Expedition to Chaos

The shuttle that is prepared for this expedition is not like the crippled and broken shuttle of black crystal that was in the quarantine infirmary: this one is sleek and new, fashioned from crystal of pure white. However, it apparently has no AI pilot, and instead there are four chairs in the front cabin.

The shuttle has both a crystal canopy and an LCD display that is currently showing the writhing maw of Chaos. It appears larger than it did before.

A clock with letters of Thari is on one side of the display: it appears to be counting backwards.

Julian finds that his quiver has generated new arrows to replace the ones used before.

The spheres that house the AI spirits of Ghostwheel and Windseeker hover near Aurora and Ariaunna as is their wont, one black, one silver.

Avarya, Teluidhe, and Zuithnel are also present. All three are in the rear of the shuttle. Avarya is talking quietly to the other two bond-servants.

Aurora makes herself right at home in the pilot's seat. She grimaces when she notes the missing AI pilot; being able to leave it to Tis or whichever had made the first trip easier in terms of gaping at the scenery. Her hands glide over the interface to start the engines, close the hatch, and create the correct atmosphere for human types.

The crystal hull of the craft begins to sing with strange and alien music as the powerful engines wake to life.

She glances at the clock as the shuttle hums to life. "Ghostwheel? Is that counting down how much time we have before we must jump from the Logrus' gravitational pull?"

"Affirmative." The Ghostwheel replies to her question. "With an extra hour as buffer. When that clock hits zero, we have to return to the Fury."

"I trust you to mark each passing hour aloud to me," says Aurora. "How much time we have will likely affect several options we may come across in our explorations."

"Affirmative." Ghostwheel replies. "I will require the assistance of Windseeker to keep the clock synchronised once we are inside the variant timeflow."

"An excellent idea," Aurora agrees. She dances her fingers over the helm and begins moving the shuttle out of the bay and into space. She looks over at Julian and smiles. "Want to pilot it across the void? I'll take it back over when we near Mandorways."

Julian had long since ended his examination of the quiver of arrows he had found to discover the previously used ones had been replaced. He checked the heads of the arrows that had reappeared, and realized that they were precisely what he had fired. He took the time to familiarize himself with the feel of the fletchings again, so he knew just which size arrowhead he was drawing. He did not want to blow anyone else off their feet, unless it was an enemy. With that done, he sits beside Aurora, and as he has thus far with most of the technology he has encountered, he observes — carefully, but keeps his hands folded in his lap.

Julian turns to Aurora, smiling slightly, "Yes, very much. I cannot crash into much out here I suppose. At least for the moment." He takes the controls, as he has seen her do, and eases the shuttle towards their destination.

Aurora doesn't hover, but she does keep an eye on the readouts when Julian takes the controls. He is correct in that there isn't anything to run into, but it also doesn't take much to throw them off course.

"Windseeker?" Aurora asks suddenly as if she just remembers the other AI is there. "When you mapped the array, did you find Kadmonways or Barimenways?"

"Affirmative." The Windseeker replies, her voice not quite as identical to that of Ariaunna as previously.

Responsive to Julian's hands on the control module, powerful engines warping the fabric of space/time in a way akin to a shadow-walker, the shuttle departs the hangar for the open space, inside all that remains of the Courts of Chaos. The view through the canopy is both disturbing and magnificent, lit by flares of rainbow energy, as the great net of black spheres continues their ancient dance around the writhing maw of the unbound Logrus.

Mesmerized by the looming Logrus, Aurora's awareness shifts slightly. Just enough to cause her to furrow her brow. She shifts her awareness inward and finds a mild imbalance in her aura. Further opening her psyche to her inward explorations, she is surprised to discover she is pregnant. She stiffens slightly and blinks slowly once. Twice…

Kieran had woken he in their usual manner. Hours later, she had reunited with the man she had mourned the loss of for centuries. Which left only one question: which one was the father?

