In which the Questers find the weapons, and someone finds them.
(Chiaroscuro) (Envoy) (Mircus) (Ocean) (Roho) (Quest in the
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Little Rephidim West appears as a flower washed by the foaming ocean. The central core, made of some kind of ceramic material, is grayish and washed by lengths of trailing green, its surface eroded by time, and the outlying arms of the paquebot are made of wood, timbers weathered and warped, containing warehouses and living quarters and craft shops. Long pylons extend from the arms for dockings, providing plenty of room between ships; under normal conditions, an airship would throw down lines and waiting crew on the paquebot would tie them down. These are not normal conditions, and the paquebot appears completely deserted, the tattered cloth flags of the Temple and of Rephidim flapping from more central flagpoles.

After some discussion, Naomi and Pawtuxet were assigned to check out the possible escape routes that could be used to get out of the Paquebot's central core and to somewhere the airship Blaze of Glory could rescue them. Meanwhile, Roho, now recovered from his wounds, accompanied Chiaroscuro, Envoy, and Mircus, as they proceeded into the dark and dusty lower levels of the Paquebot in search of the secretly hidden cache of weapons that Miriam had promised them would be found there…

Envoy sticks close by Roho.

The way leads down the stairs, creaky though they are, past several more corpses whose death Roho is able to diagnose as being apparently dead of some kind of system arrest, perhaps a result of exposure to some airborne toxin. The corridors are silent, with just a hint of some irregular thudding far away, and in the dim light of the lantern, the strange 'Janitorial' device turned off to save whatever precious fuel it uses, the cables draping from the overhead panels seem almost like snakes…

Chiaroscuro keeps his strange new lantern in hand. His steps are measured, but his head darts around constantly at walls, ceiling, floors…

At last Mircus stops before a large hatch which reads, "W TER P RIF CA ION PL NT #2." The text beneath this reads, "Autho ized pe son el on y!"

Envoy touches Roho on the shoulder to signal him that they've stopped.

Strange dark green streaks coat the walls here and there, and etch the smooth floor.

Envoy asks, "Do we have to go in there, Mircus?"

Chiaroscuro peers down at one of the streaks of green… lifting the mask just long enough to take a small sniff at it.

Mircus nods absently, examining the door. If he's lucky, it'll open easily…

Roho flinches at a noise heard, "They're still trying to get in… "

Envoy says, "They probably tried to get in when the station was first attacked, also."

This door does not open as easily as one might hope… There is a panel next to it, and a dial with many small markings, some numbers spaced around the rim: 0, 8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48…

The corridor nearby is almost completely deserted, with some abandoned bits of machinery simply lying about on the floor – a tarpaulin covers most of the bits, presumably to avoid looking completely messy.

Mircus gives the dial an experimental spin, not really expecting anything to happen… but the knob turns freely!

Envoy lifts a corner of the tarp and peeks underneath.

Chiaroscuro watches Mircus turn the knob, waiting patiently… only a twitching tail revealing any apprehension.

Beneath the tarp is the remnant of some ancient engine, the bulk of which appears to be some heavy plastic. Perhaps this device was once part of the station's functioning… But if so, it is no longer considered relevant.

Envoy lets the tarp drop back down, and watches Mircus instead.

Roho hms, "Turn the knob again, Mircus… " He presses his ear to the door.

Mircus steps back from the dial, scratching his head, then shrugs, "Sorry; the maps didn't say anything about this… " He nods to Chipper, and spinz the dial again.

Envoy says, "If it's a combination lock, then Roho might be able to hear the mechanism."

Chiaroscuro nods to Mircus. "This is not the first thing we were not told… it is not likely to be the last either, Sir Mircus."

Roho nods, "I can hear a click… "

Mircus brightens slightly at the possibility of someone knowing what this knob is for and steps out of the way.

Chiaroscuro hmmms… stepping forward. "I will turn this more, Doctor. Tell me when you hear these clicks… " He quick-spins the knob to 0, then dials slowly clockwise.

Roho stops Chiaroscuro when he next hears the click. The knob's pointing to 35.

Chiaroscuro nods. "Thirty-five… " He continues spinning it in the same direction as before.

The knob spins for another full turn without any tangible result.

Roho listens, but doesn't say anything…

Envoy says, "Maybe you have to turn it the other direction after each click?"

Chiaroscuro hmms at Envoy. "I had not considered that… I have not encountered a device like this before." He spins the dial back to 0, then to 35… "Did it click again, Doctor?"

Roho nods, "Yes, it did… "

Chiaroscuro gives the hatch a small test push first to see if it will open after only the first click…

It remains firm.

Chiaroscuro rotates the dial counter-clockwise now, slowly.

