The Eye of the Storm
Douglas swings the naginata again, some remote part of him finding it mildly disturbing that he's part growling, part shouting as he almost lunges sideways at the guard with the weapon. The blade whistles past the guard's head, only barely missing. He feels his teeth baring as he pulls back the blade, preparing for his next thrust.
Vash springs away after threatening the surrendered guard... he sprints after Feina's pursuer, closing alongside him. "I warned you-" His blade flashes across the small of the human's back, striking hard enough to sting and to get his attention. "Lay down your weapons now!"
Feina continues to run into the forest, vanishing into the underbrush, taunting the pursuing guard, "What're you afraid of, hey? Can't even catch a little vixen?" Being stunned by the recent hit, and already thinking none too clearly, the guard doesn't do anything much about either as he slows and pauses a moment, looking for the irritating little fox.
Kerry nods to himself. Looks like Vash has Feina's in hand. I'll give Doug an assist. He winds up and whips the slug at the cougar's opponent, connecting with a solid crunch. The human falls bonelessly. The bat uplift glances at the remaining combat and then turns away, scanning with night vision and ultrasound to see if anyone has noticed their little encounter.
Douglas blinks as Pilot takes out the guard before him. He raises a hand sheepishly but gratefully to the Keero, then glances briefly at the other guards. Captain and Doctor have Feina's pursuit well in hand. He holds his position, mostly making sure no more guards come running out of the cottage, and that the one Captain downed isn't going to make any foolish movements.
Vash circles around slowly, blade out at the ready. He interposes himself in the guard's line of sight; through the brush the edge of the sword catches a bit of light, the slanted tip hovering at the eye level of the human. "Lay down your weapons, or we will kill you. I won't warn you a third time."
The guard looks up at Vash and says, "Why? So the Master can kill me?" He settles into a defensive pose.
Vash just lowers his stance a little. "As you wish."
Feina pops up out of the brush not far from the guard, and throws a rock at him. It bounces harmlessly off his armor, and he curses, "Damn you all!" Sakura comes up close enough to take another swing at the guard that was chasing Feina... once again she is completely unable to hit him, as he dodges her clumsy swing. Vash takes a step in the direction of the backswing as Sakura closes the distance and attacks, lowering his sword and backing just out of range of the combat.
Kerry finishes his quick scan of the surroundings. Good. Still just us. He turns back to the combat and hurls another bullet at the last standing guard, but misses as the human dodges. Douglas glances back again at the trio of fighters. He resists the urge to leap into the fray... but they still have to be cautious. He makes sure the guard lying on the ground isn't going to be running away immediately, and edges towards the cottage cautiously, looking inside it to make sure there are no surprises ready to leap out at them.
Vash turns his blade around and cuts up in a low arc, the back ridge of the blade along his arm, just to see how well the guard takes it. The guard takes it quite well; he parries the blow easily and Vash is pushed back a bit. Vash turns the blade again on the bounce, crouching a bit to kill the backward momentum, and flings himself forward again. Again the human's blade intercepts Vash's. The armadillo sighs a bit. "Remember. You did ask for this." Feina winces as Vash is blocked.
Kerry's next bullet falls short, the increased range making it hard to hit the guard even when he isn't dodging. Sakura, despite her obvious negative feelings, decides that one more swing can't possibly hurt anyone but the guard that she's been waving her sword in front of. She connects solidly with him on this hit and he cries out, falling down.
When it appears that the last guard is going to stay down, Feina darts through the trees and gives Sakura an enthusiastic hug, "You're so brave!"
Sakura sheaths her sword quickly when she sees Feina running towards her. She hugs the other vixen. "Are you all right? You're not hurt, are you?"
Feina shakes her head cheerfully, still hugging, "No, you got him before he found me." She finally lets go of Sakura and bounces on the balls of her feet a little bit, "What happens now?"
Kerry stays on the roof of the cottage a little longer, until he is sure that no one else is coming. Eventually he glides down to the ground and starts retrieving -- and when necessary, cleaning -- his sling pellets. Douglas looks around quickly and worriedly, then lets out a breath. "I think that's all of them," he says quietly, bending down to clean his blade on the grass.
