South of Vesper, about six miles down the coast, there is an old mill by a brackish, sluggish river. It didn’t used to be sluggish and it’s been there for a couple hundred years. Since the dark ages, really. It’s solidly built, out of stone. It hasn’t been in use for years, Vesper is long since past the need to mill wheat with wind power. It’s quite the landmark for the locals though. Not many people live nearby, but some do.
Some of those people have been threatened by an old acquaintance of Hunter’s named ‘Jack’ who is, as he explained it to both Ardul last night and Yaren this morning when he came to call on him, something called a ‘gunfighter’. Also a very, very dangerous man.
Hunter isn’t using his bot. He’s walking. Six miles is a bit to walk, further than a lot of people but walking is less obvious than using a multi-ton war machine to get around. “So mostly I want to see the Mill and then see if anyone lives nearby… and if anything has happened to them.” He explains as the mill comes into sight, still a decent walk away.
Ardul’s no stranger to walking. Well ok, she might be. With those wings the six miles would have been covered in less time, but been far more conspicious. Stil, she’s used to walking distances – it was a good way to discipline some of her more rambuncous recruits and young soldiers.
Besides she’d miss out on the wonderful company of her two walking companions.
“That makes sense.” she nods as Hunters explains “Getting the lay of the land will help, but I wouldn’t put it past Jack, to ambush you. Be alert.”
Walking any distance is never a bother to Yaren. It’s how he always travels, unless an alternate method of transportation is offered, and it has only been during his time here that he’s had the privilege to do so.
He’s all too happy to accompany Hunter and Ardul on this visitation, easily his oldest acquaintances since coming to this world. Despite the potential danger that has brought the matter to Hunter’s attention, Yaren can still enjoy the company.
Nodding as he looks ahead towards the unusual structure that is apparently a ‘mill,’ the tricorn-wearing figure decides he rather likes its design. “…how do you know this Jack, Hunter? Would he so readily harm innocents?”“He was a gunfighter and criminal operating near a town called Redscale down in the New Mexico desert.” Hunter replies as they walk. “I had something of a reputation myself by that time, so he called me out in the street one day in town. I shot him. And when that happened his crew intervened. So I shot them too. A lot of them didn’t survive.”
That may or may not make sense to Yaren, or to Ardul. “And yes, he would absolutely harm innocents to get his way. Guy’s scum.”
“He would harm innocents, yes.” Ardul answers Yaren quietly. “He was quite happy to threaten Hunter with harm to myself.” Which the blonde finds mildly amusing. She can more than look after herself and Jack might be in for a nasty surprise should he try her.
“It is the law of the air, Hunter.” Grey eyes turn to the Wolfen as they walk and then Yaren. “Stop those who would harm you before they can. You bested the man who called you out, they wanted to try you – you bested them too. No harm in remaining alive to see another day.”
Shading her eyes, she looks out to mill and wrinkles her nose at the water. “It’s hard to see much from this vantage, but there appears to a dwelling over there.”
With only a vague sense of what it meant to be called out, Yaren could at least guess that it meant something of a challenge? And after seeing Hunter’s skill with a gun, he is not surprised at all by the outcome as the Wolfen tells it.
The glowing eyes that express all and reveal not much else narrow slightly. “‘Scum’,” he repeats, as if tasting the word. These beings do have an interesting way of describing unsavory sorts. But then he does not take so kindly to those who intend to harm friends. Briefly he glances in Ardul’s direction, although he has no doubt that the woman could take care of herself regardless of what threats she received. This Jack-fellow has chosen…poorly.
“Then…if this one understands correctly, this Jack…is something of a sore loser.”That makes Hunter laugh. “You could say that yes.” Sore loser is one rather mild and polite way of describing Jack.
Ardul has indeed spotted a dwelling. Half a mile or so inland from the mill and Hunter swerves toward it. Before long everyone can hear a dog barking. And see smoke.
It’s not clear what’s burning. It doesn’t look particularly like anything is. It’s more… smoke rising from a fire that has burned itself out.
“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” The dog’s barking echos in the air but no people come forward to greet them or demand what they’re doing.
The severe angles of Arduls face are cut for a moment as she smiles at Yarens observation. “Just so, Yaren.” she agrees and looks to Hunter as he laughs. But not for long, she sniffs and shades her eyes once more “Smoke.” she says flatly, moving with Hunter towards the building.
