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File 166330157149.png - (411.94KB , 822x1140 , f6c113279b9a510eeaee79183208539179c823d1eac9a29661.png )
1043923 No. 1043923 ID: a7b16c

Crossposting with https://getyeflask.net/quest/res/827.html for the time being. I'll probably be more attentive to posts there

Kicker, a herreras and a claw captain of the 557th squadron of the great Mountain's grand army, deadpanned. Lowtail, herreras and claw on-field medic, grinned at Kicker.
“A group photo.” She said, crossing her arms. “You know we'll have to burn it, right?”
“It'll stay here.” Lowtail poked his head. “This is the furthest we've ever been from the mountains, and it's not like we're doing anything else.”
As he said that Snapper, a feather, landed near them and picked up a bag. They were about to cross a very rickety bridge over a very deep creek, and nobody trusted the bridge to bear the weight of their equipment so Snapper was flying it across beforehand.
They'd been marching counterrootways for ten days and then ten more now, tailed by a tooth unit, under strict orders to avoid being sighted (Or, failing that, deal with anyone who saw them) and to signal the tooth of anyone who might see him. Kicker hugged herself a little tighter. “Fine. But we burn it.”
“And you have to be in it.” Added Lowtail.
Kicker grunted under her breath.
“Boss.”
“What… Scraptooth.” She said, sliding a claw to the shotgun on her waist.
Scraptooth laid, bored, on the ground, oblivious to the… thing silently coming out of the sand behind him. “Captain.” He saluted. “What's with the look?”
33 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
>>
No. 1047491 ID: a7b16c
File 166673455036.png - (10.51KB , 400x900 , tegaki.png )
1047491

>3/5
>>
No. 1047492 ID: a7b16c
File 166673464224.png - (538.60KB , 969x1476 , file (2).png )
1047492

>4/5
>>
No. 1047493 ID: a7b16c
File 166673469242.png - (520.54KB , 969x1476 , file (4).png )
1047493

>5/5
>>
No. 1047558 ID: a2d88b

1) WTF happened to this horror? It looks cleaved by a giant axehead...
2) Examine your infected wound. Do you have anything that could help tend to it?
>>
No. 1047629 ID: a7b16c

>>1047558
Check the first and second posts' pics
>>
No. 1047644 ID: 084179

>>1047493
Contemplate all your life decisions. Shit is fucked. Investigate the corpse.
>>
No. 1047669 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1047558 >>1047644
qst >>5443561
Kicker stared at the claw creature. There were… an orange thing and something else before, weren't there? What happened? She didn't remember blacking out. Her memory just cut out as drily as the sand under her was. She looked up, hoping and knowing the hope to be vain that she'd seen the glitter of Snapper's mirror telling her he was on his way to her.

Shifting her position sent spikes of pain up her arm. It wasn't broken… not quite. But that bug had to have cracked the bone at least a little, and she worried the wound might be infected. She wouldn't be putting weight on it for, at minimum, a few days. Good thing when it came to firing she was ambidiextrous.

But Scraptooth's armor shell! He wouldn't like missing it (No demolitions expert ever did; Without it his explosives were exposed to gunfire and the elements) but it was the only thing she had. She flipped it around with her good claw to check under it.

The pockets inside the shell had a few bandage wraps, a half empty bottle of liquor, and scraptooth's water for the next two days. Under it she found a small candy which she ate thoughtlessly: The sweetness washed away a small but very needed bit of her worry. Her mouth felt parched, her whole body ached from the creature's rough handling and the scorching sun, her eyes stung, her arm was almost cracked, but even without being there Scraptooth found a way to ease her pain a little.

She kept checking the pockets. The only other thing she found on it was a small piece of flint and steel- too small for her claws, but she could make it work.

The wound on her arm hurt again, a pang like needles… and a bad omen for her. She wouldn't get away without more pain, wouldn't she?

"Fuck damn it." She said, grabbing the liquor. If it was Scraptooth's there wasn't a chance in hell it'd be soft, and she considered taking a sip to dull the pain but decided against the idea. The pain was the only thing keeping her sharp, and sharpness was the only thing she had.

Kicker didn't give herself any more time to dread it, and poured liquor on the wounds, and being alone as she was she allowed herself to cry out in pain. It was like molten metal washing into her body, the dulled pain of the inflamation rearing up into a full on scream up her arm, her teeth baring and jaw clenching so hard it hurt, but some part of her, kicked in by a combination of experience and training, noticed she was holding the liquor so hard the bottle was cracking, and she forced herself to relax the grip.

Blackness climbed at the eye of her vision, but she willed herself, somehow, to close the lid of the bottle and set it upright of the sand, and to wrap bandages around the wound before it got dirty again. And then she didn't go unconscious- not quite, but there was a slackening of her muscles, a darkening of her vision, and a couple seconds or minutes that just slid by unnoticed.

The pain began to fade, just a little bit, enough for her to stash the liquor and what bandages she had left back into Scraptooth's turtle shell. More time passed and the pain kept diminishing, even became bearable.

As time passed, and she was dangerously short of things to do (things she could do) so she examined the claw creature from a safe distance: It didn't have any noteworthy wounds (Just a few stray shots on the rear, all of them bloodless, probably Scaptooth's and Lowtail's) and she had the feeling, worrying on its own, it had just ran with her until it died of exhaustion. What possessed these things to be this way? School had taught her the bugs… made them, like a kid shapes putty, as weapons of war. Had they made them to just run to death? Shaped their… heads like an axe, or an open book? What kind of mind devised such a thing?

Time passed.

She was in the middle of the desert, with no way to find the rest of her team or any refuge from the scorching sun on sight. The mission required her to keep marching counterrootways and hope to encounter the others along the way, but marching on this desert with her scales uncovered was certain death. Even Scraptooth's shell wouldn't give enough protection.
>>
No. 1047686 ID: 1e8abc

The only other resource visible is the creature itself. Can it be cut with claws? Does it even have a hide?
>>
No. 1047739 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1047644 >>1047686
Kicker looked back at the creature, realizing what came next. She had nothing else she hadn't used but the dead creature.

She walked to it slowly and feeling in her gut the thing would, any time now, rise up and stomp her into a paste, crawling slowly and keeping her good claw ready to attack. When it didn't jump up, she poked at it's gut with it. Bullets had pierced the hide, after all, it just didn't bleed after. Hopefully that'd make this easier.

A second passed. Her nail was still prodding at the creature.

It did not jump up. Little miracles.

She buried her nail on its side to test the resilience. It was too hard for that. She buried her teeth instead. The flavor was bitter, disgusting sickening in the way all cold dead sun bleached meat is to a predator. But she kept digging her teeth in it, pressing until she poked a hole through…

…and had to pull her head away in disgust,retching on an empty stomach: Flatulent gas was leaking out of the hole she'd poked in the smooth, furless hide, smelling of rot and somehow bitter like the smell of grass. The gas kept escaping for several minutes, the creature slowly deflating before her eyes, until it went from plump looking to a sack of bones. Once she was sure all the rot-gas had leaked out, she poked her nails into the hole and worked on expanding it.

Most of her day went away on that, slowly tearing off the creature's gut skin. When she was done, she had a ragged patch that should work as a tunic. How long it'd last before rotting into nothingness, or if the desert heat would tan it, she had no way of knowing.

And under the skin the creature was, not, anytihng she could call natural. It was made of flesh, alright, but there were no intestines or stomach, instead green and yellow structures that almost looked made out of fiber. What she guessed was a heart was right in the center, encapsulated by a hollow bone chamber, held in place by tendon and muscle. Around it were four… lungs that against all sense still moved, slowly, making whistling and wheezing sounds as they forced rotten air to move.

And the oddest part was a chitinous skull embedded in the chest, in front of the heart chamber between two lungs, it's toothless snout elongated and with tubes running in and out of the mouth and neck, it's empty eyesockets letting her see what had to be a brain contained in a balloon made of transparent film.

She didn't want to look at this. The bug exoskeleton of a skull might at any moment turn her way and say something macabre she'd rather not hear. The legs might move and crush her. The lungs might wheeze out a voice and ask to be allowed to die like all the other flesh around them.

Night was falling and she was exhausted, but she wouldn't sleep. She wouldn't waste the cool air, and she wouldn't allow herself to lay again, vulnerable, near this pantomime of a living being.

She covered her head and barrel on the skin, held it in place by wearing Scrapooth's shell, and didn't run away from the creature.

------------------------------

Next noon, she woke up half buried by sand. Had wind picked up during the day? She forced herself up through the weight of the sand and her gear and exhaustion, and looked at the horizon. The rimlights were fading as the sky turned to a pink hue, but she could still see the root perfectly and orient herself with it.

She kept scanning the sky, hopefully. No glitter, no sign of Snapper.

Had the fire…

No.

A waste of thought. She'd find out if she found out.

Kicker took a deep breath, drank the day's water ration (A single sip out the canteen, and even that was too much considering how much she had), and started running again. Her stomach growled. She ignored it.