Vash lowers his blade and turns away, taking a wide sweep of his sword to whisk the blood from it. He moves away from the two vixens quietly, fishing a cloth from his jumpsuit pockets and carefully wiping down the length of his sword before turning it quickly and sliding it back into the scabbard. "Let's see to the ship. Pilot, Doctora, Feina... see that the guards don't get up. Doug, let's see to whatever they attached to our ship."
Sakura tilts her head to the side. "Until we're gone, or permanently, Sir?" Feina grins a feral grin, and her tail flicks behind her at the question.
Vash pauses. "Just until we're gone. No need to spill any more blood than is necessary." He bends down to grab the surrendered guard. "You, come with us."
Douglas nods, slipping the cover over the blade of the naginata. Good job, he thinks to it. I can see why the Nipponese are renowned bladesmiths... He starts to move towards the shuttle, glancing over a little worriedly at Doctor's comment. He relaxes a little at the Captain's answer.
The guard who surrendered grunts, "Ow," when he's yanked on -- he does have a pretty notable wound on his side -- but comes to his feet and follows along.
Sakura looks around for something to bind the guards with, even if she has to use their own clothes against them. Feina considers, then goes into the guardhouse to see if there's anything to tie guards up with, with her usual bouncy cheer. Sakura follows after Feina, just to make sure there's no one lurking in there waiting to attack. Kerry isn't too much help dragging the unconscious guards back together, but helps wrap them up. He also opens the door to the cottage, hoping to let the smoke out so it can be searched.
Vash brings the wounded guard along to the side of the Alshain with Douglas. He gestures to the wooden contraption pushed up alongside of it. "Anything special that we should know about that? If I like your answer I won't hurt you."
Douglas, Vash, and the guard stand next to the ship. Sitting on the ground next to it is a large machine. What's mostly visible is a crank, a big spool of rope, and several weights hanging from a cable, most of which are resting on the ground. Smaller gears inside the machine move regularly, and every second and a half or so, it emits a heavy *clunk* while several of the bigger pieces jerk a little.
The guard says, "The Master told us not to touch it, except to turn the one wheel three times a day, until all the rope was all taken up on to the big spool again."
Vash looks at Douglas. "Have at it." He turns to the guard, "If something bad happens to him I'm going to cut your aguacotes off. Just so you know."
The guard swallows heavily, and says, "My..." then changes his mind and says, "Yes, sir."
Vash nods. "Right."
Douglas hrms quietly, kneeling beside the mechanism. "Very precise instructions," he notes absently. He doesn't touch the machine yet. "Quite the black-box here... hrm..." He tries to peer into the mechanism to see if there are any openings or doors in it.
The machine is pretty much an open framework, with large gears and smaller ones, as well as pulleys, weights, and cables. It appears to work in four cycles. One moves a set of smaller gears near the top, with a healthy clunk. The next, quieter clunk comes from a set of push rods resting over the keypad, which are triggered to punch keys on it, then snap back. The third (a low, solid sort of 'clunk'), is due to a big lever leaning against the airlock. The fourth and final clunk resets the big lever and advances the small gears at the top to try again. Each of the big clunks makes one of the weighted ropes move a little closer to the ground. The top of the machine touches Alshain, but seems merely to be resting there.
Douglas says, "Well, Captain, one thing's for certain... it had to take time to figure out the Alshain's door code and how it acts, and it had to take time to design and build this mechanism. He must be extremely smart, or he's gotten information from... somewhere else..." Douglas straightens, looking at the machine. "It's pretty ingenious. He's got a machine to do brute-force cracking."
Vash nods. "Can't say for sure. Nice bit of work, anyway. I know who can, though." He turns again, and smiles. "So. Tell us about the Master."
The guard says, "I guess I don't know much. He's a wizard from far away, with all sorts of," he points at the clockwork, "-evil knowledge. Uh." He sighs, "He's going to kill us all, if you don't, for failing him." He adds, "A sword might be better," and looks quite glum.
Vash grins a little. "Let us worry about that. So, what's your master like, eh? What's he look like?"
The guard says, "Look like? I've never seen him not in his robes and cowl."
Vash says, "That's fine. Tell me about his outfit, then. I'm very curious."
"Uhm..." the guard remembers blurrily, "I've seen him in long robes, dark blue or black. One of them has strange symbols on it. People say he never sleeps."
