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You are Charlotte Fawkins, god-blooded heroine/detective/adventuress/heiress. Three years ago, you drowned yourself in a quest to find a long-lost family heirloom... though nowadays, you're just generally c̶a̶u̶s̶i̶n̶g solving problems with the help of trusty retainer/swarm of beetles Gil and un-trusty mind-snake Richard. Bizarrely, few people seem to like you, though you've never done anything wrong in your life.

Right now, you have busted into a private conversation between Monty and Eloise, and have noted that the black goop oozing from Monty's arm stump is suspiciously arm-shaped.

"Oh!" you say. "Oh, that's a real- is that an arm?"

Monty reddens. Eloise's quirked lips slip into a small frown, and she clasps her hands. Being in a position of dominance, and all that, you see no reason to heed these omens. "I mean- not that it's a bad thing to have a, a, arm. Even a weird arm. Can I see it?"

It's still pincered behind his back. His face is (to put it politely) not quite a 'yes.' But Eloise glances at him, and he glances back, tightens his lips, and twitches the arm onto his desk.

For it is an arm, certainly. It is a long slender twined thing that ends in a hand: a hand with four pointy, inky fingers, sure, but a hand. And admittedly it does seem to be made of goop, but the nasty liquid stuff you saw yesterday has gelled into neat tendrils. It's not puddling on the desk or anything. You want badly to touch it.

«Are you insane.»

No! You just— it looks squishy, okay, and you already knew Richard wouldn't understand, because he's just a little tube of bones and hatred. But Monty's jaw is tense, so you pivot to something safer. "Can you... feel with it? Or is it just—"

"Yes," Monty says. Eloise shifts in her seat.

"Oh!" you say. This is impressive. "And you can move it around? I mean, it's just like a real—?"

After a moment, he taps each of the fingers against the desk. The movement is stiff. They make no noise. "...Not with much dexterity."

"At least for now," Eloise says mildly. Monty glances at her again, but doesn't say anything, and she doesn't elaborate.

Which suits you fine, because you're still fixated on the fingers, which have piqued— which have piqued a—

Your gargled 'please stop choking me' noises give way to a scream as Monty's hand— his other hand, tenebrous and four-fingered— braces against your face. It burns like acid. It is extracting from you a promise.

You touch your forehead gingerly, wilt a bit under Monty's steady gaze, and play it off as brushing hair from your eyes. "...And is it magyck?" you say, before Richard can stop you, or you yourself.

The moment is longer and colder this time. Eloise looks sideways. "What?" Monty says.

You are in control. You are in the dominant position here. (Positive thinking.) "Is it magyckal? Like... a manifestation of your, uh, magyck powers? Or it's granted you—"

(1/5?)
>>
Eloise makes a strange noise, and you cycle through a few possibilities (cough? indigestion?) before it processes as a snicker. You scowl. Monty does too. "No."

«There is no reason to press this inanity further.»
«Change the subject.»

You think it's an innocuous and perfectly reasonable question, but Eloise is still snickering. "Fine," you say defensively. "I just think it'd be cool if it were a manifestation of your magyck powers, but I guess it'll just have to be a, a normal, less-cool shadow ghost ooze arm, if that's what you—"

"It is." Monty looks down, then up, and his tone is different when he speaks again. "...A less-cool...?"

You hadn't thought that'd be a controversial statement. "Well, it's already cool, as-is, so— don't make that stupid face." He's raising his eyebrows. "Is there something not cool about a spooky monster arm? Even if it's not magyck, it's still— I mean, name something that makes it not cool, Monty. I dare you."

Eloise's snickering has escalated into choked laughter. Monty is at a loss for words. You flourish. "See? It is objectively— you objectively have a cool new arm, and it's weird you don't like it. I actually came in here to congratulate you about the arm, as a matter of fact. Congratulations!"

You were rather amazed at this clever excuse, but Monty averts his gaze. "Eloise?"

"...Yeah?" She wipes her eyes.

"What do you find funny about this?"

"What do I find funny about this? They say humor's born of incongruity—"

"I don't find it particularly funny myself." The fingers on Monty's spooky arm have balled up.

"Oh, I'm shocked, Mr. Manager! You always were known for your keen sense of humor."

"Eloise."

"And not at all for the log shoved directly up your ass." Her smile is feline. "Has anyone ever told you that maybe it's your pathological self-seriousness that—"

"Eloise."

"—drives you fucking loony about once a month? If you let off steam laughing at, let's see, the kid crawling under the door to ask about your cool magic ghost arm—"

"I'm not a kid," you say. "And it's magyck, not—"

She ignores you. "—then maybe it wouldn't build to the point of unprovoked violence, hmm?"

You have the feeling this exchange has happened before, from the cloying lilt to Eloise's voice. Monty looks even less amused. "I wouldn't characterize it as unprovoked."

She kicks one leg over the other. "Tell that to the eyewitnesses."

«Charlotte.»
«You are exceedingly fortunate that this woman has drawn the attention off you.»

On one hand, yes. It's not as though you're frightened, or anything, (you are still dominating the situation), but it was only yesterday that you got strangled. And Monty's narrow expression is a strangling look if you've ever seen one.

(2/5)
>>
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On the other hand, thanks a lot for jinxing it, Richard, because he's turning the expression on you. "This is not an appropriate discussion to have right now," he says woodenly. "Thank you for your, er, congratulations, Charlotte. I'm sure I'll..." He can't finish the sentence. "Would you please leave? Now?"

Should you leave? It doesn't take a detective(ss) to tell that Monty's barely holding it together, but you also don't see how that's your fault. Eloise has been doing most of the provoking. Also, it'd ruin your dominant stance. Also, you feel like it's rude of him to—

«Leave.»

Ah! Well, that settles it: you're not going to do anything Richard tells you to do. Phew. Now, if you just say this confidently enough— "Um, I can't leave."

Monty swallows. "Why."

Was it not confident enough? Is it because you're lying? You're not— not lying. Not at all. You're telling a new and exciting truth, a way better truth than the old one, a better story than the old one, which is that you were meant to be here. You were destined to be here, probably. You heard the call of adventure, or felt the pull of sacred duty, one of the two, and it led you to this very spot. And who would you be to refuse that?

You square your shoulders and adjust The Sword. "Because you need my help, Montgomery. Face it. You were practically begging for me to show up and solve your problems, and I with my keenly attuned senses knew this in mine heart, and spirited myself here as fast as the, um, eight winds! So if you'd like to shareth with me the troubles weighing down upon thy brow, then—"

>Advanced Gaslighting: 95, 36, 64 vs. DC 72 — Mitigated Success

You've been dimly aware of the mounting pressure in the room, but you thought that if you talked loud enough and long enough it'd all snap back to normal. It hasn't. Your throat is dry and your ears are clogged and your vision is shimmering. You open your mouth to keep going and stall out when you catch Monty's eye. He's staring.

Or, no, "staring" isn't the right word— Monty is intently, impassively, unblinkingly watching you. He doesn't say anything, and similarly you can't seem to speak, or breathe, or look away. The pressure is unbearable. You—

Eloise reaches across the desk and waves a hand in front of Monty's face. "Hey, hello?"

And it's gone. Everything's ordinary. Monty, pale, collapses back into his chair and coughs wetly into his sleeve. Black goop beads his lips when he pulls it away.

«...»

"Thank you! Geez." If Eloise has noticed anything, she doesn't show it. "If you weren't listening, the kid's offering help with the whole situation."

"I... yes." Monty attempts a smile. "In an unorthodox manner, I, er, must say, but I won't deny that—"

Eloise swivels around to face you. "They found Madrigal."

What? You boggle. "They— where? When? It's been a day! Who's 'they'?! Wait, did they find the snake? Because Gil's still—"

(3/5?)
>>
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"Wind Court, about an hour ago, wandering in the Fen. And no. Evidently she's human."

"More than that," Monty says. "She looks like... herself. Apparently."

"That's not—" You crane your neck to look at Gil's silhouette through the canvas. "That's stupid! That's impossible. She only has one body, last I checked, so it's not— it's a fake. Or they mistook someone else for her."

"Well, that, and... I know she's resourceful, but escaping in one day is a hell of a trick." Eloise tilts her head. "We're on the same page, trust me! I give it 90% odds it's an imposter, Monty's blinded by optimism and he's at 75%. Trouble is, there's still a chance it is her, and then..."

It better be an imposter, or how are you supposed to go rescue her? She can't get kidnapped under your watch then get rescued by the Wind Court, that's just— that's ridiculous. "Okay, so what's the gameplan? And what's my role? It's important, presumably, or you wouldn't have called me all the way in here."

"...Yes." It takes a moment for Monty to wrap his head around that new and exciting truth. "They've taken her into custody, so I was planning to head out to their base and ask to talk to her. The trouble is that, I, uh..." He looks down at his spooky arm. "I'm not certain they won't try to put me in custody."

"Oh!" you say. "So you need me to go in and talk to her. Got it."

"No. You don't know her very well." Monty's tone is matter-of-fact. "I need you to come with me and negotiate with the Courtiers. Eloise tells me you've done some, er, vigilante work for them, so I figure..."

Does the vigilante work outweigh the thing with the Crown and the torture incident? You guess it'll have to. "Ah. So when were you planning on doing this?"

"Now."

You blink. "Oh."

>[1] Well, okay, you guess you have some time to kill before reporting back to Headspace. You can tag along. (What do you do with Gil?)
>>[A] Anything in particular that you talk to Monty about? (Write-in. Optional.)

>[2] Hey, whoa, you had other plans. And you don't know how you feel about being alone with Monty.
>>[A] Corner Eloise and get her to look at the patent. Isn't it a fun coincidence that you're both in the same place?
>>[B] You can't avoid Ellery forever, probably. Get him over with.
>>[C] Head back to your tent and 'hang out' with Gil for a while. You think this is a thing people do.
>>[D] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.
>>
>Announcements
Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! Finals are done and dusted and I'm thrilled to be writing again.

>Schedule
One a day, occasionally more if the first one was short. There may be sporadic half-updates (no options) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance. I am in the PST timezone.

>Dice
We use a 3d100 roll over degrees of success system with crits. The base DC is 50. Modifiers may be applied to the roll or to the DC as relevant. The # of rolls that match or exceed the DC determine the result. Probabilities may be found in the Dice and Mechanics pastebin.

The degrees are:
0 Passes = Failure
1 Pass = Mitigated Success
2 Passes = Success
3 Passes = Enhanced Success
0/100 = Critical Failure / Critical Success [regardless of other rolls]

>Mechanics
The MC has a pool of 13 Identity ("ID"), which may be considered both HP and the measure of her current sense of self. It may be lost through physical, metaphysical, or emotional damage. It may be regained through write-ins, designated options, and at reasonable narrative points, including sleep. It may be spent on a flat +10 bonus to rolls, as well as on more elaborate metaphysical effects. Dropping to 0 ID is bad.

>Archive
http://lws.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux

>Twitter
https://twitter.com/BathicQM

>Pastebins
https://pastebin.com/u/BathicQM

>"Redux"?
This quest is a loose sequel to the original Drowned Quest, which ran for eight threads in 2019. Reading the original is nice but not required.

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!
>>
>LAST TIME ON DROWNED QUEST REDUX
At the general store, Gil hints that he'd like to change out of Madrigal's whoreish clothing. You find this entirely sensible, spend the last of your ill-gotten chit on an outfit for him. While in town, you decide to check out the Headspace building, and go chat up the receptionist Ida. Apparently, she's a brand-new hire: the old receptionist Cora has fallen ill. You use powerful detectiving to remember that Cora was the name of that lady you gored in the manse way back when, which Gil thinks is a ludicrously stupid coincidence. You tell him to shut up.

Suddenly, you're greeted by some guy named Casey, who appears to recognize Gil: it seems he and Madrigal had some kind of appointment set up. You're all ready to detectivate the hell out of this when Gil panics and drags both of you out. Casey, he informs you, is not just some guy: he's Headspace's official spokesman. Gil tells you there's no way he can maintain any sort of cover around that guy.

You think it'll be fiiiine but agree to come back later. In the meantime, you decide to show Eloise Ellery's patent-- but find her engaged in private conversation with Monty. You bust in on both of them, and neither are terribly amused.


>TO-DO

Short-term goals:
- Meet back up with Annie the worm
- Have Eloise look at the patent
- Bother Ellery

Long-term goals:
- Rescue Madrigal
- Procure permanent, non-melting body for Gil
- Regain your missing memories (...some of them)
- Finish your model
- Find the Gold-Masked Person and their snake, reclaim the Crown
- In the meantime, continue collecting and storing Law (4/16)
- "Convince" Richard to be nice to you
- Make friends???

Mysteries:
- Who or what drove Ellery into self-imposed exile?
- Who or what is Namway Co.'s “Management”? What did they want with the clone of a snake?
- What kind of company(?) does Richard work for? What is its endgame? What does it want with you?
- What is Richard actually like, behind the whole... dad thing?
- What is the meaning of Jesse's spiral tattoo?
- What is Ellery's patent for? Is it connected to his entire deal?
- Who is Horse Face investigating, and why?
- Who is the Gold-Masked Person? Why did they want your Crown? Where are they now?
- Why is Ellery going around assassinating people?

Ongoing assignments:
- Inform Eloise (and the Wind Court?) about anything you discover about Namway Co
- Meet up with Horse Face's mystery contact
- Escort Eloise to Hell

--

Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
>>
>>5257860
>>>[A] Corner Eloise and get her to look at the patent. Isn't it a fun coincidence that you're both in the same place?
>>>[B] You can't avoid Ellery forever, probably. Get him over with.
>>
>>5257876
+1
>>
>>5257860
>[1] Well, okay, you guess you have some time to kill before reporting back to Headspace. You can tag along.
Get Gil to chat up Horse-Face and find out what he's investigating.
>>
>>5257860
>1
they NEED us and our expertise
and also we did kinda lose maddy
If Gil doesn't want to come along he can hang out with sir face of horse, but again caution him that HF is a thief and a liar

Ask Monty if his arm isn't magic what is it
also if he has like a cloak or something to throw over it because yeah WC ain't gonna like that
also Eloise mentioned unprovoked violence once a month, approximately?
we're safe for 29 more days
>>
>>5257876
>>5257860
Supporting, I wanna annoy elloise
>>
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>>5257876
>>5257946
>>5259234
>[2A], [2B]

>>5258671
>>5259063
>[1]

Called and writing.

>>5259063
>Ask Monty if his arm isn't magic what is it
Spoilers: He's going to ask to meet with you later today, so I'll throw this in if/when that happens.

>also Eloise mentioned unprovoked violence once a month, approximately?
She mentioned "going loony," which might involve violence but probably includes nonviolent meltdowns, shutting down, storming off on his own for a day or two, etc. If Monty had a habit of strangling people, the others probably wouldn't be so surprised about it. (None of this refutes your point, just want to clarify.)
>>
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>Nope out

Do you have the time to head all the way back to town and still keep your Headspace appointment? Probably? If all you have to do is negotiate with the Courtiers, you can do that in a jiff and leave while Monty does the boring talking.

Of course, all of that hinges on you wanting to be alone with Monty, to help Monty, who— let it be repeated— strangled you, and magycked you with his spooky arm, and refused to apologize for any of it. And who is still acting coldly and rudely to you, who has done nothing at all to him. When he's the one who called you in!

You cross your arms. "No thanks."

"..." Monty furrows his brow. "...No thanks?"

"I'm not interested. And I'm busy. So— so there."

There's a small silence. "And what happened to the, er, eight winds?"

What? "What eight winds?"

"The ones you..." He pinches his temples. "No. Nevermind."

A longer silence. You clear your throat. "Ahem. I will be taking my leave now."

"You'll be taking your leave."

"Uh..." Monty was watching before, not staring: now he's staring. You can't read his expression at all, except that his face is kind of twisted up. "...Indeed. I will, henceforce, leave this vicinity, and you really ought to be grateful I heard your dumb offer out, by the way, so—"

He covers his forehead with his hand so you can't see his eyes, and you move your hand toward The Sword in case this is the precursor for an attack. You keep it there even as his shoulders shake: he is laughing, dryly.

"Oh, shit," Eloise says.

And then he stops, though he's still half-smiling. It's an odd look on him. "Well, I can't stop you, can I? You have every right and ability to do as you like. I can't stop you, or keep you here, or... exert any influence at all, when you get down to it."

"Um, yes." You shift.

"So go. You too, Eloise. I think we've exhausted the limits of this conversation. I'll... figure out another option for the Madrigal situation, I suppose, or just go. Captivity might do me some good." He props his chin on his elbow. "Though Charlotte."

You freeze. (You'd begun slinking toward the door) "Yeah?"

"I would like to have a personal chat later. When's a time that would work for you?"

"Chatting" with him is the last thing you want to do these days, so you have no idea why you respond. Maybe you felt like declining an on-edge Monty twice in 4 minutes would be risky, even by your tastes. Maybe you were just caught off-guard. "Uh... early evening?" (The Headspace thing won't last that long, right?)

"Fantastic. I'll find you." (Damnit.) "Have a good rest of your day, Charlotte. Eloise."

"You too," Eloise says loudly, and puts an unexpected hand on your shoulder. You flinch and squirm as she undoes the door-tie knot one-handed and steers you out into the sunshine.

«What was that.»

"What the shit was that?" Eloise is unsmiling. "I'm not kidding."

(1/4)
>>
You blink. (What is Richard talking about? It's not like he helped.) "Um, I..."

«I apologize. I was stunned by your incompetency.»

Your incompetency? That went fine. "I told you to do one thing around Monty," Eloise continues. "What was it?"

Are you supposed to remember random things she said? She talks almost as much as Ellery. (Maybe it's something about 'El-' names. Hmm.) "Well, I don't..."

"I told you to not mention the arm. To treat it like it'd always been there." She runs her hand through her hair. "So naturally you come in and ooh and ahh and goggle— I mean, listen, I admire your giant swinging brass balls. I do. But the funny little 'negative tact' gimmick is no longer funny when it affects other people. Do you understand me?"

«It did not go 'fine.' You altered reality for fun and games and achieved nothing from it.»

Could Richard please stop talking in your ear? You can barely juggle one conversation at once, much less two. "I— excuse me? You were literally laughing— you were yelling at Monty because he thought it wasn't funny! You can't turn around now and—"

«Less than nothing. Because the sweater man <noticed>.»

Richard! Shut up! Eloise has the decency to look furtive. "Look, Charlotte, there's 'funny' in the slapstick sense and 'funny' in the cosmic sense. You were cosmically unfunny. Does that clear things up?"

"No." You stuff your hands in your pockets. "That's stupid, and I wasn't trying to be funny, anyhow, so I don't see why—"

«I will not shut up. This is far more important than the drivel you are engaged with currently.»
«He <noticed,> Charlotte. He was <aware> of the disturbance. You witnessed him.»
«And if he has any sense in his head he will be <suspicious>.»

So what! He was already suspicious of you for no reason! Eloise sighs. "Charlotte, I— look. Listen to me real quick. Who do you think knows Monty the best around here? Give me a person."

It's probably a trick question. You hate trick questions. "I don't... Madrigal?"

"I figured, but no. You'd think so, right? The right-hand-woman? But no. The trouble with Madrigal is... was, uh, the loyalty. She saw the best in him, you know? And I figure he put on his best for her. Not saying that's a bad thing! They were cute together. But she knows fuck all."

«And you have seen fit to increase the suspicion by an order of magnitude. Have you forgotten he controls your shelter.»
«If he decides you are done here, you are done here. And then what. What happens to your precious 'cases' and 'conspiracies.'»

So what Richard is saying is that he should want you to get kicked out. Since then you have to do his stupid Crown thing.

«...»

Wait, did he not think that through? "I mean," Eloise carries on, "she never even met Constance— the point is, I know Monty the best, and it's not even close. I know how he works. So when I tell you about him, you keep that in mind, okay? I'm not pulling it out of my ass. So— come here."
>>
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She drags you further away from Monty's tent, and for the first time you catch sight of Gil, who's pitifully squatting against it. He sees you and half-stands— you sign "SORRY!" at him as you stumble away. "Okay," says Eloise. "I am going to tell you something about Monty that might put some stuff into context. If you spread it around I'll know it's you, so don't even think about it. It's private."

"I'm— I'm trustworthy."

"Pull the other one. Uh... look, I'll be real concise about it. Monty Gewecke is a dangerous man. The friendly cuddly stuff is a put-on. I have it secondhand that he's killed a half-dozen up there, and I have it on gut that he's killed at least one more down here."

He's— he's killed— wait a second, you knew this. Monty already told you about his whole stupid murder tournament thing. You allow yourself some satisfaction at being a step ahead of Eloise, of all people. "...Geez."

"Yes, Charlotte. Geez. Now, I don't know for sure what he's doing here in Boringland writing paperwork, but I assume he's attempting to escape the seven skeletons in his closet. Which, let me be clear, is good for him. I'm in support of redemption! I just think he's going about it in the most dogshit manner possible, because—"

You know this too. God, you're good. "Because he's all stupid and nice and then he strangles innocent people?"

"Yeah. Well, not the— the strangling's new, Charlotte. But he's the most hilariously repressed person you've ever met 39 days of 40 and then—" She snaps her fingers. "—he loses it. Like clockwork. Usually it's real polite, private losing it, but you can tell, because suddenly it's Madrigal doing the rounds for a day or two. And then he's back. This has been happening for years, since— basically since Constance died. The wife."

You are beginning to get the sense that Eloise has been waiting to tell somebody about all this. Gil is making prolonged eye contact with you. "Oh. So you think—"

"Constance was keeping him stable? Oh, no, definitely. Now, is he unstable because isn't getting laid? Maybe! But he won't get laid. Or drink. Or gamble. Or have any fun whatsoever, essentially, so—" She tosses her hands up. (It's obviously a pet peeve.) "We're stuck with the results! All of us. Which is why you constantly setting him off... I want to be clear about two things, okay, Charlotte? One is that you could get yourself killed, and I'm not hyperbolizing. He is capable of it. Have you seen how jacked he is? Two is that if he snaps for good, then you've put 30 people out of a home. There is no functioning camp without Monty, full stop. This is what you're playing with."

(3/4)
>>
"Um," you say. (You'd like to exit this conversation as fast as possible.) "That would be... bad."

"Yes! Thank you. It would be." She smiles. "So you're going to handle him with kid gloves, do you understand? You are going to summon every ounce of tact in your body. And you are not going to ask him about the fucking arm. Promise?"

Oh, God. Does she actually want a promise? It's not binding, is it?

>[A1] Promise. You don't want to be strangled, so if this accomplishes that, you guess it's sensible. Even if you're pretty sure Eloise is exaggerating *and* missing a lot of Monty facts.
>[A2] Refuse to promise. You think she's missing the fact that he's being mean to you for no reason? So why exactly should you be all nice? It's nonsensical.
>[A3] Let Richard use your mouth for 10 seconds so *he* can promise instead of you. So Eloise is happy, and you're free to treat Monty however you want. (You're a genius.)
>[A4] Write-in.

(The [B]s are optional.)
>[B1] Inquire if Eloise has ever engaged in wacky hijinks to get Monty 'having fun.' You're having trouble picturing it.
>[B2] Inquire what 'jacked' means. Like hijacked?
>[B3] Hold on, Monty killed someone underwater? He didn't tell you that.
>[B4] Make it very clear that you're not 'setting Monty off' on purpose, and he's just acting weird and sensitive. So it's not your fault.
>[B5] Write-in.

Yes I'm aware this covered NEITHER of the voted for prompts which is probably a new record, but my writing goes where it wants and I can only follow ;_; I pinky promise patent will happen next update, and optimally Ellery also if I can wrangle it concise enough
>>
>>5259510
>>[A3] Let Richard use your mouth for 10 seconds so *he* can promise instead of you. So Eloise is happy, and you're free to treat Monty however you want. (You're a genius.)
>>
>>5259510
Are you actually trying to scare anons into acting carefully, Bathic? After all this time?

>[A1] Promise. You don't want to be strangled, so if this accomplishes that, you guess it's sensible. Even if you're pretty sure Eloise is exaggerating *and* missing a lot of Monty facts.

>[B3] Hold on, Monty killed someone underwater? He didn't tell you that.
>>
>>5259510
>>>[A3] Let Richard use your mouth for 10 seconds so *he* can promise instead of you. So Eloise is happy, and you're free to treat Monty however you want. (You're a genius.)
>>
>>5259510
>[A2] Refuse to promise. The arm is objectively cool, and Monty could be pretty cool if he wanted to and maybe she should instead be asking us how to help make him cool. If anything, maybe if he snaps at us more often then it won't build up too much.

> Anyways let's talk about this patent.

I wanna vote to go back in and re-offer to help out with Madrigal though, just to show Eloise that we CAN help Monty out. Also if Madrigal makes him be his best person, and we make him be his worst then the two of use can probably balance that out since if we help him with Maddy then he CAN'T get too mad at us and we can make him let us talk about his arm more.
>>
>>5259510
>[A1] Promise. You don't want to be strangled, so if this accomplishes that, you guess it's sensible. Even if you're pretty sure Eloise is exaggerating *and* missing a lot of Monty facts.
We really want to let Richard use our mouth right after telling him that getting kicked out would lead to 100% crown mission devotion?

>B2
>B4
>>
Rolled 4, 1 = 5 (2d6)

>>5259513
>>5260071
>[A3]

>>5259572
>>5260210
>[A1]

>>5260187
>[A2]

Gotta love a split vote. Rolling two d6s: first one is 1-3 is [A3], 4-6 is [A1]; second one is 1-3 [No Bs], 4 [B2], 5 [B3], 6 [B4].

>>5259572
>Are you actually trying to scare anons into acting carefully, Bathic? After all this time?
:^) Mainly I just didn't think it was plausible for Eloise not to warn you about this, given her character and the circumstances. Her take on the matter isn't necessarily 100% accurate: she's running off of limited information, and she hasn't... you know... gotten Monty's perspective on anything. So don't take her as an unbiased observer/direct QM mouthpiece. (Direct QM mouthpiece: I think it's fun and interesting when you un/intentionally piss off Monty.)

If there is a direct message from me here, though, it's "remember what characters tell you," because I am going to bring it back later 90% of the time.


>I wanna vote to go back in and re-offer to help out with Madrigal though
I think Charlotte needs some time to cool off after being lectured at (and in principle I'm against readjucating votes that just happened), but I can offer this as an option either after you speak with Ellery or after you deal with Headspace.
>>
>>5260478
>[A1], No [B]s

Dice gods want to make sure I get to Ellery this update. Writing.

Also >I think Charlotte... was directed at >>5260187, obviously.

Also,
>Also if Madrigal makes him be his best person, and we make him be his worst then the two of use can probably balance that out
kek
>>
>Pinky promise

It's not— it can't be— Eloise is a normal person (for a given definition of 'normal'). She isn't magyck or not real or a snake or anything, so far as you know. So a promise shouldn't be binding. Right? Richard?

«I consider it unwise to make a promise you're already contemplating breaking.»
«...But it shouldn't be legally binding.»

Okay, well, Richard promised that you could see your mother again, so you don't think he gets room to comment. It's not binding, so Eloise can't unleash foul curses upon you if you say something wrong. That's all you needed to know. "I, uh— okay."

Eloise appears surprised, which you don't appreciate. "Oh! Fantastic! Thank you, Charlotte."

"Don't thank me," you mutter. "I— I already independently came to the same conclusion, so you didn't make me do anything. Just so you know."

(God, you don't appreciate that smirk, either.) "Oh, sure."

It's not like you're lying. You weren't planning on doing anything to Monty. And you were already figuring out how not to get strangled again. So you basically didn't need the stupid lecture at all, and there's your third motivation, okay: ending this whole thing and getting on with what you actually want to talk about. "Yes. Indeed. So we're done with all that. Could you look at the patent now?"

"The... oh! The spec sheet? You brought it?"

In response, you shrug your new rucksack off and dig out the patent, slightly crumpled. You foist it onto her silently.

She takes it, thinks for a moment, then sits against the side of someone's tent. You fidget for several minutes, fending off Gil's persistent gaze, as she "hmm"s and "hmm"s her way through the page. Finally she stands, stretches and hands it back over. "Well, it isn't my area, that's for sure."

Your heart sinks. "So you can't—?"

"Slow down. Didn't say that. I got the gist, at least." Eloise taps the top of the pages. "First things first, Ellery didn't write this. There's not a chance in hell."

You squint down at it. Ellery's name is definitely scrawled at the bottom. "...Are you sure?"

"Incredibly. Even setting aside the fact that it's all spelled right, it's three-quarters jargon by volume. I could barely wade through it, Charlotte. I didn't recognize a good number of these terms. Someone way more educated either ghostwrote it or put his name on without him knowing."

You have no idea what this indicates. "Huh."

"Yeah. Interesting stuff. Anyhow, the gist of the whole thing is that it's a very, very complicated syringe. Look at this." She jabs at the diagram of the needle-badge-thing. "Jab it in a vein, twist here, and it draws a blood sample. A pretty big one."

"...That's it?"

(1/3?)
>>
"Nope. You draw the blood, then it's sucked through these channels, and then, uh, the writing gets stupidly dense. I think it contains glass. Or glass doctored with something. And it's engineered in some way where the reaction of the blood opens a... hole? A rift? And the blood drains into the 'hole,' which I have to assume alludes to a pocket dimension, not— well, you know. Could also be a a very stable manse... it actually says 'M.A.N.S.E.' at one point, but I'm not sure if that's the same thing as a no-acronym manse. The whole thing needs footnotes. Anyhow, that's phase 1."

You hope Richard is enjoying himself, because you're mildly regretting this entire endeavor. "God, there's more?"

"Yeah! Phase 2 is almost unparsable. I think there's some sort of larger machine on the other side of the 'hole' that receives the blood sample. It processes it, does something with it, and feeds whatever the result is back out. It also sucks something else in, so there's a kind of switcheroo happening. Maybe it swaps more blood for the processed blood... I have no idea. I assume that's the point."

You nod meaningfully. "What?"

"I'm not supposed to have any idea what it does, Charlotte. You aren't, either. I don't think you get this incomprehensible on accident." Eloise raises her eyebrows. "The whole thing's either colossal incompetency or a deliberate obfuscation. I mean, even the print size is silly. You think they wrote it on the world's smallest typewriter?"

Do typewriters come in different sizes? You guess you've only ever seen one or two. "So... somebody who isn't Ellery filed a, um, spec sheet—"

"Oh, yeah, wait. That's the third interesting thing. Did you give this a proper read beforehand?"

You glanced over it and nearly fell asleep on the spot, if that counts. "I tried, but, uh—"

"See?" She jabs at your chest. "It works! You didn't read it! But if you actually do go through it, there's a little paragraph at the top that explains the entire thing. Give it a look."

You're looking at the patent(?)/spec sheet(?) again and the tiny little letters are already swimming. You squint your bad eye shut to get a better view and manage to locate what she's talking about: it's italicized, which helps.

We here at Headspace Incorporated are pleased to present our newest innovation in making M.A.N.S.E.s fun and accessible for the layperson: the EZ-M.A.N.S.E.. Product details follow.

"Headspace," you say.

"Yeah. It's a press release spec sheet. I betcha the Corcass Courier had an article. And I betcha the company-facing version of this is clear as crystal."

You guess Richard had been going through all the newspapers— he must've found this in there with them. "So why is Ellery on a Headspace press release?"

(2/3?)
>>
File: ellery (fake).png (105 KB, 436x557)
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"Huh." Eloise rubs her chin. "You know, that's a great... I wasn't aware he had any involvement with them, but I also hear they make people sign gnarly contracts. So who knows? You think it's related with the Madrigal blowup? They were fighting about it, or—"

"Uh, I'm not sure." (You think Madrigal would've told you if she knew about something that specific.) "...Have you seen Ellery around here?"

"Yup! He's hanging around your tent."

"Oh, God. Okay. Uh... I guess I better go, then." Before he kills himself or whatnot. "Bye."

«Civilized persons express their gratitude verbally.»

You sigh deeply. "And thanks, I guess, bye."

"So soon! Don't forget about Monty. And tell me if this cracks the Ellery fiasco wide open, I'd love to—"

"Lottie!" Gil lurches out of his resting place— you see a little divot in the sand where he's been sitting. (You have successfully tuned out Eloise, who is in the retreating distance.) "Are you— I-I-I-I mean, are you done? I-I-I didn't want to—"

"Done with her, yeah." You help him up, squint, and straighten his bow tie. "I need to go talk to Ellery, though. For my case."

"Ell—" Gil whitens. "That guy?"

"Different one. Er. I mean, they're the same, but one's just a weirdo and the other one's a weirdo prick. You met the prick. We're talking to the weirdo. 'Kay?"

"Um... 'kay."

You pat him helpfully on the shoulder and set off.

-

As promised, Fake Ellery is loitering in the vicinity of your tent: far enough to maintain plausible deniability, close enough to catch you. There is something slouchy in his manner, and as you draw nearer you take note of the corked-shell bottle jammed into one of his coat pockets. Great.

"Hi," you say stonily. "It's afternoon, you realize?"

"Lottie! And Mad- Maddie— shit. Gil. Sorry." He sounds coherent (for Ellery), but you narrow your eyes regardless. "I, uh— what a coincidence! I was just, uh, you know, milling around, when I—"

"I'm not talking to you if you're drunk." How sensible of you, to set this obvious standard. "You're bad enough sober. Go home."

He prods his forehead. "Shit, am I drunk? Really?"

...Is he taking the piss? (Pardon your language.) Is he smart enough to do that? You hate Ellery. "How am I supposed to— are you drunk?"

"I'm trying. I'm working on it. No success so far, but, uh— I'm working on it. I'm sleep deprived, if that— I couldn't sleep, Lottie. At all. Swear on it. Went and took a walk and came back and I still just laid there— uh, you know how people can't sleep when they're busy thinking about something?"

You're caught between a 'so you never sleep, then?' and a 'so you always sleep, then?' and wind up with neither. "Y...es."

"Yeah." He cocks his chin. "So how's the Maddie stuff going? I see you've been... shopping?"

(Choices next.)
>>
>Feel free to also specify if you want Gil to do anything in particular. (He'll default to standing there awkwardly.)

