[Episode Three] Defile


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Trayll II - Orbit
28 Days after the events of Reprise

It had been a number of weeks since the Downrider finally pushed off from Bivona. The crew had been left with much time to think and repair from the lossess incurred by the marauders on Bivona, but the activity aboard the ship had died down to a daily grind in the past few days. Following nothing but a hunch and a need to be filled, the crew had set out for a long haul into the next system of the outer rim.

Now the small cargo ship the crew called home had finally reached it's destination- a wayward, sunscorched rock of a planet known as Trayll II- an planet so undesirable sparse in vegetation, no one bothered to give it a proper name. No one we know now, at the very least. The planet orbited second closest to its star, an unusual spectacle that glowed an almost blue sheen. Second closest was far more distance than one would expect, the massive energy-spewing beast looked docile from the distance. The planet was livable, if hot and poor on resources. The dry and ancient planet had spurred enough activity in the past month to interest the Downrider Expediton- however, it wasn't the organic kind.

Captain Dahlia Morgan cracked her knuckles a hand at a time from the co-pilot seat, looking down at the book in her lap. Reading was a form of stress-relief for the captain, no matter how dry. In this case, it was the owner’s manual for the ISS Downrider- or at least what was left of it. It seemed the ship had changed hands at least a few times before the expedition was graced with its churning engine.

The Captain looked over at the pilot, Aradia. Then, back at the present metal monk waiting patiently against the rear wall of the cockpit, now with all four of their 'feathers' in tow. “How many units are we talking about, again?”

The Overseer, OSC-01 raised their pyramid head, recounting the readings coming in from the holographic scanner that cast the entire cockpit in a pale green light. The projection in question was not a ship standard, but rather came from a Pixy unit resting on the ceiling. “So far, eighteen Oakland-based units have responded to the ping. There were twenty-one at the peak. First response indicates they’ve been active on this planet since before our escapade at Alipier Observatory.”

“So what you’re saying is, we didn’t wake everyone up at once,” the soulless pilot claimed, as her eyes traced the uncreatively-hued display. “Which means, hopefully, there’s not some secondary contingency plan that we put in motion to destroy the galaxy. Or, well, the ones that aren’t related to Juryrig aren’t our fault.”

The Overseer looked down at the pilot, taken aback slightly by the commentary. She was quick to correct, however. “What's being said is, we’re losing units.”

“What do you think they’re doing here, all the way in the outer rim?” Dahlia quipped.

OSC-01 paused, looking at the captain, then to the planet itself. “Oakland only deployed units in that number for remote automated projects under the supervision of an Overseer. Scavenging, landscaping, search and rescue. I have no access to active deployments or directives, meaning that Oakland’s main network may have been shut down for good.”

Dahlia nodded, looking back to the planet in question. It was a shot in the dark, but the pings had been coming from a dry area just south of the planetary equator. “If this is our best shot for finding a… Rift Boring Drive like you called it, then I suppose there’s only one way to find out.”

The Captain closed the user manual, setting the ancient texts back into the overhead compartment. “Aradia, let’s descend for entry.”

”Yup. We’ll be landing in about half an hour. I have to ask, though, Osco-” The helmswoman’s eyes turned to meet the cynical, calculated pair of the robot, as she asked, ”What makes losing units - active ones, at that - so concerning? With almost no maintenance - lack of infrastructure, or anything to give them the supplies they need at all - takes its toll on anything that’s been fabricated.”

Dahlia buckled her seat restraints as the ship began to dive. The Overseer remained neutral, pondering. “All very true. The main article of concern in this grouping’s Overseer. They’re active, they’re moving, but entirely unresponsive to query. Nothing returns but the network interface test.”

”Odd, indeed. If we didn’t have so many issues with those Evoknight kids, I might consider asking one to come up and help us out. They’ll just have to wait until we’re on the ground.”

Dahlia looked back at the Overseer as the ship entered the orbit of the planet. The cargo ship shook in the force of reentry, the projected and physical heat shields puttin in their due work to ward off the increasing heat of friction. She had to speak up to talk over the droning noise. “So, these units are rogue?”

