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You are L2 Trollslayer Fiona Jarnafeldt, and you do not love the city you live in.

Helsinki is too sterile. Helsinki is too clean. There's nothing natural about the white metal buildings and black glossy windows, hexagonal solar panels that make up the roads and walkways, the filtered air. When the gods made the heavens and earth, this is not what they had in mind. The artificial world you came to live in was a novelty for some time, but the stuffy plastic smell is giving you headaches. Messing with your mind. You're seeing things. Other than the things you've always seen, at least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gYd2byz1VY

It has been about 3 months since you have joined the Stormwatch, a legion of fighters who keep Helsinki safe by driving out the beasts and squatters occupying the stormdrains beneath the city streets. You do this seeking the elevated citizenship status that comes with doing your part, hoping to one day being permitted to hold in your arms a child of your own flesh and blood. There can only be a million souls in this city, one billion on this earth; you want one or two of them to call your own.

You and your compatriots have been on the trail of thieves who intercepted advanced tech being brought to the Stormwatch HQ, and it seems that they have been using it to develop new weapons. Level 3 Manhunter Sigrun Eugen and her student Level 2 Manhunter Saemus Fahy have been trying to find what they can; how the underdwellers are producing weapons, where they are being seen with them, and if there's any loose ends on the surface that would lead to the epicenter of squatters. But as it happens, these things take time. The underdwellers need to make a mistake to be caught. It's only a matter of time.

Recently, you have been assisting the Stormwatch Director's experimental tech program as an equipment tester. In the first field test of a new tool, the Director had you destroy one of the underdweller's main sources of food. This acid-slinging tool is now being fielded and used to dispose of the corpses of massive aberrations all across the stormdrain. Underdweller activity has to be more lively and easily seen by now, surely.

But it has been some time. Perhaps some proactive choices need to be made to get progress. Perhaps things will turn up over the course of your regular duties. Either way, this pallid modern interior of Stormwatch HQ offers you no comfort.
>>
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>>5967405
As an L2 agent, you should start learning how to handle yourself and other agents lower in rank than you, so declared your mentor L3 Trollslayer Lalli Kiikoinen. Between your performance in the field, discovery of things the Stormwatch would like to keep under wraps, and your agreement to partake in the Stormwatch Director's experimental tech program, you have received a promotion to Level 2 at an accelerated rate compared to most agents. He worries you don't have genuine field experience, and had prepared simple missions for you, when you had a brilliant idea.

You expressed to Kiikoinen an intention to scout the wilderness around Helsinki. Aberrations, the mutated beings you specialize in tracking and killing, must find a way into the stormdrain somehow, and often times they are turned loose from captivity by the squatters. You're certain they have some smuggling route. If you could find how the Squatters are bringing in the aberrations, the Stormwatch can do something about it, and maybe trace it back to where they're currently hiding out. Since the Letiva are being disposed of, the other channels they have of getting food are going to be a lot more busy.

You were also made aware of a biologist that lurks in the forests out here; some old coot that they call "Leshy." If you could find him, you explained, you could get an idea of what creatures are naturally supposed to be around Helsinki and which ones are definitely imported, and judging from that, how they get in. This Leshy could point you in the right direction if you find him.

Nevermind how the mission is mainly an excuse to take a walk away from the city and its cameras for a bit. Nevermind how you wanted to talk to Leshy anyway since he might know your father. You're more than a little homesick, you admit.

Ulterior motives well hidden and aside, Kiikoinen approved of your sortie, and has left the recruitment process to your own discretion. He hands you a template for the paperwork needed, and you almost regret the whole ordeal.

_____

Hello! And we're back. It's been a month, but I needed to stretch my mind.
>Suptg archive
https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Solarpunk%20Cleanup%20Agent%20Quest
>Quest doc including characters, equipment, mechanics, etc.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jhZljN9y7A8w6qFcD8wX_xYaKZP65ZH8EGrmgKQ-nIU
>>
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>>5967410
You kind of left a lot of the L1s in the dust. They aren't given much of the freedom you do. They can scarcely eat food that isn't a form of liquid protein, and they aren't allowed meat. They might even feel a bit of resentment that you got promoted so quickly. But it's worth the time to help them out! Especially if they scratch your back too.

Though you are in Finland, Stormwatch pulls its talent from across the world, for Finns don't feel good about killing their own countrymen - squatters or otherwise. Paid killers from around the world have come here because other cities were too full or too peaceful to keep them around. The communal living space of L1 agents is a broad and open space, hardly affording any agent privacy. It is a much less lively place than it was months ago, but it still bustles with activity of people who need to spend their time out of their suffocatingly tiny bedrooms. Tables hijacked by people trying to have whatever hobbies and passions they are afforded.

From the crowds, you spy a handful of promising agents for your operation...

Choose up to two L1 Agents to direct in your mission.
>A most decidedly American ginger girl gnaws on some tiny brass object while measuring some powders... is that sulfur you smell?
>A man wearing the scaly hide of some massive reptilian creature watching the news. His skin is a weird color.
>A giant man sitting on the couch beside the above in a state of pure serenity. Your mind's eye could not come up with a bigger stereotype for a Dutch person if you tried.
>A mysterious and stately man is reading a book. The book is entirely in French, yet the bronze skin makes it plain the reader is not, no matter how French his clothes and silver jewelery would argue otherwise.
>A tough but short looking asian is putting pen to paper. The instruments of his penmanship are refined, but you can identify chicken-scratch handwriting in any language.
>>
>>5967418
>>A giant man sitting on the couch beside the above in a state of pure serenity. Your mind's eye could not come up with a bigger stereotype for a Dutch person if you tried.
>>A mysterious and stately man is reading a book. The book is entirely in French, yet the bronze skin makes it plain the reader is not, no matter how French his clothes and silver jewelery would argue otherwise.
>>
>>5967418
>A giant man sitting on the couch beside the above in a state of pure serenity. Your mind's eye could not come up with a bigger stereotype for a Dutch person if you tried.
>A tough but short looking asian is putting pen to paper. The instruments of his penmanship are refined, but you can identify chicken-scratch handwriting in any language.
>>
>>5967418
>A most decidedly American ginger girl gnaws on some tiny brass object while measuring some powders... is that sulfur you smell?
>A mysterious and stately man is reading a book. The book is entirely in French, yet the bronze skin makes it plain the reader is not, no matter how French his clothes and silver jewelery would argue otherwise.
>>
>>5967418
>A mysterious and stately man is reading a book. The book is entirely in French, yet the bronze skin makes it plain the reader is not, no matter how French his clothes and silver jewelery would argue otherwise.
>A tough but short looking asian is putting pen to paper. The instruments of his penmanship are refined, but you can identify chicken-scratch handwriting in any language
>>
>>5967418
>A giant man sitting on the couch beside the above in a state of pure serenity. Your mind's eye could not come up with a bigger stereotype for a Dutch person if you tried.
>A tough but short looking asian is putting pen to paper. The instruments of his penmanship are refined, but you can identify chicken-scratch handwriting in any language.
>>
>>5967418
>A giant man sitting on the couch beside the above in a state of pure serenity. Your mind's eye could not come up with a bigger stereotype for a Dutch person if you tried.
>A tough but short looking asian is putting pen to paper. The instruments of his penmanship are refined, but you can identify chicken-scratch handwriting in any language.
>>
I can't sleep so closing votes now while we are not in a tie.
>>
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The tall dutchman seems too enraptured to be bothered at the moment, so you approach the Asian man writing his letter. Square faced with a filthy set of facial hair, clad in blue dress clothes and a low-hanging pony-tail which pulls back all of his black hair, the man writes a letter in his native tongue with a calligraphy pen. Not well, despite how nice the pen and pleasantly textured the paper on which he writes. Detecting your presence, he speaks up.

"They read the letters, you know," he remarks in a gravelly voice. His voice rises and swells up and down, as slow as the tide. You express a bit of confusion at his words, and he goes on as he leaves broad marks on his page. "I was talked down to a week ago. They didn't like how I vented my frustration over specifics of a mission, in a letter addressed to my friends in Nippon." With a heavy exhale through his nose, he paused as he began to write the next line. "I am not certain you have a care for it. I am merely certain I wished to tell someone."

