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Thevshi

Crash on Volturnus (IC)

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"If we have weapons at all. Our new tribe may want as fighting with spears and knives. Or perhaps nothing at all..." he replied. He was unsure if grade 12 plasma weapons would be allowed, especially if they were insane bloodthirsty artificial intelligences. Despite the danger, part of Starshot felt a call of honour or primitive nobility. There was something more primal, or even fair, about spears and knives, even if more dangerous. 

 

"But if that is the case, then we make the best of it" he said, fortifying himself for the task ahead. 

 

"In any case, whatever we face, we face together. Spread out, encircle the beast, and flank it..."

 

 

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The rest of the evening passed uneventfully, as did the night, several of the Ul-Mor standing watch over the encampment as they slept.  The next morning they broke camp rather quickly, the Ul-Mor clearly well accustomed to the routine, and were on the move just after the sun fully rose over the horizon and the distant crystal mountains. 

Their path continued toward the north, again occasionally passing by dangers such as those massive worms lurking beneath the sands.  Once again, they halted in the heat of the afternoon sun, setting up camp and again resting in makeshift shade for the remainder of the day.


After another uneventful night, they were set out north once more, reaching a fair sized oasis by midday.  The Ul-Mor began setting up camp once more, with Arthru explaining they would rest until morning, replenishing their water supply and getting some extra rest. 

By early morning, we will be in the burning lands.  The Ul-Mor explained to Oskar.  But we only have a short time travel on the surface before we reach the caves which will take us to the Place of True Warriors.

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Starshot made sure that both he and his crew filled their water bottles to the brim, as well as drinking as much as he could. Dehydration would kill them sooner than starvation. 

 

So what if Ill be taking a leak every hour...better than shrivelling like a corpse. 

 

Not for the first time, he thought of making a run for it. But for two reasons, he decided against it. 

 

"They know this planet. And we don't. If it was the planet of soft cuddly baboons, that may not count for much" he explained to his crew over drinking time. "But I fear it is a planet of teeth and claw. Not to mention a lot of the sun, and not much of the water. At least, here. Who knows what the jungles or the mountains hold. I suspect they will not be welcoming either"

 

The second reason, he kept to himself. From the Sky Tribes of Omecron 8, to the Moon Hunters of Carsan, he had befriended so called "primitives" in the past, having a fascination for their "simple" cultures. And, at some level, at discomforting pleasure at the rituals of hunting, so entwined with life. And whilst these aliens might have more tentacles than was palatable, they also held that same fascination for him. He was not entirely sure he could walk away not knowing of the rituals. And, prideful though it may be, he was not entirely sure he could walk away from the challenge. 

 

Taking a last swig, he went to find The Ul-Mor who had first "spoken" to him. Not easy. His eye was not trained to differentiate them. 

 

What can you tell me of this world?

 

He was keen to know.  

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GM 

Starshot was able to locate Athru once again, the Ul-Mor reestablishing the mind-link so they could communicate once more.  As Starshot's question Athru began to respond, the Ul-Mor make our home on the sea of sands.  Remembers tell of a time when the Ul-Mor lived in the sea of salt, but when those waters receded, the Ul-Mor adapted. 

The Ul-Mor do not travel far beyond the sea of sands or the burning lands. We have seen others such as Star-the-Shot and his companions, flying above the sea of sands on a metallic bird.  Where they come from we do not know for certain, but perhaps the Kurabanda who dwell in the trees, know more.

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Starshot

 

So, a water world - or at least, a world with water on it - now one of dry sands. And yet, there was jungle too. At least what seemed to be jungle. It could well be a horrible tangle of razor sharp cactus. Perhaps this was where the Kuabanda lived. 

 

The ships in the sky; either star craft, or indigenous air craft. Quite possibly both. At least confirmation that such things existed. Athru would not know more. But it seemed the Jungles were the way to go. For water, for food, and for answers. 

 

Thanks for your visions. 

 

Thanking was always a good start. 

 

I think it is time to face the burning sands, and the Place of true warriors...