------------------------------

Another day passed. She woke up not buried this time, and looked at the last of her water miserably then up to the sky. No glitter. Back to the water. Her head felt about to burst, and her hurt claw screamed with her every motion.

Something passed above her head, quick and small and whistling. A bullet. Adrenaline filled her.
>>
No. 1048712 ID: a7b16c
File 166785803851.png - (2.95KB , 181x240 , file (3).png )
1048712

Alright so are there any issues with the quest or what.
I've been QMing for a longass while and hadn't ran into just not getting replies in at least six years now, I'm doing some stuff that's pretty uncharacteristic for me so I expected mixed results, but at this point the (lack of a) reaction just puzzling.
>>
No. 1048713 ID: 5d9787

>>1048712
Have you heard that some people explore the beach out of curiosity and confusion when the sea recedes before a tsunami? When the hands monster appear at the beginning my only though was: "that's odd".
In this setting I don't understand what is threatening or reassuring, what is normal or abnormal. I have no confidence my suggestions would be helpful in any way.
>>
No. 1048714 ID: a2d88b

>>1048712
My apologies.

Well I can't say much because I'm mostly lurker to start with... I like the quest, but I often have no idea what to suggest (and this, for quite a lot of quests).

As for potential problems... well, the update length may be a bit daunting. Text-only updates too (especially in an otherwise illustrated quest), as I tend to rely on the pic to notice there's an update as opposed to suggestions, and I don't think I'm alone in this.
>>
No. 1048715 ID: 15c72a

Yeah the setting is really weird and we've been given almost no background information so it's hard to suggest. The very sudden events that drastically change the narrative make it disorienting and difficult to plan in the long term.
Then there's the switch to image only for one update, and then text only for the next two...
>>
No. 1048721 ID: a7b16c

>>1048713 >>1048715 >>1048714
> Yeah the setting is really weird and we've been given almost no background information so it's hard to suggest
> I have no confidence my suggestions would be helpful in any way.
You shouldn't be afraid to suggest or investigate. I am as interested in how players react with limited information, piece it together, and choose to investigate (And how to stay safe long enough to investigate) as I am in how they tackle and solve issues. And it's not like I make an habit of punishing the players for investigating if danger wasn't explicitly foreshadowed. Or I don't try to, anyways. Did I do that without noticing?
> When the hands monster appear at the beginning my only though was: "that's odd".
Yeah that'd be the expected reaction tbh. The dinos didn't have experience with hand-crawly things popping out of the sand either. Took care to make it a tone setter rather than instakill, thou.
>very sudden events that drastically change the narrative make it disorienting
Bad habit! Very bad, and can't seem to kick it. Especially when I later realize I could've achieved about the same things more smoothly. Got to refocus on trying not to do that.
>and difficult to plan in the long term.
Will be solved shortly!
>Length
Might be an issue, yeah. I hadn't QMd in a few months and must've got verbose in the meanwhile. On top of the usual verbosity QMs gain over time.
>Images then text
Yyyeah art is a "when I can" thing, spent a while without nibs for my wacom and don't always have the energy for art.

Regardless, small image update coming today or tomorrow. And is there any way to make tgchan autoupdate posts? I'm using a browser extension to reload the page every minute.
>>
No. 1048725 ID: a7b16c
File 166786942669.png - (155.21KB , 720x372 , 1667868792.png )
1048725

>>1048721
Another shot.
Kicker's anger took her over for a moment, and she found herself turning to growl at the aggressor.
Another shot. Sand splashed her feet.
...to growl at an aggressor who wasn't there. Not right next to her, anyways. This was a sharpshooter.
Another shot. This one just buzzed by her crouched head. Five now?
...not much of a sharpshooter. The rimlights were fading into dusk, but she was still perfectly visible. The rate of fire was respectable, but Snapper would've got her in one. She held the irrational want to laugh. That was the thirst and hunger and heat and loneliness, it had to be. She'd never be so unprofessional otherwise.
Something slammed her on the back hard enough to make her stumble forward a coupld steps. Six shots, and the only hit was on her armor. The shots came from a rock outcrop a ways behind her.
>>
No. 1048731 ID: 4bbbb8

Either dive for cover nearby if you can find some you think you can reach, or... well. The other option is running backwards towards the source. Which isn't a GOOD idea, but it might get you closer to the gunner which at least lets out another option.

The only other thing you could do if you don't want to get closer you could get down on the ground and cover yourself with your armor, just keep in mind that you're a sitting duck there but it might make them stop.
>>
No. 1048734 ID: 15c72a

>>1048725
Optimally you move from cover to cover until you get close enough to kill the shooter with your own gun (if you still have one), but surely the enemy isn't alone? Well, you could at least try to make the enemy run out of ammo by provoking it from a good defensive position.
>>
No. 1048746 ID: a7b16c
File 166794187750.png - (120.10KB , 510x308 , 1667941286.png )
1048746

tgc >>1048734 >>1048731
qst >>5456468
With no cover or weapons, her only options were to charge or to cower under the armor shell, and cowering would get her killed. Who knew how much ammo they had?

Gunshots cratered the sand around her, and she turned around and began running in one swift motion, the sand slipping from under her feet from the sheer force the adrenaline conferred her legs. She bit her tongue and felt herself scream, forcing herself to move. Another shot flew by, gracing her neck. She lowered her head and shut off everything but running forward.

Thirty steps. Sand cratered in front of her, splashing her face. Inhale. Exhale. Her legs pumped. Her wounded arm screamed. The sand kept sliding from under her. She adjusted her feet, shifted the angle slightly to adjust. More shots flew. Two graced her face, and one hit the shell and almost made her legs buckle under her.

At some point she found herself at the rock outcrop. The shots had stopped a while ago, but she still twitched every time she expected one to happen. Like this, panting and forcing her breath to calm down, she walked all around the outcrop until she found a door. Ancient wood. Something engraved on it. She was still panting, but had almost calmed that down by now. Through the cracks in the door, she could peer ancient steps sculpted into the stone, going up a winding and twisting stairway.

Kicker pocked her wounded arm into the hallway, but it wasn't shot off and, having no other options, she climbed up the steps. Coolness hit her like a brick wall when she entered, giving her a brief dizzy fit. The climb was uneventful other than that, and at the top she peeked her arm, then her head into the room.

The bug inside wheezed as hard as she had after the charge, its legs shaking just with the effort of staying. Some kind of creature she vaguely recalled from photos of bug guns stuck to the side of its body, breathing more calmly, its long snout poking out the window almost a foot long.
>>
No. 1048815 ID: a2d88b

Jump this bug, pin them. Try to keep them alive, for now at least.
>>
No. 1048820 ID: a7b16c
File 166803172150.png - (164.80KB , 755x456 , 1668031014.png )
1048820

tgc >>1048815
qst >>5457065

Kicker didn't waste time and jumped, arcing back her good claw during the motion and bending a knee to spring forward, allowing herself to freefall for less than a split second. For that brief instant, the dizziness and exhaustion and heartache stopped existing, replaced with the cold calculation of where and how to land the hit.

She reached the right spot and sprung up her bent knee, noticing the bug was moving its arms. Time didn't slow down for her: Once violence exploded it only burst by faster and faster. She readied to use her wounded claw. The bug grabbed something from the windowsill- a gun aimed at her face. She slapped it out of the way with her wounded claw, and was surprised at how strong the bug's hold on its gun was. Flame burned at the back of the claw as the gunshot went wild, scrapping against her scales.

The claw she'd swiped with connected: Without a thought she'd grabbed the by the shoulder with her good claw and was holding the gun at bay with the other, though she didn't have the strength to make him drop it. His strength continued to surprise her as she pinned it down, not quite managing to break out of her hold with his weak legs but able to match her arm strength equally.

And, jut like that, the violence was over. She panted. He wheezed more. What now? The adrenaline would fade. They'd grow exhausted.

“Here to finish the job?” He said, pronouncing it something like “'ere to fi'ish the yob”. She had noticed how rugged he looked, but by the mountain, his voice sounded ancient, and manic. It wasn't a wonder his legs were so weak and he'd missed so many shots.

“What?”

