>>761091>"I'm… back?" Ruby 2.0 asks. "Yeah, I uh… er, uh, go on?">>761089>>761091
As Ruby 2.0 goes through everyone's Magicomps, you find your Concords being hijacked – but then again, who hasn't messed with your Concords? – as the Ruby 2.0 pets start communicating with one another.
"You're not her, are you?" Cautaa deadpans.
>"What? Of course I am!" Ruby 2.0 declares. "I'm Ruby 2.0! Blue edition! Player Two col–"
"Sapphire," Xu says.
>"Huh?" Ruby 2.0 asks.
"A blue ruby is a sapphire, isn't it?" Xu asks. "You should be called Sapphire."
>"But I have this 2.0 and everything! I'm even better than the first version!" Ruby 2.0 insists. "Blue Ruby! Bluby! Blu–"
"No, you're Sapphire now," Xu says. She starts tapping at her Magicomp, and everyone's Ruby 2.0 desktop pet gets their names changed.
>"How dare you!" Sapphire snaps. >>761092>>761093
Together, you head toward the sounds of the peculiar gunfire and its melodious retaliation…
"I'm sorry to say that it is as Mister Cautaa says. Miss Ruussapphire, is there someone you've hired us to look for?"
>>761095>Sapphire pauses to concentrate… >"…Amber Preserve," she eventually says, her tone becoming solemn.
That took place in the VRscape, but it looked like it took her a moment to remember. It's likely that the original Ruby was only able to back up her experiences with you up to your first departure of the VRscape.
"This is difficult to say, or perhaps it's more difficult to articulate. There is a familiarity with you but it's different to the Ruby we remember. You were less forward upon our meeting and there was drive to accomplish your mission through us. I apologize if this is rude, I just wish to make sure there is some understanding to where we're coming from and if 'you' now wish to accompany us again. Miss Ruby chased after this Mogao and I'm afraid I don't know how successful she was in her pursuit, there has been much changed even within our short visit and much to change as we approach the Necromancer and stop him."
Sapphire pauses to process all of this…
>"Hmm… it checks out with the stuff I found cached on your Comp. Looks like she was busy working on some secret files too, but it didn't have anything to do with her last moments."
She pauses again, then flinches.
>"Okay, everything up to about an hour before her last log is intact, but beyond that, it's corrupted… I think I get the gist of things. Okay well, since the prime me trusted you, I'll go ahead and trust you too!"
"You are rather unlike Ruby… or Ruby prime, to borrow your nomenclature," Cautaa notes.
"Yeah, he likes his 2-D waifus demure and quiet," Xu jokes.
"Would you quit that–!" Cautaa stammers, flustered. However–
>Sapphire puts on a pair of oversized glasses, a sweater, and takes on a rather shy expression. "Like this?"
"V-vanquished again…" Cautaa gasps, and falls to his knees, head hanging low in shame.
"Either way, do you have any idea what Mogao was up to?"
Lost blinked "Huh you remind me of some of the folks who were with me in the lab.
I will fill Sapphire in about what happened that last hour before we lost contact with Ruby and then wait for any extra input on our plans from here.
When Deadweight sees Ruby 2: Electric Boogaloo appear on her magicomp, she lets a smile sneak out. >>761367
"Come on," Deadweight says to Lost, tilting her head towards the door.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
>>761369>>761368>>761367>>761366>"Mogao… yeah, that's the creepo who was trying to… go on a date with me!"
"WHAT!?" Cautaa snaps.
>"Just kidding," Sapphire says.
Cautaa looks like he wants to curl up and hide under a rock forever.
>"On the real, though," Sapphire continues. "I found a note-to-self from Ruby about their last few interactions. I think… no, he's definitely got something to do with her disappearance."
She pauses to listen to Firmgold's summary… then her eyes widen as she hears of Ruby's last moments.
>"Hold the comp… hey, I'm sorry but I'm about to almost brick your magicomps. All of you save your games, you're about to lose a bunch of functionality!"
Cautaa bolts upright and starts saving some games, as does Xu.
I bacdkup my data.
I save my map projects and then get Sapphire's attention.
