[Episode Four] Lockdown


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Starship Graveyard

With the immediate medical emergencies tended to, the crew were set to begin their journey to the west, seeking to pick up any remaining survivors along the way. Without much in the way of supplies, they would have to pull through whatever they could find among the surrounding wreckage - provided they could find a ship in shape good enough to even warrant searching. Tara began walking, sending a Pixy unit to scout ahead as they lead the winding group of survivors through their newfound situation. The land was harsh and jagged, a mix of seismic activity and the hundreds of crashes leaving the road ahead a rough one at its most kindest. Initially, OSC-01 contemplated leading with a bright spotlight emanating from one eye, but the dim sunlight and varied materials made it a hindrance more than a help. On top of that, it would be a dead giveaway to the crews location. For now, it was night vision and low power lights.

Rhea's attempts at drawing forth the fountain of her power was futile at best. From time to time she could coalesce enough energy to form a withering spark, which would bounce away mere moments after being summoned. Curiously, the spark would always bounce in the same direction. Jutting off to the southeast. Or was it the northeast? She never got too familiar with orienteering. Occasionally, however, the spark would sling off somewhere else. Generally, it was in the direction of either one of the drivers or the Overseer ahead, whenever she got too close. At large the lack of ambient echyllis could be hardly noticed by the rest of the crew. There was, however, a slight feeling of almost relief, or perhaps longing. As if a certain feeling of being watched had been lifted way for the moment. It was quickly returned however, whenever something settled into the ground beneath the crew's feet.

Tara raised her head slightly as Romulus' question rang out from behind. The Overseer was working their way through the mess or wreckage, looking for the path of least resistance. As unsanitary as it was, the metal-laden water that cut narrow streams through the mess of rocks proved helpful. Tara initially said nothing, falling silent for a minute before looking back at him with one subdued eye. "I didn't trust Dahlia's judgement call on that entire mission. Something seemed amiss, and I needed something I could fall back on should things have gone awry." The Overseers eye narrowed. "But I don't need to explain that feeling to you, do I?"

Romulus carefully looked around the scrap-laden environment, searching for any sign of whatever shot the Downrider down. His mental state was surprisingly calm, considering even the people who had gotten the better of him were also trapped in a sense now. “Perhaps you don’t. One mistake doesn’t beget another though, you knew it was broken. Non-functional. Why did you take the risk?”

Tara said nothing for a moment, quietly chewing their word before speaking once more. “Had you bothered to ask before checking under a skirt, I could have told you where the other half was. I kept it in the event of emergencies.” And for control. The Overseer rolled her head slightly. “Though unstable, that thing would have enough power to… do what’s necessary.”

Romulus was smiling, a big, wide and menacing smile. This was rich. Whatever she was implying was very familiar, very personal. Romulus caught up quicker to the overseer’s intentions. “You know, if you needed to do that you shouldn’t have interfered in the first place. You were interfering in a situation you knew nothing about.” Romulus slotted out the Zone key, inserted the Inferno key and put the blue one back on his belt. “Still, after all it’s calling the kettle black.” As he moved the keys around, Romulus could notice a discerning but small stream of color behind them, sparking away before being holstered once more.

Tara shook her head, pulling up on a piece of fallen debris that had blocked the path with a long creak. “I wasn’t referring to your pet science project” she said, flipping the piece gently against the hull it came from so as to not cause too much noise, “I was referring to-me. The Overseer froze for a moment, their motors seizing to cause the debris to fall the last few degrees with a clang that panged off the metal valley the crew tread through. A second later they continued in a moment of panic, sliding against the wall as the noise echoed away. The disturbance didn’t seem to bring about any activity, save for the scuttling of bugs and a few small reptilian creatures away from the giants. At least there was life on this planet - however diminutive it was. The Overseer continued treading carefully, letting their head hang with a shake as if they were completely unaware of the conversation they aborted.


The wayward crew traveled on and on, up and down, inside and out, finding only more vast expanses of ships ahead of them. It was enough to contemplate if they had begun walking in circles, despite their navigator and the sun leading them on. Over hills. through valleys, around cliffs, through narrow trenches of rusted metal sure to cut and prod at anyone who dare pass. They were surrounded with the gutted, looted carcasses of ships, each with their own story to tell. Different materials, different layouts, different origins. Hundreds upon hundreds of stories brought to a short and violent end. Many of the wrecks had been left for quite some time, leaving their contents to decay to near uselessness. There was plenty of raw material, but without proper tools or a workshop there was not much that could be done with it.

