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-[ prismic △ sanctum ]-
That's the button that made the horrible noise earlier. Let's hit it and run to the stairs as fast as we can. We can worry about the thing on our head once we're out of immediate danger.
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]
You tap the button, gripping the spear tight as you get the employee badge ready in your other paw.
The loudspeaker crackles on.

You wait for your moment.

"The coela----h--"
That same high-pitched whine blares from the speaker, and you hop out from cover.

You get a glimpse of one of the aerosoul's eyes wincing, but their crossbow is still raised at you.
You throw the spear as hard as you can.
A bolt whizzes past your shoulder in the same instant.

Neither hits their mark.

Your spear doesn't quite go high enough, instead smacking into the tree and bouncing off.
The spear itself comes apart on impact, strip of cloth fluttering away as the stick and knife clatter to the floor pitifully.

You don't bother sticking around to watch, though, already running to the elevator.
You reach it in no time, just as the whine from the loudspeaker stops, the voice coming back in.

You slam the card aga
?nst the sensor.

"This elevator is for employees only."

Luckily, the elevator door begins to open.

You hear a loud bang and swivel around.

"Please make sure to stay with your group!"

The aerosoul is on top of the fish model you'd used
?as cover, standing up from a crouch as the model creaks under their weight.

With a heavy thud, they drop to the floor, and begin bounding toward you at high speed.

"For employees: Please tap your badge on the sensor to call the elevator."

The door finally slides open enough.

You shuffle backwards into the small elevator, its button panel coming into view. 
The towering figure looms closer and closer by the moment, sprinting for th⠗⠥⠝levator door.

⎲ou fe⒠l⠎y⠕u⦖re bare
y ⠎tand?ng 

Show Content (CW:FLASHING)MAP:
Hit a floor, doesn't matter which one, and hit the CLOSE DOOR button. No one else can get in the elevator without a badge, so if we can get the door closed and the elevator away from here, we're free to pry the scrambler off our head.

...Or just pass out, depending on our stamina level.
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]
hold out the pepper spray. if they get to the elevator before the doors close, hit em with it.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
You hurriedly tap the down arrow button on the panel, then the 'DOOR CLOSE' button, pulling as much focus as you can muster in your dazed state.

You keep a paw in your pocket and grip the pepper spray as you hear the aerosoul charging for the elevator.
Your vision is hazὙ, continually shifting, but you can see their silhouette growing closer and closer as the doors begin to slide shut.

Just as they're about to reach the door, you pull out the spray, turn its top, and click the nozzle.
A stinging mist bursts out, coating the aerosoul's hands just as they reach out to grip the doors.

You hear a loud yelp as the figure crumples to the floor.

The elevator door shuts, cutting off your view as you feel it shift, beginning to mov e
. Y

You back up to t⁆
You back to t₶e opposite wal l It's difficult ₜo It's di↩ It's

It's dif⎨icult t⌕ think␛cle
think    It☹'s difY⟅ou it's It⨊s Th⬳nk⪹YⰨou
You can't You 
It's cleThe elearvlThinkY
ум? It s'
if  l ieE vcAoYr

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       't tT
[Image: AkOFdsR.png]

"Roux! Hold on a minute!"

"I'm not s
ure I can make it up there!
And those arms of theirs are probably dangerous!

"I'll lose them! 
...I'll... be back!

"Be careful."


You crawl as quickly as you can through the vent.

Your knees hurt from repeatedly slamming against the metal.
But you can't lose them. 

You round a corner.
Then another.

You can see them up ahead.
They somehow managed to turn around - now crawling through forwards instead of backing up.
But you're still gaining on them.

You're getting answers one way or another.

The amerveille cocks their head back briefly.
You see their eyes go wide as their pace picks up.

"Why are you still--?!
You got your little keys back!
Just take them and leave, you insufferable hound!

You ignore them, panting as you start to catch up.

As you get close to their heels, you ready yourself to reach out and grab them.

A loud clank suddenly rings out.
The both of you slide into the wall of the vent as gravity seems to shift.
You push against the sides on instinct, trying to right yourself.

Horrible, metallic tearing pierces the air around you as the vent rips apart in front of you, reverberating through your skull.

You feel yourself drop.

The vent tumbles sideways in freefall.
Your world spins.

A blue mass crashes into your chest. 

It knocks the wind out of you.

There's a splash as your head slams int-

Water douses your face.
You blearily open your eyes.
You can feel your arms gripping tight around something rough and wet.

Your head is pounding.
But you do your best to shake yourself awake, and focus on your surroundings.

You're in some kind of underground river, as best you can tell.

The water is rushing fast, and you're thankful you managed to cling onto some large rocks standing in the river, otherwise you would've been washed downstream.
The current is still testing your grip, but you're holding on solidly enough for the moment.

The only reason you can see at all is thanks to a strange, dim blue-green glow illuminating the cavern.
You look up to find the source, and find strange, bioluminescent objects hanging all along the ceiling.
You squint.
It sort of looks like fungus. Or... some kind of worms?
You can't tell. Doesn't really matter, anyways.

