>While you were waiting for a radio message from Jeff, your time was currently occupied with either getting armor and weapons upgraded, equipment restocked, something to eat or drink (some of you, Everclear), or taking a nap.
>Krinza wasn't a sport about getting five different orders from five different operators at once, so some of your gear was either currently getting worked on or it was in que to getting worked on later.
>Finally, your peace and quiet was expectedly interrupted via your radio.
*"It's Jeff. Head to the command bunker. I'm pretty sure I've got a spot picked out."*
>>260979>Nevil Wayne had an almost irrational amount of guilt over giving Krinza work for his behalf. He ALMOST decided to not improve his arsenal … Until he thought more about it.>He still had work to do. As much as he wished it, he still had future missions to look forward to - infact he was waiting to be called that very day; his 'squad' might count on him to have himself squared away to support them. Maybe this one improvement might even be the difference between an easy fight and a less easy fight,>He'd apologize to Krinza in his own professional way. A resolute, but genuinely guilty tone in their voice.
"I'm very sorry, Krinza. I would not be asking for your services if I didn't think I needed it. If it matters at all, I appreciate what you do for us very much.">Still. Despite everything, he always felt guilty asking anything from Krinza. He was always thankful, but he always felt more and more guilty whenever he came to ask anything. It felt heavy to ask for other's help now-days.>Or so he thought, at least. In his head he was a burden to everyone. A byproduct of all his regrets. It's probably why he was always so thankful for everything, even the smallest of things, from others.>He left his M3 pattern armor for Krinza so that they could work on it, leaving himself in his finely remade service uniform and advanced weapons when he'd saunter himself back outside.>Of course, his "squad" had already dispersed to make use of their free time by that time.>As for HIS use of free time… Nevil decided to go back to the second building of the barracks. Though not to nap, like others. >He went straight to his assigned room to stow his trusty M41A and (mostly pointless) combat pistol, and satchel. Then his service uniform in the armoire. To transition into a more shower friendly nakedness, with a towel. >He takes a "hollywood" shower of about 3 minutes. Mostly to unwind, and think back to what happened. >He knew he fucked up on the last mission. Or rather, those under his command fucked up. He just hadn't watched them diligently enough. > … … … >Before more bitter thoughts - before thoughts of the past could come back to haunt him, he shuts off the water and goes to dry up. brush his crewcut hair, shave for 5 minutes, wash his teeth. >He makes sure his personal hygiene is well taken care of for the long day he expects to come. >Though he still had an hour or so left, he wagered. >So he returned to his room, put his undershirt and garments back on, and the uniform, helmet beside him so he would hear the radio… And… Sat down on his bedside for a long time. Elbows on either lap, hands between… While he's away from everyone else, behind closed doors where nobody would be bothered by his bad mood, he lets his face fall a bit more. Looking just a bit older. As his shoulders fall.>His eyes went to his shoulder patch. It bore the USCM insignia. Still pristine as the day he was given it. Regularly cleaned, regularly maintained, like one maintains a dress uniform. >He breathed an angsty sigh through his nose, and stood up to do his daily ritual. Which was to stand up, go to his locker, open it, and start re-reading the names of the bundle of 48 dogtags that composed the two platoons that fought by his side, once upon a time. On another Earth. >Every, single, day, - whenever there was time - every morning, he committed those names to memory, and wrote a new letter to a family he would probably never get to see to deliver said letter. >Without his knowing, 30 minutes would pass. >He looked at the wall clock. Then hurriedly put the dogtags in their place, in the locker, and withdraws his weapons. Slinging on his M41A, clicking the belt buckle of his pistol holster rig, putting on the explosive's pouches on the velcro of the belt. >He takes the somewhat heavily modified, cream colored M10 helmet and puts it under his arm, as he strides back outside with a slight hurry in his gait. >At least his hair was properly dry now!>He hadn't been called yet. But that didn't mean he had to linger. >Looking around outside once he left the barracks, eyeing the other operators that there were and the ponies that might've been there. >Specifically, a certain crystal pony. He spies them in the distance, as they wandered from the Mess Hall. But he just followed them with his glance, not following them. >He made a beeline for the Command Center. Posting himself outside the front entrance in anticipation of a call. Until the call finally did come in.>He didn't even chime into the radio, he just walked inside as he was already there. And reports to Jeff instantly, as soon as he'd see them. >Nevil carried himself with a straight back and a more purposeful and confident gait now that he was in the command bunker. And despite the lidded, weary look of his eyes, he nods quickly to Jeff and gives them a salute in greeting. Resting one arm over the butt of his M41A, while the holds the helmet under the arm.>He waits patiently. Waiting for the others to inevitably file in. Or for Jeff to address him.
>>260979>Lucius stretches his limbs dramatically, groaning against the sloth still clinging to his body>regretting deeply the parting of company with his warm bed sheets, he swings one leg, then the other, over the side of the wooden bed frame, resting and flexing briefly both tired feet and worn out toes on the splinter-prone floorboards below
"Sir Jeff is quite the slave driver, to be sure.">the ranger scratches at his stubble for a moment before shrugging and rising bodily from his bed, strapping on his gear and muttering to himself
"Would have liked a few more hours' sleep…">he turns towards the door, striding forward and pushing the door open absentmindedly with the back of his right forearm
"Well, won't do to keep the master waiting.">with this, Lucius sets out for the Command Bunker, his mind definitely still stuck on his pillow
>>260979>Hildemar jerks his head up at the sudden voice interrupting him reading his scriptures and hastily written notes and conjectures on this world's magic.>It is only after a few moments that he begrudgingly decides to answer, cursing this new technologythat serves only to interrupt personal matters.
*"Very well then."*>The witch hunter's belongings are swiftly packed up and he once again dons his armor and his far more important hat.>Before he can meet back up with his current boss, he stops at the sportsman to collect the fancy small repeater he's been allowed to use.>If he's on duty then he's taking his duty repeater over his own, much more cumbersome one.>With his fancy small repeater tucked in his coat, Hildemar strolls to the command bunker and successfully suppresses a sigh at the sight of his current least favorite colleague.>Not the worst by far, but the crystal vagabond was far from professional.
"Right then, where shall we explore today?"
>>260996>Your near instant entrance made Jeff, hand still on his radio's broadcast button, turn his head at you reactively in surprise.
"Well then. Excellent timing, there, Nevil.">Other than him, Torven was overlooking the map table Jeff was currently hovering over.>Hanging in the back was the towering figure of the well-suited, blank-green faced man you've met on rare occasion. He initially gave you proper introductions to Tallus, and explained your predicament. He made the transition... easier.
"He posted himself outside for the last ten minutes, that's why. Greetings, Lieutenant Commander.">Despite his faceless features you feel him give you a curt smirk and a two-fingered salute off of his bald forehead.
"Nevil, Krinza told me most of the upgrades you requested are a little too electronically advanced for him. I will handle them for you, later on.">>261000>>261012>>261014>>261043>Joel as well>The rest of you make your way to the Command Center at your own paces, but you all end up arriving one after another.>Upon making your way into the bunker, Nevil apparently beat you all there first. The others being Jeff, Torven, and a seven-foot tall green-faced man giving you a silent greet of acknowledgement.>For those of you that weren't human- his face came of blank and mysterious, unable to read his featureless facade.
"Right. Now that everyone's here, time to unveil our next stop.">Jeff reaches for an open map on the map table, and spins it around to orientate it so you can all read it on your end.>The majority of the regional map mostly consisted of Saddle Arabia and outlying borders of other territories. One city in the southern end was circled, along with a red line drawn drawn over what looked like established railroad tracks. This trailed out of Saddle Arabia's borders, and towards the border of two regions on the South-Southeast corner of the map.
"Saddle Arabia. Neighmara, to be exactly. We're going to take a freighter train, southernbound, to these two regions: Horsepen and Maren. There's a ley junction there dangerous enough to fit what we're looking for. Despite that there is some long history of activity going on there, even up to a few years ago. Problem is that its a lot of lawless, civilization-devoid, eldritch-filled territory so we're going to need to be extra prepared before venturing there.">Jeff claps his hands together and looks at you all expectedly.
"Before I go any further and tell you the reason we're all doing this for, I need to make sure you're all in for the long haul. So if you want to back out, now's your final chance."
>>261168>One of Blaze's eyebrows cocked at seeing Nevil there first. He must of been in the Bunker when the call was made.>Though that was nothing compared to seeing the tall green human with no bucking face!>'AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!'>Mentally screamed Citrine at the sight of the big weirdo.>Although Jeff talked, Blaze stared unblinkingly at the green giant as maps were unfurled.>Eldrich filled?
"L-like this big human right?">Asked the stupor stallion as he pointed a hoof at the anonymous humanoid.>The clap snapped Citrine back to reality. Back out? Really? Was he still dreaming? This could be it this could be how he can leave this place with no debts!>He pursed his lips as he side-eyed the others. And gulped. So far everpony else was for it and for him to scoot out it would bring all eyes on him, especially Jeffs. He can still taste the stolen food on his dry lips.
"I uh, yoh yes I am for this.">'who knows, maybe there is a lot of treasure lying around.'
>>261168>Hildemar’s gaze seldom left the faceless man as Jeff gave most of his briefing.>Can’t trust anything you can’t look in the eye.>He does perk up slightly and shift his attention when he heard about a more active ley junction in what sounds like horse araby.>Although his decision was already made, Hildemar made a show of closing his eyes in thought before nodding in approval.
“I’ll certainly not be refusing opportunities to explore areas with abnormal flows of magic.”>The possibility of purging foul, eldritch sorcery didn’t hurt either.>>261186>The witch hunter turned toward and crouched closer to Citrine’s height once he was done stammering.>He had done some thinking on how he treated the crystal vagabond as though he had spent every last bit on his hedonism.>It was a not entirely accurate judgement.
“As much as I hate to admit it, I may have judged you a tad too harshly before and it would be an insult to my goddess to leave it be. I’m sorry.”>Hildemar then stands back up and returns to his usual glaring.
“However, that does not mean you’re free to do it again.”
>>261168>His forest green cloak swirling about him, Lucius steps smoothly through the door of the command center>He spares a polite nod at Nevil
"Good to be working with you again, Nevil. On time as usual.">Jeff's expounding on their new objective and plan gets a puzzled look from the ranger>Leaning on an elbow against a nearby wall, he groans at the mention of the train
"Another metal steed to bear us. I prefer my own two legs, but… I see the advantage of expediency in these cases.">With a look, the ranger gets the attention of Jeff
"This place is a desert, yes? Then I'll have a job keeping myself hidden, if I need to hide. Should I arrange to have my colors altered to suit this environment? I am currently working with a set aimed towards forest environments.">After this, Lucius resigns himself to leaning fully on the wall, arms folded in resignation
"I would not abandon this company, in any case. I'm in, for the long haul, as you say Jeff
>>261168>Noah nods at Nevil, acknowledging his punctuality>The rest files in and Jeff delivers his briefing, Noah following the map closely>He did glance over at the seven foot faceless man>Interesting garb he thought>A freight train?
"Train got commissioned for this?">He then poured some thought into his ride and looked over at the map, seeing if the terrain is good for it>Should be better really, with it being a desert
"Think we going to need the Dagor for this? The walk seems big...">Noah tucks his fingers in his vest as he looks around at his partners>What a wide range of characters
"In either case, I'm in. How clandestine were talking?"
>>261168>Nevil seems to smile a little bit to the surprise he had elicited from Jeff. The Lieutenant Commander always looked a little bit tired one way or another, but for once Nevil couldn't help but look a little bit proud of himself - looking almost nostalgic as the dulled look in his eyes softens somewhat.>Though that lasts only a few seconds. He quickly returns to a neutral expression; saying nothing mainly because the other, more (uncanny) familiar man in the room had clarified his methods. >Anonymous manages to pinch out a smirk in return from Nevil, as the masked man is nodded too in kind and in earnest.
"Good to see you again, Anonymous." >His response was dry in tone compared to his expressions. >The knowledge that his request was complex for Krinza made the Lieutenant Commander purse his lip a little bit, and they could hear a slight sigh coming through his nose; drumming the butt of his advanced assault rifle with his fingers once.
"I see. I should've thought about that… Thank you again Anonymous, for all the help." >Nevil gave another nod and a weak, but genuine smile, before quickly turning his glance more towards the map to give it some thought as well. See what location had been picked out in advance while the others are still coming.>Quirking his brow slightly with interest when he recognizes the Region… But stays quiet, since they'll be informed soon enough. >>261217>As Noah comes in, Nevil is quick to move his eyes from the map table and to him. They exchange a nod, giving him a silently pleased glance at having him there, even if he didn't smile.>Nevil takes a step back to be more in line with the coming, familiar operators as they came in. Listening to the questions, but otherwise turning again as others come in.>>261213>A greeting, slightly deeper nod is given to Lucius when he came in.
"Welcome back." >Nevil simply said, in his indoor, soft-spoken voice. Then fell quiet as he briefly casts a glance back - expecting a certain Crystal Pony to be coming soon. >Following him with his glance and watching his mini-panic attack at the sight of Anonymous. And, for the most part, makes no comment on it apart from smirking briefly with some minor amusement to the predictable reaction.>Though his attention does move back to Jeff when the briefing begins. >The Lieutenant Commander straightens subtly, then listens with rapt attention. The word 'Eldritch' elicits a reaction; a deeply pursed lip and a slight roll of his neck. Already expecting something.>Despite the danger's involved, He doesn't even hesitate for even a second to reply.
"I am committed." >Simply put, and matter-of-factly spoken. A resolute look in his eyes and a focused looking frown.>And he had his own reasons to keep wanting to help Razorback.
>>261168>On seeing the big green... man?, Joel is offput and a bit creeped out. While this certainly wasn't the weirdest thing he'd seen since arriving on Tallus, he couldn't deny that Anonymous ahd his own special place in the uncanny valley.>His buzz moderately killed by this experience, he regards each of his teammates one by one, some with a grin and nod, some with a tip of his hat, some with a "Howdy".
"Ah haven't had a train rahd in years, haven't been to the desert ever. Well, not this kahnda desert anyway. Oughta be fun. Y'all can count me in, Ah'd lahk to see this thang through, wherever it takes us.">>261187>On seeing Hildemar give his little heart-to-heart with Citrine, Joel smiles to himself.>'Good to see them two gettin' along... Unless Blaze says somethin' real stupid next'>His smile fades somewhat.
[1d3 = 2]
<Emergency Era Lock Intervention
POST 1/2>>261186>The tall green figure, you now learned from Nevil is named 'Anon', shifts his faceless mug directly at you not even changing his stance.>You're not able to discern any facial expressions, but the upper park of the question mark wriggles whimsically like eyebrows.
"I sometimes wonder that myself, Mr. Blaze.">And despite not having any eyes he lightly bores a gaze through you, as if amusingly mocking you.>>261213>>261217>Having the first practical questions out for the group, Jeff nods at both of you one after another.
"It's mostly desert, Lucius, but there are unmapped oasis's all over the region. I saw you skinned an acroline hide, before; their hides are known to adapt to most climates. Might want to see if Lann can do something with it. Oh before I forget-">Jeff reaches under the map table and produces the fifth adamantine you left back at the outcrop.
"It was mailed back here only a little while ago. Something about you guys helping out a guide's son? Guess it paid off, well done.">Anonymous leans over Jeff's right shoulder and shrugs innocently at you.
"Normally I'd police the area of any human... waste products, but- well it'll be explained shortly.">The attention turns from Lucius's query and to Noah's.
"A local freight, not the Behemoth, if that's what you were asking. And yeah, we're gonna take the Dagor again. The junction's outpost is a few hours in the middle of nowhere and the junction itself is a ways off from that. And it's most likely going to be a day operation. There's no factions or natives where we're going. Only mysteries and shit I cna't even explain, right now.">>261218>Anonymous nods back at you appreciatively at your gratitude.
"My being is... the culmination of every human on Tallus. Therefore I know how your gear works, and what it can also work with.">>261187>As you silently judge the tall, green, question mark-face entity he gives you a questioning glare back, scratching his chin in thought. As if there was something about you he couldn't put his green finger on.>Even as Jeff continues talking, the top of his purple 'eyebrow' never rounds back out from its investigatory crease.>>261712>>Also Everyone Else>After all of your questions were satisfied and items returned, Jeff gets all of your attention with a rap on the map table with his knuckles.
"Alright. Let's get down to the meat and potatoes, then. When all of you, minus Citrine, first arrived here you were all explained how the Era Lock works. Correct?">Jeff looks over at the lone pony in the group, and holds his hand up mid-chest waving it around aimlessly.
"For anyone here that doesn't know, the spell that keeps bringing humans to Tallus has an annoying little side-effect to it: humans can't utilize equipment from outside of their industrial and technological eras, nor can we bring certain technologies here by any means.">Your commander makes a motion to his right thigh, and draws a bulky black handgun and points it upward so not to muzzle sweep anyone.
"For example: Lucius, who's from an era of bows and swords, wouldn't be able to use this Desert Eagle without it disintegrating to ashes and him getting pretty fucked up in the process. It's a deterrent from all of us being able to utilize technology as a whole, and it's been seriously straining any cooperative human advancements up to this point. Some say it's keeping us from getting too powerful as a species; make it easier for us to die out quicker. Honeslty, I'm inclined to agree with that-"
"THAT'S WHAT IT IS!">All of your attentions switch back to Anonymous, who points an accusatory finger at Hildemar.
"He touched something! I can sense it!">As he begins looking over the witch hunter, Jeff stops his monologue to look at Hildemar as well.
"The Era Lock! It's marked him. What did you touch?!">After a few hard scans of his person, Anon's gaze locks onto his hip and is taken back with a heartfelt gasp.
"Fuck. A. Duck!">With a snap of his fingers, the Colt Python on Hildemar's person instantly pops to Anon's left hand.>Jeff's look goes from confusion to sudden realization, and gives Hildemar a look of shock.
"Oh shit. Did he-"
"He did, alright! I smell it!">True to his turn of phrase, Anon brings the revolver up to where a nose would be and inhales heavily; drawing the barrel across his face as if appraising a fine cigar. Angrily appraising.
"It's got Sun Ass's spell all over it. Same with him.">Anon's hard stare does not leave Hildemar, holding the Python in both open palms like a small dead animal. Jeff, however, tries to get all of your attention back onto him.
"Aaaaas bad as this is, it's a great example of how the Era Lock works?"
"No. It's NOT! There's only a handful of these. It's the only spare!"
"I know what you're thinking. Don't be selfless! Let him learn from this fuckup!">Jeff, hardly buying Anon's dramatic flare, lightly backhands Anon's arm while looking at Hildemar.
"So luckily there's a delay in when the Era Lock will begin to actively 'hunt' you down Hildemar. After that, there's a thirty hour window where anything could possibly happen. Anon?">The suited green man crosses his arms, silently seething.
"The mark's around two hours old, so he has a twenty-seven hour window. My pocket dimension won't help."
"Hodch?">Attempting to change the subject seemed to have softened the avatar's mood, and irritably agrees with a nod after a few hard seconds.
"I'll go find him. You-">As Anon begins stomping out of the map room he twirls the cursed revolver like a gunslinging cowboy and stops it upside down, bopping Hildemar with the butt end and tossing it to Jeff in one motion.
"Bad. Once it dusts, he's next. I'll be quick. Honestly...">With that, the tall green man exits the Command Bunker in a huff. Leaving an awkward air in the room.
"That was weird, Jeff...">You all realized Torven was still in the room with you, mostly unphased by the entire incident.>Jeff, not really sure where to go from here, points at Hildemar quick.
"Soooooo. There's gonna be a purple unicorn here soon. He's probably gonna shove you in a pocket dimension so the Era Lock doesn't mess you up. You follow his instructions, exactly, alright?. While we wait...">Getting back to everyone, Jeff puts both of his hands on the table and sighs outwardly.
"There was a human from the first hundred, my group. Went by Scholar. Completely hellbent on trying to learn about and bypass the effects of the Lock. At the very most, break it entirely.">Jeff scratches the back of his head idly, face growing solemn.
"He claimed to have some methods that would work, but every attempt he made himself ended in failure. Eventually, he gave up and left. I know, anti-climatic.">Jedd shrugs himself off, crossing his arms and leaning to the side.
"Anon and I think he's been conducting his research in leyline junctions, because of their magic distorting nature; so he's at least covering his activities. Anon's very being apparently scramble him like an egg if he enters one. That's why he couldn't retrieve Lucius's arrow, and that outcrop is probably going to be riddled with spent brass forever... The one south of Neighmara is the most powerful within traversable means, so you're going to investigate it for any recent activity. Once the Era Lock gives up trying to... turn Hildemar into a pretzel or something, first. I know it's a lot to take in, and this information is only known to me and a handful of others. I'm asking for your discretion, on this."
"Was I supposed to know all that?">Torven looks on awkwardly at Jeff and the rest of you. Your commander looks up at the ceiling and back to the cobalt batpony, apologetically.
"Welp, you do now.">He sighs with relief, and Jeff looks at all of you expectedly.
"Lots of info, I know. Any questions all you need clearing up before Hildemar gets stuffed in an interdemensional apartment for the next twenty-seven hours?"
>>261187>As Citrine stood there in the bunker he felt a dark shadow of malignant intent hover over him, making him shiver in his crystal hoof shoes.>It was Hildemar, crouching next to him, eyeing him with those small squinting human eyes.
"N-no problem. Water under the bridge.">His words stammered, yet truly feeling relieved by the Witch Hunters' words.>Not even the 'suggestion' he received straight after hampered his rising spirits.>>262422>'It knows my man! Oh buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.'
"..M-yes.">Is all he said, not really knowing how to respond to this jolly green giant with a symbol for an expressive face.>Blaze tore his gaze away from 'Anon' and to Jeff talking, then around the room and all those filled in, his lips pursed in thought. Occasionally phrases and words registering in his skull.>Then he jumped in panic, almost shattering himself when Anon shouted at Hildemar.>'Thank Luna's tight flanks it isn't screaming at me!'>And with a subtle side step he was that bit further away from the Witch Hunter when his pet snake was taken from him or something.>Wait, dusts?>'No wait Jedd. No stop hang on wait but-'>His thoughts and feeling were in a jumble at the break neck speed of what was happening, he needed answers to clear things up. At least for himself.
"Um Jeff.">Blaze raised his hoof, glancing at Hildemar than back to the man with the plans.
"Why is Hildemar gonna turn into dust and not just the weapon? Seems a bit cruel if you ask me.">So much for raising spirits, the last thing the crystal pony wanted was for this human who was just nice to him die, that was totally uncool and unfair him! And Hildemar.
>>262422>Noah cracks a slight grin knowing he's going to be hitting the road again>He is taken by the very isolated nature of the operation in question
"I'll be sure to pack more supplies for this.">"How many MREs did I pack in the Dagor again?">He does glance and observe the green humanoid>His explanation of his existence and the almost cartoonish expressions is slightly disturbing>"Thought this guy was a story the major veterans fucked around with the new guys...">The Era Lock was an interesting rule when first explained to Noah>Made everyone distinct in the base, from future soldiers to people back in the Medieval Ages to people who seemed almost fictional in their stories>Noah's eyes follows the Desert Eagle as Jeff explains it again>He did looked over at Anon and then Hildemar>It suddenly came to him that he did borrow a that revolver from Joel>He start becoming worried,thinking about the lost revolver only to become more worried about the tone in the air>It's not the revolver that is in trouble>It's the knight himself
"Wait, dusts? Fuck man...">Giving his attention back to Jeff, he listens to his story about Scholar
"Were we supposed to know that? I guess it good, since we're not really...uhhh. What's the phrase...">Noah stands there thinking about the factions
"Aligned to these factions yeah? Besides, why the Lock anyway?"
Nevil seemed to move his eyes between Anonymous and Jeff as they initially gave some clues as to where they're going. Giving a slight nod with a slight narrowing of his eyes at the 'no factions or natives' part, as he internally memorized that part.>He then obviously moved his full glance to Anon as the e x o t i c human being speaks in reply.>Though what he says registers on Nevil with a small, mildly perturbed furrow in his brow. >The Lieutenant Commander's face remains blank, even though, if one looks hard enough, a very slight smirk crawls up his face for a second.
"... One of these days I'll understand you, Anonymous. Maybe without going insane with knowledge." >Nevil said jabbed Anon, with such an even tone that one might think he was being serious. >At the same time... That's also when Anon began to look... "Pensive". Nevil's glance lingered on the
little big green man. >Anon somehow looked even weirder when he was thinking.>But that's not really why Nevil was suddenly focusing his attention on them. Anon looking like that somehow brought a bad feeling to him. Due to Anon's strange nature.>Regardless, he shot his head back forward and straightened a bit more as Jeff began to brief them. >Nevil nods his head silently in the affirmative, and keeps it at that. Casting a single glance towards Anonymous.>Nevil's lips also purse into his cheek at the subject... Even if eyeballing the CLASSIC Desert Eagle brings a nostalgic smirk on the Lieutenant Commander's face.>... But then, he slightly widens his eyes as Anon speaks up. Turning to see them pointing at... Hildemar.
"Wh--">That's all that comes out of Nevil, astonishment briefly stunning the officer as he looked down almost as quick as Anon does, to see the... New revolver. >At that point most of the talk goes through one ear and out the other, turning himself to face the group and looking to Hildemar with alarm starting to widen his eyes. >He only reluctantly snaps his glance back to Jeff when he'd begin explaining again. The man had to fully turn his head from Hildemar to stop staring. Turning himself to face the map table, and taking steps closer to loom over it and see the map for himself again. >He hasn't even glanced to Torven at that point.>Until the moment they speak AFTER Jeff finished speaking the preliminaries, then Nevil actually eyed the batpony once. >Something inside him urged him to say 'Since when were you here?', but he doesn't end up doing it. It's too dumb.
"We've talked about the context and the overview of the locale. Tell us more about the eldritch occurrences in the area that you've mentioned, especially those that we are likely to encounter on the way there. What do we got about them? Any facts? Instructions to avoid them?">Nevil looked between Torven and Jeff with a distinct focus, viridian eyes gazing to them intently for a moment before looking down to the map. Keeping everything that just happened in the back of his mind. >He tries to study the map while Jeff answered. Trying to spot landmarks between around Neighmara, that would be their first destination. And the markings Torven may have placed to help point things out. [1d6 = 1]
B. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 4]
B. Geography[1d6 = 3]
"How likely are we to encounter troublemakers that may want to mess with the expedition? Other potential threats aside."
>>262422>Trying to take Jeff's hint to stop staring at Anon, Joel finds his gaze flicking back to the big green fellow at innappropriate times.>The huge uproar about the revolver breaks out before Joel can process Blaze not fucking things up with Hildemar.
