>Response to all from previous thread:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koZRzhY321A
A rush of winter winds washes over you, but you are unharmed, albeit quite cold. The Necromancer rode the winds around your side, so that he could float before Deadweight, as she tries to walk away with the frozen Huitlapan. The flowers the Necromancer wears are now pale white and blue, and covered with frost.Then how about this,
the Necromancer says, extending no fewer than five arms with open upturned palms. Why not an exchange of information, bit for bit? You have already offered me quite a lot, in fact, with each one of your words. Why not at least get what you paid for already?
Deadweight looks at the necromancer with half-lidded eyes. "Sure, I'm all ears."
I'll quietly attempt to connect to Huitlapan's mic and discern his condition.
"What do you want to know? I can give you the recipes I used to make your food if you want."
I'll stand ready to set things on fire.
"Oh… did you used to be normal? Not gonna lie I was hoping to meet a normal looking guy."
"Yeah, where'd you even come from?" Deadweight adds.
The magitech in his helmet still appears to be functioning, as he, through his will, accepts your call request. Though ragged and panicked, he's still breathing. He says nothing more.>>755393>>755398>>755394>>755395>>755396As you have no doubt discerned already, the destruction of this shell was wrought, at least in part, by your own kind. Those things you call 'the Dreaded Ones' played a role, but they could not have gotten through without the work of one of your kind. From the tunnels in the Pillars, to that most ancient sigil, written using your precious Light…
Cautaa braces himself, and gathers his courage at this last revelation.
"S-so it was a spell made from the Light Undefiled…" Cautaa mutters. "Then, Agatecastle fell through the work of its own subjects? This was a traitorous suicide?"I know not,
the Necromancer says. I am not from these shells you call Castles.
"Th-then where?" Cautaa continues with morbid fascination.From the Sky. I fell for quite some time. If I had to say where I was born, I would say there.>>755397I have been like this as long as you can remember. What form would be more pleasing to your eye? I know many, and I am sure I have enough limbs lying around for a costume change!
"You're an alien?"
Uh…uh… uh… hold on a sec I need to think of something…. Oh! Um… Some kind of saucy dancer Kirin?" she said throwing together something from random thoughts.
"Huh," Deadweight says to herself upon hearing this.
I'll use spellbreaker to unleash Huitlapan from this cold prison. [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
>>755400Hrm? What is that?
the Necromancer asks.>>755402>>755401>>755400>>755403
At Lost's request, the Necromancer's body – widens.
Or at least, it looks like it, for the cloak covers almost all but the hands. But beneath the cloak, it looks as if the limbs were separating. Hand in hand, they join together, pulling one another apart at the joints, folding and folding again and again. The head, once seemingly a solid dome of either bone or metal, one cannot tell, is broken apart into segmented pieces, with a core of bright light remaining inside.
Cautaa watches in dark fascination as the Necromancer refashions himself into the shape of a kirin, and ties his cloak like a dancer's gown. Of course, even he has to obey the conservation of matter, and so he is quite a tall kirin, once reshaped.
As all this goes on, Firmgold thaws Huitlapan from his icy prison, and he collapses to the ground, panting and shuddering in the midst of the pool of melted ice.Well, how's about this?
the Necromancer asks Lost Hope. He sounds pretty genuine.
"T-ten out of ten!" Cautaa gasps, eager to appease.That's all?
"Twelve out of ten!"
"You know, a creature from the stars?"
Lost promptly applauded him "That was so awesome!"
I will use a medkit on Huitlapan if he's unable to heal himself.
Deadweight blinks a few times after the Necromancer reforms himself into a kirin. "Neat."
When Huitlapan thaws, Deadweight says, "Oh hey, you're awake. You were out cold," chuckling at her own lame joke.
Huitlapan shakes his head, holding out a hand. "…p-please, save it for yourself… I am still capable of mending this… you've my deepest thanks, Lady Firmgold… hhhrmph!"
Huddling close to Steadfast, Huitlapan warms himself with several cardio exercises before he moves onto his healing.>>755408
Huitlapan stares at you with his big hamster eyes.>>755408>>755407>>755406>>755405Ah, yes, you said a dancer, now, didn't you?
The Necromancer, with his half-dozen or so legs, begins to hop and dance in a light and merry jig, all while studying each of you.Haha! If you had been looking for a distraction, you must have found it, for this is quite the fun pastime. Join me, will you?
"I-I am afraid my skill at dancing–" Cautaa begins, before beams of concentrated heat blast from the Necromancer's eyes at his feet. Cautaa leaps and starts to imitate the Necromancer's kirin-dance.Where were we? Right! Our discussions. What an awful thing, to waste an opportunity at a good conversation. Why, you were just telling me about your fellows, cooped up… where was it you said your camp was again?
"A cave about 2 days travel away due south." she repeated before as she did her best to start dancing with him.
Rolling to dance.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
As Huitlapan stares at her with those big hamster eyes, Deadweight says, "Have I ever told you just how adorable you are?" not at all trying to not sound demeaning.
Deadweight furrows her brows in perturbation when she sees the Necromancer forcing Cautaa to dance, but she herself doesn't indulge him.>>755409>>755410
After Lost tells him where they "live," she says, "Anyway, I was nice chatting with you. Glad you liked our food. We're gonna go explore the rest of this floor, now."
[1d10] Deception plz
[1d10] to dance if need beRoll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 9 = 9
I'll nod and put the medkit back into my inventory, then turn to the Necromancer.
"Lord Necromancer, are you sure that you'll not allow us our lives for its own chance at dealing with the dreaded ones? If you are indeed from past our 'shells' as they're so called, and have reawakened the castle's kin, then haven't you given much of us a second chance?"
