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>>265860>>266094>the ranger nods
"Yes, after a fashion. I was trained to hunt dragons, mind. But, to cut a long story short, I distanced myself from that life. Before I came here I was known as a man of the wilds - an outlander.">he scratches his chin
"As to your other question...">the man clicks his tongue a few times, looking around himself as if a new piece of information would jump out of a bush somewhere>as this did not happen, finally the man returns his eyes to you, giving a small sigh
"To tell you the truth, commander, I know very little when it comes to dry, arid environments. I come from the forests and the mountains and the snow-bitten tundra fields, not from the dunes and the sand and the hot dry sun.">with a small shoulder shrug, he finishes by saying that,
"Looks like I'll be as much on the backfoot out there as the rest this time around, commander. Now, unless you have a question about something a little more arboreal, then with all due respect, my man, I must be off. I have a special date with Lann!">he chuckles to himself, giving Neville a light clap on the shoulder before turning away>he was headed to retrieve that bit of Acroline fur, and then straight to Lann's office
>>265860>Hildemar smiled and inhaled deep the ever-familiar smell of library, scarcely noticing what was presumably a foal.
“I wasn’t expecting this well stocked of a library from a mercenary company. It’s a welcome sight.”>He grabs whichever leyline book looks more like it focuses on creature spawning and one of the books on Saddle Arabian, particularly Neigharan, cultures.
“These two books should suffice. Out of curiosity, do I need to bring food for the duration of my quarantine, or is that covered?”>Adjusting his uniform for the desert would have to wait until after he’s not threatened by foul sorcery.
>>265860>Arriving in the Library, an unfamiliar environment for him, Joel is momentarily distracted by the play of the young ones, remembering a time he watched his own children at play.>After a few moments, he comes back to his senses with a dopey smile on his face and sets about aimlessly picking though the section Hodch pointed out until he finds a book on Saddle Arabian language and another on Neigharan culture.
"Again, Hildemar, good luck in the padded room.">Joel picks out a spot in the library to read instead of heading back to his room. The ruckus of the foals, though distracting at times, is no small source of comfort to him. >He decides to start with the book on language, surmising that there's little point in knowing the customs if you can't even talk with people.
>>266593>The Marine nodded along as he paid rapt attention to what the Ranger was saying. His eyes squinting slightly at the mention of 'hunting dragons', lips curling with a mixture of amusement and interest. >Then he frowned with at least a little bit of understanding. Breathing a slight, mildly disappointed sigh through his nose at the reply he gets.>And also double-takes on his shoulder when the Ranger claps him like that. >Sighing with relief to seeing that he was not, indeed, wearing his armor.
"We'll just have to improvise. Then adapt and overcome, as they say." >Nevil smirked, giving Lucius a slack wave to bid farewell before simply turning ahead towards the library and resuming his walk towards it--quickening to a striding pace now to catch up with Hodch and Hildemar.>He strides in past the threshold of the already opened doors, the sound of his combat boots echoing slightly in the hall as the man casts an idle glance at the bookshelves...>>265860>>266620>>266798>This wasn't necessarily the first time in the library. It was one of his favorite places; reading was one of the ways to take his mind off things. >His eye passes over the play area, but he sweeps his glance on with a troubled frown to his face.>Darting his glance forward, he eye'd Hildermar as the Lieutenant Commander slows to a stop, and starts to step aside--taking note of the books he had been given, before he looked to Hodch. >Likewise he hovers his eyes over Joel, if only to just flash him a cursory smile. But he focused his attention wholly on the unicorn,
"Hodch." >He started to step closer just then, eyes darting towards the bookcases with no real direction as he approached.
"You said there was material about what is considered Eldritch laying around? Could you point me towards what you think is best really quick, please?">He purses his lip into his cheek, inevitably starting to look a little more apologetic. Or perhaps irritated at himself..
"... I don't even know where to start. What exactly is the definition of 'Eldritch'... Here?">His questions was simple, but also carried the inquisitiveness of someone who REALLY wanted to know more. Arms akimbo as he would wait for Hodch to lend his time.
"What am I supposed to expect? And--how do we prepare for it?" >His tone gets slightly more irritated, albeit still in a soft-spoken way, at nothing in particular. Brow furrowing with a slight scowl towards the books.
"What tactics are used against something Eldritch?..."
>>266798>You take your pair of books, and find a comfy over-stuffed couch to rest in while you glance on to how Hodch is planning on dealing with Hildemar.>Flipping back through the language book 'The ABC's of Saddle Arabia, but Not Really', you start right off at the basics.>It's clearly no where near close to common, so you have a long day of learning ahead of you.>>266620>Given directions from Hodch, you pick out several books from the same spot Joel took from: a Saddle Arabian language book, and a guide to Neighmara.>Luckily there were copies of both, and you also grab a book of Saddle Arabian general culture.>The second spot was tucked away on the end of a shelf, and you flip through several titles; most of which weren't in Common.>There was one relatively thick book named 'Beginner's Guide to Ley Lines'. Apart from sounding pretty comprehensive, it also appeared to be in Common.>Turning your attention back to Hodch, still fiddling in what you assume a pouch underneath his cloak, he finally looks up at you; upholding a small white continuously-warping pebble in his hoof.>You THOUGHT it was a cube, or it could also be a hexagon. Or somehow both?
"So, a brief explanation: THIS is a Formwarped Cube. Once inside, you'll be safe from the Era Lock. Because of the dimension's properties you won't become hungry, thirsty, tired, or feel temperature changes. There's some amenities to keep yourself comfortable, but there will be things swimming through it periodically.">He says the word 'things' and 'swimming' unsettlingly.
"Don't worry, they're harmless. Just try not to think about them too hard. Now, Open.">The unicorn places the cube pebble on the Library's floor, and gives the pebble some space.>In an instant, the tiny cube expands more then large enough for you to easily pass into. Having more of it to observe, the cube did in fact constantly morph from a solid cube and to a hexagon without diminishing the shape of either.>That would have been the oddest part, if it were not also inverting the color of the Library's floor into its base.
"I know, it's hard to look at. When you're ready, just walk on through. You might feel some resistance, but you have to power through it. There will be a signal when your time is up, and I will pull you back through.">Looking over at the revolver he still held in his magical grasp, you both notice the tip of the barrel begin to vaporize.
"I wouldn't wait too long, Hildemar.">>267204>As you enter the Library, the first thing you notice is a large white cube-no hexagon.>Cubigon? Both?>It was both. Absorbing light and color around it like some miniature black hole's event horizon.>Hodch stood to the side, clearly goading Hildemar to walk into the spacial object into itself.>You realize it was the 'cube' he was going to have to stay in for a while.>The unicorn's work was done for the time being, as he was able to turn attention to you while Hildemar readied himself.
"Ah yes. You asked about that earlier.">He squints his eyes at your questions, nodding in a way that doesn't really satisfy you, but snrks none-less.
"Here on Tallus, there are multiple leveled planes of existence, inter-tangled dimensions, and beings considered ethereal, supernatural, spiritual, and generally strange. Any thing that is able to exceed those expectations, and is even weirder than any of that, is considered Eldritch. Can you expect it? Not really. Can you prepare for it-">The Starborn unicorn places his hoof to his chin and nods to himself and aims his horn at a book shelf, using his magic to slide a single book out enough for you to notice.
"Yes? It's more productive to steel your mind from what Eldritch COULD be than to try and truly 'understand' Eldritch. That takes real-world experience, which sounds like you all will get in due time."
>>267362>The strangeness of seeing such an 'anomaly' took some of his attention. Movies and novels could only prepare him so much; seeing it from up close was...>Trippy. >A glance was given to Hildermar. But Nevil didn't say anything in that moment (as the gun began to disintegrate), aside from giving him a perhaps encouraging nod of his head if they'd look in his direction. >He somewhat reluctantly tears his eyes away from the cube. Turning his head to Hodch, but only really moving his eyes once he fully turned his head away from the cubigon-thingy-majig. >The head had to almost turn away from Hodch, when his eyes would snap to him to pay full attention. A mostly deadpan expression on him, not showing much emotion despite the furrowing of his brow and the slight worry in his eyes.>It was likely that the concept of multiple planes of existence was at least a little bit lost on this human, but he still gave it his best shot to memorize what was being said.>Seeing the single book, out of all the ones in the library, being shown to him... Made him lift his brow again, this time with pure curiosity and interest. >Stepping over slightly to reach for the book, and then, if he took it, looking over the title on the cover--if any.
"As long as I know SOMETHING about it, I can improvise with Jeff's help." >Nevil's voice drops slightly with some resignation. He then gives Hodch a brief smile in appreciation.
"... Thanks Hodch. I appreciate the time you're lending me; this really helps.">With the book being placed under his arm, he casts a side glance back towards the weird cubigon, then to Hildermar--who was, by now, hopefully entering the cube.
"See you soon Hildermar.">He'd add quickly, eyeing the witch hunter worriedly for a second before glancing away.
"... I'll get down to it..." >Nevil spares his free hand to rub at his eyes, wincing slightly...>Then, without further adieu, he'd start to turn to speedily stride back into the library proper to find a space to sit and study quietly. Taking his HIGHLY modified helmet from the satchel he carried and putting it on the table, on the side, in case a transmission needed his attention.>Making sure to fish out his own field journal and perhaps a fresh black pen to take notes as he goes.
>>267362>The two selected books are quickly tucked under Hildemar’s left arm as the… shape grabs his attention.>Were he a lesser man, he might fear such an obviously sorcerous artifact, but curiosity on how it would work won over fear.>And then the swimming things were mentioned.
“Fine, but if they start swimming at me they will receive Verena’s judgement.”>The witch hunter takes a hasty step back when the “cube” suddenly starts growing.>Once it reaches full size, he goes and touches it to see how it moves or if it somehow feels magical.
“Got it, walk through deliberately.”>And how deliberately he went once the future repeater started vaporizing, powerwalking through like his life depended on it.>Mostly because it did.
>>267801>Fully committed, you speed walk toward the morphing shape-shifting cube.>Your immediate instinct is to put out an exploratory hand out to test the feel of the cube.>Strangely you don't feel anything solid when you come into 'contact' with it. It feels more like the space around your hand became more dense.>REALLY dense. Like trying to push your hand through cold peanut butter, or a rubber mat.>Yet you continue pushing forward, first your arm then your torso. You feel nothing but a resilient pressure against your face, and in an instant your surroundings change to a stark white room.>An echoed "Close" from Hodch is heard behind you, and all sound shuts off from the room.>Despite an unnerving lack of shadows to help you determine the room's dimensions, you feel the cubic space is roughly ten meters, by twenty, by twenty meters. There was a ceiling, though you couldn't see a top to the blank white emptiness above you. Looking at the 'floor', your feet were clearly making contact with something, yet you couldn't determine what it was made of. It just felt like there was a barrier there, holding you up in space.>Having come to terms with the pocket dimension's nature, you take in whatever amenities were provided for you: Several iron cots, plush mattresses, pillows all over the place, blankets, and an empty pony armor and weapon stand.>Clearly lounging around and keeping yourself occupied was a must in here, because for some weird feeling you didn't feel tired anymore. That growl in your stomach, oddly, had disappeared as well as a regular feeling to drink something.>Luckily you had brought some reading material with you, because there's not much else to to in here... for the next thirty hours.>You pick one of the couches, shuffle around the pillows to make yourself a spot, and start with the book on Neighmara.>What felt like several minutes in, you start to feel a presence in your personal cube.>Was it the 'swimming things' Hodch mentioned?>Taking your attention off the book momentarily, you scan the dimensional barracks for any creatures. Nothing, but something was definitely there.>The concept of a bird lazily flew through the room, but you could only mentally perceive it in the shape of... blue?>Not much later you feel fish swimming through the air in an erratic pattern, but you could only conceptualize it as the color of jazz?>...>It was better that you kept your mind on the books, and not the non-existential creations sharing space with you.>>267588>You read the title on the sole book: "Withstanding the Eldritch, A Preliminary Work On Safeguarding The Mind", by a veteran Starborn Mage.'>Hodch gives you a proud, yet grim, smirk as he holds up a hoof at the book.
"That one's a personal favorite of mine.">Both of your attentions quickly turn to Hildemar as his body is fully engulfed into the cube.>The unicorn walks over next to the cube, and clearly says "Close" at it.>As quickly as it grew, the morphing shape-cube-hexathing shrunk back down to the size of a game dice and Hodch grabbed it with his magic and under his robe.
"Good luck on your job. Jeff puts his trust in all of you, for some reason. My advice? Don't squander that.">His suggestion came off more like a thinly-veiled warning, but Hodch gives you a curt nod before leaving you in the Library with Joel who was already deep into a book himself.>You sit down and open the single one you had been given, mentally preparing yourself to what kind of strange shit your about to read.
-CHAPTER 3: NEIGHMARA-
POST 1/5>>267801>>268049>Time in Hodch's cube was boring at its best, and horrifying at its worst.>If anything, the peace and quiet was something you were very okay about.>After reading up on Neighmara, you learn it's not too different than other territories. Neighmara was built on a series of rock steppes, which naturally broke its well-known open-air market from it residential area lower down. They were mostly trade-dependant, and boasts an impressive amount of artisans over a wide variety of crafts.>It was also more modernized in terms of Equestrian industrialization, and social norms. You decide it was safer to stay curt and polite to any ponies.>Unless they besmirch the name of Verena! >There were also several major and minor ground-level ley line located near by to the city, and all sorts of oddities would emerge from them occasionally and cause trouble. You can deduce that the Neighmarans are well versed in encounters you all are about to encounter. It might not be a bad idea to try and get some information, once there.>The second book on Saddle Arabian language was straight forward enough, if a little dry, but you get through it to an impressive fluency over your thirty-hour self-imprisonment.>But the constant glimmer of animals taking on the forms of non-physical concepts has wearing on your mind, and you never got used to all of your bodily functions halted and slowly losing track of time.>At some point you finally hear something 'open' up inside the cube, Hodch's voice appears as an all-encompassing echo around you.
"Open. Hildemar, your time's up. I'm going to pull you out now.">You don't get in much of a protest, as you feel your body get pulled through a dense pressure right off the couch and back into normality again. Hodch had pulled you back into the Library, a direct 'Close' from the unicorn shrunk the cube back down to the size of a dice and he claims it back inside his robes.
"I guess your stay was tolerable? Jeff made arrangements for a train, but you still have a few hours to refresh and-">Before he can finish his sentence your stomach growls angrily at you, as well as a sudden urge to use the little whichhunter's room.
"All of your bodily functions are going to hit you at once. I'll let you to it, they'll be meeting outside of the Pagoda when you're ready. Good luck, Hildemar!">He calls out to you hopefully as this was no time to be standing around in a Library!>>267212>After you were left to your own devices, you defaulted on your usual habits: getting something to eat being first.>You pick yourself up a good hearty lunch from the mess, and then find somewhere nice to take a nap.>It's a quick one, as Jeff's voice pops into your head through that nifty magic trot-and-talkie they gave you.>He'd apparently booked a ride on a train and didn't particularly ask anything of you, which meant you were free to do what you wanted.>You explored every nook and cranny of the Fortress, at least the places you were allowed into; one of the Day Guards said you had been given 'Special Guest Access'. Whatever that meant.>It was very strange that so many ponies from different factions were helping out protecting this place: Day, Honor, Royal, Night, and Lunar guard. Tartarus Island mercenaries, and one fully-armored Tower Guard that gave you a chilling glare a few times from under her helmet.>Only thing the diversity was good for was that you picked up a few more songs and tunes you haven't heard from before.>You especially enjoyed listening to the human's sing, too, especially the more vulgar ones!>The time passes unfortunately quickly, mostly through naps, but you finally get your head going and start gathering supplies for yourself.>A trip to the mess: you swipe as many snacks and non-perishables and canteened water you can stuff into your saddle bags, even though the nice mare Pella said it was all complimentary.>Then you head to the Clinic, asking the head nurse lady for any desert-related medicine. She gave you a few tubes of clinical-strength hide moisturizer, and a tip to drink plenty of water. She also said to stop by the workshop, to see if a mare named Lann could make you a cloak to keep from getting sun-burnt.>You do just that, and trot North to the clearly labelled building. You're initially stopped by an Honor guard, but he decides to escort you inside.>A chubby yellow mare, Lann, hears out your request and whisps away for about ten minutes. She comes back with a knew-length cloak in some sort of splotchy sand colors she called 'Multicam', but she had sewn in blue and orange accents through the print that matched your coat. In fact, it complimented your hat!>Now that you have all the food and gear you need, you wander around until you find the loud human vehicle from before and climb up into its back seats for another help-awake.>Much to Noah and Nevil's annoyance, trying to properly stock it.>You were already half-asleep.
POST 5/5>>???>You don't know exactly why Jeff had waited so late in the game to draw you into one of his special little task forces, but you were honestly glad to go out and do something other than antagonize the Fortress guards.>He's given you the run-down up to now, so far: ley-lines, mysterious keys, giant bugs, a Saddle Arabian city, train rides, and unknown dangers...>It was right up your alley and you can't possibly imagine why he didn't ask you sooner!>Jeff had advised you adjust your equipment for the desert, and it was sheer coincidence that you and him were in the Armory at the same time doing such. >Lann had made desert-camo pattern covers for the bulk of your fellow operators mostly blue and black armor scheme, along with a camo ball cap. You didn't have to worry about that too much, as your nano-weave took care of blending in to places.>He was just finishing up going over the roster with you, finishing up with the trespas-drifting crystal pony Citrine, and hands you a hefty duffle bag while he lifted a large black sniper rifle onto his shoulder and picked up an unloaded m249 with his other free hand. A third short m4 type rifle was slung to his side, and a large-caliber snub-nose revolver was holstered in a holder on his plate's sternum.
