RE: Swamped
Might as well finish up the sound amplifier for the robbers. Or the robe butts, or whatever they're called.

But you'd feel better if you could somehow arm yourself against your host.

The mechanical servants must have a way to hear, right? Try fiddling with your amplifier in the infra- and super-sonic ranges that are inaudible to grebling ears and see if you can find a frequency that annoys or disorients them. Should be easy enough to pass that off as innocent calibration work, but it's knowledge that could come in handy later.
RE: Swamped
Once you find that frequency, just set up the amplifier to self amplify, you can take them out in one go. If it destroys the amplifiers in the process, that'd be a boon too.

Everything has a resonant frequency, including bolts and bodies. even if it's a tiny bit you could use it as a weapon...the thought disturbs you though, you don't want your captures getting some kind of sonic weaponry, making something of the sort might help you escape, but the thought of using your skills for that disgusts you.
RE: Swamped
It occurs to you that you could use the amplifier in your hands as a weapon.

You still remember the day you were looking over your notes and you had the realization. Of course, loud sounds can have enough force to destroy, you knew that already; but you don't even need to resort to brute force. Sound causes vibrations, and those alone can be quite destructive if carefully applied.

You were deeply disturbed. In the end, you made a device to repel tunnelers by sending an unpleasant sound at them, but even that wasn't an idea you were at all comfortable with. Thankfully, Yvonne understood, and swore only to use it if the camp was actually under threat.

It's a bit different here - these machines clearly aren't alive. You can't imagine them being able to feel pain, unless their creator specifically designed them to recognize it for some reason.

But even so... they move around, look at you, serve you tea. And it seems your Host plans to even make them speak.

You'd be giving them that voice. You may not know what's going on, entirely, but to bring something closer to life, only to destroy it... That's not what you want.

Maybe if you were a better mechanic, you could tell enough about how they were made to work out how to disable them without permanent harm. The blueprints provided only cover the voice box; they can't tell you much about how the machines themselves operate. But you can't see any obvious moving parts... well, aside from the wheels they use in place of feet, and you can't identify what those are made of.

Well. There's one thing you can still think of. There's that noise that caused your tea to vibrate. It seems to relate to the mechanical servants somehow... perhaps you could disrupt it, and see what happens.

You know enough about that sound now to make some guesses at how you could. With a few experimental tweaks, you manage to make the amplifier transmit one of them.

The machines suddenly look around, confused. They seem to readjust quickly after you stop.

Perhaps they use echolocation, and you've managed to match their echo closely enough to throw them off. Whatever the exact cause, you think you have what you need. You take the parts needed to transmit out of the amplifier, and make a smaller version that you can conceal in your suit. Then you finish up the amplifier, and include a note on how it should solve your Host's problems.

Now the question is, do you hand it over. And if you do, how are you going to handle the Host's plan to drug you?
RE: Swamped
There is clearly more to this place, and they may pose a danger to your Outpost. Your host seems a congenial sort, and targeted you specifically, so they are well researched, but secretive.

They are also confident, maybe overly so...

Tell them you have it ready. (How log have you been awake here? Minutes? Hours?) But that you demand to hand it to your host directly. Act curious (easy to do) and complementary of your captor if they comply (a bit harder). You might find out more about this situation youre in.
RE: Swamped
One thing has been eating away at the back of your mind you ever since you got that note.

The "Host" knew you were a sound specialist. You can only think of two ways they could find that out: if they read your notebook, or if they had the camp under surveillance.

And your notebook wasn't disturbed, as best as you can tell. That suggest the camp is still in danger, even if you go free.

You decide your best option is to meet the Host for yourself. And perhaps you can use your project as an excuse.

You write a note in response.

I believe I have constructed a device which can solve your problem. However, as I only have a model of the smaller voice box as opposed to a functional prototype, I cannot be certain my sound amplifier will be compatible. I would like to speak with you directly, so I can explain how it works well enough for you to make any necessary adjustments yourself, and repair it in the event of malfunction.

