Guns and Shovels: Ch1

Roleplay that occurs inside the setting of Shattered Universe.
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uso
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Guns and Shovels: Ch1

Post by uso » Fri Aug 02, 2019 6:54 pm

Tigran Valley,
North-Eastern Continent Drylands,
Planet Hawking


It was a warm and humid dusk, with the sun casting a dull orange glow under a sky of sporadic but dense steel-grey clouds. The dust here had a distinctive rusty iron smell, blowing down from the mountain ranges that cut the savanna off from the savage jungles further west. Simple rock traders and farmers often used this dirt path on their way to the nearby scrap-town of Dhalm, but that wasn’t who Yilga was tracking tonight…

There were two track marks diverting from the road, heading into the tree line, and the Grawla thug could recognise them as being from a Stolot micro-carrier. Or some cheap recreation thereof.

Dirt started getting hilly now, building up to an outcropping of large rocks, and eventually a near-vertical proto-canyon wall.

It tasted like bauxite. But that wasn’t what they were here for, either.

Following the wall, following the wall… Avoiding some of those damn spiky Gyarba cactus… Spying another small patch of Stolot tracks, here and there…

But then-!

*GYAN-GA-LANNGGG!~*

Their boot caught on something, just as they made out the small oblong form of the carrier next to a campfire… Some kind of wire with a bunch of rusty cans attached to both ends?

Sledge hammer was readied into their mits. Yilga froze, took a smell of the air around them, and dared not close their eyes.

“FREEZE EVIL-DOER! OR I WILL DESTROY YOU!” Someone shouted, loudly, kinda in their direction but not really… the micro-carrier that Yilga had been tracking had been parked behind these rocks, and a blanket had been draped over the whole thing to make it look kinda-gray and rock like with the intention of trying to hide from passers-by. A rather short grawla had quickly jumped to attention under the blanket… but she had yet to actually get that blanket off so she could see who was nearby. Her hands were working in a frenzy to try and get that blanket tucked back into the carrier…

Taking the hand weapon into both hands now, Yilga kicked the wire free from their clawed boots, and made a really heavy, kinda disturbing weezy breath. They were actually smelling in the direction of the small tank, though clearly all they were going to get back was the smell of engine oil.

“Choo’ saying evil?” A slightly deep, raspy voice. Yilga took pleasure in the fact that they were clearly a more meaty creature that whatever was under the sheet. Maybe they weren’t the tallest around, but they had a good bit of meat on them, and the wallop had served them well so far… “Come out here so I can deck you! I know you got the gizmo, kid!”

“What Gizmo! I DON’T HAVE ANY GIZMO!” Taykk called out, finally getting the blanket off and tossing it into a pile inside of her micro-carrier, the small grawl half-climbing up on the back of the carrier so she could look around, her eyes quickly spotting Yilga. Certainly Yilga was a large Grawla, one with a large hammer, and also one that had decided to just sorta stand there instead of running up.

This was no time for small weapons… that hammer would turn Taykk into paste if it hit!

The small Grawla quickly ducked down into her carrier and came back up with a long black box that she rested on her shoulder. The device looked to be infinitely black, somehow with a smooth glossy exterior but without showing any other kind of feature like there was no wear and tear on the surface, just a perfectly black something under the featureless glossy outline. “NOW BACK AWAY OR I’LL BLOW YOU UP WITH THE GIZMO!”

“How’s bout… You preten’ you ain’t seen me?…” Yilga smiled, showing ample teeth and fang. The enemy was indeed smaller than them. It was a little hard to tell if their widening yellow-orange eyes was a sign of aggressive adrenaline build up, or some kind of fascination with the alien object being shown to them… “Oh, and giv’ me the aliyun weapon.”

This was actually a situation that they had watched from afar, many times before. The dudes that ran straight in always got shot by something or other. But it was generally against one’s good nature to shoot a semi-friendly looking person right in the face… So asking really nicely made them immune… Right?...

“YOU KNOW WHAT THIS GIZMO DOES!?” Taykk shouted, making a show of setting it on her shoulder and aiming what was presumably the front of it at Tilga, “It doesn’t just kill you. It’ll turn you INSIDE OUT. It will hurt the whole time while you’re dieing! It causes the most painful death. That’s why they want it, because its so painful. When you die from it YOU DIE FROM THE PAIN… then you die from the death… So how ‘bouts you be the one going away and we both be pretenden we ain’t seen one anothers?”

“...How’s anybody telling you this, if they dead?...” Yilga asked, genuinely interested and not quite realising it was a lie. It was an intriguing enough thought that it completely sidetracked them from the task at hand for a minute, and they gained a quizzical expression.

“...You know wut, I ‘dun even care. I just want the moo-lah.” The brute’s tone became thuggish again at the drop of a hat anyway. They liked a good story, but they also liked a good punch-up, too. “...Don’t even know if it’s the real deal yet, so I’ll take my chances. If it’s a real relic, then it would still be pretty cool to get blasted by one too, I guess…”

Licking their fangs, rolling their fingers over the wooden haft of their weapon, ready to pounce. All of it was speaking from the heart.

Taykk’s eyes got larger and larger as Yilga spoke. She clearly saw through Taykk’s deception and was taunting her! She clearly knew that Taykk didn’t know how to fire the weapon, and that her partner in crime was asleep… unable to help. This attacker was even taunting her about it!

“OK, ok, you’re a clever one.” Taykk said, slowly lowering the weapon, “And I’d hate to kill someone as clever as you. Maybe we could settle this a different way huh? You know how valuable this thing is right? And I bet your boss ain’t gonna pay you nearly what it is worth to get it back right? Plus I could use a clever, hammer slinger… Maybe you and me sell this thing together and get rich hm?”

“Still dun’ even know if it’s real.” The robust one tensed their nose up and down a little. “Why don’t you… Let me lick it?”

They… Well, they looked serious enough?... The bullish one seethed with a sort of semi-jovial passive aggression, biceps clad in what looked like old prisoner brands… Yeah, kind of cute in the way they projected their eyes and animalistic, stubby nose, but also rather more intimidating because of it. There was a general feeling that even Yilga did not know what they planned to do.

A slow step forward. And then another….

“Lick it?!” An obvious ploy to get closer! Yilga could take the weapon, or kill her, OR BOTH! “Its real, it is so real. You don’t know how real it is!” Taykk said, moving her hands around on the thing, looking for a button or trigger to press that might activate the weapon, keeping it pointed slightly off to the side where she could demonstrate its power on something that wouldn’t also kill her just in case the weapon happened to explode something, “And uh… Join me and I’ll let you lick it. You can be as weird as you want AND we can get RICH taking stuff from people that don’t need it no more.”

“...Weird?... Does this mean we can’t fight? Y’all wont fight me?” Yilga was starting to look a bit disappointed. “That ain’t how this is supposed to work…”

By the fifth step, they were in touching distance of the small guncrawler, and took a moment to obnoxiously stand on their tip-toes in order to see if anyone else was inside the two-seater open topped section.

“How about you fight me, and if you win you can keep it? No deathsies needed!”

“STUPID GIZMO SHOOT HER ALREADY!” Taykk yelled out, shaking the weapon, entirely unable to make it fire resulting in her pouting loudly and dropping it onto the side of her carrier, “... SO HOW ABOUT YOU JOIN ME AND THEN NO DEATHHSIES NEEDED!” She shouted at Yilga, kicking some sleeping lump of a grawla on the floor of her carrier, “... you can lick it I guess, but I ain’t gonna fight you… I GOT A GUY FOR THAT IF HE’D WAKE UP!”

The burly Grawla’s smile just got bigger, eyes narrowing slightly. She calmly put one of those large mitts around Taykk’s neck, giving it just a slight squeeze, and then licked the top of their hair with their large, rough tongue. It was exactly what annoying bully Grawla children did to each other to assert dominance.

“Get yur gears in gear slow poke!...” Was her renewed gravelly tone, now considering this little ‘fight’ won, and moving over to challenging the sleeping lump. “I’mma take your Stolot and stick ma hammer up ‘yer girls bum! And lick your space gun too! It all mine now!”

This is what happens when you give a Grawla who is slightly big, but not big (or at least smart) enough to be the boss, too much power for ten minutes…

“El’right, I had nuff’ of this manure.” A voice muttered to themselves, with the whiz of a dart flying through the air coming straight after, striking Yilga in the neck. Said dart had enough poison in it to send Yilga to the ground, but not have her going unconscious. A hundred meters away, a tall, slender figure of 6 feet and tad more rose up from beneath the sands, walking over to the downed Grawla. She wore a cloak that matched the light-orange, dusty surroundings, with a belt slung over one shoulder, on it a few pouches, a steel-tipped spear, and a curved dagger. The figure herself was swampy green, had greying hair but a pair of leery eyes and pointed ears, and already reloading her air rifle, aimed at Taykk.

Grumbling, moaning loudly, the robust Grawla thug didn’t hit the floor immediately, but instead spun around to face their new assailant. Eyes burnt by impossible new colours, sounds becoming distant, and limbs tremendously weak, they stumbled down onto their hands and knees, as if somehow still expecting to fight back.

The newcomer eyed Yilga. “Funny how things work, lass. I would’ve just let you take the thing until you started lickin’ her. Oh wait no, still would’ve shot you.” She glances at the dart stuck in her neck, pulled it out and stowed it back away. “Relax, the amount I put in it was barely enough to kill a basilisk rat; it’ll barely keep a fatass like you down for an hour at best. Now then…” The newcomer returned her attention back to Taykk. After scanning her and determining she was relatively harmless, the newcomer lifted her air rifle, but nonetheless stayed alert. “You two were yammering quite a bit. Mind telling me ‘bout that black box of yours?”

“YES I MIND!” Taykk shouted as she dropped back down into her carrier and started shaking the grawla that was with her, “WAKE UP! I NEED YOU TO EXPLODE SOME PEOPLE THEY ARE GOING TO TAKE MY STUFF! WAKE UP WAAAAKE UUUUUUUP!!!!”

There was another Grawla in the carrier, sleeping on the bedding inside of it. He would poke his head up above the carrier for just a moment and then flop back down onto his bedding. “Small people. That’s your problem. Wake me when there are big things.”

“DAMNIT YOU LAZY!!!” Taykk shouted, giving the Grawla a swift kick before peaking just the top of her head up over her carrier so she could look at the newly approaching Grawla. “That box is worth a lot to the right Grawla, but you gonna need someone who can sell it so you can’t hurt me got it? I’m super important here if you want to make any money off this whole thing…”

“But what if I do know someone?” The newcomer tilts her head in bemusement. “Side tangent, I’m curious how you managed to survive this long with him around,” She remarks, pointing at Taykk’s lousy partner, “This lassy here,” She gently kicks Yilga with her boot twice, “Couldn’t have been the first bandit you ran into. What, did you scare them all off with the alien weapon before your bluff stopped working?”