Fanning out, not to seperate the group but to give sufficient cover, the blonde ensures Yaren is between her and the Wolfen. “Because you’ve sense and experience.” she says in answer to the question looking around for the dog as they approach. Won’t help if the poor thing thinks they’re a danger and she’s enough experience to know that canines are more guard dogs than pets.
That’s never a good sign. Yaren can’t frown, but somehow it’s conveyed with his eyes. “Given the signs, this one is inclined to feel the same, Hunter. …shall this one have Iinya scout from above?” he asks. At least from the air, they’ll have a wider view of what lies before them, even as they go closer to investigate what seems to be burning.
At its name, the silvery winged serpent lifts its head from where it has been tucked beneath a wing, forked tongue flicking in and out as large eyes peer up at his shadowed ‘face.’Iinya’s view is not encouraging. There’s the smouldering remains of a structure that might have been a barn or workspace. A house stands not too far away, thankfully untouched. The dog – a fairly large one – is tied up to a tree, tugging at the lead and barking incessantly.
Hunter hurries his pace only to slow again as they approach. There are lots of reasons one might be greeted by a scene like this in Rifts Earth but in Vesper those should happen less. A lot less.
“Not good. Spread out. See what you can find.”
Ardul has unclipped that cylinder from her hip, but the energy sword is not yet ignited. With a look to the dog, then the barn and then Hunter, she frowns. “The dog might lead us to its owners.” She doesn’t say, given the scene that has greeted them, what condition she expects to find them.
For now, though, she’ll leave the poor thing where it is and moves towards the barn, checking it over. She’ll not enter what’s left, not yet but she’ll give the area a thorough going over.
Yaren’s limited expression is however grim as he sees what Iinya sees. The view from up close is certainly no better.
The barking of the dog is concerning, as it’s uncertain whether it is because of the burnt out structure or some lingering threat. Yaren nods at the Wolfen’s suggestion as he cautiously moves to investigate. He mentally nudges Iinya to expand its circling from above to see if anything else might be seen that they on the ground might not.
Ardul’s words are given consideration before he turns to check on the dog.Iinya can clearly see heavy vehicle tracks, deep mud ruts carved into the ground sodden from recent rains. They’re fresh-ish too. There’s been no time for water to pool in them or anything to start growing. Someone was here, recently. There’s also what seem like oddly heavy hoof prints, as from a horse. A horse that weighs a ton.
Ardul, as she circles, finds a scrap of fabric. On closer inspection it appears to have been caught on a protruding root and torn from a garment, possibly a skirt or dress. There’s blood on it.
Something bad happened here.
It doesn’t take long for Hunter to come back from inspecting the burnt out structure. His face is grim.
Bending to collect the piece of fabric, Ardul takes her time to examine it. When she sees the blood, she scowls and rises, turning on heel to return to the others.
The look on her face might match Hunters and she holds the scrap out to him. “Either they were injured and ran or someone took them by force.” She won’t say Jack’s name, but she’s sure they’re all thinking it. “What did you find?”
Easing towards the dog, Yaren lifts his hands, speaking softly to it before he comes to halt perhaps several feet out of reach. “Easy now…be calm,” he not quite whispers.
At the faint, echoing chime from somewhere high above, he raises his head, violet eyes dimming slightly as he shares Iinya’s sight then. He blinks and turns to look towards the other two.
“…tracks of some kind,” he reports, pointing in the direction that Iinya had seen them. “Recent by the looks of it. A vehicle, and something that might belong to a four-legged creature, a heavy one.”The dog whines and backs a bit but stops barking. It’s afraid. Worried. Missing it’s people, likely. There’s no one in the house and a lot of the stuff looks overturned.
Hunter’s look darkens at the news that Ardul and Yaren provide. “I can smell ozone and fusion coolant and there’s half a dozen people scents criss crossing this place. Best guess is someone showed up in a big heavy vehicle. There was a confrontation, maybe an altercation and then two maybe three people were loaded into the vehicle by force and driven off. This was around… dawn, I’d say. So six or seven hours ago.
Arduls scowls deepens as Hunter and Yaren share their information, the scrap of fabric held loosely in her fingers. “We should follow. If people were taken by force, then they should be freed.” The blondes wings unfold to their full span, careful not to startle the dog anymore than it is.
“Iinya and I can track from the skies and guide you two in … but I don’t think we should delay any further.”
