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What the Wormhole Did

 
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Lirssa Sarengrave
Ancient Wyrm
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Joined: 29 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:37 pm    Post subject: What the Wormhole Did Reply with quote

Some weeks ago...

Motley Moxie was not much to look at. The ship was almost beetle-like in its form, like a stretched out ladybug. The landing gear set it a meter up off the street behind the warehouse. Its aft cargo bay was open, allowing droids to maneuver plasti-steel containers into the hold. The view inside the ship from that angle was one of a good sized hold. Straps and metal piecing along the walls showed where cargo could be stored as well as a row of collapsed chairs. The floor had a variety of flattened loops and latches for those chairs, or other cargo like the one being currently loaded, to be locked into place.

Past the piling of cargo the walls sank in to meet a double wide doorframe that lacked a door. A cot was bolted up against the wall and then the helm took up the space before the wide curved window. Two chairs sat at an arching panel, but the two monitors were only on the right side. A half wheel was the steering mechanism, and all was quiet there now.

The wings were still closed against the hull, but the port side entry door was open and its short set of stairs down. Lirssa was standing at the base of those stairs, looking over a manifest with the warehouse manager.

She dressed as she ever did for a flight. Cargo pants, a long sleeve henley, this one of dark green, and black, laced ankle boots with thick soles that looked good for running. The warehouse manager took the datapad from Lirssa, pressed his thumb to a corner of the screen, and nodded as he went on his way. Moving from the stairs to the aft cargo bay doors, Lirssa watched as the last container was lifted in, the little droid trundling back out, and she sealed up the doors. She toured around the ship, looking up and down the alleyway behind the warehouse, keeping an eye out for an expected passenger.

Aric was good with directions, and he was not going to be late on his very first trip into space. He didn’t have much in the way of different attire, so his was the same as most any other day: a henley of his own atop a pair of rugged jeans and casual shoes. He wasn’t quite sure what he might need to take on a spaceship, so he opted to not take anything but the clothes on his back. As he spotted Lirssa on the lookout, he raised an arm and excitedly waved, picking up his pace from a brisk walking pace to a jog.

“Hey, Lirssa!” Aric called, a beaming grin on his face showing how amped he was in regards to getting to go into space. “I’m here! Thank you so, so, so much for letting me come with you!” For how long Aric had been alive and all he had experienced, he still acted as if he was a teenager going on his first date.

A warm laugh slipped from Lirssa. Aric’s excitement added a touch of nervousness to set Lirssa’s stomach fluttering. “Now I worry you’re going to be underwhelmed.” But she did not linger on that thought. With a nod over her shoulder, she said, “This is her. Motley Moxie. Cargo is all loaded, and we’re ready to go.” She lead him to the port side entry. “Head on inside and to your left. Thought I’d give a short trip over the land before heading into the black. Sound okay?”

“There is no way I can be underwhelmed,” he said with conviction. Aric looked past Lirssa to take in her ship, a look of awe and wonderment clear on his face. “That’s a great looking ship. And yeah! Yeah, that sounds great!” He slowly made his way inside, head swiveling from side to side as he looked over each and every part of the ship. Following her direction, Aric went left. “Into the black? And where should I sit?”

Tickling a corner of Lirssa’s mouth was a little smile of pride at the compliment to her ship. “Thanks,” she mumbled and followed him inside, pushing on the panel to close the door. There was a hiss and then the brief whir like a vacuum as the door sealed. “You can take that seat there if you like,” nodding to the left-side chair. “ If you tend to get motion sickness, though, aim away from the instruments, right?” A wry smile. “Should be fine. Worst part is when we’re breaking past the atmosphere and the gravity servos take over.”

For her own part, she took the chair to the right, and started the firing sequence. With a look over the monitor, she kept talking. “Sorry, into space. Once heard a pilot calling it The Black, and sorta stuck with me.”

Checking to see he had taken a seat, not waiting to see if he chose to use the rarely used belt straps, she pulled back on the helm and the ship lifted off with a gentle rocking motion and then up over the buildings on a course due northwest.
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"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I don’t think I’ll get sick, but I never have been into space before, so…” Aric laughed, feeling confident that he wouldn’t have any problems, but you never know with these things. Aric took the indicated seat, and he did indeed choose to put on the straps. Once he settled in, he sat straight up so he could get a good view of everything. He wanted to see the instruments Lirssa was using as well as the view as they took off.

“This is so great,” Aric whispered to himself, wearing a grin that couldn’t be erased. “How many times have you done this?” he asked Lirssa, hoping he wouldn’t be a distraction.

The question, though perfectly valid, stumped her. “Umm,” she stalled. It had never really occurred to her to keep track. “I don’t suppose just saying ‘lots’ would cover it.” She glanced over to Aric as the ship banked to the left and crossed over the eastern part of Rhydin City proper and then up towards the mountains, climbing smoothly. “I’ve been flying for about five years now, though a good year of that was at the academy.” She did not add that she got kicked out. “Though, if you’re talking about taking on passengers that aren’t paying and just taking a trip for fun? You’d be the second.”

The ground was moving swiftly below them, a mottled spray of green, brown, and grey. As she avoided the winds that ripped over the mountain peaks, she drew the helm back once more and aimed for the sky.

Aric sat upright on his chair, stretching and leaning up as much as he could to get a view of the outside world. This was so much different than airplanes that it might as well have been him flying for the first time. His hands did keep a hold of the seat, since he was slightly nervous, but not at all because of Lirssa’s piloting. He wasn’t used to the twists that his stomach was taking, or his ears muffling and needing to be popped.

“Just the second?” Aric asked with a laugh, briefly glancing to Lirssa. “I feel so honored! Thank you for this! I’m probably going to say that a lot, but I mean it! You’ve been nothing but nice to me, and I can’t thank you enough! Even if you made me wear lederhosen!”

A simple nod to his question about being the second, but there were no details offered. She focused on the information coming over the monitor as the sensors fed through data on their climb. “You didn’t have to wager,” she reminded him, “but it did add a bit of fun to the tourney, I thought.”

The ship shimmied a little, and she had to smile. It was not one of her starshine smiles, or even the perfectly crafted ones that held back what she was really thinking or feeling. This smile was a little wicked. “So, yeah, we’re about to break atmo, so gravity servos will be taking over. Remember: aim away from the panel.”

Lirssa did not expect him to vomit, but if he did, having a working instrument panel was still a pretty important part of their getting through this flight in one piece. Or, well, there are two of them, so two pieces.

Another shimmy and shake, the sound around them droned and hummed and then they were through. The silence of space wrapped them up. The ship had a soft sound inside, and that was all. It was a sensation that never failed to bring an honest curve to her lips. No type of silence planetside, even beneath the seas, was like it.

To their starboard side was a large orbiting space station. “That’s Gateway Station” she offered. Many of its docking arms were occupied, and other ships of differing sizes were moving to and from it. Other larger ships were in synchronous orbit several kilometers away. It was as busy as an airport with the added dimensions of above and below.

