The Restorium is a building of pure white dimension stone, chiseled and worked by the finest artisans of Vesper and enchanted by the most potent diabolists and techno-wizards that could be found. It’s a place of healing. It’s staff are doctors, healers, mystics and priests. Their power is in some ways nothing short of miraculous and the place even has some small measure of recognition beyond Rifts Earth.
The D-Bee woman Hunter and Ardul had rescued some weeks ago has been recovering there. She’s a slender canine thing with russet fur and triangular ears on the top of her head. Her injuries are more psychological than physical at this point. When Hunter and Ardul arrive to enquire after her, she’s in one of the contemplation gardens in white patience smocks, sitting and watching a fountain quietly. She’s been generally quiet since she’s been here. Which makes sense. Her village was killed or taken and she is alone.
Hunter pauses on on one of the covered walkways about fifteen feet away. “What did you say her name was?” He asks an elfin nurse.
“Araleth.” The chart wielding man replies. “She’s making progress. Slow progress. Remembering that is still difficult for her. I can give you a bit of time but try not to upset her.”
Ardul was pleased they’d made it to the Restorium so soon after their discovery the other day. Things on Rifts Earth had a habit of interfering. Given who they were visting she’s opted not to wear her armour, settling instead for soft leather leggings with boots that rise to her knee and a fabric tunic.
Her only concession to going unarmoured is the small metal cylinder that hangs from her hip. She never seems to go anywhere without that.
“That means no growling…” she murmurs to her companion as they stand in the walkway. Her grey eyes watch the quiet D-Bee as the nurse speaks. “Thank you, Nurse. We’ll be careful to try not to upset her. We wouldn’t disturb her, but this is rather important.”
With a glance up to the Wolfen, the blonde strides forward, grey/black wings furled tightly against her back. It’s hard, even if she tries, not to look like a soldier. She’s been one, more than half of her life.
“Excuse. Araleth. May we have a moment of your time?” At least she can modulate her voice to sound unthreatening.
Hunter moves with Ardul. When the winged woman addresses her, Araleth looks up, brown eyes distant. It takes a moment for her to focus. “You… I remember you.”
Ardul can slowly see memory and recognition come into her eyes. The nurse hadn’t been kidding when he’d said that remembering the attack was difficult. Even thoughs of her friends and family were painful and the attack had been brutal in the extreme.
“You brought me here. Why are you here?”
Taking seat on the bench, near Araleth but not too close, Ardul gestures for Hunter to do similar. It won’t do to have the two of them, tall as they are, towering over the injured canine woman.
“To start with, we bought you some supplies. I thought, given how long you’ve been here, you might like something a little different.” Ardul hands over the small ‘basket’ that she’s carrying. In it is still warm fresh bread, butter (or what passes for it on Rifts Earth), cheese and jam. There’s also Jerky of some sort and some fruit.
“And yes, we bought you here. I’m Ardul, this is Hunter. We were hoping to ask you about the attack. I know it’s painful to think on it, but it’s important and may stop what happened occuring to other settlements.”
The blonde is playing with words, being careful to try and not cause the poor canine to remember too deeply. Yet.
“I… don’t know how much I can help.” Araleth’s eyes slide from Ardul to Hunter and back again. Her entire demeanour shifts to one that projects frailty. Weakness. Uncertainty. She looks broken. Sadly, it’s all too common on rifts earth.
Hunter glacnes to the winged woman at his side. The gift basket was a good idea. It’s distracting for one thing. Araleth blinks upon recieving it and starts to pick through it. The bread is seized upon first and the vaguely vulpine woman nibbles at it, seemingly finding it to her liking.
She looks up. “Hmmmm?”
“Could you answer some questions for us?” She seems to be… flighty. She didn’t seem that way when they’d found her, so it’s possible that’s been a development since then.
Ardul suppresses a sigh as Araleths demeanour shifts. The winged woman has seen it in her own her people, something similar at least. Hunter gets a small smile for his interjection and the blonde presses regardless.
“Anything you can tell us will be a big help, I’m sure.” she says reassuringly, pitching the tone of her voice to try and calm the woman. “Hunter and I were wondering if you’d noticed whether anyone or anything else was with the bugs when they came to your settlement.” Normally she would try and set the picture for her audience, explain why the information was needed. With this one, though, getting the focus and limiting her exposure to the pain of those memories, is paramount.
“The bugs…?” Araleth says a bit vacantly.
“The black shelled ones. With the weapons.” Hunter supplies.
