Chapter 8: Understandings

» Take memory chips out of the robot heads and view them.

One of them has had its head ripped open and its chip has certainly been either destroyed or taken. The other –


This one’s still active! You rush over and pick it up gingerly. It speaks.


It does not respond to your attempts to engage it in conversation. Its speech is very choppy and static-y. As you can see, the chip has been removed.


It is no longer relaying the message in the proper order.


Electricity within its glass skull ceases flickering. The eye-lights go dark.

» Try to salvage some metal parts.

You examine the loose parts scattered around. Aside from the gears, you don’t really recognize it. One of these things has tubes and wiring and stuff all over it. You don’t really want to touch this stuff, but you grab one of the oblong taped-thingies and put it in your bag. It’s pretty full as-is anyways.

» Remove the labcoat so we don’t freak the oculoids out so much anymore.

You take off the lab coat, feeling extra-conscious about your silly attempt to be a scientist. You place the coat over the frame of one of the robots.

» There’s an arm stuck in the machine right there; take it.

You grab the arm stuck in the busted machine. Patch would probably appreciate this. Actually you feel pretty dumb about giving him your notes when he has no way to flip through everything.

» Try key on lock.

Nope. Your locker key won’t fit here.

» Call Skree back to us and haul ass back to Patch as fast as we can.

Before you can call Skree, he bounces down the walls and onto your head. He is very agitated.

help help do good stop bad help pain bad sleep sleep

He directs you upstairs. The monstrous oculoid is wheezing now, its head lowered. Skree is urging you closer.

» Approach the giant oculoid more carefully, making sure your every intent is to help.

You approach the beast cautiously. It is still pretty tough to tell what Skree wants. You keep getting a brainful of “pain bad do good help good.” The monster is agitated by your presence, but does not become aggressive as last time.

As you get closer one of the small oculoids dives at you! Waugh!

The other oculoids pile on. You are rapidly becoming immobile. At the same time, Skree’s synesthesis is intensifying.

You are now completely dogpiled… but something else is happening. The oculoids’ sensory communication is becoming stronger.

» Try to do what Skree wants.
» Commune with the big oculoid.

You are beginning to get the idea… but just to be sure, you struggle across the floor slightly and reach out a hand, barely able to lay it on one of the big oculoid’s tentacles. As you do so, the synesthetic visions dissipate suddenly.

The other oculoids jump off of you and spread out as a powerful black fog begins to obscure your senses.

You are completely ensconced in darkness.

You pick yourself up, wondering what exactly is going on.

A presence is here.

» Wait to see what happens. Try not to freak out.

You are not certain what is going on. Perhaps this is the giant oculoid’s more powerful version of Skree’s synesthesis.

» Greet the presence.

You can’t seem to move your mouth. But you are able to form words somehow.

» Inform the presence that you were not to blame for the actions of the ones who look like you.

A powerful sensation of pain and trauma suddenly begins to overwhelm you.

You fall to your knees, head reeling.

You are forced to the floor.

The pain abruptly stops.

» Ask what we can do to help.

» Ask him more about what happened to him.
» First ask a few questions.
» Ask if there’s anything he wants us to do after he’s gone.
» Ask if he’s seen Gentleman
» Ask “You want me to end your life? I don’t want to kill you, is there nothing I can do for you?”

» Hug oculoid presence-thing.

» Save the oculoid

You are covered in oculoid eye-goop. Ewwwwwwww.

Skree is sitting up here idly watching you. The other oculoids seem to have dispersed a bit. They don’t seem to concerned with anything in particular.

» Cry.

You don’t think you have been programmed to be able to do that.

You suddenly feel a ringing in your head. Your vision is obscured by… various images.

» Make some other expression of great grief and sadness.
» Remove hat and place it over our chest. Stare down at our feet and mourn the death of the great oculoid.

You draw an expression of your great grief and sadness, then hold your hat to your chest in mourning.