He wasn’t going to lose his lunch, thankfully; Aric did have a stomach made of steel, even if that was forged more by gruesome sights than any sort of pitch and rolls, or even the new feeling of leaving the pull of gravity from a planet and being met by the artificial type inside the ship. His eyes were still saucers, the smile on his lips like a kid at Christmas. He was in space, and he couldn’t believe it.

The silence was just as new to him as anything else. Aric had never heard anything so vast and quiet, either in life or death. He didn’t have the willpower to close his eyes, but if he did, he imagined this would be the best place to escape and find peace: aboard a vessel surrounded by endless space. But he was glad for the company, and felt a debt to Lirssa that he felt he might never be able to repay. How do you match someone taking you into space?

“Pardon,” Lirssa interrupted his space gazing, “got to take care of some business. Welcome to walk around. You won’t go floating. Gravity servos are working just fine.”

Aric nodded at her suggestion to stand and walk around, keeping quiet as Lirssa communicated to the station. He walked from side to side, making sure to not get in her way or touch anything, leaning and craning his neck to look all around. It had been a long time since he saw so many stars in the sky, and the first time he saw a space station.

With a light tap to the com panel button, Lirssa waited for acknowledgement. She did not have to wait long. “Gateway Station, course, please?” A crisp, baritone voice came through the panel.

“Need course for delivery of supplies to the Picotte,” Lirssa responded while she managed the transfer of energy from parts of the ship that no longer needed it to others that did through a few changes of switches.

“Hey, Lulu,” the voice changed from coldly professional to warm and friendly. “Picotte’s in vector 2112. Course, Zeta 5. Our zone is looking free and clear today. Have a nice flight.”

“Thanks, Opera. Don’t drink too much coffee.” And with a turn of the helm, she set them on the proper course.

Glancing to Aric, “This shouldn’t take too long. Work with Picotte a lot when they are in the area. Medical ship. Too big to land.”

“Hey, take as much time as you need. This is great! I’m jealous that you get to do this.”

Lirssa chuckled a little. Jealous. That was new. No one had been jealous of her before, or at least never expressed it, and she could not imagine anyone would be. Remembering when she first was able to come into the black, she had to smile. She’d not been jealous of others before her. No, she had been determined to follow.
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Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Picotte was a monstrous amoeba of a ship. Everything about it was round, though it had no concerns about aerodynamics. It had never seen planetside, and hopefully never would. It was the size of a small city, and if the levels were all laid out as one, it would have covered six square kilometers. As it was, there were four landing bays, and a voice came on the com panel, “Motley Moxie, landing bay 3 for supply delivery, and thank you.” It was not exactly a warm greeting. Lirssa expected nothing more, or less, and replied likewise. “Landing bay 3 confirmed. Thank you.”

And then she realized, “Say, Aric, what is it you do?” She supposed he made his living somehow, though she knew finances were tight -- or non-existent. She hadn’t pried, but they were going to be on the ship for awhile. It was a good a time as any to ask.

They were still several minutes out from the bay, so she lined up the ship and looked to Aric, just grinning at his sense of wonder, and her own curiosity about who he was began tallying questions in her mind.

Aric waited to answer her question for a couple of reasons. One was because he never had a good answer to give. Saying what he actually did was normally right out, since explaining how he tried to stop the collapses of universes due to outside invasions by a force that he could best describe was pure entropy just made him seem crazy. All these years and he was still in the dark about a lot of things. It frustrated him to spend much time thinking about, let alone attempting to explain.

“I don’t really do anything right now,” he answered with a light shrug, only now just taking his eyes away from the view into space. “I’ve been training a lot for dueling now, but I don’t have a job or anything. I was fortunate to come here with a lot of money, and I’ve been able to preserve it by not spending a lot and burning through it. But I should probably try to find a job.”

“That is fortunate,” she agreed in regards to coming with money. As they neared the bay, she took a lot more care with what she was doing. That did not mean she couldn’t ask questions. “So, what did you do before you got here? Are you looking to do the same kind of work?”

A few more switches and calibrations, and the ship settled down. Command code entered popped open the aft cargo doors, and she turned to look back. But she didn’t move. The unloading was handled all by the medical ship staff. It was a good time to just chat.

“I just sort of,” Aric paused in his speech and rolled a hand around as he tried to think of the best way to explain what he did. “Went from place to place. Maybe picked up some odd jobs here and there, but I was never in one place enough to get anything like employment. Unless it involved fighting, I don’t even know what I’d be good at. I like reading and writing, and it’s hard to really find employment around those two things.”

Aric returned to his seat, taking it and placing his elbows on his legs as he leaned over, still facing Lirssa. He laughed and shook his head. “I realize I sound so vague and that I’m avoiding the question, but I’m really not. I haven’t lived a normal life in… well, as long as I can remember. Being here for this long already is the most normalcy I’ve had in forever.”

“Really?” The idea of moving around a lot was exciting. “I guess, for you, being in one place for awhile is a good thing. Me, I’ve left RhyDin, I mean...if you don’t count flying in space...once. Where all have you been? Was there a place you liked best of all?”

"Where haven't I been?" Aric laughed, dropping his head and shaking it. "I've liked a lot of places... do you know anything about Earth? Its history or any locations there?" Looking back to Lirssa as he asked.

"Oh, sure, some. I had a tutor when I was younger, and he was an archaeologist. Terra, or Earth, was his favorite. Learned a bit more at the academy, too. What'd you like there?" She's moved to the edge of her seat, leaning forward with keen interest. Her eyes were wide and bright, not moving from him.

"An archaeologist?" He chuckled at the coincidence. "Have you heard of the Ancient Wonders of the World, then?"

"Mmm, there were seven, right? Gardens of Babylon," she stopped from going on, because he obviously didn't need them listed. Then it struck her and her mouth dropped open a little. "Have you seen them?"

Another coincidence had him laughing and nodding. "That one was my favorite place. One of them. One that I can remember."

A little hop in her chair. "You've seen it? Was it wonderful? I mean, it was a wonder of the world, so of course is was wonderful," Aric was suddenly, unexpectedly experiencing something of the youthful Lirssa who has been known to chatter people to insanity, "but I mean was it just amazing? I can't imagine --" and then she stops. "One that you can remember?"

Her excitement had him grinning from ear to ear. It was new to see her like this. "Yeah, it was really amazing. You've seen pictures of what people thought it looked like, but really, nothing compares to actually being there." There was a far off look in his eyes as he stared into the distance, then her last question brought them back to Lirssa's face. "Yeah. My memory. It's bad. Have I told you this before? I've been alive a long, long time, so I think I can only hold so many things before I forget them. And then it's even worse when I... well, when I get hurt badly."

Her excitement was replaced with a puzzled frown. Concern was traced along her brow. "Does that happen often?" There were other questions, too, held back in a growing queue of questions. But that he got hurt badly to the point that it impacted his memory was of primary importance.

"Not lately," he answered with a shrug. It was the truth, that since he had been here he didn't have that experience. "Before then? I... I couldn't tell you, really." Aric then waved a hand, and gave a grin to try and erase Lirssa's frown. "Anyway, I've lived a long time, in a lot of places on Earth, in a lot of times."

