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My timing these days is not good - saw the contest two days before it closed, during a very busy period. So, while I started writing on Tuesday, I never got back to finish it. Oh well, one for my short stories collection... Will comment on the entries once I have the time, which will probably be after weekend.
Day ??? of year 384 Post-Downfall
Sunstorm onset

The Lone Survivor

"Where would you flee?"
“Uh...” Hello-fellow hesitated. He'd have to remember to actually not call the guy that to his face, but at the very least Enn's mental nickname also served as a sort of mnemonic; there was little chance he'd forget that particular combination of letters this particular guy had been assigned anymore, barring a particularly hard blow to the head. He also remembered Kay, since she had been the first non-Anderekian he had not been assigned to shoot, making the entire encounter different, and he remembered his own new label because it was literally his - or his old, "dead" self's - initials, but if his suspicions were true, then it would be all too easy to lose track among all these pick-two-letters-from-the-alphabet folks he would probably need to come to be able to organize in his head, somehow. As long as he was not wrong about these folks' ability to read minds, it shouldn't really matter how he referred to them in his mind, so... “I... don’t know?”
No protocol, and no decisions, then. Ab-so-lu-te-ly brilliant. His jaw behind his outwardly featureless helmet clenched as Kay took over and effectively explained that he was the only one - or rather, one of the very few people - in the entire settlement who had a somewhat serviceable mental map of what (and more importantly, who) was where to boot. And while his idea of where Anderekian bases and some Trenian bases and other settlements were was rather accurate, there were plenty of gaps in his knowledge of this entire plate.
“Though if anyone knew where to go, it’d be Gramps. He used to be a trader!” There was blatant admiration in Ell's voice, and even Enn himself was given a pause.
"Trader?" his surprise was evident from his voice, reproduced by the helmet as it was ever so slightly notched in the speaker's direction. He knew what the word meant, in the general, technical sense, but... Even Trenians, to his knowledge, only traded among their own faction, and probably only rarely outside of routine exchanges meant mostly to feed the military, literally and figuratively. Trading with outsiders was, quite probably, considered worth less than assimilation, and not worth the risk with other factions of significant power.
He would not be able to precisely put a finger on what exactly the role of Trenian civilian settlements was compared to their bases, but from what he had seen it had felt more like a distinction between specialized military facilities, and general production and human reserves. More reliant on inter-base and -settlement infrastructure, but also more compact on either end. Trenian settlements were usually simple residences, warehouses and factories away from the frontier, surrounded only by inconspicuous automated defenses unless an incoming assault was expected or intersected, but their bases were nothing but armaments, walls, silos, and things to make more armaments, silos and walls with. Warcraft nests, tank hives. Often underground.
Anderekian bases were more mixed in nature, more expansive, at once less and more vulnerable. Harder to attrition, easier to penetrate. More controlled, less divided.
“But I have no idea. Honestly I’m not even completely certain that he wants us to run. He hasn’t actually told me what the plan is, it’s just my guess from what he has us doing.”
"I see." Notrau's tone was flat. They were now in the settlement limits, which gave him ample opportunity to, well, quite literally see. Complementing patchwork monstrosities which stood for vehicles around these parts, there was a lot of chaos in the streets. The sort that could probably only result from a bunch of people faced with uncertain doom being told to take everything what was needed for an equally undefined future. The contrast with Trenian civilians was stark. But then again, bullets and bombers weren't exactly an unambiguous threat. On some weird level, he thought he could relate. Maybe not to the dropping things and running around aimlessly part, but certainly the lack of protocol thing.