"Miss Sapphire I must ask what it is you intend to do, because we're in the terminal for one of the larger connections to a functioning hub of network activity.. If this action goes awry we may risk more lives than our own."
Lost nodded and backed up her data as well. As she didn't want to lose her friends contact data.
Sensing something's going down, Deadweight stays with the party and backs up her important data (and her "important" data).
All of your comps cut to black, and then start rebooting in a limited-functionality state. It's not the usual Safety Mode that comes as an option for Magicomps, but appears to be a slapdash custom mode. You see that you have Concord shortrange text communications, but not voice, and your map functions. Sapphire appears as a desktop pet as well, but she's just an icon, devoid of animations. She at least seems to have a collection of different facial expressions to convey her mood.
"Do AI have moods…?" Huitlapan wonders aloud.
>"You're asking a lot of questions and none of them are the right one," Sapphire types.
"Ooh, sassy," Xu says.
However, apart from those three functions, all other functions on your Comps are unavailable.
>"Sorry about that, but when I started retracing Ruby's last steps, I got spooked. Looks like she got jumped by a trojan pony. Nearly bricking your comps was the quickest way to keep it from dragging me away too."
"No doubt left behind by our would-be benefactor Mogao," Cautaa says with a sneer.
>"That's my guess," Sapphire types. "While you guys go ahead, I'll see if I can clear out this virus."
"Wouldn't factory resetting the computer fix the issue? I mean we'd have to back you up but… Yeah."
"Do keep caution then, Miss Sapphire."
I will exit the VR and take off my headset.
"I believe we got more than what we came for, and hopefully better off than if we continued on our own. Shall we descend again?"
I pop out of VR.
"Yeah. Let's go solve this mystery."
Deadweight says, "Alright," with a shrug. >>761376>>761377>>761378
"I heard something strange outside," Deadweight says and she motions towards the door.
"Oh? I'll be sure to alert the leader before following along."
I will relay this information to Vissei and that we'll be scouting this out first, before rejoining with Steadfast
>>761376>"Do I look like some unpaid IT intern to you!? >:( >:( >:(" Sapphire types. "I'm not just going to let something like that go to waste… I'm going to repurpose it!">>761376>>761377>>761378>>761379
Vissei nods, and expresses his desire for a report if and when you return.
Deadweight and Lost Hope lead the group westward through ruined streets, in the direction she heard the eerie refrains of gunfire and warbling…
When at last you get close, Deadweight and Lost motion for the others to take cover behind a nearby building, while they scout out ahead, dashing toward an overturned trolley nearby as their hiding-spot. Through a hole in the trolley's roof, you can see the source of the sounds.
Several injured soldiers lie behind cover ahead of you. Beyond their bullet-riddled cover, a detachment of security bots is engaged in an open gunfight with the floating machinations from the previous Floor. The machinations retaliate with no visible weapons, but an eerie warbling. Without visible cause, the security bots are riddled with slashes, puncture wounds, and bashed-in craters. However, the bots are tough, and remain in the fight.
"I wouldn't rule it out, but those things used magic on the dreamponies. Perhaps we should take a chance with the machinations?"
"Maybe they retract light and keep things from seeing them? Or maybe they attack through time!"
Deadweight nods to Firmgold. She appreciates how responsible she is.>>761381>>761376
Deadweight messages to Lost on her magicomp, "Sneak over to the other soldiers and ask them what's going on."
Lost nodded and tried to make herself sneaky.
[1d10] SneakRoll #1 5 = 5
Actually reaching the scene brings to mind your earlier observations about this combative rhythm. The word that came to mind was 'scripted.' Perhaps the soldiers may know more…?>>761386>>761385>>761384>>761383>>761382
The soldiers seem at ease, despite the situation, as the battle continues behind them. The soldiers see Lost approaching, motioning for her to get lower.
"We got ambushed not too long ago," one soldier says, when Lost broaches the subject. "That group of bots back there. Took out a few before they broke out the riot control weapons and almost crushed us. We fell back here– and like a miracle, those things appeared!"
"Their singing restored some of our worst injuries," another soldier says. "That guy over there was in a pretty bad way. I'd say they saved his life! We're just gonna hold up here until they finish up the fight for us."
"Any idea what those machines were used for before the Castle fell? I'm having a hard time believing it could have fallen in the first place if they were around to help out."
