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Thevshi

Crash on Volturnus (IC)

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"Yeah, I understand that."  Soreen replied with a frown as Starshot commented on the lack of any options that did not put them in a great deal of danger.  Holstering her blaster, she set to work helping him set up a makeshift shelter to at least keep the sun’s direct glare off of them.  It did not take too long to get the shelter up.  While the air was still hot, the shade did help to some degree. 

As Laark drifted off to sleep, Soreen and Starshot set to work modifying his remaining smoke grenades.  The first one took a bit of time, but the second proved much easier to do, once they had figured out the tricks with the first one. 

As they worked, Starshot noted a number of small winged creatures had landed on the carcass of the sand creature and began eating at the carrion. 

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Starshot contemplated shooting down the birds - maybe they had water. But it was a wild speculation; he had no idea about the biology of the creatures. It would be protein cakes and water until they could determine otherwise. 

 

"Good work...lets hope we don't need them..." he said to Soreen, in a satisfied tone. Even if they didn't meet a sand shark again, what with evolution there was, by his estimation a reasonable chance that other life forms would navigate by their nose as opposed to their eyes. The two precious grenades might give them an edge. 

 

He sat down under the shade, waiting for nightfall, and tending to Laarks wounds. Water had to be consumed, in moderation. Too little, they would dehydrate and be too weak to walk. Too much, and they would die later. Even judicious consumption would not necessarily save them. 

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Soreen gave a small smirk at Starshot's comment about hopefully not needing the modified smoke grenades.  "You really think that?  There are still who knows how many miles till we get where we are trying to go.  There are bound to be all sorts of other threats out there."  She stated before she laid down to get some sleep in the shade. 

The test of the day passed rather uneventfully, Starshot alternating between getting some sleep, keeping an eye on Laark and trying to figure out where they might be.  The carrion bird like creatures, which slightly resembled a cross between a pterosaur and a vulture, continued to pick at the carcass of the sand shark, a few venturing over near the group's makeshift shelter, but easily scared away with a thrown rock. 

Starshot used the daylight to find several other landmarks around them, comparing them to the sensor scans the Xeno had made of the surface as they were crashing and coming up with a rough location for them.  As best as he could tell, they were a little under 200 kilometers still from the lake and the reading of technology, all through desert.  They were just slightly over 100 kilometers from some grasslands that bordered the forested area.  But even better, they were only about 48 kilometers from a somewhat vegetated area in the middle of the desert, perhaps an oasis or the like. 

When night arrived, Laark was still not well enough to travel, but was starting to heal.  As best as Starshot could estimate, if they waited till late next morning, the large alien might be well enough to walk at a good pace.  So Starshot and Soreen began alternating watches through the night.  The time passed uneventfully, although at one point in the night Starshot saw another of those sand shark things pass nearby under the sands, but apparently not detect them. 

By mid-morning, Laark had healed enough that he could walk with only the slightest limp, so the group should be able to press on at a normal pace.

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Starshot was getting worried about water. And heat. And sand. But mainly, worried about water. 

 

"Let's go then. There was an oasis of sorts, still far, but our best. It will take us a day or two to get there. Don't give up. We can make it" he said, determined. He was not sure if they could. But they would damn well try. If they did not get attacked again, then the odds were good. 

 

If they did, the odds were not good. 

 

This time, he kept his helm clicked on. The sweat would be uncomfortable and raw, but he needed to grit his teeth. They could not get ambushed again. 

 

Kicking sand with his boots, they pressed on...

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The heat of the sun was bearing down on Starshot and his crew as they took down the makeshift shelter and started off once more.  While travelling through the heat of the day would increase some of their water use (less for Starshot and Laark, who were more resistant to the heat), it would also make up for the lost time. 

Now more alerted to the possible dangers of the desert, Starshot kept a careful eye on the ground, and what was under it.  As they moved through the day, he spotted a couple of other creatures that were buried under the sands, apparently waiting for prey to come by.  One was a medium sized creature about a meter and a half long, resembling something like a cross between a snake and a salamander.  While it had forelimbs on its long body, they were rather small, as opposed to its longer and more powerful rear legs.  This creature was just under a section of sand and loose rocks, and easily avoided by the group. 

The second creature was even more terrifying than the sand shark that had attacked them.  It was a long, segmented, worm like creature measuring over six meters long and with powerful mandibles on the side of its mouth.  This creature lay some five meters under the sand, again seemingly waiting for something to cross overhead to be attacked. 