Anon's raht, Jeff. Shame, losin' a perfecly good pistol.
Uhh, congratulations on not bein' dust yet, Hildemar... have fun in the lockdown.>Once things get a little quieter, he turns his attention back to Jeff.
Ah got a question. The peop- er, ponies where we're goin', d'they talk lahk us?>Noting that Nevil had a good idea looking over the map, Joel began to wish he had spent more time picking up things about maps from the poindexters back in the service.[1d6 = 3]
E. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 4][1d6 = 5]
>>262422>>262423>Lucius chuckles, sliding the adamantine arrowhead back into the smaller of the two quivers at his hip
"I suppose I owe those people a favor, now! Nice folks, they were.">he settles back into his relaxed pose, arms crossed again and leaning with his back against a nearby beam
"Yes, I did in fact manage to skin that Acroline we encountered. If what you say about this hide is true, then I certainly will need to speak with Lann. I'm sure she'll be most pleased with the chance to work with a material which I'd guess is quite uncommon.">he scratches his chid idly and looks around at his companions
"Well, oasis or no, we'd better pack extra water and food. Who knows how long we'll be out there...">as the situation with Hildemar is explained, the rangers eyebrows slowly knit together, forming an almost unbroken hairy line of purest concern just above his eyes
"This... this is very, very serious business, Hildemar.">he claps the Witch Hunter on the shoulder
"You have my condolences. This pocket dimension business - far be it from my comprehension, though it does sound harrowing.">he returns his attention to Jeff, now standing close to Hildemar
"Yes, I have a question: this Scholar is our new target then? I take it we are to recover this individual. What if this Professor does not come quietly or willingly? I presume they are not to be harmed, of course. However, I hesitate to believe for even a moment that someone with such extended periods of contact and study of these locations could ever come out unscathed, either physically or, especially, mentally."
"Either way, you have my discretion."
>>262422>>262423>As much as he wanted to continue the impromptu staring contest with the wrong-faced human, Hildemar broke “eye” contact to listen to Jeff.>At least until it started yelling.>The witch hunter still manages to hold his tongue, though his hand hovers over the small repeater he grabbed up until it was teleported away from him.>He just let his arm go limp, closed his eyes, and gave the most dead, done-with-your-shit sigh of his life until Jeff addresses him.
“I can not express in words how much I hate sorcery right now.”>Not even the butt bopping fazes him and he only mostly listens to the rest of Jeff’s brief.
“Just get me some books on whatever culture and language they speak so I can at least know what they’re saying before summoning demon djinns or whatever it is that arabians get up to.”>The group’s worrying was almost touching to Hildemar, but he smashed it back down and stepped away from Lucius.
“I appreciate the concern, everyone, but this is hardly the first time I’ve run afoul of magic. Just the first time it wasn’t someone else’s fault.”>He shakes his head dismissively.
“All this over a small repeater, it doesn’t even look like it’s from the future.”
>>262428>Opening up the round of questions, Jeff looks at you in serious thought for a second before waving you off; six-shooter still in his hand.
"No, Citrine, Hildemar isn't getting dusted. Just the gun. Really don't know what'll happen, to be honest. It varies depending on the situation.">>262643>Jeff nods in agreement, pointing a finger in your direction.
"I have a list of stuff we'll need to stock it with. Mostly more gas and water, and it needs a mod or two for the desert.">Leaning into his side, he crosses his arms and looks past you in heavy thought.
"Not a lot of people knew about Scholar's research. I believe there's ponies out there still loyal to the Tyrant, even though she's technically dead. If they caught word someone was going THAT hard trying to break the Era Lock, they'd hunt them down. As for the Lock itself, it stunts our progression here, drastically. A safety measure from the Tyrant to keep our numbers low, while Tallus itself picks us apart to we completely die off.">>262781>Your inquiry makes Jeff look away for a moment, seemingly not having a satisfying answer before even saying anything.
"Well, Neighmara itself should be rather harmless enough. We're going to travel to a lower part of the city, as it's built on rock steppes, so we won't be in the heart of the city. No one else outside of this group know of this, so nopony should be tailing us. As for anything else... the ley lines around the city tend to spawn creatures from time to time, but the things inside the junction stay there for the most part. No one really goes into it to study any of them, even the junction's dedicated outpost.">While Jeff continues, your eyes peer down to the map. True to the map's topography, Neighmara was indeed built on a series of rock shelves surrounded by flat desert. The West side of the city on the lower steppes indicated a rail and train depot. The railroad runs South-East without any interruptions; you guessed approximately 200-250 kilometers until a location marked within the borderline of Horsepen and Maren labeled '#3'. You guessed it to be the outpost. 30km directly south another point of interest: four separate ley lines converge onto that spot, a 2km radius circle encased it indicating the junction's effect zone.
"So we shouldn't hit any trouble, until we get to the outpost at the very least.">>262828>Looking over at the Colt Python mourning lightly, Jeff spins it several times because he just can.
"There's ways to replace it, Joel. Don't worry about it too much.">Although you don't have much skill reading maps, it was hard to overlook the clear path from Neighmara, to the outpost, and finally the junction.
"Yeah. It's a big trading city, so most of the populace will know Common.">>262871>After addressing Joel's concerns, Jeff scratches his chin in serious thought. Then looks at the map.
"Good question, Lucius. If Scholar does happen to be there, our first priority would be to ensure his safety. Honestly, I bet he's moved on by now and considering he was always a bit of a meticulous guy, I'm expecting at most a trail.">>262877>Jeff gives you a little knowing smirk at your frustration, looking over the confiscated firearm.
"I know all too well, Hildemar. Luckily we have allies that can help mitigate bullshit like this. Can't do anything about it now, just need to ride it out. Just let Hodch know what you need when he gets here. Once you go in, you can't come out until time's up.">Your boss holds the python idly in his right hand, thinking over something while staring at the map table.
"Might be a good idea dressing cool. Desert's hot. There might not be any places to cool down, after the outpost or until night hits."
>>263366>At hearing Jeffs' answer on Hildemars fate the crystal pony sighed in relief then rubbed his forehoof against his head, brushing away a errant stray mane.
"That's good to hear! Shame about the thing-a-ma-bob turning into dust.">>262877>Relaxed now he wondered around the bunker, sniffing at all the maps as Jeff talked, then sparing a glance at the Witch Hunter.
"That's the spirit Hilemar! I think. And hey if you want projectiles you can always go to the Crystal Kingdom, they got plenty of throwing knows and darts and some good ones too. So good I still feel dumb for not taking a few when I had the chance.">By take he of course meant legal and fair means.>Such as snatch and grabbing as many as he could take without being noticed. Out of sight out of mind as they say~>He didn't think Hildemar needed to know that part.>As Jeff got to the part about going in light gear for a desert trek Citrine took in a deeper sniff of the map of Neighmara, then a taste too because he could not help himself.[1d6 = 5]
>E.Perception[1d6 = 6][1d6 = 4]
>>263366>On hearing the recommendation to dress lightly, Joel is a bit disappointed. Heavy as it is, the armor is something he's used to wearing and he doesn't like the idea of braving such dangers without it.>But on the other hand, he knows just what to wear.>'Ah'll bring it along just in case.'>As out of character as a trip to the library is for him, he decides that Hildemar has the right idea.
Ah'm all fer learnin' about the locals too, is there some book or somebody with some infermantion on how folk are out there? Maybe a quick round of words we should learn?
"Creatures..." >Nevil's echo of that particular word was spoken with a somewhat sour tone. His lip pursing as he sort of clenches his jaw and spends a moment looking to Jeff with a somewhat troubled glance... For a good second, brow lowered, frowning his lips, all tense. Then he neutralizes it a second afterwards. >His eyes go back to the map while the other's questions are answered. Idly listening while he seemed to eyeball the #3 marker.
"Hnh." >He swallowed his lip, muttering something beneath his breath."Yeah, I hope this scholar doesn't wreck our stuff...">He rolled his jaw slightly. His voice edging between sarcasm and genuine annoyance.>He idly turns his head up to listen to the answer to Lucius' question a bit more attentively. Then speaking up with some extra interest in his tone.
"Are you assigning us any extra supplies compared to the previous operation or do we need to make a list before we go?"
"... And how much time do we have until the operation?" >He straightens up a bit more once he asked the question. He quarter-turns his head to linger his glance on Lucius; quirking his brow and looking at him as if he were about to ask him a question, but doesn't just yet.>Instead he looked to Jeff expectantly for the answer to his question for the moment.
>>263366>Lucius nods through Jeff's continued exposition
"Well so long as we do find that trail...">>263436>for some odd reason, Citrine drew his attention, distracting him from the rest of the proceedings>He watches as he appears to...>Is he...>Licking the map?>The ranger wanders over to him
"Citrine... does that actually work?">Lucius decides he must explain himself
"Does tasting it reveal any new information to you?">thinking for a moment, he comes to a conclusion
"Ah, of course! The best way to find out would be to taste it myself!">and so he does, leaning low over the map and taking a tentative but drawn-out lick[1d6 = 6]
>E. Perception[1d6 = 6][1d6 = 4]
>>263366>The mention of previously unstudied sorcery perks Hildemar back up, looking almost excited for the opportunity.
“Hopefully this unstudied magic phenomenon won’t be quite as volatile as our little era lock.”>Of course, Citrine had to get his attention again, prompting Hildemar to cross his arms.
“I think I’ll stick with my repeater for the time being, I can trust that it doesn’t have any tricks awaiting me. Not to mention your Crystal Kingdom sounds like it’s colder than I’d prefer.”>Just as Hildemar started thinking the crystal vagabond might be capable of acting civilized for any length of time, he starts licking the map.>This wouldn’t have surprised Hildemar had it not inspired the one man who really should know better than to lick unfamiliar to follow suit.>He immediately throws his hands up in exasperation.
“Didn’t your mother teach you not to lick things!? Have you no respect for another man’s property!?.”>’By Verena’s name, this Hodch character can’t get here fast enough.’
>>263366>Looking down at his suit, Noah stands there thinking about what to leave behind>"I guess the arms can go and I can probably get a lesser armored vest...">Noah does remove his helmet and puts on his police cap>Just a cap with a star emblem
"Ok, you got those supplies lined up on the train or am I going to hunt some water?>He does see Citrine take a closer look at the map and click it>"Heh, pony stuff.">What he doesn't expect is Lucian doing the same thing
"Wait, what the...">Noah sits there, staring at the scene>He sort of looks at Jeff and Nevil, seeing how they react to the molestation of the map
>>263864>>264378>Both of your questions were similar enough that Jeff decided to address you at the same time.
"Like I said: mostly extra rations and water, which we have plenty of here. A restock on ammo, need to desert-proof the Dagor once all that bug gunk is all out of it, and whenever I can get a booking on a train. We have at least until Hildemar is free, so at the very least thirty hours. EVerything has to fit of the Dagor, though, so it's gonna get strapped up tomorrow. Plenty of time to get everything ready. I'll have a list of stuff we'll need when I return.">>263807>Jeff nods at you, and waves a finger toward the unfortunate Witch Hunter.
"The library has plenty of info and research books. You can follow Hildemar out, when we're done here.">>263436>Letting your pony instincts get the better of you, you get in real close on one of the map's corners and give it a good whiff with your pony snoot.>Other than the faint scent of cartography ink, which you assumed it to be, there was a hint of coffee coming from the parchment.>You can't resist, and take an inspecting taste.>True to your hunch the map had a spill of morning brew soaked into it, the taste similar to the fresh hot coffee that was in Jeff's mug on his side of the table.>Coincidence? Possibly...>>264233>Seeing Citrine take an inspectatory nibble of the map of Neighmara, you can't help but try it yourself.>The corner the crystal pony had taken to was occupied, so you take a exaggerated lick of the map's southern edge.>You don't pick up any off flavors, but you guess the parchment and cartography ink is of high quality.>Torven eyes you amusingly out of the corner of your eye, stifling a kekking snicker with a wing.
"You're the second human I've seen taste one of the maps so far! You can really taste the pun-marenship.">The batpony strikes a look over at Jeff, overhearing Torven's comment, and looks away quickly to avoid eye contact.>Taking in the map's papyrus-like finish, you eyes hover over the indicator on the map where the ley junction was supposed to be located.>It sent a shiver down your spine...>>264313>As your appall continues on after one of your fellow human comrades stoops down to Citrine's level and takes on licking maps, the door to the Command Center opens up behind you and everyone else.>As if Verena had granted you a small blessing, you turn to see not the tall green man but instead a dark purple unicorn stallion donned in a Starborn cloak sees himself in.>He scans the room, pauses on Citrine and Lucius for a curious second, before stopping on and giving you a hard studious look over.
"It's been a while since one of you tripped the Era Lock. Hello Jeff. Is this Hildemar? Celestia's magic has a grip on him."
"Hey Hodch. Yeah, here's the gun he picked up too.">'Hodch' used his unicorn magic to lift the colt python from Jeff's open hand and floats it toward him to further inspect the doomed firearm, raising a hoof to his muzzle.
"Hmm... no signs of disintegration yet. If you're finished, I'd like to take him immediately to one of my containment dimensions. Who knows when Mr. Hildemar here will begin contorting like a pretzel, or losing appendages.">The sassy comment at the end got a snrk from Jeff, who nods and waves you off and the unicorn off.
"Unless if you have any more questions Hildemar, you're free to go. That goes for everyone else. Quicker we break, the quicker I can get back from trying to book a train ride."
"i THINK NOT!">Shouted Blaze, his voice loud inside the Bunker.>He tilted his head at seeing Lucius lick at the map too.
"I truly am leading by example!">However his attention was immediately brought to the extremely fancy cape that entered the bunker.>Oh also the Unicorn wearing the cape too.>When the other pony addressed the rest of them Blaze raised a hoof and waved it at him hard.
"Hey yes sir can I buy that cloak off of you?">Enquired the Crystal stallion with upmost certainty and confidence.
>>264935>Nevil twists his lip into something between a mildly amused smile and a pursed lip of slight annoyance at the mention of 'bug gunk'. Nodding along with Jeff's explanation to acknowledge him.
"Right. I'll busy myself, but I'll be available if you happen to need help with anything. I have enough training in logistics." >With that said, he flashed a somewhat satisfied smile before turning more towards the others. >Seeing Citrine licking the map doesn't even so much as remotely phase him, but he does double-take on Lucius, who is right next to the crystal pony... Also licking the map.>He lingered his eyes on the Ranger just to let what he was witnessing fully sink in. All while keeping the most perfectly blank stare. >The look in his eyes as his brow arches for a second seemed confused more than anything. But the Lieutenant Commander already knew better than to make a comment.>Especially when he'd move his eyes back towards the side when Torven spoke. And made a pun. And then Jeff looked away like that.>That's when Nevil actually furrowed his brow and looked overtly confused (and intrigued). But only for a moment, before turning his attention away from Jeff and the next pony to enter the room. Looking past the exasperated Witch Hunter.>>264313>Perhaps for not being as familiar with Hodch, Nevil look the unicorn askance when he jokes about Hildermar's fate. EVEN IF it was obviously a joke.>Even if it amused Jeff. >Nevil breathed out a slow, heavy sigh and gave Hildermar a slight, respectful upward nod.
"Take care, Hildermar. If you want me to I can study towards a certain subject for you while you are indisposed in the pocket dimension, and fill you in later. I was planning to find out more about what makes something "Eldritch"; since I have no idea."
"Maybe there'll be something specific we can fall back on when something weird happens along the way. Hopefully.">With that, he casts a cursory glance towards Hodch - almost as if expecting a remark from them after his statement towards Hildermar. >But his gaze doesn't linger, and as Jeff had dismissed them, Nevil likewise deeply nods his head to Jeff to silently give his farewell. Then lifted his arm from his M41A's butt, and turned to begin ambling his way to the exit of the bunker. >>264233>But Nevil does half-turn as he walked near the Ranger and softly speaking up towards him.
"You mind if I ask you a question or two outside, Lucius?"
>>264935>Noah involuntary rubs his hands at the mention of bug gunk and nods with Jeff's preparation plans
"Radio me in when you get that list ready. I'll see in finding some straps.">"Wonder what food is coming with. Always heard of heat resistant chocolate.">He glances over to Lucius and Citrine taking licks at the map>Lucius's behavior did surprise him, but Torven mentioning that he was the second one to taste it?>"These maps are supposed to be licked?">Noah takes a closer look at the map but his lack of knowledge of paper and ink made him back away>Good thing a purple unicorn showed up, making Noah's eyes follow him instead>"Oh, he's here for Hildemar's 'vacation'.">Going past the gallow's humor of the unicorn he looks back to Jeff
"I'll see myself out.">Noah makes his way out of the bunker, glancing at Nevil asking some questions to the Ranger>He continues on, first making a stop for his barracks room>Going past the usual crowd of operators and ponies, once inside his room he starts stripping himself of the armor>Once doffed, he inspects the kit, seeing if he can make it more suitable for desert environment>Something this suit was obviously not meant for[1d6 = 4]
< Expert Perception[1d6 = 1][1d6 = 4]
>>264935>...>......>'Why did I do that, again?'>Giving an almost involuntary shake of the head, as if trying to clear his brain of internal fuzz, the ranger straightens up>He catches Torven's eye as he does, clearing his throat with a pair of clearly forced coughs into his elbow
"Aha, yes, yes... whatever that means.">without a backwards glance at Citrine, Lucius moves away from the map table, pulling the hood of his cloak up to hide his face>still, >>264962 can just make out Lucius mumbling something under his breath
"...don't know what came over me... stupid thing to do... of all the...">with a sigh, Lucius decides to try and forget that happened>he stifles a confused grunt hearing Hodch talking about being bent into a pretzel or losing limbs>'What advanced devilry this Era Lock must be...'>instead of voicing a reply to Jeff, still a little too flustered to speak, Lucius instead settles for a shake of his head>seeing his chance to make a quick getaway, intending to go hide in his quarters for a while, the ranger quickly moves out of the command center>>265144>but Nevil manages to get a hold of him first>clearing his throat again with two more very forced elbow coughs, the ranger nods
"Shouldn't be a problem... as long as you don't ask me about what, 'Pun-mareship,' is supposed to taste like.">the ranger follows Nevil's lead outside the command center
"So, what was it you wanted to ask?"
>>265144>Hildemar calms down to just shaking his head at Lucius copying the lowliest of their crew, stopping to return Nevil’s nod and suggestion.
“Thank you for the consideration, but I can’t think of anything to look into besides your recommendation and what I plan on reading myself.”>>264935>A quick shrug is given to the new sorcerer pony and his sarcasm.
“I’m afraid I don’t much time for further questions from the sound of things, Hodch. Just let me grab a few books and you can cast me into safety.”>Eager to take his leave and not become a casualty to this world’s magic, Hildemar briskly walks out to the library in search of books on Neighmaran language and descriptions of leyline junction born beasts.>Time is of the essence and he has no time for further socializing.
"Think what?">Jeff and an inquisitive-looking Torven glance at your out-burst momentarily, but give up from your lack of follow up.>You however keep your own attention on the purple unicorn, Hodch, who surprisingly hears and visibly considers your request.
"You... want my cloak huh?">Raising a hoof to his chin in serious thought, Hodch makes up his mind and looks at you with a wry smirk.
"Tell you what, Mr. Blaze was it? If you pledge at least one permarenent oath to Razorback, and Luna as their patroness, then you may have this cloak!">He leaves you with that serious offer, as his attention is turned back to Hildemar.>>265144>Expecting a small comment from Hodch, you are coincidentally rewarded one as he peers over at you quickly.
"Trying to understand anything deemed 'Eldritch' is a headache all in its own. If you're bent on learning anything you can, there should be some material in the Library. You're more than welcome to follow me, Hildemar, and anypony else there.">Jeff gives you a dismissive wave off as you begin making your way out of the bunker, following Hodch was on your own volition.>>265215
"We'll have plenty of time to outfit the Dagor, Noah. Continue taking a breather, for now.">And taking a breather, you do. You make your way back to your barracks, and begin looking over your equipment.>Krinza had already outfitted your under-layer with breathable kevlar, and the hard plates were lightened as it is. Your only reasonable conclusion would be to either switch out your under-layer for lighter clothing, or cut back on armor in places to allow more air flow. Your left arm could be lightened, seeing as it would be ideally directly behind your shield most of the time, as well as your thigh plates.>You also wonder if Jeff was just rhetorically speaking when he mentioned to 'dress light', as if being a doting parent.>>265403>>265415>Taking your abruptness into consideration, Hodch nods promptly and ushers you and Joel out of the bunker.
"Jeff, I'll notify you when Hildemar's time is up."
"Alright. See you later!">Hodch leads whoever towards the Library, which was a quick walk across the compound.>The unicorn opens the double doors, revealing the book-packed library; the left back end was however furnished with a humongous shelved collection of plushies and play area for foals.>You swear you see a burnt orange blurr dart behind a collection of stuffed toys, along with a squeaky snicker into playful silence.>Other than that the Library was quiet for now, and Hodch directs you to certain shelves lined with books.
"There is a section on Saddle Arabia, and it's regions here, with in-depth culture studies and language breakdowns. Hmm, there should be a book or two on ley lines. Over here.">Hodch shines his horn, slightly pulling out several books in a clustered area to point them out to you, his attention turns from you as he seems to fiddle with something under his cloak.
"Pick out what you need, while I prepare your cube, Hildemar."
>>265860>Citrine listened to the purple unicorn as he rubbed his chin with one hoof, appraising his sparkly cloak. It was pretty good and would match his hat wonderfully.>Though it would make him sparkle like a star when in the desert.>Wait.>Desert..>Deserts are hot.>And...Wearing a cloak would make him hot...Even hotter.>Hot? Heat? Heat will lead to...to...Something bad!
"Uh Yes-">He cleared his throat and levelled his head with the pony talking to him.
"-I mean no. Thank you but the answer is no, unless I get a taste of the Moons' booty than I don't think dying from heat is worth it!">He patted the passive purple pony purposely on his shoulder.
"Maybe another time.">Concluded Blaze before bouncing out of the bunker, wondering what he should steal before departing for the deserts of Saddle Arabia.
>>265415>>265246>Nevil strides himself close to the Ranger as they make their way out, though keeps a respectful distance AND THEN SOME for obviously, keeping a good meter between the two of them. >The Lieutenant Commander wore a somewhat locked expression, a furrowed look to his brow and a distant stare even as he looked to Hodch to acknowledge him.
"Understood...">His voice is quiet at first, almost a whisper. And his eyes end up lingering on the cloaked unicorn for a moment, giving him a similar stare as he gave Lucius, slightly lifting his brow questioningly.>Though before further questions are asked, they cross the threshold of the command bunker and end up outside. As the sun lights up his face he seems to blink out of his train of thoughts, and turned to Lucius just as he speaks up.>Nevil smirks good-naturedly, albeit faintly, then answers.
"I was just curious about your profession, Lucius. I think I heard you say you were a hunter, right?" >As he talks, he still keeps pace with Hodch and Hildermar somewhat. Though he keeps his pace at an amble, to still keep his full attention on Lucius.
"I ask because I would've liked to hear your advice. Is there anything that isn't common sense about going on an expedition in a desert? Any thoughts that come to mind that we should take note of."
>>265860>>266094>the ranger nods
"Yes, after a fashion. I was trained to hunt dragons, mind. But, to cut a long story short, I distanced myself from that life. Before I came here I was known as a man of the wilds - an outlander.">he scratches his chin
"As to your other question...">the man clicks his tongue a few times, looking around himself as if a new piece of information would jump out of a bush somewhere>as this did not happen, finally the man returns his eyes to you, giving a small sigh
"To tell you the truth, commander, I know very little when it comes to dry, arid environments. I come from the forests and the mountains and the snow-bitten tundra fields, not from the dunes and the sand and the hot dry sun.">with a small shoulder shrug, he finishes by saying that,
"Looks like I'll be as much on the backfoot out there as the rest this time around, commander. Now, unless you have a question about something a little more arboreal, then with all due respect, my man, I must be off. I have a special date with Lann!">he chuckles to himself, giving Neville a light clap on the shoulder before turning away>he was headed to retrieve that bit of Acroline fur, and then straight to Lann's office
>>265860>Hildemar smiled and inhaled deep the ever-familiar smell of library, scarcely noticing what was presumably a foal.
“I wasn’t expecting this well stocked of a library from a mercenary company. It’s a welcome sight.”>He grabs whichever leyline book looks more like it focuses on creature spawning and one of the books on Saddle Arabian, particularly Neigharan, cultures.
“These two books should suffice. Out of curiosity, do I need to bring food for the duration of my quarantine, or is that covered?”>Adjusting his uniform for the desert would have to wait until after he’s not threatened by foul sorcery.
>>265860>Arriving in the Library, an unfamiliar environment for him, Joel is momentarily distracted by the play of the young ones, remembering a time he watched his own children at play.>After a few moments, he comes back to his senses with a dopey smile on his face and sets about aimlessly picking though the section Hodch pointed out until he finds a book on Saddle Arabian language and another on Neigharan culture.
"Again, Hildemar, good luck in the padded room.">Joel picks out a spot in the library to read instead of heading back to his room. The ruckus of the foals, though distracting at times, is no small source of comfort to him. >He decides to start with the book on language, surmising that there's little point in knowing the customs if you can't even talk with people.
>>266593>The Marine nodded along as he paid rapt attention to what the Ranger was saying. His eyes squinting slightly at the mention of 'hunting dragons', lips curling with a mixture of amusement and interest. >Then he frowned with at least a little bit of understanding. Breathing a slight, mildly disappointed sigh through his nose at the reply he gets.>And also double-takes on his shoulder when the Ranger claps him like that. >Sighing with relief to seeing that he was not, indeed, wearing his armor.
"We'll just have to improvise. Then adapt and overcome, as they say." >Nevil smirked, giving Lucius a slack wave to bid farewell before simply turning ahead towards the library and resuming his walk towards it--quickening to a striding pace now to catch up with Hodch and Hildemar.>He strides in past the threshold of the already opened doors, the sound of his combat boots echoing slightly in the hall as the man casts an idle glance at the bookshelves...>>265860>>266620>>266798>This wasn't necessarily the first time in the library. It was one of his favorite places; reading was one of the ways to take his mind off things. >His eye passes over the play area, but he sweeps his glance on with a troubled frown to his face.>Darting his glance forward, he eye'd Hildermar as the Lieutenant Commander slows to a stop, and starts to step aside--taking note of the books he had been given, before he looked to Hodch. >Likewise he hovers his eyes over Joel, if only to just flash him a cursory smile. But he focused his attention wholly on the unicorn,
"Hodch." >He started to step closer just then, eyes darting towards the bookcases with no real direction as he approached.