Enn remained markedly unperturbed when the pickup skidded to a halt - he had been holding onto the side of the cargo hold for a reason, and armor built to negate the recoil of a gun such as his had its perks.
He was not entirely certain what he had been expecting when Kay had told him about Gramps - aside of him being the de facto leader of the place, in charge of the good old "SHOOT HERE" sign, and something about a cup of tea. Probably an average elderly guy, someone who might have been an aging technician still just about considered fit for duty in Anderekian context.
The guy next to the tank Kay indicated as Gramps was anything but, age notwithstanding. More than anyone else here, he made Enn think of a soldier, though it would have been hard to find a living one who was wearing as little armor out in the open. It made it blatantly obvious if someone was looking at you. No wonder. He was at least as out of place here, if not more so.
Seeing that the pickup was now immobile, Enn stood in one fluid motion, though still makin sure that his one hand remained hanging inertly by his thigh, and the other following suit once it could no longer hold onto the edge of the cargo bed. Look, then. He was about half a head shorter than Gramps, but one could imagine no less fit. As it was, his dull yellow-green outfit left almost everything but his height and lack of overt rotundness to imagination. He was wearing enough armor to shrug off many a smaller round point blank, and judging by the gun on his back, was meant to fight the same, after all.
In any case, it appeared he passed the preliminary inspection and was granted permission to move forth. So he did, in what appeared to be his habitual exact, yet not overly threatening manner. Unless indicated otherwise, he stopped a couple of meters away from Gramps. Point one, identify yourself. Didn't even matter whether they knew who you were.
"Enn-Que. Infantry, anti-infantry and light vehicles." Reporting in. The normal thing would have to wait for instructions, but he supposed this was written off for the time being. "Who I was is dead; purposefully led into elimination or written off as unsalvageable loss, I don't know. Either way, I'd be shot as traitor, and they'd be no kinder to you simply because you're outsiders, so my presence here makes no difference to your potential relations. I am with Eighfour now." He took a deeper breath, not quite a sigh. Since it was not externally reproduced, it came off as simply a brief pause. "Kay and Ell gave me a brief overview of some thing that have ensued on our way here. I still have a fairly up to date knowledge of the terrain, and nearby locations of multiple factions' forces and bases, as well as the tactics, units and predisposition of the same. And my equipment and skill set."

74:02:07 LNT
(early evening)

In Mahz's Dev Journal 3 mos ago Forum: News
In fairness, what does Persistent World offer than warrants it being given (the most) premium real estate? Merely being on the front page is an incredible boost to visibility, and beyond that, I would hope that something intended to be of unique or greater quality/experience than other RPs would stand on its own merits.

I sometimes also feel that it might turn people not interested in Star Wars - or whatever the persistent world currently is - off from the site itself. Think of your average person who will do a Google search and then pass over things in the first thirty seconds on the first round of filtering. "This is 18+ only, this is closed for newcomers, this is a Star Wars one, oh, this one looks promising!"
Domhnall MacRaith

“Hello companion-Domhnall,” the large bestial fellow responded to his greeting, before glancing behind himself, supposedly to gauge people's mood and overall inclination towards himself. Most of them were too tired, too injured, or both to show more than mild trepidation.
“These ones are...different,” Claw enjoyably remarked. “Very different.”
From them? Or the people of Rodoria as they usually were? Or humans as such? The plague and misery hang above everyone here, by the appearance of it. Nary a family which hadn't lost anyone, and the market was shot with a third of the people gone, or however-the-much it was. Was weariness what made the difference?
"How so?" the forestfolk opted to clarify in the end, eyebrow raised, even as the wolf-man seemed to count his new compaions, finally settling on the greeter-fellow.
“Domhnall, who is this one?” he gestured at the one.
"Eh..." he actually needed a pause to think. "The lad's a feller tha's here tae greet us and show us the way. Our folk's contact in the City made an arrangement of sorts. The boss-man and his lass wi' the beastie wen' aheed; we'll probably meet up wi' them once inside."
Day ??? of year 384 Post-Downfall
Sunstorm onset