"So that's pretty much everything. We're leaving in a couple hours, just want to get everyone together quick to go over the plan once we get into Neighmara. You'll have some time to get anything else in order.">Making his way out of the Armory, the heavy weaponry clearly not impending his pace at all, You steadily approach the pagoda where you easily notice the Dagor and your new teammates. Or most of them, at least...
>>269281>With a full belly Blaze was not in that much of an irritated mood when the voice of Jeff roused him from his much needed beauty nap.>As the disembodied human voice rattled on about trains and riding books the Crystal Pony smacked his lips, still tasting the succulent Sliced Apple and oil cooked Hay Fries he had earlier on his tongue. This place had good food if nothing else. He could loiter around for some time longer for this fact alone, like the many Crystal Lambs that hovered near a table for errant food to be dropped back in the Empire.>Awake, Citrine went about finally exploring the Fortress, at least the areas he could wonder into. He was surprised at how many factions there were and even more so at how they behaved within the confines of the base' walls.>A lot of mares too.>He learned new songs from both human and equine alike including some not fit for innocent ears of the foals that galloped all around the place. And he was practically given free food and medical aid for the journey by the nice mares in both Mess Hall and Clinic.>Yet most important of all now he had a cloak that matched his hat to call his own!>He gave Lann the Chubby a tight hug as thanks and promised his songs were at her disposal whenever and where ever she desired.>With saddlebags weighty with supplies and a bounce in his step he bid the Honour Guard and Lann goodbye as he left the Workshop to rendezvous with the others whom were no doubt eager to see him again.>Finding the others wasn't hard for Blaze for all he had to do was follow the noise of the machine called 'Dagor'. Noah and Nevil were there already and he helped them as best he could by staying out of the way and going for a nap in the back seat.
"Don't worry I got supplies, you can thank me after my nap.">He said with mirth.
>>269282>checking the straps on his gear one last time and finding them to his liking, Lucius gives a quick greeting to everyone in turn>giving Citrine a mildly contemptuous look at his snooze in the backseat, he moves in to assist in loading up the Dagor, or whatever supplies were still to be loaded >after this, Lucius clambers into the backseat next to Citrine>>269599
"So, napping are we?">he clicks his tongue and shakes his head
"Typical Citrine, always slacking off when there's work to be done.">even so, you swear you catch Lucius grinning under the hood of his cloak>which you notice is now sporting a familiar looking type of fur>you also notice that said fur appears to be slowly but surely changing its color>as you notice this, Lucius pulls the cloak in around him, covering almost every visible part of his body>he sinks low in the seat, hood drawn forward, and you hear his voice coming from somewhere deep inside the furry mass
"Well, you'll be happy to know that I've spent some quality time thinking up new stories to tell - I can promise you that this journey will not be boring.">you hear him cap the statement with a series of throaty chuckles which drift out of the hood like puffs of smoke from a pipe
>>269284>There was a distinct relief to being able to do productive work on the surface of a planet, in the wide open spaces with gravity instead of on a space faring vessel--half the time cooped up in a cryogenics cell meant to keep one fresh for many, many years...>That, and the lack of idleness. It kept the existential dread at bay, and all the questions that entailed in the background. Though he'd be lying if what he had read in Hodch's journal had made for a particularly reassuring read... It made the questions even more pressing. >Tallus is a scary place...>>269599>>269646>As the last of the food supplies are safely stored inside the metallic containers of the Dagor's truck bed, Nevil looks up and finally takes note of Citrine being there. >By the way he double takes on the crystal pony, it almost seemed as if he had phased the pony out of his mind completely, for that while that he was loading things.
"Thanks, Citrine.">He thanked him in earnest, making his assumption that he actually did do something for them. His calm glance goes back down to the dagor bed as he locks the containers and double checks them.>Then steps back and takes out the clipboard Jeff had given him, triple checking that they had everything...
"I hope the heat of the desert isn't too bad on Crystal Ponies. I'm not sure exactly how bad the temperatures get, but I'm going to assume that it is pretty bad given what we heard about the place.">He also did cast one look to the (now very fashionable) Lucius, casting an amused half-smile his way for the statement about the stories.
"... Better be some good stories.">The Lieutenant Commander teased the Ranger, lowkey and almost beneath his breath.>He gives a weak, albeit earnest chuckle at himself. Even if his eyes didn't carry any mirth as his smile did, or as his voice did for that matter. >Looking up from the clipboard, he slowly puts it in his satchel whilst looking to Noah just to give him an appreciative nod of the head as a silent 'thank you'.
"We're almost ready." >He announces quietly.
"Just need everyone else to gather up. Hildermar especially... He should be here soon.">>269285>With that he turned around, leaning his back against the side of the dagor's backside to look towards the rest of the compound. And is rather surprised to see a new operator approaching them. >At first the Marine officer didn't quite hold his gaze on them, assuming they'd move on. But as the operator gets closer and clearly came to approach them, Nevil's somewhat deadpan gaze fixes on them fully, expectantly. And he silently observed the new operator approaching their little 'adventuring party'. >Nevil was a reasonably tall man. He was 6'2", but he was not very broad shouldered, more of a thin, modestly athletic look to him. Still he had a discrete build, clearly strong; and has a bit of a military stance in the way he looked at the new operator. Straight-backed, a slightly lifted brow, and a very inquisitive look in his viridian eyes.>He was clean shaven, crewcut, and looked weary; carrying a distinct eye-shadow. But he wore no scars, no marks on his face.>And he wore a forest green patrol cap with an official-looking red and white insignia patch nobody really recognized. His helmet still inside the satchel, as there was nothing else to fill the bag with on him.>Seeing as he was mostly packing heat in the form of multiple weapons. >Namely the new M78 grenade launcher slung around on his back with the bandolier of grenades across his chestplate, the large, futuristic M41A slung close to his right hip--along with the four, somewhat large, boxy magazine loops across the left side of his belt--one of which being empty. >Plus the black explosives pouch nearer to his hip. PLUS the pistol holster holster on the left hip with and the four assorted loops of the rig itself. >He was almost TOO heavily armed and packing perhaps a bit too many (or too few) explosives that were perhaps slightly overkill for their expedition? And that was without counting the boot shiv, and the survival knife.>His armor was a whole other thing in it of itself. Futuristic on it's own. A cream colored cuirass of post-modern materials, with several modular vambraces, bracers, leg plates, and greaves to cover the rest of his limbs and groin; combat boots, with ballistic gloves on his hands.>The silky, forest green uniform he wore beneath that boasted Marine Corps officer rank tabs, namely those of a Lieutenant Commander. >Nevil didn't say anything to the new arrival. Moreso expecting them to introduce themselves, if they had business.>And also moving his glance past him, as if still expecting others to arrive.
>In the armory, a young man in his early twenties picked at his fingernails with his dagger, biting his lip as he fussed about to clean them.
>He was wearing a set of clothes that seemed to shift and shimmer about him, playing the pattern of the armory behind him in a slight distorted look.
>Thinner and shorter than most, standing at a modest 5'7", his face was more narrow than wide, and his green eyes narrowed in concentration at the task at hand.
>Worrying his lip between his teeth, he raised a hand to wipe shaggy brown hair from his forehead, tucking it underneath a pair of goggles sitting atop a camo bandana, made of the same material his clothes were.
>Usually, picking your fingernails with a blade isn't that difficult of a task, especially if you know what you're doing.
>When you're dealing with a vibro-knife, however, one slight mistake means you just may remove one of your digits.
>Nearby, the young man's main armament of choice sat with his ruck and rig.
>An AKM with an underslung grenade launcher, an old firearm back from when Earth was the only planet of humans and the dream of having space colonies was long off.
>'Course, there was no Earth left, now.
>The Threk made damn sure of that.
>No use crying over spilled magma, though, as the Threk had been obliterated for crimes against existence for wiping most of Humanity from the surface of the galaxy.
>Just about the only good thing the Galactic Council was good for was making sure justice arrived...after it was needed.
>After humanity's planets were gutted slag, humanity itself became drifters, and applied the knowledge that had been gained in the many centuries of their existence.
>Mainly, fighting and singing.
>You realistically had only two choices as a human.
>Either hit it big as an artist on the Holo-net, or pick up arms at fight for the many squabbling factions in the galaxies abroad.
>And there was much in-fighting.
>These men and women that fought for money or glory were called 'Offworlders', in memory of all the colonies humanity had lost and would never reclaim.
>As a Offworlder, you made a name for yourself, carved out a little niche of bloodthirst, and laid your life on the line for the promise of a big payday.
>A Offworlder's name was his call to fame, and humanity loved to remember, so many of the Offworlders (and their companies, if applicable) would harken back to the old days when humanity had first discovered their love of pressing buttons.
>The Dragoons of Legend, the Guardin' Free Men, the Chosen of Daisy...
>This was what Jim was a part of, in the old world.
>But reminiscing on past events wasn't what was on Jim's mind.
>What was on his mind was killing this mind-numbing boredom.
>That, and picking the damn speck of dirt out from under his nail without blending his middle finger into fine mist.
"C'mon, ya farkin' little bit o' dirt, git outta there!"
>Just then, his radio sparked to life, causing him to jump and hit the vibration switch on his dagger, upon which he threw it at the ground where it buzzed angrily and clattered on the concrete floor.
"Ah, wormholes. Now I gotta find a way to get that cunt off, again."
>That, and respond to his radio.
>He'd think of a way that didn't involve finding multiple unicorns while he talked with whoever was pinging him on the radio.
"Jim 'ere. Whatcha' need?"
>The voice coming from the other end squawked.
"Ah, piss, didn't know it was you, Jeff. Sir, I mea-"
"Yeah, I know you told me to drop that. Anyway, whatcha' need? ...New job, out in the desert?"
>An excuse to get out of the base and kill the boredom, and get paid?
"Sure, I'm game. I just needa- No, you don't hear buzzing, why would something be buzzing? Nah, I didn't drop my vibro-knife again! Anyway, you guys out at the pagoda?"
>He began to grab his gear and kit up, well worn equipment sliding into place.
"Yeah, I figured. S'the place where we always get together. And for the last time, I didn't drop my-"
>Jim stopped and looked at his vibro-knife still rattling on the ground, and sighed, face reddening at the good natured laughter of his commander.
"...yeah, Imma need a unicorn or two here. Thanks, Boss."
>After having received support from the nice caster mares, Jim found himself loping over to the pagoda, vibro-knife secured in it's sheath and rig and ruck fitting nicely against his form.
>He hopped the railing of the pagoda, and advanced to jump into the back of the vehicle they called the 'Dagor', kneeling on one of the lips of the scout vehicle and resting his arms on one of the crossbars as he leaned onto the frame.
"Afternoon, gents. So, what're we tryna do all the way out in the desert?
>>269282> Joel greets his Nevil and Noah upon arriving and begins helping move things into the Dagor, extending additional greetings as everyone else arrives.> Once the loading is done, he makes a final check to be sure they're bringing enough of everything.> The busy work being done and everyone briefly stuck waiting on the new guy, Joel notices the shifting colors of Lucius' new and improved cloak and passes the time marveling at it.> Once the newbie did arrive, something far more pressing caught his attention: the man's rifle. He almost raised his weapon on instinct.
Aw, hell, they set us up with some motherless pinko? Boys, is it too late ta ask Jeff for a new one?
>>269281>As sudden as the pull from Hodch’s magic box was, it could not compare to how sudden Hildemar’s body hit him.
“Talk later, toilet now.”>The witch hunter powerwalks as fast as a man holding the floodgates shut can to the latrines.>Truly even benevolent sorcery is a blight upon mankind!>After his… business is concluded Hildemar returns to his barracks to drop off his heavier armor plates.>As much as it made his cloak look oversized without the armor, it was well worth not dying from the heat.>Then his stomach had a new complaint; it was far too empty.>After a quick trip to the mess hall to grab whatever looked most convenient, Hildemar continued to the pagoda, scarfing his breakfast down like a man who hadn’t eaten in over a day.>>270906>At least until he notices some stranger sitting in his group’s wagon.>Hildemar immediately puts on his interrogating face and increases his pace, crossing his arms and looking up to the man once he arrived.
“Who are you and why are you in our wagon?”>More likely than not he just missed out on the lad’s introduction, but it never hurts to be suspicious of unfamiliar people.
>>269599>>269646>>269652>>269778>>270906>>272320>>272995>Between backseat napping, cargo loading, casual strolling, and suspicious glaring, none of you really noticed Jeff approach from the side of the pagoda. Still unarmored, and wearing comfortable fortress fatigues, he saunters over to the Dagor's rear bed near the nameless new arrival and leans onto it.
"Alright, everyone's here. I take it you all enjoyed your downtime?">The commander eyes Hildemar >>272995, giving him an understanding nod.
"I hope your temporary stay in Hodch's cube-thing wasn't too hectic, Hildemar. I asked Lann and Krinza to keep themselves available if you need to get any of your stuff improved before we leave.">He smirks, fiddling with a hoodie string as he looks down on the glowing datapad on his left arm.
"So I know it's a little late in the game, but when I went and booked our train ride I asked around about the junction and anything we should be aware of about it.">A long hard pause captivates his attention into his forearm, but he waves himself off and jabs a thumb at your group's sudden seventh man.
"Aaaand I decided that we need an extra man on the team, for this one. So, without further adieu. Everyone: Jim. His skillset should help bulk up and round out our group. Which is good, since eight is probably the max capacity for the Dagor.">Even though there was technically seven of you, now.>Jeff pushes himself off and walks into the general center of your congregation, hands in his hoodie pockets.
"I also got in touch with a small group of contractors that are going to join us inside the junction. They have a job to do there, as well, so mutually teaming up was a no-brainer. We still have an hour or so, so you can all get acquainted in the time being and get any last minute preparations done. I have some things to square off on, before we get going too.">He starts off back to the barracks, but stops before he gets too far.
"Any questions, before I make myself unavailable until we're all ready to set off?"
>>269646>The noise of Lucius' voice woke him up from his cat nap, and with a yawn he answered the humans rhetorical question.
"Yup, gotta look good for the locals.">Fully awake the Crystal Pony stretched his legs in the air, groaning as he heard satisfying clicks coming from his joints.>Once this was done he knelt in the same spot and gave the Operator a once-over at his new clothing.>Very impressive.
"I ain't the only one that got new clothing too, looks very nice Lucius.">Citrine complimented.>"He is now hiding in all that fur...Oh buck...Maybe that isn't Lucius. Maybe I offended him. Humans do looks all the same to me after all!">Blaze peered deep into the fur to try and see the humans face again, but only got the familiar voice of Lucius.
"That's good to know, I could make songs out of some maybe hahaha...">Laughed the stallion to hide his confusion.>"Will have to play it cool until I get a good look at his face, his voice does match though.">>269652
"YOU'RE WELCOME!">He shouted in response by accident, his confusion making his tone louder than he wanted it to.>Blaze coughed involuntarily, his throat not being prepared for the scream.
"I mean you're welcome. And we Crystal Ponies are masters at controlling our internal heating, but just in case for the rest of you I brought some supplies to help with the sun.">He said with a sheepish smile as he indicated at his full saddlebags.>>270906>Blaze snapped his head at the new human within his midst.>"By Celestia's Mammaries there is another one!"
"Uh, hi. And we're going into the desert to loot some stuff. Also hi.">Explained the Crystal Stallion with a hoof wave.>>274246>He then snapped his head to Jeff, giving himself a pain in the neck while also staring at a pain in the neck.
"Jeff?! I uh ah..um- Enjoyed my stay here!">Sputtered the pony, smiling wide and sitting at attention.>"Jim? Almost sounds like jam, what a silly name. Mmmm, jaaam~..!">Citrine breaks out of his pleasant thoughts on jams and toasted breads at Jeff's question.
"Oh uh yes me, I got a question. What do these contractor ponies look like?"
>>274272>Almost comically, Nevil flinches his glance back to Citrine when he YELLS out the 'YOU'RE WELCOME'; giving the crystal pony a confused glance for a second, before softening again. >The knowledge that he could control his internal heating made the Marine smile in earnest.
"Good-good. We're off to a solid start then...">>270906>>272995>>272320>The officer-looking Marine, turning away from Citrine, would be the one of the first to greet Jim. He immediately squares him up with a glance as he takes his spot on the Dagor and greets them. >He doesn't even make it in time to say "Welc--" before Joel starts to raise his voice. And his gun, slightly; for a second.
"EASY, Joel. Let's not have any knee-jerk reactions with our own Operators; he's Razorback. That makes him one of us">He lifts a hand up in a disarming gesture towards the older operator, furrowing his brow with a measure of disapproval for his instinctive response.
"Give him a chance. He might not even be communist for all you know." >As he says that, he gave Jim a nod as he gives him a intent, meaningful glance as if to pass the microphone to him.>That's also coincidentally when Hildermare joins them. >Nevil barely had the time to turn his eyes when Hildermar, all inquisitive and with a powerful purpose in his stride, reaches them and promptly interrogates Jim immediately.>The Colonial Marine gives the Witchhunter a deadpan stare for a second. He scowled slightly at the man, not appreciating the suspicion--however healthy it seemed to them. Still, Nevil only watched from the background to see how Jim responds to it. >>274246>Jeff's arrival is unnoticed until he speaks up by Nevil. The man was focused on watching the others get acquainted to Jim in a (hopefully) reasonable manner. >Though as Jeff speaks to give them some extra, important information. Turning himself fully to Jeff, elbow resting on the butt of his rifle as he nods in acknowledgement when Jeff points out their extra man.