"You said there was material about what is considered Eldritch laying around? Could you point me towards what you think is best really quick, please?">He purses his lip into his cheek, inevitably starting to look a little more apologetic. Or perhaps irritated at himself..
"... I don't even know where to start. What exactly is the definition of 'Eldritch'... Here?">His questions was simple, but also carried the inquisitiveness of someone who REALLY wanted to know more. Arms akimbo as he would wait for Hodch to lend his time.
"What am I supposed to expect? And--how do we prepare for it?" >His tone gets slightly more irritated, albeit still in a soft-spoken way, at nothing in particular. Brow furrowing with a slight scowl towards the books.
"What tactics are used against something Eldritch?..."
>>266798>You take your pair of books, and find a comfy over-stuffed couch to rest in while you glance on to how Hodch is planning on dealing with Hildemar.>Flipping back through the language book 'The ABC's of Saddle Arabia, but Not Really', you start right off at the basics.>It's clearly no where near close to common, so you have a long day of learning ahead of you.>>266620>Given directions from Hodch, you pick out several books from the same spot Joel took from: a Saddle Arabian language book, and a guide to Neighmara.>Luckily there were copies of both, and you also grab a book of Saddle Arabian general culture.>The second spot was tucked away on the end of a shelf, and you flip through several titles; most of which weren't in Common.>There was one relatively thick book named 'Beginner's Guide to Ley Lines'. Apart from sounding pretty comprehensive, it also appeared to be in Common.>Turning your attention back to Hodch, still fiddling in what you assume a pouch underneath his cloak, he finally looks up at you; upholding a small white continuously-warping pebble in his hoof.>You THOUGHT it was a cube, or it could also be a hexagon. Or somehow both?
"So, a brief explanation: THIS is a Formwarped Cube. Once inside, you'll be safe from the Era Lock. Because of the dimension's properties you won't become hungry, thirsty, tired, or feel temperature changes. There's some amenities to keep yourself comfortable, but there will be things swimming through it periodically.">He says the word 'things' and 'swimming' unsettlingly.
"Don't worry, they're harmless. Just try not to think about them too hard. Now, Open.">The unicorn places the cube pebble on the Library's floor, and gives the pebble some space.>In an instant, the tiny cube expands more then large enough for you to easily pass into. Having more of it to observe, the cube did in fact constantly morph from a solid cube and to a hexagon without diminishing the shape of either.>That would have been the oddest part, if it were not also inverting the color of the Library's floor into its base.
"I know, it's hard to look at. When you're ready, just walk on through. You might feel some resistance, but you have to power through it. There will be a signal when your time is up, and I will pull you back through.">Looking over at the revolver he still held in his magical grasp, you both notice the tip of the barrel begin to vaporize.
"I wouldn't wait too long, Hildemar.">>267204>As you enter the Library, the first thing you notice is a large white cube-no hexagon.>Cubigon? Both?>It was both. Absorbing light and color around it like some miniature black hole's event horizon.>Hodch stood to the side, clearly goading Hildemar to walk into the spacial object into itself.>You realize it was the 'cube' he was going to have to stay in for a while.>The unicorn's work was done for the time being, as he was able to turn attention to you while Hildemar readied himself.
"Ah yes. You asked about that earlier.">He squints his eyes at your questions, nodding in a way that doesn't really satisfy you, but snrks none-less.
"Here on Tallus, there are multiple leveled planes of existence, inter-tangled dimensions, and beings considered ethereal, supernatural, spiritual, and generally strange. Any thing that is able to exceed those expectations, and is even weirder than any of that, is considered Eldritch. Can you expect it? Not really. Can you prepare for it-">The Starborn unicorn places his hoof to his chin and nods to himself and aims his horn at a book shelf, using his magic to slide a single book out enough for you to notice.
"Yes? It's more productive to steel your mind from what Eldritch COULD be than to try and truly 'understand' Eldritch. That takes real-world experience, which sounds like you all will get in due time."
>>267362>The strangeness of seeing such an 'anomaly' took some of his attention. Movies and novels could only prepare him so much; seeing it from up close was...>Trippy. >A glance was given to Hildermar. But Nevil didn't say anything in that moment (as the gun began to disintegrate), aside from giving him a perhaps encouraging nod of his head if they'd look in his direction. >He somewhat reluctantly tears his eyes away from the cube. Turning his head to Hodch, but only really moving his eyes once he fully turned his head away from the cubigon-thingy-majig. >The head had to almost turn away from Hodch, when his eyes would snap to him to pay full attention. A mostly deadpan expression on him, not showing much emotion despite the furrowing of his brow and the slight worry in his eyes.>It was likely that the concept of multiple planes of existence was at least a little bit lost on this human, but he still gave it his best shot to memorize what was being said.>Seeing the single book, out of all the ones in the library, being shown to him... Made him lift his brow again, this time with pure curiosity and interest. >Stepping over slightly to reach for the book, and then, if he took it, looking over the title on the cover--if any.
"As long as I know SOMETHING about it, I can improvise with Jeff's help." >Nevil's voice drops slightly with some resignation. He then gives Hodch a brief smile in appreciation.
"... Thanks Hodch. I appreciate the time you're lending me; this really helps.">With the book being placed under his arm, he casts a side glance back towards the weird cubigon, then to Hildermar--who was, by now, hopefully entering the cube.
"See you soon Hildermar.">He'd add quickly, eyeing the witch hunter worriedly for a second before glancing away.
"... I'll get down to it..." >Nevil spares his free hand to rub at his eyes, wincing slightly...>Then, without further adieu, he'd start to turn to speedily stride back into the library proper to find a space to sit and study quietly. Taking his HIGHLY modified helmet from the satchel he carried and putting it on the table, on the side, in case a transmission needed his attention.>Making sure to fish out his own field journal and perhaps a fresh black pen to take notes as he goes.
>>267362>The two selected books are quickly tucked under Hildemar’s left arm as the… shape grabs his attention.>Were he a lesser man, he might fear such an obviously sorcerous artifact, but curiosity on how it would work won over fear.>And then the swimming things were mentioned.
“Fine, but if they start swimming at me they will receive Verena’s judgement.”>The witch hunter takes a hasty step back when the “cube” suddenly starts growing.>Once it reaches full size, he goes and touches it to see how it moves or if it somehow feels magical.
“Got it, walk through deliberately.”>And how deliberately he went once the future repeater started vaporizing, powerwalking through like his life depended on it.>Mostly because it did.
>>267801>Fully committed, you speed walk toward the morphing shape-shifting cube.>Your immediate instinct is to put out an exploratory hand out to test the feel of the cube.>Strangely you don't feel anything solid when you come into 'contact' with it. It feels more like the space around your hand became more dense.>REALLY dense. Like trying to push your hand through cold peanut butter, or a rubber mat.>Yet you continue pushing forward, first your arm then your torso. You feel nothing but a resilient pressure against your face, and in an instant your surroundings change to a stark white room.>An echoed "Close" from Hodch is heard behind you, and all sound shuts off from the room.>Despite an unnerving lack of shadows to help you determine the room's dimensions, you feel the cubic space is roughly ten meters, by twenty, by twenty meters. There was a ceiling, though you couldn't see a top to the blank white emptiness above you. Looking at the 'floor', your feet were clearly making contact with something, yet you couldn't determine what it was made of. It just felt like there was a barrier there, holding you up in space.>Having come to terms with the pocket dimension's nature, you take in whatever amenities were provided for you: Several iron cots, plush mattresses, pillows all over the place, blankets, and an empty pony armor and weapon stand.>Clearly lounging around and keeping yourself occupied was a must in here, because for some weird feeling you didn't feel tired anymore. That growl in your stomach, oddly, had disappeared as well as a regular feeling to drink something.>Luckily you had brought some reading material with you, because there's not much else to to in here... for the next thirty hours.>You pick one of the couches, shuffle around the pillows to make yourself a spot, and start with the book on Neighmara.>What felt like several minutes in, you start to feel a presence in your personal cube.>Was it the 'swimming things' Hodch mentioned?>Taking your attention off the book momentarily, you scan the dimensional barracks for any creatures. Nothing, but something was definitely there.>The concept of a bird lazily flew through the room, but you could only mentally perceive it in the shape of... blue?>Not much later you feel fish swimming through the air in an erratic pattern, but you could only conceptualize it as the color of jazz?>...>It was better that you kept your mind on the books, and not the non-existential creations sharing space with you.>>267588>You read the title on the sole book: "Withstanding the Eldritch, A Preliminary Work On Safeguarding The Mind", by a veteran Starborn Mage.'>Hodch gives you a proud, yet grim, smirk as he holds up a hoof at the book.
"That one's a personal favorite of mine.">Both of your attentions quickly turn to Hildemar as his body is fully engulfed into the cube.>The unicorn walks over next to the cube, and clearly says "Close" at it.>As quickly as it grew, the morphing shape-cube-hexathing shrunk back down to the size of a game dice and Hodch grabbed it with his magic and under his robe.
"Good luck on your job. Jeff puts his trust in all of you, for some reason. My advice? Don't squander that.">His suggestion came off more like a thinly-veiled warning, but Hodch gives you a curt nod before leaving you in the Library with Joel who was already deep into a book himself.>You sit down and open the single one you had been given, mentally preparing yourself to what kind of strange shit your about to read.
-CHAPTER 3: NEIGHMARA-
POST 1/5>>267801>>268049>Time in Hodch's cube was boring at its best, and horrifying at its worst.>If anything, the peace and quiet was something you were very okay about.>After reading up on Neighmara, you learn it's not too different than other territories. Neighmara was built on a series of rock steppes, which naturally broke its well-known open-air market from it residential area lower down. They were mostly trade-dependant, and boasts an impressive amount of artisans over a wide variety of crafts.>It was also more modernized in terms of Equestrian industrialization, and social norms. You decide it was safer to stay curt and polite to any ponies.>Unless they besmirch the name of Verena! >There were also several major and minor ground-level ley line located near by to the city, and all sorts of oddities would emerge from them occasionally and cause trouble. You can deduce that the Neighmarans are well versed in encounters you all are about to encounter. It might not be a bad idea to try and get some information, once there.>The second book on Saddle Arabian language was straight forward enough, if a little dry, but you get through it to an impressive fluency over your thirty-hour self-imprisonment.>But the constant glimmer of animals taking on the forms of non-physical concepts has wearing on your mind, and you never got used to all of your bodily functions halted and slowly losing track of time.>At some point you finally hear something 'open' up inside the cube, Hodch's voice appears as an all-encompassing echo around you.
"Open. Hildemar, your time's up. I'm going to pull you out now.">You don't get in much of a protest, as you feel your body get pulled through a dense pressure right off the couch and back into normality again. Hodch had pulled you back into the Library, a direct 'Close' from the unicorn shrunk the cube back down to the size of a dice and he claims it back inside his robes.
"I guess your stay was tolerable? Jeff made arrangements for a train, but you still have a few hours to refresh and-">Before he can finish his sentence your stomach growls angrily at you, as well as a sudden urge to use the little whichhunter's room.
"All of your bodily functions are going to hit you at once. I'll let you to it, they'll be meeting outside of the Pagoda when you're ready. Good luck, Hildemar!">He calls out to you hopefully as this was no time to be standing around in a Library!>>267212>After you were left to your own devices, you defaulted on your usual habits: getting something to eat being first.>You pick yourself up a good hearty lunch from the mess, and then find somewhere nice to take a nap.>It's a quick one, as Jeff's voice pops into your head through that nifty magic trot-and-talkie they gave you.>He'd apparently booked a ride on a train and didn't particularly ask anything of you, which meant you were free to do what you wanted.>You explored every nook and cranny of the Fortress, at least the places you were allowed into; one of the Day Guards said you had been given 'Special Guest Access'. Whatever that meant.>It was very strange that so many ponies from different factions were helping out protecting this place: Day, Honor, Royal, Night, and Lunar guard. Tartarus Island mercenaries, and one fully-armored Tower Guard that gave you a chilling glare a few times from under her helmet.>Only thing the diversity was good for was that you picked up a few more songs and tunes you haven't heard from before.>You especially enjoyed listening to the human's sing, too, especially the more vulgar ones!>The time passes unfortunately quickly, mostly through naps, but you finally get your head going and start gathering supplies for yourself.>A trip to the mess: you swipe as many snacks and non-perishables and canteened water you can stuff into your saddle bags, even though the nice mare Pella said it was all complimentary.>Then you head to the Clinic, asking the head nurse lady for any desert-related medicine. She gave you a few tubes of clinical-strength hide moisturizer, and a tip to drink plenty of water. She also said to stop by the workshop, to see if a mare named Lann could make you a cloak to keep from getting sun-burnt.>You do just that, and trot North to the clearly labelled building. You're initially stopped by an Honor guard, but he decides to escort you inside.>A chubby yellow mare, Lann, hears out your request and whisps away for about ten minutes. She comes back with a knew-length cloak in some sort of splotchy sand colors she called 'Multicam', but she had sewn in blue and orange accents through the print that matched your coat. In fact, it complimented your hat!>Now that you have all the food and gear you need, you wander around until you find the loud human vehicle from before and climb up into its back seats for another help-awake.>Much to Noah and Nevil's annoyance, trying to properly stock it.>You were already half-asleep.
POST 5/5>>???>You don't know exactly why Jeff had waited so late in the game to draw you into one of his special little task forces, but you were honestly glad to go out and do something other than antagonize the Fortress guards.>He's given you the run-down up to now, so far: ley-lines, mysterious keys, giant bugs, a Saddle Arabian city, train rides, and unknown dangers...>It was right up your alley and you can't possibly imagine why he didn't ask you sooner!>Jeff had advised you adjust your equipment for the desert, and it was sheer coincidence that you and him were in the Armory at the same time doing such. >Lann had made desert-camo pattern covers for the bulk of your fellow operators mostly blue and black armor scheme, along with a camo ball cap. You didn't have to worry about that too much, as your nano-weave took care of blending in to places.>He was just finishing up going over the roster with you, finishing up with the trespas-drifting crystal pony Citrine, and hands you a hefty duffle bag while he lifted a large black sniper rifle onto his shoulder and picked up an unloaded m249 with his other free hand. A third short m4 type rifle was slung to his side, and a large-caliber snub-nose revolver was holstered in a holder on his plate's sternum.
"So that's pretty much everything. We're leaving in a couple hours, just want to get everyone together quick to go over the plan once we get into Neighmara. You'll have some time to get anything else in order.">Making his way out of the Armory, the heavy weaponry clearly not impending his pace at all, You steadily approach the pagoda where you easily notice the Dagor and your new teammates. Or most of them, at least...
>>269281>With a full belly Blaze was not in that much of an irritated mood when the voice of Jeff roused him from his much needed beauty nap.>As the disembodied human voice rattled on about trains and riding books the Crystal Pony smacked his lips, still tasting the succulent Sliced Apple and oil cooked Hay Fries he had earlier on his tongue. This place had good food if nothing else. He could loiter around for some time longer for this fact alone, like the many Crystal Lambs that hovered near a table for errant food to be dropped back in the Empire.>Awake, Citrine went about finally exploring the Fortress, at least the areas he could wonder into. He was surprised at how many factions there were and even more so at how they behaved within the confines of the base' walls.>A lot of mares too.>He learned new songs from both human and equine alike including some not fit for innocent ears of the foals that galloped all around the place. And he was practically given free food and medical aid for the journey by the nice mares in both Mess Hall and Clinic.>Yet most important of all now he had a cloak that matched his hat to call his own!>He gave Lann the Chubby a tight hug as thanks and promised his songs were at her disposal whenever and where ever she desired.>With saddlebags weighty with supplies and a bounce in his step he bid the Honour Guard and Lann goodbye as he left the Workshop to rendezvous with the others whom were no doubt eager to see him again.>Finding the others wasn't hard for Blaze for all he had to do was follow the noise of the machine called 'Dagor'. Noah and Nevil were there already and he helped them as best he could by staying out of the way and going for a nap in the back seat.
"Don't worry I got supplies, you can thank me after my nap.">He said with mirth.
>>269282>checking the straps on his gear one last time and finding them to his liking, Lucius gives a quick greeting to everyone in turn>giving Citrine a mildly contemptuous look at his snooze in the backseat, he moves in to assist in loading up the Dagor, or whatever supplies were still to be loaded >after this, Lucius clambers into the backseat next to Citrine>>269599
"So, napping are we?">he clicks his tongue and shakes his head
"Typical Citrine, always slacking off when there's work to be done.">even so, you swear you catch Lucius grinning under the hood of his cloak>which you notice is now sporting a familiar looking type of fur>you also notice that said fur appears to be slowly but surely changing its color>as you notice this, Lucius pulls the cloak in around him, covering almost every visible part of his body>he sinks low in the seat, hood drawn forward, and you hear his voice coming from somewhere deep inside the furry mass
"Well, you'll be happy to know that I've spent some quality time thinking up new stories to tell - I can promise you that this journey will not be boring.">you hear him cap the statement with a series of throaty chuckles which drift out of the hood like puffs of smoke from a pipe
>>269284>There was a distinct relief to being able to do productive work on the surface of a planet, in the wide open spaces with gravity instead of on a space faring vessel--half the time cooped up in a cryogenics cell meant to keep one fresh for many, many years...>That, and the lack of idleness. It kept the existential dread at bay, and all the questions that entailed in the background. Though he'd be lying if what he had read in Hodch's journal had made for a particularly reassuring read... It made the questions even more pressing. >Tallus is a scary place...>>269599>>269646>As the last of the food supplies are safely stored inside the metallic containers of the Dagor's truck bed, Nevil looks up and finally takes note of Citrine being there. >By the way he double takes on the crystal pony, it almost seemed as if he had phased the pony out of his mind completely, for that while that he was loading things.
"Thanks, Citrine.">He thanked him in earnest, making his assumption that he actually did do something for them. His calm glance goes back down to the dagor bed as he locks the containers and double checks them.>Then steps back and takes out the clipboard Jeff had given him, triple checking that they had everything...
"I hope the heat of the desert isn't too bad on Crystal Ponies. I'm not sure exactly how bad the temperatures get, but I'm going to assume that it is pretty bad given what we heard about the place.">He also did cast one look to the (now very fashionable) Lucius, casting an amused half-smile his way for the statement about the stories.
"... Better be some good stories.">The Lieutenant Commander teased the Ranger, lowkey and almost beneath his breath.>He gives a weak, albeit earnest chuckle at himself. Even if his eyes didn't carry any mirth as his smile did, or as his voice did for that matter. >Looking up from the clipboard, he slowly puts it in his satchel whilst looking to Noah just to give him an appreciative nod of the head as a silent 'thank you'.
"We're almost ready." >He announces quietly.
"Just need everyone else to gather up. Hildermar especially... He should be here soon.">>269285>With that he turned around, leaning his back against the side of the dagor's backside to look towards the rest of the compound. And is rather surprised to see a new operator approaching them. >At first the Marine officer didn't quite hold his gaze on them, assuming they'd move on. But as the operator gets closer and clearly came to approach them, Nevil's somewhat deadpan gaze fixes on them fully, expectantly. And he silently observed the new operator approaching their little 'adventuring party'. >Nevil was a reasonably tall man. He was 6'2", but he was not very broad shouldered, more of a thin, modestly athletic look to him. Still he had a discrete build, clearly strong; and has a bit of a military stance in the way he looked at the new operator. Straight-backed, a slightly lifted brow, and a very inquisitive look in his viridian eyes.>He was clean shaven, crewcut, and looked weary; carrying a distinct eye-shadow. But he wore no scars, no marks on his face.>And he wore a forest green patrol cap with an official-looking red and white insignia patch nobody really recognized. His helmet still inside the satchel, as there was nothing else to fill the bag with on him.>Seeing as he was mostly packing heat in the form of multiple weapons. >Namely the new M78 grenade launcher slung around on his back with the bandolier of grenades across his chestplate, the large, futuristic M41A slung close to his right hip--along with the four, somewhat large, boxy magazine loops across the left side of his belt--one of which being empty. >Plus the black explosives pouch nearer to his hip. PLUS the pistol holster holster on the left hip with and the four assorted loops of the rig itself. >He was almost TOO heavily armed and packing perhaps a bit too many (or too few) explosives that were perhaps slightly overkill for their expedition? And that was without counting the boot shiv, and the survival knife.>His armor was a whole other thing in it of itself. Futuristic on it's own. A cream colored cuirass of post-modern materials, with several modular vambraces, bracers, leg plates, and greaves to cover the rest of his limbs and groin; combat boots, with ballistic gloves on his hands.>The silky, forest green uniform he wore beneath that boasted Marine Corps officer rank tabs, namely those of a Lieutenant Commander. >Nevil didn't say anything to the new arrival. Moreso expecting them to introduce themselves, if they had business.>And also moving his glance past him, as if still expecting others to arrive.
>In the armory, a young man in his early twenties picked at his fingernails with his dagger, biting his lip as he fussed about to clean them.
>He was wearing a set of clothes that seemed to shift and shimmer about him, playing the pattern of the armory behind him in a slight distorted look.
>Thinner and shorter than most, standing at a modest 5'7", his face was more narrow than wide, and his green eyes narrowed in concentration at the task at hand.
>Worrying his lip between his teeth, he raised a hand to wipe shaggy brown hair from his forehead, tucking it underneath a pair of goggles sitting atop a camo bandana, made of the same material his clothes were.
>Usually, picking your fingernails with a blade isn't that difficult of a task, especially if you know what you're doing.
>When you're dealing with a vibro-knife, however, one slight mistake means you just may remove one of your digits.
>Nearby, the young man's main armament of choice sat with his ruck and rig.
>An AKM with an underslung grenade launcher, an old firearm back from when Earth was the only planet of humans and the dream of having space colonies was long off.
>'Course, there was no Earth left, now.
>The Threk made damn sure of that.
>No use crying over spilled magma, though, as the Threk had been obliterated for crimes against existence for wiping most of Humanity from the surface of the galaxy.
>Just about the only good thing the Galactic Council was good for was making sure justice arrived...after it was needed.
>After humanity's planets were gutted slag, humanity itself became drifters, and applied the knowledge that had been gained in the many centuries of their existence.
>Mainly, fighting and singing.
>You realistically had only two choices as a human.
>Either hit it big as an artist on the Holo-net, or pick up arms at fight for the many squabbling factions in the galaxies abroad.
>And there was much in-fighting.
>These men and women that fought for money or glory were called 'Offworlders', in memory of all the colonies humanity had lost and would never reclaim.
>As a Offworlder, you made a name for yourself, carved out a little niche of bloodthirst, and laid your life on the line for the promise of a big payday.
>A Offworlder's name was his call to fame, and humanity loved to remember, so many of the Offworlders (and their companies, if applicable) would harken back to the old days when humanity had first discovered their love of pressing buttons.
>The Dragoons of Legend, the Guardin' Free Men, the Chosen of Daisy...
>This was what Jim was a part of, in the old world.
>But reminiscing on past events wasn't what was on Jim's mind.
>What was on his mind was killing this mind-numbing boredom.
>That, and picking the damn speck of dirt out from under his nail without blending his middle finger into fine mist.
"C'mon, ya farkin' little bit o' dirt, git outta there!"
>Just then, his radio sparked to life, causing him to jump and hit the vibration switch on his dagger, upon which he threw it at the ground where it buzzed angrily and clattered on the concrete floor.
"Ah, wormholes. Now I gotta find a way to get that cunt off, again."
>That, and respond to his radio.
>He'd think of a way that didn't involve finding multiple unicorns while he talked with whoever was pinging him on the radio.
"Jim 'ere. Whatcha' need?"
>The voice coming from the other end squawked.
"Ah, piss, didn't know it was you, Jeff. Sir, I mea-"
"Yeah, I know you told me to drop that. Anyway, whatcha' need? ...New job, out in the desert?"
>An excuse to get out of the base and kill the boredom, and get paid?
"Sure, I'm game. I just needa- No, you don't hear buzzing, why would something be buzzing? Nah, I didn't drop my vibro-knife again! Anyway, you guys out at the pagoda?"
>He began to grab his gear and kit up, well worn equipment sliding into place.
"Yeah, I figured. S'the place where we always get together. And for the last time, I didn't drop my-"
>Jim stopped and looked at his vibro-knife still rattling on the ground, and sighed, face reddening at the good natured laughter of his commander.
"...yeah, Imma need a unicorn or two here. Thanks, Boss."
>After having received support from the nice caster mares, Jim found himself loping over to the pagoda, vibro-knife secured in it's sheath and rig and ruck fitting nicely against his form.
>He hopped the railing of the pagoda, and advanced to jump into the back of the vehicle they called the 'Dagor', kneeling on one of the lips of the scout vehicle and resting his arms on one of the crossbars as he leaned onto the frame.
"Afternoon, gents. So, what're we tryna do all the way out in the desert?
>>269282> Joel greets his Nevil and Noah upon arriving and begins helping move things into the Dagor, extending additional greetings as everyone else arrives.> Once the loading is done, he makes a final check to be sure they're bringing enough of everything.> The busy work being done and everyone briefly stuck waiting on the new guy, Joel notices the shifting colors of Lucius' new and improved cloak and passes the time marveling at it.> Once the newbie did arrive, something far more pressing caught his attention: the man's rifle. He almost raised his weapon on instinct.
Aw, hell, they set us up with some motherless pinko? Boys, is it too late ta ask Jeff for a new one?
>>269281>As sudden as the pull from Hodch’s magic box was, it could not compare to how sudden Hildemar’s body hit him.
“Talk later, toilet now.”>The witch hunter powerwalks as fast as a man holding the floodgates shut can to the latrines.>Truly even benevolent sorcery is a blight upon mankind!>After his… business is concluded Hildemar returns to his barracks to drop off his heavier armor plates.>As much as it made his cloak look oversized without the armor, it was well worth not dying from the heat.>Then his stomach had a new complaint; it was far too empty.>After a quick trip to the mess hall to grab whatever looked most convenient, Hildemar continued to the pagoda, scarfing his breakfast down like a man who hadn’t eaten in over a day.>>270906>At least until he notices some stranger sitting in his group’s wagon.>Hildemar immediately puts on his interrogating face and increases his pace, crossing his arms and looking up to the man once he arrived.
“Who are you and why are you in our wagon?”>More likely than not he just missed out on the lad’s introduction, but it never hurts to be suspicious of unfamiliar people.
