Log:Black Squadron: The Haunted Forest
Black Squad deployed into the 'haunted forest' over two hours ago. A tremendous amount of time has been dedicated to navigating the swamps and listening to the mysterious sounds of wildlife. On more than one occasion, something has taken flight from a bush or low-hanging branch, prompting a slight scare from the otherwise stark quiet surroundings.
It is nearing hour three, and Captain Kare' 'No Joy' Kun is growing annoyed with the lack of progress being made, but it's not voiced; it shows in her actions.
Kare' pulls her hand away from her neck and sighs. "That was the size of a small freighter.. rekking hells what are we doing out here?" She laments, stepping through tall weeds to sweep her weapon around slowly. Sweat has made her dirty blonde hair slick, and she's swept it back to keep the wet, stringy strands from hanging over her tanned, scarred, and sweaty face. She hooks the buttstock of her rifle under her arm and pulls her canteen out for a long awaited drink before dumping some of the contents over her head and down the front of her black armor and gear.
Somewhere in the distance, something else takes off.
"I believe we are looking for whatever is causing the reported strange activity, sir." Rune replies to Captain Kun, completely missing the vocal cue that announced she wasn't looking for an answer. He had stopped reacting to the random breach of the forest and the taking of wing of some of its creatures a little while ago, managing to keep his hand away from the lightsaber hilt at his side after only a dozen or so such occurrences. Regardless of the creepy nature of this particular forest, if asked, he would still admit it was beautiful, much more preferable to some of the places he has been with the other Jedi.
But even he'd admit that the ship sized insects were a bit much. Dressed in blacks and browns, his normal get up for the Black Squad ground missions, Rune had forgone the voluminous robe today, choosing instead to go with trimmed down clothing, anticipating the heat of the forest and the trek through its undergrowth. Though he keeps his ears perked and eyes open for any unnatural disturbance, something that isn't a creature jump scare, he gives a smile to the crew as they travel, trying to keep spirits as high as possible.
It'd be a lovely place if it weren't for the blood-sucking bugs and killer amphibians. Oh, and vines as thick at an acklay's leg. Muddy waters with a thick blanket of green hide everything and anything within its depths; stagnant yet unnervingly there are ripples scuttling through every so often.
Ulani is perched up on a rotting, fallen log covered in moss and fungi. Festering humidity is the flavour of the day and with her knees drawn up to her chest, she's doing her best to stay dry and relatively alert. But after three hours of sitting in the swamp, it's becoming rather difficult. Her helmet rests next to her hip, the visor beaded with condensation. Red hair is sticking to her face which she tries to blow away with a huff. Nope. It's glued there.
"Maybe this is the wrong swamp?" Ulani doesn't know if she hopes if it is... or isn't.
A bit of mud has been applied over Bors's neck and face along the trek, a mad hope to stave off the blood thirsting insects as the group slog on through the muck. Grin broadening and cracking some of the earth that has become dry enough on his face, resisting the urge to answer the rhetorical.
Leave that for Rune.
But then there is that -one- thing he does when he does finally pipe in, voice still low.
"Oh, I don't know, it has its charms. Insects or no, it has a regal sort of flow to it, the wending manner of life itself cruising among the hummocks and through the sink pits. There's a distinct beauty to it." Stanging hells, he sounds serious.
"It could be an eccentric from Moenia. The most talented minds gather there and use it as a retreat. Maybe some poet is looking for inspiration." Unlike the Captain, Chani makes no overt movements to slap the surface of her skin with the palm of her hand. Despite the humidity, she's dressed in the layer of her robe over her cream garments, meaning the only parts of her skin visible are her hands and her face, much like the rest of Black Squadron. It's not the robe that's keeping her safe from the insects, however. Chani comes to a halt and takes a sweeping look around the boggy terrain. She stands on an island of moss instead of on the damp, mucky ground around it, and pants softly while trying to catch her breath from the pace they've maintained.
