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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?
>>
No. 1045533 ID: a7b16c

On the third day after crossing the bridge, the squad took refuge from the sun under another stone outcrop. It was just too hot today, and Lowtail had ended up pulling rank as medical officer to tell them to take a break, which he others didn't argue with. Truth be told, while Kicker was too exhausted to talk and say it out loud, the only reason she hadn't done it earlier was she was in too much of a stupor to think clearly, and it took until a moment after they found refuge and caught their breath for the brain fog to diminish. It was a shorter but wider column coming out of the sand, surrounded by a dry lake and dead grass and trees like the last one had been.

Less than an hour later, they got a message through Snapper that the teeth had reached the same conclusion as them, and buried himself in the sand to sleep during the day and travel from noon to morning.

“So the big guy feels it too.” Snaptooth joked, leaning on the cool stone. “Not so though after all.”

“The size makes heat worse.” Replied Kicker without thinking, her eyes fixed on the horizon. If one could just survive this desert for as long as they wished and keep walking away from the root, one could reach almost halfway across the leaf before being stopped by the ocean. Beyond the bug lands lived glimmers, distant cousins of the herreras, and past that strange creatures wrapped in feather or fur, and animated marionettes who were said to live and remember forever. When was the last time she had even thought about any of this?

“Just joshing. He must've been pushing himself hard to keep with us in this weather, huh?”

“It'll be bad for him if we don't run into water soon.” Kicker said without concern in her voice. “Have you ever met a glimmer?”

“A tolsoy? Yeah. A family of them visited when I was a kid, we played while our parents caught up and they showed off how they could crawl on the ceiling, and were super squishy.”

“Do you think it's true they live so far so the teeth can't reach them?”

“One needs a lot of patience for tyrs sometimes.” Scraptooth chuckled a little. “But you really believe all that?”

“That the glimmer…”

“No, no.” Scraptooth interrupted her, “That the tyrs die if they go too far from the root.”

“Of course.”

Lowtail seemed to wake up from his stupor, and gestured at them to wait while he rubbed his face. “It's true, we examined a body at med school. The air thins out the further you go and adult tyrs are too big and suffocate.”

“I heard if you keep carrying them further they explode.” Said Scraptooth.

“Well that's bull-” Lowtail started, but stopped with a frown. “I… guess? Maybe? Kicker.”

“Yes?”

“We sleep through the heat too. Doctor's orders.”

They didn't argue with that either and started a small, perfunctory fire away with a pile of large branches near it. They laid away from it, and it was more like allowing themselves to pass out than falling asleep.

---


Kicker woke up to the thunderclap of a gunshot.

Her nerves were on end. Her pupils dilated, her muscles tensed to a near breaking point, ready to pounce and claw and bite before any coherent thought had formed. Before any of them was fully lucid Kicker, Lowtail, and Scraptooth were in a threeways back to back, reaching for guns that weren't there in holsters they weren't wearing. Their gear laid, in a pile, inches from there they'd slept.

A shell the size of their fingers fell to the ground nearby, still hot and smoking.

Kicker had the time to untangle the mix of reflex, trained instinct, and intuition she'd acted on. Snapper had fired from the air, which meant he'd take much longer to reload as he did the complicated air maneuvers required to operate a gun while flying. She didn't see anyone, though the rimlights were all gone and the world beyond their fireplace was inky blackness, and the others were still which meant they hadn't either.

The brain fog hadn't quite gone yet, and the verse of some poem forced its way to her thoughts, “Silence cracks open the halls of the dead”

She was still facing the horizon and counterrootwards, and Scraptooth and Lowtail facing her left and right. Behind them, covering their rootwards flank, was the stone outcrop.

>>1045346
>>1045357
>>1045461
Consider >>1045144 soft removed. I just didn't like it.

>>
No. 1045717 ID: a7b16c
File 166515551792.png - (408.83KB , 1297x671 , unknown (1).png )
1045717

tgch >>5426020
They took their weapons and a handful of shells each and made themselves ready, but nothing jumped them immediately.
“Gear up on ones, go!”
Scraptooth readied his aim on her side and took his shell, which normally protected his explosives from gunfire, as a shield while Lowtail, being the medic, put on his chainmail. Another shot, and a couple seconds later another casing fell near them, this time outside the light cast by the fire. Why hadn't Snapper perched on the stone to shoot yet? Firing while flying didn't just slow him down, it impaired his aim.
Nothing ran into them screaming, no fire rang in the distance, nothing but the complete darkness outside the light cast by their fire under an empty sky.
>>
No. 1045724 ID: 5f04d5

