Hunter had spent a lot of time being looked at to make sure that he hadn’t been compromised. The good news is… he hadn’t. Then Ardul had spent a long time doing the same. She hasn’t been compromised either.
So, having gotten what they came for the trio of freedom fighters had returned to Vesper. The rest of the Iyesgarthians are in Saren’s Rest and while word has been sent to them, there isn’t any ferry until tomorrow, so they’re staying the night.
It isn’t that late though and Hunter is hungry so he’s settled in a restaurant with a bottle of wine and some… er… meat. He’s not sure what. He’s got the data that Yaren procured and he’s looking over it as he sips royal purple liquid.
It had been a rousing adventure with one too many close calls, but they’d all made it back, and they had what they’d sought out.
Yaren had informed them of his less than discreet escape, but at least none of them had been followed, and he didn’t think it necessary to apologize despite feeling that his egress had been rather sloppy.
Now left in silence as Hunter eats and studies his findings, the clothed specter has enough time to brood over other possible actions he could have taken as he sits with the Wolfen, other methods he might have access to. He thinks of black waters and distant voices.
Ardul isn’t sure she believes that Hunter isn’t compromised. He had a nanite on him and they saw what the ‘sleepers’ in Clearwater had been like. It’s probably understandable that she’s jumpy.
She’s not drinking as the others are, she is watching the restaurant, unable to shift the feeling of unease that she has. Something Hunter will see by the way her wings shift slightly. “We must thank you, Yaren, for the service you did.”
Hunter had insisted that he was fine but… if he WERE compromised he would insist that he was fine, wouldn’t he? So it’s all rather difficult to tell. And he’s the one analyze the data they’ve got too. If she can trust him everything is fine. If she can’t….
“Yes, thank you Yaren.” Hunter looks up at Ardul. “Try some wine, really.”
It might help. He hopes.
“Hmmmm. Well. There’s a lot in here. I don’t see anything that indicates that Horatio is on the planet. BUT… I do have a list of their other secure zones and one of them seems quite… large. Much larger than anything they’re running close to here.”
“Hm?” Yaren lifts his head, glowing eyes winking in and out in a blink as he’s brought out of his thoughts. “Oh… You are both welcome. I am glad that I could be of assistance,” he replies, nodding at them.
He looks between Ardul and Hunter, gaze settling upon the latter as the Wolfen speaks up again about whatever he’s found on that data stick.
“Secure zones? Like the tower in Clearwater?” He straightens a bit in his seat, spindly fingers drumming once across the table top. “Just how much larger is this other place? …and where?”
Ardul glances to Hunter giving him a faint smile. “I you wish…” she takes a sip from the glass in front of her and looks over the data as he speaks.
Can she trust him? Can she trust herself for that matter?
“Other secure zones? On Rifts Earth? She’s trying to get a feel for the data he’s looking at. “And how much larger are we talking about? The Iyesgarthian military wasn’t … all that large and to bring troops here they must be leaving the homeworld … insecure.”
“Yes. Their operation is a lot larger than we had previously suspected.” Hunter waves the little chip that Yaren had recovered. “Most of them are that size but there’s one out in the hills that’s bigger. They took over a town called Kingsmoot. It’s an outlier settlement about a hundred miles from the Dogwood border. From the reports there’s a hundred or so of them there and they’re building it into an outpost of somekind…”
So not a lot of troops really but quite a bit for a place like this. At least, out in the wilderness it is.
Yaren’s eyes narrow, and he glances over at Ardul. “Perhaps it is not for troops of your world…” he suggests. What with the nanite experimentations and how easily the Iyesgarthians have managed to subjugate a good many people in that town they’d asked him to spy out before, it seems that they have plenty of fodder for an army at their disposal here on this world.
“What will you do now?” The information is troubling, but Yaren doesn’t know if it’s enough for whatever Hunter and Ardul had hoped to find out.
“Perhaps not…” Ardul murmurs as she considers the information “We know they are using the inhabitants of this world as troops. So perhaps you are right.” In a way, it would be good if they were bringing Iyesgarthians to Rifts Earth. Nina could launch an attack on the Throne World and wrest her crown back.
