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Thevshi

Crash on Volturnus (IC)

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Starshot

 

Starshot breathed a sigh of relief that they had made it, and powered down his rifle. 

 

"That was close. Too close. Keep your ears open, crew...we don't want to get trampled by another stampede like that"

 

He shouldered his rifle again and considered the options, studying the HUD inside his helmet, the rotating holo-display of the caves. 

 

"Best bet now, is carry on down this passage. Best chance of meeting up with the other side of the rockfall...although who knows if the rest of the tribe are there. Still, I would like to find out..." he concluded. 

 

And so, the direction and course was once again set, and onwards his boots trod. 

 

 

Edited by Supercape

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GM 

The group started off after Starshot down the passage, which headed in a slight southeastern direction for about a kilometer, before taking a sharp turn directly to the east for about 300 meters before turning south for another 300 hundred or so and then turning sharp west.  They had gone about 300 meters west, which was slightly worrying Starshot when they came to another large chamber. 

This one also ran north/south (the passage they had followed entering it toward the north end from the east.  It ran almost a full kilometer and was close to 300 meters wide.  At the southern end, Starshot could see another passage headed to the south. 

Like many of the larger caverns, this one was dimly lit by phosphorescent minerals.  The air in the chamber seemed a bit cooler than the other passages and caverns they had been in, although there was not immediately apparent indication as to why. 

The group was about halfway toward the southern exit when Laark stopped walking, signaling for the others to halt.  He seemed to be straining to hear something for a moment when he asked, "does anyone here that?  It sounds like water dripping."  Neither Soreen or Starshot heard the sound.

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Starshot

 

"Thats a big cave" declared Starshot, impressed with the pure size of the cavern. He was not an underground kind of guy, but still. 

 

"That would make sense. I guess the life here is still water based, more or less. They would need a supply or perish" he guessed. A reasonable guess. He was no zoologist, but he knew enough to get by. 

 

"It might be wise to restrock our own water supplies, if we can" he suggested. There was of course the problem of contamination. But he would rather carry a bit of risky water and risk using it then a slow death by dehydration. 

 

"Just make sure we mark it with a question mark. Use up our fresh supplies first" he explained. "Of course, we have to find it first..." he added. "Lets spread out...but visual and voice range. And buddy up...we don't want any mistakes!"

 

Choosing Sorreen as his buddy, and asking Laark to point in the best guess direction, he started the search. 

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GM                                                                                       

The group spread out and began searching for the sound, moving towards the east as that was the direction that Laark was hearing the sound.  As they moved closer to the east wall, everyone began to hear the sound, though it was a faint echo of dripping water.  But as the continued toward the eastern wall that echo grew a bit louder, and though there was no sign of water on the ground the air certainly felt a bit more humid than the dry warm air that was the norm for most of the cavern complex. 

Eventually everyone reached the eastern wall, still with no sign of the water.  But as they grew closer Starshot spotted several holes in one section of the cave wall, which allowed his helmets X-ray vision to see beyond the wall to where there was a pool of water beyond.   

Investigating area of the wall near where all the holes had formed (which looked like was due to erosion when the water level was likely higher), they determined that section of the cave wall was rather thin, so it might be possible to break through to the pool of water beyond.

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Starshot

 

"Something behind here...water" said Starshot, touching the cave wall. "Which might be good. It might be bad" he concluded. "If it is flowing, we might get a way out of here. And besides, water is a vital resource here. On the other hand, it might be a flood..."

 

His helmet would protect him from drowning (at least as long as its 02 packs lasted, about two hours), but the same could not be said for his crew. 

 

"We could try blasting through. It's a gamble. But no road from here is without cost..." he said. "What do you think?" he asked everyone. "Should we try to cut through?"

 

The question was both verbal, and again, he took his helmet off to ask the aliens the same question via telepathy. Only polite. 

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GM 

While Starshot communicated telepathically with Kahai, Soreen studied the wall and thought a moment. 

"If there was enough water behind there to flood this entire cavern I would expect it to be fully contained by the wall such that it would be leaking through these holes.  Given that it is not, I expect the water level behind the wall is lower than the holes, meaning at best breaking away part of the wall will result in only a small pool of water forming here near the hole, not nearly enough to be a threat to us."  She replied. 

After Starshot communicated Soreen's comments to Kahai, the Ul-Mor responded in agreement with her estimation.