>>269599>>269646>>269652>>269778>>270906>>272320>>272995>Between backseat napping, cargo loading, casual strolling, and suspicious glaring, none of you really noticed Jeff approach from the side of the pagoda. Still unarmored, and wearing comfortable fortress fatigues, he saunters over to the Dagor's rear bed near the nameless new arrival and leans onto it.
"Alright, everyone's here. I take it you all enjoyed your downtime?">The commander eyes Hildemar >>272995, giving him an understanding nod.
"I hope your temporary stay in Hodch's cube-thing wasn't too hectic, Hildemar. I asked Lann and Krinza to keep themselves available if you need to get any of your stuff improved before we leave.">He smirks, fiddling with a hoodie string as he looks down on the glowing datapad on his left arm.
"So I know it's a little late in the game, but when I went and booked our train ride I asked around about the junction and anything we should be aware of about it.">A long hard pause captivates his attention into his forearm, but he waves himself off and jabs a thumb at your group's sudden seventh man.
"Aaaand I decided that we need an extra man on the team, for this one. So, without further adieu. Everyone: Jim. His skillset should help bulk up and round out our group. Which is good, since eight is probably the max capacity for the Dagor.">Even though there was technically seven of you, now.>Jeff pushes himself off and walks into the general center of your congregation, hands in his hoodie pockets.
"I also got in touch with a small group of contractors that are going to join us inside the junction. They have a job to do there, as well, so mutually teaming up was a no-brainer. We still have an hour or so, so you can all get acquainted in the time being and get any last minute preparations done. I have some things to square off on, before we get going too.">He starts off back to the barracks, but stops before he gets too far.
"Any questions, before I make myself unavailable until we're all ready to set off?"
>>269646>The noise of Lucius' voice woke him up from his cat nap, and with a yawn he answered the humans rhetorical question.
"Yup, gotta look good for the locals.">Fully awake the Crystal Pony stretched his legs in the air, groaning as he heard satisfying clicks coming from his joints.>Once this was done he knelt in the same spot and gave the Operator a once-over at his new clothing.>Very impressive.
"I ain't the only one that got new clothing too, looks very nice Lucius.">Citrine complimented.>"He is now hiding in all that fur...Oh buck...Maybe that isn't Lucius. Maybe I offended him. Humans do looks all the same to me after all!">Blaze peered deep into the fur to try and see the humans face again, but only got the familiar voice of Lucius.
"That's good to know, I could make songs out of some maybe hahaha...">Laughed the stallion to hide his confusion.>"Will have to play it cool until I get a good look at his face, his voice does match though.">>269652
"YOU'RE WELCOME!">He shouted in response by accident, his confusion making his tone louder than he wanted it to.>Blaze coughed involuntarily, his throat not being prepared for the scream.
"I mean you're welcome. And we Crystal Ponies are masters at controlling our internal heating, but just in case for the rest of you I brought some supplies to help with the sun.">He said with a sheepish smile as he indicated at his full saddlebags.>>270906>Blaze snapped his head at the new human within his midst.>"By Celestia's Mammaries there is another one!"
"Uh, hi. And we're going into the desert to loot some stuff. Also hi.">Explained the Crystal Stallion with a hoof wave.>>274246>He then snapped his head to Jeff, giving himself a pain in the neck while also staring at a pain in the neck.
"Jeff?! I uh ah..um- Enjoyed my stay here!">Sputtered the pony, smiling wide and sitting at attention.>"Jim? Almost sounds like jam, what a silly name. Mmmm, jaaam~..!">Citrine breaks out of his pleasant thoughts on jams and toasted breads at Jeff's question.
"Oh uh yes me, I got a question. What do these contractor ponies look like?"
>>274272>Almost comically, Nevil flinches his glance back to Citrine when he YELLS out the 'YOU'RE WELCOME'; giving the crystal pony a confused glance for a second, before softening again. >The knowledge that he could control his internal heating made the Marine smile in earnest.
"Good-good. We're off to a solid start then...">>270906>>272995>>272320>The officer-looking Marine, turning away from Citrine, would be the one of the first to greet Jim. He immediately squares him up with a glance as he takes his spot on the Dagor and greets them. >He doesn't even make it in time to say "Welc--" before Joel starts to raise his voice. And his gun, slightly; for a second.
"EASY, Joel. Let's not have any knee-jerk reactions with our own Operators; he's Razorback. That makes him one of us">He lifts a hand up in a disarming gesture towards the older operator, furrowing his brow with a measure of disapproval for his instinctive response.
"Give him a chance. He might not even be communist for all you know." >As he says that, he gave Jim a nod as he gives him a intent, meaningful glance as if to pass the microphone to him.>That's also coincidentally when Hildermare joins them. >Nevil barely had the time to turn his eyes when Hildermar, all inquisitive and with a powerful purpose in his stride, reaches them and promptly interrogates Jim immediately.>The Colonial Marine gives the Witchhunter a deadpan stare for a second. He scowled slightly at the man, not appreciating the suspicion--however healthy it seemed to them. Still, Nevil only watched from the background to see how Jim responds to it. >>274246>Jeff's arrival is unnoticed until he speaks up by Nevil. The man was focused on watching the others get acquainted to Jim in a (hopefully) reasonable manner. >Though as Jeff speaks to give them some extra, important information. Turning himself fully to Jeff, elbow resting on the butt of his rifle as he nods in acknowledgement when Jeff points out their extra man.
"We were just getting acquainted with our new member." >Nevil remarked in with a nonchalant tone towards Jim himself, nodding his head to him with a smirk, then looking back to Jeff quickly. >And instantly looses his smile when 'contractors' is mentioned. >The Colonial Marine finds himself nodding to Citrine's question. Before adding on his own.
"Anyone we've worked with before?" >His voice is perhaps unintentionally bitter as he asks that.
>>272320>>272995https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv158F3A7VM>Lucius pokes his head out of his furs at the sound of the newcomer, unraveling himself in the backseat and straightening up to get a better look>"Hrmmmm... his garb is surprising, more so than the others...">"Well-armed too, If I were to guess.">Lucius makes to greet the new guy but is beaten to the punch by Hildemar and Joel, who respond with suspicion and near-open hostility, respectively>the ranger instead decides to wait for the situation to cool off before making his introductions>he was very glad to see Hildemar return seemingly unphased>"I've always liked that one I have, wears proper gear he does...">>274246>As Jeff appears and does his bit, the ranger sits quietly, scratching his beard in thought>He wasn't really thinking about the job, though>"I wonder which one I will tell them...">He is, however, pulled back to reality when he realizes that Jeff has finished and asked for further questions>Lucius simply shakes his head placidly
"Nothing that has not been asked already, I'm afraid - whatever further hiccups we encounter, I am confident we can adapt.">he settles back into his seat again, still running over the tall tales he might tell>>274272>On this note, Lucius turns to Citrine, flashing a toothy grin and jumping with suppressed laughter
"Ah yes, your beauty rest, how could I have forgotten! Please, excuse my impudence, your radiance!">his sniggering stops only at the compliment to his new cloak
"Ah yes, like this, do you? I thought you might!">he pinches a corner of the fabric, bringing it up closer to Citrine's eyes so he can have a better look
"Look here, can you see? It is that strange beast we felled along the path to our last objective, the Acroline! I managed to skin the beast, and wisely so, it turns out! The fur has wonderful properties, miss Lann has explained it to me: after a short time, the fur of this creature changes colors to match one's surroundings!">the ranger guffaws in astonishment at his own statement, for dramatic effect
"Incredible, I say! Where I am from, scant few creatures possessed this ability, and none of them lived where I made my tracks, nay! 'Tis a kingly mantle, indeed!">he settles down again, a self-satisfied smirk overtaking his expression
"Ah, yes, the stories I have may work very well in song. I have one up my sleeve, you see...">he leans closer, speaking in a hushed tone so as not to be overheard
"One of these tales involves a woman, trapped inside a dungeon - a woman said to be monstrous! But, but, the hero, see, the hero knows better! Or at least he THINKS he -">but the ranger cuts himself off, the grin flashing briefly across his face again
"Ah, but I shall say no more, lest I spoil the surprise.">...>>274380>seeing Nevil smoothing things over, Lucius finally rights himself properly from the backseat>>270906>leaning his arms over one of the top roll bars, the man waves at you with a placid smile>you see a bearded man with off-white skin and thick black eyebrows, his face pock-marked, bearing a set of small but deep scars on his left (your right) cheek>he appears to be dressed in a set of lightweight green-tinted armor, much of it apparently made of some sort of dragon skin, if you had to guess>his hair is difficult to make out, owing to the furry cloak he's wearing, with the hood pulled up. You notice that the fur itself appears to be changing color, but it's so subtle that you think it might just be a trick of the light>the man calls to you from the Dagor
"Well met, Jim! I am Lucius, Lucius the Weary. I'm good with a blade and twice as good with a bow - I've been known to split arrows out to two hundred meters, and hit my target up to three hundred further!">Lucius whirls off the Dagor with a dramatic flourish, walking towards Jim
"I am also adept at wilderness survival, tracking, scouting, trapping, and I am a fair hand with a lock and tumbler, if I do say so myself.">Lucius approaches to arms length, extending his casually towards Jim
"Now that you know something of what I can do, pray tell my good man, what sort of things can you do? All of that strange, otherworldly equipment cannot be for nothing!"
>>272995>Joel calms his seething hatred for all things red to tip his hat as Hildemar approaches.
"Y'see, ah knew ya'd be fine.">Seeing Hildemar's immediate distrust of the new guy made him wonder... did he recognize it too? Was sorcery a communist tool? Was that why he was always on the look out for magic?>>274246
"Yeah Jeff, ah got a question. Why're ya talkin' like someone's goin' in the eighth seat?">"So his name's Jim, and not Ivan. Maybe I should cool it until he starts up the apologism.">>274272>Blaze's "YOU'RE WELCOME!" got Joel's attention, but by no means at all startled him.>The good ol' boy looked at him with something like confusion.
"Ah'm sorry, Blaze, but ah just don't think it's in me to be surprised anymore.">>274380>"Oh no, do they have Nevil, too?">Just in case, better to play along a bit and see what they were up to.>Joel took his hand off of Annabelle's rear grip and held her to his side by just the front.
"Easy, easy. Just a little force o' habit. Ah know we're s'posed ta be pals here.">Joel offered his now-empty right hand to Jim.
"Name's Joel. Nice ta meecha, Jim."
>>270906>Seeing and then feeling the new person jump in the back of the Dagor, he makes his way back to the vehicle alongside the others moving in>However, it seems suspicions has taken the mood as Hildemar starts questioning and Joel starts posturing>Good thing Nevil was here to calm that problem down>A little glimpse of his experience as an officer>When it all has settled down, he makes his way to the back with the rest of the others>Getting closer, he gets a better look at the man, who Jeff introduced as Jim>And as far as he could tell, Jim is way off Noah's tech level besides the AKM he has>After Joel offered his hand and greeting, Noah also offers a handshake
"I'm Noah, former police SWAT. Good to have ya."
>>274246>Jim clicked his tongue, shooting a finger gun at the....captain?>Would captain do?>It'd have to.>>274272>A gentle smile was offered to the unicorn.
"Hey there, little buddy. Ye, Jeff let me know earlier. Hey again.">'Weird unicorn. Cute little dude, though.'>>274380>Confusion graced Jim's face when the ten gallon hat bedecked called him a 'pinko'.>What was that?>The other operators seemed to not be aware of the various galaxies about, his off-handed mentions of the Skreth and the Leyanin completely flying over their heads, so the obvious connection to the fluffy pink eldritch creatures called Diens wasn't what was being referred to, here.
"Er, roight. What 'e said.">He leaned into the expertly dressed military man and stage whispered to him.
"Roight, what's a communist?">>274470>Oh boy, finally a friendly face!>Well, not that Jim really knew him from before, but at least he wasn't staring at him like a Tentaviper would burst from his chest.>Hey, that actually wasn't a bad idea!>Who would expect a multi-headed snake-thing to fly from someone who appeared defenseless?>...now that he thought about it, could he maybe...?>Nah, they don't have that level of bio-tech here.>Yet.>The spacefarer's face alights with a grin as the (admittedly) primitively armed man rattles of his skills, more than a few of which were familiar.
"Ah, a man after me own talents, eh? I can tell the two of us are gonna be as close as drop-pod squaddies!">Upon seeing the blank expression from most of the people around (except for Nevil), he rubs his head embarrassedly.
"Er, thick as thieves, then? That work for ya?">Regardless, he asked for a brief synopsis of what Jim could do.>A normal situation, at last!>Most clients desired to know what their hired help could do, after all.
"Well, I'm pretty close to your skillset, I reckon. I don't rightly know about pickin' locks, but I never found a problem enough high-grade explosives couldn't fix! Er, not that I really use them a heck of a lot, but...">He shook his head.
"Eh, I'm talkin' rot, again. Well, for starters, lemme start from me tip and end at me stern, har!">The offworlder reached up and tapped on his glasses balanced atop his bandana.
"These beauts are Tacti-Goggles. They got night-vision, zoom, hell, even a minor dummy AI for targetting!">Wait, low tech world, woops.
"Er, by that I mean it helps me shoot things better, out to a point, least.">He picked at his clothes with a thumb, raising it off of his form before letting it settle.
"Me clothes 'ere are actually nanite-embedded fatigues. They harden in response to physical trauma, and let me blend in to whatever kill-world I've found meself the unfortunate pleasure of bein' on. Minor stealth stuff, y'know?">Finally, he pulled out his vibro-knife.
"And this? This is a knife. But not just any knife.">Jim flicked the switch on the handle of the knife, causing the thing to hiss and sputter, the blades blurring into a soft line as steam spat forth from the mechanism.
"Fifteenth generation Vibro-knife. Can cut through hardened steel with just a snicker-snack! Handy for creatures with bloody great exo-skeletons. Had Krinza look it over, and he plopped a frost seal for cooling, or whatever, on it. Now it looks as cool as a cobicumber in the frozen moons of Hosrel III!">Blinking once more, he chuckles to himself.
"Sorry, I keep bringin' up stuff none a 'ya know about. It's...really cold. Annnd that's 'bout it.">He looked around at the assembled party of individuals.
"Now, what can you lot do? If we're showin' and tellin', that is.">>274636>The drawling man who accused him of being a 'pinko' earlier changed his tune right quick when the marine got on his case.>'Huh, a respect for authority. Is Nevil some kinda field officer, or summats?'>Regardless, he took the tan man's hand, and shook it briefly.
"Nice to get acquainted with ye too, Joel.">The man's hat seemed to glisten in the ambient light, and Jim tilted his head, whistling lowly.
"Now that's right bloody proper hat, there! Y'know of any more around I could get whenever I'm off mission?">>274659>And the second to last offered him his hand and Jim took it, shaking it more earnestly then he did Joel's, as this man had yet to accuse him of being something.>Of what it was, Jim wasn't sure, but it probably wasn't good, given the man's clear vitriol.
"I'm Jim, current Offworlder merc. Glad to be breakin' out of the doldrums.">Noah's armor, while certainly primitive, did catch Jim's eye as being very sturdy.>However, with the nasty beasties and lot about, maybe not standing and taking the blow would be the better option.>But hey, maybe it was actually possible being that magic was a thing, here.>Jim wasn't fully convinced it wasn't just high-grade nanites being commanded via scripts, but hey, the end result was the only thing that mattered, and this 'magic' could do a lot of matter, indeed.
ROUND 3>>275452>Catching your finger-gun out of the corner of his eye, Jeff gives you a side-glance and a mutual wink right back.>>274659>>274470>>274380>>274272>Jeff takes both of your inquiries in at the same time, but he addresses everyone broadly.
"Very good question, Citrine. Lucius. While I was in Neighmara I bumped into some humans from my first wave that left a while back to go do their own thing. They run a small private security firm, for anypony rich enough to hire humans as novelty protection. among other things. Seriously, Royce is NOT shy about selling that part every time.">The person he mentions gives off heavy tones of being the one in charge.>He pauses, narrowing his eyes and crossing his arms enviously.
"They're smart enough to stay out of a lot of inter-pony and political problems, so they keep to themselves. Must be nice. Pfft. Anyway, they said they have work to do in the junction too. A client escort, I think it was. A donkey? No. They preferred the term burro... burrito?">The commander scratches his chin with some considerable effort, but ends on shrugging his shoulders in defeat.
"Anyway, we made an agreement to help eachother out, complete our respective jobs, then we go back on our own ways. Aaaand they have a transport as well, bigger than our's, so we don't have to be crammed into the Dagor the entire time!">As convenient as the Dagor was, it was packed enough with the six of you. But with the addition of Jim, it was going to get claustrophobic.>Joel's question even compounded the situation with an additional member.>>274636>The question in which you're rewarded with Jeff raising a knowing eyebrow at you, then nodding in a 'cats-out-of-the-bag' defeated motion.
"Because of... the sensitivity of Scholar's research, and his justified paranoia, I think it would be better if I accompany you guys. IF he does end up being there, he should be more willing to cooperate if he knows someone previously.">Jeff shrugs, not giving much of a reason for rebuttal on the matter.
"The more the merrier, at this point, right? Don't worry, there'll be more breathing room once we get into the field. Which reminds me... I was supposed to give some of you something, but I forgot.">He doesn't get too much of a change to try and remember, when as if on que a shuffling is heard behind the Dagor.>A crimson pegasus Nightguard with pink wingtips pops from behind the vehicle, a nondescript duffle saddled on his back, shooting you all a nodding salute before addressing Jeff.
"Sir! Krinza told be to bring these to you. You forgot them?"
"Oh! Yeah, I did. Thanks, Blitz.">The gratitude makes Blitz's wing flutter appreciatively, and he mouth's the duffel's carry handle over to Jeff.
"You're welcome! Bye!">The stallion happily trots off, leaving you all to eye the bag Jeff was gifted with. He immediately zips it open and pulls out-
"Gas masks, well half masks! This junction apparently gives off a type of miasma, according to the locals. It's not deadly, unless you're in it for a long time, but it's not fun to breathe in. Thankfully, I didn't hear anything about eye irritation.">The masks were only designed to cover the nose to neck, and were made of a composite material with visible rubber seals and cross-straps to keep them in place. There seemed to be seven to fit human faces, with one with an elongated shape to clearly fit a pony.
"Now Krinza made these himself, after re-engineering some of our's. Which means that Hildemar, Lucius, and Citrine you're all free to wear these without suffering any Era-Lock effects. Noah, Joel, Nevil, Jim. I know you guys are from eras WITH gas mask, so you can either use these, or ones you're more comfortable with.">He hands masks out directly to Hildemar, Lucius, and Citrine, leaving the duffel with the remaining on the Dagor's bed.
"I'd practice getting them on in less than thirty seconds, at the most."
>>274636>Nevil's eyes remained on Jeff for a few seconds longer, his expression somewhat serious and not-at-all amused as he watches, but he doesn't frown or glare in any way. He just seemed very serious about the "We're Razorback" bit.>Seeing them shake hands with Jim made Nevil's smile tug into a weak, but earnest smile.>>275452>Turning to the OffWorlder as he leaned over to ask that question, the Marine Officer turned his head more towards Jim attentively. >His question seems to make the man purse his lip deep into his cheek for a second in a brief, but light grimace.
"Long story, and it's very political where me and him are from. I'll tell you later--just know that Joel hates them passionately, and I'm not keen on them myself."
"Them being the "enemy", after all.">Nevil's words are spoken quietly and with a degree of stiffness in his honesty. >Though the last part is spoken somewhat lightly, as if it were only a half-truth from the Marine.>Nevil gives Jim a welcoming nod and slight smile. Leaving Lucius to greet Jim while he'd turn his attention away back to Jeff.>>276972>Nodding along with Jeff from the background, he rests his arm on his rather large pulse rifle hanging at his hip. The way Jeff introduced 'Royce' to them made Nevil smirk briefly as their boss wears his envy openly.
"Burro is Spaneigh for Donkey, if I remember correctly." >Nevil would helpfully pipe up at seeing the Commander's "confusion", his tone staying even and calm. Not showing amusement, even if there was some in the way he smiled for a second. >The mention of an additional vehicle does make Nevil's left brow rise slightly with interest and curiosity, though he doesn't ask. >Quickly, his expression would even out. Not saying much. Though he does give Blitz a small wave and a smile from the background just to greet them and wave goodbye before the pegasus would leave. Following the duffelbag with his eyes.
"A type of Miasma, Jeff?">Nevil's tone becomes slightly more serious as he stepped forward to the duffelbag at the Dagor's bed.
"Not Eldritch related, is it? Just something that the ground gives off on it's own near the Junction?" >He would half-turn his head to look back to Jeff as he picked up one of the half-masks and gave them a closer examination just to see how he could adjust the straps to better fit his head.>Luckily Nevil was fairly rigorously trained in CBRN and EVA so quickly donning and doffing a gas mask was one of those things he could do very quickly.>Nevil spends a moment adjusting the gas mask, before taking off his hat to put it in the satchel, and then start wearing the mask to test it and further adjust it, all the while stepping back to look to Jeff again with an attentive glance.
>>275452>Listening to him further, speaking to all of the squad members, he can't but be amused with his manner of speech>Noah barely remembered what a doldrum was>After shaking his hand, Noah turned his attention towards Jeff>>276972>Another human mercenary company?>And has no political dealings with the current state of this world?>Jeff was right, must be lucky considering the flux Razorback seems to find itself in>Having a short chuckle after Jeff's fumbling with the Spanish language, Noah was happy to learn about the other group's cooperation as well as the possibility of having a bigger ride>As familiar the Dagor was to him, being a passenger couldn't hurt>He is surprised as he learns about Jeff joining in on this mission>Noah knows about some of the very veteran operators in this compound, Jeff being one of them>Noah would consider these folks to be borderline magic themselves with the feats they have done or experienced>He always considered Jeff to be the more administrative one, hearing about other vets always going on missions nonstop>Seeing the pegasus appear and drop off a duffle bag, Noah makes his way to the back of the Dagor and see what's there
"What does the miasma look like?">Noah follows suit after Nevil and grabs one of the masks>He gives it a look over before practicing putting it on>It shouldn't be too much trouble given his prior training>It might be easier since it was only a half mask>Noah does check the seals on it and adjusts it to fit him before taking it off and storing it on his chest rig
"That's good, Jeff. Welcome aboard, but we might have ta sit Blaze in yer lap.">Joel grins and chuckles at his own joke.
"If yer givin' me the choice, Ah'd take these little respirators over the full face kind long as it's safe.">He practices getting the thing around his face a few times without taking his hat off, finding it quite different from the big bug-eyed things he was familiar with.
"Can't wait ta meet this Royce feller. Sounds like quite a character."
"Yessss~">Said Citrine in a prolonged snake like hiss.>>274470
"You're excused Lucius, just don't do it again.">Blaze said in a jovial tone.>The Crystal Pony looked over the fabric and new cloak that the human wore, and it was indeed made from the animals they killed.>Which was a good indicator that it was the real Lucius after all.>Possibly.
"It is really a good cloak and you wear it well on your shoulders, and hey when you get back home you will make a lot off of it if you sell it.">If what he said was true then this human could make a good gold coinage off of it, just like what he himself plans to do when he can get the buck away from this Fortress and its infernal guardian, Jeff.>Woomen?>'Like hooman? Does he mean Mares? Must do, not like I've seen one before.'>When this look-a-like-of-Lucius spoke to him in a hushed tone he leaned in to hear, the shallow breaths of the human making his ear twitch.
"Sounds like a good ol' tale Foals would hear back in the Empire before bedtime, but we can wait after the desert to start writing songs.">Blaze promised to the hooded human.>>274636
"No need to apologise...?">The Crystal Stallion said with his own brand of confusion lacing his words.>>275452
"Yes we are. Remember to ask when your human coat is getting burnt by Celestia's fat ass cheeks.">Blaze reminded Nevil for when the blazing sun blazed its gaze onto him leaving him covered in a glaze of sweat and dying in a heat haze.>>275452
"Good to know, welcome aboard. Hi again to you too also!">Said Citrine to the new human.>Another one.>They just pop up right from the ground don't they.>>276972>'More humans? Out there in Neighmara? Been there so long they set up a Hired Goon business too, why are all humans just soldiers or something?'>'Donkey?'
"Donkey?">Asked Blaze with a face scrunch, never heard of them before but they don't sound like an Equine.>And a burrito you eat? They haven't left and he already has so many questions.>Something bigger than the Dagor too? Thank buck for that! As much as he liked it Citrine could not see anymore ponies filling in this cart, unless they wanted to hang off of the side.>He then zoned out as he went back into getting comfy, only some words penetrating his mind as he made his ass comfortable.>So much so he did not hear the shuffling sounds coming from behind them.>Only when the exchange between Jeff and Blitz was over did Blaze look up, and was surprised to see that a large bag materialised in Jeffs' grasp.>'Huh where did he pull that from?'>His thoughts were interrupted at what Jeff said and made his mind race.>That, he was supposed to wear that? HOW WOULD ANY MARE SEE HIS BEAUTIFUL JAWLINE?!>And horror of horror there was one fit for him.>As he internally processed this travesty Jeff gave him his, so unready he panicked and fumbled with it in his hooves.>It flopped around like a damn boned fish.
"Eww! It feels weird!">Neighed out Citrine to the sky, why has life forsaken him so...
>>276972>"First wave, eh...">The ranger can't help but wonder silently to himself about what these other humans might be like>He does perk up at the mention of a larger ride
"Ah! Yes, indeed, more leg-room would be most welcome! By the by, about how many others will we be meeting?">Lucius cocks an eyebrow at the gas masks, appraising them cautiously, but taking one all the same>tentatively he looks over at Citrine to see if the pony knew anything about how to get the thing on, only to find him...>Playing with it.>The ranger tries to figure things out on his own, but after a few minutes winds up with it strapped upside-down on his forehead>With a heavy sigh, swallowing his pride, Lucius ambles over to Nevil>When it looks like Nevil isn't too busy, he taps him on the shoulder
"Uh, well, this is a little embarrassing, but... could you perhaps... show me how to operate one of these? I have never encountered such a device...">After being kindly shown how to operate his gas mask, Lucius then goes about practicing with it, following Jeff's suggestion>"30 seconds or less... 30 seconds or less..."[1d6 = 1]
> Master Reaction Speed[1d6 = 6][1d6 = 3][1d6 = 2]
>>276972>Alright, so there's a off-shoot band of mercs in Neighmara.>That's good, Jim'd have to talk to the locals, see what indigenous nasties he could use in his favor.>Annnnnd of course they'd whore themselves out.>Not like Jim can say anything, humans in his...oh, bugger, what did that science-y type call it?>Plane?>Yeah, that was it.>Humans in his plane of existence were basically the same.>Jim looked over the Dagor, then the present company, then the Dagor again.
