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Board index » Archives » Bahram Wing
ON, VSV Astarte
Bukor 17, 936
11:59, Commonwealth Standard Time
"Confirmed Vaytulri. I'll beacon the location using your sensor data for recovery at a later date." The missions operator seemed to be slightly disheartened at the news, but maintained the cool professionalism that Mu'Tasim had been familiar with. Famasir cooed responsively as it briefly highlighted the wreckage on his HUD and proceeded to send the data back. "No other casualties to confirm?"
"Vayshirin Chirimar has sustained minor damage to his unit, but we are well within operational conditions. Give my regards to Sixth Squadron, the assistance of their pilots were greatly appreciated." responded Mu'Tasim coolly, taking note of his N.I.'s quick response when it came to the marking of the waypoint. He scanned quickly over his squadron's status one more time, before looking over at Szemis' VANDR. "Command, forgive my lack of tact, but who sent that fool of a pilot." His unit locked on to the younger Storhan's VANDR, "Vayshirin Szemis Storhan."
"Vayshirin Storhan broke formation from his patrol group approximately eight minutes ago. Orders are to send him back... with escort, if you can spare someone from your wing."
"I will send Lanbalri Storhan with him, she will be more appropriate than anyone to regard the young pilots mistakes." commented Mu'Tasim, before sending the order to Zus privately.
"Thank you for your compliance, Vaytulri." The voice replied curtly, subtly pleased with Mu'Tasim's quick resolution of the issue.
"Orders have changed, for the moment." To Famasir's surprise, a new series of navpoints were strung up onto his HUD, which were quickly sifted through and passed out to the remainder of the Squadron. If he examined them for a moment, the Temple Guard would recognize these navpoints as being along the reconnaissance routes of another one of the Squadrons. "The Fifth Squadron has lost contact under similar circumstances as yours, but reported back successfully destroying one of the UFOs."
"It's suspected they ran into a pocket NVR forces or may have encountered another one of the objects. In either case we'd like you to investigate that area before resuming your own route."
"Understood, command. First Squadron will move to intercept." responded Mu'Tasim, before turning to the two sixth squadron natives. "Pho'tet, Nadev, you are with us for now, fall into formation and proceed with us." With that, Famasir
blasted off, taking the lead of the squadron, "First Squadron, move out!"
Things had calmed down quite a bit on the bridge, since they had both a name and samples of the disruptive organism. The few casualties were unfortunate, but the majority of the Wing had pulled through, and most had managed to regroup. Ishtar's sudden outburst stirred things slightly, but most were simply too occupied poring over the new data to notice.
The Marranr gently grabbed the small-bodied NI by her left horn and gave her a stern stare, hoping to calm her down a little before he spoke to her. "Well, what is it?"
Instead of calming her, it seemed to encite her to more flailing as if the Marranr were not taking her seriously. "Bad things! Bad, Bad Things!" she squeaked in a harsh whisper. "The lifeforms we've encountered seem to contain infant Dream Eaters." Ishtar's voice went shrill. "I do not have enough data to confirm if it is an infestation, a form of gestation, or a transformation. All my data pertaining to the subject of Dream Eaters does not include behavior such as this. I think the squadrons should avoid
contact with those... those... space whale things
until I know for certain."
"...well." Mridula steepled her fingers, her skin paling somewhat as she chewed on her bottom lip. "That's... that's not good. At all. Should we kill them?"
"That would depend. Your reports earlier said that had nurturing habits and tended to form large families... and fled your shuttle when you approached them." Serhan adjusted his glasses slightly, and gestured over to Mridula to emphasize his words. "Perhaps... caution would be advisable for the moment. I'd like an in depth report once you've had the chance to analyze the samples." He actually seemed somewhat surprised by the revelation and a little intrigued.
"There could be more Dream Eaters within the Gardens, within the area. What the First Squadron fought was an infant, not fully grown, or combat capable. There is a high probability of there being mature Dream Eaters. If there are, and if they've had a chance to develop their combat capabilities it will be devistating if we are found." Ishtar pointed out.
"...shit, shit, shit." The biologist pressed her fingers to her temples and rubbed them in little circles. "Shit.
I've seen this
movie. We're going to forget all about them and save the day, then when we turn around to go home they'll all have gestated and we'll get eaten.
Ishtar looked toward Mridula, batting her golden eyes. "But the infant Dream Eaters only consume biomass to accelerate their growth and or to start the initial process. After that they merely destroy, adapt to better combat their opponent or incorporate the weaponry into a form of technorganic hybrid."
a relief, Ishtar."
Ishtar just looked toward the deck plate.
"I am far more bothered by those resonance fields they generated." The Marranr said with a slight grunt, bringing up several layers of the waveform that creature generated onto the overhead display. "With what seemed to be a reflexive scream from an infant, it disabled sensors and communications and left all of our forces in the field running deaf and blind. Devising some means to compensate for this interference is going to be essential if we encounter more of them..."
"It generated an initial shockwave across the entire EM spectrum. And caught me by surprise." Ishtar huffed. "I've been diverting some of my processes to this subject... but all I have thought of is creating resonance fields of our own to cancel them out. Certain radio frequencies in the lower band could remain active and laser based communications did not not seem to go down. MASC based systems I would have to run tests on and see. My sensors are still fouled up across all ships because of the natural interference of the nebula."
"Redistribute power from the main batteries for now, until you can figure out more prescise ways of compensating for the disruption." Serhan instructed, crossing his arms as he attempted to make sense of the situation.
Ishtar poked at the hand still holding her horn. "Could you let me go then... please?" her eyes wide and pleading while she looked up at Serhan.
"My mistake." The faint outline of a smile formed in the corners of Serhan's mouth, as he realized he'd actually grabbed onto the NI and was now firmly holding her between his arms. He let out a small, pensive grunt and let go of her, casually ruffling the front fringe of her pink hair. "As you were. That data will be essential to our continued mission in this region."
Ishtar just went red in the cheeks as she gave a short awkward nod.
As First Squadron advanced to answer Command's orders for movement, Mu'Tasim felt it necessary to access the squad's cohesion as a whole before arrival. It had been a while since he had last led any sort of unit into combat, and the last time was on foot, in VAHINs. Still, they were people, only in much bigger VAHINs.
"Vayshirin Ragnar, if I am to understand, this is your first proper engagement." commented Mu'Tasim, Famasir's head turning back to look at Noblisse, "How are you holding up?"
Isha smiled inwardly and would have shook her head were she embodied. "Technically, sir, this is my second sortie, as I was present during the first engagement with the NVR. But I'm doing well, though a comrade dead is never a pleasant thing." She took on a slightly sour note with her final sentence, but nothing that sounded overly upset. She hadn't known Bahadur for more than a few hours.
"I see, my apologies, Ragnar. I will take note not to be so neglectful of my subordinates again. Still, death is persistent in war, but, as Mu'Klamal said so gloriously at the Battle of Kaz'Mohal, 'Death is temporary, glory is eternal, and memories are forever.' As long as we remember Shajahan and his glory, he is never dead." nodded Famasir
as Mu'Tasim spoke in reply, "Chirimar, you've sustained damage, but I've got to applaud your valiance in attempting to free me from that Dream Eater."
Akjit perked up as Mu'Tasim's attention turned to him. He wasn't quite sure how to take this praise. Was it really praise? "Thank you sir. But I still made m-mistakes here. I'll do my best to get better." He replied. As far as he was concerned, he had already made a deal with a Nightmare
. One's who's depths he did not understand.
"That is all Fanir asks of us in our decisions of haste, Chirimar. You are a better pilot for it, and will be for the rest of your days. I will rely on your valiance in the future." Mu'Tasim chuckled a moment before adding, "As long as you do not do it in such a sacrificial manner as that time before." Still, the assesment of his own squadron wasn't complete, he still had two new faces to account for. "Vayshirin Pho'tet! Vayshirin Nadev!" called the mighty Temple Guard, "Let me be the first to welcome you for your temporary flight with First Squadron. How long have you been flying with the Vanguard?"
"Thank you, sir," responded Kuzman Nadev, "I have been with the Vanguard around six months. I wish Pho'tet and myself had arrived earlier." He paused for a moment and decided now would be the best time, "I will warn you sir, I am slightly reckless on occasion; Pho'tet is more the tactician of two of us."
"I wouldn't say "flying" is my first choice, sir." A slight chuckle in the Vayshirin's voice carried over the comms. "I've been stationed on the VSV Astarte
for six months now after my extra training ended. And I agree with Nadev, I wish we had arrived sooner." So it was with war, just as the Temple Guard had said earlier. Memories and stardust are the real tangibles after death.
"I welcome you all to First Squadron. Most of our original members are all, either gone, promoted, or dead." said Mu'Tasim grimly, looking on forward towards their fast approaching way-point. "In this squadron you either move up, down, or somewhere else, but in every case, you alway move. I wish I could have met you all more properly before this, but that is the military for you." The squadron leader fell silent for a moment, considering his words, "Of any of you, are their any honors? Special capabilities that I should be made aware? I would like to know my unit. At the very least, those I work with."
"I wouldn't have it any other way, sir. For the glory of the Commonwealth." I just hope it's not always in space I'm moving...
"I have advance hand to hand combat training as well as advanced infantry training, sir."
"I earned high marks in marksmanship and as such was placed in a Raevr; however I prefer my personal blades and close range combat," responded Kuzman.
"I've said before sir, but I'm a Field Physician," was the sweet and simple answer.
"Mmm. You all are fairly capable, at the very least. Whilst just a Field Physician, Ragnar fights well enough, and you two Sixers have proven your worth." Mu'Tasim began to set up the proper advancing formation as the spoke to his Squadron. The line up would be posted to the rest of them when he finished. "Let me properly introduce myself, as I have rudely failed to do so far. I am Vaytulri Mu'Tasim Farouk. I am a six year veteran of the Astral Vanguard's infantry." With that, he had set up for the foward assault line, which consisted of himself and Akjit. "In my sixth year I was inducted into the Temple Guard, and was sworn in only a few months following. I am an Acolyte of almost a year." Now the mid-line, which consisted of solely Isha, providing mid-range fire support. "I have been with Bahram Wing since it's creation, with the exception of a small vacation granted by full-body radiation poisoning. Though, I am quite better now." with that warm note, he set the rear-line, consisting of Jin and Kuzman. They would provide long-range missile support. He transmitted the formation, and their N.I.'s properly set up holographic representations of their positions.
Jin signaled his affirmitive to the instructions and moved his Raevr into place, starting to get a real feel for it as his personal unit. He'd eventually need to find its name/name it himself. Maybe then he would feel even more at home in the middle of space...
Kuzman moved his Raevr into position silently, though he was eager to be back on the Astarte and napping. Kuzman asked his NI, "You like that combat, Nuk'Dukam?" to which it responded with a hearty surge of gung-ho enthusiasm.
The Ivuori moved into the position the Temple Guard designated, but, in actuality, felt a little discouraged after hearing his praise of the other Frame Runners. What was Akjit good in? He didn't know anything beyond the standard training, and so, stayed silent. And personal skills like his drawings...well, those don't count for much do they? The VANDR silently continued on with the others.
"It's a privilege," Isha said, "To fly with such a squadron." Otherwise she had little to contribute for the time being, and hoped it stayed that way for awhile.
"Chirimar, you have profenciency of VANDR-based melee combat, don't you?" asked Mu'Tasim to his front-line subordinate. The Temple Guard felt it best to assess what seemed to be the most thin-skinned of the group. Akjit was a loyal soldier, but pressure seemed to force him to extremes.
If Akjit could, he would have moved about in his seat in slight discomfort. Sadly, that was not an option. "W-well, I am proficient in that, and am interested in it the most. But, well, I'm better at VANDR-Ranged Combat. Well. Said my instructor." He replied. The brief recollection brought up memories of being yelled at by Drill Staff. He shuddered inside; he had the feeling he just opened up a forbidden relic.
"Hrm. We will have to amend
that." said Mu'Tasim, a bit of excitement lining his tone. "I was number two in VANDR training courses in Seddir when it came to my trials. Now, it would only be reasonable to assume, by Mu'Klamals strategic thought, that I would make an excellent melee instructor to fortify your abilities as a skirmishing pilot in the VR training bays every other day, yes?"
He froze at the offer. Skirmishing with Mu'Tasim? Maybe he wouldn't have to train with Nightmare
then if - "Go ahead. I will train you myself every other day that you are not with the Temple Guard."
The NI spoke. Yes. Akjit made up his mind; he was going to get blasted out of the skies and get worn raw regularly. Plus, there was no way out even if he wanted to. Which he now did.
"T-that would be an honor sir!" he replied. Technically, that wasn't a lie."Yes, we will take good care of you...
the NI spoke in its most feminine voice, mocking him.
"Excellent! You'll be fighting like an Acolyte in no time." replied Mu'Tasim warmly, before looking on forward towards the objective. "We will discuss this further after the mission's conclusion. In the mean time, be ready. All of you, we are approaching the waypoint."
Jin whispered a short prayer to Jafar, his personal chosen Dreamer. Here's to hoping we all make it through this... whatever it is.
It was only a few moments before the half-dozen assist NI chimed in simultaneously, informing their pilots that they had in fact arrived at the selected location, or at least were at the navpoint that the 5th had last reported being at. Sensors buzzed with new data, rapidly feeding information on their environment, but the area was by and large the same, mostly empty solar system space with some debris and the system's gas giants and sun distant specs of orange in the void.
There was an audible ping when the sweep finished, which immediately brought a small spec of grey and brown in the distance, almost four light-seconds out. Electromagnetic radiation, neutrino leakages and small spatial distortions revealed it to be clearly artificial... although it didn't appear to have any streaming devices sending out comms chatter on Astral Vanguard frequencies.
Mu'Tasim heard a digital ping sound as Vaytulri Romdo's voice came up onto communications again. "Vaytulri, I've got confirmation you're at the Navpoint. Report status?"
"Deadspace, Fifth Squadron is not here, nor is there any evidence of battle. We are, however, picking up signatures of an artificial anomaly four light-seconds off. Command, can you confirm?" requested Mu'Tasim his unit floating free within the empty vacuum, drifting only slightly due to his minor momentum.
