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Reality Fault

"The Eagle Has Landed"

    The crew of the Indigo are back aboard their ship, having just finished exploring the Yellow Rose, and are planning on going down to the planet in Alshain. Currently the Yellow Rose and the Indigo are in geosynchronous orbit, floating somewhat over what looks suspiciously like a green and very heavily forested European, and yellowish African continent.

Vash frowns up at the viewscreen, folding his arms. "That's a lot of veldt."

Douglas glances up at the screen. "Very little sign of civilization. At least here."

Vash shakes his head, scratching the back of his head plates. So much wilderness... a whole planet to hide on. Where did you go, Zildjian?

Kerry skrees, "At least, very little sign of mechanized civilization. One must be careful not to be contemptuous of the political skills of folks just because they haven't figured out metal...."

Douglas says dryly, "Oh, yes. They probably have fire down to an exact science-" He breaks off with an apologetic look to Sakura. "And... probably a very finely developed sense of art and beauty and aesthetics, as well...." Vash half-turns back from the viewscreen and looks first at Douglas, then at Sakura. He grins lopsidedly and turns back to the screen.

Kerry shrugs. "Well, at any rate, we might as well start in the British Isles. That's where the cowboys intended to land."

Douglas tries to change the subject from his gaffe. "I wonder why there. I would have thought they'd want to take a look at what would be their home territory." Sakura nods a little, fiddling with the machines. Great. I don't have to worry about Aztecs, after all. Now all I have to worry about are the Celts...

Vash says, "Maybe more likely to run into someone that's at least pre-industrial."

Kerry skrees, "As if that's a good thing?"

Douglas says, "I'm not sure. Even pre-industrial civilizations could do some work that's moderately visible from orbit." He considers for a second, then nods. "Can we get a look at the Thames River with our telescope? If there are human civilizations I believe they would congregate along rivers mostly."

Vash says, "Pilot?"

Kerry skrees, "Shouldn't be a problem. We can even make a photography pass and come back up before we commit to entering the atmosphere if you want."

Vash nods, still looking up at the viewscreens. "Yes. I think that's best. Did they state exactly where they were putting down?"

The telescope does find signs of life along rivers and in many of the same sorts of natural harbors that it might be expected. Some ships are evident, as are barges on the rivers. Villages tend to cling to rivers, with larger towns at junctions or the ocean. The natural forests, however, do cloak most of the land, suggesting the population is relatively low. Douglas says, "Interesting... Just about pre-industrial. Cottage industries, mostly. Probably no transoceanic vessels, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were some 'visitors' in Greenland...."

Kerry skrees, "They weren't sure themselves when they left. They were planning a flyover before landing."

Douglas says, "I'm sure that would have gone over well with the natives." Pause. "No pun intended."

Kerry skrees, "And what exactly was that Quetzalcoatl thing, eh? There is something very unusual going on down there."

Vash says, "We can investigate that later... I think we may as well run down our solid leads first."

Douglas nods, "Might I suggest a... quieter reconnoiter than the Texans implemented?"

Vash says, "What exactly are you afraid of, Douglas? Are you suggesting they were shot down?"

Kerry skrees, "How do you plan to get down there quietly?"

Douglas folds his arms. "Maybe not shot down, no. But they might have run into difficulty on foot." He sighs and looks to Kerry. "You're right, it would probably be too much to ask, aeronautically."

Kerry gives Douglas a look, as if to deny that reverse psychology would work on him...but then says thoughtfully, "We could make the reentry over the ocean though, and come in low over the coast. It would minimize the visibility we'd have."

Douglas, having no idea that Kerry thought he was trying reverse psychology on him, nods slowly, looking up at the view on the screen. "Except to coastal fishing communities. Well, either way, we have no other way of finding out what happened to the Texans."

Kerry shrugs. "If we stay high, we'll be visible for dozens of miles. Not as loud, but...."

Douglas says, "I... should probably leave it up to you and the Captain, Pilot." He shrugs, "I'm neither military nor a professional pilot."

Kerry looks at Vash. "It's your decision, Your Nebulosity."

Vash folds his arms. "Let's do a photography pass first. If we find any telltales we can plan accordingly."

Kerry skrees, "Easy enough. I'll head for a perigee of 50 miles height above ground over the Thames estuary, and if we decide to land we can drop down over the North Atlantic and double back. Sound good?"

Vash nods. "Do it."

Kerry nods and heads down to the hangar with Douglas for the preflight. Douglas follows Kerry down, pausing to take his toolkit with him. Sakura says, "Am I to come to the shuttle with you or am I to remain here, Sir?"

Vash nods. "You need to go along, Doctora... someone has to snap the pictures." He grins reassuringly. "Don't look at me... I've got no eye for composition."

Sakura nods, "Hai, Sir. Then I shall go...." She doesn't look particularly thrilled, but orders are orders.

Vash says, "Oh, Doctora?"

Sakura says, "Hai, Sir?"

