In which the questers come face to face with squids for the last time.
(Chiaroscuro) (Envoy) (Mircus) (Ocean) (Pawtuxet) (Roho) (Quest in the
Spare Holo
Main Airlock of Little Rephidim West
Seawater washes over the floor of the number one airlock of the paquebot, the thirty-by-thirty space seeming too small as vicious Cepheids outside wave their tentacles, trying to reach in to snare those standing too close. Just beyond the airlock's open outer door is a sight out of nightmare, a wooden-framed and decked corridor leading down the docking arm to a distant warehouse… But the floor nearby has been chopped in large sections by the ceaseless batterings of black tentacles, and one side of the deck as well, to let in sea-foamy wind and the sight of the sky where there should be none. It may be possible to make one's way past the immediate debris if one is careful… And not hampered by ravaging squids.

A dark substance flowed from the pipe to the water, infusing it… At first there seemed to be no effect – then the waters erupted in a fury of tentacles! A keening filled the air…

Dalagask brushes past Chiaroscuro, reaching for the valve. "Turn it up! Kill the Dagh-taken monsters," he screams. "It's them or us!"

Envoy winces at the noise, but listens closely nonetheless. There might be intelligent patterns in it, afterall.

Chiaroscuro swats Dalagask's hand away from the valve, and glares at the bat… keeping his paw firmly on the valve and the valve turned just as it is.

The bodies of the squids pulsate in colors – the sheen of the black is not so featureless after all, but mottled almost as if they had been painted, save that it all appears to be part of their skins. The collective noise of the Cepheids makes it difficult to pick out any particular keen.

Dalagask screams in Eeee, "You're driving them mad! They'll kill us if we don't kill them first!" As if to prove him right, one of the squids, a larger red one, lashes out with a tentacle blindly, knocking him back into the wall of the airlock. His cane clatters across the deck.

Noting the color changes, Envoy wonders if they indicate distress or communication? "Why don't they attack each other, if they're being driven mad?"

Roho stands stationward of the airlock… he doesn't want to get into those tentacles, there's no way he could dodge them.

Pawtuxet turns from the door and approaches Dalagask, to see if he is allright.

Chiaroscuro winces as the Eee gets battered… keeping on his feet, dodging tentacles as they swim through the air.

The squids… begin to retreat! As some kind of murky substance spills from the rubber pipe dipped into the water, they pull back, lashing against the substance of the docking arm in their haste.

Dalagask has been knocked out cold, and is now slumped in a puddle of sea water.

Pawtuxet bends down to carefully pick up the Eee – can't leave him here - and then gets his cane, in case they quickly need to be going.

Chiaroscuro calls back, "It's working! I think… " He steps forward, dragging the cannister…

Dalagask's mask appears to have been knocked off, the retainer strap snapped.

The squids continue to keen as the waters change color ever so slightly, from a deep blue to a murky purple-blue, falling back…

Envoy takes a few steps into the airlock, trying to see what the squids are doing beyond the outer edge.

Pawtuxet's ears swirl forth, as she notices the mask lying on the floor, and from where it came. She asks, "Could one of you get that mask?", addressing no one in particular.

Roho scampers to Pawtuxet and Dalagask, and coats a new mask in medication, "Here, strap this on him… "

Envoy hmms. The squids behave differently depending on their colors… maybe the colors represent different chemicals in the skin then. "I think some of the cephieds are countering the poison with more chemicals."

Pawtuxet rests the cane against the wall, as she takes the new mask, awkwardly managing both it and the unconscious flappity, unto which she finally gets the mask strapped.

Envoy calls to Chiaroscuro, "Try to expose those red-colored squids to more poison. They're coming closer while the black ones are retreating."

The warning comes not a second too soon, as one of the red-hided squids lifts its beak out from the water, the tri-part section opening… And spits a length of black goop across the air! It hits the far wall of the airlock, narrowly missing the mongoose as he ducks, only a bit spattering him.

Envoy eeps and rushes back towards the inner door, "Everyone get back behind the weapons!"

Dalagask stirs woozily in Pawtuxet's arms.

Chiaroscuro shouts a startled "MEEF!" as the goop lands on his clothes… the canister clattering from his paws to the floor. He leaps once backwards towards the airlock…

The cannister begins to roll… downward, toward the lip of the airlock.

"This powder-filled cannonball just won't fit on … oops, there it goes again!" A rather frazzled Naomi scrambles after a ball of shot near the sledges, which trails powder. "It's a good thing the oil-flasks are thick."

The contaminated stretch of water grows wider, forcing the squids back, some of the nearby black squids visibly wilting and flailing against their companions as they absorb too much of the poison. Welts of grayish blood appear on their skins.

Envoy uh ohs… "We'd better close the inner door. If they grab that tank and rupture it, it could kill us."

Pawtuxet yikes and padpads backwards, away from the opening, not realising the Eee is regaining consciousness, "Explains where thee goop came from, I fear."

Chiaroscuro scatters backwards towards Envoy… "Are you sure? What if It won't kill the red ones?" He says, trying to keep the goop on him from spreading around his clothes…

Envoy says, "The poison in the cannister WILL kill us though!"

The keening takes on a new pitch, one with rasping edges around the noise that force those more sensitive of hearing to flatten their ears…

Roho flattens his ears.

Dalagask screams! "They're everywhere!" he yells in Eeee, pulling his ears down and holding his hands over them. He struggles in Pawtuxet's arms.

Naomi winces, forgetting the cannonball to clutch her ears.

*CLANK!* The cannister of squid-killing poison lodges in the groove of the outer airlock door. It continues to leak its deadly contents into the water.

Pawtuxet erps and blinks atta struggling Eeee, only now seeing he's awakened. She decides against letting him down, at least until he's settled down, or is not struggling too much.