OSC-01 nodded, leaning slightly against the back wall as to keep their position during the drop. “Very likely. You said the Vigali never found one intact, correct?” The Captain nodded. “Apart from you.”

The present Overseer spoke brazenly, trying to focus on anything other than the turbulent force starting to shake the ship. “I’m starting to formulate a hunch why.”


It was a solid length of time spent in silence before the ship began to stabilize, successfully warding off the pressures of entry and reaching cruising altitude above the planet's surface. The Downrider had found itself above a dry, very dry country, a desert spanning the horizon in all directions. The ground below was a sea of sand and rock, fractured by ravines and chasms that revealed a beautiful marbled display of red rock beneath. The sun bore down on the desert, making discerning an adequate landing location difficult.

Following the trace of the rogue units lead the pilot and captain to a plateau overlooking a beautiful sight of a mesa, but one that could barely be called a living ecosystem. "There." The Overseer leaned forwards, pointing out an obstruction in the sand. It was a large, grey machine- a vehicle of some kind. The crawler had become either lodged in the sand, or had run out of power. Either way, the twin trail of dredges it had left in the sand and stone were recent enough to have withstood the rolling desert winds.

”Well, it’s a start. It’s not something you’d recognize, though?” Aradia asked the question as she flipped a couple of switches on the dashboard, lowering the starship’s engine output to sub-stratospheric levels as the turbulence faded. ”It may be in the right general area, but we could be looking for someplace buried under that much sand.”

There was a muttering under her breath, ”I hate these damn planets…”

OSC-01 stared at the truck briefly, matching it to interior records. “It appears to be an automated transport, but I can’t discern the age or model from here. If the units stopped rolling here, they’d have to be close by.”

Dahlia peered at the tiny vehicle from the cruising height, then looked back at Aradia. “Like it or not, bring us down. I’ll notify the crew we’re coming in for landing.”

A mechanical whir preceded the deployment of the landing gear from the junker’s belly. ”I wonder if that’s an alarm clock for ‘em yet?” Aradia joked lightly as she tweaked and twitched the Downrider onto the coarse, granular ground, about 30 meters out from the stranded crawler. ”Hope you’ve brought some extra water, by the way. Or we’ll have to improvise.”


Dahlia pressed down on the handle of the ships side hatch, allowing the door to swing open in the dry wind. A small ramp extended from the door to the rocky ground with a mechanical thunk. The Captain stepped carefully to the planets surface, wearing a tan outfit comprised from a breathable button-up shirt, light grey cargo pants, and a grey bush hat with a wide brim. The blue star of Trayll burned down on the planets surface with intensity, sunscreen was a given.

On all sides of the horizon, the vast mesa stretched for miles. The rock formations were certainly beautiful, but the sparse plant life was limited to dried bushes and weeds. Animal life was nowhere to be seen, beyond the occaisonal bug found squirming in the cracked vista floor. A handful of meters from the landing point laid the abandoned crawler- a much larger vehicle than one would have expected. From the ground, it appeared to match the small cargo ship in bulk. The back door laid open, sand already being swept indoors by the periodic duststorms roaming the area. Bits of metal scrap laid around the area, fortunately not belonging to the ISS Downrider. Yet.


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Marie woke up to the awful rumble of re-entry. It wasn't anything new, just...reminded her that her newest thing wasn't anywhere near done yet. Dammit, it was hard making these things, with all their reduction of Echyllis output and thermostability and whatnot. At the very least, aside from fixing up her driver, she had reinstalled the little band-aid fixes she borrowed (read: stole) off of Romulus that helped suppress to some degree the harmful parts that came with the technology.

Well, not to mention the fact that there were now more drivers she made sitting on the lab bench. Two, to be exact. Who were they for, she didn't know or really care. She just had a hunch someone would want at least one.

She sleepily fell out of her chair, before picking her face up off the cold, hard floor and fumbling around in the heavy tools drawer. This would have to do in the meantime.

She yawned, walking into the cafeteria. In front of Deimos, she placed down a collapsible plumber's wrench -- an otherwise quite heavy tool magically compressed into a small cylinder. It would have to do for him.