The section of vent you were in is visible further downriver.
It's propped up, wedged in diagonally against stalagmites jutting out of the water.

There's a large silhouette stuck against the vent.
You soon recognize it as the amerveille you'd been chasing after.
They aren't actively holding on to the vent at all, and instead seem to be slumped against it.

They aren't moving.

Further past them, way downriver, there's a massive, dark hole in the bottom of the wall at the far end of the cavern.
All the water is funneling down into it.
You can't see anything at all past the hole, just an abyss of black.
The rapids swirl into it, and disappear.

You don't like looking at it.

You glance to your left and right instead, looking for some way out of the river.

The left side is just a wall, but there's a gravelly shoreline along the right side.
The river is wide, so you'd need to swim a bit, but you think you can make it to the shore without too much difficulty.
It extends most of the way down the river, but cuts off about... fifteen feet or so past where the vent is stuck.

Beyond where the shoreline ends, it's just slick cave walls on both sides.
Which eventually lead straight into that black void.

The amerveille downriver looks to be in bad shape, and the vent is subtly shaking with the current, looking unsteady.

...You doubt they'll make it out on their own, unless they manage to miraculously wake up.

Whatever you're doing, you should do it fast.
You can't cling here forever.

Show ContentSTATUS:
We can't get any answers if there's no one to ask. Let go of the rock and let the river do the work of getting to them, then see if we can haul them to the shoreline.

They are bigger than us, but we can always drop them if we end up getting overwhelmed.
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]
Tie their extendo arms in a knot first. Splash some water on them to wake them up.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
You breathe in, and out, then let go of the rock.

You fight the current as best you can, but it's even stronger than you were expecting.
Thankfully, you don't have to cover much distance til you're lined up with the vent.

You let yourself drift and land against it.
You hit it harder than anticipated, nearly sliding off as you slam against it.
It creaks and shifts - almost coming loose as you struggle to hang on.

You manage to steady your grip, but the vent is hardly stable.
It feels as though any movement could unwedge it, and send the both of you downriver.

Any plans you had before fall out the window as you second-guess yourself.

The current is harsh, and the shoreline's far enough away now that battling it's going to be a challenge.

You're fairly confident you could make it alone, but you have no idea if you'd be able to reach the shore with another person's weight.
You're not even sure exactly how to position yourself so that you could swim while holding someone, let alone someone larger than you are.

And with the vent looking more unstable since you crashed into it, you don't have much time.

You need to act.

Show ContentSTATUS:
See if you can splash some water on them or slap them awake. You can still bail if you don't get them awake in time, but at this point it looks like their magic arms are the only thing that's going to get both of you out of here unscathed.

EDIT: It says to keep their airway clear. Make sure their head is above water and compress their chest/ribs so they can
Show Contentcw: unsanitary:
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]
Move yourself behind them. When you are directly behind them, hook your arm around their neck with your elbow at their throat. Then swim with your legs and the other arm. They will naturally float and you can haul in someone who is substantially larger than you are.

As far as the current goes, try to swim diagonally to the curent until you get near the water's edge. River currents are less strong around the sides of the river, so from there you'd have an easier time getting up to the shoreline.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
As gently as possible, you climb further onto the vent and scoot across to them.

You decide against splashing water in their face, not wanting to get any in their mouth.
Careful not to move too much, you lightly smack your palm against their face a few times. 

No response.

You take a breath to steady yourself.
Your arm wraps around their shoulder, and you begin to pull them down into--

The vent shifts.
It scrapes across the stalagmites and rolls forward with a sudden, forceful motion.

Your world upends as you're flipped forward.
You hear the pitiful, wet squeak of your body sliding off the vent before you're tossed in the river.

                   it takes you a bit to get your bearings, the rushing water not helping in the slightest.

You resurface, and find you're somehow still holding the amerveille, though your grip has slipped down to their arm.
You quickly pull them to you and wrap your elbow around their neck.

Blearily, you locate the shore.

It feels painfully far.

The dark hole looms at the end of the cavern.

Aiming yourself diagonally at the shore, you start to swim frantically, putting as much power into your haphazard strokes as you can muster.

You feel tired almost immediately.

But you keep at it.

There's a moment where it hits you.

Even as you near the shore.

That you aren't going to make it.

Fueled by adrenaline, you change your trajectory to fight the current more, desperately trying to make it in time.

You're so close.

The shore passes by in your vision.

You push for the wall of rock past it instead; there's nowhere else to go.

You reach out and grab for it.

Your hand slides across the rocks, but you try and clamp down as hard as you can.

Eventually your grip holds.

Your fingers hurt.

Your mind races as you try to figure out what to do.
You try to pull yourself forward a little.

You hear a yelp.

The amerveille squirms in your arm, apparently having woken up.

You try to tighten your hold on them, but they wriggle free. 

Your grip on the rock slips.

You drop into the current.

You swirl around, reaching out for something, anything to hold on to as you try and right yourself.

Tension catches on the back of your neck.

You aren't moving further downriver.

You instinctively swim up to the surface, then turn your head back to find a stretched metal claw grasping the nape of your neck. 