The crew had been traversing the mess for a steady few hours.

There was still no sign of the wayward ISS Downrider. A long walk not helped with the sudden silence of the Overseer, reserving themselves to small comments. Trudging through the uphill climb of a massive ship split in half, the crew pushed through a mess of strewn wire, debris, and dreary overgrowth. Eventually, the crew found themselves on the apex of a rocky spire which had been eroded by the impact. Overlooking the massive crash site was a singular, broad tree with dense and rock-hard roots, the leaves of which glistened a brilliant orange and drifted in the light wind. Gently, orange petals fell and dimmed as they sunk into the damp depths surrounding the spire. The massive freighter was split clean in two during the impact, it's two twisted sides wrapping into the ground beneath the spire as if it were a knife thrust through the chest. The massive fracture left a gaping hole above the crew, from with dull moonlight shone down. From here, they had a good vantage point of their surroundings, but also enough concealment to be considered... vaguely safe. The dying pillar of smoke from the crash was close, likely just an hour or two away now.

Tara prepared to continue unfazed by the distance, but was stopped by the... general limitations of the human body. The crew had been walking steadily for hours with no clean water, food, heat, or shelter. There was going to need to be a stop soon. At least the storm had subsided. Tara looked around and assessed the property. "Right. Here's our best chance to rest before we get there. I haven't seen... anyone, but there's enough evidence of looting to warrant being on our guard."

5 Hours Post-Landing

The crashed freighter split across the rocky spire seemed to be the best bet for finding supplies. The crash was certainly not recent, but in a place like this something must have fallen through the cracks. Or perhaps from the sky. To the southern end of the spire, a familiar-looking cargo container was lodged amidst cabled a few meters off the ground from the withered struts above. It was certainly from the ISS Downider, or another Vigali ship. All around the basin of the spire, dirty water had pooled into a shallow moat. To drink it, the water would need purification in one way or another.

In an experiment with bouncing a spark of echyllis around, Rhea found it to be attracted to something behind the crew, back down the eastern end and into a room down the tilted hall they climbed out of. Of course, the members of the crew not occupied could always relieve the Pixy units of scouting ahead west. Looking around, the Overseer settled with positioning themselves against the glowing tree, keeping watch over the area with an extended glaive planted into the grounds- respectful of the roots. There was something about her gaze that seemed a tad melancholic. They historically weren't one to dwell, but talking was always an option.


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Dragons didn't pant. If they could, everyone would know that Glasawyr was absolutely not enjoying this trek. The human body was designed by evolution to walk long distances. The dragon body was not. Glas was big and slow, and his wings were like a rock-filled backpack on his hunched torso. He was meant to fly any distance farther than three miles. Sure, he could just transform, but that was usually uncomfortable. Like wearing tight clothing. It was manageable at first. But after an hour or so it began grating on his senses.

Finally, however, Tara stopped. Taking a moment, Glas streched and scanned his surroundings.


That was all the warning Glas gave before stomping over to the pool and sticking his snout nearly all the way in.


In his defense, he'd been eating uncooked wild game and drinking untreated water for a few centuries now, even in urban areas during his time roaming civilization. He'd eaten rats in city alleys, sipped from puddles formed by rain gutters. So far, no illness. He'd repeated the process on multiple different planets as well, assaulting his immune system with just about every form of bacteria or virus in the known galaxy.

Needless to say, he was probably fine. Probably.


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The rather ragged Tom fumbled and flopped on the ground, sighing with relief. "Man... This's the farthest I've walked in forever!"

He flopped on is back, pointing at the surrounding carcasses of space-faring vessels around him. "The idea that these massive ships were once something MORE... I dunno guys, that's kinda cool, too. Any opportunity to adventure should be one to celebrate, no matter what made it come to be."

Tom opened his canteen, finding that it had no water. "Mmmmm... Bother, that's not gonna do."

He gets up, and moves over to the pool. He sets his massive duffel bag down, grabs some supplies and various eccentric inventions, setting them down on the ground.

With a crack of his neck, and his knuckles, Tom proceeded to scribble down on his blueprints on a impromptu desk made of scrap. After drawing the alchemical symbols, he pulled a peculiar pot close to him. It was a pot with multiple tubes sticking out the sides, with a handful of LED lights and a clamp.

"Well... Whatever you say..." Tom mumbled to no one. He rolled up the blueprint, stuffing it in a tube, and sealed it shut. The artificer then scooped the dirty water from Glas's drinking pond, pouring them into the pot.

