Log:Animals Bearing Fire
The Kalarban government has a problem, and that problem is vynocks. Unlike most places, where mynocks hang on ships in space, vynocks are the air-breathing cousins of those notorious parasites - and they feel on /anything/ made of metal.
Owing to a particularly new purchase of land by a development corporation, the government has arranged for a party of hunters to come to Island 332-A, a mountainous rock out in the middle of the Great Sea on the other side of the planet from civilization. After a few hours of supply in Kalarba City, you are shuttled to the location by a speeder where, it appears, other teams are busy at it.
You are given flamethrowers, a cave location where a number of vynocks currently roost, and now you are in the back of the speeder, waiting for the glittering field of water to yield up the scenery.
Sapphira has been part of the explorer's guild and defiance as well. She makes good money, but still yearns for adventure. Who needs a husband or a boss to find adventure? She can find it on her own! It involved taking a shuttle here, and somewhat unsurely bartering for her services. But somehow or another she ended up at the back of the speeder, flamethrower pack safely tucked between her knees, the gun of it resting across her lap. She reclines to one side with her elbow on the speeder's edge, her chin in her hand as she watches, watches, watches. Her first big adventure alone.
The redhead has pulled her hair up and back into the two flat buns behind each ear, and today wears a long-sleeved shirt with thumb-loops over a pair of fitted pants and boots. Simple, close-cut to avoid accidental fires. Yes, this is good.
Having flown the Firebrand to the appointed island, Vraag Rengh had disembarked clad in the new armor of the Ebon Guard mercenary group. Apparently here to make contacts with a government in need of his kind of assistance, the man is here to make good impressions. Hopping into the speeder, the Mandalorian shoulders the flamethrower and waits patiently for the others to board and for the show to get on the road.
Looking around, he notes the presence of Sapphire and cracks a grin inside of his helmet and says, "Well, well. Look who has found their way into my speeder," his voice altered slightly by the vocoder inside his helmet.
Sapphira at first doesn't seem to hear him. It takes the redhead a moment to realize that someone is speaking to her, and she slowly lifts her head and turns, green eyes blinking owlishly as if to say "me?". The man's in his armor, and his voice is distorted besides. She can't even see that grin, and can probably barely hear it. "Can I help you?" she asks, tilting her head slightly to give the suit of armor a skeptical look.
Meanwhile, through the windows of the speeder, the glittering sea yields the sight of vast aquatic creatures surfacing in the near distance; crests of bone shine like sails in the daylight, a miniature regatta that disappears as quickly as it comes as the school of beasts disappear beneath the water once again.
"Haven't seen you since looking for that lost slave girl on Rori. When I had to pull you up out of the water when you fell in. I figured you'd make your way by at some point to give me your thanks. Maybe you just didn't know where to find me?" Vraag says, giving Sapphire some hint to the man behind the mask.
It takes Sapphira a moment, but recognition flashes over her features. She misses the vast aquatic creatures and their surfacing. "Since you //what//?" She demands, color immediately flooding her cheeks. "I pulled myself out of that swamp to rescue //two other people//. Last I saw you, you were flailing beneath the surface." She pauses for a moment to look over the man, but all she can see is armor. Still, armor with all its limbs. "I'm happy for you that you're okay," she says, before her anger returns. "Except for whatever damage has unwired your brain circuitry." Oh yeah, today's mission is going to go great.
Vraag laughs again and shakes his head before saying, "That's cute. I suppose you have changed the true course of events to make it less embarrassing for you. That's quite alright. I suppose you forgot that while I was underwater, I killed both of the sea monsters that were trying to eat both of us?"
"This is Kalarban Government shuttle 427," says the pilot through the ship's intercom. "We are on our final approach to Island 332-A. Please make sure that your flame units are in good order before you disembark, and that all personal equipment is properly stowed as we touch down. We will land in five minutes, thirty-two seconds."