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The sands shifted and scratched, and hid horrors. Starshot did not name what lay beneath, perhaps because they had no name. Whilst a raised fist and a wide circling of their course was prudent, he did not judge it wise to describe the anatomy of the earth. whilst the first beast had been dangerous, he was shore that the massive fifteen foot worm he saw was more so, and a description would demoralise. 

 

These sandworms certainly and spice to the sands...he mused to himself. 

 

Reshouldering trigger and ignoring the sweat collecting around his helm's neck, he pressed on, doing his best to keep focus...

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The group continued through the heat of the day, avoiding the dangers Starshot had spotted under the sands, even though he did not specify what it was he had seen.  They made a few stops in some occasional shade provided by large rock formations, eating a meal before continuing onward.  As night came and the air began to cool, they pressed onward, using the cooler temperature to allow them to go further with less water consumption.   

But as dawn began to approach, all three were beginning to tire, particularly Soreen, who was near exhaustion.  Realizing the danger of trying to press on at this point, particularly with the sun getting ready to rise once more and bring the intense heat, Starshot spotted what appeared to be a suitable section of rocky ground in the distance which could provide some protection from any of the sand sharks, and provide sufficient shade, along with their makeshift shelter, too keep the sun off them while they rested through the day.

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Starshot was feeling the pressure. Marching for so long was difficult, especially with the sand. 

 

The endless sand. 

 

He took his boots off and poured sand out of each. It was not a good smell. 

 

He checked on Laarks wounds, rebinding them. The Medkit was running low on supplies, but what the hell. Get out of the Desert alive first, he reasoned. He could only hope that this would be the worst of it. He suspected it would not. One thing for sure, he was starting to really dislike sand. 

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Starshot looked over Laark's wounds after the large alien had set up the makeshift shelter and Soreen had all but passed out on the rocky ground.  The wounds were healing well, in part thanks to the sealant from the medical kit.  They only require minimal binding now, and should be fully healed in a day or so more, assuming nothing happened to aggravate them again. 

With that done, Starshot organized an alternating watch schedule for them until it night came once again to cool the air and sands.  The heat of the day wore on, as they group stood their watch and slept as best they could. 

Starshot had been in the middle of finally getting some sleep when he was nudged away by Soreen.

"Hey boss, we've got company."  She said, her blaster in hand, but not yet raised, as she turned away from Starshot and back out towards the sand beyond the rocks.
 

Sitting up and looking out to where Soreen was facing, Starshot saw close to two dozen very unusual figures approaching them.  Each was a creature that generally resembled an octopi, except their bodies were plum-purple, and highly decorated with feathers, primitive jewelry, tattoos and bright paint.  Each carried spears and war clubs in four of their tentacles, and were riding on the back of mounts which resembled two-legged dinosaurs that were close to four meters long from snout to tail. 

The octopi dinosaur riders had spread out some, and stopped about one hundred meters from where the group had their makeshift shelter.  Their weapons were clearly in hand, but not readied in any threatening manner.  

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Whats the bet they don't speak speak English? thought Starshot to himself. 

 

He didn't raise trigger to them, but he did thumb on the power to the gun. 

 

"Attention! Aliens to Kill!" shouted Trigger gleefully as it sparked into life. 

 

Wincing inside, Starshot ruefully noted that this would at least answer his question. 

 

He raised his other hands peacefully, hissing to Soreen to keep her blaster down. The aliens had only clubs and spears, but he well knew how dangerous they could be in skilled and strong hands. Or indeed tentacles. 

 

He made no sound, just kept his hand up, and his eyes peeled. His Helmet zoomed in the vision, scanning in detail the octopi and their mounts...

 

 

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Soreen nodded as Starshot told her to keep her blaster down, which she was already doing.  She then knelt down next to Laark as she shook the large alien awake. 

If the octopi-like creatures had understood Trigger's outburst, they did not react with any hostile actions.  Instead they remained where they were, their various weapons in hand, but not raised.   

Taking some time to scan the gathered creatures, Starshot counted twenty of them in total, each atop one of the two legged dinosaur like creatures.  They sat in leather saddles, with several other leather packs attached on the mounts.  There were a couple extra of the dinosaur creatures, loaded with more bags as pack animals. 

As Starshot moved away from the makeshift shelter and into the hot afternoon sun, the tallest of the octopi creatures moved its mount forward, its weapons still lowered to meet Starshot.