 

He said, mixing in excitement, intrigue and to be fair a bit of worry into his thoughts. It was still a mystery as to what the Place of True Warriors was. It was not even certain that tooth, claw, or spear would be involve. Many cultures had many interpretations on "warrior" - some deviating far from brutal combat. There was always the war with the self, to be overcome by serenity rather than rage. 

 

He suspected, however, that even if philosophy was blended with ritual (as was the normal), steel and the strength to wield it would be the nature of the beast...

 

 

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GM 

Once again the night passed uneventfully, and the following morning the Ul-Mor refilled their water containers from the oasis before the troop set off once more.  After less than an hour of travel in the ever increasing heat of the morning, Starshot began to not a red haze off in the distance, growing steadily closer. 

They had only been traveling about an hour when they reached the edge of the burnings lands, which were a barren, rocky terrain the stretched in miles in all directions ahead of them.  Small mounds with open holes dotted the land scape, with tendrils of steam rising up from many.  Over these rocky lands hung a reddish haze of mist and steam, making the air muggier that the desert, but still just as hot. 

As Starshot looked out over the bleak landscape, he heard a faint series off pops from somewhere ahead, and then a jet of flame shout out from one of the small mounds.  Another series of pops proceeded another jet of flame from another mound a short distance from the first. 

The Ul-Mor wasted little time, guiding their Lopers into the barren landscape as the tribe began to cross the burning lands.

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Starshot

 

Starshot could feel his cybernetics whizzing inside his spine and guts. They kept him perfectly cool, but in this heat, they were working so hard that even he wondered just how long they could keep up. Keeping warm was easier. As it was, he could feel several vents on his spine and neck emitting blasts of furnace heat. He swore he could hear a whirring sound in his stomach. 

 

Still, he didn't complain. He was cool as a cucumber. He wondered how his fellow ship mates were doing. 

 

His helmet down, he kept careful track of the terrain in case he needed to retrace his steps. With every yard, the computers in his helmet built up a 3D map of the world that he could use. He made note of the vents, too. Furiously hot they might be, but it was steam, which meant water. Aside from the geological implications, that steam could always be captured to drink if need be. 

 

Otherwise, he kept silent but watchful. Inside, a growing ember of anticipation and excitement. 

 

 

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GM 

"Oh, that just looks wonderful."  Soreen commented as she looked over Starshot's shoulder from where she sat behind him on one of the lopers the Ul-Mor had provided them.  Laak was grimly quite as he simply stared out toward the barren lands before them, several more jets of flame shooting into the air after more popping noise. 

The Ul-Mor guided their lopers forward, and the tribe began to cross the desolate landscape, spreading out slightly as they went.  The air was rather stifling, humid and heavy with a sulphurous odor.   

Looking around, Starshot did not note any signs of life other than the Ul-Mor tribe. 

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Starshot

 

It was quite a view. 

 

"Like pillars of fire from Hades" he remarked. Beautiful and harsh. But, as Soreen reminded him, once should not forget to admire the beauty even in the harshness. 

 

"Even Hell has a good scenery" he added. "Almost worth crashing for, in fact"

 

He did pause, for a moment or more, to admire. 

 

"Looks fiendishly hot though. Even if we weave between the fire. How are you two going to hold up?" he asked. "Sands, fire, blazing suns..." he said, scanning the horizon. "I don't want you dying on me, even if you do leave a good looking corpse in a good looking planet" he explained. "Is this anything like your homeworlds?"

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GM

"My world has some areas that still has some geothermal activity."  Soreen replied as they started forward after the Ul-Mor.  "But like most sensible beings, I avoided those areas.  And no one was trying to trek across them either.  Unfortunately, that does not look like an option we have." 

"My world had some similar regions as well, but I have only seen them from afar."  Laark replied, guiding his Loper along beside Starshot's. 

The Lopers seemed hesitant to enter the rocky terrain, but did not resist when directed to start forward. 

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Starshot

 

"Well enjoy the view, comrades" said Starshot. "It looks like we will have it for a while". 

