Hunter is in his bot. He hasn’t been like this in a little while but he’s found a signal that matches what he thinks Hyfill will be looking for and he didn’t feel like walking all that way. This of course means that Ardul as well is in his bot, probably, since his bot can move faster than she can fly and he’d been pushing the speed today.
It’s been a solid four hours of headed northwest, toward the mountains and past the Dogwood border. They’re in the Hinterlands now, the area populated by small outlier communities though they’re not near any at the present. It’s just rolling hills, scrubland and woods. Or that’s what it’s been. The Gunwolf is now approaching something that looks like it had been a town. The remnants of the streets and building foundations are here though there’s precious little left of the buildings themselves. Past that though is a long trench that by now Ardul knows very likely means that something hit this place at speed at some point in the past. Part of it seems to have filled with water but Hunter’s magnetic sensors are detecting a //big// hunk of metal.
“Bingo. Wolfen cruiser…” Hunter murmurs, checking to see if anyone else seems to be here. It’s hard to tell with all the trees around so he has to be careful.
Ardul is indeed in Hunters bot, watching the readouts and the terrain as it passes by. It’s been an uneventful trip so far but it won’t stay like that. And there it is the Cruiser they’ve been searching for.
“So … it is.” she says.
Hunter parks the bot not too far from the big mound. Step one, find a way in. “Ardul can you fly up and see if you can spot a..”
A light starts blinking on his terminal and a shadow falls over the bot briefly. A winged shadow. Hunter checks his scopes but doesn’t see anything.
“Tell me I didn’t imagine that… it looked like one of your people was already flying above us…”
Do the Iyesgarthians have stealth tech? Ardul’s never mentioned it but even if they didn’t when she left they might have acquired some. That is… IF he didn’t just imagine that.
Ardul unsnaps her restraint and starts towards the ladder. She knows the drill, they’ve done it often enough. “I can..” she turns to watch the shadow as it moves. “It was something that flew and big enough, I suppose. Shadows can be deceiving after all.” she says.
“It might have been. We know Hyfil is searching for Wulf Tech, so it’s possible they got here ahead of us. Not that we had stealth tech that good.”
“I’ll go with you…” Hunter murmurs, ascending the ladder to the hatch behind Ardul. As she takes off the shadow passes over them again but there is once again no sign of anything in the sky. There is an odd… tingle in the air though. The air is swirling and eddying in a way that doesn’t quite feel… right.
The shadow moves right toward the mound and exactly forty five seconds later another passes over the bot, moving in the exact same direction. Almost like something is moving toward a particular point. Or several somethings. The grass is long on the mound but there might be something there. There’s defintely something metal there but it’s wedged shut. Hunter might be able to pry it up but Ardul probably has a more expedient option.
That is, if she wants to use it. Forty five seconds later, another shadow. Like clockwork. Still no sign of what’s making it.
“Anything, Ardul?” Hunter calls up on the radio.
“There’s something up here, for sure…” Ardul answers back, eyes narrowing at the feel in the air and the regular shadow. “It’s in a sentry pattern. Too regular to be scouting, it’s watching and moving to a central location. I can’t make out where from here.”
Watching for them? Perhaps. For the Cruiser, that too. She’s not sure and she’s just going work as she can.
“I’ve found something, metal. Probably a door. I’m going to cut it open with my sword. You should probably get here. If that shadow is watching, I’ll be expecting visitors anytime now.”
Her laser weapon blazes to life and she starts to apply it.
Ardul manages to get the hatch – for that’s what it is – cut open as Hunter walks over. When it swings open she sees an Iyesgarthian coming up the ladder with what looks like some kind of wolfen device in har hand and knapsack full of red crystals over her shoulder. She’s wearing scientist smocks and as she looks up at Ardul her eyes widen…
Ardul is back in the air looking down at the hatch. Hunter is at the bot just climbing down after calling up to her on the radio.
It takes a bit for the hatch to be cut away and the last of falls as Hunter joins Ardul. “There you are …” she murmurs, giving the Wolfen a look … and then blinks at the the Iyesgarthian she’s confronting ….
“There’s something up here for sure …” Ardul answers, blinking at a strange sense of dejavu “I’ve found something, metal. Probably a door. I’m going to cut it … Hunter, does it feel like we’ve already done this?”
“Cut doors you mean? I’m sure we’ve cut doors in the past. Why, are you getting tired of it?”
Ardul’s sword bites into the metal. It’s tough metal but Ardul gets through it just as Hunter joins her. “Seems you’ve got it handled though.”
The door swings open on rusty hinges and Ardul sees a winged woman in scientist smocks climbing the ladder up. She raises her eyes, which widen when she sees Ardul and Hunter. The wolfen device in her hand blinks with several lights and the pack of red crystals on her back glitters…
“Anything Ardul?” Hunter is just climbing down his bot. From where he’s standing it looks like Ardul’s spotted something. There’s that damn shadow again. Every 45 seconds…
“That’s …” Ardul shakes her head trying to rid herself of the feeling that she’s done this before. Because Hunters right, she has – a number of times. “… not what I meant.” She grunts as the panel falls away and gives her partner a look. “And of course I do.”