That's a little concerning, but given the sensitive nature of Stormwatch's mission, you can understand why they might want to seal up any possible leaks. You'll have to consider that in your next letter to papa. "Uh, thanks. Who would I be speaking to?"

"Call me Yoshimitsu," he answers with a trained grit. "Manhunter."

"I am Fiona Jarnafeldt. Level two Trollslayer."

An enlightened grunt marked the end of his trail of thought as he set the pen down.
>>
>>5968511
"Is there a reason we speak?" Yoshimitsu questioned.

"I have a... scouting mission, and I need agents to help me with it. It's to find how Aberrations keep getting in. I think they might be smuggling them in. I mean to find that route. I have all the paperwork all signed and sealed, except for those that agree to come with me."

The man rises to his feet, and gives you a look over. Standing slightly taller than yourself, his grizzled face doesn't seem to show respect for you. Nevertheless, he repeats. "Finding a smuggling route? And if we find smugglers on the road?"

"We fight, but it really depends." You shrug. "We have an operator for a reason."

"This is your first time leading. I can tell." He turns back to his letter, ink now dry enough to fold up. "Uncertainty."

He's right, but you're not going to just let that stand on its own. "It's not my first time fighting. It's not my first time facing down monsters. It's not my first time exploring the wilderness, seeing trails, finding where people have made their shelters. And it won't be my last. It's just my first time bringing others along. I know what I'm doing. And I want to know if you're up for it."

Yoshimitsu stows the partially complete letter in his breast pocket and turns back. "If that is the duty entrusted by one of higher rank, I am not fit to say no."

"Great," you say with a well of optimism that dies as you realize you have to make sure he's signed up for it, which is more officework. "I'll find you later." The crass Jomon pushes his seat in and returns to the bed chambers.

It seems respect must be earned from this man, not given with the flashing of a rank. At least, if he didn't respect the structure of authority, he would not have been still fighting for the Stormwatch.
>>
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>>5968513
In front of a television dimly broadcasting local news is a man sitting serenely in his seat on the couch next to the man in the reptile jacket. He is taking a nap. Bonde hair and sideburns cover most of his face, a strong nose saving half of it from being covered by the messy locks. He's nearly stick-like in proportions but there's enough meat on his muscle to divine that he is, in fact, physically fit enough to be a Stormwatch agent.

You acknowledge that it is rude to rouse a man from sleep but exercise your authority as a singular level rank above him by pinching his nose shut.

Gently roused from sleep by his changed airflow, before recoiling from the realization someone grabbing a part of his face, the man is thrust into the waking world. He fails to make a coherent sentence for a moment.

"Who the fuck wakes up someone like that?" The man on the other side of the couch chimed. "Cleaner than throwing water, I guess."

A smooth, gentle voice comes stumbling out from his lips. "No, no, it's fine, I shouldn't have been... how long was I out?" Being told two hours, he smacks his forehead. "Bah... shouldn't have missed it, I think." Only when you stifle a chuckle do you finally get his attention. "Oh? Can I help you with something?"

You beam with a bit of pride, since these folk seem at least a bit more amicable than the Yoshimitsu. "My name is Fiona Jarnafeldt, Level 2 Trollslayer. I'm looking for a third agent to join me on a mission I have lined up. I already have one, and I figured I'd have to wake you up to ask either of you."

The man nodded, stretching and yawning. "What's it about?"

Holding papers while talking makes you look more sophisticated, probably. You glance down to catch the exact time you set. "I want to scout the exterior of Helsinki's perimeter. I suspect there's a smuggling trail that we can find, or at least some path which aberrations sneak into the Stormdrains. My mentor thinks they're being smuggled in by the underdwellers. I want to find out how. I have a lead I would like to investigate as well."

"A walk in the woods!" He says. "That sounds delightful."

"Want to join in?" You ask.

The blonde man turns to the other. "Did you want in?"

The scale-coated man shook his head, in deep consideration. "No, but it gives me an idea. I'll talk with my supervisor about it."

The dutch looks back up to you. "Yeah. I'll tag along. My name is Kai, Level 1 Trollslayer. So what time are we-"

And now, for tonight's lottery pulling!

Eyes shoot up wide between the two of you as both your heads snap to face the television.
>>
>>5968515
A simple array of five devices are on the screen. Small orbs that have ten numbered balls in them, compressed air pushing them around as a countdown ticks at the bottom of the screen. From each of these devices, one ball will be selected, forming a unique five-digit number.

You've never been able to watch a lottery pulling. You've only ever heard it on radios, cried out in the mornings, or on a local paper. The visuals add a level of suspense that's almost shameful to watch.

Today is lottery day. All across the city, and across the globe, people tune in to their local regional lotteries. People who want to move on in their lives are glued to the screens. They clutch their tickets, their escape. Your way out. Maybe. Just maybe.

This isn't a lottery about money. If you win, you are awarded Cat-3 Citizenship. You could have a family, anywhere in the world. You wouldn't need to be a Stormwatch agent anymore. You'd be free. You could feel those little fingers... one day.

A hatch swings open. The balls fall into place. The lottery begins.

Your previously rolled numbers are 4, 4, 2, 5, 4. If the sequence of numbers I roll in the following post are exactly the same, you win the lottery. It is a 1/10,000 chance. Good luck!
>>
Rolled 3, 3, 4, 10, 5 = 25 (5d10)

>>5968526
>>
>>5968526
>>5968528
Damn. Kai shares your frustration, behind a smile. You tell the sleepy recruit to be wide awake tomorrow morning for briefing, because you need all the sunshine you can get. With that you head on out to file their names in with their own supervisors.

And to buy a new ticket.

One anon, roll 5d10. These numbers will be your next month's lottery ticket.
>>
Rolled 6, 4, 3, 7, 2 = 22 (5d10)

>>5968530
>>
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>>5968532
Taken.
>>5968530
The next morning, you and your gathered L1 Agents arrive at the briefing room. L4 Nonoka Sumika, your usual Operator who observes the mission status and directs agents on the ground from a nest of information, is unavailable at this hour. Instead, you are meeting a new Operator who is more specialized in wilderness tracking and operating procedures. He planned the route you and your agents will be taking around the city of Helsinki, give or take a detour or delay.

A stoic man walks into the room. Large of stature and stone-faced, platinum hair covers his head and deep bags hang under his eyes. He is clad in traditional Finnish garments, breaking most of the dress code standards you are certain that you as an L2 agent are subject to. While most operators are armed with a refined weapon, his is a simple wooden spear carved with Finnish runes. You remember this man; he retrieved a machine you found during a raid.

"Fiona Jarnafeldt," greets L4 Arsi Hotakainen. The heaviness of his voice hammers the usually broken-sounding English typical of the Finnish accent into a straight line. "This mission idea was yours?"

You give a nod. "After another sortie some time ago, it had come to my attention that the underdwellers would need to start looking outside for resources a lot more. I hope to catch a sign of it."
>>
>>5968581
Arsi doesn't nod back. Instead, he hits the lights, and projects a slideshow onto a plain screen. The man begins his lecture, plain and half-hearted.

"There are a few places of interest which I've deemed worthy of staking out, given a passing drone fly-over. None of these points of ingress are any of the five northern stormdrain outlets. Though these are the most obvious ways into the stormdrain and we have poor camera coverage of two of the five installations due to frequent sabotage, they all remain heavily staffed by a large detachment of agents. They would not enter through these."

"So the point of ingress takes the form of a nonstandard opening into the Stormdrain, such as a breach in the Stormdrain wall or a tunnel within is likely. These openings would have to be large, as traveling with an unwilling, captive aberration would require a lot of much space. Further, it would leave a remarkably telling trail. Unfortunately, cameras are awful at picking up these kinds of trails unless they are blatantly obvious. So this mission needs to be done in person."

"So rather than have you look for the actual point of ingress, you will be searching for trails and signs of passage before that point. You will head outside Helsinki city limits to the northernmost point of the westen bay, Laajalahti, and make your way east in a snaking arc. When you reach the Vantaa river, head down alongside it until you reach the highest point of the eastern bay, Vanhankaupunginselka. That should cover the entire northern side."