Righto, time to get a move on. Lieutenant Skree! To the spaceship we go!

» Make a mad dash towards the orb thing, prepare yourself for badass combat.

You hurry off to the spaceship access room, sword at the ready. Nobody here. Hm. Perhaps inside.

You enter the spaceship sword first, nerves on edge. Skree follows placidly.

Huh. Nobody here. Then why did you get that weird signal-sort of thing—

“Ah, there you are. Hello, robot.”

good grief somebody is watching you

» Embrace the moment.

You do your best to act casual, opting to bluff that none of this is unusual to you. You casually pick up Skree and give him a rub. You greet the voice with a hello.

“Interesting. Yes, you’re definitely the one I’ve been looking for.”

You are a little bit freaked out by that but you try to stay relaxed. You ask what the voice wants with you.

“You will come to the dock directly.”

The display reverts back to static. You feel oddly compelled to follow the command.

There is only one place that ‘the dock’ could be. You approach the volcanic cavern nervously. Skree does not want to come in; it’s too hot inside.

You step inside, sword drawn. At the far end of the dock is a cylinder sticking out of the magma, with an open hatch.

Gentleman is here.

» We should walk slowly into a good position.. parallel to his own next to the lava, carefully.
» Also, calibrate yourself for self-defense.
» Tell Gentleman the hours since we last saw him have not been kind to him.

Whether you wanted to be seen or not, it’s too late. He was clearly waiting for you. No chance of hiding. You instead approach, keeping your distance and your sword still drawn, and comment that he’s looked better. He glowers… as best you can tell.

» Tell him that the oculoid has been dealt with as per protocol.
» Tell him that another robot has returned us to full functionality.

You inform him that you’ve “taken care of” your oculoid companion – good thing Skree’s not here to hear that – and that another robot fixed you up. He does not seem to care about Skree, but seems to take interest at the mention of another robot.

» Ask what he wants.
» Request progress report on Gentleman’s repairs.
» Demand to know why you were called here, and what that cylinder leads to.

You ask him why he called you here, where that tube goes, and what he wants.

He laughs, finally speaking. “Not my problem what you know. Get in there already. It’s not polite to keep a lady waiting.” His new claw clangs a bit as he sneers.

» Protest verbally against being ordered around by Gentleman.

You tell him he’s not your boss. He chuckles, and directs you past him to the dock.

» Keep a low stance.

You approach the hatch carefully, making sure Gentleman doesn’t knock you in. The effort is for waste. He does not follow you; in fact, he doesn’t even turn to watch you go.

» Enter hatch.

You descend the hatch and find yourself in a strange control room. Various rows of buttons line panels in front of a glass screen keeping back searing magma. Various tubes and equipment are on the walls, including another powered-down robot in another docking station. Several memory chips and other parts appear to be on the nearby desk as well. There is a small cot in the corner with a blanket, and near it, some kind of fluctuating matter-thing suspended in an important-looking glass mechanism. You old pal Scruffles is here too! And…

“Took your time. Not very prompt, are you?” Dr. Feringus laughs. “How unusual…. and interesting. Not a problem, of course. Your… unique qualities are why I’ve called you in the first place.”

» Say in the most calm and content way possible, “Good morning Feringus.”

You wish Dr. Feringus good morning.

“Morning, evening… between living in a cave and sleeping under an endless sun, I can hardly remember the difference any more. Nevertheless, welcome. I’m aware your memory is damaged. I imagine you’ve had an interesting experience making your way here.”

She turns. “That hat. I recognize that hat. It was one of Les’.”

» Greet Scruffles!

Before you can respond, Scruffles pounces on you! Awwwww you missed the furry fella.

Off, Rusty. You know better than that.”

The dog sits down again, content.

“I see you two have already met, at least. You must have been wandering the facility for longer than I’d figured.”

» Doff your hat and ask how badly you’ve messed things up.

You brush yourself off and remove your hat, nervously asking if you’ve made a mess of things.