Besides, having seen your creations up close, I can't help but be curious about the mind that created them. It would be a pleasure to meet you.

You send it off, and soon get a response.

Regrettably, it is not possible for me to meet you in person at this time. Please provide me with the device and I will inform you if I have any questions about how it works. You will be returned to your outpost shortly once I am satisfied that I understand what you have done.

You can't say you're that surprised. You get the distinct impression that your captor is involved in something big, bigger than just making mechanical servants. He probably doesn't want to risk you being able to identify him, even if you wouldn't know him from another human at a glance.

So. Should you just do what he says, or try to convince him to show himself somehow?
RE: Swamped
The notion of scrambling the mechanical servants' perception and making an escape out into the corridor enters your mind. Assuming your Host does not use similar echolocation to perceive, it might force them out of hiding to prevent your escape, getting you the face-to-face meeting you desire... although you'd be playing your only card with no guarantee of success, and probably make a poor first impression to boot.

It'd be best if you could gather some idea of the layout of this place, if only so you'd know how foolish or fruitful any dash into the corridor might be. You'd just need some time to tinker with an echolocator of your own.

To get the Host off your back and give you time to work out a device and test it out to map your surroundings, write back and ask for a functional voice box. And if pressed, send a non-functional mashup of components with no explanation... if the Host complains that it doesn't work, well, it was only a prototype after all.
RE: Swamped
We received a functional prototype already, I doubt it is the only one our host has so no reason we couldn't damage or alter it for our own purposes.

This plan of theirs seems rather flimsy. For someone who bolts down everything they own, they sure have given you a lot of leeway and taken a lot of risks.

Or at least it seems that way.

Let's push the envelope. If they won't see you, you can force a meeting. Send the robot with a the original prototype, but modified for you to speak though it. (This way they don't get what they want - a miniature version of what they already have.) Use your existing method to listen to his responses.

It's time to negotiate. He's bartering for your freedom, but clearly that is not enough for you. You'd rather be a prisoner than enable someone who poses a threat to your outpost. You know they lost someone already, (don't let them know that). But suggest that they have underestimated the defensive capability of your post.

Of course, while that transmitter is riding to him, no reason you can't also install a high frequency clicker to get a rough idea of where the hallways and open areas are (clicking at a range sufficiently above most creature's hearing.)
RE: Swamped
It occurs to you that if you had the parts, you could make a second eavesdropper and modify it to only pick up your voice. Then you could send it to your host and use it to bargain more directly, using the first to hear his responses.

Unfortunately, at this point he'd get suspicious if you tried to ask for more parts. Still, you can think of one thing you have a chance at getting, as long as you're acting cooperative.

So you send a note back.

Could you at least send me a functioning voice box at the correct size, so I can see if there are any incompatibilities I need to resolve?

A few minutes later, you get a response.

I doubt there will be any problems, but I will permit it. Here is the device. Be careful with it, please.

Well. You can buy some time, and maybe pull a few more tricks, by pretending you need to make some adjustments.

You consider trying to set up your own echolocation device, to give you some sense of how the outside hall is laid out and if it's worth making a run for it. But you're not a bat. You wouldn't be able to grasp the shape from echoes alone. You'd need some way to display the information so that you can understand it, and you're not sure just how you'd do that even if you had the right tools at hand to make it.

And he's not going to give you more tools... unless you tell him you couldn't get it to work at the smaller scale and you need something to adjust it. But even then, he's probably going to be wary of what he gives you.

Well. At this point, it looks like you'll either need to think of a good way to use what you've already got at hand, or think of a tool you can ask for that won't raise his suspicions.
RE: Swamped
It occurs to you that, though roundabout, you might be able to fish something useful out of a metronome. What are the chances of them having one of *those* aboard, though?
RE: Swamped
The vague outline of an idea comes to you. If you just had a metronome... well, you may have an idea for how to get one. If the Host has one on board, that is.

Ran a test. Volume seems fine, but playing multiple sounds in sequence causes them to run together in the amplifier. I think I can correct this by using a metronome timer to introduce a delay until each sound plays in full.