You are not repeating those names!

"The forest there is located on the ruins of the ancient residential districts. Their construction was flimsy and they are largely picked clean of scavenged goods so there's not much left, but squatters may have used whatever remains as shelter. Beware, they might actively be doing so. There is a public trail around midway through this route. It's important that we investigate it regardless, but know that it is kept under heavy watch by their own force and it is more than likely those you find there are civilians."

"From departure from HQ to return, the mission will take approximately eight hours. If something goes wrong, we may adapt and get you back to safety." Arsi weaves his fingers together and casts a cold glare across the room. "Do any of you have aught to ask me?"
>>
>>5968613
Feel free to ask the Operator any questions. As an L4 Trollslayer, he has a vast wealth of knowledge on the natural state of the environment of outer Helsinki, its stormdrains, regions in Finland and even further beyond.
>What kind of creatures are native to the area?
>All in one day? From one squad?
>Where's Sumika? Say hi to her for me if you can.
>No questions from me!
>>
>>5968615
>What kind of creatures are native to the area?
>How often are these areas patrolled by Stormwatch to check for squatters?
>Should we engage if we encounter any squatters?
>>
>>5968627
+1
>>
>>5968627
+1
>>
>>5968627
>>5968826
>>5968827
Seems quite unanimous. Writing
>>
correction god has been assailing me since easter for not going to church, I have been feeling like shit and have not been able to sleep at normal human hours
>>5969192
The local fauna is a mystery to yourself. "What kinds of creatures are native to the area? Knowing what is and isn't supposed to be there would help identifying if there's trafficking going on..."

Arsi nodded, slightly warmer from the astute question. "Astute. You will find various docile animals, and even docile beasts. Vanhapeura, an aberration of a deer covered in antlers, might look intimidating, but they are quite gentle creatures. There might be hungry hounds, but those numbers have been low in recent years. In fact, they've been suffering poaching recently. I could imagine they would start to avoid human contact. Besides that, geese, bears. There shouldn't be moose this far south. And we have no record of violent aberrations in the area."

Considering that they are outlets to the forest, you have to wonder. "How often are these areas patrolled by Stormwatch to check for squatters?"

"By Stormwatch, not often," he drones on. "Where the water lets out is an outpost. We believed we have control over what comes in and out because of the heavy defenses. Patrolling the exterior itself happens... twice a year I suppose, and they check the entire perimeter of the stormdrains; the waters, as well. I admit it's not as thorough as wel ike.Forest rangers and groundskeepers keep the woods. Stormwatch is in communication with them as part of law enforcement, but they are not the same entity. I believed you would have been something of an expert in this regard."

O-oh! Duh. You clarify that you weren't sure there was a difference between the naturalists that surround a city versus living in a more remote forest village.

A callous hand is raised behind you. "If we run into any squatters on their smuggling route, are we to deal with them?"

Arsi rolled his eyes. "My role as an operator is to direct the course of your mission. If I tell you to engage, you should engage. If I tell you to not engage, you very much shouldn't. If the situation changes and action is needed, I will update you on how to proceed. Because it is a long mission, I will leave much of the searching to your intuition - you have functioning eyes. But when contact is made, I call shots to attack or not. Was this not abundantly clear to you by now?"

The hand went back down, spiteful.

"Anything else?"

Kai spoke up. "Are we taking proper food?"

The trollslayer cast a plainly troubled face and shook his head. "I will point out edible berries you may forage."
>>
>>5969496
Finished with the important parts of the briefing, then came the part of gearing up. In addition to two liquid meals, you're given a sizable bottle of water for drinking. The ponds formed from stormwater are filtered by the stormdrain at various points, and should be safe to drink. It is simply a matter of what equipment besides.

L1 Trollslayer Kai and Manhunter Yoshimitsu may only bring the standard Stormwatch equipment for their specialization. As an L2 Agent you are free to choose your own equipment, including one set of Worn Equipment and up to two weapons.
A list of equipment details is visible in the Quest Doc. The Jarngreipr was added for general Stormwatch usage, but is banned for use outside of the Stormdrain for obvious pollution reasons.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jhZljN9y7A8w6qFcD8wX_xYaKZP65ZH8EGrmgKQ-nIU/edit#bookmark=id.46hbiickh1ed
You must place two worn equipment votes and three weapon votes. The first vote you cast in each category will be listed as your primary vote, and the subsequent will be a regular vote. In case of a tie, whichever option had more primary votes wins. "No Sidearm" is an option included to allow Fiona to focus on speed by only bringing one weapon - the other winning selection.
Pick up to two Worn Equipment:
>Stormwatch Fatigues
>Lignum Vitae Breastplate
>Lignum Vitae Kit
>Turnout Gear
>HAZMAT Gear

Pick three Weapons:
>No Sidearm
>Pneumatic Handaxe
>Volt Machete
>Searing Knife
>Kimmo Blade
>Stormwatch Pilebunker
>Undercroft Pilebunker
>Pneumatic Battleaxe
>Volt Bardiche
>Stormwatch Flamberge
>Pneumatic Maul
>Stormwatch Crossbow
>Stormwatch Longbow
>>
ending the above vote in 12 hours for the sake of speed
>>
>>5969498
>Lignum Vitae Breastplate
>Stormwatch Fatigues

>Stormwatch Crossbow
>Pneumatic Handaxe
>No third weapon

I'm >>5968627 on mobile.
>>
>>5969498
>Stormwatch Fatigues
>Lignum Vitae Breastplate
Scouting outside, I want to stay light
>Stormwatch Flamberge
>No Sidearm
>No Sidearm
I want my zweihander already! This is an outdoors mission!
>>
>>5969498
>>Stormwatch Fatigues
>>Lignum Vitae Breastplate

>Stormwatch Pilebunker
>Stormwatch Flamberge
>No Sidearm
>>
>>5969498
>Lignum Vitae Breastplate
>Stormwatch Fatigues

>Stormwatch Crossbow
>Pneumatic Handaxe
>No third weapon
>>
>>5969566
>>5969601
>>5969693
I apologize, this vote probably isn't normal across /qst/. You may only bring one or two weapons, but because there's so many items on the list, I have you vote for three items. This is so I can get a better idea of what more people are okay with, people can stake their interest in more things, and it helps avoid ties if people actually vote for three items. It's not "No Third Weapon," it is "No Sidearm" because you only bring two weapons at max. The top two voted weapons from various three-item votes would win.
Because I won't let you vote for the same thing twice, I'll just have it go to the default axe.
>>5970020
The vote ended at 9pm, somewhat fortunately because you would have perfectly tied the equipment section.

Writing. I'm sorry for being slow, I'm not trying to feel like shit.
>>
>>5970090
Hey, take it at your own pace. An update a day, most days, is more than sufficient around here.
>>
You are reminded of how Kiikoinen had to go out of his way to protect Fahy from those ugly beasts when it charged at him. He was fast and though you think you have it in you to do the same, you don't want to take chances like that. It would look bad for you. With this promotion came the assumption you are a decent agent, and keeping them safe would prove it.

It's going to be a long walk, so you don't want to lug around in armor all day, but with a long weapon like the flamberge you can easily threaten just about anything to stay away and kill them if they don't. That sounds ideal. And the rucksack should make it easier to carry around.

Grabbing the fancy, full metal weapon, you admire its heft. Though it's only six pounds, it has a nice balance, and its rippled blade is nice to look at. No mechanical parts; a simple piece of steel. Scratches mar its sides but the edge is unnicked.

The others, adorned in their typical Stormwatch equipment, are waiting while you admired the weapon. With a bashful laugh, you sheath the blade and head on out.
>>
>>5970622
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGcY2Vr5CKU

It's a long drive to the start of the mission from the small vehicle provided. The blue of twilight is slowly giving way for the orange of dawn. Leaving the city through a very empty road with a gate, you finally see the wilderness of Helsinki. The trees here haven't grown to the huge size of Germany's, but they are painted with a dry autumn palette. It is a chilly for a November, at least in your experience.