“Everyone knows someone, but you gotta know the right someones to get all the monies this thing is worth. It’s one of them ayylien guns, and not one of them whimpy ewman guns I’m talking one from the old ayyliens. It’ll be worth lots! And I’ve got more ways to earn loads a money too… I could use someone that’s good with a rifle you know?”

“Figured.” She brings her hood down. “Looks like you need all the help you can get. You’re heading to Dhalm, right? I was going to go there to pick up a job, but finding one here doesn’t hurt.” The newcomer puts up as polite smile as she could for a swamp Grawla, and brings a hand forward. “Name’s Eadaoin, Eadaoin Skadic.”

“Eeeyyaaaadoooinnnn~” A groaning noise, followed by a loud clicking sound. Yilga had fished out a rough-looking snub-nosed revolver from one of their many pockets, and was struggling to feed a bullet into the chamber through shaking hands and cold sweat. “...Youusss stillll… fightin…. mee~...”

Even if they did know that they weren’t dying, it was probably the reaction one could expect. A Grawla admitting defeat was like volunteering for slavery, or worse. A fight that didn’t start in a friendly introduction generally pointed to the latter.

"You stay down lass, until we sort things out first." Eadaoin retracted her hand and gets on one knee to examine Yilga. She reached into her pouch, considering another injection of poison, but decided against it. Instead, she simply pried Yilga's fingers open, depriving her of her revolver, setting it well out of reach. "There, the fight's over." The much older Grawla nodded to herself, standing back up and positioning herself so that she was looking at Yilga and Taykk at the same time. "As I was saying--"

“YEAH Yeah, you’re Eadaoin. You gotta lot a names. I’m Taykk… AND THIS LAZY USELESS GRAWLA IS SPLOH!” Taykk shouted, jumping ontop of the grawla sleeping in her carrier only for him to lift his arm and toss her out onto the ground with a loud *THUMP!*

“Ow…” Taykk whimpered, “Look, I gots a job in the next town ok? Can totally make use of all of yous and make us a lot of monies. But the job is secret ok? Gotta wait until I meet my Grawla in the town and setup the stuff then we all make a lot of money and bolt got it?”

“Fine by me.” Eadaoin shrugged. She pointed to Yilga on the ground. “What do you want me to do with her? I could butt her in the head so she won’t follow us.” She scratches her chin. “Actually, she’ll just track us.” The older Grawla picks up the revolver and examines it, then looks back at Yilga. “Which will be less of a hassle, lass? Persuading you to not backstab us or sending you to join the xenos right now?”

Yilga was too busy struggling to take both of their gloves off, squirming about on their back, until they could get their hands inside of their shirt in preparation for what felt like an impending heart attack. They stared up at what was rapidly becoming a night sky, seemingly unaware of the world around them…

“...Okay… You is winning…” A very shallow, depressed tone. “...You give anti-dote… Yilga is belonging you now…”

Before any kind of rejection could be offered, the hands travelled down to the stomach instead, and they doubled over onto their front, trembling and retching dramatically. Having not exactly been poisoned like this before, it seemed like a valid belief they were going to die, and this was all some kind of extortion attempt on Eadaoin’s part.

She sighed in response. "Like I said, it ain't even strong enough to even kill a basilisk rat, and I'm not into the whole slavery buiz that seems to be trending among you lads and lasses nowadays. You don't do that, and you don't go around banditing off some innocent folk minding their own buiz, okay?" Eadaoin leans down and grabs Yilga by the shoulders, dragging her up to the carrier so she sits upright leaning next to it. "Must hurt like a whore, doesn't it?" For a moment, her leery eyes turn soft, "You poor lass---" before they return to their usual vigilance. "That's what you get, you hear? Could've been much worse! Anyone else it's kill on sight!"

Yilga’s face distorted through a range of emotions, from confused distrust, to some pretty heavy indignation, their eyes narrowing and ears turning downwards.

“‘Ow dya think they got it?” A stumbling tone, still feeling as if they had been ran through the guts by a spear. Their hand struggled to point, but it was obvious they were talking about Taykk. “Never killed nobody who ain’t goin’ around layin’ it on other peeps… Dunno ‘ow you tellin’ that from a range…”

Shrugging, they crossed their arms and tried to work out the shivering feeling. Yilga knew that they weren’t the best person. Perhaps it would have been wiser to keep their mouth shut. But it had probably gone too far for that now.

“Where I come from, offin’ a person is always a real shame when you could get a new follower outta of it… Deal goes both ways... Not that I ever got the good end of the stick much, but that’s just luck…” Eyes closed, head clunked against the side of the truck. “A good fight means a good conversation first. That way you know wot’s wot, ya know?...”

Shaking hands reached into their pockets again, looking the hunter in the eye again as they did it… But it was just a flask of booze this time, nothing more.

Eadaoin shrugged. “Didn’t want to take the chance; it’s nice talking when you know they can’t shoot you mid sentence.” She crouches down to look at Yilga at level. “Of course, it ain’t great being on the receiving end, but that’s how things are. Again, were it anyone else they would’ve just killed you and took your kit. I would’ve as well, actually, but I happen to be running on a full stomach right now.” She scratches her chin. “The way I see it, you have two ways to go about once the poison wears off. You can either keep banditing and get yourself killed eventually, or you can pick smarter fights and still get killed eventually, but die better than most Grawla. I can help you last longer if you pick the latter.” She looks up at Taykk. “That okay with you?”

“You talk real fancy.” Yilga still just looked kinda bitter, but wasn’t putting up a fight at all. They basically just smelled the canteen, before laying on their side and balling up, to stop the world from spinning. “I’ll follow you... Shoulda just collared me though. Woulda been easier to know where we both stand.”

The world’s worst hangover without a good night out to show for it. Of course they were feeling sorry for themselves. Kinda made them wonder if Taykk would still be bitter, too. The situation got real messy, real fast.

In the end, it could have just been because Eadaoin was so damn tall. The sneak attack probably seemed a little unnecessary to somebody so bullheaded. Internal logic dictated that Yilga would keep their word, though, no matter what the two of them chose to call such an arrangement.

Taykk clamored back up onto her carrier so she could look down on Eadaoin, then down on Yilga, “Yeah, that seems good for me, so long as you know that I’m the one running the thing. I find the jobs, and yous guys are doing what I tell you so we can make BANK. Because without me you won’t get deals nearly as good as I can get. Got it?”

"Fine by me." Eadaoin started walking away. "I'll follow you on my own carrier." She paused and looked back at Yilga. "If you want to feel better lass, try breathing slower and steadier. It's worse when you're in a panic."
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uso
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Re: Guns and Shovels: Ch1

Post by uso » Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:19 pm

Macca’s Haberdashery,
Tigran Valley,
North-Eastern Continent Drylands,
Planet Hawking

The unlikely gathering of Grawla had paused at Macca’s Haberdashery for resupply, topping off their vehicles with fuel and water as they got ready to make the journey through the Eastern Passage: A canyon that connected the North-Eastern continent Drylands with the Western Wetlands. The Haberdashery itself was built into a cave, it was nearly invisible when viewed from above though carefully hidden markings made it’s presence known to a Grawla that knew what to look for… which was all Grawla really as Grawla-code was something taught to even the youngest of Grawla.

Taykk’s mini-carrier was now hitched up to a covered wagon, and in the back was Yilga’s ‘stuff’ including her motorcycle and the other junks he’d brought along. Sploh had also moved to the wagon since it provided more space for lounging about. The group of vehicles had been parked just outside the lip of the cave, while an assortment of other vehicles had been parked just inside. These ranged from heavy Grawla armor, to more of the ubiquitous mini-carriers, to what looked like armed buggies and stubby tanks.

But almost as soon as they arrived, Taykk was running back out of the Haberdashery, glistening black Gizmo-gun on one shoulder, and a bag that clearly wasn’t hers on the other. Without any explanation she tossed the gizmo into the back of the carrier and shouted, “LETS GO!”

*THUMP* Eadaoin lands on the dirt ground on her two boots, after she climbed out the top access port of her APC. It was a rusted, stripped down thing, with the turret completely removed and the top armor replaced by a thin sheet of metal barely strong enough to stop rain and shrapnel. The large engine exhaust tube was reduced to something smaller. Pulling her hood down, she goes over to the backside of the vehicle and opens the door, with a ramp immediately springing out in response. With a rhythmic and rapid clicking sound, a dozen metal spider-legs reach for forward ground in successive motion. On this rather unsettling contraption is a short but stout male Grawla, whose facial features are nearly identical to that of Eadaoin’s, save for the existence of a pair of thin-wire glasses and the lack of a few scars. He breathes steadily and audibly as he turns the two side cranks that move the contraption. Sitting on a old, leathery seat, his lower body is nearly non-existent; a pair of brown pants lay flaccid against shriveled legs that are reduced to only skin and bone.

Eadaoin hooks two bags onto the sides of her companion’s chair-crawler as he drives it forward, while she carries a bag on her back herself. She casually walked up to Taykk and peered into the cave curiously, one hand in a pocket, with her companion quietly following her, only for Taykk to yell at her. The old Grawla raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong? And what’s with the new bag? Don’t look like supplies to me.”

Yilga slowly curled upwards from their sleeping spot in the back of the wagon, looked at Eadaoin’s doppelganger, and then at Taykk’s suspicious new bag.

“I told you they do this.” Was their immediate reaction, giving the hunter a sideways glance. “Ya never trust the small ones…”

It was more of a lazy practiced motion than a hurried affair, but they slung their bolt-action rifle to their shoulder after this, and wheeled their slightly undersized motorbike from the back of the wagon. Seeing as they weren’t immediately under fire, this gave them enough time to fish out some riding goggles, and a handful of those rifle-barrel grenades, too.

“Probably best get ready for a leggin’.” Another vocal thought, this time directed more at the whole group, as they pumped the engine crank on the bike with their boot. “They look kinda well equipped ‘round ‘ere.”

Sploh also seemed to finally be rousing from his sleep, his head poking out above the back gate for long enough to see the multitude of tanks lined up just inside the entrance to the cave. The next thing he reached for was a rolled up blanket full of stuff which he began unfolded.

Taykk seemed less interested in looking back as she tossed the newly acquired bag into the back of the carrier, running right past Eadaoin as she followed that bag by jumping up onto the edge of her carrier, pulling herself inside and starting it up with a loud rumble. “LESS TALKIN MORE LEGGIN!” Taykk shouted, slamming something into gear with a loud crunch, the entire machine lurching into motion as it headed towards the entrance to the canyon nearby that connected the drylands to the wetlands.

Just inside of the cave there were more Grawla that seemed just as confused as Eadaoin. Some were busy repairing their vehicles, others were just moving stuff around. Further inside of the cave was the actual Haberdashery itself. There were more structures further inside of the cave full of stores of parts, dried food, and other supplies. It certainly looked like there was enough there to feed an army.

“Ah, rat ‘nure.” Eadaoin scratched her grey hair. “Want me to go start up the engines, sis?” The Grawla on the chair-crawler spoke up. “Yes please.” She replied, loading a dart into her air rifle and back pedaled towards the APC. Must be the years getting to her, having her crippled brother out in the open like this. She’ll apologize to him later. He nodded, turning the cranks on his contraption as hard as he could to get inside the vehicle. Finding cover behind the APC, Eadaoin took a better look at what was inside the cave as APC slowly whirled to life again.