Suddenly the station seems to tilt! Only a little, yet it has the same disconcerting effect that an earthquake would on the ground, that feeling that Mircus has experienced a few times before. The deck wobbles beneath the feet of those gathered before the door.

Chiaroscuro stops dialing, and looks wonderingly at the knob.

Envoy reaches out to brace Roho, and uses her wings to brace herself against the walls.

Mircus looks faintly disgusted. "And now that I'm off the airship, this starts moving?" He sits down so he can't possibly fall down.

The station deck subsides slowly to a standstill, the reason for the movement still unknown. For now.

Roho staggers, and grabs at a wing, "Umf… I think we'd better find what we're looking for." He presses his ear back to the door, listening for the next click…

Envoy says, "Maybe something hit the anchor??"

Chiaroscuro thinks… "Either this dial is causing the shaking or… something else is." He tries turning it just a little more… "

Roho stops Chiaroscuro, the knob pointing at 14.

Chiaroscuro pushes the hatch again…

The lantern-light flickers and dances, making Chiaroscuro's shadow against the door move back and forth as if it were hesitant… The door still does not open.

Chiaroscuro rotates it the dial clockwise now, slowly. He glances back at Envoy and Mircus for a moment…

Mircus watches the progress (or lack thereof) at the door and shrugs. Remaining (safely) seated on the floor, he begins sorting through the contents of the various pouches at his belt.

Envoy keeps herself braced with her wings in case of another shock.

Roho stops Chiaroscuro, as the dial reaches 23

No shockwaves. No screams. Just… A disconcertingly final click from the hatch.

Chiaroscuro takes a deep breath, and with a muttered "Run and find out… " push-slides the hatch door…

It opens, panning a golden light from the lantern across the arrays of machinery beyond, an alchemist's daydream written large in yellowed ceramic of some kind, green dripping liberally from joints and large vessels… Several large coils of what appears to be foot-thick cable block the doorway, making it necessary to step over them to enter and inspect what Mircus claims is some sort of 'water purification' system.

Envoy hmms. Those cables could almost be tentacles…

Envoy says, "Okay Mircus… lead the way."

Stuffing the varied contents of his pouches back into storage, Mircus hauls himself to his feet to look through the door. He starts slightly as Envoy speaks, "Me? Why me?"

Envoy says, "Well, you're the map keeper."

Chiaroscuro waits at the doorway… peering suspiciusly at the cables. His mask crinkles with his frown.

Mircus doesn't look very happy with the reasoning, but he probably couldn't successfully argue against it… He carefully steps through the door to get a better look around…

The station rocks again, and the coils seem to *slide*. Bits and pieces of machinery clatter across the deck…

Envoy grabs onto Roho again during the shake.

Chiaroscuro jumps back from the door, bristling tail starting to bob up and down, and chittering at the coils… mask dropping below his muzzle as he lower to all fours…

Envoy blinks at Chipper's reaction.

Mircus somehow keeps his feet, arms flailing wildly as he tries to stay upright and not fall into any of that green slime…

The coils thump against the door as the station rocks the other way… And a head comes into view! Those aren't ropes at all. Those are…

Envoy shouts, "SQUID!" and tries to pull Roho back towards the central stairwell.

Mircus' flailing arms thump into the coils, "Aaaah!! It's got me!"

Roho blinks and staggers, "Squid? What?"

Chiaroscuro rkk-tkk-tkk, rkk-tkk tchks, eyes tinging with red. He stares at the snake's head as it slides across… and relaxes only slightly when he sees it is dead.

Envoy says, "There's a monster on the other side of the door, Roho!"

Envoy pauses briefly to see if Mircus gets eaten alive.

The coils thump about, thrown by the force of Mircus's flailing, the apparently Naga head whipped back and forth…

Roho blinks again, "There's no squid in there… at least, not the same kind that attacked us before. What'd you see?"

Chiaroscuro RKK-TKK-TKKS! at a living dead snake, and *jumps* for its neck, jaws open and claws almost bursting through his gloves…

Envoy blinks. "It's a big Naga… Dead. Oh no! DON'T BITE IT CHIPPER!!"

And the mongoose sails right through the door, jaws plunged into the Naga's neck. The coils unwind, throwing Mircus back into Envoy and Roho! A furball of fury disappears into the darkness of the water treatment plant.

Envoy scrambles to get out from under the Rath'ani. "Chipper! Chipper! It could be poisoned still!"

Chiaroscuro releases the snake from his jaw-clamp… "Merciful Rik' and all the saints… this one's gone to Sheol' long ago." He spits the foul taste clear of his mouth, holding his claws to the dead snake's throat still, in case it *is* a living dead monster, like Envoy once told him she encountered… his eyes slowly unredden.

