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    Shipwrecked; The Myrmidon

    Kimrith Varainier crossed his arms as he stood behind the Captain’s chair in the CIC of the Myrmidon, listening to the chatter of the crew as they accelerated away from the planet towards the Jump Line, the point where they could successfully jump to FTL.

    “Final drive checks are complete,” the system operations officer reported, “There’s a slight variance in the number three resonance chamber, but it’s within acceptable limits. We’re go for jump as soon as we hit the Jump Line.”

    “Understood,” the ship’s Captain – a wolf by the name of Liam Nightfang – replied, before looking over his shoulder at Kimrith, “We’ll want to do a service on the Phase Drive, pin down the source of the variance and deal with it, while you and the others are on this contract, Boss.”

    Kimrith nodded. With their current contract being to help train a new Armoured Infantry unit in the former Skarra Empire, they’d be stationary for a couple of months. More than long enough to do maintenance work like that.

    “Agreed. Once we’re dirtside, have the engineers go over the drive,” he ordered. As the owner of the Myrmidon, he liked to keep her in good shape for safety’s sake, despite the fact that the Assault Transport only rarely saw direct action; after all, she was the home away from home for the Star Storm Armoured Infantry, as well as their method of transport, and occasionally their base of operations during a contract.

    “Got it, Boss,” Liam replied.

    “One minute out from the Jump Line,” the navigator announced.

    “Right,” Liam replied, before turning to the side, “All hands, secure for jump.”

    Securing the ship for the jump to FTL wasn’t strictly necessary; the transition was no worse than a slight jolt. Nonetheless, it was considered good practice to have all passengers and crew strapped in when jumping into or emerging from Phase Space… just in case.

    “You good here, Boss?” Liam asked as the Communications officer relayed the order over the intercom.

    Kimrith nodded, seating himself in the flag-officer’s chair and strapping in.

    “We’ve reached the jump line,” the navigator stated, “jump vector... calculated. Inputting it now.”

    “Jump vector confirmed,” the helmsman added.

    “Traffic control has granted jump clearance,” Communications added, “All hands reporting secure.”

    “Checklist complete,” Liam’s XO – a cheetah by the name of Samuel Longstride – reported, “We are go for jump.”

    “Initiate jump,” Liam ordered.

    “Aye, Captain,” the Helmsman replied, throwing a pair of switches, then hitting a button.

    “Drive spinning up,” System Operations reported, as the screens showing the space outside lit up blue-white, “Readings within tolerance. Jump in five… four… three… two… one… Jump.”

    The ship lurched, slamming the crew into their seats, followed by an intense vibration. An alarm blared into the CIC, harsh and rapid. Something none of them had ever heard outside of simulator training, but nonetheless knew instantly.

    “Runaway!” System Ops exclaimed, his voice shaking from the vibration the ship was experiencing, “The resonation chambers are overloading. Drive temperature is rising fast!”

    “Phase velocity rapidly increasing,” the Helmsman reported, “Acceleration is fluctuating.”

    “Isolate the-” Liam started, beforethe ship bucked a second time, the drive shrieking in protest, before giving out with an electrical snap audible even from the CIC.

    Instantly, the forward viewscreens snapped from the blue-white of Phase Space… to a planet that nearly filled them, only to almost instantly be filled with the blazing orange plasma of reentry, seperated from the ship only by the glowing, semi-transparent hexagons of the ship’s Active Barrier.

    “Divert all available power to the barrier, now!” Liam barked, “Helm, emergency reverse thrust!”

    The wavering barrier brightened as power was diverted to it from non-critical systems. The engines roared, plumes of fusion fire being magnetically diverted forward, the engines reaching thrust levels that would shorten their lifespans dramatically. The inertia slammed everyone into their restraints.

    “Barrier at seventy-three percent and falling!” System Ops warned.

    “Velocity falling, but not fast enough,” Helm warned, “I can divert us using the ventral thruster, make this a controlled crash, but that’s it.”

    “Do it!” Kimrith roared.

    "Ventral thrusters engaged.”

    The G-forces diverted towards the floor.

    “Barrier at forty-one percent… and rising!”

    “Brace for impact!”

    With a crash, the ship’s belly impacted, tortured metal screaming as it scraped along the ground… and slowly came to a halt. A moment later, the engines sputtered out.

    The viewscreens were almost immediately clouded with dust, but before it could rise too high, Kimrith noted that they appeared to be on top of a tall mesa.

    “Get me a damage report,” Liam wheezed as he straightened, struggling to refill his lungs.

    The System Ops officer coughed on some smoke coming from an overloaded terminal, before looking at his console.

    “Barrier down but recharging,” he reported, “Main engines two and four are severely damaged, reading as nonfunctional. The ventral thrusters are gone, as are most of the ventral turrets. Some of the ventral CIWS turrets on the port and starboard sides are intact. I’m reading hull breaches in every compartment on deck four.”

    Deck Four was the lowest deck in the ship, and contained the ship’s vehicle bay, which contained the APCs and other transports. Fortunately, it would be deserted during a jump.

    “Casualties?” Kimrith asked urgently.

    “Wait one… We’ve got a number of wounded in the engine room,” he reported, “Several of the engineers have severe burns. They’re being transported to medbay as I speak. Fataiities… zero. Every other section is reporting bruises at worst.”

    Kimrith slumped back in his seat with a sigh of relief, before releasing his restraints and standing.

    “I need to go check on my men,” he told Liam, laying a hand on the wolf’s shoulder, “I’ll leave this to you.”

    “You can count on me, Boss,” Liam replied.

    Kimrith nodded, before looking around the CIC.

    “You did amazingly well,” he praised, “I’m proud of you all.”

    The buzz of an active CIC returned as he stepped out, headed for the troop areas.

    (OOC: All right, here we go. Kimrith will find your characters where they meet, Rick, Daryn. I hope this goes well.
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    Insatiable Curiosity

    Major Leon Stormstrider

    Varatyr Scorchtalon

    #2
    It had been more than he'd dared hope for. For over a year now, Aaron had been trying to find decent work off of the Merc Job Boards. Available work had been plentiful, but the pay most of it offered was barely enough to make the monthly payments on his armor. Let alone feed himself and pay what other meager bills he had.

    The work that did pay well, Aaron had learned early on, was work he needed to be sure of before he signed on for it.

    There were a lot of corporations in the Federation that didn't have many scruples. Some none at all. One of the first contracts he had almost signed up for, had turned out to be one of the big energy conglomerates wanting to put an end to a small, colonial company that was unwilling to sell their concern. The bigger company wanted to establish a monopoly on the colony, but couldn't because of the competition that this smaller company imposed.

