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#GoingRogue – September 23, 2016
After a short drive they reach what is likely the opening in the cliff that was described over radio. It heads west into an area of rock formations and caves. It is easy to see that the car will not fit between the rocks, however.
Nathan leans across to gently rap his knuckles against Ehanis' arm. "Hey, Ehanis," he says. "Seems we're here." He pulls the car to a stop, gently swinging it around besides the opening. He stares into it, sinking back into his seat as a knot forms in his stomach. One step closer to having the crap beaten out of him by robo-arms. He blows out a gentle raspberry,
Ehanis gives a soft moan upon being prodded, lazily blinking with her eyes. While she haven't done much more than appear asleep for most of their trip here, she had managed a short nap. "We're here?" she asks, though the answer is obvious with the car stopping, even if she didn't catch what he said while she was violently yanked out of dreamland. "Doesn't look like we're getting the car in there."
Nathan nods, propping open the door and sliding out. He hesitantly tests his wounded leg, but he's still somewhat floundering in the high of the painkillers from the medi-gel. So for now, it's tolerable. "Yeah, no chance. C'mon, we'll have to hoof it from here on out." He reaches in to help her with her suitcase, clucking his tongue idly. "Let's hope the ship is
Ehanis get out of her seat and starts dragging the bag towards the door. "One second." She reaches into it to grab two energy bars before handing it off to him. "We'll walk until the path branches off, then I think it's best we just find somewhere to camp." When she's confident that he has it, she lets go and exits the vehicle through theother door. Her legs are quite sore after carrying the ancient weapons through the desert
this morning, as well as running for their lives shortly after. So, of course she'd seek any excuse to make camp.
Nathan glances into the opening, pondering for a moment before asking, "How long do you think it'll take us to find them in there?" He hefts the bag... to immediately drop it back down, his arms quivering. He furrows his brow as he realises just how sore and worn he is. In fact, he can feel the wave of fatigue that washes over him now that the last dregs of
adrenaline has left his system. A few days of scraping whatever food they can find and drinking water in sparing amounts has finally taken its toll. Combine that with unbearable heat and poor nights of sleep... "Man, I feel like shit."
The weather has remained largely unchanged, with fairly strong winds and the sun still high in the sky. Both of the two mercenaries would find that their armors are very low on power after extended fighting and wandering in very hot conditions. Their power cells will be drained completely any moment.
Ehanis rounds the front of the car to take her suitcase. "Here," she says, handing one of the energy bars over to him. "I think we have most of the way left, so there's no shame on just taking it easy and waiting for the others. They'd have to come through here on their way back anyway, right?" She brings up her omni-tool as it pings her, bringing a new message of doom and gloom. In other words, it provides an estimate on
battery life. "Fuck, my suit's almost out of power. We won't be able to keep comms open if it runs out." Another excuse.
Nathan takes the energy bar with a gratuitous nod. He pulls off his helm, rips the packaging off and stuffs it into his mouth. He glances to Ehanis at her exclamation and sighs, waving her off. "Wait here," he says. "Keep watch on the car and I'll find the others...". He pushes himself upright from leaning on the car and stretches himself out. "We can't put it off
any longer, you know. The sooner they find out... well, probably not the better, but something along those lines."
Ehanis frowns, and glances at the cave. She looked for an excuse, and now it's there on a silver platter. He's right, though, even if it's selfish of her to hide in the shade of the heavy vehicle while he toils away in the sand. "Yeah, but you keep me posted about your position," she says. "Every ten minutes. And don't go any longer if I don't copy. Okay?" It's not the first time she's worked with just one other mercenary, and
sometimes they had to split up. In fact, that's the way she preferred it back on Omega, as it meant less things potentially going to hell. "We won't save any time if we have to search for you in there, you know."
Nathan nods and chews the rest of the bar, swallowing before he replies. "Sure," he says, tugging the helmet back on. He turns towards the opening and starts trudging towards it, his steps slow and heavy. "If anything happens out here, just get out of here, alright?" He calls back over his shoulder. "I'll be damned if I'm losing you too."
