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The Journey Begins

The party continues as Kerry finds his way back to the group of trolls. He is able to identify that it's the trolls they know both by Douglas being on hand, and in hand as it were, and by the particularly large form of Halllifred happily relaxing in the middle of it all. Nearly as soon as he makes his way back to the group, he is given a big tankard full of something beery.

Kerry carefully places the tankard on the table and then sweeps his wings to hop up beside it. He sniffs it again, then smiles. "Oh, this is the good stuff." It seems to be a major exercise for him to lift the troll-size tankard, but he manages a troll-scale swig. My metabolic rate's good for something, anyway...

Kerry looks around after his first drink of beer. "Kerl? Jurgens? Anyone seen them? I wanted to see how they're doing on the new design."

Several of the trolls come by and say brightly cheerful and vaguely drunken things, recognizing Kerry as one of the spacefarers. When asked, they give conflicting reports as to where Kerl and Jurgens might be. One says dancing, another suggests they went off to have some fun with a couple of friends and who knows when they'll be back.

Kerry chuckles at that, and decides to listen to the music and have some serious amounts of ale. He'd left his datapad back at the Egg, figuring that he wouldn't need it this night - maybe he can mellow out enough to tap that 'inner magic' that Dow keeps telling him he should have.

A third troll suggests she just saw them around here somewhere, adding, "Since I have beer, everybody find me. I let them know you looking." and helpfully tops off Kerry's tankard. It seems no trouble at all to keep it refilled, as the trolls seem to enjoy sharing their beer as much as they enjoy drinking it.

Kerry grins and does his best to keep up with the trollish barmaid. "That'll be fine. It's nothing urgent, but I'd like to chat with them before we leave." It's another round or four into the evening when he hears a happy trollish roar off to one side, which he can make out as the two flying trolls calling his name, and making their way rather unsteadily twoards him.

Kerry wingwaves from his perch on the table, after deciding that he's had maybe a little too much to drink to risk the formal bow. "Over here! How's things going?"

Kerl is in the lead, and he beams happily at Kerry, and spreads his arms wide to give the little bat, who is just at troll-height, a big hello hug, crying out, "Kerry!" and staggering twoards him at a good clip.

Kerry retains enough presence of mind to realize that being hugged by a drunken troll is probably not a good idea, and he dodges adroitly. "Careful! I'm just as fragile as your flying machine, Kerl!"

The dodging bat is more than Kerl can manage to catch, and he says, "Wooooah." and giggles, leaning heavily against the table. Jurgens comes up behind him, smiling hugely, but not quite as set on the hello-hug. He giggles at Kerl's plight, and says, "Kerl, you spill your beer. Go get refills, ja?" Finally, he too makes the table, and sits heavily on one of it's benches, saying, "Hi, Kerry. Good party, ja?"

Kerry skrees, "Jawohl! Good music, good beer, lotsa friends." Hic. "Met Schnel'pickle... Schnel'pikbarrel... the drake's mom. Big lady." He blinks at his verbal stumbling, then adds, "An' if she can fly, I oughtta be able to.""

Kerl nods, and says, "More beer, ja." and sets off with some determination in the wrong direction from the beer barrell. Jurgens says, "Ooo, you talked to the big drake?" He looks wistful, and says, "She very pretty in the air. Kerl and Jurgens watch her fly."

Kerry nods. "Me too. An' what's she got that I don't, eh? I've got wings... An' I don't weigh much. Well, usually. I think I've had about my own weight in beer so far tonight. Good beer. Did I mention that?"

Jurgens grins, and says, "Ja, good beer." It doesn't occur to him to wonder where Kerl got off to, so he says, "We building new machine. Trying to follow your pictures. Don't understand how it fly without flap, though." He grins toothily, and adds, "Seem crazy even to us."

Kerry chuckles. "S'okay. We tried flapping machines at the beginning, too, but machines don't fly the same way folks do. 'S really gliding, but the propellor pushes it fast enough so it can glide up." He blinks at that version of the explanation, then shrugs. Close enough for government work...

Jurgens says, "S'allright. We fix good, and try soon. Will fly, you betcha. Maybe even farther than last time!" He takes a big swig of his beer, and discovers he's out. He looks around, curiously, and says, "Where Kerl?"

Kerry looks around, too, and discovers that he's nowhere near the ale barrel. "Looks like he got lost, eh? Want some of ..." He stops, peering into his empty stein. "Nope, I'm out too. Where's the barmaid?"

The barmaid has gotten distracted by Hallifred, and has cheerfully climbed in to his lap for some rampant snuggling, at the least. Sooner or later, Kerl comes back, having acquired her pitcher, but making slow progress, as many people see the pitcher and he cheerfull stops to refil thier tankards and talk for a moment, and to hug and/or kiss those he hasn't met yet that evening, or dosen't remember having met. Much gigglign ensuses. By the time he reaches the table with Kerry and Jurgens, beaming brightly, "Kerl got pitcher!" the pitcher has run out of beer.

Kerry skrees, "So you do. Seems to be missing something, though."

Kerl seems confused by this very concept, and Jurgens thinks it's very, very funny, although, at this point that's true of most things. Seeing the pitcher, four trollish women come up and greet Kerl. After a few giggles at the pitcher being empty, and names being swapped all around, as well as Kerl and Jurgens giving all four of the newcomers the traditionally enthusiastic hugs, they all sit down at the table. One has cuddled up with Kerl and another with Jurgens, the empty pitcher not, apparently, being much of a problem. The other two seem fascinated by Kerry, and want to give him the trollish hugs, even promising to be gentle when he protests.

