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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?”
Expand all images
>>
No. 1043929 ID: 515982

Move, maggot, on the double!
Cover your retreat across the bridge. If anything hasn't been flown over yet, abandon it here for now.
>>
No. 1043930 ID: 9fd749

Oh no! Shoot the thing!
>>
No. 1043944 ID: a7b16c
File 166335575889.png - (207.67KB , 532x673 , 9213ae67ed5e98c0a628cd947a7de58d45c7576d19ab9c8d0d.png )
1043944

GYF >>829 addressing this one later
TGCh >>1043929 >>1043930
“Move!” She yelled as she swung up her shotgun; She had no need to aim at this range and Snaptooth was jumping from the awkward position, reaching down a hand to his gun, not knowing the threat's reach but trying to get out of it. With Snaptooth's shell pointed at Kicker she fired, and was already loading another shell by the time she confirmed two of the… claws? were bloody useless messes now, and there were several craters on the… chitin? Bone?

Lowtail fired his pistol quickly, hitting its claws and legs as it continued to crawl out of the sand, and she pushed him back to the bridge to make him retreat and stretched her claw to pull Snaptooth away from that thing.

She wasn't fast enough. Even with all the damage it had taken in the span of a few seconds, even with Lowtail firing twice again as he moved, it still hadn't made a sound or even responded to any beyond bucking a little when shot, and not caring any for it's wounded claws or legs it grabbed Snaptooth's tail and lifted him in the air, quickly wrapping several claws around his barrel and hips to secure its catch.

Snapthoot screamed an obscenity, unloading his gun on the creature as it ran away carrying him.
>>
No. 1043945 ID: ae4094

you've been sighted(?) by an enemy, go after it
>>
No. 1043967 ID: a7b16c
File 166336394036.png - (53.43KB , 361x293 , image (1).png )
1043967

GyFl >>834
TGCh >>1043945
There wasn't any choice on the mater. Kicker and Lowtail dropped to four legs to keep up with the thing and gave chase, trying to think of anything they could do. The thing was fast and (however slowly) gaining distance, even though it was wounded and carrying Snaptooth who had dropped the empty gun and was trying to fight his way out of the hold with a knife.
“Go for the head!” Snapper yelled behind them.
How were they supposed to? The damn thing had no head!
“Boss, I've heard of these things.” Lowtail said. “Bug weapons! They take you to a pack if they can't get you on the spot!”
Were they so many claws around Snaptooth a moment ago? He was fighting just to keep a hold of the knife now, surrounded by more and more of them. Snapper's loud, penetrating whistling made them jump sideways on reflex, and the creature must've noticed them because it tried to jump as well. Snapper's bullet passed between Kicker and Lowtail with a sharp whine and a blast of hot air, clipping the side of the creature as it pounced.
The meat it touched exploded, tearing skin and muscle down to the bone. And even then it continued to run, without any blood and barely acknowledgment of the wounded leg. More claws emerged from wherever they did, reaching for Snaptooth's neck.
>>
No. 1044057 ID: a7b16c
File 166348140564.png - (120.88KB , 930x277 , image (2).png )
1044057

GyFl >>837
“The legs! Aim for the legs!” Kicker yelled at Snapper, pointing at them.
He whistled an affirmative, punching the rifle's lever. Kicker made a few quick claw gestures as she ran again, and Lowtail nodded his own affirmative following her lead.
They ran in an arc, willing to lose some ground against the creature. Would another one come out of the sand under their feet? Kicker didn't know, but had no time to care beyond a split second of consideration and mental preparation for such a thing happening. Now that they weren't between Snapper and the creature, he gave no warning before shooting and turning a chunk of the creature's already damaged hindleg into a red- no, magenta mist with his next shot, sending fragments of flesh and bone everywhere, everything under the hip falling twitching to the sand.
It almost lost its stride from the sheer force of the impact, but kept running on just three legs. It was slower and shakier now, and when Lowtail stood on its way and opened fire it tried to dodge him.
That was all Kicker needed. She reached it when it turned, grabbing onto the thorn flesh with a claw and burying the bayonet of her shotgun on its side to get a proper hold. Before it had the time to react she climbed to its back, her bayonet coated in something more like tar than blood, burying her knife on its chitin not-head to anchor herself, making it sway between the weight of two armored herreras and a missing leg.
“Snaptooth!”
He couldn't answer, too busy biting the emerging claws and tearing them to pieces with his eyes blodshot from the yellow claws choking him, his serrated knife swinging wildly.
>>
No. 1044234 ID: a7b16c
File 166363295102.png - (257.36KB , 706x679 , image (3).png )
1044234