Cerulean's other claw is dug deep into the rock wall.

The hand holding onto you retracts, bringing you up close to them.
You latch on around their waist, allowing them the use of both their arms.
They grunt from the strain of your weight, but soon begin to climb sideways across the rock wall, staying mostly in the water.

It isn't long before they reach the shore.

You slide off Cerulean as they roll over and collapse onto their back, one hand on their chest.
You crawl up the shore a few feet, hands and knees trembling as you do your best to stay upright.

The two of you pant heavily, nearly in unison.

You're alive.

Show ContentSTATUS:
"Well that was nuts."
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
If there's no immediate danger, we should just sit for a minute. Maybe make some small talk to Cerulean while we recuperate.

"Nice arms."
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]
You don't exactly feel like small talk.
You don't know them.
And you aren't going to stick around long enough for something else to go wrong.

Get up, already.

You shift to your knees to stand.
Or, try to.
The second you try letting weight off, your hands collapse back onto the smooth pebbles that make up the shore.

You try again, making it to your knees, but stumble backwards as you lift up to your feet.
You end up with your back against one of the giant rocks at the edges of the shoreline.
Your knees are wobbling, and you have yet to even catch your breath.

Glancing around, you spot a dark tunnel cut into a nearby cave wall - seemingly the only way forward.

"...Leaving already?
Not even a 'thank you'
The amerveille is still on their back, but their eyes have flicked over in your direction.

They start to sit up, but the motion is slower, pained; Cerulean dragging themself against gravity.
"The way I see-
They wince and clutch their head just as they reach a sitting position.

" owe me."

Show ContentSTATUS:
Take it slow. We're pretty messed up according to our health thingy, we might make things worse if we get back up too quick. Oh, and make sure we catch our breath before speaking so the snark of our comment can be properly conveyed.

"Oh, that's really reaching. Good to know your metaphorical arms are just as long as your real ones."

"You tried to steal my shit, first of all, and then I dragged you most of the way to shore myself before you woke up and saved us both at the last second. I could've just dropped you halfway over, or not grabbed you in the first place. My math might be a bit fuzzy from the fall, but if anything, I'd say you owe me."
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]
Pay attention to your status meter. You both need rest. Just say whatever you need to to get them to shut up for a while and rest up.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
You really want to leave rather than squabbling with them.
Waiting here feels like wasted time, especially every second spent listening to this jackass.

...But, you do need a chance to rest, anyways.

You take the time to catch your breath first, trying to keep yourself supported on the rock.

"Wow, that is- 
You're really reaching!
You tried to steal from us, and I still dragged you most of the way to shore myself!
I could've just dropped you, or not bothered in the first place.
You owe me, if anything.

"And why did I need saving? 
Any guesses?

You glare.

"I've been through those vents plenty of times. They've never broken when it was just me.
You... are the reason we ended up in that river.
I didn't even manage to take anything from you, so why exactly did you feel the need to chase after me?
If you'd let well enough alone and just gone about your business, we'd both be fine right now.
Saving me from drowning was the least you could do, really.
And you couldn't even manage that without my help, could you?

They placed a metal claw to their chest.

"So, you owe me, clearly.
You could show me a bit more gratitude, you know.

Your blood boils.

Show ContentSTATUS:
Screw this, just leave them.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
"How the hell was I supposed to know the vents would go above a river? How was I supposed to know they would break, for that matter? It's not like they put up warning signs in this crazy death maze!

And don't act like you're perfectly fucking innocent just because you missed your shot at taking my stuff! I, for one, would like to know what the hell you thought you were doing up there."
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]
You push off the rock, stepping closer to the amerveille.

"How the hell was I supposed to know they'd break?!
Or that there was a river below us?
And you don't get to play innocent just because I stopped you stealing our stuff!
What were you doing up there in the first place?

They struggle for a moment, but manage to shakily stand, stumbling over before addressing you.
"That's hardly fair!
And I don't owe you an explanation just because you-
They faltered, eyes lidding as they suddenly toppled, the much taller cat collapsing on top of you.

It takes some doing, but you shove them off, Cerulean now clutching at their head as you stand.
You wince.
Your back stings, landing on the rocky shore not doing any favors for your soreness.

"If you won't talk, then I'm done.
Good luck managing that alone.

"Fine, fine!
Just... give me a moment...
They sit up gradually, taking it slow.
Once up, they turn to face you.

"...I wanted those keys - everything in those damn tubes, really - but nothing in those rooms would work for me, and the door was barred.
I'd still been trying to find other ways forward through the vents when I heard the both of you stumble in.
So, I just waited and... voila.
" They rolled their hand, emphasizing.

"I couldn't risk you two not letting me use the keys. Not everyone here is exactly friendly, you know.
...But I, more than likely, would have helped you both with them as well.
It would've taken more effort to re-lock doors after I opened them, anyways.

You give them a look.

"Don't assume the worst of me, it's not as if you know me.
And you can't say you'd have done the same.
Something tells me you just might not be the trusting type.

"...At any rate, I expected you'd be upset. 
I did not expect you to be so ...ferocious. 
...Or to react so quickly - my hand still feels off, for the record.