There was a loud cough and sputter as Yilga finally got their own vehicle going, the small engine grunting, skipping out, and struggling to idle. Not a great time to sit around and tweak it, though. Yilga hopped on hard enough to bounce the suspension, then rode past the hunter in a large ring whilst they u-turned around.
“You came in with us, so you’ll be judged just the same, girlee…” They said as they rode past. There was a ‘just to you know’ tone to it, making it pretty clear that they hadn’t made their mind up about Eadaoin yet. “...Wouldn’t dawdle.”

Took another second bouncing along the mud and stones before they made it back to the track proper, and then they wasted zero time bolting after Taykk and their small carrier-tank.

“I’m probably twice your age, lassy!” Eadaoin shouted back in annoyance, but took her advice anyways. With one hand one her rife, she used the other to climb up the APC and down into the compartment through the top port, then threw the throttle up to max, having the whole vehicle grumble in protest. It then spit out a large, grey plume of smoke and carbon dioxide, its treads sliding in place for a split second before accelerating the whole vehicle forward after Yilga.

Taykk was already a good distance down the road by the time Eadaoin had gotten their APC started. The sounds of the engine noise covered up the yelling coming from inside of the cave as some of the Grawla who were responsible for things realized Taykk wasn’t coming back with what she promised. As Eadaoin’s APC pulled away from the mouth of the cave, bullets would fly past, small arms fire bouncing off the side of the APC. It would take more than a few moments for these Grawla to get their vehicle started… and Taykk’s plan seemed pretty clear: Head right through the Canyon and into the wetlands before anyone could stop her!

Swerving around and avoiding the general direction of the gunfire, Yilga used the armoured vehicle as mobile cover for several paces, before bombing it forward once the enemy was apparently forced to reload. With their rifle on the handlebars, they darted their head backwards, trying to observe exactly what manner of attack they were under; A heavy and slow tank was a far different prospect than a combat buggy…

Yilga might have felt relief when the first few vehicles started pulling out of the cave. These coal-black-smoke spewing tanks lurched forward, came to a stop, turned in the direction that Taykk had just sped off to, and then started accelerating towards them. The heavily armored vehicles seemed to have no chance of catching up to the group, but soon a low-pitched whine filled the air as a pair of buggies shot out of the cave and turned towards Eadaoin’s vehicle. Each of the six wheel’d buggies had a heavy armor plate in front with a Grawla manning some kinda machine gun while the back had a few large Grawla in body armor who were clearly ready for a fight.

Sploh had already gotten his gear ready, he was wearing a thin green cloth over one shoulder, and had on a necklace made from baseball sized spheres with a small feathered tail on the end. He also had what looked like a large stick with a flat paddle at the end, another one that was a large tube, and a set of fresbie looking devices… not that it mattered as with Eadaoin behind Taykk’s rapidly moving micro-carrier his line of sight to the Grawla behind them was completely blocked.

“Oh, for the love of--- Eamonn! Take the controls!” Eadaoin marched to the back of the APC, threw her air rifle in a chest, then opened another. Inside was a high caliber, bolt-action rifle held together by wires, bolts, and string. She took a few bullets out of a small box and winced. These cartridges were more valuable than the rifle itself. Nonetheless, she loaded one into the barrel and stood behind the back entrance. Taking a strap, she hooked herself up to the vehicle to get better footing. She aimed her rifle at a corner of the exit. “Alright, open it up a little.” As the outside light squeezed into the APC amidst the rumbling of vehicles, Eadaoin sought out her target. There were too many wheels, it seemed, and the engine was well protected. With a deep breath, she planted her feet, zoned in on the head of a driver as it popped up, and took her shot.

The things that Yilga had jammed down the back of their shirt looked like metal arrows with grenades attached to the ends, but as they briefly slowed down to demonstrate, the rod actually slid right down the barrel of their rifle. With bullets whirring past, it forced them to speed up again afterwards, finding the reasonably flat depression in the depth of someone else’s tire tracks…

No other way of doing this. Darted a look backwards with the rifle butt in the side of their stomach, and the free hand making micro-adjustments to keep the bike as straight as possible. The thuggish lout might as been as dumb as a brick, but evidently some level of skill had kept them alive this long.

~SKROWW!~ The grenade was let loose, aiming for the vague area of the eye slit in the metal pannel at the fore of the nearest buggy. It was time to see what quality of steel these guys were using…

*Ka-PANG!*

Eadaoin’s shout bounced off the armor plate across the front of the vehicle, the loud pang and shower of sparks causing the driver to duck their head down under the armor plate for a moment while the machinegunner next to him took aim at the APC, firing off a short burst of shots before Yilga’s grenade landed with a loud *POP!* The fragmentation caught the gunner by surprise, and though most of the explosive blast was deflected by the armor plate, there was more than enough to damage the cooling sheath around the machine gun while sending the gunner ducking under the armor plate. This caused that buggy to slow down a little bit, ending up falling behind the second buggy that was now closing in on Eadaoin’s transport.

Though as Eadaoin started to reload, they’d find the rear of their transport now had a few more holes in it, with oil starting to leak into the interior of the vehicle thanks to a lucky burst from the machiengun.

Taykk was shouting something, sounding quite happy as they reached the Canyon entrance. After a short trip through the Canyon they’d be inside of the wetlands, however the Canyon was only really large enough for one vehicle to pass through at a time, with steep cliffs on either side making it nearly impossible for people to travel double-wide. Taykk was first to reach the Canyon of course, and wouldn’t waste any time waiting for the rest of ‘her party’ before heading through the Canyon at high speed.

Eadaoin cursed under her breath at the near-miss of bullets ricocheting around the inside of the APC, cursing even louder at the timer they were now on, now that they’re hemorrhaging fuel. No matter. Eamonn has the throttle, she just has to put a hole through one of those drivers’ skulls. Shoving another precious bullet into her rifle, she takes aim again, now at the second buggy’s operator.

Yilga’s ponderous aim had caused them to slow down a little, to the point where they were now more or less adjacent to Eadaoin’s guncrawler. Thankfully the angrier of the two buggies was on the opposite side, with the ping-ponging sound of ricocheting gunfire making it obvious that they were there.

Keeping pace for just a minute, and realising that they’d be out in the open if they sped ahead, now that the enemies were in machinegun range, the dark green thug just stared into the hunter’s back for a minute. Was it really worth the bonus ‘cool points’ for slowing down, popping out from behind the tank, and making a crack shot?...

Naw. Yilga wanted to live, not get through the rest of a very short life with too many ventilation holes.

Taking one of their two remaining grenades in hand, they used Eadaoin like a compass instead, lobbing the explosive up and over the APC. It only had to land somewhere in the general vicinity, really…

Eadaoin’s next shot missed the target entirely flying over the head of the driver, while Yilga’s explosive coasted overhead. The second buggy would unleash its first burst of machinegun fire, the rounds bouncing off the back of the gun carrier as the driver swerved to avoid Yilga’s crudely lobbed projectile. With how they had been thrown, the explosive would have gone off a few seconds after the buggy had passed by, but the driver’s failed swerve would bring its tires right over the grenade, bouncing it up into the undercarriage and blowing off two of the rear wheels, causing the buggy to grind to a halt in the dirt. While the Grawla in the back started to get out, the original buggy swerved around its damaged partner to try and close the distance once more.

The Canyon itself didn’t stretch that far, and soon Taykk was out on the other side, bringing her carrier to a stop to allow Sploh to hop out of the back, carrying a bunch of frizbie looking devices. Since the Canyon only had enough space for one vehicle to pass through at a time, Sploh just had to wait for the others to pass by him and then he’d finally get to attack a vehicle!

“Cock ‘nure!” Eadaoin cursed at the second failed shot, cringing at the wasting ammunition. “Sis, don’t worry ‘bout downing them, just keep their attention on us!” Eamonn shouted from the front. “What, why?” She shouted back, not realizing Taykk’s carrier stopped way in front of them. “Trust me on this!”

“Fine then!” Eadaoin threw the sniper rifle back into the chest, pulling out her air rifle and half a dozen darts. With sleight of hand, she loaded and fired them in rapid succession, draining the rifle’s gas cartridge dry. This, she didn’t mind. The cartridge can always be repressurized, darts can be made out of scrap metal. Sure, they don’t have any punch to them, but they’re fast and scary.

Yilga was actually stuck between a rock and a hard place at this point. The clawed heavy-duty mitts they were wearing actually made it super hard to feed conventional ammo into their rifle, and they weren’t really good enough to aim it going at this speed anyway.

Taking a deep gulp, they decided to re-sling their weapon instead. Waiting until the hunter was at the start of a new salvo from their airgun, they pumped the gas and rapidly shifted upwards in gears, accelerating rapidly past the front of the APC.

Hopefully, they would get to the gap in the cliffs first, without being run over by (or accidently hitting) their own companions…

Why were they babysitting the pair that had a tank, anyway?... They had a tank!

Yilga would zip past the tank, far faster on two wheels than the others were on treads. She would easily be able to get through the canyon before Eadaoin got through, blasting past a rather excited Sploh who was eagerly clutching one of the frisbie like devices, pulling a small wire out of one end and then tossing it into the canyon, letting it settle down onto the dirt as Eadaoin drove past it… Sploh’s eye’s getting wider and wider as the other buggy approached darts and bullets being exchanged until….

*BOOM*

Sploh sent a small electrical charge through the wire, detonating the explosive on the ground and flinging the front part of the buggy into the air, leaving a mangled wreck blocking the exit of the canyon!

Yilga paused for a moment, rolling to a halt, but still in the saddle. The spectacle of twisted metal made them think that the APC had exploded for a moment, and it took a bit of furious blinking to figure out exactly what happened.

“You payin’ me for this, Taykk?...” More furious blinking, looking back and forth to confirm who was in one piece, and who was not. “You bettah be payin’ me for dis.”

The APC rolled to a stop a few yards away. Eadaoin unhooked herself from the straps that kept her steady and pushed the backdoor completely open. She tossed the spent gas cartridge into the hull, screwing in a pressurized one into her air rifle, along with another dart. She kept her sights aimed on the smoldering wreckage as she chimed in along with Yilga. “You’d better. We almost got killed there.” Behind her Eamonn was already hard at work getting tape and tubing together to fix the leak in the APC.

Taykk was watching… at first with excitement as Sploh got into position. Then with less excitement as Yilga passed by… then with worry once Eadaoin had passed through… followed by slight panic until the whole thing finally exploded and transitioning into anger when Sploh got back, “WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH ALL THE MONEY!” She shouted at him, a sudden realization hitting her that she’d have to keep working with these people, “THE MONEY THAT I AM TOTALLY SHARING WITH EVERYONE!”

Frustration!

“You’re supposed to do what I Tell you!” Taykk shouted again.

