The trip down to find Ingerhast’s missing student isn’t a short one. It’ll take Hunter, Ardul, Pegi and Felipe deep into Dinosaur Swamp. Such a trip could easily take weeks if done on foot so the three non-bot pilots might have been afraid that Hunter would stuff them all into the back of his Gunwolf and then make off like hell.
But he wouldn’t do that to them. Instead he arranged for a small hover ATV for the comfort and safety of the good doctor, his ‘sister’ and Ardul (her wings make her an awkward fit in his cockpit). Hopefully Pegi can provide guidince from inside it. If not though they can take it slower. Even moving at a slower pace the ATV will be useful. It’ll provide a place for rest and sleep if nothing else.
And hopefully Pegi knows where the largely flattened remains of the old cities of men are. Because that’s where the student is alleged to have gone missing…
Tight fit or not, Pegi’s enjoying the ride. It’s not as exciting as the Wolfen’s mech, but it’s still an interesting ride, quicker than on foot or by beast.
Pegi is more than happy to offer her assistance, especially since it’s been a while since she’s last been out here. While she wishes she could show them more of the sights, they do have a job to do. Leaning over Felipe, she points out directions now and then, mixed in with some places of nostalgia. At least her little doctor brother is there to keep her on track.
“Mm…Pegi sure old lands not far now.” She’d gone with her brothers once, out scavenging and hunting. At least, if it’s the right place.
“-oh, oh! That way! See rock? Head left! …wait, no, right!” she shouts, jabbing a claw in the direction. They were coming from a different direction after all.
Ardul would have ridden in the cockpit with Hunter but her wings would make an uncomfortable fit and the Wolfen would likely complain about the mouthful of feathers he’d been subjected to during the trip.
Whilst she could have flown the distance, the ATV has been helpful, allowing her to pool her resources for when they would be really needed. No use turning up to a fight, if there is one, exhausted. And the Winged Warrior has no doubt what her role is.
The blonde is currently sitting in the back of the ATV, head back, eyes closed. For anyone looking it would seem that she was asleep. And she is – but it’s the sleep of a soldier and as Pegi gives conflicting instructions a grey eye cracks open before she snorts. “Might be a round about trip before we get there, Hunter…” she says into the communicator.Being the other passenger who gets to ride inside, Felipe sometimes wonders if sitting outside of the cockpit would have been any better. Not that he’s getting sick or anything — the longer ride has a tendency to bring up low levels of travel fatigue on the way.
In a way, he’s glad he has Pegi here to guide them. After all, she’s the Saurian. She has this down better than he ever could.
At least, that’s how it /should/ be. It probably would have been better if they were at normal sight level in terms of directions.
“No, that’s– ” he cuts himself off as he’s sort of squished by his big little sister, grunting as he presses his hands against the dash to make sure he can breathe. “–Yeah, just. Just follow her finger claw!”
It’s a good thing Pegi had pointed them on that side of the rock because there’s a hidden sinkhole on the other side. This side, however, follows an old track made by a pre-rifts road. The road is gone in many places but there’s enough of it left that it makes a good trail south and it’s often use by people like…
Well exactly like Pegi’s folks.
“I’ve got heat signutres up ahead…” Hunter notes back into the radio, snorting at Ardul’s observation.
“Looks like… people?”
It’s winter in the swamps and they’re not densely populated at the best of times so ‘people’ is always a bit of a crap shoot. Either they’re friendly tribesmen, hostile tribesmen or some kind of bandit. Flip a coin.
A three sided coin.
Sure enough about half a mile down the road there’s several tents and the remains of a fire. The tents are of a type that are Pegi will be familiar with. They’re used by Saurian tribes though this may or may not be hers. Oddly, the fire is still burning but… where are the people who should be tending it? Saurians don’t just let this kind of thing burn. Even in a swamp that’s a horrible idea.
“What that mean…” Pegi grumbles, not sure what a signature is. She squints through the window as though she can will things to get clearer, or the ATV to speed up, but eventually whatever Hunter had picked up comes into view. “…camp?” What a strange place to set up, much less to leave be. It’d be easy to say that these were poorly careless people, whoever had left the site, however the Saurian seems to tense a bit with uncertainty as they draw closer.
