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Lost - Jaxamar and Wyobi

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  • #31

    "They're sealed units," Wyobi replied, answering Jax's question about the reaction wheel. "If we had a spare, we could change it out, but they're precision manufactured in a factory. There's no way we'd be able to repair it ourselves. Also, the smallest of the units mass at around two-hundred kilos. It would take both of us together to lift one out and put it back in again. And well..."

    Jaxamar would know what Wyobi meant. There'd be no way the fox would be able to help. Not until he'd healed, anyway.

    There was silence from Wyobi's end as Jaxamar talked about the shortcomings of the fighter. He gave a shrug when Jax finished.

    "League military doctrine now a days," he said. "Bean counters and bottom lines. What can be best crammed into one of these fighters at the lowest cost. Can't argue that it isn't ideal, but it's what we got to work with. As to the rest..." Another shrug. "Like I said, we were drilled to be prepared to fly straight out of our bunks if needed. The inertial-dampening system made it possible, so the bigwigs said we should be ready to do it if we were called upon to do it."

    A sudden wry chuckle came from the fox. "There was even one drill session where we sat balls on the seat."

    If that raised any confusion, Wyobi would clarify with, "Yeah. Naked." Wyobi gave another shrug then. "It's just the way it is in the League now. It's gotten worse in the last year, but everything is being run more and more by the big corps. Every government official from the lowest copy room clerk up to highest congressman is in somebody's pocket. They pass laws that make the fat cats richer, and in turn, get richer themselves. While us small fry... Well, we're the ones who get squeezed in the middle."

    There was a snort of a chuckle from up in the front part of the cabin. "I always thought of it like popping a pimple, and guys like me, we're the pimple. 'Cept when we go pop, there's a fair chance something bigger, maybe even strategically important goes pop with us. Old as time itself. People'll shoot their own noses off to spite their faces. While the rest of us..."

    There was a final shrug, and Wyobi met Jaxamar's eyes in the mirror. "We just grin and bear it. Got to, if you want to fly in the League. But hey, as every first year wingnut (a person who is obsessed with the idea of becoming a fighter pilot) knows, could be the safest fighter in the whole universe, but flying one in combat would still be dangerous as dangerous gets. So yeah, if it's just a little more dangerous? There ain't nothing like the feeling of flying a state-of-the-art fighter."
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    • #32

      "Brilliant," Jaxamar growled, sarcasm dripping from the word, before he sighed, "Sorry, Lieutenant."

      Shaking his head, he leaned back.

      "Lowest bidder taken to its... all too logical end-point," he groaned, shaking his head, "This is exactly why the Katana flopped."

      The revelation that Wyobi had flown in the craft naked earned disbelief.

      "Seriously?!" he exclaimed, somewhere between laughing at the absurdity of the mental image and scrunching his snout in disgust, "You flew completely naked?!"

      The explanation of the corruption within the League got a disgusted expression, though there was no surprise.

      "Way things have been going for the Curiosity and the frontier, I'm not surprised in the slightest," he huffed, "Bunch of self-serving..."

      He trailed off rather than descend into what would likely have been an expletive-riddled rant.

      The pimple analogy, rather than clarifying the situation for the Plated Dragon, just caused confusion.

      "A... pimple?" Jaxamar asked, uncomprehending.

      The concept of a pimple was largely foreign to Drakeraserath; they lacked sweat glands, instead handling excess heat by radiating it via the wings, by panting, and - if the temperature rose too high to handle via the other two methods - through tiny internal endothermic reactions.

      As a result, it took over a minute, and a half-remembered conversation with Liam Nightfang regarding an ingrown hair (where pimples had been mentioned in passing) for him to realize what it actually was.

      "Ah. Skin cyst," he said, snapping his fingers, "That... sounds like it could be painful. Though your analogy now makes a lot more sense."

      A pause.

      "You have a point. Doesn't matter how safe your fighter is if you take a hit to the cockpit," he conceded, "Still, some of the features you mentioned sound like ones you'd put in a drone craft, not a piloted one. Almost like they changed their mind halfway through development."

      A brief pause.

