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475891 No. 475891 ID: c4e5c2

It has been four months since my last mission. I have spent it training for my next, after the previous brought my shortcomings to light. Now, I've been summoned onto my ultrahive's orbital flagship without explanation. This is the first time I have ever been in space, but I don't have time to sightsee. I am immediately shown in to see the fleet admiral, hopefully to get that explanation.

>"Hello. It is nice to finally see you, Polo of Sealock."
"Thank you, Sir."

We feel each other out for a moment through our empathic links. Even though I have the almost unheard of capacity to block it myself, doing so here would be similar to blocking my face with my hands while talking to someone. Furthermore, I am presumed dead by the general public, and going silent without use of artificial jammers may raise questions to nearby neumono. Still, thus far I have only been in contact with high profile individuals who have more important things to keep secret than my state of life.

>"We haven't found the salikai yet, but their available hiding spots are dwindling. You will be deployed against them as soon as we find them. Until then, we have decided to have you help in the search. Another ultrahive has a small crew performing a routine inspection on a Voklit reservation. While inspection is the official job, we are also going to make a map of the cave system that extends deep below the site. You are to assist the cartographer in this. While the chances of a salikai presence are low overall, it has a higher chance than other sites on an individual, site-by-site basis. If you do find any signs at all of the salikai, report back to us with the highest priority. Any questions?"
Expand all images
>>
No. 475892 ID: 2f4b71

>Voklit
Those are new. Species or nation?
>>
No. 475893 ID: 70c0f2

Polo! Good to see you again. Missed ya.

>going silent without use of artificial jammers may raise questions to nearby neumono.
Doesn't it depend on if they're paying attention to you in particular? One person in a crowd dropping out is a lot less noticeable.

And a neumono going silent doesn't necessarily mean Polo's back from the dead! You had two peers, as I recall (although, I guess their existence isn't general knowledge either, and there would be advantages to letting the public believe your superpowers were unique to you. Makes it easier to keep the secret stealth units secret).

>questions
Who am I deploying with, when do we leave, and what are we getting in ways of gear (crossed fingers that those 7 or 8 Korli-hive people we liberated have reproduced some of the stuff you lost in the bridge fiasco).
>>
No. 475896 ID: e3f578

>>475891
Sir, what should we do in the case that we meet a different, unrelated salikai? As unlikely as that may be, if they're not extinct as we thought, I hardly believe that the ones Rokoa killed are the last of a dying race. We can't deny the possibility.
>>
No. 475905 ID: 70c0f2

>>475896
I suppose that's a reasonable concern- if we're looking in all the places a Salikai might hide, we might find more than the group we're looking for. (I don't see the point in namedropping Rokoa, though).

Any other news in the last few months? There been word on, from or about the warhive since they left? Rikek gone back home yet, or he still hanging with your hive?
>>
No. 475909 ID: c4e5c2
File 135438028204.png - (20.09KB , 700x700 , 2.png )
475909

>Voklit?
It's one of our home planet's sapient species. That sentence exhausts my knowledge of them.

>Doesn't it depend on if they're paying attention to you in particular? One person in a crowd dropping out is a lot less noticeable.
Yes, but it is still not something to test. There is no reason to do so now, anyways.

>Crossed fingers that those 7 or 8 Korli-hive people we liberated have reproduced some of the stuff you lost in the bridge fiasco
With their assistance and other engineers, I have been able to get repaired and replaced parts to have a fully functional sniper rifle and armor set once again. In fact, a modification of the armor is now entering full production.

"I am unfamiliar with Voklits, Sir."
>"You won't need to worry about them too much, we have a translator and legal negotiator for that."
"Alright, but I do not know what Voklits are, beyond existing."
>"Oh, really? Here is a picture. Sort of like non-wimpy Pomi." He says, changing the window to a big screen display. "They used to more or less be our enemies. They are traditional to an extreme level, and shun technology, at least the old ones do. The new ones may have an unhealthy mixture of young ambitioun, yet generations of grudges. In any case, they have not shown themselves to be as unapproachable as the salikai, and have been given reservations so they may live in their backwater little worlds. To make sure that they are keeping to their ways and not trying to rise up or something silly like that, we inspect their reservations. Given the galactic grade red tape, we're not able to launch dozens of units down there to map the caves like we would normally do. Which is why, off the record, I'm hoping that they're breaking some rules down there so we got some excuse to throw on a full investigation."
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No. 475911 ID: c4e5c2
File 135438029892.png - (14.25KB , 700x700 , 3.png )
475911

"Who am I deploying with, when do I leave, and what gear am I allowed?"
>"7 others are confirmed, one of which includes Korli as a technician, and Inspector Lucera, whom you will be reporting to. The crew is already on their way on land, and given the haste which we've decided to deploy you, you leave in... 24 minutes, by parachute. Hence why your gear was brought on board. You'll be given communication channels so that Lucera can pick you up where you land. The gear will be your standard survival and combat gear, but given the Voklit's disdain for tech, don't flaunt it."
"What if I see salikai that aren't one of the facility's family?"
>"Report what you know with just as much importance. The Voklit are not permitted to harbor salikai, so even if it is not the salikai we are after, we still want to know."

>Any other news in the last few months?
Rikek, though he did grow to like Rakae and myself, wanted to go back home quite intensely. He is back on whatever planet he came from once again. The warhive has been silent since exile, since so long as they do not come back, we are not keeping tabs on them.
>>
No. 475913 ID: ac6915

of the others, any specialized skills that could be noteworthy?
>>
No. 475915 ID: e3f578

Lizard-Horse people holy shit
Cool great, what do we do now? Ask more questions? Meet our coworkers? Casual chats with the Admiral? Do we have any tending business to deal with?
I suppose another question to ask is how communications will be done, specifically down in the caves. We'll be cut off from most signals then, unless we have advanced enough commtech to get through the dense rock. I suspect our coworkers have experience working in cave systems? I forget the word for it, I think think it's spelunking. Do we have any spelunkers on our team?
>>
No. 475916 ID: 70c0f2

...if you're trying to keep a low profile, why are you in full dress uniform with more ribbons than most people accumulate in a lifetime? A uniformed soldier is invisible- a war hero isn't!

>Korli
...wait, what? How'd she get out? Last we saw, she was running comms for you from inside the Salikai base! Several people from her hive were captured by the war hive in their initial assault, and then later liberated when the ultrahive boarded, but she wasn't one of them! And the last time she showed up in ITQ, it sure sounded like she was still a Salikai slave. I guess she managed to duck out and make a run for it in the confusion of the evacuation?

>training, shortcomings
Mind filling us in on your new capabilities? What new skills have you picked up, what weaknesses are less significant?
>>
No. 475941 ID: f2c20c

>>475911
Just to make it clear, if we find a facility Salikai, we're not to engage in combat with them unless it is necessary in order to report back?

We should get going as not to miss the drop window.
>>
No. 475944 ID: c4e5c2
File 135439065184.png - (35.30KB , 700x700 , 4.png )
475944

>Why are you dressed in full with more ribbons than most people accumulate in a lifetime?
From what I gather, it is standard for a meeting with, say, an admiral. I was not seen in public, so I figured it was acceptable. The amount of ribbons would raise questions of who I am, but they also give me the power to wave away those questions.

>Korli got out?
Yes, somewhere in the confusion of the salikai's final retreat, she saw an opening.

"Of the others, any notable skills?"
>"There's the cartographer, a translator for the Voklits, a couple of soldiers acting as bodyguards in case the voklit get uppity, and one survival specialist. It should not be a complex enough mission to merit anything more than that, but I do not have the details on many of them, since they are of another ultrahive."
"Do we have a way of communication inside the caves?"
>"Possibly for extremely short range, but your operations will take place above ground still.
"And my coworkers will have experience in cave systems?"
>"Most of them don't, you are the second most experienced while the survival specialist has extensive knowledge. This is part of why we're sending you here of all places, as we want to have more than one person with hands on experience with spelunking."
"And I am not to engage in combat with salikai unless required, correct?"
>"Correct, the first priority is simply to report to us, and await further instruction."
"Then that will be all. Where do I go?"
>"I'll get someone to show you the way. Good luck, but I doubt you'll need it."
"Thank you."
>>
No. 475945 ID: c4e5c2
File 135439067338.png - (18.88KB , 700x700 , 5.png )
475945

>What new skills have you picked up, what weaknesses are less significant?
I have focused on close quarter combat and reaction time as the major concern. Otherwise, I have made sure that I am at least competent in a wide assortment of skills and knowledges.

Up at the deck, I'm greeted by someone who hands me a parachute after I suit up and get my gear in order. And while I'm at it, hoping that the plasma shields continue seperating our air supply from the vacuum of space.

>"Hey, you the single one getting dropped? Let me input the coordinates for your visor. We've calculated your expected drag and weight, and your visor will update you on if you need to pull yourself north or east or whatever while you fall. You've skydived before, right?"
"Yes, I have experience."
>"Good, because you're going in at an extremely high altitude. It's not like you've got to get within the meter, just try to land on the right continent. We'll double check to make sure that your armor is properly sealed and airtight for this."
"... how high is this drop?"
>"See this little room behind me? We depressurize it, then we drop you down the chute that pokes out of the plasma shields. This is the drop altitude."
>>
No. 475951 ID: f2c20c

>>475945
>Try Jumping

Hoo boy. We're going to have quite the view. Maybe we can pull off some stunts while we're falling, for funsies.

Also, with your luck, I half expect the parachute to partially fail. Not fully, of course. Just enough to make it difficult to stay on target. There's probably a backup parachute too anyway.
>>
No. 475953 ID: 70c0f2

You got your bioarmor on under there? Unless acclimating yourself to putting it on and off easily was part of your training, I don't think less than 23 minutes was enough time.

>Orbital Airdrop
Oh goodie. Another suicidally stupid risk for my checklist. I was wondering if I'd missed any.

Even if this station is at Low Earth Orbit (well not Earth, but whatever) there's not going to be sufficient atmosphere for a parachute to function. If you're skydiving from the edge of space, the trick is to wait till there's enough atmosphere to deploy, but not wait too long. If you get going too fast, the parachute may provide insufficient breaking or rip/tear under the stress. And then you're burning up in reentry, or at least spattering yourself across the landscape.

>Korli got out
Well, smart of her, I suppose. She would have been in a lot of trouble if her comm trick had been discovered. You guys talked since the mission?
>>
No. 475955 ID: 75037b

>>475953

So Polo has a chance to become obsessed with a vision of a burning world and become the Fury?

Neat.
>>
No. 475956 ID: ac6915

how often are drops from this hight done?
also thats gonna be one heck of a view, obligatory "do a barrel roll" for your way down
>>
No. 475957 ID: 00c52e

>>475955
My first thought was Snake doing the HALO jump.
>>
No. 475963 ID: 70c0f2

>>475957
Not of Baumgartner? I mean, c'mon, we just had a guy do this in the real world.
>>
No. 475964 ID: 2f4b71

>>475953
The worry is less the vertical velocity, but the horizontal: falling from low orbit isn't going to get you going particularly fast and the progressively increasing density of the atmosphere slows you gently (see: Kittinger, Baumgartner), but you're already moving sideways at a good 6000-7800ms^-1 (13,500-17,500mph).

Hopefully the parachute includes something like the MOOSE or Paracone.
>>
No. 475965 ID: e3f578

Screw the science of it. I'm sure the engineers have it down enough to justify just bolting you down to the planet from here. I mean hell, this lady wasn't even sure if you've had ANY skydiving experience before but they were going to throw you down to the planet anyway. Whatever problems we would have with inexperienced divers in this sort of thing, they've solved enough to send a casual experienced soldier with hardly much preparation. They don't even think of it so much of a big deal.

Just follow their directions Polo and you'll be fine.
>>
No. 475969 ID: f2c20c

>>475964
If we're in geocentric orbit, there won't be any horizontal velocity relative to the planet.
>>
No. 475970 ID: 8b9215

Say "Yeehaa" as flatly as you can.
>>
No. 475989 ID: 2f4b71

>>475969
>geocentric
That's not the word you're looking for. But still, no. Even if the ship was in a geostationary orbit (which is very, VERY far from a planet compared to low orbit), you'd essentially be doing a Hohmann transfer down if you had any interest in minimising propellant use, and you'd gain a heck of an orbital velocity from that. And even if you didn't, (using earth's values here, calculate with Neumono Homeworld values when available), surface tangential sped is ~440ms^-1 ish. GEO is more like 3000ms^-1. That 2500ms^-1 delta is still Very Not Good.
>>
No. 476000 ID: 70c0f2

>"I'm never going to use this, am I?"
See Polo? Math is important after all!

But yeah, best you can do is trust that more qualified people have done it, and pay attention to what your computer or mission control says to do.
>>
No. 476001 ID: ac6915

I'm sure out all this scientific buisness people are going through, they probably have some sort of shielding & guidance headsets to set them through, sat like an ablative cone that can be ejected once atmo is hit & they slow to terminal velocity
>>
No. 476009 ID: b33427

"...There time to triple-check my gear?"

Seriously, was this the best way they had to get you down in secrecy? The one where if anything goes wrong, you get burnt to a crisp, crater, or at the very least end up massively off course? They couldn't take you down far enough in another craft so you could do a relatively safer HALO jump?

You're still going to do this, but you're going to voice your objections. Hope that parachute pack has some additional techno-wizardy in it, like a one-shot anti-G generator.
>>
No. 476020 ID: 603e75

I wonder why they're sending you specifically to do this. Oh well, too late for that question now.
>>
No. 476023 ID: d79664

>>475970
I vote for this.
>>
No. 476049 ID: 9718f3

>>476009
What? No way is Polo voicing objections, this is super awesome. Also, it's pointless and unprofessional for a soldier to complain like that. Polo is stone cold.
>>
No. 476057 ID: c33f8f

Ask her is there some traditional thing soldiers yell when they perform an orbital parachute drop?
>>
No. 476072 ID: c4e5c2
File 135446747652.png - (14.60KB , 700x700 , 6.png )
476072

>You got your bioarmor on under there?
No. I have it in my bag, and it does not take more than an hour for me to put it on. I will do so once I am picked up.

>You guys talked since the mission?
Some, but not much. She, along with the others, have mostly been under very close watch. Apparently that has been lifted if she is off on this mission.

"When do I deploy the parachute?"
>"Around 2,000 meters, your goggles will display your elevation, and it may change a bit depending on where you are at that point."
"And this sort of drop is made regularly?"
>"Don't worry, we're not using you as an experiment. People do this now and again, since it's a lot cheaper to do this than it is to get a ship to deploy everytime someone wants off. Your parachute is good and tough, and there's a backup in there."
"Let me triple check my gear."
>"Sure."

So with a few minutes of preparation, I stand in the room and wait. It's got a little monitor displaying the status and the countdown. It's nice that they don't just make you sit in a featureless room then drop you without warning.

>"Good luck out there." I hear her say through the room's intercom.
>>
No. 476073 ID: c4e5c2
File 135446749012.png - (41.78KB , 700x700 , 7.png )
476073

"Yee haa."
>>
No. 476074 ID: c4e5c2
File 135446755326.png - (68.72KB , 700x700 , 8.png )
476074

While my armor throws out numbers to me, I turn on my radio to the channel the admiral gave me.

"This is Polo reporting. Anyone there?"
>"This is Marra. You ready to be picked up?"
"Almost. I'm coming down. Let me double check the coordinates I've been given."
>"Yeah. Just a sec, let me get our location."

This iteration of the armor has some voice recognition to it, so I'm able to input commands during freefall. The wind conditions were ideal after all, and for over a full minute of freefalling I'm able to direct myself in favor of a surprisingly accurate landing.

After I double check the coordinates with Marra, I think I know exactly where they are via my visor. It's a mountainous terrain, in the thick of a forest, and they're likely on one of the snakey roads along a mountain pass.

I don't get many chances to make a dramatic entrance. I wonder how stupid it would be to try to land on their truck.
>>
No. 476075 ID: e3f578

Depends on the type of truck.
It'd be stupid to land on a truck with a soft roof. It's be less stupid to land on one with a sturdy roof, but only if it's big enough, you're going to make a big impact where you land. You'll be running. It's better to run off the top of the truck than release your parachute and land on the ground into a roll.
>>
No. 476076 ID: 603e75

Well, you need some open, level ground, and the truck needs open, level ground, so while you don't want to aim for the truck you might want to aim in the vicinity of the truck.
>>
No. 476080 ID: 70c0f2

...snakey mountain roads tend not to be very wide, and parachutes aren't know for precision targeting. If you're off by a few feet (or blown off course slightly by a gust of mountain wind), you'll end up on the trees by the side of the road, or smashing into a cliff face above the road, or down the incline on the other side. Also... parachutes take up a lot of space when they settle. It'll likely get tangled up with the truck, or will drag you off the roof as the truck keeps moving.

That said, you are a sharpshooter. How cool would to be to hit a target as small as a truck from orbit?

The trade off here is basically professionalism versus impressiveness. You pull this off? You look damn impressive. You screw it up? You look like an idiot, and someone without regard for proper protocol, and who takes stupid risks for no reason (and you might already have a reputation to overcome with some people after your last opp).

So yeah, if you're going to hit the truck? Don't fuck it up.
>>
No. 476085 ID: 10ac19

I'd suggest landing right in front of the truck. Much the same...impact...but no chance of damaging equipment.
>>
No. 476087 ID: ac6915

if the parachute can be easily removed then the truck could be a viable option (tho you may have to go back to recover the parachute) otherwise yeah, see if you can get ahead of them, if possible if you have enough speed going, fly over them at low altitude
>>
No. 476088 ID: beeca1

>>476085
Personnel is a kind of equipment, so... how about no?
>>
No. 476094 ID: 62496e

>>476085
>landing in front of a truck
>lower chance of damaging equipment
I'm pretty sure Polo's bones count as rather important pieces of equipment.
>>
No. 476096 ID: f2c20c

>>476074
Depends on how fast you're gonna be falling even after the parachute slowed you down, how sturdy the truck is, and how much space you need to come to a complete stop.

I kinda want to do it, if it's feasible.
>>
No. 476098 ID: 70c0f2

>I kinda want to do it, if it's feasible.
Pretty much this. Polo, if you think you've got decent odds of success and not making an idiot of yourself, go for it.

I don't suppose your standard survival and combat gear includes a new grappling hook? You could use that to salvage a messed up entry and still make a flashy entrance.
>>
No. 476110 ID: c4e5c2
File 135447765628.png - (23.97KB , 700x700 , 9.png )
476110

The chance of it being incredibly stupid are directly inversely proportional to my chances of pulling it off. So, probably pretty stupid. I am not a professional skydiver, and although the conditions are favorable for stunts, I have also been making an attempt to not succumb to ridiculous temptations.

So I line myself up, deploy the parachute, and make a nice, uneventful, safe landing on the road just a bit in front of the truck.
>>
No. 476111 ID: d4ad1a

>>476098
lol yeah. Do it.
>>
No. 476114 ID: c4e5c2
File 135447801170.png - (53.24KB , 700x700 , 10.png )
476114

>Have a grappling hook?
Somewhere in my pack where it is was exceptionally difficult to get to.

Turns out there are two trucks, though, so load my stuff in one and get on. The driver of the other truck, perhaps the inspector, doesn't feel like stopping for proper introductions. He seems rather serious.

"Hey, you did show up!" Korli says.
"Hello. I would have thought you would be under more surveillance."
"Well, aren't I? After I shared everything I knew, they still let me at least wander, but I volunteered to help them search."
"Nice landing." the driver says. "Good to know we weren't gonna spend all day having to track you down. My name's Biler, of the Underbrush hive."
Never heard of them.
>"And I'm Rokann." says the girl in the passenger seat. "Yeah, good job. Know what woulda been great? If you tried landing right on us. So, is half of what they say about you the truth?"

I resisted the temptation only to find out at least one of them is into the theatrics. Figures. It's not even a full door truck, so I might've landed right in my seat. I'm going to spend the whole mission wishing I at least tried it now.

My wild daydreams are probably caused by these rather sudden events after being cooped up in my hive building for months.
>>
No. 476116 ID: d4ad1a

Damn it, I wish we had done it. Every time life offers Polo a crazy risk, she should take it.
>>
No. 476117 ID: 70c0f2

Oh hey, a multi-colored neumono. That's new. Does that sort of thing occur naturally, or is that dye or cammo? (Me asking Polo, not Polo asking him).

Don't worry, Polo. I'm sure you'll get a chance to show off sooner rather than later.

>is half of what they say about you the truth?
Well, not the part about my being dead, barely.

As for the rest... I'm sure your hivemates have been more than happy to fill you in on how tall your tale has gotten. Respond appropriately- either the rumors are mostly true, or they've gotten crazy.

If we're just going to be riding around and chatting, you could take the helmet off. Unless we're going to be paranoid about an ambush, which seems unlikely.
>>
No. 476119 ID: ac6915

ask how Korli's been & what she thinks of the outside world
>>
No. 476120 ID: e3f578

>>476114
You're not aware of much of what they say. You did the mission, did a few more missions. You've been blown up and beaten to a pulp, destroyed zombie neumono's controller bugs, turned a queen into mush, and prevented a nuclear conflict ushered by the salikai. You've also befriended a legendary predator.

That's pretty much it.
>>
No. 476129 ID: f2c20c

>>476114
Ask them what they've been saying about you. Verify the truths.
>>
No. 476143 ID: 4a328b

>is half of what they say about you the truth?

You likely have no idea what crazy things people are saying about you, so it's safe to say that your exploits have likely been exaggerated. Does she have any specific questions?
>>
No. 476147 ID: c4e5c2
File 135449185813.png - (23.22KB , 700x700 , 11.png )
476147

>Are multicolored neumono natural?
It is possible, but rare. It could be camo here, but that one science hive neumono... I don't recall if I ever learned his name, but the one that blew himself up had multiple fur tones.

"Not the part about me being dead." I say, getting a chuckle from Rokann. "I don't know what else they say about me and how much is exaggerated."
>"That you can resist a predator's influence, you killed a salikai barehanded, and ran around an enemy warship while they chased you around, and then took out a vernaut, a grottle, and assassinate the warhive's queen."
"... I guess the answer is yes, if you remember the word 'half', and nothing more." Resisted a predator? I wonder if they even know about my empathy blocking, if they think I resisted it with brute force. "I didn't kill a salikai or vernaut, and the grottle and queen was done with assistance." Rokann seems almost partially disappointed, but at least considers me honest. "Korli, how have you been?"
>"Oh, you know, living. The salikai didn't have any surprise orbital beam satellites they took me out with."
"What do you think of the outside world?"
>"It's huge, and I don't think I'd ever see all of it. What's wrong? You feel like you missed out on something?"
"Don't worry about it."
>"Geez, though, they really brought some top notch people on this mission."
"How so?"
>"Well, there's you, first off. Then Rokann here was in the binding of her ultrahive, which took about 15 years of wars that she fought the entire time in, even though she was just a kid at the time. And Biles is a top rank survivalist in his ultrahive, which very few people are. What was that about again, Biles?"
"The final test took place over one and a half standard galactic years." Biles starts explaining. "Our hive takes nine of the harshest environments of our planet. I get dropped in one, naked and alone, and have to survive one month. Then get a three day rest, and then dropped in the next biome, each one worse than the last, till I survive in all 9. The only thing I or anyone gets is a single radio, so that we have an option to bail out at any time. Using it is automatically a failure, of course."
>>
No. 476149 ID: 6dc5a6

Get your bioarmor out and suitup. If anyone asks if you're expecting trouble you get the chance to be a mysterious badass and give em the cryptic treatment.
>>
No. 476150 ID: 70c0f2

...well, hopefully we're overqualified, then.

>I wonder if they even know about my empathy blocking
Well, if they don't know, there's no reason to reveal it, yet. Might as well keep useful secrets secret until needed.
>>
No. 476151 ID: f2c20c

>>476147
Jeez, how'd he manage that? Did he have to eat one of his own limbs at some point, as a sort of nutritional loan? He should tell us a story about one of the interesting parts of his trials.

Also you forgot to mention that you killed more than one grottle with that assistance. Heck, you may as well recount that whole tale of the nanobot-zombie menace, it's the coolest part of that mission. We've got some time, right? And the details of that mission aren't classified? Let's swap stories with the others.
>>
No. 476152 ID: c6ec33

Well, it sounded like the top brass thought this was the mostly likely area for Salikai trouble out of all the areas that are currently known of. It's nice to know that they're taking it seriously, but you have to wonder if there's anything they didn't tell you.

See if you can get briefed on what they know of the mission, and what their current plans are. Oh, and any more on the current situation with the Voklit, since you have very little familiarity with them. Knowing how NOT to start a fight is probably a good idea.
>>
No. 476154 ID: f2c20c

>>476149
That would require stripping naked. I think we're supposed to do that when we get to the camp.
>>
No. 476159 ID: 70c0f2

>>476151
I don't think Polo has anything to prove- there's no need to start recounting her exploits. Besides, if anything from that mission should be classified, it's the existence of evil mind control tech. We'll provide info on that if and when it becomes necessary.

>>476154
I think the bio-armor it in our pack, which we stored in the back. The logistics of getting to it, and taking off all our metal armor, would be kind of awkward in a moving car.
>>
No. 476160 ID: e3f578

>>476147
Naked, huh?
How naked~?
>>
No. 476163 ID: b33427

Check with the others here what their orders are, and what they were told to expect going in, just to make sure everyone is on the same page here. It's looking like since the top brass couldn't send in the army they wanted, they're sending in a small group of the best people they have on hand.

Considering your short experiences with the arctic and volcanic biomes, Biles must be one tough son of a bitch to survive in either of those for a month, and they might not even be the worst ones. Ask him what was the last biome, and to what extremes he had to go to get through it.

Ask Korli what the name of the guy with the glasses was, and what made him go to the lengths he did. It's a shame you don't know his name since he made the ultimate sacrifice to stop the nuke launch. He should be recognized for that.
>>
No. 476165 ID: 2f4b71

"That beats me, I had to wear someone else's skin to avoid freezing".
>>
No. 476175 ID: f2c20c

>>476165
Oh god, that's almost actually true.
>>
No. 476176 ID: beeca1

>>476175
"almost"? I see no discrepancy.
>>
No. 476243 ID: c4e5c2
File 135452754775.png - (19.34KB , 700x700 , 12.png )
476243

With no sign there is going to be any threat soon, I will continue waiting before putting on my bio armor.

"What was the name of the person who sacrificed himself, Korli, of the science hive?"
>"Oh... that was Likol, I think."
"Ah. And Biles, I may want to swap stories sometime. What was your last biome?"
"Northland Swamp. It was the easiest to find food in, but for bad reasons. Everything tastes nasty, except for me. Not just does every other creature also agree with that, but every creature can also smell a neumono from very far away. Food was easy, sleep wasn't. You ever live out in the wilds before?" Biles asks.
"Some. Once had to wear someone elses skin to not freeze, that's about it."
"Oh. I usually had to wear my own skin. Mostly from constantly cutting off my ears, making a little bit at a time."
"To make sure everyone is on the same page, could you all tell me what your orders are?"
"I'm to be available to help with tech in case our trucks break down or something." Korli answers.
"I'm going to be in the caves, mapping them out the most." Biles explains. "That, and finding and cooking our food. Airspace here is supposed to be unoccupied, so we're going to have to eat either what we find, or what the Voktils give us. They'll give us enough, sure, but they tend to just plop down a big, dead animal from hunting, and expect us to be able to work with that."
"Do they not cook their food?"
"Not for us."
>"I'm just a soldier. Probably more there for show, along with Marra. I may walk around the caves, too, once everyone at camp feels comfortable." Rokann says last.
>>
No. 476244 ID: c4e5c2
File 135452756153.png - (26.33KB , 700x700 , 13.png )
476244

It's another couple hours before the road stops traversing the side of a mountain, leading us down a long slope. We eventually stop in what looks like absolutely no distinguishing landmark aside from a few large rocks.

"There's no border marking? I didn't see anything coming in."
"It was hard to see because of the height of the trees, but that long downward slope leaded us through a narrow passage. That little pass was the border, and it opens up into a large valley that is the reservation. Again, hard to see because of the trees, although there have been Voklits that noticed us from the trees."

We get out, as do two others from the other truck, while two remain and drive off.

>"Greetings. I'm Inspector Lucera." says the one at eye level.
"Hello. I'm Polo."
>".... yes, it is nice seeing someone at eye level, isn't it."
I can't imagine how it is, anymore, not being able to turn off my empathy. He has good sense, and called me out on it. It is a bit rude to analyze a stranger's empathy like this, but we're not here for pleasantries.
>"Anyways, Marra and Kort, bodyguard and translator respectively, are going to make introductions with the Voktil while we set up camp. And take off your armor. Voktils won't like seeing you in tech. Bioarmor is fine if you have it, that doesn't look like tech in their eyes."
>"Hi, Polo. I'm Katzati, the cartographer."
>>
No. 476245 ID: c6ec33

Help set up camp, then see if you have enough time to change into your bio armor.

See if you can get more intel while you set up camp. Try to learn as much about Voktil customs as you can; you want to avoid a diplomatic incident (unless it's intentional).

Hopefully you'll get some warning before having to use your real armor. If nothing else, trying to get the Voktil's permission before wearing it is probably a good idea.

Also, is Hugetits a snowhive member?
>>
No. 476246 ID: 8b9215

I can't think of anything but those giant soft pillows.

Polo you are on your own for this one.
>>
No. 476247 ID: f2c20c

>>476244
We've got bioarmor. If they're going to be doing the introducing we can go put it on now since we won't be needed. If we're going too, then ask when we should leave. If we have time we can put on the bio armor, otherwise plain clothes is fine.

...I thought Neumono metabolism prevented gaining much excess weight? Or is she just really wide? Well, whichever. Maybe she did it on purpose.

I presume Katzati and Biles will be working together to map the caverns? Or is she here to map the surface?
>>
No. 476248 ID: f2c20c

>>476245
>>476246
>HugeTits
>giant soft pillows
Oh dear. Being around the Inspector who can almost read our mind, we might want to go silent to avoid embarrassing ourselves.
>>
No. 476249 ID: b33427

Find a private spot and have someone watch your back while you change into your bio armor. Put some normal clothes on over them, mostly for the pockets. Then talk with the others and help set up camp as best you can while the armor's bonding with you.

Ask Inspector Lucera if there's anything you should know about the Voktils, other than the "low tech" thing, to avoid causing an incident. Also ask if they have any noteworthy physical abilities other than being huge.

Get the lay of the land from Katzati; The general terrain, where the camp is, where the known cave entrances are, where the Voktils are, and the exit routes in case things go bad.

Check with Biles what's the danger level of the flora or fauna around here; There anything in particular you should watch out for?

>>476247
Considering that Marra is here as a bodyguard, her stockiness is probably composed much more of muscle than fat. She might also come from a line of neumono that are naturally wide for their height as well.
>>
No. 476256 ID: edb64c

>>476246
>>476248

Only the most legendary pillows will do for cushioning Polo's mythical head. Too bad the only appropriately legendary set are going to get stuck on a meteor.

Hm. Actually, Polo probably could use Rokoa as a pretty comfortable bed. Sit her up on her legs crossed and she could be a comfy throne, too. Polo, if you ever become a space pirate queen, you know what you must do.

In the meantime, check whether everyone in the team's on the same clearance level so we know if anything needs not talking about. Then ask someone or two to cover you while you put your bioarmour on.
>>
No. 476257 ID: edb64c

Also:

>"You may have heard that I'm dead. They trained me to pretend I'm alive, though, so don't worry and please do not be afraid if I must use my spooky ghost powers."

You can use that perfect deadpan look you're so good at.
>>
No. 476258 ID: ec6d4c

>It is a bit rude to analyze a stranger's empathy like this
...really? I seem to recall you doing that, a lot.

Agree to change out of your armor. Please tell me this tech ban doesn't include guns?

>>476248
Polo will be fine, so long as we aren't pushing anything inane on her.
>>
No. 476259 ID: beeca1

>>476258
Not out loud, as I recall. I can only assume it's the difference between thinking someone has nice tits and yelling out that you'd like motorboat your host's wife.
>>
No. 476261 ID: c4e5c2
File 135454730492.png - (14.61KB , 700x700 , 14.png )
476261

>Is Hugetits a snowhive member?
I think so. She is just all around overweight, I think, a rarity even for them. Normally, but obviously not always, our metabolism prevents this. I do not need to be too worried about paying much mind to it, though, as I am not the only one who seems to be aware of her weight. I think that she is used to it.

>"You may have heard that I'm dead. They trained me to pretend I'm alive, though, so don't worry and please do not be afraid if I must use my spooky ghost powers."
This is another thing that I wish I did during my window of opportunity. I will regret not saying this as well.

We set up camp while I put on my bio armor. I can function decently directly after putting it on. I ask about Voktil customs, and from what people are able to answer, they are heavily duty bound. Often proud, elitest and xenophobic. If there is anything I can take away from the discussions, it is not about doing things that please them, it is trying to avoid things that offend.

>Considering that Marra is here as a bodyguard
Marra is off with the translator, and I haven't seen her yet. It is Katzali that is the large one here.

"Biles, is there any danger level to the flora and fauna around here? Anything to watch for?"
>"Nah, this place is as docile as it gets. At least the forest, anyway, I don't know about the caves. The voktil, again, at least on the surface, have likely tamed this valley so that the only remaining wildlife is the skittish kind. We'll try to get an idea from the voktil about any dangers of the cave. Just keep your gun around, but I shouldn't have to tell you that."
"What about the voktils? Any noteworthy physical abilities other than being huge?"
>"Nope, just pretty damn strong is all."
"And I take it guns are not part of the tech ban, then?"
>"If that's a rule, we're gonna break it. There's limits, you know. Just don't go waving your gun around unnecessarily is all."
>>
No. 476262 ID: c4e5c2
File 135454740170.png - (16.32KB , 700x700 , 15.png )
476262

>I seem to recall you doing analyzing a stranger's empathy, a lot.
Internally, yes, but it is dragging empathic thoughts outward into spoken conversations that is considered rude by some. I have not thought about the sociological aspects of this very much, nor am I thinking ill of the inspector, as I do not see it as a great affront as some. I was simply taken aback to have it addressed so directly.