    The smaller company was supposed to have an 'accident'. Aaron, and three other mercs were supposed to provide that accident.

    Disgusted, Aaron had not only not signed up for the 'mission'...

    Yeah, 'mission' would have been a light way of putting it.

    He had also reported the company to the Fair Trade Commission - dropped them an anonymous tip. Then had sat back and watched as the corporation had gone under investigation and had wound up having to pay some major fines. A few scapegoats had been offered up as sacrificial lambs, too.

    None of which helped Aaron.

    Oh, he could have gotten a reward, he supposed. He would have even been protected under the Whistle-Blower Act. But when he'd realized he had become interested in becoming a mercenary, one of the first things he'd learned, was that you don't report employers. You do and you could get a reputation. You get one of those, finding contracts could become like trying to find needles in haystacks. So he had kept his muzzle closed about who had filed the report.

    As it was, Aaron had been just this side of broke, when he'd gotten the call.

    Liam Nightfang, Captain of the Myrmidon, told Aaron he was looking for someone with Aaron's qualifications. The perfect service record hadn't hurt, either. Aaron had enjoyed an eighteen-year-long career in the Federation Marines. He had thirty-six service ribbons, six of which were for valor under fire. The Captain had also said he had reviewed Aaron's list of contracts since becoming a mercenary. Captain Nightfang offered to hire Aaron within the first ten minutes of the interview, and that he was to report to Mount Tressor Space Port at 0800 sharp that following Monday.

    That had been just that morning.

    Coming aboard the Myrmidon, Aaron had been assigned quarters by one of the ship's servicemen. He would be formally introduced to the Captain once they were underway and to expect a mission briefing to be announced sometime during their voyage.

    Aaron had settled in quickly. Things were looking up. If things worked out with the Myrmidon, he could possibly be looking at full time employment. Good pay, too. Great even. Nightfang had sent a pay-package file that had made Aaron's eyes almost pop out of his head when he'd read it. He could pay off his armor suit within the next six months, if things worked out! Heck, his new house, even! Aaron had been almost giddy when he'd felt the ship start its acceleration out of orbit.

    A good ship. A great one, even. The Myrmidon had a rep. A good one. They did good work. Urban pacification, assisting fledgling governments, rescue missions, zeno-infestation-eradication - all stuff that was right up Aaron's street. If things worked out, he'd never have to look at a job board again - never having to worry about being used as a goon again.

    It was going to be a good life. He was going to do his very best to make sure the Myrmidon kept its great reputation.

    And that was when everything went to hell.

    Aaron had been in a 'Runaway' one time before, so he knew instantly what was happening. As soon as it started happening, eighteen years of military training and experience kicked in. Within the first minute of the Runaway, he had his armor suit on and powering up.

    It was a four-piece affair - legs, torso and arms. All on a 'Don Rack' - which was a pneumatically-assisted storage and donning-and-removal platform. One climbed into the legs, pulled the torso down over their head on its guide racks, it locking to the legs' section waist, and then slipped their arms into the armor's arms, pneumatic guide cylinders pushing them neatly into their locking mechanisms in the torso.. Immediately after that, the helmet slid/orbited up out of the upper torso, forming a perfect seal as it locked into place, the rack at which point, released its grip on the armor, letting its feet drop to the deck.

    Powerup was swift. There wasn't a fusion generator to start up. The whole thing was run on batteries. The only thing that one had to wait on, was for the suit's gyros to spin up. It took less than five seconds.

    'POWERUP COMPLETE' his HUD read in green text, his HUD flickering into full readiness within the next few nanoseconds. It showed him data on his installed weapons systems. Twenty HV-Vixens, Hyper Rifle, 50-Caliber Machine Gun, and his Mark-VIII Particle Lance.

    As the ship lurched and he swayed slightly with it, he immediately put all four weapon systems into standby mode.

    "Full stability!" he yelled in his helmet, the ship giving another lurch, this one huge. It had caused his armor to slam into the forward bulkhead with enough force to put a dent in the bulkhead!

    He heard his suit's gyros spin up to full speed. They sounded like a miniature jet engine in his helmet.

    'SHIP REPORTS BRACE FOR CRASH LANDING - IMPACT IN 15 SECONDS'.

    The second part of this began flashing in Aaron's HUD, starting to countdown from the fifteen seconds. He braced his hands against the forward bulkhead.

    To Aaron's immeasurable relief, the crash landing wasn't that bad. There were long moments of skidding after impact, a lot of noise, but the G-forces had been minimal.

    An eerie silence fell.

    "Note to self," Aaron muttered in his helmet. "Buy the pilot a beer."

    This hadn't been Aaron's first crash landing, but it had decidedly been his best.

    He pushed himself upright from the wall.

    "Open a link to the emergency channel," he told the inside of his helmet.

    Every ship, by law, was required to have a dedicated internal emergency channel.

    'OPEN', his HUD read.

    "This is Aaron Cartwright," he said into the channel. "Reporting for duty. I am unharmed. Standing by to lend assistance as needed."

    After he made the transmission and awaited a response, he thought with no small measure of exasperation, 'That's right, Grim. You just got this job and now look at you - all in a smashed up ship in only Bast knows where.'
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      #3
      Allyn had to admit to himself that he’d made a mistake. Chocolate and Chicken was not at all a good combination of flavours. It wasn’t a great sandwich, but there wasn’t anything harmful in there, so he ended up finishing it and decided to take that as a teaching moment in culinary experimentation. Allyn was good at a lot of things technical, but it seemed like cooking was not one of them.

      The pre-jump warning came across his AR glasses and he strapped himself in. Nothing had ever gone wrong in the countless jumps he’d been in since coming aboard the Myrmidon, but he knew that best practices should be followed. It’s what key a potentially bad situation from turning into a complete disaster. He knew that from his days doing corporate data security. That had been a waste of time though, those corporations really could care less about what he had to say, even when he was showing them exactly why implementing his suggestions would make things safer for everyone, they would refuse to, because to them, the cost outweighs the benefits.

      After five years of that, he’d had enough and decided that it was time for a change. He hadn’t originally considered working for a mercenary company. He honestly didn’t see how his skills could be put to use. There was an opening being advertised on the job boards by the Star Storm Armoured Infantry division. It was for a cyberwarfare specialist. That had raised his eyes, to be sure. The qualifications and skills needed were all things he had, except for one thing, he didn’t have any powered armour.

      He put in the application and met with Kimrith anyway. Allyn was immediately struck by how professional and cordial the Crystal Dragon had been. He was also very glowy, which reminded him of a retro computer case he had at home. A month later, he was on board the Myrmidon. A month after that, the first version of the Zephyr was complete. He and the engineers had been tinkering with it ever since.