      "This thing would be a lot more cost effective if they'd just put everything in places that made sense, and saw to proper pilot safety. A lot less training expenses since they don't have to replace pilots as often. A lot fewer compensation payouts to families whose members died or were crippled in accidents. Better pilots and more cost-efficient training because there are a larger number of more experienced pilots. I get that these birds were rushed out, but this is shinachirai*."

      :::
      * Shinachirai (pronounced sheen-ah-cheer-I) Literally "Wrong Saving"; a Drakerian term referring to short-term savings that end up costing far more in the long run.Roughly equivalent to the adage "penny smart, dollar foolish".

      PS: Sorry this took so long. Muse didn't cooperate, and then I got distracted with stuff here IRL.
      Last edited by Arratra; 06-13-2017, 11:38 AM. Reason: Error-fixing
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      • #33

        Wyobi chuffed, loudly. "'Pilot safety'," he echoed. "They say pilot safety is a paramount concern, but in practice, it's all about what costs less. In example: do you remember that court case against Williamson Yacht about twenty years ago?"

        Jaxamar certainly would. Nearly everybody in the League knew about it. It was a sensational case. Williamson Yacht discovered a flaw in their Space Reaver design. It was one of their most popular low-end yachts. A family where mom and dad both had decent salaries, could purchase one and Explore the Stars!, according to the company's advertisement campaign. No huge down payment and payments no larger than for a typical luxury family ground car, and a family could own one all their own.

        The flaw was with the yacht's toilet system. If certain situations arose, while someone was using the toilet, the toilet's empty system could malfunction, venting its contents into space while the toilet's inlet hatch was still open. The case broke into court after a five-year-old was sucked into space and lost his life. The design flaw was discovered during the civil suit that followed. It was subsequently discovered that Williamson knew about the flaw, but judged the cost of recall against probable lawsuits, and decided to cover the flaw up. Four executives wound up serving long prison sentences and Williamson Yacht Manufacturing was sent spiraling into bankruptcy by subsequent huge fines and civil losses. It was a case that held media attention for some years to follow.

        "Well, it's kind of like that. They know these fighters aren't the best or the safest. But we're servicemen. We supposedly knew the risks going in. Combat is dangerous and all that. We get killed, it's chocked up to war or combat or whatever, and the widow or widower or parents are given a flag, the pilot's pension, and that's that. You can't sue the government if someone dies in the line of duty. It is an accepted hazard of the job. Also, if any of us were to raise a stink about it, we'd quietly be given jobs that grounded us until we rotated out. So, yeah, it's kind of like that; we just shrug, because we don't want to lose our flight status and we just get on with our jobs. It isn't perfect. It kind of sucks, really. But like we've all learned to say, 'It is what it is'. It's the League, and a bunch of pilots aren't going to be able to change big-money policy."

        Then Wyobi just shrugged. "Yep, naked as the day I was born. It was only a maneuvers flight, though, and we were only out for twenty minutes, but yep, we sure did. It was both kind of weird and weirdly exhilarating at the same time."

        The fox grinned.

        "The whistle calls we got from the hangar crew when we were getting out was pretty embarrassing, though. We were never made to do it again, though. The base commander got wind of it, and rumor had it, he had our CAG standing on the rug for a serious down-dressing. Never confirmed it happened, but he did walk around with eyes down for a few days after it was rumored to have happened. Couldn't have happened to a better guy. Real wanker, our CAG was. Anyway..."

        Wyobi found Jaxamar's eyes in the mirror. "Think you could break open that pack? I haven't had anything since we hit your deck. I'm famished."

        A slight grimace. "They're not anything to write home about, but at least they're edible."
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        • #34

          Jaxamar nodded slowly.

          "That incident," he muttered, before sighing, "I was just a kid back then, but yeah. I had a friend whose family owned one; they had it torn apart for scrap, and were part of one of the class actions that happened over that. Poor Varantyr was horrified when he found out; he loved being able to visit his favourite cousin out in the colonies every month."

          He shook his head.

          "I get it," he sighed in response to Wyobi's explanation, "It's the way it is. However wrong it is, wishing it were different will do nothing."

          Jaxamar listened to the explanation about the naked flight, shaking his head slightly.

