Aug 15, 2020 3:32 PM
there are several things going on here
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Encountering an English word here seems — incongruous. Suspicious. This gun isn't like any human make she's … ever seen? She has seen a lot, she thinks, but can't connect that to where.

Right, anyway. It doesn't conveniently come with instructions other than the one word which doesn't say which way is safe. (The Manual thinks it's currently safe and isn't a booby trap either. Reasonable.) Wrap it up and stash it in a sample pouch so it's not going to go off but isn't lying around for someone else to pick up.

She pokes the other items with the end of a tool (this one, besides other functions, is insulated against electricity and, as much as possible, other known contact-transmissible phenomena), and when this neither does anything nor gives any clues, packs up everything interesting except for the inconveniently large and heavy rocks. Time for another look at the large ominous device.

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The large ominous device is just as she last saw it, in size, ominosity, and all other characteristics.

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— she pokes the arm. According to procedures, with the standard artifact-poking stick, not a finger.

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It makes the sort of quiet tinking sound appropriate to a piece of metal being poked with such a stick. Nothing interesting happens.

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Got any more ideas, book?

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This installation is the primary physical component of a multi-functional system, which is also permanently linked to all nearby space that has been observed. It must be directed by a controlling mind to perform any non-maintenance actions. It is currently inactive because it does not have a link to such a mind. Forming such a link requires standing within the installation with intent to do so and may require other conditions.

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Well.

This is definitely the sort of thing that you don't do just because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Another hour of poking around doesn't yield anything promising. Her comms gear doesn't get her in touch with anyone or think there's anything nearby (it's dead silent in radio as well as acoustically), digging into the walls doesn't suggest it's worthwhile to dig further, and none of the artifacts are either definitely helpful or likely to be a better idea to get to know further. That one rock when cracked open had a blue-glowing magic substance and the other one had some kind of scientific probe that once drilled into it but has no interesting capabilities.

So she goes back to the thing in the floor. And this feels like the right thing for her to do for some reason. Probably still a bad idea.

She steps into the center.

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The central well, a round depression about two feet deep and six feet wide, hums softly as soon as she steps down into it. The hum deepens as she approaches the center.

When she's standing in the very middle, at the bottom of a barely-perceptible incline in the floor of the well, the smooth stone under her feet begins to glow with a faint light, of some pale colour or other that looks greenish in one second and pinkish the next.

There is a sense of... a question, or an offer; a thing she could reach for and take, or pull back from and leave alone. This reaching is not to be accomplished with her body, but directly, with her will and her self.

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Does it care to make any statement about its character, first?

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Well, not directly, because it is not the kind of thing that has a character or makes statements.

But it definitely does give off some sort of sense of being something that, if she takes it, will be hers; hers not the way vassal belongs to master but the way body belongs to brain, or tool to wielder. A thing which has no will of its own and answers only to hers.

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Then it shall be hers.

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Something happens.

It's hard to get more specific than that, because it's happening very abruptly and extremely much.

It doesn't hurt exactly, but it definitely feels like something, a whole lot of it, whatever it is, and it goes on kind of uncomfortably long, and then—

First, she feels the new things. She (is? has?) this space: five cells by five, with a three-cell-wide installation in the center.

The installation is in much better shape than it was when last she saw it, and also looks very different: the arms are gone, and where the central well once sat, a geodesic dome of iron and glass surrounds a mysterious radiance which casts beams of light out through a random selection of its facets to illuminate the white plaster which now covers the ceiling and walls. It's not quite tall enough to brush the ceiling, nor quite wide enough to completely fill its three-cell square; but it stands on a raised circular platform ringed by concentric steps, and the edges of the lowest step stop just shy of that invisible-but-perceptible border. Platform, steps, and floor are all made of dark wood.

Also, her body is lying on the floor at the base of the steps, perfectly healthy, still wearing and carrying all the same things as when she last saw it, and it has its eyes closed. It's still just as much hers as it was before, but it is now a much smaller proportion of her direct sensory input.

(Well, all the same things with one exception—her book, instead of being in her pocket, is lying on the floor next to her hand.)

Her sense of the tunnels is much dimmer; they don't (yet?) belong to her in the way that this room does. She can see into them from her current large square vantage, but she'd have to go look at them herself if she wanted to see them directly. Or she could send a—

There isn't a word for the thing, but this is a potential she has: to create a slightly-autonomous creature at her dome, which can be directed to perform tasks. Sort of a cross between a magical servant and an extension of herself.

She doesn't have any other such potentials looming large in her thoughts, but there's a sense that she'd have more options were she not so constrained on space.

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That was more things than she wanted to happen!