      Allyn buckled himself in for the jump. It had become a routine now, something he could do without having to really think about it. Then the Runaway alarm started blaring. There was a moment of hesitation, Allyn sat with his beak agape for a second before springing up out of the couch and practically throwing himself into the Zephyr. Now he understood why the engineers had insisted on making it in as few parts as possible. It would be quicker to get in that way.

      He stepped into the legs, pulled the torso down and locked it into place, then got his arms into position and the torso fitted itself around him. The suit booted up, flashing green status text as it went through its systems checks.

      Batteries: 100%
      UCA Extruder: OK
      … found 2 of 2 cartridges.
      SDR: OK
      Projector: OK
      Cutter: OK
      Thrusters: OK
      Wing Augmentation: OK
      Camouflage: OK
      Barrier: OK
      All Systems Go!


      It took less than five seconds for all of these checks o complete, seconds that seemed like minutes. They say that when things get hectic that “everything happens so fast”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Things seemed to slow down for him. It was like he was moving in a tank of molasses. His mind wanted to move faster than his body, even suit augmented could manage.

      They were going to crash. The word had come over the general channel. Allyn’s beak went dry inside the visor of his suit. What could he do? Not turning into an avian projectile would be a good place to start. He grabbed onto the edges of the bulkhead with the talons on his hands and feet and held on.

      Thankfully, his first crash landing wasn’t as bad as he had thought it might be. Things were thrown around, yes, but his grip was enough to make sure he wasn’t one of them. The really bad part was the sounds the ship made. Metal was not supposed to make that kind of noise, which meant that there were likely holes in the hull now. Another good reason to be in his suit. It had life support integrated into it.

      Allyn would only learn later that the landing wasn’t as bad as it could have been, because the Mermadon’s helmsman had done all he could to mitigate it. Even still, the ship was in rough shape.

      The emergency channel lit up with Cartwright’s message, and Allyn sent his response in. “This is Allyn Ryder. A little shaken up but otherwise fine. Where do you need me?” He knew to keep things short and to the point on this channel, lest it gets clogged up with general, non-essential chatter. There was a channel for that purpose. This one was strictly for a shipwide emergency response.

      It was at this point that the gravity of the situation had started to sink in. The drive had had a Runaway reaction. The ship had crashed, and he had no idea where they had been spat out. He had no idea if he will ever see his home again. They were stuck. The people on this ship and the rest of the armoured division, they’d have to rely on each other to get through this.

      He opened up a text window to the ship’s IT department and sent a message. “I don’t normally butt in where I’m not needed, but I think in this case you might want my help. Please give me access to the logs. I’d like to take a look at them.” Allyn knew runaways were rare, so much so they were trained for as an “If the fecal matter hits the rotary impeller” type situation. Allyn suspected something was off. He wanted to find out what.
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      “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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        #4
        “Reports are still coming in,” came the response over the emergency channel, “The Boss is headed down to the Armour Bay; he’ll give you your assignments personally.”

        Seconds later, the door hissed open.

        Kimrith entered the Armour Bay to find two of his people – his cyberwarfare specialist and the new guy Liam had recruited for him (he’d been busy with something else, though Liam had made sure to consult with him) – already suited up, and paused, blinking in surprise, before frowning.

        “I know your armour is possibly the safest place you could be, but you two should have stayed strapped in,” he admonished, though he didn’t seem angry, “If we’d emerged much closer, you could well have been caught unsecured.”

        He shook his head, before striding over towards the end of the line, to a sleek-lined, digitigrade suit standing in its rack.

        Unlike Aaron’s Aggressor and Allyn’s Zephyr, the Storm Striker series wasn’t designed to be assembled on the wearer; instead, it was stored in an assembled state, standing secured in its donning rack, the joints locked.

        As he approached the suit, Kimrith tapped something into his commlink, which caused the back of the suit to open, the backpack hinging up, the rear waist armour – along with the tail plating – hinging down. A faint whirr, recognisable as micro-fusion power cores initialising, was audible for a moment before fading.

        “You’d be Aaron Cartwright, callsign ‘Grim’, right?” he queried, pausing at his suit and turning to face the cougar, “I’m Kimrith Varainier, founder and CO of the Star Storm Armoured Infantry. Sorry about not introducing myself earlier; things were hectic prior to liftoff.”

        He turned, and grabbed onto the backpack of the suit, lifting himself up to slide his legs and tail into the suit, before leaning forward to slide his arms, then sliding his head into the helmet nose-first. He rolled his neck to make sure that both the seals and the articulation were working properly. As he did this, a boot-up systems check crawled up the upper right of his vision.
        :[Drakus Arms PAOS]:

        :Storm Striker Mk II:



        :MF Core 1: Online:

        :MF Core 2: Online:

        :Life Support: Online:

        :Actuators: Online:

        :Sensors: Online:

        :Communications: Online:

        :Active Barrier: Online:

        :Jump Jets: Online:

        :Weapons detected:

        :2x P-12 “Stilleto” Particle Pulse Rifle:

        :2x MV-20 Micro-missile launcher:

        :Weapons online:
        :All Systems Nominal:



        “We’re headed down to Deck Four,” he said as the donning rack released his suit and he turned to face them, visor still raised. As he turned, he grabbed the Heavy Projector Rifle from the rack in front of his suit, stowing the weapon (the size of a heavy machine gun) on his backpack.

        “Injuries are thankfully fairly light,” he continued, “Some of the engineers have burns, and two of the other troopers have broken bones because they were trying to reach their armour, but no one’s in critical condition. We also haven’t suffered any fatalities, thank the Ancestors.”

        He paused for a moment.

        “Damage Control crews are trying to get access, but the doors are warped, and the exoskells* are occupied. We’re going to open the way for them, and help them assess the damage. The other able-bodied troopers will be spreading out across the ship to assist, especially in the aerial vehicle bay; apparently at least one of our dropships broke loose during the crash.”

        He paused.

        “Our primary objective is determining if the Myrmidon is stable; we’ve landed on a mesa, and the ship is grounded. While we’re at it, we’ll also check atmospheric conditions. Understood?”

        At that moment, Allyn received a reply from the IT crew.

        [:We’d appreciate the help if you’re available. It’s doubtful that the Runaway was caused by the computer, but it’s always best to make sure. I’ve gotten permission from the Boss, and am sending the logs now.:]


        :::


        Kimrith hooked his suit’s claws into the seam of the door, before hauling it apart. The door let out a squeal of grinding metal, before giving way and opening to reveal a ruined room. Much of the floor was missing, as were most of the vehicles. What few remained were badly damaged – irreparably so, it appeared – and were still partially secured to the forward bulkhead. The starboard door had been torn clean out and was missing. The port door was damaged, but was still attached and had plunged into the earth. It was also warped badly enough that it seemed doubtful it would ever move again.

