Hunters and Arduls place resembles something more like workshop these days than an apartment. The table is covered with bits and pieces from the Cyborg they’ve dismantled, the implants they’ve from the Saurians and the various diagnostic tools being used to try and decode them.
Unfortunately decoding the pieces is taking time. Some of these pieces have been running for days, iteration after iteration being tried.
Whilst that’s been happening, Ardul has been out on patrol in Vesper and hasn’t been in very long at all.
She’s slowly removing her armour, stacking it neatly on the stand she’s appropriated for it “What a day … How are you, Hunter? That was a tense situation with the Dogwood folk … ”
Hunter has been working in Saren’s Rest instead, playing ‘big guns’ for salvage teams headed into the demon infested wastes of the place. It has been an interesting few days but all in all a rather profitable one. It’s only today that he accompanied Ardul on her patrol back on the mainland, participating in a standoff that nearly turned violent.
“They’re scared and they don’t know what’s going on. But yes it was tense.” Tense enough that he’d locked weapons and threatened to fire.
Down to a pair soft linen like pants and loose tunic, the grey eyed Valkyr shakes her hair out and looks over to the Wolfen as she works her fingers through the pale locks. No matter how good her armour is, it still gets warm under that helmet and the hair ends up plastered to her head “I need to wash …” she mutters, considering his words
“I’m glad you were there even if you get growly.” She’s teasing, something she tends to do when they’re alone “They don’t need me on patrol for another a few days, maybe I can go with you tomorrow.” It’s been a while since she’s spent anytime in Sarens Rest and even demons are preferable to what they encountered today.
Still working her hair out, the blonde looks at the table “Looks like the core decoded while we were gone, let’s take a look at what it gave us…” Moving the display so they both can see it, Arduls fingers move over the interface. It’s not long before information is displaying.
She frowns as she looks at, glancing up at Hunter, putting a hand on his arm “A lot of this is corrupted, but there are bits we can read. These look like instructions…”
They do. It might take a bit to work it out, but Hunter will at least recognise the nomenclature of “Elf” and “Wolfen” and something about them being priority targets.
Hunter doesn’t speak or read Iyesgarthian but fortunately he doesn’t have to. The decoding circuit has translated it. Which is just as well. There is little enough to read that isn’t gabled beyond comprehension.
“Not a whole lot of context here. They are operating but under whose authority and to what end is not clear. I’m not sure if this refers to me or someone else.” The wolfen sets it down. “Maybe you can wash it. Doesn’t look very useful at the moment. Perhaps it was too damaged.”
The translator had and that’s what had taken some of the time to do the work. The blonde doesn’t take her attention from the data. “Let me …” her fingers move again, a small frown creases her brow as she watches the data on the screen.
“There’s a lot lost but I’m trying to extract what we can read. Cleaning the rest of this, it just might not be possible.” The Cyborg had been hit pretty hard when they took it down.
“I can’t see any authorisations in this mess, but here… look at this.”
There’s a series of numbers displayed that her finger pokes at “These are numbers we used for coordinates back on Iyesgarth. They would accompany orders to tell us where to rendezvous. They’re not ones that I’m familiar with though. They might just a different part of Iyesgarth, but they might not. Maybe there’s a way we can work that out.”
Hunter will see there’s a block of instructions just below where Arduls attention is. It has a name mentioned in it, one that he’s heard – Nina, the Princep Elect, the woman the Valkyr was sworn to protect.
“Maybe. The easiest way to do it would be to compare maps, but since we don’t have maps really for either here or Iyesgarth that’ll be difficult unless it’s buried in the code somewhere.” Hunter says, scanning just below it.
“Mmmmm. This group of the code mentions your cousin. It… sounds like she’s still at large.” If that’s true a number of things begin to make sense, like why cyborg attacks are so aggressive. There’d be no need to be if there weren’t still a threat to the new regime’s rule.
“That’s the second time we’ve seen a mention a Nina on these things…” Arduls grey eyes look up to Hunter, shadowed with concern.”Let’s keep reading … maybe there’ll be more in there but I believe she might well be alive and not in their custody.”
As he reads, a word picture forms. To detain the Knight Commander and bring her to “Lynchburg”, the destination accompanied by another set of numbers. There’s a bounty on her, the Wolfen and the Elf.
Lynchburg is a mining settlement just East of the Appalachians, close to the borders of Dogwood. Why take her there?
The elf. Hunter doesn’t know an elf so he’s not at all sure who that could be referring to. “Right well… we have a location at least. Though it’s pretty far north of here and I’m not sure I want to chance it at the moment.” The rest of it is interesting. Revealing as far as motivation goes. But not revealing for purposes or means.
“No idea who is giving these orders still but we do know that the structure is righid. And intact. Ish.”