Kerry finally relents. "Look, I'll give you a hug first, dear, and you don't squeeze any harder when it's your turn. Right?" He wraps his wings around one of them, managing to reach most of the way around her with what are essentially warm living leather sheets.

The troll nods, and ooooos! quietly, returning his hug very gently and stroking carefully at his ears, utterly failing to resist nuzzling him gently on the cheek. When she eventually lets him go, she tells her friend, "Soft, warm bat. Mmmm." and siles toothily at her.

Kerry snickers. "Of course we are! Keero are soft an' warm an' clever an' talented. An' we can see with our ears, too." He gives the other troll-lady an equally thorough hug.

Jurgens and Kerl seem quite happy to have been distracted in such a warm and curvy way, and the other two trolls seem quite willing to take Kerry off someplace more quiet and see just how soft he is.

Kerry pauses a moment to think What the heck am I doing?!? before the alcohol and the general camaraderie wash away his inhibitions. It is traditional the night before a mission, after all... and there are no Keero that he knows of within a couple thousand kilometers. He grins and hugs the troll-ladies again, one wing around each. "But don't squish me, understand? I've got a quest to finish."

Vash lets himself be led, looking around him in the close dark. It's deadly quiet, after the heat and noise of the party. One hand still curled about Blue's, he feels an unfamiliar blush of warmth. It hasn't been like this for a long time. I hope she doesn't regret this.

Blue leads Vash through the darkened house, yawning again. Up a narrow staircase, and in through a narrow landing, Blue's bedroom is the upper story, with steeply angled sides, and only a little really useful space in the center. The low edges of the room are filled with a couple of dressers and bookshelves. At the far end of the room from the door to the landing, a window and a couple of dormers let moonlight in. The bed, a low, futon-like pad covered with a plethora of pillows and a somewhat disarrayed tangle of quilts, is also at the far end. A slanted desk and chair are closer to the door, the walls nearby covered with bits of artwork and drawings Blue has done, or is referring to for current projects. She moves into the room, idly shoves a box full of some sort of art supplies out of the middle of the floor, and says, "Watch your step." Carefully leading Vash through the clutter to the bed, she sits down in a beam of cool bluish moonlight and smiles up at him.

Vash smiles softly, looking across the lived-in space. Something he can identify with... lived-in. Comfortable. It's reassuring, even on a strange planet in the dead of night. He stands, half his body in a slash of moonlight, the rest hidden in the deeper shadow beneath, and smiles. "Is this okay, Blue? I mean... is this what you want?"

Blue laughs, and says, "I was going to ask you the same thing. Do you think I'm being too forward? Is this something you want?"

Vash shakes his head. "No, I don't think you're being too forward... I just... want to know that this is what you want. Because... yeah. I want it too. I just don't want you to regret it, later. You've... seen what I look like. I just want to be sure."

Blue reaches pats the bed next to her and says, "Vash, please." She smiles a little, and waits for him, looking as if she has something to say.

Vash grins, and exhales, laughing softly at himself. You're acting like a kid, Vashti... just let it happen as it happens. He sits down slowly on the edge of the bed, and relaxes, very gradually but visibly, and gently curls an arm around her waist.

Blue smiles, and slides her arms around Vash, leaning warmly against him, and resting her head on his shoulder. She takes his hand and laces her fingers between his very different ones, and says, "I know what you look like, Vash. More important, I've seen some of who you are. When I heard, tonight at the Gather, that you'd be leaving, to go with the trolls, and then out in to unknown forest, I was unhappy." She looks up at him, and says, "It's a dangerous world, outside the city. People go out, and don't come back, even experienced travellers like the trolls, and the foxes. When I realized you might not come back... I didn't want to have to regret the missed chance."

Vash closes his eyes, leaning his head against Blue's, and takes a long breath. Very gently, he squeezes her hand in his. "Don't have any regrets, Blue... we came here from way across space... from places that don't even exist here. We found all these things we weren't even looking for... and now we're so close to finding what we're after... what everyone here is after. I have to keep going, just for this last mile. I owe it to my crew, and to Crossroads for being so kind to us. But, I'll make you a promise, Blue." He opens his eyes partway, looking into hers, "I came this far, over distances I can't count. I'm only going a little further. And I will come back to you. I promise." He punctuates his words by leaning in and softly brushing his lips across hers. He murmurs, "Nothing will keep me from you."

Blue smiles at Vash and leans up in to his kiss, returning it with obvious pleasure. At his second statement she says, "Oh, Vash." and kisses him again, more firmly. Any doubt that he is not right where she wants him to be at this moment is very much resolved.

Vash leans close, curling both arms around Blue's waist. The doubts that had been quietly clinging to his mind fall away, and he closes his eyes again, feeling her pulse against his. No, no regrets. They'll chase you forever. Unless you find someone to chase them away for you...

Just before he lets his thoughts give way to what's here and now, sharing his breath with the girl in his arms, another of those snippets, a bit of phrase from a song whose name nobody remembers, passes through the back of his mind. ...and who would ever notice you / You fade into / A shade of Blue For just a moment, he smiles at that. And then he lets it go, and is just with Blue, here, now.

Kerry wakes up hanging comfortably upside down... although he can feel himself closely wrapped in something warm. When he gently and curiously pokes at the enveloping... wall? -it shifts slightly and he can hear a faint, relaxed hiss nearby. A moment later he can hear a whisper, "Is he awake yet? How's your tail holding out?"