"If you've lived in --" her question was cut off by one of the Picotte personnel coming up to her with a clipboard. "Sorry, Lulu, just need to get you to sign off." The man in a crisp, dark blue uniform is looking over Aric while Lirssa checks over the tablet with the manifest, and then signs off handing it back. "Until next time, Paul," Lirssa smiled to him. The man took the tablet back, gave Aric one more look, and then headed off the ship.

With a punch to a few buttons, the aft cargo bay closed and sealed with a shush and clang. "As I was saying," she kept talking as she started the ignition sequence, "How old do you know you are if you've lived in different times? Do you age? Do you ever go back in age, or always forwards?"

Aric nodded to the man, though his brows creased as he was looked over a couple of times. Aric watched him exit before he shrugged to himself and turned his attention back to Lirssa. "I don't know how old I am. I've looked like this for as long as I can remember. I don't age, but I don't know if that's because I just don't, or because..." Aric stopped short, shaking his head while he looked out the window again.

"Or because...?" She prompted as the ship backed out from the bay. The silence of space and hum of the engines embraced them again. "I mean, nobody knows exactly how old I am either. My most recent parents made a best guess about six years ago, and we went from there." Trying to put him at ease by offering a little snippet about herself, hoping he'll answer the because.

"Your most recent parents?" he asked, deftly avoiding finishing that earlier line.

She noticed, but did not press him on that point. Yet. "Yes, my most recent parents. I never knew my biological parents. Then Bubber found me, then had a family a brief time, then not, then my most recent parents." She had turned away from RhyDin, taking him deeper into the black. "There aren't any comets coming through or I'd see if we could draw near, so just lots of empty space, I'm afraid." She never knew if people realized that space was just that: vast, empty space.

Aric listened, occasionally looking back to Lirssa and watching her pilot the craft between looking out into space. He didn't seem disappointed to not see any comet. "Sorry to hear about that. Do you have that family now?"

"Yes, though I don't see them often. My parents divorced not long after my little brother was born. I see him more than I see either of them." She could turn to him now that the course was set. "You don't age because why?"

Aric smiled softly. "It's good to have family though, at least." Then she asked again, and he brought a hand up to run along his neck. "Because I usually only live a few years -- if that -- before... before I die."

The words were in a language she knew; simply spoken and stated, and yet they tumbled about in her mind as foreign constructs. She opened her mouth to ask, but stopped. Ask what exactly? There were bits and pieces of questions, but nothing that she managed to put together. All the weightier questions were stuck, and she could only ask, "Does it hurt?"

"Yeah. I mean, I feel pain. I might heal from it, and I don't stay dead, but I get hurt. I panic. I don't want it to happen, and I never know if I'll actually come back, but what I have to do, sometimes it's necessary that I have to take all that pain to save others," Aric spoke quietly, not looking toward her until he finished that short explanation. After a moment, he lifted his head to look to her. "You ever hear of the Ship of Theseus?"

A slow shake of her head. It was familiar in words, but nothing clung to those words to give them deeper meaning.

"All right, so... take my axe for example. I buy an axe, and there it is, right? So eventually the head goes dull or gets chipped, and I have to replace that. Then the handle breaks, and that needs to be replaced. Is that the same axe as the one I bought?" He paused, tilting his head as he watched her to see if she had that understanding before continuing. "That's... that's what happens to me. There's an infinite number of universes, yeah? Each time I die, I'm kind of patched up or replaced by another me. I lose memories, sometimes I get new ones... I don't know how many times that's happened but... am I still me?"

She considered the question. She understood the paradox of the axe, because the entirety of its construction was new. The wonder and, if she were honest, pity she felt for him crashed about her. It took time and she searched the infinite darkness as she thought it through. "But you aren't an ax," she countered at last. "You were healed by you, not by me, not by some other person. By you. You will always be you." Her voice soft, "How do you know you lose memories? Can you feel their absence?"

"Pieces of me are replaced. It doesn't matter the person who replaces them, it's still replaced," he countered, tugging at the beard on his chin. "I can remember being told things, but not by whom. And then I've met people who have known me, and I couldn't remember anything about them. Important people who nobody should forget. I can remember expertly playing a song on a piano, but then stepping up to one and having no idea what keys play what notes." He laughed again, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, this must be depressing you. Not the proper way to thank you for taking me into space."

"No," she was quick to discard that notion. "Not depressing -- well, I do feel," she hunted for the right word, and was left with only, "I feel for what you go through, but it isn't depressing. I like learning about you." She glanced to a flicker of information on the monitor, but then everything settled back. "Do you remember ever being a child or --" The flicker of information became a flood of data scrolling quickly. A warning siren, not loud - the size of the ship didn't need it - pinged a proximity alarm. "Wait," she turned from him and started punching through several sequences. The ship shuddered as she threw the ship in reverse just as a darkness devoid of stars opened in front of them.

The ship kept quaking, screaming its engines against the draw of the inky darkness. "Wormhole," she hissed, face pale with worry.
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Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
Ancient Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Wormhole?" he repeated. He'd heard of them, of course. But it was similar to hearing about a black hole or supernova, he had an idea of what they were, but not actually what they looked like, or what they might do. He sat up, setting a hand on the panel in front of him. "What do we do?" He would later laugh at himself for saying "we" when Lirssa was the only one who could do anything on the ship.

"Not much. We were too close when it opened up," she answered and was swift to curse herself right after. "They don't usually have much pull, but...this one..." She couldn't figure out why it was different. The information clearly came across as a wormhole, but it was tugging them. "It has a gravity to it."

"It feels familiar," he spoke quietly to himself, as Lirssa noted that it had a gravity to it.

A mutter, she held the helm with one hand and punched through another sequence. "I'm going to try and bounce off the edge, see if I can use all the power to the thrusters and slice through a corner of the gravity well. Otherwise, let's just hope it's a stable one and we can get back once through." Both hands to the helm again, she glanced to him. "I'm sorry." And then gave a hard turn.

The ship skittered aside, like a stone across a pond. But just as the pond eventually captures the stone, so did the wormhole claim the ship just as the edge of its power drew close. They were pulled in backwards to a swarm of color that lasted no more than a minute.

Aric had not put any of the straps back on after standing, bracing himself and looking to her with concern as she apologized. He did his best to try and hold steady, but eventually was thrown from his chair with his head smacking against something hard and metallic. He remembered seeing the color, but as it faded so did he. His eyes went shut shortly after.

“Aric!” But there was nothing she could do for him right then. The ship needed her attention. She cut the engines down to minimal, and let the wormhole do the work it was determined to achieve. Another look to Aric, he seemed to still be breathing, and -- well, he’d said he couldn’t die. Still, she did not need a demonstration right then.

When they came through the other side, she instantly punched the engines to go back through, but the wormhole drew away and then closed up. Panic rose in her as flood over the lip of a dam. Both monitors were spewing information, trying to recalibrate location.

The ship system was meant to cover her usual runs, the basic jumps and routes she would make. Wormhole trips were more than it could handle, and it simply errored out, the monitors going blank. “Great,” she muttered. It was time to use her eyes, and forget the sensors until she could get a reboot. At least navigation still worked, and she started a methodical turn of the ship to cover each quadrant out the viewport.