        “What a mess…” Kimrith muttered, “What’s the atmosphere look like?”

        “Standard L-congruous, surprisingly,” came the response, “About twenty-five percent oxygen, the rest is nitrogen, with a touch of argon, and some trace gasses, including carbon- dioxide.”

        “Meaning that life here’s carbon-based,” Kimrith surmised, earning a nod, “Good. That means we don’t need to worry to much about life support.”

        He turned to Grim and Wynd.

        “All right, let’s get to work. We’ll cover the side with the missing door. DamCon will cover the side with the door that’s still in place. Let’s move.”

        He led the way to the door. Looking out onto the mesa, it turned out that the raised stone platform was actually largely forested; while the bow of the ship was on stone, and faced the cliff, the stern was still partially inside the trees, which were apparently smouldering if the smoke was any indication.

        This likely wouldn’t last for long, however, as a band of rain was visible coming in from off the starboard bow.

        There was no sign of cracking of the stone, fortunately, and Kimrith let out a soft sight of relief, before taking a further look around.

        The foliage of the trees was tinted slightly blue, turning them a rather interesting sea-green, while the trunks were pale, almost seeming translucent (though it was difficult to tell with the distance). Off the cliff was mountainous crags, rather than the desert or forests Kimrith had expected.

        “Well that’s interesting,” he muttered, before looking at Aaron and Allyn, “What do you two think?”

        :::

        *Exoskell (noun); a slang term for an industrial-use exoskeleton.

        (OOC: The logs do reveal computer-based sabotage of the Phase Drive; however, it’s intended to trip the drive’s safeties and dump the ship back into normal space at random intervals; annoying – and potentially costly money-wise due to the possibility of breach of contract – but ultimately not dangerous. It also tripped, but only after the Runaway was already occurring; this indicates something went very wrong with the drive’s power supply.)

        (OOC Edit: Also, do you know how to turn off smilies when editing/posting? I had to change something to avoid a colon-D combo)
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        Insatiable Curiosity

        Major Leon Stormstrider

        Varatyr Scorchtalon

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          #5

          Allyn gave a quick salute to Kimrith when he came into the bay. He listened to what his CO had to say and nodded. However, the admonishment didn’t seem to have any bite behind it. Given the situation, he figured that the initiative taken outweighed the breach of procedure.

          He looked over to the Cougar, who he hadn’t met up until this point. He took in his suit, far more armaments than his own had. It was bulkier and no doubt stronger than his. Aaron and Kimrith’s suits looked like they were good in a fight. Allyn’s was built more for mobility. He had weapons, but not many. Clearly a support suit. Not for the first time, Allyn thought that maybe he ought to talk to the engineers about maybe adding another weapon or two. There were more important things to worry about for the moment, though.

          He extended a hand to him, “Allyn Ryder. I’m this team’s resident computer systems expert. Nice to meet you. What a way to start a new job, eh?” he said, no mirth in the statement. This didn’t seem like a time for levity, hence why he kept his recent culinary disaster to himself.

          As the three of them examined their surroundings, Allyn noted the resources they had available to them. “We seem to be on a stable enough spot here. Lots of wood, stone, and indigenous animals. The atmosphere seems breathable, though I’d still feel better being in my suit, at least it doesn’t limit who can do surface work.” he paused a moment, taking a look around, turning around in a circle.
          “As far as landing spots go, it could have been worse. I think though, that we need to try to figure out where we are. Maybe we can rig a comms array to send a distress call, or if this planet has a civilization, maybe we can get their help in getting out of here. The only thing I do know for sure is that We’re in the middle of nowhere. We’ve got easy access to materials if we need them, and If it wasn’t for the odd colours, this place wouldn’t be all that different to any of our own planets.” he paused again, then shrugged, “We really need more information on where we are. On the upside, at least we're not perched precariously. I know perching, this ship isn’t going anywhere, not unless the whole mesa shifts.” he paused again, looking the ship itself over, “Oh…” he added, having just remembered something, “We might want to try to build blocks or shims for the ship’s contact points. Over time the back half of the ship is going to sink into the ground. That’s going to make it harder for us in the long run.”

          He glanced from Kimrith to Aaron. This wasn’t Allyn’s forte. He could tell you if a network is working right, or if a computer is compromised, but surviving out in the wilds is new to him. Even still, there were general, common-sense things that everyone ought to know, and Allyn was drawing on that knowledge.
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            #6
            Aaron had actually been in the armor room when the mishap had started. So, straps or his armor...

            It hadn't been a tough choice. If a section of bulkhead got torn away that the straps were attached to, one could mark any crew who were in them as write offs. His armor however...

            The whole ship could probably crash on it without doing too much damage to it. Just have to dig him out, is all, and he'd be just fine. If his expensive armor did have some dents and scratches in it.

            So the admonishment earned the dragon a flat look from in behind the opaque visor of Aaron's helmet.

            'Rich,' he thought. 'I work for a bureaucrat now who places too much value of protocol and too little on plain old sense.'

            He of course, didn't dare say this out loud to his new commander. He'd worked under enough brand new Lewies to know where that would be likely to wind up. He was even careful to keep his thoughts out of his body language. Which his armor would show quite well, if he permitted an indulgence in his disapproval.

            But then, right after that, the dragon had started talking sense. Aaron began to reevaluate the young man.

            When the admonishment had popped out, the first thing Aaron had thought, was young rich kid, decided to buy himself a ship, a mercenary company with his daddy's money and go out adventuring among the stars. He wouldn't have been the first, wouldn't be the last. But Aaron knew all too well, that there was a list of such companies that had met their end, long enough to lay a paper carpet from one end of this ship to the other. Many on that list meeting very not pleasant ends. Some meeting them who knew how. These latter, they'd gone out, bragging about the dangerous mission they were about to embark upon, only to be never heard from or seen again.

            Aaron would be damned if he was going to let himself be caught in any of that stupidity and foolhardiness.

            But all of that changed with the young dragon's introduction. There was no pomposity in it, no 'You Work for Me Now' bravado. The young man was direct and cordial. Polite and even respectful.

            Kimrith Varainier was a man who had seen action, Aaron decided. He was young, yes, perhaps even impetuous, but he very obviously knew the value of building trust and being able to rely upon his men. Aaron immediately marked him as likely a platoon officer in the Fed Marines. Probably a First Lewie, maybe even a Captain.

            "Retired Master Sergeant Aaron Cartwright," he answered. "People under me in my squads gave me the nickname 'Grim'. Just kind of stuck."