Vash smiles. "The gallows look... it doesn't suit you. They're not going to land on this pass."

Sakura blushes heavily and dips her head, "T-thank you, Sir." She gathers her things and gets ready to go to the shuttle. Vash turns back to the viewscreen as everyone departs. He laughs softly.

Alshain is again readied for flight, and after a short burn of her main engines she is falling toward the planet below. Kerry has plotted a more complex course and series of engine burns this time to minimize the time required to make the pass. If nothing goes wrong, Alshain will pass over the British Isles from the northwest to the southeast, just barely outside the atmosphere over the spot where London exists on Earth Home... and if something goes wrong, she will rise back up to the Indigo without power. The descent goes smoothly, the ship responding correctly to Kerry's every command, and the recorders and cameras functioning perfectly for Sakura.

Pictures begin to come in of heavily forested land. Sakura finds a river and follows it to the ocean, pinpointing where London would be on Home Earth. There is a city there, the largest one so far noted. Unlike Home's London, this one is heavily treed, and spreads far out. Boats ply its harbor, the ocean, and rivers. Thin twists of trails lead off through the forest. Kerry skrees, "Any sign of forest fires a few months old? Or the Texan shuttle itself?"

Sakura works away at the equipment for a moment, then shakes her head, "I'm sorry, Kerry-san. I don't see any sign of either."

Kerry skrees, "Coming up on perigee." There is, in fact, a thin whistling keening around the Alshain as she slices through the fringes of the upper atmosphere at 8 miles per second. "Any changes in plan?"

Vash says, "None so far."

Douglas closely monitors the shuttle's engineering, but when he can spare a moment he looks over at the images coming through the cameras. The images coming in continue to show a clean and beautiful looking place, with little of the smoke or pollution that a city of that size on Home Terra might be expected to make. Douglas says, "Depending on what year this is, they may have been able to do something right...."

Kerry skrees, "Most curious. No sign even of sewage flow into the river? If there is none... ####."

Vash snickers to himself. "So clean. Maybe it's populated by elves."

Sakura smiles, "It is very beautiful, though." And elves would certainly make going planetside bearable... She grins a little at something.

Kerry skrees, "It doesn't look like there's anything dangerous. You want to abort the pass and land, or head back up to Indigo?"

Vash says, "Let's go ahead and land. Unless anyone's forgotten anything?"

Kerry waits for a moment, and hearing no objections other than a muffled whine from Sakura, he activates the retrojets, dropping the Alshain deeper into the atmosphere at Mach 12. The heat shield leaves a meteor fireball across Iberia before Kerry can slow the ship enough preparatory to turning her back toward England. "Any open areas that don't look like fields? I don't think the locals would be too happy about us landing on their croplands." His attention is monopolized by the demands of flying the shuttle, its speed down below Mach One now as it heads back toward the English coast. He chuckles to himself. "That must have made some kind of impression on the mainlanders."

Vash finds a long pocket and slips an extra clip into it. He also tries to see exactly how far up he can get his flightsuit zipped. He can't believe he left the ship wearing a shirt with a blackguard on it! Then he checks the action of his pistol, planning to tuck it into his flightsuit. Sakura continues working with the scanners, trying to get as detailed a scan as she possibly can before the ship touches down. ...can't believe he tricked me into landing with them... now what? Douglas is monitoring the engine, but since it's handling itself more or less he's keeping an eye on the sensors and cameras. He remains outwardly calm about their jaunt to the surface. It's still not home, he keeps telling himself.

Kerry slows the shuttle's descent to something reasonable, and, even as he asks where they want to land, the shuttle bucks abruptly and the crew is all thrown forward hard against their restraints. Vash, checking his weapon, manages to drop it in the sudden twist of inertia, but everyone else holds on. Sakura somehow manages to work her controls steadily, bringing in pictures and scans of the local area. Douglas' eyes almost but not quite attempt to make a mad leap for the front of the cabin. What the...?! He looks quickly to his console, trying to gauge what damage might have been done to the shuttle. Vash winces, bracing hard against the restraints. "Nnnnghh! Ay!"

Kerry skreeks at the impossible readings. "We are losing speed rapidly, Vash. We're already below stall speed, but are not losing altitude or attitude. Something weird is going on."

Vash grates through his teeth, "Uhhn. Damn it... all right... it's my fault. I hadn't counted on an elven tractor beam." Sakura sits calmly at her console, working the scanners. I just KNEW it. I KNEW this was going to get bad... should have stayed on the ship... 'need a good photographer,' my butt!

The sudden pull of inertia drains away quickly, as the shuttle's airspeed reaches nearly zero. The altimeter registers stability for a moment, and then a very slow descent. Douglas shouts out, "We're still green across the board! Engines normal, power normal, we're loosing airspeed but not altitude." He glances over to Sakura and almost has to bite his tongue to avoid saying Yet.