Luck struck on the second quadrant, as she found they had ended up in orbit around a planet with all the Goldilocks looks. Still, she frowned at her monitors, she would need the computer to tell her if it really was breathable. “Right, then. Quick and dirty.” Twisting to look under the panel, she pulled out two wires, did a cross connect with the navigation, and the monitors had enough sensors to give her a read.

The descent gave her a good idea of some sizable cities, but there were more towns and villages. The region also must be going through some sort of crop disease, because there was a large patch of just dirt and dark near one of those villages.

Not wanting to be blamed as a harbinger of their misfortune, she dove the ship down low and close until she found a clearing in a forest. Shutting down all but essential systems, she took a deep breath and got her own bearings. Moxie wasn’t keening or sending any notice of harm. Lirssa ran her fingers over the panel and across the switches. “Will get your eyes and ears back up in a minute, girl,” she promised.

First things first: get Aric off the floor. The man was lean, sure, but he was all muscle and that meant heavy. It took some clever use of leverage with her legs and back to get him on her bunk bolted to the side of the ship. A quick look over his injury, and she saw the truth of what he said. He would recover. Like Moxie, he just needed a moment of rest, she guessed.

“Well, let’s see what this planet is about before I start repairs.” From the small locker at the foot of her bunk, she took out bokken and the throwing knives in their arm sheathes. A dark grey kerchief over her hair, and she set out being sure to lock the ship up behind her.
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Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aric groaned as he put a hand to his head. Just because he could heal and come back from death didn't mean that he didn't feel headaches. He tried to remember where he was and what happened, and the only thing he remembered was Lirssa telling him she was sorry before the lights went out. That made him snap to his senses, sitting upright and looking around the ship for her. "Lirssa?" he called, knowing that she had likely survived if he had been placed on her bunk, but not knowing if she might be injured.

Crouched down at the back of the ship, a panel open, she heard Aric call. "I'm here!" She called back, turning smoothly and jogging to him. "Hey, you," she frowned with concern. "You took a bad hit to the head."

"Ugh, yeah, judging by the headache I have, I could have told you that," Aric chuckled as he set his feet on the floor. Carefully pushing himself up, he kept one hand to his head to feel around and see if he still had any bumps or cut, or if they had healed. "You all right?"

"Yeah, yeah," she reassured him. "Good thing you told me you heal up." The smile still had a touch of worry. "You are healed up, right?" She leaned to the side a little to check the back of his head too where he was prodding around with his hand. "Need anything for it? Medkit is pretty basic, but have a few painkillers. If those work on you."

Aric dropped his hand as she leaned to check out the damage, or right now, the lack thereof. No bumps, no cuts, just his hair. "Yeah, I'm fine. The headache won't last long. And painkillers do work! What do you think I use to get high all the time?" Aric broke out a lopsided grin with the obvious lie, trying to keep the mood light despite him having no idea where they were. Which reminded him. "So where are we?"

She had to check his expression when he said that, her hands falling away from his hair finding nothing. He was grinning, and so she did likewise. But his question needed answering more than teasing him about his joke. "I'm doing a system restart. The travel mixed up the sensors to the point they couldn't handle it. She's not meant for big jumps." With another smile to him, she turned back for the panel where she had been working. "I took a look around while you were out. Planet is compatible for us, though gravity is a little less than we're used to -- or -- well, I'm used to." She had no idea if he'd experienced different gravity. "There's a village about four clicks from here. But hopefully, they won't see us before I can get us back on our way." Crouching down by the panel again, she pulled out three cables, checked them and put them back in.

"Clicks?" He had been around, and knew a lot of terms, but flying and measurements of distance regarding that was never his strong suit. He heard the term used, but had no idea what the distance actually was.

"Kilometers," she clarified her meaning. "So, a little close, but these woods were the best place. There is some sort of blight south of here, and sitting out in the open not the best idea."

"Do wormholes usually just... appear like that? This might sound weird, but it sort of was -- familiar to me. Like it almost reminded me of, well, the last thing that happened to me before I got to RhyDin."

Placing the panel back, she stood up and brushed her hands on her pants. They weren't dirty, just her palms were sweating. She stopped on her way to the helm, and studied him. "Familiar?" With a shake of her head, she answered him. "Not typically, and that was pretty close to Gateway Station, I mean, as far as distance in space goes. If it had been appearing before, there would have been a reading on it and a warning. The Picotte sure wouldn't have parked there." She sat roughly at the helm. "And that one moved. Not just closed, not just lost form, it moved from me when I tried to get us back." It was a glance from the corner of her eye to him. "So, in what way familiar?" Because it was completely unfamiliar to her.

"A blight?" That had piqued his interest. "What type of blight?" He would answer her questions more in a moment, but right now his face was a mixture of worry and contemplation.

"Didn't get that close," she did notice he had not answered her question, but since this was more immediate, she let it go. "When I was flying over to find a place, I noticed a large area looked dead or dying. Sensors weren't much use at the time, but hopefully," she only turned one switch, not the full ignition sequence, and then punched through some commands on the keyboard. The Moxie was her ship, but it was not the most modern one with all the bells as whistles. But she was a faithful ship, so Lirssa had to wait to see if the reboot worked.

Aric sucked his teeth, flexing the fingers of each hand before silently committing himself. "I have to go check that out. Areas of blight around me are bad news. The whole familiar thing? It's like, someone or something out there is putting me where I need to go. It's how I've been sort of all over Earth in different times. Maybe this is the same thing."

As the monitors came back to life, she turned about fully to look at him. "You think that wormhole was...sentient? That it purposely took us," she looked over at the monitors, "six parsecs away from where we were?" Her face blanched when she said the distance. They were a long way away.

"Either it was sentient, or someone made it for the purpose of getting us here," Aric said with a slight frown. For all the years he had been alive and fighting against blights and outside forces corrupting universes, he had precious little knowledge of who pulled most of the strings. Or maybe it was one of the memories he had forgotten. Either way, it frustrated him. "I have to see if that blight is what I think it might be. But if it is... I don't know what I can do. Usually I'm with someone else who actually can end it, someone with magic or something like that. Hope it's nothing, but still... Not a good feeling."

Magic. Someone with magic. She didn’t exactly have that, but she also was not ready to share the details of her particular gift with him. It was dangerous knowledge to share, and she barely knew Aric. But, she did know magic didn’t work on him, and he didn’t have recourse to it. Still, “Let’s wait and see before we jump to conclusions. Could be just a wormhole with new attributes. And maybe a blight is just a blight.”

“I don’t know,” Aric drew the words out, scratching the back of his head. Lirssa didn’t know him well, but she likely could guess that he didn’t seem the worrying type. Except now he was just that, and even worse, scared. His hands couldn’t find a good place to stay, and he constantly shifted weight from foot to foot.

Turning to look at the monitor, she frowned, “Although…” she scrolled down the information, typing through to get more details. “Huh. That’s weird.”

“What’s weird?” he asked, walking back toward her and peering at the monitor.