In a few minutes, the driver takes a turn off the main road and onto a path laid with dirt and long-forgotten rubble. In the amber underbrush, you can see shapes resembling cabins and shacks swallowed by trees and bushes. At something resembling a culdesac, the driver lets you and your agents out to a scenic view of the bay. As he rolls away, you check in with L4 Hotakainen.

"Okay. The mission has commenced. Check for trails along the route that head to or from Helsinki, and investigate for any signs of squatter activity. This area you're in now was an old upscale neighborhood." He pauses as you can hear clicks of a computer mouse, and a very disappointed click of the tongue. "... The rangers haven't updated their reports on this area in eight months. Two months past due. I understand Lapland is a difficult place to manage but... Nevermind. I'll have a word with them. Be thorough so I can write their report for them."

Man's taint on this land has been washed away by time, tide, snow, and heat, and though the markings still remain, it has become a facet of the world around it. All that could poison has now eroded, dissipated, washed away and now the world here is something like normal. You take a breath of air. The earthy, almost dirty smell is nulled by the brisk wind which breaks upon the boughs and gently passes by you like an old friend, one that's cold, but offers the warmest if most fleeting of greetings.

You missed this very much.

The neighborhood has mostly torn down houses that did not survive the years and are now bursting with flora and foliage, but some had solid stone foundations, and fragments remain as something resembling shelter.
Roll Attunement: Two anons, give me 4d6.
>>
Rolled 5, 1, 2, 3 = 11 (4d6)

>>5970630
>>
Rolled 6, 6, 3, 1 = 16 (4d6)

>>5970630
>>
>>5970637
>>5970655
Nice!
Oh, and for no reason, One anon, roll 1d8.
>>
Rolled 3 (1d8)

>>5970661
>>
Rolled 7 (1d8)

>>5970661
>>
Rolled 4, 4, 1, 5, 4, 4, 1, 1, 5, 2 = 31 (10d6)

>>5970637
>>5970655
>>5970666
Nice. That is 3 successes on your part.
Now for the agents L1 Kai and Yoshi. They use 6d6 and 4d6 respectively; I will roll 10d6 for simplicity.
>>
Rolled 7, 7 = 14 (2d8)

>>5971291
And for no particular reason, 2d8.
>>
>7 Successes - Pass!

"You two go together," you order. "If there's trouble, help each other out. I won't be far." The two L1s nodded, and began investigating the houses along the street.

Of all the places in this area that you imagine would have the biggest tells of creatures passing through, it would be the shore of the bay. All sorts of animals are drawn to the water's edge, and humans being no exception. It's a place of healing, mentally and physically.

And in finding the water, you can clearly see a trail of flattened grass that leads from the crumbled road to the bay. A crumbling house is beside it, well within the process of being reclaimed by nature. Tossed over soil make it obvious people like to ship off their boats from around here... but that doesn't mean it's been used in smuggling. Finland was famously the land of ten thousand lakes before, but with changes in the water levels rising and falling, rivers are a common and supported means of transportation. People could just launch small wooden boats from here in their spare time.

So your attention turns to the house. Obviously, it's run down. Stepping close to the doorless entryway, you peer inside. There's actually something resembling a roof here, though it's collapsed most of the way and now lies barely together propped up against the wall. Some grass and foliage are growing inside the building.

The damage done to the building by nature is obvious, and yet, so is the artificial damage. Scrape marks have nicked the floor and soft wall, reminiscent to a handtruck. Vines on the wall are dying, while the same kind of vine has started growing across the floor; at some point, they were cut.

Following a trail of small clues through the small decrepit shack leads you to a dark stairwell downstairs. Feeling in your bones the area deserted of animal life, you step on down and find an empty basement. One that, decidedly, hasn't collapsed, and is littered with junk and debris. A couple empty boxes. Some newer than others. You begin to report this.

"Interesting," Arsi comments. "I'll make a note of this to the rangers. They can leave somebody there to say hello."

After thirty minutes, the rookies have found something. Kai in particular is able to note that there are flattened and cleared patches of grass in the houses, under beams and such. A small amount of modern food litter is found there as well.

Arsi makes a logical leap. "So this seems to be where some arrive in the area, sometimes with goods. Are you able to find a trail from here?"

Well, you know what to look for. Wheel tracks. Stepping out, you can now see how the flattened grass bends along two ruts. It only leads to the water, and back down the path you came to the street. Looking around, the foliage looks too dense to squeeze a pulled object like that, let alone with any amount of weight it could be carrying. Nothing to the south, at least. Weak wheels like these don't leave marks on concrete and tarmac rubble, though.
>>
>>5973357
"So they must have moved out of this neighborhood directly away from the coast. I see. Bold of them to cross a highway with supplies. Yoshi and Kai, did you find any tunnels across?" The operator received a quick negative. "See if you can track it across the street."

Moving out of the culdesac neighborhood and back to the highway you pulled off from, you sigh in frustration. There's not a chance you can find a trail. There's just too many places they could cross the street to. It's not just straight across. There's ten different spots they could walk up the crest of the hill within a stone's throw of you. They might only use one. They might use all ten. Tracking only works if you actually see signs. The most likely scenario is they just have couriers that pick up items and carry them the rest of the way in bags, which makes it harder to track. You're out of your depth there. You could look for... footprints, maybe?

L4 Hotakainen is forgiving in this regard. "Hm. That's fine. This mission is intended to be a cursory search for things like this. There's likely more than one way into the stormworks, given the suspected population. Even just finding a loose end helps us pick it up and see where it goes later on."

Walking down the walking path of the highway, you are too lost in thought looking for heavy footprints in the dirt-covered ditch besides it to think straight. Kai asks a polite question. "What is the suspected squatter population of the Stormdrain?"

Arsi leans back and groans. "Estimates range from... eight to twelve... thousand squatters live in squalor underneath Helsinki, mooching resources and eating scraps."

Twelve thousand!? That's a lot! A real, real lot! That's more than one in a hundred humans in Helsinki living underground. Imagining trying to sleep in the damp and dark, musty place makes you wince, but then again, the sleeping pods some citizens have to deal with seem even worse. You take a deep breath and bite your tongue.

"Forget it. Their exit leads north, unless they're crazy enough to just walk down the highway with their goods. Continue along the projected route. This next area will be in the forest; this should not take too long to traverse, and we're looking for any sign of human inhabitants. We can work out if it's related to squatter trafficking as we find it."

The gentle autumn forest is alive, yet dormant. Lightly napping are many of the animals as fall nears its close and winter draws near. You keep your weapon holstered. The peace here should be respected.

A forest should have no intelligent design. Noticing strangely convenient terrain, subtle signs, and so on will clue you in on where nature might begin to blend with the man-made.
Roll Attunement: Two anons, roll 4d6. Target 4.
>>
Rolled 2, 3, 1, 1 = 7 (4d6)

>>5973358
come on...
>>
>>5973362
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
well we failed to find anything on this section ;_;
>>
Rolled 4, 4, 3, 5 = 16 (4d6)

>>5973358
>>
>>5973362
>>5973378
Oh, don't worry, don't worry. There's always your agents... and even then, does every corner of the forest have something worth turning up?
Rolling 6d6 and 4d6 for L1 Kai and L1 Yoshi's attunement checks.
>>
Rolled 2, 6, 2, 1, 3, 2 = 16 (6d6)

>>5973449
>>
Rolled 3, 2, 4, 3 = 12 (4d6)

>>5973449
>>
Rolled 7, 2, 4 = 13 (3d8)

>>5973487
>>5973644
Oh, my dumbass forgot to actually roll them. Those work.
Oh, and this.
>>
I feel like shit
This place is peaceful. Animals make their homes here. The creatures here don't seem to have many predators, but still have a timid nature. Cries and calls reach your ears, but with a rustling of bushes, their presence fades, scurrying away from the stranged two-legged things intruding on their domain.

"Fiona, hold still."

The chirp in your ear catches you off guard, but you follow the order. You look down at the camera on your chest confused, as if you could possibly show your expression to it.