"I don't know, I was already well out of the water by then. So bully; you saved yourself. Not a surprise, selfish git." Sapphira huffs, her cheeks burning bright red now. She might say more but the intercom pipes up, so she looks down between her knees and begins to do a check of her equipment, looking over gauges, checking safeties, things of this nature. "Go settle down and play with yourself; I'm busy." She didn't hear it until after she said it, and pauses just a moment to curse herself. Then the checks continue.
Vraag shakes his head, still laughing at Sapphire before he grunts, "Whatever you want to tell yourself, babe." He is silent as he listens to the report from the intercom and then checks his gear before standing. He has both of his Mandalorian swords slung about his waist, while the flame thrower pack is snugly on his back. He does not sit back down, but rather reaches up to hold one of the supports on the roof of the speeder.
"Absolute git," Sapphira cusses under her breath, waiting until they're very near on their approach before she'll rise. Slinging the pack onto her back isn't nearly as easy as it likely is for the large Mandelorian, but she manages just fine with a few hops and squirms to make adjustments. Granted, with her small stature she also feels the final bumps of the ride more strongly. But she's hanging in there just fine!
It isn't long before the island in question comes into view. Kalarba's many land-masses are all fairly rocky, and Island 332-A is no exception - though as islands go, it's fairly large, centering on a mountain surrounded by foothills and rolling fields down to the beach. It's a very pleasant place, though as the speeder begins its final approach the mountain's beauty is marred in places with the bright tongues of flame that hunting teams are pouring into caves cut into the lower end of the mountain. This, based on the information packet, is where the vynocks congregate. That's where the metal is!
The shuttle touches down among the foothills, on a clearing burned clean by officials, and you can step out onto the scorched earth.
Vraag moves past Sapphira with a shoulder that may or may not be playful. He turns his head to look back at her through the golden tinted T-vizor of his helmet and says, "Just try and stay out of my way. I plan on scoring a lot of credits on this haul, and I don't need you slowing me down like you did before. Don't do anything stupid, and I won't have to save you." With that, he hops out of the door of the shuttle, his boots crunching into the scorched ground.
The nudge, playful or rude, gets a glare from the temperamental redhead. She has naturally narrow eyes that allows her glares to really carry some fire behind them. She glares him right off the speeder, stepping up to get out herself. "Wish the damn swamp monster's'd gotten your tongue," she grumbles at the Mandelorian. Her own dismount is not quite so neat or easy--she keeps one hand on the grasp at the speeder door, and the weight of the pack on landing seems to bear her down for half a second more. But she's on her feet with no sign of any problems, and she takes the (absolutely necessary) few steps to move around and away from Vraag.
You are both informed, upon arriving on the landing field, that chosen teams are being dispatched to various areas of the vynock warrens to do the horrible deed of flamethrowing animals into charcoal - but hey, hundred fifty credits a pop, what are you gonna do. The teams have already been chosen, by alphabetical order - and so, Rengh and Solari are next to each other on the list.
So you're going into this together. Isn't that fun?
And so you are piled (complaining bitterly, no doubt) onto a speeder truck, which delivers you to your destination quickly, as the driver may or may not be mildly insane. Soon enough, you are both left at the foot of the mountain, where a number of irregular, human-sized opening lead into the rock, and one imagines to an equal number of vynock barbecues.
Somewhere in the distance, the shrieking of burning animals reaches your ears.
Vraag is not impressed when he finds out that he has been partnered with Sapphira. That much is evident in the man's body language as he rides along to the appointed holes assigned to the two of them. "Don't slow us down," he says again to the woman as he looks at the holes and moves toward the biggest one.
"Just stop talking," Sapphira sighs. "Please." She's trying to focus. She makes a point not to move in directly behind Vraag, although frying his ass right about now must seem appealing, but instead moves laterally to create a crossing field of fire between the two of them into the cave, should it become necessary. Her own head, visible without a fancy helmet, swivels between the hole and the other man to make sure she doesn't get too far ahead of him, should the desire to fry her ass become apparent to him.
The largest hole it is, then.