The deck wobbles again, but slowly comes back to a standstill. What could be going on out there?

Mircus staggers to his feet and peers into the darkened room. If Chipper's ok, then it's probably safe… He heads for the door again…

Roho heads into the room, stepping cautiously…

Envoy picks up the lantern, and follows.

Inside, the full extent of the water purification plant can be appreciated, for it must occupy a full half of the station, it and the tanks which store fresh water for the needs of the crew and the airships that stop by the paquebot… Pipes stretch out to the farthest extent of the lantern's glow, connected to large vessels with boilers nearby, which themselves use a different set of pipes to vent whatever waste products they generate.

Envoy asks Chipper, quietly, "What did it taste like?"

The mongoose says, "Garter snake, Envoy. foul, decomposing, Garter snake. Bleeeach. Worse than my aunt Amolapa's cooking." He straightens up, dusting himself off and reflexively grooming his paws.

The coils of the Naga that Chiaroscuro viciously assaulted now lie sprawled out over one of the nearby pipes, and the mongoose himself is nearby, apparently unharmed by his exertion. Blind snake eyes stare up, fangs parted a little as if for some last statement, and the Naga wears some sort of utility belt around his waist… Such as it is.

Envoy kicks one of the coils through the doorway, to keep the hatch from closing on them if the paquebot shakes again.

Puddles of green must have dried a long time ago, leaving only salt-smelling stains on the deck. They seem thickest around a central processing vessel.

Envoy says, "Do you think he got locked in?"

Envoy shines the lantern close to one of the green patches.

The green stain eludes immediate and obvious analysis… At a guess, it might be algae, long deceased.

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy… "Quite possibly.", he says in a voice almost as unemotional and analytical as… Envoy herself usually speaks.

Envoy hands the lantern back to Chipper so that she can take a slime sample. She only has 10 sample holders left.

Mircus peers at Envoy, Chipper, Envoy, Chipper, then blinks. He halfgrins, then starts looking around…

Envoy says, "Keep an eye out for any Kavi corpses. We might need them later."

The Rath'ani's inspection of the nearby part of the plant turns up a console next to the main boiler, the displays apparently mechanical dials of some kind to monitor… Whatever they monitor here. Bins of coal sit nearby, ready to be loaded into some kind of intake hopper. A thick record book sits next to the console.

Chiaroscuro holds his lantern, and kicks the snake-corpse a few more times to make sure it is truly dead… then begins to follow Mircus.

The snake lolls, its white eyes staring up at the mongoose as if blaming him for its state… But makes no motion apart from this.

Mircus glances at the dials, shrugs, and opens the record book to flip through it…

Roho blinks, "What will we need Kavi corpses for, Envoy?"

Envoy says, "They're small enough to carry. We might need them for decoys if we have to run past the squids again."

The record book turns out to be a sign-in sign-off sheet, the pages yellowed from incredible age… The last record was made some hundred years ago, when the plant engineer wrote that the facility was to be shut down, due to a lack of parts to maintain the facility, and was to be stripped for parts as needed to keep number one in use.

Chiaroscuro says, "We will… keep that in mind, Envoy.", while he examins the dials on the console. Perhaps there is another like the one that let us enter the room…

Envoy bangs on the side of the giant tank to see if it's empty or not.

Mircus closes the book carefully, almost reverent of its age.

The dials appear concerned with managing something called 'pressure' and 'temperature', and 'centrifuge speed'…

Envoy says, "The book says that one of these was shut down. Maybe the weapons are stored in that one?"

Mircus looks thoughtful, "Actually, this whole place was shut down… I wonder where… "

Envoy says, "Is there a diagram to show how to get into the tanks?"

Chiaroscuro hmmms, finding nothing he comprehends on the dials. He strokes a small scruff of fur on his chin, thinking…

Mircus starts looking around for anything more of interest. Diagrams, buttons, levers, dials, squids… whatever…

The diagrams are obscure, such as they are… One screen display purports to show the amount of water stored in each tank: almost all of them are marked as at zero capacity, except one, which reads at 15% capacity.

Envoy wanders here and there, occasionally studying some odd shape but otherwise not showing much interest in the machinery.

A set of levers control piping from one tank or another to station systems, presumably a process of pumping water as it would otherwise be impossible to raise all this water to the surface.

Roho stands near the doorway, not wishing to disturb the investigations…

Chiaroscuro heads over to the snake's corpse, searching it for tools, more cylinders for his strange lantern…

Mircus notices the one different diagram. He tries to figure out if there's a way to distinguish the one not-empty tank from the empty tank using the diagrams…

The snake's belt yields up a set of small tools carved from some sort of hard wood and a very dead yiffle wrapped in burlap.