Vash says, "And no one's seen his face?"
The guard says, "Not really well. You really don't want to get close enough to, you know?"
Vash nods, "I understand. Real tall hombre, is he?"
Considering, the guard says, "Maybe a little tall. Not as big as a troll. Six feet, right around."
Vash nods. "That's good. So, that manor house back there, that belong to him?"
The guard nods, "Yes sir. Lord Drekaris gave it to him when he arrived so that he had a place to work outside of town and not frighten everyone." He adds gloomily, "Just us."
Douglas perks his ears. "The Master and Drek are two separate people..." he murmurs. "Maybe we've found the source of Drek's sudden interest in technology..."
Vash says, "Wait. Your master isn't Drekaris?"
The guard shakes his head, looking surprised, "Oh, no. I wouldn't be so afraid of Drekaris. I'd just run away from him. The Master will find me, wherever I go. He showed us." He shudders.
Douglas snaps his fingers. "And I would bet that it's one of those wanderers from Nippon, the only ones in this world who use technology. We already know that some survived..." He slows in his speaking, glancing edgewise to Sakura, and suddenly feeling very, very sheepish. "I'm sorry, Sakura-chan," he murmurs.
Vash frowns. "That a fact now." He glares, "Douglas. Shut it. No conjecture in front of the POWs. The less they know the better it is for them." He turns back to the guard. "Ever laid eyes on Drekaris?"
Douglas winces and nods, looking back at the machine, abashed. "Yes, Captain, sorry..."
Vash says, "It's fine, Doug."
The guard nods, "Yes, sir. He's been in this area forever, trying to spread his holdings. Only since the Master came did he seem to really succeed."
Vash nods, "That a fact now. That's interesting. Tell us, what's Drekaris look like, then? And... how long ago did the Master show up?"
"Drekaris is a short man, starting to go bald now. He's a pretty tough guy himself, and sturdily built. He's got black hair and wears a full beard, at least every time I ever saw him," says the guard, adding, "The Master showed up last winter."
Vash nods. "Okay. Couple more questions for you... then I have some information for you. First... who's home, in the manor house?"
The guard says, "No one, sir."
Vash says, "You know what happens if you lie to me."
The wounded guard swallows and says, "You kill and eat me?"
Vash says, straight-faced, "I cut your balls off and let her do what she likes with the rest." He jerks his head back at Sakura. Sakura blushes at Vash's suggestion! Vash says, "Ask me if I'm joking. Go on, ask me." Douglas's ears flicker as he tries to look like he's studiously inspecting the mechanism. This lets him hide the nervous blush to his ear tips, and the incredulous look that seeps onto his face.
The guard says, "You aren't joking, are you?" and looks very pale... although that could also be due to blood loss.
Vash shakes his head. "No. I'm not. So I'll ask one more time. Is anyone home?"
The guard shakes his head no, "No one that I know of, sir. The master left six guards. I don't know what other defenses the house might have... he told us never to go there, or he'd burn our eyes out."
Vash nods. "That's fine. You know when he's coming back?"
The guard shakes his head, "The Master doesn't tell us his plans, and we don't ask."
Vash nods. "Fine. Now, I have a little information for you. So pay attention." The guard nods, listening. Vash looks around. "There are a couple of your associates tied to a tree about thirty meters in that direction," he points out toward the far side of the clearing. "I suggest you scrape your friends together and get out of here. Consider yourselves out of work."
The guard nods dispiritedly, "Yes, sir."
Vash looks at the crew. "Anything else?"
Douglas shakes his head quietly to Vash, then straightens and looks over the mechanism. "So how do you think we should do this, Captain?"
Sakura says, "Captain, is there anything that you'd like Feina and I to do?"
Vash says, "Got anything you want to say to our guest?"
Sakura shakes her head, "No, Sir."
Vash nods and turns back to the guard. "That's it then. Go." The guard nods and walks, not quite a stagger, back towards the others and the cabin. Vash waits for the guards to get out of earshot before turning back to the crew. "All right then. Do you want to see to the ship now, or proceed to the manor house?"
Sakura says, "Vash-sama... if it's all right with you, I'd like to see if they left anything in the ship that we didn't bring with us. I'm certain there are medical supplies I left behind and I'd like to get them if they're still there."
