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Thevshi

Crash on Volturnus (IC)

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GM 

Caverns beneath the burning lands can be treacherous, but still safer than traveling on surface.  The Ul-Mor responded to Starshot’s questions.  The two glanced back over at the cave in, where the other Ul-Mor was tapping on the rocks with its spear.  After a few moments, a faint taping could be heard from the other side.  The Ul-Mor near the rocks looked back toward its companion near Starshot and gave several gestures with some tentacles. 

Tribe appears to be unharmed.  The first Ul-Mor informed Starshot through the telepathic link.  But we will need to take another route to meet up with tribe at Place of True Warriors.  It added, pointing off towards the side passage to the right of the cave in. 

I am Kahai, and this is Fonn-Ar.  The Ul-Mor added.

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Starshot

 

Treacherous? You bet - thought Starshot to himself (or maybe they could "Hear"?). But then, all risk was relative, and from the looks of the surface he could believe them. At least this was cooler. 

 

Thank you for your assistance, Kahai - and Fonn-Ar...I am glad that your tribe is unharmed. He replied, honestly. 

 

I think then, our choice is clear, even if our path is not...

 

He pulled back and snapped his helmet on again, activating the HUD and computer assisted navigation systems. Easy to get lost down here, and he wanted a careful plot of the system. Besides which, it would be dark, and a he only had a few flares left. The IR systems would at least provide a little relief. Perhaps Laark or Soreen had had the foresight to pack a torch. He sure hoped so, or there would be a bit of stumbling. Or a lot. 

 

He shouldered his plasma rifle and kept his flare gun in his hand. If need be, he had at least a few more rounds. And so armed (not as well as he would have liked, but one had to make do with what they had), it was down the cave passage to the right...

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GM 

Both Laark and Soreen had packed lights in their gear, the former one that attached to his blaster rifle, while Soreen had a work light that attached to her harness and sat on her right shoulder.  Both had those on as they finished gathering their gear and fell into line behind Starshot and the two Ul-Mor as the group began down the passage to the right.   

Startshot's HUD and navigation systems were working well enough, but he quickly noted that something in the cave walls prevented him from seeing through them. 

The group moved down the side passage several hundred meters without any incident when they reached a three way fork.  They could continue more or less straight on, or take another side passage to either the left or right.

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Starshot

 

Starshot peered through each pathway. Without his navigation system, he would just use the usual tactics of always turning left, or right, with the reasoning he would reach the other end sooner or later (admittedly, probably later...but he would reach the end at some point). 

 

"No way looks more, or less, appealing" he commented, his gun slung low and powered down. He studied the HUD navigational maps; provided he conserved the X-Ray emitters and radio transmitters, the other functions of his helmet would last a long time. But not forever, even Trilithium hyperdense batteries failed eventually. Hopefully they would not be here that long. 

 

"Onwards then..." he sighed, choosing the middle path. "I don't need to remind you to keep your eyes open. Something strange in these rocks, too...can't penetrate with X-Rays...."

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GM


"I would not be at all surprised if there is lead or some other similar metals in these rocks."  Soreen responded as she moved along behind Starshot.  "Who knows what other properties might be present that could mess with the X-rays."   

The group continues along the path Starshoot chose, none one speaking up for either of the other two options.  The middle path continues on for a couple of kilometers, turning slightly south about halfway along before turning to the northeast once more.  It was while the group was headed in that direction that the passage opened into a larger cavern which the group's lights were not powerful enough to see across.  A few high pitched squeaks echoed from the cavern, breaking the general stillness of the cavern.  Starshot also thought he could hear a faint fluttering.

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Starshot

 

"Sounds like bats...."

 

Starshot pulled out his flare gun. Only a couple of flares left, but this seemed worth it. They needed to see the cavern properly, not just with sweeping beams of torchlight. 

 

"I just hope its the small mouse like type, rather than the giant flesh eating carnivore type" he said, with a black joke. He wasn't really in a laughing mood, but some bleak jocularity grumbled in his stomach.

 

"Lets take a look, shall we? Just keep your guns ready..." he said to his two team mates, before aiming high and firing the flare gun into the centre of the cavern...