            He gave his suit an instruction. The helmet rotated backwards, disappearing into the armor's rear collar region about half as fast as a man could blink.

            "Just lead the way, Sir," he said then in reply.

            His face was handsome as cats went. There was a stony kind of wisdom to his almost golden eyes - eyes which held Kimrith's directly as the dragon gave his instructions. Aaron held Kimirth's with acute readiness, both to follow whatever instructions he gave, and an unspoken promise of loyalty that any commander with any experience, was able to recognize instantly.

            "Just say what needs doing, Sir. We'll get it done."

            Allyn had been given cordial respect when he had offered to shake hands with Aaron.

            "No doubt about that," he'd said, shaking the bird's hand, filling in for Allyn's unwillingness to be glib.

            "But it seems we got a competent enough commander." He thumbed over his shoulder at Kimrith's departing back. "We'll pull out of this. Seen worse, and with commanders who wouldn't be fit to put this one's shoes on for him."

            That was followed by a crooked smile.

            "And don't sell your skills short," he added. "It's the computer age!" He laughed. "Take more than muscle and guts to get us back off the ground before all this is said and done with, I'll wager."

            A nod, which ended the handshake.

            "Now come on. Seems the Commander's got a plan."

            When they were at last outside, Aaron let out a soft whistle.

            "Beggin' your pardon, Sir," he said, only half joking. "If we had to crash some place, at least it's a place that looks as good as this."
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              #7

              “Ah, I forgot to give my former rank,” Kimrith muttered, “Sorry about that. I made Sergeant Major before mustering out after the end of the war. Served under a Captain who taught me everything I know about serving in a command role. He was a good man, loved by his men. Losing him to cancer of all things was a crying shame.”

              He shook his head.

              “Anyway, I’m glad to have you with us, though I wish the circumstances were better.”

              He met Aaron’s eye when the cougar looked at him with his helmet retracted, and nodded.

              :::

              “It also means we don’t have to worry about the Myrmidon’s life support reserves,” Kimrith said in response to Allyn, “However I do agree that I’m more comfortable with everyone continuing to wear their armour. We don’t know what the local flora and fauna are capable of yet.”

              He nodded at Allyn’s comments on the ship’s stability.

              “My thoughts exactly,” he replied in response to the suggestion to brace the ship, “We’ll probably need to salvage materials to do so; the hull plating that was torn off in the crash should be a good place to start.”

              “Indeed” he agreed when Aaron spoke, giving the cougar a nod, “It’s got quite the view.”

              There was a burp of static through the radios of the three, before the voice of the Myrmidon’s communications officer came through.

              “:Boss, we’ve got some bad news,” he said, “The damage in the aerial vehicle bay’s worse than we’d hoped. Every one of our aircraft is damaged to the point that we can’t risk flying them. Some look repairable, but the techs say that it’ll be at least a couple of weeks before they’re in any fit state to fly again.”

              Kimrith sighed.

              “That means our only option for exploring beyond the mesa is our power armour,” he stated, cursing softly under his breath, “Nothing for it then. All right, tell the techs to cannibalise parts from the worst damaged ones to fix the ones they can. Until we can get them airborne again, we’re just going to have to rely on our-.”

              He was cut off by a long, low rumble as something emerged from the trees. A long, serpentine body the size of one of the APCs, covered in pale markings, with six legs that ended in enormous gecko-like feet approached the cliff, giving them a disinterested look that revealed a blunt, herbivorous beak, before smoothly transitioning over the edge, climbing down the sheer rock face without any apparent need for the assistance of cracks in the rock.

              “-Power armour...” Kimrith finished, blinking, before shaking his head, “Anything else?”
              “Our long-range communications array’s down,” came the response, “It’s damaged but repairable, though it’s going to take a while; the damage isn’t serious, but it’s a fiddly fix. I can confirm that our distress beacon is transmitting, however; one of the damage control men went down and checked it physically.”

              “Good to know,” Kimrith replied, before taking a breath, “Inform the crew that I am issuing a standing order that all personnel venturing outside the Myrmidon must be accompanied by at least two Armoured Infantry troopers wearing full armour. This planet appears to have megafauna. The specimen observed was docile, but we have yet to see a predator.”

              “Understood, Boss,” the communications officer replied, “I’ll spread the word.”

              The link closed, and Kimrith turned to Aaron and Allyn.

              “You two catch that?” he asked.
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                #8
                "Yeah, caught," Aaron said, his mouth still slightly agape from what they'd all just seen.

                He then cocked an eyebrow at Kirmrith.

                "Depending on what their physiology is like," he then added, nudging his chin to where that thing had just disappeared, "we might not need to worry about any of us ever going hungry."

                Which was true. If the fauna on this world had proteins that their people could digest, an animal of that size could feed the crew for weeks. And their power armor would be more than sufficient for dispatching them. For that matter, anybody with a good enough rifle and decent aim could.

                "But point taken," he agreed. "An animal like that might not pose much of a risk, apart from a stampede maybe, but if there are animals big enough to prey on something like that..."

                He gave an involuntary shudder.

                "Or pack animals."

                He was picturing a pack of huge wolf-equivalents, each the size of rhinos. The people who were wearing power armor would be able to stand up against them, especially with the kind he and Kimrith were wearing. But any crew caught out in the open unprotected, would be easy meat for animals like those.

                "Sir, if I may. My suit is equipped with an aerial reconnaissance drone. With your permission, I'd like to launch it. It can keep us in the know about anything that might try to approach, and it can scout for hull plates and anything else we left behind us in our crash. It can also map the terrain for us. But even with that, I strongly suggest that we establish a perimeter. If you have any construction bots on board, or for that matter, any heavy maintenance bots, you should put them to work felling these trees and building a palisade."

                He nodded.

                "It will give the crew an increased freedom to work around the ship, with only guards with sidearms needed within the perimeter. The only time escorts would be needed would be if anybody needed to go outside. And in which case, you could send someone who's in armor, without any need to risk any of our regular crew."
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                  #9
                  Allyn blinked, then tapped a button on his control system to slide his visor away. It revealed the bird inside, beak slightly agape, eyes wide and blinking in disbelief. He wanted to look at the thing with his own unassisted eyes to make sure he wasn’t seeing things that weren’t there. Sure enough, giant, APC-sized herbivore did indeed walk by and walk down the cliff face.

                  He looked over to Kimrith and Aaron. “Well…” he paused, shaking his head, “I certainly caught that, Sir, but that creature poses another problem.” he nodded to Aaron then, “I definitely agree with the idea of setting up a perimeter. Don’t we have some sentry towers we can sink into the ground to help with that?”