You send the note off, and before long a metronome arrives, with a response note.

I'm curious as to how that problem came about. Regardless, I look forward to seeing the final product.

You're fairly sure he's gotten suspicious of you by now, but while your request was unusual, it probably seemed harmless enough. He probably couldn't think of anything you could do with a metronome to help you escape.

In fairness, you're not entirely sure this is a viable plan. But it's the best option you can see.

You take a few moments to think about the details of how this device is going to work.
RE: Swamped
You're going to integrate a harmonic oscillator into the workings of the vocalizer/amplifier, such that over time and repeated use the device will gradually produce more and more of a high-frequency audio pulse in the range that would interfere with the robots perceptions.

You wouldn't expect it to kick in for, oh, a few days... unless of course the robots start talking to each other, triggering additional oscillations. But hopefully it'll take a while, without any perceived disturbance until after you've been granted your freedom.

And regardless of whether they grant you your freedom, you may be able to use this act of sabotage (and the promise of a cure or the threat of imminent disruption) for leverage in the future.
RE: Swamped
You set up the metronome so that, over time, it will make the disruptive noise you found before. Your captor doesn't seem to know enough about sounds to notice this until it starts happening.

It's likely he'll be able to work out that the metronome timer is the cause, so you set it up to make it hard to remove without affecting functionality. Since he doesn't know acoustics like you do, this should be enough to force him to negotiate with you if he wants to fix the problem.

Once you're done, you send it off with a note that it should be working now.

And then it's not long before the fateful cup of tea comes in.

You know exactly what the point of this tea is, and you can't afford to drink it. But if your host realizes you haven't, he'll probably take more drastic measures.

So how can you get rid of it without alerting him?
RE: Swamped
Into the chamber pot it goes!

And then it's time for bed.
RE: Swamped
You make a show of looking as though you're sipping the tea, just in case the servants can inform their master once the voice box is installed.

After a good few minutes of that, you head behind the privacy curtain and dump the tea in the chamberpot. And just to complete the illusion, you take the chance to relieve yourself, awkward as it is with a human-sized device. That should discourage your host from looking too closely into the contents.

Once that's done, you wander over to the bed and make a show of falling asleep. Not much to do now except wait.


You're now Yvonne, and you've got a lot to deal with.

You tried to interrogate your captives, but they're both unconscious and you haven't been able to take their masks off. Seems whoever sent them really doesn't want them being identified.

And then you got an arrow fired right into the middle of camp with a note on it. A ransom note about Simone. They're demanding a prisoner exchange. There's an unusual mark in place of a signature, not that you know what it means.

The note gives you about two hours to comply. So the first thing you need to do is hold a meeting. You fully expect to hand the prisoners over, but you want to work out if there's anything you can do while you've got them, and what to do if you get double-crossed.

So. Who are you going to consult with on this?
RE: Swamped
The Rider seems to have good gut instincts, and more experience dealing with ne'er-do-wells. Why not see what he thinks of the situation?

On the other hand, if these intruders have something to do with the humans in your camp, maybe that old Captain Long has some insight.
RE: Swamped
You call in Theodore, since he's second-in-command. You also call in Rider and Long, since they seem to be the main leaders of the humans in your camp.

You want at least one other grebling voicing opinions, so you opt to ask Boris. He doesn't usually pay much attention to leadership meetings, but he's good at calming you down if you need it. And with Simone at risk, well, you're going to need it.

You lead everyone into your tent and show them the note.

"First things first," you say. "Any of you recognize this mark?"

"I do, and it doesn't make any sense," Rider says. "This mark is the identifier of a criminal organization. They deal in practically every illegal good except slaves, and they're one of our main suppliers. They also don't like to announce themselves when they send demands to strangers. And the attack doesn't fit their style at all, though in fairness I've never seen how they operate in the desert."

"So, you think it's a fake?" you ask.

"The mark is hardly well-known, so it's more likely to be a rogue member using the organization as cover for their dirty work. But I can't completely rule out that possibility."

