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Crashing In (IC)

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The prep was the longest part of the entire trip. Double and triple system checks, as well as inventories for stocks and restocks on the large cargo. It was not the usual use of transport, but considering what was to be a lenghy mission a well stocked ship with room for the transport and temporary captivity of Crater Apes was nessicary. The entire ship was almost completely automated, and it's single passenger for the trip there was briefed several times on his instructions. He was to go to the northern hemisphere of planet earth, to the continent North America, down to the substate of the United States called New Jersey to Freedom City, home to the headquarters of the Freedom League where he was to land in a specified area before being escorted to properly relay his mission. There had been some discussion with the League before hand about the nature of their mission. It was confirmed that Crater Apes were still in Selenes possession as they were seen with her before her escape nine rotations prior when she had met confrontation with visitors from Earth. Her current whereabouts were unknown, as were the that of the crater apes, which of course meant that the one sent on the mission would ask for direct assistance in his mission.

Philos knew the routine by heart, this had been something of discussion for several months, and the narrowing of the field for his selection for this mission even more so. Not that there were that many volunteers, his people were not wanderers in any sense of the word, even to the planet they orbited there were quite few, and one of which did so to flee her crimes. Pursuit of Selene herself was ultimately left under the Freedom Leagues jurisdiction because of the sucess they and the Atoms family had in the past, but the crater apes were something else entirely, and honestly something that they could not leave to be punished and executed. They were not naturally inclined to violence, they had been pushed into it by Selene and thus should be captured and moved to their native habitat to live in relative peace. It was that mission that Philos had, and was supposed to focus on. But it did not damper his excitement about the opportunities it presented.

As the ship powered up and Philos sat at the panel, he watched out the windows the sparkling view that was the Farsider city. He continued to watch as the ship took off and it disappeared into the distance, and he was hurling towards the large blue orb that lit up the sky. The course had been carefully planned, and the view was spectacular. He could see the sky turn from black to purple, to blue, and then to white as he hit the clouds. The land stretched out below him in vivid colors, it was bigger then any he had seen in one place, one solid mass out in the open. He would of enjoyed it more if the red light didn't come on alerting a malfunction in the navigation system.

________

September 15th, 6:37PM

The sun was just starting to sink as it cast the glow of twilight over Freedom City. It had been a warm day for the month, and the ocean had been settling. Over the horizon though, in the darkening sky came what from a distance looked like a shooting star. Though as it came closer and became larger it was clear to be something else. After about a minute, the large silvery craft came down upon the bay and skidded over the surface as it tried to correct itself for a landing, though it was nowhere close to land as it managed to push to a hult and sent waves rolling across the surface. It managed to float there, like a silver platform as it began to shot down.

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"I'm on scene now," reported Edge from the shoreline, talking on his commlink to the UNISON base back in Freedom City. As he stood on the beach, his cape flapping lightly in the seabreeze, Mark worried about the poor alien who'd just crashlanded into the ocean. Freedom City's costumed defenders usually handled these situations, but with the League deployed elsewhere and with Trevor and Erin on a date tonight, he was handling this potential first contact as as a UNISON agent as much as a superhero. Look at you, Mark Lucas, spokesman for the international community; Earth's representative to what might be a new, uncontacted alien species. he thought with a faint smile as he walked out onto the water, the sea transforming itself into pykrete beneath his feet as he went. Nice! Wonder if it's a cute alien. Girlfriend or not, he could still appreciate things like that.

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The shooting star attracted a certain amount of attention as it hurtled across the late afternoon sky. For most people in Freedom City, it was at most a minor distraction; for Jay 'Jubatus' Xavier, a person whose visual cortex was wired up specifically to detect moving objects, it was extremely obvious. Still, Xavier would have been willing to let the 'star' pass unremarked, had he not heard a particular arpeggiated chord.

Hmm. Wonder if this has to do with the meteor? Xavier thought as he said, "Jeeves: What's up?"

'Jeeves' was a software entity Xavier had written to monitor public data-sources, for the purpose of alerting Xavier to troubles that a super-fast cheetah might be able to help deal with. "Ærial anomaly with a minimum probability 95% of impacting in Great Bay," Jeeves replied.