The pot whirred and hissed, consuming the blueprint, and working its main gimmick: water purification.

"Awesome! Still got nineteen blueprints left." Tom cupped his hands, trying to get the attention to the others. "HEY GUYS! I GOT GOOD WATER GOING OVER HERE! COME GET A DRINK IF YOU'RE FEELING THIRSTY!"

Tom refills his canteen, and takes sips.


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Although it took much experimentation, and the effect... wasn't impressive currently, for an hour or so of effort it was impressive, she felt. If nothing else, in low echyllis environments, it could be used as a sensor for other echyllis users and devices, probably! And it could probably be scaled up if needed, in other locations. She wondered if she could do the oppisite... but now wasn't the time to try that sort of thing- it would probably take weeks to just have the echyllis boost down pat.

She should probably also make another Tablet while she was at it, last time it saved her life... around halfway through, she starts trying to conjure up a flat, mirror like tablet once again, and begin compressing it in an effort to regain that life saving ability in the event of an emergancy... she had several hours to do it, but with the low echyllis environment, and the current task of charging up Tara... and maybe the driver crew, it was hard.

She did wonder just how far she could take it.. but for now, she simply stick next to Tara, and kept... very slowly, charging her up. She'd assist the others... but, their devices could be turned off. Tara could not be.

She took position next to her, and contemplated her position in life. People could only be excessively sad, or angry, for so long at any given time without breaks, and she was currently taking to her self imposed job as an echyllis charging station like fire to oil.

She did, however, let her, and the rest of the crew know that there was... something echyllisy towards the.... somewhere else. Whatever direction that was, in the journey. She wasn't sure how many understood. She wasn't sure if she understood what it meant herself.

"Ah, um, I think there's something... over there, past.. the... my god what is wrong with you..." she trailed off in muted horror as the dragon went to town on the dirty pond water. She then shook her head and pointed at the east-ish... "Yeah, over there... Oh also, water here please!" After some consideration, she attempted to form, at least a very temporary, container from echyllis. She needed a drink as much as any of them... food she could go without, at least for a little while longer.

She would wait untill she got a proper glass of water... or two or three, before she would brave the way they'd come in, and take a peak through that strange room in the back, maybe letting off another spark to guide her when she was in the room.

She was sure the others could handle doing actually important things, like scouting ahead, or retrieving supplies from the cargo container in the sky without having it drop and alert everyone... and thing within a half a dozen kilometers where they were.

"...no good, not even good enough for a toy... complete junk..." The collection-of-appliances-with-a-fake-medical-degree muttered, squatting as she shifted through random scraps she had gathered with a single hand. Anything that she thought could be usable had either rusted to shit or was a complete joke of machinery. Actually, she could say the entirety of this was a sick joke to her, so much machinery available that she couldn't even use.

Friday gave a tired sigh, throwing the useless servo over her shoulder. As it hit the rotted ground, it bounced one, two, three times into a pile of other discarded electronics, all of which didn't pass her quality inspection. Most of which, to a normal person, seemed perfectly fine, though she knew better. Much better.

Sat beside her, covered in gradually settling dust, was the beginnings of a possible replacement arm for her comrade. It was mostly just a frame with wires, and a few larger, more primary servos for the elbow and such. But, she had absolutely zero luck finding anything small or good enough to use for the hands, although most of what she found was rather sub-par anyhow.

"F... Full of shit! That's what this junk heap is!" She yelled, laughing as she swung out a leg, sending the pile flying. Frustrated, she began stomping the scattered pile of scraps, flattening them into the dirt. "Not a single thing! Absolutely useless! I might as well just give him a hook already, fuck!"

Suddenly, she paused, looking at the incomplete arm. Looking back down, at another pile of small, but much too big motors, a smile crept upon her previously angered face. Maybe, just maybe, that will do.

Sitting back down, she pulled the limb into her lap, and began to work on her creation once again. But this time, she was giggling, maybe in a manner that was a little too sinister.


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Tara stood still as stone, facing west in their determination without falter. Having not the need for sustenance and rest, the robot seemed to be fixed to the position, not yielding to anything but the idle patrol of their unrestrained head from left to right. Much time passed before their motionless attention was broken by a drifting leaf, hung over an eye by a stem caught in the seam of their face-plate. The Overseer gently pulled the leaf away, observing the dimly glowing foliage for a moment before letting it drift. Here, in the middle of hostile territory with what number of unknown dangers, was a strangely twisted slice of beauty. Certainly poisonous, she should probably say, but beautiful. Tara too let herself drift, resting against the side of the tree with a lean but not abandoning their post.