>[1] You can talk about the Maddie stuff later, okay? After you talk about the things you want to talk about.
>>[A] Wave the spec sheet at him until he tells you what the deal is with it.
>>[B] Hey, has he ever heard of locitis?
>>[C] Hey, uh, hypothetically, has he ever heard of any stupid pagan way to induce vision quests and/or general magyck powers? Just curious. (Ask out of earshot of Gil.)
>>[D] Hey, uh, extremely hypothetically, if he were a fake mirror person and his real prick self was hiding out in his manse to avoid answering topical questions about his assassinations of random people, how would he get in contact?
>>[E] Write-in.

>[2] Just asking Fake Ellery questions isn't going to cut it: he's clearly not in a helpful state of mind. Get out the lab documents, run through the whole existential crisis thing again, clarify how petty his current problems are, and redirect his attention toward you.
>>[A] Also pick suboptions from [1], or
>>[B] Write-in.

>[3] Uhhhh... about Madrigal...
>>[A] You have been making tons of progress! So much progress! Which you can't tell him about. (Lie.) [Roll.]
>>[B] You have been making tons of progress! So much progress! Which you can't tell him about. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>>[C] ...You've heard that there's a probably-fake Madrigal in the Wind Court building! He can probably definitely go see her! (He won't get arrested unless he starts melting, surely.)
>>[D] Okay, listen, you have not made any real progress, but it's been one day, Ellery. One day. Has he made any progress? Huh? Is he jealous of your and Gil's cool new outfits?
>>[E] Write-in.
>>
>>5260657
>1A
worth a shot
maybe Gil can give it a look too
>>
>>5260657
3C, and tell him Monty is asking for help with the "maybe" maddie so he shp4p00puld probably come help you help Monty.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>5260885
>>5261159
Rolling.
>>
>3C
Writing.
>>
>>5261712
>3C

Forgot to vote dammit
>>
"I," you say haughtily, "have been repairing my wardrobe, after I put down the horrifying gooplicate menace, Ellery. What have you been doing with your precious time?"

"Trying to get drunk? It was a whole— I mean, the Nothing is packed, it's insane, I think they were— you killed that thing?" He lifts his goggles. "That's all anyone's talking about! Gods, I didn't think you were— I mean, I knew you had the sword and everything, but I didn't, uh—"

"It wasn't hard." It's true, in a way. Once you got the blade in the throat once, all you had to do was keep going. "So what I'm hearing is that you've been drinking like a profligate, while I—"

"I don't know what the fuck a profligate is," Fake Ellery says sourly, "but last I checked you've been living in the Nothing and I've been dry for months. Unfortunately. So excuse me for attempting to take the edge off Maddie in mortal danger—"

You scoff. "She's not in mortal— she's just being experimented on, probably. They're taking good care of her."

"She's being experimented on?"

Oh. "Did I not tell you that?"

"N— no? You just walked up yesterday like 'Maddie got fucking kidnapped, my boyfriend's in her body now, bye,' and then I never—"

Gil makes a strangled sort of noise. You scoff harder. "Gil's not my boyfriend, first off, he's my retainer. But it figures you can't comprehend that. And second off, it wasn't like that at all. I informed you I would do the necessary work—"

"That's exactly what I—!" Ellery grips his scalp with both hands. "Gods. Have you done the work? Lottie? That's what I wanted to know. Have you done it, and can we kick the bastard's door down already?"

You hadn't thought Ellery was much in the way of kicking doors down, considering that his legs would probably shatter on impact. But maybe he intends to watch as you kick. "Well, er, no, because detectiving takes time, but I have— I have singlehandedly found a lead, Ellery. There's a Madrigal in the Wind Court headquarters."

"She's in—?!" His eyes search your face. "Wait. Wait. 'A' Madrigal?"

"It's probably another goo or something. The timing makes no sense. But she claims she's Madrigal, so there's your awesome lead, or whatever—"

"So we're going?"

"What?"

"We're— we're going." His leg is jiggling. "To see Maddie."

Oh, damnit.

>[1] Okay. Yeah. Fine. You and Ellery can go talk to "Madrigal," and then you'll go back and tell Monty you took care of the problem all by yourself. Perfect. (Do you talk about anything on the way (refer to >>5260657)? I assume you drop Gil off at Horse Face's.)
>[2] Uh, well, actually, you think— you think Monty was planning to head on over. Haha. You should probably get him involved. (Do you ditch Ellery, or do you try to convince Monty to make it a trio?)
>[3] No. Nope. You'll handle it... later. You have important questions for right now. (Pick options from >>5260657.)
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5261773
>[2] Uh, well, actually, you think— you think Monty was planning to head on over. Haha. You should probably get him involved. (Do you ditch Ellery, or do you try to convince Monty to make it a trio?)

Wait. Both Monty and Ellery like Maddie, yeah? I have GOT to see how this dynamic plays out.
>>
>>5261841
>Both Monty and Ellery like Maddie, yeah?
Not sure how you're defining "like" here. Ellery (obviously at this point) continues to have romantic feelings, but as far as you know the Monty/Madrigal relationship is platonic: they're just good friends / buddy cops. If that's what you meant in the first place, carry on.
>>
>>5261773
>>5261841
+1
>>
>>5261773
>2
the more the merrier?
maybe monty will be distracted by ellery and forget he's mad at us
>>
>>5261841
>>5262098
>>5262658
>2

Writing.
>>
>Teamwork makes the dream work(?)

Ellery won't take no for an answer, will he? You look at him and you know that already. You can't distract him with another lead, because you don't have another lead. You can't let him go alone, because it's Ellery. So it's you, stuck with him, for probably an hour or more, and you won't even have Gil as buffer— you can't possibly drag Madrigal's body to meet Madrigal. Why is your life so difficult?

«If it's any consolation, I am sure the tall man is thinking the same thing.»

What? Hey! No. You're sure Ellery enjoys your presence, as most people do. Except Monty, because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or something. The strangling side. Would doing the Madrigal thing without him be offensive, or would it be oh-so-'tactful' to avoid him? (Eloise makes it sound easy to figure this stuff out. Ha.) If you did bring Monty, would he and Ellery cancel out? Maybe Ellery would draw the attention off you? Maybe he'll get strangled, which you'd pay money to see, as long as you weren't the one doing it. You choked him. It's different.

Anyhow, this sounds like another winner of a plan. You've got it settled. You'll just head back to Monty's—

«Are you suicidal.»
«Should I be administering medication.»

Huh? You left and Monty was fine. He wished you a nice day. Also, you're going back to accept his stupid offer, now that you have Ellery as sworn witness, so he should be happy to see you.

«And your judgment is impeccable.»

It is, and he'll be fine. Positive thinking! You grip your wrist. "Uh... yes. We will be going, posthaste, as soon as we—"

"Had to consult with your guy?" Ellery taps his forehead.

"No! I didn't have to— I don't have a guy, Ellery, unless you count Gil, and I obviously wasn't consulting with him. So maybe you're blind. What I was saying is that we ought to go get Monty."

"...Monty?" He doesn't sound enthusiastic. "Uh, why?"

"Because he's— he's an integral part of the team, Ellery, so shut up." You don't want to explain the nuances. "We're going."

Ellery is either sufficiently cowed or sufficiently motivated to follow along, even as you deposit Gil at Horse Face's: you tell him he can't come along, since it'd just get confusing, and he seems resigned to that. It's a short jaunt from there back to Monty's. You consider busting in again, to prove you're not scared or anything, but as you're processing Ellery has already stridden up. He rattles the door. "Hello?"

A silence follows. Ellery turns. "I don't think he's—"

The canvas rustles. Monty pokes his head out. "...Ellery? What are you—"

You shift stances to sooth your achy legs— his eyes flick toward you. His face hardens. With another rustle, he withdraws.

«You were correct. He does seem happy to see you.»

Okay, you don't know why snakes are allowed to use sarcasm. Surely that shouldn't be possible, right? It's too complicated to fit in their tiny brain? (Or however snakes work.)

(1/2?)
>>
«I am being honest.»

Hmm. Maybe it just falls under "lying," which clearly he is capable of. "Hey!" Ellery says, saving you from an embarrassing delay. "Monty? Monty? Mon— you know, I think he's busy. We better just—"

"Shh." You elbow past him and poke your own head through the crack of the door. Monty is staring at the wall, a hand on his forehead. "Monty!" you say brightly. "Hello. Ellery and I have graciously decided to—"

Monty looks at you with the same sort of eerie impassiveness he had earlier, then walks up to the door. "Ellery," he says past you. "Go back to whatever you were doing, please."

"Huh?" Ellery says.

"I'm not taking drop-ins. Charlotte and I have an appointment."

"Huh?" you say. "Uh," Ellery emits, and glances at you. "Uh, I— sorry. There wasn't a sign or—"

"I didn't get a chance to put one up. No need to apologize." Monty smiles close-lipped until Ellery, casting another baffled glance your way, turns tail. You're unsure how to feel about this. "Please come in, Charlotte."

"What if I don't want to?" He just drove off your witness.

"Then we'll wait until you do want to."

He doesn't say it like a challenge, really, just a fact. But it still riles you up. "Okay, then we'll—"

«Maybe you did suffer a concussion yesterday.»
«You are not winning this battle. Unequivocally. Salvage what little dignity you have and go inside.»

Richard telling you this makes you want to do it even less, just so he knows, and the only reason why you're going inside is that you decided on your own. You do this all the time, deciding on things before he tells you to do them. It's probably because he cheats and reads your mind.

«I'm not dignifying that with a real response.»

Great, so it's decided. You toss your head and go inside— Monty holds the door open for you. He ties it shut once you're past the threshold. The tent interior is exactly the same as when you last saw it, which is understandable, because you last saw it 15 minutes ago.

Monty sits in his desk chair. He outstretches a hand. "Please sit down."

You—

«Sit down. Don't be an idiot.»

You sit. Because, as Richard helpfully reminded you, you don't want to get evicted and forced back into mind-numbing routine. You're still not sure why he isn't trying to encourage that, though?

«We are not discussing this right now.»

If he says so. Monty seems relieved that you've sat, though only for a moment, then it's back to the non-expression. "Thank you. And thank you for returning so promptly."

You sense some irony there, but his voice betrays nothing. You nod dubiously. "Uh, I actually came to—"

"To have our personal chat, yes? I had thought you were busy, so you must have had to rearrange your schedule. I appreciate it." He must be ironic. "I'm glad we both value candid communication."

(2/3?)
>>
Aha. You've put a finger on what exactly you're being reminded of: being stuck listening to Richard. The condescension, the passive-aggressiveness— well, you've always found Monty a bit condescending and passive-aggressive, but he's really ramping it up. "Could you at least undo the door tie?"

"Candid and private communication, I should've said." He scratches his eyebrow. "I don't want this getting around. I'm sure you don't either, Charlotte."

Yeah, okay, and Richard does this too: talking around something like he expects you to know it, or to rub it in that you don't know it. Do they swap notes? "Yeah, okay, whatever. Why am I here? Do you have a whole other formative life event you've been dying to tell me about?"

"I do not. I had a few topics, actually, but I may as well begin with the most consequential. Are we predestined, Charlotte?"

"Um, what?" You'd been preparing for several topics: philosophy was not among them. "Like... hypothetically? Do you want my opinion? Or is this in relation to something—"

"It's in relation to everything. That's in the nature of it." Monty has propped his chin on his good hand. "But to be blunt, it's in relation to you. You've been sent to further my eternal torment and so on and so forth. I accept that. I'd just like to know how it's being executed."

Oh, God, what? Is this about the hell thing? "Um, I haven't been sent to—"

"We don't have to do the dance, Charlotte. In any case, to elaborate, I see this in one of two ways. In the first way, I exercise free will, and the punishment is the struggle itself. No certain outcome is necessary. In the second way, I exercise nothing, and the punishment is watching the inevitable decline."

You cross your legs. "...Why is it inevitable decline? Couldn't it be inevitable incline, or inevitable—"

"Well, I'm already on the decline, so it'd be difficult to reverse course. I'm doing all I can to stay in place." He flexes his spooky hand, maybe unconsciously. "You aren't assisting very much, but I'd hardly expect otherwise. Anyhow. About the predestination?"

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] Well, you have traditionally been a big destiny fan! Mostly because your destiny is awesome and important, so it does kind of suck that Monty's destiny is (presumably) depressing, but that's not your fault. Suggest it's all predestined.
>[2] ...Well, you have also traditionally been a big fan of gumption, and spunk, and pluck, and verve, and so on, and it'd be unfortunate if none of those mattered at all. You're not sure how much gumption Monty has, but whatever. Suggest he has free will.
>[3] Wow, uh, you don't know where the wires got crossed, but you're not— you're not actually his personal hell torture demon? You're a normal (if above average) person? And you find it sort of exquisitely self-centered that he assumes you exist 100% for his detriment? Tell him off.
>[4] Hold on, wasn't he spouting this stuff before? Back at the Nothing. Meaning this isn't actually your fault— it's *Richard's* fault, for making you seem way eviller and mysteriouser than you are back then. Inform Monty that there's a perfectly cromulent explanation for all this.
>[5] As [4], but distract Richard by desnakeifying him so he can't stop you. [Roll.]
>[6] Write-in. (Any other questions?)
>>
>>5263001
Has Monty considered that maybe he's our torment? I mean, here we are coming to help him and despite us thinking he's pretty magyckal and cool, he just shits on us and acts like we're some sort of *lesser*. Maybe we're supposed to learn something from each other, since he's a leader admittedly of a small camp but still and we're future queen of the world.

Maybe we aren't his torment, but instead his redemption. We've read about that (ooc I assume this in our adventure novels) and it wouldn't be redemption if it was easy and fun.

Maybe he's supposed to learn to like us, and we're supposed to learn how he gets people to be sensible and listen to him. Also how to be better at magyckal stuff.
>>
>>5263001
Supporting >>5263280
>>
>>5263401
I just want to see Monty's face when we bring up that his greatest challenge is liking Charlotte.
>>
>>5263280
>>5263401
>6
Neat. Called and writing.

>>5263280
>ooc I assume this in our adventure novels
Makes sense. In general, if something would reasonably feature in the plot of either a schlocky high fantasy novel or a schlocky teenage dime novel (picture Nancy Drew), you can go ahead and assume Charlotte knows about it.
>>
>>5263001
>>5263280

Support and forgot to vote again reeeeee
>>
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>Uno reverse card

"Um, no," you say. "No, I'd like to— I'd like to circle back to the 'sent here to torment you' thing. That's stupid, and wrong, and— and rude. And stupid. How does that even make sense? All I did was come in to nicely congratulate you, and now I've come back to nicely offer my help, which is very valuable, and which you asked for earlier, by the way—"

"Your help with what."

You'd thought it was sort of self-explanatory. "The Wind Court thing? Madrigal? Leveraging my razor-sharp powers of persuasion to, uh, win the hearts and minds of—"

"Your powers of persuasion." Monty twitches an eyebrow up at that. "I'm glad you intend to spread the wealth."

Again! The smarmy cryptic statements! Why can nobody say what they mean around here? "Um, I'm not giving them any money, so— I didn't mean bribing them. If that's what you meant. I just meant talking, you know, using my winsome charm, and—"

"Yes. Your winsome charm. Will Mr. Blaine be telling you his complete life history as well?"

You gesture vehemently. "Who is Mr. Blaine?"

"...Duncan Blaine? Duncan— I suppose he goes by Lucky? Or so I hear. I wouldn't presume."

Oh. Lucky. Why wouldn't he just say that? And how does that make sense? You're not going to the Wind Court to ask Lucky about his life, you don't care about his life—

«Charlotte.»
«Why don't you explain to this man that he should converse with you like you are a child. He should speak directly and use simple words.»

Great, and now Richard's joining in. (Even though he isn't... wrong. Not because you're stupid, obviously, but because Monty needs to know his place.) "You said we should be candid," you snap. "Is this candid? Are we speaking plainly? Or are we being stupid and vague and smug, Monty? Because if this is your idea of candid, I may as well—"

"...I apologize." He tugs at his collar. "It may be force of habit. To be candid, Charlotte, I am aware of the stunt you pulled the other night. Your 'winsome charm.' I think it was cruel of you, but at least it was straightforward. You extracted what you wanted, you twisted the knife—"

You don't appreciate the sardonic 'winsome charm,' nor the baseless accusations. He's saying you did something the other night? What? You had a drink, he blabbed about his boring life, Richard gave you a stroke— oh, it's probably Richard's fault.

«It is not my fault. This man is too attentive for his own good.»

Okay, then it's Monty's fault. You're fine with that. "I didn't, but sure."

"I'm glad we're being candid, Charlotte. I am also aware that you did something similar today." He looks sideways. "In hindsight, there was no reason for me to ask your help. I didn't want it. I didn't want to interact with you. I didn't bring you up to Eloise. Then, oddly enough, I did want it, and I had brought it up."

You sit on your hands. "Maybe you'd wanted my help all along, in your heart, and my presence just blossomed your—"

(1/5?)
>>
"I could feel it in my sinuses."

"...That's a dumb place to feel it," you prevaricate. "Shouldn't you feel it in your blood, or marrow, or—"

"It was where it was." He's watching you again. "But I'm glad you're acknowledging that something occurred. Has been occurring, I should say. How long have you been toying with me?"

For all his talk of sitting back and accepting his fate, or whatever, he's awfully dogged about this. You roll your eyes. "I haven't been— yes, I do have impressive magyckal powers, but that's on account of my god blood, not being a stupid demon, Monty. And also, you also have obvious magyckal powers, so I think you're off throwing stones in—"

«How many times do I have to reiterate that the 'god blood' is A) a misnomer, and B) entirely unrelated to any anomalous—»

Monty tries to pretend he didn't flinch at 'obvious magyckal powers.' "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Uh... the cool arm? Hello? I went and congratulated you, and you were all rude about it?"

"That's not magic," he says seriously. "Eloise assures me there's a rational explanation. I couldn't tell you what it was, but—"

"Monty. You have a goop arm. You know all the boring rational explanations boil down into it being magyck, right? Like, just because they break it down into the fiddly little steps, that doesn't mean it's not—"

«What are you talking about.»
«That's not how it works.»

Of course Richard would try to claim it's not magyck. You brush him off his shoulder perch out of spite. Monty moves his spooky arm behind his back. "I don't want to call it 'magic,' Charlotte. It's a medical problem. Could we leave it there?"

"Sure. And then we can bring up that you plunged me into the spooky nightmare dimension, magyckally."

He rubs his face. "We already discussed this. I have no explanation. I suppose it must've been a— a shared hallucination, of some kind—"

"And how did that hallucination happen? You induced it, maybe? With your...?" Monty won't finish the sentence, despite your visible prompting. "...spooky nightmare magyck? Come on. You had the arm in the hallucination, in case you forgot, so, uh—"

«Ergo.»
«Or ipso facto.»

"—ergo or ipso facto, they're both magyck. Admit it."

"Admit it?" Monty clouds over. "There's nothing to admit. I don't know anything about it, and I think leaping to 'magic' is childish, even for you. That's the end of the discussion."

>[-1 ID: 10/13]

You stand furiously. "Excuse me?"

"Charlotte."

«Nice tact.»

(2/5?)
>>
He's insulting you! Outright! When all you're doing is being nice and interested in his problems! "Don't 'Charlotte' me! Have you ever— maybe you're my evil demon, huh? Ever considered that? Because I come in here to politely discuss you violently assaulting me, and you're all mean about it, and then I come in here to congratulate you, and you're mean about it, and now I come to offer my valuable help, for free, and you're mean about it, and lecture me, and insult me—"

Monty works his jaw. "I apologize. That was out of line."

"I don't want a stupid apology, I want you to stop being mean! It's not that hard! You're not mean to anybody else—"

"Other people are decent to me. I've been decent to you, far more than was ever warranted. I have offered my best advice and my best guidance because I saw something in you, and I was spat in the proverbial face." He steeples his fingers. "In hindsight, I assume my leniency was a product of your, what was it? 'Winsome charm.'"

You desperately wish he'd stop using that phrase. "No! I didn't— look, I'm sorry you were all weird, but I didn't— I didn't realize you were cool and magyck, okay? Like, if you had the spooky arm all along, I would've been all 'wow, Monty, I'd love to take your lame advice—'"

He shuts his eyes. "Why do you keep using 'cool'?"

"What?"

"Besides the obvious reason. If we're maintaining the pretense you're here in good faith, why do you keep using 'cool.'"

You're struggling to understand how this is a question. Maybe it's a trick one? Or rhetorical? "Because it is... cool? Objectively? I told you this earlier. Like, would I want a shadow goop arm? No, because it doesn't fit my, um, aura, but I'd have a fire arm or something, and that'd be cool too. Because it's about the presence. It gives you a presence. And it's distinct, like— you're probably the only goop arm man in the whole region. I could see you on a book cover, or something, like—" You strike a fighting pose.

Monty appears nonplussed. "...Yes. Thank you. Er, I'm not sure I see it the same way... I was figuring out how to remove it as soon as possible."

You drop the pose. "Um, what? That's the stupidest thing I've ever—"

"I was getting along perfectly well without it."

"Okay, now that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You had one— you now have double the arms, Monty. Double. Maybe you need me giving you advice and guidance, huh? Maybe you—" You have an epiphany. "—maybe you need me. Maybe we need each other! I don't know anyone else with magyck powers. Maybe I, current acclaimed heroine, future world queen, am supposed to bestow my guidance, and you, current small-time camp leader person, are supposed to bestow— it's a guidance-exchange thing, is what I'm saying. It's mutual."

The nonplussedness (nonplusseditude?) has deepened. He blinks.

(3/5?)
>>
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"Or—" You point. "—or I'm supposed to redeem you. That's it. You are mired in the dark pits of despair, and I, using my impressive levels of kindness, will pull you from there, metaphorically— and that's why you think I'm so terrible. Because it's a painful process, you know, becoming a nicer and better person. And then we can do the guidance exchange, and you'll learn all about how to like me more, and I'll learn how to get people to like me. Appreciate me. I said appreciate, because people already like me. Also I can learn how do the nightmare dimension thing."

«This seems equitable.»

Yes! Thank you. Monty is less impressed: he is leaning far back into his chair, thinking. "You're supposed to redeem me, Charlotte?"

You have read about this extensively, though it was never your favorite twist (you tended to prefer the villain destroyed via their own backfiring scheme). This shows all the signs, though. "Well, yes."

"Where did you get this idea?"

"...I have done a considerable amount of research via literary methods?"

"A-ha." He sucks in a cheek. "Constance used to— I know what you're talking about. It's the sort of thing where someone despicable gets a change of heart, yes? And he realizes his actions were wrong, and tries to make amends, and experiences love and impressive levels of kindness. And maybe he slips up here or there, but it's a steady climb uphill besides that, and at the very end the universe rewards him with a beautiful woman. And then he's redeemed and a good person and it's over."

Something is fishy here, but this is all factually true. "Uh, yes, that's the one."

"It's a nice story. It's very simple. You're bad, and feel bad, so you do good things, and then you feel good and are good."

"Well," you say tentatively, "it's important to have a moral, or people will get confused."

"And we wouldn't want that, would we? We wouldn't want bad people to do good things and discover that it's difficult. And more than it's difficult it's endless. If you stop being good, your whole house of cards collapses. You have zero benefit of the doubt. Not that you warrant any, because you have been a bad person for a long time and the habits don't just go away. All you can do is ignore them. And you have to ignore them when you're exhausted, when you're sick, when you're beaten down, when you're out of patience, because a good person doing something bad is an abberration; you doing something bad is a reversion to form."

Richard has rehomed himself to your lap, which he spills out of. You stroke his neck uncomfortably.

"Moreover," Monty says, "there's no such thing as a reward. There's no such thing as justice. Nobody gives a shit about your moral balance sheet except you. Or, in an alternate take, God cares a whole lot, and if you die at the wrong time you're just about screwed. Because you're in Hell, and nobody cares if you redeem yourself in Hell. Except, again, you."

(4/5)
>>
Look at you! You're being tactful, and stuff, by not saying anything. And not because you can't think of anything.

"Anyhow, it's fortunate that's all purely hypothetical. My redemption will be by-the-book, I'm certain, and I look forward to it at a later date. Beautiful woman and all. Could we move on to my next point of interest?"

"What?" you say.

"Excellent. I find your appropriation of Ms. Fitzpatrick's lifeless body disturbing and disrespectful. I am formally asking for you to evict your... I'm forgetting you relationship."

"...Retainer." You fold your arms. "And, sorry, what? Gil isn't doing anything—"

"I've spoken to him, yes, and I don't believe he's a bad person. Nevertheless, he doesn't have a right to somebody else's body, much less an integral member of our leadership."

"She's not using it—"

"I don't care. It's about principle." Monty's sitting straight up. "I find it exceedingly hard to believe Madrigal would've consented to this."

Well, you didn't really have a chance to ask, so that doesn't seem fair. "He doesn't have anywhere else to go! Are you just gonna let him be sad? And— and bodyless? Are you gonna let him use your body, since you're kicking him out of hers? That's not—"

"As I said, he doesn't have any fundamental right to somebody else's body. I won't pretend to understand his... state, but he has my sympathies, and I wish him a speedy return of his own body. Or whatnot. If you feel strongly about it in the interim, perhaps he could borrow yours?"

It's impossible to tell if he's being serious. "I'm using mine!"

"I realize that. To be perfectly clear, Charlotte, I have received complaints about this."

You seethe. "Who!"

"That's confidential. But it's not just me issuing this request, essentially. I would appreciate if you could accomplish this posthaste."

(Choices next.)
>>
>[A1] Well, hold on: it's an *empty body.* She's basically in a coma without Gil in there. Won't her muscles degrade? Or she'll get sores, or whatever? It's a public service to walk that thing around.
>[A2] Er, you were— you were really planning on using that exact body very shortly. (For Headspace.) Could you get a grace period of a few hours? Or a day? You need time to break it to Gil, or whatever.
>[A3] No. No no no no no. He can't be mean to you and then try to make you do something. That's not how it works. How about he actually agrees to the fun guidance swap/redemption thing, then you'll think about this?
>[A4] Write-in.

(The [B]s are optional. You can write-in arguments for bonus modifiers, and can pick as many as you want if you're feeling lucky.)
>[B1] He sort of ignored your generous help offer, didn't he? Double down on that. There's no way you're not convincing him about this. [Roll.]
>[B2] Okay, something's funny with him and the arm— you're pretty sure it's not just him not liking it. Is he super duper sure he's never seen anything like it? [Roll.]
>[B3] You're not sure you liked the way he dismissed your epiphany— you seriously think you're onto something here, even if you cut the redemption part out. Didn't he want to mentor you, like, a week ago? Press the topic. [Roll.]
>[B4] Write-in.
>>
>>5263788
Also, no problem: I called this one super early because I was hoping to get two out today. ...Was hoping. [Laughs in 2.5k word update]
>>
>>5264045
>[A1] Well, hold on: it's an *empty body.* She's basically in a coma without Gil in there. Won't her muscles degrade? Or she'll get sores, or whatever? It's a public service to walk that thing around.

>[B3] You're not sure you liked the way he dismissed your epiphany— you seriously think you're onto something here, even if you cut the redemption part out. Didn't he want to mentor you, like, a week ago? Press the topic. [Roll.]

It's not like you can't get all the same, or even better stuff by not being a good guy. Lots of people are just kinda okay, kinda terrible sometimes but also really nice other times. Not everyone can be like us and commit to being heroic and noble, and that's okay too.

But since he's trying to be nicer, we can meet him half way and take Gil out of Maddie's body even though we have really good reasons to keep him in there if it really means that much to Monty. We aren't some sort of thief, we were just borrowing it because it seemed like a win-win.

He should really talk to Gil, and get to know him before finalizing his position on this, though.
>>
>>5264045
>A1
it's true you know

>B3
>>
>>5264045
>>[A1] Well, hold on: it's an *empty body.* She's basically in a coma without Gil in there. Won't her muscles degrade? Or she'll get sores, or whatever? It's a public service to walk that thing around.
>>[B3] You're not sure you liked the way he dismissed your epiphany— you seriously think you're onto something here, even if you cut the redemption part out. Didn't he want to mentor you, like, a week ago? Press the topic. [Roll.]
>>
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>>5264068
>>5264735
>>5264835
>A1, B3

Neat. I need dice for [B3].

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Chill Out Dude) vs. DC 65 (+20 Distrustful, +5 "Redemption", -10 No Control) to convince Monty you have something to offer each other!

Spend 1 ID for +10 to all rolls? You are at 10/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
>>
Rolled 10 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5265026
Y spend it don't save it
>>
Rolled 86 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5265026
>>
>>5265063
>>5265026

Y
>>
Rolled 94 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5265026
Watch THIS!

>Y
>>
>>5265026
>>5265076
Suddenly glad I didn't make it in time
>>
>>5265048
>>5265063
>>5265076
>15, 91, 99 vs. DC 65 -- Success
>Spendy
Richard refuses to help when he'll clearly attract unwanted attention, so you use your narrative causality powers (or whatever we're calling your last crit ability, feel free to submit names).

Writing.
>>
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This is easily the worst reason I've ever had for not updating, but I got half the update done and then got extremely distracted by A Thread Which Shall Not Be Named. I'll update twice tomorrow (if nothing goes sideways) to compensate.
>>
>>5265402
I will die if I don't know the name of the thread. This is triggering my OCD.
>>
>>5266140
I don't really want to muddy this thread with outside stuff, so it's a thread posted about in the QTG that got a lot of activity last night.

Back to writing. Aiming to have the update out within the next 4 hours (hopefully much sooner).
>>
>Second time's the charm(?)

"I, uh—" You scrabble for arguments. "Have you even gotten to know Gil? If you just talked to him for a little while, then I bet you'd—"

"I have talked to him, Charlotte. I spent a good amount of time with him while he was Ellery. Which I'm doing a courtesy by not bringing up—"

"That never happened! And if it did happen, I got permission, so you can't go and—"

"That I find more likely. But regardless, I did talk to Gil, Charlotte, and I don't believe he's a malicious actor. This is not a personal attack on him— or on you, for that matter. It's just the respectful thing to do."

"I wasn't trying to be disrespectful," you mutter. "That's stupid. I just figured she wasn't using it, and— and Gil needed it, and also it would've been weird to just leave it there, and everybody would've blamed me for it, and if I left it it would've rotted, probably. Or shriveled up, or gotten sores, or— so you should be thanking me, really. What if I rescued Madrigal and she found out she had sores?"

Monty considers this. "...I'd hope she'd be returned posthaste, so there'll be no need for, er, sores."

"But there could be sores. Or worse. Are you going to explain to Madrigal that you directly caused the hideous degradation of her mortal vessel? That it's all your fault her arms and legs have fallen off? Or—"

"There's no need to hyperbolize, Charlotte. I'd agree that limited exercise might be overall beneficial, though I'm uncertain how much."

You nod vigorously. "Yes! It would be beneficial, so unless you intend to exercise her, our only option is for Gil to—"

"Drastically limit his time? Yes. I see no reason for his..." He waves a hand vaguely.

"Possession?" you supply.

He doesn't like that word, from the look on his face, but it appears he can't think of a better one. "...his 'possession' to last longer than 30 minutes a day. That's enough time for stretching her legs."

"An hour at least."

"45 minutes." He narrows his eyes at you. "And be discreet about it. Don't take him on social visits."

45 minutes is 45 more minutes than the previous deal, so you're considering this a solid win. You bat your eyelashes modestly. "Well, if you say so."

"I do. I'm glad we could resolve this matter. I presume that'll be all?"

What? Why does he presume that? You narrow your eyes back at him. It's awful peculiar how he just reverted back to form for the Gil stuff— if you didn't know better you could've sworn he hadn't just thrown a bunch of wild accusations at you. Was he embarrassed about his little 'redemption' outburst back there? Was he trying to change the subject away from your 100% valid, legitimate co-guidance offer? As if Monty could outplay you. Ha. You fold your arms. "Um, no, it won't be."

Monty sighs.

(1/3?)
>>
"Hey! You're not allowed to— you roped me into this, if you forgot, and I've been very polite sitting here listening to you ramble, and barely interrupting, and now that I have my own great idea—"

"I'm not sure I'd characterize it that way," he says shortly.

Be tactful. Be tactful. "Why?"

"Because interacting with you is against my better interests. It's unhealthy for both of us." He raises his hand when you open your mouth. "Unambiguously, Charlotte. And moreover—"

"You keep using 'moreover,'" you mumble.

He sighs again. "—moreover, I'm not certain what'd make this any different from previously, where nothing at all was accomplished. Maybe worse than nothing. I don't understand what I'm supposed to gain from this, to be absolutely frank."

You already explained what he's supposed to gain from this! God! Though, if you're being honest with yourself, you will admit that it's a bit of a secondary concern. Mainly, you were thinking— you already have yourself (heroine) and Gil (loyal retainer), so you've got those covered, but you've gone ages and ages without a whisper of a wise, aged mentor.

«What are you talking about.»
«That is not how anything works.»
«If it was how anything worked, in what scenario would I not qualify as the wise—»

Richard isn't your wise-and-aged-mentor, he's your— he's a demon— he's the foul, corrupted ghost of your late father (that sounds right), and someday you will purge the corruption from him with your shining will and sacred blade!

«Are you plotting to kill me.»

Um... metaphorically. You're killing the— the corrupted part. Not all of him. (You don't think you can kill all of him.) And anyhow, you're not thinking about that right now, you're thinking about Monty, whom you'd previously dismissed as an irrelevant bystander— foolishly, as it happens, because nobody irrelevant could have a cool magyck arm. Therefore, since he's both wise (possibly?) and aged (he's got have at least a decade on you), it only makes sense. You just have to convince him it makes sense.

"Well," you say, "you— you have to."

"I have to."

"See, I— have I told you about this?" You drop your voice. "I'm destined for greatness, Monty. Um, not— not as a figure of speech. I mean, I have an actual, literal great destiny. A god verified it and everything. And, with much consideration, I have identified you as a key player in said destiny, so you have to— you have to contribute."

Monty has no counter to your well-reasoned argument. You reach over the desk and take his limp good hand in your own. "Okay? So if you'd just—"

>[-1 ID: 9/13]

You're not quite sure what happens: it feels like someone took a corkscrew to your head, mainly, but as soon as the pain registers it's vanished. You attempt to look normal, though you're unsure why, because Monty doesn't look normal in the slightest. He's staring through you, white-faced.

(2/3)
>>
...Richard?

«I did nothing. What did you do.»

Nothing! You release Monty's hand, hold your breath for a moment, and sure enough he focuses back on you. "..."