          "I'd say he probably was," he commented, before shrugging, "if only because of the dozen separate regulations he probably violated by doing that. My CAG in the Defense Squadrons was a bit of a sticker for the regs, so he never pulled a stunt like that... though he did work us into the ground so hard at one point that he got yelled at over it. He started listening to the squadron leaders after that - including me, after I succeeded Shira as one when she got promoted to CAG somewhere else -, and never did it again."

          A pause.

          "Sure," he replied, pulling open the pack, "Let's see what we've got here..."
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          • #35

            What was in the pack, turned out to be not bad. Moreover, there was a plenitude of it. Utilizing a hyper dehydration method, it was one thing the League had apparently been able to get right for its fighter pilots.

            The pack held seventy-two complete meals. Each meal was a rectangle about the length of the little finger. Accompanying the rectangles, were little plastic tubes of water. One only needed apply the water to the rectangle. Swelling began at once. Instructions with the pack said the rate of rehydration could be accelerated using heat, but the product would do so without it. It would only take a little longer. The instructions warned though, that product-hydration would not occur at temperatures below negative-five degrees Celsius. The fighter's cockpit was kept at a perfect twenty-two-point-four degrees Celsius.

            Taking about ten minutes, the product swelled into the size of large candy bars. They were firm, but moist, and had the consistency of energy bars. There were many flavors. Wyobi asked for apple-beef. Whatever flavor Jaxamar would choose for himself, he would find its flavor quite excellent. As did Wyobi, mmming appreciatively after taking his first bite. Each bar, according to the pack's instructions, provided three-thousand calories and the daily recommendation of nutrients across a pan-species average. If more nutrient was needed, a bottle of a thousand multi-vitamins was included in the pack.

            Jaxamar had taken note of two more such packs in the fighter's hold.

            After the meal was finished, Wyobi took to working with the fighter's sensor suite for a while. "We're about ten hours from decel burn," he said as he began. "I want to see if we can get a clearer picture." He glanced back at Jaxamar in the mirror. "We have some pretty good sensors, but distance makes a big difference in this bird." He smiled. "We aren't a full blown ship, after all."

            A ship would have a very wide array of sensors, many more than a fighter, and they would be far more sensitive.

            "Got it," he said after a few minutes. "It looks like there are two polar ice caps, with a temperate zone in the planet's upper-center-most parallels. Gets kind of muggy the closer you get to the equator, and there are large desert regions in many of the land masses in this zone. How about if I program the fighter's nav systems to orient its burn to end us above the temperate zone? Over this continent here, for instance?"

            Jaxamar had the landmass Wyobi meant pop up on his console's screen. It was a landmass bordered on both sides by oceans. It was about two-thousand kilometers across and roughly twice that in height. The landmass was showing forested regions and plains. The flat topography to the west of the mountains was reading as mostly desert terrain. On the mountains' other size though, the landmass appeared to support a vast assortment of vegetation.

            "Some mountainous terrain near the center, so that probably means there's tectonic plate movement." He grinned. "Maybe some precious met..."

            "Hello. What was that?"

            There had been a brief flicker on the screens.

            "Sensors are registering it as a quantum fluctuation," Wyobi said, puzzled. "I'll try to pinpoint it."

            After a moment, he blinked and then shrugged. "Must have been a glitch in the sensors. Part of the power surge, probably. Oh well, but I did say that some of the sensors took a bit of a cooking. Maybe we'll be able to get another read after the burn. But I could have swore it emanated from somewhere on the planet. We'll just have to wait till we're closer, I guess."

            With that, the fox gave over to a huge yawn. "I'm gonna get me some shuteye, Sir. We have just under ten hours now to the burn. I dare say we both could use some sleep." He yawned again. "I know I could use some."
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            • #36

              "Here you go," Jaxamar said as he passed Wyobi the one he'd requested, "Enjoy."

              Selecting barbeque beef for himself, he settled in to wait for the bar to fully rehydrate.

              Once it had swelled to its proper size, he took a bite, letting out a low hum of appreciation.

              "I always find myself surprised that something like this is so good," he commented, "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we have it. Just surprised the League didn't opt for using nutrient blocks; those things are dirt cheap, and keep pretty much forever. It's why I have them in my emergency supplies, despite how disgusting they taste."

              He nodded in agreement to Wyobi's suggestion.