Wordlessly, the Overseer gazed at the roots more, as if expectant for something to come of them. The call had no response.

Spire - East

Refreshed with relatively clean water, Rhea felt the spark come back to her just a touch easier. The bouncing purple light found its way eastward, backtracking along the crws path not far before veering into a room like water finding the easiest path.

The insides of the dark room were cramped, with a good half of the storage area being crushed into the dirt. Still, there was enough space between the sunken ground and the pipes above for the delinquent to find herself at the end of an open storage container, flipped and crushed in an impact that happened... what could seem like lifetimes ago to her. To an adult professional, probably a few years. There wasn't much salvagable in the container, and certainly no food, but a silver handle jutting from the dirt was a certain curiosity. Tugging on it unearthed a dingy metal case, one not much larger than a briefcase but certainly well padded. The force of the case being released from its prison was enough to send Rhea toppling backwards, the case popping half open in the process.

The case was made of metal, well worn and starting to show signs of decay. The side of the silver case was adorned with a curious hexagonal design, with lettering just barely legible coming clear as she wiped away dirt.


The contents of the case had not been subject to the same wear as the outside, a black padded interior holding a few items of note. One of them was a funny looking device, something arm mounted not unlike what all those weirdos in the crew carry around. It was... different, however. Bulkier, older. Worn. It looked like it could have been through hell and back. A few matching accessories were in the case, which drew the echyllis spark, strongly. Still, it would take more than her own ability to restore any semblance of functionality to the device. Inside the case was also a formal looking letter, with one of those wax stamps you'd always hear about sealing it shut. Rhea knew very little about what she held, and knew there were more justifiable crew members to appraise this find... buuuut....


She could peek just a little on the hike back up.

This message is entirely confidential on behalf of the executive justice of the Amperia Institute.

Dr. Midori,

By the time this letter reaches you, I am sure you will be well aware of the situation that has unfolded at the Institute Central. Approximately 18 hours ago, subject designation "Sigma" was pronounced dead and lost in an accident involving our deep-realm immersion tests. I was not present for the test being conducted, so exactly how this came to be is entirely hearsay. However, many signs point to the accident being an act of malice by the present Dr. Aurum. I cannot verify the story, but I do not have a good feeling about it at all. No matter the cause, the result is a dark day for science, and I believe may be a turning point for the Institute as whole.

All equipment attached to Sigma was considered lost in the accident, with no trace of them appearing since the accident. However, in a moment of remorse I found myself in the afflicted chamber. To my surprise, I found an almost complete replica of the protobracer used in the experiment, possibly the one used itself. I don't know if the grounds crew were simply blind, if this is a planted find, or something- harder to explain. It's drenched in the anomalous particulate Substrate Conduit-E12 we've been testing with (some old stories thrown our way once referred to a like material as 'echyllis', but I find that name quite frankly can't be scientifically correct). This is to be expected given our tests, but there was presence of some kind of... contradictory particulate. It's something we've observed before in rare circumstances, one such source vector being the resonator key some colleagues have childishly referred to as Nightmare. However. the volume of E-12 radiation and it's counterpoint, E-13 being carried in this vessel is staggering to say to the least. I believe we may have a real chance of observing E-13 in a stable environment for once, long enough to make real progress.

I was not one to believe in the paranormal, but the longer I've stayed in this field the more I've started to believe there are things steering us greater than we can comprehend. I swear, I could hear their voice when I picked up this driver. Not a memory, but something alive. Something burning. I nearly broke the device in a moment of fear. I cannot work this out alone, but I cannot trust my surroundings any longer. I hate to say you were right, this institution is one step away from hell and I think it'll come crashing down around us. Between Urane's bickering and Aurums apparent blood-lust, I don't think it's safe to stay here- I can't trust this find or this message to internal affairs. That's why I am sending this to you through external means on paper for safekeeping. It's slow, but no one will look twice as a case labeled enzymes these days. I am planning on making my leave here as quickly and as quietly as possible, before some psychopath tears this place to the ground with me still in it. Contained in this case is the aforementioned "resurfaced" protobrace, as well as the associated equipment. I do not remember assigning the slotted key to this protobrace, nor do I recognize it in the test manifests... or at all.

I hope I'll be able to join you, where we can discuss this matter further with cleaner hands. If you don't hear from me, assume the worst.