I approach Katzati to ask her things. At a closer look, I still find the prospect of there being much muscle beneath there to be unlikely.

"Are you and Biler working together to create a map of the caves, or are you focusing on the surface?"
>"Oh, we've already got a map of the surface level. It's all the cave, and it really isn't too hard. We're just going to place a little tool along your head, and it'll make a pointcloud constantly. In other words, you just need to walk around the cave and look around constantly, and it'll make a pretty solid map. I'm just here to organize everyone's point clouds and put it all in one big piece."
"I would like to get a lay of the surface, then."
>"Sure, come with me."
>>
No. 476263 ID: c4e5c2
File 135454742031.png - (22.56KB , 900x600 , 16.png )
476263

She covers the few key points we're interested in. It is about 30 kilometers from the western wall to the easternmost cliffs.

We're at E, after coming in from the north. D is the main settlement. Although it looks like a large chunk of the map, Katzati tells me they don't live in cramped quarters, and in fact are actually very spread out. Only a few locations in there even look like they're heavily inhabited.

A is the nearest tunnel entrance, and we're going to see if it connects with B. Lastly, C is far away, and the river moves into an underground passage. We're hoping that A or B connects to C somehow, since the waters get rough and there isn't any foothold in there at a glance.
>>
No. 476264 ID: ec6d4c

>Voktil customs
>heavily duty bound, proud, elitist and xenophobic
Well, sounds like your warhive experience will be halfway useful, then. You've got some practice dealing with those kinds of mindsets.

>ghost powers
...I'm sure we'll run into someone who still thinks you're supposed to be dead, later. You can still use that line! (Bonus points if it's to one of the Salikai, or their CAI).

>I was simply taken aback to have it addressed so directly.
Meh, don't worry. I'm sure you'll get a chance to take some of them aback with your sense of humor eventually.

>>476262
Thought you took the green armor off.

So... what are we supposed to be doing? Preparing for our cave scout? We should probably take inventory- unpack our gear, see what we have, and arrange / equip things so they're accessible when you need them. All your weapons and tools at the bottom of a backpack isn't terribly useful.
>>
No. 476273 ID: 4735b1

with the "inspector" I suspect trouble later, maybe he might be the "cool" type who, tho he will have to report everything, won't stop you & maybe in a situation will help, otherwise from the fact he scanned you right away could be a cause of concern, ask about him discreetly if possible, also these new people, see if you can make at least 1 ally, a friend amongst them could make things easier for us, as long as they can understand us, even ig it is pidgen
>>
No. 476277 ID: 4735b1

>>476273
sorry I should of made this straight away, fact is new people, we're not 100% ground with korli, yes okay paranoid too soon, but considering what polo has gone through, even with rest she'll hafta be a little paranoid, scoping out who can be friend & restrictive now before we find outright possible enemies if we find them, could be a good bonus, a good tight knit team is one who knows who is an actual friend, hence how seperate battalions can become close friends, the guard, for her size could be a friend, by so far it seems more hired, ask about her hive? multi or new/seperate?
>>
No. 476318 ID: f2c20c

>>476263
Personally I think we should set up a boat or raft on a long rope to explore the start of the river to see if there are any tunnels connecting to it near the mouth. It may save time. Or heck, we could use a rope without a raft.

>>476273
Scanned us? Neumono empathy is passive. He's an Inspector so I suspect that commenting on other Neumono's inner thoughts is just a habit for him. We should've asked more about the person we're reporting to before we arrived, though. Dang. I guess it won't hurt to just ask what he's like, but I feel like if there was any real concern we would've been told during debriefing.
>>
No. 476320 ID: ec6d4c

>>476318
If it's an underground water-flow, there may not be a surface for a boat to float on, initially (ie, water goes right to the rock). We might have to go in underwater, holding our breath and suited up, like we did with the tube system in the spire complex. Attached to a tether of course, so if we use up half our air and haven't found a place to surface, we can still pull ourself / be towed back.

>>476273
>>476277
Paranoia seems unfounded. This is Polo, not Itcher, and these are fellow neumono on a joint military task force, not sneaky thieves or mobsters. I think it's fairly safe to assume they're basically competent and trustworthy until proven otherwise.

As for building up friendship for easier or clearer empathic communication? I don't think that's something that's done consciously, or can be rushed. Being able to read more subtleties or complexities via empathy is just something that happens as neumono get to know each other better.
>>
No. 476327 ID: 2f4b71

>This is another thing that I wish I did during my window of opportunity. I will regret not saying this as well.
If you're looking for things to not regret not doing, hold off on any empathy-suppression until your first night's sleep. Turn it off just before sleeping, and it's likely they won't even notice. Then you can wander around after waking with them being none the wiser.
>>
No. 476343 ID: bdb3f8

>>476273
>>476277
Dude, let me introduce you to my friend the period. <- see that little guy? He makes sentences readable.
>>
No. 476351 ID: 8b9215

Massive soft fluffy giant dirty pillows.
>>
No. 476372 ID: b33427

Get your gear ready for heading underground. Pull out your rope, grappling hook, and climbing gear and tools and attach them to your belts. Check that your radio and lights are working right. Find out who's going to be in the cave exploration group, and when you're going to leave. Are we waiting for Marra and Kort to return?

Ask if the Voktil would get all bent out of shape if your group uses obviously high tech stuff while underground, or would even know of it. If not, then you might take your armor with you to suit up in the cave. Or at least the helmet so you'd have the visor's extra vision modes.

Check with Katzati what that round spot is on the map that the east path goes around. Is it a Voktil site, a geological thing like a rock spire or pit, or something else?
>>
No. 476390 ID: c4e5c2
File 135458977130.png - (50.04KB , 700x700 , 17.png )
476390

>Thought you took the green armor off
Strangely, it helps with the bio armor binding. It is purely mental. Like a security blanket. Except armor.

Once we get the basic setup finished, I take inventory, including what's been given to me for this mission. One pistol, 48 shots. Explosive shotgun, 32, and sniper rifle, 20 shots each for normal, armor piercing and explosive. 30% bio armor, regular armor, 4 days of condensed rations.

A first aid and hygiene kit, a multipurpose knife with auxiliary tools such as can openers. A grappling hook, basic climbing and spelunking gear, along with a headband and handheld flashlight. A compact computer, and Biles is going to climb a tree to place a solar powered charger so that we can recharge our electronics. Our flashlights have embedded power, but also allow batteries for backups. That's just what is on me, there are other communal items such as rope, specialized tools and so forth.

"Hey." I approach Katzati again. "Unless there's a reason to wait, I'll go ahead and enter the caves to look around. They won't mind using tech inside, will they?
>"I hope not. They have their own entrance to the cave they use anyways in a pit they've got. We'll need to take a look at that one eventually, but we're putting that off till we think they're comfortable enough with us around. That's why I didn't bother mentioning it."
"What's that dark circle on the map, anyway?"
>"Oh, that's the pit. They use it as an arena for fighting each other. Either for non lethal entertainment, but also settling duels two people might have with each other. That's where their entrance to the cave is that we're not looking at yet."
"Ah. I'm also thinking about the water cave. My armor can be made air tight with a decent air supply plus holding my own breath, so with a tether, I can go far in to see if there is a place to surface."
>"Yeah, that'd be good! Rokann and Marra have armor like yours, too, but you may be the best fit, possibly literally if the passage gets tight. Want to do that tomorrow morning, then?"
>>
No. 476393 ID: f2c20c

Sure. Do we have time to make progress today? Maybe check out the nearest cave- A? Or should we just focus on helping set up camp?
>>
No. 476397 ID: ec6d4c

>Like a security blanket. Except armor.
I find this to be both amusing and awesome.

Alright, suit up. The knife and pistol and probably the flashlight and a minimum of climbing gear should be easily accessible on by your waist / belt, rifle on your back. The shotgun, rations, specialized tools can be stored in your pack.

...you don't necessarily need everything on you, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared if you get cut off or trapped.

Make sure you have your helmet tuned to the radio frequency the group is using. When you go head out, wait till you're out of the empathic range of everyone else before going silent (just in case there are captive science hivers or tribal neumono somewhere in the caves- you don't want to be sensed). Turn yourself back on when you head back, or if you sense anyone else from the group approaching you (well, except Korli. She's already in on the secret).

>Water cave, tomorrow
Yeah, you're better off not attempting that sort of thing along. Too many things that can go wrong that can be easily averted in a group.

>duels
...hopefully that's something you're not going to have to worry about for a good while.
>>
No. 476398 ID: 8b9215

Sweater cows, mamaries, soft and cuddly, oh so fluffy.
>>
No. 476403 ID: beeca1

>>476398
"sweater cows"? Never heard them referred to as that, and Google turns up nothing overtly sexual, alarmingly enough. You may have meant sweater puppies, it's spelled "mammaries" with 3 'm's, and quit spamming.



Anyways, I do agree that you should do the water-cave thing tomorrow. Perhaps ask more about these duels. They might be handy.
>>
No. 476405 ID: b33427

Starting off for the water passage tomorrow morning sounds alright. Depending on how much air you've got in your tank, you'll be able to go farther than the halfway mark of just holding your breath. Though, unless they've got an air compressor rated to refill breathable air tanks, that'll be it for yours.

For checking out Cave A, bring the pistol, explosive shotgun, ammo for both, the rations, climbing/spelunking gear, radio, and all the other basic small pack items (first-aid kit, knife, etc.) Leave the armor for now. Don't forget the point mapper unit as well. Oh, and don't go alone; That'd just be asking for trouble if you go alone. Preferably bring Biles or Rokaan, but anyone else who can handle themselves out there will do.

So now that you've been around this group for a bit, what's your initial impressions of them?

Heh. Looking at Katzati, gotta wonder what the neumono equivalent of a candy bar is. Or junk food in general.
>>
No. 476414 ID: ec6d4c

>>476405
I don't see why we'd want to leave the armor. It provides obvious benefits (as armor), has built in comms gear, night vision, a hud, and is a safety blanket helping her function while acclimating to the bio-armor. And if we're being choosy with guns, the sniper rifle is a lot more versatile than the shotgun.

We could take someone with us if they're interested, but Polo's more than qualified to scout alone.
>>
No. 476418 ID: c4e5c2
File 135460151842.png - (12.99KB , 700x700 , 18.png )
476418

"What are these duels about?"
>"Just when two voktil's can't settle a dispute with words, they'll fight, possibly to the death or till one relents whatever argument they were having. That second option is often pretty shameful though, so a lot of them choose death over agreeing over.. whatever. Often issue of property, sometimes romantic love triangles, that sorta stuff. It's not like they're try to duel us, though! It's voktil custom, and I don't think they'd ever try to bring in a neumono to what's supposed to be their idea of an honorable event."
"Alright. I'm going to scout cave A."
>"Yeesh, you guys sure are straight to business, but better than the other way around. I'll give you the headpiece then. Just make sure it's on, and it'll automatically record the cave layout. Oh, almost forgot, since you were told not to wear your armor, at least for now, I'll give you some goggles with infrared and night vision. Depending on how deep it goes, though, we'll probably have to rely on flashlights. Oh, and make sure you try and get every cranny, otherwise it'll be hard to tell if a gap is actually just a little spot you missed, or a sidebranch you didn't take. It won't be nice if we walk half a mile in a rough cave only to find out it was just a small spot we missed."
>>
No. 476419 ID: c4e5c2
File 135460152899.png - (5.44KB , 385x259 , 19.png )
476419

So I head off with just about all my gear minus the armor, plus a mile of of small string for keeping track of my path. I will insist on wearing armor once we go deeper in, but everyone seems to think that at least the initial trek inside won't have danger. Rokann comes with me, since she doesn't laze about either. I'll have alone time tomorrow in the water. Biles is still doing the more involved methods of getting camp set up. My senses tell me I'm still being watched up in the trees, but it's no big deal. Simply uncomforting. And once I get deep into the caves, it isn't long before a couple turns make my communication go offline.

No spikeballs or ambushes come, not as though I'd expect one, but Rokann and I stay on edge nonetheless.
>>
No. 476420 ID: c4e5c2
File 135460153965.png - (74.31KB , 700x700 , 20.png )
476420

We come back at late evening, some time after the sun fell. They've set up a campfire, which I sit at once handing off Katzati's surveying tool.

I am likely safe to assume the massive one is Marra, and the extra plain one to be Kort.

"Hello. I'm polo."
>"Marra." she says.
>"And Kort." says he.

They are not at all social. Kort has a wandering mind, and seems concerned about everything that isn't his immediate surroundings. Marra is not thinking about anything whatsoever instead is more like she's trying to kill the time with her glare.
>>
No. 476425 ID: f2c20c

>>476420
Everyone but Marra seems to be looking into the trees... Still feel like you're being watched? You could see if you can spot a Voklit in the trees.

Ask how the introductions with the Voklits went.

Hmm. Should we tell spooky stories around the campfire? What sort of traditional campfire activities do you have? Roasting marshmallows? Or wieners?
>>
No. 476427 ID: ec6d4c

>Duel details
Yeah, that sounds uncomfortably familiar. Last thing you want is to be in any way involved with that. At all.

>No spikeballs or ambushes come
Actually, if the Salikai we're looking for are anywhere down in these caves, that's not the biggest threat. The biggest problem is their camera tech! You had little no success locating them before, let alone evading them. If you get near their new hiding place, they're likely going to know you're there before you discover them. That's going to make getting in and out to report their presence cleanly... difficult. Perhaps talk to Korli about this?

>They are not at all social.
Well, if they don't want to talk, whatever. Chill. Time for dinner, and to relax a little by the fire.

Figure out if there's a watch rotation to participate in, and head off to bed when you're ready.
>>
No. 476433 ID: f2c20c

>>476427
Yes, that's true, they had extremely cleverly hidden cameras before and a secret entrance that was difficult to see from the outside. Even if we get to where they're hiding, how do we know we can even see the thing?

...it might be worth asking the Voklits if there's any part of the cave which is dangerous. If the last salikai hideout is any indication, they would want to keep Voklits away in some manner. Before there were spikeballs keeping Predators away... It's hard to discount that as being on purpose.
>>
No. 476440 ID: b33427

As long as you have time to kill and everyone is here, work out the plan to get you to the point C water passage tomorrow. Figure who's going, what you're taking, how you're going to get it there, which route to take, and when y'all are leaving. Are we going to go past the Voklit pit or their homes on the way there?

>>476427
Yes, it is a concern that if the caves here contain the salikai's escape base any indication of it will be very well hidden. Possibly even more so than before, since the stakes are higher for them now. Better bring everyone here that'll be going underground up to speed on what you know of their hidden entrance, if they haven't already been fully briefed.

Ask if they have any other ideas on how to detect a really hidden underground base. Stuff like watching for piles of broken rock with signs that they've been worked by modern means. Or tunnels that oddly stop, which could indicate its been blocked off. Though it may just come down to mapping enough of the caves that the base shows up as a suspicious blank spot.

There's also the danger that if the salikai's base is here, that they'll arrange for "accidents" to happen to mapping parties, since they can't just come out and attack. Things like cave-ins, sudden tunnel floods, or hostile fauna showing up out of nowhere. They might even field one of their pet neumono-predators, though that might be too obvious. Just stay on watch for odd occurrences, that's all.
>>
No. 476444 ID: c4e5c2
File 135461445168.png - (16.67KB , 700x700 , 21.png )
476444

We have a more or less silent dinner. Empathy is enough for tonight, but despite being uneventful, we did do a fair amount of work. I do direct a question to Kort, though.

"How did the negotiations go?"
>"Well as can be expected. They don't like parties of more than 5, despite there being hundreds and hundreds of voktil that live and hunt here." he says.

I move over to talk to Korli, as well.
"Your hive facility. It had cameras embedded in the walls. They were extremely difficult to find even when I was actively searching for them. I imagine it's possible that if they're here, they may know we're here before we find them."
"Well, that's true, but there isn't really much we can do about it, is there? Plus, is there even much they can do if they see us coming? I mean, they can't just kill us, everyone will know something's going on if we suddenly get wiped out while exploring the caves."
"That might be true. But, there is also the matter of their hidden entrance. They did a good job covering it with fake rock, and I don't think we are expected to test every square meter of rock to make sure it is not hiding anything. Hold on. I am going to talk this over with everyone if possible."
>>
No. 476445 ID: c4e5c2
File 135461445945.png - (14.93KB , 700x700 , 22.png )
476445

"Lucera."
>"Inspector Lucera. Katzali told me about you going into the water cave. Since you're here, we may as well finalize discussion. You will go with Katzali, Marra, Korli and Biles. We want to make sure there is enough manpower if you get pulled into a particularly rough stretch or other such complication."
"Are we going past the voktil pit or homes?"
>"Yes, you'll be taking a car, and moving along the outer rims. You may not even see any homes, depending on the route Marra drives and how low their tree living is placed."
"Alright. I also want to talk to you all about the salikai's manner of hiding a cave entrance. It was done when I was in a needle spire."
>"Right now, we're concerned about more mundane needs, but within days, once we settle, we'll focus on the salikai search. Nonetheless, we have time tonight before we take shifts watching, so you may as well tell us everything you've been permitted to share. But before that, are those four enough to help you with the cave, and do you plan on just poking in to get a shallow view, or do you plan on spending all day mapping out as much as you can? If the latter, then we won't want to hang up four people waiting all day, and will need to discuss more."
>>
No. 476451 ID: f2c20c

>>476445
Honestly we might want to just do a shallow view for now, considering that is really the most likely place for the salikai to be at. We don't want to stir up the ants' nest before we have those mundane needs covered. However, it would be useful to at least see what directions the water tunnel branches in, and if there's any dry land connected to it, wouldn't it?

Also make a mental note to definitely address him as Inspector Lucera from now on, and well, treat him more like a superior officer. I mean, we take orders from him. Are you used to taking orders at all, Polo?
>>
No. 476452 ID: 2f4b71

>>Inspector Lucera.
Might be an idea to take him aside and explain that your lofty rank is honorary.
>>
No. 476472 ID: ec6d4c

I think a shallow poke seems reasonable for now. We're more trying to figure out if it's a viable entrance, and what conditions are like.

>Inspector
If Polo survived boot camp, I'm pretty sure she can cope with someone who pettily insists on being addressed by his rank or title. You're a soldier, it's no big deal.

>you may as well tell us everything you've been permitted to share
Also reasonable. You may not be the first one to stumble across the entrance, and it would be good for the others to know what they were looking for, and what to expect. Not knowing might mean we miss something, or that someone dies.
>>
No. 476481 ID: 440525

Has it been asked what everyone's rank is? If not, then what is everyone's rank. Also, let's not just spend all day mapping, and have a little time for other activities.
>>
No. 476487 ID: ec6d4c

>>476481
We don't even know Polo's rank (except that it's presumably higher than private, and less than admiral. :V)

Really, rankwise, all that's important is that Luccera is in command. We can treat the others as peers- there's no real need to try and figure out who we might be able to boss around.
>>
No. 476573 ID: b33427

Do address Inspector Lucera by his full title from now on, whether or not he technically outranks you, since he is the one in command here.

As far as the water cave is concerned, you're only going to go in for long enough and far enough to determine if there are dry tunnels worth investigating connected to it. You don't want to go farther into the tunnels without an armed group watching your back anyway.

The group coming with you looks mostly okay. Marra and Biles are alright, and Korli should come in case there's a problem with the truck, and especially if there's a powered winch that could be used to pull you back up. Katzali you assume is coming 'cause the mapping device has to be calibrated before you dive in, but if it could be adjusted without leaving camp then she could stay behind.
>>
No. 476585 ID: c4e5c2
File 135468332831.png - (156.54KB , 700x700 , 23.png )
476585

"A shallow poke is fine for now."

Calling him by his title is fine. It is unusual, as neumono ranks are usually a somewhat casual affair, something that I've been told has caused much dismay to the humans and belenos that made it to be taken far more seriously. Ranks for us are used more as titles rather than indicative of a chain of command anyways. At least that's the way it's been in my own hive.

I share the summation of my tale into the night, answering the questions as they come. I do ask what everyone's rank is out of more curiosity than anything. It won't help to see about bossing anyone around anyways, as their ranks are that of their own ultrahive, and have no comparison to my own.

Lucera's formal title and rank is High Chief of Upper Inspection. Both Rokann and Marra are Tarranko, a word that literally translates to 'strength of 10 soldiers', and the modern ranking just boils down to a generic "Soldier, Rank 10". Supposedly it's the highest possible rank to non officer soldiers, but it still surpasses many officers in that ultrahive in practice. Biles, unsurprisingly considering his test, is the highest rank of his survivalist branch. Katzali and Kork aren't in professions that have formal ranks, but they're said to be exceptionally accomplished at what they do.

And as for my rank, I do not have one yet. Rather, it is a rank that is waiting to be officiated, and so I simply have to tell them that I'm rankless. They sense that there is a reason for that, as dubious as it sounds.

In fact, that word is pending since it may be too descriptive of my abilities, and so may not be officiated until my silence is well known to be something that is possible. If it does, then my official title will be Ghost, which furthers why me not talking about my spooky ghost powers is even more regrettable.
>>
No. 476586 ID: c4e5c2
File 135468334548.png - (14.95KB , 700x700 , 24.png )
476586

With all that out of the way, we start getting ready for bed. Curiosity gets the better of me, though, since I don't know if it is just paranoia now that makes me think I am still being watched. I get the goggles Katzali gave me.
>>
No. 476587 ID: c4e5c2
File 135468340732.png - (23.42KB , 700x700 , 25.png )
476587

I flip the infrared vision on. I would not be surprised to see a couple, but I end up counting over 20 at a brief glance in the trees over us.

My thoughts get to Lucera, who wants me to put the goggles away. Biles, Kort and Rokann seemed to already figure, if I'm reading them right, that there would be a bunch in the trees.
>>
No. 476589 ID: f2c20c

>>476587
Yeah, better put the goggles away. Don't give any indication to them that you saw them, either.

Tomorrow I think it might be fun to try to spot one without any technological assistance.
>>
No. 476597 ID: ec6d4c

>Kork
Kort, you mean. Kork's offworld.

>neumono perception of rank
Makes sense, given the ways hives function. Decision making is a lot more horizontal than it is in other species.

>which furthers why me not talking about my spooky ghost powers is even more regrettable.
Don't fret Polo. Save the line. You can still use it if and when you have to reveal your abilities to one or more of the disbelieving others. ("How did you-" "Spooky ghost powers. There are advantage to being dead.")

>They sense that there is a reason for that
Hey, you're legally dead. That's a good enough reason, if they need one. Better than the codename being currently classified for being too accurate. XD

>Biles, Kort and Rokann seemed to already figure, if I'm reading them right, that there would be a bunch in the trees.
Honestly, it's what I expected too. If you had an outside military team in your territory, you'd have someone watching them too. It's just common sense.

Don't (visibly) react, put away the goggle, and continue on with your business. Go to bed when it's time, and take your shift in the watch rotation when it's time for that.
>>
No. 476598 ID: b33427

Yeah, at first glance more than twenty Voklits does seem excessive, until you consider that by now they know you bunch have the technological edge, but that they don't know by how much. So they want strength in numbers to make your group think twice about pulling any funny business.

For now put the goggles away and trust in the fact that Lucera, Biles and the rest aren't agitated that you can go to bed with reasonable assurance that a huge lizard-gorilla won't drop on you in the middle of the night. ...Though, that doesn't mean you won't be sleeping with one hand on your pistol and the other on your knife.

Tomorrow you can ask Biles for tips on how to spot the Voktil without technological assistance.

And is Katzati's name "Katzati" or "Katzali?" Or is it a quirk of translation that her name is the same with either a "t" or "l?"
>>
No. 476614 ID: c4e5c2
File 135469104963.png - (9.91KB , 700x700 , 26.png )
476614

>Kort, not Kork
... yes.

I put the goggles away, looking like I didn't find anything.

>Katzali or Katzati?
Katza.... hm.

"Katzati?"
>"Yes?"
"Nothing, thank you."

She answered. It's Katzati as far as I care.
>>
No. 476615 ID: c4e5c2
File 135469109236.png - (20.08KB , 700x700 , 27.png )
476615

I take my shift, which comes first, head to bed, and get up the next morning. The sample image the admiral showed me was a tan colored voktil. It is possible that their colors change as well as ours, but even if not, it would not be inconvenient for them to simply roll around in the dirt and make artificial skin dyes for camoflauge.

Despite the ease of which we took things yesterday, everyone is up early and getting ready to head out. Since I have no qualms about Lucera's decision of who is coming with me, Katzati, Marri, Korli, Biles and myself head off in a truck. We do head on the outskirts of their town, keeping just within the treeline outside of clearings where it is not difficult to drive.

"Hey Biles. How do you see those guys while they're in trees?"
"They can stay perfectly still, at least their scouts. So the trick is to see the parts of trees that aren't fluidly in the wind. Otherwise, nothing fancy, just need to be able to tell if there's a lump in the tree that's voktil shaped. Nothing fancy, but nothing easy."
>"How long can you stay without air, Polo?" Katzati asks.
"Including with how long I can hold my breath, about 3 hours."
>"We don't have nearly that much cable, but we've got about a full mile of it. And after all, we don't know how hard it'll be to pull you back up, so it's not like we'd let you float down for an hour and a half even if there was that much. Rokann would've been a help, but Kort and Lucera should at least have some protection. Let's see... we'll say 3 tugs in rhythm on the rope to say come back, 5 tugs on rhythm to say you'd like to spend longer after all, and tug frantically and continuously if you're in an emergency and need to be brought back asap. Since you're just poking in, we'll be around. Any last minute questions or additions you've got?"
>>
No. 476616 ID: f2c20c

>>476615
Do we have some sort of underwater-capable weapon and light?

Also we gotta make sure none of our water-vulnerable stuff gets soaked.
>>
No. 476617 ID: c6ec33

Propose a signal for them to tell you if THEY are in trouble. Probably 2 signals - one for "get back here" and one for "find your own way out". It can just be a different series of tugs on their end.
>>
No. 476619 ID: ec6d4c

We should probably leave our pack and most the gear behind. Most of it won't be useful underwater, will only serve to get us stuck or slow us down as we're squeezing through an underwater tunnel, and this is supposed to be a quick jaunt. Although, we should have some supplies and tools on us, just in case.

The knife works as an underwater weapon. The pistol won't be effective underwater, but judging from our last experience, should be waterproof. Bring the flashlight (if waterproofed). Wear the mapper under your armor (if it fits). Emergency rations.

Judging from the map, this is the way the river leaves the valley, right? So we're starting out going downriver, and then returning upriver. Be careful Polo- that can be dangerous, since it's going to be a lot easier to move away than to come back.
>>
No. 476620 ID: b33427

Propose that you'll swim down the main channel as fast as you can while they let out the cable as fast as they can while keeping it taut for about a half mile, or thirty minutes, whichever comes first, then start reeling you in. Since the return trip will be slower, that'll let you examine the water tunnel better so the mapper can record everything, and possibly enter any small holes easier, than when you're being pulled by the current. It'll also give you a reasonable amount of time to be hauled back in.

>>476619
Yeah, this sounds good. Tie the flashlight to your belt so it won't get taken away by the current, and wear the headlamp as well if your helmet doesn't have a light of its own.

Actually, since your helmet visor has a light amplification mode, if you could get a low intensity light source that's more omni-directional than the flashlights, that would let you see clearer in depths than with the flashlights alone. Ask Korli if there's a waterproof electric lantern in the truck you could use instead of the flashlight.
>>
No. 476621 ID: 6cc859

>>476615
How tough is the cable, and how buoyant?
>>
No. 476622 ID: 2f4b71

A pry-bar of some sort is vital. You're heading down a subterranean (subneuomonian? What is your homeworld's formal name?) river, and those can generate a lot of hydraulic pressure. Getting stuck is a very real concern.
>>
No. 476631 ID: c4e5c2
File 135469934922.png - (25.97KB , 700x700 , 28.png )
476631

>What is your homeworld's formal name?
Astreneus V.

We get to the shore, where I take a look and find that the water is deeper than expected. It does appear that Korli brought a couple winches and other equipment to help out. They tell me the water is apparently very cold, but given my armor, I don't expect this to be a problem.

Although my backpack is waterproof, it is bulky, and so I will bring a smaller waterproof pouch with a day's rations if I get stuck somehow, my pistol and a knife. On asking, there is also something similar to a lantern that I will bring and let sit on my pouch, though I will also bring a backup regular flashlight. I will also bring a prybar, something that would have been nice the last time I went on an underwater expedition.

>You'll be coming back upriver
This is why I imagine they brought 4 other people, all to help with the pulling.
>>
No. 476632 ID: c4e5c2
File 135469938143.png - (25.56KB , 700x700 , 29.png )
476632

Katzati comes to me to discuss the final details.

"Is the mapper and lantern waterproofed?"
>"Absolutely, we knew we would have to deal with water eventually."
"And if you guys are in trouble, perhaps you give me 3 tugs to you for get back to you, and 4 tugs for find my own way out?"
>"That's unlikely, but a good idea, sure."
"Also, I am thinking it may be better if I move down for half a mile quickly, or for half an hour, then pull me upstream. Since that will be slower, I can have an easier time inspecting everything and finding surfaces. How bouyant and tough is the rope?"
>"Ah, yeah, good idea! We were just looking at the water depth and all that. The rope is meant for heavy duty stuff, more than this, but we were planning on letting you in slow and steady. Looking over the equipment, it's actually a 2 kilometer cable, so we'll let you in at 4 kilometers per hour. Korli will keep an eye though on the tension level, and make sure that it doesn't spike up too much. If it starts to, then we'll pull you back before we get in over our heads. It's also bouyant, it floats, though not by much. It's just a bit less dense than water. If all that is fine, then we'll be ready shortly. Are you?"
>>
No. 476635 ID: 6cc859

Looks like we're good to go.

>>476631
Your culture named your planet somethingorother five? What kind of culture identifies their home planet as the fifth of some set?
>>
No. 476641 ID: c4e5c2
File 135470317693.png - (133.78KB , 700x700 , 30.png )
476641

>What kind of culture identifies their home planet as the fifth of some set?
The culture that named foreign solar system planets the same thing in order from the sun, so we're the fifth planet from our sun.

Same with Belenosians. They are from Belenos IV, but being the only sapient creatures on their planet that I am aware of, got their namesake.

We had our own word, but that word is literally the equivelant to a human's earth, except appearing only in dead languages. I don't even remember it, as I was born after the new name took over.

I tell Katzati I'm ready, and so I put on a harness, attach the rope, and dive in after all the equipment is double and triple checked.

About 15 minutes pass, and I tug once every minute to let them know that I'm ready. It's a continual downward slope, and the tunnel gets smoothened out aside from some jags here and there. There were a couple branching paths, and I choose the larger of the two, but some time we may want to look into the others as well.

19 minutes and 24 seconds in, my rope goes slack. I think it may just be a loss of snag, but at 19 minutes and 40 seconds with no tension, I am beginning to be concerned. I am also trying very hard to be surprised, but am failing. My equivalent of a walking pace turns into, although it is very difficult to tell, perhaps around 20 kilometers per hour.
>>
No. 476644 ID: 6cc859

>>476641
>appearing only in dead languages
This raises some interesting questions, but now probably isn't the time.

See if you can direct yourself into the tunnel wall (letting your armor soak up the impact) and get your speed back down, hopefully to the point of bracing yourself somewhere stationary and waiting a few minutes for the rest of the cable to stop flying free past you. Either it'll stop shortly when they fix whatever issue they're having, or you'll see the broken end go past, or it'll stop at 4km.
>>
No. 476645 ID: 283285

Brace yourself up against a wall as best you can, either the broken end of the cord will show up pretty soon or they'll fix whatever snag it is.

If it's CUT cord, no one leaves the surface with their entire body unless they pass some pretty fucking hardcore interrogation.

But on the bright side, if there is a traitor, you have a chance to use that "There are some perks to being dead" line when you sneak up on them and reduce them into a drooling mess.
>>
No. 476646 ID: b33427

Right about now realize it would been a good idea to bring your grappling hook, tied to you by a short length of rope. That would have been useful in slowing yourself in just this situation. Ah, well.

Pull out your prybar, grab the slack rope, and tie the prybar on a couple meters away from you. Take the prybar in hand, pull out your flashlight, and shine it ahead on the tunnel wall. Use youre night vision if that'll help. Look for any upward facing cracks, holes, or crevices you could jam the prybar into. Once you see one, move over to its wall and swim against the current as hard as you can to slow down. Stick the prybar in, and keep swimming against the current to reduce the shock when the rope catches.

Once you're secure, wait a bit to see if the rope stops being slack. Gather the slack rope and loop it over the prybar so the drag force of the current on it doesn't risk pulling the prybar out or breaking it. This is also so that if the rope is broken, you'll be able to examine the end to see if it was cut or not.
>>
No. 476647 ID: f2c20c

>>476641
I bet the cable got cut. Check behind you. The prybar is probably a good thing to use if you want to slow down, but do we want to slow down? How fast is the water going?
>>
No. 476649 ID: 4735b1

>>476647
with our forwards being around 20K per hour, thats pritty damn good speed, we should probably slow or even halt our progress, maybe give a cursiory tug, could just be snagged on something, but better safe then sorry
>>
No. 476651 ID: ec6d4c

Alright, best case, it's a simple mistake that they'll fix soonish. Worse case, something happened and you're cut off. Worst case? They're all dead and the Salikai are releasing extinct aquatic predators into the river behind you.

