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-[ prismic △ sanctum ]-
I think we all must be dreaming. It's the only thing that makes sense.
Quick pinch yourself to wake up!
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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"Maybe we're dreaming.
You could pinch yourself,
" you suggest, half-seriously.
"I've had more than that happen.
Knock yourself out, though.
"

You don't bother pinching yourself.
Instead, you gaze out at the stars with Roux for a little while, before deciding to speak up.

"I think it'd be best if we kept going. Hopefully we'll figure this place out soon.
...Unless you'd like to break the window to check if this is real.
"
"I think the benefits of having air to breathe outweigh your curiosity.
Just a bit.
"

With that, the chorosy continues on down the hall as you follow behind them.
At the end of the hall is an imposing electronic door with a button beside it.
Roux taps the button with a claw, and it slides open, unleashing quiet, vaguely generic 'waiting room' music from the other side.



The two of you step through into an ordinary-looking shopping mall, the door silently sliding shut behind you.
You pore over the comparatively enormous room you've stepped into.

Taking up the majority of the triangular area is a children's playplace in the center, with plentiful tubes, slides and other padded play equipment scattered about; see-through plastic walls with painted rainbows and boats surrounding the playground.
Immediately to your right on the wall looks to be a switch panel of some kind. 
Past that, along the right wall, you can see a sporting goods shop and an outdoors & camping store.
To your left, you can see an extensive robotics & electronic parts store.
Far across from you, on the other side of the playplace, you spy a book store.

There's more here, but that's all you can see from your current vantage point.
Roux quickly heads to the right without a word, the sporting goods shop drawing their interest.

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sporting goods shop will heave weapons. head there first.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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Let Roux search the sporting goods store, outdoor and camping could have some weapony stuff too. Explain to them what you're doing and that you intend to look around the electronics store afterwards.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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You start walking past Roux.
"I'll check the outdoor--"
"No good."
You hear a metallic rattling that stops you in your tracks.
You turn, and find Roux shaking a storefront security gate barring the sporting goods store.
It blocks the entrance doors as well as the windows, and looks sturdy.
"Betting they're all locked down like this."

Glancing back to the camping store, you find it in similar condition: blocked by another gate.
However, something's different.
It looks like part of the gate has been bent in and broken around one of the windows, which has also been busted through.
You make your way over to get a closer look.

There are various objects lined up in the display window, but there's an empty spot right where the hole's been made.
The hole isn't anywhere near large enough to climb in, but it would've allowed plenty of room to take whatever used to be in the display.

By now, Roux notices something's up and heads over.
They stop momentarily when they see the window.
"...Someone's been here already."
They continue on, looking the hole over thoroughly.
Spying something, they carefully reach in around the broken glass and pull it out.
It's a label sticker of some kind, still somewhat attached to broken glass.

Roux looks it over for a long time.
They exhale deeply, then hand it to you.
The chorosy starts pacing, bringing a clawed paw to their chin.
"We need to get those shutters open.
Or find... I don't know. Something. Or somewhere to go.
I don't like this...
" Roux turns their head, eyes following along the atrium walls.
You watch as they run back towards the entrance you came in, stopping in front of the switch panel you noticed earlier.

You check the sticker.
It's not entirely intact, but you're able to read enough.



(NEW!) 
   PRECISION CROSSBOWS
                          
now in sto





From the front of the outdoors store, you can now see more of the atrium:
There's a shoe store next to the camping store, and an apothecary on the other side of that.
Through the playplace windows, you spot some sort of rock climbing store to the right of the electronic goods shop; complete with its own giant rock climbing wall.
There's the book store along the south wall that you noticed earlier, and a couple of hallways beyond it.

Between the book store and the apothecary, you also see a set of double doors
They're right behind another security gate, and there's something above them that's glowing red.



You squint.




It's an exit sign.





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Assuming all the other stores are barred shut, the switch panel seems like our best bet. The exit sign is interesting, but without a way to get through the shutter, it's kind of useless right now.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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try and look through the windows of all the stores for potential threats/interesting items to see where you should go first once the shutters are up
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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You head to the switch panel first. 
Roux follows you, looking particularly anxious.

You find three switches on the panel, each with a different label: 'MAIN LIGHTS', 'MUSIC', and 'SECURITY GATES'. There's a hard plastic covering over the switches, though; a keyhole that presumably opens the cover just beside it.
"Just need to find a key, then. 
...Somewhere.
" They sigh.
"I'd say we're fairly likely to find it."
"I'm not holding my breath. 
But still worth looking, I guess.
Let's check these stores. Look for any ways in, and keep an eye out for the key. Maybe it's around, but I doubt it.
"
"I was about to suggest the same. Make note of anything useful for later, in the event we do find the key."
"Yeah."



You and Roux perform a thorough search of the atrium, and you mentally catalogue your findings:
-The sporting goods shop did indeed have plenty of weapons. Various bats, golf clubs, croquet mallets; just about anything that's good for hitting things.
-The camping and outdoors store had another crossbow inside, as well as a hunting rifle towards the back. Roux additionally pointed the many large backpacks. "We're going to want more supplies. More supplies means more to carry, so a good bag or two is about the most useful thing we could find.
-Unsurprisingly, climbing gear could be seen within the rock climbing store, along with some warm clothes.
-The shoe store, inexplicably, had shoes. And nothing else.
-You learned the book store also housed a coffee shop within it, but couldn't determine much else by looking inside. Roux pointed out "Books on first aid could help if one of us gets hurt. ...Could be something similar for construct injuries."
-Roux searched the playground for the panel key, but only succeeded in getting briefly stuck after crawling under one of the slides, requiring your help to dislodge them. "I could've got out by myself." They seemed embarrassed.
-You checked the exit, but there wasn't a way around the gate in front of it. "No door has led where it's supposed to, so I doubt this one's actually a way out."
-Two other stores had holes in their security gates: The robotics and electronic parts store - which had no label nearby to identify what was taken - and the apothecary, which you were currently investigating.