Sploh also looked rather unhappy, “That was only ONE buggy! I barely got to do anything!”

“THAT ISN’T THE POINT!” Taykk shouted, her attention turning to everyone else with her “... I guess we’re splitting the money too… but next time you guys gotta do stuff too!”

Yilga looked more than a little ruffled, removing their goggles and fixing their hair. They wheeled the bike over with a bit of a sour look on their face, thus beginning intimidation round two…

“We gotsta do stuff? You think ey’m flingin my boomers around for fun? I only gots one left!” Gloves made a creaking sound, forming into fists upon their hips. They gave a quick glance over to Eadaoin, wondering if they would interfere again… But decided they’d probably get away with verbal roughhousing, at least. “They was shootin’ at us, not you!”

More creaking, and an annoyed look forming on their fangs and stubby eyebrows. They wanted to get the squeaky thing in a headlock. How were you supposed to get to know anybody without any physical contact at all? It was like communicating purely with those letter things, cold and distant. What the heck was wrong with these swampy folk? Did they not know how to express themselves at all?

Eadaoin actually nodded in agreement. “We saved your little behind back there. My APC almost got turned into a fanged-wasp’s nest, and I spent more ammo that I would’ve liked back there. The least you could do… hmm…” She eyed the wreckage. “The buggy had a pretty good gun on it. Either of you good with salvage?”

The short thug’s annoyed expression gained a hint of intrigue. The buggy was totalled and on fire, but there was no guarantee either the gun… or, well, the occupants… were totally done in.

Was it worth sticking around that long?...

Yilga completely turned face, walked right up to Taykk’s small dual-body articulated tank, and pulled the ratchet lever which held a heavy machinegun in line with the copilot’s seat. It was the banana-mag version, but it was still the same general weapon that the buggy had. “I’m borrowin’ dis, small thing… Pipsqueak ain’t even usin’ it no-how...”

Hoisting the solid block of metal over one shoulder, they then walked over to the rather beaten up APC, and gave the rather beaten up driver a knowing look.

“Erm… Boy hunter persun… This goes on ‘ere, dunnit?...” A cumbersome mit pointed at the rollbar along the top of the hull. It was indeed vaguely the same size as the g-clamp. “You want more bang-o, doyn’cha?...”

“Oh, I’m Yilga, by the way... Yur sis tried to kill me... but I’mma let her off dis wun tiem.”

Eadaoin’s brother looked up from patching up the APC’s internals and gave a mischievous smile. “If she wanted you dead, you already would be. Never know if a sniper has their sights trained on us out here, but we can’t be always cowering, can we? Anyways, yes, a gun would be nice, but we’ll still need the ammo for it, ammo that we can only salvage.” He takes a scrap piece of metal from a chest and pushes himself to the back of the APC to patch up the holes. “Hopefully we’ll find some in that dead buggy. Most likely though, we’ll end up with scrap metal. Which is fine too I guess.”

“An’ what if dere mates follow us, and we luggin stuff soo-speechusly sim-lar?” Yilga struggled to sound a little smarter than a brick, but this wasn’t their first rodeo. “Ammo, well… More in the back of Taykk’s caboose, innit!”

“Hmm…” Eamonn pondered as he took a grinder to smooth out one of the holes the machine gun fire made in the hull. The noise of the metal’s protests echoed in the APC as he replied with a raised voice. “It’ll probably just be the gun, and we can disguise that, if at all. Scrap metal and bullets can be kept from sight quite easily.

“HEY THIS IS ALL MY STUFF!” Taykk shouted, jumping up onto the back of her crawler and spreading out as much as possible to keep anyone else from taking anything more of ‘hers’

Sploh was coming back now, also climbing into the back of the crawler past Taykk without saying too much other than, “Its just Grawla left back there…”

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO KILL THEM!” Taykk shouted,

“I kill big things. Grawla aren’t big. So this is your t’ing.” Sploh said, stuffing his explosion gear away for a moment before popping his head back up out of the crawler, “So find me more things to explode. And pay me.”

“AND PAY ME,” Taykk mocked, frowning at everyone, “Ok, There is supposdta be another place not too far from here with like… trains and stuff. I’m sure I can find us smore stuff to take. I’ll even give you SOME of it for helping ok? Same deal as before? ALSO NO MORE TAKING OF MY STUFF! I’M LOOKING AT YOU YILGA! I WANT MY GUN BACK LATER!”

Eadaoin backed up to the APC, lowering her rifle as she stared into the canyon. “Looks like no time for salvage then. Eamonn, Repairs done yet?”

Her brother looked past Yilga and replied, “Not completely, but she’ll run without bleeding all over the place now.”

The sister nodded, then looked at Taykk. “Better keep your word. I gotta eat, and you need to stop making enemies. Fair trade I’d say.” She made her way back into the APC as Eamonn started the engine.

Yilga almost wanted to go back to the ruined buggy just because Taykk told them not to, but was snatched away from that option by the roar of the engine she was standing directly beside. An uncharacteristically comely smile was offered to Eamonn before dismounting the vehicle, swinging off the upper frame of the back ramp’s hatchway and giving him a glimpse of gross armpit hair. Too noisy to spout their normal barrage of bossy slurs in addition to this, at least...

Backed outwards and approached Taykk next. The cumbersome thing snatched two handfulls of bullets directly from the integrated ammo locker on the floor of the back section, dumping it directly down the front of their overalls and daring the smalla Grawla to confront them.

“...These fellas doin you in if you ain’t shootin’ at ‘em.” A grouchy narrowing of the eyebrows, tongue poking through fanged teeth. “So I’m just pullin da triggah, yah?”

Jumped on their bike after that without giving them a time to answer, swerving around and right back up to the APC; It was actually pretty small, so lobbing it on the roof and climbing back onboard only took a moment.

Sat cross legged on the upper doors after that, keeping their eyes on Taykk and waiting to get underway… Regardless of whether they were actually invited onto the personnel carrier or not.

The swampy hunters needed somebody to shoot that gun too, right?...

Yilga was directly challenging her authority! Taykk had to bring out the BIG GUNS in order to put her in her place. The deployment method was well rehersed… she opened her eyes wide, puffed out her cheeks a bit, extended her lower lip…

“YOU’RE TAKING MAH BULLETS!” she pouted, employing MAXIMUM POUT in order to get her way, watching helplessly as she tried to cover as much of ‘her stuff’ with her hands and arms as possible while Yilga just took what she wanted. The watery eyes were next… followed by a little bit of lip tremble…

She then turned her attention to Eadaoin and Eamon, applying the pout to them to see if they’d do anything to stop the bounty-hunter that was liberating guns and bullets from Taykk’s supply of stuff.

Eadaoin looked at the crocodile-teared Taykk, then back at Yilga, who took up residence on top of her APC, then back at Taykk, and finally shrugged. “You weren’t doing anything with it. Do you want to part with your gun for a little while, or get killed by all those friends of yours?” She closed up the ramp, leaving a small gap as before as she strapped herself on. Eamonn simply nodded at his sister’s readiness to leave and knocked on the wall to grab Yilga’s attention upstairs. “Ready whenever you are.”

“BEGIN THA ANNHULASHUN.” Yilga announced, throwing their eyes and arms wide, evidently quite pleased with themselves. Good core strength and a low center of gravity meant they clung on quite well. “Les’go find this train on rails!”

Of course, this meant that they had gone from being shot by Eadaoin for stealing from Taykk, to actually being supported by them, really quite quickly indeed. The pink-nosed befangled creature felt a little bad, but it really was true that they’d be using up all their bullets carrying out Taykk’s missions at this rate.

So… Eh. They’d just have to find a way to pay them back later.

“Guncrawler swamphunter, it is made of indestctoobal steel! It does a crushing of aull doez’ enumies! It breathes led and fire, it does! Treads done crush mens like a moovin’ moon-tan!”

Hold on, was it made of indestructable metal?...

They paused mid-rant and started smelling the guard rail, just to be sure.

...It didn’t taste like mild steel..

“MMNNmnmnMmmm” The pouting wasn’t working! Her quivering lip quickly switching to a frown as her expression changed back to normal as if she had never been upset in the first place, “FINE. Lets go steal something from that stupid train.” Taykk said, crawling back to the front of her crawler and starting the engine...
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Re: Guns and Shovels: Ch3

Post by uso » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:06 am

Port Squishy,
Tigran Coast,
North-Eastern Continent Wetlands,
Planet Hawking

Port Squishy was so named for the squishyness of the Wetlands it resided in. There was moss on the trees, and water everywhere, nearly every surface you could touch would squish in some way. Even the roads that had been ‘built’ were little more than wood platforms and trees that had been encouraged to grown in a certain way to make the land just a bit more firm. Floating platforms and tree-houses were just about the only solid surfaces around… and they sprawled out for miles in every direction along the coast itself with some platforms large enough to house even massive ocean-going ships.

The group of Grawla had arrived right around mid-day, following the hidden trails and emblems that had been carefully blended into the terrain in order to reach Port Squishy. The group had ended up parking just outside of an Inn, which was built above the ground treehouse style.

A suspicious Taykk was eyeing it carefully, “Im not gonna pay just to sleep in there…” She thought outloud, hugging a small bag of gold and gems carefully as she looked about, trying to get an idea of what all was actually at Port Squishy. The moss-covered and slightly concealed buildings held all sorts of wonders ranging from food, to entertainment, to weapons and equipment. You could get just about anything you wanted here if you knew where to look.

And Taykk wanted a train,

Or a boat,

She was willing to steal either… or both if that was somehow possible.

“Hey, can a train fit on a boat?” Taykk asked, having never actually seen a train before.

Eamonn hid a snort away within the APC. Eadaoin was laying on top of the hull chewing on a piece of jerky when she heard the nonsense. She got up and looked at Taykk incredulously. “Haven’t traveled much, have you? Even so, you oughta know what it is, right? It’s like… hmm.” Eadaoin started gesturing in the air with a finger. “It’s like a lich snake, except they’re large and metallic and they have stuff inside them. They can segment apart and get rearranged. Of course, they can’t breed like that.” She shakes her head. “You can’t put an entire train on a boat; those things can get so long their two ends will hit different hills. The mountain clans’ anyways. Though, it’s possible to fit half a dozen compartments on a boat if it’s large enough.”

Yilga had the opposite problem, being very well versed in underground mining trains, but having never seen a boat before. Actually, even after all her adventures in the hills and desert, their current locale was striking pretty high up in their list of desirable locations.

“...Who spilled all that?...” The befangled girl snorted, looking around at the massive body of water in awe. They didn’t actually believe it was Grawla-made, but could think of no other explanation. There was no other course of action but to take their boots off and leap off the vehicle, steadily walking up to the water until their bare ankles were one with the surf. “It goes on for miles and miles!”

They instinctively picked up a lump of green fluffy plant-stuff too, but it tasted pretty horrible. Much too salty.

