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  • #41

    Kimrith nodded.

    "Ah, good," he replied, looking up at the drone, before giving Allyn a nod, "That's our sweep done."

    He relaxed slightly, but it was clear that he was still keeping an eye out.

    "Solid copy, Ryder," came the reply, "As we suspected, the larger predators probably can't climb up here. Return to the ship; there's a storm sweeping in, and it's approaching evening."

    Kimrith had glanced over towards the horizon, and he nodded to Allyn.

    "He's got a point," He stated, indicating the clouds that were now approaching, "Our armour should protect us, but I'd prefer to get back to the shelter of the ship before that hits."
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    • #42

      Allyn nodded, bringing the drone in and stowing it in its charging slot.

      He looked over to the horizon, seeing the storm moving in. If there was one thing he knew, they tended to move a lot quicker than one would really expect them o.

      "I think..." he began, "If we want to get back in time, we should fly back."

      With that, he took a few quick steps and leapt into the air in the direction of the ship. It was unlikely that anything would have gotten into their airspace, if something had, the ship would have let them know.

      He waited for Kimrith to get airborne, circling around a few times until the dragon had joined him, then banked towards the ship and flapped a few times to build speed.

      "Stry..." he commented over the comms, "I wonder if that wasn't 'Stormy' and their scout was being ordered back before the storm rolled in." he offered.

      Allyn kept an eye on the ground as they flew along. This was a longer flight than just a hop across a river and thought if there had been anything the drone would have seen it, the drone did make a bit of noise, so anything down there might have remained hidden. His suit in flight mode was silent, so it stood a better chance of observing skittish creatures or folks that didn't want to be seen.
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      • #43

        Kimrith nodded in response, before spreading his wings and boosting into the air, the plasma jets letting out a crackling rumble as they blasted out bright exhaust plumes.

        He ended up landing short of the ship; his suit's flight capabilities being only a few hundred metres per "jump" without extra cooling.

        It nonetheless didn't take long to get back to the ship. Surprisingly, the pallisade was already about a third complete, if a bit uneven from using fallen trees from the ship's impact gouge.

        "This is Varainier," Kimrith reported, "We've returned, and are making out way back inside."

        ":Copy, Varainier. Welcome back. Once you're inside, the both of you can go off-duty," Captain Nightfang announced, "Get some rest for tomorrow."

        "Understood, Captain," Kimrith replied, before the line closed.
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        • #44

          Allyn stayed in the air as long as he could. When Kimrith had to land, he'd circle around so as not to get too far ahead of the dragon. Besides, it let him fly for longer, which in his mind, was a plus.

          Before too long though, the ship loomed largely. Allyn glided down, using his thrusters to help slow him down and land next to the airlock.

          He looked over to Kimrith, nodding to his team lead. "Giant insects, geckoids, rapteroids, and some unusual fauna. Not a bad sightseeing trip, if you ask me," he said, motioning for Kimrith to go in first.

          "And to top it all off," he continued, "Radio signals of unknown origin. If it weren't for the storm coming, I'd ask the Captain to let me scout further out to get more of that radio signal, if they're still transmitting." he pondered for a brief moment, looking up to the horizon, "But I'm not sure I want to test my stability systems in that." he said, motioning to the incoming storm.

          Allyn followed Kimrith into the airlock, "Now, about that old movie... If you're not busy, why not join me in my quarters. I'll make some popcorn and I can introduce you to the brilliance of Forbidden Planet."
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          • #45

            "Good point, Allyn," Kimrith replied when he motioned to the storm, which was very nearly overhead by this point, "Let's get inside."

            He stepped into the airlock, placing a hand on the controls as Allyn stepped inside. Mere moments after the bird had stepped inside, droplets of rain started falling onto the ship's wing.

            "Made it just in time," the Crystal Dragon noted, pressing the control to cycle the airlock, causing the door to swing closed on the (for the moment) still gentle rain.

            "We have that in the ship's media library?" he asked as the inner door opened, before pausing when he saw some of the engineers were clambering out of their exoskells just inside.

            He blinked, before letting out a noise of realisation.