              "Good idea," he replied, nodding. He was aware of the fact that fighters suffered distance-related degradation in sensor resolution, both from reading technical specs, and from personal experience piloting the Tornado, Stormblade, and Galefury. Even externally-mounted AWACS (Aerospace Warning And Control System) modules suffered from the issue (though only at very long ranges).

              He leaned forward to take a closer look at what Wyobi had brought up on the screen, nodding thoughtfully.

              "Looks good from here," he agreed, examining it. He was looking right at the flicker when it appeared, and frowned.

              "Maybe... but this signature seems familiar," he replied to Wyobi's assertion that it was just a sensor glitch, frowning in thought, "Ah, now I remember. The FTL my species used pre-Contact would cause something like this when they broke down. Harmless, but it lights up any sensors watching like a firework. We stopped using them because the drives the League made available meant the journey would take days or hours, instead of months. And they were safer; there were a number of accidents with our old drives that caused ships to disappear, including a couple of colony vessels."

              A pause.

              "Come to think of it, one of them was headed in this direction," he added, frowning, "Its destination was only about sixty lightyears from Drakerix, though, which isn't much closer than where we came from. The odds of emerging from phase here, though... Yeah. Not likely at all. Probably just a glitch."

              He leaned back in his seat.

              "Yeah, some shut-eye does seem like a good idea," he commented, "I'll take first watch."
              Last edited by Arratra; 07-07-2017, 02:14 PM. Reason: Grammar and error fixing after a reread; nothing major.
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              • #37

                The rest of the flight, up to the burn, was uneventful. Both Wyobi and Jaxamar were able to get some decent sleep, and both were wide awake and ready when the nav computer finally announced it was beginning its orbital-insertion burn. Wyobi took the precaution of taking another pain-blocker, becoming extremely thankful for the forethought, after the burn began.

                The burn was pretty much a standard deceleration maneuver. The fighter turned its rear to the direction of flight, began its ten-second countdown, and then the burn commenced.

                It was six grueling minutes of nine Gs, the fighter vibrating under the might of the engines, the sounds of the engines roaring through the cockpit with enough volume to make any kind of conversation impossible. Finally, though, mercifully, it was over. When it was, the fighter's nav computer pinged, showing a sustained orbital track. They were in stationary orbit just north of the planet's equator, over the forested area Jaxamar and Wyobi had agreed upon earlier.

                "Alright," Wyobi said. "Let's fire up our spectrometers and see what's down there." He started firing up the equipment. From somewhere in the fighter's belly, a soft, mechanical whirring arose. When it stopped, Jaxamar's and Wyobi's screens started displaying scan telemetry.

                "Huh," Wyobi said after a few beats. "Looks like native landscape. Either this place has never been populated before, or it's been so long since it had any kind of civilization, that there's nothing left of it to scan. Showing only flora and fauna. Nothing whatsoever to indicate intelligent life. No artificially-produced EM emissions."

                "Hold on a sec."

                Wyobi zoomed the scanner in.

                "Right. He's a biggun."

                There was looked like some kind of three-times-as-large elephant showing on the display. There, any resemblance with elephants ended, however. It had what looked like two massively strong and long trunks, six heavy legs, and a body-shape that more resembled a rhinoceros than it did any kind of elephant. It was roughly ten-meters long, four wide, and easily that tall. It could weigh no less than twenty or thirty tons.

                "Note to away team," Wyobi said dryly. "Stay out of that thing's way. Fox got no fondness for being bubble gum on anyone's shoe..."

                Wyobi zoomed the scan out some, revealing that there were a herd of the creatures. There were about twenty individuals, with five young among them.

                "At least now we know this place sustains life," Wyobi remarked. "They're able to breathe the atmosphere, drink the water and eat the vegetation. And yep, got seventy-seven-percent nitrogen, twenty-one-percent oxygen with various trace gasses. Inertial nav though is only showing point-seven G. Little wonder those critters got so big. They'd never be able to sustain their own weight in a normal gravity field."

                Wyobi moved on.

                "Soil composition is reading as pretty much L-Congruous normal. No notable radiation at the surface... pretty much what you'd expect to find in a place like this. It's like we found ourselves an untouched world."

