Prologue: Fighting off the Pod Fog

You wake in a clone pod, groggy and confused. A sudden, unknown panic grips you. With no technician in sight, you let yourself out and stumble, eyes blinking, into the busy walkways of Tau Station. Adjusting to a new body is a fresh clone's first challenge. Are you ready for it?

Level: 1
Start: Evangeline, Hotel Rooms, Tau Station

Introduction

A dim orange glow washes over the Wayfarer Inn lobby. The hazy light simulates a comforting dawn-effect for recently-woken guests, hunting a breakfast from one of the reception's boxy vending machines. It's quiet, apart from an intermittent low-level buzz, whose origin is soon revealed. A disc-shaped cleaning bot bustles across the room, vacuuming up some dust motes, then disappears into a charging slot in the wall, behind an air scrubber plant. As you survey the scene, a sudden acrid stench invades your nostrils. Your gut doesn't like it, clenching hard in response.

A woman's voice says: Noodles. Fungal broth. Double-seasoned.

You look over, watching as the bulky food vendor machine fulfills the order, while a woman waits patiently beside it. Various liquids and condiments are squirted from the machine's whirring nozzles into a grey cup. With each step, the smell in the air seems to get stronger, wafting its hellish aromas in your direction. It makes your guts feel like an airlock struggling to contain a depressurization breach. The gravity in your head seems to fail and it feels like your brain is floating freely in zero G. Your mouth emits a dry, but attention-grabbing, retch. The woman looks over at you, incredulity written across her features.

You have accepted the "Prologue: Fighting off the Pod Fog" mission.

  • Apologize.
  • Say nothing. Keep your mouth shut.

Apologize:

Me: Excuse me. Stomach's playing up… Sorry.

You trail off, suddenly feeling a little too queasy even for talking. The silence hangs in the air, punctuated only by the thrum of the vending machine completing its food preparation task, as you wait for the sudden nausea to pass.

The woman speaks: Bad manners. But, whatever…

The machine bleeps loudly. She grabs the steaming cup from its slot, and gives it a stir. It's more than you can take. The sharp aromas spike at your innards, and your guts churn like a snake pit. Beads of hot sweat form on your brow. And then, finally, the hatch which keeps things where they should be, deep inside you, can no longer hold. The second retch is far from dry. It produces a bitter, acidic stream of white bile as you double over, ejecting it from your mouth and nostrils onto the floor between yourself and the unlucky stranger whose food so offends you.

She screams: EURGH!! MY SHOES! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

She takes a step back, covering her nose with the back of her sleeve, examining the speckled sludge on her shoes. But then, after another glance at the mess, she seems to suddenly calm.

She says: Oh, er— Sorry. White goop. Looks like clone nutrient paste. You've got a touch of the decanting sickness, by the looks of it. Not your fault… I'll er- get my shoes cleaned. No big deal, forget it.

You look down at the swirl of white puree at your feet. The smell is tangy, sharp, and reminds you of the Clone vats.

  • "I'm SOOO sorry."
  • "Decanting sickness?"

Sorry:

Me: I'm SOOO sorry. I- I've no idea what happened…

Sickness:

Me: What's decanting sickness?

Either choice continues:

She replies: You a first-time clone or what? Didn't read the small print, I bet… I'll tell you what happened. You got the post-gestation bends, pal. Pod nausea, fresh clone spew, y'know… Just the normal side effects of your body getting used to life beyond the glass pod it lived in till now. Not pretty, is it? You probably wanna get that treated.

You contemplate your nausea and somewhat blurry vision, as the woman glances back down at her noodle broth, then swiftly empties the untouched contents into a nearby waste receptor.

She says: My appetite vanished. Wonder why, huh? Only joking, don't sweat it… Not your fault. See you round.

She raises a hand by way of a cursory wave, sidesteps the stinky pool of white bile on the floor, and exits the hotel lobby. Alone you watch as the industrious, disc-shaped cleaning bot emerges from its charging hatch to mop up your mess. Efficiently, and without complaint, it sucks your slushy vomit up into its own little mouth. As you stare, an electronic alert of some sort chimes in the upper part of your vision.

INCOMING ALERT: Welcome! This is your Post-Gestation Re-calibration Program. This service is provided free of charge by Benevolent Dynamics and is designed to help you reacquaint yourself with your physical abilities. Are you ready to shake off the pod hangover?