            "No point in continuing to build the pallisade in these conditions," he explained to Allyn as they continued towards the power armour bay, "If they tried, it'd be too muddy to get anything done within minutes."

            Soon enough, they reached the bay, and Kimrith moved to his rack, stepping in and securing his suit, before powering it down. The back opened, and the Crystal Dragon wriggled his upper body out of the suit, before grabbing onto the backpack and using it to lever his legs out.

            The uninjured techs had apparently since returned to the bay, since one of them hurried over to have a quick word with Kimrith about the state of his suit, and another did likewise for Allyn.

            From what Allyn overheard from Kimrith's voice, everything was satisfactory (or more than) for the Crystal Dragon, so only routine post-mission checks were needed.

            "All right, then," Kimrith said as the tech speaking to him stepped over to the rack and input a quick command, "I think that should do it for me. How about you, Allyn?"
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            • #46

              Allyn followed Kimrith into the airlock and was pleased when he was back under the lights of the ship.

              "Yeah, looks like everyone is going to be hunkering down for the storm. Without knowing much about this planet's weather patterns, it's hard to tell if this is a particularly strong one or not." he shrugged, as they walked past the techs and made their way back into the power armour bay.

              As Allyn stepped up onto the rack to power down, he looked over to Kimrith, "Oh, the ship's media library might have it, but I have it on my personal store as well. I wasn't sure how long we'd be out, so I made sure to bring all my favourites in case it turned out to be an extended mission." he seemed to deflate a little at that, as he went through the power down and disrobing process. Despite his suit seeming smaller than Kimrith's, ingress and egress were much the same.

              He looked over to the tech then, as he looked over the post-op diagnostics, "Seems like I have a bit of a flutter on my right thruster. I'll have to investigate that with you." he told the tech, "It didn't feel bad when I was in the air, in fact, I didn't even notice it, but that's what the diagnostic is reading."

              Allyn was glad that his suit diagnostic took his mind off what he had been saying. His bit of preparation had turned out to be fortunate, but at the same time, he was reminded that they were in a very unique situation. They were travelling uncharted waters, or more appropriately, they were marooned.

              He extricated himself from the suit, not quite as gracefully as Kimrith had. He was still relatively new to power armour. It would take some time to really get the hang of things.

              "Apart from that, everything checks out. So, let's get showered up. Say, meet me at my quarters in half an hour?" he asked.
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              • #47

                "Yeah," Kimrith replied, tilting his head slightly to one side and listening to the faint sound of the rain outside, "Sounds like the rain's heavy, though I'm not hearing much wind."

                "Ah, gotcha," Kimrith replied, nodding in understanding, "Yeah, I brought some media myself. Mostly games, though. Oh, and I brought my tabletop gaming sourcebook-files, if you want to have a go at that later."

                He paused as Allyn spoke again, then nodded.

                "Half an hour, your quarters," he agreed, "Mind if I bring some jerky?"

                :::

                Half an hour later, Kimrith tapped the doorbell button on Allyn's door, making the intercom inside chime.
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                • #48

                  When Allyn got back to his quarters, he had to spend a few minutes sorting through the mess. The crash had sent loose objects flying everywhere, and when he got back, there was much to be cleaned up. Fortunately, anything he valued, and anything breakable was always stored in cases that were secured in place.

                  This was good since the first thing Allyn checked on were the two guitars he'd brought with him. They were still in their cases and still secured to the floor with straps.

                  Allyn breathed a sigh of relief. Those were what would help keep him sane as time went on.

                  It was standard practice to bolt down workstations, monitors, and peripherals wherever possible, so it wasn't a surprise when he looked over to see the computer there, right where it had been. The keyboard had moved around a bit in the desk, but otherwise, not much had happened.

                  His bookshelf, though, well, that was another matter. His collection of novels and reference books had ended up all over his quarters, and it took him a good while to get them all back on the shelves again.

                  Which is when he heard the doorbell ring. He glanced at the time on his monitor, "Wow, time flies. At least I got a five-minute shower in, so I won't smell."

                  "Come," he called to the door in answering the door chime.