“We’re going to sabotage it, of course. Well, I rather suspect that’s what Nina will want to do. It will be her call really but she’ll take advice.”
“That’s probably true but if there IS a facility that Horatio will visit that’s secure enough for him to feel safe meeting a big supporter in, it’ll be this one.” A town that they literally rule.
“From what I’m reading here they didn’t displace or kill the population. They… kept them. And anyone else they could find for use as agents and laborers.”
No points for guessing how the managed it. It seems fairly obvious to Hunter.
“So we would be potentially up against an entire town,” Yaren observes. His tone is neutral, more thoughtful than disturbed, but then that might be because it wouldn’t be the first time he’s heard of such a thing. True, it would be tricky to deal with, depending on the numbers and ability that Hunter and Ardul had at their disposal.
“Sabotage would probably be the most ideal way to approach such a situation, unless you had an army of your own.” Pause. “But I suspect you would not wish to endanger the townsfolk if possible.”
“How many people, Hunter?” Ardul might have forgotten her concern about him being compromised – at least for the moment. “Is there anything in the data that indicates Horatio will visit it?” That might change things and the blonde is clearly thinking.
“No, Yaren. If we can we will want to free the townsfolk. They didn’t choose this, anymore than most of my people didn’t. With the right planning, we can infiltrate the city and set up our countermeasures. That will neutralise the nanites and leave Horatio and Hyfil without an army themselves. Or as much of one anyway.”
She knows she’s speaking for Nina but this is what she had grown up doing and this … Rifts Earth … is her home now.
“I would say we could try to reprogram the Nanites and turn their army against them. But … that wouldn’t make us any better than them. We might need your services again, though.”
“Soldiers or inhabitants? The data says there’s a hundred or so soldiers. It doesn’t say who they are but I’d be willing to bet based on context that they’re Iyesgarthian.” They might not be though and a hundred soldiers is a lot even if they’re just riflemen… which they also might not be.
“Inhabitants, a few hundred. It was a large town, for a wilderness town.” A few hundred is nothing compared to Vesper or Dogwood but cities do not usually get anywhere close to that.
“It might be possible to reprogram the nanites but I’d want to test that first.” He’d prefer to neutralize them or… use the nanites to knock everyone out…
It has Yaren thinking again as estimations are made and the most obvious course of action stated. Obvious however does not necessarily mean easy, and neutralizing an entire town’s worth of people for this nanite effect sounds complicated.
“…can they not just be shut down? How do these nanites operate?” he asks, lifting his gaze to the two again. He remembers the crowds of people lining the streets, chanting a song. How had he done it? Eyes narrow, and he shakes his head. No, even if it did work, that would be no better than using the nanites to control the people in their favor.
“-would they not be controlled if they were made to sleep?” he asks.
Ardul places a canister on the table when Yaren asks his questions. “That’s what the countermeasure does. Neutralises the nanites. Or at least the variants we know of. We’d need to find a way to disperse enough of the countermeasure throughout the city to affect most of the population.”
Clearly she’s thinking as she places her hand on Hunters arm.
“So we’re talking about potentially facing three to four hundred combatants. The majority of which, I’m sure, Horatio will treat as battle fodder.” Her nose wrinkles. “I wonder if we can produce enough of this to affect that many and quickly. If not, we’ll have to strategically place what we can and take out the highest risk areas. Do we have plans of the town?”
Hunter looks at Ardul and quirks a brow. “Plans of the town? Shall I go to the archives and see if I can dig them up?” It’s not like anyone submits paperwork to planning departments anymore after all. There might be plans but they’re likely to be hundreds of years out of date.
“We can do some reconnaisance on the area if you like. In fact I suggest we do before making any big moves.”
“As Ardul says Yaren, if the countermeasure can be dispersed it will interrupt control. If we put them to sleep by taking control they’ll just be… asleep. Unable to act which will be good enough for our purposes I think.”