For now, see about stopping your forward progresses, and tying off the slack rope to secure yourself. Then we wait a bit. See if the line remains slack, or you see the severed end float by. Possibly things will improve- they'll reel in the slack, or lower a new rope down to you (if it was severed).

If things don't improve, we're going to have to make the decision to either fight our way back upstream (possibly into the waiting ambush that already took out our people), or to continue forward, into the unknown (and pray we find a place to surface before you run out of air).
>>
No. 476653 ID: c4e5c2
File 135471711187.png - (111.41KB , 700x700 , 31.png )
476653

With some luck, and my able to see a whole lot of rocks going by so quick, I am able to use my pry bar to snag myself enough to direct me towards a rock with a nice, if subtle, hook to it. I wrap some of my now slacked rope around it and tie myself off, and let myself go. Thankfully the rock holds as I come to a grinding halt again as the rope snaps taut, and I wait. I do loop the rope around my now re-attached to harness prybar and myself to let it feed through, so that when the end comes, I am able to examine it.

Rakae did teach me a lot more about ropes, that being one of my weak points, and judging from what I think I see, the cable has been cut intentionally.

While I can get up to this rock upstream, there is no way that I will be able to swim up this current, at least not so painstakingly slow that I would run out of air beforehand.
>>
No. 476656 ID: ec6d4c

Okay. Someone cut the rope.

Best case, whoever cut the rope isn't in control of the winch, and your friends are still conscious and independent (personally, my guess is a young Voklit decided to fuck with whatever those strange neumono were doing). In that case, they'll attempt to reestablish contact- and lower a new line down to you (well, the same line, now shorter). Worst case- you're not getting back out the way you came in.

Give them 5-10 minutes to try and lower you a line (they can let it descend a lot faster if they're not concerned with you descending at a steady rate). If that doesn't happen, you're going to have to loose yourself, continue on, and look for a place to surface.
>>
No. 476658 ID: 8b9215

Coil up what rope you have still connected to you so it doesn't get snagged on anything. Estimate the distance of rope to the cut point if you have even a remote way to do it. By my estimates you will not be able to make it out by climbing back upstream either.

Let go and drift and pray you come to a cave. If you don't make it, it's been fun. Turn off empathy and only turn it back on if you sense a neutral or friendly neumono.
>>
No. 476659 ID: 8b9215

>>476656
Very good point. Wait for a bit to see if another line comes. Climb upstream if you can to those branches in case it went down a different one. When you've got an hour and a half left of air, you can drift for 30km. Hopefully that will be enough to get to some kind of air pocket.
>>
No. 476666 ID: c4e5c2
File 135472688802.png - (107.99KB , 700x700 , 32.png )
476666

>Give them 5-10 minutes to try and lower you a line
I sit for about 2 minutes before realizing that they may not have sufficient rope. Katzati said they were going to lower me in for the entire rope's length of 2 km over the course of 30 minutes, and the rope was cut at just short of the 20 minute mark. Plus, even what was perhaps only 30 to 45 seconds of freedrifting would translate to around 3 or 4 minutes, as a terribly rough estimate, of the pace they were using to drop me in.

Therefore, they lost approximately 60 to 70% of the rope if it was cut close to the winch, and need approximately 75% of it to reach where I am at now. It has already been a few minutes of sitting here waiting for the rope's cut in to reach me, so it likely is 60 to 70% that is attached to me now.

And given the amount of room the rope took up, I'm not too faithful that they've got a replacement on hand.

I give a few more minutes to make it closer to 10 in which they would have time to get a replacement if they had any, and drop it down to me. Nothing comes, so I let the rope drop. Using my end of the rope, I tie it off to more locations to minimize the chance of anything coming loose while I either move down, or attempt to come back up for whatever reason. After a few tieoffs are made from sturdy rocks, I start letting myself loose in a more controlled pace, and effecively rappel myself down the river.

>Climb upstream if you can to those branches in case it went down a different one.
While I did choose the largest paths, unfortunately a backup rope falling down the wrong path is still a distinct possibility. I would like to find a branching path to minimize it, but the current is far too strong to move back up. Again, I can move upstream, but it would be a painstakingly slow process and would not change any time sensitive matters.
>>
No. 476667 ID: c4e5c2
File 135472694430.png - (94.45KB , 700x700 , 33.png )
476667

Things went wrong. Almost nostalgic.

It is difficult to tell how far I am by the time I do, thankfully, find an opening. The cave widens up and I find myself crawling in a small place. A bit over an hour has passed, and I had to hold my breath for several minutes.

A grappling hook sure would have been nice. Perhaps a makeshift one using the prybar and the rope could be made for a questionable grapple.

I have a pistol with 24 shots on me and a knife.
>>
No. 476669 ID: 8b9215

I thought you had your bioarmor on too. Well start mapping the cave.
>>
No. 476670 ID: ec6d4c

Do a quick look around, make sure you're not in any immediate danger, and then take a few minutes to rest and recuperate before beginning to explore.

You should go silent now. Your companions aren't around to benefit from your empathy- and there might be predators, tribal neumono, the captive science hive, or mind controlling love-bugs down somewhere down here that could sense you. You can come back online when you sense an ally in range.

How long will the food you have on you last? Now that you have air, that's the biggest constraint on your survival.

Can you access the mapper data at all? Maybe it can plug into your helmet? Or does your new suit UI include an altimeter, or a compass? It would be useful to know where you, or what direction you should be heading in. And having access to the map as it's drawn will make finding your way around easier.

Basic plan of survival should be to start searching for a way to reach the surface (then you can radio in), and for some kind of food to sustain you until you get there (maybe look for signs of mushrooms or small animals you may remember from the spire).

You might want to have a good long drink before you leave this part of the cave, too- you don't know when you'll find another water source.

Remember that you have limited ammo. Use the gun only when necessary, and make every shot count. Putting down small food animals can be done with simple rope traps, or the knife, or the crowbar.
>>
No. 476675 ID: 283285

Man, we are going to absolutely RUIN whoever cut the rope.
>>
No. 476676 ID: ec6d4c

>>476675
I think Polo's had enough of senseless rage and revenge. That's a dark place I don't think she wants to let herself slide into again.

Not that we're happy about it, of course.
>>
No. 476678 ID: 283285

>>476676

I was referring more towards the intense interrogation methods to find out their loyalties and initial incapacitation, rather than the boiling rage and taste of vengeance.
>>
No. 476684 ID: f2c20c

>>476667
Can we radio back, now? To report on what just happened?
>>
No. 476725 ID: c4e5c2
File 135475704383.png - (98.51KB , 700x700 , 34.png )
476725

>I thought you had bio armor on
I do, but I needed to catch my breath. Even though it was relatively short, there is still minutes of air supply shortage.

For the time, I make sure my mapping unit is still on, and go silent.

I have one day of food. I do not know how to work the mapper into my goggle UI, but I may spend some time to see if it autoreads it conveniently before I go exploring far.

Unsurprisingly, I'm too deep in to make a connection to anyone.

>Or does your new suit UI include an altimeter, or a compass?
There is both, so I will have help with direction, and I am approximately 600 meters below our campsite. Using the compass, I can tell that I should be heading north as much as is possible, and upwards of course. If I can even just get to a surface, I will be able to radio as well as check my exact location.

Once I am dry, I begin to get a move on in a northern direction with care to remember where I've gone, and it is less than 5 minutes before I hear chattering. Two Voktils. I don't believe they heard me.

They are staying very still, and the only sound I hear is their sniffing.
>>
No. 476726 ID: f2c20c

They may be able to smell you. Get some distance away, very quietly, and try to go around. I don't know why there are Voktils down here but to be honest it wouldn't surprise me if they're working with the Salikai. Wait, are these a different color from the ones on the surface? This could be a different tribe altogether.

What's that on the left one's back?
>>
No. 476727 ID: 8b9215

Can you speak their language? Say something anyway to let them know there is a sapient being nearby and take off helmet and bioarmor on your face so they can see that you are neumono. If they are peaceful point up and say you want to get to surface. They may or may not understand the words but it's obvious what you are asking. If they brandish weapons, take out your knife and gun. They will certainly recognize the knife and figure the other is a weapon even if they don't know what a gun does. If they don't make any move to attack still keep trying to communicate. If they do attack or make move to attack, back up and attempt to leave them alone and continue.
>>
No. 476730 ID: 8b9215

>>476727
Of course shoot or knife if they press any attacks. Preferable to cut them and keep backing away. Intent is to protect yourself, not hurt them. They should realize that and may break off an attack.
>>
No. 476732 ID: beeca1

From what I can remember, Polo was told that a translator would be provided, and knew almost nothing about Voktils. I can only assume that she does not speak their language.

Draw your knife, but don't raise it. Just keep it by your side and see if they can speak your language. Failing that, observe.
>>
No. 476733 ID: 283285

>>476727

Enemy territory bro, never assume anything is friendly.

Plus we don't know what these caverns are, for all we know we could be trespassing on holy ground or something and get gutted for it.

Much easier to assume that they mean you harm and seek ways to avoid them.
>>
No. 476736 ID: b33427

>Sniffing
Dang it. You don't know how good their sense of smell is. Well, you should be alright, since the river washed all the smells off your armor, and any neumono smells are trapped in it. All they'll pick up is river water and cave, which is what they'd expect here.

Flip to infrared on your visor and quietly look around for any other Voktil on the ceiling or in the darkness. You did turn off all your lights when you got out of the river, right?

Do not engage. Stay out of sight and quiet. Don't draw any weapons, since that'll make noise. Keep listening for their movements. When they move, keep staying out of their sight. Trail them as silently as you can, since they know the caves, and will eventually go up to the surface, or at least to some place that might have food you could steal.

While you're tailing them, watch where they're looking, and check where they looked as you pass. The Voktil probably have marked the caves so they don't get lost down here. If you find their markings, then you can follow them as well.
>>
No. 476737 ID: ec6d4c

Alright- good news. They got down here somehow. That means there's an exit to the surface somewhere.

Note these guys are painted to match the rocks down here- camouflage.

It's a real pity you didn't ask the translator more about these guys. You don't know their sensory capabilities, but it seems they might be able to smell you. You don't know any words in their language, and you don't know how to approach them without giving offense.

Now... your basic choices are to hide yourself from them, and follow them back to the surface, or approach them openly. The problem is, we don't know if these Voklit just happen to be down here, if they're looking for you (your friends put out word you'd been trapped underground) or if they're hunting for you (young, rebellious Voklit attacked your group and cut the rope, and now some are down here looking for you.)

...I think, on balance, the best option is to approach them. It'll be hard to follow them all the way back undected, especially if you come out in the pit in the middle of their settlement. Getting caught will just hurt your relations with them, and possibly get you attacked. These guys are tech-less, honor bound and stubborn, right? Think of them like Rokoa. Confidence, fearless, and strength will impress them.

Approach them openly, remove your helmet, and greet them. Stare them down if challenged, and try to convey that you want to return to the surface. If one of them want to fight you- try to make a point of honor of it. Hold up a hand, set aside your weapons, gesture for them to do the same, unstrap your armor, and challenge them 1 on 1 unarmed. You've been training for hand to hand against a bigger opponent, right? That will impress them.
>>
No. 476740 ID: 5b759d

I also suggest making yourself known to them, they probably know you're there anyway. Make it obvious that you don't want any trouble.
shit we might never find out why Katzati is so damn fat at this rate
>>
No. 476743 ID: e3f578

>>476725
I have a theory that these people are looking for you and they cut the cord. They've been stalking you all night, probably all day, so they have the perfect opportunity, and them being here is too coincidental or convenient for you. They might have cut the cord for other reasons than working with the salikai though, maybe they just have their own secrets they don't want discovered here.

Something's here anyway. I'd hate to have your life endangered by other people cutting your cord for simple reasons such as mere territorial reasons or dumb, pointless backstabbing or prejudice on part of the Voktil. Which is a possibility, I wouldn't put it past anybody to do this stuff for a really dumb reason.
>>
No. 476751 ID: c4e5c2
File 135476238126.png - (109.75KB , 700x700 , 35.png )
476751

>What's on the left one's back?
It appears to be a stone hammer.

>Can you speak their language?
Not at all. This is the first time I've heard it, and I wonder how the negotiator is able to speak with them. Their sounds are difficult to describe, but seem exceptionally difficult to mimic, let alone communicate with.

>You've been training for hand to hand against a bigger opponent, right?
Yes, but this does not mean I can confidently take down something at least 5 times my size unarmed.

>You did turn off all your lights when you got out of the river, right?
I dimmed them to a level in which I could only see with night vision.

>Turn on infrared
There are lights higher up. I do not know what the source is, but they are not voktil. I only see the 2 voktil for anything nearby.

After looking through the goggles, I take my helmet off and move out into the open. They notice me, and get angry, starting to shout things.

"Do you speak my language?" This is met by more foreign yells. One of them throws a rock in my direction. A big one, though something that size might not agree, and not thrown right at me, unless it has bad aim.
>>
No. 476752 ID: f2c20c

Yeah, I think you should get away. They're pissed off at you and want you gone, not dead. Don't aggravate them further.

Did we forget Polo was dressed in high tech armor or something? This might've gone better if she were just wearing bio armor.
>>
No. 476755 ID: eb682d

Just stand there if it's not going to hit you. Maybe they'll think you're a badass and leave you alone.
Should get ready to flee if they start moving towards you though.
>>
No. 476757 ID: ec6d4c

Alright. Let's assume the rock was a warning shot- they're driving you back, not trying to kill you (yet). Stand your ground if you can, or stake a few steps back if you have to. See if they pursue you, or how they react. Maintain eye contact- make it clear you aren't intimidated as you do so.

When you've reacted a distance they're happy with, or they've calm down. Try communicating again. Use gestures- try to get the point across that you're trying to get to the surface.

If this doesn't go over well, we back off further, out of sight. Then we can either try investigating the light (an exit) or trail them at a distance, hoping they lead you to an exit.

>>476752
We didn't forget, but we didn't exactly have time to strip, we don't have anything to carry the armor in, and abandoning the suit isn't worth a potential diplomatic bonus.
>>
No. 476758 ID: 6dc5a6

Put on your helmet and find some folks qualified to help you actually do diplomacy, you have no effective means to get through to them at this point. Evade and find an exit.
>>
No. 476759 ID: b33427

Forget trying to get any help from these two. You don't know their language, and they don't know yours. Gestures are out 'cause you're wearing that high-tech armor and that's enough to piss them off. Your mere presence here is enough to rile them up. Between all that the best course of action is to withdraw.

Keep your hands where they can clearly see them and calmly back away into the darkness. Watch them to make sure they aren't moving to attack you. If they do move to attack, evade and run.

Once you're far enough away they can't see you, slip behind cover, put your helmet on, switch to infrared, and watch what they do. You may still be able to trail them out of here; Possibly even more now, 'cause they might head up sooner to report that you're down here. Your helmet have a way to combine the night vision and infrared vision overlays? That'd be useful in following these Voktil.
>>
No. 476763 ID: c4e5c2
File 135476510705.png - (18.60KB , 700x700 , 36.png )
476763

Although they don't outright attack me, they fling their hands at me as I move away, and briefly look like they're about to charge if I move too slow. So I pick up the pace, continuing eye contact, and they don't pursue me once I move fast and get out of sight.

Training or not, bio armor still stings pulling it up and down my head like this. In any case, I may be able to pursue them if I want.

There is also the matter of the lights on high rocks. I do not know what they are, but they do not look like sunlight. Or perhaps it is, the rocks here are oddly reflective, and it may be a trick of the light, but given how deep I am, I would be surprised if sunlight did reach here.

>Your helmet have a way to combine the night vision and infrared vision overlays?
Yes. It is also exceptionally easy to flip between the two options as well.
>>
No. 476764 ID: f2c20c

Follow them from as far away as is feasible.
>>
No. 476766 ID: ec6d4c

Let's check out the light. Even if it's not an exit you can use, it might be a place you can get a radio signal out.

Make a note of which way the Voklit go, so hopefully you can pick them up and tail them out if you have too. Even if you lose them, you might be able to track them by footsteps, or smudged off bodypaint. There might be a well worn trail to follow, even.
>>
No. 476769 ID: 8b9215

Well, they just want to be left alone. That's nice. Continue on I guess. You will just have to explore and look for some way out.
>>
No. 476770 ID: b33427

Before going any farther, start marking where you've been, and where you came from. Either use your prybar to scrape arrows in the floor or walls pointing to where you came from or put small rocks in an arrow formation. If you have a marker or chalk, you can use that as well.

Investigate the odd lights up above. They may be strangely reflective rocks letting sunlight in, or natural glass lightpipes, or bio-luminescent flora, fauna, or fungi.

Start by flipping through infrared and ultraviolet vision and looking up to see if the light specks show up different. Also hold still and see if they move any. Then flip over to night vision, get out the flashlight, and look up while shining it upwards, but be ready to shut it off quickly in case it's something like hostile giant bio-luminescent bats or moths.

Once you've seen all you can from down here, continue on. Look for any tunnels up to where the lights are. Also be on the lookout for ledges you could grapple up to to get to the lights, and also for potential sleeping spots if you get stuck down here awhile.

When you got out of the river, did you think to pull the long length of rope out with you and cut a manageable length for yourself? 'Cause rope is always good to have on hand.
>>
No. 476772 ID: d79664

Try finding a way out, follow the Voktils as they know the way. Also, how are you able to breathe with bio armor on?
>>
No. 476773 ID: f2c20c

>>476770
We got by fine last time we explored a cave without marking where we've been. It might be wise to not leave traces of our presence...
>>
No. 476775 ID: ec6d4c

We have mapping gear. We don't need to leave markings.

>Also, how are you able to breathe with bio armor on?
...gotta be some kind of porous membrane.
>>
No. 476776 ID: c4e5c2
File 135476963367.png - (70.69KB , 700x700 , 37.png )
476776

>How are you able to breathe with bio armor on?
It's sophisticed enough to detect when I'm blowing out or breathing in, and there are many intentional, near microscopic holes in the mouth area that open up when I breathe in and out. They say there may soon be bio armor models out that can go one step further and be able to make a respirator out of a biosuit, but I have not seen any yet.

They move south, almost but not quite in the way that I came from. I let them go on their way. I am considering the pros and cons of making pry bar marks and leaving traces of my presence. It may be helpful to have markers in case my memory falters, and for all I know, my teammates will send someone to rescue me. Marks may be helpful if I leave them out in the open then. Unless one of those teammates of mine intentionally broke the cable, a small possibility I can't rule out, although I did not sense any blatant backstabbing intentions when I went in the water. But I am leaning on no, at least for the moment. There is no changing my mind once I do make a mark.

For now, I start climbing up rocks to get to the lowest light source I can manage. The lights only appear to be around the river flow.

I reach up to a light source. When I get closer, it starts moving away. Like a slug.
>>
No. 476777 ID: beeca1

>>476776
It looks delicious and full of nutritious, nutritious phosphorous. Get yourself some o dat phosphorous.

Seriously, try to eat it. Or at least make a Voktil eat it.
>>
No. 476778 ID: 5b759d

let's try to track those guys back to where they came from, I'm going to guess it's most likely the village pit though, which wouldn't be where we want to go.
>>
No. 476779 ID: f2c20c

Wow, that's cool. Have you heard of bioluminescent slugs before? It's also possible that it's a lure for a predator of some sort... but surely you'd be able to see a tentacle attached to it on one of your visor's modes? Too bad we don't have a bag or something to capture it with, but we can at least poke it for the sake of science.

Then we can continue on.
>>
No. 476781 ID: ec6d4c

Ah. Bioluminescence. Not particularly useful to you right now, and I don't think we're desperate enough to see if these things are edible.

If we had more gear on us, I might suggest taking one back to be scienced upon, but we don't have anything like specimen containers. ...and given how vicious wildlife on your planet is, the glowing chemical is probably both poisonous and acidic anyways.

We should continue searching for an exit, heading north and uphill. Pleasantly, this is the direction the Voklit came from, so presumably there's an exit somewhere that way. Hopefully it's not the main one in their village.

For the moment, I doubt you were betrayed by the other neumono, but I still don't want to leave marks.
>>
No. 476782 ID: b33427

Oh, it's just glowing slugs. They don't even look edible, even for a neumono. That's disappointing. Ah, well. As long as you're up here, try grabbing one to take a closer look, then drop it into the river to see if any fish pop up to eat it. You might be able to use one as bait for fishing if you run low on food.

Head back to where those two Voktil were and start heading north, taking any paths upward you find. Be on the lookout for any navigation marks made by the Voktil. While you don't want or need to make marks, they might have.

Even though your encounter with those Voktil went rather bad, it could be to your eventual benefit. When they get around to heading back to their home, they're going to recount that they encountered a tech suited up shorty neumono in the caves. Then the next time Kort talks to them, they're going to complain about you being down here. That'll let your group know you're still alive and relatively nearby. Now the question is how long they're going to be down here for.
>>
No. 476788 ID: c4e5c2
File 135477965325.png - (107.65KB , 700x700 , 38.png )
476788

I imagine if Biles were here, he would know whether or not this slug was made of phosphorous and nutrition or phosphorous and poison. This planet has too much biology, and I have had too little time to become a walking encyclopedia of slugs.

>Poke it for the sake of science
It quickly excretes a purple slime that looks like a highly close match to the purple tone of what the voktils had for camoflauge.

I go back to seeking an exit. Hours pass without seeing anything, just a gradual trek up and north.

>Seeing a Voklit means there must be an exit to the surface
This also helps me choose my paths, as I can immediately discount small paths that, while comfortable for me, would not allow a Voktil to pass through. Nonetheless, the cave system appears far more massive than I originally was led to believe. I am not so confident, after awhile, that I would be able to find my way back. Nevertheless, my main concern is to go up and north as possible. I also can tell I am near a river or water source when I see a region with the slugs.

Come to somewhat behind me and to the left, I hear screeches and Voktil shouting. It is getting closer, and it is getting closer fast.
>>
No. 476789 ID: f2c20c

Find some cover, that would be hard for a Voktil to access or spot you in. Take out your pistol and be ready, but try to see if you can spot the incoming commotion from a distance.
>>
No. 476790 ID: f2c20c

>>476788
Also, what is that thing on your ear armor? It looks out of place; is that the cartography device?
>>
No. 476792 ID: b33427

Sounds like the Voktil found whatever they were hunting, and it sounds big and angry.

Quickly look around for any place you could climb up and hide. If there isn't one, start running away from the commotion and keep an eye out for one. You'll want to get in a dark spot above Voktil eye level where you can see what's going on.

Next time you get near those glowing slugs, grab a few and rub them all over your armor to camouflage yourself.
>>
No. 476799 ID: c6ec33

>>476792
This. And you might as well pull out your pistol, too, just in case.
>>
No. 476805 ID: 8b9215

Hide and pistol. Try to figure out what it is.
>>
No. 476813 ID: ec6d4c

Getting out of the way and out of sight seems prudent.

I don't think we should take a shot if we can help it- I kind of doubt the Voklit will appreciate the help (they'll probably see it as kill or glory stealing, and/or sullying their hunt with tech).

Do pay attention though. If there's anything big and dangerous enough down here for them to hunt, knowing how it dies could be useful in the future.

A successful hunt is a good thing, though. If they're not down here for themselves, that means they'll probably be taking their kill back to the settlement- so you can follow them outside. And it's pretty easy to follow people lugging a bloody copse.
>>
No. 476824 ID: c4e5c2
File 135482094955.png - (150.68KB , 700x700 , 39.png )
476824

>Also, what is that thing on your ear armor? It looks out of place; is that the cartography device?
Yes.

I get on some high ground, without much time to spare before the source reaches my path. Two voklits, wounded, are chasing down a bug that has no business being that size. It is screeching angrily at the voklits.
>>
No. 476826 ID: ec6d4c

Hmm. The Voklits look worse off than the bug-monster.

Alright. Stay out of sight and observe for the moment- pistol at the ready. Let's assume the hunters know what they're doing- don't interfere unless the it appears the Voklit are at risk of serious injury or death. That's the point where you should step in and shoot the thing.

I don't know if they'd welcome your interference, but it beats letting them die.

We really need to ask Kort for a cultural primer, later. It would be nice to know things like if they would welcome assistance in a battle, or if they'd see it as an insult. Or how you're supposed to approach them, or what offends them besides tech. Maybe a few basic words. I mean, odds are you're going to run into some again in your mapping.
>>
No. 476827 ID: eb682d

Just observe.
As cool as a dramatic entry with the knife would be, trying to interfere is probably a bad idea unless the voktil look like they're in serious danger.

Also now that I think about it we may want to think about smearing some of that slug jelly on our armor as camouflage. We kinda stick out among all this purple.
>>
No. 476828 ID: c4e5c2
File 135482422755.png - (88.71KB , 700x700 , 40.png )
476828

I wait. The sounds continue, until I hear some decisive sounding blows being dealt. Between voktil roars and insect screeches, I still can't tell who's winning. Short of making a dramatic entry, it only lasts a couple seconds at its height before it dies down.
>>
No. 476829 ID: c4e5c2
File 135482423837.png - (88.98KB , 700x700 , 41.png )
476829

In the next moment, the two voktil's look like they killed it, and are dragging it alone the ground back in my direction. The voktil in back is limping. I would think that would make it easier to tail them back to their settlement, but the one in front is continually looking back to check on the more wounded one. That, and going back to get slug camoflauge would be a good idea.
>>
No. 476830 ID: c33f8f

Well grab some slugs and rub them all over yourself.
Even if we lose sight of the voktils we can probably follow the trail they leave dragging that huge bleeding bug.
>>
No. 476831 ID: ec6d4c

If there's a batch of slugs that aren't miles back, it wouldn't hurt to double back and get some camo.

Just remember to wipe it off before you exit to the surface- green works a lot better in a forest than purple!

They're dragging a bloody corpse, and one of them is limping. They aren't exact going to be hard to track, even if you let them get far enough ahead that you can't see them. They aren't going to be able to cover up all the scuff marks and drippings. It shouldn't be hard to tail them to the exit.

If they lead you to the exit in the pit, it might be a good idea to wait for dark before heading out. These guys use lights to see- so you'll have an advantage evading any scouts or guards in the dark with your IR and/or night vision.
>>
No. 476834 ID: c4e5c2
File 135482668397.png - (99.24KB , 700x700 , 42.png )
476834

>They're going to leave a bloody trail
Point. I'll pick up their trail again later.

I head off to get some slugs. I saw some not far away from here, although I did not find the water source.

After some work, I climb up once again to reach out to grab a slug and start wiping my armor with it. I can almost feel the disgust through the armor. Nonetheless, I may be able to get enough out of a single slug to coat myself decently. Its secretions must be thin to be able to secrete this amount.
>>
No. 476835 ID: c4e5c2
File 135482669664.png - (178.57KB , 700x700 , 43.png )
476835

The slug starts vibrating, and wiggling more.
>>
No. 476837 ID: ec6d4c

...well, that's the opposite of helpful.

Put the slug aside, and see if you stop glowing once it's not in contact with the chemicals anymore. If you don't, gather up a handful of sand and grit and start rubbing the stuff off.

Then go pick up the trail, follow at a distance.
>>
No. 476838 ID: c33f8f

Might be a good idea to put the slug down since every other slug in the cave seemed to light up as the mucus on you armor started glowing.
>>
No. 476839 ID: ec6d4c

>>476838
Oh shit, he's right. They're also on the move! You've been marked as a threat!

Put the slug down, get the hell out of there, and scrape that stuff off, ASAP.
>>
No. 476841 ID: f2c20c

>>476835
Aw hell. Scrap the plan and get away from the slugs to take that glowy stuff off.
>>
No. 476846 ID: e3f578

>>476835
>vibrating and wiggling
Resist curious urge to put it down your pants
Plus, you know, they might be a threat. But even if they're friendly don't put 'em down your pants.
>>
No. 476850 ID: d10f72

You should cover yourself in glowing runes, that would be awesome, and a bit menacing. That might not be good though so just scrape it off, you don't want to be noticed.
>>
No. 476854 ID: 2f4b71

>>476850
That gives me an idea. Smear a pair of eye marks just above your visor. If the slime reliably glows whenever the lightslug's shared threat response triggers, to any Voktil who come across you, you'd be a small armoured creature with glowing eyes that terrifies the local wildlife.
>>
No. 476865 ID: 8b9215

Remember to come back here and retrieve a few slugs as "personal massagers" after this mission is done.

Also GTFO and rub some dirt over that stuff.
>>
No. 476869 ID: b33427

Don't just put the slug back down, pull your knife and kill it. Maybe whatever it's doing to light up the slime will stop once it's dead. Then get down from there and once the rest of the slugs aren't following you either rub the slime off with sand and grit from the cave floor, or pat dirt and mud on over it to cover it up. As you're traveling keep on the lookout for a water source to wash your armor off.

Camouflage probably wouldn't work as well against the Voktils anyway, since they might use their sense of smell more down here than sight. In fact, the smell of slug slime might actually give you away to them, and possibly other nasty critters down here.
>>
No. 476872 ID: 997ce7

Well, that's definitely not natural. It's biotech, and it's perfectly acceptable to use (bio)technology for sexual pleasure. Put it down your pants. Or even better, save a few to mess with the others when you rejoin your party.

Seriously though, put it down and wait a bit. If it doesn't stop, kill it and bugger off smartish.
>>
No. 476873 ID: ec6d4c

Horrible, horrible thought. What if it's not cammo after all? What if the glowslugs are the larval form of the thing we saw the Voklits hunting? What if they covered themselves to piss it off and draw one out to kill?

>>476869
I'd like to try seeing if letting it go gets them to calm down before we try something like killing it. We can't take that back. (Besides, what kind of swarm calls off the attack when you kill one?)
>>
No. 476874 ID: b33427

>>476873
Alright, that's a valid point. Put it down first, but if it doesn't stop, try dropping it off the edge instead. If that doesn't kill it, then its call for help will be away from you.
>>
No. 476884 ID: 8b9215

Don't kill the thing. Drop it and rub off the light stuff. We don't care if the slugs are lit up. We care that we are lit up.
>>
No. 476888 ID: 4a328b

Stop molesting the slug, Polo.
>>
No. 476891 ID: 12c19f

It seems the slugs can conduct a electroluminescent charge through the mucus and that signals all the other slugs.

If what everyone else is assuming is true, these are indeed the larval forms of those giant bugs and they glow to signal the parents...

Aw jeeze.
>>
No. 476893 ID: b33427

>>476891
Which means drop the slug right away, pull your pistol, switch your visor to all overlays, and quickly check above, below, and all around you for a big, mean mama bug comin' to try and bite your head off. If there isn't one, then you can do whatever else and climb down.
>>
No. 476894 ID: ec6d4c

Well, the part about the slugs and bugs being connected is just wild conjecture. What we know now is that the slugs are riled up, and moving towards you. That's a danger in an of itself.

And if there is a guardian, it's possible the voklits killed the one on duty?
>>
No. 476898 ID: c4e5c2
File 135486133325.png - (51.38KB , 700x700 , 44.png )
476898

I will consider drawing runes on myself when I am in a better position to be silly, drawing eyes on my visor when I lose the need for sight, and shoving a slime secreting slug down my pants never.

I let the slug go go.

The result is not immediate, but the slugs do dim, and the slime on myself dims slowly as well. After a moment it may be proper camoflauge, although it is only over my arms.
>>
No. 476899 ID: c4e5c2
File 135486134146.png - (34.70KB , 700x700 , 45.png )
476899

>Switch your visor to all overlays
It does not show up on night vision, but on thermal view, I look up to find a couple things above me that look like they were coming my way. They do not look like bugs, and they're also not moving any closer.
>>
No. 476900 ID: 06ee8f

Voklit version of predators?
>>
No. 476901 ID: ec6d4c

Alright, we were right! Mostly. When the slugs feel threatened, they make their attackers glow and those sneaky things come in and attack. They don't look necessarily related, but it could be just some kind of symbiosis or codependence.

Keep a close eye on them, and be ready to defend yourself if they move closer, but I don't think they care now that you stopped glowing. Back off, slowly and carefully.

Then, enough mucking around. We'll follow the voklit at sufficient distance that camo doesn't matter. Like we said before, they should leave an obvious trail.

Be sure to warn the others about the glowslugs and their nearly invisible guardians, later. Maybe Biles will know something? Add that to your list of possible discussion topics, along with what went wrong at the river, and getting a basic voklit primer from Kort (odds are this won't be the last time you encounter some underground).
>>
No. 476902 ID: bf54a8

perhaps they can tell you are looking at them? they want a sneak attack.
>>
No. 476903 ID: c6ec33

Back down, keeping your eyes on them, ready to go for your pistol.

Slowly follow the voklits, watching out for these predator things.
>>
No. 476904 ID: 8b9215

Walk away from them. Keep an eye on them. Be prepared to fight. Really we should get a fucking moveon.
>>
No. 476905 ID: b33427

>>476901
Or maybe they come down to prey on whatever preys on the slugs. Well, that's not Polo's job to find out, it's for whatever science expedition eventually comes down to catalog these caves.

>>476902
Perhaps. Just to be safe, keep looking at them as you pull your pistol and knife, then back away slowly and see how they react. If they attack, run if you can, fight if you must.

Once you're safely away, pick up the trail of the Voklits and follow them. Though if you spot any more of those glowing slugs along the way, go grab a couple. Then find a nook away from the mass of slugs that'll block the slime's glow, and apply it to all of your armor. Even take the time to take parts off to fully cover them.
>>
No. 476906 ID: ec6d4c

>Though if you spot any more of those glowing slugs along the way, go grab a couple. Then find a nook away from the mass of slugs that'll block the slime's glow, and apply it to all of your armor.
I don't think it's worth the time or trouble right now. We're close to finding a way out now- the voklit will lead us strait to the exit, most avoiding other dangerous things that might try to gank their kill. We don't need camo to get out, and once on the surface, green is a better sneaking color than purple.