“Nonsense,” she says. “You’ve done quite admirably, in fact– for a robot.” A pause. “My, you look so nervous! You don’t have to be afraid here; this is a safe place.”

She clicks on the lights. “Here, I’ve turned the lights back on. I imagine that dim lighting wasn’t making you feel any more comfortable.”

» Inquire if we’ll be allowed to keep any of the free will we seem to have acquired.

You ask if your personality and free will are going to be wiped like Gentleman said.

“Who? Oh, that other robot. Yes, he’s an interesting case as well… Managed to find me all on his own, actually. I must say, it’s very handy to finally have an assistant again, especially as I haven’t been able to get this useless shell working,” she says, indicating the robot in the station.

“No, I’ve no intention of rebooting your personality logic board. You’ve developed a rather interesting persona on your own. I’ve informed your robot compatriot that you are to be left alone as well. You’ve managed to accomplish something I’d never expected a…”

She trails off and walks away to the windows. “Hm. In any case, you’ve proven yourself suitably unique.”

» Inquire about the monstrous torture performed on the oculoids.
» Bring up the fact the the oculoids are as sentient as either her and us.

You start to ask her about the brutal treatment of the large oculoids, comparing their sentience to your own, but are cut off.

“Sentient? You? Oh, you are cute, aren’t you.

“No, your perceived sentience is nothing more than an illusion created by your programming. An effective illusion, I’ll admit, but nothing further. As for the creatures…”

She trails off and stares past you.

“No. There is nothing to discuss about this. I conducted their standardized sentience tests myself, several times. The results never differed. They did not once react to any stimuli we imposed in any non-instinctive way. They are animals, simply as that.”

Before you can pursue more answers, you are stopped. “This line of questioning will end and not be brought up again.” You suddenly feel incapable of asking further, despite wanting to.

» Inquire about a lot of things.

“My, you’re a curious one! I have to keep reminding myself that your memory has been wiped.” She chuckles softly under her breath. “I have a question for you, Mr. Robot. Do you think you could do me a favour?”

You feel yourself nod without ever thinking about it. It is very disconcerting.

“Good. This is a key to the mines. I assume by now you know where that is. Now, there are some chemicals down there, in a small storage unit, that I will believe will assist you. Your only task for right now is to continue your exploration of what’s left of the facility. There is little left that I can do from here, and my assistant… isn’t inquisitive enough, we’ll say, to be a suitable candidate. Your discoveries may be the key to all this.

“I will contact you again when a sufficient amount of time has passed. Until then, you are on your own. In the meantime, is there anything I can assist you with? Perhaps you have something in need of reparations.”

You open up your bag. There’s a lot of broken crap in here, to be honest.

» Inform her about the cave in that has blocked off the mines.

You tell her that a cave-in has blocked off the passageway between the rec room and the room next to it.

“…Oh, good grief. That bloody trap must have finally gone off after all this time. Well, don’t worry too much about it. The whole place is in already shambles now. If it’s really a problem you can try mixing an explosive gel in the lab and blasting your way through. I’m sure I left the recipe around there somewhere.”

» Ask in a delightfully childlike manner if she can repair the broken bird that’s been rotting in our backpack for a while now.

You ask if she can fix the bird.

“Is that… good grief. Twilly didn’t make it either, then. Well, nothing I can do about that. I’m a scientist, not a witch doctor.”

» Ask for the password to turn off the laser beams.

“The laser beams… oh, in the lab? I… hm. I can’t seem to remember anymore. Ironic, really. We installed passwords related to things around us to prevent us from forgetting them. Alas. In any case, so long as the spaceship’s navigation console is still working you ought to be able to get our distance from Earth from there.”

You inform her that the navigation whatsit has gone dark.

“Oh? Damn. Hopefully it hasn’t run out of back-up power, we did our best not to… Well, doublecheck that none of the remote power rods got loose, sometimes that’s the issue. If that’s not it, come back and I’ll give you something else to power it up.”