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GM 

Starshot's flare exploded into life high above the cavern floor, flooding the upper portions of the cavern with light.  Amid the stalactites and other rocky formations that covered the cavern's ceiling, there were dozens of long shapes that hung from the rocks.  As the area was flooded with light those forms took to the air, briefly a confusing mass of shapes and leathery wings that moved in every direction.   

Most seemed to make their way out of the light and to other darkened areas, but several dove down towards Starshot and his group.  As they approached, Starshot could see they were vaguely batlike, with similar wings but more triangular heads, wide eyes and long thin bodies that ended in a forked tail.  By a quick estimate, he believed they had four foot wingspans and a slightly longer body length. 

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Starshot

 

Well, what do you know? I wish they were smaller, but they could have been a lot bigger....

 

"Take cover!" he ordered, most likely redundantly. But still, it was sage advice and advice that he took himself, taking a few quick strides to the nearest rock. 

 

He pulled up his rifle fluidly and flicked it on, changing its muzzle setting. He didn't really want to fry some bats who didn't, in all probability, know better. So if they could get out of this without charring to many of them, so much the better.

 

But rather them than me...

 

He considered a flash of plasma-light to blind them. Might work. But they probably didn't have light sensitive sensory organs, what with living in the dark. 

 

Instead, he overcharged the rifle; a huge fiery burn of plasma bloomed from his rifle...

 

"Anyone got some music?" he asked his crew mates, wondering if they could disorientate the bats. Not that they were bats, of course, but they sure looked liked bats. And echolocation would be a fair way to navigate in the dark. 

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GM 

Starshot's blast of plasma caught two of the creatures in its path, both of which burst into flames and plummeted to the cave floor after brief shrieks of pain.   

From behind a stalagmite she had hidden behind, Soreen leveled her blaster pistol at one of the creatures, scoring a dead center hit with her blast.  The blast sent the creature careening off to one side where it also crashed to the rocky floor in a heap.

The two Ul-Mor each took a step forward and threw spears into the air, each aiming at the two remaining creatures that were diving toward the group.  One of the octopi creatures managed to bury its spear into one of the pair, causing it to fall from the air as well, but the second Ul-Mor missed with its throw. 

The last creature swooped down toward Soreen, but missed her as she ducked behind her cover.  It was starting to regain altitude when Laark fired, striking it in its back and putting it down as well. 

Dozens of other creatures continued to flutter about up near the cavern ceiling, but no others appeared to have any interest in attacking those that had disturbed them.  Instead they focused on moving out of the light and back into the shadows and darkness.

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Starshot

 

Starshot quickly checked the power cell on his rifle. Nearly half drained after the overburn. Not good, will have to conserve power unless I want to end up throwing spears...which might be an idea...

 

He motioned for the others to be quiet. The cavern was full of bats, and only a few had flown at them. 

 

"Keep quiet!" he hissed as softly as he could get away with. Now the light was up, he could see the illuminated cavern better. 

 

"Its dark here, they must use something other than light to sense us..." he explained, although surely they had clocked the idea themselves. "We need to get out, fast...before the rest come..."

 

He scanned the area as best he could...if there was no other exit immediately available, they should leave the way the came...try another route...

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GM 

At Starshot’s warning Soreen stayed crouched down behind her stalagmite.  Laark also remained crouched near a large bolder, his blaster rifle aimed downward so the flashlight was not shining upward where it might possibly agitate more of the creatures. 

The two Ul-Mor shuffled over towards some rocks as well, holding their stone axes ready in case there was another attack. 

Looking along the cavern, Starshot spotted another passage leading out, more or less directly across from the one they had entered from and about the same distance away.

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Starshot

 

WIthout a word, Starshot pointed to his eyes (or at least where they should be, under his helmet) and then to the exit, indicating the motley crew should attend to their escape. Still, it didn't look like a pleasant trip. Hopefully the flare light would last for a few minutes, giving them time to cross. 

 

Better than retreading their path, anyway. 