Dalagask curses at Pawtuxet. "You're one of them! Let me down, you squid-thing with too many limbs!" The bat is feeble, but more than enough of an armful to keep the foxtaur busy.

Envoy tries to screech the squid noises back to the squids, hoping to confuse them a bit.

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy. "Everyone move back inside… let us wait and see what happenes next." He presses back, carefully keeping his left side away from the others…

Envoy heads for the inner-door crank, since Pawtuxet has her hands full.

Pawtuxet furrows her brows at Dalagask, "Yes… and maybe it's about time to feed them." She doesn't feed the squids eee, but instead puts him back down, then points to the wall, against which the cane rests, "Your stick is overthere."

The squids react to Envoy's screeches, the waters churning with their tentacle-waves and lashes, colors on their surfaces changing faster… The nearby water has become edged with dead bodies, and though the red squids still emit periodic bursts of black goop, they succeed only in tagging the outer docking arm, making that area distinctly hazardous. For now, it appears, the area might… Might be safe to pass, if the poison spreads far enough that they can't hit any of those running by.

Dalagask runs down the corridor, screeching, "We've got to hide! They're everywhere! They'll kill us all!" Or attempts to… After a few tottery steps, he collapses just short of Naomi.

Envoy hmms at the fallen Eeee. "That must be how the original crew reacted to the squid toxins."

Naomi had been trying to find a spot on a sled for a stoppered ceramic jar of greek oil when Dalagask makes his startling appearance. She stumbles backwards with a squeak, and the jar falls off.

The jar cracks against the ceramic deck! It begins to ooze a thick black substance.

Inside the station proper, the sounds of the squids are only a little muted, echoing back and forth through the hard-walled corridors with strange metallic resonations. It is easy to understand, even for those not so gifted of hearing, how Dalagask might be confused. The bat curls up in a ball and holds his ears, whining.

Frowning at Naomi's fumble, Envoy tries to move the inner crank-wheel.

"Oh, no! Ah… my fault! Sorry! I'm really s-sorry." Naomi hurries to Dalagask's side in the hopes of making herself useful in a different manner.

The crank wheel takes great strength to move, budging only in painfully slow increments at Envoy's attempt.

Naomi says, "Are you okay, Mr. Dalagask? Are your ears hurting?"

Chiaroscuro looks at the goop on his left arm… which appears to be stopped by his clothing. He steps back inside the station and smears what he can off on a wall. "Envoy, all, avoid my left side… goop on my sleeve."

Envoy nods to the mongoose, and says, "I can't close the door by myself, it's too heavy."

Dalagask rants in Eeee at Naomi… Evidently deranged.

Pawtuxet bounds up to help Envoy push the door shut, moving along the wall on the side of the door's hinges, but steering around Chiaroscuro.

Envoy lets Pawtuxet handle the crank, and warns Naomi, "Don't get too close to Dalagask, he could be dangerous."

Approaching the fennec healer, Envoy asks, "Do you have any tranquilizers that could be given to Dalagask, Roho?"

The door starts to close… But halfway through, the station again shudders and rocks, another of the 'paquebot-quakes' that have been happening recently. Things start to slide…

"D-dangerous?" Rather flustered, the Rath'ani nurse fumbles through her apron pockets, turning up a brownish bottle with a complex label, and a wad of gauze. "Sir? Would you… would you please calm d-… sir, please let go of my fur! Ow! Please!"

Envoy grabs onto Roho… whether to stabilize him or to keep from falling over herself is unclear.

Roho staggers slightly as Envoy grabs him, then nods, "I've got something… though I don't know if we have time for me to brew it up. I doubt he'd just happily swallow the leaves."

Dalagask clenches Naomi's clothes, shaking the Rath'ani. "They're attacking us again! Soon the Queen Cephantei will rise and crush us all like a bug! A bug, I tell you! Gish!"

Envoy hmms, "How about something to tie him up with then?"

Chiaroscuro keeps away from the rest, lest they accidentally brush them into him. He keeps shaking his head back and forth, as if this is all too unreal…

The bottle Naomi's holding sloshes some clear, strong-smelling liquid. "P-Please sir, calm down! Let go, you're making me spill the medicine! Would someone he-… ow, stop sh-shaking me!"

Roho sighs as Dalagask's raving grows worse, "Nevermind, we don't have time for this." He fishes something out of his bag, walks over to Naomi and Dalagask, and with a practiced motion pinches Dalagask's upper jaw, pulls down his mandible, and crams a tight-packed wad of herbs down his throat.

The station rocks again, and some of the sleds, carefully arranged, start to slide.

Dalagask screeches, "We must use the rest of – GLAK!" He coughs and splutters, struggles weakly with the wiry fennec… And then flumphs almost comically to the floor.

Roho wipes bat-slobber off on his tunic, and wrinkles his nose, "I hate to do that… would you mind keeping an eye on him, Naomi?"

Chiaroscuro blinks, the motions of the sled snapping him out of his self-worry. He moves over, and pushes his right side against a sled, bracing it…

Envoy's frown deepens at the constant battering from outside. "I wish we just knew what they wanted out there."

A cannonball bounces off of the sled and begins to roll down the incline of the now-sloped station floor… It appears to be on a collision course for the cannister, which is still oozing a slow poison into the waters.

Naomi starts to say, "Yes," but realizes that's the wrong answer. "I'll try to keep him calm, Doctor." she quavers. "I don't fancy being 'gished' whatever that means."

Roho nods, "Neither do I, Naomi, we'll all try to keep that from happening. And just make sure he keeps breathing… "

Envoy runs across the shaking deck to try and catch the cannonball.

The cannonball rolls just within reach of Envoy's fingers… And skitters onward. The station rocks the other way, as if some heavy force were pressing against the cable that anchors it to the ocean floor; a large blunt metal object now begins to roll directly toward Envoy.

