Ghost Cache

first_page arrow_back arrow_forward last_page

'Five' 0.7


Late Evening

Vantibia, Central Tangian Wilds, Isle of Wighland, Riches of Renfros

Festia slid the last book into the proper place, barely keeping herself from toppling over as the reading room seemed to spin around her.

  • Respawn tether Altar of Knowledge has been fully repaired.
  • As a reward for your devoted efforts, the next time you respawn with this tether you will be given 120% health.

She'd finally done it.  After seemingly no end of trouble, the altar was fully repaired.  The next time Festia respawned, she would have the benefit of not just 100% health, but more beyond that.

Wow, that should give me six full minutes before dizziness kicks in.  I was only hoping for five.  A whole bunch of new travel options have opened up.

The extra minutes of clear thought would have saved her some time in her letter-writing, but she'd already finished those.  The uncertainty of actually finishing the cleanup and repairs in time had outweight the benefits.  And the -1 to Mind hadn't hurt the writing process too badly.  Good writing was governed more by Mystique.

"ALI, how long is left in my VIVID session?"

35 minutes remain.  And ten seconds.

"I'm cutting it close.  But I did it.  Every bit of damage is repaired, I found enough items to fill the shelves, and it's all categorized.  There's nothing like a job wel—"

  • You have been exposed to intense Celestial radiation for one minute!
  • You have received 0.2 years of aging damage.
  • You are now 281.2 years old
  • You are unable to breathe due to your nonfunctional lungs.
  • You are suffocating.  (-1 to Mind)
  • Your overall health is at 15%
  • You are paralysed. (You can not take physical actions.)

"Ah, there it is.  Two more minutes until death number...?"

Your next death will be your 162nd of the day.

"And I should have time for... let's see... four more after that. And then I'll be... gone.  I suppose you wouldn't understand that.  Or perhaps you would.  A lot of players must have died during the decades VIVID has been active."

Many have ceased playing.  A greater number have begun playing.

"I suppose a lot more would die while they're awake.  You never know when someone blinks out whether they'll ever blink in again."

A proportion are unexpected, but many are easily anticipated.  There are patterns and signs which can be detected.

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that.  Have you ever been able to warn someone?  Prevent a death?  Or at least attempt to?

Most predictable deaths are due to ill irreversable health.  Those that might be prevented but are not are due to lack of required funds.

Festia had already been feeling down due to the talk of death, but this sent her into even deeper gloom.

"Oh.  They would be trying to score big in VIVID to cover expenses.  Have you ev—

  • You have been exposed to strong Celestial radiation for one minute!
  • You have received 0.2 years of aging damage.
  • You are now 281.4 years old
  • You are unable to breathe due to your nonfunctional lungs.
  • You are suffocating. (-1 to Mind)
  • Your overall health is at 0%
  • You are unconscious (You can not take any actions.)

That put an end to the conversation for a minute.  Several minutes in fact, as Festia planned to be rather busy in her next life.  She had a plan.  Success would take everything she had left to give.

It all comes down to these last few minutes.  And whether the right person happens by later, I suppose.  But that's out of my hands.  Now, I need to be ready to move.  I'll need the toolbox.  Fortunately I already packed it up and left it right outside the door.  Okay, I think I can do this.  Is that everything?  Of course, paper!  And a pen.  I put all that in the top drawer of the desk behind the altar.  Good.

  • You died of suffocation.

You are Dead
Respawn Now?
Yes No

Festia mentally mashed the Yes button as soon as it appeared.  Awakening in her body once more, she immediately sprang out out of her cozy resting place like a cat out of a giant burrito.  The expected system messages popped up telling her that her health was at 120%, but she dismissed them after only the slightest glance.

Rapidly, but without rushing, she stepped over to the desk for her writing supplies.  With those shoved into a pocket, she strode for the door and snatched up the toolbox.  Continuing down the many convoluted hallways, she jogged towards the museum's front entrance.  The halls had been previously littered with assorted detritus such as smashed furnishings and torn carpet.  She'd had to clean them up to make it quickly navigable, in order to reach everything required to restore the altar.  Now she had a more distant goal to reach, beyond the museum's maze-like halls.

Uh oh.

The museum's entrance was still littered with broken glass.  Festia's feet were bare.  Injured feet would slow her down far too much.

Quick, where's the nearest broom?  No, that's a whole minute lost besides the sweeping.  I need something I can...  Aha, the carpet!  Yes, I dumped a whole pile of scraps over there.  Why did the cultists pull up the carpet?