Hey, self, wake up.

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Opening her eyes and sitting up and so forth all turn out to work in the usual way when attempted, although the extra senses are a little disorienting and it's hard to find the trick of focusing primarily on what she sees through her eyes instead of observing herself in third-person view with her territory-sight.

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This is seeming less like “tools to escape” and more “getting extra stuck”. Also like “example for the training manuals about why you don't poke artifacts”. (Does she have a vague memory of reading some of those unfortunate stories rather than just knowing them? Has her new sort of existence unstuck whatever's wrong with her memory? Unclear.)

She will just have to make what she can of it. And this isn't bad. It's just — unintended, unknown, uncertain. (That's arguably bad, isn't it.) Anyway. She picks up the Manual from where it fell —

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— and finds that she doesn't need to open it. It is hers and she can see anything that is hers.

In one way it is very simple; just as it described itself, it is an information storage, gathering, and analysis device designed to adapt and become applicable to the circumstances it finds itself in. But the means by which it is this is an enormously complex foreign magic; and the data which it has gathered and the analysis it has performed are an enormously detailed and iterated body of knowledge.

It's quite enough to get lost in.

But part of analysis is determining what is worth attending to, and it directs her attention — not like it says something, as it is resolutely not an independent agent, but as a matter of indexing and navigation cues — to a recording of what happened from its perspective while she was distracted.

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The recording depicts the well flaring into a column of bright light, from which the book is tossed aside with surprising gentleness and she herself vanishes completely along with all her clothing and items, converted from a straightforward physical form into a kind of ghost or spirit as the first step in the linking process. Next, the light cycles through a few colours before finally settling on a familiar sunny radiance; it squashes itself down, its edges rippling, to fit into the shape of the dome, and the iron and glass sprout from the floor and grow around it, enclosing it and slightly obscuring its fierce glow. Wooden floorboards well up out of the floor in an unsettlingly liquid fashion, buoying the book up a few inches and then building on themselves to lift the dome up onto that central platform; plaster races up the walls like a shallow wave advancing on a beach. These stylistic manifestations settle into place, marking this room as belonging to its new master.

Finally, a hazy shadow slips out of the dome, a thin misty substance coloured a slightly blue-greyish shade of black like an inversion of the dome's not-quite-sunlight: the immaterial form of her temporarily discorporated body. It darts over to the book, pours itself into its usual shape, and rematerializes.

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More information about what she's stuck with, but not something she can do anything with right now.

She walks through the small, twisty space anew.

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As soon as she steps off her wooden floor and onto the bare rock, a new possibility lights up in her mind: claiming territory. If she stands here and concentrates for a minute or two, she can bring this part of the tunnel under her control.

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This seems like an eminently reasonable thing to do, in context. She will do a bunch of that.

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Wood and plaster expand outward from the initial room, covering the walls and floors and ceilings of the tunnel as she claims them.

The more her territory grows, the more options she has for what to do with it.

There are... patterns, stored in the complex magical something-or-other which she now has and/or is; if she had the right resources, she could construct rooms according to those patterns. Right now, she has none of the appropriate resource at all, so all she can do is overlay the patterns on her claimed sections of tunnel and see where they would fit, with her magic depicting them in a ghostly white overlay visible only to her territory-sight; the majority of them are designed to tile across the square cells, a handful are designed to work with the hexagonal ones, and there are only two that work straightforwardly with arbitrary shapes: a reinforcement structure that fills in pillars to strengthen a tunnel section, and a corridor pattern that seems meant to cover sloped sections of floor with something resembling a wheelchair ramp.

The patterns don't just tile straightforwardly; they're adaptable, changing configuration automatically when she stretches them over longer sections of tunnel. It's a very tidy system.

Among the few patterns that have both a hexagonal and a square version is one whose preview shows desks and bookshelves and stuffed leather armchairs: a library, or maybe a study.

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Well, if she's going to be stuck here at least it can be personalized.

Now how about that savannah, junk, and void?

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Claiming the part of the tunnel under the junk offers her the option to pick items up off the floor and move them around, although the telekinesis seems to be bound to her territory-sight and can't work very precisely on a scale much smaller than a single cell.

Claiming the savannah... confuses her new magic for a few seconds, and then it tentatively labels the grassy ground with its scattered trees as a type of room, which at her command could be analyzed to add to her pattern-library.

As soon as she claims the floor adjoining the void, the magic recognizes that instantly: it is the edge. On this side there is space and matter, and on that side there isn't. It is very dangerous and she shouldn't touch it.

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Perhaps it should be walled off then. Exactly what does she not have that she needs to do that?

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