"So..." You sit back. "Is that a yes?"

"Oh, God." He tries to smile but can't manage it. "I— I— yes. If you say so. I don't know what I have to do with this, but—"

You don't know what 'this' is, but you're not messing with another solid win. (You're so good at this.) "Okay! Great! So I will— how about I start this off with some of my advice? Yeah." Monty doesn't respond. "So, I think you're way too concerned about being perfect. That's stupid. Almost nobody's perfect, and almost everybody is sort of sucky and pathetic, actually, and unless you're one of the few people born perfect you're just gonna kill yourself or someone else trying. So just be sucky and pathetic sometimes, okay? Nobody's gonna care but you. Like you said."

Monty isn't really paying attention, you're noticing. He's staring at the wall again.

"So that's my advice, and I'll await your sage mentorship at a later date." You curtsey. (It's been a while since you curtseyed last, hasn't it? You miss it.) "Fare thee well, Montgomery."

You're preparing yourself for your dramatic leaving flourish (as soon as you get the damn door tie undone) when Monty speaks from behind you. "Take care of Gil."

"I will!" You perform your dramatic leaving flourish right on cue. You are back in the sunshine.

>Wat do?
>[1] Okay, so recruiting Monty for the maybe-Madrigal thing didn't pan out. This is totally fine and according to plan. Go find Ellery (hopefully he hasn't left already) and drag him with.
>[2] It's not quite time for the Headspace escapade, but it's veering awfully close, and you need some time to get Gil psyched up for it. Retrieve him from Horse Face's bony clutches again.
>[3] Whew! That was quite a lot, wasn't it? Head back to your tent to cool down and also grill Richard the liar about whatever he did to Monty. Maybe continue your crusade against his foul corruption.
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5266506
>[1] Okay, so recruiting Monty for the maybe-Madrigal thing didn't pan out. This is totally fine and according to plan. Go find Ellery (hopefully he hasn't left already) and drag him with.
If he has left track him down and ask how he could have possibly expected to succeed without us.
>>
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>>5266543
You got it. Writing.
>>
>>5266506
>>[1] Okay, so recruiting Monty for the maybe-Madrigal thing didn't pan out. This is totally fine and according to plan. Go find Ellery (hopefully he hasn't left already) and drag him with.
>>
>[1] Okay, so recruiting Monty for the maybe-Madrigal thing didn't pan out. This is totally fine and according to plan. Go find Ellery (hopefully he hasn't left already) and drag him with.
>>
>Back on track

You could retrieve Gil— you're getting the itchy sense your Headspace appointment is nearly due, and it'd be prudent to prevent him from forming bonds with Horse Face. (If such a thing is possible.) Except that you ditched him to see possibly-Madrigal, and you haven't seen possibly-Madrigal yet, and it'd be embarrassing to come back empty-handed.

The Wind Court it is, then, and Ellery— because if you go along and don't bring him he'll reach previously unheard-of heights of insufferableness. Fantastic. Monty told him to go back to what he was doing, so presumably that means loitering creepily around your tent. You head there.

-

Ellery is not at your tent. Ellery is not at his tent, either, or at Madrigal's, and when you begrudgingly ask an irrelevant bystander or two where he's been you're pointed toward town. Meaning he headed off to ruin everything all by himself.

God, you miss when he was just a miserable hermit.

-

You're in the hot part of the day— whatever that means with the sun a mile up. Maybe the vents in Hell pump extra hard in the afternoon, or whatever. It's not your problem. It's hot, and the water's thick and greenish, and all of it's conspiring to make you sleepy. Can you take a nap after cat-herding Ellery? No, because of the Headspace appointment— but maybe after. Or maybe Richard can wake you up now.

«What.»
«What was that.»

He's been draped over your shoulders, mostly silent. Has he been dozing?

«A snake does not require sleep. It is an inefficiency and a waste of time.»

Oh, right, so what he does at night is, what, tactical restfulness? Meditation? When you bolt sweatily awake from a pre-dawn nightmare, and he's lying unresponsive on your desk, and you have to limp over and grab him or say his name aloud— that's an elaborate con?

«A snake does not require sleep.»
«I will modify my alert system.»
«What did you want.»

You want wake-up drugs.

«You are remaining in your body or else. That was humiliating.»
«I will taper.»

-

You feel great, like you could do anything— like you've already taken care of the Ellery situation, practically. The world is your oyster, which you always thought was a stupid phrase, since oysters are nasty and slimy and taste bad and you got sick from oyster worms once and vomited oyster into a pisspot. And then Aunt Ruby continued to make you eat oysters afterward, because they were cheap. You hate oysters. The world is your something else.

«I believe the phrase refers to pearl oysters.»

Then why doesn't it say pearl oysters, huh? He thinks he's so smart and he can't even explain stupid common phrases. Anyhow, excluding the oysters, you feel great. Stellar. Fantastic. Fantabulous. Why don't you feel like this all the time?

>[+1 ID: 11/13]

«It would have ill effects on your heart and my sanity.»

(1/2?)
>>
Your heart is kind of pounding, but you don't even care, because you've made it to town in record time and are strolling through it unbothered by the weird looks people are throwing you. You're pretty sure it's because you're now famous, but though this is a welcome (and frankly long-overdue) development you don't even care about it. You are focused. Single-minded. Your entire being is trained on one solitary goal, which—

«Why are you never like this about something that matters.»

—you are ignoring that, Richard, and it does matter. Stopping Ellery from ruining everything always matters. And with your entire being trained on that one solitary extremely important goal, you bang through the makeshift door of the HWCCRBEMSYATGF and discover Ellery ruining everything.

Or you assume this is the general tenor of things, since Ellery's arms are waving around. "It's my fucking girlfriend, Dib, you can't—"

"It is a nonhuman, Mr. Routh. We are not accepting visitors at this time."

"Fuck off with the 'Mr.'—"

"Hello!" you announce.

Ellery has the gall to look irritated at your interruption; Lucky the opposite. He slides gracefully away from the counter and strides toward. "Ah, Ms. Fawkins! Our hero."

>[+2 ID: 13/13]

"Who? Me?" (Yes! You! You!) "Well, I'm sure I don't—"

"I do. I've been hearing about it for the last 20 hours, give or take. You're the talk of town." Lucky's smile is blinding. "It's the shame about the loss of Lancepesade Lai, of course, but he was always a risk-taker. And this was a dangerous opponent."

"I'm sure it wasn't all that—" This is God. This is what God feels like.

"Let's be realistic, Ms. Fawkins, it was a bloodbath. Lancepesade Lai had completely failed at containing the situation. You saved the lives of dozens, I'm sure, and look at you. Not even a scratch."

This is more than a bit facile, given the natural healing factor, but you're so high off adoration (and uppers) it entirely fails to register. "Well, I— I— yes, I—"

"How did you do it?" The smile wattage is only increasing. "I'd ask over drinks this evening, but I'm not sure I can fend off the questions long enough to get there. And I'm fascinated, I will admit."

Behind Lucky, Ellery is engaging in some some impenetrable gestures— it takes forever for you to read it as handsign, because it's essentially pantomime. He's doing something with his fingers. Water? Slow water? Uh, and the well-established sign for 'prick.'

«Slimy prick.»

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] Launch into the elaborate 10-minute dramatic retelling/physical reenactment of your daring battle(s) with The Gooplicate. You know you want to. You want to.
>[2] Throw every ounce of your willpower into resisting a complete retelling/reenactment, because you hate yourself and God hates you. [Difficult roll.]
>[3] You feel like you could explode Ellery into bitty pieces with your mind. You are also probably not a reliable source at the present moment. Get an adult to step in, at least until the downers start working. [-2 ID]
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5266886
>[4] Combat your desire for a complete retelling/reenactment by reminding yourself that a retelling over drinks this evening means not only good feels, but also FREE DRINKS.
>>
>>5266920
>>5266886
Supporting
>>
>>5266920
>>5267313
You got it. This isn't enough to obviate the roll, but it'll give you a bonus on it. (You can angle for free drinks later regardless of whether you spill your guts now-- Lucky and crew still owe you.)

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 20 (-20 You're Famous!!!, -15 Richard Is Terrible At Proper Dosing, +15 Free Drinks Tho) vs. DC 49 (-1 Ellery Semaphore) to resist indisputably the greatest moment of your lifetime.

Spend ID for roll bonuses? You have 13/13 ID.
>[1] Spend 1 ID for +10 to all rolls
>[2] Spend 2 ID for +20 to all rolls
>[3] Do not spend ID.
>>
Rolled 50 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>5267628
>[1]
Let's spend a little, yea.
>>
Rolled 86 - 20 (1d100 - 20)

>>5267628
>[2] Spend 2 ID for +20 to all rolls
>>
Rolled 31 - 20 (1d100 - 20)

>>5267628

SPENDY X2
>>
>>5267867
>>5267885
>>5267974
>50, 86, 31 vs. DC 49 -- Success
>Double spendy

Nice, close one. I thiiiink the last time I allowed a +20 was Thread 6... might be bringing it back as a permanent mechanic depending on what happens.
>>
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>Resist+Order Difficulty 1
>50, 86, 31 vs. DC 49 — Success
>Double spendy

You don't know what Ellery's talking about. You also don't care what Ellery's talking about. There is somebody out here nice and interested and appreciative of you, for quite probably the very first time in your life, and if you let this opportunity slip through your fingers you might actually die. You might burst into flames. "I—"

>[-2 ID: 11/13]

Your mouth is not moving. Your jaw has locked up. Around your neck, Richard is rigid.

«Don't make a fool of yourself.»

You were not— he's jealous, is what he is. He's jealous of having somebody like you, because nobody at all likes him, because he is a stupid reptile and you hate him. You want to set him on fire.

«This man was and continues to be your direct competitor for the Crown.»
«If he has your best interests at heart, then I'm your uncle.»

He's your uncle?

«No.»
«It would be odd to say nothing. But <do not> elaborate.»
«Unrelatedly, while I'm here, I am making another useful structural alteration.»

He's— he's what? Your gums throb. Is he making your gums throb? Is it related to the heart thing? Is your heart making your gums throb?

«No, it's—»
«...»
«There is no reason to tell the story to this man alone. He will be presumably be accompanied at the tavern this evening. Your audience will be larger.»
«Say that.»

Your jaw unlocks, though your gums don't unache: you run your tongue along them. While you'd feel a lot queasier about the whole 'structural alteration' idea if you paid it any attention, you're not paying it any attention. How could you? Your whole entire being is trained on one solitary thing, which is now obtaining free drinks with umbrellas in. This is the best idea you've ever heard, probably, and it came straight from Richard, who's a genius. You love Richard. You're going to get him his own drink with an umbrella in, but it'll— it'll be a yellow umbrella. Since he's yellow.

«I do not consume beverages.»
«Say something. He is looking.»

Lucky is in fact looking. "...Ms. Fawkins?"

"I—" you say experimentally. "I— excuse me, I was thinking. Ahem! I would be positively delighted to recount my intrepid and, dare I say, dashing adventure... this evening. My powers of storytelling require lubrication to achieve their full power. Indeed?"

"Hmm." He rubs his chin. "Harrier-Leftenant Fawkins was a little tentative around spirits, as I recall it, but that only goes to show— well, in any case, I'll be greatly looking forward to it. We have our own table at the little establishment around here, the, er—"

"Better Than Nothing!" you offer.

"That's the one. We'll be there." Lucky tucks his hands into his jacket pockets. "Now, what can I do for you?"

What can he do for you? Well, you've locked in the umbrellas, and Ellery's not ruined anything so far (as you know), so you're not sure—

«The whore.»

(1/2)
>>
Oh! Madrigal! You put your hands on your hips. "Yes! I have come to inquire about a captive of yours. You've been holding hostage one of our very own—"

"Ms. Fawkins..." Lucky's expression is long-suffering. "I don't know where this rumor has spread around from, but the detainee is not your quartermaster. We've conducted conclusive testing. It's another 'goo,' like the corpse you hauled in, though this one hasn't admitted to any murders."

"Fuck off, Dib!" It's Ellery out of nowhere. "Go and leave out the most important—"

Lucky throws you a Look. "The detainee claims to be the person of Ms. Madrigal Fitzpatrick. When confronted by the obvious evidence that is is not the person of Ms. Fitzpatrick, it further claims that it has been surgically altered against its will, and demands to be undetained. Creatures of this type are highly manipulative, as you've learned firsthand."

"And he won't fucking let me see Maddie! Not even through the door!"

"Highly manipulative. Mr. Routh is a untrained civilian. Are you two acquainted?"

>[1] Nope. You are definitely not acquainted to Mr. Routh (and thank God!). You are also sort of not a civilian, so surely it makes sense for you to talk to this detainee? Alone? [Roll.]
>[2] As [1], but agree to Lucky or somebody chaperoning. [Easier roll, but you'll be more closely supervised.]
>[3] Um, unfortunately. Apologize profusely for Ellery's ruining, make it clear that he's an obnoxious impulsive idiot, and make the case that his lapse(s) in judgement should be forgiven. Because of true love! Or something. [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5268306
>3
We can be his chaperone, with our incredible skills and impeccable knowledge of protocol
>>
>>5268306
>[3] Um, unfortunately. Apologize profusely for Ellery's ruining, make it clear that he's an obnoxious impulsive idiot, and make the case that his lapse(s) in judgement should be forgiven. Because of true love! Or something. [Roll.]
>>
>>5268306
>[2] As [1], but agree to Lucky or somebody chaperoning. [Easier roll, but you'll be more closely supervised.]

Maddie, if this IS the real one in a gooplicate body, should appreciate that we are keeping her stuff (body) safe and are being cautious of a potential gooplicate swooping in and grabbing it. If they did extract her from the Snake and kick her out the door in a gooplicate body, then maybe we can check by manse diving into her! But we'll also need to interrogate her since what if it wasn't a transference but a copy and there's another equally valid "her" still held hostage.

Also they shot Gil. That has to be accounted for.

Oh and they copied us.

Anyways, we got lots of questions and until we dig them out Maddie should understand, with our amazing powers of persuasion, that her being in custody is safest for her.

Also we can be a reliable witness to her friends and the common folk who love us by the way that she isn't being tortured or exposed to fire because we know first hand that the Court can be pretty trigger happy. Without a reliable witness, people might assume the worst and things could get really messy.

To paraphrase a way Charlotte never would, better to have her inside pissing out than outside pissing in.
>>
>>5268306
>>[3] Um, unfortunately. Apologize profusely for Ellery's ruining, make it clear that he's an obnoxious impulsive idiot, and make the case that his lapse(s) in judgement should be forgiven. Because of true love! Or something. [Roll.]
>>
>>5268524
>>5268832
>>5269161
>[3]

>>5268990
>[1]

Called for [3] (also incorporating the write-in per usual).

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 18 (+15 Owed One) vs. DC 77 (+20 ???, +20 Unsupervised, -10 ???, -3 Dunking on Ellery) to speak with the detainee unsupervised!
>>
>>5269269
Oh, and you can spend ID, obviously. You're at 11/13.

>[1] Spendy
>[2] No spendy.
>>
Rolled 15 + 18 (1d100 + 18)

>>5269269
>>
>>5269269
>>5269278
>>5269273
1
>>
Rolled 44 + 18 (1d100 + 18)

>>5269269

Spendy
>>
Rolled 51 + 18 (1d100 + 18)

>>5269269
>>
>>5269278
>>5269281
>>5269410
>43, 72, 79 vs. DC 77 -- Mitigated Success
>Spendy

Writing.
>>
>>5269410
>>5269273
Can I vote for spendy despite not rolling?
>>
>>5269451
Nope. The whole driving concept of spendy is that it's a risk/reward gamble. You're intended to vote before you fully know if you'll succeed or not, otherwise people would only spend if it pushed the result up a threshold. (Also, 3 rolls/3 votes ensures there's no tie.)
>>
Rolled 16, 70, 80 = 166 (3d100)

>>5269457
>>5269269
Oh, god, just realized that I messed up with the modifiers-- you should've been a +15, not a +18, like it says in the parentheses (the Ellery bonus was originally tagged to you). This is just enough to push you down to a failure, which feels cruddy, so I'll do a bonus roll:

>Dunk on Ellery extra hard, 3d100s DC 30
>Mitigated Success or above, the Dunking on Ellery modifier is increased to -6 (and the Mitigated Success on your main roll is preserved)
>>
>>5269459
>Success
You dunk on Ellery even harder than originally intended. Lucky is impressed.

Back to writing.
>>
>Look man it's TRUE LOVE

"Are we acquainted? I— yes, we are acquainted. We are acquainted." You glower at Fake Ellery. "He was supposed to come with me, but he went on his own because he's an— an incompetent. And an idiot, and a shadie, and a coward, and he has no sense of self-preservation, and he talks too much—" (Ellery throws up his hands.) "—and he can't even read, and he has too many secrets, and all his secrets are stupid. And he's been pining over his stupid ex for months like a teenager even though he's old and he broke up with her and she's not that great! She's a bitch and her shoulders and thighs are exposed for unmarried men to see. It's completely whoreish. But he's even worse."

Lucky is putting great effort into controlling his expression. It's only half-working, leaving him with a wavering smirk. "I would describe you as acquainted, then, yes. Though you've left out his dabblings in unnatural—"

"Rot in hell," Ellery snaps. "And fuck you, Lottie, you leave Maddie out of—"

"Oh!" you say. "You mean his horrible pagan stuff? I should've said that. He's also a stupid pagan who believes in stupid dead gods. But that's not really relevant. The point is, he thinks his whore ex-girlfriend is in here, so he's fueled by love. True love. And nothing can stand in the way of—"

"With all due respect, Ms. Fawkins, I tend to believe barred doors can. I'd also say that your catalog, while to the best of my knowledge true—"

"How the fuck would you know?!"

Lucky fails to acknowledge the interruption. "—doesn't really recommend Mr. Routh."

«No. It doesn't.»
«You're running far too hot. Settle down.»

>[-1 ID: 10/13]

Richard punctuates the 'settle down' with a cold splash of water to the inside of your skull, which you dearly hope isn't literal, and you gasp and sputter then attempt to hide that under a vicious cough. Even you'd admit it's not terribly convincing, but Lucky fails to comment.

«Tell him the <point> is he's damaged enough to badger them about it forever.»

Richard isn't your boss. "Well— yes! It doesn't recommend him. I wouldn't recommend him. But the point is, he's driven by true love, even though it's stupid true love, and true love is unstoppable! Even by doors!"

You had never much cared for works that prominently featured 'true love,' as they tended to feature paragraphs and paragraphs of eyes like limpid puddles and skin like flaxen seasilk and hair also like flaxen seasilk in between the interesting sword-fighting / monster-slaying bits. This didn't mean you didn't pick up a thing or two about it, though. "I mean, since he could pick it, right? Or try to batter it down? Or—"

"If Mr. Routh attempts to batter the door down, he will also be detained."

(1/3)
>>
Your heart rate is slowing. "How many detention rooms do you have? Don't answer that. Um, okay, so then you'll have detained both the quartermaster and her well-known compatriot, which—"

"The goo duplicate and an illicit intruder, Ms. Fawkins." (Ellery is running out of incredulous facial expressions to make. "I haven't done anything yet!")

"No! The quartermaster and her well-known compatriot." You point. "That's how everyone's gonna see it. Everyone. You know nobody around here likes you guys, right?"

Lucky sours. "I do know the local populace is unaware of the important role the Wind Court plays in the—"

"Okay, but they don't like you, and I bet they're chomping at the bit to run you out. I mean it. There's, what— two of you are dead, so eight max? Probably six or seven? And you don't have guns. So I'm saying, if he goes spreading stuff around, or if he goes missing, people are gonna— didn't you say they're already talking? They're already talking. They probably think you're torturing the camp quartermaster as we speak."

"We do not torture."

You guffaw.

"We conduct intensive questioning." He folds his arms behind his back. "I'm sorry if you feel our methods constitute 'torture,' but factually—"

"Factually?" He can't be serious. "Factually. Okay, look, setting aside the actual torture— totally setting it aside. Since when do facts matter? Seriously? When do people care— when does anything care about the facts of the situation? Last I checked, people don't storm your headquarters and shoot your heads off based on facts. They do it because they believe you're psychopaths who keep torturing innocent, pure-hearted young women! And whether or not you are doesn't really matter when alligators are eating your intestines."

Lucky's lips are drawn back over his blinding teeth.

"But—" You curtsey again (to get back into practice). "—if you let Ellery in, he won't go around spreading crazy rumors, right? And if I come with, I can personally vet that you haven't been torturing her. Since you wouldn't torture anybody. Right?"



You'd been throwing Ellery continuous smug looks as Lucky marched the two of you to the detention room (apparently different from the Intensive Questioning Room, since you passed that on the way), but he refused to acknowledge any of them, and now that you're in front of the barred door it seems uncouth. Lucky shunts the wooden bars aside with a grunt and eyes the two of you. "I'm opening the door and standing right here. You are not to enter the room. If I sense dangerous levels of manipulation, it's over."

You trust his definition of "dangerous levels of manipulation" not at all, but you bob your head. "Just open the fucking door," Ellery says. (Have you seen Fake Ellery this snappish before? Is it the proximity of Madrigal? Of Lucky? Both?)

(2/3)
>>
Lucky swings the door open.

"Oh, thank GODS. You've changed your mind? You're letting me out of this fucking HOLE?" The voice inside the detention room is strident but indeed remarkably Madrigalish. The person is similar: she's clothed in boots, gloves, and a tasteless yellow jumpsuit, and she looks remarkably Madrigalish, if Madrigal were a lit candle. The hair's right, but the skin is translucent and drippy. (Maybe it's due to the lantern hanging from the ceiling, which you can feel is real fire from outside the room.)

"You have visitors, detainee." Lucky indicates you and Ellery. "They will be speaking with you."

"I can barely fucking SEE them. Can they come in?"

"The visitors will be staying here. Visitors, speak."

>[1] Speak. (What questions do you have for Possibly Madrigal? Write-in. If you can't think of anything, Ellery will ask stuff on his own, though who knows how useful it'll be!)

>[2] Speak?? With Lucky hovering like a weirdo?? Impossible.
>>[A] Somehow convince Ellery to stage a distraction, buying you a window of unaccompanied time. (Plausible ways to do so / plausible distractions will greatly lower the DC.) [Difficult roll.]
>>[B] Okay, so the Winsome Charm didn't go so well with Monty. This isn't Monty, though, meaning nothing at all can go wrong with this. Nothing! (Advanced Gaslighting. What do you say?) [Difficult roll.]
>>[C] You know what you need, here? You need to *commune* with Possibly Madrigal, therefore Looking Into Her Heart and identifying her True Nature. Except you've never communed at a distance before, and also never really in a normal everyday setting. Consult with Richard for possibilities. (Ideas of your own would also help.) [Possible roll? Of unknown difficulty? If Richard cooperates?]
>>[D] Write-in.
>>
>>5269604
>1
Ask how she escaped, I guess
It could be real maddie in some weird temp body situation, we don't know
5% chance
>>
>>5269604
> 1

Does she know what happened to her body? Can she describe anyone who she saw @ headspace. How does she feel about being a gooplicate? Has the Court hurt her in any way? Would she like to pass any message along to Monty?

Reassure her that her body is being taken care of. Is she the only copy made? What does a gooplicate want? Does she know if the corporation left any way to control her body? Does she like our new clothes? Would she like us to bring her any small comforts during this period where we assess her identity? Does she know we fought our own gooplicate, who was a member of the Wind Court, so without ys vouching for her she's comprehensively fucked instead of just really fucked, so it's for the best that she works with us instead of getting burned (probably literally) by the Court.

Also reassure her that Gil is fine despite getting shot and that revenge will be ours
>>
>>5269604
>>1
>>
>>5270210
>>5270375
>>5270442
>Various 1s
You got it. Writing.

>>5270375
>Can she describe anyone who she saw @ headspace.
There's two sketchy magic-ish companies in the plot, so I don't blame you for the mix-up, but you're thinking of Namway (who manufactures the goo clones, whose facility you blew up, and whose head researcher Pat shot Gil and kidnapped Madrigal). Headspace is the one who makes low-quality manses for people, and it's the one linked to locitis. You have no conclusive evidence they're related.

>Does she know we fought our own gooplicate, who was a member of the Wind Court
If you're lying about this because Lucky's standing right there, you're all good. If it wasn't intended to be a lie, I'll gently remind you that you're 99% sure the "gooplicate" you killed was actually a human person disguised as you. This means it was *you* who deserted the Wind Court about two years ago... except neither you nor Richard can remember two years ago. Weird!
>>
>>5270722
Yeah, I meant to mention the Gooplicate to explain to Maddie why they're being so extra about the imprisonment.
>>
>>5270852
Then you're all good. If you're still here, could you elaborate on what exactly you mean by "What does a gooplicate want"? I'll give it my best interpretation if you don't respond in time.
>>
>Engage in INTENSIVE QUESTIONING

It'd be best if Ellery got his questions out of the way first, so he won't interrupt you and you can upstage him handily, but for once in his life he isn't saying anything at all. He's gazing into the room with his brow furrowed. You'd best describe his expression as 'seasick.'

So it falls on you to carry the whole plan through, per usual. You shake the anticipatory jitters out, then attempt to figure out what to do with your hands. On your hips? Behind your back? Lucky has his behind his back, and he's the torture expert. This is basically torture without the torture part, is it not? You follow his lead.

"Ahem," you say officiously. "Yes, indeed, the visitors have come to— it's Charlotte. And Ellery. You know us, right?"

"I can't see..." Possibly Madrigal trails off. "Have you guys come to get me OUT of this dump? I've just been sitting here TIED to the WALL, since this Court douchebag won't—"

"We will not be releasing the detainee at this time," Lucky says pointedly. "The visitors are not authorized to grant clemency."

"Fuck you," Ellery mutters at the ground. You shift your weight. "Um, we can't let you out right now, but if you answer our questions maybe he'll change his mind? You should probably cooperate even if he doesn't change his mind, um... how have you been treated so far? Besides the tying to the wall. And the detention room."

"How have I been TREATED? I was minding my own BUSINESS when two goons came, scooped me up, and stuck me in this HOLE."

"The detainee was wandering dazed and apparently lost in the outskirts of the Fenpelok Wilderness Area. Two rank members encounter her on regular patrol and connected her with the whereabouts of Ms. Fitzpatrick, whose abduction had been reported by a one Ms. Crenshaw previously in the day. The detainee failed to answer simple questions about its circumstances, so in light of the trouble with previous imposters, it was taken in. Everything was according to standard protocol, Ms. Fawkins, Mr. Routh."

"Standard protocol my ASS. You MELTED MY FACE."

Eloise reported Madrigal's kidnapping? You guess she told you you should, but still. You open your mouth to interject, but Lucky beats you to it. "The detainee is referring to the standard testing done to verify its unnatural status. If it were not unnatural, its face would not have lost integrity, and it would have been released with an apology. Instead, it failed the testing."

You consider this. "Does the testing involve fire?"

"Yes." Lucky tilts his head. "But you may recall that your face remained on your skull, Ms. Fawkins."

There's no good response to that. "Um, okay— Madrigal, did they do anything else to you? Or just melt your face."

"They've been keeping me in here for HOURS with nothing to do, if that—"

(1/4?)
>>
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But she hasn't been tortured. (Lucky's eyes are smug. You can tell they're smug.) "Okay, well... sorry about that. Um, I think that is what happens in detention cells, usually. But anyhow. You do admit that your face is melting?"

Possibly Madrigal flings her arms out. "I'm not godsdamn blind anymore, am I?"

...She's right, she was blinded, you think. By the snake. Did that get fixed? "So that's a yes...?"

"Yes, I know my damn FACE is melting! Do you think I want it melting? Do you think I like—?" Her voice cracks. "I didn't ask to be a MONSTER, okay. I didn't. They made me. And this douchebag won't believe me, and I'm so confused, and—"

Ellery steps back from the door, hand on forehead. You throw him a weird look and slide into his empty space. "They made you? You mean Pat, or—?"

"Yeah. Pat. And Lester, at least one of him, and... everybody. All of them."

At least one of him? Are there multiple? "Is that who you saw at Namway?"

"I saw EVERYBODY. But yeah, them. Dierdre."

You don't think you've met a Dierdre. "Do you remember exactly what they did to your body?"

"Exactly what they did? I was knocked out. I think Pat said it'd be too PAINFUL otherwise." Possibly Madrigal scoffs bitterly. "So no, not exactly. I just woke up with a face that wasn't MY face, and it— it thinks. They don't tell you that part. It doesn't think in words, but it thinks. It tells me who I AM. I HATE it."

You look at Lucky for context. He rubs his nose. "The Wind Court does not conduct research into the unnatural, Ms. Fawkins. We are comfortable containing it."

Maybe Possibly Madrigal is still a little delirious. (Wasn't she wandering dazedly?) Or maybe not. "You mean gooplicates think? Or goo does?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

Hmm. "So do you know what it... wants? Does it want?"

There's a silence. "The stuff wants to be a person," Possibly Madrigal says roughly. "A real person. And it'll kill real people and steal their bodies to do that. I THOUGHT that was common knowledge."

Look, you— maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Maybe you've forgotten. Ha ha. "Um... you're not killed though. Your— your real body is safe, so don't worry. I've been making sure you don't get sores."

"...I don't know if I'm slow," Possibly Madrigal says, "but I don't know what you're getting at."

You're not telling her about Gil if you can help it. "Don't worry about it. It's safe. Uh, in the meantime, do you think Pat left any kind of... tracker in you? Or something to control your mind or body or something? Since you were knocked out..."

"How the hell would I know? It's not like they'd TELL me." She sits back against the wall. "I don't think Pat would do that, but..."

There's a new note of worry to her voice. "She probably didn't," you reassure her. "I was just checking. Do you know if she's made any Madrigals besides you? Like copies, or gooplicates, or—"

(2/4)
>>
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"Uh... I think Dierdre took the blood samples with her. I don't know if they made any before that, because they NEVER tell me things."

Dierdre again. "Who's Dierdre?"

"The HR rep? She's nice... sort of crazy, I think. But nice."

That doesn't help. "You met her?"

"Yeah?" Possibly Madrigal sounds bemused. "She took me WITH her, but we got separated... it was DARK. You know how it is in the dark."

You do know how it is in the dark. "Sorry, do you mean you escaped with her? Or she helped you escape?"

"Yeah."

So she made a friend? Maybe? It's a good enough answer for you. "Well, um, congratulations. I got new clothes since yesterday, so you know. Nobody's noticed very much."

"I can't see very well. The lighting in here is SHIT." Possibly Madrigal attempts to shield her eyes. "They're probably cool clothes, though."

"Please keep personal inquiries to a minimum," Lucky says.

"That wasn't a rule," you mumble. (It's a good enough compliment. You'll take it.) "Do you need new clothes? I think you'd look okay in a button-down, completely hypothetically. And suspenders. But you've got to get rid of that hideous jumpsuit. Or do you need anything else? Like a drink, or—"

"The detainee is not permitted alcohol," Lucky says.

"I could USE a drink. But I'd take a damn newspaper or pack of cards or something. Have I mentioned I've been stuck in a HOLE for HOURS?"

You raise your eyebrows at Lucky, who closes his eyes. "We may discuss this after visitation has ended."

You could get Possibly Madrigal a newspaper. That'd be a heroic thing to do, probably. "I'll discuss it. Do you want to tell Monty anything? He wanted to come to see you too, but—"

"Monty," she says slowly. "Um... if that counts as someone who can get me OUT OF HERE, then I'd like him to do that."

With the arm? Not likely. "I'll ask him, I guess, but— do you know why you're in here? Really. Because they didn't just pick on you for no reason. It's like Lucky said, um, there's been some trouble with gooplicates going around. And I mean trouble."

"Six bodies, detainee. One of them ours. Caused by the likes of you." Lucky has stepped forward. "For the last time, we are exercising caution."

"Um, yes." You dislike him stealing your thunder. "Indeed. Caution. Also, the gooplicate was pretending to be a Courtier, and it was disguised as me of all people, so of course I righteously stabbed it dead! In a grand battle! It was very cool, just so you know, and—"

"It was disguised as you?" Possibly Madrigal says.

"I know! It thought it could skulk around pretending to be the real Charlotte Fawkins— Lady Charlotte Fawkins. That's my actual title, by the way, I'm not a 'Ms.'—" Lucky isn't paying attention. Damnit.

The silence is longer than it has any right to be. "You STABBED DIER—?!"

(3/4)
>>
Lucky slams the door shut. "That's enough civilian exposure. I apologize for not allowing Mr. Routh any time, but, er..."

Ellery is standing stock still, his forehead against the wall.

"He's fine," you say distractedly. (What was the last part? He cut it off.) "He's just weird. I told you. Um, I wanted to— hold on." You press your face against the doorjamb. "GIL'S FINE BY THE WAY AND I'LL AVENGE HIM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!! AND I'LL GET THE NEWSPAPER!!!"

"If you and Mr. Routh are deadset on providing aid and comfort to a dangerous creature," Lucky says, "you can bring in a newspaper. But we're vetting it, so don't even consider smuggling anything."

"...Okay," you say. (Damn.)

He shoos you away from the door and shoves the bars back into place, kicking the door for good measure. "Thank you for your cooperation, Ms. Fawkins. You and Mr. Routh were very well-behaved." Surprisingly well-behaved, his tone indicates. "Do you still believe it's Ms. Fitzpatrick in there?" You'd be stupid if you did, his tone indicates.

>[A1] Yes! It's Madrigal! Too many things add up. (And you don't like his smugness.)
>[A2] No, it isn't Madrigal. Too many things don't add up. But it is *somebody,* not a creature. (Optional, for swagger points: declare who.)
>[A3] No, it isn't Madrigal. It probably is just a regular gooplicate. You're still bringing it a newspaper out of spite, though.
>[A4] You're... not sure. Which is not a very plucky and spirited position to take, you'll admit. But you need to talk to her up close (or maybe commune) to be certain.

>[B1] Regardless of your stance, you're planning on leaving Possibly Madrigal in custody. If you guess wrong, you could cause *more* murders, and that's enough to make even you risk-averse.
>[B2] Regardless of your stance, you're planning on getting Possibly Madrigal out of here. If she's Madrigal, it's a no-brainer. If she isn't... she seems nice enough. And just because they haven't tortured now, it doesn't mean they won't later.
>[B3] Regardless of your stance, you're planning on taking your info back to Monty to see what he thinks. He's your new official Wise Mentor, after all (suck it, Richard!).
>[B4] Write-in.
>>
>>5270937
>[A2] No, it isn't Madrigal. Too many things don't add up. But it is *somebody,* not a creature. (Optional, for swagger points: declare who.)