Which means there's a good chance of the thing kicking up dangerous waves, even if it doesn't hit the 5% jackpot of cratering out on land. Wonderful. Looks like this evening's patrol starts a little early, the feline thought as he began his 'pre-heroing' checklist. "Jeeves: Thank you. Jeeves: Get some rest."

Within a few clock-seconds, Jubatus was on the road: Blurring off down the Route 4 highway, then down MacArthur to Sidney, and finally across the liquid surface of Great Bay. Running on water was a trick Jubatus been pleasantly surprised to find he could do back when he was learning control over his powers, back when he first decided to do the superhero thing; of course, he hadn't had much call for it while zipping around in Freedom City proper…

Huh. Someone already out there? Just walking normally, it looks like. On the water. When he got closer, Jubatus recognized the figure: Edge, the disturbingly powerful matter transmuter who was one of the more terrifying members of the superhero community. Jubatus only had publicly-available data such as news reports to work from, but given that information, it didn't appear that Edge's powers had any known upper limits—and it also wasn't clear whether those powers were based on magic, or exotic biology, or what. Sure, the man seemed like a shiny happy civic-minded soul, but in view of the disquieting possibilities inherent in even the publicly known uses to which Edge had put his powers… The cheetah suppressed a shudder. Oh, be cool. Edge is what he portrays himself as. Because if he's not, the entire [bg=black]xxxx[/bg] planet could conceivably be screwed. Okay, I… damn. I can't just say hello. Because if I downshift so I can talk to Edge, I'm gonna sink. Gosh, Jube: Didn't fully think through this whole run-out-to-the-meteor deal, did you? Well, I'm here now, so I might as well see what I can see…

One thing Jubatus didn't see, was any evidence of destructive waves. Which means the thing might actually have been under sophont control when it came down. Good. As he drew nearer the 'meteor', the feline noted that there wasn't so much as a wisp of steam rising from around it—another datapoint in support of the 'controlled vehicle' hypothesis. And when he arrived at the 'meteor' itself… a shiny, smooth, metallic object which floated peacefully in the Bay… Jube circled around it for a 360° view of its exterior. Hm. Looks like a manufactured object, all right. Human make? Maybe, maybe not. The $64,000 question is, controlled by a mechanical autopilot or a biological driver?

Hold it—Edge was on the payroll of UNISON, the United Nations agency devoted to intelligence-gathering and crisis management. And a UNISON wonk thought this thing is worth sending one of their most valuable assets out for a look-see? Okay, someone in a position of Authority thinks this thing definitely is piloted, with a non-trivial probability of its pilot being an ET sophont who could be hostile. Damn, now I really want to— Jubatus paused in mid-thought. Wait. Edge is a matter transmuter. So if he's walking on water… A short run out to the UN-affiliated hero later, Jube was gratified to discover that yes, the man had created himself a solid walkway, most likely by transmuting it from water.

The feline stepped onto the walkway, about 15 feet behind Edge… Be cool, Jube. This is not a Jerome Bixby story, and Edge is—too damn young, but at least he's not three years old. …and downshifted.

"Hello, Edge!" he said, speaking loudly enough to be heard over the ambient sounds of the Bay. "My name's Jubatus. I take it you're here because that thing's an alien spacecraft?"

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Wave-Eye had first realized what was going on when a small school of wandering cod had fled past him, wailing about impending doom. Before he could as what the problem was he felt the Farsider vessel slam into the dark water, sending reverberations throughout the bay and a plume of roiling water from its hull. He was hardly fearful as he swam towards the bobbing craft high above him, curious and excited, in fact. 'A glorious day! Let us see what wonder has fallen from the stars. Hopefully they can understand me as well as natives of this world do...' dragon's tail lashing powerfully back and forth, he slid noiselessly up beside it, inspecting the silvery spacecraft for a moment. 'Yes....yes, unlike anything humans would make. This is alien' he thought gleefully as he surfaced. Glancing at the shoreline he gauged the distance he might need to carry it, noticing to his surprise that two figures were walking on some kind of platform floating on the water.

"Ah, this something of interest" he muttered, drawing a large conch of almost equal antiquity to himself that was slung at his side, and in a flash of light was clambering onto the ship with four red-scaled limbs with long nails.