Vash nods. "Do it. Let's see about getting up to the hatch."
Kerry herds Feina out of the cottage after a brief search. It's a standard barracks building, with beds (not made), clothing (not washed), and a kitchen -- also not washed. There is nothing obviously arcane or tech-ish there. Kerry wanders over and inspects the giant clockwork while getting caught up on what the guard has reported. "Hmm. I'd say we check the manor house first. This thing won't matter much, and if it calls the fellow in we want to have checked out his base first. Would you object to going in via the cargo door, Doctor?"
Sakura shakes her head, "No, of course not, Kerry-san."
Vash nods. "Come to think of it, there should be a couple of the pistols still on board. We may as well outfit as best we can before going into the lion's den." He circles around to the rear of the Alshain along with Sakura. "Let's go ahead and get what we need and move on. I have a suspicion about the Master."
Douglas follows along behind Vash, frowning and blinking. "Who do you think it is?" he asks cautiously."
Vash frowns a bit. "I think it's one of those goddamned Texans."
Kerry skrees, "The time is right for someone from the Yellow Rose. Might possibly be one of the earlier crew who just needed time to be noticed, though."
The cargo ramp comes down at the coded command, the ship lighting up the ramp and ground clearly. The ground van sits inside, ready. The interior of the shuttle seems undisturbed. Vash says, "Which is why I'm getting a bigger gun."
Sakura blinks at Vash. "I thought they were dead..."
Vash begins moving up the ramp. "So did I, Doctora. I think we may not be that lucky."
Kerry skrees, "So we did..."
Douglas looks around, satisfying himself that everything is still in order, even after the shuttle was... 'taken,' by the Hunt. Kerry scurries up the ramp and forward to the cockpit to check the status boards. Sakura follows Vash into the shuttle, blinking to adjust her eyes... Vash shades his eyes as he climbs the ramp, blinking a few times as he glances around, refamiliarizing himself. He glances around, making a line for the rifle stowage. Sakura goes into the place where her medical supplies are kept and takes as much as she can carry, being especially careful to replace any medications that she's used in her kit. Douglas retrieves the tool kit that goes with the spanner wrench he's been carrying tucked away for so long.
Feina creeps slowly into the ship, marveling at it. These people whom she trusts seem completely at ease here, but... it's so strange! She doesn't want to touch anything. Vash picks up the rifle and several more clips of ammunition, which he tucks into the various pockets of his jumpsuit. He checks the integrated flashlight under the rifle's barrel; Click, click. Still works. "All right, I'm ready when you are." Douglas bites his lip, considering... then shakes his head. He has no training in using firearms, really. He'd be more of a danger to the others than to himself.
Kerry chirrips happily to himself. Everything's fine here. Nothing damaged. He pats the control yoke. Just a little longer, darling. We'll be back for you as soon as we can. He leaves the controls reluctantly and heads back to rejoin the others, making a side trip to get a couple changes of clothing. He pauses in the little cabin, then opens a small locker and pulls out the odd-looking pistol there, the grip designed for a Keero wing-hand. He stuffs a couple of clips of ammunition into a pocket as well. Just in case.
Sakura says, "Vash-sama... I think I have all the supplies I need... m-may I have a pistol as well?"
Vash hmms? "Oh. Certainly, Doctora..." He turns to the locker and produces a second pistol for the doctor, handing the weapon grip-first to Sakura, and then a pair of clips. "This is the same kind that I carry. It kicks pretty good, so just keep good shooter position when you fire and you'll be fine. The safety's on right now, also."
Sakura smiles. "Thank you, Sir..." She sets up her holster and slips the gun into it.
Vash shoulders the rifle. "All right then. Let's go say hello to our fellow traveler."
Kerry rejoins the others. "All set. Everything's green to go as soon as we figure out where we're headed. Pity Mr. D isn't here... we'll still need to find him and take that blasted Horn back."
Douglas nods quietly, "At least we can remove whatever is influencing him to use technology..."
Kerry skrees, "With any luck, yes..."
Last modified: 2001-Aug-20 13:04:02
All material on this site is
Copyright © 2001-2022 Lou Erickson
unless specifically indicated on each document.
All Rights Reserved.
Administrated by Reality Fault Webmaster