“Here to finish…” He wheezed again. “The others aren't answering. I knew the war never ended, I knew it…” War? The war had ended before her grandmother was born! She let him spin his wheels, catching her breath. “I keep asking the Whole for orders, and they say it ended, until they just stop answering… and now the others don't answer either. But you finished them off, didn't you? Your people was right patient, it was… I'm next, aren't I?” A small burst of strength came to the leg he held a pistol with, but she was able to keep him pinned. “Betrayers, sibling-killers…”
>>
No. 1048822 ID: a2d88b

Tell him your only "job" is to get back to your friends safely.
You're not here to kill anyone if you can avoid it.
>>
No. 1048992 ID: a7b16c
File 166813590156.png - (96.30KB , 429x288 , 1668135662.png )
1048992

>qst >>5458245
>tgc >>1048822
“I have no quarrel with you.” She pressed his shoulder harder. “I am lost and looking…” Did she really want to mention her friends? The mission still required discretion. “…for safety and you shot me unprovoked.”
“Like shit,” He trashed and screamed, shooting his handgun- she couldn't tell if on purpose or on accident, but it made her ears whistle. “A saur whould never, you'd never be here for no reason-”
>>
No. 1049018 ID: 1224af

If you were here to kill, you'd probably not be cuddling him on the ground right now
>>
No. 1049023 ID: f2320a

>>1048992
well dont randomly shoot strangers first and i would have no reason to hurt you for trying to kill me
>>
No. 1049115 ID: a7b16c
File 166829523906.png - (69.72KB , 382x218 , 1668295210.png )
1049115

tgc >>1049018 >>1049023
qst >>5459218
“You fought in the war?”
“Yes!”
“Then you know I could've killed you.” Kicker pressed his shoulder harder. “Do you think a herreras claw would stop at just cuddling if they wanted you dead?”
He mumbled something, but cut it out and stopped the trashing, his antennae relaxing.
“Good.” She continued, relaxing her grip just a bit. “I won't hurt you if you don't make me. Can I trust you?”
The bug was frozen for a moment, tensing again, so rigid for a moment Kicker considered he might've had a heart attack. But he relaxed again, and mumbled out something.
She let him go, still tense.
He slapped his bug-gun rifle out of the wall, where it was waving its snout in the air, “You're lucky. Nancy almost shot your brains off.”
“Nancy?”
“My farshooter.” He said as he huddled down, crossing his arms and seeming to wither into the corner under the window. “Don't mater if you got them or this freak heat did. They're gone.”
“Who is?”
“My friends. Not answering the radio. Too old to go check.”
Kicker turned around and scanned the room as he spoke: for being seemingly alone in the middle of nowhere, he was well stocked. He could probably last two more weeks if he ate as much as she did just on the jars here. And water! It felt like ages since she'd seen a whole glass of water, nevermind a bottle.
>>
No. 1049116 ID: 1224af

Ask him for some water, then ask his name.
>>
No. 1049169 ID: a7b16c
File 166838233629.png - (116.27KB , 664x305 , 1668382300.png )
1049169

tgc >>1049116
“You have a name?”
“Not for your kind.” The bug said, his voice surprisingly calm for how hostile the words were, and then gestured at the water. “What you looking at.”
“I need water. And food.”
“Stuff from the bottom shelf shouldn't make you sick.” He gestured at it with a leg, still huddling in the corner. “The others bring it.”
“Your friends?” What did that have to do with making her sick?
“Not them. The villagers. They bring me'n'my friends food and water. We kill beastlies that might attack them. Hunt for them when the heat's not killing us all. Chat and play poker sometimes. I tell the kids tales.”
Before the bug was done talking Kicker had already taken a jar and had to stop herself from gulping it down in a second.
“There's a village.” She said, trying to show some manners and not scarfing down the food. Little pieces of… it was meat, between her claws. Eat slowly. Lowtail would be mad if she made herself sick. “Where.”
“Beats me. Haven't left post since I was a lad and the war started. Me and my friends, we swore we'd only be back when the war ended. Couple saurians at the village, good boys, good cooks.” He was silent for a moment, and added more sadly. “They haven't come for a time. May be too hot for them too.”
>>
No. 1049354 ID: 1224af

Seems to be quite a coincidence that both this Nancy and that village have disappeared recently.

Also, oldbug here seems to shoot strangers pretty fast for somebody who has visitors from time to time. How does he know that there's a pair of saurian cooks in that village if he's never even visited it?

Might tell him that the war's been over for a long time, too.
>>
No. 1049497 ID: a7b16c
File 166864139094.png - (90.16KB , 507x304 , 1668641234.png )
1049497

tgc >>1049354
“Excuse me, I got lost. Nancy is one of your friends? And she's not been answering the radio?”
“Ay? Nay, saur. My friends are my lads, my troop, them's not been answering. We set up around here during the war, watched for incursions. Your kind was very insistent, lass. Almost respected it.” The bug made a gesture with his leg as if to say 'I was this close', and showed her his weird gun. “This is Nancy, see? Never seen a farshooter before?”
“Not a bug one.” She didn't dare try touching it: The 'gun' was waving it's snout/cannon in her direction aggressively. “Not outside books, anyways. How do you know there's saurians at the village if you've never been there? Are they herreras like me?”
“Because they visit me! And nah. They're… aqua, aquee…” He shrugged. “Something like that.” He said it like 'Sumetin'
“You don't just shoot them too, do you?”
“And why would I?”
“You just shot me.”
“Well look at yourself. Wearing some beastie's hide, and that on your back. Don't think I don't recognize saur army gear when I see it, aha.”
>>
No. 1049522 ID: a2d88b

Well it's a good news that there's at least one village here peaceful enough for both saurian and bug... but highly disquieting that contact with it was lost.

Still, not our current mission. We still have a defined objective, and should depart when temperature becomes acceptable again.
>>
No. 1049535 ID: 1224af

We'd best take some water and food with us if we intend to keep on moving for an unknown period. Does the bug mind sharing a bit more supplies?

We should consider our wound, too. If it's not getting any better we might not get far.
>>
No. 1049623 ID: a7b16c
File 166888644781.png - (227.85KB , 665x725 , 1668886314.png )
1049623

tgc >>1049535 >>1049522
"It's complicated. When did this village drop contact?"
"Last visit was..." The old bug looked at the jars. "The week before this heat started. You heading there, lady?"
"No. I have things to do."
"Reckon it takes a good reason to keep marching on in this heat."
"It's complicated." She repeated. "Can I stay here until tomorrow?"
"You know how to play poker?"

--
The next day, Kicker woke up not overheated for the first time in weeks. At first sight she'd thought the bug's hideout was just crudely dug stone, but now she looked at the ceiling and wondered if all the little carved patterns on the ceiling somehow helped keep the place cool.
The bug was on the other side of the room; For all his acting like he was A-Okay with her he had never let her out of his sight nor the guns out of his reach. Nor had the guns themselves allowed her to be too close to them, or too far from their aim.
"Rest well?"
"Best I've had in a while." She tried stretching, but flinched when her wounded claw ached again. The inflammation was going down... but she was living rough, barely eating, and had used it to hold the bug in place. It'd take more than just a few days to heal a near-fracture.
"You're welcome. What happened?"
"Thanks. It was black scarabs." She massaged her wrist. The bug had given her wraps to bandage the gunshot wound on her hand, but it still hurt too. "They were in a panic at night."
"Saurs call them rousebugs. Frisky fuckers. Barely worth eating, too- cook them and they'll poison you."
"Ah. Can I..."
"You want more of my food and water to travel."
"I'm sorry."
"Do me a favor in return: If you run into the village tell them I can only go alone for so long."
"Sure."
And that was it. She departed with one jar each of food and water.
She trotted until the night ended, and buried herself in the sand as the rimlights relit and burned with scornful heat.

--

The next two days were uneventful: She woke up, crawled up from under the sand, and marched on. The root and mountain behind her gave her a reliable compass to guide herself, to march counterrootways deeper into bug territory. Every afternoon she drank and ate just enough to not pass out during the day, and every afternoon she woke up convinced her wounds would be infected and this'd be it.

--
On the third day, right as the rimlights lit, Kicker saw another stone outcrop. She took the detour, and it didn't take her long to find the door.
This one, like the sharpshooter's, had some symbol carved on it.
Well.
Nobody had shot her on the way here.
That was a good start, wasn't it?
>>
No. 1049692 ID: a2d88b

Reassuring for now, but possibly ominous...
Well, gently knock for now. Hope someone friendly answers.
>>
No. 1049771 ID: a7b16c
File 166906196721.png - (70.11KB , 537x643 , 1669061927.png )
1049771

tgc >>1049692
"Hello?" She knocked the door and called. Nobody replied, so she shouted- the hideout proper was probably up a fairly long flight of stairs. "Hello! Anyone here!"
Nobody replied. A light breeze picked up, hitting her with hot air.
>>
No. 1049899 ID: 1224af

Guess we better enter and look around, then.

Open the door carefully, in case somebody decides to shoot at the doorway or something worse.
>>
No. 1049912 ID: a7b16c
File 166915757043.png - (169.91KB , 1290x490 , 1669157513.png )
1049912

tgc >>1049899
“Hello!” She called again, pressing her palm to the wood. “I'm going in!”
Nobody replied as she climbed up, or when she called out again near the top. The entrance proper was covered by a small curtain, and she steeled herself for what she'd see when she swatted it aside.
It wasn't in vain. The sharpshooter had been right.
A cicada laid dead for days or weeks, on a mattress in the corner of the room.
>>
No. 1049921 ID: 15c72a

Bug to your right. Be ready to defend yourself.
...might be worth checking the cicada to see what killed them, once the room is secure.
>>
No. 1050011 ID: 1224af

Seems to be some bug appliance to the right... Hopefully this one won't be spitting bullets at you. I suppose it's some sort of a bug radio?