Atop the ship he looked for something resembling a hatch or door, at last deciding to just knock on the roof and yell. "HELLO, DOWN THERE!" he thundered at the cold metal "I BID YOU WELCOME TO EARTH! IF YOU WISH, I CAN TOW YOU TO SHORE!" as demonstration, he puts his lips to the shell horn, blew powerfully enough into it that the noise was heard from the beach, and lifted out a sphere of water from the sea near where he hoped the bridge was placed. "Well, I doubt I can do much as it is if these humans can make paths across the sea" he said aloud, sitting on top of the ship and knocking with rhythmic thuds on the roof "But, ah well, I can hope."

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Edge took the arrival of the cat-man and the fish-man with equanimity, at least once he recognized them both from his habit of reading UNISON files and (more importantly) watching hero-related TV. OK, Jubatus and Wave-Eye. These guys are both reliable sorts, this'll be fine. One fast guy, one water specialist, just the thing if something goes nuts here. I just hope whoever's in there isn't confused by the non-humanoids, but at least that way they'll know they're in a diverse city on a diverse planet. "Jubatus, Wave-Eye, welcome!" he called cordially from his bridge over the troubled waters of the bay. "If you don't know me, Wave-Eye, I'm Edge, I'm a UNISON agent and I'm here on behalf of the United Nations to help welcome our guest. But you're welcome to join the team, both of yoU! Please step back if you can, Wave-Eye," he said with a perfect smile and wink, "we don't want to alarm our guest, and if he can't understand your words, then you're just some alien pounding on his front door and yelling at him. What I need you to do is be ready if the pod sinks or if our guest turns out to have a problem with salt water, okay? Jubatus, same same for you; I can get us all back on shore if we have to, but speed has a quality all its own in these situations. All right, now let's be ready, and let's greet our guest."

"Are you in distress?" he called to the alien pod, repeating his words in Grue and Lor just in case they didn't speak English. "We are local representatives, and we are here to help you!"

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Edge took the arrival of the cat-man and the fish-man with equanimity, at least once he recognized them both from his habit of reading UNISON files and (more importantly) watching hero-related TV.

Hm. Reflexive surprise reaction when I popped up, but one of the quickest recoveries yet from a slowpoke. One point for the kid. Not so sure about Wave-Eye; I sure wouldn't make direct flesh-to-metal contact with a spacecraft of unknown origins unless I had some reason to believe the metal's not poisonous on contact or carrying a vicious ET pathogen or something. Eh, his choice, his funeral. Jubatus did not allow his concern to show up on his face; instead, he gave the fish-man a friendly wave of greeting.

"What I need you to do is be ready if the pod sinks or if our guest turns out to have a problem with salt water, okay? Jubatus, same for you; I can get us all back on shore if we have to, but speed has a quality all its own in these situations."

"Sounds like a plan to me, Edge!" The feline smiled, and his expression was only as predatory as was unavoidably dictated by his facial anatomy. Praise Athena, we're not all flying blind here! Don't know, or care, if he's lived through this kind of thing before, or UNISON covered this scenario in his training, or both. Either way, one more point for the kid. He still wasn't comfortable with the level of raw power Edge commanded, but even the not-quite-paranoid Jubatus found Edge's seemingly-effortless professionalism to be reassuring.

The cheetah retreated a dozen or so feet when Edge offered greetings in English and… at least one language that Jube didn't even recognize—probably an ET alien tongue, if not two of them. Boy, am I glad to have an honest-to-Kissinger diplomatic type here. Disraeli knows I'm a habitual asshole, and Wave-Eye's looks are seriously against him. Yet another point for the kid, and you can stop counting now, Jube.

Jubatus was perfectly willing to give the vessel's occupant (or occupants?), who- or what-ever it (they) might be, all the time they needed to decide on their course of action. In the meantime, I think I'll make myself useful with recurring perimiter sweeps— once every couple of clock-seconds, upshift and circle around the shiny thing at a radius of 25 feet, just to make sure nothing's gonna sneak up on us from a direction we're not paying attention to.

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'Bah! If they get scared so easily, it will take more than that silver tongue to win them over' the sphere of water splashed back into the ocean.