Aurora silently considers this new wrinkle. To her, it doesn't matter so much who the father is. While Julian has always held the spot as the great love of her life, it didn't mean she didn't really love Kieran. They were both good and decent men and were excellent fathers. But above all that, she is the mother, and she had always loved all her children. Even when their father's had been little more then friends with benefits.

Her free hand caresses over the bracelet that connects her to Ghostwheel. The design is distinctive even through her encounter suit. She eyes the AI from the periphery of her vision then shifts her gaze forward.

Ghostwheel. What is the earliest point in the human gestation period in which a DNA test can be performed?

There is a pause of three heartbeats. Tisiphone says three months without risking injury to the infant. Ghostwheel replies across the trump conduit.

She is surprised by the answer, but keeps it from her face. With the technology at our fingertips on the Fury, how is that many of the medical advances are no better then of the Earth from my first life? She sighs silently. Ask Tis to look into improving that.

Affirmative. Ghostwheel replies.

The black sphere that is all that remains of Mandorways grows in the canopy with surprising speed: it is difficult to estimate how fast the shuttle actually moves without close external reference points. The shuttle arrives at Mandorways in around five minutes.

Julian's lips press into a line, "I thought I would have more time at the helm. You had best take it into the Dock, for the sake of the other passengers." He waits for Aurora to take her controls again, and releases his own. He remains observant, however, minding what is done for the small adjustments necessary to docking in an enclosed space.

There inside the dock, things are much as they were when Aurora and Julian left, save that the corpse of the space-spider-beast is absent. There are still shuttles of black crystal in the landing bays that have the same design as Windseeker's former home. The entire area is fashioned from black crystal. At the rear of the dock, the two massive double doors are closed.

Noting the missing spider beast, Aurora curses softly while parking the craft. As the engine's song fades, she looks over her shoulder at the three bond servants. "Avarya, that spider's missing from before," she says as she unbuckles and stands. "Make sure you all have all the weaponry I assigned (2 blasters and one rifle; all fully charged), and can work the comm link in your encounter suits."

"Yes, mistress." Avarya says in reply. She turns to the other two and speaks with them in quiet whispers.

Aurora looks over at Aunna to explain while she pulls her mass of curls back into a ponytail. "We encountered what Avarya believed was a shape shifter gone mad and locked into a spider form. A huuuuge spider form. Like something dreamed up by HG Wells or Stephen King huge. We couldn't seem to kill it, so I turned it to stone — and now it's gone." She frowns. "The blaster pistols didn't seem to have any effect. Maybe the rifles will. It's going to be rather intent on eating us. The beast we encountered in Mandorways wasn't just a spider, and according to Avarya's scouting report, there are others in there — and they are organized."

Dressed in a pair of lightweight black slacks, boots, and a dark green flack jacket-like vest, Aunna: who looked much refreshed for her food, shower, and nap: had been riding along in silence; eyes closed, rested head, fingers interlaced over her abdomen. She did not immediately appear to be listening, but replied all the same.

"Excellent," she smiled. Then she stretched, and unbuckled her harness, and got to her feet. She checked Feüermede absently, as a reflex, then struck a now familiar pose with her hands in her back pockets, waiting for the others. "Windseeker," she asked, "how is the communication between you and Fury?"

"Five by five." Windseeker replies.

"I lost communications on our first visit when we passed the double doors." Ghostwheel observes.

Julian unbuckles himself from his seat, and checks his weapons a final time. "I will remain with the bow. Now that I know what it does, I can adjust accordingly." He nods at Aurora's assessment. "Perhaps this time, we should make certain whatever you petrify is also dead. Breaking the statue left behind should do that," He looks out the viewport, "We have covered some ground already. Have we a map to avoid repeating ourselves? Were I the Spiders, I would lay in wait along the same path, at least for a time."

"Since we went straight down the middle last time, that shouldn't be too hard," Aurora says wryly. "Everyone into an encounter suit that isn't already in one. Even if you do have a form that is suited to an airless vacuum. We may come across someone inside that will need the suit."