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Starshot

 

"That's good enough for me...stand back...I'm going to burn the plasma pack dry...."

 

Once a reasonably safe distance was engineered, Starshot flipped off the safety energy modulator, rested the rifle against the rock, and twisted open the plasmatron lens on the muzzle. 

 

"This is going to burn..." he hissed, and fired. 

 

A stream of high energy plasma fired in a burnt and ragged line towards the rock, without any modulators. The power was immense, and sustained...

 

...at least for a moment. The crescendo of hyper-charged energy reached an almost unbearable wine, and the cave wall shone brightly with ember hue, eventually exploding into a shower of liquid light. 

 

And the power pack was dry.

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GM 

The intense beam from the plasma rifle quickly burned away a large chunk of the cave wall behind which the water laid.  As Soreen had estimated, there was not a very high water level behind the wall, and only a small bit of water flooded through the hole, barely covering a few feet in a shallow pool.   

As the group walked over toward the newly formed hole, Laark offered Starshot his blaster rifle.  "Want this boss?  I have my club after all." 

Beyond the hole was a large pool of water, stretching more than twenty meters in either direction.  Water was constantly dripping off the stalactites above the pool, the source of the dripping sound.  From what Starshot's helmet could tell the pool varied from less than a foot deep (nearest the hole) to about ten or more feet deep out back towards the far end of the pool.

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Starshot

 

"Ha, keep it Laark!" smiled Starshot happily. He slung the plasma rifle over his shoulder, now spent and pulled out his whip. "I got this old thing!"

 

It was no plasma accelerator weapon, but it did have a certain elegance to it. He gave it an elegant crack just to show it off. 

 

"If we need blaster rifles, then we got it. I always preferred modulated plasma, myself!" he said, starting a manly debate about the virtues of various energy weapons that would have been an excellent article for Energy Weapons Enthusiast magazine. 

 

In any case, he filled up his water bottle and asked the others too. Water was water, after all. 

 

And then, he poked his head through the hole, to see what was beyond...another way out, perhaps? Or even better, some flowing water indicating a direction...

 

 

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GM 

Laark was primarily a melee fighter, carrying the rifle only because the realities of galactic travel and combat tended to occur more often and ranges beyond melee, so he had to insure he could participate until an opportunity to engage in melee presented itself.   

Everyone took the opportunity to fill empty water containers, and soon the group was fully restocked with water. 

Studying the dark waters more closely, Starshot could not make out any large passages that might be under water, tough there were some smaller ones that would likely be difficult to navigate, even if they were not six fee or more underwater.  He also spotted a few small forms slowly swimming under the water, so there appeared to be some sort of marine life in the cave system.

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Starshot

 

"They have whole ecosystem down here. Fish! Where did they come from?"

 

He pointed out the small passageways. "I could swim through those, with my helmet. But no chance anyone else can. At least, not without a huge risk" he guessed. "I guess this is a dead end" he said, steeling the disappointment out of his voice. 

 

But he did feel, slowly, that the jigsaw possible of the planets ecosystem was slowly falling into place. Burning dry deserts and underground waters. There must have been rolling oceans here, once. Maybe there still was, although where?

 

"Lets retread our steps" he concluded, studying the HUD and plotting a course back to the other side of the landslide. 

 

Well, at least they wouldn't dehydrate to death...

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GM 

After filling their water containers, the group started off once again, continuing along the direction they had been going and into the passage exiting the large cavern to the south.  After about a few hundred meters, that passage led to another large chamber that ran east/west.  To the west were several side passages heading north, which Starshot's computer system estimated had a high chance of leading to the other passages that had branched off south and southwest from the cavern where they had dodged the stamped.  Another passaged headed due west, which the computer estimated to likely lead back to the main passage, which would again be on the wrong side of the cave in. 

Lucikly, there was another passage heading east, which again carried the highest chance of finding them a way around the cave in. 

Starting off that way, the group was rewarded with the passage turning due north after a few hundred meters.  They traveled a long ways for about two kilometers, which should be bringing them close to being above the cave in, when the passage curved back to the east and then a few hundred meters started back to the south, with a small side passage heading southeast.

As they stood at this fork, Starshot was sure he could hear the sound of lapping water faintly echoing from the southeastern passage.

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Starshot

 

"More water..." commented Starshot. 

 

He tapped his flask. Plenty left. No need for more. No more flasks to fill. 

 

"I tell you something. I'm going to start studying geology when we get out of this" he declared, making sure he emphasised when (rather than "If"). 

