Title: Drown It All
Description: Ithor—attn; Crowe
Ilian Ischoron - November 7, 2011 10:52 PM (GMT)
It was strange, being back amongst the Tsad'ade. Ever before he'd been trying to lose himself, and it was somewhat surreal to be both more present and even more torn away, his thoughts on the woman he'd left on Manda'yaim when he'd answered the call. He still remembered quite clearly how it'd been when he'd first joined in fighting beside these aruetiise. It had bothered him. A lot. And so many of the dumbass Tsad'ade rambled on about the women waiting for them. One of them even tried to sing a song about it and get others involved, encouraging all the male soldiers to join him in proclaiming how they wanted “a girl worth fighting for.” A younger Ilian would have just smirked and pointed out how the Mando'ade version was desiring simply “a girl worth fighting.” When he'd joined the first time, however, he answered with a beskar clad fist into the jaw of any chakaar idiotic enough to broach the subject near him, and had nearly killed that frakker who insisted on singing.
But that was only in the first month. The hulking man in the battlescarred burgundy armor that he'd become by the time he'd returned home and then met up with Rhia on Taris had learned to tune it out. Now—though no one was attempting to sing—he thought of that again and how different things were. He had both now, the shorter Epicanth certainly a worthy opponent and no small part of his determination to live through this latest mission.
Really, he'd been through much worse: low gravity fighting in the jagged craters of Mindor's third moon, slogging through the swamps of Glee Anselm, trying to avoid both the smell and the opportunity for incineration throughout the methane wastes on Malastare. These were some of the more memorable battlefields he'd killed through, yet for Ilian it all mostly blurred together. Lots of bodies, lots of fire. For the most part, both had bounced off his armor—physical or emotional—with no great effect. Some, though, some things got through.
Occasionally he'd drawn too much attention and taken enough concentrated fire to drop his shields, energy bolts then tearing at the plates of his beskar'gam and leaving burns and bruises on the flesh beneath. These were only treated when they became a problem, inhibiting combat effectiveness. More extreme than the skirmishes he'd experienced before, such experiences often resulted in superficial wounds across his face as well. These too were left untreated, several minor scars forming as a result. None of that had much concerned him though, at least not until Taris. Then he'd been fairly self-conscious of them, but Rhia hadn't minded. Really, he should have known that going in.
Glancing to the aruetiise seated about him, he wondered how many would die. The idea bothered him a little more now than it had before. Before the Tsad forces could die in droves and it'd only bother him for the tactical weakness. Mostly, anyway. There was one that had stood out.
She never really meant anything to him; they never got to know each other, barely shared words. She was human, he assumed, aruetii. A respectable warrior as the Tsad'ade went, and appropriately aloof. It would have irritated him before, since he'd have been making passes. Since they'd both clearly only been interested in fighting and winning, however, their terse relationship was mighty agreeable. It was also that, though, which reminded him most of Rhia. That and the raven hair. He couldn't quite remember the human's name now, something like Swift River. It didn't matter. She'd come under heavy fire and her armor didn't hold up. Wounded, probably mortally, she'd been twitching about on the ground, trying to crawl back to the Alliance ranks. He'd fought to get to her, but not hard enough. As he'd drawn near, an antipersonnel rocket fired from one of the thousands of faceless gi'e locked onto her. The bigger chunks disappeared into the chaos of the field, the smaller ones plastering the front of his armor and faceplate.
Uncharacteristically, Ilian shuddered. The memory was somewhat less potent now, knowing Rhia was home, was safe, and that it was him going back under fire, but the thought of it having been her was only more disturbing now that they had begun patching things up. Now that they were together.
This mission wasn't looking like it'd end like that one, though, regardless. Ithor was essentially the quintessence of a peaceful world—which hardly endeared it to him—and a difficult locale to host massive infantry battles, given the enforced illegality of even landing on the planet's surface. If it wanted, the Confederation could have decimated the Ithorian floating cities and claimed the entirety of the verdant land beneath, but why would they? The tactical advantage wasn't worth the cost of taking it. This, however, was not deterring the expansionist regime from attempting to utilize its natural resources to their own ends, installing a covert facility beneath the waves of its greatest ocean and, according to the reports, conducting experiments on the local wildlife in an attempt to use them as some kind of bioweapon. The details weren't important, nor how exactly the Alliance had acquired the information, seeing as this operation was just as offensive and unacceptable to the local Ithorians, and thus equally kept from their knowledge. All the knowledge he didn't possess had no bearing in Ilian's mind on the strike team's very simple goal: Stop them.
While the facility was pressurized with a breathable atmosphere, a Mandalorian had been selected for the mission because of his quality armor that would allow for survival even if the facility were structurally compromised. Three Tsad'ade were going as well, each equipped with armored envirosuits that sufficed, but would have embarrassed a Mando'ad to wear. The last member, Ilian himself, had been called in at his clansman's request, providing a second suit of superior armor and a man who'd worked with the Tsad'ade before. He'd never been close to Crowe, sharing a drink in a larger group a time or two a year or more ago, before the human had so eagerly run off to fight beside his lessers. Ilian had always resented that, though the feeling had subsided considerably since.