GyFl >>841
Kicker buried her bayonet on the creature's back and fired, creating a crater. It still didn't bleed, just made a small splash of magenta tar.
But the creature, satisfyingly enough, shook from the hit, finally acknowledging something. Kicker loaded the shotgun again and buried it in the wound and shot again. Another crater and splash, this time not just flesh but bone as well, and the creature's one hindleg fell limp. It kept dragging itself on the sand, even as Kicker and Lowtail kept firing on it.
And then, just as suddenly as it had emerged form the sand, it fell dead, body sagging down and wheezing from somewhere Kicker could see and the hands growing limp and letting Scraptooth fall, panting and clutching his throat.
Lowtail was on him like a mother hen, pulling his claws away to properly look at it.
“What's his state?”
“He'll live.” Lowtail didn't look at her. “Nothing seems broken, but I need more time to tell and the inflammation won't let him breathe properly. I say we camp until tomorrow.”
“The Teeth won't like that.” Scraptooth wheezed.
“He can choke on a chode. Status?”
“Thing tastes horrible.” Scraptooth tried to smile but it was grim, with skin and bone stuck between his teeth. “Was about to pull grenades when you jumped on, boss.”
Lowtail nodded absent mindedly as they spoke, looking at the yellow creature. “They were bug weapons. Mines. They'd bury the eggs and they hatch to capture or kill you if you walk over.”
Kicker knew she'd heard about that, but needed a moment to remember clearly; The bugs just had so many weapons. “But the war was… over a hundred years ago. I thought the eggs had all died.”
“I thought so too. Maybe this one got lucky?”
>>
No. 1044235 ID: 515982

That's the problem with land mines, they don't have timers set to expire. So, if that war is over, whose war are you fighting now?
>>
No. 1044246 ID: a7b16c
File 166364311502.png - (76.06KB , 480x498 , image (4).png )
1044246

TgCh >>1044235
“That's the kicker, isn't it?” Snapper said, flying over them, and did a flip in the air to pass the large rifle from his feet to his claws before landing with a distraught look on his face. “Wars keep going after they end.”
Lowtail was visibly uncomfortable at a friend and feather saying this, but Kicker asked him, however softly: “You think they're planting fresh eggs?”
Snapper and Lowtail considered the possibility, but the former shook his head. “No. That'd be a lot of movement on the border and they've never cared about us.”
Still, there was a weight in their chests. Once they crossed this bridge they'd be in bug territory- and not just for a day or two or to take the easier path, which was common occurrence. They'd dash deep for a mission she wasn't authorized to give them the details of until after crossing. Saying they were about to violate maw-bug peace treaties was putting it mildly and bugs, peacefull neighbours as they were, had almost no concept of diplomacy or gradual escalation. They'd investigate, ask questions, and if the answer didn't satisfy them they might attack on full force.
“If we fuck up we're on our own, aren't we?” Asked Lowtail.
“If.” Kicker said drily. She might not be authorized to tell them anything just yet, but she could assure them they weren't burning a village or something. She offered Scraptooth a claw and more or less coerced him to climb to her back. “That's enough, people. We're burning the body, crossing the bridge, and camping.”
The whole time they spent moving and setting up the camp, a nagging thought kept coming back to Kicker, that the teeth would be quite happy, quite happy indeed, if fang were at war again. Types like him went into withdrawal without it.

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

Later in the evening, as the rimlight faded, they sat by a fire. The bridge had been on its last tether before they crossed and they'd spent the last half of crossing it with planks cracking and even collapsing under their feet, and a strong breeze would've been enough to send them all tumbling to the rapids below. The season had been hot and dry, though, and the rapids below were little more than a tickle and this had probably given the bridge a slightly longer last breath of life. She counted her team lucky for this, and didn't expect the bridge to still be there come morning.
“Can the teeth cross this?” Asked Lowtail. “I know they're big, but…”
“It's his problem if he can't jump it.” Kicker replied without giving the mater any mind, and asked Scraptooth. “How's the neck?”
“I'll be fine in the morning.” He wheezed. “Boss, the orders.”
She nodded and took a small scroll from a pocket under her plate. “We are to reach site one, secure the facility, and wait for the teeth. Once he's there we look for…” She read the scroll. “'A cylinder seventy centimeters in width and a hundred and twenty in height.'. He will then deem if it's a threat, and if we are to take it to the Mountain or destroy it on the spot through explosives. Site two, three, and four are possible settlements we'll have to go around.”
“I can blow things up.” Said Scraptooth. “But blowing up something that size discretely is difficult.”
“Where's site one?” Asked Snapper. The initial briefing hadn't had any specific coordinates.
She took out a map and pointed it to them. Deep in bug jungle. They couldn't write it down either- another security measure pushed by upper brass.
“Any other questions?” She asked.
>>
No. 1044256 ID: a64023

