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There are more imps coming in, you hear, and you once again remind yourself to do something about the door. You’ve been doing that for the past half hour already. Nevertheless, you’re ready for them this time, because this time, you have music.

Sweet, sweet music.

You turn up the volume of your speakers, put on ‘Without A Fight’, grab your staff and get ready.

There is one positive thing to be said about what Kyrianne did to the living room; it gave you a dance floor.

“Hello boys,” you greet the imps as they come around the corner just as the music starts. You smile. “Let’s dance.”

To their credit, they know exactly when the situation is not in their hands, and they look absolutely terrified. Okay, wow, you’re actually scary to these things. That’s actually somewhat unnerving.

You hesitate, and that gives them enough time to run away, only to be caught by Peteysprite instead, who rips through several of them with her talons and with no apparent effort at all. It occurs to you right then that she might actually be really dangerous.

Naturally, at this point, the remaining imps find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place and turn a bit feral, instead.

Well, that’s the end of your moral objections to this conflict. Awesome.

The smile returns to your face as your staff swirls around, your feet stepping to the beat as your body twists and turns its way around your enemies. Because that’s what they are. Entities hell bent on hurting, if not killing you and you’re not going to let that happen. You’re not going down without a fight.

At the explosive start of the second refrain you kick one of the imps in the beak and during the bridge you bring your staff down hard on the last remaining imp, put your staff back in your Strife Specibus and keep going until the song ends, not a scratch on you.

And that’s how that is done. You climb another rung on your Echeladder as a reward. You are now the fabled Dance-A-Ma-Jig. Yeah, this leveling system sucks.

Peteysprite is outright applauding at you, although you can’t tell if the smile on her face is genuine or not. You bow anyway.

“You know,” you say, “you’re really powerful.”
You know, that looked absolutely ridiculous.
“Shut up.”
“What?” Peteysprite asks in reply to that rather schizophrenic statement.
“Talking to the voice in my head.”
“You mean your Exile?”
“If that’s what they’re called, then yes.”
“She can’t actually hear you, you know?”
“I know, but it makes me feel better. Also, she?”
“Yes.” She gives you her slightly amused smile again, indicating that you’re not going to get more of an explanation. This relationship is going to be frustrating.

And you just used the word ‘relationship’ in that context. It’s best you quit while you’re ahead, you think.

Oh, right, Kyrianne entered. Time to see how she’s doing.

-- eccentricStyle [ES] began pestering unorthodoxCreation [UC] at ??:?? --

ES: Hey Ky.
ES: Since you’re not standing on my doorstep yet, I take it that you’re having some trouble finding me.
ES: I wish I could give you directions.
ES: Or even a landmark.
ES: But the only landmark nearby is my house.
ES: Everything else is just ice.
ES: Ice everywhere.

UC: Really?
UC: all I can see are mountains.
UC: Also, hey.
UC: i’m alive and all that.

ES: I hadn’t noticed.
ES: Glad to have you with us in the world of senselessness.
ES: And my spellcheck told me that is actually the correct spelling.
ES: How nice.

UC: You have a spellcheck?
ES: Only for emergencies.
ES: Hold on, I’m going to see if I can see any mountains.

UC: alright, i’ll put the new thing you unlocked by being badass.
ES: Awesome.
ES: I’ll be right back.

You run upstairs to look out of the windows, but you can’t seem to spot any mountains anywhere nearby. Just more ice and a couple of things shining in the distance. Damn this place is dull.
“What are you doing?” Peteysprite asks, although you didn’t exactly realise she followed you. She seems genuinely curious and slightly confused.
“I’m looking for the mountains Ky was talking about.”
She tilts her head to the side. “Why?”
“So I can meet up with her, obviously.”
Somehow that doesn’t satisfy her. “She isn’t here, Peter. She is not on this planet.”
“What?” You have been saying that way too often lately. “What do you mean?”
“I may not have been really clear before, but each player gets their own planet.”
Your eyes widen in shock.