They sighed.

"Look, I've obviously been badly hurt from the fall - regardless of who may or may not be at fault for that - and I can't be absolutely sure I'll make it out on my own.
I believe I've more than proven my capabilities. 
You wouldn't be alive now if I hadn't.
I simply could use... a bit of... help...
For now.

The cat looks you in the eyes.
"Why go through the trouble of saving me if you'd just leave me to die afterwards?"

Show ContentSTATUS:
"...Fine. But we shouldn't stay here too long, just let me catch my breath and we'll get moving.

And if you try anything funny, you can expect me to be just as ferocious as I was the first time."

Once you're both ready, offer to help them up- judging by the health display and their performance just now, it doesn't seem like they can stand or walk on their own.
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]
Take some time to just sit and recuperate.
Ask them if they remember anything about where they are from or how they got here. If they don't want to answer, just let them know you can't remember anything either.
While you're resting, take a moment to scan the area for ways forward.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
You don't want to sit here doing nothing.
You're just sore; you'll be fine.
You can catch your breath while you're moving forward, and you can recuperate once you're back.
Or if you happen to find somewhere you're sure is safe.

...But you can try to take things easier in the meantime.

But if you try anything funny, you can expect the same ferocity as last time."

"Duly noted, now help me up."

They reach out a robotic claw.
You take it and help pull them up off the shore.

Cerulean teeters on their feet, but manages to keep themself upright despite the unsteadiness.

Checking your surroundings, there's only one clear way forward:  
tunnel not too far inward from the shore, cut into the wall of rock.
You search around past the water, just in case.

There's the dark hole you narrowly avoided falling into earlier at the end of the river, and you can spot the broken vent you fell from far upriver.
Frustratingly, you doubt you could ever possibly reach it, even with Cerulean's help. 
It's just too much river to traverse.
Further upriver than the vent, you see the bottom of a waterfall that marks the start of the river.
Nothing else stands out.

When you turn, Cerulean is already making their way towards the tunnel, so you hurry to catch up.
As you head in, following the amerveille's gradual pace, you decide to ask them.

"...Do you remember anything about where you're from, or how you got here?"
"To this place?
Not a clue.
Why? Do you?"

You shake your head.
"That's what I expected.
I doubt anyone here does.
...Certainly no one I've met so far, at least."

The two of you round a corner in the tunnel and reach the end of the path.
It's a simple metal door in the rock wall, a dim lamp jutting out over it, illuminating it.

Show ContentSTATUS:
Have Roux open it, Cerulean should stay back since they're in worse shape and can punch people from further away.
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]
Take the lamp for light in case you need it.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
You try to reach up and take the lamp, but it's attached to the wall above the door and won't budge.

You step in front of Cerulean, motioning for them to stay back as you prepare to open the door.
"You want me to stay back?"
"You're in worse shape, and I'm guessing those arms of yours can hit at range."
"Not if you're in the way, they can't.
Besides, what exactly are you planning to do if something shows up?"

"Handle it."
Planning on using your 'noble intentions' as a weapon?"

"...I'll be fine."
"Suit yourself, I suppose."

You turn the door handle, and it creaks as you open it and step through.

Inside is what looks like a jungle clearing.

Various flora - mostly large-leafed trees and white flowers - is scattered around nearby, but most is densely packed beyond the fences that surround this square area.
The fences are tightly-packed, with only very tiny gaps across the span of them. Being close, you can also very faintly hear electricity crackling through them.
Though, you don't see any sort of breaker box or other power source nearby.

To your right, the fences end, giving way to a massive chasm. You can see more jungle beyond it.
You don't really want to peer over the edge.

To your left is a shutter door in the middle of the fence, though it's covered by some sort of high-tech 'barrier'.
The barrier glows and pulses with a purple light.

About 20 feet in front of you is an average iron door.

Cerulean looks over into the chasm.
"...Positively absurd, the sheer number of bottomless pits in this place."

Show ContentSTATUS:
The bottomless pit, barrier, and electric fences don't seem particularly promising to start with. Carefully heading forward to the iron door, or checking out the plants that are on this side of the fencing seem to be the readily apparent options. So, perhaps take a look around the nearby plants with care, and then head for the iron door if nothing sticks out.
Throw something at the barrier to see what happens.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
Let's check out the iron door first. Everything else seems too dangerous. Are there any plants you can identify?
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]
toss a piece of a plant at the electric fence to see how strong the current is
You don't recognize any of the nearby plants at all, unfortunately.

You pluck one of the white flowers and lightly toss it at the electric fence.
It turns black and catches fire almost instantly, burning to a crisp in seconds.

"...Good to know."
You startle, not having realized Cerulean was crouching right next to you during your little experiment.
"Let's get moving, then.
Only one way forward."
They stand up.

"Hold on."
You pluck another flower and try the same thing on the purple barrier covering the other door.
The flower bounces off the barrier, but otherwise looks unharmed.
"At least we know now."
"Still only one way to go, you know."
"I'm aware." 