He wondered what happened to them. Was it another Dream eater? Quite possibly. What would happen if the Astarte ran across group of them? What if they were even spawning from some nearby place? The possibilities were endless, simply because Akjit thought about it too much.
Kuzman felt a sense of disappointment emanate from Nuk'Dukam; however, he himself did not echo such sentiment. The fewer chances of death, the better.
Jin looked to the artificial constuct with a smile in his heart. Somewhere he could put his boots down and explore. He couldn't wait to get the affirmitive to land.
"Yes... it's coming in a bit faint on my end, but it's probably just interference." The missions operator said with a slight bit of surprise. "You're cleared to investigate."
"Well enough, let's move up, First Squadron." said Mu'Tasim as he blasted forth, "Activate barrier guards and shields, be ready should this be a hostile." With that, he raised up his defenses, blazing on ahead to get a better look at the anomaly.
Jin powered up his defensive network and weapon loadouts, hitting the figurative throttle and speeding up without breaking formation. Looks like they were going to explore it. The thought got his blood pumping and he himself began to mentally run a check list on the equipment he brought with him.
The distortion field protecting the VANDR flicked to life, power coursing into the weapons. Akjit was ready to activate the Phanoma Shroud as well, but held off on that. "I hope it's not another one. But, hope doesn't make things come true, right?" He asked, his dour state over what happened behind the scenes leaking into his conversation. "I'll stick to ranged combat, and go in with the blades if things get bad, just like last time." Akjit informed the others.
After flicking the metaphorical switches, he defenses flickered to life. Kuzman felt a bit safer with the defenses turned on; but after seeing the Dream Eater, even the distortion field may not protect him.
Going into an... unknown area wasn't exactly something Isha was excited about. Still, that was the mission, wasn't it? Nubia
was naturally there providing mental support, but the situation still had her on edge. There was a good chance it was another Dream Eater, or something just as horrible. And if it played out anything like the last encounter, she could expect one more dead or critically wounded. "Might I suggest we err on the side of caution until we've properly evaluated the situation?"
being cautious, Ragnar. Once we properly identify this anomaly we'll decide further on how to act. In the mean time, we will continue until our sensors or N.I. can do us better than our eyes." responded Mu'Tasim, turning his VANDR's head back in Noblisse's direction for a glance before looking back forward. "Hopefully, it is another Dream Eater."
The few minutes as they moved towards the anomaly were short and tense, but passed quickly. As the object came into view, it was clear that it was some sort of space station, and bore significant plasma scoring and structural damage. Some of the damage was comparatively ancient, like the single great fissure that seemed to grace the hermispheric top of the station, while others were fresh and still glowed faintly from recent impacts.
Multiple signatures quickly erupted into view as they closed the gap, all of them bearing the standard emission profiles of NVR Soono and Nahoda-type powered frames, all of them seemingly swarming around a single Erla VANDR 2. Beacons sounded off dramatically and were highlighted on HUD, as multiple Astral Vanguard frames docked inside of the station were broadcasting distress calls. Analysis of the signals and IFF tags confirmed that they were the missing 5th Squadron... though none of the frames were actually broadcasting anything beyond their basic distress signals. No voice, no text, no parameters for their situation...
"Permssion to engage, sir?!" Jin's Raevr NI already began picking up the closest targets as his Star Locust missile were yellow-lighted in preperation. At least it wasn't some fantastic enemy, but just enemy soldiers.
"Permission granted! Rear-line fire missile volleys! Mid-line fire support! Front-line! Engage for close range! We'll tear right through their shields!" ordered Mu'Tasim as he blasted forth, he sent a message following, "Finish your first missile volleys, Akjit and I will teleport into close-range and disrupt their lines."
Kuzman released a salvo of Star Locust missiles at six of the farther targets and then proceeded to switch targets to the targets around the Erla VANDR2. He quickly launched a volley of Star Adders. If the Erla was friendly as he expected it was, he didn't want to see another death on the field today.
"Sir!" Mid-line was Isha, so she opened up with her automatic weapons, putting out as much force as possible, making sure to keep pace with the front-line and maintain a consistent coverfire. "Identify targets so I can keep them suppressed!" she declared.
Jin's Raevr chose nine of the mid ranged targets and released a torrent of Star Locust missiles, each of the nine aimed at a different target that none of the other Vanguard Frame Runners were firing at. Cycling through, three more broad targets were chosen deeper in the enemy ranks and the Star Adder missiles quickly followed. Jin strafed to his starboard to sepereate the lines of fire and open up crossfire lanes between the other pilots, and also make it harder to take out all of them with one concentrated blast.
The Nahoda-Nada lined up in Akjit's sights as his weapon safeties came off. Star Locust missiles joined the swarm from Kuzman and Jin's volleys. The Phantoma Shroud of his VANDR activated, leaving behind shining afterimages as he jinked and juked to avoid the inevitable reply. The targeting reticle moved about over the enemy Frame, but Akjit didn't fire his other weapons quite yet. Not until - NOW! The Shocksword and Shocksting fired just as the enemy frame began it's dodge of the missiles, making it easier for him to track.
Aiaru was moving in full evasion mode at the moment, completely willing to give up a shot on one of the many targets she had at the moment to avoid giving any of them a good shot on her. Especially with the arrival of what she definitely hoped were friendlies, though she hadn't heard anything from them yet. Nonetheless, whenever she could get a clean shot without chancing herself, she was definitely returning fire, trying to whittle the opponents down bit by bit.
Akjit immediately got the attention of several frames as he sniped one of the larger humanoid-type Nahoda frames, his beam shot arcing out and clipping its head off. As it panicked, many more turned and broke off to intercept, only to be caught by a full volley of missile fire and knocked off-course by the sudden blast of plasma as over three dozen Star Locust and Star Adder missiles struck them. Shields dissapated and heavy armor was scorched, although the initial volley had failed to take them out of the battle.
The formation quickly broke down as they split off to engage different targets, with a single Nahoda-type pursuing each VANDR, followed by its own swarm of the Soono automatons. Multiple shots followed, as the aggressor-come-defenders launched combined volleys of plasma and free electron laser beams, matching patterns and moving around aggressively to keep the 1st Squadron off-guard.
Aiaru found that she had enough room to maneuver, as her NI informed her that many of her pursuers had broken off to attack the new arrivals to the scene. Her bruised and burnt Erla VANDR II was still intact enough to put a fight up, provided she could avoid getting hit too much...
While waiting for his missiles to refresh and cycle into firing mode, Jin targeted the Nahoda-type engaging him and fired four specific shots from his Shocksting cannons. Two were aimed for each arm, one for the head, and the last for the lower chest area. No matter where it moved, he hoped he was going to hit it. In the next second, he fired his VTS drive and disappeared, only to appear a good three hundred kloms from his original location, hoping to screw with their fire patterns and give him a better shot.
The Nahoda was expecting a direct assault, and quickly moved to evade before Jin started to fire, but it wasn't quite fast enough to get out of the way. The infantryman's NI quickly compensated for the movement and adjusted the firing solution before its pilot had the chance to ask. A few beams managed to miss anyway, but the Nahoda was quickly struck by a blast to the rear thrusters, putting it off ballance and allowing the remainder of the volley to bore through it. A moment later, it burst into a bright ball of orange plasma and dissapated from view entirely.
"Akjit! Close in on the Nahodas! Strike with your VT Swords!" ordered Mu'Tasim as he quickly turned on the the Nahoda persuing him, and blazed his VANDR full-blast toward it. Though, quickly dissappearing in a flash in a rapid Sub-Light jump, only to appear, still and unmoving in front of his target, before ramming his VT Swords to it's chest. "Pile pressure on the controllers, everyone!"
As it was struck, the Nahoda willfully did the very same with its own arm, planting its glowing fist into Famasir's shoulder and firing off a full volley of beam fire. Flecks of orange-red plasma glinted off his shields and struck armor, causing it to burn and flake. The NI panicked as its outer shell was struck, letting out a shrill warning sound and quickly venting out large jets of vaporized synovial fluid to keep the arm from being cooked from the inside out.
The young frame runner perked up as Mu'Tasim yelled out orders. The Nahoda was still in the distance; he fired another volly of missiles to the enemy's right and paused before firing his beam weapons. As the missiles exploded, hit or miss, Akjit Vector Transitioned right behind the Nahoda Nada. VT Fangs shot out from his tactical arrester, three to the humanoid frame, and one to a Soono. A NEn Cap activated, boosting his speed; a VT Blade slashed out at the waist of the Nahoda.
The missiles were intercepted by defensive fire as the humanoid-type's escort maneuvered around to defend their controller. One of them was quickly put down by beam fire, while the other two shifted forward to press the attack, only to lose track of Akjit as he blinked up to the Nahoda. The Soono he struck was not nearly fast enough to deflect the VT fang, and was quickly speared in the shoulder, causing the arm to drop down in uselesness. The blade tore all the way through a second later, causing the unit to vent a large jet of red mist which quickly crystalized in the vaccuum and jerk around violently before finally blowing off.
The Nada had the advantage of being in motion as Akjit blinked in, and managed to evade out of the way well enough that the blade only clipped it in one of the legs, giving it enough of a chance to retaliate that it managed a clear strike from its own fusion cannons, firing off a series of blasts that banked off his frame's chest and arrestor.
While not the most tactical soldier on the field, Kuzman quickly realized that the Nahodas were calling the shots. As such he fired off three shots from the Shocksting cannons at the closest Nahoda. As soon as his missiles had recharged he fired off a second volley of both Star Adder and Star Locust at its surrounding Soono automatons. Then he used his VTS to scoot himself to the right of the battlefield hoping to flank the Nahodas as soon as his sensors recalibrated and missiles recharged.
The rapid volley of beam fire glanced off the approaching frame's shields, causing them to fizzle and glint. While not damaged, it was enough of a threat that the unit went on the defensive, quickly diving away and attempting to fly around and undernearth Kuzman as it too returned fire. When the full volley of missiles fired, it skillfully evaded the first few by launching countermeasures and boosting away, constantly turning to evade the blasts as they were set off prematurely.
The unit had evaded most of the attacks and gotten away, but was now seperated from its Soono support, which were now quickly closing in to weapons range.
FP Isha forwent her standard curt acknowedgment, and instead took to her orders in stern silence. She pulled away from her assailing Nahoda, hoping to lure it toward her, then had Nubia
launch them to meet it point blank with a RCPA blazing and a VT sword thrusting toward its midsection. Simultaneously, Ragnar's NI was dispersing a small number of VTs to create a small barrier at her backside, in case she were to be flanked.
Playing the defensive, Isha took a few hits as the enemy pressed towards her, but managed to convince the target that she wasn't planning a counterattack. When Nubia launched its 12 VT Fangs at the target, it was caught entirely by surprise and subsequently struck cross the chest and lower legs. Each bladed implement bore through the armor before returning to her shield, causing the Nahoda to lose control and vent massive jets of synovial fluid and plasma.
Her VT sword subsequently made short work of the unit, raking across the torso and causing it to split open in an explosive torrent of superheated gas, as the unit was finally destroyed.
Aiaru kept her avoiding game up for the time being, figuring she'd been hit hard enough already that there was no point in chancing taking that one major hit that would finish her off. She still took shots though, unleashing a salvo of her own Star Locust missiles at the nearest Nahoda at one point, and strafing the same target with her Shocksting whenever she could.
The volley of missiles darted around wildly before they impact the Nahoda's side, causing it to slam into one of its escort and spiral out of control. Follow-up shots impacted it along the chest and left shoulder, causing those areas to burst in bright displays of light and scintilating particles as armor was scoured away. Her continued fire kept chipping away at the torso while the unit struggled to redress itself.
It had only taken a moment, a slight slip in her aim, and the Nahoda was already back on her tail, returning with its own volley of missiles. With a dozen warning prings ringing off across her HUD, Aiaru was nearly struck with a heavy charge beam shot that passed just a few feet off her left shoulder, causing her NI to immediately warn her a dozen more times.
"Enemy is charging heavy-type plasma cannon! Evade!"
Mu'Tasim grunted inwardly as his shoulder began to heat up. Famasir warned in furious bleeps and bloops that his VANDR was suffering internal damage from all the heat. So, the squadron leader decided to step his end of the close range encounter as well. He withdrew his VT Sword only to stab the back into the shoulders of the Nahoda, to what should effectively disable it's arms. Then, he activated the VT drivers on his legs, making two magnificent distortion geometries focused on the point to where Mu'Tasim was the cockpit of the vehicle.
He usually did not use them much, but the Vaytulri-Acolyte took extra precaution, and boosted his shields with a single NEn Capacitor.
Despite the blows that it took, the VANDR kept on pushing forward on an erratic path towards the enemy Nahoda, shocksword firing as it closed the distance with NEn capacitor enhanced thrust. Fangs harried it as it and it's Soono continuously as Akjit continued to lay into the enemy in this fashion, slashing at its limbs and firing whenever it threatened to increase the gap.
Having some temporary breathing room, Jin decided to try to make things easier for the damaged Erla. His missiles had cycled into readiness, so it was time to fix that problem once and for all. His NI targeted the tracking Star Locust and Star Adder missiles on the one unit, hoping for an over-kill. A veritable blaze of warheads launched from his Raevr as he opened comms. "Get away from that Nahoda, Erla pilot!" After that, he changed vectors once more and opened his VTS drive to move to another location, one to better help out Kuzman, about 200 meters from his fellow pilot.
Aiaru engaged her VTS as soon as her NI's warning came through her systems, before one of the friendly pilots had even warned her. She arranged things so that she came out of the jump already lined up back towards the Nahoda, immediately opening fire with her Shocksword cannon and the Shocksting itself, trying to end this part of the fight now, before moving into her evasive maneuvers.