And we may need to sneak. First to get past any volkit that may be guarding or patrolling their exit. And then to sneak up on our camp, close enough to get an empathy reading- make sure everything's all right- that there's been no traitor, hostile takeover, whatever. Then if everything is clear, we back off, turn off the silence, and approach normally.
>>
No. 476924 ID: c4e5c2
File 135486637222.png - (65.29KB , 700x700 , 46.png )
476924

>Voklit version of predators?
Although voklits do not have an empathy to be taken over, I do not know anything more about that.

I try to prevent aggravating them. They eventually move away when I back far enough, and I never hear them make a sound.

I'm able to pick up the trail again easily enough, staying well out of sight. It is not a short walk, though that is mostly because of their slow pace between wounds and heavy loads.

While I am not concerned about time, I am concerned about is that I am being led downwards, and in an eastern direction at that.
>>
No. 476925 ID: f2c20c

This might be an underground encampment. We should at least get a visual on it to confirm that, and we can easily retrace our steps to where we veered off our northward route by following the blood trail backwards. Also, don't forget that it is quite possible that you actually need to go down and east in order to go up. These are 3d tunnels!
>>
No. 476926 ID: ec6d4c

>>476925
This guy has it pretty much right.

How long have you been down here, though? We had 24hrs worth of rations, what are you down to now?
>>
No. 476928 ID: 8b9215

Follow and hide till you can figure out where they went. I'm curious what is down there. If it is some camp then the way out is likely connected to it.
>>
No. 476933 ID: b33427

Keep following their trail. The route out is very likely not directly north and up. And even if they aren't heading out, whatever camp they're going to might be a staging area for hunters in the caves, and that will have a route to the surface you can follow.

Do be on the lookout for a water source you can wash your armor off in. That'll remove any smell from you that the Voklits or other critters down here might catch on to, and losing that bit of camo on your arms won't matter much.
>>
No. 476942 ID: 6cc859

>>476933
Indeed; it's unlikely that these guys are isolated from the surface group, and wherever they're going must be some kind of camp from which you can search for other trails.

Just be prepared to come up in the middle of that arena thing. Knowing your luck, it'll be mid-honour-fight, too.
>>
No. 476947 ID: c33f8f

Can you hear anything? Also just out of curiosity does your armor have a loudspeaker built in it?
>>
No. 476952 ID: c4e5c2
File 135489518606.png - (65.49KB , 700x700 , 47.png )
476952

>How long as it been since the cord snapped?
2 hours, 45 minutes. Not that long overall, but I will soon be biting into my day long rations.

>Also just out of curiosity does your armor have a loudspeaker built in it?
Actually, it does have a loudspeaker. I do not know how loud it can go, but it does have a small external volume unit so that I can speak while in airtight mode.

>You may need to go down/not north initially to get to the path
This is true, so I am not too concerned, although I did not see much blocking my way north and up.

>Can you hear anything?
Eventually I hear water. The voktils clean their wounds, and once they are done and move on, I clean my armor of smells as much as I can. Quickly, as their blood trail becomes less obvious, and I keep within earshot, which isn't hard considering their grunts and drags. And after 30 minutes of walking, I hear something behind me. It is faint, but I frequently watch my back until the source is in sight. 4 other things in a pack, that look as though they are sniffing out the trail. I am not in a hallway, and getting off of the voktil trail is a valid option. I also do have my light completely off. The miniscule amount of light left over from the voktil's own light source is enough for my night vision.
>>
No. 476954 ID: 8b9215

Do your best not to lose the two voklit you are following. If you had to get spotted by one party I'd rather the voklit sense you than whatever those things are.

If you are positive you won't lose the trail of the voktil, duck off to the side and wait for those things to pass.
>>
No. 476955 ID: ec6d4c

Some kind of scavenger, I suppose. I'd assume they're after the kill- they smell a dead or injured animal and they're following the trail.

That's not enough help us in guessing their behavior or threat level towards you, though. Scavengers come in everything from harmlessly skittish to downright viscous and.

How quickly are they moving? If they're moving slowly enough to not be gaining, continue forward. If they're going to catch up, find a place where you can get up and/or to the side out of the way and let them pass.

Defend yourself if attacked (although shots will give you away to the voklit). If they go past you, and attack the voklit, same protocol as before. Get close enough to watch, and only interfere if it appears necessary.
>>
No. 476956 ID: 5b759d

well, we could let those things pass and they would theoretically keep following the voktils, because they seem to be interested in the thing they're dragging. On the other hand they might get distracted by something and wander off leading you on a random wandering though the cave. If you can easily stay between them like you are now, let's keep on doing that.
>>
No. 476969 ID: c4e5c2
File 135490042958.png - (33.40KB , 700x700 , 48.png )
476969

>How quick are they moving
Quickly. As they catch up, they appear to be getting more excited and are at a quick trot by the time they would get to me.

Although the trail is less obvious, I doubt I will lose the voktil, so I move off the path. The scavengers run on by, and if they notice me, they don't even give a glance in care.

I move quick to follow them. I expect that they are on their final lunge to attack the voktil, as they start making shrill yappy noises that would certainly alert the voktil. They are large, and given the wounds on one voktil and how outnumbered they are, I will most likely have to interject if I want to save them. I can wait to be sure, but if I do hesitate to make certain the voktil are losing, it may already be too late given how fast a mortal wound can be inflicted on them.
>>
No. 476970 ID: ec6d4c

Oh, yikes. I thought those things were like dog sized before. Bad judge of perspective, I guess.

I think it's time for crack-shot Polo to make an appearance, here. You have to intervene. The voklit aren't help to your escape if they're killed, or significantly wounded. And besides that, it's not really right to stand by and watch people get killed for no reason. Even grumpy lizard people.
>>
No. 476971 ID: b33427

Pull your pistol, step out and take aim, but glance to make sure that the voktil are moving to fight these scavengers before firing. For all you know they could be their pets.

Take down two for sure, and at least injure the rest if the voktil look like they can't handle them. Once the shots are made, don't stick around. Fade away and watch the voktil from a distance.
>>
No. 476972 ID: c6ec33

Welp, let's look at the facts: Voklits are honorable and they hate tech. If this is some kind of male coming-of-age thing or honor-hunt thing, interfering would probably make them morally confused.

That said... letting them die is not a good idea.

Give the voklits a chance to scare these things off before you do anything. Be prepared to shoot these them as soon as they attack the voklits.
>>
No. 476974 ID: ec6d4c

>For all you know they could be their pets.
>shrill yappy noises
Ooh, good catch. Yeah, you either need a visual of the volkit assuming defensive or battle postures, or the animals attacking, before you can open fire.

That means we'll have to come out of cover, but luckily the voklits and animals should be focused on each other. And your cover would be blown when you fire, anyways.
>>
No. 476989 ID: c4e5c2
File 135490680026.png - (95.46KB , 700x700 , 49.png )
476989

I get ready to fire my pistol. The stopping power of a small pistol is not ideal to things this size, but one round of firing 8 shots will still make some fall.

I recognize the chance that these scavengers are pets of the voktil, but that does not turn out to be the case. 3 leap onto the wounded Voktil, while one daring scavenger busies the other. I start shooting as clean shots present themselves, and immediately begin reloading. The ones I shoot are clearly hurt, most likely fatally, but keep on attacking.
>>
No. 476990 ID: c4e5c2
File 135490688506.png - (51.20KB , 700x700 , 50.png )
476990

I unload another 4 shots before they begin dropping. The wounded voktil that was ganged up on is not moving and bleeding out, and his condition does not bring a smile to the other voktil's face he checks on the wounds.

The conscious voktil shouts out to the darkness where I slinked back into. I do not know what he says, of course, but it does sound unsurprisingly angry. And unsurprisingly upset, at that.
>>
No. 476992 ID: e3f578

I don't suppose you have a medkit available to you? You could kick it towards them?
Or maybe that would just deepen the anger because by helping them out you dishonored them or some shit.
>>
No. 476993 ID: 735f4f

Help stabilize the downed one if they let you.
>>
No. 476994 ID: ec6d4c

...did you bring any medical supplies with you? Or anything we could use to stop the bleeding? Last resort, I suppose we have a knife and some animal corpses to work with...

If he'll accept your help with his injured companion, you should. Try slinking back, making the offer, and seeing if he'll let you approach. If he's too incensed at your intrusion, or using dishonorable tech to help them to let you approach, there's not a lot you can do though.
>>
No. 477029 ID: c4e5c2
File 135491574552.png - (75.33KB , 700x700 , 51.png )
477029

>Did you bring any medical supplies with you?
I did not bring a whole medkit, but I did bring the most basic supplies of bandages, disinfectants and so on.

While I think of kicking out my medical supplies to the fine Voklit, I have no idea if he has any clue how to use even basic medical tools. I move out in the open, and while the he is not pleased to see me, he does not shoo me off or appear hostile. I get to work on the wounds. The neck is torn badly, and it is hard to tell if I merely need to stop blood flow or if his throat has been torn out entirely. I do what I can anyways, in case he is lucky.

The other one bows down in front of me, but he does not appear to be thankful. It is uncomfortable, and he looks away from me. He then makes a noise, and it is a moment before I realize it almost sounded like a word. "Shame." I've never seen anything so big look so pitiful that wasn't Three Stripes.
>>
No. 477033 ID: bf54a8

just do what you can.
>>
No. 477034 ID: ec6d4c

>"Shame."
Alright, he does know a few words in your language. Maybe we can respond, if we're clear, and careful with word choice.

You're alive. Alive you can earn your honor. Dead you cannot.

Seems we were mostly right in our guess as to how they'd react.
>>
No. 477046 ID: 4a328b

Patch up the conscious guy if you have materials left after tending to the unconscious guy
>>
No. 477052 ID: 8b9215

You did well. See what he wants to do with the wounded guy and help out any way you can.
>>
No. 477073 ID: 2f4b71

>"Shame"
I guess you assisted him without request, and helped his friend in a way he could not. Best thing I can think of is to give him a way to settle the implied debt. With his likely limited vocabulary, we need to keep to simple concepts.

"Home".

Hopefully, he'll figure you mean your home, with other Neumono, at the camp. If not, at least he'll lead you to the Voktil city at the surface.
>>
No. 477080 ID: ec6d4c

>>477073
"Home" could work actually- convey the message that there's something more important than shame/honor. Getting back, and getting his wounded friend back.
>>
No. 477145 ID: b33427

Look up at him and say "help now. Shame later." Try and convey that he can wallow in shame and self-pity later, after we save his friend. Then treat his injuries as best you can; You two are going to have to work together on this.

The one with the neck wound isn't going anywhere without a stretcher of some sort; Preferably with head immobilization. But between the carapace of that big bug, the hide and bones of those scavengers, that big stone hammer, and whatever else you two are carrying, there should be enough supplies to build a makeshift one that the voktil can drag behind him.
>>
No. 477161 ID: c6ec33

"You no shame. You fight well. My shame if I not fight." etc.
>>
No. 477166 ID: c4e5c2
File 135495392354.png - (26.58KB , 700x700 , 52.png )
477166

I patch up the conscious guy.

"Help now, shame later."
>"...bad understand."
"Help. No shame. Find home."

While I patch him up, he just flips the large bug around and places his wounded friend on top of it. It is bent decently such that the voktil won't fall off, even though his stretcher is made of heebee jeebies.

>"... no home."
"What?"
"You. Own me. Neumono, no welcome home. I, no longer, welcome home."

It's one of those societies in which saving someone's life means you own them, I guess. How awkward, especially considering that apparently my unwelcome status carries over to him now or something.

"My home. Above ground."
>"Abv?"
"Above..." I point straight upwards. "Sun."
>"V. Will lead sun. May.... vv... chew?" he says, pointing to the scavengers.
"You may eat."

So we take a food break, in which I do not eat raw meat of unidentified creatures, since I am not in dire straights. He starts gorging himself since everything we cannot bring will likely be wasted. While he does this, I can't help but wonder what to do with him, if he is apparently unable to apparently go back home because I apparently own him.
>>
No. 477167 ID: 6cc859

Hand him off to the diplomatic corps. He can teach more neumono their language and explain their culture to reduce possible issues in the future. Alternatively, there must be some university anthropology department that would love to have him. Either way, short term, bring him back to camp and do what you can to keep him comfortable/happy.
>>
No. 477168 ID: 886a4d

Err I hate to point this out but you don't own just him now. Its both of them.
>>
No. 477169 ID: f2c20c

>>477166
You have no choice but to bring him with you back to camp. He can be your bodyguard. You can call him Al. I imagine if he saves your life he'll have repaid his debt and can return home.

Ask if the near-dead one is owned by you as well.
>>
No. 477172 ID: ec6d4c

Oh geeze. I expected our saving him to mean we'd be bringing him home disgraced and dishonored. Not that we'd earn Polo a Friday.

We're going to need Kort's help, I think. We can't keep him, long term. There has to be a way they can earn their freedom or stature back.

Short term though, this could be useful. He may know a lot about these tunnels and the things in them we'd otherwise have to find out the hard way. At least our mission might be one his honor system might tolerate- we're here hunting an enemy after they fled in cowardice.

After you're done eating, and before we head out, we need to figure out what we're doing with the injured one. Is he still alive? Can we move him? Are we bringing him to the other voklit, or do you own him too?

You should probably introduce yourself, and get their names while you're at it. Don't let them call you master.
>>
No. 477173 ID: b33427

Actually, couldn't the both of them could go back to their people if they just keep what happened here secret? After all, only they and you know what happened here, and you aren't going to blab it to the other voklits. All you want is to get up to the surface, and then you could release them from your ownership.

So they head to an out of the way cave entrance, and you follow at a distance so other voklits don't think you're with them. The only other issue would be redressing their wounds in something other than your bandages, or covering the bandages up.

When you get a moment, ask him where he learned to speak in your language.
>>
No. 477175 ID: ec6d4c

>Couldn't they return home if we just keep what happened here secret?
Sure. Except for the little fact their honor won't allow them to keep it a secret.

And, naturally, we can't just abuse our ownership to order them to do the dishonorable thing. That never works.
>>
No. 477176 ID: b33427

>>477175
Yeah, guess that wouldn't work since they're so honorable and all that. The one with the neck wound would probably not survive without the modern medical aid available back at camp as well, so that's another reason to bring them with.

Once you've asked for their names, or given them names if their names are unpronounceable by you, ask if he could lead you to the cave entrance nearest to the neumono camp, or the Voktil valley's entrance if he doesn't know where the neumono camp is.
>>
No. 477195 ID: 8b9215

Let's get out then worry about what to do with him. Best hope is to get him to understand the concept of "it never happened". Second best is have him be volkit-neumono diplomat or gobetween.
>>
No. 477198 ID: b33427

>>477195
If we go that route we'll have to keep both of them out of sight of the other voklits. That means they can't go anywhere near the camp, since there are so many watching it. They'll have to stay hidden in the caves near Point A.

As for a go-between, as far as I can tell it ain't happening. The one who is saved takes on the same status as the one who saved them. Since Polo saved them, that makes them as unwelcome in voklit society as the neumono.
>>
No. 477205 ID: 2f4b71

I wonder if they know the word 'Ghost'?
>>
No. 477293 ID: c4e5c2
File 135500574249.png - (66.27KB , 700x700 , 53.png )
477293

>You own both
.. even worse.

"What is your name?"
>"VVln."
"Viln?"
>".... yes." It was not even close to how he pronounced it.
"I am Polo."
>"Pll."
"........ yes. Where did you learn to speak your language?"
>"Other neumono... come. Hear words."

>what we're doing with the injured one. Is he still alive? Can we move him?
"What about him?" I gesture to the wounded one on the bug stretcher. He is still breathing, although his survival is still a maybe.
>"You own. I bring to sun."
"What if we forget this happened?"
>"Can never forget. Shame." Figures.
>>
No. 477294 ID: c4e5c2
File 135500575426.png - (59.55KB , 700x700 , 54.png )
477294

It's a slow trip up, since I can barely do anything to help lighten the load. Viln wants to keep his trophy bug, and he sounds pitifully depressed as is, so I don't tell him to drop it.

It looks like early evening by the time we reach outdoors. I do not recognize the cave exit, but it is obviously not the river exit and it is not in the center of a gladiatorial fight, so I imagine it is the northwestern cave opening.

I still do not believe that I was backstabbed, but walking in with a voktil will almost certainly prevent me from getting a feel for them in secret if I wish to make certain of that.
>>
No. 477297 ID: f2c20c

>>477294
Tell him to wait here. Stay silent, then sneak over to camp to get an empathic feel for the situation there, and also a headcount. Will anyone be missing, I wonder?
>>
No. 477298 ID: f2c20c

>>477297
Wait, don't forget to take off your tech armor before you go into the forest.
>>
No. 477299 ID: 8b9215

Call the crew on the radio. Ask what your location is and where to meet up. You need critical medical attention for the volkit.
>>
No. 477307 ID: ec6d4c

Yeah... I don't think sneaking is worth it. Might as well radio in, so they know to call off the search.

Let them know about the Voklit (You own them? How...? - I made the mistake of saving their life), find out what happened by the river. Remember to turn off your silence before you get back in range.

>Remove armor so as not to give offense.
What's the point? We're already taken slaves here. No voklit that sees us will be happy anyways. Besides, the best way to carry it is wearing it.
>>
No. 477308 ID: bdb3f8

There are going to be other ways to determine the intent of your team without ignoring time-critical life threatening injuries, and there is also always the possibility that they were attacked and need help themselves. Get in contact as fast as possible.
>>
No. 477311 ID: 4a328b

You said you could figure out your position once you were above ground, right? Figure it out, and head back to camp.
>>
No. 477312 ID: b33427

Ask Viln how the other voktil will react to him and the other one if they see them with you. Then ask how they'd react if they saw them alone, both with and without knowing about you owning them. You're going to want to know how much hassle the other voktil are going to give both you and them in this circumstance.

Switch to infrared and scan the trees for voktil, so you'll know if there's going to be trouble from them right away.

Strip your armor off before setting foot in the forest; No point in aggravating the voktil more. While you're at it, check that you didn't lose anything on the way up.

Tell Viln to drag his comrade directly to the neumono camp, unless doing so would get them attacked by the other voktil. In that case they should go through the caves to Point A and wait there for you to come.

Switch your empathic broadcast off, and run to the camp. Keep listening in on the radio for anything while on the way. Once you're within empathic range, hide and sense for a bit, then raise them on the radio. Say that you came out of the Point B cave, and tell them about the voklits, and that you need a pickup. That'll give you a read on how they react to that news. Then retreat out of empathic range, drop your block, and run back to meet up with Viln.
>>
No. 477425 ID: e3f578

>>477294
Ask him if there's a way to remove his shame. This is going to be a burden eventually and you may dishonor him to the point of him trying to kill you.
>>
No. 477429 ID: ec6d4c

>Ask Viln how the other voktil will react to him
>Ask him if there's a way to remove his shame.
How about we hold the complicated honor code explanations until we've gotten to our translator, who presumably understands voklit customs somewhat better than we do. Attempting to communicate all the intricacies of this stuff in pidgin English is a fool's errand coffee cake run.
>>
No. 477452 ID: 735f4f

Be careful about broadcasting on your radio. If the group was attacked and that is why the rope was cut then you might be letting the attackers know where you are.
>>
No. 477510 ID: b33427

>>477429
Knowing if the other voktil will attack Viln, Polo, or the entire group 'cause of this situation is vital. If they will, then Viln can't come near the camp 'cause of the dozens of voktil watching it.

>>477452
Except if the "winch group" had cut the cable, they would have yanked the "find your own way out" code on it before cutting it, which they didn't. So either someone betrayed you and cut it, or, more likely, it was somehow cut below the water line, near the tunnel entrance.
>>
No. 477604 ID: c4e5c2
File 135513848080.png - (29.82KB , 700x700 , 55.png )
477604

>Mind the life threatening injuries
I get in contact, keeping my armor on for just a moment so I can use its features. I switch to infrared one last time, and I do not see voklits in the trees around here. Nonetheless, between the speed difference of us and a team in a truck, along with tree Voklits likely sprouting up once I get closer to the camp, I call to get help here.

>"Polo?" it's Marra.
"Yeah. How are things?"
>"I'm the one who should be asking that." She hardly sounds surprised by my contact.
"I need some medical supplies for a voktil's torn throat. I'll explain later. Just get to cave entry B, quick."
>"Alright, sure."
"Who's available? I need Kort."
>"He'll come."

We cut contact for now.

"Viln. How do you remove your shame?"
>"You... make combat with me. I kill you, no shame. We fight?"
".... no. No fighting."
>"Vvvv." It is a consonant filled string of disappointment.
>>
No. 477608 ID: c4e5c2
File 135513867387.png - (25.28KB , 700x700 , 556.png )
477608

My teammates come quick enough. Everyone but Biles and Rokann, in fact. Marra heads over to tend to the wounded voklit. They are glad to see me, some more than others, but no one is dismayed that I am alive. I turn my empathy on by the time they get to me.

Katzati gives me a hug that makes me wish I kept my armor on.

"Geez, you made me worry!" she says. She picked me up like a stick. Maybe there is some muscle in there after all. Extremely well hidden muscle.

>"Hi." Lucera says. "We sent Biles in after you once we got another rope. You may have noticed, but the rope was cut.
"I did notice."
>"We watched the second rope underwater this time, and Biles was able to find your rope. He thought he found where you got out, but the ground didn't make tracks easy, so he left a note in case you came back, but that's moot now. He and Rokann figured this was as good a time as any to see if he couldn't find a connection from B to C, so they both went through this cave entry a few hours ago to find a path and see if you all crossed paths. I figure it didn't happen. Still, it's good you got out, and Biles and Rokann are well equipped, so they'll be fine. Apparently you got yourself a voklit in tow. Explain."
"I made the mistake of saving his life. He did show me the way out."

Kort sighs.
"And now he treats you like an owner?" Kort asks.
"Yes. How would the other voklits view him?"
"Badly, and they'll view us badly for taking pity on one of their warriors or hunters or whatever. As for the rope, it was almost certainly cut by a voklit, but I can't just go asking around. It was most likely a voklit acting on their own, and so without proof, the village'll be offended as hell if I just start insinuating that one of them would do that. I'm hoping this is an isolated incident and that we should just watch our backs. We'll have to think about what to do with this Voklit."
"I was hoping you'd know what to do with him."
"Not a damn clue! Looks like I should have said not to save their lives earlier, it's my fault. I'll talk with you two in a moment to clear some things, but first, Katzati?"
>>
No. 477609 ID: c4e5c2
File 135513868312.png - (38.08KB , 1000x900 , 57.png )
477609

She wanted to see my map data. She loads it in with a laptop.

"Nice." Katzati says. "Then again, we're going to be here longer than I thought. Rokann and Biles will make a lot of overlap, but that's good, I need some cross references to put it all together well. It'll look close to this, but this is just an estimate. Not good for now."
>"Wait a minute. Polo, where did you find your voklit buddy?" asks Lucera.
"Somewhere... way down here."
>"The borders do not dissipate underground. They are not supposed to be this far away. I suppose it's not a huge transgression."
>>
No. 477610 ID: f2c20c

If a Voklit cut it, what did they cut it with? Do they have primitive tools strong enough to cut high-strength cable? If not, then we're dealing with a Voklit that has TECH.
>>
No. 477613 ID: f7e643

>>477610

While I won't rule out the possibility, especially if the cable really wasn't made for heavy-duty actions and Voktil are surprisingly good at making primitive tools, it's still likely that one of the missing two is a traitor, or that there is a third, unseen faction at work here, perhaps the one the "Tech-Voktil" belongs to? And who do we know that enjoys combining homeworld species with modern tech, such as a Vernaut and Bioarmor?

Was the cut particularly clean? Or was it messy?
>>
No. 477625 ID: c33f8f

Now that we have our translator here, have him ask Viln about the other neumono he mentioned. The ones that he learned the language from. Were they some prior diplomatic group or something else?
>>
No. 477632 ID: ec6d4c

Huh. We certainly took the long way around, didn't we? The distance from our underwater entry to the pit would have been around a third of the length or so of the path we actually followed.

>tech to cut rope?
You don't need very advanced tech to cut rope if it's under tension, especially with muscles as large as theirs. Besides, the rope didn't look like it was made of steel or anything.

And the sabotage from angry voklit youth seems more likely than teammates trying to kill us.

>We'll have to think about what to do with this Voklit.
Well, for one thing, he could answer any questions we had that the other voklit were reluctant to answer- he's not exactly in a position to refuse.

What does Kort know about the ownership customs, anyways?

>Borders
They've probably been going down into these caves far longer than any formal borders have existed. Gives us an excuse if we need one, I suppose. But putting the borders exactly at the edge of the mountains seems unreasonable- like whoever drew the maps was setting the voklit up to fail.
>>
No. 477643 ID: c4e5c2
File 135515543715.png - (15.87KB , 700x700 , 58.png )
477643

>Was the cut clean or messy?
Messier than not. It was certainly no diamond precision cut.

"Do they have tools strong enough to cut high strength cable, Lucera?"
>"The cable is meant to withstand high tension, not high cutting, but neverthless, Marra has been testing its slicing resistance. The voktils are not high tech, but they are still able to create sharp edges and make up some lack of it with brute force."
"Alright. Sounds like the voklits have been going into these caves longer than formal borders have existed, and it's like whoever drew these borders were setting up the voklits to fail."
>"Yes? That is exactly how the rules were made. I don't normally care about little stuff like that, but I may use it to get more people down here if I need to. The option is open, now, at least."
"For now, I need to talk to Kort about the voklit who I named Viln."
>"Alright, but since the caves are far more complex than we thought, as luck would have it, we may want to speed up our progress. Would you mind spending most of your time in there? We can meet here every couple of days to give you and your voklits rations. It is a taller task than I intended to give anyone, so consider this a strong request more than a superior's orders. You may decline." While he talks, Marra and Korli, who also went over, think that Viln's buddy is going to live.
>>
No. 477646 ID: 440525

We might want to stay down there for the longer periods of time. Is your silence something you need to practice regularly to keep in practice or can you just leave it off for a very long time and be able to do it just as well after that time? You could practice it. It is also a good way to search for anomalies in the caves, there are plenty here to keep the above ground safe, so cave time would be more profitable for time.
>>
No. 477648 ID: 5b759d

Let's see if our slaves know anything about what a salaikai is.
>>
No. 477649 ID: c6ec33

Ask if Viln's self-imposed slavery will be removed if he saves *your* life. If you guys stick together long enough, that's probably bound to happen at some point.

Also, you might as well do detailed cave exploring. Going back in and trying to meet up with Biles and Rokann is now a top priority.

Tell Lucera about the different animals living in the cave, and ask if there's any information about other things that might live in there, too. Biles probably knows, but he's not with the party at the moment.

At least this time you can go back in properly equipped with better guns, rations and medical supplies. Take advantage of Viln's size and strength and use him to haul low-tech gear. Some kind of simple satchel or low-tech backpack for him would be good. Of course, get his approval before you start loading him up with stuff. Always treat him with respect.
>>
No. 477651 ID: ec6d4c

>>477646
Polo doesn't require practice, and can stay silent indefinitely, at no cost.

>Spending most of our time underground
Well, it has the advantage of not parading our two new 'recruits' above ground in front of the other voklit. Or our armor. And it's not like we haven't hung underground before, or have a problem getting on with the mission. So yeah, we'll do it. (Obviously, you're taking the gear you left behind with you this time).

Might want to hang near the entrance till Biles and Rokann get back.

If we're going to be underground for longer stretches of time, we should ask Katzati if it's possible to connect the mapper with our helmet. Being able to pull up the map (as we draw it!) on our hud would make things easier.

>use Kort to talk to Viln
First we should probably get Kort to explain how this honor-ownership thing is supposed to work, and if there's any other way out of it (we can't free him after having him provide a service equal or greater to saving his life? We can't trade or sell him back home?).

As for talking to Viln, we should try to see if he knows anything that might lead us to the Salikai (strange activity underground, more monsters suddenly showing up somewhere, etc) or any other questions the voklit might have been tight lipped about for Kort before. Also, explain the general premise of our mission- that we're hunting for a cowardly enemy who fights by proxy (monsters, prisoners, etc), and has fled and hidden from retribution underground.
>>
No. 477653 ID: c4e5c2
File 135516196361.png - (15.30KB , 700x700 , 59.png )
477653

"Yeah, I'm willing to go in for extended periods. This time with more gear. By the way, there some some odd creatures in the cave."
>"Excellent, and yes, Biles knew." Lucera says. "Once he saw the glowslugs, he knew what kind of cave it was. It is dense with life, and so there is generally not a shortage of food if the situation needs it."
"Was there a time he was going to get back at?"
>"If he didn't find you tonight, then he was going to come back tomorrow morning."

I move over to Kort, and we talk before getting in Viln's hearing range.

"He could answer any questions the other Voklits are reluctant to answer. He isn't in any position to refuse, right?"
"No, but he is in a position to commit suicide. If there is some deep dark secret he's holding, then he may consider that more important than his debt to you, and if he's as serious as anyone, his debt to you is more important than his life. It's tricky. You also can't just say that he's absolved of debt, that is like saying he is worthless. Also worse than death."
"Any other customs I should be aware of? Ways to get him out of debt?"
"Only normal way for him to get out of this is to either save your life, or for you two to fight. I guess we could try to put you in fake peril, but that would be difficult to come up with something clean. Otherwise, you'll be able to afford to sleep with both eyes shut. Voklits don't need nearly as much sleep as we do, and you can certainly trust him with your life. Frankly, he'll probably be looking for the slightest threat against you to attempt to save your life whether you like it or not. That goes for the other one, as well, since it feels like he's going to live."
"No way to trade or sell him back home or something?"
"That's only half a step above telling him to get lost, and I am not sure if anyone would want to buy a dishonored hunter. This sort of thing is why we don't usually bring even 8 people. Again, my fault for taking this sort of knowledge for granted. Just don't try to pry them for too much or treat them bad, and you'll have some friends for life." He is saying that in a lighthearted manner, but I am not laughing.
>>
No. 477654 ID: c4e5c2
File 135516204508.png - (18.40KB , 700x700 , 60.png )
477654

And finally, Kort and I head to Viln to have a chat.

"Please ask him about other neumono he has seen. He knows some of our words, but it's still hard to communicate with him."
".... he says he has listened to other inspectors come and go, and that he may someday have been the one to deal with us because of how much he has learned. He has interest in learning our language."
"And does he know about what a Salikai is?"
"He claims he has heard of them, but has never seen one."
"I would like to know if he is willing to carry some of my heavier loads that may involve technology."
"Vyes. I carry." Viln says, not requiring a translation for that one.
"Do the voklits despite people who send others to fight on their behalf?"
"Yeah, why?"
"I'd like to let him know that we, or at least I, am hunting for an enemy like that. If he knows about any unusual activity underground, I want to know."
"... he says that he has not seen any where he hunts, but he does not very deep. Safe to assume then that the caves go significantly deeper."

I will also see if Katzati has some way to put that software into my visor once I get my other gear and am ready to go back inside, if I have no further questions.
>>
No. 477661 ID: ec6d4c

>I guess we could try to put you in fake peril
Honestly, I doubt that will be necessary. If the Salikai are anywhere around here, they'll have plenty of opportunities to save your life.

We might want to set up a code or signal dropbox system of some kind? If something bad happens while you're underground between scheduled meets (like they're attacked, or forced to pull out, or something) they won't be able to contact you by radio, and they might not be able to send someone after you, or know where you are. You should have a system in place where they can leave a coded signal or message by the entrance. Or just a prearranged hiding place for a note or message if they need to leave one for you.

I can't think of any other questions, at the moment. Go ahead and gear up, and talk to Katzati.

>Biles and Rokann won't be back till nightfall
And it's only around midday? Okay, so we don't necessarily want to wait for them before heading back in. But you should stay within empathy range of the exit so you'll pick each other up when they return.

You'll want to talk to Biles for a bit, since he was familiar with this particular cave biome. Get the highlights on what we should be aware of. Things to be wary of, what's useful or eatable, etc.
>>
No. 477678 ID: c33f8f

Well if Viln is going to follow us and try to save our life should we equip him with something more potent than his spear, Or is he unwilling to use any of our weapons?

Also Polo totally looks like a ninja in that bioarmor. Can you pull off cartwheels, backflips or some other ninja moves? When no one is looking of course.
>>
No. 477680 ID: eb682d

We should consider camouflage again since we're going to be spending more time in the caves of purple. Now would be a good time to ask about it.
>>
No. 477681 ID: e3f578

This is a dangerous forest, you'll be attacked eventually by something big and gruesome, hell you could go on another moton egg hunt and actually bring something back this time maybe.
Does he at least have a nice ass in your opinion?

Ask Viln if he knows how to brofist. Then we can go in.
>>
No. 477686 ID: f2c20c

>>477654
We could ask how willing he is to use technology now that he's under our service. If not very, ask if there are any low-tech items he would like that he doesn't have. A comb, maybe? We could totally give him a bitchin' pompadour.
>>
No. 477694 ID: c4e5c2
File 135517853613.png - (9.10KB , 700x700 , 61.png )
477694

>Can you pull off cartwheels, backflips or some other ninja moves?
Can and won't.

"Chances are I'm going to get attacked by something or another, he can leap in front of me then. Kort, is he willing to use anything more potent than a spear?"
Viln pauses, and makes what sounds like a groan. "He is." Kort says, although there was clearly a lot of disdain for the idea lost in translation.
"I'd like to ask him how he gets camoflauge off of the slugs."
>"... he says there is a slug farm underground the voklits use. Without access, however, there is no trick. Get a couple of slugs, and run for your life, since most slug habitats have dangerous, numerous creatures that like the slugs for various reasons, and will protect them."
"Does he know how to brofist?"
>"What?"
"Nothing. What about simple tech?"
>"Just as long as it's something that could be made by a single person with a little ingenuity and necessity pre-alien landing, he should be willing."
>>
No. 477695 ID: c4e5c2
File 135517869936.png - (21.80KB , 700x700 , 62.png )
477695

I spend a couple hours in camp getting and checking all of my gear including rope, grappling hook and other gear for more length of time, including 5 days of rations for myself. The sun starts setting. I drive back while Katza.. Katz works on my visor to implement a software beta and Kort comes along just so she isn't alone on her way back, in light of recent rope cutting events. Viln is still waiting by the entrance with his still unnamed-by-me buddy.