                Wyobi grinned back at Jaxamar in the mirror. "We're its first colonist. You're the ranking officer. Care to do the honor of naming her?"
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                • #38

                  The moment the burn ended, Jaxamar leaned forward to check on Wyobi, the power-assist frame hidden beneath the outer layers of the suit whining softly as it re-calibrated from High-G mode to normal operations.

                  "Yeah." Jaxamar replied, a low, uneasy rumble emerging from him, "I don't think anything less than an ion pistol would deter them. My Viper would probably just make them mad."

                  A pause.

                  "You've got a point. Not everything in the ecosystem could be that size," he agreed, "We should be able to find something we can handle."

                  The Plated Dragon was caught off-guard when Wyobi announced he would name it.

                  "Er... Ah. Of course," he said, blinking, before frowning in thought.

                  After a moment, he looked at Wyobi through the mirrors.

                  "Stormport, I think," he said, "our own little desert island."

                  A pause.

                  "Er, sorry," Jaxamar apologized, "Old Drakera'serath sailor's tale I heard somewhere. Anyway, we should find somewhere to set down. A cave, preferably."
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                  • #39

                    Wyobi just grinned in response to Jaxamar's choice of names. "Old romantic, eh?" He chuckled. "Not to worry. It's how about half the worlds and moons in the League got their names. Space travel back in the early days was a lot like what we're doing - people setting out, no destination in mind, hoping to discover something, and more often than not, just hoping to stay alive long enough to make any discoveries."

                    He grinned over the edge of his canopy's side. "Hello new world! We christen thee 'Stormport'!" There was another grin.

                    "Too bad we haven't any champagne in the hold! So hehe, right then. Let's see if this bird can find us a cave..."

                    Wyobi worked with the scanners for about another ten minutes, before he and Jaxamar found anything. "Scanners weren't exactly setup to look underground, so the best we can do is hope to spot some kind of opening," he explained. "Its software is geared more toward finding structures, the regular lines and geometry of buildings."

                    He grunted. "For bombing, of course."

                    Then, "Ah. Here we are. This looks promising."

                    He zoomed in. There was what looked like a dark opening against a low hill. It looked like the exit for a stream.

                    "Right next to running water, too," he said. "Looks like as good a place as any. Land us close to this, then?"
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                    • #40

                      "I was a kid when I read it," Jaxamar replied, shrugging sheepishly, "'This is our port in the storm'. An old tale of shipwrecked survivors. I think every species has something like it."

                      A pause.

                      "Space exploration was a bit more structured with my species," he commented, "We'd go to a star, have a look around, maybe put down a few probes, then return home to tell everyone what we found. Of course, the journeys took months with the old Phase Drives, and there was always the risk the drive would malfunction and fail to bring you out when you wanted."

                      He frowned slightly at the mention of the scanners' limitations.

                      "We'll need to keep an eye out for stone-age tribes, then," he commented, "That tech level would be difficult for these sensors to pick out."

                      On seeing the highlighted cave, Jaxamar nodded.

                      "Looks about as good as we're going to get from up here," he agreed, "I'd prefer something forested, maybe in a cliff-face, where the big ones can't trample us, but I don't think we can afford to be choosy at this point. So yeah, that's out landing point unless we find something better on the way down."

                      A pause.

                      "By the way, what do you think we should call those big two-trunk beasts?"
                      Last edited by Arratra; 07-31-2017, 05:33 AM. Reason: Spelling errors
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                      • #41

                        "Dunno," Wyobi said at once. He rubbed his chin with his good hand, apparently giving it a think. "Mightytaurs?" he finally hazarded uncertainly. He grinned in the mirror back at Jaxamar. "Too moribund?" He snickered. "Well, you name them, then!"

                        Jaxamar was starting to notice a pattern in the young fox's behavior. Had he maybe had too many pain-blockers in the last couple of hours? It seemed that he was decidedly showing the signs of euphoria. But then, as if to disprove this, Wyobi said with complete seriousness, "I could look for a cliff-face, with maybe a cave in it, but we're starting to run into a problem. I only scanned the area immediately below us. We're starting to get a little low on fuel."