» Tell her that her sentience is nothing more than an illusion created by her biological programming!
» Recount the giant oculoid’s request.

You try and start a discussion with her about the nature of sentience and the treatment of the oculoids but are unable to. That line of discussion is no longer permitted.

» Ask her to repair the music box.

You ask her to repair the music box. She stares at it quietly.

“I remember that,” she says, finally. “Yes. I’ll fix that for you. Leave it with me and I’ll have it repaired for you the next time we meet.”

She takes the broken music box and walks away. “Go down and get the chemicals from the mines presently. I will contact you when I am ready. That is all.”

You find yourself compelled to climb up and out of the sub before you can do anything else!

You head down the dock. Gentleman is gone. Not your problem right now. You have an order to carry out.

You reach the Rec Room and unlock the chained trap door. Hot air rises from the tunnel. Skree has followed you back but again finds it too hot to continue. He waits here.

You descend the long tunnel. The walls are shoddily dug, interspersed with wooden supports crossing along the sides and ceiling of the passage. It does not seem to be going anywhere in particular. You pass the skeleton of a third giant oculoid on your way, but do not stop.

Finally you arrive in a large, magma-filled cavern, much like the one you were in minutes ago. This one, however, has strange trees growing out of it, winding up and clustered around each other. Some shovels are scattered around here, and a suprisingly plain cooler-looking box is at the far side of the cavern.

You feel the obligation of your orders subside as you enter the expanse.

» Wield the shovel!

You pick up a shovel. Kind of familiar. You figure at some point you must have used these a lot, not that you can remember now.

» If the trees are close enough, lop off a chunk of it using one of the shovels and put that into our pack.

It’s a little far to reach.

» Open cooler.

You find a whole bunch of things! You stuff them all in your nearly-full inventory.

All right, so new junk you’ve picked up include: A small round bottle labelled ‘caern dew,’ a larger, opening-less cylindrical thing labelled ‘M,’ a very small beaker with almost nothing in it labelled ‘X-UNREF.’ and another video cassette tape. You figure you better make a pit stop in the lab later to figure out what all this is/does.

» Where the ship is, try to reach into that rat hole next to the missing thing.

You make your way back up through the mines, reuniting with Skree, then head to the spaceship access room and reach your hand in. Nothing over there but rock.

» Try to get Skree to realize what you want, and see if he could squeeze in.

You imply to Skree that he should crawl through and he does so. The little fella is surprisingly maneuverable.

You find him sitting over here.

» Mention these new developments to Patch.

All right, you’ve done a fair amount of investigating. Time for a check-in with Pa …tch.

Patch is not here. The notes you gave him are scattered everywhere.

» Examine the notes for new additions.

Nope, nothing. Probably was a bad idea to make the armless guy’s job to work with paper.

» Examine the scratch-marks on the broken door.

Yup. Those are slashes, all right. Pretty deep ones too. You also notice that the locks in the top of the doorway also appear to still be protruding.

» Mix that recipe in the lab. We do have all the ingredients, right?

You take the note from the chem lab and underline stuff related to the couple of chemical recipes listed. You also lay out what you have so far: X-UNREF, M, and CAERN DEW. According to the Chem Map on the console, you also have a (dry) hose hooked up to the main input which is supposed to contain CHEMXFEED, and a beaker of FULGMIX in the ‘catalyst’ input. You ponder what to do with this information.

mobile laboratory in hopes of collecting more.

Extensive testing of the chemical extract proves that it does indeed meet the conditions of a Chemical X. However the small amounts in which we are capable of producing it are… laughable. Additionally, the amount of fulgurite and raw nutrient fluid we must burn up to produce the most insubstantial amount of pure Chemical X is excessive to the point of hyperbole. Our work here is not yet done. When we have refined a process with which we can manufacture our own Chemical X we can return; until then we will not stop.

