Bay of Kurita Prime
Time and date unknown.
After the clanner was properly pinned and roughed up, the fight was more or less over. This didn't stop Kashyyk from venting his frustration on the poor bastard, and the last things the Clan pilot saw were a pair of glowing red eyes, and a clenched iron fist flying toward his face at what seemed like a significant fraction of the speed of sound. A fountain of dust mixed with blood and bits of bone erupted from the point of impact, as Kashyyk's arm went elbow-deep into the ground, passing through the clanner's head like it wasn't there. The sheer brutality of the attack made even Neo wince. The effect didn't last, though. Within moments, Frelock's attention was on the wounded Rooster, Neo went scarce, and all Kashyyk was left with was a headless body, a hole in the ground, and a pronounced lack of interest for either of those things. He felt it was about time he changed something about that. Leaving Frelock to his own devices, Kashyyk picked a direction he thought was good, and started forward at a brisk jog. Somewhere out there, laying in wait of his arrival, were items of vast cosmic importance. Better known simply as "Loot".
Unbeknownst to Kashyyk, Neo shared at least that part of his thoughts. When the fight ended, he slinked away and briefly considered just finding a good place to loiter and enjoy the strange sun on this world, but thought better of it. There were obviously other things to do, better suited for getting him and the rest of the team out of this desert in the middle of nowhere. Neo wandered for some time, trying to figure out what he wanted to do, until he finally came to a familiar landmark. A hill, flattened and smoothed by a powerful explosion. A string of wrecked machines in the glassed plain, still slightly smoking. "Andrea's Furnace. What the hell happened to that guy, anyway?
" he mused, as he made his way to what was left of the convoy. An idea was slowly forming in his mind. "Transport. We need a transport. If one survived here, it should survive even with us at the wheel.
" He slowly walked around the wrecks, most of them too charred to even think about repairing, but a few vehicles at the tail end of the column were a little luckier, if still badly mangled. All except one. Standing in the shadow of a big flatbed, a tiny four-seat ATV survived the radiant hellfire with almost cosmetic injuries, the most prominent of which were half-melted tires and thoroughly boiled plastic on everything including the dashboard and seats. Whatever weapon was mounted in the back wasn't very lucky either. Now this looks promising
, Neo thought. Let's hope the driver was kind enough to leave the keys in the lock.
Neo smiled. "Well, were you?
" The man in the front seat was returning Neo's smile with the charred remains of his bare skull.
Bay of Kurita Prime
Time and date unknown.
"I'm telling you, this is an IFF module, and it does NOT go where you're trying to shove it!
"Well it's not going to connect with the knee joint servo control like you want it, what the hell are you thinking, LASD?
The quarreling has gone on for nearly an hour, and the pile of parts seemed to make no progress towards becoming a finished product. Qwer'Ty firmly believed in his superior intellect - which he, really, had every right to - and LASD firmly believed in his intuition, which was screaming at him every second time they tried to fit any two parts together. To say the assembly of the odd device wasn't going very well would be a masterpiece of understatement. And it had started so well...
After Qwer'Ty had had his ration-induced sleepwalking nightmare, he and LASD began the slow process of figuring out what parts he'd unwittingly salvaged, and from where. Many turned out to be from the wrecked truck they rode on, some more from the large pile of unused pieces left over from the dismantled Ebon Jaguar mech. Some, disturbingly, turned out to have been pried loose from the nearby Fusion Engine's cooling circuit, though Qwer'Ty assured LASD it'd have no consequences on its safety... unless somebody tried to fit it into a mech again. There was also at least one powerpack from an Elemental armor, as well as a collection of parts that once seemed to be a Small Laser, but neither LASD nor Qwer'Ty could say that for certain. When they identified everything they could, the process of assembly began.
It was the small things that were really the problem. Qwer'Ty had a faint, blurry, but fairly solid idea of what this was supposed to be, and the general frame of the device was completed rather quickly, forming a vaguely bipedal structure that was either an exoskeleton or a robot's endoframe. But when it came to fitting the bajillion individual components into this frame, everything went to pot. Unmatched - by anyone present at least - in electronics, LASD would not back down from his opinions on the device's construction, while Qwer'Ty, with his intellect and a foggy vision of the end result, considered his opinion to be superior. He'd probably tell LASD to just stay away, but he really needed the tools, and LASD refused to lend his toolbox unless his ideas were followed. Any more of this exchange, and the whole thing would have ended in disaster.