Seems she’s not a fan of this at all.
Hunter’s summary of his findings are nothing short of amazing. But they are still grim findings, nonetheless. As much as Yaren wants to ask what the purpose would be of those people being taken, he has a feeling he can guess, given what Ardul had so earlier recounted.
Looking at the dog, Yaren steps closer if he’s allowed, to give it a reassuring pat. He can’t make promises, but he hopes they won’t be too late for the dog’s owners.
“This one agrees,” he says, nodding as he straightens. “Iinya is ready whenever we are.”“Yeah. If you can give us a direction then let’s go. We’re at a disadvantage because we’re… dismounted. But I can run. How are you for… physical exertion, Yaren?” If necessary Hunter can carry him. Yaren looks pretty light.
The wolfen hopes.
“Let’s do it then.” Ardul glances to the dog and around the area again. “I’ll keep in touch by comms, Hunter.” And Iinya will speak to Yaren, however that happens.
With a leap, the blonde’s wings beat down powerfully, stirring the dirt on the ground as she lifts.
It won’t be long before she’s circling round to those tracks that Iinya saw and quartering the area with the little snake.
“This one can manage,” Yaren replies, canting his head towards the Wolfen. He doesn’t quite move by completely physical means as it is, although it’s true that he wouldn’t weigh much at all if Hunter opted to carry him.
Iinya chime-chirps at Ardul as the winged warrior comes up to join it in the air, and wheeling once, zips off in the direction of the tracks.Hunter nods to Yaren and once Ardul has indicated a direction he sets off at a run.
And boy can this wolfen run. He wasn’t wrong about the other people having a head start and a speed advantage. The track heads out to the beach and then stright south. Behind and below Ardul the grey furred wolfen tirelessly pounds along the surf. It’d be impressive to watch if there were anyone out here to see it. Well, anyone who isn’t also involved in doing the same.
It’s miles – ten or more – before Ardul spots a heavy ATV near what appears to be the crumbled ruins of a dark age lighthouse.
Ardul might spare more than glance for Wolfen. She’s not seen him move like this before and it is indeed impressive. He might even given her a run for her money – and on two feet, the Valkyr’s no slouch either. Up here, she makes the distance seem effortless – it isn’t but she’s still got plenty of reserves.
Relaying the information to Hunter, the blonde circles around, keeping her distance but using her keen eyesight to look for danger and appropriate approaches.
“There’s an track from the south side of the lighthouse that’s sheltered by the cliff that’s there. You should be able to approach undetected and I can come from above.”
Yaren doesn’t so much run as glide over the ground as he falls in after Hunter. He’s bent over practically horizontal, his feet moving intermittently as though in afterthought, as though reminded that such is how things should work. Were one watching him, it would seem more like his body was being pulled forward by some unseen force than actually propelling himself off the ground, and it’s only due to that that his ‘pace’ might seem smoother than the Wolfen’s, although not nearly as fast.
His eyes dim again as he navigates both by his own and via Iinya’s sight from above. With its sleek form, the winged serpent cuts quickly through the air with little resistance, wings twitching minutely to catch the wind just enough to keep aloft at a steady height. Again there’s that echoing chirp once they do sight the old lighthouse, although it’s a sound that carries only to Ardul. Iinya flits off in the opposite direction as the winged woman begins her circling, the smaller gliding a little higher as it keeps an eye out below.Hunter veers to take the track indicated by Ardul, glancing behind him only to make sure that Yaren is following. He only slows when they get within earshot of the shack.
“There’s people here.” He murmurs. He can tell by the scent. And moments later by the muffled sobbing coming from inside.
“Can’t see anything inside Ardul, but there’s people there. Not sure how many…”
The wolfen pauses and looks at Yaren. “Any chance you can get a look inside?” There are, after all, always animals around beaches like this. Gulls. Crabs. That kind of thing.
When Iinya chimes at her, Ardul raises serious grey eyes at the little serpent and nods once. “Keep a keen eye out, little one.” she says as the creature climbs.
“I can’t see anything either, Hunter. The roofs deteroriating at the north end, but I don’t want to want to risk getting any closer. At least not yet.” She could well destroy the advantage they have. “If Yaren can get us the layout, we can use pincer movement. You from the ground and me from up here.”