Mircus looks up from the diagrams and starts walking among the tanks the lantern's light falls on… peering closely at each…

Chiaroscuro pockets the tools, leaving the yiffle behind… and walks over to the doctor, waiting for Mircus to possibly find something.

Envoy looks at the ex-Naga and wonders out loud, "I wonder what his name was."

Chiaroscuro makes a small shrug.

The tanks are marked in series: 1, 2, 3, … The paint peels from the numbers, making some of them obscure, but the last one appears to be 18. A green slime hangs like frayed ropes from the pipes, as if it had once been alive, but had withered away in the long years.

Envoy asks Chipper and Roho, "Where does the person go after the body dies?"

Mircus stops in front of the fifteenth tank and stares it it for a moment, oblivious to the conversation. . He looks for some way to open or otherwise access the interior of the tank…

Roho holds up a paw, "Guys, stop moving for a sec… "

Chiaroscuro begins to say in a lectural tone, "Well, Envoy, that depends if-" he drops into silence and stillness at Roho's behest.

Envoy freezes.

The tank looks exactly like any of the other tanks… Like them, it has a wheel at the top of the cylindrical unit, perhaps some sort of hatch which can be used to open it up.

Roho pauses, listening intently as the room quiets down…

At first there is a quiet like the tomb that fills the entire water purification plant… Then gradually the others hear what Roho picked up: the sounds of slowly shuffling footsteps, something tapping against the deck with a regular clack.

The light appears suddenly betraying in Chiaroscuro's hands, its beams piercing back to the open doorway. Who is that who walks out there? And do they want him to find them?

Mircus still hasn't noticed anything amiss; the Rath'ani moves to a ladder attached to the tank's side and starts climbing to get a better look up there…

Chiaroscuro keeps the lantern on for now, and whispers to Roho… "Does it sound like crew from the ship?"

*Clang!* *Clang!* Every step of the Rath'ani's feet on the ladder sounds like a bowshot in the fell quiet of the room.

Envoy hmms, and spreads one wing out to block the lantern from the doorway, since Mircus has blown any possible cover anyway.

Roho's ears prick again, "Whoever it is, is coming faster… and I don't think it's Pawtuxet or Naomi… "

Envoy whispers, "Maybe we should all climb to the top of something?"

Just as the Rath'ani reaches the top of the tank, a light appears in the corridor… A flickering lantern glow, just like the one that Envoy has blocked. It stops in the doorway, the radiance making it hard to recognize the face behind…

Chiaroscuro frowns. "It could be someone else from the ship… " He snaps around to look at the light and the figure…

Envoy refolds her wing, and turns to look as well.

The voice calls out in Eeee, a shrill piercing cry. A demanding voice, but one cracked by age… Or perhaps something worse.

Envoy nods, "It asked 'Who's there?' Should I answer?"

Chiaroscuro looks around… "Tell him our names, Envoy.", he replies.

The bat peers into the darkness as if trying to make out those who are somewhere in the plant.

Envoy answers back, in passable Eeee, "We are Chiaroscuro, Roho, Mircus, and Envoy."

The bat comes closer, approaching the group. He Skreeks again.

Chiaroscuro turns to Envoy, while keeping an eye carefully on the bat…

Mircus looks from his perusal of the top of the tank down to the Skreeking bat. He blinks in surprise. "I thought everyone died," he comments to himself.

Envoy hmms, and whispers to the others, "He accuses us of being in the employ of the Temple, here to loot the Paquebot. I think that shaking we felt earlier may have been a battle… "

It becomes apparent that the bat has improved some kind of cane from several pipes, and needs it to move, for one of his legs seems to have healed crooked. He limps.

The bat gives Envoy hardly a chance to speak, as he continues to shriek angrily.

Chiaroscuro quietly graps Roho's hand, and passes the lantern to him… making his fingers curl around the handle.

Roho grabs the lantern, looking surprised but not questioning…

Envoy whispers to the others, "He's Second Lieutenant Dalagask, and is claiming the station in the name of the Saboath. He wants us to turn it over to him."

Mircus remains quietly on top of the water tank, ears twitching as he watches.

Envoy shrieks back in Eeee, "You and what army?"

The bat's ears purple with rage as he clenches his hand around his cane.

Envoy continues, "We gladly share what we have found so far: the air is poisoned here."

He shrieks again, louder, and shakes his cane at the taunting Envoy. "Fools! You are all trapped here like me, and your airship, the one that brought you, will abandon you when they see how useless it is to attempt to break through the monsters that have laid siege to this station. Acknowledge my authority and perhaps I will share with you my plans for escape."