She figured she'd never know the answer to that question.  It was a fairly simple matter to toss some carpet into the sparkling sea of glass.  There were no big shards sticking up, so she figured it would be safe enough to walk on.  She took careful steps, worried that the glass could easily slide on the entrance room's polished wooden floor.  The double doors were beyond open, having been ripped off their hinges by some monstrous force.  One was embedded in the grass across the street.  The other was not in sight.  One more piece of carpet thrown through the doorway was enough to get Festia clear of the worst of the glass.  She was able to avoid the rest by choosing her steps carefully.

Four minutes down.  Four more until I hit 0% health and collapse.  I hope navigating the hallways was the slowest part.

Festia hadn't had time to really look around on her wild run to the hospital.  She hadn't been outside since.  As it was summer in Tangia, the sky was still quite light even this late in the evening.  This helped her see her path to her goal, but she was too focused on that to get a good look.  That was probably for the best.  What little she did see of her down was quite disheartening.  She'd poured a lot of time and love into Vantibia, and to see it broken and empty was a deeply personal blow.

It took almost two minutes of jogging past assorted stores and craftshops before she spotted her target.  It would have been faster to sprint, but with no functional lungs that would send her into a dizzy spell early.  She's also expected to see it much sooner.

I should have been able to see the flag or at least the pole over the top of the courthouse.  Something's wrong.  That's probably for the best.

Her guess was correct.  Vantibia's flagpole had been toppled, leaving only a melted stump.  The flagpole itself lay across a pair of shattered wooden benches.  The flag and halyards were missing.

That saves me having to unbolt it.  It's a good thing bringing the toolbox didn't waste any time.

  • You have been exposed to extreme Celestial radiation for 1 minute!
  • You have received 1 year of aging damage.
  • You are now 283.6 years old
  • You are unable to breathe due to your nonfunctional lungs.
  • You are suffocating.  (-1 to Mind)
  • Your overall health is at 30%.
  • You are dizzy.  (-1 to Mind)

Whoa, that's some serious radiation!  I can practically feel it.  The flagpole itself is highly celestially active.  That's... not gonna work with my original plan.  Actually... I think I have a far better idea.

Festia had thought she might be able to place a note inside the hollow pole and throw it like a javelin as far from the celestially active parts of the town as possible, where someone might retrieve it sooner than in the middle of the city.  There was no hope of that now.  Throwing it would just spread the radiation around further.  Instead she would have to wait even longer for her plan to succed, but the result might be even better.

Not that I'll actually be waiting for much longer.  Alright, it's lore abuse time.  Hopefully my favour with Sandoti pays off.  If not... well I won't be around to suffer the consequences.  Which makes this the ultimate insult to both Sandoti and Beve.  Heh.

It was rather a pity that Dizzy had kicked in, but this would work best if she could see the target object while doing it.  As quickly as she could manatge, she scratched out a rough sketch of the flagpole on the paper she'd brought.  She added a title and scrawled a few quick notes about its history and fate.  The paralysis notification cut her work short sooner than she could have liked.

"Hey ALI, I don't suppose you could give me any tips on optimising this?"

You appear to be creating an artifact.  Your understanding of the process is sufficiently accurate.

"Telling me I'm on the right track is plenty, thanks.  So that just leaves writing some expanded lore from my notes on the next life, and then leaving it inside the pole the life after that.  With one life to spare.  I think I can get there fast enough, now that I know exactly where I'm going.  The carpet's already in place, I can leave the papers in my pocket, and I don't need the toolbox, so that should make up for the minute I lose going from 120% starting health down to 100%.

There was no response, as she had requested none.

"Hey ALI, any guesses as to what use the artifact will be?  Against the cultists, I mean.  It would be nice to know that they'll get their comeuppance some day.  Though with the radiation levels, that could be a lot of years away.  They might have moved on by then."

The properties of potential artifacts defy speculation.  As does the far future choices of players.

"I suppose you're right.  Oh well.  At least I can trust that Lume will do something.  Maybe not anything useful, but certainly something heartfelt and messy.  Doubly so if he thinks the Vantibia situation contributed to my actual death.  He's a good brother.  Even if he sometimes does thoughtless stuff.  Like commenting on my weight.  I mean, uh... Jannit's weight.  Weird, I almost forgot my name for a moment there.  I guess you wouldn't know what it's like to have a sibling."

The Ares computing cluster has no peer.

"That's sad.  Though there is the other half—"

Unconsciousness prevented further discourse.

Please leave a comment on this chapter's Patreon page.
first_page arrow_back arrow_forward last_page