"Don't see why it matters," Theodore grumbles. "We're handing over the prisoners, right?"

"And making sure our counterpart doesn't break the bargain," you add pointedly. "I'm particularly interested in thoughts on that."

"As it happens, I know more than a little about ensuring smooth prisoner exchanges between parties that have little trust for each other," Long says. Rider nods knowingly.

"Okay, then. What advice have you got for me?"
RE: Swamped
"There is only so much trust you can spend on others."
RE: Swamped
Show that you can be trusted to deliver and that you are committed to the procedure. For multiperson exchanges, this involves giving them one of their prisoners first, before you've received yours. But hold the other prisoners until after they've responded in kind.
RE: Swamped
"My predecessor had a rather cynical way of putting it," Long says. "He told me, 'Trust is money, and you can't spend that much of it.' His guiding principle, you might say, was that if you couldn't spare the trust, you looked for another kind of leverage."

"That's a rather mercenary take on things," you say.

"It certainly was under Captain Burgundy," Rider agrees. "Fortunately, Long here was a bright enough lad to notice the difference between negotiations that went well and negotiations that didn't."

"The trick was realizing it was a two-way street," Long continues. "Imagine, if you will, that there are three prisoners on each side, and each of you can release only one at a time. When two prisoners are released, the side that gives up theirs first loses their leverage. Both sides realize this, and so the situation grows more tense at that point."

"But, if there's another point of leverage, then there's less risk in releasing your last prisoner," Rider says. "That was what Long realized - that by keeping both sides convinced they had some form of power over the other, it was a lot easier to get them to give up other things. So long as that balance was maintained."

You think about this.

"We've got two prisoners. The kidnapper's got one. So we can give one away without losing anything. But then the kidnapper's got every reason to hold off, because they can't be sure we'll release the other prisoner once Simone's back with us. So... we've got to give them something else to hold over us to avoid that?"

"We could offer something valuable, but expendable, as a guarantee," Long says. "The arrangement would be that we hand it over, Simone is released, the other prisoner is released, and the object is returned to us. Of course, the kidnapper might take the object and run at that point, but at least we would have Simone back."

"And just what are we handing over?" Theodore asks. He doesn't sound happy. "I'm happy to give up anything I've got to guarantee Simone's safety, but it's not as if we've got a stockpile of gold. At best we could offer some research equipment, but most of it is too specialized to be of any interest to a kidnapper."

"It only has to be valuable to us," you say. "In fact, it might be even better if it's meaningless to the kidnapper. They're more likely to return it that way."

"Fair point. But I doubt we're dealing with a scientific genius. How are they going to know it's valuable to us? We'd have every reason to lie about that."

You take a moment to think about that. What can you offer, and how can you persuade the kidnapper of its value to you?
RE: Swamped
You gotta speak to the language of their values. Do you have anything about that might be useful in a scientific endeavour?
RE: Swamped
"I've got a thought," Boris says suddenly. You forgot how quiet he tends to be at meetings.

"What is it?"

"Well, I was thinking about what Theodore said, and we can't really be sure we aren't dealing with a scientific genius either. Someone who'd know just how good some of our equipment is."

"We hardly have time to find that out," Theodore grumbles.

"No, no, sorry, my mind's wandering a bit. I was getting at, well, what do we know about this kidnapper?"

"Barely anything," you sigh.

"But not nothing. We know, for instance, that our kidnapper can write in Common Greb, because that's what the note is in. We also know that they've got very good sand-cloaks that are hard to spot against real sand. I doubt those are easy to come by."

"They aren't," Long agrees. "I've seen nothing like them when ordering equipment - not that it would be useful in the swamp, but I tend to glance over all my options and that would have stood out."

"And we know they've got the means to stay hidden out here in the desert," Boris continues. "Rudolph didn't spot a thing."

"Plus, they've got arrows," you say, holding up the one the note was attached to.

"Also a blade-disc. A most unusual weapon," Rider adds. "And, of course,that mark on the note is hardly common knowledge."

