The group had made camp after leaving the Wolfen vessel and woken early the next morning to continue their journey. All of them are aware they’re on the clock. The bandits who stole the medical supplies caravan and kidnapped the medic had a reasonable headstart on them. That, and they seemed to be fairly well armed.
The journey has taken them along trade routes where the trees grow tall here and the marshes where the Caravan supposedly entered the cave system are still a good half days ‘walk’ – that’s walk with the ATV and the wolfbot.
The ironwood trees still grow here, but in the section of the forest where they just entered, there are other trees too. Trees with purple hued trunks and spikey lilac coloured flowers that line the branches. As the group moves through, the branches on the trees seem to move restlessly. Surely that’s the just the wind isn’t it? Not that anyone noticed a wind before entering here.
Hunter’s equipment is showing faint EM type readings but it’s hard to get a fix on them. Might the Ironwood Trees still interferring.
After that last encounter, Pegi had resumed her usual spot within the ATV, snugging next to Felipe. Her eyes remain on the road, but she feels better being beside her brother and behind the metal walls of the vehicle. After all, the still have a job to do, but she’s still unsettled by the antagonism between the other tribe and Hunter. The tribes varied in practices here and there, but it makes her sick to think that it could have been her family standing off against the Wolfen. Her family could be quite stubborn at times, after all.
It’s such thoughts that make her groan quietly now and then, her chin bumping Felipe’s head if not one of the curved horns adorning the sides of her helmet as she leans closer to him. She’s not as attentive to the road as she should be, admittedly.
A snug Saurian is something he’s grown accustomed to having around; inside of the ATV, Pegi’s presence is good to have while driving. She helps by unintentionally keeping Felipe awake. Almost closing his eyes in the past few minutes alone is enough to raise his level of awareness, honing back into the present from any lucid dreaming.
Even with a short amount of rest, the doctor finds himself readjusting to make use of his energy wisely over the course of the ‘chase.’ As with all of his agendas, he makes sure to shove the last encounter’s events into the recesses of his mind. The last thing he needs to think about is the trouble they all may have gotten into because of some sacred meanings he can never understand.
Saurians have their practices. Wolfen may have them, too. The system of beliefs and generational practices aren’t any of /his/ business at the moment. /Their/ priority is the missing caravan.
He can’t, however, ignore Pegi and her troubled noises. “Hey,” he says after a beat of silence, casting a brief sidelong glance before returning his attention to the road ahead. “What’s the matter?”
Hunter has been quiet the whole way. The only noise really today from him has been the heavy tread of his assault bot. The EM interference gets a frown from him at first. Then a faint ‘huh’. Finally the wolfen keys the radio.
“Got some interferance up ahead…” He says. He’s not really cognizant of the stuff going on in the ATV at the moment.
Ardul cracks an eye open and looks out the hood of the ATV at Hunters call. “Want me to take a look?” She glances at Pegi’s groaning, waiting to hear the Saurians answer to her brothers question as she pops the top and exits.
As they round the bend in the road, the purple trunked trees boughs turn towards them, branches seemingly following them. Pegi and Felipe should be able to see this.
Hunter’s equipment gives him a reading, those trees, they seem to be getting warmer… Like something is building up in them.
Pegi shakes her head at Felipe. She doesn’t really feel like talking about it, but it isn’t really that difficult to hazard a guess.
When Hunter’s voice comes up on the radio, the young Saurian looks over towards it quietly before turning her attention ahead, leaning forwards towards the viewport. “…careful,” she voices. She never trusts plants that seem to move by themselves, but it serves to bring her focus on the hear and now.
Seeing Pegi like this is strange. He knows she has a range of emotions, but to see her like this for an extended period of time immediately tells him he doesn’t like it. But if she doesn’t feel like talking, he isn’t going to force her to say anything.
Despite his own loss of words, he also glances down at the radio signal from Hunter, tensing slightly at the notice. Every ping on the radar is a surprise no one wants, but they have to deal with it. He looks back up, studying the brightly-colored trees within his line of sight.
“Well,” he finally says after a few moments, brow furrowing as he speaks plaintively, “That can either be good or bad.”
“Guys stop.” He finally says. The assault bot stops in its tracks and the torso starts to twist as he peers around. “Thermal signatures are increasing. The trees are starting to heat up. A lot.”
Well a lot more than normal. They’re not anything that they have to worry about now. But if they catch fire or turn the area into an oven… maybe Pegi knows something about this?
Ardul was heading in the direction that Hunter had indicated the interference was, right into the line of the trees heading off at angle to the ATV.