Araleths eyes widen and she shakes a bit. “The came out of the sky… I saw smoke by the reactor. There was an explosion. The hab dome collapsed… Suri was..
“The bugs…?” Araleth says a bit vacantly.
“The black shelled ones. With the weapons.” Hunter supplies.
Araleths eyes widen and she shakes a bit. “The came out of the sky… I saw smoke by the reactor. There was an explosion. The hab dome collapsed… Suri was… I saw him…” Her eyes well up with tears and she seems on the verge of a breakdown. News of an explosion has Hunter frowning though.
“Xiticiks dont ise explosives…” He murmurs.
Ardul nods to Hunter as she puts a hand on the vulpine creatures shoulder, firmly enough to be reassuring but not domineering. “She’s associated Suri with it, too.” That might mean something, or it might not.
“Suri was special to you, I understand.” she speaks gently. “What caused the explosion, can you remember? Was there someone or something else there or did Suri do something?” If Ardul remembers correctly, Suri had forced Araleth into hiding. That’s not the actions of someone compelled but it’s possible this woman’s … friend … did something.
“Suri… he was… he was shot. They were everywhere…” Her eyes are wide. Ardul’s touch brings her back, but only a bit.
“There was something behind them. A… large building that walked.” She clearly doesn’t have better words for it. Hunter, though, frowns a bit more.
“Large building that walked. Northern Gun makes some explorer bots that can house whole teams of people like a mobile set of flats. They’re not rigged for combat. But that’s not to say the people in them might not be.”
“It moved into the center of town. The bug-men, they swarmed all around it.”
“Thank you, Araleth.” Ardul modulates her voice, trying to keep the canine focussed on her.It doesn’t stop her glancing to Hunter at the description they’re given, frowning slightly.
“Sounds like they were escorting it…” she murmurs before looking back to Araleth again. “What happened then, Araleth?” she prompts gently. They not only need this information, but they also want to find out what the community had been doing before the attack.
“They definitely don’t live in robots. Or make them.” Hunter murmurs.
“They swarmed in. Over the town from the west. Headed for the reactor dome. It’d just been brought online the last week. The others…” Araleth’s voice breaks in a sob. “Some tried to barricade themselves inside. Others tried to run. They were taken. Or maybe killed. I don’t know…” She’s trembling again. Ardul’s going to have to pull her back or change the subject.
That gives them answers though and as much as it pains Ardul to push Araleth like that, it was needed. Hunter though, gets a flat type of look. “So you say…” She might have been inclined to smirk, except for the vulpine D-Bee.
“That must have an achievement for your community, bringing the reactor online. What was your role there?” She’ll change the subject but it’s concerning, this block of moving flats. They’ll need to circle back to it in a moment, she’s sure. To further distract the D-Bee, the Valkyr pulls the cover of the basket back and takes out a bowl with dried fruit in it, holding it out, so the woman can pick at it.
Araleth looks at the fruit and takes a handful. She starts to pick at it, seemingly not having heard Ardul’s question. For a moment she may think she’ll need to ask it again. “I… uh, sorry. I was a farmer. I wasn’t very important. I just ran the hydroponics.”
That’s a bit more advanced than simply being a farmer, but clearly she wants to downplay her importance possibly out of… guilt? Hard to say.
“Suri was a reactor worker. It was… old. And very advanced. It was a miracle we got it running again.”
“Hydroponics. That’s interesting. Feeding people is no mean feat.” Ardul says lightly, she’d been nearly ready to prompt her. She’ll leave the thoughts of importance alone for the moment, though when one mentions it, it’s usually an indication that might have been. “Were you in charge of the hydroponics labs?” Well, maybe she’ll let it go.
“I can imagine that getting the reactor online was a big thing. The day that the walking building came…” that’s referenced directly as opposed to the bugs “… was there anything happening at the reactor dome or in the community?”
“No… not that I know of. Suri said that they’d recovered something in the excavation that they were putting in storage until there was time to look at it. Some kind of… pod with an odd picture on it.”
Hunter’s ears perk. “Pod? Do you think you could draw the symbol?”
Araleth frowns as she’s handed a charcoal pencil. She draws an odd looking pair of sigils on the bed sheet that Ardul will recognize as wolfen.
Hunter quirks his brow and mouths to Ardul. “Hazardous Material…”
Seeing Hunters ear perk, Ardul raises a blonde eyebrow and waits as the vulpine D-Bee draws out that symbol. It’s certainly not one she recognises, but she does know that it’s wolfen. “That pod was found in the excavation. Near the reactor?” The blonde isn’t familiar with Wolfen tech, but she wonders if the material has anything to do with that. Or was it a byproduct.