Check the body and try to find out the cause of death. Then check this device.
>>
No. 1050062 ID: a7b16c
File 166925058092.png - (98.58KB , 603x402 , 1669250498.png )
1050062

tgc >>1049921 >>1050011
Kicker scanned the room just in case, and had a scare when she saw a small bug hanging from the wall. But nothing happened, and it wasn't like any bug-gun she'd ever seen.

Still, she kept it on the corner of her eye as she approached the corpse just in case. The check was quick and fruitless: It laid relaxed on the mattress, with no wound and barely any fluid around it, just some… spit? Bile? Around the mandibles. Maybe it had died on its sleep, at ease. There was a cold comfort.

Next she checked the radio. The box itself was an ancient imported model from the outer rims of the leaf, far away from bug or saur lands- she guessed it was bought during the war. But the controls were legible enough, and maybe it had a builtin speaker? She poked at the controls, noting the bug on the wall was wired to the radio.

The radio turned on. And the bug hung on the wall opened its mandibles, and began… buzzing static.
>>
No. 1050064 ID: 15c72a

>>1050062
Bug may have died of poison or disease... worrying.
Scan through radio frequencies, see if you can get something.
>>
No. 1050113 ID: a7b16c
File 166931944523.png - (96.29KB , 578x474 , 1669319409.png )
1050113

tgc >>1050064
Kicker looked back at the corpse, had it been poisoned? She was no doctor. Everything was at question.

She sighed and turned back to the radio… alright, the bug on the wall was the speaker, was it the mic too? With that in mind she scanned through the frequencies, dronning out roger rogers to the bug.

There was another burst of static, and the sharpshooter's voice blared out of the speaker-bug deafeningly loud. “Lady! Lady. Is that you?”
>>
No. 1050119 ID: a2d88b

Time for the hard, but necessary part: Tell the bug no one was answering and you found a corpse in the first house you checked.
>>
No. 1050142 ID: 15c72a

>>1050113
Tell him the bad news. Describe the corpse, maybe he knows what happened. If that's not enough info to go on, you can make a full investigation of the village.

Worst case scenario I guess you can get some supplies, and leave some behind for him in case he wants to move here.
>>
No. 1050171 ID: a7b16c
File 166941252807.png - (81.42KB , 494x480 , 1669412242.png )
1050171

tgc >>1050119 >>1050142 >>1049354
“I think I found one of your friends.” She tried to keep a sensitive tone. “It's not good news.”
He was silent for a moment. “Guessed so. I know her radio's buzz. She dead?”
“Yes. I'm sorry.”
“She die well?”
“Looks like she was asleep. I can't tell if it was poison or the heat or age.”
“No signs of fighting?”
“No.”
He was silent again. “There's worse deaths than sleeping, for sure.”
Kicker didn't answer.
“Told that fool her lookout didn't cool too good a million times, that we'd swap with her. But she said she had the place right how she liked it…” He trailed off muttering to himself briefly. “But we always knew we'd die in this damn war. Just didn't expect it to be from age or a freak heat.”
Kicker spoke as delicately as she could. “Mister, the war's been over for over a hundred years. You beat us. We had to sign your treaties.”
“Now you may even believe that, miss, but I was there. I saw you herreras rain mortar and fight with three limbs missing, and felt your tyrs shake the earth…” He trailed off again. “Your kind's not quitters, for good or ill.”
>>
No. 1050180 ID: 1224af

...He's not really wrong, is he? With you running clandestine ops in bug territory and all.

Anyway, ask if we should do something about the corpse (if we're even going to spend time on it) and then look for some supplies we could borrow.
>>
No. 1050291 ID: a7b16c
File 166952325248.png - (249.33KB , 877x921 , 1669523097.png )
1050291

tgc >>1050180
Could she say he was wrong? She was infiltrating bug territory. Crazy or not, he'd been right about everything so far.
“Alright. Are you going to need her food?”
“I can kill myself trying to get it. Take all you can carry.”
“Thanks. Do you want me to do anything with the body?”
“The only thing one can do for the dead, miss.”

---

An hour later, Kicker stood over the grave. She'd found a shovel and, in doing so, the cicada's guns- another pistol and rifle, hiding behind the shovel. They'd looked up to her quietly, not aiming their snout-cannonsat her but not letting them quite relax while she towered above them.

She looked curiously, and backed off when they didn't do anything.

The sand made it easy to dig, and she wrapped the cicada in her mattress and carried her, carefully, down the stairs. Her wounds and exhaustion made digging take longer than it should have and now she stood over the grave, with her back to the root and Mountain. She'd have to rush back in to sleep off the day's heat.

“Why do I feel guilty?” She asked aloud. “I didn't do this.”

The corpse, obviously, didn't answer.

The guns stood on the hideout's stairway, looking at the grave. Their snout cannons were relaxed now. They'd starve, if she left them here.
>>
No. 1050292 ID: 15c72a

>>1050291
If you take them with you, there's much less chance of bugs shooting at you without warning; it's not like you could have taken them by force after all. Plus, extra firepower in case you need to fight some hostile fauna!
>>
No. 1050326 ID: 1224af

Will you even be able to use these things properly? Like, how would you pull the trigger, what do they eat, do they have some sort of a friend or foe system for bugs?

Not sure if you can keep pretending to be just some traveller with a rifle on your back. Then again, an experienced bug can recognize your army gear anyways, as we've found out...

I guess you should grab both guns if you can use them and if the rifle is not too heavy.
>>
No. 1050336 ID: 1224af

(Also, are these the creatures you saw by that dead horror when you woke up? Are you having hallucinations?)
>>
No. 1050442 ID: a7b16c
File 166967913995.png - (170.49KB , 767x483 , 1669679001.png )
1050442

tgc >>1050292 >>1050326 >>1050336
Was there something touching her leg? Kicker looked down with a start, reaching for a gun she wasn't wearing, but there was nothing.
“And now I'm imagining things.” She said.
The gun bugs were still on the doorway.
“Come here.” She crouched. “I can take care of you.”
They stepped back.
“You'll die if you stay.”
The rifle hopped forward, but instead of walking to her it skirted a wide circle around and dug a little on the grave, then curled and laid in the hole.
>>
No. 1050477 ID: 15c72a

Tell them you won't force them. If they want to die with their owner, that is their choice... but you don't think she would have wanted that.
>>
No. 1050485 ID: 1224af

I agree. They seem to have some degree of free will, so offer them a choice.
>>
No. 1050580 ID: a7b16c
File 166982225099.png - (122.19KB , 515x581 , 1669822098.png )
1050580

tgc >>1050477 >>1050485 >>1050326
“You're more clever than I thought, aren't you?” Kicker asked. “More than just animals.”
The rifle didn't answer. The pistol, still on the doorway, watched them silently.
“You don't have to lay and die here.”
A small breeze. The rimlights, burning around them. The desert with its hollow silence continued to not-happen around them.
“Would she want you to do this?”
The rifle opened a single eye and kicked sand at her with its hindleg. It then closed its eye again, and that was that.
“Very well.” She stood back up and stretched her back, hoping the rifle would take that little moment to reconsider. But it didn't, and Kicker returned inside. It wasn't as cold as the sharpshooter's, but it was enough for her to sleep through the day's heat.

---

Kicker woke up exhausted, feeling like she'd trashed too much in her sleep. While she stretched, she noticed the pistol gun bug was watching her from the doorway. She kept up the eye contact, curious as to what it expected. It just looked at her, from a safe distance.

But it was easy enough to understand when it perked up at her opening a food jar, and she threw her a chunk of some vegetable she didn't recognize. It tore it to little bits with it's legs, then vacuumed the bits up it's canon snout.

How would she fire it, if things came to that? Kicker tried having a closer look but it backed off away from her, keeping an eye on her claws. She couldn't blame it; she kept them even sharper than army regulation required.
>>
No. 1050583 ID: f2320a

>>1050580
Is rifle bug dead now have gun bug?
>>
No. 1050599 ID: 15c72a

>>1050580
>how to fire it?
I think that's something you'll have to figure out when it trusts you enough to let you handle it.
It might be time to go, if you've scavenged what you can. Say goodbye to the rifle bug on the way out.
>>
No. 1050655 ID: 2422f9

Kicker could really use a little gun-buddy right now. An ear(?) to hear her laments on the trail.

I don't think Kicker'll find this place again for a while once we leave it. Try gaining the pistol-bug's trust before we leave.

Wait a minute... 1 week is exactly the length of time it's been since we got lost. It must be the one the trackers came from.

That village! It's our only clue. We should find it.
>>
No. 1050667 ID: 1224af

Check on the rifle and prepare to move on.
>>
No. 1050684 ID: a7b16c
File 166993926428.png - (72.06KB , 412x416 , 1669939186.png )
1050684

tgc >>1050581 >>1050599 >>1050655 >>1050667
“Alright, there's time.” Kicker took back her claw.

The next while was spent stashing as much food and water as she could in the turtle shell, as well as ammunition for the pistol- the magazines were neon green, made of something semihard that felt organic.