Mircus halfsmiles, {Of course, he knows how to escape, but just hasn't gotten around to it yet… }

Envoy turns to Chipper, "He's admitted that he's trapped here, and that the Blaze of Glory has not been destroyed or driven off."

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy… "He does not seem cooperative though… has he said anything about surrendering to us, or wanting us to surrender to him?"

Envoy says, "He says the Blaze of Glory will abandon us when they see the futility of getting past the monsters. From this I think he himself has been abandoned by his own ship."

The Eeee transfers his lantern to his other hand, the one balanced on a cane… And reaches into his vest. "Insolent Temple minion! Will you listen to… *this*?"

Envoy says, "Oh yes, he keeps demanding that we submit to his authority… "

Envoy looks back to the Eeee now, then says "I think he has a weapon… "

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy… turning to stare at the bat as he…

Mircus flinches as the bat reaches for something. Given how pleasant the Eee's been so far, the Rath'ani feels justified in grabbing for the knife at his belt…

The bat withdraws a device that appears to be a bent stick, with several glinting attachments that must surely be… Metal! To anyone who has spent any great time on Rephidim and seen its Temple elite, the device is obvious: a handgun, some sort of wheel-lock weapon. He points it at Chiaroscuro. "Do you wish to argue with *this*?"

Chiaroscuro looks confusedly, and turns to Envoy. "He has… a stick with metal of somekind. Is this a weapon?"

Envoy blinks. "He thinks it is, and assumes we will recognize and respect it."

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy… "I do not… but let us play along for a moment. Ask him what he would have us do."

Chiaroscuro says, "Ask only that. 'What would you have us do?'."

The Eeee waits impatiently, his ears swivelling back and forth.

Envoy asks in a high voice, "What do you want us to do?"

"First, you will bring out the treasure that was hidden in here," the bat declares. "You did not come here without a reason. I have been watching you. You are looking for something. It may be useful to the Sabaoth. Then – there is a weapon that will kill the Cephantei – " A word that doesn't immediately translate, perhaps a name for the monsters outside. "Together, we will use it, and then I will take your Temple lackey of a captain hostage and hijack his ship. I will return in glory to the Sabaoth!"

Envoy relays this to the others.

Roho quietly adds, "And if you don't let us help you, you might even get to enjoy your glory for a month or two." in Eeee.

Mircus watches silently from his vantage point. With the weapon pointed at Chipper, throwing at the bat would likely be a bad idea… throwing at…

"Are you threatening me?" Dalagask shrieks, turning to Roho.

Roho shakes his head, "Not at all. You've been breathing the gas in this station for a long time, your lungs are badly hurt. Did you need the cane before you came here?" in Eeee.

Chiaroscuro waits… tensing his body bit by bit, "Envoy… translate what Roho's saying for me. And what the bat says, too."

"I do not *need* this cane," the bat insists. "It is only until my leg heals. Dagh take this Skreek-lair of a station! There is no room to fly!"

Envoy whispers a running translation into Chipper's ear.

Roho nods, "I will agree this station needs work. And your breathing? Your breath has always come short like that?"

The bat looks at Roho nervously. "It is the season – what are you saying? Who are – " It becomes clear to him. "You are the healer, Roho, who was banished for begging for the life of that traitor!"

Envoy fills in some of Roho's background for Chipper as well, mentioning Prince Boghaz…

Roho ignores the bat's observation, hoping he's doing this right, "Have you ever had a season make your breath that short? We have all worn masks, it is not too late to help yourself."

"How can I trust you? Do you follow the Healer's code?" Dalagask shrieks to Roho. "Or has the Temple won you over with promises of wealth beyond your wildest dreams?"

Chiaroscuro starts at Envoy's mentioning. "Boghaz?" he says, remebering the Eeee…

Dalagask turns his aim toward Chiaroscuro. "Do you know that treacherous scum?!"

Mircus flinches slightly; the gun, though still pointing at Roho, is wavering unsteadily. {Star guide me… } The Rath'ani whips his knife through the air, the blade flying at a point behind the bat…

As the knife slices through the air, the bat whips his gun around and fires it at Mircus! The wheel atop the wooden stick spins, sparks fly, something explodes, and a pipe explodes just behind the Rath'ani. The Eeee curses, throwing the lantern to one side where the glass crashes, the oil runs out in a burning sheet, and begins fumbling for a reload…

Chiaroscuro springs, body stretched full-out into a leap at the Eeee…

Envoy turns and dives at Roho, trying to pull him down before the Eeee can fire again.