The tunnel bored into the rock is strangely slick, as if cut with water after thousands of years; something strangely biological about it, really. Though the light reaches in briefly, the majority is swallowed just beyond the entrance, and soon the darkness greets you entirely.
Well, that's no problem, because the fuel harnesses have lamps attached to the right shoulder pads, and Vraag's helmet has night-vision optics; between the two, you can see that the tunnel twists on quite deeply into the mountain, still slick and weirdly biological, with the occasional dollop of sandy feces on the ground that serves as evidence of vynock activity. Still no vynocks, though.
Vraag moves along, hardly paying any heed at all to Sapphira behind him. Hopefully nothing will come up behind them and drag her off to her death! The Mandalorian toggles on his night vision and walks along, careful to insure that his flamethrower does not snag or hang up on anything as he follows the tunnel deeper into the mountain.
Sapphira also hopes the same for herself; she's less concerned with Vraag. As she does not have night vision, she lifts one hand away from her body to touch the side of the cave and to allow her gloved palm to slide along, making sure the tunnel doesn't make any sudden twists that she doesn't see. There's already enough twists to see, much less to be unseen. She does glance back behind them every now and again, almost wistful for the surface. But no; she came here for adventure, and adventure she shall have.
The tunnel continues, as do you - and ten or fifteen minutes in, it almost seems as if someone might have beaten you to the punch. But then...there they are.
A whole pod of vynocks rest on a particularly large patch of blue-white metal exposed by their machinations; there must be thirty or forty of the things, affixed to the ore vein by their horrible suction-cup mouths, clustered all together. Silent.
Vraag has no cause to think anything is amiss. As he spots the horde of beasties that they came for, the big Mandalorian lifts his flamethrower and pulls the trigger, filling the tunnel with a gout of flame that he sends toward the pests and turns left to right, hoping to take them all for himself.
Keep dreaming, Vraag. Sapphira is there and she is just as quick with her trigger as he is. Almost as quick. But a few seconds isn't going to make the difference. She stays to her side of the cave, and slowly moves her own fireball back and forth along the line of sleeping creatures. What has literally become a flame-pissing contest between the two seems to be ending with lots of roasted vynocks. The redhead spares no look for either Vraag or anything around her. She's focused on squinting against the sudden presence of light, trying to make sure no vynocks lunge through the flames at her.
It is at this point that the tunnel explodes.
For whatever reason, the moment the cones of flame lick upward, something in the higher strata simply detonates; instantly, the top half of the tunnel around you is transformed into a sea of flame, and a shockwave that follows it hits you both like a wall of hammers. Though neither of you are hurt, you are both driven to the ground.
And then...there is silence, and darkness once more as the flames burn out. Silence...and then, a faint, quiet rumbling.
Vraag pushes himself to his feet as soon as he is able, looking upward given that seems to have been the direction that caused the explosion. As the sound of that rumbling can be heard, Vraag turns on his heel and moves to grab up Sapphira. The large Mandalorian will either pick her up completely, or assist her to her feet and then shove her toward the tunnel leading back to the surface. "We may have caused a cave in!" he says, "Run!"
Why is Sapphira always getting thrown around like a rag doll? Today's no different, and before she can shout at Vraag to ask him what //he// did to cause the explosion, she's thrown back flat on her ass and on the fuel pack for the flamethrower. The line of flame suddenly disappates as she releases the trigger, and all is smokey and dark for her for a moment. She manages to roll onto her side, mentally doing a self-assesment when her arm is suddenly wrenched and she's being dragged to her feet by Vraag. "Wha?" She manages to choke out before his words finally settle in, and then she is in fact up and running with him, shorter though her legs may be. She stumbles a bit at the shove, but manages to keep up the speed. "I can hardly see!" She shouts to him. Running with only a shoulder light and fear means those curves in the cave come up but quick.
The rumbling builds from somewhere in the heart of the mountain, and there is the unmistakeable sound of something loud and thunderous - and suddenly the ceiling is coming apart, chunks of stone falling down over you.