Right now you're the only ones visible. Grab a branch, light it on fire and throw it, hoping to shed some light.
>>
No. 1045905 ID: a7b16c

/qst/ >>5427523
tgch >>1045724

Kicker looked away from the fire into the dark to keep her night eyes and tried to figure out what it could be: If it wasn't shooting back it was likely an animal, something that gave Snapper some reason to shoot from the air rather than perch. Her gut told her something bigger was going on, a feeling she couldn't place her claw on because, she realized in that moment, she'd been carrying it for days now. This… skirmish, if it's what it was, had just made it more intense. Given it something to point itself towards.

A white fl- no, a reflection! It was gone in an instant but her gun was already trained on the spot, and Scraptooth aimed his own gun at the same spot. Lowtail tightened the buckles on his chainmail as quickly as he could behind them.

Scraptooth had the better throwing arm and she wanted her nighteye. “Light wood and throw it.”

He moved. Wood crackling. Another shot, another casing. Silence.

Clacking; Lowtail must've begun mounting his plate. Scraptooth took one of the branches, felt it's weight, and threw it with a gentle swing of his arm.

Finally, a slight sound: skittering as the torch flew. A pair of white reflections (Wide and curved things) and by the time the torch landed, nothing was lit by it but sand.

She looked away from it and waited for Scraptooth to throw another, training her ear. Skittering. Who knew how many tiny feet moving at once on the sand.

Lowtail, wearing just the most vital parts of his plate, tagged Scraptooth's shoulder, who tagged Kicker. “Boss. Your turn.”

“You first.”

Scraptooth gave her his shell for cover and slid back to put on his chainmail.

“Give me one.” Kicker stretched her claw. Lowtail put a lit branch in it, “We throw together in three.”

“Roger roger.”

One.

Silence. Scraptooth slipping into his mail behind them.

Two.

Skittering.

Three.

Lowtail threw and she waited a split second longer, eyeing the trajectory of his branch. Hoping her guess was right, she threw at a nearby spot.

More panicked skittering, his torch lit nothing but sand… then hers fell and lit… scarabs? Coating the ground, each the size of a child and with circular shells. It was like being lit by surprise turned off something in their brains, because they stood there, frozen in place, so many they were standing atop one another with their respectably sized mandibles waving slowly with their breathing. They were a layer on the ground more than a pile or a group, at spots three of four scarabs tall, their shells black and shinny. Were they aggressive? Were they people? She couldn't remember any speaking bug like this, and they acted like animals so far…

Another shot. Another case.

But it was so many of them! They woke up from their dazed status and, all together, opened their mandibles and screeched low pitched whines as they trashed away from the light. More screeching came from the dark all around them, and five seconds later it stopped as suddenly as it'd begun and the only proof they'd ever been there was marks in the sand.

Dust fell, sliding on the sharp incline of the stone outcrop.
>>
No. 1046169 ID: a7b16c

Kicker glanced at the dust and back at the dark, dead still. “How many branches left in the fire?”

“Three.”

“Throw two. Spread them.”

“Roger.”

Silence. Lowtail threw a stick. Scraptooth hadn't put on his chainmail yet.

Another shot. Another casing softly clacking against chitin somewhere in the dark.

More silence. The seconds dragged. Was Snapper firing at these? She didn't think so. They weren't hostile, despite having them surrounded, they just… were drawn by the warmth, maybe?

Another shot, surprisingly early after the last. Then another, and another, was Snapper just firing and reloading while freefalling? A new sound, soft stomping, faded in.

The scarabs screeched again, but it was no use: yellow arms flashed into the light waving each a caught scarab, trashing and screeching. Another shot ran dangerously close, making a plume of purple goo splash into the sand as the shot creature ran away.

And the scarabs didn't stop screeching this time, running into the light in their panic and biting at the air, tripping and flipping each other upside down. More dust fell and before Kicker knew it, red hot pain flared in the arm she held her shells with, scarabs falling from the stone outcrop and biting on whatever they fell.
>>
No. 1046517 ID: f2320a

>>1045905
Perhaps this will start a brushfire
>>
No. 1047489 ID: a7b16c
File 166673442831.png - (895.36KB , 1017x1725 , file.png )
1047489

>>1046517
>1/5
>>
No. 1047490 ID: a7b16c
File 166673453135.png - (563.71KB , 947x1111 , file (1).png )
1047490

>2/5
>>
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.


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