Having gotten a partially decent footing away from the now Soono-less Nahoda, Kuzman retargeted and reengaged the mecha. Impatient for his missiles to recharge, he fired off the Shocksting cannons. He had hoped to take the Nahoda on himself; however, he was grateful for the help of his fellow 6th Squadron member. As his missiles neared the end of their recharge cycle, Kuzman retargeted the Soonos.Nubia
noted to Isha that the rescue of one Vayshirin Aiaru was of primary importance. "Aiaru, I'm coming!" she shouted, announcing her plans, and the Erla II made a VTS jump to position itself behind Dahra's assailant. A pair of VT Fangs were launched to pincer the Nahoda, and aided by both RCPA's blazing at full.
The Nahoda flailed as it was struck, attempting to break away as Mu'Tasim's blade planted themselves firmly in his target's shoulders, tearing through armor and shields alike and penetrating deep into the unit's substructure as it raked across the shoulders and upper torso. Weakened, the unit released its grip of Famasir, allowing the Temple guard just enough time to strike the Nahoda in the mid-torso, collapasing the entire chest region with a double-strike and rupturing the cockpit block.
When he had finished, the enemy had stopped moving.
Meanwhile, Akjit flashed forward, swiftly removing the Nahoda's arm before it was able to parry his second strike. As it attempted to break away, he managed to perforate his fleeing enemy a dozen times with beam fire, only to be halted by a sudden crossfire of laser strikes by the unit's escorts, which had managed to close the gap he'd created earlier. Capitalizing on the chance, the Nahoda doubled back with a smooth boost, filling the space between itself and the Ivuori frame runner with dozens of fusion missiles.
As good as the enemy pilot might have been, they weren't perfect. Attempting to outflank Akjit for a counterattack, the Nahoda was quickly in the side by a trio of VT Fangs, forcing the unit to quickly boost away and break the offensive, as another eight bounded after it. Defense lasers lanced out, splitting one of the of the homing projectile blades in half before they closed the gap entirely, forcing it to jettison one of its limbs at the volley and detonate it forcibly to prevent them from impacting.
A veritable barrage quickly overtook Aiaru's attackers, totalling nearly a dozen Soono and scattering their wreckage across the battlefield in bright blue plumes of plasmatic death. One of the Nahoda attempted to evade the blast, managing to escape the worst of Jin's missile strike just before Aiaru struck it again with a few more shots, hammering its shields down with a punishing volley of plasma fire. It attempted to counterattack, launching a spray of missiles and giving after her with its own cannon blazing.
Kuzman had been given an opportunity by his wingmate's intercession, allowing him to place a good burst of fire on the enemy using his RCPA cannons and effectively wearing its shields, causing the field to crackle and dissipate. The enemy moved to the defensive, firing a curtain of burst plasma fire to fend him off as he moved away, either attempting to put some distance to use one of its heavier weapons or more obviously attempting to evade getting struck by a second missile volley.
Blinking behind the enemy Nahoda as it was moving to attack, Isha had an element of surprise that allowed her to quickly tear through the unit's vulnerable cockpit pod with her VT fangs. The vulnerable control block jettisonned out, but the damage was done. Prajna leaked out and crystalized as it touched the void of space, and both the pod and unit floated aimlessly in space.
Akjit was completely fixated on his own fight, somewhat unaware of the entirety of what was happening to the others. As the fusion missiles came after him, his VANDR fired out a volly of becon flares to turn the missiles' attention away from himself before continuing his persuit. The Ivuori continued to try and evade the Soonoo escorts and herded his VT Fangs after the badly damaged Nahoda Nada. He vector transitioned again, this time, right in it's path. VT Shield raised, Akjit charged, firing LEMBs before bringing the blade down.
Taking quick stock of the situation, the Raevr's NI targeted the Nahoda as it was moving away from Kuzman. It wasn't an original tactic, but it worked the first time. This time Jin targeted the back boosters on the unit, hoping for another nice explosion. Making sure his shots couldn't hit his fellow Vayshirin, Jin fired his Shocksting cannons in precise, measured counts to increase the accuracy.
Aiaru had already gone back to her evasion, but she made sure to turn herself in such a way as to set her Storm Ray system to work, letting the lasers go to work on the inbound missile systems as she kept dodging. And as soon as she had a clear shot, she set off her next volley of Star Locust missiles, hoping to catch her opponent off guard again. For the moment, that was her only offense, opting to spend more time avoiding fire then attacking for the time being.
Catching onto Jin's tactic, Kuzman followed suit. He circled clockwise on an oblique plane to the Nahoda and firred his Shocksting cannons after he was sure his fire wouldn't harm a friendly. The previously glum Nuk'Dukam was now surging with glee at the carnage. This NI just loves death and destruction
, Kuzman thought inwardly, Quite a bit gung-ho about everything too.
" While he was slighly uneasy with the love for bloodshed, Kuzman had to admit that the gung-ho nature of his NI made a decent foil to his own laidback personality.
"Let us clear this up quickly, then." announced Mu'Tasim as he took a quick glance across the battlefield. The Squadron leader quickly assessed any damages to the local VANDR in the area, and noted that most of the were doing well in the way of handling themselves. So, he decided to assist the newfound pilot, as Isha had. The Temple Guard blasted off throughout the battle, "Fanir praise my speed as I move forth through the chaos and...!" chanted the steward lyrically before making a Sub-light jump just above the path of one of Aiaru's persuing Nahoda units, and blasting downwards onto it, the VT Drivers of the leg tearing into the top of it's chest. "...establish order!"
Isha took a mental breath of relief at the turn of events, glad she was so much more effective in combat than even she had anticipated. With something of a metaphorical determined smile, she turned to yet another Nahoda. Before she could think of an appropriate engagement plan, however, the Temple Guard had made his move. To the other, then. She dove headlong toward it, straightening out the VANDR's form to make as small a target as possible and raised her ATA, holding it ahead of her and forming the vector field to cover the entirety of the Erla. The left arm was prepared to slice this one down as well, but FP Ragnar didn't hold too much weight to her solo attack doing the job in one fell swoop.
The beacon flares caused most of the missiles to split off and detonate harmlessly away from Akjit, while a few continued on through and splashed against his shields, baking his outer armor with a dull orange glow. The Soono, distracted by the beacon flares for a moment, gave chase to Akjit only moments after he had already vector transitionned away.
More beams arced out, splaying against the Nahoda's already weakened shields as Akjit closed in to strike. The blade flashed downwards, but the defender shifted to evade, perhaps a bit too slowly. Hardened ADNR cleaved through armor and organoid tissues, effectively cutting through the entire front of the Nahoda's torso with a single sweep. Jets of reactor plasma and synovial fluid erupted from the gaping wound, before the unit was forcibly shut down and ejected the cockpit pod.
A few more precise shots battered the enemy's armor as Kuzman strafed the enemy, the clean glittering lance of his particle beam piercing the unit wholesale and tearing through its outer plating. Nuk'Dukam took several hits as the enemy continued to attack despite its damages, exchanging hit for hit and consequently taking several severe hits. Armor glowed, flaked apart and shattered under the barrage, and when Jin strafed the unit on the side, he swept past the unit and clipping its engines off with a lancing strike.
The more heavily armored Nahoda Nada wasn't quite as good as a shot, however, only wearing down Kuzman's shields as they exchanged fire and moving too slowly to evade the sudden strike by Jin. By the time the dust and radiation had dispersed entirely, the unit was left in a wreck, with a heavily battered cockpit pod floating nearby in space.
With her point defense subroutines holding up against the volley, Aiaru managed to fend off the volley of missiles and stay mostly intact, dodging and weaving around the few that got past her. A few detonated close enough to rattle her unit, but very little damage managed to penetrate to the hull, giving her ample opportunity to counterattack. The volley of Star Locust missiles shot out around the errant flaring blasts of plasma, striking the enemy Nahoda unit in the head, effectively crippling it with a lucky strike.
Mu'Tasim made short work of the other Nahoda pursuing her, slashing the unit across the engines as he dropped down onto it. Unfocused plasma spilled out as the unit hurtled away, knocked off-axis and into a wild spin as Isha clipped it, pursuing the remaining Nahoda in the enemy battlegroup. She swung into the very last unit with her VT sword, very quickly slicing through its arm and digging halfway into its torso as it failed to evade. It struggled for a moment, but having been flanked and disabled, quickly surrendered and ejected out.
There was a quiet, dour voice that quickly came onto open channels, as the ECM and leaking radiation finally died down. "This is commander Ansur Kefka. We surrender to you, Commonwealth dogs."
"This is Vaytulri-Acolyte Mu'Tasim Farouk. Commander Kefka, jettison your squad's weaponry and group the remainder of your squad here
." ordered the Temple Guard as a small waypoint advisory was lasered over to one of the nearest acting units. Famasir
stared off at the station before opening a link with command. "Control, this is Vaytulri-Acolyte Farouk, we have identified and captured NVR soldiers. Requesting a retrieval unit for their arrest."
There was a mental sigh of relief from Field Physician Ragnar at the word, "surrender," and she was tempted to smile. Instead, she turned her attention to her teammates. "Is everyone alright? Any injuries?" She was fairly certain there were none, but she was ever the one to cover all her bases thoroughly. Almost as an afterthought, she powered down her ATA and VT Sword.
Coming down off his adrenalin high, Kuzman was quite jittery. Even though this was not his first combat, Kuzman was still not used to it. Nuk'Dukam
seemed disappointed in the surrender; Kuzman could tell it wanted him to Coup-de-Grace the pod in front of him.
Aiaru let her unit come to a halt, breathing hard as the adrenaline from the fight for her life slowly wound down now that she wasn't running anymore. She slowly made her way through her systems, powering down weapons systems where she needed to, before opening a channel to broadcast to the apparent friendlies. "This is Vayshirin Dahra. I definitely appreciate the help. Could I know who to thank?"
"We're of First Squadron, Vayshirin Dahra." responded Mu'Tasim to Aiaru, while also sending a full-system scan of his VANDR's status to Isha, allowing her to pick and choose what status warrant her attention. The squadron leader also sent this order to everyone else, to send a small damage report to the Field Physician, includign Aiaru. "Give me a sitrep, Vayshirin Dahra, before command calls back."
"Only two members of our squadron are still with us, myself and Vayshirin Remore, who is still aboard the remnants of the station. All others have been eliminated." Aiaru sent the data for her systems back along with her response, assuming that for the time being Mu'Tasim was the highest ranking.
"This is control, Vaytulri Farouk. I have a Squadron and a recovery team inbound to retrieve the PoWs." The missions operator finally replied, her own voice sounding vaguely relieved that they were alright after going radio silent again. "I have beacons going off on the station from the Third Squadron's units. Can you confirm that they're viable for retrieval?"
"No, but we can we definitely check. Permission to engage station on foot, command?" asked Mu'Tasim back to Romdo.
"You have permission."
Not long after, Zus returned to the formation. If anyone could have seen her, outside of the cockpit, they would have realized how absolutely angry she was. Had she normal control over her body right now, she would probably be trembling and panting, pure rage and frustration at her imbecilic younger brother, which she had just vented, directly to the moron over private comm channels. For now, however, Paralovi simply sent a request to rejoin the formation, and nothing further. Zus herself remained silent.
Zus would recieve a message directly from Mu'Tasim.
I am glad to have you back.
"First Squadron, we will wait for the retrieval squadron before boarding the station to find Vayshirin Dahru's sqaudmate. Prep your minds for infantry combat, we were about to put ourselves into the thick of it." said Mu'Tasim, his VANDR's head looked over in the direction of the NVR soldiers.
Jin was keeping watch on the perimeter while the rest of the squad went about their work. It wasn't that there was still a threat, but there could be, and it was always good to be on guard. His thoughts drifted back to the battle and his thoughts turned cold. If it weren't for the rebels, they wouldn't have had the loses or taken the damages they did. Ignorant people unwilling to conform to society's blessings. It sickened him. But wait! A ray of hope! He was going to boots to the ground! If there was an emotional link, all of them would feel Jin's excitement.
Isha cut across with a brief message. "Everyone checks out fine, Vaytulri."
Seeing as the skirmish had come to a close, Kuzman readied himself for combat on foot. He had been wanting to use his dual extend blades in a real battle for a while. After all, he was more of a close range combat person.
Zus was broken out of her anger when she received a transmission from Mu'tasim, saying he was glad to see her back. She quickly sent a reply:
I am glad to be back, and away from that fool of a brother.
However, Zus was taken aback when she was informed she'd be needed for infantry combat, suddenly realizing that the Squadron was in a vastly different situation now than they had been before. She remembered her first engagement on foot, back on Mazerin, when they had had to retrieve Enlil, and ended up fighting would-be NVR assassins. Hopefully, this time it wouldn't be so confusing, and perhaps not nearly as cold.
Aiaru sighed a little when she got the command that they were going to be going into the station on foot; she was really
hoping that she'd be allowed to return now, after the pounding she'd taken, but she'd cope well enough even so. "Sir, I'd like to add that my remaining squad member is not currently responding, so things may have gotten worse in the station since I last had contact."
The NI went back to wearing her customary frown since entering the Gardens. She was looking at the Navsphere, although not needing to before she let out a small huff. "My sensors have started to become muddled again. I'm detecting a massive distortion wave which I think
is coming from the gas giant within the area... But I can't be too sure. At best it is what you people call an "Educated Guess." " she brought the gas giant up on the Navsphere while dividing a portion of it to maintaining surveillance upon the runners. "See?" she pointed to it.
"I'm having trouble pinning it down because it so large
"...what do you mean 'you people'? And... hnn." Mridula squinted at the sensor readouts. "Could it be coming from some kind of... creature within
Ishtar looked down at her shoes again before looking back up to Mridula. "I mean 'normal people'. I'm still... new t-to this!" she blushed a little in embarassment at the slipup before continuing. With a little headshake she pointed at the celestial body. "It's a gas giant, a failed star formation. I just can't get my sensors to pinpoint the origin of the signal.
" The NI sounded fairly annoyed about not being able to do it. But everything she was throwing at it, and in every modulation she tried wasn't penetrating the field, or was merely being repulsed.
"I just know it's coming from there, but for all I know it could be an actual liquid core of veyrinite so large that it has begun to eminate a distortion wave across the fabric of space time." of course she was making that up as she threw her hands up in the air. But several scientists had indeed said it could be possible... before being laughed out of the scientific community.
"Nothing in my databases corresponds to this beyond what we encountered earlier."