Coming to stop at Hunters voice, the blonde looks back at the group. “The trees are heating up?” She looks towards them. Through the forest the lumbering of a dinosaur can be heard, finally registering on the wolfbots equipment. It’s moving parallel to them, towards them, but it’s starting to turn in their direction.
That’s when the first barb embeds itself in the ATV’s cover and bounces off the wolfbots exoskeleton… Virulent purple, just like the flowers on those trees.
It’s only just before the first attack comes that Pegi remembers something of the deceptively pretty trees. “Ardul, come back!” she shouts, just as something seemingly explodes from one of the trees. She cries out as the barb punches through the ATV’s plating, grabbing Felipe to pull back out of reflex, although thankfully the thing hadn’t gone through the front.
“Fire Eyes!” she shouts over the radio. “Pegi not see them before, only told stories! They seek heat, shoot hooks from flowers!” Even as she speaks she tries to shove Felipe down as she moves towards the hatch, axe in hand, her head poking outside to look for Ardul.
“Hunter okay? Metal seems thicker, but there lots of flowers…!”
“What the — ?!”
A shadow engulfs Felipe, gravity throwing him back as the barb cracks the ATV open like a walnut. The sharp screech of metal plating is almost deafening as Felipe tries to regain his bearings, blinking rapidly to clear his vision while practically lounging in Pegi’s arms.
That, indeed, is a unusually large barb stuck on the canopy of the ATV.
Eloquently, the doctor swears. ” — Why does this place have voracious flora!” he yells at no one in particular, easily shoved onto the bottom of the vehicle in an uncomfortable position.
“GO! ARDUL, GET THEM OUT!” Hunter yells into his radio as he turns and opens up in an alpha strike at the nearest concentration of plants. Partly this is to destroy some of them. Mostly it’s to cause a heat spike in his bot. These things seem to be able to launch those spikes hard enough to damage it, but better it than them. The ATV won’t take much of that. Neither will it’s passengers.
“What the…” Ardul ducks as a barb sails over her head, embedding in the road just behind her. “Pegi… what do you know about these?” She turns, wings spanning out behind her like a shield. That’s probably not such a good idea, but it’s instinctive. More barbs fly in her direction, she’s fast enough at the moment, that they miss. How long that will hold for is in question.
Pegi’s head poking out of the ATV gets a rain of barbs. They seem to follow heat … which might be borne out by the way the wolfbot gets the bulk of the ‘attack’ as his heat spikes. There’s a lot of barbs heading his way.
“Get the ATV going… Hunter, move.” The trees thin several yards ahead.
The barbs on the ATV seem to be oozing something that’s starting to hiss a little on the material of the ATV. Pegi might need to use her axe though to deflect the barbs or even get them out of the vehicle.
There’s no way they’ll last very long if they left the safety of the ATV, but even now, that safety seems to be compromised. Pegi grits her teeth, hauling herself onto the roof, axe brandished and swinging at the first barb at an angle, her metal leg lifting to step on the other end of the axe so that it will lever the barb out. She flings the axe back to send the barb flying, then swings again to try deflecting the ones that are oncoming.
“Felipe, make go faster!” she shouts down the hatch, grasping her weapon as she watches for more incoming. “Better if they find other target!” She’s not sure how much Hunter’s bot can take, and no matter what had happened earlier, she doesn’t want him getting hurt. With the continuing rain of barbs, it’s impossible for her to get a better look around, not that she can see anything that might better draw the attention of these things from her current position. And starting a fire in the woods just seems like a really bad idea in general.
“If hooks stay too long, you melt away!” The stories were always told as warning, with little detail aside from fact as they understood it to be. Given the damage they seem to be doing to the ATV itself, it’s probably not wise to get hit by one in the flesh.
Felipe grunts. Trying to ignore the pain of the earlier crushing of his bag, he clambers clumsily back into his seat. “Faster. Okay, faster,” he rambles, hands slipping, then grasping onto the ATV controls tightly.
He can’t afford to lose time here. Because melting? Melting is not fun. “I choose to melt another day,” he says coolly through clenched teeth, doing what he can as he guns the vehicle’s engine.
Hunter has turned. His bot has it’s back facing the ATV and he’s spraying fire at every heat source he can identify. His targeting computer is working over time to mark them. And he has a lot of guns. Pegi and Felipe may never have seen just what that is, though. Rockets launch from four or five separate hard points. The dual rail cannon spew tracers. The ion gun pours coruscating blue light into the scenery. Lasers shoot from the chest and head.
It’s the world’s deadliest light show. Hunter hopes it buys the others enough time. He’s starting to get armor integrity warnings.
Pegi’s axe dislodges the barb but Felipe guns the engines on ATV just as she tries to flick it away, the thing rolls down the body of the vehicle. It’s still oozing but at least it’s not oozing into the material.