Kerry wakes up quickly, something that all pilots learn to do - he's not even suffering from a hangover. "I'm up, I'm up..." tail??

There's a sudden surge of movement pressing against him, shifting and rippling, almost alarming in its closeness, and whatever he's hanging on jerks upwards suddenly, carrying him easily with it. A huge head is staring at him, almost nose to nose with him.

Behind Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow's big emerald green head is Zildjian, yawning and stretching... a weird, rippling effect down her body -- and then suddenly his perch shakes violently too, just like the rest of Zil has. The lamia grins amusedly, her teeth showing, and leans on the drake, "Ayup, he's awake. Heya, cutie... how ya feelin'? Li'l less suicidal t'day?"

The drake's tongue flickers out, lightly and warmly running across the bat... then she nods, "He does not taste like he is damaged... just in severe need of cleaning."

Kerry stretches his wings and lets go of Zil's tail, dropping to the floor. "Hmm. If we're going to head off after what's-his-name, I'm not sure that suicidal is inappropriate. But.. no, I think I'm intact. How'd I end up here? For that matter, where are we?"

Zildjian grins as Kerry basically rolls downwards onto more coils, "You're inna long-bodies nest, silly. Sorry we couldn't find your clothes."

Kerry shrugs. "I'm furry enough that nothing much shows, anyway. Besides, I think I'm wearing enough stale beer to keep my modesty." He grimaces. "Time for a bath, I guess." The bat sits on one of Zil's coils as he gathers himself together again. "Now, how'd I get here? I distinctly remember heading off with a couple of troll ladies."

Zildjian nods to the drake as she starts to slither out of... ah, Kerry recognizes it now. It's that little round room she has up at the top of Aykuh. Just how small it is becomes apparent as Kerry realizes it's full of either wings or coils, everywhere. They've basically opened a space for him so he can stand -- there is no more room... and his 'floor' is heading out the door, in fact! "Cleanin' up sounds good to me to, Dow." Zil grins over her shoulder at Kerry as the drake also starts moving herself towards the door, "'Modesty'? You're cute, Kerr... Ah had no ideah you lahked folks runnin' their fingahs all ovah you lahk that!" Her tongue flickers out in amusement at the bat for a second... then they're all squeezing through the tiny door as she murmurs, "Damn ya learn th'funniest thangs when you're drunk!"

Kerry chuckles. "Why else would you get drunk, Zil?"

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow answers Kerry's question, "I heard you squeaking repeatedly in a very high tone, Kerry. I thought it wisest to ask Zildjian to rescue you from the trolls' er... friendly attentions."

The big lamia gives Kerry an amused, golden-eyed glance over her shoulder again, and murmurs, "Now is that an invite, mah deah batty?"

Kerry snickers. "Somehow I don't think you'd be much gentler than the trolls, Zil. And who would rescue me from you?"

He gets a bit more serious almost immediately. "But.. I'm not sure I'd want to be rescued, either."

Zil's hiss of laughter is echoed by the drake's, and the lamia simply replies, "Never know 'til ya try, cutie!" The two snake women have an odd way of bathing, slithering in and out of each other's coils under the hot shower to be sure every inch has been cleaned, but they're careful to keep Kerry up out of being-flattened range. When they're done he also gets thoroughly gone over to be sure he's all clean, although they're careful not to smoosh him accidentally. His flight suit is nowhere to be found anywhere in the Egg, though, and he has to make do with an alternate set of clothing. Something important is going on here, I think. Now if I could just figure out what the heck it is….

Hangover day passes quickly, with people pretty much keeping to themselves and doing what needs doing to recover from the Gather, and not much else. On the morning of the day after that, the crew gathers again at the Silver Egg. Either Zildjian or Aykuh has told Hallifred they will be there, and it is just midmorning when there is an unusual rumbling from outside followed by some odd, mechanical noises, and then quiet. A few more than a dozen trolls come in, looking cheerfully around. Hallifred goes over to the lamia and gives her a big hug, and proceeds to order enough breakfast for all of the trolls. Hotspur merely grins, and begins preparing a huge amount of food.

Zildjian, who is now in her usual light state of clothing again, cheerfully hugs the huge troll back... and the several others who also all want a hug from the lamia.

The crew is on hand, as well as some other humans they don't know. Neither Larrikan, Annifred, Blue, or Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow could be there, as classes have started at the university again. Goodbyes were said already, anyway.

Sakura looks about at her crewmates and the humans. She is dressed in her shipboard flightsuit and has the medical pack slung on her back. "Where's Feina?"

Vash stands off to one side, wearing his jumpsuit again, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows over his translator. He is checking the action on the pistol, now more out of habit than anything else. That little scary fox chica isn't here... maybe I won't live to regret that after all.

Hallifred comes over to the crew, and addresses Vash as the leader, saying, "We ready to go after food. You ready?"

Vash reholsters the gun, and zips his suit up. He nods, once. "We're ready, Hallifred. Just say the word."

Kerry seems to be the only one who's wearing native clothing, or at least the native copy of his flightsuit that he had made to wear while his clothing was being laundered. He's been ignoring questions as to why he isn't wearing his usual outfit.

Zildjian tends to grin a lot when Kerry does that... but politely says nothing.

Hallifred says, "Stick with group, ja?. We got three trucks. One full, two for riding now. Fourteen troll, you six, is ten per. Easy, ja?"

Vash grins. "Works for us. We owe you one, Hallifred."

Hallifred beams at Vash's reply, and says, "Not if you fix horn. Now, food." and meanders back to the table with the other trolls. A round of cheerful introductions follows, many of the trolls having met some or all of the Indigo crew at the big party.