"I know what a gas giant is, Ishtar. I may be a biologist, but I know the basics." She smirked slightly, idly scrolling through the readouts on the screen she, Ishtar, and Serhan were looking at. "Hnn. I still think my suggestion is a valid one."
a Dream Eater survive the immense gravitation forces of a gas giant though? I only have data pertaining to... certain things I am not at liberty to ahah... share." Ishtar's cheeks went a little darker. "But what I know of them doesn't cover this if it is possible."
"We don't fully know their capabilities... even with the data I'm
not at liberty to share. It's within the realm of possibility."
Ishtar rubbed at the sides of her head in frustration. "Can't I just blow it up?" was her response. When in doubt, blow it up. "I might be able to start nuclear fusion and make a new star!"
"Noooo. There's valuable research data in all this, no blowing up."
The NI hung her arms limply at her sides. Looking forlorn and regretful. She could've blown it up if she'd wanted to! And made it into a star... "Ok... I won't blow it up. B-But what do I do though? I can't penetrate the wave with my sensors."
"...I don't know. Let's just wait a minute and see if anything happens." Mridula patted Ishtar's shoulder gently.
"Hrm. It seems the 1st Squadron succeeded in disabling the garrisson over that station." Serhan said with a slight stroke of his chin. "Do we have any probes in reserve? I'd like to get some analysis equipment onto it to examine things." He glanced over the design and structure. "I'm not particularly familiar with the structure, however..."
"I have probes in my stores still. They're nearly finished being loaded into one of my catapults." Ishtar answered as she saw the Maranrr's interest in the station. She began to focus several of her sensor clusters on the structure to sate the man's curiosity until the probes were ready for deployment.
Initial sensor feedback provided very little data due to the interference of the combat, but the new data was finally coming in. The station didn't appear to be emitting any heat or radiation, and appeared to be a very cold, reflective surface marred by what may have been centuries or millenia of micrometeorite impacts. Everything indicated that it was very old, and that it was composed of incredibly complex and exotic materials that didn't match anything on record.
"...old... far in advance of our technology..." Mridula's luminescent eyes widened. "Is this a Makuori station?"
"I... these don't resemble the style I'm used to." Serhan spoke with hesitancy and doubt, considering the implications of his suggestion. "The structure nearly resembles the standard shape of NVR cruisers. The spire and the flowering top are dead ringers for the design... although the proportions and structure aren't the same."
"If I could get a sample of the material or perform a more indepth analysis of the materials used in its construction I could confirm that and the age." Ishtar offered. "Otherwise, I can run a comparative search in my database for the shape."
"That may be advisable."
ON, VSV Astarte
Near Unknown Megastructure
Bukor 17, 936
12:11, Commonwealth Standard Time
It was a few minutes before Mu'Tasim and the rest of Bahram Wing received the signal he was clear to dock, as recovery teams arrived and began sorting through the wreckage and jettisoned cockpit blocks of NVR frames. Precious minutes of waiting and worry for the trapped runner on the station, but within a few moments, they were off and making their descent towards the massive structure bellow.
Lanbalri Romdo gave them a last quick message before they began closing to land, her voice a little tense and restrained. "Be careful out there, 1st Squadron. There's something
out there and we don't know exactly what." She cleared her voice after the warning, holding silent for a few seconds before continuing. "Intel from the downed 3rd Squadron units indicate at least one
runner is on the station, but there are many more life signs down below."
"Be careful, and good hunting, Bahram."
"Roger that, Romdo. We will do our utmost to stay safe. You heard her, we are not alone on this station, I want everyone to rally at the Hangar's door once we've all disembarked," responded Mu'Tasim as his VANDR touched down into the bay first, his unit landing quite gracefully before coming to its knees. The Erla II then deactivated, its cockpit opening shortly after filling the immediate area with the sweet smell of drying prajna. Mu'Tasim unsecured himself from his place, and kicked open the the weapons compartment, revealing a Laiz Carbine.Ah, for once, something is where it should be.
thought Mu'Tasim to himself, picking up the weapons and the extra ammunition. Then, he settled himself down from the cockpit, sliding down the back, and taking cover next to his VANDR's knee as he swept the area. When he found everything to be clear, he surged forward, sprinting towards the door and squatted down next to it, continuing to stay vigilant of any brooding threats.
The pier of the ancient space station was in a word... massive, easily large enough to fit a dozen Vayu frigates and mostly empty space. Automated lifting arms and maintenance drones were strewn across the walls and ceiling, but lay motionless and covered in eons of dust and refuse, corroded by the ravages of time. Where there was no dust, the floor was black and shiny, almost slick if only riddled with a few cracks and etches from unknown years of constant usage.
Having apparently occupied the area for some time, the NVR had erected several electrostatic barriers around the bay and apparently filled it with breathable atmosphere. There were a few tents and other ad-hoc facilities strewn about the bay, but these were vacant.
What did catch the eyes, however, were the half-dozen Erla VANDR II strewn across the near-entrence of the bay, surrounded by the wreckage of NVR automatons and constricted by large bands of smart material, suspiciously similar to the landing systems used on the Astarte. Most of the units seems to be relatively intact, but had their cockpit pods torn out or blown out with plasma fire, while a few more were essentially torn apart in what could have been assumed to be a horrific exchange of fire. The 3rd, as Aiaru had told them before, had been ambushed.
Isha landed in short order, and made quick work of dismounting her Erla II. Her carbine and additional batteries were all present and accounted for, which elicited a faint smile. Once she'd checked that all was in order, she turned her attention to Aiaru Dahra. "Vayshirin Dahra, could you provide any more information pertaining to the station? Anything at all that may be useful." While awaiting a response, she surveyed the area, but it provided little information that could further their search.
The scene elicited the most curious of responses from Akjit. One, he was plain scared shitless. VANDRs lay about like broken dolls, either riddled with fire or their cockpits simply plucked out of their helpless forms. The image of Bahadur's death filtered across his vision. He forced that down. He didn't want Nightmare
to notice. But that didn't matter; as long as he was in it, it always knew. But then, there was the second mattter; Akjit was supposed to hop out of his nicely armed and armored VANDR II and hoof it like infantry. Again.
As Akjit descended from his VANDR, Laiz pistol at his side and carbine in hand, a small part of him simply smoldered, fustrated and even angry at what happened last time. And he was scared shitless too. "W-where to? I'd rather not...um. Take point again."
Jin's Raevr couldn't land fast enough for him. It had barely touched down before he was rifling through the weapons locker, pulling out the Laiz Carbine and extra capacitors. Equipment in hand, he dropped out of the back of the mech and slid down the leg. His eyes scanned the bay as his hands naturally ejected the current capacitory, checked the charge, and reloaded it. His boots made small puffs of dust as he double timed it before sliding in on the other side of the door from the Squad Leader. Letting the man in charge take a second to regroup the rest of them, he gave his full attention to the door as the Carbine's comfortable weight in his hands help center him. He didn't have time to even think about what happened to the other pilots from 3rd Squadron. It was probably best not to dwell on it anyways.
Zus landed quickly, her Raevr in ARMS mode, the more flattened and streamlined shape bringing the cockpit closer to the ground, and easier to extricate herself from. With equal swiftness, the Eyr Ranr vacated the cockpit block, Laiz carbine in hand, laiz pistol at her hip. She moved forward, bent down low, and made her way to the assigned rendeszvous point that Mu'tasim had outlined for them. She looked over the wrecked VANDR in the bay, and was glad they had not been the ones to get ambushed, and hoped that there were not other ambushes waiting for them further on.
Somewhat dismayed at the wreckage of the VANDRs, Kuzman landed his Raevr and climbed out with his Laiz pistol in hand. Somewhat excited he tested his extend blades to ensure they worked. His royal blue right blade was engraved with the symbol of Ruh and his left blade was engraved with the symbol of his ancestral name, Galib.
A muffled, but bloodcurdling scream emanated from one of the wrecked cockpits on the pier, followed by the sickening sizzling of a laiz faelraig slicing through the tissues of the cockpit, opening up a hole wide enough for the prajna inside to spill out all over the floor. Whoever was wielding the weapon used it to wedge the slice open, still screaming at the top of their lungs, until it was wide enough for them to pry it apart with their arms and climb out. The occupant, once she had climbed out and stood on top of the cockpit waving her sword as though she had slain some massive beast, was revealed to be a barely-of-age girl with dark skin and red hair. "I WON!
" she screeched, swinging the faelraig around in a huge arc and splattering prajna everywhere.
"You there!" yelled Mu'Tasim, calling over to the girl slashing her way from the womb of a VANDR. While it was terribly stylish, protocol still had it's place, "Identify yourself!"
The girl didn't lower her voice - possibly still riding her adrenaline high, still insane, both, or wanting Mu'Tasim to hear her. "VAYSHIRIN HAFSA BINT SALEH, SERA!" She pointed the sword back at herself. "BEST FRAME RUNNER IN THIRD SQUADRON!"
"That's good, welcome to First Squadron, Vayshirin Hafsa Bint Saleh." said Mu'Tasim, apparently familiar with such zealotry. He tilted his head towards the direction of the door, signalling her to come over. "Grab your Carbine and lower your voice, we'll have use of your tenacity later on."
Hafsa saluted crisply, the fire in her eyes visible all the way over where Mu'Tasim stood, and jumped from her perch to pry open the hole she had cut and retrieve her carbine from inside. Once that was done, she slung her faelraig over her back and jogged to her new commanding officer.
"Are you wounded at all, Vayshirin Saleh? We have an expert medical professional on hand, and it would be best to have you at one hundred percent before we proceed." commented Mu'Tasim, before throwing a glance over in Isha's direction, pointing her out in the group.
"Of course I'm not wounded!" scoffed the young runner, crossing her arms over her chest. "I
don't get wounded! I'm perfectly capable of helping you fight those monsters!"
"Monsters? What monsters?" asked Mu'Tasim, arching a brow at the younger pilot. His gaze became a little more discerning now. "If you have anything that would shed light on the situation here, that's something that we would appreciate.
"The, the..." Hafsa waved her arms around, incidentally pointing her carbine at the other members of First Squadron. "Giant... space monster... amoeba things!"
The Ivuori Frame Runner watched, shocked. This person was...was she even sane? Regardless, there was only one thing on Akjit's mind right at this moment; "AHHHHH!" He screamed, literally diving into cover as the Laiz Carbine was swung in his direction like a child's toy. Akjit landed in a puddle of Pranja behind a severed Frame limb with a squishy splash. After a few seconds passed, his head slowly peeked up and over cover, just enough so that he could see them. The scarred Frame Runner still remembered the sting of the Laiz. "Is...is it safe?" he asked quietly.
Kuzman chuckled at Akjit's antics; at least this mission would be entertaining. Although, he had to agree with Akjit's actions. Waving a gun around was not the best of ideas in a situation such as this.
Zus put her hand on Akjit's shoulder, having made her way over toward him. "Do not worry, she's just insane, our Squadron can handle those kinds of people." she consoled him, trying to project a sense of calmness to the hyperactive Ivuouri. The blonde moved on swifly, heading now to stand next to her Beloved, keeping an eye out for the things this crazy runner spoke of.
"I'm not insane,
" the young runner scoffed, returning her arms to their folded position over her chest. "You're stupid.
I saw the monsters! How do you think the whole squadron got wrecked?"
"A-amoeba monsters? Didn't we fight one ourselves not too long ago?" Akjit asked, rising from his cover a little after Zus' gesture. He looked around the hangar again and twiddled his fingers as the Laiz carbine hung from his chest by a sling. "I guess that explains why the cockpits were ripped out. B-but why was it this bad for you guys? We only had one c-casualty and a bit of damage." he asked, stuttering as he recalled Bahadur's fate as a...morsel.
"She said Monsters
, Chirimar. While some of us had the fortune of fighting one..." Mu'Tasim's eyes drifted over the wrecks and the destruction that littered the floor of the bay, the Temple Guard felt the presence of his blonde interest next to him, and leaned against her gently. He seemed to garner some support from that light contact, "... Third Squadron was likely not as fortunate. It is to assume that they encountered a group, and as such incurred losses on that scale."
Aiaru looked back over at Isha, not sure on her name. Having just dismounted from her VANDR, she hadn't had the chance to get the introductions sorted out yet, but it was a legitimate question nonetheless. "Not much, sadly. My squadron was sent in to investigate the distortion field, we were ambushed on our way in. The only thing that might be relevant is that I'm almost certain not all of them pursued me back out to where you met me, but..." She looked around pointedly, "They seem to have made themselves scarce somehow."
Akjit audibly gulped at Mu'Tasim's clarification. Deep down inside, a small part of him was yelling something along the lines of Game over man! Game over!
Of course, he kept that to himself. Now that he was out of Nightmare
, Akjit wondered just how any people repelled Dream Eaters with Laiz Rifles, not mentioning Carbines. For once, he wanted to be with his VANDR and it's insane NI for a change.
"Then we have an idea of what we are up against. We will have to be cautious, but we can not afford to stagnate any longer." said Mu'Tasim, turning towards the door. He approached it, seperating himself from Zus, and opened it, having to apply a bit of force with it's damage. "Vayshirin Saleh, your fervor belongs up front, you will take point. Chirimar, you will cover the front as well. Everyone else, pick your sectors and watch them, there is a soldier who is still out there, and Fanir does not respect the slow."
Hafsa's grin threatened to cleave off the top of her head as she gave Mu'tasim a snappy salute and jogged out in front of him and Zus, swinging her carbine around to point it at the blackness of the hall ahead. "Yes, Vaytulri! Are we ready?"
Zus remained next to Mu'Tasim, not feeling like being at either end of the group, and so she remained with whom she figured would keep to the middle. Her Laiz carbine swept around, looking for a target, and she felt comforted by the holstered pistol by her side, as well. Though something with a bit more punch than beams of light might be nice...
she thought, idly.
Aiaru decided that she had no need to be near the front of the group, having had more then enough excitement in her life for at least a day or two. And regardless of what was on the station, being in the back gave her a reasonable shot at either seeing whatever it was trying to sneak up on them, or at avoiding being the first hit by it, and either result was fine.