Aunna casts a weary sideways glance toward Aurora. Her gaze shifts smoothly toward the indicated suits, and she shrugs.

"Ghostwheel and Windseeker can scout from overhead," Aurora adds while collecting her helmet from it's space on the wall. "Assuming that's alright with Aunna."

"Yea," the brunette replies, adjusting the suit and buckling her sword to it. "Sounds proper."

"Affirmative." Both of the AI say at the same time, providing an eerie echo in harmony.

Julian moves to get into his E-Suit, and scowls every so slightly. It seems a paltry barrier between one's person and hard vacuum. He dons it with a bit more ease than he did the first time, pulling it over his armor. He settles his weapons over them, belting on his sword first and the settling the quiver and horn into place. "I had not realized where we were in the sphere." Julian turns to Aurora, "I may need air conditioning of some kind, but it seems unwise to do away with the armor."

"A sound idea," Aurora agrees. She taps a gloved finger to her chin and clicks her tongue thoughtfully. "Let me see… cooling spell — will need to be from the inside of your armor. Hmm.." Aurora holds out her hand to him. "I need to touch the inside of it."

The enchanted crystalline suits shift and flow and change to adapt to the shape of the person wearing them.

Ten minutes later, Aurora has finished her cooling enchantment. It will not last forever, but it should hold for ten hours. The enchantment is on the gambeson he wears underneath. She didn't want to do anything that might interfere with the enchantments on his armor.

"Thank you." Julian smiles slightly, before they leave the shuttle.

After making certain everyone is suited, helmeted and knows how to use the suit's controls, Aura decompresses the shuttle and opens the ramp. She has a blaster strapped to one thigh and the other at the opposite hip. The blaster rifle she holds, not taking any chances with lurking spiders this time.

"Scout ahead, Ghostwheel. High and to the left towards the airlock doors." She stands back to let Julian go first, knowing he'll want to anyway.

Julian nocks an arrow with a small crystal warhead, and moves to the front. He treats it as a tactical advancement, moving quickly but carefully, using cover if there is any, and making sure an area is clear before encouraging the others to follow. "You may want to leave a pair of your people to secure our exit, Aurora."

She glances over her shoulder at the three bond servants and frowns. "I don't know… we have a limited amount of time to cover a lot of ground, and few enough of us as it is. I really don't want to leave them out here, Julian. I don't know that they're as prepared as even Avarya and I were and we were so not. Not for what we found. Besides, the more eyes we have from the air in there, the better. Ghostwheel and Windseeker can only do so much on their own."

"If the Insects organize, the first thing they will do is seek to cut off or commandeer our escape. They already know how we got away the first time, and if the mass, I am concerned that it won't work for us a second time." Julian replies steadily, "If Avarya is correct, they are far more cunning than their forms might imply. At least leave something, whether its personnel or a spell."

"Sure. Inside," she admits. Aurora stays near him as she ponders her collection of racked spells, and what she could do on the fly. "What do you see this spell doing?"

Julian turns to her with the slightest of smirks, "I'm sure that I do not know, Sweetheart. If I recall, I left that kind of thing to you, and I worried about taxes and defending our people." He gestures at the airlock, "I am only concerned about being cutoff. The shuttle is here, so it is here we will have to return to." Julian holds his bow, with the arrow still nocked, in one hand. "A semi-permeable ward? It will allow us through, but not the Insects?"

"That's going to take some time," she warns. "At least twice as long as your cooling system did, since I don't have one racked that meets the requirements."

"I could remain here." Ghostwheel suggests through the communicationslinkages that bind the crystal suits.

Aunna, standing a short distance away, was watching the exchange with a slightly bemused expression.

As she watches, the black crystal sphere that is Windseeker hovers above Ariaunna's shoulder. Avarya, Teluidhe, and Zuithnel also watch.

