in mind.

#404731 Penji

Arm the interior mines
I can't from here!

get a new rifle
Let's see how much of a Tozol you are.
Not much of one, right now. I'm still suffering extensive burns, bullet wounds, a penetrating shot to my lungs. I'm utterly exhausted, and I really need something to drink. My arms are pretty intact, but most of my body feels like it's held together with tape and wire.

It feels... unreasonable. My instincts tell me I need to retreat or die. Not, I must stress, that I need to retreat. My body tells me to choose: back down now, or unlock all safeties for one final effort, burn the tape and unravel the wire, to accomplish a goal worth my life.

I try to push it away. I have to do both.

#404734 Penji


I dive out and open fire. The two nearest, I write off the instant I pull the trigger. The others, quick on their feet, dive for cover, clearing the way for the foxhole.

#404736 Penji

I land inside and clutch the detonator, arming the mines, unless the wires are already cut, unless the mines are disabled, unless I just didn't arm them correctly in the first place.

And then the world erupts with the sound of ripping cloth a hundred decibels too loud. Bullets strike all around me at a fantastic rate of fire, pelting me with stinging fragments.

I'm suppressed. I'm fucked!

#405638 Penji

Fuck fuck get it together...

AM Rifle would get broken...
It didn't actually fit in the hole. It's dead weight now.

throw tank-killer grenade
Remember, the other one created a large electromagnetic pulse! That might shut down these battlesuits, or it might damage the displacer warheads Mitzi's working on.

throw smoke
All gone.

throw frag
I pull the pins on all five human grenades, and throw six.

They begin detonating in quick succession. The battlesuits are probably unharmed, but seem momentarily distracted. I have an instant to decide whether to use the tank-killer or just run for it .

#405935 Penji

Hoping the blast and noise will distract them for a few seconds, I leap out and run!

It doesn't work very well. Rounds impact all over. My armor stops some but not others. Pain everywhere, my blood splatters against the wall. I think I lose a tail.

One suit was flanking, but I manage to stumble out of its field of fire. Nothing penetrates the bone plates protecting my vitals, but my musculature feels... shredded.

Where am I running? Scratch that. Where am I heading? My second position , where I can maybe hold them off with the HMG? Or to Mitzi , to hide and try to kill anyone who comes through the door?

#406911 Penji

Go to the HMG
Go to Mitzi but get the HMG first
I stumble to the HMG.

Work, body. Please.

I thank the gods for not giving me a pain threshold.

use the tank killer
I'd be throwing it blind. And climbing up on a cabinet doesn't actually make me invisible.

#406912 Penji

The mines at the entrances are probably destroyed or depleted, but the interior mines in and around the two crosswise hallways are now active. Probably. Even if they aren't, the ammunition storage must be a blast furnace by now. That means Mitzi should be protected except via the doorway my gun's pointed at.

It would be nice if those shelves weren't so close to me, but I bet this weapon can shoot through them. Meanwhile, I have cover. Still, I'm fairly vulnerable to flanking.

I can fight here (or not) and then withdraw to the doorway (green square here). If I'm under fire when that happens, I'll have to suppress the guys ahead of me and hope the ones to the side are lousy shots. From there, I'm at the entrance to where Mitzi is, and we're looking at a last stand.

How do you want it?

#407170 Penji

don't get flanked
Drag that HMG and your sorry carcass to the doorway to Equipment Processing. Set up facing down the hall, away from the raging inferno.
Okay, good idea, I think. Actually, this might be a bad idea. I am out of places to run. Part of me's happy to be finished running.

On the bright side, this should funnel them into one doorway. On the down side, explosives.

Those mechs give not a single fuck about HMG fire.
I bet you're wrong, especially at this range.

#407172 Penji

I pound on the door. It's locked from the inside. That's smart but damned inconvenient.

"It's Penji. Open up!"

"One second! Almost got this!"

I've heard a total of one displacer so far. There's no way I could have missed one given the big rush of air.

I hear a whump-crack of a directional mine, and anxious human radio chatter. Damnit, I need to get this door open so I have some cover.

Now may be a good time to do your displacer trick...
Which trick is that, precisely?

#407478 Penji

Shoot displacer(s). Jump in. Try not to break your everything on the way down.
Sure it's probably only a hundred feet or so. I'll probably only break one, two legs tops.