Sapphira's shorter legs and the fact that Vraag heroically pressed the woman in front of him as they fled out of the tunnel no doubt slowed the long legged Mandalorian down as the boulders began to fall from the ceiling around them. The going is just not fast enough, and the man just just too big in the tunnel and he is unable to dodge the falling debris that collides with his shoulder and knocks him sideways into a stone wall.
It's a miracle that Sapphira even notices the lazy Vraag fall behind. But somehow she senses it, and turns to notice the large man is no longer there. She pauses, spinning so the shoulder light flashes back down the cave. "Move!" she howls at him, reaching back to try and grab his nearest arm to pull him forward. She turns to run again, holding and hopefully leading the man toward the light at the end of the tunnel. The good one, not the bad one.
Well, there you are, Vraag. Chucked against a wall, half-covered in boulders. Lying amogst the vynock scat. You're not dead, however, and short of a bloody nose and a fairly deep bruise on your right shoulder, it appears things are fine. Not even a cracked rib. Sapphira pulling you up certainly doesn't feel good, though, but the two of you proceed down the tunnel once more...in time for it to collapse behind you, totally sealing you from a return trip.
And then, there are voices ahead.
"I saw him come in. Filthy Mando." A male voice. Angry.
"Yeah, what about that other one?" Another male, but less sure.
"She's probably one of 'em also. Roast 'em both." A third voice. Female. Nothing unsure in /her/ tone.
Vraag is grumbling angrily inside of his helmet, and he says aside to Sapphira, "I told you not to slow me down!" He shakes his head and hangs the rifle of his flame thrower on the hook of the fuel cell on his back. He is about to say more when the voices drift their way. He turns his head to look at Sapphira and shakes his head in anger. Unclasping the waist belt of his flamethrower, the Mandalorian pulls the weapon from his back and sits it on the cave floor. He draws free both of his swords, holding one in either hand as he eyes the tunnel walls. "If you're looking to turn me over, now seems to be a good time," he says to Sapphira.
"Slow //you// down? I came back for you!" Sapphira snaps back, and the anger in her cheeks is almost glowing red in the darkness. She seems like she too might say more, but the voices. And more importantly, their //words//. Sapphira gives Vraag a look when she the message becomes clear, the age-old "Are You Fucking Kidding Me?!" look. It speaks volumes.
She watches him in the half-light withdraw his weapons. In the meantime, she reaches up to snap off her shoulder light, and then will lean forward to do the same to Vraag's if he'll let her get that close to him. After all, he's got night vision, right? "If I don't turn you in, will you shut your mouth, finally?" Her tone makes it clear; she's not going to turn him in. After all, those voices could always be //worse//. Less annoying, but worse.
"I can't see anything down this gods-be-damned tunnel," one of the two males are saying - you are situated at a slight bend, which gives you a good sight of the harness spotlights as they play across the rocks. They're getting closer.
Vraag gestures for Sapphira to be quiet before moving over to the tunnel wall and placing his back to the wall of the bend. He makes himself as flat as possible, counting on that bend in the tunnel wall to keep him from view. His armor is black, which lends itself to the darkness of the tunnels. The Mandalorian watches the approaching light from the strangers' fire harnesses, and he uses that to gauge the distance they are from him, biding his time until they are close enough to spring into action with his twin blades.
Sapphira gives Vraag another Look(tm) but once her light and his are out she does step back and out of the way, back against the wall in a similar fashion. He'll hear her breathing, and be able to see her if he turns his helmeted-head, but in the dark she's as much at a disadvantage as the attackers. So for now she stays back and out of the way of what, one imagines, will soon be swinging blades.
"Hey." The woman speaks now. "Can you see that?"
"What?" The less ready male.
"...the tunnel's collapsed up ahead."
"What do you want to do?"
"I say we just send fire down there," says the other, harder male.
"All right," says the woman. "Get ready. On three."
Close or not, looks like something's got to give.