Arsi takes a while to continue. "There's some animal I don't recognize, ahead of you. Two hundred yards. This camera is not good enough to make it out."

Looking up and off into the distance, you notice he's right. There is some form of animal, skulking away. It's far too distant to make heads or tails of. Just that it had a gray coat, walking on four legs.

Frankly, you are surprised he was able to make it out at all from just the video feed. You offer your own input. "I want to say it's a wolf, but it's vaguely..." You pause and squint your eyes to try and focus. Its tail seems to be fluffy rather than rugged. "... Feline?"

You can hear him scratch his head. "I personally take my free time in the forests. I've not seen lynx in this area. Given the color of its coat, it should be further north."

The disgruntled Jomon groans. "We're discussing cat migration patterns? Pointless. We are hunting smugglers."

"No, no, there's a point to it," Kai responds. "People are coming from the Northern areas to live in Helsinki's stormdrains for a reason. Even the cats are making the choice."

After a minute's session of keyboard tapping, Arsi speaks up again. "We are over three hundred miles from the Lapland Lynx's natural habitat. I haven't heard much from up there, but the situation cannot be that terrible."

You get a question. "How are we just figuring this out now? Are the rangers understaffed?"

"No, they've been at capacity for some time now..." Arsi paused before grunting in wonder. "I'll make some calls. You should be reaching a highway going east and west. Take it for a bit and I'll tell you when you've reached the next area of investigation."
>>
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Rolled 6, 2, 5, 5, 6, 5, 2, 6, 4, 2 = 43 (10d6)

>>5974375
It has been a couple hours since the mission started, and you're really feeling it now. You wish you had the moment to sit down and take in some of the scenery, but you are ill afforded that time. The highway is one choice spot.

In addition to water levels rising, the warming of the old days melted permafrost, which had an interesting side effect; sinkholes. Underground cave structures depended on frozen-solid earth to not collapse, and with the melting of permafrost and the erosion that occurred with it, massive chunks of land just fell, some below water level. The northern regions where permafrost was more significant had massive sinkholes swallow entire forests and towns. There was even one large enough to turn much of northern Finland into a new bay.

Just north of the highway, there's a massive crater. It must have been made hundreds of years ago, as nature has reclaimed the collapsed land's surface again. The landscape is fascinating, but just beyond it there are some towering structures poking out from behind the trees. They look like giant barbs, giant barbs with barbs of their own. You're positive that lynx from before went further south to avoid staying there, and you don't blame him. The dreadful aura radiates from it. You look on it and you know it marks a dreadful curse.

It is not a place of honor.

Some time passes before Arsi tells you to start heading south. This section of your mission path cuts through an active trail, so there are obvious signs of human life and much to find. The trick is to find signs of trafficking.

Same deal as before. Two anons, roll 4d6.
Rolling for the two L1 agents as well. A total of 10d6 are rolled.
>>
Rolled 6, 2, 1, 5 = 14 (4d6)

>>5974376
>>
Rolled 4, 2, 4, 3 = 13 (4d6)

>>5974376
>>
>>5974054
>>5974375
Don't sweat the small stuff, QM. Feel better soon!
>>
Rolled 1, 6, 8 = 15 (3d8)

Throwing this out there, too.

I have family over for this week so apologies if there's further inconvenience.
>>5974595
Thanks.
>>
>>5974605
Take the time you need. it's a good quest. We'll be here.
>>
>>5974605
I just joined but take your time Mojique and have a lovely time with your family.
>>
Alright, I am now able to get back to writing. I am going to have a big update on Sunday. I don't do weekends usually but given I missed a couple days to shenanigans and this is a lot of text I've already written because of Kai's absolute hawk eye, I'll be doing something off-schedule to get things done.
>>
It didn't take long before you began noticing remnants of people trekking through the woods. Clearings where camps were set up, notches on trees. Though you were quite a ways away from the proper trail, you all agreed many would normally take steps off the beaten path; but there were some nooks and crannies that Kai couldn't help but stumble upon.

The tall dutchman beckoned you over to the underside of a berm, a small ten foot tall soil embankment that held up a tree and foliage. Draping down the cliffside were a mass of beige vines, which seemed natural at first, but Kai was quick to point out there was no other plant like this in the area. This was the only one, he noticed, and with the tell-tale signs of foot tracks, he found that the veil of vines were covering a large hole, able enough to fit a smaller person like yourself or Yoshi. Kai would have to crawl through, and wasn't fine with that.

With the help of a flashlight and guidance from your operator, you navigated the small cave, fit with a small ladder down. This ladder descended twenty feet underground, and past a 4 foot tall passageway, you found yourself in something of a...

Is this a school house?
>>
>>5978053
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbhUmjIgsdA
The pastel paint upon the plywood pressed from wooden scraps is faded, but they are clearly arranged as walls adorned with letters and pleasant, hand-drawn creatures. The floor is littered with damaged clipboard and worn-down pencils. A drawer and the world's smallest desk have been assembled in the corner of the room next to a wall of chalkboard and damaged candle holders.

You feel the presence of vibrations from deeper within.

Repeated thumping...

To the opposite end of the room from the teacher's desk is another tiny doorway, with several rooms. The one most immediate away from you is suspiciously empty, as the hole left by something that was clearly heavy and removed still remains even after perhaps a year or two of abandonment.

Arsi suggests it was a device used to compress dirt into dense bricks; it would help avoid the obvious piles of upturned dirt outside the complex. Places like these were a big source of soil for underground farming, once given some fertilizer either stolen or composed from chemicals taken from the stormdrain filters.

Passing by a bunk room with preciously small beds, the hallway gets taller, tall enough to stand, and yet even taller, but not wider in the slightest. A final doorway at the end of this tall hallway gives into a rather majestic room for the underground school; Towers of drawers reach nine feet up to the ceiling of the room, and have the complexity of a maze to navigate. Whoever worked here did not have claustrophobia.

Bumping into nearly everything as you slip through the darkness, you find a desk, completely barren save for a scribe's bookstand. Above the alcove where the desk is nestled, you notice a rather large space with a handle. Pulling yourself up, you find bedspace of generous length now occupied by a family of rabbits. Though you express how cute they are in your mother tongue, they thump at you and scurry into a hole they burrowed.
>>
>>5978060
Arsi orders an immediate investigation of the area. There's nothing to find, unfortunately; markings on the desk have been overwritten from the pawing and clawing of animals. Few papers remain in the office, and what little are not rotted away are hand-scribed progress reports of students surely now grown.

Your operator sighs in disappointment. After apologizing to him that you found nothing, Arsi feels the need to elaborate. "Tell is, there is an orphanage in the Helsinki stormdrain. The head mistress running it is an influential person to the people down there, for obvious reasons. Some say she's a Nakki..." He trailed off, before realizing he spoke entirely to foreigners. "Nixie, in your tongue? A water spirit. When you found it was a school, I was hoping she might have been involved here and we could find something more than rumor. It seems they cleaned up and left some time ago."

Being told there was nothing left for you to find and Arsi will have to personally investigate later to see if he can get DNA samples from anything there (between curses over how useless the rangers seem to be), you began to make your way out of the cave school.

Crawling on your hands and knees through the doorway, you look at one of the discarded clipboards. There's the remnants of work on it, but nothing to read.

You pass it to your girl sitting beside to you, and do a doubletake to see nothing when the clipboard clatters on the rotting plywood floor.

Once you've made your way out of the cave, you have some insight into how people get into the Stormdrain. There's a lot of waiting. So much waiting that they operate something of a boarding school for undocumented children outside of the stormdrain. You figured that level of sophistication would be saved for within.

While you were in the cave, Kai had found numerous other holes, most assuredly housing for other members. Arsi marks the area marks it as a former squatter town and encourages you to continue to find a more currently used route.
>>
>>5978060
As you make your way closer to the path, Kai notices someone walking through the woods. He points them out to you, and in the distance, you see the director of the Stormwatch, Katriina Jousten, stepping over sticks and stones in her usual attire of a large cowl, a metallic briefcase in hand.

The chrip of a radio stops you before you can theorize. "Ah. Miss Jousten has finished her meeting ahead of schedule."