"Ye, sorry lads, we're gonna be packed tighter n' thermal slugs in a helical mag cuz a' me.">And captain dude was comin' along with!>Nice.>Jim sinks with the introduction of gas masks.
"Aw, bugger all, masks? Well, at least they won't cover me goggles.">>277105
"Well, alrigh' then. Business time innit the right time for it, I s'pose.">Jim took a moment, before rubbing the back of his head awkwardly.
"Jus' as long as you lot know I'm on yer side. I'm not too keen on bein' plugged by friendlies.">>277733>Right friendly little thing, wasn't he?>Jim was half tempted to respond with another 'hello' but then again, they'd be there all day if he kept it up.>With nothing left to say or ask, Jim practiced putting on the mask.>Shouldn't be too hard, after all, he'd had to deal with improvising and using xenotech before.>No matter what species it was designed for, it never fit a human quite right.
>>276972>>277950>Hildemar quickly quieted his outward distrust towards Jim and crammed it back inward, just like he does for everyone else.
“Very well then, Jim, if Jeff is vouching for you then I’ll trust that you’ll be of use to our group.”>He uncrosses his arms and adjusts his hat.
“I am Hildemar Veiel. Since leaving the Old World I’ve become a private investigator, specialized on arcane misuse, hailing from Manehattan.”>Just specific enough to describe himself, not specific enough to let his real focus out the bag.>Having finished greeting the new member, Hildemar accepts the gas mask and cautiously puts it on when he’s told it won’t vaporize.
“”Gas masks” eh, such items could have been tremendously useful where I came from.”>Hildemar takes the mask back off and makes sure there wasn’t any straps he neglected when first putting it on before finding a spot to stash it on his armor.
"Is it? Spanish was never my forte.">Moving right along Jeff takes notices of your queries about the miasma first, projecting for everyone to hear.
"Okay. So you all remember the red fog from Junction 7? It's going to look and behave exactly like that, except a little thicker and purple. It seems indicative as a side effect from junctions in general. This one, though, sounds like it can cause hallucinations if inhaled for too long. Might as well demo this for everyone, while I'm at it.">Pulling out one of the masks, he loosens the double head straps to get it over his head easily.>>277888>>277733>>279698
"Especially for you Lucius, Hildemar, Citrine. Get it situated on the bridge of your nose, and around your jaw, pull the straps back for a decent fit for now.">He pulls the upper and lower straps simultaneously, clearly someone who's had practice doing this.
"Next: put your hands, or hooves, over the filters and try to breath in.">Demonstrating, voice now slightly muffled, he makes an audible inhaling noise within the mask as he places his palms over the dual filters. But it stops abruptly, and you can all see the side of the rubber seals suck in slightly as his face strains to take in breath.
"If you can't breathe, you have a good seal. Then adjust the straps fully until they're nice and snug. Good to go. IF by any chance you have to put it on in the mist: hold your breath while putting on your mask, then breathe out once you have it sealed. Yes, I know, Citrine. Rubber isn't exactly a material you ponies have exactly gotten down yourselves yet. Krinza reverse engineered some of ours and formed his own recipe. Hmm... are you going to need help getting that on?">One of you manages to get your mask on, as per Jeff's demonstration, incredibly quick and efficient. The commander stares amazingly, but it's only eye-deep.
"Wow Lucius... perfect! And you managed to get a seal with that beard? Krinza must've put a tiny sealing enchantment on these or something... Also It sounds like Royce has three others with him, not including the... burro. By the way-">>277716>>277950>Looking over at some of you giving Jim a hard time, he narrows his eyes and crosses his arms authoritatively, not bothering to remove the gas mask.
"May I remind all of you that whatever societal quarrels you might have to other humans mean nothing here. We're all under the same roof, in the same boat, whether you're a member of Razorback or not. If it's Jim's rifle you're concerned about because it's of Russian make lemme tell ya- He has one of the better guns for the dessert. And one of Royce's crew is Russian. Painfully Russian. Almost as painfully Australian Royce himself is.">Jeff smacks his forehead, groaning, but switches to a heavy goofy accent.
"'G'day mate! Throw some shrimp on the a barbie, ya dingo!' Don't mention I imitated him. He and I tend to bump heads, but it's nothing malicious.">Eyes shifting left to right, he reaches behind his head to undo the straps and peels the mask off his face. Taking in a refreshing gasp and putting the mask in with whatever ones were left in the duffel.
"So if that's everyone's questions, I have to get a few preparations of my own underway."
>>279729>Now flopped down lifelessly in front of him, Blaze prodded the icky feeling gas mask with an inquisitive hoof.
"You better not be some kind of leech.">Warned the pony as Jeff explained why they were using the masks.>Was it a fair trade to put some yucky bug on his face to protect him from magical gas? Maybe.>Hearing his name being called did get his attention and Blaze snapped his head to see what Jeff was babbling on about.>The Crystal Pony wore a face of confusion and slight disgust as Jeff demonstrated on how to put the damn thing on, that this rubbery thing was to be so tightly stuck to his face.
"I uh-">Is what he said initially before looking down at the mask and pawing at it with his hoof when Jeff referred to him.
"N-no...I'm good.">He lied, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.>'I am not a foal I can do it myself MOM!'>Citrine flicked his eyes over at Lucius, eyes slightly narrowing in jealously.>'If he can do it so can I! Don't need no stupid hands.'>He grumbled internally.>Though this foalish mood was easily replaced when he heard Jeffs' voice change, making him swing his head back to the masked human.>What was that?>It certainly sounded painful, what terrible creature talks like that?>Was it the mask, did it change Jeffs voicebox? WILL IT CHANGE HIS?!
"Yeah, that -that is everything Jeff sir.">Blaze said, still shaken and stirred by the terrible revelation, still pawing at his gas mask.
>>277950>Nevil quarter-turned his head from Jeff when Jim spoke to him in reply. The look in the pale Colonial Marine's eyes was a welcoming, but also serious one; frowning, but with a soft look in his blue eyes.>By that time, he had his mask on. Breathing in to make sure it is sealed correctly. Not even a single hint of discomfort coming to him during the process.>Then he takes it back off and stuff it in his mostly empty, large general pouch on his belt.
"Once we get situated on our train I'll tell you more. If you want to.">Nevil stated with a lighter voice. Then it deepens slightly as he is quick to shake his head and a grave-looking furrow his brow at Jim's second statement second statement.>His glance darting down once, taking note of the way he rubs the back of his neck.
"Once they get to know you better they'll be less worried about it, don't worry. You look like a reliable and chummy person, and these are proper people--and crystal pony. They won't do stuff like that, I promise." >He waved his hand in a pacifying gesture somewhat, and weakly, but genuinely smiled reassuringly.
"Relax, Jim. If anything particularly bad happens, tell me about it and we'll deal with it together. I'm here for all of you.">With that, he gives Jim a slight nod before he'd turn back towards Jeff to pay attention. Especially as Hildermar goes to introduce himself.>>280154>>279729>>277888>Nodding his head once towards Jeff, Nevil breathes out a slight sigh of relief, even if it had the weight of a sigh that carried some worry with it nonetheless.
"Doesn't sound too bad then...">Then, steps aside somewhat to oversee the less technologically inclined members of the squad, keeping an eye on them to see if any of them needed some additional help in some way.>When Lucius comes up to him for help and tapped him, Nevil was of course quick to step a bit more to face Lucius. Though making sure his rifle was very secured and out of touching range at his side, same for his grenade launcher, shifting it more on his back instead.>Taking off his officer's cap once more and putting it in the same pouch he put the gas mask into.
"Here, watch me do it.">Nevil takes out his own gas mask again and starts going through the process of wearing. But slower, so that Lucius can keep up and see exactly the method he was using.>He pulls the strap upward so that the clasp goes over his head--same as Jeff's example.
"Clasp goes over the head, like this. Make sure it fits snuggly with no holes anywhere--that's when you know it's the correct size. If it's not snuggly, it's too large. Keep it in mind for any half-mask respirators you use. It must fit tightly on your face, to prevent gases from skipping the filters.">He shows, and tutors Lucius in the process. Watching him intently every step of the way to make sure he had it down. >Nevil quirked his brow and smiled from behind his mask at seeing how quickly Lucius does it after having been shown. Leaning over to look over Lucius' mask to check the straps and clasp, then nods in approval.
"Well done. Now you know how to wear it correctly, and quickly. Easy, right?" >Side glancing Jeff for a moment as he comments on the fact that Lucius had done all of this while sporting a massive Zeus beard. >This made Nevil chuckle once, nodding to Lucius again with some amusement.>Taking off his mask again so that he doesn't have to speak with it on, he folds in the strap--also slowly in case Lucius wanted to see that too, and puts it back into the pouch.
"Keep in mind Lucius, the filters--">Nevil taps the bulbous components on the sides of the respirator with a finger before putting it fully in his pouch.
"--Don't last forever. On AVERAGE and while actively using it, these types of filters will last 8 hours before needing to be changed.">He then glanced towards Jeff again as he made a remark.
"Unless the filters are not conventional and don't follow those rules, of course.">Sweeping his glance away towards Citrine when Jeff shows him how to wear his pony gas mask. Watching those expressions, and slightly pursing his lip with some empathy.>Darting his glance between Lucius and Citrine once... He seems to be on the of stepping in to assist somehow, but then stops.>Nevil quiets down to listen to Jeff as he changes the tone. Hands slipping subtly behind his back as he assumes a more officer-y posture, straightening the back and shoulders. Listening with an understanding, agreeing look in his eyes.>Even as the goofy Aussie accent comes on.>Nevil seems remarkably unphased at hearing it. >Nodding slowly in understanding to the mention of them butting heads.
"Unless there's something important to know about Royce's companions to mentally prepare ourselves, that's about it for questions from me.">Then, his eyes moved back towards Citrine. Watching him paw at that gas mask.
"Citrine.">He called to the Crystal Pony with a bit of Marine aggression to his otherwise calm voice.
"Are you going to let yourself be defeated by a half-mask!? I thought nothing could keep you down. That you were a strong, independent crystal pony!">He gestured a hand towards the crystal pony, and to his pony sized respirator.
"You can handle it, can't you?" >Nevil looked at Citrine intently, challenging him, as he stepped more behind the other Operators to get closer to the pony, nodding down to his mask. Lowering the hardass Marineness in his voice now that he's closer.
"That mask is the difference between going on a wild, unfun, magic hallucination trip in some thick fog and NOT going on a wild, and probably spooky magic hallucination trip in some very thick fog."
"And no, it's not a leech.">Nevil made sure to point out, furrowing his brow with some muted amusement towards Citrine as he went to stand just a bit away from the Crystal pony. Arms akimbo as he looked at Citrine, to see if he needed more help than Jeff's.
"--That'd be very gross. Now c'mon, put it on. That way you wont have any trouble later on."
>>279729>Thicker mist, purple, and requires a little bit of exposure in order to start seeing things?>Noah thought to himself easy enough to remember>Noah takes a deep breath in his mask, getting used to the fit before taking the thing off again>He looks over to Hildemar, Citrine, and Lucius, seeing if they needed any help but Nevil is already covering them>He even got a small reminder of the filters being able to last 8 hours, something Noah forgot about>His attention does snap to Jeff when his tone changed to a more authoritative one>And he is right, we're all Razorback now, regardless of societal meaning>Noah had to learn that when working with revolutionary types within the Fortress>He nods in understanding>He does appreciate the sudden break in seriousness when Jeff puts on that god awful Australian accent>Seeing Citrine getting some trouble with the mask looked amusing to Noah
"I never heard these things get referred to as leeches. C'mon Citrine, you got this.">Noah start making his way towards the Dagor and hops in the driver seat
"About time to start heading out everyone?"
"Ya'll don't have ta worry about me, scout's honor.">Joel raises his fingers in a salute.>'Just gotta remember not to be too jumpy on this mercenary guy.'>>280154>He turns his gaze uneasily to the pony gas mask being presented to Citrine.>'Can't blame him at all that thing's horrifying.'>>280234
"And yer more than lucky that's the only that's the only thang that'll happen to you, Blaze. Sure would be a shame if those vocal chords o' yers got chemical burns along with the insides o' yer lungs.">Joel settles into a place to sit for the journey and starts to make himself comfortable.
>>279729>>280234>the man nods appreciatively at Nevil
"My thanks! You know I daresay that I may be beginning to like you after all, Nevile.">he says with a chuckle, muffled by the half mask still strapped to the underside of his face>you see his eyebrows raise in a brief moment of surprise
"Oh! Right! I'm wasting... what did you call it... 'filtration'!">he removes the mask just as quickly as he'd gotten it on>>280238>with this, Lucius ambles back into the rear of the Dagor, standing up with one arm gripping a part of the roll cage, and another swinging the half mask around his index finger by a strap
"And here I thought no one would ever ask! Yes, let us away at length."
>>279729>Thick purple gas?>Sounds like a bio-poison, or something.>Especially that hallucination bit.>Maybe it's a natural occurrence, and not magical.>Hopefully so.>Jim sat by, playing with the mask as he watched the other in-experienced operators putting on the mask.>For him, it was easy as pie, if a bit annoying to have the lack of easy breathing.>It's a shame that he couldn't have brought in a mask from his universe.>Ah, well.>He removed it shortly after trying it on, just to get the feel of it.>Yep, still sucks.>And here comes Jeff with the save.
"Aw, s'nothin I can't deal with, boss. Xenophobia ain't exactly uncommon in th' outer rim.">Still appreciated, though.>However, Jeff's impression of the individual who is leading the group they're supposed to meet triggers some memory Jim had.
"Oi, how'd you know what me ol' C/O sounded like? Spot on impression, mate.">He missed his old crew, but these people weren't bad.>>280234>Jim nodded, tilting his head slightly.
"Ye, I'd 'preciate it. Jus' so I don't tread on any toes. An' ye, I'm a pretty easy-goin' fella, if'n I do say so meself.">Jim offered a final nod, turning his attention to the others.>>281432>Jim really hoped he'd be the same, but he'd have to wait and see.>Though, he'd prefer never having to find out, to be sure.
>>279729>Having forgotten to check the seal on his mask, Hildemar puts it back on and fiddles with the straps until he’s happy with them.>The mask is immediately removed again, as it would truly be a shame to cover up his carefully cultivated mustache.>He nodded along to Jeff’s little speech about tolerating people similar to enemies from back home, suppressing a quick chuckle at Jeff’s imitation of such a strange accent.
“I can’t say I have any additional questions for the time being.”>>281432>Hildemar overhears the old man refer to himself as having “scout’s honor” and quirks and eyebrow.
“I never got the impression you do very much scouting, Joel. Perhaps when you were half your age you could have kept up.”>The witch hunter for the most part ignores Citrine and all the attention he’s getting, and instead makes his way to the back of the Dagor near Lucius and Joel.>Once he’s seated, Hildemar removes his hat and double checks how much extra gun powder he has.
“So, have either of you worked in the desert before? Because I certainly haven’t.”
ROUND 5>>280154>Jeff snirks at your assumption at the weird rubbery face mask.
"Don't worry Citrine, it's not gonna eat your face or anything. Though the mask is a little oddly shaped to fit your muzzle, that's just how it is dude.">He's ultimately pleased you were able to get the mask on by yourself, and gives you a thumbs-up and nod of approval despite your visual disapproval of the floppy bug on your snout.>>280234>>280238>>281432>>281832>>281970>While some of you mull over the limitations of the mask's filters, Nevil is the one to actually address their longevity.>At which Jeff is more than happy to reply to, trying to remember the specifications of the design.
"They actually are, Nevil! Lann and Krinza created a layered mesh puck of weaved anti-microbial... multi-planar spider silks. Then there's a self-cleaning enchantment on them, so they'll last indefinitely. Providing they don't get damaged or dis-enchanted in any way.">You all figure it's another par for the course for magic.>>281938>Jeff nods at your self re-assurance, he rolls his eyes as he peels his mask off.
"Then I hope you get his slang more than I ever did. He's got names for things I can never figure out if it's a good or bad thing. Pssh.">>280234>Nevil asks about Royce's other human companions, and Jeff looks out at nothing in particular while counting to three on his fingers.
"Let's seeeee. I know Yuri's going. He can probably keep up with you, Joel, in terms of drinking. Then there's Jan. She's not particularly chatty. And I think Kenny. Damn, I hope Kenny's going. You'll see.">He visually gets excited at the last human mentioned.>Jeff notices Noah getting into the driver's seat, as he starts to walk out toward the Workshop.
"Get whatever you guys need. I'll be back in half an hour or so, then we can start heading out.">He gives you all a backhanded wave with his right hand as his left raises chest high to give off a blue glow from his forearm.>Clearly he was preoccupied, even when strolling through the Fortress.
>>281973>Sitting pretty in the driver's seat, Noah gets as comfortable as he can>Going through the checklist in his head, he determines that he has everything he needs>Water, rations, ammo, gun, more water>He turns back to the group from his seat
"Y'all can go ahead and get your stuff. I'll be sitting here.">He then turns the radio on and places his hands behind his head>Savoring the downtime, Noah's mind begins to wander and leads back to his law enforcement career>Those small mundane encounters, it all seems so far away now
>>280234>The tone from Nevil made Blaze snap his head towards the human, and stopped poking at the mask to address him.
"FINE. I will put it on, you're as overbearing as Princess Cadence.">Huffed Citrine as looked at the mask one more time before he threw his beautiful into it.>After rolling around for a minute fighting desperately for his life he was finally victorious in putting the damn thing over his muzzle.
"Her eh ehh ongh, hahheh?">Asked the Crystal Stallion as he turned his head about to show Nevil his hoofywork putting sticking the mask onto his muzzle, not realising his voice was muffled by said mask.>>281973>Blaze huffed and puffed finding the mask wasn't doing great for his breathing. It chaffed against his crystal skin, it was too tight, felt weird and he was already feeling the increasing condensation within the mask making his lips clammy.
"Ah ong ah ang auul do geh dih hing ouh oh meh faae ang neheh erh eh ahan.">He said, speaking fluently and concisely about his feeling on the matter.>Blaze didn't notice Jeff talk or walk away as he was too preoccupied popping his mouth open and closed, the vibrations from the mask on his muzzle whenever he made a sound tickled him.>This was a perk at least.>>282174>Blaze craned his neck to look at Noah in the drivers seat of the metal box.>He didn't need anything, he was as prepared as can be!>Well, he could use the company of a mare, but he assumed there will be plenty where they were going.>And this time he wasn't going to lose anyponies money!>Hopefully.
"Eih ohreheh hah eheheaheng reheh, ehen hun hrem.">He told Noah proudly. Chest puffed out. He thought of everything as a leader should!
>>281832>Lucius' first statement coaxes an amused 'pfft' from Nevil, flashing the ranger a small, but almost playful smirk.
"Better late than never I suppose." >He nods in appreciation, then lets his smirk ebb away to his usual, more neutral and usual look as Lucius worries about wasting 'filtration'.
"The filters. Don't worry too much about it. Active use is when you're actually using it to filter things from the air. Stuff like dust, or gasses. It can clog overtime and make it harder to breathe." >With that said however, he'd turn his head to look to Jeff as he likewise clarified the longevity of the masks. Quirking his brow and giving one impressed nod.
"Magic sure is convenient...">The Colonial Marine said flatly. Then looked off a little bit, thinking to himself a little more.>>281938>Without interrupting Jim's attention span by talking, the Lieutenant Commander simply gave a quick nod and a confident thumbs-up in response. >All without really changing his expression. The man could be quite stone-faced... As he'd move onto Citrine.>>282180>The crystal Pony's statement made the man just roll his eyes, briefly eyeing Jeff as he replied.
"I'll take that as a compliment.">Nevil's voice had since lowered to a more reasonably, less challenging, calm tone once Citrine had began to put on the mask instead of regarding it as if it could leap at his face and eat him. >His goal accomplished, he no longer needed to be domineering! For now. >Nevil puts his arms akimbo as he focused his glance on Citrine. And blinks with CONFUSION at the absolutely unintelligible stream of words that was emitting from Citrine's masked muzzle. >His left brow rises in a questioning, mildly upset stare as he goes to walk beside Citrine to look at the straps of his mask.>It was probably TOO tight...
"Citrine I did not catch a single word. You sound like when you're eating.">>281973>For a moment, Nevil let Citrine walk off to hang out with Noah for the time being. The expression of concern fading quickly as he focused on listening to Jeff's reply, only sometimes glancing to the side to check on Citrine with errant glances.
"They sound like a fun bunch. Agreeable.">Nevil replied quietly, lifting a brow with interest at the topic of 'Kenny'. Whom remains a surprise for the time being.>He then followed Jeff's glance towards Noah, quarter-turning his head in their driver's direction, then back to their commander as they start walking off.
"You got it, Jeff." >He watched him go for a moment, his eyes drawn to the blue glow coming from their wrist. Quietly staring at their base commander's wrist device....... >How he WISHED he could get one too. >But with that, he turned back around to face the Dagor, and their entire party. His eyes moving between Citrine and Noah.>>282174
"Noah. Help out Citrine if you could. We need to be able to understand what he's saying while he has a mask on. I think it might be too tight on his face..." >He gave Citrine a second look, squinting towards that facemask.>Then lifted his eyes towards their SWAT officer again.
"I am going to go fetch something from storage. I think some sunglasses would do good for this outing. And I'm going to go on the safe side and grab a brick or three of C4... If you know how to set them up, because I don't.">He gives Noah a quick nod, then begins to turn around to briskly stride off at his own eternally hurried military pace towards the Armory.>Also speaking into the radio to address everyone else briefly. Nevil's voice coming to their collective ears from their earpieces.
*"If any of you have any last-second requests for items or gear, simple or not, tell me now and I'll see if I can requisition it."*
>>281970>Joel chuckles at Hildemar's perfectly reasonable interpretation.
"More lahk a quarter my age. It was before mah time in the army, back when ah was a boy. Think of it like a club where they teach ya survival stuff and how to be a good man.">>281973>Joel stops to ponder if her forgot to bring anything, then after several moments realizes he forgot to bring his extra plates just in case and goes back to his room to retrieve them, stashing them somewhere within reach of his seat when he gets back. >The whole way there and back, he fumes silently to himself about being compared to a man named Yuri.>>282180
"Ah'll be damned, Blaze. The more you wrestle with that thing, the more it seems lahk it IS tryin' to eat ya. Maybe give that to us one more time without the mask?"
>>282174>>282180>>282232>>282513>>281970>>281938>>281832>The half hour goes quick after Jeff leaves for the North end of the Fortress.>Preparations that any of you make on, around, or inside the Dagor blur by as your intrepid commander appears back into view from the same way he left from.>Now packing a lot of gear, personal by the look of it, and some big heat.>The primarily black and patterned blue armor he had on at Junction #7 was still visible, but the main armor parts were covered with desert camouflage coverings; most likely courtesy of Lann. Black in the desert tends to overheat.>A matching assault pack and helmet were hauled on his side in his left hand, a PDW-sized M4 slung on his front, and a monstrous black sniper rifle hefted up over his right shoulder; the stock folded over the ride side of it.>He gives you all a smile behind a pair of polarized shades before walking over to the Dagors' right side and dumps all his gear into shotgun. Pack and helmet in the seat, M4 of top of those, and the rifle resting vertically across the entire seat.
"We all ready to go? Don't worry about packing into the truck. The train station's within walking distance, once we get there. Noah, I do need you behind the wheel though.">Jeff smacks the hood of the Dagor and walks into the Pagoda to bring up the translocation stone's matrice.
"Either turn in or hoof it, boys! Heh, only Citrine can 'hoof it'...">He takes a bit of effort to properly locate Saddle Arabia, and then Neighmara. And then another sub-list of the citie's available translocation matrices.
"Noah! Roll it on over here, so we can head out."
>>282232>Blaze cocked his head to the side at Nevil saying it sounded like he was eating.>'If I was eating I would talk with my mouth full like any upstanding pony.'>He thought as he tugged at the half mask with his front hooves, stretching its straps tight so to speak clearly.
"This has to be tight so I don't breath in any bad air, last thing I want is my luscious voice being hurt!">Citrine said, an undertone of horror painting his words.>>282513>Mask still held taut in his hooves he looked to Joel.
"I just said that I have everything done already and ready to go. Got enough Sun Screen to cover Celestia's fat flanks!">Laughed the crystal pony.>>283542>By the time Jeff returned to them Blaze had replaced his mask, quietly breathing in and out to get used to the feeling of the plastic rubbing against his crystal skin.>A mostly fruitless endeavour.>He stiffed up.
"I am ready to lead the team and got plenty of supplies and food!">As Blaze moved his saddlebags jostled from its contents, they were indeed full supplies.
"I would be shocked if any human here had any hooves, just saying.">He just said, he really hoped there were no humans with hooves around, because if there were he might actually have a heart attack.
>>283542>The Colonial Marine had gone and then come back within the space of maybe 15 or so minutes. >Taking a trip to the barracks and the Armory, He came back wearing some new Aviator shades that subtly gave him an aggressively 1980s when paired with his patrol cap. >He had stored away his Combat Pistol and it's belt holster rig, seeing as the thing was now as useful to him as parade armor in combat and just served to look dangerous and weigh him down. Making a mental note to simply get better knives.>And also now had a metallic pocket watch with the local time on it, a rugged-enough professional electronic stopwatch, and a compass he had neglected to carry in the previous operation. >Nevil also returned carrying a small box under his arm, which housed about 3 bricks' worth of plastic explosive, which he had slipped it in alongside the boxes of additional ammunition they also had on the Dagor.>Better to have explosive than to not have explosives, he said.>With that said, he still felt like it was not enough explosives.>Unreasonable concerns aside, he had promptly taken his position on the Dagor's more central backseat to be able to man the MG when they did get going. Given that he was still about 12 minutes early until Jeff came back, he busied himself by giving the ol' Browning a cursory inspection to ensure it was all in tip-top shape, freshly cleaned, and checking the safety. >Naturally, as Noah had been in charge of this, he had a smile of satisfaction on him at the state of the HMG, the turret ring itself (which he gave a few testing turns of to make sure it was smooth enough), and at the layout of the gear and equipment they were storing. He did double check--for no reason other than to pass the time and to ease his own mind.>It had to be up to Colonial Marine Corps standards, too.