He'd offered no words to the rest of the group, beyond a brief greeting to the other Ischoron, otherwise remaining behind his armored visor—his proper Mandalorian T-visor, something he'd probably end up giving Crowe shit about at some point—as they made the steep descent in the cramped stealth submersible. Due to space concerns he'd had to leave both the mythosaur axe and portable missile system behind, but that still left him with at least seven weapons to check and recheck, affording plenty of excuse to ignore everyone else. He just wanted to get there and get the mission done. He knew Rhia; she'd be apprehensive about things until he was home again.
Crowe Ischoron - November 10, 2011 05:51 PM (GMT)
Quite unlike his fellow clansman, Crowe’s attitude towards the Tsad was jovial, even now that they were cooped up in a tiny submersible. His helm was retracted from his face, and even as the sunlight gave way to inky blackness in the tiny portholes, he continued to speak with the other men, apparently completely at ease as thousands of gallons of water closed over their heads.
It went without saying that this was only a front, but Crowe was not nervous for his own life being snuffed out by a breached hull in this moment. Instead, he worried after what would become of his daughter’s. It was a constant thing when he was away on a solo mission, and he could cope well enough by now. Still, there was a point when apprehension closed the mouths of most others in the sub and Crowe was forced to fall silent himself.
As the ship drove them ever deeper into the lightless ocean, Crowe spared a glance for Ilian, though the man thought nothing of his strange silence. On Mandalore, they’d known each other only over mugs of black ale, and so, seeing him in this state only put Crowe in the mind that the younger Ischoron was just different when away from home. As it was with most Mando’ade. Following the man’s lead, Crowe began checking and rechecking his weaponry, and suit diagnostics.
The almost soundless rumble of a huge generator was their first indication that they drew near their objective. Massive energy source powered the facility from the outside, drawing its strength from the deep volcanic rifts in the ocean floor. Crowe twisted in his seat to peer out of the porthole, but saw nothing except the faint glow of the planet’s thermal chutes playing over the surrounding abyssal detritus.
There was a whir of tiny servos as Crowe’s helmet began to assemble itself around his head, the various pieces fitting together to form a solid construction of beskar. As the last piece clicked into place, the parallel bars that streaked across his faceplate glowed with a bright blue light that chased away some the suffocating red of the sub’s ambient light.
Glancing over at Ilian, he nudged the larger man with an armored elbow and then tapped the side of his helm, the universal signal for linking comms. It was just as the connection the connection was made, that the submersible pilot seemed to find a good access point, the entire vehicle jolted into place, the magnetic clamps unable to differentiate between friend and foe. The sub’s seal was broached with a small surge of water that splattered over Crowe’s boots, but when he looked up, he could see the bright light of one of the facilities’ docking bay.
With a surge adrenaline, the man threw himself onto the access ladder and ascended, a wide grin straining at his face.
Ilian Ischoron - November 11, 2011 06:32 PM (GMT)
While it didn't particularly thrill the younger Mandalorian to witness his clansman interacting so genially with the Alliance personnel, in recent months Ilian had finally abandoned the illusion that his opinion needed to be loudly expressed to anything with ears, particularly more seasoned vode. His objections were all but gone by then anyway—even if they were aruetiise, they were currently allies in arms and so some socializing made sense. He still refrained from joining in, however, instead enjoying a few minutes of flipping through the holos in his HUD, smiling to himself at the possibilities of all that lay beyond the mission. The mission itself evoked fewer good feelings.
In all honesty, the large man was a bit nervous about being so deep below the surface of the water. He knew his suit could take the vacuum of space, and in theory it would equally protect him from the crushing pressure of the depths, but that was something he'd never actually tested. Of course, going for a swim wasn't exactly plan A, and while he by no means longed for its embrace, the threat of death terrified him much less than it had the year before.
Dark visor turning at the sound, the Epicanthix watched as the Human's face vanished within his self constructing helmet. The notion of his head protection being several tiny pieces rather than a solid plate struck Ilian as impractical, but he didn't understand the mechanics of it well enough to say. It did, he had to concede, make for quite a striking visual effect, and also provided a fair bit of convenience. Still, he'd stick with what he had; he may need to beat a gi'e to death with his helm someday, and that would be difficult with Crowe's design.
Nodding, he opened access to his own commlink, allowing the older warrior to connect. Nothing was communicated though, beyond a brief check to confirm they were ready to go. Not waiting for the Alliance members of the mission, he was up—though the submersible wouldn't allow for his height, forcing him to hunch forward some—and on Crowe's tail as soon as they began to move out. It occurred that with the other Mando'ad already situated at the front, a rearguard for himself might have been more appropriate to keep the squishier men protected. Still, the survival of the Tsad'ade was not his objective and the chamber they were all about to enter may offer resistance; his place was near the front, beside his vod.