He frowns and looks back to Ardul. “How much of that stuff do we HAVE anyway? And what do they need to make more?”
“You said you might have need of my services. Let me know what you need me to do,” Yaren says as he glances back at Ardul.
Turning towards Hunter, he nods. “What about by magical means? A spell? Vesper is full of experts in such, mages and crafters of mystical items. They can have a broad range of effect, and although I cannot cast anything myself, I can perhaps enhance if not mimic such magic as may be presented. In any case, it will be a temporary solution, but it would still cut down the numbers you need worry about facing,” he suggests.
“Don’t be cute …” Ardul mutters at Hunter, looking abashed all the same. “You manage to find all sorts of interesting data and I would rather ask.” She falls silent though. Maybe she’s thinking.
“Not enough for a hundred at the moment. And I don’t know what we need, I’m not a biotech or a doctor. I’m a soldier. Nina or one of the others will know and I’m sure they’re making more.”
“Survey and report, Yaren.” Ardul inclines her head to Hunter, supporting what he just said. “Even if we had plans, I wouldn’t trust them fully. We’ll want a basic layout, if we can get it. Peoples habits, where they congregate, what times and any places where we could situate a delivery mechanism for the countermeasure and have it effect as much of the population as possible.”
She’s asking him to get most of that. Which means he might need to spend some time in the city himself.
“I do but it’s usually not data like that.” Hunter murmurs.
“Scouting would be a good start as she says Yaren.” Hunter nods. “Beyond that it may be necessary to ask you to sew chaos and confusion, or… open the gates for us, as it were. Make sure we can get in by depriving them of their control of key individuals.”
Hunter is aware that Yaren does not like using those powers… but they might be necessary. He glances at Ardul to see if she has anything to add to that particular thought.
He’d anticipated as much, but at Ardul’s and then Hunter’s directive given, Yaren nods. Such, he can handle. He has an idea on how to best approach some reconnaissance as well.
“Very well,” he replies lastly to Hunter’s addendum. The Wolfen might be surprised for the lack of reluctance for which he agrees to such tactics as may become necessary. “Where is this place located? I will begin my scouting as soon as you wish it.”
Part of Ardul might have wished to wait to speak to Nina and the others but the more intel they can get early, the better. “I would anticipate you’ll need several days to do this, Yaren and if you find an opportunity to … ride along with Hyfil or Horatio, I’d encourage you to take it, if you could.”
Seeing through their eyes might give their band a distinct advantage when the time comes.
“Just … be careful. You’re a friend and I wouldn’t you hurt by this.”
But there’s nothing more to her to add. Which means that soon, she can go to back to brooding about Hunter.
“We’ll return to Saren’s rest and talk to Nina and the others. When you’re finished come and find us. We’ll need whatever you are able to get. In the mean time we’ll work on how to free people from the influence of the Nanites… if possible.”
That’s going to be tricky. There will be parts of Nina’s movement that want to just move in by force he is sure. They’re going to have to talk them, and possibly Nina herself down. Who knows where she stands on such matters as collateral damage.
Yaren brings a hand to touch the tip of his hat. “As things go, I shall see what can be done, Ardul,” he assures. “And I will be as careful as possible.”
He looks between them both, nodding then at Hunter. “Understood. I wish you the best of luck, then.” That’s the proper thing to say, isn’t it? He’s not sure what Ardul and Hunter will have to deal with when it comes to breaking the news to the other Iyesgarthians, but it’s not something he’ll worry about. They have their task, and he has his. Once he has the location, he pushes back in his seat to stand, and with a final nod to them, he turns to leave.
Information they needed. Information he intends to get.
“May the wind be at your back, Yaren…” Ardul says to the man as he leaves. “And we will meet again soon…”
Watching the D-Bee as he … walks … away, the blonde settles next to the Wolfen and rests her head on his shoulder. They’ll catch the ferry to the Sarens Rest and deal with the others.
She’s now sure she’s really looking forward to that.
Hunter, Ardul and Yaren go over the information that they managed to get out of Clearwater and plan out their next move against Horatio and Hyfil.
September 25, 2411