Hunter had returned from the expedition into Dinosaur Swamp with a collection of wolfen salvage from the downed battlecruiser. He hadnt asked permission to do so but the only one who had objected took one look at his withering glare and slunk off.
At present he is working on one of the larger of these at the bench in the place he and Ardul presently share. It continues to emit a soft light which projects fuzzy, indistinct blobs of light onto the nearby wall. Its not supposed to be doing that.
Hunter sighs. “Ardul, where is that percision tool kit you were using on your armor?”
At the other end of the bench, Ardul is working on the processing unit they’d recovered from the cyborg that had targetted Hunter. She’s the helmet of her armour hooked up and the visor is displaying lines of scrolling code that the blonde is just frowning at.
“Mmmmm?” she says almost absently to Hunters request. It takes a moment for the question to register and she takes the small pack from behind her equipment and hands it over. “Oh. Sorry. Here it is. What’s the problem?” The light show gets another frown as the blondes attention changes focus.
“It’s an imager for the cruiser’s sensors. Some of them were still operational. I wanted to see what they’d seen. But it’s out of focus or out of alignment or… something.” The wolfen gives the device a smack and it fuzzes more.
“Ugh.” He picks up one of the tools and starts to fiddle with something inside the imager. “Any luck on the CPU there?”
Cybernetic computers are tricky he knows and he suspects Ardul’s not really a technical type.
Ardul flinches as Hunter whacks the unit and shakes her head “Whacking it isn’t going to align it any better. It’s not one of my recruits…” She smirks slightly, relenting as he takes up the toolkit and tries again.
Glancing back at her own project, it’s the blondes turn to sigh. She’s technical enough, most Iyesgarthians have some training – if only to service their own suits in the field. “It’s encrypted, as I suspected. I’ve basic algorithms in my suits processor. Nothing fancy, but I might get lucky. I did last time… ”
It’s going to take some time to run that program and Hunters offering up some distraction. “I’ll examine the bits we bought back though, see if I can work out how to disable the units for the next time they attack.” She seems certain they will.
“Is it unusual for the sensors to be still operational after all this time? That cruiser had been there for some time.” Her focus returns to Hunter and the work that he’s doing.
“Very strange yes. Odd, really, that the reactor was still online after all that time as well. I’d have expected it to die or blow up by that point.” He glances up. “It’s still a bomb, by the way. I’m considering going back to force them to shut it off. If it goes it’ll take out a lot more than just their little collection of mud huts.”
The images finally start to come into focus. Hunter’s entirely focused on whatever he’s fiddling with inside the device but Ardul can see the picture on the wall start to resolve. It’s a picture of a small crowd of bug like creatures. Xiticiks, Hunter had calld them. There looks like a dozen or so of them. What is that in the background, though? It looks like… an armored figure of some kind? Strange. Hunter had said the bug people were hostile to pretty much //everyone// else.
“So I noticed. It was hard not to.” Ardul answers, folding her arms and watching the Wolfen work. On her wrist is a beaten metal cuff with the image of a wolf, and other symbols, etched into it. “I think we should go back. I don’t see that any good could come of it. I would prefer to try and reason with Raewyn, though, before exerting force. She seemed a little more … worldly, than the others.”
She doesn’t disagree with the Wolfen. The reactor should be shut off. But she’d prefer to try diplomacy first and if that doesn’t work, her sword is sharp.
As the images starts to resolve, Ardul steps forward, frowning at it. “Xiticiks. They’re hard to mistake.” she murmurs, peering //past// them to the indistinct shape at the back. “Are you able to sharpen the image at all? That figure seems to be with them…”
Hunter looks up and squints at the still slightly fuzzy image. “Let me see…” A little bit more fiddling brings it into sharper relief.
Yes that is an armored figure standing in the background but far more interestingly both of them can tucked in behind one of the ridges on one of the bug-people’s heads what looks to be a small black box with a blinky light.
“Is that… an implant?” Hunter had observed that the Xiticiks they’d encountered at the last settlement they’d been to had been acting strangely.
Not only is it apparently an implant but there’s a symbol on it. It might be nothing but if Ardul sqints just right it looks remarkably similar to the one on her armor. Not the //same// mind but similar enough that… well…
Actually kind of sort of like the symbol on the cyborg Hunter dissected.