"...not done yet..." the Sage mumbled as she went straight for the coffee.


Nivara, the crew's recently-appointed medic, was more than used to the feeling of re-entry- and her prior years of service had made a light sleeper of the olive-skinned medic. She'd taken to hanging around the cafeteria and medical bay for most of her time. She'd been mostly quite, yet polite, firmly cementing herself inside the 'normal people' slice of the crew pie chart.

Now, though, she woke from her nap in the medical bay, eyes flicking open as she felt the rumble, rising up from her seat, her two hands reaching to her sides, grabbing a firm hold on the legs of two wall-mounted tables- she didn't feel like becoming a ping-pong ball today, or any other, for that matter.

Pleased by the relatively smooth landing, she stood, stretching her hands up over her head as she stood. She headed out, the medic taking quiet steps through the decks of the ship, heading up towards the ship's exit hatch, meeting up with Dahlia.

"Desert, then? M'favorite... I'll be out shortly, then. Gotta dress for the occasion..." The medic retreated away, heading through the common room to then head down into the crew holds.


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"Oh Daaaaaaaaaaahliaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" The resident madman brushed passed Nivara on his way to the open airlock. While still wearing the red coat, he wore shorts, flip flops, and sunglasses!

"I concocted a special skin-bolstering serum just for occasions like these! Who wouldn't love a stroll through these sands! They're coarse, rough, and get everywhere!"

Juryrig poked his head outside, then took his first steps outside. He took a whiff of the dead air, and sighed. "Aaaaaah, dry and borderline moisture-less! Just like in my fantasies. I as so excited I couldn't even sleep yesterday!" Juryrig cackled as he always does.

"... Okay I'm going inside." Juryrig swiftly reboarded the ship. "I need a snack."


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With the lounge mostly empty for the longest while, Deimos found it to be the perfect time to emerge from his cramped quarters to run through his notes yet another time. He left his data tablet open on the table, projecting every note he had taken, every photo he had captured. Every room they had entered in the Observatory back on Bivona had been transformed into a simple 3-D map, with points of interest noted in little yellow icons that dropped down into the photos his scanner had captured. He couldn't let go of the place. Not yet.

Not until he found them.

Like a gopher being yanked from a hole by a rambunctious hunting dog, he found his focus shattered and scrambled like the hologram before him once a simple capsule fell right into the middle of it, filling the room with the clap of metal on metal and spilling coffee over the tin brim of Deimos' mug.

His ears perked up as he plucked up the device, eyeing it over for a few seconds before finally flicking the switch on its back. It clattered to life, springing out on queue to reveal the Pipe Wrench in all of its utilitarian glory. Deimos wasn't amused.

He shot up from his seat, waving the wrench in the air like an old man swinging a cane, staring daggers at the engineer as though she were on a giant target at a circus. "And what are you getting at with this?" He hissed. He dropped his free hand onto the table, knocking his drink over in the process. "I'm not some rookie, you know! I don't need you throwing spare gear at me like I can't carry my own weight!"


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"'dapter's not done yet..." was the Sage's only reply, her face buried in her coffee cup as well as her scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash. "Givvit a week or something...bother Juryrig or something, dun fuckin know..."

Her stomach grumbled. She ate an entire sausage in a single bite, her energy still completely bone-dry. "Big hitty stick's gotta do for now...until something more sciency can come along. Or if you're a daredevil or somethin' you can break into Engineering and see whaddelse you can find..."

"When did I sleep last night..." Marie mumbled, stumbling back for seconds.


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Cargo Bay

Romulus was completely silent, looking over a small imprint of some grander design; presumably of something from his tenor at Amperia. The indictment weighing on his shoulders now. He made sure to personally oversee the construction of Marie's tech, just to make sure this wouldn't happen again. Whether she knew it or not, the mods he made would keep Reman stable for the time being. He contemplated doing the same thing he did when he left the lab, strapping the driver to his arm and not allowing him to take it off, but that was off the table now. Most of the firmware was designed by Marie, and he'd have a hell of a time cracking it with the effects of Data present.