                  He walked towards the door and offered his hand to Kimrith when he entered, "Nice of you to come, Kimrith. I have a feeling that actual personal time is going to be important for everyone going forward." he commented, nodding at their current situation, "For tonight, though, you're stuck with me for a good two hours." he said with a wry self-deprecating sparkle to his eyes, "Hey, you might like this movie, too. It's an ancient work, many consider it a true classic, and it's got a lot of different layers to it."

                  Allyn gestures towards the sofa. "Make yourself comfortable." Allyn offers, "I see you brought jerky. I'll get the popcorn going, and I think I have some beer in the fridge... which will hopefully not explode when we open it."
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                  • #49

                    Kimrith stepped inside, giving Allyn a nod a he took his hand, giving it a quick shake.

                    "Hey, I don't mind," he replied, "I'd watch movies with my whole squad back when I was with the Marines."

                    He paused for a moment.

                    "There's probably going to be movie nights and so on once the Captain has time to get things in hand," he added, before nodding when Allyn mentioned the jerky, holding up the bag he'd brought.

                    "I brought a variety of flavours from my personal supply," he explained, "Just be careful with some of them; I've got a couple of spicy varieties in here. And... well, given my species..."

                    Crystal Dragons were resistant to the effects of spices - at least when ingested - which meant that they often greatly enjoyed extremely spicy foods (some individuals to the point other species couldn't eat them safely), but... tended to not be able to gauge spiciness very well when it came to other species' tolerances.

                    There was something of a stereotype of them giving others food they considered mild, only for the food to be "fire breath" level, because of this.

                    "Gotcha. The beer's probably fine; it's been a couple of hours since the crash, so it should have settled," he added, "Don't worry about getting any for me, though; just don't like the stuff. Wine is more my thing."

                    His species was immune to alcohols, so this was more a matter of taste preference than anything else.

                    Kimrith sat down and stretched, before leaning back.
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                    • #50

                      Allyn nodded to Kimrith, "Be right back then."

                      Kimrith could see the bird go into the kitchenette, and before too long the sound of popping corn could be heard. The smell of melting butter wafted out through the small doorway as the black falcon got things ready. After a few minutes, he emerged with a large bowl of hot popcorn and some beverages. Beer for him, and a soda for Kimrith. Allyn did not have any wine on hand, so a soda was what he could offer.

                      He set the tray on the table in front of the couch and cocked is head towards Kimrith, "Well then, here we have an old science fiction classic. Truly ahead of its time, it was." his eyes seemed to sparkle as he spoke, quite pleased to be able to introduce his friend to something he might enjoy.

                      Allyn spoke a voice command, "Movie Mode." and the lights dimmed. A projection screen slid down and a ceiling mounted projector came to life. Kimrith saw a media library manager with movie posters in a grid. Allyn told the program to "Play Forbidden Planet" and the film's poster slid to the upper left, expanded itself, and brought up details about the film. A Timer counted down on the play button. When it reached 0, the screen went dark and the film began to play. The strange, eerie notes of the old synthesizer seemed to come from all around them.

                      ((I guess we can skip forward to the next day. ))
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                      • #51

                        "Thanks," Kimrith said when he was handed the soda, "Oh, cool, you had raspberry."

                        "This promises to be an interesting experience, then," Kimrith replied, grinning. He was quite curious now, and leaned forward as the movie began to play.

                        :::

                        The next day saw the two on the bridge, the Captain leaning on the central holographic table as it displayed a map of the plateau.

                        "Sensor pods have been deployed here, here, and here," he explained, indicating icons that matched the rocky spot the raptors were climbing, the climbable rock-face, and a spot that the drone hadn't seen, but had proven to be another rocky area that the raptoroids (and Jump-capable Power Armour) could potentially climb.

                        "The raptoroid pack spotted by your drone is the only one that's been seen on the plateau, indicating that it's their territory," he continued, "Not all that wide a range, all things considered, but quite rich, and it likely extends off of the plateau itself."

                        A moment's pause.

                        "With our situation here stabilised, we need to begin scouting off the plateau," he continued, "We need to know what resources are available to us, and also what the source of that signal was.

