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Thevshi

Crash on Volturnus (IC)

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Starshot

 

On this matter, Starshot was honestly torn. He scratched his chin. On any other occasion, he would comply with Phalen's request. But Phalen did not quite seem sane here. What was his duty? To Phalen, or to Phalen's wishes?

 

Bah! To go against a man's desires is the way to Tryanny. I am no lawyer, no philosopher, no psychiatrist! I never will be. And I would sleep better if I respected his wishes!

 

"Phalen, though I think it unwise of you, I will take you back to your caves if you so wish. Be clear, I think you will die there, sooner or later, quite alone. I think I can keep you safe. I think I can give you a better life. But, I will not go against your wishes, despite the grim fate that awaits you. What say you? Think carefully, do not think with your gut or your spine, but with your head. This is no light choice..."

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GM

 

Phalen went quite for a few moments, seeming to actually be in thought about the choice Starshot had put before him.  Finally the man gave a nod and stated, "Phalen wants to return to his caves."

 

"Well, you gave it a shot."  Soreen stated with a small shrug as she got to her feet.  "Shall I get the flyer ready to depart?"  She asked, looking over to Starshot.

 

Laark stood up again as well.  "I will make sure the last of the supplies for the Kurabanda are loaded onto the flyer."  The large alien hoisted his massive club over one shoulder and started off along with Ermorada to finish the preparations.

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Starshot

 

"I hope the fates are with you, Phalen. But I fear they are not"

 

That was all he had to say to Phalen. It was not without sourness, for he did find the decision unpalatable. But he was firm and without regret. It was at least an honest decision, and sometimes that was all a man could make. 

 

"Lets give him what we can spare" he told Soreen. "He has chosen his path, and although it will be a short and brutish one, it is his to make. I would extend him some charity, but a man has to live with the consequences of his decisions, and so shall he"

 

"I think we should now proceed as planned. We must understand what we face, and how to face it. The flyer may be too big for scouting, but it can at least take us partway..."

 

 

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GM

 

Soon enough the flyer was loaded and everyone was aboard for the scouting mission.  Moments later, Starshot had them airborn, skimming over the treetops once more as they flew west towards the exit to the cave system where they had first encountered Phalen on their way to the Ul-Mor's Test of True Warriors.  As they flew over the section of forest, Starshot got a better view of one of the floating jellyfish-like creatures that they had encountered on the way towards the pirate outposts.  Like the other one, the strange creature was parked over a Bachanda tree, its long tentacles reaching down to dissolve the foliage of the tree.

 

But it was easy enough to avoid in the fast flyer, and Starshot continued them on their way, over razor grass and volcanic plains until they reached the section of desert in which the location for the Test of True Warriors was located.  Accessing the navigational files within his helmet, Starshot was able to get them back to the caves where they had found Phalen.

 

Soon they had loaded Phalen up with a pack with two weeks worth of rations and water, several other pieces of survival gear as well as a spare blaster pistol and rifle and a few extra energy clips for each.  Phalen walked down the ramp of the flyer to the hot sand, facing toward the cave entrance with a grin on his face.  He then paused a moment and half turned back toward Starshot and the others.  "Thank you."  He stated, before starting over toward the caves.

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Starshot

 

For the briefest of moments, Starshot had the urge to try and persuade Phalen again. He crushed the urge hard ane effectively. No. The decision has been made, the course laid out. He will die, or even live, by the fate he has made for himself. 

 

Without a word he turned back to the flyer. Phalen was better off now than when he had met him. Rations, water, blaster weapons and energy clips. And, if they ever got back to civilisation, perhaps Starshot would alert the authorities to the situation. Maybe a mercy mission could be sent out, and Phalen could be rescued with the right help. 

 

He turned his mind towards the task at hand. 

 

"We don't know how close we can get in the flyer. Time is, I think, on our side, so we shall fly cautiously, park the vehicle under cover, and make the rest of the way on foot" he explained. 

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GM

 

"Sounds good to me."  Laark stated with a nod.

 

Soreen gave a small nod as well as she activated a screen near her seat.  "Yeah, I have a few ideas.  I have been studying the flyer's sensor longs since it has been here and have a pretty good idea where these Edestekai villages are located around the mining base the pirates have set up."  She said as she pulled up a map of the mountains to the northeast.

 

"There are a number of villages within a few kilometers of the base, here in this section of the mountains around it.  I was thinking we could look to the mountains to the west, try to find some place to set down an hide the flyer."

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Starshot

 

Starshot did not jump to conclusions, but studied the map carefully. 