"We were just getting acquainted with our new member." >Nevil remarked in with a nonchalant tone towards Jim himself, nodding his head to him with a smirk, then looking back to Jeff quickly. >And instantly looses his smile when 'contractors' is mentioned. >The Colonial Marine finds himself nodding to Citrine's question. Before adding on his own.
"Anyone we've worked with before?" >His voice is perhaps unintentionally bitter as he asks that.
>>272320>>272995https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv158F3A7VM>Lucius pokes his head out of his furs at the sound of the newcomer, unraveling himself in the backseat and straightening up to get a better look>"Hrmmmm... his garb is surprising, more so than the others...">"Well-armed too, If I were to guess.">Lucius makes to greet the new guy but is beaten to the punch by Hildemar and Joel, who respond with suspicion and near-open hostility, respectively>the ranger instead decides to wait for the situation to cool off before making his introductions>he was very glad to see Hildemar return seemingly unphased>"I've always liked that one I have, wears proper gear he does...">>274246>As Jeff appears and does his bit, the ranger sits quietly, scratching his beard in thought>He wasn't really thinking about the job, though>"I wonder which one I will tell them...">He is, however, pulled back to reality when he realizes that Jeff has finished and asked for further questions>Lucius simply shakes his head placidly
"Nothing that has not been asked already, I'm afraid - whatever further hiccups we encounter, I am confident we can adapt.">he settles back into his seat again, still running over the tall tales he might tell>>274272>On this note, Lucius turns to Citrine, flashing a toothy grin and jumping with suppressed laughter
"Ah yes, your beauty rest, how could I have forgotten! Please, excuse my impudence, your radiance!">his sniggering stops only at the compliment to his new cloak
"Ah yes, like this, do you? I thought you might!">he pinches a corner of the fabric, bringing it up closer to Citrine's eyes so he can have a better look
"Look here, can you see? It is that strange beast we felled along the path to our last objective, the Acroline! I managed to skin the beast, and wisely so, it turns out! The fur has wonderful properties, miss Lann has explained it to me: after a short time, the fur of this creature changes colors to match one's surroundings!">the ranger guffaws in astonishment at his own statement, for dramatic effect
"Incredible, I say! Where I am from, scant few creatures possessed this ability, and none of them lived where I made my tracks, nay! 'Tis a kingly mantle, indeed!">he settles down again, a self-satisfied smirk overtaking his expression
"Ah, yes, the stories I have may work very well in song. I have one up my sleeve, you see...">he leans closer, speaking in a hushed tone so as not to be overheard
"One of these tales involves a woman, trapped inside a dungeon - a woman said to be monstrous! But, but, the hero, see, the hero knows better! Or at least he THINKS he -">but the ranger cuts himself off, the grin flashing briefly across his face again
"Ah, but I shall say no more, lest I spoil the surprise.">...>>274380>seeing Nevil smoothing things over, Lucius finally rights himself properly from the backseat>>270906>leaning his arms over one of the top roll bars, the man waves at you with a placid smile>you see a bearded man with off-white skin and thick black eyebrows, his face pock-marked, bearing a set of small but deep scars on his left (your right) cheek>he appears to be dressed in a set of lightweight green-tinted armor, much of it apparently made of some sort of dragon skin, if you had to guess>his hair is difficult to make out, owing to the furry cloak he's wearing, with the hood pulled up. You notice that the fur itself appears to be changing color, but it's so subtle that you think it might just be a trick of the light>the man calls to you from the Dagor
"Well met, Jim! I am Lucius, Lucius the Weary. I'm good with a blade and twice as good with a bow - I've been known to split arrows out to two hundred meters, and hit my target up to three hundred further!">Lucius whirls off the Dagor with a dramatic flourish, walking towards Jim
"I am also adept at wilderness survival, tracking, scouting, trapping, and I am a fair hand with a lock and tumbler, if I do say so myself.">Lucius approaches to arms length, extending his casually towards Jim
"Now that you know something of what I can do, pray tell my good man, what sort of things can you do? All of that strange, otherworldly equipment cannot be for nothing!"
>>272995>Joel calms his seething hatred for all things red to tip his hat as Hildemar approaches.
"Y'see, ah knew ya'd be fine.">Seeing Hildemar's immediate distrust of the new guy made him wonder... did he recognize it too? Was sorcery a communist tool? Was that why he was always on the look out for magic?>>274246
"Yeah Jeff, ah got a question. Why're ya talkin' like someone's goin' in the eighth seat?">"So his name's Jim, and not Ivan. Maybe I should cool it until he starts up the apologism.">>274272>Blaze's "YOU'RE WELCOME!" got Joel's attention, but by no means at all startled him.>The good ol' boy looked at him with something like confusion.
"Ah'm sorry, Blaze, but ah just don't think it's in me to be surprised anymore.">>274380>"Oh no, do they have Nevil, too?">Just in case, better to play along a bit and see what they were up to.>Joel took his hand off of Annabelle's rear grip and held her to his side by just the front.
"Easy, easy. Just a little force o' habit. Ah know we're s'posed ta be pals here.">Joel offered his now-empty right hand to Jim.
"Name's Joel. Nice ta meecha, Jim."
>>270906>Seeing and then feeling the new person jump in the back of the Dagor, he makes his way back to the vehicle alongside the others moving in>However, it seems suspicions has taken the mood as Hildemar starts questioning and Joel starts posturing>Good thing Nevil was here to calm that problem down>A little glimpse of his experience as an officer>When it all has settled down, he makes his way to the back with the rest of the others>Getting closer, he gets a better look at the man, who Jeff introduced as Jim>And as far as he could tell, Jim is way off Noah's tech level besides the AKM he has>After Joel offered his hand and greeting, Noah also offers a handshake
"I'm Noah, former police SWAT. Good to have ya."
>>274246>Jim clicked his tongue, shooting a finger gun at the....captain?>Would captain do?>It'd have to.>>274272>A gentle smile was offered to the unicorn.
"Hey there, little buddy. Ye, Jeff let me know earlier. Hey again.">'Weird unicorn. Cute little dude, though.'>>274380>Confusion graced Jim's face when the ten gallon hat bedecked called him a 'pinko'.>What was that?>The other operators seemed to not be aware of the various galaxies about, his off-handed mentions of the Skreth and the Leyanin completely flying over their heads, so the obvious connection to the fluffy pink eldritch creatures called Diens wasn't what was being referred to, here.
"Er, roight. What 'e said.">He leaned into the expertly dressed military man and stage whispered to him.
"Roight, what's a communist?">>274470>Oh boy, finally a friendly face!>Well, not that Jim really knew him from before, but at least he wasn't staring at him like a Tentaviper would burst from his chest.>Hey, that actually wasn't a bad idea!>Who would expect a multi-headed snake-thing to fly from someone who appeared defenseless?>...now that he thought about it, could he maybe...?>Nah, they don't have that level of bio-tech here.>Yet.>The spacefarer's face alights with a grin as the (admittedly) primitively armed man rattles of his skills, more than a few of which were familiar.
"Ah, a man after me own talents, eh? I can tell the two of us are gonna be as close as drop-pod squaddies!">Upon seeing the blank expression from most of the people around (except for Nevil), he rubs his head embarrassedly.
"Er, thick as thieves, then? That work for ya?">Regardless, he asked for a brief synopsis of what Jim could do.>A normal situation, at last!>Most clients desired to know what their hired help could do, after all.
"Well, I'm pretty close to your skillset, I reckon. I don't rightly know about pickin' locks, but I never found a problem enough high-grade explosives couldn't fix! Er, not that I really use them a heck of a lot, but...">He shook his head.
"Eh, I'm talkin' rot, again. Well, for starters, lemme start from me tip and end at me stern, har!">The offworlder reached up and tapped on his glasses balanced atop his bandana.
"These beauts are Tacti-Goggles. They got night-vision, zoom, hell, even a minor dummy AI for targetting!">Wait, low tech world, woops.
"Er, by that I mean it helps me shoot things better, out to a point, least.">He picked at his clothes with a thumb, raising it off of his form before letting it settle.
"Me clothes 'ere are actually nanite-embedded fatigues. They harden in response to physical trauma, and let me blend in to whatever kill-world I've found meself the unfortunate pleasure of bein' on. Minor stealth stuff, y'know?">Finally, he pulled out his vibro-knife.
"And this? This is a knife. But not just any knife.">Jim flicked the switch on the handle of the knife, causing the thing to hiss and sputter, the blades blurring into a soft line as steam spat forth from the mechanism.
"Fifteenth generation Vibro-knife. Can cut through hardened steel with just a snicker-snack! Handy for creatures with bloody great exo-skeletons. Had Krinza look it over, and he plopped a frost seal for cooling, or whatever, on it. Now it looks as cool as a cobicumber in the frozen moons of Hosrel III!">Blinking once more, he chuckles to himself.
"Sorry, I keep bringin' up stuff none a 'ya know about. It's...really cold. Annnd that's 'bout it.">He looked around at the assembled party of individuals.
"Now, what can you lot do? If we're showin' and tellin', that is.">>274636>The drawling man who accused him of being a 'pinko' earlier changed his tune right quick when the marine got on his case.>'Huh, a respect for authority. Is Nevil some kinda field officer, or summats?'>Regardless, he took the tan man's hand, and shook it briefly.
"Nice to get acquainted with ye too, Joel.">The man's hat seemed to glisten in the ambient light, and Jim tilted his head, whistling lowly.
"Now that's right bloody proper hat, there! Y'know of any more around I could get whenever I'm off mission?">>274659>And the second to last offered him his hand and Jim took it, shaking it more earnestly then he did Joel's, as this man had yet to accuse him of being something.>Of what it was, Jim wasn't sure, but it probably wasn't good, given the man's clear vitriol.
"I'm Jim, current Offworlder merc. Glad to be breakin' out of the doldrums.">Noah's armor, while certainly primitive, did catch Jim's eye as being very sturdy.>However, with the nasty beasties and lot about, maybe not standing and taking the blow would be the better option.>But hey, maybe it was actually possible being that magic was a thing, here.>Jim wasn't fully convinced it wasn't just high-grade nanites being commanded via scripts, but hey, the end result was the only thing that mattered, and this 'magic' could do a lot of matter, indeed.
ROUND 3>>275452>Catching your finger-gun out of the corner of his eye, Jeff gives you a side-glance and a mutual wink right back.>>274659>>274470>>274380>>274272>Jeff takes both of your inquiries in at the same time, but he addresses everyone broadly.
"Very good question, Citrine. Lucius. While I was in Neighmara I bumped into some humans from my first wave that left a while back to go do their own thing. They run a small private security firm, for anypony rich enough to hire humans as novelty protection. among other things. Seriously, Royce is NOT shy about selling that part every time.">The person he mentions gives off heavy tones of being the one in charge.>He pauses, narrowing his eyes and crossing his arms enviously.
"They're smart enough to stay out of a lot of inter-pony and political problems, so they keep to themselves. Must be nice. Pfft. Anyway, they said they have work to do in the junction too. A client escort, I think it was. A donkey? No. They preferred the term burro... burrito?">The commander scratches his chin with some considerable effort, but ends on shrugging his shoulders in defeat.
"Anyway, we made an agreement to help eachother out, complete our respective jobs, then we go back on our own ways. Aaaand they have a transport as well, bigger than our's, so we don't have to be crammed into the Dagor the entire time!">As convenient as the Dagor was, it was packed enough with the six of you. But with the addition of Jim, it was going to get claustrophobic.>Joel's question even compounded the situation with an additional member.>>274636>The question in which you're rewarded with Jeff raising a knowing eyebrow at you, then nodding in a 'cats-out-of-the-bag' defeated motion.
"Because of... the sensitivity of Scholar's research, and his justified paranoia, I think it would be better if I accompany you guys. IF he does end up being there, he should be more willing to cooperate if he knows someone previously.">Jeff shrugs, not giving much of a reason for rebuttal on the matter.
"The more the merrier, at this point, right? Don't worry, there'll be more breathing room once we get into the field. Which reminds me... I was supposed to give some of you something, but I forgot.">He doesn't get too much of a change to try and remember, when as if on que a shuffling is heard behind the Dagor.>A crimson pegasus Nightguard with pink wingtips pops from behind the vehicle, a nondescript duffle saddled on his back, shooting you all a nodding salute before addressing Jeff.
"Sir! Krinza told be to bring these to you. You forgot them?"
"Oh! Yeah, I did. Thanks, Blitz.">The gratitude makes Blitz's wing flutter appreciatively, and he mouth's the duffel's carry handle over to Jeff.
"You're welcome! Bye!">The stallion happily trots off, leaving you all to eye the bag Jeff was gifted with. He immediately zips it open and pulls out-
"Gas masks, well half masks! This junction apparently gives off a type of miasma, according to the locals. It's not deadly, unless you're in it for a long time, but it's not fun to breathe in. Thankfully, I didn't hear anything about eye irritation.">The masks were only designed to cover the nose to neck, and were made of a composite material with visible rubber seals and cross-straps to keep them in place. There seemed to be seven to fit human faces, with one with an elongated shape to clearly fit a pony.
"Now Krinza made these himself, after re-engineering some of our's. Which means that Hildemar, Lucius, and Citrine you're all free to wear these without suffering any Era-Lock effects. Noah, Joel, Nevil, Jim. I know you guys are from eras WITH gas mask, so you can either use these, or ones you're more comfortable with.">He hands masks out directly to Hildemar, Lucius, and Citrine, leaving the duffel with the remaining on the Dagor's bed.
"I'd practice getting them on in less than thirty seconds, at the most."
>>274636>Nevil's eyes remained on Jeff for a few seconds longer, his expression somewhat serious and not-at-all amused as he watches, but he doesn't frown or glare in any way. He just seemed very serious about the "We're Razorback" bit.>Seeing them shake hands with Jim made Nevil's smile tug into a weak, but earnest smile.>>275452>Turning to the OffWorlder as he leaned over to ask that question, the Marine Officer turned his head more towards Jim attentively. >His question seems to make the man purse his lip deep into his cheek for a second in a brief, but light grimace.
"Long story, and it's very political where me and him are from. I'll tell you later--just know that Joel hates them passionately, and I'm not keen on them myself."
"Them being the "enemy", after all.">Nevil's words are spoken quietly and with a degree of stiffness in his honesty. >Though the last part is spoken somewhat lightly, as if it were only a half-truth from the Marine.>Nevil gives Jim a welcoming nod and slight smile. Leaving Lucius to greet Jim while he'd turn his attention away back to Jeff.>>276972>Nodding along with Jeff from the background, he rests his arm on his rather large pulse rifle hanging at his hip. The way Jeff introduced 'Royce' to them made Nevil smirk briefly as their boss wears his envy openly.
"Burro is Spaneigh for Donkey, if I remember correctly." >Nevil would helpfully pipe up at seeing the Commander's "confusion", his tone staying even and calm. Not showing amusement, even if there was some in the way he smiled for a second. >The mention of an additional vehicle does make Nevil's left brow rise slightly with interest and curiosity, though he doesn't ask. >Quickly, his expression would even out. Not saying much. Though he does give Blitz a small wave and a smile from the background just to greet them and wave goodbye before the pegasus would leave. Following the duffelbag with his eyes.
"A type of Miasma, Jeff?">Nevil's tone becomes slightly more serious as he stepped forward to the duffelbag at the Dagor's bed.
"Not Eldritch related, is it? Just something that the ground gives off on it's own near the Junction?" >He would half-turn his head to look back to Jeff as he picked up one of the half-masks and gave them a closer examination just to see how he could adjust the straps to better fit his head.>Luckily Nevil was fairly rigorously trained in CBRN and EVA so quickly donning and doffing a gas mask was one of those things he could do very quickly.>Nevil spends a moment adjusting the gas mask, before taking off his hat to put it in the satchel, and then start wearing the mask to test it and further adjust it, all the while stepping back to look to Jeff again with an attentive glance.
>>275452>Listening to him further, speaking to all of the squad members, he can't but be amused with his manner of speech>Noah barely remembered what a doldrum was>After shaking his hand, Noah turned his attention towards Jeff>>276972>Another human mercenary company?>And has no political dealings with the current state of this world?>Jeff was right, must be lucky considering the flux Razorback seems to find itself in>Having a short chuckle after Jeff's fumbling with the Spanish language, Noah was happy to learn about the other group's cooperation as well as the possibility of having a bigger ride>As familiar the Dagor was to him, being a passenger couldn't hurt>He is surprised as he learns about Jeff joining in on this mission>Noah knows about some of the very veteran operators in this compound, Jeff being one of them>Noah would consider these folks to be borderline magic themselves with the feats they have done or experienced>He always considered Jeff to be the more administrative one, hearing about other vets always going on missions nonstop>Seeing the pegasus appear and drop off a duffle bag, Noah makes his way to the back of the Dagor and see what's there
"What does the miasma look like?">Noah follows suit after Nevil and grabs one of the masks>He gives it a look over before practicing putting it on>It shouldn't be too much trouble given his prior training>It might be easier since it was only a half mask>Noah does check the seals on it and adjusts it to fit him before taking it off and storing it on his chest rig
"That's good, Jeff. Welcome aboard, but we might have ta sit Blaze in yer lap.">Joel grins and chuckles at his own joke.
"If yer givin' me the choice, Ah'd take these little respirators over the full face kind long as it's safe.">He practices getting the thing around his face a few times without taking his hat off, finding it quite different from the big bug-eyed things he was familiar with.