What kind of opposition can be expected at site one? Is the place (supposedly) abandoned, or more of a military outpost?
>>
No. 1044259 ID: a7b16c
File 166366302886.png - (28.75KB , 287x282 , image (5).png )
1044259

TgCh >>1044256
“Facility?” Asked Lowtail. “Well. That's new. Of what kind?”
“I don't know. I asked the same- neither brass nor the teeth would tell me.” Kicker poked at the fire to grab a piece of coal between her nails. “I'm unsure they know at all; Maybe we're not authorized to know, maybe we're acting as scouts in more ways than we realized before. But I don't believe we'd be tasked to secure it for the tooth if he had to help us do it. That puts two possible upper limits to how dangerous they expect it to be.”
Snapper nodded, grimacing again. At least he had a bird's view, but some bugs could fly too. Not a lot, not as high as him, but some could. He'd have to be careful as they went deeper.
“Not dangerous enough to overcome a teeth…” Lowtail mussed. “That's a very high 'upper limit', Kick. Not a lot of things that can threaten them one on one.”
“It's something.” She shrugged, still contemplating the coal distantly. “Little things that slip by if you don't catch. We'll just have to find a way.”
The rimlight was almost gone now, leaving just the dark night sky above her and the fire's red glow.
>>
No. 1044292 ID: a7b16c
File 166371103976.png - (176.02KB , 941x722 , image (6).png )
1044292

Later still, when the rimlight was all gone and the sky was empty blackness, Scraptooth woke up for his guard shift. Snapper could just barely be made out a few feet from the fire, his head almost covered by puffed up chest feathers.
Scraptooth stretched, took a steel cup from the fire's coals, and sat with Snapper. The soup didn't taste like anything in particular and the diced beef jerky in it was leathery, but it was leagues above the flavor of the claws creature's arms.
“What's the deal.” He asked after sitting for a few minutes.
“What deal?”
“What you said today about the war.”
“That?”
“If we're thinking about the same thing… that'd be the first time you bring it up to us.” Scraptooth took a sip of the soup. “I always found it odd you didn't. Pteryxe usually do.”
“I'm army too. It'd look bad. And you're friends and weren't there, I don't blame you.”
“What changed?”
Snapper took his sweet time to answer, so long Scraptooth thought he'd fallen asleep or didn't want to answer. After a few minutes, though, he did:
“Remember that pteryx a few weeks ago? During leave?”
“Chick at the park?”
“Yeah. Live eggs. Mine.” There was some disbelief in his voice, like he was telling it to himself as much as he was to Scraptooth. “I Received the news just a few hours before our orders.”
>>
No. 1044307 ID: 084179

>>1044292
cam cam cam cam cam cam cam! I didn't know you posted here! hi hi hi hi hi!
>>
No. 1044308 ID: a7b16c

>>1044307
Allo, who's this?
>>
No. 1044310 ID: 084179

>>1044308
tier tier tier tier tier! Hoi!
>>
No. 1044561 ID: a7b16c

“Dude! You're a dad!?”
Snapper glared at him, “I haven't told anyone else, don't wake them up.”
“Got it. But what's weighting on you?”
“The… Just, the weight of it. In general. She said she'd like to date, and see where it goes. And I can visit them one way or the other.”
“Will you?”
“I should. Would be an idiot not to give it a chance, wouldn't I? And there's so few pteryxe left, I should be there to raise them.”
“Hey, no kids involved but been there. Dating someone you don't like?” Scraptooth gestured cutting his throat. “Don't do that. Bad for the kids too.”
“Liked her well enough to roll around. Pretty laugh, nice face, good chemistry between us.” He smiled a little for the first time in a while. “But that's not it either. It's…” He trailed off into silence.
“Start small.” Scraptooth said gently.
“Well. I think about, my father used to talk about raising me right. Was mad about me joining the army… for a lot of reasons. But what stuck with me was the time he was drunk and told me not to dare die before he did. Too many pteryxe have buried their children as it is.”
Scraptooth winced. “He's not wrong.”
“And I think I really understand what he meant now. Or I'm starting to, at least. I never thought about starting a family, and how if you're lucky the kids are still there after you're gone. Helps you get why someone would die to end a war, or be willing to go through with one. A little bit of you is left.”
The night moved on. Snapper fell asleep where he was at some point and the sky, black as ink, slowly lit up with rimlights.