You make your way in front of the cat and open the iron door, the both of you stepping inside.

The room inside is unlike any you've seen before.

It looks vaguely like an arcade or a bowling alley, in terms of its decor:  
The whole area is illuminated by blacklight, the floor covered in a dark carpet with brightly-colored shapes, and similar neon patterns being projected along the walls - seemingly from nowhere.
Though, the section of the room you're in only seems to be a small entrance alcove connecting to a much larger structure; entirely contained within this massive 'room'.

In front of you is what looks like a multi-story building, lit up with neon lights and shapes, shifting oddly to the beat of generic, upbeat electronic music that radiates from it. Various tube-like protrusions - possibly large tunnels - funnel their way out from different spots on the building, always leading to somewhere else along the wall of the inner portion of the giant room. 
They move every once in a while, changing spots to link up somewhere else.

A singular, stationary bridge leads to the building from the alcove you're in.
However, it's currently blocked off by a translucent 'brick' wall, which is changing colors to the beat.

In front of the wall is a big, black screen with the words 'TOUCH HERE' surrounding a dot in the center.
A large sign hangs down from the shallow ceiling of the alcove, just above the screen.

It reads:
Please register on the interactive screen below.
(Appropriate for ages 18+ ONLY)`

"Well, this is...

"...Kind of tacky."

Cerulean walks ahead of you towards the screen.
"I don't trust this."
I don't trust anything here.
But this looks more entertaining than the other death traps, at least.
And it's the only way forward, right?"

"So we may as well give it a shot."

Show ContentSTATUS:
May as well try it. There doesn't seem to be any other way forward.

At least the music here is nice. Are either of you a fan?
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]
Discover you have a previously unknown fear of dancing.
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
In the ever famous words of some hypothetical person, what could possibly go wrong signing up for an unknown danger. (Seconding might as well give it a try. It does seem like the most plausible path forward.)
You resign with a sigh.
I'll bite.
Just be careful."

Cerulean seems to be finished, addressing your comment as they walk past you away from the screen.
"I'm always careful."
You roll your eyes.

Stepping forward, you see the screen just as it was before your companion used it, and tap the dot in the center.
It expands outward to form white text across the screen, as well as what looks like a keyboard.
It reads:

Enter your name to register!
There's a blank space with a blinking cursor, just above the on-screen keyboard.

You use the touch screen to type in 'ROUX'.

The center text is replaced with 'Thank you for registering!', while the text at the top changes to 'CURRENT PARTY: 2'
After a few seconds, the screen goes entirely black.
With that, the translucent wall of bricks seems to crumble away with a triumphant clattering, disappearing into nothing.

The bridge is open.

Cerulean stops leaning on the wall, stretching their arms as they come to join you at the start of the bridge.
"Let's get this over with."
"You could try to have a little fun, you know."
"I'm too tired for fun."

As the two of you start making your way across, a thought occurs to you.
"Do you like the music?" you ask Cerulean.
The cat raises an eyebrow.
"...Trying to see if anything jogs our memory."

Cerulean takes a moment to listen, putting a claw to their snout.

Not at all."

You thought it was alright, but a little boring.
...You really wish you could remember more about your music taste.

Though, none of that's important right now.

You soon reach the building in the center, and a large door of various colorful mechanisms opens up for you.
You take one last glance at the tunnels moving around the building before entering.

Inside, you strangely don't hear the same music you'd noticed outside.
Instead, speakers in the room are playing bland elevator music.

As you're focused on the new tune, a sudden sound behind you makes you jump, and you spin around to find the door shutting behind you.
It soon looks as if it was never there, appearing as just a wall.

You instinctively feel along it, fruitlessly searching for any spot to pull back it open.

You find none.

Cerulean watches you, looking like they're judging you, though they say nothing.

The room is large, and has the same aesthetic as the outside. 
Bright, neon patterns adorn the walls, glowing from the blacklight above. They shift about, moving in a liquid-like manner.

Otherwise, the room itself is entirely empty save for three more doors; one bigger than the other two.
The smaller doors are right next to each other, and have text that reads 'PARTY OF 1' above them, while the larger door's text reads 'PARTY OF 2'.

Cerulean sighs. 
"You choose.
I don't care for either option."

" 'Either' option?"
"Well, clearly they're giving us the choice to split up or stay together for..." 
A specific word doesn't come, and instead they gesture vaguely at the doors
"...whatever this is going to be."

They rub their chin, getting a better look at all the doors.
"I assume the big door is more challenging in some way, since we're allowed to stay together.
And I'd normally say I'm better off on my own anyways, but potential head trauma may not mix well with this.

They clutch their head, looking to be in a mixture of slight pain and annoyance.

"It already is, all the music is giving me a headache."

The amerveille seems to shake it off enough to continue their thought.

"At the same time, you did nearly get me killed just after meeting you, so...
Really, I could lean either way.
So, you choose."

"...You're assuming a lot."
They look offended.
"Oh I'm sorry, were you given information I wasn't privy to?
Do you have a better deduction you'd like to share, detective?"

You glare.

"Well, that's what I thought, then.
So, go on.
Make a decision."