The mongoose's body tackles the Eeee, eliciting a high-pitched scream that hurts his ears… A leathery bag goes flying, spilling out a mixture of powder and pellets, as does the gun! The Eeee struggles with Chiaroscuro, his breath now coming in audible gasps.

As the pipe behind him explodes, Mircus starts, and loses his balance, tumbling towards the edge of the tank… and catches hold of the ladder and clings.

Leathery wings batter Chiaroscuro from both sides as the bat tries to get a grip on the mongoose.

Chiaroscuro struggles with the Eeee, jaws snapping centimeters from the bat's face… claws breakign through the leather of his gloves and digging deep into the bat's forearms.

Envoy sees that the Eeee isn't about to fire again, and so leaves Roho to help Chipper.

Roho stands up shakily…

The bat keens! "Hated Kavi! You will answer for this!" He tries to force the mongoose off… But just cannot gain the strength to do so, instead, breaking out into a spate of coughing.

Envoy tries to pin down the Eeee's wings.

Envoy comments, "I don't think he likes you, Chipper."

Dalagask glares at the mongoose and the strange winged Aeonian. "Torture me as much as you like, I will not give up my secrets. I will not be marched back to the Temple as some sort of bizarre exhibit! We will stay trapped here to the end of our days!"

Chiaroscuro squirms around, sticking a knee into the Eee's stomach and *forcing* the air out his lungs. "Rack-srabbj!", he says in Kitellian, with his jaws opening top clamp on the bat's throat… not closing, just there, teethpricking the skin.

Dalagask's ears turn white on the inside.

Envoy blinks. "I don't think we should kill him, Chipper… "

Mircus finally manages to pull himself back atop the tank and turns to watch, gasping for breath.

Chiaroscuro lifts up his knee… but does not release his jaw-hold, keeping teeth against the bat's neck.

The flaming oil dies out as it touches the green spills, stinking horribly.

Envoy says, in what she thinks is a reassuring tone (she's never actually heard one from an Eeee before), "We aren't going to torture you."

"Bah! You Kavis are more animal than thinking beings," Dalagask manages. "You have beaten me… for now. But there will be another time." He lies prone on the deck, eyes staring at the mongoose.

Dalagask says, "Liar! You want to escape this place, so you seek to win my confidence."

Roho walks towards Chiaroscuro and the bat, "Chiaroscuro, hold his arms for a moment… or maybe tie them."

Envoy tells the Eeee, "Chiaroscuro is an Exile. He isn't a Kavi. I am also an Exile."

Chiaroscuro leans back up, and snapsnaps his jaws a bit… then reaches to grasp the Eeee's arms.

Dalagask eyes Envoy, sucking in breaths to replenish his abused lungs. "So you are not some sort of mutant created by the Temple to serve its monstrous will." *breath* "Well. I imagine that your mother will be gratified to know that."

Envoy ponders that, and decides not to say that she is a mutant created by her mother to serve her will…

Seeing the situation below seemingly under control, and finally having caught his breath, Mircus slowly crawls back down the ladder.

Roho waits until Chiaroscuro has Dalagask well-restrained, then soaks a mask in medicine and ties it around the bat's mouth.

The bat wheezes. "Ack! MMF!" He struggles against the medicated mask.

Envoy looks back towards Mircus, and calls, "Did you find the secret weapons?"

The bat's eyes widen!

Mircus reaches the bottom of the ladder and slumps to the floor. "I got shot at; does that count?"

Envoy blinks, then says, "No."

Chiaroscuro says, "Could you get something to tie up his hands as well, Doctor?"

"You're drugging me, so you can make me tell you everything, aren't you?" the bat accuses, glaring at Roho. "Well, it won't work. I can feel it, working insidiously, some euphoric drug, make me happy, forget all about past months… " He continues talking, gulping in breaths. It seems to be a bat characteristic that they talk a lot.

Mircus pulls himself to his feet again, using the ladder as a support. "In that case, no." The Rath'ani glances up to the wheel atop the tank again, then decides to find his knife before doing anything further.

Roho stands before the bat for another moment, considering, then says, "Anything further will have to wait until we're aboard ship, I'm afraid. That'll keep you from getting worse." He nods to Chiaroscuro, and takes a strong length of bandage from his pouch…

Envoy perks her ears. Months??

Mircus notices the bandages Roho hands to Chipper and digs into one of his multiple pouches. He hands a length of cord to Chipper, and then wordlessly sets to finding his dagger.

Chiaroscuro ties a few secure knots around the bat's wrists… then whispers to Roho something quietly, below the hearing of Envoy and Mircus.

Roho nods at Chiaroscuro's whisper, and starts to bandage the bat's arms.