                  He brought his hand up and tapped the tip of his hooked beak in thought, “That’s the first animal we’ve seen. It was, to put it mildly, huge. The trouble is, we don’t know what scale we’re working at now. Is that as big as they get? Are there predators that prey on those animals? Pack animals…” he shudders then, “Not to mention, what is the avian life like on this world if there is any?”

                  Allyn felt out of his element. He knew there were people n the ship who were qualified to categorize and classify the flora and fauna on this world. He was sure they would be thrilled to have seen something like that. Well, on the upside, their suit cameras had recorded it, so they would at least get to see the video footage.

                  Allyn closed his suit’s visor again and walked towards the cliff where the thing had walked down. He armed his weapons so they would be ready at a moment’s notice, should they need to be used. “I think, figuring out where we are will be a priority. We’ll have to wait until nightfall to see the sky. Maybe with the stars in view we could get a better idea of where we ended up.” he paused then to look at Kimrith, “We also probably shouldn’t rule out the possibility of ‘when’ we ended up. They say ending up in a different time isn’t possible with current drive technology, but how sure can we really be of that? Just a thought.”

                  Finding nothing of particular interest at the cliff face, Allyn returned to the other two. “Oh, and if you need me to fly a recon sweep, I can certainly do that for you.” he said, then paused, “In the meantime though, I’ve been looking over and filtering through the ship’s system’s logs in a window off to the side of my vision. Someone added a little gremlin into our systems. Though, to be fair, what this little bit of code was doing didn’t cause the Runaway. It was a scheduled task that called a script. The script would check to see if the drive was engaged, then at a random time, it would drop out to real space. It did that using the normal commands without overriding safeties, so there’s no way it could have caused the Runaway reaction.” he shook his head, “Which begs the question if there was sabotage code in the control system, might someone have also sabotaged the drive itself?”

                  He shrugged, “It might not be the most relevant thing to know right now, but I have a feeling someone tried to and possibly succeeded in getting rid of us.”


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                    #10

                    “Exactly,” he replied in response to the cougar’s mention of predators, “As for hunting the thing... some of our people are herbivorous, but I do understand; the Myrmidon’s supplies will only last so long. We’ll likely need to supplement – and eventually replace – them with locally-sourced food. Even if that means setting up a farm ourselves.”

                    He eyed Aaron when he mentioned the drone.

                    “Permission granted,” he replied, “We’ll need that intel. As for building a palisade, good idea. It will free us up significantly. And yes, we o have some sentry towers in storage.”

                    He opened a link with the ship again with a mental command.

                    “Myrmidon, this is Varainier.”

                    “Go ahead, Boss,” the Communications officer replied.

                    “Change of plans,” Kimrith stated, “once everything’s assessed, I want the maintenance bots fired up, and a palisade built around the ship. Keep disruption to the environment minimal, and use pre-felled lumber if possible; I want as few trees felled as possible. Also pull the sentry towers out of storage and have them set up. How copy?”

                    “Ten-four, Boss,” came the reply, “I’ll spread the word.”

                    “Good man,” Kimrith praised, “I’m counting on you. Varainier out.”

                    He turned back to Allyn.

                    “Indeed,” he agreed, “As I said, that specimen proves that there is megafauna here.”

                    He paused as Allyn continued.

                    “I don’t believe that being transported through time is likely,” he stated, “Yes, Runaways take a ship further into Phase than would normally be possible, but no previous Runaway accident has had any time distortion involved. Either way, it’s not really relevant at this stage.”

                    He paused as Allyn explained the sabotage.

                    “I wasn’t expecting computer-based sabotage to be able to cause a Runaway,”Kimrith admitted, “The power regulators simply aren’t capable of feeding that much energy into the drive under normal circumstances; they physically can’t flow that much power through them. As for physical sabotage… Barring Grim here, we haven’t had any new staff come aboard since our last mission, and no breaches of ship security were reported… I’ll send a message to the engineering and DamCon teams, tell them to look out for any signs that the power regulators and resonance chamber sensors were tampered with.”

                    There was a call from behind them, and Kimrith turned.

                    “Sir,” one of the Damage Control techs said, coming up to the doorway, “Our assessment is complete.”

                    “Go ahead,” Kimrith said.

                    “The ship is stable,” the she-wolf replied, “We’ll want to brace her to make sure she doesn’t sink, but we’ve got leeway on that. The port-side door is warped, as is it’s frame; it’s stuck fast in place, despite the hydraulics being intact. As for the vehicles… I can’t see us being able to repair them.”

                    “There wouldn’t be much point,” Kimrith replied, “The terrain beyond the mesa we’ve landed on is mountainous; the APCs wouldn’t be able to traverse it.”

                    He paused for a second, considering.

                    “See if you can salvage those hydraulics once we’ve got the palisade up; we should be able to find a use for them somewhere.”

                    “Right,” came the response, “We’ll go fire up the maintenance bots, then.”

                    “Keep up the good work, Amanda,” Kimrith replied, giving the woman a nod, but refraining from giving her a clap on the shoulder; the gesture would have likely knocked her flat.


                    (OOC: Aaron's drone finds a scorched trail littered with plates of twisted and torn metal, with trees downed on either side of it, some of them smouldering. There's signs of curious wildlife, but they aren't coming into the open as yet.)
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                      #11
                      Aaron didn't wait around to hear what his commander had to say to those on the other end of the comm.

                      His helmet closing with a fast rotation that ended in a sealing snict, Aaron started off in the direction where they'd beheld the thing.

                      What had Kimrith called it? 'Megafauna'?

                      Good a name as any for it, Aaron supposed. Though he might have come up with something a bit more colorful, himself. 'Mega Gecko', maybe? He smirked and shrugged to himself, the latter not an expression that came through well in an armor suit.

                      Aaron was no naturalist. No zoologist. Or for that matter, any kind of 'ist'. He knew tactics and how to infiltrate, how to kill the enemy and how to do his best to bring himself and his men back out alive. He had some minor corespondent Engineering degrees, but those were as far as any formal education he had, got. High school. That had been it for him. The only reason he had even gotten the degrees, was because his life partner of the time, thought it was important that he got some further education. He had done it to satisfy her. Then a year later, their relationship had broken up, and Aaron had said to Sekhmet with all of this degrees stuff. It was the most boring thing Aaron could imagine himself spending time on. He was a doer, not someone who sat for hour after hour in front of interface portals.

                      Aaron reached the spot where they'd spotted the 'Megafauna'. He crouched down and looked at what few tracks it had left. Nothing overly significant about them. He shrugged again. Maybe one of the 'ist' guys from their ship could tell something about them, but to Aaron, they were only largish footprints.

                      What Aaron was looking for more than anything else, was to see if there might be something following the thing. He leaned forward, looking over the edge of the mesa where the thing had disappeared.