“Really wanna sleep out ‘ere with all dat cash? That water hadda get ‘ere some-ow… I’m reconnin it rains something fierce down this way…” An earnest, mystified look between Taykk and Eadaoin, as if they had known the both of them for a lifetime. Their palms clasped together, and their grasping toes made themselves at home in the warm kelp. “Erm… What where we here for again?... A cut! You were gonna sell on that thing-ya-ma-call-it gun, wern’t ya Taykie?...”

Taykk frowned as she rummaged around in her crawler to find and pick up ‘The Gun’ It had a sleek, angular shape and was made up of a strange black material. There was a pointy end, and an end with a small protrusion that looked like a handle or maybe a lever but the whole thing was one solid piece. “Maybe we could find someone who knows how to work it? This thing has to be some super-powerful-alieyum-space-gun. ITs why it was so valuable back there but it’d be way easier to sell to people if I could use it to turn people inside-out…” Taykk pointed it at the nearest tree and started squeezing it again, hoping it would cause some explosions only to be disappointed by the lack of anything happening.

“Stupid Aliyums.”


She’d turn her attention back to the group, “I need to find someone to sell it too… then I can steal it back!”

*GURGLE*

“Uh… FIRST I WILL GRACIOUSLY BUY FOOD FOR EVERYONE.” Taykk said.

---

~10 minutes later…

Taykk had found a place selling fried fish that had been freshly caught, and purchased enough fish on a sticks to feed everyone. A number of the warm fish now sticking out of the top of her crawler as both her and Sploh tore into the food

“You know about the trains?” Taykk asked, taking a huge bite out of the fish on a stick she was holding as she continued to speak, “You can drive a trains? We should just take one…”

The twins nearly swallowed their portions whole. Not that they were particularly hungry; they had a crate of jerky, but fresh food was new to them in recent memory. Eamonn wiped off the oil around his mouth with his bare arm. “It’s not that simple. Trains are big, complex beasts. You need at least a few people to ‘drive’ them from what I’ve seen, and it’s not like you can just ‘drive’ them anywhere. They need long strips of metal to follow along, rails, I think what they’re called.”

After confirming it’s exact nature by the customary licking of the object, Yilga proceeded to eat a rather ugly grilled flatfish quite rapidly, also eating the wooden skewer, but not the skull. It had too many teeth of it’s own.

“Dey are called ‘tracks’...” They piped up whilst starting the second fish, cheeks stuffed with reddish-pink chunks of tasty meat. Also didn’t quite understand that Eamonn was right too, but was just in a good mood and trying to be helpful. “Yeah… They got like a metal’n’wood road that they are stuck on. You can’t steal ‘em too good, since they don’t gotta steerin’ whats-it…”

Minecarts were second nature to them, but the beastly creature didn’t feel the need to explain the hows and whys right now.

They say that the best road to a person’s heart was through their stomach, and Yilga massively identified with this, now so warmed up to Taykk that all previous questions of loyalty were momentarily forgotten. A non-voluntary hug was enveloped over the smaller thing’s shoulders, close enough that they could feel that nosering rolling around on the top of their head.

“It makes a ‘chun-chun!’ sound and it’s really ‘eavy…” Confused messages, feeling sleepy because they were full of some large sealife, but also wanting to feel helpful because of that. “‘Course I mostly shoveled stuff into ‘em.”

“So we’d need to steal some tracks, and steal some train-grawla, and then steal the train?” Taykk asked, thinking it over for a moment, “That’s only like… three things. Three BIG things… What about a boat? How many things would we need to steal for that? OH! A BIG boat, one we can put all our stuff on. Obviously we can’t leave our stuff behind!”

Eadaoin shot Taykk a look of disbelief, glancing at Yilga, then back at Taykk. She nudged her brother, who scratched his beard in discomfort. “You can’t just steal tracks, lass. They’re as long as a train needs to travel. A boat though…” He mused for half a minute, looking back at his sister, who was slowly but surely shaking her head. Eamonn gave a mischievous smile, continuing to Taykk. “A boat is much more doable. You’d need a crew, but that’s just a captain, someone in the engine room, and a couple of hands. Even large boats only need that much, maybe a couple more if you want spotters.”

Eadaoin smacked herself in the face in response, growling at her brother. “You just sentenced us to unmarked graves. You know how many guards they put up protecting those things? Damn, all the crew are probably armed as well!” He simply smirked back, “You always wanted better pay, and a bigger bunk than this scrap.” He knocked on the APC’s hull.

Yilga just observed the other three talking for a pace… They kinda prefered the idea of stealing a train since they had a better idea of what that was, but then they’d be ‘the expert’ and they’d probably be expected to know how to work it, and all that… Whatever happened to good old fashioned treads? They already missed the short journey they had spent on the APC.

“Where do they put all the old dead boats?” It was a reasonable question for a Grawla; Almost all the land vehicles were either clan military surplus, or built from scrap parts that used to be. “Those don’t got no crew at all…”

Not enough resources to be picky. And heck, maybe there would be somebody guarding a find like that… But Yilga really didn’t want to mess with one of those pirate sea clans. She’d heard the sea folk were super sneaky and never forgot a grudge.

Thoughts moved on to the weird artifact that Taykk was still holding, and they questioned if this was all really worth it…

Walking out of the water and up to the small Goblin, they put their hands behind their back as if they just wanted to look… Then slurped half the way up the length of the barrel with a really bizarre but determined expression.

“Tastes like… coal?...” A confused expression. “Coal not expensive thing, b-but… Some people sayin’ pinkskin robot-metal taste like that too?..”
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Re: Guns and Shovels: Ch1

Post by uso » Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:23 pm

“HOW DOES THAT HELP GET ME A BOAT?!” Taykk shouted, looking at her now spit-slick ancient alium gun thing. “Stop licking my stuff. Wait. Can you fix a boat? Stealing a dead-boat is going to be easier than stealing a still living boat. They gotta have like… spare stuff somewhere right?”

*Zap* The now-slobbery alium device seemed to deliver a low-level shock to Yilga, and at the same time an extremely faint green glow started to appear deep inside of the jet-black surface of the thing. Of course, the squiggly green-stuff didn’t make sense to anyone in any meaningful way, nor did the device seem to get warmer or otherwise change in any other way besides now being slick with Yilga-spit.

Taykk, however, had already shifted her attention elsewhere, standing ontop of her crawler and pointing at the small food-stall that had sold her the stick’d fish, “HEY YOU! WHERE DO YOU KEEP YOUR DEAD SHIPS!?”

The rather beefy Grawla behind the counter looked at this group for a moment, then just pointed kinda southward.

“THANKS!” Taykk hopped back down and grabbed her alium-gun, storing it away from Yilga and then covering it with a blanket, “OK, So lets go that way and get ourselves a ship! And supplies… and fuel I guess? Do we know how far it is to the next place? Anyayous been out this far?”

As Taykk spoke, the wind started to change. A low hum following a soft breeze that was coming in from the ocean. A series of jet-black cylinders were rising from the ocean in the distance, forming up into a line that hovered about 50-60 meters off the surface. They were nearly over the horizon, being hard to spot for normal-Grawla, but there was clearly someone on watch as it didn’t take long for air-raid sirens to sound.

The entire port seemed to suddenly change, Grawla were closing their stores, the various tree-houses and other structures were having armored shutters close while Grawla started running about, uncovering weapons and vehicles that were hidden under huge piles of moss or in garages made from carefully grown trees.

Eadaoin shook her head slowly and swallowed the last of her meal. “Trouble found us first.” She nodded to Eamonn, who dutifully pulled himself to and down the APC’s ceiling hatch with his forearms. Eadaoin herself zipped down the ceiling hatch, appearing out of the backside of her vehicle with her sniper rifle. She yelled at Yilga amidst the APC’s engines rumbling to life. “Man that gun and keep an eye out for my brother! I’m gonna find myself some explosive rounds!” Without waiting for a reply back, Eadaoin zipped from Grawla to Grawla, searching for the ammunition she needed.

Yilga froze on the spot for a moment, fighting their natural Hill Grawla urge to find a hole and jump in it. They didn’t like leaving their bike outside, but the roughshod APC really was the next best thing.

“Dis is why under a mountain is the best place to be.” The rotund creature spoke to Eamonn, pretty much yelling in order to be heard over the engine noise. “Even under the big wet, people can still eyeball ya…”

Quickly ducking in through the rear hatch, they soon ended up pretty much shoving themselves into the driver’s cabin. Because of the extremely awkward central door design squashed right at the front of the tank, getting inside whilst somebody was already sitting in a seat was a real pain in the ass… Well, that and Yilga was just plain the worst shape for it.

This embarrassing display combined with the proximity to a total stranger made them too shy to talk his ear off, at least. Those mechanical legs were also kind of intimidating; If he build them himself, he must be pretty smart… Sticking just their head through the gunner’s coupla, Yilga hurriedly pulled back the bolt on the oversized slug thrower, and then put all other thoughts to the back of their mind whilst silently waiting for the coming storm.

Taykk was busy trying to start up her crawler, while Sploh was peaking his head up out the trailer, eyes wide as he saw the things approaching from the ocean. The cylinders were forming up into a large ring, and were coming directly towards the shore while Sploh was busy picking up the largest rocket launcher he had to mount it onto the back of the crawler.

“PUT THAT AWAY! WE’RE LEAVING!” Taykk shouted, turning a hand crank to try and get the engine to start, “AND EADAOIN! FIND SOME FUEL! WE’RE GONNA NEED IT!”

There was no telling if Eadaoin actually heard her, the sound of other engines starting up could be heard throughout the port, and the whole area was starting to get kinda loud… but that didn’t stop the shop keeper that Eadaoin found from overhearing her requests. The towering shopkeeper had nearly finished closing the armored shutters on his store, a rocket launcher and shotgun were strapped to his back, and some body armor was laying on the countertop for once he was finished…

“Take what you need…” He said, leaving the front armored shutter open for Eadaoin.

The entire store was covered on all sides by trees, and once the final armored shutter was closed it would be well disguised into the wetness of the wetlands as if it was just a giant mass of trees. On the inside were racks of guns, ammunition, dried food, clothing, and hunting supplies. While normally payment would have been required, when it came to Aliens (Or flying weird-things) all Grawla were on the same side.

It didn’t take long for Eadaoin to find what she needed. She grabbed half a dozen clips of sniper rifle bullets and shoved them into her cloak’s pockets. Loading one into her gun, she then grabbed a spare fuel tank with one hand. Wished she could grab more, but now wasn’t the time for greedy looting. Eadaoin made her way back towards the group just as Eamonn was backing up the APC straight towards her.

She met her brother halfway and jumped in through the opened ramp, pulling it closed behind her. The huntress squeezed past Yilga to get to the top of the APC, laying prone as she took aim at the incoming Aliens. Now ready, Eadaoin yelled at Taykk, “We’re following you now!”

Since the tank was facing the wrong way now, this left Yilga in a considerable state of uneasiness. It took several paces to unscrew the g-clamp that was attaching the machinegun to the front safety bar, and reorientate it towards the rear, rising up just above the female hunter’s boots.