Julian pauses, briefly, to consider. "No. This is a search, and I know the value of eyes in the sky very will indeed." He looks at Ghostwheel, "Are you able to leave a picket? A sensor picket? A device that will tell us if someone or something is moving around the airlock?" Julian tilts his head slightly, "If not, we'll have to risk it, and have the flyers scout the airlock on our return. It is not ideal, but I do tend to err on the side of caution when violence is a clear possibility, and I've more lives to be concerned about than just my own."

There is a pause. "I can manufacture stationary sensors from raw materials." Ghostwheel says. "However, I require raw materials."

Stopping in her ward calculations, Aurora looks around the hanger and then up at her AI. "Everything on the shuttles is made from crystal. But would you be able to communicate with your stationary sensors while we're in the airlock, or would we still be blind until we were back in the hanger?"

Windseeker continues to hover. The three bond-servants eye their mistress and hold position.

"I would require shards of the black crystal to establish communication links with the remote sensor array." Ghostwheel says.

"All right," Aurora nods. "There is one front seat more then we need in the shuttle we came over in, and there is no shortage of black crystal around here. Do you need anything for this from us?"

"Negative." Ghostwheel replies before hovering off in the direction of theflight deck of the shuttle. Through the open hatchway, the black crystal floor of the docking area glints coldly in the reflected light from the battlestation outside.

Aurora watches it a moment before turning back to her companions. "Avarya, Zuithnel - stay with Ghostwheel and call out at the first sign of trouble.. Teluidhe, come with me. I want to check out another of these shuttles. But if you see spider web, alert everyone else and avoid it at all costs. One of these was the spider's — larder. We don't want that one, obviously. Unless Windseeker can identify any of these, we can just pick one at random."

Julian listens to Ghostwheel request raw materials, and seems impressed, though the expression passes quickly. He frowns slightly, “We must remember to advise the main ship to make these sensor arrays before we leave it. In case we have a similar situation.” He eyes the construct for a moment, and then turns away, alert for trouble as they deliberate.

He nods at Aurora’s recommendations to Avarya and Zuithnel, “Do not be heroes. Call out, and protect

Aunna adjusted her stance slightly, her gear rattling. Blaster in one hand, rifle version of the same slung across her back, Feüermede belted to her right hip, she gave Aurora what could only be described as an incredulous look.

"So let me get this straight," she says lowly. "While we stand here hashing the details we should have covered on the trip over, there could be something in this room spinning up to devour us?"

She raises her weapon and does not wait for an answer as she assumes a defensive position. "Windseeker, scan the area for lifeforms, organic and otherwise. If you can identify the shuttles, more the better."

"I did tell you about the spider before we exited the shuttle," Aurora shrugs. The redhead swings the blaster rifle around into a proper hold and goes to investigate a nearby shuttle. She has a light spell ready to go, but setting it off would alert anything lurking to their position.

Julian turns to Aunna and nods, “It is not precisely ‘Shelob’, but it does a fair imitation, if smaller. I should have asked about protecting our exit, but I believed we had manpower sufficient to cover the door. I did not think of spells or sensors until I was here. Direct answers are generally what comes to mind, not magic or high technology.”

Aunna moves off in an opposing direction on silent feet. Julian eyes Aunna as she heads off, and
calmly turns back to Aurora.

There does not appear to be anything threatening in this place. Or at least, not now.

The double doors toward the rear of the dock-area are closed, and only one of the four black-crystal shuttles has an open hatch.

Muttering under her breath, Aurora pulls a handheld crystal gadget from her belt and switches it on. She peers at the display in the reflected light of the Fury while turning in a slow circle.

There are one or two heartbeats while the strange gadget warms up: then as Aurora turns around, it displays 2 pale dots within range.

"Julian!" Aurora hisses over the comm link. "Come here! I found something…" She starts moving slowly towards the dots, looking at her surroundings every few steps to keep an eye on things.

Julian joins Aurora at her call, glances at the device in her hand, and catches her shoulder to slow
her down. “Stay behind me.” He nods, “From what direction?” He holds his bow at the ready.