 

As quietly as he could, mindful of rocks and crevasses, and trying to balance out the need for speed and the need for safety, whilst looking out for further bat attacks (and fully appreciating how impossible a balance of priorities that was), Starshot took point, leading them towards the exit...

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GM 

The others followed after Starshot and they were able to make it out of the cavern without attracting another attack from the batlike creatures.  While a few were still fluttering about the ceiling, most had settled back down into other dark, shadowy areas.   

Soon the group was moving once more along the passage, which continued in a eastern direction for about a kilometer before turning northeast once more for another kilometer and then finally turning north.  After about another kilometer, the group reached a point where the passage began to turn back to the northwest, while a side passage led toward what appeared to be another lager chamber to the east.

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Starshot

 

Starshot tapped his helmet. The HUD was working fine, but he was getting grumbling disquiet. Sure he had hunted underground before. The Ezethian thundersnail. The Double headed Vortoo of Jexx. But he preferred the open plains, the icy mountains, the twining jungles. Hell, even the ocean was better than caves. 

 

His first inclination was to avoid the chamber. Continue down the passage in the hope it would lead them to the other side of the rockfall. But perhaps, perhaps...well, it paid to understand, he reasoned. Know your terrain. Know your enemy. 

 

He signalled the others to be silent, be stealthy. 

 

And taking that same position; of silence, of stealth, he crept forward into the Cavern, gun ready, helmet scanning IR signals...

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GM 

The others remain in place as Starshot snuck forward in to the side cavern.  As he moves inside, Starshot found a good sized cavern room that was dimly lit by phosphorescent minerals.  Scanning the room he quickly spots a seven meter tall creature about 60 meters away.  It looked very much like a hairless bear and was pacing around a section of the cavern, apparently not having noticed him or those in the passage behind yet. 

Further into the chamber, off to the southeast, Starshot saw another passage leading away from the cavern.

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Starshot

 

At last! Some light!

 

All manner of strange fauna lurked here, and it was nigh impossible to disentangle friend from foe. The beast looked dangerous, and probably was. But what was its intent?

 

What did it eat?

 

What the hell was the ecosystem here? Did they metabolise light? lichen? No system could just maintain itself on eating each other. 

 

Starshot beckoned over the two young aliens and unstrapped his helmet, pointing once again to his forehead. If anybody knew it would be the native so this world - although they might be just as in the dark as he was. 

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GM 

The creature continued to pace around the chamber some, moving over near a pile of bones and other debris that appeared to almost be a makeshift bed of sorts.  Starshot was far enough away that it was not difficult to back out of the chamber without attracting any attention. 

Moving back over to the others, he found them waiting a bit nervously, or at least his crew members appeared a bit nervous, he still could not quite tell with the Ul-Mor.  When Starshot signaled to the two Ul-Mor, they both moved over near him.  As he removed his helmet, Kahai reached out to make contact once more.  

What may this one do to assist Star-the-Shot?

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Starshot

 

The telepathic communication was becoming more familiar now, even if it was at the end of a tentacle. 

 

What manner of creature is that? he asked, pointing at the hairless bear. 

 

Friend, or foe? a reductionist question, but this was not the time for an extensive philosophical debate on animal behaviour, aggression, and culinary habits. 

 

Should we go around it, through it, or turn back? he asked. Personally, he would much prefer the middle option. He loved hunting, but there was a time and a place and a manner to do it; and neither of those parameters were present now. 

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GM 

Kahai sees the image of the creature in Starshot’s mind and seems to recognize it.  That is a cave hunter.  Quite aggressive.  The Ul-Mor replied.  It feeds on other beings that live within these caves.  Dangerous, but not more so than the Quickdeath.  It then added. 

No way to go turning back, so likely best to either try to go around or through it.  Could wait to see if it is ready for sleep and try to sneak past.

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Starshot

 

Very well! Through it is...

 

Starshot disentangled his forehead and the tentacle. With hand signals, he indicated to the crew the proposed action. A circular, stealthy approach through the cave, towards the other end. 

 

Checking that they had understood, Starshot took the lead, picking his way through the stalagmites and cave terrain, trying to keep out of visual sight the whole way.

