It had been fitful night for the group that had been sent to recover the Caravan and of course, the tense situation over the last few days hasn’t abated. The five Avians who hadn’t been struck by the illness that afflicted the others had been contained.
The ones that ill were monitored by Felipe, though they’d lost one during the night.
From what Felipe had been able to determine the “infection” if that’s what is, is virulent and there’s a non-zero chance of it spreading to other species. That’s got to be concerning given the trip back to Vesper is going to take a day or two to complete.
After her discussion with Hunter, Ardul had done some serious thinking and called the group together.
“The food stores are low. What’s left are perishables and by the look of them, they’re about to turn.” She’s telling the others. Hunter hadn’t been wrong about that. “And we didn’t bring enough rations to cover the extra mouths that we’re going to need to feed.”
Pushing a strand of blonde hair back behind her ear, she looks around the assembled group “And that’s not to mention the medical supplies we’re going to have to use to treat the sick.” It’s a mess really.
“We need to seriously consider the options that are available to us, in all of this. I could just make a decision, but … I want to hear your thoughts, first.”
Those that remain of the original caravan are busy around them, securing what supplies are left and preparing to leave.
Losing patients is…normal. A natural cycle. One that cannot always be resolved with modern medicine. But it’s awful. It’s the worst-case scenario all doctors and medical practitioners dread when options become limited. It’s devastating failure, a black mark in a book no one else will ever see.
Even under his watchful diligence, Felipe isn’t broken up over seeing the patient expire in front of his eyes.
It wasn’t like he had never lost any patients; several of his past cases inevitably ended in death. Reasons varied: lack of resources, final stages of its potency, time — to name a few. None of them were good, either.
The doctor’s shoulders sag as he squares them, arms crossed over his chest all the while he listens to Ardul speak. His brow creases as he mulls over the report within the fog and the low strain of tension wracking through his mind after a sleepless night. Dark circles threaten to deepen if he doesn’t get proper rest.
“I know one option is simple,” he says after a moment. “Here it is: lessen the number of people.”
…And he says this in a serious, maybe deadpan way. Thanks to the lack of sleep.
“But seriously,” he adds after a tense beat, shrugging off the bad joke like it never happened, “the longer we stay out here, the more that option is gonna become a reality. I’d offer to move them, but we don’t even know if there’s a place close enough to get us the resources we need to keep them stabilized and to keep us from getting any worse off than we already are.”
Although only a night had passed, it felt like so much longer. Pegi just wants to go home, but she knows Felipe wouldn’t leave behind people who are sick. She’s no medical expert herself, but she’d tried to help where she could, although it’d been obvious that she was avoiding the others she’d come to travel with. That would certainly make for a difficult journey back to Vesper, whenever they’d attempt it. She hadn’t understood at first why it was so difficult to just pack up everyone they needed and left. Felipe’s patience with her has been infinite, at least, and she understands more, but it makes her feel less great about the situation.
She hovers beside the doctor like an enormous shadow, almost as though she’s afraid he’d topple over without a moment’s notice. As Ardul reports their current standings, the young Saurian tries not to frown. Some she understands, and some she doesn’t, but either way, decisions need to be made. She’s not used to being expected to make a decision like this. Usually it would be the elders, her older siblings, and she would do as was expected of her once the decisions were made. Here she’s inclined to follow Felipe’s opinions, but even as he says they should lessen the number of people, she stiffles a shiver. It’s blunt and not untrue. Out in the wilds of the swamp, survival of the fittest plays a key part. But they had tried to fight this, and whether intended or not, Pegi and the others have found themselves here to help.
“…even if we ask nearby tribes, we not know how far they are or how long it take. At most can get food, but if they find out about sick…” There might be concern about spreading it.
“The nearest Saurian village is half a day’s travel in the wrong direction and that’s not accounting for having to navigate around that patch of fire eyes we came through.” Hunter says. “Their medicine isn’t going to be any better and you risk spreading the plague to them.” As Pegi says they might get food there. Maybe. If the Saurians listen long enough for them to ask.
“If we travel slow enough for forage we’ll risk the ones who are well, breaking loose and wreaking havoc. Actually, that’s a risk no matter what we do since there aren’t enough people to operate all the vehicles, forage, tend the sick //and// keep watch over the prisoners. And if you decide to let them go they’ll be raiding caravans and local tribes again inside a month.”
That’s about as much as Hunter has said to anyone in the past two days and he still doesn’t look very happy. At all. With anyone.
“It’s an option, Doctor.” Ardul’s grey eyes fix on the man. “And one we need to consider.”
Gesturing to Hunter, the blonde nods slowly at his observations “It’s as he says. The stretch on our resources in getting them back is going to hurt.”
Her gaze travels over the group, settling on the clearly unhappy Hunter longer than they should before moving on.
The Winged Woman is a soldier. Albeit she served in a mostly peacetime army but that doesn’t mean she won’t, or can’t, take these types of decision.