She opens her mouth to protest, then closes it and lets him take point. She had been taking care of herself for centuries out of necessity. It was going to take some mental adjustments for her to remember she doesn't have to all the time anymore.

"They're that way," she says, pointing with the scanner. The scanner indicates that the 2 dots are inside one of the closed shuttles.

"They're in that shuttle there," Aurora clarifies. "I'm not sure how to open these." She waits for Julian to change direction then follows on his heels.

Ariaunna opens up the com link with the rest of the party. "Found an open shuttle," she says. "Sending Windseeker in to scan."

"That's the larder," Aurora's voice comes over the link after a beat. "Stay out of the cockpit; Ghost said it was inhospitable to organic life, even with the suits. We cleaned out the artifacts already."

Several moments of silence pass before Aunna addresses the com again. "Got movement," she says lowly. "Be advised: Creature is light shielded. Infra-red visible only."

After Aunna's report, Aurora tugs Julian's shoulder to stop. "I need to give you night vision. Or you face plate anyway." It should be an easy enough spell for someone who spent so much time studying fire. But she's going to have to build it on the fly. Julian frowns slightly at the news, and then nods. He waits for her to complete her work.

The edited spell settles into place, changing Julian's sight through his faceplate.

Another, much shorter break before they hear from Aunna again. Then from across the chamber can be heard three rapid pistol shots.

Silence follows from the other end of the link for a moment after the shots before Aurora speaks. "Do you require assistance?"

Aurora looks back to Julian. "Unless Aunna calls for assistance, I am for continuing."

"Negative," Aunna responds. "No pursuit. Doubling back to confirm."

Aurora smiles and then fiddles with her radio. "Avarya, one of you should shift your sight into the infra-red if you haven't already. How much longer do you think Ghostwheel will be?"

"The sphere still eats, mistress. It grows bigger." Is the reply she receives.

"Thank you. Keep me updated."

Julian touches the faceplate, and then shrugs, trusting it would all work when it needed to. "Stay behind me." He repeats, and then adds. "I can take a bit more of a beating. Trust me." He proceeds along the same course carefully, his bow once more readied.

"Oui," she quips with a smile in her voice. "I do seem to recall your extraordinary ability to keep up."

The shuttle that the strange instrument Aurora carried has indicated is firmly shut. Beside the ramp, there is a small hatch on the floor of the craft.

Aurora sticks the scanner back in her belt. She kneels down to investigate the hatch, looking for a manual override for operating the entrance to the shuttle.

The hatch does open under her questing fingertips. Inside, there is no dust. There are two buttons and what appears to be a small socket. The buttons are marked with symbols: an square and a circle. In the small socket, there is a strange key, which appears to be made from the same black crystal as the shuttle itself. Aurora studies them a moment as her mind goes through possibilities, then she starts trying them.

The first two presses of the buttons produce no results. The key can only be turned to the left, and this causes an audible vibration. The circle button pressed the second time does nothing visible… but the square button pressed the second time brings results. The ramp at the rear of the shuttle begins to shudder and slowly lower. This time there is dust, which falls toward the black crystal floor, for there is no wind in this place to swirl it about.

Aurora scoots back from her crouch to stand back while things settle. When clear, she moves to the ramp and motions for Julian to join her. "Judging from the dust, I would guess there is nothing alive inside. But you will feel better if you check first. Before I go in."

Julian stands guard while he watches Aurora puzzle out the hatch. He steps back from the ramp, and as it lowers, he shifts the arrow from the string, and holds both bow and arrow in his left hand. He draws his sword from its scabbard, and eyes the interior. "You're right. I will. Best not to take chances." He moves into the shuttle, taking a moment to let both his eyes and his helmet's IR-enchantment to adjust to the lighting, before he cautiously proceeds inward. "Stand back."

She smiles wryly, but steps back. "Oui, mon Julian." Aurora watches from the end of the ramp, a stone binding spell and a light spell ready to go with a word.