                        "Varainier, Ryder," he added, "The two of you are to suit up and prepare for sortie. The two of you are to keep in mind the limitations of Ryder's suit, and return after no more than forty-five percent of his suit's power reserve is depleted."

                        He paused for a moment.

                        "I'm expecting the signal to return at any moment," he explained, "Which means we need a signals expert out there with our scouts. And you're the best we've got for that, Ryder."
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                        • #52

                          Allyn nodded to the Captain.

                          "Aye, Sir." he said, looking over to Kimrith, "Looks like a longer outing for today," he said, a glint of excitement in his dark eyes.

                          A hard limit of 45% of his power would give him quite a bit of range. The prior day's 2km outing had only drained 8% of his charge. Though, if he had to use his energy weapon that would drain a substantial amount in one shot. The same was true if he had to deploy his shields. Those were last resort options. designed to let him stay alive and then find cover.

                          Allyn didn't expect either of those measures would be needed today, though. At least, he hoped not.

                          "The rapteroids haven't taken much of an interest in us, yet, but sooner or later they'll venture further in. I'm also wondering if you've seen any native avian life yet?" he asked, curiously.

                          He moved the topic back to the radio signal, which was something he could elaborate a bit on. "We now have a direction the signal came from." he began, looking over to Kimrith for confirmation, "If we retrace our steps from yesterday and keep going in that direction, we'll get into the range where the signal will be clear. From there, we can eavesdrop or make contact. I'll radio in once we're in position, Captain."

                          Allyn nodded to Kimrith, "Let's get suited up, I want to get some thruster reading before we go so I can see if my right thruster is still fluttering. I really don't want that to get worse."
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                          • #53

                            "We have," came the response, "They seem to be pteranodon analogues; they have four leathery wings and toothed beaks, stand on the middle limbs while using their wings and tails for balance; it's actually quite fascinating. The local varieties tend towards being small - it lets them fly amidst the canopy - with the two largest - which are still pretty small, compared to the megafauna we've spotted; torso maybe the size of a Risha's* - being insectivorous and piscivorous. Also docile around anthromorphs and fairly curious."

                            A pause.

                            "We've seen some abandoned nests on the mountain face that point to a larger variety, but their presence in this area is probably seasonal; a coastal variety that comes inland to breed, possibly, given the eggshell fragments discovered in the nests."

                            He paused as Allyn spoke again.

                            "I appreciate it," he replied, nodding, "Now get going you two."

                            Kimrith saluted, before turning to Allyn.

                            "Good idea," he replied, "Let's get moving, then."

                            :::

                            They were met at their suits by the techs.

                            "Kimrith, your suit's good to go," one commented, "Sight calibration for your gauss rifle was off by about two degrees, but I've already recalibrated, and it should be good to go."

                            "Thanks," Kimrith replied, giving the tech a nod.

                            Allyn's tech had similar news.

                            "I tracked down that thruster flutter," he explained, "Just a minor misalignment of the fuel feed. Might've gotten knocked askew in the impact. I corrected and gave the other thrusters a once-over to make sure it didn't happen to them as well."

                            "Right then, time to suit up," Kimrith stated, tapping the sequence into his commlink that caused his suit to open, before climbing inside as the fusion cores lit.

                            :::

                            *The Risha (pronounced Ree-shah), is a domesticated species from Drakerix, the homeworld of the Drakera'seratha (one of the core founding species of the Federation) that resembles a furry monitor lizard, and is about the size of the Lace Monitor. A fairly common pet animal in the Federation, but also produces a useful product in the form of a durable and soft silk that is perfect for making clothes and rope. They long held a symbiotic relationship with the Drakera'seratha - with evidence pointing to this relationship beginning in the earliest days of the modern Drakera'serath species - which has since expanded to many anthromorph species across the Federation.
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                            • #54

                              Allyn took in this new information. So there were avian species, and some of them might be fairly big. Well, with time they'd no doubt see them migrate in. Allyn nodded slowly, then got on task. "Right, we're off, then. We'll radio in when we're in position. Oh, and please, pull the logs for the computer systems, if that's possible. I'd like to do a bit of digging to see if I can track down what happened with the crash."