The triton shrugged his massive shoulders and leaped down from the craft, landing heavily on the floating path Edge had made. "Hail" he gurgled to Jay briefly "I am glad to meet you Jubatus. What do you make of..." he gestured to the crashed ship with a spined claw "...this?"

he had never met or even heard of Edge before, and supposed him to be a professional representative of some kind. He nodded quietly at the suggestion to stand ready to help the newcomer in case they had problems with getting the alien or their craft to safety. 'I wonder, do they not have water on the planet this thing is from? I have heard that there are many worlds where my mother does not hold sway, and Tezcatlipoca rules unquestioned and unopposed. We shall see' he sat on his haunches and waited for some opening seal, puff of steam, whirr of motors or any other signal that the ship was being opened to admit its passengers.

"With luck, they will have protection against this world's diseases and the chemicals in the air" he commented drily "I doubt it, though."

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"Hail" he gurgled to Jay briefly "I am glad to meet you Jubatus.""

""Hello yourself, Wave-Eye," Jubatus replied—and this remark almost exhausted his meager knowledge of the aquatic hero, who clearly spent most of his time in an environment in which news reporters were rare-to-nonexistent. "Y' know, this is mildly amusing, what with us cats supposedly having problems with water…"

"What do you make of…" he gestured to the crashed ship with a spined claw "—this?"

The cheetah's shoulders moved forward and up (his version of a shrug), and one ear flicked in a dismissive gesture. "I don't make anything of it, just yet. It's a situation with a lot of unknowns—could be an ET with legit business on Earth, and their framistat blew out; could be a criminal on the run from whichever government; could be a lot of different things. Best advice I can think of is, be ready for anything."

"With luck, they will have protection against this world's diseases and the chemicals in the air,"

"And vice-versa," Jube replied. "That's actually a decent bet, of course. Different worlds mean different biospheres, and it's not all that likely that a pathogen from World A will be able to infect any life-form from World B."

"I doubt it, though."

"Sure—low probability isn't the same as no probability. It's kind of a crapshoot, and we're here to load the dice for a desirable outcome." And the cheetah looked at Edge…

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For his part, Edge was getting worried. "Hmm, I don't _see_ any leaks...Wave-Eye, can you tell if that pod's taking on water? If it is and starts flooding, we'll have to get in there fast." He sat on the edge of his bridge and studied the fallen spacecraft, toes almost touching the ocean water beneath his feet. "The current's calm here in this part of the day, but once the wind kicks up it might get pulled out to sea. if that happens, I'll crack open the hull if I have to, we're not going to lose whoever this is. The only reason I'm not trying to get in now," he said out loud to the other two men, and they were men even if they had funny shapes, "is that I don't know what kind of security protocols they have. They might be scanning _us_, they might be waiting the ritual five minutes before they open the door...aliens can be strange that way."

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The inside of the ship glowed pale green as the system reset for safety reasons when it made impact. While it was a relatively safe landing, the forced water landing was not something Philos was prepared for, and the course of redirection made the craft land a lot faster causing a lot of drop of g-force that caused the single alien passenger to black out. The hull was thick, so while some vague banging could be made out, it was not enough to effectively stir the alien, though the next thing that hit it was. Something struck the bottom of the large silver vessel and shook it with great force fiercely shaking both the inside and any heros that happened to be standing on or near it's exposed top causing it to bob a bit.

This more then anything startled Philos who awoke in his harness in quite a bit of a daze as he examined his surroundings. Once he took a few breaths he looked at the console,

"Perimeter scan,"

The computer chirped back that their were four creatures in the immediate area, three were humanoid in shape, the other, well that was interesting, but the humanoids were the the first.

"Visual and communications,"

On the roof one of the panels stuck up to show a glassy orb that glowed, a bit like a camera lens if not more organic looking, from it Philos got a good look at the three creatures near the top,

""

He spoke in farsider to start, and the words echoed out from the ships hull as he had forgotten that it was already transmitting.

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Jubatus definitely noticed when the spacecraft bobbed up and down—especially when the bobbling was heralded by a muffled thump sound from somewhere below the surface. That noise was the discernable indication of what force had caused the minor motion, but was it hostile or friendly? "Watch it, people!" he stated, loud enough for all to hear. "Odds are, something just hit the craft from below—and if that wasn't any of us, it could be a hostile entity." The feline reviewed his mental inventory of what was in his Vest Of Many Things: Got a mask and O2 cartridges, they're intended for situations involving tainted air, but should be enough to keep me breathing underwater, if need be… no flippers, damnit…

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"I didn't feel any water rushing into the ship Edge" Wave-Eye explained in his harsh and grating voice "and I would have seen a sign that the craft was damaged from below. I saw no such marks. I will see if-" he was cut off by the sudden jolting of the spaceship that tossed it slightly upwards, whirling around to confront the presumed threat and staring blankly at the bobbing craft for a second. "...Ah. I do not think the ship did that. I will see what that is" he gurgled, approaching the ship slowly and bent a little in case he needed to leap out of the way of...something.

