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Interactive Adventure - Parts 6 to 9
"...Scissors!" says Masimus, and then he looks troubled. "Wait a minute... did I just say scissors?" He looks at his scissor-fingers with disbelief and anger, as if they had somehow betrayed him.
"You did..." you reply, "I just saw it - we both did - but..."
"It doesn't feel right. Like deja-vu, only in reverse," he expounds wonderingly.
"You mean Jamais-vu. But that's very rare, even more so for two people to get it at once." But even as you speak the feeling is slipping away. The memory of this strangeness seems to fold over on itself, but you refuse to forget about it entirely.
"Well thanks for that, Yooless," interrupts Power Maxx, who does not seem to have felt any of this strangeness at all. "I think that the situation is nonetheless clear; you've won leadership. Masimus, you're second in command."
"...but I always choose stone... I meant to choose stone..." Masimus mutters, dazed with confusion.
* * *
Maxx says some final meaningless blustery things, and then leaves you on board the ship. It's a slick six-member-squadron deployment strip with the original GZK-class AI extracted and replaced with a computer, apparently.
"Why would they want to take out the AI?" you ask Moosey, hoping that Masimus doesn't hear.
"Could be a few things," Moosey replies, conspiratorially, "Most likely in this case is that since they lost two AI already, they don't want to be weak against any kind of similar attack. Senlius being a retired hardware hacker probably has something to do with that too."
"So where did this ship's AI go?"
"Probably getting a bit of paid vacation, somewhere safe and pleasant."
Moosey goes silent and his gaze drops to the floor. He swings his foot back and forth from his chair, and you realise he's actually slightly in awe of you. Back when you only knew him as the Effeminate-Looking man, the first thing he ever saw was you talking your way out of a hostage situation... first impressions do indeed seem to count for a lot.
And then that theory is utterly demolished when Shemora turns up.
She walks in the room and her ponytail follows; your eyes meet and something at the core of the universe unravels. She looks as if she remembers you. She looks just as you remember her. No wait, she's wearing a different jumpsuit. No, it's the same, but her hair is dark now... or was it dark before?
"What the heck is going on here?" says Shemora, and you know exactly what she means.
"You feel it too? Like we've met before but like... not before now, but... on another occasion?" you suggest, accurately.
"That's pretty much it... Yooless," she replies with a smile.
"That happens sometimes, with people," offers Moosey vaguely, "but I'm getting it too... damn, maybe the Omnics are messing with reality again."
"Yeah, I hate it when they do that," laughs Shemora. "Where were you in the reality-quake last year?"
"Hacking," says Moosey. "I was looking in to RDU deactivation circuits, trying to complete this assignment for my tutor... the quake happened and I found I'd already finished. I handed it in, but had no idea how I'd done it. Had to go and learn it properly in my own time."
Shemora looks to Yoo. "I was in highspace at the time, so I totally missed out. What about you?"
You shake your head. "I don't like to talk about it. It was... personal." [ooh, it's that mysterious past thing again!]
The feeling of strangeness sweeps away again.
Uneventful (and unstrange) days pass as you travel through highspace. The ship has a full suite of sim-units, so you all spend some time in them going through the required socialisation exercises, learning one another's skills and foibles, 'bonding' (slightly) and also just having a good time.
Now, an hour away from your dropdown point, the atmosphere in the ship becomes slightly more serious. There are certain protocols to go through initially, but in the end you will have to come up with 'the plan'.
Right then, you think to yourself, let's review. Crew of four; me in command, Moosey for hardware hacking, Masimus and Shemora for combat. The Wyndlkidd's there too, which might be useful. Possibly I should name fer... nah, not yet. So. Senlius has this fortress setup and can knock out AI. He also has some kind of custom super-surveillance kit, according to Moosey's analysis of his imported bits and pieces.
And then, like a memory from the future, your plan comes to you. You smile to yourself, thinking how best to word it;
We walk in the front door, fire guns at his feet, make sarcastic comments and leave again. We then go back to the ship and wait until he shows up, fires guns at our feet and locks us in his broom cupboard. In the last five minutes of the adventure we build a tank from the spare parts we handily left in the broom cupboard and save the day (without actually hurting anybody, or at least, only their pride).
But doubts tinged with the strangeness suddenly leap to the forefront of your thoughts. Wouldn't everybody just think that you were some kind of nutter? Wouldn't they demand that someone else be leader? Wouldn't something happen with Shemora's legs under the table that you couldn't work out what it meant? What?!
The strangeness rages its way around your head. Something is definitely up. If it was just Yoo, then maybe madness would be a worry, but the others had felt it too. And as usual, the feeling rapidly subsides again.
But the plan could still work... it just needs detals...
* * *
"Dude, that plan packs some serious tailage! I love it!" Moosey enthuses. He seems to be the only one that has actually picked up on the reference, probably because he's the same age as Yoo.
"Are you actually serious?" asks Masimus, frowning at you very hard indeed. "I mean really? Actually?"
You look over to Shemora. She seems lost in thought, then baffled, and then she looks up at you and your Wyndlkidd. "You do have a way to make it work. Don't you." You become acutely aware of your legs under the table. Nothing happens. Oh well.
"Indeed I do. You see, first, we..."
[The scene fades out, quite blatantly to make the actual implementation of your plan more exciting when it happens.]