Aurora cannot see what Julian sees as he proceeds cautiously inside, for the angle, the line-of-sight is not there. Grinding her teeth impatiently, Aurora stays in place and maintains a watch on the hanger. She touches her face plate, an IR band sliding across it like water from another basterdized light spell.

Julian stops, and clearly is assessing what he sees. "Four cocoons." He informs over the comm to Aurora, "Seats were pulled out to make room for these. Maybe someone was trying to get them out." He is silent for a moment, and the continues moving into the shuttle, "Two are cracked. A man with dark hair, dark like mine, is dead." There's another heartbeat of silence, and then, "There's a redhead, small. Also dead." He scans the area, and checks the other cocoons. "I've a blonde woman and a light brunette man still alive. I'm moving in to see who they are."

Keeping alert, he checks for identifying marks on all the cocoons, starting with the live ones.

Aurora sort of slumps when she hears two are no more. But as he continues, she follows him into the shuttle and releases a light globe that shines dimly, but enough to see by. "I have teleport spells hung. I can either move them into the shuttle and we can wake them on the Fury, or we can levitate them into the gardens with us. The sun will melt the containers."

The floor of the shuttle crunches slightly beneath their feet, as though they are walking on sand or coarse-grained dust. The door to the front of the craft is not open. Julian's scan reveals nothing but the dust of uncounted centuries. The only signs of life are the two intact cocoons, which are alive with faint warmth to their sight. A close examination reveals there are identifying marks on the cocoons: numbers in Thari. The occupants of the cracked cocoons have not decayed at all in any noticeable way.

"Oh, excellent," Aurora murmurs in the quiet. She frowns and focuses a moment on conjuring a pad and stylus so she can write down the identifying numbers.

"The sensors are manufactured and ready for deployment." The voice of Ghostwheel says across the public communications.

"Excellent." Aurora's voice pauses a fraction, distracted. "Deploy and come to me."

With her brief concentration, the conjuration goes subtly awry, and Aurora finds herself holding a feather and a stone. She gives both items a fierce scowl and again curses the local magics that vex her.

Julian considers the numbers for a moment, committing them to memory. "Can Ghostwheel send a request to the ship to identify the numbers? Once he is done, of course." He eyes the dead, "I do not think we should wake them. If there is a problem we are unaware of, we may be exposing them, and ourselves, to unnecessary risk. I think it would be more prudent to send them to the ship and investigate the particulars later."

"Windseeker is probably the best bet for iding these," Aurora says. "These were probably collected from Chaos. We'll search the other two shuttles now that we know how to get inside. Tis said only the later pods were equipped with the remotes, so there may be some still in the other ships."

"I'll levitate these into the open area of our shuttle. You should go out first." Aurora pauses, and turns to look at the dead again. "Are there no equipment pods?"

There are no equipment pods. A large silver sphere with protruding black shards of crystal appears at the ramp that enters this shuttle.

She raises an eyebrow inside her suit. "You look rather frightening. Come in. I need you to record these id numbers on the cocoons in here."

The silver-and-black sphere hovers further inside. "Memorized." The AI responds. "I thought we were deploying sensors around the internal air-lock?"

"And so we are," Aurora agrees. "But we may as well look around in the shuttles before we go in. A quick look in the last two to make sure we aren't missing any cocoons and then we'll go in. Just let me get these two into our shuttle."

"Affirmative. I will scan the other two shuttles. We should not spend too much time outside the variant timeflow of the sphere." The Ghostwheel replies, then hovers back out of the shuttle, into the main region of the dock.

"You can scan through the black crystal?" Aurora asks with surprise. "That's excellent." Then she shrugs and lets off her levitation spell - two if necessary to get the cocoons back to their shuttle.

The stored enchantments take effect as normal, and the two cocoons that contain living people levitate as Aurora desires. Two of her bond-servants take them into custody without comment, and push them away in the direction of the pale crystal shuttle that brought them here. Avarya remains near Aurora.

There is a dull click, then Aunna's voice over the group com. "Moving to the next shuttle," she says lowly.