                              Following Kimrith to the suit bay, he nodded to the tech, "Nice work, Nathan. I'm glad it wasn't anything major."

                              He paused for a moment.

                              "You know, spares and resources for our suits are eventually going to become a problem. I hope the fabrication facilities weren't hit too badly," he commented as he slid himself into the suit. Legs, arms, and then the whole torso closed in around him like a glove.

                              As things went dark, his suit display lit up, letting him see outside as the startup sequence progressed through its checks.

                              With the suit fully booted up, he stood up and took a few steps out of the 'dressing' bay. He glanced over to Kimrith, who was also just getting out of the bay.

                              "It's almost starting to feel like a second skin. It's only been six months I've had the Zephyr and we've iterated through four major changes to it. It does feel great though, like me, just better. You know?" the bird was chatty this morning. Then again, he'd had a few cups of coffee already.

                              "Shall we get going then? The weather is looking good, even if the ground is wet, and we have some distance to cover to catch up to that signal.
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                              • #55

                                Captain Nightfang nodded in response to Allyn's request.

                                "The report will be available on your return," he stated.

                                :::

                                "The Captain would be a lot more careful about deploying us if that were the case," Kimrith replied, "So the foundry and micro-factory are probably still at least marginally functional. It's finding resources to feed into it that's going to be the challenge."

                                The ship's micro-factory was essentially a bank of 3D printers (for both metals and composites), and some other pieces of equipment that could produce parts for vehicles and power armour, and power-armour frames, if it had the right blueprints, though it didn't have the facilities needed to construct a vehicle's chassis. The foundry was capable of processing raw ore into useable materials and certain parts, through it was usually used for recycling scrap and/or poor-quality materials.

                                "Yeah, I know what you mean," Kimrith replied, chuckling softly, "A properly tuned suit of power armour feels great to wear. And yeah, it's time for us to get to work."

                                He led the way out of the Power Armour bay to the airlock, cycling quickly through it into the crisp morning air outside. He took a deep breath, and smiled at the clean, fresh scent of recent rain met his nostrils.

                                "Right then. Let's go," he said, the visor on his suit snapping down.
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                                • #56

                                  Allyn nodded to the Captain before following Kimrith out.

                                  **

                                  The bird did his checks before stepping out of the dressing bay. Everything looked and felt great. He still marvelled that he could clench and unclench his talons. The fabricators and techs had made great improvements to the various iterations of the Zephyr, so much so that it hardly resembled the initial, more bulky working prototype he used for the first month.

                                  He nodded to Kimrith, "Probably right, there. There's a lot of salvage material for the fabs, which ought to get us started. But a planet like this will no doubt have its share of raw materials we could use. It's just a matter of finding them."

                                  Allyn walked along behind Kimrith as they cycled through the airlock into the morning air. The rain had given the ground a good deal of moisture, and from their vantage point, they could see some mud puddles had formed. They'd dry out eventually, but the build crews would have a slightly more difficult time getting things settled. Still, that wasn't an issue that they hadn't ever faced before, so he wasn't too worried that the palisade wouldn't be solid.

                                  "Thought you'd never ask," he said, then took a few quick steps and leapt into the air. His wings snapped out and flapped rapidly, and soon he was up in the air and circling. Not bad, unassisted takeoff was something he thought would be possible, and this seemed like as good a spot as any to try it out. If he couldn't do it, there would be solid ground below, and a fall of four metres wouldn't hurt much. Though, it wouldn't come to that, as he would have engaged his thrusters to correct the fall.

                                  He did a few circles around the ship, waiting for Kimrith to get airborne.

                                  He muted his mic and let out a joyful screech. No sense in deafening or alarming anyone because he chose to greet the morning air.

                                  After his brief conversation with the air-spirits, he unmuted his suits mic. "I'm not picking up any signals just yet." he told Kimrith, "but let's set off and hope we catch up to it. It's possible they just haven't woken up yet."
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                                  • #57

                                    "The foundry will also let us recycle broken or worn-down components, so that's a plus," Kimrith added.