"Mitzi, unless you are firing a displacer right this second, open this fucking door!"

I drop down, assuming the worst. Assuming she's got tunnel vision and ten minutes of work ahead of her, anything but the noise of gunfire growing louder around her.

The door opens. I slide into partial cover.

"Penji, y-"

"Fire that displacer. Or I will. Can I just hand detonate a warhead?"

"Yeah but-"

Time's up.

#407480 Penji

My weapon renders verbal communication impossible.

Can hardly think over the racket blasting through the narrow confines like a horn.

#407481 Penji

Two bounced, cooked grenades pepper me with shrapnel. Bullets ring against my plates. My armor's getting fucked up, and so am I, but I am turning humans inside out every time they show me a silhouette.

#407482 Penji



I feel a sudden rush of air as the ground shakes. The second Displacer shot.

#407920 Penji

This position is rapidly becoming less viable- it won't be long at all before they throw something heavier than a grenade at you. Pull back.
That... makes sense. They're not stupid. And yet...
Can't say that wasn't oh so satisfying on a base level, can you?
No, I can't.
How sweet it tasted.
It did. I can't believe it took me this long to actually try using these heavy guns I fucking deployed.
Wait for Mitzi to tap your shoulder
Alright. I'll stay for longer. But I might have to leave in a hurry, so I bring myself up to a crouch.

I keep holding them off. They're getting cagey, with good reason, no longer trying to overwhelm with troops.

#407921 Penji

Suddenly, a crouched battlesuit swings into view, going defensive behind its shield. A pair of grenades sail overhead, but I must focus on the suit or it'll be on me. I traverse and open fire.

#407922 Penji

A moment later, two heavy infantry deploy from the other corner. One has an LMG; the other, an automatic grenade launcher. While I'm shooting the big suit, they light me up. I traverse, but slowly. The HMG's too heavy, and my body too injured. Machine gun rounds walk across me. A grenade detonates ahead, sending a HEAT lance into the wall, and-

#407923 Penji



I don't understand. I can't...

Hit to the neck. Entire body reads red. My main spinal bus is down. Secondaries are broken or still waking up.

No no no.

I slump into the room. The HMG keeps firing. Hopefully it will scare them away, because I'm not.

#410391 Penji

Close the fucking door.
Secondary lines are unresponsive. I feel something like panic. Nerves firing at nothing.
can you move at all?
Secondary lines are unresponsive. I've heard that many species have bodies that can survive for months or even years with a broken spine, but my metabolism is too energetic for that. It needs constant oversight. And this blood...
You are not going to give up!
Secondary lines are unresponsive. I can feel my body temperature rising. I probably have only minutes, but the humans will be on me before then anyway.

#410392 Penji

I don't even feel myself being dragged inside. Mitzi pries my hand off of the HMG and closes the door. It's thick and heavy, but it won't delay them long. I move my lips but she doesn't hear.

"Penji? Penji, please be alive. Pleeease," she says. "Fuck, fuck, they're here. I don't..."

She pauses, waiting for me to say something. I can't.

"The tunnel's longer than I thought," she says, talking faster than normal. "I need to use the rocket's guidance. There's a procedure and I'm untrained and- It'll hit the sides if I fire it unguided- I can't aim that straight. And- I'd just drop the thing but the warhead wouldn't arm. I can hotwire it but then it'll go off with no delay and I'd-I'd make some kind of timer but they're right here Penji pleeease wake up..."

#410394 Penji

A secondary line goes active, providing my brain a tenuous link to the rest of me. Body temperature's gone way up. My hindbrain works to get it under control.

I can move, poorly; work my body like a puppet, but even that's risky. My hindbrain needs this bandwidth. It's been less than a minute, but it feels like trying to drag an avalanche back up a mountain.

If I'm to do anything, it had better be important. And it'd better be now.

#436031 Penji

"Penji!" Mitzi whispers. "Penji."

"Give me the warhead," I croak.

"Are you- But you can't-"

"Give me a button. Put it in my hand."

"There isn't-" she chokes back something. "Okay."


"Penji, I'm sorry,"


#436032 Penji

Although I can't remember my prior life, I can only hope that 'push the quadriplegic into the pit' is the worst plan I've ever had.