"Meeting?" You ask.

Arsi's quick to respond. "She had said she was going to meet with a naturalist to get some input on something new she wanted to develop. Though, I hadn't figured she spoke of old Leshy."

Aha! That's the man you wanted to meet! Leshy does correspondence with a peer in the Herycian Forest, where your papa works! He's not just a potential resourceful friend of your father's, but he so knowledgeable that even the great Black Swan seeks the man out!

But you are noticing Jousten doesn't seem very happy. You can tell her mood from the occasional forceful stomp upon a branch.

>Approach Ms. Jousten and ask about her meeting with the sagely biologist.
>Let her be, the L1s in your squad will complicate talking to her. Go find where Leshy is.
>>
>>5978074
>Let her be, the L1s in your squad will complicate talking to her. Go find where Leshy is.
>>
>>5978074
Hello OP,
I just finished catching up to the quest, really like your work so far, keep it up!
>>
>>5978074
>>Let her be, the L1s in your squad will complicate talking to her. Go find where Leshy is.
>>
>>5978074
>>Approach Ms. Jousten and ask about her meeting with the sagely biologist.
>>
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>>5978078
Hey, thanks! It's been a while since I've written a quest so any feedback is welcome. I'll be glad to have you.
>>
>>5978074
>Let her be, the L1s in your squad will complicate talking to her. Go find where Leshy is
Don't make bad mood worse
>>
>>5978074
>>Let her be, the L1s in your squad will complicate talking to her. Go find where Leshy is.
>>
>>5978072
>>Let her be, the L1s in your squad will complicate talking to her. Go find where Leshy is.
>>
>>5978077
>>5978182
>>5978291
>>5978393
>>5978509
As distraught as she clearly is, you can't talk to her. There's a lot of red tape surrounding the work you take from her, and having agents who are not involved with you while trying to talk to her would be walking through a minefield. Though you might have been able to try and get what she wanted if she asked you to... it's best to not get too tied up in things you don't know anything about. Or to tie up others into these things. It just makes things needlessly complicated.

You speak up on a topic besides the fuming director. "I've heard of Leshy!"

L4 Hotakainen's squinting eyes could be heard in the tone of his pointed words. "Who told you about Leshy?"

You don't want to bring up that you first learned of this sagely botanist from a random stranger in a club. "Ahh... My father is a groundskeeper in the Herycian forest, and he knows one of his peers."

The man in your ear takes a moment to process this before giving an understanding "huh."

You want to press ahead. "Permission to talk to Leshy? About how he feels people would navigate through the upper Helsinki outskirts and a more comprehensive take on what is going on up here. Living out here, he must know more than these rangers who put out these late reports do..."
>>
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Rolled 3, 3, 4, 6, 3, 5, 2, 4, 4, 2 = 36 (10d6)

>>5978710
Arsi's silence in response lasts for over ten seconds. Confused gazes press against your back like heat from the summer sun, and you don't turn around to show them your own confusion. Finally your operator speaks up. "My apologies. The camera feed from the three of you has died. Clientside issue - not much you can do. Policy is to turn off your cameras until I have it working again... Ah, and. Permission granted. Walk slow, I need to tell the group there that you're coming."

That's odd. You've never had camera feed issues in the three months you've worked with your primary operator, Sumika. And precisely at this point of the mission?

What your cunning gut feeling is telling you right now is that whatever is at the compound should not be captured on camera. Given Leshy's high station, the man must have his reasons. Security is a very reasonable one. Rather than have footage of the compound stored in Stormwatch servers where it could be leaked or intercepted, L4 Hotakainen is having you not record it at all.

But you know what? You don't mind. He didn't tell you that you can't go.

After personally making sure everyone has disabled their bodycams (a small green light shows when the camera is on - its absence proving the device is off), you begin walking through a valley and climbing up the hill that Kai says he saw Ms. Jousten come into view from. The birch grove seems noticeably more resplendent and verdant than the rest of the wood, as if autumn has yet to lay claim on this neck of the woods. The radio is silent, and you begin to feel something more to this grove.

The environment is shifting drastically as you approach the chief naturalist's domain. What manner of work he does to his own workspace, you do not know. Though you feel a powerful presence... you know it isn't hostile. A silent, strong heartbeat of mother nature's heart.
Roll Attunement: Two anons, roll 4d6. Target 4. Rolling for Kai's and Yoshimitsu's checks.
>>
Rolled 2, 5, 6, 4 = 17 (4d6)

>>5978716
>>
Rolled 2, 4, 4, 6 = 16 (4d6)

>>5978716
>>
Rolled 5, 5, 5 = 15 (3d8)

And something else.
>>5978729
>>5978731
Reminder that you two may vote to reroll together, if this is a check you really want to make. If it isn't, you can save it for a more desperate situation.
>>
>>5978759
What's the situation of the rolls looking like then, at present?
>>
>>5978773
Currently you're sitting at 3/4 successes. I'm rolling 3d8 whenever your squad makes Attunement checks, in case you hadn't already noticed. That's on you to understand why. And though passing here does provide a level of comprehensive awareness, this is a check where there are greater degrees of success giving you greater insight.
Up to you, in the end.
>>
>>5978799
Personally, I think we should save it for when we really need it.
>>
>>5978799
Save it
>>
>>5978815
>>5978817
So it shall be. Writing for tomorrow.
>>
"He has a private retinue of bodyguards," Arsi comments as the march uphill continues. "A contingent from Mother Nature's Providence. They are not affiliated with Finnish government or defense. That is simply not their mission. Mind yourself around them."

Thought faint the signs of trodden boots are on the grass and soil here, it does not escape your eye, and you lead your fellows up the implied path through the forest.

The sensation of being watched up here is palpable. You scan the crest of the hill and spot nothing. Nobody but your comrades are following you, and nothing can be seen ogling you from a distance. Trying to catch onto what could possibly be causing this feeling of anxiety, your ears perk up and listen very, very hard.

Alerting both your agents, you violently stop in your tracks to dodge the loosed stool of a bird flying overhead.

Pap.

That is not the sound of bird droppings hitting solid earth, or grass, or wood. That sounded more like rain on your father's hat. You pass a glance at the ground where the pale droppings landed. A pile of colorful leaves cover a mound of grass. Though you can see soil from which the grass grows, it appears to be packed. Firm and thin like a sheet of fabric. Beneath a veil of grass lies the unmistakable gleam of bulbous glass.

It is not just yours, Kai's, and Yoshimitsu's breaths you hear. The earth slowly, carefully, as to not make a sound, breathes.

"I had figured it was simply the city birds that despised humans like this," Kai casually comments, peering over your shoulder. Shaking your head and continuing on, you count the camouflaged marksmen as you pass.

You spot two.

There may be more.
>>
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When you reach the precipice of the hill, it bends downward into a cauldron shaped clearing surrounded by four hills which cut off into sheer cliffs. Much like the L4 residences at Stormwatch HQ, round doors are found at the base of these hills to lead to underground interiors. Non-obstructive plants such as flowers and vines grow freely in this place, and you recognize none of the species here from elsewhere in your journey today.

At the top of one of these mounds sits a great tree, broad at its base with vibrant red leaves. It is formed from some strange two-tone wood, both deep brown and white. You have zero idea what kind of tree it could possibly be, but it certainly seems alien in this forest, much like the flowers and plants here.

As you walk toward the center of the vale, you watch the corners, and see an elk skull sitting upon a mound. You immediately recognize it as a helmet worn by someone in ghillie camouflage. Noticing the eye contact, they depart from the wall from which they blended in and stepped forward, high-caliber rifle coming forth from behind them.

"You there," spoke the woman in the elk skull in a burly Nordic voice. "We told the swan to fly away. We are not enabling that thing to exist."