"I'll try something." Her breathing comes in through her nose and out through her mouth now, rather than just through her dry, parted lips. Her shoulders relax and ease back. Her whole body seems to lose some of the tension inherent in exertion over a long period of time. The absence of noise from the insects and birds living in the sprawling swamp and forests at the base of the Gallo mountains are more telling than any silence could be. Sweat trickles down the nape of her neck and her face. Her dark hair is bound up into a bun at the back, keeping her face and eyes clear of the soaked tresses. When she stretches out the bubble of her perception, there is life everywhere, but she's not looking for just anything. She tries to push beyond the many insects and animals in search of something else.
"It shouldn't be so quiet. This close to us, maybe, but the whole.." Chani gestures with her hand at the path that goes on before them. "It's like everything is holding its breath."
From the distance sounds a POP, and a full second later something zzzzzips by and WHIP-CRACKS like a whip snapping so loud, it left ears ringing. Whatever IT was displaced a small branch disturbing leaves and dropping them from the short height to the forest floor. Kare didn't need to ponder what it was.. they were in someone's scopes. "SNIPER! GET DOWN.. GET DOWN!" Had it been said any later, her voice would've been overshadowed by the noise of blaster bolts and slugs. Now suppressive fire pours in from the north at a rapid rate. Foliage and splintered wood rain down from harsh impacts, and the noise is just overbearing. Kare had dove down behind a thick fallen tree and yanked her rifle to the forefront, abandoning her canteen. "Rekking HUTTSUCKERS.. why couldn't they have shot rekking SOONER!" She fires blankly over the fallen tree if only to put rounds down range. "ANYONE GOT EYES.. WHERE ARE THESE HUTTSUCKERS!?" Kare is blind from her position, and her rate of returning fire earned her the ire of several sharpshooters.
Stepping through a series of tall bushes, the thin frame of a blue and red, bone covered infantry battledroid takes notice of the incoming fire, his chassis rocking back a step when a slug dents in the metal slightly. "ORGANIC WHO EXPERIENCES ZERO JOY, THEY ARE ENGAGING FROM THE NORTH.. TEN TARGETS.. TENTATIVE, VARIED SPECIES, LIKELY SMELLY AND DISGUSTING. ACTIVATING PROTOCOLS BASED ON MANDALORIAN DIPLOMACY." The droid's nasally voice says, heard easily over the chaos. Its thin arm reaches back and pulls free a T-27 assault rifle, which it immediately opened the breach to feed in an explosive. "INITIAL NEGOTIATION PARAMETERS ESTABLISHED, OBSTRUCTING FURTHER ARGUMENTS.."
That was the sound of the grenade released from the bottom of the rifle, and it splashed somewhere in between where the enemy pirate squad was, and Black squad. It was not an explosive round, but smoke, and it billowed out, making it impossible for either group to see each other.
"GOOD WORK, BONES! OPTICS UP PEOPLE.. LETS PICK EM OFF AS WE CAN.. JEDI YOU GOT THE LEAD.. REST OF YOU FAN OUT.. GO GO.." Kare said, mantling the log and bringing her optics down to initiate infrared.
"I wonder what for, what it is that the rest of the forest knows, save us?" Rune comments in regards to Chani's statement, hazel eyes narrowing as they peer down the path ahead. Rune doesn't have to wonder for long, the sound of the projectile zipping by coupled with the Captain's yell to 'GET DOWN!' heralds the start of the ambush. The Ysannan dodges to the side, just barely avoiding a round of blaster fire as it peppers the area in which he stood. He presses himself against a tree, snatching the cold metal cylinder from his belt to clutch it in his hand.
Rune doesn't have a good look at where exactly the enemy is, only the stream of slugs and blaster bolts indicating their direction and not precise location. Even more obscuring is the smoke that begins to billow forth from the grenade lobbed by 'Bones'... that however works to their favor.
"On it, sir." the novice Jedi replies, nodding to Chani as he prepares to move ahead. Rune closes his eyes for a split second, summoning the Force to assist him in elevating his speed. With the power wrapped around his form, the scruffy Force user is off like a shot, disappearing in the smoke as he closes the distance between the himself and their targets.
The noise is completely foreign to Ulani and she's gets all of a second or two to ponder what kind of bug /that/ was before Kare is screaming. A lot. The Kuati woman's reaction time is lagging. The order to 'GET DOWN!' is followed just after the others, the swamp water almost to her knees in places as she stoops down clutching her rifle.