As I fall, I try to determine where everything went so wrong. Why it went wrong. It's a list too long for the drop. Most immediately, the humans who built this lift with redundant blast doors. The ones who shot me. The ones who ordered them to advance in spite of brutal losses. The ones who put me here. The Diplomats. My old self. Marcus Tibur.

Marcus fucking Tibur.

Why'd he do it? Dead alien comes back to life. The most dangerous thing in this facility, awake, willing to cooperate. Impossible luck. An obvious ally too perfect to hope for, and he lures it into a trap, rings the alarm, and runs. Why?

#436033 Penji

As soon as the question forms in my head, it's answered.

I am an obvious ally. The humans know this. I am the most dangerous thing here. The humans know this.

The displacer goes off like a lightbulb. Flash and thunder rip my surroundings out from existence. My cells dig their heels and cling to this world.

The base's leadership sees me in the armory. It's their worst case scenario. They pull out all the stops to halt Marcus's plan.

But they don't know his plan. I don't even know his fucking plan.

#436034 Penji

Maybe his plan is to leave.

That sounds like a good plan.

#441690 Penji

I lay there for some time. I feel that it should be peaceful, my responsibilities absolved, but it isn't. I can hear ammunition popping and exploding upstairs. I whisper for Mitzi to hurry. I realize this is a lot for her, securing a cable in a hurry with gunfire streaming in, rappelling down in darkness, carrying all our shit, in armor. Lucky she isn't human anymore.

I feel a rush of relief when she drops from the ceiling before a demolition charge does.

"Penji," she says breathlessly. "Penji, you're okay?"
"Get me out."
"Oh thank every fucking god," she exhales. "Should I... should I shoot up at them?"
"No," I say. Grenades aren't falling, so they aren't there yet. "Get me out."

#441691 Penji

She talks at me in hushed tones, and hauls me up the side.

"I- I'm trying not to hurt you," she says.
"Pull. Hurry up."
"Okay, okay. What do we do now?"
"Run or hide," I say. 'Or fight,' I don't add. Even I know when I'm beat.
"Where?" she asks.

Why the fuck is she asking me? She's the one with the intact nervous system.

Tired. I've lost a lot of blood.

Let me just... let me just think.

#441692 Penji

From here, I can see the crater reaches into another room. I remember setting a security checkpoint on fire on the way in here. This looks like another one. It probably leads to an exit.

We could probably find a hiding spot in here. Hunker down til I feel better. That might take hours. Those soldiers can't be ready to follow us, but we don't have hours. But, what the hell else are we going to do?

#441693 Penji

We can just leave. Find the Valcien. Maybe we can still get out of this alive. If Mitzi can just drag my lifeless ass to Niraem, if we brought enough Counter Suppress for him, if he doesn't eat me, maybe...

#441694 Penji

Wait, hang on. Let me fix that map.

#442084 Penji

I tell Mitzi to haul me away. We're going west, to the Valcien.

We have to hurry, but I'm so thirsty. I'm hot. I've lost a lot of fluid. We duck into the barracks kitchen. Precious minutes expended, and precious bandwidth to make my guts work even a little, but I need this.

#442086 Penji

Mitzi carries me through silent corridors. I listen to her breathing; her footsteps; her heartbeat. Nothing else. Jabberwocks might be anywhere, too silent for even my ears to detect.

"S-something's up," Mitzi whispers. "Nobody's following us."

She shouldn't make even that much noise. But, she's right.

#442090 Penji

We enter the Biology section. Nothing stops us. Either the Jabberwocks aren't here, or they're happy to let us wander into the center of their territory before they attack. Hell, it worked last time, right?

We enter Stasis.

What's left of the berserker I woke up here is gone. For a nauseating moment, I wonder if the Jabberwocks ate the Valcien. But the tank looks intact from here. No way they could kill something that big without making a mess.

Niraem Zanalach. The thought strikes me that there might be something more dangerous than a Tozol in here. Niraem wasn't happy to see me the first time. I have no idea how he'll react. How much pain the Suppress is numbing. How much rage. I have no idea what a Valcien can even do.

This could be a complete waste of time. It could be the way I finally die.

So, how are we doing this?

