Part 34: In Royal ServicePart 34 - In Royal Service
When we last left off,
But before we can embark on our grand and noble quest, we still have one trial to overcome; another conversation with the self-proclaimed ruler of the facility.
You're back. Is Billy dead? Have you retrieved the long-lost Keycard E?
No, not yet.
[Hope drains from his eyes.] Ah. Then what do you want?
Had some questions. First, I want to know about the prototype bioware.
[He shrugs.] It's bioware. Pretty standard stuff. Pain editors, trauma dampers, orthoskin. Things like that.
And all of it was reverse-engineered from existing bioware products, right? I've read up on Sutterlin's "process."
We looked through the computers so we already know about the shadier side of their business of course, but he'll tell you about it here even if you didn't.
[He nods slowly.] Yes. That's... that's right. Knockoffs. Dangerous work. Illegal most places, but not here in Berlin. Our investor needed it that way.
I guess that explains why Ezkibel didn't hire a company in Spain.
[He nods eagerly.] Yes! Too risky. Here in Berlin, no problems with the law, because there is no law. Just have to be careful.
So, knockoff bioware. Great.
It was good stuff. High-quality. You couldn't tell one of our pieces from the real thing, not even with a microscope. But that was then, and this is now.
Phil sounds almost lucid when talking about the pre-lockdown times, maybe he's not as far gone as it seemed at first. Still, one man's meat is another man's payday as my neighbor Harry "Millenium Hose" Hernandez used to say. He was good people, that Harry.
Not to me, it isn't. I need that stuff, and I'm not leaving without it.
Get me into the Executive Wing and we can both have what we want. Fill your pockets, take whatever you like. I, on the other hand, will avail myself of the snack bar.
So, tell me about your "peasantry."
I love them. They're like family to me. When I'm hungry, they're the ones who harvest the meat for me to cook from the cultured organ lab. When I'm in need of company, they keep me warm.
Warmth, safety, personal cooks, infinite food and company of a sort... in a strange way Philip does actually live a bit like a king compared to many people on the outside. Maybe he's the one who really has things figured out.
It is, it is! You killed three of them, but I can activate more!
[He rubs his chin, grinning.]
They will return to me, and I will show them the love that only a true ruler can. I will *bathe* them in my affection, and they--
Hang on a second. Just how many more "peasants" do you have in this building?
That's... a lot of drones, and one of those little details Ezkibel could've maybe mentioned before sending us in here. Could be just another one of Philip's little embellishments of course, but it's maybe better if we never find out.
I allow the majority of my peasantry to rest peacefully, basking in the benevolence of my rule. I could wake them at any time, but why? I say, let them rest.
...That's probably for the best. Though, maybe you could use your "peasants" to kill Billy for you.
[He recoils in horror.] My peasants?! Sent against that *monster?* Never!
No, stranger, I tell you that it would be a massacre. I would have their blood on my hands! I cannot do it, and I will not. End of discussion.
Oh come on, it's still just a single basilisk, you could've solved this whole situation a long time ago with that kind of firepower. Bah, the next guy had better figure out the security systems before going mad.
I want to know a little more about the "underworld."
[He nods slowly.] The nether realm that lies beneath the hallowed halls of Sutterlin BioScience. A nightmarish labyrinth of dripping pipes and filthy brickwork. Billy rules supreme down there now. To set foot into the underworld means certain death.
Strange that somebody would build a labyrinth under a biotech company.
[His voice lowers to an ominous whisper.]
But it is *also* a nightmarish labyrinth of--
Yeah, I gotcha. Let's talk about something else.
Very well. What do you wish to know?
Not sure whether an actual trip to the realm of the dead and damned would be preferable to another sewer descent, to be perfectly honest. Moving on, we still haven't asked the million-yen question.
What happened here? What caused the lockdown?
A calamitous series of events. It began with a spilled cup of soykaf, and ended in terror and blood.
[He falls silent.]
[There is a long, awkward pause.]
[He blinks confusedly.] Do you want more?
I... do we? There's this sudden sense of dread permeating the air, like this is one of those pieces of knowledge we'll wish we could eject from our minds after learning it because of how dumb it turns out to be.
Yes. That wasn't an explanation.
[He sighs.] Then you shall have one. Where to begin...?
Too late for regrets now.
On the morning of the lockdown, all was well. Gieszler, an executive, was making his rounds, walking from console to console to check up on us. He held a bubbling cup of soykaf in his stubby little hands. We all knew that food and drink were forbidden outside of the Employee Lounge. But Gieszler was a proud man, and he would not obey the rules.
[He raises his voice and gestures theatrically.]
Doors locked and shutters slammed closed! We were all trapped like rats inside, but we were not afraid. We were sure that the malfunction would be fixed within the hour. We did not know what was coming for us!
Now there's a relatable feeling.
Unbeknownst to any of us, Gieszler's devil-beverage had done more than initiate a false quarantine. It had also shorted the locks on Billy's cage! The albino basilisk slipped its bonds, and in that moment, its reign of terror began!
[He falls silent, blinking. As you watch, his expression clouds. When he speaks again, his voice is small.]