The question, was potentially if the key could trigger the mutation from that driver. For once, he didn't have an answer.

The Pixy units currently following around the mechanic barely moved an inch after the jostle of re-entry signified the artificer it was time to leave. "Finally." He uttered while trying to get a few good stretches in. This ship was leagues slower than the Apex was. Not to mention he didn't have the benefits of the Veteran to contend with. He'd find some way to get the weapon back, he knew it.

The jostling and bumping woke Reman out of the first truly quiet slumber he'd had in a long time. Walking over to the engineering bay, he came and looked at the tech on the table, and observed the mess of parts and components strewn across the surface. He watched Marie as she tiredly went to work, trying to make sure she got whatever she needed in the bay.

The "Cloaking Device" as it was was complete, and looked like a gigantic heavy cube with circular panels and corners lined with wires and tube. On the side panel was a slot, like most tech made from Romulus's work. He didn't exactly understand what was happening with the device, but a small hand print was notable on the side of it. The print was in-layed like the bracer, and presumably was powered the same way. The thought of a device that large taking from his energy was more than a little scary.

"Looks good! We're giving the extra to Jury, correct?" Reman looked around, smiling awkwardly and waiting for the moment the ship touched down. There was a few moments of silence before he asked the question he was dreading to at that moment. "How much did they actually y'know... steal from us? It doesn't seem they gunned for the right ship, but they certainly stole something from here."
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"... and judging by outdoor temperatures, I'd also suggest bringing along extra water," Sky said, her little hologram looking up at Perry Ferguson as the man held her computer in his hand. Perry looked out to their exterior from a window inside the ship, scratching his face.

"Yeah, yeah, I know, Sky. Sand, water. Everything I need, whatever," he said, then groaning. "Still though, man ... if I didn't know any better, we would've landed on this system's star."

The hologram retreated back into the device, with Perry tucking the device onto his belt. He looked around the lounge, wondering if others shared his disdain for their newfound destination; he just hoped they wouldn't have to stay there long. For the time being, he went to go get a snack and a drink, hoping that they still had any kind of soda in storage. Anything before he actually had to drink pure water to survive, he thought.


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Rhea, having been quite eager to see- and experience the weather of a planet that wasn't as cold as Osco's heart, eagerly peaked around the side of the captain as the cargo bay doors dropped- and was face blasted with a wave of heat like she was standing outside of the steam vents of a certain building- she forgot exactly which one. But the point was, this scorching, bland landscape full of trash, was almost just as bad as Bivonia. Except you couldn't even bundle up to try and beat nature's face in, you would just be hot. Her eager awakening, and fast dash to the cargo bay doors... that enthuesiasm, that she only had bed head to show for now, was dashed on the rocks.

So, she looked down at the hard hat she had been issued- and her plain tan shirt, and dark brown pants she was wearing. Then she looked back up to the Captain's, much more stylish outfit, and pouted a bit as she peered out into the mesa before them. "... Can we... trade hats? I think that one will help more than mine-" And then, a combination of Nivara and Juryrig happened. Mostly Juryrig. Nivaraa was fine, since she tended to... help out whenever Aradia was too tired or busy to help out with the uhh... training accidents, Rhea occasionally experienced as of late as she tried new things. Mostly involving sudden exhaustion and stumbling into something- like a wall.

She did her very very best to ignore the man's rant and stayed still, much like one would stay still to avoid being seen by dinosaurs... She didn't really want to be offered anything made by him- it would probably do exactly what he said it would do- and something else wildly unexpected. She wondered if, perhaps, it wasn't the fault of those weird devices and such, but ALL smart people were crazy, and that she should never trust anything they made. And then she wondered if some so called genius invented the hard hat too, and that if it would make her hair fall out and then she decided to stop thinking about those things. "... Please Dhalia?" She finished, when both of the other two went back inside.


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ISS Downrider

For the past month or so, the informant had resigned himself to the confines of his makeshift, cramped office, occasionally taking a break from his work to visit the cargo bay or engineering. For the former, his time spent in the cargo bay could be summarized as talking to a robot and training a child; for the latter, Keith would often visit the engineers to ask about replacements for his grenades and inquire on possible improvements for his own prototype camouflage bracer, making sure to avoid Juryrig and Romulus as much as possible.