"Can't wait ta meet this Royce feller. Sounds like quite a character."
"Yessss~">Said Citrine in a prolonged snake like hiss.>>274470
"You're excused Lucius, just don't do it again.">Blaze said in a jovial tone.>The Crystal Pony looked over the fabric and new cloak that the human wore, and it was indeed made from the animals they killed.>Which was a good indicator that it was the real Lucius after all.>Possibly.
"It is really a good cloak and you wear it well on your shoulders, and hey when you get back home you will make a lot off of it if you sell it.">If what he said was true then this human could make a good gold coinage off of it, just like what he himself plans to do when he can get the buck away from this Fortress and its infernal guardian, Jeff.>Woomen?>'Like hooman? Does he mean Mares? Must do, not like I've seen one before.'>When this look-a-like-of-Lucius spoke to him in a hushed tone he leaned in to hear, the shallow breaths of the human making his ear twitch.
"Sounds like a good ol' tale Foals would hear back in the Empire before bedtime, but we can wait after the desert to start writing songs.">Blaze promised to the hooded human.>>274636
"No need to apologise...?">The Crystal Stallion said with his own brand of confusion lacing his words.>>275452
"Yes we are. Remember to ask when your human coat is getting burnt by Celestia's fat ass cheeks.">Blaze reminded Nevil for when the blazing sun blazed its gaze onto him leaving him covered in a glaze of sweat and dying in a heat haze.>>275452
"Good to know, welcome aboard. Hi again to you too also!">Said Citrine to the new human.>Another one.>They just pop up right from the ground don't they.>>276972>'More humans? Out there in Neighmara? Been there so long they set up a Hired Goon business too, why are all humans just soldiers or something?'>'Donkey?'
"Donkey?">Asked Blaze with a face scrunch, never heard of them before but they don't sound like an Equine.>And a burrito you eat? They haven't left and he already has so many questions.>Something bigger than the Dagor too? Thank buck for that! As much as he liked it Citrine could not see anymore ponies filling in this cart, unless they wanted to hang off of the side.>He then zoned out as he went back into getting comfy, only some words penetrating his mind as he made his ass comfortable.>So much so he did not hear the shuffling sounds coming from behind them.>Only when the exchange between Jeff and Blitz was over did Blaze look up, and was surprised to see that a large bag materialised in Jeffs' grasp.>'Huh where did he pull that from?'>His thoughts were interrupted at what Jeff said and made his mind race.>That, he was supposed to wear that? HOW WOULD ANY MARE SEE HIS BEAUTIFUL JAWLINE?!>And horror of horror there was one fit for him.>As he internally processed this travesty Jeff gave him his, so unready he panicked and fumbled with it in his hooves.>It flopped around like a damn boned fish.
"Eww! It feels weird!">Neighed out Citrine to the sky, why has life forsaken him so...
>>276972>"First wave, eh...">The ranger can't help but wonder silently to himself about what these other humans might be like>He does perk up at the mention of a larger ride
"Ah! Yes, indeed, more leg-room would be most welcome! By the by, about how many others will we be meeting?">Lucius cocks an eyebrow at the gas masks, appraising them cautiously, but taking one all the same>tentatively he looks over at Citrine to see if the pony knew anything about how to get the thing on, only to find him...>Playing with it.>The ranger tries to figure things out on his own, but after a few minutes winds up with it strapped upside-down on his forehead>With a heavy sigh, swallowing his pride, Lucius ambles over to Nevil>When it looks like Nevil isn't too busy, he taps him on the shoulder
"Uh, well, this is a little embarrassing, but... could you perhaps... show me how to operate one of these? I have never encountered such a device...">After being kindly shown how to operate his gas mask, Lucius then goes about practicing with it, following Jeff's suggestion>"30 seconds or less... 30 seconds or less..."[1d6 = 1]
> Master Reaction Speed[1d6 = 6][1d6 = 3][1d6 = 2]
>>276972>Alright, so there's a off-shoot band of mercs in Neighmara.>That's good, Jim'd have to talk to the locals, see what indigenous nasties he could use in his favor.>Annnnnd of course they'd whore themselves out.>Not like Jim can say anything, humans in his...oh, bugger, what did that science-y type call it?>Plane?>Yeah, that was it.>Humans in his plane of existence were basically the same.>Jim looked over the Dagor, then the present company, then the Dagor again.
"Ye, sorry lads, we're gonna be packed tighter n' thermal slugs in a helical mag cuz a' me.">And captain dude was comin' along with!>Nice.>Jim sinks with the introduction of gas masks.
"Aw, bugger all, masks? Well, at least they won't cover me goggles.">>277105
"Well, alrigh' then. Business time innit the right time for it, I s'pose.">Jim took a moment, before rubbing the back of his head awkwardly.
"Jus' as long as you lot know I'm on yer side. I'm not too keen on bein' plugged by friendlies.">>277733>Right friendly little thing, wasn't he?>Jim was half tempted to respond with another 'hello' but then again, they'd be there all day if he kept it up.>With nothing left to say or ask, Jim practiced putting on the mask.>Shouldn't be too hard, after all, he'd had to deal with improvising and using xenotech before.>No matter what species it was designed for, it never fit a human quite right.
>>276972>>277950>Hildemar quickly quieted his outward distrust towards Jim and crammed it back inward, just like he does for everyone else.
“Very well then, Jim, if Jeff is vouching for you then I’ll trust that you’ll be of use to our group.”>He uncrosses his arms and adjusts his hat.
“I am Hildemar Veiel. Since leaving the Old World I’ve become a private investigator, specialized on arcane misuse, hailing from Manehattan.”>Just specific enough to describe himself, not specific enough to let his real focus out the bag.>Having finished greeting the new member, Hildemar accepts the gas mask and cautiously puts it on when he’s told it won’t vaporize.
“”Gas masks” eh, such items could have been tremendously useful where I came from.”>Hildemar takes the mask back off and makes sure there wasn’t any straps he neglected when first putting it on before finding a spot to stash it on his armor.
"Is it? Spanish was never my forte.">Moving right along Jeff takes notices of your queries about the miasma first, projecting for everyone to hear.
"Okay. So you all remember the red fog from Junction 7? It's going to look and behave exactly like that, except a little thicker and purple. It seems indicative as a side effect from junctions in general. This one, though, sounds like it can cause hallucinations if inhaled for too long. Might as well demo this for everyone, while I'm at it.">Pulling out one of the masks, he loosens the double head straps to get it over his head easily.>>277888>>277733>>279698
"Especially for you Lucius, Hildemar, Citrine. Get it situated on the bridge of your nose, and around your jaw, pull the straps back for a decent fit for now.">He pulls the upper and lower straps simultaneously, clearly someone who's had practice doing this.
"Next: put your hands, or hooves, over the filters and try to breath in.">Demonstrating, voice now slightly muffled, he makes an audible inhaling noise within the mask as he places his palms over the dual filters. But it stops abruptly, and you can all see the side of the rubber seals suck in slightly as his face strains to take in breath.
"If you can't breathe, you have a good seal. Then adjust the straps fully until they're nice and snug. Good to go. IF by any chance you have to put it on in the mist: hold your breath while putting on your mask, then breathe out once you have it sealed. Yes, I know, Citrine. Rubber isn't exactly a material you ponies have exactly gotten down yourselves yet. Krinza reverse engineered some of ours and formed his own recipe. Hmm... are you going to need help getting that on?">One of you manages to get your mask on, as per Jeff's demonstration, incredibly quick and efficient. The commander stares amazingly, but it's only eye-deep.
"Wow Lucius... perfect! And you managed to get a seal with that beard? Krinza must've put a tiny sealing enchantment on these or something... Also It sounds like Royce has three others with him, not including the... burro. By the way-">>277716>>277950>Looking over at some of you giving Jim a hard time, he narrows his eyes and crosses his arms authoritatively, not bothering to remove the gas mask.
"May I remind all of you that whatever societal quarrels you might have to other humans mean nothing here. We're all under the same roof, in the same boat, whether you're a member of Razorback or not. If it's Jim's rifle you're concerned about because it's of Russian make lemme tell ya- He has one of the better guns for the dessert. And one of Royce's crew is Russian. Painfully Russian. Almost as painfully Australian Royce himself is.">Jeff smacks his forehead, groaning, but switches to a heavy goofy accent.
"'G'day mate! Throw some shrimp on the a barbie, ya dingo!' Don't mention I imitated him. He and I tend to bump heads, but it's nothing malicious.">Eyes shifting left to right, he reaches behind his head to undo the straps and peels the mask off his face. Taking in a refreshing gasp and putting the mask in with whatever ones were left in the duffel.
"So if that's everyone's questions, I have to get a few preparations of my own underway."
>>279729>Now flopped down lifelessly in front of him, Blaze prodded the icky feeling gas mask with an inquisitive hoof.
"You better not be some kind of leech.">Warned the pony as Jeff explained why they were using the masks.>Was it a fair trade to put some yucky bug on his face to protect him from magical gas? Maybe.>Hearing his name being called did get his attention and Blaze snapped his head to see what Jeff was babbling on about.>The Crystal Pony wore a face of confusion and slight disgust as Jeff demonstrated on how to put the damn thing on, that this rubbery thing was to be so tightly stuck to his face.
"I uh-">Is what he said initially before looking down at the mask and pawing at it with his hoof when Jeff referred to him.
"N-no...I'm good.">He lied, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.>'I am not a foal I can do it myself MOM!'>Citrine flicked his eyes over at Lucius, eyes slightly narrowing in jealously.>'If he can do it so can I! Don't need no stupid hands.'>He grumbled internally.>Though this foalish mood was easily replaced when he heard Jeffs' voice change, making him swing his head back to the masked human.>What was that?>It certainly sounded painful, what terrible creature talks like that?>Was it the mask, did it change Jeffs voicebox? WILL IT CHANGE HIS?!
"Yeah, that -that is everything Jeff sir.">Blaze said, still shaken and stirred by the terrible revelation, still pawing at his gas mask.
>>277950>Nevil quarter-turned his head from Jeff when Jim spoke to him in reply. The look in the pale Colonial Marine's eyes was a welcoming, but also serious one; frowning, but with a soft look in his blue eyes.>By that time, he had his mask on. Breathing in to make sure it is sealed correctly. Not even a single hint of discomfort coming to him during the process.>Then he takes it back off and stuff it in his mostly empty, large general pouch on his belt.
"Once we get situated on our train I'll tell you more. If you want to.">Nevil stated with a lighter voice. Then it deepens slightly as he is quick to shake his head and a grave-looking furrow his brow at Jim's second statement second statement.>His glance darting down once, taking note of the way he rubs the back of his neck.
"Once they get to know you better they'll be less worried about it, don't worry. You look like a reliable and chummy person, and these are proper people--and crystal pony. They won't do stuff like that, I promise." >He waved his hand in a pacifying gesture somewhat, and weakly, but genuinely smiled reassuringly.
"Relax, Jim. If anything particularly bad happens, tell me about it and we'll deal with it together. I'm here for all of you.">With that, he gives Jim a slight nod before he'd turn back towards Jeff to pay attention. Especially as Hildermar goes to introduce himself.>>280154>>279729>>277888>Nodding his head once towards Jeff, Nevil breathes out a slight sigh of relief, even if it had the weight of a sigh that carried some worry with it nonetheless.
"Doesn't sound too bad then...">Then, steps aside somewhat to oversee the less technologically inclined members of the squad, keeping an eye on them to see if any of them needed some additional help in some way.>When Lucius comes up to him for help and tapped him, Nevil was of course quick to step a bit more to face Lucius. Though making sure his rifle was very secured and out of touching range at his side, same for his grenade launcher, shifting it more on his back instead.>Taking off his officer's cap once more and putting it in the same pouch he put the gas mask into.
"Here, watch me do it.">Nevil takes out his own gas mask again and starts going through the process of wearing. But slower, so that Lucius can keep up and see exactly the method he was using.>He pulls the strap upward so that the clasp goes over his head--same as Jeff's example.
"Clasp goes over the head, like this. Make sure it fits snuggly with no holes anywhere--that's when you know it's the correct size. If it's not snuggly, it's too large. Keep it in mind for any half-mask respirators you use. It must fit tightly on your face, to prevent gases from skipping the filters.">He shows, and tutors Lucius in the process. Watching him intently every step of the way to make sure he had it down. >Nevil quirked his brow and smiled from behind his mask at seeing how quickly Lucius does it after having been shown. Leaning over to look over Lucius' mask to check the straps and clasp, then nods in approval.
"Well done. Now you know how to wear it correctly, and quickly. Easy, right?" >Side glancing Jeff for a moment as he comments on the fact that Lucius had done all of this while sporting a massive Zeus beard. >This made Nevil chuckle once, nodding to Lucius again with some amusement.>Taking off his mask again so that he doesn't have to speak with it on, he folds in the strap--also slowly in case Lucius wanted to see that too, and puts it back into the pouch.
"Keep in mind Lucius, the filters--">Nevil taps the bulbous components on the sides of the respirator with a finger before putting it fully in his pouch.
"--Don't last forever. On AVERAGE and while actively using it, these types of filters will last 8 hours before needing to be changed.">He then glanced towards Jeff again as he made a remark.
"Unless the filters are not conventional and don't follow those rules, of course.">Sweeping his glance away towards Citrine when Jeff shows him how to wear his pony gas mask. Watching those expressions, and slightly pursing his lip with some empathy.>Darting his glance between Lucius and Citrine once... He seems to be on the of stepping in to assist somehow, but then stops.>Nevil quiets down to listen to Jeff as he changes the tone. Hands slipping subtly behind his back as he assumes a more officer-y posture, straightening the back and shoulders. Listening with an understanding, agreeing look in his eyes.>Even as the goofy Aussie accent comes on.>Nevil seems remarkably unphased at hearing it. >Nodding slowly in understanding to the mention of them butting heads.
"Unless there's something important to know about Royce's companions to mentally prepare ourselves, that's about it for questions from me.">Then, his eyes moved back towards Citrine. Watching him paw at that gas mask.
"Citrine.">He called to the Crystal Pony with a bit of Marine aggression to his otherwise calm voice.
"Are you going to let yourself be defeated by a half-mask!? I thought nothing could keep you down. That you were a strong, independent crystal pony!">He gestured a hand towards the crystal pony, and to his pony sized respirator.
"You can handle it, can't you?" >Nevil looked at Citrine intently, challenging him, as he stepped more behind the other Operators to get closer to the pony, nodding down to his mask. Lowering the hardass Marineness in his voice now that he's closer.
"That mask is the difference between going on a wild, unfun, magic hallucination trip in some thick fog and NOT going on a wild, and probably spooky magic hallucination trip in some very thick fog."
"And no, it's not a leech.">Nevil made sure to point out, furrowing his brow with some muted amusement towards Citrine as he went to stand just a bit away from the Crystal pony. Arms akimbo as he looked at Citrine, to see if he needed more help than Jeff's.
"--That'd be very gross. Now c'mon, put it on. That way you wont have any trouble later on."
>>279729>Thicker mist, purple, and requires a little bit of exposure in order to start seeing things?>Noah thought to himself easy enough to remember>Noah takes a deep breath in his mask, getting used to the fit before taking the thing off again>He looks over to Hildemar, Citrine, and Lucius, seeing if they needed any help but Nevil is already covering them>He even got a small reminder of the filters being able to last 8 hours, something Noah forgot about>His attention does snap to Jeff when his tone changed to a more authoritative one>And he is right, we're all Razorback now, regardless of societal meaning>Noah had to learn that when working with revolutionary types within the Fortress>He nods in understanding>He does appreciate the sudden break in seriousness when Jeff puts on that god awful Australian accent>Seeing Citrine getting some trouble with the mask looked amusing to Noah
"I never heard these things get referred to as leeches. C'mon Citrine, you got this.">Noah start making his way towards the Dagor and hops in the driver seat
"About time to start heading out everyone?"
"Ya'll don't have ta worry about me, scout's honor.">Joel raises his fingers in a salute.>'Just gotta remember not to be too jumpy on this mercenary guy.'>>280154>He turns his gaze uneasily to the pony gas mask being presented to Citrine.>'Can't blame him at all that thing's horrifying.'>>280234
"And yer more than lucky that's the only that's the only thang that'll happen to you, Blaze. Sure would be a shame if those vocal chords o' yers got chemical burns along with the insides o' yer lungs.">Joel settles into a place to sit for the journey and starts to make himself comfortable.
>>279729>>280234>the man nods appreciatively at Nevil
"My thanks! You know I daresay that I may be beginning to like you after all, Nevile.">he says with a chuckle, muffled by the half mask still strapped to the underside of his face>you see his eyebrows raise in a brief moment of surprise
"Oh! Right! I'm wasting... what did you call it... 'filtration'!">he removes the mask just as quickly as he'd gotten it on>>280238>with this, Lucius ambles back into the rear of the Dagor, standing up with one arm gripping a part of the roll cage, and another swinging the half mask around his index finger by a strap
"And here I thought no one would ever ask! Yes, let us away at length."
>>279729>Thick purple gas?>Sounds like a bio-poison, or something.>Especially that hallucination bit.>Maybe it's a natural occurrence, and not magical.>Hopefully so.>Jim sat by, playing with the mask as he watched the other in-experienced operators putting on the mask.>For him, it was easy as pie, if a bit annoying to have the lack of easy breathing.>It's a shame that he couldn't have brought in a mask from his universe.>Ah, well.>He removed it shortly after trying it on, just to get the feel of it.>Yep, still sucks.>And here comes Jeff with the save.