Ehanis frowns deeply. "You better not get hurt out there, or worse," she says, "because that'll leave me the single target of Jason's fury." Her weariness makes the light-heartedness of that statement hard to discern from her tone. She hands over the second energy bar, as well, figuring he might need it more than her. "I still have one more," she assures him. "Good luck out there, Ten."
Nathan takes the bar with a nod, smiling despite their situation. "Thanks," he says before turning and heading off into the opening. He lazily throws a hand over his shoulder in farewell, his steps laden and the ghost of a limp forming in his injured leg.
Ehanis returns the wave, standing there for a few more seconds. She gives a long sigh before she starts dragging her baggage back into the vehicle, using her biotics to lessen the mass a little. She does watch him leave from the driver's seat once the suitcase is inside. The flask buried deep inside her suitcase is tempting right now, but what little she has of her species' long view is convincing her otherwise, for she might
have to speak with her employer soon. Even worse, she may have to drive to evade Kell's people should they have tracked her down. She brings up her omni-tool to start turning off suit's functions until the battery estimate goes from minutes into hours. Uncomfortable hours, sure, but hours nonetheless.
At first Nathan would find the path marked with small rock piles, as relayed over the radio before they lost contact, but now, after three hours of wandering, it is becoming clear that he has lost the track. With winding passages through, under and over towering rock formations in every direction, and no more hand placed marks to follow it is highly uncertain where he should go. Outside the maze meanwhile, Ehanis' wait would be
Nathan sighs, staggering to a stop as he leans against a rocky wall. "Oh man... Ah shit..." he gasps, his head awash with static. Having already downed most of his canteen and consumed the energy bar greedily, his wandering has been toiled with limp and aches. At this point, he's ready to simply lay down and allow whatever passes as vultures on this world to rip
him apart. He has been keeping Ehanis updated with his position, right up until he has lost connection... whenever that was... or is due to happen. Actually, he's not even sure how long he has been in here. He glances over his shoulder and frowns. Or which way is back.
Ehanis raises her brows and hurries to the seat behind the wheel. She hated being alone with her thoughts, but she'd take that any day over more of Kell's drell. "I hear vehicles!" she says over comms, hoping Nathan would copy. "Ten, what the fuck did I tell you? Come in! Do you read me?" She makes a sharp turn towards the north as she accelerates and continues in that direction as fast as these wheel can carry her.
"Teeeeeeeeeeeeen!" They must have come from the east, south-east or south. She casts glances around, both for visual signs of her pursuers or a place where she might have an easier time evading them. Easier being very slight, as there's little in the way of sound to hide among, and she'll probably leave trails wherever she goes. Not that she's going to give up, they're not getting her that easily.
The cliff-wall runs north-south on the western side of the vehicle. To the north barren plains of scorched earth stretch, to the east are dunes of sand. The south leads back to the bunker. She can't see the vehicles from her current position, but the sound is coming from the north-east, beyond a dune. In the maze, Nathan's isolation amid the thick rocks prevents Ehanis' message from reaching him. He's alone, and without direction.
Ehanis makes another turn and accelerates southeast now that she has gotten her bearings with the situation. Why would they come from the northeast? She does not have their exact position in her head due to her attempts to sleep. The sand dunes might be just what she's looking for. "Ten," she tries again, though with much less energy than her last outburst. "Fuck you, good for nothing stupid, ...." She gives an annoyed grunt as
she casts more than a few nervous glances out the window to the left. "Fuck," she suddenly realizes what she should have done instead. She could have abandoned the vehicle and ran inside the maze, make them believe she's long gone. Oh well, she's commited to this terrible choice now, whether she likes it or not.
Nathan remains oblivious to Ehanis' message. In fact, he seems oblivious to his surroundings as he trudges on, his limp slowing him to a shuffle. The small nicks and tears in his undersuit where the bullets passed are itching, burning something fierce. But he ignores them, instead just... moving. That's all he can do. Move. After what feels like hours of wandering:
but is in reality minutes, he collapses to his knees. "...I... I can't." He shakes his head and leans against the wall, resting his head against it as his chest heaves. "...Lord... I know I ain't been a really good Christian all my life but... if you're up there, I could really use a hand right about now." He turns his gaze to the heavens, chuckling grimly.