Chiaroscuro blinks as he notices the cannonball and Envoy. "No, Envoy! Get back!"

Envoy turns to look at Chipper, and so doesn't spot the blunt object.

Chiaroscuro's eyes lock quickly into Envoy's, as he calls out " Meil! Meil!", then a frantic, "JUMP!"

Envoy eeps and jumps back along the corridor.

*CLATTERclatterclatter* the somewhat dented lead cannonball rolls just past where Envoy's head would have been…

Dalagask appears, for a change and to Naomi's relief, to be sleeping at last.

Fortunately, the mongoose is able to control the sleds to prevent future accidents.

As Pawtuxet finishes shutting the door, the last keening noises from the squids outside disappear with a hiss.

Naomi untenses a little bit. She resecures the Eeee's mask where it'd been dislodged, leaning him against one of the sleds.

Envoy looks down the corridor towards the biology labs. "Maybe they really do want those babies back. Why else would they stay for so long?"

Chiaroscuro takes in a relieved breath, and mumbles, "Arkaatanu, Rik'Tik'Tav."

Roho nods in agreement with Chiaroscuro… even though he doesn't speak Kitellian, 'Thank God' has a similar ring to it in all languages.

The thin battering of tentacles against the walls of the station make a just-barely audible rhythm beneath the near-complete silence of the paquebot.

Chiaroscuro keeps nearby to the sleds, ready to stablize them if needed. "So… now, what path shall we take? Wait and hope the poison will kill all the squids, or… "… he pauses, not knowing much else to be an 'or'.

Envoy goes over to Chipper (but not too close, just in case the floor jumps again). "Maybe we should send everyone out through the vents that can take that route. I'd like to give the remains of those two cephieds in the labs to the ones outside, and see how they react."

Now that things have calmed down, Naomi begins trying to clean up the oil spill she caused, setting the ceramic jar she'd dropped back upright, and puzzling over how to soak up the sludge puddle.

Roho nods at Envoy, "That's a worthwhile idea… if we take the vents, how will we get the weapons out? I'd personally rather see them dumped into the water, but now that Dalagask knows they're here, we can't just leave them."

One of the Rath'ani's paws comes back all gooey black, and she frowns, shaking it. A few droplets of the stuff fly around. "Can we make it out if we get past that pool those… those things are in, Mr. Waashu Gnawer?"

Envoy says, "We probably couldn't get them across that ruined floor in ideal conditions anyway. We can blow up the corridor from outside, and try to airlift the weapons out of the airlock after the squids are gone."

A dead Rhian (its fingers snapped by Envoy's previous efforts) and several other corpses are slumped against the side of the corridor where they were pushed earlier. The horse skull's eyeless grimace meets Naomi's eyes as she scouts about for a towel.

Chiaroscuro thinks about Envoy's word. "But some here cannot make it through the vents… " he looks over at Pawtuxet.

Naomi's ears droop, and she swallows hard, looking somewhat ill. She takes her search elsewhere as soon as raccoonly possible.

Envoy says, "They'll have to come out with the weapons then, or try to fly out. I couldn't get through the vents without cutting off my wings."

Chiaroscuro turns to Naomi, and nods. "If we can make it to the warehouse, we can get to the ship… "

Pawtuxet returns from securing the door. "Actually, I might be the one who're able to get through airshafts most easily. If they're not too steep, that is.

Chiaroscuro looks at Pawtuxet's sizable fox'taur body, and blurts, "You, Lady Pawtuxet? These are narrow vents!"

Failing to find a towel, the nurse simply tries to wipe the oil off on her apron, merely smearing the canvas with black, the fur on her fingers still caked. "Well… do we have much of this gooey ick left? It floats on water, doesn't it? Maybe it'll keep those tentacle things underwater if it's burning, long enough for us to scoot these horrid weapons out of here."

Envoy says, "There aren't an infinite number of Cephieds. We could try to distract them to other parts of the station, and the others could attempt to reach the docking arm then. Would it burn the dock too, Naomi?"

Naomi scratches her head, getting sticky oil in her headfur. "I don't know… " she admits. "I'm not sure how hot this stuff burns, or how long. I just remembered oil-spills burning while they floated in a cooking accident I had once."

Envoy says, "We could try putting the Cephieds from the labs into the bathysphere, and sending it down. The ones outside would be distracted by attacking it, and distracted again once they broke it open."

Pawtuxet grins to Chiaroscuro, "If we have to go through air vents, I'll show you what I mean."

Chiaroscuro raises an eyebrow, but smiles and nods. "All right, then, I will take your word." He shakes his head at Envoy. "None of us knows how to launch this bathysphere, and it would more likely bring more creatures from below than it would bring below those from above."

Envoy says, "What about the lab specimens though? Can you think of any other reason they'd still be trying to get into the paquebot?"

The station rocks again, forcing a quick scramble to keep the sleds in one place and stop things from rolling off… The tied-down cannons shift against their cords holding them in place.

Chiaroscuro thinks on this for a while… then shakes his head. "Other than they simply being evil beasts… no."

Envoy says, "So let's give them the remains then, and remove all doubt."

"Well… I'd be mad too, if I had little ones, and they were taken away from me… " Naomi says, scratching her muzzle. It leaves a black stripe. She shakes her paw again, irritably.

Chiaroscuro looks around at each other person, for some other idea… finding none suggested, just an uneasy silence… and nods to Envoy. "Then… that is what we shall do."

Naomi shifts uncomfortably, and takes a look at Dalagask to see how he's doing.

Dalagask starts snoring.

*Squeeee* *Hrrrrrkz* *Squeeee*

Envoy hmms.

The nurse sighs. "It's too bad he's asleep… now that he's calmed down, and it's not so noisy, maybe he could tell us if he knows anything about that bath-spear thing."