“…where everyone go?”
“Means there’s something that’s giving off heat…” Ardul replies, shaking her head at Felipes dilemma and sitting up straight so she can peer out the canopy.
“What type of camp is this?” she asks, in general, she’s not familiar Saurians, clearly. “Hunter, what is the wolf-bot picking up? Not just the fire I hope.”
When the ATV draws to a halt, she’ll pop the door and gets out, unhooking the cylinder from her hip.
“Leaving a fire burning doesn’t seem right.” She murmurs “Shall I look around?”“Heat signatures are signals,” the doctor replies as he looks up at Pegi, adding to Ardul’s laconic definition, snapping his fingers as he runs his words through a simpler mental filter. “Um, the vehicle’s sensing something, sort of like sighting prey. Or maybe some allies, in this case?” Because people is usually a good thing. It’s Pegi’s reaction to the mention of the camp that makes him glance between his adopted sibling, the camp setting, and Hunter. He’s not exactly sure what this means, but he can see Pegi isn’t taking this well.
A hand reaches up to pat the Saurian on her other hand as Felipe shifts in his seat, leaning toward the console. “…That’d be a good idea,” he says lowly into the radio.
Around the back the swamp stretches away from the road, this particular portion thick with alien vines bearing long, flat leaves and large bulbous growths. The leaves themselves are big enough that someone could cut them off and use them for a blanket or… even tent making material though clearly all of these tents are made from leather.
Ardul does find some tracks in the mud headed off into the swamp toward one particularly dense patch of vines, though…
Pegi clambers out as soon as the vehicle comes to a halt, the axe scraping the floor as she grabs it. She sniffs the air as she steps out, looking towards the campsite as she starts after Ardul.
“…Pegi not like this…” she murmurs as she scans the area, glancing towards the large nearby leaves. Her amber eyes widen slightly, and she slowly starts closer to them, almost glaring. “Careful here,” the Saurian advises, glancing back. “Graspers. Eat you alive.”
Glancing at the nearest of them, she makes a swipe with her axe at the stalk.
Ardul casts Felipe a look raising a blonde eyebrow as she stalks off “Did your sensors register lifeforms, Hunter? Or just heat?” She asks as she pokes around.
“Lots of big plants out here…” she murmurs, not igniting her sword yet. She frowns at the track and bends down, looking at it more closely before peering up into that patch of vines. “I think these vines must grow very quickly or this track is very old one…”
Straightening, she frowns at patch, not moving yet “Pegi, Felipe, what do you know about the Flor—-” Pegi’s already answering and the blonde starts to step back. “What do they do?” Now, she ignites that energy sword and swipes at the stalk of the nearest one.
If the native is worried, she will be too…Half-stumbling out after everyone else, the doctor stays on his feet, following close behind as he takes his gun out. Better to be safe than sorry in a place like this where he has little chance of surviving on his own. The company he keeps evens out the playing field if any danger occurs. Mostly.
Felipe glances about the area, brow furrowing. “I-I don’t know,” he says, shutting up the instant Pegi’s alertness sharpens. Swallowing at the lump forming in his throat, he checks the gun, holding it close.
“That’s just downright unsettling.” Hunter mutters as he comes around the tents. “Does that mean the people who made this camp are still a-”
The wolfen pauses, ears perking. “Yes. Yes they are. I can hear them. In that thick patch over there. They’ll need medical attention for sure…” He pauses. “How the hell are we going to get to them without killing them or getting caught ourselves?”
“No touch the leaves,” the Saurian growls, watching as the one she’d just severed waves. She brings her axe down without hesitation to chop it in half.
Glancing towards Felipe, she holds her free hand back. “Little brother stay close.” For a moment she looks at Ardul, staring at the blazing sword that the winged warrior woman wields. But now isn’t the time to be curious, although it’s such a pretty weapon! “You cut with that? Cut leaves so they not grab you.”
Pegi looks off down the overgrown path as Hunter claims to hear something in that direction. With her uneven gait she determinedly makes way, her metal leg slightly sinking in the soft ground. “That way..?” She sniffs, eyes narrowing. “If they caught in leaves, better to kill at the base.” With her axe she points at the bulbous body of the leaf she’d just hacked. She looks over her shoulder at the others. “Bad to cut up people inside.”