I'll take a swagger point reduction to broaden my guess to a Namway employee. Lester or Pat or someone we haven't met yet. Probably Lester.
>>
>>5270937
Forgot my B choice
>B3
and if we can't find Monty
>B1
because Pat shot Gil in the head and fixing him was REALLY TOUGH but also was an enlightening journey that really helped us bond.
>>
>>5270937
>[A4] You're... not sure. Which is not a very plucky and spirited position to take, you'll admit. But you need to talk to her up close (or maybe commune) to be certain.

>[B1] Regardless of your stance, you're planning on leaving Possibly Madrigal in custody. If you guess wrong, you could cause *more* murders, and that's enough to make even you risk-averse.
>>
>>5270937
Sounds like it is, and it isn't. Like, the body is the gooplicate and Madrigal is inside it. "A" Madrigal.

Also it sounds like she knew the last gooplicate, so SOMETHING fucky is going on. Maybe time travel, we've dealt with that before and it's super annoying.

It seems like there is some internal dissent with Namway, though, so maybe it's worth it to provide the gooplicate with some comforts while they're imprisoned. After all, we don't want to catch gooplicates we want to stop Namway who is making them.

Maybe Lucky should reconsider the no alcohol rule, it could be interesting to see what alcohol does to a gooplicate while making Madrigal more compliant.

Lucky seems really big on sticks, maybe because of the one shoved up his bum, but carrots work wonders too. Heh, naturally we're the good cop to Lucky's bad cop since we're so damned good.

Anyways. We also have this Diedre lead now, among the rest of the info we got so we shan't be so crass as to say he owes us for that - but he does owe us that drink later.
>>
>>5271171
>It isn't Madrigal

>>5271414
>It is Madrigal (or at least some kind of copy)

>>5271200
>Who knows lol

Given the split, I'm gonna default to Charlotte being torn, too. I will award >>5271168 reduced gumption points if or when Possibly Madrigal's identity is confirmed.

>>5271200
>B1

>>5271171
>B3 or B1

Going with [B1], but you can tell Monty about it whenever you see him again.

>>5271414
>Lucky seems really big on sticks, maybe because of the one shoved up his bum
kek

You'll also ask about getting Possibly Madrigal a drink.

Writing.
>>
>You go girl, sit on that fence

Do you still believe it's Madrigal in there? You're not sure you ever fully believed it was Madrigal in there, and a dozen questions later, it's like you're right back where you started. Possibly Madrigal wasn't obviously a fake, but she didn't say anything especially Madrigal, either. But maybe she's shaken up from the whole thing. There was something odd going on with the timeline, too— she's saying she escaped with "Dierdre," and she kind of implied that Dierdre was your imposter, but you first saw your imposter days ago. Madrigal was kidnapped yesterday. Is time travel involved?

«Don't be ridiculous.»

How is that ridiculous? He himself proposed the time tr—

«Under extraordinarily specific circumstances. It was also disproven.»
«'Time travel' should be the <last> possible explanation for any given thing. Ideally it would not be an explanation at all. Leaping to it immediately is idiotic.»

So he's not saying it's impossible, is what you're hearing.

«It is impossible.»

So he's wrong, is what you're hearing, and there may or may not be but probably was time travel involved. Yeah. You're not gonna go tell Lucky about it, though. "Uh... I am still applying my prodigious skills to the matter. My inquest shall continue at a later time."

"Hmm." Lucky appears dissatisfied. "Well, I hope you come to the correct conclusion at a later time, Ms. Fawkins. Will that occur before or after this evening?"

"Well... I'll deliver the newspapers later today, at least." You brush the hair from your forehead. "And a— are you sure about no drink? I think she really needs one. And maybe it'd make her tell the truth about if she's Madrigal or not, and you can—"

"We have much more reliable ways to do that, Ms. Fawkins. I have been waiting to see if it'll cooperate of its own volition."

"Oh," you say. The powder. The green flame.

"There's no reason to expose anybody to danger or unpredictability. But your suggestion has been noted." He looks at Fake Ellery again. "May I escort you and Mr. Routh out?"

You agree readily, but Ellery requires an unfriendly pat on the back from Lucky and a kick in the ankle from you to be roused. He staggers off the wall, but with his sunken eyes and pinched-together lips he doesn't look much better for it. Still, he trails behind you as Lucky bustles you both out of the building. "This evening, Ms. Fawkins," he says, and shuts the door.

(1/2)
>>
Ellery limps over to a patch of razorgrass and vomits. You avert your gaze as he gags and spits and groans, and await a period of silence before speaking up. "You shouldn't have drank so much."

"It's not that," he mumbles.

"Really? Because you were drinking all day, and it's hot outside, and—"

"I'm not fucking drunk. I just— I shouldn't have been there." He wipes his mouth on his sleeve. "It was wrong. I should've— I need to go back."

You fold your arms. "You're not making any sense, maybe since you're drunk. Your ex-girlfriend made you physically ill?"

"I'm not fucking drunk! And it wasn't that, it— that wasn't her body. Your boyfriend's in her body. That was a fake—" He squeezes his eyes shut. "It was wrong. I wasn't thinking. I— I need to—"

>[1] Well, you don't want Fake Ellery hanging around and ruining more things, so you'd be happy to walk him back to his tent. Ask questions on the way.
>>[A] Wave the spec sheet at him until he tells you what the deal is with it.
>>[B] Hey, has he ever heard of locitis?
>>[C] Hey, uh, hypothetically, has he ever heard of any stupid pagan way to induce vision quests and/or general magyck powers? Just curious.
>>[D] Does he think it was Madrigal in there?
>>[E] Is he feeling sick because he's getting the idea he's a fake person?

>[2] He obviously isn't feeling well. Take some mercy and lay off the questions... for now. (You'll find him later.)
>[3] Okay, seriously, you don't want to ask Ellery questions. (You will stop receiving this prompt.)
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5271786
>>[A] Wave the spec sheet at him until he tells you what the deal is with it.
>>[B] Hey, has he ever heard of locitis?

Let's be nice and distract him.
>>
>>5271786
>>>[A] Wave the spec sheet at him until he tells you what the deal is with it.
>>>[B] Hey, has he ever heard of locitis?
>>
>>5271786
>1A,B,D
He doesn't think it was Maddie right? I mean, she didn't know who Monty was, never indicated any familiarity with ourselves or Ellery, and freaked out about some secretary getting stabbed.
>>
Rolled 1 (1d2)

>>5271806
>>5271807
>>5271941
>1A, 1B
Flipping for 1D since it only got one vote, then writing.
>>
>INTENSIVE QUESTIONING (continued)

"Okay, okay," you say nervously. "Don't vomit on me. I'll get you back and then you can— take a nap or something. You should take a nap. Didn't you say you didn't sleep at all?"

"I— I— I don't need much sleep. It's not the—"

You squint. "Maybe you don't sleep enough and that's why you're like that. You're taking a nap, okay? Come on."

There's a lot of people coming down the trail this time of day, and you haven't any idea why. Maybe someone in camp was throwing a party that just ended. More than a few of them stare overtly at you, and at least one— a burly man you could swear you've never seen before— stops you and ask which one you are, the murderer or the one that killed the murderer, and you inform him it's the latter; you would've stopped to elaborate, but Ellery started looking peaky (peakier) and you had to hasten on.

You're more than a tad miffed at this, so you opt to subject Ellery to questioning. "So do you think that was Madrigal?"

He stares straight ahead. "She didn't recognize me."

"...So no?"

"No. I don't know. Maybe they've fucked with her head. They were experimenting on her, or whatever you said. Maybe she just didn't want to talk to me."

"So she pretended not to recognize you? Doesn't that seem a little..." You tilt your head. "...petty?"

Ellery makes a face. (You're not sure if it means "no, not really" or "yes, but she'd do that.") "As for the rest, uh, I wasn't— I wasn't really listening."

"Gee, thanks."

"I was trying not to puke on Dib's fucking floor, okay? He would've shoved me in that room and you never would've seen me again. He would've chopped my godsdamn head off."

You don't know about all that, but you're sure Lucky wouldn't have been happy. "Okay, why do you call him Dib?"

Ellery snorts. "That's his name."

"I thought his real name was..." You think hard. "...Duncan. 'Lucky' Duncan."

"Don't fucking trust a man who switches his name on you, see? That's your warning right there. Don't trust 'im." Ellery shoves his hands in his pockets. "He's a snake. Uh. Metaphorically."

"And you're a pagan," you say, "so no wonder he doesn't like you, stupid. I think you—"

"Yeah. It was pretty fucked up what you said about me, by the way. You weren't even provoked, you just—"

"I got us in, didn't I?" You shove your hands into your own pockets, but cooler than he did it. "So who cares? And you are a pagan, and you do have a bunch of the stupidest secrets ever— what's this, by the way?" You stop short to dig the spec sheet from your rucksack: Ellery keeps walking, and you have to run to catch back up. "This! Hello?"

"Oh, gods." Ellery snatches the paper from you and holds it up. "What is this? It's gibberish."

(1/3?)
>>
Because it's not backwards. (You refrain from commenting on his generalized reading ability.) "Oh, uh, it's— it's plans for a thing. A Headspace Inc. thing. The, uh, the—" You snatch the paper back and squint. "—the E.Z.-M.A.N.S.E.. And your name is on it."

"And so what? Am I not fucking allowed to accomplish things, Lottie? Do I need you to sign off on every—"

"Just tell me how you're involved! Or I'll go to Headspace and ask them." (You refrain from telling him you'll probably go and ask anyhow. You're proud of yourself.)

He throws you a dirty look. "I did some gig work for a few months. Concept— concept stuff. Idea stuff. Because I'm good at idea stuff, whether you believe it or not, and—"

"So what does the E.Z.-M.A.N.S.E. do?"

"It's in the name, Lottie. It implants the prefab manse for you, because most people are too lazy to spend days and days meditating and choking down raw slug and whatever."

"...Raw slug?"

"Um, it's a specific kind, but hell if I remember. Gets you the the correct kind of fucked up." Ellery appraises your expression. "Look, I didn't eat the slug. I'm just saying other people did."

"Okay," you say suspiciously. "I bet. Are you still working for Headspace?"

"No."

"When'd you quit? Or did you get fired? I bet you got fired. Why'd they fire you?"

"It was mutual, I'm not telling you, and I couldn't if I wanted to. I have a contract."

"A contract!" you say. "Interesting!"

"It really isn't. All you have to know that there's a disproportionate amount of lawyers down here, and the ones that don't get mauled immediately are 1) the bloodthirsty ones and 2) really fucking bored. That's it. Don't trust Dib and don't trust lawyers, that's all you have to know."

"...My father was a lawyer."

Ellery thinks about this. "Yeah, that figures."

«It does.»

This was not the response you were looking for. You frown deeply. "Ha ha. Have you ever heard of locitis?"

"What?"

You sigh. "Have you ever heard of locitis?"

"What?"

"Have you EVER—" Wait a second. You plant yourself in front of Ellery and grab his lapels. "Locitis," you hiss.

Now that you're actually watching, you spot it immediately: his eyes briefly defocus. "Huh?" he says, or tries to say, but blanches and covers his mouth instead: you skitter away as he vomits another pint of silvery liquid onto the path.

"I think we should keep heading back," you say firmly, as he straightens up. "I think you need a— a serious nap. A heavy duty... I'm talking 3 or 4 hours."

«I do not think a single period of sleep will solve this man's problems.»

"Son of a bitch." He shoves some mud over the puddle with the toe of his boot. "Yeah, maybe, I... maybe. Son of a bitch. What were we talking about? Lawyers?"

"We finished with the lawyers, Ellery. Come on. We're going."

(2/3)
>>
You march a befuddled Ellery double-speed all the way back and practically shove him into his tent. "Sleep!" you demand, though from what you little you saw a cot was still conspicuously absent. That's his problem, you guess, and you wash your hands of it.

Okay. Monty: solved. Possibly Madrigal: solved. Ellery: solved. Gil: once again submerged in Horse Face's slimy, loathsome influence. You love it when next steps are obvious.



Bursting into Horse Face's tent lost some of its impact when you discovered neither man inside and a warehouse sprawling open in the side wall. You had to yell yourself raw before Gil stumbled out, and then admittedly used a tone on the harsher side when he once again(!!!) evinced his disappointment. But he is with you now, inside your own tent, away from Horse Face hopefully forever— and he still isn't properly cooperating.

"I-I-I told you I couldn't do Headspace, and I can't.. There's no way I-I won't fuck it up, I swear, I— and I can't act, there's no way I— and Casey fucking Kemper is going to notice the stutter, Lottie! He's going to notice!" He points at his mouth. "I-I-I-I wish I could turn it off, but I've tried, trust me! It—"

You put your hands on your hips. "I'm not sensing a lot of positive thinking here, Gilbert."

"Gil. I-I-It's—" Gil shuts his eyes. "Sorry. Sorry. I— it's not going work, though. That's just the realistic... i-i-it's not going to work. I-I-I can't do it."

"But it is going to work. That's the positive outcome here, so if we both— you can do it. Say that. You can do it."

"I-I-I'm not going to say that!" He slams his open palm on your desk and immediately looks startled at himself. "Sorry. But's not true, and I-I-I don't see how lying to myself is supposed to— I think that's stupid."

>[-1 ID: 9/13]

"It's not stupid," you say, and sit down heavily on your cot.

"...Sorry."

"It's not stupid. How are you supposed to get anything done if you don't think you can do it in the first place? Maybe that's why you were all pathetic all the time."

Gil's fingers sort of curl in on themselves. You look at the wall. "Sorry."

"Yeah." He wipes his nose. "So I-I-I don't know, you'll have to go by yourself, or... I-I'd like to help if I could, but..."

"Well, I need you," you say. "Not, like— I mean, I need you literally. This isn't happening without you. He's not going to give a tour to some random—"

"Sorry." He seems to mean it.

«I see your loyal pet has come through for you once again.»
«It seems you truly have no need for—»

SHUT UP! Shut up. This is fine. Gil is a horrible pessimist loser (probably induced by Horse Face), but that's fine. You can fix him. You will salvage this entire situation. Positive thinking!

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] The trouble here is that Gil is all up in his own head. You've been in there yourself, and it sucks. The *solution* is obvious: go get him a drink. No explanation needed. And maybe also cigarettes? [Roll to see how much it helps.]
>[2] What Gil doesn't understand is that lying to himself *works.* But if he won't accept that, you can lie to yourself instead, and that should work just as well. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>[3] As [2], but explain to him exactly what you're attempting, and try to enlist his cooperation. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>[4] Well, you've been in his mind, and also you share a Sacred Bond of Retainership, so presumably you should be able to hold hands and communicate your powerful positive energy through mystic channels? You are not taking notes from Richard about this. [Roll.]
>[5] Write-in.
>>
>>5272077
>[3] As [2], but explain to him exactly what you're attempting, and try to enlist his cooperation. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>>
>>5272077
>1
and then
>2
>>
>>5272077
>>[3] As [2], but explain to him exactly what you're attempting, and try to enlist his cooperation. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>>
>>5272133
>>5272631
>3

>>5272586
>1, 2

Called for [3].

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Positive Thinking) vs. DC 45 (+20 Hardened Skeptic, +10 You Want To Do What, -10 Trying For Your Sake, -25 ???) to consensually gaslight Gil.

Spend 1 ID for +10 to all rolls? You are at 9/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
>>
Rolled 10 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5272703

>[1] Y
>>
Rolled 22 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5272703
>N
we ain't saving that 10
>>
Rolled 70 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5272703
>[N]
Shame.
>>
File: you want to do what.png (61 KB, 409x336)
61 KB
61 KB PNG
>>5272706
>>5272725
>>5273079
>15, 27, 75 vs. DC 45 -- Mitigated Success

Drowned dice out in full force today, I see. At least you got there in the end. Writing.
>>
>Gaslighting is okay if you're polite about it
>15, 27, 75 vs. DC 45 -- Mitigated Success

Positive thinking. Positive thinking. You can logically convince Gil that he'll— no you can't. You take one look at him and you know that much. But since when have you depended on logic to solve your problems? Logic is boring and difficult and unreliable. You can get logic wrong. But if you just pick the conclusion you want in advance, then pump sheer pluck into it— that's far easier, and it gets the exact same result. Usually the exact same result. Almost always.

So you will convince Gil. It's inevitable. And he can't help but be impressed by your certainty, so he'll go along with it— that is how this works, isn't it? Your magyck.

«No.»

That is how it works. (See, you're doing it.)

«I am immunized to your trickery.»
«And that is precisely what it is. It is a silly confidence trick. It is no more 'magyck' than legerdemain, which even that drunk man can accomplish.»
«Are you stating that he is also 'magyck.'»

Ellery isn't magyck, that's— now Richard's trying to trick you, isn't he? Well, you're smarter than that. Ha. You're smarter, and also definitely magyck, on account of your god blood, and that's the end of it, and you will— you will successfully utilize said impressive magyck to sway Gil's impressionable and unsuspecting mind. You clap your hands together. "Gil! Ahem. I—"

He tugs at his bowtie. "...How's Richard?"

"Huh?"

«I am doing well. I have fully recovered from the frivolity you subjected me to.»

"He's fully recovered from the frivolity I've subjected him to!" (You remind yourself to subject him to more frivolity ASAP.) "Um, he says."

"I-I figured." Gil drums anxiously on the back of your desk chair. "Were you talking about me?"

"No! No. Not at all." Can you tell him? Should you tell him? Maybe it won't work if you tell him. But you remember Monty watching you, and you— you can't go and magyck him without asking. He'll hate you if he finds out. "We were talking about how to help you! Don't make that face, it's— it's a good plan. Foolproof."

"...Does i-it involve a positive attitude?"

"Not from you!" (You pointedly ignore the mumbled 'thank god.') "I just need you to, uh— how do I explain this. I possess powerful magyckal abilities, as I'm sure you already know, and one of them involves... saying things."

"I-I-I thought the magic crown thing got stolen?"

"Not the Crown! Just listen, okay? I say things, and they're true. Not big things, and not forever, but— what I mean is that I say you can do it, and then you can do it. Not in a pep talk way. I mean actually."

"But you'd be lying," he says dubiously.

"You still don't get it. It's the truth, Gil, it's—"

"So you're fucking with my head?"

(1/4?)
>>
"No! I wouldn't—" You grab fistfuls of hair. "For God's sake. It's the truth. I'm not making you believe in it, it just is the truth. 'Water is wet.' Do you have to believe in 'water is wet'? Don't say yes."

"No... but water is wet. And the thing you're saying... i-i-isn't."

"That's the magyck part, okay! That's the—" You wave your arms around grandly. "Look, it's like acting, okay? Or like telling a story. You tell a whole story to someone, and it's not real. You know it never happened, they know it never happened. But they're not standing up and yelling at you for lying to them, right? Because it's true, or there's a-a truth to it, even though you made it up. So both of you act like it happened. Um. Until it's over, and then it's not true or real anymore, it's just a story."

"Maybe I-I-I should read more books?" Gil is wide-eyed.

«He is attempting to be polite, because you are talking nonsense.»

It's not nonsense, it's true. It's real and true. You just wish you knew why you know it so well. "I think that would be a great idea! It's important for retainers to be well-educated. If you need recommendations, I—"

«He is not actually interested in reading more books. He is especially not interested in reading books intended for a demographic of young, lustful women.»

You read those for the sword fights, as he knows, so you're not paying him any more attention. "—you know what, we can go over that later. Are you good with the magyck? Everything clear? You'll get it more when it happens. Just keep an open mind, that's the important thing... it's okay if you don't believe it, but don't unbelieve it. You'll do great! I believe in you! Okay?"

"Um, okay." (At no point has he stopped looking bewildered/incredulous, which is not a very good sign, but you're ignoring that. You are declaring that officially irrelevant.) "Okay. I-I-I don't... you're really into this, so I guess... yeah." He blinks rapidly. "Yeah."

"Fantastic!" That could've gone easier, but at least he's cooperating now. "Okay, um, I just need to get ready. Shh."

It's much stranger to attempt the magyck, you are rapidly realizing, when it's on purpose, Not that the other times weren't on purpose, precisely, but they were— they were off-the-cuff. Talking before you even knew you started. And though you have a pretty good grasp on the concept behind it (or you think so, whatever Richard says), it's becoming obvious that the actual mechanics are fuzzy.

So you need to stop thinking too hard about it, you rationalize. You need to be startled into action. But you're not giving Richard the satisfaction, so— "Uh, nevermind about the getting ready. Slap me."

Gil pushes his hands behind his back, like he might slap you by accident. "What? I-I-Is this a part of the—"

"No. Sort of. It's an order. Just do it!" You squeeze your eyes shut and wait. And wait. And—

(2/4? 3?)
>>
You're slapped weakly. "Sorry!" Gil yelps, and you snap your eyes open to find him within arm's reach. He can slap harder than that, you think wildly, you know he can slap harder than that, because Madrigal slapped you once and it stung like hell. He's not missing the arm strength, he's missing the will. She had the will. Did she take all of it with her? Did she take all of her with her, or—

"Don't apologize," you say. "Stupid. I asked you to. You know you could be her if you wanted, right? You're in her body. Her alive body. Don't try and tell me that doesn't matter." (Ramona. Your mother the snake. The demon queen. The regular Queen. Richard over and over and over and over.) "Remember when I summoned you yesterday? You were a demon. Tell me you remember that."

"I-I remember?" He's still clutching his wrist.

"Yes. You do. So you also remember what you said about it, right? You said it was like a costume. You said you could put it on whenever you wanted, and then you'd be the demon. It was that easy. So what's different about now? Put her on and be her." You blink. "Unless you're scared?"

"I-I-I'm not scared." He sounds scared, and on some level you can't blame him: on some rarified level of consciousness you can feel the magyck slitting through him.

"You're scared," you say decisively, and it is true. You aren't lying. "But it's okay. It's safe. It's still you in there, I promise. You're not losing anything. You can't. You just have to take the plunge." You reach for his hand and squeeze it. "Come on. I believe in you."

"...Yeah." He stares down at your hand. "Yeah, I-I-I— I can— I'm not a pussy."

"I didn't say you were," you say.

"I-I-I know you didn't, I just... nevermind." He shudders and concentrates.

It works. You don't know why you're surprised, since it was always going to work, but still you startle when Gil loosens into a perfect slouch and all of a sudden it's Madrigal there. You can't convince yourself otherwise, no matter how hard you rationally try. "Oh, fuck," Madrigal says, in a perfect Madrigal voice. "Oh, fuck. Fuck me. This is— this is. Is. Is. I-s."

"Um, what?" you say.

"I'm not stuttering," she says wonderingly, Gil says in horror— the illusion has wavered and collapsed in on itself. "I-I-I-I'm not— shit! I— oh, shit, I— I-I think I need to sit down."

"Oh." You scootch over, and straight-backed Gil goes to collapse face-up on your cot, thinks better of it, and sits up gingerly. He is grasping your blanket very hard. "You magiced me," he says.

(2/4)
>>
"Oh. Oh! Yes, I—" You stand up straight yourself. "See, I told you. And it worked! And it's still— it's still working, isn't it? You can still—"

He buries his face in his hands. "Yeah."

"Fan-tastic! See, I said I could help you, and then I did help you, so you— you don't seem very happy."

"You magiced—" He attempts to compose himself. "You magiced me. You just— you went and— you didn't even do anything. I-I-I thought you'd wave your arms and chant things, but you just— you just said gullshit, except i-i-it wasn't gullshit anymore, after you said it, and I could barely remember the other— I-I couldn't do it," he says accusingly. "I-I-I-I wasn't goddamn scared. I-I just couldn't do it."

You think about this. "I mean, you were probably scared, too."

He grimaces. "I-I just... what else is real?"

"What?"

"Goddamn gods. Magic."

>You may pick multiple.

>[1] Oh! Well, this seems like an excellent time to remind him of his own LATENT DIVINE MAGYCK POWERS and see if he'd like to do anything about awakening them! (You think it would be so cool if you were matching.)
>[2] You have solved the Madrigal problem, but, er, you're still not sure Gil's ready for the prime time. Now seems like the appropriate occasion for a nice calming not-paralyzing cigarette— you'll play the drink by ear.
>[3] Now seems like an appropriate occasion for a PEP TALK (#6 or #7 or however many you're up to now)!!! (Write-in contents of pep talk.)
>[4] He's fine. He's fine! Just have him practice the Madrigal thing on the way over— she has her faults, but she *is* way less neurotic than him. It should balance stuff out.
>[5] Okay, you've been noticing him noticing stuff. He remembered the night-that-didn't-happen first. He knows where Richard is. Now he's saying he remembered the lamer reality *while* under the magyckal influence, which you don't think is supposed to happen. Ask Richard if there's metaphysical gobbledygook for it.
>[6] Write-in.
>>
>>5273455
>[2] You have solved the Madrigal problem, but, er, you're still not sure Gil's ready for the prime time. Now seems like the appropriate occasion for a nice calming not-paralyzing cigarette— you'll play the drink by ear.
>[5] Okay, you've been noticing him noticing stuff. He remembered the night-that-didn't-happen first. He knows where Richard is. Now he's saying he remembered the lamer reality *while* under the magyckal influence, which you don't think is supposed to happen. Ask Richard if there's metaphysical gobbledygook for it.
>>
>>5273455
>1, 2, 5
now that he accepts the existence of this brand of weird shit maybe he'll accept he can have it too
>>
>>5273455
>>[1]
>>[2]
>>[5]
>>
>>5273455
>[4] He's fine. He's fine! Just have him practice the Madrigal thing on the way over— she has her faults, but she *is* way less neurotic than him. It should balance stuff out.
>>
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>>5273828
>>5273935
>1, 2, 5

>>5273776
>2, 5

>>5273954
>4

Called for 1, 2, 5, and writing.
>>
>Lighten up bro

"You are beetles," you say gaily. "You're alive underwater, too, and you already saw my magyck crown and my talking snake, so—"

He lifts his head a little. "Those are different."

"How?"

"They're explainable. I-It's not magic if it's explainable, it's— it's facts. I-I-I mean, that lady was talking all about snakes, and she said snakes weren't even real animals, so i-i-it makes sense for them to talk. Animals don't talk, snakes aren't animals. So—"

You place your hands on your hips. "What about the crown?"

"I-I-It had big crystals in it. Crystals just do that."

"And the beetles?"

"I-I-I-I'm not really beetles. I-I just think I am."

«That is a reductive take on the matter.»

You agree. "You ate leaves, Gil. You stuck them down your throat and ate them with your— your beetle mouths. I saw it. Ellery saw it."

He hunches down. "Mandibles. And I-I-I can't... I-I don't want to talk about that. Please—"

"Because you can't explain it? And I want to hear you explain the underwater thing. I want the facts. Why are we alive? Why doesn't anybody age? Because the way I see it, either the water's magyck, or God decided it should be that way, and He used His magyck to—"

"Please stop! Stop. Please, I-I—" He takes a shaky breath. "I-I-I-I'm sure there's an explanation, okay? We just don't know it yet. And there's an explanation for your thing, too, i-it's just— I jumped to conclusions. I-I-I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions. Can we stop—"

"I was just listing what else was real, Gil. And speaking of real— you're still imbued with divine magyck, by the way. You still possess impressive magyckal—"

"No I don't."

"Gil, I talked to it. It called you an—" You try to remember the phrasing. "—an effed-up skeptic, and it said you didn't want to believe in it, so it asked me to ask you to—"

"I-I-I thought we were never mentioning this again," he says peevishly.

You fidget. "Well, yes, but, um— well, this is important. It's my mission, practically, and it twas entrusted upon me by your head, so don't get all—"

"I-I-I-I-I-I don't have goddamn magic! And i-if I did— if I did, I-I-I don't want it. Why the shit would I?"

It takes a moment to even process this. "What are you talking about? It's— it's magyck."

"That's not a reason!"

Is he serious? You'd accepted that he didn't believe in it, which is wrong, but a comprehensible sort of wrong. But accepting that it exists and then not... caring? "It's cool? It's— it makes you an important person. Like, a god marked you as important, and relevant, and interesting, and you can sort of live knowing you matter to the whole universe? And you're better than other people? And you won't just die with nobody caring about you?"

Gil has a strangled sort of expression. "Why would anyone want to matter to the whole universe?"

He can't be serious. You refuse to believe it. "You just— you just do?"

(1/3?)
>>
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"I-I-Is that not stressful? And dangerous? All that pressure—" His voice hitches. "I-I-I-I'd rather be normal. A normal person."

You hesitate. "But you're beetles."

"..." He looks at the floor. "I-I-I just want my life back."

"But your life sucked." It's out of your mouth before you can reevaluate. "It sucked, and I don't think you were very happy. So I think it's stupid to reject new things when they could be awesome and cool just because they're different. But I can't make you get incredible magyckal god powers—" (Can you make him? Would it be immoral?) "—um, I think, so just— let me know when you've thought it through, okay? And we'll work on it. There's probably a way to induce vision quests, and honestly I think you need a vision quest magyck or not—"

"I-I need a cigarette," he says weakly.

"Oh! Uh..." You pat around your desk for no reason, because you know full well you have zero cigarettes.

«Tell him there's probably some in his back pocket.»

"...There's probably some in your back pocket," you say.

He fishes around, eyebrow quirked, until he (sure enough) displays a crumpled packet in his palm. "Shit. I-I guess so."

«There is a lighter inside of your desk. Use it.»

You forestall your protests and slide open your desk drawer. A brassy snake-shaped lighter is nestled in with your molding tools. Has Richard ever considered practicing subtlety?

«It is an attractive design for a lighter, which is why you have always owned it.»

You'll go with that. You flip the case open, thumb the sparkwheel, and cup your hand over the top so you don't see the flame. You carry it over to Gil delicately. "There you are."

"Aw, aces." He seems as much relieved to change the subject as he is to get his cigarette lit. "Thanks, Lottie."

"You can bring that on the way," you say. "We're going."



Gil doesn't seem to notice your look of consternation, or your infrequent glances at his still-lit cigarette— you're worried too much looking will put it out. You couldn't do that to him, not with him— for once— content.

So you fix your neck forward and attempt to rely on your peripheral vision. How is he doing that? That's not how fire works.

«He is unreal.»

You really do love it when Richard says something portentously and expects you to know what it implies. (Just like Monty! See.)

(2/3?)
>>
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«Possibly I expect you to know it because I have previously discussed it. But possibly my expectations are unrealistic.»
«I will explain this simple concept to you again. You are inherently real. You carry your Law in your blood. Therefore you are divided against the world and bound up in yourself; you act and resist being acted upon. You possess... 'self-determination.' But you are strung in strong Law, and this curses you to ego and myopia as much as it emboldens you.»
«Beetles is not like you. There is no reality intrinsic to him. He is made of paper. Resultingly, he is in a metaphysical sense passive. He is unable to act, only to react. He cannot resist being acted upon because he lacks a self-concept to resist it. In a practical sense he is simply a pliable shell: he may be filled with a basic role or drive, but is not 'his,' because no real 'him' exists.»

What? GS. 1), that's not at all what he told Gil about it. 2), you— you literally— you know he's a person, okay? Richard can't even try to pretend he's not a person. You have been in his head and you can declare, conclusively, that—

«One, I was assuaging his feelings.»
«Two, yes. This is what makes him a remarkable study. If all had gone as expected, he would be both mindless and selfless. He would be insects. There would be nothing to rescue.»
«Instead he has retained his mind and so firmly deluded himself that nothing changed that very little has. He retains the illusion of agency and of self-determination. He is only rather more suggestible on average.»

...Um, okay. So he is a person?

«As long as he believes himself to be one.»

Fair enough. Isn't Richard not real? (He's said this.) Is he a person?

«You may interpret me however you wish. It is none of my concern.»

...And what does any of this have to do with cigarettes?

«He is a thought-thing. He is not bound to rules except the rules imposed upon him by others. And in his case his preconceptions, which are currently outweighed by his addiction to nicotine.»
«He is also bound by the body. But that is not enough to quench a flame on its own.»
«In any case, I had not quite finished my original summation. He is a pliable shell, et cetera. But it is not all bad. This lack of a warping self-concept leaves his perception clear. He retains awareness of things. I only wish you could do the same.»

>[1] Write-in? (Optional.)
>[2] Proceed.

TBC of course, but I'm trying this format again
>>
>>5274665
>1
that all sounds like total bullshit
but hypothetically in a world where it isn't bullshit, what makes people inherently real? was Gil real before he beetled up or was he never real?
>>
>>5275100
Called and back to writing.
>>
>Cont.

"He only wishes you could do the same?" Oh, okay. You get it. He had you going for a while there, but you get it. He's leading you on.

«What.»

He's leading you on? GSing you? Like what he does about everything? Like you said, he had you going there, but the conclusion was just way too obvious. He made up all that stupid spooky gibberish to try to convince you you should pay attention to more things, even though you do pay attention to things. You just don't pay attention to his gibberish, because it's lies, and also boring and stupid.

Oh! And he was trying to convince you that Gil's not a person, which was a real boneheaded move, since you'll never believe that. Never. Not with your sacred bond. Gil is a perfectly good person (albeit with some bad attitudes and incorrect opinions), who happens to be made of beetles, which is a little weird and creepy but doesn't make him some sort of inherent freak. And you will not hear a single word differently.

«What are you talking about. Have you been listening to a single word I said.»

You got the gist of it, and the gist of it was GS!

«I do not understand why I bother.»
«I clearly stated that I acknowledged Beetles' personhood, Charlie. And then you acknowledged that I acknowledged this.»

You were probably pretending to be under his sway. He called it an illusion!

«That cigarette is an illusion. I am an illusion. And yet it makes real smoke, and I sit heavy on you. Do I not.»
«Your myopia is only proving my point.»

Well—

«Is there more you inexplicably object to.»

—Yes! Yeah! He said you were real, or whatever, but he never said why. Hmm. Like he's trying to flatter you with meaningless GS, maybe? Like there's nothing actually backing up—

«I do not understand. Nothing about this is radical. I am certain it has been explained to you before.»
«You are real on account of your blood. You are haemic.»
«There are more complex aspects to it than that, but I refuse to discuss them. You are dim-witted and unappreciative.»

