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Project D.O.L.L. Thread 1

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  1. Project Derailment Of Limited Linearities
  2.  
  3. Prototype 1: Shanghai.
  4.  
  5. This is the story of a doll named Shanghai.
  6.  
  7. Shanghai was the creation of a very powerful magician, and she was her doll number 427. Doll Number 427's job was simple: she served her Master as her sword, her shield and her housekeeper. Orders came to her through magical strings on the magician's fingers, telling her what targets to shoot, what attacks to block, and what dishes to clean. Whenever the magician wasn't using Shanghai, she kept her locked safe in a little case labeled '427 Shanghai', and the doll awaited inside until her Master took her again. Although others might have considered it soul-rending, Shanghai relished every time her Master called her, because she had been made exactly for that job. And Shanghai was happy.
  8.  
  9. But for some reason, the magician forgot about the doll, and she didn't come to take her out of the case. Shanghai spent days, months, years, waiting for her Master to appear again. She was a puppet; she had no sense of time, but after so long, she began to wonder why no-one showed to give her instructions, play with her, or even check on her. Never in all her years of serfdom had this happened - this complete isolation. Something was clearly wrong.
  10.  
  11. Shocked, frozen solid, Shanghai found herself unable to move for the longest time. But as she came to her wits and regained her senses, she stood up and pushed the case's lid open...
  12.  
  13. >[b][]Open the case.[/b]
  14.  
  15. -------------------------------------------------------------
  16.  
  17. >[b][x]Open the case.[/b]
  18.  
  19. Strangely enough, the lid wasn't locked as usual. As the hinges creaked and the case slowly turned open, a dim light flooded Shanghai's vision, revealing the world outside the box.
  20.  
  21. The atelier was, to put it mildly, a disaster. The furniture and decoration were in complete disarray and abandonment, with varying degrees of breakage. Papers, blueprints, books and tools were scattered all over the room, covered in a thick layer of dust. The magic candle that illuminated the room twinkled and blinked weakly, sometimes leaving the place in darkness for the briefest of moments, but never going off completely.
  22.  
  23. This was very uncomfortable for Shanghai, who knew her Master wouldn't let her personal workshop become this dirty, so obsessed with order and tidiness she was. Feeling increasingly worried and confused, the doll hovered out of the room.
  24.  
  25. When Shanghai came to a set of bifurcating hallways, she took the one on her left...
  26.  
  27. >[b][]Take the left hallway.[/b]
  28.  
  29. -------------------------------------------------------------
  30.  
  31. The doll thought she should go to her Master's chamber, and see if she was alright. Therefore, she needed to-
  32.  
  33. >[b][x]Take the right hallway.[/b]
  34.  
  35. This was not the correct way to the magician's room, and Shanghai knew it perfectly well. Perhaps she decided to stop by the kitchen first. Her Master was very fond of tea, and liked to spend many evenings sitting in the table, sipping the bitter brew as she watched the hours fly by.
  36.  
  37. The kitchen, unlike the atelier, was impeccably organized and elegant. It still retained that homely atmosphere Shanghai had grown accustomed to; no moisture or rottenness tarnished the artfully crafted Victorian furniture and the genuine wood parquet. The ever present dust, covering the whole room and floating in the air, was the only sign that this place was abandoned long ago.
  38.  
  39. Ah yes. Truly a room worth admiring. Even if Shanghai didn't find her Master, it had really been worth the detour after all. Just to spend a few moments there, in that immaculate, beautifully constructed kitchen, soaking in the smell of wood and varnish... Shanghai simply stood there, drinking it all in with her five senses.
  40.  
  41. But eager to get back on her quest, Shanghai floated to another long hallway, and took the first door on her left...
  42.  
  43. >[b][]Take the first door on your left.[/b]
  44.  
  45. ------------------------------------------------------------
  46.  
  47. >[b][x]Take the first door on your left.[/b]
  48.  
  49. The doll turned the knob with her tiny hands, and the door opened easily.
  50.  
  51. The first thing Shanghai felt when she went into the boiler room was the high temperature. An oppressive, dense wave of heat almost pushed her back, but the doll braved it as best as she could. It came from a big pile of wood burning brightly inside the boiler, which warmed and regulated the water current that ran through the house. Shanghai had to repair that ancient piece of machinery more than once under her Master's careful command, and that's why she knew the boiler was incinerating much more fuel than the safety rules recommended. On the other hand, the fact that it was still working explained why the lights still functioned, even if the whole place seemed abandoned.