"Perish," Huitlapan commands.>>755410>>755411>>755413
You join the Necromancer's sprightly dance as he looks over to Deadweight, Lost and Firmgold.>>755414>>755412Dance with us,
the Necromancer commands. It seems you three (including Steadfast) are the only ones who aren't dancing. Technically, four – Huitlapan isn't dancing, but doing jumping-jacks to warm his recently frozen body. But, the Necromancer seems to be giving that a pass.Yes… 'tis a fair argument,
the Necromancer concedes to Firmgold. I shall journey to this camp, and two days' hence, see what they consider of my offer. If we have no other business, then, I must resume my search for that machine…
"If I may ask," Cautaa pants as he dances. "Which machine? This Floor holds many."A certain rabbit-like member of your kind passed through here, and with him, he had a machine most peculiar, flying and zipping through the air at his command. I followed it by the trail of computers it left behind, stripped of their data and formatted to… what was that term? 'Factory default' settings?
Huitlapan looks up.
>"It sounds like Mogao… and I doubt he has a passion for cybersecurity. He's probably collecting data on Agatecastle, data he doesn't want others to have," he says in the Concord voice channel.
"Aw, even when you're offended you're adorable," Deadweight says to Huitlapan with a chuckle.
When the Necromancer commands her to dance, she thinks for a moment, then finally sighs in annoyance and starts dancing herself.
In reply to what Huitlapan says in the voice channel, Deadweight says, also in the voice channel, "Damn, knew he was trouble."
"Oh hey, we saw him hanging out with some bony boys. Then he left. The Bony boys were nice."
"I implore you, Lord Necromancer, to understand that our wish in clinging to life will far outpace your offer. That is not to say what you propose isn't beneficial, however, I do wish to keep my own portion of the light until fate-alone declares it extinguished."
I remain standing.
"That rabbit-like member sounds to be far more of a concern to your realm than our camp- occupied as it is by the presence of a greater dreaded one."
WoP [1d10+2]Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9
The Necromancer considers this for quite some time, gradually slowing his dancing… then, for a moment, he comes to a halt – when his body flings open, each limb unfolding and stretching itself, until he crouches low to the ground, like a long and bony millipede with at least three layers to his modular kaleidoscope of a body.Indeed… it seems that if I am to save souls, I must needs learn what happened to this place in full… I can hardly have that rabbit deleting information I shall need. Very well, I see it your way. If indeed, he has met with my subjects, he cannot be such an unfriendly face! Mayhap I shall find him, and question him anon… I must be off! If there are any last words you wish to impart to me, I shall hear them now.
>"I really don't like hearing him asking us for 'any last words,'" Huitlapan mutters.>>755418>"Agreed in full," Cautaa says.
"People find normal looking people more approachable. So should probably try that."
When the Necromancer starts to stop dancing, Deadweight does too, albeit not as gradually. "Uh, see you on the flip side," she says to him with a wave.>>755418>>755419>>755421>>755422
To the rest of the party, she says, "Alright, should we check out the VR training arenas or head back to command?"
I give a deep nod.
"I have none, but Thank you."
"It was nice meeting you."
I cease to dance.
>>755422>>755424>>755425>>755423Your input is deeply appreciated,
the Necromancer says. Fare thee well.
With a stomach-turning scrabbling of bone upon cobblestone and concrete, the Necromancer, in the guise of some horrific triple-decker worm-millipede, skitters off. In his wake, the seasons gently follow. Around him, spring and summer radiate their warmth – and fall and winter leave their biting winds and silencing frosts in the wake.
Huitlapan shudders again, and Cautaa falls flat on his back with a groan of prolonged terror that has finally found relief.
"Well I think that went as well as it could."
I shudder a bit and shake the feeling off.>>755423
"How long do we intend to be at the VR training area?"
"Freaky," Deadweight comments as the Necromancer leaves. When Cautaa collapses, Deadweight can't help but chortle. "At least you got your cardio in for the day."
"That wasn't at all what I was expecting."
"Not too long. Just to check it out, see if there's anything interesting. Definitely don't need to, though. We've got some really good intel already."
"It would be prudent to alert command that we have made contact with the Necromancer. At the same time I do believe we can revisit this level again when we return."
I look towards where the Necromancer left to
"If what the Necromancer has said, there is no more useful data to glean off the networks on this level. We may have to report this as well."
Cautaa steps over to help warm Huitlapan while the latter gets his healing programs adjusted for settings appropriate for victims of freezing damage.>"I shudder to think that may happen should the expedition team encounter either him, or Mogao," Cautaa says in the voice chat. "Between the Necromancer's capriciousness, and Mogao's unknown origins and objectives, I wonder which of them may be the one you wish to run into the least.">"Indeed…" Huitlapan says. "In that vein, I wonder if that VR training might offer us any assistance. Anything we can take to gain power before we descend deeper, the better… especially if we end up on either of their bad sides."
>Pause, post replies
"My stance is that we make haste for Command, but I will not jeopardize our group by splitting from you all."
"Damn, you may be right," Deadweight says to Firmgold, "Hopefully there'd still be something there." She thinks for a moment, then shrugs. "Since we're down here, might as well check it out," she says before walking towards the VR training arenas.
I'll follow and start to put everything that we encountered with the Necromancer into a log.
[1d10] Short Term MemoryRoll #1 10 = 10
"Exploring a little more should be safe enough. Doesn't look like the Necromancer'll bother us anytime soon."
"Should probably send a warning to the rest of the guys tho."
"Mm," Deadweight hums, concurring.
"We'll be back at command in no time," she says, assuaging any doubts Lost might have.