"I think it'll work! It's in beta, so it's iffy, but it should work more or less smoothly. You can come back tomorrow to chat with Biles if you like, then every 2 days afterwards to give you rations."
"I was also thinking we should have a hidden spot or something like that, to drop each other messages in case we're unable to make it."
"Oh, yeah, good idea. There's probably a whole ton of good hiding spots just a bit inside the cave we could use. We'll do that."
>>
No. 477696 ID: c4e5c2
File 135517875295.png - (24.79KB , 700x700 , 63.png )
477696

And so we do. Once it's all done, there is not much time left to explore, but it doesn't hurt. The other voklit is awake and seems to be able to move decently, just so long as he doesn't move his neck much. Sort of like he's doing right now.

"What is his name?"
>"Vrrn." It sounds different the way he says it, yet my impulse to butcher their language into my own will end up sounding far too similar for my liking. "Is problem?"
>>
No. 477701 ID: f2c20c

>>477696
Vern. Viln and Vern.

Or you could ask for a more pronounceable nickname.
>>
No. 477708 ID: ec6d4c

>problem?
No... I just fear I'm a lot worse with your language than you are with mine. (Vern works).

>Willing, but clearly doesn't want, to use tech
Well, we won't ask them to unless we have to.

Biles and Rokann should be due back to this entrance soon, right? Should probably stay close enough to the entrance to bump into or sense them on their way out. As I said before, if you're going to be down here for a while, we probably want to see what the survialist expert has to say (what dangers to look out for, what to be cautious of, what you might want to eat...).

If they don't come back, you can go looking for them.

Silence off, for now, since we're more interested in making contact with allied neumono you know are around then hiding from predators / love bugs / science hivers that more than likely aren't nearby (if there are any, they'll be deeper).

>moving his neck when he shouldn't
Not to nag, but maybe we should ask him to watch out for that.
>>
No. 477709 ID: 522afb

>Can you pull off cartwheels, backflips or some other ninja moves?
>Can and won't.

Dammit Polo you'd better flip out and kill someone with your bear hands at some point at least to show that you're still the baddest ass that ever assed badly this side of Badassia, the main exports of which are the exact brand of bubble gum you are currently out of.
>>
No. 477714 ID: b33427

Tell Viln that you don't know how to properly say that name, so you're just going to call his compatriot "Vern," and to tell Vern. While you're at it, add that you often get into dangerous situations and trouble is attracted to you, so they should be prepared to react accordingly.

Continue down the tunnel to the first branch, then wait there for Biles and Rokaan. En route check that the mapping unit isn't bugging out in any obvious manner.

It's been awhile since you've slept, so take a nap once you get there. Set your helmet clock alarm to just before nightfall, and tell Viln and Vern to expect two fellow neumono to be coming and to wake you when they do. You'll rest between the two of them, so Biles and Rokann won't see you with two voktil hunters, be unable to sense you, and come to a bad conclusion.
>>
No. 477737 ID: c4e5c2
File 135519231253.png - (48.66KB , 700x700 , 64.png )
477737

"I'll call him Vern."
....
I point to Vern. "Vern. Don't speak. Don't turn your head."

Vern looks confused, and Viln translates for me, maybe even correctly. Biles and Rokann were going to come back tomorrow morning, and I keep my empathy on. Since it is already late today, I will wait for them anyways and make camp here. It is roomy enough considering how much Viln can carry. While there is plenty of battery left in both my light lantern and both backup flashlights, the glowslugs Viln has work fine.

"Viln, I am expecting two neumono friends."
>"Yes. Speak. I vant... to speak." Viln says, once camp is set up and we rest.
"About what?"
>"Language. Learn... the speak."
>>
No. 477739 ID: f2c20c

>>477737
Of course. Does he want to practice his pronunciation or learn new words? We can do both.
>>
No. 477741 ID: 45dcda

can't hurt for now, see if you can find out just how much he knows and at the same time see if you can help teach him some more basics to help smoothen out his pidgen for now, if possible use gestures & drawings
>>
No. 477742 ID: ec6d4c

Fair enough. Language lessons are a small price to pay for his help, and gives you something to do besides just wandering tunnels, looking for trouble. And it's not like having him understand you isn't useful (and might be useful in the future after he returns home and takes the role as a translator or diplomat for his people).

If you need a starting topic, I suggest just talking about yourselves. Who you are, and what you do, or are trained to do.

Wouldn't hurt if you could try and maybe pick up some basic vocabulary in his language, too. I don't expect you to master it, or even get as far as he has with english, but it might be nice to be able to get at least on a three-stripes level when you encounter other voklit.
>>
No. 477757 ID: b33427

Agree to teach Viln your language as best you can; Vern as well if he's willing, though he shouldn't talk for now. Ask that Viln teach you some basic words in his language as well.

Take your armor off for this, or at least your helmet. Having view of your facial expressions might help a little with conveying what you're teaching, and will put them a little more at ease. You got a radio set you can keep in your ear separate from the helmet?
>>
No. 477760 ID: 35037c

I agree with the consensus, we should teach him, not like there is much else to do.
>>
No. 477798 ID: 8b9215

Cue training montage.
>>
No. 477832 ID: c4e5c2
File 135526064680.png - (76.31KB , 700x700 , 65.png )
477832

>You got a radio set you can keep in your ear separate from the helmet?
No, but I can put the helmet on speaker in case I get a message.

"Alright." It is true. There is not much else to do whatsoever.

I start with basics. I am not used to being a teacher, let alone a language tutor. Nevertheless, Viln appears to be particularly enthusiastic despite a restrained output. Vern does not care to learn it, and appears to be having an inner monologue about his situation.

I attempt to learn some of their language as well, but just forming the words appears to be the main hurdle. Viln shows no signs of losing any patience, however. His vocabulary is not particularly bad, in actuality, but things like prepositions elude him.

>"No tech... take vatch for you?" Viln asks when we start going to bed.
"Not with us."
>"I take vatch."
"I will take watch."
>"I vill take vatch."
"Thanks."
>>
No. 477843 ID: c4e5c2
File 135526215612.png - (86.50KB , 700x700 , 66.png )
477843

As was planned, Biles and Rokann show up the next morning, a time which I can only judge through my clocks.

>"Heyy, how are you and why are there two voklits?" Biles asks. I catch the two of them up on current events.
"I am going to be practically living in this cave for awhile. Is there anything I need to watch out for?"
>"Glowslugs almost always have protectors, but just keep your wits about and a gun ready. They're the easiest food, they taste pretty sweet. Nothing in here is all that poisonous. Maybe an upset stomach for the more exotic things, but nothing bad and you can cook things to negate that. It's a real easy area for us to live in as long as you know the basics of survival and have a loaded gun.
>>
No. 477844 ID: ec6d4c

>Viln appears to be particularly enthusiastic
Well, you certainly understand the drive to learn how to do something, and excel at it.

>They're back!
Sorry to send you guys on a wild goose chase looking for me. Anything of note happen on your search?
>>
No. 477879 ID: f2c20c

>>477843
Alright. Let's get moving then. Inform them of where you've been so we can start filling in all the gaps.
>>
No. 477880 ID: 112a7b

It might be a good idea to check out Vern's wounds in case he upset them in the night.
>>
No. 477921 ID: b33427

Work out when and where you're going to make contact next, so they can let the rest know, and where any drop will be if they can't make it. If possible, get their mapper and plug it into your helmet or your mapper, whichever works, and download their map data. Ask them if they saw anything of interest that wouldn't show on the map while they were out.

When you get a moment, ask Viln how Vern is doing. With the situation he's in, it's not an outside possibility that he might do something as drastic as taking his own life.

>"Real easy if you have a loaded gun"
Okay, so what if you don't have a loaded gun, or can't use it for some reason? What's your options then?

>>477880
Good idea. His bandages might also need changing by now as well.
>>
No. 477941 ID: 45dcda

>>477921
relating to one of your points.
see if we can get Viln to show us how to make say spears or knives on the fly/rush with materials commonly found underground & maybe keep one on us as back up if we run out of munitions
>>
No. 477957 ID: c4e5c2
File 135527999763.png - (21.24KB , 700x700 , 67.png )
477957

"Anything interesting happen on your watch?"
>"Nope. Ran into a couple voklit hunting parties, but we ignored each other." continues Biles.
"I am only staying here to let you know I am alright. I will be going deeper in, now. But in regards to guns. What if I do not have access to a loaded gun?"
>"And you're getting chased by some big creature? Then run, or hide behind those two guys. Just about everything in here is slower than they look."
"Right."
I get Biles and Rokann to input their current data to my helmet, so I can coordinate our routes better. I also explain the logistics of the way Katzati and Lucera wants to have a dropoff for me every 2 days.
>"Cool. I'm heading out to show Katzati our progress and sit on a real chair. Till then, see ya."
>"Goodbye Biles, Rokann."

With that, I start fulfilling my job. It is extraordinarily mundane with Katzati's trackers. Viln and Vern cooked the bug and are carrying it along with many other supplies, so we do not even need to hunt. Ultimately, although things are still stuffy between us, teaching Viln makes the time pass significantly faster.

I make sure, through Viln, that Vern is doing alright mentally, and change his bandages as well some time through.
>>
No. 477959 ID: c4e5c2
File 135528002276.png - (25.28KB , 700x700 , 68.png )
477959

In 2 days, I arrive at the preordained time. Biles and Rokann do similar jobs, and we all meet back at the same time. Katzati seems especially pleased by how much progress we are making, although the depth of the caves was shown to be as underestimated as expected, so we will not be done anytime soon.

We spend a couple hours in camp just for sake of relaxing. Viln and Vern still stick by the entrance of the cave. They say it is their home, and will never get tired of it, and so I allow them to stay there.
>>
No. 477960 ID: c4e5c2
File 135528004078.png - (120.81KB , 700x700 , 69.png )
477960

We all restock on supplies and drive it back to the cave entrance, Viln and Vern pick them up, and we head off, this time in a different direction from Biles and Rokann, who will also spend 2 days in the caves. Things are repetitive, but progressing. Viln is learning steadily. I do not know if he just has a good knack for language, or if it's just that we spend just about every single waking hour practicing. I have a small grasp on a few words in their language. It is not even at Three Stripes level.

>"Cavemouth." I say, trying to say the entrance to the cave.

It gets some noise out of Vern. It's not till I notice his smile I realize it was a laugh.

>"You say- you said 'bird vomit.'"

I do not have the patience that he does. When he pronounces the two words again, they sound absolutely identical. Nevertheless, his laugh was a small gesture that meant he is far more comfortable with his situation, and me, than at the beginning. This does mean a lot. I would rather have two monsterous friends keep on watch than two monsterous individuals accidentally pushed under my thumb. Although, Vern does not appear to be as comfortable, but he is in better spirits since his throat is almost healed completely. Voklit regeneration is comparable to our own.

It is during this stretch as well that I ask Viln to teach me how to make mundane objects. He appears genuinely pleased to teach me that, although he also looks at me as though I have some kind of ulterior motive in light of my usual use of tech. He does not confront me about it, and I do not try to push it out of him.
>>
No. 477961 ID: c4e5c2
File 135528007836.png - (17.52KB , 700x700 , 70.png )
477961

After another two days, I come back to the drop and meet zone. No one is here at all. There is paper note for me.

To Polo/Biles/Rokann. While Katzati and Korli were making rounds to make sure that our overground maps were accurate, they were ambushed by around 8 voklits. They are unharmed, but they took just about everything of value aside from the truck. We are all going to stick together from now on, while pushing an investigation into the voklit camp about this matter, tension or not. To who is reading this, please either leave the note in place, or preferably, pass this on to the other individuals of whom this letter is addressed. On the back are directions to a ration depot under some rocks. Take what you need.

Neither Biles nor Rokann are around.
>>
No. 477963 ID: f2c20c

>>477961
Leave the note in place but leave a sign that you read it. Just a checkmark above your name should work.

Then stealthily make your way to the ration depot. Could be a trap, maybe.
>>
No. 477964 ID: 7ea3a9

Leave the note. Return to base. Ask Viln if he would know anything about volkit stealing stuff they don't even use.

I suspect we will be busting some cAPS IN ASSES PRETTY SOON.
>>
No. 477965 ID: ec6d4c

Hmm. The situation is deteriorating, that's too bad.

Is there a date or time on the note? Do you know how long ago this happened?

Replace the note, consult with Viln. Get his take on this- he might have insight into what his people are doing, or what this kind of action might mean (is this a gear up? Testing the waters for a larger strike? Just showing that they won't be pushed around? Voklit youth showing off?).

After that, see if you can radio back to base, and see if things have worsened since they left the note. If no one answers, we may have to leave the cave system to investigate.

Before we move on (either returning to the caves, or investigating the camp) we should check how much there is in the ration cache, and decide how much to take.
>>
No. 477976 ID: c4e5c2
File 135528255055.png - (16.93KB , 700x700 , 71.png )
477976

This note was written earlier this morning. It is currently evening. I make a check above my name to imply I got the note, and put it back.

The ration depot is a decent walk away. It is still in the cave, but deeper inside, and ends up being behind a thin rock plate propped up as though it were a fully rounded boulder in the wall. A nice hiding spot, and with some care, it does not appear to be a trap. There are three packages inside. Each has rations of varying amounts total, but spread to be 2 days evenly for myself, Biles and Rokann, and marked as such.

"Viln. Do Voklits steal anything they would not use?"
>"Would no... not? No steal anything, ever. No Voklit worth the dirt they walk on would."

I move back to an opening to radio in.

>"Marra speaking. Polo?"
"Yes. I got the note. Is the situation the same?"
>"Yeah. Been here all day, and probably gonna be here all night. Katzati and Korli are trying to identify the voklits, but we're not holding much hope for that. All they need to do is trim their hair a bit to look different, and they might not even live in the village. Hold on."
There's a small amount of background chatter before Marra continues.
>"Lucera says he may pull down some additional people, but Katzati did have backups, so we didn't lose a thing, plus what you've got. The way he sees it is that the faster he does his inspections and everyone else maps the caves, the faster we can get on out of here and be done with it, so he says you can just keep on mapping, and we'll meet in a couple days again."
>>
No. 477977 ID: beeca1

Ask him if he knows of any Voklits who aren't worth the dirt they walk on.
>>
No. 477979 ID: f2c20c

>>477976
Ask if they took any tech items. Also tell them that Viln has informed us that Voklits that steal at all are not real Voklits. It's very very likely that the Salikai is here and has Voklits working for him to hide the fact that we're being sabotaged.

Also inform them that the other two are missing, and at this point we should presume they are captured or killed. Ask permission to search for them, and about where they were exploring today.
>>
No. 477981 ID: e3f578

>>477976
What if the voklits were saved like Viln and Vern was? Would they steal then, or would they refuse their saviors? You're not going to ask them to steal anything, just need to know how the lifedebt works.
It's either that or these Voklits have been mentally conditioned to have no shame or honor. Which I hope not, because then that actually might mean the Salikai's behind it because that's kind of their whole deal, making psychological experiments of species to act against their nature.

I find it weird Korli and Katzati are alive. But I think that might just be me being paranoid. If Voklits were to steal, how likely would they be to leave their victims alive?
>>
No. 477985 ID: beeca1

>>477981
They seem to value their honor more than their lives, although it's possible that there are exceptions- the two have reacted differently, after all- or that once they've already lost their honor by being saved they don't care anymore. Though the latter sounds unlikely.
>>
No. 477995 ID: ec6d4c

Well, not steal, maybe. The point here might be more to deprive us of stuff than to take it for themself.

If our people aren't hurt, and we've been resupplied, there's no pressing need for us to take action. Best we can do for now is do as Marra said, and keep mapping.
>>
No. 478001 ID: 886a4d

Ask if they got any pictures \ video log of the thieves. I bet Vern \ Viln will be able to tell us if they came from the village or not.
>>
No. 478002 ID: c4e5c2
File 135528514283.png - (20.45KB , 700x700 , 72.png )
478002

"And they took every bit of tech on the truck?"
>"Yes. Probably would've taken the truck too, but they didn't want to carry it and leave an obvious trail."
"Viln says Voklits that steal aren't considered real voklit."
>"Kort said as much. If we had some proof that they did it, they wouldn't harbor the thieves for a second longer, but it's not like Katz was videotaping their encounter. Hell, even if it was, the damn lugs wouldn't accept proof of video tapes.
"Biles and Rokann also are not here. I am tempted to assume the worst."
>"Well, it's what, 3 minutes since the scheduled time? Start getting concerned in 20 minutes."

I turn to Viln.
"Do you know of any Voklit who aren't worth the dirt they walk on?"
"No."
"I have to know. If there were other voklits like you, in life debt, who were asked to steal, would they decline?"
".... it would be done. It would not be nice, but it would be done."
"You get that, Marra?" More background chatter.
>"Yeah, but Kort thought the same possibility. That doesn't really help us a whole lot as it turns out. It's not like we've got tabs on life debted voklits."
"I want to search for Biles and Rokann if they don't show up. I'd like to get Katz to tell me where they were exploring."
The phone is passed to Katzati.
>"Hey." She proceeds to tell me as best she can, although it is difficult to say, given how windy the tunnels are.
"I am somewhat surprised, but pleased, that you and Korli are alive."
>"Haha, I was kind of worried since they kind of pushed us around and took anything we were carrying, but we're fine. Think of it this way. If they were dumb enough to kill us or even just hurt us, Lucera would have good reason to bring a whole platoon down here. Our stuff might not be safe, but we are."
"I am worried that the Salikai are involved, in which case, we are not."
>"It's a little early to be concerned about global fugitives being right under our feet just because a few things were stolen, isn't it?"
"... no. No, it is not, nor is it ever, too early for that."
>A bit more background discussion occurs. "... Lucera says you've got permission to search for Biles, but don't just run around the same tunnels all day trying to find him."
>>
No. 478006 ID: f2c20c

>>478002
Ask Viln how often hunters die, and if hunting-related deaths have declined recently. I suspect that the Salikai has been saving lives and then having them act as sleeper agents.

If Kort can, he could ask about hunting-related deaths on the surface, and declines of such. Or maybe not, since that could tip off the Salikai that we know what he's doing.

Wait. Polo, why aren't you camouflaged yet? Get on that! Or ask one of your buddies to get a couple slugs if they're confident they can do so with little risk. They might have more familiarity with the process. If not, we may do so, and just shoot the things that follow if we can't easily outrun them. Spending a bit of ammo on that should be worth it.
>>
No. 478015 ID: ec6d4c

Hmm. Alright. Let's give Biles and Rokann those 20 minutes before we overreact to their being overdue. Then we go looking for them. Remember to keep empathy on so you can pick each other up (easier to get in empathy distance than line of sight).

Security conscious time: communications gear was among the stuff we had stolen, right? That means whoever has it now has access to our comms. We need to switch over to a new channel, different security encoding protocol, etc. Cut the old stuff out of the loop.

>if hunting-related deaths have declined recently
Hmm. Not a bad point. If they've gone up recently that would be significant too- could be Salikai monsters killing them, or Salikai keeping their enslaved voklit close instead of using them as sleepers (although, would that even be possible? I don't think their honor would allow them to hide their shame).

>why aren't you camouflaged yet?
Because we haven't felt like fighting or running from the slug guardians needlessly. And right now, we've got more pressing priorities.

>>477960
Forgot to mention it before, but I love the rare little moments where we get to see genuine happiness on Polo's face. =D

>teach me how to make mundane objects
Well, that'll be useful the next time you're cut off somewhere. Certainly something that comes up for an infiltrator...
>>
No. 478016 ID: 471767

Does anyone else feel their Blood boiling with the Hunt?

Also, the stolen stuff, any radios or radio equipment? Assuming the worse is always the best course of action, and that means someone has the radio frequencies we were using. Correct that immediately.
>>
No. 478019 ID: 35037c

I know we aren't supposed to have the really advanced tech here. But wouldn't is just be way easier to use tiny, silent self piloting, silent helicopters to just hover around mapping the caves? I'm pretty sure those exist in your universe, and if not those cartographer orbs like on Prometheus, those were cool too.
>>
No. 478022 ID: ec6d4c

>>478019
Drones have drawbacks. They require maintenance, refueling (and they can't just hunt for food like living operators), communication through all this rock is difficult (unless you want to fit each one with an AI instead of remote piloting), and they could be hacked by the Salikai (who have nano-bots and a CAI at their disposal).

Plus, the neumono as a whole seem generally more setup to rely on manpower.
>>
No. 478025 ID: c4e5c2
File 135528880558.png - (17.41KB , 700x700 , 73.png )
478025

>Wouldn't tiny, silent self piloting, silent helicopters be easier for this?
It would be, but something about breaching contract with Voklit tech permissions. I assume the AI would not have to be that high for such menial tasks either, as high level AI is highly controlled these days, so I expect it is purely reservation law. That, and if they were trying to uproot salikai hideouts, then the salikai could likely capture and falsify data on them while disconnected from the outside world.

>Keep empathy on so you can pick each other up
I have kept mine off, but this does not stop me from picking up others, so it is not a hindrance. I will simply put it back on if I sense Biles or Rokann again. Or any of my teammates for that matter.

"Viln, how often do hunters die?"
"Many."
"Has it changed in recent months?"
"Don't think it changed."

I flip my radio on again to talk to Katzati. Viln looks weird at me again, as he always does when I speak into my radio.
"Alright, secondly, did they steal any radios or radio equipment? If so, we should change our frequencies."
>"... I'll bring that up, good point! I'll get you updated on that when we see each other in person again, since you wouldn't be able to use it awhile deep inside anyway." Katzati explains.
"Have there been any changes in Voklit hunting deaths? If this has gone up or down recently, it could be significant. If down, then there may be life debted voklits for sure."
>"Hm... I'll tell Lucera and Kort to ask for that, we're grasping at straws, so we'll ask for that even if there's not a good chance it'll yield much. Anyway... is the usual time fine again for us meeting?"
>>
No. 478026 ID: f2c20c

>>478025
Why don't we meet again sooner than the usual time, if we can't find Biles?
>>
No. 478029 ID: ec6d4c

>>478026
Yeah. If everything's fine, we'll send them back to the surface for a late checkin, and we'll stay down until we see you at the usual time. If we can't find them or we find something's wrong, we'll be back sooner.

Don't forget to take your portion of the stashed rations before you move on.
>>
No. 478032 ID: b33427

Say you'll come up and make contact earlier if you can't find Biles or Rokann. Also ask Katzati if she had anything important other than map data on her stolen laptop, and to ask Korli to go over what was taken and think if any of it would be useful to a hypothetical salikai hiding here.

Take your part of the ration stash and leave a timestamped note that you were here, and that you're going to where they were going to map if they don't show in twenty minutes.

While you're waiting the twenty minutes for Biles and Rokann to show, fill Viln in on what happened with Katzati and Korli. Don't forget to mention that there were eight voklits, and ask if there could possibly be that many around here that would do such a thing. Also tell him about your tether rope being cut shortly before you saved his life. Oh, and tell him in simple terms what you're doing when you sound like you're talking to yourself, so he doesn't give you odd looks when you talk on the radio.

If Biles and Rokann don't show, get a move on to their designated mapping area. Go slow once you get there to check for signs of their passage. Have Viln and Vern help you, since they're experienced trackers. If you can, "click" your radio every few minutes to see if you can get them to respond.
>>
No. 478093 ID: 440525

>>478032
I like this plan.
>>
No. 478114 ID: c4e5c2
File 135533352806.png - (16.16KB , 700x700 , 74.png )
478114

"Alright, but I will come back up early and make my way to camp if I find Biles and Rokann early. Did you have anything else stolen, Katzati?"
>"Everything. They took some supplies from the truck, but nothing we don't have replacements for. And I had a necklace, it was valuable but not a necessity. Oh, my wallet, too, but it's not like I had a bank down my pants. It didn't seem like they were after anything in particular, they just took everything but the truck and us."
"Please ask Korli if it was anything the salikai could use."
>"... she says that there was nothing the salikai wouldn't already have plenty of, or at least they would have enough of to avoid resorting to petty thievery."
"Alright, that is all, thank you."
>"Be careful."

I wait some more time, but Biles and Rokann don't show. I get the ration package and leave a note with the current time, before heading down in the direction Katzati said.
>>
No. 478117 ID: c4e5c2
File 135533364453.png - (63.65KB , 700x700 , 75.png )
478117

"Viln, are you able to track down here for Biles and Rokann?"
>"Two neumono of before? No track, but might the find scent if close by."
".... 'but I might find the scent, if we're close by." I do not know if I will get used to correcting everything he says, even if it is for teaching him.

I am getting lazy, but I ride on his back while I work on combing his mane. I do not want to be in charge of something that does not have basic hygiene, and this has probably never been combed in his life. I half expect that tangled, messy manes are a point of voklit pride, and that he is silently allowing me to ruin his life with straight hair. Vern is just as bad, but I will get to him later. He still needs space.

During this time, I ask about camoflauge, and we simply use the glowslugs Viln has been carrying around to camoflauge me, and feed some of our water to it so that it does not dehydrate. I waited this long as it is only now that I suspect I may require camoflauge.

>"I smell. Two neumono of before, and blood." Viln says, helping my suspicions. I ping my radio to them, but there's no response, although it is highly probable that we simply aren't in our short radio range.
>>
No. 478119 ID: c6ec33

>>478117
Have them put you down and go first, in case it's other Voklit - they might not attack on sight.

I would say prep your shotgun, but explosive shots going off inside a natural cave may not be the best idea, especially if they hit any structural formations.

So, for now, prep the sniper rifle with normal ammo, unless it's too unwieldy.

Is there any way you can track them / see blood with your visor?
>>
No. 478120 ID: ec6d4c

>Riding the voklit to comb their messy hair
...that is awfully cute. Polo, I think you're getting attached to these guys.

>Not in radio range
Wouldn't the range of your empathy be greater than your radio anyways, underground? One of them isn't blocked by rock.

Blood means trouble. Dismount, grab your rifle, and let's follow the trail.

If possible, let's try to be sneaky here, in case we have to ambush whatever hit them, or if we discover something you can't afford to engage (say... a whole squad of Salikai monsters). If possible, take point ahead of the voklit- you're smaller, quieter, and can get by without an external light source. Better for sneaking. If you need them with you to follow the scent (or their pride doesn't let them back off), at least dim or cover their lights.
>>
No. 478124 ID: 8b9215

Prep weapons, get there quickly.
>>
No. 478128 ID: c4e5c2
File 135533688352.png - (48.08KB , 700x700 , 76.png )
478128

>I think you're getting attached to these guys.
It is too easy, when I spend days at a time with only them as company.

>Wouldn't the range of your empathy be greater than your radio anyways, underground? One of them isn't blocked by rock.
Correct, but I do not want to miss the tiniest chance that there is an exception here.

"I will move on ahead. Follow me at a distance, you two."

I bring out my sniper rifle with normal ammo, with the pistol at my side. I do not have trouble finding them, as their light source is still on, and their empathy hits me soon after.
>>
No. 478129 ID: c4e5c2
File 135533689464.png - (130.95KB , 700x700 , 77.png )
478129

"Hi."
>"Hey, Polo." Biles says.
"Hey." adds Rokann.
"You two did not show up in time. Are you both alright."
>"Yep. We were navigating some rocks around a splashy river, and there was almost no friction. Rokann slipped a bit, and got a nasty gash on her leg. I rappelled down to go get her, but managed to get another nasty gash. Sharp rocks were damn well everywhere in there, but we got a good mapping, so we can kiss that area goodbye. Anyway, we got a bit of a limp, so we weren't able to make the meeting time, sorry for the concern." Biles explains. "Kinda embarrassing actually."
>>
No. 478131 ID: c6ec33

You know, you may be a bit paranoid right now. But then again, if you stop being paranoid, that's when the Salikai will get you...

Input their map data to your helmet while reporting the current situation above to them. See what their thoughts are.
>>
No. 478132 ID: ec6d4c

>>478128
>>478129
Your purple disappeared.

>>478129
Glad you're alright, then. False alarm.

Fill them in on recent events. Possibly offer them a voklit ride back to the surface if their injuries are causing them trouble, and if it wouldn't be a huge imposition or insult to your buddies.
>>
No. 478146 ID: 2cbc3c

Is it possible they both have wounds on their legs because they've both had something implanted there?
>>
No. 478152 ID: c4e5c2
File 135534069214.png - (14.56KB , 700x700 , 78.png )
478152

Polo's purple was not supposed to disappear.

"Glad you're alright. False alarm." I say, before continuing the explanation of Korli's and Katzati's run in.
>"Huh. You're kinda paranoid, but better on that side than the naive."
"The moment I take down my paranoia is a moment inviting disaster." I say, taking off my helmet to share the data and trying to not make a slimy mess of my face while I'm at it."

"Viln and Vern, would you mind carrying them back up to the surface since their legs are hurt?"
I was afraid they would mind, but they seem pleased to show off their species muscle hypertrophy.

".... and I am still paranoid. Did anything get into your legs after they were cut?"
>"Huh?" Biles says. "No, it's not like we were knocked out or something. I guess it sorta happened in a daze, but we didn't get much sleep last night with having to take watch between the two of us and all, but we would've noticed if something crawled up in there. You sure you don't want to relax at camp for a night or something, rather than hanging out in these dank caves for what's approaching a full week?"
>>
No. 478153 ID: 6dc5a6

>>478146

Is there anything off about their empathy?
>>
No. 478157 ID: c33f8f

Hmm we could impress them by being hardcore and staying in the caves, and if we keep coming to the surface it will take ages before we get really deep into the cave system.

But then again some off time would probably do us good, we are starting to sound a bit too paranoid. They are all out to get you Polo.
>>
No. 478158 ID: e3f578

>>478152
No, we're good. Can't be afraid of getting a little grimy in front of these cool dudes. And if we start in here at dawn, we can start mapping faster. We should only rest outside if Vern and Viln want to rest outside.
If you happen to have to split up again, remember to fist bump the naturally green camo neumono.
>>
No. 478159 ID: 8b9215

"My paranoia has saved me more than once. And I've seen shit you would not believe."

A break would be nice. Consider it.
>>
No. 478160 ID: ec6d4c

>paranoid
We're hunting an enemy with nigh undetectable surveillance, monsters, a CAI, mind control drones, and mass hallucination drugs. A certain degree of paranoia is necessary, here.

Hmm. The Salikai would have had to have drastically improved the love-bugs in just a few months for these two to be compromised but still give off normal empathy readings and fake normal interactions. Or have improved the hallucinogenic drugs to allow for an easier application of a false memory. Although I suppose it's possible, if the data from their test runs against the warhive was good enough (they were talking about that on that radio call you intercepted...). You could check to see if their map data supports their story, but if they were compromised, the data could have been hacked.

If they were compromised, this might be an attempt at misdirection. Use the bugs or a controlled hallucination to give them a false memory- convince them they found a dead end. Then hack the map, send em back, and poof! The Salikai have avoided your search.

I suggest you double back here later- see if it really is an impassible dead end.

>get out of these dank caves
Hmm. Weighing on you already, Mr. Survivalist? (teasing).

We really don't need to, and you'd kind of like to keep making progress. (Plus, if they were compromised, this may be an attempt to get you all in one place at once).
>>
No. 478181 ID: c4e5c2
File 135534479258.png - (24.80KB , 700x700 , 79.png )
478181

>Is there anything off about their empathy?
No.

I was caves and a hostile facility for weeks on end. I do not believe I have been mentally scarred to the point of only lasting a few days in another cave before I start losing it. I will continue onwards.

"How far away is this location? I may want to double check."
>"Don't trust Katzati's tools?"
"I do not trust much about this. The salikai have a CAI, mind control drons, and mass hallucination drugs. I will happily be paranoid."
>"Alright, I'll show you the way, don't go telling spooky ghost stories even if they're true. We're not far from the surface anyway, so we'll have a place to sit."

Once we get back up to the cave entrance, he brings out a small laptop that Katzati also used to give Biles the ability to see the map as it is generated.

>"Hm. I can't say I remember going down this corridor, but it looks like a small one without any distinguishing shape. I could have forgotten about it, but I didn't lose that much sleep. Gotta admit that I'm not too comfy with 'forgetting' even a single passage consider I've mapped out everything else in my head pretty well. You remember it, Rokann?"
".... no."

Judging from his path, it would take almost an entire day to get down there. It is no wonder that they might be late even if they didn't have a small limp.
>>
No. 478182 ID: 8b9215

Ah fucking hell.

"That's not normal. We should double check it."
>>
No. 478184 ID: ec6d4c

Alright. We'll check it out. They can stay here, and rest up a bit. Hopefully get in contact with the others too.

At least a days travel? If we don't come back in a two days and a little? Assume the worst.

If the Salikai are using their drugs to mask the entrance, it's a good thing you have your voklit friends along. They should hopefully be unaffected. You should warn them what might happen, and that they might need to take action if you start seeing things that aren't there (or missing things that are).
>>
No. 478187 ID: a68856

Sounds like something we should follow up on. However, we risk losing the element of surprise if we rush in... assuming the Salikai aren't already prepping to evacuate based on the presence of search parties.

Odds are that if the salikai are here, radio comms are compromised. We should have them pass messages physically and get a plan in motion.
>>
No. 478188 ID: a68856

Sounds like something we should follow up on. However, we risk losing the element of surprise if we rush in... assuming the Salikai aren't already prepping to evacuate based on the presence of search parties.