---

On the way out, she checked on the rifle. It was where she'd left it, it's breath labored after being spending so long under the rimlights.
>>
No. 1050730 ID: 15c72a

>>1050684
Offer some food.
>>
No. 1050830 ID: 2422f9

>>1050684
Offer it some food on the way out, but I don't expect it to change its mind. It wouldn't still be there if it wasn't sure. Seems it's been crying.
>>
No. 1050847 ID: 1224af

Maybe you have some experience with losing somebody close to you? Try to give some kind words, if so.

Offer it some food, too.
>>
No. 1050872 ID: 398700
File 167011208648.png - (208.18KB , 775x924 , surrogateupdater.png )
1050872

>>1050830
>>1050730
>>1050847
Kicker crouched and gave it a small morsel. It didn't move to eat, but the pistol bug ran up to it and tore the meat into small bits it fed to the rifle slowly.

“She must've been something for you to do this.” Kicker said softly. “I have to go. I can't stay here to take care of you.”

The rifle seemed to nod, slowly. Or maybe it was just chewing what the pistol fed it. She couldn't tell.

"I know what it's like. You just need to give yourself time to get better."

it kicked sand at her again, much more weakly than before.

The pistol bug nuzzled the rifle before they departed, and that was that.

The desert was like a crystal ball, silent and hollow, where nothingness relentlessly crushed everything. Kicker marched on, and the bug choose to stay in it.

---

At first the pistol had chosen to cling to the tip of her tail, but by the time she stopped before morning it had conceded so far as to climb up to hide from the sun under her rag tunics.

She prepared their rations, and the pistol bug sat on its haunches looking back in the direction they'd come from.

internet situation got complicated at home. may disappear for a bit. -cammy

sup lads, just forwarding update materials! -riot

>>
No. 1051002 ID: 15c72a

>>1050872
Look back. Is the rifle following? If not, maybe the pistol is just thinking about them. Offer comfort. Things will get better.
>>
No. 1051010 ID: 2422f9

>>1050872
Ah having no internet sucks sometimes. Don't worry about it.
There's no way the farshooter has kept up with us. Pistol-bug must be homesick and worried for the rifle. Thing must be as old as the Sharpshooter, thinking about it now.

Spend a moment with them. Ask if it remembers the last time it left the hideout.
>>
No. 1051472 ID: a7b16c
File 167072357395.png - (72.50KB , 305x292 , 1670723027.png )
1051472

tg >>1051002 >>1051010
“You think it'll chase after us?”

The pistol moved it's antennae in quick, complex motions, and when Kicker stared at it blankly it shook its head. Only, for it, shaking its head meant swinging it's whole body left and right.

“But you hope it does.” It didn't answer. She wanted to comfort it, but it still wasn't at ease near her claws. “You were with the cicada since the war, weren't you?” The pistol nodded. “Do bugs usually reach this age?”

The pistol shook its head again, and now she was out of pleasantries to say.

“Someone you knew for just a short while is already bad.” She bunched her claws together into a tight little knot. Should she mention her friends? Just being with a bug was stretching the leeway given by her orders. “And more time only makes it worse. But you… get used to it. The hurt doesn't go, but you wrap it in rituals so it's close at heart without tearing it apart.”

Just thinking about the mater brought memories back to surface, thoughts of her team and older things still, and for the first time in days (Weeks? She'd lost track of time.) the thought was too much: For a moment she could barely keep composure, worry and unknowing grief flooding her. Were they even alive? She had no way of knowing.

But she gathered herself, and put on a stiff upper lip.

“Come.” She turned around. “I need to know how much to ration you.”

---

The next several days were uneventful: They slept through the day and marched at night. The pistol bug didn't exactly become her buddy, but it grew to trust her enough that it climbed to her back and even her shoulder at times. Most days, the pistol would spend a while looking back to the way they'd come before eating.

On the eve of the second day, she saw another stone outcrop in the distance and headed to it. On the third the pistol bug saw something ahead that alerted it. It climbed up her head, keeping its eyes on the outcrop.

“What is it.” She asked, stopping and squinting her eyes. Figures the living gun would have better sight; The only thing she saw was the wispy, wavering image of the outcrop… even at night it was starting to be too hot. She didn't know what she'd do about that; she didn't know there was anything anyone could do. “I can't…”

The pistol jumped to her arm and made a series of gestures with its antennae, which she couldn't begin to grasp.
>>
No. 1051481 ID: 15c72a

>>1051472
Time to play 20 questions.
First, is there immediate danger? Would it be dangerous to approach?
Is there a person at the outcrop? If yes, is it a Herras?
If no, then... is there a hostile ahead? Is it a hostile animal? A hostile person?

Or you could cut to the chase and let it make the decision on what to do. Ask if you should go around or go towards it. Stealthily, or openly and with some symbol of peace.
>>
No. 1051524 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1051481
“Alright.” She set it down on the floor and sat down; They were close enough to daybreak anyhow. “Is it dangerous? Or hostile?”
It didn't answer.
“You don't know.”
It nodded.
“But it's alive, isn't it? Not just rocks?” It nodded. “Is it a person? Or an animal?”
Curiously enough, it made to answer but ended up not doing so.
>>
No. 1051801 ID: 1224af

So it can't tell? Or doesn't want to?

In any case, you both could probably use a rest inside a shelter. And since trying to sneak closer to the tower might give us a bullet anyway, we'd best make ourselves known to who or whatever is inside.
>>
No. 1051921 ID: a7b16c
File 167115528419.png - (188.22KB , 697x704 , 1671155166.png )
1051921

tgc >>1051801
“You don't want to tell me?” She asked. The gun didn't reply. “You can't?”

It nodded.

“Fine. Keep an eye on it, and warn me if it comes our way.”

They were still much too far from the outcrop, so Kicker dug a hole in the sand as fast as she could. By the time she was done the rimlights were beginning to burn.

---

Horizons are a deceptive thing that may easily fool you. Why, the mountains looked like they were just a short ways away, yet they were several weeks behind her now even in ideal running conditions. The root, stretching up and down beyond her sight behind the mountains, looked like Kicker could just as easily grab it in her claw and twist it.

The day after the bug spotted whatever it was was uneventful, and the next day. The pistol was perched on her head the whole, obviously concerned but unable to communicate why with just yes and no.

The third day she saw it: A large black shape perched on the outcrop, so she waved her arms so anyone, black thing or not, could see her. It took her the rest of the night to reach the outcrop, and entered its shadow as day broke.

The black thing was back on top, sniffing the air and ignoring her. The pistol was shaking now, standing on her shoulder with its cannon aimed straight at the creature, a mix of clicks and slurping noises coming out of it.
>>
No. 1052215 ID: 15c72a

What a weird looking dog!
It's ignoring you, so... it's probably fine to be near it. Just give it a respectful distance if you're going to hang around near the rock. I'm not sure there's any reason to stick around though? Maybe to stand in the shade?
>>
No. 1052222 ID: f667de

Well that beast looks huge. I think it must track by scent, since it's not noticed us and it's sniffing the air a lot. Maybe it's a night-hunter.

I wouldn't get near this thing until we know more. My question is why would it be on a rock and not in the grass?
>>
No. 1052424 ID: a7b16c
File 167175650766.png - (138.16KB , 463x436 , 1671756442.png )
1052424

tgc >>1052215 >>1052222

Kicker found herself falling back to instinct, crouching down in the grass to a quadruped pose, positioned to pounce at or away from an attacker at a moment's notice. On her shoulder, the gun bug continued to make odd noises until it finalized with a deep click. She recognized the noises from hearsay, and knew the pistol was now fully loaded and ready to fire a stream of bullets.

She inhaled once. Twice. Thrice. The air was still and boiling and hard to breathe, and on top of the rock the… centipede? Worm? Continued the sniff the air. After -she counted- fifteen more breaths it crawled away, and Kicker could hear the click-click-click of its front claws as they struck the stone on its way down.

Kicker waited, but thankfully it didn't go her way, and after a moment longer even the rustling of the creature in the grass was gone. Had it not smelled them? Or had it just not cared? She listed the facts in the back of her mind as she crawled closer to the stone outcrop: No eyes and the smelling meant it probably was nocturnal. But why stay on top of the stone? She thought about it while looking for the lookout's door.

The pistol bug helped her, and the moment she opened the door it sprinted up the stairs jumping from step to step. She followed more slowly, and had to stop when she reached the top. A cicada laid on the floor, wounded and struggling to breathe.
>>
No. 1052450 ID: 1224af

Was it some sort of scavenger, waiting for the bug to die? Check the cicada's injuries, try to give first aid if possible.
>>
No. 1052514 ID: 53b944

Damn, they're still alive after all this time of radio silence! What a tough bug.

Can they talk? What happened to 'em? I don't think we have bandages on us anymore, nor much liquor to blur out the pain.
>>
No. 1052532 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1052450 >>1052514
5ch >>5506512
Kicker crouched by the cicada to have a closer look at the wounds, acting automatically while she thought. The bite marks were… a saurian would've bled out in a few minutes, but if dropping contact happened due to being attacked the bug had to have been there for a terrifying time.