Ardul steps forward as the image starts to resolve, frowning more. Hunter is almost forgotten in that instance. “Can you freeze that?” her tone is sharp, far sharper than she meant and far sharper than she’s ever used with him before. Her recruits, and Kaji, would be more familiar with it.
“It is. There’s a marking on it. Is that …” There’s a sharp intake of breath. “That’s an Iyesgarthian symbol…” she turns abruptly to retrieve one of the pieces of the Cyborg they’d returned with. The piece with the mark on it. “It’s … the same, I think.”
Grey eyes go to that figure in the background and the blonde chews on her lower lip. Her wings flex slightly, a sure sign she’s unsettled, as she turns to the Wolfen. “We’d never heard of Xiticicks.” That’s all she can think to say at the moment. She’s thinking this through.
“It’s a still.” Hunter says. So freezing it isn’t necessary. When she mentions the symbol though he frowns too and glances down at the machine, in particular a small digital readout at its base. “The time stamp on this image is from a few weeks back.” Which is after the cybernetic assailants had started to show up but definitely before Hunter and Ardul had made the trip down there. “And that figure in the background is definitely not Iyesgarthian.”
And that raises some uncomfortable questions like ‘just what in the hell is he doing with an Iyesgarthian control implant. And why has he used it on those bugs.”
“I thought you said that tech was outlawed on your world?”
“About the time someone started asking about in the market in Sarens Rest.” Ardul murmurs, eyes finally moving from the symbol to the background figure. “No. It’s not. But neither was the man who attacked you.” She rubs her head and her wings rustle restlessly.
“The tech was outlawed decades ago. It’s evil stuff. The Princep of the time and the Senate agreed that anything that sapped the free will of a being had no place in our society. It was initially created as a punishment for the worst of the worst offenders who broke our laws but it was too easily abused.” beat “Do you recognise that figure in the background? It looks like it might be controlling them but it’s not clear if it’s being controlled or not.”
The blonde steps back beside the Wolfen, clearly concerned, perhaps even a little upset.
*** OOC Time: Fri Jun 30 18:24:12 2017 ***
“Armor doesn’t look familiar.” Hunter says of the figure in the background. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But judging from the size it’s not a human. Something similar in size to a Xiticiks.” Which is to say, closer to Hunter’s size than most of the folks around here.
“It sure seems as though he’s controlling them. Hard to say for sure but that’s what it looks like. If the tech was outlawed how is it here? Presumably it was destroyed yes?”
“It’s not familiar to me either.” Ardul murmurs, placing a hand on Hunters arm. “Then again, as you’ve observed in the past, Iyesgarth has been rather secluded on the Rifts pathways. So I’m not surprised it’s not familiar to me.”
The height is noted, as is the distinctive armour. “If we could transfer that image to one of the data tablets, perhaps we could show it around. See if anyone else recognises it.” She’s not hopeful, but it’s a start. Maybe the Academy in Vesper will let them in, as well. There might be something in the library there.
“It does. But I wouldn’t be so sure it’s not being controlled itself. Sort of like a Master / Slave / Slave system. Hard to tell though.” Hunters question is a good one, and the blonde shakes her head. “I was child, barely out of the eyrie when that happened but I had to learn about it, as part of my training. According to all official records, the tech that existed at the time, was smelted down and the research itself destroyed. Nina’s uncle, the Princeps brother was resp—”
Grey eyes turn to Hunter, and the Valkyrs wings flex restlessly, causing the dust at their feet to eddy.
“The same uncle who staged a coup later?” Hunter followed that unspoken suspicion. It’s an easy link to make if you know the story and she’s told it to him before. The wolfen grumbles quietly and glances back at the picture.
“This may go back further than that. If we assume that there is only one reason that beacons go dark before I can reach them then this tech has been on this world for much longer than you have.”
“If we assume that, yes.” Ardul says quietly, chewing her bottom lip as she looks back to the image. “And yes. The same one. The same one that held me and tortured me and then sent me to my death.” Starting to pace a little, the blonde is even more quiet.
“Let’s assume that he took the tech instead of destroying it. It’s possible he knows how to get here and has for a long time, so sent it here. The question is why and what does it get him? And why wait till Nina’s father died before staging a coup?” Too many questions and not enough answers. This is not something the soldier in her likes. “Nina was far better at this side of things, than I was. I used to bash things, she’d think.”