Vraag waits as long as he can, watching the approach of those suit lights. As soon as the sound of flamethrowers getting ready to begin firing down the tunnel, however, the Mandalorian launches himself around the corner with a wild yell and charges the people there. His swords flash wildly, not really aiming to kill each person outright, but he is very much aiming for the hoses that feed fuel to those flame weapons.
Sapphira has put herself in Vraag's obnoxious hands. She's pinned herself back against the wall, squeezing herself flat as though she might be able to soak back through the stone. When the order is about to be given to light them all up in a fiery death? She lets out one little wimper of fear and turns her face away, just before the Mandelorian goes in, blades swinging. She'll just stay here, for now. Hoping for the best ... whatever the best is.
And there he is, Vraagh Rengh, a storm of Mandalorian iron, whirling around into...a very surprised pair of people dressed as though there were out on a pleasure hunt.
It isn't pretty.
He moves through them like a coil of razor wire swirled all about them, steel flashing, cloth tearing, flesh rending, metal giving way. Though he doesn't necessarily kill them, the young man and woman between whom he passes are robbed of their weapons, a lower arm, seven fingers, and the majority of a right knee. They tumble together, cruel amputees, and there is a moment of silence before they both start screaming.
Beyond them is a fat young man who - unlike his far trimmer, beautiful, and now mangled fellows, has already dropped his flamer. "Oh, oh, gods," he screams, "Don't kill me! I don't want to die!"
The Mandalorian is surprised at the apparel worn by the screaming and crying weaklings left behind in the wake of his fury. He holds up a sword to point at the man, pacing him as he drops his flame thrower and saying, "Come over here and kneel with your buddies. You tell me why you were looking to fire on me and my partner. You do not even know us."
Speaking of partner, Sapphira suddenly appears with a soft click and a flash of light from her shoulder-lamp. It //sounds// as though Vraag has the upper hand, so it's apparently a good time for her to make her appearance. She does so with a poking of her pale, freckled face around the bend in the cavern. After taking a moment to appraise the situation, she moves quickly and quietly around Vraag to the injured first. Perhaps she's tending to them? Oh no, no. She's searching them for weapons.
Which they don't have. Money? Identification? Yes. And a swiftly depleting supply of blood plasma. All three are human, or so it would appear, though the wounded young man's got the worst of it - where the girl just lost most of her fingers and a knee, he's missing an arm and a leg. His skin is waxy pale, and he's already going into shock. Blood is everywhere.
"Oh, please," begs the fat youth, scrambling over on his knees toward Vraag, slipping and falling twice in the blood and crying out miserably as he does so. "Please! I...I didn't want to - they wouldn't hurt you!"
Vraag reaches out with the flat of his sword and slaps the crying youth with the flat of his blade. "It sounded like they were about to hurt not only me, but this poor pretty, slow, and delusional woman. So? What was your reason?"
He cries out again, shaking his head. "No! Augh! Ow....." Tears are streaming down his face, and he is frankly a miserable sight. "I cut...I cut their fuel lines when th-they weren't looking!"
While the young man has gone silent, the girl screams. "Erant! You kriff...ing traitor!"
"No, Lariti," the fat youth shouts, his face blooming with crimson. "You knew what he was like! You're as bad as he is!" He looks to Vraag, then, shaking his head. "They're m-monsters," he says. "Let...just let me go, and I'll f-fix everything. Just...just go! And I'll say there was an a-accident! Please..."
Speaking of slow ... that's the look that Sapphira turns to give Vraag. Absolute rage in her cheeks, and loathing in her eyes. "Next time I am turning you in, kriffing bastard." She tucks the money away into her pocket, rising up from her kneeling position. "I"ll send some medical assistance," she tells Vraag flatly. And then she turns to walk off, to leave him in the cave with his new friends without so much as a second glance.
Vraag doesn't really pay much attention to the goons, not really listening to their pleading or fighting. He turns on his heel and stomps after Sapphira, "I'll take half of that money you lifted from those assholes."