 

"I can only guess these tunnels, these caverns, could have been formed from underground rivers and lakes. Seems to be the sound of rumbling water every now and again." he wondered, but then grew grim. "I suppose there's a chance we may get a lot more water than we want, if something caves in the wrong way. I hope you all can swim..."

 

Without waiting for an answer, and with a jolt of determination to get them out, he marched off leading the group down the east passage, towards (at least, he hoped!) the other side of the cave in. 

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GM 

The group followed after Starshot without any complaint as to his choice of direction.  The passage continued southeast for a couple hundred meters before it opened up into the largest cavern they had encountered thus far.  It was illuminated by large deposits of the phosphorescent minerals that were common in the caverns and was at least a kilometer wide from east to west and ran several kilometers north to south.  In fact, from where they were standing they could not even see either the most northern wall nor just how far south it went.  The ceiling of the cavern was at least fifty meters up, if not higher in some parts. 

And the cavern was almost completely filed with water, a vast underwater lake.  The group had come out onto a rocky ledge that stretched at least a kilometer to the south and was covered with giant mushroom-like fungi.  Looking out at the vast underwater lake, they were able to see another shoreline on the easternside, about a kilometer southeast of the southern end of the shoreline they were on.

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Starshot

 

"Quite a view" commented Starshot. It was almost worth the whole sorry mess. He couldn't recall seeing anything like it. Beautiful, in a way, although strange and alien too. Hints of decay with the fungus. 

 

"We should cross" he said, pondering just how to do that. For a second, he wondered if they could carve a boat of some description from the mushrooms. A strange idea, but swimming a kilometer...he could do it, sure. He wasn't sure about his crew, though. 

 

"Can you guys swim, or do you have a better idea?" he asked, both verbally and telepathically. 

 

He kicked a rock over the ledge into the lake. How deep was it?

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GM 

Glancing at the giant mushrooms, they certainly were big enough to use them to fashion some sort of boat, using either the trunks or just the tops.  Either way would likely require some sort of lashing them together.   

"I am not sure I relish the idea of that long of a swim."  Soreen responded.  "If there is any sort of depth to these waters who knows what could be lurking under them." 

Looking down into the water with his helmet's enhanced abilities, Starshot saw that the water quickly dropped to at least ten meters deep along the shoreline, and just went deeper from there.

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Starshot

 

 "That's what I was thinking" agreed Starshot. He scanned the horizon, looking for the shortest route. "986.542 metres. At the shortest point" he concluded, from the helmet HUD. 

 

"Give or take..."

 

He chose a giant mushroom of best size (large) and shape (boat like). "Best bet, we row there. Cut down the stalk to make an oar. Hollow out the pulp. You get the picture. Won't be pretty. But its still the best bet" he concluded. 

 

With that, he started scooping out the pulp...

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GM 

In order to launch from the point where the trip would be the shortest, the group had to move down to the very southern end of the shore, more than a kilometer to the south.  Luckily it was easy going, with nothing unusually happening as they went.  

The giant mushrooms grew all along the shoreline of the underground lake, so there were plenty to choose from where the group had moved to.  The crude Ul-Mor axes proved to be perfectly suitable to chopping down one of the mushrooms and u the cap from the stem.   

As the group worked on their raft, a small group of the shovel snouted creatures like those that had stampeded by them earlier came onto the shoreline from another small passage that was near the southern end.  The creatures were not panicked like the others had been, and paid the group little heed as they began their shovel like mouths to scoop up lichen that as growing around the base of the giant mushrooms. 

A bit of testing proved that the mushroom caps did not need to be hollowed out, as they served as large floats just as they were.  But it was quickly apparent that they would need more than one to make a raft capable of bearing all their weight.  So they cut down a few more of the giant mushrooms and also cut the long stems in half, making planks they could lash to the tops to connect them all and form the body of the raft.  Fortunately Soreen and Laark had a good amount of syntharope in their packs. 

While the group worked on the raft, they took some time to eat and rest, as they had been traveling through the caves for several hours.

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Starshot

 

The lichen eating was noted; it was possible, perhaps, that the ecosystem of these caves was entirely self contained. The luminescence, the lichen, the consumer. What was the luminescence, though? Irrespective, the possibility of a self contained eco system was unpleasant - it cut down the predicted entrances and exits. 