Envoy says, "The red squids are the poisonous ones, apparently. It should be safe enough to handle the bodies in the labs while wearing our gloves and masks."

Envoy says, "We could just carry them to the airlock and toss them out."

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy. "I suppose that would be the best, for that plan… should we usee this airlock, or perhaps a different one? And let us hurry… I know not how long Mircus will be able to convince Sendrick to stay."

Envoy nods, "Should we use the airlock we came in through?"

Chiaroscuro nods. "That should work, if we can find our way back there without Mircus… "

Envoy says, "I remember the way."

Chiaroscuro nods… "Let us go, then." He starts walking for the hallway.

"Should I just stay here with the eeee, Mr. Waashu Cruncher?" asks Naomi.

Envoy walks alongside the mongoose. "We might need Pawtuxet's help to carry the remains and work the doors. Remember, we have to close the inner one before the outer can be opened."

Chiaroscuro says, "Best that you do, Naomi. I think beween Envoy, Pawtuxet, Roho and I we can carry the jars."

The medical lab looks much the same as it did the last time, two vats containing a murky substance in which small Cepheids float, presumably awaiting autopsy… A third Cepheid has been eviscerated, in another tank, and its parts presumably rest in a number of glass jars. Even through the mask, the stench of the formaldehyde is almost choking.

The vats do not look especially movable – the evidence suggests they were carried in on wheeled wooden carts, stained dark by time and noxious chemicals.

Envoy hmms at the larger vessels.

Envoy says, "Maybe we could find a blanket or tarp to drag them all in."

Chiaroscuro says, "But… how do we drain the vats, Envoy?"

Envoy looks around for something heavy, "Smash them open."

Envoy hmms, and ponders a moment. "No, there must be a way to drain the vats built in." She searches around the base of the nearest vat.

Chiaroscuro nods, peering closely at the vats as well…

The station rocks again… Not as badly as the last time, but enough to make one of the squids suddenly appear to rush up against Envoy as she bends down, its tentacles suddenly vividly a pale gold-laced white against the glass.

Something clatters outside.

Chiaroscuro ahs! "Here, a spigot… we should let it drain elsewhere then simply upon the floor, however."

The tentacles slowly disappear back into the black gloom.

Envoy doesn't pull back like someone with reflexes would. She knows there's glass there. "Look for a drain in the floor. I'd think drains would be a basic backup."

Envoy searches out the spigot on the next vat.

The entire floor of the lab slopes slightly toward a large center drain, in fact. Coils of hose and large tanks of some noisome-smelling chemicals and water-faucets suggest that the lab provides for refilling and emptying the vats on a regular basis.

There's a Rath'ani-ish squeal of pain down the hall, followed by the words, "Stupid cannonball! I hate these things!"

Roho searches through cupboards and shelves, looking for decent gloves…

The mongoose turns the spigot to let the foul liquid drain.

Envoy tries the spigot on the other vat as well.

*Sploosh!* The liquid starts to drain slowly, stinking dreadfully.

It splashes out into puddles surrounding the floor around the vats.

Roho finds a few boxes, and opens them up.

Chiaroscuro steps back to stay clear of the odorous liquid, and wanders over by Roho. "Have you found any towels, doctor? I would like to clean this sleeve better."

Roho places the box he's been checking on a table, "No, but I believe I've found some adequate gloves… "

Chiaroscuro nods. "Helpful as well, as mine have been torn." He pulls off his gloves, ends burst upen by his claws, and tries a pair of the new ones on.

The thin packet of gloves is all that's in the cabinet, along with a variety of blades… Little wisps of fennec-colored fur suggests that Roho's light touch hasn't been enough to save him from all of the blades. Thin white towels are in the next drawer down. The writing on the packet says, "WHITE ZOLK GLOVES – supply no. 150-77a." And a signout sheet suggests that they are intended to be used, washed, and replaced as needed.

Envoy looks for a means of opening the vats once they're drained. Maybe the tops come off. Hmm.

Chiaroscuro takes some of the towels, doing his best to rid his sleeve of the sticky black goop… and pocketing a blade for possible further need.

Roho considers for a moment, then places a few of the blades in his pouch… after all those masks, there's plenty of room. He distributes gloves to everyone, slipping a pair on his own paws and placing the rest in his bag after the blades.

The scalpel seems to be topped with some black glass-like blade. Perhaps not the best sort of instrument for attacking squids.

After a few minutes of tense waiting, the liquids drain completely from the vats, leaving slumped pallid tentacled forms heaped inside… the eyes stay dreadfully open, still moist from the formaldehyde, infinitely deep and black.

The floor around the vats looks damp still, glistening with a thin layer of black miasma.

Envoy finds a little stepping stool, and stands on it to pry the top of one of the vats open.

Letting the cover slide to the ground, Envoy peers over the edge of the vat to see how big the squid is.

Chiaroscuro turns to watch Envoy's progress on the tanks… "Do you need my aid, Envoy?"

Envoy steps down. "I think we can use the covers as sleds to carry the squids on. I don't see any way to open the glass walls to get the bodies out though."

The squid might, if fully stretched out, measure some nine feet from top of head to bottom of tentacles… About half its length is made up of the body, and the skin is completely pallid, white shaded just a little toward gold. The eyes are dark, and the beak, even if this is a juvenile specimen and not, perhaps, a related species, looks quite nasty.

At the moment, the squids look like so much sea food.

Envoy goes to examine the various tanks and tubing along the walls. "If we had a source of seawater, we could hook it up to the spigots and refill the vats until the bodies floated to the tops, perhaps."

Chiaroscuro hmmms, looking for a pump… "That sounds wise. Barring that, perhaps we could break the glass… "

Roho tilts his head, "Do you think they float?"

Envoy hmms, "It's very thick glass. The squids were floating in the preservative liquid, Roho."