Kerry skrees, "Dropping now." He throttles the engines back to minimum idle and opens the air breather slats. "No point in wasting fuel. Did any of you ever read any old-style science fiction? This is what they used to call a 'tractor beam'." Sakura's eyes widen... I thought Vash-san was kidding... She fidgets a little in her seat. Kerry's changes to the controls seem to have no effect, other than to make the noise of the engines go away. The ship settles gently and inexplicably downwards, the nose of the shuttle drifting slowly to the right, as if it were spinning in the breeze.

Douglas says, "'Tractor beam'? Even with the gravity drive we can't project gravitational control from a distance...."

Kerry skrees, "Da. We can't." Vash stretches out his leg, and flips the pistol onto his foot, and then into his lap. He leans heavily back against the seat, head back against the wall, and catches his breath. As the ship spins on its descent, a town is revealed in the forest, probably fifteen miles off to the northeast. Roads seem to vanish in to the forest from it. Kerry waits for the external force to land them... but in case it lets go, he's ready to slam the throttles to the firewall and bug out... or at least try not to land too hard, depending where it lets go. Douglas looks out the window, nods once, then reaches down to his toolkit to get the largest, heaviest spanner he has.

The shuttle continues to descend, going below the two hundred meter mark, with the trees which surround the clearing it seems to be centered over becoming closer and looming in to realistic detail with each passing meter. Kerry shuts down the engines now. "Not enough time to do anything, and we'd just slam into the trees if it lets go...." He flicks the switches that lower the landing gear. "So far it seems to be a polite but firm invitation."

Douglas lightly hefts the spanner in his hands, then tucks it into his boot. "It doesn't get much firmer than reaching out and plucking us from the sky."

Kerry shrugs. "If they can do that, they could have dropped us like a brick or even smashed us in mid-air. Firm, but definitely polite."

The landing gear lowers normally, and locks in to position. The shuttle settles down on to it slowly, winding up gently tilted, as the ground isn't quite level. Trees surround the shuttle and a pleasant little stream shares the clearing with it. Outside, things seem to be green, quiet, and peaceful. It takes a few moments to realize that the ship is well and truly down, the motion has been so gentle and slow. Vash unzips his flightsuit just enough to facilitate a quick draw should it become necessary, and glances at the approaching tree line. "Oh, god. Right in the middle of a forest. Stay sharp, everyone." Sakura takes a quick scan of the area, if only to give her paws something to do other than shake.

Vash unstraps himself and stretches a bit, rolling his shoulders. He reaches out and places a hand on Sakura's shoulder. "Easy, Doctora," he whispers. "We're here with you."

Kerry skrees, "Well... we are here. Welcome to... hmm. Where are we, anyway? Madrid?"

Sakura nods just a little at Vash. "Atmosphere is normal. Gravity normal. It's 22 degrees C with a light breeze from the southwest. Oh, and those are trees. Nice, hmm?"

Kerry skrees, "I'd rather have a proper landing strip. Now we need to depend on them for takeoff."

Douglas says quietly, "Sounds fairly comfortable." He looks to Kerry. "You think we'll be getting another invitation?"

Vash says, "Question right now is do we wait for them to come to us, or try to get clear. They'll have the terrain advantage no matter what we do. Alshain is more defensible... at least, it is provided they don't exert whatever that was to just crush us."

Sakura says, "The city that we saw is approximately 12 miles due northeast. There is a larger clearing just downstream of our current position...."

Douglas says, "They probably don't want us to walk to the city."

Sakura says, "It appears that we're in Central to Western Europe."

Vash says, "Doctora... please turn on sound and visual outside...." Sakura turns the sound and visual for the outside world on.

Douglas blinks, looking down at the floor. "Uhm... are we on stable ground...?" A moment later his eyes widen. "Oh sh-!" Sakura stiffens at Douglas' exclamation, and probably would have jumped out of her chair if she weren't still restrained.

Vash turns, "Douglas, what-?"

Kerry unstraps and goes over to Sakura's station to look at the visuals. "We're tilting. Why?"

Outside, the picture is that of a clearing in a forest. There's the gentle tinkle of flowing water from the idyllic little stream, and the quiet hissing and ticking of the Alshain's own engines cooling. Douglas coughs slightly, seeing Sakura's reaction. "Erm... ah...." Right, no need to panic... "Erm... We're, ah, a little off-kilter, aren't we?"

Vash sighs, a little irritated. "Douglas, try and stay calm."

Kerry frowns. "Open the hatch. Something strange is happening here."

Vash goes to the hatch, one hand on the grip of his pistol. "Crack it, Pilot."

Douglas nods to Kerry. "We might just have landed in soft ground." He heads aft towards the hatch himself, pulling his multimeter from his kit and holding it in one hand, the spanner in the other. Kerry nods and cycles the lock. I want to hear this for myself. Might be a hologram over something.