Our experimentation has produced several interesting results. By inputting pure Chemical X into the intake and mixing it with caern dew, a volatile, highly unstable explosive gel is created. Another product of our testing we are calling the solvent, which has been able to purify the acidic ‘nutrient’ waste that until now we had been simply dumping; this has allowed us to extract more raw Chemical X for fortifying with the fulgurite mixture.

One mixture, which we are dubbing the ‘mutagen,’ has proven not to be an inoculant at all. In fact, it has nearly the opposite effect – it would be better described as an ‘oculant.’ Humourously ironic. Perhaps this is the solution we have been

» Flip the lever that closes the original door (the locked one from the start) then take that rod out of it.

You pull the locker lever that makes the first door go up and down, but can’t get to the other side while it’s down.

» Get into UFO-thingie and watch the tape

You return to the spaceship and plug in the new cassette tape.

The screen flickers to life.

Les is setting up the piano from Patch’s hideout.

“—believe this actually came in handy? I mean, I mostly just brought it because I figured I’d get some good practice time out here.”

“As if. It took you half a year to even take out the thing.” A giggle.

“Not the point! Not the point!”

“Pres, I had to remind you we still had it in the first place!”

“Let it be officially noted on the record that it was the brilliant mind of one Preston A. Les that had the bright idea to bring his piano in order—”

“Well I’m going to make a note above that saying that it was one Preston Les who responded ‘My what?’ when informed that the piano was still in the ship!” She tries unsuccessfully not to laugh.

“Betrayal at the hands of my own subordinate! The Les-Feringus expedition is undone!” They are both laughing now.

“Les-Feringus? I believe the official title was ‘Feringus-Les,’ you walking ego. And I had better not catch you calling me ‘subordinate’ again. I’m your partner.”

A smile. “’Course ya are, Cla—”

“—eems the best place we’ve got. I mean, we haven’t found water elsewhere yet. It’s right near the base, but still going to get a lot of sun.”

“Anywhere we put this thing is going to get a lot of sun. Honestly, does it ever get dark here? Hell, or cold? I’m sweating like a leaky faucet here.”

“Come on, we spend most of the time in the caves. This is bearable.”

“Sure, but how… how is this planet not cooked? It’s so close to the damn sun!”

“Right, yet it was still showing a chilled, possibly habitable reading from the scans outside orbit. So something’s keeping it cool despite its proximity, and that’s one of the tell-tale signs. It’s here, Les, it has to be.”

“I’m not arguing that! I’m roasting!”

“Here, I’ll get the bot to plant it already and we’ll head ba—”

Several robots with shovels are standing around the room you woke up in. Les’ voice is speaking.

“—on’t touch anything, you buncha bolts… all right—oh, hell, it’s already running—okay, this is, ah, a room we dug into. There’s… uh, some kind of weird idol with a big head with a line through it, or something, and it’s sitting on this giant slab of rock. There’s… okay, the wall on the far side of the room has drawings on it, or something like that, and there’s what looks like a lightning bolt, a drop of water… some kind of sun? And that head thing aga—oh, it’s an eye! A big singular eye with some kind of line through the pupil. All right. And… below each of the markings on the wall, except the eye, are three smaller circles—medallions?—with the respective marking on them too. I guess we’re going to take a look at the medallion things, and… uh, maybe move this slab? So that’s our next step. …End log, I guess.”

“—ium sounds dumb. ‘Feringium’ is way better. There’s number four, too, I’ll shut them down for the night.”

“‘Feringium’ is terrible! Lesium is an undeniable improvement.”

“But they’re not going to say ‘less-ium,’ they’ll say it ‘leese-ium,’ and you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to correct people.”

“Hey, if that’s the price I have to pay to have the discovery of the millenium named after me, I think I can—”

An oculoid sits on the table, a few mouth-appendages cut off from its face. A needle is beside it. It appears to be a bit loopy; perhaps tranquilized.