Mister Bones -- whom welcomed Ulani to the Black Squad by nearly killing her on day one -- is a welcome presence now. Even if he is annoucing loudly something about Mandalorian diplomacy. Optics up, the scattering of targets dots her visor and Ulani uses the smoke screen to advance.
Or try to. Her foots gets stuck in what must be thousands of years of muck that causes her to stop abruptly; tugging on her own leg until it is freed once more.
<"No Joy, follow my fire direction."> snapped out quickly under the throaty cough of his blaster's first three shots, creating spiraling whorls in the smoke before Bors drops to a knee, trying to shrink his profile, scuttling towards a hump of mossy stone and soil with swamp grass pushing through.
A scream rolls from the mist and smoke of the swamp in the wake of the second cluster of plasma darts, somewhere in the trees - perhaps to thin the fire being brought against them in return.
<"Can't make out numbers."> squinting into the mess.
No warning comes from the Force before the forest turns into a battleground. Blaster rifle and slugthrower fire files the area with a cacophony of noise. It drowns out the shrieks of distant animals as they scatter from the area. Tree trunks splinter off bark as slug rounds impact and dig deep into their wood. Mucky spots on the ground flash vaporize as blaster bolts smack into it and evaporate the water to leave behind a blackened cake of mud. Bones calls out a direction, but Chani has no means to know where that is. She has neither compass nor display to inform her. It's not until the cloud of roiling smoke comes up and begins to separate them off that it becomes apparent, especially as blaster rifle fire lights the grey cloud up red when bolts pass through it.
Chani glances to Rune, but Rune is already nodding to her and taking off. She has little choice but to follow, though she doesn't take off with the aid of the Force. Captain Kun has ordered them ahead, anyway, and Chani darts ahead into the smoke, robe whipping about her legs and boots. She secures her lightsaber hilt into her right hand, but doesn't activate it. She doesn't want to be a target in the smoke cover.
<"Right with you, El-tee. Let's go.."> Kun answers, firing in the direction Bors indicated and scoring a devastating hit against one of the pirates. Incoming fire rains in all directions, though the pirates have no clue where to aim. Bits of the forest and trees continue to splinter, crack, and explode from heavy impacts yielded by modified weapons. Distant voices could be heard as pirates attempted to mount a defense to hold them off. "AMATUERS, SEE?! THEY DON'T EVEN USE EXPLOSIVES! POUR MORE FIRE THAT WAY!" Screams a pirate.
"INADVISABLE ORGANIC REFUSE. MORE FIRE DOES NOT EQUAL MORE BETTER!" Argues Mister Bones who marches right through the smoke after the rest of the unit, reloading his breach; this time he feeds in a HE/DP cannister and slides the receiver back, waiting to achieve positive I.D.
Thanks to the smoke, the team is concealed, but the smoke begins to give way, and Black Squad is much closer to their intended targets. Nine (9) pirates have begun to move forward, too. One of them is injured and stabbing a stimpack into their leg (the one Bors shot). They've left one to die, he is still clawing at his throat.
The smoke screen has completely obfuscated any view the enemy may have of the party. The only definite sign of their prey is a line of emerald that appears in the clouds moments before a Jedi leaps from within. As Rune lands, he takes the legs out from underneath a pirate, quite literally. The shock on the ne'er-do-well's face apparent as his body hits the ground. From there Rune is among the bad guys, spinning to slice a second pirate in half on a follow through swing, the ambushers suddenly finding themselves ambushed instead. His final attack hacks a fallen tree trunk in half, the fellow he had been aiming for dodging just barely to the side to avoid his overhead chop. The two halves of the tree groan and thud to the ground, rolling slightly before they settle in their new home. The young Jedi pulls back and lifts the humming weapon in front of his person, regard snapping from one foe to the next, preparing to defend should any of their return fire come near to striking him.
There's a waddle-like rhythm when it comes to walking through the swamp. A one-two high step with a lot of splashing. Breaking the water's surface tension does release a lot of the smellier marsh gas in her wake: all kinds of decay, rot, and run-of-the-mill organic by products of water that houses more life in it than a Coruscant hemisphere.