Show ContentSTATUS:
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
It'd probably be better not to split up. Given the wait music though, this might be a decent place to get a bit of rest. If rest isn't really possible or amenable, then going through the larger door together seems prudent.
"How about none of the above? We're both pretty banged up and this seems like a decent place to catch our breath."
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]
catching your breath and then party of two sounds good
"Better not to split up--" 
Before the words even make it out, Cerulean is already opening the larger door.
"We should rest first."
"I'll live and I am not waiting in here with this awful music."

You begrudgingly follow along.

The next room is tiny and pitch black.
You can't see much at all until the door closes behind you, at which point text begins to glow along the wall in front of you both.

It reads:

[Image: Fp3I1LL.png]

There are four glowing handles on the wall below the text, in sets of two.

Cerulean grabs the set under the word 'SOLDIER'.

"Why are you complaining?
I'm letting you be the leader.
Besides, you have nothing to fight with."

"I don't have a concussion."

"...And I don't think there'll be actual fighting involved, anyway.
This place seems more along the lines of a family-friendly arcade than an arena."

"We should rest, at--"
"I want this over with already.
We can switch roles if it becomes an issue.
It'll probably be... paintball, or something.
So stop being dramatic."

You rub your temple, then reluctantly approach the set of handles under 'COMMANDER'.
"...This is a terrible idea."
"I'll be sure to keep that in mind when we blow through this in five minutes."

You hesitate, then grab the handles.

A loud swishing noises emanates all around you.

You instantly let go, frantically reaching out around to find that you're encased on all sides by some kind of hard, see-through material.
It's too dark to see more than that.
The floor moves under you, nearly knocking you over.

Gravity seems to increase as you feel yourself moving upwards, as if in an elevator.

Finally, it comes to a stop, and a dim red light coats your tiny room.
You are in a six-walled, diamond-shaped container of some kind, the walls appearing to be plexiglass... possibly.
Running your hand over it, it feels more akin to metal.

You doubt there's any way you can break it, regardless.

You can faintly hear a banging somewhere out in front of you.
Five of the six walls in your tiny prison don't seem to have anything beyond them, but you can faintly see something below you through the front wall.

As if on cue, the area you were seeing lights up.
It's a large room with no ceiling that's ten or so feet below you, the edge of it just in front of the chamber you're in.

There are sixteen colored containers - shaped identically to yours - arranged on what looks like a giant game board.
The eight yellow containers furthest away from you are entirely opaque, while you can see through the eight on your side of the 'board'.
Seven of them are green, and each house what appears to be a small, floating ball-shaped machine of some sort. The sizes between them seem to vary, with most on the smaller size.

There's a single blue container just below you which your amerveille companion seems to be stuck in.
They strike the walls around them with their mechanical arms several times - which you recognize as the banging sound you heard earlier - before giving up.

Before you can process anything else, you hear something directly behind you and pivot on your feet, ready to fight.

A chair and screen - both the same red, translucent material you're currently boxed in by - rise up from the floor in the center of the chamber.
You walk around to check the screen, not taking a seat yet.

There's some text, some on-screen buttons labeled with more text, a game board laid out identically to its massive counterpart, and a command line at the very bottom of the screen.

The on-screen text reads:


                             WELCOME TO SKIRMISH !

                                             You may read the RULES at any time.
                                                          You are
GREEN team.

[Image: ck5njxT.png]

                                                      It's your turn!

                                          You may input TWO movement commands.

The text on the buttons read: "RULES", "SHOW UNIT NAMES", "SWAP" and "GIVE UP".

Show ContentRULES:

Below the screen is an attached keyboard.

Cerulean's voice crackles through an intercom on the panel in front of you.
"This is a bit dramatic, I'll admit, but... hopefully nothing... too dangerous."

You step away from the screen, and you can see them looking up at you.

"...Try not to do anything careless."

Show ContentSTATUS:
look to the opposite side of the board and see if you can make out whether the other team has its own commander container, maybe you are playing against a person

give cerulean a big thumbs up

then {R2A: UP 1}
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
"Did you read the rules, too? Seems like some kind of strategy game."

I think the best thing to do would be to keep Cerulean out of combat as much as possible. I don't know if their actual combat ability is what determines which piece gets taken or if Cerulean dies if they get taken or what, but I certainly don't want to find out. I'm also curious if the opposing team is seven spheres and one person like we are or if there are just random monsters in there.

Basically I just want to get a bit more information as to what the heck is going on, and I think sending our Rank 2s to fight the opposing Rank 2s is a decent way to do it.

As a sidenote, do the floating ball machine things look similar to the 'red orb machine' Roux saw way back in the alleyway?

Voting to move
{R2A: UP 2}
{R2B: UP 2}
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]
"Did you read the rules? 
Looks like a strategy game."

Cerulean glances around in their container, and finds a small panel on the side wall.
They activate it, and start scrolling through with their claw.

Their voice comes through the intercom shortly after.
"I'm reading them now, yes.
Not very descriptive. 
Combat system, blah blah."
They swirl their hand around in the air.