Really? On top of everything else, this has to happen too?
“She is in the same session, however, if that helps.”
“Then what planet is she on? For that matter, what planet am I on?”
“You are in the Land of Ice and Mirrors, Peter.”
You give her a blank stare.
“Is something wrong?”
“The Land of Ice and Mirrors?” The capitals are, once again, obvious.
“Chirp?”
“Really? The Land of Ice and bloody Mirrors? That’s the best they could come up with? I mean, duh, I can see this place is full of ice and I’m sure I would’ve found the mirrors in a minute. What creative genius made this game, anyway? Couldn’t they do any better than this? It’s certainly descriptive, I can give it that.”
“Chirp.”

“Fuck!” you exclaim, and it’s loud enough that you are kind of shocked at it. “Now I get to go tell Ky that we can’t meet each other and that was literally the one thing I was still looking forward to.”
“You’ll meet her eventually.”
That brightens you up, a bit. ‘Eventually’ is definitely one of the vaguest terms that can be used here, but it’s something, at least.

ES: Bad news.
UC: and good news too?
ES: Maybe on your end, but all I’ve got is bad news.
UC: well damn.
ES: Yeah.
ES: So, it turns out we aren’t going to meet.

UC: That is bad news
ES: We aren’t even on the same damned planet.
UC: Okay.
UC: Bad news though it is, that sounds kind of awesome, actually
UC: Two planets.
UC: I’m guessing that makes eight by the time everyone makes it

ES: Eight habitable planets.
ES: If you can call mine ‘habitable’.

UC: Exactly!
ES: That is kind of awesome.
ES: Although I’m really not looking forward to having to invent space travel before we can go anywhere.
ES: I don’t suppose there’s anything you can do on your end?

UC: i don’t think so, but maybe?
UC: I still don’t understand this interface very well

ES: So what did you drop in my house?
UC: Its called the Punch Designix.
UC: it looks kind of like keyboard, except not.
UC: it does have a keyboard, though
UC: I have no idea what it does.

ES: I believe I have started noticing a pattern in these things.
ES: We have no idea what they do.
ES: Honestly, this game seems to be relying way too much on trail-and-error gameplay.
ES: Except when you make an error, a meteor kills you.
ES: What do you think happens when we mess this up?

UC: It explodes?
ES: Oh, that’s a good one.
ES: Luckily I have a large stick to press buttons from a distance with.

UC: That’s going to take a lot of precision.
ES: Meh, I’ll get the hang of it eventually.
UC: Trial-and-error?
ES: Damn right.
UC: Can I make a suggestion for what you should look for?
ES: I’ll certainly see if I can consider it.
UC: :p
UC: Check the cards in your sylladex.
UC: I think they might be able to do something.

ES: Pre-punched Card and Punch Designix, of course!
ES: So differently punched cards make different objects.

UC: And when you check the back of the cards in your sylladex,
UC: like I did,
UC: you’ll see all kinds of codes on it.
ES: Did your sprite tell you that?
UC: What?
UC: No, he’s still just a plush dog.
UC: I have to see what I’m going to prototype him with.

ES: Ah, okay.
ES: So you’re just that smart, then?

UC: totally :P
ES: Alright, I’ll go try that.
ES: Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.
ES: My planet’s name is the Land of Ice and Mirrors.

UC: lame.
ES: I know, right?
UC: The Land of Mountains and Flannel is way cooler.
ES: Come on!
ES: That is so not true!

UC: yes it is.
UC: also, you have something else to do.
UC: So do that.

ES: Alright.

You turn your attention to the device recently deployed in your living room. It looks a bit like a desk, as well as a keyboard. That is to say, the musical instrument, although it does possess the other kind. It also features a blinking red light, a card slot and a diagram showing you what Kyrianne already told you.

The back of all of the cards in your sylladex feature codes, possibly representing the items in them. You take the first card out of your Pocket Modus, making sure not to unlock the item in it and find that you have taken your pen. The back of the card reads ‘PIiJO23J’, which you guess might reference something, but whatever.