“Get me bandages.”

The pistol bug ran off somewhere and Kicker, delicately, moved the bug to check the broken hindleg, could that even be healed?

“Are you awake.” She asked thoughtlessly, not expecting a response, but there was a choked rasp. “You are?”

“You're… real?” The cicada wheezed.

“Yes. I have liquor-”

“Blood too… low. Starving…”

She opened a jar as fast as she could and the pistol, who'd brought her strips of cloth from another room, egged her to lower it, then tore bits of food as small as it could to feed to the cicada.

The strips of cloth were oiled with something that smelled spicy, but if the pistol trusted them she'd have to, and she started the slow process of turning the cicada without hurting it more to bandage it. “Did the worm outside do this?”

“Yes, the… the kid…” The cicada made a rasp in its language “Tried… talk but she… asleep, I got careless…”
>>
No. 1052677 ID: 1224af

That was... a kid? Like, a bug child? Isn't it a bit too big for that?
>>
No. 1052816 ID: a7b16c
File 167229530925.png - (62.66KB , 387x311 , 1672295174.png )
1052816

tgc >>1052677
4ch >>5506512
Kicker pressed the bandage hard but not too hard, wondering if the spicy smell was some antiseptic. How long had this bug laid on the floor like this? She wished -selfish though it was- that the rifle had come with her… it would've helped her feel safer from the big worm outside.

But it had made its choice.

“Yes, the… the kid… Tried… talk but she… asleep, I got careless…”

Something tugged at her and she stopped bandaging, her brow furrowed.

The gun stared at the cicada.

“Don't… care, we stuck for… the kids… remember?”

The gun kept staring.

“Shut it, git… been bleeding for… so long and you… chastise…” He was silent for a moment. “Won't shoot a kid.”

“A kid? That thing outside is a kid?” Kicker only realized she'd asked it out loud once the words were out of her mouth.

“Young, she's… her upper mind's asleep… only got hunger for a mind still…”
>>
No. 1052899 ID: 96a9a8

>>1052816
Hmm. I guess it only eats bugs. Ask how long until the wormkid develops a mind.
You can stay here a little while to nurse the cicada back to health, I suppose, if that's possible. You can defend them from the wormkid. Maybe they won't shoot it, but you can if pressed.
>>
No. 1052936 ID: 3cb8b7

ask specifically what you need to do to keep them alive; it's not gonna be easy dealing with this if it's only you who knows nothing about it.
>>
No. 1053055 ID: a7b16c
File 167260474528.png - (214.36KB , 933x438 , 1672604686.png )
1053055

tgc >>1052899 >>1052936

“It ignored me.”

“Don't think so… smelled easier prey.” The cicada said as Kicker bandaged it. “The Whole must've taught her to… to resent saurs while in the egg…” The cicada paused for longer this time.

What could she say to that? Kicker wasn't even fully sure what he was talking about, so she went back to bandaging and said, “I don't know how to help you.”

“Already… helping…”

“I don't intend to bandage you and leave you to die. Your friend helped me. What if the… the girl enters?”

“Too big… not a doctor…”
>>
No. 1053408 ID: 835d4a

We might be in a real dilemma here; I don't think we can haul this cicada back alone. It's very interesting trying to piece together what's happened in the week or so we've been gone.

They did say that it can't fit inside, so I'd say we're safe for now. Can we try calling up Sharpshooter to see if they've got any advice about this kid? As long as the radio isn't broken, since this cicada didn't speak with Sharpshooter.

Whatever this The Whole is, I don't think it likes saurs. Sounds like a spiritual thing to me. But why did they say it resents saurs; did something happen to the saurs from the village?
>>
No. 1053413 ID: 15c72a

Alright. We stay here for a while, to see if the cicada gets any better with the bandages and nourishment. Hopefully the wormkid goes away eventually, but if not we can shoot it when we have to leave.
>>
No. 1053482 ID: 1224af

I doubt the cicada will appreciate us shooting this 'kid'. Still, let's try to nurse the bug back to health.
>>
No. 1053575 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1053408 >>1053413 >>1053482

What could she do? Kicker tightened the bandages and wrapped the cicada's broken leg before going to the radio. It was a huge, hungry, dangerous thing and she had a wounded person and was barely armed. It was a kid who just didn't know what she was doing.

She fiddled with the machine and waited with a claw pressed against her brow, churning out a barely coherent stream of conciousness under her breath. Had she heard about the bugs having anything like this? Something… something, a story to warn new recruits that bugs always were more dangerous than they seemed.

A regiment takes a city. The citizens tell them not to enter a building, so of course a young cadet (It's always cadets making mistakes in the official reports; surely a commander or general would never be cocky) goes in anyhow. Giant bugs burst out of it, rampaging and killing many of the regiment and bug citizens.

A loud burst of static and the sharpshooter's voice cut her train of thought, “Miss?”

“It's me.” She took the mic. “I found your friend. He's hurt, there's a… he says it's a girl, but-”

“Calm now. First things first, how is he hurt.”

She sighed and pressed the claw harder against her face. “The girl bit him. Tore out a chunk of his side and a few legs. I bandaged him, but I'm no doctor.”

No answer.

“The girl is like a snake, and bigger than the two of us put together. Covered in black fur.”

“Shit. Fuck. Miss, does she have eyes.”

“Not that I could see. She was sniffing the air.”

A short pause, then. “That's stingers, not fur, and you ran into a lonomia, she should be with her mother.” He was quiet again for a moment. “Is he with you?”

Kicker gave the cicada a quick look and muttered something to him. He didn't answer and kept breathing slowly, but the gun didn't seem anymore worried than a moment ago. “He's asleep. The gun was feeding him.”

“Losing a few legs won't kill him if he didn't bleed out- that part of us is nothing but muscle, but we don't know that he's not hurt inside or poisoned. And wouldn't know what to do if he were, either.”

“I can stay with him for a day or two.”

“Your stuff's that important, huh?”

Kicker didn't answer to that. Was there even an answer? The pit in her stomach was devoid of one.

“I appreciate you helping him. Does the heart good to see some decency.”

“I can carry him.” She said. She was used to wear a full set of plate, which as flexible as it was still was a hunk of metal, and the turtle shell was just part of a set. She'd tire faster… but it was the only thing she could think of. “But the heat may be too much. What do you think?”

“Leaving him won't help anyone. But I recon it's his call, isn't it?”

“I'll ask him when he wakes up. What's the whole?” She asked suddenly, the word flaring in his memory all of a sudden. “I've heard it before. He said it resents saurs?”

“Has your people forgotten so much?” He said, almost chocked “Oh… it's been… very many seasons, has it not? The Whole is a bad name for it. You- your kind, herreras, had a name for it when I was young. Each of your peoples -Feathers and claws and whatnot- had their own words, and each had a name for the Whole. It's such a bad name for it. But it's what we got, isn't it?”

“I don't understand.”

“Sorry. The Whole is… Picture if you could remember someone else's memory, or let someone share in parts of yours, even just a little bit of your thoughts. When you die, the people nearby can hold on to the bits and ends of your memories that you let them keep, and when you're young enough you get a little bit of other people's experience- Not too much, or it'd overwhelm a babe. That's a part of the Whole. The part that's easy enough to explain.”
>>
No. 1053646 ID: 835d4a

Wars keep going after they end, huh... sounds like this lonomia soaked up some war memories. Or found its own.

Is there an answer? Kicker said we couldn't safely march counterrootway to find our squad >>1047669 , but since we have the hide now... we could just get the hell out of here. If Kicker wanted to. It makes sense to me to find our squad after this - we're a captain and we can't just abandon our friends and troop.

All we know is we had 3 objectives: Secure site one which was in a jungle, then go around sites two, three, and four whilst marching away from the root.

Whilst we've got Sharpshooter on the line, we need three pieces of information. Do they know how to avoid those grabbing mine-bugs? - they're dangerous. Do they know how many of their friends are left to check in on? And do they know if the village had a doctor we could direct to this hideout?
>>
No. 1053669 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1053646
“Wars keep going after they end…” She muttered to herself.

“That they do, miss.”

She frowned, realizing what she'd said and staring nowhere in particular; Where had she heard that phrase? It felt like a dream, but was too concise to be; Her dreams were always sordid affairs, rarely coherent. Maybe it was a figment of a memory, something she'd heard long ago? No, it felt too fresh. She brushed it aside. “Did you have any more friends I need to check on?”

“No, miss. Everyone's accounted for.”

“Well. I need… there were these things from back in the war, back home we call them bug mines. You know what I'm talking about?”

“Could be a few things.” He replied in a strange tone she hadn't heard from him before. “Mines are what you call them ground bursters, is it? We had several kinds.”

Between that phrase and the bug's tone of voice, and just the heat and exhaustion, she felt a sudden sense of unreality cloak her, but she brushed it aside as well. “I'm talking about one that has a head like an open book, and a lot of claws sticking out. And no mater how many you cut off more keep growing out.”