Ardul jumps back as the leaf moves, not grabbing Pegi but very tempted to. Turning a grey eyed glance on Hunter and back to the patch, she swallows. “Unsettling, yes.” Still there must be a way to ‘tickle’ these plants and get the … people out.
“If you get the stem, I’ll keep the leaves from you but …” she glances again to Hunter. “Can you configure your bots speakers to emit sound? Either high pitched or ultra sonic. You might need to oscillate it, but there might be a frequency that reacts with their natural instinct. At the very least, it might mess with their ability to attack us as we cut the survivors free.” she glances at Pegi, and then Felipe “Hopefully, it won’t affect you too much. And Hunter? Heat might be useful too….” Though whether, in a swamp, that might make things worse, she doesn’t know.
There’s the woman from the technologically advanced civilisations. No magic for her.
“Stay close, Doctor, we will need you, I think, as we free them.” She sounds confident at least.Felipe barely has time to yelp after Pegi makes short work of the leaf that moves on its own, stepping back into the Saurian’s outstretched hand. Where he fails to look, her solidity and strength is welcoming. “Okay. Yes, I’ll be right behind you, right here where no leaves can touch me.”
So he hopes. The gun’s not going to help him much if it does touch one, but he takes care to tread cautiously. “If this is the problem we’re faced with, I can’t do much of anything else except wait,” the doctor replies in regards to Hunter and Ardul’s planning, his voice tinged with concern. “Just be careful? I don’t want to end up treating all of you.” Or whoever is left. That’s the thought he tries to ignore while they’re down here.
The plant does not like being hacked up, but it can’t really move. Ardul is going to have her hands full keeping the leaves off Pegi. Hunter returns to help shortly with an improvised torch, charring the leaves and setting fire to anything that looks too dry.
The lizard woman and the valkyrie are bathed in sweat by the time they reach the ‘thicket’ ten minutes later. One chop causes a leaf to uncurl and drop a lizard man. And then another. It’s three men and two women by the time they’ve free’d everyone. The markings on them will be familiar to Pegi. Not her tribe, but one that lived nearby and was related. They’re all in bad shape. Several of them have some pretty severe open sores where their skin was being eaten away by digestive acides. Not a one of them is coherant yet.
Without a word Hunter starts to drag them back toward firmer unless the Doc wants to work on them here.
Chopping through those thick stalks and leaves is a lot of work, and she’s thankful that Hunter had been able to rig up something fascinating that throws fire. Ardul’s glowing blade does some impressive work as well, enough that Pegi starts to wonder where she can get her own. But she wields her axe with practiced ease, although it’s still tiring.
It’s not a sight anyone wants to see, especially when they could have easily been immediate family. But there’s a shared kinship with the other tribes such as these, and Pegi’s all too determined to make sure that they’re all freed, and no one’s left, unless others had already been digested. She doesn’t think about it, instead setting to help Hunter with bringing them back to their camp, unless Felipe tells her otherwise. She’ll listen to Felipe’s words. He’s the one who fixes people. He helped fix her. He can fix them.
It’s only once they’re being tended to and the gardening work is done that she lets herself find a spot to sit and rest. She’s tired, but she’s certain they’ve done good things here.
The Winged Womans armour isn’t gleaming quite so much as they hack their way through the thicket. Even with her strength and stamina, this is hard work and her hair falls damp and lank down her back.
Some of those leaves are damned quick too … that had kept her on her toes – so to speak. Keeping them away from Pegi as the Saurian cuts the stems. She too is thankful for Hunters use of the fire, this job would have been much harder without it, she’s sure.
As the bodies are freed, the blonde doesn’t say a word, laying a questioning grey-eyed glance on Felipe before carrying the bodies clear.
Once she’s satisfied that the plants aren’t going to try and eat them, she stands watch over the group – sword extinguished – as Felipe works.It would make sense to stay behind, stay out of harm’s way as the others set to work against a clock and a bunch of living, seemingly-starving plants. Except Felipe isn’t like that. He goes with them, the weapon secured and vanishing back into the holster, moving silently while keeping his wits about him. Sure, waiting is waiting, but he can lend them a hand in moving the wounded.