The Lone Survivor

Kay looked at him and smiled. Hello-guy looked at him and appeared uncertain. Everyone else looked at Hello-guy and seemed to wait for a verdict. “Get in the truck, I’ll fill you in on the move. Kay-Gee is right; you two need to see Gramps.”
"Acknowledged," he said. Standard response, produced without much thought. Correct, he thought. Whatever the conventions here, asking for more details was, evidently, a safe enough option, though judging by the reactions of the people, it was perhaps not the expected one. But it was approved of, nevertheless, with the promise of more information to follow.
As long as he could continue operating as a soldier, it would be fine. He was used to having guns pointed at him. Used to the knowledge that a bullet might take his head off at any moment. It was the things that did not fit his world that he was worried about. Things that were entirely unfamiliar, and things that his instincts told him were wrong. In the interim, he would just try to survive. And try to figure out a way how these rather unexpected acquaintances could survive, too. All ... how many of them, exactly? He did seem to recall Kay saying Eighfour was not a big place, consisting of just what he saw ahead, but it was nevertheless a lot to take in ... going from functionally one to, what, two thousand?
He was not an officer. Planning things for others was not what he did. He followed orders. Glancing at Kay from behind his seemingly opaque visor, he finally moved. With habitual ease, he was up (apparently, his armor enabled quit the range of motion) and settled with his back to the side of the cargo bed. If need be, he could get his gun out, assume a middle brace position, and shoot over the edge easily enough. For now, he was resting, watching. Thinking.
“I didn’t see the craft myself, but witnesses on the wall said that it was ‘small’ - whatever that means – and nimble enough to maneuver back and forth between the trees. It was fully VTOL capable and was seen accelerating quickly in any direction, even laterally, while using jet propulsion of some kind. They said it was triangular, sort of... like an arrowhead.”
Sounded more like a bloody fighter jet than a drone, albeit one piloted by an absolute madman ... or a machine mind. Especially given the weather.
"This small to twice that," he held out a hand with thumb and middle finger spread out, "- and we'd talking about a surveillance bug, but I doubt anyone would be impressed by one getting through the trees, or that it'd be noticed. A meter or two long, wingless or as broad as one of those large black birds in these forests - one like that would be of Trenian origin -, and it'll be a gun drone. Some of those are indeed equipped with rocket engines of some description. Bigger than that, and it probably was either not a drone, or it was a cargo drone. Not that I know anyone who'd be capable - or enough of a lunatic, even under threat of outright execution - of piloting a fighter through these trees. Not any person alone, anyhow." Pause. "I could already pick up static when I woke this morning. I doubt there was enough connection stability to manually control a drone with considerable finesse under these conditions, unless the operator was within a couple of kilometers at most. AI involvement - either as control aide or as a full machine mind embedded in the craft - is extremely likely. Would explain the maneuverability, too."
It didn't quite sound like something he had seen, but he was not willing to bet on the credibility of the relayed witness account, either. It did not sound like something Anderekian. Trenian, any of the unnamed abominations of the west or an entirely unknown faction were all equally likely until he heard more details.
“Gramps doesn’t know where it’s from, so we don’t who we’re dealing with. We’ve tripled the number of people on the walls, powered up the flak turrets and were just headed out on patrol when we spotted you two. Everyone else is making sure everything is fueled and loading vehicles with as much as we can fit... I think Gramps wants to run.”
If they did not have the fleet to go east, the air carriers to go east or south, the northeast was Anderekian, the northwest was Trenian, and the west - and, he had though, this entire plate this side of the great lake and the bogs as an extension - was supposedly the domain of various cyborgs and machine minds, of which he had first assumed Kay to be part of, then...
"Where would you flee?" He could see the merits of fleeing - he had considered it multiple times himself, provided they could somehow take enough infrastructure with them to not die of thirst, starvation, toxicity, or radiation poisoning -, but all ways seemed to lead deeper into enemy territory. Felt a lot harder to hide an entire traveling circus than a lone dead soldier.