“D-d-do we shoot it?” The leaf-green creature looked on the verge of panic. Normally you didn’t shoot so soon because it gave away your position, but with being out on the middle of the mossy swamp shore like this, that was real bad news... ”Our peashooters ain’t gonna do nothing against that kinda shit! What do we do, Eady-o-in!?... I d-don’t w-w-wanna get s-stir fried!”

Taykk’s engine finally sputtered to life, the Grawla checking her remaining fuel… and then going to run into the store that Eadaoin just came from to try and get another canister at the last possible moment.. Ending up in a small argument with the shopkeep who was trying to get to where his vehicle was hidden…

Sploh, meanwhile, was far from panic’d. The missile launcher that he was setting up on the back of the Crawler was ornate to say the least. The entire thing was wrapped in an orange cloth which he pulled off once it was mounted onto the back of the crawler on the only place the crawler really seemed to have to position a weapon. The tube itself was nearly a quarter-meter in diameter and was topped with a rather bulbous sphere. The whole thing was a highly polished silver-chrome with smooth wooden inlays and small read ribbons attached to the top that were hanging down slightly. Ornate engraving along the sides also included instructions for how to operate the weapon, including the silver sighting mechanism that hung off to the side.

“... WE SHOOT IT!” Sploh said, his eyes wide as he looked at the thing that was approaching them, the ring of black-things getting closer and closer to the shore-line.

As Taykk came running back towards her crawler, one of the screw-powered tanks near the shoreline started firing at the ring, unleashing a barrage of missiles from one turret, and a hail of machinegun fire from the other. The sheer volume of fire would hit at least one of the black cylinders making up the ring, causing it to explode and fall into the ocean.

The ring of cylinders then responded, the entire area around it looking a bit hazy as the rest of the missiles in the air disappeared with a series of dull ‘POP’s. The tank that shot at the ring then disappeared along with everything in a nearly perfect 5 meter sphere around it. Other vehicles then started shooting, only for a sphere of water to disappear from the ocean, waves flooding inward towards where the water was removed, only for the sphere of water to now fall down onto the coast, the flash-flood knocking around some of the tanks.

Taykk wasn’t waiting to see what happened next, clunking the extra fuel tank into place and then throwing her crawler into gear! Taking off back into the wetlands.

Sploh was shocked at this sudden turn of events, “YOU’RE GOIN THE WRONG WAY! LETS FIGHT IT!”

Ever since Eadaoin was a kid, she listened to stories of her ancestors kicking alien arse whenever they came down onto this rock. She remembered vividly of the description of brave Grawla who sacrificed themselves, swarming the invaders en mass to buy time for their brethren to dig out nuclear bomb cannons that shot down even the most advanced of technologies. Without means to progress their own technology at a reasonable pace, Eadaoin’s ancestors relied on their wits and their will, fighting back against those who dared tread upon their homeworld.

What a load of swamp llama shit. In reality, those weren’t brave heroes. They were either too slow or too stupid to run away when the aliens came, and it just happened that there were plenty of Grawla to make meat walls that held on. Well, Eadaoin’s many things, but she’s no brick in a meat wall.

Her twin had the same idea as he pushed their APC into high gear, flinging mud and sand around them as it hopped and clunked across the terrain. Eadaoin shouted at Yilga, and indirectly at Taykk, “We put as much lead into those things as possible while we get out of her!” She then fired an entire clip of sniper rifle ammo into what she thought was one of the cylinders’ weak spot.

Despite being seen as a simple thug, Yilga lived their life by a pretty straight forward rule; You can bully someone, but trying to kill them is a lot harder to’ put back in the bag’... Seeing some heavy armour get alien-ified away into nothingness, they would have rather preferred to simply skulk away and avoid drawing attention. Cowardly, but a good way of staying alive...

And also a school of thought that Eadaoin was not privy to.

The rotund creature ended up cocking back the handle and letting rip rather blindly, audibly shaking the entire tank with loud and chaotic, random bursts. Sounded like they were swearing, too, but the gunfire was blotting most of that out.

Most of the shots probably went somewhere in the area of the floating, ethereal thing. Heck if the befangled bully knew what some ancient mechanical weak points even looked like.

The ring of flying cylinders continued to close in, now hovering directly over the port as they continued to move in the exact same direction Taykk was going. While this made the smaller Grawla far more upset, it seemed to be making Sploh much happier as the giant thing that was attacking was only getting closer to his missile!

“HOLD IT STEADY!” Sploh shouted,

“YOU HOLD IT STEADY!” Taykk shouted back, weaving through the trees as best she could under the assumption that someone would be shooting at her… which was somewhat correct. The other Grawla were firing rockets and cannon up at the thing, some of their shells missing entirely and falling back down and starting to land in the wetlands near the heroic grawla that were trying their best to flee! The wet terrain made it hard for them to get up to speed and the trees meant they had to constantly change their direction to get through.

Eadaoin’s rounds were able to hit home, one of the cylinders breaking apart then falling to the ground. Another cylinder being destroyed by Yilda’s weapon fire. These two Grawla seemed to be having a much easier time hitting the target than those in closed top tanks who’s projectiles seem to get disappeared anytime they got too close to the thing in question.

However, despite their best efforts, the grouping of Cylinders was now hovering about 50 meters directly above them, having left a wake of nearly perfectly-cleaned-off-grawla-stuff in its path. Buildings, tanks, even people seemed to just be blinking out of existence accompanied by a sharp ‘Pop!’

The huntress didn’t have the capacity to think. Her pupils contracted, her vision narrowed, and her breathing was eerily calm and steady, though her sweat glands pumped out liquids, soaking her cloak, as if there was no tomorrow. A dozen death-makers were right above her, having annihilated everything they came across, and she was about to be next. As the APC rumbled beneath her, she got up on one knee and simply continued cycling bullets through her sniper rifle in relative silence, spent cartridges and magazines plinging and bouncing at her foot.

Yilga was heard swearing over the rust of the wind and rustling engine, or rather just making a tremendous irate growl. It took a minute to duck back down into the hatch and apparently retrieve a new magazine for the long and unwieldy gun they were manning, and then another pause for them to figure out how to reload the unfamiliar thing.

At least by the time they started firing again, the frighteningly abstract shapes hovering above them were so close that they could hardly miss…

Sploh would finally fire off his missile, a bright white flash signaling the launch as the weapon spiraled upwards and then zoom’d towards one of the cylinders above. The weapons fire from Yilga and Eadaoin also seemed to be quite effective, bringing down another one of the cylinders before

‘POP’

Taykk and Sploh’s crawler simply vanished along with some of the wetland that had been under it.

And in the next instant Eadaoin’s crawler would also ‘POP’!

The explosion of the missiles and bullets were now gone along with the wetlands. Eadaoin now found her crawler ontop of a pile of mud and water… but that mud and water was inside of what seemed to be a large warehouse. The entire interior was a flat metallic color, with a rounded ceiling and walls. The floor was flat as were both ends of the rather rectangular room. A number of metal containers of different colors were here along the sides but the most important thing was that Eadaoin’s transport was still moving forward, flinging the water and mud backwards as the crawler shot forward towards a wall that Taykk had already crashed into…

Eadaoin grabbed onto the rails on the ceiling of the APC as it screeched to a halt, sending everything not mounted flying forward. As she staggered back up to a kneeling position, she looked around in the new environment.

Yilga’s muscle memory about the layout of the transport was not so refined, causing them to whack the back of their head into the front of the cupola ring, before falling inwards, and landing on their rear right down in the footwell. As tough as the Grawla naturally were, doing all of this without a helmet left them completely dazed and confused, reaching out and grabbing onto Eamonn’s arm. Their didn’t even look at him, merely staring straight ahead as their disparate thoughts clattered together like a collapsing house of cards.

“Flowers… The moss… Surf…”

“YOU GOT US KILLED!” Taykk shouted at Sploh, popping her head up from her crawler, the lights on the vehicles were now all that was illuminating the room they were in, though from where the vehicles were stopped near the wall there wasn’t much to see other than flat surfaces and boxy-metal-boxes.

“I NEARLY KILLED THE THING! WE SHOULD HAVE FOUGHT IT!” Sploh shouted back, “I didn’t even get to see it explode!... AND WE’RE NOT DEAD!”

Taykk seemed to take a moment to evaluate the situation, “Hummm… Maybe this isn’t what being dead is like? I would think there would be more people… or less people… certainly not this number of people right?” It was only then did the rest of the area seem to start to filter into Taykk’s mind. There was STUFF in this room, “... Dead or alive… all this stuff in here is mine. I saw it first.” She stated, crossing her arms and looking over at the others, wanting to establish dominance over whatever the rectangular pieces of metal were… the objects were just as glossy-flat-black as the thing that Taykk had stolen and Yilga had licked, which made things particularly hard to see as the only lights seemed to be coming from their vehicles. Even making out what was nearby or what was on the other side of this room was nearly impossible.

The lack of light wasn’t the only problem either. The exhaust from their vehicles was rising up only a little bit and starting to pool near the ceiling. The air here already tasted stale, a swirling mix of whatever was in here already and whatever air had been brought along with them when they arrived.

“You can have all of it once we get out of here,” Eadaoin snorted, pulling Yilga and herself up. “You alright, lass?” She remarked half-heartedly without looking at the Grawla and she was supported by Eadaoin’s arm. Instead, the huntress slid down the APC carefully as her brother worked himself out of the compartment with his chair-crawler.

Eamonn had a rifle-flashlight attachment in hand as he looked around, slowly frowning at the current predicament. “I don’t see any vents or quite frankly, anything. This whole place is too damn smooth. At least those ewman space whales looked workable.”

Yilga was last out of the vehicle, still stroking the back of their head in a desperate attempt to stave off the severe feeling of discombobulation, and a probably oncoming headache. The steps slowly became more steady, and eyes adjusted to the reduced light.

For them, a familiar smell of peat-gas fumes building up in an enclosed area… Did they fall under the dirt somehow? Had the impact knocked a couple of crucial memories out of their head?...

“...This is feeling like… underground…” Rubbing the back of their head more. A small jolt indicated that they remembered their rifle all of a sudden, but then abandoned getting it because they didn’t have any bullets. After a few more moments of pained pondering, they ended up just climbing up the back of the Guncrawler and retrieving a folding shovel from their bike, instead. “How’d we get down here?... Eadd-oyn, you got the eyes, did it drop something mega big on us?...”
A disgruntled look arced between then, Taykk, Sploh, and finally the mechanical apparatus that served as Eamonn’s walking appendage.

The stout Grawla knelt down, swept away some of the newly dumped sand, and had a good think about why the floor material resembled that alien-gun so much… and if it was worth licking the floor to confirm their suspicions.

Licked it.

It wasn’t worth it.

“I’m going to have all of it NOW!” Taykk declared proudly, climbing up ontop of her crawler on wobbly legs to have a better look around. “So… IT’S MINE.” Of course, there wasn’t much of a need to declare this now, Taykk coughing slightly as she realized the exhaust was starting to pool up, the Grawla hopping back down into her crawler and turning off the combustion engine.