He immediately tells them to bring every Saurian they free into a specific area, making sure that there’s nothing else nearby to try grabbing at them once they do so.
Working in the field is something he’s done several times before. This will be no different. A look of keen focus is reflected in his eyes as he ‘fixes’ his patients, sterilizing, cleaning, bandaging what he can with the supplies he has on hand. It feels like it goes on forever until he remembers to breathe, sitting back on his heels once the last Saurian’s wrappings are secured. “…That’s about all I can do,” the doctor sighs, wiping his hands off as best as he can with a small towel.
One of them blinks her eyes and starts to come around. “Sssssssssssss. Ugh. What…… happened?”
There’s a weak sibilance to her voice. It’s an accent actually, not that Hunter or Ardul know that.
Hunter sticks his hands in his pockets and waits for one of the other three to explain.
Having been watching quietly while she caught her breath, Pegi finally relaxes in relief as one of them comes to. She looks at Felipe, so proud of him!
“…you get caught by graspers,” she informs the wounded Saurian, leaning forward and using her axe to get back onto her feet. “Hunter saw your campfire, but no one here.” She points at the trail of chopped up and trampled plants. “Found you there. Were there others?”
Ardul stands back, next to Hunter, giving the recovering Saurians room. No use crowding them, they’ll likely feel smothered, particularly after that encounter.
She’ll let Felipe and Pegi do the talking. They, at least, seem known to these people.
All the while her grey eyes scan the area, watching. She’ll play sentinel.Wait, he only knows one Saurian. This is a whole new experience for him. Not that the other two will notice that right away. And Pegi.
Shortly after getting his Saurian sibling’s approval, the small smile of relief falters, forming into a neutral line as he scoots back a little more. “Could’ve been a close one,” he says quietly. “We got here just in time.”
It takes her a moment to catch her breath. “Called Ssssssssuri.” There’s that sibilance again. Hunter steps on over and looks down at her. “What were you doing here?”
He expects to hear her say ‘hunting’ or similar.
“Going to the place of the ssssstone towers. Sssssomething is wrong there. There have been sssstrange lights and ssssounds. We’ve ssssseeen them from afar.”
That makes the wolfen quirk a brow and glance at Ardul, then down to Pegi and Felipe. They were going to the city?
Pegi actually smiles a little, glad that no one had been lost, although they nearly might have been. “Pegi is Pegi. And there is Hunter, Ardul, and little brother, Felipe. He is doctor, he fixed you!” she proclaims after gesturing to each of her companions.
There’s some concern on her face then as Suri mentions the intended destination of her group. She looks off in the distance as though she can see the old ruins from here. Frowning, Pegi looks back at her friends, giving a brief nod before looking back at Suri. “How long? Just started happening?” she asks.
“Strange sounds and lights from the City…” Ardul murmurs watching the group as they talk. “What were you hoping to achieve there?” Though her eyes rest on the thicket.
Surely this group would know better than to camp near a plant that might try to eat you. Pegi certainly seemed to know about them. “And forgive me for asking. How did these plants end up getting you?” She really hates to remind them of their ordeal.Pegi’s introduction is accompanied by a nod, grinning lopsidedly as the young Saurian warrior mentions the part about him being her ‘little brother.’ “Long story. We can cover that later, maybe.”
He then meets Hunter’s gaze, sharing the expression prior to glancing over at Ardul. While he understands how hard it is to ask about recent traumatizing experiences, it’s information they do need to have in case it’s related to what they have been originally after. “Just tell us whatever you can, Suri,” he adds calmly. No use trying to stir up any anxiety that may be lingering.“A dozen suns ago… maybe fifteen…” So nearly two weeks ago. “A man came from the north. He said the sssspirits needed someone to speak to them. Maybe he spoke and they didn’t ssssssay anything he liked…”
Hunter growls. “Has anything happened other than lights?”
“Prey been chassssed away. And the other tribes been leaving the area. Ssssay it’s a bad omen. Sssssay that the swamp has awoken.”