"Please?" He stares up, silence his answer. He sighs, looking back down to the barren ground. With a quivering hand, he clasps his pistol and draws it from his thigh. He turns it over, almost as if admiring the weapon. "Heh... who would've thought it would come to this?" He turns the gun and aims upwards, tilting his head towards the sky. He grins. The
As Ehanis starts heading out into the sand in the direction of the city the two vehicles comes into view, cresting a dune. They turn from their previous path towards the bunker, drawn by the sound of Ehanis' vehicle. They're coming right for her now, bouncing as they speed across the sand, both vehicles light scouts buggies with mounted machineguns. Meanwhile in the maze, Nathan's shot rings out, echoing against the cliff walls that
surround him. The afternoon sun doesn't penetrate among the cliffs, leaving the sandy ground in shadow. The howling of the wind is loud through the tunnels and passages, shaped by the rock into sounds uncomfortably close to strained breathing.
Nathan lowers the pistol, clinging to the hope that, somewhere, within the twists and turns and rocky faces... Jason and the others heard that. He knows it won't provide an accurate representation of his location, not by a long shot. But he hopes, nay, prays that it will at least alert them to him. He turns his head in a random direction, his breathing slowly
Ehanis brings up her omni-tool and makes sure her shields are on. A stupid idea got her this car, maybe another will save her now. Her timing had to be perfect if she was going to ram them, though, because their vehicles looked much more agile than hers, and they're certainly better drivers than her. She blames Nathan for that, seeing as he Nathan hogged all the driving experience she could have acquired on the way here. Ehanis
bides her time, waiting for a chance to make a sharp turn they wouldn't be able to react to. "Come closer," she mutters to herself, her tone taunting. This plan would work once at most, but she could always use this huge chunk of metal for cover if she needed to take him out the old fashioned way.
The two buggies split one, speeding up to catch up to Ehanis and flanking her on each side, a bit behind her. They keep their distance and open up with their machineguns, catching the armored car in a crossfire, high-caliber bullets striking the armored metal and the shaded armor-glass of the cockpit, causing cracks to appear. In the maze, there is only the wind. Well, the wind, and whatever heard the shot.
Nathan pulls himself to his feet after a moments rest. He slugs back his preciously dwindling water and carries on, pistol hanging in his hand. "Just keep walking," he tells himself. He looks down at his leg and sighs, shoulders sagging. "Or limping... limping works too." So, he does just that. Limps.
Ehanis growls. "Closer," she mutters. It's only a moment of time before the glass breaks and the bullets will be tested against her shields. "Fine, I'll get closer." She lets go of the acceleration for a second and brakes, only turning later to the left in hopes of putting this vehicle's broadside in the middle of that buggy's path forward. She does reach for her Locust as the vehicle slows down, taking the left hand off the
steering wheel, but she doesn't detach it yet. It's possible she might have to finish him if the crash doesn't. Or if she fails and the windows break.
Rock. Rock. More rock. Sand. The winding paths seem endless, and the wind refuses to leave Nathan alone. The sand that covers his ground flies up in his face as a particularly strong gust hits. Outside, the buggy easily dodges the attempted ramming, and the two now start circling around Ehanis' car, firing non-stop. Pling. Plang. Clank. Bang.
Nathan keeps limping. Although it seems he is resorting to dragging his leg behind him. "Jason," he says, flicking on his comms in the hopes that his transmission makes it. "I made it to where we think you guys where. Ehanis is at the entrance with a car... and... I'm pretty sure I'm dying. It feels like it anyway." He chuckles grimly into the emptiness. "I
dunno... At this point, all I can do is feel like a twat for not listening to you. A part of me couldn't help but feel like Steve was right. Like the guy knew what he was doing...". He snorts. "Yeah, turned out great for us." He sighs, turning a corner and continuing of his way. "...I wanna go home... please find me."
Ehanis groans as it fails and slams the acceleration, trying to turn towards the trajectory of one of the vehicles. She'd need a more defensible position if she's going to fight them off alone without the help of this clunky hunk of junk. Her new plan: return. If she could block off the exit of the maze, she might be able to use it as cover or run off inside to find better cover. Of course she'd have to disable the car. "If
someone hears this, please tell Nathan to go fuck himself," she says over the comms while speeding off towards the entrance.