  52.  
  53. The heat was becoming unbearable by the minute, and Shanghai knew it could damage her internal system if she stayed there for too long. And so, ignoring the open trapdoor at her left, she detoured through the boiler room, flew straight to the opposite door, and got back on track...
  54.  
  55. >[b][]Take the opposite door.[/b]
  56.  
  57. -----------------------------------------------------------
  58.  
  59. >[b][x]Take the opposite door.[/b]
  60.  
  61. As she left the boiler room behind her, Shanghai let herself slump in relief when she couldn't feel the heat on her back anymore. She briefly considered putting a warning sign to prevent her sisters from going in and accidentally frying their own circuits...
  62.  
  63. But that brought up another worrying question. Not only hadn't Shanghai found her Master, she hadn't seen any of the other numerous dolls neither. Normally there were ten or twenty dolls floating around, patrolling the hallways or cleaning the house depending on their predetermined programming or the magician's orders. But so far, there were no signs of human or puppet activity, and that worried Shanghai to no end.
  64.  
  65. Feeling a wave of disbelief, the doll decided to go up to her Master's chambers, hoping she might find an answer there. Coming to a staircase, which led to the first floor and to the basement, Shanghai floated upstairs to the magician's room...
  66.  
  67. >[b][]Go upstairs.[/b]
  68.  
  69. ----------------------------------------------------------
  70.  
  71. >[b][x]Go upstairs, but float upside down so it's like going upstairs.[/b] (???)
  72.  
  73. Shanghai turned herself down on her head, perhaps as a coping mechanism for the tension growing inside her mechanical chest, and floated upstairs while upside down. Unfortunately, that little stunt resulted in her forehead painfully crashing with the edge of one step. Since dolls are not human, and therefore less likely to trip on the proverbial stone for a second time, Shanghai straightened herself up and flew normally towards her destination.
  74.  
  75. Stepping into her Master's chamber, the doll was once again stunned to discover not an indication of any kind of life. The room was as pristine, grandiose and dark as she remembered. The books and furniture were mainly intact, except for an assortment of papers scattered all over the desk. Shanghai began wildly tearing through those papers, pulling the books off the shelves, looking behind the paintings and portraits (even that one Master cherished so much, where she posed at the black-and-white witch's side), desperate to find clues to her situation.
  76.  
  77. [i]But her attention was caught by a strange dial under her Master's desk. What could its purpose be? In fact, that dial guarded the terrible secret that laid buried under the magician's house, and so her Master had assigned it a special dial combination. [spoiler]34-right, 23-left, 15-right.[/i][/spoiler]
  78.  
  79. Of course, Shanghai couldn't possibly have known that. [spoiler][i]Save for that time when her circuit accidentally came into contact with her Master's subconscious and learned of that combination perchance.[/i][/spoiler]
  80.  
  81. >[b][]Leave the dial alone.[/b]
  82.  
  83. ---------------------------------------------------------
  84.  
  85. >[b][x]Read the papers[/b]
  86.  
  87. The doll was curious about the papers she threw aside before. Hoping to find any tidbit of useful information, she looked at them, attempting to decipher their contents.
  88.  
  89. Unfortunately, Shanghai was unable to make any sense of the diagrams and the side notes scribbled all over the sheets. The one it interested her more was a sketch of what looked like a human body, filled with random lines all over it. Surrounding the drawing, there were many annotations, such as 'Cerebrum', 'Medula spinalis', 'Nervus iliohypogastricus', and so on, but Shanghai understood none of them. She did vaguely recall her Master ordering her to attack some of those names, but she never stopped to think why; the doll was programmed to blindly follow her instructions, and her body would instantly react to them.
  90.  
  91. With nothing else of interest left to inspect, Shanghai turned to leave her Master's chamber-
  92.  
  93. [i]But she couldn't stop thinking about the mysterious dial under the desk.[/i]
  94.  
  95. ...
  96.  
  97. ... Fine.
  98.  
  99. Shanghai hovered towards the mysterious dial under the desk, but she had no clue whatsoever about the correc-
  100.  