Features set into a grim line behind his visor as he set aside thoughts of home and focused on the task at hand, he followed up the ladder, climbing with one hand in order to keep his massive repeater gripped in the other. Ready to open fire before he even finished ascending, the docking bay proved conspicuously empty. Fanning out once he could stand on the facility flooring, he aided in covering the access port until they were all fully aboard, but a moment later his eyes raised to the ceiling as the lights badly flickered. Perhaps it was just shoddy Confederate construction, but power fluctuations in a station that deep beneath the waves could mean serious trouble. With a glance to Crowe, he moved to the other side of the room, shoulder planted against the wall just next to the access point for the rest of the facility. A quick press of the activator switch and he set himself, heavy ACP ready to mow down anything revealed by the hissing open door.
Crowe Ischoron - November 13, 2011 08:41 PM (GMT)
The docking bay beyond the air seal was a cramped affair, a tube that bent away from the access point at a right angle, doused in flickering white light. Crowe exchanged a glance with Ilian as the power cut out for a split second, wiping the grin from the human’s face and replacing it with unease. It didn’t help that, as he allowed the larger Mando’ad to move past him towards the iris portal at the far end of the tube, Crowe caught sight of the ACP repeater gun balanced against the Ilian’s thigh.
“Nope,” Crowe sighed, “I’m not jealous. I’m not jealous at all.”
He’d said the same thing when they first boarded the sub, but he felt it bore repeating, letting it chase away the apprehension that clawed at his mind. This sense of peace, however, did not last long. As Ilian hit the door panel, and the iris door retracted into the walls, something far more concerning presented itself. Nothing lay beyond save an empty hallway that ran perpendicular to their entry way. Nobody had come to greet their invading party. Moving past the T’sad personnel, Crowe leaned out of the portal to peek down at both ends of the hallway.
The blue light shed from his helmet illuminated the left side, which was disturbingly dark and blocked off. A low ‘hmph’ rumbled in Crowe’s throat before he glanced the other way, which was lit, the hallway curving around the perimeter of the station. Hairs pricking up on the back of his neck, he took a tentative step out into the hall, one hand reaching up to the run across the bulkhead that curved over their heads.
“I wonder how many hologames I’ve played that started out like this...” The man muttered, hooking one thumb over the grip safety on the pistol attached to his right thigh. A few more tentative steps were taken towards the lit side of the hallway, Crowe’s boots seeming too loud on the deck, when suddenly, the screech of twisting metal pierced the air, and a small quake nearly knocked the group off their feet. Smashing one forearm against the inner bulkhead, the man managed to stay upright, but that allowed him a grand view through the tiny porthole as what looked like their submersible, its docking hooks sparking, gliding by in a stately dance.
The man wasn’t entirely sure how to react, except to continue staring as the vehicle went tumbling off into the darkness, its pilot struggling to regain control. The yelp of one of the Alliancers startled him out of his disbelief, and he twisted to see the man pointing frantically out of another porthole. “Did you guys see that?” He was hissing, voice fraught with terror, “Did you see what hit the sub? Frak!”
Peering again through his own porthole, Crowe’s eyes strained to pierce the darkness, but whatever the man was babbling didn’t have the courtesy to reveal himself. He wasn’t stupid though. For now, he was going to man the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how there was little else that could’ve ripped their submersible from its berth. Blowing out a breath, Crowe shoved away the threatening panic, glancing at Ilian to tilt his head down the hall.
“Change of objective, ner vod. We need to get that sub back.”
Ilian Ischoron - November 16, 2011 11:10 PM (GMT)
Much like he had the first time he overhead it, Ilian showed no immediate reaction to the other Mandalorian's little self deprecating joke about their weapons. It was true that years before when he'd first acquired it and made it his primary firearm, the absurdity of its size was a significant factor, both for intimidation and the ease with which it could be turned into innuendo. Now though, it was simply what he was best with, and offered a high volume of ammunition with devastating damage output. And... well, maybe he still liked it for those other reasons too.
It was possible that, behind the cold, expressionless buy'ce, a tiny crooked grin of amusement momentarily interrupted the man's gameface. As he moved past and toward the exit, one gauntleted hand patted the shorter man lightly on the head.
The emptiness that greeted them as the door hissed open, however, quickly wiped away any mirth. This was disappointing. Slightly unnerving for the uncertainty it evoked, but mostly Ilian was just let down that he was not given Confederate targets to mow down and be done with the place. He also was less than appreciative of the way he had to duck to get through the opening, though in the center of the hallway the ceiling curved far enough overhead to let him stand.
“I wonder how many hologames I've played that started out like this...”
A brief glance was given to the other man before he switched his HUD's night vision on, moving left to investigate the darkened portion of the walkway. What he saw wasn't promising. There was another small portal through the durasteel wall that spanned the corridor, but upturned debris was blocking almost the whole of it. He could barely see through, and while with enough time he could likely blast or push his way past, that there was debris at all didn't speak well of the current structural integrity of the station. Tearing through it was probably a bad plan.
All in all, the situation did seem somewhat reminiscent of the opening to some suspenseful survival game he'd once played. Though his voice came out somewhat dryly, he replied, “Does remind me a bit of Inhabitant Malign. Watch for zombies.” Absurd as the cautionary may have sounded, they were in a laboratory wherein biological weapons were supposedly being developed. It wasn't too much of a stretch.