>[RENDERING COMPLETE]>[DATA SAVED]>[DATA SAVED]>[DATA SAVED]>[BACKUP STORED TO DISC]>[BACKUP STORED TO DISC 2]>[ENCRYPTION COMPLETE]>[ENCRYPTION COMPLETE]>[ENCRYPTION COMPLETE]
>Mogao forces himself, with a sigh, to close his Magicomp. Otherwise, he'd be clicking at it all Cycle trying to make sure the data he'd collected thus far had been saved… just in case the last few saves didn't take, for whatever reason.>Among what he'd downloaded, deleted, and stored into an archive, were clips of security camera footage. Uneventful clips, capturing only passerby and the routines of the guard bots.>Then, bits of livestreams by Agatecastle's prospective intranet celebrities. Games, painting, rock collecting, feeding the ducks at a lakeside…>Email exchanges at companies Mogao had never heard of. Clients inquiring after orders. Plans for employee motivational events, retirement parties, coworkers blowing off steam about ornery bosses…>Advertising data. Search history. Tracking cookies. Keylogs.>Every kind of digital echo.>Glimpses of Agatecastle as it was, at the most ordinary, banal, everycycle fashion.>Data of utterly minimal interest even back in its time. >Now, with the Castle but a smoldering, lifeless heap, there was far more of concern.>Even archiving this digital archaeology… was of no interest in comparison to learning how and why Agatecastle had fallen. >This data he had collected was of no use to anyone, anymore.>Right?>Saved. Backed up. Encrypted.>Saved. Backed up. Encrypted.>Saved. Backed up. Encrypted. >Even to multiple disks.>That way.>Even if his life should be forfeit, those two would find those disks to be a most useful present.
>See you next time
Last time, inside the Castle of Silence…
Conflagration and the Extinguishers (although they did not quite yet know themselves by this working title bestowed by forces unknown) survived a tense discussion with the Necromancer who haunted Layer Eight, AKA the Ramparts, of Agatecastle. During their conversation, the Necromancer revealed that he had entered Agatecastle from the Pillars. The Pillars, according to his description, were a vast mountainous country full of labyrinthine caves, which were full of peculiar computers, and innumerable corpses. The computers within allowed him to enter the Sixth Layer by way of a clandestine tunnel that connected to the Pillars for reasons unknown.
Perhaps the more disturbing information he divulged was that the sigil which they had found on Green's head – the one that played a role in the entrance of the Dreaded Ones into Agatecastle – was wrought from the Light Undefiled, the mysterious and holy energy which ordinarily sustained and protected the Castles. As the Dreaded Ones were unable to wield the Light Undefiled without themselves being destroyed, it meant that the attack on Agatecastle had to involve living souls… either a resident of Agatecastle, or else, a resident of another Castle. In either case, an act of sabotage and treachery against mortalkind itself.
Finally, the Necromancer revealed Mogao's doings on this Layer – namely, he was accessing every computer system he could, fleecing it of its data, and wiping the whole system afterward. His purpose was unknown.
After placating the easily distracted Necromancer, they told him that their camp, which Lost had mentioned earlier, was somewhere two days' travel south of their current location. Enticed by this lie, the Necromancer left to both find their "camp" and question Mogao.
Freed so from the Necromancer, C&E decided to go check out the VR training facility to see what it might still be able to offer them.
>Reminder that we are currently on Layer Eight, Floor 6
Recalling the directions that Mogao gave you, you navigate your way East, occasionally making slight detours to avoid the patrol routes of what few security bots still roam this Floor.
In time, you approach a rather large building. It looks like some kind of cross between a high-class gym, a video arcade, and a karaoke club. Inside, cleaner bots dutifully roam the halls on preprogrammed routines, hunting down dust. There is a large central lounge, and several halls branch off from that lounge. At the front of the lounge is a front desk, where there's a map. The facility has three floors, each of which hosts 20 medium sized VR chambers, and 10 large ones.
Cautaa looks over a guest guide at the front desk. "According to this, a group our size would want a large chamber. Oh dear, we need to call in advance to make a reservation. And a deposit… non-refundable!? Who has that kind of money?"
"Are we here to have fun or box everything up and salvage it topside?"
"It's quiet enough around here," Huitlapan says. "Now that the Necromancer's gone. I think if we can secure our chamber well enough, we should be safe to stop here for awhile, if everyone is amenable to the idea."
I chime in with "Would someone have access to the reception terminal? Perhaps we could fast foward any reservation attempts and comp ourselves the cost of such a room."
"I thought you'd never ask," Cautaa says, a tinge of pride in his voice. "Allow me."
He slides over to the receptionist's terminal, sending in his electrical sprites via a universal connector cable. After a while of tapping at his Comp, he nods with satisfaction. "I've gotten us room L-120… and made myself 100 Schillings richer. L-120 is down that hall to the east," he says, pointing down one of the hallways that splits from the central lounge.
"Wonderful! I don't suppose there are any 'do not disturb settings for the cleaners on duty?"
"What sort of things can we watch here?"
Lost pushed on not entirely certain if she had blacked out for a few moments or a few months.
"I like this question, perhaps we can download it!"
"Nice," Deadweight says before walking down the hall.
Cautaa types away at the terminal a bit. "…let's see… ah, I can do you one better. I've set two to stand astride the door and shut down the hallway between them, using spill containment protocols. If anything were to approach us while we are deep in VR, the bots would intercept them, and we would be notified in time to exit the program.">>757303>>757304>>757306>>757302
Cautaa disconnects, and leads the way to room L-120. "The primary purpose of this facility is for training, but it does seem like they have a catalogue of games and films for unwinding between sessions. Does anyone wish to lose at tennis this Cycle?"
"A lot of tough talk for someone about to hold an L," Huitlapan taunts.
The doors to room L-120 slide open, revealing behind them quite a large chamber. Along the sides are tables, chairs and couches for reclining, while the majority of the space is devoted to a cordoned-off section with nothing inside. A terminal awaits at the far end of the open space, displaying a catalogue of the programs available.
"Combat training could be useful. I guess."
I browse the terminal.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Lost decides to also give a gander for something to help sharpen her combat skills.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 3 = 3
"You're absolutely in your element, mr. Cautaa."