In the end, only Heiner and I remained. We managed to trap Billy in the underworld, but there was no hope of escape for us.
So essentially you've been trapped here for the past two years because of dumb luck.
You call it luck. I call it providence.
Couldn't you have just called for help?
No. Commlinks don't work in here - no reception. And the quarantine cut off our Matrix access. Heiner and I found ourselves completely isolated from the outside world, with a terrible creature running loose in the basement. Our choices were to give up and die, or to make the best of it.
All the people who ended up dying horrible deaths because of one exec's caffeine addiction and disregard for safety precautions would probably disagree, but I guess they won't be filing any complaints at this point.
Bringing up this next and last topic is probably a bad idea, but...
You're really into that "Knight-Kings of Lightninghold" show, aren't you?
[Staring at you, Philip slowly nods.]
It is my life. My *entire* life. My reason for being.
[Blitz smirks.] Wow. Must be rough, being that big a fan and not having seen the ending.
Right, he only had six episodes on his computer but Blitz mentioned a seventh earlier.
[Philip reels as if though he's been struck.]
You're saying that there's more?
Yeah. The last episode before it got canceled. Y'know, the hastily written final chapter, where you find out what happens with the Jubuthon invasion?
Good job Blitz, pretty sure you just tore the poor guy's world apart. Who's the real demon lord here?
[He lurches forward, his hands clasped in supplication.]
You must help me! You must find a way to show me the final episode! I *need* it!
Huh, no kidding? Doesn't seem like the quarantine itself is bothering anyone relevant anymore, but if it's really that easy...
I don't see why you shouldn't. Go ahead.
Sure thing, chief. The terminals in this building are all networked together, so I should be able to drop the quarantine from any computer in the place.
Ah geez, alright, alright. Since it means that much, let's help a guy out.
Now if you don't have a decker with you but still wish to help Philip attain his newfound life goal, you'll have to have some Charisma and take the conversation in a different direction:
You could always leave the building with me when I'm through here. In the outside world, you'll have no trouble finding that last episode.
No, stranger. I cannot leave this place. I am its sworn protector, and I *will not* shirk my responsibilities. I will suffer, as Titonius Rex suffered when he sent Brenna-thay back to Trala-sheen. This is my burden to bear.
(Charisma 3) Don't give in to despair, Philip Rex! For this is *your* quest - to find the legendary missing episode!
[He blinks.] Mine? But I... I cannot leave... I can't abandon my kingdom! Not even for my heart's greatest desire! Responsibility is what being a Knight-King is all about!
Then perhaps you could appoint a vassal to undertake this quest for you. You have worthy peasants at your disposal, do you not?
[His brow furrows in concentration. Finally, he gives you a slow nod.]
I do, my friend. I do. After I have fortified myself with healthful snacks, I will assemble a fellowship of stalwart peasants and elevate them to knighthood.
In number, they will be seven. Seven Knight-Thanes of Sutterlin BioScience, questing in service of their Knight-King! They will find the Lost Episode - THIS I SWEAR!
[He pulls himself up to his full height, puffing his chest outward. Somehow, this makes him look even less impressive.]
They will RETRIEVE the glorious Episode Seven and RETURN IT to its RIGHTFUL PLACE! And they will HEW IN TWAIN the HEATHEN DOGS who seek to hoard its magnificence for THEMSELVES!
You do that, Phil! Make it happen! Their quest will pass into legend!
[He nods vigorously, beaming.] I will, my friend! I will! But first, I will indulge in sugary snacks!
Time to get a move on. First things first, we use our new keycard to open up the Clearance B door we passed through earlier and pick up an Advanced Medkit hanging from the wall. There's another ladder here, might as well investigate since that's the direction we're going anyway.
No killer basilisks in this small chamber, but we do find a locked safe with a keycard reader. It probably wouldn't make much sense for it to require higher clearance than the room itself, so...
It's nice not having to jump over a dozen hurdles to get where you want to be, sometimes.
Inside we find another souvenir for Ezkibel, not that we'll be making use of this since our Essence is a tad more precious than the occasional -3 to incoming damage.
We briefly return to the surface before descending down yet again, this time using the closer one of the two ladders we passed by when we first arrived.
Yep, that's a sewer alright, won't need to call in the experts to verify that one. Now to find the local troublemaker.
But first we'll go through this pile of garbage in the small enclosed space to the south, trading some trace amount of self-respect for ¥43.
Fortunately this sewer section is even simpler than the last one, there's nothing else here except for the B-clearance door we were looking for. The nearby ladder simply leads back to the surface and serves as an alternate path to Philip and his drones in case you couldn't hack open the keycard-locked door like we did.
Yeah, lovely. Really feeling the spirit and glamour of adventure right now.
Alright, let's see what we've got.
You know it's been a weird day when an albino basilisk and a pair of hellhounds somehow manages to be the most predictable thing we've encountered so far.
Alright, time for what you might consider the first actual boss battle since the prologue, Billy & The Hellhounds who have apparently established some kind of cross-species alliance. Billy is a big boi basilisk with the same 100 HP that Pitezel the troll had in the previous game. Remember that guy? Giant ugly henchman of the obviously evil serial killer doctor? Can't really blame you if you don't.