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Starshot was not sure he could fight two aliens, let alone twenty. If they were just primitives with little skill or strength, he would feel confident in taking down a few dozen. But they did not seem to lack for strength or skill. And they were tired and, in Laarks case, wounded. 

 

He powered down Trigger, dropped the gun, and stood his ground. And trusted in the fates. 

 

"Soreen, if you can speak octopus, this would be a good time. They remind me of some horror writer from my planet. Too many alien tentacles"

 

He didn't now or fall to his knees. Yet. If he needed to spring into action, and risk all in a mad fight, then by the alien and uncaring Gods of the universe, he would go down fighting. 

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"Yeah, afraid I cannot help there."  Soreen replied to Starshot's comment as Laark sat awake, Soreen holding down his hand that started to reach for his weapons. 

The octopi watched Starshot moved forward, dropping Trigger to the ground and moving away from the weapon.  There were a few moments where nothing happened, then the creature dropped its weapons and climbed down from its mount.

Moving across the hot sand on four of its tentacles, the creature came within a few feet of Starshot.  With its tentacles, the creature stood about a foot shorter than Starshot.  It lifted up one of its tentacles, bringing it toward the top of its head, then extended it out toward Starshot, gesturing towards his head.

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At least it was not throwing spears or smashing clubs. 

 

Starshot snapped back his helm, and took it off his head, taking it under his arm. The dice were in the lap of the Gods, and so was he. 

 

Taking a no doubt clumsy guess at the ritual act, he bowed slightly, tapped his own head, and offered his blond locks to the tentacle. 

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The octopi reached up with its tentacle, touching the side of Starshot’s temple.  There was a slight tingling sensation, almost as if a slight shock.  Then Starshot heard a voice in his mind.  Greetings stranger.  I am Athru the Red of the Ul-Mor, children of the One Who is Many. 

Where do you come from and what brings you to the sea of sands?  The voice then asked, as the octopi’s violet eyes looked up at Starshot. 

Nearby, the other Ul-Mor remained where they were, their weapons still lowered as they waited for Athru to communicate with the strangers.

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As Starshot suspected, it was telepathy. 

 

Greetings Athru the Red of the Ul-Mor, I am Star the Shot, of the Skyship Xeno he ad libbed. 

 

Our skyship fell into the sea of sands. We are sick and hurt, and need water. He explained, hopefully filling his thoughts with peace, love and harmony. 

 

Of course the mere effort of doing this had precisely the opposite effect. By trying his utmost to avoid any thoughts of malice or violence, those thoughts came unbidden. 

 

Guns. Sweat. Blood. World War II....

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If Athru was shocked by Starshot's unbidden memories of the war, the Ul-Mor did not show any obvious signs of it.  Star the Shot warrior?  You fight others from sea of stars?  Or fight with them?  The Ul-Mor asked through the mental link. 

Athru then gave a slight nod at the comment about the group being injured and low on water.  Travelling the sea of sands very dangerous.  Water and food scarce.  Ul-Mor law that only tribe may share water and food. 

The Ul-Mor was quiet only a moment before adding, but Ul-Mor not wish to see Star the Shot and companions die.  Could share food if Star the Shot and companions agreed to join tribe and undergo rite of passage.

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There was not, in Starshots opinion, much choice - or at best, very little. The rites of passage might be gruelling or dangerous, but surely less so that their current predicament. 

 

We would be honoured to join the noble tribe of Ul-Mor

 

To his crewmates, he turned to explain. "Our friends here have water. And we don't" he explained, bluntly. "They will share, but we need to join their tribe. At this point, its our best, and possibly only option. There is too much desert and too little water. If you want to back out, well, I can't make you join a tribe. Dying slowly and horribly in this endless sand might make you though..."

 

"Lets just hope we don't have to marry one of them..."

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At Starshot's agreement to join the tribe and undergo the rite of passage, Athru turned back towards the waiting Ul-Mor and raised one tentacle holding a spear, letting out a strange high pitched cry.  The other Ul-Mor raised their weapons as well, returning the cry. 

As Starshot explained to Laark and Soreen the deal, Laark simply glanced back to the Ul-Mor a moment, before turning and starting to breakdown the makeshift shelter.  "Hopefully not."  Soreen said in reply.  "But in any event, it seems better than possibly dying of thirst and hunger, if not eaten by one of those sand things."  She added, before turning to help pack up what little gear they had gotten out for the makeshift camp. 