“Well,” she punched through a few key commands, and the information on the monitor narrowed down to one grid of the previous map shown. At the edge of an amoeboid shaped circle of rusty hue, was one oblong shape of even darker red. “This right here, it’s telling me it’s alive, but it has very few of the same properties as the surrounding nature. And it’s more than twice the size of Moxie.” She turned a little to look up at him. Yes, he was worried and maybe even scared, and that caused her to give weight to her conclusions more than she would have. “Now, I didn’t fly all over this planet, but in this area? It’s mostly agrarian. Best comparison that’d mean anything to you? Late middle ages. This here,” she tapped the oblong on the monitor, “just like us, doesn’t belong.”

Aric was thankful for the explanation and Lirssa dumbing it down for him. It wasn’t that Aric wasn’t smart, but this was definitely outside of what he normally studies up on. “Figures. It’s just too much of a coincidence. And trust me,” Aric paused as he fixed Lirssa with a look that helped convey his past experiences. “Coincidences are rarely ever just simply a true, honest coincidence. I hate to ask more of you, when I’m sure that you just want to go home, but can you take me there? I have to be sure. Can’t just leave -- especially if it is a blight that I know of. It could corrupt this whole planet, and get even worse from there.”

A tired smirk, she nodded. “Since I don’t quite know how to get us back -- yet,” she emphasized, “yeah, get us there. I’m worried about flying in though. Moxie doesn’t have weapons. Might be best if we get an idea by walking there and snooping about. Seems like nightfall is coming along soon,” she said. The outside light was beginning to get a telltale buttery glow with darker blue on the opposite side of the horizon. “We can go under cover of darkness. Unless, well, think it better to take a good scan with a fly by?” She wasn’t quite sure how much information he needed. Or what kind.

“Some recon under the cover of darkness is probably the better idea, yeah,” Aric agreed, fingers scratching at his chin through his long beard. “I didn’t know if it was too far to walk, or if we might want to fly closer to see what we can see from a distance before landing? Or I could just go myself. I don’t want to drag you into anything…”

“Aric,” she frowned a little, but there was amusement in her eyes. “I’m going with you. I’d fly us closer, but not much cover down there. It’d be about a three hour walk. That’s not bad. If you’re able to jog some, cut down the time.” She stood from the helm, and went to put her kerchief back on her hair, strap the arm sheathes with the knives back on. A smile to him. “Eat first and then head out, yeah?”

“I just… all right.” Aric was hesitant, but the smile and visible relaxation of his body were visual cues of his gratefulness to her for the offer. He watched Lirssa get geared up, like an action hero from a movie, and the smile ticked wider. “You know, you look pretty badass right now. And by that, I mean pretty and badass,” he said, his voice dropping and slowing in a flirtatious manner. Sure, there might be a huge threat just hours away, but that made it the perfect time to flirt.
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Lirssa Sarengrave
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She was taken aback, that was certain. A flush to her cheeks was impossible to fight. Trying for surly, she scowled a little at him, but muttered, “Thank you.” It was a compliment, afterall. Even if she felt he was teasing her. A little flitter in her stomach, and she cleared her throat looking away from him, but stealing a glance back as she moved for the back of the cargo bay. “I’ve a few rations. It isn’t the best meal you’ll ever have, but hopefully it will do. I have a few weapons stored in this back locker, too,” a slight gesture to a flat panel with a handle, “if you want to take your pick.” She opened up a cabinet on the back wall and drew out five pouches of prepped meals. “A sword, a bokken, and...do you know how to use a gun?” It was a blaster, but the idea was the same.

The gruff nature had Aric grinning from ear to ear. He did catch that blush after all. Might as well enjoy the little victories before things got serious. “I’ve lived where there were no such things as rations, so trust me, whatever you have here is guaranteed to be better than some of the food I’ve had to eat before.” Aric followed after her, and stopped in front of the panel, giving the handle a tug to open it. Comfortable with a sword and gun, those were the two weapons he took out, though the gun wasn’t anything he had seen before. He turned it over in his hand, looking it over. “I can use a gun, but this looks like something out of a science-fiction movie. Does it have ammunition? How many shots? Lethal?” Aric handled the blaster carefully, his finger always away from the trigger and the barrel pointed safely away from either of them.

Setting out the food pouches, she went over to look at the blaster with him. “It should give you a good fifty shots before it gives up. The chemicals used to cause the flash get burned up after awhile, but the crystal inside is good. It’ll zing a nice hole made in anything flesh, divot in something more substantial. Make sure your entire hand is on it. Won’t fire with just finger on the trigger.” She sounded apologetic. She could imagine there being a few instances where it’d be handy, but more where it would be dangerous.

“Right, fifty. Hopefully that’ll be good. I’m not a deadshot, but I have decent enough aim,” he wasn’t bragging, just stating as a matter-of-fact.

She went over to the pouches, tearing open a corner then across the top. The upper quarter she had torn off had a spoon. Inside was rice congee, with mushrooms, scallions, spices of ginger and garlic added for savory. “Oh, this one should be good for you. No meat.” She remembered having to cook for him and that he was a vegetarian. She offered over the pouch. “It’s fresh, too. Promise.”

Aric set both weapons down as he took his patch. “No meat? Wow, you are prepared for about anything, aren’t you?” He took the spoon and began to dig in; mushrooms were actually one of his favorite foods.

Her own was fried rice with cubed steak. “Just water to drink, I’m afraid. More versatile in the whole storage, weight ratio issue.” She smiled to him.

“Water is fine. If you ever take me on a trip again, at least we know we should probably pack like we’re going camping or on vacation.” Aric sent a grin to Lirssa before taking another spoonful of the rations -- it was surprisingly decent.

Chuckling around a bite, she waited until she had swallowed before speaking. “Giving me a little too much credit. I just like congee. Stays good forever and fills ya up. But,” she pauses to finish a little bite, “I’m surprised you even are considering traveling with me again with this trip probably going down in your book of not so fun memories.” Setting the spoon in her pouch, she pretended to write, “ ‘First trip to space: sucked through wormhole. Don’t fly with Lirssa again.’” She chuckled once more, taking up her spoon for another bite and then found the bottles of water, setting one down next to him before she took a seat on the floor, back propped up against the wall of the ship.

Aric shook his head and then gave a good-natured laugh. “No no, I’ve been on worse road trips. Plus you’re good company and I’ve enjoyed spending time with you. You even took care of me after I got knocked out! That counts for a lot,” he said, pointing the spoon at her for emphasis. “And you got me dinner! Again! I mean, it’s not fancy, but it’s still food and drink. So long as this blight isn’t what I think it is and we get through this in one piece, I would call this a fun trip, overall.” There was no sarcasm or hint of irony in his voice; Aric was sincere in everything he said. “You’re the one who is probably never going to want me around again. I’m bad luck or something, and I eat all your food and drink all your water.” For emphasis, Aric waggled the water bottle around some before he took a pull from it.