Coming up beside Hunter, Yaren squints towards the shack as his eyes brighten to their usual vibrance. He nods slowly at Hunter, looking from the shack to their surroundings for whatever wildlife might be about.
He slowly starts towards something, kneeling beside what looks to be a beetle that wanders along, minding its own business. It’s probably lost. Carefully he brings a gloved hand down to it, letting it climb up before he lifts it to eye level. “If you please,” he says, apparently speaking to the insect. His glowing eyes flicker, and although perhaps not very noticeable from anyone’s current position, the eyes of the beetle briefly glow violet before fading.
While Yaren remains on on knee where he is, the beetle turns itself about on his hand, its wings unfolding from beneath its carapace before buzzing into a blur that immediately lifts it into the air and off. It is quite honestly one of the most dizzying things to watch from a first-person point of view, and it seems the shiny thing is terrible at flying. At least it heads towards the shack. It might bounce off the wall a few times before it gets to an opening.As Yaren sends his beetle in a door opens on the far side from the wolfen and the energy being. Ardul can see it though. It’s a man, armored and armed. He stretches and heads over to the ATV for something. She probably should not let him see her or Iinya.
Inside, Yaren’s projected consciousness can see a man and a woman tied up. The woman is wearing a light blue dress the skirt of which is torn. Both of them look injured. There’s also two other men, both armed, sitting at a table playing what appears to be some kind of card game. A hostage situation to be sure.
Hunter draws but doesn’t move, waiting for the report back.
Above, Ardul watches Yaren, blonde eyebrows climbing to her hairline. Interesting. She’ll ask Hunter later if he knew of that.
As the door opens, the blonde pulls back, keeping herself hidden but watching. “One subject has exited the structure.” she murmurs when she’s sure it safe. “Headed to the ATV. Might be going to collect something.”
She’s barely moving herself and doesn’t dare ignite her sword. Not yet. They’ve got to keep the element of surprise on their side.
“…two are tied up, a man and woman,” Yaren speaks up quietly, still hunched over, but with Hunter’s sharp hearing, it shouldn’t be a problem to pick up. “Both are injured. There are two others with weapons, but they seem to be engaged in a game of sorts.”
The beetle has landed on the window sill, sitting there for a while before it begins to totter along its length as it prepares to take off again, but Yaren takes advantage of its hesitance to make sure he’s seen what he needs to before he pulls away from the beetle’s tiny consciousness.“Don’t let him go back inside.” Hunter murmurs to Ardul. “Yaren, with me. I’m going in.”
The wolfen surges up and slams hard into the door. The relatively flimsy thing shatters and the two men at the table instictively flip it sending cards scattering everywhere. One of them doesn’t quite make it. Hunter puts a hole in his chest before he ducks. The other one draws a weapon and starts to point it, worryingly, at the tied up woman.
Outside the shattering sound has the one by the ATV turning in alarm and drawing a weapon. he hasn’t seen Ardul though.
“Acknowledged.” Ardul doesn’t waste breath telling Hunter, and Yaren, to be careful. They’ll do what they needs must. For herself, she folds her wings back and starts diving, bringing that sword of hers to life as she does.
As the man turns and draws his gun, he’s met by the rush of the Valkyr. Energy flashing to disarm him and keep him bailed up, whilst the others conduct the rescue.
His nod is brief, his action immediate as he sweeps in right after Hunter. Iinya may already be on its way down, but Yaren knows it won’t get to the shack in time, not with how quickly things develop.
The first shot is fired and one of the two armed men goes down. Seeing the second point his gun at one of the hostages, Yaren glares, his violet eyes ticking towards magenta as they flare briefly, and he surges past the Wolfen. A pile of clothing and a hat drop not one step past him, but something else continues to rush onwards, tinted in that same magenta hue as it plunges right through the overturned table and through the gunner himself, straight on through him as well.Ardul’s strike literally slices the barrel of the man’s gun in two but he rather gamely punches at her. He hits her armor so it doesn’t particularly do anything effective but he’s trying.
Yaren just… ceases to be beside Hunter. His clothes are still there, on the floor, but there’s nothing in them. The gunman sort of stops in his tracks. Dazed.
And then the wolfen punches him with his cybernetic hand. It sends him into the wall and sliding to the floor.
Ardul can hear the terrified screaming inside and the sounds of fighting.
“That’s not very nice…” Ardul grunts as the punch connects with her armour. It might be effective, but it still smarts and knocks her back some.