Chiaroscuro picks up the bat's staff idly. "And when you are done, doctor, I think we have a new walking stick for you… "

The minutes pass as Mircus opens the hatch of the tank and discovers that it is indeed not empty… In fact, it has been loaded with numerous crates, and the clever-handed Rath'ani soon finds that the side of the tank can be dismounted using the tools that Chiaroscuro found on the Naga, to expose a veritable cornucopia of weaponry… Ship's guns, made of heavy iron – fantastically valuable, certain to withstand repeated firings without exploding like cheaper iron-reinforced wooden guns. Arbalests, unstrung, and bales of bolts for them. Things that look like pottery, packed tightly so that they do not even rattle or slosh when shaken, stopped up. Large lead balls. It would all be immensely valuable to Rephidim for arming its ships in the war… And almost none of it, save possibly the arbalests if handled by several people, could be used against the squid-monsters that have been assaulting the paquebot.

In the meantime, Naomi has arrived, to report that the central core is completely surrounded on all sides by the monstrosities, but Pawtuxet is checking some of the other airlocks, to see if any way exists past these creatures- 'Cephantei', Dalagask calls them. Dalagask, though determined not to reveal anything, has managed to slip bits and pieces that allow Envoy to put together the complete story.

It seems that Dalagask was an officer on board a military ship sent to investigate the Paquebot some time after Rephidim's abandoning, in hope of recovering any valuable cargo and denying Little Rephidim West to Rephidim's use. His men boarded the station, a number were taken ill in passing through the corridors to reach the core and others were killed when the Cephantei struck… He alone has survived, using the stored provisions in General Stores Two, and has learned that the crew apparently lived long enough to plan a counterattack against the squids.

The exact nature of the counterattack, however, Dalagask refuses to say because he is convinced that it is his only bargaining chip with Chiaroscuro, Envoy, Roho, and the others.

Envoy asks the Eeee, "What do you want in exchange for the information?"

The station rocks again as Dalagask starts to speak. He rolls over instead and Skreeks angrily, unable to stop himself from hitting the deck painfully with his nose.

Chiaroscuro keeps his balance as the station shakes… "Envoy… ask him if the station does this shaking often."

Envoy asks.

"It did once," Dalagask hisses. "But it went away. As did my ship, the Wings of Red."

The bat mutters. "Fools."

Mircus, having fallen to the floor, pulls himself into a sitting position rather than trying to stand. "I think I'd rather be back on the airship than here. When are we leaving, anyhow?"

Envoy hmms, after translating.

Envoy says, "Do you think the shaking is caused by the presence of airships?"

Naomi shivers and stays close to Roho.

"I don't know," Dalagask admits.

Chiaroscuro says, "It is possible, Envoy. Or at the very least, the sounds they or explorers make… how soon after the landing was the shaking? Ask him that, please."

Envoy relays the question.

Envoy turns to Mircus, "We can't leave until we're able to."

Chiaroscuro hmms at Mircus. "Well… before we carry out the weapons, it would be best to find a route of escape.

Chiaroscuro nods… "Just as Envoy has said." He turns to Pawtuxet and Naomi. "And you said there seemed to be no way out along the docks?"

Mircus scratches his head, "Why can't we leave?"

Dalagask says, "I won't go to Rephidim," vehemently. "They say many bad things about Roho, but they do say he must have valued life very much. They will kill me, in the Temple. If he promises me that you will free me, somewhere else, I will tell you what I know."

Envoy tells Chipper and Pawtuxet Dalagask's request.

Naomi says hesitantly, "We looked – outside the windows, the ones higher up. The seas were filled with black bodies! Some red ones too. We listened at the doors, but we didn't want to open them and maybe let them in." She wrings her tail. "I think they're out there."

Envoy says, "Did you see them push against the paquebot in large groups, Naomi? Enough to cause the shaking?"

Chiaroscuro gathers the others into a whispering group on the other side of the room… leaving only Naomi behind to keep an eye on the prisoner. After a few moments of discussion about Sendrick, the war, and the Temple, they turn back to the Eeee…

The healer's Rath'ani assistant whispers, "I don't know… I don't think so. It's just – there was a moment when a tentacle came right up to the window." She shivers again.

Roho walks up to Dalagask from the group, "I give you my word we shall not bring you to Rephidim. We cannot bring you to Babel, of course, but if we manage to escape, we shall leave you someplace neutral."

Dalagask peers at Roho suspiciously…

Chiaroscuro nudges the doctor. "*Provided* he will give us trustworthy information about the weapon, and not try to escape."

The Eeee nods. "All right. I will trust you. There is a weapon I found on the sixth level. There were many dead bodies around it, and I did not stay in there very long, but there were cans marked with symbols I recognized as dangerous… They must have made them to poison the Cephantei. They were far too large for me to handle by myself. But we together… " His voice falls silent.