                        The fighter used deuterium ingots for its main drive thrusters, which could theoretically last for decades, even under higher-than-normal usage. But to get the deuterium ignited, that took hydrogen.

                        "We got less than quarter reserves. I want to make sure we have enough to lift off again if we need to. If we start trying to do search patterns, we'll need to ignite the engines again. Right now, in fact, I am configuring us for a drop-and-recovery landing."

                        Jaxamar would know what that meant, of course. Wyobi was planning to use air brakes and finally, a parachute to bring them in.

                        "This bird is a lot better at it than an early-era spacecraft; we'll be able to pretty much land exactly where we want to, but I think it's best if we do it this way. To save fuel, for one. For another, our engines weren't exactly made to be used near a planet's surface."

                        He grimaced. "We could set the whole forest alight, not to mention turning our landing site into a pool of molten rock when we came down. We'd have pretty much written our own death warrants, long before any of those huge beasties had their chance at us. This ship's hull wasn't made to stand up to that kind of heat. We'd be roasted alive in our seats just meters from touchdown."

                        With that, Wyobi began punching up the instructions for the landing they were going to attempt. The computer pinged. It began its countdown. On the count of zero, the fighter gave a short bark of the engines, and then gently turned on its axis, pointing its nose toward the planet's surface below. Then, the alignment set, the nosecone of the fighter blew apart with explosive bolts. A large, white, multi-petaled cone inflated outwards, becoming about twice the fighter's axial footprint. The nav computer was showing twenty-two seconds to re-entry.

                        "The SAS system will keep us perfectly positioned for max decel," the fox said. "And I've powered up the burst inertial compensator. But make sure you're strapped in tight. It's gonna turn into a bumpy ride."

                        Re-entry began without much event, at first. But it wasn't long until the fighter started coming into contact with the lower layers of the planet's atmosphere. When that happened, high-velocity streamers of flame started appearing around the edges of the petals. But then, not long after that, it was everything Jaxamar and Wyobi could do to keep their jaws clenched. The vibration in the fighter was monstrous! The sound from their air-brake against the atmosphere had become a sustained, thunderclap roar!

                        Suddenly, there was the explosion of the fighter's drogue chutes being deployed. Deceleration happened fast then, and would have had both fox and dragon pitched hard forward in their restraints, if it hadn't been for the burst inertial systems. Then, the SAS systems were whining. The nose of the fighter started coming up parallel with the ground yet still two-thousand meters below. The petal assembly of the air-brake flew off, it rolling off crazily across the sky.

                        "Main chute deploying, in five, four...!" Wyobi called out.

                        "Now!"

                        A giant parachute strung out from the fighter's main fuselage, just behind where Jaxamar was seated. The SAS system whined even louder, keeping the fighter's profile level with the ground. The chute expanded. It was four times the size of the fighter.

                        "Five-hundred meters to touchdown," Wyobi announced. "We're right on target!"

                        There after, the fighter drifted lazily downward. As it drew near to the ground, its landing struts extended. Seconds after that, it touched down. It was barely enough to compress the landing legs' springs. The chute fell over the fighter, a vast mass of collapsing fabric, accompanied by the down-whine of the SAS systems powering down.

                        "Everything checks out," Wyobi said, relief evident in his voice. "All engines are showing green, and in standby mode. We made a perfect landing."

                        He slumped back in his seat. Then he started undoing his harness. "I'm going to need help climbing out," he said, as he worked. "But you'd better go out first. Do a quick scout around, and we'll need to cut the chute away from the fuselage."
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                        • #42

                          "Mightytaur," Jaxamar murmured, trying it out, before nodding, "As good a name as any."

                          He did frown at Wyobi's behaviour, making a mental note not to let him take any more painkillers until the current dose had worn off completely. Even then, it would probably be best to let it totally metabolise before the next one.

                          He gave the fox a slightly confused expression when he mentioned using the archaic landing method, then sighed on hearing what the fighter would do on landing.

                          "You can tell this bird's designed to be carrier-borne," he commented in an exasperated tone, "All right then."

                          He locked into the restraining bolts, and cinched the belt restraints for good measure.

                          "I know," he responded to the comment on it being a bumpy ride, "I've done the maneuver in training, though only in the simulator."