“Uh… Yilga has a point. How did we get here?” Sploh asked, “Maybe it ate us? Maybe this is INSIDE the thing?” His voice had a rising sense of excitement, his hands pulling out a series of anti-tank grenades and adding them to the tan bandoleer around his chest. The connotation was clear enough, his care about still being alive wasn’t nearly as big as his care about getting to kill some large thing with his series of bombs. “This thing has to have a weak point. All big things have a weak point… it usually glows.”

Taykk quickly jumped back ontop of her crawler, holding her arm out dramatically as she looked down upon the others. It was clear what was happening, and she needed to take charge lest she get blamed for all of this, “AS YOUR LEADER!,” She declared loudly, shouting over anyone who thought they might actually be in charge, “I SAY WE SHOULD SPREAD OUT AND SEARCH THIS AREA. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS HERE! AND WHO IS HERE?!...Uh…IS ANYONE OUT THERE?! YOU HAVE TO SAY SO IF YOU ARE HIDING!”

Taykk wasn’t quite certain what she was expecting, but she was fairly certain they were alone.

“I am here!” Someone called out, their voice muffled as if they were wearing some kind of scuba gear, “DO NOT SHOOT ME PLEASE. I AM GRAWLA!” The voice was coming from behind one of the black storage things, though no one was popping their head out where they could see it just yet.
uso
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Re: Guns and Shovels: Ch1

Post by uso » Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:50 am

Eamonn went back into the APC, causing its rumbling to gradually die down. Under the ensuing silence, Eadaoin took the flashlight attachment from her brother and raised it up with her sniper rifle, sights trained on the containers where the sound came from. “Grawla doesn’t mean rat ‘nure!” She hollered back as she cocked her gun. “Stand up and out with your hands where we can seem ‘em! We’ve got grenades with us and we aren’t afraid to use them!” They’ll probably have to, at some point. The air around them, heated by the engines and their own flesh, with nowhere to go, is becoming uncomfortable. With every minute going by, it’s less and less breathable. There better be something in these crates that they can use. Dealing with the scoundrel comes first though.

“Are you going to shoot me if I come out?” The other asked. It was a simple enough question, their oddly muted voice asked.

Showing a total lack of aggression compared to the other two, probably foolhardily so, Yilga walked right out and searched for the source of the voice manually. She was still convinced that a proper discussion was needed before you made the decision to fight or kill another Grawla. The fact that the stranger chose to make themselves known made them hopeful that they’d see eye to eye.

“M’name’s Yilga! I’m from the Tigran Mountain clan!” Hands wide. Unclear if they were making a show of being unarmed, or just being dramatic. Didn’t spot anybody yet, so just looked around at all the weird, featureless blocks of metal. “Who ish yous?”

“Hello Yilga. I am Grawla!” Out from behind one of the stack of metal boxes stepped what looked like a Grawla… at least at first. There were certainly Grawla-like features on the body before them. It stood only about 4 feet high, and was wearing some older Grawla armor. The angled metal helmet looked like something that had been made quite some time ago though it was perfectly polished. There was a gas-mask over its face, an armored coat, heavy boots, and heavy gloves with metal plates placed in key areas along with what looked like some type of breathing device that was placed in the center as if the armor was meant as a space suit, or perhaps meant for surviving chemical warfare in trenches.

However, the disguise wouldn’t fool anyone who took more than a glance.

The armor was meant for someone much taller, and was clearly bunched up around the mid-section. The gloves didn’t fill out either, and were just flopping in place at the end of the ‘arms’ There also didn’t seem to be anything under the gas mask and there was very clearly what looked to be a lense sticking out of the center-area where the coat was left slightly unbuttoned. Whatever it was, it was horrible at disguises, but it seemed confident enough to walk up towards Yilga, pausing about a meter in front of her.

Eadaoin shot first before she asked questions. A deafening bang rang from her rifle, echoing through the enclosed space. "I said hands up in the air, man-fucker!" She called out to the "Grawla". They would be alright; the bullet landed a hair next to their feet, then ricocheted off further into the room. However, the huntress cocked her gun again, this time aiming at the head.

“YEAH! HANDS UP MAN-FUCKER!” Taykk shouted, pointing dramatically at the thing infront of them while Sploh just sorta lost interest in the small opponent, instead choosing to start exploring the rest of the area.

The thing itself, just looked at Eadaoin, and then back over to Yilga as if waiting for something.

Darting backwards more because of the gunshot and general confusion, the short green thing took rather longer than the other two to make a decision. What the heck was this thing? Weren’t aliens supposed to be made out of meat? And how come it could talk ‘normal’?...

“You are not Grawla!” Yilga announced, rather shocked. “You are metal! Why are you saying you is Grawla?”

“I don’t want to get exploded!” It finally said, sounding vaguely afraid… though it was hard to get a read on exactly what tone the thing was using, “You don’t destroy Grawla! If I am Grawla you don’t destroy me.” The thing seemed to take a moment to consider things, before slowly raising its ‘arms’ above the head-part. The thing’s gloves flopping downward like there was nothing inside of them, clearly there was some arm-like support inside of the outfit but it ended somewhere in the outfit’s sleeves.

Yilga sneered and showed their top teeth, bear-like arms crossing and giving the metal-thing the full brunt of their judgemental expression. Offworlders were bad news, even when they seemed friendly. Plus they probably should sort this out, before Taykk mentioned anything about the alien space gun. Or Eada just shot it in the head.

“What you want?” The grimace continued. Those red-yellow eyes took on a sinister aspect in the dark, lit only by the glimmer of the swamp hunter’s slightly distant flashlight. That seemed to be all the brawny thing needed to see. “What is this place? Were’da get dat Grawl-armour?”

"And take off the damn mask!" Eadaoin ordered.

The thing would respond to Yilga first, “I want to not be exploded! This is transport --” What followed was a high pitched screech that sounded like what a robot might scream out as it was being brutally murdered. It was more than enough to make Taykk wince but fortunately for all involved the screech was over soon, “. And I got this from the other Grawla.” The thing would stand there for a moment, before moving its floppy-glove-arms to the mask and removing it. The helmet and the mask itself would both fall off and land on the floor… but there was nothing underneath. It appeared that the thing’s main ‘Body’ was entirely inside of the coat part. Though through the neck-hole the Grawla could see the top of a black sphere that appeared to be made out of the same material as the cylinders that came at Port Squishy.

“WHAT ARE YOU?!” Taykk asked loudly, trying to retain some amount of leadership among the group by asking things she thought the others were about to ask.

“I am a --” Another screech, similar to the one from before but slightly different in tone and pattern.

“STOP THAT!” Taykk shouted, already covering her ears.

"Alright, we get it, you're a damn xeno." Eadaoin herself was reeling from the loud screeching, barely keeping her rifle steady. "Give me a good reason why I shouldn't blow your thinking parts out."

There was quite a hefty pause before the thing gave the best response it could think of, “If you destroy me, then there will be nothing left to clean up the mess!” The thing’s voice still sounded muffled… but now that the mask was off it was pretty clear something else was muffling the sound.

“Mess? What mess?” Yilga glared indignantly. This weird headless thing was really annoying. “You mean this dust? Does this cave belong to you? Did ye bring us down ‘ere with yer damn flying bricks?”

This was way past the point in a conversation where Yilga would normally have gotten an unarmed person in a headlock, but this thing didn’t even have a neck. Giving it lumps was the next option, but it was wearing quite a bit of armour, too…
“You gonna answer us or… I’m gonna suplex ya! Ye know what that is, don’t ya?”

“I do not have the word Suplex in my dictionary. Can you describe it in other words?” The thing asked, “And I did not bring you here. The lifter-unit brought you here.” The thing would think for a few more moments, or at least it paused in talking for a moment. Who knew if thinking was something it was actually capable of, “This is a mess. Things are not organized. There is dirt where there should not be dirt. I remove the dirt and make this room clean.” Its words clearly trying to convey something using the words it knew.”

“HEY! THERE ARE MORE DEAD GRALWA BACK HERE! LOOKS LIKE THEY HAVE BEEN DEAD FOR A WHILE!” Sploh shouted from somewhere off in the distance, the flicker of his flashlight being the only indication he was behind one of the boxes.

The huntress gripped her rifle and aimed at the thing menacingly. “You better tell us how to get out of here right now or you’ll join this mess.”

“I can take you to another room?” The thing offered.

Eadaoin wasn’t amused. “You clean this place, but you don’t know the exit?” Eamonn just now made his way out the APC and over after hearing the commotion. His eyes lit up at the sight of the thing. “Oh! A metal xeno slave! Yes, while I’d like to get out of here as much as my sister, the very least you can do is get some fresh air for us. Then I’d like to ask you questions, so long as we’re trapped here.”

Looking back and forth between the metal-thing and Eada’s mechanic brother, Yilga began to wonder exactly why he sounded so positive. Maybe it was some kind of distraction?...

“A suplex ish’ where ya done throw a bloke over ya shoulder, but ya guide ‘im right into the dirt, ya know what I mean?” They held a meaty finger out. It was quite clearly a threat, but Yilga was just kind of hard to take seriously.

Without further warning, they changed direction and clambered back up the side of the guncrawler themselves, remembering the heavy machinegun still mounted on the roof. It was probably a pretty daft thing to try firing it by hand, but… Well, they felt like trying.

“You gonna tell us ‘oo knows all the answers, if ya don’t!” They yelled at the same time, still occupied with unscrewing the huge unwieldy thing. “I wanna know how we get outta here!”

“Fresh. Air.” It stated, pausing a bit before continuing, “I can not get new air from the outside, but I could clean the air here if that is acceptable? Cleaning out the carbon and sorting the elemental air will make it just like air from outside!” The thing seemed quite confident that it could perform the complex task of adjusting the air even if its language seemed a bit underwhelming. “I can also show you to an exit, and to the one with all the answers. It is this way!” The thing would head towards the edge of the room, at which point a section of wall slid out of the way, opening up a passage into what looked to be a small hallway. A stale stench was coming from the door almost immediately, the air sour and full of carbon.

Eadaoin threw her rifle onto Eamonn’s lap. “I’ll grab our stuff, in case we have to ditch the tank.” The brother lowered his eyes, then nodded. “And I’ll see if I can get the metal slave talking more.” With one hand on the gun, the other cranking the shaft on his chair crawla, the mechanic followed the thing in the direction of the hallway. “You don’t look like something made by the ewmans, the tall, brown skinned things with hair in only four spots on their body. What do your creators look like?”

“YOU! WHEELY! GO FOLLOW THE METAL THING!” Taykk shouted at Eamonn who was already going after the metal-thing. The Grawla doing her best to act like she was in charge. “AND I WILL COME WITH!”

The thing would pause again when it reached the new hallway, then there would be a soft ‘whrrrrrrr’ as it began sucking in the air nearby. A breeze started to come from the thing just a moment later, made up of sweet smelling, breathable, air. When it continued moving forward the door would automatically close behind it before Eamonn could go through and stay close when he got closer. It would be another few moments before the metal-thing came back and caused the door to open up again. “I was created here for cleaning by a creation-machine. It has several creation-arms and a square base where things are created on. I don’t have the word Ewman in my dictionary… I will add it. Do you have an image of an Ewman?”