Whoever the Elf is might come clear if they don’t get this sorted out soon. But they both know an elf, even if neither of them remember who. “The orders not signed.” Ardul agrees, scrolling through the data and shaking her head. “Orders like these … they weren’t issued often and there was only a handful that could do that. Gerard was one.”
Leaning back, seeking the Wolfens solid form to support her, the Valkyr is silent as Hunter makes his observations.
“It would be foolish going now. But at least we have somewhere to look. They want you, I suspect – there aren’t many Wolfens I associate with.” She had warned him her people wouldn’t give up.
“If you don’t want to go, what do you suggest then?”
Hunter growls quietly to himself as he thinks. He does that. It is something of a habit. There are people in Lynchburg last he knew. Its not uncommon for them to have visitors, generally travelling traders and the like.
“For now we keep trying to locate their mobile base. I have a feeling its an older model Northern Gun exploration bot. Perfect for medium sized expeditions of a long and ranging nature. From the descriptions they have one. I might be able to track it if we can locate it using its emergency transponder. I’ll have to get some old contacts to send me those codes, but we will also have to get close enough to use them. In the mean time we may be able to send someone to Lynchburg to look around for us incognito.”
Ardul tilts her head to look up at the Wolfen she’s leaning against, feeling the growl as much as hearing it. “This implant we have might give us something to go on, as well. We might be able to use the signal to our advantage.” She blows out a breath and thinks on that for a moment “Though once it goes live, they could track it as well. Which means we’d need to be prepared and not near here if we do it.”
“A visual on the bot would be nice to confirm your suspicion.” The blonde doesn’t doubt that he’s right, Hunter’s knowledge of these things seems extensive. “Where do we have to go to meet, or communicate with, your contacts? Because tracking a building on legs in the wilderness seems to be our best option.”
“Do you think the two things are connected? The Cyborgs and the instructions regarding Nina and the Bugs?” It’s looking that way but Ardul doesn’t believe coincindence.
“They’re up in Michigan. I’ll have to send them a message.” Hunter says with a shake of his head. “It would take too long to travel there and they frown on people just showing up magically. Plus they’re officially allied with the Coalition States as of right now, though after the beating they’ve taken, the powers that be might be rethinking that.”
The wolfen takes a deep breath. “My other contacts are in the city. We’ll meet. She won’t be happy to see me, but it’ll be okay. As for the rest? It has to be connected. Too many resources to sink into too many separate things. It’s never easy to hop between worlds. Something is going on.”
“Michigan.” Ardul concentrates for a moment, reviewing what she’s learned of Rifts Earth “To the North and West of here, right? What do you mean, beating?” She might be learning about the new world she lives in, but global politics isn’t something that many focus on.
Hunters other contact. Ardul vaguely remembers an interaction with one of the Vesper Guardsmen and wonders if that’s who she is.
“I’ll accompany you, if you don’t think your contact will mind. We can also speak to some of those we know, see who might be willing to do a jaunt into Lynchburg and scout the area. With the war looming between Vesper and Dogwood, it’s going to be risky and they might all be committed for a while.”
The blonde, still using the Wolfen as a leaning post, looks back to the tech on the table “I would concur that it’s related. The similarities between my tech and this one using yours can’t be ignored and from what we’ve seen, it’s likely been going on since I was a fledgling.” Which is worrying “I can’t say I’m too surprised, my people are known for thinking long term.”
“The last wars did not go especially well for the Coalition States. They’ve lost much of their former power, though none of their territory. Yet. The threat they used to represent – and the opportunity – may not be very convincing anymore to people like the CEO of Northern Gun.” Hunter explans.
“Oh I don’t think she’ll mind you. Just me. She’s serving as head of intelligence operations for Vesper these days. And she doesn’t like me much. I nearly killed her once, seems like another life, though.”
There’s another short pause and Hunter runs his hand through his mane. “She may have someone willing to go. Or… we might ask someone we know who might be willing to travel. Yaren could do the spy work… but I’m not sure he’d understand what to look for. Or why.”
“I’ve never really understood some of the power structures in this world…” Ardul murmurs, looking up at her Companion and back down at the table where the tech is, listening as he explains the rest.
“That sounds like a story I might like to hear. Who couldn’t like you and your winning ways?” She teases him like this, in private. But she knows his gruff nature is needed. At least she can often smooth the way and he can bring the force – together, they haven’t made a bad team.
Straightening, the blonde looks at the Wolfen again and draws him away to the couch. “You nearly killed her? Were you on opposing sides or was it something else?” she’s speaking quietly, trying to coax the story from him. Not to judge, just to get to know her partner better.
“Yarens not a bad idea, actually. We can give him a briefing. Maybe find some surveillance tech that he can use. He’s quick to learn and I’m rather fond of him.” she considers for a bit longer “And we can explain why, I’ve no objection to sharing my problem with him.”