The hatch hisses open easily. The rich scents of the forest drift in to the ship, the scents pervading the recycled air of the shuttle and making it seem harsh and artificial. Sunlight arcs in. The sound of running water, and the leaves in the trees softly rustling in the breeze follows it. Vash takes a step back, shading his eyes. He reaches into a thigh pocket, and slips a pair of wraparound shades on before stepping back out into the light. Kerry takes stock of the surroundings using ultrasound rather than light, his daylight glasses blocking nearly all of the light anyway. Douglas waits as he puts on his shades, then pokes his head out, trying to get some idea of why the shuttle has started tilting, but also for propriety's sake keeping the spanner ready just in case.

Belying the calm and quiet outside, the ship lurches a tiny bit, and settles more notably, to the starboard, rocking momentarily on its shock absorbers. Vash frowns. "Soft ground," he murmurs.

Kerry grumbles. "They've got all that technology and they put us in a ### stream. I think they've been taking cowboy lessons."

Douglas blinks and squints more closely at the gear. Oh, blast... He slips out of the hatch. "Pilot, could you come out here for a second, help me make sure that the gear isn't damaged by that little bounce?" No need to get the doctor more nervous, poor lady... Vash crouches down near the hatch, gazing out at the tree line beyond.

Kerry shrugs and spreads his wings to flit down beside the wheel. "It can handle a rough landing. I doubt that dropping a few centimeters is going to hurt it."

After a few minutes, quiet birdsong tentatively drifts back across the meadow. Sakura unbuckles herself from her seat and nervously moves towards the door. Kerry grumbles. "I think we've got enough room to move her just a bit. We leave the wheels in there and they'll be hub-deep in silt in a few days."

Douglas points out the water flowing around the wheel, and the silt building up, and says quietly to Kerry, "Yes, but I doubt that it won't be damaged if the water erodes any more of the ground from under the wheel. Something we should be aware of. And I didn't want to disturb the doctor any more than we already have."

Kerry skrees, "I'm not worried about damage. I'm worried about having to dig it out if we get a chance to take off." He chivvies everyone back on board. "Let's roll her just a few meters, eh?" Douglas nods, and clambers back into the shuttle, thinking, If 'they' let us, that is...

Vash stays where he is down by the inner bulkhead of the hatch. He doesn't look up, still straining his eyes off into the distance. "Go on," he murmurs.

Kerry skrees, "Well, we don't want to leave it in the water anyway. Might pollute things. The locals seem to care a lot about that sort of thing." He heads back to his station and reactivates the engines, nudging the throttles just enough to roll the ship forward out of the stream.

The engines spin up with their familiar jet-whine, and all of the controls say they're working completely normally. The ship, however, doesn't move. Kerry frowns and nudges the power settings up a little. "I think we're still locked down. How are they doing it when we can't feel a thing ourselves?" Douglas blinks a little, waiting for the shuttle to move. He looks over his console to see if there are any hull stresses.

Vash frowns, still staring at the tree line. Magnetism? He draws his pistol, and sets it on its side, bobbing it up and down on his palm. He reholsters it. No... something's wrong. Nanno, what are we gonna do now?

The engines whine louder, and the ship begins to vibrate a little. Very slowly, it begins to inch forwards, straining as if against a great weight. The wheels in the stream creep slowly up on to a large rock, and begin to emerge from the water. Kerry skrees, "Ah... success! Let's see how far we can push it...."

As the wheels move on top of the boulder, nearly clear of the water, the shuttle is jerked hard back to where it had been sitting before, and downwards, as whatever has landed it in the first place reasserts itself a bit more diligently. The large boulder under the starboard wheels is torn away, and the wheels slide forward, deeper into the streambed, canting the deck farther than it had been. A small, nervous yip! escapes Sakura, who hastily covers her mouth. Douglas starts to hope that they actually might move the thing without damaging it, when the sudden motion of the craft jerks him about. "This must be the offer we can't refuse...." A light on the flight console, and a twin on the engineering console come on, warning that the shuttle isn't designed to handle headwinds of more than 200kph, as there's that difference between what's being output and the actual airspeed of zero.

Vash says, "Success. Heh."

Kerry skrees, "Oh, for... idiots." He shuts down the engines again. "I was right. We must have a whole world full of Texan-class intellects here."

Douglas blinks, pulling himself up to his console. "Well, we were going pretty fast for going nowhere." He sighs and stretches. "Well, it seems to be affecting only the shuttle. We may as well go and find whomever's doing this...." Kerry chuckles at the idiot light... for some reason, the Keero keep calling them that, even though the holosonic indicator is a completely different thing, a pattern reminiscent of a tumbling moth.

As the engine noise dies down the previous sounds of gentle breeze and stream reassert themselves. The birds have all fallen silent again, however. The light fades as Kerry shuts down the engines, quiet once again descending over the clearing. Douglas isn't too worried about the birds being quiet. They're probably trying to deal with the sound this new, rather large bird -- the greater uplifted Alshain thockwaddle, or such -- in their midst has been making until now. Vash runs a hand back over his head plates. "We're not going to learn anything else here."