"Aw, s'nothin I can't deal with, boss. Xenophobia ain't exactly uncommon in th' outer rim.">Still appreciated, though.>However, Jeff's impression of the individual who is leading the group they're supposed to meet triggers some memory Jim had.
"Oi, how'd you know what me ol' C/O sounded like? Spot on impression, mate.">He missed his old crew, but these people weren't bad.>>280234>Jim nodded, tilting his head slightly.
"Ye, I'd 'preciate it. Jus' so I don't tread on any toes. An' ye, I'm a pretty easy-goin' fella, if'n I do say so meself.">Jim offered a final nod, turning his attention to the others.>>281432>Jim really hoped he'd be the same, but he'd have to wait and see.>Though, he'd prefer never having to find out, to be sure.
>>279729>Having forgotten to check the seal on his mask, Hildemar puts it back on and fiddles with the straps until he’s happy with them.>The mask is immediately removed again, as it would truly be a shame to cover up his carefully cultivated mustache.>He nodded along to Jeff’s little speech about tolerating people similar to enemies from back home, suppressing a quick chuckle at Jeff’s imitation of such a strange accent.
“I can’t say I have any additional questions for the time being.”>>281432>Hildemar overhears the old man refer to himself as having “scout’s honor” and quirks and eyebrow.
“I never got the impression you do very much scouting, Joel. Perhaps when you were half your age you could have kept up.”>The witch hunter for the most part ignores Citrine and all the attention he’s getting, and instead makes his way to the back of the Dagor near Lucius and Joel.>Once he’s seated, Hildemar removes his hat and double checks how much extra gun powder he has.
“So, have either of you worked in the desert before? Because I certainly haven’t.”
ROUND 5>>280154>Jeff snirks at your assumption at the weird rubbery face mask.
"Don't worry Citrine, it's not gonna eat your face or anything. Though the mask is a little oddly shaped to fit your muzzle, that's just how it is dude.">He's ultimately pleased you were able to get the mask on by yourself, and gives you a thumbs-up and nod of approval despite your visual disapproval of the floppy bug on your snout.>>280234>>280238>>281432>>281832>>281970>While some of you mull over the limitations of the mask's filters, Nevil is the one to actually address their longevity.>At which Jeff is more than happy to reply to, trying to remember the specifications of the design.
"They actually are, Nevil! Lann and Krinza created a layered mesh puck of weaved anti-microbial... multi-planar spider silks. Then there's a self-cleaning enchantment on them, so they'll last indefinitely. Providing they don't get damaged or dis-enchanted in any way.">You all figure it's another par for the course for magic.>>281938>Jeff nods at your self re-assurance, he rolls his eyes as he peels his mask off.
"Then I hope you get his slang more than I ever did. He's got names for things I can never figure out if it's a good or bad thing. Pssh.">>280234>Nevil asks about Royce's other human companions, and Jeff looks out at nothing in particular while counting to three on his fingers.
"Let's seeeee. I know Yuri's going. He can probably keep up with you, Joel, in terms of drinking. Then there's Jan. She's not particularly chatty. And I think Kenny. Damn, I hope Kenny's going. You'll see.">He visually gets excited at the last human mentioned.>Jeff notices Noah getting into the driver's seat, as he starts to walk out toward the Workshop.
"Get whatever you guys need. I'll be back in half an hour or so, then we can start heading out.">He gives you all a backhanded wave with his right hand as his left raises chest high to give off a blue glow from his forearm.>Clearly he was preoccupied, even when strolling through the Fortress.
>>281973>Sitting pretty in the driver's seat, Noah gets as comfortable as he can>Going through the checklist in his head, he determines that he has everything he needs>Water, rations, ammo, gun, more water>He turns back to the group from his seat
"Y'all can go ahead and get your stuff. I'll be sitting here.">He then turns the radio on and places his hands behind his head>Savoring the downtime, Noah's mind begins to wander and leads back to his law enforcement career>Those small mundane encounters, it all seems so far away now
>>280234>The tone from Nevil made Blaze snap his head towards the human, and stopped poking at the mask to address him.
"FINE. I will put it on, you're as overbearing as Princess Cadence.">Huffed Citrine as looked at the mask one more time before he threw his beautiful into it.>After rolling around for a minute fighting desperately for his life he was finally victorious in putting the damn thing over his muzzle.
"Her eh ehh ongh, hahheh?">Asked the Crystal Stallion as he turned his head about to show Nevil his hoofywork putting sticking the mask onto his muzzle, not realising his voice was muffled by said mask.>>281973>Blaze huffed and puffed finding the mask wasn't doing great for his breathing. It chaffed against his crystal skin, it was too tight, felt weird and he was already feeling the increasing condensation within the mask making his lips clammy.
"Ah ong ah ang auul do geh dih hing ouh oh meh faae ang neheh erh eh ahan.">He said, speaking fluently and concisely about his feeling on the matter.>Blaze didn't notice Jeff talk or walk away as he was too preoccupied popping his mouth open and closed, the vibrations from the mask on his muzzle whenever he made a sound tickled him.>This was a perk at least.>>282174>Blaze craned his neck to look at Noah in the drivers seat of the metal box.>He didn't need anything, he was as prepared as can be!>Well, he could use the company of a mare, but he assumed there will be plenty where they were going.>And this time he wasn't going to lose anyponies money!>Hopefully.
"Eih ohreheh hah eheheaheng reheh, ehen hun hrem.">He told Noah proudly. Chest puffed out. He thought of everything as a leader should!
>>281832>Lucius' first statement coaxes an amused 'pfft' from Nevil, flashing the ranger a small, but almost playful smirk.
"Better late than never I suppose." >He nods in appreciation, then lets his smirk ebb away to his usual, more neutral and usual look as Lucius worries about wasting 'filtration'.
"The filters. Don't worry too much about it. Active use is when you're actually using it to filter things from the air. Stuff like dust, or gasses. It can clog overtime and make it harder to breathe." >With that said however, he'd turn his head to look to Jeff as he likewise clarified the longevity of the masks. Quirking his brow and giving one impressed nod.
"Magic sure is convenient...">The Colonial Marine said flatly. Then looked off a little bit, thinking to himself a little more.>>281938>Without interrupting Jim's attention span by talking, the Lieutenant Commander simply gave a quick nod and a confident thumbs-up in response. >All without really changing his expression. The man could be quite stone-faced... As he'd move onto Citrine.>>282180>The crystal Pony's statement made the man just roll his eyes, briefly eyeing Jeff as he replied.
"I'll take that as a compliment.">Nevil's voice had since lowered to a more reasonably, less challenging, calm tone once Citrine had began to put on the mask instead of regarding it as if it could leap at his face and eat him. >His goal accomplished, he no longer needed to be domineering! For now. >Nevil puts his arms akimbo as he focused his glance on Citrine. And blinks with CONFUSION at the absolutely unintelligible stream of words that was emitting from Citrine's masked muzzle. >His left brow rises in a questioning, mildly upset stare as he goes to walk beside Citrine to look at the straps of his mask.>It was probably TOO tight...
"Citrine I did not catch a single word. You sound like when you're eating.">>281973>For a moment, Nevil let Citrine walk off to hang out with Noah for the time being. The expression of concern fading quickly as he focused on listening to Jeff's reply, only sometimes glancing to the side to check on Citrine with errant glances.
"They sound like a fun bunch. Agreeable.">Nevil replied quietly, lifting a brow with interest at the topic of 'Kenny'. Whom remains a surprise for the time being.>He then followed Jeff's glance towards Noah, quarter-turning his head in their driver's direction, then back to their commander as they start walking off.
"You got it, Jeff." >He watched him go for a moment, his eyes drawn to the blue glow coming from their wrist. Quietly staring at their base commander's wrist device....... >How he WISHED he could get one too. >But with that, he turned back around to face the Dagor, and their entire party. His eyes moving between Citrine and Noah.>>282174
"Noah. Help out Citrine if you could. We need to be able to understand what he's saying while he has a mask on. I think it might be too tight on his face..." >He gave Citrine a second look, squinting towards that facemask.>Then lifted his eyes towards their SWAT officer again.
"I am going to go fetch something from storage. I think some sunglasses would do good for this outing. And I'm going to go on the safe side and grab a brick or three of C4... If you know how to set them up, because I don't.">He gives Noah a quick nod, then begins to turn around to briskly stride off at his own eternally hurried military pace towards the Armory.>Also speaking into the radio to address everyone else briefly. Nevil's voice coming to their collective ears from their earpieces.
*"If any of you have any last-second requests for items or gear, simple or not, tell me now and I'll see if I can requisition it."*
>>281970>Joel chuckles at Hildemar's perfectly reasonable interpretation.
"More lahk a quarter my age. It was before mah time in the army, back when ah was a boy. Think of it like a club where they teach ya survival stuff and how to be a good man.">>281973>Joel stops to ponder if her forgot to bring anything, then after several moments realizes he forgot to bring his extra plates just in case and goes back to his room to retrieve them, stashing them somewhere within reach of his seat when he gets back. >The whole way there and back, he fumes silently to himself about being compared to a man named Yuri.>>282180
"Ah'll be damned, Blaze. The more you wrestle with that thing, the more it seems lahk it IS tryin' to eat ya. Maybe give that to us one more time without the mask?"
>>282174>>282180>>282232>>282513>>281970>>281938>>281832>The half hour goes quick after Jeff leaves for the North end of the Fortress.>Preparations that any of you make on, around, or inside the Dagor blur by as your intrepid commander appears back into view from the same way he left from.>Now packing a lot of gear, personal by the look of it, and some big heat.>The primarily black and patterned blue armor he had on at Junction #7 was still visible, but the main armor parts were covered with desert camouflage coverings; most likely courtesy of Lann. Black in the desert tends to overheat.>A matching assault pack and helmet were hauled on his side in his left hand, a PDW-sized M4 slung on his front, and a monstrous black sniper rifle hefted up over his right shoulder; the stock folded over the ride side of it.>He gives you all a smile behind a pair of polarized shades before walking over to the Dagors' right side and dumps all his gear into shotgun. Pack and helmet in the seat, M4 of top of those, and the rifle resting vertically across the entire seat.
"We all ready to go? Don't worry about packing into the truck. The train station's within walking distance, once we get there. Noah, I do need you behind the wheel though.">Jeff smacks the hood of the Dagor and walks into the Pagoda to bring up the translocation stone's matrice.
"Either turn in or hoof it, boys! Heh, only Citrine can 'hoof it'...">He takes a bit of effort to properly locate Saddle Arabia, and then Neighmara. And then another sub-list of the citie's available translocation matrices.
"Noah! Roll it on over here, so we can head out."
>>282232>Blaze cocked his head to the side at Nevil saying it sounded like he was eating.>'If I was eating I would talk with my mouth full like any upstanding pony.'>He thought as he tugged at the half mask with his front hooves, stretching its straps tight so to speak clearly.
"This has to be tight so I don't breath in any bad air, last thing I want is my luscious voice being hurt!">Citrine said, an undertone of horror painting his words.>>282513>Mask still held taut in his hooves he looked to Joel.
"I just said that I have everything done already and ready to go. Got enough Sun Screen to cover Celestia's fat flanks!">Laughed the crystal pony.>>283542>By the time Jeff returned to them Blaze had replaced his mask, quietly breathing in and out to get used to the feeling of the plastic rubbing against his crystal skin.>A mostly fruitless endeavour.>He stiffed up.
"I am ready to lead the team and got plenty of supplies and food!">As Blaze moved his saddlebags jostled from its contents, they were indeed full supplies.
"I would be shocked if any human here had any hooves, just saying.">He just said, he really hoped there were no humans with hooves around, because if there were he might actually have a heart attack.
>>283542>The Colonial Marine had gone and then come back within the space of maybe 15 or so minutes. >Taking a trip to the barracks and the Armory, He came back wearing some new Aviator shades that subtly gave him an aggressively 1980s when paired with his patrol cap. >He had stored away his Combat Pistol and it's belt holster rig, seeing as the thing was now as useful to him as parade armor in combat and just served to look dangerous and weigh him down. Making a mental note to simply get better knives.>And also now had a metallic pocket watch with the local time on it, a rugged-enough professional electronic stopwatch, and a compass he had neglected to carry in the previous operation. >Nevil also returned carrying a small box under his arm, which housed about 3 bricks' worth of plastic explosive, which he had slipped it in alongside the boxes of additional ammunition they also had on the Dagor.>Better to have explosive than to not have explosives, he said.>With that said, he still felt like it was not enough explosives.>Unreasonable concerns aside, he had promptly taken his position on the Dagor's more central backseat to be able to man the MG when they did get going. Given that he was still about 12 minutes early until Jeff came back, he busied himself by giving the ol' Browning a cursory inspection to ensure it was all in tip-top shape, freshly cleaned, and checking the safety. >Naturally, as Noah had been in charge of this, he had a smile of satisfaction on him at the state of the HMG, the turret ring itself (which he gave a few testing turns of to make sure it was smooth enough), and at the layout of the gear and equipment they were storing. He did double check--for no reason other than to pass the time and to ease his own mind.>It had to be up to Colonial Marine Corps standards, too.
"Everything seems squared away... We're looking good. Now if only we had matching uniforms and proper camouflage.">The Marine Officer remarked absent-mindedly, with one glance being given towards Hildermar's antiquated and high-visibility Witchhunter outfit in particular, right as Jeff returned.>Turning to greet their Base Administrator with a confident glance, Nevil turned to face them while comfortably standing in the turret ring of the Dagors' weapon. Arms leaned at the sides of it like a truck driver and with a usual deadpan (if slightly more eager) look to him. >As Jeff began to tell Noah to roll the Dagor forward, Nevil casts a look down to the SWAT officer as he slips down from the ring and takes over a backseat to buckle himself.
"I hate this part..." >He can be heard grumbling in the background as his eyes followed Jeff, and was already bracing himself with a hand somewhat.>Nevil STILL really doesn't like getting translocated...
>>283542>>284413>Joel settles into his seat, contemplating Blaze's apparent obsession with Celestia's flanks.>'Guess he's an ass man?'
"Ah'm all ready, let's get to it!>The old timer buckles himself in and prepares himself for another round of teleporting>>284784>>284785
"Same as always, just gotta pray you end up in the same spot as yer ass does..."
>>283542>the ranger checks his gear, making sure that his bow and arrows are strung and tightly affixed to his person, respectively>he gets momentarily distracted while double checking his stock of adamantine arrows>anyone watching sees him lovingly caress the edge of one arrowhead with the calloused skin on his right thumb, eyes unfocused and apparently lost in thought>he stands this way for a few minutes after all the packing is done, only snapping out of his reverie at the return of Jeff>for a small moment his expression belies some degree of shock, as if shaken from a deep sleep, but the moment passes, and within moments Lucius is seen clicking the heels of his boots together and standing stock straight, giving Jeff an extremely exaggerated salute
"Aye aye, captain my captain, verily I am prepared to march forth, into danger, into the waiting arms of death itself! For king! For country! For glorious loot!">he then unsheathes his longsword, holding it by the pommel in his left hand with the blade resting over the attached left shoulder like some kind of musket, turning towards the teleportation matrix and snapping comically to attention once more>as the Dagor begins to advance, so does he, marching in an exaggerated goose step beside it
Hey shill, stop bumping old threads
Chapter 3: Magic Carpet Ride
ROUND 7>>284413>>284784>>284785>>284873>>286547>Taking all of your vocal and idle replies as a confirmation to continue on, Jeff nods and turns back around to finish inputing the runic coordinates. His voice loud enough to carry over the Dagor's idle growling.
"Alright. Neighmara... train depot... and here. We. G-">Before Jeff can open a vortex and send all of you on your way, a green-handed suited arm shoots out of a white tear in reality and grabs onto the commander's wrist. Stopped mid-typing, Jeff's clearly taken aback but relaxes and steps backward as the tear widens and reshapes itself into a properly shaped door - out steps good ol' Anonymous; his green and question-marked face wrought with urgent panic.
"Wai-HOOOOH-ait!">Stumbling slightly, the tall suited avatar puts his hands on his knees visibly exacerbated as if he had just sprinted a hard mile.
"Hildemar...HOOH! Not safe yet! Hruff! That's the fastest I've ever moved in a- huh, while.">Contrary to Anon's franticness, Hodch casually approaches from the East. His 4th dimensional ever-shifting cube in his magic grasp hovering several feet above his head.
"Yes. It appears Anon's estimate on the Era Lock was off. It's already re-honed itself onto Hildemar. We can both sense its approach, unfortunately.">Anon took the unicorn's add on as a personal critique, pinching his nonexistent nose before shooting an accusatory finger at Hodch - who was unphazed at the gestalt's directed anger.
"Noooooo! Sun Bitch's spell is just really fucking persistent! He'll have to go back into the cube! Immediately!">Through Anon's outburst he snaps his fingers, Hildemar immediately blinking out of existence and Hodch's cube expanding triple in size for a second before reducing back to its dice-sized resting form.>The urgency now having been resolved, Anon lets out a loud sigh of air and wipes invisible sweat from his brow. Hodch gives Jeff and the group an apologetic shrug as he stores the small physics-defying cube into his robes.
"Hildemar will have to remain with us again, our apologies.">The tall suited green man doesn't offer any audible condolences other than crossing his arms and letting out a pouty huff of air in reply.>Jeff's initial taken-aback reaction is replaced with a solemn lean on the Dagor's front bumper, scratching the back of his head awkwardly in response.