 

It was pretty spectacular, but in his experience spectacle faded quickly. The beating of pulse was what lived in the memory; the quickening of emotion, a signal that something was truly worth remembering. Perception without affect was grey at best. 

 

He fancies sore feat and aching limbs would be the abiding memory, with jets of flame a second. 

 

He took another swig of water and shouldered his rifle. 

 

"Lets be on our way then. And hope we are not exhausted by the time of the trials, whatever they may be" he suggested. "We are in the hands of our hosts. Benign, it seems, but in such circumstance, let us keep our wits about us, and our eyes and ears keen...."

 

And with that, he stomped forward to the rocky terrain. 

 

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GM 

Starshot and his companions urged their lopers forward, following after the Ul-Mor tribe into the burning lands.  The lopers were rather sure-of-foot, handling the rocky and uneven terrain with little difficulty as the tribe moved through the barren landscape.  The air quickly became heavy with sulfur and other gases, and while still breathable, it seemed to require a bit more effort to do so than normal. 

The geysers of flame continued to erupt every so often from the crevices and other gaps in the surface, although they were always proceeded by the popping noises from below, allowing anyone near to guide the lopers away and avoid the flames.  For several hours the tribe moved across the burning lands, not stopping as they went, as there were no locations without the intermittent geysers of fire that would allow them to safely stop.   

It was difficult to tell the exact time of day, as the haze that hung over the landscape hide the sun.  But as the shadows of the rocky terrain began to deepen and the horizon became harder to see, Starshot realized that night was approaching. 

Just when he felt they would be trying to continue on through darkness, the Ul-Mor guided them toward a low mountain range.  In the side of one of the first hills in the range was a large cavern that seemed to go underneath the range.  The Ul-Mor moved up to the mouth of the cavern and began to dismount from their lopers. 

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Starshot

 

Feeling his cybernetic servo-motors calm down with the lessening heat, Starshot dismounted too. Even if he could sink the heat away, he was still sweating. He took another swig of water and noted there was not a lot left. 

 

He took off his helmet to feel the sun, heat, and fumes in his face. It was not a great smell. The trip reminded of reading Dante's Inferno decades ago, stuck in some gritty and unpleasant war zone. The memory made him feel cold despite the climate. 

 

The Cavern was a welcome relief from the blaze. He turned to Soreen and attempted to make contact again, via the strange but effective mental telepathy the species had. 

 

Is the trial underground? In this cave? 

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GM 

Athru moved over toward Starshot as he and his companions hesitated, once again reaching out with a tentacle to establish a mental link between the two.  No, cavern is safe path to sea of sands where Place of True Warriors lies.  Easier than traveling on surface of burned lands 

Once everyone had dismounted from the lopers, several of the Ul-Mor gathered them together and began guiding them along through the cavern.  Several of the Ul-Mor had lit torches, while Soreen and Laark took out powerful electrical lights that illuminated a fair area around the group.  The Ul-Mor looked a bit marveled by the lights.

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Starshot

 

Thank you for your safe passage

 

Starshot slung his gun over his back and donned his helmet again. It might be dark and underground, but he could well believe it was safer than travelling over scorched earth and blistering jets of fire. Cooler, for starters. 

 

There was light, but his helmet could both plot a path through the caverns for later use and gave an IR display. The advanced technology plotted the distances, the dimensions and depths of all he could see. 

 

That might protect him and his crew from getting lost, but there were other dangers. Caverns could lead to falls and collapses. And sometimes, things lurked in caverns...

 

It was the lesser of evils however. And they were out of the sun, some respite for all, but particularly Soreen and Lark. 

 

And so he pressed on. 

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GM 

As the Ul-Mor led Starshot and his crew deeper into the caves, the air did become much cooler compared to the surface.  As they made their way along, the caves were regularly changing in shape, getting wider and higher at some points, only to narrow and get much lower at others.  Despite regular twists and turns, Starshot's helmet was able to determine that they were generally moving in a northeaster direction.   