Felipe’s driving leaves a lot to be desired as the little ATV lurches and stops as he tries to get it moving. Another volley of barbs come their way. “Keep moving…” that’s Ardul as she follows the ATV.
Hunter’s shooting takes a tree and then another and then another … leaving smouldering husks of once pretty purple trunks. “Hunter, they’re nearly clear. Pull out… ” the blonde calls as she moves.
There’s only a few feet and they’ll be clear.
She very nearly loses her balance as the ATV moves beneath her foot, her metal leg thunking as it resettles on the top of the vehicle, wedging against an upraised paneling so that she has something to brace against. Hunching slightly, Pegi lifts her axe, angling it to try smacking and deflecting barbs from finding their mark.
With the fireworks display that Hunter is putting on with his mech’s weapons, it’s difficult /not/ to have a look back. The metal Wolfen practically breathes fire upon the woods, shoots lightning and blasts of lines made of light that sear like concentrated sunbeams. It’s a truly awesome and terrifying display.
‘Keep moving…’ And that’s what he intends to do.
There is little he knows about the ATV and its inner workings. He doesn’t even know its mileage. Experiencing its abrupt lurching firsthand isn’t the way he needs to learn about it while on the run from the live Fire Eye plants, but getting by on its power is all that matters.
His focus, lifting from his earlier distraction of plant barbs on the vehicle itself to the end of the clearing up ahead of them. “Almost…!!”
“Acknowledged.” Hunter throws his bot into reverse. His heads up display is a wash of warnings and thermal imaging. It’s almost blinding and the claxons in his ear are really annoying… but… they’re alive and that’s what’s important. “Almost out. My armor… is going to need some looking at. I may have a puncture or two. Are there any others around?
Almost is right. Felipe manages to get the ATV moving and Pegi … well Pegi misses a swing and a barb embeds in the canopy right near Felipes head. He can feel the corrosive liquid starting to drip. Pegi better be quick at dislodging that one, lest her brother starts to melt…
Even as that happens, they clear the guantlet of the ‘Fire Eyes’ and the barrage of barbs simply stop. Of course, that also has a lot to do with the Wolf Bot and it’s devestating weapons demolishing the trees as they fled.
Ardul stumbles through, the barbs mostly being attracted by the ATV and Hunter. Her armour is scratched where barbs hit her … but for the most part she seems uninjured. Maybe. “Clear, Hunter.” She calls, turning to watch the Wolf Bot bearing down on them. “We’ll find a place to make camp and we’ll look at it. It’s clear, there’s no more trees out here. Pegi, Felipe, report.”
Growling, Pegi fiercely attacks the daring barb, bringing the bottom curve of her axe downwards to catch it so she can try ripping it out and away. Even as she does so she can already tell that the projectiles have thinned out, and with no more heading their way, she can freely look towards Hunter’s hulking bot, anxious to see it make its way out of the smouldering treeline.
Slowly the Saurian sinks down atop the ATV’s top to sit, sighing tiredly. “Pegi not see anything. We okay…Felipe?” she calls down, just to be certain. “Ardul okay? Hunter?”
“WHOA!!” The ATV swerves. Slamming against the side, Felipe tries to shake it off, in order to regain control of the steering. He feels the sting of something dripping onto him, too busy to realize that the barb’s leak and its entirety is quickly handled by Pegi. He yanks on the apparatus, fishtailing the vehicle to a rough halt.
Slumped over the half-ruined paneling, a low groan from the doctor grows in volume. He slowly lifts his head, placing a palm against the side of his face. “I’m alive. I think.” He then winces. “Mostly,” he adds, correcting himself as he turns his head to look at his shoulder. “…Which begs the question: is anyone badly injured?”
Does Hunter’s bot count? Well maybe not badly injured but it backs out (literally walks backwards) out of the artificial conflageration. It’s really quite the sight. Some embers seem to have gotten on it and it’s on fire. It’s also venting heat like a radiator which makes it smoke and steam in the early spring air.
It really does, at the moment, look like a demon out of a mechanical hell.
Hunter’s Bot counts, though it’s likely he and Ardul that will get to do the doctoring on it when they make camp. “You may need to check my wing, Doctor.” Ardul says, as she joins them. She’s not saying much right at the moment, he look at it later.
“I suggest we don’t stop for long and find somewhere safe to make camp. We’ve still got a way to go before we make the Marsh.”
It’s going to be a long night.
The search for the missing caravan continues to take Ardul, Felipe, Hunter and Pegi into the ever dangerous wilderness where not even flowers are purely what they seem to be.
March 09, 2410