Lirssa kept the spoon in her mouth a moment, considering what she should tell him about their predicament. Things were looking pretty grim, but she decided better to let him know up front. “Look, Aric, we find out what this blight is, take care of what needs doing? We’re still six parsecs away from where we started. That’d take, well, about ten years to get back with me using gravity pulls and sublight as much as Moxie is able. A few small jumps here and there, praying we find places that have fuel or come across some other friendly cruisers, we’d maybe shave it down to five years. I mean,” she sighed and closed her eyes, setting her head back against the wall, “I enjoy your company, but I think even you’d complain being stuck with me on a ship for five years. I just hope that wormhole opens up again and gets us back, or even close to back.”

That was about as much as she wanted to think on that for the moment, so she returned her focus on her meal and the next task at hand.

He listened, keeping his bluish-green eyes on Lirssa as she laid out their predicament. Aric let the silence hang as he poked through the rations with his spoon, his lips pulled tight as his jaw set. “All right, so our options are to hope for the wormhole to open back up, or spend five to ten years navigating back, or…” there was another option, which she didn’t mention but must have thought of. But he was going to voice it, either way. “Or we stay here. Find an out of the way place, maybe. Or try to blend in with the locals. Maybe set up some distress beacon and hope someone finds it?”

The suggestion brought her to a halt, spoon held just above the pouch. She had not even thought of staying. Staying, just waiting. “I...guess, but,” she shook her head. “I got to get you back, Aric. I’ll think of something.” She looked up at the ceiling, noting the internal lights had slowly dimmed on in contrast to the darkness outside the ship. “I wonder what the stars look like here,” she murmured. Would she get used to seeing them every night if she stayed here? She suddenly felt afraid. She’d never been away from RhyDin for any length of time, except one vacation over four years ago that lasted two weeks.

She chewed on the inside of her cheek, digging at the rest of her food. She was not hungry anymore, so she folded over the pouch and stood to take it back to the drawer to keep fresh for later.

“Have to get me back?” he asked, his brow furrowed in confusion. “I’ve only been there a few months, hardly enough to start a life or anything. You’re the one that’s lived there all your life. So if we need to get back, we need to get back for your sake. That means staying is not an option,” Aric declared with conviction. That closed the book on that choice, regardless of what she would say going forward.

Her question lingered in his mind, and Aric put the remainder of his own rations away before he went to gather the sword and blaster he had laid out before they began eating. “Only one way to find out, right? Guess we should get a move on. Sooner we find out if this is something we need to take care of, sooner we can do it or leave it alone and start on back.” He turned to look at her, forcing a smile in the hopes she wouldn’t notice how nervous he was. “Ready?”

It was easier to focus on the moment. Take things as they came. And right now, they had to see to this blight. Checking her gear once more, she nodded. “Let’s go.” She was not nervous, and she was glad to see Aric looked ready for whatever was out there, too. She punched the code opening the port side door. The short set of stairs slid down, but did not reach the ground entirely. It was barely half a meter, and she hopped lightly. “We’ll head this way.” She took a moment to gauge the stars, set them in her mind, and then followed the what she would best describe is southwest into the forest.
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"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The woods were alive with sounds: clearly night insects but additional sounds of footed creatures. None came near, but there would be the brush of a branch or a scurry up the bark of a tree. Lirssa walked with a slight crouch to her shoulders, and the steady gait that kept her footsteps soft upon the detritus of the forest floor. The full moonlight barely broke past the tree canopy, and painted the world around them with a soft blue-grey to the shadows. “We should come out of the woods in about an hour, then we can make better time,” she whispered. The map was in her head, and she used it and her preternatural sense of direction to keep them on course.

Aric seemed in his element while trekking through the forest. He didn’t have any supernatural abilities to speak of, except for his healing. But his senses were sharp, and he was familiar enough with navigating through dense forests that he was able to keep a step or two ahead of Lirssa. Sometimes he would use the sword as a machete, clearing branches from their path with easy, short strokes. “You an outdoors person?” he asked with a glance back to her.

“In what sense?” A wry smile played on her lips. She did not wait for clarification. “I’ve lived nearly half of my life out of doors, less by choice than no other option, but yeah, I like the outdoors. Can see the sky. You?”

Unfortunately for Aric, he did not have time to dwell on what that first question might have meant, otherwise he would most certainly have investigated further. Instead, he just answered her final question. “Yeah. It does help that I’ve lived a lot of places where there’s not much point to staying indoors -- no air conditioning or entertainment and all that.” Again keeping the tone light as they made their way further toward the location of the disturbance. That is how the conversation would continue to go until they reached the blight.

“We should be getting close,” she kept her voice low as they loped across a high grass meadow. Even with just the light of the moon, they could see the barren hill slowly rising in the distance. It was bereft of anything growing. At the edge of the meadow, a ship, almost squid-like in shape save for lacking any arms, sat with a dull green glow. A fire snapped and crackled, casting shadows against its hull. Many shadows, that were gesturing wildly.

This was Aric’s expertise, so Lirssa followed his lead when they made their way to creep up to the edge of the meadow where the ship waited and a group of twenty or so beings stood in what looked to be an argument. They were beings of distinctly human looking features. They were not tall, but slender and wirey. Only their strangely long, tapered fingers marked them as other.

Roughly a quarter of the group were standing opposite the rest. Two of each of the group, gesturing wildly while they spoke in a language of rapid tones, faces flush with frustration and defiance. Lirssa looked to Aric, watching his face, wondering what he was thinking about it all.

Aric went to a knee and braced himself on one of the few trees in the meadow as he surveyed the scene. Aliens were not something he had ever dealt with, and in other circumstances he would have been excited to see them, but he was more worried about that feeling of unease that washed over him. Eyes ticked to the dead spot, which seemed to be spreading slowly, but without any signs of stopping. He felt the pit of his stomach drop, and have to swallow to keep the bile from the back of his throat. The sense of dread and unease washed over him, and he turned to look at Lirssa, who might note how he looked more serious now than she had ever seen him. “This is bad. Do you feel that? That feeling like we shouldn’t be here? That everything is wrong?”

With a roll of her shoulders, she thought about it, that unease, and gave a nod. First of all, she knew they shouldn’t be here, but there was something entirely out of place here, and it wasn’t just them. With everything Aric had told her, it all came crashing into a picture of realization: she had failed to keep him from danger, but he had ended up being exactly where he was supposed to be. It was an enormous concept, the depth of understanding this whatever had to direct Aric to so far away a place.

With a moment to watch the group argue, she whispered to him, “Seems like they don’t agree on something.” She frowned, straining to try and make sense of the gestures and words. It was an impossible task, but then one of the beings pointed directly at a tree on the other side of the ship, and the tree trembled, shook, and then disintegrated with only a wisp of its structure strung out to land on the ship where it glowed brighter briefly and then went dull once more.

Was it magic? Was it something else. “Wait a minute. And,” she quirked a wry grin, “don’t let me die.” She had no idea if she would be able to touch their gift, or find out anything, but she had to give Aric his best chance of success, and information was needed. She lay down on the grass and closed her eyes, dropping to the inbetween.