Roho nods, "We don't know if the preservative is lighter or heavier than the water. Well, anyways, I don't have a better idea, so I guess it's worth a shot."

Envoy tests some of the tubing for stretchiness, in case the bodies have to be hauled out, as she looks at the other tanks and fixtures in the lab.

There appears to be a sink handy, with faucets for washing one's hands… The pipe that provides cold water to the sink leads up to a larger ceramic tank passing through the room from top to bottom, a large top screwed tight to prevent water from gushing out into the lab; a heavy wheel of some dense plastic controls the flow of water through this extension. The tubes are made from some kind of mesh material that has seen better days, but might hold long enough…

Envoy says, "There had to be some way for them to lift those bodies into the vats in the first place."

Turning the smaller spigots of the sink, Envoy tests to see if there is any pressure behind them.

Water gushes from the faucet.

"Okay, Envoy, let us try this." Chiaroscuro says, and nimbly jumps atop the stool. "Toss me one end of the tubing."

Envoy does so.

Chiaroscuro sticks it on the edge of the tank, pointing inwards. "Ready… "

Envoy turns off the spigot, and attaches the other end of the hose before turning it back on. "Okay, here it comes."

Roho walks to the door, and calls out into the hallway, "Who's out there?"

Whoosh! Water flows through the hose, leaking a little here and there to make the lab floor further slippery… And gushes out into the tank, mostly clean.

It begins to slowly fill the tank… And the small squid-like being floats! The water has a greenish tint.

Chiaroscuro keeps on the stool, holding the tube in the tank and leaning over to examine the Cephanti as it floats upwards.

"It's me, Doctor!" Naomi calls back. "I… uh… found the cannonball! I don't think I sprained my paw, it's just bruised! Is everything okay down there?"

The tentacles spread out, almost as if it were still alive…

The eyes tilt toward the mongoose as the body rolls.

Roho calls out to Naomi, "We're fine… where's Dalagask?"

Envoy hmms at the color of the water. There must be residue or pigment washing from the squid…

Chiaroscuro shudders slightly… "Whatever has kept it these past months, kept it well… it almost seems living… "

"He's still sleeping next to one of the sleds!" comes the reply. "Those herbs must have been strong! Hurry up down there, being alone with him is really creepy!"

The squid gradually floats up to the top of the tank, at which time the water begins to overflow the tank wall, pouring down in trickles and then sheets.

Roho calls back to Naomi, "I don't think they need me here… at least, not yet, I'll come take a look at your paw." He turns back to the others, "I'm going to see if Naomi's mangled herself, I'll be by the airlock if you need me. Keep those gloves on the whole time!" He walks out into the hall.

Chiaroscuro Says, "Stop the water, Envoy." He shoves at the squid to push it over the tank's edge.

The skin feels loose under Chiaroscuro's gloved hands. The squid floats to the other side of the top of the tank, shoved.

Envoy turns off the water.

Envoy says, "Do you think you can roll it over the side, Chipper? I'll set up the cover on the floor for you to roll it onto."

Chiaroscuro hmmms… and jumps up onto the tank's edge, balancing on his back and left paw. With his tail held out for a balance, he *shoves* at the squid until it falls over the tankside.


The squid rolls loosely, tentacles flopping about, and hits the deck with a squelching noise. The less-than-gentle treatment has somewhat bruised its skin.

Envoy tries to move the former vat lid with the squid's bulk on it.

The next few minutes, despite the occasional station-quake, finds the other squid being floated likewise. It takes Pawtuxet's strength to move the lids outside the laboratory… Where the next problem becomes evident. Through the main airlock, there would be no difficulty – but the other airlocks are rather smaller, and it would be impossible to fit the lids-turned-stretchers into them.

Naomi looks up as the motley bunch files through with their cargo. "What did you f-… oh gods… oh Star… oh Anchor… oh *glrk*… " Despite her slight injury, the Rath'ani manages to get up and moving, so as to be noisily sick someplace discreet.

Chiaroscuro thinks, a claw tapping the smaller airlock door. "We will have to dump the boies off into the airlock… and then… " He frowns. "Then someone will have to push them out into the sea."

Dalagask continues to snore high-pitched Eeee squees.

Envoy glances to Chipper, then suggests, "We could try opening the wetlock in the bathysphere chamber. The squids would just float there until a big one came and got them."

Envoy says, "Or we could weight them, and open the doors under them."

Chiaroscuro taptaptaptaps his claw faster. "But… will we need to descend into the water ourselves to do this, Envoy? Or use that strange globe-device?"

Envoy says, "There's water in the chamber already, with the door closed. We just weight the bodies and roll them in, then open the door. I don't think the door controls would be in the water themselves, and there may even be an outer door as well.""

Chiaroscuro's claw taps faster, as his muzzle contorts itself under the mask. At last, he says, "I suppose, then. Though please do not take offense if I think we are overlooking somethign on that approach. But why not just push them in this airlock by hand, then out and into the ocean? I could do that and ought be able to avoid any living squid… "

Chiaroscuro looks to the door. "I do not hear them outside anymore, after all… "

Envoy says, "Well, you'd be exposed while the door is opened."

Roho nods, "I can't hear anything out there… "

Envoy says, "If anything happens, we can't open the inner door until the outer one is closed."

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy. "A risk yes… " He frowns. "Are you sure using the water exit will not accidentally cause water to enter the station and flood us?"

Envoy blinks. "How could water come higher than sea-level?"

Roho rasps, "I believe the wetlock room has a watertight door to the rest of the station."

Envoy says, "If there is an outer door to the wetlock, then we don't even have to open that until the squids have sunk past the inner door."

Chiaroscuro says, "Well, Envoy, I have never been at sea before this world, I have little knowledge of it. If you are sure, then let us try the wetlock… "

Envoy isn't sure, of course, since she didn't get to examine the door controls in that room. "I think it is worth investigating."

