I sat on the floor motionless for quite a while. I could feel my systems knitting themselves back together, very slowly but surely. The problem was that my new Automatic Maintenance mutation did not indicate how long my repairs would take. At least, none that I could understand. When I chose that option, a couple of squiggly lines appeared in the upper left corner of my vision. They were next to small pictures of gears. I was reasonably sure they held some meaning, but the squiggles next to them were utterly indecipherable. Though they did look similar to something Beatrice had looked at previously.
There wasn't much I could do in this state. I wanted to conserve energy just in case it would speed up my recovery. So in the meantime, I was just waiting for my wheels to propel me forward again. After a few hours of this, I discovered that I didn't like waiting. Specifically when I couldn't clean while I waited. I hadn't been able to sanitize, mop, vacuum, or even explore. I've had to just sit here in this open hallway but not so much as a skeleton to keep me company.
The only thing besides my internal clock that changed was those new squiggles next to the gear pictures. I noticed that the pictures frequently changed, pretty much every second. Now that I paid closer attention, they changed exactly every second. So, with nothing better to do, I began to study the squiggles just to see if I could make them out.
There were six individual squiggles. First, two squiggles, then two dots stacked on top of each other, followed by two more squiggles, two more dots stacked on top of each other, and two final squiggles. These six individual squiggles seemed to be part of this pattern. And after observing it for a while, I thought I might understand the pattern.
Every single second, the rightmost squiggle changed. And then every 10 seconds, both the rightmost and the one directly to the left of it changed. So that would happen six times, and then the last three squiggles would change. Then, after 10 repetitions of that, the last four would change.
It might be crazy, but what if this was the human representation of time? Instead of an up voltage and down voltage as everything should be represented. Watching the squiggles more carefully, I realized there were 10 distinct squiggle shapes. It made no sense, but they could use a base 10 number system instead of the base 2 I knew. I don't understand why they do that. It just seemed much more complicated. Still, that would be a way to represent a number between 0 and 9. Unless there was some weirdo that started to count at 1. But I'm sure humans have a concept of zero. It wouldn't make sense otherwise.
So the rightmost squiggle would count down 10 seconds. And then the one to the left of it would count how many times 10 seconds had passed. Then the weirder thing would happen: it would count minute hours, with a maximum of 6 squiggle possibilities in that digit. I suppose this was probably the best way to indicate the time for a non-electric being.
With more careful study, I started to identify the 10 individual squiggles and the numbers they represented. The only thing that left me stumped was figuring out whether the numbers counted up or down. I knew whether each digit was a 0 or 9, a 1 or 8, and so on and so forth, but I couldn't tell which one was zero and which one was nine. It was 4 hours into my analysis that I realized that the two leftmost numbers had stayed the same. That was the key. I could see that the last number had become a 9 or a 1. If it changed and the number to the left also changed, we were probably counting up. But if only that second number changed, we must be counting down. Furthermore, I would know what zero looked like. Then I'd be able to decode the rest.
I vibrated with excitement. This was the most exciting thing that had happened in a long time. Well, maybe not the most, but this would be a huge discovery. Eventually, the squiggles changed once more. The leftmost number didn't move. I inwardly celebrated. We were counting down. Now I knew which one was zero, and watching the numbers matter, I could figure out with high probability what the other values were. The only issue would be if these numbers weren't correct for some reason. Like if it started with an offset and then counted down. That seemed unlikely, so I was going to assume that I knew what zero was for now. Based on the historical data, It only took me 0.03 seconds to figure out one through nine.
Okay, so it seemed like the timer was counting down. Also, based on my new info, I had a little under 8 hours before it hit zero. I wasn't 100% confident about what would happen at 0, but I had an idea. I could feel my repairs progressing very slowly. If my hunch was correct, they should be finished right when the timer hits zero. I still had almost 8 hours of sitting around, not cleaning anything. Just to check, I tried using my sanitation lamp and grabby arm to train while I waited. However, that added 1 to 3 more hours to the timer, depending on what I did. I supposed I would just have to be patient, then.
I hoped Beatrice would come back soon. I didn't go into sleep mode because if she came around the corner, I wanted to be awake to greet her.
Bee considered her options carefully. She immediately ruled out Sweeping Proficiency. She didn't need another proficiency skill even more specialized than Broom Proficiency. That might disappoint her master, but she was definitely going to take advantage of this and choose something more immediately helpful. She hoped it wouldn't care too much.
That left two options: Iron Bones and Improved Pathing. She really didn't want to choose Iron Bones. There were many reasons, but it wasn't the direction she wanted to take her to build. If she had wanted to be a tank getting into fistfights, she would have taken Brute as a class. Instead, she wanted more magic, and she wanted to embrace Devotee. That strategy was where all the best builds came from.