#442858 Penji

How long to get our spine working?
I've had time to assess the wound. One secondary channel was damaged by the same hit that took out the main bus. The one keeping me alive is spotty, even though it wasn't struck. A third's just broken. A lot about me has been broken since before I woke up. All I could do since then is cobble together short-term fixes. I've been cutting corners, layering patch jobs on patch jobs. And fixing nerve tissue is slow going.

I don't actually know when my secondaries will be repaired. I can't feel it. Worse, I won't actually be in fighting condition without the main. That will take days .

That one's hard to contemplate. I haven't even been Penji for that long.

#442859 Penji

I tell Mitzi to get to work, but that we need him on our side; that he might be angry. In pain. She says she doesn't know what to do with that. She takes two doses up the ladder and dives into the tank.

I stare after her. I feel helpless. I am helpless.

When she climbs back out, she's trembling. We have a few minutes.

#442862 Penji

"Penji, I'm scared," she says.

"What, now?" I ask, putting strength in my voice. "We got this far. Whatever happens, it's out of our hands."

"That's. That's not how it works," she says, her voice wavering. "We still have to talk him into... into whatever we're hoping he can do. I don't know anything about Valcien! For all I know, he can't even survive in a gravity well."

"You can ask him soon."

"Or. Or maybe he'll kill us as soon as he can move. He's scared of Tozols. Maybe we should wake him up slowly and try to talk before he can move. Or... maybe he'll just get angrier if we don't give him every dose of Counter Suppress all at once. He was horrified when he drifted out last time."

#445175 Penji

Can you heal faster with surgery?
No. I mean, maybe, but we don't know how to do that.

I tell Mitzi we don't have time to fuck around. Just give it everything we have and hope it's enough.

She gets to work.

#445176 Penji

Mitzi climbs out of the tank a minute later. She rushes down the ladder.

#445177 Penji

The room shudders. Niraem bursts free, shrugging away screaming steel and snapping cables, red fluid running off his angular flanks.

"Holy shit!" says Mitzi, reeling back. She gasps, her eyes twisting three-lobed.

#445178 Penji

Niraem draws breath. Mitzi says something I can't hear over the sound of the ceiling boiling away.

By the precursors. Now I know why they kept the Counter-Suppress in the armory.

Please suggest an action.

#455495 Penji

Call out his name as loud as you can.
"NIRAEM," I say, with as much authority as I can muster, loud enough to power through the noise of fire and twisting metal and the valcien's scream.

It stops, snapping to some form of attention, addressing the noisy birdstrike hazard. Smoke falls around it like a curtain, shrouding the room in darkness. My nasal filters slide into place.

"Penji," growls a voice. "Penji. Penji."

#455496 Penji

The voice is Mitzi's, reduced to a sandblasted croak. "Penji, tell me why Niraem shouldn't kill you."

#455992 Penji

"I'm no threat to you," I say.

"If you are not a threat then you are not a tozol."

"I can help you."

"If you are no tozol, what can you offer. If you are a tozol, you cannot be trusted."

"I bled so you may be free."

It hesitates.

#455993 Penji

"In-determinate," stutters Mitzi. "Context is untrustworthy. You are tricks and lies and true only to yourselves. We talk we trust we are deceived. We find an empty world we land we are killed by hidden creatures, to defend by surprise, to preserve a secret, to kill and eat! Kill! Kill! "

"Please," I say. "I need you. Mitzi needs you."

It hesitates again.

"Insufficient context. Information available. Unavailable. Interface conflict. Interpolation inconsistent," says Mitzi. "Remote node operating outside behavioral norms for remote body-part drone or deployable asset. What am I speaking through? Physical access to wetware may resolve errors. Penji, my head hurts. Penji. It wants to link again buh-but I don't think that's a good idea..."

#470031 Penji

"Stop," I say. "You'll kill her. It's a person. She has a mind. Her name is Mitzi. You spoke with her."

Niraem stares. "A human or a remote-node-analogue; remains a component and not a whole. Not a ship."

"Listen to me," I say, very carefully. "I promised to get her out of here. I promised."

"That means nothing," says the Valcien. "Nothing. You are a Tozol. You betray and lie and conceal and disguise and trick. I should destroy you while I can if I can!"