“Vesper won’t provide any assistance, assuming we could get even get a message to them. There’s a reason they asked contractors to find this caravan.” The Armsmen and Justicars are busy minding the town and the lands around its borders.
“And Doctor. I can’t leave you out here alone to tend to the sick.” And it would alone. Everyone is going to be needed to move the Caravan. “If we move, we all move together. You can tend those that survive at the Restorium when we arrive.”
Brown eyes also stay on Hunter, sometimes judgmental, other times blank in its meaning. But it’s true: he can’t argue with the points Pegi and Hunter both bring up. The danger of spreading a disease is just as bad as staying in the cave to die of starvation or a riot. Especially with the players involved.
“I know that,” comes an answer thrown in Ardul’s direction as he continues looking at the Wolfen. The calmness in his tone falters, then dulls back into it. “Don’t think I don’t. And if it does come down to it, then…”
There isn’t any easy way of going about their current problems. While it’s possible to save lives, it’s pointless if the tension decides reach its climax. To remain calm where others cannot is the strength they need to avert that particular situation.
A hand rises to run over his face, giving him a moment to close his eyes and pinch the bridge of his nose. “That was my other option,” he sighs. “I know staying behind would be stupid, but at least it gives the rest of you a chance to get out of here.” The same hand is then held up, letting another two beats pass. “But if we’re going to head back toward Vesper, we better do it fast. We have the means. I just need to know if everyone will be okay with this setup.”
He looks at everyone, slowly letting his gaze return onto the winged woman. He himself looks exhausted.
“I mean…look at us.”
Pegi pointedly keeps her own gaze from meeting Hunter’s as he speaks, even if he more or less echoes her words and concerns. She places a hand over Felipe’s shoulder, both in support and out of protection. “Pegi not leave Felipe here.” She’d stay with him if he opted to, but things don’t look very positive for remaining.
“We all go. If need food, Pegi will hunt. Only waste time and re…resources here, longer we talk and wait.” At least if they go, they’ll be heading somewhere they want to be. “If prisoners want survive, they help. If they want their people to die, they won’t.”
Hunter has gone over the difficulties of hunting with Ardul. Pegi’s not wrong but with over twenty people now between the caravan survivors and the captive avians it’s a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of time spent bringing down animals, dressing them, carving them and cooking them.
It’ll extend the trip by at least a couple of days and that extends the risk. It’s an option, she’s quite correct, but like all other options it carries risks.
“Help? Help what? Help hunt? I don’t trust any of these people with anything remotely dangerous in their hands and neither should you. We barely have enough people to keep an eye on them when they’re confined, let alone if we let them out to start doing things around the camp. I promise you that one or more of them will find a weapon or something that can be used as one and turn it on us. You may as well let me shoot them now because I’ll damn well be doing it later if we let them wander loose.”
Felipe’s question gets a shake of the head. “Okay with the setup? No. There is nothing okay about this setup. We are going to take enormous risks with our own lives and the people we came to help in order to to try to see to the safety of a bunch of people who would slit our throats in our sleep without a second thought and for what? I’m only still here because I have a job to complete, even if I’m going to charge the Armsmen a //lot// more for all the added troubles.”
There is a chance Hunter is wrong about that of course. There’s a chance that the avians can be made to see reason, that going back to Vesper is the best chance their sick have of recovering. Of course there’s also a chance that the avians will seek to turn the situation to their own advantage and the longer they remain in the wild the larger that chance is. There’s also, as yet unspoken, a chance that the Justicars will just hang them anyway. They are caravan raiders after all and the concept of ‘rights’ for such people is an alien one in this day and age. If the avians know or suspect that, they may be less cooperative.
Ultimately, Hunter will //probably// do what the group decides to do. He’s already unhappy. What’s making him a little more so in the cheme of things. Besides. It //might// turn out alright.
It just also might not.
Hunter and Ardul had indeed discussed the issues with hunting food on their trek back. Ardul shakes her head at Pegi. “Think about it, Pegi. Hunting for all of us. You’d need to fell a dinosaur, then we need to butcher it. That’s half a day, if not more.” She blows out a breath “And that’s assuming no one else gets hurts while we’re doing that.”
“And we’ll need to store what we’ve butchered so it doesn’t spoil.” Then rinse and repeat when that runs low.
Hunter voicing his opinion about getting the Avians to help has the blonde agreeing “I’ll not arm them, Pegi. They held a gun to a //medic’s// head to try and gain our cooperation.” That Avian is lucky to still be alive.
Her cool grey gaze settles on Felipe, the warmth of compassion flickering the depths of her eyes. “If it comes to it, Doctor. I’ll do it…” That’s her responsibility. It always has been.
“But you’re right. We move today, no matter what. We can’t delay any longer. As you say … //look at us//.”“–Hunter.” Felipe has to snap, has to retain the cool with Ardul so things aren’t made even more uncomfortable as it is. Keeping his words even has been done constantly in his practice, but he isn’t immune to the emotions others fail to keep in check. “I get what you’re saying, but you know you’re not making this any easier on any of us, right? Even if we’re putting ourselves at risk, Pegi’s suggestion is viable. Hunting at least will get us something to eat. I doubt these guys wanna just /die/ out here on their own.”