>Get straight to the point and explain you're here to investigate how so many aberrations keep finding their way into the stormdrains.
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works.
>Turn off your microphone and ask what exactly Katriina came here for.
>>
>>5979514
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works.
>>
>>5979514
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works.
>>
>>5979514
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works.
>>
>>5979514
>>Get straight to the point and explain you're here to investigate how so many aberrations keep finding their way into the stormdrains.
>>
>>5979514
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works
Straightforward
>>
>>5979514
>Get straight to the point and explain you're here to investigate how so many aberrations keep finding their way into the stormdrains.
>>
>>5979514
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works.
>>
>>5979514
>Introduce yourself as someone who was referred to meet old Leshy by a naturalist who serves him named Aamu, because your father has done decades of work in the ancient forest where Methuselah works.
>>
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Quite the clear unanimous vote. Writing.
>>
>>5979520
>>5979527
>>5979573
>>5979698
>>5979940
>>5980139
You rattle your mind for the name. Ah... Aamu. Yeah.

"No, I'm not here for that," you answer the large nord groundskeeper. "I made acquaintance with a naturalist named Aamu some time ago. She referred me here to speak with Leshy. My father is a groundskeeper in the center of the Hercynian forest, and has been for decades. Though I don't know who my father's made friends with, Aamu said maybe he knew Methuselah."

The name causes her to rock her head back in a clear gesture of surprise.

"A lot more of solid reasoning than what you told me," Arsi commented over voice comms.

"I had wanted to make, uh, acquaintance, with the man, Leshy..." You scratch the back of your head, a little anxious. "Oh, and less personally, I'm here on behalf of the Stormwatch. Me and my friends are scouting the area up here, since the rangers have been... less than thorough in their recent inspections."

"Aamu," she spoke, drumming a finger on the side of her head. "Referred someone to speak to Leshy...?" She stood over six feet tall, though seemed quite small compared to the Netherlander which accompanied you. The helmet was not an actual elk's skull on further inspection; a ceramic composite in the shape of one. The eye holes are still that of prey's and only offer sideways viewports, but then you realized they were not viewports at all. Metal plates sealed them, and bulbous lenses occupied the far back corner. You thought you had just found the eye to look into, but then you noticed the sheen of lenses all along the horns, front and back. Her horns were covered in artificial eyes, cameras pointed in every direction, all the time. If she doesn't even look out of her actual eyes to see her surroundings, then that scope on the weapon is just a magnification for a camera housed within.

... MNP has a hell of a budget.

The large woman stood in silence and you waited for her to deliver a response. Instead of speaking, one of the round doors across the vale rolls open. Out came a woman clad in a lab coat and a familiar countenance. Friendly as she was some time ago, she seems pensive on her approach. "Oh, Fiona. Fiona Jarnafeldt. You didn't say you were Stormwatch."

You smile and shrug. "It didn't seem relevant at the time. Were you able to ask Leshy about my papa?"

Though she stammers, Aamu nods. "Y-yes, yes I was. I did ask about a man named Oscar Jarnafeldt. He had not heard of the name Oscar Jarnafeldt."

With a click of a tongue and a sigh, you're just about ready to move on.

"But he did know the name Jarnafeldt. Just not an Oscar."

Huh?
>>
>>5980307
"You referred her to speak with Leshy?" The sniper asked.

Aamu sheepishly offered a response. "A casual suggestion... I hadn't figured she had the means to be permitted here, and I thought that I would be able to catch up with her a second time to finalize the visit after confirming with Leshy and the others here. I've since gotten that confirmation."

The stoic groundskeeper grunts. "So it is, then." They back off to the wall, picking up the leaf coated blanket and tossing it around her shoulders once again. "He's up on the hill with the large tree. Can't miss the old oak." She chuckles, the false foliage and twigs bouncing as her shoulders heaved. "Though I should warn you. He said he'd like to see you, but you might not be able to see him!"

That comment bounced off your head, because you're still on the fact he knows a Jarnafeldt.

"This way," Aamu speaks, showing you a way up a beaten path to the place it is said Leshy waits.

Above the complex overlooks a great tree of some unfathomable origin. The tree spirals two colors of bark up its length, red leaves grasp the branches, and none have yet to have fallen, even in such late November. If you were to guess, it's some manner of bioengineered tree, but for what purpose you are totally unaware. It is the only of its kind you can see. Directly away from the complex is a small garden of wild, outlandish plants. Jasper red grapes and topaz blue berries, resting on a bed of earth as pure in its make as a golden ring. A machine sits nearby, filtering water and adding minerals from far and wide for the most nourishing water for the plants that grow there. You've seen plenty of in-door and out-door gardens, but this is the most high-end of all.

Here, you imagined to see an old man, sitting on the hill, perhaps whittling a block of wood with a knife. Instead, there's nothing here. If Leshy is up here, you cannot see him. What's an old coot need camouflage in his own house for?

"Harmonious, is it not?"
>>
>>5980317
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BeR6zv3tH0
A warm, welcoming, gentle voice of what must be an aged Scottish gentleman graced your ears. It sounded like it came from nearby. Is he up in the tree? Peering up at the oak, you see dark holes, covered with dark plates. More cameras? A bark ghillie suit? Something else entirely?

"Shimizu Yoshimitsu, what a far way you have come to this humble land. I hope in this place, you will find a peace worthy of your journey. Kai Jonkheer, your appreciation for the sights before your eyes does not escape mine. I hope in this place, you find something worth holding close to your heart."

You do a double take around. Is he talking through speakers? You check the tree one last time. Yep, it doesn't have a mouth. Plants categorically cannot be aberrations, but after a moment of relief you shake yourself out of it. It has to be speakers. If they can afford an array of cameras lining the antlers of a horned helmet to snipers, a feeble and aging researcher can have cameras in a tree if he likes and still proves himself capable of work.

In response to the direct commentary Yoshimitsu had become very guarded, but Kai seems to have sparkles in his eyes. Aamu just stands besides the tree gazing toward the garden, to the north, lost in thought.

"Fiona Jarnafeldt. Jarnafeldt. That is a name I had not heard in years - the utterance of it is like that of a hearth on a cold winter's eve. And, to fuel yet further sensations of warm nostalgia..."

"You are indeed the spitting image of your mother."

Ask as much as you like. You have time. It is safe here.
>Ask about the smuggling before you forget.
>He knew your mom? She's been dead for years!
>Okay, how does his setup work? What exactly are you talking to? You're dying to know.
>Ask if he knows the groundskeepers around here suck?
>Make a ginger pry at what Ms. Jousten wanted from him.
>Write in
>>
>>5980329
>He knew your mom? She's been dead for years!
>Ask about the smuggling before you forget.
>Make a ginger pry at what Ms. Jousten wanted from him.
>>
>>5980339
+1
Wow, cool! The old man became one with the bioengineered super tree
>>
>>5980329
>Ask about the smuggling before you forget.
>He knew your mom? She's been dead for years!
>Okay, how does his setup work? What exactly are you talking to? You're dying to know.
>Make a ginger pry at what Ms. Jousten wanted from him.
>>
>>5980329
>He knew your mom? She's been dead for years!
>Okay, how does his setup work? What exactly are you talking to? You're dying to know.
>Ask if he knows the groundskeepers around here suck?
>>
>>5980329
>>
>>5980329
>He knew your mom? She's been dead for years!
>Okay, how does his setup work? What exactly are you talking to? You're dying to know.
>Ask if he knows the groundskeepers around here suck?

My bad i accidentally forgot to write lol.
>>
>>5980329
>>Ask about the smuggling before you forget.
>>He knew your mom? She's been dead for years!
>>Okay, how does his setup work? What exactly are you talking to? You're dying to know.
>>Ask if he knows the groundskeepers around here suck?
>>Make a ginger pry at what Ms. Jousten wanted from him.
If we have the time then why not
>>
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votes have been counted and I've already written a fuckload but it's just not finished yet
it'll be finished on tomorrow I swear
>>
>>5981206
No worries, sowmtimes it takes longer than other times. The update is appreciated!
>>
>>5981206
Oh, and Fiona is getting some art for the Loser's Bracket of the /qst/ waifu tourney, so you might want to let Olympus QM know if she looks any different from her animu inspo.
>>
>>5981608
Oh! I didn't have a lot of space in my monkey sphere for that after a while. Distractions important and unimportant alike got me away from it once Fiona was out, I didn't think there'd even be a loser bracket.
I don't really have anything particularly different to add to her appearance than the art I've been using, other than she's solidly athletic for her small frame.
>>
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"What?! You know... Erika. Her name was Erika. Erika Jarnafeldt. You knew her?!" Realizing you are speaking in front of two strangers and on a hot microphone causes you to dial back your enthusiasm, your face burning red. "I had... I barely remember her."