Vash grins a bit, and nods around. He can't help but like these trolls. He allows himself a few last moment of relaxation... it's time to put his goodbyes out of his mind. We're on a mission. I'll see you soon, Blue... but for right now... He takes a deep breath, and lets it go. Now I'm workin'.

As the trolls tuck into a big breakfast, a white-and-red-furred figure slips in the door and darts over to Vash. Wearing a travel pack, a dark blue top and long, light skirt of many colors, Feina clings to the armadillo's arm, and says, "Hi. I'm here now. I'm coming with you, you said so, please, I want to come with you, and don't make me stay behind. I'll be a big help, really, I know all about the forest and what things are dangerous." She has finished this introduction before her sister Aedaith and Bande come in, apparently looking for her.

Kerry grins at his two new friends, then goes over to ask them quietly, "You haven't seen my flightsuit around, have you?"

Vash keeps his face carefully impassive, and nods, once. "You're coming. We hired you to be our guide." His expression, reserved usually for a fight or a confrontation, could stop a car in its tracks. But somehow, he knows, it's going to visibly bounce off of Feina and she's still going to be hanging onto his arm.

The trolls say, "Hi, warm, soft bat!" and one picks him up and snuggles him. Gently enough that he isn't hurt, but not a force to be avoided. The other troll says, "Oh, we glad you coming with us. We finish fun game, ja?"

Feina beams and says, "Thank you, thankyouthankyou!" and bouncies on her toes a little.

Sakura looks at Kerry and the troll. I'm not sure I even want to know.

Kerry chuckles. "Well, if we have time. This is a quest we're on, after all."

The other two foxes have gotten close enough to hear this last reply, and Bande says something to Aedaith, who looks crestfallen. She makes it the rest of the way up to Vash and Feina, who gives her a defiant look, without entirely hiding behind Vash. Aedaith says, "Be careful, Feina. Come find us when you're done. Mother will never forgive me if you get yourself killed." and turns away, ears drooping and tail slack. Bande gives Vash a serious look, not disapproving, but meaningful, and takes the dejected Aedaith in to his arms, murmuring, "She'll be fine, Aed."

The second troll takes her turn hugging the bat, beaming, and the first says, "Oh, ja, we got your clothes in truck." Kerry coughs, hoping no one else overheard that. "Oh, good. I think I should run them through the laundry real quick, if you haven't...?"

Vash gives Bande the look he used to employ for reticent TAG executives, back when he was still a bodyguard. He smiles, just enough to be reassuring, but still keeping his face and tone serious to convey that he knows what he's doing. "I'll see to her protection, Bande. You have my word on it."

Sakura smiles at Aedaith before she leaves, "We'll take good care of your little sister.."

Bande replies with, "I believe you." Feina, watching, and only slowly understanding darts back out, and gives Aedith a very tight hug, murmuring something very very fast to her. Aedith sniffs, and nods, and says, "Be careful." Feina nods energetically, and says, "Promise!" and then darts back to Vash, before her sister can change her mind.

Vash takes this all quite impassively. His body is designed to be used as a shield, though it's so seldom that anyone actively uses him as visual cover.

Sakura smiles again, at Bande this time, "Take care of Larrikan for me?"

Aedith turns to leave, with Bande. At Sakura's words, she smiles, and goes over to hug the vixen, and says, "Thank you." and gives her another hug, and kisses her like she would any other sister, and leaves, somehow reassured that there's a vixen to look after Feina. Bande also hugs and kisses Sakura, saying, "We will, don't worry."

The first troll-woman laughs loudly, and says, clearly, "Ja, we washed. All good." The fact that Kerry's looking furtive doesn't seem to sink in.

Kerry looks relieved that his clothing is still around, and gives up trying to keep the trolls quiet. Subtlety does not seem to be one of their racial traits....

Eventually, though it's nearing noon, the trolls finish eating, and Hallifred settles up with Zil, saying, "See next gather, lamia!" Passing out another round of hugs, the trolls file out. Hotspur stops Vash, and says, "Vash? I have some supplies for you... you can't go on the road without enough to eat."

Vash smiles, and pauses. "Oh... yeah? Hey, thanks, Hotspur... That's another we owe you."

Hotspur smiles, and says, "I like to take care of all you little folks, you know?" He escorts them out, picking up a couple of very large packs, and haranguing the trolls to make sure they're well-placed on the baggage truck.

Sakura smiles. "Thank you, Hotspur!"

Hallifred gestures to Vash, "We go, ja?" and vanishes outside.

Vash grins, sliding his bulky shades on as he walks alongside the minotaur, reflecting briefly that, before he left earth, he was considered large for his kind. Ah well. He nods, "Yeah, Hallifred! Let's move 'em out!"

Kerry finds Zildjian and spreads his wings to offer her a hug. "Keep the home fires burning, as they say. Thanks for all the help."

Zildjian smiles and settles down so she's Kerry's height, hugging him carefully and tightly, "You take care now, Kerry, you heah me? Ah expect you t'c'mon back!" The lamia gives hugs all around, flickers her tongue against the cheeks of a few in a gentle kiss, and waves everyone off. She looks a bit worried when she thinks no one is watching, but smiles cheerfully whenever folks are talking to her.

Sakura completely ignores Zildjian's worried looks. I've got to be brave for this one.. It wouldn't do to fly into a panic and run off in unknown territory. But.. I can do this! I'm better now.. I'm brave.. at least... I can pretend to be!