The hole here was larger than the other two, and a nearby shelf had been overturned inside, now leaning sideways against the window display. Broken bottles were scattered along the floor in front of it.
"Looks like they made a bigger hole here so they could reach that shelf. Can't tell what they got, but there might be something useful in here. 
Hang on.
"
The chorosy tried to squeeze their way inside, but couldn't quite fit. 
"Nope." They stepped back, looking over the scene inside.
"Whoever made these... they could've just busted all the way in, but they made holes just big enough to get what they wanted without letting anyone else use them to get in.
No way that wasn't on purpose.
"

They stepped aside, glancing around the atrium.
"Okay.
Alright. 
There's... Probably a way forward with one of those doors in the corner.
"
"One of them is unlocked."
"...You checked?"
You tap your forehead. "Mental map."
"Wait, you can just... tell?"
You nod.
"Huh. ...Weird, but that's good, if it works.
So, we've got...
"
They trailed off, pacing another few steps before leaning back against a nearby wall.



"We don't know if we'll find the key up ahead. And if someone's running around with a crossbow, might be safer to double back. We didn't pass anyone on our way here, so maybe it's-- ...except for that aerosoul you saw, which... isn't..." Roux raked a hand down their face, exhaling.

"Yeah, I don't know." They slid their back down the wall until they were sitting on the floor. 
"We've got two options. Neither's great.
We find that key, we can get weapons. Plenty of other things, too. But if we run into whoever took that crossbow before then, this,
They waggled their knife. "...sure isn't gonna make a difference."  
"If we double back, we'd have to find some other route neither of us have taken yet, otherwise we'd just be going in circles and wasting time. And we could run into your purple friend. Which, if they're an aerosoul..." They looked up from the floor. "How big were they?"
"Taller than you, I think. Definitely bigger."
"Yeah, no. Don't like our odds at all."

They shrugged, letting their hands drop to their sides after.
"No idea. Your call. 
Otherwise I'd just obsess over the decision and die of old age in this mall.
"

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"...Honestly, this place is weird. I'd say we're equally likely to run into the aerosoul whether we go forward or back. And, y'know, they might not be hostile.

I think forward is the better option for now. Crossbow person is scary, but... it's a crossbow. They can't have that many bolts, and it's going to take time to reload after every shot. If they miss, we'll have time to run or take cover.

We'll just have to be careful, and keep an eye out for that key. As soon as we find it, we'll go straight back here."
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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"Honestly, this place is strange. I'd say we're equally likely to run into the aerosoul whether we go forward or back. 
And, they might not be hostile. We don't know for sure.
"
"I'm not taking chances with them," Roux interjects. 
"I still believe forward is the better option for now. Crossbow person is scary, but... it's a crossbow. 
They can't have that many bolts, and it's going to take time to reload after every shot. 
If they miss, we'll have time to run or take cover.
We'll just have to be careful, and keep an eye out for that key. As soon as we find it, we'll go straight back here.
"

"If they don't miss, they could kill one of us with a single shot.
Crossbows are near-silent, too. If we don't see where the bolt came from, they could take us both out before we can get to proper cover.
I personally like my head un-impaled.
" Roux stands up.
"...But you're right, forward is probably the better option. 
Hopefully.
"
The chorosy waves you along as they make their way to the other doors.



"Which one's unlocked?"
You nod to the south door, putting your paw on the handle as you ready yourself to go through.
Roux turns their attention to the hallway leading to the east door.

"Hang on." They walk towards it. 
"Let's at least check this one." You watch as Roux is illuminated in a dull white light as they enter the hall, presumably coming from windows at the sides. 
"Might find--" Something catches their attention.
You follow, and look outside the windows lining the hallway.

There's an incredibly dense fog blocking most of your view, but you can see the sides of the buildings on either side of the skybridge you realize you're standing in.
You can also faintly make out paved streets down below, but not much else.
"...something new." Roux resumes their sentence where they left off.
"More set dressing. Just like with the stars in that other hallway.
Don't like it.
"
The chorosy continues on to the double-doors.

There's a window on each door, and Roux puts their face up to one, hands beside their head as they look through.
You do the same, but it's much too dark to make anything out.
"...You see those... tracks? I think those are tracks."
"I can't see anything."
"Really?"
You nod. "It's way too dark."
"...Might have better eyesight than you, then. At least in low light."
You step back from the window.
"Well, I can see tracks. Pretty sure. 
There's a lip of pavement right before them. 
...Could be a subway?
"
They pull back and try one handle, then the other.
"Had to try. Oh well.
Looks like your map works.
Let's go.
"



You head back to the south door and proceed through.

For a moment, you mistakenly believe you've stepped outside.
It doesn't take long for you to realize the giant tree in front of you and river flowing around the room are both made of plastic, with colored lights making the river look especially animated.
The overhead light flickers on and off in random patterns, giving the various plastic models of plants and fish scattered about an uncanny quality.
There's a pedestal with a red button just in front of you.