                          It was too expensive to do such a maneuver physically for training purposes. While some of the materials could be reused, such as the parachute, the airbrake ballute was usually not recoverable.

                          Furthermore, every fighter Jaxamar had ever flown had been designed for both space and atmospheric flight, which meant the maneuver was normally only used in an emergency.

                          Such an emergency would include needing to reenter an atmosphere in an ejected cockpit, which was one of the reasons for Jaxamar's more recent runs through that simulation.

                          "Here we go," Jaxamar muttered as the first streamers of fire came over the balute, before the vibration really kicked in.

                          The creators of the Insatiable Curiosity's simulators had done a very thorough job; while they hadn't been able to fully imitate the vibration of this type of reentry, they had included a number of warnings that the real thing was worse than the simulator could manage.

                          As a result, Jaxamar was ready when it hit; the only sound that emerged from him was a low hiss of his breath through his teeth, jerky and uneven though it was from the shaking.

                          The bang of the drogue deploying caused him to glance back towards the rear of the fighter, then down at the screen of his console.

                          The ballute coming off surprised him a little, as it didn't fly apart like he was used to, instead being jettisoned whole. This caused him to watch it for a moment as it rolled away, before going back down to the console as Wyobi started counting down to the main chute deployment.

                          "Confirmed, good chute," he replied.

                          Once they touched down, he slowly started to relax. Once the fighter had been shut down, he let out a sigh of relieved tension.

                          "Right," he replied, undoing the harness and disengaging from the restraining bolts, "The locals will probably be curious."

                          He slipped on his suit's mask, then popped the canopy and stood. Before moving, however, he paused to check on the medikit; specifically, he went searching for the concentration of painkillers in Wyobi's blood.

                          "You're showing some symptoms of a mild painkiller overdose," he explained, scanning the display with eyes narrowed in frustration at the medical jargon, "Either way, I don't think we can risk another dose. Not until you've finished metabolising the current one."

                          Once his check was complete, he shut the kit, then started clambering down. Once on the ground, he drew his ion pistol and started making his way towards the edge of the parachute. As he neared the edge, he went prone and crawled to the edge, using his wings to slightly lift it and look around.

                          If the coast proved to be clear, he stood up and scanned the area.
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                          • #43

                            Wyobi understood, if he did look a little non-plussed about the declaration.

                            "I should need them a lot less now, anyway, now that we're landed." There'd be no G-force-shifts to have to deal with, he meant. "Also, come to think of it, we have a pair of hammocks in our survival gear. Stuff to light fires with, too, and some basic cooking gear. Also, there's a crossbow."

                            He chuffed. "Why they would include a crossbow, is anybody's guess." A shrug. "Maybe they wanted to ensure we were equipped with some kind of silent weapon. Anyway, there are a pair of high-quality hunting knives, too, and a pair of compasses and stuff like that - pretty much a full survival gear kit."

                            Jaxamar found nothing that appeared to pose any kind of immediate threat, when he looked out from beneath the chute. The landscape was northern-continent forest tundra. The loam under Jaxamar was moist and spongy. The trees, while not exactly sparse, weren't so close together either, so as to exclude a decent sight distance. Jaxamar couldn't see for miles, but he did have a good field of view for a few hundred meters through the trees.

                            The trees were of the low to medium altitude varieties. No matter the world or what its biology was like, if it had trees, those trees always stuck very close to a universal model. These trees resembled oak, walnut and pine. There were even acorn equivalents scattered around under the trees. Pine cone equivalents, as well.

                            More importantly, Jaxamar could see no large footprints - none that would have belonged to those Mightytaurs, but none either of what might serve in this eco system as an apex-like predator. All Jaxamar found, were the small tracks of what might be rodents, and the less occasional tracks of birds. As he peered out through the forest, he thought he could make out what appeared to be a trail by some kind of deer-equivalent.

                            Also, all was quiet when Jaxamar had gotten out of the fighter. It remained quiet for several moments as Jaxamar looked around. Suddenly, though, the quiet was replaced by a tentative bird song. Not long after that, several other birds started joining in. Their voice was as diverse as any that Jaxamar had ever heard on any other inhabited L-Congruous world.