Kerry skrees, "I'm planning on it, dear Zil. I intend to be around to meet your daughter someday."

Zildjian looks startled again... then grins shyly, "Ah... Ah dunno yet, Kerr. Maybe... Ah'll look into it, see if Ah can." She sighs softly, then adds with mock sternness, "Now don't you be lettin' trolls do that t'you no moah either! Y'ain't designed to be shared out lahk that!"

Kerry chuckles. "Now, now... why should Douglas have all the fun? If I didn't know better, I'd think you were jealous." Or maybe 'Dow is? Nah… couldn't be. Could it?

Kawaii, of course, is resigned to the tall folks' constant running around madly whenever they want to do anything... he just flops out comfortably on the hearth, front trotters crossed, and waits for them to finally decide to get a move on!

Sakura blinks.. then shakes her head, I'm sure I just took that out of context...

Zildjian chuckles softly, her golden eyes shadowed, "Jealous... Kerr, d'you remember that naht at all?"

Feina bouncies on her toes and says, "We're going? Really? Now? We get to ride with the trolls?" and goes outside, with a happy, "Ooooo!"

Zildjian shakes her head firmly, "Nevah mahnd, it ain't impo'tant if'n you remembah... jus' remembah -- you ain't a kite, okay?"

Kerry grins, and shakes his head. "I think there was a bit too much beer that evening. I remember my chat with Kerl and Jurgens getting sidetracked, and the next thing I remember was waking up with you and 'Dow. And... what's wrong with being a kite?"

Sakura scoops Kawaii up off the hearth and waves to Zildjian and the rest of the bar before she follows out behind Feina.

Kerry skrees, "I think our ride is leaving. See you in a couple weeks, Zil. We'll be the ones in the big noisy metal bird."

Zildjian shakes her head again, refusing to answer that question in public... she just grins amusedly. "Be well, Kerry." The bat grins back. "And you." He adds something that the translator balks on, and grumbles. "May the stars be in your favor and the moon at your back. I think it loses something in the translation."

The trollish trucks are parked outside the big tree. There are three of them, each about twenty-five feet long, and nearly ten feet wide, wider than any of the crew are used to. They have two sets of wheels in the rear, and a heavy set under the driver's cab at the front, which is not well seperated from the rest of the truck.

The beds are metal, as are the undercarriage, which is simple but sturdy looking. There are eighteen inch or so high wooden planks at the base of the five-foot high stakes, with a couple of other narrower sets. The back of the truck folds down in to sturdy ramps.

They are, pretty much, huge flat beds, with a motor and steering arrangement at the front. The motors are hidden under heavy wooden housings, and exhaust out the side.

One is heavily loaded with stuff, tied down, and covered with sheets of heavy canvas. The other two have lighter canvas roofing, tied to the stakes which stick up from the edges of the large flatbed trucks.

Set up in these two canvas-roofed spaces are some big chunks of baggage, lots of blankets, and places to hang on through the ride. Trolls are climbing in to the two "passenger" trucks and waving cheerfully. A particular pair of the women wave to Kerry.

Hallifred calls out introductions, making sure everybody knows everybody's names. There are five other men and eight women among the trolls, and Hallifred rattles off names, "Hey, this be from my clan! We got Dotta, Arnfinn, Ingrid, Yngvar, Katla, Sigwulf, Thora, Styrkar, Alfdis, Thorkel, Halldis, Gudrun, and Valgerd." The crew will have several days to straighten the names out.

Vash waits for the rest of his crew to assemble near the back of the truck. As the last of them loads up, he grabs a fender, swinging himself up onto the bed of the truck, and stands a moment, looking out at the town. He glances at Zildjian, and then beyond, back toward the campus. He reaches up to touch the empty spot in the hollow of his neck where his tag chain used to hang, but just for a moment, before he's in the present again. He nods. "All right, y'all. Vash, Doug, Kerry, Sakura, Feina, and Kawaii. Good to meet ya."

Feina looks impressed and a little dubious at the trucks. Hallifred asks Vash, "You want keep together, or split between trucks with troll?"

Vash says, "We'll stay together, Hallifred. Less hassle for you if we've gotta get going in a hurry."

A couple of the trolls... Halldis and Katla, call, "Hallifred! Bring bat over here, ja?" and laugh cheerfully.

Vash puts one hand protectively on Kerry's shoulder.

Kerry chuckles at Vash. "They're not going to hurt me. We had that discussion at the Gather."

Vash keeps his voice discreetly low, "Kerry, I have nothing but respect for you as an officer and as a pilot. And it's only that respect that's keeping me right now from inquiring why exactly you rolled in last night with no pants. I need you conscious for this mission. You dig?"

Vash says, "Just be... careful."

Kerry sniffs. "That was two nights ago, and I was kidnapped. I'm not as flimsy as all that."

Vash deadpans, "Kidnapped. Ja." He adds, "Keep your pants on, Kerry. That's all I gotta say about it."

Hallifred ignores the request, and says, "Ja, that fine. You ride here, with Hallifred." The passengers are split about evenly, with two driving the baggage truck in front, Hallifred and the crew riding in the middle truck, and the other following. With a little effort, all three trucks are started, a familiar rumbling coming from the engine compartments, and the trolls cheering happily. Feina is startled and looks worried at the engine, and backs away from it. She seems uncomfortable in the back of the truck.

Kerry skrees, "Ja. Zil and 'Dow decided to rescue me, and they neglected to rescue my clothing. And what about Blue, and Annifred, and Larrikin? I'm the only one who can't have local liaisons?" The bat looks a bit annoyed at the apparent double standard. "I'll be ready for the mission."