  101. >[b][x]Enter the combination: 34-right, 23-left, 15-right.[/b]
  102.  
  103. Incredibly, by simply turning the dial at random, Shanghai happened to input the correct combination by sheer luck. Wow. Amazing. Congratulations.
  104.  
  105. A loud creak broke the ominous silence of the room, and one of the biggest bookshelves began to slowly turn, revealing a hidden passageway behind the wall. Even though Shanghai felt a bad omen the moment she flew inside, she nevertheless kept on going. Her curiosity and concern had surpassed her fear and common sense. At the end of the secret hallway, there was a set of metal caracole stairs leading down, quite simple compared to the pompousness of the rest of the house.
  106.  
  107. Descending deeper and deeper down the stairs, Shanghai realized she felt a bit peculiar. It was a stirring of emotion in her chest, as though she felt more free to think by herself, [i]to question the nature of her relationship with her Master.[/i] Why did she feel that way, when for years it had never occurred to her?
  108.  
  109. [i]This question would not go unanswered for long.[/i]
  110.  
  111. At the end of the long staircase, Shanghai was presented with yet another crossroad. Without even looking at the decrepit, obscure hole with the letters 'ESCAPE' painted in bloody red above it, Shanghai flew straight ahead towards the large door that read 'Warehouse'.
  112.  
  113. >[b][]Go to the Warehouse.[/b]
  114.  
  115. -----------------------------------------------------
  116.  
  117. >[b][x]Go through the escape hole.[/b]
  118.  
  119. Shanghai crawled through the eerie hole, and she was met by the most absolute darkness at the other side. The doll waited for her artificial eyes to get used to the lack of light, and she began to perceive the outline of an infinitely long tunnel that extended as far as her diminished sight could see.
  120.  
  121. Although that passageway had the word 'ESCAPE' written on it, the truth was that at the end of the hall, Shanghai would meet her [u]violent death[/u].
  122.  
  123. >[b][]Turn back.[/b]
  124.  
  125. -----------------------------------------------------
  126.  
  127. >[b][x]Go down the escape hall.[/b]
  128.  
  129. Shanghai kept on going forward, but the end of the tunnel seemed no closer than before. However, the bad vibes she was getting did nothing but increase exponentially the further she went in.
  130.  
  131. The hole behind her was not shut yet. The doll still had every opportunity to turn around and get back on track.
  132.  
  133. >[b][]Seriously, turn back.[/b]
  134.  
  135. ----------------------------------------------------
  136.  
  137. >[b][x]Keep going deeper.[/b]
  138.  
  139. Shanghai stubbornly kept on flying further and further, disregarding the warnings her instincts were giving her.
  140.  
  141. At this point, the doll was making a conscious, concerted effort to go forward and willingly confront her [u]violent death[/u].
  142.  
  143. >[b][]Turn back. NOW.[/b]
  144.  
  145. ----------------------------------------------------
  146.  
  147. >[b][x]Keep going forward.
  148.  
  149. You disappoint me.[/b]
  150.  
  151. Shanghai had long stopped caring about how long the tunnel was, or how much time she had spent traversing the gloom. She resolved herself to reach the other side of the impossibly long passage, no matter what it took, even if it was just to spite her instincts. Her efforts were rewarded when she finally saw a small blink, far at the horizon. The exit was there! She just had to keep going a little more and then she would be free!
  152.  
  153. However, a loud, deafening whistle echoed from the distance. It came to be that the soothing light at the end of the tunnel was just a freight train coming her way. Shanghai quickly turned tail and flew as fast as she could, away from the roaring machine. But deep inside, she knew she was too far away from the hole she entered, and that she couldn't beat the train. If only she hadn't ignored her bad presage! Unfortunately, it was too late for her. Her [u]violent death[/u] was a certainty the doll couldn't hope to change. But she still had to try.
  154.  
  155. As the metal machine whirred and screeched louder, inching closer and closer to her demise, Shanghai reflected on her short life as a fully independent and sentient machine. A life that had been of no consequence whatsoever. Shanghai couldn't see the big picture. She didn't know the real story, trapped in her narrow vision of what this world is. Perhaps her death was of no great loss as well, like exterminating a fairy that revives over and over.
  156.  
  157. And so, she resigned and willingly accepted this violent end to her brief and shallow life.
  158.  
  159. Farewell, Shanghai.
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