 

"The mountains would be best" he concluded. "We should find good cover, and if these logs are correct we could move inwards towards the villages first, and then the mining base"

 

He straightened up. "The down side to the mountains is the mountains. Tough going on foot" he summised. "But its still our best bet. Lets just make sure we can try to rustle up some mountaineering and climbing equipment. Even rope and axes would do" he said. 

 

"We could try making it back to the Xeno. Its well equipped. And, althuogh its a long shot, we could try digging the ATV out. Your thoughts?"

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GM

 

"It should not take us long to get back to the Xeno"”  Laark stated with a small nod.  "Having quality climbing gear would help with traversing the mountainous terrain."

 

Soreen had a slight frown on her face.  "Well, with the flyer and the extra hands we have aboard, should not be too hard to dig out enough sand to get the ATV out.  But the flyer might have some trouble lifting something that heavy."  She stated.  "And, it is not going to fit in the cargo area, it would have to be suspended beneath the flyer, which will completely throw off its balance and make it rather unwieldy."

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Starshot

 

Was it worth it? 

 

"Lets go then" he concluded. "At least we can get the climbing gear, some rations. If we can dig the ATV out, lets dig it out. We don't necessarily need to fly it out. Distance depending, we can drive it out. It would be good to have, but not necessary". 

 

He would rather be prepared if they could. 

 

"Scouting is best done on foot. But the ATV would be a good comprimise between foot and flyer" he reasoned. "Lets decide when we get there...."

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GM

 

"Well, by my estimate, it is about 400 kilometers from where the Xeno is to the pirates' base, and that is without accounting for the kilometers long lake near the Kurabanda forest that lies right between the two points."  Soreen replied.  "That is a lot of desert, volcanic rock, razor grass and other terrain to try to cross.  I don’t think even the ATV will make particularly good time in trying to traverse all that."

 

Regardless of whether or not the ATV would be of use, there was still the need to travel to the Xeno to gather climbing gear and other supplies.  So the once again Starshot took the flyer up into the air, the flight from the caves to the downed ship not taking particularly long.

 

The Xeno appeared to be in the same condition as when they had left it so many days ago.  If anything, it seemed to be slightly less buried in the sand now than it had been.

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Starshot

 

Which was concerning. 

 

As pleased as he was to see his ship, the fact that there was less sand than more didn't seem to make sense. In fact, it put him on alert. 

 

He pulled out his rifle. Just to be sure. 

 

"Soreen, Laark...be on your guard. It is just possible somebody else is on board". He surely hoped not, but it was a niggling worry. The pirates could have picked up the crash on long range sensors. Even if they shut down the power systems, it was still a big lump of metal in the middle of the desert. 

 

"Just to be on the safe side" he explained, flipping on his rifle and helmet. He gave the ship an X-Ray scan; it wouldn't reach everywhere, for the Xeno, like many star ships, was full of heavy metals. But it would do no harm. 

 

"Lets get the climbing gear. I could do with a few more grenades too. And then check on the ATV, see what we got...."

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GM

 

Both Laark and Soreen readied their weapons as Ermorada and several Kurabanda exited the flyer with them, looking in awe at the Xeno.  Scanning the vessel, Starshot did not see any sign of anyone inside the vessel or any indication that anyone had entered it since he and his crew had set off into the dessert.

 

Now that he studied it a bit closer, Starshot realized that only portions of the vessel were less covered than before, the sand having shifted off them, while other parts were by contrast buried under even more than before.  Looking back at the aft section where the ATV was kept, it was still about half buried, but at least some of the sand had shifted away, meaning it would be a bit less of an effort to dig it out if they so choose. 

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Starshot

 

"Its probably just the shifting sand" commented Starshot. He lowered his rifle, but did not sling it over his back. Better safe than sorry. Or worse, dead. 

 

"But that brings its own problems" he said to Laark and Soreen. "The sand could shift in our favour. Or shift against us. It could even swallow the Xeno". Unlikely, but certainly plausible. 

 

"Lets see what we got. It may be worth taking the ATV, but first things first, lets restock and resupply what we can. Also, we may even be able to effect repairs on the sensor array. Even if the Xeno stays here, we might get a scan" he said, although it was doubtful. The Xeno did indeed have a top end sensor array, but they might be halway round the planet. 

 

"Soreen, see if you can do anything with the sensors. Laark, lets go resupply what we can, and then see about the ATV..."

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GM

 

"I'm on it."  Soreen responded to Starshot’s orders, moving toward the entrance to the Xeno and making her way inside once Starshot and Laark had managed to manually open the hatch.  As Starshot and Laark set off the get some fresh supplies, Soreen made her way down to the ship's engine room to get the power core back online.