Kawaii squeaks nervously, burrowing into Sakura's arms. Sakura scritches behind the piglet's ears. "Shh. It's okay. It's just a truck."

Vash grins. "None of them... kidnapped us. That's what about them." He claps the bat's shoulder. "Relax. I just don't want 'em to break you. Someone's gotta fly the damn thing."

Zildjian slithers over to the armadillo and the bat, and murmurs quietly to Kerry, "Kerr... the only reason you din' get hurt last night is 'cause Dow saw you needed rescuing."

Kerry looks at Zil. "That bad? I thought things were under control..."

Zildjian tilts her head to study the smaller bat for a moment... then just shortens abruptly and hugs him tightly. "They've hearts of gold, Kerry... but they ain't got real good self-control when they's drunk."

Vash takes a breath. "And I'm not trying to piss on your good time, Kerry... I just can't let you get hurt. I hope you understand."

Kerry hugs Zil back, and touches his nose to hers. "I'll remember that. And.. thanks."

Zildjian smiles and flickers her tongue gently against the bat's cheek... then straightens, still holding Kerry, and sets him on the back of the truck. "Have all th'fun y'want, Kerry... jus' don' get hurt doin' it!"

Hallifred says, "Let's go, ja?" and sorts out who is on what truck, and makes sure everyone's standing clear.

Vash grins, crouching near the gate of the bed. "We'll take care of him, Zildjian. Don't you worry."

Kerry grumbles, but good-naturedly this time. "I'm not that fragile."

Zildjian grins ruefully at Vash, patting his arm gently, "I won't. Don' you worry 'bout Blue none either, y'hear?"

Vash smiles a little. "I trust you, Zil." He pats her hand on his arm, adding, "Thanks."

Zildjian slithers back and waves, standing with Hotspur. Aykuh's not in sight.

Kerry vaults up to perch from one of the struts supporting the canvas. "Ready!"

Hallifred gives some directions, and Alfdis and Thorkel head up to the baggage truck, and climb in. He checks the gates are shut and fast, and waits for some sort of signal from the other truck. At a wave from them, he turns and waves out to the other truck, wich starts moving ponderously forward.

Vash nods, and signals back to Hallifred. "We're ready, Hal! Let's roll!"

When the truck with the crew on it begins to move, with a healthy lurch, everyone is shaken a bit. There's a quiet, "Yeep!" from Feina who's never been anywhere near a machine this big, and she looks quite startled. Kawaii dosen't look happy about it either, but he already knows he can stay close to Sakura.

Sakura smiles gently at Feina. "You'll get used to it, honestly."

Kerry skrees, "That reminds me... have they invented shock absorbers?"

Vash hms. "I expect we're about to find out..." Given the way he's bracing himself, though, he seems a little doubtful.

The trucks don't move as quickly as the big rigs the Indigo crew is used to at home, but they get up to a pretty respectable clip, considering there are no paved roads and they're making their way through woods. They have a slightly twisty path, which sometimes brings trees very close to the largely open sides of the truck, but the trolls know a pretty good route. The ride is not smooth; there are some primitive leaf springs, but not a lot between the moving ground and the wheels.

Kawaii looks grumpy and unhappy -- from what little can be seen of his expression. He's done his best to wedge himself firmly in Sakura's lap and arms, as much as he can with his small trotters.

They work up to a speed of, at most, thirty miles per hour, and more consistently just below twenty-five. Once started, they do keep moving pretty steadily, though. The passengers cling to what support they can find in the swaying beds, most of the trolls merely lying flat and hanging on to the bed or each other.

Sakura pats Kawaii with her free hand - the other is bracing herself - and tries to make the most of the ride by looking at the scenery..

As the afternoon wanes, the trip begins to be difficult. The bed of the truck feels hard, almost tingly, and everyone feels a little queasy. Vash and Douglas fare pretty well, but Sakura feels all sorts of uncomfortable effects, including nausea, general aches, and other vague discomforts. Kawaii is not immune from this, whimpering sadly, and cuddling against Sakura. Feina, too, is obviously quite uncomfortable, and also clings to Sakura, cuddling up against her as a safe refuge in a rapidly swaying world. Oddly enough, it's Kerry who fares the worst. The bat actually becomes sick, and has a difficult time hanging on to anything without being knocked around the back of the truck.

Vash winces as the scenery passes by, in seemingly several directions, as the primitive springs sway the beds back and forth. It's not the worst discomfort he's ever felt, but he can recall smoother rides. Deciding to take preventive measures in case the ride gets worse, he takes a cue from his ancestors... and goes flat. As flat as he possibly can, face down on the bed of the truck. He closes his eyes, cheek against the cool planks of the floor, and tries to think happy thoughts.

Sakura almost completely ignores the fox and the pig curled up against her, quite content to wallow in her own misery and ignore the misery of others.

Kawaii at one point jerks his head up, looking horrified, and wobble/falls off Sakura's lap, lurching in an almost drunken-seeming stagger towards the side of the truck. He does make it, hanging his head and front trotters miserably over the back. It's only a helpful grab from one of the trolls that keeps him from going entirely off the truck, however, as a particularly harsh lurch causes everyone to bounce.

Vash has time to blink, once, as he realizes that he's still horizontal and the truck is seven inches below him. He returns to its stiff embrace a moment later. "Oof," the Captain is heard to remark, to no one in particular.