Sakura goes over to her console and does a quick scan of the area... then lets out a little sigh of relief. Still just trees...

Kerry skrees, "Pity we weren't close enough to make out the inhabitants. Shall we wait here, or wander off...."

Douglas says, "I take it we can lock the shuttle behind us if we leave?"

Once again, birdsong picks up outside, at first tentatively, but less so with each passing moment. Vash sits back against the bulkhead and removes his shades. He rubs his eyes. "We won't learn anything just sitting here."

Douglas nods, albeit a little reluctantly. "We should at least take a look at that other clearing first."

Kerry skrees, "I suppose. Heh. We might just be parked next to our Texan colleagues."

Sakura smiles a little. We could learn something... birdsong is lovely and unique to species. Perhaps we could begin cataloguing them. Vash hops down to ground level and replaces his shades. He takes a few strides out into the clearing, looking around... then stands up straight and stretches a little. For a potentially hostile alien planet... it's very nice out here. He allows himself a little smile, and unzips his flightsuit halfway. They won't recognize just half a blackguard. Douglas gathers up his toolkit -- the spanner nicely in his hand -- as he lowers himself to the ground from the hatch. The stream swirls cool and pleasant around Doug's large paws... and the grass sways across the clearing. It's about knee to waist high on Vash as he walks around.

Sakura walks up to the hatch, looks down at the ground, and smiles a little at her companions. "Kerry-san, Douglas-san... Sir... Good luck."

Kerry grumbles at the water and spreads his wings to glide clear of it. "Stupid place to put us." Mostly it's Kerry's head and tall ears that poke out of the grass. Doug, at 7', is easily visible, of course.

Douglas blinks, looking up at Sakura. "Ah... Doctor, it might be better...." He glances towards Vash and Kerry, worriedly.

Sakura grabs her medical kit and scanner and goes back to the door, climbing down carefully. Great. Now I'm wet and scared... Douglas reaches up, offering his hand to help Sakura down. She grabs Douglas' paws gratefully. "Arigatou, Douglas-san."

Vash begins to walk toward the nearest clearing. He half-turns, and calls back, "Everybody remember where we're parked!"

Douglas smiles a bit and nods, "No problem at all, Doctor." He glances at the water, then back to her. "Would you care for a lift?"

Sakura smiles brightly at Douglas, "Thank you but no. I'll be alright."

The day is, to be honest, exceedingly pleasant. The morning sunshine on fur and plates is gentle and warm, and the breeze ruffles clothing and fur lightly. Birds can be seen flitting about in the trees nearby -- they look reassuringly Earth-like. Vash grins a little to Kerry, doing his best to maintain a bit of levity among a crew that's already been stressed more than they should. "Kinda day makes you want to run naked through the bluebells, eh?" He rolls the sleeves of his flightsuit up to his elbows. Anyone standing close enough can see the crisscross of lurid scars on his forearms. Kerry is rather put out by the whole affair, and occasionally uses his wings to jump clear of the grass long enough to get a sonar image of the surroundings.

Douglas nods, certainly not pressing the doctor, understanding that, wet or not, it'll be on her own terms that she'll deal with things, which is better. He glances to Vash. "Well, maybe, right up until you trip into the burrs...."

Kerry skrees, "Ouch."

Vash laughs amiably, then grins, "Not to worry," he opines, rapping on his shoulder.

In front of Vash is the edge of the forest, where the grass gives way to shrubbery and brambles, tangled thickly about the huge, ancient, towering trees. A small, beaten-dirt path leads through the thick undergrowth, into the forest, and peering down it, the group can see that it rapidly gets much dimmer under the trees. Occasional shafts of sunlight illuminate the mossy trail, which twists lazily out of sight through the trees. Douglas hrms, looking around and inhaling deeply. "Oh, of course, you're armor plated! The rugby team would have loved to have you as a member...."

Vash mms, "Tried it. Too frenetic. Prefer to fence, myself...." He pulls up short at the tree line and carefully lifts his shades, peering into the shadow.

Kerry mutters, "That would explain the dueling scars...."

Vash says, "Souvenirs. Tell you about it another time, Kerry."

Douglas seems to miss a step or two, blinking a bit in surprise. He pauses, looking around, his nose quivering a little as he takes in a few more deep breaths. "Oh, my," he murmurs, not at all worriedly.

Sakura says, "What's wrong, Douglas-san?"

Douglas says, "Nothing. Nothing at all. Take in a few good breaths, though...."

Sakura stops walking, "What's wrong, Douglas-san?"

Kerry leaves his dark glasses in place, content to observe the world in ultrasound, which to him is a far more vivid and colorful method than the flat black-and-white scalar image that his vision gives him. Vash tucks his shades into a pocket on his flightsuit. "Getting thick here. But easy on the eyes... should be nice and cool." Vash isn't completely colorblind; he can recognize a pleasant pastoral setting. "There's a path here."