                                    The Crystal Dragon couldn't help but chuckle as he watched Allyn take to the air, before breaking into a run, spreading his wings wide, and flinging himself off the ship's wing, his suit's jets igniting as he went.

                                    He flew right over the unfinished pallisade, landing again some distance past it.

                                    "Myrmidon, Varainier," he stated over the radio as he started off at a loping run, "We're Oscar Mike."

                                    "Roger that," came the response, "Good luck out there. Myrmidon out."

                                    Kimrith ran for several more seconds, letting his jets cool off, before abruptly skidding to a halt as he passed a thicket, only to find himself confronted by the raptoroids.

                                    "Oop. Hello there," he said, straightening. This was unexpected, but perhaps not a bad thing.

                                    The raptoroids regarded him curiously, heads tilting from side to side, before one of them slowly padded closer.

                                    It examined him more closely for a moment, its nostrils flaring as it sniffed, before a shrieking call - similar to the hunting calls of some falconiform avians - from somewhere in the trees caught the attention of the entire pack, and they darted off.

                                    "Huh... They didn't regard me as potential food," he stated over the radio, "That's... actually rather odd."
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                                    • #58

                                      "True enough," said Allyn, and there would be a lot of broken components to recycle, too. There was no substitute for new materials, though. That was something he hoped to be able to find some potential sources of.

                                      The bird deployed passive scans of the area as he flew along, but currently, nothing struck him as unusual or useful.

                                      He circled around, watching the exchange between Kimrith and the rapteroids. "You probably don't smell 'alive' to them." he remarked, "With the sealed nature of our suits, we probably just smell like ore to them. That, or they've had contact with the planet's other inhabitants and don't see them as a threat, either."

                                      Allyn paused briefly, as he made a slow circuit around the area.

                                      "That said," he continued, "If they're going to leave us alone, that may be a good thing. Though, it could also be they plan to set up an ambush in a place that's more advantageous to them."

                                      Allyn shrugged his shoulders, causing his flight to bob down a bit before recovering.

                                      "You picking up that signal again?"
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                                      • #59

                                        "Good point," Kimrith admitted to the comment that they probably only smelled like metal, before getting on the move again.

                                        "I'm not going to dismiss the possibility out of hand, but I'm not sure I'm ready to attribute that level of intelligence to them just yet," he stated upon Allyn's comment that they might be planning an ambush, "We've seen curiosity and cooperative behaviour, yes, but there's animals that display that as well."

                                        "Not yet. My suit's communications suite isn't as good as yours is, though," he said when asked about the signal.

                                        He took to the air again, flying right over the river to land at the craggy wall.

                                        "The signal came from the direction the river's flowing," he commented, pointing in the stated direction, "Given how degraded the signal was, it has to be some distance away, so I'd say we can afford to fly along it as far as my jets can manage. We can land on the bank. What do you say?"

                                        At that moment, there was a crackle of static on the channel they were monitoring, though only Allyn actually heard it, as it was a little too faint to be picked out by Kimrith's suit. The words beneath were indecipherable, but...

                                        "That kinda feels like they're doing a radio check," Kimrith noted once he heard it.
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                                        • #60

                                          Allyn nodded slowly, though given he was flying around at the time, it probably wasn't a gesture that was easily seen.

                                          "Still," he said, "it's best if we keep an eye on them. For all we know, that's the species that are evolving to prominence on this planet."

                                          The bird waited for Kimrith to launch himself into the air before following him along the river, "Oh, here we go, we've got something. Maybe it's a radio check or a 'Good Morning' type of message." he tried to filter some of the static out, but that didn't help all that much.

                                          Unlike Kimrith, who had to come down, Allyn's suit could stay up for much longer periods of time. It worked out well for the both of them, as Allyn could provide aerial recon of Kimrith's landing spots.

                                          "We've got lots of range with fully charged batteries, so let's make the most out of it," he commented, flying towards the source of the signal.

                                          "Oh, and one more thing, Kimrith, check out the vegetation nearby. The rain seems to have brought out some rather nice colours. I wonder if there's any significance o that.."
                                          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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