Silence.

“And it runs-” She kept talking.

“I wasn't crazy.”

“What?”

“I- I thought I was seeing things. But you've seen them too, haven't you?”

“They attacked me.”

“And you're alive?”

“I know I don't look it, but it manhandled-”

“Girl, what you are is alive. It makes it hard to believe.” She didn't answer. “Their proper name is Sumena Vatia. They- We made them towards the end of the war, when the Whole at the center was thinking we might have to wipe you out for good. But they shouldn't be alive, the seeds were made to dry out after long enough.”

“But you saw one too.”

“Yes! And I have no idea how they… undried? Especially in this drought.”

“How do I deal with them?”

“There's no trick to it, you kill them dead. They feel your steps, find out if you're a local, and if you're not grow up right quick and burst out.”

Shit. “Where did you say that village was? Do they have doctors?”

“Told you I haven't been there since I was a lad! But it's somewhere counterrootways. Might run into it if you're still heading the same ways.”

“And the doctor?”

“For sure, it's not *that* small.”

Would she carry him to the village or hope and send the doctor in? There wasn't any answer, at least now in words. She'd only know when she felt the weight on her back or not.

---

Later, that night, she woke up from frenetic dreams. She was fully awake and had a dry, skull splitting headache in an instant, but was just couldn't; she was taken by a powerful weariness, even a finger was too much effort. Her muscles didn't respond. Years of training and honing her body to a razor edge weren't enough to overcome this moment.

A panic rose up her throat: someone was watching her. In the dark, somewhere, some thing was watching her. In the frenzy she hadn't the presence of mind to question how she knew this, and instead attempted to trash, to swipe her claws, to stand. Not even a meek sound escaped her throat. It watched her.

---

Later, that night, she woke up from frantic dreams hearing something. She was fully awake and reaching for a gun that wasn't on her hip, then for a knife that wasn't in its sheat inside of an armor she wasn't wearing.

That noise.

Brushing. Scraping. She honed her night eyes but the rimlights were all extinguished, and without them the sky was but a black void.

Breathing. The wounded bug. Clicking; The pistol was somewhere nearby, and lock-and-loaded. Outside, the brushing continued.

“…crouch…” The wounded bug.

Kicker did so slowly and silently as the brushing and scraping continued outside, and then all of a sudden there was a snap. Another. Another.

The lonomia might've been too big to enter, but it still could poke enough through the window to try biting someone's head of. It bit the air several more times before giving up and crawling down.

Soon, there was a known screeching; what the sharpshooter had called rousebugs were in a fritz down in the sand, and among their screeching she heard it, crackling followed by chewing.
>>
No. 1053670 ID: 15c72a

>>1053669
Good chance to shoot at the lonomia. You know where she is, vaguely, and you have cover. You don't have time to wait for her to grow up, and she WILL catch you if you try to carry the cicada out.
>>
No. 1053682 ID: a7b16c
File 167356911208.png - (33.31KB , 288x315 , 1673569041.png )
1053682

tgc >>1053670
She crawled on four legs, sliding a claw along the ground where she'd heard the pistol, and felt it crawl up her arm as she approached the window. Maybe she could line up a shot and rid herself of this before it became a bigger trouble; Who knew how long it'd take to grow up?

Easy. Just shoot a kid in the back.

More screeching. Another crack and more chewing.

Just kill a kid, this one without even an empty cradle to leave behind. Kill it -her- because she might delay her. What is a kid but a bother, after all? Weight and warmth in one's arms, heavy as the world and light as a feather and so heavy it comforts you and so light it might flutter away at any time? What is a kid but grief? But the shaking in her claws, no, her whole body? Her little bundle of-

“Enough.”

She stopped the trembling but couldn't bring herself to move. Had the girl been attacking her it might've been easier, might've given her a chance to let herself drown in a mix of training and thoughtless instinct that can only end with someone dead. But, try as she may, she couldn't convince herself that was the case either. The sight before might've been a thing bearing down on her that was too big and dangerous to pacify harmlessly, but the truth of her eye, she reflected, was a lost babe trying to survive in this crushing hollowness of a desert.

But then what would she do? The lonomia would hunt her, and she needed at least some advantage. It was true that she couldn't wait- if she did she might miss her unit, were they still alive. And the mater of the wounded bug remained.

She crawled back and sat, her back against the wall. After a while the lonomia stopped eating and she heard it run into the distance, though the scarabs bellow were still screeching and stumbling over themselves. What to do?
>>
No. 1053727 ID: 835d4a

>>1053669 It seems a sleep demon visited us in the night. And if those grabbers sense footsteps then I sure hope those aqua saurians walk like locals.

>>1053670 I think we'd have missed most of our shots anyway. And we don't know if a pistol's even lethal, besides the cicada hating us.

>>1053682 I have only a few ideas for Kicker here. If we ran out alone I suspect we could escape, and then who knows if help exists. If we ran out with the cicada we could maybe... scare the girl with the gun? And... scare the scarabs with fire... no, wait! - she's just starving. We could throw her some food and then just run for help!

It's not just the cicada that needs help; that little kid does too. And as the sharpshooter said, it's the cicada's call too.
>>
No. 1053749 ID: 15c72a

Distracting or even taming the lonomia with food might work, but where are we going to get enough food to do that? It's very big. I guess if the cicada died, we could use the body, but that's uncertain, and we're trying to prevent it even. Maybe shooting at her when she inevitably tries chasing us at night might work to drive her off?

Finding out more about the lonomia as a creature might help. Does her kind hate certain things? Like certain things?
>>
No. 1053955 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1053727 >>1053749
Kicker sat for a moment longer, wondering if her claws would tremble again, and decided to move. She didn't move because she had any idea where she was going, rather, she'd rather run into a wall in the dark rather than linger still and afraid.

Halfway through standing up, a loose idea fluttered in her head, then another, then more. By the time she was on her feet she had the inklings of a plan- not much, but enough to know what she wanted to know, and to adapt as the situation developed. She crawled her way to the radio, and hesitated only for a moment before turning it on. He was army. He was used to being awakened for reports.

The switch made a clear click against the background of rousebugs, still agitated, clamoring, screeching, falling over one another far below them, and then the radio came to life with a burst of static.

“We go out tonight.” She said aloud, and the voice she heard was solid, stoic, dependable; she didn't think of herself as the model of a commander, but sometimes you just need a way to comfort yourself. Scraptooth wasn't here to do it for her.

“Missy? Couldn’t sleep either?”

“I have to go out soon. You think I can distract the lano… her with food?”

Root and mountain, the rousebugs were getting on her nerves. When would they shut up?

Silence for a second, then “Name's Lonomia. The jars of food won't be enough. She's an animal for now, but animals ain't stupid. She'll priorize moving prey and go back to unmoving stuff. Should love the smell of that broth something dear, though.”

“Then I need everything you can tell me about them. Lonomias.”

“Want to know everything about handling kids, dontcha.” He was absentminded despite his words, and she could jut picture him scratching his chin. “Giving her a good scratch or spook should help too— remember, animals ain't stupid. She won't die to grab a bite.”

“Would the pistol work? The bug gun?”

“Miss… that's a weapon of war. You'll tear a hole through her.”

“Not if it's a scraping shot.”

“Awful aim under duress for a civilian, that.”

She didn't answer.

“How big is she?”

“Just taller than me.”

“Then her bristles will be well developed, and hide her shape, like a fuzzy dog-”

“What's a dog?”

“Furred buggers from far, near the tip of the leaf. But you understand yea? Her bristles are poisonous, it's not too strong but she has a lot of it. If she can't get you fast enough she'll try to poison you, just enough to make you an easy catch without poisoning herself when she eats you. The poison'll make sores on your skin that mark you so other predators don't try anything funny, and lull you to sleep… better not find out the details. Clover should counteract the poison some, but it'll be all dead in this heat.”
>>
No. 1053988 ID: 15c72a

>>1053955
Moving out tonight? Shouldn't you wait until the cicada's bleeding stops at least?

Hmm. Take stock of the supplies here. Might be some clover somewhere? Biggest priority is to find some kind of weapon that will hurt the lonomia without killing her. Or maybe something that makes a loud bang to spook her? Perhaps a simple warning shot from the pistol would suffice, but then you might get poisoned. Ask how far away the spines can launch, or if they're a contact only thing.
Might be able to use the broth to lure her somewhere... in which case you could try making a trap. Something that will last long enough for you to get away, but something that she'll be able to escape from eventually.
>>
No. 1054270 ID: a7b16c
File 167426544477.png - (136.84KB , 608x461 , 1674265296.png )
1054270

>>1053988
“Is this… I've heard some bugs have bristles they can throw, can she?”
“She can't, it's not a scytode.”
She didn't reply.
“Miss?” He asked after a moment.
“Sorry, I was thinking. Would a deadfall trap work?”
“Hard to knock something out without hurting them… but it might be enough to give her a good scare. Could get her to lick her wounds, yeah?”
“Or restraining her and getting away.” Kicker was speaking more to herself than to him at that point; as a herreras, even burdened, she could put up a good pace and more importantly keep it up. She'd just feel like shit come morning. “I'll go. Need to get an idea of what I have to work with.”
“I'll leave the radio on. And miss? Call us strudiella. It's what your kind called us before your king cried war.”
“Stru… Estrudeele?”
“Asth works too, I recall.”
“Asth. *Asthudeila*?”
“Close enough. Thank'ee, miss.”