You type the code on the keyboard attached to the Punch Designix and the red light switches to a green one. You insert the card and it gets punched. You take the card out and now there are a bunch of holes in it. No surprises there, you suppose.

You turn the wheel on the Cruxtruder to get another Cruxite Dowel, hurry upstairs to the Totem Lathe to carve a totem and then run back outside to create the item with your Alchemiter, dutifully slapping some of the imps that try to bother you. You sure are feeling productive all of a sudden.

Indeed, you have now made another Pen. It has cost you one unit of build grist and one unit of glass, too. Or, rather, you duplicated the one you already have, although that one has now been made inaccessible due to the holes punched into the card. Which means the only thing this is at all useful for is cloning items you already have.

That is, if you’re only using codes you already have, which would be pointless, because you already have those items. It would be useful to send items to another player, though. You simply send them the code of an item they might need, they punch it on a card and make it themselves.

Although, do you need to have the item in the card itself to be able to punch the code on it? That seems entirely stupid, but it is an experiment you need to do. First things first would be to get a lot of empty cards to make sure you don’t run out of room in your Sylladex.

You captchalogue an empty captchalogue card (something you learned you could do on an uneventful afternoon a long time ago) and read the code.

‘11111111’.

That makes a surprising amount of sense, actually.

You barely spare the imps a glance as you continue with your experiment. This is important and interesting. You have something to discover and it is going to help you make sense of things. You think so, anyway.

Everyone out of the goddamn way! You’re doing science!

It turns out, after you’ve run up and down your stairs again, that captchalogue cards can cost one unit of whatever the hell you feel like using. You’ve got more Build Grist at the moment, so you figure you might as well use that.

You make a bunch of the things, leaving you with a lot of empty space in your Sylladex. You’re surprised it can even hold this much empty cards. Apparently your Pockets are without any depth limitation whatsoever. Now you can finally get down to the real business.

As you stand in front of the Punch Designix, you ponder what would be the wisest course of action. Sure, you could just mash buttons and see what happens, which is a tempting prospect, but it’s hardly the scientific thing to do. If you’re going to discover any sort of pattern, you need to be systematical and thorough.

On the other hand, it is scientifically reasonable to want to see what happens when you just press some random buttons.

Your mind made up, you simply mash buttons until the red light stops blinking and the green one starts. You insert an empty card and hear the satisfying sound of it being punched.

It occurs to you that, maybe, you can combine cards. Wouldn’t that be absolutely awesome? You break your head over how to go about doing that for a moment before realising that you have a machine in front of you that can do that exact thing.

You type in the code for your pen and punch another empty card. You then enter the code on the back of your MP3-player card (‘b000000m’, hilarious) and punch the same empty card a second time, resulting in a card with a lot of holes in it. Sure, a pen and an mp3-player doesn’t seem like a very useful combination, but if this works you can go find ones that are.

You could do more experiments, but they’re all dependant on these two and, as the Methods of Rationality taught you, it’s best to check the results of the simple tests before moving on to the complex ones.

You craft the totems and then go back to the Alchemiter to make them. You’re honestly looking forward to the results of your scientific endeavors.

First, the pen and mp3-player combination. The Alchemiter reads the totem and you make the voice-recording MP3-pen!

Apparently the voice-recording properties are a bonus. It cost you five Build Grist and ten Glass, which is way too much for such a stupid pen.

Time for the random code. The Alchemiter reads it and you make...

You make...

What the hell is that?

It looks kind of like a guitar, only with wooden strings and a skateboard sticking out of the centre. Somehow, though, this thing costs less than your pen. four Build Grist and eight Glass.

Another backbreaking victory for science, you suppose. You sure as hell aren’t trying that again.

That is kind of a bummer, but, costliness aside, combining things looks like a rather viable way to do things. Time to report your progress to who you’ve just now dubbed as your research assistant.