Find a cure for your decanting sickness.

  • Decline. Hope the pod nausea clears up on its own.
  • Initiate program.

Initiate:

As the cleaning bot completes its grisly task, you focus your gaze on your CORETECHS overlay, initiating the program. After a short wait, a familiar voice addresses you via the link. It sounds like Fellie Norbush, who helped you calibrate your CORETECHS back in the Port.

Fellie says: We meet again, <name>! Looks like I've been assigned as your guide for some post-gestation rehab. This program shares your CORETECHS bio-data with me and… it looks like you got a SERIOUS dose of pod hangover! Dry mouth, sore head, and squiffy balance, I guess? Looks like those corner-cutting white-coats down at the vats didn't complete your post-gestation check up. Grrr, that makes me mad. You shouldn't have been signed out like this…

  • "I guess it must've slipped their minds."
  • "I left the vats a bit abruptly. They didn't have time to process everything…"

Left abruptly:

Me: I left the vats a bit abruptly. They didn't have time to process everything…

Fellie tuts in annoyance on the other end of the link.

She says: Well, your head was full of pod fog right after the respawn, that's normal… Not exactly thinking straight. But they should've taken better care of you! They'd never get away with such sloppy work at BeDyne!

Slipped their minds:

Me: I guess it must've slipped their minds.

Fellie tuts in annoyance on the other end of the link.

She says: Not cool. They should've taken better care of you. They'd never get away with such sloppy work at BeDyne!

Either choice continues:

Fellie's chirpy voice takes your mind off the various rumbles continuing in your digestive system, and your alarmingly unsteady balance and blurred vision. You lean on a chair in the quiet hotel lobby, listening to what she has to say.

Fellie continues: Oh boy, you're a groggy one… Lucky for you, the CORETECHS can pick up on these things and connect you to someone who can help. Me!

  • Ask Fellie how the post-gestation rehab works.

Me: So, how does this post-gestation thing work?

Fellie replies: Simple really. As you know, your CORETECHS monitors your biological state at all times, giving you feedback on your toxin levels, fatigue, and other vital stats. But it also has a handy diagnostic for post-gestation sickness symptoms. If it detects an affected user, it'll offer you our free treatment program. That's what happened with you.

Fellie pauses for breath, and in the background noise of the comm link you can hear the bustling murmur of Tau Station's busy Port, where Fellie does most of her work.

Fellie continues: If you initiate the treatment, your CORETECHS connects you to an available BD staffer, who'll guide you through it. That's where we're at, now. After that, the whole thing only takes a few segments. You'll complete a few basic tasks while I monitor your bio-reads remotely. That helps us find the remedy. Usually pod nausea is caused by a slight nutrient imbalance… We can fix it pretty easy once we know what your system needs! Ready?

Follow Fellie's instructions to complete the Post-Gestation Re-calibration Program.

  • "I'm ready. Let's get this done before I spew again."

Me: I'm ready. Let's get this done before I spew again.

With a slow, deliberate breath, you rise from the hotel lobby's foam-padded couch, determined to shake off your unpleasant ailment. Although the cleaning bot has dealt efficiently with the sloppy puddle on the floor, the inside of your mouth still retains an acrid reminder of your volatile gastric state.

Fellie chuckles: Trust me. Nobody wants that. OK, let's start with some physical diagnostics. Head over to the Gym. We'll talk again once you're there.

Visit the Gym by selecting it from the 'Areas' list. Once there, look for a tab marked with the red action flag. This is where you'll find the next step to continue your mission.

Next area: Gym, Tau Station

  • Call Fellie.

In the gym, the air tastes like stale sweat. An overworked air recycler thrums loudly in the corner of the busy exercise floor, straining to cope with the steady volume of exhaled CO2 in the room. Each machine's mechanism emits a cacophony of thuds and clanks as it's pounded, rotated, lifted and dropped by its grunting user. Standing in the middle of it all, you call Fellie back via a CORETECHS link.

Me: I'm here, Fellie. What now?

Fellie responds: OK, let's get started. Judging by your stats, I'm guessing you're a Gym newbie. Don't worry, nothing to be scared of. They got all sorts of gear to help you train up your agility, strength and stamina… I need you to train your strength a little bit, while I monitor your bio-reads. Go ahead! You can even hire a trainer to help if you like. Don't over do it though. Don't want you too tired for what's coming next!

