>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.