Not that she asks Araleth. Given she didn’t know what the symbol was, she’s not likely to know anymore and Ardul wants to keep the D-Bee focussed.
“Did anything come out of the walking building?” she asks, finally circling back to the beginning.
Grey eyes meet Hunters. They may need to go back to the community and do some more investigation.
“It opened up, I did not see more though. I ran from the bug men and tried to hide. It seemed like hours. My friends cried and screamed. And then I heard no more until you came along.”
The fact that it opened suggests that something did indeed come out of it. Or some one. Either way this is something they should look into and Hunter nods as if to confirm her intuition that yes they will need to go back and look into this.
It could also explain where everyone went. Given the lack of bodies and all. That’s a question that both Ardul and Hunter had – how did they get everyone out.
“You were very, Araleth and I thank you. For your time and for speaking with us. I will burn a feather in honour of Suri. He seems to have a place in your heart.”
“Do you know where Suri might have put that box? The one with the strange drawing?”
“It was in the industrial storage area. Ruins of a building on the north side of the settlement.” Araleth says softly. Her eyes brim with tears again as she thinks of Suri. “It was the last thing he really told me…”
Hunter pats her shoulder and takes a breath. They’re more or less done here he thinks.
“We need to go back.” He says quietly. “And soon. That Saurian village may not be out of danger yet.”
Ardul nods to Hunter, acknowledging his words but she’s focussed on Araleth at the moment. “Thank you, Araleth. You’ve been most helpful. If there’s anything I can do for you, at all, call on me.” It’s as good as an oath, what the Valkyr just said.
“Enjoy your basket. I’ll drop another one in, if I can.”
Squeezing the womans shoulder, she rises and inclines her head to Hunter, leading them out and leaving the vulpine D-Bee to her … thoughts.
“I know we do.” she finally says. “What can you tell me of Wolfen power tech that it would have a harzardous material container near it? It would seem that perhaps it was the discovery of that that had the Xiticiks descending on that village.”
“It might not have anything to do with the power tech.” Hunter says as they move away. “The wolfen of who built that reactor were starfarers or the descendents thereof. It might have been anything. From one of the science labs for example. And it might be coincidental but we should look for it anyway.” If they can’t find it, that’s also a clue.
“That’s true, but it’s a coincidence that they arrived then. Though, a week from when they bought the reactor online, could mean they had to mass and travel. Either way, we need to go back and look around. See what we can find or what tale the site tells us.”
Ardul links her arm through Hunters as they walk, thinking deeply as they walk. “Northern Gun. That was the outfit you contracted to, wasn’t it? Would they be involved with Xiticiks or rather, what do you make of that walking building?” Glancing up, she takes in his features, judging his response to her questions.
“Unlikely. Northern Gun was threatened by the Xiticiks expansion as much as anyone in that area. They fought same as everyone else to wipe those damn bugs out. It’s not likely the insects are piloting that thing anyway and their products are common enough. Their explorer bots are a bit expensive though. Usually things for teams of people.” Hunter pauses and considers. “Well financed teams.”
“Whatever the case it may give us a means to track them now that we know to look for it.”
“As I thought.” Ardul murmurs, deep in thought as they walk. “If the bugs are controlled with illegal tech from my planet, whoever owns that thing is likely the one we really want.” She’d say ‘bugs be damned’ but she’s what they do. They need to be stopped as well.That she and Hunter have been marked by one doesn’t really enter her thoughts.
“Financed teams. So someone with money. And if you know how to track them, then we’re ahead.” Somehow, she doesn’t think it’s going to be that easy, but then again, it never is.
“When do you want to go and do we need anything more than our usual equipment?”
“Soon and no I don’t think so. If there were any exposed Hazmat I think we would have noticed the last time but we’ll give the place a once over from inside the bot before we go in on foot. As to when? Soon as we can catch a break in our work. Tomorrow, if possible.”
Whenever they can get over, honestly, it won’t be soon enough.
“Then let’s stay here tonight. Find an inn, have a meal and start out first thing in the morning?” There’ll be no argument from the winged blonde on this. She’s just as keen as he is. “I can check with the armsmen and maybe see Kaji this afternoon. See how his training is going.”
Someones using tech that was banned on her world. Tech that someone is targetting Hunter with. When she finds out who’s responsible, there will be trouble.