Ilian appreciated Crowe's commentary and humor more than he let on and wasn't consciously disinclined to join in. He'd just grown accustomed to keeping his thoughts only on the task when he was working with the Tsad and found the habit a little hard to break even now that he was less afraid of where his mind might wander if he let it.
Beginning to stagger at the impact and ominous screech, one palm was planted firmly at the high point of the ceiling, the fingers actually leaving small impressions and causing a bit of creaking. Frowning, he considered that the crushgaunts may have been better off left behind as well. Both hands gripping his heavy ACP, Ilian flipped from night vision to thermal and began seeking any hostile lifeforms, but nothing became immediately apparent. It wasn't until the Tsad'ad started hollering that he even looked out the portholes, frown deepening. Looked like they might be testing the strength of their suits to resist immense water pressure after all.
“Change of objective, ner vod. We need to get that sub back.”
Ilian just stared. The faceplate revealed nothing of his expression, but the cold blankness of it made for a suitable replacement of his own dubiousness. “Somethin' just tore the sub from its durasteel clamps, and you wanna go have a swim with it?” It sounded a bit reckless. His primary weapon would be useless, and it was doubtful the heavy blasters would fair much better. Still, he had other means of causing harm as his disposal, and Crowe was right; they needed that thing.
Shrugging, his rhetorical skepticism was quickly followed by, “Alright,” the gatling gauntlet of his right arm popping out and cycling through a few spins to warm up. The small metal projectiles would be slowed by the water, but they would still fire and tear through whatever was out there.
Crowe Ischoron - November 21, 2011 01:10 AM (GMT)
“Does remind me a bit of Inhabitant Malign. Watch for zombies.”
“Right, zombies...” He muttered. Despite how ridiculous it sounded, Crowe threw a brief glance at the Alliancers gathering near the portholes. They had far less armor on, meaning they were more susceptible to the undead horde. No need to outrun the zombies when you could throw the aruetiise to them first.
“Somethin' just tore the sub from its durasteel clamps, and you wanna go have a swim with it?”
Cocking an eyebrow behind his faceplate at Ilian’s silent stare, he was about to explain himself further, when the whirring of electronics from Ilian’s arm interrupted him, and he was left somewhere between envious and impressed.
“The hell else are you hiding in that ‘gam, vod?” He muttered, flinching back as the gatling gauntlet spun up.
This time, it was Crowe’s turn to blink, and then he realized what Ilian meant to do. Or what he thought Crowe meant to do. He admired the other man's daring. “Woah woah woah, hey,” Shaking his head vigorously, Crowe stepped forward, hand falling on the larger Mando’ad’s gatling arm, gently pushing it back down. “No, no...” He managed to chuckle, “Cool your jets, tiger.” The very thought that Ilian would’ve liked to go back out into the crushing depths without the sub was appalling, but in an almost hilarious way.
Tilting his head, he indicated the hallway that curved out of sight behind him. “If we find another docking bay, I can reroute more power to recalibrate the magnetic clamp and drag the ship back from there.”
Patting Ilian’s forearm encouragingly, he opened his comm to the Alliancers, gesturing down the hallway. “Gotta find another docking bay, and you,” He pointed to one, “Get back in contact with the sub. Let’s go.”
He was greeted with rather scathing looks from the aruetiise and if he could’ve he would’ve offered his trademark lopsided grin. They’d been kept out of Mandalorians’ conversation, and only just now enlightened to the plan. But, instead of apologizing, the man remained silent, knowing that his emotionless helm would do most of the talking for him.
As they made their way down the hallway, their area remained eerily quiet, only the low rumbling of the generator and the random pneumatic hiss breaking the silence. Though they were all of them heavily armed and armored, Crowe couldn’t ignore the deep sense of unease coiling in his gut. There was a point when he couldn’t quite handle the silence anymore.
“Zombies...” He muttered, pausing as he glanced into one room, the light from his helm casting sharp shadows over the disarray in the empty room. This was dozenth one in a row. “Zombies, assassin droids... Ninjas? Hm, hopefully the universe just has armed gunmen in store for us today.”
He seriously didn’t believe his own words.
Ilian Ischoron - November 24, 2011 06:12 AM (GMT)
“The hell else are you hiding in that 'gam, vod?”
Ilian considered his arsenal. What actually came to mind was all the thoughts he'd been trying to push aside that seemingly got trapped in the armor with him, unable to travel far from his mind and certainly not helped by his veritable addiction to viewing old holostills of home, primarily of Rhia. Still, this wasn't what the other Mando'ad had meant, nor was it something he was prepared to share. Shrugging noncommittally, he answered brusquely, “What I need.”
“Woah woah woah, hey. No, no... Cool your jets, tiger.”
Looking from the hand restricting his gatling gauntlet up to the unconventional helmet, it occurred to the larger man that in what seemed almost a past life, he'd have gotten along rather well with Crowe, assuming his rather sizable ego hadn't created a rift between them, which may have been likely. That's what had happened with Rico. Now though, he found the other man to be... not irritating exactly. It wasn't that negative. Distracting, perhaps. Yeah, that was it. He took Ilian's focus off the mission to a degree, but as that focus wasn't being redirected to Rhia and everything he was trying not to think of, he... kind of liked it. Kind of.