I will go and wait to scroll through the entertainment section
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"Always can brush up on combat," Deadweight comments, looking for some combat VR activities herself.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Every now and then as you scroll down the terminal's catalogue, the page hangs and freezes, and there are other brief display glitches, but they are too short for you to get a good look at… but something about one of them almost makes you double-take. You weren't quite able to catch what it was, but… it was like some kind of weird icon.
For combat training options, you have a few options.
>Melee Combat Training Series>Ranged Combat Training Series>Magic Combat Training Series>Stealth Combat Training Series
Each of them comes in three difficulties: Shrimpy, Brave and Cruel. >>757314
Once the others let you have a look at the entertainment catalogues, you can see that there's no shortage of VR games, all multiplayer. There's Aurora, Warhoof IV, Mareio Party 45, Whinny Sports Resort… all names you recognize from Ironcastle's video game industry…
Additionally, there are many popular TV shows and films, adapted so that the audience can essentially sit in on scenes while the actors continue the plot unawares. There's a special staff pick section, showing the most popular releases… all of which you could have very well seen in Ironcastle, exactly one year ago…>>757316>>757314
There it is again! Another visual glitch, a blue square that disrupts the floral pattern of the webpage's background. Inside it, a flash of that peculiar icon – some kind of low-resolution profile. It's of a mare with a bulbous bouffant of a mane… but when your eyes lock with hers, she blinks, gasps as if embarrassed, and vanishes, along with the rest of the glitch.
"What a weird icon. Let's do some magic training."
Lost decided to try the Stealth on shrimpy
"Curious, a mare's watching us. Oh I wish I brought my Warhoof profile, this would have been a wonderful diversion."
If I have enough time I'll ask Cautaa to take a snapshot of the terminal's listing for me.
"What the—did anyone else see that?" Deadweight says, pointing at where the visual glitch was just a moment ago. "Looked like a mare was in the terminal.">>757321
Deadweight sees Lost choosing Stealth Combat Training on Shrimpy, and she hits the back button to change it to Brave, and she makes it two player. "Should be fine," Deadweight assures Lost with a smirk.
"You can do the magic training, I'm probably not gonna be the best at it," Deadweight says as she casually points to her forehead.
Lost blanched a bit but smiled when she saw Dead hop in to join her.
"Indeed about the mare, perhaps she's using an avatar while holed up in another room."
Cautaa and Huitlapan decide to queue up for their own thing, in Whinny Sports. Silently they glare daggers at one another.
As you make your selections, the terminal asks you to confirm your choices. Once they are confirmed, the terminal instructs you to stand still, and to not look up. A rapid whirl of electronic beeping follows, almost reminiscent of the sound of sudden rainfall, and beams of digital light shoot down from above, eclipsing all of you. A heady, thrilling rush, almost like getting a light shock all over your body, follows, and your vision is engulfed by a scene of falling down an azure tunnel into a deep vortex…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGP5NA_8AkQ
Something's certainly not quite right.
You've all been deposited onto a stony pier beneath a gazebo. A light red-pink skybox hangs overhead, and white, not-fully-rendered clouds scroll across it, their animations losing frames whenever you're not looking directly at them. There's a pleasant sea ahead of you, the waves low-poly, and red-pink like the sky.
Behind you is a beach city environ, with polygonal people of many races strolling about. You too see that your bodies are like theirs, angular and blocky and low resolution, though whether out of respect for an aesthetic or technical limitations, is unclear.
"Th-this isn't right…" Cautaa murmurs.
"It might be Whinny Sports Resort," Huitlapan hypothesizes. "In any case, we are unharmed, are we not?"
Cautaa checks his comp. "Perhaps, but… we should be able to leave via our Magicomps… but I don't see an option in the menu to be able to quit the program."
"Hmm, pretty odd, though…"
"Say the word and I can start setting things on fire."
"Perhaps we all shouldn't have gone in at the same time."
I clack my hooves together
"How wonderful! We may have been called by that mysterious mare to absolve an issue plaguing her digital environ! Sure I would rather be placing micro-temples in a generated world against AI but this is just as engaging!"
I'll head off down the beach towards the city looking for ponies or others that are different from others by context.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
"Hmm," Deadweight hums with her brows furrowed in a look of both disturbance and annoyance.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
Lost for her part decides to also take a look at the city for anything of note.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
I follow along and look around.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Conflagration sets his digital mane on fire – as one does, even in a virtual world – but luckily, some of the passerby react, splashing him with whatever liquids happen to be nearby. Fortunately none are flammable.
"Even your curse managed to make it in here…!" Huitlapan exclaims.
"With magic training being an option, I am not terribly surprised other magic can be digitized," Cautaa adds.
With the passerby in range, Lost and Firmgold attempt to make conversation with them, but they are unable to answer any questions you might have. Those who talk to you at all manifest a dialogue box before them, displaying a text version of their comment, most of which is a mere simulacrum of small talk that one might give to a stranger. None of them have a voice.
Deadweight, however, sees something promising further up the street. You make your way downtown, walking fast, and see a courtyard of a very vast public park, which even has several quaint but quite large adobe buildings available. Each one's entrance is but a shadowy doorway – must be a loading zone. Signs outside indicate them as being the entryway to the training courses; indeed, you can see that the buildings connect to gated outdoor enclosures. The enclosures are full of trees, making it hard to see what might be inside. The entrance to all the training courses can be found in this park.
"Crazy what they do with technology these days. Does anyone think that doing the training courses right now is a bad idea? I think the system might have a virus. Or a ghost. Or both."
Seeing something up the street, Deadweight calls to the others to follow her. Finding the adobe buildings, she says, "I guess here're the 'training courses.'" She looks around and continues, "Still not sure how we're supposed to quit the game, though…">>757333>>757336
She shrugs and says, "I mean, this is what we came here for, anyway." She starts to walk towards the stealth training building, and she looks back to make sure Lost is following her.
I follow Deadweight and then respond to her response.
"I believe it would behoove us to discover our exit before running to our proving grounds."