More minutes of intense worry pass, and a few very tight seconds when another station-shock threaten to wrench the squids free of the travois being used to lower them to the wetlock level…

The room with the device known as a 'Sub-Aquatic Researvh Vessel' is much as they left it, when Chiaroscuro and Envoy and Roho step in, with Pawtuxet managing the lids-turned-stretchers, a cavernous space two levels deep, with water partially filling the lower level.

Envoy holds her lantern close to the walls as she looks for the door controls.

The wetlock controls to one side are marked, "D NGER! AU HOR Z D P RSO NEL O LY." One large wheel would appear to control the door that opens out to the sea, and is marked as not opening if the inner Paquebot door is not fully shut; a lever allows the 'research vessel' and the platform on which it rests to be lowered to the sea level.

Notably, there are no ventilation ducts in this room.

Envoy hmms. "We have to close the door here before opening the sea door."

Splotches of grime have obscured some of the letters on the warning notice… Sea water is not noted for its kindliness to most materials.

"We'll need something heavy to anchor the bodies too, so that we don't have to open the door fully." Envoy eyes the bathysphere platform. There must be ballast weights for something like that, shouldn't there?

The black foxtaur looks somewhat creeped out.

Chiaroscuro hmmms… "Shut the door to the rest of the station? But… " He frowns. Something is wrong with this, but the mongoose cannot put his finger on it.

Envoy points to the ceiling, "There aren't any air vents. The air inside the room will keep the water from filling it completely."

The bathysphere's surface is an arcane mystery, but a number of bags nearby are filled with sand.

Envoy tries to lift one of the sandbags.

The sack doesn't budge. "These should be heavy enough," Envoy decides, "if we can push them over into the water after tying the squids to them."

The black foxtaur seems more than happy to get rid of the squids.

Chiaroscuro ties a sandbag to the tentacle of one squid, and with Envoy's and Roho's help, manages to push it into the water.

Pawtuxet edges out of the room, excusing herself now that she's no longer needed to move the bodies. She goes upstairs to keep an eye on Dalagask.

*Sploosh!* The squid falls some ten feet to the water below and then submerges into the water a little.

Envoy checks to see that it sinks down to the hatch.

Envoy climbs down from the platform, tries to shine the lantern into the water. Now she wishes for the beam-lantern that Chipper had found…

Chiaroscuro moves to the other squid, tying it up carefully… "The next one is ready."

The station rocks just as Chiaroscuro and Roho are working on the other squid, causing it to tumble toward the lip of the deck overlooking the wetlock proper…

The tilting station floor and the impact both count against Envoy, sending her off balance as she gets hit with three hundred pounds of dead squid…

Envoy drops the lantern as she gets knocked over into the water.

"Envoy!", Chiaroscuro cries, and dives down after her.

As Envoy plunges toward the dark water, the lantern tumbling away from sight, she catches sight of a sleek mongoose shape leaping toward her… *SPLOOSH!* They plunge into the water, some twelve feet down from the edge, two dead squid bodies sharing their space.

Chiaroscuro turns around in the water, reaching for where Envoy was…

Knocked unconscious, Envoy exhales a stream of bubbles.

Complete darkness rules the wetlock as Chiaroscuro feels for Envoy's body…

Roho hears the bodies fall, and quickly starts searching for rope, or piping, or anything he can hang down into the wetlock.

Chiaroscuro quickly grasps Envoy around the waist, and pulls her up to the surface, gasping for breath. "Doctor! We fell in!" His legs kick furiously in the biting water just to keep himself and Envoy afloat.

Roho's memory proves good – he tripped over a coil of thick, heavy rope earlier… And it is right where he left it.

Coughing as she regains consciousness, Envoy reaches not for Chipper but for her face… "Mmmsk," she chokes.

Roho grabs the rope, tosses one end down to the two in the lock. He loops the other end around a pipe near the wall, then around his waist, bracing his legs against the wall.

Envoy coughs again, and says a little clearer, "… mask… I lost my mask." At the same time, she wonders if Chiaroscuro will ever let her carry a lamp again.

Chiaroscuro meefs quietly, swimming… "The doctor will have more, envoy. Just stay afloat. Don't struggle." He tries to slowly push towards the side… "Doctor! Can you help get us out of here?"

Roho calls down, "Okay, I've got a rope going down there… tie it to Envoy, then climb up and we can pull her out."

Chiaroscuro keeps kicking… "Roperopewhereistherope… " one hand flails about directionessly in the water, while the other keeps Envoy held up.

Chiaroscuro calls up to Roho, "The lantern went out, Doctor- I had forgotten you would not know that. I am trying to find the rope… "

The padding sound of footsteps can be heard down the corridor, and an uncertain voice echoing, "Are you all right down there? What's that splashing? You'd better not have let Doctor Roho fall in another deck hole!"

Envoy begins to kick her own legs as well to help keep afloat.

Roho calls out, "Naomi! Come in, quick, I'm the only one who didn't fall in! Do you have a lantern?"

The footsteps quicken. "I'm coming! Yes, I've got one!" A yellowish glow lights the end of the hall, and grows until Naomi rushes through the entryway, the flesh of her ears a pasty shade. "W-what happened?! More monsters?! Wha… Doctor!"

Chiaroscuro's legs and tail keep a steady rhythm, as he talks to Envoy… "Are you okay? Did you take in any water?"

Roho stands with the rope looped around his wrists, his waist, the wall pipe, and going down into the lock. "Envoy and Chipper are down there, shine the lantern in so they can find the rope."

Envoy coughs, "Just a little… "

Naomi falls to her knees by the wetlock, dangling her lantern over it, into the gloom below.

The swaying lantern illuminates the abyssian wetlock satisfactorily… It shows the words "REPHIDIM SURVEY SERVICE PAQUEBOT WETLOCK ONE" written large on the side.