She blinks at the Iyesgarthian who appears before them, eyes narrowing at the lights and red crystals on her back and ….
“There’s something up here for sure …” Ardul answers, frowning now at the feeling she’s got. “I’ve found something, metal. Probably a door. I’m going to cut it … Hunter, somethings … wrong ….” That shadow, why does it make her remember red crystals?
“What I’m going to say is going to sound strange. But when I cut this open, I want you to just punch out, ok?”
“Punch out? Uh… sure? You okay?” She said something’s wrong and Hunter knows something could be wrong. They’re in the wild near a crashed cruiser but… she sounds like something is ‘presently’ wrong. And… something doesn’t feel quite right to him either. But he can’t put his finger on it.
The blade cuts into the door and this feels familiar as well. When it opens there’s a blonde Iyesgarthian on the other side with a sack full of crystals and a wolfen device. Before she can look up Hunter punches down, shocked as she is perhaps to see anyone there. The woman falls heavily down the ladder and when she hits the ground the device clatters out of her hand. It beeps loudly and seems to ‘twist’ in an odd way, as if the air around it were distorting somehow…
“Anything, Ardul?” Hunter calls up as he’s climbing down the ladder. He pauses to blink. Why does this feel odd? Probably nothing. They’re in an odd spot. And there’s that damn shadow. Every 45 seconds.
Ardul shakes her head and looks at that shadow before looking back down at the “hatch”. “… hmmm. How do you feel, Hunter?” Strange question from the winged warrior, but there it is.
“There’s a hatch that you should be able to deal with. Something tells me to be ready for a surprise – just … try to take whatever they’re holding …” She’s not making much sense, Ardul knows that but she just can’t explain it any better.
“I’m going to intercept that shadow…” Every forty five seconds. That’s a few seconds now. She launches herself skyward …
“Alright… I’ve got a cutting tool here…” Hunter makes his way over to the door and starts cutting. When Ardul pulls up she sees… something. It’s faint. It takes her a moment to realize it is an Iyesgarthian but almost completely transparent. Either stealthed out or maybe… somehow phased out. It’s flying toward the hatch that Hunter is making for. As it approaches she feels a sudden surge of energy and the flyer suddenly becomes very solid. “Look out!” He calls, realzing he’s about to collide with her and not realizing she set it up that way. When they hit they start losing altitude.
Below Hunter opens the door and pulls his weapon. The woman on the ladder, for there is a woman on the ladder, grabs his leg and pulls him down, where he falls and his neck snaps with a hideous crack…
“Anything Ardul?” Hunter… rubs the back of his neck. Just a momentary phantom pain as he heads down to the ground. He frowns slightly, seeing a device with blinking lights in his mind’s eye.
“I feel a bit odd….” Something’s wrong. He’s sure of it but not how.
There’s that shadow again.
Arduls grey eyes widen as she sees the transparent shape and widen more when it materialises. “Your name and tell me what’s happening here….” She twists, grabbing the other flyer as the collide. Her wings flare wide, trying to slow their descent as they tumble and falls through the air. “Why are you hidden and …”
“Hunter? Something’s wrong…” Ardul says from her vantage, glancing between the shadow and the hatch. “How … do you feel odd? I’m sure we’ve done this before … I keep seeing red crystals and … I don’t know why. It has something…”
What to do. Her instinct tells her that shadow is something to do with this but that door, is probably the key.
“Let’s try to get the hatch open, but when I do … grab whoever is inside and don’t let them … do … something. I don’t know what.”
The laser sword blazes to life and she cuts the metal away.
“Neck hurt for a moment.” Hunter says as he makes his way over. He can see… a device. Something. He’s not sure what. When Ardul gets the door open Hunter reaches down at the woman he’s almost not surprised is there, hauls her up one handed and slams her onto the ground. A quick kick sends the device in her hand clattering away in two pieces. Above, a shadow passes over their heads and Ardul hears a cry of alarm as an Iyesgarthian male spots them and dives toward them. He’s in scientist smocks as well and he clutches at a weapon he clearly doesn’t have much practice using.
“Irena!” He calls out, presumably to the woman that just got slammed by Hunter.
“It did?” Ardul didn’t see what had happened that last iteration, so she doesn’t know to be worried.
As Hunter grabs, Ardul spins with her blade held out and faces the diving Iyesgarthian. “We’ll not hurt her.” she says calmly. “And I won’t hurt you. Come down here and present yourself, Scientist. I wish to know what is going on here. In the name of Princep Nina Edwards.”
“Yeah, it did.” Hunter’s got his gun out now and covering the woman who isn’t moving. He does go look at the device that was in the woman’s hand. “This… is a teleport coordinator. Or it was.” It must have seriously malfunctioned to do what it was doing not that Ardul or Hunter realize quite what that was.
“Princep Edwards! You’re rebels!” The male scientist cries out. And then he drops his gun.
“Oh thank God! I thought you were all gone. Wait, has she retaken the throne? I guess she might have. She was only deposed last month…”
“Does it hurt now?” Ardul asks over her shoulder, slightly concerned about the twinge but she can’t say why. “What do you mean a teleport coordinator?” She can guess but it’s better to have Hunter explain to avoid any confusion.