“Yeah, looks like not all is well,” Aric commented and gave a nod of his head in agreement as he watched the groups argue. After the tree was obliterated and absorbed, one of the creatures struck another. Most of them then reached to ready their weapons, which Aric hadn’t seen before, but resembled a short staff with a sharp tip at the end. There were definitely two factions, and the ones on the side of the first assailant were greatly outnumbered. Aric counted three or four against roughly fifteen.

His attention was drawn back to Lirssa as she told him to not let her die. Before he had a chance to say or ask anything, she was already laying down. He had no idea what she was doing, but he drew the blaster and brought the sword up to the ready. Another glance was spared to the group, and he couldn’t tell if there was going to be a fight -- or a massacre most likely -- or if the outnumbered few would surrender as they were clearly being yelled at to do so.

It seemed the smaller group thought it better to surrender, live to fight another day, but with reluctance. Weapons were tossed down in disgust and they were taken by their brethren to be bound together with a strange, gleaming black cord nearest the low fire, hands to their own feet, then corded ankle to ankle.

In the inbetween, Lirssa got out of the way of the power just enough to let a slender thread seek out nearby gifted, doing as Canaan instructed her on sensing a contact’s purpose or feelings. And it found one.

Outside, one of the captured inhaled swiftly, looking around then lowered his eyes. His nearby companions gave him a concerned look, but he shook his head minutely. It seemed some gestures were multiversal.

Lirssa could sometimes communicate with those she touched, but she wondered if she would understand the language even in that contact. Canaan had taught her how to sense others, to split her awareness to touch multiple targets. For now, though, she just tried to speak to the man, who even if she could not understand him, could feel the anger, the fear, and the sorrow. She spoke.

He spoke back.
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"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lirssa knew time was passing, but not much. That was something else she had learned to be aware of while inbetween. The conversation was terse and abrupt. When she blinked open her eyes, she did not stir, but looked to Aric to see if there was any change in their situation while she had been ‘away’

Aric’s attention was torn between watching the group and Lirssa. They had gone undetected so far, but he didn’t know how much longer that would last, or how long it would be until the spreading blight reached their position and would likely eradicate their culture, and if they aimed whatever it was that eliminated that tree at them, what it might do. So when she blinked her eyes open, he ignored the questions centered around what she did -- or what she could do -- and focused more on the situation at hand. “Not sure what you did, and no time to explain, so just let me know if you got anything we can use.”

Pitching her voice low, she repeated what she had learned. “They were stranded near this planet by a wormhole,” she did not comment on whether it could be the same one that had transported them, “and their ship is, I’d translate it like a hive, and they are the bees, gathering what they need. They ran out of emergency supplies a week ago trying to get back, and here is where they are. But the five there disagree in what is to be done. They see they are destroying the planet, it isn’t meant to sustain them like their homeworld.”

She looked over to the group and back to Aric. “If we can get those free, they will fight with us, but we’re still outnumbered. Aric, the most I can do is remove their magic. I don’t know how long that will take, but then it will be nearly two to one odds even then. They are obviously warriors, too.”

“Right, well, odds don’t much matter. We have to do what we have to do. Seems like the only reason they haven’t caused more damage was because of the dissenters,” Aric leaned upwards, looking back over the group. “I can keep them distracted, draw them from the other group. Should give you time to free them, right? Then you can work on shutting down the magic. Good thing is that I’m immune to magic, so should be if they try and do whatever it is to me, it won’t work.”

Aric turned his eyes back to Lirssa; they appeared to have an eery glow in the darkness. “Here’s the plan: I’ll fire at them from a distance. They’ll try to use that magic on me, and hopefully it won’t work. Looks like they only have weapons for close-combat, so that’ll draw them to me. You can free the others, they should help me, and then do… whatever you can do to shut down the magic.” Aric nodded, to both assure himself of the outline of the plan and Lirssa. “But if this all goes to hell, you leave me here, get back to the Moxie, and get as far away from this planet as you can. Got it?”

She looked over the camp not far from them, listening to his plan, but at the last she sliced a glance to him. She knew he was serious. It wasn’t necessarily nobility. To him, it made the most sense. He didn’t know her well, and things that made sense weren’t exactly her forte at times like this. “That last part? Not an option.”

There was another part he needed to know that she had forgotten to mention. “Oh, and that fellow sensed me when I touched him, so no doubt once I get ahold of the others, they are going to break off their attack of you and hunt me down. I’ll hopefully be protected by the,” for lack of a better term, “good bugs long enough.” Drawing out a knife from the sheath on her wrist, she nodded to him. “You ready?”

Aric’s jaw tightened when Lirssa showed a stubbornness to his suggestion of retreat if necessary. He wanted to shake her and tell her how it wasn’t worth throwing her life away for pride, or when it would be pointless to do so. Aric had died many times before, and he liked to think that all of those times were for something… that each death had meaning. He would never forgive himself if Lirssa died with him in this place, but only he came back. But arguing was pointless, and this provided even more incentive for Aric to make sure the plan worked. So Aric gave a silent nod at her question, and pushed out of his kneeling crouch.

Aric did not have blinding speed, but he was fast enough. He sprinted in the direction of the group and lifted the blaster to eye level. One shot was fired, a wasted one which didn’t hit but at least drew their attention. Aric fired another, which hit the ground in front of them before he veered off to the side, hoping to draw them from their grouping and toward him.

The aliens did react, first scattering for any cover, and then by pointing toward Aric. It seems as if they were expecting something to happen to him, just as with the tree earlier. Aric did feel a tug or pull of a force as he ran, and it caused him to drop and stumble to the ground. The group became more agitated, shouting at the one pointing. This gave Aric time to stand and take a steady aim with the blaster, and his next shot hit the pointing alien in the chest, which immediately felled it. The rest of the group let loose a loud shriek, and started to dart toward Aric. They were fast, and they moved like insects, almost too fast for the naked eye to track. Aric continued to fire at them as they closed in, his grip tightening on the hilt of the sword as some shots hit and some missed. They would be on top of him in a matter of seconds.

The moment Aric had their attention, Lirssa crawled low to the ground around to the side of bound Good Bugs. The one she had touched before smiled at her, then spoke in a low voice to his companions. She smiled back. Multiversal language, indeed. A talent with knives and an understanding of the way they had been tied up, she cut just three bonds, leaving two knives next to them, and they took care of the rest, quick to their feet. Three charged the Bad Bugs, surprising them from behind, two stayed around Lirssa as she dropped back to the inbetween.

It was oddly easy to tell the Good Bugs from the Bad Bugs. The touch was as different as dipping her hand in crystal clear water or through the scum lining of a brackish pond. As much as she wanted to let go, they were the ones she needed to hold on to. And pull.
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Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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Lirssa Sarengrave
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Out with Aric, one by one, the Bad Bugs stumbled, looked confused. Some put hands to their throats, others kept after him, ignoring the tug and terror of an unknown, unseen assailant.

Lirssa began to weave their power together, feeling them fight her, the strands slipping and pulling away. If she had corporal form in the inbetween, she would have been gritting her teeth and growling out frustration. As it was, her body was prone, unaware -- an easy target.

The struggle continued, a thread drawn tight, and at last, when she had captured them all in a great rope of power, she pulled, ripping it from them to tuck away into that great other. And no one was willing to give it up easily.