Anyone curious or concerned enough would notice the lights of the new archive room being left on until late into the small hours, when Keith would finally award himself some rest after a day of sorting out files, dealing with the Vigali, and writing records for the Downrider expedition. The crew would only see their new resident archivist regularly again after the Trayl II planetary landing had initiated---he left his office wearing his usual desert nomad garb, but this time with an actual reason for it.

Commons Area

Passing by Dahlia on his way to the galley, he gave his other crewmates a taciturn greeting before tossing a small hologram projector to his captain. "Results are in for the background check you asked me for, concerning our newest medic," he said, swiftly thereafter proceeding on his way to get some breakfast. The hologram given to Dahlia would show a compiled profile of criminal activity under the name of "Nivara Sentora", a quick rundown of which was provided by the Vigali and present in the form of bullet points highlighting "treason, attempted assassination, desertion, and theft of PMC property."


Keith gave Marie and Deimos a small nod of acknowledgement as he entered the diminutive kitchen of the ISS Downrider, where he began rummaging through the cupboards to find the dry stockpiled rations he'd been surviving on since his entry into the expedition. "Don't overwork yourself, Marie. Your talents are better used consciously," he said to the engineer, ignoring that it was a hypocritical statement for him to make.


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ISS Downrider

Dahlia stood there for a moment, scanning over the desert horizon for anything else of interest. The sun was rising- at least from what she could tell at its incredibly slow pace. A day of opportunity, this was. Her train of thought was interrupted by some of the other crew members passing in and out of the Downrider, getting a feel for solid ground and a new sight. "Be quick about it, there's a lot of work here."

Dahlia glanced down at Rhea, and to her hard hat. The Captain looked up at the brim of her hat for a second or two, sighing. "Fine." She said as she reluctantly plopped the bush hat on Rhea's head, replacing her own with the hard hat.

Dahlia received the file from Keith, glancing back to make sure that Nivara wasn't still around. "Thank you, Keith." She checked once more, and peered down at the holographic display, scrolling through the condensed document as she made her way back into the heart of the ISS Downrider.


The captain stowed the display and wiped the look of brief concern off her face as she made her round about the lounge. "Alright everybody, Trayll II. It's dry, its hot. Barely anyone settles here, no one likes it anyhow."

The captain turned her back against the wall, looking back at the gaggle of crew making their raids on the ships pantry and other morning routines. "But it seems like Oakland set something here. OSC-01-" the captain looked around, noting the Overseers absence- in their entirety, "has picked up a whole bunch of active units around here, and we've got a lead."

The captain clapped her gloved hands together. "The landing site is a mess but that may be a good thing. Some kind of vehicle is stuck out there." She pointed a finger out, highlighting different members from around the lounge. "Marie, Deimos, Juryrig, Reman, you're on scrap duty. There's metal out there in the sand and I want to know whats salvageable."

She selected another group. "Rhea, Keith, Aradia, Perry, you're with me. We're going to investigate this... crawler." The captain waved her hands, motioning a big square. She called out the last two members who were moving about the cabin. "Romulus, Nivara. You're with the Overseer."

Dahlia clapped once more, walking back the direction of the Cargo Bay. "Ten minutes, everyone. Cover up and bring a lot of water."


Trayll II
Landing Site
10 Minutes Later

Dahlia walked out into the searing sun, the gravely sand crunching beneath her feet. The captain looked around, eyeing the heat haze distorting the distant horizon. One wide sweep later, the captain focused on a thin silhouette standing out against the hazy air, the missing Overseer.

OSC-01 stood dressed in their partly-ripped robe and overcoat, which billowed like a white and green flag in the arid wind. No sense getting sandblasted for the duration of the trip. The Overseer stood motionless a handful of meters away from the abandoned crawler, eyeing the vehicle.