The appearance of the orb stopped him dead in his tracks, and he stood at his usual relaxed height, observing the sphere with interest. The words that suddenly echoed from the ship put slightly more of his eyebrow around his enormous eyes. "Some kind of sightseer. Called us 'interesting animals'" he added with a sneer. He glanced over at Jubatus and Edge "I would say we need worry little about our new guest. I shall see to whatever did that." So saying, he dove unceremoniously into the bay with a riotous splash as his bulk slid into and under the water.

'Now then,' he looked around in the gloom, the very ebb of the waters a part of his senses as he searched 'Where is our trespasser...?'

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"Good call, Wave-Eye," said Edge with a nod, staying calm despite the potential crisis. Whatever was going on down there, sending in the water specialist was the logical way to handle it. He'd planned to ask what language the pilot was using, but the fish-man was gone before he could raise the subject. Oh well, he must not be used to working in teams. "If you can hear me," he called to the pod, "we're humans, and we're the native inhabitants of this planet. My name is Edge, that's Jubatus over there, and Wave-Eye coming up beneath you." He figured hearing the names again couldn't hurt, especially if a translation program was at work. He hmmed for a moment and took out a piece of paper and began carefully reciting a string of numbers. "The first few prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, and 37! As you can see," he called, "we have mastered science and mathematics on this planet, and are as sentient as you!"

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Philos looked with amusement through the screen. It was pretty clear that none of these were contacts with the Freedom League, or if they were none that were duely informed of his arrival. No matter he could clear things up with a few words, turning away from the screen he dug through his supplies for his translations book, he could speak semi-decently but decided he should double check his phrasing so as to not be misinterupted. To turn back to speak through the system when there was another bang and a lot of creeking, from the inside it sounded bad, the outside it looked worse.

Just slipping otu of Wave-Eye's sight, a large tentacle shot up through the water and wrapped itself across the top of the ship just barely missing any of the current people on top. With a large creeking cruch it started to crush around the ship and pull it down trying to force the air out so it could claim the shiny bobble that had caught its attention when it landed.

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Upshift—and the world paused, frozen in the stillness of fast-time.

Okay. Tentacle around the spacecraft. Those things come in economy packs, typically 8 at a time, or maybe more, depending on what sort of critter it is. Damaging the tentacle will probably make this one let go, but what about the rest? I'd just as soon not have to deal with a whole friggin' swarm of the things… Wave-Eye went under, so he's probably going to handle the problem at its source. Maybe I can peel it off from the tip back? Not unlikely, since I'll only be dealing with a small section of the tentacle at any one time—but by the same token, the rest of the damn thing, that I'm not dealing with, will be able to re-attach itself to the ship— And then an idea occurred to Jubatus. The hero-types on the scene included Edge, a world-class matter transmuter… and the countless possible uses to which Edge's powers could be put weren't all hazardous to life, limb, and mental stability!

The cheetah downshifted, returning to the common tempo of 1. "Edge!" he called out. "Got an idea: If I can grab the end of that tentacle and pull it off the ship, can you form some kind of shell around the ship for the tentacle to latch onto?"

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Edge put the first contact sheet aside with a curse. Stupid fish-squid abominatin! he thought irritably. If it's not one thing it's another with this msision! "Jubatus, grab that tentacle and pull like your life depends on it!" answered Edge with a short nod as he gestured to the grappled device. "It's not just you and me and Wave-Eye that's at stake here, it's that poor soul in the pod and the hopes and dreams of his people!" Down below, he added in a shout that he hoped would penetrate the water for Wave-Eye's benefit. "Try and hit the source as hard as you can!" he called down to the amphibian beneath the waves. "Go for an eye or a tentacle join, something! Get it focused on us and not on the person we're trying to save!"