For the glory of science,

Dr. Weaver
E-12 Research Division
Amperia Institute

Well that was a load of nothing of importance to the child. Perhaps another of the group could glean more information from it, such as Dr. Aurum.

Spire - South

As the group rested and refreshed, they eventually came across the remains of the cargo container that once sat in the ISS Downrider's Cargo Bay. The box wasa deep green color, strung up precariously by a mess of cables and metal. Dumped from the crash were numerous cans of generic soup, with white labels that had been dirtied in the waters below. Several cans had been busted open, soiling their contents, but there were at least a few salvageable cans.

Resting inside the box itself was the torn palette the cans once sat upon. Behind it however were some of the finds of the Kerolyne Defile, thrown about carelessly. Two sets of riot armor, as well as the Arcadian electronics hauled from the site could be seen hung up in the container. Getting to them without sending the entire thing crashing would take some finesse or strategy.

Somewhere, far out in the distance, there was a light. It was an easily dismissable light, being nothing but a dim flicker far away from the freighter.


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The inventor glanced over at the robot, minding her own business as she served as the group's sentinel. Tom looked into his flask, recalling the times spent on the Downrider, and... Well...

Tom got up from the floor of his room, sick to his stomach and head pounding with pain. He knows all too well of the sounds of a ship's swan song. He knows all too well he doesn't have much time.

He throws a bunch of junk into his duffel bag, swung it over his shoulder, and made a break for it. Tom went as fast as he could, despite his illness and the fact the Downrider is in a absolute tizzy. Tom practically leaped, and...

... They burnt up in scrap and flame. Not him or anyone else in the crew, no, but the ship. The Downrider. Apparently some kind of drone got the ship good.

Despite Juryrig's upgrades, those upgrades didn't factor in those things. If anything, the upgrades were just an expression of Juryrig's freedom and talent, not out of a sincere feeling to upgrade the ship.

Seeing no reason to stick by the water purifier, Tom sat back up, moved himself to the tree that Tara sat under, and sat next to the robot.

"Ah!" Was the noise Tom made as he sat his haunches on the twisted roots. He took a sip from his flask, and smacked his lips.

"Hey; are you okay?" Tom asked Tara.
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Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, in which the water level of the dirty grotto noticeably fell by an inch, Glasawyr stood back up with a happy grumbling noise. It hadn't been the best water ever, but it surely hadn't been the worst.

Naturally, Glasawyr's eyes fell to the cans of soup next. Without hesitation he waded into the pool and started scooping up as many as he could.

Why? Because free soup.

The cubs- cub... would need sustenance, as would himself and the rest of the pack, and he hadn't sensed much wild game in this twisted metal hellscape. The soup, while not necessarily the most filling meal, was convenient in that it couldn't attempt to flee.

Seeing chunky beef stew, Glas flipped off the can lid with his thumb and tossed it back like a shot of liquor. The dragon licked his chops. Not bad. It needed pepper.

Glasawyr carried his loot from the pond and set it down in a pile by everyone else.

Everyone must take as much as they can. We may not find a bounty such as this for many moons, and you are all terrible hunters.

Ever tactful, the beast took his leave and curled up on the ground once more, staring into the distance, scanning for threats, and holding on to a vague glimmer of hope that Dahlia and Artemis were alive and on their way back. That's when he noticed the flickering. Odd. Out of curiosity, he focused in on the distant beacon with his keen eyes, formed by evolution to track prey from high in the sky.


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Spire - South

"What did you find there?" Marie asked, as she came around to Glas. Thankfully just walking was something Marie had gotten very used to. If this was two or three years ago, she'd have been wheezing from exhaustion. Now she handled it quite well.

"...soup. And...oh, that's the loot haul we got from the Defile. We need those." Active defenses meant not just anti-orbital defenses. With enough technology, one could teleport a squad of commandos onto the surface -- or as she'd seen from the research, enough relics.

Or magic, she guessed. Magic would do as well.

And active defenses meant roaming robots, most likely. Glas would be fine fighting them. The keys were low on charge, but they were each good for a few engagements against a few security mechas, or even military mechas, before running out of juice.

Everyone besides these people were dead to any medium to heavy defenses.

The problem was getting the cargo bay. If they spent a Key on this, that was less charge for future engagements. If they didn't, they'd have to spend both valuable time and look at far less viable odds at getting the armor.

Wait, but they had alchemy. And nanites.

"Hey, Friday! And Tom! Need some help!"
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