What?! He's the— he's dim-witted. Him. (You have grabbed Richard off his shoulder perch and are shaking him for emphasis.) Because Gil has blood, so his entire moronic—

«He does not have blood. If you were to split open a body, you would find it hollow.»

Now he's trying to trick you into hurting Gil? Pathetic. And anyhow, you meant his actual body, which surely—

«That is his actual body. He is actually beetles, on the most fundamental level that exists.»
«If you mean the previous body, yes. He was previously haemic. It is no longer his body, and therefore has no bearing on his current state of being.»
«Man Have Blood. Man Be Real. Man Be Beetles. Beetles Have No Blood. Beetles Be Not Real.»

You attempt to fling him against a particularly gnarly-looking tree. He rights himself with a flick of his tail.

«It appears you have comprehended me this time. Fascinating.»

(1/3?)
>>
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You hate him. You hate him so much. This is the stupidest thing you've ever heard. So if you cut someone open and drained the blood out they wouldn't be a real person?

«They would die, Charlie.»
«But if you somehow averted that, then yes.»

God-damnit! So— so— Madrigal has blood. You've seen the blood she has. So Gil has blood right now, technically, so—

«It is not his body. He is merely inhabiting it. There is a substantive difference.»
«If left inside for long enough, the blood will work at him, and it will become his body. In this case he will be real.»
«But he will not be your precious Beetles.»

You look anxiously at Gil, who lowers his cigarette. "...What? Is there something I-I-I—"

"No! No." You wave your hands at him. "You're fine. You're just—" (Do you have to get him out of Madrigal right now, or can you wait until after Headspace? Why didn't he tell you it was dangerous?!) "—fine. Go back to thinking."

«It is a slow working. At the minimum it would take an unbroken week. Because the body is otherwise unoccupied, likely longer.»
«One day of exposure is harmless. Panic is unattractive.»
«At least you have been convinced of my veracity, I suppose.»

No, you're not— go to hell! You were simply considering the matter because Monty told you to earlier. That's it. The blood stuff is stupid, and the reality stuff was stupid, and you regret ever asking about the stupid cigarette, and he can stop lecturing at you now.

«Am I provoking feelings of inferiority and unintelligence in you.»

No! Shut up. You hate him.

«Then I do not understand what underlies this absurd reaction.»
«Do I actually have to list corroborating evidence. I have shown you how I am hollow. The scruffy man is part-unreal and he is also hollow. You yourself have been severed from your haemic body. You have sunken into trances. What is your alternative explanation.»
«If the word 'magyck' so much as passes your—»

You told him to stop lecturing at you. You told him. So why won't he—

«You are being stubborn. I do not understand why.»
«Again, this is not advanced. I would go as far as to call this common knowledge. It should in no way be—»

Why don't you know the common knowledge? Why don't you know it, Richard. Why. Did you forget about it?

>[-1 ID: 8/13]

«...»

Because you haven't forgot about that (ha ha), so he knows. You remember (ha ha ha) that you're missing two-and-a-half years of your life, during which maybe you learned this extremely common knowledge. Maybe that's why you're so dumb and dim-witted, Richard. Maybe you just can't remember anything.

Anyways, these are just things you think about when you've gone too long without other things to think about. You're going back to positive thinking now.

(2/3?)
>>
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Wow! Okay! You're standing in front of the gleaming white Headspace doors. Gil flicked his cigarette butt into the mud and almost immediately started looking jumpy, but you're pretty sure that's just normal jumpy and not existential crisis jumpy. Much easier to handle.

You nudge his foot. "You should probably do the thing."

He starts. "The thing?"

"The thing. The magyck—"

"Oh," he mumbles. "The thing. That I-I-I can do now."

"That you've always been able to do," you correct brightly, and fix an equally-bright gaze on him until he sags and dissolves and Madrigal is exactly where he was— Gil, you remind yourself, Gil, Gil, it's still Gil, Madrigal's probably still kidnapped, it's just Gil and he's faking it. But God-damn is he faking it.

"Is that it? I guess that's it. Holy fuck." Madrigal, Gil, Gil is flexing his hands like he's never seen them before. "This is so fucking weird."

"You're welcome," you say.

"I mean, I— yeah. Yeah." He paws at his neck suddenly. "I hate the fucking dumbass bow tie, by the way."

"What? No you don't. You—" You frown. "Whose opinion is that?"

"That's the question of the goddamn hour, isn't it? I told you it was weird. It's weird. Wouldn't know which way's up if it fucking bit me. So we better get this over with quick, huh?"

It feels like months since you've seen full-blown not-sick not-snake Madrigal in action, and you're sort of still stuck on that. "Uh... yes. Can you turn back?"

"I'm going to have a panic attack and it's going to be fucking pathetic, so let's push that 'til later." Gil-Not-Madrigal slaps you on the shoulder and stuffs the bow tie in his pocket. "Come on. I want to meet Casey fucking Kemper."



Casey effing Kemper is missing when you walk and Gil saunters (saunters) inside, but Ida the receptionist tells you less-than-politely that you're late and she'll page him. You have no idea what that means and waste time imagining (a magyck notepad? does it count as magyck if it's a manse?) until Casey turns up pretty much how he did the first time: waltzing down the long hallway. You can hear his shiny shoes tap-tap-tapping long before you catch sight of the man.

When he catches sight of you, he reacts pretty much the same way, too. "Madrigal! And—" He points at you and snaps his fingers. "Charlotte. Never forget a name, see— wifey didn't like that much when we were going at it!" He roars with laughter.

Gil chuckles politely while you attempt to wrap your head around the joke(?). It doesn't succeed. "Ah... yes. We're here for the—"

(3/4)
>>
"Fashionably late, yes, yes. The best kind of late. I hope the two of you have been spending your time getting excited, because we put on one hell of a tour, if I must say so myself. And I do. I understand you have no real experience with our business model, Madrigal— well, of course I understand that! We're giving the tour for a reason. But how about you, Charlotte?"

"What?" you say.

"How familiar are you with M.A.N.S.E.s?" His eyes glitter.

>[1] Um... not at all! (If he thinks both of you are uninformed, you'll get the complete rube-style tour— which seems most likely to turn up interesting things, should there be interesting things to turn up.)
>[2] ...Some! (Honesty is always the best policy. You'll be less likely to trip up later if it comes up.)
>[3] A lot! You know a lot. (Well, Richard knows a lot, so you can cover for any holes in your own knowledge. And you can claim to have filled Gil in, so he can actually ask pointed questions like you're sure he wants to.)
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5275987
>[2] ...Some! (Honesty is always the best policy. You'll be less likely to trip up later if it comes up.)

No need to lie about this.
>>
>>5275987
>[1] Um... not at all! (If he thinks both of you are uninformed, you'll get the complete rube-style tour— which seems most likely to turn up interesting things, should there be interesting things to turn up.)
>>
>>5275987
>>[1] Um... not at all! (If he thinks both of you are uninformed, you'll get the complete rube-style tour— which seems most likely to turn up interesting things, should there be interesting things to turn up.)
>>
>>5275987
>[2] ...Some! (Honesty is always the best policy. You'll be less likely to trip up later if it comes up.)
>>
>>5275987
>[1] Um... not at all! (If he thinks both of you are uninformed, you'll get the complete rube-style tour— which seems most likely to turn up interesting things, should there be interesting things to turn up.)
>>
>>5275987
>2
we're smart!
>>
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>>5276399
>>5276498
>>5276645
>[1]

>>5276149
>>5276500
>>5276816
>[2]

We are precisely tied! Fortunately, I'm going to be taking the day off to celebrate a birthday in the family and to attempt to fix my abysmal sleep schedule, so the vote will remain open until tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that we've made it to Thread 25, which feels to me like a whopper of a milestone. (Are we an "established quest" yet?) All of you have my sincere thanks for lending me your time and interest, whether you've been here since the OG days or caught up recently. Couldn't do it without you.

And while I have you, I'd like to ask some official 25TH (THREAD) ANNIVERSARY PLAYER QUESTIONS!

>How do you feel about the overall difficulty of the quest? Too high, too low, just right? I ask this specifically because I've been told on separate occasions that Redux is too punishing and that it's too lenient, which is... difficult to parse.

>Who's your favorite character? (Bonus: why?)

>Should I keep posting doodles?

>If YOU had a shitty crumbling Headspace manse installed in your skull, what central motif would it have?

>Any meta/OOC questions for me?
>>
>>5276976
Too easy.
None. They all feel like the same character.
Yes.
Gothic.
Is anyone actually a ghost in the shell?
>>
>>5277023
>They all feel like the same character.
Well, that's a new one. Not sure how to respond other than to state I don't agree. (What draws you to vote if you don't care for the characters?)

>Is anyone actually a ghost in the shell?
By "anyone" do you mean "of the current cast of characters" or "in the setting"? I think you'd have to elaborate on what you mean by this regardless.
>>
>>5277023
I like making ties and barring that voting for choices no one else does.
In the setting that we can and/or will interact with. I find those types of characters interesting, as you when you have to deal with them they are alien enough to be uncanny, however, still retain their humanity or something akin to it.
>>
>>5276976
Just right difficulty, it's merciful compared to OG Drowned

Big fan of Mr Golden Mask for not letting us dunking on him get him down. Instead, he came back and dunked on us infinitely harder. Eloise is cool too.
yes
LAVA PALACE
Could we get a Completed goals list in the intro list for the sense of accomplishment?
>>
>>5276976
>>How do you feel about the overall difficulty of the quest?
Just about right given the unforgiving nature of the DQR setting.

>>Who's your favorite character?
Charlotte so far--I find Charlotte's bitchy entitledness and headstrong personality rather endearing. I'm still at like thread 14 rip.

>>Should I keep posting doodles?
Always fun and enjoyable!

>>If YOU had a shitty crumbling Headspace manse installed in your skull, what central motif would it have?
Crumbling, rocky mountains and cliffsides.
>>
>>5276976
>Difficulty
Seems balanced enough to me. We've screwed up a lot in the past, but a lot of those setbacks have kept things interesting. If everything always went according to plan it wouldn't be as satisfying, would it?

>Fave Character:
Probably Gil, but Charlotte's pretty fantastic too. Just enjoy how she's written, specifically her dialogue.

>Doodles
Hell yea. I'd draw some too if I didn't draw like a maimed Kindergartener.

>Headspace
Tough call... probably some kind of fucked up arcade machine?

>Meta
Not much, but thanks for running. It's been a wild ride!
>>
>>5277046
>I like making ties and barring that voting for choices no one else does.
Top kek. Shine on you crazy diamond, I guess.

>I find those types of characters interesting, as you when you have to deal with them they are alien enough to be uncanny, however, still retain their humanity or something akin to it.
Ah, see, I was trying to ask for your definition of what a "ghost in the shell"-type character entails! I'll do my best, though. There's no real cyborgs in the setting, but if you mean a human(esque) consciousness trapped in a restrictive alien body, you've got Snake!Richard right there (at least according to how Human!Richard describes it). Pat and Lester have human consciousnesses but have Ship of Thesus'd everything but their skeletons with goo. Gil's manse body might barely count?

>>5277184
>Eloise
Hey, good news-- you're going to get some concentrated Eloise on the Hell expedition, ETA Thread 27-28.

>Completed goals
Not in the intro list, because that'd take up a whole extra post. I can totally do a Pastebin, though, and just did: https://pastebin.com/3Q3nPDis

>>5277287
>Still at thread 14
Jesus christ, dude, you're a trooper-- I write current threads expecting knowledge of all the previous ones, so I guess context clues are doing heavy work. Not sure if having spoilers diminishes the archive-reading experience or improves it, since you bet I've foreshadowed a lot of stuff out the ass.

>>5277306
>thanks for running
Cheers!

>>5277023
>>5277184
>>5277287
>>5277306
>Largely good on difficulty
Glad to hear it.

>Yes on doodles
You got it. I have something doodle-related planned for the 3rd (year) anniversary, but I'll save discussion of that for later. (Maybe if I do another round of player questions.)
>>
>>5276976
>How do you feel about the overall difficulty of the quest?
It's hard to achieve anything, but it's also hard to really, substantially fuck up. It's like a sticky mire of ineffectual floundering.

>Who's your favorite character?
Althea is the only likeable person there.
>What draws you to vote if you don't care for the characters?
I approach this quest like a puzzle

>Should I keep posting doodles?
Yes

>If YOU had a shitty crumbling Headspace manse installed in your skull, what central motif would it have?
Nope, only quality manses for me.
>>
>>5277373
>Hell expedition
we need to bring monty too so he can see real hell

pastebin? more like basedbin, thanks
>>
File deleted.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

>>5277473
>It's like a sticky mire of ineffectual floundering.
Got my next Redux slogan, thank you :^) But honestly this sounds about right.

>Althea is the only likeable person there.
Won't dispute this, either-- I try to shoot for "interesting" over "likeable" in most cases. Anthea will be showing up again fairly soon fwiw.

>I approach this quest like a puzzle
Fascinating. Plenty left to figure out. How's the puzzling going for you?

>>5278080
>we need to bring monty too
At gunpoint? :^)

>thanks
You're welcome. I'll link this along with the TO-DO LIST going forward and try to keep it up to date, though no promises.


Also, I'm flipping for the vote-- not writing for a while yet, but I want to get ideas started. 1= no knowledge, 2 = some knowledge
>>
>>5277023
Difficulty is good. I agree that they all feel like the sale character. I read the dialogues and ponder about the QM's psychologal issues. I'm heavy into psychology, if that matters. I love the doodles.
>>
>[1]
Writing.

>>5278674
>I agree that they all feel like the sale character
Man, you guys are putting me through the wringer! I spend ages thinking through the personalities and motivations of individual characters-- I'm sorry that doesn't seem to have come through.

>and ponder about the QM's psychologal issues
My largest psychological issue is that I spend a quarter of my day every day writing fiction on an Algerian coupon clipping website. I think I'm pretty stable and well-adjusted beyond that, though.

>I'm heavy into psychology, if that matters.
I'd expect no less. I'm getting a Psychology degree myself.

>I love the doodles.
Thanks!
>>
>Play stupid [insert snide Richard comment here]

How familiar are you with manses? Or does he mean M.A.N.S.E.s, like it said on the spec sheet? Are those pronounced the same? Are they the same thing? You'd ask Gil (him being the Headspace expert), but you can't ask Gil, because Casey is looming over both of you. So you should probably default to knowing nothing, right? It's sort of true. "Uh, I am... not. Familiar, that is. How precisely would you define a 'manse,' ah, good sir?"

Gil's side-eye goes unnoticed by Casey, who hoots and claps like a trained seal. "Oh-ho-ho! Well! It's not too tricky when you get right down to it. A 'M.A.N.S.E.' is a Mental Aux Node State Experience. And yes, I know, I know. That's nonsense. That's garbage." He shakes his head despondently. "Well, don't bother remembering a word of it, would you? Let me ask you this. Do you ever feel trapped down here, Charlotte? Feel like you're going stir-crazy? Ever wonder if you'll never see the blessed sky again?"

He's taken on the bouncy cadence of a radio advertisement, but he pauses as if sincerely expecting an answer. "Yes," you say, after a beat. "Who hasn't?"

"Well, gosh, who hasn't? You're absolutely right. Absolutely right. And that's exactly why Headspace exists, Charlotte." He snaps his fingers. "You see, we're in the business of creating worlds."

"...Worlds?" (So it is exactly the same thing as a manse?)

"Worlds." He shoves his meaty hand in a back pocket and produces a rubber ball. (ADSPA is printed around the parts you can see.) "That's what a M.A.N.S.E. is, Charlotte. Exactly that. It's a world— your personal world, in the open air, customizable, safe, private, and accessible any time. Now you've got be thinking— there's got to be a catch, right?"

He has a real thing for audience participation, you're gathering. "Y...es."

"Yes," Gil says firmly.

"See? You're smart cookies, missies. Can't hide a thing from you. These worlds?" Casey taps the ball against his temple. "They're stored right up here. Right in your noggin. Literally. Now, I know what you're thinking."

"That that's a gaping ass-wound of a security vulnerabil—"

(1/4?)
>>
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"How in the sweet name of God could they pull that off?" It's like he never heard Gil. "With flying colors, ladies! With flying colors. Joking aside, though, I am were to alleviate Madrigal's questions about our business, so to that end I'd be honored to give you two a walking tour of our process— nuts and bolts, soup to nuts, and so forth. I hope you're up for it! You'll need these." With one heavy thrust, he bounces the ADSPA ball against the smooth floor, and you watch it sail up past your head, past Casey's head, nearly all the way to the towering ceiling— until something catches in your peripheral vision, and you realize that Casey is offering two name tags on lanyards. You take the CHARLOTTE FAWKINS one and stare down Gil until he blinks and takes the other. Now empty-handed, Casey reaches, deftly catches the ball, and winks.

You must've started walking down the hallway then, but you were so preoccupied with getting the lanyard untangled from your hair that it all blurred. You think maybe Ida-the-receptionist told you to have a nice tour? But Gil's there in front of you, and you're currently still walking down an obnoxiously long and narrow and polished-white hallway, so you guess that's what matters. You've passed one door ('Conference Room') the entire time. Could this be some sort of prank? 'Walking tour' with heavy emphasis on the walking? Maybe you've just slogged back and forth from town too many times.

«Yes. Wasting your time. Precisely as you're doing here.»

Richard doesn't have to walk. He's stuck himself through half of your belt loops. So why does he get a say?

«It is my duty to have a say.»
«To not inform you that you are being idle and lazy would constitute a failure.»

Being idle and— again, who is hitching a ride off of whom? And who just spent time and effort magycking whose retainer for the purposes of getting into this tour? And who—

«There is no purpose to this 'tour.' You have no plan. You intend to wait until one falls fully formed into your lap.»
«How often does that succeed.»

Surprisingly—

"And we've made it, ladies!" You have made it to a blank wall.

"Are you sure?" you say. "Nice wall," Gil says.

"Much appreciated, much appreciated, but we're not here for the wall. You see—" Casey scratches his chin. "—it wouldn't make much sense to do the tour 'on land,' yeah? Couldn't show you a blessed thing. See, it really does take a M.A.N.S.E. to make a M.A.N.S.E., so—"

"...Wait..."

"You're going to fucking knock us out?!" Gil, two steps ahead, has darted protectively in front of you. "You can't— we're not doing that. We're—"

"Nobody's being knocked out, nobody's being knocked out. We'd have a release form, I assure you." Casey's raised a placating hand. "We've had it built specially. If you'd give me a moment—"

(2/4?)
>>
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Madrigal's got a— Gil's got an irritated sort of sneer on, but doesn't say anything. You opt to follow his lead. (Since he is the expert.) Casey theatrically pushes up his sleeves, draws a small card from his back pocket, and pushes it into a nigh-invisible slot in the wall. Something clicks. Something far larger rattles.

"Okey dokey, ladies!" He steps back to survey the wall. "I'll have more to say on the inside, but for now, all you have to do is walk right on through. It's not dangerous in any way. Again, no release form. Just walk, eh?"

It's still a wall. "...Through it?"

"Oops. One tic." He steps forward, turns back to wink at you (you're about done with the winking), and raises an arm above his head. With the same heavy motion he used to bounce the ball, he grabs the wall— the smooth gleaming stone wall— and tears it downward until it crumples like a tarp. Behind it is blackness. Blacker-than-blackness. Gil mumbles something vulgar.

Casey is beaming. "There we have it. In we go, ladies."

Surely it's not a trap? This guy doesn't even know who you are. It's just— it's like what happened in the sewers, only he did it on purpose, and nobody's getting stabbed in the shoulder this time. This is fine. You don't even need Richard to tell you it's fine, that's how fine it is.

«I do not see any immediate danger. Only pointlessness.»

See? Gil hesitates longer than you, but keeps his nerve— he's in first, then Casey, then you.

*

It is dark, and more importantly humid, and you start to preemptively finger-comb your hair down when something tugs at your slacks. You stare down.

"Hello, Charlie," Richard says, and nonchalantly wrests his hand out of your belt loops. An infinite number of reflected-Richards do the same. (All of them are still wearing the damned sweater.) "This is inconvenient."

"Just a little bit— where's this? The interim, or whatever? Where's all the stairs? And I just leave by—"

"It's an inch thick. There's no room for stairs." Richard slides his sunglasses on. "And please stay here a moment."

You tense. "You can't make me."

"I can make you, but I'm sure we'd both agree we don't want that. I just want to talk about your plan."

"I have a plan," you snap.

"I'm sure you do, Charlie, which is why I want to talk about it. How about you explain your plan, and then we can go over the glaring flaws and whatnot before you execute the plan."

(Choices next.)
>>
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>[A1] The plan? The plan is to just do the damn walking tour. If something happens during it, something happens. If something doesn't, it doesn't. Simple.
>[A2] "Do" the walking tour— but actually just go along with it to get Casey nice and comfortable, then slam him with questions when he's off-guard. Genius.
>[A3] Uh... well... you may not have direct accusations against Headspace right now, but if you dig hard enough you're bound to find something. Plan to give Casey the slip when you can and go exploring and/or interviewing.
>[A4] Write-in.

(The [B]s are optional.)
>[B1] Hey, so does he still think you're being idle and lazy?
>[B2] Hey, so does he still think the tour is pointless?
>[B3] Why is he still being a dick after you epically owned him earlier? That's not fair.
>[B4] Write-in other questions for Richard. (He'll still be around, but it'll be hard to get him both alone and unsnaked.)
>>
>>5278872
>>[A3] Uh... well... you may not have direct accusations against Headspace right now, but if you dig hard enough you're bound to find something. Plan to give Casey the slip when you can and go exploring and/or interviewing.
>>
>>5278872
>A3
>B3
He should learn to be a gracious loser
Like how we would be if we ever lost
>>
>>5278871
>[A1] The plan? The plan is to just do the damn walking tour. If something happens during it, something happens. If something doesn't, it doesn't. Simple.
>[B1] Hey, so does he still think you're being idle and lazy?
>[B2] Hey, so does he still think the tour is pointless?
>>
>>5278872
>>A3
>>B3

We are Charlotte Fawkins and we are proactive, if nothing else.

>>5278718
>Psych Major

And here I was guessing you were an English Major or something the whole time with your writing skills alone-- close enough, I suppose.
>>
>>5278870
Getting a real Cave Johnson vibe from this guy.
>>
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>>5278876
>>5279079
>>5279502
>A3

>>5279287
>A1

>>5279079
>>5279502
>B3

>>5279287
>B1 / B2

>>5278876
>No Bs

Called for A3 / B3 and writing.

>>5279502
>spoilers
I'm an English minor :^)

>>5279867
Cave Johnson was not a deliberate inspiration, but now that you say it I think it's a good one. You have QM approval to read all of Casey's lines in the Cave Johnson voice.
>>
Rolled 66 (1d100)

Also rolling for no reason.
>>
>Plan C

You scowl. "You can't say there's glaring flaws without hearing the plan first. What if it's—"

"I'm making an inference, Charlie. An inference is where you use your existing knowledge— in this instance, of your dozens of previous so-called plans— to extrapolate into the future, in this case that your plan, if it exists, has glaring flaws." He folds his hands behind his back. "Hope this helps."

"Ha ha ha," you say. "I know what an inference is. I was just—"

"I was only making sure, since I seem to recall a diatribe earlier about your dislike of basic logic. I thought to myself, 'what if Charlie is simply unaware of most modes of reasoning?' And I thought, this would explain quite a lot about her, and her many difficulties with—"

Something wrenches in you. "Shut up!"

"There's no need to be rude, Charlie. Am I being rude? Do I sound rude?"

No. He sounds sickeningly calm, which only means one thing. "You're mocking me! Why are you— you can't mock me. You can't mock me, and you can't insult me anymore, or mess with me, because I won earlier. That's how it works. That's how it—"

"You 'won'?" Richard scoffs. "Is that what we decided on?"

You did win. Decisively. You made him go shopping and everything. "What? Yes, we did decide on— actually, we specifically decided on the fact that if you weren't nice to me, I wouldn't do what you wanted. And you weren't nice to me, so I'm not doing what you want, and now you're being mean about it?! How does that make sense? Now I'm just going to go ahead with my incredible plan, and you don't get any say, where if you just said 'wow, I'm excited to hear your certainly incredible plan, Charlie'—"

"Then I would be a liar."

"You are a liar," you say. "So lie."

A silence follows. "I don't think I will."

He doesn't think he will. Translation: he won't bother being nice to you. He refuses to be nice to you. He'd rather jeopardize his entire stupid secret plan than spend a second being— "Why?!"

Another silence. "Because I will not, Charlotte. Now how about we move along from this drivel? I'm sure you—"

"'Because' isn't a reason!" Your heart is pounding. "Why won't you be nice?"

"Charlotte."

"Is it because you hate me?! Admit it, it's because—"

"I don't hate you," he says, though his acid tone indicates otherwise. "Don't be hysterical. I just would rather not be domesticated by an idiot girl toying with concepts she doesn't understand. I have little interest in being forcibly molded into a saccharine fiction of a dead man. Yes? Comprehensible? Good. Now—"

He... he won't be nice to you... because he doesn't want to be like your father. Who was nice to you. Who, from the scraps of evidence you have, cared about you and loved you. You laugh, and it is admittedly a bit hysterical. "Forcibly molded?!"

(1/3?)
>>
"Yes," he says irritably. "This has gone on for long enough. Let's—"

"You can't get 'forcibly molded' into— you're him, idiot. You're already him. You're my father, who got turned into a stupid horrible snake who hates me. Am I wrong?"

"Do we have to dredge this up?"

"Yes! Yes, we— did you think I'd forget, Richard? Maybe you'd thought I'd forget you're my actual literal father. Who died. And turned into a snake. Who hates me. Like, you'd have to think I forgot, right? That you used to be a normal person?"

Richard's lips are thin and his hands are jabbed into his pants pockets. He's lowered the sunglasses, but his head is turned away from you.

"A normal person, who used to be nice, and—" Your voice cracks, and you clear your throat to cover it. "Look, the POINT is that I'm gonna fix you. I'm gonna fix you! Not domesticate you, put you back to regular. And I'm sorry if you don't like that, but your opinion is a stupid snake opinion, so... I don't care."

"Mm-hmm." He's still not looking at you.

"I will do it," you say, louder. "Because I won. You're going to be nice to me, and we'll be all happy, and we can do fun and exciting things without you being a horrible little killjoy, and—"

"Mm-hmm." He's checking his wristwatch.

"Richard!" You ball your fists. "Hello? I'm laying out the terms of my victory? So you should really—"

"Quaint."

"Richard!"

>66

It's a thing of heated instinct, mainly: your thought process is one flash of 'rat bastard!' and then you've lunged forward and grabbed the collar of his stupid sweater and now he's looking at you, good— you're looking at him back, right through his sunglasses, and you're thinking about how much better your life would be if your real father was here. And maybe that was enough? Or maybe that just set off a sort of subconscious chain reaction, like you lit off a string of firecrackers, and that's what Richard is feeling— because he's feeling something. His face is all squinched up.

"See?" you say triumphantly. "You should've been listening! I was saying important thi— hey! Ow!"

Richard, still squinched, has grabbed your hand off his collar and batted you away. Your 'ow' was more indignation than pain, but he's stepping forward heavily now, and his fingers are curled, and you think about making a break for it (can't you just leave?) until you think about it further, and realize. "Do it!"

His throat bobs.

"Do it. Come on. Win. You want to win, right? You want to prove—"

"Don't presume to know me." His voice is hoarse. He tucks his hands behind him. "At the moment, I would like to cease this farce. You have a waste of time to attend, primr—"

He stops himself, but it's too late— you've already chalked up another win on the mental scoreboard. (It's 100-0, or something like that.) "What? No. You didn't even hear my incredible—"

(2/3?)
>>
"What is your incredible plan."

"Oh!" You're glad you stalled so long, so you could formulate something good. "Well, I bet the tour is gonna suck, so me and Gil should probably sneak off and do our own thing. Detectivate the whole place, you know, um, swashbuckle whatever needs swashbuckling... yes?"

"That's stupid," Richard says.

You wait for the rest of the scathing tear-down. It doesn't come. "That's it?"

"Yes."

"Oh." You resolve to consider this a stamp of approval. "Excellent! Well, I'll get right on that. Let me know if you have any questions about the whole 'fixing you' deal— um, we can work on that more later. I'm sort of in the middle of something. Wait, are they— they aren't worried about me, right? It's been, um—"

"Time doesn't elapse in a buffer, functionally."

"Oh!" you say. "I knew that. I was just testing you. Um, well... bye. Er, I guess you'll be along, but you won't really be able to— you know what I mean. Right? You know what I—?"

"Yes." Richard rubs his nose. "Stay safe, Charlie."

"Um, I—" You pause to consider whether that's a normal Richard sentiment or if he's still doped on fatherliness (in which case you'd be at 101-0), and as you consider Richard pushes you gently by the shoulder and you stumble—

*

https://youtu.be/b5HmdbpHDew

—into a round space— you assume a dome, or a normal room with curved walls, until your eyes adjust to the light. It's neither. All three of you are standing on the— wall? (...Ceiling? Floor?) On the inside of a huge, perfect sphere.

"Seems a little excessive," Gil says dryly, and he might be referring to the sphere, or to the wispy clouds drifting inside it, or to the massive head sculpture suspended in its center, which bears a suspicious resemblance to Casey— half its forehead is lopped off, and the interior is filled with spurting fountains, though the water appears conflicted what direction to fall in.

Casey claps Gil on the back. "What can I say, Madrigal? We think big around here. Can't help it. Welcome to the atrium, ladies— any questions so far?"

What is there to say, really? It all seems remarkably self-explanatory. You shake your head.

Gil doesn't. "How much manpower did this take to make?"

"Lots! We work hard around here. Can't help it." Casey twinkles. "We did get some outside help, but don't tell anyone, eh? Walking tour secret. Speaking of, is there anywhere in particular you ladies were looking forward to seeing? I had a little order planned, but I'd be happy to rejigger. Get the good stuff in first, that's the motto!"

Gil glances at you. "Um," you say. "...What are the options?"

"The options! Oh, let me see." Casey strokes his chin. "Germination, Incubation, the Biomes, Friend Testing, Friend Disposal, Calm Rooms, Monitoring, Interior Decoration... oh, there's more than that, but is that sparking anything?"

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] Uh... yes. (Where do you want to go?)
>[2] Uh... no. You'll just go wherever he takes you.
>[3] Okay, these are silly names. You're an expert on good naming, and these are silly. Do companies always do this? Ask Casey what they actually mean— it might ruin his good vibes, but come on, seriously. (Which ones?)
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5280274
>[3] Okay, these are silly names. You're an expert on good naming, and these are silly. Do companies always do this? Ask Casey what they actually mean— it might ruin his good vibes, but come on, seriously. (Which ones?)
Germination, Incubation, Calm Rooms, Monitoring
>>
>>5280275
>[2] Uh... no. You'll just go wherever he takes you.
>>
>>5280274
>[3] Okay, these are silly names. You're an expert on good naming, and these are silly. Do companies always do this? Ask Casey what they actually mean— it might ruin his good vibes, but come on, seriously. (Which ones?)
Biomes, Friend Testing, Friend Disposal, Monitoring

mmmmyes friend disposal
10/10 name
>>
>>5280275
>>[3] Okay, these are silly names. You're an expert on good naming, and these are silly. Do companies always do this? Ask Casey what they actually mean— it might ruin his good vibes, but come on, seriously. (Which ones?)
>>
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>>5280396
>>5280465
>>5280772
>[3]

>>5280422
>[2]

Writing for [3]. This is likely to be a short and pretty insubstantial update, which is why I intended to crank it out this afternoon so you guys could have some actual meaty options overnight. And then I didn't crank it out this afternoon. Apologies! I'll try to get back on track tomorrow.
>>
>Uhhhhhhhhh

Are you supposed to know what any of those are? Casey is waiting expectantly like you should, or at least like you should be awed by the quirkiness on display here, but currently you're just confused and vaguely annoyed. Is this how Richard feels when he dubs something 'inane'?

«Yes.»

God, these names are inane. But you can't just go and ask what they mean, right? Because either you were supposed to know what they mean, and you'll look stupid, or you actually weren't supposed to know, and you'd just be playing straight into his hands. But if you pick blindly, that'd be worse, right? You could get stuck touring some basement or supply closet for two hours and never, ever get to slip away. So you need to plot out a way to ask that skillfully places you as—

"Mr. Kemper," Gil says. "...We've never been here before. Do you think you could expand on those?"

(Oh! Oh, or he could— yes. He's taking the fall, making you look brilliant in comparison. All according to plan.) "Oh, Madrigal, don't do this to me!" Casey is feigning a wounded tone. "You sound like that desk girl! It's first names only— we're a little family here, see, and you wouldn't call your family Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Fitzpatrick, would you? It's Casey, I assure you."

Gil's eyes flick to you. "Okay... Casey. Could you just describe the departments in normal words that people use?"

"You're a bit of a cynic, eh? You know, we get a lot of people coming in here, thinking like you. But we wear them down, Madrigal. We wear them down. And pretty soon—" He snaps his fingers above his head. "Bingo! We've won them over! We'll win you over yet, Madrigal, I promise. By the end of the tour—"

"By the end of the tour you'll have described the departments?"

God, he's really pushing his luck, isn't he? But Casey laughs loud enough that it echoes throughout the sphere. "Well, I suppose I will have! Did you have one in mind, or—"

"All of them," you interject. "Also, I was thinking the thing about the normal words before h— before Madrigal said it, so you know. Use normal words."

Casey mimes a knife to his heart. "Well, anything for you charming ladies. Let me see..."

>Germination
M.A.N.S.E.s have to start somewhere, Casey says mysteriously.

>Incubation
M.A.N.S.E.s have to grow somewhere, Casey says more mysteriously.

>The Biomes
Oh! Casey loves the Biomes, he says. They're large open-concept workspaces modeled after recreations of various surface biomes! Which had, he says with authority, different plants and animals and soil types and climate patterns and you tuned out somewhere in there. But he's really into it, you guess.

>Calm Rooms
Casey loves the calm rooms, he says. Almost as much as the Biomes. They're simply safe and restful places where employees can vent their frustrations. They're critical to the healthy functioning of the Headspace family!