“To answer that question I would have to know why the beacon network reactivated and why someone who isnt me is chasing it down with a pack of controlled bugmen.” Hunter doesnt have those answers and he doesnt reeally know where to start to look for them. Not yet.
“If he had the tech why torture you instead of just controlling you? What are the limitations. What cant he get by doing that?”
Ardul gives Hunter a slightly flat look. The questions are valid but neither of them have answers. Yet. “Yet more questions we have to answer.” Yes. She did say ‘we’.
“That’s a good question. By the time I came to service, most of the knowledge of the tech had been supressed. It was said though, that the implants destroyed the mind of most it was used on. They became mindless zombies, if you will. Accessing any of their knowledge was impossible. He needed my knowledge to find the rest of Nina’s supporters and where she had hidden certain artifacts of State.”
Looking back at the picture on the wall, Ardul shakes her head “Maybe it’s different with different races. I simply can’t say.”
“Makes sense. Which makes we wonder why he apparently wants to use it on me.” Also not a question they have answers for right now but the simple answer is that Nina’s uncle still wants Ardul’s knowledge and doesn’t need Hunter’s. Which makes sense. Hunter might be able to capture her and take her back. Then again he might not if he were robbed of all his fighting skill and it sounds like that would do it.
“Well, more questions to answer and no… wait… the woman we found at the other attack site. We took her to the Restorium didn’t we?”
“Maybe they’ve evolved it…” Ardul frowns as her own thoughts follow Hunters. Not that she knows it. It doesn’t make sense. If the tech has evolved, why not use it on her? She’s missing something, she’s sure.
“The Wolfen woman? The one that made eyes at you?” She totally had once they got her to safety. Ardul had been amused. Hunter … maybe not so much. “Yes. To the Restorium in Vesper. That was several weeks ago, though. It’s possible they’ve released her by now. Don’t your kind, heal quickly?” The female wolfen had been badly injured though, so maybe not that quickly. “What are you thinking? I believe her when she says she told us everything.”
“She wasn’t wolfen.” Hunter says rather simply. But yes she had possibly been making eyes at him. And she had been canine-ish. Her looks had been vaguely reminiscent of the Kanokan not that Ardul would know what they are and not that she had actually been one.
“She told us everything we asked about but maybe there’s some things we didn’t ask. Like what they had been doing before the attack began or whether they had noticed any non Xiticiks hanging around. We should pay her a visit.”
Ardul gives Hunter a sidelong look. A rather sheepish one. “Sorry. I didn’t ask. I should know better.” She’d assumed, based on her limited experience on this world, that the female Wolfen were smaller and delicater.
“Good point. She also wasn’t in much of a condition to talk to us.” It’s also possible that the pair of them had scared her somewhat. “Do you wish to go now?” The blonde looks at her helmet, the decryption still running. “That won’t be done for a while, so I’ve time. I don’t have anything contracted till day after tomorrow.”
“Soon. It’s late and we’ll have to catch the ferry back to Vesper. Assuming she’s still at the Restorium. She was hurt badly enough that she probably is, though. Or at least… I would think.” So they should go. And they will go. “Gives you time to run your decryption anyway. Think you’ll get anything?”
“Maybe. But not as much as you just got, I think.” Ardul answers. “I did from the last cyborg I accessed. We know they’ve a mission regarding Nina, we just don’t know what. I’m hopeful it will give us an image or a name that I can use.”
“Know anyone who can look at the implants? I dug the ones out the Cyborgs head and there’s the one they were trying to use on you.”
A cybernetic doctor might be able to look at the programming once she’s cracked it. Or a programmer. There might be someone in Dogwood but Arduls not likely suggest they go and find out.
“What I can’t work out is why they want me. Alive. Dead. I get. I’m a threat to the throne – a rallying point, even without Nina. Alive.” It just doesn’t make sense.
“Clearly they think you have or know something. Something they’re not willing to risk by killing you or turning you into some kind of implant controlled drone.” Hunter muses and shakes his head. “What we need to do is get at one of their controllers. Find someone who isn’t just a murderbot and beat some answers out of them.”
That may or may not be metaphorical. Treatment of prisoners has generally declined in the days since the fall.
“However that’s for later. For now we should get some rest. Or I’m going to at any rate. After I eat.”
Hunter manages to pull some information from the core he's recovered from the Wolfen cruiser. The story that image tells has Ardul concerned and wondering how much contact some of her people have had with outside Iyesgarth.
June 29, 2410