                            Wyobi remained quiet back in the fighter, as Jaxamar conducted his initial scout. Finally, though, when the birds started up, he called out tentatively, "Anything?"
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                            • #44

                              The mention of a crossbow didn't elicit the reaction Wyobi likely expected. Instead, Jaxamar smiled.

                              "Actually, a crossbow is perfect," he replied, "Looks like those bean counters finally did something right. While it might seem primitive, it doesn't rely on an energy supply or complex mechanics, and we can re-use the ammunition."

                              "They're in the emergency kits of the Stormblades and my Galefury, too," he continued, "I was thinking I'd have to fletch a longbow when my Viper ran out of needles. Now I won't need to. Might still do it to pass time, though."

                              __

                              Jaxamar carefully scanned the area for a long moment, before opening the air intakes on his mask. Local air flowed in, along with the scents of the forest.

                              "All clear," he replied to Wyobi's question, turning and starting to roll up the parachute. Even if they couldn't use it for its intended purpose again, the fabric was light and tough; they could make good use of it. While doing this, he allowed the forest to flow into his senses, starting the process of learning and integrating with it.

                              Most of the scents were unfamiliar, but underneath it all was the earthy smell of the loam, and the freshness of a thriving biosphere.

                              This caused him to smile slightly, as it reminded him of his homeworld.

                              As he reached the fighter, he clambered up to pull the parachute over the open canopy.

                              "I don't think my multitool can managed that. I'll have finish that up once I've got a bigger blade," he muttered, eyeing the thick cord attaching the parachute to the fighter, before he turned to Wyobi, "Come on, let's get you out and deal with that leg."

                              He offered his hand to the fox.
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                              • #45

                                Wyobi was quick to reach up and take Jaxamar's hand. As Jaxamar helped him up out of the cockpit, he found the fox to be quite light and agreeably strong. It wasn't long before he had Wyobi up and sitting on the cockpit's edge. By then, despite how light or strong he was, Wyobi was breathing pretty hard, and he'd broken out into a sweat.

                                "Sorry," he said, looking sheepish. "Heck of a position to be in, isn't it?" Meaning that Wyobi knew that Jaxamar was going to have to do everything. Not only help Wyobi down to the ground, but was going to have to get them down to the cave, set up the camp all by himself, and have to do all of the hunting by himself, too.

                                As Wyobi came up though, he'd detached what looked like a miniature pad from the flight-control console. It was about the size of a smartphone. "Co-pilot's console has one, too," he said as he grabbed the device. He pocketed it after sitting up on the cockpit's edge. "They'll give us constant communication with each other. Also, we can access the fighter's telemetry with them."

                                Wyobi looked dubiously down at the fighter's ladder, then. The fighter, on the ground, had an enormous profile. Its nose section was three meters off of the ground, being supported by a heavy landing strut. The aft section was easily as big as a two-story building. It was a good seven and a half meters to its top engine nacelles. The rear section stood on two equally strong, but stumpy landing legs.

                                "I'll never be able to get down that," he said. He looked back up at Jaxamar, soft, worried, brown fox's eyes. They were apologetic. "Not even with help. You're going to have to carry me down, Sir."

                                All the time, the birds, in what sounded like the thousands, sung in the trees above them. Below them, the local rodentia wildlife had lost some of its fear and was starting to come out to check out this new visitor. Jaxamar caught a flash of movement down on the ground, near the fighter's front landing strut.

                                "After we get down, I'll need you to something else. Our scanners can be configured to act as a kind of surface radar and immediate-area scanning system. It'll take some manual adjustments and overrides to do it. I'll be able to walk you through it, though, so no big worries." He gave the phone in his pocket a tap. "We can access its data then, from these."

                                The little rodent down by the fighter's front foot, might have been a squirrel-equivalent. It didn't look like it was harmful, just curious. In a flash, then, though, it was winding up the strut, and in the next moment, could be heard scurrying around up inside the strut's compartment.

                                Wyobi grimaced. He hadn't seen what it was, but he could guess easily enough - both from the sound and Jaxamar's expressions. "Not to worry," he said. "They can't get to anything vital from in those." Meaning the landing gear compartments. "But we're going to need to close the canopy. If they get into the wiring, they could strand us here for certain."
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