One of the vehicles is grazed by the armored car as it breaks out of the circle, and the buggy nearly topples, the gunner holding on for his life to keep from falling out as it drives on two wheels before slamming back down on all four. Both scout vehicles pursue Ehanis as she heads back towards the opening in the cliff, which is still quite nearby. Bullets fly through the air, striking the armored back of the vehicle to little
effect. In the maze, there are vague hints of another sound, barely audible above the breath of the wind. What is it? Falling pebbles? Scurrying feet?
Nathan stops. Despite his bleary senses, there are just some things that can't be knocked out of you. Such as hearing out of place noises that don't belong after three hours of maddening silence. He tilts his head to the side, trying to discern which direction it came from. His grip on his pistol tightens, the undersuit creaking as it rubs against the grip. His
knife slips out of the gauntlet and he clings to it, reversing the grip. "...". He slowly glances over his shoulder, his HUD kicking in. Diverting power from non-essential systems. Shields at max capacity. Ammo counter, check. Scanning for targets. "...".
Ehanis forms a biotic shimmer around her as she prepares to launch her plan. "You want this on your terms?" she says. "Not today!" The car slows down as she makes one final turn to block off the path with its broadside, and it comes to a stop with a impact as it has no space for the last 10 km/h of speed. The shock wears off quickly, however, and she applies a warp field on the base of the steering wheel and fires off a burst at
it for good measure. She then opens the right-hand side door and starts running, looking around for anywhere to hide or cover. She can already feel the heat of the desert sun, her running not doing anything to help the situation.
No targets present themselves to Nathan. Just the wind, and sand swirling in it. Soon the sound fades. Only his imagination, perhaps. At the entrance to the maze, the armored car slams hard into the cliff, blocking the path before being sabotaged. Bullets fly around Ehanis as she runs, but it is not hard for her to break line of sight as the path twists and turns.
Nathan slowly continues onwards, clinging to his pistol. Slower steps. Cautious. He seeps his gaze around the rocks, even glancing upwards from time to time. Ears open, eyes peeled... pain niggling in the back of his mind. No, focus. Focus. You can complain when you're dead.
Ehanis turns around as she finds the first chance to get away. "Come and get me~!" she teases. She'd kill for those lighter vehicles right now... had she not cut off the very path she could use to get it inside. Oh well, time to go find Nathan and give him the boot up his ass he deserves. She continues along the path, looking for Jason's clues. She intends to hide away in the second wrong fork to catch her breath and lie in
Ehanis would be able to overhear a brief, incomprehensible exchange between the drell that were chasing her. As she continues to wait, they do not seem to be pursuing her however. Much deeper inside the maze, Nathan's path splits again. Either into a cave, or through a narrow ravine, just wide enough for a person.
Nathan glances each way before coming to a quick conclusion. Through the ravine. He squeezes himself through, slower than he would've liked given his injuries and current mental fatigue.
Ehanis is left with no choice. No other choice worth taking anyway. Thus, she continues on her way, following Jason's clues as they appear. "Ten? Do you read me?" she asks over comms. She brings up her omni-tool to disable her shields. It's not truly disabling them, but it prevents a recharge if they're to be brought down. Nathan is going to have hell to pay for leaving her, and the boot up his ass is going to collect interest
Ehanis' long journey into the maze of rocks begins, still no drell coming after her. Nathan, in turn, heads further and furhter through the ravine, which narrows ever so slightly with each step he takes, almost imperceptibly so. For half an hour both of them wander on. Behind Nathan there is a sound again. Not the same now. More like something sliding down rock.
Nathan snaps his weapon up towards the sound, the awkward angle making his reactions painfully slow. "..." His HUD once again begins its scan, searching for any elusive targets that linger in his sight. "...". Focus... focus... focus...