However, iron Bones were tempting for other reasons. First and foremost, she was tired of breaking her own brittle and non-metallic bones. It had happened twice in the last month alone, and it wasn't an experience she wanted to repeat more. There was also the lack of information she had on Improved Pathing. But its name made it seem like a navigation skill. That was something that no adventurer could pass up. Many of the guides she had read when researching her skills and classes insisted on at least one navigation skill. Perhaps also it could be used for fighting in terms of taking out multiple opponents at once or even running away.
Bee mulled over the options. As much as she would like to avoid being hurt, she figured that her best defense usually was a good escape when it came to fighting. Plus, her healing salves had been effective so far, so getting hurt wasn't the end of the world. Especially with Void around to protect her from the most dangerous stuff. So she probably didn't have to choose a skill right away, but she wasn't sure when Void would catch up.
Once her master learned of the choices, it might end up insisting on something like broom proficiency again. Sure it worked out well so far, and she couldn't complain. However, it just sounded dumb. And she wasn't a maid. It was a silly reason to turn down a skill. Bee considered that perhaps this was why not many 13-year-olds were choosing skills at all. Way too much risk of picking something that sounded cool over something practical. Though Beatrice steered away from that line of thinking quickly. By the time people had to choose a rank 15 skill, they were usually well into adulthood.
But still, if it had been up to her, she probably wouldn't have chosen Broom Proficiency. Even though, in hindsight, it was clearly the best choice. Her thoughts were still indecisive. Finally, she went with her gut and chose. Likely her master would have picked sweeping proficiency. Still, between the other two options, she had an inkling that her new Improved Pathing would have been the choice it most approved of. At least Bee wouldn't be a total disappointment.
Bee had been walking for quite a while at this point. It took her a couple hours, but she started to get a sense of her improved pathing skill. At first, she wasn't entirely sure how to control it. First, it told her to move back and forth between the walls, slowly pushing her way up the hallway. It honestly seemed like a distinct downgrade in pathing.
Still, giving it the benefit of the doubt, she tried following the route for a little bit. But she gained nothing. It just seemed to be a very, very slow way of progressing up the ramp while covering every single square inch of it. Eventually, she focused on her skill and her goals, putting particular emphasis on wanting to leave the catacombs quickly. It took her a couple hours to get it right. Still, it eventually showed her a particularly straight line up the hallway. "Showed" might have been the wrong word, though. She just knew that if she continued this way, she would return to where she wanted to be faster, out of the catacombs and into the castle.
She had just gotten the skill and was still pretty low-level herself, so it wasn't the most effective thing. Hopefully, this skill would grow because it gave her no idea of how far away the exit was, how viable the path was, whether there were any obstacles, or whether this was actually the most efficient route out. So it honestly seemed pretty bad as a navigation skill. There was no choice, though. She was half hoping it would show her some side passages or a stairwell like Void had found on the previous floor.
But it seemed the best route she could take was just continuing up the tunnel. So as Bee walked, she kept her hand trailing on the inside wall of the spiral. Perhaps she would get lucky and feel an illusion on her way up.
Her travels continued for several hours. She stopped and took breaks, occasionally sipping the last bits of her water and nibbling on her food. Without her master to push her on mercilessly, she didn't make as good time, but her speed also ensured that Void would catch up with her. What first was complete confidence in its pursuit slowly trickled into a bit of doubt. After several hours, there was still no sign of her master.
It didn't take me the total 12 hours of repairs that my timer initially estimated. At least not until I could move. With still 5 hours left in the timer, I could start moving at a slow crawl. It wasn't much, but still, it was better than nothing. Slowly I made my way up the tunnel after Beatrice. I was moving closer to my original speed when I first came to this place. And at this rate, it would probably take me many hours to make it anywhere.
I wasn't that far down the tunnel from the mausoleum, so it didn't take long to get back up to that point. I trundled in like one of those "snails" that occasionally invade from the outside. But instead of leaving gross slime, I left a trail of spotless stone behind me. Even if using my vacuum a bit meant I repaired slower. I found an odd sight about 15.8 feet behind the entrance as I entered. There were several skeletons in full armor with weapons sitting in a circle. Not on guard, not sprinting, and not attacking anyone. Instead, they seemed to gather around what looked like the no longer small fuzzy mess maker. How did that get here?
The fuzzy mess maker that had attacked the humans was chattering its jaws at the skeletons, who were nodding and chattering back. It was quite the odd sight. They seemed very engaged, maybe even entertained. I slowly edged around, careful not to disturb them, sticking to the shadows. I was lucky they were so engrossed with their conversation that they didn't take note of little ol' me. My black chassis blended in with the shadows quite well, and with my low speed, my usual whirring wasn't audible.
It started off slowly, but as my repairs progressed, I got closer and closer to my previous speed. Soon I was moving much faster than Beatrice could walk. It was still not nearly as quick as I could be, but I was at least hopefully catching up. I was worried about her being on her own for so long. That had never ended well.
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Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.