You have to.

"Wait--"
You press it before Roux can stop you, and a speaker overhead crackles on, making Roux jump.
It doesn't seem to be in great condition, its narration occasionally turning to static.

"Wel----------------iver exploration room! 
Many plants and animals thrive along the rivers an-----------of--------.
Press any button in fr--------------------to hear ab---------------------------na!
"
"...Must be some problem with the power in here.
Roux briefly glances at the models, then continues on down a short staircase leading to the rest of the room.

You can't help but look around the exhibit, taking in each model with curiosity.
- There's one directly ahead, in front of the tree. It's a small, thin fish with a diamond-like shape and a singular fin that wraps almost all the way around it vertically. Its placard reads "HAIKU FISH", and there's a button next to it.
- One on your left looks like a shark - about three feet long - with a lower jaw that curls downwards strangely, sharp teeth following its curve. It's got a placard that reads "LESSER SPIRALMOUTH", but its button seems to be busted.
- Next to that is something you liken to a small, upside-down tree covered with frost. It's labeled "WILLOW NETTLE" and its button is intact.
- There's a stand missing a model to your right, with a placard labeled "SHALLOW VISETRAP" and a button.
- Finally, beside that is a medium-sized fish that appears to be almost flat, with a hard, scaly outer surface and a short fin trailing behind it. It's got a button and its placard reads "BRISSLER'S SHIELDFISH".


"You coming?" Roux appears at the bottom of the staircase.

The buttons are calling to you.

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press all the buttons as close to at the same time as you can manage
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"A museum? Neat. I think I enjoy these. Maybe. Still a bit fuzzy with the whole memory deal."

Press the buttons and listen to the fun facts! Also, how are the fish models held in place? Is there anything between us and them?
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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You pull at one of the models experimentally, as they're quite close, but it doesn't budge an inch.
All of them seem to be bolted to their respective exhibits.

After this, you can wait no longer, and slap one of the buttons.
"The haiku fish is a notable exception amongst other fish species for not having a proper spinal cord,
instead having a 'notochord', one of the fe----------------- that carries this trait!
"

"Did you...?"
Roux returns to your view as they walk back up the stairs.
"I don't know that we have time--"
You hit another.
"--Mantis.
"Willow nettle may look unassuming, but this plant is actually a pr--ator!
Its sur--ce is covered with thousands of tiny, sharp, glass-like ----rusions that look like hairs.
These 'hairs' instead act like syringes, injecting unsu-------------------------------------------.
"

You make your way to the next button, but look up to find Roux staring at you, arms folded.
"It's neat. And I think I enjoy museums. 
Maybe. My memory is still entirely fuzzy.
"
"...Alright.
Let's just finish up quick.
"
They gesture to the button you're at.
"Knock yourself out."
You smile as you tap it.
"Brissler's sh-----ish - like most shieldfish - has bony plates that form a shell-like around its --dy,
protecting it from po----ial predators.
This v-----------------------------------------------------.
"

You glance at the last intact button to find Roux already in front of it.
They shrug their shoulders, and press it themself.
"------------aps disguise themselves as bottomfeeders along the riverbed,
partially burying themselves in mud and waiting for smaller predators looking for a quick meal.
When one approa----------------------------------.
"


"There. Done."



Satisfied, you follow Roux down the stairs.


"...Oh, hell."

There are six more buttons here, all in front of what looks to be a timeline on the wall, but it's too faded to make out any words or pictures.
"You have fun, I'm gonna look around."

You waste no time trying them, but all of them either elicit uninterrupted static or simply don't work at all.
Despite this, the loudspeaker clicks on suddenly.
"This elevator is for employees only.
Please make sure to stay with your group!
For employees: Please tap your badge on the sensor to call the elevator.
"

Your companion is at an elevator door, the audio seemingly triggered automatically by approaching said elevator.
They tap the sensor pad just beside the door.
"Something else to look out for."



With only one way forward, you both head for a set of doors on the south end, but you stop.
In the center of the downstairs area, there's a giant model - larger than you and Roux combined - of a dark brown, white-spotted fish bolted to the floor.
At its south side, facing those doors, there's another button.

You hit it.

"The coela----h--"
The voice cuts out entirely as a loud, high-pitched whine comes from the crackling speaker up above.
You both cover your ears. Or, at least, Roux seems to cover where you guess their 'ears' are.
The screeching speaker mercifully goes silent after a few seconds.
"Ooookay, no more buttons.
Let's get going."

You nod, and continue through the doors.





On the other side is a dark, sterile-looking hallway.
Doors line the walls on both sides, separated by plain white wallpaper and wooden guardrails. The floor is flat tile in a pastel green color.
Only one of the fluorescents on the ceiling - the one just over your heads - dimly lights the hallway, buzzing obtrusively. Beyond that, only the red exit sign at the end of the hall is lit, staining the rest of the corridor in an eerie red glow.

You don't like it here.

Roux looks hesitant, but they step past you and try a random door. It doesn't open.
You check your mental map.
"All the doors seem to be locked.
This may be a dead end."
"Hang on."

The chorosy cautiously follows the hall, and you reluctantly trail behind.

You soon see what Roux did:
A full-length shovel has been deliberately wedged through both handles of the exit doors.
The shovel's wooden length looks worn around its middle, right where it rests on the door handles.
Roux experimentally tugs at one of the handles ever-so-slightly, and the door moves.
"It's unlocked, shovel's the only thing blocking it."