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

The day was boiling.
They were cold blooded- the heat was usually reason for mirth for claws, but today was too much and even them had to stop on the rare ocasions they ran into shadow. Only Snapper, who was flying too high for it, remained unaffected. Kicker found herself more than a little jealous of him and his wings as the day progressed.
At around midday, a small light blinked in the sky, making her spit out a curse under her breath as she took a mirror to blink a roger-roger to Snapper, wishing it wasn't bad news.
What followed was a series of blinked lights between them, the first advising Kicker to continue running to keep appearances. Then, in quick succession, the situation: Two bugs following them at a distance. No weapons or communication devices sighted. Skilled at tracking but not so much as to be reason for alarm, and experienced with the terrain. Not a particularly dangerous species, either. Most likely to be civilians.
>>
No. 1044921 ID: a7b16c
File 166435872092.png - (177.62KB , 634x584 , image (10).png )
1044921

/qst/ >>5417755
Kicker told Lowtail and Scrapthoot of the chasers and signaled Snapper to keep an eye on the chasers, but otherwise they kept marching through the desert. Sometimes they'd run across dead grass patches with a dried out pond in the center and gnarled trees either dead or waiting, leafless, for a drop of water to fall down and breathe life back into their trunks. On these spots they'd also see -and once, stepped on- the dried out carcass of some small critter, husked out into a pile of fur and bone by the elements. Whatever wildlife yet remained hid well, staying away from the herreras that trampled through their domains.

But they didn't run into any good spot to lay an ambush during the day, no stone crops large enough or even tall enough grass to properly hide. Kicker knew the tall grass fields at the foot of the mountain where she could easily vanish by no more than lowering her head, and to her this growth, barely reaching her hips, was meek in comparison. Climbing vines coated in something like velcro would sometimes stick to their scales, irritating them to no end and getting stuck on their claws when they tried to get off. After the second patch of grass, they just let them cling until the rocky sand outside the oases took them off over time.

They didn't run into any during the day, at least; As the rimlight faded they saw another mirror reflection and followed it, deviating slightly from their route, to a stone outcrop surrounded by grass. In the center, under the stone's shadow, was another dry pond. Ambush or not, they were tired, overheated, and needed the rest and cover of this place.

Snapper waited perched atop the outcrop, staring into the distance.
>>
No. 1044942 ID: f2320a

>>1044921
No matter what we need shelter so the sun does not kill us
>>
No. 1044944 ID: a7b16c

/qst/ >>5418411 >>5418414 >>5418422 >>5418432 >>5418632 >>5418636
Kicker, Lowtail, and Scraptooth walked under the outcrop, looking for somewhere with a little shelter. It wasn't much, but there was a concave area on the stone where the pond had eroded it.

But none of them moved start the fire even though, being cold blooded, they'd soon grow slow and morose without a heat source. Part of it was they were tired and still overheated, but other part was simpler: They weren't sure they wouldn't be jumped. Or if they'd lay a trap for the bugs.

When Snapper landed, Kicker didn't waste any time. “What's the situation.”

“Lost them a few minutes before signaling you here. They broke off from you and headed spinwards. Maybe back home. I couldn't keep track of them and you at the same time.”

“Could you find where they went?”

“Probably. Civilian places stick out in places like this.”

“Think they'll follow us tomorrow too?”

Snapper was surprised at the question; The “Deal with anyone who sees you” part of the mission was very loaded in an assignment the upper brass had treated so seriously. Still, he didn't take long to answer. “We'll find out.” He said with a small shrug. “They somehow foraged while tracking you. It looked like roots. So they could keep it up for who knows how long if they want to.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes.” Snapper did take a second to think about this. “It wasn't always two tracking you. Some time after I first signaled you, they spent most of the day taking turns to track you. Every two hours or so one would go away spinwards, and the other come back to take the spot. They know the terrain very well to be able to keep up with you and you and track each other so easily. Looked like they kept you on the very edge of their sightline the whole time.”

“Could have another way to find each other.” Said Scraptooth. “Weird bug stuff. Smell or something.”