You scan along the row of exercise machines looking for a free one. You're queasy just at the thought of doing any sort of exercise but resolve to do as Fellie says.

Use the Gym to train your strength while Fellie monitors your bio-reads. Look for the red action flag in the Gym when you're done.

After using "Train Strength" once:
(Strength check)

  • Reconnect with Fellie. Tell her you're done.

You feel dizzy and breathless from the workout, relieved that it's over. Panting hard, you call Fellie back.

Me: Hey er- F… Fellie… All done here. Workout… complete. What did we learn?

Fellie responds: You gotta bit of the ol' jelly legs it seems. Pretty standard for a pod hangover. Bet you feel rough, huh? We got more tests to do but, let's get you some food, first. Don't want you collapsing on me… Head to the government center, OK?

Head over to the Government Center by selecting it from the Areas list.

Next area: Government Center, Tau Station

  • Reconnect with Fellie.

You make your way into the stark regocrete building that houses the government's offices, past a checkpoint and two stern-looking Consortium guards. As you proceed, grimacing slightly as your head throbs with an infernal ache that seems only to get worse, you ponder your current decanting sickness. Is this the first time you've had it? Or have there been other similar episodes?

You mull it, but you've no answers. Your past is a void, a hole as black as any to be found out there, beyond the station 4 meter-thick outer hull. It'll be easier to think once you're rid of this horrible headache. You accept Fellie's incoming call.

Fellie quips cheerily: Looks like the exercise really depleted your strength… As with any training, you'll slowly recover over time. But you can also recharge instantly with some food. So, before we continue, I wanna make sure you have a ration in your pack, just in case you get super tired.

As Fellie talks, you look around the large, cavernous room in which you find yourself, decorated on all sides by deep blue Consortium insignia.

Fellie says: I dunno what it's like where you're from, but this is what the Government Center looks like on Tau. As a member of the Consortium, you're given one ration a day. For VIPs, they even store uncollected rations, so you can collect up to thirty days' worth at a time. But, if you're not a VIP, collecting your ration is an important daily task… Anyway. Go grab yours, and keep it on you. If you get tired or worn-down, just use it.

You mutter an acknowledgement and glance about, looking for ration pick-up area.

Pick up today's rations at the Gov't Center.

After using "Pick up":

  • Notify Fellie that you picked up your ration.

Me: Okay, I've got my rations.

Fellie answers: Good. Post gestation recovery can be tiring. If you notice your stats are low, just dip into your inventory and eat a ration to replenish them.

You're somewhat reassured to know you have useful supplies in your pack, but also slightly disgusted by the thought of eating anything right now. The taste inside your mouth is still sharply unpleasant, and your stomach somersaults at the mere thought of food.

  • "How long til I start feeling better?"
  • "Any chance this decanting sickness will clear up on its own?"

How long:

Me: How long til I start feeling better?

Fellie replies: Soon, <name>, I promise. But I need to observe your body's functioning a little longer to determine the best remedy. Let's check your brain next. Head over to the university, please.

Clear up on its own:

Me: Any chance this decanting sickness will clear up on its own?

Fellie replies: Ha, typical question, at least from the deluded, decanting sick brain! Listen, <name>, we're making progress. I just need to observe your body's functioning a little longer to determine the best remedy. I think we've established your brain needs a check next. Head over to the university, please.

Head to the University on Tau Station.

Next area: University, Tau Station

  • Call Fellie.

Having ambled gingerly down the station's central walkway, swaying groggily and attracting a few bemused stares from passersby, you arrive at the University area. Once inside, you notify Fellie that you're ready to continue the tests.

Me: Let's hurry this up, Fellie. My head's gonna burst if I don't shake this thing soon…

Fellie's voice titters in your ear: I hear you, <name>. Nearly done, just gotta test your groggy head first! Welcome to Tau Station University. As you can see, there's lots of courses on offer to help you specialize in all kinds of fields. From Medicine and Combat, to Business and Engineering. And, obviously, you don't actually have to study to learn these things. You just get a nanite injection and then go about your life, while the nanites forge the required connections in your brain… Or at least, that's how it should work for a properly-functioning human. Decanting sickness can mess with things…

You curse your decanting sickness once more, resolving to be rid of it as soon as possible. As Fellie talks, your eyes scan over a large wall screen that lists all of the courses currently being offered at this institution.