Thankfully, that was not to be. An invisible force sent both of them to the ground, pressing down as a commanding voice boomed from above. "Stop this quarrelling at once! Seriously, you people call yourselves teammates?
" LASD and Qwer'Ty looked up. In the sky above them, surrounded by brilliant green light, was a translucent robed figure. Squinting against the green sun, they rose up and watched the figure descend. And then they both tried to punch it in the gut, but were stopped by another invisible force. Frelock wasn't easy to hit. He stood in his field for a few more minutes, listening to intricately woven expressions his teammates threw at him as they vented their frustration, then raised his hand. "Okay, stop. Enough. You two were at it for half an hour, and I just had to step in. What's up?
Exhausted just enough to pause for breath, LASD and Qwer'Ty found enough patience in them to explain. Frelock nodded. "Uh-huh. So, what is it you're trying to build?
" "That's the whole thing,
Qwer'Ty replied, we don't really know. We want to build it and see where it goes."
LASD flailed his arms around expressively, still holding a 2" wrench. "Yes, he says he's got this 'vision', but that's not gonna do good unless it works, right?
" Frelock pinched the bridge of his nose. That kind of reasoning was fine and good until you actually tried to make it work. It seemed that despite being brought together and enduring what they have, they were still far from being a team. Some friendly advice was in order.
"Okay, so you don't know what it is, and can't decide who knows better how to make it? That has got to be to dumbest argument I've heard so far, but it's alright. I got a solution for you. Just do it in sequence.
"Wh..what do you mean?
" LASD and Qwer'Ty asked almost in sync.
" Frelock continued, "pick one way and keep going. If it doesn't work, you can try again, but at least you'll get something done - AND spend less time doing than if you're arguing.
" He raised his bubble and touched off the ground. "Since it seems Qwer'Ty is the one with the idea, he should have a go first. Try it. Trust me. Work as a team for once.
Though Frelock was far from being officially decided as the team leader - yet - his words had a tendency to have weight. Partly because of charisma, partly because he was the team's most experienced healer... partly because he had a better grasp on combat telekinesis than others. Whatever the cause, Frelock's reasoning was unanimously accepted, and LASD handed Qwer'Ty his tools. Assembly was underway at last. As he watched, Frelock pondered the significance of his words. 'Work as a team for once.
' He had no idea why, but that phrase felt like the most significant thing he'd said since this adventure began.
Bay of Kurita Prime
Time and date unknown.
Soaring in the partly cloudy sky, his wings spread wide, cool wind rushing past his near naked body, Rooster felt at ease. And in pain, but that was passing. After his reckless divebomb attack on that clanner - which missed, adding insult to injury - he would've been stuck in a hospital for the better part of a year in any normal world. Fortunately, whatever world they were in, it wasn't too normal. After Frelock fixed up his bones, he needed only a few minutes of regeneration to be ready for action again. But by that time of course, there was no more action. Nobody to fight, nothing to do. Rooster wasn't keen on feeling bored, so he decided to fly. It was a pretty flight so far.
For all its blandness on ground level, the planet was fairly neat from the sky, even if the air was much too thin. And there were the mountains of course, huge plateaus that almost defied the imagination by their height and breadth. Rooster knew what they were now. Janna had briefly mentioned it while they travelled. The valley they were standing in was actually Kurita Prime
, a long-disappeared ocean. The mountains in the distance were the continents of old, rising for many miles up. They were very far away still, but Rooster could see that they went higher than he could fly without starting to feel short of breath. The air must be nonexistent on those continents now. Whatever happened to this planet, it had to be a very drastic event to leave it as it is. Almost no water, scarce plantlife, no indigenous animals - or so few that they must be nearing extinction. And there'd be one less now
, Rooster thought as he saw Boksi's giant bat swooping down and grabbing at something on the ground. Life was unfair sometimes. To him too, it seemed, but he didn't want to think about it. He looked at the ground. Down below, his teammates and friends were going about what passed for "daily lives" in this universe. After the hectic events of the past few hours, disaster following disaster, this seemed like a nice change of pace. For a while, nothing else happened, which was just the way Rooster wanted it.
Bay of Kurita Prime
Time and date unknown.