The crawler was a fairly large vehicle, one that looked like it could fit a few vans or cargo crates in it. The large machine was powered by a set of caterpillar track and big fat tires, with wide rubber treads made to accommodate nearly any terrain in the area. The front of the machine was a flat nose, the external cockpit of which had been crumpled inwards from an impact. The entire crawler was in rough shape, with parts and structural ribs missing and dredged through the san. Whatever remained had been sandblasted and caked with layers of rust. The entire site stunk with the smell of oxodized metal and almost chemical tinge to the air. A once pristine white paint job had been all but erased from the vehicle by its time in the sand, though a close eye could still make out an embossed logo, to which some scraps of paint still found refuge.


Dahlia dredged out a bit of scrap metal with her foot, approaching the Overseer. "We might not wanna hang around for the next sandstorm- whenever that is. I don't want the Downrider looking like that."

Not unlike the Downrider itself, the crawler had a back cargo door which laid open, in a rather crooked manner.


All around the site, piles and chunks of scrap metal laid about spread behind the truck. Some were in equal shape as the rockcrawler itself, but others looked to be in somewhat better condition. The occaisoal lizard or odd looking bug would burrow around the sand as the group moved. Among the debris was one closed shipping container, about half the size of the ones found on the Downrider. The staut container had faired well, left in the sand likely very recently. Not far from the container was a trail of dampness, nearly lost in the dry sun. The sand was tinged slightly purple.


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Trayll II
Landing Site

Rhea walked alongside the captain- having aquired a bag with some water in it, not on her back.. a scarf, wrapped around her face- something she didn't think she'd have to use outside of Frozen Hell Bivionia, and a pair of goggles to protect her eyes. She couldn't find any good gloves, unfortunately, so she settled for hiding her hands in her sleeves as she walked. While she felt less silly becuase she got away with not wearing the hard hat on the way over, she kind of felt like the overseer was going to end up swapping hats back with her again now that they've actually arrived to the place where it'd be needed.

As she neared it- she wrinkled her nose, and pulled the scarf a bit tighter, but she never let strange smells stop her before. She looked all around the massive landship- anndd kept going up into it, finding the path of least ricketyness to travel on up the ramp. "What did you say was here again in this thing? Or is the... thing here, what we are looking for?" The girl seemed quite keen on finding herself some trouble, from the way she was going ahead of the entire group, headlong into a wreck.


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Trayll II
Landing Site

Romulus stepped onto the sand, donning his biker helmet and jacket. Heat was never that much of a problem for Romulus unless it was under his body average, and while it poured down on his skin like a waterfall into a lake, he seemed either uncaring or ignorant of the sun's effects. Unfazed by the smell of iron burnished by the heat of the sun, he surveyed the vast desert around the crew, looking around for anything of note. "Give me the Lowdown, what exactly is out here in this wasteland that we're looking for?"

Holding a small cube, which could unfurl at any moment he so chooses; gripping it in his palm in tepid anticipation of what answer he'd get next. "How fast do we need to get there? I've got the Apex and my bike here depending on your next answer. Don't worry about finding things to do, I've got questions for you if you have the patience."
Reman took the two drivers on the table, hastily modified with the limiters that Romulus integrated and stepped out onto the ground. Now all he had to do was wait for Juryrig to take one from him, as he affixed the Process II to his arm, and prepped to pull scrap from the area. The sandblasted crawler caught his eye more than most things here; In bad shape sure, but not unsalvageable. He made it a point in his mind to return to that titan laying in the sand before long, to see if anything on the inside could be used for reliable parts. It was about then he noticed the massive dent in the front of the vehicle, which meant if the engine wasn't underneath at personnel access, there wouldn't be anything to collect from the wrecked construction equipment.

More worrysome was the possibility of what bashed in the large piece of hardware. Surely a vehicle with treads wouldn't sustain that kind of an injury from human error alone, It wouldn't be going fast enough in an environment like this. He treaded carefully ahead just a little so that none of the scrap crew would get lost, but he'd get a better look at that front panel. "Looks like we've got a decent stockpile, if anyone wants to come with and take apart the crawler! I probably could use some force, if you wouldn't mind, Jury?"
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