“If we find another docking bay, I can reroute more power to recalibrate the magnetic clamp and drag the ship back from there.”
There were times when he felt almost useless in the face of these complex situations requiring mechanical or electronics expertise. All Ilian could really do well was fight, but dammit, he could do that really well. Well, there was that other thing too, but that was quite squarely within the 'do not think about' zone. It was only fair, he guessed, that he return a degree of the envy Crowe had been playing up concerning his armaments. They each had their strong points.
“Hmm...” he began as he considered his mistake. “Alright then,” he concluded with another small shrug, fully powering down the gatling gauntlet and retaking the heavy ACP in both hands. “That seems easier,” he deemed, though whether he saw that as a good thing or not was unclear. While the human directed orders to the aruetiise, Ilian was already making his way down the hall, HUD cycling through normal, night, and thermal vision effortlessly as the situation required. He still had yet to pick up anything noteworthy with any of them.
“Zombies... Zombies, assassin droids... Ninjas? Hm, hopefully the universe just has armed gunmen in store for us today.”
“Hopefully,” he answered blandly, scanning another room with night vision before checking it again for any significant heat sources or residue. Finding nothing yet again, he turned to move toward the next small doorway, sparing a bit more of his attention toward the pointless but amusing conversation. “I don't think ninjas exist.” As seemed to be the case with everything he said, an uncertain shrug followed. Sure, there were even Mando'ade who wore lighter armor, moved with unbelievable stealth and grace, and preferred blades to blasters. But secret orders of black-clad assassins who wore only cloth—or shadows if you wanted to be really dramatic—and completely eschewed modern weaponry? That seemed unlikely, like someone had heard too many stories of dar'jetii and started imagining splinter groups.
No sooner had he peeked into the next room than a banging resounded from far down the hall. Shortly after a presumable gi burst through one hatch, looking about panicked for a moment before tearing down the corridor toward them. Massive gun hefted and ready to obliterate the chakaar. his fire was checked only because the frenzied man began shrieking “Take me with you! Do whatever you want with me, just take me off this kriffing world!” He also seemed to be unarmed.
Shifting the weapon to only his right arm, Ilian caught the desperate little human by the throat with his other hand, lifting him from the ground and pinning him against a bulkhead as if he'd hefted a child's plaything. Examining the struggling man's attire, the lab coat was noted first, though the white of it had been soiled some, splashed with both water and blood. Beneath it was the unmistakable uniform of the Confederation. Squeezing tightly enough to keep the man silent, but not so much as to pop his head clean off—however tempting that was—he looked to Crowe. The man was older and had more experience working with the Tsad; while not formally his superior, Ilian still deferred to his judgment. Generally.
Crowe Ischoron - December 13, 2011 03:25 PM (GMT)
Crowe appreciated Ilian humoring him with conversation, the shortish exchanges providing distraction from their oppressive surroundings. Despite the monotonous tone the younger Mandalorian seemed to favor, Ilian was still a pleasant change from most non-T’sad Mandalorians Crowe found himself saddled with. As he poked his head into another room, finding it empty, the man’s easy chuckle sounded over the comm line, “It’s a big galaxy, vod. I try to expect the unexpected–”
The clatter of noise had the man spinning away from the open door, both Rippers already in hand, as he scanned around them with wide eyes. Suddenly, an access point further down the curve of the corridor whipped aside with a grind of malfunctioning gears, and a man burst from the opening, face contorted with fear. Crowe had to make a monumental effort not to shoot the man dead on sight – his nerves were strung a little higher than he thought – but thankfully, the frenzied being was not armed, instead rushing towards them in a blind, shrieking fury.
“Hold it or you’re dead!” Crowe boomed, the command amplified by his helm speakers, but there was no need. The man faltered for just a moment, and Ilian’s hand whipped out, effectively terminating the man’s forward motion and extracting a strangled sound from his throat. There was a fleshy thump as the man was shoved up against the curve of the bulkhead. “Ooor that works too.” Shoulders relaxing, Crowe straightened his stance and holstered one pistol, glancing between Ilian’s silent inquiry and the man’s purpling face.
“Looks like a lab tech,” One of the Alliancers muttered, “What’s that shit on his coat...?”
“Blood, I guess. What the hell–”
“Shut it. Keep working on hailing that sub. We'll take care of this.” Was Crowe’s quiet order, his voice tight from the surge of adrenaline. He glanced at the troopers and then, tilted his head, uttering a unwilling “Please.”
As a part of the aerial corps, the Mandalorian was unsure of his rank with the ground troops, but coming from a meritocracy made it easy enough for him to assume control when nobody else was stepping up to the plate. Patting Ilian on the shoulder, he saw that the man was barely straining from holding another fully-grown being several feet off the ground, and Crowe made the mental note to do his best and never draw the younger Mandalorian’s ire. “Let ‘im down, brother, I need his windpipe functioning.”