"Everything seems squared away... We're looking good. Now if only we had matching uniforms and proper camouflage.">The Marine Officer remarked absent-mindedly, with one glance being given towards Hildermar's antiquated and high-visibility Witchhunter outfit in particular, right as Jeff returned.>Turning to greet their Base Administrator with a confident glance, Nevil turned to face them while comfortably standing in the turret ring of the Dagors' weapon. Arms leaned at the sides of it like a truck driver and with a usual deadpan (if slightly more eager) look to him. >As Jeff began to tell Noah to roll the Dagor forward, Nevil casts a look down to the SWAT officer as he slips down from the ring and takes over a backseat to buckle himself.
"I hate this part..." >He can be heard grumbling in the background as his eyes followed Jeff, and was already bracing himself with a hand somewhat.>Nevil STILL really doesn't like getting translocated...
>>283542>>284413>Joel settles into his seat, contemplating Blaze's apparent obsession with Celestia's flanks.>'Guess he's an ass man?'
"Ah'm all ready, let's get to it!>The old timer buckles himself in and prepares himself for another round of teleporting>>284784>>284785
"Same as always, just gotta pray you end up in the same spot as yer ass does..."
>>283542>the ranger checks his gear, making sure that his bow and arrows are strung and tightly affixed to his person, respectively>he gets momentarily distracted while double checking his stock of adamantine arrows>anyone watching sees him lovingly caress the edge of one arrowhead with the calloused skin on his right thumb, eyes unfocused and apparently lost in thought>he stands this way for a few minutes after all the packing is done, only snapping out of his reverie at the return of Jeff>for a small moment his expression belies some degree of shock, as if shaken from a deep sleep, but the moment passes, and within moments Lucius is seen clicking the heels of his boots together and standing stock straight, giving Jeff an extremely exaggerated salute
"Aye aye, captain my captain, verily I am prepared to march forth, into danger, into the waiting arms of death itself! For king! For country! For glorious loot!">he then unsheathes his longsword, holding it by the pommel in his left hand with the blade resting over the attached left shoulder like some kind of musket, turning towards the teleportation matrix and snapping comically to attention once more>as the Dagor begins to advance, so does he, marching in an exaggerated goose step beside it
Hey shill, stop bumping old threads
Chapter 3: Magic Carpet Ride
ROUND 7>>284413>>284784>>284785>>284873>>286547>Taking all of your vocal and idle replies as a confirmation to continue on, Jeff nods and turns back around to finish inputing the runic coordinates. His voice loud enough to carry over the Dagor's idle growling.
"Alright. Neighmara... train depot... and here. We. G-">Before Jeff can open a vortex and send all of you on your way, a green-handed suited arm shoots out of a white tear in reality and grabs onto the commander's wrist. Stopped mid-typing, Jeff's clearly taken aback but relaxes and steps backward as the tear widens and reshapes itself into a properly shaped door - out steps good ol' Anonymous; his green and question-marked face wrought with urgent panic.
"Wai-HOOOOH-ait!">Stumbling slightly, the tall suited avatar puts his hands on his knees visibly exacerbated as if he had just sprinted a hard mile.
"Hildemar...HOOH! Not safe yet! Hruff! That's the fastest I've ever moved in a- huh, while.">Contrary to Anon's franticness, Hodch casually approaches from the East. His 4th dimensional ever-shifting cube in his magic grasp hovering several feet above his head.
"Yes. It appears Anon's estimate on the Era Lock was off. It's already re-honed itself onto Hildemar. We can both sense its approach, unfortunately.">Anon took the unicorn's add on as a personal critique, pinching his nonexistent nose before shooting an accusatory finger at Hodch - who was unphazed at the gestalt's directed anger.
"Noooooo! Sun Bitch's spell is just really fucking persistent! He'll have to go back into the cube! Immediately!">Through Anon's outburst he snaps his fingers, Hildemar immediately blinking out of existence and Hodch's cube expanding triple in size for a second before reducing back to its dice-sized resting form.>The urgency now having been resolved, Anon lets out a loud sigh of air and wipes invisible sweat from his brow. Hodch gives Jeff and the group an apologetic shrug as he stores the small physics-defying cube into his robes.
"Hildemar will have to remain with us again, our apologies.">The tall suited green man doesn't offer any audible condolences other than crossing his arms and letting out a pouty huff of air in reply.>Jeff's initial taken-aback reaction is replaced with a solemn lean on the Dagor's front bumper, scratching the back of his head awkwardly in response.
"Any idea how much longer? We're scheduled to board that train in at least an hour. And I don't know if Anon can transport him to us when we get near our drop off point.">Hodch furrows his brow, a front hoof brought to his chin in heavy thought.
"If you don't hear from either of us before you depart, then consider him unable to participate. His or any of your lives can't be risked with a premature release. The Era-Lock will chase him down to the ends of Tallus if needed."
"And I'd be that whole scrambled egg bit once you all get to that outpost.">The conversation between the three fizzles out, Anon being the first to start walking out of the pagoda with hands in his pants pockets ready to punt and imaginary rock. Hodch giving the group a short bow before departing right after him.
"Don't wait up Jeff. You're good at adapting with what you got."
"Yes. Hope this doesn't hinder your progress too much. Best of luck, to you all!">With your group once again left alone, and now one less, Jeff shrugs back to everyone and re-inputs the intended coordinates.
"Nothing we can really do I guess. Let's try this again...">At an instant, a much wider than usual red metallic swirling vortex opens up and sucks you all into a blood red tunnel.>The climate change is immediate, even before exiting the vortex: from the fortress's comfortably mild regulation, to a stark dry-hot and arid atmosphere.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcbqjpBOsmkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaURaThDS5g>>300243>The metallic red tunnel spits you all out onto a medium translocation matrice, overlooking a small yet bustling sand-swept train depot. Most if not all labellings on crates and miscellanea identified the depot workers as Dragonspine Mountain Mining Company with local Neighmaran Saddle Arabian militiaponies mixed in with Dragonspine Legionnaires. Saddle Arabian merchants were either dropping off, receiving, or following depot workers around to keep an eye on there trade goods.>Backrounding the constant moving of crated goods stretched a single freight train not too much different in size than the Behemoth; it's number of cars countless with both ends out of eyesight. A tall similarly-uniformed minotaur can be seen pacing back and forth between two cars, as there seemed to be a gap in the endless steel serpent.>Up behind you all started a series of rock steppes, the first level looked to be the residential area of Neighmara and further up was mostly obscured by more levels of steppes and a large all-encompassing glass wall.>Refocusing on the here-and-now, the Dagor had seemed to halt several ponies in que to using the matrice. Most were merchants either gawking at the Dagor wondrously, or visibly irritated at the hold-up. Several militia ponies guarding its perimeter were giving your group some silent ques to move the truck, as some Saddle Arabians decided to just circumvent the loud and gassy vehicle to go about their business.
"CIA! Fashionably early, I see!">How none of you managed to initially notice the only human in a sea of ponies leaning against one of the matrice's support pillars was boggling, but it didn't seem to matter as he flicked a depleted cigarette butt into the sand-covered cobble and dug it in with an armored boot.>Jeff looked over at the man addressing him, his face not too impressed by the given nickname.
"Hey Yuri. Everyone, Yuri. One of Royce's. What do you mean? We've got like an hour for them to load up our stuff.">'Yuri' was well-built and well-armored from the waist-down in flora camo pants and greaves and thigh armor, but only sporting a white and black horizontal-striped t-shirt for the desert heat. His short grown-in beard and slicked-back black hair put him a round the same age as Jeff, and we wasn't shy about flashing his lightly sun-burnt tan skin. And his thick accent was undoubtedly Russian in origin. To those of you that knew what Russian was...
"They got some last minute larger shipments in, and they didn't factor in our trucks and extra passengers. They have to add more cars to accommodate us all. Might take an extra hour.">>284785>Jeff nods at Yuri's explanation, looking over at you and everyone else and raps on the Dagor's hood to get your attention.
"At least we don't have to rush. Noah, let's move off the matrice and over to the train.">That was some sort of que for Yuri, as he pushes from the support beam and looks over the Dagor intending to follow suit. He leans over at Jeff, looking back at the group as he scoots in front on the truck.
"Cute little buggy. You weren't kidding when you said you were bringing a 'mixed bag.'"
"Eyyy, everyone I have here is plenty capable.">Yuri begins leading you all through the depot and toward the train, keeping a slow pace to keep the Dagor at a safe crawl through the crowd of workers. Who naturally give you all a wider berth.>>284873>Regarding pleasantries on your own time, you look around at the bustling depot as the Dagor inches toward the freighter.>The Dragonspine company was mainly here for the granite depot one level above, but they maintained the train depot as well; contracted out by Neighmara itself for ground transport across the neighboring regions.>Looking behind to check out the steppes of Neighmara: you recall the first level above you all being mapped out as the densely-packed lower residential and craftsponies, all in Late Crystal kingdom style, everything else up past the glass walls was the famous open market. At your current position, was blocked off from view.>The Legionnaires and militiaponies gave you all a casual enough berth. Listening on to some Saddle Arabian side gossip it sounded like they knew you were all showing up, but confused a second set of humans have arrived.
>>300243>Citrine was confused at the commotion that was going on, but he kept his muzzle shut as he'd only mumble thanks to the tight fitting face mask.>That didn't stop him from jumping in his seat in terror at seeing Hildemar vanish in thin air.
"AAAAAAH!">He screamed.>...>..>.>For a good ten seconds before passing out, the mask interfering with his breathing and effectively knocking him out temporarily.>>300255>When Blaze awoke he was in a new place awash with ponies, still in the Dagor but the location was different.>And with a different human talking to them.>*Great, another one.*>Pleasantries out of the way with "Yuri" the Crystal Pony stood up as high as he could and looked out at the bustling crowd all around them.>This was his first time here so seeing so many different ponies made him nervous and excited.>When he laid his eyes on the buildings he recognized them immediately.
"Ah cool, this place used be a part of the Crystal Kingdom. Not anymore obviously. Aw, I'm homesick now...">He said with a slight pout, which was quickly replaced when he went back to taking in the sights.
>>300243>>300255>Lucius's demeanor quickly resets to one of increased professionalism at the sudden arrival of Anon and Hodch, sheathing his blade and smoothing out his new cloak>He ambles back into the Dagor properly again, and attempts to offer the both of them his undivided attention... that is until Citrine completely loses his mind>Concerned for his friend, Lucius takes a second to check his pulse and confirm that he'd simply knocked himself out before loosening one of the mask straps just a bit to allow the pony some added airflow
"Such a ridiculous creature...">Yet he can't help but grin a little. 'Par for the course for Citrine, really,' he thinks to himself, finally settling back into his seat and readying himself for the journey>Upon exiting the red portal, Lucius is, like many of his newfound cohorts, understandably wowed by his new surroundings
"I know that the Fortress at times can get busy, but I haven't seen such a crowd since my visits to Caledon proper as a young lad. And all this sand! I'd been told stories of the desert back home, yes, but never did I think it would look...">The ranger pauses for a moment, allowing his head to travel the full breadth of his new environment once again.
"So majestic! What a far cry from the pines of the Griffon-lands and the dense pines of my home...">Lucius does spare this new Yuri character a nod, wave and coy grin before returning to his thoughts, like Noah keeping a wary eye on their new surroundings>'I must try and learn more about this place sometime soon...'>>300258>Though not long after, his private monologue is cut short by Citrine waking up at last>He promptly elbows Citrine in his haunch
"Homesick or not, Citrine, you must realize that we won't be needing the masks just yet. Pray remove it, lest you suffer another fit of panic and faint once again."
>>300243>There is a loud silence from Nevil as he merely shifts his eyes towards Anonymous as he shows up in a hurry, not a single shift in the officer's expression. At first.>He does flinch slightly when Hotch followed into the scene and straight-up teleports the Witchhunter away before his eyes. >Seeing a man disappear like that was still weird to him. It took him a full second to come to terms that Hildermar had teleported; his mildly perturbed eyes blinking once, before going impassive again. >Instead he turned his head as Citrine began to scream like he was being stabbed.>Nevil's starkly deadpan stare remains on the crystal pony, as he literally watches Citrine FAINT, because they forgot to take off their mask. >A slight sigh exudes from the officer, as he still remains tense and fully ready for the translocation. Which happens shortly after.>>300366>>300255
"Hrm." >A light grunt comes from Nevil, the gaunt-looking man slowly opening his eyes and letting out a slow breath.
"Forgot the sunscreen.">He gave a slight glance towards the truly massive train. Blinking as his eyes adjust to the sunlight and he comes to terms with the dry heat.>He quarter-turned his head towards Citrine, who was still passed out at their first seconds of arrival. He makes sure to lean over and tactfully puts a hand on Citrine's mask's strap to loosen it, and then start to lower it to their neck just in case they were somehow suffocating.>Then just leaned back again.>Moving his eyes to Lucius once with a look of quietly exasperated look in his dull blue eyes, as he'd look off again towards.
"Didn't think a pony could freak out about teleportation harder than us.">He goes to look back towards the train to admire it's size, and watch the going-ons of the ponies there; even quietly observing the ones going past their vehicle just to stay vigilant. He couldn't fully lower his guard in places like this. >And there was just so much to see...>The militiaponies, the Dragonspine Legionnaires, the merchants, and that important-looking Minotaur, as well as the gap between the carts of the train.>Then his attention was taken by the armoured man greeting Jeff by nickname basis. >Nevil nods once and holds up a hand in idle greeting to Yuri, still looking them up and down as he listened to the news they brought.
"A mixed bag of woop-ass and standard aggressive bumblefucking. We even have our own mascot." >Nevil remarks nonchalantly in Yuri's general direction, as his eyes trail off to give Citrine a singular meaningful glance--not a derisive glance but mostly an off-handed joking glance to make him know who he was talking about. And then keep observing things going on around them out of rote.>He does keep an ear out for the gossip that just so happened to reach his ears. He didn't really understand the local language, but he still kept his ears open out of habit.<E. Perception [1d6 = 2][1d6 = 3][1d6 = 2]
>>300243>>300255>Jim savored the fading feeling of the transportation matrix, sighing wistfully.
"Ah, love that feelin'. Reminds me of cruisin' around the southern galaxy with me mates back when we was fightin' for the Tretins. Think livin' tree people.">He explained, just for the brevity if anyone was listening in.>The voice of this 'Yuri' was oddly familiar in it's accent, but many different people sounded like his universe's various peoples.>'Remember, Jim. Don't just assume that some o' the lads know what yer talkin' bout.'>Then again, it was quite obvious to tell that Yuri wasn't from Jim's universe, what with the lack of any nano-tech.
"Charmed ta meet ya, Yuri. Heard your boss sounds like some of me mates wheres I come from.">Jim busied himself with looking out over the Neighmaran townscape.>'Eh, kinda reminds me of me own homeworld. From what boss man said, seems like it's every bit as deadly. Wonder if they got any giant spiders 'round here...'>>300258>>300366>Jim turns to look at the panicking unicorn who passed out, and was helped by Lucius.
"Ye, first rule of hazardous environ gear- Don't wear it 'less ye need to. Limits ye movement n' such.">He raises his eyebrows at Lucius's admissions.
"Don't worry, mate. Ye'll be cursin' the bloody heat soon 'nough. Specially with these doohickeys.">Jim said, lifting the half mask slightly.
"Ye know, now that I think about it, ya reckon we shoulda got some goggles t'deal with the smoke? Not sure the cap'n 'ere-">Jim jerked a thumb towards Jeff.
"-cleared it, but maybe it ain't 'xactly a good idea to get th'stuff in yer eyes.">>300369
"Eh, cute little bugger would make a good mascot, wouldn' 'e?">Noticing Nevil's attempt to focus in on the crowds, Jim followed suit, though his was more of a visual check than an eavesdrop.>Flicking his goggles down over his eyes, the neuro-link automatically activating the zoom function for the tacti-goggles.[1d6 = 2]
<B. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6+4 = 8]
>>300243>>300255>It takes Joel a good few seconds to get his jaw back up off of the floor after the surprise of the big green man coming out of thin air only to whisk Hildemar off into thin air.
The more magic ah see, the more ah feel the same way Hildemar does 'bout it.>>300258>>300366>The old man can't help but chuckle he realizes Blaze had paniced himself unconscious.>At the same time, he moves to help him out of the smothering mask only for Lucius to beat him to the punch.>When Yuri approaches, Joel gives a nod of greeting and then moves on to examining the surroundings and making sense of the place, particularly the wall of glass, with what he'd read over the last day.[1d2 = 2]
<A. Lore: Saddle Arabians >He also gives a listen to whatever the nearby locals are going on about, putting his new knowledge of their language to the test.[1d6 = 6]
<E. Perception[1d6 = 4][1d6 = 6]
ROUND 9: 1/2>>300258>Your frantic thrashing, panic, and subsequent fainting spell is only compounded by multiple sets of human hands grabbing at your gas mask one-after-another, still attached to your face; desperately trying to free yourself from its rubbery grasp!>>300369>As expected you had no idea what was transpiring in any language that wasn't Common. Luckily most merchants and depot workers were conversing in it. You pick up mostly snippets of supplies being handled: coffee, chocolate, un-melting ice from the Crystal Kingdom, cloth, sculpting and gem cutting supplies, it mostly seemed like raw materials mostly were being moved in than finished products being moved out.>You did notice other than the hot steam emanating from the train's off-distant engine, and the coal stores, a faint smell off roasted coffee lingered in the air.>Between your convo-eavesdropping you do notice Yuri picks up on your comment, looking over at your aforementioned 'mascot' and outbursts a chuckle.>>300612>Recalling what you've read about the city earlier: the glass wall several rock steppes above from where you all were was the barrier protecting the open air market and the granite depot the Dragonspine Miners were working on. It kept the majority of sand storms and sound from the stalls.>One steppe above the train depot was the densely packed residential district, which held most of the living space in its Late Crystal Kingdom style - Citrine audibly reminiscing on such.>And the next level right below the walled off market was the industrial district. The majority of artisan stalls, as well as concessions were packed there; the best ones, you recall, were embedded into the steppes walls for better protection against the sand and dust storms. A little tidbit to remember, if you all have time to shop or get a bite to eat.>Keeping a mental note on the steppe's tiers, you keep your ears open on the crowds around the Dagor. The Dragonspine workers weren't much interesting, as they kept to their business moving cargo around the depot and directing hoof traffic in common.>You do spot one particularly elegantly-dressed coffee-brown saddle arabian mare tailing the Dagor's rear at an even pace; a young stallion was flanking her left sporting a train officer-like uniform. You catch their conversation out of the crowd, as they were speaking the very language you had been studying prior to arriving.<Saddle Arabian>"-sorry, Miss Espresso! I must have assumed there was only one group of humans arriving."<Saddle Arabian>"Did it NOT occur to you separate Royce Byron and Razorback's bookings?"<Saddle Arabian>"... th-they were marked down with the same initials.">This 'Miss Espresso' scoffed and threw her head back in frustration only before giving her young assistant a significant leer.<Saddle Arabian>"For fuck sa-no matter. Point me out their chief, I believe his name is Jeff. I'll smooth everything out with the delay."<Saddle Arabian>"... I can't tell. Maybe the one in front with one of Royce's humans?">Their conversation trails off to delivering ice cold water to you all immediately, but the mare keeps a focus on your groups procession to the freighter.>>300481>Yuri acknowledges you with a two-finger salute, but then smacks his forehead with a perplexed look and an exaggerated laugh to himself.
"Ohhh no! Two kangaroo jacks?! Hegh! Kidding me!">You take full advantage of your zoom-enhanced goggles by peaking up in the Dagor's bed and easily overseeing the crowds as Noah creeps the truck towards the train.>It appears that Yuri was leading you all directly to the assumed gap in the train car's, as well where the minotaur was pacing. With your goggles, you quickly find out it wasn't actually a space, but an empty open flatbed car. Right next to it was a team of four unicorns along with the minotaur who moves its mass out of the way to reveal another desert-color tactical vehicle. Its makeup was similar to the Dagor, but was definitely larger and more armored: fully closed of front and back cabin, extended trunk bed, armored gun ring also sporting an M2 on it.>As the unicorns begin moving around the human vehicle at its corners, you notice one human observing to the right; wearing a black plate vest and light red and desert clothing underneath with a worn-out red cap. His back was to you, noticing he also has an AK variant in desert camo slung on his back.
2/2>>300256(and Everyone)>You keep a slow and steady pace as Jeff, Yuri, and the Dagor's diesel growl cuts a path through ponies and saddle arabians alike.>Everyone is aware enough to give the group plenty of driving space, but gawkers were aplenty and any conversations were deafened out by the truck's engine.>Eventually, the Dagor opens up to the foot of the train. A team of for unicorns and the minotaur, all dressed in Dragonspine attire, strategically surround a larger up-armored desert-painted human vehicle.>A lone human, lightly armored in tactical gear turns around at the sound of the Dagor's engine and Yuri and Jeff's conversation.>A scruffy-faced man around Jeff's age wearing a worn out unlabelled red cap. He walks over to Jeff and gives him a mid-five in greeting.
"Jeffy! Ow're ya, mate."
"Hey Royce.">Introductions are interrupted as the minotaur thunders commands to the quad of unicorns, horns poised at the other tactical vehicle.
"Ready! Aaaaand lift!">All four unicorns light up their horns, the truck's tires being clutched in different magic auras and a synchronized lift takes it five... six... seven feet into the air.
"Hold!">The minotaur squares up with the hovering human armored rover, and places both gargantuan hands on it and steadily pushes it over toward the flatbed. The unicorns on the left safely shuffle out of the way while still maintaining their magical grip, as the taur positions the truck over to the front end of the bed and lowers it down into place until only several inches remain.
"Release!">The unicorns let go of the tires, and the truck's suspension creaks at taking the shock load to fully situate itself on the train. The minotaur dusts its hands off with a loud clap, and the unicorn take a breather before looking over at the Dagor in exasperation.>Jeff nods over at the coordinated effort, then back at Royce.
"So that's the Husky."
"Little more meat to it, than your buggy here.">Yuri remarks, pulling out a pack of cigarettes from a thigh pocket and lighting one up with a lighter in the shape of a .50 cal round.>Royce on the other hand looks out onto everyone else giving you all a half-assed salute.
"These your mates? G'day, gents!"
"Yupp. Guys, this is Royce. Head of Royce Contracting.">Royce does a quick head-count of the group, looking a little puzzled.
"You missing a bloke?">Jeff nodded, letting out a knowing sigh.
"Had to stay behind. The Era Lock wasn't letting up on him."
"That was almost two days ago? Dooley, fuck me dead."
"Speaking of, where's the rest of your team?">Yuri chimes in between smokes.
"Jan's off escorting the client around, and I think Kenny's wandering the market. Probably stuffing his face with street food."
"It's not like we don't have time. I heard they still need to add on a few more cars.">Royce nods, confirming Jeff assumption and looking back at the group confidentally.
"One of Neighmara's councilmares is fast-tracking the whole thing. Vanilla Espresso I think. Your mates'll have time to roam around, defo!"
>>300366>Citrine released a startled neigh from being 'bowed by Lucius, such an unprovoked assault left the stallion wobbling in place as he tried not to fall back into his seat that he was standing in.
"Hey! Only way I will suffer anything is if you keep prodding me like that!">Whined the crystal pony.>>300369>Huffing, Blaze went back to look out at the passing herds of ponies. Its only when he could smell all the different exotic aroma's did he realise his mask had somehow fallen out of his muzzle.
"Oh, must've fallen off somehow.">He shrugged and went back to sight seeing.>>300481>The Crystal Pony snorted and looked over to Jim in embarrassed annoyance.
"I was told to put it on so I did, not my fault that thing makes breathing hard-.">He was cut off by the human hoofing at his mask that was around his neck.
"Stooooop..! Stop touching my things!">He mewled, jerking his body away from the groping Jim.>>300612>Now slightly further away from everypony Citrine eyed all the humans wearily, including Joel.>"Bet he'd touch my stuff too!">He thought to himself as he stared holes into the back of Joels' head for a moment.>>300675>>300676>Once the train was in sight Citrine watched Blaze focused all his attention on whole scene being played out with the Minotaur, Unicorns and other human vehicle.>...Which appeared more bulky looking than the "buggy" he was currently in.>Why wasn't there's that big and bulky!?>And of course more humans as well, all currently conversing with Jeff.>Sensing this is their stop and not wanting to be in the Dagor when the Dragonspine crew lifted the Dagor into the trains' flatbed, Citrine hopped out.
"Think we can get out now everypony.">He said to the others as he thudded his hooves into the Saddle Arabian dirt.>The other group of humans along with Jeff were talking about some stuff and nonsense about espresso, he didn't like espresso, it ran through his system doing more bad than good.>Trotting up to Jeff's side and basically butting into the convo, the pony looked at all the new faces before adding in important information to the subject and was vital to the mission.
"We ordering drinks for the train ride? Can I get cappuccino instead of espresso- Oh! And with chocolate on top. Also Hi I'm Citrine Blaze.">He enquired before hastily adding his greeting at the end to the new humans, and Jeff.
>>300675>Creeping the Dagor forward, the glass walls glinted off in Noah's peripheral vision and Noah glanced up for a second to look at them>He didn't know how he missed those, but they still amazed him nonetheless>Made him wonder how thick those things must be>His attention snapped back to the vehicle as Noah hears rustling in the back>Looking in the mirror, he sees Citrine fumbling with his mask and Jim and Lucius messing with it as well>Confused, Noah continues creeping the Dagor forward hoping that they'll figure it out soon>>300676>Soon enough, he sees what is supposed to be their designated spot for the train>He also sees that the flatbed car is enclosed and has some unicorns and a minotaur standing near it>Hearing Citrine's suggestion, Noah stops, parks, and turns off the Dagor and watches the minotaur's team lift another human vehicle into the air and onto the car>That vehicle looks more armored and like a Humvee than Dagor>Hopping out, he gives Royce a salute back to him
"Pleased to meet ya, my name's Noah.">Hearing about the missing member, Noah looks back at the group and head counts them himself>Sure enough, they seem to be missing Hildemar>"Poor guy, hope he makes it back soon.">Looking back at the depot and the bazaar behind them, he decides he'll probable take Kenny's route and wander the market himself>Noah walks up to Jeff and Royce, and apparently Citrine too as he goes to Jeff's side
"Hey Royce, you know how long that fast-track going to take? Don't want you guys to be ready and I'm out in the market wandering."