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Edge's exhortation was not the sort of thing Jubatus was expecting to hear. He instinctively dismissed it at first, because while he truly agreed with the expressed sentiments, his seven decades of life experience had forcibly persuaded him that whenever someone actually said that sort of thing in public, it was invariably nothing more a rhetorical gambit, a weapon in a propaganda war.

But… Edge was sincere.

The cheetah's predator-keen senses detected no guile in him, no pretense, no hidden agenda. Incredible as it seemed to Jubatus, the kid actually believed what he was saying.

Despite himself—despite his habitual, nigh-reflexive cynicism—Jubatus found himself wanting to not disappoint the transmuter…

Okay. Gotta get the tentacle off the ship, the feline thought as he readied his breathing mask and oxygen cartridge. The damn tentacle's bigger around than my entire body, so I'll need the Timeshift as a force multiplier just to have even a hope of success… and there's the tip of the tentacle. Right. Grab hold—dig in with the claws for a solid grip—and pull, damn you, pull!

The cheetah's whipcord musculature bunched up and writhed under his fur—to little (if any) evident effect. No! I'm not going to just let this happen, damn it! Jube thought. And he tightened his grip on the tentacle, dug his claws in a little deeper…

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The efforts and sudden sensation of the furry hands gripping its tentacle surprised the monster who loosened his grip just for a second, which was just enough for it to loosen and lose it's grip on the hull. This would not due, it wanted it's very shiny thing that had entered its territory, so it pulled itself up by regrabbing the side with the newly loosened tentacle and then wrapped seven more and started to try and pull it down with it.

The whole ship shook as water poured into the newly formed cracks in and fractures in the hull from the large monster squeezing down on it. The lights started to blink as the not quite water proof circuits tried to correct themselves under the stress. Truth be told, it was rather a fearful moment until Philos heard the speech through the still operational monitoring equipment. The blue clad human was rather amiable in his assertion as the others tried to help him out of his rather awkward predictment. It lifted his spirits to know they were trying, but he couldn't exactly sit on his hands while they looked for a way to free his vessel. Even if he did not want to, he could do without most of the equipment at least until he could contact Farside City. So instead he decided to grab what could not be replaced at a later date. He donned his handlers suit, holstered the gun used for capturing and several loads, and hooked the specially made filtering device over his pointed ears. He then took a few moments to examine the hull. After doing a quick scan he found a panel that while loose was near the roof and not leaking in water, and decided to push against it to make his escape.

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His enormous eyes and hard scales sensed nothing for a long moment, and he was about to dismiss the sudden jolting as one of the wretched water spirits having their idiotic sport when the commotion started. The dull thud of the tentacle curling heavily around the ship whirled him around as if he had been spun with a whip, and he stared in stunned awe of the monster floating before him. His jaws moved for a few seconds while the hull bent and began to crack, while Jubatus grappled with the giant coiled limb and Philos tried to escape from his metal prison. Then Edge's words rang into his ears.

Try and hit the source as hard as you can!" he called down to the amphibian beneath the waves. "Go for an eye or a tentacle join, something! Get it focused on us and not on the person we're trying to save!

"Yes commandant!" he barked on impulse, wincing as he remembered that he wasn't any longer in one of the submarine armies. Drawing his conch he quickly surveyed the monster, looking for a good place to tear at the creature's hide, lighting on a patch of less thick-looking skin. He darted towards it through the murky water, putting the ancient shell to his lips as he swam nearer, he forced tears from his eyes, taking a quick breath before suddenly blasting a mighty rush of slicing red-streaked water out of it, the streaks slicing and slashing at its skin from every direction like a swarm of blades. "I am sorry, for you are like nothing I have seen in hundreds of years" he called out sadly to the beast "but I must keep you from that thing!" he declared in a stronger voice.

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A beam of something black and flaming seared from Edge's hands and cut into the flesh of the tentacle monster, cutting deep into its massive flesh without doing any lasting damage. Edge hadn't pushing himself as hard as possible, but that certainly had been no slacking attack. "Unh...it's tough!" exclaimed Edge, having concentrated hard on the attack but only barely done any damage. "Stupid Sharktopus. If we get into an interstellar war over this, I'm going to bake you into fritters and serve you at the next Freedom Day barbecue!" he shouted in frustration at the monster. "Can anyone see if there's an opening in the ship?" he called to the others. "Even if we can't get the creature off the pod, maybe we can get whoever is in there out before everything gets even worse!"