"Any idea how much longer? We're scheduled to board that train in at least an hour. And I don't know if Anon can transport him to us when we get near our drop off point.">Hodch furrows his brow, a front hoof brought to his chin in heavy thought.
"If you don't hear from either of us before you depart, then consider him unable to participate. His or any of your lives can't be risked with a premature release. The Era-Lock will chase him down to the ends of Tallus if needed."
"And I'd be that whole scrambled egg bit once you all get to that outpost.">The conversation between the three fizzles out, Anon being the first to start walking out of the pagoda with hands in his pants pockets ready to punt and imaginary rock. Hodch giving the group a short bow before departing right after him.
"Don't wait up Jeff. You're good at adapting with what you got."
"Yes. Hope this doesn't hinder your progress too much. Best of luck, to you all!">With your group once again left alone, and now one less, Jeff shrugs back to everyone and re-inputs the intended coordinates.
"Nothing we can really do I guess. Let's try this again...">At an instant, a much wider than usual red metallic swirling vortex opens up and sucks you all into a blood red tunnel.>The climate change is immediate, even before exiting the vortex: from the fortress's comfortably mild regulation, to a stark dry-hot and arid atmosphere.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcbqjpBOsmkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaURaThDS5g>>300243>The metallic red tunnel spits you all out onto a medium translocation matrice, overlooking a small yet bustling sand-swept train depot. Most if not all labellings on crates and miscellanea identified the depot workers as Dragonspine Mountain Mining Company with local Neighmaran Saddle Arabian militiaponies mixed in with Dragonspine Legionnaires. Saddle Arabian merchants were either dropping off, receiving, or following depot workers around to keep an eye on there trade goods.>Backrounding the constant moving of crated goods stretched a single freight train not too much different in size than the Behemoth; it's number of cars countless with both ends out of eyesight. A tall similarly-uniformed minotaur can be seen pacing back and forth between two cars, as there seemed to be a gap in the endless steel serpent.>Up behind you all started a series of rock steppes, the first level looked to be the residential area of Neighmara and further up was mostly obscured by more levels of steppes and a large all-encompassing glass wall.>Refocusing on the here-and-now, the Dagor had seemed to halt several ponies in que to using the matrice. Most were merchants either gawking at the Dagor wondrously, or visibly irritated at the hold-up. Several militia ponies guarding its perimeter were giving your group some silent ques to move the truck, as some Saddle Arabians decided to just circumvent the loud and gassy vehicle to go about their business.
"CIA! Fashionably early, I see!">How none of you managed to initially notice the only human in a sea of ponies leaning against one of the matrice's support pillars was boggling, but it didn't seem to matter as he flicked a depleted cigarette butt into the sand-covered cobble and dug it in with an armored boot.>Jeff looked over at the man addressing him, his face not too impressed by the given nickname.
"Hey Yuri. Everyone, Yuri. One of Royce's. What do you mean? We've got like an hour for them to load up our stuff.">'Yuri' was well-built and well-armored from the waist-down in flora camo pants and greaves and thigh armor, but only sporting a white and black horizontal-striped t-shirt for the desert heat. His short grown-in beard and slicked-back black hair put him a round the same age as Jeff, and we wasn't shy about flashing his lightly sun-burnt tan skin. And his thick accent was undoubtedly Russian in origin. To those of you that knew what Russian was...
"They got some last minute larger shipments in, and they didn't factor in our trucks and extra passengers. They have to add more cars to accommodate us all. Might take an extra hour.">>284785>Jeff nods at Yuri's explanation, looking over at you and everyone else and raps on the Dagor's hood to get your attention.
"At least we don't have to rush. Noah, let's move off the matrice and over to the train.">That was some sort of que for Yuri, as he pushes from the support beam and looks over the Dagor intending to follow suit. He leans over at Jeff, looking back at the group as he scoots in front on the truck.
"Cute little buggy. You weren't kidding when you said you were bringing a 'mixed bag.'"
"Eyyy, everyone I have here is plenty capable.">Yuri begins leading you all through the depot and toward the train, keeping a slow pace to keep the Dagor at a safe crawl through the crowd of workers. Who naturally give you all a wider berth.>>284873>Regarding pleasantries on your own time, you look around at the bustling depot as the Dagor inches toward the freighter.>The Dragonspine company was mainly here for the granite depot one level above, but they maintained the train depot as well; contracted out by Neighmara itself for ground transport across the neighboring regions.>Looking behind to check out the steppes of Neighmara: you recall the first level above you all being mapped out as the densely-packed lower residential and craftsponies, all in Late Crystal kingdom style, everything else up past the glass walls was the famous open market. At your current position, was blocked off from view.>The Legionnaires and militiaponies gave you all a casual enough berth. Listening on to some Saddle Arabian side gossip it sounded like they knew you were all showing up, but confused a second set of humans have arrived.
>>300243>Citrine was confused at the commotion that was going on, but he kept his muzzle shut as he'd only mumble thanks to the tight fitting face mask.>That didn't stop him from jumping in his seat in terror at seeing Hildemar vanish in thin air.
"AAAAAAH!">He screamed.>...>..>.>For a good ten seconds before passing out, the mask interfering with his breathing and effectively knocking him out temporarily.>>300255>When Blaze awoke he was in a new place awash with ponies, still in the Dagor but the location was different.>And with a different human talking to them.>*Great, another one.*>Pleasantries out of the way with "Yuri" the Crystal Pony stood up as high as he could and looked out at the bustling crowd all around them.>This was his first time here so seeing so many different ponies made him nervous and excited.>When he laid his eyes on the buildings he recognized them immediately.
"Ah cool, this place used be a part of the Crystal Kingdom. Not anymore obviously. Aw, I'm homesick now...">He said with a slight pout, which was quickly replaced when he went back to taking in the sights.
>>300243>>300255>Lucius's demeanor quickly resets to one of increased professionalism at the sudden arrival of Anon and Hodch, sheathing his blade and smoothing out his new cloak>He ambles back into the Dagor properly again, and attempts to offer the both of them his undivided attention... that is until Citrine completely loses his mind>Concerned for his friend, Lucius takes a second to check his pulse and confirm that he'd simply knocked himself out before loosening one of the mask straps just a bit to allow the pony some added airflow
"Such a ridiculous creature...">Yet he can't help but grin a little. 'Par for the course for Citrine, really,' he thinks to himself, finally settling back into his seat and readying himself for the journey>Upon exiting the red portal, Lucius is, like many of his newfound cohorts, understandably wowed by his new surroundings
"I know that the Fortress at times can get busy, but I haven't seen such a crowd since my visits to Caledon proper as a young lad. And all this sand! I'd been told stories of the desert back home, yes, but never did I think it would look...">The ranger pauses for a moment, allowing his head to travel the full breadth of his new environment once again.
"So majestic! What a far cry from the pines of the Griffon-lands and the dense pines of my home...">Lucius does spare this new Yuri character a nod, wave and coy grin before returning to his thoughts, like Noah keeping a wary eye on their new surroundings>'I must try and learn more about this place sometime soon...'>>300258>Though not long after, his private monologue is cut short by Citrine waking up at last>He promptly elbows Citrine in his haunch
"Homesick or not, Citrine, you must realize that we won't be needing the masks just yet. Pray remove it, lest you suffer another fit of panic and faint once again."
>>300243>There is a loud silence from Nevil as he merely shifts his eyes towards Anonymous as he shows up in a hurry, not a single shift in the officer's expression. At first.>He does flinch slightly when Hotch followed into the scene and straight-up teleports the Witchhunter away before his eyes. >Seeing a man disappear like that was still weird to him. It took him a full second to come to terms that Hildermar had teleported; his mildly perturbed eyes blinking once, before going impassive again. >Instead he turned his head as Citrine began to scream like he was being stabbed.>Nevil's starkly deadpan stare remains on the crystal pony, as he literally watches Citrine FAINT, because they forgot to take off their mask. >A slight sigh exudes from the officer, as he still remains tense and fully ready for the translocation. Which happens shortly after.>>300366>>300255
"Hrm." >A light grunt comes from Nevil, the gaunt-looking man slowly opening his eyes and letting out a slow breath.
"Forgot the sunscreen.">He gave a slight glance towards the truly massive train. Blinking as his eyes adjust to the sunlight and he comes to terms with the dry heat.>He quarter-turned his head towards Citrine, who was still passed out at their first seconds of arrival. He makes sure to lean over and tactfully puts a hand on Citrine's mask's strap to loosen it, and then start to lower it to their neck just in case they were somehow suffocating.>Then just leaned back again.>Moving his eyes to Lucius once with a look of quietly exasperated look in his dull blue eyes, as he'd look off again towards.
"Didn't think a pony could freak out about teleportation harder than us.">He goes to look back towards the train to admire it's size, and watch the going-ons of the ponies there; even quietly observing the ones going past their vehicle just to stay vigilant. He couldn't fully lower his guard in places like this. >And there was just so much to see...>The militiaponies, the Dragonspine Legionnaires, the merchants, and that important-looking Minotaur, as well as the gap between the carts of the train.>Then his attention was taken by the armoured man greeting Jeff by nickname basis. >Nevil nods once and holds up a hand in idle greeting to Yuri, still looking them up and down as he listened to the news they brought.
"A mixed bag of woop-ass and standard aggressive bumblefucking. We even have our own mascot." >Nevil remarks nonchalantly in Yuri's general direction, as his eyes trail off to give Citrine a singular meaningful glance--not a derisive glance but mostly an off-handed joking glance to make him know who he was talking about. And then keep observing things going on around them out of rote.>He does keep an ear out for the gossip that just so happened to reach his ears. He didn't really understand the local language, but he still kept his ears open out of habit.<E. Perception [1d6 = 2][1d6 = 3][1d6 = 2]
>>300243>>300255>Jim savored the fading feeling of the transportation matrix, sighing wistfully.
"Ah, love that feelin'. Reminds me of cruisin' around the southern galaxy with me mates back when we was fightin' for the Tretins. Think livin' tree people.">He explained, just for the brevity if anyone was listening in.>The voice of this 'Yuri' was oddly familiar in it's accent, but many different people sounded like his universe's various peoples.>'Remember, Jim. Don't just assume that some o' the lads know what yer talkin' bout.'>Then again, it was quite obvious to tell that Yuri wasn't from Jim's universe, what with the lack of any nano-tech.
"Charmed ta meet ya, Yuri. Heard your boss sounds like some of me mates wheres I come from.">Jim busied himself with looking out over the Neighmaran townscape.>'Eh, kinda reminds me of me own homeworld. From what boss man said, seems like it's every bit as deadly. Wonder if they got any giant spiders 'round here...'>>300258>>300366>Jim turns to look at the panicking unicorn who passed out, and was helped by Lucius.
"Ye, first rule of hazardous environ gear- Don't wear it 'less ye need to. Limits ye movement n' such.">He raises his eyebrows at Lucius's admissions.
"Don't worry, mate. Ye'll be cursin' the bloody heat soon 'nough. Specially with these doohickeys.">Jim said, lifting the half mask slightly.
"Ye know, now that I think about it, ya reckon we shoulda got some goggles t'deal with the smoke? Not sure the cap'n 'ere-">Jim jerked a thumb towards Jeff.
"-cleared it, but maybe it ain't 'xactly a good idea to get th'stuff in yer eyes.">>300369
"Eh, cute little bugger would make a good mascot, wouldn' 'e?">Noticing Nevil's attempt to focus in on the crowds, Jim followed suit, though his was more of a visual check than an eavesdrop.>Flicking his goggles down over his eyes, the neuro-link automatically activating the zoom function for the tacti-goggles.[1d6 = 2]
<B. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6+4 = 8]
>>300243>>300255>It takes Joel a good few seconds to get his jaw back up off of the floor after the surprise of the big green man coming out of thin air only to whisk Hildemar off into thin air.
The more magic ah see, the more ah feel the same way Hildemar does 'bout it.>>300258>>300366>The old man can't help but chuckle he realizes Blaze had paniced himself unconscious.>At the same time, he moves to help him out of the smothering mask only for Lucius to beat him to the punch.>When Yuri approaches, Joel gives a nod of greeting and then moves on to examining the surroundings and making sense of the place, particularly the wall of glass, with what he'd read over the last day.[1d2 = 2]
<A. Lore: Saddle Arabians >He also gives a listen to whatever the nearby locals are going on about, putting his new knowledge of their language to the test.[1d6 = 6]
<E. Perception[1d6 = 4][1d6 = 6]
ROUND 9: 1/2>>300258>Your frantic thrashing, panic, and subsequent fainting spell is only compounded by multiple sets of human hands grabbing at your gas mask one-after-another, still attached to your face; desperately trying to free yourself from its rubbery grasp!>>300369>As expected you had no idea what was transpiring in any language that wasn't Common. Luckily most merchants and depot workers were conversing in it. You pick up mostly snippets of supplies being handled: coffee, chocolate, un-melting ice from the Crystal Kingdom, cloth, sculpting and gem cutting supplies, it mostly seemed like raw materials mostly were being moved in than finished products being moved out.>You did notice other than the hot steam emanating from the train's off-distant engine, and the coal stores, a faint smell off roasted coffee lingered in the air.>Between your convo-eavesdropping you do notice Yuri picks up on your comment, looking over at your aforementioned 'mascot' and outbursts a chuckle.>>300612>Recalling what you've read about the city earlier: the glass wall several rock steppes above from where you all were was the barrier protecting the open air market and the granite depot the Dragonspine Miners were working on. It kept the majority of sand storms and sound from the stalls.>One steppe above the train depot was the densely packed residential district, which held most of the living space in its Late Crystal Kingdom style - Citrine audibly reminiscing on such.>And the next level right below the walled off market was the industrial district. The majority of artisan stalls, as well as concessions were packed there; the best ones, you recall, were embedded into the steppes walls for better protection against the sand and dust storms. A little tidbit to remember, if you all have time to shop or get a bite to eat.>Keeping a mental note on the steppe's tiers, you keep your ears open on the crowds around the Dagor. The Dragonspine workers weren't much interesting, as they kept to their business moving cargo around the depot and directing hoof traffic in common.>You do spot one particularly elegantly-dressed coffee-brown saddle arabian mare tailing the Dagor's rear at an even pace; a young stallion was flanking her left sporting a train officer-like uniform. You catch their conversation out of the crowd, as they were speaking the very language you had been studying prior to arriving.<Saddle Arabian>"-sorry, Miss Espresso! I must have assumed there was only one group of humans arriving."<Saddle Arabian>"Did it NOT occur to you separate Royce Byron and Razorback's bookings?"<Saddle Arabian>"... th-they were marked down with the same initials.">This 'Miss Espresso' scoffed and threw her head back in frustration only before giving her young assistant a significant leer.<Saddle Arabian>"For fuck sa-no matter. Point me out their chief, I believe his name is Jeff. I'll smooth everything out with the delay."<Saddle Arabian>"... I can't tell. Maybe the one in front with one of Royce's humans?">Their conversation trails off to delivering ice cold water to you all immediately, but the mare keeps a focus on your groups procession to the freighter.>>300481>Yuri acknowledges you with a two-finger salute, but then smacks his forehead with a perplexed look and an exaggerated laugh to himself.
"Ohhh no! Two kangaroo jacks?! Hegh! Kidding me!">You take full advantage of your zoom-enhanced goggles by peaking up in the Dagor's bed and easily overseeing the crowds as Noah creeps the truck towards the train.>It appears that Yuri was leading you all directly to the assumed gap in the train car's, as well where the minotaur was pacing. With your goggles, you quickly find out it wasn't actually a space, but an empty open flatbed car. Right next to it was a team of four unicorns along with the minotaur who moves its mass out of the way to reveal another desert-color tactical vehicle. Its makeup was similar to the Dagor, but was definitely larger and more armored: fully closed of front and back cabin, extended trunk bed, armored gun ring also sporting an M2 on it.>As the unicorns begin moving around the human vehicle at its corners, you notice one human observing to the right; wearing a black plate vest and light red and desert clothing underneath with a worn-out red cap. His back was to you, noticing he also has an AK variant in desert camo slung on his back.
2/2>>300256(and Everyone)>You keep a slow and steady pace as Jeff, Yuri, and the Dagor's diesel growl cuts a path through ponies and saddle arabians alike.>Everyone is aware enough to give the group plenty of driving space, but gawkers were aplenty and any conversations were deafened out by the truck's engine.>Eventually, the Dagor opens up to the foot of the train. A team of for unicorns and the minotaur, all dressed in Dragonspine attire, strategically surround a larger up-armored desert-painted human vehicle.>A lone human, lightly armored in tactical gear turns around at the sound of the Dagor's engine and Yuri and Jeff's conversation.>A scruffy-faced man around Jeff's age wearing a worn out unlabelled red cap. He walks over to Jeff and gives him a mid-five in greeting.
"Jeffy! Ow're ya, mate."
"Hey Royce.">Introductions are interrupted as the minotaur thunders commands to the quad of unicorns, horns poised at the other tactical vehicle.
"Ready! Aaaaand lift!">All four unicorns light up their horns, the truck's tires being clutched in different magic auras and a synchronized lift takes it five... six... seven feet into the air.
"Hold!">The minotaur squares up with the hovering human armored rover, and places both gargantuan hands on it and steadily pushes it over toward the flatbed. The unicorns on the left safely shuffle out of the way while still maintaining their magical grip, as the taur positions the truck over to the front end of the bed and lowers it down into place until only several inches remain.
"Release!">The unicorns let go of the tires, and the truck's suspension creaks at taking the shock load to fully situate itself on the train. The minotaur dusts its hands off with a loud clap, and the unicorn take a breather before looking over at the Dagor in exasperation.>Jeff nods over at the coordinated effort, then back at Royce.