Fellie continues: I just need you to look around a bit, and enroll in any class you can afford. I wanna see how yer noggin responds… Here are some credits to help out. Call me when you're done. Ciao for now!

You have received 20.00 credits.

Enroll in a First Aid, Combat, or Engineering course at the University.

After selecting course:

  • Tell Fellie you're enrolled.

You're not sure if it's the nanite injection doing its magic, or just your lingering gestation sickness, but your head feels dizzy as you open up the link to Fellie.

Me: I enrolled on a course. Got my nanite injection. Feel kinda weird actually…

Fellie replies: Hmm yeah. Your neural readouts are pretty squiffy, blood pressure's all over the place… They really messed up at the vats, letting you go like this. But don't worry, we can fix it. OK, look, I'm gonna come meet you in person for the final parts of the program. Come meet me at the Employment Center OK?

You grunt a little, which Fellie takes for a confirmation, and the CORETECHS link goes quiet. The digital interface disappears from your field of view, leaving you facing the busy University chamber again. You squeeze past a line of people queuing for nanite injections and head off in search of the Employment Center.

Go to the Employment Center to meet Fellie in person. Once there, check under the 'People' tab to find Fellie.

Next NPC: Fellie, Employment, Tau Station

  • Approach Fellie.

The Employment Agency is a bustling place, full of hopeful people who wander about, reading job listing scrolls on the walls and talking with others who've come offering tasks and work to be done. Amid the bustle stands a young woman who resembles the avatar you previously saw on the CORETECHS link. She beckons you over as you enter.

Fellie says: Okay, <name>, your post-gestation diagnostic is nearly complete… So far I've got a list of 17 nutrient imbalances we'll need to correct. I just have a couple more to check. Let's try a simple task: take a look around the area here, then visit the careers advisory and pick a career. Got it?

Before you can even reply, Fellie ushers you off to explore the employment center. Her eyes glaze over as her attention returns to her CORETECHS digital interface, on which she monitors your biological reads.

Choose a career in the Employment Center by visiting the Careers Advisory sub-area. Then return to Fellie in the main area.

When you have a career:

  • Tell Fellie you've chosen a career.

Me: All done. I picked a career.

Fellie replies: Yep. I saw. But it sorta took you a while, no? Slow decision-making is another typical symptom… That's why they call it pod fog, I guess! Don't worry, we'll have you back to normal soon.

Fellie taps away on a pocket slate while she talks. You peek at the screen to see that she's compiling some sort of prescription, containing a long list of vitamins and minerals, along with corresponding measures.

Fellie continues: OK, look, you can come back here later if you like, to change careers, or pick up side jobs. You can even do some, er- "discreet work" if that's your thing. But right now, it's time to get you fixed up. The remedy won't taste good but it'll do the job… I'm gonna collect what we need. Meet me at the Bar, please. And don't get lost. You'll find it inside the Inn.

Head to the Inn and meet Fellie in the Bar sub-area.

Next NPC: Fellie, Bar, Tau Station

The blinking disco ball in the Bar makes your head hurt. You resolve never to skip post-gestation checks in the future, if you can help it. Your brain feels like an asteroid knocked out of its orbit by a collision, tumbling and spinning at a thousand klicks a second through some sort of endless void. A tap on the shoulder from Fellie pierces your stupor.

Fellie says: Hang in there! Things are about to get a whole lot better.

Me: You keep saying that…

Your mumbled response is lost amid the chatter of the Oasis pub. Fellie leaves you for a moment to fetch something from the bartender. After a few units of explanation and negotiation, she returns with a strange glass of thick purple liquid.

Fellie says: Here. Hold this. There are a few more ingredients to add. They had everything I needed down at the market.

You oblige, holding the glass as Fellie produces a few sachets from her pocket, which she empties into the purple goop, stirring as she does it.

Fellie says: OK. That's a personalized nutrient cocktail, based on my observations of you mal-functioning like a pod zombie over the past few segments. It's full of everything you need to shake off this bout of decanting sickness. This is what they would've given you at the vats if they'd tested you properly after respawn… I even used some juice as the base to make it more palatable. So… this is it. Drink.