Sakura takes a couple of deep breaths, as Douglas suggested. Her eyes are locked on him. Then she smiles a little and scampers to catch up with the group. Vash turns back to watch everyone else catch up. He folds his arms and grins a little, particularly watching his doctor and engineer. Douglas blinks, looking to Sakura at the second question. He smiles a little and shakes his head. "Relax, Doctor. It just...." He moves his arm a little in a gesture, as if to take in the whole area. "It just... feels different... good... comfortable." He sighs a bit, grinning as Sakura catches up with the other two. "Twelve years of being in cities and industrial plants and controlled environments..." he murmurs. "Never imagined it could be like this anywhere...." As he goes to catch up to the other three he briefly wonders if this is what might have happened to the Texans: they just liked it here so much, they didn't want to go back. But he dismisses the thought: they were all human, except for the lamia, and... somehow, he doesn't think a human would appreciate this quite as much.

Sakura nods at Douglas. "You're right, Douglas-san. It is quite lovely. Thank you."

Soon several turns in the path shut the clearing off from sight. Dim and moist, the moss mutes sound and makes a pleasant surface to walk on. The forest path is quieter and, oddly, calmer feeling than the clearing. There's a hush under the ancient trees... almost a quiet, patient expectancy. Vash strides ahead a few paces of the group, just trying to keep things scoped out for the others. He moves without hurrying, taking each step carefully and keeping himself loose, without expectations. In such a still and silent place it's not very hard.

Douglas grins and nods to Sakura, but as they leave the clearing behind he blinks, and even with the earlier wonderfully relaxed sense his ears twitch slightly and he looks around, admitting to himself that he's a little nervous when things get this quiet. "Can you feel it...? It's... so quiet...."

Kerry skrees, "Watch where you're walking, Vash. There's something alive up ahead on the ground."

Vash says, "I know... Douglas... can you smell that?"

Sakura says, "Alive?"

Vash says, "It's... not that large."

Kerry skrees, "Something moving up ahead. Small, mobile, and on the ground. It's probably mice or something, but the locals seem to be anxious to keep the place neat, so we don't want to offend them."

Douglas blinks, stepping up forward a little. "Alive...?" He takes a few experimental sniffs of the air, realizing that his sense of smell might be a bit more sensitive than the armadillo's and the bat's.

Vash reaches back to under his arm, the grip of his gun. Then again... a rabid badger isn't that big either... and I don't think I'm built for rabies inoculation...." Sakura says, "It's a pig."

Douglas blinks. "A pig...? You mean... an un-uplifted pig?" Gosh... he's never seen one of those before! Live, anyway.

Kerry skrees, "It's not moving now, and it sounds like it's scared."

Sakura says, "It's small... and smells scared...."

Vash draws his gun. "It's... panicking. Let me go first... we don't want to spook it."

This close, there's the faintest hint of blood in the air too, for those with sensitive noses. Douglas considers that. An armor-plated behemoth carrying a gun isn't off-putting. Right. He's about to make some witty comment, when a familiar, iron, stingy scent makes his nose twitch. "Hey... I smell something... blood...?" Vash is five-foot-four, and slim. Hardly a behemoth, but he creeps forward slowly nonetheless.

Peering down the pathway, Vash sees the brambles on the edge of the trail are particularly thick here, lashing out into the path itself. The leaves are edged, and the thorns wide and pointed, the trunk and lower branches twisting and tangled. Down on the ground, lying on its side and panting rapidly, is a small, black piglet. One hind leg is firmly caught between two twisting trunks, and thorny branches are tangled about his tiny body, leaving cruel, bloody scratches. The piglet sees Vash and struggles to three of its feet, squealing and thrashing tiredly... it doesn't seem to accomplish much except tangle itself more tightly in the tossing, thorny branches.

Vash winces a little and puts his gun away. He kneels down slowly and waits to see if it calms down at all. Sakura says, "Sir, do you need me?"

Vash mms, and shakes his head. "I'm sorry, ninyo. I thought you might have been a boar," he grins. He murmurs, "Here... here. It's alright." To Sakura he says, "Yes... come up... but slow, Doctora. Alright?"

The piglet tosses his tiny head and paws the ground fiercely at Vash -- the effect is rather ruined by losing his balance on two little trotters and falling over -- he just lies there, gasping exhaustedly, too tired to squeal. Sakura walks towards Vash very slowly. Vash nods to the doctor, jerking his head toward the piglet. "Just a little one. Hurt himself."

Douglas hears the commotion, stepping forward a little and peering down the path with a frown. His nose twitches, coming into view of Vash and the piglet. The scent is more than a bit noticeable. He feels... uncomfortable, a bit, not entirely like any way he's felt before. It bothers him, this feeling, the way it does strange weirdness. It almost makes him feel... "How about we break for lunch for a bit after this?" he asks, perfectly casually and guilelessly. Then he shakes his head to clear it a little, and steps forward a little worriedly now, hoping that the others will ignore that little gaffe. Already it's making his ear tips burn with embarrassment.