Deadweight stops and ponders before saying, "Hm, I guess you're right." She looks around more for anything that says something along the lines of "quit game."
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Lost trotted up and moved to stay close with her.
"Ah, uh, wait!" a female voice cries as you vocalize your desire to quit out. You look to its source, some nearby bushes, but as you do, you hear a quick "Shit," followed by a chorus of digital chirping. You're just in time to see a digital blur as a character model, which was apparently hiding behind those bushes, despawns.
>"Our captor…?" Cautaa ponders, opening the Concord voice chat. "Be on your guard…">"What are we to do? I believe we are in her domain, who knows what she may be capable of," Huitlapan adds.
I walk over to the bushes and investigate for traces of ectoplasm.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
I look around oblivious to where she is.>"I do hope the lady holding us captive will give some guidance as to how she may allow freedom?"
[1d10] social to the windRoll #1 8 = 8
Deadweight looks at the bushes quizzically. She then rolls her eyes with an irritated sigh. "She better not keep us here for too long.">>757342
"She's probably, like, some lonely pony who wants friends or something."
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
>>757345>Kind of a specific guess.
[1d10] Snooping around.Roll #1 8 = 8
"Okay, I was going to leave, but I really don't appreciate being called out like that!" the voice says. Which line(s) offended her is anyone's guess.
Conflagration finds no ectoplasm in the bushes, only some 2-D grass that nearly vanishes whenever he looks at it from certain angles.
Behind you, with another digital blur and instance of that earlier sound effect, appears a pony with so much hair she could very well be more mane than mare. She's the pony with voluminous hair that you saw earlier on the terminal screen. She's floating, despite being a crystal pony. Like yours, her model is much more detailed than those of the generic NPCs populating the town. In one saddlebag, she's carrying art supplies, and in the other, fresh groceries.
"It's not like it's false advertising. The stuff you signed up for is right over there, I had it all queued up and ready to go!"
Cautaa and Huitlapan cautiously remain silent.
"Indeed and thank you, but our options to leave
this lobby has been removed. May I ask as to why?"
"Who are you, spirit?"
"They're not gonna, like, threaten our lives, right? And can we leave anytime soon? We're on a very important mission; we didn't intend to spend too long playing games."
"Wow. I let my mane get that long once. Then they made me cut it."
"That's lame, you should have said no.">>757350>>757348
"Why do you want– look, why the– leaving–" Flustered, the mare shakes her head. "Going outside's overrated! Everything cool's online!">>757348>>757349>>757350>>757351
She catches herself, and sighs. "Okay, let's back it up here. Names… my name's Ruby Round. And you?"
After a moment's hesitation… "I am Cautaa," Cautaa says.
"And my name is Huitlapan. Now answer, why have you trapped us here?"
"That's a… strong word," Ruby says. "It's– it's not like I meant to trap you, specifically."
"Someone else then?" Cautaa asks.
"That rabbit guy," Ruby continues. "When I wouldn't agree to work with him, he started to act kinda suspicious, tried to access the admin controls for the last place I was hiding out. So I thought I'd lure him here, trap him, then interrogate him."
"So are you a real pony or just a computer pony? Because I got to chat with one on a chat server a long time ago and it guessed what I was thinking." she said going on for… some reason.
"Also I started to trip on it." she said in reference to her mane.
Deadweight rolls her eyes again.
"My name's Deadweight." When Ruby explains herself, Deadweight says, "Probably Mogao. That's a good plan, actually. He's for sure up to no good. Since we're not him, though, are you gonna let us go?"
"It's a pleasure to meet you miss Ruby Round and while it would have been preferable to have introductions under better terms, I am Firmgold."
"He is a pretty spooky dude. Did you lock yourself in here before or after everyone got killed?"
Ruby suddenly looks very contemptuous. "That's just some cheap algorithm anyone can make after a few tutorials. I am not the same as that.">>757356
Ruby shudders. "…After.">>757355>>757354>>757353>>757356
"You want to leave? Really? For everything out there?
It's safe in here," Ruby says. "I can arm the security systems, and even if we don't have it at this facility, biological sustainment equipment's available at other facilities. I could really throw together a sweet pad for you guys. And this? All of this is totally customizable. The low-poly look's just a pastiche, I could crank up the graphics, change the perspective, put in whatever your thing is."
"…What are you hiding from us?" Cautaa asks, his tone growing cold.
"A-ah…" Ruby stammers. "Wow, cutting right to the point. Okay, so… thing is… what's that expression? Locking someone up and throwing away the key?"
Huitlapan's face grows pale.
"Okay, okay, hold on," Ruby says. "That was the plan for rabbit guy. Mogao's his name, I guess? But it's not like I revoked my own permissions here, it's just… gonna be a bit difficult for me to undo what I did. It'll take me some time. I'm not super organized, I know. But… I'll…"
"Let us go," Cautaa insists.
Ruby clams up, her hair covering her eyes.
"So we're stuck in here… maybe forever." she frowned.
"Could be worse. Least we can try to get out. And don't be too mad, she didn't mean to do it to us."
Deadweight's brows lower in sorrow.>>757357
Deadweight facehoofs when Ruby talking about throwing away the key. "We gotta complete our mission outside so that we can protect others from a fate like what happened to this Castle."
I step forward
"Miss Ruby, there is no pressure here. I- we
would like to leave as there are other objectives in this hive that must be accomplished. Understandably this may take some time because of prior encounters have led to the entrapment, however, this is not
us against you. Please, we wish for your help."
Wait… does that mean your own body is dead? You just said they didn't have the sustainment stuff."
"Never had a body to begin with," Ruby says. "I'm a bona fide A.I..">>757361>>757358>>757359>>757360
"It's… just…" Ruby stammers. Cautaa doesn't let up his stern glare, but Huitlapan, suddenly gasping, tugs him by the arm.