"...We could pull it out."

"It does say it's an exit, but I still doubt that matters much. 
And this uh...
They gently touch the stress marks around the middle of the shovel. 
"...might be here for a good reason."

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Yeah I'd say, do not remove that shovel. you'd have no idea what you were dealing with. the map says there are some usable 'stairs' in the museum, maybe you could find them.
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knock on the exit door, see if you can get a sense of whats on the other side
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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Can the double doors open enough for someone to peek through? Let's see if we can see inside. Try putting your ear to the doors, too.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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"Wait a moment."
You knock on the exit door, Roux tenses up.
You put your ear against the door, and they follow suit.



You don't hear anything.

You glance at Roux, who shakes their head.

Without moving the shovel, you gently pull the doors as much as you're able.
It barely opens a crack, but it's enough.
Realizing what you're trying to do, Roux holds the doors in position for you while you peek through.



You can barely see anything.

There's an ornate golden picture frame on the wall. You can't see if there's anything hung in it.
Fancy red carpet with similar gold patterning adorns the floor.
There may also be a gap in the room? 
Possibly a hole in the floor. Could also simply be an odd pattern on the carpet. 
It's very difficult to tell.
You think you can see a... pedestal. In the center, across the 'gap.'
You can't tell if there's anything on it.

That's about it.



"Look safe?
Roux has their knife at the ready.

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"I don't think there's anything currently in there. Whoever or whatever was banging on the doors might have left and gone another way. Plus, we're kind of starved for weapons at this point, and that shovel looks nice and heavy."

"I'm for going in if you are."
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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It still might be there, just not in the same room, or maybe in the hole. who knows if it has to breathe, if we go in there we go in on high alert. I do not like the stress marks on this shovel.
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"I don't think there's anything currently in there.
Whoever or whatever was trying to get inside might have left.
It may have gone down the hole.
"
"What?"
"There's a hole."
"Great."
"I'd say that's good news, if it means whatever was in there is gone.
Plus, we could certainly use any weapons we can get; that shovel looks nice and heavy.
Though, the stress marks don't bode well.
"
"Probably means the handle's brittle, too."
"Well, I'm going in if you are, but we stay alert if we do."
"Me first, then."

Roux puts a claw on the shovel, then hesitates.
They turn back to you.
"You used a weapon before?"
"Not that I can remember."
Roux hands you the knife.
"Much easier to use than the shovel, and it's less heavy."

You grasp the knife with both hands, holding it up in front of you.
"...Here."
Roux guides it into one hand instead, and moves your free hand a bit to the side.
"Keep your other hand up to protect yourself.
Think of it like having a sword and a shield.
And keep your stance wide.
"
You distance your feet a little.
"There you go."

They turn and hold the shovel again.
"Stay back at the door until I tell you.
If something bad's inside, I'll come back, and I need you to slam the door behind me.
Can you do that?
"
"Yes."
"Okay.
Don't let me down.
"





Roux pulls the shovel out, turns the handle, then yanks both doors open.
You hold them open as the chorosy dashes in, shovel readied.

You hear their shoes skid on the carpet as they immediately attempt to back up.

They don't do so gracefully, tumbling backwards onto the floor.
The chorosy frantically backs away on the floor, stopping just before the hospital doors.
"What is it?! Is--"
The chorosy shakes their head. 
"Empty! It's empty!
Nothing... in here.

They're panting.
"Just the... you said there was a hole, wasn't expecting that."



You step inside to look.

The hole you'd seen prior is much larger than it looked through the door, spanning most of the center of the room, surrounding a small platform in the middle.
The hole is only a few feet across, but it's still plenty of room to fall, and you can't see how deep it goes; it's just black.

You take a quick moment to survey the room.
It's just as gaudy as it looked before; gold sconce lights, red and gold carpet, the works.

There are three huge picture frames, one on every wall except the east.
There's a bronze frame above the locked doors on the west wall, containing what looks like a greatly-enlarged photo of the door itself. 
...Or maybe it's a painting. You can't tell.
The west doors themselves are as ornate as the rest of the room, with a symbol that looks like a sealed letter in their center.
In the framed photo, the doors are slightly open, and there's a barely-visible blue sneaker between them, as if someone was caught entering the room.
Beyond that, the photo looks identical to the real thing.

Behind you, above the doors you just came through, rests another giant frame on the north wall.
This one is silver, and also contains a picture of the doors it's above.
Like the other, the doors are slightly open with one other key difference:
Concerningly, there's a sizable purple hand with an eyeball on the back of it, looking at the 'camera' as the arm it's attached to trails back through the doors.

There's a similar gold frame on the south wall, but it's blank; solid white.



In the southeast corner of the room are three old-fashioned cameras set on tripods facing in different directions.
Two are pointed towards the west and north entrances, with the last camera in between the others, facing the center platform.
The flash bulbs are burnt out in all but the middle camera.

The east wall has a big, heavy-looking gold switch with an attached handle.
On the platform in the center of the chasm is a pedestal with a strange, gold button on it, and a little red light.
High above the pedestal, jutting slightly out of the ceiling, is a thick, brass tube with a cap on its bottom.





Having successfully surveyed the room, you check on Roux.
They're in the process of standing up, though their legs look inexplicably shaky.
"Just... need a sec."