When the tech’s feet finally touched the ground, the man doubled over, both hands going to his already bruising neck. Crowe allowed him several moments to recover, filling the small space with his rasping cough, before putting a hand on his shoulder and shoving him straight against the bulkhead. Drawing in close, he waved the Mandalorian Ripper in front of the man’s face, making him inch back into the space he didn’t have, but followed the motion with indicating the hallway he’d come from, growling, “Start explaining.”
Ilian Ischoron - December 15, 2011 04:17 AM (GMT)
“Shut it. Keep working on hailing that sub. We'll take care of this. Please.”
Silently the large Epicanthix also pondered what had happened to put the scrawny gi into such a state, both physically and otherwise. It didn't look to be the man's own blood on the coat, as surely it would've begun running down the bulkhead by then. Then what had him so desperately terrified that he would run toward a pair of armed Mandalorians? Something didn't add up.
An audible snort escaped his speakers at Crowe's final word to the Tsad'ade. He could tell that it had been a reluctant concession, but a concession nonetheless. The resentment that still dwelt below the surface for how much the other Ischoron had embraced their aruetiise allies spiked at that, and he looked back up at the helpless Confederate kicking ineffectually at him. To Ilian it was quite clear that a Mando'ad outranked any feeble aruetii soldier, and he'd only ever made a habit of listening to them when it was clear they had valuable knowledge to impart. None of the three present met that standard, and he began to reconsider the choice to follow the smaller vod's directions as well.
“Let 'im down, brother, I need his windpipe functioning.”
Partially out of a petulant streak that he'd yet to fully grow out of, and partially just because it was a gi, there was no gradual release setting the man back on the decking. Ilian simply dropped him, unsurprised to find that his shaky legs failed to catch him. Gripping the collar of the filthy lab coat, the gasping man was hoisted back to his feet and held steady until Crowe took over. Stepping back to give his vod room to work, he stood passively, not particularly trying to loom, but likely adding a fair bit to the intimidation anyway as he retook his massive weapon in both hands, regularly glancing down the corridor to ensure no further surprises were headed their way.
The frightened man stuttered and stammered horribly, but clearly did his best to comply. His best wasn't very good. “The... W-we...” There a brief pause before he shrieked, “THEY ATE THEM! ALL OF THEM!” Immediately though his voice lowered once more, barely more than a whisper. “N-No. No, no, no, no, no, not all. Part... of-of-of Fenrig was left-t. Torso, head, one arm. Bit him in... in half.” Traumatic memories overwhelming him, the broken man feebly tried to cover his face with his hands. “Smart. M-m-made them too smart! They waited, w-waited for the t-t-transfer. One tank to-to-to the other. Thought they were sedated. WHY WEREN'T THEY SEDATED!? Oh st-st-stars, they got Topher first. He was close, too-too-too close. Much, m-much too close.. Torn to pieces, wh-whole chunks right... right down the gullet. Blood. So m-m-much blood...”
A rumble in the distance had Ilian taking steps down the hall toward the noise, the direction the Confederate had come from. This seemed to distress the man further, who screamed at him, “NO! Not that way! View ports, view ports, view ports! They broke through! THEY BROKE THROUGH! C-c-compromised. Everything's comp-p-promised! The station... flooding. Water water everywhere, hee hee heh.”
Suddenly he grasped vainly at the front of Crowe's armor, trying to find a hand hold, anything to hang onto. “They're out there! In the water! They know, th-they know I'm still here. THEY KNOW! Want me too, flooding the station. So smart. S-s-so, so smart.” Wild eyes darted all about, though what he was looking for, none could say. “Have to stay, yes. Have to hide. Won't f-find me. But no, no, no. Flooding. Can't stay, can't stay. They... those... them! They're coming...”
Crowe Ischoron - February 2, 2012 03:16 AM (GMT)
Conscious of Ilian’s presence behind him, and the way the two Mandalorians fenced the frightened man in against the wall, Crowe was patient enough not to demand more when the man began to stammer. He was quickly rewarded for his silence, but he hardly considered it any sort of prize.
“The... W-we... THEY ATE THEM! ALL OF THEM!”
The outburst had both eyebrows rising unseen behind his helm, though outwardly, the man remained stoic as ever, armored fingers twisting into fabric of the man’s shoulder, just before the gun clicked, his finger tapping against the trigger. Crowe checked himself; no use getting trigger happy just because he was a little spooked. Still, whether he intended to or not, it had a desirable effect, making the man modulate his voice to a whisper.
“N-No. No, no, no, no, no, not all. Part... of-of-of Fenrig was left-t. Torso, head, one arm. Bit him in... in half.”
What a pretty picture this was starting to paint. Crowe’s mouth twisted into a grimace. Parts and pieces of things were left, bit off. Immediately, the great whatever that had disengaged the sub surfaced in his mind’s eye. Easing off of the man as he went to cover his face, Crowe’s turned to face Ilian, something of his question in his stance rather than on his masked face. What the frak? The scrawny scientist’s muffled words pulled his attention back.