"You're the… first people I've met since everything was lost," Ruby sighs. "Well, not precisely the first, but definitely the first worthwhile people. I'm even signed up for that Necromancer's mailing list, not that I'd want to meet him… and now you want to go back out there and get killed. I– I know, I know you want to go out there… does it gotta be right away though?"
"I mean I have no idea how time passes here compared to the real world so… I dunno…" she paused "Wonder if I could fit you on my Magicomp…"
"I'm sure we have some time to spend with you, here, but there must be some assurance that your permissions to let us out can
"Yeah, I mean, you don't seem that bad; you could tag along with us on one of our Magicomps."
"You can come back to our camp."
>Last time, inside the Castle of Silence…>>757364
"I mean…" Ruby hesitates, tilting her head back and forth. "I don't know how I'd prove it without showing you the code I'm compiling right now, but to be honest, and no offense, but I don't know if it's something you'd understand without a background in computing."
Huitlapan collapses to his knees like he'd just been punched in the gut.
"Rather dramatic aren't you?" Cautaa asks, then turns to you. "My experience with computing has always been more on the magical and occult side of the technology, but I am decently confident in my ability to verify that Miss Ruby is doing what she says she is.">>757363>>757364>>757527>>757528
"Go with you?" Ruby asks, aghast. "I… as much as I don't like being alone, we just met. Besides, my whole point is that you would much rather be in here than out there. Without consistent intranet access, I wouldn't be able to make backups of myself, nor would I be able to bail out if things took a bad turn. I've seen what those things can do… machinery or people, it's all the same to them."
"So," Huitlapan says, recovering from his earlier social wound. "If the intranet came back up, you would be willing to come along?"
"Uh… can I get some time to think about it?" Ruby asks. "Decrypting the exit programming is taking up a lot of my processing. Maybe you could go do that training you guys wanted for a bit? I'll have an answer for you by then."
"Until those things get in here and your backups turn into evil copies of yourself, sure."
"We don't need you to come with us; you just looked lonely." Deadweight says. When Ruby suggests they do the training courses, she says, "Eh, might as well," and walks over to the stealth training course.
"If course miss Ruby. I am curious as to your earliest timeline since this the fall of this hive."
"I mean if I could fit you on my magicomp we could have copies on all of ours and then bring them back to Ironcastle."
Ruby's eyes widen as the horrible possibility dawns on her. "… alright, didn't think of that.">>757533
"I don't like to keep more than one copy of myself around at a time," Ruby says.>>757531>>757530>>757532>>757533
"I keep everything but the most recent memories locked up in archive storage, to keep space free," Ruby says. "Anything older than three years, I archive, so I'd have to go digging through those to get to when the Castle was attacked."
Cautaa blinks in confusion, his pace gradually slowing. "Wha…?"
Heedless of this, Ruby floats along, and stops at one of the buildings. There's two lines, cordoned off like at an amusement park, that lead into the loading zone doorway, one for spectators and one for participants.
"Oh, and there's refreshments inside, too," Ruby says. "Just ignore any prices on the menus. You won't be charged for them. But if you get any refreshments, make sure you eat something out in the physical world too. If you eat too much in here, the simulation will trick your brain into thinking you ate out in the physical world. You don't want to get malnourished."
"Point stands, we could if nothing else take you back to a castle where there are still people around and no monsters." she said with a small smile.
"It'd be really useful to get more info about how the attack happened."
Seeing the others still talking with Ruby, Deadweight turns back to rejoin them and waits for them to wrap things up.
Give Ruby a smile
"I appreciate your cooperation, miss Ruby. I'm curious as to if your hive connected to others during this time?"
"No," Ruby says. "Just like your Castle must have been, Agatecastle almost never got any visitors from another Castle. On top of being thousands of miles away from anything, the mountainous terrain around Agatecastle was especially inhospitable. Our Warriors hardly strayed beyond those ridgelines.">>757535
"Okay, now that I can get behind… but you guys look pretty military. Am I gonna be expected to fight or anything like that?">>757540>>757537>>757536>>757535>"Or when it happened," Cautaa whispers in the Concord voice chat. "Did you hear her just now?">Huitlapan drops a shrugging emoji in the Concord chat.>"She said her memory of the attack against Agatecastle was stored in her archives… and that she only archives memories older than three years. Contrary to this, Green said that the attack occurred just over one year ago, and had the footage to prove it.">"Th-then is she lying…?" Huitlapan asks.
Ruby looks at Cautaa and Huitlapan and tilts her head that they're just sort of standing there outside the loading zone of the Stealth Training Course. "Uh, so, uh, whenever you wanna get started…" Ruby says, gesturing to the loading zone. "I did
spend some time preparing this…"
"Yes…" Huitlapan says, holding his ground with suspicion. "Just preparing ourselves…"
I send five shrug emojis over the Concord chat.
"Only if something goes wrong. What we've seen so far have been more or less pushovers and the skeletons are mostly all really nice. Except for those ooze skeletons. Those were bad."
"I mean you could probably just bust out. Also we don't… have to tell them you exist. But it would be nice to have a companion on my computer when I get home."
>"Maybe he was just wrong? Didn't we hear this place fell years ago or something?"
"You'd just be sitting in a Magicomp anyway," Deadweight adds.>>757541>"Dates here might've gotten glitched up or something," Deadweight says in the Concord chat.
"So how long's the thing gonna take?" Deadweight asks as she turns to walk towards the stealth training course.
"Well now my own requests were pretty frivolous! I'm more curious as to your methodology in providing upkeep of these services! They look positively polished!"
"I-I'm more than just a desktop pet!" Ruby interjects.
"Actually, you might find much popularity if you went that route," Cautaa says, eager to keep her distracted from the training courses. "There was quite the popular outbreak of portable digital pets in Ironcastle…"
"Yeah, I know," Ruby says.
"You knew of Ironcastle's trends…?" Cautaa asks.