Aurora's voice responds softly. "There is a round access panel on the floor near the shuttle door. Open it, and then turn the key left and push the square button. At least that is what worked over here to open the thing. It produces a low-level vibration, but I don't know what it means. May just be the opening mechanism coming online after so long. You may just want to have Windseeker scan for cocoons before bothering though. Ghostwheel is going to scan the last one."

Julian remains alert, but looks back at the dead. "What should we do with them? It does not seem right to leave the Blood of Amber strewn about like rag dolls." He frowns slightly, "They have kept for this long, they can wait until our search is done." He moves to step out of the shuttle first, and sheathes his sword. "Shall we have Ghostwheel plant his sensors?"

"Are they the Blood of Amber?" Aurora asks, pausing in her steps to look at him. "Even so, they have been here 50,000 years, and they aren't exactly strewn about, beloved. We'll seal the shuttle back up and they can rest undisturbed until we can collect them and see them properly interred." Which she proceeds to do; going backwards from what opened the shuttle in order to seal it back up.

Julian shrugs just enough for Aurora to notice the motion. "I have no way to be sure, of course, but it seems likely." He eyes their surroundings to one side of where the ramp had been. "It just does not seem proper to leave them thus." He nods when Aurora says they will return, and remains alert as she seals the shuttle up again. His sword is back in its scabbard, and his bow is now ready again.

Avarya remains near one of the shuttle feet, holding her blaster in both hands, eyeing their surroundings. It transpires that closing the shuttle requires pushing the circle button. The key cannot be removed until it is turned back. Vibration again occurs in the black crystal floor as the ramp retracts back into the shuttle.

"Interesting," Aurora muses as she stands again. The key remains in her hand, and after a moment, she drops it in her pocket. "No point in letting intelligent shape shifters that are mad as hatters have access to the shuttles."

"Indeed not." Julian agrees.

She again swings around her blaster rifle again and nods to Avarya. "Ghostwheel is scanning the other shuttle that Aunna isn't doing. He'll let me know if he finds anything. Let's head for the doors. Maybe with Windseeker here, we can discover what that large block of crystal is for."

"After you, beloved," Aurora says with a smile to Julian.

The once Warder of Arden slides ahead of Aurora, his steps silent, his grace as predatory as the first day she'd seen him moving between the trees. He maintains a cautious pace, but does not linger too long in any one place, only long enough to check the possible vectors of attack or ambush, and then onward once they're determined to be clear.

Avarya falls into stride behind Aurora. Their pathway across the black crystal is unimpeded, and at the great double doors to the rear of the docking area, the block of black crystal beside the doors is damaged as it was before. The two doors stand open, and inside, the airlock region stands ready.

"The third shuttle contains no cocoons. There are crates. They are marked as medical supplies." The Ghostwheel reports across the public communications.

"We will worry about that later - if at all," Aurora's voice responds. "Aunna, if you would keep the key from the shuttle you are exploring when you are done, I would appreciate it. The rest of you go by the shuttle Ghostwheel is by and collect that key from that one. Teluidhe knows where. Then join us at the bay doors."

"Copy that," Aunna says. Then there is silence.

After Aurora speaks over the open comm link to the others and turns her attention to the curiosity in front of her

"Keep your eyes open for trouble," Aurora instructs Avarya, probably needlessly. The redhead then turns her attention to the block of crystal. She runs a gloved hand over the surface, seeking out indentations or anything that might give her a clue as to its purpose.

"Ghostwheel," she calls to her AI companion. "Are you able to scan this block of crystal by the bay doors?"

"Affirmative. What am I scanning for?" The Ghostwheel replies as it emerges from the third shuttle and hovers across in ponderous silence to join them. The two bond-servants who took the two cocoons back to their own shuttle are starting the trek toward the double-doors. The cockpit windows of the first black shuttle darken then lighten slightly, as though something is moving therein.

Aurora writes off the movement as Aunna and turns back to what she is doing. "I don't know. Life forms, circuitry, the Serpent. Anything that's not black crystal."