"So that's the Husky."
"Little more meat to it, than your buggy here.">Yuri remarks, pulling out a pack of cigarettes from a thigh pocket and lighting one up with a lighter in the shape of a .50 cal round.>Royce on the other hand looks out onto everyone else giving you all a half-assed salute.
"These your mates? G'day, gents!"
"Yupp. Guys, this is Royce. Head of Royce Contracting.">Royce does a quick head-count of the group, looking a little puzzled.
"You missing a bloke?">Jeff nodded, letting out a knowing sigh.
"Had to stay behind. The Era Lock wasn't letting up on him."
"That was almost two days ago? Dooley, fuck me dead."
"Speaking of, where's the rest of your team?">Yuri chimes in between smokes.
"Jan's off escorting the client around, and I think Kenny's wandering the market. Probably stuffing his face with street food."
"It's not like we don't have time. I heard they still need to add on a few more cars.">Royce nods, confirming Jeff assumption and looking back at the group confidentally.
"One of Neighmara's councilmares is fast-tracking the whole thing. Vanilla Espresso I think. Your mates'll have time to roam around, defo!"
>>300366>Citrine released a startled neigh from being 'bowed by Lucius, such an unprovoked assault left the stallion wobbling in place as he tried not to fall back into his seat that he was standing in.
"Hey! Only way I will suffer anything is if you keep prodding me like that!">Whined the crystal pony.>>300369>Huffing, Blaze went back to look out at the passing herds of ponies. Its only when he could smell all the different exotic aroma's did he realise his mask had somehow fallen out of his muzzle.
"Oh, must've fallen off somehow.">He shrugged and went back to sight seeing.>>300481>The Crystal Pony snorted and looked over to Jim in embarrassed annoyance.
"I was told to put it on so I did, not my fault that thing makes breathing hard-.">He was cut off by the human hoofing at his mask that was around his neck.
"Stooooop..! Stop touching my things!">He mewled, jerking his body away from the groping Jim.>>300612>Now slightly further away from everypony Citrine eyed all the humans wearily, including Joel.>"Bet he'd touch my stuff too!">He thought to himself as he stared holes into the back of Joels' head for a moment.>>300675>>300676>Once the train was in sight Citrine watched Blaze focused all his attention on whole scene being played out with the Minotaur, Unicorns and other human vehicle.>...Which appeared more bulky looking than the "buggy" he was currently in.>Why wasn't there's that big and bulky!?>And of course more humans as well, all currently conversing with Jeff.>Sensing this is their stop and not wanting to be in the Dagor when the Dragonspine crew lifted the Dagor into the trains' flatbed, Citrine hopped out.
"Think we can get out now everypony.">He said to the others as he thudded his hooves into the Saddle Arabian dirt.>The other group of humans along with Jeff were talking about some stuff and nonsense about espresso, he didn't like espresso, it ran through his system doing more bad than good.>Trotting up to Jeff's side and basically butting into the convo, the pony looked at all the new faces before adding in important information to the subject and was vital to the mission.
"We ordering drinks for the train ride? Can I get cappuccino instead of espresso- Oh! And with chocolate on top. Also Hi I'm Citrine Blaze.">He enquired before hastily adding his greeting at the end to the new humans, and Jeff.
>>300675>Creeping the Dagor forward, the glass walls glinted off in Noah's peripheral vision and Noah glanced up for a second to look at them>He didn't know how he missed those, but they still amazed him nonetheless>Made him wonder how thick those things must be>His attention snapped back to the vehicle as Noah hears rustling in the back>Looking in the mirror, he sees Citrine fumbling with his mask and Jim and Lucius messing with it as well>Confused, Noah continues creeping the Dagor forward hoping that they'll figure it out soon>>300676>Soon enough, he sees what is supposed to be their designated spot for the train>He also sees that the flatbed car is enclosed and has some unicorns and a minotaur standing near it>Hearing Citrine's suggestion, Noah stops, parks, and turns off the Dagor and watches the minotaur's team lift another human vehicle into the air and onto the car>That vehicle looks more armored and like a Humvee than Dagor>Hopping out, he gives Royce a salute back to him
"Pleased to meet ya, my name's Noah.">Hearing about the missing member, Noah looks back at the group and head counts them himself>Sure enough, they seem to be missing Hildemar>"Poor guy, hope he makes it back soon.">Looking back at the depot and the bazaar behind them, he decides he'll probable take Kenny's route and wander the market himself>Noah walks up to Jeff and Royce, and apparently Citrine too as he goes to Jeff's side
"Hey Royce, you know how long that fast-track going to take? Don't want you guys to be ready and I'm out in the market wandering."
>>300675>>300676>>300739>Nevil stayed very silent after his little joke at Citrine's expense. He pushed up a small smirk at himself to look a little less deadpan but his eyes didn't follow through with the emotion he wanted to bring, still a bit glassy as they gazed off and focused more on the troop of unicorns and the Minotaur as their vehicle came to a stop.>His eyes flicked down to Citrine as he is the first to get up and off the Dagor in anticipation of it being lifted.>After a split-second of looking up to the positively bulking Minotaur as he went to bark his order, Nevil got up and followed the crystal pony. Hopping out the back of the Dagor with a forearm draped across his Pulse Rifle.>With a clatter of combat boots he ambles around Citrine while his head remained turned in the direction of the minotaur, walking backwards for a few steps to get back. Giving a generous amount of space to the crew as he idled near Citrine.>Nevil's face remained unchanging, giving the group of unicorns a perhaps uncannily jaded stare despite the clear interest in his eyes as he followed their motions with an intent fascination. Likewise observing as the Minotaur does the literal heavy lifting. >Then, once the vehicles was set, he looked back down. Noticing Citrine had left and double-taking, looking up to spot the crystal pony already by Jeff.>The pale man looked back up briefly to give the unicorns one more pensive stare, then turned away a second later to silently hop up onto the flat bed of the train cart after Citrine, holding up a hand to briefly shield himself from the sunlight, adjusting the brim of his patrol cap and tilting his head a bit further down.>Despite his showy officer-decalled breastplate-like armour, advanced weapons, and fancy forest-green spidersilk uniform beneath that giving him a somewhat distinct appearance, he seemed to almost slip into the background from how dead silent he was as he moved. Looking to have his guard still partially raised despite the otherwise calm place. >As Nevil approached Jeff and his new company of peers, he makes himself known at least. Giving a two-fingered salute to Royce as Jeff introduced them. His other arm resting limply over his trusty M41A out of habit.
"Nevil Wayne. ex-United States Colonial Marines. Good to meet the Australian Wonder in the flesh." >He would introduce himself with a placid voice, bringing up a more genuine smirk that almost didn't fit on the jaded Marine's face.>>300781>Though at the mention of 'market wandering from Noah', Nevil does cast a side glance in their direction now.
"Planning on spending money or just window-shopping?" >Nevil almost sounded mildly amused, though the question was genuine.
"Might be worth carrying some pocket money if you're gonna look for useful magical McGuffins, if you aren't already."
>>300675>>300676>The ranger tries his best to keep his eyes and ears about them, but relents after some time, due to the dense concentration of ponies, people, sights and smells in the space>He is momentarily lost in one particular scent intermingling with the smell of coal and burning diesel>It was a smell he'd not encountered before. A sort of heady, earthy yet pleasant smell, not dissimilar to the scent of roasting dried herbs, or burning tobacco>He closed his eyes, craning his neck slightly and sniffing the air, trying hard to pick out that strange smell from all the others, but before he could get a good sense of its origin, he found himself being dragged back into the present, chaotic moment by the hard impact of wheels on train bed>Having been briefly lost in his pursuit of that strange smell, he was only just able to take in the sight of the new, similar vehicle, and the new human>following the lead of those around him, Lucius dismounted the Dagor, striding over to where this new person, this "Royce" stood, with Yuri now operating a strange piece of equipment, which he'd previously seen other Operators using around the Fortress. He'd been told they are called "Lighters.">Not quite understanding all the customs involved, Lucius thought it would be best to imitate those around him who seemed to know better, and offered both Royce and Yuri his best imitation of a proper salute, one after the other
"Greetings, Royce. And to you, Yuri - I apologize for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Lucius, a woodland ranger and... quite out of my element at the moment. It is a pleasure to meet you both.">>300781>>301072>He sighed in relief that the others had already asked the questions that he felt the burning need to ask>Yet he couldn't help himself
"Nevil? Please, what exactly is this McGuffin you speak of?"
"Er...ye. Whatever a 'kangaroo' is...">Was this how people felt around him whenever he yammered on about his world?>It was....an interesting feeling.>Focusing on the train in the distance, Jim examined the chunky looking vehicle.>'Well, I know who we're gonna be hidin our asses behind once the shit starts comin'.'>And one of the blokes even had a rifle similar to his own, but doubtlessly without the micromachining done to it.>Though, considering the design had lasted since Jim's Earth got it's shit pushed in, it should be fine.>>300676>Jim returned the salute with a two fingered one of his own.>And as the other boss man in charge began to speak, Jim drifted back to his days drifting around the galaxy with his old group, basking in the memory for a bit before exhaling.
"Pleased t'meet'cha, Royce. Gotta say, you remind me of me ol' boss man. Though I gotta question for ya'; One o' ye mates called me a 'kangaroo jack' or summats. What I wanna know is what that is
.">Perhaps a creature that used to live on earth?>If so, what was the connotation?>Curious and altogether pretty erratic minds wanted to know!>>300739>Jim mussed the back of the unicorn's mane up.
"Aw, settle down, lad. Yer gonna get it all twisted, then you'll be in even more a bind.">Cute kid.>Wait, how old was Citrine, anyway?>The inhabitants of Tallus tended to look quite ageless, and Jim wasn't just talking about the literal goddesses.>>300781>Jim nodded in assent to Noah's inquiry.
"Ye, not that I mind havin' some time to immerse myself in another peoples'....er, beings'
culture, I'd at least know when I should have me last call!">>301161
"'E means trinkets. Ye know, like this'n.">Jim lifted the pendant looped around his neck.
"Maybe summats like a Cats-eye thing t'help all of ye out. I'd be lookin' for it meself, but me goggles tend to take care of...pretty much everythin', really."
>>300675>>300676>As the Dagor nears the heavy lifting crew, Joel takes a chance to dismount, not wanting to be particularly close to any possible way that magic and a minotaur could load the vehicle onto the train.>The old man puts two and two together and makes a point of committing this "Vanilla Espresso's appearance to memory.">After waiting his turn, he introduces himself to Royce with a tip of his hat.
"Joel Williamson. Former US Army.">Everyone else having already asked the pertinent questions, Joel simply waits for the answers.>>301305>At least he was until Jim piped up with an unexpected question, and he started puzzling out how to explain such a weird animal to somebody that had never seen one.
"Think... Lahk a rabbit the size of a person... and it stands on just its back legs...">He gives up after a while, discouraged by the equally bizarre but not terribly similar picture he knows he must be painting.
>>301161>Both Royce and Yuri catch your greeting, the boss giving you a chipper two-fingered salute back and the other a lackadaisical nod in between puffs of his cigarette.
"'Cheers, mate.">Yuri gives you a once over, leaning back in appraisal before removing his smoke and letting out an obnoxious puff into free space.
"Bow and sword there, Robin Hood? Hegh, you and Kenny'll are gonna get along.">>301072>Royce mimics your salute back to you, his eyes obviously trailing along your uniform and armor and idling on your pulse rifle.
"Oi' there, Marine!">Out of your peripheral, Jeff is also eying your gun... again.>It takes a long second for both of them to realize the nickname you uttered, Jeff covering his mouth to contain an instant ear-to-ear grin.>The receiver looking at you both with amusement, and mild offense.
"Whadyou' call me-"
"AHAHAHAHA-*COUGH COUGH*-HAHAHA... ha!">Yuri lets out a blast of laughter at the nickname, completely cutting off his boss, and slaps his hand against his knee shamelessly as he settled.
"Haha! Oh shit, I am so using that one! Why didn't I think of that!">Having his momentum severed by his teammate, Royce decides to just silently shake off 'The Australian Wonder' and gives you a little more focus for a moment.
"So, er 'Colonial Marine, yeah?' Jeff mentioned you fight giant bug aliens. You should talk to Jan, when she shows up. She's fought 'er share of aliens too.">>301477>Royce tips his worn red ball cap your way, eyes pining to Jeff inquisitively.
"Cheers, cowboy! Ey, an Army buddy for ya, Jeffy!">Jeff looks over at the other commander, then away dejectedly.>Familiar voices, in Saddle Arabian, trail in your ear from the blind side of the Dagor.<Saddle Arabian> "The one talking to Mr. Byron?"<Saddle Arabian> "Just get ready with the refreshments...">>301305>Royce nods at your greeting, but gives Yuri a knowing look at the title.
"Oh did he now? Wait you don't know what a 'roo is?">The Russian, who barely gives Royce the courtesy of an eye glance as he widdles down his cigarette to the butt.
"I said what I said... wait. You don't know what a kangaroo is?">To follow up on Joel's initial description of said animal, Yuri lightly hops on the balls with his feet- easily amusing himself.
"Don't forget the big ears and tail! Oh, and the pouch, for the Bobby!"
"Joey, mate...">>300739>>300781>Before either of you can get a reply out of Royce or Jeff, or anyone else, an elegantly blue and gold trim dressed brown saddle arabian mare and a stallion wearing an upper-uniformed Dragonspine conductor's uniform butts their way into the center of ongoing conversation.
"You will all be delighted to hear that the Neighmara Express has an entire car dedicated to snacks and refreshments for its passengers, including coffee and chocolates, as well as other amenities for your time through the Southern Saddle Arabian desert!">The last bit being clearly directed at Citrine's outburst of a request.>The saddle arabian mare submits a polite bow to all humans and crystal pony in present as well as prostrates herself with a introductory forehoof.
"Greetings, everypony! I am Vanilla Espresso! One of Neighmara's council marembers, primary overseer of coffee trade, and host for Royce Contracting and Razorback travel needs. You are Jeff, correct?">She looks over to the commander, who gives her a confirming nod, and follows up with ears flattening in a curt second bow.
"That'd be me."
"As with Mr. Byron, I would like to apologize for the delay of departure. We needed to include additional cars for your... vehicles.">Vanilla Espresso glances over at Royce's Husky, then over at the Dagor. Jeff waves off her apology, his voice carrying to include everyone in attending.
"It's fine. As long as we get where we're headed. If anything it'll give everyone time to explore and see the markets.">The councilmare is more than pleased at Jeff's nonchalance, and beams over the entire group as if preparing to sell you all something.
"Then by all means! Please all of you, enjoy everything Neighmara has to offer while we finish preparations! It should be no more than an hour and a half. Oh, speaking of!">Espresso stomps a hoof twice, and literally attend of nowhere several uniformed in pony-styled fez suits appear within clusters of you. Each of them producing a silver ornate serving tray on serving saddles of iced water in classy short tumbler, clearly for your enjoyment.>Jeff and Royce take no time taking glasses, Yuri grabbing one after grinding his spent cigarette into the worked ground.
"Well, it's not vodka...">Jeff takes a big swig of water, before addressing everyone.
"Welp, we got time to hang out and walk around. Leave whatever you don't need in the Dagor... the lift crew looks almost ready to move it.">Swirling the *clinking* ice, he glances over at the burly overalled minotaur with only two of the unicorn lifters limbering up for another cargo load.
"I'll stay here and keep and eye on the Dagor. Stay or go, don't let me keep you."
"Oh Mr. Jeff! You have yet to finish payment for a pending order with us. Would you like to take care of that invoice before your departure?">He looks at Vanilla Espresso with an enthusiastic nod, as the councilmare pulls a few papers from inside her robes. Royce and Yuri gravitate together, matching gulps of water as they talk about something to themselves momentarily before saying aloud.
"Hey if any of you bump into Kenny, make sure he comes back with you. Drongo doesn't have any comms on him."
>>303457>While everypony was chattering away with their variety of accents Blaze stood there, still as a statue with only his ears flicking in the direction of those talking. Eyes slowly but surely glazing over as the words began to be incoherent white noise.>"Imma just head out of this circle and-">WHEN SUDDENLY.>Rudely butting into this huddle of close comrades came two other ponies, the nerve of them!>One was a stallion dressed in the uniform of the Dragonspine, but crossed with a Conductor while also looking fancier than the rest of the uniformed ponies.>The other...>Oh.>"By the Princesses Pink Flanks!">Blaze mentally swore as he laid eyes upon the Arabian mare. She had a beautifully rich brown coat that complimented her Saddle Arabian features and body, her clothing was as refined as the best refined goods money could buy for.>Which were her goods.>And her goods in the coffee trade.>Citrine blushed like a young colt and nodded his head enthusiastically at Vanilla Espresso's greeting, forgetting about the cappuccino for later.>Wait an hour and a half?!>They went through so much preparation to wait again!>Before he could sharply breath through his teeth in annoyance Vanilla's stomping and subsequent appearance of more ponies in funny clothing stopped him. And immediately his eyes honed in on the pure silver wares they had, their precious metal glinting sunlight off of their polished surfaces much like himself.>He was transfixed like a magpie before he heard Jeff give him the all clear to leave.>Nosing around in his saddlebags he saw he had plenty of room for more items, and with pure silver on his mind he set off into the markets.