Sakura looks over at Kawaii... I'd feel sorry for you, but I'm too busy feeling sorry for me.

At one point, Kerry stumbles to the side himself, a most miserable bat. In between heaves, he mutters, "We never get motion sick. I've got to teach them how to make shock absorbers..." He tries sitting in the bed, but that only makes things worse, and he goes back up to his perch when he's emptied his stomach...

Kawaii hangs in limp misery from the troll's large paw... the troll looks at Sakura, then shakes his head and patpats the poor piglet before tucking him neatly into the vixen's lap again.

Vash presses himself flat to the bed again, and closes his eyes, cheek stinging. Forget what Hallifred said. I owe him one, all right, after this ride's done with...

Sakura looks at her bag, then lays down and sets her head on it. Moments later, she sits bolt upright and looks at the bag again. Oh, duh. Doctor onboard. She rummages through the bag...

Kawaii rolls out of Sakura's lap as she sits upright... and just lies on his back, groaning softly in utter misery.

Sakura pulls out a package of pills and laughs a little triumpantly. "Is there water?"

Kawaii opens one eye at the laugh... then closes it and groans again. He's dying... and she's laughing. Life is so unfair.

Vash folds his arms behind his head, clasping his hands. "Aren't you seasick enough, Doctora?"

Hallifred sits up and says, "Water? Ja, sure." He moves unsteadily over and finds a small cask, flicking the cover off of it. He finds a big tankard, and puts just a little water in the bottom., so he can manage not to spill it, and slides it skillfully down the bed of the truck to Sakura.

Sakura takes one of the pills out and dry swallows it. She hands the water and the package of pills to Vash. "Take one and pass them along."

Vash sits up a bit and passes the bag, "No, I'm cool, thanks Doctora." He offers one to Doug, who also passes, and wobbles, slowly, towards Kerry with the pills and the cask.

Sakura says, "Are you sure, Captain? They're for motion sickness.. I assure you you'll feel much better."

Kerry looks at the pills suspiciously for a moment. "Does this stuff even work on Keero?" At another lurch he swallows and mutters, "The worst it'll do is kill me. That'd be an improvement." He takes the pill and waits....

Feina gives Sakura a piteous look, and says, "May I please have some, doctor?" She looks downright green, which is not a pleasing color on a vixen.

Sakura says, "Oh, yes, of course, Feina.." She looks around at the trolls...

Vash grins over his shoulder, not a safe course of action by any means under the circumstances, "Yeah, I'm okay, Doctora... just staying flat in case this gets really bad." He doesn't qualify what really bad entails. Given everyone's current demeanor the doctor would guess it would involve the explosion of the truck itself. He holds the cask still as he can for the Keero to drink, muttering, "Quit your bitching, cabron." He tosses the bag back to Sakura to minister to the pig and fox.

Sakura grabs one pill when they come near her and halves it, then holds it in her palm for her poor sick piglet.

The vixen takes the offered pill, and looks at it. She asks Sakura, "Is there any incantaion?"

Kawaii has barely enough strength to lift his head... no, no, it's all right, he'll just die here, don't mind him...

Sakura smiles and shakes her head at the Vixen. "It's not magic, just medicine."

Feina says, "What else is medicine, besides magic?" but takes the pill, and a swallow or two of water. She takes a moment, to find one of the handy blankets and make sure she's sitting on it, not the cold, seemingly itchy bed of the truck, and makes sure there's room for Sakura, too.

Sakura plops the pill into the piglet's mouth, since he's clearly going to suffer some horrible fate if he moves..

Vash waits for Kerry to drink down the cask, and then wobbles back to his place near the back, carefully kneeling, then lying down flat again. "You might wanna try this, Doctora. It's really a lot easier this way."

Sakura settles on the blanket with Feina. "Do your people use plants and roots to help make themselves well when they're sick? Like.. ginger to clear the sinuses.. or aloe vera for burns?"

Kawaii swallows, then gives the two vixens an indignant look! A moment later he wobbles weakly over to them, and *plompfs* down across their laps. He sighs, relaxing.

The pills take fifteen or twenty minutes to take effect, and when they do it's not as dramatic as might be expected. Kerry gets the most relief, merely being very uncomfortable. Sakura feels somewhat better. Kawaii and Feina both stay close to Sakura, although both are a little more comfortable. Feina can say so when asked. She hasn't been complaining, but she's obviously uncomfortable. She idly pets the piglet and tries to answer Sakura, "Yes, but there are important incantations, too."

Sakura nods at Feina, grinning a little. "Well.. this didn't need any of that.. I hope you're feeling better."

The trucks slow down, a good hour in to the drive, as they have to begin to wind back and forth to negotiate some thicker trees. The swaying and rocking lessens, but the swinging of the trees outside the planks is rather distracting. A couple of times, the trucks have to reverse back out, having taken a path too narrow for them.

The drive continues, eventually passing the trees, and driving along in the clear, next to a river for a while, looking for a place shallow enough to ford it. One is found, and the trucks stop. The last truck unloads all of the trolls, who stop for quite a stretch, before it turns, and makes it's way slowly and bumpingly across the river, trolls wading along beside it, watching the wheels and giving directions to the driver to miss the worst of the rocks. Kerry gets out when the truck stops and climbs a tree, thinking that it'll be easier to glide across the stream than to ride - and it gives him a chance to stretch his wings.