The look the winged warrior turns on the male scientists is … flat. “One of the originals, you might say. I was, back then, Knight Commander Ardul Trasinger. Caught and detained with the Princep-Elect when Horatio made his move on the throne.” beat “Last month? Uh, no. Try over a year ago now. Who are you, both of you … and why are you here, thinking the revolution was only a month ago?”
Oh boy. Her wings tingle. She doesn’t think she’s going to like this explanation.
“Uh… because it was?” The woman says. “Can I get up?”
“No.” Hunter says, keeping his gun on her. “What were you doing here, as she said?”
“We, uh, we were ordered to come out here. There was a military escort. They were going to check out some signals and then circle back to get us. We should leave before they get here…” The male is babbling a bit, not liking the gun pointed at the woman.
“Uh, I’m Hisir by the way. That’s Irena. And… you’re Knight Commander Tr- wait, what do you mean that it was over a year ago?!”
Hunter quirks a brow. These are… not warriors.
Ardul extinguishes her blade and looks at Hunter as if to say he can let the woman up. Not that she says that – the dynamics between them are different now. She rubs her temples as she peers at Hisir. “Before … who come back? Your escort? Look, just start from the beginning. It’s unusual for the Scientific corp to be out in the field like this.”
“And I mean the coup was over a year ago. I’ve been … caught here, on this world for that time. This is Hunter, by the way, my Companion.” There’s an emphasis on the word that Iyesgarthians will understand. And it will shock the scientists that Ardul has … one. She was rather notoriously independant.
“I think we have time … for you to explain.”
“Uh…” Irena looks up at Hunter as he puts his gun away. Then back to Ardul, then back to Hunter. “But he doesn’t even have wings!!”
“Irena!” Hisir hisses even though she is clearly shocked that Ardul’s Companion is a non-Iyesgarthian.
Hunter gives them a flat look but doesn’t say anything.
“Shortly after the coup, Hyfil announced on behalf of, er… Nina’s uncle… that the Science Corps was being integrated into the military and sent on missions to… um what were his words? Improve our technology and give us our rightful standing in the universe. So we were brought here. There were other teams. The military escort kind of… stranded us here. We were instructed to remove any crystals or technology we could find.”
Interesting that crystals were a priority. It means even that quickly after the coup, the usurper knew what he was after.
“No, he doesn’t …” comes the flat response from the Warrior. She’ll … make this up to the Wolfen, leter.
“So this has been in the works for many years.” Ardul frowns. Horatio must have waited patiently for Nina’s father to die before he made his move. She supposes that’s possible, Iyesgarthian’s are long lived and … patient. Mostly.
“Crystals? Hunter, are they what we came looking for? The … fire crystals … I think you said.” beat “What do you mean, stranded you here? And what was that device you had, Irena?”
“Um… I disconnected it from what I thought was a security system. It was locking the doors…”
Hunter sighs. “It’s a teleport coordinator and the door locking is a safety feature. It was probably damaged in the crash and when you disconnected it the teleport matrix inside… well it could have done anything. Transdimensionally relocated you. Turned you inside out. Stuck you inside an endless time loop…”
Irena and Hisir both shudder. “Wait, if you’re saying that it’s over a year since the coup does that mean…”
Hunter glances at Ardul. “Likely, yes. And yes, Ardul. Those are Wulf fire crystals. And no, you can’t give them to Hyfil.”
“Well we won’t have to right? Princep Nina is back, right?” Irena says hopefully. “If you’re back that must mean…”
“Are … we still?” Ardul asks Hunter, blowing out a breath as she looks at the Scientists. “I thought you knew better than to touch things that you didn’t know about…” It’s the same tone she used with her recruits. One that would make quail. It’s not harsh, it just expects … more … from them.
“No, the Princep is not back on the throne. She is Princep in exile. Other rebels, as you call us, have acknowledged her as such and fight now to win back Iyesgarth from what Hyfil and Horatio are doing. Hunter and I … we are helping.”
That might tell this pair a lot about Ardul’s current situation. “If you wish to join them, we can take you to them. But you will be held in custody until we can be assured you aren’t … tampered with.”
“Um… okay. You can custodianize us then…” Hisir says.
“That’s not a word, Hisir.” Irena says. Hunter rolls his eyes. “Did you get all the crystals?”
“All but the really big ones yes.”
Hunter glances back. “Alright. Go ahead and secure them Ardul. I’m going to go down there and destroy the last one and I’ll meet you back up here in five minutes.”
Are they still looping? Hunter doesn’t think so… but then if they were he wouldn’t know.
Hunter slides down the ladder and lands at the bottom. His neck twinges and he rubs at it… but then it’s gone and he heads off into the ship.
“Detain, Hisir.” Ardul resists rolling her eyes. Scientists. She knows they need them, but really.
“Come along then …” the blonde gestures to the two scientists and heads back towards the bot. It’s going to be an interesting trip back. She does wonder how many more of these they’ll find and if they have travel …
What was the word? Interdimensionally?
… to find them.