Kashyyk strode defiantly through the empty desert, his face as firm as only a face of metal can be. Something had
to be around here, and he would find it! Clearing a hillock, he saw the familiar landscape of Andrea's Furnace, which would get his heart pounding if his heart had any business pounding lately. Being made of iron and steel had its advantages, but it made determining his emotion state a fairly difficult process sometimes. Unless he was angry. That state could be clearly seen. Trying to persuade himself he wasn't still feeling angry at anything, Kashyyk ran down the hillock and looked around. Every square inch of soil in the vicinity seemed to have been turned into some kind of murky glass by the searing heat of that enormous explosion. It was a fairly dull sight all in all, but to Kashyyk it held something special, something he almost didn't think he'd find again. Smiling, he stooped down to pick it up. Even though the might of what amounted to a small nuclear weapon was thrown against it, the tough little leather bag had endured it all. It looked very worn and badly singed, and yet it still held together. But its contents were gone. It was probably best that way, Kashyyk thought, those grenades would surely ruin the bag if they cooked off in this heat. With the empty holdall again on his shoulder, he moved on towards the blasted string of vehicles in the distance.
Reaching the remains of the mercenary convoy, Kashyyk focused again. There was something important here, something that should have survived in the blast, at least partially. He cycled his vision modes through most of the electromagnetic spectrum, until he finally spotted what he hoped to find. Hidden under half a meter of glassed soil, visible only in faint reflected X-Rays, there was a pile of weapons. All kinds of weapons. Back when Stirling's Fusiliers were more than a passing memory, Neo managed to "obtain" a whole crate of military gear. Now half-melted and buried, this crate had partly shielded its contents from the blast, and Kashyyk had high hopes for what he might find there.
Unfortunately, as the next ten minutes proved, the hopes were too high. The weapons still absorbed enough heat to be distorted, and some of the ammunition had cooked off, destroying their containers and rendering any firearm dependent on them useless. Still, all was not lost. Amidst the unusable or ammo-less hunks of metal, there was still one that could serve its purpose. A large assault rifle with a rugged look and a curved magazine, its paintjob ruined by searing heat and several nearby ammo explosions, seemed to defy the laws of physics by its durability. Kashyyk immediately recognized the shape. Though it was much larger than the original, the style and design of a Kalashnikov were unmistakable. A plaque above the grip read "Avtomat Kalashnikova AK-969
", followed by a serial number. It almost felt like a joke, finding this here, but there was no point complaining. Kashyyk slung the gun over his shoulder, then picked up its spare magazine and two full boxes of 9x69
AP rounds, and put them into his bag. The day was already looking to be damn good.
Suddenly, he noticed movement near the wrecks of the Fusiliers' truck convoy. Could someone still be alive here? Readying his newly acquired weapon, Kashyyk ran, quickly but carefully, to investigate. Someone - or something - was picking through the nearby wreck, seemingly not noticing his presence. Kashyyk approached slowly, careful not to let himself be seen, trying at the same time to catch a glimpse at the face of the creature. Suddenly, it spoke!
"I can hear ye shuffle, metal man, those ears aren't just for show, y'know.
Confused, Kashyyk stepped closer to get a better look.
"What the... Neo??
The strange figure stepped away from the truck, and suddenly swung itself backward! A large pile of tattered grey fabric shreds scattered itself to the faint wind, revealing a sputtering Mii'Ari underneath!
"Gyah! Pfuh! Damn this stuff! What d'they make these tents of, underwear?
" Neo looked up to see Kashyyk's confused expression. "I was jus' searching for some tools when this stuff fell on me from up there
- he pointed at the remains of the truck's tent frame - couldn't be bothered to shake it off. Say, can ye help me for a bit? I need to loose a few nuts.
It took a little more explaining, but eventually Kashyyk complied. A few minutes later, the two of them were walking towards Neo's ATV, each carrying - or in Neo's case, rolling - a large wheel taken from one of the trucks. With a little ingenuity, brute strength and metal fingers, the ATV's two melted tires were quickly replaced, and its new set of wheels arranged as to be symmetrical. Having slightly larger rear wheels didn't make much sense for a 4x4 setup, but with such a profound scarcity of options - and tires - there really wasn't a better way.
Their task complete, Kashyyk and Neo celebrated their successful finding of another vehicle with a friendly marksmanship match. Random pieces of debris were set on a rock outcropping to serve as targets, and the duo took turns firing at them.
After half an hour, the match finally ended. It was a tie.
Bay of Kurita Prime
Time and date unknown.