Next, the cargo truck crosses. It dosen't fare so well, it's greater weight causing it to mire in the soft mud of the river bottom. Hallifred, watching, comments, "All three trucks stuck on way to gather. Pain in the tail." The trolls hook up a sturdy rope, and tie it to the other truck. With both engines, and eight trolls pushing, amidst a lot of flying water and mud from spinning wheels, the truck is unstuck and lurches the rest of the way across the river.

Douglas notes that it's the frontmost pair of the rear wheels that are the drive wheels, and asks why why they aren't all drive wheels. Hallifred is a bit unprepared to talk about it, saying, "Talk to builders at trollhome." then, "Hold on." as their truck turns and drives twoards the water.

Kawaii squeaks nervously, burrowing into Sakura's arms.

Sakura decides that this would be a good time to take the Captain's advice and lie down.

Riding the truck across the river has Feina very worried, with her ears back and tail flattened. When Sakura lies down, she can't bring herself to do so, and clings to one of the uprights, watching the water worriedly. It dosen't cover the wheel hubs here, usually, but the ride is quite rocky and she whimpers with each jolt.

Vash tries his best to grin reassuringly at the doctor, "Close your eyes, Doctora. Think of... something else."

Sakura glances over at Feina, then takes her wrist and tries to gently urge her to lay down. She peers over at Vash and smiles. "I'm just fine, Sir."

Vash gives Sakura a little thumbs-up, before closing his eyes again. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job.

Feina refuses, shaking her head. She will be brave. And, she's too scared to move that far.

Vash opens one eye partway. "Hey, Feina? Are you okay, Nina?"

Sakura says, "Feina, it will be better if you lay down, honestly.."

The vixen nods, then shakes her head, then nods and stays there. She says, "Almost across." and looks out over the water.

Once the third truck has crawled it's way across the river, all three drive up the far embankment, to a little bit drier, and grassier ground there. The trolls who have disembarked don't get back in, and Hallifred tells the group, "We camp here. Want check trucks, and clean drives. Good water here. It get dark in few hours, anyway."

Kerry launches from the top of his tree, easily gliding the distance across the small river, alighting on top of the first truck. He grins to Halldis and Katla. "Ta-dah!"

The troll women look tired, but smile and say, "Hi, battie."

Vash sits up slowly, and shakes his head vigorously. "Head count... who's still alive?"

Kawaii launches himself from the truck with alacrity at that news, and is almost trampled by Feina as she also rushes for the ground!

Feina wobbles slowly over to the nearest tree, gazing at it as if she'd never expected to see one again -- then she hugs it tightly! After a moment she slides slowly to the ground, still hugging the tree.

Hallifred talks to the drivers from thier truck, Dotta and Thora, giving both of them big hugs, and saying, "Good work, ja. Long day. We stop now." Everybody climbs out of the trucks, and looks pleased to stretch, or walk around, or sit on the grass and admire the lack of motion and the sky.

Sakura gets out of the truck, saying over her shoulder, "Sakura Murasaki present and accounted for, Sir!" With a smile at the Captain, she stretches, yawning..

Vash ughs, softly, climbing to his feet, and hops down off the bed. He pats himself down, wobbling a little, and mutters. "...chinga...truck kicked my ass..." He dusts off his jumpsuit and grins a little. "Looks like we all made it, so far..."

Kerry skrees, "Everything but my breakfast. That's one thing I hope I never have to experience again."

Douglas gets down a little stiffly, glad that he wasn't asked to help wade through the river, "Er, present and accounted for, Captain." Kawaii's tired squeal can be heard from where he's carefully and thoroughly rolling around in the nice clean grass.

Hallifred goes and talks to the other trolls, and gives them encouraging hugs. He seems to be one tough old troll, and not nearly as abused by the long drive as the others. It couldn't have been more than four hours, if that, but it was plenty long, considering.

Vash grins lopsidedly. "Then I order the crew to... go rest. The Captain's got a screaming headache."

Sakura sits down and puts her back against the tree that Feina is clinging to. "Are you okay?"

Feina lets go of the tree long enough to hug Sakura instead. She murmurs in to the doctor's ears, "The trucks feel so bad, doctor. How do you stand it?"

Sakura's ears go down, in spite of herself.. closeness like this is not something the good doctor is used to. She doesn't flinch away, though, that would be rude. "You.. ahh.. get used to it, Feina."

Kawaii wanders over to the two vixens, and flops down next to them both, resting his head on Sakura's lap and closing his eyes tiredly.

Vash wanders over to the trolls, and grins up at Hallifred. "Life on the open road, huh?"

Kerry chirrips from his perch on #1. "It helps if you have shock absorbers, too. These are a lot less comfortable than our vehicles back home."

Feina shudders, and lets go of the doctor, slumping back against the nice, solid tree. She listens to Kerry and says, "That must be awful."

Kerry blinks. "No, these are. They rock way too much, that's why we were all feeling queasy. There are ways to damp out the motion."

Feina shakes her head, and says, "Too many machines." and starts to pet Kawaii again. The longer on solid ground, the better she feels again. Kawaii grunts softly in agreement.

Kerry glides down to sit beside Feina. "Are you sure it's not just the motion? We'll be coming home in a machine if all goes well, you realize."

Feina looks mortified at this, and doesn't know how to react.

Hallifred grins, and says, "We do okay today. Camp here, start again tomorrow. People feel better." When he see Feina looking so unhappy, and goes over and picks up the little vixen, effortlessly, and she clings to his stony shoulder. He says, "It okay, small fox lady. Truck itches, but only for few days." He pets her carefully, rather like either a pet or a worried child, and says, "Could be worse, ja? Could be raining."

Last modified: 2001-Jun-02 22:04:52

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