Mircus pipes up as the Eeee silences, "If we aren't enough, we can always get some of the crew to help."

"By the way," Dalagask says. "My lungs *do* feel better. Thank you, Healer Roho." He laughs dryly.

Envoy blinks at Mircus. What other crew?

Mircus notices Envoy looking at him and fidgets, "Um… What?"

Roho half-smiles, "You are not out of the woods yet. Unfortunately, I don't believe I can do anything else for you until we return to the ship." He adds, "And when we return to the ship, we will need your cooperation. Most of us here were simply hired by the Temple for an exploratory mission, but our captain is a strong member of the Temple. We will need to make up a story for your presence here, that doesn't include you claiming the station for the Sabaoth."

"All right," the bat says, sounding a little disappointed.

Envoy says, "Do you remember the monsters that chased us into here, Mircus?"

Mircus nods. "I don't think I want to, but yeah. Ugly, weren't they?"

Envoy says, "How do you expect other people to come through those to help us? If they could get past, then we could also get past going in the other direction."

The lantern-light flickers again. An irregular dripping sound punctuates the silence like a clock that doesn't quite work properly.

Mircus blinks, "Why would anyone want to go through those creatures? They could get hurt."

Envoy smiles, "So, how could we get more crew to come IN in order to help us get OUT?"

Mircus shrugs. "The ventilation system, of course. It does exit topside somewhere."

Envoy blinks.

Envoy says, "How do we get to it?"

Dalagask eyes the others warily.

Chiaroscuro hmmms. "A ventilation system… "

Mircus scratches his head and shrugs again, "Through the vents. They go pretty much everywhere."

Envoy says, "Show us one please."

Mircus points at various grates high up on the walls. Really high up on the walls. "It'd probably be easier to get in through one upstairs though."

Envoy says, "We'll have to search the uppermost level then."

Chiaroscuro hmmms, gauging the size of the ventilation shafts. "Are there larger ones than this? I do not think Lady Pawtuxet will fit through ones this size."

Envoy says, "We could use some of the cannon powder to widen one perhaps."

Mircus blinks and shakes his head, "Search the uppermost level? But… " He shakes his head again, "I don't think there'd be any larger vents, no, bu… cannon powder??" The Rath'ani wilts.

Envoy says, "Yes, the cannons should be able to widen or force an opening in the top of the paquebot."

Mircus' eyes turn to glance about the room, almost pleadingly, {Someone stop her… ?}

Chiaroscuro says, "That… would be a plan of last resort, Lady Envoy."

Envoy smiles, "If we can get out through the top of the station, then we won't need to poison the Cephantai."

Chiaroscuro hmms… "The difficulty there lies in transporting the weapons out."

Envoy says, "Well, they got down there, so there must be a mechanism for transporting them out."

Envoy says, "Once we have a safe way in and out of the station, then Captain Sendrick can use the crew to carry out the weapons."

The mognoose hmmms. "Indeed possible… "

Mircus speaks hesitantly, still eyeing Envoy warily, "Shouldn't we at least tell Sendrick we're alive or something first… ?"

Dalagask says to Roho, "What insanity is it that they are planning? I see that the Rath'ani looks at the winged Exile as if she had gone mad, but the other Exile, he only nods."

Roho responds to Dalagask, "Envoy, the winged one, is very blunt in her suggestions at times."

Dalagask says, "Discipline is good for such people."

Envoy turns to Dalagask, "Your firearm uses an explosive charge. Can you tell us how much would be needed to create a large hole in the wall of the paquebot?"

Dalagask stares at Envoy. "Are you mad? You cannot use flash-powder here! You would destroy us all!"

Envoy is fairly certain that such an explosion would be an adequate signal to the Blaze of Glory that they were still alive, and in possession of the weapons.

Mircus looks relieved. That's good – someone else thinks that's a bad idea, as well…

Chiaroscuro sighs, as the conversation turns into Eee again, a langauge no more than babble to his ears.

Envoy hmms.

Envoy tells Chipper, "Dalagask does not reccomend using flash powder."

Dalagask says, "We must kill all of the Cephantei. It is the only way. They have killed many of our own and yours as well. In a war… " He attempts to shrug his shoulders, then wobbles his muzzle. "People die."

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy… "Nor I, except should other situations fail."

Envoy sighs, "I suppose we could try releasing some of the poison through the wetlock."

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy. "Along with attempting to contact the ship by means of the air ducts, that seems to be the best choice for now." He touches his Rikkorrel lightly, running a finger from the left to the right ear. "Let us prepare… "

---

GMed by Lynx

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Today is 20 days after Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)