The general direction to go is rather obvious: Bors' shot followed by the other attacks is one good indiction. The other is the pirates yelling, choking, and groaning. Ulani navigates through the quickly thinning smoke until a shape emerges from within. Instincts forging themselves in real time, Ulani draws up her rifle and fires. A red streak later and the former pirate now bog food floats in the swamp.
"Sorry..." A genuine cringe yet she moves on.
Once she's in the smoke, Chani loses all visibility of the swamp around them. Blaster bolts and slugs continue to punch through, not only from the side of the direction she's advancing, but also from behind. None of Black Squadron can see her anymore. Rather than stay in the death trap for a second longer, Chani glances upwards and crouches closer to the ground. Deep divots are left in the mud once she pushes off, leaping up through the smoke and into the many-branched canopy of a nearby tree. The sprawling network of branches allows her to advance forward and her gaze scans forward, looking for any shooters that might have opted for a heightened position before unleashing a torrent of discontent towards Black Squadron's advance through the swamp.
The fight is more personal now and the pirates are not holding out well to the special forces team. Realizing the error of their ways just after a Jedi jumps from the smoke incites a terrible scream of horror. Two have fallen, then a third. Another has managed to sprint some thirty yards out just as Mister Bones releases another arching shot.
The cannister makes a bodily hit, like a slug, and punches through the poor guy like a giant hunk of metal. Bones yells, "SUPERB CATCH, ORGANIC. YOU'RE A NATURAL!" He clears the breach, dropping the steaming shell of the explosive to feed another into its place once freed from his bandolier. Kare is surprised to laughter by Bones and rekks up her shot, blasting the surface of a tree and showering a pair of pirates with wood splinters.
Chani can see, from her vantage, the sniper that allegedly took the first shot. He cycles the bolt on his rifle and is orienting it ahead to take another shot..
'Coming near' is a bit of an understatement as a bolt ricochets off his lightsaber blade to be deflected into the murk of the swamp at his feet. The young Jedi's eyes snap to the one that attacked him moments later, shifting his attention that was before he turns to engage. He lifts his saber as he wades farther into the battle, the verdant column dipping and slashing in the midst of the pirates, trying to thin the crew that threatens Black Squad.
Rune accomplishes his intent, if just barely. One of the targets before him falls to the whirling blade, the other somehow dancing gracefully backward in the sucking mud of the forest floor, both slices of the glowing blade coming within inches of harm. Rune would have chuckled at the droid's remark were he not so focused on the enemies ahead, his attack continuing forward while the pirates numbers thin.
<"Well done, Mister Bones!"> It was a /really/ good throw, afterall.
Ulani ducks under a natural archway of massive roots draped in vines and takes in a deep breath of... swamp. They are three hours in and yet every breath feels like the first. She may get the medic droids to check her for parasites later.
During this stolen reprieve, a movement catches her peripheral and a grizzled man breaks through the foliage. With a startled yelp, Ulani's upper body twists in that direction and fires without her thinking. The shot rips through the man's upper leg and in a splash, he disappears under the water. And his body doesn't come back up.
Blinking, Ulani moves ahead; giving /that/ particular spot a wide berth.
Most of the enemies fall to a combination of blaster rifle fire and Rune's lightsaber. The numbers thin rapidly. Spotting a sharpshooter in the branches of a tree not far from her own, Chani's left hand reaches out to take hold of the weapon in their grasp through the Force. Pulling it free with a tug of closing fingers, Chani sends it scattering into the swamp to submerge in muck and water. Others continue to perish while Chani watches Ulani, Mister Bones, and Captain Kun open fire and soon there are only a couple of the enemies left. Chani remains on her perch and keeps her gaze trained on the enemy she disarmed in the first place, just in case they try to pull some back up weapon to continue to fire on those of the New Republic force down below.
Kare blasts another pirate center chest as he broke off from their defense to flee. The blast, and concussive impact from the A280, is enough to twist the man into a small spin before splashing into the swamp never to rise again. Only one pirate remains and he stares dumbfounded at the spot his sharpshooter rifle had been cast, not knowing what manner of force or entity was responsible for it.