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"Well, the room is empty, and the only other way out is locked. We should be safe."

Does the purple hand look like it could belong to that aerosoul we saw earlier? If so, I think this room is somehow taking pictures of people as they enter or leave and putting them up on the wall. The two burnt-out cameras correspond to the two doors that have been opened already in the pictures, and the remaining camera might correspond to the empty gold frame.

Speaking of, the gold frame probably has something to do with that switch, or that button in the middle, or both. Not sure what the tube in the ceiling is about, though.

Let's carefully head over to investigate the switch.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
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push botun
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You couldn't really see the aerosoul well when you encountered them, but you presume they're the one in this picture.

"Well, the room is empty, and the only other way out is locked. 
We should be safe.
"
Roux just nods, starting to catch their breath now.

You walk over to the switch and pull on it. 
It's a little difficult, requiring you to push harder than you were expecting as it resists your pull.
You're able to move it a little over 90 degrees from its off position, after which it halts; seemingly as far as it can move.

As you hold the switch in this position, the brass tube in the ceiling begins to slowly descend further into the room.
It's longer than it looked before, the rest of it being gradually revealed with its motion.

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Does the tube go back up if we pull the switch the other way? How far out can it extend before it stops?
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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climb the tube
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is the tube large enough to fit inside? if so, climb. or ask roux what they think first
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The tube isn't anywhere near large enough to potentially fit inside, and it still has a cap on the end regardless.
You don't think climbing it would do much good, either: the hole it's emerging from is snug, no room for anything else to fit in beside the tube.

You don't have to pull the switch in the other direction; the second you stop holding it, it flips back to its starting position almost instantly, the tube soon ascending into the ceiling once again.

You pull it back, taking effort to hold it in place, waiting to see how far it lowers.
It descends until it's not too far above the switch - four feet or so, you estimate - then stops.
Momentarily after it stops moving, the light nearby the switch turns from red to green.

You let go, the switch flips off, and the light goes back to red.

You put a paw to your muzzle, taking care with the knife you're holding, and look to Roux.
They're now standing, leaning against the nearby wall as they watched you experiment.
"Any thoughts? I'm just testing things."
"Guessing we need someone to hold the switch while the other presses the button.
Just a bit wary of that tube. Maybe it opens when the button is pressed, and we don't know what could come out.
"

They held up their shovel.
"I do have this, I think it could reach the button.
...Cause I'm not risking a jump across. 
Unless you want to try.
"

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Let Roux try with the shovel, pretty much anything could come out of that tube.
[Image: 3DaQdhK.png]
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"I think the camera and the gold frame might have something to do with this, too. I'd say go ahead and try it, but watch where you stand if you're camera shy. Or we could just drape something over it."
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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actually, green is my color, so we should try and have roux work the lever
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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"Maybe I should press the button. 
Green is my color, it could be significant.
"
"I don't think it matters, but,
Roux looks at the pedestal. 
"Light's red right now, so let's test it."
They grasp the shovel with both claws and reach it over the gap after a bit of hesitation.
The head of the shovel smacks the button.
Nothing happens.
"Yeah, didn't think so.
Worth checking, though.
"

"I'd let you try with the shovel, but... 
No offense: if this is a trap somehow, I'd rather be the one ready to smack things away.
"
"Fair enough.
I'll work the lever, then.
Before we start, I wanted to note that the camera and gold frame may also have something to do with this.
"
You point at both, and Roux's gaze follows.
"Watch where you're standing if you're camera shy."
Or we could just drape something over--
"
A loud clang rings out as the shovel bangs into the camera, making you jump.

It seems to have no effect, the camera as pristine as ever.

"Eh.
Don't think we have much to put over it.
And that didn't work, so- Oh.
"
They run their claws along the shovel, noticing a tiny crack in the wood around the stress marks.
"...Bad idea. 
Sorry.
"

"Either way, I still say this is our best option.
If they get a photo of me, then fine.
Let's get this done.
"
"Alright."



Roux situates themself, shovel over the button.
"Hit it."
You pull the lever and hold it, allowing the tube to lower all the way.

The light turns green.

Roux gently taps the button with the shovel.

The button lets out a soft buzz.
A few seconds later, the cap on the bottom of the tube opens.
What looks to be a keyring falls from the tube.
Roux gasps and struggles to catch it with the shovel.
It clatters onto the shovel head, nearly slipping as Roux holds it higher to compensate.

The moment it seems to stabilize, a larger, rectangular object drops out of the tube.
It catches in the shovel as well, Roux grunting as they just barely manage to keep the impact from tipping the shovel.

They hold firm; eyes wide, arms starting to wobble.
"Think that's... everything... 
OK.
"
As carefully as possible, they move the shovel so it's no longer over the hole, then lay it on the floor.
Roux wipes their brow.

"Could've been--
The camera flashes in Roux's face, the chorosy recoiling and covering their eyes on instinct.

Unable to see, they let their knee buckle and fall forward away from the hole.

The hand not covering their eyes grips the carpet tight, shaking.
They manage to let out a growl through shuddered breathing, eyes still covered.
"...bastard."

An image slowly fades into focus in the gold frame:
Roux's shocked expression can be seen facing straight at the camera, looking awkward with their rigid posture, while your shoulder and hand are barely visible in frame at the side.
The silly, candid photo looks out of place hanging next to the other two, especially within such an ornate frame.



Roux lays back all way on the floor, making sure to stay far from the hole, still breathing heavily.