So nothing solid… but that’s probably as good as it’s likely to get at the moment.
“Sssssuri was taking care of… wasssss… heeding call of nature… after dinner. Wassss dark. Did not ssssseee the plants. Thought there were none there. Grasper got me. Sssssuri cry out. Others come. More Graspers come. Catch us all.”
That… shouldn’t be. Graspers don’t move and they don’t grow nearly that quickly. Something triggered some kind of rampant growth spurt. Which explains why there are so many of the damn things around here.
Whatever it was it might still be around. Of course there’s a lot fewer graspers now.
She forgets how long exactly that Felipe had mentioned this student they were seeking had been missing for, but it sounded likely that this might just be the one they sought. Pegi scowls. She’s not so much a believer of bad omens as other tribes, but she knows these people do not lie, and at least to her understanding, they don’t exaggerate.
“That not make sense,” she says, frowning. But she knows that any tribe living in these swamps would know what local flora to avoid, and any Saurian of one kind or another of their worth would know to check the area carefully before they ever made camp.
“Pegi taking friends to the stone towers. Looking for someone. Maybe the same you said.”
It doesn’t make much sense to Ardul at all and the blonde looks between Hunter, Felipe and Pegi. “It sounds like the flora actually moved to … collect them. Is this possible?” She’s not a botanist and her knowledge of Rifts Earth is still lacking.
Maybe the man is the same one. Maybe it’s not. Either way, it’s fairly clear to the Winged Woman that the Stone Towers are likely to cause them problems.Felipe frowns thoughtfully, looking at his traveling companions after Suri speaks. “Well, no. The last I heard, plants that decide they wanna eat Saurians don’t just come up out of nowhere,” he gestures, holding up an index finger as his other hand keeps the towel within its grasp. “I dunno about you, but I’m agreeing with Pegi. This might be connected to your guy in one way or another.”
Hunter meets Ardul’s eyes and offers a small shrug. He wouldn’t know either. But Pegi and Felipe seem to think it sounds fishy. Which means…
“We probably shouldn’t leave them here to recover. Let’s get down the road, away from these things a good distance. We can afford a bit of a detour. Pegi, do you know where there’s a village or camp nearby?” Some place with people that could look after these people.
“Ardul you may have to squeeze into my cockpit. Felipe will need the extra room to be able to keep an eye on his new patients…”
Suri nods weakly. “Sssssuri think that maybe… she not see them. But… now that you sssay… Sssssssuri sure that the camp was clear.”
Yeah, something isn’t right here. But they’re not going to solve it here. Better to take the people and get far, far away before resuming their previous course.
Pegi shakes her head at Ardul. “Graspers not move like that. Take time to grow, too.” Something’s not right, and if it’s to do with their missing student person, then all the more reason to find him. The young Saurian takes a look around, using the earlier boulder she had pointed out as a reference point. “…should be trader’s stop, to the east,” she informs Hunter as she points. “Tribes gather there. Suri and others be okay there.”
She looks to Suri and the others, and then moves to see if there’s anything necessary about the camp that she’ll need to pack up for them. With plants popping up that shouldn’t be, sooner is probably better than later to leave this area.
“I can do that Hunter.” Ardul gives the Wolfen a smirk. “I’ve done it before. It will be … cosy.” She’s teasing the Wolfen, for sure. “But it sounds like a good idea. How soon can we move them, Felipe?” She looks over the area again, face set.
Pegi gets a considering glance for her answer and the blonde just nods. Something is not right here and they should be gone.Everyone else in the cockpit. Fun times. Felipe won’t have too much of a problem with the arrangement. “Half an hour at most, maybe. But if we’re lucky, it’ll be less if anyone else is awake and aware of where they are,” he answers, packing things back into his bag as he kneels. “If a few are able to walk, then it’d be a little easier than carrying everyone back to the robot. ”
He doesn’t have the training or experience like the other three do, but he’s very sure his imagination isn’t working overtime. The less time spent in the open saves them from finding more trouble with those plants.
He’s got an ATV and a fireproof robot. It’ll be fine.
Looking for Professor Ingerhasts lost student, a group of Saurian are found.
February 23, 2410