Something rises up behind the pirate.. around all the dead pirates. They appear like swamp monsters having been submerged entirely. The pirate can hear the dripdripdrip of water, the shift in the subtle tide, and he begins to shiver thinking MAYBE.. it was this creature behind that was responsible for claiming his rifle.
That creature taps the pirate on the shoulder, and when they turn about to look, the Gungan is holding his discard weapon and strikes him with the buttstock of it, rendering him unconscious. He isn't permitted to fall in the water; the pirate is caught by another Gungan and eased to the ground to be restrained. "Yousa mighten be droppin' this in WRONGUH place, hisen. Yousa sleep now, okie day!" WHACK!
"DA NABOO?" Captain Tass calls out, pulling back the shroud of his swamp hood to reveal the familiar Gungan face. Around them stand a number of other Gungans, taking their cue from the Captain to draw back their hood.
The pirate Rune had been advancing on turns to run... before he learns to fly, Captain Kun's A280 bolt assisting the man in catching air. The young Jedi whirls around, looking for any other offensive when the shapes begin to rise from the water. He pulls back, on guard, hoping he's prepared for anything... that is, anything except the hoods on the creatures to be yanked back and revealed as allies.
He laughs and lowers the glowing weapon to his side, idly thumbing the activation stud to withdraw the humming blade from sight. "Indeed, it is good to see you. Quite an entrance." Rune remarks with a grin, turning his head back toward the rest of his party to check on their status. Chani he doesn't see, and an eyebrow lifts as he swivels about looking for his friend.
Dread washes over Ulani as something -- somethings -- are rising out of the waters. Her rifle is at the ready though not firing yet and good thing because the unmissable voice pattern of Captain Tass is easy to identity. Visably relaxing, Ulani points her rifle towards the swamp and breaths a sigh of relief. "Captain Tass. Oh, thank goodness." It's a bit late for a cavalry but she'll definitely take it.
Slipping out of the tree via the branches until she can go no lower and must drop, Chani makes sure to squat deep on the landing to absorb the impact through her body and transfer it to the soft mush of the ground underneath her boots. Rising, she trudges forward and through the dissipating smoke towards the Gungans who have appeared. Her lightsaber hilt is fastened back to her left hip on her leather belt and her robe sweeps and ripples around her legs while she crosses the distance to the rest of the group. "Captain Tass." Chani bows in greeting. "Thank you for your assistance." She glances among the other Gungans and then to their own, unsure if any had been injured in the fighting that broke out. Everyone seems to be accounted for.
"Wesa come from a GREAT success. Disen hisens fled the camp theysa had deeper in da swamps. Wesa hit, theysa not see till TOO late." Captain Tass explains. Meanwhile Kare places a hand over Mister Bones' weapon, forcing it down. When her hand leaves, the weapon defiantly raises again. She pushes it down again, Bones lifts it in return. She smacks his beak like head and points, saying something low to the droid, pushing the weapon down, /again/. It stays, long enough for Kare to look away, and raises once more. Mister Bones head scans idly, but does not speak.. for once.
Captain Tass issues a sharp whistle, and more Gungans appear. A larger pair, hunkered over a bit, appear as well, but when the swamp cloak was pulled back, the child being carried by a Gungan is revealed.
"GREAT success, looky looky. The hatchling is unharmed. Only hungry.. thirsty. Wesa travel together, now? STRONGER.. together?"
Definite relief floods Rune's face at the sight of the kidnapped child in their care. "Oh thank the Force." He sighs, the smile that found the Gungans earlier nearly breaking the boundaries of his face as he takes them all in. "Well done, well done indeed." the Ysannan remarks, pulling a small canteen from one of his belt pouches to offer to the child. "Stronger together." he intones, not giving their word that they would travel back with them. That's not his order to give. The lightsaber hilt is replaced on his belt and he turns to look at the rest of the group, his eyes lighting on Chani once she made her appearance. Lastly, his gaze falls on the Captain, awaiting her order as to what happens next.
The antics of Mister Bones brings a soft chuckle to Ulani. So long as he doesn't open fire, anyways. It's all fun and games until someone is shot.