He gestures at the Avians, looking their way once he’s done with the Wolfen’s ire. “Right? Look at him.” For the Avians, he gestures back in Hunter’s direction. “He’s ready to go. One wrong move from any of us? And we’re all done for.”
That’s an unfair assumption, but what’s fair at the moment?
He does understand what Ardul tries to do, however. She’s been the only other levelheaded person out of all of them, more or less, and she has a better sense of keeping their goal in mind. She’s the only one who can talk to Hunter and not get as much smack back, either. In his humble opinion, that’s a feat on its own.
Felipe nods. “I get that takes a lot of time too, but there has to be smaller things to keep us on schedule,” the doctor replies, brow lifting slightly. “And if they don’t get to hunt, then that’s fine. I believe you, Hunter, and Pegi can do it.” He doesn’t even realize he was in the process of falling backward from a brief moment of vertigo with Pegi supporting him, leaning into her hand as he nods again. “Yes. I’m all for moving.” There’s a pause. Then both of his hands clap together. “Alright, you know what? Enough talk,” he says with a small amount of gusto as he tries to find his feet. “Let’s go! Everyone start packing. We’re leaving.”“Not help hunt!” the Saurian snaps, almost simultaneously with Felipe as he starts to address the Wolfen as well. “But they do all this to save their sick! Why they not want to help if we mean to save them too?” Her vocabulary might be at fault for the misunderstanding, and she knows this, but her temper still flares. “They help with their sick and their things. Help or they die and their sick die. It not hard to understand that! It their choice if they want to die here or fight to survive, go with us.”
The only reason she doesn’t move from her spot is because she can feel the doctor leaning against her. She’d cradle him, but he’d likely protest. But Felipe keeps talking, and Peggy nods, at his words, and then at Ardul. “Tell them. Scare them. But we move now.”
Hunter is still rather dubious about the prospect of scaring them. In his mind the risk to their own outweighs the risk to anyone else. Could be a pack mentality thing. He didn’t come to help the avians after all, so he doesn’t really care what happens to them. Pack mentality and a long time traversing the wild and lawless places of North America. Which is most of it.
Still, there seems to be some agreement on this point and even he agrees that wasting time rehashing it is the bigger of the mistakes to be made here.
“You work it out then. I’m going to spin up the drive on the crawler so we can leave.” One of the caravan members can drive it, but starting up fusion engines is a slightly technical process no matter how user friendly they happen to be and the crawler pilot was killed in the initial attack, so he’ll have to get it started.
Not for a moment does Ardul let the fatigue she’s feeling at dealing with the Wolfen and the other two, show. She can’t afford to and losing her temper and snapping at //anyone// isn’t going to them any good. She’s been doing this type of thing for a very long time.
“They won’t want to help, Pegi, because we’re taking them back to hand them over to the authorities. They know that and they know what’s in store for them for their crimes.” The Armsmen and the Justicars don’t take kindly to banditry of any kind. The Avians may well wish to expire out here, alone.
“Get packing then, I want us moving in the next two hours. I’m going to talk to the others, make sure they’re ready to go.”
With the Saurian’s support, the doctor emits a light sigh. “Yes sir,” he salutes toward Ardul as his eyes shift back onto the Wolfen. It’s another look of concern, one feeling he compartmentalized alongside of his earlier frustration with the hardheaded yet justified anger Hunter has been harboring for a while now.
He then looks up at Pegi, gently patting the hand that’s resting on his shoulder. “They mean well. Things have just been tough.” Shaking his head, Felipe’s posture slackens a bit. “After this, the payment better be worth it.”Stupid thieves. Stupid sickness. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Pegi growls a little, although it’s so low that probably only Felipe can hear it. She still won’t believe that the Avians won’t want to save their own, though. Given they don’t have many positive options here, she thinks that any chance of survival is willing to fight for, and if they’re true people of the swamplands, they’ll do so.
She’s glad that they’re going to do something though, and she’s already been anxious to leave. Carefully resting her head on Felipe’s for a moment, she only sighs at his words, but she wholeheartedly agrees. “…come on. We get ready too.”
They’re moving within the two hour window set by Ardul. It’s not a quick journey back. Felipe has to fight to keep his patients alive but miraculously he does. Not one of the Avians dies and no one else contracts the illness. Thank goodness for small mercies
It just takes them four days instead the two they expected. Hunting for food and the path back takes its toll that in regard.
With the Avians delivered to the Justicars and the Caravan restored to its owner, the party is indeed recompensed well for their troubles.
Though Hunter might want to negotiate more.
The end of the 'Missing Caravan' arc: after all is said and done, it does nothing to relieve the weight of the tension among the group.
March 11, 2410