Soon, the Ul-Mor had shifted some of their packs to free up two of the large lizard mounts they rode (which Athru explained were called Loopers) for the crew.  Laark was just able to ride on one himself, while Soreen had to climb up behind Starshot on the other.  The tribe then set off toward the north, with Starshot and Laark following along behind on their Loopers, headed toward the lands where the Ul-Mor rites of passage were conducted.

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Distracted as he was, Starshot noticed he found Soreens hug round his chest whilst riding rather pleasant.

 

Yes, rather pleasant!

 

There was some heat his cybernetic implants could not help with. 

 

He didn't manage too well on the strange mount, however, and anticipated sore muscles later. Probably the least of their worries. Despite the sweat and discomfort, he kept his helmet on, carefully plotting the course, speed, direction they took. Trigger was slung over his shoulder, resolutely turned off. The last thing he wanted is for the crazy weapon to blurt out something awful, even if the Ul-Mor would not understand. 

 

As they rode through the dunes, Starshot focussed in on the Ul-Mor, trying to understand their physiology. 

 

 

Edited by Supercape

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The late afternoon sun glared down on the group as they rode across the shifting sands of the desert, but at least they were making better time, and not trying themselves out nearly as much.  The Ul-Mor seemed to have a very good sense of the dangers of the desert, changing course to avoid a couple of those long, worm like creatures that Starshot had previously seen under the sands. 

Taking some time to study the Ul-Mor a bit more closely as they rode, Starshot believed that he was able to identify about half of the octopi like creatures as female.  The Ul-Mor's skin was more rubbery than a octopus from Earth, a likely adaption to living outside of water and in a desert environment.  They also showed no sign of having any color changing abilities like that of a Earth octopus, although it was unclear if that was due to never having such an ability, or something else that could have been lost if they were originally an aquatic species.   

The Ul-Mor rode until a little before night fall, stopping near a rocky section of land, where they began setting up their camp.

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Wearily, Starshot climbed down from his mount. Gah! How his muscles ached. He tried to rub some feeling back into them. He was not used to such a strange gait by a mount. He spared an admiration for the hardy beast he had ridden. 

 

He checked once again on Laark, hoping the long ride had not reopened wounds. His medkit was running low; he had only taken the very barest of provisions. A few more shots of biospectrum antibiotics and omni-narc painkillers, but out of dressings. 

 

Wandering to the camp they had set up, relived it was on solid rock, he took off his helm and once again tapped his head as an invitation to a tentacle. 

 

We thank you for your help and grace. We surely would be honoured to join such a noble tribe. May we learn the rites of passage?

 

Edited by Supercape

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Laark's wound was almost fully healed, the large alien having rather fast natural healing.  Once Oskar was done checking the wound, Laark set about helping Soreen in setting up their section of the camp. 

When Oskar found Arthru, the Ul-Mor was at the center of the camp, other Ul-Mor carrying out their various tasks nearby.  One Ul-Mor, one Oskar believed to be female, was busy working on some sort of object made out of what appeared to be very dry grass or straw of some kind. 

Arthru once again established the mental link with Oskar, giving a slight nod in response to his thanks for the Ul-Mor's aide.  When Oskar asked about the rites of passage, Arthru responded.  The Ul-Mor Rites of Passage are undertaken at the Place of True Warriors. There you must face the quickdeath.  You can prove yourselves by either defeating the quickdeath, or surviving a sufficient amount of time.

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Survival is good

 

thought Starshot, unbidden. The dice were to be rolled whatever road they took. He would just make the best of however they fell. 

 

He took comfort though - grass or straw - the female was working some type of vegetable matter which meant there was more than sand. He would be dreaming of dunes and grit for weeks, he imagined. And water...

 

Then we are ready and honoured to take the rite. May we be blessed with fortune and fearless in action he said telepathically. 

 

"Laark, Soreen, looks like we are facing some beast called Quickdeath. If it is a beast. Just make sure your blasters are charged and ready!"

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Both Laark and Soreen stopped what they were doing to listen to Oskar as he relayed what he had learned.  Both were quite a moment, before Laark spoke up first.  "Interesting name for the creature.  Poison perhaps?  Or striking speed?" 

"Does it really matter?"  Soreen asked.  "Neither is good news."

"Of the two, poison can be the more significant danger."  Laark replied with a small shrug.  "Either way, we have little choice but to battle this Quickdeath." 

Soreen let out a little sigh.  "Yeah, I suppose not."  She pulled her pack over near her and dug into it a moment.  "Well, I brought a couple of extra charge packs.  Unless we get into some extended firefights before this ritual, we should be able to go in with fully charged weapons."

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