Actually looking forward to on foot combat, Kuzman moved into position near the front; however, decidedly behind Hafsa. He readied his
The Field Physician positioned herself in the midst of the squad, splitting her attention equally between the environment and her teammates. After all, half her job was keeping everyone well, and the other half was being a soldier.
"Y-yes sir!" Akjit replied, taking point alongside Hafsa. He checked his Laiz Carbine over again. Safety, off. Battery? Charged. He was good to go, and didn't have any excuse not to get moving. He gulped, and started taking the first steps into the dark hall that was very dark. At this rate, I'll never make it back for any training Mu'Tasim or Nightmare has in store for me!
he thought. Meanwhile, Nightmare
was running a game in its system and happily blasting pixels while keeping an eye on sensors. Akjit got the short stick once again.
"Then by Mu'Klamal's standards of war, we are ready! First Squad! Move up!" said Mu'Tasim, throwing his hand into the direction of the dark halls that awaited their advance. Whatever waited, though, would not suprise them or take them easily. Unless it was a Dream Eater, then, even the Temple Guardsman, and Mu'Klamal's standards of conserving the physical body over honor, it was time to run like hell.
Hafsa flicked on the flashlight attached underneath the barrel of her carbine, illuminating the darkness ahead of them for a few precious feet. She began to walk forward - not exactly at a run, but quicker than might strictly be safe. "Come out, come out, dream eaters," she growled, only loud enough for Akjit next to her to hear.
At that, Akjit made a strange little whining noise before speaking up. "A-are you really in a hurry to find them?" he asked Hafsa. "I mean, they killed most of your squad and ripped you out of your VANDR..." Akjit quietly asked her. So far, this woman defied all lines of logic to him. He couldn't understand her one bit!
"That's why I want
to find them, stupid! I have to get revenge." Hafsa rolled her eyes as though it was the most obvious thing in the world to want to hunt down VANDR-eating space creatures.
Moving through the tatters of the abandonned NVR encampment revealed a lot about the people who had made the ancient hangar bay their home. The structure of the encampment was a bit like a planetary camp, with ad-hoc quick deployment structures dropped onto the floor itself and dozens of wires and pipes running between them. From the look of it, they seemed to have their own basic water recycling and power infrastructure setup, although there were no defenses beyond those left at the hangar gate. Wherever they were now, they were in for the long haul but hadn't really expected guests or intruders of any sort.
Where people walked the most, the dust was heavily displaced and even absent, exposing the shiny material of the floor. Trenches of brilliant and glistening black seemed to be cut between one of the larger temporary structures, what was likely an ad-hoc barracks or scullery, and one of the smaller structures that housed the generator block that powered the life support and shield systems that kept the bay habitable.
But the dust had already began to resettle, covering their tracks with a faint glaze of white specs, and athough there was trash and damaged structural components strewn about the area, there were no signs of battle, no plasma burns or ashen residue from laser scouring. No bodies, anywhere in sight.
"I-I think they ran. Before anything could get them maybe." Akjit offered up, hoping that was exactly what they were going to do as soon as possible. "And how are you going to get revenge anyways?" He asked the other Frame Runner. "You don't even have a VANDR this time around, and last time, they beat you."
In reponse, Hafsa just patted her carbine and the hilt of her Faelraig.
"Do not be so sure, keep your eyes open and ready yourself. Command reported that there were other life signatures within this facility besides the missing 3rd Squadder." Mu'Tasim stepped forward, checking the dust on the sleek floor. His gaze hardened, and looked about, the faded tracks did not lead anywhere... or did they? People did not just float off and leave, such gravity defying ability would be the work of some strange alien.
It disturbed Aiaru more then a little that their tracks were disappearing as fast as they were. It didn't bode well for their odds on knowing if something else was in there with them, and with the luck she'd had already, it was entirely possible that whatever else that was in here could track them just fine anyway.
"Check yourselves, so that we do not bring misfortune upon us." quoted Mu'Tasim, speaking a proverb of Ruh aloud. "We will search these structures upon our return, for now, we need follow the disturbances in the dust. These foot-prints could very well belong to our missing ally, or whoever has taken him. Saleh, take that path ahead of us, we will follow." The Temple Guard pointed his Carbine towards the direction of a trail of still visible footprints.
Zus continued to sweep accross the numerous temporary structures around them, trying to see through the dust in the air ."Do not ignore your surroundings, either. We need to move cautiously and carefully, in case something is hiding amongst the encampment." she warned, hoping one of the other Runners was covering the left side of their path, which she currently had her back to.
Zus could rest assured, as Isha was doing just that. Eyes scoured the tents as best they could from the outside, fingers uneasy on the gun. This wasn't a place she had any desire to hang around; for one, it was getting creepy, and for another it was a very vulnerable position.
Saleh took the path as ordered, not bothering to keep her own footsteps in line with the ones already in the dust, and in doing so kicking up little clouds as she went. "...this is eerie," she commented, her eyes flicking back and forth in tandem with her weapon.
Akjit's eyes darted back and forward as he kept on moving, Laiz Carbine shouldered. Things were quiet. Simply too quiet, as cliche as it was; deep down inside, he Knew
that something was bound to happen sooner or later. But sooner, or later? That was a question that bounced around in his mind; was it better now or later? He couldn't decide. Akjit's eyes flicked in Saleh's direction at her statement. "H-hey! You do have fear!" he spoke quietly in surprise.
As Akjit spoke, a large cloud of dust billowed up suddenly in the distance, followed by a short series of indistinct tearing and clanging noises coming from somewhere in that direction. The sound, a bit like a knife being ground against a chalkboard as a half dozen pipes were haphazardly beaten with a wrench, seemed to be echoing into the high ceiling above them... carrying quite far through the hollows of the forgotten hangar bay.
"Get a light on that!" ordered Mu'Tasim, pointing towards the billowing cloud. "Everyone, take sides on the hall, do not stand in the center!" His hand shook left and right to the bordering walls, before assuming his position next to one himself. "You!
" bellowed Mu'Tasim, calling out whatever it was that was damaging the area ahead, "Identify yourself!
Hafsa swung her gun light towards the source of the noise, but ignored Mu'Tasim's subsequent order, standing right in the middle of the hall as she had been. Her finger moved to the trigger, ready to blow away whatever leapt from the shadows.
Aiaru got herself out of the way just like Mu'Tasim had said, reasoning that those orders seemed completely sensible, what with Hafsa's earlier descriptions of some crazy monster thing, and the missing NVR. It seemed to her that getting out of the way of whatever was down the hall was a good idea.
Akjit started to move off to the side as ordered and hunkered down, ready for whatever was coming their way. He risked a glance around, to see where everyone was, but was surprised to see Hafsa still standing there. Akjit sprinted back up to her and grabbed her by the wrist of the free hand in an attempt to drag her into cover. "What are you doing?! Take cover!"
Kuzman pulled out his Laiz carbine and trained it on the center of the cloud. His nerves were at their limit. He was not a fan of unseen enemies. He prefered a fair fight after all. He swiftly skirted to the left wall to avoid any attacks coming from the middle.
Zus swiftly followed Mu'tasim to the side, her Lais carbine trained on the source of the billowing dust cloud. However, with all the echoing, and the dark room, it was difficult to tell exactly where the thing might be, wether it be Iroma or beast.
Isha lunged in reverse, thrusting herself against the right side of the hall. It was perhaps a tad hasteful, as she gave her head a rough knock. She was fine, but there was a slight pounding in now. Only a wince gave it away, and it was short-lived. Her carbine was trained ahead, but her eyes ocasionally drifted toward her squad, reassuring her that everyone was well.
Hafsa yelped as she was dragged to cover by Akjit. She jerked her wrist out of his grip and glared, but didn't move out of the moderately safe spot, still keeping her carbine trained on the dark distance. "...don't touch me, stupid.
"I'm not the stupid one, stupid!
" Akjit shot back childishly. Even if she moved away again, Akjit wasn't likely to try and drag her back again. With things as they were, he tensed up, Laiz Carbine following the lights. His finger gently laid on top of the trigger, sweat started to moisten the grips. Any time now.
Seemingly driven away by the light, the sound and its still-unknown source quickly moved away, pushing deeper into the facility. The grating, skittering ruckus continued on for a few moments before finally petering out. Just as before, the hangar was silent and the members of Bahram Wing were alone. Small motes of dust dropped from the overhanging support arches, struts and catwalks that still rattled with the vibrations, but there was very little to indicate at this point that there was anything else left... other than the eerie stillness of the NVR encampment.
"...it's gone. Should we go on?" Hafsa flicked her light around in the hangar, narrowing her red eyes suspiciously.
"Of course, back in form, soldiers. We must keep moving!" demanded Mu'Tasim, before leaning back into the middle of the hall, keeping up his steady pace. Despite the rather horror movie set-up of the situation, he seemed remarkably calm. Another person could probably see it as being professional. Either way, he seemed to be handling like a normal combat situation.
The young runner vaulted the cover in front of her and Akjit and began to continue following the dusty footprints, occasionally flicking her light up towards the ceiling just in case.
Before they advanced much further, Mu'Tasim reached into one of the containment pockets of his linksuit, and pulled out his thick, long Datarod. He fondled it a little bit in the dimness of light, but eventually shined a light on it, so that he could get a firm grasp around it's length. When he finally worked his way up the device, he pulled trigger and from the tip came a volumetric window. The Temple Guard opened up the settings of the device and then, set it to track open Datarod signals within one kilometer.
Mu'Tasim's Datarod projected small spherical display around his hand, which seemed to resemble the topology of the surrounding area, using data fed directly from Famasir and the other VANDR's sensors to create a realtime map of the hangar. The dot that represented himself on this display, centered a bit over his thumb, was surrounded by other dim blue lights, each the Datarod of another runner. Those present came up clearly, although that of the still-missing runner was faint, flickering and incoherent.
it is possible that the structure is made of material that is absorbing our radio
Famasir was quick to chime in as that flaw in its scanning became evident to it, but quickly worked out other alternatives. Moments later, there brief coo as the NI was satisfied with its work, followed by another message. Much of the data transfer was not text or sound, however, but long and hastily compiled computer code, a language that the Temple Guard was marginally familiar and slightly less comfortable with.
we assembled a subroutine for your datarod if you are in close proximity to the lost runner both her datarod and yours will emit sonic frequencies that will allow us to find her and give you directions
"Hrm, then we are on the right track. Let's get moving, then." said Mu'Tasim, holding the Datarod steady, while he unholster his pistol with the other. "Keep your eyes open, even if we do locate the 3rd Squadder there is no guarantee that he or she has found a safe place to hide themselves."
Vayshirin Ragnar fell into step silently, flashlight bobbing rhythmically over bodies and walls as she synced up with the formation. "Might I also suggest a staggered formation, sir? If there are anything like the Dream Eaters in here, attacks will be overwhelming on a tight-knit squad."
Upon hearing Isha's comment about a Dream Eater, he inwardly shuddered. Kuzman did not intend on battling such a behemoth with simply a Laiz carbine and pistol and his two swords. Judging from the amount of damage the space ameoba absorbed from VANDRs, he did not want to think how the ancestors had done such a thing.
One. Just one was bad enough. Did Dream Eaters even have infantry, or something like that? Something in the back of his mind simply said Yes
just to be safe. Which also meant being scared. Again, on the brighter side, it was the shitless variety. For what felt like the hundredth time, Akjit adjusted his grip on the Laiz Carbine. "I'm not sure what's worse. W-waiting for something to happen, or having it h-happen."
"Calm yourself, Chirimar. You are of the finest pilots to be trained in this military, and you should keep that at heart. Even if there are
threats of that magnitude still lurking here, then it has to contend with us
, and by Jafar's guidance, we will not fall easily." encouraged Mu'Tasim as he looked ahead at Akjit, offering the man a short smile before his eyes came back down to line with his sights.
The runners finally pushed beyond the hangar, heading off into a large corridor that could have easily had a VANDR fly through it. The age of the station was even more obvious here, where the dust caked onto the walls was inches thick and threatened to completely bury the features of the ancient architecture. Although more intact than the hangar, it was clear this area was less traversed as there were no ad-hoc electric lights or even bioluminescent sticks dropped to keep a trail. A few footprints indicated the area might have been investigated at some point, but no effort had been taken on the part of the would-be explorer in making their search any easier on themselves.
The datarod beeped at regular intervals, the only sound offsetting the disquietingly resonant and repetitive plod of footsteps, occasionally disrupted by a snow-like crunch as someone stepped into a particularly thick patch of dust. As far as he could tell, Mu'Tasim was sure that the missing runner was somewhere in the area in front of him, although the extent to how far was still somewhat unsure.
The beeping signaled it, the runner was just ahead. Though, there was no way to link up the DataRod in this interference. So, he did what he knew what he could do best. He would use the call his previous infantry squads used to signal an all clear.
"Ollie ollie gualmyan free!" called Mu'Tasim in the darkness, wondering if that would draw someone out.
At first there was one a slightly echo as the Guardsman's voice echoed out into the massive corridor, silence following for a few moments. What followed, was that same, uncomfortable grating noise they had heard in the hangar, accompanied by a sickening wheezing and sloshing noise. The sound was clearer, louder and the din of the echo made it sound like it was closer
The faint odor of fat and copper tinged the air.
"Get down and out of sight!" ordered Mu'Tasim as he went for the nearest form for concealment. Whatever they had scared off earlier, was likely returning, but for what reason? If it was so panicked earlier, what gave it the notion to return?
Hafsa crouched down at the nearest wall, still holding her gun forward. "...what is it? Is it invisible?"
"If it is, it's doing a terrible job of properly using it's concealment." quiped Mu'Tasim silently.
"Whatever it is, it doesn't use the ground to move." Zus observed, noting that there was almost no evidence of anything aside from maybe one NVR investigation having gone on. "And when the NVR came through here, they either carried someone out, or had less returning than they had hoped for."
"Soo...it flies?" Akjit asked, tilting his head to the side a bit.Crunch.Crunch.Crunchcruncrunch.