"One of them had a strange vial, too. We haven't had a chance to look at that yet," you say. "All right, I think that sums up everything we know, but what exactly are we supposed to make of all that?"
RE: Swamped
They were abducting Greblings (or at least Simone), but they weren't expecting humans, especially no one battle hardened. This team was meant to grab their target and get out.

The blade disk is a great long/short range weapon - basically a slicer that doubles as a bracer. Keep the blades retracted and you can knock an enemy out at a distance with a good swing. It's a crap choice against an experienced lancer, however. You're forced to play defense.

The use of that mark, legitimate or not, is a test. They want to get a feel for who these strangers are. If you recognize the mark, it means you've dealt with that group before (or been a part of it). There is a code used by that organization to signal among members...if only we had someone here who had worked closely with smugglers in the past...
RE: Swamped
"Well, the most obvious thing is that they've got plenty of resources," Long says. "You don't need that much money to get hirelings, but you do to get hirelings with sandcloaks and exotic weapons."

"Another point is, I don't think they were expecting any human fighters," Rider interjects. "The bladed disc is something of a niche weapon - it's like a slicer that you can use at short range in a pinch. There are many ways to counter it, especially with a polearm like mine, but they require force behind the blow. Greblings generally lack the ability to be that forceful."

"So. We're probably looking at a wealthy kidnapper, who wasn't expecting humans. Sent agents into the camp, for reasons we don't currently know." You mull over this. "And they know about this mark. Can we narrow down who might know about them?"

"They keep it closely guarded," Rider says. "It's a proof of identity. The only people outside the organization who are meant to know about it are their most trusted clients. It's how we can be sure a shipment is really from them."

"Then our kidnapper could be another client," you muse.

"It's possible. But as they keep their client list confidential, it wouldn't help us much."

"You're probably overthinking the mark," Boris says. "For all we know, the kidnapper made up a symbol and it happens to match the one this group uses."

This is why you appreciate Boris. He keeps you from getting bogged down in the details for too long.

"That's unlikely, considering how they chose the symbol," Rider says. Then he pauses. "But I suppose you're right, it's not likely to bring us closer to an answer."

Hells, now he's gotten you curious. On the other hand, it's a line of inquiry that might not go anywhere.

In fact, it could well be this whole line of thinking is a bad one. You just want to get Simone back. All these vague ideas you've come up with about the kidnapper have done nothing to help you know if they'll keep their word, or what you can do if they don't.

Maybe you need a new approach, or maybe you just haven't pushed this one far enough yet. You're not sure what to do.
RE: Swamped
(09-19-2017, 02:42 AM)Dragon Fogel Wrote: »Maybe you need a new approach, or maybe you just haven't pushed this one far enough yet. You're not sure what to do.
Which is exactly what Corvus was thinking while interrogating one of the captives. Real hard to get info when you don't know the language.
RE: Swamped
You're now Corvus.

You and Rudolph are watching over the prisoners, waiting for one of them to wake up so you can ask some questions. One of them did, but you can't understand a word he says, and you can't get his mask off either.

You've been trying to threaten him in case he can speak Common, or any language either of you can understand, but he hasn't taken you seriously. He doesn't seem worried that you'll actually do something to him.

You were thinking of taking the act further, maybe giving him a good punch. But he seems like the sort who might have something up his sleeve if you pulled that.

And while you were trying to make up your mind, you got distracted by Rudolph mumbling about how he's never heard anything like that language, not even when he was working the inn at a major trading post. Then you felt like maybe you had heard it somewhere before, but you couldn't place it. Someone in the swamp? A Guild customer you overheard ages ago?

All you've managed to remember is that you had a pounding headache at the time, so it would have been back when you were still drinking. No wonder it's not fresh in your memory.

You're not even sure it would help much if you can remember, so you're right back where you started. Do you hit this jerk? Try to figure out where you could have heard this weird language before? Or take on another tactic entirely?

You wish you could just make up your damn mind.