73:47:27 LNT
(early evening)
Shall I add it?
...I just about realized now that I never hit the actual reply button two days ago. Helps to press that, I s'pose.
Domhnall MacRaith

The fellow at the gate looked like he wanted to shrink underground when he admitted that, indeed, it had gone down roughly as the forestfolk had suspected - but the fate of the self-appointed quest-goers was unknown, and they probably wouldn't be all too useful as researchers. The squire was frowning, and ambiguously suggested they would "look into it" - which sounded suspiciously like the kind of thing people promised when they had no actual intention of doing something. Perhaps he did not dare make any definite statements in the absence of his leader (as opposed to the forestfolk himself, who did not quite have the same boundaries).
The expression on Domhnall's own face had long lost the intensity it had displayed when he first inquired about anyone who was not willing to wait (or could not afford to wait) for an official expedition, and now that he was done trying to fit all the details of the timeline together, he was once more looking the lad in the face, absently scratching his neck with his free hand. The fellow looked almost as youthful as the young black-eyes, and was obviously not exactly fully in charge of the affairs here ... nor did he have the experience needed for dealing with these things. He tried, he thought up what he figured was the best way to deal with things, but ultimately the world had other plans. ...Not that Domhnall could claim having been in charge of missions of sorts as a part of his regular schedule, but he still had a couple of decades of dealing with people of all sorts over the lad.
"Ah, it coul' nae have been more than a day or twa, no?" Not enough time for the disease to kill those who were good to go, and he suspected a ... was that the Firm Angora had mentioned? ... company would aim for more high-profile targets. And even common thieves who did want food and clothes and the occasional small valuable were more likely to target the refugees or the common abandoned buildings. As the past few years had shown, tragedies such as these tended to do a number on economy, and even the sort of bartering he and Iridiel (well, mostly he) did.
"Aside, peeple be peeple. Ye cannae control wha' 'ey do." He shrugged. "Jus' learn tae expect wha' 'ey do." No all that different from beasts, after all.

He was really not certain how to react to the news of this ... harvester who was once a human named Immanuel. They really had not been kidding when they said they attracted all kinds of trouble. It sounded much more reasonable to take your odds with Djubei in person, and that didn't seem particularly reasonable, either. In his known world, beings died when you put a crossbow bolt through an eye of theirs ... unless they were deities, and deities were better left alone and un-pissed-off. Start with problems which at least seemed fixable; that way, odds were something got done, too.

Oh, Claw? Well, seeing Jaelnec was already explaining the lad and guards that the newcomer was with them, he might as well let the refugees know, too, and extend a greeting to the ... man? himself, too.
"He's wi' us," he declared loudly, holding up a hand. "Ey, an' welcome back!"
Life happens, as they say. As you might've guessed, I'm not going to be chasing off anyone unless they come and bite someone.

Not too much has even happened, except Aemoten/Thaler/Etakar/Beatrice are now somewhere in Zerul City (they got through the gates 4-5 IC hours ago - I decided not to elaborate on what they're been doing after that point until I know what the rest of the folks are up to during the evening), and Olan/Jaelnec/Angora/Iridiel/Domhnall/Claw are actually at the gates to Zerul City, learning about the mess the monster that was once Immanuel created and about some folks who went to seek being cured from the Withering by trekking to the huge squid-monster under the mountain because one guy had insisted it was what cured him. I also introduced another set of two characters (Yanin Glade and Jordan Forthey), but they only exist in tomorrowland for the time being, having already had an encounter of sorts then.
I kind of proposed Aemoten/Thaler/Olan/Etakar/Beatrice might be splitting from the rest of the group and going south to pay a visit to some of Aemoten's old friends, given that it didn't seem like Angora and Thaler would be getting along and it might be too much for Thaler to try to convince her otherwise. Seemed like the most logical way to resolve the situation, anyway; up to you now to determine what Thaler feels like doing now that you're back.