The source of the noise seemed to gurgle vigorously, as it tore apart something wet and filled with pieces that splintered under great force. The sickening noises continued on for several seconds before they cut off abruptly and the source of the racket seemed to speed off down another hallway.
Isha, for all her medical training, nearly gagged at the sound. She had taken a knee, and didn't look up until the gruesome audio had ceased- the Field Physician was embarrassed, frankly, and hadn't wanted anyone to see. Now that she'd regained her composure, she stood upright once more. "Sir...?" It was a simple inquiry: what the hell are we going to do?
Paled, Kuzman whispered, "So....when do we kill it?" The sound of bodily destruction did not sit well with neither him nor his stomach; if he had been hungry before, he was not now. Boy, oh boy, would Nuk'Dukam
have a field day if he ever heard about this. There would be courageous and manly surges indicating how Kuzman should have charged in guns blazing and then upon victory, getting it on with all of the women. That NI was very predictable.
Mu'Tasim checked his DataRod once the beast had passed, to see if the signal was still as strong as it was.
There was a quiet buzz, and the volumetric display wrapped itself around his hand, shaping itself into an arrow hooking to the right. The missing pilot... and the skittering horror that seemed to be in the distance, were both in that direction!END
ON, VSV Astarte
Inside the Unknown Megastructure
Bukor 17, 936
12:38, Commonwealth Standard Time
It was only a few moments of running on the trace to the missing crew member that any of the runners began actually began seeing lights overhead and on the walls. Nothing clearly artificial, with the telltale glowing shapes of bulbs, diodes or tubes, but something softer and phosphorescent or even biolumescent. The texture of these lights was something akin to a glassy clay spread across the hard walls, which reflected the amber glow that so readily exposed the many cracks and scratches they acquired throughout the eons.
A few more minutes of walking brought them to a large terminus, seemingly nestled deep within the belly of the megastructure. The large sphere of dull reflective orange overhead, suspiciously similar to the gas giant they had had a good look at while approaching the station, seemed to be cut across by lines of black material and cast in a slight gray haze. The terminal and the surrounding area was open plain, still miraculously sealed and crested by a massive dome of a mysterious transparent material that seemed to be gradually losing its luster and transparency.
The glowing clay-like mass was strewn across the walls, floor and pillars that held the structure together in massive colonies, casting a dull amber glow on the shape of a mangled body laying face down in a pool of red.
The chittering that had accompanied that uncomfortable noise earlier hummed as it did before, but not as a single sound or echo in the great void of the terminal. The sound seemed to occur as some infernal chorus, a thousand grinding and humming noises resonating as one.
"By Ruh's beard, what in Maekardan is that racket!?" groaned Mu'Tasim, he kept his Carbine poised as he lead his stalking team through the glowing hall. He brought a hand to one of his horns and rubbed at the base of it, grimacing slightly. The sounds were making it difficult to focus, making him especially wary of the things around him. "Saleh! Check that body." ordered Mu'Tasim, pointing ahead to the dimly lit body ahead of them. "Everyone else, keep your eyes open and be prepared to provide fire support."
Aiaru nodded, keeping her eyes wide open for anything that was out of the ordinary (though enough was that it would be a gamble guessing what was actually a threat). She moved up alongside Mu'Tasim as silently as she could, keeping to the sides of the hallway they were in.
Isha followed the edge of the room, head on a swivel. Her main focus, however, was the machinery, and she was prying for its purpose.
Jin was pulling rear guard of the group and backing down the hallway as they entered the room with the unholy noise. He took his eyes off of the doorway for a split second to scan the room, then went back to the hallway they just exited. His even steps and stance spoke of readiness of action and his mind was focused on the mission. As soon as the order was given, he backed up enough to have at least two other runners in the corners of his vision and dropped to a knee. His weapon remained trained on the doorway and his eyes constantly strafed his view. Every few seconds he would throw a look skyward. This kind of situation warranted the extra caution.
Kuzman slowly, cautiously stepped into the room with his gun at the ready. He didn't like grinding noises; this sort of noise typically implied broken devices which in some circumstances indicated danger. Kuzman was not a fan of machines exploding in his face unless he was the one destroying them. He took a quick glance around the room for targets.
Hafsa ducked out from her position next to Akjit and moved to the center of the room in a crouch, looking around anxiously, her steps in the blood-puddle sending out little ripples. She carefully prodded the corpse with her gun, then turned it over onto its back.
There really wasn't much of a face or front of the body left to distinguish it from any other corpses that Hafsa might have seen in online media and war documentaries. The skin, muscles and sinew which held the face had been meticulously peeled off, and the torso and legs weren't much better off. However, the tattered remains of the arms, clad in scraps of a uniform that Hafsa wasn't familiar with, did at least signal that this wasn't the missing runner.
"It's not her," the young runner called, standing up perhaps a bit too quickly and glancing away from the faceless corpse.
Mu'Tasim's datarod continued to beep, its volumetric tracer facing away from the corpse and further off through the very center of the massive terminal. It seemed to insist that the runner was close, although it couldn't maintain a data-link long enough to get any kind of video or audio communications through.
"No, but we're close." said Mu'Tasim, holding up his Datarod to check the readings past the auditory beeps of the device. He took a few jogging steps forward to properly ascertain the direction, before breaking off to speed. He held up his hand and threw it forward, "Let's move, this place is holding more secrets than I would like. Chirimar, Saleh, maintain point, everyone else group behind me and watch your sectors. We're close, but whatever is splitting our horns is still out there."
Aiaru formed up right behind Mu'Tasim, not wanting to get too close to the back of the group if she could avoid it. She'd come close enough to death to satisfy any crazy urges she might've had today, and had no desire to test her luck further.
FP Ragnar held toward the back with Jin this time, watching all angles. Her carbine was at the ready as always, and Isha was getting the idea that soon would come the time to use it.
This time Jin jogged lightly to keep up but still took up rearguard. He did not like this situation. He regularly checked his six, but also kept looking up. It didn't seem like this was going to be a linear battlefield. His weapon constantly would lock in on a shadow for a tick before moving to another, but not out of innate fear, more out of training and caution.
Quickly trotting behind Mu'Tasim, Kuzman kept on the lookout for targets. He moved swiftly to avoid staying in such a creepy place. Kuzman was regretting his initial gladness for combat on foot.
Hafsa picked up her pace and moved quickly through the huge room, heading for the back wall, without looking back to the skinned body or the rest of her team to make sure they were following her and her hapless point-buddy.
The skittering and humming seemed to get louder as they moved through the center of the terminal, and the cause became abundantly clear. The pillars set around the center of the the terminal, easily mistaken for original pieces of the architecture, were something else entirely. Each tower was a tangled mess of the crystaline black material that made up the structure, rebuilt around a pillar of some sort of biological wax or polymer.
From the far corners of the room, it would have been easy to make the mistake, but the true purpose of each tower was clearer once they neared the center of the edifice. Thousands of hexagonal cells facing towards the center, each filled with the glowing, clay-like material that seemed to have a glassy texture and reflective index, each seperating a tiny swarm of moving, skittering... things, from the rest of the station. The floor and much of the surrounding surfaces were slathered in the exotic material, which seemed to stick to the soles of their boots slightly and coat them in an oily yellow fluid.
The noise however, had stopped. The humming gradually dropped to nothing, replaced only by silence and a bright red shine that came from overhead.
"By the dreamers and all of their wisdom..." said Mu'Tasim taking in the oddity of the room they had entered, "What is this place?" His carbine stayed shouldered as he moved on ahead, taking a few steps, until he heard the noise within the room grind quietly to a halt. The Temple Guard's heart rate spiked. Something was wrong. He looked up, the sights of his Carbine following suit as he aimed towards the ceiling. "What...?"
There they were. Dozens of them, perhaps even hundreds. Red eyes on shadowy, insectile bodies obsctured by ancient refuse and the crevices in their towering nests. Watching.
"Back up, and establish a firing position in the doorway, now." ordered Mu'Tasim, waving his hand back to the rest of the squad, his fingers drumming in the direction from whence they came, the Carbine still aiming upward. There were only a few times in the Sund Wakir's life where he had seen so many eyes staring down at him from one concentrated mass. Usually, those eyes belonged to something that wanted to end his life. "You! All of you!" yelled Mu'Tasim, declaring a statement to the heavens of the odd room, "Identify yourself!"
What forward motion Aiaru had immediately reversed itself on Mu'Tasim's orders, having no desire to stick around for whatever had made their leader decide that going forward was a bad idea. She wasn't going to run away, but she kept a good, healthy distance between herself and Mu'Tasim, just in case. The little bit of a warning might give her the time she needed to respond to whatever it was.
Isha immediately came to a halt when the order was given, and she hadn't even stepped into the cavernous room yet. One hand snapped out to her side to prevent Jin from moving any further. Then both hands were gripping the carbine tight, her body tense. Yes, she'd expected trouble, but not of this caliber. Even so, she was a soldier, and she mustered the willpower to overcome fear. "Sir," she said quietly, perhaps timidly, "Might I suggest a retreat?"
Jin had already steeled himself for what was to come, having the growing dread build up as they had continued out. When the medic's hand shot out to stop him, the empathic link natural to their race would only pass on his determined resolve to her, hopefully bolstering her own spirit. His inner self pulled on his belief, bracing himself with the help of his steadfast belief in Jafar the Stalwart. His carbine ticked from contact to contact, constantly trying to target any of the buggers closest to the group and covering their leader.
The only words which Kuzman uttered were, "Can we, can we shoot them?" as he swiftly stepped backwards. Kuzman was not amused by the red eyes; they apeared to be taunting him. Perhaps that was just his imagination.
Strangely enough, the creatures neither responded nor seemed to move aggressively, instead clustering around to cover the glowing patches of their nests. Although it would be impossible to glean where they were looking, the runners could almost feel a mix of fear and general disinterest. Mu'Tasim himself felt something disturbing in the alienness of how they seemed to respond to them, but couldn't particularly pick out any hostility in their actions.
Mu'Tasim stared back up at the mass of eyes, some of which that looked one way or the other, or directly at him. Still, there was usually a way of discerning the true hostility of a being through the empathy, the fact that he could feel such strange emotions of neutral involvement from these things proved that they hadn't the intent to attack. They were, however, still alien, and could not be ignored in absolute. He lowered his Carbine, and stared for a few moments longer. Wait... perhaps these anomalies are... animalistic? considered the Temple Guard, It would explain how our presence made them still and silent... They're avoiding us.
"Summon yourselves, everyone. We are definitely not in Kaeshun anymore." quipped Mu'Tasim, turning his gaze on ahead. He seemed to show a decent amount of control, despite the situations. "The Third Squadder is still out there, and if my senses are any indication, we've nothing to fear from this. Let us continue."
Hafsa hadn't advanced a single step since she saw the masses of eyes on the ceiling; the sounds caused her finger to tighten spastically on the trigger, though not hard enough to cause her weapon to discharge. She simply stood there, stunned and staring upward.
There were enough eyes staring back at the Curdatl frame runner that the experience was almost dizziying. After a few seconds, she could almost swear one of them actually blinked.
Isha took a deep breath, her shoulders rising and slowly dropping again. She did as commanded, though it was impossible to completely ignore the fear tugging at her thoughts. Her rational mind simply refused to skip the fact that this was really really dangerous- and not just for herself, but all of them. If the missing Runner was still alive, Vayshirin Ragnar couldn't fathom how that was possible. Nevertheless, she strode forward, having faith in Mu'Tasim's judgment. Recalling the trickle of resolve that had seeped into her earlier, she laid a hand on Jin's shoulder for just a second to build herself up. "Thank you," she murmured, meeting his eyes for just a moment before examining all the little red eyes that seemed to be doing the same in return. "Tension this thick wouldn't need a VT weapon to be cut," the field physician muttered to no one.
Akjit finally let his breath out after holding it for a near eternity. Eyes. Eyes everywhere. And they were all watching him! The chittering, skittering mass of bodies, poised to swoop down and carry him away, make them his king and...wait. 'No, no. That's not right. Back up a bit!' They were poised to swoop down and carry him away, tear him limb by limb and eat his tasty liver. 'That sounds about right. Akjit thought. He went back to holding his breath again out of sheer, shitless terror.
It could have been one of the hardest things he had to do in his entire life, but Jin lowered his weapon. It was now at the ready, not sighted. He called on the inner strength of his training and dedication to Jafar once more before looking to the others. After nodding to the medic after she drew a bit on his resolve, a quick glance was all he needed. Reaching out, he pushed calming waves to the front of his feelings and lightly pushed at the female bint Saleh's trigger finger. "I'd watch that at the moment, ma'am."
Cautiousy, Kuzman Nadev lowered his carbine. He felt a strange calm without his weapon at the ready, almost as if he were invisible to the red eyed masses shifting above them. Slowly, Kuzman took a few steps forward testing the waters, if you will, for hostile movement from above. He hoped that they would find the missing frame runner and then get the hell out of this place. As Mu'Tasim said, they weren't in Kaeshun anymore.
As they moved away from the center of the room, there was actually very little response from the strange creatures nesting in the terminal. They remained silent for quite a long time, only speaking as they finally moved out of the structure and back into the winding labyrinthine hallways beyond. The somewhat more familiar scenery of hallways plastered in the glowing amber mass sprawled out before them.
The signal from the datarod indicated that Nevsa, or her communicator at the very least, was right up ahead!
"How are we all holding up?" asked Mu'Tasim as he walked, head forward, eyes vigilant for any sign of Nevsa, anything that could show evidence of her existance. "I'm sensing tension." He afforded a short turn of his head, looking behind himself with a mild sigh. "You all worry too much! Ha ha!" he laughed heartily, a warm smile bursting on his face. Despite that, though, he was still a tad worried himself, but he couldn't let his squadron see that.
Aiaru shrugged behind Mu'Tasim, whether he could see it or not. "I could definitely do without the surprise animals, but at least we haven't found anything that is hungry yet."
On the other side of the... "nest," the Field Physician heaved a sigh of relief. "Doing well, sir." As she said this, she was analyzing everyone else, making sure she was doing her job. To no surprise, Vayshirin Chirimar seemed on edge. She took long strides to catch up, then matched his pace, placing a hand on his shoulder. Since she had regained her own personal calm, it was an easy matter for her to go about leeching his insecurity and transmitting her tranquility. She offered a small smile as well. "Steady and sure, Vayshirin Chirimar," were her reassuring words of advice.