The released captives wouldn’t be able to catch up before the rest were on Aric. He felt the back of his hand smacked which caused him to lose his grip on the blaster. He swung an arc with the sword in his left hand, deflecting another spear attack and then catching a bug on the back swing. Another wild swing and he was able to dispatch another, but soon they were swarming him, and Aric felt a sharp pain to his side as one managed to stab him with their weapon. A backfist knocked that bug to the ground, though he was left open to another stab and slice to his back. Standing in one place was going to allow them to take their shots, so Aric lowered his shoulder and rushed forward; he was taller and stronger than the bugs, and he rolled over them easily, his sword cutting a few down.

The Good Bugs then caught up, a collision between the groups freed Aric and he tumbled to the ground, covered with cuts and stab wounds, bleeding profusely… but at least no major organs had been hit. Prone on the ground, he lifted his head and put a forearm beneath him to help lift his upper body. He saw Lirssa, and her protectors, but then also about five bad bugs rushing toward them. Aric gritted his teeth together, trying to push back to his feet, but then felt the entry of a spear in his back, and he was ran through, with the tip exiting just below his ribcage. He still watched Lirssa, shouting as the bad bugs descended upon her guards.

It was taking time. Too long a time. The strain of wrenching their power from them -- too many -- burned her. She thought of Canaan, thought of the power that he taught her to use and how fearsome it could be, she thought of Aric battling alone. Lirssa felt the space of the inbetween swell, crushing her, as at last one by one and then in a crashing mass, the Bad Bugs lost their battle, their power swung and dropped into the Other.

Throwing herself back to that space where she felt whole once more, her eyes snapped open and she gasped as a spear came down at her head. A quick roll, then she rocked up over her head, landing down in a crouch, the last of her throwing knives spun from her hand to lodge in a Bad Bug’s eye socket. She looked him in the eye. She accepted the killing.

With a twist and turn, heels kicked and cracked jaws, broke ribs, and gave opportunity for the Good Bugs to gain the upper hand.

“Aric?!” She called, searching for him, running towards where the others were still fighting on. A spear stood upright in a form, one too tall to be a Bug. She rushed to him, but a Bad Bug kept her from reaching him. A growling scream of frustration ripped from her throat, and she hurtled herself at the Bad Bug, hand springing to get her legs wrapped around his neck and using her momentum in a twist to bring him down hard on his skull. His last moments got a slice across her back in a wild flail to get her free of him. But a satisfying crack as the head hit the ground, the body went limp, and Lirssa scrambled across the ground to Aric. “Aric?”

Once Aric saw that Lirssa was up and awake, and that she was holding her own, he placed one hand on the ground and pushed up. He felt the weapon sliding inside his body, but ignored that odd sensation as he saw another bug coming from the side. He didn’t see Lirssa, or notice the save until he felt the pressure gone from the weapon caught inside his body. He heard Lirssa’s voice then, asking his name, but it was ignored as Aric pushed up to his knees. As the other bug screeched and aimed its weapon toward Lirssa and Aric, he lunged from his knees and buried the sword into the bug’s chest.

That might have been his last effort. Still on his knees, he was unable to muster the strength to dislodge it from the dead bug. Both hands went to the weapon sticking out of his chest, and Aric pulled until it came clean through and out of his body. Unable to think clearly, the only thoughts that came to Aric’s mind were some panic as he felt difficulty breathing, and if Lirssa was all right. He glanced back to where he heard her voice. He tried to speak, but instead of words, bright crimson blood spilled from his mouth. He wobbled, but didn’t go down.

“Oh! Don’t!” She tried to stall him pulling out the weapon, but he finished the task, and she gulped down the bile that threatened to escape. When the blood spilled from his mouth, she tore one sleeve and then the other from her shirt. She cut twine from the weapon, still warm and slick from his blood, and then moved to let Aric prop against her shoulder. She didn’t care if he got blood on her. She had to help his body do the healing he should.

One folded sleeve on the back of the gaping wound, she set the string across it, and then the hole on the front pressed, and she tied the string off. It wasn’t much, but it was all she had. “We need to get you back to the ship.” But she couldn’t carry him. Not that whole way, and her back was burning where the slice had landed. She didn’t heal like he would, and she would need more of her supplies.

How to get him back?

Aric shook his head, and there was a gurgle in his throat that sounded like “Sorry” and he pointed toward the bugs approaching. He was still tense until he saw them lower their weapons, and he recognized them as friendlies. Only then did he allow himself to relax against Lirssa, though that didn’t last long. He soon became completely dead weight, but was able to angle himself away from Lirssa before he fell to his back and laid on the ground. He was still breathing, but just so.

One of the good bugs, the one Lirssa first spoke with, gestured and pointed toward the ship and then Aric and Lirssa. The three remaining bugs went to the ship while the main one approached Lirssa. If they were going to have a conversation, Aric would not be able to hear it. He tried to maintain consciousness as long as possible, and one hand blindly felt around until it found Lirssa’s arm. Sliding down until it found her hand, he gave a squeeze to it before he closed his eyes. This time he wasn’t going unconscious, nor was he dying. Instead Aric relaxed and cleared his mind, trying to ignore the pain until he could will himself to fall asleep. He had already stopped bleeding from most minor cuts, and only the major wound from where he was run through had yet to heal. Give or take a few hours of sleep, he would be almost good as new.

Lirssa felt his hand squeeze hers, reassuring her. It was difficult not to worry, even with what he said. They were on another world, but she had to trust that he would heal as he had before. And she also had to accept that he had been sent here, and her along with him. To what purpose other than the immediate, she did not know. It was all so far beyond her understanding.

The conversations with the remaining aliens was carried out through gestures. Shelter, rest, safety. Lirssa’s aching back and Aric’s need to sleep convinced her. Aric was carried by the aliens with care to shelter beneath the ship. Lirssa went to sit next to him, to keep watch, though the ship occupants were taking shifts to watch over them. Eventually, she could not remain awake. She lay down on the thin but comfortable blanket that had been laid out for each of them.

For her own peace of mind, she stretched a hand out across the distance to rest on Aric’s chest, feeling that his heart was still beating, and she fell asleep.

After a night of rest and another long walk, Aric and Lirssa returned to the Moxie. The conversation back had involved a lot of conjecture from Aric about why he thinks he can heal, about what the good bugs were going to do next as far as try to stay low and wait out a rescue (it turns out they were able to live off the local food and water, but just could not obtain materials for their ship), and Lirssa explaining her abilities to him. Though they still faced the reality of a potentially long trip back, at least they had managed to put an end to the danger on this planet.

That was until they got into the ship and Lirssa noticed that the scanners had picked up anomaly outside of the planet’s atmosphere. It was too far to get a clear reading, but there was hope. Lirssa had never gone through an ignition sequence so quickly, getting Moxie in the air at threat to Aric’s stomach. When they broke atmosphere, the readings were clear. Wormhole. There was no way to know where it led, but with a shared look, they accepted the risk.

And Gateway Station in its orbit above RhyDin danced in the distance of their view once they crossed the swirl of lights.
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Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven
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