"Hopefully you have enough to go on up there.
I'd rather this wasn't a slaughter."

You give a thumbs up.
They roll their eyes, turning to look ahead.

Curious about your opponent, you look across to the opposite wall on the other side of the board, and find a similar container to the one you're currently in.
Though, this one is opaque, and has text reading 'COLOSSEUM AI' printed on it.

Now that you think about it, the floating ball machines look exactly like the one you bumped back in the alley.
Same shape, same design, same everything, as far as you're able to tell.

You're not sure this information helps you at all, but you have it.

After a few moments of thought, you input your commands, deciding to push your Rank 2 pieces forward.

{R2A: UP 1}
{R2B: UP 2}

                                                        Commands accepted!
                                                                Moving pieces . . .

As you watch, the two Rank 2 containers move forward, one after the other.

                                                        It's GOLD TEAM's turn!
                                                                Moving pieces . . .

Your opponent's pieces move; a Rank 1 piece scooting ahead to allow their Rank 3 piece to make it out in the open.

You'll probably need to be careful about that one.

[Image: joC4HnB.png]
                                                        It's your turn!
                                          You may input TWO movement commands.


Show ContentSTATUS:
Let's bring our Rank 3 out into the field while allowing one of our Rank 2s to intercept the Rank 1 that's moving towards us on the left. We've got good odds of winning that fight, and I still want to know what's inside the enemy pieces.

{R2A: LEFT 1, UP 1}
{R3: UP 2, RIGHT 1}

"Yeah, I think I got it. It's pretty simple, honestly- although I don't like how much ambiguity there is over which piece wins in combat. I can't tell what's inside the opponent's pieces, but as far as our side is concerned, you're the only real person. All of our other pieces are these sphere 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]
think about ball
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]
"Think I got it. Pretty simple, honestly.
Don't like not knowing how it decides which piece wins, though. 
...You're the only actual person on our team, by the way.
All the rest are these sphere things."

"I can see that."

"No clue about the other team."
"Well, if it's just more of those, then we have no problem.
I can take them. Easy."

You decide to move your Rank 3 piece into the field while intercepting their advancing Rank 1.

{R2A: LEFT 1, UP 1}
{R3: UP 2, RIGHT 1}

Commands accepted!
                                                                Moving pieces . . .

Your pieces move up in order, fanning out slightly to the sides.

It's GOLD TEAM's turn!
                                                                Moving pieces . . .

[Image: w3mk5Bl.png]

The gold Rank 3 pieces suddenly moves forward, getting between your Rank 2 and the Rank 1 you were trying to overtake.
An enemy Rank 2 piece moves up just next to it, forming a barrier.

"...You're sure you've got this?"

It's your turn!
                                          You may input TWO movement commands.


Show ContentSTATUS:
{R2A: RIGHT 1, DOWN 1}
{R2B: UP 1, LEFT 1}

"If you've got any suggestions, I'm all ears."
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]
"If you've got suggestions, I'm all ears."
"No, no, you do your thing.
If you want me calling the shots, then we switch.
Otherwise, just do your best not to get me killed."

You input your commands.

{R2A: RIGHT 1, DOWN 1}
{R2B: UP 1, LEFT 1}

                                                        Commands accepted!
                                                                Moving pieces . . .

You move your leftmost Rank 2 piece over and downward, forming a diagonal blockade with your remaining pieces.
Your other Rank 2 makes its way upward, moving onto the same space as an enemy team for the first time.

The container stops just before touching the opposing piece. 

                                                  GREEN Rank 2 vs. GOLD Rank 2

Both containers raise upwards, stopping their ascent when they reach a height parallel to you.
A translucent floor emerges from the side wall under them as the containers move to opposite ends of the newly-created arena.

You can see Cerulean standing up on their tip-toes, trying to get a better view of the scene above them.

S T A R T !

The containers disappear, revealing the opponent:
It's a near-shapeless mass of pure black, only a couple of feet tall.
It rivals the size of your spherical robot, but it seems to be... writhing, an incomprehensible motion coming from its surface.

Even looking at it unnerves you.

"...What the HELL is THAT?!"

Box-shaped armaments emerge from the sides of the sphere, which begin firing on the black shape.
It slides across the floor with surprising quickness, stray gunfire leaving a trail of bullets in the mass's wake.

The creature speeds along, shifting this way and that before nearing the bot, which backs up as it continues firing.
However, the shape is too quick and leaps sideways, splaying into dozens of writhing tendrils which grip around the robot's hull.

The bot's guns do their best to target the mass enveloping it.
They manage a few potshots here and there - scarring the shape's surface with red blood - but errant tendrils keep the weapons at bay.
Cracks ring through the air as the machine whirrs and beeps, starting to dent along its middle.

After a few more landed shots, the robot bows heavily inward and seems to shut off entirely, falling to the floor.

F I N I S H !

                                                 GOLD Rank 2 is the victor!

The bleeding black mass slides off after a few seconds, and containers once again form around the two.

The robot's container rises upwards instead of returning to the board, disappearing out of view
While the black mass's container lowers back into its former spot on the board.