There were many side passages they passed along the way, their various lights going party into those other passages before ending in mysterious darkness.  It was difficult to tell, but at times Startshot felt as if something were watching from the darkness of some of the side passages, but nothing ever seemed to appear on his enhanced vision. 

That continued on for many hours, with occasional breaks to rest and eat.  Then, by what Starshot estimated to be mid-afternoon, their general direction began to be more in a northwestern direction.  The Ul-Mor continued leading them in that general direction, until Starshot believed it was getting closed to early evening, and everyone was starting to show some signs of exhaustion. 

It was then that the Ul-Mor came to a halt, and began to set up for the evening in a section of the cavern that had opened up into a wide space.  The Lopers were all gathered together toward one end of the cavern, roped together to keep them in place.  There were a number of side passages off the main cavern, at which several Ul-Mor took up guard posts, while the others began setting up their sleeping areas. 

Starshot and his group were left to set up their area near where the cavern had widened from the more narrow and low section they had travelled through. 

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Starshot

 

A rest was welcome. He felt his boots creak with the pounding they had received from the journey. If this went on too long, they would be pretty tired by the time they came to the trials. 

 

More water was passed around. Dehydration was the enemy, although the coolness of the caves mitigated the danger. 

 

Sitting down, he placed his rifle by him, and took his helmet off. As helpful as the device was, a little breathing space was nice. 

 

He spoke to his companions in a hushed voice. It was unlikely that the Ul-Mor could understand, or even hear, but it was a harmless prudence. 

 

"This feels like holy ground. Or something like it. It has a ritualistic flavour" he speculated. He had been around more than a few "primitive" tribes in his time. "I felt we were being watched. Judged, maybe. Well, that's not so surprising, they don't see man aliens, I guess" although i suspect they may have seen some...

 

"But like it or not, I think we should stick with our hosts" he ventured. The thought of making a run for it had crossed his mind. "Without them, we are lost, and we may well end up making enemies of them if we bolt now. What say you?"

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GM 

Laark glanced back toward some of the closest Ul-Mor briefly before looking back at Oskar and Soreen.  "They have had ample opportunity to capture or kill us, if such was their goal.  There seems little reason to squander limited resources just to keep us alive longer if they only intend to kill us.  Although I have not communicated with them as you have, they do seem sincere in attempting to help us.  I believe we should continue on this path." 

Soreen waited until he had finished and the spoke up.  "Well, they might look weird, but that alone is no reason to distrust them.  Given the situation we are in, we could use all the friends we can get, and certainly do not need more enemies.  So might as well see where this gets us, even if we have to face whatever this quickdeath thing is."

 

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Starshot

 

So then, his crew were of the same position as he was. Perhaps with marginally different angles, but of the same position never the less. Better to make a friend than an enemy, and doubly so stuck on a world of blistering sun and rolling dunes.

 

Laark's point about resources was well-made and reassuring. Starshot was no anthropologist, and had seen enough primitive cultures to get his head into a paranoid spin about rituals. But the point made sense to him. 

 

He relaxed his internal guard. The decision was made, and now they must commit to it. Further debate, be it external and explicit or internal and subconscious was of no value and arguably damaging. 

 

"I'm glad we are of one mind on this. So then, onward, and let us face what happens with steel and fortitude" he concluded. 

 

"But right now, I'm kicking off my boots, having a drink and a stretch. I imagine there is more walking to come..."

 

He wished the drink was vodka. But water would do and was arguably more wise. 

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GM 

With the decision made, Starshot and his crew spread out slightly and settle down for a few hours of sleep before they would have to continue the underground trek.  The rocky ground was rather course, likely due to past lava flows, but eventually Starshot was able to find a comfortable enough position and drift off to sleep.   

It had only seemed like he had just drifted of when he was awoken suddenly by loud rumbling and crashing, the very ground below him vibrating.  The cause of the commotion quickly became apparent, there was some sort of earthquake taking place. 

Sitting upright, Starshot saw lots of dust in the air, as he glanced about to see Laark and Soreen waking as well.  A short distance away, a massive pile of rocks had fallen in the middle of the chamber, cutting Starshot and his companions off from where the Ul-Mor had been setting up their camp. 