"Do it, then," I snap, without really thinking.

Niraem pauses, in what must be sheer confusion, or just a stubborn fear of doing anything I suggest.

"Save her. Leave me," I say.

The Valcien stares, eyes forming and unforming.

"I do not understand," says Niraem.

#479716 Penji

"I promised I'd get her out of here or die trying," I say.

"Your orders. But such orders as those perplex me further."

"No orders. I have no orders," I say, and saying it aloud sends a chill up what's left of my spine. I don't know why. "It's only me. And her."

The valcien stares, unreadable.

"Tozols cannot exist without programming without standing orders," he says through Mitzi.

"Then I'm not a tozol," I say. "Not anymore. That part of me died forty years ago."

#479717 Penji

"A tozol not a tozol a human not a human who is a component who is not a component of a valcien but not of a valcien; how how how how..."

"Listen to me!" I say. "I don't care and neither should you. Humans are coming here to kill us. Do you understand?"

Niraem hesitates, its form wavering subtly. Agitation? Defenses?

"I want you to take Mitzi, and not hurt her, and escape through the crane tunnel, and leave me here," I say.

For what feels like a long time, the valcien is silent.

"Penji-who-was-Saon-Vocta-who-was-tozol," says Niraem. "Who are you?"

#480443 Penji

"Is that really what's important right now?!" I ask.

"Yes," says Niraem.

Frustration boils. What right does he have to interrogate me? Leave me alone.

"I don't know," I say. "I wish I knew. Maybe I'd have figured it out, with time."

"Penji..." says Mitzi. It's definitely Mitzi, this time.

"I'm a prisoner who's been alive for six hours," I say at last. "And I'm keeping my promise."

#480444 Penji

"Maybe... maybe Marcus," says Mitzi. "When he does whatever he's doing. He didn't know you before. Maybe he'll save you."

"I think I finally get his plan," I say. "I think you're overthinking it."

"What do you mean?"

"He threw a tozol away, Mitzi," I growl. "He isn't thinking long term."

Mitzi goes quiet.

Niraem watches, eyeless again. I'm finished worrying about what's going through his mind.

#480445 Penji

"You're wasting time," I say. "Go away. I'm done."

I'm tired of talking. Tired of fighting. Tired.

I feel like an expended munition. Like a bullet that missed.

I hope I sleep for another forty years.


#480446 Penji



"We've already got as many troops scouring the lower levels as we can possibly spare. The base's reserve security forces have been brought online. 40% have arrived for duty and are being deployed with all speed. There aren't enough jabberwocks to breach containment."

"What about Tethys? Nothing matters but the tozol! If it gets out..."

"The 493rd has the situation under control. The tozol is wounded, cornered, and will be killed or recaptured shortly."


"It's a diversion. We saw Tethys because your fucking valcien mutant let us. I'm certain that's why the security feed resumed the way it did. Marcus wanted us to react how we did."

"He couldn't have known we'd bring regular army forces into the facility. He seeks to divert attention from tracking him down. This has failed. Security's already found more timed devices and more entry points into the system. Whatever he's doing, it's finally being shut down."

"How can you be so sure? As far as we can tell, this fucker has been planning this for months. Years, maybe. How many personnel are dead already?"


"A tragic loss to be fully accounted later. This little jailbreak has caused serious damage, but all efforts at breaching our information cordon have failed. All efforts at forcing exit from the facility have failed. As such, this is a dramatic but ultimately temporary setback."

"And how are we supposed to explain these deaths?"

"Please. Let's focus on the m-"




"Explosions on administrative level!"

"Gunfire. Multiple shots."

"Security to command center! Recall all security to command center immediately!"



"Yeah," says Marcus Tibur.

"All your, all your tricks and, and you just walk in here with a gun?"

"Among other things. And your men are elsewhere."

"But- But you're cornered now, you mutant fuck. This is a fortress. You're not getting out of here alive."

"No. I'm not. No one is," says Marcus. "Do you understand? They won't let anyone out til they know I'm dead, no matter how many stars are on your shoulders. You don't get to drown this in someone else's blood."


"And I get to watch you all die."

#489553 Test Pattern


#489554 Test Pattern


#489555 Test Pattern


#489556 Test Pattern