Sakura settles her pack down on the ground and creeps to Vash's side. She extends her paw very slowly to the piglet. The piglet manages one more tired squeal, which fades out. He lies there, still panting and watching uncertainly. Vash says, "I don't know if he has the energy to be hostile. Poor little one's exhausted."

Sakura says, "Can we help him out?"

Vash says, "I think so... here, I'll cut him free. He may try to run... but I don't think he can go too far."

Sakura takes the piglet's front in her paws to stop him from struggling too much. Vash carefully moves to one side, and gingerly takes up the knot of briar holding down the piglet. He begins to work them slowly with his claws, careful not to tighten the briars around the little one. The briar tangles are extremely annoying -- thick and springy and heavily thorned, they whip around almost as if they have a mind of their own. Kerry watches, not too anxious to risk his wings in the thorn bushes, but keeping a watch for anything that might turn up. Douglas shifts his attention between the piglet and Vash and Sakura, and the surrounding forest. He hopes Momma Pig doesn't show up wondering where Baby is. He's heard that situations like that can get messy. Vash winces, closing one eye as a tendril whips against his head plate. "Ay! Ghrah... it's like the cursed things are trying to eat the poor thing...." He blinks once and looks at Sakura, freezing himself with his own thought.

Kerry skrees, "Now there's an unpleasant thought."

Sakura turns her head slowly towards Vash... "We have to get it out... please, Sir. We have to get him out... please...." Her paws tighten a little on the piglet.

The piglet struggles a bit as Vash cuts at the branches, although he doesn't kick at Sakura's small paws at all. Douglas blinks, looking between Vash and Sakura. Part of him does want to edge away from the plant, but he can't. He moves forward, wary of the whipping tangles. "Anything I can do to help?"

Vash sets his jaw, and begins to work quickly and surely with his claws, tearing apart some of the briars in retaliation as they begin to whip and snap against his plating, almost hissing through the air. "Little... fucking... asquerosos! Let go of him!" Sakura gives the little piglet a pull now and again to see if Vash has managed to distract the plant from its meal.

Between Sakura tugging and Vash's hacking at the plant, the piglet finally yanks his trapped hind let free with a shrill, relieved squeal, trotters tearing the moss as he attempts to bound forward, leaping upwards between Sakura's paws. Vash is rewarded with a final, vicious slash across the arm by the bramble bush -- and then the rustling of the plant settles into silence again. Sakura sets the freed piglet down on the ground. Vash snarls quietly, starting to get annoyed with the constant aggravating assault of the briars, lunging back and tearing free from the plant. "Ay, CARAY!!" He rubs down his forearm and snarls. "Chingate tu madre, cabron! Pick on someone your own phylum."

Douglas blinks in surprise at the viciousness of the plant. "Well... this is one thing that's very different from home. At least, I don't recall hearing anything about plants that can do that."

Kerry skrees, "Not on that scale, no."

The piglet's wildly kicking trotters hit ground and it practically bounces forward, tripping over its own feet and rolling over to land with a small thump! It lies there for a moment, panting... then rolls swiftly over again to its feet and stands carefully, checking itself over. A moment later it lays back down, rolling across the moss, cleaning sweat and blood off itself, grunting happily. Sakura giggles softly at the piglet's antics. Vash grins a little and catches his breath. "Well. Least we rescued someone, eh?"

Kerry chuckles a bit himself. "Not quite who I had in mind, but it makes a good start."

Douglas smiles quietly, considering this a job well done, and ignoring the sudden, unusual hunger pangs. Hush, now, I already had breakfast today. We'll stop for lunch soon enough. Kerry skrees, "Shall we continue?"

Douglas nods, standing. "A good idea. I wonder if the Texans came down this route?"

Vash nods, "Yeah. We can break when we hit the other clearing." He grins and salutes the piglet in parting, "Good luck there, ninyo."

Once the piglet's done cleaning himself he bounces back up and trots briskly around the small group (carefully not going anywhere near the nasty brambles), giving small squeals and tossing his head. He weaves in and out of feet, nudging against people's ankles and making happy grunting noises. Sakura scoops the piglet up in her paws and hefts the medical bag back onto her shoulder. The pig settles comfortably in Sakura's arms, blinking in faint surprise.

Kerry skrees, "He's either domesticated or unused to predators. Strange...."

Vash says, "Oh, you coming with us, little one? Alright then... suppose we can take one more for awhile."

The path wanders in no particular hurry, trailing along pleasantly beneath the huge, overshadowing trees... time seems to stand still, in a way, as the travelers walk. After a while, though, the sound of rushing water can be heard ahead. Kerry skrees, "If we're back where we started from, I'm going to be annoyed."