(1/2)
>>
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>Monitoring
Headspace is dedicated to customer service, Casey says sagely. We love our customers. So we maintain direct lines to each and every M.A.N.S.E. we produce, ensuring that if something goes wrong, our service teams can— and he can't finish the sentence because Gil has launched into an explosive coughing fit.

>Friend Testing
Friends are premium add-ons, says Casey! We here at Headspace strive for Friends 99% indistinguishable from real life people, using advanced personality modeling techniques.

>Friend Disposal
There is the 1%, he says cagily. We don't like to release inferior product.

Apropos of nothing, then, he continues on to describe a few more departments(?) you're sure he hadn't mentioned previously—

>Dormitories
Self-explanatory, he says. We provide spacious and comfortable living quarters for all family members! We have recently added ropeball courts...

>Syntheticization
You're not sure that's a word, but okay. Casey says that skilled Headspace technicians syntheticize pharmaceuticals for widespread usage— and they're free! Isn't that marvelous?

It almost looks like he's about to go on, but Gil's fidgeting and you're starting to feel dizzy. (Are you hanging down from the sphere?) "Er— yes. Thanks. Ahem. I think we'll go with—"

>[1] The Biomes. Somewhere large and outdoorsy? Sounds like the perfect place to "accidentally" get lost.
>[2] Calm Rooms. These sound sort of private, right? You could probably wrangle a way to shut yourself and Gil in and win some alone time to plan.
>[3] Friend Disposal. It sounds like they dispose of defective "Friends" here, whatever that means... and hey, if a defective Friend got loose, who'd be paying attention to you?
>[4] Syntheticization. You're sorry, they're distributing free drugs? What? Do any of them induce vision quests?
>[5] Somewhere else? (Write-in.)
>>
>>5281561
>[1] The Biomes. Somewhere large and outdoorsy? Sounds like the perfect place to "accidentally" get lost.
>>
>>5281561
>2
Make our plan on how to slip away
And then slip away
>>
>>5281561
>[3] Friend Disposal. It sounds like they dispose of defective "Friends" here, whatever that means... and hey, if a defective Friend got loose, who'd be paying attention to you?
>>
>>5281561
>>[1] The Biomes. Somewhere large and outdoorsy? Sounds like the perfect place to "accidentally" get lost.
>>
>>5281898
>>5281920
>[1]

>>5281917
>[2]

>>5281919
>[3]

Called for [1] and writing.
>>
>Go bushwhacking

"—the Biomes?" It doesn't matter where you actually go, you figure, just that you slip away with little fuss, and tricky terrain ought to help in that department. "Er, nowhere with snow, though. I'm highly against snow."

"We fucking hate snow," Gil echoes.

"No snow! Got it!" Casey snaps his fingers. "You wouldn't want snow, anyhow. Stuff's cold! Gets everywhere! Hard to walk through! No, ladies, you want sun. Am I wrong? I'm never wrong! Haven't been wrong in decades! You want bright, beautiful sun, and beautiful fresh air— how's the air, by the by? Crushes water any day?"

You've grown so used to thin manse air that it hardly registered as unusual. You widen your eyes to compensate. "Uh... yes!"

"See! This is what we do for people, Charlotte. I swear to God, get a M.A.N.S.E. in your system— you'll be revitalized. But later, eh? Not now! Now—" He splays his fingers. "—the sun!"

That's all that needs to be said, apparently, because he sets off decisively down the steep curved slope, and you wonder for a moment about glue-soled shoes or some other ingenious device before Gil takes his own steps and you realize he's not flailing off into the aether, either. You hasten to follow.

You're never quite settled with the concept, even after walking untroubled for a minute or two— it's only after Casey fishes out his bouncy ball, squints, and throws it skidding up (down?) and along the sphere that you grasp 'down' must be wherever your feet are. You resolve not to think about it any further and devote your energies to batting away clouds that drift too close.

When a rounded doorway comes into view, Casey ushers Gil through it first, then you, then stoops to grab the ball back— it's made a perfect loop around. You clamber onto a hanging bridge and nearly bump into Gil, who has frozen in thought. He's staring out over the rest of Headspace.

And then you're staring out over the rest of Headspace: over a clustering of some two-dozen white orbs, some fully enclosed, some with the tops or sides caved out, all suspended weightlessly over a rushing sea of clouds. Bridges delicately link them— the string in the pearl necklace— and you spot people here or there strolling between the orbs, though they're too distant to make out any detail. (Especially with your missing good eye... wait. Is it missing? Is this your real body or not? You make to prod—)

«Do <not> think about it.»

Richard's shock is more of a warning tingle, but you get the picture. You have the eye. Done. You still can't see any fine details with both eyes, though, so it's really just what you saw earlier— well, now that you squint, there are a few open-air spheres clustered together, and it looks as though one may be forested? One's all orangey. The Biomes, maybe?

(1/3?)
>>
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"Some view, huh?" Casey has reacted to the open air by adjusting his volume up several notches, and both you and Gil flinch. "Unbeatable, I swear— though, to be fair, it's not sun. Shall we, ladies?"

The faster you get going, the faster you're rid of him, so you're enthusiastic: Gil once again needs an ankle-kick, but he gets moving after that. You march single-file across the bridge, then down an interminable spiral staircase, which eventually exits onto another bridge. But the endless clouds and faint music and weird stale smell all work wonders to keep you more disoriented than annoyed, even as Casey keeps apologizing for the 'outdated tek' in the upper areas.

«Tech.»

That's stupid. Gil asks (with barely restrained hunger) what up-to-date 'tech' Headspace has installed elsewhere, and Casey winks (maybe his eye is broken?) and taps his nose and apparently that settles the matter. You first find out after descending a shorter flight of stairs into a small lounge room and bursting out the door: you've finally made it to civilization, and your entrance has startled a gaggle of ball-capped employees. Their eyes scan you and your lanyards and it looks like a purple-capped one means to say something, until his eyes land on Casey busily locking the door. He blanches, then, and hustles off, and by the time Casey turns around the rest of the crowd has vanished with him.

Gil is audibly disappointed when he sees the 'tech,' which is just on the other side of the throughway— it's a "self-walking path!", meaning a bridge that sort of rolls along, pushing pedestrians forward. Which seems useful to you, if mildly uncreative— but Gil won't grant it that much, and says several things about it you refuse to repeat. You sense those were his nice ways of putting it. (You wonder if he's ever wanted to say those things before.) For his part, Casey laughs it off with the weather-beaten ego of a spokesman, and you enter the self-walking path anyhow.

After standing for a while, you wish dearly it'd self-walk a little faster, and immediately it does— is that the tek part? (You hate "tech." That spelling makes no sense.) Is it reading your mind? Or did someone just hit a button somewhere? It could be coincidence, but there's really no such thing as coincidence, that's your motto—

«Since when.»

Since now, Richard. You bet he doesn't have a motto, let alone enough mottos to swap them out at will. What a sad life he leaves, all dumb and disembodied and mottoless. You bet your normal father had a motto.

«I sincerely doubt this.»

(2/3)
>>
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Does he want to bet? You'd be drawing up the terms of the bet for the next several minutes had the self-walking pathway not ground to a halt, spitting you out somewhere... hot. Like opening a furnace door to the face. You push up your sleeves; Gil undoes the top two buttons of his shirt; Casey, still in an ill-fitting double-breasted suit, does nothing but slide hideous rainbow sunglasses on. "Ah!" he says. "Zone 4! My favorite!"

You suspect he'd say that no matter where you went, but you suppose you can't fault a positive attitude, so you squint out into Zone 4 instead. You don't see much in the way of open-plan workspaces. You do see wilderness, or what you suppose must be wilderness, though you've never seen anything like it: the powdery dirt is red-orange, the waist-high grass is yellow, and there's hardly any trees. The high sun casts everything in harsh shadow, and for barely-understood reasons a disgust rises in you.

>[-1 ID: 7/13]

You don't voice it, though: the time for complaining will come when you're Caseyless. For now, you squint and continually brush dust and burrs off your slacks as Casey begins to lead you into the depths of Zone 4, which look exactly the same as the outskirts of Zone 4, only there's a jagged ravine through the middle. Have you been seeing a lot of ravines lately? Maybe it's a sign.

«I sincerely doubt this also.»

Richard isn't an official God-certified heroine, so he doesn't get signs— receive or understand them. It's fine, though, because you're now definitely sure it's a sign. Of what? Of your tragically rifted-through life? Of your intense desire for some decent shade? Casey has stopped talking about anything remotely Headspace and is going on about soil composition again, so maybe it's a sign he's currently distracted? And you should push him into the ravine? Just kidding. Probably just kidding.

Anyhow, he might be sort of distracted, but he's still talking to you. His eyes are wide open. But there's far less cover than you hoped for in every direction you look, so... unless you want to learn in minute detail how Casey and his team accurately reconstructed the structure of the grass, you may as well do it now. Provided you can think of something.

(Choices next.)
>>
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>[1] Hmm. Could the ravine be a sign of your super real earth powers? As in you should use your earth powers to create an escape opportunity? Maybe you could widen the ravine, or make another sinkhole, or— you'll figure it out. You're in unreality, so it shouldn't be too hard. [Roll.]
>[2] Hmmmmmm. Could be the ravine be a sign that you need to escape into the ravine? And by that you mean just yanking Gil with you into the ravine. Richard will divest all of his considerable power making sure you don't splatter your brains out, plus it's not a real ravine, so you'll definitely probably be fine.
>[3] Richard's still here, right? He's just invisible. So literally all he needs to do is step out directly behind Casey and drug and/or choke him unconscious. He'll never see his assailant, you and Gil can look suitably horrified, bingo bango.
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5282724
>[1] Hmm. Could the ravine be a sign of your super real earth powers? As in you should use your earth powers to create an escape opportunity? Maybe you could widen the ravine, or make another sinkhole, or— you'll figure it out. You're in unreality, so it shouldn't be too hard. [Roll.]
>>
>>5282724
>1
do we hate the sun because it reminds us of Ellery or because it baked us well done that one time
>>
>>5282724
>>[1] Hmm. Could the ravine be a sign of your super real earth powers? As in you should use your earth powers to create an escape opportunity? Maybe you could widen the ravine, or make another sinkhole, or— you'll figure it out. You're in unreality, so it shouldn't be too hard. [Roll.]
>>
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>>5282804
>>5282987
>>5283169
>[1]

Called.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 40 (-10 Manse Level 1) to summon up your awesome earth powers which definitely exist.

Spend 1 ID for +10 to the roll? You are at 7/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N

>>5282987
The latter, though the former probably doesn't help.
>>
Rolled 49 (1d100)

>>5283443
I already liked casey
but with the pic I love casey
>no spendy, we can take dc 40 ez
>>
Rolled 36 (1d100)

>>5283443

>N
>>
Rolled 2 (1d100)

>>5283443
>[N]
>>
Set the DC to 10 next time so we can fail miserably anyways.
>>
>>5283443
>>5283633
>>5283671

Is it too late to switch to spendy?
>>
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>>5283561
>>5283633
>>5283657
>49, 36, 2 vs. DC 40 -- Mitigated Success
>No spendy

Writing.

>>5283671
>>5283674
>trusting Drowned dice
>ever
No take-backsies, sorry.
>>
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>Instant escape just add magyck

Of course you can think of something! You always think of something. But maybe you'd think of something better if you stooped, as to escape some of the foghorn blast of Casey's voice. (He is moving on to the grass.) Plus, maybe bending down will improve your blood flow. You're sure that's how it works. You stoop, and pretend to look interestedly at the dirt.

Well, it sure is dirt. It's already coating your boots, so that's wonderful— it really is powdery. Nothing like the thin crumbly dirt or slick clay of the Pillar, or the stodgy mud underwater. How many kinds of dirt are there? You're not actually interested in this, are you? You can't be interested.

«What is happening.»
«Is Charlotte Fawkins expressing intellectual curiosity.»
«The world truly is coming to an end.»

Okay, you're definitely not actually interested: Casey just infected you with his bizarre dirt enthusiasm. You're running the dirt through your fingers to increase the realism of your ruse— in actuality, you're still plotting your escape. Your escape. Could Richard strangle Casey for you?

«I am prohibited from direct interference.»

And precisely when has that ever stopped him? But fine, okay, you don't even need him. You have yourself, after all. And Gil. And loads and loads of dirt. And earth powers. Hmmmm.

«You have been told to refrain from using the term 'earth powers.'»

And what is he going to do about it, shock you half to death? Ha ha. But really, you think you're onto something. Casey hasn't made a big deal about the stooping, so you escalate: you lower yourself down fully, sit criss-crossed, and place your palms flat onto the ground. The dirt-stain will come out of your hands, right? It will. You'll get it out with your earth powers.

«That is not remotely how—»

It definitely is how it works, and you know this, since you're the one with the earth powers. Which you are using... now. Yes. You're feeling the heat of the soil radiate through your palms: not scalding or blinding like the sun (and who likes the sun?) but a steady dependable warmness that creeps up your arms and down your chest until the whole of you is flushed and glowing. It is not an unwelcome guest, but it is an expansive one, and to contain it you find yourself nudged to your extremities, and further yet. With an exhale, you radiate out from your palms and into the dirt.

It's as different to the mind-feel as it is to the touch: yielding, loose. Things vibrate far in it. Three heartbeats and the ground-shake of occasional broad gestures just above. Pounding footsteps— several sets of feet— somewhere below. Not too distant. Below that, harder rock, but you're powdery as the soil and sift through without difficulty. Below that—

(1/3?)
>>
You had forgotten you were in a floating sphere. Or, more likely, the knowledge was locked away inside your blood-meat body, along with foresight and afterthought and the rest of it. All you have in the present moment is the present moment, and in the present moment you— or some intangible youishness— is/are falling a great distance.

You are plummeting 90 MPH feet-first towards the uncaring ocean, and all you can figure is—

«It seemed like a better idea at the time. Yes.»
«Doesn't it always.»

You are caught midfall. The thing who catches you is sleek and alien and cold and you resist its presence. You do not want it here. You want it to stop touching you. You don't want to be slung over its shoulder, or something adjacent to slinging and shoulders. You want it away.

«I don't understand why I continue to allow this. You are not equipped to handle lower states with any level of dignity. It has required my intervention 100% of the time.»
«Get up, Charlotte Fawkins.»

...God-damnit. Do you have to? You were doing fine, so he knows. Are doing fine. You were— you strategically— you— something's down there, Richard. Beneath the cloud cover. Can't he sense it with his dumb fancy not-realness? Because you're all horrible and undignified (so he says), and it's smacking even you in the faceishness. There's some sort of structure hidden from view, and something's rolling off it like—

«This is irrelevant. We are returning.»

Hey! No! He can't— well, he can, because you're being reeled upward, but you don't want him to! And shouldn't that count for something? Shouldn't you be able to use your earth powers however you want? They're your earth powers, and you bet he's just jealous—

«You had intended to plot an escape.»

Oh. Yes. And Gil's still— you're not slumped over or anything, right? You're not scaring anyone?

«You are in the same position you were.»

Phew. (You are winding upwards through bedrock.) So how does he think you should escape?

«I believe you should complete the tour as intended. It poses the least amount of risk.» «My time and energy is wasted whenever you become enmeshed in 'shenanigans.'»

That's exactly what (boring, uncool) Snake Richard would say. Or disembodied Richard, you guess. You bet if you asked Person Richard he'd help with your awesome escape plan. Actually, you bet your normal father would love to—

«How long do you intend on bringing this up.»

Frequently. Anyhow, it's not like you need him for an awesome escape plan. You'll just escape into the cave system under the surface, which you discovered using your mind-blowing earth powers, by the way. You'll also use said mind-blowing earth powers to open a passage into said cave system. Easy.

«You do not possess 'earth powers.'»

(2/3? 4?)
>>
Easy! You're being yanked past the (presumable) caves right now, as a matter of fact. All you have to do is wriggle out of Richard's metaphorical grip—

«Stop.»

—also easy, since you're made of dirt and all, and then you're submerged in dirt again, so if you lighten up on the youishness a bit, or a lot, and just let yourself settle into the earth you are (in)—

«Charlie, stop. You have no comprehension of what you are doing.»

—then— it— gets much harder to think, doesn't it? Slower. Like semaphore. Gosh. But you don't need to think much at all, being (in?) 500 cubic feet of rock and soil, all you need to do is gracefully crack and give way—

«...»

—and you plummet into empty space. You. You. Your-body you. You, who was attentively and attractively listening to Casey's rambling seconds before, are now flailing down a steep hole, choking on dust, getting pelted by random shards of rock, and beset by the obscure feeling this debacle is somehow your fault. Your memory of the last few minutes starts dream-bleary and ends impenetrable, not that you particularly want to penetrate it. Is there something under the cloud cover? How do you know that? Should you worry about it now when the sky is becoming a pinhole? Your duffel bag broke the surface a fraction before, so it's more like getting socked with a fist than it is with a brick wall—

You land amidst a great banging and throwing-up of dust: it appears that a great deal of rubble is following you down. 'Land' is maybe imprecise. What you mean is that you were attempting to channel your earth powers, or anything else applicable, to soften your three-story fall onto hard stone, when Richard flickered into corporality directly below you. So it's not that you asked him to catch you, or wanted him to catch you. He just did.

But you're disentangling yourself from him, anyhow, and coughing up a storm, and squinting around at the big piles of rubble (which all miraculously missed your skull), and up toward the sky— a silhouetted Casey is craning himself as far as he can over the lip of the sinkhole. "LADIES?! LADIES?! ARE YOU—"

He sounds genuinely frantic, which is almost enough to make you feel bad. Nearly. Should you yell back? But he'll try and rescue you if you yell back. But he'll probably try and rescue you (or your corpse) even if you don't yell back, so— "I'M- I'M OKAY!" you say, and it's not difficult to sound shaken-up. "I'M NOT HURT! I JUST—"

'Ladies.' Gil. Gil! Did he fall?! He must've, if Casey's yelling— oh, God! Positive thinking. Positive thinking, Charlotte. Positive thinking. It's not working. Positive thinking. Gil is fine, and he didn't dash Madrigal's flimsy guts over the floor, or get Madrigal's fragile head smashed in by a boulder, or—

(3/4)
>>
"I'M FINE! ALSO." You full-body startle at Madrigal's— at Gil's muffled voice. "I LANDED IN A FUCKING TREE, I— I GUESS?"

Where is he?! You pry yourself to your feet and conduct a hasty survey of your immediate surroundings— which are rocks, mainly, and Richard, who has perched himself on a rock and is cleaning his sunglasses. No trees, and no Gil.

"OH! OH, THANK GOD! LADIES, PLEASE— PLEASE STAY WHERE YOU ARE. I'LL CONTACT A TEAM, AND WE'LL GET YOU OUT OF THERE, AND MEDICAL ATTENTION, AND COMPENSATORY DISCOUNTS, AND— STEEP COMPENSATORY DISCOUNTS. THIS DOES NOT REFLECT ON THE TYPICAL PROCEEDINGS HERE AT HEADSPACE! THIS IS NOT TYPICAL! STAY THERE, AND I'LL BE— I WILL BE BACK IN AS SHORT A TIME AS—" Casey's silhouette vanishes.

You scrub your eyes with your sleeve. Richard moves on to the second lens. "I'll accept a 'thank you' in lieu of an apology."

"Shut up. Gil? Gil, are you still—?" You knock at the rubble. "You're not in here, are you?"

"In where? I can't see anything except fucking tree. Where are you?"

"...Here," you say slowly. "You're behind there?"

"Behind..." Gil pauses. "Oh, shit."

He's realized what you have. The sinkhole appears to have dropped you into a natural cave: a natural cave now clogged top-to-bottom with heavy debris. You're on one side of the debris, and you're finding it increasingly likely Gil's on the other. "...Yeah," you say. "Um, this is... we can fix this! Don't panic! This is a completely—"

Richard has lifted a finger to his lips, and your voice dies out as you hear it: noisy footsteps, from multiple people, or one person with multiple legs. (You're not ruling it out.) It's on Gil's side of the rubble, you think.

"Oh, thank fuck," Gil says, and you hear some scrabbling.

"Wait! Wait, what are you—"

"Sounds like people, Lottie. Probably employees? I don't know why they wouldn't be. Isn't this what we— I mean— they fucking know stuff, right? So I'll go say hi, see what they know, and if things go south, I'm armed, so—"

This is Madrigal. This is all Madrigal's fault. The normal Gil would never abandon you in a stupid cave. (Also, he's armed? Since when?) "What am I supposed to do?!"

"I don't fucking know, whatever you normally— this is your gig, right? Go do hero stuff, or— you know, whatever it is. I don't really know. We can swap info later, right?"

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] You are M... you're Gil Wallace.

>[2] What? Huh? Hello? You're Charlotte Fawkins. When are you not?
>>[A] Okay, if STUPID FAKE GIL wants to ABANDON YOU, then fine! Fine! You'll abandon him first. Go explore the stupid cave on your own.
>>[B] You refuse to give up on STUPID FAKE GIL, even if he's STUPID and FAKE! Attempt to convince him to drop the Madrigal thing, since you got rid of Casey and all. [Roll.]
>>[C] You refuse to give up, etc., and you refuse to let a STUPID ROCK WALL stand in your way! Marshal all your strength, gumption, magyckal energies, etc. to move some stupid large heavy rocks out of the way and chase after Gil. [Roll.]
>>[D] Write-in.
>>
Also realized that I meant to include some ID change in there, but it's literally 4 AM so I'll give you guys a pass for now.
>>
>>5283857
>[2] What? Huh? Hello? You're Charlotte Fawkins. When are you not?
>>[A] Okay, if STUPID FAKE GIL wants to ABANDON YOU, then fine! Fine! You'll abandon him first. Go explore the stupid cave on your own.
>>
>>5283857
>>[2] What? Huh? Hello? You're Charlotte Fawkins. When are you not?
>>>[A] Okay, if STUPID FAKE GIL wants to ABANDON YOU, then fine! Fine! You'll abandon him first. Go explore the stupid cave on your own.
>>
>>5283857
>1
I'll take the plunge
>>
Just got some disappointing IRL news, so I don't feel up to writing this evening. Apologies. Leaving the vote open until tomorrow.
>>
>>5284855
Shame, hope you're doing ok OP
>>
>>5284855

Feel better OP...
>>
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>>5285848
>>5285641
I appreciate it! I'm doing much better today, it was just a bummer (canceled trip) that hit right when I was about to call the vote. Bad timing.

Speaking of bad timing, I'm calling the vote for [2A], but I'm pushing the update until tomorrow again. I have been roped unexpectedly and unwillingly into an early morning activity, and if I pull another 4 AM-er updating I'm going to keel over. Update tomorrow, and if I don't update tomorrow you have permission to heckle me. Though I was previously planning to take today - Tuesday off until yesterday's news, so you'll still be getting net more updates than you would've.

In the meantime, however, I'll post some more official 25TH (THREAD) ANNIVERSARY PLAYER QUESTIONS! Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

>How do you feel about the overall *pacing* of the quest? Is there a good balance of uptime and downtime? This is something I try very hard to manage and I never know how well I'm actually doing.

>Is there any aspect of the lore or setting that you feel is underexplored, or that you're interested in learning more about? Similarly, is there anything that has been explored, but that you still find confusing?

>Are you guys all secretly two steps ahead of me on the big plot reveals, or are they adequately suspenseful / surprising?

>Is there anything else I should keep in mind about how I run this quest?

>What's your favorite kind of cookie? Share a recipe with me if you have one.
>>
>>5286066
>How do you feel about the overall *pacing* of the quest?
Honestly, it feels like it's going nowhere.

>is there anything that has been explored, but that you still find confusing?
Unrealness.

>Are you guys all secretly two steps ahead of me on the big plot reveals, or are they adequately suspenseful / surprising?
There are plot reveals?

On a second thought, I could remember a few, yes. But they didn't really feel like they had an impact to me. Not sure why.

>What's your favorite kind of cookie?
Chocolate chip.
>>
>>5286066
>How do you feel about the overall *pacing* of the quest? Is there a good balance of uptime and downtime?
Yes to the second question. As for the first, the side missions feel like hydra heads in that each one we finish spawns at least 2 more.

>Is there any aspect of the lore or setting that you feel is underexplored, or that you're interested in learning more about? Similarly, is there anything that has been explored, but that you still find confusing?
uuuh
pretty much everything richard and ellery do

>Are you guys all secretly two steps ahead of me on the big plot reveals, or are they adequately suspenseful / surprising?
definitely surprising
we all knew pat and lester were gonna be pissed but I don't think anyone expected pat to go that far over it
plus the whole ellery situation

>Is there anything else I should keep in mind about how I run this quest?
The crown is the main questline but it feels like forever since we last did anything with it or the replacement Gil threw together for us
I thought we might try ganking gold mask back sometime, I mean it worked on us. Maybe they'll also critfail twice in a row.

>What's your favorite kind of cookie? Share a recipe with me if you have one.
Oatmeal raisin
>>
>>5286066
>>How do you feel about the overall *pacing* of the quest? Is there a good balance of uptime and downtime? This is something I try very hard to manage and I never know how well I'm actually doing.
Pacing suits the genre. What's truly admirable is your ability to successfully run a quest during a college semester.

>>Is there any aspect of the lore or setting that you feel is underexplored, or that you're interested in learning more about? Similarly, is there anything that has been explored, but that you still find confusing?
Need to catch up on threads lmao

>>Are you guys all secretly two steps ahead of me on the big plot reveals, or are they adequately suspenseful / surprising?
Refer to the answer to the previous question.

>>Is there anything else I should keep in mind about how I run this quest?
Haven't made it far enough to ascertain, but I definitely want to see us get the crown back. That, and Gil deserves a real, male body for all of his troubles.

>>What's your favorite kind of cookie? Share a recipe with me if you have one
https://imgur.com/a/sIheBBC
>>
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Writing, finally.

>>5286162
>Honestly, it feels like it's going nowhere.
Ah, but is it going nowhere too quickly, too slowly, or just right? Just kidding. This is a valid complaint which I suspect stems from my general plotting / pacing noobiness early on-- about all I can say at this point is that it is all going somewhere, promise, it's just taking a circuitous route to get there.

>Unrealness.
Pic related is a tl;dr of Richard's rambling from a few updates ago. If the issue is less that you couldn't parse it and more that it didn't make sense when you did, let me know and I can provide some OOC analogies and further IC context that might help. (I'd do it now, but it'd take a while and I have to write the update.)

>>5286473
>the side missions feel like hydra heads in that each one we finish spawns at least 2 more.
See, this is exactly why I'm asking this kind of stuff: on the QM side, this is me trying to make sure you guys "get" something out of your various encounters, so it doesn't feel like you've hit a dead end and wasted your time. I hadn't been considering it might be exhausting/overwhelming/unsatisfying. Fortunately, I have good news on this front: we're very near a point plotwise where things will begin to converge rather than diverge.

>pretty much everything richard and ellery do
Both of these will get thorough explanations at some point. (There is a method to both of their madnesses.)

>>5286556
>first spoiler
Thanks! We'll be testing my ability to run a quest during a summer job pretty soon.

>Gil's body
Soon!

>recipe
Based. I'll post pics if I make these.

(1/2)
>>
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>>5286473
>>5286556
>The Crown situation
Yes, I've been feeling like I mishandled this for a while-- long story short, the Crown getting stolen for an extended period of time was not in the original plans, so after the double crits happened I rejiggered said plans to shift focus elsewhere, a little at first and then a lot. I didn't really get you guys on board with this, which is most obvious back in Thread 23 where I veered uncomfortably close to railroading-- which I would like to formally apologize for right now. All I can say in my defense is that it was impulsive bad QMing rather than a calculated decision, which isn't much defense at all.

I'm not going to retcon anything or *completely* refocus the story right now on regaining/filling the Crown, because I think that would be jarring, and (frankly speaking) it would extend the expected remaining lifespan of the quest to an untenable degree. However, I'm planning a scene next thread where you can potentially soften your stance with Richard / bargain to start tracking down the Gold-Masked Person, and I will also promise these things will happen before the natural end of the quest:

- You will have a chance or chances to regain the Crown
- If or when a timeskip occurs, you may opt to spend part of it getting Law for the Crown
- You will have a chance to take your revenge on / have an epic showdown with / double crit the Gold-Masked Person
- You will find out what the deal is with the Gold-Masked Person
- You will have a way or ways to completely fill the Crown

I hope this helps at least a little.
>>
>Okay FINE

Can you swap info later? Sure. That's fine. That's reasonable. It represents a complete betrayal of your confidence and your sacred trust, but if he wants to go off on his own and get shot and die in horrible agony because you weren't around to rescue him again, he is a grown man. Woman? Beetles? He's grown, and he can make his own wrong, disappointing decisions. Unless he can't, because he's not real, or whatever stupid stuff Richard said—

"That's not what I said," Richard says irritably.

Well, it's basically what he—

"Hold the fuck on, is that Richard?" Gil's voice comes through the rubble again. "He's here? Since when? I thought he lived in your head, or— or something."

You stick your hands in your pockets. "Um, yes, and he does, it's just—"

"I am still in Charlie's head." Richard slips his polished sunglasses back on. "I remain as ever a figment of her imagination. Any questions?"

"...No," Gil says. "You're going to be alone with her?"

"I am always alone with her," and unexpectedly Richard's voice has grown dangerous. "Would you prefer to be alone with her instead, Beetles?"

What? Are they having some other conversation? Because this all seems very divorced from the topic at hand, which is Gil abandoning you like a terrible person, even though he's the one who needs babysitting all day. Really, you should be abandoning him. How would he like that? You'll go off and explore and you'll explore better than he ever could, and he'll be sad for ever considering this. And apologize. He'll apologize so hard, and share his pathetic morsels of information, and you'll play further groveling by ear. Yeah. Yeah! "Um, ahem. I am hereby announcing that I and Richard shall be taking our leaves, to do hero stuff, as mentioned, and we shall find you later. So... goodbye." You stomp your feet so it sounds like footsteps.

"Oh, shit, uh— Charlotte?" (You stomp harder.) "Fuck. I guess... BE CAREFUL!" he says louder.

A nice thing to say, or another reminder of his galling insubordinacy? You don't need to be careful. What possible obstacle could you find in a stupid company office cave? Does he think you're weak enough to be endangered by... you don't know what offices have in them, really. Stationary? You have to exercise a great deal of self-control to not send a cutting retort back at him, and instead linger until you hear more rustling and some actual retreating footsteps. Gil has abandoned you.

But you did so (mentally) first, so you win. That's how it works. Richard agrees that's how it—

"I do agree, Charlie." Richard slides off his perch and brushes himself off. "I think you made a wise decision. What value would he have added, precisely?"

You cross your arms behind your back. "Well, it's not really about the..."

(1/3)
>>
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"Because I'm inclined to think it would be 'none.' Or 'negative,' possibly, what with the constant damsel in distress—" He twirls his hand. "How much effort have you expended on this 'person,' again?"

"Don't say person like that," you mumble. "And a lot, but he's my retainer, so—"

"And what has he done for you in return? Melt. Provide leverage for a kidnapping. Further provoke the proprietor of your tent. Abandon you. Am I missing anything?"

"He's not— it's not about—" You're having difficulty reconciling your current grudge with the feeling Richard's provoking in you. "Shut up, okay? He's not even— he's Madrigal, so he's not even thinking straight, and I'm sure he'll be properly sorry when this is done. He's sorry about a lot of things, you know."

"Is he?" Richard adjusts his tie.

"Is he— yes!" You've never heard another living person apologize so much. "So let's just go, okay? God."

So you go. It's easy enough to turn around and march through the craggy gap in the cave wall, even if you have to hop over a few stray rocks to do it. The tunnel it leads into is unlit, but that poses no trouble to your keen night-vision: thank God, because if Richard had to trap-hunt for you again you might just die of humiliation. Instead, he just pads along a little behind you as you explore this— this remarkably familiar tunnel. "Um, we haven't been here before, right?"

"Headspace?"

"I guess, or..." You trail your hand against the cave wall.

"Not that I'm aware of." (There's a lot riding on that 'aware of', you think.) "The pattern of the rocks repeats every ten feet or so, though. Perhaps you're noticing that. How's your tooth?"

"My tooth?" You run your finger down the fang. "Pointy?"

"The other one."

The other one? All your teeth are at least a little sharp, but you only have one of any notable length— your left canine tooth, or former left canine tooth. Your right canine tooth is normal. Your right canine tooth is wobbly. You're tonguing it now, and it's wobbling, and quite despite yourself you do feel a twinge of nausea.

"Should be out by tomorrow," says Richard, "or tonight, or I don't know what I'm doing."

There's an obvious retort just sitting there, but do you want Richard to not know what he's doing when he's busy changing out your teeth on you? It's not as though he'd stop if he were awful at it— he'd just do it worse. It'd grow up through your gums into your nose. You don't want to invoke that.

So you don't, and round a bend, and squint painfully against a dazzling glare from the corridor— for the tunnel is suddenly lit and tiled, and there's a brightly colored sort of cabinet parked against the wall, and a few shiny flyers are cellu-taped around it. Directly across from the cabinet(?) is a opening in the wall, and above the opening is a small black thing.

Richard draws up beside you. "...A vending machine."

"What?" you say.

(2/3)
>>
He gestures at the cabinet. "Key cards and vending machines. And... oh, dear, security cameras. How do you suppose these enterprising individuals got so far ahead of the curve?"

"Security...?" You think of ghosts and don't know why, until you remember the Namway security room and Guppy and the birthday banner and— well, that's all. Then you woke up in front of a big snake. "They're watching us?"

"Don't get excitable. It's pointed at the vending machine. And at the entrance, unfortunately, since I suspect that's the 'office'... I have no idea what you mean to accomplish with this, but I'd assume you'd rather be in there than out here."

You know they have stationary in an office, on which is probably written many secret and important things. "Well... yes."

"And you don't want our friendly tour guide making a beeline down here? Then you'll have to deal with that—" Richard points at the camera. "—without making a ruckus, unless you want workers coming out to investigate. Yes? Sensible?"

>All options are [Roll]s with optional write-ins for your method. Write-ins will decrease the DC, or obviate the roll entirely if they're especially good.