You look down at the large glass of syrupy sludge. Bringing it closer to your mouth seems only to tickle your gag reflex further.

Drink Fellie's pod fog hangover cure.

  • Ask Fellie about the Bar while you ready yourself for the medicine.
  • Hold your nose. Down the mixture.

Ask:

Me: Er… So, tell me about this place?

You wave the hand that's not holding the glass of purple gloop in the general direction of the surrounding Bar. Glancing around, you even spot the woman whose food offended your guts so terribly earlier, Evangeline, enjoying a drink with some friends in a booth to the side. Noticing you, she offers a friendly wave, then points down at what seem to be freshly-cleaned boots. She makes a thumbs up gesture, and flashes you a forgiving smile, before turning back to her companions. Your attention returns to Fellie who's now crossed her arms, somewhat impatiently.

Fellie replies: Quit stalling, <name>. It's a Bar. You can buy booze, talk to people, get drunk and end up in the Sick Bay, or maybe even the Brig if you're the fighty type after a few shots of Synthehol. Pretty standard, really. Not exactly quantum telepheresis, is it? Now, c'mon, it's for your own good. Drink.

  • "And, er- the guest rooms?"
  • Hold your nose. Down the mixture.

Guest rooms:

Me: And, er- the guest rooms?

Fellie cocks her head at your question, then smiles wryly.

She says: You're like a kid with medicine, huh? OK, I'll play along. The guest rooms are nice. You can rent rooms. Foam beds, dawn simulator lights, the usual stuff. Helps you recharge your stats quicker… And the locks on the doors are pretty good. That means, peace of mind. Nobody can attack you inside. Any more questions, or you ready to gulp this thing?

  • "Just one more. What goes down in the Lounge?"
  • Hold your nose. Down the mixture.

Lounge:

Me: Just one more, I promise. What goes down in the Lounge?

Fellie says: Fine. The Lounge is for chatting, improving your social skills, that sorta thing… The lost art of conversation, as they say. Non-electronic human interaction. Weird when you think about it. Once, I guess it was all we had. Still has its uses though… and- HEY. You got me talking again! OK, no more stalling. DRINK!

Fellie raises a stern finger at you, then points it at the cup of purple liquid still in your hand. The smell isn't any better than before.

  • Hold your nose. Down the mixture.

Down mixture:
(Stamina check)

With steely determination, you bring the glass to your mouth and tip it quickly, pouring the unpleasant contents down your throat. A disconcerting mix of nausea, dizziness, stomach cramp and joint pain announces itself to your senses, getting gradually more intense as you gulp the last few drops down.

Me: Urgh. Disgusting. Happy now?

Fellie says: You'll be good as new soon. The way a respawn SHOULD feel, if the vat techs don't cut corners! Right, let's see what your vital stats are doing…

Fellie's eyes glaze over as she checks your bio-reads on her CORETECHS again. Oddly, you do actually feel a little better already. The buzzing in your ears has subsided and your balance feels steadier.

Fellie says: Yep. MUCH better. I guess my work here is done. Congratulations, <name>. You've successfully completed our free post-gestation calibration program. On behalf of Benevolent Dynamics, I'd like to wish you an extraordinarily pleasant day.

  • "Thanks Fellie. I feel better already."

Fellie hands you a small rectangular package, on which the letters "VIP" are printed in large font. Underneath it reads "Vaccaro Ibrahim Particles - 3 Day Dose". You lift the metallic lid carefully to find a selection of small, variously labelled, vials inside, each with a short-gauge injection tip at one end.

You have received 1 'VIP Pack - 3 days'.

Fellie adds: I had a few spare and figured you could use some help. Who knows? It might come in handy, while you're finding your feet… Anyway, I should get back to the Port, I've got a few other jobs to do. See you round, I hope!

And with that, Fellie smiles and turns, heading for the Bar's exit. As your eyes follow her out of the door, you notice your body feels a hundred times better than it did only a few segments ago. The sickly after-effects of your long gestation have finally lifted. You take a deep breath, feeling normal for the first time since waking in the clone vats, and ponder your next move.

You have completed the "Prologue: Fighting off the Pod Fog" mission.

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