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The cheetah's attempt to remove the lone tentacle from the spacecraft yielded this result: Seven more tentacles joining the first one, so that the alien vehicle was now enmeshed within the tangles of eight tentacles, all of them superhumanly strong and tough. Unsurprisingly, Jubatus cursed himself for an incompetent—Idiot! Damnit damnit damnit! Just wonder-bloody-ful. Also unsurprisingly, his recriminations quickly gave way to analyzing the new situation, with the intended goal of figuring out the best feasible course of action. Eight friggin' tentacles? Looks like Wave-Eye didn't have any better luck than me—and Edge's blast didn't seem to have much of an effect, either. Fine. Until further notice, assume the fish-man isn't a factor any more, and Edge… hm. No idea what he might still be able to do. Pencil him in as a question mark. Anyway…

Situation summary: Unless someone pulls an almighty big rabbit out of their hat, Mr. Megapus is free to do whatever he likes to the ship. Sucks to lose the vehicle, but at this point it'd be stupid to expect any other outcome. Switch to obvious Plan B: Salvage. Rescue the vessel-occupants, however many there are, and extract whatever equipment can be extracted while the ship remains at least vaguely intact.

Since a goodly chunk of the ship was hidden from view under the eight—eight!—tentacles that had twined around it, Jubatus ran around and over the whole thing in hopes of finding some indication of where the ship's hatch might be… And there it is! Gotcha! he thought, noting a small section of hull that was attempting to swivel itself away from the rest of the boat. By some stroke of luck, this hatch (if hatch it truly was) wasn't directly blocked by any tentacle; however, there was a tentacle in just the right position to restrict the hatch's range of motion. Whatever's trying to open that, it looks like they could use some help. Deliberately disregarding his earlier concerns about whether it was safe to touch the ship's hull, the feline got a firm grip on the hatch's free edge and exerted every erg of Timeshift-enhanced force his muscles could generate… and the hatch opened, pushing that damn tentacle aside in the process!

Jubatus didn't pause to savor his minor victory; instead, he looked down inside the ship—No airlock? You'd think that's a bad idea. At least that means I can smell the interior, and it sure doesn't seem like the occupant-or-occupants require environmental conditions inimical to Terran life.—and zipped inside. Only one guy, fine. Judging by his posture, he was pushing on the hatch from inside, which means he's clued-in about what's happening here. Hope he understands English, because there's no way in hell I can understand any ET language he speaks.

The cheetah moved as far away from the vessel-occupant (pilot? maybe) as the space would allow, then downshifted to the common tempo of 1, and said, "Hello! My name is Jubatus, and I'm here to help. If you can understand English, point at all the things you'd like to take with you, and I'll begin transporting them all out."

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Sharktopus took the hit and reared a bit in pain, but concentrated back on the one that hit it first. With one of it's free tentacles it lashed out at the other underwater creature preventing it from getting it's shiny prey, but missed a few feet as the creature skittered away through the water.

Philos tried to slam his weight against the panel as the water continued to fill the ship, it was past his ankles now, and the ship threatened to sink more as it gained water. The entire situation was less then ideal, but it did not distract him nearly as much as the sudden opening of the hatch, and then almost just as fast the appearance of another creature which he had not seen clearly enough to observe earlier. It was tall and lean, with a muscular structure especially around its legs. It was a darkened yellow in the poor lighting of the failing ship, but spotted in black and had a undeniably feline, and it spoke. Well not spoke exactly, it wasn't really speaking, it was sort of a growling noise that was adjusted to pitch to sound like speach, but it was communicating, in English, not that Philos exactly paid attention to what he was saying, in fact, even with water flooding in, and his vessel crushing on his mission to earth, only a few words came to mind.

"You're a cheetah!"

He circled the creature quickly looking at it,

"But your bipedal, how did you manage that, it must be awfully hard on your spine, though excellant posture regardless. How did you get over here, does the water upset you like most felines, given, here you are, and then of course there is your speed. Were you the one who opened the hatch, given, I don't suppose the fellow in blue did so as he's still outside, also isn't..."

Philos was interupted by the creaking of the ship under the tentacles which he could actually see out the hatch,

"Is that, an octopus? An octopus is attacking my ship, I guess we should be leaving shouldn't we."