Lost looked around not sure if these soldiers had been caught in the spell of the machinations or were being genuine.
Deadweight waits to hear back from Lost.
I will wait for Lost to come back and tell us what's going on
Conflagration relays his question via text to keep their distance.
"No idea. We've scoured bestiaries and the records of the Dreaded as well," the soldier replies, as Lost conveys Conflagration's question. "They're not recorded in either. Nobody else we've run into has seen anything of their kind elsewhere, either – be they Noble, Sage, Warrior or Commoner.">>761389No enchantments or hypnotisms as far as I can tell, Dhampir whispers. They're genuine, as far as they know. Now, as for these things… hmm… well, they're definitely not Dreaded. I'd be able to tell… yet, they don't seem to have souls, either… hmm… well, I got nothin'. Maybe they really are just some kind of robot?>>761390>>761391>>761389>>761388
The sounds of the battle are starting to recede… this might be your last opportunity to glean insight on the nature of these mysterious floating machines, be they guardians… or something else.
I'll watch the battle wrap up from a distance.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Deadweight takes a careful look at the machines to try to gain some information about them.
Roll #1 9 = 9
I will keep an eye and ear out for anything coming from other directions
As will Steadfast
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
You watch the last few exchanges of strikes as the two different sets of machines engage in their showdown… or, their performance, as it might be better called. The discrepancies are very slight, to the credit of the marionettist, however. The security bots' gun barrels are just slightly off-target, so that the floating machines can drift to one side or another easily. So too do the floating machines' sonorous attacks always seem to hit the heaviest parts of the security bots' armor, never a joint or another structural weak point… this is an act. A performance. None were ever truly at risk of destruction–
–Except, perhaps, the soldiers who had been ambushed, only to be "saved."
One of the security bots at last goes down, either intentionally, or perhaps a miscalculation by the marionettist. The security bots fall back along a northern road, and the floating machines pursue them, their scripted fight playing as they make their exit, stage right.
The soldiers breathe a sigh of relief. "Say, you guys don't look too hurt. Is there a safe place nearby?"
"Yes, up the road, west of here," Huitlapan says.
Roll #1 6 = 6
Once the machines are safely away I'll walk over and examine the one destroyed machine.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Deadweight narrows her eyes at the performance. Once it's done, she walks over to the soldiers and helps anyone who needs it.
"Yes there is, but we should take a different path to ensure there aren't any enemies drawn by that fighting."
When you approach the machine, you see that its myriad gashes, dents and punctures are covered with a curious ivory material, that seems to resemble sand when disparate and spread out, and plaster, when grouped together. It shines like a metal, and is simultaneously dull, a thing of many paradoxes…
Your visor crackles, and static spreads over it, as you draw near to examine the ivory mystery. You go to remove your visor to get a better look at it, but instincts halt your movement. Something tells you that you do not want to be near this peculiar material without full protective gear… and maybe, not even then.>>761400>>761399>>761397
Huitlapan, Xu and Cautaa make ready to help escort the wounded to the arcade.
I will help some of them onto Steadfast for transport, one less shield but we can fight unharried this way.
"Mister Conflagration? Where are you? We're going to move the soldiers and all hooves must be ready."
Deadweight also helps escort the wounded to the arcade.
Lost coughs and chimes up "Sorry I was talking to Dhampir. Whatever those things are they arent Dreaded Ones or possessing souls as far as we can guess."
I back way off and fill the others in by whispering to them rather than using text chat.
"(There's some kind of weird sandy paste stuff covering the places the machine took damage. It made my visor screen go staticy and gave me a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach."
The others keep silent as they help the soldiers get to the safety of the arcade, following Firmgold's direction for an indirect, winding route. However, they exchange glances of doubt, conveying they caught it too – this hope the battle has engendered is nothing but deceit.
Deadweight tries to figure out why the scrummage would've been a ruse.
Roll #1 6 = 6
Lost for her part begins to comb the area for anything suspicious or useful.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
[View All] (897 posts omitted)
Everything is here.
And so is…
Four times over. Five times over. Nine times over.
I never lost anything to begin with. None of us did.
I can rebuild.
I can have a new world.