You glance over at the shovel and pick up what Roux had caught, curious.
One is indeed a keyring with three items strung on it:
-A keychain in the shape of a sealed letter; same as the one on the west door
-A gold key
-A small tube with a nozzle on the top, labeled 'PEPPER SPRAY'

The bigger object that fell with the keyring seems to be an instant camera, which thankfully looks small enough to fit in your pocket.

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"About time we found a key. The only two keyholes I've seen are the one on the switch panel, and another one blocking a hatch wayyy back in MAINTENANCE ACCESS."

First things first, see if the letter keychain opens the sealed door to the west. Also see if we can detach the pepper spray from the chain to make it easier to use quickly.

Second, we should probably head back to the switch panel and see if the gold key works there. I don't want to backtrack all the way to maintenance access right now, but the mall is close enough and could end up being really useful if the key does work.

Third, we need to gently poke fun at Roux's shocked expression in the photo while we do these two things.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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resist the mighty urge to test the pepper spray on yourself. even though it wouldnt work.

look down the hole and see if you can get the canera to snap a photo of you as well.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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You debate trying to get a picture of yourself, but the flash bulb is now burnt out in the middle camera, just like the others.
Ah well. Better to get going anyway. Maybe another time.

"About time we found a key."
You hold the keyring up, dangling them for Roux to see as they shakily stand.
"Probably goes to that door."
"More than likely, yes."
"Would've been nice to get one that's more useful, but I'll take anything at this point."

You nod, talking to the chorosy as you detach the pepper spray from the keyring.
"You should see the picture before we go, by the way."
"I don't even wanna look."
You can't help but grin.
"Come now, it's not so bad.
You look... energetic!
"

Once the spray's off, you put it in your left pocket, instant camera in the other.

"Oh god..." Roux glanced at the painting for half a second, turning away almost instantaneously.
"Remind me to burn this place down when we get out."
"And destroy such a lovely photo? What a wonderful frame, too."
"Yeah, starring me doing my best impression of being tazed."
"Co-starring my shoulder, as itself."

They stare at the painting.
"Hey, hand me the knife. 
Just for a sec.
"
Before you can respond, they snatch it from your hand, and swiftly stab at the bottom of the painting.

It bounces off, not even making a dent.

"...Fantastic."



They give you back the kitchen knife and pick up their shovel, motioning towards the door.
Still grinning, you put the key into the sealed letter door and turn.
The lock clicks, and you head through.



You immediately see another button, though motion in the corner draws your attention.
There are clear plastic tubes in the corners of the room, and you can see plastic capsules whiz through them every once in a while; the tubes seemingly pneumatic. 
A fifth tube hangs from the ceiling in the center of the room, though it doesn't reach the floor, instead hanging high over the button.
This one doesn't seem to be pneumatic, and it has a clear cap on its bottom.

Three items rest on top of the cap, inside the tube:
Two keys - each with a label attached - and a card of some kind.
You can't read the text on the labels or the card at first glance, but you probably could if you got a closer look.

On the north, west and south walls are three large vents, all with slatted covers over them.
Your map seems to inform you that they lead somewhere, but they look to be slightly too small for you.
They seem to be 'locked' regardless, though you aren't sure how.

Below the vent on the south wall lies another switch, just like in the last room, though this one looks to be made of cheap grey metal.



You note that the room looks is fairly plain; off-white walls, off-white tile floor, in stark contrast to the photo room.
However, other than the cosmetic changes, the room is strikingly similar.
The cameras and pictures are missing, but the pedestal, button, switch and ceiling tube are all still present, in nearly the exact same locations. 

The most stark difference you can see is that the platform the pedestal rests on is comically smaller than before.
It's practically nonexistant; just a tiny lip around the base of the pedestal.
The hole itself also seems smaller, as if to match the miniscule platform
Though, its width is comparable to the previous chasm; still entirely possible to fall in.



"More keys. Looks like two this time."
Their head tilts down towards the hole, and the pathetic excuse of a 'platform' at its center.
"...But that doesn't look promising."

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"...You think you can do your trick with the shovel again?"
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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"...Could you do your trick with the shovel again?"
"I can try, but I nearly dropped it last time. Not sure if that's the best idea.
We aren't careful, we lose those keys.
"

"Speaking of..."
Roux squints.
"Can you see what's on them?
I can't really tell.
"
They tried to lean forward and stand up straighter, but backed up when they realized how close they were to the hole.

Trying to get a better look, you step past the chorosy - making sure to keep some distance from the hole - and squint.
You can just barely make out the text.

The tag on one key reads 'SDU HALL 2', while the other tag has 'ATRIUM' written on it.
The text on the card is worn, but you can make out some of it: 
'-------TURAL HISTORY MUS--- 
EMPLO--E BADGE
'

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"Looks like keys to the SDU hall and the atrium, as well as an employee badge for the natural history museum."

"...Okay, so hear me out, and stop me if this is too crazy for you. If you can step across the pit and reach the ledge, you should be able to grab the pillar and kind of step over. But you'd be starting next to me, near the switch. Then I could pull the switch with one hand, and hold your cloak in the other as you step across. If you lean forward over the button, we might be able to use your cloak as a net to catch the keys in. Then you'd just step back, and I'd guide the stuff to safety. Theoretically."