With others, maybe. But not Yaren.
“She was a thief. I was a security man for a travelling weapons demonstration. We had a lot of things armed bandits might want. Which is why us ‘salesmen’ tended to be very experienced pilots and fighters. So yes. I nearly killed her. Then I chased her and her band down and nearly killed her again.” Left her quite badly injured, from what he understood.
“Somehow from that she wounded up here and settled down. Gave up theiving, more or less, I suppose. Or only does it on behalf of Vesper now. Either way, she doesn’t exactly remember me kindly, what with killing her friends and trying to burn her alive once.” Hunter shrugs. There’s clearly a story there.
“We can talk to Yaren if you’d like. He’s helped us in the past.”
Ardul smirks up at the Wolfen and encourages him to sit on the couch, settling beside him, putting her feet in his lap. “Well, I can’t say I blame her for not remembering you kindly. I’m not sure I would be able to. Maybe it’s best I come with you, see if I can appeal to her better nature.”
“This world, Hunter. It’s so rough and ready. I’m sure only the hardiest survive.” she sighs as she watches him, gauging his responses. “If she doesn’t think on you kindly, will she reject your request?” Ardul is aware that it might be problem but she also knows that rivalries and hatred can be … set aside, if only momentarily.
“Yaren has, yes. Do you want me to send a message and tell him we want to meet? Or do we just go seeking him?”
Hunter glances down at the feet in his lap and looks up at the winged woman. “Perhaps it is better. Give her something to focus on that isn’t me. And no, I don’t think she’ll reject my request out of hand though she may ask for some manner of compensation.” That will be the part that needs negotiating.
“Send a message to Yaren. If we can get two sets of eyes on it so much the better. If not it’s best to at least have him.”
Ardul cocks a blonde eyebrow at the Wolfen and wiggles her feet in his lap, adding a grin to the effect. “Compensation is negotiable and I look forward to meeting her. I guess we’re going to have to take some more contracts to pay for this.” They. Not just him. She’ll pay her share. Of course, she’s thinking that Hunters contact will want monetary compensation but she might want something else.
“I’ll compose something and send a courier in the morning. Maybe he’ll have someone to go with him. I’ll take a datapad with us, with the likenesses that I can put together of our Cyborgs.” She sighs “But I agree, two sets of eyes are better than one.”
“What have we got coming up in Vanished Point? It’s been keeping you rather busy, I’ve noted.” Of course, when she patrols in Vesper, she often spends the night in the city, so she’s not really one to speak.
“Nothing booked at the moment.” Hunter says simply. “I always have offers though. Always someone who wants extra firepower for going into the Point. It’s dangerous in there after all and call me paranoid but I think it’s getting more so.”
Hunter is many things, but he is not generally paranoid. “You can come on the next one if you’d like.” He glances down at the wigling feet… and tickles.
“I’d call you paranoid but I’m hearing the same out on the street.” Arduls grey eyes hold Hunters as she thinks on that. “It’s not just an increase in the monsters that are found there. It’s the type. They’re getting bigger and nastier. What did you observe when you last went in?”
Her feet stop wiggling when he looks at them but soon kick out as he tickles. “Hunter …” the blonde nearly falls from the couch as she reacts to that. Is … she ticklish. Like terribly so. Who would have thought?
Hunter tickles more, ignoring the last question. This is far, far more entertainign after all and he’s quite happy to take the distraction at least for a few minutes. It’s unlikely given her reaction that the blonde will be thinking of anything until he’s finished other than possibly getting away from him.
“I’m, I’m sorry, what was that? I can’t hear you over your laughing.”
All Hunter had to say was he wanted a distraction, or a respite, from the work. Tickling Ardul is a cruel and unusual punishment.
“Hunter … ” Ardul tumbles from the couch, trying to get her foot back. She’s laughing, as he’s noted. “… stop … ” The way she’s flailing she might take him with her. He might be taller than her, but she’s quite strong.
Yes, she’s trying to get away … as much as she given the laughing and the flailing.
Hunter follows her and grins. He’s enjoying this quite a bit. He’s got her exactly where he wants her and as he stoops over her he is not letting up in the least. “What’s that Ardul?”
Oh yes. He can tickle. He can even tickle with his bad hand. Which speaks to the quality of the work but also his practice in using it.
There’s a lot of laughing and a lot of wriggling as the blonde tries to get away from the Wolfen but he’s got her bracketed and at his mercy.
Grey eyes meet his. The hard planes on her face have softened with the laughter. This isn’t a side of her that many get to see, not even Hunter. The Valkyr is really quite serious normally.
Come to think of it. So is the Wolfen. That he’s relaxed enough to be like this … says something.
“… please …”