The AI is silent for one or two moments. "Life not present. Serpent not present. Circuitry, present." Is the report that Aurora receives. "Where am I placing these sensors?" Ghostwheel asks Julian after another brief pause.

Stifling a chuckle, Aurora eyes the crystal block with new interest. "I wonder what it does?" she muses, mostly to herself.

Julian turns to Ghostwheel, and eyes the field that he wants to cover. He asks, "What is the range of each? And how many can you make?" Once he has those answers, he orders Ghostwheel to establish an overlapping perimeter around the airlock entrance, using the construct to calculate the best distances between sensors to do so. He accounts for any potential wall-crawling abilities the shapechanged might have, as well as the possibility of some creature lowering itself with the use of webbing or something else.

Aunna opens the group com. "Located artillery," she says. "No sign of anything else."

"Useful artillery?" Aurora asks, sounding slightly distracted again. "Or more of the same, but in elegant black?"

"Looks like a heavier version of what you gave us," she replies. There's a sound like moving metal, then, "And yeah. Black. I'll see about shoving some of it out into the bay."

"I am carrying 24 manufactured sensor units. They have a range of 5 metric meters radius." The Ghostwheel informs Julian. As they go about setting these in place, the two bond-servants arrive, and confer with Avarya. All three arrange themselves in what appears to be a guard perimeter around Aurora.

Aurora smiles to herself at their actions and walks around the block of crystal to examine all sides while she waits for the others. "Be sure and put at least one or two around our shuttle if possible," she calls to Julian and Ghostwheel. With her guards there, she feels alright to conjure up a light spell for her examination. The stored light-spell works properly thankfully. From the looks of it, the crystal block once had something on top of it, and this extra part was removed violently.

The petite redhead pushes herself up on her arms like a gymnast to better study where something once was. "Hmm. I suppose we'll have to visit one of the other hangers another time to see if there's another one intact. Unless Windseeker knows." Since she's mostly talking to herself, she doesn't expect an answer. Aurora drops back down to the floor and rejoins her guards to wait on the others. She smiles when she sees Julian.

"He's just as beautiful as I remember," she says with a nudge to Avarya's arm. "I still can't believe he's really here."

The sensor net that Julian wished for is mostly in place. Avarya stares ather mistress as though she has no idea what to say in response to that.

Aurora grins and shrugs. "It makes me happy."

"Oh, and I had a completely unrelated thought; can you teach me how to shapeshift? Your old Master seemed to think I should be able to, and I am Mandor's granddaughter."

Ariaunna's voice issues from the comm link. "The armory has been unloaded. Except for the creature hiding out in the first shuttle, the landing bay appears secure."

"I'm sending Teluidhe, and Zuithnel over to assist," comes Aurora's reply. "I'll leave weapons distribution to you. I would like one of the blasters. In case they're different somehow." Aurora gestures for the other two females in question to assist Aunna.

"Of course, Mistress." Avarya says across the communications linkage in response to Aurora's original query. "Though.. will not your lover be jealous?"

Her brow furrows with a confused frown. "Why would he be jealous?"

"Shapeshifting is a sensual art, Mistress." Avarya says. "If I teach you as I was taught, then he would be jealous. And you would be unhappy."

"Ooooh," Aurora nods in understanding. "That's interesting. But I'm fair certain that's not how Tytus was taught."

"I don't know about that, Mistress Aurora." Avarya says.

Julian notices Aurora, and walks over. He notices her smiling, and raises an eyebrow, his expression placid, save for the smirk that threatens to break free. "The sensor net is just about complete. Your Ghostwheel has done a fine job. We should be able to set out momentarily." He appears thoughtful for a moment, "Shapeshifting. That could prove — interesting."

His wife leers playfully up at him. "Oh, aye, my Lord Huntington. Though I'm thinking we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. It'll probably be ages before I can manage anything that — subtle."

TOC - Where the While Things Are

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License