Ehanis keeps walking, even if her legs are starting their protest. She didn't give up when the ladder almost ripped her arm off, and she's not going to give in to fatigue. Not yet, at least. If Ilyna is to going to be mad at someone, it should be her, in person. This mission was her wish, after all, and it would certainly prompt her to be more careful what she wish for in the future. At least for a month. Anyway, if there's one
Nathan's visor suddenly lights up a shape as it identifies a target. A large shape. Too large. The armor VI starts attemping a species analysis, but with no luck. It slithers towards Nathan, a long, massive form covered in scales and with eyes that shine yellow in the shadow of the ravine. In his comms a shout of "-eeen!" just barely manages to break through the static. The beast is closing. It is at least twice the size of the
Nathan 's eyes widen to the point where they're about to bulge from his skull. "FUUUUCCCCKKKKTTTHIIISSSSSSS!" he shouts, over comms and into the air. Before he knows it, he's dragging himself forwards at speed, the wound in his leg protesting fiercely. He blocks the pain out, a new surge of adrenaline coursing through his veins. His knife is back in his gauntlet
and he fires wildly behind him, the bark of his pistol echoing in the ravine. It isn't long before he's detaching his last incendiary grenade and flinging it over his shoulder. He'll let the proximity sensor warn him when to detonate. For now, don't look at the terrifying snake. And reaaaaaaallllyyyyy don't think about the piss trickling down your leg.
Ehanis would hear fairly distant sounds of gunfire, the direction impossible to pin down due to the echoes. Accompanying the sounds is a static-riddled comms message: "-UUUCK-.... kzzzrrr... -IISSSSSSSSS!" Nathan's voice for sure, and filled with obvious terror. In the ravine, the massive snake slithers quickly forward, most of Nathan's shots missing, and the one that does hit doing little to stop the creature. It is rapidly closing
the distance to the fleeing human, and the ravine is shrinking to the point where Nathan suddely finds himself stuck, his speed having propelled him deep enough into the narrow passage that his chestplate is pinned between two walls of rock. The serpent raises its head, hissing loudly as it bares a mouthful of shark-like, razorsharp teeth. It is right over the grenade now.
Nathan cries out in terror, swinging himself desperately to dislodge himself. In his panic to escape, he almost misses the alert on his HUD. 'Detonate'. Yep. Do that. Don't miss that. He sends the command to the grenade and stares up as its teeth are bared onto him. He continues to fire his pistol, even when it clicks empty over and over and over. All the while, he
Ehanis raises her brows and starts running. Of course he's in trouble, and that serves to just make her more angry at him. Maybe there's some worry, too, but just a little. "Ten, what's going on?" she asks over comms between breaths. She does her best to follow any clues left by Jason, for as long as they last.
The ravine suddenly erupts into flame and heat, a splash of incendiary material narrowly missing Nathan's head, and another striking his leg, setting the armor ablaze. The predator that pursued him lets out a pained hiss as it is badly scorched, it's body coiling and squirming in the narrow ravine. It darts back the way it came with remarkable speed, and within a few seconds it is out of sight, the site of the grenade detonation still
burning. The human remains stuck for the moment. Over his radio comes in: "...rrrrttt...-oing on?" from Ehanis, who is running along the path left by Jason and the others, encountering no obstacle for the time being.
Nathan laughs... for about 0.2 seconds before he realises his leg is on fire. "FUCKFUCKFUCK!" He flails, shaking and kicking at his leg. He manages, with one arm, to rip off his canteen, unscrew the cap and pour the remnants of the water onto the flames in an effort to douse them. He doesn't notice yet, but tears are falling down his cheeks at the pain, the
near-encounter with a snake-demon and the fatigue of the last few days. When he does realise he is crying somewhat, he really wishes he could just suck up the tears back into his body. Can't waste too much precious water, after all.
Ehanis keeps running for now, hoping to clean up comms if catching up with him isn't an option. Is her messages not reaching him? Is he just ignoring her because he knows he fucked up? "Answer me, Ten!" she snaps into the comms. Shouting might not help range, but it does allow her to channel some frustration and anger.
The water just barely manages to quench the flames thanks to small size of the fire. As the flammables burn themselves out further back in the ravine smoke rises, blocking line of sight briefly, but the snake shows no sign of returning. It seemed like it got burnt pretty well. And so there the human sits, stuck between two rocks, in a maze containing giant serpents. The life of a mercenary. Over the radio he'd hear: "Answe-...
kzz...-en!". Ehanis' running would no doubt be exerting in the heat, but there is still a path for her to follow at least.