The rope sways perhaps six feet away from Chiaroscuro, moving slowly with the currents of the water.

Chiaroscuro leans over, one arm stretched for the rope… booted feet dragging against the water. He almost lets Envoy slip below, having to grasp her with his tail as well. Finally, he grasps it in a paw, calling "Got it!" to those above.

"Envoy, grab the rope and climb up, yes?" Chiaroscuro says. "I shall follow right after you."

Envoy drags herself slowly up, her wings shedding water slowly.

Roho braces his legs against the wall harder, oomphing, "That is *not* Chipper!" He saves his breath after saying that.

Naomi reaches down from the lip of the wetlock with one paw, beckoning and shouting encouragement. "Just a little more! Take my paw!"

Chiaroscuro keeps swimming, glancing… well, not *directly* up at Envoy, but enough to he will see out of the corner of his eye if she slips.

Another moment of climbing later, with Naomi helping Roho brace the rope and Envoy giving Chiaroscuro a hand up, the party is again reassembled, looking down into the black depths of the wetlock. The outer door has been shut and locked, and everything is ready to open the sea door, and drop their burden of two small squids into the sea… For whatever good that will have.

Chiaroscuro takes off his shirt quickly, and *shakeshakes* water free from his body… replacing the damp jacket with a shiver

Envoy just shivers to keep warm. No point in trying to dry off yet.

Envoy tests the door crank, hoping it will be easier to move than the airlock ones.

It is difficult to move, perhaps even more so… This wheel will take several people to turn.

Envoy says, "I'll need your help Chipper. Yours too, Naomi."

Chiaroscuro nods, padding over to the wheel, waterlogged boots clomping on the floor. He grips the wheel in his paws, and starts to push…

Naomi looks doubtful at what help she can be, but nods anyway, taking hold of the door crank.

*Crrrrrrank… * With a squeal of rust from hidden mechanisms giving way, the sea door gradually opens, something that can be detected only by the surge of water into the wetlock. Slowly the black water rises to the lip of the platform.

The atmosphere feels heavier now, somehow tenser.

Envoy strains at the wheel, wondering how long to wait to make sure the bodies get through…

Something moves through the water as the Paquebot is opened to the sea… A black form surfaces! But this time, it does not attack immediately; in the pale light of Naomi's lantern, its eyes glow as it turns to study those working the wheel.

The squid-like creature pauses a moment.

Envoy catches her breath, and asks Chipper, "Should I screech to it?"

Chiaroscuro stares at the creature… "No… just stay silent, Envoy."

Its black surface pulsates in a series of colors, the light too feeble to make them out well… And then the creature submerges again. The waters are quiet for a moment longer.

The Rath'ani trembles, but doesn't make a noise.

Chiaroscuro takes in a breath of the thick air, waiting…

A strange glow begins to suffuse the bottom of the wetlock…

Roho places a paw on Naomi's shoulder, noting the tension in the air despite his inability to see the creature or the glow.

Envoy lets go of the wheel and starts to move closer to the water. "I wonder what's causing the glow?"

Chiaroscuro grasps Envoy by the arm. "Stay back, please, Envoy… let us just wait and see."

Green light washes slowly up the wetlock. Two strange creatures looking like armored crustaceans with many tentacles surface, their carapaces set with gem-like globes through which illumination pours, and behind them, four red ones rise as well, their hides rippling with rich colors.

Envoy stops, but continues to stare at the creatures. "Sea Zelaks… " she whispers.

A final squid-like being rises between them all, at the center and virtually flooding the chamber as the water splashes across the floor. It is almost pure white, tinted a faint golden, and its two eyes are emeralds.

It towers above everyone else, the apex of its head brushing the ceiling.

Naomi suppresses a whimper, her shivering increasing despite Roho's reassurance. She remains rooted to the spot, only able to stare with wide, frightened eyes.

Chiaroscuro says, "muurrrachkif murrrachkifel… Rik' donaretio."

Envoy can only smile and stare wide-eyed at the beautiful creatures.

Apart from the wash of water against the walls and the fervent invocation of Kitellian deities, the room stays completely silent… The colors generated by these Cepheids is clear in the greenish light.

Envoy's wings twitch. She wants to signal with them, since they're also white and gold, but doesn't think the others would want her to…

The nearly-white Cepheid ripples… It stretches a tentacle easily capable of smashing airships across the chamber, eyes focused on the small group. The tip undulates, flickering with smooth strength, coming to a stop immediately before Envoy.

Chiaroscuro's tail starts to shake a bit, damp though it is with water… gazing at the creature now with suspicion.

Envoy raises her free hand outward, not quite touching the tentacle. "It wants to talk I think," she whispers.

The tentacle waits.

Chiaroscuro looks to Envoy… and releases her arm from his hold.

Envoy leans forward, and puts her ungloved palm against the tentacle.

The tentacle twines the very tip about Envoy's wrist… After a moment, the white Cepheid soundlessly retracts its limb and begins to sink out of sight.

Envoy blinks as the leviathan begins to retreat, still holding out her hand towards it.

A third green-glowing carapaced Cepheid appears a moment later, two of its tentacles wrapped around something… It stretches the laced limbs out and deposits its burden before the party: a black pearl, a foot across. The surface is nearly perfect, reflecting their amazed faces with only slight warping.

Chiaroscuro stares, awed. "muurrrachkif muurrrachkifel murrachkif'ichetria.", he says, falling back to his native tongue to find words still inadequate.

All three of the armored Cepheids and the four red Cepheids now begin to descend through the airlock again, first the pearl-giving squid, then the four red ones, and finally the first two.

Envoy pays more attention to the sinking figures than to the pearl. She tries to sing to them, hoping they'll come back and talk…

There is no response from the silent creatures.