As the two of you leave, you hear a telltale hissing from the mouth of the tunnel - hissing, light, and blast of heat, and screams that fade in a few moments.
Looks like that problem just cleared itself up.
"It's my fee for not turning you in," Sapphira fires back, glancing once over her shoulder as the light from the tunnel finally makes it possible to see again. Glare. She's all glare. "Don't you have some interrogating to do?" She demands. "I'll get the authorities. Go about your business." She looks back over her shoulder again and flicks her wrist at him in a delicate 'go away' motion.
She has just gotten clear of the mouth of the cave where she can take in some fresh air when the hissing starts. She breathe deep, and before she can exhale the explosion behind her happens. She spins on it, looking down the cave and back to the armor that is Vraag. "Now what did you do?!"
Vraag's blades are still in hand, and his legs long enough to carry him to catch up to the walking engineer in short order. Hustling, Vraag whips his blade out until it is pointed menacingly directly in Sapphira's face. "I am only going to warn you once. If you do not give me half of the credits, I will simply take them all. That is the beginning and end of this debate. Decide quickly, I am growing tired of this."
As Sapphira turns, she finds herself facing Vraag and his sword. She's taken aback, so much so that she does take a half step back away from him. But not enough to give the impression of running. That's not smart. She does glare at him, though, her eyes flitting down the tunnel, then back to Vraag. If he weren't wearing that helmet, she'd be meeting his gaze with a loathesome glare of her own. There's a flash of realization in her features. "Should've turned you in," she says, with surprising certainty. Without looking, she pulls a handful of credits from her pocket and pitches them back down the cave and away from the pair. They don't go far, just beyond the mouth of it. But they go all the same. Then she glares again.
The Mandalorian watches closely as Sapphira gives him that glare and then makes mention of turning him in. He doesn't seem to mind either, until she draws the credits from her pocket and tosses them into back into the cave. "That will cost you," he grunts through the vocoder in his helmet before he moves quickly. He lashes out with his left sword, slapping the side of Sapphira's face hard with the flat of the blade, a surely non-lethal attack that serves to stun the woman as his other hand comes crashing in, leading with the hard end of a sword handle, the blunt metal connecting solidly with her temple, hopefully with enough force to drop the woman to the ground.
Sapphira manages to let out a cry when the flat of the blade connects with her high cheekbone, but it's cut off in an abrupt choked sound when the sword handle connects with her temple. It's enough to split the skin, and bright red blood starts to mingle with her red hair, to trickle down her pale in. But all of that can be observed from above, because Sapphira Solari goes down, crumpling in the direction of the hit. She was out before she landed, never even able to try to catch her fall. There she remains, in the grass just near the mouth of the cave, eyes closed and unmoving. The only immediate sign of life is the breathing and the continued pulse of bright red blood.
Vraag looks down at the fallen woman and shakes his armored head in a disappointed fashion. He sheaths both swords, bending low to rifle through the woman's pockets, pulling out whatever credits he finds. He tsks softly at the amount he finds and shakes his head before skimming half and placing the rest back in the woman's pocket, while the other half goes into his belt. "I told you I'd only take half," he says to her unconscious form before patting her down for whatever weapons she might have. If he should find a blaster, he will remove the firing mechanism, least she wake up before he is finished. He then hustles to gather the thrown credits before returning to Sapphira. He bends and grabs up one of her wrists and lifts her upward to sling over his shoulder. He then begins walking back in the direction of the shuttles and transports. As soon as he can find a medical team, the Mandalorian will leave the woman in their care, explaining that Sapphira was the victim of an attack in the tunnels, then hop whatever transport he can back to the Firebrand and head back to Nar Shaddaa.
This is why the Creator never meant humanoids to have flamethrowers. Fire, fuel, treachery, and - ultimately - blood. It just never fails.
And so is Sapphira left to bleed in the hot sun, perhaps to be found later. Perhaps without heatstroke, or worse. Will Vraag know? Not now. But, most likely, he will find out in the future. In what form or fashion has yet to be seen.