 

Starshot and Laark used flashlights to make their way through the somewhat cold and dark corridors of the Xeno.  Although the darkness slowed them slightly, they still knew exactly where to go for the supplies they needed, gathering up several of them before the main interior lights flickered back on as the vessel's core became active once more.

 

The improved lighting helped speed up the gathering of supplies, and soon Laark and Starshot were gathered in the cargo area where the ATV was stored.  The wheeled vehicle was still there, but as Soreen had noted, it was far too large to fit into the cargo space of the flyer they had appropriated from the pirates.

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Starshot

 

Starshot examined the ATV carefully, checking its power supply. It looked functional, at least. 

 

The fact it was too big for the flyer was unsurprising - expected, even - but he was dissapointed. As a hunter, the ATV was an optional extra. He was just as happy on his boots wading through jungle (although the paying safari customers often preferred its convenience!). But he was out of his comfort zone now. He was ending back in a war. And he didn't like wars. 

 

But he was familiar with them. And having every asset he could get his hands on was a good strategy. 

 

He clicked open the radio comms on his helmet. 

 

"Soreen....what's your status? We are clear here. ATV is intact but like you said, we can't get it on the flyer. We have to drive it out. That may take some time given the distance....if we can get the sensor array back maybe we can plot how long...."

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GM

 

Just as Starshot called to ask Soreen's status, he heard the familiar hum of the Xeno's power core going back online.  Just as it did, more of the internal lighting flickered on, brightly illuminating the interior of the cargo bay where Starshot and Laark currently were. 

 

"Got power back on and am starting to run diagnostics on the sensors."  Came Soreen's response.  "We should be good to go in a few minutes."  She added.

 

"But even without the sensors, just based on the scans you performed as we crashed, driving the ATV will be much further than flying directly toward the pirates.  There are all sorts of terrain hazards it will have to deal with or go around, not the least of which is the large lake in the center of the forest between here and the mountains."

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Starshot

 

"Powers back. Thats a win"

 

"Lets leave the ATV" he concluded. "Its going to be too slow"

 

He didn't really expect the ATV to have trouble with the terrain. It was, after all, an All Terrain Vehicle. But it would slow their operation for, all in all, a marginal gain. He did wonder about the lake, though. What on earth was down there? Given the planets propensity for large and dangerous fauna, he almost didn't want to know. 

 

But then again, being Starshot, he kind of did. 

 

"Start the sensor scan, Sorreen. Meet you up there in a minute. Lets move to wrap up operations here"

 

All in all, they had restocked, resupplied, and hopefully would get a good scan of the surounding area thanks to the Xeno's formidable sensor array. A win by any count. 

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GM

 

By the time Starshot had made his way back up to the Xeno's bridge Soreen had begun the sensor sweeps of the area. She looked over toward him as he made his way into the room. "Well, I have locked onto the pirate’s compound up in the mountains. It is pretty good sized, like a small fortress. There are a number of populated settlements in the mountains around it, which must be those Edestekai we were told they have tricked into working in their mines."

 

"So, anything in particular you are wanting to look for?"

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Starshot

 

"Good...good..." said Starshot softly, studying the expertly produced sensor readouts. 

 

"The fortress itself will be tough. We can't just strike it like we did their outpost" he concluded. He did not like the look of it at all. It was shielded by the mountains. Neither a direct assault nor a stealthy strike looked possible, let alone appealing. 

 

The smaller settlements looked much more promising. This might turn out to be a war of attrition, no matter how unpalatable the possibility. "We might have to take this slowly. Cut off their supplies, their support. Fight dirty. Hmmm....war is always dirty...."

 

He froze for a moment thinking back to Germany. A paralysis seized his throat. 

 

He grunted it away, a garbled shriek. 

 

"Lets look at those mining settlements first. Which one is the biggest?"

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GM

 

Laark had joined the pair up on the bridge as Soreen began focusing the scans on the villages in the nearby mountains. After a few moments she had focused on one in particular. "This one seems to be the largest." She said. "Although that is not really saying much. I am not reading any sort of energy signatures that would suggest much in the way of technology. Like pretty much everything else we have come across that is native to this world, it seems a primitive settlement. I am getting somewhere around a few hundred life forms."

 

Laark studied the read-outs a few moments and then spoke up. "While striking at where an enemy is weakest is usually the best strategy, it may not be as successful in this instance." He stated. "Even if we are able to turn any of these settlements to our side, that is not likely to weaken the pirates position as much as it might in other situations. The pirates have support from their spacecraft, something we are unable to counter with our current resources. It is very possible they could still obtain supplies and even reinforcements from off-world if given the time."