The Laiz Carbine in Akjit's hands jumped as it's owner did the very same; Isha's arrival behind him scared the Ivuori as well, but the Field Physician's efforts quickly gave him a semblence of calm. "Doing f-f" The Frame Runner paused a little as silence fell. It seemed even the creatures were interested in what he had to say. "Holy fuck, I'm fine! I'm actually...wait, nevermind...s-sorry." Akjit glanced at Isha, realizing she was behind it, and fell silent in apology for his swear. "Sorry." He whispered to her.
As Jin moved forward, he noticed the exchange and resolved to keep an eye on the Frame Runner. Jumpy people meant discharged firearms and that was never a good thing. He kept his own carbine at the ready and resumed his position as rear guard.
"Well, I'm oddly calm. It's a weird feeling," responded Kuzman Either he had gone crazy or he actually wanted to take one of these guys with him back to the ship. They were oddly cuddly in a....creepy, carapace-y, red-eyed bug sort of way.
A few more minutes of walking eventually brought them to a small encampment set into what appeared to be a ventilation port. The air here actually smelled a bit fresh, free of dust and mold that seem to coat every other breath drawn since the hangar bay. There were a few small buildings housing various equipment and salvage clearly taken from the surrounding area, and a single large structure. The design was similar to the prefabricated buildings the NVR used, although somewhat cleaner and less utiliterian in design.
Whoever lived here had been there for a while, and planned on living comfortably inside the lonely confines of the ancient derelict.
"Hrm. It seems we may have company here." thought Mu'Tasim aloud, he stepped forward with Akjit, activated his Fael Raig, and pressed his Carbine tightly against his shoulder. "Chirimar, you and I will go ahead and check the structure. The rest of you, take up positions out here and watch for anyone coming and going." The Temple Guard surged forward, holding his Carbine up at the front with his Fael Raig holding fore-arm, aiming it towards the building.
Jin nodded to the Squad Leader and promptly turned, facing his previous six. His weapon was sighted down the hall they had come from and he took a knee to steady his aim.
As he acknowledged his superior's orders with a curt nod, Kuzman moved into position with a bead on the hallway ahead. He kept a standing position and turned to the side in order to minimize his attackable area.
Hafsa fell back behind - immediately behind - Mu'Tasim and Akjit, grumbling as she was removed from her point position. She pointed her carbine at the space between them, in case any of the bug monsters were to lunge out of the darkness.
Akjit gulped nervously as he made sure his Carbine was ready for what felt like the hundredth time. "Yes S-sir." Akjit's occasional stutter hadn't gotten better, but it hadn't gotten worse either, especially after Isha's help. With hope that the Temple Guard would save the day provided things went from bad to worse, he moved forward.
Field Physician Ragnar took up a position near Jin watching their return path. "Thanks again," she murmured, glancing briefly in his direction. Truly, she was thankful. She probably would've started shaking if she hadn't leeched some of his overflowing self-confidence.
"No problem, ma'am." He turned his focus back to his sights and readied himself for anything. This place was creepy, and he still wasn't completely sure about those buggers in the other room.
Aiaru moved back towards the side of the hallway as well, doing her best to watch both directions at once, just in case. She wasn't too unhappy with the orders to wait, but at the same time, they had no idea where whatever might attack them was, so the back might be just as bad as the front.
The prefabricated structure was about the size of a bungalow or houseboat, and appeared to be resting on a number of hoverstilts that might allow it to displace itself, and seemed to be entirely sealed from the environment around it, with only a series of sectioned plates and well-hidden actuators indicating there was a door. Akjit noticed a few steps leading up to the doorway, and an electronic panel adjacent to it that glowed dimly in the barely-lit confines of the massive hallway.
"Hey! I. I think I found something over here." Akjit nervously called out. His surprise at being what seemed the first to stumble across an interesting bit slightly overshadowed his fear. Where could the door lead? Anywhere! He moved up the to the steps, and cautiously went one at a time while keeping his weapon leveled at the door. "Sh-should I knock?" he asked.
"Go right ahead, Chirimar." said Mu'Tasim, wiggling his Fael-Raig in that direction, "You will be the first to deal with whatever answer, so be sure to put on a sociable face." He was glad he put Akjit up front, the man was so inwardly focused, it would make it often a mistake to trust him on point alone. Yet, the utter paranoia which balanced that, what Mu'Tasim felt, made him an excellent point-man in off-set.
The Ivuori stood off to the side of the door, so that when he knocked and someone tried to shoot through, he wouldn't be hit. Knock, Knock. rapped his knuckles.
There was a slight whirring as the screen nearby lit up rather brightly, forming a volumetric keypad in front of its display surface.
Akjit was so focused on the door itself, the screen lighting up caught him completely by surprise. The young Ivuori yelped and quickly backpedaled. A mistake. He tripped over his own feet and unceremoniously tumbled down the stairs before coming to rest on his back.
"Ah! Chirimar!" Mu'Tasim jogged forward, deactivating his Fael-Raig and setting it to his side. The Temple Guard put a hand on the younger's shoulder and pulled him up from the floor, "Are you alright, Akjit?"
The world spun around him as he tried to figure out what just happened. As the Temple Guard pulled the skittish Frame Runner up, he could only make a rather embarrassed reply. "Only my already bruised pride is hurt, but thank you."
The Temple Guard slapped the man on the back, hard. "Good man." he said before looking back up the stairway to the revealed keypad. He looked back at the rest of them before stepping up to the stairs himself, getting a good look at the keypad. He whirled his hand forward, signaling his two subordinates to follow.
Hafsa just stared at Akjit as he took his tumble, snickering cruelly to herself at his mishap. "...yes," she muttered to Mu'Tasim, starting onward.
Kuzman inwardly sighed at his compatriot. His personal opinion was that Akjit was a good frame runner though far too paranoid for his own good.
A small glint of glass and a red light shone up from overhead, followed by a small camera seemingly deploying out from a recess in the wall. It glanced around the party, examining each briefly, before finally turning to face Akjit. Audio static sounded out, followed by a beeping noise. "Haven't I told you guys enough times? Hit the doorbell button on the bloody keyboard and I'll come in through the front door!"
The voice, a little terse and disinterested, seemed to belong to a rather young man around Mu'Tasim's age, and was somehow exasperated in Akjit's clumsiness and apparent ineptitude. "I bet you NVR guys are here about the girl, aren't you?"
"But, but. We're not NVR..." Akjit weakly stated, apparently hurt by the mix-up.
"He speaks the truth, we are Frame Runners of the Astral Commonwealth's Vanguard. I am Vaytulri-Acolyte Mu'Tasim Farouk, my friend here," he placed a hand on Akjit's shoulder, "is Vayshirin Akjit Chirimar," He then looked back at Hafsa, "And that is Vayshirin Hafsa bint Saleh. It appears we are intruding, but it also seems apparent that you are in the company of one of our allies. One we have been looking for..."
"Aha. Commonwealth guys? Like the homeland..." The voice on the loudspeaker actually seemed a bit incredulous, but was clearly frightened by the implication. "Ahhh... alright, so you're not NVR and you want the girl. This poses a problem because I only had a salvage agreement with the NVR, and I don't really want to see the girl killed, so..."
Akjit perked up at the mention of someone getting killed. "H-hold on! Are we even talking about the same person here?!" He asked in a panic. "W-why would we kill one of our own Frame Runners?"
Isha perked up at the sound of a new voice, and she turned away from the hall. At the door, she did her best to politely slide into the conversation. "Sorry sir, but may I ask if she's alright? I'm a medic."
"My friends speak for us. We'd like to know the identity of this girl, and we are willing to provide medical aid should you allow us." Mu'Tasim looked back at Isha, pointing his Carbine back towards the hall, "Ragnar, bring the rest of the squad over."
She nodded and jogged off. Normally she would have called for them each, but didn't want to disturb anything that might be living here. "Vayshirin Pho'tet, gather at the structure. Vayshirin Dahra, Kuzman you as well." This she said once she could speak in a conversational tone, then returned.
"You could be lying, and I kinda like the haul I pulled in these past few weeks." The voice seemed to be somewhat convinced, but hesitated to open up right away. "But alright... do you know the unit that a 'Vayshirin' Nevsa belonged to? Prove to me that you know the girl and I'll let you in."
"Roger that, ma'am." Jin took one last look down the hall and lifted his rifle. Nothing seemed to be coming from that direction, so he turned and doubled timed it to the back fo the rest of the squad. Nodding to Kuzman he pivoted and put his sights back on the hall and would swing slightly to take the rest of his vector.
With silent acknowledgment to both Isha and Jin, Kuzman swiftly and silently moved closer to the voice's hut. He readied his carbine and aimed it at the other side of the hut in case of reinforcements.
Mu'Tasim looked back to Hafsa, "If she is listening, she would be likely to recognize your voice, if she did not recognize your name. Answer him for us, Vayshi--..."
"Third Squadron!" the young runner barked, interrupting Mu'Tasim. "She was in my squadron! I'm Hafsa bint Saleh, the star pilot of Third Squadron, and if you don't let her out I'll kick that door down myself and blow your head off!"
"Direct, but a little strong, Saleh." commented Mu'Tasim with a grin.
"I'm the strongest!"
"I will not doubt it."
Had Kuzman been in a lighter atmosphere, he would have given Hafsa a round of applause and probably bought her a drink. Direct approaches typically worked the best, and were the most entertaining.
Akjit couldn't help but snicker and laugh a little at Hafsa's overt reply. Though he fought hard to conceal his laugher, he couldn't quite name why it was funny, but it simply was to him, and that was all that mattered for the time being. Letting the Laiz Carbine hang from the sling, Akjit rubbed the small tears of stifled laugher from his eyes.
Even Isha had to smile at Hafsa's arrogance, but uttered not a sound.
"Ahaha... alright, yeah. The patch on her arm says so... so I'll believe you." The voice seemed to admit in concession to Hafsa's rather impressively egotistical display. If nothing else, he was amused and put into awe by the sheer scope of the energy behind her gestures. "Alright, you can come into my mobile home, but don't touch a thing that isn't yours, you got me?"
The many pieces that made up the door unlocked and furled inwards, sliding into the door frame of the home. A bright, comfortable light shined from within the lobby, inviting the runners to enter.
Mu'Tasim stepped forward, before turning back to his point-guards. "Chirimar, no heroics, no diving in front hails of gunfire, nor any other self-sacrificing maneuvers." He said, pointing at Akjit, before switching his finger to Hafsa, "Saleh? No antics."
Hafsa just huffed indignantly.
Mu'Tasim nodded in return before stepping in first, once again waving his hand forward for everyone to enter, he spoke "Greetings!"
"Why does she just get the s-short 'No antics' when I get the longer speech?" Akjit asked quietly and indignantly.
The Temple Guard looked back at Chirimar for, offering him a judging stare. His eyes were a little steely for their golden glare, "Because Saleh does not need the long explanation."
"Yes sir." Akjit quailed. Even though he was hesitant to admit it, he guessed the Temple Guard was right after all. The memory of the previous incident came to mind, and his eye twitched as the recall included the 'diving in front of gunfire' part.
The Field Physician slipped in after the three, and immediately set her eyes to searching for the Runner in question- Nevsa. Her question had never been answered, so she was still slightly concerned, but the man had seemed kind enough if not a little strange for living here and all alone.
Kuzman moved into position in front of the shelter and kept his eyes peeled for movement from the shadows.
Aiaru moved up as well, keeping her eyes behind them, even if they had a "friendly" on the other side. They didn't need to get all distracted with finding the Runner and let something sneak up on them, that was for sure.
The interior of the mobile home was surprisingly well-decorated, with the sort of 'high-tech classicism' style they'd expect from the apartment of some Maekardanii yuppie living in Kaeshun's highrises, rather than some rough and tumble prospector out in the boonies living on whatever he could salvage. A number of exotic paintings and artifacts of all stripes lined the walls, with a few honorary degrees and certificates from an educational body that none of the Runners had ever heard of interspersed between them.
Whoever the owner of the mobile was, he was definetly the wealthy and prestigious sort, and had somehow seen the need to bring a small villa with him to a dank and creature-infested derelict.
Arriving into what was probably the lobby and dining room of his suit, the Runners heard a voice amidst the clanging of pots and the sound of running water somewhere off to the left of their entrance, behind an opaque partition. "Hold on a second, I'll be there in a minute. DON'T touch ANYTHING."
Probably surprising a few people, Jin spoke up for the first time since they started moving to the building. With an uncharacteristic dry voice, he said, "So, I guess we're staying for dinner?"
Aiaru glanced over her shoulder for a moment, quickly turning her eyes back down the hallway, smiling slightly. "You know, I'm pretty sure we got the message to not touch anything the first time, and if we didn't, the second one isn't going to make us listen any better."
"If we're offered dinner, then we'll eat, but only after we've comfirmed the safety of our missing soldier." said Mu'Tasim, stepping forward and holstering and strapping back his weaponry. He glanced the area with a curious eyes, taking in the quality of the room before managing to assume a more fitting posture in welcomign their host. "Be on your best behaviors, we are in the domicile of someone who doesn't seem to claim allegiance to us. We are guests."
"Roger that, sir." Jin holstered his weapon but kept the pistol unlocked in its holster. These kinds of situations made him feel uncomfortable. No one to shoot, and no one to beat down.
It was a few minutes before the running water stopped and the man was apparently done washing his dishes, somehow feeling it necessary to do so while a large number of armed foreigners were inside of his home.
Finally, the partition slid open and the man strode out, his hand wrapped in a white towel as he busily dried his hands, according his guests very little attention almost as if were contemptuous of them. He was a youngish Iroma in his late thirties, with dark brown hair, deeply tammed olive skin and eyes hidden behind a pair of oddlyy familiar circular sunglasses. Other than his slick and clearly expensive garb, it was rather noticeable that his horns were distinctly long and slender, nearly androgynous by the standards of nearly any ethnic denomination, protruding far back from his head.