There may also be a much simpler solution that I (the player) am missing here.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]
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"Looks like keys to the SDU hall and the atrium, as well as an employee badge for the natural history museum."
"All things we could use." They put a claw to their face in thought.
"...How're we doing this?"
"I think I have an idea."

"This might be too far-fetched, but hear me out:  
If you can step across the pit and reach the edge, you should be able to grab the pillar and - sort of - step over.
"
"Already hate it. 
Continue.

"But, you'd be starting next to me, near the switch. 
Then I could pull the switch with one hand, and hold your cloak in the other as you step across. 
Once you're secure, if you lean forward over the button, we might be able to use your cloak as a net to catch the keys in. 
Then you'd just step back, and I'd guide the stuff to safety. 
...Theoretically.
"

"You're right."
"You think it'll work?"
"Nope. 
Definitely too ...far-fetched.
Not all of it, though.
"
"How so?"
"I don't think it's a good idea for me to try and fully stand on... that.
There's barely anything to it. Way too easy to slip if I'm completely on it.
And if I slip,
" they held up the end of their cloak. "...I don't trust that this is going to hold up my entire bodyweight without ripping.
Don't know if you can hold me with one hand and not drop me, either.
Let's not test that.
...But,
" they took a shaky step forward, surveying the hole.
"...I could put one foot across the gap, on the edge there, and keep my weight mostly back here.
That way, I could lean forward just a little, hit the button, and just catch them with my hands.
You hold onto my cloak - just like you said - and if I start to slip, you pull on the cloak to fix my balance.
It's still a little risky - I may not catch everything - but it's safer for us. ...For me.
And if I catch at least one, we can make progress. 
And I won't ...fall to my ...death. 
...Hopefully.
"
"Alright."
"Okay then." They looked over the pit again, instinctively pulling back a little.
"Let's do it quick. Get it over with.
Before I change my mind.
"

You nod, and get into position.

You start by pulling the switch over and holding it, then you turn your body sideways; stretching out slightly to hold onto Roux's cloak.
The tube begins to lower.

They step forward towards the hole.

The chorosy lifts their foot up an inch, then hesitates, avoiding looking down.

"...You...

...You've got me?
"

"I've got you."

"...okay."
The tube stops moving, now as low as it could be.

"...quick and easy...
Just...
"
They lifted their boot, and stretched, before placing it as far onto the ledge as they could; only a couple of inches.
Roux wavered suddenly, raising their arms to keep their balance.
You pulled their cloak a little tighter, just in case.

They breathed a quick puff of air out of their filter, then took a deep breath.
Their movement steadied, though their breathing seemed to speed up.
"...Quick. And easy.
O... kay.
"

As slowly as possible, they leaned forward, getting their arms closer over the button.


They placed a claw on it, 


then pushed down.


The cap opened


Everything dropped


Roux raised their claws up






The keys and card were suddenly caught by something wide and metallic, leaving Roux grasping at nothing.

"I'll take those, thank you."

The chorosy wobbled, and you quickly tugged hard on their cloak, pulling them away from the pit.
They stumbled aside, both of you now looking upward.

Your eyes quickly processed the object.
It was a large, metal hand, attached to an incredibly-long metal arm.

Though, it rapidly shortened now, being drawn back to its owner.



A figure had appeared in the - now open - west vent.
[Image: GM4DVmV.png]
You could just barely make out 'CERULEAN' on their shoulder.
Their head and arms were sticking out, one of which now held your prizes.

They dangled them in front of you, a pleased look on the amerveille's face.

"I appreciate you saving me the trouble.
I'm not sure who--
" The stranger's eyes went wide.

Roux had the shovel in hand - you hadn't even seen them grab it. 

Their body was already in motion, practically flinging themself in the cat's direction. 

They swung, hard; metal clanging against metal as the amerveille's hand was struck.
The shovel cracked in half from the impact.
What was left of the handle - now just a stick - clattered to the floor, while the rest was flung away, including your prizes.



Everything was scattered, many objects slapping against the wall and sliding across the tile floor towards the pit.
The card - thankfully - landed safely in the corner, 
but one of the keys fell into the hole along with the shovelhead
while the other key teetered precariously on the edge.

Roux paid no attention to any of that.

"You--!
I have half a mind t--
"

The amerveille cut themself off again, starting to scramble back into the vent.
The chorosy was quick to follow, seemingly running on adrenaline.

They jumped up, got a grip on the edge of the vent, and scrambled upward.
In no time, they'd lifted themself into the vent, only their cloak and legs hanging out now.

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Grab the card and the remaining key.

"Roux! Hold on a minute! I'm not sure I can make it up there!"

"Also they can probably punch you from really far away if they wanted to!"
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
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You scoop up the key just before it falls, grab the card from the corner, and hastily stash both in your pockets.

"Roux! Hold on a minute! I'm not sure I can make it up there!
And those arms of theirs are probably dangerous!
"

The chorosy pauses, and you can hear them panting heavily, their breathing shaky.
However, the sound of the blue stranger scrambling away through the vents could still be heard, gradually growing more faint.
It grabbed Roux's attention once again.

"I'll lose them! 
Just-
...I'll... be back!
"

They didn't sound sure in the slightest.
Despite your warning, Roux carelessly resumes their pursuit, though they were having some physical difficulty situating themself in the vent.

Their boots were still hanging out, within reach.


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Jump up and grab Roux's boots, using your body weight to pull them back down.