And that is all of us and what has happened in the meantime, methinks.
Day ??? of year 384 Post-Downfall
Sunstorm onset

The Lone Survivor

“Enn Que? Really? That sounds suspiciously like an Eighfour name, Kay-Gee.” Yes, it was ... probably. Had Kay not said something about her people not being particularly inventive with naming? But if he was to change name, he might as well stick with it. It was not these people for whom he was foregoing his old identity. Notrau was supposed to be dead. The version of him who was being questioned was Eighfour...ian. Might as well get used to thinking of himself as such, whether the fellow with the assault rifle was willing to take it at face value or not. For now, he was silent. Too much talking was unhealthy.
“Uh, maybe? He’s a friend, Ell-Oh. We need him as much as he needs us.” At the worst, he was as useful as any other young healthy guy who could shoot well. He was still not entirely certain what Eighfour should do, aside of perhaps replace their tactic of worshipping their inert warhead to a protocol of, "If you see an unknown not-civilian, announce that everyone should pick as much useful stuff as they can carry and run, run for your lives."
The hello-guy seemed to be the most officer-like individual present for the time being, unfortunately. Ordered Kay around and the driver scrambling for some readings, at least. Let them look and scan if they wanted. As long as they did not touch his physical person, he could just pretend it was all the usual protocol and not care. There was nothing to find. He had no desire to light up and declare himself free-for-all.
“Eighfour is in danger, and Enn Que has information and advice on how to deal with it.” Great. She was doing her hardest to paint him a saviour. It felt like a heavy burden to bestowed. He did not have a clue!
Perhaps it was part of why so few even attempted to turn renegade. If you had been trained to take orders from the ground up, to never doubt, to never stray or even think too much, you didn't really have a bloody clue what to do once left to your own devices. Even in a faction like his old, you belonged somewhere, and had something to fall back to. Now, everything was strange. Wrong, almost. Even aside of the everyone trying to survive thing. Which you really couldn't for too long, alone out here in the wild. He might not have even made it to running out of bullets.
The rifleman in charge didn't look pleased. “I really fucking hope you’re right, Kay-Gee, ‘cause we’re pretty much screwed otherwise. A drone came by earlier, hours ago; a really hi-tech drone. Came through the trees and then just blasted straight through the sound barrier out of here. Someone’s already found us.”


Too late.

"Hide" had failed. The wait had begun. He was not sure he wanted to see what would happen if they actually opted to just wait it out.
And yet the Eighfourians were concerned about a single anti-personnel infantry unit, not the faction that presumably had had their drone return by now? Or a "drone". He did not know any supersonic drones, nor a lunatic that'd fly a fighter through a forest, but it could be from the west. Or the Trenians had even more new toys than just the hell-lasers. The south was an unknown. The east was water. Easy enough to cross by a flighted unit, but also largely surveilled by Anderekians. It had been all quiet on that front.
Should he break protocol, and thus his silence? He, technically, had no rank here. Not yet. Soldiers took orders. He had not been given one. You only asked questions when orders were unclear. Kay had not reacted yet, so he did not know whether asking questions would conflict with any unwritten rule here, either. He was on his own.
If he asked... If he genuinely wanted to know what it was like, it would prove he was not allied with whoever sent the drone -- which would probably imply he was at the very least on another side. If he was bluffing, it would mean that he was testing them for lies, and that a really hi-tech faction would indeed know where exactly he was -- and take any harm to him as an open declaration of war. Not that killing him wouldn't mean a declaration of war anyway, were he a part of a faction other than Eighfour. One would think that a faction as small as this would treat anyone larger kindly, just to avoid starting any unfavorable wars. And not flaunt any "remove area from map" buttons. To think of it, if multiple factions congregated here, then they might as well use it specifically against one another, and remain entirely indifferent towards Eighfour itself.
He decided he might as well risk it. It had not been confirmed he would be taken to "Gramps", so supposedly he was still subject to a pre-hearing of sorts. You were not supposed to interject to a hearing. But those people were not going to follow Anderekian protocol, either. Seemed safer than asking whether they can join the guys on the pickup, at least.
"The craft sighted hours ago," he specified, still using the voice mostly reserved for reporting in. What manner of unit of time was 'hours ago'? "What was it like? Form, any visible armaments, any markers, pattern of movement? Do you have any recordings of it? I am trying to figure out its identity."
Still motionless.

73:05:00 LNT
(early evening)
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