We or I, depending on someone saw it, moved cautiously through the underground wing.
I’d thought the underground labs would be infested with those ugly green things. It turned out it was alone. Nothing had come looking for it. When that became clear, the objective shifted to protection or shelter.
My clone took up point, both of us hesitant at every door. Him less so. Earlier, there’d been something in one of the labs strong enough to make an audible knock on thick steel. We’d left that particular room alone, venturing down the laboratory wing, and too fearful to try another sealed door.
The lights above flickered ominously.
I realized between me and my other self, I needed no words. It was nothing in any language I was familiar with. A telepathic intuition that proved itself over and over in the small time I had created him. We were, inexplicably, synced. I was inexplicably synced. Which made a roundabout sense, considering we were both myself.
My head hurt.
We pushed down the hallway, clone taking up point. He turned right, then turned left. And from five meters behind, it was like I already knew what was up ahead. My other self didn’t turn to me in surprise, seeking a reaction or communicating anything significant.
Instead, I knew. To the left, the hallway ended and opened up into something that shouldn’t have been. A cave, judging from the stalagmites, slick rock, and cold draft. One that most definitely didn’t exist under the university before. To the right, was what looked to be a storage closet.
We started with that. I deemed watching the cave of less risk than opening a door, which spoke to the danger I felt. My clone took to the second task. It was a strange telepathic perspective as he opened the storage closet, bracing. Instead of a clawing monster or instantaneous death, a chest that was glowing green, a richer shade than my pale eyes.
[Notice]: You have discovered an [Uncommon Chest].
There was that notification again. That chime in my mind. It was something between spoken, written, and felt, and none of them at all. A simple, sudden, knowing.
The [Uncommon Chest] was ornate. The kind of container you’d almost be sure held valuables. With everything going on, the glowing chest could be nothing else but part of this new reality. And if it held valuables…
It didn’t take long to decide what to do.
My clone opened it, unafraid of traps or danger that might’ve given me pause. He sat on his knees, undid the latches, and opened up the box of light. The glow faded as he did so, revealing the item within.
[Notice]: You have gained [Spidersilk Backpack].
It was a backpack made of black leather or hide. That was it. In terms of valuables, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It certainly didn’t detract from the feeling of constant vulnerability and exposure.
Staring into the cave system, I imagined something moving. Figures behind the stalagmites, eyes in the darkness. It wasn’t safe here. But it was this or the campus.
I was torn, shocked into indecision. Hesitance born of fear.
I took the bag from my other self. “It's lighter than it has any right to be.” He whispered. “And… I think it’s bigger on the inside.”
Though I already knew it, I think we both knew I needed someone to talk to, even if it was myself.
Item: [Spidersilk Backpack]
A backpack crafted from superior light materials. It is enchanted for extra storage and weight reduction.
I took the description in stride, trying to make sense of everything, seeing where this fit into my survival. “It’s good for supplies,” I muttered, regarding the description as it appeared in my mind. It was more than just sight that communicated what the Item was.
I had looked at my Skill’s description, hadn’t I? Could I do the same for my Class? What did it mean to be a [Solo]? It sounded so much like a game. I wasn’t sure whether to embrace it or understand that this new reality was no such thing.
The [Solo] excels at what their name suggests. They are self-sufficient individuals who rely entirely on themselves. Their specialty lies in their capacity to act on their own. Their Skills have a wide range of applications and are not necessarily confined to any one field, only that whatever path chosen is walked alone.
I looked to my clone. “I guess you don’t count.”
The other me shrugged. “Technically, we are solo. Kind of.”
“So [Never Alone] is a way for me to move in a group. Without being in a group.” I muttered. “Actually…”
I stepped to the left, leaving another of myself behind. And suddenly there were three of me. He looked at both of us and all three of us intoned. “Weird.”
Evahn the Third asked the question on my own mind. “Can you do it again?”
I tried but three me’s seemed to be the limit. Right now, at least. I couldn’t tell what governed that limit but there was a sneaking suspicion.
Name: Evahn Wynst
Stat Points: 1
Skills: [Never Alone]
That instinctual knowledge guided me and I had the sense that [Never Alone] was primarily governed by some combination of WIS, WIL, and CHA. I looked at the Skill more closely.
Skill: [Never Alone]
Even working alone, it never hurts to have another set of eyes. Better yet when they’re yours. You are able to replicate yourself to a certain degree and capacity.
- Max Copies: (WIS + WIL + CHA) / 10
- Copies have halved STR, CON, DEX, and AGI.
- All other attributes are retained.
More details appeared. “Interesting. So you guys have half my physical capability but you keep everything else.” I said to myself. Myselves.
“The fact Perception is retained seems the most crucial. More eyes, more information.” Evahn the Second added.
“Something we’re lacking,” I replied softly, looking at the cave. I shifted my mental perspective of myselves, naming them Second and Third.
They didn’t need anything more to figure out what I was planning. A single glance at the cave, an idea, and the two were suddenly in a very intense match of rock-paper-scissors.
Second ended up losing. He exhaled but didn’t argue or dally. Then with a glance at us, he started creeping into the cave. A forward scout. Expendable. Ideal. I felt bad about sending myself to his doom but I realized I, that is, him, deemed it just as necessary.
I tracked his progress in that strange telepathic perspective. A second set of eyes. Third had taken to watching the intersecting hallway for anything that might have followed us.
I glanced at him. “Can you see what Second does? The same way I do?”
“Yeah. He’s moving between the stalagmites.” He took inhaled sharply, having seen what I saw. “I thought that was a puddle.”
We all did. But Second smelled the iron wafting up from the liquid. Too dark for any of the red color to appear. Blood.
The initial ‘lobby’ of the cave was empty save for that. He’d walked the perimeter and noted the tunnels—of which there were many—that led in every direction. He chose one at random and continued upward, seeking the surface.
A breeze of air. No, a breath. Second looked up and I felt his fear as an echo no less real than my own. Something hung on the wall, shining eyes in the darkness, long limbs that came to scythes. A skittering.
Then he died.
My perspective snapped back to my own self, so sucked into his eyes that I slammed back into the wall. Hyperventilating, wide-eyes looking around, feeling at my throat, my torso.
I sat, paralyzed, and realized I was screaming.