>>300675>>300676>>300739>Nevil stayed very silent after his little joke at Citrine's expense. He pushed up a small smirk at himself to look a little less deadpan but his eyes didn't follow through with the emotion he wanted to bring, still a bit glassy as they gazed off and focused more on the troop of unicorns and the Minotaur as their vehicle came to a stop.>His eyes flicked down to Citrine as he is the first to get up and off the Dagor in anticipation of it being lifted.>After a split-second of looking up to the positively bulking Minotaur as he went to bark his order, Nevil got up and followed the crystal pony. Hopping out the back of the Dagor with a forearm draped across his Pulse Rifle.>With a clatter of combat boots he ambles around Citrine while his head remained turned in the direction of the minotaur, walking backwards for a few steps to get back. Giving a generous amount of space to the crew as he idled near Citrine.>Nevil's face remained unchanging, giving the group of unicorns a perhaps uncannily jaded stare despite the clear interest in his eyes as he followed their motions with an intent fascination. Likewise observing as the Minotaur does the literal heavy lifting. >Then, once the vehicles was set, he looked back down. Noticing Citrine had left and double-taking, looking up to spot the crystal pony already by Jeff.>The pale man looked back up briefly to give the unicorns one more pensive stare, then turned away a second later to silently hop up onto the flat bed of the train cart after Citrine, holding up a hand to briefly shield himself from the sunlight, adjusting the brim of his patrol cap and tilting his head a bit further down.>Despite his showy officer-decalled breastplate-like armour, advanced weapons, and fancy forest-green spidersilk uniform beneath that giving him a somewhat distinct appearance, he seemed to almost slip into the background from how dead silent he was as he moved. Looking to have his guard still partially raised despite the otherwise calm place. >As Nevil approached Jeff and his new company of peers, he makes himself known at least. Giving a two-fingered salute to Royce as Jeff introduced them. His other arm resting limply over his trusty M41A out of habit.
"Nevil Wayne. ex-United States Colonial Marines. Good to meet the Australian Wonder in the flesh." >He would introduce himself with a placid voice, bringing up a more genuine smirk that almost didn't fit on the jaded Marine's face.>>300781>Though at the mention of 'market wandering from Noah', Nevil does cast a side glance in their direction now.
"Planning on spending money or just window-shopping?" >Nevil almost sounded mildly amused, though the question was genuine.
"Might be worth carrying some pocket money if you're gonna look for useful magical McGuffins, if you aren't already."
>>300675>>300676>The ranger tries his best to keep his eyes and ears about them, but relents after some time, due to the dense concentration of ponies, people, sights and smells in the space>He is momentarily lost in one particular scent intermingling with the smell of coal and burning diesel>It was a smell he'd not encountered before. A sort of heady, earthy yet pleasant smell, not dissimilar to the scent of roasting dried herbs, or burning tobacco>He closed his eyes, craning his neck slightly and sniffing the air, trying hard to pick out that strange smell from all the others, but before he could get a good sense of its origin, he found himself being dragged back into the present, chaotic moment by the hard impact of wheels on train bed>Having been briefly lost in his pursuit of that strange smell, he was only just able to take in the sight of the new, similar vehicle, and the new human>following the lead of those around him, Lucius dismounted the Dagor, striding over to where this new person, this "Royce" stood, with Yuri now operating a strange piece of equipment, which he'd previously seen other Operators using around the Fortress. He'd been told they are called "Lighters.">Not quite understanding all the customs involved, Lucius thought it would be best to imitate those around him who seemed to know better, and offered both Royce and Yuri his best imitation of a proper salute, one after the other
"Greetings, Royce. And to you, Yuri - I apologize for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Lucius, a woodland ranger and... quite out of my element at the moment. It is a pleasure to meet you both.">>300781>>301072>He sighed in relief that the others had already asked the questions that he felt the burning need to ask>Yet he couldn't help himself
"Nevil? Please, what exactly is this McGuffin you speak of?"
"Er...ye. Whatever a 'kangaroo' is...">Was this how people felt around him whenever he yammered on about his world?>It was....an interesting feeling.>Focusing on the train in the distance, Jim examined the chunky looking vehicle.>'Well, I know who we're gonna be hidin our asses behind once the shit starts comin'.'>And one of the blokes even had a rifle similar to his own, but doubtlessly without the micromachining done to it.>Though, considering the design had lasted since Jim's Earth got it's shit pushed in, it should be fine.>>300676>Jim returned the salute with a two fingered one of his own.>And as the other boss man in charge began to speak, Jim drifted back to his days drifting around the galaxy with his old group, basking in the memory for a bit before exhaling.
"Pleased t'meet'cha, Royce. Gotta say, you remind me of me ol' boss man. Though I gotta question for ya'; One o' ye mates called me a 'kangaroo jack' or summats. What I wanna know is what that is
.">Perhaps a creature that used to live on earth?>If so, what was the connotation?>Curious and altogether pretty erratic minds wanted to know!>>300739>Jim mussed the back of the unicorn's mane up.
"Aw, settle down, lad. Yer gonna get it all twisted, then you'll be in even more a bind.">Cute kid.>Wait, how old was Citrine, anyway?>The inhabitants of Tallus tended to look quite ageless, and Jim wasn't just talking about the literal goddesses.>>300781>Jim nodded in assent to Noah's inquiry.
"Ye, not that I mind havin' some time to immerse myself in another peoples'....er, beings'
culture, I'd at least know when I should have me last call!">>301161
"'E means trinkets. Ye know, like this'n.">Jim lifted the pendant looped around his neck.
"Maybe summats like a Cats-eye thing t'help all of ye out. I'd be lookin' for it meself, but me goggles tend to take care of...pretty much everythin', really."
>>300675>>300676>As the Dagor nears the heavy lifting crew, Joel takes a chance to dismount, not wanting to be particularly close to any possible way that magic and a minotaur could load the vehicle onto the train.>The old man puts two and two together and makes a point of committing this "Vanilla Espresso's appearance to memory.">After waiting his turn, he introduces himself to Royce with a tip of his hat.
"Joel Williamson. Former US Army.">Everyone else having already asked the pertinent questions, Joel simply waits for the answers.>>301305>At least he was until Jim piped up with an unexpected question, and he started puzzling out how to explain such a weird animal to somebody that had never seen one.
"Think... Lahk a rabbit the size of a person... and it stands on just its back legs...">He gives up after a while, discouraged by the equally bizarre but not terribly similar picture he knows he must be painting.
>>301161>Both Royce and Yuri catch your greeting, the boss giving you a chipper two-fingered salute back and the other a lackadaisical nod in between puffs of his cigarette.
"'Cheers, mate.">Yuri gives you a once over, leaning back in appraisal before removing his smoke and letting out an obnoxious puff into free space.
"Bow and sword there, Robin Hood? Hegh, you and Kenny'll are gonna get along.">>301072>Royce mimics your salute back to you, his eyes obviously trailing along your uniform and armor and idling on your pulse rifle.
"Oi' there, Marine!">Out of your peripheral, Jeff is also eying your gun... again.>It takes a long second for both of them to realize the nickname you uttered, Jeff covering his mouth to contain an instant ear-to-ear grin.>The receiver looking at you both with amusement, and mild offense.
"Whadyou' call me-"
"AHAHAHAHA-*COUGH COUGH*-HAHAHA... ha!">Yuri lets out a blast of laughter at the nickname, completely cutting off his boss, and slaps his hand against his knee shamelessly as he settled.
"Haha! Oh shit, I am so using that one! Why didn't I think of that!">Having his momentum severed by his teammate, Royce decides to just silently shake off 'The Australian Wonder' and gives you a little more focus for a moment.
"So, er 'Colonial Marine, yeah?' Jeff mentioned you fight giant bug aliens. You should talk to Jan, when she shows up. She's fought 'er share of aliens too.">>301477>Royce tips his worn red ball cap your way, eyes pining to Jeff inquisitively.
"Cheers, cowboy! Ey, an Army buddy for ya, Jeffy!">Jeff looks over at the other commander, then away dejectedly.>Familiar voices, in Saddle Arabian, trail in your ear from the blind side of the Dagor.<Saddle Arabian> "The one talking to Mr. Byron?"<Saddle Arabian> "Just get ready with the refreshments...">>301305>Royce nods at your greeting, but gives Yuri a knowing look at the title.
"Oh did he now? Wait you don't know what a 'roo is?">The Russian, who barely gives Royce the courtesy of an eye glance as he widdles down his cigarette to the butt.
"I said what I said... wait. You don't know what a kangaroo is?">To follow up on Joel's initial description of said animal, Yuri lightly hops on the balls with his feet- easily amusing himself.
"Don't forget the big ears and tail! Oh, and the pouch, for the Bobby!"
"Joey, mate...">>300739>>300781>Before either of you can get a reply out of Royce or Jeff, or anyone else, an elegantly blue and gold trim dressed brown saddle arabian mare and a stallion wearing an upper-uniformed Dragonspine conductor's uniform butts their way into the center of ongoing conversation.
"You will all be delighted to hear that the Neighmara Express has an entire car dedicated to snacks and refreshments for its passengers, including coffee and chocolates, as well as other amenities for your time through the Southern Saddle Arabian desert!">The last bit being clearly directed at Citrine's outburst of a request.>The saddle arabian mare submits a polite bow to all humans and crystal pony in present as well as prostrates herself with a introductory forehoof.
"Greetings, everypony! I am Vanilla Espresso! One of Neighmara's council marembers, primary overseer of coffee trade, and host for Royce Contracting and Razorback travel needs. You are Jeff, correct?">She looks over to the commander, who gives her a confirming nod, and follows up with ears flattening in a curt second bow.
"That'd be me."
"As with Mr. Byron, I would like to apologize for the delay of departure. We needed to include additional cars for your... vehicles.">Vanilla Espresso glances over at Royce's Husky, then over at the Dagor. Jeff waves off her apology, his voice carrying to include everyone in attending.
"It's fine. As long as we get where we're headed. If anything it'll give everyone time to explore and see the markets.">The councilmare is more than pleased at Jeff's nonchalance, and beams over the entire group as if preparing to sell you all something.
"Then by all means! Please all of you, enjoy everything Neighmara has to offer while we finish preparations! It should be no more than an hour and a half. Oh, speaking of!">Espresso stomps a hoof twice, and literally attend of nowhere several uniformed in pony-styled fez suits appear within clusters of you. Each of them producing a silver ornate serving tray on serving saddles of iced water in classy short tumbler, clearly for your enjoyment.>Jeff and Royce take no time taking glasses, Yuri grabbing one after grinding his spent cigarette into the worked ground.
"Well, it's not vodka...">Jeff takes a big swig of water, before addressing everyone.
"Welp, we got time to hang out and walk around. Leave whatever you don't need in the Dagor... the lift crew looks almost ready to move it.">Swirling the *clinking* ice, he glances over at the burly overalled minotaur with only two of the unicorn lifters limbering up for another cargo load.
"I'll stay here and keep and eye on the Dagor. Stay or go, don't let me keep you."
"Oh Mr. Jeff! You have yet to finish payment for a pending order with us. Would you like to take care of that invoice before your departure?">He looks at Vanilla Espresso with an enthusiastic nod, as the councilmare pulls a few papers from inside her robes. Royce and Yuri gravitate together, matching gulps of water as they talk about something to themselves momentarily before saying aloud.
"Hey if any of you bump into Kenny, make sure he comes back with you. Drongo doesn't have any comms on him."
>>303457>While everypony was chattering away with their variety of accents Blaze stood there, still as a statue with only his ears flicking in the direction of those talking. Eyes slowly but surely glazing over as the words began to be incoherent white noise.>"Imma just head out of this circle and-">WHEN SUDDENLY.>Rudely butting into this huddle of close comrades came two other ponies, the nerve of them!>One was a stallion dressed in the uniform of the Dragonspine, but crossed with a Conductor while also looking fancier than the rest of the uniformed ponies.>The other...>Oh.>"By the Princesses Pink Flanks!">Blaze mentally swore as he laid eyes upon the Arabian mare. She had a beautifully rich brown coat that complimented her Saddle Arabian features and body, her clothing was as refined as the best refined goods money could buy for.>Which were her goods.>And her goods in the coffee trade.>Citrine blushed like a young colt and nodded his head enthusiastically at Vanilla Espresso's greeting, forgetting about the cappuccino for later.>Wait an hour and a half?!>They went through so much preparation to wait again!>Before he could sharply breath through his teeth in annoyance Vanilla's stomping and subsequent appearance of more ponies in funny clothing stopped him. And immediately his eyes honed in on the pure silver wares they had, their precious metal glinting sunlight off of their polished surfaces much like himself.>He was transfixed like a magpie before he heard Jeff give him the all clear to leave.>Nosing around in his saddlebags he saw he had plenty of room for more items, and with pure silver on his mind he set off into the markets.
"Right then! If anypony needs me I'm going to see what precious stuff I can buy to sell for a profit later! So if you need me...uh, talk into my ear with the ear-piece thingie that's in there.">Blaze told everypony as he pointed to one of his ears.>As he trotted off into the thronging herds of equines he took an image impressing glance at Vanilla Espresso.[1d6 = 4]
>E.PerceptionUsing both perception and bartering to find any shops, stalls, vendors, merchants or dealers that are selling precious items that could be sold for later.
[1d6 = 3]
>E.Perception[1d6 = 4][1d6 = 3]
>B.Bartering[1d6 = 4]
>>301072>Noah looks over to see Nevil addressing him
"Eh, I guess it depends on what kind of stuff they have over there.">At the mention pocket money, Noah slaps his pants pocket to ensure he does have some money with him
"Already got some, sir.">>303457>While waiting for everyone to be done and be dismissed, Noah notices a couple ponies come in and advertise their food car>Which works because Noah's ears perk at the mention of free coffee>"Ah, so these two are responsible for our train traveling...">While listening to what sounds like a tourist spiel, he notice the mare stomp and groups of ponies coming to them, drinks in hoof
"Oh, that looks fancy. Thanks.">Noah goes ahead and grabs himself a tumbler and takes a swig of the water>Refreshed, Noah glances to the Dagor, knowing that his shield and pack is still on it>With nothing to worry about and seeing Citrine take off already, Noah starts to make way to the market
"I'll be in the markets if you guys need me."
>>303457>Nevil's smirk grows slightly more in Royce's direction as Yuri laughs, emanating a distinct middle-aged smug aura. If only for a moment.>Said smirk dies down again as Royce focuses on him and lets him know about Jan... >Nevil's left brow rises slightly with interest at this piece of information. Shifting his eyes a little with a split-second of thought, the rest of his smile flattening as he nods once in acknowledgement.
"Hmh, I'll keep that in mind. Maybe we'll hit it off.">Nevil's voice carried an almost half-hearted flatness to it, but the interest in his eyes remains even as they shift off of Royce, now known as The Australian Wonder.>Giving a passing glance to Jeff, staying quiet as he does while he briefly catches the look he look he puts on when 'Army Buddy' is mentioned. >He couldn't help but smirk weakly, empathically.>>301161>>301305>Then continues turning his head in Lucius' direction as he asks that question. >Bouncing a look towards Jim as he answers first with his own example, prompting Nevil to briefly nod once in the Offworlder's direction. His eyes remain on Lucius however.
"It's a term that was coined by a certain... Let's say "author" even if that's not the correct term--film director would be it, that you definitely wouldn't know since it's ahead of your time."
"The actual term is meant to describe something that is used to move a 'plot' along in some form, and that is the entire purpose of the McGuffin in a story. However, in this instance, I refer to a McGuffin as all magical items because they're several flavors of bullshit and they move the operations along more smoothly." >Nevil then gives a light shrug that makes the shoulders of his armour clack softly. Smiling weakly to the Ranger in an almost amused way, if it weren't for the perenially weary look the Marine carried. >He then turned to look away more briskly, looking at the elegant mare and stallion that come to greet them, seeing how they enter the conversation. >Nevil remains mostly still, spectating the conversation mostly by just shifting his eyes between the speakers and staying firmly in the background from all of this. >There almost a hint of distaste on the Lieutenant Commander's face, though it quickly goes away once the servers appear from nowhere, head shifting to look downward at the glass of iced water. >After what is maybe a split-second of hesitation, he reaches over to carefully takes up a glass himself, drinking the cold water in a more slow, savoring fashion.>Hasting himself ever so slightly to drink through the water after Jeff's words, he puts the tumbler back.>He made sure to answer to Royce as well.
"You got it." >>303751>>303820>Watching Citrine quite quickly start to leave for the markets during all of this, Nevil begins to turn to leave as well. Adjusting the brim of his cap to shield his face a bit more.
"I'll come along. My first time around here, might as well see what they're selling for myself."
"Maybe they sell some magical sunscreen..." >Nevil, tagging along with Noah, follows closely behind to go explore the markets.
>>303457>Jim just stares, dumbfounded.
"Er, nah, can't say I rightly do.">At the other man's impression of the 'kangaroo', Jim lightly chuckles.
"Sorry mate, ain't helpin' me figure it out. Maybe if you kin tell me the scientific name of it, ye know, the genus, I'd be a little more in the right sector.">Then again, not many people he'd met were knowledgeable about the genus name.>When you dealt with hundreds of different aliens, it tended to be easier to narrow them down by their genus instead of a name.>At least, for Jim.>But he was weirder than most.>Maybe that's why he was sent to Tallus?>Ah, well, no use in thinking of it now.>Jim accepts the glass of water, tilting it back and knocking it all down in a moment.>'Not the best idea in a desert biome, but ruckin' around with a tumbler isn't high on my list of stuff to do.'>At the request, Jim tips his goggles.
"Will do, boss mate. Don't wait up for- Actually, do wait up for us. We don't wanna miss our ride, ye?">Jim begins to walk off, going to follow the rest of the operators when a though occurs to him.
"Right, first, can we get a brief debrief of what the bloke looks like? I know we's pretty much the only lads round here so there ain't much mistakes to be made, but hey, shit happens, ye?">And with that, he headed off to follow the rest of the group.
>>303457>Lucius gives Yuri a strange look
"R-robin... Hood, did you say? Afraid I'm not familiar... Though I do look forward to meeting this Kenny character!"
"After a little wandering around, of course...">Quietly listening to everyone greeting and talking to each other, the Ranger graciously accepts his glass of water from the nearest silver tray, marveling a bit at the silver on display.>Once the meeting seems to have adjourned, hearing that he could leave some of his belongings behind, Lucius ducks past the others towards the train, stowing just about everything aside from his clothes, his money, and his family sword in a safe place.>>304157
"Er, you're right, I have... no idea what a film is. But I do understand bullshit that moves operations along! My thanks for the explanation.">>303751>Seeing Citrine bolt off on his own, however, Lucius gets a funny feeling>"He's going to wind up in some sort of trouble, I just know it...">Silently the ranger slips into the markets after the crystal pony, trying to keep one eye on him without him noticing, while also keeping another eye open for any good-looking booksellers>"Might do to get some light reading for the train ride, maybe brush up on the local critters..."[1d6 = 6]
>M. Stealth[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 6][1d6 = 5][1d6 = 2]
>E. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 4]
>>303457>'So, Jeff's an old soldier, too?'>The look on Jeff's face said that he didn't want to talk about it, however, so Joel let him be.>Joel tips his hat at the arrival and introduction of Vanilla Espresso, his momma having raised him right.
"Thank ya Ms. Vanilla. That's awful kahnd of ya.">He produces his everclear and splashes a bit into his water before sipping it down as he listened to everyone else discussing the wait.>>304344>At Jim's question, Joel stays behind a little while as well and makes a careful mental note of Royce's answer before returning his cup and heading out after the others.
"Ah'm sure one of us'll find him. Many hands makes fast work n'awl that.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uRtW8lBe0I>>303751>You take the initiative to go breaking from the group and take the lead to go adventuring into the steppes of Neighmara.>Before you venture off too far, you look back to take a good up-and-down of Vanilla Espresso.>She was in the process of hoofing a clipboard over to Jeff, who was taking appraisal of what was on it.>A proper side view of the Saddle Arabian mare shone off her luxurious shiny coat(whatever wasn't concealed by her merchant robes), and even perfectly curled and flowing mane- which was left free to flow with her movements. Her royal blue robes draped over from her withers and cut right above the fetlocks to keep from being dragged through the sand or getting caught while she walked. Densely stitched gold thread not only lined the cloak with a intricate braided pattern, but also adorned the entirety with elegantly swirling tribal-like schemes. If they held any cultural or societal importance, they were lost on you but they were still pretty to look at!>Although most of her form was covered up, her silhouette rounded and curved nicely for a young and fit mare and her hooves were kept expertly trimmed and polished. You spot a bit of her tail poking out behind her, but it matched the color of her mane.>Despite all of this, you finally take note of her regal amethyst eyes, which contrasted against her earthy colors. She was clearly from good stock, and undoubtedly attractive.>Having taken in Espresso's for for memory, you finally focus on making your way toward the markets.>But before you make it to the markets, the lowest level appeared more residential.>These were the nostalgic buildings you remembered from when you first arrived: domed roofs, sweeping curves, wide windows, fancy doorways, elegant pillars, polished decorations, and large glass 'yards' filled with chairs and tables. Other than the fact most of it was not actual Empire crystal, but instead bitter-glass, the sentiments were hitting warmly.>The residential buildings were mostly identical, and tightly packed, save for one large four-story building built into further down toward the center of the steppes.>Ultimately the living area wasn't your target, as you make your way up to the next level of steppes.>HERE is where the more practical and industrial-looking, two-storied semi-open stalls for merchants, and artisans.>Six rows of stalls jutted out from the wall to the next level, creating neat rows of alley-ways full of business with no more than four meters of space to walk between them; spanning far down enough to loom over the entirety of the residential level right underneath.>Your keen nose picks up a myriad of cooking foods and snacks, coffee, and chocolate aromas coming from stalls dotted between them. Moreso to the front.>Figuring a grilled veggie skewer won't re-sell for much, you trot deeper into the rows to find yourself right up to the wall.>These stalls were carved right into the wall itself, and you noticed the sand-blowing wind was already noticeably cut down this close to the wall.>You immediately spot several stalls with ponies working on either textile weaving, statue sculpting, and several grindstones going away at what you can guess were gems being cut and polished.>The last one was most likely you best bet at finding something to flip for bits later on, or a pricey statuette that you can sneak into the Dagor.>>303820>Vanilla Espresso smiles at your graciousness, as well do the servers proving the water with a curt nod at your acceptance of the refreshment.
"You will all find that most merchants will be providing complimentary ice water at anypony's convenience. We understand it's hot and dry here, so please don't hesitate to quench your thirst while you're perusing the markets!">Leaving your gear with Jeff, you take off to follow Citrine's lead away from the train depot and into the heart of Neighmara.>Quickly passing through the stark contrasts of the residential area's architecture, which may as well have been a recreation of the Crystal Kingdom itself, you push up through toward the lower market area where artisans were more hard at work focused on their particular trade than peddling goods and services to passerby's.>The stalls were neatly yet claustrophobicly crammed back-to-back, creating six neat rows of two-story merchant stalls.>You smell coffee, chocolate and a myriad of food stalls wafting through this level, as well as most serving ice water atop of what you assume to be Crystal-enchanted melt-proof ice bins.>The stalls closer to the edge were focusing more on food, where the farther they went back yielded more crafts and artisanal goods; you lose pace with Citrine to the more expensive stalls in the back.>304157>You tagging along with Noah yielded a good view of the train depot as you climbed the beaten carved slop to the next level.>The train's front stretched far out passed the steppes, only being ably to catch sight of the caboose indead well passed the depot's limits. All in all you counted almost two-dozen cars visible, implying there were even more!>Noah passes the residential area, which looked more like a worn out crystal chandelier forms of houses.>The next level up was where the markets started, Citrine hurrying to the back of this steppe's territory leaving you with Noah to choose a stall alley to meander.
>>305475>>304344>Jeff, Royce, and Yuri look at eachother incredulously before shrugging and shakingtheir heads, your commander's attention went to the datapad attached to his left forearm.
"Heh, sorry mate. Wouln' know 'at off the top of my head. Always been roos and joeys to me."
"So... is the kangaroo supposed to be a genius?"
"Osphranter, the largest species being rufus. Or the red kangaroo.">Looking over at Jeff, Yuri and Royce shot him impressed looks. Who looks barely affected at their gazes.
"What? I have a flora and fauna database on here. Human stuff's included, apparently."
"Shit, that's pretty cool.">Following up on your last question before taking off with the others, Jeff waves you off with a carefree shrug.
"Unless you know what a samurai is, you're looking for a Japanese guy wearing armor and two swords around.">>304497>You store your belongings in the Dagor's back seat, as the heavy cargo-moving team seemed ready and waiting to begin loading the Dagor.>Falling in with the others you slink up the carved slope right past the residential level and to the stall markets, but you keep on Citrine's tail from an inconspicuous distance away.>Despite your stealthing technique being on point, you notice the acroline was having a hard time blending in with the backround of constant shifting shadows against the sand-covered stone.>His attention to the alley full of respectable artisan stalls leads you to the back, several passerby's snickering at your audacity for sneaking around a public area in the middle of the day being the running comments.>Despite the mild commotion, Citrine didn't seems to notice you staying several stalls over.>The stalls with food vendors were placed further forward, and crafters were further in.>You still gave yourself plenty of time to scan down each lane of stalls for the opportunity of some reading materiel.>Coincidentally, you do spot what looked to be a small library several carved stalls down. If they were for sale, or something else you couldn't tell from here.
???[1d6 = 2]
???[1d6 = 3]
>Alert>>304549>Espresso bows her head to your thanks, as you spike the ice cold water with your indulgence of pure alchohol.>Yuri eyeballs your flask enviously, having caught sight of you adding in the crystal clear, but it pulled away by Royce to tell him something out of earshot. The Russian rolls his eyes, a nods in defeat.
"Fiiine. You got it, boss man."
"Just until it's time to leave.">He breaks off from Royce and Jeff and over to the minotaur lifting crew to observe them.>Jeff was busy looking over a clipboard given to him by Vanilla Espresso, the mare's eyes fluttering with the prospect of a business transaction as she goes over the invoice with him.
"One fifty pound breakfast roast. Two fifty pound Neighmaran Select. One Sumaretra blend. And one twenty-five pound Lunar Reserve... do you have a Starborn voucher for that?">Taken aback by the mention, Jeff pats his own pockets down as the mare starts melodically giggling at him until he realizes she was punking him.
"Very funny Miss Espresso."
"Teehee, I thought so. Please sign here, and I'll bill Razorback accordingly.">Signing off on the pad, Jeff hands it back to Espresso to collect and bows her head and giving the Dagor a berth so it can be moved.
"A pleasure doing business with you. I will see you before departure."
"Jeffy, cm'ere mate.">Free of his coffee transaction, Royce pats your commander's arm and leads him deeper into the depot near the train as the minotaur and two unicorn's begin approaching the Dagor.