The hallway itself was far less ‘clean’ than the room where they had found the metal-thing. There were blast marks against the walls, and it looked like fire had scorched some areas and blackened the ceiling. The Metal-thing would head down the hallway towards an open door in the distance, walking past nearly a pair of dead Grawla who had been wearing similar armor and breathing-masks as the metal-thing… however it looked like their gear had nearly deteriorated, which made Taykk quite disappointed when she tried to liberate one of the face-masks for herself only for parts of it to crumble and leave the Grawla-skeleton behind. It looked like this short hallway had quite a few different rooms attacked to it on either side but the one the metal-thing was headed towards had a heap of dead Grawla right at the doorway. Most of them looked like they had been exploded by extreme-heat being applied to their chests.

There was also a thick blanket of ash in the room that the metal-thing started to clean out. It dropped its gloves and started waving its hands around to help suck in and clear out the ash itself.

Eamonn winced at the corpses as he cranked his chair crawler forward. Such was the fate of space whale-scavengers; most who came upon a space-whale buried in the ground would find some technology that would make their clan dominant for the next decade at least, but those who dared to try and pry away the gizmos would die to whatever defense system still active. Now, there were pretty straight forward ways to clear the defenses --- Eamonn knew a couple himself --- but that required patience and intelligence, and many of these scavengers had more balls than either.

“Image?” He responded to the metal slave. “You mean a drawing of sorts? Yeah, I can get you one later as soon as Sis--- I mean Eadaoin --- comes over with my stuff. I have a sketch of a dead ewman we found. Poor xeno had nothing left on them but their hair, skin, and flesh. Other Grawla got to ‘em first.”

Yilga had already caught up at this point, simply liberating the massive auto-gun from the vehicle and running back up to the machine-thing in order to keep an eye on Eamonn. They weren’t going to say it out loud, but the fact Yilga knew he could drive a vehicle made him a lot more valuable to keep alive than his sister…

Not a very stealthy version of tailing them, though. The gun was heavy and really long, causing them to chip the ash coating from the walls several times, with a loud ‘clink’ of the barrel colliding. Would have taken one of those air filters too, if Taykk didn’t prove the futility.

“...Is this thing like… One of those air-water pushers?... But, like, alive?” They asked the Grawla with the mechanical legs. Cave folk did have stuff to keep the air breathable, after all. But Yilga didn’t even know what the non-living version was called. She hoped the tank driver did. “Is it weird that it can talk like dis?... I don’t trust it…”

Yeah. It was in their interest to protect the brain-lad if they wanted to get out of this. Took up a position slightly in front of them, keeping the cumbersome weapon slightly at the ready, and putting their body between him and the dust sucker. This naturally meant that they ended up following it into the next doorway first, eyeing the place for hostiles or additional dead bodies…

“Not quite sure.” Eamonn brought a hand to his grizzly chin and speculated. “Usually, living things are made by pushing them through a hole, even the ewmans. However, this metal slave seemed to have been assembled, like a machine. It certainly looks like one as well, but it thinks and acts like a Grawla. Well, not exactly like a Grawla, but you get the point. Of course, there are a lot of xenos out there---” He pointed upwards towards the ceiling, “--- that work in ways that we don’t know. Maybe this is their way of making babies, by building machines that assemble babies for them. If it wasn’t the fact that every xeno in Grawla myth has tried to kill us or take our land, I’d say they’re quite interesting.”

“Myth, right.” Yilga nodded in whole-hearted agreement, steadying their weapon again, as if they needed to prove the theory when they were already surrounded by dead bodies. Their boots were crunching through some random detritus, which they fortunately didn’t have the presence of mind to consider might once have been parts of those charred corpses. “It’s like your metal legs, or crawler tracks… You put force in ‘em and they become alive…”

Probably best not to ask the Grawla if they actually thought all machines were alive and had souls.

"My chair crawler? Heh." Eamonn gave a light hearted chuckle. "Perhaps. I'm not sure how you'd turn them 'alive' though. Just one of those xeno mysteries we haven't figured out yet." He lightly knocks his chest with his fist. "Though this chair crawler already has life: me. It's my legs now." Eamonn remarked, with his actual, shriveled legs laying flat in flappy pants.

Yilga had to have a good long think about this. A person who was ‘weak’ and had difficulties with their body was generally fair game for bullying, but Eamonn’s newer legs were made out of metal, and there were also more than two of them, which made him ‘strong’...

“Did you built those yourself, or did you loot them?” A perfectly reasonable question, coming from someone completely dressed in looted clothes and equipment. They had more unpaid debts than that, even, in their clan’s laws. “If you looted them, I want some too.”

“YOU HAVE TO SHARE THE LOOT!” Taykk called out, having missed really all the words in the conversation except for the word ‘loot’ as if her ears were fine-tuned to hear that specific sound. The small Grawla was moving between the bodies, trying to take any of the gear she could only to find that what might have been hundreds of years in these conditions resulted in the materials they were made of becoming brittle and useless… much unlike the gear the metal-thing was wearing which seemed to be still in good condition.

“Heh, I made it myself, had to, if I wanted to--- Ah!” Eamonn replied before his eyes widened in fear, scrambling to get ahold of the rifle and aim at the machines in front of him.

Meanwhile the Metal-thing had nearly finished clearing out the ash from the main room. There were nearly 30 dead Grawla here, most seem to have had their heads and right hands blown off by something, huge scorch marks were gouged into the wall as well. It also looked like they had used grenades to damage the cubes in this room, as well as a jet black four legged metal-thing with a long neck and a hammerhead. It too had been damaged by the grenades, and it looked like it was the origin of the scorch and burn marks that criss crossed the Grawla and the walls. It had the same sleek-black exterior as the other machines they had seen, and had highly angular surfaces that looked almost like a fighter-jet. From where the scorch marks and dead-Grawla had ended up, it looked like the entire group of Grawla tried to rush it from the doorway only for nearly all of them to be cut down before they could cover the meter or two to launch their attack.

“Damn…” The mechanic gave a nervous smile, “They’re not going to attack us, are they?”

“I sue-rendur.” Yilga remarked immediately, placing their gun down on the floor in front of them, rather than even trying to fight such a thing. “Do not kill, please.”

“NO! DON’T DO THAT! SHOOT IT!” Taykk yelped.

The metal-thing would screech at the mother metal thing. Then it would screech again. “It seems they are not active. I am unable to turn them on. You should bring this to the attention of the nearest repair-construct.”

"Good. Let's keep it that way." A ragged voice rang from behind the rest of the crew. Eadaoin had two large bags resting beside her, another large backpack weighing on her four decade old shoulders. She breathed heavily as she held her air rifle steady, useless against metal as it may be. "I swear Eamonn, this is the last time I'm carrying your rat 'nure for you, and the last time I trust you to use a gun."

Eamonn smirked back as if he was a teenager, not a Grawla past his prime. "Well, you didn't say anything." He turned to the metal slave. "Say, you got a way to get our vehicles out of here as well?"

“I could open the exterior doors.” The thing stated, moving through the room its arms continuing to clean up the dust and ash that had been filling the room only moments ago. As it moved through the room, recessed overhead lighting would start turning on, making it a lot easier to see the ancient bodies in the room.

“We can’t do that! Other Grawla would come in and take all our stuff.” Taykk thought outloudly, considering for a moment just how to resolve that problem, “We need to find someone to sell this too right?...I think I know a guy. Can you fly this thing slave?”

“The pilot is not active. You should bring this to the attention of your nearest repair-construct.” The thing repeated, adding, “...but yes, I can instruct the ship to move.”
“You’re kidding me,” Eadaoin growled. “I grabbed all our luggage for nothing?!”

“I guess so,” Eamonn chuckled, earning a death glare from his sister. He then paused, coming to a thought. “Say, you haven’t tried to fry us like you did… err… how many season cycles ago did they come here? Never mind that. Your space-whales have quite the tech to just make spheres of stuff disappear and reappear here. Why are we the only ones here? There were other Grawla that got caught in the sphere popping. That’s what I’m calling it now.”

The metal-thing turned back towards Eamonn, the camera poking out of the front of its coat looking right at him, “Your group requested it. So your group was the only one brought here.”

Yilga was still keeping their distance, shiftily looking out for signs of aggression, still intent on keeping Eamonn alive and in one piece. But how exactly had they ‘requested’ this? It wasn’t like they were on the shoreline, spelling out a big ol’ alien message with some well-arranged stones…

“This Taykk’s fault.” The lumbering one thought out loud, with no real evidence. They just figured the shortest thing was the loudest. “Tellin’ everybody about our nice ayleen shooty...”

“HEY! NOTHING IS MY FAULT!” Taykk shouted immediately, “I’m responsible for us finding all this great LOOT but all the bad stuff is someone else’s fault. You probably broke MY aliyum gun when you were messing with it!”

“You were the one who was carrying that black box.” Eadaoin crossed her arms and remarked. “Your fault or not, let’s just not mess with it. If it doesn’t have pipes and wires, Eamonn can’t figure it out,” Her brother nodded, “So just leave all this alone unless you want to get fried like those Grawla. I’m going back to the APC until we get to wherever.” She threw half of the luggage onto Eamonn, “But I ain’t carrying all that burden again.”

Eamonn simply smiled as his sister stormed off. “I’m not well versed in xeno tech, but I want to ask anyways. Is there a cockpit or a bridge of some sort? I’d like to see it.” He then pondered to himself. “Request, was it? The black box is most likely it. So they’re like flares then. For what? Xenos? Maybe. Probably loot. Hmm…” He looked back up at the metal slave. “Sorry, I have a whole bunch of questions.”

“This is the area where the ship is commanded from.” The metal-thing stated, “These command the ship.” It would motion towards the big cubes in the center of the room, the ones that had chunks blown out of them by the Grawla-grenades. “I will answer your questions as best I can, but I am only a cleaner-construct. You should direct your questions to a nursery-construct.”

“Nurse-ree Con-trucked?” Yilga responded as if they knew what they were talking about... Though their eyes looked actively nervous looking at the cubes, wondering if they were the only one that didn’t quite ‘get’ it. “What’s it nursin’? You ailyeens? They still alive?...”

“Nursing Constructs are responsible for handling meat needs, and for creating the new alien meat once they arrive on a planet. They are better suited for answering questions from meat.” The metal-thing replied, perhaps lacking the word ‘biological’ in grawla and having to substitute the closest thing it had. The metal-thing would then let out another one of those mechanical screeches… then after a few moments it would try again. “I am unable to locate anyone else. You should contact a repair-construct about this problem.”

“Alien meat?” Eamonn’s eyes widened in curiosity. “That’s interesting. So you xenos act like Grawla. We feed our children meat as well. But then you said something about questions from meat…” His facial expression darkened as he reached for the rifle. “Do you eat Grawla?” Eamonn asked cautiously.
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