"You know, if I give you the girl and you turn out to be bandits, I'm going to be missing out on a lot of sleep." He grinned wryly, attempting to add levity to the situation with some difficulty. "That kind of soft-hearted spoiled brat always wind up really doing badly on the flesh markets, and it'd rest really badly on my conscience."
"If we were bandits, sir, we would've killed you already." said Mu'Tasim in a direct and powerful tone. He fell into a stance of attention, offering what respect he could to the disrespectful host. The Temple Guard followed his movements closely with his eyes, but made no readying motion to equip his weapon. "At the very least, the bandits of the Nuocr would. They aren't one for niceties once they step inside your home." He took a few steps forward, "Let me introduce myself again, Vaytulri-Acolyte Mu'Tasim Farouk."
"Well, you're not hostile, so I guess it's pretty safe for me to give you fair warning in case you change your mind." The man gestured over to a seemingly innocuous viewscreen across from a couple of floor pillows and a lounge chair. "I have a gattling laser behind the screen. Uses heat and IFF signals, and I'm the only one it reads as friendly these days, if you get what I'm saying."
He frowned a little at the continuing references to things from Maekardan that he knew very little about, but nodded along. "But we're being friendly, so it won't be seeing any use, right? Aram Ardzruni, at your service."
"I can understand your precaution, this is a dangerous place to live." Mu'Tasim extended his hand to shake Aram's. "Now, if I am to understand correctly, you are keeping one of ours safe."
Jin eyed the viewscreen. Bluff or not? Didn't matter at the moment. But it was still something to keep in mind if the proverbial shit hit the fan.
"You can see her if you want. She's sleeping in my cabin upstairs."
Aram looked the group over again and gestured briefly, moving towards a series of stairs. Although there was a certain splendor to the environs of the mobile home, they were also mildly cramped and probably not meant to be a comfortable lodging for more than one or two people.
The room upstairs was about the size of the living room where they'd first met the strange scavenger. It was quite messy, strewn with salvaged components and notes pinned to the walls and other surfaces, with only the clear panes of a half-dozen viewscreen peaking out through the thick tangle of papers, haphazardly scribbled with notes and linked with bits of red string. Though it might have been just as nicely decorated as the other areas before, it was quite impossible to tell now.
Aram gestured to the bed, stepping over to the side of a figure curled up under the sheets. "Hey you, wake up. Your guys are apparently here to pick you up and take you home." He said with a dour look, pulling at the sheets and with a single rip, exposing the girl down to around her collarbone. Based on the linksuit hung over the edge of a seat, and her ankles gently poking out the bottom of the covers, it was a very fair assumption to guess that was partially or entirely naked underneath.
The scavenger merely cleared his throat and tried to look as guiltless as possible. "She'd taken a few couple of injuries that I needed to treat underneath the suit."
ON, VSV Astarte
Inside the Unknown Megastructure
Bukor 17, 936
12:59, Commonwealth Standard Time
Aram leaned onto his heavily strewn desk and looked at the Commonwealth soldiers gathered in his home curiously with slight unease. "Glad that you have your pilot back. I'll have to ask you to head out of my home now, before the NVR show up and gun us all down for conspiring against the State." He scratched his chin a little and gestured down the stairs for Mu'Tasim and Nevsa to filter back downstairs. "They tend to do that."
"Vayshirin Remore," spoke Mu'Tasim to the recuperated soldier, "I'll ask you again, are you able to make the trip back?" His hand gestured to the woman overall, and awaited for a response before he would thank Aram for his own work.
"I'm fine -- I would like to know where my Book of Dreams are. I had two on me," Nevsa said with a grimace.
The Temple Guard's lip formed a thin line, before looking over at the local man. "Did Remore have any other items in her possession when she came into your care?"
The scavenger scratched his head as he looked at the two. "Hard to say. I just saw her stumble out of a cockpit pod half-delirious and collapse a short walk from my mobile. If she brought any kind of book with her, it'd still be inside that thing." He gestured over to a table, which had numerous small items on it. "Well, I still have that laser pistol of hers too. Nice make, actually, but there wasn't much else in her hands."
"Then keep the weapon as payment for helping one of our own." nodded Mu'Tasim to Aram, before looking at Nevsa, somewhat expectantly. "Remore, is there anything else you'd like to say?"
"Nothing, sir," Nevsa said. She supposed she could get her hands on at least one more copy.
"Then we won't trouble you anymore, sir." The Temple Guard nodded his head repectfully, "Thank you, once again, for ensuring her safety. Remore." Mu'Tasim pointed towards the door, signaling her to exit first.
Nevsa did as she was told and left.
"Ehhh, if you say so. I'd be much happier just to see all of you leave." The scavenger said with a dull nod. "But I'll hold onto it, sure."
Meanwhile, as Kuzman found himself idly standing outside to keep watch, he heard a slight rustling in the distance. A figure of black covered in grim and thick red fluid crawled in the distance, stumbling and rolling around towards the scavenger's mobile home, only slightly concealed by the shadows of the distant lightless halls. The thing let out a faint and ambiguous gurgling that sounded distorted, but almost resembled the speech of a sentient (although perhaps not coherent) being.
"Jin, over there!", Kuzman urgently whispered to his companion. "You over there!" he shouted, "Who are you and what are you doing here?" Kuzman instinctively drew a bead where the being's forehead should be.
The object rustled again, attempting to pull itself towards him. Whatever material was in contact with the floor dragged across with a greasy hiss, as it moved a few feet, before the thing finally collapsed. Although still concealed by the shade, the object almost seemed to be humanoid, having the rough profile of an average Iromakuanhe, and yet it only managed to slither and drag itself.
"There's something out here you folks inside should see," Kuzman calmly said over the radio. "There's some black ooze stuff that looks vaguely like one of us."
Mu'Tasim pulled out his datarod, recieving Kuzman's transmission, before looking back over to Nevsa. "Copy that, we're on our way out." responded the Temple Guard as he pulled out his Laiz Pistol, and handed it off to the recuperated pilot. "Here, you can have my side-arm, since your previous was a gift." said the Guardsman, before strapping off his Laiz SMG and shouldering it. "We've got something reported outside, so keep wary." The Temple Guard surged forward again, into a steady pace, down the stairs to link up with Kuzman and Jin.
Zus, having stayed oddly silent through the whole affair, now spoke up as they were heading out. "That was a kind gesture, Mu'tasim. Isn't it normally illegal to take, let alone keep one of our weapons? And yet you gave it to him as a gift." She was still, however, on the alert as they left, especially with something reported.
"He's not a part of the Commonwealth, nor is this Commonwealth space. The laws do not apply to him." smiled Mu'Tasim, somewhat impressed with his own craftiness before the rounded down to come in sight of the target.
Nevsa was simply happy with something to use as a weapon. "So what's the plan? Are we leaving?"
"Well, that is the intent." answered Mu'Tasim.
"Sir, there's a black pile of gunk slithering its way in our direction from the unexplored area," Kuzman wearily pointed with his left hand towards the shadows upon Mu'Tasim's arrival. He continued, "It's sillouette is that of our people."
"Mm." the Temple Guard stared down the way at the blobby figure before calling out. "You! Identify yourself under the authorty of the Astral Commonwealth!"
The object seemed to roll and hiss again, shifting around awkwardly through the hallway before it finally tipped too far to the left, crashing into one of the walls and stopping firmly in its tracks.
Zus looked at the object, shining a light toward it. "What in Nightmares is that thing?"
"Nadav, with me." said Mu'Tasim as he stepped forward, SMG tilted up slightly, trying to get a feel for anything in the air besides the tension rolling off his subordinates.
"Sir," Kuzman replied as he holstered his rifle and equipped his two extend blades and slowly, cautiously moved towards the slime, "I'll take point."
The thing was clearly alive to Mu'Tasim's senses, although barely, and was unconscious. Inside, he felt the pressure of a mind in turmoil and plagued by horrific nightmares just teetering off the edge. The thing inside the pile of refuse was Iromakuanhe, although far from the picture of health. As he and Kuzman approached it, he was rather sure that the exterior was meant to be a spacesuit of some sort, altough it was bound together with a thick organic film with which neither of the two had seen before.
Almost inky black with a touch of burgandy, the fluid smelled foul and sickly sweet, and seemed to cling to every surface of the suit causing it to stick together awkwardly. Garbage and other things, organic debris and parts from the hull of a vehicle like a VANDR made up most of the mound that encased the person.
"Hhhhee... heeeeeelp." A voice inside called weakly in a short bout of wakefulness, before losing consciousness once again.
"Ragnar!" called Mu'Tasim, looking back to the squadron's dedicated field surgeon, he beckoned her to come to them. "Whatever this is, it's wounded!" The Temple Guard set his SMG aside, coming to his knees to pull off some of debris. "Nadav, help me get this debris off, there's a person under all of this."
Isha immediately rushed to the forefront, having already sensed the suffering herself. The SMG that had previously been cradled in her arms swung from a shoulder strap behind her. She knelt beside the gruesomely deformed and... transmogrified figure. She couldn't find the words to describe it. Something like seeing someone survive a VANDR collision only to be put in a compactor and then asked to wear the remains as shoes... or something. Creative words weren't her strong point just then. Ignoring any possible personal danger, she ran her hands over the filthy form, searching for the head and face, and once found she went about cleaning it up, wiping away whatever it was that now caked her arms, torso, and legs. She cradled the head in her lap and sought out its mind yet again, delivering calming, soothing sensations and taking upon herself the many horrors and pains. Despite being a regular occurrence as a Physician, it was not something an Iroma ever "gets used to." Despite the poor soul's lack of consciousn
ess, Isha found herself murmuring comfortingly, "Sh sh... We're going to get you home and safe..."
The thing inside still seemed to have retained it's original shape as an Iromakuanhe, although it was badly beaten and being crushed by the many layers of biomass that had been piled around it. Peeling back all of the layers and attempting to connect with the person trapped inside, she was able to make out the shape of a very ragged, slender young woman. Most of the refuse was stuck to the helmet and suit, thankfully, making excising her a simple matter of cutting the excess material with a surgical laser, or somehow freeing the seams of the outfit so that she could be retrieved.
Sheathing his blades, Kuzman nodded and began picking garbage off of the creature as Isha cradled what was left if it. He felt genuinely sorry for the poor soul; he felt a cold chill course through him at the thought of it being himself instead of this nameless Iroma.
With a better grasp of how her "patient" was doing, Isha felt more confident in taking action. "This... thing. It has to go. All of it. Just be careful, we don't want to go cutting her open by accident." That said, she opened her stash of Field Physician goodies, and found the surgical laser. Then it simply became a tedious process, cutting and pulling away the mass. Every so often, she still whispered something encouraging.
Kuzman nodded in silent agreement and carefully peeled back layer upon layer of gunk from the female's form. He let Isha do the cutting, she was the Field Physician after all and as such Kuzman hoped that she knew what was best.
It took a few minutes of cutting for Isha to strip most of the suit and attached mass away from the woman, leaving her in her skivvies and breathing raggdly, skin covered in a film of dirt and sweat and her tousled and wavy hair plastered to her head. Her injuries were rather severe, with deep bruising and several cracked ribs, although she seemed to be in no immediate danger. Moving her in that state, however, would be problematic.
"Ragnar?" asked Mu'Tasim, looking over at the surgeon, the injuries apparent, but he needed a better opinion, "How is she?"
Preferring to do things without tools when she could, she ran her hands across the woman's body, seeking out wounds beneath the surface. There was a good number of them, but it was certainly livable. "She's... well, she's in a great deal of pain, and bouncing in and out of consciousness. Cracked ribs, which could also mean potential internal bleeding. I don't think so, but it's possible. Moving her like this isn't a very good idea, but I don't think we- or she- have any other choice. Something flat, like a stretcher, would be good if we can find it."
The curious expression on Mu'Tasim's face turned grim at that prognosis. It was not a very positive outlook on the woman's future, but they weren't without options. He wrapped his hand under hers and established a link between them, deadening some of her pain so he could feel it himself. His eyelids closed slowly and he tilted his head towards Kuzman. "Nadav, you and Ragnar go and see if you can't find something along the lines of a stretcher from the scavenger. I will stay here and take the burden of her pain while you do so."
He looked over to the side, to the thick-haired Akjit, who had been quiet thoughout. "Chirimar! Go with them."
"But sir! I... I'm a Field Physician. This is where I belong. And the scavenger... I am not exactly the most diplomatic individual." She seemed slightly unnerved being asked to cease doing what she'd been trained to do and leave it to someone else.
"You will need to decide whether or not what the scavenger offers is suitable or not, no? This is where you belong, but you will need to adapt to ensure that we aren't stuck in a back-and-forth on matters of equipment." explained Mu'Tasim, his eyes still closed, "Just let Chirimar speak to the man, and let yourself be known to what you need. I will call you if the condition worsens."
Akjit gulped nervously. When the thing stumbled into view, he couldn't help but to want to shoot first, and not bother asking questions afterwards; he wanted to run. Here, it was all panic, then relief, then panic, then relief. It was like they were being run through some sort of cosmic cycle! And again, he felt relief when it turned out this person wasn't some horrible monster-blob-thing from the depths of space out to consume them one layer of flesh at a time. But, it also meant he had something on his own hands to do. "Y-yes sir! I'll get on it right away." Akjit made to move back towards the scavenger's home, pausing briefly to make sure the others were following him.
Kuzman fell in line behind Akjit silently grumbling to himself. He had managed to avoid the scavenger thus far; however, it seemed fourtune was not smiling upon his luck today. He turned towards Mu'Tasim and asked, "What should we use to trade for the stretcher or materials?"
Isha huffed and grumbled, "If he has no compassion, we'll only be wasting our breath. Let's hope an ugly iroma is worth just as much of his time as a pretty one." Then she was storming off toward the makeshift home, feeling rather sour about leaving a patient.
The Blonde Eyr Ranr stayed with Mu'Tasim, standing closer to him, while making sure to try and keep the area secure. Zus placed her free hand on Mu'tasim's shoulder, as she searched through the dim darkness for any other signs of movement.
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