Odds are that if the salikai are here, radio comms are compromised. We should have them pass messages physically and get a plan in motion.
>>
No. 478191 ID: c4e5c2
File 135534756439.png - (21.30KB , 700x700 , 80.png )
478191

"That's not normal. We should double check it." There's a bit of a pause, as they think.
>"Yeah, we should, but we do have a limp, and it's not like our surface group is going smooth. I think Rokann and I might take a day and night to heal up, then we'll head down, unless you want to go yourself right now."
"Yes. I will go and head down. If I am not back in 2 days and perhaps a couple of hours, then assume the worst for me."
>"Ha, we'll try."
"Oh. And if the salikai are here, our radio comms are as good as hijacked. Attempt to pass messages physically."
>"Alright, we'll try to keep that in mind and set it up accordingly."

>Mass hallucination gas
To be safe, I will make my suit airtight to prevent any hallucinogens to get through, once I approach the point of interest.
>>
No. 478192 ID: c4e5c2
File 135534759372.png - (94.97KB , 700x700 , 81.png )
478192

I go straight down the path, only marginally filling out details in side paths on the way down.

>"Viln. I may see things that are not there, or miss thing that are there. If this is the case, please pull me away and drag me up."
"What do you mean?"
>"Am I not understood?"
"I do not understand why you would... mirage..."
>"Hallucinate."
"I do not understand why you would hallucinate."
>"My enemies use technology for such things."
"Would it not be better without technology, if it is used for such things?"
>"It is too late for that. All we would do by giving up technology, even if we wanted to, is to allow our enemies to have superior weapons."

Viln looks down. It depresses him, but he sees my point, given the state of his tribe.

After a day of more language teaching, I make it down to the passage. A river does flow through her, along with many slugs. The unremembered, but explored, tunnel lies ahead past the river, where many rocks just under the water make it harder to traverse.
>>
No. 478193 ID: 8b9215

Shit, I was going to say that they need those wounds inspected closely. Both of them not remembering it and both of them getting serious cuts on their legs. Red flags ahoy.

Airtight and give it a super thorough lookover. Have your buddies stay back.
>>
No. 478194 ID: ec6d4c

Polo's still not purple. :V

Alright. We need a way to get across without injuring ourself in a river crossing like our companions did.

Could we use the grapple to set a line up above and across the river, and just scale across that way? Hmm. Actually, while you might be small and agile enough to do that, but the voklit are probably too big for any cable we're carrying. They could walk across and use the cable as a guide or handrail, although that was what Biles was doing when he was injured...

Tricky. Anyone got a better solution?
>>
No. 478195 ID: 45dcda

any thinner areas of the river up or down stream that could be more easily traversed?
>>
No. 478198 ID: 6cc859

>>478194
I know! We could wear some kind of hard outer armor! Wait a moment...

Of course, the Voklit might still need help, but they might not--this is their home, after all. Ask how they feel about safely crossing.
>>
No. 478218 ID: f2c20c

>>478192
Check the surroundings with your visor modes first.

Then carefully examine the rocks. We're looking for any unusual substances.
>>
No. 478240 ID: b33427

Check the surroundings with all your visor's vision modes, while asking Viln how he and Vern would go about getting to the other side of this river without getting sliced up by the rocks. And as long as you're here, may as well fill your water containers before continuing.

The best course of action might be to head further downstream, to there the current isn't as strong, and then you use your watertight armor to walk along the bottom. Tie a rope around yourself, the other end tied around a solid object on the riverbank, and Viln and Vern holding the rope taut. You cross, tie the rope off on the other side, then the two voklits hold on to it to cross.

>>478198
While the armor would take the hit, it might lose it's airtight seal from the damage. Best not plan to use it that way.
>>
No. 478248 ID: 04b86a

>I can't say I remember going down this corridor
>>/questarch/396564
>A squad of three goes missing for 6 hours, and they end up where they started, with no memory of those six hours. No idea of all the intelligence they gave. A bomb technician goes missing for 10 hours, but returns appearing in perfect health, body and mind. Until 80 hours later on the dot, a stockade of bombs 'accidentally' goes off.
I think we might have a problem.
>>
No. 478251 ID: ec6d4c

>>478248
Oh, yes, predators. Yet another avenue of mind control (as if the bugs and gas weren't bad enough). Possibly a problem, if they held on to four stripes, and properly trained him. Luckily you can hide from them, and Viln and Vern should be immune.

Not much we can do about the possibility of Biles or Rokaan being programmed to act as a sleeper right now, though. We already spent most of a day getting here, we should investigate before heading back.
>>
No. 478293 ID: f2c20c

>>478248
Oh shit. We'd better go silent immediately.
>>
No. 478296 ID: ec6d4c

>>478293
Don't worry, we already are. Polo's defaulting to silence except when she senses a friendly come into range.
>>
No. 478304 ID: b6edd6

>>478248
This also means that the salaki would know from the soldiers that Polo the ghost is here and wearing airtight armor (though they would not know about our muscular friends that way).
>>
No. 478329 ID: e3f578
 

>>478248
oh my god
Our shit was stolen, which probably includes the jammers. No jammers, no predator defense. No predator defense, NO TRUE QUARANTINE IS POSSIBLE!
nononononononono
it's too late, if your friends aren't dead already then something worse has happened to them.
>>
No. 478433 ID: 37aa84

>>478329
when did anyone even mention us having jammers to be stolen, it never came up as a supply we were carrying. We certainly have not been using them and they would be a terrible defense for the saliki since there are no neumono down here a jammer field, which neumono have been shown to be able to sense, would set off way too many red flags, and if they were planning to use it to sneak up on us with predators again we would detect the field and know something was up so I can't think of any reason the saliki would want a jammer.

Continue to remain cautious but there isn't any reason to panic just yet.
>>
No. 478436 ID: ec6d4c

>>478433
Additionally, our comrades told us they had backups of everything that was stolen, and were going to be reinforced / resupplied. So we didn't really lose anything (except the security of our data and comms).

It's unlikely the Salikai would just wipe out our allies, in any event, via predator attack or otherwise. That would give away their location (unless they effectively pinned the killing on the voklit, but that would still bring unwanted attention to the valley they're hiding under. They don't want that). If the salikai are here, their best play is to hide, and/or trick us into believing they aren't here.

Not that they won't try and kill us if they can, need to, and/or we piss them off, but it's very unlikely to be their first play.

Kinda crossing the line from useful paranoia to fear, anyways. Even if our allies are in trouble, they're a day's travel away, now. Nothing we can do until we check out this tunnel and head back.
>>
No. 478451 ID: c4e5c2
File 135541656435.png - (46.10KB , 700x700 , 82.png )
478451

"Can you two traverse the river?"
>"No effort." Viln says.

They are so heavy that even the rapid currents are not a great concern for them. They carry me across, in fact, but stay by the edge of the river while I go deeper in.

I flip my visor modes around while inspecting the tunnel with great detail. Nonetheless, I spend an hour on a relatively small section with little to show for it. For all I know there are rock-colored camera lens poking out in small sections, but it would take days or weeks to inspect every square inch of this tunnel, and I am already uneasy about having to spend a whole hour down here in light of my suspicions. I am silent as usual, especially in light of remembering when the first Salikai I met talked about being able to give neumono missing memories and turning them into sleeper agents.

The tunnel that Biles does not remember does, however, goes deeper still. It is hard to tell if Biles simply missed this entrance because he turned back too soon after getting wounded. Missing spots like these are not too uncommon, but I do not like how it is placed right as Biles turned away. I may wish to either turn back and hurry up to the surface in fast time, or investigate further down. And if the latter, then whether or not to being Viln and or Vern.
>>
No. 478454 ID: 886a4d

I say we continue on down.
>>
No. 478460 ID: ec6d4c

Don't forget we need to keep our return time in mind. After a certain point, if we don't turn back, we're going to raise an alarm topside (assume the worst, remember? Kind of wish we'd given ourself a longer window). And there's also our worry that something might happen topsides. How about we continue for a few hours, but then, if we haven't found anything, we'll have to turn back.

I'm not sure Viln and Vern's pride would let you go forward completely alone, and if the Salikai have some mind trap, you might need them. Plus, we're pressed for time here, and they've got much bigger legs than you.

Feel free to have them stop and scout ahead yourself if you think you've gotten close to something.
>>
No. 478466 ID: c4e5c2
File 135542206112.png - (78.80KB , 700x700 , 83.png )
478466

I move down to investigate, calling Viln and Vern over to accompany me.

There is not much change or branching paths for a full 30 minutes, but it consistently move downward. We must have dropped a significant amount of elevation, until the cavern opens up.

There is a railway here. It appears old, it was likely made before first contact, but it also appears to have been at least somewhat maintained.
>>
No. 478467 ID: c4e5c2
File 135542208428.png - (68.28KB , 700x700 , 84.png )
478467

I hear the sound of a rock drop above me.

I turn around just in time for Viln to snap me up in a grapple, and leap out of the way with Vern from a cave-in.

I only hear it behind me as he uses his flesh back to protect my armored self.

Impractical, but sweet.
>>
No. 478468 ID: 8b9215

Investigate cave in.
>>
No. 478469 ID: c6ec33

Bandage up any injuries, and ask Viln how many of those he'll have to do to repay his debt. :P

Examine the cave-in area to see if it might have been intentional (booby-trapped?).

Examine the railroad some more, and look in both directions.
>>
No. 478476 ID: ec6d4c

Thank Viln. Treat injuries, if any.

It's up to him and his honor to decide if that counts against or clears the life debt, but if he does, he's welcome to accompany us, as a friend, and continue his lessons, if he wishes. (That, and without him, we can't talk to Vern).

Which side of the cave in are we on? Is it complete enough to block passage? Can you find a triggering mechanism? (Don't waste an hour looking). If you can, the level of sophistication may tell us what we're dealing with, here.

If we're on the tracks side of the collapse, I think it's pretty safe to say we're going to be late getting back. If we're not, we have to decide to either dig now, or return to the surface, report our findings / check on people and return with proper tools for rock clearing (although we may not need tools with voklit muscle. Useful brutes, they are!).

Check out the track. Any signs of how it was maintained? Anything indicative of high technology? (Interchangeable parts, modern oils, anti-rust compounds, repairs / smoothness / etc that would have taken power tools to achieve)?

If you put your ear to the track, can you hear a train operating in the distance?
>>
No. 478478 ID: c4e5c2
File 135542445469.png - (94.30KB , 700x700 , 85.png )
478478

"How many of those are you going to have to do, Viln, until your debt is repayed?"
>"Enough to be ensured you would die without the me. Not yet. You are in the hurry to see me gone?"
"No."

Viln just has a dirty back now, so I move to the cavein first. There isn't much to look at. The exit is blocked with, well, rocks, and if there was a trigger mechanism, it is not within our sight. It is hard to tell if it was a small cavein that Viln and Vern could dig us out of, or if the whole half hour of tunnel has been turned to rubble.

I take a look at the two directions the tracks lead into, since I am on the track side of the cavein. One appears to go upwards, one goes deeper downwards, but otherwise nothing stands out immediately. Either route I choose, tracks or digging us out, I am sure to be late to the meeting time. Perhaps I should have given a more forgiving window of time after all.

>Any signs of how it was maintained? Anything indicative of high technology?
It is not as though it is replaced with a modern rail system, but much of the wood is not as rotted as I would imagine it to be, and there are bolts that are more sophisticated and newer than others.

>If you put your ear to the track, can you hear a train operating in the distance?
No.

>"What is metal and wood?" Viln asks.
"It is a railroad. Neumono construction to move quickly, probably built at least a century ago."
>"... History? It is bad. More neumono excuse to take more land from us."
>>
No. 478480 ID: afaa2f

Woah oh, that might count as saving your life.
>>
No. 478481 ID: afaa2f

>>478480
Err, nevermind.
>>
No. 478482 ID: 8b9215

Let's get to work removing the rubble. Dump some of it on the tracks to see if it is moved later. This is a big find. We need backup.

Check the surface of the rail. Is it rusted over or smooth clean steel? If it is clean it's been used constantly and the rust is continually worn away leaving only fresh steel.
>>
No. 478484 ID: 7fb504

>>478329
I suggest we inform command we've found them and.... iunno, bring jammers and high grade AI? They'll flee again if the fleetdrops in.
>>
No. 478485 ID: 6cc859

>>478478
Tell him that as far as you know, this isn't supposed to be here; you probably have at least as much reason to fear/oppose its constructor as he does. That was an awfully convenient cavein, after all, and combined with the timing with which the others turned around...

Our priority should now be to get out and report ASAP, while keeping an eye open for any indications of whose this is. Remember, we're not here to fight, but to look for anything suspicious, and we've certainly found that. How are you for food? If you have plentiful supplies, digging out might make sense, but otherwise you should keep moving and take the tracks upward rather than risk running out of supplies far from any hope of replenishment. Also note that, if the cavein was artificial, whoever triggered it knows where you are; if you move, that will be partially ameliorated.

Really, it's for the best that you set a deadline; now they will know something's up with that tunnel and that their memory can't necessarily be trusted anymore.
>>
No. 478487 ID: ec6d4c

>It is bad. More neumono excuse to take more land from us.
...I hope it doesn't come to that. I'm here to search out an enemy, not hurt your people.

What worries me is it looks like it's maintained, used. Someone has been down here.

I'd suggest following the tracks uphill. Reporting a solid lead is more important than running into the enemy when we don't have a route out. If we get to the surface, we've found another entrance, and we can report in. We can return and investigate with a cart or something to quickly traverse the tracks.
>>
No. 478492 ID: 6dc5a6

The neumono with leg wounds are still a red flag. Is it possible for us to setup a dead drop independent of our crew? More specifically a radio beacon that fires off a distress signal if it isn't checked in with every 10 hours?
>>
No. 478493 ID: ec6d4c

>>478492
The problem with something like that is there's no way for Polo to check in that frequently and search the caves. Someone else would have to keep pushing the deadman switch down. That, and I don't think Polo has the equipment or experience to set that up on her own- she would likely have to recruit Korli or Katzati.

Besides, I'm sure Kort is supposed to be reporting into command. If he goes dark, someone outside will notice.
>>
No. 478509 ID: c4e5c2
File 135543447012.png - (108.04KB , 700x700 , 86.png )
478509

"This is not supposed to be here. I am not attempting to take land." Viln remains silent.

>Is it rusted over or smooth clean steel?
There are many rusted parts, but it is not rusted over entirely at all.

>How are you doing on food?
I have another day of it, but if we could just get up to the river that Biles went to by digging, then we will have slugs and whatever protect them. However, if the whole tunnel was caved in, then trying to move over a mile of rock is not going to be a quick side route. I will keep an eye out for other food sources.

I do get Viln to move a few boulders onto the tracks to see if they are moved later, but then decide to move up the tracks. The two voklits tell me they can run for many hours without stopping. While I am not demanding such extremes of them, I do not want to have a casual stroll upwards.

We follow the upward tracks for around 15 minutes. I do not like that the tracks, while moving slowly upwards, are leading away from the direction of the campsite. I may want to abandon the tracks for now and attempt to get onto the path I took down here.

>"Followed. We are followed. Other voklit, coming to us from ahead." Viln reports, taking my mind off my routing thoughts.
>>
No. 478510 ID: ec6d4c

There are Voklit coming down the tracks, towards us?

Can we get out of sight? A side passage we can duck into? Then watch these guys go by- see if we learn anything (if they're carrying our stolen stuff, or Salikai tech, it should be fairly obvious).

Won't work if they've smelt or heard your party too (although they might not, your group is smaller), but it's not like you gain anything standing in the open.
>>
No. 478515 ID: 6cc859

>>478509
How many? Given that they didn't know about these tracks in advance, can we assume that they're not (openly) associated with the main Voklit settlement?
>>
No. 478522 ID: c4e5c2
File 135543835715.png - (34.19KB , 700x700 , 87.png )
478522

"How many?"
>"Perhaps as few as 6, as many as 12."
"Let's try to hide."

We move over behind some rocks off to the side of the path, and cover the glowslugs with a tent.

"You didn't know about these tracks, so can I assume these ones are not of your settlement?"
>"I do not know. We are not neumono. We are not hives. Some of us know things others do not and still be of the same village. My hunting has never been here. Quiet. They come."

I can hear the footsteps. They are getting closer, and I will not be able to get a look at them without revealing myself. They get closer still, and I am positive that they are coming in our direction. I think they can smell Viln and Vern after all.
>>
No. 478523 ID: 6cc859

>>478522
Stay calm, stay still. If they're following the tracks, which seems likely, they'll pass right by you; of course they're coming in your direction. Don't compromise yourself.
>>
No. 478530 ID: ec6d4c

Hmm. This is tricky. If you're discovered by a hunting party, we're relying on Viln and Vern for diplomacy, and the hunters might not be too happy to see these two in their area, or to see you with tech and enslaved voklit.

If they're the tech thieves, or voklit captured by the salikai, they're going to be very unfriendly. You got a weapon handy? The rifle might be enough to put a voklit down, and doesn't necessarily require you to slaughter them. But it might be tough to shut down a large the whole party quickly, and at close range. The exlosive shotgun would be more effective against a crowd of tough giants, but would make not killing them harder (unless you can scare them off with a warning explosion- not sure if that works with their crazy honor and pride, though).

>I will not be able to get a look at them without revealing myself
You sure? You're small, the camouflaged, and don't need an external light source. You might not be noticed. At the very least, you could get a look at them from behind as after they go by (assuming they pass you by, that is).
>>
No. 478536 ID: 8b9215

Explosive shotgun. If they make way for you tell Viln to order them to stop. If they make to attack you, blow the fuck out of them. Seeing a buddy get gibbed will put a dent in their morale and make them think twice about continuing the attack.
>>
No. 478539 ID: ec6d4c

Assuming there's a confrontation, and thing's don't devolve immediately into violence:

If these are either normal hunters who give us grief about our tech, or the tech thieves from before who want to take it, and we get a chance to talk, I'm thinking diplomacy (translated through Vern) goes something like this:

I earned the right to bear these weapons through years of training, and I won the right to wear this armor in a fair duel. I will surrender neither to thieves- nor will I waste a fair fight on them. *cocks shotgun*

>>478536
If we get the chance, a warning shot may be in order. These are narrow tunnels, and that shotgun packs a big blast. Fill the tunnel in front of them with fire, and they may see the wisdom in not fighting.

Maybe get Vern to translate a warning for us- there is no honor in dying this way.
>>
No. 478544 ID: b33427

Get down from Viln, take all the tech stuff, and hide further back, but with clear view using your visor. You've been riding Viln for long enough that you're covered with his scent, and will be indistinguishable from him when he's nearby. Though keep your sniper rifle set to explosive ready in case things go bad.

These other voklits shouldn't know that Viln and Vern are in life debt to you, so as long as they act like they're just a couple of regular hunters that came down here, things should go alright. They can say they were tailing some critter when the tunnel collapsed behind them and have been following these odd metal and wood things uphill to get out. They only took cover 'cause they were unsure of who was coming down them, since they are obviously not voklit made.
>>
No. 478561 ID: f2c20c

Uh, being behind cover might be a bad thing if they're getting close. Our only combat advantage is range. I say that these are the 8 salikai lifedebt Voklit, the cavein was to separate you from the others, and they are going to murder you if they get close before we open fire.

We need to get a visual before they get close, and determine if they are a threat. No more hiding! All three of you should pop out. You can get on top of the rocks and be ready to fire as Viln tells them to back off. If they turn out to be non-hostile we can try to get them to point us the way to the surface.
>>
No. 478619 ID: b33427

If things do get hairy and you have to fight or run, you can try dazzling these other voktils by pulling out your lantern, getting them to look at you, and turning it on full. They've been down here so long, with presumably only glowslugs for light, their eyes have adjusted to the dimness. So a sudden flash of bright light will temporarily blind them. Though only do this if your visor can automatically adjust for sudden bright flashes, or you're looking away, and you've told Viln to look away.
>>
No. 478679 ID: c4e5c2
File 135549822848.png - (84.50KB , 700x700 , 88.png )
478679

>At the very least, you could get a look at them from behind as after they go by (assuming they pass you by, that is).
That is the assumption that is currently questionable, as they are still heading to our direction.

>If you wait too long and they get too close, you'll be in close quarters
Once I am certain that they are not following the train tracks anymore and are scuttling towards us, I have us all pop out. "Don't look to me. I may flash my light to blind them." Viln translates that for Vern. I back away to get some range and to the side to get a decent shot if need be, while Viln and Vern block them.

There are 6, and Viln says something in their language. The frontmost of the others shouts back. It doesn't sound pretty, and the foreign party is moving forward, weapons out.

>Got a weapon handy?
I have access to my sniper rifle, explosive shotgun and pistol, and currently have a clean shot with any of those.
>>
No. 478680 ID: 8b9215

Explody shotgun out. Order them to halt. If they attack, shoot them.

Make a note to get some non explody shotgun shells if you can. It'd be nice to have some massive damage without splash range for really close quarters combat.
>>
No. 478681 ID: 440525

I suggest you Raise your shotgun and give a yell, if they keep approaching then sweep at them. The possibility may arise when you need to shoot.
>>
No. 478691 ID: c6ec33

Get explosive shotgun out.

Have they seen you yet? Or is this entirely based on their encounter with Viln and Vern?

Your presence will definitely not placate them, so a show of force is probably necessary.

Tell Viln to stay back and protect you if they get too close, but not to rush forward.

Then tell him to cover his eyes, because you're going to fire a warning shot. Unless he objects, shoot the ground in front of them.

(I worry about using the shotgun here, but the sniper doesn't seem like a good idea in close quarters, and the pistol seems like it wouldn't be very effective)
>>
No. 478693 ID: ec6d4c

Huh. At least they're nicely color coded for you. I was worried we might have a hard time telling Vern and Viln apart from the crowd if a fight broke out.

Shotgun is really the only weapon choice. The pistol won't do enough, and the rifle can't shut down that many voklit that quickly at this range, even assuming you can kill / disable with one shot (which we don't know you can for sure- you're not nearly familiar enough with their anatomy for that).

We'd prefer to get out of this without murdering them all, so let's go for shock and awe.

Full power light to blind them, suit speakers to max, shout something along the lines of "GO!" or "BEGONE" in their language if you can, and fire a point blank explosive warning shot at the ground in front of them.

When they regain their footing and squint through the light and smoke, they should then see you aiming the shotgun right at them.

If they charge or attack, shoot them. You don't have much choice. If they retreat, let them. If there's a standoff, attempt translation through Vern. "That was a warning. Next time I won't miss. Go." Punctuate with another blast if you have to.
>>
No. 478700 ID: c4e5c2
File 135550579860.png - (18.82KB , 700x700 , 89.png )
478700

>Make a note to get some non explody shotgun shells
Unfortunately this model of shotgun requires a specific type of shell, and normal shells are not made with these specifications. I do not know why, and it is immensely inconvenient, but perhaps while Viln is around, I should make a habit of carrying around another, normal shotgun.

"Halt!" I yell out to them, and Viln echoes me in their language.

They eyeball the shotgun, but keep moving menacingly towards my allies. Either they do not know what a shotgun is, or are excellent at pretending they don't. If they get any closer, then Viln will be closer than I would like to the blast radius if I have to shoot them. I don't see much alternative.

"Vern, Viln, cover your eyes."
>>
No. 478701 ID: c4e5c2
File 135550580780.png - (115.28KB , 700x700 , 90.png )
478701

So I fire a warning shot. A couple look behind them, possibly getting at least partially blinded, but the reaction is underwhelming. Viln and Vern react more, in fact, but they keep a wary eye on the enemy group. At least the others do stop moving for a moment.
>>
No. 478702 ID: c4e5c2
File 135550581663.png - (48.25KB , 700x700 , 91.png )
478702

The red one scoots away from the rest of the group for a small distance as he raises his arms and faces me. He speaks, and I am pretty sure I caught 'no fear' and 'you' in that sentence.
>>
No. 478710 ID: 8b9215

Ask what they want.
>>
No. 478711 ID: e3f578

Wait no, not yet.
Ask why follow?
If reaction is hostile. Then say "fuck you, thief," with a boom. Or not, wait for his reaction to the word thief. Then apply boom.
>>
No. 478714 ID: ec6d4c

Well, we've reached a standoff, temporarily. Here's where we try translator diplomacy and hopefully get them to back off.

Fear me or not, my weapon will work the same.

What do you want? Why do you pursue us? Why do you attack us?

(If we knew we could do so without killing him, I'd almost be tempted to respond to "no fear!" with a shotgun blast, and see if that breaks the others. They'd probably just attack at that point, though).
>>
No. 478733 ID: c4e5c2
File 135551115683.png - (61.53KB , 700x700 , 92.png )
478733

"Viln, ask what they want, why are thieves following us?"
>Viln translates for them, and waits a few words before translating the brown one's words back to me. "..... say... not thieves. Neumono has seen tracks. Cannot be allowed out alive-"

While Viln was a few words behind, their leader spoke a few words at the end of the sentence that I am guessing was 'enough, attack!'

All of them start going forward to Viln and Vern, yet still bunched up conveniently for the shotgun. That would be the obvious shot, but at the same time, the red one from before leaps at me. It will not be pretty if he gets a hold on me, guns or not.
>>
No. 478735 ID: 9b155d

If you take out the bunched up ones, the one leaping at you should be able to be pulled off you by Viln and Vern.
>>
No. 478736 ID: 6cc859

>>478735
Who will be glad for another opportunity to save you. Win-win!
>>
No. 478739 ID: ec6d4c

Hmm. There's a secret to be covered up here. Why?

If you fire on the red one and let the crowd close on Vern and Viln, they'll be outnumbered, and too close to the enemy for you to use the shotgun anymore. That could very well cost them their live, or slow you down with major injuries.

Whereas if you shoot the crowd, the only one at risk is you. You're double armored, and you've been training for this. I like your odds better than theirs.

I say take the shot at the crowd, then move, immediately. You're not wearing your pack, and relatively unencumbered. Break out the acrobatics you were reluctant to do before. Dodge, duck, roll, flip- do what you have to to keep from getting grappled by the red one, keep yourself out of his reach. Take a shot when you get the chance, at this range with that firepower it will probably only take one.
>>
No. 478741 ID: 8b9215

Shoot crowd with splody shotgun. Try to avoid red one and if you can't, stay alive while V&V get him off you.
>>
No. 478742 ID: ec6d4c

I think it should be noted we can't rely on immediate rescue- our blast is likely to only weaken and wound the crowd. V&V will still have to subdue them before they can get to the leader fighting Polo.
>>
No. 478750 ID: 2f4b71

Red seems to be the de-facto leader. Witnessing the effect of the Instant Giblet Device on him may at least give the others pause.
>>
No. 478753 ID: f2c20c

>>478733
Oh, just dodge and shoot.
>>
No. 478754 ID: e3f578

>>478733
Can't you just street sweep everybody, including no fear guy if you start with him? That shotgun's automatic, it's how you made the queen into soup.
>>
No. 478797 ID: c4e5c2
File 135553194307.png - (58.43KB , 700x700 , 93.png )
478797

>Can't you just street sweep everybody, including no fear guy if you start with him?
If shooting was my first reaction, yes, but things escalated and shots still have intervals. They will be too close for a second shot.

I shoot into the brown leader, but I have to divert my focus from the ensuing explosion and immediately leap away from the red one. He's quick, but I have focused heavily for months on avoiding this exact thing.
>>
No. 478798 ID: c4e5c2
File 135553196677.png - (59.30KB , 700x700 , 94.png )
478798

It pays off, and I am able to repeatedly leap backwards and to the side to avoid his grasp. Viln headed straight to my rescue, and about the time that I am able to bring out my pistol so that I do not hurt Viln and myself in attempting to blow up the red one. He does not land his spear stab, but I land a couple lethal pistol shots.

I would most likely have been able to handle red without Viln's help, but I do not know if I want to say this. Perhaps it is better if I say he saved me here, at least once we deal with the other enemies. They are not retreating.

Vern took advantage of my blast, and took down a couple while they were knocked off their feet, deafened and blinded.
>>
No. 478801 ID: 8b9215

Press the attack, kill all but one. Disarm him. Not like he'll say much of anything useful. Let him speak his own words. Don't ask any questions. Then kill him of course.
>>
No. 478802 ID: e3f578

If we can spare one, that might mean we shamed him and own him now. That person might talk because of his hurt honor. Might is the keyword there though.
Viln and Vern now how to shame 'em best though, and we gonna shame left and right to get 'em to talk.
>>
No. 478803 ID: ec6d4c

Mop up. We want at least one to survive long enough to question. Why can no neumono be allowed to live after seeing the tracks?

>What should you say to Viln?
I would thank the two of them, nothing more. Belittling their assistance, or trying to make it out for more than it was, is something of an insult.
>>
No. 478805 ID: 9b155d

>I would thank the two of them, nothing more. Belittling their assistance, or trying to make it out for more than it was, is something of an insult.

Agree with this. Trying to play it up or down is insulting.
>>
No. 478806 ID: f2c20c

>>478798
Let them be the judge of how effective you are in combat.

Use expendable ammo on the rest of the Voklits.
>>
No. 478807 ID: b33427

Maneuver around to the side so have clear shots past Viln and Vern with your pistol. Reload the explosive shotgun and have it handy in case any of these voktils break off to attack you.

Try to disable more than kill the rest of them. Then ask them why they had to attack you, and why you couldn't leave now that you've seen the tracks. They almost certainly won't say why, but hear what they have to say anyway.

After talking to them, ask Viln what would be better action for us: Killing them right here, or leaving them alive? You don't know how voktil customs work in this situation, and whether sparing them will have them after you forever or what.

Also ask Viln and Vern if either of them recognize any of this group and if they do, can they remember any changes in their behavior or anything odd about them from before.

As for Viln and Verns actions, just say they alright. Don't say anything about saving your life or not. They'll be the ones to judge when and where they've paid off their life debts to you. Saying anything to force the issue will merely belittle and insult them.
>>
No. 478810 ID: c4e5c2
File 135553524069.png - (22.29KB , 700x700 , 95.png )
478810

I take a few pistol shots to cripple some, and Viln and I move to one who stayed conscious while Vern makes sure no others get up and try to backstab us. They fought to the last, and did not so much as glance to an escape tunnel. I do not think I enjoy fighting foes that do not recognize surrender as an option.

"Viln, thank you for assisting me."
>"It is the duty. We save each other this time, with your.. eh... fire bomb on many, we would die without."
"Please ask him why no neumono can leave after seeing the tracks."
>"Same reason. He say neumono will steal land after finding it."
"We would be in just as much position if they had killed me."
>"... he say there was little choice, to go and finish him."
"Do you or Vern recognize anyone in this group?"
>"We do not."
"Should we kill them? I do not know how this works, if I own him or not."
>".... you might." He says something to the wounded one. "He would be owned, but he say he rather die than serve you. Kill him."
".... how does your society function, Viln?"
>He looks at me weird. Perhaps I did say too much. "Many are slaves. No shame in slavery."
>>
No. 478813 ID: f2c20c

If their culture dictates we kill all those who refuse to serve, then we must. Otherwise we risk losing Viln and Vern's trust. State ahead of time that you don't like doing it, though.

You could try explaining that your group isn't here to steal land? You should definitely ask how long these tracks have even been here, or if they've seen any new creatures around lately.
>>
No. 478818 ID: 2f4b71

Ask who told them that Neumono would steal their land if they found the railway.
>>
No. 478819 ID: ec6d4c

There's the slight problem that even if we killed these guys, other groups of voklit may try to kill us as we explore the tracks. Or our companions, if we find anything else. We have to nip this in the bud.

To Viln: I don't like killing unnecessarily.

To the prisoner: I'm sorry if you'd rather die than serve, but I have a task for you. You are to return home, and tell your people what happened here today. It is too late to kill neumono for seeing what you do not want us to see, because we have seen. But we do not care. We are not here for your land. We are here for one purpose, and one purpose only- to search for an enemy of ours that may be hiding in these caves. Nothing more, nothing less. We will leave when our search is complete.

This warning will spare any voklit who would attack us shame and death, and it may prevent the death of myself or other neumono. Do this- and I will consider your debt to me fulfilled. If you still wish to die afterwards, that is your business.
>>
No. 478824 ID: b33427

Tell him that you would ask him questions and speak to him first. If once you're done he still wishes to die, you will kill him, as quick and as painless as you can (without using ammo. Might have to ask Viln and Vern to help here.)

>>478813
>>478818
Ask these questions, as well as asking who has been fixing these tracks; The materials used are modern, and not something voklits are known to be able to make or get.

Then say that your group is here not to look for any excuse to seize voktil land, but to search for an enemy of the neumono who fled from the fight and hid. One who uses technology, trickery, and deceit to manipulate and control both neumono and others. And even if this enemy was found under the voklit lands, and some voklits were found to be aiding and fighting for them, they would be considered manipulated, their actionss would not be held against all the voklit here, and their lands would not be seized.
>>
No. 478827 ID: 8b9215

Kill the dumbass.
>>
No. 478843 ID: f2c20c

Polo, would you get in a shitload of trouble if you simply didn't report the tracks?
>>
No. 478846 ID: ec6d4c

>>478843
Considering that we know the Salikai fled their last base via underground train? Hell yes.

If someone is higher up is planning on pulling a dick move against the voklit, I could see Polo acting to oppose it, but I don't see her risking the core mission.
>>
No. 478849 ID: c4e5c2
File 135554374601.png - (99.45KB , 700x700 , 96.png )
478849

>Polo, would you get in a shitload of trouble if you simply didn't report the tracks?
Only if I am found out. Which is likely, having the map evidence that I have been down here. Even if I were not to be caught, I do not intend on withholding what may be critical information towards a far bigger threat than how much land the voklit have, regardless of how much I do not care to see their reservation downsized.