>[1] You guess so. Break the security camera. (How? Optional.) [Roll.]
>[2] Hold on, won't breaking a security camera tip somebody off anyhow? They may not know it's *you,* if you do it right, but they'll know something's happening in Zone 4. You need a way to sneak into the office without getting caught by the camera at all. (How? Optional.) [Harder roll.]
>[3] No, actually, you do want workers coming out to investigate. And then you can interrogate and/or mug them for their personal belongings, like useful swipey cards. Make as much ruckus as possible. (How? Optional.) [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5287272
>[2] Hold on, won't breaking a security camera tip somebody off anyhow? They may not know it's *you,* if you do it right, but they'll know something's happening in Zone 4. You need a way to sneak into the office without getting caught by the camera at all. (How? Optional.) [Harder roll.]
We're still underground, right? Tunnel through the wall with our awesome earth powers.
>>
>>5287272
>>[2] Hold on, won't breaking a security camera tip somebody off anyhow? They may not know it's *you,* if you do it right, but they'll know something's happening in Zone 4. You need a way to sneak into the office without getting caught by the camera at all. (How? Optional.) [Harder roll.]
>>
>>5287272
>2
I can get behind earth magic round 2
surely we can't fail twice in a row
also richard forgets Gil threw together our crown replacement, that's a pretty big contribution

>>5287123
>this is me trying to make sure you guys "get" something out of your various encounters, so it doesn't feel like you've hit a dead end and wasted your time
I do like that some side quests give birth to yet more side quests, that's cool. the side quest birth rate right now just feels overly high, we need more balance with the side quests that resolve and stay resolved.


>>5287124
very helpful
>>
>>5287286
>>5287373
>>5287422
>We're still underground, right?
Correct.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 2 (-15 Precision Earth Powers, +10 Underground, +3 Spite) vs. DC 55 (+20 400 IQ Move, -10 Manse Level 1, -5 Richard Supervision) to tunnel through the wall, which is an ability you definitely 100% have!

Spend 1 ID for +10 to all rolls? You are at 7/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N


>>5287422
>the side quest birth rate right now just feels overly high
You got it. I'll do my best to rein things in going forward. To set expectations for current plot threads: the current Headspace exploration is intended to be introductory, so don't bank on it wrapping itself up neatly. However, neither grabbing drinks with Lucky nor continuing to interrogate Possibly Madrigal should spawn anything new (though they might tie in with preexisting objectives).
>>
File: reaction horror 2.png (1.17 MB, 1452x2000)
1.17 MB
1.17 MB PNG
Rolled 82 - 2 (1d100 - 2)

>>5287776
>400 IQ move adds 20 to DC
:(
>Y

>tfw grabbing drinks with Lucky won't kick off a 100 thread plotline
>>
>>5287900
"400 IQ move" is just the base DC for picking option [2] ("harder roll"). The write-in brought it down to effective DC 57 instead of DC 70.
>>
Rolled 25 - 2 (1d100 - 2)

>>5287776
>>
>>5287776
>>5287949

Y
>>
Rolled 3 - 2 (1d100 - 2)

>>5287776

NATTY NATTY NATTY NATTY
>Y
>>
>>5287986
>>5287986

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1o3koTLWM
>>
>>5287900
>>5287949
>>5287986
>90, 33, 11 vs. DC 55 -- Mitigated Success
>Spendy

Business as usual. Writing.

>>5287986
>>5287993
lel
>>
>ADVANCED Earth Powers
>90, 33, 11 vs. DC 55 — Mitigated Success
>Spendy

"No!" you say. "What are you talking about? Is this some stupid trick? You want me to break the camera and get caught and get arrested and never see Gil again? Because that'll— I mean, they'll see if it breaks, right? They'll see, and they'll send guards after me, or bounty hunters, and—"

"I sincerely doubt Headspace employs bounty hunters, Charlotte, but you're right." Richard checks his watch. "We ought to head back the way we came and wait for that man to send a rope down. This'd avoid all senseless risk. Excellent plan."

You scowl. "That's not what I—"

"No? But you're disinterested in dealing with the camera. So our only remaining alternative is to be caught on tape, which seems equally likely to summon... bounty hunters."

"Or," you intone, and wave your arms at the rock wall.

"Or?"

God, he's slow. "Or we use my EARTH POWERS, Richard? Since they're real? And I just made a sinkhole with them? And also, I'm underground, so I should be at maximal magyck charge, so it'll really be very easy? Yes? Sensible?"

"I would not use that word," Richard says huffily. "'Delusional' might substitute."

Would it kill him to be supportive of your awesome magyck powers one time? Or just acknowledge them? You'd settle for acknowledgement. "Come on. You can't just give me magyck powers then pretend—"

"You do not and have never possessed 'magyck powers.' You have a hypersensitivity to vibrations through certain types of material. Anything else is embroidery and fluff courtesy of an overactive and immature mind." (You think he might actually be mad about this.) "Are we in an environment where a sufficiently powerful delusion might override natural laws? Unfortunately. But this no more grants—"

"I'm going to use my EARTH POWERS now," you announce.

Richard stops short. He presses his lips together. He pushes his sunglasses up with two two fingers. "You're not even doing it correctly. Take your boots off."

You hesitate a little, but slide your boots off and stand on the floor in socked feet. With additional prompting, you roll up your sleeves and brace your forearms along with your palms against the cool stone.

"That's acceptable," Richard says, in a 'but-could-use-improvement' tone. "I suppose you're capable of inventing the rest, though it'll hardly be best practice. Speaking of, stay there."

He comes up behind you and busily grabs at open air. There's a pinch between your shoulderblades. For an instant, it's as you're a kitten, helpless and dangling, and Richard's got you grabbed by the scruff of your neck.

>[-1 ID: 6/13]

(1/3?)
>>
He hasn't touched you at all, though (you've been craning your head to watch him), and as he withdraws the feeling subsides entirely. You still suck in the inside of your cheek as you adjust your stance and attempt to USE your EARTH POWERS. Which is much harder with an audience, isn't it? Much harder. How did you do it just earlier? Something about heat? It's chilly down here— you shouldn't have rolled up your sleeves. The "vending machine" is emitting a subtle high-pitched whine. Your socks are a smidge damp. Was this a mistake? Maybe you should've broken the stupid security camera and gotten arrested and executed. Surely Richard would be less smug about that. It'd show him, really.

"I have no interest in seeing you executed," Richard says neutrally.

You never said he did, so he needs to read your mind better. So there. Actually, just to spite him, you're going to USE your EARTH POWERS in a much cooler way than you ever have before. Seriously. That's a sacred promise. You're going to sink down through your damp socks, are going to puddle under your own feet, are going to seep through the cracks in the dirty tile into the thirsty dusty rock. And down. Always and forev—

«Oh, good, it's solid.»

You are on a very short leash, more literally than not. You have been yanked back into place. Into not-down.

«Your interest is directly in front of you. My interest in another rescue mission is negligible. It is a positive outcome for both of us.»
«You are on a tether, by the way, Charlotte.»

A— okay. Okay, fine, if Richard needs this to feel better about himself, who are you to judge? He just wants to limit your maximal magyckal charge, but joke's on him, because he can't do that. You're still ready to unleash that when you see fit. Which is as soon as you can identify the location of the wall.

It's harder than it sounds, okay? You can't see a damn thing, what with your consciousness(??) immersed in solid rock, and your sense of direction is probably stranded in your body right near your eyeballs. It's not as though you can prod around much, either— you make an honest attempt and only end up broadening your general range of awareness. Richard shifts his weight, and the vending machine rattles, and a handful of unknown people further out (inside the office?) mill around. But the wall doesn't move. (You hate the wall.) Could Richard go stand next to it?

«Anything for you.»

He doesn't have to be snide, but okay. He does move, with brisk footsteps, and stomps once before stopping. The wall. Perfect. You exhale, or pretend to, and embellish with a mental crack of your fingers, and creep, against all instincts, not-down. Sideways.

(2/3? 4?)
>>
Once settled nearerish the wall, you channel your deep magycks, enhanced by such matters as being in an actual cave, and your god-blood, and of course your pure heart. You envision yourself on one of those better-illustrated book covers: sword in hand, gilded hair whipping about, gilded cape also whipping about (God, you need a cape), surrounded by your magyckal energies, wearing a fierce-but-not-too-scary expression. An intense expression. A cool expression. You'd be attempting to make the expression, but you don't have much in the way of a face, so you just envision, envision, draw upon your brimming well of power—

«Wait. What exactly are you—»

—execute. Your well of power empties in a woosh, and the ground shakes in turn. It shakes! Ha! Suck it, Richard, firstly, and secondly—

"Shit!"

The wind is knocked out of you before you can comprehend much of anything: the wind is knocked out of you, and you are sideways and achy on the ground, and Richard is crouched in an odd way above you, and you're in your body again, and there is a lot of dust in the air. You process these things in this order, and take shallow gasping breaths as Richard stands and brushes a coating of rock shards and gravel bits off his sweater. His sunglasses are opaque with dust, and he shoves them in his back pocket. He squints down at you again. "You're unharmed."

It's a statement, not a question, and as best as you can tell it's true. You pick yourself up after a moment and stare out at the wall, or wall-remnants, as it were. You've collapsed it the whole length between the bend in the tunnel and the vending machine, spanning some dozen feet. "Oh."

"I'd rate your delusions as sufficiently powerful."

"My magyck," you say.

"Same thing." He stares out into the office, and you follow his gaze. It's still murky with dust, but you see enough to know it is an office— there's desks in it, and you know offices have desks. Admittedly quite a lot of the desks (and some chairs) are piled up as some kind of barricade in the back of the cavern, and a few more are lashed together to make an elevated platform of some sort, but they're definitely desks. There's wide yellow banners on all the walls, and some with odd paint splotches on them— is that a paint-covered target on the right wall? Hmm. There's also a yellow piece of fabric suspended by rope right up near the ceiling. A flag, maybe? Do offices have flags?

(3/4)
>>
File: odd gun.jpg (76 KB, 1500x893)
76 KB
76 KB JPG
Maybe you can ask the people emerging speechlessly from behind a few of the desks. It's not many people— there's three, and if you squint you think there's another one or two on top of the elevated platform. All of them wear yellow bandanas. All but one are holding large, oddly shaped guns. They survey the damage, and you.

"Who—" says one, and "Holy—" another, and up on the platform someone in a yellow tee-shirt tosses their gun down and cups their hands. "EXPLOSIVES ARE AGAINST THE RULES, ASSHOLE!"

Before you have a chance to say anything, this sets the rest off. "So much for a chokepoint!" "It's Zone 2. I can't stand—" "How do you know? They're not wearing—" "WHERE'S YOUR COLORS, ASSHOLE?"

"What?" you say weakly, and flinch as something whizzes past your scalp and splatters. Flecks of something spatter your forehead, and you expect the worst until you put a finger to it and come away with smudges of paint.

"YOU HAVE TO WEAR YOUR COLORS, OR YOU—" "Don't shoot, Ray!" "Maybe they're noncombatants," somebody offers. "The wall!" "The wall." "Maybe it's a test," the same somebody says, petulantly. "Or an inspection. Hasn't it been a while since—" "Why would Management inspect us? In the middle of Deathmatch? We're the second-highest-performing—" "It doesn't have to be Management." "Who, then. Who would they let in? Who would they let explode our goddamn wall?"

Nobody appears to have an answer to that, and everybody looks back at you, guiltily. One of the people on the ground, a curly-haired man with the group's largest gun, clears his throat. "...Are you Management?"

Richard places his hand on your shoulder.

>[A1] Yes! You're Management. (They seem to find this important, and it gives you license to poke around, probably. But they're probably also going to be intimidated by you, and the actual Management is unlikely to be happy if it/they find out.)
>[A2] N—o. Um, you're actually two new employees! Hello! (Seems like a quick way to get a crash course in whatever's going on here, and it doesn't step on any toes— but you'll look suspicious if you snoop too hard.) [How do you explain the wall collapsing? Possible roll.]
>[A3] Some other alibi? (Write-in.)

>[B] Any preliminary questions for these people? (Optional. Write-in.)

>[C] Write-in.
>>
>>5288360
>[A2] N—o. Um, you're actually two new employees! Hello! (Seems like a quick way to get a crash course in whatever's going on here, and it doesn't step on any toes— but you'll look suspicious if you snoop too hard.) [How do you explain the wall collapsing? Possible roll.]

Hey how many thread do you think are left before this ends? You should start a quest about goblins after this.
>>
>>5288369
>>[A2] N—o. Um, you're actually two new employees! Hello! (Seems like a quick way to get a crash course in whatever's going on here, and it doesn't step on any toes— but you'll look suspicious if you snoop too hard.) [How do you explain the wall collapsing? Possible roll.]
>>
>[A2] N—o. Um, you're actually two new employees! Hello! (Seems like a quick way to get a crash course in whatever's going on here, and it doesn't step on any toes— but you'll look suspicious if you snoop too hard.) [How do you explain the wall collapsing? Possible roll.]

>You should start a quest about goblins after this.
Support
>>
>>5288369
>A2
we uh tripped into the wall and it all fell down
must have been shoddy work from the construction department
those slackers
>>
>>5288369
>[A1] Yes! You're Management. (They seem to find this important, and it gives you license to poke around, probably. But they're probably also going to be intimidated by you, and the actual Management is unlikely to be happy if it/they find out.)
>>
Rolled 20 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>5288524
>>5288631
>A2

>>5288804
>A1

Called for [A2] and rolling for initial suspicion (+5 Poor Liar, +5 Iffy Explanation), higher is more suspicious. Writing.
>>
>>5289281
yes, they're gullible!
>>
File: richard - @slaviiik.png (627 KB, 1240x897)
627 KB
627 KB PNG
>Who, me?

The hand on your shoulder is about the most obvious signal of 'let me handle this' Richard could've given short of possessing you himself, and you scowl at it. Why should he handle it? Because he thinks he's smarter? Because he thinks he's a better liar? Well, he is a better liar, because his heart is black and scaly and yours is good and pure and honest. You simply can't abide falsehoods. "Um, no," you say. "We're not— what's Management?"

The trio on the ground appear conflicted. "That's what Management would say, right? If it's a surprise—" "I think they have to announce themselves? If asked." "Since when? I heard Incubation had a—" "Guys," the curly-haired man warns, and hefts his gun again. "Okay, if you folks aren't Management, who are you?"

'Escaped tourists' won't fly here, you're sensing, so on second thought you'll abide falsehoods just this once. "We're, um, new here! New employees. Fresh off the presses. Um, the employee presses. The, you know, metaphorical—"

Richard tightens his grip on your shoulder. "We were sent here with little explanation, so you'll have to forgive Frances for her babbling. As best as I can discern, we were meant to join your team, and we would get shown around from there... or something like that. Again, little explanation. Does this sound familiar?"

"We weren't told we'd be getting any..." The curly-haired man rubs his cheek. Ray(?) on the platform cups his hands around his mouth. "WHY'D YOU BLOW OUR WALL UP, ASSHOLE?"

"We didn't blow it—" you protest, before Richard interrupts you. "Your guess is as good as ours, frankly. We were lost, stopped to get a drink from the vending machine, next thing we know— I think Frances tried to lean against it. There must've been some underlying weakness in the material, or—"

"Or Zone #2's been sabotaging our base," hisses a woman with dangly earrings. "See? What did I say? They're on a whole other—"

"You can't blame Zone #2 for everything, Iris. It's probably maintenance, by which I mean a total lack of— how long have we been waiting for someone to look at the vending machine? The vending machine's busted, by the way," says the curly-haired man. "Uh, even before a wall probably fell on it. Are you guys hurt?"

"It's a miracle, but no, I think. Are you hurt, Frances?" Richard stares down at you, eyebrows arched.

"No," you mutter.

"We're unharmed. The vending machine not so much, but what can one do? Ah, well. May we come in?"



https://youtu.be/OcLbZFS4Ge8

You have to tug your boots out from under a chunk of wall before you can follow Richard in, but once you're shod you scrabble over the rocks and into the office proper. While the music playing was too quiet to hear out in the corridor, it's a thin, high-pitched drone inside, and you have to hum tunelessly so it won't drive you to distraction.

(1/3?)
>>
Nobody else seems bothered, though, as you round a wall of desks to find the trio and Richard. (Ray has opted to remain on his platform.) The little fort they've constructed behind the wall is, generously, sparse: there's two black spinning chairs and one crumpled jacket as seats, a litter of half-eaten kelp crisps as sustenance, and a pyramid of stained paper cups as decoration. You guess the finger-painting on the back of one of the desks adds a little bit of flair. "Sorry," the curly-haired man says awkwardly. "We're normally more, uh— you got us at a bad time, put it that way. Bad time. I can't believe they'd ship people out in the middle of Deathmatch..."

"Really, Glenn?" The other man of the trio flops into one of the spinning chairs. "You can't believe it? You can't believe the communication between departments is so dysfunctional—"

"It's biannual! It's not like it's difficult to— I'm sorry, folks, seriously. We're, uh, engaged in a teambuilding... did they explain teambuilding at Orientation?"

"Do you remember learning anything at Orientation, Glenn— the guy just said they explained shit. He just said that. Were you listening to the guy? You said that, right, guy— what's your name?"

"Martin," Richard says smoothly, and you work to hide your choking.

"Martin. Marty. Marty and Frances, nice. Since Glenn didn't bother with introductions, I'm Allan, and that's Glenn, and that's Iris, and Ray's on point up there... it's better he's up there, trust me. Wish he'd always be up there."

"Don't be a dick," Glenn says, as Iris says "At least somebody's keeping watch." Allan shrugs insouciantly and spins the chair around. "Anyhow, this isn't everybody. We're just the losers left behind to guard the flag, as I'm lazy, Iris is paranoid, Ray's a psycho, and Glenn claims his legs are shit, but everybody's seen him get around fine, Glenn—"

"I can't run," Glenn mutters. "Walking short distances is—"

"Gullshit. If you actually exercised your—"

"Gentlemen," says Richard, a fraction before you were going to say something ruder. "I'd be greatly obliged if you could tell us what 'Deathmatch' is."

"Yeah," you say, after a beat. "Um, you don't— do you kill people? ...With paint? How does that— does it get into their lungs? Or eyes? Is it poisoned?"

"See?" Iris says. "She thinks we should poison it. I'm telling you, all the other Zones are—"

"We're not poisoning the paintballs, Iris. We don't have poison. And if you tell me about your friend in Synth one more time, I—"

"I have a friend in Syntheticization," Iris says smugly.

(2/3)
>>
Glenn rubs his face. "Okay! Well— I'm sorry about them," he says to you and Richard. "Deathmatch is just a... it's teambuilding, like I said. We've got this flag up there, and all the rest of the Zones have their flags, and we have to get their flags and defend ours. And everyone has paintball guns, and there's rules about them nobody remembers. That's the basics of it. And then you get into the alliances, and the backstabbing, but that's all— don't worry about that. Nobody actually dies."

"That's not true," Iris says more smugly. "Zone #2—"

"You're going on about your crackpot shit to the new people, Iris? No buildup, just— crackpot." Allan spins his chair in the other direction. "I respect it."

"Zone #2 killed someone last time. They rigged up tripwire and a lady from Tundra caught it and—" Iris's earrings jingle as she imitates her neck snapping. "But they covered it up. The bosses. Maybe even Management."

"To be clear, there's no evidence for this." Glenn is leaning heavily on the empty spinning chair. "Mainly, eh, the lady in question is alive. She's on my dormitory floor. Iris has just convinced herself—" (Iris rolls her eyes.) "—convinced herself she's been swapped out for a lookalike, so. Nobody's ever died in Deathmatch, so please don't worry about that."

"I wasn't worried," you say. "I just wanted to be prepared, is all. So your whole job is to sit here?"

"Yup," says Allen. "And paintball intruders to death. There's been no intruders, by the way. Or non-intruders. Then you came in, blew our wall up—"

"We're going to have to fix that." Glenn sighs. "But yes. It'll be— it'll be nice to have some new people to talk to. Put it like that."

>[Current Suspicion: 30/100]
>Suspicion will rise incrementally as you snoop around. Some questions and actions will increase it, and a few will decrease it. Hitting 100 is bad. Hitting 0 is also bad.
>Richard will take actions at his own discretion, though you can (Write-in) to try and boss him around if you want.

>[1] Ask questions of the general group.
>>[A] Do they have any advice for someone new?
>>[B] Seriously, what is Management?
>>[C] What does Iris mean, a lookalike? Like a gooplicate?
>>[D] So what's their actual job when they're not shooting people?
>>[E] Have any of them heard of locitis?
>>[F] Write-in.

>[2] Try and ingratiate yourself with a specific person. (Who?) [Roll.]

>[3] Break away from the group and go examine the non-piled-up desks. Maybe they'll have stationary. Incriminating stationary. Or regular stationary, that'd be fine too.

>[4] Take miscellaneous actions. (You may combine these with any of the above options.)
>>[1] Eat some kelp chips.
>>[2] Compliment the cup pyramid.
>>[3] Backhandedly compliment the cup pyramid.
>>[4] Offer to help fix the wall, somehow.

>[5] Write-in.
>>
>>5289442
I really hate it that wherever we roll well (or the opposition rolls poorly), it's because of Richard. Charlotte is forbidden from achieving any significant success by her own merits or even her own luck.

>>5289446
>[A] Do they have any advice for someone new?
>[C] What does Iris mean, a lookalike? Like a gooplicate?
>[D] So what's their actual job when they're not shooting people?
>[4] Offer to help fix the wall, somehow.
>>
PSA: I'm adding

>>[E] Metaphysically kick Richard in the ankle for stealing your thunder. [Roll for effectiveness.]

to the miscellaneous actions list, so splashable onto any other choice. Sincere thanks to >>5289502 for the inspiration.


>>5289502
I have a couple things I could say about this: one is that feeling unpleasantly dependent on Richard is both an intended narrative effect and an effect he deliberately works to cultivate, IC, by sliding in to interrupt and hijack your efforts. Two is that you guys often opt to involve him in dice rolls by selecting the 1 ID/+10 option; if you hadn't spendied on the previous roll, for instance, you would've busted down the wall with no help (and indeed Richard's "help" didn't impact the actual wall-busting).

That *being* said, ID spending clearly doesn't cover all (or even most) cases, including this update's, and if >muh narrative effect is actively impacting player enjoyment that means that something's haywire on my end. I'm not writing a book, after all. I greatly appreciate you speaking up about this, and I'll see what I can do to throw you guys a few more bones...


...though, on that note, I've been attempting to offer a way to give Charlotte more agency / make the Charlotte-Richard relationship less horribly one-sided, and you guys haven't shown a ton of interest or follow-through on it. [Notably, this followed a significant success on your own merits-- fixing Gil.] Richard lashes out here >>5280271 because he feels like he's in a position to do so, and he'll continue to do stuff like that unless you consistently choose to challenge him on it. (I should be providing more explicit options to do this-- I'm realizing as I type this out-- but the options I have provided over the last few threads haven't been taken.) This all compounds with the Crown situation to the point where I'm a little uncertain how you guys want to proceed, so I'm hoping the scene next thread I mentioned earlier will establish a clear path forward.
>>
>>5289446
>Hitting 100 is bad. Hitting 0 is also bad.
So get it to 50, got it.

>1CE
>4B
the b stands for 2
>>
>>5290069
I like to passively resist by continuing to fix Gil despite Richard insulting us over it until he boils over and strangles us against manse walls.
>>
Rolled 3, 1 = 4 (2d3)

>>5289502
>>5290172
>1C

Rolling to see which two of 1A, 1D, and 1E you go with. I'll take both 4s.

>>5290172
>So get it to 50, got it.
50 would be fine, yes, but then you have to keep it there.

>the b stands for 2
Yup, I screwed up on the option labeling. I should start writing earlier. in the evening..
>>
File: zone #4 trio.png (257 KB, 505x284)
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>>5290578
>1A, 1C, 1E
>4B, 4D

Writing. My drawing tablet might be busted, FYI, so you're stuck with pencil doodles for the time being.
>>
File: delicious kelp.jpg (574 KB, 1200x800)
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>Detectivating

"Do you need help fixing the wall?" you ask innocently. (Impressively innocently. Far more innocently than Richard ever could, on account of his black and scaly heart.)

"Help? Uh..." Glenn peeks out at the rubble. "I'm going to go with 'yes,' but the first question is more like 'how.' That's a lot of wall. I'm guessing they didn't pass out masonry kits at Orientation?"

"They should," says Allen. "Maybe shit would get fixed around here, huh? I bet InDec has some cardboard standees of bushes we can borrow. Or, hey, I left a spare wall in my locker—"

"We're tactically exposed, and you're laughing about it?" Iris snaps. "The new people broke the wall, so should go get a keshi to fix it."

"A keshi? Do the new people even know what a— do the new people even know where Germination is? There's no way they have swipe access. I think we should put a pin in this... it's not like we're facing imminent attack."

Iris pushes up her bangles primly. "That's what they want you to think, Glenn."

"Right." Glenn claps his hands together. "Is there anything I can get you folks? Vending machine's busted, but we have, uh... coffee. I think we still have coffee. Assuming Iris gives you a cup. Other than that, we have, uh, stimmies?"

"I have spacers," says Iris. "Don't tell anyone. It's because of my friend in—"

"We have stimmies—" Glenn has raised his voice. "And Allan's crisps, but, um—"

"You're not sharing my fucking kelp."

"—yeah. So not much, but we've been holed up for a while. Sorry."

"No, no," Richard says, and pauses. "You have coffee?"

"Do you want some? The machine's that way— do you want any, Frances?"

Coffee? You dimly remember bitter odors from Madrigal's tent. "Um, I'm good."

"No problem. I'll get you covered, Marty, if you want to follow—"

Richard weaves around the chairs to join Glenn, who plucks a cup off the top of the pyramid. "Hey!" Iris protests. "I spent how long—"

"You can have it back after he drinks it." And then they're off— so much for "always alone with you!" Richard hasn't paid you a backwards glance. It's just you, and Iris, and Allan, and the atmosphere is suddenly oppressive.

You scrabble for something to say. "Uh... I like your cup pyramid. It's very tall. And, um, even. Evenly spaced."

"Oh," Iris says. "Thank you. I spent an hour on it."

"Somehow." Allan props his chin against his hand.

"Well... it's good. It's nice." This is good! You haven't utilized your feminine wiles for a while. "So when Glenn said that lady was swapped out for a lookalike, what was the logistics there? Do you mean a gooplicate? Because that sounds plausible—"

"A what?"

"A— a gooplicate?" Were you wrong? "A person made of goo? Looks like somebody else? Goes around murdering—"

Iris tilts her head. "Oh," Allan says. "Like that Namway shit? That's too logically coherent for Iris, I think, but I don't know. Iris?"

(1/3?)
>>
"No..." she says slowly. "The lookalikes aren't aggressive."

"See."

"They aren't!" Her earrings jingle. "You've probably already talked to some, Frances. They look and sound exactly like regular people. They say the things they're supposed to say. But you ask them later about the conversation, and they don't remember. Because you didn't talk to the original at all, see, but the—"

"Or they forgot. Or pretended to not remember so they could avoid a prolonged conversation with Iris. Or she's on spacers, again, so nothing she claims to see exists? Many options. Many, many options. None of which involve—"

"I saw myself once." Her gaze bores into yours. "I was in a different outfit. If you ever see yourself, Frances, ignore her. Just keep walking. That's my advice."

"That's your advice." Allan has plucked another cup off the pyramid and is juggling it in his hands. "Welcome to Headspace, ignore your magic body double. Very nice. Very cool. Do you want actual advice, Frances? Get food at the self-serve under Monitoring. Everyone's gonna tell you the best food is out by the dorms, but everybody knows that's the best, so the lines are shit. Don't waste your stimmie time waiting in a shitty line. Uh, what else... when you go stir crazy, they're going to want you to use a Calm Room. Use it if you want, but you should know it's just going to pump you with horse tranquilizers. I'd go stand in a Zone instead. Not ours. Ours is shit."

"#3's nice," Iris says. "Lots of big trees, lichen— that's a kind of dry algae."

"Oh," you say. "Can you not just go outside? Like, actually outside?"

Iris sits up straight. Allan swivels all the way around, then back again. "Ah, the mouths of babes."

What? "...You can't?"

"That's a 'we' can't, and did you not read the contract? Just kidding. Nobody reads the contract."

"They design it so you can't," Iris says darkly.

"Wouldn't go that far. But yeah. Welcome to Headspace, where dreams become reality. Sink or swim." Allan smirks. "Other advice? Oh, let's see—"

"Don't attend the blood drives. No matter how many creds they offer. I made that mistake early."

"She's saying this for crackpot reasons, but... yeah, I wouldn't either." He shakes his head. "There's no free lunch here. And I've seen Management hanging around them before."

"If you see Management—" Iris starts.

"Hey, Frances. If you see any men or women in formal wear— I'm talking dark suits, pantsuits, tight little pencil skirts— that and sunglasses, be polite and get out of their way. Remember that if you remember shit else."

Dark suits, sunglasses? "Um, okay."

"Okay." Allan adjusts his bandana.

(2/3)
>>
Is that it with the advice? You're not sure what to make of all of it. (Casey wouldn't have horse-tranquilizered you, right?) Still, the only thing for a proper detective to do is to forge onward. "Um, thanks. I guess. Have either of you heard of locitis?"

They don't even have to respond: Iris crosses her legs, and Allan rubs his shiny forehead, and neither of them are quite looking at you. "What are you, some kind of historian?" Allan says finally. "That was years ago. Nobody gives a shit about locitis."

"I think it started with locitis," Iris says portentiously.

"What? What's 'it'? She doesn't know, Frances." Allan shrugs sharply. "She's making shit up as she goes. But how— they don't talk about locitis at Orientation, do they? How do you know? Why do you care, more importantly? It's—"

"Hi, guys." Glenn has reapproached. Richard hovers behind him, clutching his cup. (Something smells burnt.) "Busy demoralizing Frances?"

"She asked about locitis," Iris says.

"She what?" Glenn furrows his eyebrows. "From, what, 10 years ago? How'd you even hear about that, Frances?"

>CURRENT SUSPICION: 42/100]

>[A1] They talked about it in Orientation, obviously. They said themselves they don't know what Orientation is like these days, so it's totally possible. Maybe even plausible? [Roll.]
>[A2] Before you were hired to Headspace, you liked to read decade-old newspapers, and the old newspapers said stuff about locitis. Is that so unbelievable and wrong? [Roll.]
>[A3] Why are they so weirded out by this? It's not weird for you to know about locitis. It's totally normal. Super normal. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>[A4] [Make pleading eyes at Richard]
>[A5] Write-in.

(The [B]s are optional.)
>[B1] 10 years ago?? Locitis wasn't 10 years ago— even if Horse Face's timeframe was off (and you practically expect it to be), that's just ridiculous. Press on that.
>[B2] So they do know what locitis is. Cool. What's their take on it?
>[B3] Okay, what are "stimmies," precisely? And "spacers"? And "creds"? (Could they just talk normal?)
>[B4] So how long have these guys been working/living(?) here?
>[B5] Wait. Allan knows about Namway? Wasn't it supposed to be... secret-ish?
>[B6] So have any of them heard of an "Ellery Routh"? Or the E.Z.-M.A.N.S.E.?
>[B7] Other follow-up questions? (Write-in.)
>>
>>5290745
>[A2] Before you were hired to Headspace, you liked to read decade-old newspapers, and the old newspapers said stuff about locitis. Is that so unbelievable and wrong? [Roll.]
>[B1] 10 years ago?? Locitis wasn't 10 years ago— even if Horse Face's timeframe was off (and you practically expect it to be), that's just ridiculous. Press on that.
>[B5] Wait. Allan knows about Namway? Wasn't it supposed to be... secret-ish?
>[B3] Okay, what are "stimmies," precisely? And "spacers"? And "creds"? (Could they just talk normal?)
>>
>>5290745
>>[A2] Before you were hired to Headspace, you liked to read decade-old newspapers, and the old newspapers said stuff about locitis. Is that so unbelievable and wrong? [Roll.]
>>[B1] 10 years ago?? Locitis wasn't 10 years ago— even if Horse Face's timeframe was off (and you practically expect it to be), that's just ridiculous. Press on that.
>>[B5] Wait. Allan knows about Namway? Wasn't it supposed to be... secret-ish?
>>[B3] Okay, what are "stimmies," precisely? And "spacers"? And "creds"? (Could they just talk normal?)
>>
>>5290745
>A2
>B2,3,4,5,6
all in on the Bs
>>
>>5291019
>>5291209
>>5291271
>A2, B1, B3, B5

Called.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 10 (-10 Bad Liar) vs. DC 55 (+5 ???) to sell the lie!

Spend 1 ID for +10 to each roll? You are at 6/13 ID and 42/100 Suspicion.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
>>
Rolled 65 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

>>5291644
>[2] N
>>
Rolled 1 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

>>5291644
Watch THIS!
>[2] N
>>
File: Dam.png (627 KB, 631x621)
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Rolled 26 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

>>5291644
2

>>5291675
You have to take this roll.
>>
>>5291652
>>5291675
>>5291678
>55, 1, 16 vs. DC 55 - CRITICAL FAILURE
...Writing soon-ish. I have to think this one through.
>>
>>5291717
I'll be straightforward: I can't think of a way for Charlotte to bungle one lie so badly it invites critfail-tier consequences, so it's going to be a mix of normal levels of failure + uniquely bad luck. Preasu understandu. Writing.
>>
>>5291738
Maybe then it shouldn't have critical-tier consequences?
>>
>>5291835
You got a natural 1, buddy.
>>
File: stimmies.jpg (27 KB, 615x409)
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>You ask me no more questions, I'll tell you no more lies
>55, 1, 16 vs. DC 55 - CRITICAL FAILURE

Well, it's not too complicated. Your retainer was shot in the head by a conniving snake-thief, so you set about fixing his shattered mind via encountering a load of his semi-imaginary past selves, one of whom talked about locitis. Except that when you fixed Gil, he couldn't remember locitis at all, and nobody else you've talked to can either. Except for Horse Face, who's automatically disqualified from everything, and these people right here. Which is weird, because locitis— some kind of ailment which struck owners of Headspace manses— sounded pretty serious. And Gil made it sound like a big deal. That is weird, right, Glenn? Isn't it? That's weird? So how exactly do they know about locitis?

You don't say this. You want to say it, certainly, but contrary to Richard's assertions you do have some fashion of internal handbrake, and there's just no way to phrase it without you sounding deranged. "Um," you say, and blink hard. Possibly an eyelash got into your eye. Or some dust. "Um, well... well, I read about it."

"You read about it?" Glenn sounds unconvinced. "10 years ago?"