 

But I bet its the question of smell rather than vision...its dark down here! And there was nothing he could do to conceal their scent...

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GM 

Startshot leads the others into the large chamber where the cave hunter was located.  The creature had settled down on the pile of bones and debris, but was otherwise still apparently awake.  Moving along the far side, using the rocky outcroppings as cover, Starshot quietly made his way toward the other exit from the chamber.

Behind him Soreen was doing a fair job of staying quite, while the two Ul-Mor quietly brought up the rear of the group, moving about as quietly as Starshot himself did.  Only Laark made any significant amount of noise, the larger alien scraping the club slung over his shoulder against some rocks at one point.  The group froze at the noise, looking over toward the cave hunter, which seemed to glance about a moment before settling back down. 

A few minutes later the group was all out of the other exit with the cave hunter unaware of their passage. 

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Starshot

 

Starshot spared a moment to take off his helmet, and wipe his brow. The cybernetic heat dispersal discs on his spine could handle the sweat of heat, but adrenaline was another matter. 

 

He gave a final hand signal to the crew to wrap up the cave and leave. And then saluted the bear. 

 

Not your day, nor mine...thank the Gods!

 

As he crept out he put his helmet back on, checking the power (Still reasonable, but not great) and flicked on the HUD again. He had no time or inclination to admonish Laark for his mistep; such was the nature of the game. But he was thankful that it had not cost them. 

 

Signalling onwards, the march continued...

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GM 

The group began moving forward once more, Laark and Soreen turning their lights back on once they amount of phosphorescent minerals became more sparse.  The passage they were now in turned slightly and began taking them in a eastern direction, but after about almost a kilometer it began to turn slightly to the south before gradually they were heading directly south.  About another kilometer later they reached another large cavern, which was about half a kilometer wide and about one kilometer long.   

Just on the far end, Starshot could make out three passages leading out of the large cavern, one headed slightly southeast, the other due south and the third to the southwest. 

As the group was moving through the large chamber, headed closer toward the three other passages, Starshot started to hear a sound that seemed to be coming from the southwestern passage.  At first he was not sure what it was, other than that it was continuous and coming closer.  Then he recognized the general sound, having heard it numerous occasions while hunting.  It was the sound of many feet rushing forward.   A stamped!

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Starshot

 

"Run!" shouted Starshot, for stealth was not an issue. It mattered not if the stampede saw them or not. If it was a stampede, they would be crushed underfoot one way or another. Standing there ground was not, he thought, a wise option. Even if they could sink a few bodies of a herd, they could not stop enough, or at least the chances were thin. A kinetic grenade, perhaps, to collapse the tunnel. But that was even riskier. 

 

Making sure that everyone understood both the peril and the urgency, and was running, Starshot started to run himself. As he did so, he took a look at the three tunnels ahead. 

 

The herd (assuming it was that) would follow a straight line, or the widest tunnel - so he and his crew should follow the steepest angled one, the thinnest one. And hope that they would not get trampled before they got there...

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GM 

Soreen and Laark were quick to react to Starshot’s shouted warning, with the Ul-Mor responding only a few moments after as the three started running toward the passage to the southeast.  For formerly aquatic creatures that had adapted to walking on their tentacles on land, the Ul-Mor were able to move at impressive speed, keeping up with the taller humanoids. 

The sound of the stamped grew ever louder as the group moved.  They had managed to cover about a hundred meters toward the entrance to the passage when the first of the stampeding creatures appeared from the southwester passage.  A quick glance over his shoulder showed Starshot that the creatures were bipedal reptiles about six or so feet long and standing about four feet high at the highest.  They had long flat snouts that appeared almost shovel like. 

The stampeding creatures began turning toward the north in the large chamber, heading in the direction of the passage the group had come from.  Starshot was not sure how many of the creatures were part of the stamped, being too focused on getting to the other passage, but he estimated there were close to two dozen of them. 

Starshot reached the side passage just as the last of the stampeding creatures had moved into the larger chamber and turned north.  The group was now well over a hundred meters from the stamped, and it seemed unlike the creatures would change direction to come back toward them.

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