"Alright! We're almost there. Now, fit the power pack... carefully... aand done! Ta-
Qwer'Ty breathed a sigh of relief and stepped back to look over his creation. The original humanoid frame was now adorned with layers of armor and electronics, its hands ended in spiked fists, its legs could make it run at 50 mph, on its shoulder was a small laser. And it was hollow.
LASD walked around the standing suit of power armor, looking over it with a critical eye. "You really think this thing'll work?
Qwer'Ty was somewhat tired, and completely not amused. "You still can't get over it, can you? Alright, I know a fun way to find out. Step aside.
" He pulled off the access plates, and determinately began slipping into the suit. It turned out to be far harder than he anticipated, but with a little work, and a little help from LASD, Qwer'Ty finally made it in.
"Okay LASD, how does it look?
"Looking cool from out here. How's it working?
"Don't know yet. Wait a sec, I'm still starting it up.
In a moment, the change was visible. Running lights lit up in many places, illuminating the machine like an aluminum christmas tree. The shoulder-laser came to life and began rotating ominously, as if seeking a target. Finally, the suit of armor took a step forward.
Immediately, LASD realized something was wrong. The movement was neither fluid nor mechanical, as you would expect from a suit of power armor - it was jerky, erratic, as if two powers struggled for control of its limbs. His concern was raised to alarm when he heard Qwer'Ty's strained voice from inside the suit.
"Uh, LASD? I've got a problem. Remember how you pieced together a control assisstant AI for me? I think it's decided it doesn't need a pilot. At all.
"What? What's it doing?
"Don't know, don't care, but I'm afraid if it starts running I'll find myself a few limbs short. I'd appreciate it if you helped me here.
"Arright, can do. How do I shut it down?
"You can't, the powerpack's on the inside. I need you to cut its control feeds so it can't move. Hurry, I'm getting tired in here!
LASD immediately grabbed his toolbox and began working. The suit's external plating turned out to be impossible to bypass, and after a few minutes of hard work it was mostly reduced to its consituent parts. But Qwer'Ty was freed. He still saw it fit to berate LASD for needlessly going overboard with the disassemblage, but only lightly so. It did, after all, save him considerable pain and suffering. Walking up to LASD, Qwer'Ty handed him the rest of his tools, and pointed at the disassembled machine. "OK, smart guy. Your turn.
Bay of Kurita Prime
Time and date unknown.
Jay Kayell was frustrated. It had only been five minutes since he's been trapped in a collapsed underground cavern, but they were five very long
minutes, and he still couldn't figure out where the headlight switch was in his armor. And to top it all off, his hind quarter felt like he was sitting in an oven. Of course, his jumpjets had to overheat and give out right as he was passing an underground cavern. And the cavern just had to collapse on him. Though in retrospect, it was still his fault. He could have chosen a less dangerous way of trying out his new armor's capabilities than being a showoff and pirouetting around on jumpjets. And now he was stuck underground, shovelling rubble with his only articulate "hand", and nothing but his jumpjets to provide lighting. His armor's backside was probably red-hot by now. Jay briefly wondered whether trying to blast his way out with a rocket or laser would be a good idea, but decided against it. After all, both weapons were used to kill things much larger than he was, and using them point-blank in an enclosed space was probably a good way to earn a Darwin.
Several minutes later, Jay Kayell was finally out of the crevice, breathing heavily and trying not to think of his backside. To his complete lack of surprise, everyone wandered off to do their own things while he was down there. 'That's so nice of you people. Go team!
' he thought to himself. Looking around, he caught sight of the robot samurai, arduously practicing his swing nearby. Jay Kayell suddenly felt like punching someone, and this was the perfect opportunity. "Hey, Korora!
" The metal warrior paused for only a moment to say "Yes?
", and resumed swinging. Jay approached, menacingly grasping the air with his powered claw. "You want some real practice? I don't think the air puts up much of a fight to you.
" Korora stopped, turned, and looked at Jay with his best robot-face impression of an amused look. "You want to fight me, Jay? With what? Even if we go hand-to-hand, you're still handicapped. Not to mention left-handed.
" Jay Kayell smiled. "No worries, I can take care of myself.
" He'd already spotted a fitting weapon amidst the remains of the Ebon Jaguar, and quickly jumped towards it."I hate to be blunt with you, but if you want to so much as put a dent in me, first you'll have to join my club.
" With that, he hefted a large piece of endosteel structure ending with some sort of joint, and easily brandished the improvised bludgeon with his claw. "Shall we begin?