Mission report: yet another uneventful, totally boring and very simple session of wandering around aimlessly, occasionally levelling a low rank skill or rarely an ability.
Compared to the 'Granny V' mission, the following five had been short and simple. They weren't all pleasant, but none were as bad as being the thief Aga Utana in the Wilting Woods. Not all were completely successful, but none seemed likely to destroy Stoni's ghost rating like Natalia Plinth had. While she was glad for the reduced pressure, her excursions to VIVID were starting to feel a little dull, which made her time back in Cube Farm 3 feel even more boring. Her irrevent musings on what she wished she could write in her reports were a way of coping with that.
She knew better than to let her boredom effect what she actually put in her reports, and made sure not to dawdle as she filled out each one. The sooner she was available, she sooner she could be sent on a potentially interesting mission. That was her hope, but to her dismay her next mission dumped her into a tiny fishing boat in sight of the Western Coast of Asheroon. This time she had a specific quest: return the rented boat to its owner within three hours.
"Alone again," she said out loud. "This time I'm named Gilla Tende and I'm... a Labourer." The name hardly seemed to matter. Being a muscle-focused class was a nuisance, but there was nothing she could do about that. What did matter was the sudden strong smell of salt water and the motion of the boat on the ocean swell. And even more than that, the untold amount of water beneath and around her.
How do I swim? Can I swim? I don't think I can swim!
The thoughts crashed into her mind as a rising tide of anxiety. She couldn't latch onto a clear idea of how to swim, much less how to swim with only one arm operable. Her eyes darted over the contents of the boat, searching for any thing with buoyancy. There was nothing. "Right, I couldn't afford a lifejacket," she said, remembering Gilla's recent memory of renting the tiny vessel. "I've got to get out of here. Uh..." That was when she noticed the lack of wind. "This just gets worse and worse! I'll have to row. With one oar."
Half an hour and several Handiwork tier increases later, her aching muscles forced her to stow her oar and rest. She was only a little closer to the shore. She knew that because she could see the Star Town port with slightly more detail than when she'd first arrived. A leather bottle of almost cold water quenched the thirst she'd worked up, but she decided against attempting to eat. The unusual motion of everything had left her stomach even more unsettled than usual.
"Better get back to rowing, or I'll never make it in the time limit. That would get me another zero star rating for sure," she said, now only panting slightly. After making sure her remaining water was securely stowed, she retrieved the oar and continued with carefully measured strokes on alternating sides of the boat.
Stoni grinned widely at that announcement. "That's more like it!" She was sure she was moving a little faster than before, and it was feeling just a bit less draining. It was still horribly dull. Watching sea birds and clouds did nothing to alleviate that, and she couldn't yet make out any interesting activity in the port. "This would be a great time to know a song. Or a tune," she grumbled. "I know music exists, but I can't make any!" She tried humming an assortment of arrangements of disconnected sounds, but nothing seemed either more or less like music than anything else.
She persisted with the basic rhythm of rowing for several minutes. Her only accompaniment was the cries of birds overhead. That changed when the clicking started. It was barely noticable at first. By the time it grew loud, she was unsure how long ago it had begun. The clicks were fast, high pitched, and rapidly increased in intensity. She looked around frantically for a source but saw nothing new. Soon the clicks were all she could hear. She dropped her oar and tried covering her ears with her right arm and hand. It barely made a difference.
The whole boat vibrated with the clicks. Stoni could feel it in her bones. Her teeth buzzed. She tasted blood.
The boat shattered.
She slipped into the water and the sudden cold hit her like a physical blow. Her flailing hand hit something solid. She grabbed it and pulled. Her head broke out of the water. She held fast and waited for the situation to settle. Water ran down her face. Her black hair had been held back by a bandana, but now it was free and wet and obscured her vision. There was no way to push it away while holding herself up.
The object of her salvation was submerged by her weight, but as her wits returned to her she realised what she'd grabbed. The shafts of the oars were hollow and sealed, giving them enough buoyancy to keep her afloat. One had escaped the shattering of the boat. She wasn't sure about the other, due to the amount of surrounding driftwood and her reduced vision.
Belatedly she noticed that the clicking had stopped. For several seconds after her sudden dip she'd heard nothing, but the sounds of splashing gradually returned.
That can't be a coincidence. It stopped after destroying my boat! Someone did that intentionally. And I'm gonna find them and—
After the standard VIVID exit message she was shunted back into Cube Farm 3. For a few seconds she merely sat glaring at her desk.
Mission report: that was totally unfair and you better believe I'm not letting it go!