It's a beautiful day on the planet Marmoseth. The sun shines clearly and hugely in the bright azure sky, spiky cloudlets scud and whorl around one another. Craggy wrong-looking green mountains reach up all around, stretching effortlessly against the relatively low gravity (70% standard). And in front of you is a vast marble-effect wall, an awesome gatehouse breaking its slick symmetry, the cheesy intercom system ruining the effect somewhat.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," mutters Masimus, as he presses the intercom button. It emits a crackly buzzing noise until he eventually lets go, and the monitor blinks to life. It's Senlius.
"Hello, travellers! How may I be of assistance?" he asks, waggling his white eyebrows cheekily.
"We need to talk," replies Masimus.
"Really? To me, or to each other?"
"Er... to you. It's quite serious."
"Well, you understand, I don't have this huge wall and vast array of deadly," here he gives Masimus a wily glare with one eye, "defence systems just so I can let people in for a 'serious' chat. Would you like to try being a little more specific? Or would you like to go away? Is going away good for you?"
Masimus frowns harder. You resist the temptation to step into his place - there's little doubt that you could talk your way in, but that would almost certainly make getting any further extremely difficult. Masimus clears his throat. "We are coming in to talk about two AI we lost recently. We do have a Society Fixer's warrant if you want to verify it."
"How fascinating. Well I'm afraid I really am just too busy at the moment, but do come back in a few weeks time, and I'll see if I can fit you in then. It's been a pleasure talking with you, sir," and with that Senlius hangs up.
"As expected," you note. "Go to it Moosey."
"On it," he responds, pulling various bits of machinery from his hov-sled. He has something of a craftsman's air to him, despite his youth, and you feel extremely confident that he will get the gates open. Well, if he can't get them open then we need a new plan...
Moosey attaches some devices to the wall, the intercom unit, the gate; he's wearing some kind of headset supplying audio-visual info and running through a crash of applications on his minicom. "This is... good," he comments, adding, "but weird... good but weird." He adjusts the position of the device on the wall, seemingly tracking a signal. Abruptly he hits a large red button. "Three. Two. One. Toast," and the gate slides open.
"What was weird?" asks Shemora.
"Well, he's using your basic Slick-P protocol with swivel deadbolts and a string twist hyper-code defence - it's extremely high on the Avem scale. Which, ah, means that it's one of the most widely used, yet most vulnerable ways of securing a property. Everyone that has any kind of hardware hack training can break it. So... in a way, it's like he's inviting us in."
"Well, that would just make my plan work even better," you point out. "Masimus and Shemora take point, let's move in."
You all file through the gate, into the lush valley that makes up Senlius' inner sanctum. The sun shines cleanly, just slightly muted by the vast overarching dome. As the gate slides closed behind you, something in the air makes it feel as if you've just gone outside, rather than the other way around. Up ahead, an excessively twisty mansion snuggles into a grove of trees; the path winds all the way up to it.
Part 9 (a poll finally appeared at end of this one!)
"Reassure me one more time, Moosey," you ask, succumbing to explanatory dialogue. "You can give us an early warning if he tries anything, right?"
Moosey gives you an amused look, then turns serious as the Wyndlkidd on your shoulder gives him a hard stare in return. "Yes yes, it's all in hand. Right now I'm reading a comfortably certain nothing, and for biological attackers we have our tough friends to rely on," he nods back and forth indicating Shemora and Masimus. Then suddenly, cocking his head on one side, receiving some kind of input from his headset, "Whoah, now this looks fun."
A crevasse abruptly opens up a couple of meters ahead. Everyone stops. Moosey immediately begins unpacking some more choice pieces of kit from his sled. "Good news?" you ask.
"Oh, it's all fun," he replies, fingers flying through the control matrix of what resembles an extremely large pair of pliers. "Slightly more obscure, but ultimately, totally fallible. About a hundred-second computation at the core... starting it now. Stay alert, by the way; this is the most obvious line of attack and gives time for secondary measures to be implemented."
For one-hundred seconds, nothing happens; the Wyndlkidd grows a little restless, but there's not even a change of atmosphere when Moosey finally says, "Cracked. Totally cracked," and a bridge rises up making the crevasse traversible.
A handful of obstacles present themselves, all answered with Moosey's sled-of-tricks. It all seems entirely too easy... still, again, if it is a trap, then that would play right into your hands.
And suddenly you are at the front door wondering if you should knock, when it swings open, outwards, and there is Senlius Next, in the flesh, smiling, winking, welcoming you all in.
* * *
"If you'd just come through here, I have some folks that have been expecting Yoo."
Masimus and Shemora are in full-paranoia mode, but something tells you and Moosey that all danger has passed. You speculate on who could possibly be expecting you, and quickly draw the conclusion that it is almost certainly the AI that were thought lost.
You follow Senlius and Shemora into a large lounge area, and quickly take in the scene; comfortable sofas around a flickering fire, three people sitting in them with an even distribution; a young, white/blonde-haired girl, some kind of dude in wraparound shades, and a scholarly fellow with a knowing smirk on his face. Standing in front of the fire with his back to you is a dark-haired man in a dark shirt and dark trousers, with startlingly familiar hair. It can't be.
"Hello there Yooless. It's been a while," says Bronze Pierson, turning to twinkle his outrageously sexy eyes at you, smiling gorgeously.
Q(6): What do you do?
Say "What do you mean 'a while'?! Just what the the holy flying taq is going on here?"
Give him a big kiss.
Turn around and walk out of the building.
Smiling casually, say "It has been, hasn't it. How've you been keeping?"
The story now continues in part 10!
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