The mirth changes at the sight of the child. Ulani powers down her rifle and slings it over her shoulder, rushing over as quickly as she can towards him, pushing her matted red hair away from her face and beaming a friendly grin. "There you are. You know, we've been looking for you." Crouching down, she extends a hand towards him and gives him a bit of a nod. "It's okay. You're safe now. We're going to take you home, all right?"
"Amazing work, Captain Tass!" Chani's surprise is not concealed when they reveal the young one they've been escorting with them. Chani moves forward, left arm twisting towards her side and sweeping back her brown robe to expose her lightsaber hilt and the pouches along her belt. Unfastening one of them, she withdraws a squared, foiled ration and eases down into a slight crouch to offer it out to the child. Chani glances over to Captain Kun, awaiting the word from the officer. "We were investigating reports of strange activity in this section of the forest from one of the ranger outposts. That camp of pirates may have been what they were talking about. I thought it may have been someone from Moenia, but we haven't seen anyone until this ambush."
"Together," Kun repeats, nodding her agreement. She steps aside, yielding command to the natives who had a better understanding of the land than she ever would. Kare didn't need help looking foreign to Naboo, but she was aided in this by a large bug, which she smashed against her neck with a loud smack. It didn't die. It took off and she moved away from it making a noise of disgust. Then, a Gungan tongue shot out and snatched the insect right out of the air and chewed it, chuckling. Kare looked like she was going to go green. This concerns Mister Bones, who regards her with a slight turn of its long head and face.
"Do you require maintenance? Diagnostic exam? This unit is capable of performing cavity searches to ascertain organic anomalies. Do you wish to comply?!"
The battle droid, of course, has an affect on the Gungans who study it. Some slip out boomers, anticipating the inevitable betrayal of the eccentric battle unit, but Bones seems solely dedicated to coercing Kare to a strip search for 'organic anomalies.'
"Bones.. stop. I will leave you out here to rust." Kare threatens, and a few of the Gungans laugh.
The child stirs and steps out to see Rune, Ulani, and Chani. He accepts the canteen from Rune and drinks a lot of water. Then takes the ration bar from Chani and says, "Thanks! -- We were playing a game of hide.. they taught me this trick with the straw.. to breathe underwater /it was so cool/! THEN, we snuck around a lot and even saw some other animals; it was /really/ scary."
"DO THESE SCARY ORGANICS REQUIRE DELETION, HYPER-ACTIVE MINATURE ORGANIC?!"
"Woaaaaah, is that a droid?! What's with all the /bones/..?!"
"By your leave, Captain Tass." Kare says, emphasizing the need to move.
"Right! Wesa go disa way, okie day!" Captain Tass points one way, then spins the other way in a sudden course correction. It's comical given his ears flop freely. He leads the way, followed by a marching Mister Bones, and Kare is sure to bring up the rear, occasionally smacking her neck when she feels a bite.
He's not been the biggest fan of droids since he was pulled from the wastes of Ossus, however this droid and his unique sense of being has a smile cresting his lips nearly every moment he speaks. Though he will have to watch what he says lest the droid get the idea that a cavity search is necessary, something he's threatening Kare with currently. Still, it's good Bones is on their side.
Rune turns back to the child and grins, "I am glad you are safe and unharmed by the scary things seen." he remarks, starting to follow the crowd before about facing when Captain Tass adjusts his heading. Though the place is beautiful, it will take a while to get the muck and mud out of his boots, not to mention the smell of the swamp.
Smiling at the young boy and rising to her feet, Chani makes a gentle gesture for him to start following the Gungans who begin to lead the way. "Those sound like fun games. Let's get you home now, okay?" Taking up place to the back and right of the boy, Chani immediately lifts her gaze to scan the surrounding forest on constant alert for anything that might come out of it, friendly or otherwise. She maintains a constant presence near the child, but it's ever outward that she looks, hoping to find any source of trouble that might come their way before they encounter it. The contingent of Gungans, New Republic forces, and Jedi certainly present a strong tribe out in the middle of nowhere. Chani hopes that is enough to discourage any would-be attackers.