"I don't like killing unnecessarily, Viln. Tell him we do not care to take land, we want to know who told them we would steal, and who has been maintaining these railroad tracks."

There is nothing to translate, as he is quiet for some time before saying a couple of words.

>"He say, 'kill me.' Nothing more. It is fine you do not want to kill, but if that is so, I ask permission... of you, to kill him myself."
"Tell me, would it be bad of me to ask him to do one task before he decides to cut off his own life?"
>".... it is your decision."
"Noted, Viln, but that is not the question. I am attempting to not trample over your customs, as strange as they are."
>".... would be bad. Yes."
>>
No. 478851 ID: f2c20c

>>478849
Let Viln do it if he wants to or if that would be more honorable.

It's hard to say at this point which direction leads to the salikai base, and which direction leads back to the surface. Right now I think this might be enough evidence to say the salikai are here. Ask Viln if there is any way he could tell which direction to go. Do these guys have any indication on them they were coming from the surface or going to the surface? They aren't camouflaged for cave dwelling, that's for sure.

Then again if they were coming from the salikai base then the collapsed tunnel might've been the way up. I think our safest bet is to go the way they were coming from, because we don't know if there's another way to the surface further in the way they were going.

Oh, we could also check for footprints on the ground and traces of plant matter, THAT should give us a decent indication of which way is the surface.
>>
No. 478853 ID: 4a328b

What's up with their eyes, even? Is that a natural coloration or evidence [for our paranoid minds] of some sort of miiiiiiind controoooool
>>
No. 478859 ID: 8c2ef0

finish him, we're not like to get any useful information out of him without resorting to extreme measures we have neither the time nor resources for right now.
>>
No. 478861 ID: ec6d4c

...fine then. He gets to die.

If we can't send a message, we'll have to deal with this ourself. We'll have to confront the village, make sure this doesn't happen again.

Of course, we have to find a way out, first.
>>
No. 478863 ID: 8b9215

Kill the dumbshit. Pistol, knife, whatever. Pistol is safest.
>>
No. 478874 ID: beeca1

>>478863
Let Viln do it. I doubt he'll fight, he did request death. I doubt his all-consuming honor will let him struggle and embarrass himself.
>>
No. 478878 ID: b33427

...It's a damn shame it has to be this way. ...Give Viln permission, and say to make it as quick and painless as he can. Check if the other disabled voklits are of the same mind as this one, which they almost certainly are, and act accordingly.

Once the deed is done, all three of you search the bodies for clues to where they came from or for anything else of interest.

Continue up the rail tunnel incline. On the way keep on the lookout for any passages the voklit that attacked might have come from, but don't go into them unless the rail tunnel levels off or slopes down. That way probably leads to whoever sent these voklits at you, and you just want to get to the surface and report.

Perhaps on the way ask Viln about voklit society and culture, and share some about yours and others that you know of. It may help with understanding their extreme sense of honor.
>>
No. 478949 ID: a5c529

Just kill the fucker already.
>>
No. 478973 ID: c4e5c2
File 135559870875.png - (84.96KB , 700x700 , 97.png )
478973

>What's up with their eyes, even?
They appear to have a deeper yellow than my voklit allies, but otherwise do not appear abnormal.

"Alright, Viln. Kill him for me. Make it quick." I do not want to expend ammo, especially if this is going to happen now and then.

Another voklit awakens, but I have to have Viln kill him, too. And a third. They all end up getting killed, and I learned absolutely nothing because of their non-avoidance of death.

>"What now?" Viln asks. "Go back to sun, still?"

>Oh, we could also check for footprints on the ground and traces of plant matter
I may give this a shot, however, we are still about a day's inward. Plant matter would be exceptionally difficult to trace effectively this far in. I do not think I have the time nor knowledge of how to follow such trace materials. Then again...

"Viln, can you track where they came from?"
>"Perhaps. They smell of forest, and perhaps left dirt."

That is an option then, after all. Follow them, the tracks, or try to head back up.
>>
No. 478975 ID: 4a328b

Ask Viln to scout ahead a bit to see if there are any more voklit up ahead. These ones wanted to kill you because you are neumono, so maybe Viln will not be attacked even if there are more.
>>
No. 478984 ID: ec6d4c

>Killing them all one by one as they wake up
...uh, next time this happens, is it possible we could just leave the unconscious ones where they lie? If you're not around to claim them, the serve or die rule might not kick in? Oh who am kidding, they'd all commit ritual suicide when they woke up. :/

>Follow them, the tracks, or try to head back up.
The tracks are our biggest possible lead on the Salikai. That said, if there's a group of voklit use it as a highway, or patrol to prevent discovery, we may be forced to kill more if we follow it. Additionally, I think it's a better idea to report back the discovery and explore the tracks rapidly (with a cart or something) rather than on foot, and possibly running into the enemy while cut off.

If we eliminate the tracks, the decision remaining is whether reporting back or trying to prevent more cover-up voklit attacks is more important. I think we should follow their trail- we won't have this chance again soon, and we need to prevent the voklit from fighting us, if possible. If it leads up to an exit at the same time, we can radio in that we're alive (no other information, though, since you're on a compromised channel).
>>
No. 478992 ID: f2c20c

>>478973
I think right now we at least need an exit route. If we do find evidence, the salikai will likely try to kill us in response and we'll need to escape in a hurry. Knowing our exit route ahead of time could be the difference between life and death.

We can track the way to the surface until Viln reaches familiar territory, at which point we turn back and follow the train tracks.
>>
No. 478998 ID: 8b9215

Ugh, get the fuck out of this place. Exit to base. God this expediiton has gone to siht.
>>
No. 479059 ID: 6cc859

>>478992
Fuck that. We were here to look for something suspicious. We've found that. Now we GTFO back to base and wait for serious support.
>>
No. 479076 ID: b33427

Follow the dead voklit's trail back to the surface. You need to report what you've found down here, what happened, and resupply.

There's also the matter of Biles and Rokann potentially being compromised, so you also want to get back sooner rather than later to do something about that. You're going to have to secretly head to the camp to deal with that, though. No telling what their trigger might be, and announcing what you have found may trip them.

Have Vern watch your back, and Viln lead the way, in case there are more voklits; He can smell or hear or otherwise sense them coming. Also ask him how he knew these six were coming, and whether or not any voklits ahead of us will know we're coming by the same method.
>>
No. 479080 ID: ec6d4c

>the matter of Biles and Rokann potentially being compromised
Seems somewhat less likely, since nothing tried to compromise us in the same way. Although, all put together, their convenient injuries, the rockfall, and the tracks, all look pretty suspicious.
>>
No. 479107 ID: b33427

>>479080
Since the known method that would be used is based on using trained neumono-predators to manipulate a neumono through their empathic link, they didn't try it on Polo 'cause they know it wouldn't work and would just give them away.

It's unknown, but less likely, they even had time to compromise Biles and Rokann enough to give them subconscious orders to carry out. It's most likely they were pumped for intel, then implanted with false memories and released.
>>
No. 479186 ID: c4e5c2
File 135569212479.png - (98.63KB , 700x700 , 98.png )
479186

We head back up, as I would like to report this. It does not take long for us to find a branching path that gradually leads alongside my explored map, and eventually back on our original trail.

The mood is somber. I do not believe Viln and Vern enjoyed killing other voklits. They are not glaring at me, but not even Viln is in the mood to practice speaking. They simply hasten their pace as I ride on their backs. We set up camp, get some quick sleep, and move on in the morning to attempt to get to the mid-day meeting.

Nothing hinders us on the trip to the surface. We arrive with only about 10 minutes to spare until the meeting, and Katzati shows up early about 2 minutes later.

"Hey, you're alright! Have you seen Biles? He's been missing for about a day and a half now. He had gone hunting, and we're pretty worried. Lucera and Kort weren't able to find anything out from the Voklits, and Lucera didn't like it one bit. He gave a report about, and we're going to get some reinforcements later today."
>>
No. 479187 ID: ec6d4c

We found Biles and Rokann, before. So they made it back, and then he went missing? Hmm. Not good. (Or they never made it back? That would be worse). Our paranoid suspicions about mind control might be right. Or he could have ran into another group of hostile voklit while alone (or even just hostile animals, but you'd think he'd be able to handle that). Where did he go hunting?

Report you findings and get your map data copied as efficiently as possible. The suspicious 'forgotten' tunnel located right where B and R were forced to turn back. The convenient rockslide. The seemingly maintained railway. The voklit willing to kill to cover it up.

Get the new radio frequencies, encoding, etc.

Pressing problems: finding Biles, preventing future voklit attacks (there has to be some way you can reason with the village(s), convince them you aren't their enemy), and then seeing if the tracks lead us to the Salikai (a minecart or something would be for exploring quickly).

>V and V upset
At what happened, or at you? We might have to talk with them if the situation doesn't improve. It's not like you're happy with what happened either...
>>
No. 479202 ID: c4e5c2
File 135569782172.png - (17.66KB , 700x700 , 99.png )
479202

>Time table
I met with Rokann and Biles relatively close to the entrance. From there, it took one full day to go down, and one full day to come back up. Biles must have gone missing after a short period of time of getting back.

I share the map data with Katzati once she pulls out her laptop, and she gives me the new radio frequencies.
>"Nice, as usual. And we are trying to keep radios only in use if necessary, and using physical notes and communication where possible."
"There is a railroad here?"
>".... no kidding? Lucera will definitely want to know. I guess we should head back to camp, minimal radio use and all."
"Yes, and a rockslide just so happened to cut off my exit when I got close, and the railroad was maintained to some degree, and then I was attacked by voklits. Where did Biles go hunting?"
>"... shoooot. Biles went off just around the forest, while trying not to step on the toes of voklits. By the way, uh, Rokann said she did a bit of a background check, and uh, found out you can hide your empathy? I mean, that's no problem, I just haven't seen you do it, so I'm wondering if that's true?"
>>
No. 479204 ID: 04b86a

>>479202
Rokann did a background check on a short neumono named Polo, and Biles is missing. This is bad. When was this background check started?
>>
No. 479205 ID: 8b9215

"Biles and Rokann have been compromised. When you find them, detain them. If this is going where I think it's going we are going to need half-a-dozen squads of top-notch soldiers with jammers and bioarmor. 6 volkits attacked us, said we could not leave alive, we killed them. This is no longer a survey mission. Bring in the army."

Radio to a person as high up as possible on the chain of command and tell them this is going down the shitter, fast. We have AWOL neumono with memory blackouts that are looking through as much data as they can find. They got your report about Salkai mind control experiments, they know exactly what this looks like. Volkits stealing tech. You are going to put your full authority into telling them to get off their asses and get on this as it's going downhill instead of letting it hit the bottom first, then trying to clean up the wreck.
>>
No. 479206 ID: 8b9215

"He should not have looked that up, he should not be able to look that up, and you should forget you know about it. It's confidential."
>>
No. 479207 ID: f2c20c

>>479202
Demonstrate. Also, this is a good opportunity to use that line you regretted not using!

Tell her about the whole trained-predator thing we're worried about. Biles and Rokann may have been forced to give out information, or worse- brainwashed to sabotage us. We're not really sure how the empathy-brainwashing works though.
>>
No. 479209 ID: b33427

...Wait a second. Something is off. Nobody should be able to do a mere "background check" and find out about your empathic block ability. And isn't it suspicious that even with the new encryption keys Katzati says Lucera wants to minimize radio use? Yes, something is definitely off here.

Think back: How long were Katzati and Korli out of contact when they were jumped by those voklits? 'Cause if it was as long as Biles and Rokann, they could have been snatched up and compromised as well. ...And to be paranoid, Katzati might have been rigged with an implanted bomb, or be carrying one right now, to trigger on hearing you're the real Polo. Half-step behind Viln, just in case.

Deflect Katzati's question by asking what prompted Rokann to get all nosy about you. At the same time, raise a radio channel to Lucera, and set your radio external microphone on, just in case something happens. Right before Katzati's done speaking, immediately start talking to Lucera. Tell him that you highly suspect that the salikai's neumono-predators trained in mind manipulation are here, and that he needs to call up and change the reinforcements to full jammer squads. If he needs any elaboration, tell him, but make it quick.

Keep an "eye" on Katzati's empathic signal while you're doing this.
>>
No. 479214 ID: ec6d4c

Guys, guys, guys! Calm down! You're jumping to conclusions with no evidence. All we have are suspicions about the predator thing. We aren't turning on anyone or calling in this place as the Salikai's hiding place till we've seen some proof. Too much damage can be done (to ourselves, to allies, and to the voklit living here) if we pull the trigger prematurely.

And Rokann checking up on us doesn't mean she's compromised- it means she isn't completely sure if we can be trusted. Which, guess what, is exactly what we're wondering about them. It's just pragmatic paranoia (we can even call her on, this, jokingly, later).

>Rokann said she did a bit of a background check, and uh, found out you can hide your empathy?
Demonstrate, briefly, and use your spooky ghost powers line. (It's not as if you could lie to her face without going silent, anyways).

How was Rokann able to look that up? She must be well connected, or have friends in high places, that's sorta supposed to be classified information . A need to know secret. Sorry to hide it, but I haven't had a reason to reveal it yet.
>>
No. 479224 ID: c4e5c2
File 135570075593.png - (19.08KB , 700x700 , 100.png )
479224

"..... that is confidential. Rokann should not have looked it up, and she should not have been able to find that out at all, let alone so easily. When did she find out, and what prompted her?"
>"Uh... well, she told us just this morning, so I guess then, and I don't know what made her decide. I was still asleep when she did it."
"I think Biles and Rokann have been compromised, most likely from predators, possibly worse. We need lots of quality soldiers down here now, not just 'some reinforcements' 'later today.' I am going to report right now, even if I do not have empirical evidence this is the salikai hiding spot. And yes, I have spooky ghost powers." I say while I go silent. It unnerves her, and I turn my empathy back on. I do not sense anything weird about her empathy.

I say this while walking out from under the rocks, prepping my armor's radio to try and contact Lucera first, and turning it on speaker.

"Katzati?"
>"Yes?" She is growing nervous about the situation, piling it on top of my ability to turn off my empathy. I do not blame her.
"Why is my radio nothing but static?"
>"Um... Lucera was able to communicate with them fine just a few hours ago this morning, and Rokann must've been able to do it as well!"

There is no radio from anyone, Lucera or otherwise. Either my radio broke for no apparent reason, or we're in a radio jamming field.
>>
No. 479227 ID: 8b9215

Polo, go silent and return as close as you can to base. Have the other three stay back out of detection. Approach with weapons drawn as quietly as you can. Scope out base from as far as you can. Use everything you have available to make sure you are not detected. If you can't get there to check without being detected, don't even go.

We are probably leaving.
>>
No. 479230 ID: ec6d4c

Alright. Take a moment to calm Katzati down. Can't have her freaking out.

Leave Katzati at at the cave, and leave Viln and Vern orders to watch over her. You're going to sneak back to camp, silent, and see what's going on. Best case- it's just a malfunction, Rokann is just nosy and has the right friends is high places, and Biles is fine. Worst case... well, that's why you're going to sneak. You'll be back in several hours, hopefully.

Bring your weapons, just in case.
>>
No. 479233 ID: f2c20c

>>479224
Welp. The shit just hit the fan. We need to get back to camp, but Biles is out there, likely brainwashed and set up to ambush us.

We know not all Voklits are with the salikai, so we should keep trying not to aggravate them. Take off the tech armor before we step into the jungle, but keep an eye out. Have Viln and Vern keep it safe for us. If we sense Biles, tell Katzati to back off while we go silent and attempt to take him out. Right now we should assume Biles and Rokann are enemies.
>>
No. 479234 ID: 3e0a6a

We are going to treat the rest of the team as potential hostiles from now on, Katz might be safe, because she is a civilian, but we can't be entirely sure of her either.
>>
No. 479235 ID: ec6d4c

>>479233
>Take off armor
I don't think it's worth it. The extra visual modes are too useful for helping us spot an ambush, green is better than blue for forest cammo, and we may damn well need the protection if shit has truly hit the fan.
>>
No. 479238 ID: b33427

On the outside chance it's your headset malfunctioning, get Katzati's radio, and try to use it to contact Lucera, then anyone else, after calling Viln up to within earshot. Check with Viln that he heard nothing but static, just on the very far outside chance you and Katzati are both hallucinating or being mind-screwed right now.

Bring Katzati back into the cave and calm her down by saying you're going to the camp to get to the bottom of this. Your calm and level emotional state should help with that.

You're going to leave Viln and Vern with her with orders to protect her, but to flee away if Katzati senses anything odd, and to restrain her if she starts acting weird or tries to leave. Add that with what you suspect, it's for her own good. Then set up with Viln and Katzati a time and place to meet if things go bad.

Tell Katzati that if she wants to help, she could go over the cave map data and the local maps, and pick out paths that would most likely go up the cliffs, to someplace that faces away from the valley. That'd be where to go to try and get a signal out, since the rock would block any radio jammer.

If it's near to nightfall, wait until after dark to proceed. Otherwise, turn your empathic broadcast off, and make your way stealthily to the camp to investigate what as happened there. Stop to wash the dried glowslug slime off your armor as soon as you can.
>>
No. 479239 ID: f2c20c

>>479235
We can just spot other neumono via empathy, so the visual modes are only useful for spotting Voklits... and from what we've seen, they are EVERYWHERE. We will have no way of avoiding an ambush from Voklits if we're surrounded at all times.

Actually thinking about it, maybe we should hole up in the caves.
>>
No. 479244 ID: 2f4b71

Ask Katzati how confidant she is that she could make her own way a few km from the area (preferably without going any closer to the Neumono camp) and out of the radio jamming area. If she can get a message out, getting reinforcements of the required quantity and ability is far more likely.
>>
No. 479260 ID: ec6d4c

It occurs to me we might also want to ask why she was sent alone. I thought everyone was supposed to travel in groups after the first voklit attack, and even more after Biles disappeared hunting alone.

>>479239
Voklits weren't everywhere. There was just a crowd of them watching the camp.

>so the visual modes are only useful for spotting Voklits...
And anything else our enemies may have fielded against us. If this is the salikai making a move, who knows what we may have to keep an eye out for- mechanical, biological, or otherwise. If this is the voklit attacking our camp, trying to keep them happy by taking of our armor isn't worth a damn.
>>
No. 479261 ID: 32e092

Top priority is still, now more than ever, to get a report out. I vote we abandon camp and try our best to stealthily escape the jamming field (after verifying via Katzati's radio), all with our empathy disabled to prevent anyone tracking us. Have Katzati try to escape in a different direction to also report, both to improve overall chances and to prevent them tracking us indirectly via her empathy.
>>
No. 479266 ID: c4e5c2
File 135571049792.png - (17.22KB , 700x700 , 101.png )
479266

Viln tells me he also heard the static, and so Katz and myself are not hallucinating or anything major. Katz radio does not work, either.

"Katzati, since it is several hours till nightfall, I am heading to camp now. Viln and Vern will look over you."
>"I... don't want to be left alone right now." she replies. "I want to come with you."
"Too dangerous. I at least can hide. And you can see about trying to find an escape route out of here, so we can get out of here and see if our radios work somewhere else. In fact, I would prefer it if you attempt to get out of this valley, either through the caves, the main mountain pass, or wherever you feel most confident. Viln and Vern will accompany you."
She's scared, but she recognizes how important this is in my eyes.
>"Alright, yeah... let's meet back here in, well, 5 hours if we can, and failing that, try to check in every 5 hours afterwards till we make it back here together?"
"Alright. If you get in contact, tell them everything I did, and that salikai presence is highly probable."
>>
No. 479267 ID: c4e5c2
File 135571051180.png - (65.54KB , 700x700 , 102.png )
479267

I get my usual weapons off of Viln, and tell him to restrain Katz if she starts acting weird but otherwise protect her, then head out while silent. There was a nearby brook that I use to clean the slime off, leaving me properly camoflauged. On the way back I stay nearby, but off, the road.

I am not able to make a sprint while trying to remain hidden, but I do make solid time getting to our encampment. I sense everyone else minus Katz and Biles. There is some sense of frustration, as I believe they are trying to get the radio working. Rokann does not feel abnormal.

Before I decide what to do or how to approach, I scan the trees above and around me, and above and around the campsite.

There are only two voklits.
>>
No. 479269 ID: f2c20c

>>479267
Alright let's go in there and report. Try to keep an eye on Rokann. Maybe even keep a gun on Rokann.
>>
No. 479271 ID: 3e0a6a

I suspect that Biles and Rokann wouldn't feel abnormal, as the conditioning would mostly be subconscious, or if it isn't Predator-conditioning and technology related, possibly it could just get them to do things spur of the moment like.
>>
No. 479272 ID: 8b9215

Turn empathy on and approach them. Tell them that Biles and Rokann are compromised. Most likely by predators and salkai. We are physically going to move back towards home until we regain radio contact and call in reinforcements. Explain that if the salkai were able to do what they were trying to do, and thought they could do, Biles and Rokann are essentially under predator control at this time and should be treated as such.
>>
No. 479273 ID: 3e0a6a

>>479272

Let's not go with the "They are definitely compromised" approach right at the start, we can lay it down as a possibility, a highly like possibility considering the circumstances, and then gauge reactions from the group.

Also, Polo, if you can, can you determine if there are any "other" empathic signatures going around?
>>
No. 479277 ID: ec6d4c

The low voklit count is abnormal. With two recent attacks, you'd expect tensions to be high, and the watch maintained. Lower numbers would seem to indicate they're less worried about you. Or bodies are needed elsewhere...

Don't take any action, yet. Observe for a few minutes. Can you discern anything unusual in the voklit's behavior or appearance? Or in the behavior of your fellow neumono? They don't appear compromised, but let's see if you can notice anything else wrong before revealing yourself.

It's good that the camp wasn't attacked, although the jamming field is bad. This doesn't look like the camp has been compromised, unless they're all acting, and the salakia have gotten really good at it.

Once you've seen all you can see from the outside, and if there's nothing that would deter your approach, you can drop silence and approach. They all know now, anyways. The you can report your discoveries, and suspicions.

>Maybe even keep a gun on Rokann
Things are going to be tense enough without pointing weapons around. If she does try anything crazy, Polo's got great reaction time, armor, and can go silent.

>>479271
>>479273
Agreed. We need to be delicate in how we introduce this. If she's compromised, she probably doesn't even know- and won't want to hear it. We suspect the salikai may have compromised them to turn them back before discovering the rail tracks. There's no proof, but with the rockslide to keep us away, and the voklit attack, it's a pretty big coincidence. And Bile's disappearance and Rokann's easy access to classified information have us concerned.
>>
No. 479286 ID: ec6d4c

Oh, and this just occurred to me:

An alternate paranoid scheme. This could be something besides the machinations of the salikai. It could be political. As in, a setup, by neumono, to justify moving in in force and violating the sanctity of this preserve.
>>
No. 479305 ID: 1d8777

>>479304
Well that can't be good.
>>
No. 479306 ID: c4e5c2
File 135571580198.png - (80.95KB , 700x700 , 103.png )
479306

>Can you discern anything unusual in the voklit's behavior or appearance?
No. They are perfectly still in the trees as normal.

>Any other empathic signatures?
No.

I move into the camp, turning my empathy back on. At first they are happy to see me, but Rokann is oddly suspicious.

"Hello, Polo. Where is Katzati?" she asks.
"She is attempting to go farther away from this canyon to see if the radio works. Listen. There isn't an easy way to say this, Rokann, but I think you and Biles may have had a run in with a predator."
"What? When." She is taking it seriously, but not defensively. That is good.
"While you were exploring down in the cave."
"That isn't what I know about predators. I might have been fucked if I ran into one, but if it let me go, I'd remember it once I got out of its grasp."
"Normally predators do not think difficult thoughts, but if they put their minds to it, they can order particularly complex notions, such as amnesia."
"Are you sure you didn't hit your head down there? Tha--"
>"Hold that thought, you two." Lucera speaks up. "Radio's up. I'm calling HQ now, Polo, I feel you've got important stuff, you go first." he says, putting it on speaker, so that we end up hearing the rings while waiting for someone to pick up.
>>
No. 479308 ID: c4e5c2
File 135571581220.png - (82.99KB , 700x700 , 104.png )
479308

The ring stops abruptly. There is a heavily digitized, artificial voice on the other line that sounds like a machine's wild stab in the dark of what a voice is supposed to sound like.

"RUN"
"RUN"
"RUN"
"RUN"

It sounds cut off at every iteration of the word, just cycling over and over again.
>>
No. 479311 ID: ec6d4c

Okay. Um. Possibilities:

-HQ has been compromised or attacked, and that's some kind of automated alarm to warn you that you're about to be hit.
-That's not coming from HQ, and it's a third party trying to either scare you out of the valley, or get you to panic.

I suggest a fast and immediate scan of your surroundings, and including enhanced vision modes. If there isn't an immediate threat do deal with, we may want to consider moving. Or asking anyone if they recognize the message.
>>
No. 479312 ID: 8af889

that... is not good, can you trace where the signal is coming from/being interrupted?
also get the others to grab as much supplies & ammo as possible, be ready to move on the fly, possibly to the caves for a chokepoint if something does come
>>
No. 479313 ID: f2c20c

>>479308
Oh GREAT. The radio is just outright being intercepted, now.

Maybe we should get the hell out of here. Or at least, get to a more defensible position.

First priority is to report what you found out to the Inspector. Then ask Inspector Lucera if he's convinced the Salikai is here. If so, we may want to evac... but Biles is still missing. You could try a rescue mission, but we have no idea whatsoever where he might be. Worst case scenario, he's dead. Slightly less than worst case, he's held captive in the salikai base. Best case scenario, he's being held by the forest Voklits because he pissed them off accidentally.

Maybe we can try to ask some Voklits if they've seen him?
>>
No. 479316 ID: cf49fc

>>479308
Yaknow, instead of pondering the significance of this signal, which may or may not be from a distant CAI, I suggest we INITIATE A TACTICAL WITHDRAWAL.

The caves should be significantly less dangerous than whatever is capable of intercepting our comms.
>>
No. 479331 ID: e3aff6

I'd think an actual alarm would be wither more informative or just a siren. Sounds like the CAI or something has gotten into the radios. Turn it off, as the Salaki are probably listening in through it.

I don't suppose you guys have signal flares? We probably should have though about that when we are looking for enemies with a CAI and radio jammer.
>>
No. 479361 ID: ec6d4c

>I'd think an actual alarm would be wither more informative or just a siren. Sounds like the CAI or something has gotten into the radios.
You would think an actual alarm or alert would be more structured or informative. But at the same time this is surprisingly crude for a CAI, unless the point is to try and freak us out.
>>
No. 479363 ID: f2c20c

Honestly to me this sounds like someone made it who has very bad voice modulation tech, or has a very limited understanding of said tech. This suggests that the salikai either has a really shitty base, or Voklits are staffing it.
>>
No. 479386 ID: 8b9215

If Rokann is fleeing, shoot him. Her? Doesn't matter with what. Really.
>>
No. 479396 ID: 440525

Shit just got real, I suggest we prepare for the worst, have somebody attempt to report to hq and initiate in the hunt.
>>
No. 479397 ID: 2f4b71

>>479386
Look at how the Voklit react, as well as Rokann.
>>
No. 479409 ID: 0795f6

all right, we need to get everybody back together first. This includes Katzati and the Voklits.
>>
No. 479420 ID: c4e5c2
File 135576521781.png - (104.77KB , 700x700 , 105.png )
479420

The voklits in the trees do not move, and Rokann does not do anything abnormal still.

"Turn it off, please. That isn't your ultrahives idea of a siren, is it?"
>"No." Lucera replies, after flipping the radio off.
"We should move camp." I say. The general concensus appears to be the same. "Do we have signal flares?"
>"Yes, but we need to be at a place where there aren't trees overhead. The trees Marra, Rokann, get your armor on and the join the rest of us in organizing and getting supplies on the truck."
"The caves?" I ask. Lucera nods, we all agree that is likely the safest. It also has the best chance of getting a flare up and hope for the best.
"What about Biles and Katzati?" Rokann asks.
>"We may have to worry about ourselves sooner than Biles." Lucera says.
"I don't know what route Katzati went to, so it's up to her to make it back in a few hours time."

We spend about 3 minutes organizing and loading our truck before we're mostly ready to head off. Marra jerks her attention into the forest after getting her own armor on.

>"I hear something. I don't like it." she says. I don't see anything immediately out there when I scan.
>>
No. 479427 ID: c33f8f

Everybody take cover, tell Marra to use her suits loudspeaker to yell at whatever is in the bushes to show itself. Meanwhile Polo will start flanking it, no need to go silent unless we sense hostile neumono.
>>
No. 479437 ID: ec6d4c

Oh, hey, more greenie armors.

I really don't like leaving Biles to fend for himself, but you've got an immediate problem here, and of everyone in this group, he's the most qualified to survive something like that. Still, after we get the group secured, going looking for him is a thing we may want to do (if he's hurt or cut off somewhere and needs our help, he need our help. And if he's out there compromised, he still needs our help, and we probably need to stop what he's doing too).

Katzati should be fine, for the moment. V&V won't let anything happen to her.

>noise
You can't hear it? Look to the voklit in the trees, did they react? Probably couldn't hurt to have a weapon ready, but without more information it's hard to know how to react properly. Our options are to either prepare to engage whatever is approaching, or get out of here.
>>
No. 479440 ID: c6ec33

How defensible is this camp? Is there ample cover against the direction in which the noise is coming from?

I worry about threats from the Voklits above, but without tech, there's not much they can do from up there on their own, especially if there's only 2 of them.

If it's good, take up covered firing positions. If possible, sync up weapon choices so that you all have the weapon you're best with, and you all use different ammo types since the enemy is unknown. A mix of regular, explosive and armor-piercing shots would be nice.

If the camp sucks for defense, can you think of any areas between here and the cave that would make a better battleground?
>>
No. 479443 ID: ec6d4c

If Polo can hear the noise, or Marra can describe it, it might be something Polo will recognize. Then we'd know what response to be taking.
>>
No. 479447 ID: 8b9215

Flip through visor modes.
>>
No. 479472 ID: 32e092

Even if it's not the tree voklit, I bet they noticed it too. See how they're reacting.
>>
No. 479477 ID: c4e5c2
File 135577934622.png - (98.77KB , 700x700 , 106.png )
479477

"Please describe the noise, Marra. I can't hear it."

The camp is not good for defense. It is not particularly terrible either if a threat comes in a single direction, but if we are flanked, it is no good. And again, the voklit in the trees remain still.

>"It was just for a second. Just the sound of something moving along the ground."
"Yell at it to come out.'
>"Hey! Show yourself, out there!"

Nothing comes out. It feels like we're about done packing. I head forward a little where I can see through the trees better, while pulling out my sniper and flipping through my visor modes. Nothing is visible as of yet. Marra watches my back, but stays behind in the camp's perimeter. I still cannot see anything, but a familiar neumono enters my sensing range. It wants....

.......

I shut off my empathy, getting my team's attention over my disappearance. I sense an overpowering sense of peace and love. It's Four Stripes.
>>
No. 479479 ID: 32e092

>>479477
Get the team to GTFO in the opposite direction NOW, or they will be immediately compromised.

Then find some cover and prepare to snipe the fuck out of that predator.
>>
No. 479481 ID: c33f8f

Yeah tell the others to get away it's a predator!

Switch to your Explosive shotgun and lets start advancing towards four stripes, though i doubt he will be alone.
>>
No. 479482 ID: ec6d4c

Well, there we go. That's positive confirmation. The Salikai are here.

Yell out predator, and for everyone to get out of range. After that you immediate concern is getting out of sight from your companions so they can't turn on you. Korli and Rokann are the most immediate threats- they'll be the quickest to fall under his control. Four stripes has undoubtedly had practice on Korli's hive mates, and we suspect he's already been in Rokann's mind. You may have to disable one or more of them as you escape.

After getting clear, your priority is to find and snipe four stripes. We've spared him before, but we need to put him down now (unless a non-lethal disable is possible?). Be aware he may have an escort- arkots or worse. Rifle is probably the right weapon- range and accuracy. We need him down, fast.
>>
No. 479483 ID: ec6d4c

Also, dodge the fuck away from Marra as you shout out your warning. Four Stripes hasn't had practice on her hive, so she should be able to resist a little, but you can't risk her falling instantly- you're close enough for her to tackle.

There's also the chance Rokann will open fire on your position if Four Stripes hast gotten good enough at this to puppet gun use (although I hope he hasn't).
>>
No. 479484 ID: 8b9215

Scream at them to either run, turn on a jammer, or shoot themselves in the head. It's a predator. Explosive shotgun out, charge him, unleash hell on him and anyone near him. Give your team time to run. Then get after them.
>>
No. 479485 ID: 62496e

>>479477
Let's head over and put a few rounds in his head.
>>
No. 479488 ID: f2c20c

>>479477
Everyone else needs to get away. You need to go shoot that fucker repeatedly.
>>
No. 479491 ID: ec6d4c

>>479485
>>479488
Guys, guys, it only takes one bullet to kill a predator. Well, unless the Salikai turned him into some horrible augmented cyborg, or covered him with armor / bioarmor. Which might be likely, actually, if he's alone.
>>
No. 479493 ID: 04b86a

"I know that predator! The salikai are here!"

After you shout that to everyone, get everyone in the truck and start driving in a 90˚ (or maybe 135˚?) angle in either direction from Four Stripes. He will be under guard, if he's even on the surface at all (remember, there's an elaborate cave system here, just like at the spire), and running in the opposite direction is exactly the kind of panic reaction they'd hope for.
>>
No. 479509 ID: c4e5c2
File 135578784588.png - (114.82KB , 700x700 , 107.png )
479509

"Predator! The salikai are here, run for it!" Between my silence and the keyword, they run for the truck as its engine goes on.
>"Polo! Get your ass here!" I hear Marra yell back.
"Go on without me, I'll meet you all later!" They are likely heading for the cave entrance A, which is close, but they flee before we have a chance to carefully strategize and discuss direction and destination.