Anyway, the obvious sign of the hellhounds not quite being your usual hot dogs is the fact that Eiger only has a measly 65% hit chance despite standing almost next to one with a shotgun in hand. Someone must've used too much grease.
That's not much help against Blind or Mind Wipe though because those spells are busted as hell due to being practically unavoidable. The only thing stopping us from permanently disabling Billy on turn 1 is because it'd make this fight about three images long and that's just not very interesting.
Billy himself quickly takes advantage of our dedication to quality LPing and removes the option with its petrifying gaze. Which really doesn't look like a gaze attack at all and more like it's shouting particularly scathing obscenities at us. The Hellhound meanwhile tries to do the one thing Hellhounds are good at and fails miserably even at that.
Whatever experiments these things underwent, it didn't imbue them with the common knowledge that you should never group up in the vicinity of an army-trained troll carrying three different kinds of grenades. Eiger's concussion grenade manages to knock them both unconscious, and I'd only be humoring you if I tried to pretend like we were in any real danger from this point on.
Dietrich hasn't even bothered entering the room, instead supporting from the backlines with his buffs, a summoned Air Elemental and a stylish finishing blow with a throwing knife that the poor hellhound never even saw coming, what with being magically blinded and all.
The entirety of the next turn consists of the team whittling down the HP of the two remaining beasts which are incapable of fighting back. Eiger still manages to throw her Phosphorus Grenade off-target, but it's close enough to accomplish its main fuction of armor removal so we'll let it slide. Still, pretty embarassing.
At this point I also realize that Dietrich's leyline-creating ability that he was granted after the Humanis mission has now upgraded to Rank 2, taking it from "complete waste of AP" to "mostly a waste of AP unless you brought a Mage". The Medium Leyline he now creates boosts the HP and AP damage of Mage spells on top of providing +10% spell accuracy, which is a much nicer package than the measly +5% accuracy (and nothing else) it was before.
Especially since it just so happens that Mages have access to an area spell which deals both types of damage and benefits greatly from increased accuracy, all at the same time. Dragonslayer's Favor is one pretty solid reason to pick Lightning Ball over the other area damage spells, turning it into (yet another) ability capable of turning the tide of a fight in a single cast.
At this point a third Hellhound pops up behind the group, but it's too late to really be able to do anything meaningful.
Or, in fact, anything at all aside from trying to play fetch with a pair of sniper bullets from Eiger. Caught them both perfectly too, what a well-trained boy.
Meanwhile Blitz sprays down Billy himself, bringing an end to this somewhat anti-climactic encounter with the clearly overhyped "beast from below".
This mission loves its goop-covered keycards. That bioware had better be useful...
On our way back we stop by a computer terminal to fulfill Philip's other, arguably much more important, request.
All right, chief. Watch me work.
That can't have been it. You still have to do something else, right? Jack into the Matrix or something...?
Nope. That's it. Quarantine disengaged. And now to get Phil the last episode of his bullshit trid show...
[His fingers dance over the deck's keypad. A few minutes later, he glances up with a smile.]
Done and done. The horrible conclusion to that terrible show is waiting for Phil on his media center. You wanna know how it ends?
It sounds magnificent.
Like an enormous mound of elephant turd.
Still, I get the feeling His Majesty over here isn't going to demand for an Extended Cut to fix the crappy ending.
Yeah? You got that card?
Yes, actually. I've got it right here.
[He does a double take.] You have it! The keycard! My ticket back into the hallowed halls of the Executive Wing, with its expansive supply of nonperishable treats! Hurry, noble stranger! Use it to unlock the door, and make all of our dreams come true!
Before I go, you should know that the quarantine's off now. The final episode of your show is on the records computer.
The... yes! Peace will be known, and brought to the land!
[Phil takes off running in the direction of the records room.]
We should probably give him a moment and bask in the warmth of our single Karma point for a bit in the meantime.
...Alright, he should be done by now.
At least he still has his pants on, so that's good. Well, was it worth the wait?
Yeah, it sounded like it'd be right up your alley. Now let's go get that door open before he tries to offer us the hand of a princess in marriage or something. Never seen a drone in a dress, and don't much care to either.
We'll just swipe our slightly digested keycard here and...
Oh uh, after you, I guess.
Like a kid in a candy store. Or a flesheating Knight-King at the snack bar.
Don't worry about it, man. It wasn't even all that difficult.
[He throws back his head and barks out a laugh.]
Spoken like a true hero! Farewell, my friend. Perhaps one day I will be able to come to your aid in return.
Thank you, noble sir. It would be an honor.
Sure wouldn't mind bringing a horde of "peasants" with us when we confront the one behind this whole mess. But we'll probably be fine from here on out.
The kingdom is saved and its ruler's appetite for a slightly less organic diet satiated. All that's left is to find the goods and bring 'em home, hopefully without further incident.
So, tune in next time for the wholly incident-free* conclusion!
*tems and conditions may apply