Vash mms. "Another river. Wonder if there's a shuttlecraft in this one." Douglas's ears perk, and he takes a few cautious sniffs of the air. There's something mildly disquieting about the walk, but it's still been a very pleasant and rather enjoyable trek. He moves forward a little.

This waterway sounds like no small stream; however before the river (from the sound of it) comes into view, the path emerges into the larger clearing that was glimpsed from the landing shuttle. Long, grassy, and studded with wildflowers, it lies peacefully in the sunlight. On the far side a couple of deer look up in startlement from their grazing, then bound hastily away. Kerry skrees, "Now, why didn't they set us down here." Sakura sets the piglet down here in the clearing...

Vash smiles a bit, and shades his eyes until he can fish out his shades. "Lovely."

Douglas at first thinks Kerry's question is more rhetorical than anything else, but then he reconsiders it. "Maybe... because something was already here? Or... it might be that there's something beneath the clearing...." His ears perk and he looks around. "Hey... there's a waterfall nearby, I think."

The piglet trots around, snuffling busily... the grass is tall enough, and the piglet short enough, that soon all that can be seen of him is waving grass where he's moving. Sakura grins, "Kawaii...."

The waving grass and contented grunting noises head for a nearby oak tree. There's a small gasp... then contented crunching noises. Kerry skrees, "I hope he's found acorns."

Vash quirks his brow. "That had better mean truffles."

Sakura's curiosity gets the better of her and she creeps over to see what gasped... Vash trails behind the doctor a few steps, looking out into the high grass. Douglas says a little worriedly as he moves towards the oak tree, "Truffles aren't crunchy." He's sure the pig's all right; there was no squeal, after all. The waterfall only momentarily put from his mind, he moves towards the tree.

The piglet looks up at Sakura unconcernedly, acorn shell bits dribbling from the side of his mouth, and gives a short, inquiring squeal -- then suddenly looks back down at the ground, nosing it a bit... and trots over to drop several acorns on Sakura's feet. He sits back, looking pleased with himself. Vash laughs quietly. "I think he likes you, Doctora."

Sakura smiles and scritches behind the piglet's ears, "Thank you...." He tilts his head a bit into the scritchings, making low, contented, grumbly noises.

Kerry skrees, "Hmm. I think you've got a new friend, Doctor. Pity you can't eat acorns."

Sakura scoops them up in her paw and offers them to her little companion. Douglas chuckles softly. "I was going to say, I hope you like acorns...." He looks up again, trying to pinpoint where the sound of the waterfall is coming from.

Sakura looks up at Vash and Kerry. "He's cute." The piglet neatly lips them all up... and soon there are more quietly contented crunching noises near Sakura, below grass level.

Vash says, "Can't you all eat them too? They're alright. There are certainly worse things to eat when trying to scavenge."

Kerry skrees, "Vash, you're the only omnivore here. The rest of us are more interested in meat."

Vash grins. "That means I won't have to devour our little friend here if we can't move the shuttle." He turns and trails off after Douglas.

Sakura picks herself up and looks for the little piglet, "Are you coming, little one?" She walks towards the rest of the group. The piglet lips up a few more acorns, then trots hastily after Sakura. Doug, following the sound of the waterfall, is heading back into the quiet forest with the others trailing behind. He follows his ears, looking for the source of the waterfall sound. He isn't unaware of his path, however, taking special care to make note of how to get back at least to the trail.

    Wandering down the trail following the sound of water, it takes several minutes of walking... but soon the distinctive rush and flow of water is plain to all to hear. The path leads out to a wide, swift, chuckling river. Off to the left and in front of the travelers it spreads out quite a bit into a deep, cool pool or pond -- deep enough that its depths are dark, mysterious, and unseen, and its sheltered far shore is heavily shadowed and overhung with the trailing branches of several willow trees. Algae and water plants thrive and bloom on the water over that sheltered end of the pool.

    Even further to the left and over some small dam or obstruction the river twists rapidly away out of sight between more trees and mossy banks, while on both left and right the travelers can see the waterfall... no, waterfalls, it appears -- several of them, over numerous small, rocky outcroppings in the river, splashing and spraying noisily off the rocks.

    Directly before the travelers is a bridge or crossing, of sorts... huge logs hammered upright into the narrowest portion of the long, wide pool. Each log is at least 4 foot in diameter, none more than 1 or 2 feet in separation from another, forming a crooked but dry and crossable line across the pool.

Douglas stands on the shoreline, looking around the small, deep pool quietly and contemplatively, his eyes taking in the glittering of the waterfalls. He looks at the calm and pleasant scene for several long moments, smiling quietly... then he blinks and his ears stand straight up. He looks around, then turns to the shadier part of the pool. "Hear that?" he asks quickly. Then without waiting for an answer, "Someone's in trouble, they're calling for help...."

Kerry skrees, "Well, someone's calling for help... shall we go check?"




Last modified: 2000-Nov-21 15:39:31

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