"Right then! If anypony needs me I'm going to see what precious stuff I can buy to sell for a profit later! So if you need me...uh, talk into my ear with the ear-piece thingie that's in there.">Blaze told everypony as he pointed to one of his ears.>As he trotted off into the thronging herds of equines he took an image impressing glance at Vanilla Espresso.[1d6 = 4]
>E.PerceptionUsing both perception and bartering to find any shops, stalls, vendors, merchants or dealers that are selling precious items that could be sold for later.
[1d6 = 3]
>E.Perception[1d6 = 4][1d6 = 3]
>B.Bartering[1d6 = 4]
>>301072>Noah looks over to see Nevil addressing him
"Eh, I guess it depends on what kind of stuff they have over there.">At the mention pocket money, Noah slaps his pants pocket to ensure he does have some money with him
"Already got some, sir.">>303457>While waiting for everyone to be done and be dismissed, Noah notices a couple ponies come in and advertise their food car>Which works because Noah's ears perk at the mention of free coffee>"Ah, so these two are responsible for our train traveling...">While listening to what sounds like a tourist spiel, he notice the mare stomp and groups of ponies coming to them, drinks in hoof
"Oh, that looks fancy. Thanks.">Noah goes ahead and grabs himself a tumbler and takes a swig of the water>Refreshed, Noah glances to the Dagor, knowing that his shield and pack is still on it>With nothing to worry about and seeing Citrine take off already, Noah starts to make way to the market
"I'll be in the markets if you guys need me."
>>303457>Nevil's smirk grows slightly more in Royce's direction as Yuri laughs, emanating a distinct middle-aged smug aura. If only for a moment.>Said smirk dies down again as Royce focuses on him and lets him know about Jan... >Nevil's left brow rises slightly with interest at this piece of information. Shifting his eyes a little with a split-second of thought, the rest of his smile flattening as he nods once in acknowledgement.
"Hmh, I'll keep that in mind. Maybe we'll hit it off.">Nevil's voice carried an almost half-hearted flatness to it, but the interest in his eyes remains even as they shift off of Royce, now known as The Australian Wonder.>Giving a passing glance to Jeff, staying quiet as he does while he briefly catches the look he look he puts on when 'Army Buddy' is mentioned. >He couldn't help but smirk weakly, empathically.>>301161>>301305>Then continues turning his head in Lucius' direction as he asks that question. >Bouncing a look towards Jim as he answers first with his own example, prompting Nevil to briefly nod once in the Offworlder's direction. His eyes remain on Lucius however.
"It's a term that was coined by a certain... Let's say "author" even if that's not the correct term--film director would be it, that you definitely wouldn't know since it's ahead of your time."
"The actual term is meant to describe something that is used to move a 'plot' along in some form, and that is the entire purpose of the McGuffin in a story. However, in this instance, I refer to a McGuffin as all magical items because they're several flavors of bullshit and they move the operations along more smoothly." >Nevil then gives a light shrug that makes the shoulders of his armour clack softly. Smiling weakly to the Ranger in an almost amused way, if it weren't for the perenially weary look the Marine carried. >He then turned to look away more briskly, looking at the elegant mare and stallion that come to greet them, seeing how they enter the conversation. >Nevil remains mostly still, spectating the conversation mostly by just shifting his eyes between the speakers and staying firmly in the background from all of this. >There almost a hint of distaste on the Lieutenant Commander's face, though it quickly goes away once the servers appear from nowhere, head shifting to look downward at the glass of iced water. >After what is maybe a split-second of hesitation, he reaches over to carefully takes up a glass himself, drinking the cold water in a more slow, savoring fashion.>Hasting himself ever so slightly to drink through the water after Jeff's words, he puts the tumbler back.>He made sure to answer to Royce as well.
"You got it." >>303751>>303820>Watching Citrine quite quickly start to leave for the markets during all of this, Nevil begins to turn to leave as well. Adjusting the brim of his cap to shield his face a bit more.
"I'll come along. My first time around here, might as well see what they're selling for myself."
"Maybe they sell some magical sunscreen..." >Nevil, tagging along with Noah, follows closely behind to go explore the markets.
>>303457>Jim just stares, dumbfounded.
"Er, nah, can't say I rightly do.">At the other man's impression of the 'kangaroo', Jim lightly chuckles.
"Sorry mate, ain't helpin' me figure it out. Maybe if you kin tell me the scientific name of it, ye know, the genus, I'd be a little more in the right sector.">Then again, not many people he'd met were knowledgeable about the genus name.>When you dealt with hundreds of different aliens, it tended to be easier to narrow them down by their genus instead of a name.>At least, for Jim.>But he was weirder than most.>Maybe that's why he was sent to Tallus?>Ah, well, no use in thinking of it now.>Jim accepts the glass of water, tilting it back and knocking it all down in a moment.>'Not the best idea in a desert biome, but ruckin' around with a tumbler isn't high on my list of stuff to do.'>At the request, Jim tips his goggles.
"Will do, boss mate. Don't wait up for- Actually, do wait up for us. We don't wanna miss our ride, ye?">Jim begins to walk off, going to follow the rest of the operators when a though occurs to him.
"Right, first, can we get a brief debrief of what the bloke looks like? I know we's pretty much the only lads round here so there ain't much mistakes to be made, but hey, shit happens, ye?">And with that, he headed off to follow the rest of the group.
>>303457>Lucius gives Yuri a strange look
"R-robin... Hood, did you say? Afraid I'm not familiar... Though I do look forward to meeting this Kenny character!"
"After a little wandering around, of course...">Quietly listening to everyone greeting and talking to each other, the Ranger graciously accepts his glass of water from the nearest silver tray, marveling a bit at the silver on display.>Once the meeting seems to have adjourned, hearing that he could leave some of his belongings behind, Lucius ducks past the others towards the train, stowing just about everything aside from his clothes, his money, and his family sword in a safe place.>>304157
"Er, you're right, I have... no idea what a film is. But I do understand bullshit that moves operations along! My thanks for the explanation.">>303751>Seeing Citrine bolt off on his own, however, Lucius gets a funny feeling>"He's going to wind up in some sort of trouble, I just know it...">Silently the ranger slips into the markets after the crystal pony, trying to keep one eye on him without him noticing, while also keeping another eye open for any good-looking booksellers>"Might do to get some light reading for the train ride, maybe brush up on the local critters..."[1d6 = 6]
>M. Stealth[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 6][1d6 = 5][1d6 = 2]
>E. Perception[1d6 = 5][1d6 = 4]
>>303457>'So, Jeff's an old soldier, too?'>The look on Jeff's face said that he didn't want to talk about it, however, so Joel let him be.>Joel tips his hat at the arrival and introduction of Vanilla Espresso, his momma having raised him right.
"Thank ya Ms. Vanilla. That's awful kahnd of ya.">He produces his everclear and splashes a bit into his water before sipping it down as he listened to everyone else discussing the wait.>>304344>At Jim's question, Joel stays behind a little while as well and makes a careful mental note of Royce's answer before returning his cup and heading out after the others.
"Ah'm sure one of us'll find him. Many hands makes fast work n'awl that.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uRtW8lBe0I>>303751>You take the initiative to go breaking from the group and take the lead to go adventuring into the steppes of Neighmara.>Before you venture off too far, you look back to take a good up-and-down of Vanilla Espresso.>She was in the process of hoofing a clipboard over to Jeff, who was taking appraisal of what was on it.>A proper side view of the Saddle Arabian mare shone off her luxurious shiny coat(whatever wasn't concealed by her merchant robes), and even perfectly curled and flowing mane- which was left free to flow with her movements. Her royal blue robes draped over from her withers and cut right above the fetlocks to keep from being dragged through the sand or getting caught while she walked. Densely stitched gold thread not only lined the cloak with a intricate braided pattern, but also adorned the entirety with elegantly swirling tribal-like schemes. If they held any cultural or societal importance, they were lost on you but they were still pretty to look at!>Although most of her form was covered up, her silhouette rounded and curved nicely for a young and fit mare and her hooves were kept expertly trimmed and polished. You spot a bit of her tail poking out behind her, but it matched the color of her mane.>Despite all of this, you finally take note of her regal amethyst eyes, which contrasted against her earthy colors. She was clearly from good stock, and undoubtedly attractive.>Having taken in Espresso's for for memory, you finally focus on making your way toward the markets.>But before you make it to the markets, the lowest level appeared more residential.>These were the nostalgic buildings you remembered from when you first arrived: domed roofs, sweeping curves, wide windows, fancy doorways, elegant pillars, polished decorations, and large glass 'yards' filled with chairs and tables. Other than the fact most of it was not actual Empire crystal, but instead bitter-glass, the sentiments were hitting warmly.>The residential buildings were mostly identical, and tightly packed, save for one large four-story building built into further down toward the center of the steppes.>Ultimately the living area wasn't your target, as you make your way up to the next level of steppes.>HERE is where the more practical and industrial-looking, two-storied semi-open stalls for merchants, and artisans.>Six rows of stalls jutted out from the wall to the next level, creating neat rows of alley-ways full of business with no more than four meters of space to walk between them; spanning far down enough to loom over the entirety of the residential level right underneath.>Your keen nose picks up a myriad of cooking foods and snacks, coffee, and chocolate aromas coming from stalls dotted between them. Moreso to the front.>Figuring a grilled veggie skewer won't re-sell for much, you trot deeper into the rows to find yourself right up to the wall.>These stalls were carved right into the wall itself, and you noticed the sand-blowing wind was already noticeably cut down this close to the wall.>You immediately spot several stalls with ponies working on either textile weaving, statue sculpting, and several grindstones going away at what you can guess were gems being cut and polished.>The last one was most likely you best bet at finding something to flip for bits later on, or a pricey statuette that you can sneak into the Dagor.>>303820>Vanilla Espresso smiles at your graciousness, as well do the servers proving the water with a curt nod at your acceptance of the refreshment.
"You will all find that most merchants will be providing complimentary ice water at anypony's convenience. We understand it's hot and dry here, so please don't hesitate to quench your thirst while you're perusing the markets!">Leaving your gear with Jeff, you take off to follow Citrine's lead away from the train depot and into the heart of Neighmara.>Quickly passing through the stark contrasts of the residential area's architecture, which may as well have been a recreation of the Crystal Kingdom itself, you push up through toward the lower market area where artisans were more hard at work focused on their particular trade than peddling goods and services to passerby's.>The stalls were neatly yet claustrophobicly crammed back-to-back, creating six neat rows of two-story merchant stalls.>You smell coffee, chocolate and a myriad of food stalls wafting through this level, as well as most serving ice water atop of what you assume to be Crystal-enchanted melt-proof ice bins.>The stalls closer to the edge were focusing more on food, where the farther they went back yielded more crafts and artisanal goods; you lose pace with Citrine to the more expensive stalls in the back.>304157>You tagging along with Noah yielded a good view of the train depot as you climbed the beaten carved slop to the next level.>The train's front stretched far out passed the steppes, only being ably to catch sight of the caboose indead well passed the depot's limits. All in all you counted almost two-dozen cars visible, implying there were even more!>Noah passes the residential area, which looked more like a worn out crystal chandelier forms of houses.>The next level up was where the markets started, Citrine hurrying to the back of this steppe's territory leaving you with Noah to choose a stall alley to meander.
>>305475>>304344>Jeff, Royce, and Yuri look at eachother incredulously before shrugging and shakingtheir heads, your commander's attention went to the datapad attached to his left forearm.
"Heh, sorry mate. Wouln' know 'at off the top of my head. Always been roos and joeys to me."
"So... is the kangaroo supposed to be a genius?"
"Osphranter, the largest species being rufus. Or the red kangaroo.">Looking over at Jeff, Yuri and Royce shot him impressed looks. Who looks barely affected at their gazes.
"What? I have a flora and fauna database on here. Human stuff's included, apparently."
"Shit, that's pretty cool.">Following up on your last question before taking off with the others, Jeff waves you off with a carefree shrug.
"Unless you know what a samurai is, you're looking for a Japanese guy wearing armor and two swords around.">>304497>You store your belongings in the Dagor's back seat, as the heavy cargo-moving team seemed ready and waiting to begin loading the Dagor.>Falling in with the others you slink up the carved slope right past the residential level and to the stall markets, but you keep on Citrine's tail from an inconspicuous distance away.>Despite your stealthing technique being on point, you notice the acroline was having a hard time blending in with the backround of constant shifting shadows against the sand-covered stone.>His attention to the alley full of respectable artisan stalls leads you to the back, several passerby's snickering at your audacity for sneaking around a public area in the middle of the day being the running comments.>Despite the mild commotion, Citrine didn't seems to notice you staying several stalls over.>The stalls with food vendors were placed further forward, and crafters were further in.>You still gave yourself plenty of time to scan down each lane of stalls for the opportunity of some reading materiel.>Coincidentally, you do spot what looked to be a small library several carved stalls down. If they were for sale, or something else you couldn't tell from here.
???[1d6 = 2]
???[1d6 = 3]
>Alert>>304549>Espresso bows her head to your thanks, as you spike the ice cold water with your indulgence of pure alchohol.>Yuri eyeballs your flask enviously, having caught sight of you adding in the crystal clear, but it pulled away by Royce to tell him something out of earshot. The Russian rolls his eyes, a nods in defeat.
"Fiiine. You got it, boss man."
"Just until it's time to leave.">He breaks off from Royce and Jeff and over to the minotaur lifting crew to observe them.>Jeff was busy looking over a clipboard given to him by Vanilla Espresso, the mare's eyes fluttering with the prospect of a business transaction as she goes over the invoice with him.
"One fifty pound breakfast roast. Two fifty pound Neighmaran Select. One Sumaretra blend. And one twenty-five pound Lunar Reserve... do you have a Starborn voucher for that?">Taken aback by the mention, Jeff pats his own pockets down as the mare starts melodically giggling at him until he realizes she was punking him.
"Very funny Miss Espresso."
"Teehee, I thought so. Please sign here, and I'll bill Razorback accordingly.">Signing off on the pad, Jeff hands it back to Espresso to collect and bows her head and giving the Dagor a berth so it can be moved.
"A pleasure doing business with you. I will see you before departure."
"Jeffy, cm'ere mate.">Free of his coffee transaction, Royce pats your commander's arm and leads him deeper into the depot near the train as the minotaur and two unicorn's begin approaching the Dagor.
"Now about this Scholar bloke...">Their conversation fades off as you take off with the others making their way up to the markets.>You pass by the residential level, which resembled more the Crystal Kingdom than a steppe city in Saddle Arabia. Considering Neighmara solely exported water, ice, bitter glass, and a slew of other common items from the kingdom it's no surprise the residents took up their architecture so accurately.>Passing up to the lower markets, the aromas of food vendors wafts over you and everyone else. Food and concessions were held closer to the steppe shelf so the down wind attracts from the lower levels. Farther stalls further back into alleyways beheld a number of small specific craft and items sellers, and all the way in the back is where the best artisans had their stalls carved directly into the steppes itself. Those sought-after spots drastically cut down on wind and sand blowing around the market, and allowed for more delicate and intricate work; thus yielding better quality products.>Whether he knew or not, you spot Citrine peeling into the artisan alley with Lucius stealthily tailing him.
>>303820>Noah was tagging along by going in the same direction, good, that meant he could carry what ever was purchased.
"The more the merrier, we can become rich if we think smart. Like I did before in our last outing!">>304157>Then came Nevil too.
"We may of not collectively gotten richer but I sure did get my dick wet, and honestly isn't that worth its weight in gold?">He asked rhetorically, of course it was worth its weight in gold and he will stand by that position until he finds it advantageous to regret it later.
"Also I have sunscreen if you need it!">>304344>Citrine was too busy thinking of that time he had with that mare he totally remembers the name of to notice that Jim had tagged along.>At first.>That is until he glanced behind to track the swaying hips of a trio of Saddle Arabian mares, only to see a third human joined the group.
"Hi Jim!">>304497>As Blaze cantered around the sprawling place as defacto tour guide to reach the markets he would occasionally look behind him to see if the others were still following, and if he was being followed by those that meant him harm. Possible harm.>With a keen he saw he was NOT being tailed by Lucius, whom he presumed actually went to some other district instead.>>304549>Being the very last to join the party and being furthest away Citrine did not know Joel was coming with, though at this point the Crystal Pony should of assumed everypony was coming along with him by now...>>305475>>305477>"Damn, that is a fine mare. Would be a shame if we were to be booked into the same train booth for the entire journey.">Blaze thought, face turning redder at the thought.>As the stallion moved through the residential area to reach his destination a wave of nostalgia gifted him a fuzzy warmth across his body, this place did really look like home.>If it were not for the Saddle Arabians and the climate he might of actually of been fooled into thinking he had stepped right back into the Empire once again.>...But he wasn't home, and could not go back until he paid his due's to Jeff and collected enough money to be welcomed back anyway.>Once passing by memory lane and reaching the markets a new sense took over, the overwhelming intoxicating stench of freshly made food.>It was all around him, the aroma having soaked into every surface of the place. It threatened to make him drool like a fool.>And would have if he had come here for such things, but he was on a mission here, possibly one more important than the reason he was in a desert in the first place!>To make fat stacks of money!>Letting his mercantile expertise guide his hooves Citrine came across the stalls carved into the very wall itself. This is where he should be, and where he will find what he wants.>He went for the gem cutters first, as a statue or three would be too much of a burden and majestic weaves could be blown away due to high wind currents. Though the latter could be used as a fancy carrier for the gems he recognized.
"Hmm, perhaps combining all three..">He muttered to himself as he examined the wares of the gem makers, specifically searching for a selection of the most colourful, shiniest and finely cut stones on offer.[1d6 = 4]
>E.Perception[1d6 = 5] [1d6 = 6]