“Land workers.” Lowtail chimed in. “Civilians, in as good shape as army, and know the terrain and how to eat off of it. So they're land workers. So…” He trailed off briefly. “…Are they coming to us or are we going to them?”
>>
No. 1045069 ID: a7b16c
File 166449919710.png - (164.84KB , 794x524 , image (11).png )
1045069

/qst/ >>5418940 >>5419730
“They can come.”

“I'll start the fire.” Said Snapper, opening his wings. “You cool off.”

They took off their armors and first sat, then laid, on the cool sand. The rimlights faded little by little, and they stuck to their water provisions for the night; The heat only meant they had to last. They ate lightly and Snapper, who was warm blooded, took the first watch. The night was uneventful.

------

Come morning they cleaned their camp, mixed the ash with sand until it couldn't be made out anymore, and stored all the coal left in small pouches; if it became necessary they could burn it, inside the pouches, between their chainmail and armor to warp themselves up. Once everything was done they stood still for longer than they needed to, Scraptooth and Snapper sharing nervous looks.

The bugs didn't come, and after some time Kicker walked then ran off without a word followed by the other herreras, and Snapper waited a bit longer before taking flight. Maybe he'd have to signal the tooth too if things didn't go smoothly, which was never pleasant.

An hour later, Kicker cursed under her breath -and immediately felt dejà vu- when Snapper signaled her again with a light. This time it was higher priority, and he rushed his message the moment she confirmed contact: He'd sighted the bugs again, but this time they weren't followed them yet. Instead, they'd taken something metallic from the sand under their camp Snapper couldn't make out through his scope.
>>
No. 1045103 ID: 5f04d5

I guess that place was recognizable indeed, so it would make sense to keep something buried there. In fact, it may be a frequent camping spot.
>>
No. 1045144 ID: a7b16c

tgch >>1045103
“Something— did either of you see anything metallic under the outcrop?” Kicker asked without stopping running, feeling frustrated and still tired from the heat the day before. Something buried under their camp? Was it dangerous?

“No, like what?” Asked Scraptooth.

“Snapper couldn't tell.”

“Well, it was a pretty good spot.” Said Lowtail. “Maybe they've camped there before and left it there, and they took it before someone else came?”

For some reason, the idea of the bugs making metal things was difficult for Kicker to accept. She pictured them as just… bugs, which they were, even though she knew full well they had made some use of normal weaponry during the war. But she pushed the surprise to a side and tried to think of any other explanation. After a moment, she just gave up and shook her head. “We'll find out when and if it maters.”

That if and when happened a couple hours later. As twilight just began to tint the sky a light pink, Scraptooth stopped running suddenly. The others stopped just as quickly with their claws scrapping against the rocky sand for a few inches, and Kicker knew, with just a look at his face, he'd fucked up and he knew it.

“A can.” He said, and opened his bags to run a quick inventory, muttering to himself. Then, when he was done, he closed it. “Boss. They didn't bury anything, I left a food can at the camp.”

Army rations didn't have much writing, other than dates and -alleged- contents… but they were army rations, and that was enough. Everyone carried at least one day's worth, and it was a *trace* that'd tell the bugs almost nothing, but just enough.

She didn't say anything; Her expression was enough for Scraptooth and Lowtail. The later racked his brain intensely and spoke up, “I- I must've buried it. When we were taking care of the ash, or the coals.”

A moment passed.

“Boss?”

She turned away from them, took out her mirror, and signaled Snapper. The message was simple: To tell the tooth tailing them to delay his progress for one day. Whatever happened she didn't want him making a bigger mess out of things, and with his size he could easily retake the lost distance. Snapper noted his discontent in the answer, but roger-rogered on it. The second part of the message was what was more complicated, to find out where the bugs had gone.

He roger-rogered again, but added they'd save time by heading spinwards while he located the track. It'd save them time.

And now there was Scraptooth and Lowtail to take care of. Kicker rubbed her temples.
>>
No. 1045346 ID: f2320a

What is our goal?
>>
No. 1045357 ID: a7b16c

>>1045346
Short term? Taking care of the can situation. That's proof of your presence.
Long term?See >>1043923 and >>1044246
>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
>“We are to reach site one, secure the facility, and wait for the teeth. Once he's there we look for…” She read the scroll. “'A cylinder seventy centimeters in width and a hundred and twenty in height.'. He will then deem if it's a threat, and if we are to take it to the Mountain or destroy it on the spot through explosives. Site two, three, and four are possible settlements we'll have to go around.”
>>
No. 1045461 ID: f2320a

>>1045144
Do we turnback? Where the can atleast unmarked?


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