 

Mushroom boats ready, fingers crossed, Starshot and his crew boarded their vessels and refilled their water flagons. 

 

Time to take the plunge, and get ready to stab any tentacles that grabbed them...

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GM 

The group set off on their makeshift boat, using the crude paddles they had managed to fashion to paddle the boat along.  It was not far from shore that they discovered there was a slight current to the lake, one that tried to pull them to the south, but they were able to compensate for it, and use it to help guide the toward opposite shoreline to the southeast. 

Once they were out on the water they were able to see a large island about two kilometers to the south, toward the southern end of the lake.  Like the shorelines, it was covered in the giant mushrooms they had used to fashion their boat. 

The boat was about halfway toward the opposite shore when suddenly a large form broke the surface of the water to the left side and the massive head of some sea creature reared up, opening a mouth more than a meter wide and filed with hundreds of sharp teeth.  The creature took a bite at the side of the boat, causing some minor damage before it slipped back down under the dark waters with a large splash.

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Starshot

 

"It's hungry!" said Starshot, steadying himself on the ship, and hopefully steadying the ship too. 

 

"I just hope it only likes mushrooms. But I doubt it...meat is meat..." he said, grimly. 

 

He took out his whip...too late, the massive fish was down in the depths again. But if it surfaced. 

 

"Keep your eyes peeled and your weapons ready. It's not finished its meal yet. When you see it...blast it!" he ordered, emphatically. For himself, he kept his whip ready and his eyes open, waiting for any tell tale ripples, waiting for any massive jaws...

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GM 

The others were still trying to get their weapons ready and put down their makeshift oars when the creature appeared to make an attack once more. 

Starshot spotted the creature breaking the surface about four meters away and was able to turn that way and deliver a strike with his whip even as the creature began to open its mouth for another chomp at the boat.  The whip struck true, slashing through the massive fish's scaly hide and sending blood into the dark water. 

Although the attack did not carry a lot of kinetic force behind it, the sudden sharp pain of the attack was enough to cause the creature to pull back from its attack as it suddenly shifted its direction and splashed back into the water, spray cold water up on to everyone one on the boat. 

The creature disappeared back below the dark surface of the water and then Laark and Soreen snatched up their blasters and began to scan the area around the makeshift boat for any further sign of the creature.  Several tense moments passed as everyone was fixated on the waters around them and the slight current took hold of the boat and began pulling it southward. 

Finally it appeared as if the creature had had enough, as it did not reappear for another attempt.

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Starshot

 

"Plenty more where that came from..."

 

That had two meanings. He was ready to crack the whip again. But there was probably more than one fish in the sea, so to speak.

 

"Stay sharp...not at the shore yet" he said, keeping frosty, and demanding everyone else did. 

 

"Don't quicken the pace. Nice and steady. Nice and steady. Eyes open...." he said, keeping his hand low. If they rushed this in a frenzy of desperation, it could attract more fish. 

 

"Lets get there in one piece...ja?"

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GM 

Once it seemed reasonably clear that the creature was not returning everyone began rowing once more, although as Starshot suggested they all kept a wary eye on the water for sign of any further danger and kept their weapons handy.  It took a short while to correct the drift that had occurred when they were caught by the current, but soon they were squared with the opposite shore once more and making slow, steady progress toward it. 

Whether or not there were more of those creatures in these waters, no others appeared to harass the makeshift boat and soon they had reached the far shore.  Once everyone was ashore they pulled the boat up onto the rocky bank and took in the area.  The far shore was rather much like the one they had departed from, with plenty of the giant mushrooms growing along the rocks.  It was less than half a kilometer long, but much wider than the other shore, close to two hundred meters wide at some places.  Along the northern wall of the shoreline there was a passage that led off toward the northeast.

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Starshot

 

Halfway across, Starshot had contemplated harvesting some rations from the giant mushrooms. He decided that it was not worth the risk. They could be poisonous, deadly, or worse. He remembered the night he had spent hallucinating after a ill fated meal on Lo-Sirius-D. 

 

He paused for a moment to check everyone was alive, well, and take stock of food, water, and situation. They had spent some time marching; if they did reach the other side of the rockfall, the survivors could well have moved on. Irrespective of the odds, he felt he had to try. 

 

"Every body ready?" he asked, retying his boots. "Lets get this done, then!"

 

He flicked up the computer cave map on HUD and spun the hologram, plotting out the the best route - or most likely route. At this point, the shortest route. 

 

 

 

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