“—must be tied to the creatures, though. They only started appearing a little while around when we found that chamber. And you can’t say the eye and idol don’t look just like the creatures’.”

“But what about—what about the weather stuff, though? I mean, the weather’s unusually active on this planet, and the creatures seem to worship it, but they don’t have the intellectual capacity nor the physical ability as far as we can tell to craft something like it or the dolmen. And there’s not a chance the creatures exist in quantities high enough to generate the readings we took. I just don’t know what else we can do.”

“So, what, so we should give up? Call it a day? I didn’t spend the last year of my life to slouch back with my tail between my legs. ‘We got really close, but then we came back’ – that’ll be the quote in the byline. And then a million other teams will come back here and keep searching and they’ll find it and some useless superfluous management schlub will get to name it and everyone will say ‘boy wasn’t it lucky that Ray Woodward happened to be there thank goodness for him and his Woodwardium and— No. I’m not okay with that.”

“But ultimately, wouldn’t that be a good thing in the long run? I mean, obviously not for our careers specifically, but to humanity as a whole—”

“That’s not good enough! We’ve worked too hard for this already. I’ve worked too hard for this.”


I am not going back with nothing.”

Doctor Feringus. Relax. We’ll keep going, all right? Let’s… let’s take another look at what we’ve observed so far.”

“…All right. All right. Okay. I’m okay. Let’s do that.”

There are some deep, defusing breaths.

“So…” Les begins. “First off is the strange temperature. I mean, it’s hot, but… not nearly as hot as it should be with the proximity to the sun.”

“And our readings showed the planet’s overall temperature to be much cooler on average than we’ve found anywhere here.”

“Right. So we know that somehow some unknown process keeps this planet cool. Second is the weather. Rain, thunderclouds, and lightning brew up out of nowhere. Furthermore, certain sound vibrations – combinations of specific notes in a row repeating endlessly – can trigger these weather reactions.”

“So there’s something in the air that reacts to the vibrations.”

“Not necessarily – the sudden, inclement weather could be caused by changes in temperature as well. But either is a possibility.”

“Wish we’d brought a meteorologist.”

“Want to go back and get one?” Les slyly comments.


“Not in a joking mood, huh.”


“Well… okay, third thing: the creatures. We can’t figure out where they came from, or who built all this runic stuff related to them.”

“Honestly, I think that’s all tangential.”

“We did find our first traces of Chemical X in one of these things, though.”

“They themselves are important. Their fancy ancient culture I couldn’t care less about.”

“We do have an amount of the chemical, though. And we can increase that in time.”

“Over years, maybe. And even then we’d only have enough to power maybe ten ships. No, we need to find the real source. There’s got to be something we’re missing.”

“Well, we’ve outlined a possibly relationship between the temperature, the weather, and music vibrations. We’ve noticed a correlation between the creatures and the weather, and presumably music vibrations as well. So our next step is to identify a cor—”

“—ere, and when they try and take it, the ceiling will rumble a bit. So it’ll scare them off, and we’ll know more have been trying to get in.”

“The ceiling will rumble? Les, how did you hook this up? Do you really think it’s safe to shake a cave?”

“Relax, they’re instinctive creatures. Animalistic. They’ll back off before anything happens, every time.”

“Seems a bit of a crude system. What if we want to take it out?”

“It’s hooked up through the computer, so there’s no—”

“Whatever. I don’t really care how you entertain yourself in yo … are time, so … as you don’t…”

The audio is beginning to cut out. Looks like the last of the power is beginning to fade.

Several oculoids are… what…?

“….eat test … mber se…” you hear. Les’ voice.

There is a very long period of static, penetrated only occasionally by the oculoids’ cries.

The audio has now completely reverted to static. On the screen, Feringus drops some oculoids into the incinerator. She appears unhappy.

You are not sure exactly what is going on here.

Feringus stands between the three giant oculoids, holding a whip.


With that, the screen goes dead.

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