Without saying anything more, the Valkyr draws her arm back and slugs him. There’s a satisfying crunch as her gauntleted hand meets his face. And he drops. Knocked out on the ground.
Taking a few moments to ensure that he’s secure, she’ll want to speak to him when he comes around, the blonde makes her way to the shack. Hopefully it’s not any of hers that’s getting hurt.
The swirling energy floats freely, looping upwards after Hunter follows up to knock out the remaining gunman. It flows back towards where the boots, clothing and hat have been haphazardly scattered along the floor, and slowly but surely begins to fill it out. A fully clothed figure rises, a gloved hand reaching down to pick up the tricorn that yet rested on the floor, setting it over nothingness behind the high collar and cowel of Yaren’s jacket. His violet gaze blinks out from the shadowless depths, turning to look at the two prone forms on the floor, the Wolfen, and then the hostages yet tied up.
“Nicely done, Hunter,” he says with a nod at his friend. “…and it sounds like Ardul has also taken care of things outside.” His eyes almost seem to smile before he turns towards the two hostages to see about getting them untied. “Are you badly injured?” he asks. They look worse for wear, but he’s no medical expert.The woman had been near hysterical and Ardul retaking a more or less corporeal form only slightly calms her. What’s more calming is the sight of Hunter hauling the KO’d kidnapper off the wall and opening the door to see that Ardul has things well in hand.
“Got him? Good. We have civillians in here.”
At this point he turns but Yaren is already making calming conversation.
“W-we… we were beaten before our capture… I think that John’s shoulder is…”
Oh it’s dislocated. And John, a grey haired man, seems delirious.
“They… they took Susan…”
“And you got yours…” Ardul murmurs, running her eyes over the Wolfen to see if he’s hurt. “Are you or Yaren injured?” she asks, making her way past him. Wings folded again, held tight against her back, she listens to the woman speak.
“Where did they take her, do you know?” She’s already looking to Hunter. “We will follow and bring her back.”
As for John, the blonde winces “Are you skilled at first aid, Yaren?” If not, she’s fixed enough of these injuries in the field. It’s just not going to be pleasant.
Violet eyes narrow as the woman attempts to explain what had happened. These poor people, beaten needlessly… And the third- Hunter had said there should have been three. “How many more are there?” It’s just a guess, but he’s assuming Jack is not one of the ones they’d taken down, although he could have hoped.
“This one is unharmed,” Yaren replies, looking over towards Ardul once she comes in. He looks concernedly at the two former hostages, shaking his head. “…this one does not know…first aid,” he admits, sounding apologetic. His head cocks for a moment before he speaks again. “Iinya continues to watch outside.”“I’ll get it.” Dislocated shoulders aren’t hard to fix. Just painful. The wolfen walks over to the dazed man and grabs his arm. There might be screaming, briefly, for this next part.
In the mean time Iinya can continue to confirm that they’re not in for any surprises.
“Only one more. A man with… almost greasy hair and a pistol. Like his.” Once she’s unbound she points at Hunter. “He had a robotic horse. I don’t know where he was taking her. He only said something about her being his insurance.” She pauses before sobbing again.
“Please. Don’t let anything happen to her…”
Ardul is more than happy to let Hunter fix that shoulder but she’ll crouch next to the man as Hunter does.
“Jack.” she says quietly for Yaren when the description is given. “We will try, Ma’am.” the blonde says. “We should be able to track him and find out where he’s taken her.” Of course, they’ll have to get these two to safety first.
Not having any idea as to what Hunter intends to do, much less what’s wrong with the man’s arm, Yaren can only watch as the Wolfen and Ardul set to work. He stays beside the woman, cringing just slightly at the man’s obvious pain. This is a medical treatment???
Looking back at the poor woman, he nods slowly before he glances back at Ardul and Hunter. “…that would explain the strange tracks.” Hopefully they’d be able to pick up the trail again, but at the moment, they surely can’t leave these two alone. A glance is cast towards the unconscious gunmen.
“And what of those two?”“We need to get these two to safety. And I’d like a word with this one…” Hunter points to the unconscious kidnapper before he pops John’s shoulder back into place. This jolts John momentarily awake and he does scream out.
“After that, yes Miss, we’ll go find Susan.” Hunter knows exactly where she’ll be found. Jack won’t make it too hard.
This is all for Hunter’s benefit, after all.