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Starshot

 

Of all the goddamn luck...

 

...or was it luck?

 

Starshot snatched his gun up and flicked on the power. He reached for his belt and took out the Flare Gun. 

 

There had been something lurking in these caves...

 

Cave lurkers probably didn't need to see. Often they couldn't see. But he did, as did his crew. 

 

"Laark? Sorreen? Are you there? Where are you? Keep still..."

 

He fired a flare to a few feet, lighting up the cavern with purple-red light through the dust. And dusty it was - he had to stifle a cough. Slowly and quietly, his rifle scanning the area, he activated his helmet, flicking it on to cover his face and pump sweet filtered oxygen into his lungs...

 

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GM 

Starshot's flare blazed to life up toward the top of the section of the cavern where he and his crew had been racking out.  The bright light cast long shadows through the area, but provided enough light for Starshot to see that both Laark and Soreen were unharmed, though still slightly disoriented from just waking up to the loud crashing of rocks and then the sudden bright light of the flare.  Both made verbal responses as the started getting up and taking in the scene. 

The light of the flare revealed that the cave in had occurred toward the middle of the chamber, between where Starshot and his crew had set up their makeshift camp and where the Ul-Mor camp had been set up.  It was impossible to tell from this side of deep the cave in went.  The passages the group had taken to this cavern were still open behind them, as was another passage off to the right of the chamber. 

As Starshot and his crew were getting their bearings, a pair of Ul-Mor that had been guarding the cavern behind them came into the chamber to investigate the sound and the light from the flare.

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Starshot

 

"Laark, Soreen, get behind me..." ordered Starshot firmly and quietly, indicating they should do so. He kept his rifle high, his body low, down on one knee. He wasn't about to get ambushed down here. 

 

He made a point, however, of not pointing the rifle at the Ul-Mor. That was an enemy he did not want to make. By his judgement, he and his crew were fundamentally at their mercy. If they turned, he doubt they would survive. 

 

Not that he wouldn't go down blaster firing, of course. 

 

He waited for them the two Ul-Mor to arrive, doing his best to indicate that he was not a threat, but on the alert for an attack from elsewhere. A difficult balance, but hopefully one of the two aliens could do their mind-meld trick and get a better idea of what was happening. He indicated, crudely, with one hand, that they should touch his head...

 

...damn. That would mean helmet off. But so be it - the flare provided a bit of light. Thus resolved, he flipped open his helmet and touched his forehead with his cybernetic hand, inviting the Ul-Mor to do so...

 

 

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GM 

The two Ul-Mor both carried the crude spears and axes their race favored in some of their tentacles, but they were not brandishing them in a threatening manner and appeared more focused on the cave in than Starshot or his crew.  As one of the pair moved over toward the massive pile of rocks, the other approached Starshot, its weapons lowered at the invitation to communicate telepathically.   

While still not completely familiar with the biology of the Ul-Mor, Starshot had the impression that this and the other Ul-Mor were younger members of the clan, given they were a bit less adorned with the primitive jewelry and feathers than other members of the tribe and had less of the tattoo like markings as well. 

Reaching up with one tentacle, the Ul-Mor connected with Starshot's mind.  Are Star-the-Shot and his companions unhurt?

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Starshot

 

We are...replied Starshot (in a manner he was getting more used to, although it still felt most odd). There was a cave in...

 

He pointed...rather stupidly, he realised. It would take complete blindness not to have noticed that, even with the sub optimal flare-light. 

 

What happened? Are your tribe safe? he asked, hoping that the other members were not some pulp of flesh under the rocks. He wondered if that soft strong rubbery flesh might actually survive even if it did. But even if they could contort through the tiny gaps in the rocks, he was damn sure neither he or his crew could. 

 

Can we get to them? Can we get through? he asked. He was strong, but it looked like a lot of rocks to shift...a lot of very heavy rocks...that, if shifted, might make matters even worse!

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