                      He scanned for a good fifteen seconds. He saw very little, beyond just more of this world's rugged terrain.

                      He stood up again. Taking a step back from the mesa's edge, he instructed his suit to launch the drone.

                      HV-Vixen missile bulge and Plasma Lance bulge moved fluidly away from one another, revealing a plate which was opening in the center of the armor's back. When this part had fully opened, which was about 45 degrees, a small lever arm unfolded from the compartment within, bringing with it a small, ovoid object. The arm continued to extend, bending at an elbow, lowering the ovoid down to near the ground. When the ovoid was a foot from the ground, the arm swung like the arm of a trebuchet and flung the ovoid high into the air.

                      The ovoid was thrown straight upwards.

                      When it had reached approximately 10 meters, its reaction wheel systems came online, the wheel system's torque immediately righting the tiny ovoid. An instant after that, 30 tiny nozzles poked out through tiny hatches on the ovoid's underside. 30 tiny xenon gas thrusters came online.

                      At full power, these little thrusters would glow a light blue, so light they would be all but invisible on a bright day. At night, their power could be turned down. When they were turned down, their thrust exhaust was all but invisible, even on the darkest night.

                      Aaron gave the drone full power authority. He told it to do a 20 kilometer orbit around his position, scanning inwards from the periphery at one half degree increments.

                      The small drone streaked off. Its passage through the air made no more noise than a hard-pitched baseball.

                      "My drone's away," he radioed Kimrith. "I've got it doing a 20 kilometer sweep. It's going to take pictures of our position from around a full orbit. Here."

                      He opened his drone's telemetry to Kimrith's suit.

                      "You won't be able to take control of it. We can probably remedy that. You'd probably be able to help us with that, Allyn. But in the mean time, you'll be able to see what it's seeing. Either way, Sir, is there anything else you'd like for me to be doing while the drone does its thing? It's in full autonomous mode. I don't need to guide it or anything."
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                        #12
                        Allyn shrugged in his suit as Kimrith expressed his doubts about the time travelling possibility. If he was honest, he didn’t quite believe it himself, but less so now that he’d seen the actual errors that happened. “Well, you’re probably right about the time-travel, sir. Now that I’ve seen the logs it really doesn’t seem very likely.”

                        Time travel was a fanciful idea that often come up in the science-fiction novels he enjoyed reading. He was a nerd, always had been, and likely always would be. So the thought that they might have gone back in time was a somewhat appealing one. Still, not having gone back in time would have its own advantages. It would mean their technology level would remain the same. It would also mean that they wouldn’t have to deal with any potential paradoxes in the event of meeting a past version of himself. “Focus on what’s relevant.!” his brain admonished, and he got back to a more practical line of thinking.

                        Allyn’s time with the Star Storm company had so far been a positive one. E had had the opportunity to put his skills to work on several occasions, breaking into target systems to eavesdrop and give his team a much-needed edge in some dangerous operating conditions. One thing he hadn’t done though, was operated on the front line like he was doing now. If he was honest with himself, he felt vulnerable. He had the weakest of the armours here. That had not been an issue before where the others were usually out front and all he had to do was get within radio range or tag along with one of the larger suits to get into a control room to gain physical access to systems. The question was, what was he going to do about it? Part of him felt like folding in on itself. At the same time, he knew that people would be relying on him. He might have his doubts, but he’d have to put them on a shelf for now and put his very adaptable brain to good use.

                        He watched Aaron head off in the same direction he had gone, almost to the same spot he had examined. Though he had more of a purpose in doing so. Allyn had simply been curious.

                        As the drone camera came online, it appeared as a video feed in the lower left of his vision. He chuckled then, “Oh, I may very well be able to do that, and then some. I can even remove the safety geo-fencing the manufacturer puts in place…” he paused then, “Not that that would make a lot of difference here. We don’t seem to be near any known restricted zones.” He took note of the long trail of destruction to the forest. “You know, those trees may very well have helped slow us down. If we’d tipped over that cliff. We might’ve ended up nose first at the bottom, and that would’ve made things a lot harder.” he shook his head, “Thank Sylph for small miracles.” he said, a bit of reverence in his voice. He wasn’t the most religious bird in the galaxy, but he did believe in the traditions of Ascenseon.

                        He turned to Kimrith then, “Excuse me a moment.” he said then jogged after Aaron to the edge of the cliff. “That drone of yours has just given me an idea, though. Would you mind if I interfaced with your suit?” he asked, the wheels of an idea turning in his brain. “With the drone up in the air, I could tap into its raw sensor data and get signal readings. I’d very much like to see if there is any radio activity on the planet other than our own.”


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                          #13
                          “Make sure you tell me if you see any other kinds of megafauna,” Kimrith called after Aaron as he approached the cliff, before turning to Allyn.

                          “Phase jumps causing time travel has been a common theme in fiction lately,” he commented, “Despite how little it’s grounded in science. I can see how the thought occurred to you, though.”

                          He managed an expressive shrug despite his armour.

                          “Don’t worry about it,” he added, “I’d probably have thought the same if Liam hadn’t been complaining about it in the galley last week. I think you were on shore leave at the time.”

                          Aaron stepped back over to them a few moments later, and Kimrith turned to look at him.

                          “Good initiative,” he praised, eyeing the feed as it popped up in the upper left of his vision, “I was expecting you to have it in closer, but a survey of the surrounding area will definitely help.”

                          He paused as Aaron and Allyn spoke again, before pausing to check his communications system.

                          “I think it would be a good idea to pull the telemetry, yes,” he said, “I’ve got a signal. It’s… weak. Really weak, but… I don’t think we’re alone on this planet.”

                          He piped it into their headsets. What came through was soft static, with a semi-regular, soft burp. Something was transmitting on the frequency, though whatever was being transmitted wasn’t audible over the static.

                          “It’s in the civil band,” he explained, “From the looks if it, the source is weak, and we’re beyond its range.”

                          He paused.

                          “My suit can’t pick out distance, and it’s having trouble narrowing down direction,” he added, “We’ll want to use the drone telemetry to triangulate the signal, if that’s at all possible. Once we know where the source is, we can go and have a look, see what it is.”

                          He paused, distracted by something on the drone feed.

                          “Well, there’s another of the big gecko-things,” he commented, watching it drinking from a pool of water at the base of the mesa, which was running off a short distance before disappearing underground, “And… We’ve got a pack of predators. Doesn’t look like they’re hungry right now, though.”

                          The predators in question were a small pack of raptoroids – smaller than the giant geckos, but larger than the average anthromorph – which were clambering and jumping deftly across the rocky crags towards the water. They had four arms, though one pair no longer served as graspers, but rather had seemingly evolved to serve entirely as a balancing mechanism, laying along the back almost like avian wings and shifting with their movements.