"No? That's not how reading works? I read some... newspapers, in the current day, and the newspapers talked about locitis, so there's nothing— what do you mean, 10 years ago? That's stupid." That's impossible! Setting aside Horse Face's unreliability, Gil was just a kid 10 years ago. "Locitis was, um, three— three-to-six— three-to-eight months ago."

The Headspace people exchange glances. Richard sips from his cup. "We are on a considerable spanner."

"What?"

"The subjective experience of time is faster inside of here than out. Anywhere from 10 to 25 times faster, though I'd be inclined toward the lower end of the scale."

More glance-exchanging. "We're not really privy," Glenn volunteers, "but common wisdom is 1:10 or thereabouts."

"Ah, see? A 1:25 would be absurd; a 1:10 is merely ludicrous. That's quite something. How do you withstand it?"

Oh, God, you know this tone of voice! This isn't public-facing affable Richard any longer: he's got a bright and chilly inquisitiveness about him, the closest he ever gets to enthusiasm, and an enthusiastic Richard is the last thing you need. "Does it matter how they withstand it? I mean we— how we withstand it? We do, so. The real question is, what's a 'stimmie'?"

"They didn't tell you about stimmies during Orientation? Goddamn." Allan picks at his teeth. "Really setting the shark bait up for success, aren't they?"

"Huh," Glenn says. "Yeah. You really think they'd— I mean, who knows anymore? Hang on." He shoves his hand down his pant pocket and comes back with a clear baggie, which he holds out to you. Half a dozen oblong pills are nestled inside it. "Stimmies."

"Stimulants," Richard says.

(1/3)
>>
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"Yeah, I guess. Is that what they called them?" Glenn searches your and Richard's faces and comes up with no answers. "Geez. I don't even know where to— guys?"

"You can't explain stimmies, Glenn? They keep you up so you can hit your quotas. One sentence."

"Or so you can keep watch without napping through it," Iris says snidely.

"That's what Ray's for, last I checked. I'm irrelevant. Vestigial. I take a little nap, the world keeps spinning." Allan spreads his hands. "Alternately, I'm following a schedule like anybody with a grain of sense. They haven't given you your ration yet?"

You frown. "...Of stimmies?"

"No, of— yes, of stimmies. Great. You get 40 or 48 a month, depending on the month. One per day. So that should be a little hint, right? Pop one a day? Do that. One a day, or you'll run out, and you'll get the stimmie jitters, and those things are no fucking joke. Got it?"

"Hey," Glenn says. "Everybody needs to get the jitters at least once, Allan. Rite of passage."

"Yeah, it's a rite of passage when the shark bait's called out sick for launch day and everybody else picks up the slack? The rite of passage should be slogging down to Synth and blowing your paycheck on half-tablets to keep you baseline goddamn functional. Come on."

"Unless you have a friend in Synth," Iris adds helpfully.

"The new guys don't have friends in Synth! They don't even have creds, so the takeaway should be to parcel out the damn pills. That's it. We can talk about crushing them up later, that's advanced shit."

You're not sure you understand why you'd start taking these in the first place, but something else has caught your attention. "Creds?"

"Creds." Allan leans back. "You know what creds are. Gullshit you don't."

"Uh," you say.

"...Credits," Richard says.

"Wrong. Wrong. They are HeadCreds, tee em."

"Money," Glenn says, after a pause. "That's all. Nobody says 'HeadCreds,' by the way, so don't let Allan—"

"These guys fell and hit their head during Orientation, so I'm just getting them up to speed! Don't be a dick, Glenn." Allan crosses one leg over the other. "What other basic terms have you somehow not learned? 'Spacers'?"

You narrow your eyes.

"Cool. 'Spacers' are big fat pills. You take them to space out, i.e. start disassociating, which is occasionally useful in this line of work. They don't come in rations unless you work in Germ/Inc. What else?"

Is Allan onto you, or just veering awfully close? He's not leaping from his chair and pointing accusingly, or anything, but you're having trouble believing he'd care enough to do so. You dislike the uncertainty. "How do you know about Namway?"

"Namway?" He swivels back and forth. "They come up in passing every so often. Business partners, or business rivals, or some shit. Not really our business. So why do you care about them?"

(2/3)
>>
You were going to formulate a clever response— you had the outlines of it started and everything. It's not your fault that a prolonged whine of feedback interrupted you, or that, just as everybody started removing their knuckles from their ears, Casey's voice started blasting out from absolutely nowhere. "HELLO, WONDERFUL AND VALUABLE EMPLOYEES! PLEASE EXCUSE THIS INTERRUPTION. ATTENTION: MADRIGAL AND CHARLOTTE, YOU ARE KINDLY REQUESTED TO RETURN TO—" Some rustling noises. "—RETURN TO YOUR PREVIOUS LOCATION, SO WE MAY CONTINUE YOUR WONDERFUL WALKING TOUR. THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR MADRIGAL FITZPATRICK AND CHARLOTTE FAWKINS. THANK YOU. DREAM BIG!"

You spot a few stray glances thrown your way, but still no chair-leaping, much less finger-pointing. So you're fine. You didn't even go by 'Charlotte.' You return to rapidly formulating your clever—

"HELLO, WONDERFUL AND VALUABLE EMPLOYEES! THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR YOU THIS TIME. IF YOU ENCOUNTER TWO WOMEN WITH VISITOR'S IDS, KINDLY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND ESCORT THEM BACK TO THE WALKING TOUR GROUP LOCATED NEXT TO THE ZONE #4 RAVINE. MADRIGAL HAS A PROMINENT SCAR AND IS WEARING A MAN'S SHIRT AND SUSPENDERS. CHARLOTTE IS BLONDE, HAS ONE EYE, AND IS WEARING A BROWN VEST WITH A PINK BOW. AGAIN, KINDLY ESCORT THESE WOMEN TO THE ZONE #4 RAVINE UPPER LEVEL. WE WILL BE NOTIFIED IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO ESCORT. THANK YOU. DREAM BIG!"

—your clever response.

Glenn, Allan, and Iris observe your hair and your outfit and your Bad Eye. They observe the string around your neck. You had stuffed your visitor ID into your vest, cleverly.

"HEY!" It's Ray, still up on the platform. "WASN'T THAT ONE OF THE ASSHOLES WHO FUCKED THE WALL?"

For better or worse, this breaks the reverie: Allan reaches for the kelp crisps, Glenn reaches for the paintball gun leaning against his chair, and Iris draws her knees defensively to her chest. Richard takes a long sip of coffee.

"...Who..." Glenn says finally, and Iris, aggrieved: "Oh my god!", and Allan, smug: "Yeah, I thought—"

"Shut the fuck up! Allan." Glenn hefts the gun in his arms, though he isn't pointing it at you, precisely. "Shut up. Please shut up. You. Frances, or Charlotte, or— or whoever. Explain what is going on."

"Journalist," Allan says matter-of-factly.

"Shut up! I want to— I want to hear her say it."

>[CURRENT SUSPICION: 100/100]

>[1] Tell the truth.
>[2] Tell mostly the truth. (What do you leave out? Write-in.)
>[3] Lie. (What do you tell them? Write-in.) [Probable roll.]
>[4] Advanced Gaslight. (What do you tell them? Write-in.) [Roll.]
>[5] Write-in.
>>
>>5291852
>[1] Tell the truth.

We blew up their wall with our mind and if they know about M.A.N.S.E. then they should know that we can blow up lots of things. Walls, vending machines, people.

So they have two outcomes. One where they quickly answer our questions about locitis and we in turn give a positively *glowing* report on their helpfulness finding us and saving the Company face, or one where we eliminate the witnesses and are the soul (hah) survivor of a *third* catastrophic M.A.N.S.E. failure.

This is the truth.
>>
>>5291852
Also tell them Iris is right about people copies, we know someone who has one in the real world while they hide in Manseland. Somehow.

Also that Locitis has been hidden from the real world and that we need to know more about it.

And finally that a friend of ours was turned into beetles in a M.A.N.S.E. and they should be careful about that.

Sounds like these poor bastards have signed a terrible contract and should do their best to keep their heads down and wait it out.

Unless they want us to smuggle them out, that is maybe negotiable.

Oh, and we need to know everything about Namway. That is second priority after locitis because we have a grudge against them and are going to tear them apart with screaming and goop on the walls being involved.

And can we draw our flaming sword while intimidating them? I feel it will add veracity.
>>
>>5292197
>our questions about locitis
(Which are?)
>>
>>5291852
>[2] Tell mostly the truth. (What do you leave out? Write-in.)
We were taking a tour and fell in a sinkhole, figured it was a good time to poke around and see the hidden sides of the business. So uh anything else they wanna show us?
>>
>>5291852
>>5292303

Supporting this.
>>
>>5292209
>>5292311

Also would like to incorporate this into my vote somehow.
>>
>>5292228
Is there a way to tell if someone is affected by it, and is there a cure? What caused it, and what resolved it?
>>
>>5292303
>>5292311
>Play it cool

>>5292197 / >>5292209
>Balls to the wall

Alright, I'm going to do it like this: you'll do [2] as per >>5292303, try to fish for some further locitis/Namway info, and then I'll let you evaluate whether you want to interrogate or intimidate them further (e.g. as per >>5292197).

Writing.

>>5292453
Perfect, thanks.
>>
>The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

"I'm not a journalist," you say.

Allan chews on a kale crisp. "I think that's the kind of shit a journalist would say. What do you guys think?"

"I'm not! I'm just—" You gesture broadly. "I was just, you know, taking a tour, and then a sinkhole opened up randomly, and I thought it might be a good time to walk around and shine a light on, you know, the gritty underbelly, and the dark secrets, and whatnot. In a normal way, not a journalist way."

"'In a normal way, not a journalist'—" "A sinkhole opened up?" "So you lied?!" Iris's voice cuts through the hubbub. "You lied to us, and you snuck in to spy on us—"

You fold your arms. "Excuse me, I didn't sneak in—"

"Oh, I'm sorry! You just— you just destroyed our chokepoint, so anybody can come in whenever they want, and—"

"The real question," Glenn says tartly, "is who's he? He wasn't on the announcement— he doesn't have a scar."

"More relevantly, Glenn, Marty here isn't a woman." Allan brushes kelp crumbs off on his pants. "I'd hope. Thoughts, Marty?"

Richard swigs down the rest of his coffee and crunches the cup in his hands. It's gone when he unfolds his fist. "I don't see how I'm relevant to these proceedings."

"Yeah!" you say. "Did he get mentioned? No? So not relevant. I'm relevant. And my grand deception's been unmasked, blah blah blah, so let's move right on past that— is there anything else I should know about what's going on here? Dark secrets, for instance? Maybe about locitis? Maybe about Namway? Maybe about something even secreter? Hit me."

Allan snorts. "What?"

"You know... hit me. Tell me the secrets. If you're having trouble thinking of any, um, what's the symptoms of locitis? You know, how do you identify someone with it? Is there a cure? Where do I find this cure? Why'd it start? Why'd it end? Do you know where to find Namway? Do you have an address? Could you draw it on a map? That sort of thing."

(1/2)
>>
Should you have led with so many? (You'd formulated these instead of your would-be clever response.) They seem to be a little paralyzed. Richard is sliding on his sunglasses in your peripheral vision. Glenn sounds incredulous. "I— we could lose our jobs with what we've already— lose our jobs or worse. Even if we wanted to answer your questions..."

"We don't," Iris says fiercely. "We don't talk to spies."

"She's not a spy, Iris, she's a damn tourist. Okay? She's a tourist who thought it'd be funny to— or maybe she is a journalist. Maybe she's an Namway or a Querk or an Ozertek plant. We're not answering questions, we are escorting you back, and maybe that'll grant us enough plausible grounds to not get sent Under."

"Or to Friend Disposal," Allan snarks.

"Okay, and now you sound like Iris. We're going."

Iris looks pained. "The flag—"

"Ray can watch the damn flag, okay? He can live out his 'last stand' dreams. We're going." Glenn slings his gun over his shoulder. "Come on."

Hey, wait. Wait. Where's your dark secrets!

>[A] Choose 1+ approaches to obtain the dark secrets you deserve. Your approach(s) will determine the DC. (More may not always be better.) [Roll.]
>>[1] Soft intimidation. Don't explicitly threaten anything— just make it clear you're more dangerous than you look, and Richard is too.
>>[2] Hard intimidation. So when you mentioned the sinkhole? You made that. And you exploded the wall. And you're ready to explode a whole lot of other things if you don't get answers quick. (Also, you have a sword.)
>>[3] Blackmail. The higher-ups finding out that they blabbed to a tourist would be bad? Hmm. Interesting. They wouldn't want you to go and tell them about this incident, would they?
>>[4] Persuasion. Do any of them actually *like* Headspace? Enough to be genuinely loyal, not just scared of reprisal? You doubt it. And you'll help them out if they help you out— maybe by saying some very nice things about them to their boss?
>>[5] Pragmatism. First of all, they've already told you enough, so a little more isn't going to do anything. Second of all, this whole thing is going to end with Headspace exploded and/or on fire. That's how it works with you. So shouldn't they want to get out while they can?
>>[6] Write-in.

>[B] OPTIONAL: Say some other stuff. (These may help or hurt [A]'s DC, depending on your chosen approach.)
>>[1] Back up Iris's "lookalike" conspiracy theory. (It sounds suspiciously like Ellery's whole deal.)
>>[2] Tell them about Gil's unpleasant experience in a Headspace M.A.N.S.E., and also the *shoddy* (read: no) customer service he received.
>>[3] Tell them about your personal grudge with Namway.
>>[4] Offer to help Iris, Allan, and Glenn escape Headspace, either now or if you return here later.
>>[5] What's 'Under'? Casey didn't mention that.
>>[6] You know about Namway, but what's Querk? Or Ozertec?
>>[7] Write-in.
>>
>>5292940
>[A]
>>[2]
>>[3]
>>[4]
>>[5]

>[B]
>>[1]
>>[2]
>>[3]
>>[4]
>>[5]
>>[6]
>>
>>5292940
>[A}
>>[1]
>>[5]
>>[4]

>[B]
>>[2]
>>[5]
>>[6]
>>
>>5292940
>>[A}
>>>[1]
>>>[5]
>>>[4]
>>[B]
>>>[2]
>>>[5]
>>>[6]
>>
>>5293087
>>5294056
>Velvet glove

>>5292950
>Everything but the kitchen sink

And just when I was about to tiebreak! Fantastic.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 27 (+10 Stick, +10 Carrot, +5 Sunglasses, +2 I'd Like To Speak To Your Manager) vs. DC 76 (+20 High Stakes, +6 Bonus Questions) to squeeze some bonus info out of these people!

Spend 1 ID for +10 to this roll? You are at 6/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
>>
Rolled 89 + 27 (1d100 + 27)

>>5294084
>N
and dang, missed the vote

woulda done A3 and B3,4,5,6
>>
>>5294181
Do you want to pick one between [B3] and [B4] and I'll throw it in? You'd technically be satisfying the dialogue option rule since >>5292950 selected all of them.
>>
Rolled 65 + 27 (1d100 + 27)

>>5294084
>Y
>>
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Rolled 94, 21 = 115 (2d100)

Rolling the final die and flipping between B3 and B4. Since they got some support before the deadline, I'll offer leeway this once.
>>
Rolled 27, 51, 23 = 101 (3d100)

>>5294272
>116, 92, 121 vs. DC 76 -- Enhanced Success
>B3

Oh, hey! Your first enhanced success this thr--

>[SUNSTROKE]

Rerolling.
>>
>>5294280
>54, 78, 40 vs. DC 76 -- Mitigated Success

Defaulting to no spendy and writing.
>>
>>5294188
i need to check thread more often

>>5294280
we need to beg ellery for help, as resident sun expert
>>
>>5294310
>i need to check thread more often
You should try 4chanX if you don't have it already, though I guess I don't know if you check on desktop or mobile. It wouldn't help on mobile.

>we need to beg ellery for help, as resident sun expert
This would be helpful.
>>
>Good cop bad cop
>54, 78, 40 vs. DC 76 — Mitigated Success

"Hey," you say. "Wait a second. That's not how this works."

Glenn sighs. "What?"

"That's not how this works." What is there to elaborate on? It seems self-evident.

"She's right," Richard says. "It isn't."

Glenn glances at Allan, who makes a face back at him. He shifts his stance. "Uh... it is how it's going to work. You heard Mr. Kemper. If you're not going to go back with us, we can call Security, or—"

"God, you don't— you don't get it." You slide over to Glenn's now-vacant chair and flop down. "You can't just not tell me dark secrets. How does that make any sense? Listen, the order of operations is I go, I find some random people, they explain all their secrets— not some, all— and then I leave. I don't leave before the secrets. That's stupid."

"...Look, I'm sorry, Frances, but—"

"You're not sorry." You shake your head sadly. "You just don't get it, Glenn. Because you don't have a destiny, see? None of you do. Well, maybe Iris, but most of you— nothing. Your future is nothing. Completely and utterly ordinary. You've probably never even met someone with a destiny until today, so I forgive you for not handling it properly, but I would've thought— didn't you notice my sword?"

Glenn opens his mouth a little. Allan raises his eyebrows. Iris tears her gaze off Richard for a moment. "You didn't notice it?" you say. "Well, that explains— here, hold on." You twist in your seat so you can grab The Sword out. It's flaming brilliantly as ever, and only increases in heat and brightness as you wave it around to show everybody. "See? Flaming sword, god blood, one eye, the teeth— you didn't notice the teeth, either?" Blank stares. "Oh, come on."

Iris's eyes widen and Allan's glibness recedes as you stick your fingers in your mouth to expose your gums. "I think I have another one coming in," you say contemplatively, once you're satisfied they've gotten a good look. "But you're going to have to ask R— ask Marty about that one."

Heads swivel toward Richard, who's lit a cigarette. "What?" he says. "Oh, yes. Then the plumbing."

What? Well, whatever: a non-sequitur helps to build the proper atmosphere, you think. "Uh, correct. See? Clearly I have a destiny. I'm getting plumbing. Are you getting plumbing?"

Glenn's paintball gun is slowly sliding off his shoulder, but he doesn't seem to notice. Allan pushes up his glasses. Iris is back to staring at Richard, even though he isn't doing anything. (You'll admit it, you resent this.) "No! You are not. There's me, yes destiny, Marty..." Does Richard have a destiny? "...possible destiny, you, no destiny. Bam. Point made. Fantastic. Now, I've been receiving some mystic sensations as we've been speaking."

Now Iris looks at you. "You have?"

(1/5)
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"Yes!" You point with The Sword. "I have. And these sensations— these vibrations in the fabric of the universe, which I myself am exquisitely attuned to—"

Richard chokes on his cigarette, from the sounds of it. You point The Sword harder. "—which I myself am exquisitely attuned to, are telling me that Headspace is going to blow up soon. Or be set on fire. Or both? So there's really no reason not to tell me your dark secrets."

"Really?" Iris says. "What the fuck?" Glenn says. "Oh, don't do this shit to us," Allan mumbles. "Don't enable Iris—"

"Oh, yes, really." You nod vigorously. "That's how it works. And it seems like it's for the best, right? Because you guys are all saying weird things about here— they won't let you leave? That's weird. And, you know, my retainer had a horrible experience with a Headspace manse! He got turned into beetles and stuck inside for six months—"

More blank stares. God, these people are useless! "Your... what?" Glenn attempts. "Who got—?"

"My retainer. My... friend." (Richard snorts. You toss your head.) "And it's Headspace's fault he's beetles forever, so I think it's okay if it gets lit on fire. And it will. I'm not saying I'll light it on fire, but I might be around when it happens, right? And then you'll all feel bad for not telling me your—"

"I don't know what you're smoking," Allan says slowly, "but we don't... turn people into beetles."

"Well, your stupid broken manse did, so— wait, you guys don't have a cure, right?" (Imagine if you came back to Gil with a cure?) "We can count it as one of the dark secrets, if that helps."

"A cure for being turned into beetles. Oh, yes, sure, let me go and check my filing cabinet—"

"Allan," Glenn says.

"—oops, sorry, Glenn won't let me check my filing cabinet. But if I went and rifled through it, I would've found zero cures for something that doesn't actually happen ever."

"She said it was broken, Allan. Did your friend contact customer service?"

Well, he broke in, so you doubt it. "Maybe?"

"Okay... well, maintenance of a M.A.N.S.E. is entrusted to the consumer. We don't assume any liability for side effects of an unmaintained M.A.N.S.E., so... he can try contacting customer service, but, uh..."

It won't do anything, and they can't help. "Okay, whatever. Shut up about customer service. Back to Headspace blowing up. Which it will. Also, back to the fact that you've already told me a bunch of dark secrets, so I don't see what the big deal is? You're going to get fired or whatever regardless."

Glenn looks exhausted. "I don't know."

(2/5?)
>>
"You don't know!" You point The Sword at him, now. "Indeed! But I am exceedingly pleased to report that you do not actually have to get fired! Because I am very nice and generous, in addition to being very important, so I would be perfectly happy to tell Mr. Casey Kemper that you three were helpful and gracious in escorting me back. And that you didn't tell me any dark secrets. And all you have to do is tell me the dark secrets! Good deal?"

All they ever do is look at each other. Do they have some kind of code made of eyeblinks? Do stimmies let you communicate in thought? "I mean," Allan says, "an in with Kemper..."

"I don't think we know that many... dark secrets," Glenn says tentatively. "But I guess, um, if you have questions—"

Oh! It worked!

>[+3 ID: 9/13]

You sit straight up. "Well, of course! I asked them already, but you didn't know about the whole destiny thing, so... let's see. Locitis. Symptoms? Telltale signs?"

"It was a decade ago." Glenn sounds baffled. "I don't understand what you—"

"Memory issues," Iris pipes up. "That was the big thing. Memory issues, mood swings... hallucinations, I think."

"The memory issues were the big thing, Iris?" Allan spins around. "Not the seizures, or suicides, or—"

She pouts. "I meant the most prevalent. And it was. That was kind of the trouble, since people forget things all the time, so you really couldn't identify it as locitis until late stages..."

Ah. "And then it was too late?"

"It was always too late," Glenn says. "They never cured it, I think. Or figured out exactly what was happening, even though that was obvious. Goddamn jackers."

Wait, you know this. "Jackers?"

"Thieves," Iris hisses. "Thieves and murderers. Exploiting innocent people, sucking them dry, putting them through hell..."

"Swarmed like nasty little piranhas after the product launch." Allan grabs for an unopened pack of kelp crisps. "You know, we hit a mass market for the first time, people don't really know how to safeguard their M.A.N.S.E.s, so these guys swoop in, suck the juice out, and send them crashing toward total systems failure. I mean... minds are delicate shit, man."

"It wasn't us, is the point," Glenn says. "Total PR nightmare, though. I think people eventually started realizing we weren't the ones responsible, but it left a real stain..."

Except it didn't, because nobody remembers it, but you buy that they wouldn't know. "So it ended? How? Did people just stop getting sick, or—"

"I guess? We just sort of stopped hearing about it." Glenn shrugs. "I guess the jackers got tired of leaving bodies in their wake. Or the press did them in. Thank god."

"I think Management took care of it," Iris says, and pushes a lock of hair behind her ear.

"She has no evidence for this," Allan says with his mouth full.

"I don't need evidence," she says firmly. (Allan makes a 'told-you-so' face.) "What do you think, Marty? Did Management take care of it?"

(3/5??)
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Why is she asking Richard? He seems unperturbed, at least. "It's as good a resolution as any that've been provided."

"Okay, then."

'Okay then' indeed: that was everything you could think of about locitis. "Great. So Namway—"

"What is your thing with Namway?" Glenn says. "I don't understand. You don't even work here, you're not the dupe-buying type—"

"Well, they shot my friend and kidnapped my—" God. What is Madrigal? "—rrrival? Um, my rival. So."

Glenn turns ashen. "You're kidding. You're not kidding? What the actual—"

"I never trusted them," Iris pronounces.

"That's not a win, Iris. Nobody trusted them." Allan swallows a crisp. "That's fucked up if it's real, though. Sorry about your friend. And, uh, rival."

You wave a hand. "He's fine. She's... we're working on it. I just want to know where their head researcher lives. Pat. And anything else you know, really."

"...I told you what I knew," Glenn says. "We really don't have much contact with them. They make goo dupes, Headspace is related somehow... maybe we're business partners? It's really something for the people calling the shots, we're just—"

Iris adjusts her hair again. "I think we're both subsidiaries."

"Maybe. I don't know. Uh, and I've never heard of Pat, sorry. Have you guys—?"

Two shakes of the head. "Sorry," Glenn says again.

"It's okay, I guess." You can't think of a reason they'd lie about this, and Richard isn't exactly helping. "You said, um, Querk and... something else. A little bit ago."

"Ozertec," Richard says.

"Querk and Ozertec. What are those?"

"Same deal as Namway. Just companies. I think Ozertec does mining, I... don't remember what Querk does." Glen rubs his scalp. "Business partners, I guess?"

"All subsidiaries," Iris states.

You blink. "Of what?"

"Management."

What else would it be, you guess. "...Okay. And what's 'Under'? You said they'd send you..."

Something's wrong. In the vibrations in the fabric of the universe, you might say, if it wouldn't result in half an hour of condescension and visual aids. So you'll settle for plain 'wrong,' and add on that you're feeling hot, suddenly, feeling feverish, feeling thirsty. Thirsty? You haven't felt thirsty for years. It's not warm in this office space, but it is warm outside in the dreadful sun— could that be it? You spent too long out there on that awful tour, and the delayed effects are kicking in? Sunburn? Heatstroke? Glenn's looking at you oddly. Coldly. Like you didn't wow him with your awesome sword earlier. "Look, I think that's plenty of questions."

"Hey!" you say, and your throat burns. "We had a— we had a bargain. We struck a square deal. I get all my dark secrets, and—"

"You got what you asked about earlier, and a bonus for Namway because they killed your pal. That's enough."

(4/5??)
>>
You turn around to look at Richard, who's stomping out his cigarette stub on the tile. Richard? Richard. Rich—ard. Could he be of some use, for once in his stupid fake dad life, and help you—

He sweeps the ash away with his foot. "You've wasted well enough of your time, Charlotte."

You have no friends. Nobody in the world likes you or supports you in any way. Gil has abandoned you. Richard has abandoned you. And you would rage against this, would grab Glenn's stupid yellow bandana and wrap it around his neck and shake him with it until he fessed up, but you're far, far too hot.

>[-1 ID: 8/12]

So you go. Iris yells some esoteric commands up at Ray and he yells back and then you leave the office— not the way you came, which is all rubble-y still, but back through the office and out a barricaded side door (Allan and Iris shove the desk blocking it aside: Glenn, who went back by the coffee machine and grabbed a cane, had pled exhaustion). You wind through another brightly-lit corridor until you find a door, which Glenn hobbles over to and swipes with a key card, and you all file into an extremely tiny room. It takes you a full 30 seconds, and a dizzying rising feeling, until you realize it's some highly advanced form of lifting cage— and then the doors open, and you are back in the disgusting sunshine.

You exit the lifting cage second-to-last, and Richard last— except you turn around after a second and there's nobody at all behind you. Could he not warn you?

«About what.»

Cool. You follow Glenn and Allan and Iris some ways, as they shield their eyes with their hands and spin around to look for the ravine. It's Iris who notices Richard's absence first, and she doesn't seem surprised: the other two do, but you say "he does that" and they're forced to accept it. Eventually Glenn spots the ravine, and Iris spots the sinkhole, and Casey spots all of you.

"HEY!" he bellows, and waves his arms like a madman. "HELLO! ESCORT PARTY! WHO IS THAT— IS THAT CHARLOTTE? AND... GARY?"

"GLENN," Glenn yells back, after a short pause.

(5/6)
>>
"GLENN! WOULD'VE KNOWN THAT BUM LEG ANYWHERE!" (Glenn closes one eye.) "AND... EVERYONE ELSE! THANK YOU FOR YOUR— thank you for your prompt cooperation!" You've drawn within speaking distance. "It is such a relief— you had us worried there for a titch, Charlotte! Goodness gracious! You're not hurt? Glenn and pals took good care of you?"

Well, Glenn did kind of betray you at the end, so not really. But... you did promise to say nice things, and you've never broken a promise in your life. Why would you start now? "Oh. Um, yes. They were all... Iris and Allan and Glenn were all very nice and helpful. And they escorted me as soon as they found me and didn't say anything bad."

"Yes! That's exactly what I want to hear!" Casey claps his hands. "Three model employees! I always knew you guys had it in you! Had the potential! Fan-tastic. So, Charlotte—"

You're looking around the edges of the sinkhole and you see a lot of rope and pulleys and lanterns, and a handful of people in safety gear, but not hide nor hair of Gil. "Where's Madrigal?"

"Ah." Casey looks sober for an instant. "We have a crack team out looking for her right now! The best in the bunch. We'll just have you sit tight, provide you with some complimentary Headspace beverages, and we'll have her back in a jiffy! Swear on my darling wifey. A-OK?"

>This will be the last set of options in the thread. Sorry about posting this late, btw, I was writing up the options last night at like 4 AM when the power went out. Yeah, actually.

>[1] A-OK?? This is your retainer! He already got shot once! Demand that you go out looking for him right this God-damned instant. [Roll.]
>[2] You will wait a LITTLE bit. If he does not come back in a LITTLE bit, you are taking matters into your own hands. Deal? [Slightly easier roll.]
>[3] Gil is competent when he's not a quivering heap, and Madrigal is also competent when she's not a total bitch, so the two of them combined should be double competent. Right? Give it an hour or so. But you demand to be put in the shade!
>[4] Be Madrig— goddammit! Be Gil Wallace.
>[5] Write-in.
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>>5294892
>[3] Gil is competent when he's not a quivering heap, and Madrigal is also competent when she's not a total bitch, so the two of them combined should be double competent. Right? Give it an hour or so. But you demand to be put in the shade!
>>
>>5294892
>>[3] Gil is competent when he's not a quivering heap, and Madrigal is also competent when she's not a total bitch, so the two of them combined should be double competent. Right? Give it an hour or so. But you demand to be put in the shade!
>>
>>5294892
>3
>4
THE PLUNGE
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>>5294892
>[2] You will wait a LITTLE bit. If he does not come back in a LITTLE bit, you are taking matters into your own hands. Deal? [Slightly easier roll.]
>>
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Man, I was right about to leave this open until tomorrow. Nice to see you guys.

>>5295436
>>5295438
>>5295446
>[3]

>>5295446
>[4]

>>5295477
>[2]

Called for [3] and writing. This will be the final update of this thread.
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>Chillax

A-OK? Gil could be injured right now, or kidnapped, or murdered, and you're not certain you appreciate Casey's breeziness. ...But on the other hand, you are tired, and hot, and inexplicably thirsty, and a cold beverage sounds phenominal— and also, Gil abandoned you, so if he got kidnapped he was kind of asking for it. Not that he is kidnapped, positive thinking. He's probably fine. What's the worst he could run into in a glorified office?

"Okay," you say tentatively. "Do you happen to have... pink umbrellas?"



Due to some miscommunication, your lounge chair is parked under the cooling shade of a large pink umbrella, but you did manage to decorate your fruit punch eventually. (Even if you had to suffer through Casey's bemusement.) Though between the umbrella, your Headspace-brand sun visor, and the punch's enormous ice cubes, you've plummeted straight past 'uncomfortably hot' into 'uncomfortably cold': you rub your sleeves to keep from shivering. Glenn, Iris, and Allan all departed with little fanfare, only brief, stilted goodbyes: you couldn't tell if they were awed by your presence or by Casey's, whom all of them (even Allan) handled like a hot stove. You've been alone for a solid half-hour, watching Casey grow increasingly manic— though he's left you be, thank God, and directed his attention alternately at the beleaguered rescue crew and his squawky earpiece.

You should be beginning to get worried, you feel, but mainly you're just drowsy. Richard hasn't said anything in a long time. The air smells like dust. It is hot outside, even if you're chilled. It is late afternoon. Your fruit punch is mostly empty, and the ice cubes clank against the sides of the glass. You can feel yourself slipping, in a terribly banal kind of way, toward shallow sleep.

You don't make it that far.

"Ow! What the fuck! Get off— this is not how you treat a fucking valued guest, are you listening? I'm going to— ow! I'm going to take note of— fuck!" Madrigal's upper body flops over the edge of the sinkhole, by which you mean Gil's— Gil's upper body flops over the edge, and after some wriggling and wrenching of pulleys he works his legs out too. His job is made more difficult, you realize after a second, by his bulky harness— and by his hands, which are bound together by zip-tie behind his back.

(1/2)
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He's followed shortly after by two people in full, visored helmets and dark body armor: security, you guess, and are rewarded when one turns and reveals 'SECURITY' printed across their back. Gil's harness appears to be hitched to one of theirs, and he or she goes about undoing the carabiner while the other strides up to Casey and says something indecipherable. Casey claps them on the back. Gil is still face-down in the dirt, and stays that way until the carabiner guard bends down, says something in his ear, and undoes the zip-tie. The first thing Gil does, upon scrambling to his feet, is gesture rudely at the carabiner guard. The second thing he does is turn around and catch your gaze. He is dirty and weathered. His hair tie has slid. His shirt (his nice new shirt!) is splattered with paint, and you mistake the thing under his nose for paint too until you realize it's dried blood.

He looks you in the eye for a quarter second, then he winces and turns his head.

>[END THREAD]
>>
Okay! Hope you enjoyed! As always, let me know if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions.

>Thread 26 when?
Ballparking a week or week and a half from now, depending on how I'm feeling. I might post art in this thread in the meantime, also depending on how I'm feeling. Fair warning that I'll be going on vacation in another week after that, so updates will be sporadic during that period.

We are archived here (shoot me an upvote if you're feeling charitable): https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux

My Twitter is here, I'll post about the new thread on it: https://twitter.com/BathicQM

I hope you have a great week!
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>>5295575
Thanks for running!
>>
>>5295575

Great thread-- thanks for running!
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>>5295575
Huzzah!

>>5295557
Still probably better than if we controlled him. Also I don't trust Glenn, Management probs has a snitch on each team
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>>5295575
Thanks for the fun thread!
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>>5296622
>>5296942
>>5297225
>>5298325
Cheers!

>>5297225
>Still probably better than if we controlled him.
This is very possible.
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>>5306388
>>5306388
>>5306388

NEW THREAD



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