"Now about this Scholar bloke...">Their conversation fades off as you take off with the others making their way up to the markets.>You pass by the residential level, which resembled more the Crystal Kingdom than a steppe city in Saddle Arabia. Considering Neighmara solely exported water, ice, bitter glass, and a slew of other common items from the kingdom it's no surprise the residents took up their architecture so accurately.>Passing up to the lower markets, the aromas of food vendors wafts over you and everyone else. Food and concessions were held closer to the steppe shelf so the down wind attracts from the lower levels. Farther stalls further back into alleyways beheld a number of small specific craft and items sellers, and all the way in the back is where the best artisans had their stalls carved directly into the steppes itself. Those sought-after spots drastically cut down on wind and sand blowing around the market, and allowed for more delicate and intricate work; thus yielding better quality products.>Whether he knew or not, you spot Citrine peeling into the artisan alley with Lucius stealthily tailing him.
>>303820>Noah was tagging along by going in the same direction, good, that meant he could carry what ever was purchased.
"The more the merrier, we can become rich if we think smart. Like I did before in our last outing!">>304157>Then came Nevil too.
"We may of not collectively gotten richer but I sure did get my dick wet, and honestly isn't that worth its weight in gold?">He asked rhetorically, of course it was worth its weight in gold and he will stand by that position until he finds it advantageous to regret it later.
"Also I have sunscreen if you need it!">>304344>Citrine was too busy thinking of that time he had with that mare he totally remembers the name of to notice that Jim had tagged along.>At first.>That is until he glanced behind to track the swaying hips of a trio of Saddle Arabian mares, only to see a third human joined the group.
"Hi Jim!">>304497>As Blaze cantered around the sprawling place as defacto tour guide to reach the markets he would occasionally look behind him to see if the others were still following, and if he was being followed by those that meant him harm. Possible harm.>With a keen he saw he was NOT being tailed by Lucius, whom he presumed actually went to some other district instead.>>304549>Being the very last to join the party and being furthest away Citrine did not know Joel was coming with, though at this point the Crystal Pony should of assumed everypony was coming along with him by now...>>305475>>305477>"Damn, that is a fine mare. Would be a shame if we were to be booked into the same train booth for the entire journey.">Blaze thought, face turning redder at the thought.>As the stallion moved through the residential area to reach his destination a wave of nostalgia gifted him a fuzzy warmth across his body, this place did really look like home.>If it were not for the Saddle Arabians and the climate he might of actually of been fooled into thinking he had stepped right back into the Empire once again.>...But he wasn't home, and could not go back until he paid his due's to Jeff and collected enough money to be welcomed back anyway.>Once passing by memory lane and reaching the markets a new sense took over, the overwhelming intoxicating stench of freshly made food.>It was all around him, the aroma having soaked into every surface of the place. It threatened to make him drool like a fool.>And would have if he had come here for such things, but he was on a mission here, possibly one more important than the reason he was in a desert in the first place!>To make fat stacks of money!>Letting his mercantile expertise guide his hooves Citrine came across the stalls carved into the very wall itself. This is where he should be, and where he will find what he wants.>He went for the gem cutters first, as a statue or three would be too much of a burden and majestic weaves could be blown away due to high wind currents. Though the latter could be used as a fancy carrier for the gems he recognized.
"Hmm, perhaps combining all three..">He muttered to himself as he examined the wares of the gem makers, specifically searching for a selection of the most colourful, shiniest and finely cut stones on offer.[1d6 = 4]
>E.Perception[1d6 = 5] [1d6 = 6]
>>305477>The ranger does his best to ignore the snickering and jibing - they could see him, sure, but his quarry could not, and that was what mattered to him>However, seeing Noah and Nevil both fall in line behind Citrine, Lucius decides that he has no more need to keep his watch>"Nevil is too much a stickler for the rules to allow any funny business, and if Noah can pilot such a terrifying contraption as that Dagor, I'm sure he can handle an errant bard pony, even if his hat IS fabulous...">With this decision made, the ranger drops his stealthy demeanor and walks like a normal human being (which ironically is very much not normal in this realm) past Citrine, Noah and Nevil>As he passes by, the ranger taps >>305923 on the shoulder
"Hey, you may not have spotted me, sorry - wanted to keep watch over that one-">Points to Citrine
"But I can see he's in fine hands between you two. I'm headed down the way to yon library - if anything goes wrong or it's time to leave and I am late, look first for me there.">With a final small nod of the head the ranger departs the three of his companions, walking quickly towards and moving into the library, taking in as much of the exterior as he can as he does so.
>>305477>Looking briefly over the shoulder towards Jeff as he catches the the mention of a 'samurai' when Jim asks for Kenny's description.>This made Nevil arch his brow with interest, making a mental note while otherwise not saying anything as he turned his gaze forward and he marched along with his arm lazily resting on the butt of his rifle. >As he moved along the street and the smells and sights hit him, nothing really changed his expression or seemed to make him smile. He almost continued to observe everything with an alert gaze, never relaxing too much even here.>>305555>He didn't look down towards the crystal pony as he gave his reply. Though Nevil couldn't help but smirk broadly at Citrine's sheer confidence.
"I can respect that. Just don't tap into the communal fund without at least telling one of us, you dashing bard." >Nevil replied, mild amusement breaking through the otherwise flat, emotionally drained tone of his.
"I'll be sure to watch to see how you strike deals. I'm eager to see how it's done.">Then he widens his eyes a little at the mention of Citrine having the fabled Sunscreen(tm).
"Oh, hey, I'll take some sunscreen if you'd lend it to me for a use or two, but it's no problem--I can probably afford my own and there might just be something better around here if we look for it. Maybe something that straight-up insulates from the elements. That would be a great catch." >Nevil, tagging along with Noah moreso than Citrine--sticking at a respectful distance by the man's side, looked towards the crystal pony now with a hint of sudden curiosity in his dullen eyes. But if he had something to say he kept it to himself for the time being, as he quarter-turned his head in the direction of Jim and Joel instead, as he couldn't see Lucius yet. >>304549>>304344
"Royce mentioned our Samurai-man Kenny was likely stuffing street food into his mouth. If you don't have an urgent need to buy anything specific, can you head towards the food stalls along this level and peek around for Kenny?"
"Just let them know Royce would like him to come back soon now that we've arrived."
"And to wear his comms, if he has any to begin with... 'Ain't cool to go off with no way to keep in touch.">Nevil's tone descends to a mildly irritated grumble at that one, but it rises back up to his normal evenly calm tone quickly enough.
"They should stick out. Two swords, ye olde samurai get-up, low-tech probably? You'll probably spot him with a glance."
"If not," >Nevil taps his headset twice, and nods at the two.
"We'll look for him all together later. Can't go back without them anyways." >With that said, Nevil turned suddenly as he caught Lucius in his peripheral re-appearing from stealth, making his brow rise briefly as he looks to them intently.>>305966>Nevil smirked faintly at Lucius' reasons, and nods. Waving a hand lightly at them to wave off the apology.
"Right, Lucius. See if you can't find anything interest on Eldritch subjects while you're there. I'm looking for reading material to continue my studies. Or even any journals regarding expeditions to where we're going. Might be useful."
"Let me know the prices for renting or buying books as well, if that's possible. Use your radio for that, so you don't have to come back to me if you don't feel like it.">>305923>With that, Nevil focused back ahead. His eyes seem to mostly stare off towards nothing in particular for a good second, then sideglanced Noah once. >Not really saying anything, Nevil seemed to simply follow Noah's glance towards the stalls himself.
"... Maybe we could afford something with elemental silk in it. We're fairly well-funded, aren't we.">Nevil mused out loud. >Nevil was more aware that they were FILTHY rich given the available budget. It was probably worth trying to look around for anything expensive-ish to invest in; namely anything with 'elemental silks' in it that might stave off the heat for the long term.<E. Perception [1d6 = 6][1d6 = 4][1d6 = 1]>Of course, he also did keep his eyes on Citrine. Keeping track of them and looking to see how he went about the market.
>>305477>>306512>Having already started looking around by the time Nevil spoke up, Joel gave him a brief nod.
"That's mah plan, more'r less.">Armed with a surface-level knowledge of what a samurai even was, Joel located the direction that the smell of food was coming from and got going.
"C'mon space man, we got a real old-timer to find."
On arriving, Joel did his best to take in the scene, keeping a special lookout for Kenny, who would hopefully stick out like a sore thumb.<E. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 5][1d6 = 4]
>>305477>'Osphranter rufus'?>So, Big Toe, Red?>Well, it had to be kingdom Animalia, possibly Mammalia.>Most arthropods lacked a toe, so that ruled them out but didn't excise enough of the doubt.>Eh, not enough information, but then again, it wasn't important in the first place.>Either way, it was time to hit the trail.>>306512>The offworlder tilted his head slightly, then shrugged.
"Ye, makes sense. I'd rather like to keep an eye on the li'l bloke 'ere, 'e seems like the type to find himself in all sorts of messes...but ye, the comms'll help. Wish I didn't have these ol' pieces of scraptech an' had a proper set o' SuperFreqs at hand, but eh. Least I got to keep me goggles!">These people didn't know laughably far they were behind him in terms of tech, and he had to suppose this is how the rest of them felt when they were first transported to this low-tech of a world.>Nevil was the only one who came close, but his sort of tech seemed to be bruteforcing its way into working, whereas Jim's universe had literally hundreds of civilizations worth of tech research to call on.>Still, no use lamenting lost tech...>>305555>Jim took a moment from staring at the multitudes of shops nearby, smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
"Hey there, li'l guy. I'm gonna go and look fer this 'samurai' near the food stalls. Ye keep in contact by comms if'n ye find yerself diggin' a hole two sizes too wide fer ye'.">The offworlder calmly broke from the company of the bard to trace a path towards the food stalls.>Of course, keeping his head on a swivel to find the 'samurai'.[1d6 = 2]
<B. Perception[1d6 = 6][1d6+1 = 6]
<Goggle zoom>The word itself tugged at the memory, though he couldn't place it.>'Was it the blokes that wore bathrobes into battle? Or those synthheads? Bah, doesn't matter.">Though Jim had to wish that he had been given more information than 'bloke with two swords on his back.'>Ah, well.>His goggles highlighted various signs as he moved past them, to which Jim frowned.>'Ah, blast it all. I got thousands of different languages and dialects programmed inta this thing, and not one of 'em can translate any o' this crap.'>He really needed to get a firmware update....if that was even still possible at this point.>The man brought himself into a loping jog to distract himself from 'what-ifs', and to try to find the missing man quicker.
>>305555>Ignoring sculptors, weavers, and other quality artisans down the alley you zero in on two gem related stalls right next to each other.>The closest stall was handling already cut and polished stones and gems, a variety of gold and silver pieces adorned the front kiosk in advertisement with price tags. Most of them weren't even fitted with gems yet as fully finished products were further inside the stall and out of hoof's reach.>In the back, an elderly pale red Saddle Arabian stallion was nose-deep in cutting a purple colored gem on a hoof-assisted gem cutting table; adorned in a simple brown merchants robe and grey mane tied back and out of his work. His rear leg, slowly pumped up and down on a pedal on the floor which spun a horizontal grind wheel at chest height. An angled boom arm above him held the precious stone in place to the stone with a complicated set of adjustment dials for his mouth and hooves to operate.>He lifts it from the stone for a moment, analyzing his work with a pair of magnified jewelers spectacles, then sets it back down to the still-spinning stone.>The second stall bore a younger earth pony mare of a dark purple hue and violet mane. Her front kiosk counter hung a clearly legible sign in big bold Common: "Uncut Gems and Stones: Cut to Order, All Types!".>This simple marketing strategy seemed to work, as she was already dealing with a dark veiled customer. A unicorn, you guess, going by the frontal jut from inside the hood.
"So you don't have Ewerup onyx either?!">A picky and disgruntled customer, at that.>The stall owner clopped a hoof down against her kiosk, shaking her head almost disgustedly.
"I'm sorry sir, but I don't have any imports from Ewerup or Rushya. And don't even ask about Stalliongrad either. I do have plenty of Dragonspine onyx that should suit your needs.">Even you know better that no pony wanted to deal with either countries.>Despite trying to alleviate the situation the cloaked customer only seemed to become more aggravated, stomping a revealing green hoof impatiently against the steppe stone.>Their conversation trails off on you as your attention is brought back to the stall you were previously eyeing.>The old saddle arabian had put his work down to approach you, glasses still affixed to his face, and bowing to you in greeting.
"Greetings there, Crystal pony. Care to browse my fine little gems? Haha, and the jewelry as well!">Easily amused at his own joke, his head dips below his counter for a brief moment before producing a quartz-carved tumblr already sweating with ice water.
"Something to quench your throat. You may call me Old Ruby; everypony else does. Number one ranking jeweler in Neighmara. I work in finishing rough-cut gems into final pieces and set them into whatever adornment you'd like.">Old Ruby looks you over for a hot second, eyes googely peering through his glasses, appraising your hat more than anything else and smirks knowingly.
"Might I recommend some embellishments for your hat? I have a batch of blood sapphires from the Moors that would go around its band quite splendidly...">>305923>>306512>You both take on the hunt to find some stylish and practical head wraps for the already hot and dry journey in Neighmara.>And the fact that Citrine had drawn the majority of you into the pricey section of the market, the quality was nothing to scoff at.>There were stalls both in the cliff and in the free-standing adjacent ones offering a wide variety of textile specialties: carpeting, area rugs, robes, cloaks, hoof shoes, saddle bags.>Luckily there was a stall that dealt in scarfs, shawls and the other sorts across from and a couple stalls down from where Citrine had stopped at a jeweler's stall.>Whatever conversation he was having with the owner was effectively droned out from a heated argument in the neighboring stall. A cloaked customer shamelessly complains about game dice to the stall owner, who has all but began ignoring the belligerent patron.>Refocusing your collective attentions on the clothing stall, you approach its open entrance as the owner pops her own-wrapped head out to greet you: a young golden yellow saddle arabian mare adorning what you could guess one of her own products looks over you both with wonderment.
"Oooooh humans! Greetings! Welcome to Shay's Shawls! I provide head wraps of all kinds made from the finest threads Snootzim can provide!">Assuming to be Shay she happily trots through hanging racks of silken garbs to a large steamer chest and flips the lid open with a hoof, revealing a set of tightly-packed and neatly-folded patterned fabrics of every color you could imagine.
"I heard you humans enjoy keffiyehs, from the one that called me a... she-lah? I'm currently having a four-for-three sale, on them! Prices vary, based on material and whether or not they're interwoven with special or enchanted threadings.">She bows to both of you and gives you space to peruse, but not before directing a hoof to a tucked corner of her kiosk which stood a side table full of trayed ice water on a bed of enchanted perma-ice.
"If you get thirsty, please help yourselves to some refreshments. And feel free to ask me if there's anything you're looking for, in particular."
>>305966>As you voluntarily emerge from your stealth and break off onto your own to go bookshopping, you glance back behind you to notice two Neighmaran Bronze Guard looking at you incredulously from inside their helmets. They take a look at each other, exchanging a few words in Saddle Arabian, shrug their shoulders, and laugh before turning and walking off on some sort of regimented patrol of the area.>You feel like they might have been laughing at your expense...>Either way, you walk past a fancy jewelry stall Citrine had stopped at, and a clothing vendor for Nevil and Noah to continue down to the cliff-carved kiosk with books on display.>As you near, signage comes into view which momentarily falters your efforts: "Tome & Journal Restoration".>But upon closer inspection, all the books on display had price tags on them so at least you knew you can buy something. Most of them had titles in languages you couldn't understand, and those that were legible had dry scholarly titles to them.
"Greetings stranger!">From the alley a vibrant orange unicorn stallion with a jet-black slicked mane quickly trotted up to and passed you to slip into the book kiosk. He quickly ducked under his front counter and reappeared with a short-cut burnt yellow cloak.
"My apologies, sir. I was away on an early lunch, forgot to put up my away sign.">He bows apologetically, but you can tell he wasn't a Neighmaran native. From your travels you would deduce he was from Canterlot, giving his accent and mannerisms.
"Right, where are my manners. Name's Hoof Note. I specialize in tome and text restoration, as well as custom journal making. I also sell most of what I fix up, so if there's anything you're looking for just ask.">Expecting more from himself, he takes focus off of you to cross his eyes for a moment before shaking his head and dipping back down behind his counter. Only to emerge again with a pair of fitted and square cut reading glasses now sitting up on the bridge of his muzzle, adjusting them slightly with a dabble of magic before feeling satisfied.
"Ah, there we are..."
>>306755>Deciding that looking for the samurai Kenny would be a team effort, you tag along with Jim and stick to the forward stalls where the scents of alluring concessions and delicacies loomed heavier.>As you both trail down the alley, you notice the stalls starting on the stair-end with lighter peckish snacks like iced coffees and mixed drinks topped with chocolates and snack cakes to more filling fair like platters of grilled vegetable kebabs and pock-marked kiosks with actual marinated meats skewered over open embers. The stall owners purposely fanning the delicious aromas into the alleyways to draw in potential customers.>The further down you went, the more congested it got to the point where ponies were rubbing up against your leg armor and the end of the stalls opened up to an end-cap of sorts on the rock shelf for this level. A packed crowd of ponies, all with their backs to you and Jim as if all observing a singular entity out of eyeshot.>Luckily for you both you were at least over a foot taller above the tallest pony, giving you full access to the spectacle of a colorfully armored man of Asian decent balancing a pineapple at the end of an outstretched katana.>>306765>Leading the way through stalls, both your naked vision and through your goggles scan clear through the crowded food stalls.>Although you couldn't translate most of the signs through your tech, it wasn't hard to decipher that the kiosks were putting out refreshing drinks, snacks, and full-blown meals; even trying to coax you over to sample.>Of course, your main focus is to find the samurai.>Luckily you don't have to wait long or look far as the end of the alley comes to a crowded mess of onlooking ponies and other sentient being mixed in.>In the center of the fixed commotion: a man clad in marbled purple and black armor with white decals, black hair tied up in a top knot and a black headband bearing metallic purple symbolism, held out a mirror polished sword straight out in front of him. On the very tip was a steadily balanced pineapple hanging over a wicker basket, with little effort from the man keeping it there. If anything he was more preoccupied by the trio of assorted grilled meat skewers in his free fist, taking a bite from one as the crowd starts to grow restless.>Chewing and swallowing, he eyeballs the fruit at the end of his sword intensely and he cocks a smirk; and the crowd quiets save for the sounds of sizzling grills, backround music, and ongoers moving on uninterested.>Still tracking him through your goggles, you catch a glimpse of his sword shoulder raise slightly in anticipation, but his eyes catch your attention the most. For a split second the color of his iris glow a bright golden yellow before he moves his arm faster than your goggle's movement tracker can pick up.[1d6+10 = 12]
<M.Melee:???[1d6+10 = 11][1d6+10 = 14][1d6+10 = 15][1d6+12 = 14]
<M.Reaction Speed:???[1d6+12 = 13][1d6+12 = 17][1d6+12 = 18]>His body barely moved as his sword instantly went from holding the pineapple up to appearing to the right of it, as if it had been cut in half horizontally.>And as the fruit hung in the air for a brief moment, almost cartoonishly, you witness it break into two at the middle as expected.>... but also in half vertically, leaves and all, falling into the basket as four perfect quadrants.>Your brain can't comprehend him making a vertical cut, or when he even had time to make it.>Bewilderment aside is cut short as the onlooking crowd explodes into a fanfare of cheering and hoof stomps at the performance; the man brandishing his sword upward and gives it a full-bodied flick downward to rid the blade of any residue from the fruit, spins it around into the crook of his left elbow and runs the blade through the fabric on his arm to thoroughly clean it, and smoothly sheaths it into its empty scabbard with an audible click.>All one-handed while still holding the grilled meats in his left hand.>Almost expecting a closing encore he smiles at the cheering crowd, he gives everyone in attendance a curt polite bow before breaking out into a wide grin and randomly waving at no ponies in particular as everypony begins to disperse.>Several merchants come up to him, bowing respectfully as one of them takes the basket with the pineapple away from the middle of the walking path.>The man bows back to them, shaking his head with a smile on his face and pointing to the concession in his hand.
"No no! Arigatou gozaimasu! Much appreciated!">You get it now. He was performing for food. Free, most likely.>Clever.
>>307688>The offworlder slows his pace down as he comes upon the mass of spectators, coming to a stop.>'Well, I'll be. Subtlety clearly ain't this bloke's business... though it sure is payin' off for 'em.">Jim zoomed in on the details of the man, particularly his sword.>'Ah! So it is the bathrobe wearers, then! 'Cept this bloke ain't wearin' one. Fancy gear, though.'>Jim's finger twitched despite himself as the telltale twitch of a muscle signaled a strike...>And oh, what a strike it was.>For a moment, it appeared to ignore the laws of physics before it fell apart in half...two different ways.>Jim raised a hand to his goggles, resetting the device, though he knew damn sure that they worked perfectly fine.>Jim leans towards his compatriot who followed him, Joel.
"Fuck me, couldn't even see when he'd have time for that second cut. Mate's got a few tricks up his sleeves, ya reckon?">Either it was extensive bio-modification, a cyber implant, or perhaps magic.>In any case, he certainly wasn't one to mess with.>But Jim wasn't there to scout talent, and began making his way to the strange swordsman.>Though, moving through a tide of half-pint horses was a bit of a challenge, considering the amount that was there.
"'Scuse me, sheila- Love the mane!">Jim apologized to the Saddle Arabian mare he nearly bumped into, only to almost run into another.
"Sorry mate. Noice shemagh!">And eventually, Jim made his way to the expert bladesman, looking him up and down once more before shifting his goggles above his eyes.>A friendly smile surged to life on Jim's face as he thrust a hand towards Kenny.
"Afternoon, Kenny! Full business name's Offworlder Jim, but ye can just call me Jim fer short. Me n' me associate here'r from Razorback out in the Everfree.">The offworlder chuckles a bit as he shakes the other man's hand.
"I'd say you were a hard bloke t'find, but ye stick out like a chemplant inna harvest world.">Taking back his hand, Jim rests it on his rig.
"Now, if I were yer boss mate, I'd chew ya out for leavin' yer comms behind...but from what I can see, ye can sort out any drongo that staggers yer way.">Polite bullshit out of the way, Jim made to continue on but the proximity to the other man's kabobs had the scent wafting over to his nose.>After having a light lunch because they were going to translocate, walking through the food market was absolute torture.>He'd have to stop by on the way back and grab some for himself.
"Anyway, I was told to find ye and bring ye back. Boss mate's gettin' all of us ready n' mustered fer the expedition out into wherever the money's blowin'. Though, I am curious. How in the hell'd ye move so fast? Me goggles didn't have a chance'a trackin' ye.">Jim's stomach tugged at him, forcing him to smile sheepishly.
"And, uh, where'd ye find those kabobs? I'm gonna have t'get some of them to 'fress on. Though I've not got those fancy skills to, ah, pay with entertainment.">A man was only as strong as what grub he had, and that looked like some powerfully good chow.
"Right then! Take it out of my saddlebags whenever you need it, BUT tell me before you do it or else I'd buck you. Got a lot of bad experiences on my travels.">Citrine told Nevil, some hints of past memories flashing behind his eyes.>>306765
"Eh? Sure sure I will call if I need more money than I have on me, not like I will, I will be all fiiiiiiine~">Said Blaze, with perhaps too much confidence in himself.>>307686>Initially drawn in by his keen eye for quality gems which led him to the two stalls, the Crystal Stallion was now more interested in watching the wizened Saddle Arabian work his craft.>Though he did glaze down to the products on the kiosk before him.>He could -possibly- swipe something as a Full Hoof Discount however he did not want to cause any trouble nor did he believe the train would be ready for him. In fact the train might not even leave if he does do anything foalish.>Citrine side eyed the other stall, its kiosk and sign, the pretty mare and the hooded Unicorn she was dealing with.>Something in the back of his mind was trying to click at the sight of that green hoof, but surely he would recognise the voice of the whiny Unicorn first?>"Mmmm, could be my imagination...">Could be.>Snapped back to where he was and what he wanted at the sound of scuffling hoof steps, Blaze met the eyes of the old stallion and gave him a bow in return.>And chuckled at his joke.
"Ha, I get it.">He's funny.
"Thank you Ol' Ruby I think I will.">Thanked Citrine as he sipped at the tumbler as Ruby talked on, and finished when he offered to bling out his hat.
"My hat? Oh how kind! I think they will look splendid, you can do that before we can get down to why I came here.">With that deal seemingly sealed Blaze took off his hat and placed it onto the kiosk.
"If it this costs less than four thousand Bits than start right away, I will be back to you in a second!">The Crystal pony said as he gave an apologetic and sincere bow of his head as he turned fully to the neighbouring Stall.>Citrine Blaze was a stallion of action, he played hard and worked harder, he knew what he wanted and he took it.>A real wild card.>A real stallion, a Stallions' Stallion.>Some would say he was a slave to his curiosity or had small attention span but only his worst enemies would say such slanderous lies of him!>So when he approached the disgruntled draped Unicorn from behind, it was not because he had the mind of a colt, it was because he had to know if this was a friend or foe!>Breaching somepony' else's personal space and privacy be damned!>He crept as close as he could to them like a cat, low to the ground, then-[1d6 = 2]
>U.Stealth>POUNCED! Aiming for their cloak with teeth and hooves he wanted to throw it off of them to see who this potential enemy was to him![1d6 = 6]
>E.Assault (ripping the cloak off the Unicorn)[1d6 = 1][1d6 = 3][1d6 = 4]
>E.Perception[1d6 = 1][1d6 = 3]
>>305966>Noah was surprised at the touch of his shoulder but looking back it was only Lucius>Like Nevil, he too waved off the apology>"Man, he really is good at sneaking around."
"Of course. Hopefully nothing goes wrong though.">Returning his nod, he looks over to see which library he is headed to and then takes a mental note of it before continuing to follow Citrine>>307686>Looking ahead, he sees that Citrine stopped a couple stalls ahead>"He found his jewelry stall. Wonder if he'll get anything good.">Pushing the notion of jewelry appraisal out, he returned to>He looks ahead and pays attention to the mare speaking to them, assuming to be Shay>Seeing her walk to the trunk and open to see many more head wraps, Noah perks at the thought of the sale and the enchanted threading>Reaching out, he touches a dark blue keffiyeh, making up his mind on which one to get
"You said something about enchanted threading? Which ones are those?">Still rubbing the material between his fingers, he intermittently glanced over to where Citrine was and tried to spot him, see how he was doing[1d6 = 3]
<E. Perception[1d6 = 6][1d6 = 6]