Then brace for getting yelled at.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
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Nah, we can trust roux i think. Give them a boost into the vent.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
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Roux has proven themself. Let's boost them up.
Vic/Puck - Morbit Discord and Forum Mod - TCPdex Team Member -  Wiki Contributor
Ageless Fae Lord - They/He/It
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You debate on pulling them back out, but ultimately decide to let them go, even reaching up to help get them fully inside.
"Be careful," you warn.
"Yeah," they call back.



Soon you can't see them anymore, only able to hear the sounds of them clambering through the vent.



The sounds start to fade.



Without warning, a deafening metallic cracking noise rings out through the vent, making you jump in surprise.



When the echo of the crash stops, the vent becomes entirely silent.



"Roux...?" You call into the vent.





No response.





You debate trying to climb up into the vent
but you know there's no way you'd be able to fit, 
if you could even lift yourself up inside in the first place.

So, 

you wait.









































You sit up from the floor. 

Your legs creak.

You have no idea how long has passed, but it feels like hours.



You've tried calling into the vent several more times, only to be met with silence.




You check your pockets.
There's the museum employee badge, the pepper spray and the instant camera.
On your keyring, you have the sealed letter door key and the mall atrium key, meaning the key to SDU hall 2 must've been the one that fell into the hole.

You've also got the knife Roux gave you, though it's too big to fit in your relatively small pockets.

What remains of Roux's shovel lays on the floor, now nothing more than a broken stick.



You aren't sure what to do.

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Collect yourself. Start unlocking doors. Take the stick with you. Never know when you need to poke things.
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Use the knife to cut a strip of cloth off your clothes and use the cloth to fashion the stick and knife into a rudimentary spear.
Vic/Puck - Morbit Discord and Forum Mod - TCPdex Team Member -  Wiki Contributor
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Seconding the makeshift spear. Hopefully you won't need to use it, but it seems like now's the appropriate time to arm yourself.
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Let's head to the atrium first and see if we can't find where that key goes. If it goes to the switchboard, we'll have a huge pile of loot to pick from.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

 
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You take a breath, trying to collect yourself.
You were alone before, you're alone again.
You can figure this out.

It's more likely they'll turn up sooner or later. 

You hope.



For now, you decide it's about time you armed yourself better.
Using the knife, you carefully cut a strip off the bottom of your jumpsuit, around your lower leg.
It comes off with some difficulty, the material much more resilient than expected.

With the strip and knife in hand, you pick up the broken handle of Roux's shovel.
You do your best to tie the knife onto the end, but it doesn't seem to want to stay together.
You continue tinkering with it, doing your best to stay calm.

Eventually, you manage to get them tied together into a spear of sorts.
Testing it out, though, it doesn't feel as if the knife is attached very securely.
You're not sure how well it'll hold together, but at least it has a few feet of reach compared to the knife by itself.



Armed with your spear, and everything in your pockets, you start making your way towards the atrium.
You pass through the gallery photo room into SDU hall 2.

Come to think of it, you have no idea what 'SDU' means.
Or why this is supposedly the second one.
Still, you can't help but be somewhat disappointed, looking over all the locked doors in the hallway.
If the blue person hadn't interfered, you'd have that key already.
Oh well. 
This hall is pretty creepy, anyways.
The less time spent in here, the better.



You push through the double-doors at the end, entering the river exhibit.

You glance at the timeline on the wall in the lower part of the room as you head towards the st
ↈ‱
                                                                                                                                                                 ᚙ҈ ᴚ  











You're on the floor. 
On your back.

Something hit you. Hard.

You look up.















High up, nearly at the ceiling, a purple aerosoul is crouched atop the giant fake tree in the center of the room:
 
Crossbow in hand.

[Image: JqtZsOa.png]
Text on their shoulder reads 'VERONICA'.
Their eyes burn into you.



You can see them loading another bolt as you force yourself to your feet.
Panicking, you frantically scramble behind the huge model fish for cover.

Your head hurt₷



You examine it with your paw.

To your horror, you can feel the end of what you assume is a crossbow bolt, jutting away from you.
But, there's something at the end of it, against your head.

It feels like a small, metal... box of some kind.
The device seems to be attached to your head.
You try to pull it o∰



It's stuck.

It's doing... someth⇡ng to you. 

You can feel it.

You can't think.

You fⅇⅇl faint.



You need to do something.



Behind you are the doors you came in, which lead back into the SDU hall.
But you'd be out in the open if you tried to run to it, and that path eventually leads to a dead end at the gallery mailroom.

To your right is the employee elevator, its sensor just beside the elevator door.
It's the closest exit to where you are now, and it's somewhat tucked away to the side, providing just a bit of cover.
But you have no idea if the elevator is on this floor, or how long it'd take to reach here if it isn't. 
And you don't know where it leads.

The stairs leading to the upper section of the room are in front of you on the left.
If you managed to make your way up them, it'd be a short distance to reach the doors that lead into the atrium.
But, the tree's height would give the aerosoul a clear vantage point of you the entire time, and it'd be a long distance to run without taking a hit.

You aren't even sure iℲ you'll have time to enact any of these plans.
You don't f℘el good.



The button attached to the giant, dark brown, white-spotted fish model you're using for cover is right in front of you.
You're still holding your makeshift spear.

It doesn∘t feel like ℽou have l∅ng to aↄt.



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push the button. startle them, chuck the spear at them. if we manage to knock them off and can get close to them, bust out the pepper spray. otherwise scramble for the employee elevator
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