The glow vanishes, leaving only the lantern to illuminate the gloom of the wetlock.

Envoy turns back to the others with a slightly forlorn face, and looks at the black orb. She perks up at a sudden thought though… "Maybe it's an egg!"

Naomi picks up her lantern, very dim compared to what the group has just witnessed. Though her paws still shake, making the light bobble around, there's still relief in her voice when she whispers, "/Now/ can we close the lock?"

Envoy raises her mask to sniff at the clear jelly-like coating left on her hand, wondering if she's been marked by a Queen again.

Chiaroscuro's tail droops… energy and tension almost palpably flowing out of his body. He leans back agasnt the wall to steady himself.

After a few sniffs of the musky substance, and no ill effects, Envoy pulls her mask back in place and puts her gloves back on. There's nothing to keep a sample of the stuff in, so she might as well leave it in her fur.

Envoy says, "Let's close the hatch and open the door… "

Roho blinks, turning from Envoy, to Chiaroscuro, to Naomi… finally he asks, "Did I just miss something?"

The next hour finds an excited airship crew from the Blaze of Glory joining the expedition on the Paquebot, Vartans with masks working together to load the weapons from the damaged main airlock. "First Ones and lots of little Second Ones," Sendrick yells. "I couldn't believe it when those squids actually started to pull back! We were ready to give ye all up as lost, after all that time."

The poodle scratches behind his ears. "Now, there's the question of a few things. Since this was a Temple-funded mission, by all rights, anything found is considered t'be property of the Temple. Also… Just what ARE we to do with yon Eeee captive, hmm? Be going against Temple law to just let him go." He glances over at the pearl, being held by Envoy, then at the glowering bat captive.

Envoy manages to get her glove off while holding the pearl, and waves Bem over to have him sniff it. She doesn't seem very interested in Captain Sendrick's concerns.

Bem rasps.

Roho stands near Dalagask, "Captain, he helped us on the paquebot. We needed his help, and I gave him my word that he would be released someplace neutral. I will take full responsibility, if the Temple feels otherwise."

The aeolun spends a few minutes chitter-clicking to the Zelak as she describes the Cephieds to him.

The Zelak clacks. "Information may be of interest to Shkarkin Hive. Scout unit designate Envoy should return immediately to inform the Queen."

Chiaroscuro nods in agreement with Roho. "Perhaps… " he pauses a moment, turning to Sendrick. "Perhaps there never was an Eeee on board, if you know my meaning, sir?"

Sendrick rubs his chin.

"Get him out of my sight," the grizzled poodle captain growls. "And I don't want to hear *anything* about bats for the rest of this voyage."

Dalagask says in Eeee to Roho, "Thank you. I don't know what came over me… " He looks haggard.

Roho turns to Dalagask, not looking exactly cheerful, "Please try not to let it happen again. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a Temple prison, and neither do you."

Envoy whispers to Chipper that she has to visit Shkarkin Hive after reporting to Miriam…

Chiaroscuro nods to Envoy… frowning a bit. "Let us talk more about that on the trip back, Envoy. For now, I need a change of clothes and a hot meal."

Naomi doesn't know what's being said by the Eeee, but she still regards him very warily.

Envoy turns to ask the poodle, "Are we going directly back to Rephidim, Captain?"

"That," Sendrick says sharply. "Is between me and my orders. Rephidim is presently far enough that we will be stopping for refueling and replenishment of our gas bags, and beyond that, I will tell you when I feel you need to know it." He turns to a crew. "Have the artifact stored safely somewhere. Those Temple bureaucrats will be interested. And I'm the one who answers if it breaks before it gets back."

Sendrick glances toward the bat and Roho, then ostentatiously looks away.

Envoy hands over the pearl along with her other samples.

"I can't agree more with Mr. Waashu Gulper," says Naomi, sorrowfully running her fingers through the stringy fur of her matted tail. "I'll never let the Venerable Officer or my great-aunt talk me into a field trip ever again."

Two Vartans finish hauling on the ropes, bringing the last sled in, empty mouths of cannons peeking over the railing. "We're clear, Captain," one shouts cheerfully.

The poodle cheers up. "Good. Time to get away from this miserable sinkhole of a paquebot."

Envoy smiles, "I hope to come back again once the war is over."

The crewman, a black Khatta, boggles at the sight of the pearl. He mutters to Envoy, "Y'know, if I were you, I'd have made sure and hidden this somewhere safe. This could set you up for life!" Shaking his head, he wraps it up in a heavy blanket.

"And by the way… " Sendrick turns to look toward Chiaroscuro.

Envoy blinks at the Khatta, but doesn't remind him that she's already alive, and doesn't need a pearl to remain so…

Sendrick extends his hand to the mongoose's. "I never thought I would say this to a Kavi… But good work, Chiaroscuro."

Envoy pats Chipper on the back, "And thank you for pulling me out of the water."

Chiaroscuro pulls the glove free from his hand, and shakes Sendrick's paw. "Thank you, sir." he says with a smile, then smiling doubly wide at Envoy's thanks.

Captain Sendrick starts barking orders. "Full sails! Cast us loose and get us about. I want to see Little Rephidim West shrink into a *DOT* by the time night falls! Get to work, ye lazabouts! You've had enough rest!"

And with the crack of wind filling sails, the Blaze of Glory finally leaves the paquebot behind, the blue waters as untroubled as if there had never been monsters dwelling in their depths.


GMed by Lynx

Previous Log: A Visitor for DinnerNext Log: I Thummon Thee
Thread Links
(Quest in the

Back to list of Logs 426-450

Log listings page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96
Recent Logs - Thread Listing

Home Page
Player Guide
Log Library
Recent Logs
Dramatis Personae
Art Gallery
Moz Ezley Asylum

Today is 6 days before Midsummer's Day, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)