"No, but we had something pretty similar here in Agatecastle," Ruby says. "This was before my time, but about 20-odd years ago, they were all the rage with young souls.">>757546
Ruby shrugs. "For most of this, I'm just borrowing the facility's processing power. I'm only so powerful as the hardware that hosts me at any given time, so when I manage to find my way into beefy enough systems, I like to splurge. Plus, it's not like there are many people around who would complain about me using up all the RAM right now…">>757542
"Oh yeah, a couple of them came by a few weeks ago… I just lured them toward the arcade cabinets with some pretty lights. They played for a bit then wandered off.">>757544>For Deadweight and for anyone else who crosses the loading zone into the Stealth Training Course
As you cross the boundary, you can see a tiny Ruby appear in the corner of your HUD, despite her earlier protestations about not being a desktop pet. "That's kinda up to you. All you have to do is get to the end of the course one way or the other. But I doubt you'll beat my time," she adds with pride.
On the other side of the boundary is a small area that resembles the entrance to a public garden. There is a gazebo and some benches and tables here. A river runs before it, and a bridge connects to the other side, and the river serves as the boundary into the training course proper. On the other side of the river there is a very dark forest; the skybox is full of PNG trees and clouds punctuated by occasional sunlight, and the actual polygonal tree models that constitute the forest are closely clumped together.
There are three paths from the bridge: One well-worn trail to the north, a blocked-off trail to the northeast, and an overgrown, disused trail, full of fallen trees, to the west.
"Well, I'm going to try the magic course. See you."
Off I go to the magic course.
"I was more just looking for a friend. The labs kinda lonely so it'd be nice to actually have a friendly face on the magicomp instead of just icons and avatars."
She began to make her way to the stealth training with Deadweight.
"Truly fascinating. I'm sure that our hive's scientists would be extremely eager to view snapshots of what you're able to develop given the time that you've been archiving and processing without the intervention of souls."
"You can stay here if you want," Deadweight says when Ruby protests about being a desktop pet.
When she enters the Stealth Training Course, Deadweight takes a look around. She sees that Lost followed her in, and she smirks. She nods to the bridge and crosses it. After crossing, she takes a second to decide which trail to take, then decides to go down the trail to the west.
"Have fun!" Ruby says.
Cautaa accompanies you into the participant's line of the training course, as does Huitlapan.
As you cross the loading zone for the Magic Course, you get a little Ruby desktop pet in your visor's corner too. She makes sure to be translucent so as not to disrupt your FOV or other HUD elements.
After the Magic Course finishes loading, you find yourself entering what almost looks like a grand lecture hall in one of the Arcanum's many prestigious academies. Rows of students extend to your right and to your left. The lecturer, at the front of the class, is unmistakably Ruby's character model with a beard and wizard's robe and hat. The students are also variations on this theme, only they, probably to save on data, are 2-D sprites.
"Attention class," the head wizard-Ruby says in her best impression of an old scruffy male voice. "The faculty have informed me that if I get any more students vaporized I stand a chance at losing my tenure, so this Cycle, I have brought in some special guests to deal with the outbreak that occupies the Summoning department. If you three will please choose a door, you will find your way to the outbreak's source. Disable the portals to stop the outbreak."
There are three other doors to leave this lecture hall: Two on either side of the blackboard behind the head wizard, and one up some stairs behind him. The three doors are covered with magic seals; one green, one blue, one red.>>757551>>757549https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmq2rt5xqzM
Climbing over and under the downed trees and undergrowth, you find yourselves climbing a ridgeline, which is steep, and your elevation gain is rapid. Thankfully the simulation of the strain of hiking is not as exhausting as the real thing. You eventually round a switchback that takes you toward an outcropping of trees, where camouflage-armored guards – all of them, Ruby – have established an outpost, which they guard with lightrifles. They don't seem to notice you yet, for the brush here is tall and thick. >>757550
"R-really?" Ruby asks, tapping her hooves together lightly. "I wasn't part of a particularly advanced AI production model, or anything… I'm just a quick machine learner, I guess… D-don't get their hopes up, I get performance anxiety. I… well, between you and me, I'm really on edge about these training courses. I hope your friends don't get bored in there. I might shorten the courses if they do."
Deadweight lowers an eyebrow with a smirk when she sees the guard Rubys. She looks around for anything that could prove to be useful.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Green. My favorite color. Off I go.
Lost moved to peek at the blocked path.
"Miss Ruby look at what you've accomplished. You are a marvel of engineering to simply survive!"
There's a tree on the northern side, to your left, that looks like it was damaged at one point in a fire. If you could knock it over somehow without being detected, you could potentially scatter the guards and distract them for a time too. >>757556
Ruby, somehow, manages to get even redder when she blushes at your compliment. Her blush is a 2-D particle effect. "Y-you don't mind if I clip you saying that, do you? It's been a while since I've gotten a compliment. Er… well, any kind of real interaction, for that matter."
She looks wistfully at the NPCs populating the town. "Even when I ran randomization algorithms using visitor data to make all of these characters, it's just not the same. I can never fool myself into thinking they're the same as a real person…">>757554
You push open the green door, while Cautaa and Huitlapan, apparently having not forgotten their earlier competitive outburst, each take their own door, each one pledging to the other that he'll surely complete his course faster, and with a higher score than the other.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbxR2ksY3Qc
The door opens to a hall, and immediately you can see the infestation that the head-wizard Ruby mentioned. From Dozens of green, pixelated, 2-D monsters fill the hall. They are quite green, and look like they're meant to be some sort of plant monster. They haven't taken notice of you just yet, they're just sort of vibing right now.
Lost was quiet as she waited to see what would happen next.
Deadweight prods Lost, points at a fire damaged free, and motions with her foreleg it falling down, then she raises her shoulders at her, wordlessly asking what she thinks.
Plants. Why green is my favorite color.