                          They barely spared the gecko a glance as they reach the water and began drinking, at which point the drone left line of sight.

                          “We’ll need to watch out for those thing, but I don’t think they can climb the mesa,” Kimrith noted, before turning at a sound from inside the ship.

                          Some of the other Armoured Infantry troopers were emerging from the ship accompanied by engineers, and their maintenance bots.

                          The model of maintenance bot the Star Storm Armoured Infantry used was mounted on a tracked chassis, each with four large heavy arms that ended in large graspers with gecko-grip pads, and eight lighter arms which ended in dextrous manipulators capable of using regular hand-tools, in addition to built-in welders and saws.

                          “Boss,” one of the troopers – a liger wearing a hulking assault suit – called, waving, “We brought the bots. Where should we start?”

                          “There’s fallen timber on either side of the trench we carved on impact,” Kimrith replied, indicating the stern of the ship, “See if you can’t gather some of the stripped hull plating while you’re at it.”

                          “Got it, boss,” came the reply.
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                            #14
                            Allyn's remark about 'Geo-fencing' earned him a blank look from inside Aaron's helmet.

                            Of course, the helmet's visor was completely inscrutable - a thing for which Aaron was glad for the moment.

                            Aaron wasn't finding a lot to like about this Allyn guy. He had a super fancy suit that was just this side of useless in the situation they were in, he had little confidence in himself, and was demonstrating an almost desperate need to prove himself useful. It was all adding up to a chemistry in Aaron's mind, that this Allyn was probably going to eventually become a liability, either to himself or to them, and maybe even a danger to himself, they, or both.

                            The suit, some kind of custom job, Aaron figured, had been designed by the guy so he could look cool in front of other people. It was a sure-fire marker for no confidence in one's self. It was an act of compensation. Also, and probably more importantly, this Allyn guy had sacrificed function for looks. That was an earmark for zero combat experience. Or for that matter, survival experience. They were going to be roughing it on this world. That suit was going to end up a severe hindrance.

                            But...

                            Aaron indulged in a quiet sigh inside his helmet. It was inaudible to those around him.

                            ...it wouldn't be the first time he'd been called upon to carry a liability. At least this Allyn guy was a decent sort. He might come off like a popinjay on the outside, but it was easy to see too, that he wanted to be useful, and to be part of the team.

                            In any case, Aaron gave an offhand gesture to Allyn's request.

                            "Sure. Go ahead," he'd said. Then, for the moment, he started watching the drone feed with Kimrith.

                            He whistled softly at the track their ship had left. It was a crushed swath a quarter of a kilometer wide and several long. Trees had been uprooted and dragged along, and Aaron could just make out what looked like the crushed and mangled corpse of something big in among all the debris. Probably some kind of big herbivore. It was hard to tell. The corpse was in a bad state. But he could just make out what looked like a lower jaw. There were large, flattish teeth in what part of it that was left.

                            Then Allyn had found the radio transmission.

                            Aaron's ears perked in his helmet.

                            "A distress beacon?" he hazarded. "Another crashed ship, maybe?"

                            That made Aaron look down in thought in his helmet. He turned to Kimrith.

                            "That's made me think of something else," he said. "If there is any intelligent life on this world, and that signal is coming from them, then we might want to be a little extra on our guard."

                            He paused, his helmet rotating fractionally in between its shoulder pauldrons, to look at Allyn and back to Kimrith.

                            "Our ship," he added. "Its descent through the atmosphere would have been visible for hundreds of kilometers."
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                              #15
                              Allyn nodded to Aaron and a permission prompt came up on his helmet’s HUD display.

                              “Do you wish to allow temporary integration with Zephyr Rev 4?”

                              Upon saying yes to the prompt, Aaron would see a small command line window open up in the corner of his vision, out of the way of his main vision and not obstructing the drone’s video feed.

                              A few commands were quickly issued from this window, and the drone feed went black for a second. When it came back up, new indicators had been added to it. The first was a signal strength and distance indicator for Aaron’s suit in relation to the drone. The second was the same, but for the drone’s relation to the signal they were picking up.

                              “Hmm…” Allyn said, then a moment later a third and fourth indicator was added to the video feed. The third was the signal’s relation to Allyn’s position, and the fourth was the signal’s relation to Aaron’s position.

                              They were all weak, but there was variance in them, which told Allyn that it was probably possible to get a better fix on it.

                              “It doesn’t seem like a beacon.” he noted, “A beacon would be broadcasting at regular intervals. This seems to be more like the handshaking that happens when systems find each other. Based on the cadence and duration, it looks like there’s a conversation going on there, I’d say at least three participants involved, based on how one of the signals cut into another.”

                              He closed the command window from Aaron’s vision then, leaving just the video window. “If you wouldn’t mind, Aaron, would you send the drone out to the limit of its range and do a slow circle?” It was fair to note that Allyn hadn’t taken control of the drone himself. That wasn’t what he’d asked permission to do. Besides which, the control systems for the drone would take a little while to get familiar with. It was best to let Aaron handle that, seeing as he was already well familiar with it.

                              “In the meantime, I need a third point of triangulation. The drone is one, your suit in another, and mine is the third. But I need to put a bit of distance between our two points.” he nodded to Kimrith, “I won’t be long.” he said before turning and dashing off towards the ship.

                              He did a thruster-assisted leap, snapping his wings out and rocketed upwards to land lightly on top of the ship’s hull. There wasn’t anything ponderous or flashy about the ascent. It was fast, efficient, and there was no wasted motion. He walked off to about the middle point of the ship, then stopped. Everyone could see now that there was a distinct difference in how strong the signal was at Aaron’s position vs Allyn’s.

                              “It’s more towards you,” he commented over the comms. “Whoever is having that conversation is in that direction.”

                              As the drone flew its circuit they could see the signal strength dropping as it went around behind the ship and rising as it went around the front. The direction indicator on the video display went from a question mark to an arrow that pointed in the direction of the likely source of the signal.

                              Allyn walked off the top of the ship and glided down to Kimrith and Aaron’s position. He landed lightly, deftly as if moving in the suit felt natural. There were no flourishes, no ta-da’s, or anything obnoxious of that sort. He just used the suit like it was part of him.

                              He opened up his helmet again to look at Kimrith and Aaron. “The good news is, we know someone’s probably on this planet. The bad news is we still don’t know if they’re hostile.” he shook his head, then shrugged, “You’re right of course, there’s no way our entry could have been missed. Hopefully, the natives that we’re about to meet are friendly.”

                              Daryn's Signature



                              “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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