“Smart. M-m-made them too smart! [...] Torn to pieces, wh-whole chunks right... right down the gullet. Blood. So m-m-much blood...”
Suddenly their banter from earlier wasn’t as funny anymore. Of course, it wasn’t terribly funny to begin with – it was a tough crowd that night – but the truth with which it was suddenly ringing... ‘Made them too smart’ just rang of science experiment gone wrong, hell, it was almost straight out of the sci-fi holos. At the same time, the rumbling in the distance and the thunk of Ilian’s boots on the decking had Crowe starting, and again, he looked away from the scientist. Seconds later, he was pushing the man back against the curving bulkhead when he began to shriek again.
Fingers scrabbled against his bronze chest plate, and Crowe gave another final shove before stepping back from the man, pistol still at the ready. His eyes followed the man as he sunk to the floor still babbling. Useless. He turned his attention to the others. Two of the other Alliance operatives gazed at the two Mandalorians, pale-faced, while the last worked determinedly at hailing the sub.
The silence was filled at first by random static from the comm, but then, garbled basic sputtered through the speakers, giving Crowe some heart. If this were a sci-fi holo, there’d be complete silence. Even so, the man’s information, whether it just be the crazed ramblings of a lunatic or not, gave the pilot chills. Swallowing, he glanced between the scientist, the Tsad, and Ilian once and then back.
Finally, the human leaned down and grabbed the scientist by the jacket shoulder, and heaved him to his feet, despite squawks of protests. “Wanna get out of here?” He grunted, pushing the man back the way he came. The man cringed back, even pushing himself back against Crowe who caught him and tossed him again. “You’re coming with us, you’re gonna help us.”
The man sprawled on the decking and looked up at Crowe, anguish in his eyes. “Th-there’s nothing back there! It’s all flooded. THEY’RE there!” The Mandalorian made no motion, simply staring down at the scientist.
“What’s there?” He snapped, “I’m gettin’ real tired of your crazed babbling, aruetii.”
“Sharks!” The man finally yelled, hoisting himself onto his feet and trying a third time to throw himself past the Mandalorian. Crowe put out an arm, and hooked it around the scientist’s neck, bringing him into a headlock. The man gurgled in the tight handhold, Crowe’s ribbed plates digging into his flesh, but the Mandalorian only squeezed harder.
“I can do worse.” Crowe growled, voice only more menacing distorted through the helmet speakers. “Help us, or you can die here.”
Gasping for breath, the man struggled, but the Crowe’s grip didn’t loosen until he started to nod frantically, face turning bright red. Letting him go, Crowe marched him past Ilian and past the Alliancers one large hand on his shoulder. As they moved on, Crowe’s pistol jammed into the man’s lower back, he switched back to the private commline. “Guess the gi’e’re making science experiments out of sharks.” He snorted, though there was no amusement in the sound, “The frak were they gonna do with that? Drop them on Coronet? Yeah, real effective.”
Whatever they had planned, it just seemed like everything was coming together to simply make problems for them. Crowe wasn’t vain enough to think the Universe was conspiring against him, but damn, did it feel that way.
The scientist’s stumbling gait led them further into the facility, away from the outer corridors. Though the curving halls became larger, they only felt more oppressive, with a lack of portholes, and utter darkness claiming great stretches of their path. And it was utterly empty. Crowe could see how the scientist had gone mad. Their passage went uninterrupted, though the man’s whimpering would spike every few minutes, and he’d need a little more persuasion, up until one opaque wall of the corridor broke away into transparisteel.
The scientist, in one rare moment of lucidity, went to stand at the window, looking out over the vista. It was a huge laboratory, the bulk of the facility. In the center was a holding tank, lit from within by pool lights. What Crowe imagined to be normally clear water was tainted by cloud of brown, and on the far end... One of the Alliancers pointed through the glass, whispering.
A body, its lower half missing, and a long trail of blood extending to the pool. The man must’ve crawled a little ways and then died. Frak, the gi was serious. Glad for the concealing faceplate, Crowe gave another push, urging the scientist onward. The path started to curve, downwards towards the laboratory, and past several tanks, each filled with some sort of dark mass of flesh.
Hands shaking, the scientist pulled an ID card from his dirty pocket and flashed it in front of the door panel. A green acknowledgement light flashed and then the door whooshed open, carrying with it the smell of gore and sea water. Crowe finally took point, edging into the lab, and both eyes more on the pool than anything else. That was when he saw it.
The ventilation tubes, presumably meant to pump fresh seawater into the tanks, were open, the grates torn aside and... he could see the bitemarks around where the creatures worked for freedom. Gigantic, but, not so big they couldn’t fit through the shaft.
“They’re only getting bigger.”
The wavering voice came from the scientist who had come to stand next to him. Crowe frowned at the man, and then brushed past him, to the console. Problems, problems, and bigger problems. They were outside the station, they were smart, and they were between them and getting out of the facility. “Frak.” The man whispered. He could safely say that he was overwhelmed, but he had to think. Nothing was coming, and he started to pace, eyebrows low in concentration.