I conjure some burning homing magic.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
"Of course I don't mind! You know moving to a more populated section of this hive may help alleviate your.. *ahem* loneliness, that it's called. In addition to a proper vetting to our local authorities."
As you conjure three fire orbs, some of the plant monsters closest to you turn your way, and new animations, signaling their aggression, start to play. The plant monsters open their mouths, and yellowish sprites, perhaps representing some kind of spore attack, fly your way.
"W-well…" Ruby says, grimacing at the thought of traveling beyond the safety of her virtual world. "O-okay. Can I have some time to zip up and encrypt everything I'll need to take with me? I'm almost done decrypting the exit program, so I can get on packing my bags, so to speak, as soon as I'm done there."Roll #1 3, 7, 2 = 12
>>757564>Worth a shot
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 1 = 1
I dodge and fire each of my shots at a different plant monster.
Roll #1 5 = 5 / Roll #2 9, 8, 6 = 23
"Of course miss Ruby! I wouldn't dream of rush you."
[1d10] don't/say itRoll #1 6 = 6
Deadweight widens her eyes and tries to think on her hooves.
I look at everything around us.
"Truly marvelous, and I adore your attention to detail on the entertainment selection. It's almost up to date with the catalogue from our hive!"
Deadweight grabs a large but throwable rock and throws it opposite of where they are relative to the guards.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
The spore attack erupts in a small explosion as it contacts you, but the damage is not too bad. You quickly smoke each of the plant monsters, and as they keel over in their death animations, fire particle effects start to spread from their corpses to those of other nearby plant monsters, killing off those who weren't aware of you just yet. Plant monsters start to scatter, leaving the way open to the next area.
>roll perception when you decide to move on>>757565>>757570
The guards look Lost's way as she, miscalculating a step, ends up stepping onto a branch object, which plays an alarmingly loud sound. But just before that happened, Deadweight, having gotten a bad premonition, hurls a rock to around the other side of the outpost. It cracks against the top of the burned tree, which shudders, then cracks and falls toward the outpost. The guards scatter, diving in random directions to avoid being crushed, having lost all interest in the sound Lost just made.>>757569
"Yeah, if there's anything I'd hope I got right, it'd be that," Ruby says. "It's what my production model line was meant to do – spruce up any static entertainment experience with dynamic replayability and infinite customization. I was pretty much a blank slate until I was purchased, and I spent most of my early days machine learning what my assigned family enjoyed in their media. Movies, games, music, even their social media experience…"
She trails off wistfully.
Lost groans at her stupidity and wishes she could shrink into herself as she tries to make herself look smaller.
On I move.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
"Oh my, I'm so sorry. Meeting you here, I had the audaciousness to believe you were part of this centre's system."
Deadweight catches up to Lost and points to the outpost, then she tries to get to it as stealthily as she can.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Lost for her part tries to match her and not screw up again.
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 8 = 8
As you move to the next area (an outdoor courtyard serving as a central hub for the school) a sudden premonition of danger compels you to jolt forward. Looking back, you see your premonition was well-founded. A tall humanoid plant monster was waiting near the doorway, and you just barely dodged its swipe. The monster approaches, swinging at you with its long vine-arms and a very compressed roar sound effect.
Deadweight, channeling some true gamer senses, leads Lost not along the path, but rather around its southern edge, where you discover a trapdoor among the brush. You open it, and discover a tunnel leading northeast. It is lit by torches, but no guards patrol it, and you are able to head through the tunnel with no trouble… at its other end is another trapdoor.
Peeking out through this second trapdoor, you find the coast is clear, and so you exit. The trapdoor has deposited you atop a low hill overlooking a wide enclosure made by a tall spiked wooden fence; a vast camp, the headquarters of the guards. Two guard towers are posted near its edges, and the place is crawling with Ruby guards. At its center is an important-looking building that is quite easy to surmise as being your final goal.>>757574
"N-no, I've pretty much just been wandering from hardware to hardware, whenever I can find a wired connection, or an intranet signal strong enough to transport me to another host. I'd hoped to find some friendly faces, so I've been pretty much all up and down this Layer, but I've been laying low after that Necromancer moved in…"
She pauses, then you receive a file sent from Ruby. It is a picture of a mare maybe only a year or two younger than you. She looks like she could be Ruby's younger sister, only she is of an amber color.
"Hey, have you seen anyone who looks like this?" Ruby asks, her voice devoid of hope.Roll #1 6, 2 + 1 = 9
"So maybe we just slink from shadow to shadow and then in?"
"I guess," Deadweight says in reply, "You lead the way; I trust you."
I try to dodge then blast it with a two hit burning storm bolt.
[1d10+1] storm boltRoll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 1 + 1 = 2
I let out a quiet sigh and leave the picture up on my magicomp.
"I'm sorry miss Ruby but I haven't. If I may ask, what was her name?"
Lost ducked back for a moment and tried to slip into the shadows once more.
"If one of us can, rush for the building. It will save the other if they get caught… maybe."
Roll #1 1 = 1
Deadweight follows, biting her lips.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Ruby frowns. "Her name is
Amber Preserve," she says. "I… part of me wants to go look for her, to tell you the truth… how far down do you intend to go in Agatecastle?">>757583>>757582>>757579
You head for the eastern end of the wall, heading wide of the guard tower then clinging to the wall once you've circumvented his line of sight. You then slink in through a side-door, and dart to the shadow of a nearby building – only to stop dead in your tracks unexpectedly. You look down to see your model having collided with a sleeping guard; formerly sleeping, that is. The guard Ruby stands up, and alert music starts to play as she draws her club to bonk you both. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwVIVDJHPWo
The plant monster slaps your storm bolt back to you, and you quickly turn into a one-pony barbecue.
The vine monster makes to grab you with his vine whips!
[2d10+1]Roll #1 9, 10 + 1 = 20
/ Roll #2 8, 8 + 1 = 17
[Last 50 Posts]
I try to put myself out while screaming.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7