The gun bug helped her find a passage on the corner of the room that led her to the storage, then a torch.

### Kicker's Inventory:
- Scraptooth's shell (Worn)
- grabber's leather (Worn)
- Bandages (Worn)
- Flint and steel
- Bandages
- Food and water, to last several days
- Liquor (Mostly spent)
- Ammunition for the pistol bug
### Hideout:
- Food and water, to last several weeks
- Radio (Too heavy to carry for long)
- A small assortment of winter clothing and gear to protect himself from the sun, old but well made.
- As well as tools, not all of which Kicker can recognize or quite understand the purpose of, including:
- Rope
- Torches
- Shovels
- A saw?
>>
No. 1054355 ID: 15c72a

>>1054270
Hmm, good, we can definitely set a pit trap with this stuff. You've got a shovel, a cutting implement, reeds outside presumably sturdy enough to make a covering for the pit, and food for bait. Do you have the opportunity to set the trap though? Going outside is dangerous. The rope might be usable to make a different kind of trap... but rope snares usually require trees around and I didn't see any.

Are those bolas? Could be useful too. Heck, that shovel could be a melee weapon in a pinch; maybe that's all you need, no trap required. Attacking it in melee means you're at risk for getting spines though... Describe anything you can't figure out, see if your radio friend can tell you what it's for.

I don't suppose you could take apart the radio's housing to make it lighter so that it could be carried? Then again maybe it should stay here for whoever's sent as a replacement lookout.
>>
No. 1054579 ID: a7b16c
File 167453486930.png - (10.81KB , 691x641 , 2023-01-24_01-32.png )
1054579

>>1054355
Kicker took the balls on string and gave them a closer look. Had she seen these before? Somewhere... a toy from lower slopes of the mountain a cousin showed her once when she was little. If you spun it on your claw, you could tangle creatures' legs. The stone in these felt heavy and she spun it a little in what little room she had, and found it to pick up speed easy enough. If she could pick up on using it as quickly, it'd be useful. The next thing was... an odd curved metal shaft, with a ball petruding out of a curve. She couldn't tell what was the handle and what was the tip, if it had either. A box with something colorful drawn on a side was tucked behind one of the storage boxes, and besides that there were two... stone things with handles. And a stick that looked like a disfunctional rake. Whatever they were, they lacked something in sophistication.

On the radio, the sharpshooter told her the curved shaft was a club the wounded bug had taken a fancy to as a youngster, after the peace treaty was signed. The box he didn't recall seeing, and the boulders and stick were some old joke.

She also asked if she should leave the radio or try lightening it up and carrying it, and he said he didn't much care either way; they were on the edge of each other's reception, but the whole wouldn't exactly send a replacement as she'd suggested; as far as the sharpshooter cared the Whole was pretending the war ended just as much as saurs and the mountain were. The only reason they had supplies was the village was kind enough to help them and they were kind enough to keep an eye on dangerous animals in the zone, or the rare bandit that members of the Whole didn't take care of.
>>
No. 1054631 ID: 15c72a

>>1054579
Let's see what's in the box.
>>
No. 1054640 ID: a7b16c

tgc >>1054631
Kicker tried to open the box, but only felt a lock inside it when she tried. She could force it open, but who knew what'd happen if she broke it?
>>
No. 1054645 ID: 15c72a

I guess we're bringing it with us, if the wounded strudiella doesn't wake up before then (to tell us what's in it and/or how to open it).

Hmm, why don't we use ALL approaches here? Dig a pit trap, using the saw to take apart the wooden objects here and tie them together with rope to make the support for a camouflaged covering, and use some of the extra food to set bait, then keep the shovel and bolas to defend ourselves if the kid gives chase?
Resupply food and water, obviously, and then see how much extra weight you could potentially carry, for the box and maybe the radio (since every watchtower might have a radio, we can contact them before getting too close, so that we can tell them we're peaceful and avoid getting shot at again).
>>
No. 1054817 ID: a7b16c

>>1054645
Kicker thought about her options, and after a while returned to the living room and woke up the b… Strudiella.

“Wh…” He mumbled out, but he sounded much more there now. The food had done him a world of good, from the sounds of it. “You stayed.”

“Yes. And I'll need your help. I found a locked box in your storage, is it important?”

“Just a memento.” He sounded confused.

“Right. I have a plan to get out of here, but I'll need a lookout for the lonomia while I dig, can you do that? See in this dark?”

“Just a little bit, lass.”

“Good. I'll carry you down.”

---

The rousebugs were easy enough to startle away from the light of the torch, and as the hours passed the soil slowly gave away. It wasn't too easy digging it, as it crumbled back in, but at least the dry lakebed had a little more solidity than dry sand would've been, somewhere between sand and the most annoying, irritating dirt she had ever dealt with.

“You doing this to not hurt her.” The wounded bug said after a while.

“Yes.” She replied, taking a small break to recover her breath. “I'd think you'd have the most reason to want her dead.”

“I s'pse…” He was quiet for a moment. “When you're a kid, making friends is so easy, every other boy and girl you meet is like a brother… aren't they, saur? I never had any of my own, so I did that a bit more easily still.”

Kicker returned to digging.

“And when the war started… we were so young, so young, but every able hand and claw and wing was needed… your kind was fast, and scared, and sad and angry after your civil wars… that made them brutal, and we couldn't let you pass our border. So much more pain, after having watched you do such things to each other…”

Kicker didn't answer.

“And I was so young… everyone was needed, and this was what was needed of me. And it's easy to see everything as numbers, isn't it? It's so tempting. I knew many who did, but I never could. I was always protecting so many brothers from the monsters that came out the mountain. I've never known the touch of a woman, or seen a newborn again in so long, or heard people work and laugh on the street… I suppose I stay the way I was, after so long, after having to do so many ugly things.”

The soil was so coarse, and Kicker felt her fatigue in not just in body but in spirit, in the weight of her own skin.

“And I can't hurt a brother or sister, can I? Hurts too much, and all I can think of is I'm so old as it is, and she has the whole world ahead of her.”

Nothing. An empty glass ball and a quiet room.

“The war ended, didn't it.” Asked the wounded bug. “We stayed here for nothing. Nothing at all.”
>>
No. 1054818 ID: a7b16c

>>1054645
Kicker thought about her options, and after a while returned to the living room and woke up the b… Strudiella.

“Wh…” He mumbled out, but he sounded much more there now. The food had done him a world of good, from the sounds of it. “You stayed.”

“Yes. And I'll need your help. I found a locked box in your storage, is it important?”

“Just a memento.” He sounded confused.

“Right. I have a plan to get out of here, but I'll need a lookout for the lonomia while I dig, can you do that? See in this dark?”

“Just a little bit, lass.”

“Good. I'll carry you down.”

---

The rousebugs were easy enough to startle away from the light of the torch, and as the hours passed the soil slowly gave away. It wasn't too easy digging it, as it crumbled back in, but at least the dry lakebed had a little more solidity than dry sand would've been, somewhere between sand and the most annoying, irritating dirt she had ever dealt with.

“You doing this to not hurt her.” The wounded bug said after a while.

“Yes.” She replied, taking a small break to recover her breath. “I'd think you'd have the most reason to want her dead.”

“I s'pse…” He was quiet for a moment. “When you're a kid, making friends is so easy, every other boy and girl you meet is like a brother… aren't they, saur? I never had any of my own, so I did that a bit more easily still.”

Kicker returned to digging.

“And when the war started… we were so young, so young, but every able hand and claw and wing was needed… your kind was fast, and scared, and sad and angry after your civil wars… that made them brutal, and we couldn't let you pass our border. So much more pain, after having watched you do such things to each other…”

Kicker didn't answer.

“And I was so young… everyone was needed, and this was what was needed of me. And it's easy to see everything as numbers, isn't it? It's so tempting. I knew many who did, but I never could. I was always protecting so many brothers from the monsters that came out the mountain. I've never known the touch of a woman, or seen a newborn again in so long, or heard people work and laugh on the street… I suppose I stay the way I was, after so long, after having to do so many ugly things.”

The soil was so coarse, and Kicker felt her fatigue in not just in body but in spirit, in the weight of her own skin.

“And I can't hurt a brother or sister, can I? Hurts too much, and all I can think of is I'm so old as it is, and she has the whole world ahead of her.”

Nothing. An empty glass ball and a quiet room.

“The war ended, didn't it.” Asked the wounded bug. “We stayed here for nothing. Nothing at all.”
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