He glanced around,

"There's really not much you can take with you, not with your size, most of the equipment isn't meant to leave the ship, or else much too heavy, so I guess up we go."

Hooking his hand on the bottom side of the hatch he swung his body on the pushed in edge back and forth before he could get enough momentum to flip out the hatch and land on his feet on the top of his sinking ship. It was then that he got a good look at the ship from the outside,

"This does not look good."

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Jubatus' first impression of the vessel-occupant, when he got a good look, was Ye gods, this guy's as thin as I am! However, he recovered from this minor surprise before he downshifted and said his piece. Fortunately, the ET's reaction wasn't hostile; he might even have understood Jube's words, praise Thoth for small favors.

"You're a cheetah!"

Oh, frigging joy. Your ship is sinking, dude! At least he speaks English… "Yes, I am. Now—"

"But you're bipedal! How did you manage that?"

"Good question, but—"

"It must be awfully hard on your spine, though excellent posture regardless…"

Sigh. Dude's not even listening. Might as well wait it out. A few clock-seconds more or less shouldn't make any significant difference; if it does, I can drag him up topside real fast. And if he doesn't mind losing all his stuff except what's on him, that's his business. The presumed pilot continued to babble, until an ominous creaking noise forcibly dragged him back to reality.

"Is that, an octopus? An octopus is attacking my ship? I guess we should be leaving, shouldn't we."

"Yes it is, yes it is, and yes we should. Again: Anything you want me to bring with us when we go?"

"There's really not much you can take with you, not with your size, most of the equipment isn't meant to leave the ship, or else much too heavy, so I guess up we go."

The feline performed his distinctive variation on a shrug. "I'm stronger than I look. But if you're okay with abandoning everything, fine. It's definitely time for us to bug out."

Jubatus allowed the ET to exit the vehicle first, after which he blurred up onto the top of the hull himself.

"This does not look good."

Ya think? No [bg=black]xxix[/bg], Sherlock. "Agreed. Two final questions before we get the hell out of here: One, is there anybody else on board who should be extracted? Two, does your vehicle contain anything that could be dangerous if it breaks, like maybe a stardrive or hypercapacity battery or some such?"

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Darting away from the lashing tentacle of the monstrous sharktopus, Wave-Eye considered his options. 'I cannot calm this beast, and it clearly is fascinated by the ship, which as far as I know is still inhabited...but if it is attacking me after those minor cuts, perhaps I can make it focus more on me with deeper ones...no. I must keep it from attacking at all. What could I...I will hold it still!'

Waiting for his chance at an opening, he leaped forward in a stream of bubbles from his powerful tail pushing him towards the beast, raising his Red Wave Conch, putting it to his lips, and blew a very different note through the shell, calling to the water and threading it with the narrow streaks that followed his will. With a sonorous roar he surrounded the sharktopus with a whirling torrent of water that immobilized its limbs, pinning its tentacles against its body and holding it still within the reddened sphere.

'As I live, I hope that holds' he thought to himself, continuing the groaning song that bent the water to his power, watching the aquatic monster's eyes with his own.

Above him, he heard the cracking whine of bending metal, and looked up sharply, anxiety gnawing at him as he saw for the first time the ship slowly being crushed. 'Please, High Ones of the Teotl, do not let this be a mistake...'

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He's out! Good!

With the occupant of the pod out and safe, Edge nodded in satisfaction. "Everybody hang on!" he yelled to the other heroes, hoping he wouldn't need to translate for the benefit of the man Jubatus had helped pull out. Is that a Farsider? Neat! "We're all getting out of here right now!" he shouted, then concentrated, reaching out into the air and water all around them to gather up himself, Jubatus, Wave-Eye, the Farsider's spaceship, and the alien himself from the ocean's surface before everything faded for a long, crucial instant...

And then, after that brief moment of discontinuity; all was right with the world again. They were back on the Freedom City beach as Sharktopus tore apart the rapidly disintegrating bridge Edge had used to walk out to the crash site in the first place, the space pod resting on the beach on its side and all the heroes and their new friend safely rescued from wherever they'd been. Edge walked right up to the misplaced Farsider and extended his hand. "Welcome to Earth! Sorry about the mess back there; normally we try and greet people with a little more respect. Sea monsters, what can you do?"

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