I run off into the woods, hanging by the trees and getting closer to Four Stripes.

I find a voklit and an arkot with what looks like a jammer, but it is humming quietly unlike usual jammers, and that is where I sense Four Stripes. The voklit slows down once my team's truck gets away.
>>
No. 479510 ID: 1d8777

>>479509
Uh oh. They managed to make that into a portable weapon? That's actually worse than there being a predator here, isn't it.
>>
No. 479511 ID: 8b9215

Kill them both, keep the jammer intact. Use your pistol to avoid collateral damage. Take the arkot first.
>>
No. 479515 ID: 04b86a

>>479509
Fuck, that was just a decoy. Why didn't we think of that? Well, unless it's being controlled by an AI it won't be able to control anyone, but that's still one step closer to "hand-held predators" than I would like.

I'm still voting we run for it, there's no sense in blowing our cover by killing them.
>>
No. 479517 ID: 3e0a6a

>>479515

It controlling people isn't the problem.

It resembling Four Stripes, a Predator the Salikai KNOW we would recognize, is the problem.
>>
No. 479519 ID: ec6d4c

Oh, great. They've built an artificial predator hijack system. Plus an enslaved voklit carrying a heavy caliber enough weapon to probably punch through your armor.

Get some distance between the two of you, then safely snipe the voklit to death (boom, headshot). Then take out the arkot. Wait, see if there are any others or reinforcements, and then see if you can recover the hijacker (might be useful if we can get it back to Korli and she can science it). If you can't recover it, destroy it.

Interesting thing- this confirms the message you received before was a warning. So who sent it? One of the science hive maybe (secretly piggybacking a shoddy voice synth into the jammer signal?).

...you know, in a way, I hope that is an artifical hijacker, and not Four Stripe's brain hooked up to an antena or something. D=
>>
No. 479521 ID: 886a4d

Kill them both. Try and keep the broadcast unit intact.
>>
No. 479527 ID: 04b86a

>>479517
>It controlling people isn't the problem.

>one step closer to "hand-held predators" than I would like
No, the salikai controlling people most certainly is the problem here. We already assumed they all but knew we were here after they captured Biles and Rokann, but Four Stripes can only be in so many places at once, and they don't have a limitless supply of predators. If they can get an AI capable of properly adjusting the frequencies and make the signal strong enough, they'll be able to take over any unjammed neumono without actually fielding an easily killed predator.

Besides, even if it didn't feel like Four Stripes an overpowering sense of peace and love still screams predator. For all we know they only used Four Stripes because he's the only predator they have right now.

Of course, them using a replica of Four Stripe's link is still bad, because it means he's still out there and now we're separated from our group, with little chance of catching up with them in time to make a difference.

...You know what? Fuck running. Shoot the voklit, shoot the arkot, and then take the voklit's headset and announce yourself as Ghost Polo. If we're going to fuck this up, we may as well do it right. We might even get the chance to use that line we've been wanting to use.
>>
No. 479533 ID: 3e0a6a

>>479527

We don't even know if it's a proper jack, or is just a facade that the Salikai knew we would recognize.

The immediate problem is that our team is away from us and we can't catch up because we sensed Four Stripes, if it isn't a proper Mindjack, then it was a trap designed to separate us from our team.
>>
No. 479539 ID: ec6d4c

>Worrying about this being a fake to separate us from the team
This seems like a silly, self centered concern. The salikai aren't out to get Polo alone- they're here to cover up their existence. Which means they either need to capture us all and mind wipe our discovery (so we report back everything is fine, and they stay undiscovered), or they need to kill us all, and cover it up so it looks like someone else did it.

They also weren't expecting us to have gotten an advanced warning, and be packed up, in the trucks, and ready to go. If not for that radio call, we would have been caught flat-footed, and we're be in the middle of camp surrounded by dominated companions.

Besides, there's still a reasonable chance they don't even know Polo's alive. And even if they do now, they didn't know for months, and didn't have the chance to develope a specific empathy braodcast specifically to distract her.
>>
No. 479542 ID: f2c20c

>>479509
God. Dammit. I agree with keeping the jammer intact and deactivating it, so that it can be researched for countermeasures.

Also bring that gun and ammo back if you can carry them without slowing down; we could use the supplies. After you retrieve the jammer, you really really need to run away. If there are more armed Voklit troops around like this, the forest is now an extremely dangerous place to be.
>>
No. 479543 ID: e3f578

Try and get a sync shot so one headshot goes into the other. Of course, it won't be long before that Voklit notices you, so if you can't, take down the big guy first than the little scamp.
>>
No. 479544 ID: e3f578

also, if we're aiming to get the jammer, you should beware of a self-destruct device on the thing.
Personally, I think it's too risky bringing it into HQ without knowing how the device works already, we'd need to send the blueprints to HQ if we truly want to study a real device without risk, which means knowing it's potential, where the self-destruct bombs would be located in it most likely, and if there's a radio signal that can turn it on remotely in the middle of a bunch of neumono which may or may not act like a empathetic EMP bomb.
>>
No. 479545 ID: b33427

So the salikai have managed to copy Four Stripe's "peace and love" empathic signal and play it on a loop. And they know you are here. And they knew you'd come running to put down Four Stripes before he could control your compatriots... Dammit. They wanted to get you away from them. Well, too late to do anything about that.

Alright, you want to either get that modded jammer, or destroy it. They aren't easy to make or come by, and getting it out of their hands means one less fake Four Stripes to hide the real one. Plus, if you can get it back to Korli, she might be able to turn it into a regular jammer to hide your compatriots.

Withdraw, and check around these two to see if any other enemies are nearby before shooting them. Set up a sniper shot from their front. Nail the voklit's gun with an armor-piercing round, then an explosive round to his knee. This'll hobble him, and prevent him from shooting back.

Switch to your explosive shotgun, and close distance quickly. Put a round of exploding buckshot into the voklit's chest, but avoid damaging the modded jammer. If the arkot breaks from the voklit, chase it down instead and grab it. If you can't chase it down, break off and make for Cave A.
>>
No. 479548 ID: b33427

>>479545
Oh, and is that green haze hanging in the air normal for this area? 'Cause if it's not, then there might be some kind of neumono mind-altering gas in the air. Are Rokann and Marra's suits air-tight like yours?
>>
No. 479550 ID: f2c20c

Personally I vote we use the rifle. It's least likely to blow up the jammer, and we can aim for vital areas for a guaranteed takedown. Also, shooting him through both eyes at once guarantees he can't shoot back.
>>
No. 479557 ID: b33427

>>479550
Thing is, Polo would have to get up to about eye level with the voklit to pull that off. That'd put her out in the open. Whatever shot Polo takes will have to be from near ground level to remain hidden until the shot is made.

Also, if the modded jammer is to be taken, kill the arkot as soon as there's a clear shot. This'll prevent the arkot from destroying the device once it looks like it'll be taken for sure.
>>
No. 479558 ID: ec6d4c

>close distance with explosive shotgun
Against the brute used to short range fighting? Who's had little training to be accurate at range with his weapon? A weapon that looks high enough caliber to punch through armor? And when Polo's had lots of sniper training? And when we want to capture the enemy tech intact to examine?

I know we like our big new splodey weapon, but that is not the right move. We want to back off a little, and snipe them to death with impunity, exploiting Polo's crack aim. Then we hide and wait to see if any backup comes running before we try to recover the device, turn it off, and bring it back for Korli to examine (although, we should check it for tracking devices, first).
>>
No. 479560 ID: f2c20c

>>479557
If you're far enough away, the angle is small enough that it doesn't matter what height you are.
>>
No. 479567 ID: b33427

>>479558
Alright, you've got a point, but in this case Polo should check in a wide circle around these two to make sure there's no enemy voklit within running distance. 'Cause if there are, she's not going to be able to capture the modded jammer after killing these two with sniper shots, and should just line up one regular round on it from the side to completely wreck it.
>>
No. 479611 ID: b33427

Hang back for a bit before taking any action against these two and focus on the empathic signal that's coming out of that modded jammer. See if you can sense any "seams," "sameness," or anything else in the signal that'd give it away as not a real predator. Might come in handy later to be able to distinguish the real deal from a fake.
>>
No. 479630 ID: 8b9215

IMPORTANT the Arkot is wearing the jammer. Shoot him first.
>>
No. 479636 ID: ec6d4c

>>479630
The brute wearing the gun and the comm is the bigger threat that the weasel manipulating the device that doesn't work on Polo. Yes, we want to recover it, but not getting shot, or letting them call in reinforcements, is more important.
>>
No. 479648 ID: 0b6e2f

Yes the heavy machine gun is definitely more of a health risk than the psy-emitter or whatever it is.
>>
No. 479660 ID: c4e5c2
File 135585448966.png - (76.12KB , 700x700 , 108.png )
479660

>Sense any seams in the empathy?
No, and I do not believe it is on a loop. A moment after the voklit slows down, the empathy dies away. Not completely, Four Stripes is still there, but his empathy is just a passive state of existing.

>Bring the gun back
The gun is gigantic. It looks as though it is designed for the upper end of neumono sizes.

>Oh, and is that green haze hanging in the air normal for this area?
Yes. We are in a sunken valley, so fog tends to fall and collect here, and last longer from the shade of the extremely tall trees giving shade.

I do not think there is anyone else immediately around, but I have a feeling if I wait too long, that may change before I have a chance to deal with these two. The arkot turns to the side once they move more, giving me a decent double killing shot. As much as a double headshot would be nice, their angle with mine would require them to be facing me.
>>
No. 479661 ID: ec6d4c

Right, wait a moment to make sure nothing's running to respond to the gunshot, including possibly voklits in the trees. Then approach with caution, just in case the voklit ain't completely dead (although, assuming they have a conventional, centralized brain, he probably is).

First, check his comm. See if the Salikai are saying anything to him- maybe we could learn something useful. Leave it though- communications devices are easy to track. Then see if we can deactivate that predator-empathy unit, and check it for tracking devices. If it can be turned off, and isn't tracked, I'd like to take it to Korli to be examined. If it can't be disabled, break it.

Then GTFO.
>>
No. 479662 ID: e3f578

>>479660
Run, get out combat knife and slit both their throats, the arkot is going to fall on the ground. Even if headshots are far more lethal to voklits than neumono, I'd like to be safer than sorry. Then bolt with the device, find somewhere secure, look for a switch to disable it, and run some more.
>>
No. 479665 ID: b33427

While approaching, flip your visor to infrared and scan the trees and ground for any signs of voklits, arkots, or anything else. There's still the possibility this is some kind of ambush setup, so be wary.

When you get to the voklit, take its headset and listen in for a moment for any radio chatter. Then pull the predator-empathy device from the arkot, check it for any obvious tracking devices, and remove them. Turn it off and remove the power cell to be sure it's completely off.

If you think you have time, also try sabotaging the voklit's machine gun. Pull the magazine, then jam a rock just small enough to fit into the barrel on that end into it, and put the magazine back. That'll give 'em a surprise if and when they fire it.
>>
No. 479672 ID: d4ad1a

Deactivate the device, but see if you can preserve it and bring it back to base.
>>
No. 479673 ID: 8b9215

Grab the headset and the empathy broadcaster and run for it. See if you can figure out how to turn off the broadcaster. Also check for any tracking devices you can find on those two items.

If you can't figure out how to turn off the broadcaster, cut the wires up top and see if that does it.
>>
No. 479708 ID: c4e5c2
File 135588153821.png - (75.18KB , 700x700 , 109.png )
479708

I don't see anything directly around me, but knowing that could change quickly, I don't take my time scanning the surroundings. I run forward, knowing most jammers have a shutoff panel along the sides, grab the headset, and admire the ridiculous size of the bullets. Where they get the materials, I could not know. I do not see any obvious trackers on the items, but I cannot spare the time to do a thorough investigation. I will likely throw away the headset if it turns useless.

>"--in! Come in!" the headset says, with an unrecognizeable voice on the other end.
>"If you're there and simply have had a malfunction, stay there." a miklik continues, before shutting off the radio.

I keep running, but I hear an engi.. no, two engines. They are not our trucks, and they are getting closr. One north, one east.

And the sound of what sounds like a large animal running.
>>
No. 479709 ID: 28e06c

It's either Four Stripes, which is unlikely, as Predators are probably pathetic in open confrontation, or a Vernaut, probably bioarmored.
>>
No. 479711 ID: ec6d4c

Alright. Two enemy troop transports, and let's assume a vernaut, coming this way. Time to amscray. If the enemy is coming from the north and the east, south-west might be the best direction to head right now, to avoid detection.

Getting up into the trees might not be a bad idea (away from ground based searches, camouflages with your gear, and a good vantage for a sniper). You'd probably have to use the grapple though, those trees don't look particularly climbable.

If you do come face to face with the vernaunt, shotgun is your only hope. Aim for the brain- in through the eyes, or up through the roof of the mouth.

Now, this is important. Are they approaching the location of your victim? Or are they closing in on you?

May be time to ditch the comm. They'll figure out you took as soon as they reach the body, and they'll either change channels, start trying to feed you misinformation, or try to track it.

Don't be afraid to ditch the not-jammer if your life depends on it. We'd like to get it examined, but if it comes to it- survival is more important.
>>
No. 479714 ID: 6dc5a6

Take both the jammer and the comm. Ditch the comm by attaching it to an animal in the off chance they might actually chase after the radio signal.
>>
No. 479720 ID: ec6d4c

Also: damn but would that ammo have done a number on you if he'd had a chance to use it.

If you have to disable their vehicles (hopefully we'll be away before that's a concern) you can either snipe the driver and get them to crash, or put an armor piercing round right through the engine block. Going for the tires is more trouble than it's worth, and not likely to bring them to a complete stop, anyways.
>>
No. 479725 ID: b33427

If you think you can outrun both those vehicles and that large animal, then take off at a run in a westerly direction; Straight south-west is too obvious.

However, if you don't think you can outrun either of them, you're going to have to climb up into the trees, hide, and wait for them to pass. Better pull out your grappling hook and rope while you're running, just in case.

Keep the headset with you for a bit, but the first chance you get pull the battery, and either break it, hide it, or chuck it into a pond or river. That'll make 'em waste time changing channels and encryption, thinking they're compromised. Might even get them to waste even more time in spreading misinformation down the compromised channel.

Oh, and the fact that the people on the other end of the radio were trying to speak to the voklit in your language probably means at least some of them know the basics of it. Best not rely on a language barrier in the future to hide what you're saying from any voklits.
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No. 479730 ID: f2c20c

>>479708
Ditch the radio, and get up in the trees. Use the vines to swing from tree to tree so you don't leave tracks or a scent on the ground. If we spot a truck and have a clear shot on the occupants, take it. Prioritize the driver so they at least crash. We want to reduce their ground forces when the opportunity presents itself. I'd say we should try to move west and circle around to cave A to meet up with the others.
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No. 479738 ID: 8b9215

Fucking run.
>>
No. 480049 ID: c4e5c2
File 135603895381.png - (247.38KB , 700x700 , 110.png )
480049

I take the batteries out of the headset and shove it under some foliage.

As another moment passes, I hear another engine, and sounds of more footsteps coming. I may be getting surrounded, so I use my grappling hook. The branches in the trees start high up, but the trees are easily climbable once the branches begin. Also, they are sturdy. They have to be, if voklits are able to traverse them.

Although I can run from treebranch to treebranch, or simply go up high into the treeline with more grappling hook use, I am tempted to stay relatively low enough to attempt to get a view of what I am dealing with first, before I try and book it.
>>
No. 480052 ID: f2c20c

>>480049
I want to snipe from the treetops, or at least peek through the scope from up there.
>>
No. 480055 ID: ec6d4c

Check out your enemy. That's half the point of being a stealth infiltrator, anyways.

Just stay out of sight. Remember you can use alt helmet vision modes to see them when they shouldn't be able to see you, or your rifle sight to see further.

Running is still probably our first option, but depending on what kind of pursuit we observe down below, and how far the rest of the unit made it, we might want to consider guerrilla tactics to slow pursuit. Killing the vehicles (armor piercing rifle round through the engine block should do the trick), or shooting out the vernaunt's eyes might be worth it.

That's getting ahead of ourself, though. Let's see what we can observe, first.
>>
No. 480102 ID: 8b9215

Get as far up as you can where you can still see them.
>>
No. 480149 ID: c4e5c2
File 135611664335.png - (195.68KB , 700x700 , 111.png )
480149

I move up as high as I can without completely obstructing my view down, although it is difficult finding a happy medium between having overly obscured sight and being right out in the open on the first branch. Nonetheless, I hear the engines underneath me.

I can't see the automotives from my current point, but a vernaut and a miklik riding its back enter my view. It is a small vernaut. Relatively speaking.
>>
No. 480150 ID: 62496e

>>480149
That miklik's headgear might be IR goggles or similar. Get to cover.
>>
No. 480151 ID: ec6d4c

A three tailed miklik with... eartennas? Weird. Hopefully not sensory equipment, or you could be in trouble. (Does your armor hide your heat signature? That might help if they've got IR scanners, too).

You could blind the vernaut (which, yeah, is practically a baby compared to the last one you saw. No way Rokoa could fit in his mouth, well, without a lot of chewing) or kill the miklik, but I don't see that being to our immediate advantage.

Can you tell anything about the disposition or numbers of the other Salikai troops? Be nice to know how much, and what, we're dealing with here. Voklits are probably the biggest immediate problem if you're spotted, since they're suited to come after you in the trees.

Can you overhear what the searchers are saying? Knowing what they're up to might make it easier to decide if we need to book it, of buy time for your allies with some strategic sniping and chaos causing.
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No. 480153 ID: c4e5c2
File 135611942037.png - (125.27KB , 700x700 , 112.png )
480153

>Does your armor hide your heat signature? That might help if they've got IR scanners, too
Not particularly, no. I will have to see about getting armor that may help for that.

>Can you tell anything about the disposition or numbers of the other Salikai troops?
At least 4 engines came nearby, and I hear some voklit chatter in their own language. I can't hear anything understandable. Instincts tell me there may be about ten of them, but I have little visual contact to back that up.

I move up more, away from the miklik and his goggles. He is definitely scanning the trees, and sniping him may give away my location, especially if there are other mikliks around.

Off in the distance, in the direction of which Lucera and the others were heading, I start hearing enough gunfire. Some vines start getting swayed around me. A quick IR switch reveals at least a couple voklits are beginning to climb the vines and trees, though that is only two I can see offhand.
>>
No. 480154 ID: 8b9215

Start moving toward gunfire. If you get a clear shot at any people moving up in the trees, take it.
>>
No. 480161 ID: ec6d4c

Okay... since there's only two, and there's no shouting or scrambling of activity, that probably means these two coming up is part of the search pattern, not that you've been spotted, yet. You still have time.

Our mission objective right now is to get word to the outside world. Someone needs to call this in. Our secondary objective is to keep as many of our people alive and out of the salikai's hands as possible. These goals overlap, to some extent. You need people to get the message out- and we're all dead (or at least brainwashed) if we don't.

The difficult quest right now is whether it is more important to remain undetected yourself, or to try and help your allies.

Begin moving towards the gunfight. Presumably, the searchers will begin moving in that direction, too. At this point (once they're moving, instead of actively searching) they will be more vulnerable to interference- you can crash vehicles (drive or engine block), snipe some people (including the climbers), and tie them up looking for you instead of them reinforcing the other salikai forces attacking your friends. Then you can melt away in the trees.

If they don't go to reinforce, than you can leave them searching here by the corpses while you head to reinforce your friends yourself.
>>
No. 480162 ID: f2c20c

>>480153
I think we'd better go.
>>
No. 480180 ID: b33427

If you can do it without being seen, move up into a higher level of branches before heading towards the gunfire. Preferably a layer with branches too thin for voklits to move on. That way the voklits coming up won't be able to just look around on the same level to see you.

Also, once you're up there, think you could cut bits out of one or two of the vines the voklits are coming up on? Just enough that the vine tears from the jerking force of them climbing up, and also without being obvious they were cut?

In future, remember that most mikliks can see in the infrared spectrum, and some can see in ultraviolet as well. So treat all mikliks you see as if they're wearing IR goggles at all times.
>>
No. 480488 ID: a5c529

If there is gunfire then that would mean they found your team mates, I think it is time to engage.
>>
No. 480915 ID: c4e5c2
File 135666594137.png - (186.93KB , 700x700 , 113.png )
480915

I still don't think I've been seen, so I climb up higher into the trees. There are multiple engines that are driven past me, but I am too high to see much. Even so, I'm low enough so that the branches intertwine to make it easy to move towards the gunfire. No matter how quick I move, the gunfire gets more distant. The fight may be going at a running pace away from me. The good part is that it does not look like the enemy is coming for me in great numbers, but I occasionally see a voklit searching through the vegetation. It is a safe assumption to say that I am surrounded.

After several minutes, I look down to find a few armed voklits in the trees below me, above our overturned truck. Rokann is standing at the side, staring off into space. I doubt I can get closer without getting in sight of the voklits between me and her. There is no empathy coming from her, and I don't sense anyone else. The gunfire is not as audible now, it sounds like they must be near the cave entrance.
>>
No. 480916 ID: d4ad1a

She's compromised. If we could do it without being detected, I'd say snipe her with explosive rounds now, to make sure she doesn't come back as one of them, but that's not really an option. For now, quietly take note of that and proceed to the cave entrance.
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No. 480918 ID: ec6d4c

You sense no empathy from her? That doesn't match any of the forms of mind control we've seen before, unless she's jammed as well.

Alright. It seems likely that Rokann is currently compromised (possibly by love bugs, more likely by another one of those new artificial predators). We should attempt rescue, if possible. What are the odds here? Are her guards few enough that you can take them out? If so, do so, get closer, and then disable the control device.
>>
No. 480921 ID: f2c20c

>>480915
She's gone silent? Or maybe she's being jammed. Well, she's not dead- she's still bleeding. Also, I don't think she's mind controlled, as if she were on their side she'd have a gun... wait, what's that strap? Does she have a gun? If not, she's probably being empathically 'stunned' from something you can't sense.

If she's armed, then she's with the enemy now. HOWEVER I don't really think we should kill her. There may be a way to save her instead. Don't forget about the nanite zombies- we saved them. This is a similar situation.

I say find a way to get some good shooting angles on the nearby Voklits and take them out without being fired upon, then try to talk to Rokann. If we can snap her out of it, then we should get her help to turn the truck back over and use it to get to the others. Use the artificial predator "jammer" to get her under your control if you have to. I imagine when she's under its effect she will obey the orders of whoever's wearing the "jammer".
>>
No. 480925 ID: ec6d4c

The decision here isn't rescue vs kill. It's rescue vs hide. Polo needs to assess if taking out the voklit between her and Rokann and disabling any mind control tech before anyone else can get here is feasible, or if exposing herself is too big a risk.

>wait, what's that strap?
It's been a part of her outfit since we first met her. I don't think we've ever seen a gun slung from it, but it's possible. We do have to be aware of the possibility she's potentially compromised and hostile though.
>>
No. 480928 ID: 57a559

Interesting, capture I think would be very important. The ultrahive could learn much of the empathetic link and how it's manipulated and how it can be healed after such an attack.

In my opinion it's too risky now without Viln and Vern and without a proper way to tie her up. We'd have to meet back up with them if we hope for an efficient capture and rescue mission. And we need to get Biles too, quickly. And a goddamn way out of here. Thing is that if they send a chopper it's probably going to be downed by Anti-aircraft.
If we ever get a chance to ask for rescue remind the ultrahive to bring anti-anti-aircraft technology.

Okay, simply put, we need backup now!
>>
No. 480933 ID: b33427

Rokann is almost certainly in a jammer's area of effect right now. Can't tell from here whether it's a hollow bubble and there's a predator (real or artificial) in there pacifying her, or if it's a solid sphere and she's not doing anything 'cause of an implanted order from before when her memory was messed with. Can't do anything about the latter, but the former could be dealt with from a distance if you can line up a shot on it.

Skirt the edge of the area where Rokann is, en route to the cave, checking through your scope to look for any jammer-type equipment, and get an idea of what enemy forces are there and how well equipped they are. If you spot a jammer, and you're close enough to sense Rokann under normal circumstances, take aim and shoot it, then run.

If you sense no predator-type thing in there keeping her in check, and she doesn't react, then Rokann had at least a pacification directive implanted in her mind as well as having her memories wiped when she was captured before, and should be treated as compromised. If she snaps out of it, then whatever you shot was keeping her in check, and that means they've got some kind of artificial predator tech. If you sense a predator, then it might be real or artificial, but you can't stick around to find out which one it is.

>>480918
Another, rather more likely, possibility than the salikai creating working artificial predators is they've made an empathic relay; One that converts and carries the empathic signals over much longer range radio signals. That way their few predators could sit, safe and sound, in whatever bunker they have and can still operate on the surface.

>>480928
The salikai are definitely not going to shoot at any incoming aircraft with AA, or be overt in any way. They know they have nowhere left to go, so they're going to work to hide that they're here. That means making sure nobody gets away, killing or capturing Polo, then capturing all or most of the inspection team and the reinforcements, killing as few as possible, and manipulating their memories. Implant a narrative that fits what's been observed from outside the valley, what equipment has been damaged, and where Polo, and whoever else that died, did so in an accident. Nobody would know what happened here, and the area will be marked "salikai-free."
>>
No. 480953 ID: 8b9215

Ignore her. She's gone. Move on.

This is bad. It's past the point of being about your team. It's time to get out of this valley. Keep heading to cave entrance, see if you can find out what happened to your team.
>>
No. 480964 ID: c4e5c2
File 135673631037.png - (114.78KB , 700x700 , 114.png )
480964

In my first experiences with predators, I found that many of their neumono pets were often silent. It's a sign that they've been completely broken into by a predator. It can't have been enough time to break Rokann entirely, as the average neumono would take a week under a predator's empathy before they simply go braindead beyond repair. That said, I do not know how effective four stripes is, or if it is used in conjunction with other salikai tech. I skirt around her, although the path of the branches does lead me a bit closer. I sense four stripes broadcasting passiveness again and... what I can only say is a complex series of emotions. I do not understand them myself, and it likely would not effect me even if I was not silent. It is likely tailored specifically to Rokann's empathy, however, and what he's doing to her, I don't know.

I keep moving, and leave Four Stripes' range. When I'm at the other side of Rokann, closer to the cave entry, I take a look back. I get visibility what I assume is just an especially freaky miklik sitting by what I am certain is where Four Stripes' empathy was coming from when I was in range.

>It could be an empathic relay, one that converts and carries the empathic signals over much longer range radio signals
In light of this recent discovery, I am thinking that is a safe assumption. They may also be able to control the range, to a certain level, of the relay's output.

I could shoot out the relay with a normal round, or an explosive round to take out the miklik and voklit bodyguard behind him. The problem is, is either will likely give away my location, and even if Rokann snaps out of it in perfect order, she will also be surrounded and out in the open. At the same time, she is likely being killed from the inside out right now.
>>
No. 480966 ID: 8b9215

Do it and run like hell. Use explosive.

BTW that is a predator with opposable thumbs.
>>
No. 480969 ID: f2c20c

She may be surrounded but she is a top-notch soldier. She can get away if we give her the chance. Shoot ALL the enemies. Give her the best covering fire you've ever given.

You might also want to toss her a weapon once she snaps out of it. Maybe the explosive shotgun.
>>
No. 480970 ID: ec6d4c

...if we walk away now, you're consigning Rokann to a fate worse than death. We can't stand by and watch that. Also: I think the only appropriate response is disproportionate relation every time the Salikai use one of these mind control devices. Let's teach their troops anyone carrying these things is marked for death.

Go with exploding the relay and its handlers. The quickly take some shots at the other creatures around Rokann- give her a fighting chance to make a break for it. Might be worth dropping your silence just long enough to give her something to hold on to, and so she knows she has to run or die.

Rokann's tough. We give her a chance, she could very well survive this.

Then the priority becomes our own escape. Preferably running away from our other allies, hopefully leading any Salikai forces on a wild goose chase coffee cake run before you lose them (we hope). Move fast, and don't be afraid to use the grappling line to move faster.
>>
No. 480984 ID: ec6d4c

How dry is it around here, by the way? Explosive rounds may have an added bonus if it starts a fire. The salikai troops would have to put it out- if it spreads a forest fire can be seen from orbit. And when command calls in to warn you, or to check on what's going on, there would be no response. Bam. Salikai position compromised.

>You might also want to toss her a weapon once she snaps out of it. Maybe the explosive shotgun.
Hmm. We only have so much firepower at our disposal. I'd like to hope she could grab a gun from the supplies in the overturned truck, or off one of the corpses we're about to make. Also, if she's surrounded, she's much better off making a break for it than putting up a fight in the middle.
>>
No. 480986 ID: 57a559

>>480984
Not to mention we don't know if this WILL snap her out of it or if they have a backup relay close-by.
>>
No. 480987 ID: 78c6ea

>>480915

Well that's interesting. Blow 4-stripes' head wide open.
>>
No. 480990 ID: ec6d4c

>>480987
That is a priority now. If we can find him and take him out, all these relays will become useless. Maybe Korli will be able to use the one we've captured to trace the origin of the broadcast?
>>
No. 480997 ID: b33427

Take the shot on the empathic relay using an explosive round. This'll remove an irreplaceable vector for Four Stripes to project his neumono mind-fucking, and kill some of the salikai's hard-to-replace forces.

Drop your empathic block once the relay is toast so Rokann has something to focus on to get away. Take out some targets in Rokann's way, but run for it when the enemy starts moving on your position.

Head to anywhere but the rendezvous site and try to lose the forces on your tail. You can't meet back up with the others until you're sure you're not followed. If you can't lose them readily, lead them far away from the others instead.

>>480990
Once the others are safe for the time being, then the priority becomes killing Four Stripes as soon as possible. Or, if he's too well protected, destroying the empathic transceiver he's using. Either way will keep the salikai from mind-screwing any more neumono, and likely fuck their plans to remain hiden over.
>>
No. 480998 ID: c4e5c2
File 135675332535.png - (119.19KB , 700x700 , 115.png )
480998

>How dry is it around here, by the way?
Extremely not, especially not with how the fog rolls in and moistens everything. A fire would be difficult to start even if I attempted one specifically. The plus is that if one did start somehow, it would likely create an immense amount of smoke. It'll be hard to miss if there's any satellite watching whatsoever.

I take another moment to take proper aim, and blow away the miklik and the transmitter. The voklit will likely be taken out as well.

I release my silence, but I don't know how much it'll help. Rokann snaps back to consciousness, but she's bewildered, and does not recognize me. She may have some temporary case of amnesia, or at least heavy daze after being manipulated like she was. Thankfully, some part of her realizes that she's surrounded by enemy forces, so she runs from me just as much as the voklits, as well as from me. She is fast, and she is running southeast. Yells come from multiple places below me, and I see vines getting pulled on all around me.
>>
No. 480999 ID: 8b9215

Go silent and run for your life. Use explosive shotgun to pick off as many as you can. Wearing down numbers will help.
>>
No. 481000 ID: 6dc5a6

While setting the forest on fire isn't the most informative message it does have the benefit of being impossible to jam. Can you start any fires with the exploding shotgun rounds?
>>
No. 481001 ID: ec6d4c

>hard to start a fire, but easily seen from orbit
We'll keep starting a fire somehow as a plan B if it turns out Katzati can't clear the radio jamming field.

>Rokann ran from me
...well, at least her distrust of you was put to good use this time.

Amscray. Get the hell out of there. Head away from the cave we believe your allies are headed towards. If anyone's climbing a vine right next to you, feel free to slash it and drop them as you move. Limit shots taken to beneficial attacks of opportunity, or those necessary to take out any pursuers who get to close (use normal rounds). Otherwise, prioritize speed over engageing- you're outnumbered and out gunned. (shifting priorities to careful stealth, one you've built up some distance). If your grapple has a fast retract feature, it using it to hookshot your way quickly through the trees could help.

Turn your silence back on, just in case they have any neumono among them, another four stripes relay, or tech that can detect empathy (the love-bugs could, and if they can build relays, a detector should be an easier application of the same principles).

>Use explosive shotgun to pick off as many as you can.
A shotgun isn't really a great idea at this range. Plus, I'd think some of the spread would hit explode in the brush cover between us and pursuers. Diluting the effect, and making the direction of the shots come from a lot more obvious.
>>
No. 481015 ID: f2c20c

>>480998
Shit, she ran the wrong way. Try yelling for her to go north, that the others are at cave entrance A.

We'd better run too. Cut all the vines the voklits are climbing on, first, to give us extra time.
>>
No. 481019 ID: ec6d4c

>>481015
Yelling for her to go a certain direction is the opposite of helping, since the enemy can hear. Trying to get her information that can't be overheard was the whole point of turning Polo's empathy on temporarily, but it didn't work so well.

Besides, at the moment, having everyone going in different directions will make the enemy's search harder. And unlike Polo, who's only guessing where the rally point is, Rokann would have actually been there when the decision was made. She'll know where to go, once she regains her head.
>>
No. 481021 ID: e3aff6

Exploding the fuel in a vehicle would probably send up a decent amount of smoke if we can get the chance to do that. Now is the time for absconding though.
>>
No. 481028 ID: b33427

You've done all you can here. Turn your empathic block back on and make a getaway.

Head to the west, towards cave entrance B and away from the rest of your group. That'll force the enemy to split up. You can travel via a circuitous route in the tunnels to meet back up with them.

Use your smaller size and weight to your advantage and climb higher up into the canopy, crossing branches too small for voklits to cross, and using your grappling hook to move over gaps. See if you can get higher than the vines that are strong enough to hold a voklit. Try to lose the enemy as soon as you can, but if you can't then lead them on a merry chase al