The tree swayed upon the wind, as if leaning back in a fireside armchair and recalling fond memories. "Yes. Her name was Erika. And, it was her name that my colleague had mentioned in our correspondence some time ago. Yes - Methuselah delivered stellar praise on your behalf, mentioning that you were her son. Aamu had mentioned an Oscar, but that name had never arisen in conversation. I simply remember the name Jarnafeldt."

"To speak the truth, I received correspondence of a recommendation upon at spring's breaking of winter by Methuselah. He mentioned your father by reference as the one who came to him, but Methuselah specified that Erika's daughter was looking to earn her place in the world. And I knew that the world could use more women like her. And so, with a glowing smile, I forwarded the letter of recommendation to the Stormwatch with my signature appended onto his." The voice let a small chuckle. "Waste not your breath on thanking me; do as I know is in your heart of hearts, and I will consider this repaid."

The warm and calming voice was pleasant, but to know he helped you get your position at the Stormwatch... you swell with gratitude. But there's still more you wanted to ask. "How did you know her?"

"Well, your mother was something of a diplomat. She had been sent many places to try and sort things out between people. She always strove towards peace and harmony... and a mission that my peers had suggested had need of just that." After a pause, a sigh came from the boughs. "I need you to bear with me, a moment. But Fiona. And Kai, too. Be still. Listen. Do you hear that? Do you feel that?"

The winds break upon the still leaf-clad branches of the forest. The grass waves in unison as the slightest gales push them down. The sky is a dim, vaguely orange blue as the late autumn noon hangs low overhead. Somewhere, a creature walks upon the ghillie suit of a huntsman seeking a more malicious prey.

And all together, you breathe in.

And out.
>>
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>>5981839
Leshy continues. "Ever since this world began to recover, and its people were to return to their roots... people have had their doubts that the laws of the world are the same as they were before. This sensation that you feel? That wholeness? Togetherness with your surroundings...? This was unrecorded. This was unprecedented. This.... this was new. But was it truly new? Or, did humanity lose it when they attained their enlightenment? So, over the years, there has been an earnest scientific effort to learn the world once again, for there are things that have changed. Things you and I may consider... supernatural."

"I saw your mother off to the North on an expedition... was it two decades ago? Around then, a popular topic of discussion was the nature of the world. Clearly, is still round, but The ice caps had returned, and some had called out for an investigation into a particularly ancient myth. One that had died in the enlightenment of mankind, when all the mysteries of the world seemed to have been answered. An expedition to journey through a hole in a wall of ice."

... What?

Is he kidding you?

"... or to find if such a thing existed, as of then. A path may yet be revealed as the ice cap grows."

"My mother was sent to die in the North Pole... over someone thinking there's some place further North than the North Pole!?"

The voice grew concerned. "No, no, no. It was a trip around the Arctic. The nature of human myth is imprecise. They say Tuonela might be reached from the northernmost part of the world, but if we are to accept that such a place were to truly exist, we would have to account for the limited worldview of the Finnish people of those ancient times. Perhaps they meant the northern reaches of Scandinavia... or perhaps they spoke of the islands of Novaya Zemlya, or the isle of Svalbard. Perhaps they continued past further and arrived someplace in Nunavit. Maybe they truly did mean the North Pole."

"And do not think I did not see you, earlier. Checking this tree, for a mouth. You know trees do not have mouths, but you needed to confirm your... perception of reality with your own eyes. And so it was settled. They would scout the regions, and talk to its peoples. They could find nothing, or they could find nothing, but they would after decades hush the whispers of Hyperborea."

... What stupid shit. Humanity had this world totally observed, totally controlled... How could it suddenly change? How could some fat cat lunatics in Rome decide to retread the North fucking Pole looking for... over a stupid myth!? You look down, shoulders tense but low. Water under the bridge, at this point. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
>>
>>5981842
"I will have you know that the mission is still considered ongoing."

You recoil in surprise.

"They had completed their investigations around the arctic circle, and they've since begun the final phase of their operation. Great journeys were commonplace in old times, though this was greater detail. Old records of the northern world needed adjusting for the modern era. Maps needed to be updated. Northern peoples found again. The last communication was from over... two years ago? Yet the mission is not considered lost. It is projected to last another year. When they return, I assure that you will be the first to hear."

Your papa had always told you she was just "away on business." For a few years you believed, but at some point you just stopped believing. You went to spend more time with others and... you were envious, at times. Enough to walk away and try all this. You never even got a letter.

"Classified," this guy would probably say.

"So, are we speaking to a tree?" Kai steps in. "Why may we not meet you in person? Are you infirm?"

Leshy grumbles. "No, no, I am capable of walking. I am currently interfacing with the forest. On many trees throughout Helsinki's north, there are arrays of cameras. I am able to switch my perspective to each of these trees and perceive through those cameras... albeit, with a bit of latency. It's not complete coverage of the whole region, but it permits me to examine a great deal in a short amount of time. It is nice for research... and security."

"Ah, so you have seen," Yoshimitsu pipes up finally. Given only a curious hmm in response, he goes on. "We are under the belief - and indeed, the certainty - that the squatters underneath Helsinki import beasts and trolls from the north. Unless they have tunneled for miles upon miles, you would have seen this path."

In a rather strange reaction, Leshy... groans in annoyance.

You butt in. "Forgive him, he has no right to assume what you've seen. We came here looking for some insight on where we may take special care looking for an unsecured entry point into the stormdrains. I know you are quite familiar with the area, and..."
>>
>>5981844
A bitter wind blows, the branches bend, and Leshy's accent rears its head with the souring of his tone. "And what would you even DO with this information? What are your intentions with a tunnel into, and more importantly, OUT of, the city? The only way the squatters could possibly leave the city, should the Stormwatch actually rout them? Is that naht your purpose? That Helsinki is full, the land for miles upon miles surround is over capacity, an' the squatters must be removed, driven deep into far less hospitable environs? Or, would you rather seal them beneath you, and render the stormdrain a mass grave from which there is no escape? What kind of foe dare you brew under your feet?"

Leshy is making quite the impression. He's being very candid, for a servant of Mother Nature's Providence, for someone talking to Stormwatch. For someone being recorded by microphones you are wearing.

Kai sheepishly pokes your shoulder. "Uh. Missus Jarnafeldt? I haven't heard from Arsi in a bit."

"There is a greater mission our actions all serve, fret you not," called the voice as it seemed to lean down upon you. "But I will make sure mine do not serve naught but senseless, needless violence.

What would you do with this information?
>Drive away aberrations who naturally find it.
>Send an undercover agent to get intel on how the underdwellers live.
>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>Deal with everyone found sneaking in.
>Seal the entrance.
>>
>>5981856
>>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>Drive away aberrations who naturally find it.
>>
>>5981856
>Send an undercover agent to get intel on how the underdwellers live.
>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>>
>>5981856
>Deal with everyone found sneaking in.
I am extremely tempted to seal it away for the meme.

>expedition to Hyperborea
based?
>>
>>5981856
>Send an undercover agent to get intel on how the underdwellers live.
>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>>
>>5981856
>>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>>Drive away aberrations who naturally find it.
>>
>>5981856
>Intercept aberration smugglers
Please don't cause chaos
>Send an undercover agent to get intel on how the underdwellers live
These guys are sabotaging and making bootleg robots to fight us with
>>
>>5981856
>>Drive away aberrations who naturally find it.
>>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>>
>>5981856
>Send an undercover agent to get intel on how the underdwellers live.
>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>>
>>5981856
>>5981892
I'll change my vote to support
>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>Drive away aberrations who naturally find it.
>>
>>5981856
>Send an undercover agent to get intel on how the underdwellers live.
>Intercept aberration smugglers.
>>
Votes all counted! See you all Monday.



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