It's GOLD TEAM's turn!
                                                                Moving pieces . . .

Immediately, the same Rank 2 piece moves downwards, colliding with the only Rank 2 you have left.

                                                  GOLD Rank 2 vs. GREEN Rank 2

Just like before, an arena forms as the two containers raise up.

S T A R T !

Repeating its predecessor, your other Rank 2 bot begins its firing barrage, though it proves to be much more successful this time, landing many direct hits as the wounded creature approaches.

The shadow manages to bat aside the bot briefly with its tendrils as the sphere fires upon it, but quick work is made of the mass once the bot rights itself.
Surrounded in red, the creature sinks into itself oddly, creating what looks like a puddle on the floor before it dissipates entirely.

The Rank 2 bot succeeds, but is left partially damaged for its effort, sparks occasionally popping from its side.

F I N I S H !

                                                  GREEN Rank 2 is the victor!

"I suppose trading isn't the worst outcome.
...And I can take those ...digusting things, if it comes to that,"
the amerveille assures you, not sounding sure in the slightest.

Back at the board, Gold Team's Rank 3 piece mimics its teammate's movement, making its way downward three spaces and engaging one of your Rank 1 pieces.

                                                  GOLD Rank 3 vs. GREEN Rank 1

The containers raise up and separate on the arena in front of you.

S T A R T !

The containers vanish.

Now visible, Rank 3 creature is four-legged and surprisingly tall, a foot or two above Cerulean, including its head.
Its body looks wooden and almost mechanical, full of interlocking parts and pieces that move together, yet its very middle is pale and unsettlingly fleshy - something pink pulsing at its center.
Braces lead from its body to its legs, which are quite long and look sharp at their tips - a single joint at the middle. 
They look like bone, you think.

The creature's neck is almost as long as its legs, the same pale flesh extending up to a round head with two white, horn-like appendages on its sides
In the center of its head is a gaping hole, perfectly round and of an unknown depth you can't quite process - seemingly extending inward far beyond the entire length of the creature itself.

You try not to look at it.

The monster stands mostly still, swaying listlessly as if a gentle breeze was present.

Cerulean says nothing.

Rather than guns, the Rank 1 bot seems to only have a single large arm that emerges, a heavy, mace-like attachment at the arm's end.
It begins to rotate, the mace arm swinging faster and faster as it approaches its opponent.

The hole-headed creature doesn't move.

As the machine bares down on it - arm now swinging sufficiently fast enough to cause serious damage - the creature finally reacts.
Its head dips down low, facing upwards to 'stare' at the bot.

With the bot almost in striking range of the monster's body, its head rotates to the side. 
The hole on the front tints pink and shudders.
There's a small flash, and the robot's arm flies off.
It bounces off the side wall, rebounding to slam against one of the creature's legs, chipping off a chunk but otherwise not harming it.
It doesn't flinch.

You have no idea what happened.

The robot, now otherwise defenseless, attempts to ram itself against its opponent.

You pay close attention this time.

The monster's head swings sharply upwards, the hole in its head glowing pink once more.
You barely catch it:
Some sort of blade or thin tooth emerges in time with the swing to make contact with the bot, effortlessly bisecting it before rapidly retreating back into its head.

The two halves of your Rank 1 robot flop to the floor in a useless heap.

You see the color drain from Cerulean's face.

The beast's neck twists in an unsettling manner, its head shaking briefly before returning to its upright position.

With that, it becomes motionless just as before.

F I N I S H !

                                                  GOLD Rank 3 is the victor!

The robot's remains are lifted out of the arena, while the Rank 3 container descends with the strange being back to its spot on the board.

You're down two pieces after a single turn.

Cerulean looks dazed.

They're up against the back corner of their container, staring dead at the thing in the Rank 3 container.

[Image: fixed_ps_img.png]

It's your turn!
                                          You may input TWO movement commands.


Show ContentSTATUS:
Take a moment to collect yourself. Think about what we just learned here.

"Okay. Okay. So. Damage is cumulative, and units can be weakened over time. It seems like all units of the same rank are the same thing, since both of our rank 2s had guns. So that means, what... one slime thingy, one crazy wooden bone flesh thing, four somethings we don't know what they are, and one big something we don't know what it is.

On our side we've got three flail spheres, one damaged gun sphere, one sphere that does something else... and Captain Extendo-arms, of course. And we could swap me in if you get too messed up.

Our units move first and combat is resolved immediately, before the other team gets a chance to move, so it's possible to screw up whatever move they're going to make by having our units be in the wrong place, or damaging one of theirs that's going to attack."

"...I think I want you out of harm's way for now. If you do end up having to fight that thing, I at least want to throw a couple rank 1s at it first to weaken it a bit. I'm going to bring our big sphere up to keep them busy, since their rank 4 is blocked in by other stuff. I should be able to take out some weaker stuff over there as long as I'm careful."

{R4: RIGHT 2}
{R3: UP 3}
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]
ask cerulean if they want to quit or switch. i dont imagine theyre enthused at the prospect of fighting an eldritch horror
[Image: 7ypC3K8.gif]

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