 

"Or even worse for us," Soreen chimed in, "we could make this operation so costly they just decide to leave for easier pickings, taking with them anything that might provide us with the parts we need to repair the Xeno to get us off world."

 

"We certainly want to investigate what the situation is in these settlements." Laark continued. "From what we have been told, the beings residing there have been tricked into being willing allies. At the very least we will want to cut the pirates off from that support. But I fear that a prolonged campaign will not serve us well."

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Starshot

 

"I agree. This will need patience, but we must not delay too long"

 

Too many battles lost from the rush of war. And too many lost from the stasis of caution. How delicate a line to tread betwixt the two!

 

"In any case, we need to find out what we are dealing with first and formost" he concluded. "Then devise strategy. Im inclined to think cutting off their communications would be a good idea. If they can call in space ship support we are done for". 

 

"Lets scout then. On foot would be best. See what it happening on these settlements. All we need to do is get there....If the Xeno and the ATV is out of action, then I think we shall have to use the Pirate Flyer, but do a lot of boot-work..."

 

 

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GM

 

With the decision made, Starshot and Laarjk began gathering up the supplies they had gathered together, while Soreen powered the Xeno back down. Soon the trio were making their way out of the ship across the warm sands to the waiting flyer, where Ermorada and the Kurabanda with him were waiting around the vessel.

 

Loading everything into the flyer, it was not long before it was lifting back up into the sky, staying low as Starshot guided it off towards the mountains where the pirate’s base was located. Beneath the flyer the desert of the Ul-Mor passed, followed by the razor grass, wide paths from the strange creatures with the natural rollers visible among the grass. Then there was the forest of the Kurabanda, the towering trees rising high above the razor grass. In the middle of the forest was the large lake the Kurabanda called the "black water," large dark patches visible all across the lake's surface.

 

After the lake there was more forest, followed by a vast field of the black, volcanic rock, similar to the difficult terrain Startshot and his crew had traveled across with the Ul-Mor to reach the Test of True Warriors. After the volcanic rock was another vast field of the razor grass, this one laced with beaten paths just as the other was.

 

Then, finally, they reached the edge of the mountains, the foothills stretching both east and west as far as they could see. "We are not too far from one of those villages now." Soreen stated as she kept a careful eye on the flyer’s location in relation to the areas they had detected in their scan. "The pirate base is dozens of kilometers further northeast."

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Starshot

 

"Perfect"

 

Starshot made sure that his Plasma Rifle and Helmet were fully charged - they should be, after the spell on the Xeno - and stepped outside into the foothills. 

 

"Time to put on your marching boots" he said, with a smile, as he felt the ground beneath his own. By the time this little adventure was over, he would need a new pair. Yuvidian synth-leather had an excellent reputation, but even the tri-carbonate weave only lasted so long. 

 

"A couple of hours march, to be precise. And we best keep it slow and quiet when we get near..."

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GM

 

After setting the flyer down in a small valley, Starshot and his crew geared up to begin their reconnaissance of the nearby village. Since their attack on the pirate outpost, gaining the flyer and stopping briefly by the Xeno the power levels of Starshot's equipment had not been an issue. Indeed, the crew was now not nearly as resource strapped as they had been when they had set out into the desert following the crash on this world.

 

Laark still had his large club slung over his back, but he also had a blaster pistol sidearm and a laser rifle, as well as a number of grenades. Soreen had two blaster pistols and a few grenades as well. Ermorada and the Kurabanda made their way out as well, still armed with their bows and clubs. A few of the Kurabanda were designated to stay behind with the flyer, gathering nearby vegetation to cover the vessel to make it harder to spot from the air.

 

The Starshot and his ragtag group started off into the steep hills above them. The terrain was steep and difficult, but perhaps the biggest concern was the sparse vegetation on the hillsides, making them mindful of whether they might be visible or not. Finally, after a couple of hours, they had reached a small ravine. According to Starshot's HUD in his helmet, the village they were here to take a look at should just be over the hill they were at the bottom of.

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Starshot

 

Boots on ground. Sky overhead. For all his star-faring ways, this was where Starshot was most comfortable. 

 

Exploring new life. And new civilisations. Boldly going...well, just exploring new life, really. And hunting it. Didn't sound so noble, but it was the truth. 

 

This planet has been a banquet of pleasures, despite the hardships. But now, he was going to war; and he had avoided that for fifty and more years. 

 

Signalling the others to stay put and hidden, he started a crawl up the hill to peak over its rim. The synth-leather jacket was resilient enough but was chipped by the rock underneath. He paid it no mind; worn in was good. 

 

Silent and patient, like any hunter, he reached the top of the hill, putting his eyes (or more precisely, the enhanced vision sensors on his helmet) just over the rim...

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