Ilian Ischoron - May 20, 2013 04:04 PM (GMT)
The scientist's raving had Ilian's head turning back toward the impromptu interrogation, though he kept his weapon trained down the corridor. He'd faced a fair number of vicious predators—Dxun came to mind—but few had the size and power to simply bite a man in two. Likely the feeble human was exaggerating, trying to justify his cowardice or simply driven beyond reason by his fears.
Crowe's glance was met with a dubious shake of the epicanth's head. Ilian hadn't seen anything tear the submersible from its dock and neither had Crowe from what he gathered. It could have been nothing but a mechanical malfunction; the Alliance tech did tend to be a bit cobbled together. The troubles on the station could similarly be nothing more than faulty equipment. Was it likely that the fool gi'e had been working on something dangerous that had gotten loose and killed some of them? Sure. But thus far the words of a couple frightened aruetii were the only direct evidence of some monstrous beast(s?) that could easily tear a man apart and successfully assault a small vessel. He was far from convinced.
He only half-listened to the continued rambling. The basilisk pilot had the man well in hand and could be the one to work out what (if anything) of his words were worth heeding. It was harder to ignore the shrieks clearly directed at him and his intent to move down the walkway, and it was with plain annoyance that Ilian turned back, his gatling gauntlet spinning up once again. His restraint in refraining from splattering the man across the inner bulkhead had more to do with respecting the authority he'd given Crowe to deal with the confederate than any interest to hear more, but it kept him complacent all the same. At least for the moment.
Though he wasn't much excited by the prospect of hearing more of the little man's stream of incoherence, he did approve of his vod's persuasion technique. Ilian quietly hoped the held man would select the second option rather than helping, but was unsurprised when the threat of immediate death overruled all other fear; the puny gi was no warrior. He stood aside to let them past, sparing a quick glance to the tsad'ade to ensure they were following before falling into line behind the shorter Ischoron.
"Guess the gi'e're making science […] Coronet? Yeah, real effective.”
For a moment, Ilian kept to his humorless assessment, replying, “Mon Cala, maybe.” He'd been on enough battlefields on wildly different worlds to know that a joke in one could be deadly in another. Not one to ever give his enemies much credit, however, he followed up quickly enough. “Prolly just wanted to use big gi'e, keep things in the family.” It was a crap joke and not one he expected raucous laughter from, but it was nice to get back into the inane banter he'd used to be so known for, even if it involved fewer mammary references than it once had. Rhia would appreciate that, he supposed.
The younger warrior remained less concerned than his companion; to his thinking, they were only there to stop whatever confederate project had been going on. If the things had broken loose and killed most of the enemy already, then their job was practically done. All they needed was the get their sub back. Sure, a handful of mutant sharks roaming about their oceans might cause a problem for the ithorians, but that was their issue, not his. He just wanted to wrap things up and get back to Mandalore.
He continued to cycle through the vision settings available to him, scanning each side passage and room they passed and finding nothing of note. As they reached what seemed to be the primary laboratory, he switched back to observing only normal light, taking in the gory view. The maroon helm nodded slightly, the sight confirming that the scientists there would indeed be performing no further experiments.
Making no comment, he continued following, pausing only to tap a beskar-shod finger against one of the tanks they passed. If the mass of meat within was alive, it gave no response, no indication it was aware of his presence. A quick shift to infrared showed that it was significantly warmer than the transparisteel it floated behind. With a perplexed and mildly concerned frown, he hustled past.
As they breached the lab, Ilian moved straight to the corpse they'd seen from above. Half a corpse. He looked from the bloody mess of it to the dark trail of fluid and small bits of intestine it had left behind as it crawled from the tank. Lightly tapping the trigger of his heavy ACP for half a heartbeat, two rounds of energy blazed from the muzzle to tear into the back of the dead man's head, leaving only a smoking, concave ruin of his skull and painting Ilian's boots with charred brain matter.
“Zombies,” he commented to Crowe in explanation, a light shrug in his voice. The whole affair didn't bother him much; he wouldn't let it. This was not an ally or even neutral that had been tragically killed. This was the enemy, a man who had been here for the express purpose of devising a new way to destroy the things Ilian loved. For all he knew one of those things would've ended up in the Ischoron lake. Unlikely, but he'd use whatever he could to legitimize his dehumanization of the gi'e.
A look was tossed toward the living scientist. He hoped Crowe didn't actually mean to spare the man. Possibly he could provide valuable information if they brought him back with them, but it would be simpler—and notably more satisfying—to kill him there. Perhaps let his former pets have him.
“The sub,” he spoke after watching Crowe pace for a moment. He'd shifted away from their private channel, voice coming through his external speakers as well. “If you can't get it back from here, we should go where you can.” He was being curt, perhaps unnecessarily, but Ilian was not pleased. Though he didn't cling to it in the way he once had, he still felt that a glorious death in open battle would be acceptable—if not ideal—whereas being sent on a mission that proved completely superfluous and then being eaten by a sea monster was not the sort of end he was willing to accept. Especially not now.
Turning to the alliance personnel, he continued gruffly. “What word from the pilot. Where's our ride?”